"Set up camp here, Kevan. I want to be sure of Lord Silvyn's allegiances before we cross his land," said Lord Tywin, surveying the area.
"At once, my lord," Ser Kevan replied, spurring his horse.
Lord Tywin remained in the saddle, gazing at the city of Willow Glen. Its walls were strong and the castle looked impregnable even from this distance. Casterly Rock was several times its size but for all its insignificance, the city of Willow Glen had not been breached for several hundred years. He could hardly march up to its gates and demand that Lord Silvyn surrender all his men to the Lannister cause. At the same time, a needless battle with thousands of fresh soldiers was not something he or his men could endure. He would need to write a carefully worded letter requesting an assurance of some kind that his men would be allowed to pass. He pulled his own white stallion around and headed down through the growing forest of red Lannister tents.
At first light the next morning, with his brother by his side, Lord Tywin sat down to write to Lord Silvyn.
"House Greystone has been historically neutral in past skirmishes. If he won't join us, he may at least be persuaded not to send word to the Starks of our movements. We're having enough trouble keeping the scouts quiet as it is," said Ser Kevan, talking aloud to himself rather than inciting conversation.
"The man has made decent decisions in the past. It is now in his best interest to make another," said Lord Tywin quietly, sealing the letter with crimson wax and stamping it with his roaring lion sigil. He stood and was about to shout for a messenger when one of his men came running into the tent.
"If it pleases my lord, there are two riders approaching the camp. And …er…." The man stumbled about for the proper words.
Lord Tywin's eyes narrowed.
"Out with it," he commanded, glaring.
"Forgive me my lord. One of the riders is a woman," the man finished.
"What?" Ser Kevan looked to his brother.
Lord Tywin's frown deepened.
"We have been anticipated," he growled as he strode past the messenger, Kevan close on his heels. He thrust the tent flap aside and blinked in the early morning light.
The newborn sun was tearing red streaks across the delicate blue sky as Lord Tywin's sharp gaze focused on the two riders approaching his camp. One was indeed a woman; a long blue cloak edged with silver fox fur hung about her shoulders, her brown hair, streaked with gold, was pulled up and tucked back behind her head. She dismounted gracefully and handed the reins of her horse over to the knight who was riding with her. From Lord Tywin's viewpoint, they had a silent conversation and then she turned to face the camp, clasping a square of parchment in her gloved hand. She advanced into the camp, her head held high. Her deep blue dress was plain but she wore it as though it was an elegant gown. Many Lannister soldiers were standing outside their tents to watch her entrance. She walked past them all as if she were walking down the aisle at court in King's Landing. Her gaze remained fixed on Lord Tywin.
Finally, the lady reached Tywin's tent and she dropped a deep, elegant curtsey to its lord.
"My Lord Tywin, I bring greetings and a message from my father, Lord Silvyn. I am Lady Ailyn, his eldest," she said, her voice soft yet clear.
Tywin merely frowned.
"Surely a raven would have sufficed?" he questioned, searching her face.
"My father felt the message rather too heavy for a bird," she replied with a small smile.
"So he sends a woman into my camp in his stead?" queried Tywin, derisively.
"I am here willingly my lord."
She held out the small, folded sheet of parchment to him. There was a slight hesitation on Lord Tywin's side but he reached out and plucked the note from her hands, still searching her grey eyes. He took a step back and drew up the tent flap, holding it aloft for her to pass through. She bowed her head to him and stepped inside. Lord Tywin's head remained stationary but his eyes followed her every step. Ser Kevan recognized the predatory, calculating glint in his sibling's eye as he followed him into the tent. Lord Tywin sat down at his desk, setting aside his own letter and broke the blue seal of a diving hawk on the parchment. Lady Ailyn stood in front of him, her hands clasped patiently before her, watching all of Lord Tywin's movements. Ser Kevan stood off to Tywin's left and several other lords had crept quietly in to hear the new developments.
The lion's eyes flicked quickly over the contents of her father's letter, paused, glanced up at her to gauge her reaction and then read the letter again. Finally, he sat back and regarded her thoughtfully for a moment.
"You know what this letter says?" asked Lord Tywin curiously.
"I helped him write it my lord," Lady Ailyn replied.
A golden eyebrow arched upwards in surprise.
"You wished for assurances my lord, that you will not be attacked or informed upon while you make camp in front of my father's city. I am here to honor my father's words. He will not move against you while I am in the middle of your camp," informed Lady Ailyn, her gaze moving from Lord Tywin to Ser Kevan.
"So long as I am your…guest, you are free to do as you wish on his lands," confirmed Lady Ailyn trying to read Lord Tywin's face.
"Did not Lord Silvyn have a son?" hazarded Ser Kevan quietly.
"Yes, I have a brother but Mardyn is only nine. I have a little more experience negotiating," she replied.
"You are more expendable than he is you mean," said Lord Tywin harshly.
She did not flinch at his words but nodded her assent, her face betraying nothing.
"You have my father's oath of honor that he will not attack you whilst you remained encamped on his lands. If you, in turn, agree to allow me to send one raven to him daily and promise to return me to him unharmed when the fighting is done then we have an agreement," she summarized for the benefit of the other men who had not read her father's requests.
There was a long silence. Lord Tywin and Lady Ailyn locked gazes, each searching, judging, trying to read the other's thoughts. Lady Ailyn proved the more successful.
"And if you try to use me to levy men from Willow Glen" she began, but Tywin overrode her.
"I assume Lord Silvyn will consider the truce broken and march on me without delay," he finished. She nodded once in confirmation.
"If he dares march against me, he must know he will never see you alive again," threatened the Lord of Casterly Rock in a low tone.
"That is a risk we are both willing to take," she said firmly, her thin shoulders straightening slightly.
Lord Tywin regarded her critically for a moment then glanced at his brother.
Lady Ailyn noticed and offered to step outside so that they could confer in private but Tywin waved away her suggestion impatiently.
"My knight is willing to take your reply back to my father when you are ready my lord," she prompted as his silence continued.
Lord Tywin quickly wrote a few lines and sealed it, shouting for his own messenger when he had finished.
"If it's not too much trouble my lord, I would like to keep my horse and the leather satchel strapped to its back if I am to stay here," she said respectfully.
The guard came running in and knelt beside Lady Ailyn facing his lord. Tywin held out the letter and sent the man off to deliver it.
"Stable her horse with mine and bring her things here when you are done," he added, rising.
His squire moved at once to do his lord's bidding.
Tywin glanced at her, stood up and strode over to his Lannister bannermen.
"I want it known that Lady Ailyn is under my protection. If any man touches her, I will personally remove his hands and send him to beg for mercy at Willow Glen's city gates. Is that understood?" demanded Lord Tywin, looking down on his bannermen.
"Yes my lord," came the swift, unanimous reply.
"Good. Go spread the word around the camp," ordered their lord, dismissing them with a wave of his hand.
"Where will my tent be?" asked Lady Ailyn after they had gone.
Tywin turned and gave her another appraising look.
"You will not have a tent."
Lady Ailyn frowned and opened her mouth to protest but Lord Tywin held up a hand.
"You will share my tent. I will have it altered so you have a private chamber. You are not to leave it unless you are accompanying me. Since your safety is paramount, I do not want you far from my sight," said Lord Tywin, with an air of finality.
Ailyn closed her mouth but pursed her lips in displeasure.
"You will not speak unless spoken to. If I order you to do something, you will obey quickly and respectfully," continued Lord Tywin.
"Yes my lord I am aware of how to be a woman," snapped Lady Ailyn disdainfully, cutting him off.
The Lord of Lannister's green eyes darkened, his countenance turned thunderous. He advanced on her slowly, deliberately. Ser Kevan moved to stand near Lady Ailyn, his own face apprehensive.
To her credit, the lady did not step back but raised her chin and met his gaze. He drew up uncomfortably close to her and spoke softly:
"And if you try my patience, you will regret it."
She controlled a shiver that threatened to crawl up her spine and nodded, dropping her eyes to the ground. Her father had raised her on stories of the man towering over her. She knew the ruthlessness he was capable of, hidden under the guise of honor and family. Lord Tywin remained standing before her, his glare piercing her.
Finally, Lord Tywin's messenger broke the silence as he arrived with her satchel. He turned away from her and she slowly let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding.
"Search it for weapons," commanded Lord Tywin and his man obediently put the bag on the ground, and with an apologetic glance at Lady Ailyn, opened it.
Lady Ailyn clenched her jaw and bit back her protests.
He rummaged around amongst her clothing and possessions and eventually pulled out a bow case. Lord Tywin frowned and held out his hand. His squire placed it carefully in his lord's hands and bent to his task again. Lord Tywin pulled open the leather clasp on the end and slid her bow out several inches. His face gave nothing away but it was one of the finer bows he had seen in a long time. The arrows were trimmed with perfectly symmetrical dark blue feathers.
"You are proficient with this?" asked Lord Tywin, turning to her.
"Better than most of your men," she replied without hesitation.
He gave her a skeptical look and said: "I will retain this while you are here."
It was not a suggestion.
After several more minutes, she was relieved of the pair of daggers her father had given her on her eighteenth nameday. Finally, the messenger stood up and informed his lord that there was nothing else of interest in her belongings.
"See to her horse and gather some men. I want my private chamber halved with one side for Lady Ailyn. Furnish it and put her belongings in, it save for the weapons," said Tywin waving him off. The squire bowed and left, hefting her bag onto his shoulder and carrying her bow and daggers in his hands.
"Kevan, find Ser Adam. I want to know the current position of the Northmen," ordered Tywin, turning to face his brother.
"At once, my lord," said Ser Kevan nodding.
When he had gone, Lady Ailyn met Lord Tywin's glare again.
"I am not sure I'm comfortable with these arrangements my lord," she said, trying to keep the edge out of her voice.
"I promised your lord father I would keep you safe, not comfortable my lady," was his reply as he sat back down.
"Why did you take my weapons?" she persisted coming to stand before him again.
"A lady should not have such things. Weapons belong in the hands of men."
She didn't like the paternal scolding in his tone.
"My hands are just as capable. Do you think I would try to use them against you? I may be a woman but I am far from stupid Lord Tywin," she countered, her temper beginning to flare.
"That remains to be seen. Until I decide otherwise, you will retain only what I allow you to have," said the Lord of Casterly Rock.
"Then I am entirely reliant on your mercy my lord."
"See that you don't exhaust what little I possess, my lady. Kevan! What news?" barked Tywin, as his brother strode back into the tent.
"They've made camp on the far side of The Neck my lord. No movement," informed Ser Kevan with a respectful nod to Lord Tywin and Lady Ailyn.
"Good. Then we have time to plan. I want several scouts sent out to the north and west to confirm the terrain. There will be a council meeting this evening after dinner," instructed Tywin rising.
"My lord," said Ser Kevan, bowing in acknowledgement. He set off to find the other captains.
"Come," Lord Tywin beckoned her as he moved to leave.
For a moment, she thought he was going to offer her his arm in some absurd display of chivalry but he merely moved past her, assuming she would follow. Reluctantly, she went out after him and fell into step with him as he walked down an avenue between rows of tents.
"Do you intend to be here long my lord?" she asked after they had walked in silence for a time.
"I do not discuss battle plans with women as a rule," he replied curtly, glancing at her as she hurried to keep up with him.
She met his glance and decided against any further attempts at conversation. The fact that she breathed seemed to bother him.
They turned a corner and came into a sort of clearing. There was a good ten yard gap in the row of tents around a large central tent. Wealth and power apparently bought what passed for privacy in this sea of shared living space.
Two guards held a tent flap open for their lord to enter.
Lord Tywin went inside and with one last glance around, Lady Ailyn followed him in. The tent was spacious and well furnished though they were in the middle of a war. There was another desk and chair off to one side and a large table with several more chairs for dining. Golden candlesticks and cups were in abundance. There were maps and papers on all available surfaces. Straight in front of her were two more openings which she assumed were their rooms. The fabric covering the 'doorway' to both rooms was down, the interiors hidden from view. Lady Ailyn and Lord Tywin stepped to the side as some more items were brought in. She watched a large candelabra and a box of candles moved into what she assumed would be her room. A small black grate for heat in the evening and a plain screen so that she might have a little privacy while changing. Once all the men had left, she was ushered inside her new chamber.
"Apologies my lady but we do not have a bed to spare at present," said the man, holding the fabric back for her to enter.
"That's quite alright," she said graciously and stepped inside.
Were it not for the tent fabric instead of walls and the rush mats on the ground instead of a stone floor, she could have been in one of the lesser guest rooms at Willow Glen. There was a straw mattress with several blankets and a large fur placed atop two large crates to keep it off the ground. A small dresser and table with a pitcher for water were off to one side as well as a small set of shelves. On the 'wall' she shared with Lord Tywin, she could make out some large piece of furniture (a wardrobe?) taking up nearly half his side of the tent. She didn't like the idea of only being separated from him by several flimsy pieces of tent fabric but she could ask for no more.
She could feel Lord Tywin's eyes boring into the back of her skull so she turned to face him.
"Thank you my lord. This is much better than I had imagined," she said with a small smile.
"Good. You will remain here until dinner. I have matters to attend to," said Lord Tywin, dismissing the guard who had come into her chamber with them.
She bowed her head slightly in acquiescence.
He stepped closer to her and lowered his voice.
"You are a guest under my care and I have sworn to look to your safety while you are here, however; should you give me any reason to question your true motives, you will suffer the consequences. There are many things worse than pain my lady."
Her cool grey eyes met his sharp green ones, unflinchingly.
"You do not need to remind me of the precariousness of my position here my lord; I am very aware of it. I chose to be here in the hopes that it may save lives and I will do nothing to threaten your belief in my aim. I do not trust you either, my lord, but I am here now and so for all our sakes, I suggest that we get on with it."
She waited for a reaction of any kind to her words but he remained as still as stone. Finally, as her nerves were starting to fray at the edges, he made a noncommittal noise in his throat and swept out without another word.
She took a breath to steady herself and then went to her satchel to unpack her things. In the main room of their tent, Lord Tywin started up a muffled conversation with several other men. She was still annoyed about her weapons being confiscated but Lord Tywin did not become the man he was by being trusting. Ailyn decided to let him think he had the upper hand. Lady Ailyn smiled to herself as the daggers in her boots nudged against her calves. She was no lion but hawks still have claws.