Just for a bit of clarification for readers, this story is not a self-insert. Matthew's a character from a nuclear war novel I wrote a couple years ago and never got around to publishing. One day, perhaps I'll finally be satisfied with it.
This can't be real. Matthew Holmes thought, looking over the crowd. The last thing he remembered, he was with his girlfriend Emily and now he was… Where exactly am I?
He looked down at his hands, pale skin so unlike his own. The first thing Matthew's mind registered was the overwhelming smell of the crowd.
"Okay, assess the situation." Matthew told himself, relying on the instincts that saved his life many times during the war. "I'm a white guy, long blonde hair, wearing strange clothes. The crowd looks like a Renaissance fair… but none of them would stink like that."
To his right, a man forced onto his knees waited for his sentence to be carried out. A young girl watched with terror, struggling to hold back tears. A man Matthew assumed was an executioner stood next to the block, grim-faced and awaiting orders.
A blonde-haired woman stood highest of all, looking down on the kneeling man with disdain. The crowd booed and cursed, reminding Matthew of the reenactments he had attended as a child.
The scene looked familiar, like something he'd read, but Matthew couldn't quite place it. Matthew's nose curled, the stench threatening to overwhelm his nostrils. "I've got to be dreaming." He stated quietly. Even my voice sounds different. Far more high-pitched than he was accustomed to.
He turned his head around quickly, blonde hair momentarily obstructing his vision. My clothes are different, my voice is different, and this place is far too disgusting to be any kind of Renaissance fair. No food stands, no parking lot, nothing he would have expected at such an event.
"Your Grace, what are we to do with the prisoner?" An elderly man hobbled over to Matthew.
"Why exactly are you asking me?" Matthew gave a shocked laugh. The old man looked familiar to, a chain with several different colors around his neck.
"You are the King, Your Grace." The old man bowed nervously. "And Eddard Stark is guilty of treason. We await your judgment."
Eddard Stark, guilty of treason?! Matthew took another look at those standing on the podium. If Stark is up there, that must mean… Westeros! That's why this looks familiar.
"Of course… Pycelle, is it?" Matthew stammered, his mind registering the sun beating down on his neck.
"Yes, Your Grace." He bowed his head and walked away.
Matthew identified Cersei Lannister, Ned Stark, That must be Sansa! Little wonder she's so terrified! Her father's about to die! The executioner was Ser Ilyn Payne, if he remembered correctly. It had been a long time since he'd read the books or watched the television show.
Two men were standing off to the left, the first a plump man with his hands in his sleeves. The one standing beside him had a small smile across his face. "Varys and Littlefinger; it has to be." Hopes that this was a mere dream vanished by the moment.
The Kingsguard, and the fattest man Matthew had seen in years wearing purple clothes. If I remember things correctly, that's the High Septon. But who was he? Matthew knew if he was his normal self, no one would be bothering to await his orders.
The pieces came together, everything hitting him at once. "I'm Joffrey?!" Matthew barely kept himself from screaming. I'm freaking Joffrey?! He couldn't even begin to explain how it happened but he'd been transported into Joffrey's body. Or traded places with or… Matthew had trouble wrapping his head around it.
I'm in the body of a teenage psychopath. Not exactly what I wanted to wake up to. Impossible as it seemed, none of this was a dream. All right, if I'm Joffrey, then I'm going to have to play the role, at least until I can get some time to think about what the hell is going on. Raising his voice, he began: "Ned Stark, you have confessed your treason. My mother wishes to have you sent to the Night's Watch, where you will be stripped of all lands and titles." Sansa looked at him hopefully. "There to spend the rest of your natural life."
Matthew considered his next move carefully. Sending him to the Night's Watch was no guarantee someone wouldn't kill him on the way. His death would turn the continent into a bloodbath, an act many were hoping for. "Lady Sansa has pleaded for me to show mercy and you shall have it. If your son and wife bend the knee and declare me the true King of the Seven Kingdoms, I will pardon their treason." Matthew gestured to his guards. "Take him to the tower cells and keep him there. Make sure he remains unharmed and give him all the food and drink he requires."
The mob continued throwing food and rocks at Ned Stark, an act Matthew made no effort to prevent. Cersei moved towards him, whispering into his ear. "He needs to be sent to the Night's Watch. You cannot look weak in the eyes of this city."
He lowered his voice and whispered to Cersei: "There are those in court who want him dead. I will not let them turn my Kingdom into a graveyard."
"Thank you, Your Grace." Sansa approached him, weeping in gratitude. She stared at Matthew, still with youthful infatuation.
She still has feelings for him… or me… or… after everything Joffrey's done? Matthew looked at her, unable to fathom her foolishness. "Yes, I have decided to show mercy. Whether that continues will depend on the actions of your family." The crowd began dispersing, disappointed not to be witness to an execution.
Plans began forming in his brain. If he was truly stuck in the body of Joffrey Baratheon, he would have to adapt. I can worry about how the hell this happened once I find a way back home. If I can, that is.
There was a flash of disappointment on Littlefinger's face, fading so quickly Matthew would have that it was his imagination if he didn't know what the man was responsible for. Varys watched the spectacle with a neutral expression.
He turned to the Kingsguard and demanded. "Make sure he comes to no harm. They will not trade my Uncle for his daughters, but Lord Stark is a more valuable prize."
"Your Grace… your uncle is still besieging the Trident," Meryn Trant responded.
Disgusting little worm. Matthew's memory of the book and show was imperfect, and he wasn't positive he could rely on them anyway. Even if the battle's happened by now, we probably haven't gotten word. He overlooked how slow communication was in Westeros. "Keep him under constant guard. Have Ser Arys Oakheart look to his safety."
They knew better than to question him, rushing to carry out his orders. Matthew escorted Stark to the tower cells, still concerned about a hidden ambush that would claim Stark's life. During the trip, he struggled to wrap his head around the circumstances he found himself in.
Matthew punched the stone wall in a last desperate attempt to prove none of his surroundings were real. He cursed in pain, fortunately not throwing a punch hard enough to break his hand. "So I'm really stuck in this hellhole…"
Stark looked at him with a worried expression, knowing he was at Matthew's mercy. Could show a little gratitude. If I hadn't arrived when I did, you'd have had your head chopped off.
"Ser Arys, I trust you can keep Lord Stark safe," Matthew ordered.
"I swear it on my life, Your Grace." Arys gave a small bow. Far as Matthew was concerned, he and Barristan were the only ones to deserve the white cloak.
"You'll need help to do so," Matthew announced. No matter where Stark was, someone would try to kill him. "I'll assign several men-at-arms to assist you." If Eddard survived, he'd have some hope of stopping a continent-wide war.
He paced through the Red Keep, memorizing the entrances and exits. As it was Matthew's home for the foreseeable future, he considered it prudent to know his way around. "Take me to Lady Sansa." Matthew ordered his guards.
When Sansa was found, she curtsied and watched him fearfully. "Your Grace, what an honor." A slight blush was visible on her face.
"Courtesy as sharp as ever, I see." Matthew responded, looking her over. This would only have been the start of your suffering. He intended to prevent that, at least to the degree he could. "Your father's life has been spared for the time being." Play the part. You're King Joffrey and you need to act like it.
"My father is a traitor, Your Grace." Sansa had great difficulty looking at him.
"That may be but I know when it's time for mercy." Matthew took a couple moments to consider his next words. "I need you to write another letter to your mother and brother. Give them my terms."
Without a word, Sansa complied. Matthew gestured for his guards to turn around, not expecting Sansa to make any attempts on his life. "These are my terms. Robb and Catelyn Stark will bend the knee to me and declare me the true king of Westeros. Your father will stay at King's Landing to ensure their compliance."
"And what of me, Your Grace?" Sansa's feelings for him had not entirely disappeared, as her father's head had not been removed.
"We'll worry about that when it comes." Matthew stated evasively. Best case scenario, I'd like to get you out of here where you can still believe in fairy tales and happy endings. "I expect our betrothal is at an end, Lady Sansa. I can't be seen marrying a traitor's daughter, after all. And this might be a strange question, but how old are you again?"
"Thirteen, Your Grace." Sansa stared at him confounded.
Matthew forced back a shudder. Thirteen?! God, this world is fucked up! "Provided your family agrees to my terms, you will be returned to Winterfell."
"I understand, Your Grace." Sansa lowered her head sadly.
She's still in love with him after all the shit he pulled?! Matthew was astonished at it. True, that was the way the story was written, but the fact it took Joffrey having her father executed for her to see what he really was… "Or who I really am."
"Pardon me, Your Grace?" Sansa couldn't understand his strange behavior.
"It's nothing, Lady Sansa. Whenever you wish, I will allow you to meet with your father, although you will have to be escorted." Matthew walked off before she could say anything, uncomfortable speaking with the girl.
Should have mentioned that right after Stark was taken to the tower cells. It was an oversight Matthew would not normally have done but he had yet to fully adjust to being in Westeros.
"Ser Barristan, after today's events, I need some time to reflect on things." Matthew turned to the old man. Despite his age, he could see why he was known as such a renowned fighter. "If you would please escort me to my room…" He had yet to discover where that was and didn't want to look foolish by asking.
During the journey, Matthew looked through each door, memorizing as many people as he could. Barristan faithfully led Matthew to Joffrey's room, standing outside the door without being asked.
The kind of luxury most people in Westeros could only dream of. The room was around the size of his bedroom, but Matthew understood that entire families could live in smaller locations in King's Landing.
The bed was covered with multiple sheets, half a dozen pillows, a nearby desk and a wardrobe on the other side of the room. "Not as many clothes as at home, but still impressive." Matthew looked them over. Half a dozen outfits far more elaborate than anything he possessed hung on wooden pegs.
No way in hell am I going to have him dismissed from the Kingsguard." His thoughts went to Barristan. Keeping him around would help ensure his safety, the legendary fighting providing legitimacy to his kingship.
If I can survive a nuclear war, I can certainly survive the likes of Westeros. Matthew encouraged. Granted, I'm a thirty-eight year old man in what… I assume is a seventeen year old body. He didn't know if the ages of the characters were based on the book or the television show.
He had plenty of combat experience from two years fighting in a world war in addition to facing enemies at home. "Experience that is now all but useless." Matthew knew how to survive in a gunfight but hadn't so much as picked up a medieval weapon in his life. He knew hand-to-hand combat, giving him at least some competence.
I've still got a brain and knowledge of most of the people around me. I just have to keep my head and start making plans. Learning how to use medieval weapons would take years, time he didn't have. He intended to stay away from the thick of the fighting as much as he could.
Bad as it was, it could be a lot worse. He wasn't one of the smallfolk, who lived and died at the whim of the lord they served. Matthew was the King of the Seven Kingdoms. "Well, one of them, anyway." Stannis and Renly had already declared themselves King at this point.
"I've got a choice to make here: either focus on survival alone or act like a Connecticut Yankee and work to improve things." Matthew sat down on the desk, keeping his voice low to avoid being overheard.
Survival would be the more prudent option. A society like Westeros would be resistant to change even if everyone would benefit from it. Whether this was a permanent condition, he didn't know.
Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister was a sociopath, a cowardly young man with a penchant for cruelty. And it's exactly what got him killed. On the other hand, trying to be benevolent is likely to achieve the same result. Kindness isn't rewarded in Westeros.
Matthew grabbed a piece of parchment from the disorganized desk and began to write down his thoughts.
Stannis and Renly Baratheon
D… "Damn it!" Matthew cursed, forced to dip his quill back in the ink. "Right, this isn't a pen."
Daenerys Targaryen She worried him the most, especially after her genocidal rampage. "I'll have to do some reading on anti-dragon tactics, maybe ballistae and cannons. No way in hell is she getting the Iron Throne."
The Night King Matthew wasn't sure if he existed in this continuity but it was best to cover all his bases.
Olenna Tyrell True, part of her motivation for poisoning him was protecting her family from a monster, which Matthew resolved not to be. That didn't mean he overlooked the fact having Tommen on the throne meant the Tyrells would hold the Iron Throne in everything but name.
There were of course many others but they were the ones who worried him most. Balon Greyjoy would be little more than an annoyance, assuming the same choices were made in the War of Five Kings.
"Still, as a King, I've got an obligation to look out for the people to the best of my ability." It wasn't something often lived up to, either in real life or in Westeros. "Should probably stop thinking 'real life' because this is real, least for me."
Decrease infant mortality: spread germ theory, introduce proper hygiene into Westerosi culture
Hand washing, designing forceps for difficult births
Four-crop rotation, perhaps primitive genetic engineering
Build printing press if possible
Find out if gunpowder or anything similar exists in this world. Westerosi technology appeared to be Late Middle Ages, which had firearms and cannons, albeit very simple ones. "Something to inquire about at the next Small Council meeting." Matthew had an inkling as to how to design them but hoped he didn't have to do so from scratch.
Win over the smallfolk The last one would prove useful for both survival and improving the Seven Kingdoms. Matthew had several ideas on how to accomplish it, but as they were in the middle of a war, wasn't sure how much he would be able to do.
He considered adding human rights to the list but decided against it. Westeros barely even had the concept, let alone implementing modern values. "Not as if we really gave a damn during the war." Nearly one and a half billion corpses testified to their ruthlessness of World War III.
Better not get ahead of myself here. Matthew folded up the parchment. He didn't know if any of his goals were possible in Westeros, let alone all of them. Such a society would be resistant to change and even as King, there was only so much he could do to change it. Once I spend some time here, I'll have a better inkling as to what I can do and what I can't.
The ugliest part of Matthew's situation was being alone in the midst of extremely hostile territory. "Terra, Emily…" He missed his sister and girlfriend already, with no guarantee he'd ever see them again. Most of his friends died in the war but a few made it through.
Tempting as it is to feel sorry for myself right now, I can't afford that. On the remaining bit of parchment, Matthew mused what could have been responsible for sending him to Westeros. "Government experiment, divine intervention… I have no idea."
Looking over his list, he intended to focus on his human enemies first. Robb Stark was formidable but politically naïve. Stannis was the one who worried him the most despite his currently tiny army. He'd faced overwhelming odds and triumphed over them, much like himself.
"Okay, at least I've got a game plan." Matthew knew how to handle danger. Nevertheless, he remembered the signature words. "If you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die."
Yeah, pretty shocking finding yourself in the body of a brutal, idiot king who ended up getting himself killed. We'll see if Matthew will actually be able to improve things. This is Westeros so this isn't going to be some magical fix-fic.