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Blood Runs Cold

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“And how did you come to capture them?”

“We caught them unawares, Your Grace.” The soldier explained. “They were sleeping. We snatched the girl first, but she put up quite a fight. After we restrained her, it did not take long to bring down the dog. He was drunk.”

The Hound and the Stark girl were kneeling below the Iron Throne. They were both badly beaten, but the girl was significantly worse for wear. It looked as if her nose had bled quite a lot, and dried blood was caked down her mouth and chin, and on the front of her dress, which was torn nearly to shreds. Her eyes were blackened and she was nearly unrecognizable. The only thing that assured that it was her was the bright blue peeking out from the swollen lids, and her messy red hair.

The Hound was no less hideous than he always was. His lips were split and his eyebrow too. A large gash dug across his forehead but had long since stopped bleeding. He was hunched over, tensed, and unable to meet King Joffrey’s eyes.

“Explain yourself, dog.” Joffrey commanded. “Explain why you stole away, deserted your duty in protecting you king, for a stupid little northern cunt.”

“I kidnapped her, Your Grace.” The Hound replied after a moment. His voice was more hoarse than normal. “I thought to ransom her to her remaining family, and find a new master with them.”

“What a splendid turncoat you are.” Joffrey glanced over at Sansa Stark. “She isn’t so pretty now, is she? Tell me, was she worth stealing?”

But The Hound said nothing.

“I will decide what to do with you traitors later on.” The King waved his hand dismissively. “I have a new betrothed to attend to. But see that girl gets a maester. Perhaps if her face is prettier the next time I see her, I will award her with the mercy I did not give her father.”

Half a fortnight later, Joffrey remembered their existence and had them called forth again. It was after sunset, and the throne room was empty but for a few guards and select members of the kingsguard.

Sansa was still terribly bruised, but her face was no longer swollen and she looked almost herself again. Almost. The Hound was still ugly.

Joffrey stepped down from his throne to get a closer look at them. Neither looked him in the eye, or even in his direction. Sansa trembled violently, while The Hound knelt straight-backed and rigid.

“I will deal with the girl first.” Joffrey decided, and she trembled harder. “After all, she has the blood of a traitor, so it’s not to be surprised that she ran off with you, dog.” He glanced over at the man he once trusted. “But you lack the traitor’s blood. That is your own creation, or perhaps you are simply craven.”

Joffrey shrugged. “But you were always the fiercest, and the cruelest. That is how you got your nickname, I know.” He placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “So I will have you choose the Stark girl’s punishment.” He felt The Hound’s muscles tense underneath his hand.

It took several long moments before The Hound responded.

“Slit her throat and be done with it.”

The King sighed in irritation. “That is no fair death for a traitor. I have decided she will not receive the same mercy as her father. She should have seen him as an example, after all. She should pay dearly for her insolence.”

“Chop her damned head off, then.” The Hound rasped. “Stick it nice and neat on a pike and stare at it until it rots.”

“No, dog.” Joffrey snapped. “How stupid are you? I just said that she will not be receiving the same mercy as her father.”

The Hound was silent.

“Perhaps I shall have her nose removed and gifted to my Uncle? He lost his during the battle, you know, after you left and he had to take your place. I’m sure he would be glad for another nose… A dwarf was left to lead my army because you were too craven.”

“Perhaps you should’ve led your own damn army then, like a real King would’ve!”

Joffrey cocked his head and looked all too much like his mother in that moment. “Ser Meryn.” The knight stepped forward. “I’ve noticed the girl trembles quite a lot lately. Perhaps you should hold her still? Careful, now, I’ve been informed she is quite bruised.” A grin spread across Joffrey’s face.

Meryn stepped forward and roughly yanked Sansa to her feet, squeezing roughly at the exposes bruises at her arms and shoulders until she cried out. He let this continue for a few minutes before languidly raising his hand and Ser Meryn ceased.

When Joffrey looked back at The Hound, his eyes were met. He had never seen the dog so angry before. He shook with his rage and for a split second, The King was afraid he would snap the chains at his wrists and surge forward to strangle him. He dismissed the thought immediately. Obviously, his dog was not as strong as he once thought.

“Did that bother you, dog?” Joffrey sat down on the steps in between the two of them, his legs crossed casually in front of himself. “I don’t blame you. Her squealing is quite painful to the ears. Perhaps I shall have her tongue removed? No, no. That would not do. I’m considering giving her to my guards, since you have not yet given a good way for her to die, and they wouldn’t be so pleased with her if she lacked a tongue.”

“The girl is a sweet fool and I don’t want to waste too much thought on her since she’s already dead.” The Hound did not look at her. In fact, he turned his head farther away from her direction. “She loves her songs and fairytales so much, give her a death straight out of one. She loves cakes so much, fill one to the brim with sweetsleep and let her take the long sleep. Unlike the maiden in that song, she will never wake. Or prick her pretty finger with a needle dripping with Manticore Venom.”

“Those are soft deaths, dog, and easy deaths. I want her to be afraid. Can you not understand that?” Joffrey paused. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you cared about her. That would be a second treason on your head. She was still my betrothed when you stole her.”

“You have nothing in common with her. I’m not sure why you would care.” Suddenly, a look of pure delight crossed The King’s face. “I could give you something in common. You’re a half-charred dog. Perhaps I should make her a half-charred wolf!”

The Hound was trembling this time, with his face pointed directly at the ground. His breath came out, strained and shallow. It seemed he was no longer able to speak.

“Yes, that is a start.” Joffrey held out his arm. “Guards, someone bring me a torch.”