Robert just stood there for a long moment after his bastard children were escorted out by Maester Luwin. Shireen looked at him worriedly and then slipped out as well after a word from her father, who swapped a concerned glance with Ned. Robert was just standing there, his eyes on the wall, his face working as he seemed to be wrestling with himself.
Finally he sighed and then handed Stormbreaker to Selmy, who was also looking at him worriedly. "Keep this safe for me, Ser Barristan. I need to talk to that Lannister bitch and I don't want my first reaction on seeing her to be me slicing her in half."
"Robert," Ned sighed, "Is this wise?"
His old friend sent a slightly deranged look his way. "No," he said flatly. "But it has to be done. I know that my children are not my children. My bastards bear my blood, not Joffrey, Tommen or Myrcella. This morning, before the hunt, I had three children. A secure line of succession. Now? Now Stannis is my heir for the time being. Shireen after him and then Renly. And the last time we had a Queen rule Westeros… well, she claimed the Iron Throne and we had the Dance of Dragons."
Stannis Baratheon set his jaw stubbornly. "My Shireen-"
"Is cleverer and braver and kinder than Joffrey ever can be. But there are those who would insist that she is too weak to lead Westeros. Especially with this… this war on the Wall coming. The Game of Thrones is in abeyance for the time being because of this coming war, but the discovery of what my bitch of a wife has done will open it all up again. Damn it, I hate it. But we have to face facts. We need Cersei to be disposed of cleanly. I will declare that our marriage is dissolved here and now. But the children… we need to prove why they cannot succeed me. Oh, I'll crack the skull of anyone who tried to claim that Joffrey is trueborn, but it would be better if we had a bloody confession, from either of them."
Ned blinked and stared at the brooding Baratheon. That was… an unexpectedly clear analysis of the situation that had been spoken and not bellowed. Robert seemed to notice his surprise, because he chuckled. "I'm not a fool Ned. Oh, I'm angrier than I've ever been in my life and I want nothing more then to kill them both right now. But now's not the time for vengeance. Never before have I needed to keep a clear head, than now."
"Do you still want to confront her your Grace?" Ser Barristan Selmy rumbled. Then his face hardened. "And what of her treacherous brother? His betrayal means that he can longer be a Kingsguard. Your pardon, your Grace, but he has sullied his armour."
"You are the Lord Commander, Ser Barristan. See to it that he is removed from the Kingsguard at once."
The white-haired man bowed deeply. "I shall burn his cloak myself, as I promised him. And I shall tear out his page from the White Book the next time I see King's Landing." He paused. "Your Grace, the Kingsguard has not served you as best it could. We have… we have failed you."
Robert turned and placed one large hand on the older man's shoulder. "The fault was mine. I listened to that bitch too often when vacancies came up on the White Cloaks, instead of to you. You have been a loyal friend to me. Do what you need to do to restore the Kingsguard."
Selmy straightened up at this. "As your Grace commands," he said firmly. "So shall I obey."
Robert nodded, before pulling a face. "What do you think Ned? See her now?"
"She should at least know that she is no longer Queen," Ned grated, his nostrils flaring. "You must stay your hand though. We need proof that the children are not yours. We know the truth, but if you went to Tywin Lannister and told him that his grandchildren are all bastards born of incest based on the noise they heard a sword make, he'll not believe you. We need proof."
"Aye." Robert nodded. "Ned, tell your men to bring her from her cell. Ser Barristan, please take Stormbreaker away. And I'd be obliged if you could send someone to summon the Imp as well. I need to find out if he knew."
Ned walked to the door and had a word with a waiting Jory Cassel, who strode off grimly, whilst Selmy left and Robert sank into a chair and brooded as they waited. Every now and then the King would clench his fists so tightly that the knuckles whitened.
"It might be best if you had the table between you and her," Ned noted dryly. "Otherwise you might do something foolish."
Robert glared at him for a moment, before sheepishly nodding and then walking to the chair on the opposite end of the table that faced the door. "You might be right there Ned."
They heard her coming a long way off. Cersei Lannister was shrieking loudly that she was the Queen that she'd see them all hang for this, no, executed, her father would unleash the Mountain on the North and Winterfell would be full of crows soon, eating the dead, and release her now… and many other things. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore her.
When finally, the door opened and the struggling form of Cersei Lannister was dragged into the room he stood and glared at her. She was dressed in a simple dress and her hair swung loose about her face. A guard pushed her so that she stumbled forwards, and she snarled and brushed her hair back from her eyes. She saw Ned first and the snarl became a shriek. "You! Stark! You treacherous dog, how dare you-"
There was an answering snarl and the scrape of the chair from the table as Robert came bolt upright, and Cersei turned towards the sounds – and then went as white as a sheet as she saw her former husband standing there, his face mottled with fury.
There was a long moment before she seemed to rally a little. "Whatever these dogs have told you, Robert, it's a lie!"
It was so brazen, so ridiculous that Ned blinked – and then laughed. "Denial? I never thought you'd try that! I saw you rutting with your brother, as did all in my party. It's no lie."
Cersei looked at him with loathing. "How dare you and your men lay a hand on me!"
"I'd dare anything to expose a treason that threatens my King."
"Treason! Why you-"
"SILENCE!" Robert roared the word and Cersei took a step back, her face whiter than before as her hands flew to her throat.
"Husband," she started to say, "It's all a lie and-"
"You are no longer my wife," Robert said through gritted teeth. "The ravens will go out announcing it. I, Robert Baratheon, do hereby divorce you. Our marriage is dissolved. You are no longer Queen."
Somehow she went even whiter – and then she swallowed. "You cannot," she whispered. "I am Queen."
"You are Queen of nothing, save dissemblance, filth and LIES!" Robert roared. "I have heard what Lords Stark and Baratheon saw, aye and what Ser Barristen Selmy saw! All sworn upon the Gods the truth of what they saw!"
Cersei looked about the men in the room with hunted little flickers of her eyes. She licked her lips nervously for a moment, a lizard instead of a lion, before she spoke again. "They… misunderstood what we were doing."
"Misunderstood?" Ned laughed again, before turning grim. "You were both naked and both rutting like animals. You and your own brother!"
"Which is treason," Stannis said flatly.
Cersei looked at him quickly, her face working. "No," she whispered. "Not true."
Stannis tilted his head in astonishment. "Of course it was treason! What, did you think that somehow it was not? Especially the matter of your children!"
She swallowed with an audible gulp. "Robert, why is he talking about our children?"
Robert leant across the table. "Oh, he means your children. They're not mine. They're the spawn of your treacherous brother, the Kingslayer!"
She gaped at him for a long moment – and then her chin came up. "Prove it," she hissed malevolently. "Prove that claim!"
"They look nothing like me," Robert snarled. "Gold hair and green eyes – not my black hair and blue eyes!"
"So? Robb Stark has red hair. Does that mean that he is Lord Stark's son, or Edmure Tullys?"
Ned burst into laughter. "Oh, Robb's a Stark alright," he chortled. "The Old Gods… well, they touched him in a way that they would not with someone who was not a Stark." He glared at the wretched woman. "Robert's bastards all have black hair and blue eyes. And there are other signs of Baratheon blood."
"Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella could not hear Stormbreaker chime when it was struck," Robert rumbled.
Cersei looked at him as if he was mad. "Swords do not chime."
"Stormbreaker does," Stannis spat. "I heard it, as did Shireen – and the three bastards. Is that why you tried to have Gendry killed? Were you afraid that people might notice how like his father he looks, unlike the three you spawned with your brother? There was one calthrop under his saddle and according to man I had guard him, another two attempts with calthrops or other devices."
Cersei glared at him and then drew herself up. "It matters not – you have no proof. I will swear that my children are legitimate. Try telling my father that you have disinherited his grandchildren based on not hearing a 'chime'. He'll raise the Westerlands against you, along with half the realm whilst you're still here in this hovel, worrying about snarks and grumpkins. Joffrey will be king!" She spat the last four words with a glee and malevolence that took Ned aback.
Her words certainly enraged Robert. He reached down and flung the table to one side before surging forwards and raising a fist in the sir.
"Go on," Cersei shrieked. "Hit me! That's your answer to everything isn't it? Hit me! Prove to the world what you're really like! Hit me!"
But Robert didn't. He stood there, his fist – his whole arm – quivering with readiness, but he just stared at her, a snarl on his face but his eyes locked with hers. And then, after that long terrible moment, he lowered his fist.
"No, that would play into your hands, wouldn't it? You want me to hit you so you can play the martyr. Show off your bruises and try and get sympathy, despite your crimes." He glared at her, his upper lip quivering as he repressed the snarl, and Ned realised that his old friend was using every scrap of will he had not to kill her with a single blow. "I'm done playing your games.
"You always thought I was a stupid, brutish drunk, and part of that might be right, but this isn't King's Landing where you can pretend to be clever and where I can let you do whatever the seven hells you want as I drink and eat and wench my way to an early death. No, this is Winterfell, where my path is clearer than it has ever been before. Westeros is in danger and I am King and I need to act like the king I always hoped to be. Joffrey will never succeed me. CASSEL!"
The door opened and the two Cassels entered, looking a bit confused. "Your Grace?" Jory asked.
"Take this creature back to her cell."
"Yes your Grace," Jory replied, walking up to Cersei Lannister, who was staring at Robert as if she had no idea what he was.
Oddly enough Cersei did not say a word as she was taken out. She seemed… stunned. Almost as stunned as Ned felt. Yes, Robert had changed.
The best part about having his leg whole again was that he could ride properly for the first time in years – really ride, on the fastest of his horses. Hunting was once again open to him, along with that age-old favourite of his, just simply riding down the road and watching the world go by. Watching it from a carriage had not been much fun.
And so, as he cantered down the road on Quicksilver, his outriders a sensible distance enough away from him, he thought about all that had happened of late. How much life had changed. And yet, despite that, he could not shake off the feeling that something was hanging in the air over Highgarden, something that had to be dealt with but which was dark and terrible.
Loras was pressing to be allowed back to King's Landing. So far he had refused permission. There was too much to do in the Reach, especially with all this talk of the civil war in the Iron Islands. He intended to send his youngest brother off the Shield Islands to inspect the defences. Loras wouldn't like it very much, but he'd go.
He really needed to have a word with Grandmother about Loras. They needed to find him a wife – someone who… understood about Loras's leanings.
Grandmother's advice was going to be key here. Acerbic too. And possibly a bit florid.
Loras would thank him one day. Hopefully. Perhaps.
Highgarden loomed ahead and he shook his head for a moment and then rode on. Too much to do. Fend off suitors for his hand as well. Grandmother was sifting the wheat from the chaff, or rather (as Grandmother put it) the decent ones that might have an ounce of brains from the simpering ninnyhammers.
As he trotted into the small courtyard that he used he could see Garlan waiting for him by the stable door. "Enjoy yourself? You always loved riding before your accident."
"Oh yes," Willas grinned as he dismounted and then inspected Quicksilver carefully before unbuckling the saddle and then lifting it off. "Very pleasant."
"Brother, there are grooms who can do that," Garlan pointed out with the long-suffering air of a man who had said the same thing many times before.
"Aye," Willas said as he placed the saddle on a wooden rail and then took up a blanket and swung it over Quicksilver's back. "But I like to keep in practice. I prefer to stay close to my horses. What's amiss?"
"Nothing, save that Grandmother now has three lists she needs you to review. The list of those women who would make good matches for you, the list of those who would not but who will have to be gently let down and the list of those who would make good wives for Loras. Mother is helping her."
Willas paused. "Ah. Is Mother still irked with me?"
Garlan grimaced slightly. "A little, but not too much. She understands why you did what you did."
He sighed. "As long as Father keeps hunting and stays away until we get more information about this Call, the better. Lord Tarly's mission is important. I hope he sends word soon."
"Willas!" He turned to see Mother – and Grandmother, and the Maester walking as quickly as they could towards them.
"What's wrong?" Willas asked, alarmed by the look on their faces. "What's happened?"
"A letter to your father has arrived, from Oldtown," Grandmother all but snarled. "From Septon Alyston at the Starry Sept."
Oh, Gods, he thought wearily. "What has he done?"
"He has accused your Grandfather of hiding a blasphemous object in the base of the Hightower and demands that Mace support him in his quest to cleanse it."
He stared at Grandmother, baffled. "I beg your pardon? A what?"
"Here." She thrust the letter at him and he looked at it whilst suppressing the obvious question about why she had opened something that was not addressed to her.
It was indeed a letter to father, written in the spidery hand of the idiot in charge of the Starry Sept. He wrote of rumours in Oldtown about a dread object in the Hightower, followed by some guard telling a septon about a dreadful gate in the lowest level of the Hightower that… had obviously been made by the pagan First Men, heathens who worshipped false gods, and he, Septon Alyston, sought the aid of Lord Tyrell in his bid to cleanse the blasphemous thing with the aid of the Seven-who-are-One.
The letter stank of sanctimonious piety and naked self-interest. "He's trying to be holier than the High Septon in a bid to try and regain the influence lost to the Great Sept in King's Landing," he said flatly and was rewarded with a curt nod from Grandmother and an approving gleam of the eye.
But it was Mother who spoke next. "Willas, your grandfather has written to me as well. He is very worried about the lowest level of the Hightower and wanted me to speak with you about it. There is a gate there."
His eyebrows flew up and he swapped a startled gaze with Garlan and Grandmother. The Maester simply looked intrigued. "What is it?"
"Every member of House Hightower has seen it, but we do not talk about it," Mother said in a low voice. "We do not know who built it or why. It's a closed doorway and I never liked it – it made my skin crawl just looking at it. House Hightower was charged with guarding it at the time of the building of the Hightower – at least in its present form. We don't know why, we just know that it has to be guarded. And… and your grandfather says that something has happened to it. It's started glowing. And there's a noise, he says. Almost like something is trying to get through it."
It was a warm day, but hearing Mother's words sent a chill through him. Then he looked back at the letter. "Wait – he writes that he is sending a letter here and another to Father's hunting lodge?"
"Yes," Grandmother sighed. "And given Mace's earlier letters, filled with complaints and general idiocy…"
The chill came back. "He'll go to Oldtown himself and get involved with this thing himself, won't he?"
Mother nodded. "I love your father dearly, but he wants to run the Reach again very badly. He will indeed get involved with this – and I do not think that he understands what he is dealing with. I doubt that anyone does. If the gate has changed… well, the Citadel might be able to find out what it is, but I don't think that the Septon of the Starry Sept should be allowed anywhere near it."
"And Father's hunting lodge is nearer to Oldtown than Highgarden is," Willas sighed before looking at his brother. "Get Loras. You two are coming with me. Grooms! Saddle three of my fastest horses! Arrange guards as well! We ride for Oldtown at once!"
Well, at least he now knew what his premonition had been about. Something dark was indeed coming.
He heard Cersei coming from a distance. Fortunately there was a handy alcove that he could hide in and his dear sister was so busy ranting about traitors that she didn't see him at all, which was a mercy. Once she had passed he stuck his head out and sighed, before following warily.
When he reached the room that he had been summoned to he sat on a chair outside it and listened worriedly to the voices inside, along with the Cassels, who were guarding the door. Robert Baratheon was very angry indeed – and his dear sister was no longer the Queen. Well, that was unsurprising. The question now was if she would now become a corpse. The odds were quite excellent about that King Robert was going to kill her there and then.
But much to his surprise the bellowing rose and fell before a rumble as something wooden was shoved across a floor and then more raised voices – Cersei was shrieking something – and then a shout from the King for one of the Cassels. Both went in and then re-emerged with a white and shaken Cersei, who seemed to be trying to puzzle something out. She did not even look at him as she was escorted out, much to his relief.
It was Stannis Baratheon who stuck his head through the door and peered around. When he saw Tyrion his eyes narrowed. "You. In."
Tyrion trotted briskly in and then stopped dead in the middle of the room. There was a table to one side being looked at by Ned Stark. King Robert was standing by him, his face red and his hands shaking.
"I knew that she did not like me Ned," the King rumbled, "But to hate me that much?" Then he caught sight of Tyrion. "Ah. You."
"You summoned me your Grace?" Tyrion said quickly.
Robert Baratheon loomed over him menacingly. "Did you know?"
He thought for a moment about asking for a clearer question, but soon realised that now was not the time to play silly buggers. "About Jaime and Cersei? No. I suspected but I did not know."
The King did not seem to be expecting that, because he peered at Tyrion suspiciously. "You suspected?"
"Why did you not tell anyone of this 'suspicion' then?"
Much to his own surprise a bitter laugh bubbled up from within him. "Who would have believed me? I am the Imp, the dwarf, the jester of House Lannister, the joke of the family. Who would have believed my suspicion that my siblings were doing something so foolish? Who… who would have taken me in the least bit seriously? I had no proof, not a shred of it. You, your Grace? You'd have said that it wasn't a very funny joke. My father? I would have felt the flat of his hand. To denigrate the Golden Pair, the Lannister twins that he is so proud of… well, if I had been lucky then I would then merely have been banished to the Wall. No. I kept my suspicions to myself. And besides… Jaime has always been my friend as well as my brother. To risk his life by telling of what I suspected… No."
The three other men stared at him with varying degrees of intensity. Ned Stark's face might have been carved from granite, but there was something in his eyes that spoke of understanding. Stannis Baratheon seemed to be thinking about what he had said. And the King… he was staring at Tyrion with a look of deep thought.
"No proof at all then?" King Robert said eventually.
"None. Although the more I think about it, it might explain why servants would occasionally vanish from Casterly Rock. If they saw the two of them…"
"Yes, yes," the King boomed, before staring at him again and then scowling thunderously. "And the children? Did you not suspect anything there?"
He looked at the King for a moment, puzzled – and then terror went straight through him. Uncle Gerion had mentioned how blond the children were compared to the bastards but… "Surely Cersei would not have been that stupid?" He croaked the words in horror.
"Yes, she was indeed that stupid," Ned Stark muttered as he poured a goblet of wine and then handed it to him.
Tyrion took the wine in a daze and then sipped at it as he tried to reassemble his fractured mind. The implications were… stunning. Uncle Gerion had been right. There was a precipice beneath his feet. "I… hoped that the children merely took after her side of the family. Are you saying that Jaime is the father?"
"There is not a drop of Durrandon blood in them," Stannis told him through gritted teeth. "She has betrayed her king. The children are not Robert's."
"How do you know that though?"
"They could not hear Stormbreaker."
His eyebrows flew up. "I'm sorry?"
"The sword. When struck with a hammer it chimes – if you have Durrandon blood. If not – it merely clanks. Robert's bastards all heard it chime. Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella did not."
Wonderful. Magic swords now. "Sadly that will not satisfy my father. You need more proof."
The King's eyebrows came down into a scowl that made his previous one seem like a light laugh – but then he sighed. "We know. Your sister will not confess the true parentage of her children. That leaves your brother."
Tyrion nodded, his mind whirling like a sycamore seed in the wind. This was very bad. But there was one gambit that just might work. "If he knows that he is condemned to death then there is little chance of him confessing. However, if he knows that the Wall is an option… there is more of a chance then."
"Your brother is an oathbreaker and a traitor," Stannis said angrily. "Tampering with the succession, trying to pass off a bastard as Robert's heir-"
"Did he though?" Tyrion broke in. "Jaime is not Cersei. Did he say a word on the parentage of the children? No – blame Cersei for that. Not Jaime. His crimes, yes, I have called them that, are terrible – but he is not guilty of that charge. The other charge of treason yes, but not the one of tampering with the succession. If he is offered the choice of the Night's Watch then he might be prevailed upon to confess. You need him. My father would accept a confession from Jaime. He would be furious, but he would accept it."
There was a long moment of silence and then – very reluctantly – King Robert nodded. "If he confesses then he will be offered the choice. Death – or the Night's Watch. The Gods know that we will need every skilled sword on the Wall when the time comes."
"Tyrion, the oath of the Night's Watch is not one that can be broken," Ned Stark interjected. "And if he does take it then he will have to swear it on the Fist of Winter."
He swallowed. And if Jaime broke that oath then he had little doubt that what had happened to the late and unlamented Ser Willem Bootle would happen to his brother. "I will tell him. He will know what is at stake. And I will get him to confess. I don't care what happens to Cersei – she has been a bitch to me for no reason all my life – but he is my brother and I will save him even if I have to beat him over the head with something blunt."
King Robert looked him up and down for a long moment. "Very well. Go to him now and explain." He looked at the doorway, where Ser Barristan Selmy was standing with Stormbreaker. "Ser Barristan, be so kind as to escort Lord Tyrion here to his brother. Don't kill him when you see him, we need his confession."
Ser Barristan Selmy's nostrils flared for a moment. "As your Grace wishes."
Tyrion bowed and then headed for the doorway. Right. Time to shout at his brother.
He sat there in the cell and stared at the wall opposite. He wanted to scream and howl at the ceiling, but all he felt was this terrible numbness.
He'd warned Cersei that they were taking too many risks at times, that they might be found out. She had laughed at him. His sweet sister liked taking risks at times. He had tried to refuse her, especially when she was too bold in her demands, but the sight of her naked body made his blood boil to the point where he would take any risk.
And now look where taking those risks had taken them both. Separate cells at the end of the world. And all the screaming and howling in the world would not help him. Father could not help them. No-one would help them. He closed his eyes. Stupid. They'd been so stupid. They'd given in to their lusts. But - how had Stark known? How had Stannis Baratheon known?
Claws skittered on wood and he opened his eyes and stared at the bars of the cell door. There was a bloody direwolf standing there. Staring at him. He glared at it with very real loathing. "Go away, dog," he sneered. "Or whatever you are."
Boots thumped in the corridor and Robb Stark appeared – and then Jaime wondered what the Seven Hells had happened to his eyes, because for an instant the boy seemed slightly taller and the direwolf a lot larger with red fire in both of their eyes. And then he blinked and they were back to normal. Perhaps he'd hit his head.
"What do you want boy?" Robb Stark tilted his head to one side, narrowing his eyes just a fraction. Oho. "Ah – don't like being called 'boy'. Offended!"
Oddly enough this seemed to amuse the Stark brat, who muttered something odd about how he'd said that last time, before he just resumed staring at him.
After a long moment Jaime snapped: "What? What's so fascinating about me? Do I intrigue you? Sorry, boy, I'm not interested. I don't sleep with boys." The moment he said the words he knew that it was a mistake.
"No," Stark said, quick as lightning, "Just your sister." He tilted his head again. "I'm trying to understand you, Kingslayer. I'm trying to understand why you do the… things that you do."
The way that he said the word 'things' made his blood boil. It made him sound as if he was describing dog shit on his boot. "Go away boy."
"Did you tell the others to go away?"
"What? What others?"
"The others who discovered you. Servants. Surely you can't have been lucky enough to never be discovered until now."
He felt the back of his neck flush. Yes, there had been the occasional servant. Cersei had had them dealt with. He'd never asked what had happened to them. "Go away boy."
"No. Tell me, Kingslayer – oh. Should I call you Sisterfucker instead? Or what about the other name they're calling you, Oathbreaker?"
"Not until I work out what you are. I've been wondering for a long time you see. What kind of a man are you? Did you know that my little brother, Bran, liked to climb the walls of Winterfell?"
This was bewildering. "What?"
"Bran liked to climb the walls. Until Father told him to stop."
"How very typically serious of your father. What does this have to do with me?"
"Bran liked to climb the walls of the First Keep, where we are now. He also liked to climb the Broken Tower. He found it a challenge. Tell me something, Oathbreaker. What would you have done if Bran had been climbing the walls of the tower when you were cavorting with your sister and then looked in through the window? What would you have done?"
He stared at the boy. "I would have told him to go away as well – that we were wrestling."
Robb Stark just stared at him, his eyes flickering all over his face. "No," he said softly. "You wouldn't. Not a man like you. Not a man who stuck his sword in the back of a man he was sworn to protect. Not a man who almost drew his sword on those who discovered your treason. No. You're the kind of man who'd push a little boy out of a window to keep your sordid little secret."
He stared at the boy. "No, I'm not." The words sounded weak and he knew it.
"Yes, you are. I can see it in your eyes. That's the kind of man you are."
Rage washed over him. The gall of this… child. Who was this mere wolf to judge a Lion? He was a Lannister of Casterly Rock. "So good of you to judge me. What would you know of the world?"
"Enough to know what you are, Kingslayer."
The rage enveloped him. "Kingslayer? Your father named me that and never asked me why! Do you know anything about that wretched men? He burnt your grandfather alive! He had your uncle strangled with that collar! Do you know what it was like to watch him burn people alive in front of you for no crime at all, a giggling madman who'd be so aroused by the whole thing that he'd then rape his own wife afterwards? And yet people complain that I broke my oath in killing him! No – he broke his own oath first, when he tried to murder the entire fucking city of King's Landing when your precious father's banners appeared on the horizon! Your father owes me his life! Did you know that?"
Robb Stark took a step back – but then frowned. "What are you talking about? Is this yet another of your lies?"
A red mist came down on his vision. "LIES? Do you have any idea what Aerys had planned? Did no-one else wonder why that Targaryen lunatic appointed the chief fucking pyromancer as his Hand at the end? He had them prepare a lake of wildfire that would be lit the moment your father and his fat friend Robert entered the city, destroying the entire city and somehow turning that ranting fool into a dragon. I found out about the whole thing – not even Varys knew! I found out and I knew that the only way to stop it was to kill the Mad King. What was my oath worth compared to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people? Then my father arrived and betrayed Aerys and he ordered that I kill my father even as he told Rossart to burn the city. So what was I to do, Stark? I killed the Pyromancer and then I killed the Mad King as he ran for his throne. You call me Oathbreaker for that? You know NOTHING, boy!" He roared the last words, his hands rattling the bars of the cell as he gripped them.
There was a tinkling noise as something fell down the corridor and Jaime looked to one side. Tyrion and Selmy were standing there, astounded. They had heard everything.
"Jaime – that's why you killed the Mad King?" Tyrion looked as if he wanted to weep. "Why did you not tell anyone?"
"No-one asked," Jaime spat, still furious, before a wave of weariness replaced the rage. What was the point? "No-one ever asked. They just judged me. They thought I did it to please Father. I didn't. I saved the city."
"You lie!" Selmy roared. "No wildfire was ever found in the Red Keep – or anywhere else!"
"It was hidden beneath it!" Jaime roared back. "Under the Red Keep, under the Great Sept, under the Dragonpit, under all the gates! They had it shipped in in barrels!"
"No wildfire was ever taken out of anywhere after the King took the throne! I would have heard about it!"
"I didn't tell anyone, Selmy! I couldn't! There would have been panic!"
"You mean it's still there?" The question came from Tyrion, who had gone as pale as a ghost.
Jaime nodded tiredly as he slumped onto the rough bed behind him. "I knew that it… what was the word you once used… debrades as it gets older. It's harmless now.
"Degrades, Jaime, that's the word." Tyrion walked forwards and gripped the bars. "But it degrades only if it's stored in a place that has the right qualities and even then it only degrades if it was mixed badly. If. And if it's stored somewhere dark then it can mature – and become unstable over the years. And you say that this stuff has been under King's Landing since the Rebellion?"
Horror drove all the blood from his face and he swallowed. "No… Tyrion you must be wrong. I saved the city!"
"Brother, I fear that you placed it under suspended sentence of death." He looked at Selmy and Stark, both of whom were now as pale as he was. "We must see the King at once about this. King's Landing must be searched at once. The wildfire must be found and stored somewhere safe."
They hurried off quickly and Jaime watched them go with a look of utter horror on his face. And then he doubled over and threw up on the floor. What had he done?