"You bloody fool," Telemon hissed to himself, while clutching the wound on his arm. The pain had been excruciating, but the ripples of the fever that followed made it worse. Now that the sun was setting on the horizon, he knew that if the wound or thirst didn't take him, the freezing temperature would. Normally, Telemon enjoyed the sunsets or the sunrise- it was the few awesome comforts of this wretched world; however, now he cursed at the sun for mocking him, cursed Pasiphae for stabbing him, cursed Medea for humiliating him even more by piercing his water bag leaving all of it to flow out- she loved to see him pander like a dog, he cursed Poseidon and all the gods that he had believed in for abandoning him in this canyon like a wounded animal.
He was Prince Telemon, the rightful heir to the throne of Aegina, and now he was about to die like some common thief!
His thoughts wondered to Tavia, that mischievous but beautiful daughter of an urchin called Rein. Her blonde hair was like sunlight, her cheeks were kissed by the sun and fleshy enough to be loveable but without giving her too much weight. Why did she have to die and cause him to lose his game, become more careless, get caught and be sentenced to the mines? The mines where they had branded his wrist with the constant reminder of his crimes. Even though he wouldn't admit it, Telemon had cried on his first night of his long sentence in that dark hellhole. The helplessness and complete hopelessness of being owned by some thug who had the right to lash you for looking wrong still haunted his nightmares, hell it felt like he was in one now!
Just like his father, who had abandoned him to rot even after his sentence was over, Pasiphae, Goran and Medea had left him to rot here. The baking heat blazed into Telemon, as he struggled to breath, as his eyes felt droopy, as his mind began to fade to blackness.
"My lord?" a voice called.
Telemon groaned, forcing his eyes to open a notch. There was a youth, possibly late teens, kneeling next to him. He wore a burgundy surcoat and a cloak over his back. His hair was dark and his face was slightly chubby, though he was by no means fat.
"My lord, are you all right?" the youth said.
Of course I'm not you dimwit, does it look like it? Telemon wanted to say. However, the words caught in his throat. Telemon gave a low moan before his vision faded to black. All he could hear was: "Bronn! Bronn!"
A searing pain in his side woke him up, the song of birds felt like a painful echo in his head. His eyes struggled to adjust to his surroundings.
Telemon groaned and tried to sit up, but the painful sensation tremored throughout his body. Am I in Hell? he wondered. No, a little to pleasant. The room was a little dark and a few vines crept in through a small window, but other than that the room was quite simple and habitable. There was a bed, upon which Telemon lay, and a sofa and chair in a corner.
Suddenly, the door burst open and a stocky youth walked in, he was the same one who Telemon remembered seeing before he passed out. He took one look at Telemon and looked as if he'd seen a ghost. "M-my lord?" he stammered.
Telemon was about to laugh, but he realised that his kopis and dagger were nowhere to be found, nor was his vest, but he was dressed in breeches and a thin white shirt. "Where are my weapons, boy?" he demanded.
The youth jumped back. "They're safe, my lord, I swear!"
"Now, now, Thirsty, young Pod here saved your life," another man entered behind Pod. He had a shameless smirk on his face, neck length brown hair and a small beard and moustache. He wore a sword on his hip and a lamellar surcoat. "He might be a simpering and stammering fool at times, but he's good at pouring wine, delivering messages and cleaning after your shit- metaphorical and literal."
"Thank you, Bronn," Pod said, turning red.
"All hail Podrick Payne, Cleaner of Shits and Messes!" Bronn announced.
"Bronn," Pod murmured weakly.
"Can you just tell me where the hell I am?" Telemon groaned. Maybe this is a special kind of Hell- where royal princes are mocked by barely men and cocky soldiers. Where I'm tormented as the butt of jokes!
"You're in King's Landing, my lord," Pod, or Podrick, said.
Which king's? "Why did you save me?" Telemon quizzed, although it dawned on him that he should perhaps be a bit thankful. "Forgive me, but thank you for saving me: I owe you my life."
"It's no matter, my lord," Pod smiled weakly. "I serve as a squire for Tyrion Lannister, Hand of the King, and he has an interest in you and wants to meet you if you feel well."
"Hand of the King? The King names his hands?" Telemon spat. "Are your royalty that narcissistic?" And probably completely imbecilic too!
"My lord, the Hand of the King is an office." Pod gaped at him with a raised eyebrow, but Bronn roared with laughter.
"And you're a saint, I take it?" Bronn scoffed. "Telemon the Blessed!"
"How do you know my name?" Telemon growled. He slowly but painfully sat up. "Give me my kopis and dagger! I am the Prince of Aegina-!"
"And I'm the King of Flea Bottom!" Bronn smirked. "Like Pod said, Lord Tyrion has been following you quite closely.
"Now if you're done sulking like an adolescent girl, you should come dine with him, he's waiting for you."
Oh great, now I have had a bunch of smart asses stalking me all this time! Telemon thought. He stepped out of bed, contemplating the wound that had been stitched up quite well and the offer to eat and replenish his ravenous hunger. "Very well then," Telemon assented.
Pod and Bronn led him to a grander and brighter chamber, where there was a table in its heart. A man with dark blond hair sat at its head.
"Lord Tyrion, Prince Telemon for you," Pod introduced.
Tyrion had a greyish-black doublet and a badge that was hand shaped was fastened to it. He looked up and smiled. "Prince Telemon!" he called, as if they were old chums. "Please, do sit, I have bread, cheese, beef and wine for us. You must be really peckish from your adventure in the canyon!"
Telemon bristled but tried not to show it. He gave a smile. "Yes, I thank you for your kind offer, Lord Tyrion." He had only made it a few steps closer when he realised to his utter shock that Tyrion was actually a dwarf!
"Am I that beautiful to look at?" Tyrion joked. "Yes, I'm a dwarf not a maiden, stare any longer and your jaw will fall off."
Telemon grunted. He hated this place. He had woken up to find himself weaponless, although alive, only to be made fun of and now this dwarf was joining in! But he humoured this dwarf and sat down next to him and Bronn, while Pod sat opposite.
"Podrick," Tyrion pressed.
"Oh, s-sorry!" Pod shot up like he had been stung and stumbled over to Telemon's side and picked up a flagon. "A drink, my lord?"
"It's Florentine, from the Reach," Tyrion said, as if that would make pefect sense.
Telemon sighed and nodded, or relented and hoped he wasn't about to keel over spluttering. If they had wanted him dead, he would surely not be alive now.
"So, Prince Telemon, have you been told that I've been keeping an eye on you for a while now?" Tyrion said, once they had tucked in to their bread and beef.
"I have," Telemon replied. "Then you'd know what I have been doing and what I was before..."
"I do, yes, and I couldn't be more amazed," Tyrion said.
"So why did you save me?" Telemon grinned, liking the compliment.
"For the same reason I'm amazed: I cannot fathom how you could be so short sighted; or do you have a burning desire to die and be the object of a song about how not to die silly?"
"What did you say?" Telemon spat, fuming and jumping to his feet. "I am the Prince of Aegina!"
"Oh, sit down!" Tyrion waved. Bronn had pushed Telemon down roughly into the clutches of his chair. Suddenly, he felt claustrophobic.
"Funnily enough, your father- the King of Aegina, might disagree," Tyrion pointed out.
Telemon decided he hated this dwarf, he knew too much about him and his relationship with his father. How could anybody know so much? Was everybody here this dangerously knowledgable or only this imp?
"Tell me, what did Queen Pasiphae promise you for helping her kill Queen Ariadne?" Tyrion probed, after a sip of his cup.
"A position in her Court," Telemon said quietly, although he knew what was coming and his skin flushed red in anticipation.
"A position in her Court? What sort of position?"
"She didn't say."
"Sansa Stark's handmaiden has a 'position in Court'! Would you do all that for me if I promised to let you brush my hair and wash me?" Tyrion shot at him.
Podrick was clearly biting his tongue, struggling not to laugh: Bronn was far less courteous.
Telemon fumed silently. He must be in his own special Hell- where an imp, a boy and smart ass mock him to humiliation.
"Tell me, you know a beautiful woman when you see one don't you?" Tyrion said, taking a bite of bread.
Telemon was wary.
"It's not a trick question," Tyrion assured. "Even Podrick knows, don't you?"
Pod stopped dead mid morsel and burned a deep red. "My lord!"
"Easy on, Pod, I just mean that you can appreciate a woman's beauty, even from afar?" Tyrion clarified. Pod nodded meekly.
"As can you, Prince Telemon, I assume."
"I suppose so."
"Tell me about Queen Ariadne, is she beautiful?" Tyrion requested.
Telemon sighed. He pondered on her, she had skin the colour of olives, eyes like dark almonds and black curls. She was taller than most women, physically and in the way she carried herself. But she was Queen loved by her people, it was obvious to Telemon that she didn't love him, she loved that rogue boy Jason. Yet she chose the safety of her people over her own happiness and comfort, by agreeing to the proposal and alliance with Aegina- or so she thought. Telemon could have showered her with romantic gestures and courted her like royalty. He hadn't because he knew what he would have to do, and he thought it best to keep his relationship cold, calculated and political.
But when the time came, he couldn't kill her. Was it because she looked him bravely in the eyes and accepted it without flinching? Or was it something more?
"Yes," Telemon replied finally. "She is very beautiful."
"I see, and Pasiphae offered you something Ariadne could not?" Tyrion snapped.
"No," croaked Telemon.
"So you decided to not serve her and to kill her in broad daylight, in full view of her retinue?" Tyrion scoffed. "You didn't want to rule Atlantis beside a beautiful queen, yet preferred a 'place in Pasiphae's Court'?"
"You think I should have gone through with it?" Telemon snapped. "Acting as if Ariadne wouldn't find out why my father isn't sending anyone from Aegina? Now who's the stupid one?"
Pod swallowed, looking intently at Tyrion; Bronn placed a hand on his pommel, but Tyrion waved him down.
"Telemon, my friend, your father can't despise you more than mine, yet he sent me to rule as Hand of the King in his stead while he's at war, because I could bring some benefit to my family. You think your father would be blind to the fact that an alliance between Aegina and Atlantis would also benefit him? Atlantis- the city that defeated the Colchian Army of over twenty thousand?
"Pod, what do you think? Would Telemon's father be amenable to forgive him if he brought Atlantis into an alliance?"
Pod hesitated, while looking nervously at both Tyrion and Telemon. "It's possible, my lord, but there's a risk of Queen Ariadne finding out or the King of Aegina refusing."
"See, thank you!" Telemon huffed.
"Considering the option and ruling it out as too risky is being cautious, even if a bit too cautious," Bronn interfered smugly. "But not even considering the option- that's called stupidity."
"Why didn't you kill Ariadne, again?" Tyrion asked.
Telemon groaned- not this again. "I couldn't in the heat of the moment, I just couldn't."
"You do know that not considering changing allegiance was dumb, but nowhere near as dumb as telling Pasiphae you couldn't kill Ariadne!" Bronn laughed. "What were you expecting? A motherly kiss? Understanding?"
Telemon wanted to smack him there and then, and he probably would have if he was armed. But he relented, for the sake of his own life.
They all washed up and Pod took away the dishes to the kitchens. Telemon wondered how much longer would he have to hear this mockery, why couldn't they just give him his kopis and dagger and let him be off. Though where would he go now?
"I have a proposition for you, Telemon," Tyrion began.
"And what's that?" Telemon said abruptly.
Tyrion gestured to a chest of drawers and commanded Telemon to open the first drawer.
"I'm not your servant!" Telemon snapped.
"Quit whining and open the damn drawer!"
Telemon pulled it open, and smiled genuinely for the first time that day. There lay his kopis and dagger, tucked away safely. He pulled them out and fastened them on his hip.
"You could head back on your way, if you want, though I can't say Atlantis, Colchis or Aegina will be too glad to come across you," Tyrion suggested. "Or you could come serve me."
"You?" Telemon grinned. Fantastic, I am now going to be this imp's creature.
"Yes, me. I pay very well and reward those who serve me well," Tyrion said. "You'll have to keep faith with me, bring me wine occassionally, follow my orders and serve me to the best of your abilities. I'll need a good sword in the months to come. A sense of humour would also be appreciated."
"I can do that," Telemon said thoughtfully.
"You'll also have to wipe my shit and empty my chamber pot."
"What?" Telemon spat. Are you trying to demean me still, you bastard?
"My arms are too short and sometimes I can't reach," Tyrion shrugged. "It's no big deal, it's a rite of passage, right Bronn?"
"Aye, the first few times are the worst," Bronn answered. The look of shock and horror on Telemon's face caused him and the imp to roar with laughter. Telemon felt a wave of relief and hatred, but he forced a small smile.
"I love the look on your face! I did I say I appreciate a sense of humour!" Tyrion laughed, before sobering up.
"I am not joking about the keeping faith bit, Telemon, if I find out that you've betrayed me, I will have your manhood cut off and fed to the goats. Are we clear?"
Telemon nodded. "Yes, my lord." He was unclear on whether Tyrion was one hundred percent serious or whether he was joking here.
"Good, let's drink to that! Bronn, do the honour," Tyrion said, as Bronn poured them a cup each. "Bottoms up!"