Title: Changing the Game
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-level Violence, Dark Themes, Discussion—Murder, Off-screen Canon Incest (Jaime Lannister/Cersei Lannister) Major Character Death (King Robert’s Court, all of it)
Author’s Notes: I am irritated with my current long WIPs so I’m taking some time to write short things to hopefully burn off the dross. Three or four days, depending on my schedule. No plotting, just writing. I’m pretty pleased with this first one. Not sure how many of these there will be—how many of these it will take to get me back on track—but we will see!
Beta: PN Ztivokreb
Word Count: 10,249
Summary: When he can’t win, Tywin Lannister changes the Game (of Thrones).
“What is this?” Tywin glared down at the bundle his Bane had set on his desk.
“It is a message scroll, commonly used for longer messages than a raven can carry. Sealed for privacy due to the package’s sensitivity. A lion is pressed in the wax because my brother Jaime sealed it with his own hand. White wax, as he is a member of the Kingsguard.”
Tywin shifted his glare to the demon monkey that bore his name.
Tyrion sighed. “Jaime became aware of a Debt that could end our House. Rather than allow him to march before the king and guarantee our ruination, I convinced him to write down his concerns. At my urging, he slept on it for a week—kept the secret under his vambrace the entire time.
“At the end of the week, he was still furious but I convinced him to pass the matter to you. You are rather famous for settling debts owed to House Lannister. And, in this case, it is certainly your duty.”
Tywin nodded to his Bane. His reputation was well earned as the Reynes and the Tarbecks could witness.
Or they would witness, if any of them were alive.
He popped the seal on the ribbon holding the hardened red leather in a circle and was surprised by the number of pages. They were dated. Jaime had written every day of the week Tyrion had mentioned.
Every. Single. Day.
His son knew discipline, but he was no scholar.
Whatever the problem was, Tywin judged it to be severe based on the number of pages alone.
The top page had the neatest handwriting and no creases. It was a formal letter—to him—but it was not long.
I will spare you the excessive details given elsewhere in this stack. Cersei and I have been intimate in the way of the Targaryen Dynasty since we were little more than children.
I thought we were in love.
I also thought her children were mine, but I have recently discovered her in bed with two of my sworn brothers and cousin Ella Lannister of Lannisport. Now I have to wonder if anything she ever told me is true.
I hope you can forgive me.
Please do not take your fury out on Tyrion. This is my fault. And Cersei’s. Tyrion is the only reason I have not gone to Robert to denounce Cersei as a traitor and a whore, damn the consequences.
Whatever Debt you demand of me, I will pay it—as long as Cersei pays her Debts first.
“Do you know what this says?” Tywin asked his Bane.
“I was there when he wrote it.”
Tywin wanted nothing more than to throw the papers into the fire without reading another word— but he could not.
This was the price for his ignorance. He had ignored his children in favor of restoring House Lannister’s glory—in favor of making them the most powerful House in the Seven Kingdoms—and this was the Debt he had earned for it.
“Do you know—” he could not say it. Would not.
“What a whore my sister is?” Tyrion gave him the predator look that Tywin himself had had to teach himself in a mirror. “I have. For years. Since before she wed.
“I also knew no one would believe me over her.”
His Ba— Tyrion had a point. Tywin never would have believed his wife’s murderer over his golden daughter.
What a fool he was.
Still. There were Debts to be paid. He had learned long ago to change the game if he could not win it. In this case, he would have to wipe the board clean and begin anew.
“You will return to your brother. Keep him calm. Contained.” An idea flickered into being like a candle in the darkest hours of the night. “The tenth anniversary of the Battle of the Trident is this year. Jaime will convince Robert to hold a grand feast in celebration.”
Tyrion observed him through mismatched eyes for an extended pause. “What are you planning?”
Tywin just raised a disdainful eyebrow at the boy. He should know well by now that no one planned murder out loud.
He gestured for the Imp to leave.
The boy would have to learn. Jaime would need him when he became Lord of Casterly Rock.
“Welcome to King’s Landing, Father,” his golden daughter greeted him. “You are just in time for the feast.”
Tywin waved his daughter’s greeting away and dismounted his horse.
The group gathered to greet him was pathetic in its size and the importance of its members. His goodson, King Robert, had not bestirred himself to greet him, as was his duty. Their next king must be prepared to fulfill the role better than this one.
“I have no time for feasts. I have come to do business with the Crown.”
His daughter’s face hardened but she fell into step with him without complaint. “Apologies, my lord,” she said, “the Crown is preparing for a grand feast to celebrate King Robert’s victory at the Trident. There will be no business discussed today.”
“I will be speaking with Lord Commander Barristan and your brother Jaime today,” he corrected her. “I have plans to dine privately with Lord Arryn on the morrow.”
Cersei’s face stayed rigidly blank—a sign she was fighting a scowl, a tell that she had never out grown.
“I will be meeting my grandchildren before I return to Casterly Rock as well. Joffrey is nearing the age for fostering. We will need to choose a proper lord for the honor, both because they will have influence over the future king and for the way it will draw that lord closer to the current king.”
He could see his daughter’s pale skin flush crimson in her fury. It rose like a tide, stretching from the neck of her gown to the hair of her brow.
“I expect Lord Stark will be the king’s choice and it is not a poor one,” he continued. The Rebellion had proven what a good bet House Stark was and the very idea of her son being given to the Starks would drive his daughter mad thanks to her intense jealousy of Lyanna Stark. Tywin was furious enough with the mess his daughter had made that he would not be bothered if she gave herself a stroke in fury or choked to death on her temper. “Nor would Lord Tully.
“Lord Arryn and both Lords Baratheon need no drawing closer to the crown with their service on the Small Council.
“House Martell will require more than a fostering to draw closer to the Iron Throne. We should open discussions for Myrcella to wed one of his sons. They will likely take years.” When they reached the quarter set aside for him in Maegor’s Holdfast, he turned to his daughter. She was trembling in fury and too far gone to speak.
“You have much to prepare, daughter. You need not linger here.”
“Of course, Father,” she managed to choke. “Good day.”
“Father!” Jaime greeted as his golden son and Tyrion had tumbled into his sitting room.
Jaime was the only person since the death of his wife that greeted Tywin with honest cheer and welcome. Jaime’s joy was worth any number of Debts he accrued for Tywin to pay off.
He greeted his sons with a nod and gestured to the table set up with the equipment to make their dinner. Vegetables, bread, wine and dessert surrounded mounds of raw game meat, waiting in their various flavored treatments and the equipment his army’s head cook had given Tywin for the occasion.
In his efforts to learn the son he had clearly never understood before the revelation of this greatest Debt, Tywin had re-read Jaime’s progress reports from his time squiring to Lord Crakehall. He had noticed in Crakehall’s letters that Jaime had loved travelling and, more, that his favorite part of traveling had seemed to be cooking meat over the open fire with one’s own hands.
Tywin hoped simulating the experience in his hearth would bring his son the joy he had been denied in having to contain his temper with his sister.
Jaime’s face lit up at the sight.
His honest joy glowed from his face.
It was the most precious reaction Tywin would ever remember about his son. He sat in a chair nearby as Jaime taught Tyrion the finer points of cooking in the wild, as Jaime called in.
It occurred to Tywin that Jaime would be an excellent father. They would have to find exactly the right maiden to gain his hand. She would have to be loyal and reasonably intelligent with a reputation beyond reproach. Ambition and cunning would do well in a wife for Jaime, but only if she could be shaped to serve Lannister ends.
She certainly had to have the right bloodline.
Both of Ned Stark’s daughters were too young and it would take a miracle to convince The Great Lord Eddard that Jaime deserved one of his children in any way.
Lord Tyrell had one daughter but she was too young as well—at least six years away from child bearing. She was said to be as ambitious and cunning as she was beautiful. She had to be training under the Queen of Thornes—hardly the mailable girl he wanted.
Prince Doran’s daughter was of a suitable age but she was the man’s official heir. The end of Robert’s Rebellion had guaranteed that Doran would not give his daughter to Tywin’s House if his son was the last man among the living.
None of the other Lords Paramount had daughters and most of his own bannermen had made arrangements for their appropriately aged daughters when Jaime was sworn to the Kingsguard.
“Father?” Jaime called, it seemed not for the first time.
“Would you like squirrel, rabbit, or bird?” Jaime asked with easy cheer. “Not sure what kind since they all came plucked.”
“Pheasant, if you would,” he requested. That was the bird he had ordered from the kitchens. Plucked or not, it had best be what they had been given.
It was a pleasant evening with both of his son’s casually sharing stories of Cersei’s failure to regain Jaime’s regard or indeed understand how she lost it. This was followed by Cersei’s private failures that had been witnessed only by one or more of them.
“Father will you tell us your plan?” Jaime asked, eyes bright and full of faith in him—as they had not been since Robert’s Rebellion.
“I will have you released form the Kingsguard before the end of the week,” Tywin told his oldest son. “Then I will send you and Tyrion from King’s Landing to rule Casterly Rock in my stead. Once I am certain you are both at the Rock, I will reveal Cersei’s duplicity to King Robert.
“I do not expect your sister to survive,” he told both younger men honestly, “but I will do what I can to see her children returned to our House alive.”
“Thank you, Father,” Jaime slumped in the fullness of his relief. “It is a relief—”
The door to the sitting room was thrown open and Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, entered his space without any sort of permission.
“The King is dead,” Ser Barristan announced before Tywin could reproach him. “The Queen is dead. The heirs…even little Tommen and Myrcella in their cribs. A number of household staff. All dead.”
“What happened?” Jaime demanded.
“I would say poison but our brothers—Ser Boros and Ser Meryn—sampled the food before it was served and lived to stand guard with me. The suffering until death varied from person to person as well.” Ser Barristan shook his head, possible in shock. “I do not know what it could have been.
“I have ordered the City Watch to seal the city. Ser Boros and Ser Meryn are keeping the servants contained—those that have survived.”
“I know our King had a number of enemies,” Jaime said, thankfully not looking at anyone other than Ser Barristan. “Who would be so bold as to poison a Feast?”
“Why must it be about the king?” Tywin asked. “We do the Realm a disservice by assuming Robert was the cause.”
“The Lords of the Crownlands were in attendance at the feast,” Ser Barristan pointed out. The Lords of the Crownlands were the ones that had lost the most with the unseating of House Targaryen. They had suffered the most under Robert’s rule and had the most reason to want him dead.
“Could it have been about the succession of another House?” Jaime asked. “House Velaryon’s heir was the previous lord’s bastard until his half-brother had a son this last year. Mayhaps Waters wanted his heir status back?”
“Lord Monford and Ser Aurane both died in the Feast,” Ser Barristan denied.
“Whoever did it and whatever their motivation, we must alert Lord Stannis,” Tyrion was the first to speak. “He is our rightful king.”
Ser Barristan started to nod but Tywin interrupted, “No.”
His sons and Ser Barristan all turned to look at him. “No?” Ser Barristan asked, clearly beyond surprise.
“There is one with more right to the Iron Throne than he.”
“You cannot mean Lord Renly!” Barristan objected. “He is the younger son of the two of them—”
“No, I mean Prince Rhaegar’s trueborn son,” Tywin corrected. “Robert was crowned by the strength of his Targaryen blood making the Targaryen claim still valid despite their loss in the Rebellion. Else—if the Crown had been passed based on the success of the Rebellion—Eddard Stark would have been our king these last ten years.”
“If the main male line of House Targaryen still stands,” Jaime agreed slowly, showing the world how very confused he was, “then they have the greater claim to the Iron Throne than House Baratheon. That is…true.”
“It is,” Lord Commander Barristan frowned. “Who is this boy? Where is he?”
“You do not truly believe Lord Eddard Stark managed to have a child sired and born on a whore within the three months he spent in Dorne looking for his sister,” Tywin said scathingly, “do you?”
“Ned Stark’s bastard is Prince Rhaegar’s son?” Lord Barristan demanded. “And he kept this from me? From the Realm? He made his oaths to Robert Baratheon, how could he—”
“I have letters from Prince Rhaegar. He wrote to me for advice after he received word of the Rebellion. He had wed Lyanna Stark and put a child in her in Dorne. Lord Eddard returned from Dorne with a newborn child and his sister’s remains. What other conclusion is there to draw but that the boy is Rhaegar’s son from Lady Lyanna?”
“I do not see one,” Tyrion admitted.
“We will write Lord Stark, have him bring the boy to King’s Landing and Crown him,” Tywin told them all.
“If what you say is true, why would Lord Eddard bring the boy within fifty leagues of Robert’s Throne?” the Lord Commander asked. “He values the boy’s life over his inheritance, something I can understand. Even if you vouched for the boy’s safety, Lord Eddard would never take such a risk. Mayhaps especially if you vouched for his safety, my Lord Lannister.”
Tywin had to concede. There was no trust between him and Lord Stark, largely due to the end of Robert’s Rebellion. He had been certain the death of Princess Elia and her children had been necessary.
Now, it appeared to have been hasty.
“Then we bring in Lord Stannis,” Tyrion told them all. “He has a reputation for being just and fair with none of Robert’s burning hatred for his own grandmother’s blood.
“Lord Stannis is an unassuming man. The only thing, as I have been given to understand, that he has ever yearned for is the rule of Storm’s End. The return of House Targaryen to the Iron Throne will make Storm’s End rightfully his in a way no one can protest.
“It is simply in his best interest to return Prince Rhaegar’s blood to the Throne,” Tyrion concluded.
Lord Commander Barristan nodded slowly. “Lord Eddard would believe a vow of safety coming from Lord Stannis. They have fought together. There is trust between them.”
“Very well,” Tywin agreed with reluctance he did not feel. “We will allow no word of what has happened to leave the Red Keep until Rhaegar’s son is safe within these walls. We will summon Lord Stannis here from Dragonstone and tell him directly what has come to pass and what we know. He will write to Lord Stark on our behalf. Once the boy is here, safe behind our armies and navies, we will invite the rest of the Lords Paramount to join our Council.
“House Targaryen will return to the Iron Throne.”
“It is exciting,” Tywin heard Lord Mace Tyrell tell his companions. He was accompanied to this, the formal exchange of oaths to the new king, by his mother, Lady Olenna, and his goodfather, Lord Leyton Hightower. “To have a Targaryen King back on the Iron Throne! After all these years!”
Were Tywin a different man, he would roll his eyes at the excessive display but he would only ever be himself, and himself could not be bothered.
Lord Eddard was the last to enter the chamber chosen for the ceremony. His bannermen and men at arms spread around the room, lining the walls for the protection of their young king.
That was the signal for everything to begin. The lords and ladies in the chamber all stood.
Members of the Kingsguard started marching in, his son first. Jaime examined the room and then signaled for his sworn brothers to follow.
Greenfield and Oakheart came in carrying a large chest between them. It was made of dragonbone, Tywin was surprised to note, and bound in Valyrian steel bearing First Man Runes.
Not Valyrian glyphs. First Man Runes.
Next came Blount carrying Rhaegar’s own silver harp—Tywin would recognize it in any shape short of melted down. He found he was surprised Lord Eddard had kept it, though he likely should not have been. If he had ever had to prove his so-called bastard’s claim as the heir to the last Targaryen heir, the harp would have been the best proof the Lord of Winterfell could provide.
Finally came Lord Commander Selmy. “All hail His Grace Aegon of House Targaryen the Seventh of his name! King of the First Men, the Rhyonar, and the Andals. Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. Protector of the Realm.” The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard stepped aside and a boy came through.
He was smaller than Tywin had expected with dark, nearly-black hair but otherwise identical to his memory of Rhaegar at that same age. The resemblance was startling.
Particularly when one considered that the North whispered of him being the very image of Eddard Stark.
The young king was followed by a taller boy of a similar age with deep auburn hair and bright Tully blue eyes. The boy shifted to a flanking position when Lord Commander Selmy stepped forward to follow the king as he went around the table accepting the oaths of his paramount lords.
The table in the meeting room was round but Lord Eddard had been granted the place of precedence at the right hand of the King. It was to him King Aegon went first.
Tywin watched as Lord Eddard went down on one knee and offered his hands up in supplication. His nephew took his hands and Lord Eddard swore himself to Aegon VII first and the Realm second.
“I thank you for your loyalty, Lord Stark,” the boy said solemnly. “And I vow to never ask a service of you that will being you dishonor. You may rise.”
That was unexpected. Kings, in his experience, never gave vows back to their lords, but Tywin judged this to be a good change.
The young king moved to the next lord. As his brother and nephew had attended King Robert’s feast celebrating his win at the Trident, they had died with him. It was Ser Brynden Tully knelt and offered his hands in supplication to the king. The man was a problem. He refused to accept the title of Lord Paramount of the Riverlands and Lord of House Tully. He stubbornly considered himself the representative of House Tully, the House Paramount of the Riverlands.
The difference was subtle but frighteningly impactful.
Still, the man spoke his oath, swearing the Riverlands to the Iron Throne as Lord Blackwood and Lord Bracken knelt at his sides.
“I thank you for your loyalty, Lord Tully—” the man’s mouth tightened but he did not argue with the king they had all selected. “—And I vow to never ask a service of you that will being you dishonor.”
Once the now irrevocably Lord Tully had risen, the king was before him. Tywin knelt and offered his hands to their king. He was so small but his face was a mask of fierce concentration.
This was a boy that would not have to practice to show the world the face of a predator.
The boy was silent when Tywin finished his vows and Tywin vaguely wondered if something unfortunate was about to happen.
“You look mean,” the boy offered and more than one of the people standing around the table snorted, “I like that.” Tywin felt both relieved and confused by the boy’s statement. “I want you to swear to discuss your concerns with me before you are mean to me.”
The request was simple…and somewhat heartening. Even their king recognized him as dangerous. Tywin decided that was a compliment. “I so swear.”
The boy’s lips quirked in something related to a smile. “And I swear that I will never ask a service of you that will bring you dishonor, Lord Lannister. Thank you—for your loyalty and for your efforts on my behalf.”
“It was what you were due, my king.”
“A Lannister always pays their Debts,” the boy king finished for him. “But there is a Debt your House has that has not been addressed for longer than I have been alive.”
The boy still had not released his hands, nor had he bid him to stand. Tywin was left staring into smokey purple eyes that seemed to see deeper into him than they had any right to. “And what is that, Your Grace?”
“Elia Martell of Dorne was my second mother—my father’s first wife. The men that murdered her and my older siblings are living, safe under your banner.”
Tywin was surprised. He was unsure where this was going. “What do you command, Your Grace?”
“Give Ser Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch to Prince Doran for judgement so that justice maybe served.”
Tywin considered the issue. He had ordered the deaths. He had felt them necessary at the time, to prove his loyalty to the winning side. Reminding the young king of that would not be in his best interest—not when the king had mentioned them so familiarly. And the methods with which his orders had been carried out had been excessive. He had certainly never ordered the rapes Princess Elia was said to have endured.
“I will give the entire party that invaded Maegor’s Holdfast during the Sack of King’s Landing over to Prince Doran,” he finally decided. “Once we are done with this meeting.”
King Aegon gave him a pleased nod and dropped his hands. “You may rise, Lord Lannister.”
Continuing on geographically—as the king had ordered—was the Vale. Lord Jon Arryn and his wife had been at the king’s fest and they had left no issue. Lord Yohn Royce stood for the Vale in his stead, flanked by the Knight of House Corbray and the Lady of House Waynwood.
The trio knelt, hands were held, and oaths were given. The young king stared at Bronze Yohn for a time but did not speak other than to give his vow in return and permit the trio to rise.
House Tyrell of the Reach was next. Lord Mace practically threw himself to the floor in his haste to submit once again to the House of the Dragon.
The Foolish Flower was bubbling over with enthusiasm, giving the most thorough and overly grand vow to the king yet. He strayed so far from the vows the Lords Paramount had agreed to before this ceremony that the king would be well within his rights to take the Reach as an extension of the Crownlands and demote the Tyrells from Lords Paramount to simple lords.
No one seemed to be bothered to tell Lord Mace that, though his mother looked like she desperately wished to hide her face in her hands.
King Aegon gave Lord Mace a doubtful look that failed to penetrate the man’s Shield of Certainty. “And I vow to never ask a service of you that will being you dishonor, Lord Tyrell.”
The boy dropped his hands but did not bid Lord Mace to rise. He took a step to the right to place himself directly in front of Lady Olenna. “You look mean, too.”
Lady Olenna gave him the crooked smile that Tywin remembered men finding charming in their youth. “There is a reason Lord Tywin and I have survived our generations within the great Game of Thrones.”
The boy nodded. “Mayhaps the two of you can teach those secrets to me. My House needs all the survival training it can get.”
Which was a valid point. The boy-king was the last Targaryen of the male line in the entire world. He would need to reproduce quickly and often for the sake of the Realm.
“You may rise,” King Aegon told the Reachers as he moved on to the Stormlands.
Lord Stannis knelt with his smuggler and grandfather at his sides.
Lord Stannis had two further lords with him, from the Crownlands as he had been the most recent Lord of Dragonstone and effective Lord Paramount of the Crownlands. Lord Velaryon and his half brother had died with the king but his wife stood in the place of their year-old son beside Lord Adarian Celtigar.
At the beginning of the gathering of the Council, Lord Stannis had pointed out—and rightly—that if they were restoring House Targaryen to its former position, he would have no rights to Dragonstone. None of them had wanted a fifteen-year-old to stand as Lord Paramount of the Stormlands and Lord Tyrell had been the only one of them to truly like the young Lord Renly. Replacing him with Stannis had been the first thing the Council had agreed upon.
Lord Stannis knelt. Lord Stannis offered his hands. Lord Stannis made his vows, first for the Stormlands and then for the Crownlands.
“And I vow to never ask a service of you that will being you dishonor, Lord Baratheon.” Again, the boy was quiet. Tywin had time to wonder if Lord Stannis would be identified as mean as well when the boy spoke again. “You look honest. I have decided that I trust you.”
The typically stoic lord appeared taken aback.
“You may rise.”
The last group was Dorne. Prince Doran stood flanked by his brother Prince Oberyn and Lord Adarien Dayne.
Vows were given and returned. Then the king and Prince Oberyn helped his uncle by law back into his wheeled chair.
Before King Aegon moved on, he focused on Prince Oberyn who was standing as ordered. “I know from my talks with your brother than you are furious that my mother gave me the same name as your blood nephew.”
The Red Viper shot his brother a dark look. “It is an insult to my sister.”
“No,” the king shook his head, “it is a gift. There is a belief in the North about the power of names. Naming a newborn child after a lost loved one invites the loved one to return from beyond the Vale of Tears into this life, as the child.”
That set the Viper back a step. “Resurrection? Or Reincarnation?”
“A bit of both, I would think,” the king admitted.
That had to be the reason for so many Brandons within House Stark, Tywin realized. There was easily a score of them, if you only count the famous ones—the ones that had earned names beyond the ones they were born to.
“I believe, and Uncle Eddard agrees, that my mother was attempting to save my older brother by giving me his name.”
“That is a gift,” Prince Oberyn confirmed, ease Tywin had not noticed was missing sliding into his shoulders. He gave the king a courtly bow, “I thank you, my king.”
King Aegon nodded and moved finally to the small—compared to Iron Throne—throne that had been placed at the table for him.
“The Realm has many issues for us to address, my lords,” the king said once he was seated. He gestured for them all to sit as well. “But first, I would like to hear from each of you.
“Lord Eddard, what issues have you in the North?”
“None beyond the desolation of the Wall, Your Grace,” the Lord of Winter intoned gravely.
“I do not believe this to be the correct occasion to address such matters, my lord.”
“Agreed, Your Grace.”
“Lord Brynden, what issues have you in the Riverlands?”
“Succession,” the cantankerous man said bluntly. “I have made the vows and I am lord now but I do not want it.”
“Why?” the boy king asked.
It was a simple question, a child’s question in truth, but Lord Brynden appeared surprised by it. Likely, because none of the rest of them had bothered to ask.
“I watched for years as the woman I loved wed my brother and struggled to give him the sons he demanded of her, Your Grace. I made a vow that I would never cause a woman such pain and suffering.”
“It would dishonor you to make you break your vow and yet it is a lord’s duty to provide an heir for his House.” The boy was quiet, thinking.
Lord Tyrell attempted to speak but King Aegon held up his hand to silence him. The oaf was smart enough to immediately comply.
“What if someone else’s wife provided your House an heir?” The king finally asked.
“They would have to be of my blood for the Riverlands to accept them,” Lord Brynden explained.
“Yes,” the boy agreed. “Lady Catelyn is your niece. She is wed to Lord Eddard and has provided him with four healthy, trueborn children.
“I propose you take Lady Sansa Stark as your ward and heir. Her education is well begun but you must teach her to rule the Land of Rivers, rather than to stand aside as her husband does it. In fact, her husband will have to take her name and her children as well.”
“Women cannot inherit in the Seven Kingdoms,” Lord Brynden objected cautiously.
“They can in Dorne,” King Aegon countered. “More than half of the rulers of Dorne have been women and Dorne is one of the most prosperous of the kingdoms despite being more than sixty percent desert.”
“What you say is true, my king,” Lord Brynden agreed with a frown.
“We would all do well to emulate the successful traits of others. I feel absolute primogeniture is one of the things Westeros can learn from Dorne,” the king told them all. “My cousin is much too southron-minded to be happy in the North all of her days. Let her make her way in the south. Once she has proven to be a successful Lord Paramount—once she has proven herself for herself specifically and your daughters in general—we can change the law of inheritance to be more progressive and equal.”
Tywin did not believe women could be lord of the castle or that they would even want to be but he could see the wisdom of making a trial of it before drafting official changes.
“Will she be Sansa Stark or Sansa Tully?”
“Stark.” The king held up a hand before objections could be raised. “I take no issue with the vow you made and under normal circumstances it would have been a matter of no importance other than the vow’s application to your own life. These are not normal circumstances and a price must be paid for balance.”
Lord Brynden considered that. After a few minutes he nodded. “House Stark of the Riverlands. I can accept that.” He turned to Lord Bracken and Lord Blackwood who both nodded their agreement.
“Considering the state of House Whent, mayhaps you should negotiate for Lady Sansa’s second child to stand as their heir,” the king added. “Her grandmother was a Whent, she carried their blood as well.”
“And her husband, Your Grace?”
“I have not yet decided,” King Aegon admitted. “It is not a simple matter. She will need a man she can trust that is humble enough to not attempt to force his name upon her but strong enough to lead her armies should a war come to our shores. A man loyal and honest.”
Tywin could think of a number of men that could be describing. His men, of course. Men that answered to his banner. He was certain the other Lords Paramount could as well.
“Any other issues in the Land of Rivers?”
“No, Your Grace. House Tully thanks you for your personal investment in their future.”
“It is only my duty,” was the king’s response. “Lord Tywin, what issues have you in the West?”
“Succession as well,” he admitted—bluntly since it seemed to work well for those that went before him. “I would like my son back, Your Grace.”
King Aegon considered that. He was intensely thoughtful for a boy his age—likely the result of growing up thinking himself a bastard.
Overall, Tywin found himself pleased with the boy he had made king.
“Ser Jaime, come sit with me, if you will.” The boy hid his command under a gentle request. He was courteous. It was another good trait for a king to have.
Lord Commander Barristan Selmy surrendered his seat and the king focused entirely on Tywin’s son.
“You were raised up to the Kingsguard at fifteen,” King Aegon said. “You were not invited; you were taken from your father’s House. I have been told that during Robert’s Rebellion you were little more than my grandfather’s hostage to ensure your father’s compliance. Would you like to return to your place as your father’s heir?”
Tywin’s son licked his lips nervously. “I…yes. I would like to return to my place at my father’s side. My king.”
The young king nodded. “You slew my grandfather, the king you swore to protect. Why?”
Jaime blinked. “Only my brother has ever asked me that before. The Great Lord Stark judged me guilty without a word between us.”
“It is my endeavor to be better than the men that came before me,” King Aegon said before his uncle could object to the accusation, though Tywin failed to see how he could. “You must answer my question honestly.”
“I— Your grandfather was stockpiling wildfire beneath the city. He thought to turn the city into a pyre from which he would arise a true dragon to burn his enemies.” Jaime swallowed hard. “When my father began sacking King’s Landing, King Aerys ordered me to take my father’s head and send him his pyromancers. Burn them all! he had yelled. Over and over. For…hours. Burn them all! Burn them all!”
“Killing your own father would have made you a kinslayer,” the king objected. “Is there no part of the Kingsguard vows where the king swears to protect your honor as I did with my lords?”
“No, Your Grace,” Jaime shook his head sadly. “All of our oaths are given to the king; he makes none in return.”
“That is ridiculous! Every other sworn sword in the Realm is given oaths from his lord!
“Lord Commander,” the king called sharply.
Ser Barristan took a step closer to the boy. “My king?”
“We will need to reconsider the vows of the Kingsguard and swear them all again before we replace the two knights we lost at King Robert’s final feast.”
The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard gazed upon Jaime apologetically even as he nodded to the king. “Your will be done, Your Grace.”
“You are released from the Kingsguard and thanked for your service and especially for saving King’s Landing.” The boy frowned. “Where is my grandfather’s wildfire now?”
“Still under the city and the Red Keep,” Jaime answered, confused by the boy’s concern. “My brother and I have found several caches on our wanderings over the years.”
Tywin’s gut tightened and a few other lords hissed. Wildfire was incredibly dangerous when newly made. With over a decade in a cool, dark place it would be even stronger—and more unstable.
“Someone needs to collect it and remove it from the city.”
“If it is your will, Your Grace, I will see to it,” Lord Eddard immediately said. “Lord Jaime is correct, I judged him guilty without questioning him. It is my fault that the wildfire has had the time to mature and be a danger to us all.”
“You should also squire Robb to Ser Jaime,” King Aegon said, “to show the Realm the breach between House Stark and House Lannister is mending.”
“As you will, Your Grace.”
They waited as Lord Stark gave a pair of his bannermen that was lining the walls instructions and the two left to begin dealing with the wildfire.
“Ser Jaime,” the king focused on his son again, “tell me what the men in this room do not want me to know.”
Jaime was rendered speechless for a moment. “You trust me to do that?”
“You are the savior of this city. You were knighted by the Sword of Morning himself. Such a thing… Do not underestimate the power of ancient relics. Dawn would have killed a true oathbreaker when she rested upon his shoulders. Is that not right, Lord Dayne?”
“Quite right, my king,” Lord Adarien immediately agreed. “I would like to take a moment to invite you to Starfall to see her.”
Tywin took a moment to wonder if their king was destined to become a Sword of Morning, but he quickly dismissed the notion. The first king of a returned line becoming the truest knight in the Seven Kingdoms was fodder for the ballad of every bard’s dreams.
Life was not a song.
“I would be honored,” the king confirmed. “Ser Jaime?”
“Ser Preston Greenfield is sleeping with a draper’s wife when the man is not at home,” Jaime blurted. “At least half of the draper’s children must be his.”
Ser Preston shouted a wordless objection at the accusation, but a quick-thinking Northman took his sword from his scabbard before the knight could draw it to defend himself.
“Kingsguard!” the boy commanded. “Throw down your swords!”
All of the Kingsguard immediately obeyed. Jaime rose to join them but a small hand stopped him.
“Not you, Ser Jaime. You may keep your sword in my presence.”
Another high compliment paid to House Lannister—Tywin was well pleased.
“Thank you, Your Grace,” his son murmured with the correct amount of humility.
“Uncle Oberyn, will you collect the Kingsguard’s swords and distribute them as you see fit?”
Tywin was not surprised when he did not receive a sword from the Red Viper but he was surprised that the Lord Eddard did. Clearly, some mending had in fact been done to the Realm with the return of House Targaryen.
“Ser Preston will go to the Wall,” the king ordered.
The man was stripped of his white cloak and armor and forced to kneel on the floor between two Northmen with his hands laying palm up upon his thighs.
“Go on, Ser Jaime.”
“Ser Boros Blount and Ser Meryn Trant were sleeping with my sister.”
Blount and Trant were summarily stripped and placed on the floor just like their sworn brother without the king even having to give the command. The men were each placed against a different wall to prevent collusion.
“How do you know this?” King Aegon asked.
“I walked in on the three of them some weeks ago. I did not know what to do. I knew if I went to Robert, he would kill my sister and my father would go to war over the offense. The last thing the Realm needs is another war.
“Instead, I wrote my father.”
“That is why he came to King’s Landing to remove you from the Kingsguard,” King Aegon realized. “I saw his correspondence with Robert’s Hand, Lord Jon Arryn. He seemed desperate to get you back.”
“We were meeting in Maegor’s Holdfast when the Feast…” Jaime waved his hand. They all knew what had happened at the Feast. “His plan was to send me home to Casterly Rock and then reveal my sister’s treasons to the king so that no matter what happened, our House would continue.”
The king nodded slowly. “I have been told your sister was vain. Arrogant and cruel.”
“That is…accurate,” Jaime winced.
“What would she have done? If she knew you and your father—her father—were going to turn against her for her treasons?”
Jaime frowned at the boy, not understanding the implications.
“What I am asking is: could your sister have been the mastermind behind the Feast that caused the death of the entire Small Council, the royal court, and her own children?”
“She could have been,” Jaime confirmed. Thankfully, his son did not look to him to give away their collusion. “Such would not have been out of character. She saw herself as the female version of my father. Her own family forcing her to face the King’s Justice would have been a greater debt than that of the Reynes and the Tarbecks combined.”
The king seemed satisfied with this new explanation for Robert Baratheon’s Final Feast.
“What else can you tell me, Ser Jaime?”
“Lord Varys was never loyal to the king. He always swore he was loyal to the Realm. As he was from Essos, I fear he may have been truly serving some foreign interest.”
“He is dead now, another victim of the Feast, and so cannot be questioned,” the king reminded them all. “But we can have someone investigate. His rooms should still be intact.”
Jaime nodded. “The Realm is greatly in debt—I believe because of our last Master of Coin, Lord Baelish.”
“What makes you think that?”
Jaime licked his lips nervously. “Lord Baelish had a pair of twin Valyrian steel daggers. He claimed he bought them in a private auction in Volantis. How could a son of the Fingers have afforded such?”
The king nodded. “A fair question. The Fingers are known only for goats and shipwrecks. I will find someone to investigate that as well.
“Is there anything else you wish to confide in me?”
“Not that I can recall at this time,” Jaime admitted. The look his son gave the king was…fervent. His son had found a new god to worship. Not a terrible thing for a future warden of the Realm to feel as long as it was managed and focused properly.
“Very well, but if you think of anything, I expect you to tell me,” the king instructed.
“As you will.” Jaime bowed as best he could while seated.
“Join your father, I am sure we will speak again later.”
Jaime stood and bowed this time. The warmth of success flooded Tywin’s veins as his son came back to him. Eternally back. His. His heir and his son, until the day he died.
“I am left without a Kingsguard,” the boy realized. “Lord Commander, we will have a great deal of work to do.”
“With respect, Your Grace,” Ser Barristan went down on one knee rather than retake the seat he had previously been granted, “I have brought shame to the Kingsguard, to allow the brotherhood to fall so far from its former glory under my command. I beg for your leave to spend the rest of my days at the Wall in penance.”
Their new king frowned. “How can the actions of your brothers be your fault?”
“I should have questioned Ser Jaime myself and made the truth known to the Realm. Allowing the appearance of dishonor to stain the Kingsguard called men of lower caliber—men unworthy of the White Cloak—to serve the king himself.”
“If you feel the best place for you to serve the Realm is the Wall…”
“I do, Your Grace.”
“Then I will not allow you to be gainsaid. You will see your brothers to the Wall and ensure they stay there.”
“Thank you, my king.”
“Until you leave, I would like you to test the strength of arms of the men I send to you. You and Ser Jaime.”
“It would be my honor,” his Jaime swore.
“As you will, Your Grace.” Ser Barristan stood and resumed his post by his king. His white cloak had not been stripped of him; he still had a job to do.
“Lord Lannister, the issue I see between us is the perception many will have that you bought your son’s innocence and removal from the Kingsguard.”
Tywin nodded. “I have an idea for that.”
“Please, go on.”
“Bards and their songs have been shaping public opinion since music was invented,” he offered cryptically.
“The Lay of Ser Jaime Lannister.” The boy nodded. “Mayhaps the Ballad of the Mad Lioness? Written to encourage men to remain loyal to their wives, of course.”
Putting the blame for Cersei’s crimes on Robert, Tywin nodded. “I would prefer to hear these songs before they are shared with the public.”
“I would as well,” the king confirmed. “Now we require a clever bard.”
“I know just the man,” Tywin swore—and he did. A cousin, a Lannisport Lannister that always traveled with his army.
“I will leave this issue in your hands.”
“Thank you, my king. The West has no further issues.”
“Lord Royce, what issues have you in the Vale?”
The man gave the boy a wry grin.
King Aegon sighed. “Succession?”
“Yes, Your Grace. Lord Arryn died with the King. Thankfully Lord Baratheon was wise enough to summon the Lords of the Vale to King’s Landing before we learned of his death and started a war amongst ourselves to find our new Lord Paramount. Lord Arryn was the last of his line—he had no remaining siblings and left no heir. The Lords of the Vale have all agreed that it is only appropriate for you to name our new Lord Paramount, Your Grace.”
Lord Royce being the one to make the request meant he was considered by his peers to be the most likely choice. Tywin could not be sure the boy understood that and resolved to teach him to notice such details in time.
“You command the largest army in the Vale,” the king said.
“I do,” Lord Royce confirmed.
The boy turned to the Dornish men he had called his uncles. “What of my father’s family? I should have an aunt and uncle yet alive, correct?”
“We have received word that your Uncle Viserys has died,” Prince Doran said. “He attempted to strike the Sealord of Braavos during a disagreement and the First Sword ran him through.”
It was actually the House of Black and White that had seen to the death of the Beggar King, not that Tywin would ever tell them. Once he had decided to change the game, he had not wanted to risk putting a second Mad King on the Iron Throne and he had paid the best assassins in the world to make it look like an accident.
A ruse involving the Sealord and his First Sword was worth every single gold dragon he had paid.
“But my aunt still lives?”
“Correct, Your Grace.”
“Then we need someone to retrieve her.” The king considered the issue and called, “Lord Tyrell.”
“Your Grace,” the man leaned forward eagerly.
“You fought on the side of the Targaryens during Robert’s Rebellion, did you not?”
“I ask you to go to Braavos and retrieve my aunt yourself. Bring her to King’s Landing as quickly and safely as you can manage until I marry and have children, she is my only heir.”
“I would be honored to rescue your family from exile, Your Grace. Will you be marrying her yourself?”
“My aunt?” The boy looked scandalized. “Absolutely not. She will be the founder of House Targaryen of the Vale.” The boy turned to the rest of them. “Daella Targaryen married Rodrik Arryn. Their daughter Aemma Arryn was King Viserys I’s first wife and queen. Arryn blood lives in House Targaryen and House Targaryen needs to grow strong to insure the stability of the Realm. House Targaryen of the Vale will be a cadet line to Royal House Targaryen. In the event the Royal House falters, the Targaryens of the Vale will safeguard the Realm.”
Tywin nodded. It was a good choice, assuming it did not devolve into civil war in the future.
Tywin did not expect such would happen during King Aegon’s life. He was wiser than expected. Cautious but commanding. He would be the best king to serve the Realm since Jaehaerys the Wise.
Now they just needed to keep him alive to breed. A task made more difficult by both his age and his utter lack of a Kingsguard.
“You will need to train her to be the Lady Paramount of the Vale,” King Aegon told Bronze Yohn. “Once she is of age, I will betroth her. Politically, I would prefer one of your sons, so make sure one of them is worthy to be my family and aware that his children will not take his name.”
“Similar to the situation facing the Riverlands,” Royce offered.
“Very much so, though my Aunt Daenerys is older than Sansa. And less sheltered, thanks to her exile.”
The Vale Lord nodded.
“Lord Yohn Royce, I, King Aegon VII name you Lord Regent of the Vale. Rule well.”
Bronze Yohn gave a dignified nod. “I will, Your Grace. The Vale has no further issues.”
“Lord Tyrell, does the Reach have any issues to bring before the crown?”
“We do not, Your Grace,” the man said with something akin to excitement. “We look forward to retrieving your kin for you.”
“Your loyalty and service are most appreciated,” the young king said and the Fool of a Flower preened. “But the Reach has a problem I believe you are unaware of.”
Lord Mace frowned. “My King?”
“Are you aware of the bad blood brewing between High Garden and Storm’s End?”
“I do not know— What could you possibly—” Lord Mace looked to Lord Stannis in his confusion. “Storm’s End has not—”
“Storm’s End is not the cause of this bad blood,” the king was quick to correct.
“What could you possibly—”
“He is talking about when you tortured them, you great oaf!” Lady Olenna interrupted her son’s bumbling.
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Lord Mace immediately defended himself. “I have never laid a hand on Lord Stannis—”
“During the Siege of Storm’s End,” Lady Olenna interrupted again. “You starved him while you feasted and feted at his gates! What can you call that but torture?”
“As Lord Tyrell already has a mission from the Crown, can I trust you, Lady Olenna to negotiate peace between your Houses? Lord Stannis already has a wife from the Reach, but certainly more can be done.”
“Of course, Your Grace,” Lady Olenna agreed.
“Yes, yes, Mother is the ideal candidate to settle these affairs. Of course, she is. Much better than forcing my presence upon a man I have wronged, certainly. I only followed the orders of my king but certainly starvation—!”
“Thank you, Lord Tyrell,” the king interrupted so pointedly that Tywin was tempted to laugh.
Lord Mace stood to bow to the King.
“Lord Stannis, are there any issues with the Stormlands?”
“No, Your Grace,” Lord Stannis denied. “The issue of succession was already addressed by this Council. My household is in the process of vacating Dragonstone to return to Storm’s End. The castle will be ready for you to take possession by the end of next moon.” This moon was more than half gone, making Lord Stannis’s timeline was not unreasonable. It was in fact, quite ambitious “My last act as Lord Paramount of the Crownlands was to summon all of my lords here so that you may meet with them.”
“I will discuss meeting with my lords with my regents,” King Aegon informed them all. “Do you have any other issues to bring before the Crown?”
“I do not, Your Grace.”
“I have one,” the king said.
“How may I serve?”
“With the events of Robert’s Rebellion, there are two acknowledged and valid claims to the Throne—yours and mine. In the interest of maintaining peace in the Realm, we must consolidate these claims.”
Stannis closed his eyes in thought but slowly started to nod. “You mean to take my daughter as your queen.”
“I do,” King Aegon confirmed.
Tywin approved of the lad’s choice.
Renly Baratheon could still become a problem—the boy was much too much like his brother Robert but that could be taken care of easily. But the boy was both fond of tourneys and not very good at them. A suitable end would be simple enough to arrange.
“Will she be your only queen?” Lord Stannis pressed.
“I understand why you ask considering my family’s history in general and my father’s history in particular, but that is between myself and my queen. As it will be some years before we are old enough to do our duty to the Realm, the question is irrelevant.”
“My daughter is nearly five years younger than you,” Lord Stannis said bluntly, “I must insist you not wed until she had had her courses for at least a year.”
“We will marry when she is sixteen or when her courses have been steady for a year—which ever comes later,” the king countered.
Again, Tywin approved. The last thing the Realm needs is a string of queens dying in childbed. Though two queens might not be such a poor idea. A dying House such as House Targaryen needed more members.
“Accepted,” Lord Stannis nodded, “and appreciated.”
“Prince Doran, does Dorne have any issues to bring forward?”
“I want the history of Robert’s Rebellion re-written,” Prince Doran announced. “We have learned so much since your uncle, Lord Eddard Stark, revealed the knowledge he kept hidden all these years to protect you. The histories must be honest despite who it might tarnish, for the nourishment of future generations.”
“It will tarnish no one so much as it will House Targaryen,” King Aegon said.
“True,” Prince Doran agreed.
“We will have Maester Luwin of Winterfell work on drafting a manuscript,” the king decided. “He is a good man and well able to assume a neutral mentality. He has Lord Stark’s trust so allowing him access to Lord Stark’s hidden records should not be overly onerous for the Lord of Winterfell.
“We will review his work before it goes to the Citadel.”
The king hummed. “Mayhaps another song is in order. Few in the Realm can read and fewer can afford the prices the Citadel charges for books to be copied. A song will make the information more available.” King Aegon focused on Tywin for a moment. “It can be written to stress the importance of doing your duty over serving your own desires.”
“I will see to it.” Tywin agreed. “We will need access to your uncle’s records.”
Tywin was eager to see the mysterious records. He assumed that was what was in the trunk the king had brought out with him—that like the harp it was proof of the king’s legitimacy.
“Dorne is pleased with your reception of our request,” Prince Doran intoned when the king turned back to him. “We have no further issues.”
“I have issues to bring to the counsel as a whole,” King Aegon told them and the men at the table all nodded their acceptance of this. “This city is a plague waiting to happen. The smell is atrocious and the stories I have heard about the oppression of rent are horrifying.”
Tywin frowned. “The Iron Throne owns the entire city. No person within the walls has the right to charge another rent other than the Crown.”
“Exactly,” the king nodded. “And when you add the complication of my grandfather’s wildfire, we have a serious problem.”
“Suggestion?” Lord Stark prompted.
“I was thinking that we could invite Maesters of the Citadel to redesign and rebuild the city,” the king said. “We can expand outward, start with a new outer wall and housing districts. Move people into the newly built areas, then clean and rebuild the area vacated. Repeat until the city is new.
“I would like a proper godswood,” the boy added. “And the dragonpit needs to go. It is a hazard and an eyesore. An entire waste of space. There are no dragons, and there have not been for over one hundred years. Why does it still exist at all?”
“We could build a Grand Royal Library,” Lord Leyton said into the silence, “in the place of the Dragonpit.”
“I like that idea,” King Aegon agreed easily.
“The king and his advisers need all available information to rule the Realm,” Lord Stannis added. “Several times under my brother, the Small Council would argue a point for months until we finally received information requested from the Citadel. If we received it at all.”
“Will the Citadel give us copies of every single tome it has?” King Aegon asked Lord Leyton. “Even if they have deemed it irrelevant, it could one day be vital for cultural context to an issue as no one can say what the future will bring.”
“I will instruct them to do so, Your Grace,” Lord Leyton swore. “I admit that I am relieved. I have long been concerned about the Citadel’s proximity to the Iron Islands. One ambitious raid…”
“And the knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms is lost,” King Aegon finished. “Mayhaps we should consider moving the Citadel. Or replicating it across the Seven Kingdoms beyond here in King’s Landing.”
“That will require a great deal consideration,” Lord Leyton agreed. “I will send a raven after this meeting, ordering the copying to begin for the Royal Library project.”
“Thank you, Lord Hightower,” the king nodded—regal despite his age. “If any other lord has books that they would like to ensure copies of reach the Royal Library, feel free to have copies made and sent along.”
“Of course, Your Grace,” several lords around the table agreed.
“Can wildfire be launched from a boat?” the boy asked, showing his age for the first time. “Can we use it in the event the Iron Born rebel again?”
Several of his fellow lords shifted uncomfortably at the king’s idea. It was something to consider but also discomfiting for a boy so young to offer such a heinous plan. The effects of wildfire on the human body were…extreme.
“Your regents, my king,” Lord Eddard prompted his nephew.
“Right,” the boy nodded. “As I am six years from my majority and in desperate need to learn more—about the South in particular. I wish to squire to a knight to travel and complete my education while my regents rule in King’s Landing in my place with the Small Council.”
“For my regent, I choose Lord Stannis Baratheon and Lady Olenna Tyrell. Lord Tywin Lannister will serve with them as Hand of the King. Unless they strongly rather not.”
Stannis accepted with a nod.
Lady Olenna said, “I am honored, Your Grace.”
“Your Will be done,” Tywin confirmed, “my king.”
“As for the knight I will squire, I choose my uncle, Prince Oberyn. He is well-travelled and well-educated. He is also a warrior of renown.”
“I would be honored, nephew,” the Red Viper confirmed.
“My king, I must object,” Lord Mace stood to say. “This man is depraved! It is well known that he lays with both genders and fathers bastards indiscriminately. He is not the sort of man that should be responsible for the development of our king.”
“Lord Tyrell, you seem to be confused,” the king said almost gently. “Kings do not govern morality. We govern legality. My duty is the peace and prosperity of the Realm. Morals are the duty of the gods.
“My hubris is not so great that I would think to intrude upon the duties of the gods.
“Prince Oberyn has harmed people of the Seven Kingdoms, yes, but he served the sentence given to him by the Head of his House and the matter is done. Who he chooses to sleep with is none of my concern so long as no one is harmed or forced to take such actions with him. I am uncertain why you think it to be yours.”