A/N: This chapter is more of an epilogue than a true chapter. Regardless, it is the ending. The sections are obviously not quite in chronological order. It is also pretty dark. You have been warned.
The King and his family had been confined to the guest house for the last few weeks, their few surviving guards stripped of their weapons and kept under house arrest. Jaime Lannister had attempted to escape twice, once over the walls and once through a sewer. The second attempt had infected his hand, still recovering from the through-and-through shot by Theon Greyjoy that had saved his life in their duel. After Maester Luwin had taken it off to prevent the sickness from spreading to the blood, all of the fire had left the Kingslayer's eyes.
The Imp had been more amicable, glum but cooperative so long as he was given new books every day. If the consequences of Joffrey's betrayal or his status as a hostage bothered him, it was not overmuch. Even Robert took his confinement with some measure of grace, as surprising as that was. Robert might have had a temper hotter than a smoldering coal, but he freely admitted that his son and family were in the wrong. It almost made Ned respect him. Almost.
The worst part had been dealing with his children. Bran was no longer the happy little boy he once had been, climbing walls and laughing in the training yard. He was serious at all times, and his young opponents in the yard now complained of bruises and vicious strikes from the North's new heir. Rickon did not understand what was happening, and would become inconsolable at random times for no apparent reason, often begging to see Robb.
His daughters were no better off; that is, they were arguably handling things worse. Sansa could not understand why her 'gallant prince' had done such a thing, and swore that there must have been some reasonable explanation. Ned would need to have a long discussion with her about the cruelties of the world before she flowered. Arya was mad with grief, begging to be taught how to fight so that she could find and kill Joffrey herself. Sometimes Ned found her muttering the traitor-prince's name, over and over and over again, when he checked on her in her sleep. She had seen the whole thing, apparently, and was likely only safe due to timely intervention from Jon.
Catelyn had not yet accepted the role Jon had in keeping her safe during the chaos following Robb's murder, cleverly locking them in Arya's room. If anything, she seemed to blame him for not being the one who was murdered. She hadn't smiled once since that day, and Ned did not dare come to her bed. Some things took time… and losing their firstborn might be something she never recovered from, not fully.
Ned himself still felt frazzled. Every corner he turned, he expected to see Robb's smiling face. To no avail. His son would never smile again.
The Manderly party arrived relatively early in the morning, allowing the execution to be scheduled for that afternoon.
It ended up being a brief affair.
There was no trial, for many people had seen the events with their own eyes. Cersei protested, saying that a trial by combat would expose her son's innocence. She was quiet when Ned pointed out that since he would represent his own accusation, Joffrey would have to champion himself as well. Word had spread that Ned had taken on Jaime Lannister and held his ground. Some even whispered that he defeated him on his own, like the fight with Arthur Dayne all over again.
"A trial by seven, then!" she had begged. "It is the most holy way of determining the truth of things. Surely you cannot deny such a sacred right!"
"Those are not my gods, Your Grace," were Ned's last words on the subject.
Men-at-arms from the Manderly party escorted Joffrey from his cage to the block, which rested on a platform erected in the middle of Winterfell's training yard. Over the spot Robb had died.
Lord Manderly himself paid his respects to Ned and Catelyn, while his young maiden granddaughter insinuated herself between Jon and Bran, who were lined up nearby to bear witness. She smiled brightly as Joffrey was led passed her, and the resulting smell from the disgraced prince made Ned wonder what had occurred between them to make him so clearly terrified of the young maiden.
It was only once Joffrey was forced down to the chopping block with a boot in his back that Robert ascended the platform himself. He carried a greataxe, more similar to his usual hammer than a sword would have been, but likely to give a cleaner death. Joffrey whimpered when he heard the steps rattle under the king's weight.
"I, Robert Baratheon, First of My Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, have found you guilty of murder, and the breach of guest right. You are hereby stripped of all titles and claims, and are sentenced to die." Tears flowed freely down Robert's face as he said the words, barely restraining a sob. "Do you have any last words, my son?" he choked out.
"Please father… help me," the twelve-year old boy whimpered, barely comprehensible through his tears.
"It will be alright, Joff," Robert said quietly as he hefted the greataxe above his head, before bringing it down.
Joffrey Baratheon's head was separated in a single blow and fell to the stage before bouncing to the ground. Blood squirted in pulses out of his neck, and his limbs twitched for some time after the gruesome deed.
Cersei screamed, and Jaime too. Robert said nothing, but the greataxe trembled in his grip and his normally ruddy face was blanched. Catelyn looked on with satisfaction in her eyes and stone in her heart, while Bran had watched the event with grim determination. Theon spat in the severed head's gaping mouth. Jon merely looked somber.
"There Ned, your justice is done," Robert spat, throwing the axe to the ground. "You have succeeded in making a kinslayer out of me. Now let me say goodbye to my remaining children and get out of this frozen fucking hell-hole."
"Gladly," was the only reply Ned could muster.
Vengeance was a terrible thing, but this was justice, Ned told himself.
That night, he dreamed of a sobbing boy, and a frightened little girl, and a wailing babe. They were dead, children all.
When he next woke up, Sandor found himself bound with rigging line, wrists and ankles lashed together and held taught in the air. He flailed about immediately, even before opening his eyes, but without his feet on solid ground he could not gain any leverage against his bindings.
"There is no need to struggle, Sandor Clegane," said a gravelly voice that sounded more distinguished than a high-class whore. "Special accommodations had to be made for a man of your size, but White Harbor boasts shipwrights capable of far more impressive feats of engineering than fastening a man in place."
Sandor opened his eyes to the voice, and was immediately confronted with the largest man he had ever seen. The man before him was nearly as wide as he was tall, with grey hair that might have once been blonde and a finely curled mustache. He dressed in a fancy wool doublet with ornate fastenings, the kind only a lord would wear. The man's smile made him appear simple, but his eyes gleamed with the shrewdness of a predator. Just the opposite of my brother.
A second glance at his surroundings showed countless soldiers in the immediate area, weapons at the ready. He felt a distinct lack of sword at his hip, as well as the emptiness where normally a knife was kept hidden in his boot. His captors had been thorough.
His third look was the most surprising, however. Rather than finding himself within a white walled castle or building, he saw snow on the ground and dark grey stones making up the circular walls. A few scraggly and withered trees grew in the pathetic clearing, none-more bone-like or terrifying than the one in the center with white bark, red leaves, and a face frozen in rage. Its knotted limbs grew into and threw the cracks of its stony prison, fighting to escape but just as hopeless as Sandor realized he was.
"What the fuck do you want?" Sandor spat.
"Justice," replied the fat man. "And while I wish I could deliver it myself, you are too dangerous to be bent over a block while waiting for one such as I to take your head."
Whatever their escort ser what's-his-name had said of the Lord Manderly to appease the daft cunt that was his sworn prince had clearly been a lie. I shouldn't have relied on that shit at all. I knew better, but I let myself be cowed. The ser now stood beside the meaty lord, chin raised high. Just like every other knight, he was proud of using deceit and treachery to raise his standing with his lord. The fine Valyrian steel and dragonbone dagger the asinine prince had been given by the Master of Coin was now in his hands, held against the little shit's neck. The milksop was bound by silk with his hands in front of him and a silk gag was tied into his mouth. The stain on his leggings showed that the chicken-hearted prince was too terrified to even attempt to break free.
"I wasn't the one who murdered your precious Stark boy, you fleshy arse," Sandor found himself saying. He spat towards his captor for good measure.
"Of course not. If you had, that would not be my justice to claim. Prince Joffrey will meet his fate at the hands of a high power than mine," the man said, wiping at his sweaty brow with a fine silk kerchief. "You did, however, cut down a personal friend of mine, Ser Rodrick Cassel."
Sandor remembered the old fool, whiskered cheeks hot with rage as he charged. The man spoke as befit his station, the Master-at-Arms of a high lord, but that meant nothing in an actual fight. Sandor had taken his measure by his third swing, and cut him in half before he could make a fourth.
"He attacked a charge I was sworn to defend. If I hadn't stopped him, the Queen or Lord Tywin would have had my head for it sooner or later." That was the truth of things. Sandor disliked vows of all kinds, especially binding ones, but he knew what kind of deal he had made when he agreed to be the sword and shield of a prince. He was no fool.
"Our vows often conflict with one another. But you drew steel to defend a cold-blooded murderer, and killed a member of the castle that had welcomed you as a guest," the round lord continued. "Men of the south might have forgotten, but guest right is sacred here in the North, and far older than any oath you might have sworn."
The already quite guards hushed. A new figure had entered the cramped garden. A girl, barely flowered by the look of her, passed through the sole door into the space as guards parted before her. She wore a grey and white dress, and in her hands she carried a curved bronze dagger, unsheathed.
"Of course, blasphemy is also foul, Your Grace," Manderly said as he turned toward the frightened, fair-haired sissy of a prince. "Ser Donnor first knew something was wrong with your story when you claimed Robb Stark himself was to sacrifice you. You see, even though we do follow the seven rather than the old gods, it was before a weirwood tree that we swore our vows to the Starks a thousand years ago. We might not pray to these gods, but we know their ways. Old ways."
The girl with flaxen hair wearing Stark colors continued towards him as he spun slowly in the air, dangling by his bound wrists and ankles. The blade of the knife shined sharp in her hand.
"It is only women who make sacrifices in sight of the old gods."
The cunt's wide eyes snapped to the maiden who now stood in front of Sandor with her teeth bared in a feral grin. The howling face of the weirwood behind her had fresh, blood-red sap running down its face in rivulets from its eyes.
"I was hoping to betroth my granddaughter Wylla to young Robb, before you cut him down. They were of an age, you see, and had been writing each other for some time. Wylla will not be the one to take justice for Robb Stark, but she will show you now how oaths are truly sworn before the old gods." The rotund man directed his next words to his granddaughter. "Educate our prince, sweetling."
"Gladly, grandpapa," the girl said in a sing-song voice. Her smile widened, fang-like teeth glimmering as she held the dagger in front of her, and spoke.
"Centuries ago, words were spoken in this very godswood, before this very tree. House Manderly had found a protector in their flight, hearth and hall and harvest and haven all offered by House Stark as long as we remained their loyal retainers until the last winter froze us all in our sleep," said the girl in her high, still child-like voice. "I, Wylla Manderly, reaffirm those vows here and now, in front of the weirwood tree of the Wolf's Den, and swear by the old gods and the new that my family and I, and whatever children we may bear, will always be loyal to House Stark." She appeared to be happy as she drew the knife ever higher, in plain view of that fucking tree.
"Sandor Clegane, you have been found guilty in the eyes of gods and men of breaking the guest right of House Stark and murdering their loyal men, after being welcomed into their halls and sharing their food. You have abetted the escape of a traitor and a blackheart. You have been sentenced to death." It all sounded so ridiculous, coming from her razor-sharp mouth. Like a wolf's… "Have you any last words?"
I wish I had killed Gregor.
I can't believe I will be killed by a little girl.
Fuck Joffrey Baratheon, and fuck Tywin Lannister too. Fuck Queen Cersei, with an iron plow.
"Fuck you all," Sandor said, just before Wylla carved the knife through his belly. He stayed conscious long enough to hold back his screams as she pulled his intestines free and daintily draped them along the bone-white branches. The tree was smiling.
A/N: All mistakes are my own, there was no beta for this chapter. All criticism is appreciated. I hope you've enjoyed my story, even if it got a little dark there at the end. There are some pretty heavy themes here, which wasn't my intention when I began this project, but it was definitely the way the story wanted to go as I wrote it.
Yes, Wylla Manderly is a complete monster here. But then again, evil depends entirely on perspective, right? She is very loyal to the Starks, and that's what counts.
I realize that almost none of the sequelae this plot presented are truly resolved. This is mainly because the events herein would cause shockwaves across all of Westeros, and would have such dramatic effects on the plot of ASOIAF that I would need multiple books to cover the changes. I have neither the time nor the inclination to continue this AU at this time. This snip should be enough to give your imagination a launch point, though, and if anyone feels particularly inspired to write their own sequel, I wouldn't object. I'll only endorse it if it's good though. ;)