‘You can’t do this to me!’
Father remained behind his desk as he always did; sporting the same cold, unmoving, stick-up-the-arse expression that he wore year in and year out no matter what anybody threw at him. That look had been decorating his face for as long as Jaime could remember, and for as long as Jaime could remember, he had hated him for it; the cold, selfish, inhuman bastard.
When Jaime had been younger, he had tried so hard to please him. He had tried every day. But that face was always the same; a face to be feared rather than loved. Not that that had stopped Jaime from loving him. He hated himself for loving him. And he hated himself for disappointing him.
If Jaime had been armed, he would have run him through then and there and gone to the King’s chambers to put a sword through Robert’s eye and out the back of his skull.
‘Don’t get into the habit,’ Robert had laughed when people had first begun to name him Kingslayer.
We’ll fucking see about that, you drink-sodden oaf.
When Jaime had joined the Kingsguard, he had thought he was escaping to the realm of things that were worth loving. He had Cersei, and he had his sword. With his white cloak, he had claimed his freedom, but freedom had had its own horrors; horrors that burnt green and screamed at him at night; cries for mercy and curses and the wails of dying men. But when Robert had taken the throne, things had become good again. More or less. Jaime had fought so hard for things to be good again. More or less. And now that too was being taken from him, by a person he could not disobey, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself of the contrary.
Father’s tone resembled that of a monarch dictating a letter to a scribe.
‘The High Septon has agreed to absolve you of your vows - ’
‘And the absolution ceremony will take place in the Great Sept tomorrow at midday.’
I will not let him separate me and Cersei again. I will not let him. I am her and she is me. We came into this world together; we belong together.
Oh, gods. Cersei. She’ll murder both him and me. Or she’ll get me to murder him – oh, gods.
He felt trapped, like a lion locked in a cage scarcely large enough to hold a rat; so helpless he could barely think. He was a boy again, a mouse, dirt under his Father’s boots.
He thought of his twin, summoning her strength.
Help me, Sister.
‘I won’t do it.’
Father smiled at him, amused.
Jaime slammed his fist onto Father’s table, upsetting an inkwell.
‘NO, I will NOT!’
‘You are my son!’ Father roared in reply, ‘and you will do as I command, or suffer the consequences!’
‘The consequences? What will you do? Hang me? Ship me off to the Wall?’
‘Don’t be flippant, child!’
‘I am no child!’
‘That is not immediately evident.’
‘How can I act otherwise when you would chain me to that dirty little creature for the rest of my life?’
He shuddered just to think of her. The other day he’d seen her climbing out of a sewer. A sewer. She had looked little better than a commoner, covered in mud, and worse. The mere thought of fucking her made his stomach turn.
Father, however, clearly had a stronger stomach than he did, and dismissed his protests with a flash of his ice blue eyes.
‘Lady’s Arya’s sense of hygiene, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. You will marry her, put a son in her, a Lannister son, and gain our House a foothold in the North!’
Jaime hadn’t expected that. He’d been too livid to consider that Father might be forcing him to marry for any reason other than to torment him.
‘Why the fuck do you want a foothold in the North?’ Jaime asked, baffled.
Tywin took a casual sip of wine.
‘That is not your concern.’
Jaime frowned. There had to be more to it than that. If this were only about the family name, Father could have married him off to any highborn girl from a great Southern house. If, however, he really did care about the North, for some obscure reason of his own, then marrying his eldest son to Arya Horseface Stark was a perfect political match. But Jaime wasn’t convinced by either of those reasons. There had to be something more.
‘This is about Tyrion, isn’t it?’ he asked quietly.
Father did not give the slightest indication that the question had affected him.
‘Your brother could not be further from my mind at this moment,’ he replied, as though answering a question about the weather.
Jaime pressed on.
‘You don’t want him becoming Lord of Casterly Rock.’
‘While the thought does not appeal to me -’
Father’s face went red.
‘Sit down and be silent.’
Jaime threw himself into a chair, folded his arms and fumed. Of all the injustices Tyrion had suffered at their Father’s hands, going to such trouble to rob him of his rightful inheritance had to be among the most perverse.
Why doesn’t Father see him? Jaime thought, why can’t he? And why does he love his blindness so much that he needs to destroy my life in order to hold onto it?
Jaime felt ashamed at his own selfishness, and coloured slightly.
Don’t pity yourself. Pity Tyrion. All this is being done to hurt him.
He knew his brother would not blame him, but that did not assuage the guilt he felt. Looking back at his father, who had sat watching him all the while, he was once again seized by the feeling of being a boy rather than a grown man.
We are pawns to him. Pawns in a game of cyvasse. It is all we ever were. It is all we will ever be.
Father was now trying to appeal to his ego. Perhaps he knew him just a little after all.
‘You are blessed with abilities that few men possess,’ Father remarked, ‘and what have you done with these blessings? You’ve served as a glorified bodyguard to two kings, one a madman, the other a drunk. But I have never ceased to think of you as my heir. The time is now right for you to become the man you were always meant to be. Not next year, not tomorrow. Now.’
‘Why now? And why her?’
‘She is of ancient blood, with a very old name.’
‘She’s a child!’
‘She is fertile.’
‘She wears breeches and carries a sword!’
‘I don’t care if she walks naked and carries two battleaxes! If I die tomorrow, the family name dies with me. The family name must live on. It’s all that lives on. Not your absurd sense of loyalty to an outmoded code of conduct, nor your preferences when it comes to women, but family. And I will be thrice damned if that obscene little monkey will be my successor in continuing our line.’
‘He’s a better man than you give him credit for.’
Father looked at him like he’d been spat in the face. Jaime rose from his seat, and looked him in the eye, his heart pounding in his ears. His words emerged in a deathly whisper.
‘I shall never forgive you for this.’
‘How can they do this to me?’ Arya murmured, staring hard at the opposite wall.
‘The King commands it,’ Sansa replied softly, one arm around her sister, ‘once that’s happened, there is nothing else to be done.’
Sansa was the third person to try reasoning with Arya that morning. Their father had come first, and had been liberally screamed at before having a hairbrush thrown at him. Hearing the commotion while passing Arya’s chambers on her way to sept, their mother had entered and had hit her daughter full in the face; not hard, but hard enough to get her to stop screeching. She had then tried kindness, pleading, and appeals to reason and duty to the realm while Arya had stared mutinously at the wall, refusing to listen to a word. Then Sansa had come, asking politely to be given leave to speak to her sister. After their mother had departed, Sansa hadn’t said a word, sitting beside Arya on the bed and waiting for her to speak. ‘How can they do this to me?’ were the first quiet words the younger Stark daughter had spoken that day.
‘Why does the King get to decide whom I marry?’ Arya snorted, taking Sansa’s hand, ‘it’s perfectly obvious he’s only doing it to annoy Lord Tywin.’
‘Perhaps that’s what Lord Tywin wants him to think,’ Sansa replied.
Arya felt confused.
‘Why would Lord Tywin want that?’
Sansa looked confused too.
‘I hate this city.’
So did Arya. No weirwood trees; no godswoods worthy of the name; no friends. The heat, the smell, the whispers, the Game. She hated it; and knowing that Sansa did too reassured her. It did not make her less angry.
‘Why should I be a pawn in whatever stupid game he’s playing?’ Arya grumbled, ‘and why is Father letting him? Why doesn’t he refuse?’
Sansa was the soul of patience and understanding.
‘I’m sure he’s tried,’ she said, ‘but if the King commands it –’
‘– then there’s nothing else to be done?’
‘And Father couldn’t even be bothered to risk offending Robert if it means saving his daughter from marrying a man with shit for honour?’ Arya asked desperately, her heart sinking, knowing that her sister was right.
‘Men never care as much for their daughters as they do for their sons,’ Sansa replied sadly.
But Father wasn’t like that. She knew he wasn’t like that.
‘I thought he cared for me,’ Arya mumbled.
Sansa pulled several strands of hair across her face. It did not quite succeed in concealing the bruise on her cheek.
‘I thought he cared for me too,’ she said.
Arya embraced her sister. She felt so thin, so fragile. She had never been this way at Winterfell.
‘I hate him for doing this to you,’ Arya whispered.
‘Father or Joffrey?’ Sansa replied, her voice breaking.
Arya wanted to reply, but couldn’t. Every day, she thought about how Father could have saved her sister simply by refusing to marry her to Joffrey; simply by saying no to a drunken oaf with a crown on his head.
What if the Kingslayer does the same to me?
Her blood roared in her ears.
If he does, I’ll kill him. And Joffrey too, while I’m at it.
Suddenly Sansa was smiling and trying to cheer her up.
‘At least he’s good-looking,’ she observed, as though commenting on a knight that had just been unhorsed at a tourney.
Arya appreciated the gesture, but could not help but be annoyed by it.
‘His hair is stupid.’
‘Your children will be beautiful.’
Arya groaned. Her children. With him. She’d have to…oh, gods.
‘What is it?’ Sansa asked gently.
‘I’ll have to fuck him,’ Arya stated crudely, turning Sansa’s face redder than her hair.
‘Arya! If Father could only hear your language!’
‘I want Father to hear! The Kingslayer is…he’s too old for me!’
‘He’s not so old.’
‘He’s almost Father’s age!’
‘At least he knows his way around a sword.’
‘He hulks and hammers like some Westerosi barbarian in heat!’
‘Like some Westerosi – what?’
‘Come now, Arya, it might not be that bad!’
‘Why are you defending him?’
Sansa’s face fell in disbelief.
‘I’m not, I’m –’
‘I’m being sold like a common whore to some oathbreaking golden-haired shit old enough to be my father and you’re defending him?’
Arya felt terrible. She knew Sansa was just trying to help, but she needed someone to shout at, and she watched the hurt on Sansa’s face with a combination of guilt and relish as her sister continued to flounder in attempting to justify herself.
‘I was just –’
‘I don’t believe you!’
Arya began to scrabble about in her trunk for Needle. Sansa gathered her skirts and fled, the door slamming loudly behind her.
‘If you like him so much, why don’t you marry him?’ Arya shouted after her.
Finding Needle, she unsheathed it and flung it across the room, where it wedged like a dagger into her bedpost, piercing the century-old wood. From beneath her room window, she heard laughter, and crossed the room to look. Her father was speaking with the King, the old drunk guffawing at everything he had so say.
Arya’s eyes filled with tears.
‘I shall never forgive him for this.’