|Rise Like Dragons
Author: Alfie949 PM
What if Sansa had been older, and Joffrey's marriage had gone off without a hitch? Winter is Coming, With Fire and Blood. Includes other characters, but centers around Sansa and Tyrion. Includes a Jon reveal I'm pretty sure hasn't been done before.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Drama - Tyrion L. & Sansa S. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 18,431 - Reviews: 32 - Favs: 41 - Follows: 68 - Updated: 11-23-11 - Published: 09-02-11 - id: 7347801
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
For SJM, forever and always, without whom this would not exist.
For Annie, who courageously captains a beleaguered ship. I salute you, Captain.
For Cat, who took my hand and followed me into darkness, where I left her for a while. Forgive me, Cat. Fiat lux. Semper fiat lux.
And for you, my reader, who has traveled this far with me.
It's all for you.
Rise Like Dragons
Chapter 4: The Watch I keep
Sansa slammed the door to their apartments shut behind her, causing Tyrion to look up with a start.
How can I possibly tell him this? He loves his brother so much.
"Sansa, you should see the look on your face. Are you alright? What's the matter?"
The words tumbled out of her mouth in a breathless rush.
"I thought it would be nice to invite Jaime to dine with us, so I went to his rooms, and the door was ajar, and I heard a noise, so I went in, and I saw your brother, and I saw your sister, and they-"
Tyrion was staring at her, his head cocked to one side, his mismatched eyes boring into her, and all she could do was stand there agape. She couldn't possibly go on.
Fortunately, she didn't have to.
Cersei barged into the room, her twin at her heels.
"Sansa, sweetling, close your mouth. I've told you before, it's not very becoming. Now-"
"Just shut the fuck up, Cersei," Tyrion said as he moved between Sansa and his siblings. "Etiquette from you is like guest right from Walder Frey. And Jaime, my dear brother. If you even get neara window..."
Sansa had no idea what Tyrion meant, but he sounded deadly.
Jaime held his hand up in front of him. "Wasn't even thinking of it, little brother. Who was it who stopped Cersei from throwing all your toys away when you were small?"
"I should have thrown him away instead."
"Shut up, Cersei." It was Jaime who said it this time. "Look, Tyrion, we're only here to talk to her."
"I'll talk to her. I thought the two of you would have learned something by now. It's called discretion."
Sansa couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Tyrion,you knew about this? They've done this before?" Nobody was paying her any attention, though.
Jaime just shrugged at Tyrion's scathing look. "What can I say, dear brother? We were in my own rooms. The Starks have an annoying habit of dropping in at the most inconvenient moments and finding out things they shouldn't."
"Wait, did someone else in my family know about this?" It suddenly dawned on her. "My father was right. Wasn't he?"
The three Lannister siblings finally started paying attention to her.
"Sansa-" Tyrion began, but Sansa spoke right over him.
"Joffrey had no right to the throne." She looked at Jaime. "Joffrey's your bastard. Joffrey's your b-bloody bastard."
Sansa waited for somebody to deny it. She almost wanted somebody to deny it.
It was the Queen who spoke first. Her tone was almost… motherly.
"Welcome to the Game, dear. If it makes any difference to you, I really would have only sent Lord Eddard to the Wall."
Sansa was vaguely aware of Tyrion restraining her, but all she could think about was clawing Cersei's eyes out.
"Perhaps we really should have just let you talk to her," Jaime told Tyrion.
"Get out!" he yelled, as Sansa struggled to break free of his firm grip. "Both of you! The two of you cause enough problems for seventy-seven kingdoms."
After Jaime and Cersei wisely made their retreat, and regicide was temporarily off the table, Tyrion released her, stepping back quickly.
Repulsed, hurt, enraged, and with no one else to vent upon, Sansa turned on her husband.
"Joffrey is your brother's son!" She screeched at Tyrion. "And you knew it!"
"Sansa, I know you're upset-"
"UPSET? I am far beyond 'upset'!" Sansa couldn't see straight. She wanted to scream, to weep, to throw something.
"-but try to calm yourself. Think of our child." His equanimity was even more infuriating.
"I will not calm myself. You knew about them! How could you not tell me?"
"Because I predicted you would have precisely this reaction. Besides, I didn't think any good would come of you knowing. Only a great deal of heartache, which I'd hoped to protect you from."
"It would bring me heartache to know my father truly wasn't a traitor?"
Tyrion pulled a chair out from the dining table. "Why don't you sit down, and we'll discuss this. Calmly."
"I don't want to-"
"Sit down, Sansa. Surely you will find it just as easy to behead me from a seated position."
She sat, her lips pressed thinly together.
"Thank you." He took a seat in the chair beside her, rubbing the nape of his neck with one hand. "I was tiring of having to look up at you as you scream at me over something that isn't my fault. As far as I have been able to determine, my dear brother and sister have been…intimate since before I was born."
Sansa's eyes nearly fell out of her head. "What do you mean-"
"Just…don't ask. I admit it, I knew about the two of them, and I did not tell you. Nor did I tell you that Jaime is the father of Cersei's children."
"Do they know that Jaime is their father?"
"No, and it will remain that way. You will not discuss any of this with anyone. Do you understand?"
"But Joffrey isn't the rightful-"
"I must not have made myself clear. You will not discuss this with anyone. You are my wife, and I expect you to show at least a modicum of loyalty to my House, the House of our future child. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my lord husband. I understand, my lord husband. Your loyalty to House 'Baratheon' is admirable, my lord husband." Sansa's tone was as sweet as summer wine.
Her ice blue eyes spoke the truth.
The Others take you, my lord husband, if you think my child will believe the Starks were traitors.
Tyrion sighed, putting a hand over his face. "Is it any wonder I keep things from you?" he said, almost to himself.
"What other 'things' haven't you told me?"
That finally seemed to rattle his composure. Sansa smiled at her small victory.
Tyrion gave her a measuring look before speaking. "Are you asking for my entire life story, or just whatever you might find relevant to our present circumstances?"
"Let us start with anything of relevance, and proceed from there."
"Well, perhaps you're already wondering about this, since you look over the accounts..."
Sansa blushed, embarrassed. "I'm not very good at managing the accounts. I just look over what the steward shows me."
Tyrion looked surprised, and more than a little concerned. "Did you at least notice the extra account?"
Sansa shook her head.
"Well then. We're going to be working on your accounting skills together this winter. Had you noticed the additional household, you might be wondering who that is. It's your uncle Edmure and his family."
"My uncle is your prisoner?"
"More like my father's 'permanent guest'."
"Then who is in Riverrun?"
"My aunt Genna. And her husband." He paused. "Emmon Frey."
"You put a Frey in Riverrun? My mother's home?" It took every ounce of Sansa's being not to jump up and start screaming again.
"Must you continually blame me for things I have absolutely nothing to do with? Personally, I think Emmon Frey is too incompetent to manage a brothel, let alone the Riverlands, but my lord father did not ask my opinion."
"I can't listen to anymore about Riverrun at the moment," she said brusquely. "What else have you neglected to tell me?"
Tyrion seemed very hesitant to go on. "Do you remember how I told you I never harmed your brother? Bran."
"You lied to me? You hurt Bran?" Sansa was out of the chair, screaming, before she even realized it.
"No, no, no. I never hurt him. I never wished him any harm at all. But…Jaime…well, the same could not be said of my brother. You see…"
After learning what had really happened to Bran, Sansa didn't think anything could calm her.
A number of hours, one smashed vase, countless declarations of hatred against House Lannister, and several burned books later, however, Tyrion finally managed it.
"You know, it could be worse."
"Your family destroyed mine! How could it possibly be any worse?" she asked through her tears.
"Can you imagine what it would be like if Joffrey had a twin sister?"
Sansa just stood there in shock for a moment. She could imagine it. And she couldn't help herself. She just started laughing, right in the middle of her crying.
At least he can make me look on the bright side.
"I told you it could be worse. Gods, what I would give to have seen your face when you learned about the Knight of Flowers."
Sansa's eyes opened wide. "What about the Knight of Flowers? Is Ser Loras sleeping with Margaery?"
"When will I ever learn to keep my mouth shut?"
"Boy!" Ser Jared Frey called out through the snowy trees to his squire, who was nowhere to be seen. "BOY! You bringing the wood any time this season? Make me wait much longer and you can starve tonight for all I care."
Robert Frey, a scrawny boy of thirteen, finally returned to the camp and wordlessly lit a fire.
"About time! When I've been freezing my ass off all day, looking for Petyr Pimple and good-for-nothing Merrett, the very least I expect is my squire to show some alacrity when we make camp for the night."
First, Petyr had gone off. Then Merrett, who couldn't be trusted to cross the road without mucking it up in some way, had gone off to find Petyr. Neither had returned yet.
Jared wished he hadn't been called upon to haul his worthless half-brothers back home. They were nothing to him, but Walder Frey believed in taking care of his own, even the lackwits and the disappointments.
Blood is blood.
Merrett was probably in some alehouse getting roaring drunk, Petyr with him.
Blood is blood all right.
Jared intended to beat the two of them bloody when he found them, for making him stomp around in the freezing snow after them.
The knight started to cook the rabbit they'd caught earlier. The boy watched him, hungrily.
"You aren't getting any. If you want to eat, don't make me wait so long next time."
The boy just stared, afraid to speak. His squire was too timid. Jared doubted Robert Frey would ever become a knight.
A wolf howled as twilight deepened into evening.
"I'm thirsty. Bring me the wineskin from my saddlebag."
His squire obeyed.
Jared took the proffered wineskin.
The boy slashed his throat before Jared even got a chance to see the knife held in the boy's other hand.
He couldn't scream. He couldn't even breathe.
He just watched in horror as his squire's face rippled, transforming into a girl's face.
She put it very close to his, smiling. Her eyes were cold, as if they had forgotten all memory of warmth.
"Today. Tell that to the God of Death when you see him. Tell him Arya of House Stark sends you, with her regards."
The darkness claimed him.
Arya went to work on the body.
Nymeria's eyes gleamed golden as she watched Arya from just beyond the fire's light. Her muzzle was already red with Robert Frey's blood.
Arya hacked through the thick muscles in Jared Frey's throat for several minutes, severing the head and setting it aside. She opened the body from neck to groin.
The red blood flowed out over the white snow, steaming in the cold.
Red and white.
Arya ripped out the heart and tossed it to Nymeria, who caught it in mid-air and swallowed it whole.
By the time Arya was finished, she looked as if she had bathed in blood.
She stood, letting the knife fall to the ground.
"Nymeria." The direwolf came at her call, and quietly devoured what little remained of Jared Frey.
Arya retrieved Needle from where she had hidden it among the firewood, clutching it as a little girl might clutch her favorite doll at night, when the fire is out and the monsters are waiting in the darkness.
She sat down next to the large fire. She sat so close that the sticky blood coating her skin and clothing never got a chance to cool. Still, Arya shivered. The night was cold.
When the rabbit was cooked, she removed it from its skewer and began to eat, in the small, ladylike bites her mother had always tried to teach her.
Tyrion could hear the faint strains of a lullaby, coming from everywhere and nowhere, as if across a great distance. The flickering shadows cast by the firelight danced to the half-heard tune.
Sansa wasn't beside him in the bed, but that was alright. He didn't see her, but he knew she was close, somehow.
Cersei stood before one of the fireplaces, her back to him. Her golden hair drifted down the length of her grey gown.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I come here often."
It was not Cersei's voice.
This voice was unknown to him. But it was kind. Soft. Like the whispering of wings.
The woman turned, and Tyrion looked upon her face. It held echoes of merriment that would have made even the coldest heart smile.
Her emerald eyes spoke of stolen kisses, of sacred vows, of love that lasted till the end of Endless Summer. They spoke of a mother's laughter and a mother's tears. Most of all, her eyes spoke of a debt the Stranger had called due, far too soon. But she had paid it, gladly.
Those eyes seemed to see inside him, as if weighing him on a balance.
She spoke again, in that soft, silk voice, but with the strength of a lioness underneath.
"You are your father's son, Tyrion."
"No. Jaime is the son Tywin loves."
"But you are the son who will follow in his footsteps. Be better than your father. He died inside, when I had to leave him." She smiled then, but her eyes became a sea of sorrow. "I wish I could have cradled you in my arms. Just once."
"Who are you? Tell me," Tyrion demanded. "I want to hear you say it."
Instead of answering, she turned to look back down at the hearth, but he could see nothing there. She stretched her hand out in front of her, where there was nothing but empty air. She held it there. "Remember what the Starks say, Tyrion. It comes when you least expect it. I know that better than most. But remember what comes after it, too."
Tyrion woke with a start. It was so early in the morning that it could still properly be called night.
He couldn't help looking over at the fireplace, but of course the woman was gone. Shewasneverthere,youpatheticfool.
Instead he saw his lovely wife, sitting on the carpet, in the place where his mother's gaze had fallen, where her hand had rested.
Sansa was singing a lullaby, her hands pressed to the great swell of her belly.
"Sleep, little baby, sleep,
While over you this watch I keep.
Let golden slumber kiss your eyes.
Smiles await you when you rise..."
Tyrion watched her there, in her own private world.
This baby was everything to her. For the first time since her father's death, I think she is truly happy. Tyrion smiled at her happiness, and the fact that he played a part in it.
Sansa had finally forgiven him for keeping secrets from her. He hadn't told her about Tysha, though. Sometimes Tyrion felt guilty. But what could he say? That he'd been married to a whore for a fortnight? That the marriage had been dissolved, and that he'd fucked Tysha afterwards, along with all his father's guardsmen? Sansa didn't need such thoughts in her head, after everything she had already seen in her life. The guilt remained, though, and Tyrion just had to keep reminding himself that the subject would never come up.
Tyrion climbed out of the bed, and Sansa looked up as he went over to her. "The baby doesn't kick me very much anymore. Maester Creylen says that's because he's dreaming now." She was smiling.
With her seated like that, Tyrion was able to kiss the top of her head. He placed his hands over hers, over their baby.
"I love you, Sansa."
He waited for her to respond. She didn't.
"Why won't you ever say it? I know you feel something for me."
"I don't know what I feel for you." She changed the subject. "What will we name him?"
Despite his lingering frustration, Tyrion laughed. "You keep calling the baby 'him'. What if it's a girl, Sansa? Melodi is a nice name."
"I carry a son," she said forcefully. "I want to name him Robb. Or maybe Eddard. But I think I like the name Robb better."
Wonderful, Sansa, let us make Joffrey ready to murder the child sight unseen. Although, politically... And the look on my lord father's face if he heard the name Robb... Tyrion regretfully pushed that thought away.
"Sansa, perhaps we should think about less ... controversial names. What about Tybirius? Or Brandon?"
"As it please you, my lord husband." Her voice was as cold as the Wall.
"Stop it, Sansa. Don't play the courteous lady with me. You may choose any other name. Any name at all. How many husbands give their wives free rein in naming their firstborn?"
"My lord husband, you are too kind. I choose whatever name you choose." The Wall in the dead of winter.
Sometimes Tyrion never thought of Sansa's age.
Sometimes it was painfully obvious she was only fifteen years old.
Just now, it felt as if she had slammed the door of Castle Courtesy right in his face.
Tyrion sighed. He wondered what his marriage might have been like if Robb Stark had lived.
The Twins awoke to the sound of Walder Frey's shouts and curses.
A few of the more ingratiating sons rushed to their father's room, their swords drawn, but they were unprepared for the grisly sight that greeted them. Most of them vomited noisily.
Four grinning heads stared sightlessly from the window seat.
Petyr. Merrett. Robert. Jared.
Entrails decorated the room.
It was almost festive.
As if someone were preparing for a celebration.
Jon reluctantly pulled away from his wife, breathless from Daenerys' fiery passion.
"Truly, though, Dany," he said, once he was able to speak. "Something must be done. The Night's Watch is weak, and the Others-"
"-will stay beyond the Wall, for as long as it stands. If they really exist."
"Even if you dismiss the threat so casually, I need to do something."
"And what is it, exactly, that you would do? You think you can go back to the Wall? In your own words, your sworn brothers tried to murder you, Jon. They even took your sword. Even if you could go back, what could you possibly do for the Night's Watch that isn't already being done?"
Jon paused to think for a moment, and Daenerys pounced on his hesitation.
"There are many brothers of the Night's Watch, but there is only one Jon Targaryen beside me. Viserion seems to have formed an attachment to you, but I need you to learn how to warg him. I need you to teach me, and Aegon. I need you to plan the conquest of the rest of the Free Cities before we turn to Westeros. I need you here, Jon. With me."
Her arms beckoned to him.
Jon realized he must choose.
Daenerys or duty? Stay or go? Forsake my honor, or forsake my love?
He wanted to tell his Queen that he had sworn an oath. He had his own war to fight, and he could not stay.
The words were on the tip of his tongue, but he could not speak.
The faces of everyone he loved swam before his eyes, overwhelming him. They were everyone he had left behind, because duty and honor had demanded it. Robb, who had marched south without him, never to return. Sansa, whom the Lannisters had claimed for their own. Bran, who was lost to him. Arya, who was lost even within herself. Rickon, who had died alone and afraid.
Father. Jon would always think of Ned Stark as his father. Some bonds were stronger than blood.
Most of all, he thought of Ygritte.
Her voice echoed in the deep recesses of his mind, where Jon had tried to bury her, in vain.
"Let's go down inside, and join up with Gendel's children. I don't ever want t' leave this cave, Jon Snow. Not ever."
He regretted not staying in that cave with Ygritte.
He looked into Daenerys' violet eyes, commanding him to stay.
What is honor compared to a woman's love? Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love.
Jon was not strong enough.
He returned to the warmth of her embrace. He could not lose Daenerys, not on top of everyone else.
"My prince," she whispered in his ear. "Make me doubt you again, and I'll invite Aegon to join us for the night."
"I didn't know you desired Aegon's death, Dany," Jon growled as he pressed closer to her, possessively. "You need only command me, Your Grace, and I'll bring you his head."
"Without even your sword?" Daenerys laughed throatily. "Perhaps the wolf in you could manage it, but I would prefer you didn't. I'm rather fond of Aegon."
"Perhaps you want to be with him tonight then?"
Daenerys pushed Jon down onto the bed in response.
Why must love be the bane of honor, the death of duty? Jon had not believed Maester Aemon's words when he first heard them, and he did not believe them now.
Daenerys pressed her lips to the side of his neck as she caressed him.
With rational thought rapidly dwindling in the onslaught of his wife's fervor, Jon tried one last, desperate sortie to defend his honor. "I will convince you that we must fight the Others, Dany. They are real."
Daenerys wasn't listening to him. Her kiss on his neck became harder. Hard enough to draw blood, and to mark him for her own. Jon tried to speak again, to make her listen, but the only sound he could manage was a low moan as her hands pressed against him.
He lost himself in the heat of her fire.
All thoughts of duty were driven away, like dead autumn leaves driven before a winter wind.
A light snow began to fall outside.
Meereen had not seen snow in over three hundred years.
Bloodraven smiled, the merest twitch of his rotting lips. The movement was involuntary, a muscle memory from another life.
The hour was late, but Brandon Stark had come to him at last.
He knew his appearance disturbed the boy. Sitting within the embrace of his weirwood throne, Bloodraven was more tree than man now, after so many decades spent in the timeless darkness under the earth. Roots ran through his body, growing out of his empty eye socket. Leaves sprouted from his skull.
He taught Bran in darkness, to make him feel more at ease.
Bloodraven preferred the darkness.
"Never fear the darkness, Bran. The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother's milk. Darkness will make you strong."
With his one red eye, Bloodraven watched as Bran was wedded to the trees.
"The trees will teach you. The trees remember."
Time was short. Bloodraven watched eagerly as Bran mastered in a month what had taken him a year.
"A weirwood will live forever if left undisturbed. To them seasons pass in the flutter of a moth's wing, and past, present, and future are one."
Bloodraven watched as Bran's friends left him, and only the direwolf remained.
"Now, Bran, slip your skin again, but do not go into the roots this time. Let yourself float. Look beyond what the trees can show you, and tell me what you see."
"How do I just float?"
"Close your eyes, and focus your mind. Choose something familiar at first. Your family, if you wish. You may initially have difficulty controlling what you see. You may only see glimpses, and they may slip away from you like a leaf carried on a swift river."
Bloodraven used the lightest, most imperceptible of touches to brush the boy's mind, to guide his visions as much as possible.
"I see my father, and Arya, and Sansa. They're praying, but they aren't in the godswood at home."
Bran was smiling. Good.
"I see Jon." The smile broadened. "He's kissing a woman with silver hair. I see my mother, holding Robb in her lap when he was little. Robb is grown, and he's holding a woman in his arms."
Yes, Bran. Look at them. Look at how happy they are. And now let me show you...
"I see Winterfell, burning. I see...Arya. But it wasn't her at first, her face changed. And then she...she killed a man." Bran's expression became horrified. "Arya was smilingas she did it. Sansa's screaming, in pain. I see my mother, and Robb."
Suddenly Bran opened his eyes, shouting, "NO! No no no no no!"
"What did you see, Bran?" Bloodraven asked, even though he already knew.
"I watched them die," Bran sobbed.
"I am so sorry, Bran. Men can be cruel." He tried to make his voice sound sympathetic, but it had been so long.
"I don't want to look anymore today. I don't want to look right now."
"Of course. I understand."
Bloodraven understood very well.
Once he had been a man named Brynden Rivers, bastard son of Aegon IV.
He had remained loyal during the Blackfyre Rebellion, and he had lost an eye and won the name "kinslayer" for his efforts.
He had served faithfully as Hand, only to have the people whisper sorcerer behind his back. No matter that the rumors were true.
He had loved Shiera Seastar, his half-sister, an enchantress whose beauty was beyond compare. He had shared his bed with her. He would have married her, gladly.
When King Maekar raped Shiera and broke her mind, Bloodraven was enraged. He had tried to kill the king, but he hadn't been quick enough. They threw him in the Black Cells, and later condemned him to a life on the Wall.
He had risen high, to the position of Lord Commander. It was not out of any real devotion to the Watch, but simply because that was what he had always done. Rise.
But why guard the realms of men, when all his life men had feared and despised him? Why be the light that brings the dawn, when he had lost Shiera, his only light? Even justice had been denied to him.
Bloodraven deserted the Watch.
He found the Children of the Forest. He joined himself to the weirwoods, and that had only fanned the flames of his hatred.
A weirwood will live forever if left undisturbed. To them seasons pass in the flutter of a moth's wing, and past, present, and future are one.
The trees remembered the Andal Invasion as if it were just now occurring. Every moment, they screamed in pain for the weirwood trees the Andals had cut down.
The trees remembered men's fears.
They remembered the War for the Dawn, when men had prayed in their godswoods for deliverance from the Others.
The trees remembered where the Others were sleeping, waiting for someone to call them from their long slumber.
Already middle-aged when he was sent to the Wall, Bloodraven spent the next seventy-five years employing every dark art he knew, to gain mastery over the Others.
But he was not strong enough to wake them all up, to take them south.
He needed help.
So he had watched House Stark for generations, waiting. The blood of the First Men was still strong in the Starks. They were special. They possessed abilities long forgotten in other men.
At last, Bloodraven had finally found his opportunity.
"The things I do for love."
Bloodraven had felt victorious as he watched Bran be pushed from that tower.
It would be so easy to turn him against the realms of men.
If Bran continued to learn at his current rate, it would only be a few years before he could control the Others. A few more, and Bran would be powerful enough to bring down the Wall and unleash the Others on humanity.
The trees remember, and they will have their vengeance.
Winter is here, and there will be no spring.
The Casterlys outdid themselves when they carved their Stone Garden, so long ago.
When Tyrion had been a boy, Jaime had teased that the Casterlys' garden had been real, once. The King of the Rock commanded the gods to save the godswood from the first winter frost. The old gods had obeyed, but not in the way the King wanted. They turned everything into white marble: every flower, every hedge, even the great weirwood tree with its arching branches and five-pointed leaves. No frost would ever wither a garden of stone.
Jaime had said it, and young Tyrion had believed him without question.
Tyrion still marveled at the intricacy of the carvings as he walked alone among them now.
He hadn't known where else to go.
A soft breeze blew in off the ocean, carrying the smell of salt. It picked up the snow on the ground, making it dance in little flurries. The stone branches above him did not stir.
The cold, night sky was clear for the first time in months. The full moon cast nearly enough light to read by. Tyrion looked up at the stars. Their light flickered, like countless candles on the altar of the world's greatest sept.
Let them burn for her.
The maester had ordered him to get out. Tyrion felt like a craven, deserting Sansa in her bloody bed. He shouldn't have listened. But he was too terrified of making a blunder.
He approached the stone weirwood tree and looked up at its carved face.
"I don't pray very much," he admitted to its wise, old eyes. The thin red veins in the white marble gave the impression that it wept tears of blood. Over his impiety, perhaps.
"The Seven never hear my prayers anyway," he explained, defensively. "If they do, they don't give a damn about them. I refuse to waste my time listening to my father's septon blathering on about my many sins."
He took a deep breath, and started again.
"Humility isn't something we Lannisters are known for. Even among the least of us. But I beg of you to listen to me now. For this, at least."
He fell to his knees, praying to gods whose very existence he doubted. His prayers were as desperate as a pauper's cries, for that was what he was.
All the gold of Casterly Rock could not buy a healthy babe.
"Please, gods. Give me a son. A son who's strong and whole. A son who looks like Jaime, and thinks like me."
He went on, beseeching anyone who might be listening.
"Please, Stark, let your old gods grant me a healthy son. For your daughter's sake, if not for mine. For the North your grandson will rule some day, if your gods are good."
Long after his stunted legs cramped and burned, Tyrion prayed.
At one point in the night, he looked up. His squire was kneeling in prayer, a respectful distance away.
Tyrion couldn't spare much thought for Pod at the moment.
He felt desperate.
"Please," he whispered, "keep her safe." He forced himself to go on, to give voice to what he feared most. "Please don't let Sansa die."
Tyrion watched the candles of night's altar gutter out one by one, as heaven slowly cast off her black gown in favor of another.
Deep blue. Like the color of her eyes.
Grey. Like the Stark direwolf. Like the winter storm clouds gathering to the north.
Pink. Like the roses in her cheeks.
The brightness of the rising sun blinded him, and Tyrion had to turn his head away from its golden glory.
He saw his siblings, Jaime in his black tunic and trews, Cersei in her crimson gown.
"Tyrion-" Jaime began, but Cersei interrupted him.
"You're very good at this, you know," she told him, purring.
"Thanks." Cersei, actually being civil. "Good at what?"
"Killing women in their bloody beds. First my mother, now that poor girl inside. Sansa screamed for hermother when Jaime made me check on her. Too bad we put Lady Catelyn's head on a spike."
Cersei's words ripped Tyrion's heart out. He lunged for his sister, but Pod was quicker, restraining him from kinslaying.
Jaime grabbed Cersei's arm and escorted her out of harm's way, calling out to Tyrion that he would return shortly.
Sansa was everything. Everything I ever wanted.
Pod fled past him, his head down, weeping. Had Tyrion not been so consumed by his own grief, he might have understood why.
I wanted simple things. A wife. Children to raise. Lands to rule. To love, and be loved.
I wanted a life to live.
But I never even heard her say "I love you." She died angry with me. She didn't even know... She suggested the right move, had I been wise enough to realize it then. It all would have been perfect.
Dwarf, did you really think the gods would call off their jape and let you cast off your motley? What would they do for amusement then?
He wanted to rage at someone. He almost went after Cersei.
"Damn you, Ned Stark!" he roared at the sky. "Damn you, and damn your old gods! I hope you're rotting in some frozen hell!"
Tyrion knew what that felt like. He was in hell himself. He felt so cold. As if his heart had stopped pumping. Or as if he had no blood at all.
My father has the right of it. Always draw first blood, and keep drawing it, but never let anyone get close enough to make you bleed.
His brother eventually returned, alone.
"Jaime," he said calmly, "the maester who last attended our lady mother. You said
Father locked him in the lions' cage. Tell me, were the midwives spared? No, it matters not, I'll do as I please. What does any of it matter now that Sansa is dead?"
"She's not dead, Tyrion."
I'll do you one better, Father. I will kill the Stranger him- "WHAT?"
"Judging by her screaming, I'd say she's alive. At least she was when I started searching for you, over an hour ago. This was a stupid time for a game of peak-and-sneak."
Tyrion was in shock. "Cersei said-"
"She never said Sansa was dead."
"Then why did she say-"
"Cersei was sparring with you. As usual." Jaime was looking at him askance. "I
thought you knew that."
Tyrion felt a bit murderous, but Jaime went on before he could say anything.
"I came looking for you to say I think you should be with her."
"Maester Creylen and the midwives said I shouldn't go in. They said I would just be in the way."
"And you listened to them? When I was told I wasn't allowed in the birthing room with Cersei, I smiled and asked who proposed to keep me out."
That was enough for Tyrion.
He moved as quickly as his aching legs would allow.
He could hear Sansa screaming even from outside the closed door to their rooms. He took a deep breath, as if preparing himself for a battle, and he went in.
One of the midwives was coming through door to the bedroom, carrying a bundle in her arms. When the woman saw Tyrion, she smiled. "My lord, you have a son."
"Then why is my wife still screaming?"
Sansa opened her eyes. She was so tired, just that simple act was an ordeal. It was a struggle not to close them again.
The two-day-long ordeal was hazy to her now. She tried to make her way through the heavy fog of her memory, trying to remember.
Pain, but that memory was growing blessedly dim.
A woman in grey, placing a cooling hand on her brow. The Queen.
Tyrion coming to her.
Something one of the women had said. That was the important memory.
"My lord, you have a son."
She needed him. She needed her baby. She felt so empty without him.
She forced her eyes to move around the room, and found Tyrion, asleep in a chair to her left, his clothes rumpled.
"Tyrion." Her voice was very weak, but he was such a light sleeper, he woke immediately.
"Sansa. How are you feeling? Are you-"
"I want my son."
He smiled at her then, a mischievous smile, like he knew something that she didn't. All he said, though, was "I'll be right back," and that was all that mattered to her.
"Sansa. Sansa, my love." She must have closed her eyes for a little while, because Tyrion was standing beside the bed, off to her left, shaking her gently. He was smiling proudly, but Sansa only had eyes for the golden-haired babe that was cradled in a nursemaid's arms.
"My sweet lady wife. May I present our son, Tyrelius Lannister."
Tyrion took the baby, as carefully as spun glass, and placed him by her side.
Tyrelius was beautiful. Ten tiny fingers. Ten little toes. Sansa was mesmerized by the rhythm of his strong breathing, his small chest rising and falling regularly. As if sensing who she was, he smiled and opened his eyes. One was green, the other grey. She didn't care. He was her golden lion cub. He was hers. She could have stared at him forever.
But Tyrion wasn't finished.
He moved around to the other side of the bed, beckoning her to look. It took everything Sansa had to turn her head to her right.
The sight that greeted her was worth the effort, a thousand times over.
"And may I present our firstborn. Robb Stark."
If Tyrelius was beautiful, Robb was perfect. Sansa could see her father in him. When her husband placed the baby beside her, she started crying.
Tyrion misunderstood. "I thought the name would make you happy. I decided the first step to rebuilding Winterfell - to stabilizing the North - would be to attempt to heal some fresh wounds. To give the Northmen their liege lord back, as much as I am able to. If you prefer the child be named something else, though..."
That just made Sansa cry harder.
"No," she said through her tears. "No, I don't want-" She couldn't stop sobbing. "I don't want him named anything else."
Tyrion dismissed the nursemaids and climbed up on the bed beside his wife, holding baby Robb in his arms.
"I love you," Sansa told Tyrion, for the very first time.
She meant it, with all her heart.
The snows conquered kingdom after kingdom, slaying Memories of summer and raping Hopes of spring. Fear and Famine and Death followed like whores after an invading army. Armageddon waited beyond the Wall.
At long last, Winter triumphantly ascended his icy throne. The tyrant's claim was undisputed, his rule absolute. He banished the battalion of Stars, beheaded the treacherous Moon, and imprisoned the seditionist Sun, proudly proclaiming the death of Light.
Kings and Queens and Players bent the knee and begged for Winter's pardon. The fires of their war for the Iron Throne burned low in the shivering darkness.
An ice storm besieged the great fortress of Casterly Rock. Relentless winds screamed wordless battle cries, hurling frozen daggers with the strength of a thousand trebuchets.
Ocean waves became battering rams against the Rock's base. Pounding. Pounding. Pounding.
But inside Casterly Rock...
Inside, every candle burned, silent sentinels guarding against the raging night. Lions
feasted on High Summer, roaring in defiance of the cold king on his cold throne.
Minstrels raised their voices in paeans of Life's twin victory.
Inside, the Lord lay next to his Lady, watching over her as she dreamed, sweet dreams of spring. Between them, the Red Wolf and the White Lion slept peacefully, entwined in each other's tiny arms.
Inside, it was warm.
Warmth is the death of Winter.
TO BE CONTINUED
I would just like to take a moment to savor that image, there. A family, safe and loving and warm, despite the darkness in the world around them. That's the most beautiful thing in the world. I cried. I really cried.
The name Tyrelius rhymes with the name Marcus Aurelius. Just so you know.
I really like the idea of a Stark matrilineage.
I will never abandon this story. But with finals and holidays coming up, I doubt I will get the next chapter up before late January. I'm sorry. Happy holidays, everyone.
Until next time…