Disclaimer: I don't own Game of Thrones or anything associated with the show or the books.

AN: I'm sorry about how long it took me to update. I've been busier at work than usual and its seriously eating into my writing time.

Chapter Thirteen.

The Hand's study lacked the blatant grandeur of Cersei's own rooms; the arched brassbound door opened into a moderately sized stone chamber and two long crimson banners displaying the Sigil of House Lannister stood guard on either side of the doorway. Elaborate sideboards lined the squared room here and there though they were absent any vases, wreaths or unnecessary decoration, Tywin Lannister would never condone such ridiculousness in his domain. The dull scent of whitewash was light on the cool air which told her that the gleaming marble floor had recently been burnished by her Lord Father's Household maids. So recently in fact that the fresh air freely flowing into the chamber through four large arches looming behind her Father's enormous desk failed to mask the scent from her acute senses.

The midday sunlight streamed in through the archways that opened out onto a grand wrap-around balcony with a slightly rounded stone railing. It was a decidedly chilly day even though the bright sunlight falling in on her from the open arches forced her to sit at an angle in the hard low-backed chair she was currently perched on to avoid being momentarily blinded by the sharp rays of golden light. Her father's huge desk was almost as large as her own and the amassed papers and maps laid out on the polished surface very nearly rivalled her own paperwork, though his was neatly stacked on the far side near the Hand's high-backed chair, allowing for silver and gold oval shaped platters of succulent fruits, medallions of roasted and spiced meats along with buttered and toasted breads to sit among the documents close to the visitant's chairs that she and The Imp quietly occupied. Her Father was still detained in her bereaved Uncle Kevan's chambers while Grand Maester Pycelle prepared the best possible herbal remedy for a father's heartache over the loss of both his beloved sons.

Cersei pursed her full red lips as she stared unseeingly across her Father's desk. Herbs and quackery had done nothing to alleviate her sorrow over the death of her and her late husband's true first born son. She vividly remembered the excruciating agony of that loss, the feel of her heart clenching and calling out for her son to return just as she had longed to have her mother given back to her, how she had been unable to stop herself from screaming and weeping until her throat bled and her jade coloured eyes could produce no more tears. She had carried that dark haired little boy for nine months, felt him move inside her womb with such vehement energy that she had been determined to name him after Robert because she knew he would have been strong and an avid hunter just like his father. He'd managed to fight the fever that infected him for three painfully long days before his frail body had given out and he could fight no longer. Though she had desperately prayed and prayed for his recovery with the same fervency she had fostered while praying to the indifferent Gods to revive her mother. Part of her had instinctively sensed that tragic outcome, she had come to expect the granitic Gods to take what she loved hence the reason she protected those few she cared for by any means necessary, so she had refused to give him his name. Doing so would have solidified the wisplike bond that she had felt materialise with her unborn son every time she felt his fluttering movements in her stomach. She had emotionally distanced herself from her dark haired boy, purposefully and effectively, but she'd still felt like an executioner had plunged a broad sword through her heart as she watched his tiny chest cease to rise and fall with his shallow breathing.

The Queen's lips twisted into a melancholic smirk. Her persistent refusal to give him his name, visit the crypt where he lay among generations of entombed Baratheon's or in truth spare him much thought at all was born of well-placed fear. She didn't want to ever make herself vulnerable to that degree of agonising sorrow again and in retrospect she couldn't afford to. The Lioness of House Lannister was watched constantly by starving vultures that feed off of the beasts that fall beneath her claws and fangs but the vultures were without honour and they would swiftly turn on her should she ever become noticeably wounded, to conceal such scratches from her circling enemies she kept her thick golden pelt, her emotionless façade, well groomed. It was a matter of survival. She wondered if she would have survived the devastation of losing her cub had she not distanced herself, just as she mused if her Uncle Kevan's loss was felt more keenly because he'd had fifteen years with his sons before they were stolen from him, time enough to form the affections she had avoided, or less because he'd experienced a relatively happy life with them before it was cruelly ended.

It was perfectly natural for her subconscious mind to make these connections, given the development of recent events, but that knowledge did nothing to prevent her viciously condemning the unfamiliar sting of tears that burned her eyes as she silently stared over her father's desk, out onto the white marble balcony, while waiting for her Lord Hand to return from her Uncle's chambers. Obsessing over the unchangeable past and history's harrowing trials was entirely pointless. Cersei leaned forward in her modestly carved, oak, low-backed chair and with her long slender forefinger and thumb delicately plucked a small medallion of deliciously tenderised spiced lamb from one of the oval-shaped gold platters set on the desk in front of her. The meat was of the finest cuts available, the cooks in the Keep procured nothing but the best for the consumption of the Palace's inhabitants, and she was sure that had her mood been more pleasant she would have found a certain amount of pleasure in the succulent taste of lamb blended perfectly with a combination of spices, the meat was like thick bland ash in her mouth. She chewed the tender meat slowly and forced herself to swallow the lump of lamb before she licked the grease from her fingertips.

"Are you really so heartless that you can eat at a time like this?" Tyrion scowled beside her. Cersei tilted her head to the left and stared unblinkingly at The Imp with a practised mask of stoic disinterest painted across her face. Naturally, he held a gold ruby encrusted wine goblet in his hand, the circular base of the cup perched on the armrest of his chair, while he impatiently tapped his short fingers against his thigh repetitively. The Queen quizzically arched a perfectly shaped blonde eyebrow at The Dwarf as she draped both her elegant hands over the curved armrests of her chair.

"Two young boys, our cousins, just a few years older than Myrcella have been slain and you sit there indulging in spiced lamb as though nothing had happened" His brows furrowed into a deep frown that contorted the large scar running from his left temple, down over his nose to his jaw and his glower darkened with his disapproval over her lack of an outward response to the saddening news of Martyn and Willem's untimely deaths.

"I suppose I should lock myself in my rooms and shed a river of tears instead?" Cersei drawled, pursing her full red lips as though she was in deep contemplation. Tyrion shook his head, disgusted with her tame satire. She rolled her eyes slowly, knowing The Dwarf would interpret such a casual action from her as genuinely frigid, but simply because she remained dry-eyed and reserved it didn't mean she was unaffected and The Imp was an even bigger fool than she had previously regarded him if he thought she was untouched by it.

"Its the proper thing for a woman to do, to show one's grief over the death of a kinsman" Tyrion remarked before he lifted his goblet to his lips and finished off his wine in a single gulp. With predictable quickness, he instantly reached for the bottle of smooth red wine on the edge of her father's ornate desk.

She sneered a derisive laugh. How like a whoremonger to pigeonhole all women into one classification and not a particularly accurate one at that. Did The Imp honestly believe that all women were either jaded whores or overemotional wretches?. Perhaps that was why she continued to outmanoeuvre him in the Game of Thrones, because he couldn't imagine her being more intelligent that he. The Queen subtly leaned back in her chair with a smirk curling the right corner of her perfect mouth upward.

"I'm no mere woman. Regardless, it would be absurd to cry over the deaths of two boys that are unknown to me, kinsman or not. I know of them by name alone, not by reputation or any true felt connection" Cersei stated calmly.

The slaying of two defenceless boys by seasoned and armed soldiers was a horrible catastrophe and couldn't be defined as anything less, her deepest heartfelt sympathies lay with her Uncle and his wife, but she couldn't force herself to feel anything more for two strangers. The news greatly saddened her, however she would not lie and act out a pretence of being more affected than she was.

"That may be so..." Cersei stiffened slightly in her chair when her Lord Father's deep baritone swept commandingly through his study like a summer storm clearing away an air of humidity in one fell swoop.

She regally lifted her head as her Lord Hand stalked into his domain without another word. The Imp hastily lurched out of his low-backed chair, as a sign of sycophantic respect, standing while Tywin Lannister prowled around his elaborate desk and took his seat across from them. She rolled her eyes at Tyrion's bootlicking but she remained silent. When her Father spoke she made certain to carefully listen to every word even if they seemed inconsequential at times because she knew absolutely everything he said, no matter how cryptic, was of crucial importance.

"...But they were still of our blood and they will be avenged as Lannister's" Her Lord Father linked his long fingers together and rested his hands atop his desk as he stared over the table at her, and only her. The Imp might as well of not been in the study at all, neither she nor the elder Lannister paid Tyrion any heed as he sat back down. If she had been anyone else she would have flinched in response to the hard incisive edge in her Lord hand's icy blue eyes.

"According to my 'friends' at Riverrun the traitorous swine responsible for Willem and Martyn's murders has already been put to death by the young pup himself." Cersei watched her Father's facial expression carefully as she made her report, as far as she was concerned justice had been administered and there was no need for her to pursue the matter any further. But her Father likely didn't share her sentiment.

As Queen she officially surpassed her Lord Hand on the chain of social hierarchy and yet she was distinctly aware of how childlike she felt under his scrutinising gaze, his piercing eyes seemed to strip away all titles, all façades and attempts at nonchalance until she was left with her throat bared to the Alpha of her Pride. Despite the feeling of vulnerability sending shivers down her spine she refused to shy away from Tywin Lannister's stare. Her Father smirked slightly, it was a barely noticeable tilt of his lips, a colder reflection of her own signature smirk. She had inherited many things from the Head of her House.

"Northern justice..." He spat as his condescending smirk vanished "...The boys will be avenged as Lannister's by Lannister's"

"Do tell us then Father, what will Lannister gold be buying this time?..." Tyrion shifted in his low-backed chair beside her while she sat in silent thought.

Her Lord Hand gave nothing away in his schooled expression but there was no doubt in her mind that her father had just delivered her a riddle in need of solving. The secret to understanding his deliberate conundrum was in dissecting each syllable he uttered until she found the true meaning behind his words, a simple enough task until one was charged with actually figuring it out. She was the only living person capable of such an extraordinary feat. While she was proud of the fact, she also found it truly daunting because the challenge often required days if not weeks of relentless brooding on her part which only served to constantly remind her that as formidable an opponent as she was, her father was even more adapt at winning. His unpredictability and determination made him incalculably dangerous to everyone, Lannister or no.

"...Faceless Men perhaps?, to assassinate Robb Stark while he is busy with that new Volantene wife of his?. I hear she is a beauty" Tyrion drained his wine goblet again but before he could reach for the bottle perched on the edge of the desk her Father swiftly snatched the half empty glass wine bottle away from The Imp.

The elder Lannister stared stoically at The Dwarf while he blindly poured the smooth sweet tasting beverage into the remain two goblets standing side by side on a corner of the desk among the official documents and platters of food on the oak table. Her Lord Hand didn't remove his sharp stare from The Imp, not once, the sheer intimidating force of that icy blue gaze had Tyrion fidgeting in mere moments. The Queen absently studied the two men, bemused, that was the reward that accompanied completion of the riddle; she would finally learn the specifics of her Father's plan concerning the Stark's. Tywin Lannister seemed to naturally sense when both jewel encrusted goblets were appropriately filled. The silver-haired man set the bottle down in the left corner of his desk, well out of The Imp's reach, lifted one golden goblet and extended the cup over the desk to her.

Cersei took the cordially offered goblet in her right hand, her signet ring flashed when the square face caught the sunlight streaming in from the four arches behind her Father's chair, she carried the surprisingly hefty goblet to her full red lips. An equally heavy silence dragged out while, in unison, both she and her Lord Father took a single measured sip of the luxuriously intoxicating wine, both of them studying each other over the rims of their gold ruby encrusted cups. The silky liquid slid down her elegant throat and into her flat stomach with delicious ease, leaving behind only a slight burning sensation, after she swallowed the crimson wine. There was a familiar gleam in her Lord Father's eyes, she noticed as she lowed her goblet to the edge of the wide oak desk and subsequently draped her graceful hands over the armrests of her chair, a meaningful glint that she had seen a thousand times before, it told her that he wished to speak with her alone about a matter far too important for a certain lecherous stump to bare witness to. She tilted her head without daring to lower her gaze, refusing to show an ounce of weakness. She had been wondering how long the Great Lord Tywin Lannister would ignore the fact every Westerosi; whether they boasted common, noble or bastard blood, reaching from King's Landing down to Dorne and stretching all the way back North to Winterfell and likely even The Wall beyond, was bustling over the news that Queen Cersei Lannister was bedding another woman and not just any woman, a Stark. She almost felt physically ill at the prospect of receiving her Lord Father's verdict on her preferences, that The Faith of the Seven openly marked as 'degenerate', until her jade coloured eyes snagged on the bright sun-kissed rubies set into her gold wine goblet and she detected a lack of any additional edge to her Father's hard eyes as he regarded her over the table surface. In fact he looked at her in the same manner he always had ever since she departed her beloved mother's womb; with cold observance.

"And I hear you've begun to show particular favour to a single whore. Need I remind you of what happened the last time you thought someone was capable of loving you and not Lannister gold?..." Tywin Lannister directed his harsh attention back to The Imp. Her Lord Father's stinging comment made Tyrion flinch tellingly.

"...If I am forced to protect the reputation of my House from such filth again, I swear by the Seven that I will not be nearly as kind as I was before, do you hear me Dwarf?" It was a warning to Tyrion, that The Imp must keep a cloak of the utmost desecration secured around Shae or else face the consequences of shaming the most powerful House in the Seven Kingdoms. Her father didn't raise his voice but then he never had to in order to seize one's entire attention or to make himself sound more commanding. If anything Tywin Lannister was never more dangerous than when he was talking in a relatively tame manner, the constant deep baritone told his victims that he was deadly serious and dedicated to his threats as he issued them.

"Indeed I do Father" Tyrion nodded solemnly, her brother was smart enough to know there was no point to denying what was obvious to the older man and that he would have to fortify defences around Shae's true 'purpose' at King's Landing. Conspicuous lying would achieve nothing save Tywin Lannister's insidious ire. The Imp took a deep breath to gather his courage before he darted a glance to the side, to her, as though he was fearfully expecting her to supply the identity and immediate whereabouts of his 'lover'. Cersei scoffed internally. She didn't give her word lightly and she never broke an Oath once sworn. She'd vowed that her Father would not discover the specific details of Tyrion's secret from her and he wouldn't. Though it was more that probable the elder Lannister was already toying with how he was going to punish The Imp for daring to bring a whore to the Capital with him in the first instance. The possibilities were endless for one with a mind like Tywin Lannister, or her.

"You better had, or your lechery will earn you a similar fate to Varys. Now leave us" Her Lord Hand ordered sharply. Tyrion continued to stare beseechingly at her but she refused to acknowledge him, he insulted her by doubting her word, in her mind he deserved to flounder in uncharted seas. Heaving a heavy resigned sigh, The Imp hopped down from his chair and took his leave from The Hand's Study. Cersei swallowed and crossed her long toned legs at the knee as she listened to the sounds of receding footsteps on marble stone and the brassbound door being heaved open and dragged closed behind The Dwarf.

As she met her Father's steely gaze, the fresh air freely streaming into the moderately sized chamber through the four grand arches behind Tywin Lannister's high-backed oak chair seemed to slowly disappear as the silence loomed, like a towering adult dragon, almost making it difficult for her to breathe. When first coming to terms with her sexual preferences at a young age she used to experience night terrors about the day her Lord Father would discover her attraction to women, her nightmares had been filled with every mental and physical horror imaginable, the stolid coolness Tywin Lannister regarded her with was a far cry from all her expectations. There was still time for the anticipated degradation to begin, she couldn't read the man sat across from her like she could read all the rest, he could be simply toying with her by remaining quiet. But she was prepared to skilfully parry each attack as they were launched at her. She took a deep breath while her Lord Father pulled open one of his desk drawers. A soft frown furrowed her perfect blonde eyebrows when he produced a thick bundle of unsealed letters, bound together by a thin strip of crimson silk, her Father placed the two dozen or so missives among the many stacks of official documents and expensive silverware and withdrew his hands, interlinking his fingers, and resting his palms on the tabletop. Taking another breath, Cersei reached for the collection of letters and slipped the crimson binding from around the parchments. The missives had been carefully opened to avoid damage to the wax seals so it was easy for her to identify the many Sigils as they appeared before her while she quickly flicked through the letters. The missives were from the vast majority of all the Houses, both Greater and Lesser, of Westeros. She placed the letters back on the elaborate oak desk and arched a slender brow at her Lord Hand.

"What news?" She asked, genuinely curious but still on guard.

"Those are requests from the Lords of various Houses begging for audiences so that they might come to King's Landing and personally give you their Oaths of Fealty and their best wishes to the future Queen..." Tywin Lannister informed her calmly "...Including some of the Stark's and Baratheon's disillusioned Bannermen. Your ploy has worked in our favour"

"'Ploy'?. I am not entirely sure I know what it is you're referring to, Father"

"The Stark girl. I assume the only reason you've chosen this particular time to reveal your 'tastes' to all the Kingdoms is to prove the legitimacy of your children, yes?" His gaze seemed to tear through her skin and muscle into her very soul. And that was when she realised how foolish she had been to think she'd been successful in keeping him unaware.

"You knew about me, before today" Cersei surmised. That was why her Father was so composed about it all, so unaffected. He already knew she would sooner slit her own throat or volunteer for a public flogging rather than take a man between her thighs.

"You are my daughter. I know everything about you..." He stated confidently "...I have always known ever since you started taking an interest in your Handmaids at a tender age"

"But you never said anything to me. Not once, not as a reprimand or in solace" Tywin Lannister stared at her as though he couldn't fathom why she would say such a thing, as if it were ludicrous for a child to seek guidance from a parent on such a matter. Anger began to boil in her veins, anger that the elder Lannister had let her live questioning her preferences until she had grown weary of the constant confusion plaguing her mind and decided with Jaime's help that her desire for other women was utterly normal.

"You have always tended your lusts with discretion..." He waved his hand dismissively "...And you married when I told you to. There was never any need to discuss it"

"Do you accept me as I am then Father?. Or have I brought shame to your Great Legacy this day?" She spat snidely.

Tywin Lannister was consumed with the need to secure his eternal legacy, to him there was nothing more important and if he felt she had endangered the respectability of their House then the shields she had painstakingly placed around her lover would soon be tested. It was the only reason she was still sat in her Lord Hand's chamber, she had to deduce whether or not her SheWolf was at risk from her Father.

"The Stark girl is of noble blood and in the days to come she will continue to be just as useful as she has proved herself to be already, for that reason alone I will let you keep her, but the day she gives me a reason to take notice of her again is the day I will kill her. Do you understand me, daughter?" She understood that he was serious and that he avoided giving her a plain answer for a reason.

"I'm still your 'daughter' then..." Cersei said. She intended to act as the permanent buffer between Tywin Lannister's incisive eyes and her cherished lover, he would never have a justifiable excuse to move against Sansa and the day that he did was the day she went for his throat.

"...Does this mean you finally acknowledge that I am your Legacy, not Jaime, me" She gracefully rose up out of her chair and collected the bundle of letters, not giving him the chance to answer her simply because she knew he wouldn't, she turned on her heel and with her head held high elegantly stalked toward the brassbound door across the marble chamber.

"...Bring me Arya Stark. I know you have her and I want her here as soon as possible"

An hour later, Cersei was sequestered in her immense and luxuriously furnished chambers, sat at her intricately carved oak desk in a majestically carved high-backed chair with a white-feathered quill held loosely in her graceful right hand and several pieces of fine parchment set out in front of her on the polished surface.

She was absentmindedly addressing the numerous letters requesting formal audiences with her. Her addressees had all wrote to her with a certain fawning flair but she saw to it that her regal penmanship etched the same blunt message on each new piece of fine parchment. She invited all the Lords of Westeros, great or minor, to attend her Coronation in one month's time following Joffrey's wedding to Margaery Tyrell and when The War of the Five Kings had ended with one undisputed Queen ruling all Seven of the Kingdoms. She was looking forward to listening to the many different ways in which her nobles could subtly apologise for suspecting her children of being the illegitimate product of incest. It was sure to be an interesting evening.

Biting back a sigh of boredom, Cersei replaced her quill in the ink bottle in the corner of her desk and retrieved the ever shortening squared stick of crimson wax from beside her writing materials before she guided the sealing wax to the subdued flame dancing atop a small candle on her desk. The flame crackled and hissed angrily as a single blood red drop dribbled down onto the candlewick. She guided the partially melted wax stick to hover over her letter and she urged a thick glob of Lannister red wax to pool at the bottom of the page. After replacing the sealing wax on a scrap of dirty cloth on her desk near the candle, she eased her signet ring from her slender middle finger and pressed the squared face of the solid gold ring into the sticky substance, marking the document with the striking face of a gallant lion.

"Mama?" Cersei made a noise in the back of her throat and turned her head to study Myrcella when she felt her daughter cautiously tug on the lace sleeve of her dress. The Queen smiled warmly, jade coloured eyes sparkling with maternal adoration when they landed on her treasured cub. She moved her letter away from prying eyes on account of Myrcella being intuitive enough to detect the harshness in her written word and she wasn't yet ready for her cub to realise the necessity of being cruel especially when her beloved daughter was of a beautifully compassionate nature.

"What is it, my darling?" Myrcella held up a book bound in black leather, one of a series entitled 'The Histories of Westeros'. Cersei pursed her full lips suspiciously and held out her hand for the thick volume. After the news of her cousin's deaths and the resulting flair of painful memories she had decided that her children would take their lessons where she could keep her eyes occasionally fixed upon them. Over on the grand solid oak four poster with a thick crimson velvet canopy, Sansa and Tommen leaned back against the large plush pillows atop the silk bedsheets. She smiled tenderly, her lover had one slender arm draped around her son's shoulders as she read to the young Prince quietly.

"Have you actually read this?" She arched an eyebrow, laying the book on her desk among her paperwork. Myrcella nodded so enthusiastically anyone else might have been fooled by the sincere glint in her daughter's bright eyes. Her smile turned into a playful smirk as she pushed her finely crafted high-backed chair out from under her desk a little and gently gripped her cub's hips, hauling Myrcella onto her lap.

"Then why is it I have trouble believing this?" Cersei wrapped her arms around Myrcella's waist and nuzzled the little blonde's ear. Mirth danced in The Queen's eyes when the Princess sighed in defeat. She linked her fingers together over her daughter's stomach when Myrcella leaned back into her ample chest, her cub tilted her blonde head back up at her with a sombre frown. She knew what her only daughter was going to ask her before Myrcella's lips even parted. Gossip was a rampant disease in the Capital, even children were susceptible to it. She took a deep breath and braced herself.

"Mama, why do people have to die?" Myrcella cocked her head curiously.

Cersei nearly chuckled bitterly. Her daughter always asked her the most difficult questions, questions she could easily answer with a little more openness if her cub was just a little bit older with a little more knowledge of the world and the things inhabiting it. But her child was still young and her first instinct was to protect the Princess's wide-eyed innocence for as long as she could. She was determined that Myrcella would be gentler than she was, no less strong or cunning or wise, but certainly gentler. She would ruthlessly sculpt the Seven Kingdoms into a secure Den for her cub to rule without having to be as pointedly cruel as she was. She nibbled on her lower lip as she gazed back at Myrcella. She could hardly blurt out that the Gods were cruel bastards and they entertained themselves by hurting mankind in the most terrible ways simply because they would never feel as people felt. That death was a natural part of living and it could not be controlled, she could just imagine the fear such a statement would incite in her daughter.

"Perhaps you would know if you tended your studies properly, mm?" She grazed her short fingernails over Myrcella's sensitive abdomen through the expensive material of the Princess's Lannister red dress, she tickled her daughter until her cub was squirming furiously in her lap and giggle delightedly. She laughed lilting and kissed her daughter's pale cheek.

"Mama!, stop!, stop!" Red faced, Myrcella panted desperately as she laughed and fidgeted. She ceased tormenting her daughter and kissed her cub's cheek once again.

"But I shall forgive your lacking attention this once my darling, for I have another task for you to offer assistance. Something I think you'll find far more entrancing..." She whispered conspiratorially. Myrcella stared at her intently with expectant eyes and a bright smile. With her head, she gestured her daughter off her lap. She stood up from her chair and took her Heiress's hand in hers, she guided Myrcella across her chamber toward her huge four poster bed that dominated a huge portion of the expansive chamber. She loomed behind Myrcella, resting her hands on her daughter's shoulders, as she looked over the girl's head at her curious SheWolf and her drowsy-eyed son.

"Sandor!" The Hound burst into her bedchamber before the last syllable of his name had left her mouth.

"Your Grace?" Sandor inclined his head to her, a gesture he mirrored to her children and Sansa.

"Sansa will need your help moving her things into my chamber. You will carry her baggage and Myrcella, you and your brother will help her fold and pack. If you are finished by the time dinner is being served I may consider taking you out into the city in a few days time. Are you up to the task?" She murmured down to her daughter. A cherub's grin spread over Myrcella's beautiful face. Tommen was hopping down from her bed and hurrying over to his older sister with a similar smile.

"Of course Mama. Come, Tommen" Myrcella took Tommen's hand and all but skipped toward the arched doorway. The Hound looked to her for his leave before he diligently hurried after her cubs, his long stride carried him over the distance in a few steps. She cocked her head at the redhead as she gracefully climbed off of her bed, their bed, it was going to require time for her to grow accustomed to thinking of it as such. She smiled dotingly, warmth blossoming in her chest, as she stood watching Sansa fuss with the satin ties her tight corset. She was going to enjoy not having to discreetly sneak Sansa out of her chamber at the first pale signs of dawn each day.

"Though you'll have to unpack without my input I'm afraid. I've a lot of work to get through" Cersei murmured, reaching out to gently push Sansa's hands aside from the criss-crossing ties that held the redhead's corset in place. She smiled roguishly to herself as she deliberately loosened several of the neat bows slightly, her smile grew when she looked up with a smouldering at the younger woman through her thick blonde lashes.

"I-is it about my mother and brother...after..." Sansa nibbled on her full lower lip nervously, staring down at her feet. The Queen cupped her lover's delicate chin between her thumb and forefinger and forced her SheWolf to look up into her jade coloured eyes.

"Nothing has changed. Your brother has addressed the unpleasant event in a manner I find satisfactorily. Their lives are safe..." Cersei assured softly, though she would feel more confidence in her own promise when she had solved her Father's cryptic riddle. She leaned forward and brushed her lips against Sansa's mouth, savouring the intimate sweetness of her lover's full lips beneath hers as they kissed deeply and tenderly.

"...Go now, before I change my mind" Cersei nipped her SheWolf's plump lower lip teasingly, as if she would. Sansa smiled widely, knowingly, pale wolf eyes flashing brightly. She smirked when the younger woman's slender arms snaked around her graceful neck, in return she gripped Sansa's svelte hips in her hands and held her lover's warm body close to hers for an idyllically long dulcet moment. It was only with the greatest reluctance she softly pushed her lover away.

"Your eager little 'servants' await your direction, my SheWolf" She prompted with a playful smirk. If at all possible, Sansa's smile widened further as the younger woman stroked her upper arm lovingly before the redhead gracefully strode for the arched door, drawing the heavy oak closed behind her. Cersei stood still as a perfect statue, gazing down at her shared four poster bed with a wicked gleam in her eye and content sigh on her full red lips where Sansa's intoxicating taste lingered.

Time became a fast flowing river, something she had no real grasp on, as eventide descended and she was forced to light the strategically located candles to maintain some illumination. The Queen sat at her desk buried deep in her thoughts while Sansa, her cubs and The Hound made recurrent appearances in her chambers. She was only vaguely aware of Sansa's belongings becoming intermingled with her own throughout the richly furnished marble room. She made a point to admire the welcomed changes at a later time when her mind was less weighted.

The Imp hadn't been incorrect when he'd suggested that Lannister gold would factor into her Father's planned downfall of the Stark's still hostile to her reign and to her family. However Tyrion's aim fell ridiculously short of the mark, assassins were creatures of subtly and concealment. Her Lord Father would want to make an example of what becomes of those foolish enough to challenge the noble House of Lannister. But neither would her Lord Hand lay a full-scale military assault on the Stark's remaining forces, a battle would hazard Robb Stark dying swiftly at the hands of a single solider and Tywin Lannister would desire something a little more shocking, grotesque, personal. Like a lean needle shoved directly through the pup's heart. Not only that but her Father had already informed her that the huge Lannister and Tyrell armies were being prepared for a decisive attack on Dragon Stone where Stannis Baratheon had cloistered himself after his crushing defeat at the Battle of Blackwater. So what or who was her Father going to buy to end it all?.

Cersei ran her hand through the long glossy strands of her thick blonde hair. Frustration left a bad taste in the back of her mouth and an unsettling sensation in the pit of her stomach. She ran her long slender fingers through her hair again and breathed a sigh through a dark scowl. She made a soft involuntary noise of surprise when she felt something warm and wedge-shaped come to rest heavily on her toned thigh. She glanced downward to find a pair of wide pale blue eyes staring up at her, she arched an eyebrow and smirked at Duchess when the wolf uttered a soft whine. She moved her hand from the top of her desk and buried her fingers in the thick white fur covering the nape of the dire-wolf's neck. Her lover's loyal companion leaned more firmly against her leg with her tail loudly swishing back and forth across the marble floor when The Queen started to scratch the Duchess's warm ears. She smiled fondly at the ever-growing pup, who was now the size of an average adult wolf with a considerable amount of growing still left, whoever would have thought the Lioness of House Lannister would claim the trust of not one but two SheWolves. Cersei cocked her head suddenly; trust. Gold corrupted the morals of everyone it touched, unless they were born to exuberant amounts like herself or they were abnormally honourable. Her Father was going to buy the loyalty of one of Robb Stark's remaining Bannermen and have them deliver the killing blow.

But who would her Father target?. Walder Frey?, the disgusting and disreputable man couldn't keep an Oath if his life depended upon it. Robb Stark had insulted Walder Frey by breaking his own vow to marry one of the daughters of Frey and according to her 'eyes' the pup journeyed to the Twins with a different proposal of marriage. Perhaps, but Walder Frey was also one of the most faineant Lords in the Kingdoms. Tywin Lannister would bribe a second traitor, someone more headlong with a genuine enjoyment for hurting others. And image came to her mind's eye, that of a flayed man, the Sigil of House Bolton. Though torture is outlawed in the North, Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort, and his family were famous for flaying the skin from their enemies as a form of punishment, hence the origin of their unrefined Sigil. Cersei grinned victoriously to herself, that was the answer to the riddle. The Queen used both her hands to scratch Duchess's pointed ears as she smiled to herself, the dire-wolf stared up at her and panted happily at the attention. Abruptly her focus was snagged by the sight of Sandor hefting a wide oak trunk with a collection of leaves carved along the edges with an ease only a man his size could manage.

"Sandor, come here for a moment" She beckoned when Sansa, Myrcella and Tommen trailed back into the chamber wearing wide and bright smiles that warmed her heart. The Hound set the heavy trunk down near her four poster bed and padded toward her. The hulking man crossed his massive arms over his broad chest.

"Your Grace?" Sandor tilted his head. The orange candlelight illuminating the room caught the uneven pink scar covering half his face.

"When you've finished here. I want you to take an expeditionary force, large enough to win a battle with ease should one occur, and leave immediately for the Twins. When you arrive find some of Lord Frey's men, specifically, and inform them that you've arrived to assist with Lord Tywin's plot to murder Robb and Catelyn Stark. Wait for the debacle to begin before you prevent it. I'm giving you the authority to arrest Roose Bolton and Walder Frey for high treason, from there you will escort them and the Stark's back here to King's Landing. Do whatever necessary to make the journey but I want all four of them here, alive, and ready for judgement" Cersei instructed firmly but quietly to avoid the other three in the room from overhearing. Sandor nodded his understanding, before he uncrossed his arms, seeming to foresee a problem.

"A battle is sure to break out, Your Grace. Bolton and Frey won't submit without offering resistance, neither will the Stark's. It may be necessary to route their forces first" Sandor rested his hands on her desk and leaned forward to inform just as quietly. Cersei smiled up at her most loyal liege-subject as she continued to scratch Duchess behind the Wolf's point ears.

"Sandor, you are going to prevent Bolton and Frey from massacring the Stark's and their men, in my name. The honourable wolves are going to owe me their lives and that is not a debt of life they are going to relish owing. Their honour will demand a rapid repayment and that is how I am going to end this pitiful war. So it is imperative that you allow Robb and Catelyn Stark to realise the severity of the dire situation Bolton and Frey have organised before you go to their defence. I will have these treacherous wolves collared."

TBC. . .

AN: I've still got a lot on at work and school so the next chapter could take a while for me to write but when I say 'To Be Continued' I mean it. So I guess I'm asking you all to continue being as amazingly patient as you've been with my erratic updating schedule, I really appreciate it and I will get back to this story as soon as I can.