Chapter One: As Long and Sharp As Yours

The North had long been separate from most of Westeros. Cold and culture had created a wall between the southron lands and its unyielding northern sister. The clash between the old gods and the Seven were only part of the divide—mutual disdain and ignorance made up the rest. Most northerners preferred it that way. After all, the North had survived alone since the time of the First Men.

But winter was coming. Rickard Stark knew that the North could not remain isolated. Not for any longer. Aerys' madness would tear all seven kingdoms apart, including the North. They needed allies in the other realms to stay strong, to become stronger.

With this in mind, the Lord of Winterfell penned two letters. One to his dear friend Jon Arryn, who Rickard knew would gladly foster one of his sons. The other son, however, would have to be sent to a different southron lord. The identity of that southron lord still remained in question.

The Tullys, perhaps? No, a marriage alliance between his eldest son and their eldest daughter would be sufficient enough. He would not even consider Dorne; Rickard refused to send any child of his so far south. Perhaps the Highgardens, but there was no love lost between Mace Tyrell and Rickard.

And the Lannisters…

Casterly Rock had nearly fallen into ruins with its former lord, but Tywin Lannister had brought his House into heights unseen. The Lannisters were now known for their wealth, prestige, and power.

As well as their cruelty and cunning.

Rickard did not feel comfortable imagining any of his sons in that lion's den. For a moment, he contemplated tearing the second letter in two and forgetting this entire ordeal. The Lannisters were unlikely to accept his proposal. And one Stark outside of Winterfell was enough.

Then, cold reason prevailed. The advantages of such alliance were far too tempting to ignore. With a heart heavier than he would have liked, Rickard sealed the letter.

Tywin examined the boy, looking at him with an expression of disdain that had made older men quail. To his credit, he only paled slightly before clenching and unclenching his fists.

Tywin had expected his ward to be a wild, scowling barbarian. He'd expected a barbarian boy, perhaps with Jaime's recklessness, but without the charm and manners his own son had. He had not expected a quiet child with solemn eyes and an air of consideration.

"Eddard Stark. Welcome to Casterly Rock." Tywin's tone rivaled the cold of Winterfell.

"Thank you, Lord Lannister." The Stark was all politeness. He seems to have some manners, at least.

Tywin turned to walk through his halls, and the Stark followed him like a shadow. He paused by an ornate wooden door and turned to face his ward.

"This is my study. You are not to enter it unless I personally request it." He pinned the boy with his gaze. "A servant will take you to your rooms."

After bowing, the child left his presence.

Jaime paused in his match with Flement Brax. In the courtyard, behind the pillars, a strange boy was watching. Flement tried to take advantage of his distraction, but Jaime simply disarmed him with a twist of his sword. Dull. Flement couldn't beat me if I was blindfolded.

"Who's that?" said Jaime, ignoring the frowning face of Flement. "I haven't seen him before."

"I don't know." After a moment, the Brax grudgingly added, "It might be the Stark. He arrived here a few days ago."

"I think you're right." Jaime sheathed his sword and cupped his hands around his mouth. "Hey, you! Are you that wolf?"

The watching boy seemed taken aback at that. "I am," he replied steadily. "I am Eddard Stark."

The Lannister smirked. "And I'm Jaime Lannister. Well?"

The Stark frowned, which seemed to be his default expression. "Yes?"

"Don't just stand there!" He gestured to the swords rack in the corner of the yard. "Are you going to join me or not?" Maybe this boy can give me a challenge.

Stark stared at Jaime for a long moment, and Jaime briefly wondered if the boy was slow. Then, the Stark nodded. The older boy grabbed a sword, tested its balance, and stood across from Jaime. The Stark seemed to know how to handle a blade; he gripped it confidently.

Jaime's smile grew. It's been awhile since I've sparred with a new opponent. "Shall we?"

Cersei's handmaidens struggled to match her pace and elegance. Next to her, they looked like mousy rag dolls.

"Keep up," she snapped. Their half-hearted murmurs of acquiescence only made her angrier. Stupid girls. I don't know why father makes me spend time with them. They're ugly and incompetent.

Her admonishment died in her mouth when she noticed the boy walking towards her. He seemed utterly dull, with dark hair and eyes—as interesting and handsome as a rock. Cersei didn't know what Jaime saw in him.

"You're that wolf." Cersei gave him a cool, disdainful stare that made most boys stutter and cringe. "You look more like a mutt to me." What does Jaime see in him?

The Stark seemed more surprised than angry. If anything, he appeared amused. "I am indeed Eddard Stark," he replied gravely, no humor in his voice. "And I believe you are Cersei Lannister. Your brother has told me much about you."

"I am Lady Cersei Lannister to you, Stark." Cersei sneered at him. "And he's made no such mention of you."

Eddard gave a short bow. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"I have no such feelings." Cersei brushed past him. Lions do not consort with wolves.

"Another?" asked Jaime with a grin. He flourished his training sword and offered a hand to his partner.

Ned accepted the hand with a good-natured scowl. Panting, he struggled to his feet, but he raised his weapon all the same. "I don't see the point," he grumbled. "You'll win again."

"Not true! You did beat me once." Which is more than the others could say. Stark's the only one who's a challenge to me.

"That was luck. You slipped on Flement's blood." Ned had the advantage of three years and an exceedingly patient temperament. He waited until his opponent made a mistake, and then he struck with unforgiving precision. Still, he was no match for Jaime's raw skill.

Jaime waved his hand dismissively. "Luck on the battlefield determines fate—"

"As often as the swords of men. Yes, yes, I know," said the Stark with exasperation. "Besides, you defeated me five times. That's not luck."

"It's skill." Jaime wasn't bragging when he said that. Even grown men had lost to him. I'll become greater than all knights before me, even Barristan the Bold. "So. Another?"

Eddard sighed. "Alright. Another."

Everything in Casterly Rock was golden. When Eddard Stark first laid eyes on the ancient stronghold, the setting sun had gilded the mountaintop. The Lannisters were just as extravagant, with manes like lions and eyes like chipped emeralds. The finery was as suffocating as the heat. In his plain gray clothing, Ned was an iron dagger next to jewel-encrusted swords.

Cersei certainly seemed to think so. She treated him with contempt on better days and blatant abhorrence on the worst. Lord Tywin rarely acknowledged him, giving nothing more than the minimum required courtesies. Jaime, at least, saw beyond his name. The Lannister heir was always willing to spar or drag Ned into his schemes. In some ways, he reminded Ned of Brandon.

He sighed at that. Casterly Rock isn't Winterfell, and it will never be. But perhaps it could—

"Ned, you're brooding again!" Jaime's loud voice echoed through the halls. "Do you want to come to Lannisport or not?"

"Alright, I'm coming." Ned stepped away from the window and followed after his friend. "It's not like you'll give me a choice," he complained good-naturedly.

"Of course not!" Jaime laughed. "If I let you, you'd be stuck in the library all day, scowling at some dusty book." His voice became higher in pitch. "Woe is me, woe is me," he mimicked. "I'm a Northerner among all these fancy fools. Whatever ever am I to do?"

"Hey!" Ned pushed his friend. "I don't do that!"

"You do!" Jaime snickered. "Without me, you'd be miserable."

Ned winced at that. Jaime's playful words were too close to the truth for comfort. Besides him, I doubt anyone likes me here, he thought grimly. Even the servants think me to be some barbarian savage.

Jaime, who was far more perceptive than most people thought, sensed his shift in mood. "Hey, cheer up." The Lannister nudged him. "We're going out to enjoy ourselves. You're pale enough as it is."

"I suppose." Ned gave a small smile. "I'll do my best."

Jaime beamed. "That's good enough for me!"

Tywin wondered why he continued to engage in this exercise of futility. Teaching his son strategy was like wringing water from a rock. Honestly, Tywin wondered if there was room in Jaime's pretty head for anything but swordsmanship.

"Jaime," he said with gritted teeth, "the trebuchet cannot move over other pieces."

His son gave a put-upon sigh. "The dragon can do that. Why can't the trebuchet? What difference does it make?" Jaime rested his chin on his hand. "I don't understand why you force me to play cyvasse. Sir Broom's waiting for me, anyway. He promised me a spar." He brightened. "Why don't you make Ned play? He's better at these sort of things."

Tywin's lip curled at his son's familiar form of address. Ned? What next? Will Jaime start addressing the smallfolk by their given names?

Said Stark jerked at the mention of his name. The boy had been hovering by the door of the study, unsure of what to do while Jaime played with his father.

"Is that so?" Tywin gave his ward a considering look before turning his gaze to his son. He steepled his fingers and stifled a sigh. The game was hopeless; even seven extra dragons wouldn't save his son from losing. "You are dismissed." Heavens help me. I'm far too soft on the boy.

Jaime leaped out of his chair, nearly knocking over the cyvasse board. "Come on, Ned! Ser Broom said he'd show us that Dornish trick to—"

"I dismissed you, Jaime. I never said anything to Eddard," interrupted Tywin. "You were the one who said that he would be a better substitute."

Jaime stopped at that. Uncertainly, he glanced at the Stark. The northern boy gave a weak smile. "You should go, Jaime. Lord Lannister wants me to play a game. It'd be rude of me to refuse."

After a second of hesitation, Jaime clasped the boy's shoulder. He whispered something into Eddard's ear before striding out of the study. Now that Eddard was alone with the Lord of Casterly Rock, all of his bravado seemed to drain away. With slow, almost nervous steps, the Stark walked to Tywin's desk.


Eddard obeyed. He peered at the board, unwilling to meet Tywin's eyes.

"Do you know how to play?" Tywin didn't have the time or patience to teach a northern barbarian the finer points of a strategic game.

"I do," replied Eddard evenly. "My father taught me." Finally, he raised his eyes.

He has some spine, it seems. Tywin began to reset the board. Eddard followed suit, placing his pieces in their starting positions. But if spine were all that was needed, then Jaime would be the next Young Dragon.

"You have first move." Tywin studied the Stark while the boy examined the board. Eddard's nervousness seemed to be forgotten as he moved his first piece.

The move was a simple, defensive one. Eddard had repositioned his heavy horse in order to allow greater movement of his other troops.

Tywin retaliated by setting the beginnings of a trap by the mountains. Eddard fell for it, but he recovered by attacking with his light cavalry. Tywin prodded at Eddard's reserve troops with his dragon. Eddard managed to fend off the attack, though sacrificing several of his more powerful tokens. Well, he knows how to move the pieces. That makes him slightly more skilled Jaime.

The Lannister picked up the captured trebuchet and studied it. His style focuses heavily on defense. He always reacts, never attacking for himself. It's a bad habit that needs to be broken. And soon. Wryly, Tywin realized he was planning for a second game.

He moved his crossbowmen against Eddard's rabble. Tywin captured several pieces before realizing the trick. The Stark had placed his heavy horses across from the rabble to pin his crossbowmen. Grudgingly, Tywin increased his estimation of Eddard's skill. He was much better than his own son. The ploy had been subtle, more subtle than he'd expected from a witlessly honorable Stark.

Tywin moved his catapults in closer, following the crossbowmen. It was a valiant effort, but the game will be over in a few moves.

Then, out of nowhere, Eddard moved his dragon to the center of Tywin's formation. The Lannister gave a startled laugh. The Stark's look of fierce concentration was broken; he seemed utterly shocked by his reaction.

The boy must think me humorless. He chuckled again. "Interesting choice," said Tywin, speaking for the first time since the game started.

Eddard stared at him. "T-Thank you, my lord," he mumbled.

Despite the Stark's unorthodox move, Tywin's victory was assured. All Eddard done was prolong the match. After a battle that was admittedly more difficult than Tywin had expected, the Lannister captured Eddard's king. The boy reviewed the board glumly. If the despondent expression was anything to go by, Eddard was berating himself. Likely for making such a foolish mistake at the start of the game.

"Jaime was not lying."

The Stark looked up. "Yes, Lord Lannister?" His tone was wary but respectful.

"You do have some talent for cyvasse." Tywin gestured at the board. "Play with me again."

Eddard seemed flustered at the compliment. "Yes, Lord Lannister." He ducked his head to set the board, but Tywin could see a hint of a smile.

"You were stuck with my father forever," moaned Jaime, giving Ned a friendly pat on the back. "You must be glad to get out of that stuffy study."

Ned was quiet for a moment. "It was…" I don't think 'fun' is the right word, he thought. "It was interesting."

"By the Seven, really? Don't tell me you're about to become a bloody maester," he scoffed. "It looks like you need another bout in the grounds to remind you what fun is."

Ned groaned. "After those games with your father, my head is sore. Don't make my muscles hurt, too."

"Well, you—"

"That can't possibly be true," a haughty voice interrupted. A beautiful girl strode into the training ground, her two handmaidens following like ducklings. Somehow, she seemed to be as aristocratic as ever, despite being in a muddy courtyard.

Great. Cersei. "What do you mean, Lady Cersei?" Ned gave her a barely polite smile.

"What I mean, you Northern oaf, is that Father couldn't possibly have played cyvasse with you." She gave a disdainful sniff. "Cyvasse is for the intellectually high-minded. Can you even comprehend the rules?" Cersei smoothed her dress, letting it flare behind her. "Father doesn't even play with me. Step beyond your delusions, please."

Jaime gave a short laugh. "Stop, Cers. Father did play with Ned." He turned his grin to Ned. "He's pretty good at those sort of boring things."

Ned hid a smug smile at her shocked expression. Indeed, Lady Cersei. Lord Tywin played with me instead of you. "If you'd like, my lady, I could play a game of cyvasse with you, sometime."

For a moment, Cersei looked like she was about to slap him. Her eyes glinted dangerously as she pulled herself together. "Perhaps," she said, teeth gritted. Cersei turned and stormed away. Her panicking handmaidens ran after her. Ned watched her go. Somehow, she manages to make a temper tantrum look graceful. He glanced at Jaime, who was also watching his sister. There was a strange look in his friend's eye, one that Ned couldn't quite place.

Then the moment ended. "Well, Ned." Jaime shrugged. "I don't feel up to sparring anymore. I'm going to find Cersei and calm her down. You know how she gets. Why don't you go read a book or something?"

"Alright," said Ned slowly. After that thrashing that Lord Tywin gave me, I might as well study more about cyvasse. The Stark watched Jaime leave the courtyard. Still, what can distract Jaime from sparring?

Eddard stood on one of Casterly Rock's many balconies, engaging in what Jaime charitably called 'brooding.' Even after several months (almost a year?), seeing the sun set from Casterly Rock took his breath away. If only Lyanna was here to see this… He smiled to himself. She never liked pretty dresses, but she always did like watching the sunset. I should write to her about the view from Casterly Rock.

The chatty letters he received from his siblings were one of the few things keeping him sane. Brandon was as garrulous as ever, always telling Ned about every little event in his life. Lyanna's letters ranged from complaints to angry rants to gushing praise about her new horse. Benjen was still learning his letters, so his were short and full of mistakes. Ned cherished them all the same.

"Oh! Lord Stark!"

Ned turned to see a nervous nursemaid curtseying. In her arms, she held a blond, squirming child. The boy seemed to be two or so, but he was much smaller than Benjen was at that age. Ned's eyes went from the too-large head to the deformed, stunted body. He's the dwarf. Tyrion, wasn't it? Jaime's younger brother?

"I-If I knew, Lord Stark," stammered the girl, "I… I w-would have never presumed to intrude…" she trailed off, trembling slightly.

Ned held back a sigh. Apparently, the nursemaid was one of the servants who thought him to be a savage brute. For the Seven's sake, I'm not going to eat her. "It's fine," he said shortly. "You're welcome to stay."

Still shaking, the nursemaid set Tyrion down. The young Lannister seemed to be a cheerful child. He was content to sit in one place and play with his wooden toys.

Jaime had talked about his brother from time to time, but neither Cersei nor Lord Tywin even visited Tyrion. From what Ned had put together from rumors, they both considered Tyrion to be a mistake—a murderer, even, since Lady Lannister had died in childbirth. Just like Mother did with Benjen, thought Ned, frowning. But it'd be foolish of me to blame Benjen for Mother's death.

He knelt by Tyrion and smiled. "Hello." Ned offered the boy a hand. "I'm Ned Stark."

The dwarf took the wooden toy from his mouth and smiled. "Hello," he said back, placing the carved soldier in Ned's outstretched palm. "I'm Tyrion." He was surprisingly fluent for a child his age. "Are you gonna play with me?"

Ned blinked. "Alright. What are you playing?"

"This is Aegon Targaryen during the Dance of the Dragons. I'm reenacting the Battle of King's Road. You can be Cregan Stark." Tyrion gave Ned an expectant look.

Laughing softly, Ned complied. "Yes, Prince Aemon Targaryen." He sounds like Tywin, giving all those commands.

"Good! Oh. I have all the dragons. Because when I grow bigger, I'm going to see all the cities in Essos. And dragons, too!" Tywin beamed, and his ugly features all brightened.

Ned smiled back, feeling the absence of his own siblings more acutely than ever. "I'm sure you will."

Ned flipped through the pages of the old tome, misleadingly titled The Strategies to Victory. When he first picked it up, Ned had assumed that it was about the strategies of cyvasse—instead, it discussed the strategies of actual conquest. Still, the book was engaging, despite its dry language. Ned had read more than half of it, and he planned on finishing it.

A cough interrupted his reading. "You. Play cyvasse with me."

Ned looked up to see Cersei looking down at him. Her lips were twisted in a pout, and her hands were holding an engraved cyvasse set.

"What?" Ned blinked at the disdainful Lannister. I must have heard her incorrectly. Cersei would never voluntarily spend time with me.

"I asked," Cersei took a deep breath, "if you would you play a match of cyvasse with me, Lord Eddard." She spat his name like a curse. "You offered, remember? Or is your memory so short—" Cersei cut herself off. "Please?" She smiled sweetly.

Ned almost shuddered to see that saccharine expression directed at him. Cersei? Smiling at me? Impossible. He frowned at her, trying to determine whether she was sincere or not. She looks much prettier without that scowl, he thought, almost unwillingly.

"Well?" Cersei's fingers drummed against the table. Grimacing, she stopped and crossed her arms.

Ned deliberated. On one hand, I'd hate to do what Cersei wants me to do, but on the other hand… "If it pleases you, my lady." His smile was as false as hers. He set aside his book and unfolded the beautifully carved set.

Cersei seated herself at the table. Daintily, she placed the screen and set her side of the board. Ned did the same. Once they both had placed their pieces, Cersei removed the screen. She was the first to move and speak. "I'll have you know that I always defeat my brother." Her words were full of challenge.

Ned bit back his retort. Even a pigeon could beat Jaime at cyvasse. "Of course, my lady." His words were perfectly neutral, which seemed to infuriate Cersei. He moved his heavy cavalry into her side of the board.

She sneered and began her attack. Her style was overconfident and condescending, which played right into his hands. Lord Tywin beat out most of my bad habits. Has she only played with Jaime? After Ned's weekly games with Tywin, Cersei wasn't even a challenge.

His impenetrable defense and piercing attack quickly drove her back. To her growing frustration, Cersei found each of her attacks failing. Her moves became wild and desperate, and the reckless attacks cost more and more of her pieces.

Then, the match was over. Ned moved his Elephant. "The King has fallen." He smiled at her, this time genuinely. He barely managed to keep himself from gloating. Victory has never been so sweet.

Cersei must have noticed his smugness, because she chucked her dragon at him with a shriek of rage. Ned caught the elegant ivory piece and placed it nonchalantly on the table. Cersei knocked her chair over as she stood, growing redder by the minute.

Would you look at that? he thought idly. With her face and hair, Cersei has both of the Lannister colors.

"You…" She pointed an accusing finger at him. "You can't have won! You filthy…" Cersei spluttered helplessly, eyes darting from the board to his face.

Ned tilted his head and steepled his fingers in an imitation of Lord Twin. "I took your king. That's normally how the game ends, correct?" Ned was finding it more difficult to keep the triumphant grin of his face.

"You must have cheated!" she shrieked. "What else could I expect from a barbarian like you!"

Ned felt a surge of anger. She can insult me, my appearance, and even my intelligence, but how dare she question my honor! He slammed his hands against the table and leaned forward. "I do not need to cheat to win against you," he growled. "I could play against you a hundred times, and I would win every time! Would that be enough proof, Lady Cersei?"

Cersei drew back, stunned at his display of fury. She'd insulted him countless times, but Ned had never reacted so vehemently. And in her emerald eyes, Ned saw a glint of fear. Good. I may be in the south, but I am a wolf. She better not forget.

"Fine," she said, voice shaking slightly. This time, Ned was the one surprised—Cersei sat down again. Her skirts flared around her, swirling like flames. Any fear she had was quickly replaced by determination. "Play me again."

Tywin looked at his ward. In almost every area, the Stark had exceeded his expectations. Almost. When it came to politics, Eddard was hopelessly naïve. Tywin resisted the urge to massage his temples. He'd fielded various scenarios to the boy, and nearly every time, Eddard had taken the honorable, stupid way out.

"Tell me, Eddard." Tywin pressed his fingers together. "If the King asked for the execution of a smallfolk on false pretenses, what would you do?"

"I'd refuse," said Eddard immediately. "If he didn't commit the crime, I wouldn't sentence him."

"Really? The death of an insignificant, single individual is worth the anger of a king?" Tywin gave a short sigh. What did Rickard teach to this boy? "You do realize that the king could strip your family of titles, and if need be, execute them? Which is more important to you: your family or your honor?"

Eddard hesitated at that. "Still… I don't think that it's right to kill innocents," he replied stubbornly.

"Ever?" Tywin frowned at him. "Do you know the story of House Reynes?"

The Stark looked away, clenching and unclenching his fists in that nervous habit of his. "Yes, my lord."

The Lannister let the silence drag on. "And?" he said, just as the quiet became uncomfortable. "Tell me, boy. In my place, what would you have done?"

"I wouldn't presume to question your decision, Lord Lannister," demurred Eddard. "What—"

"I wanted for your opinion." Tywin's tone turned harsh. "If I wanted nonsense, I would have asked for it."

Eddard avoided Tywin's glare. After several seconds more, he finally spoke. "I wouldn't have killed them all. You'd defeated them already. And… by flooding the mines, you killed women and children. Innocents." He paused. "I… I would have accepted their surrender."

"Is that so?" Tywin glare grew darker. His Northern sentiments are appalling. The boy has to learn the futility of his idealism. "You would have allowed for open rebellion to be unpunished? Now, what would be the consequences of that?"

Clenching his teeth, Eddard made to speak. "But then—"

"The land ravaged. Thousands dead, including the smallfolk under your protection, and for what? Nothing." He leaned forward. "You would have taught your vassals that outright defiance has no consequences. Would you enjoy the death of your family? Of loyal men? Would you enjoy war? Because that is what your decision would have led to."

Eddard's eyes turned stormy and downcast. "I…" He tried again. "I…"

Now he understands. "Don't make the same mistakes as my father, Eddard. If you continue with your futile, senseless decisions, then that is your path." Tywin softened his voice. "Honor is a fine cloak to wear, but do not let it strangle you."

The boy didn't respond. Tears shone at the corner of Eddard's eyes, though he made a valiant effort to keep them from falling.

"You are dismissed," said Tywin, letting him leave before the boy lost all his composure.

After bowing, the Stark fled the room.

Tywin set aside the letter, turning his gaze to the three children in front of him. The twins stood perfectly still and respectful, golden and poised. Behind them, to the side, was Eddard Stark. His ward was as dark and solemn as ever.

Such a shame he wasn't the first son, thought Tywin. I might have considered giving him Cersei's hand if he was. With his temperament, Eddard would have made a fine ruler. Nearly a year had passed since the Northern boy had joined them at Casterly Rock, and Tywin had grown somewhat fond of the Stark. Nevertheless, I have greater plans for my daughter. She deserves nothing less than being queen.

Tywin ended his perusal of the trio. "The king has summoned me to resume my post as Hand."

Cersei's eyes sparkled, and Jaime grinned brightly. Both had been eager to visit King's Landing. Jaime had been especially incessant about his desire. His ward, on the other hand, seemed to grow more crestfallen.

"You are to come as well, Eddard." Tywin nodded at the boy.

Eddard blinked. "R-Really, my lord?" he said, sounding doubtful. "But… I assumed I'd be staying here…" he trailed off, glancing at Jaime.

"You are fostered with me, not Casterly Rock," snapped Tywin. "We are to travel to King's Landing in a week. Do not question my decision."

Eddard looked both wary and hopeful. "I understand, Lord Lannister."

The three children exchanged glances. To Tywin's surprise, Cersei reacted less with outright hostility and more with subdued satisfaction. I was aware that they had taken to playing cyvasse, but that should have led to Cersei despising the boy. Ned is by far her superior in temperament and intelligence, and Cersei never takes defeat well. As much as Tywin hated to admit it, beauty was one of his daughter's few good qualities. Her spitfire temperament would have been manageable in a male heir, but in a woman it was nothing but a burden. Tywin made a note to examine his daughter's relationship with Eddard.

Jaime, on the other hand, was practically bursting with excitement. His heir and the Stark boy had grown close, much like actual brothers. A relationship that Jaime can never have with that imp. To Tywin's disgruntlement, both Eddard and Jaime had taken to spending time with that dwarf. Still, Tywin had no cause to intervene yet. And he was loathe to intervene in Jaime's relationship with Eddard. The Stark had been a tempering influence on his son. Before, Jaime would have shouted his excitement, acting like a bumbling fool, instead of the future lord he was. If anything, Jaime's learned the vital importance of keeping his mouth shut.

"I expect you all to act befitting of a Great House," said Tywin. "None of you shall disgrace me."

They all murmured various words of agreement. No. The Lannister frowned. None of you will. But it is not your actions that I am concerned about.

He stepped away from his desk and turned, silently dismissing the three. Aerys, my old friend, thought Tywin grimly. For the Realm's sake, I hope your sanity has returned.

AN: Well, this will be very, very AU. Canon will not be the same. Canon will be cheerfully defenestrated. However, canon before the point of divergence will be adhered to.

Many, many thanks to Duesal Bladesinger and Igornerd for beta-ing. They are the absolute best.

Thank you all for reading!