Tyrion

He'd been fiddling with old coin the first time he'd tried to visit Jaime, only to hear his brother's confession about Aerys and the wildfire. He'd been so shocked that he had dropped it on the floor – and there it was. He picked it up and peered at it. Old and worn and somehow apt for this place.

Jaime was slumped against the bunk. His eyes seemed sunken and unseeing, his hands shook slightly and there was a stain on the knees. There was also a slight smell of vomit in the air and a damp patch on the floor, as if something had been sluiced away. Tyrion looked at him sadly and then slumped against the wall opposite his brother.

"Oh, Jaime," he said mournfully. "What a mess."

Jaime looked at him dully. "Hello Tyrion. Found a coin have you?"

"I had it earlier. Dropped it when I heard your little revelation about the wildfire plot. A lot of ravens have flown on that one." He paused and looked at Jaime. "I saw the Maester here on the way to see you. There was a raven from the South. Father is coming here."

Jaime froze for a moment – but then leant back and laughed softly. "He hasn't heard yet. Ravens can't get to Casterley Rock and back in a day. Why is he coming?"

"To find out the truth about the Call."

"The Call… and what is the truth about the Call?"

"That it happened. It explains the dreams."

Jaime went very still. "Dreams?"

"We have Greenseers in our family, Jaime. Uncle Gerion has it, his son Allarion has it. I think that I have a touch of it. I dreamt a dream on my way here to Winterfell. A terrible one. Father had been one of those who didn't send help to the Wall. And as a result Casterley Rock had fallen. The place we both grew up in was filled with wights – one of which was Father. You were dead. Cersei was dead. I was leading the last survivors South, trying to stay ahead of the walking dead."

Jaime said nothing – he just stared at Tyrion with eyes that were filled with some undefinable emotion. Then he finally let out a sigh and ran his hands through his hair. "Dreams…" He muttered the word carefully, an odd tone in his voice. "Why is Father so important?"

"We need his men, his gold and above all his goodwill – and his brains. House Lannister must be seen to support the Night's Watch in this war that is to come."

"The war you claim is coming."

"You saw the head of the wight. I have seen far worse. Trust me, Jaime, the Others are coming for us all. And they bring the dead with them. They are coming."

His brother eyed him for a long time, his eyes flitting about his face almost feverishly. "You believe this."

He repressed the need to take off his boot and hurl it at Jaime's head. "Yes," he said very firmly instead. "Which is why we need Father on our side."

"Our… have you become a Northman, brother?"

He glared at Jaime. "I am a man of Westeros, brother. That is how we should all think. There can be no neutrals on this. If the Dornish think that this is another war that they can sit out, then they are fools. Besides, the Dornish are already coming - House Dayne is already here."

Jaime looked at him again – and then sighed and looked away. "My severed head on a spike will not enamour Father when he sees it."

Right. Time to roll the dice. "It might not come to that. The spike that is. There is another option for you."

Jaime looked at him, confused. Then his face cleared. "The Wall?"

"You saved King's Landing from Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King."

"Stark and the Baratheons don't know that yet."

"Your tale rings true. Selmy thinks its true."

"Selmy wants me dead. I'm surprised he hasn't burnt my white cloak already and smeared my face with the ashes."

"Selmy knows we need every man we can get on the Wall."

Jaime hung his head for a moment. "The Wall… do you want me dead that badly, brother?"

"Don't be a fool!" He shouted the words as he came to his feet. "I want you to live for years to come! You are the only friend I have had all my life! But it's the Wall and life for as long as you can survive there or the headsman and death tomorrow! You are the finest fighter House Lannister has seen for many years, you can live in the Night's Watch. Yes, the Wall is the place where this war that is coming will be fought. You can fight there – no wasted death here."

Jaime just looked at him again, hollow-eyed. "Death… or death in a few months or years, in the company of rapists and thieves and murderers. My, what a choice."

"The Night's Watch is not what is was, Jaime. Volunteers are flocking to it. And every man in it heard the Call. Every one of them. Perhaps it was their calling. Perhaps it was the Wall. But they are fighting for us all."

Jaime looked unconvinced and it was then that Tyrion's temper finally came to the boil. "Jaime, do you have any idea what you and our brainless sister have done? House Lannister stands on the brink of ruin! We are all tainted by what the two of you have done! We will not be fully trusted in the matter of marriage for years, decades to come, if that is we survive the war! Do you think that House Lannister will be trusted from now onwards? That other Houses will approach us for marriage alliances?

"No. So we must repair the damage that you have done! Or at least start to! Yes, you are guilty as to the matter of treason. That much is plain as you were caught red-handed. But you also saved King's Landing. That can be used as a counter-balance. Not much of one, but just enough to alter your fate from the headsman to the Wall. And the best thing you can do right now is to confess."

His brother stared at him again. "Confess? To what? They already have witnesses to what I did!"

"But not for how long you did it for. You need to confess to being the father of the children."

"Father? I was never a father to them," Jaime spat bitterly. "I just… slept with her."

"Semantics. The King needs that confession. He would be willing to send you to the Wall for it."

"Why?"

"Because of Father. You know what he's like. He will deny what you have done. He will think that it is a plot. He will drag his heels and think it all an affront to the family name. He will even think that it's a plot by Stannis Baratheon to steal what should rightfully be Joffrey's. The King has already disowned his children. This is the biggest political crisis to strike his reign so far. He needs as much certainty as possible on this. You can give him what he needs to prove to the Realm that his children are not his own and that what he has done in divorcing Cersei was the only thing he could have done. Confess."

"He'll kill me."

"He could have killed you earlier today. He did not."

Jaime looked at him for a very long time – and then he leant back and passed a slightly shaking hand over his eyes as he seemed to think very hard. "Do you think it might work?"

"I will speak until I am blue in the face until I make them agree to it."

Jaime stared at him for another long moment. And then his face seemed to set. "I will sign a confession."

Tyrion let out a sigh. "Thank you. Jaime."

"But there is a condition."

Ah. "What is it?"

"I want a trial by combat."

The words rang around his head but failed to make the least bit of sense. "What?"

"I want a trial by combat."

"For what? You are already guilty of treason and you are signing a confession!"

"For the death of Aerys Targaryen." Jaime looked at him with eyes that were far away again. "I'm done drifting. Father pushed me one way, Aerys pushed me another and then Cersei… did what she did. I'm done with drifting. I don't want to be called 'Kingslayer' on the Wall. I want a trial by combat for what I did to save King's Landing."

He stared at Jaime, who had an odd look on his face. "Jaime, that makes not the least bit of sense."

"But that's my condition."

"If you lose you'll be dead!"

"Lose? Me?" And Jaime smirked, like in the old days. "Oh, I'll win. I'm Ser Jaime Lannister."

He gazed at his brother and then he finally nodded. "I'll tell the King." Even though it was madness.


Ned

It was a quiet feast. Not sombre, just... subdued, as if everyone knew just what kind of a cloud was hanging over Robert's head.

Oddly enough however Robert was not busy brooding, getting drunk or snarling at people. Instead he and Stannis were having a very intent conversation on the far side of the High Table with Jeor Mormont, who was telling them both, in a great deal of detail, about just what life on the Wall had been like before the Call. Judging from the taut expression on his face Robert was feeling more than a bit guilty. Not that he should - the Night's Watch had been neglected for centuries.

That said, given by the way that he was talking, and the notes that Stannis was taking, that neglect on the part of the Iron Throne had now ended. To one side stood Ser Barristan Selmy, who still looked as if he had a great deal on his mind.

Ned sighed as he ate his own food - some venison that the Cassells has hunted down whilst he had still been riding South from the Wall. Cat was next to him but Robb, Jon and Theon were away to one side, sitting at a table and having a quiet but intense conversation about a piece of paper that lay in front of Theon.

"He's choosing his new name," Cat said, seeming to read his mind. "He's making his decision. Wants to talk to the King tomorrow about it. Ned, the lad's nervous."

"Can't say I blame him," Ned muttered. "Not an easy thing to do, disowning your own father."

"You do know that he wishes that you were his father don't you?" Cat asked shrewdly.

"I know," he sighed. "I can't imagine what it must have been like to grow up with Balon bloody Greyjoy as a father. The man's an idiot."

The discussion on the table with Robb, Jon and Theon was petering out a little, as the latter jabbed at a spot on the paper and then set his chin a little, before looking at the King, who was still talking to Stannis and Jeor. Hmmm, a decision had indeed been made.

He nodded to himself - and then reached out and snatched the last piece of bread on the table just ahead of Rickon, who had been eyeing it surreptitiously for some time and talking to his direwolf about it in what he had obviously thought was a low voice. As his youngest son looked at him in shock he stuck his tongue out at him - and then grinned, tousled his hair and gave it to him, delighting in the giggle that the boy uttered.

It was only then that he saw that Tyrion Lannister had entered the room from one side and was walking towards him, his face set. Ah. What had he discussed with his honourless brother?

"Lord Stark," Tyrion said formally as he walked up, "I need a word with his Grace and yourself."

Ned nodded, wiped the sides of his mouth carefully and then stood up and walked over to Robert, who greeted him with raised eyebrows. "What's up Ned?"

Ned looked at Tyrion, who stepped forwards, cleared his throat, stared at his feet, scowled at the ceiling and then finally looked at his King. "Your Grace, my brother has made his decision."

Robert nodded seriously. "And what has he decided?"

"That he will confess his... crimes. Confess to what he did."

Ned stared at him, along with Robert, Stannis, Jeor and Selmy. "A full confession?"

"Yes, Lord Stark," Tyrion said in a low voice. "He will take the Black."

Jeor made a slight face, but then schooled his features quickly. "A new brother," he muttered. "Well... he's skilled at fighting. He'll be needed."

"He has stated a condition though," Tyrion said with a wince. "He wants a trial by combat for the killing of Aerys Targaryen."

Everyone within earshot stopped what they were doing and stared at him, and as the whispers spread the silence that followed grew.

It was Robert who broke the silence, after cleaning out both ears with his forefingers and then staring at Tyrion. "You what?"

Tyrion lifted his chin a little and then repeated: "He wants a trial by combat for the killing of Aerys Targaryen."

"Why?"

Tyrion shrugged his shoulders. "When he joins the Night's Watch he does not want to be called Kingslayer anymore."

There was a pause. Then Robert cleared his throat again. "Is he mad?"

"No, your Grace. He smirked at me, said that he'd win any such trial by combat and added that he really did not want to be known as the Kingslayer anymore."

Robert leant back in his chair and just stared at Tyrion Lannister for a very long moment. And then he finally responded: "Very well. Tell your brother that I accept his condition. He will have a trial by combat."

Tyrion nodded sombrely and then bowed formally and walked out. As he left Robert stroked his chin. "Smirked, did he?"

Selmy stepped forwards. "I fear that the man might be a bit unbalanced your Grace."

Robert nodded, but Ned could tell that his mind was elsewhere. He had to admit that so was his own. Who on earth could they find to fight to defend Aerys Targaryen, the whoreson who had murdered his father and his brother?

"Right then," Robert rumbled. "The Kingslayer wants to fight someone? Fair enough. He'll fight me."

A shocked silence fell - and then everyone seemed to surge to their feet in protest.

"Your Grace!"

"Robert!"

"Are you mad brother?"

Robert rose and raised a hand, before looking at Ser Barristan Selmy. "The Red Keep."

The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard opened his mouth - and then froze. "Oh," he muttered in a slightly stunned voice. "Of course." He paused, as an expression that combined shock, chagrin and then reluctant acceptance stole over his face. "Are you sure your Grace?"

"I am," Robert stated as he set his chin. "Stormbreaker will break him."


Jorah

He sat in the Godswood until well after the Sun had gone down, the little piece of paper in his hand. He felt… well, he felt… he didn't know how he felt. There was numbness there. Anger. Shame. A kind of guilt as well.

And then there was the other feeling. The… relief? Was that what it was?

But - he had let her down, he knew it. He should have been there for her. So many memories. So much love. So much bitterness. So very many words. Angry words. Sad words. Bitter words.

Feet pattered on leaves and he looked up to see Leera walking towards him, holding a lantern, a worried look on her face. "Jorah? Is this where you have been for so long?"

"Aye, I've been here," he muttered, before wiping at his eyes. "There was a message from White Harbour."

She came to a halt next to him, obviously uncertain about what to do next. "What was the message? Whatever it was, it seems to have hit you hard."

He looked down at the message, which was hidden in darkness. Despite that he knew every word on it. "Word came from Lys."

She went very still. "Word of… her?"

"Aye," he said tiredly. "Word of her."

Leera bowed her head. "She is coming home then? I have read of the Hightowers. They are a very old family. The Call must have been strong with her."

He stared at her. "Aye, it must have been for her."

A tear trickled down her face, illuminated by the lantern as she drew herself up. "Very well, I shall-"

But he interrupted her. "Lynesse is dead."

She stood there, her eyes widening – and then she closed her mouth with an almost audible snap. "Dead?"

Jorah passed the message over to her. "She tried to leave Lys in order to heed the Call. The… the man she was with, a merchant-lord, or something like that, called Tregar Ormollen, objected." He paused. "They killed each other."

There was a pause as she stared at the piece of paper and then at him and then at the paper and finally back at him. There was a look in her eyes that combined all kinds of emotions, ones that he suspected matched his own. Finally she said: "So, you are no longer married?"

"No," he said quietly. "I am not. I mourn what I had… but that flame burnt out years ago. Truth be told, I don't know what I now feel about her. She is gone."

There was a long moment of silence and then she nodded. "I understand. You have a lot to think about. I will leave you to your gods."

She turned and walked away – and then he stepped forwards and placed a hand on her shoulder, stopping her in her tracks. "Do not leave me, I beg of you."

He heard her swallow and then turn to meet his gaze. "I will never leave you."

"I know," he muttered as he took her hand and lifted it to his lips. "Please do not. You have stayed with me through all of this, since I heard the Call. You have come with me to lands that are nothing like anything you have ever seen before. You have seen things that I have not, supported me as no-one else could. I don't know how to thank you."

She smiled at him, tears in her eyes. "I just did what I could, my love."

He reached out and brushed the tears away. "I need to say something to you, Leera. I love you." He gulped. Yes, it had always been coming to this, in his dreams at least. A kind of fog overtook his thoughts. "I am now free to… I mean that I could ask you… would you consider…" Damn it, he was getting this all wrong, his words awry, the intent blunted. Was this too soon? No, it was not, but… "Leera, will… I mean…"

"I will marry you." She looked at him, more tears in her eyes and she felt his own pricking. "That is what you were asking, was it not?"

"It was," he choked out. "It was." He looked her in the eyes. "Marry me."

Her eyes crinkled as she smiled at him. "Yes my love. I would love nothing more." And then she was in his arms and her lips on his and all of a sudden that hollow place in his heart was no more.


Tyrion

He did not sleep well that night. Poderick had returned from the kitchen with a plate of food and the news that an unnamed someone had volunteered at fight Jaime and that the trial by combat would happen the next morning. His mind had promptly wandered about, trying not to think about it and utterly failing.

Although his bed was comfortable and he usually never had any trouble nodding off, that night sleep did not come easily at all. He tossed, turned, punched his pillows into all kinds of shapes, stared at the ceiling, the walls, the pillows and even once at the mattress.

And then when, finally, sleep came, so did the dreams. He dreamt that his brother fought a giant wolf, no, a giant on its mammoth, no, a stag, no, the Mountain. He saw his brother lose both the battle and his life, and then another battle which he won but lost a hand, no, a hand and an eye. He talked with Jaime after his brother had won his trial by combat despite the sword that his opponent had stuck into him and left, the blood pooling on the ground as Jaime grinned and spoke of how he had prevailed.

The nightmares followed. Jaime dead, his head on a spike. Jaime on the Wall, huddled in furs, a beard shrouding his face as he stared bitterly North of the Wall. That was important for some reason, he didn't know why, but Jaime was trying to tell him something and he just couldn't hear him because of a strange skittering noise.

And then there was the worst one. Jaime as a shambling lifeless wight, eyes blue, throat torn out, lurching about in a blood-spattered room that he realised was the great hall at Casterly Rock. To one side an Other sat in what looked like a throne of ice, with what remained of Father acting as a footstool. And as Tyrion looked around the room in horror, seeing to many men and women that he knew standing motionless but also lifeless, everyone of them with blue eyes, the Other seemed to notice him. Its eyes narrowed as it looked at him – and then it was standing and striding across the room towards him, not that he could do a thing, his feet seemed to be frozen in place as he tried to run, tried to scream, tried to-

He came awake with a half-scream, scattering pillows all over the place, before staring around the room blearily. Well, that had been unpleasant. He ran a shaking hand over his chin, decided that he needed a bath and a shave and then gave up on sleep and waddled off to the room to one side that had that wonderful bath with the hot water.

By the time he was clean, shaved and dressed the sun had risen and he walked out to the courtyard outside, where men were setting up tables on two sides. Uncle Gerion was standing by one of the tables, along with Allarion and Lancel, inspecting a suit of armour and some weapons – swords to be precise. He walked over and as Uncle Gerion saw him he nodded. "Uncle. What's all this?"

"Jaime's armour and weapons. His armour needs a polish and his swords need to be sharpened. I've got a cloak for him as well." Gerion looked at him sharply. "Tyrion, is Jaime mad? Why is he doing this?"

It was a good question and all three Lannisters were looking at him. He sighed and spread his hands. "I know not. It made no sense last night and it makes little enough sense this morning. Personally speaking I think… I think that something in my brother has broken, Uncle. I think that perhaps he will be careless with his life today."

Lancel looked shocked, but Allarion just swapped a troubled gaze with his father. It was then that Tyrion noticed something – Brightroar was not at Uncle Gerion's hip. He was about to ask why when he spotted movement at the First Keep. Jaime was striding towards him, escorted by the Cassels. His brother had wet hair and had had a shave. Despite the swagger in his stride there was a haunted look in his eyes.

"Do we know who he will fight yet?" Tyrion asked quizzically.

Everyone stared at him. "Do you not know? It's the talk of Winterfell," Uncle Gerion muttered. "Wait, you were only briefly in the Great Hall last night."

"I ate in my room and my squire Pod is not exactly known for his gossiping abilities." His heart fell into his boots. "Who is he fighting?"

Uncle Gerion opened his mouth – but then his eyes flickered to one side. "Him," he muttered with a twitch of the chin.

Tyrion looked to one side – and then his jaw dropped. The Demon of the Trident was striding into the courtyard, Robert Baratheon in full armour, holding a shield with the Baratheon stag on it in one hand and his new helmet in the other. Behind him walked Ser Barristan Selmy, holding Stormbreaker.

To be honest he was still stunned at the transformation that had come over the King. He was used to thinking of Robert Baratheon as a fat, red-faced, drunk who liked food and whores in equal measure and who lived off past glories. That had been before the Call. The man had somehow been rejuvenated by that summoning to Winterfell, the fat and laziness sloughing off to reveal… the Demon. The man who had taken on Rhaegar Targaryen single-handed at the Trident and slaughtered him.

Jaime, who had just joined them at the table, froze. "What is this? Why is he in his armour?"

His throat was suddenly very dry. "I have just heard," he said eventually, "That he is your opponent."

"The King." Jaime looked stunned and angry. "I can't fight the King. How can he fight for Aerys Targaryen? This is madness! And treason as well!"

Jaime's voice had been steadily rising as he spoke and he all but bellowed half of it. The King tilted his head to one side and smiled, before taking a step forwards. "Treason never stopped you before, did it Kingslayer? Why should it now?" He gestured at the crown on his head. "Is it this? It's just a piece of metal." He took off the crown and gave it to Stannis Baratheon, who had arrived next to Ned Stark. "You're fighting for your honour, Kingslayer. I'm not fighting for Aerys. I'm fighting you because someone has to and because you need some humility beaten into you before you leave for the Wall." And with that he turned and strode back to the other table, where he spoke with Selmy, Ned Stark and his brother in a low voice.

Jaime stared at the King and then shrugged. "Lancel, my armour," he muttered as he held his arms up in the air so that his breastplate and backplate could be buckled onto him. Allarion assisted his cousin as Gerion and Tyrion watched, the eldest Lannister with an intent look on his face. As the rest of the armour was buckled onto him Jaime seemed to relax a little – enough to smirk at his uncle a little. "If you were wielding Brightroar, Uncle, I might ask you for a lend of it."

But Uncle Gerion glared at him. "Jaime, this is no time for levity. Do you think that this is funny? We will be dealing with the impact of what you and Cersei have done for year to come. No, you cannot wield Brightroar. You are not worthy of it."

His brother all but reeled at this, the blood flooding into his cheeks for a moment, before he went as pale as a ghost. A silence fell as the last pieces were buckled onto him and he took up the shield with the Lannister crest on, Uncle Gerion stepped forwards again, this time with a Lannister tabard in his hands.

"You've worn white for a long time," he said quietly. "Soon you'll wear black. For this fight though you'll wear the colours of your family. Wear them with pride." And with that he placed the tabard over Jaime's armour and secured it.

"Are you ashamed of me uncle?" Jaime asked in a low voice.

Uncle Gerion looked at him. "I spoke harshly, nephew. We'll talk later."

Jaime nodded, took up his helmet and placed it on his head, and then took his sword from Lancel. Only then did he nod at Tyrion and then the others, before walking into the middle of the courtyard.

Quite a crowd had assembled by now, a surprisingly quiet crowd, but as the King strode forwards to meet Jaime they cheered. Robert Baratheon was holding Stormbreaker in one hand and Tyrion wondered just what the sword was made from.

"Should we not have your Maester declare this a trial by combat, your Grace?" Jaime asked lightly.

The King just laughed at that. "This is the North, Kingslayer! Ned, what do you normally do up here, under the eyes of the Old Gods?"

"We just get on with it, your Grace," Ned Stark rumbled, words that made many in the crowd laugh. "If you're going to fight, then fight."

"That'll do me," the King replied, before settling into a fighting stance, shield raised, Stormbreaker held at the ready. Jaime seemed to sigh but then copied his opponent.

It was Jaime who started the fight. He feinted a dart right but then went left – not that it fooled the King, who tracked his every move and who parried Jaime's blow with Stormbreaker. They broke apart and then circled each other, before the King attacked with a wicked slashing blow that Jaime barely deflected with his shield. He counterattacked, but the King used his own shield to withstand his attack.

It was only then that Tyrion realised that the courtyard was silent as everyone watched the fight. He could see Dacey standing with Caitlyn Stark on a balcony to one side, along with her children and Domeric Bolton.

The King launched another attack, one that Jaime parried with his own sword before striking back – but there was something wrong. The noise seemed discordant. Jaime's eyes flickered to his sword, but then Stormbreaker hammered down again and again. Jaime parried the first – but on the second his sword shattered into a dozen pieces.

Jaime was caught totally off-balance by this and went sprawling, whilst the King just staggered a little, whilst a moan of astonishment rose in the courtyard from the crowd. The pieces of what should have been good steel skittered on the flagstones and one slid to a halt next to Tyrion's foot. He picked it up. The inside of the blade was rusty. Which was impossible.

His brother scrabbled to his feet and then braced himself – for a blow that did not come. The King just stood there. "I don't think that Stormbreaker likes you, Kingslayer," he said. "Go get your other sword then."

Lancel held out Jaime's spare sword and Jaime took it. His eyes were very wide all of a sudden and as Tyrion caught his eye he realised that his brother was stunned. But then he seemed to recover, because he turned and then launched an attack that forced the King onto his back foot for a moment, a high overhand strike that was caught on the yellow and black shield and then a strike with the shield itself towards the King's face.

It never got there and instead Stormbreaker hammered into the top of the shield and actually sheared away a part of the iron frame that edged it, before the King slammed into Jaime and sent him backwards.

Somehow Jaime kept his balance, but then barely parried another slash from Stormbreaker, and then another. The King was using a combination of brute force and genuine skill and Jaime seemed to be rattled. He barely dodged a blow that clanged against his helmet, before taking a step backwards and then trying his own version of an overhead blow.

It was met by Stormbreaker – and once again Jaime's sword shattered on the impact, pieces flying everywhere. Once again Jaime went clattering to the ground and as he passed the King Stormbreaker flickered down, as quick as lightening and the flat of the blade slapped against the backplate of Jaime's armour.

When Jaime came back to his feet he swayed a little – and then looked about in desperation. "Sword – someone give me a sword!"

There was a muttering in the crowd, before Lancel drew his own sword and darted forwards to hand it over to him. Jaime hefted it for a moment – and then stared at his shield. There was brown along its edge and it looked as it was warping in some way.

A hoarse shout heralded the arrival of the King's next attack, a blow that Jaime just about absorbed on his shield, but the next one sent him staggering back again. He raised his sword and tried to counter attack, but the King met each blow with almost contemptuous ease and then struck at Jaime's head again, this time sending him reeling from a blow to his helmet.

Tyrion stared at this. Something was very wrong with Jaime's shield as well as his helmet – the former looked increasingly warped whilst the other seemed to be brown in places and lurching a bit as Jaime moved. Oh and there was the brown mark on the backplate. Was that rust?

Things went totally to the seven hells in the next few moments. The King attacked again – and once again Jaime's sword just shattered, at about the same time that his helmet fell off his head, the metal corroded in places. Jaime reeled back, blood on his face from a shard of his sword, losing his balance completely and then staggering to one knee. His cheek had been sliced open and his eyes were very wide now.

"Sword!" It was not a call, it was a cry of despair. "Someone give me a sword!"

A white-faced redcloak drew his sword and slid it across the flagstones at Jaime, who took it with a nod, before standing and then launching himself at the King. They came together with a clash of armour, shield on shield, but the Lannister shield was looking the worse for wear by now, warped and broken, and the King stepped back and smashed it to one side before hammering down three great blows that Jaime barely parried.

The fourth blow did the inevitable. Jaime's latest sword shattered and he flew backwards to slam into the ground. There was a new wound to his forehead and when he shook his head in what must have been an effort to clear it, the blood spattered on the flagstones next to him.

There was now utter despair on his face, but still he called out: "Sword! Someone give me a sword!"

The courtyard was utterly silent now. Jaime staggered to his feet, the blood running down his face. His shield was a wreck and his breastplate looked askew, as if it was barely holding in place. The whole thing seemed to be covered on rust now.

"Oh, Stormbreaker really doesn't like you," the King muttered. "Come on, someone give him a sword."

Another pale-faced Lannister guardsman handed over his sword with shaking hands. Not that it mattered much. Jaime threw his shield away and then rushed at the King, who met his first blow with his shield and then parried the second with ease with Stormbreaker, before attacking again. One blow, another – and then once again Jaime's sword shattered, sending him to his knees before the flat of Stormbreaker came down onto Jaime's breastplate. He slammed into the flagstones, looked about with a combination of despair and bewilderment – and then his breastplate seemed to just cave in, fissures of red rust appearing all over the place.

"Sword," Jaime all but sobbed. "Someone give me a sword."

No-one said a word in that ghastly silence, or even moved.

"No," said King Robert as he loomed over the prostrate figure of Jaime. "You're done."

Jaime stared up at him. "Kill me," he said eventually. "Kill me!"

The King eyed Jaime from head to toe, before curling a lip. "No. Gods, you can't even defend yourself and I'll not kill such a man, despite what you've done. No. You'll go to the Wall. You'll defend us all. And no more smirking." He smiled a bitter smile. "We need you, Kingslayer. And I keep my word. You'll go to the Wall. Learn from my example."

And then he walked away from him.