Note: I've gone ahead and updated the end of the story a little bit. I have extended it so the end seems more conclusive and fits the title of the story a little better. Enjoy!
Every Dog has his Day
His head pounded as he leaned over the basin. He'd already emptied the contents of his stomach outside the flap of his small pavilion, leaving the mess for some hapless servant to clean up. Now he glared at his unsightly visage reflected in the water. His hands shattered the image on the water's surface and he splashed the lukewarm liquid into his face with a growl. Dark wisps of hair clung to his skin and droplets rolled down his cheeks, tracing the ridges and crevasses of his scarred face on the way down.
Sandor Clegane was no stranger to the drink, but he'd outdone himself the night before. The Hand's Tourney was a joke, but he supposed it gave everyone a bit of what they wanted to distract them from what the realm needed. Not that he gave a shit about the realm. The nobles got to flaunt their wealth, the King got his whores and his drink and his violence. Little lordlings got to show off for their pretty little ladies, and the common folk got to watch their highborn rulers beating each other senseless.
And he got to wade through it all, unhorsing idiot after idiot, because there was nothing better to do and because he was a dog whose usefulness lay only in scrapping with other dogs.
The Prince had commanded him to escort his little bird to the tower of The Hand that night. Like a good dog, he'd obeyed. But he was deep in the drink by that point, and her annoying little chirps grated on his nerves. That little slip of a girl got right under his skin, because she was everything that he hated. He didn't regret frightening her. He took satisfaction from it because he was afraid of his brother, and it was so much easier to forget that fear when someone else stood shaking in his shadow.
But she'd surprised him. He'd growled out his life's story in a drunken slur, and she laid a hand on his shoulder. Assured him that Gregor was no true knight.
Sandor Clegane was a rough man with no patience for things like sentiment or pity. He despised false niceties and all the obsequiousness of court. He held nothing but contempt for the concept of knighthood. Honour and chivalry were nothing more than lies, a flimsy excuse used by killers so they could sleep well at night. By that logic Gregor was, in every sense of the word, a true knight.
More so than anyone else, Sandor knew that knighthood was a sham. If all the pretty words and oaths were true, men like his brother would never become knights. Gregor was a cruel and sadistic boy that became a cruel and sadistic man. And in the end? The blood on his hands was washed away by ceremonial oils and he was given praise for his ruthlessness.
And that's all knighthood was, really. Fancy lords knighted men who would prove themselves useful to their cause, and the knights themselves were nothing more than glorified sellswords, most selling their loyalty in the hopes of getting lands, titles or daughters. Some wanted fame and fortune. And some men, like his brother, simply wanted to kill.
Ser Hugh's death was no accident. Seeing Gregor kill another man roused the fear in him and spurred him on to drink the night away. Even after returning the little bird to her gilded cage, he'd stumbled back to his tent and bottles. The lists for the remaining jousts had been posted, and there was a very real chance he would have to face his brother. He remembered he was searching for something in solace of wine and ale. What had it been? Courage?
He buckled on his armour and exited his tent, blinking against the harsh rays of the morning sun. He made his way toward the galleries erected for the joust and dragged a hand down his grizzled damp face with another growl. He remembered what he'd found at the bottom of those bottles.
Alone in his tent and drinking by the light of a single low-burning torch, Sandor's fears had begun to get the better of him. It wasn't just possible that he would face his brother in the joust, but probable. Jaime Lannister and Loras Tyrell were both arrogant, pretty show-offs. It would be an easy thing for himself to defeat Lannister, and even easier for The Mountain That Rides to unhorse the pretty Knight of Flowers.
He could be impaled upon Gregor's lance just like that hapless Ser Hugh before long. In a fit of fear, Sandor had kicked dirt over the smouldering torch. Even at a distance, the heat of the torch seemed to burn at his face, offending his senses.
In his sweaty haze of fear and drunkenness he had resolved to flee if he had to face his brother in the joust. Live to fight another day.
It was easier to face his fears in the misty light of the late summer morning. His fears were by no means gone, nor forgotten. But he could brush away the previous night's resolution as drunken folley. It wasn't the first time he'd thought of leaving and it wouldn't be the last. But he hadn't run away yet and there was no reason to start now.
Sandor unhorsed Jaime Lannister with ease that morning. He took no joy out of Lannister's embarrassing defeat, not the way everyone else did. The fools could hoot and laugh at the Kingslayer, with his helmet all twisted and stuck on his head. But it was of no consequence to Sandor. His mind was elsewhere.
He turned to the next match with trepidation. Sweat that had nothing to do with the day's heat trickled down his brow. This was it. Gregor seemed to have trouble controlling his ill-tempered stallion but that didn't stop him from thundering down on Tyrell like an avalanche of man and horseflesh. Sandor struggled with his fight or flight instinct as his brother charged toward imminent victory.
It was all over in the blink of an eye. Gregor and his mount went crashing to the ground and Loras Tyrell was prancing away on his nimble mare, working the audience. The stallion's screams rent the air as Gregor's broadsword hacked into its neck.
Then Gregor Clegane bore down on the Knight of Flowers and threw the smaller man from his horse. The broadsword rose, glinting menacingly in the sunlight...
And clashed against Sandor's sword. Steel sung as they traded blow for blow. Gregor would kill him if he could, Sandor knew. But his own sword never once sought a killing blow; he simply stood steadfast defense over the Knight of Flowers. For once the crowd was cheering on their hero, and it was his name they called. But all he heard was his own ragged breath and the constant ringing of steel on steel. He didn't want to be their champion and he didn't want their love. He was being selfish. In his mind it wasn't Loras Tyrell he was defending. As Hound fought Mountain, it was six-year-old Sandor Clegane that he fought to protect.
He had vowed that he would never let his brother hurt him again.
NOTE: I hope you enjoyed! I just picked up Game of Thrones again, and having re-read that scene I wondered what The Hound's thoughts might have been. I'm pretty pleased with the result, I think. But please review! I love comments and constructive criticism.
Also, I take story requests!
Also also, I'm currently accepting Beta Reading requests!