Wizard of Harrenhal
AU #2: Jon Arryn's Luck
This Scene Takes Place Before Robert's Journey to Harrenhal (and Winterfell) in Chapter 1
A/N: This AU has nothing to do with AU #1; in fact, it would make AU #1 unlikely to happen at all. I've had this idea many times as I dip into the Game of Thrones world so I wanted to write it down. (Spoilers for the books/TV show.) What if Jon Arryn didn't die when his wife tried to poison him?
The knock at the door was expected. After all, who could come to this door and knock if they weren't expected?
Jon Arryn got up from his desk and opened the door himself. He felt his years, especially as the evening wore on, but he did the simple things himself.
He was still just a man, as exalted as his position was. He still opened doors when his guests knocked.
The man outside the door was the one Jon had expected.
"Come in, come in, Petyr."
Petyr Baelish nodded. "Good evening, Lord Arryn."
Jon had forgotten how much it grated.
Jon didn't frown, but he had to prevent himself from doing so. It had been some time since he'd been alone with Petyr. Normally Jon met with the man when others were present. This meeting wasn't for others' ears, however. Especially not for Varys's - yet.
Jon felt... Jon felt that Petyr spent too much time around Varys, learning a spider's ways. Jon remembered when Petyr's voice hadn't been so low and mysterious. The man had learned to do that.
Jon stepped out of the way and let this mystery inside his solar.
Baelish came in and Jon closed the door. His guards outside resumed their places.
Baelish was smiling when Jon next looked at him.
A man who smiled all the time... you just couldn't be sure of such a man.
"How are you, Petyr?" Jon asked.
"I am well, Lord Arryn."
Lord Arryn was completely proper as he welcomed Baelish to the Tower of the Hand. He had helped to elevate the younger lord to his current position so he had to be completely proper. Baelish was one of Jon's men, in a real sense. He found he doubted the decision more and more.
Jon didn't know why, not exactly. Baelish said the right things. He was clever and bright and helpful. But, there was something wrong with him. That smile and those dead eyes and his well-studied voice, like he performed whenever the mummer beckoned.
It was a small niggling, not even on the first page of the massive list of things that concerned Jon.
Jon just watched Baelish. That was all he could do. The younger lord was just too good at juggling coins right now. Robert wanted what he wanted and didn't care how it was paid for. Jon found he was somewhat the same. The evening's topic might make coin juggling even more essential to the Kingdoms.
In the beginning of his time as Hand, Jon Arryn had looked with care over the accounts. Now...now, he let Baelish do as he needed. He didn't care to know the details, which were assuredly bloody and horrible. He'd let the details slip a little too much, though.
He had so little attention to spare. Jon Arryn knew that he had few years left to him, but he wanted to finish so many projects he'd started. Not least of which was settling the succession of House Baratheon. Those children of Robert's weren't...well, Jon couldn't quite figure out how to tell King Robert what he knew.
Jon knew and Robert's brother Stannis did, somewhat. Now the next part was telling Robert.
Perhaps Robert would believe Jon - then the Queen and her, and only her, children might be thrown from the highest tower in King's Landing. Or Robert wouldn't believe Jon - then Jon's years among the living would end.
He'd sketch out his plan on a later night.
He returned his mind to tonight's topic, a missive from the Iron Bank of Braavos that was a study in subtleties and insinuations. He needed all his wits to handle Baelish and this matter.
Baelish looked around Jon's solar. Jon pointed to a chair next to a small table. "A drink?" Jon asked.
Baelish nodded. "Please."
Jon walked to the table where the Iron Bank letter sat along with the gaudy decanter of Arbor Gold and several glasses.
One of the interior doors into the solar opened. Lysa came in. "Is that Petyr I heard?" she asked Jon.
How could she have heard Baelish's low voice, Jon wondered. "He's always prompt," Jon said.
Lysa turned and smiled when she saw Baelish.
Jon pushed the letter into a drawer for now. With Lysa in the room, they could chat lightly. The darkness could wait until she excused herself.
This was a common sight over the last few years. When Baelish turned up, Lysa inevitably would, if she were in King's Landing.
He wasn't jealous of the affection Lysa had for her friends. He loved his wife, but that love had been slow to arrive. What Jon had started had been a transaction between House Arryn and House Tully, Tully had supplied armed soldiers for a rebellion and Arryn had supplied a groom at a wedding.
Lysa always had been fond of her childhood friend, hadn't she?
Petyr had certainly done well from it. As a boy he'd been the heir of a small holding. His father's luck in war had given him the ability to foster with the Tully's at Riverrun, well... Had that not happened, Lysa might not have introduced Baelish to Jon. Sure, Baelish was a small lord of the Vale, but Jon had many, many small lords in the Vale. Lysa had helped to push Jon and Baelish together. Without that, Petyr Baelish might not now be Master of Coin. True enough...true enough.
Funny how little things didn't always stay little. Where one fostered turned out to have momentous import. Jon had helped to bring up Robert Baratheon and now he lived in this horrible Tower as reward or punishment - as it depended upon the day.
"Do you want a drink, Petyr?" Lysa asked.
"I was about to pour him one," Jon said.
"Well, you sit down with Petyr. I'll get drinks for all of us.," Lysa said.
Jon nodded and took his seat.
"Has our Robert had his supper?" Jon asked. He didn't understand his son very well. He was of a great age and Robert was so small, so young. He left the rearing to Lysa.
"He's being fussy, our Robin is. But Petyr doesn't want to hear about that."
"No hurry," Baelish said.
The words sent a chill down Jon's back. There was something so strange about Baelish, even desperate. Jon had met every kind of man during his life, but he didn't know if he'd ever met another like Baelish. He hoped to meet no others, for sure.
Lysa provided glasses for all three. She sat down and sipped and kept them amused for a good while.
Then Petyr stared at her for a moment.
Lysa flushed. "I should let you get to your work."
"It was a pleasure," Jon said.
Petyr stood while Lysa collected the glasses and left the room.
"A charming woman, your wife is."
If anyone knew women, it would be Baelish. He was the Master of Coin, but also the unofficial Master of Women for King's Landing.
Jon waved away the compliment. Lysa was Lysa.
"Why did you want to see me, Lord Arryn?" Baelish asked.
Jon got up and returned with the Iron Bank missive.
Baelish didn't read quickly. When he finished, he nodded once and looked up. "I see."
"Are the allegations true?" Jon asked.
"Well, if anything, they're understated."
Jon supressed a groan. "We owe more than they indicate?"
"If you include our debts to the Lannisters and the Tyrells, undoubtedly."
Jon leaned back in his chair. "We'll get no new extensions from Braavos it seems unless we get current. Perhaps not even after we manage that."
"Borrowing from foreigners is always a tricky business."
"Borrowing from Tywin Lannister is safer?" Jon asked.
"Well, no. Not really."
They were up until the early hours figuring how to fill the holes in the Kingdoms' finances. Jon vetoed several of Baelish's suggestions, such as raiding this or that fund to get them past the hard times. The dole paid to the poorest of those in King's Landing was very informal, but it was real. That money couldn't be redirected, not without causing riots.
King's Landing had burned often enough in recent decades. Jon wasn't going to cause the next onset.
He thought of Baelish after the man left. The Master of Coin was good with tactics, but his strategy was quite poor.
Meeting with King Robert drew down what little patience Jon could muster on this particular day.
"Counting coppers," Jon said, parroting a line he'd heard more than once.
If Jon heard that term again, he might strangle King Robert himself. He left with the King's unstated, reluctant permission to do as he needed, so long as Robert didn't notice what was happening.
Jon could insulate the king easily enough.
Cheaper wine poured into expensive flagons they already owned, done. Robert could no longer tell the difference.
Closing down portions of Maegor's Holdfast that weren't used, done. It would save them heating them somewhat and having servants attend to them.
Selling off, quietly, some of the plate and artifacts that had survived the end of the Targaryen dynasty, done. Much had walked off during the Sack of King's Landing, much but not all. Perhaps they might smelt what was left of the plate into ingots first?
Robert would notice none of it.
Jon was so deep into his options that he didn't see that Varys was lurking in the Tower of the Hand. "Come from the King, have you?" Varys asked.
Startled, Jon stopped and looked around. Then he collected a response. "He was quite decisive today." A polite fiction.
Now Varys might say nothing or he might say something. Jon had worked near to the man for more than a decade and still couldn't discern his moods and whims.
"Undoubtedly. Have you heard that Petyr Baelish is sick?"
"Sick? With what?" Jon asked.
"A fever, Lord Hand."
"He was fine when last I saw him. Fever? I had a drink with him three nights ago."
Varys shrugged. "Pycelle does not know the cause of the fever."
"Pycelle knows many things, but medicine isn't one of them," Jon said. "Thank you."
"I always live to serve," Varys said. He moved away, slowly, silently.
Varys must be gloating. He and Baelish had quite the rivalry.
Still, there could be truth to what Varys had said. Jon went to where Pycelle was treating Baelish.
Jon Arryn could get no sense out of his Master of Coin.
He tried different questions.
"He was found like this," Pycelle said. "None of my treatments have changed his condition, I'm afraid."
Jon didn't want to tarry here any longer. Disease... "Let's speak away from this sick room."
Pycelle led Jon into his solar, which was rather gloomy and filled with books.
"Is this a fever? An epidemic of fever?" Jon asked.
As Hand, he had to be concerned about King's Landing - and there was little worse for the population here than a fever that spread from house to house.
Baelish had it. Where had he gotten it? Jon feared it came from the city. After all, who knew where Baelish got to in his wanderings around the city?
"This is the first report I've had," Pycelle said.
"But much of what happens outside doesn't make its presence known to us, not in a timely fashion."
A servant knocked on the door. Petyr Baelish had died. That fast!
What a horrible fever.
Jon went to look at the man one last time. Baelish's eyes had filled with blood. He looked like an unnatural creature in death with his red eyes.
What an unhealthy place King's Landing was.
Perhaps it was time to take a tour of the different Kingdoms and get out of this place. Jon could do with a few weeks in the Eyrie. He could even suffer through a few nights in Highgarden with that oaf, Mace Tyrell. Olenna had him painted right.
Jon scratched out a note for Lysa. She had best know about her friend's death.
That evening, Ser Boros of the Kingsguard passed Jon a message when he was in his solar.
Jon had tried to tell King Robert that he could do with other guards. He didn't need one or two of the Kingsguard to protect him.
"Thank you, Ser Boros," Jon said.
It wasn't a true gift, Jon knew, because nothing King Robert did was ever a generosity. King Robert shifted those who fell into his disfavor to Jon's service, then recalled them as others angered him. It wasn't easy to keep track of the feuds even when there were but seven in the Kingsguard.
Jon opened the message. He read it again because the first attempt made little sense.
The short of it was this: Jon's wife, Lysa, had collapsed.
Jon's first thought was fever.
Jon's second thought was for his son.
He rushed from his solar.
Young Robert was reading. Jon felt his forehead and Robert complained. His boy was fine, if whiny.
Then Jon stormed through the Holdfast to where Lysa was being treated by Pycelle.
"How is she?" Jon demanded.
Pycelle blinked many times. "It's not a fever."
"What happened to her?" Jon demanded.
Pycelle took his time answering. "I don't know."
"What are the symptoms?" Jon asked, trying to remain calm.
"She's muttering a great deal, but I haven't been able to learn anything substantive," Pycelle said.
Jon thought he was lying.
Jon went into the next room where his wife lay. It was a small room a few doors down from where Baelish had died.
Lysa was weeping, inconsolable. She was also babbling streams of words, like an inconstant brook.
"What happened, Lysa?"
She looked at Jon. "Is it true? Is he dead?"
All this for a friend? Jon frowned. "Petyr? I'm afraid so."
She burst into a fresh round of tears.
"I shouldn't have sent you that note."
"You should have drunk the wine I served you," Lysa said, with sudden spite.
Jon pulled up a chair and sat beside Lysa. She cried and slept. She woke and cried more. It was some time into Jon's vigil when she did something different.
"I must have given him your glass, Jon..."
Jon said nothing.
He just thought back to the last time Baelish was in Jon's solar. Lysa had prepared the drinks.
"Why did he smile and drink it?" she asked and wept.
Jon had a horrible intuition about what she might say next. He still needed to know.
Jon adopted a low, soft voice, not dissimilar from Baelish's. "I don't blame you."
"I don't," Jon-as-Baelish said.
"How did I get it wrong?" she asked herself. She cried some more, but seemed unaware there was anyone else in the room with her. "It was simple. You gave me the poison. It had no taste. Then you drank from the wrong cup..."
Jon discovered that his fingernails were digging into the palms of his hands. He hadn't drawn blood - yet. He untensed or tried to.
"You wanted to be there to see Jon drink it. I could have just poured Jon a glass, I do it several times a week, but you wanted to be there. You pushed and pushed." She hadn't yet run out of tears.
"We agreed it would be the next time Jon summoned you to his solar. Why, Petyr? Why did you drink the wrong glass?"
Jon didn't know how to answer her. He was still grasping that Lysa was a murderer and a bungler. She had planned, with Baelish, to kill.
Jon listened until Lysa fell asleep again.
He got up and exited the room.
Pycelle was waiting. No doubt listening, as well. "Is she well, my Lord?"
"She is quite mad, Grand Maester. Her childhood friend dying has left her quite insensate."
Pycelle was trying to determine how this would benefit him. Baelish had been like that. Varys still was. Both of them were more gifted at not looking like opportunists.
"I will have her sent up to the pure air of the Eyrie to recover," Jon said.
"Yes, perhaps a recovery up in very pure air will be healthful."
"Thank you for your assistance," Jon Arryn said before leaving.
"Good bye, my love," Jon said. Then he nodded at his men and the procession to the Eyrie began. It had taken two days to organize and Lysa fought not at all because of the milk of the poppy Jon kept feeding her.
Robert Arryn remained in King's Landing and Lysa hadn't objected much.
Some of Jon's most loyal men would escort her to the Eyrie and keep whatever secrets they would learn. What would Lysa do when she realized what she'd revealed. Jon thought her the biggest, dumbest monster he'd ever met.
There was a secondary problem, of course. Jon had spent many minutes over the last two days looking at his son, Robert. Jon had found bastardy when he'd looked at King Robert's children. Should he find it in his own progeny? Was Robert Arryn actually Robert Baelish or Robert Stone?
Jon doubted everything about Lysa now.
He doubted himself for being blind. An old husband and a younger wife - and he'd never wondered about her friendships with people like Petyr Baelish.
He doubted all those around him who likely knew and had said nothing. Surely Varys had known, maybe others.
Jon, solemn, watched as the wheelhouse departed with his company of soldiers. He wouldn't see them again for some months. He intended never to see Lysa again.
He had work to do. He was Master of Coin as well as Hand for the time being.
That was the story he put about, which was true, but it gave him reason to dig deeply into Petyr Baelish's dealings. That man deserved to be thrown to carrion eaters, but Jon would see about a small, respectful burial.
He rode to Baelish's primary baudhouse and nodded to the guards he'd ordered to keep the place secure.
"Anyone find the papers we need?" Jon asked.
"Lord Hand, his solar seemed choked with parchment," the guard said.
"You expelled all the...patrons and workers of this place."
"An unhappy lot they were, but yes, Lord Hand."
Jon nodded and went inside the garish structure. It still smelled of perfumes. Baelish was dead and still his scents lingered.
Jon found the solar and began assessing the paperwork. He had his squire sent for, along with more of the servants from the Tower of the Hand. There was a vast amount of writing to be examined.
Jon started putting the papers into stacks, some private, many matters of the Crown. The far stack, and the smallest, dealt with his procuring business. Others dealt with matters of the Kingdoms or other business Baelish was doing. He was far wealthier than Jon had known.
He paused and flipped through the parchments that outlined Baelish's holdings. He would confiscate every golden dragon. Most, if not all, had come from the Treasury. It should return there, as soon as Jon found the evidence of how Baelish enriched himself so rapidly.
He paused to eat. He paused to give orders. He ordered candles lit when dusk fell. He was deep into the papers, worryingly so.
The situation was far worse than Jon had imagined. Now Jon saw why he'd received that letter from the Iron Bank.
As far as Jon could tell, Baelish had stopped paying the debts owed to the Iron Bank some time ago. Why? That was unclear, but Baelish had had some scheme in mind. Jon hadn't found anything written concerning his full intentions.
The third day he was there, in the afternoon, Jon found the first secret room. He'd been walking the former baudhouse and discovered some oddities. The rooms weren't the right sizes, which meant to Jon that there were more spaces than what he could perceive.
He didn't ask for assistance from his squire or his men. He spent a good deal of time finding the well-obscured entry. The secret space was larger than Jon's marital bed. It was filled with shelves and the shelves were stacked with gold.
The next day Jon found a room filled with precious stones, a larger collection than still resided in the King's Treasury.
An hour later and Jon was looking for more secrets. He found the most unsettling of all. It was a room of stoppered bottles, a room full of labeled and unlabeled poisons.
Baelish hadn't just been a thief and a sometime conspirator. He had facilitated who knew how many murders.
Jon was tired of being in this miserable setting.
"Hugh," Jon called.
"We'll need covered carts and several of them. We'll need more men."
"How many carts, my Lord?"
"Let's start with six."
"Order up six in my name."
Before the first cart arrived, the news was about in the vicinity, from Hugh to the guards to the locals. Of course, the locals had been curious enough about the activity in the space. Soldiers kicking the patrons of a whorehouse out was good gossip. Carts were something else.
Cart after cart was needed for the Master of Coin's old whorehouse. The general verdict of the dead man: he'd been a thief of the realm - and a traitor.
Jon was not unhappy when that story spread and got worse.
Six carts wasn't even the beginning to enough.
Jon had needed five just for the records.
He left the gold, jewels, and poison in the baudhouse for the moment. He kept guards at the door, too.
Jon watched the flotilla sail away to Braavos. There were three treasure ships surrounded by two dozen men of war.
The treasure, much of it reclaimed from Baelish's various properties in King's Landing, would make it safely to the Iron Bank. This might not be enough to settle things between the Crown and Braavos, but it had to help.
There would be a caravan leaving tomorrow for Casterly Rock and a smaller one leaving in a week for Highgarden.
King Robert was repaying his debts - or Jon was doing so on his behalf.
All would be right again in the Seven Kingdoms, right?
No. Jon was not happy. He was actually furious about the things he'd discovered. First, about the gold. Where did it come from?
It had long been available, though Jon didn't know it. He'd puzzled over the documents for a long time. He realized the answer was this: When Jon became Hand, the Seven Kingdoms were in dire trouble recovering from battles and deaths and ruined farms and villages.
Jon hadn't noticed, but things improved. Ruined farms rebuilt. The economy strengthened during the spring and summer weather - and the long peace.
Petyr Baelish noticed. He came into his role as Master of Coins and reported the same dreary news that Jon and King Robert had expected.
Baelish let the debts pile up and repaid them slowly, if at all.
All the extra gold went into buying things or perhaps into some stockpile he controlled - or to the people he paid to help him. Many people had had their necks shortened in the last few weeks, Baelish's helpers.
Now the Treasury was fuller than it had been in decades, even with these payments outbound.
The Seven Kingdoms weren't poor by any means, even with Robert spending as much as he could think to. Jon hadn't canceled out the debts held by Braavos or the Lannisters, but he'd slashed them heavily.
Jon was furious at what he hadn't seen.
He was furious that Robert's messes had kept him so busy that he just didn't know.
The Kingdoms were in good shape, if not for thieves like Baelish or monsters like King Robert. And wights like Jon Arryn thinking they were doing something necessary and useful.
Jon walked back through Maegor's Holdfast to his tower. He had blocked off part of the morning and spent it with his son - or Lysa's son, at the least.
He was trying to make up his mind about a few things.
First, was little Robert his actual son? Or would the House of Arryn devolve to his cousin?
He spoke with the boy, who was still whiny and a bit deluded. He tried to talk with the strange child over lunch. It did not go well. Jon finally dismissed the child - not his child, rather the child - and turned back to the larger problem.
He set off on horse with a few guards. He went back to the closed baudhouse that Baelish had used as his base of operations. He sent others to the other properties Baelish owned.
Jon gave the men with him varied instructions. They were to take away the furniture, the beds, the carpets, and the tapestries, everything. Jon's men were to haul all of it out to the carts which would be coming. The rumor was that this place would be sold or demolished.
Within that busyness he'd created, Jon returned to that hidden room filled with stoppered vials, Baelish's poison store.
The shelves were jumbled with different concoctions, but nowhere near to full.
Poison was a woman's tool for killing, stockpiled by a man who had many, many women to do things for him. Lysa Arryn, no, Lysa Tully, who was eager to act, but thankfully incompetent in her actions.
Almost dying at the hand of his wife had clarified things for Jon Arryn.
He hadn't been himself in a long time. He'd just walked around like some wight out of a nurse's fable for a small child, a wight ordered about by an ogre with a crown. Jon hadn't thought, he hadn't felt, he'd just done.
Now Jon looked and thought.
He didn't like what he saw. He'd let Baelish do all that he had. He'd let King Robert do all that he had, too. This room of poison was a metaphor for many things, this was the true heart of the Seven Kingdoms, this room of poison.
Jon knew that the smallfolk had recovered from the rebellion, but everything else was in worse shape now than when the Mad King was on the throne. Of course, Robert wasn't burning anyone, but the safety of the realm was doubtful. He didn't care what he did. He didn't care to notice his children weren't even his children. Whatever he looked at, he broke.
Buy me an army, Jon. So he and Ned Stark had done their duties and paid what Hoster Tully had demanded.
Run my kingdoms for me, Jon.
Don't bother me with details, Jon.
Jon could fix much. He saw clearly now. He had all of these resources. What would he do with them?
He hadn't realized just how much Lysa's attempt on his life had affected him. Jon Arryn was imagining the most horrible things in this moment.
He couldn't wait. He couldn't continue to dither.
He checked the official schedule and selected a likely candidate, then went to the wine cellars himself. The cellarers were quite shocked at his appearance. In the history of King's Landing, no Lord Hand had probably ever set foot in the wine cellars.
"We're having a feast soon in honor of the anniversary of the King's accession to the throne. I wonder which are the rarest casks we have on hand?" Jon asked.
It was the right question to ask. Cellarers loved to talk about their cellars.
Jon marked out several for the feast, but the most special one was something rare from Volantis. He sampled it and declared he'd never tasted its equal. "This will be the centerpiece of the feast."
"Yes, Lord Hand."
"Have it sent to my solar. I'll keep an eye on it so it survives until the feast. I don't know how you managed to keep it from disappearing down someone's throat."
The cellarer, who looked as stooped as Jon felt, smiled an almost toothless smile. "I rediscovered it in a dusty corner three days ago. I had to go back to the registers to figure out what it was. It was the last cask of one hundred forty acquired some decades ago. No one's even wiped away the dust in decades."
Jon nodded, pleased. He had a surprise that no one at the feast would be able to pass up. No one thinks Volantis and good wine, but this elixir was. It would be a particular surprise and treat for the feast.
The feast began eleven nights later. The feasting hall was bright, smoky, and hot. The food came in wave after wave of enormous portions. There was much laughter and many jokes that involved little fingers somewhere along the way.
One hour in, Jon stood and waved at a particular servant of his. A cart with a wine cask upon it was rolled into the room.
Jon looked to his old foster-son, Robert Baratheon, and explained the history of the cask, its origins and its age and its delicious properties.
He walked to it with a small glass and took the first drink. "Delicious," he proclaimed. He looked back at King Robert. "Today we drink for you, Your Grace, and the peace you have brought the realm."
The room thrummed with happiness. Robert roared back something. The servants in the room descended on the cask and made a particular show of filling the little glasses, which were quite expensive to make, and carrying them out to the guests, in order of precedence.
The King and Queen were first, then various of the lords, then the Sers, then everyone else.
The first unexpected issue came then.
Joffrey Baratheon, seated below the head table, demanded a glass. "Father? Father, I want to try the Volantis wine."
Robert looked down and waved his hand. A drunkard wasn't concerned about making more drunkards.
Little Robert came up to Jon. "May I try it? Myrcella and Tommen also got glasses."
He was whining, of course.
Jon looked to the table where Robert had come from. Yes, that open seat was next to Myrcella Baratheon. Neither Robert nor Myrcella wore their true bastard's names.
"Fine. Let me get you a glass," Jon said to the boy
Jon poured it himself. Little Robert grinned before he gulped it then sputtered from the shock.
"Back to your seat," Jon said.
Jon limited himself to the one glass, it was enough. He noted that King Robert had a dozen of the small glasses. Queen Cersei had almost as many.
Twelve was just gluttony, but a glutton would do as he or she wanted.
He saw some of the Kingsguard sneaking sips. Jon looked especially at the other members of the Small Council. Pycelle and Varys both indulged, as was the expectation, though Varys had had to be bullied into attending the feast. He seemed not to enjoy such large gatherings.
Jon felt the poison's effect two days after the feast. He began to pour the darker or smellier poisons down the drains and dispose of the vials. He had no more use of Baelish's poison store.
By the third day he was nearly insensate. He would see the Stranger soon and pay for what he'd done in life - and not done soon enough.
For, when that cask of Volantis wine rested in Jon's solar, he used those poisons collected by Baelish. He drank a few glasses of the pure wine to make additional room in the cask - then more than replaced what he'd taken with the clear poisons that possessed no obvious smell. Jon was no master of poisons, but he thought he'd done enough.
The Kingdom would be a better place with King Robert gone - and Jon gone. Let whomever survived pick up the pieces.
Maybe someone would start a campaign to clean up King's Landing after a bunch of nobles and royals died from a fever. Someone else would be Hand.
Maybe he would do a better job at seeing what was clearly happening. Jon had been blind for so very long.
Jon woke in a bed.
He was alive and surprised at that unpleasant fact.
Stannis Baratheon rose from a chair near Jon's bed. "I'm so glad that the fever didn't take you."
So the story was fever, not poison.
"Stannis, how are you?" Jon croaked. His voice was disused for some time.
Stannis hadn't been in King's Landing during the feast, Jon remembered.
"I'm alive, one of the few, it seems. My older brother and his family are dead. Varys and Pycelle and my little brother Renly, plus several minor lords, are gone. Three of the Kingsguard, too."
Jon closed his eyes. Those are the ones Jon expected to get.
"Your son, Jon."
Jon swallowed and nodded. He knew allowing the boy a glass was a death sentence. He'd done it anyway.
"The servants and cooks are cut by a third."
How? They hadn't been invited to the feast...but Jon had delivered the special cask into the kitchen's care two hours before the festivities began. Some, no doubt, had risked little nips.
"Thousands inside the city walls also."
At that, Jon's eyes popped open. How? Thousands... Was there a real fever ravaging in this place?
No, Jon was to blame for those deaths, too. All the poison he dropped down the drains went somewhere. Maybe the residential water supplies were contaminated by what went down the castle's drain.
Jon turned his head toward Stannis. "So I should have called you King Stannis?" Jon asked.
Stannis frowned but nodded. "I am now King, though my coronation is some time off. There is one other thing you must know."
Jon wondered if Stannis knew that this fever wasn't a fever.
Better to hear it all.
Jon had expected to die because of what he'd done. Landing in the Black Cells didn't terrify Jon. He had attempted to heal the Kingdoms. That was worth paying a great fee.
"We had word from the Eyrie. There was an accident," King Stannis said, slowly.
"What happened?" Jon asked.
"Your wife was doing poorly. Perhaps drink, perhaps illness. The details were not clear from the letter."
"What happened to Lysa?"
"The letter says she fell out of the Moon Door."
Lysa was dead. Lysa's son was dead. Jon did his level best not to show his relief. The House of Arryn was unstained by her - and House Tully.
"I loved her, you know," Jon said, which was true for a long period of his life, though not recently.
"I know," Stannis said.
"I'll have to arrange for a funeral."
"I sent a letter on your behalf when you were ill."
Jon nodded. "Thank you, Your Grace."
"I never expected to become King, not even when Robert was new to the throne. Especially not after Cersei bore him a son. I've not prepared for this."
Robert hadn't either. He just had the job, though he did it more poorly than Jon could have believed.
"I must ask something of you," Stannis said.
"Will you serve as Hand for me..."
"Your Grace, I'm an old man and this fever may not be one I recover from."
"If you'd let me finish..."
"If you survive another week or another decade, I'll receive your advice better than my brother ever did. You have run the Kingdoms his entire reign. Do this for me and begin training up your successor, if you wish."
The Stranger had decided to spare Jon for now. Jon really had no choice. "I will serve, Your Grace, so long as you want me and my body permits me."
Stannis gave a flinty smile and retook his seat. "What do we do first?"
He wasn't one for dallying.
Jon was quiet a moment. He'd expected death and had gotten a form of rebirth instead. This he hadn't prepared for. Still, there were items on his list that were now within reach. "This fever has come from the disgusting condition of King's Landing."
"It's not the first and, if we do nothing, it won't be the last. This time it took the royal family and so many others."
"So how do we start?" Stannis asked.
"We start by honoring the dead and cleaning the filth," Jon said.
King Stannis nodded, considering. "Yes. This is what we must do."
Of course, the two understood different things by Jon's statement. Jon would construct plans for both types of cleansing, the physical and the moral. He'd bury those he'd murdered and put in sewers - but he'd put more people on the list and continue to pluck out the corrupt.
Stannis had suggestions but the plan they began that evening was mainly Jon Arryn's.
This is what Jon's luck had given him, the wrong glass to drink and the wrong man dead by Lysa Arryn's poison. Jon would push forward for as long as his luck would hold. One man, with the right position and ideas, could clean out the muck of King's Landing - or die trying.