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The Revenge of Monsters and Men

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Ned knew as soon as the letter arrived that he should have just ignored it. His heighted senses heard as soon as the letter hit the mat, and the all too familiar scent of its sender filled his nostrils. A scent he had been sure he would never encounter again.

“Ignore it,” Catelyn, his loving wife of over twenty years, begged him when she saw the post mark. It had been sent from King’s Landing. “Burn it and pretend we never got it.”

Ned Stark hated nothing more than to disagree his wife, but he knew the letter was important. He wouldn’t have received it otherwise. After all, it had been over a decade since he last spoke to them. After all the unpleasantness with the last Targaryen ruler, he thought that there would finally be peace between the species, that they could finally put their differences aside and co-exist without trying to wipe each other out. But that wasn’t meant to be. They had been betrayed and, to this day, it still stung.

Being head of the Stark clan, the oldest and most powerful family of werewolves, Ned had thought he had made the right decision all those years ago, hoping that by trusting his friend Robert, he would lead his family into a new, safer time. He had been wrong then.

He tore the envelope open.

“Your love for Robert Baratheon will get us all killed,” his wife had said.

Gods how he hoped he wasn’t wrong now.

 


 

Tapping her nails against the arm rest of her throne, Olenna Tyrell contemplated once again stepping down from her seat on the council. For a species that was often described as mischievous, she often found the rest of the faery council to be so dull. Old men stuck in their ways, unbending in the ever changing flow of time. Even now, they let old prejudices cloud their judgement. Once again she had to listen to her blithering idiot of a son, who had long since taken his father’s place as head of the council, tell them what he thought was for the best.

“It is outrageous,” Mace continued. “To even consider this…this…we have not forgotten what they have done.” Several faeries nodded their heads and made sounds of approval.

“And I daresay they have not forgotten what we have done either,” Olenna replied stiffly, once again dismayed by her son’s lack of judgement. She saw Margeary smile from the corner of her eye. The trouble she had taken to get her beloved granddaughter her rightful place amongst the council. Even her own seat had taken years of persuasion to achieve.

“The humans cannot be trusted!”

Much of this council meeting had been taken up by discussing the letter they, and every important family of the different species, had received from Robert Baratheon, ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, and a human. The letter stated that he wished to form a peace treaty amongst the species after years of needless fighting. There was a threat from the east, and they needed to unite if they were to survive it.

“The last time we all united under the banner of Robert Baratheon, was to remove the Mad King from power,” Willas said diplomatically. Another one she had to fight to get on the council. “And he betrayed us all then.”

Loras Tyrell scoffed, rolling his eyes at his brother. “How could he have betrayed us? We fought with the Mad King. We were on the losing side.”

This had been true. Olenna’s husband, Luthor Tyrell, then ruler of their kind, had chosen not to join the humans and fought to keep the Mad King in power. It was a decision that even to this day, Mace supported. “And look how it turned out for those who supported Baratheon.” He snapped, “Banished from King’s Landing and forced to remain in their lands whilst humans, humans, get free reign wherever they chose.”

Her son was of the most unfortunate opinion that humans were sub-species, and beneath them. An opinion he had regrettably inherited from his father, who had been of the same opinion as the King. Luthor had supported the King’s belief that breeding amongst the species should not be allowed, that blood lines must be kept pure. Olenna had found this philosophy foolish, especially since she herself had a witch for a mother and a faery for a father, a fact her husband, and later son, desperately tried to hide.

“We cannot afford to pick the losing side again,” Olenna spoke out, fixing her son with a stern glare. “If we side against Robert Baratheon again, then he may not be so lenient this time. It won’t be our lands we’re banished to, but rather the afterlife and I would very much like to keep my head.”

“He mentions nothing of who this threat might be,” Mace stubbornly dug his heels in further, refusing to budge on the matter.

“It must be severe for him to contact us all,” Margeary stated. “And besides, the letter holds Tywin Lannister’s signature as well.”

This seemed to hit home more with the other council members, who all began to murmur amongst themselves. Olenna smirked as she watched Mace’s frown deepen. Tywin Lannister had come to request their help last time, on behalf of Robert. He had a presence that commanded everyone’s attention and respect. He had spoken eloquently and with conviction and yet Luthor had still refused him, though Olenna had felt that part of his decision was due to personal dislike rather than solely true loyalty to Aerys Targaryen. After all, having seen the way his wife had been looking at Lord Tywin, it was no wonder he felt an instant distrust for the man.

Not that it had stopped Olenna from helping the Lannister. She had hurriedly arranged to meet Lord Tywin that night and gave him vital information about Aerys’ battle plan that helped lead to his defeat.

“You would help us even though it could destroy your family?” Tywin had questioned, and she could sense the suspicion he felt.

“I help you because it will save my family,” She replied. “The Mad King will destroy us all if he is not removed.”

She firmly believed that in exchange for her help, Tywin had convinced Robert to spare the faeries. After all, a Lannister always pays his debts. However this time she would not allow Mace to endanger them in the way his father had.

“Tywin Lannister has no more love for our kind than any of his kin. The Lannisters are renowned for their loathing of supernatural creatures.”

“This isn’t about whether or not they love us,” Loras huffed irritably. “We’re being presented with an opportunity. A second chance to reclaim our former glory and respect within the Seven Kingdoms.”

“And supposing it is a trap?” Willas said, desperate to appear the supportive and loyal son. She would have to have a talk with him later.

“Then we must take a leap of faith.” Olenna said, arising from her seat. “We have a chance to, finally, live in peace without fear of persecution and that will mean having to get along with all species.” She fixed her son with a pointed glare. “I told your father to pick the winning side and he failed. Do not make the same mistake as he did.” And with that she swept grandly out of the council chamber.

 


 

 

“A fucking coalition?” Cersei Lannister practically shrieked as she came crashing into the room, ignoring the armed guards that sent her bewildered looks.

Sat behind an imposing desk was the equally imposing Tywin Lannister. Her father didn’t even bother to raise his head at her entrance, focusing solely on his task. Not one to be deterred, Cersei stormed forward, and towered before the desk, attempting to use this rare height difference to her advantage. Not that it seemed to bother Tywin.

“What do you want Cersei?” No greeting, no words of comfort. Not that she should be surprised.

“Why has Robert sent out invitations to those beasts,” she said the words with such venom that she saw two of the guards flinch. Since she was a child, she had a loathing of all non-human species. The very thought of them made her sick to the stomach and wanted nothing more than to see their filthy kind obliterated from existence. A stain on the land, that is what Master Pycelle referred to them as and she couldn’t agree more. After all, he was the one that taught her just how devious these creatures were and not to be trusted under any circumstances.

Finally, Tywin puts down his pen and looks up at her, a scowl plastered across his face. “I should think that was obvious,” he replied. She knew about the threat. Robert did nothing but talk about it, her father did nothing but talk about it. Gods, even Jaime now wouldn’t shut up about it.

“Surely it is something that can be dealt with. We can send them money,” she reasoned. Every man, and creature, had a price and the Lannister wealth was extensive. Surely her father could see that.

She felt the familiar sting as her father looked at her with disappointment. It was a look he seemed to wear more often these days, whenever he looked at his children and no doubt recounted their failings. “Perhaps you should speak to your husband,” Tywin remarked, turning back to the document before him. “Or maybe there is a reason he is keeping you in the dark.” His words were blunt, cutting, to the point. If Tywin Lannister wanted to cut down a man he went straight for the artery, no messing about.

Feeling desperation clawing at her throat, she sunk down into the chair. “You must make him see reason,” she insisted. “Show him that it is a bad idea to degrade our names by associating with these monsters-.”

“Did it ever occur to you,” her father cut her off, his voice sharp. “That perhaps I might be in support of this treaty? Whilst I have never had a great liking for your choice of husband, I agree that it is long overdue and should have been done many years ago, so no I shall not prevent it.”

For a moment, Cersei was so horrified that she could not speak. After everything that has happened in the past, happened to them, her father wanted to welcome back those degenerates with open arms? Surely he remembered what it was like when they were allowed to roam freely, before Robert banished them to their realms and prevented them from travelling amongst the Kingdoms? Surely he remembers those terrifying days under the rule of the Mad King? When everyone spent their lives glancing over their shoulders and paranoia ruled over men. The Targaryens had been amongst the last of the Dragon Whispers, individuals who had the ability to control dragons by merging their minds as one. It was Cersei’s belief that this constant merging with beasts had eventually turned them into one, wild and unruly, this madness had resulted in the deaths of thousands of humans and creatures alike, until her husband had united them under his banner and deposed of the King.

Well she hadn’t forgotten, and she was damned if she was going to let that happen again.

“You would stand by and let them tear apart our society? And destroy us? Think of your grandchildren. Think how those monsters would taint them.”

“No more than what they have already been exposed to,” Tywin remarked pointedly and she felt an embarrassed flush spread over her face. He leant forward, fixing her with a stern glare. “This treaty will take place, whether you approve or not. It is taken years for us to get this far, and I will not have you destroy everything I have worked to achieve. You will stand by your husband and smile as he signs that treaty and you will publicly show your support for this coalition, or I will make sure-“

A sharp knock at the door cut of the rest of Tywin’s threat and instantly he composed himself, barking for the person to enter. She watched as her father’s head of guard, Sandor Clegane entered. As customary for all guards, he is dressed all in black, from his t-shirt to his freshly polished boots, which she notes has a slight scuff mark on the toes. His hair is tied back, revealing his horribly scarred face. She knows they were from a wound he received as a young boy, a vengeful witch wanting to punish his father she had heard, however she didn’t know any more than that. He never spoke about it and she never cared enough to ask.

“Sandor,” her father greets him, which he returns with a gruff ‘m’lord’ and a nod in her direction. She watches as he taps his fingers against the gun at his waist. “I’ve asked you here for a purpose, I presume you’ve heard about Robert’s plan?”

“Only rumours,” Sandor replies. “Something about an alliance with the non-humans?”

Tywin nods, quickly filling him in on the details. Cersei feels like he is holding back information and briefly wonders if this is because she is there. “We are sending a representative and a small guard to collect the Head of each family and their heir. I’m entrusting you to travel north to escort the Starks. You will pick up the Boltons on your way back, no point in sending two teams to the same place. You may choose the men you want for your team, but no more than seven men.”

As Sandor nods, Cersei once again feels outraged. “Is there any need for escorts? Surely we will need all our best men here to protect us.”

“There has been a lot of bad blood in recent years,” Tywin answers. “I want to make sure that any narrow minded humans or creatures don’t try and prevent the families from reaching King’s Landing safely. We need every ruling family of the different species to sign.”

“I will ensure that only the best men are selected for each team,” Sandor assures them.

Tywin again nods, and instruct him on when they shall depart, choosing to send them out first thing in the morning so as not to delay negotiations. Sandor raises an eyebrow but says nothing more, bowing his head as he takes his leave to begin making preparations. Or perhaps it’s simply to take cover before the storm hits.

“Father please,” Cersei implores him, trying one final time to get him to change his mind. “Please reconsider. Surely there is another way,”

“I’m sorry but I have made my decision.” Cersei bitterly thinks that he doesn’t sound very sorry, but decides to say no more. She abruptly stands realising that her cause is lost. Perhaps if she finds Jaime, then father’s favourite son might be able to…

“And you will leave Jaime out of this. He has a long journey to prepare for.”

“Don’t tell me you are sending Jaime out alone to negotiate with those beasts?” she manages to choke out. She notices a small smirk twitch in the corner of his mouth.

“Not alone no, Brienne shall be accompanying him to Dorne.” Another blow. She never understood what Jaime saw in his ox of a wife.

“Will you be going to retrieve one of the families?” Cersei asks, deciding that if she can’t convince her father then the least she can do is find out all the facts. She could find use for them later.

“No I shall be remaining here,” Tywin states. “Someone must prepare for their arrival. Gods know how it will turn out.”

Suddenly, a horrifying thought struck her. “You don’t intend to send me do you?”

Tywin glances up at her, a short laugh echoing throughout the room. “I’d sooner send Aerys Targaryen than you. No, each representative has been selected and will leave first thing in the morning.” She waits hoping he will elaborate, however he never does and she feels her frustration mounting.

“They may not even come at all,” she bursts out. “The Martells would sooner see us dead than work with us, and the Greyjoys care only for what they can plunder, not whether they have allies.” She notes her father’s look of surprise, however she continues. Her listening in to conversations finally paid off. “Stark is an obedient pup that comes scurrying when Robert whistles and Bolton is nothing more than a bottom dwelling leech. Frey is so old and useless that by the time your representative has waded through the masses of his filthy family, the old fool will have probably dropped dead anyway. The Arynns never leave that nest of theirs and are only useful for target practice. Let’s see, we have Witches, Mere-People, Werewolves, Vampires, Goblins and Birdmen, now who am I missing? Oh yes, the Tyrells. I seem to recall the Faeries fought against the rebellion instead of joining it.” A dark smirk played across her lips. “Perhaps we should send the Mountain to…persuade them to join our cause.”

Tywin was silent for a moment, breathing deeply to remain calm. “I think you’ll find,” he spoke slowly. “That I already have someone in mind.”

Chapter Text

Tyrion Lannister sat in the back of one of the Lannister’s armoured cars, about to cross the heavily armed boarder into the Reach, home of the Faeries and most notably the ones he was going to meet; the Tyrells. He was more than slightly surprised when he was asked, a word not often used in Tywin Lannister’s vocabulary, by his father to escort Mace Tyrell and his heir to court. Knowing how influential and wealthy the Tyrell family was, he would have expected Jaime to have been sent and was even more surprised that Jaime was sent to Dorne, to bargain with the Martells, oldest of the witch coverns.

Like all representatives, he was sent with a small armed guard to ensure his, and the families’, personal protection, however he did wonder if perhaps the non-humans would view this as more of an aggressive move, an unspoken threat as to what would happen if they did not agree to the treaty. As he reached the boarder, he began to doubt they would be intimidated as he noted the number of faery soldiers that are present.

“Pointy eared pricks,” the guard opposite him muttered.

Barely able to contain a smirk, Tyrion mockingly reprimanded the man. “Now Bronn,” he said slowly. “We are here to convince them to form a treaty, not insult them.” Over the years, he had grown fond of Bronn and formed an unlikely friendship with him. Originally, Bronn had been a thief, part of a rogue gang that operated mainly in Flea Bottom, when Tyrion had found him. Or rather Bronn had saved him when he got into a spot of trouble with a group of Bird men (he had to refrain from rolling his eyes when they called themselves ‘angels’) who were loyal to the Arryns. Since then, Tyrion had put him forward to Sandor, who had been impressed by the thief, and trained him to become a member of the Lannister’s Guard.

“Got into a fight with a faery once,” the ex-thief divulged. “Let’s just say his daughter had more love for me than he did. Come to think, her intended weren’t too pleased either.”

Tyrion chuckled, however not even Bronn’s proud, and very graphic, description of the seduction of the faery’s daughter was enough to dispel the unease that suddenly settled upon him as they drove past the soldiers. He observed them silently watching the vehicle, dressed in their military uniform, brown leather breeches and vests, with knee high military boots of the same colour. Exposed on their bare arms was a tattoo of a golden rose, with thorns snaking down their arm from it. Having briefly researched the Faeries before his arrival, he knew that the rose tattoo was done to show their allegiance to the Tyrells, and the thorns showing their position in the army, with each thorn representing a fight won by the faery. He felt a cold shiver run down his spine at their penetrating stares, and he was almost convinced that they could see straight through the tinted windows.

Straight through him.

Eventually, they made it through the boarder and it was only another thirty minute drive to Highgarden, the ancestral home of the Tyrells. Tyrion had to admit, the ancient Castle was beautiful to behold, and was everything he imagined it to be. It’s patterns and structures, inspired by nature was reminiscent of the days when faery still lived in secluded alcoves in the deepest parts of the forests, yet its large and looming stature showed the imposing power and wealth that the Tyrells had acquired since those days, and suggested to anyone approaching that they were not a force to be messed with.

Arriving outside the oaken doors, Tyrion exited his transport, glad for the chance to stretch his aching legs, and was closely followed by Bronn, who tensed as a faery approached them from the castle.

“Welcome,” he said, though his face and voice were devoid of any emotion, making Tyrion feel anything but.

“We have come to seek an audience with Lord Tyrell,” Tyrion said, making sure to make his voice carry the same commanding authority, something he’d learnt to compensate for his smaller stature.

“We know why you come,” the faery replied blandly. “Lord Tyrell awaits your presence in the council’s chamber. He has instructed that you are to be brought to him as soon as you arrive.” And with that the faery turned and walked back the way he had come.

“I think we’re meant to follow,” Tyrion said quietly to Bronn, slightly bemused by the short exchange.

“Told you,” Bronn muttered as they entered the castle. “Pointy eared pricks.”

 


 

Ned continued to clench and unclench his fist, hoping to relieve some of his growing apprehension. He had received word that Robert would be sending out escorts to ensure the families would arrive in King’s Landing safely. Apart from being a Lannister Guard, Ned knew nothing of who this representative was, which made him more nervous.

He had never trusted the Lannisters, and certainly trusted them even less now. Part of him, one he tried hard to ignore, wondered if maybe this was all a plot, a way for the Lannisters to remove their enemies once and for all. When he expressed his concern to his wife, it appeared she had the same concerns.

“Robert betrayed us once before, what would stop him from doing the same again?” She didn’t for a moment believe that the creatures would sign this treaty and everything would be perfect. There was too much bad blood and resentment that could not be forgotten overnight.

Ned smiled sadly, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. “Surely he would not risk civil war,” he said. “Not again.”

Cat could not pretend to understand or even like the man, but she couldn’t deny that war would be the last thing that anyone would want. Despite the banishment, Robert’s treatment of those who had fought beside him was lenient enough to prevent an open rebellion and she was sure that his love for Ned was what no doubt kept them safe and undisturbed all of these years. Compared to some other families, they’d got off lightly with the banishment.

“He lifted the travel ban into the North,” Catelyn said conceded, unsure why she was trying defend Robert. “Winterfell is one of the only realms that creatures may travel freely to and we offer them sanctuary, something no other land is able to do.” The banishment and virtual imprisonment of all creatures had resulted in a rift that tore through the kingdom, which had led to much suffering and many old and noble families being wiped out in the subsequent conflict. Form what he’d heard; King’s landing had become as dangerous as it had been in the days of King Aerys. He’d be damned if he’d willing subject his family to such dangers.

“You and the children will remain here at Winterfell,” he firmly stated. “I’m loathe to bring Robb despite Robert’s request for the head and their heir, however I will rest easier if I know you and the younger ones are safe here.”

For a moment Cat was dumbstruck, unable to form a word in the haze of her anger. His honour and protectiveness was one of the reasons she loved her husband, the concern he’d shown at the thought of turning her, worried that she’d one day hate what she’d become was something that caused her to feel such adoration to him, however his constant worry and attempt to side-line her instead of sharing his burdens was beginning to wear thin. They were supposed to be partners and he often seemed under the misapprehension that he had to suffer everything alone. “No,” she said, grasping his hand with both of hers. “No Ned, you’re not doing this again. We’re a pack. A family. You not doing this alone, I want to be there, I want to support you but you won’t let me try.”

“You would support me by staying here. Cat, I don’t know what I’d do if something were to happen to you or the children,”

“How is it any safer for you to go alone? What do you think we’d do if we lost you?” She cried. “We might not even know of your fate for weeks. Robb’s too young to shoulder that responsibility. And the children don’t want to be left out again; surely it is better if we were together?”

“It is better that they be safe,” Ned insisted.

“We can’t keep them safe forever, Ned.”

Before either could say another word, they were interrupted by the arrival of a scurrying servant who was wringing his hands and avoid eye contact with the pair. “My Lord,” he muttered softly. “The Lannister escort has arrived.”

“We best greet our guest,” Cat said as she and Ned arose, a deep scowl across her face. “Do we know who they are?” Ned added.

Once again the servant refused to look at them, tucking his chin into his chest in the process, his hands trembling with new found vigour. “I am afraid so, my Lord,” he gasped, voice barely above a whisper. “It is Lord Tywin’s Head of Security, Sandor Clegane.”

Ned felt his hackles rise, his teeth bearing in a snarl. “What is that man doing in my lands?”

 


 

His first opinion of Mace Tyrell was not a positive one. Neither was his second or third and, eventually, Tyrion decided that Tywin had sent him there as a punishment. The faery lord was pompous, arrogant and clearly had no love for humans or a desire to form a treaty with them. When he first entered, he had to restrain a laugh at the ridiculously elaborate and brightly coloured clothes, which he soon realised was his military uniform. Tyrion was able to guess from the difficulty Lord Tyrell had moving, that they were, he hoped, for ceremonial use and not for combat, with the very snug fit suggesting that they hadn’t been used very much in the last few years, despite the faery’s proud and haughty boasts.

His eldest son, Willas, on the other hand was much more likable, Tyrion decided. He was dressed in brown leathers like many of the other soldiers of the faery army and the golden rose tattooed on his arm, with a short number of thorns that snake around his bicep, ending at his elbow. As Mace Tyrell proudly points out the number of victories his son has achieved, Tyrion couldn’t help but feel that Mace didn’t have very many thorns himself, especially since he chose to cover his arms were many would proudly show them off.

“My Lord,” he says, desperate to get the conversation back to its original topic. “As you know, King Robert Baratheon has requested that the heads of every major family come to King’s Landing to sign a treaty that will ensure peace between our people’s for many generations. I have been sent to escort you to ensure your safe arrival.”

“You mean you are here to threaten us to ensure our compliance,” Mace replied, jerking his head towards Tyrion’s guards.

“I can assure you that no threats are being made,” Tyrion felt like sighing. The man was arrogant and stubborn. “These men are here for your protection, as much as they are here for mine. I am not here to force anyone to do anything, however I think it would be beneficial-…“

“Good, because you’re not forcing anyone here,” Mace snapped, drawing himself up to his full height. “I have decided that it is within our best interests to decli-…”

“Mace I do hope you are not trying to follow in your father’s footsteps,” a voice interrupted. “That would be most…unfortunate, especially considering how he met his end.”

Tyrion turned to see an elder faery entering the council chamber, flanked by two younger faeries, one male and female who were dressed in green training uniforms. Both of the younger faeries, who looked quite similar he noticed, have the gold rose, however unlike Willas, only have one or two thorns between them.

He then turned his attention to the older faery, who he guessed was of a similar age to his father, and dressed in an elaborate gown of the finest silks. She was still quite beautiful despite her advanced years, with long silvery hair pinned back to reveal the pointed ears that all faery possess. Her eyes were sharp and intelligent, taking in everything before her as though she were reading it from the pages of a book. Despite her small stature, her presence commanded attention from all and filled the entire room.

“I think,” she said, her sharp voice cutting through the air. “My son means to thank you for your kind offer, and would like to extend his hospitality to both you and your men.”

Tyrion heard Mace huff with irritation and mutter something about “keeping her out of the way,” to his son. Tyrion decided to ignore him. “My Lady,” he replies, smoothly. “I am Tyrion Lannister, son of Tywin.”

This seemed to ring a bell with her, as she plastered a smile on her face and graciously bowed her head to him. “Olenna Tyrell, mother to that oaf over there.”

Tyrion recalled something his father had said before he’d left. “Many of the faeries do not approve of humans, and will be against a treaty,” he’d told him. “However there are a few who would see the benefits. When I sought their allegiance in the war against King Aerys, I met one such faery. She was the wife of Luthor Tyrell, mother of the current Lord. Find her; she would be a useful ally.”

“And these are my grandchildren,” the elder continued. “Loras and Margaery.” Both faeries bowed their heads, and Tyrion was slightly startled when the faery Olenna had called Margaery, had smiled in his direction and winked. “A pleasure,” he managed to stutter. Margaery smirked and silently chuckled.

Either unaware or choosing to ignore the exchange between her granddaughter and Tyrion, Olenna moved more towards the centre of the room, speaking as she did. “I must admit Robert’s desire for a treaty has caused quite the disturbance amongst the council, none of them have known what to do with themselves.” A light smirk graced her features. “Fortunately, I am able to see how beneficial an alliance amongst all the species would be.”

“Then you are most wise, my Lady,” Tyrion replies, tearing his eyes away from the young faery who seemed instant on captivating his gaze. “The King would be most grateful to know he has your support.”

“Of course a king’s gratitude if fickle,” she replied. “And a piece of paper, no matter how many signatures it has, will eventually crumble into nothing. Those things won’t keep my family safe forever and ensure the survival of our legacy, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Of course,” Tyrion sighed, knowing exactly where this was going. He had been forewarned that the Tyrells would likely want a more…personal alliance and Tywin had suggested that Tyrion use this to get them on side, after Robert had argued with Cersei about marrying their children to ‘beasts’ as she referred to them. “But I think that perhaps we can come up with a solution that would be more beneficial to both parties. Perhaps your granddaughter could be introduced to Prince Joffrey? Or Loras to Myrcella?” He could practically see the old woman’s mind working, mulling over his proposal. He was surprised once again, to see a look of disappointment flash across Margaery’s face at his suggestion, before she quickly managed to compose herself again, sharing a quick glance with Loras.

Olenna let out a short laugh, gesturing to her grandchildren. “I’m afraid that wouldn’t be a satisfactory arrangement. I dare say that you’d probably have more luck pairing Loras to Joffrey, however after hearing the reputation your nephew has earned for himself, even I would not be so callous as to subject my grandson to such a cruel fate.”

Tyrion felt a smirk tug at his lips, amused by the horrified look Mace sent to his mother. It was refreshing to find someone who spoke their mind so freely, however duty dictated that he should at least attempt to defend his nephew’s honour, even if he loathed the vile boy. “I can assure that my nephew would be a beneficial match for your family.”

She hummed in agreement, her mind clearly on other matters. “Yes,” Olenna finally said. “A marriage between our families would be beneficial, however I daresay Queen Cersei would not settle for a simple faery to marry her first born. Perhaps Willas would be a more suitable candidate for her daughter.”

“Mother,” Mace blustered, horrified by her suggestion.

“Grandmother, perhaps it is too soon to start making marriage arrangements, before a treaty has even been drawn up.” Willas said, trying to appear calm, though the embarrassed flush that spread across his face rather diminished this. Tyrion did feel sorry for the boy, knowing that he had already become a pawn in this game for power.

Ignoring their protests, Olenna continued to focus her attention on Tyrion. “Of course an alliance of this nature would need more consideration. Perhaps there should be further negotiations before anything is made final?”

Tyrion agreed, however it was Margaery who interrupted him before he could state this. “Perhaps we should all go to King’s Landing as a sign of good faith,” she said, smiling enigmatically at him. “Grandmother can negotiate further on these terms, and I must confess that I am curious to see King’s Landing. I have heard so much about it but never had the chance to see it for myself.”

“Robert’s invitation requests only the Head and his heir need be present,” Mace interrupted, puffing his chest out. “There is no reason for you to go; it would be much safer if you were to remain here.”

Noticing Margaery’s disappointment, Tyrion decided that he’d had enough of Mace Tyrell’s arrogance, and if he had to deal with it for however long it took to negotiate the treaty, he’d probably go mad. And besides, it might be fun to bring the man down a peg or two. “On the contrary,” Tyrion said. “They would be most welcome to attend, and besides you’d be much too busy with the treaty to worry about a marriage proposal.”

“Then it is settled,” Olenna declared as Mace looked like he was about to protest again. “We shall prepare to leave in the morning, but for now,” she turned to look at Tyrion and his men. “You must be tired from your journey. Margaery will show you to your quarters so you may rest.”

Margaery stepped towards them, coming to stand beside Tyrion. “If you are sure it is no trouble, my Lady.” He said.

“Margaery,” she told him, linking her arm with his. “And it would be my pleasure.”

Yes, Tyrion thought, it would very much be his pleasure too.

 

As his daughter escorted their guests to their designated chambers, Mace frowned at his mother, once again embarrassed by her heavy handedness. The woman was infuriating sometimes. “Really mother, I do not see any benefit for you to travel to King’s Landing.”

Her hawk like eyes turned to him, her satisfied smirk melting remaining fixed on her face. “And that is your problem Mace, dear, you can’t see the end goal.” She patted his shoulder in sympathy. “We must grow amongst the strongest of houses if we are to survive and reap the benefits of their ruin. Strength in numbers is what we shall need to succeed. And besides,” Olenna had a mysterious gleam in her eye that made Mace feel nervous. “I have a more personal interest for travelling to King’s Landing.”

 


 

 

“….and this is our youngest, Rickon.” Ned gestured, finishing the introduction of his family to their escort, Sandor Clegane. He had wanted to keep his family as far away from the man as possible, but his wife had insisted that they made the effort to greet their guest properly.

“The last thing we want to do is make a bad impression,” she had insisted, her voice tight.

And so here they stood, the entire household, with varying degrees of willingness. Sandor nodded his head at each introduction, adding a gruff “M’Lady” or “M’Lord” where appropriate and for the most part seemed completely unfazed by the large family of werewolves and other species that chose to serve them. Ned had tried to allow as many creatures into his lands as he could, trying to ensure each had employment and a home to call their own. It was the least he could do when they had risked so much trying to get here.

Many of his men were wolves, having served his family for generations, however they weren’t the only species to inhabit the North. Unlike the Reach or the Iron Islands, which only hosted Faeries and Merepeople respectively, the North was a much larger province and was home to several species, with the Starks acting as Warden over all. It was known as the land of the night, and for good reason too, for it was were the ‘darker’ creatures were sent to live. Goblins guarded the boarders at the Twins, allowing travellers in for a price. Vampires stalked the lands, under the banner of Roose Bolton, Alpha of the Vampires. Even the Daemons had their niches at the ports and docks of these lands. Robert had decided that it would no doubt be in his interest, and safer for his legacy, if he did not split the North into smaller provinces, instead placing one family with more loyalty towards him in charge of them.

“We will need to leave at first light,” Sandor told them, glancing at the grinning Old Nan, a gorgon with Siren blood who could enthral with her lyrical and impressive tales. “It is a long journey and we must collect Lord Bolton and his heir before returning to King’s Landing.”

If there was one thing they had in common, it was that none of them wanted to spend the night in Roose Bolton’s domain.

“That won’t be a problem,” Ned replied. “Only I shall be attending, the rest of my family will remain here.”

To his credit, Sandor didn’t flinch once at the ferocious chorus of snarls and growls of protest that his family produced to signal their displeasure. In fact, Sandor had shown very emotion throughout the meeting, appearing almost unbiased towards the creatures he was supposed to escort. Ned guessed this was more likely because he was being paid handsomely for this, after all, Ned knew all about the stories that followed Sandor….

His family chose to voice their opinions at once.

“But father, you can’t go alone…”

“It said the heir was supposed to go too, I have to go…”

“It’s not fair, I never get to go anywhere….”

“Ned we discussed this,…”

“But I want to see the capital, I hear it never snows there…”

Closing his eyes, he felt his temper arise and he slowly reached boiling point. “Enough,” he growled, letting his power flow through his words. As the Alpha, he could force other members of his pack into submission and whilst he hated to do it, desperate times called for drastic measures. His family were instantly silent, and he could feel the anger and resentment radiating off them. “You will all remain here. No other Lord is bringing their entire family-“

Actually,” Sandor interrupted, something no one else would dare do when he was in, what his family called, his ‘scary, crazy alpha mode’. “Lord Frey refused to attend without the more extensive part of his family attending, and Lord Balon is bringing his daughter as well,” he jerked his head towards Theon Greyjoy, heir to the Lord of the Merepeople. Robert had sent the boy North to keep Balon in line and Theon was to travel south to sign with his father. “The King has extended his invitation to include any who wish to attend.”

Ned’s surprise was enough to break his control and the dam broke. His family continued to argue their points, fuel added to the fire by Sandor’s admission that all were welcome to attend.

“Please father,” Sansa finally said, his eldest daughter, sending him a pleading look. He watched in amusement as his youngest daughter, Arya, tried to mimic the expression, jutting out her lower lip and furrowing her brow. Eventually, he relented.

“Very well,” he said reluctantly. Before he could add any conditions to this, his children were exclaiming their delight and dashing off to begin preparations, their mother chasing after them, trying to maintain some order. “Arya, please don’t kick your sister. Bran…Bran!” She dashed after them, sending Ned a look that said she knew they would have to discuss this later.

Suddenly, Ned found himself alone with Sandor and felt his apprehension at having the man here resurface again. “I hope my family’s decision to come to King’s Landing won’t be any trouble for you.” Ned said, awkwardly trying to fill the silence.

“I’ll need to call ahead, let them know of the change of plans.” Sandor replied, neither confirming or denying Ned’s statement.

“There are rooms made up for you and your men,” he says, glancing over at where five more Lannister guards were sat waiting in the cars at Sandor’s request. “If there’s anything else you need…” Ned trailed off and Sandor nodded. He quickly took his leave, eager to get away from the man, trying to shake the feeling of unease he felt in Sandor Clegane’s presence.

 


 

 

The flames danced wildly, casting warped shadows upon the walls, upon a pale and hollow face. Casting his piercing eyes across the letter one last time, he tossed it upon the fire, watching as it shrivelled and crumbled in the heat. An old fashioned habit from a bygone era, but then he was an old fashioned man. He didn’t want to leave anything that could incriminate him.

Leaning back in his chair, Roose Bolton watched the dancing flames and reflected, contemplating the letter that had troubled him for days. His presence had been requested at King’s Landing, to sign a peace treaty that would end the banishment and set his kind, and all others, free of their restraints. Whilst the letter would be considered by most to be cordial, dare he say ‘friendly’, Roose could see the underlying tone in its elegant words, a tone that suggested there would be consequences should he refuse.

Due to his dietary requirements, caused by his…affliction, he is allowed a small handful of household staff to cater for his needs. He dare says there isn’t a great demand for fresh blood in King’s Landing and the kitchens of the Red Keep, but he has survived on rations for years and will make do with what is available. That won’t be a problem. No, the problem lies in the other part of Robert’s demand. As well as his presence, he is required to bring his heir to ensure peace for future generations to come.

An heir which he does not have.

Over the many years of his exceptionally long life, he has only had two wives, both of whom were humans, and managed to produce him one trueborn son, who had perished many years before. All he has left is a bastard son, Ramsay Snow, born human to a human mother. Despite this, the boy had a bloodlust that bordered on the unhinged, enough to give Roose reservations about turning him. On his eighteenth birthday, Roose had refused to turn Ramsay and except him as his heir, and he continued to stall every year that passed since then.

Roose was not a creature that knew fear, but his son’s bloodlust was something that would give him sleepless nights. If he slept that was.

Nevertheless, an heir is required, and Roose is not one to fail to provide. Perhaps this will give him the leash he needs to bring Ramsay to heel. He sends a servant to fetch the boy immediately, feeling his irritation rise as he swaggers in sometime later, with an arrogance that Roose abhors. He remains emotionless on the surface.

“I have been summoned to King’s Landing,” he informs Ramsay coolly, watching the curiosity on his face. “It would appear Robert Baratheon wishes to form a treaty with all the great families. I will leave before first light.” That would give him a few hours travel before the sun rose; he could reach the King’s Road by then and join his escort before they reached Dreadfort, cutting a good few hours off the journey. After all, the less time he has to travel in the sun, the better.

“Will I be accompanying you?” Ramsay asked, his eyes gleaming dangerously. Should he attend, it would mean his father would have to accept him as his heir, and if Ramsay remained…well, he would have free reign until his father returned. Either way the possibilities made his blood boil with perverse excitement. At his father’s nod, he feels his grin break even further. “Does this mean I am to be recognised as your heir?”

Roose stares him down, his face blank as his mind furiously works. “Perhaps,” he replied, unwilling to elaborate further. Vampire hierarchy worked differently to that of other creatures, with the Alpha only remaining in power for as long as no other vampire is strong enough to challenge him. They often perished from violent deaths, with even Roose having murdered his own ‘father’ centauries before to take his position as alpha. He knew if he were to turn Ramsay, his days would be numbered and he did not trust his son enough to rule in his stead. If the boy had that much power, an army at his disposal, the results would be cataclysmic.

“I don’t know why we are agreeing to this treaty,” Ramsay sneered. “Humans are so weak that we could crush them. They should be our slaves, not our allies. Even the other species fear us for our power.”

Roose felt his irritation rise again, but kept his composure. “You should watch your tongue,” he calmly warned. “You are not a vampire yet. No creature is powerful enough to enslave a kingdom without allies, and we can’t afford to make enemies of any of the families if we are to survive.”

Ramsay looked as though he wanted to argue and Roose found that his patience with his son had quickly run out. “Take only what you need for the trip,” he informs him. “We will travel light. I won’t have you slowing us down.” He waves his hand dismissively; watching as Ramsay stiffly bowed and left the room, silently seething. Such a loose cannon. A liability. Definitely not the ideal heir to present to the rest of the Kingdom, and certainately not one that will inspire confidence in the preservation of the treaty.

Turning to watch the now dying embers, Roose wonders if it was perhaps time to take a wife again. It had been a long time, but the need for an heir was vital. If he was to be slain, he wanted a Bolton to carry on the line of Vampire Alphas. He knew that he would have to dispose of Ramsay before he became too out of control, and he didn’t want to risk the liability of a bastard again. No, he needed a trueborn son by a true wife, one who will strengthen his ties and secure his position amongst the other creatures because more than a wife, he needs allies. Vampires were the sworn enemies of many creatures, with the last Targaryen rulers having hunted and burned many of his kin and so he needs protection to ensure the safety of him and his kind.

And he is willing to do almost anything to ensure his survival.

Chapter Text

Tapping his fingers irritably against his leg, Stannis blew out another irritated huff, trying to burn a hole in the wall opposite him with his glare. 23 minutes. His brother, Robert, had all but summoned him, requesting an ‘urgent’ meeting with him and now had the nerve to keep him waiting for, for 24 minutes now. If there was one thing Stannis abhorred, it was tardiness. Another example of why he believed his brother to be wholly unsuitable for the position as ruler.

Davos had warned him to remain calm and hold his tongue, warning him that getting into an argument with his brother again would be unwise. After all, after their last fall out it had taken his husband and Renly close to five months to reconcile the pair to reach even cordial speaking terms.

Huffing out another irritable breath, Stannis began to gnash his teeth together, only gaining some pleasure from the fact that Robert’s squire, Lancel Lannister, visibly flinched at the sound. Good, he thought bitterly. It served him right for working for a man that made him wait so long. There were too many bloody Lannisters around here anyway. And what was he doing as a secretary? That wasn’t a man’s work.

Eventually, his brother stumbled in through the door, red faced and wheezing. With every puff of air, Stannis could smell the overwhelming stench of wine. Gods he was drunk.

Stannis arose as his brother approached. Despite his personal feelings, the man was still his older brother and his King, he would still show him the proper respect that the title entailed. “Apologies for making you wait, brother,” Robert said in a slightly hazy mutter, though Stannis noted in his more inebriated state it came at more as a bellow than anything else. “Those tight arsed advisors of mine are determined to bore me to death with their constant droning.”

Stannis doubted this very much. He knew for a fact that his brother had not been anywhere near the council chamber all day, and that it was probably one of his brother’s latest whores that kept him preoccupied, however heeding Davos’ advice, he chose not to comment and instead silently followed Robert into his office instead. Almost immediately, Robert staggered over to the drinks cabinet, pouring himself a good two or three fingers of whisky. When Robert held the bottle out to his brother, Stannis refused, hovering next to one of the chairs next to Robert’s desk.

Shrugging, Robert gulped down his drink in one, topping his glass up again before it had even be set down on the surface again. “You were always one to get straight down to business,” he remarked. “I’m surprised you don’t get on better with Tywin, he’s a bit of a stiff too.”

Choosing again to say nothing, Stannis ground his teeth together, waiting.

“Oh very well,” Robert slurred out. “I suppose the sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can go back to doing whatever it is you do”- He paused again to take a drink, the smooth amber liquid dribbling from the corner of his mouth, trailing into his beard. “I have decided to form an alliance with the other families of Westeros. Not just the human ones, either.”

Stannis’ impartial expression must have faltered for a moment, for Robert let out a deep chuckle, leaning back in his chair. “Knew that would surprise you,” he turned serious again. “I presume you know about the threat from the East?” At Stannis’ nod, Robert retrieved a letter from his desk draw and passed it to him, continuing to silently drink and closely watch his younger brother’s reaction. “There’s been a development.”

Reading the letter with greedy eyes, Stannis felt his stomach drop. Whilst he’d been aware of the threat, he’d chosen never to pay much attention to it, a fault on his part perhaps, however he had long believed it to be nothing more than the paranoid delusions of his brother’s over-saturated mind. This however, changed things considerably. His brow creased and his hand crumpled the paper slightly in his tightened grip. “The creatures should be the last of our concern. We should be raising forces immediately.”

Robert chuckled, humourlessly, his eyes bleary and bloodshot. “There’s too much paranoia as it is. If I began to raise an army, the creatures would believe that it was against them and before long I’d be sat in the middle of a civil war again. We would have destroyed each other before the threat ever came to fruition. No, I need their support to fight this. I need them to trust me, which means an alliance.”

Stannis nodded, agreeing with his brother’s logic. Despite his complete ineptitude when it came to being King, Robert had his moments of clarity that made even the most stubborn of creature clamber to fight beside him. Well, almost all of the most stubborn creatures. “Have the Lannisters agreed to this?” He didn’t overly care for the Lannisters, but he knew their money and influence was vital in keeping his family in its position.

The two shared a look, the muscle in Robert’s jaw twitching. “Not all of the Lannisters, but I don’t need them to agree. I just need them to do what they’re told, at least until the damn thing is signed.”

“And the families?”

“They’re coming,” Robert rolled his eyes, grumbling under his breath. “All of them it would seem. Tyrell and Martell seem to be bringing their wives and children, and Old Frey’s bringing every member of his extended family, so who knows where we’ll house them all. Seems only the Vampire, Lord Bolton, is only bringing his heir.”

Stannis had long stopped listening to the grumblings of the drunken king, the gears of his mind rapidly turning. “I presume you wish for me to assist in the negotiations.”

Robert seemed not to hear him. “That reminds me, I’ll need some of your men to guard the Keep whilst the families are here. Can’t be too careful…”

He tapped his index finger twice on his leg, his jaw tightening. Eventually, Stannis nodded and arose from his seat, stiffly bowing to his brother as he excused himself. He almost bowled over Lancel as he stormed out of Robert’s office.

His brother was a fool to deny his help. Left to the Lannisters, they would manipulate the treaty to add to their already extensive power, Robert’s lion wife would see to that. No, Stannis would not allow that to happen. He had no intention of sitting idly by whilst Robert drank himself to death and allow the Baratheon’s rightful throne to be undermined. Well, he would protect the Kingdom at all costs. He would be there to pick up the pieces when things inevitably fell apart, and fashion them into a world more suited to his image, finally gaining the recognition he deserved.

 


 

Her breaths came out short and ragged, her hand clenching into a fist as she tried to control her breathing. She had always hated this, viewing the procedure as being primitive and bestial, but Maester Pycelle had assured her that it was necessary to keep the blinding headaches away. Cersei had suffered from them as a child, after her mother had died, but they had diminished and were almost completely gone. Then Jaimie had left her and they had come back again, and now with the risk of the treaty looming over her, they had become increasingly worse. One Maester had told her that they were caused by a sensitive disposition.

He had not made that same mistake again.

“How could this have happened?” she seethed, watching with morbid curiosity as the needle tore through her flesh. In a matter of seconds her vein were filled with the clear liquid, and she felt the warm haze descend over her as her vision began to swim slightly. She was vaguely aware of Pycelle moving around at the table beside her head, but at this point she couldn’t be bothered to see what he was doing. They had done this so many times before.

“The King has a weak will,” his voice rasped out, just penetrating her haze. “His mind has been seduced by the poison of those creatures he now invites back into his kingdom.”

She hummed in agreement, her head just beginning to loll slightly. She felt her anger cut sharply through her. “But what about my father? And Jaimie?” No one could accuse Tywin Lannister of having a weak will.

“You are sure he said he agreed with it?”

She opened her mouth, about to retort that she was certain and that he should know better than to question her, but then she paused. Was she sure? Oh she was certain he had said he supported the treaty, but then how many times had he said something only for his actions to contradict those words?

“And as for Jaimie, well, you know as well as I do that he is under the spell of that woman.”

Yes, that woman. Brienne of Tarth as she had been known. To look at her one would think that she was nothing special, however Cersei had been sure that Brienne was a witch. After all, how else would a plain ox attract the affection of a mighty lion? He should have devoured her but instead chose to make her his mate. It disgusted Cersei.

“I must speak to Robert. Perhaps if I can get him drunk enough, I can make him undo his wretched mistake without too much resistance.” She felt a tightening around her wrists, a soft material cutting into her skin.

“I would advise against that, my Queen,” Pycelle’s rasping lilt had moved. He was no longer beside her. “We have been presented with an ideal opportunity and I feel it would be remiss to waste it.”

“How so?” Another tightening sensation, this time around her waist.

“My Lady, I propose we use this treaty to flourish the seeds of mistrust that have already been sewn. Now is the perfect time to destroy the creatures once and for all.”

“Starting with those disgusting dogs,” she hissed, the very thought of them making bile rise in her throat. “I want to see them all suffer, all those filthy beasts, the way they’ve made my family suffer for years.”

“And we can. The treaty has given us the perfect way to eliminate them all at once.” He was closer again, behind her head.

“Yes,” Cersei felt her mind working again, cutting through the fog. “We can finally remove their stain from the land, and once they are dealt with, we will be free to take care of this threat from the East. Robert is too frightened to act because of the creatures. Without them there will be nothing holding us back.” She feels something cold and small being stuck to her head. “And perhaps when they are all gone, my headaches will finally stop.” And Jaimie shall return to me once again, where he belongs.

“Of course.”

There was another wave of haziness, stronger than the last. She barely felt Pycelle moving her limp jaw, placing the worn leather strap into her mouth. He had to force her mouth closed to keep it there. The sound of a machine coming to life filled the silent room, electricity humming and cracking all around her. She begins to formulate a plan in her mind, thinking about how wonderful her life will be once again when all the monsters are removed from it.

Then Pycelle flicks the switch and for a while she is unable to think, unable to move, for the excruciating pain.

Chapter Text

A strained silence seemed to descend over King’s Landing as the sun arose that morning. There were no banners, no parades or great parties of drunken debauchery, only quiet in a city that never rested. For what should have been such a momentous day, the inhabitants of this great city seemed to be trying to distance themselves as much as they could from it, avoiding the Red Keep and outer city walls, knowing that just the tiniest of sparks could send the whole kingdom up in flames. Even as the first armoured cars, sleek and dark, rolled through the streets, not even the most curious of street urchins dared to approach and bear witness to the first creature to set foot in King’s Landing in almost twenty years.

“It’s so quiet,” Sansa breathed, her voice barely above a whisper, her nose practically pressed against the tinted windows. It seemed nothing like the stories Old Nan had told her as a child.

“Storm’s coming,” Sandor replied gruffly from his seat beside her. For security reasons, he thought it best for a guard to remain inside the back with the families at all times. Sansa had ended up sat beside him, and whilst the car was more than spacious to accommodate them all, her father had done nothing but glare at Sandor every time he moved. “They’re taking cover before it hits.”

Arya had remarked that it hadn’t felt like a storm was approaching, and whilst it had been overcast, the day remained warm and still. “Storms don’t always come from the sky,” was all he said in reply, causing Arya to frown even more.

Suddenly, his radio crackled to life and Sandor began barking orders in a harsh whisper. Turning to Sansa, he softened his voice slightly. “We’ve arrived,” he informed her, pointing out of the window on his right. Leaning across him to glance out, she was vaguely aware of her siblings moving to do the same further down, and was almost sure she heard a snarl and felt her father’s eyes on her, but it was lost amongst the commotion. She gasped at what she saw.

Looming above the city was the Red Keep. The tales she’d heard did not do it justice, for it was more awe-inspiring and terrifying than any words or imaginings that she could conjure in her mind. Its smooth stone towers pierced the sky, stones stained the colour of its name, as though the great sky itself had bled from their injury, its crimson blood running down the Keep’s many walls. All at once, Sansa felt compelled to turn and run back to the North as fast as she could, yet intrigue demanded that she step inside, to bear witness to its horrifying glory.

Again, Sandor’s radio came alive. “King Robert is awaiting your arrival, he and his family will be there to greet you.” They drove through the large gates, framed by high stone walls, and into the large courtyard, where the King and his family, both Baratheon and Lannister, stood waiting to greet them. Before the vehicle had even come to a stop, Sandor had arisen and quickly exited through the door, jogging round the back of the car to stand cover as the door was opened, and the first of the families stepped forward to greet the King.

Ned made sure he was first out, using those few moments to discretely inhale, sorting through the array of scents to try and detect any possible threats. When he was confident there was none, he helped his wife and children out of the car, leading them over to the man who he had once deemed his closest friend.

“Your Grace,” he said as he reached Robert, bowing to the King with his family quickly following suit.

“Ned,” Robert replied, nodding his head in a greeting. “It’s been a long time.”

“It has.”

Robert laughed, humourlessly. “You’ve got old.”

Ned raised an eyebrow. “And you’ve got fat.”

There were a tense few seconds of silence, where the red faced king and the wolf didn’t break eye contact, continuing to size each other up. Eventually, Robert broke out with an uproarious laugh, clapping Ned on the back as he embraced him. Ned smiled and relaxed slightly. Catelyn did not.

“It has been dull without you, my old friend,” Robert bellowed, wrapping an arm round his shoulder.

Ned chuckled, looking pointedly at him. “That was your doing, I believe.” Whilst he had no wish to anger Robert, he was not quite yet ready to bury all hurts quite yet.

Robert laughed again, though there was a darkness in his eyes. “Careful Ned,” he said lightly, clapping his back once again. His focus shifted suddenly from Ned. “Catelyn, you’re looking as beautiful as ever.” He walked over to her and kissed her cheek and she gave him a small, tight lipped smile in return, murmuring “your Grace”.

“And these must be your children,” he said. At this moment, Ned stepped forward again, standing beside his wife as he introduced each of his children. Sansa had to lightly kick Arya to remember to curtsey instead of bowing like their brothers.

Once each of the Stark children had been introduced, and of course Theon as the Greyjoy heir, Robert had gestured to the three blond haired youths, two boys and a girl. “These are my children. My eldest, Joffrey,” – Joffrey inclined his head and gave a charming smile, though Ned noted that it didn’t reach his cold and cruel looking eyes. - “My daughter Myrcella, and my youngest, Tommen” the two appeared kinder than their brother, though it was clear that they were perhaps just as nervous of the creatures as Ned and his family were of them. He took pity on the two. “And of course you remember their mother Cersei, and her father Lord Tywin.”

Ned chose to simply bow to the two, realising that perhaps Cersei would not appreciate him approaching her in any way. She glared at the family of wolves, silently seething, whilst Tywin, though also remaining silent, inclined his head. Ned wondered where Lord Tywin’s sons were and why they had not been summoned for this greeting party, Jaimie Lannister especially.

Before Robert could continue his introductions, a younger dark haired man stepped forward. His smiling face reminded Ned of a younger, albeit lither, version of Robert. He approached Ned, warmly shaking his hand. “And I presume that Robert won’t have to introduce me, though I imagine I was much younger when we last met.” His face seemed open and relaxed, not at all carrying the scorn and suspicion that so many other humans’ held when they spoke to the non-humans.

“It is good to see you again, Renly.” Ned said. Glancing over Renly’s shoulder, Ned saw another stern looking, dark haired man, who he recognised as Stannis Baratheon.

“Clegane,” Robert bellowed, effectively ending the introductions. The guard stepped forward. “Where are the Boltons? I thought they were to accompany you to King’s Landing?”

“They were, Your Grace,” Sandor replied gruffly. “They got held up on the King’s Road, but I have been informed that they have arrived in King’s Landing. The transportation of Lord Bolton has been…challenging.” Robert nodded in understanding, though the frown on his face remained. They all understood that out of all the creatures, getting Roose Bolton to King’s Landing would be the most difficult, especially if they were to travel during the day time.

They had stopped at the boarders of the Bolton’s lands, just before the break of dawn, to discover the Vampire Alpha already there and waiting. His pale eyes and skin were unearthly in the pre-morning glow, leaving Ned with a chilling shiver running down his spine. Sandor had informed him that Tywin had taken extra care to ensure Lord Bolton would be able to travel south with the rest of them.

At that moment, an alarm sounded and armed guards moved to surround the gate. Slowly, it shuddered open and a second and third armoured car entered, steadily crawling to a stop once it reached the group. Unlike the car that the Starks had travelled in, these were slightly smaller and the windows were completely blacked out, with no light being allowed to enter the inside of the vehicles. The door was opened by a trembling squire and out stepped Roose Bolton and his heir.

Roose, or at least Ned presumed it was Roose, was completely covered with every inch of his skin obscured from the sun. He wore a thick black cloak, with a hood that covered a good portion on his face, and dark gloves that went up under his sleeves and beyond. Most unnerving of all was the wooden mask he wore over his face, carved to contour his features perfectly, the eye holes covered by a black mesh that made Ned feel as though he were staring into an endless void. His movements were graceful as he glided forward to greet the King.

“Lord Bolton,” Robert spoke, all traces of previous held mirth gone. “Welcome to King’s Landing.”

“Thank you,” Bolton’s voice was soft, unremarkable to the ear, but Ned knew better. “I must ask that you forgive me for not being able to present my face to you, as you know, I am unable to walk in the sun.”

“Quite understandable,” Robert replied, glancing at Tywin, who quickly stepped forward to greet the Vampire Lord. “This must be your son,” Tywin observed, glancing at the pale eyed man beside Roose, who Ned noticed seemed completely unaffected by the sunlight.

“Ramsay Snow,” Bolton replied, a hint of disdain creeping into his tone. “My bastard does not suffer the same affliction for the sun as I do.” The boy, Ramsay, grinned at the King and bowed, though his smile held more menace than civility. Bolton turned back to the King. “If you will excuse us, I fear I must get out of the direct sunlight immediately.”

“You don’t wish to greet the other families?” Cersei sneered, curling her lip back as she regarded the Vampire. Silently, Bolton’s masked face turned to regard her and she faltered slightly under his invisible gaze.

“I shall meet them once we discuss the terms of the treaty,” he replied coolly. “I think they would find it easier to communicate with me if I were not a pile of ash.”

Tywin Lannister immediately took control of the situation, summoning an elderly looking man. A Human. “Maester Pycelle will show you to your chambers, and should you need anything else-“

“I have brought my own household staff to cater for my needs,” Bolton replied, gesturing to a small group of pale looking vampires and humans. “But I thank you for your generosity.” And with that he swept away, following a wheezing Pycelle in through the grand doors of the Red Keep.

“A strange man,” Robert muttered to Ned.

“I see our next guests have arrived,” Tywin remarked as the alarm sounded and armed guards scrambled to get into position. Ned gestured that his family should stand beside him. He didn’t think the other creatures would mean them any harm, but one could never be too careful. There was only one car, sent down to the docks to collect the next family, who had chosen to travel by boat for as long as they could.

Balon Greyjoy and his daughter, Yara, were both harsh in appearance and mannerisms. Merepeople, contrary to some of the tales told, were aggressive and violent, often fighting amongst themselves for control of the waters surrounding the Iron Islands. Often, this violent nature tended to result in human casualties.

Like all other Merepeople, Greyjoy and his children had visible scales covering their bodies, gradually fading as they reached their jaws. Large gills, like giant open wounds from a knife, ran across their necks, pulsating with every breath they took. Despite what legends claimed, they did not have glorious fishtails, but rather webbed hands and feet that allowed them to travel on both land and in water, and a large collapsible fin on their back, translucent and shimmering in all its glory beneath the waves, though on land, where their skin and scales had the chance to dry out, it looked nothing more than a crusted piece of seaweed. Merepeople could survive on land, however without a water source nearby; they soon dried out and wasted away.

Stood beside Greyjoy, was a man clearly not of mere-blood. He looked, for all intense and purposes, human, with a grey beard and worn face, though his eyes were kind and warming. On his left hand, four of his fingers had been clearly sliced off at the knuckle, an old injury Ned guessed by the way it had long since healed over and scarred. He assumed this was one of the escorts that the Lannisters has sent, though he couldn’t help but detect a slight bitter, acidic scent coming from the man.

“That’s Davos Seaworth,” Renly whispered to him, having moved away from the main party to stand beside Ned. “My brother-in-law, though quite the story there, I can tell you…” Before he could elaborate further, the alarm went again and Greyjoy made for a hasty exit.

“It’s easy for accidents to occur in larger groups,” he snarled, motioning for his children to follow him to their quarters, which had been positioned nearest to one of the Keep’s secluded coves. Both followed, however Theon frowned uncertainly, shooting a glance Ned’s way before he followed.

The Goblin Freys were to arrive next, smaller in stature with slightly green skin and gnarled limbs and taloned fingers. What they lacked in size and strength, they more than made up for in numbers, much to Tywin Lannister’s dismay as he beheld the sheer number of relatives that old Walder Frey had brought with him.

“I would suggest we move them to the West Wing,” he told Robert, as they watched the courtyard gradually fill with more and more goblins. “If we give them the entire wing it might just fit them all.” Gradually Varys, who had been tasked with mountainous job of escorting them all here, managed to observe this and slowly heard them all towards the West Wing, mentally making a note of the precious items that suddenly seemed to vanish along the way.

Unbeknownst to Ned, amongst the commotion caused by the Frey’s arrival, Lyssa Arryn and her son, the very young Lord Robin, flanked by four Arryn guards, had arrived and almost snuck in unnoticed. Cersei had been quick to spot them, however, and had snarled something to Sandor, who hastily made his way over to them and brought them before the King.

Ned remembered his sister-in-law from her wedding to the late Lord Arryn, though had not seen her since then, after the banishment, and had never met his nephew before. Robert quickly greeted them before stepping back, allowing for the family reunion between Catelyn and her sister.

Whilst Lyssa had always been slightly…odd, her behaviour now was concerning to Ned and, by the way she gripped his hand tightly, to Cat as well. An Arryn through marriage, and a human by birth, it appeared that Lyssa had not taken to being a creature’s wife nearly as well as her sister had, as her paranoia seemed to have increased tenfold, especially since the untimely death of her husband.

“My son, Robin, Lord of the Vale.” She had said, though refused to let him go from her side, gripping the boy’s shoulders so tightly that her knuckles turned white. “He is strong, like his father. Just look at his wings.”

The Arryns had long referred to themselves as angels, placed on their noble seat by the Gods themselves, however the power and respect they had held, as well as people’s belief in this story, had begun to dwindle long before the rule of the last Targaryen king. Looking at the young lord, his wings a muddy colour with imperfect specs of grey, so very different to his father’s pure white ones, he didn’t scream strength and power, though Ned supposed that the boy would grow.

“Lord Stark, Lady Stark, it is a pleasure to see you both in King’s Landing,” a silky smooth tone spoke out from beside Lyssa, and for the first time Ned saw who his sister-in-law and nephew’s escort had been.”

“Hello Petyr,” Catelyn smiled fondly, and Ned felt his irritation rising again.

“Balish,” he all but snarled at the smirking man. Catelyn had always regarded him as a family friend, however Ned had not had that same trusting outlook on the man. He watched the way Lyssa smiled at Balish, clearly having eyes for no other. The man had obviously wasted no time reinstating himself in Lyssa’s affections. He would have to speak to Catelyn about that at a later date.

“My son must rest after his long journey,” Lyssa announced, and Balish was quick to jump and offer his services in escorting them to their chambers. “It is my given role, after all,” he said, bowing graciously to the blushing woman, though Ned noticed that he seemed reluctant to remove his gaze from Catelyn.

“I thought the stories told of ‘angels who could travel the length of the kingdom in a few beats of their wings,’” Cersei sneered once they were out of earshot. “Clearly those are just fanciful tales judging by the look of that boy.”

Robert clearly did not hold the same opinion as his wife when it came to what they found amusing. “Woman, I am warning you-.“ His threat was left empty, for the next family had arrived, alarms blaring loudly across the courtyard. “By the Gods, how much longer do we have to stand here listening to that bloody thing?”

“There are just the Martells and the Tyrells left, your Grace.” Sandor said, his face an unreadable mask as the next car pulled up. “Both have arrived in King’s Landing.”

The Martells were first to arrive, with the Tyrells fortunately following a matter of minutes later, and Ned was not surprised to see the frosty reception between the Lannisters and Martells. He had heard that there had been bad blood between them towards the end of the war, and the glare that Oberyn Martell was giving the Lannister patriarch was enough to confirm this, though Tywin appeared to be just as unimpressed by the witch’s presence.

“Oberyn Martell,” the extravagant witch bowed, gesturing to the exotic beauty beside him. “And my lovely wife, Ellaria Sand.”

“I see your brother could not attend,” Cersei remarked. She glared angrily at the blonde couple who had just exited the vehicle, Jaimie Lannister and his wife, Brienne.

Oberyn turned towards her, seemingly unfazed by her coldness, and smiled. “My brother has been somewhat…detained, but sends his regards and asks that I may take his place in signing the treaty.”

“I’m sure we could make allowances,” Tywin said, his voice almost as cold as his daughter’s.

“More than once it would seem,” Martell sneered, gesturing to Sandor. “You still allow them here? Dare to allow him to stand in my presence without the chains they deserve? The lack of justice in King’s Landing may make me reconsider the Martell’s position with this treaty.”

Sandor scowled. “Your quarrel is with my brother, not me.”

“My quarrel is with any Lannister or Clegane who might seek to prevent justice.”

“Oh dear, I do hope I’m interrupting a fight,” an elder faery said as the Tyrells approached, her impish grin making her eyes shine with mischief. “I’d hate to think that I was missing out on any excitement.”

A male faery, red faced and out of breath, attempted to silence her, embarrassment written across his face. “Mother, please.”

Ned instantly recognised them both as Olenna and Mace Tyrell, having met them briefly during the few days after the war, before the banishment, however the three younger faeries Ned did not know, but presumed them to be Mace’s children. There was another faery, younger than Olenna, who he thought was perhaps Mace’s wife.

“Lord Tyrell, Lady Olenna, welcome to King’s Landing,” Robert approached them, however was surprised when Olenna seemed not to be paying him any interest. Mace, on the other hand, took the opportunity of having the King’s attention very seriously, and began to earnestly converse with him.

Olenna glanced up at the Keep, squinting slightly in the sun. “It’s still the same eyesore it was when Aerys Targaryen was king,” she remarked. “Something’s never change I suppose.” She turned her gaze to the group before her, giving the Starks a slight nod before her eyes came to rest on the Lannisters, one Lannister in particular. “Lord Tywin,” she smirked, approaching him, her hand outstretched. “It’s nice to see that you’re still here. I daresay you’re becoming quite like one of the furnishings.”

“Lady Olenna,” he replied, taking her hand and kissing it. “You look positively radiant stood amongst these ancient structures.” He held her hand for a few seconds longer than propriety dictated.

“A false show of tolerance towards us creatures,” Martell seethed, just out of the pair’s earshot. “He’d just as soon kill us all, that is no doubt what he wants.”

“He probably wants to fuck her,” Sandor muttered, just loud enough for Sansa to hear. A laugh escaped her before she had a chance to compose herself, earning a glare from Cersei. The Queen quickly turned her gaze on Sandor.

“Shouldn’t you be doing the job you’re paid to do, like a good hound? After all, one would hate to think that you were being remiss, especially with such a heightened threat.” She glared pointedly at Ned and his family before storming back into the Keep.

“Ned, I’d like to have a word before you go.” Robert, having just managed to break away from Mace Tyrell, put an arm around him, leading him away from the group.

“You should probably get settled,” Sandor said to Catelyn, his face unreadable, but his eyes were like a dark storm. “I’ll show you to your chambers.” The rest of the group had gradually dispersed, until the courtyard was deserted, save for the guards who permanently protected its gates.

Chapter Text

His teeth grinded with shattering force, a habit he had developed as a young boy to cope with the stress of the daily trials that were sent to test him. It was a bad habit, as he had constantly been told, and when he was a boy, the Septa charged with raising him would often beg him to stop, imploring him not to spoil his lovely teeth. She was a weak willed woman. She had been unable to stop him then, and so it was a habit he was yet to break.

“You’ll give yourself jaw ache if you keep doing that,” Davos told him, barely looking up from the book he was reading. He hadn’t been able to read when Stannis first met him and still struggled some days, but he was a quick learner. Shireen would have been…

“This treaty…” Stannis began, pausing his grinding for a moment.

Davos looked up at him. “You’re having doubts.” It wasn’t a question, it didn’t need to be. They had known each other a long time now.

“We both know what Robert’s like,” Stannis sighed, months of frustration finally coming to the surface. “He won’t be capable of keeping himself in check long enough to form a treaty, let alone sign it. They’ll turn on each other before the month is out and we’ll be at war again.”

Silently, Davos closed his book and placed it beside him. It amazed Stannis that the man could remember the exact page where he had left off, without use of any bookmark. The one time his curiosity gotten the better of him and he asked about it, Davos had simply shrugged and told him that it always helped to remember where you were. “Robert might not have the patience to carry this off, but he has Tywin Lannister’s support. He has enough patience for both of them, I’d say.”

A sneer spread across Stannis’ face. “I trust the man less than I do Robert. He has far too much interest in power to make a successful coalition.”

“He seemed more interested in making a ‘coalition’ with a certain Faery Elder, if you ask me,” Davos muttered under his breath, earning a glare from his husband.

“Did you know he’s asked Ned Stark to assist in the negotiations of the terms of the treaty? Something that should have been asked of me by right.”

Davos hesitated for a moment, trying to decide how best to phrase his next words. “It is understandable, Ned is a creature after all and would be trusted enough to fairly create terms that would be suited to everyone.” He almost groaned as he saw that this wasn’t necessarily the right thing to say.

“I could have been trusted to create the terms without bias. I am not completely unsympathetic towards the creatures, as I have tolerated your affliction for years.”

‘Tolerated’ was a strong word, as for the most part Stannis simply chose to pretend that Davos’ ‘affliction’ did not exist, though Davos was grateful that he took this approach instead of revealing his true nature to the King. The truth was that Davos was in fact a Daemon, admittedly not as wild and ferocious as others of his kind were, but he had been young once. Stannis seemed to attract the attention of different creatures over the years, many of who had left a bad taste in his mouth. One in particular had been a phoenix by the name of Melissandra, who he refused to mention even to this day.

Shortly after his wife had died, he had met Melissandra and, unaware of her true nature, had begun an affair with her, taking comfort in her direction when he was so lost, even if she was sometimes a little extreme. In his way, he had loved her, however with a young daughter who couldn’t understand why her mother had left, he had ended the relationship to concentrate on helping Shireen through her grief. His daughter had to come first and he thought that Melissandra had understood.

Oh, but how wrong he had been.

He had been called away to King’s Landing on official business, and had barely travelled more than a mile from Dragonstone, where he had been residing at the time, when the news reached him. A fire had broken out in the castle. By the time he had got back, the entire building was up in flames and any still inside were burned alive.

His daughter was burned alive.

The King had launched a full investigation into how the fire had started, and on that occasion Stannis had been grateful for his brother’s help. They had discovered that the fire had been deliberately started, in the tower that led to Shireen’s rooms and that a specific type of flame had been used to destroy the castle. At first, Stannis had believed it to be wildfire, but then he had discovered what had really caused it; a phoenix, whose flame burns hotter and brighter than even a dragon’s breath.

He had tried to find the culprit but to no avail. There had not been a phoenix sighting further north than Dorne in almost a century, and with the banishment it made it virtually impossible for travel between the districts in those early days. Eventually, he caught wind of a phoenix trying to escape to Essos via one of the ports in the Crownlands, and had personally travelled to apprehend them, but was too late.

When he arrived, he discovered that the phoenix had already been killed by the ship’s captain and he realised for the first time who his daughter’s killer was.

Melissandra.

Looking back it was so obvious what she was, however he had been too blind and too foolish to realise. He had allowed this woman to escape and cause numerous deaths, leaving him with no answers, only the captain who had killed her, who he had arrested and interrogated. He soon learned that the Captain’s name was Davos Seaworth and that he had been searching for the woman for many years. He had spent a number of years in Essos, smuggling goods up and down the coast when he encountered a group of phoenixes. He quickly learned that they wished to use him and his vessel to smuggle themselves into the heart of Westeros, so that they could burn the city of the Targaryen kings who had exiled them long ago. Davos had refused and in revenge, Melissandra had murdered his family, not before taking the fingers of his left hand as well.

Stannis had understood the man’s pain, having lost his own family too, however he had to uphold the law as was expect of him otherwise his men would not respect him again. His men expected him to execute Davos for murder, however part of him knew that this would be unjust. Davos had asked him to visit him in his cell, and had confessed to Stannis that he was a Daemon.

“I thought that might make it easier for you to decide,” Davos had said. “This way you won’t lose faith with your men and, Gods be good, I might see my family again.”

It was in that moment, that act of honesty which had decided Stannis, and over the years since then Davos had made him think that perhaps not all creatures were the monsters he had been raised to believe. In return, Stannis allowed him his life if he were to remain in service to him, that way he could make sure the man never repeated his crimes again. He had also offered him anything he wished for, as a personal thank you for catching Shireen’s killer and he’d expected him to ask for his freedom, however was surprised when he had not and had instead asked for one thing.

“I’d like to learn to read,” Davos had said. Stannis couldn’t help but think that Shireen would have liked the man.

And as for Davos’ daemon nature? Well, Stannis saw no reason to bring it up again as long as he continued to behave like a human. He saw himself as an honourable man, and didn’t believe in holding a man’s past failings against him, after all, everyone was entitled to a second chance to prove themselves.

Chuckling, Davos picked up his book again and settled back to read. “Stannis, whilst I love you, you really don’t understand the non-humans and I fear would end up insulting one of them.”

 


 

 

Ned silently contemplated as he wandered around the walled garden inside the Keep. It was quite picturesque, with vibrant and colourful flowers that bloomed in the summer sun. Catelyn had once confessed to him that she would have liked to have a beautiful garden, however the colder climate in Winterfell made this virtually impossible. Turning away from the flowers, he returned to his original thoughts, trying to puzzle through the doubts that plagued him.

After they had arrived in King’s Landing, Robert had asked to speak with him, and so he had gone with the King, reluctantly leaving his family in the care of Sandor Clegane. Robert had begun by reliving the ‘good old days’, reminiscing of a time before rebellions and banishments. Eventually, however, he had revealed his ulterior motive for wanting to speak with Ned alone.

“I need you Ned,” he told him, nursing his glass of wine, how much he’d already had Ned was unsure of. “I can’t make this treaty happen without you. The other families will be suspicious of everything I suggest and I need them to agree if we’re going to survive.”

“Survive what?” Ned had asked, still in the dark about what this ‘threat’ was.

“They’ll listen to you,” Robert continued, as though Ned had not spoken. “You’re an honest man, a good man, they’ll trust you not to betray them.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, Robert. Any trust this Kingdom had, has long been destroyed.”

Nodding, the King gulped down the rest of his drink and turned to look mournfully at his old friend. “I never wanted any of this to happen, you know. I thought I was making the Kingdom a better place by removing our common enemy, but I fear we needed that enemy to keep us united.”

“Why did you do it, then?” Ned asked, unable to look at him.

Robert chuckled softly. “I never wanted to be King, I’m a pretty shit one at best. I thought I was doing what was best, but fat lot of good that did.”

“You banished the creatures. You tore the Kingdom apart in so many different places, what did you think would happen?”

“I had my reasons.”

“What reasons could be good enough to excuse sending the people you claimed to love away? You could have caused another war.”

“Look, I’m not asking you to forgive what I’ve done,” Robert snapped. “I did what I thought was right at the time and that’s all there is to it.”

“No, I don’t believe that is,” Ned shook his head, scrutinising the man before him. “There’s something more to it, something you wouldn’t tell me then and something you’re not telling me now.”

“Will you help me or not?”

Ned had been tempted to say no, to dig his heels in like a petulant child and refuse to move until Robert told him what was going on. However, in the end he knew it would not be Robert that suffered, but rather the creatures who had been banished for so long. He thought of his eldest son, Robb, who had been a babe in arms when Ned left to fight beside Robert Baratheon. He was barely older than Ned had been then and he couldn’t bring himself to imagine his own son fighting in a war the way he had. No, he would avoid that at any cost.

“There you are,” a voice said from beside him, and he turned to see his wife approaching him. “I wondered if you were still perhaps still with Robert, but they told me that you left hours ago, I thought you’d got lost finding your way to our chambers.” Sighing, she sat down beside him, her leg brushing against his. “Your children have been driving me up the wall already. Arya and the boys have been fighting again. They’re so worked up that they just won’t settle down, honestly I don’t know how Old Nan does it sometimes. We should have brought her with us.”

Ned’s only response was to nod, his mind in too much turmoil to answer. When Cat noticed this, she asked him what was wrong and he considered for a moment before answering. “Robert asked me to help negotiate the treaty.”

“I’m not surprised,” Cat said. “Despite his faults, Robert always did love you like a brother.”

“Then why was he so quick to banish us?” It was a question Ned was determined to find the answer to before he left King’s Landing.

“I suspect he was pressured by Twin Lannister.” At Ned’s confused expression, she elaborated. “You saw the way some of the other families reacted to him. The Martells were hardly too happy to see him.”

“Robert claimed he didn’t have a choice but to banish the creatures,” Ned stated. “I suppose that pressure from the Lannisters could explain why, I never did trust Lord Tywin.” He remembered his involvement during the war, his approach towards their enemy could only be described as ruthless.

Catelyn took his hand and he rubbed his thumb across her knuckles. “Whilst we may not like or trust him, we must tread carefully. You know as well as I do how important securing this treaty is, not only for us but for everyone. Tywin Lannister is a powerful man and he can prevent this treaty from taking place if it benefitted him-” her hands tightened around his. “We must not be seen to be against any of the families in case we incriminate ourselves, but perhaps we might eventually make Robert see reason where the Lannister’s are concerned.”

Whilst he firmly believed that the Lannisters were to blame for the banishment, Ned was reluctant to risk his family by getting involved in the ‘politics’ of the nobility of Westeros. However, he could not sit idly by whilst justice was failing to be served. After all, if there was one thing he was certain of, was that the Lannisters were not to be trusted.

 


 

 

Elsewhere in the Red Keep’s illustrious gardens, Joffrey Baratheon, the king’s first born son and heir, stalked along the more secluded paths, his face moulded into a permanent scowl. He savagely ripped an overhanging branch of the Blossom Tree, whose flowers had grown across his path, its heady scent filling the cool night air.

He was furious with his father, enraged that the fool had invited those beasts into the capital, into their home no less. He had watched bitterly as his father had disregarded every argument his mother had presented, brushing aside her concerns as though they meant nothing. Well, they hadn’t meant nothing to him. If his father would not step up and protect them from these monsters, then he would ascend to fulfil that role; the role of saviour to their people.

Many arguments had echoed in the halls of the Red Keep concerning the creatures that inhabited this land, and despite his mother’s best attempts to shield him, and protect him from the truth, he had soon come to realise that their real enemy was not some rising army in a distant land. No, it was the terrors in the Seven Kingdom’s that stained their society, and he would not rest until every last one of them were eradicated, even if he had to slay them all himself one by one.

As he rounded the corner, he crashed into something harder and more solid than mere flowers, and stumbled backwards to regain his balance. Standing before him was a young man, of about his age, with pale eye and skin, and eyes that appeared to almost gleam in the dim light. Joffrey frowned when the man didn’t bow and immediately apologise.

“Watch where you’re going,” he snapped, drawing himself up to full height. “And where are your manners? How dare you not bow before you future king, what is your name? I should have you imprisoned for such impertinence.”

Still the man refused to bow, instead his menacing grin only grew broader. “Ramsay Snow, son of Lord Bolton.”

“The bastard son, I believe,” Joffrey took great pleasure in watching Ramsay’s smile falter slightly. “Of a vampire no less. I’m surprised you and your filthy kind haven’t rampaged the city and bled it dry yet, like the leeches you are.”

“I’m afraid you are mistaken.” Ramsay remained calm, infuriatingly not rising to the bait. “Whilst I may be the bastard of a vampire, I am not ravaged by the same disease that afflicts my father.”

Joffrey falter for a moment, his eyes widening at the realisation. “You mean you’re not…”

“I am human, and I thank the Gods for that.”

“I would have thought that you would have been a monster-lover, having been raised with them.” Joffrey sneered, “Or perhaps you’re a walking snack box for when those blood-suckers get hungry.”

Pale eyes darkened as the Bolton heir took a threatening step forward. “I am no one’s prey. I feast on the weak, the only reason I remain human is because my father fears that I would become stronger than him if I were turned. Well, I see now that he is no better than the rest of those pathetic creatures, too weak to take control.”

“They are inferior to humans,” Joffrey stated, pleased to have found someone as likeminded as he. “I am glad to have found someone who is not completely enamoured with these animals.” A grin passed over Ramsay’s face once again. Whilst he was not born a vampire, he had inherited the ruthless appetite for violence and bloodshed that many found terrifying, especially since he lacked the cool control that his father exercised, however Joffrey found this to be an impressive quality. “Such inferior creatures do not deserve to exist alongside us, I dream of the day that this kingdom is rid of them.”

Ramsay’s grin grew wider. “Perhaps we could see that dream become a reality.”

Joffrey paused, raising an inquisitive eyebrow. “How?”

“It would be quite simple really,” Ramsay replied as Joffrey gestured for him to walk alongside the prince. “We must make sure this treaty never comes to pass, ruin it before they sign and make the creatures hate each other again. My father always says to destroy an enemy, you must poison the heart and that is what we must do.”

 


 

 

He had learnt early on in his career in the Lannister’s guard that it helped to keep tabs on where everyone was at all times, no matter how insignificant they might seem when performing his duties. Tonight was one of those nights when everything seemed to be running smoothly, and it was those nights when Sandor was most alert, for anything could go wrong within a matter of seconds. He’d watched the Keep’s, now increased, inhabitants going about their business.

As he surveyed the corridors and grounds, he saw the Queen’s twin, Jamie Lannister, and his wife dashing towards their rooms, their hands intertwined as Jaime ran slightly ahead of Brienne, both giggling and flushed. They had been too engrossed with each other to notice him and he made sure to keep it that way. Brienne was a private person and often became embarrassed by her husband’s flirtatious actions towards her when others were present.

Shortly after the young couple had dashed passed, Sandor had moved outside to inspect the gardens and had seen Ned and Catelyn Stark sat on one of the marble benches in the gardens, their heads bowed together, whispering in hushed tones. He had believed that apart from the two werewolves, that the gardens had been deserted. Most of the families had chosen to remain in their quarters, the unfamiliar surroundings making them weary to venture outside, with only a handful of individuals having chosen to leave their quarters. Lord Tyrell’s only daughter had been one of those to venture out, accepting an invitation from Tyrion to have drinks in his chambers. Whilst he did not believe either would be in any danger, he had assigned Bronn to guard them just in case. He himself had been on guard duty that night, assigned to watch Lord Tywin however he had been dismissed hours ago. Lord Tywin had claimed that he would not require Sandor’s services for the rest of the evening, as he had ‘official business’ to attend to, and headed in the direction of the east wing, where the Faeries were being housed.

He rounded another corner, spying Queen Cersei storming down the path, with Pycelle wheezing after her. When she saw him, she frowned and turned off onto a smaller path, all but dragging the old man after her. They were followed by their guard, Gregor, who bared his teeth menacingly at Sandor before he disappeared down the small path, hidden by overgrowing shrubs and bushes.

So much for the garden being empty, he thought as he spotted another inhabitant out for a late night stroll. Joffrey skulked around the darker edges of the garden, scowling heavily. Sandor was about to follow the boy, suspicious of what he might be up to, when another figure caught his attention, and this time he seemed to catch theirs.

“Good evening, Sandor wasn’t it?”

He nodded and bowed. “Good evening m’lady,” he replied. “You should not be wandering around alone at night.”

The young, auburn haired wolf laughed softly. “I thought King Robert assured us that we would be safe whilst in the walls of the Keep?”

“Nevertheless m’lady, I must insist that you be accompanied, as a precaution.”

“Oh, well I only wished to see your beautiful gardens,” she replied. “It is too cold for exotic flowers to grow in Winterfell, they are too delicate for the harsh winters.”

“This is not my garden,” Sandor said.

She frowned slightly, an uncomfortable silence settled over the pair before she nodded and forced a smile upon her face. “Then perhaps you would escort me back to my chambers?”

“Of course m’lady.”

“Please, call me Sansa,” she smirked lightly, and began to wander back through the garden, Sandor walking closely beside her. He looked across as he heard her sigh, a serene expression upon her face. “It really is beautiful here.”

Regretfully turning his face away from her, he followed her gaze to observe the various plants that grew, many having been imported from other kingdoms, and some even from Essos, at the King’s insistence. Whilst flowers held no interest for the king, his daughter had a great love for nature and often ventured into the gardens to escape palace life, where she would dream of a life outside the Keep’s walls. “It’s a snapshot of the world’s wonders,” he replied, repeating what the young princess had once told him when he had discovered her lying amongst the wildflowers, having disappeared from her chambers hours before and sending her mother into a panic, an occurrence which seemed to happen more often as the royal children grew.

Sansa turned to look at him, a delighted smile lighting up her eyes. “I intend to travel the Seven Kingdom’s, once the treaty’s been signed of course. I’ve never left Winterfell before now, father didn’t even like us travelling around the North, but once the treaty’s signed, I’ll be free to explore everywhere. To see the enchanted gardens and forests of the Reach, the exotic markets of Dorne, even to see past the walls of the Red Keep and explore King’s Landing.”

The almost dreamy look in her eye pierced his heart as he quickly turned his gaze away from her. It had been such a long time since he’d seen such unspoiled hope and wonder with the world. “Westeros can be a dangerous place, especially for a little bird such as yourself. There are many who do not agree with the treaty between the species. Some are even willing to harm to prevent it happening.”

“I’m not a ‘little bird’,” she snapped, and Sandor grinned at this show of spirit. “I am a wolf,” she paused then, silently regarding his face, as though seeing it properly for the first time. “Is that what happened to you?” Sandor felt himself come to a sudden stop at her question. “Your scars, I just wondered…” she suddenly looked so unsure of herself and Sandor felt compelled to comfort her. “I’m sorry, please, forget I ever mentioned it.”

“No,” he found himself saying. “My scars aren’t from the treaty. Not directly anyway.” His mouth became dry and he suddenly found himself unsure of how to proceed. He never really spoke of the night his face was permanently disfigured, choosing to block it out altogether, but somehow this wolf forced him to face this dark chapter of his past. “My father was an eccentric man, who was obsessed with creating the perfect heir, and pissed off the wrong people in the process.”

Hesitantly, he began to tell her the story of his childhood, a story which very few people ever got to hear. All throughout his tale, she never once said a word, never pushing him, allowing him to speak in his own time. “In his quest for the perfect heir, my father, he messed around a lot with DNA, human’s and creature’s in the hopes of producing a son with all of the favourable qualities that he desired for his offspring. He managed to incorporate giant’s DNA into my brother’s, giving him incredible strength and size. He didn’t foresee that with this, Gregor would also inherit a vicious blood lust that boarders on being uncontrollable.” Sighing, Sandor clenched his fists tightly. “In his quest, my father managed to anger a witch when he struck a deal with her and failed to hold up his end of the bargain. My mother had died when I was young, and he had promised to marry the witch’s daughter and in exchange, she would grant me the senses of a werewolf without having to turn me into one.”

“Your father didn’t experiment with your DNA?” Sansa asked, her eyes wide and face pale.

“No,” Sandor replied, shrugging. “I suppose he didn’t want to risk creating another son like my brother. He realised that any creature DNA would often overpower that of a human, that’s why he needed the witch, however when my father went back on his word, the girl killed herself. The witch became so enraged by grief that she vowed that my father would know what it felt like to lose a child. She knew my brother’s giant DNA would make him too powerful to harm, so she sent a wolf of her own creation to turn me. The wolf got in, into my chambers where I slept, and attacked me.” Sandor laughed bitterly. “My father and the guards were able to kill it before it could turn me, but it was too late anyway, it succeeded in its mission and turned me into a monster that night anyway.” He gestured to the thick scars that covered the side of his face and neck, disappearing down past the neck line of his t-shirt, marking where deep gashes had once been.

He was once again surprised when he felt a smaller, softer pair of hands take his callous and worn ones. He looked up to see Sansa watching him with a fierce look in her eyes. “No,” she said. “You are noble and brave and not a monster. The witch who chose to exact her revenge on an innocent child is the monster, not you. But she failed because you are here now protecting those that you have been raised to hate, about to make history for all kinds.”

She spoke with such conviction that part of him almost wanted to believe her. Almost. “I am not noble; I have done many things that would make a lesser man shit himself with fear.”

She regarded him silently for a moment. “What happened to the witch?” Sansa flinched slightly as she watched a dark look pass over Sandor’s face.

“She is no longer a threat to anyone.”

Suddenly, they realised that they had reached the Stark’s quarters, and Sandor knew that it was time to take his leave. “Thank you for escorting me back,” Sansa whispered, reaching up to place a soft kiss on his cheek before quickly heading inside. “Goodnight Sandor.”

“Goodnight m’lady,” Sandor said to the empty air, reaching up to touch the spot where she had kissed moments before. As he walked away, he ran his fingers across the scars on his face, digging his nails in slightly, and wondered how such a perfect and innocent creature could ever show such kindness to someone like him.

 


 

 

Tywin sat reclined upon the plush and elegant loveseat with an authority that only a Lannister could wield, balancing a small goblet of the Arbor’s finest wine in his slender fingers. He looked very much a Lord in his castle, and whilst the Red Keep may not have been his castle, it had been his influence and support that had kept its current owner in possession of it. Glancing across to the opposite side of the small seating area that had been so meticulously arranged, he watched as his companion passed back and forth across the rug, and if he looked closely enough, he was sure that he could see the it begin to unravel and wear away under this constant onslaught.

“The boy is a fool,” Olenna fretted, her cheeks gradually becoming more and more flushed. “His pride and greed will no doubt bring about the downfall of the Tyrell’s, after everything I’ve done.”

Tywin calmly sipped his wine, savouring the fruity flavour that caressed his tongue. “I would hardly refer to your son as a ‘boy’ anymore.” The man had long since passed the age in which it was appropriate to refer to him as such.

“Then he should stop behaving as though he were one,” she snapped. “It makes me want to call for nanny and have him sent to bed with no supper. I fear Mace has taken more after his father, despite my best efforts to avoid this from happening.”

He reflected for a moment, thinking of the late Lord of the Faeries. He could not deny that he had been completely unimpressed by Luthor Tyrell, as the man was not only a fool but a stubborn one at that. Some had even gone as far as to claim the Lord was empty-headed, a trait which had resulted in his untimely demise. Whilst he had been out riding, Lord Tyrell’s saddle had mysteriously snapped, a minute but vital thread had frayed, and Luthor was thrown from his horse, somehow managing to impale himself on the iron stirrups, which he insisted on using as a sign of his strength, as he and the horse were sent crashing to the ground. There had been some suspicion that his wife had orchestrated the whole ‘accident’, however no evidence had been found to prove this to be true.

A light smirk passed over Tywin’s face. “I am confident that you will be able to convince Mace to make the right decision,” he calmly assured her.

Olenna finally stopped her pacing and turned to look at him, feigning a pleased blush at his words. “Why My Lord, I am flattered that you would think so highly of the ramblings of a simple old woman.”

He leant forward, watching her intently. They had known each other for a long time, and he had learned to read her well. He could tell when she was trying to use sarcasm to annoy him, to deter him from realising that she had already formulated a plan. “We both know that you are too intelligent for humble blushes,” he remarked, reclining once again. “I believe you’ve already had an idea of how to deal with Mace’s…reluctance.”

“Oh very well,” the elder faery huffed, instantly dropping her act. There were times to wind up the Old Lion, but if she wanted his compliance, now was not the time. “I intend to marry Myrcella to Willas.”

Tywin silently nodded, taking a slow sip from his goblet. He could practically feel the impatience rolling from Olenna. Eventually, he spoke. “Would it not be wiser to attempt a match between Margaery and Joffrey? Your granddaughter would one day be queen and her children would inherit the throne?”

She grinned as, although he would not admit it, this was evidence enough that he at least agreed with her plan, even though he might not understand her reasoning yet. “No,” she replied, moving to stand closer to him. “Apart from the fact that Joffrey is completely unsuitable to be anyone’s husband“- she ignored the raised eyebrow at this point – “Margaery knows her own mind too well to be manoeuvred into a marriage that she does not want. Besides, it’s not about having the actual power or position, but rather control, or at least the illusion of it.”

“Go on,” he frowned, his left eyebrow twitching slightly. He only did that when he was deeply contemplating.

Olenna’s smile widened. “As much as I love my son, I cannot deny that Mace is greedy. He craves power and control, however lacks the wit to actually achieve it and it’s through this that we can manipulate him into signing the treaty. Willas is heir to Highgarden, and so if Myrcella were to marry him, she would naturally live in Highgarden, with the faeries, and because of this Mace will think that he has a degree of control as he has a way of making Robert behave in a more favourable way towards the faeries.”

“As much as I agree with your logic,” Tywin said, scowling heavily. “I will not have my granddaughter mistreated just to get Mace to sign this treaty.” No matter how fond of Olenna he was, he would not compromise the safety of any member of his family.

Quickly sensing this, Olenna sat beside him, taking Tywin’s hands into hers. It never failed to marvel him that her skin, which looked human from a distance, held an almost bluish-green tinge whenever it was next to his. “Willas would not mistreat a fly,” she assured him. “He is too soft to harm her. You have my word that she would be well looked after.”

Again Tywin was silent, contemplating the proposal he had been presented with. Of course there would be some opposition. It would be one of the first inter-species marriages in over two decades. Cersei would no doubt express her displeasure, as she often did. Loudly. He could deal with her tantrums quite easily though, and Robert could be convinced to see the benefits of the match. “Of course it would be easier if both parties were compliant. Perhaps a meeting between Myrcella and Willas would be in order, so they can begin to get to know one another?”

Olenna laughed, her tone light and teasing. “My, my, who would have thought that the Great Lion himself was secretly a romantic?” A smirk passed over her features. “However if your plan doesn’t work, then I’m sure that you could use certain skills from your heritage to make them compliant.”

Tywin chose to ignore her, refusing to be goaded by her teasing, and instead chose to move the conversation onto more favourable topics. “We have not been able to spend much time together over these past few months,” he informed her. “We should make the most of these negotiations.”

She nodded in agreement, remarking, “Should the negotiations go well then I imagine that we will be seeing a lot more of each other.” She tapped her finger against her chin and sighed dramatically. “Though with all this extra time together, I may grow sick of your company.”

They had been apart for a while and it would seem that she was in a teasing mood this evening, and it wouldn’t be fair if he didn’t repay her by wiping the smirk off her face, even if only for a while. With a smirk of his own, he pulled her towards him and watched as her eyes gleamed brightly. “I believe,” he told her, placing hid goblet on the small coffee table, and turning his full attention towards her. “That I know a way that we can spend our time together without getting sick of each other.”

Chapter Text

Day broke over King’s Landing as the early morning sun rose steadily from the horizon, its fiery beams reflecting off the calm sea waters that surrounded this historical city. It was at this time of day that one could see the very soul of the city shift, as the seedier populace, the prostitutes, the thieves and the smugglers, relented their hold over the city when the general population arose to begin their working day. Fishermen readied their boats for a long day at sea, their wives waving them off before turning their attention to readying their children for the day ahead and preparing themselves for their own day of work. Soon, the streets were filled with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and despite the appearance of an ordinary routine, many cast nervous glances over their shoulders, towards the Red Keep, as though the monstrous structure would suddenly come alive and consume them all.

Unlike the rest of the city, the inhabitants of the Red Keep had been awake long before the sun, many having seen it both set and rise again. In the small council chamber, which had once only been used for the King and his advisors, the heads of each of the families were gathered, sat around a large oak table, a relic from the days of the old kings and meant to symbolise how far they had progressed since then, with Robert Baratheon sat at the head of the table.

“Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for agreeing to come,” he began, his chair creaking as he moved. “I realise travel throughout the kingdom has been…difficult at best, but I appreciate your compliance none the less.”

“Perhaps now you could tell us why we are here?” Oberyn was the first to speak, casually reclined in his chair, one leg thrown over the armrest. His bronze skin gleamed in the candlelight as though it were made of a precious metal, his whole being radiating his power. “You have yet to inform us what this ‘threat’ actually is.”

There was a murmur of agreement from around the table as the King glanced to the opposite end, where Tywin Lannister was sat, and then to Ned, who was sat directly to Robert’s right. “The reason I have summoned you all,” he began. “Is because I have recently received reports of a threat emerging from the east-“

“So you keep saying,” Balon snapped, earning a glare from Tywin. “Not that you’re actually telling us what it is.”

“It could be that he would have the chance to, if you kept your mouth shut for a few seconds fish-man,” Oberyn remarked in a bored tone.

Balon was instantly on his feet, flakes of dried scales fluttering from his body by the sudden movement. “What did you say?”

“Enough,” Tywin interrupted, coldly. Both creatures glared at him, however obeyed and sat down once again.

“As I was saying,” Robert cleared his throat, his words clear and for once not slurred, “I have had word from Essos that a daughter of Targaryen blood lives.”

“Impossible,” Lyssa Arryn cried, gripping her son’s arm tightly, his wings rustled quietly. Whilst the young Lord Arryn’s presence was required during the council meetings, it had been agreed that it would be best that his mother was allowed to accompany him.

“I thought all the Targaryen’s were killed during the war,” Ned stated, equally shocked by this revelation. A nervous energy descended over the council.

“So did we,” Tywin’s voice cut through the nervous whisperings. “However it would appear that we were wrong.” He nodded to Varys, who was also sat beside the King, as a cue to speak.

Almost immediately, the bald man began his narrative, though his voice remained soft and quiet. “There have been rumours that the late King’s youngest daughter, Daenerys Targaryen, survived the war by being sent by her mother to Essos, where she has lived in exile ever since.

“Only rumours,” Lyssa muttered. “Only lies.” Baelish quickly leant across to whisper in her ear.

Varys smiled sympathetically and shook his head. “I’m afraid not, My Lady. It would appear that in recent years Daenerys has made something of a name for herself in Essos, and attracted the attention of some very powerful allies.”

“What is one little girl going to do?” Walder sneered, spittle dripping from his jowl.

“She is not just a little girl any longer,” Tywin interjected. “She is now the wife of a Dothraki lord, by the name of Khal Drogo.”

The only sound that followed was the quiet whimpering of Lord Arryn as he wrapped his wings around himself as, despite his young age, he understood what this meant for them all. They had all heard of the Dothraki, a savage mafia that consisted of multiple gangs who had risen from the back alleys to control a large portion of Essos, now known as the ‘Dothraki Sea’. They ruled through backhanded deals and, not so secretly, disposing of those who opposed them. Out of all the gangs, Khal Drogo controlled the largest and most powerful, and if they turned their attention to Westeros, the results would be disastrous.

Clearing his throat and uttering a nervous giggle, Varys continued. “There have been rumours that Drogo has been stockpiling weapons and accumulating paid mercenaries, along with his own men. All this, and so shortly after his marriage to Daenerys, would suggest that they are planning to spread their influence to the Seven Kingdoms, and no doubt there would be a desire to exact revenge on those who fought against the Mad King as well.”

It took a while for those present to comprehend and digest this information. Ned understood what would happen if Daenerys arrived in the Seven Kingdoms and could see why Robert was so desperate to gain the support of the creatures. It had taken a kingdom to dispose of the last Targaryen ruler and without their support again, Daenerys would wipe out both the Baratheons and Lannisters with ease. He doubted even his own family would be safe from persecution.

“I don’t know why we don’t just send someone to deal with the girl before she even sets foot on Westeros,” Robert bellowed, his face red as he shuffled in his chair, pulling out a silver hip flask and gulping down its contents.

“I don’t think that would be wise,” Ned replied. “We can’t be sure that she intends to attack Westeros, and whilst we should prepare in the event of an invasion, the Dothraki would see it as a declaration of war.” He’d hoped that there wouldn’t be another war, at least not in his lifetime, or that of his children’s.

“I agree,” Lord Bolton spoke for the first time since the meeting began. “Even if you were successful in killing the Targaryen and her mate, removing the head would cause a power vacuum, with no clear successor the fights for the position would be cataclysmic. Dothraki may kill Dothraki, however if an external party takes it upon themselves to attack a Lord, then they run the risk of the entire Dothraki joining forces to go to war against them. That would be a much worse fate then just facing Drogo’s forces.”

Opposite him, Balon sneered openly at the vampire. “And how is it you know so much about the Dothraki?”

“I have been alive for many centuries,” Roose replied calmly. “I once encountered an exiled Dothraki on the run. He did not survive a week before they hunted him down.”

“Lord Bolton is right,” Oberyn added, his casual persona now gone. “I have done business with the Dothraki before. They have witches in their ranks that rival even my power.”

“The Martells have always been over confident when it comes to their magic,” Baelish whispered to Ned. “And yet they suffered numerous, humiliating defeats to the Lannister armies.” He could see Lyssa watching the man longingly from the corner of his eye.

Tywin’s jaw twitched.

“As fascinating as this all is,” Mace interrupted, puffing out his chest. “You seem to forget that some of us fought with the Targaryens, so I hardly see how this has anything to do with us. Daenerys would have no reason to seek revenge against those who so loyally served her father.”

At this, both Robert and Tywin shared a look, ready to play their trump card. “Whilst this is true, no family in this room would be safe from persecution.” Before anyone could protest, Tywin continued, glancing at each person as he spoke. “Both Starks and the Boltons chose to fight alongside Robert, as did the Arryns.” He turned his gaze to Oberyn. “Whilst the Martells were joined by marriage to the Targaryens, you began to withdraw your troops and support, without telling Aerys, leading to some humiliating defeats.” Next, he looked to Balon. “You chose to plunder and loot the weakened fleets, choosing not to fight on either side but to rob from those who were vulnerable. Like the Greyjoys, the Freys chose not to take up the call to arms, and instead stepped back to allow whichever side to win or die.”

“The Tyrells remained loyal to the King, until the very end,” Mace replied with his usual air of superiority.

“Not quite,” Robert said, clearly enjoying seeing the faery’s arrogance deflate. “Not all of the Tyrells remained loyal. In fact, it was thanks to Lady Olenna, who supplied vital information to the Lannisters, that we were able to win some of our most pivotal battles. Daenerys knows this as well.”

“So we are all at risk, unless you are the sort of man who is willing to sell out his own mother to ensure his survival,” Tywin added, though Ned was almost sure he could detect a slight threat in the Lannister’s tone.

The council murmured amongst themselves, and again Ned watched as Baelish leant across Robin’s head to whisper in Lyssa’s ear. “You’ll have my support,” Ned suddenly spoke, looking Robert in the eye. The King beamed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Should the time come.”

“The Martells will fight beside you,” Oberyn stated. “Whilst there are some here who I would gladly watch burn-“ he sent a pointed glare towards Tywin “-I remember the dark days of the last Targaryen ruler. If there is a chance for me to make this world better for my children, then I shall take it.”

Robert turned again to look at Tywin, who nodded his head graciously. “You will of course have the support of the House of Lannister.”

“And of the Tyrell’s,” Mace reluctantly added, much to everyone’s surprise. Roose and Balon soon followed, pledging their support, with both Walder and the Arryn’s adding a quiet “aye”. For the first time in decades, both men and monsters were allies for the same cause; in their desire to survive.

 


 

 

Tyrion had always had a passion for wine, and on this occasion, he was glad that his clueless brother had managed to produce a decent vintage, rather than the usual plonk that he drank. Jaime had never shared his father’s or younger brother’s love for good wine and, since he had married Brienne, rarely drank very much anymore, though still partook of the occasional glass should the occasion arise.

At this time, the two brothers were catching up on their respective trips, having not had the opportunity to do so on the previous night. In truth, Tyrion had actually missed Jaime, who Tywin had secretly sent a couple of days before everyone else, and had often felt that Jaime was one of the few who actually liked him, rather than simply tolerated him because of his name. Tyrion snorted on his wine at Jaime’s complaining about his trip. So far, he had bemoaned that Dorne was too hot, with food that was much too spicy, and had a population that seemed determined to sleep with his wife.

“It’s true,” Jaime had said, deciding to enlighten him. “I was fighting them off by the dozen.”

Tyrion doubted this very much. Whilst he had grown to be very fond of Brienne, and viewed her as being very much a part of their strange family, he knows that not many held Brienne’s….physical appearance in the same high regard as Jaime. Not that Jaime seemed aware of this. He was so protective of, and on occasion jealous over, his wife that he assumed that everyone must find her just as attractive and desirable as he did. And Tyrion was quite sure that Brienne was more than capable of fighting off any unwanted advances without the assistance of any man.

Tyrion was not without sympathy though. “Of course we all know that you don’t have the pallet to handle exotic food.” He had always teased his brother for his diet, which consisted of ‘kiddie food’, as Tyrion referred to it. If it wasn’t in the shape of a nugget, couldn’t be eaten without the use of cutlery or smothered in ketchup, then Jaime wouldn’t touch it. Double points if he didn’t need to use a plate as well.

“It has nothing to do with that,” Jaime huffed, knowing exactly what his brother was implying. “I can handle spice. This wasn’t spice, it was extreme spice. I’m telling you, Martell was trying to kill me using some magical fire herb and recruit Brienne into one of his weird and sweaty orgy rituals.”

He lost control at this, choking on his wine as he laughed, tears streaming down his face. “A ‘weird and sweaty orgy ritual’,” Tyrion chuckled, shaking his head. “You have a most vivid imagination, brother.”

Huffing once again, and muttering under his breath that he wasn’t imagining it, Jaime decided that it was perhaps best to change the subject, if only to spare him from any further embarrassment. “How was your visit to the Reach? Were the faeries as much the pompous arses as the stories say?”

“For the most part,” Tyrion replied. “There were a few who were slightly more welcoming, but no sweaty orgies. It was quite tame really.” He paused, opening his mouth to speak again, however thought better of it and remained silent.

This did not go unnoticed by Jaime. “What is it?”

Sighing, Tyrion continued uncertainly. “Well when I say there were a few faeries who were slightly more welcoming, there was one in particular who I, in between trying to convince Mace Tyrell of Robert’s cause, spent a considerable amount of time with.”

“Who was it?”

“Well that’s not important,”

“Was it a woman?”

“Jaime, I said it didn’t matter.”

“You might as well tell me,” Jaime said smugly, gulping his drink. “I’ll only keep asking.” When his younger brother said nothing, he glanced over at him. “Who is it? Who is it? Who is it? Who is it…” Jaime continued this until, eventually, Tyrion relented.

“Fine, by the Seven you are a child,” Tyrion snapped. “If you must know, it was Margaery Tyrell.”

Jaime’s eyebrows shot up. “Lord Tyrell’s daughter?” At Tyrion’s nod of the affirmative, he let out a low whistle. “You always did like to aim high. Bit young for you though isn’t she little brother?”

Whilst most would have directed this comment to Tyrion with nothing but malice and mockery, he could hear the light teasing in Jaime’s tone that told him that his brother meant no ill will by it. “Actually,” he replied, smirking slightly. “Faeries age differently to humans, more slowly in fact. Margaery is actually several years older than I.” He had discovered this during one of their late night chats, and he had been surprised that she had some recollection of the reign of King Aerys and his subsequent fall.

Nodding slowly, Jaime tried to keep his expression neutral. “Oh, I see. You’ve got yourself a MILF then?” Both brothers looked at each other before bursting out in laughter. It took them a good few minutes to recover themselves, and Tyrion revealed what was truly worrying him.

“It just feels…different with her. She seems to want my company and has a genuine interest in what I have to say, instead of just pretending to.” It was a common occurrence that people would feel the need to feign interest in him because of his Lannister name.

“I know what you mean,” Jaime chuckled humourlessly, remembering the air-headed ladies that had thrown themselves at him for his wealth and position. He never thought that he’d find someone who would genuinely care for what he could be for them, instead of what he could do for them, and so he had given up, settling for living a half-life at the beck and call of his sister. That was until he met Brienne, of course.

“I am worried that I am being taken for a fool,” Tyrion sighed. “How can I be sure that she is not simply trying to ensure that I put a good word in with father for her family?” He rolled his eyes. “Not that father ever listens to what I say anyway.”

Frowning, Jaime watched his brother silently. He hated when he put himself down like this, not realising that just because their father and sister were not fond of him and failed to see his potential, that there were many out there who did. “Could it not be possible that she spends time with you because she finds you interesting and likes you?

“That is unlikely,” Tyrion scoffed. “There is nothing much to like about me, apart from maybe my money, but even that’s not completely mine.”

Before either could say another word, the doors to the chamber opened and another figure, tall and blonde, entered into the room. Whilst one could mistake her for being a Lannister, with her blonde hair and imposing stature, her kind sapphire eyes and warm, homely looks said otherwise.

“Hello Tyrion,” Brienne said as she approached the two brothers, Jaime’s eyes transfixed on her. She sat down beside Jaime, briefly glancing at the virtually empty decanter of wine. “What have you two been talking about?”

Tyrion couldn’t help but feel a stab of resentment as he saw the way Jaime and Brienne looked at each other, love and devotion clearly present in their eyes. “Tyrion is in love,” Jaime informed her in a sing-song voice.

Tyrion was about to tell Jaime that he could do something that was physically impossible, however was beaten to it when Brienne frowned at her husband and lightly punched his arm. “Stop teasing him,” she told him sternly.

“I’m not,” he whined in response, rubbing his arm. His tone grew serious as he turned to look back at her. “Tyrion does not believe that his affections for a woman are returned.”

Brienne raised an eyebrow. “Who is it?”

Before Tyrion could reply, Jaime cut him off. “Margaery Tyrell.”

Tyrion watched with interest as Brienne’s expression turned to one of surprise, before she nodded slowly. “Do you know of her?”

“I met her during my days travelling the Seven Kingdoms,” she confirmed, straitening up in her chair. Her time in the army was something she took very seriously. “We became friends whilst I was stationed in the Reach.” Tyrion saw Jaime look at her with a stupefied expression. Clearly her friendship with the faery was something he had been unaware of. Brienne looked Tyrion directly in the eye. “Whilst Margaery can be described as a ‘flirt’ by some, I have never known her to actively chase after someone.”

“I daresay she’s never had to,” Jaime muttered under his breath, earning a glare from both Tyrion and Brienne.

“Even if she wanted something, she would never pursue them, but rather wait for them to approach her.” Brienne gave Tyrion a slight smile. “I’d say that if she seeks out your company, then it says that at the very least she enjoys your company.”

“See,” Jaime said, gesturing to his wife. “She’s interested. You do have a certain appeal to the ladies, little brother – you’re like a sexy little Ewok.” He appeared quite pleased with his comparison, until Brienne questioned him, in complete bafflement. “Well,” Jaime began, shuffling slightly as he became less sure of himself. “Because he’s cute and cuddly and by the time they realise what’s happening, their pants are off and it’s too late.”

Tyrion smirked into his drink whilst Brienne continued to look at him as though he had suddenly grown another head. He always did say that Jaime had a vivid imagination…

“You are such an idiot,” Brienne muttered, rolling her eyes.

“That’s why you love me so much, wench.”

“How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?”

“You love it really…wench.”

Tyrion recognised this as his cue to leave, knowing from past experiences that their arguments often ended up in a steamy ‘make up’ session, regardless of who was there. He hurriedly said his goodbyes, not in the least surprised that the pair paid him no notice as they continued to argue, and began to make his way back to his chambers, thinking on what Brienne had said. Was it possible that he had found someone who saw beyond the Lannister name and influence; who saw the man beneath? Even if Margaery wasn’t interested in him romantically, he thought, it would be nice to have someone other than his brother and sister-in-law that he could deem a true friend.

As he approached his door, he was surprised to see a brunette haired faery stood outside it, impatiently waiting. “Good evening, Lady Margaery.”

She jumped at the sound of her name being spoken, and spun round to face him, slightly flustered at being caught unaware. She quickly recovered herself, smiling happily at him. “Lord Tyrion,” she greeted him. Although she had long since insisted that they use first names, they still referred to each other by their titles more often than not, especially when the mood was light and teasing. “I had just stopped by to see if perhaps you would like to walk with me through the gardens?”

Glancing up at her face, a barely visible smirk teasing her lips, he found himself unable to refuse her request. “I would be delighted to,” he replied, watching her eyes light up. He offered her his arm, which she readily accepted, finding that in her company, he was not at all bothered by their height difference, something that had always secretly worried him when he conversed with others. “I hope I hadn’t kept you waiting long?” He asked, wondering where Bronn might be. He had dismissed the man when he had gone to visit Jaime, assuming he would return and remain near his quarters. “Did the guards not tell you that I was out?”

“They told me you were visiting your brother, yes,” she confessed. “I wasn’t waiting to long.” As he glanced up at her again, he noticed a faint blush had stained her cheeks. Clearing her throat, she quickly changed the subject. “How was your brother’s trip to Dorne?” As he answered, she listened with rapt attention, laughing easily along with him, as he told her of her brother’s low opinion of Dorne.

Perhaps Brienne could be right after all.

 


  

Sansa was unsure of who could be knocking upon the door at this time of day. It couldn’t be her father, for he was supposed to be in the council meeting until late that evening and besides, he would just enter the Stark’s private quarters instead of knocking. The same would be said for her mother, who had taken her younger siblings to wander about the grounds in the hope that it would burn off some of their abundant energy. With some apprehension, she moved to press her ear against the heavy oak door. “Who is it?”

There was a moment of silence, where Sansa didn’t dare breathe, before the mystery knocker answered her. “Sandor.” And then after a pause, added, “Clegane.”

Smiling, she swung the door open to reveal the Lannister guard stood there, awkwardly shuffling his feet against the stone floor. He frowned faintly when he saw her. “You shouldn’t open the door so readily. You don’t know who could be stood on the other side.”

“But I know who it is,” she laughed brightly. “You told me.”

Sandor frowned even more and Sansa guessed that this was not the right thing to say. “Anyone could give a false name and how would you know until you open the door?”

She nodded at this, realising as he continued to look at her expectantly, that he was waiting for her to answer. “I-err…” She quickly racked her brains for an answer. “I could recognise their scent?”

He seemed satisfied by this, nodding his head. “Are you able to smell someone through the door?”

Glancing at the old wooden door, which was at least three inches thick, Sansa quietly worried her lip. “It might take me a few minutes?” Her eyes picked up on the minute holes in the wood, caused by centuries of damage from woodworm. He grunted in agreement and Sansa turned to look at him again with curiosity. “Was there something you wanted?”

He scowled again and shuffled his feet. His hands, which had been folded behind his back, began to twitch restlessly as he tapped his fingers against the back of his hand. She listened quietly as his heartbeat was accelerating.

He was nervous.

Clearing his throat, he spoke in his usual, gruff tone. “Yesterday you said that you…er… you wanted to explore the Seven Kingdoms, and whilst I can’t…I was wondering if…” Growling with frustration, he rolled his eyes. “Fuck it, do you want to see King’s Landing or not?”

Sansa was slightly startled by his sudden outburst, but felt a sudden excitement bubbling up when she realised what he was asking. “You mean outside the walls of the Keep?” she gasped.

“Yeah.” He felt slightly confused when she turned away from him, re-entering her quarters, and he presumed that she had given her answer. He made to leave when he saw her emerge again moments later, shutting the door behind her.

“Well,” she said, looking up at him. “Are we going then?”

Sandor smirked as he watched the young red-head lead the way, eager to see the sights that King’s Landing had to offer. He turned to follow her, catching up to her in four long strides. “Won’t you’re family worry that you’ve gone?”

“I left them a note telling them I’d be back later.” She hadn’t told them where she was going, however they didn’t need to know that she’d even left the Keep.

“Wait,” he said, suddenly stopping in his tracks. For a moment she worried that he had changed his mind, and that he wouldn’t show her King’s Landing after all. Her concern, however, melted into confusion as he reached into his back pocket and produced a long piece of silky material, light blue in its colour. He held it out to her.

“A scarf?” She exclaimed. “Is it not a bit warm for a scarf?” A scarf was a permanent necessity in Winterfell, due to the cold conditions, and Sansa was quite enjoying not having to wear something that made her look like a boiled egg in a woolly hat.

Sandor rolled his eyes again, muttering under his breath. He shook the material out and then draped it over her head, obscuring her face. “It’s to hide your face,” he told her. “Not everyone in the capital is as tolerant of creatures, and you’ve got quite a distinctive appearance.”

Taking the ends of the material, she threw them over opposite shoulders, adjusting it so that she could see. “Surely people wouldn’t be able to tell what I am by just looking at me?”

“Trust me, you look like you belong to one of the Great Houses, and besides,” He looked at her, pointing to her face. “You’re eyes changed colour when you were looking at that door. I noticed it last night when you were smelling flowers in the garden. Human’s don’t do that.”

Sansa felt her face go warm, as she whispered “Oh.” Glancing up at Sandor, she felt the need to explain this, probably bizarre feature, to him. “It’s the wolf part of my nature. When we amplify our senses, or we change form, our eyes turn yellow.” She watched his face, searching for any signs of disgust or horror.

There were none. All he said in response was, “Gold, not yellow.”

A light blush graced her pale cheeks. She pulled the scarf further over her face, though she would claim that this was simply in preparation for their venturing outside the keep. She quickly scurried after him, the remainder of their journey conducted in silence, until they reached one of the gates to the west of the castle, much smaller than the main entrance but every bit as grand.

They walked straight past it.

“But aren’t we…” she gestured to the gate, her steps slowing.

“Not unless you want the Queen’s guard to escort you back to your chambers before you even take ten steps outside the bloody walls,” Sandor replied gruffly, but not unkindly. “They’ll tell you it’s for your own safety; don’t believe them, they’re all fucking liars.”

“But surely the Queen wouldn’t want to see any harm come to us,” Sansa stuttered. She remembered the Lannister woman’s frosty reception, her snide remarks and cold glare. Even Sansa was having trouble believing her own statement. “She opened her home to us, after all.”

Sandor let out a short laugh, glancing down at her. “The King opened their home. Cersei Lannister has no love for any creature. She’ll claim that you’re being restricted to the Keep for your own safety, but it’s only so you don’t spoil her perfect human city.”

Sansa frowned at this. She’d heard rumours about the Lannisters, had heard her parents talking late at night, and knew that there had always been suspicion that they were not as tolerant of the creatures as they claimed to be. Even the ripest tree will spawn rotten fruit, Old Nan had said.

Eventually, they came to a small archway towards the back of the castle, which contained a small metal door that was about five by three foot. Taking a metallic card from his pocket, he scanned it against the sensor and it buzzed, the door quietly swinging open. “This is how we get to the city,” he informed her, gesturing for her to go through the door.

“What is this place?” she asked, ducking through the small opening, Sandor close behind her. So far, every entrance into the Red Keep she had seen was patrolled by at least half a dozen guards, and yet this one did not have a single man in sight.

“Not everyone who works in the castle lives here too,” he replied, waiting for the door to shut behind them. “Many live in the city itself, and they can’t use any of the main entrances, so they use this one instead.” He paused, before adding, “It’s the only way for you to leave the castle undetected.”

“Won’t they know that you’ve left?” She gestured her head to the small key card as they began to make their way down a set of narrow steps, which ran down the edge of the step hill which the Red Keep was situated on.

“It tells them which household staff has left, and whether or not someone else has tried to break in or out of the grounds. Being head of security, I can come and go as I need.” The doors were opened twice a day, once at 6:00am and then again at 6:00pm, when the staff would change over. Their cards would only work at those times unless they had special clearance, whereas the card Sandor possessed enabled him to unlock this door at any time.

“So I could leave through that door anytime I needed to?”

“I suppose so, yes,” Sandor agreed, a slight smirk on his face. “But you wouldn’t be able to do so without me.”

Sansa gave him a mischievous grin. “Unless I stole your card, of course.”

He laughed, throwing his head back and exposing his throat. “I’d like to see you try, little bird.”

Rolling her eyes, Sansa shot past him, her feet lightly dancing across the stones steps, as she made her way down. As she ran, though he thought ‘skipped’ might be a better way to describe it, Sandor frowned and began to follow her, his long legs managing two steps at a time. “Hey, slow down.”

“Hey, keep up,” she teased, glancing over her shoulder, carefree and laughing. Eventually, she came to the end of the steps, where there was another archway with the royal crest, which marked every gateway in the city. It was almost completely obscured by thick ivy that had snaked its way across the marble stones. Without waiting for her companion, she passed under the gate, immediately emerging on one of the busy streets of King’s Landing.

Stifling a gasp, her steps faltered as she tried to take in everything around her. The vibrant colours, the smells, the blur of sounds were almost overwhelming to her. She’d never seen anything like it. Stalls lined each side of the street, little more than haphazardly assembled tents with an old splintering bench at the front, where the merchants displayed their wares. Many stalls had obviously become worn with time, with small rips and tears in the once vibrant fabrics and beams and panels that groaned and swayed in the gentle summer breeze.

And yet, despite their unimpressive appearance, the goods they held exuded wealth and beauty, as one could easily become captivated by the dazzling array of wares that were on offer. Beautiful jewels that gleamed and twinkled in the sun, exotic spices from the south and Essos, in all colours and scents, bolts of material that when unbound would stretch for miles. It was truly an amazing sight, but most astounding of all was the sheer number of people crammed into this small space. Even on the busiest of market days at Winterfell, she had never seen numbers that could even come close to what was here today, masses of bodies pressed closely together as they shuffled from stall to stall, pushing their way to the front in order to secure the best deals from sharp eyed merchants, dreaming of their next gold coin.

“This is the old part of the city,” her heart gave a jump when she heard a voice in her ear, its breath caressing her cheek. She’d almost forgotten about Sandor’s presence in her moment of awe. He gestured to the buildings, people’s homes Sansa realised, which still had thatched roofs and crude stone and wood designs that leant forward as they rose higher into the sky. “Only the very rich can afford to live in the new part.”

“But this is right below the Red Keep,” she sighed, turning in a complete circle. She would have crashed into an old man, with his arms full of scrolls, had Sandor not quickly pulled her out of the way. “Surely anywhere this near the Keep would be desirable?” She remembered at home, how all the villages were in close proximity to the castle of Winterfell, how her father had done his best to afford them modern living comforts. This place, however, was almost completely untouched by time.

“It’s only desirable as long as the Royal family notices you,” Sandor explained. He pointed up at the Keep. “This part’s round the back of the Keep, where the servants come and go. No one in their right mind would live here if they were trying to gain favour with the King.”

They had wandered amongst the crowds as they had conversed, drifting just too closely to a stall that sold ‘exotic jewels and finery’, and they had been spotted by its eagle eyed owner.

“You there,” he called to them, frantically gesturing to his wares. “You there, kind sir, brave sir, you buy from me! A beautiful necklace. A beautiful necklace for your beautiful wife?” He grinned between the two, convinced he had already made his best sale of the day. The woman certainly looked as though she wasn’t from around here and from previous experiences, that usually meant money.

Sansa smirked, stealing a glance at Sandor from beneath her scarf. He scowled at the balding man, however she could see the faint colour on his face. “Piss off, try your luck on someone else,” Sandor grumbled, leading her away from the perplexed merchant. He had been so sure of sale, a big one this time. But there was no time to waste on missed opportunities as the next potential customer approached. “You there, beautiful madam, such beautiful eyes, perhaps you buy…”

Sansa shook her head ruefully, a slight smile on her lips. “You know, you didn’t have to be so rude to him,” she chastised him, one slender eyebrow raised.

Sandor shrugged, his hand still at the small of her back, barely touching her as he guided them through the busy streets. “Trust me, it’s the best way to deal with them. If you let them in for one minute, you’ll end up buying three gold medallions, twelve yards of green silk and a goat to show them your forgiveness for their mistake.” At the sour look on his face, Sansa couldn’t help but laugh, guessing that perhaps he’d had personal experiences with these merchants in the past.

They continued to walk for a while, chatting amicably, until the crowds became far and few, their numbers growing less and less until there was eventually not another soul in sight. In contrast, the buildings appeared to draw closer and closer together, their looming figures almost meeting above the streets and blocking out most of the sunlight, save for only a narrow stream filtering through. She glanced at the smashed and clouded windows, with those that weren’t smashed being completely boarded up. She felt a distinctive chill run down her spine.

The wolf in her paced.

“Sandor,” she whispered, turning towards her companion. “Where are we now?”

She heard him violently swear under his breath, pulling her slightly closer to him. From this angle she could smell the perspiration coming off of him and she usually wouldn’t have minded, in fact she had quite liked Sandor’s unique scent, however there was a bitterness to it now that made her own heart race and her hands tremble. “Fleabottom,” he replied tensely, already moving her towards one of the side alleys. “Fuck, we need to leave, now.”

“Why?” She’d wanted to stop, to dig her heals in and refuse to move until he told her what was going on, yet her legs seemed to move of their own accord as her mind screamed for her to run. She heard shuffling from across the next street.

“Because it’s not safe.” Sandor had a hold of her now, his grip tight around her elbow. He began to mutter to himself, “I should never have brought you in the first place, I shouldn’t have let you leave the keep…”

“Sandor, what are you talking about?” Her voice was loud, too loud as he hastily shushed her and clamped his hand over her mouth, dragging her to the side of the alley to crouch behind a cluster of crates. She was about to rip his hand from her face, to demand that he tell her what was going on, when she heard it. Voices, on the other side of the crates. They weren’t alone in the alley.

“Did you hear something?” A particularly nasty voice drawled. It had a rasping edge to it, as though someone had repeatedly scratched at their vocal chords to the point of almost destroying them. From their hiding place, Sansa couldn’t see who the voice belonged to, but she could already tell that she didn’t want to find out. The scent of fresh blood hung in the air, clinging to the men and invading her nostrils with a stabbing ferocity.

“Come on, there’s nothing here,” another voiced said. There was shuffling, footsteps, three maybe four pairs, she couldn’t be sure. She could barely hear them over the sound of her own ragged breaths, and for one terrifying moment she wondered if they could hear her too.

She shrieked as there was a loud shattering, a glass window being smashed into thousands of tiny fragments. Fortunately, Sandor’s hand, which was still clamped over her mouth, muffled the sound and the men seemed not to hear them, continuing on their way as they sneered and growled at each other. Even after the voices faded into nothing, they remained crouched in their hiding place, bodies pressed together as neither dared to breath. Eventually, Sandor let go of her and began to creep around the other side of the crates, motioning for her to remain where she was.

There was a moment of silence after he’d gone, where Sansa had wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry, like she had done as a child when the night terrors had seemed all but too real. Her father used to cradle her in his arms, gently rocking her back and forth until she fell asleep to the soothing sound of his heart beating…

“Come on,” Sandor’s voice was low and tense, yet she felt oddly comforted by it. She numbly arose from her hiding place, unsure of what to make of it all.

“What,” she wavered, tears pricking at her eyes. “What was that?” She didn’t understand why she felt such terror, why even now she struggled to maintain a steady breathing pattern.

“Fleabottom is the capital’s slum,” he replied, jaw clenched. “It’s stuffed with the very worst that King’s Landing has to offer. I didn’t realise we had wandered so close.”

“But those men,” she gasped, now beginning to shiver.

“Ghouls,” Sandor said, quickly glancing around and hastily dragging her back the way they came.

Sansa blanched, staring at him in horror. “But they can only reside in cemeteries, they feast on the dead.” Then another thought struck her. “How are they even in King’s Landing?” She knew very well about ghouls. They were considered to be vermin by both creatures and humans alike, with their ferocious appetite for the flesh of human corpses. As well as their ungodly hunger, their very presence would cause a paralysing fear within the hearts of the living, a defence mechanism that made them hard to kill. There had been one or two hiding in the crypts at Winterfell, desecrating the graves of those buried there until, in the end, her father had hunted them down to preserve his ancestor’s resting place.

“They’ve adapted,” Sandor informed her gravelly. “They’re attracted by all the people, all the death. Some have even discovered that they have a taste for living flesh.”

“But I thought you said the Queen made sure that this was a ‘human only’ city?”

He snorted, pointedly looking into her eyes. “If you think that the Queen knows everything that goes on in the Seven Kingdom’s, then you’re a fool. Creatures manage to sneak over the boarders every day, it’s impossible to catch them all.”

She stopped. “But how do you-“

“Clegane,” a wheezing voice interrupted her. “What are you doing out in this part of the city?”

Sandor’s face darkened as he turned to greet them, his jaw tightly clenched. “Maester Pycelle, it is a surprise to see you here, I didn’t think Fleabottom would hold any appeal for you.”

Sansa saw a flash of what appeared to be a purple vial, before the old man hid it in his robes. Whatever it was, he didn’t seem keen on sharing it purpose. He smiled patronizingly, his aged body bent over and shuddering with the force of every breath. “I have my reasons.” He glanced over towards Sansa, with a glimmer in his eyes that made her stomach turn. “Though I can’t imagine what the Queen might say if she were to find out that you directly disobeyed her orders, putting Lady Sansa in such peril, you after all know how dangerous King’s Landing can be.”

“It was my fault,” Sansa blurted out, ignoring the surprised stares she received from both of the men. “I snuck out when the guards weren’t looking, I wanted to see King’s Landing so much that I just didn’t think. Sandor saw me sneaking out, he came to stop me. If it wasn’t for him, then I fear something dreadful might have happened to me.” She sniffled a little for the old man’s sake, giving her best impression of a damsel in distress that she could. It made her skin crawl.

Her acting paid off, as Pycelle gave her a sympathetic smile which didn’t quiet reach his leering eyes. “Of course it’s only natural that you would be so curious, though I daresay you are perhaps too innocent, too unspoiled, to know how to defend yourself in such a harsh world.”

She had to bite her tongue to stop herself from remarking how well she could look after herself, and instead gave him, what she hoped was, a convincing ‘airheaded’ smile. Fortunately, she was spared any further conversation with the repulsive man when Sandor grabbed her arm.

“I best get her back to the castle then,” he announced, not even allowing her a chance to say goodbye as they left the stunned Maester behind them.

“You shouldn’t have lied for me,” he told her when they were eventually out of earshot.

“A ‘thank you’ would suffice,” Sansa remarked, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.

“I’ll see if you’re still saying that when he informs the Queen that you left the Keep.” Her silence stretched on until he sighed, muttering to her “thanks.” He navigated them out of Fleabottom, back towards the market with the beautiful stalls and vibrant atmosphere, a world away from the dank and dreary setting that was the slums. “It did prove my point from last night,” he informed her once they were back in the safety of the crowds.

“And what would that be?”

“That the world is dangerous and full of monsters.” He glanced up from the shadow of the Red Keep. “And not all of them are outside the walls.”

 


 

 

His head was beginning to pound as wandered through the corridors, shadows dancing across the stone walls and floors as the sun began to set. There weren’t as many stars here, Ned had noticed. The light pollution of the capital he supposed, but it made him feel weary for his home. Made him miss the evenings spent in Catelyn’s arms, gazing up at the constellations of fiery orbs millions of miles away; as far away as Winterfell felt at this time.

Scrubbing his face with his hands, he thought how much he looked forward to a warm bed for the night and perhaps a light supper with his family before then. He’d not seen them since this morning, when he’d briefly bid them good morning before he had been summoned to the council chamber, where he had remained for the rest of the day, listening to his fellow creatures argue in circles. But of course, as the hours had worn on and exhaustion had begun to take hold, Robert had begun to pour out the drinks, however Ned had refused, longing to just collapse into bed for the evening. He wasn’t the only one who had refused. Lord Bolton had said no, as had Lord Tywin, who made his excuses and left, along with Varys and Petyr Baelish, the latter of who had escorted Lyssa and her son back to their chambers. He was sure the others would still be merrymaking until the small hours of the morning.

A distinctive scent crossed his senses, distracting him from his thoughts, as he emitted a deep growl from his chest. Someone had been following him. He spun round, ready to confront them. “Baelish,” he snarled, his voice barely remaining at a cool and civil tone.

“Ned,” Baelish replied, his deliberate familiarity irritating to Ned and as false as the smile that was plastered across his face. “I’m glad we bumped into each other, how is the family?”

“Fine,” Ned replied through gritted teeth. He turned to walk away, hoping that this would be the end of their exchange. His hopes were dashed as he heard Baelish’s footsteps quickly catch-up to him, and fall into step with his own.

“I imagine it must have come as a shock to you,” Baelish began, conversationally. “That Daenerys Targaryen was still alive, and after we all thought the last of the Dragon Whispers had been wiped out during Robert’s Rebellion.”

“It was a surprise to us all,” Ned shrugged, trying to maintain a calm persona. Essos had been the lands where the Dragon Whispers had originated from. It made sense that should any Targaryen have survived then that is where they would seek refuge.

“Of course,” Baelish smiled. “Though it does give one hope for the future, that with a common enemy we might join forces to work together. That the treaty might lead us to a new time of peace-.” He cut off as he nearly crashed into the solid form before him, glancing up at the towering wolf that was now glaring at him.

“You do not care for the creatures,” Ned scowled. “You’ve only ever been interested in your own survival.”

“That is where you are mistaken, in my time on this earth there have been ones that I have cared greatly for.” There was that knowing smirk again, the one which set Ned’s teeth on edge. “Dear Catelyn has always held a place in my affections.”

A snarl erupted from Ned. Even when they had been young, Baelish had developed an obsession for Catelyn, and whilst she had brushed it of as a simple childish crush, Ned was not so sure that this was the case. He was instantly suspicious. “What is it you want?”

Baelish ignored this, wandering past him. “I hope very much that the treaty goes well,” he remarked. “I would hate to think what would become of your children, should anything happen to you or Catelyn.” He choked out a rasping breath as a hand clasped around his throat, squeezing tightly. Ned slammed him against the wall, squeezing the man’s throat tighter as he snarled in his face, eyes glowing yellow, “Do not make threats about my family.”

“It is not me that threatens you, my lord,” Baelish choked. “We are fighting for the same side, but there are those who would mean you harm. The Lannisters have many ears within the castle walls, you should be careful who hears what you say.”

A memory swiftly returned to Ned, of him and Cat sat in the garden, and hit him with such force his fingers became numb, and Baelish slid from his slackened grasp. He had thought that they had been alone. “You were spying on us.”

“Yes,” Baelish replied, rubbing his neck which had now become red from the pressure. “And you should be grateful that it was I who overheard you, and not someone loyal to the Lannister’s.”

Ned scowled again, turning away from Baelish and continuing on his path. Perhaps he would just turn in. He was already growing weary of the capital and the drama that seemed to constantly surround it.

Baelish, however, was not finished, as he called out after Ned, stopping him in his tracks. “You should not accuse the Lannister’s until you have proof of their guilt.”

“Do you know something that I don’t?” Ned turned again to face the other man.

“Many things, my old friend. “A smirk lit up Baelish’s face. “It helps to know as much as you can and King’s Landing is a treacherous place, only knowledge will enable you to survive in it. If you look hard enough,” he informed Ned, his eyes cold and emotionless, despite the smirk he wore. “You will discover what you need to know. I can help you with that.”

“And how can I be sure that I can trust you?”

“You can’t,” Baelish replied. “However you must decide what path you wish to take and decide soon, before your enemies strike out against you.” And with that he was gone, slinking back into the darkness, disappearing almost as silently as he appeared and leaving Ned alone once again, save for the dancing shadows that surrounded him.

Chapter Text

Days began to overtake them, becoming nothing more than one long haze. Soon, they turned to weeks and before long, many began to feel as though they had always been present in King’s Landing, that their lives back home had occurred in a different lifetime. Negotiations for the treaty slowly came together, as each species argued their case until agreements were finally made.

And it wasn’t just where the treaty was concerned that agreements were made. Indeed, amongst the inhabitants of the Red Keep, new friendships and alliances were born as old foes were able to gain a better understanding of the other species that they had been denied very long ago.

One such friendship that blossomed in this time, was that which was between Margaery Tyrell and Sansa Stark. If truth be told, Sansa had been more than a little intimidated by the older and more confident faery when she had first encountered her, however had quickly grown to enjoy Margaery’s company and wit, being introduced to various other creatures through the faery, many of which she had not met before now.

It had become almost a tradition that Margaery and Sansa would meet more or less every day, where Margaery would arrange that they would have tea together and she always ensured that there were lemon cakes present, especially since she learnt that they were the young werewolf’s favourite.

On this occasion, the pair were joined by Margaery’s grandmother, who Sansa quickly learned was where Margaery inherited her sharp wit and intelligence from. Whilst they discussed a great many things in these sessions, many of which would leaving Sansa blushing for hours afterwards, today Olenna had questioned her relentlessly on her abilities, after she had noticed Sansa inhale the sweet fragrance of her tea, watching her eyes change colour as she heightened her senses. Olenna already knew about the abilities and attributes of werewolves, of most creatures actually as her long life had enabled her countless opportunities to learn what she could before the banishment, however she was curious as to why the girl would use them for such a menial task.

In fact, it was something of a pass time for Sansa, where she would use her heightened sense of smell to try and separate the different scents around her and identify them individually. When she was very young, her mother had once found her doing this and had laughed, confessing that she would often do the same thing. It had become something of a contest between Sansa and her mother, a fun little game to see who was better at identifying the different scents. Their favourite though, was finding the unique scents that different people had, and when she confessed this to Margaery and her grandmother, the pair had looked at her with intrigue.

“Your hobby is to smell people, dear?” Olenna had asked her, watching her with such intensity that it made Sansa flush slightly with embarrassment. When put like that, it did sound bizarre.

“You can tell a lot about a person by their smell,” Sansa insisted. “A lot of species have a similar scent, and you can tell what they are just by their smell. It’s the same with humans.”

“I imagine there are some people I wouldn’t want to smell,” Margaery laughed, wrinkling her nose delicately.

“I try to hold my breath,” Sansa replied, shuddering as she thought of the ghouls and the scent of fresh blood that lingered around them.

“Very wise,” Olenna nodded.

Margaery, however, was overtaken by curiosity and leaned towards Sansa eagerly. “But what do people smell like? What do I smell of?”

She watched as Olenna rolled her eyes at her granddaughter, however was sure she could detect a hint of fascination in the old woman’s eyes. “Blossom and Protea.”

The young faery smiled with delight, clearly enjoying this little game. “King Robert? What does he smell like?”

Sansa bit her lip, glancing up at Margaery. If truth be told, she wasn’t sure that there was a wolf alive that could tell what the King’s scent was anymore, for it was permanently masked by another, stronger smell. “Wine.”

Margaery let out another musical laugh and even Olenna smirked into her cup, which Sansa thought might be laced with something that was strong enough to make even the King’s eyes water. Margaery turned to Sansa again in delight. “Oh my, what about Balon Greyjoy?”

“Seaweed and saltwater.”

“What about…Tyrion Lannister?” Sansa saw Olenna glance briefly at Margaery, a curious eyebrow raised.

“Old parchment, and that smell you get when you open an old book,” She replied, reaching for another lemon cake. “He has a similar smell to his brother and sister, I can’t really describe it. It’s a metallic smell really, I think they get it from their father.” She nodded her head to Olenna. “Actually, Lord Tywin shares a similar smell to you.”

She watched as Olenna froze, cup perched on her lip, just as she was about to take a sip. Her face remained completely emotionless as she slowly lowered the cup back to her saucer, causing a light clink as she placed it down on the table. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean, dear.”

“Oh it’s not exactly the same,” Sansa nervously began to babble. She didn’t know what it was about the elder faery, but she seemed to have such a penetrating stare. It was unnerving really. “Obviously each person has different components, but you have one that’s similar. Lord Tywin smells of sandalwood, and he also has a deep earthy smell too. It’s similar to yours; roses, fresh rain and sandalwood.”

Margaery sat in silence, her mouth slightly agape and her eyes wide. She turned to look at her grandmother, a knowing smirk suddenly appearing on her face. For a moment, Sansa wondered if she might have said something that she shouldn’t have. “A faery’s scent is completely unique,” Margaery informed her, amusement clearly written across her features. “No two faery is the same. Unless they’ve mated that is.”

Sansa turned to look at Olenna, who was scowling heavily at the completely unfazed and smirking Margaery. Of course it made sense and explained why Margaery and her family didn’t share a common scent, however it didn’t explain why Olenna… “Oh,” she gasped, eyes widening as realisation hit her.

“There is no ‘oh’ about it,” Olenna huffed. “This ‘unique pong’ rubbish is just that; pure nonsense. You don’t think that with the number of people there are in this gods’ forsaken kingdom, that it is likely that two people might share a scent, by nothing more than sheer coincidence?”

“But our Ancient Laws say-.”

“Gods girl,” Olenna interrupted her, letting out a snort of disbelief. “The Ancient Laws say that we may drown a human and take its soul once on a full moon, however I’d say we’ve long since moved on from those days.”

“Because we are no longer at war with the humans?” Sansa said, remembering the tales of the first men, who had fought for centuries with the creatures, before Aegon the Conqueror had invaded the Seven Kingdoms and kept these warring factions at bay.

“Of course not,” Olenna chortled. “You can drown a human anytime, regardless of whether there is a full moon.” As she looked at the older woman’s smiling face, Sansa thought how much she hoped that Olenna was joking.

“Gran,” Margaery reproached, rolling her eyes. “You are trying to change the subject-“

“There is no subject to change from,” Olenna interrupted again. “Now, I’m sure Sansa is not interested in the old wives’ tales of some pompous old windbag faeries form eons ago.” Despite her nonchalant attitude, Sansa couldn’t help but notice the pinkish hue that had appeared on the woman’s cheeks.

Of course Margaery had tried to subtly bring up the subject several times, however Olenna had rebuffed her with equal subtly and for a while Sansa had felt like she was watching the world’s most intense game of chess, eventually deciding that it would probably be best to retreat and leave the pair to it.

She had said her goodbyes, embracing Margeary, who kissed her cheek, and then turning to Olenna, softening her tone in the hope of conveying an apology to her. “It was an honour to meet you, My Lady.”

“I believe I told you the formalities were not necessary, dear,” she smiled, patting her cheek. “I’m sure we shall see each other again soon.”

Sansa thought on her conversation with the two faeries as she strolled back through the corridors towards her chambers, admiring the bright sunshine that filtered through the floor to ceiling windows that gave a view of the Keep’s central courtyard. She wondered if there was any truth to what Margaery had said, but then she couldn’t see how Lord Tywin and Lady Olenna would have been able to…mate given the exile and subsequent travel ban. Sandor had claimed, though, that creatures managed to pass over the boarders all the time, so perhaps they had been one of those who had managed to get past undetected. Perhaps she should speak to Sandor, he seemed to be very knowledgeable on these matters.

And of course that was the only reason that she wanted to talk to him. As a matter of fact, she should probably search him out now; after all it wouldn’t do for something like this to go ignored. She changed her course, turning the corner and walking out into the courtyard.

She had barely taken more than five steps out onto the stone courtyard, when her path was abruptly blocked by a looming shadow that almost appeared to block out the sun. She slowly looked up, her stomaching sinking as she took in the threatening stance of the muscular figure before her and finally the sneering face which she recognised as belonging to Gregor Clegane, the older brother of Sandor and personal guard to the Queen.

Taking a shuddering breath, she raised her chin and tried to portray more confidence than she felt. “Excuse me, I wish to get past.” Still, the gigantic man did not move and Sansa spoke again, ignoring how her voice cracked at the end of each word. “You are stood in my path, please move.”

Instead of answering, his grin broadened as he took another step forward, now having to stare down his nose to look at her. She maintained her ground, determined not to be intimidated by this man. Her legs, however, appeared to have a mind of their own as they soon turned to jelly and for one terrifying moment, she thought that they might give out on her and that she would collapse in a heap upon the floor. Surely he wouldn’t risk harming her? After all, he was charged with protecting the families whilst they were in King’s Landing, and attacking her could jeopardise the entire treaty. Unless of course…

“Don’t worry, he won’t harm you. Not unless I command it.”

She jumped at the sound of the voice, spinning round to see the Queen stood directly behind her. She immediately curtseyed, an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. “Your Grace, forgive me I did not see you.”

The Queen waved her off, smiling kindly at her, or at least that’s what Sansa assumed that she was trying to do. The dead look in the Lannister woman’s eyes made it seem more like a lion, bearing its teeth before their prey. “I hope the Mountain didn’t startle you too much, I felt that we perhaps got off on the wrong foot and I wanted a chance to rectify it, but I’ve just not been able to catch you.” Whilst her tone was friendly, it did nothing to alleviate the apprehension that was gnawing at Sansa. As she approached, Sansa was able to take a closer look at the Queen’s appearance. At first glance, nothing appeared to be out of place, however on closer inspection she noticed the tell-tale signs which suggested that all was not as well as it seem.

Her hair was impeccably styled as usual, however she noticed that there were several individual strands, which appeared to be sticking up at all angles. There were also tiny red circles at her temples, which she had clearly tried to cover with make-up, however they were still visible to anyone who looked closely enough. Sansa thought that perhaps they were burns, though from what, it was impossible to tell. The Queen linked her arm with Sansa’s, and she felt a sharp pain. It reminded her of when Arya was given a thick pair of woollen socks for her name day, which she soon discovered were brilliant for shocking people, and had spent a great deal of time shuffling along the carpets and rugs before her parents had eventually managed to wrestle them off of her, three days and countless static shocks later.

“How are you finding your stay at the Keep, is everything to your satisfaction?” Queen Cersei asked her, leading her across the courtyard.

“I am enjoying it immensely, your Grace,” Sansa replied. “Everyone has been very kind to us.”

This seemed to satisfy the Queen, for she rewarded Sansa with another smile. “I am pleased to hear it, the comfort and safety of all our guests is all we want, because that is all we want; to keep you safe.” She stopped, turning to look directly at her.

“Y-your Grace?”

The smiles and kindness was gone, replaced by something much harder and darker. “It has come to my attention that you left the Keep, to go out into the city. King’s Landing is not a safe place, you know, not for your kind.”

And neither is the Keep, apparently, Sansa thought bitterly. Sandor was right, Pycelle did tell her. “I was perfectly safe, Sandor was with me.”

A nasty look passed over the blonde woman’s face. “Yes, I heard that the Hound was there to accompany you.”

Sansa couldn’t help but flinch at Queen Cersei’s tone, the venom she injected into her words enough to make Sansa want to rip her arm from the vice like grip and get as far away from her as possible. “I’m sorry if I offended you, your Grace. It’s just that, I’ve never seen anything outside of Winterfell before.”

Almost as abruptly as it came, the Queen’s mood changed again and she smiled kindly at Sansa, her grip on the younger girl’s arm remained painfully tight. “Of course, it is only natural that you would be curious.” She reached over and tucked a strand of auburn hair behind Sansa’s ears. “But Sandor won’t always be there to protect you, little bird.”

She froze, taking in the dangerous gleam in the Queen’s eyes. Only Sandor had ever called her that, and he’d never done so in front of anyone else, and certainly not the Queen. How had Cersei known that name? “If your Grace will permit it, I fear I must get back. My mother is expecting me,” she shot a nervous glance at the Mountain, who hadn’t taken his hungry eyes off of her once.

Cersei nodded graciously, finally letting go of her now throbbing arm. “Just remember what I have said, sweetling.”

As she hastily made her exit, bowing to the Queen, Sansa could still feel her gaze on her back, watching her every move.

 


 

 

Roose Bolton was not a man who would sit by the fire, weeping and drinking over the short comings in his life. Indeed, he preferred to think of himself as a man of action, of someone who had survived by adapting and making the best of a bad situation, something which he intended to do now.

He viewed this treaty as being just another test to his survival, and planned on making the most of it. Whilst he intended to fight for his species’ fair treatment, to ensure future generations would not be targeted, he could not bring himself to completely trust the Baratheons and the Lannisters in this situation, as the humans and vampires of this land had a long standing hatred for each other, that stemmed from long before the first Targaryen kings set foot in Westeros.

He also found himself distrustful of Ned Stark, viewing the man as foolish and unable to foresee the long term picture of any situation. Despite his stance, fighting for the rights and freedom of the creatures of Westeros, Roose was well aware of the friendship Ned and Robert had shared in the days of the Rebellion, and believed that the Alpha wolf would be quick to jump back into line behind Robert. After all, the council meetings had been enough to show Roose that there was still some loyalty between the two men which had survived throughout the banishment. Not that he understood why.

It had become transparently clear to Roose that he could not rely on the treaty alone to ensure support and survival for his kind, and that he would need to form his own allies within the coalition if he was going to survive. Either way, there would be a war, whether by the Targaryen girl invading the Seven Kingdom’s or by the treaty falling apart, and he intended to be ready. War’s needed allied armies to fight together, and he knew that the best way to ensure loyalty was to find something they wanted, and use it to barter their support.

He had decided that the best way to approach this would be to start at the bottom, working his way up to the more powerful allies. That was why he was making across the Keep towards the West Wing, where Walder Frey and his extensive family of Goblin offspring where residing. Goblins, by nature, were exceptionally greedy and there was none more so than Walder Frey himself, which made Roose confident that his wealth and power, along with his status as the Vampire Alpha would be enough to entice the old man into an allegiance. After all, Frey had already shown his willingness to cement his position amongst the other families through marriage, as he had already proposed to wed one of his younger daughters to Tywin Lannister, much to the man’s horror, in front of most of the Red Keep. Whilst many had not dared to look at the Lannister patriarch, fearful of the man’s legendary wrath, Roose had noticed that elder Tyrell faery had been clearly amused by the whole situation, and had made no attempts at hiding this. It made him wonder if perhaps Frey might try and do the same thing with him.

There was a rush of air, like someone having the wind knocked out of them and he found himself colliding with something warm and soft, automatically reaching out to grab onto them in order to prevent them from falling to the floor. “You should take more care to watch where you are going,” he snarled quietly as he looked down at them, presuming it to be one of the many servants that the humans seemed to have running after them.

He paused when he saw the face of the much shorter woman staring back at him. She wasn’t what one might deem a great beauty, far from it with her straw like hair which hung around her plump face, but she was pretty, all rounded curves and softness. Her face was flushed with embarrassment, and she appeared to try and make herself seem smaller as she simpered. He could tell this was an act, nothing more than a front that she was using, no doubt inspired from countless brain-dead bores who believed women were objects to be admired. He was not so foolish. He could see the intelligence in her eyes, the way she carefully watched him, assessed him just as he had her.

“Forgive me, I’m so clumsy,” she replied cheerfully, straightening herself up. “My mother is forever telling me so. You’re not hurt are you?”

Roose was taken aback by the genuine look of concern on her face, something which he found was not often directed towards him. “Not at all, My Lady,” he replied, intrigued by the colour that rose in her cheeks. Interesting…

“Oh good,” she sighed with relief, smiling up at him. “Mother tells me that I’ll do someone an injury one day if I’m not careful.” She gestured to her plump figure, and although her tone was light, there was an air of sadness to it. It bothered him.

“I can assure you if that were the case, then they would simply be too weak for you to bother with.” He straightened as she beamed up at him, another blush appearing on her cheeks.

“But you are not,” she lightly teased, looking up at his from beneath her lashes. It was then he realised what intrigued him so much about this woman. The steady heartbeat, breaths calm and even, her gaze that confidently met his, he realised with some surprise that she did not fear him. He had grown accustomed to the stigma and fear which was held towards his species, had come to expect the terrified glances and trembling, even before they knew he what he was. He’d never met someone who wasn’t frightened of him, as even the King and the Lannisters would give him a wide birth, and yet this young woman seemed completely unfazed by this, by him. It was unusual, to say the least.

“No,” he replied, his lips twitched slightly. He briefly wondered what species she was, for despite her human appearance, he could instantly tell that she was not one, or rather she was not completely human. Like werewolves, he too had heightened senses however found that they were useless in telling him what she was, as the scents coming off her were confusing, like thousands of overlapping texts that had melded together until they had become impossible to read. It was not altogether an unpleasant smell though, not like a Shifter.

“You’re here for the treaty, are you not?” Her eyes were bright and curious.

Roose nodded in reply, centuries of suspicion teaching him it best to answer to and risk giving away too much, especially to those who asked too many questions. His silence appeared not to faze her, however, as she continued talking. “I’ve never seen so many creatures in one place before, not since before the war at least, but I was so young I can barely remember it. Not that I’ve really spoke to many other creatures, they try and keep us from socialising with them. It’s fear I guess, in case the treaty goes wrong. Every time I try and ask though, mother tells me to be quiet and that it is not any of my business.”

“Perhaps you would do well to heed her warning,” Roose advised tonelessly. “I doubt your master would be impressed to find you were gossiping about subjects that did not concern you.”

She watched him for a moment, her brows furrowed. Quickly glancing down at her attire, her face cleared as her lips quirked. “Of course, m’lord, please forgive me. I am forever speaking above my station,” she replied, completely deadpan. She curtsied to him, quite clumsily in her haste. “If you will forgive me, I have duties to attend to. It was a pleasure meeting you.” And with that she took off, running down the corridor.

He felt an indescribable sadness at her abrupt departure, unsure of why he should feel this way for a woman he had only just met, a woman who he still didn’t know the name of. He paused. “I never asked you your name.” He didn’t bother to raise his voice, knowing it would carry down the corridor. Perhaps she could be persuaded to join his own household staff.

She slowed down, turning back to look at him over her shoulder, smiling back at him. “Walda,” she called out, disappearing through one of the large oaken doors.

 


  

They had told her that King’s Landing was full of excitement and wonder, and whilst she was certain that this was true, this most certainly wasn’t to be said about the Red Keep. Arya was bored of seeing the same stone walls every day, being stuck in the same chambers with her annoying brothers whilst Sansa got to go out with Margaery again. It wasn’t fair.

“You are too young to go out on your own, Arya,” her mother had said. “And I need you to help look after your younger brothers.” She had said that she had someone to see, and had left Arya and her brothers under the care of Robb and Theon, who were more interested in envisioning what it would be like when they became Lords, something which they hadn’t stopped talking about since they had arrived in King’s Landing.

“Just think of how important I’ll be,” Robb had said, puffing out his chest. “As Warden of the North, even the King will have to listen when I speak.” Theon had agreed enthusiastically.

Arya frowned, scratching at the table with her nail. “You’re both stupid.”

Theon smirked at her, the movement causing the dry scales on his face to contort and stretch. “When I’m Lord of the Iron Islands, you’ll have to start showing me the proper respect I deserve.” The Iron Islands had ceased being an actual island long ago, as most of it had sunk into the murky depths of the sea after a horrific earthquake millennia ago, however it was in these ruins that the Merepeople dwelled.

“I could never respect someone who smells like fish,” she snapped, sticking her tongue out for good measure. She leapt up and ran from the chambers before he could retaliate, the sound of Robb calling after her growing fainter and fainter as she continued to travel further and further.

She kept running, paying little attention to where she was actually going, just knowing that she wanted to be as far away from her quarters as possible, to avoid her family for a little while, as she would no doubt be lectured for running off and arguing with Theon again. Eventually, she slowed her pace, confident that she had put enough distance between herself and the Stark’s chambers that they would not find her for a while. The only problem now was that she had no idea where she was now, having never explored this part of the castle. It was grand, like the rest of the Keep, but lofty to the point of seeming unwelcoming to those who entered. There were four smaller corridors, including the one she had just come from, which led into a larger hall, at the end of which was a door, at least three times the size she was.

As she cautiously approached it, glancing around her to see if anyone else was around, she carefully placed her hand against its smooth surface. At first, she wondered if this was perhaps the council chamber, where her father and the other family heads met to discuss the treaty. She pressed her ear against the door, silently listening to the voices inside, however even with her superior hearing, it was difficult to make out what they were saying as the words were muffled, a crackling sound like an old static radio masking what was being said. Without hesitating, she gingerly pushed the door open a crack, cautiously peering inside.

To Arya’s surprise, what lay behind the door was not the council chamber, but rather a grand and expensive office, its walls filled from floor to ceiling with bookshelves, overflowing with manuscripts and ancient texts. There were large columns that formed a walk way, running up the middle of the room, with elaborate tapestries hung from them, which depicted the great battles from bygone eras. At the centre of it all was a grand desk, with an older man sat behind it, his blonde head bent over whatever papers he had before him. Arya quickly recognised him as Lord Lannister, who she had seen briefly at her arrival in King’s Landing. Stood beside him, and leaning over to converse in the man’s ear, was someone whose face she knew well.

Petyr Baelish, or ‘Littlefinger’ as she and her siblings called him, was once a frequent visitor to Winterfell, and spent most of those visits sniffing around her mother. He hadn’t been to Winterfell in some time though. On his last visit, he seemed to favour talking to Sansa and was impossible to remove from her side, and after that her father had been reluctant to allow him back. Not that she was upset by this. She’d never really liked Littlefinger, despite her mother’s insistence that he was a long held friend, and found him slimy. Arya hated the way he smelt as well, it was confusing and overwhelming, often leaving her with a headache that felt like someone had split her skull open with an axe.

She listened with curiosity, to their whispering and hushed tones, her whole body freezing when she heard her father’s name mentioned. Frustrated that she still could not hear them, she silently crept into the room, undetected to the oblivious pair who were distracted by a large sheet, a blueprint perhaps, as she quickly hid behind one of the pillars. She would be able to hear them better from here.

There was an eerie silence as Tywin abruptly stopped speaking mid-sentence, his pause dragging out for what felt like eons. She overheard him dismiss Littlefinger, a feeling of horror rising as footsteps echoed throughout the room, drawing nearer and nearer to her position as she pressed herself further into the pillar, desperately hoping to remain hidden. There was no doubt that if Baelish saw her, he would tell her parents and then she would be in so much trouble.

His retreating figure passed her, so close that she felt the breeze from his movements upon her arm, and she held her breath as he continued walking, completely missing her and exiting out of the door. Her relief was short lived, however, as she quickly realised that there was no way of getting out of the room without Lord Lannister spotting her. She would have to wait for him to leave and by the sound of it, that wouldn’t be for some time. In the silence after Littlefinger’s departure, all she could hear was the rhythmic scratching of Lord Lannister’s pen as he wrote without pause.

“It is considered by many to be bad manners, to sneak around and listen in on conversation’s that do not concern you,” a cold and stern voice resonated and she gasped in surprise, quickly clamping her hands over her mouth. There was another pause. “I know that you’re there, so you might as well come out.”

Without thinking, Arya stumbled out of her hiding place on shaky legs, her stomach doing somersaults as she thought of the trouble she’d be in. Perhaps her parents would send her back home, or maybe to the Wall, with all the other bad people. If she found her brother, Jon, she could stay with him. He was a guard there. He wouldn’t let them lock her away and throw away the key.

The man before her looked furious, deep lines etched on his face as he continued to scowl at her. It was a face, she thought, that looked as though it didn’t smile very often. “You should not snoop,” he informed her sternly. “Especially in a house where you are a guest. Did your parents not teach you anything about privacy?”

She bit her tongue, knowing that it was a rhetorical question, one that adults seemed to use a lot when talking, however realised that she is already in so much trouble. What more did she have to lose? “Yes,” she replied, looking directly at him. “They also taught me that only people with something to hide are afraid of being overheard.”

He let out a sharp bark, and for a moment she was unsure what it was. She soon realised that he was laughing. “Not many people would have the nerve to say that to me,” he informed her, leaning back in his chair. “What is your name, girl?”

“Arya,” she replied, jutting her chin out and drawing herself up.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Arya,” he nodded, gesturing for her to take a seat. “May I ask why you are wandering around unaccompanied, and sneaking into my office?”

She plonked herself down in one of the high-backed chairs, kicking her feet which barely touched the floor. “I was bored,” she shrugged. “And Robb and Theon were annoying me.” At his confused look, she elaborated, “my brother and my father’s ward.”

“Balon Greyjoy’s son?” He asked her, placing his pen down and folding his hands upon the desk.

“Yeah, he’s a merman and he’s always trying to show off. And he reeks of fish.” She paused, glancing around her in a conspiratorial manner, before leaning forward and whispering, “Actually, he smells so bad that we, well everyone but Robb, call him Reek. But you mustn’t tell mum or dad, because they’d be cross and tell us to stop.”

Somewhat amused, Tywin agreed to keep her secret, raising an eyebrow when she made him pinky promise. Once the deed was done, he picked up his pen and continued from where he had left off. Arya watched him for a while, impatience and curiosity eventually causing her to explode. “What are you doing?”

“I am beginning to write out a draft for the treaty,” he answered without looking up from his work.

“My dad’s helping write the treaty,” she informed him with great pride, puffing out her chest. “He’s on the council. He and my brother, Robb, are going to sign it.”

Tywin’s head snapped up, his pen suspended just above the sheet of parchment. A thick blob of ink dripped from his pen, splattering on the pristine page. He looked at her, really looked at her, scrutinizing every feature of her face. How could he have not realised before? “Your father is Ned Stark.”

Arya nodded, slowly stopping as a frown formed a tiny line across her forehead. “Actually, dad said that I should avoid you.”

“And why is that?”

She nervously glanced down, noticing that he wore that stern expression again. “He says that you’re untrustworthy, and that you’re a bad man.” She looked up at him, head tilted to the side. “Why does he think that?”

“We have a different opinion on how certain things should be approached.” His face was impassive, words carefully selected. He was hiding something. “I was more willing to make the hard decisions that your father never could.”

A thought struck her. “Have you ever hurt anyone?”

“Sometimes you have to hurt people to do what is best.”

“I hurt someone once,” Arya told him, picking at her nails. “When I was younger, I couldn’t control my wolf nature very well and one night, I hurt my nursemaid when I transformed after I had a nightmare. I didn’t bite her, but I still caused her pain.”

Tywin observed as the confident young lady wilted before his eyes, becoming a frightened little girl. “It wasn’t your fault, you were young and didn’t know what you were doing.” When this failed to convince the girl, he asked her, “Would you have intentionally caused your nursemaid harm?”

Immediately, her head snapped up, her eyes wide with horror. “No. I would never….”

“Then do not dwell on it,” he told her. “It was an accident.”

“Arya? Arya?” Her head turned towards the door, where she could clearly hear her mother’s voice calling out for her somewhere beyond it. Strange, you could hear everything outside clearly when you were in the office, but couldn’t hear into it from the outside. “That’s my mother,” she informed Lord Lannister, unsure of whether or not he could hear her mother’s calls. “I’d better go before they start worrying about me.”

She quickly hoped off the seat, turning to make her way out of the office. Instead of heading straight to the door, she turned around again, facing Lord Lannister once more. “I don’t think you’re a bad man.”

He blinked at her, having put his pen down once again. “Thank you,” he eventually replied.

“Not like Littlefinger, I think he’s a bad man.” When she saw his confused look again, she quickly added, “Baelish.”

“And why would you think that?”

“Because he’s always sniffing around mum, and she and dad always argue after he’s visited and he smells funny, but not in a good way.” She spoke quickly, without taking a breath. Before Tywin could reply, however, she heard her mother calling for her again, her voice louder and closer than before. She quickly said goodbye to Lord Lannister, before hastily dashing from the room in order to find her mother.

 


 

 

As he had predicted, Walder Frey had been delighted by the Alpha Vampire’s wish to become allies and, as Roose had also foreseen, had offered to solidify their alliance through marriage. Having anticipated the goblin’s actions, it had given a chance for Roose to contemplate before their meeting, and so when the time came he agreed to Frey’s proposal. After all, he would need a trueborn heir and soon, for he feared Ramsay was becoming more twisted and out of control with each passing day. He had hoped that bringing him to King’s Landing would instil some sense and responsibility into the boy, however it seemed that he had underestimated the extent of his son’s savagery. And he had been spending a great deal of time with the King’s eldest son, something which he believed would not bode well for any of them. No, he needed an heir, and quickly.

Whilst he knew Frey was keen to marry his offspring into the more powerful houses, he had not anticipated just how desperate the old man had been to offload some of his ever growing brood. Goblin’s were one of the few creatures who were, as a species, completely polyamorous in their relationships and so Walder Frey had fathered many children by countless wives, resulting in an ever expanding number of mouths to feed. Even so, it was still a surprise to see the sheer number of daughters, granddaughters, nieces and so forth that Roose was presented with, lined up like cattle at market. Nothing more than broodmares.

He frowned.

As he examined each woman, he realised with boredom that they were terrified of him, the sound of their erratic heartbeats deafening to him as they avoided his gaze. Those that did dare to meet his eyes watched him with wide eyed terror, like deer caught in a headlight. Prey, he thought to himself, and they viewed themselves as such. It would not do for the next Lady Bolton to be so fearful. Whilst he was desperate for a son, he needed a wife he could trust to rule beside him. Perhaps he had been too rash when he considered accepting Frey’s proposal.

Sensing his guest’s abrupt change, Walder desperately tried to regain some, not necessarily enthusiasm, but interest at least, worried that Lord Bolton might suddenly change his mind. He racked his old mind, contemplating what might make his offer appeal more to the vampire. His thin and dried lips cracked as he smiled, revealing the few gnarled and stubby teeth he had remaining. “Lord Bolton appears reluctant to accept my generous offer of a wife,” he announced, coughing and wheezing for breath. “Perhaps it is the threat of the Khal’s whore that worries him so.”

Roose glanced briefly at him, an eyebrow raised. “War is inevitable.”

“And expensive,” Frey replied, grinning madly. “Perhaps a dowry is in order to help you take care of your new wife; her weight in silver?” He practically cackled the last part, looking gleefully at the line-up of young and lithe women. Whilst there were the more…robust ones, many had surpassed a suitable age for childbearing, making them a less suitable candidate for Lord Bolton and sparing his own fortune from being diminished too greatly.

Intrigued, Roose glanced along the line up once again. Too old, too young, too timid, none caught his attention for longer than a fleeting moment. Until he heard it, loud and clear it resonated in his senses, causing all other noise to fade into nothing. The steady beating of a heart, clear and rhythmic, strong and unafraid, he was almost sure that there was something familiar about it. He honed in on the sound and from there it was easy to pinpoint her location in the line-up. “Third from the far end,” he said softly, not bothering to turn and look. That was not important. Still the heartbeat remained steady.

There was a hushed whisper as the young woman stepped forward, along with a grunt of displeasure from Frey. Eventually, Roose turned to face the young woman, greeted by the sight of a short, plump woman with straw like hair. She smiled coyly up at him.

“My granddaughter,” Frey replied, waving his hand dismissively. His eldest wife whispered into his ear before he spoke again. “W-er…erm…Walda.”

So his previous assessment had been wrong, she was not simply a serving girl, instead a Frey, albeit not a very important one by the simple design of her dress. She curtsied, not so clumsily this time, as she greeted him. “Lord Bolton,” she lowered her voice so that only he could hear. “It is lovely to see you again.”

Before either could continue, they were interrupted by Frey, who tried to make a last attempt to draw Roose’s attention to a more favourable choice. “She’s a half-breed,” he snarled. “With human blood in her.”

“She has a strong heart,” Roose boredly countered. Walda continued to smile at him.

A sneer appeared across the Goblin’s face as he realised that the decision had been made, and he sourly thought of the lovely coins that he would lose because of it. “Perhaps Lord Bolton has not been wise in his choice to pick my granddaughter,” he snidely remarked. “All that silver might kill her new husband before he has bedded her.”

A hum of laughter descended upon the room, accompanying Walder Frey’s loud cackle. Roose watched as Walda’s face crumbled, faint red flush spreading across her face as tears of embarrassment welled up in her eyes. Clenching her hands into tight fists, she refused to allow them to fall, instead choosing to look determinedly at the vampire.

“I’m afraid you are confusing Vampires with Werewolves, for you see, silver has virtually no effect on me.” Roose informed him, not bothering to turn from the surprised young woman. He allowed himself a slight smirk as her eyes lit up once again. “It will take a lot more than a few pennies to kill a Bolton.”

Chapter Text

A dark tongue slid out to moisten his lips, a horrible contrast to the pale and narrow flesh of his mouth. It was a delicious sensation, a feeling that sent an excitable tingling throughout his limbs. Glancing at the two golden haired lions before him, a sneer spread across his face. His father had always told him the importance of making powerful allies, something which had eluded their family for centuries. It had taken Ramsay a matter of days to instigate himself into the young prince’s closest circle and, well, it had almost been too easy really. He couldn’t understand why his father had been so slow to act, why he was wasting his time with those bottom dwelling goblins, a fact which made him sure that Roose Bolton was losing his touch. Perhaps his days as alpha were numbered and a new alpha be instigated.

He would be ready for that day when it came.

“Are you sure it will work?” The Queen hissed, glancing about apprehensively. One could never be sure who was lurking around the corner.

“Do not worry Your Grace,” Baelish replied soothingly, his voice as smooth as silk. “We have planned it to the last detail, she will be perfectly safe. And then, when this is all over, we will be rid of the creatures for good.”

Cersei was not pacified. “But supposing we give her too much,” she continued to fret. “What if she…”

Pycelle shuffled forward, clearing his throat and wheezing. “I have measured the dose exactly, Your Majesty, you need not concern yourself with it.”

“Then I suggest you make yourself concerned enough for the both of us,” Cersei snarled. “If anything goes wrong I shall hold you responsible and I shall not be merciful.”

Baelish stepped towards her, bowing his head respectfully. “If I may, Your Majesty, if we do not act now then I fear your daughter will suffer a fate far worse for it. You know what your lord father has planned…”

Cersei shivered, her face going pale as she thought of her most recent encounter with the Lannister patriarch, where he had revealed his intention to wed Myrcella to the eldest son of Mace Tyrell. He must have taken leave of his senses, or perhaps have been bewitched even. She had no doubt who was to blame. The sooner that old bitch was out of the way the better. “Myrcella would be better dead than married to that beast.” Joffrey declared.

“We must act quickly,” Ramsay interjected, his smile remaining fixed across his face. “My father has just taken that half breed goblin for his bride, though I’d say the ‘half’ comes from eating most of her kin.” He puffed out his cheeks and held out his arms to demonstrate his new stepmother’s measurable size. Joffrey sniggered, clearly amused by his new friend’s antics.

The Queen was not.

“How can we be sure that this will not be traced back to us?” She questioned.

“It is fool proof, Your Majesty,” Baelish was first to answer. Ramsay couldn’t help but feel the man was a bit too slippery; he always seemed to have a reply ready, and yet he couldn’t help but notice that Baelish hadn’t actually answered the Queen’s question. “The creatures will be at war amongst themselves before you know it and no one will be any the wiser.”

“The faeries have already shown their reluctance to sign the treaty,” Pycelle added. “And suspicion has already begun to fester amongst the families. They are the perfect scapegoats for our plan.”

“Why can’t we just kill them,” Joffrey whined. His patience had begun to wear out with these old men, standing around and gossiping, never willing to act. “My father is the King.” He glanced over at Ramsay, who was grinning menacingly, his eyes alight.

“It is not that simple, Your Grace.” Pycelle wheezed. “We can’t risk the creatures uniting against us.”

Cersei turned to look at her son, reaching out to smooth his golden hair. “You just have to be patient sweetling, our time will come.” She turned again to Baelish, one last question plaguing her. “How do we ensure that Olenna Tyrell is the one accused?”

A spider scurried across the ceiling above them.

“Leave that to me, Your Grace. I know of an alchemist who served during the days of the Mad King. He will be more than willing to assist us, with the right motivation.”

Candlelight glimmered of the silvery threads of the web as it grew and grew.

Cersei nodded slowly, the movement causing her to wince as her hand gently massaged the area of her forehead, just above her eye.

“In the meantime, it would be wise to encourage distrust amongst the families.” Pycelle added. “It will make them more likely to believe the faeries’ guilt if they are already suspicious.” The old man shared a pointed look with Baelish. Noticing that the Queen continued to massage her head, he quickly suggested that they adjourn their meeting, before anyone was to grow suspicious of their absence. Pycelle then offered his arm to the Queen, as she quietly insisted that they had waited too long between their sessions, her mutterings growing more and more erratic.

The remaining of the group dispersed, cautiously checking around them. It seemed that no one had witnessed their meeting.

“I don’t know why we don’t just banish them straight away,” Joffrey hissed to Ramsay. “Send them beyond the wall and let them starve and fight amongst themselves.”

“Is his majesty not pleased with your mother and Maester Pycelle’s plan?” The Vampire’s bastard questioned, his own plan already forming in his mind. The Prince’s bloodlust would make him a useful ally and hunting partner in the years to come.

“The whole thing rests on whether or not the wolves will be able to detect the little clues we left them. Those great dumb beasts will no doubt mess it up in some way, I knew allowing mother to involve her servants would be a mistake.”

Ramsay grinned in delight, falling into step beside the Prince. Involving the Queen had been a wise move on his part. If things went well, he would be rewarded greatly. However he agreed with Joffrey, the plan was not the swift action that he had hoped for, but that didn’t mean that they couldn’t help speed up the results a little bit. “Then perhaps we should spread a little discord of our own.” The pair disappeared into the shadows, their own plot of madness slowly brewing away.

Neither of them paid any notice to the spider as it continued to silently weave it web.

 


 

 

“You know, normally it is customary to wait to be invited into someone’s private quarters,” Tyrion said to the seemingly empty room, minutes after he had entered, pouring himself a goblet of wine. After a moment’s pause, he poured out a second glass and held it out.

A figure appeared from the furthest outskirts of the room, hesitantly approaching with a nervous giggle, carefully taking the wine. “Forgive me Lord Tyrion, but I could not risk being seen entering your chambers.”

Taking a large gulp of his drink, Tyrion nodded slowly. “Yes, King’s Landing is infamous for how quickly rumours spread.” He gestured for his guest to take a seat.

“Thank you,” Varys said as he eased himself into one of the chairs. “And I can assure you, that is not why I am here.”

“Oh I am relieved; I must confess that I am a bit inexperienced when it comes to rejecting romantic advances.” He took another sip of wine. “I presume you’re not just here for a social call.”

“I’m afraid not, I fear I must be the bearer of grave news.”

“Grave news,” Tyrion chuckled, glancing at Varys warily. “I feel perhaps I should have poured something stronger than wine.”

Varys smiled weakly, glancing cautiously around him. “This is a very serious and…delicate matter, My Lord, concerning the signing of the treaty.”

“Look, would you not be better discussing this with my father? After all, he has more to do with the treaty than I do.”

“At this present time, the assailants do not know that there is any suspicion of their deception. Approaching your father directly would alert them almost immediately, which is why you are in the best position to foil this plot.”

Tyrion felt his interest peak, as he leant forward and asked, “What plot?”

Again, Varys lowered his voice, nervously wetting his lips before he spoke. “I fear certain individuals have an aversion to this treaty being signed, enough that they would be willing to perform drastic measures to ensure that it does not happen.”

“Perhaps we could skip the dramatic build up and get straight to the part where you tell me who is trying to prevent the treaty, and what these drastic measures are?”

“It would be unwise to reveal their identity.” Tyrion scowled heavily at this, prompting Varys to continue in earnest. “At the present time you do not have the evidence needed to convict them and convince the council of their guilt. I can reveal that the culprits intend to take advantage of the faeries’ reluctance to join the coalition, and use someone of influence as the scapegoat for their deed.”

Tyrion thought quickly, his mind racing as he pieced together what was being said. “They intend to frame a faery?” At Varys’ grave nod, he realised what this would mean. “If Robert thinks one of the faeries have broken their word and made an attack against the treaty, he will want justice, and Mace Tyrell will take offence to this attack against his family’s honour…”

“And the Seven Kingdoms will be at war once again,” Varys finished. “Leaving us vulnerable to an invasion from Daenerys Targaryen.”

Tyrion shook his head, tapping his fingers against the rim of his goblet. “No, Lady Olenna would not allow Mace to risk the entire treaty for the sake of his pride.” He had witnessed first and the woman’s determination to get her son to agree to a treaty. Over the last few weeks she had been nothing short of ruthless in forcing her son’s hand.

“Not unless she was in a position where she could not prevent it.”

There was a pause. “You mean Olenna Tyrell is the scapegoat?” As Varys nodded, Tyrion felt his head begin to ache. “Why? Why her of all people, surely there are others who would be more believable. No one would be surprised if Roose Bolton or Balon Greyjoy went against the treaty. Seven hells, even Oberyn Martell would be more likely.”

“Which is exactly why they are unlikely to be framed,” the bald man sighed with disappointment. “Think, Lord Tyrion, Olenna has spread her influence to a much wider range. Because of this it will split the families between those who believe her guilt and those who do not. Both Robert and your father are proud men, they will not take kindly to the thought that they have been played for fools, especially when it is an attack against their own family.” Varys stood from his chair, placing his untouched wine back upon the table. “I must say that I admire the thought behind this plan immensely, despite my wish to see it prevented.”

“Robert will kill her outright,” Tyrion said shakily, draining the last of his wine.

“Then we must ensure that he doesn’t, at least until we can prove who the real perpetrators are.”

 


 

 

She had been more than delighted when one of the serving boys had nervously knocked on the door, with a message from Lord Willas, requesting for her company on a picnic. She had always loved the gardens, and often came out here when she wished to escape from her duties for a while. Not that her mother approved, though. The Queen often lectured her on how it was neither safe nor dignified for a princess to be clambering through the bushes, and that she should remain in the castle where her guards could keep her safe.

Myrcella had suggested the best spot for their picnic, beneath a large oak tree at the far end of the gardens, which had been planted to commemorate the coronation of the late King Aery’s grandfather. She’d been so enthusiastic in sharing this with her companion that she almost missed him dismissing their guards with a silent gesture. This was the third ‘date’ that she had been on with Willas, and so far she was growing to enjoy his company, finding herself liking him more and more with each meeting. And yet, despite his apparent willingness to spend time with her, she couldn’t prevent the doubts from creeping into her heart.

Myrcella had known from the start that her grandfather and Lord Tyrell, though everyone knew it was really his mother, had brokered a deal to unite their families through marriage and part of her had worried that Willas was only pretending to like her, acting the part of the doting fiancé simply because his family decreed it. With this thought swirling around her head, she suddenly grew quiet, taking her further and further away from the present, until she was no longer paying any attention to her surroundings, nor the faery beside her.

Noticing her absent mindedness, Willas nudged her gently and smiled softly as she gave a slight start. “Forgive me, My Lady, but I had worried that you were already growing tired of my company.” He teased her, enjoying the furious blush that spread across her cheeks.

Hastily denying this, she stammered, “No, no, not at all I was just…er, just…”

Willas laughed softly, his smiled broadening further. “You look cute when you blush.”

Myrcella couldn’t help but feel that she should be annoyed at his laughter, yet all she could do was blush further at his words. Instead, she tried a different approach. Looking up at him coyly through her dark lashes, she asked, “Do you not think I look cute even when I don’t blush?”

“Oh I think you do all of the time,” he replied, leaning towards her. “But especially when you blush.”

This time it was she who laughed, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. She watched him from the corner of her eye, leaning back again, and felt the heat return to her cheeks, though for a different reason this time. He had revealed to her that all faeries were required to train in the army, and he had been no different. Whilst he was not as broad as the likes of the Clegane’s, or even her uncle Jaime, Willas was still lean and muscular in a way that showed he had been raised to fight and defend his people. As he moved, however, she couldn’t help but notice him shift slightly and wince, trying to discreetly stretch his leg. To see him sat there it wasn’t that obvious, however she had detected that he often favoured his right leg over his left, and walked with a limp, which he tried to hide. She had never mentioned it to him, hoping that in time he would tell her what had caused it, however curiosity had begun to gnarl away at her patience and the question sprang from her lips before she could stop it.

At first his face conveyed his reluctance, and even his embarrassment, to answer her question, however as he was quickly discovering, he found it hard to deny his intend anything, and so he began to shed light on one of the darker periods of his childhood. “It was an injury I got from a fight when I was young, I was perhaps fifteen or sixteen at the time. Amongst our people, you’re not considered an adult until you have won your first victory in battle, and my father was desperate for me to do this so that he could officially name me his heir and successor.” Willas took a breath and glanced into the distance, lost in his memories. “My instructor warned him that I wasn’t ready, but my father believed he was being overly cautious, after all, I had won every sparring match in the practice field, and I guess in all his enthusiasm I began to believe I was ready too. So my father picked my battle, he imagined a glorious victory that would prove to all my worth. There was a giant terrorizing one of the villages on the outskirts of the Reach, and he sent me to defeat it. I learnt that day that battles in the real world are nothing like those on the practise field,” he laughed bitterly, shaking his head. “The giant crushed my leg as though it were nothing more than a matchstick. I’m lucky I suppose that I escaped with my life, if it hadn’t been for the guards who had accompanied me, I doubt I would have survived that encounter. It’s thanks to my grandmother that I’m still able to walk, and my father was humiliated by my crushing defeat.”

It was a few seconds before Myrcella could find her voice, her words nothing more than a faint whisper. “Do you not hate your father for doing that to you?”

Willas shook his head. “No, my father was in a difficult position. There are always other houses that are desperate to claw their way to the top, and besides, he convinced himself that I was capable. I could have said no at any time but I didn’t.” Turning to look at his companion, he saw for the first time the horrified expression written across her face. He felt a stab of pain in his chest as he believed that her reaction was nothing more than repulsion at his horrific injury, and he couldn’t blame her. Sometimes, even he himself could not bear to look at his own crippled form. “I understand how you must feel about this,” he told her, gesturing to his injured leg. He quickly turned away, finding himself unable to look into her eyes, and as a result, Willas missed the look of confusion that was directed towards him. “When you imagined your future husband, you probably saw someone strong and whole, not a cripple like me. All I want you to know is that if you’ve changed your mind, please don’t worry about hurting me. I could never hold that against you.”

“Willas,” she breathed sadly, her hand cupping his cheek as she tried to turn his gaze towards her. “I could never think that. You are sweet and kind and what you’ve been through only makes you braver in my eyes; I could not ask for a better match than the one I have been given.”

And yet still his doubts would not be pacified. “We were rather forced into this courtship, and so if you felt that you had to make the best of a bad situation…”

“No,” she chuckled, now cradling his face in both of her hands. “I enjoy spending time in your company. No, the truth is that I felt the same way. I was so worried that you were pretending to like me only to appease your family.”

A slowly smile spread across Willas’ lips as he gazed fondly at Myrcella. “Never,” he said. They both began to chuckle as Myrcella blushed and Willas slowly inched his face closer to hers, until his lips were only a matter of millimetres away.

Abruptly, Myrcella arose from the blanket, leaving him in a state of confusion as he could only stare dumbly at her as she flitted around, glancing at him over her shoulder to flash a mischievous grin, and scooped up several of the silk pillows that had been scattered around on the blanket and arranged them against the base of the oak tree. Once she was satisfied, she turned back to Willas and held out her hands to him. “You’ll be more comfortable if you have something to lean against,” she informed him, jerking her head towards the small mountain of cushions.

“You needn’t worry about me, this is fine,” he replied, patting the hard ground around him. His argument, however, was short lived as he felt his leg begin to cramp up, until he had no option but to accept the hand of the triumphantly smirking Baratheon.

“See, isn’t this much better,” she said happily, helping him to sit down. “It wouldn’t do for you to go all stiff on my account.”

Still clasping her hand, Willas gave a slight tug and skilfully pulled her into his waiting arms. She shrieked as she fell forward, her hands gripping his shoulders to stop her from head-butting him in the face. She shivered as she felt his breath stir her hair as he leaned forward to teasingly whisper in her ear, “I shall wait until we’re married for that.”

She felt another blush burn across her cheeks.

 


 

 

Baelish didn’t bother to knock as he entered to dingy house located in one of the poorest parts of Fleabottom. It was slightly larger than the other shacks that surrounded it, containing three cupboard sized rooms instead of the customary one. Many of the houses were at least five or six stories high, with a skeletal ladder running up the side of the building so that the upper floors could be accessed by the families that lived there. If he was honest, Baelish was quite relieved that the man he wanted to see lived on the ground floor, as he didn’t fancy risking the rotting wooden ladder.

Inside, the conditions were not much better. Large cracks and holes had spread across the wall, covered haphazardly by sketches and writings of different alchemical formulas and equations. The main room was very basic, if one was being complementary, however even these meagre objects seemed overwhelming in the miniscule room. It held nothing more than a single bed in the far corner, with a piss-pot placed at the end of the bed, its foul odour overwhelming the room even from the doorway where Baelish stood. An open fire pit was at the opposite end, which had a cooking pot hung above it and a lone three legged stool positioned before it. The room held no windows, with the only source of outside light coming from the doorway which led to out onto the street. There wasn’t even a chimney or any other ventilation system, and Baelish quickly realised that the only way for the smoke to escape was through the door out onto the street.

There were two other doorways in the room, neither of which had doors. One, even darker than the main room, led into a pantry which was just as empty as the rest of the house. The other, had light spilling out from it and the faint scratching sound of pen against paper, and it was towards this room that Baelish headed.

It was half the size of the main area, and contained only a desk pushed against the back wall. The floors were littered with discarded manuscripts and scrolls, which Baelish deftly made his way through, until he was standing beside the desk, were an elderly man was sat, leant over the desk and furiously scribbling away, apparently oblivious to the intruder in his house.

Clearing his throat, Baelish decided to make his presence known, unwilling to wait for the man to finish what he was doing.

“Whatever it is you want, I’m not interested,” the man gruffly snapped. “So say your piece, and then get out of my house.”

“I’m sure that you won’t take that attitude once you’ve heard what I have to say.”

As the man looked up, Baelish observed his squinting face. He was perhaps a few years younger than Maester Pycelle, and indeed wore a similar robe, however it was clear that unlike Pycelle’s, this one had not been mended, let alone washed, in many years. “Who are you?”

“I have been sent with a request from the Royal Court,” Baelish said, deliberately not answering the question. “Your services are required. You are the alchemist, Maester Qyburn, are you not?

“That I am, though I haven’t been a Maester in quite some years.” Qyburn paused, glancing briefly at Baelish. “Whatever this request is you can take it back with you, I’m not interested. I served a king once, long ago, and it’s brought me nothing but misery since then.”

“Oh I’ve heard all about your days serving King Aerys,” Baelish replied, leaning towards him, one hand resting on the desk. “Of the rumours that circulated. Your chambers were near the dungeons, weren’t they? The ideal location for you to access the King’s prisoners. Tell me, how many of those prisoners did you experiment on, torture at the King’s request?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Qyburn snarled coolly, however was unable to look at him.

“I shall make my proposal as brief as possible; you are in possession of something that we need, something which is very important to the future of the Kingdom.” Baelish smiled. “You would be doing a great service to the King, and the Crown is always very generous to those it considers an ally.”

There was a clink as a large bag of coins fell on the desk, several gold pieces spilling out, glittering in the candle light. The alchemist eyed the bag hungrily, his greed transparently visible to Baelish. Licking his lips, Qyburn reached out, turning one of the golden pieces over in his fingers. “What is it that I possess that could be of such importance to the Crown?”

A smirk broke out across his face as Baelish glance down at the locked draw beside Qyburn’s foot. “Oh, something worth much more than its weight in gold.”

 


 

Every time he stood before those grand doors, waiting to be granted admittance it was almost as though he was being transported back into his childhood, nervously awaiting his father’s wrath after he had played another one of his prank at his sister’s expense.

For days Tyrion had been troubled by what Varys had told him and after attempting to investigate for himself, something which had led to nothing more than dead ends and false leads, he had decide to approach the Lannister patriarch with what he’d heard. Whilst Varys would not tell him who was behind the plot, Tyrion found that he believed the man, and the silence in the court over the subject had only confirmed his suspicions, after all, he had come to realise over his years in the Red Keep that the less gossip there was over something, the more likely it was to be true.

At his father’s command, Tyrion entered the room approaching the desk, hoping his steps portrayed more confidence than he felt.

“What do you want, Tyrion?” No warm greetings then. It never failed to amaze Tyrion how his father could inject such a perfect blend of disdain and irritation into a long suffering sigh when he spoke to him.

With deliberate cheerfulness, Tyrion clambered up onto one of the chairs and smiled at Tywin in a way he that he found irritating. “Can a son not pay his father a visit without wanting something?” He asked innocently. Judging by the glare Tywin sent his way, the answer was clearly that he could not. The vein on Tywin’s temple was already beginning to pulse and Tyrion quickly dropped the act, knowing that the best way to get his father to listen to him was not by deliberately winding him up. “I’ve heard a rumour.”

“Have you now?” Tywin said with heavy sarcasm, speaking as though he were trying to converse with a young child.

“Yes,” snapped Tyrion, not for the first time wondering why he had decided to involve his father in this. Perhaps he would have been wiser to listen to Varys on that front. “There’s a plot to prevent the treaty from being signed, and to throw the Kingdoms back into civil war.”

This caught his father’s attention almost immediately. “Do we know who the culprits are?”

Tyrion almost laughed at his father’s use of ‘we’, however was soon sobered by the grave look on his father’s face. He’d heard through the grapevine that the treaty was a matter of weeks away from being finalised, and whilst he was unsure of his father’s motives for having it signed, he knew that Lord Tywin would do anything in his power to finish what he’d started. “I don’t know.”

“Do we know when this plot will take place?”

“I don’t know.”

Tywin inhaled sharply through his nose. “Well can you at least tell me who told you of this plot?”

Tyrion felt his hope crumble under his father’s glare. “I can’t say.”

Barking out a cold laugh, the older man shook his head and began to turn back to his work. “You interrupt me with nothing more than idle gossip, with no evidence to back up your claims. Honestly, and you wonder why no one ever takes you seriously.”

“The plan is to use a creature as a scapegoat so they will be accused of the crime and Robert, in a fit of rage, will kill them before anyone is any the wiser.”

Tywin once again stopped writing, his emerald eyes fixed sharply on his youngest son. “You mean this is to be an attack against the Royal family?” At Tyrion’s relieved nod, he continued. “Why did you not just say that in the first place? There is a time for dramatics, Tyrion, and when trying to get your father’s help is not one of them.”

“Oh, so you admit you’re my father then,” Tyrion grumbled under his breath, however his father seemed not to hear, his mind already mulling over this information.

“Do you know who the creature that is to be the scapegoat will be?”

Tyrion paused for a moment before answering. “I…don’t know.” He lied, aware that his reaction was being closely watched. Whilst he’d heard rumours about his father’s relationship with the elder faery, he was still unsure of whether his father would support Olenna and believe her innocence. He was also sure that if his father and the guard’s attentions were directed more towards Olenna, then the culprits would soon realise that their plan was no longer secret.

Tywin hummed in a way that told Tyrion that he did not believe him, and then said, “I will double the guards on patrol and increase surveillance, that should prevent this from happening in the first place.” Seemingly satisfied that the matter had been dealt with, Tywin turned back to his work, effectively dismissing Tyrion. However, when he did not leave, Tywin inhaled sharply again. “Was there something else you wanted?”

There was a creak as he shuffled in his chair, before replying, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. To double the guards, I mean.”

Silence. “What?”

“Instead of preventing it, I believe we should act as if we don’t know about it, to let events unfold, so to speak.” Tyrion spoke quickly, knowing that it was only a matter of seconds before his father completely lost his temper. “We don’t know when or where this attack will take place, which means it will be nearly impossible to stop it, and if we prevent it, we’ll never find out who the culprits are. We need evidence against them, otherwise they will always be a risk to the treaty.”

“If you intend to do nothing about this, then why have you brought it to my attention?”

“You need to protect whoever is framed.”

“I need to do no such thing,” Tywin scoffed.

“Robert will act rashly,” Tyrion tried to reason with him desperately. “It will undo all the work that we’ve achieved; you can prevent this from happening.”

“Robert would not risk causing another war.”

This time it was Tyrion’s turn to scoff. “You don’t really believe that.”

Sighing, Tywin dismissed his son. “I have a great deal of work to do, and my time has already been wasted enough.”

Tyrion did not need to be told twice. Frustrated and angry he stormed out of the room, though he was sure that the mighty Lord Tywin did not notice this. He couldn’t feel the stab of anger and disappointment that shot through him, not just at his father, but at himself. That was it, he’d failed to convince his father and he honestly didn’t know why he was surprised. He didn’t know what had compelled him to seek his father’s assistance, however he knew for certain that he had failed to achieve this goal. Perhaps he should have just told Tywin that it was Olenna who would be framed, though knowing his father he would likely not believe him, or insist that she be sent away so to remove the threat, and then there was nothing stopping Mace from making difficulties when signing the treaty. It was all just on bloody big mess.

In his rage he found himself storming towards Lady Margaery’s chambers, his haze of anger not clearing until he was stood before her door, scowling heavily at the guards as they informed him that she had left some half an hour before, with neither of them knowing where she was heading nor when she would return. With a growl of frustration, he retreated, setting out to find her somewhere in the Red Keep.

His frustration only continued to mount as his search remained fruitless, and soon his anger began to give way to panic as the stresses from the past few days built up, until he had all but convinced himself that something had happened to the vivacious young faery. He was all but ready to announce her missing and order a search party when he finally found her, serenely wandering around the garden with several of the ladies that had been appointed to her for the duration of her stay. Hastily, he made his way over to her, relieved and secretly flattered by the pleased expression which graced her features as she spotted him.

“My Lady, I wonder if I might speak with you,” he glanced at her maids. “Alone.”

Her smile faltered at his serious expression, however she willing dismissed the maids, following without resistance as he grabbed her hand and dragged her to a secluded alcove, with a small bench which had ivy creeping up the stone walls that surrounded it.

“My Lord you must try to contain yourself,” she teased, hoping to lighten his mood. “There will be such talk if you show such desperation to have me all to yourself.”

On any other day he would have bantered back, would have made some witty remark which would have earned him one of her beautiful smiles and the pleasure of her laughter, but today was not that day. “Your family is in danger,” he said outright, not even pausing as she sank down onto the bench, her face blank with shock. “There is a plot to frame your grandmother in a crime that will result in her execution.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Her voice was hollow.

“It’s a warning,” his words tumbled out in a feverish mess as he paced before her. “I’m worried for you, and I couldn’t bear it if anything were to happen to you. I’ve failed to convince my father, and there is nothing I can do to stop it because I don’t know who is behind it, not that I have any evidence to prove their guilt anyway.”

“You intend to use my grandmother as bait to find out who is behind this?”

It wasn’t a question.

“It’s the only way,” Tyrion said, his face apologetic. “I just needed my father to make sure she got a fair trial.”

Nodding slowly, Margaery’s voice was calm as she spoke again. “Then I’d say we would have a better chance of succeeding if we worked together.”

It took him a moment, then his head snapped up and this time it was he who looked at her in shock. “You mean…you believe me?” She nodded again and, overcome with emotion, he grabbed her hand and kissed her palm, passionately declaring, “I promise to do anything in my power to help you and your family, no matter what.”

Margaery smiled softly, gently touching his cheek. “We may not know who the victim is, but at least we know who will be framed and that’s a start.”

“We will need help,” Tyrion stated, moving to sit beside her. He smiled bitterly, gesturing at himself “If Robert loses his temper then, physically, I won’t be much use.”

Contemplating this, Margaery tapped her nails against the stone seat. “What if we spoke to Brienne? We might hold more sway with your father and King Robert if she and Jaime were on our side.” She paused. “Tyrion, what if someone is murdered because of this?”

Taking her hand in his, he replied, “Then we best hope that we find the evidence we need before it gets to that point.”