I always wondered . . .
Here we are again. Better late than never I hope and I owe you all another apology. I just don't have the time to write that I used to have, no matter how guilty I feel or much I want to.
I have to apologise too for not replying to all the reviews and comments. I want to, but have been so wracked with guilt over the delays with the story that I feel I have to write before chatting. I do read and treasure them all though.
Thank you all for still being out there.
King's Landing had never seen a procession like it. The trumpeters who had not so long ago heralded Arya's arrival, now led the Great and the Good of Westeros from the airy heights of the Red Keep to the cess pit of Flea Bottom.
Gendry draped a thick arm around Arya's shoulder and bent to nibble gently on her earlobe. "'Tis our wedding day. Let us leave them all to it. "
Arya neatly sidestepped his attempt to steer her in the opposite direction, ducking under his arm afore appearing, as if by magic, on his other side. She giggled with delight as he made a grab for her and grasped only empty air.
Making sure she stayed just out of his reach, she batted her eyelashes at him in a show of contrition, "Do not worry M' lord. You cannot lose me so easily, after all, we have been joined by the Old Gods and the New."
She toyed with the clip of her Baratheon cloak which both reminded Gendry she was his but also made his fingers twitch with the need to take hold of her. Surely she wasn't about to take this game so far as to drop her cloak and let every other man see what was his?
"Do not dare," he hissed, making a grab for the fur edges of her cloak and yanking them tightly shut.
The feel of the soft pelt over warm, womanly curves had Gendry groaning aloud with need. There was a softness to her now that had never been there afore and he found the combination of her strength and her fertility be a most intoxicating mix.
"I am sure I do not know what you mean M' lord." Clever grey eyes looked up at him with mock innocence.
"You know very well what I mean wife and stop calling me that."
"As you wish," she smiled up at him ". . . M' lord." Her smile widened to a delighted grin.
Burying his fingers deeper in the fur of her cloak, Gendry pulled her towards him until their bodies were pressed together. Flexing his hips just enough to let her feel the evidence of his desire, he bent his head to mutter gruffly against her ear, "You will be the death of me Arya Stark."
Enjoying herself immensely, Arya wiggled against him so as to elicit another, deeper groan of desire.
"Well, wouldn't you rather 'twas me than anyone else?"
Had Brienne not cleared her throat loudly right beside them, Gendry might have been tempted to find a secluded spot in the Godswood and find out if Arya could kill him with pleasure.
"I am going to coin a phrase for you two." Tyrion stared pointedly at the tourney tent which seemed to have erected itself, at his eye level, in Gendry's britches, "Get a room!"
While Tyrion laughed at his own cleverness, Rickon mimicked from behind them, "Arya, you should 'get a room' you two," adding "preferably a long way away from mine!" over his shoulder as he walked off to follow King Aegon.
"That is exactly what I intend to do!" Gendry huffed, pulling his own cloak shut to hide his obvious erection from Tyrion's prying gaze.
"Pah! You cannot miss this!" Brienne scolded, "We need to discover who sired your squire."
Without waiting for Gendry's reply, Brienne turned on her heel and marched off to follow the rest of the crowd. Tyrion had to do a strange waddling skip in order to keep up with her long strides.
"You might feel the need to discover who his damn father is . . . but we do not," Gendry grumbled under his breath, scowling after Brienne's ramrod straight back.
"We do too!" Arya hissed, punching Gendry's bicep in frustration.
His "Oof!" of surprised pain drew concerned glances from Sansa and Willas Tyrell who happened to be passing.
"He likes it when I hit him," Arya smirked, earning herself a disapproving scowl from Sansa and a very surprised look from Willas.
Gendry rolled his eyes skywards, beseeching the Old Gods who were said to reside in the canopy of leaves for the strength and forbearance to deal with his new wife, while simultaneously rubbing his throbbing bicep.
When he looked down, Arya had her hands fisted on her hips and her toe was tapping. 'Twas never a good sign.
"You can leave and get a room if you want, but I am going to see how this story ends."
When Gendry appeared to be seriously considering leaving her, Arya softened her stance. She did not believe Gendry did not care who Ty's father was. Rather, Arya suspected Gendry was hoping he might delay having to pay Tyrion the Gold Dragons he had lost in their wager. She knew Gendry did not have twelve gold dragons and would have to sell something or mayhaps even borrow the gold in order to pay his debt. 'Twas an expensive lesson, but one Gendry needed to learn. 'Twas not just his coin now, 'twas theirs – his, hers and their child's. Thinking upon the babe growing in her belly gave her soft, warm feelings that she was unaccustomed to and she rubbed her rounded belly happily. Nae, Gendry had to come with her, 'twas their wedding day after all.
Looking up at him through fluttering her eyelashes, she reached for his hand. Entwining their fingers, she murmured, "Come to Flea Bottom and I shall make it up to you tonight."
Judging by the way his eyes darted straight to her chest and his tongue moistened his lips, that compromise met with his approval.
"How?" he asked, eyeing her warily, suspecting he was about to fall into one of her traps.
Lifting their entwined hands to her lips, Arya kissed the tips of his fingers. "I got you a wedding present too."
"Hmmm. What is it?" Gendry was naturally suspicious. He had been taken in by her eyelash fluttering routine enough times now to know that all 'twas never as it seemed when she used that mummer's act on him.
Keeping his fingers against her lips, she whispered in her most seductive voice, "You will have to unwrap it to find out."
When he still looked unconvinced, she took his index finger into her mouth and sucked. With his eyes fixed upon her parted lips Gendry made a low, animalistic sound in the back of his throat.
Arya smiled around his thick finger, loving the power she had over this huge warrior. Giving his finger a last sweeping caress with her tongue, she tugged his hand away, noting with satisfaction that his attention remained resolutely fixed on the silky strand of moisture that followed his hand from her lips.
"Come with me and I promise I shall give you the best present you have ever received," she whispered breathlessly, finding herself unexpectedly aroused by this teasing foreplay.
"Fuuuuck me," was all Gendry seemed to be capable of saying.
Arya knew she had won the argument and was grinning with delight and desire when an unpleasantly familiar voice rasped, "No doubt she will, bastard, but you'll have to wait. Right now you're holding up the fucking procession."
Arya's attention snapped from Gendry to the Hound, her grin turning instantly to a scowl. Afore she could hurl a suitably scathing retort at him, Gendry had her by the arm, dragging her away in his haste to avoid another confrontation between Arya and Clegane.
"He is right. We should catch up with Ty. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner I get to unwrap my present."
Arya snarled over her shoulder at the Hound and he answered with hollow laughter.
"So tell me about your mother. . ."
Ty would rather have chewed off his own hand, but he could not avoid answering a direct question from his King.
"She died when I was young." 'Twas the most honest answer Ty could think of that gave nothing of the awfulness of the truth away.
"But you remember her?"
Ty wished he could have answered "Nae," but King Aegon would find out the truth soon enough. The King seemed determined to speak with his Aunt. If the Gods were good, Aunt Tyce would have left Flea Bottom and the King would leave with his prying questions unanswered. But 'twas already clear the Gods were not on Ty's side today. His Aunt would be in the hovel she called home, as she always was. Taking in washing in order to scratch a living meant an endless cycle of boiling and scrubbing, of folding and drying. His Aunt might as well have been chained to her tub, as she only left it to eat and sleep on the other side of the one room Ty had called home.
"There's not much to remember," Ty muttered. 'Twas no lie. Every memory of his mother was the same – of her moaning and rocking endlessly in the one chair in their one room. That memory of his mother was all he had of her and if could have rid himself of it, he would, but it was all he remembered of his early childhood. If he closed his eyes now he could still see her rocking, still hear her incoherent ramblings, still smell her. Ty took a deep breath, afore admitting the shame that had blighted his young life even more than his bastardy, ". . .she was mad."
That certainly caught Aegon's attention as he turned the full intensity of those lilac Targaryen eyes on Ty as if he was trying to see beyond Ty's face and into his very head.
"Then we have one more thing in common. My father was quite mad too you know."
Ty did know. The stories of the previous Targaryen King's madness were the stuff of legend and nightmares. At least Ty's mother hadn't murdered anyone. Or not that Ty knew of, but something had happened to her. Aunt Tyce said she was just like everyone else when they were young. But then Tyce, being the eldest and believing herself in love, had left their father's farm to follow a passing pedlar to King's Landing.
Something had happened to his mother after Tyce left and afore his mother's arrival in King's Landing, something that turned a maid into a mad woman with a bastard babe at her breast. To Ty's mind, there was only one thing – or rather one man - who could have caused such an awful transformation. Ty shuddered with a murderous fury as he always did when he thought about his father; the man who must be responsible for his mother's madness. Ty tried to never think him, as there was no outlet for his rage. Whoever he was, he was long gone, as King Aegon and the rest of the court were about to find out.
It had been winter when Ty had last seen his Aunt's ramshackle home. The long war had taken its toll on Westeros and, as always, the ones at the bottom suffered the most. By the end of that winter, no one had cared how they looked or smelled - surviving was hard enough. As a consequence, his Aunt's laundry had grown quieter and quieter and their food scarcer and scarcer until the two of them were literally starving to death. No longer able to stomach the guilt of watching his Aunt give him the bigger portion of whatever food there was, Ty left. He had slunk away in the night, like a thief, knowing his Aunt would have tried to stop him if she could.
With nowhere else to go, Ty was determined to fulfil his life's ambition to become a Knight, or die trying. So he headed the Red Keep, for the one place in King's Landing where that dream could come true. The Gods had favoured him that day as he had seen the body of a boy thrown from the walls of the Red Keep. Ty had been the only one who cared. He had examined the dead boy and to his keen mind, the smell of horse and the straw in the dead boy's pockets meant the stable master was now one boy short. 'Twas a sign. Where there were horses there were Knights. Where better to start his pursuit of his dream than in the stables?
Believing the Gods to be on his side at last, Ty had fought his way to the front of the crowd who gathered every day at the gates hoping for scraps. Ty had shouted for the stable-master until his throat bled and then he had shouted some more and kept shouting until the darkest part of the night, when everyone else had given up for the day and his incessant demands made it impossible for the guards to sleep. When the Master of Horse had finally been roused from his bed and ordered the gate opened, Ty had thrown himself at the man's feet and sworn on all the Gods he would be the best stable boy the Horse Master had ever seen. Wanting to get back to his bed and needing a new boy anyway, the man had readily agreed.
From then on the Gods had been good; he had met the men of Bad Company, become Gendry's squire, learned Water Dancing from Lady Arya Stark and despite nearly dying in the Stormlands, he had met the light of his life. He had been so close to having it all. If the King had knighted him in the Godswood, Shireen would have been his. Instead he was heading for more humiliation. The Red Keep fed on gossip and no one would forget this day.
"Do you remember the day King Aegon was nearly bested by a squire?" they would say. "Aye," would be the reply, "Didn't he have a mad mother?"
That made Ty more determined than ever. He would make them forget. He would become the best Knight Westeros had ever seen and Shireen would be his. He would show them all. He would succeed, he felt it in his very bones, but this day had to be endured first.
"Do you remember what your mother looked like?"
The King's question interrupted Ty's scheming. What had his mother looked like? He could remember the rocking, the mad ramblings, her sour smell, but when he tried to picture her face there was nothing. Rather than admit that to Aegon, Ty told another non-lie, "She was small, with dark hair and eyes."
He was describing his Aunt, but she had oft times had told him how alike the sisters had looked as girls.
"I have no recollection of my mother," the King said with a heartfelt sigh, "At least you have that."
"Aye," Ty agreed, wishing he could forget every awful memory he had of his mad mother, "At least I have that."
"Tyrion!" The King turned around looking for his Hand. Aegon kept walking, but backwards, with the same effortless grace with which he did everything else.
'Twas Brienne who waved back as Tyrion's small figure was lost in the crowd. Dragging the dwarf with her, Brienne pushed through the procession, apologising profusely to all around as she dragged Tyrion towards the King.
Panting from the exertion of keeping up the big folk and near dangling from Brienne's hand, Tyrion bowed his head.
"I have some news for you," Ageon grinned. His enthusiasm for solving the puzzle of Ty's paternity was obvious. "The boy takes his looks from his father's side."
"And he looks like a Lannister," Brienne said triumphantly.
"Lots of youths have gold hair and green eyes," Tyrion pointed out rather breathlessly.
"Lots?" Brienne repeated sarcastically. "I think not."
She did not look pleased that Tyrion was questioning what she obviously regarded as fact - Ty was a Lannister. She had a nose for these things. She suspected he was Jaime's as they shared an undeniable similarity in looks, skills and even had the same arrogance of attitude, something which no bastard squire should have. Mayhaps he was not Jaime's, but she was certain the squire was a bastard son of that great House.
"That combination of hair and eye colour is rare as you well know and I'll wager there are no other boys in the whole of Westeros with that height, those fine features, bearing and talent who are not Lannisters."
Tyrion did not know Brienne of Tarth very well, but he knew that stubborn look well enough. 'Twas no point in arguing with the Maid. The truth would out soon enough, so he merely shrugged which neither confirmed or denied her proclamation.
The King pursued a different line of enquiry, "You must have quite a few bastards Tyrion. What do yours look like?"
Three sets of enquiring eyes focused upon Tyrion; lilac, green and blue, all waiting impatiently for an answer.
Tyrion had carefully crafted a public image over many long years; he was the drunk, the whoremaster, the half man who cared for no one and nothing except power. That facade protected him from the jokes made at his expense, from the scorn heaped upon the deformed freak and from the worst of all . . . pity. He hated being forced to lift that mask and reveal something of his true self. But he could not, would not, lie to his friend Aegon.
Gritting his teeth, Tyrion forced the truth out, "I have none."
The King snorted, "Come on Tyrion, your love of whores is legendary. You must have bastards all over Westeros and beyond."
When Tyrion scowled and shook his head, Aegon looked at first taken aback and then contrite. "My apologies Tyrion. I did not know you were unable to . . ." The King shrugged helplessly, not wanting to embarrass Tyrion further by speaking of his inability to sire children or mayhaps even get his cock up.
'Twas not often Tyrion was lost for words, but the King's inference rendered him momentarily speechless. When he did speak he fixed Aegon with those mismatched eyes and hissed, "'Tis not what you are thinking."
Brienne looked from one to the other in disbelief. Why would they not talk plainly? Men were such fools when it came to their cocks.
"We have a mystery to solve here and Tyrion's impotence has ruled him out as the father. Nothing more, nothing less. Now let us focus on the other possible candidates."
Tyrion gaped at her tactlessness while the King and Ty averted their eyes in embarrassment.
When he recovered sufficiently, Tyrion said quietly, "Believe what you like Maid, but I know I have no bastards."
Brienne did not understand what the three men were so bothered about, but then she didn't have a cock. Ignoring their awkwardness, she continued on her quest to answer the question of Ty's parentage.
"So, we have ruled out Tyrion. What about Jaime? We all agree the resemblance to a young Jamie is uncanny, do we not?"
Aegon shrugged. If he had ever imagined Jaime Lannister as a boy, the picture in his head would have resembled Gendry's squire, but Brienne and Tyrion know the Kingslayer far better than he did.
"I told you. Jaime was always faithful to my bitch of a sister," Tyrion huffed, growing impatient with the Maid of Tarth's insistence that Jaime was Ty's father.
"What about Tywin then or Kevan?" Aegon asked quickly, trying to avoid another confrontation between Brienne and Tyrion.
Tyrion snorted, "My father had a few high born mistresses, but he was too much of a snob to dally with the lower classes." Until he fucked Tysha to humiliate me.
"It would not have occurred to him to cheat on his wife."
When Aegon looked incredulous, Ty scowled at the King. King or no, here was yet another man who thought it acceptable to break the sanctity of marriage vows. Ty would never cheat on Shireen. Never. She was all the woman he would ever want or need. Why would a man wed a woman he was not prepared to honour in every way?
"Lancel then. What about him?"
"Too young," Tyrion sighed. The truth of it was that none of the other branches of House Lannister were as renowned for their martial skills as Jaime and as Tywin was in his youth. If the squire truly got his talent from his father as Arya and everyone else seemed to believe, then the Lannisters of Casterly Rock were the most likely candidates. Tyrion could not see how 'twas possible though.
"There is no point in us guessing or offering up the names of every male Lannister between thirty and sixty. Let us speak to Ty's aunt and mayhaps we will solve the mystery that way."
"Agreed." King Aegon's pronouncement ended the discussion for the moment, but as the procession was now out with the walls of the Red Keep and as the stink of Flea Bottom drifted into their nostrils, Ty knew 'twould not be long afore his humiliation would be complete.
Since leaving Flea Bottom Ty had lived in one castle after another. It had not occurred to him that such luxury would have changed him, but upon entering Flea Bottom again, 'twas as if he was seeing it with new eyes. Afore he had known nothing but filth and squalor but now he knew how others lived and 'twas not like this. 'Twas nothing like this. Now he dreaded the King and his Court seeing where he had been raised, would have done anything to avoid it.
He dragged his feet and shot nervous glances over his shoulder to Shireen. Would she think less of him when she saw how lowly his beginnings had been? He hoped not. He hoped Shireen was better than that, but she was a Highborn Lady, born into a life of privilege and he was the product of this. His love smiled reassuringly back at him. Normally one smile from her would have been enough to have him walking on air, but instead his apprehension grew with every step.
Only Gendry seemed to understand how he was feeling. No words were said, but once they had crossed the Street of Flour, Lord Baratheon had left Arya with Sansa in order to walk with his squire. Knowing Gendry had grown up on these same stinking streets and become a great Lord gave Ty hope.
The trumpeters had long ceased playing and now their procession was led by Ty and Gendry, with armed Northmen on both sides who snarled and rattled their swords if the filthy, curious crowd pressed too close to the Royal party. In some places the alleys were so narrow their procession was reduced to single file. Ty wondered how he could not have noticed the suffocating lack of space, of fresh air and of sky afore.
As if reading his mind, Gendry said gruffly, "Flea Bottom has not changed . . . but we have."
Ty nodded, feeling sick. He had to succeed as a Knight, for he could never come back here again.
A few more turns and they were there. The ramshackle building where Ty had grown up was little more than a shed. He had never noticed the gaps stuffed with mud around the window afore or the bowed roof.
When Ty stopped in front of the open door, he could hear the water slopping noisily back and forth and his Aunt Tyce singing as she always did when she worked. She must be scrubbing as she was singing "Six maids in a pool." His Aunt had a different song for each laundry task. Suddenly his heart ached with a longing to be home. He desperately wanted to see his Aunt. He just did not want to see her here.
Ty's voice cracked as he turned to Gendry. "Can she come to Storm's End?"
Lord Baratheon nodded grimly, understanding Ty's feelings as no one else could. "Of course."
"Shall we proceed?" King Aegon stepped forwards, inviting Ty to walk through the open door of the hovel first. Damn him. The man looked equally at ease in Flea Bottom as he did upon the Iron Throne.
"Shireen?!" Ty called for her with a desperation he so wished he could hide. He wanted his love to be by his side when he met the woman who had raised him.
Arya elbowed her way through the crush, clearing a path for Shireen. Gendry was certainly not happy about that, judging by the way he cursed the Northmen and everyone else for failing to get out of his pregnant wife's way quickly enough.
As soon as they were through the crowd Gendry wrapped his arms protectively around Arya, as if she needed protecting from anything, while Shireen flew into Ty's embrace and held him so tightly 'twas as if she feared he might disappear.
Aegon watched them with a quizzically expression. He had never felt the need to hold onto another so tightly. Or had he? His eyes flicked to Sansa Stark as he remembered that day in the Sept, the day he had bared his soul to her. He had been so sure she was the one.
As if hearing his thoughts, Sansa's downcast eyes lifted to meet his and, for one unforgettable moment there was no one else, only her, only them and the promise of more. As Aegon opened his mouth to speak the spell was broken, her face turned away by Willas' hand on her chin. With Sansa's eyes downcast once more, the Tyrell's hard, accusatory glare replaced Sansa's sweet face in Aegon's line of sight and he too looked away.
Was she the one to make him feel the way Gendry and Ty felt? He had to know. His plans were coming together, their wheels in motion. He had to be patient and give no one cause to suspect a thing. As if he had not a care in the world, Aegon repeated his invitation to Ty.
With Shireen's hand in his, Ty felt ready to face anything. Taking a deep breath, he led her through the door. His Aunt was bent over her washing tub, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, singing at the top of her voice, just as he remembered.
Judging by the amount of wet washing hanging over their heads and his Aunt's fuller figure, business was good. Ty sagged with relief. He had not been sure what he would find and this was better than almost everything else he had imagined.
Sensing his presence, Aunt Tyce looked up and smiled. 'Twas so familiar, 'twas as if he had only stepped out for a moment and then she shrieked, "Ty! Where 've you been?!"
It would take him days to tell her of his adventures, so instead of explaining, he dragged Shireen out from behind him. "Aunt, I want you to meet Lady Shireen Baratheon."
As Aunt Tyce's soapy hands flew to her face, Shireen shot Ty an angry look afore smiling at his awestruck Aunt.
"Please call me Shireen."
Aunt Tyce looked Ty's companion up and down, taking in her fine clothing, elaborate hairstyle, her poise. The older woman's gaze finally settling on the patch of grayscale on Shireen's cheek still visible under her carefully arranged hair. Only the greatest Ladies could be cursed by greyscale and not be cast out by their families. That meant Ty's woman had access to a Maester and enough gold not to have to care what anyone else thought. A Lady. Ty had brought a real Lady home.
"Did . . .did you say . . . Baratheon?" Aunt Tyce gasped, falling into a wobbly, clumsy curtsey, much to Shireen's embarrassment.
"Aye he did," a deep voice said and a huge black haired man squeezed through her doorway, batting away the wet washing hanging from the ceiling. "I am Lord Baratheon."
Gendry held out his hand, being careful not to bump anything in the tiny room. "Shireen is my niece and Ty is my squire."
Instead of taking Gendry's proffered hand, Aunt Tyce stumbled backwards and slumped into the one chair.
"Oh Ty," she wailed, her soapy hands clutching either side of her head, "What 'ave you gone and done now?"
"He challenged me to a duel, one thing led to another and here we all are," said another man as he squeezed himself through the narrow doorway and into her home. This one had silver hair and striking eyes but his rough brown robe set him apart from the others who already stood afore her. Their fine clothes confirmed their highborn status, but this newcomer looked like a lowly pauper.
"And who are you to invite yourself into my home without being asked?" Aunt Tyce demanded sharply. She needed to speak to Ty, to the Lord and the Lady but this beggar was in the way. "Can't you see we're busy 'ere?"
With a smile tugging at his lips and a twinkle in his eye, Aegon bowed as low and with as much of a flourish as the cramped room would allow.
"King Aegon Targaryen, the First of my Name. I am at your service Madam."
The look of horror and then absolute embarrassment that settled on Aunt Tyce's soapy face had Aegon chuckling.
"Ty! How could you?!" Aunt Tyce wailed. Quick as a flash she grabbed a wooden spoon from the tiny table and whacked him with it.
"Ow! What was that for?" Ty demanded, rubbing his thigh.
"Bringing these fancy folk 'ere without telling me. Look at me!" She patted her greying hair, trying to smooth down the wispy bits that had escaped her tight bun. "I ain't ready for visitors."
Aunt Tyce had a kindly face and lively eyes, but her hard life had left its mark. Vertical worry lines had etched themselves between her eyebrows and they ran across her forehead too, however the lines around her eyes and mouth suggested she also liked to laugh a lot.
"Mother, Father, Stranger preserve me," she wailed, fanning herself with the wooden spoon. "I think I'm having a funny turn."
Ty struggled around the tub and dropped to his knees afore his Aunt, murmuring soothing words while his heart pounded under the strain of long suppressed memories. How many times had he knelt in front of this very chair while his mother wailed? He reminded himself he was a man now and this was not his mother.
"Is that really you Ty? 'Av you really brought the King for tea?"
While Ty tried to reassure his bewildered Aunt that no one had slipped Milk of the Poppy into her tea, Shireen, Gendry and Aegon stood uncomfortably by, squashed together and surrounded by dripping washing.
"Room for one more small one?"
They all looked towards the door – grateful for the distraction, no matter how small. Tyrion waddled in and his eyes immediately fixed on Ty's Aunt. Grabbing Gendry's fur cloak to steady himself, he too bowed, albeit with rather less grace than Aegon.
"Tyrion Lannister at your service."
Until then, Aunt Tyce seemed to have calmed down somewhat, patting Ty's head as if she could still not believe he was real, but as soon as she saw Tyrion, she wailed anew. "A half-man! 'Tis a nightmare after all."
Gendry growled, Aegon frowned and Ty started spluttering an apology, but Tyrion waived their concerns away, "Do not worry. I had provoked that reaction my whole life. I am used to it by now."
Aunt Tyce could not seem to tear her eyes away from Tyrion, staring at him with something between horror and fascination.
"Anyone would think she had not seen a dwarf afore," Gendry muttered.
"She probably hasn't," Tyrion said with a sigh. "How many do you know Lord Baratheon?"
"Let me ask the question another way. How many do you know who are not fools, whores, mummers or me?"
Gendry frowned and then admitted, "None."
"Exactly," Tyrion said with weary resignation. "We are regarded as freaks. If we are not drowned at birth 'tis because we are useful to entertain the rest of you or because our fathers have more gold than sense."
When Shireen looked horrified by Tyrion's blunt explanation, he explained gently, "You and I must not fool ourselves Shireen. Had our fathers not had money and influence, neither of us would be here today."
"I think I need some air," Shireen whispered, pushing past Gendry, Aegon and Tyrion to get out of the tiny hovel. Ty was so engrossed in trying to sooth his Aunt he never noticed her go.
Tyrion cleared his throat in order to catch Ty's attention. "Should we leave your Aunt to recover and return another day?"
"Nae," Ty and Aegon said together.
Stroking his Aunt's arms, Ty said softly, "Can the King ask you some questions?"
"Me?" Aunt Tyce gasped. "What could the King possibly want with me?"
"Just a few questions about Ty's father," Aegon replied, adopting the same soothing tone Ty was using.
"Oh, if that's all then I can't 'elp you. I never met him see."
"But surely your sister must have said something about him?" Tyrion pressed.
When Aunt Tyce shook her head and looked at them all blankly, Ty took her hand in his and squeezed it gently.
"'Tis important to them. The King wants to Knight me you see." Ty screwed his eyes shut as he explained his current situation to his Aunt, hoping and praying that was still the Dragon King's intention.
"Really? Oh Ty, you always wanted to be a Knight. I am so proud." Aunt Tyce grabbed her nephew around the neck and hugged him so fiercely Gendry thought he might have to pry the washer woman's hands off Ty afore he was squeezed to death.
"But we need a name Madam. We need a House."
Tyce looked from Ty's hopeful face to the others who she found stern and intimidating.
"My sister was just a simple farm girl. She didn't know no high born folk. She was a good girl my sister was my Lords, I mean my King . . . I mean . . . oh dear."
"She must have said something about the boy's father?" Tyrion pressed gently.
Ty took a deep breath. There was no hiding from the truth after this.
"She couldn't say anything, nothing that made sense anyway," Aunt Tyce explained wringing her hands, "She was mad by the time she arrived 'ere. No one could get any sense from 'er. Not even me. My husband got sick of it, 'e did. Left me 'cos of it 'e did, but I couldn't leave my own sister could I? Not like that. Not with a babe."
Ty hung his head in shame, but had he looked up he would have seen only sympathy written on the other men's faces.
"Mayhaps you should start at the beginning," Aegon said softly.
Aunt Tyce took a deep, steadying breath. "All right then. I was born near Lannisport, but not near the sea. My father 'ad a croft you see."
Tyrion's eyebrows shot skywards at the mention of Lannisport, but Aegon cleared his throat and silenced the woman. If they had to listen to her life story they would be there all day and all night.
"Mayhaps you should start from the time you found out your sister was with child."
"All right then. But I didn't know. I 'ad left the Westerlands by then to come 'ere with my man. My sister, Ty's mother, stayed behind on the croft with my father. Next thing I know she turns up 'ere. On the back of a cart. Raving mad she was, with a gold dragon clutched in her hand and a bastard babe at her breast."
The awful memory was obviously too much for Tyce and she began to cry. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks and her chest heaved with the effort of holding in her sobs.
Tyrion sat on the dirt floor with a sudden thump. Gendry looked down at him. The Hand did not look well. "Is it too humid in here? Do you need some air?"
Tyrion waived away Lord Baratheon's concerns, his attention fixed on the sobbing woman.
'Twas left to Aegon to coax Aunt Tyce on with her tale. "What did the driver of the cart say? Surely he knew something?"
Through her tears, Tyce managed to tell them that an order of Septas had asked the driver to take her sister and her babe all the way to Kings Landing. He was a pious man and had done as they asked.
"But how did your sister come to be with the Septas in the first place? And how did they know you were here?" Aegon asked, putting voice to the questions there were all thinking.
"They were a local order. No doubt they asked around. Everyone knew I had followed my man to King's Landing. Wasn't no secret."
King Aegon motioned for her to continue.
"You want to know why she was with the Septas?" Tyce looked at Ty with her eyes brim full of tears. "I ain't never told Ty this. I ain't never told anyone."
"'Tis important to Ty," Aegon explained gently. "He needs to know of his father, be it good or bad."
"'Tis bad Ser. 'Tis very, very bad," Aunt Tyce gasped through heaving sobs. She clutched both of Ty's hands to her chest and murmured to him, "I never wanted you to 'ere this Ty. I never wanted to hurt you. My sister loved you so, so much despite everything and I love you too."
Aegon let her hold Ty and cry for a little while longer afore he pressed, "Can you tell us what happened?"
Tyce's gaze never wavered from her nephew's face as she began to hesitantly tell him the secret she had held for so long.
"The driver, 'e didn't know much, but 'e said those Septas helped fallen women . . . and 'e said your mother was one of those Ty . . . Do you know what I mean?"
Ty nodded. A whore. His mother was a whore.
A heavy hand gripped his shoulder. Ty looked up to see Gendry behind him. Offering his silent support. Gendry knew what it was to have such a mother.
"My own sister. I still cannot believe it. She was such a sweet girl. Something must 'av 'appened to 'er after our father died. Something terrible, for she was a mess . . . inside. You know what I mean Ty? Oh, don't make me explain. The Gods only know how she managed to birth you. I often wondered if the pain of that was what drove her mad, but she loved you Ty, never doubt that. She loved you as much as anyone could."
"I always wondered where whores go."
"What did you say?" Aegon hissed. Tyrion had spoken so softly the King was not sure if he had heard what his Hand had said.
Ignoring Aegon, Tyrion staggered to his feet. "Your sister's name. You have not told us your sister's name."
"Tysha my Lord. Her name was Tysha."
Tysha's fate was something that bothered me since I first read the books and I knew that, someday, I wanted to give her, Tyrion and the child I imagined the happiest ending I could while still keeping it GRRM real (and you know that means it couldn't be too fluffy).
Kudos to all of you who guessed.
Hope you liked my take on it. It has been a long time coming.
We're not quite there yet. But almost . . .
Thank you for reading. Thank you even more if you care enough to comment or review and I will see you again as soon as I can.