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The Lion & the Lady

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Part Thirty-One: Hurts Like Hell (Part I)

“...I loved and I loved and I lost you

I loved and I loved and I lost you

I loved and I loved and I lost you

And it hurts like hell 

Yeah, it hurts like hell…”

~ “Hurts Like Hell” - Fleurie

From the seat on his great warhorse, Tywin Lannister could see the Twins. Known as the Crossing to some, Tywin looked at the ancient, dilapidated castle and knew that securing the Twins was his key to entering and leaving the North safely before winter made the journey impossible. Looking up at the Twins, the grey stone was crumbling on certain parts of the walls. It was a testament to the fact that Lord Walder Frey had too many mouths to feed and not enough gold to deal with the upkeep of his castle. The dreariness of the castle made Harrenhall seem inviting, Tywin reflected as his stallion stamped his hoof into the mud. Above him, the darkened sky opened and a few drops of icy rain began to fall as Tywin looked at the once great imposing towers. He knew that soon they would have to be his and time was not on his side. Winter was coming and soon, it would be impossible to move north or south of the Neck without hundreds, if not thousands of men dying from exposure to the snow. 

Turning his stallion away from the Twins, Lord Tywin marched his warhorse through the camp as his troops broke away to join the other troops that had been stationed at The Twins during the siege. Only his commanders and those of high rank followed his trail towards the main tent in the center of the camp. His numbers were growing and soon, he’d have enough men to march north and defeat Stannis Baratheon in battle. It was inevitable that the end of the War of the Five Kings would be settled on the battlefield. Tywin had hoped to end the war with diplomacy, but when it came to Stannis Baratheon diplomacy was useless. Battle was the only thing that would satisfy the last true Baratheon heir.  

As the bone chilling rain continued to fall, Tywin was guided to the main tent where several of his commanders had already gathered to give him reports of the situations that had developed. Dismounting his horse, he watched as Prince Oberyn and Prince Aegon followed suit. Those dismounting also were the newly formed guard that Prince Aegon had established for himself. Tywin doubted that there would be any lurking assassins in the corridors of The Twins, but one could never be too careful when it came to Walder Frey. Yanking off his soft leather gloves, Tywin ducked his head and stepped inside the red tent and out of the chilly rain that seemed to be falling even harder.  

Inside the red tent with its gold fringes, Tywin looked around at the men gathered as they hastily stood and bowed while murmuring his title. Four chairs had been left open and Tywin moved to take the one seat at the head of the table. The commander in charge of laying siege on the Twins bowed deeply as Tywin moved to sit down at the table in the center of the tent. Prince Oberyn and Prince Aegon sat down at the table across from Ser Willas and the other Lannister commanders before their meeting commenced. The leader of the siege, Lord Crakehall, was a short, odious man that Tywin disliked immensely, but he did admire the man’s determination and fortitude when given a task. It was said that there was no task that Lord Crakehall couldn’t complete and Tywin was inclined to agree with that statement. Crakehall had never failed him and Tywin half wondered if the Siege of the Twins would be the first time that the man did fail him. Crakehall sat at the opposite end of the long table as wine was poured by a serving wench. Waving the girl off, Tywin looked around at the soldiers gathered and narrowed his emerald eyes.   

“You are the second siege that I have come to where little to no progress has been made,” Lord Tywin started bluntly as he looked at each man that was gathered. “I have already won Riverrun from the Freys and claimed it as my own now. Tell me something you can confirm that is in our favor for winning the castle away from the Freys.” 

“They’re running out of food supplies, my lord,” Lord Crakehall reported quickly in a nasally voice. “It’s only a matter of time before we break the siege or they come out looking for food.” 

“And how much food do you predict that they have, Lord Crakehall?” Ser Willas asked quietly. “We have a matter of days, not weeks, to settle the dispute before we must continue our push to the North if we wish to beat the winds of winter and return home to our families.” 

“Ser Willas is correct,” Tywin conceded as he tossed his leather gloves down onto the table. “We do not have the time to wait.” 

Before Lord Crakehall could reply, a soldier entered the tent with a messenger interrupted the meeting with what appeared to be a roll of parchment sealed with the Frey sigil. Crakehall was the closest to the messenger and accepted the rolled up parchment. For a moment, those gathered in the tent were silent as Crakehall broke the seal and read the message. Crakehall’s eyes moved over the words and when he was finished, he folded the parchment up and moved to have the note passed down to Lord Tywin. 

“A note from Lord Walder Frey,” Lord Crakehall reported in a choked voice. “He sends his greetings and wishes to parley with you, my lord. He invites you and several others into The Twins to negotiate a new treaty between the West and the Twins.” 

“Good,” Tywin murmured as the parchment finally reached him and he unfolded it to read. “Frey realizes that he’s on the back foot and now he wishes to negotiate. A bad idea for him, but nonetheless we will negotiate with him if he wishes.” 

“He has nothing to negotiate with,” Ser Willas pointed out calmly. “No marriage alliance, no gold, nothing.” 

“Which is exactly why he’s at his best to negotiate,” Tywin countered as he tossed the piece of parchment down onto the clothed table. “I’m interested to know what the man is up to and just what his negotiation plans are. Frey is the only one that would parley while on the back foot and I intend to end this siege with his foot having never moved from the ground.” 

Tywin stood and every man at the table stood as well except Prince Aegon. Looking at the young prince, Tywin could see the look of concern on the young man’s face. If the boy wanted to learn how badly negotiations could go, Tywin could think of no better person to learn from than Walder Frey. In every negotiation he’d ever experienced with Walder Frey, the man had always broken his word in someway or another. Dismissing the commanders there, a plan began to formulate in his head and Tywin knew exactly how he would win the negotiations.

The Great Hall inside the Twins was a foul smelling place, Tywin reflected as he entered the walls with fifty of his best soldiers following. The sound of the heel of his boots on the stone echoed throughout the decaying chambers. He wasn’t sure what sort of scheme that Walder Frey was brewing, but he knew the filthy old man was up to something. Lord Frey wouldn’t have kindly opened his gates to fifty soldiers and Lord Tywin Lannister without some sort of plan. It would be very interesting to see how the events unfolded. 

Tywin did not bow or kneel in respect when he came to stand at the very edge of the steps to the great dais where the aging Walder Frey sat. Seeing the aged man in the great chair, Walder Frey was not how Tywin remembered him at Genna’s wedding. Frey had grown frailer and his robes looked far too large for his thin, wiry frame. Long, stringy hair fell from near his ears and a balding head was speckled with age marks. It reminded Tywin of why he spent time in the yard every morning. If a man let his mind and body go to waste with age, he was destined to not live long in their world. A skeletal hand raised a handkerchief up to his mouth and Walder Frey coughed hard enough to make his bones rattle.  

 “Ah, Lord Lannister,” Lord Frey wheezed when he was finished. “I see that you received my message.” 

“I am told that you wished to make conditions of surrender,” Lord Tywin began as his men surrounded the great hall, armed and ready to battle the Frey guards, if needed. From his scan of the great hall, Tywin counted at least thirty armed soldiers and guards in various positions and there were no doubt more hidden behind doors and in the rafters above them. Included in the fifty men that he’d brought with him from the Lannister camp, Prince Aegon was among the men that had volunteered to join the party. From the corner of his eyes, Tywin could see that the young prince had his hand resting on the hilt of his sword and was ready for whatever may come. Perhaps bringing the future king of the seven kingdoms to a potential bloodbath was irresponsible on his part, but Tywin ignored the feeling growing in the back of his mind and focused entirely on the exchange at hand. 

“You were always quick with your words,” Lord Walder Frey said before he brought the handkerchief up to his mouth and coughed again. A horrible wheezing sound came from him as he coughed and tried to breathe at the same time. When he pulled the handkerchief away from his mouth, Tywin saw the blood and knew that the man’s days were surely numbered. Frey most likely wished to die in comfort and a siege was one way to get in the way of a man’s wish to die peacefully. The thought gave Tywin a great amount of pleasure to know that he was interfering with Walder Frey’s comfortable death. 

“And you have always danced with your words,” Tywin countered. “Spare us this dance today. You are clearly unwell, my lord. Am I to assume that you wish for the siege to be lifted and supplies brought in? Food, fresh ale, earthly comforts to make your last days tolerable?” 

“It is true,” Frey admitted with a smile that showed his gnarled and nasty yellowed teeth. “I am a dying man and when I die my eldest son should succeed me as Lord of the Twins…but he can’t, can he? You had him executed at Riverrun like some peasant that displeased you.”

“He did displease me,” Tywin growled. 

“In what way?” Frey demanded before being taken over by a hacking cough. 

“He was given orders months ago to take the castle at Riverrun and he failed to do so. He failed to accomplish something that I was able to see completed in a matter of days. He wasted my gold and valuable resources,” Tywin answered calmly as if he was speaking to a child. “That was why he and a number of your sons were executed there for their utter lack of competence. I am not a man to suffer fools lightly.”

Slowly, Lord Frey pushed himself up from the chair that he sat in. His hands shook with the effort and quickly, the young woman beside Walder Frey stood up to help the man. He waved off the help that was offered from his young wife with a scathing look and harsh words. She looked like a young woman with little spine and Tywin was reminded how young Lord Frey liked his wives to be. Watching the man’s slow progress down the steps and towards him, Tywin waited, ready to strike when the moment was right. The air was filled with barely contained tension and hostility and it became tenser still with each step that Walder Frey took towards him. It was clear that the guards of Lord Frey were only waiting for a command to engage with the poised and seasoned Lannister soldiers. There was a reason that Tywin had taken his fifty best soldiers with him. He expected hostility from the Freys and he needed the calm of soldiers who knew when to fight and when not to be provoked. 

As Frey drew closer, Tywin could smell the stench of urine coming from the man and force his nose not to wrinkle at smell. His robes were tattered, but in his eyes, Tywin could see some spark of life was left inside Walder Frey as the man drew close enough to reach for him. He did not stop him when Frey grabbed the front on his armor. If it was possible, the tension in the room increased as Frey guards raised their crossbows and Lannister soldiers kept their hands on the hilts of their swords. Walder Frey was weak and his legs trembled horribly as he tried to stand up straight, but his fury was evident. His face was red from the exertion and he wheezed with each breath that he took. 

“He was my oldest son,” Walder Frey growled before letting go of Tywin’s armor and stumbling back a step, nearly falling over. “He was my heir and you had him executed! The Twins will never be yours. I bid you to leave and go back to your camp. The Freys will outlast your siege and if I die, I die. But you will never have the Twins. I did not invite you to surrender, I invited you to tell you that I will not let you take the Twins.”   

It all happened in an instant and Tywin seized the opportunity. 

Walder Frey was still close enough to grab and Tywin reached for his throat. The soldiers behind him raised their swords and spears, ready to do battle with the men in the great hall and a strained silence descended as the two men looked at each other with hatred in their eyes. Walder’s crawl-like hands attempted to release the ever tightening grasp around his neck, but he failed to scratch the leather gloves that Tywin wore. 

“You’re going to surrender the Twins to me,” Tywin hissed in Walder’s ear as he tightened his grip around the man’s throat and produced a hidden dagger from his armor. “You’re going to surrender the Twins and I will let you live out the rest of your miserable days in tolerable comfort.”

“We both know that’s a lie,” Walder wheezed as he attempted to free himself, his feet barely touching the floor. “I surrender the Twins and you’ll kill me like you murdered my sons at Riverrun.” 

“Worthless, incompetent fools who take after their father,” Tywin said back through clenched teeth. “Killing them was an easy chore that I will not apologize for.”  

Over Walder’s shoulder, Tywin could see the young Lady Frey moving slowly towards the back of Walder Frey’s chair. She produced a crossbow that had no doubt been placed there for a soldier to use to guard the Lord of the Twins. Her dark red hair reminded him of Sansa’s flaming red hair with its copper highlights in the firelight as he watched her. Boldly, she had picked up the crossbow from where it had been hidden and she held it up in her arms. It was a poor attempt, but there was bravery there that Tywin had not expected. Out of all the Frey guards in the great hall, the girl just so happened to be perhaps the bravest of all the Frey men there. Holding on tightly to the dirk that had been on his hip, Tywin turned Walder around and held the knife to his prisoner’s throat, boldly showing the young girl what he meant to do. 

As he held Walder Frey to him, a knife to his throat, Tywin narrowed his eyes and watched the new young wife of Walder Frey. She was a pretty thing no older than thirteen and what worried him most was how badly  her hands shook as she held up the crossbow. He could not imagine Sansa’s hands shaking if it were her in such a position. No, Lady Lannister was a lioness and her claws were long and sharp like his. She would never find herself reduced to such tactics or circumstances, she was far too smart for a woman.  

“Please, let go of my husband,” the young Lady Frey commanded in a trembling voice that made most of the Lannister soldiers in the room chuckle except Tywin. He would give her credit for being so brave at such a young age especially when the Frey soldiers around her seemed to offer no support to their lord. In truth, it seemed that none of the Frey soldiers knew what to do. Tywin understood that it took courage to stand up to one’s enemies alone and the Lady Frey gained a small measure of respect from him even if she was just a silly, stupid girl.

“Shoot him, you idiot girl,” Lord Walder snarled and it was clear from the shaking of her hands that her mark would not be true. “Shoot him!” 

From behind him, Tywin could hear footsteps of a soldier stepping out of place and he knew who it was without even having to look behind him. As the footsteps drew closer, Tywin could see the girl’s eyes darting between him and the approaching man. It was clear that she was uncertain of what to make of a situation that would no doubt become even more complicated. From the corner of his eye, Tywin watched Prince Aegon approach the young woman his hands raised in surrender to show that he meant no harm. 

“That’s not something you want to do, my lady,” Prince Aegon said calmly as he continued to slowly approach the dais where Lady Frey stood. “I am sure that together we can come up with a peaceable solution that does not involve violence, my lady.” 

“Don’t listen to the bastard,” Lord Walder instructed with a hiss. “Shoot Lord Tywin, you fucking idiot of a girl!” 

The young wife of Walder Frey was crying as she raised the crossbow again and aimed shakely at both Tywin and Walder as Prince Aegon attempted to move closer at a slow pace, his words about a peaceful solution falling on deaf ears. It was clear that the young prince didn’t wish to startle the girl and be shot in the process, but Tywin doubted that even he could convince the girl to lower the crossbow. She was like a wild animal that would unpredictably dart at any moment in any direction without warning and she just so happened to be holding a deadly weapon that could kill them.  

“Don’t listen to your husband,” Prince Aegon pleaded carefully as he stood at the foot of the dias, just three steps away from the scared and trembling girl. “Let us come up with another solution. No one need be hurt.” 

“You don’t understand. There is no other way,” the girl said tearfully and made the fatal mistake of closing her eyes when she fired the crossbow. As the arrow whizzed through the air, Tywin managed to jerk Lord Walder Frey in front of him completely before the arrow pierced the man’s throat. A choking, gurgling sound exploded from his mouth as blood was sprayed onto Tywin’s face and neck. Dropping Lord Frey to the floor, Tywin’s soldiers charged and he let all hell break loose in the great hall as the Frey guards were easily overpowered in the confusion, many of them in shock at seeing their lord killed by his own wife. 

More soldiers flooded in through the front gates and the castle was his, Tywin reflected as he looked down at the dead Lord Frey. A small pool of blood had formed on the floor beneath his head and Tywin resisted the urge to give the man a swift kick in the side for all the trouble that he had caused while alive. Hearing boots on the stone floor beside him, Tywin turned and looked at Lord Crakehall, a man slightly out of breath.

“See to it that the castle is secured and any remaining sons of Lord Walder Frey are executed for treason against the crown,” Tywin instructed calmly as he took out a piece of linen from inside his armor and wiped the blood from his face. “Do not fail me again, Lord Crakehall.” 

“Yes, Lord Lannister,” Crakehall replied with a slight bow. “It will be completed as you command.”

“And Lord Crakehall,” Tywin commanded before he turned away. “Never open up a message meant for me again.”  

Tywin was prepared for the knock on the chamber door before it ever came. He knew that the boy would search him out before the end of the night and he had instructed his guards not to bother stopping the young prince. He looked up from his book on the history of Valyria when the door was opened and Prince Aegon stepped into the chamber. It was obvious that the boy had cleaned any traces of blood from his person and he wore a different doublet and boots as he walked into the room unannounced and uninvited. The fire cracked happily behind the grate and Tywin closed the book, gesturing for Prince Aegon to sit in the chair across from him. He supposed that he was going soft in his old age, Tywin reflected wearily as the boy sat down. Had it been anyone else disturbing him, Tywin was certain that he would have put a dagger in their belly for the intrusion.

“Lord Frey and his sons are dead,” Prince Aegon began quietly as he rested his elbows on his knees and looked into the flames. “The Twins have been secured and the Crossing is now mine to give away to a loyal supporter as I choose.”

“Yes,” Tywin agreed. “In war, that is generally how conquering a castle or kingdom works.”

“Must the ruler of the castle always be subject to execution?” Aegon demanded harshly and Tywin leveled him with a glare. He’d been expecting anger, but he hadn’t been expecting foolish questions. He offered no answer to the prince, looked back down at his book of Valyrian history and decided to reopen the book.  

“You knew that she was going to shoot him,” Prince Aegon said, some of his anger spilling into his words as he changed the subject. “You knew all along that you would use Lord Frey as your protection.” 

“I did. It is what any man would have done to save himself,” Tywin argued back as he turned the pages in his book to where he’d been reading. “In being king, one must make difficult decisions and exercise prudence to help make those decisions. This consists of being able to assess the nature of a particular threat, looking at the outcomes and accepting the lesser of the two evils. Lady Frey had a crossbow pointed at me. The wisest thing to do was to use Lord Frey as my shield, less I take the arrow myself. What is the lesser of the two evils in such a situation, Prince Aegon? My being shot with an arrow or Lord Frey, a man that was meant to be executed in any case for treason against the crown, being shot by his own wife instead. Think boy! You’re to be king and with no heir to your line, you are the only living dragon that can claim the Iron Throne. The wisest course of action will always be to save your life before you save the life of a turn coat and a traitor. Lord Frey was no innocent man. Do not make the mistake of making him a martyr.” 

As Tywin said the words, lightning cracked outside the window and pelts of rain began to fall. He was tired of the rain. It seemed that the only weather in the Riverlands was rain and he was tired of the bone chilling rain with its icy pelts that seemed to beat down on the skin like a whip. Soon the icy rain would turn to snow. Tywin did not plan to stay around for what he imagined would be wet, bone chilling snow that always melted when it touched the earth and left muddy sludge behind that made it impossible to move anywhere. Annoyed by his silence, the prince stood up and moved towards the window. Tywin raised his head and watched the young dragon, mildly curious to know what the young prince would say next. 

He could tell that the decision to execute all the male Freys weighed heavily on the young dragon, but he would make the boy see that they were at war and sometimes decisions had to be made that were not always the easiest decisions to make. The more time that Tywin spent with the young dragon, he realized that Prince Aegon was aspiring to be king due to the expectation that he was meant to be king and nothing more. Someone had instilled into the boy that he was meant to be a king, but had taken no action to instill into the boy the education, the means, and the iron will of how to be a king. 

It was a dangerous combination, but Tywin supposed that his treaty was meant to help the seven kingdoms survive another uncertain kingship. And an uncertain kingship it would be with Prince Aegon on the Iron Throne. Tywin wasn’t sure what sort of king Prince Aegon would make. He had the potential to be a good king, but he also possessed the qualities that if not quickly tempered led to bad kingship and governing. It was difficult to tell what would happen when they did finally discuss the treaty that Tywin had presented the young dragon with in return for his army and support when taking King’s Landing. 

“I know that you think I am weak,” Prince Aegon muttered angrily before he turned away and looked out the narrow window to watch the rain falling onto the river that flowed beneath the castle. 

“I said nothing of the sort,” Tywin countered as he closed the book again and stood up. “You have a mind, boy. I simply want you to use it. Look at every possible scenario and outcome for every situation and from there you will be able to decide the wisest course of action. It is not a simple task and it takes time to learn such a skill. And it is a skill that you will need to conquer. To be a king means to lead alone. Yes, you will have advisors and those there to help guide their own interests, but if you do not use your own mind and exercise it, then you will be a weak king like your ancestors of old.” 

“And if I use my mind?” Prince Aegon challenged as he turned back around to face the Great Lion of Lannister. 

“You have potential,” Tywin murmured as he clasped his hands behind his back. “Don’t squander it on noble crusades like insisting on justice for a man like Lord Walder Frey. The world will soon be at your fingertips. How are you going to rule it? How are you going to build yourself into being a strong leader and king for your people? That is what they will need and want, a strong king. They will not care what you look like or what your name is so long as you give them the most basic things that all men demand. Food and peace.” 

“Food and peace,” Prince Aegon repeated slowly like a young child testing a new word on his tongue. “Two simple things that I craved as a child.”

“Let me ask you this question,” Tywin said, changing the subject. “Is it better to be feared or loved?” 

Prince Aegon frowned as he pondered Lord Lannister’s words and turned to look out the window at the rain falling. The Twins was a dreary place and the sooner they left it, the happier Tywin would be. He hated the rain and it seemed that the only weather that happened at the Twins was cold, icy rain. As Prince Aegon pondered his latest question, Tywin was genuinely curious to know what the boy would say. 

“The seven kingdoms were ruled by a hereditary family, the crown was inherited from father to son,” Tywin continued. “I would challenge that it is easier to govern with a hereditary crown and maintain one’s rule than a newly conquered crown. The question is, is it better to be feared by your subjects or loved by them? Your son will naturally inherit your crown and with it your legacy. What sort of legacy will you leave behind?” 

Prince Aegon turned to him and shook his head, “It is better to be loved by subjects than it is to be feared. If my subjects love me, they will not rebel and I will be assured that the crown remains a hereditary crown passing from Targaryen father to son.” 

“And I would challenge that you are wrong,” Tywin answered. “It is better to be feared.” 

“Yes, you would say that,” Prince Aegon sneered. “You, who has his own song of destruction about a family that rebelled against the House Lannister. I’ve heard your soldiers sing it. They sing it like it is their own conquest that they are talking about.”

“And yet, it unites them. It gives them something in common to sing about and they are proud of it. I can put down rebellions with just that song, Prince Aegon. I can strike fear into the heart of men with that song. I can inspire men to follow me into war with that song. You should never underestimate the power of words and the sway that they hold over men. Words can be far more useful than swords drawn on a battlefield. Joffrey was war hungry when he stupidly chopped off Ned Stark’s head. A mistake that plunged the seven kingdoms into war. Diplomacy helped to end that war.”

“As did murdering your own brother at a dinner party.” 

“Tell me, why should thousands of men die when only ten need to die? You argue I killed my brother and you are right. I am not sorry for my actions. Those actions saved the lives of thousands of men on a battlefield and when diplomacy failed, I acted. You say that it is better to be loved by your subjects, but love does not motivate a man the same way that fear does.” 

“I will not be a cruel leader,” Prince Aegon declared. “I will not be my grandfather.” 

“I am not talking about your grandfather or cruelty,” Tywin argued. “A good king has a reputation of being compassionate to his subjects, but be careful of how you use your compassion. A good king is cruel only when he must be cruel and there will be moments when you strip a man of his lands and it is seen as an act of cruelty. As long as you keep your subjects united and loyal, they will overlook your cruelty. You call what I did to the open rebellion my father allowed to run wild in the West cruelty. By making an example of House Reyne during the Reyne-Tarbeck revolt, I showed more compassion than my weak father ever had in his life. He was too soft to rule, he couldn’t see what was happening before his own eyes. The destruction of one house showed the other houses what their fates would be should they revolt against the House Lannister. My one act of cruelty led to unity and loyalty from the other houses that remains in place to this day. Love would not have accomplished this single handedly. Only both fear and admiration could unite the Westernlands and it did. So now, they sing my song in admiration and fear that it could someday be their house that others sing about next.”

“And if I cannot inspire both admiration and fear?” 

“It is far better to be feared than it is to be loved. Love will not hold together the seven kingdoms. The foundations of your rule cannot be love. Men in general are ungrateful, disloyal, liars and will easily deceive you the first chance that they get. That is the truth of the world, Prince Aegon. Your uncle may not agree with my words, but they are true. He has more faith in the good qualities of men than I do, but do not be deceived for what men really are. If men love you as their king, that is fine. Love is secured as a response to gratitude. The people will love you simply because you’ve freed them from the tyranny of the Baratheon line and restored peace. But when it comes time that you need more than their love, you will find that men are exactly as I’ve told you. Fear, however, is something that is far more powerful than love. Men who fear you dread the consequences and are motivated not by love, but by fear of what will happen to them if they do not do as they are told. We are at war now. Do you think I want the love of the people or the fear of my soldiers?” 

Prince Aegon said nothing and Tywin continued, “Fear is the binding force that holds armies together. Fear is what held the seven kingdoms together for nearly the entire Targaryen Dynasty. Fear of dragons inspires more loyalty and unity than anything else. But once the dragons were gone, fear seemed to ease away from the seven kingdoms slowly. Cruelty became the currency of kings and when the tyranny became too much, there were those that rose up in rebellion and won a crown as a result. Robert Baratheon held the seven kingdoms together with fear. Fear that he was a great man that defeated your father and could easily defeat another rebellion. It was his legacy of fear that gave him power even in the very end when he was a fat, lazy bag of bones that hardly ruled and only whored away his days. His son, however, missed the mark on fear. He wasn’t feared. He was hated and that was why King Joffrey was murdered. His malice and abuses were too much for some and his legacy of hatred only ended in his demise. So, I pose the question to you again, Prince Aegon. Is it better to be feared or loved?” 

Prince Aegon said nothing. 

November 8, 300 AC 

The Red Keep, King’s Landing

It was difficult to see in the near darkness of the corridor that led to the chambers of the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Sansa reflected as she clutched onto the sleeve of Ser Kevan’s doublet. Every so often, she could feel his sword against the skirts of her gowns and it was comforting to know that should anything happen, Ser Kevan and Ser Jorah were there to defend her. Behind her, she could faintly hear Ser Jorah’s soft footsteps as he followed them. It was a reassuring sound, Sansa decided and the seven faces of God only knew that she had few comforts these days. Following Ser Kevan down a narrow passage and turning a corner, they reached the black iron wrapped door to the Lord Commander’s chambers. Raising his fist, Ser Kevan knocked on the door. 

When Jamie opened the door, his half dressed state was different to see. Gone was the heavy armor that he wore and gone were the leather boots that were well worn. Instead, Jamie only wore a tunic and breeches with a wine goblet in hand. It was clear that he’d been drinking and Sansa did not blame him for indulging in the cup. She wanted to do the very same thing, but she had never been good at drinking wine in large quantities. 

“We were hoping to have a word,” Ser Kevan said as he looked around them, making sure that no one could see or hear them. The simple truth was that Cersei had spies everywhere and it was almost impossible to do anything. They had begun taking extra precautions in making certain that no one overheard their conversations and plans. 

“By all means, come in,” Jamie said, his voice slightly slurred as he stepped to the side and held up an arm as an invitation to enter his chambers. Hurriedly stepping inside with Ser Jorah and Ser Keven, Sansa looked around the small chamber and was surprised by how simple the life of the Lord Commander actually was. There were no great oppulants to the room, no great tapestries hanging from above the fireplace. A narrow bed made for one man was pushed to the far side of the chamber and neatly made. A table and two chairs were in the center of the room with a third more comfortable looking chair near the fireplace. An armor stand and a standing clothing bureau was all the rest of the furniture in the room. It was simple and something about the room made Sansa believe that Jamie genuinely enjoyed spending time in this chamber.  

“What is it that I can do for you this late at night?” Jamie asked as he sat down in a chair by the fire and raised the goblet of Dornish red wine to his lips. His golden hand rested on the table and Sansa found her eyes were drawn to it. She’d never seen it off his hand and something about it laying there made Jamie more human to her than ever before. 

“Cersei is behind the arrest of Ser Loras and Queen Margaery,” Ser Kevan began without preamble and cleared his throat as he sat down in one of the chairs. “She made a deal with that devil called the High Sparrow.” 

“How would you like me to respond to that statement? It’s not a question or something that I can answer,” Jamie said bitterly. “I am well aware of what she’s been doing. After Joffrey’s death, I confronted her about his madness and she told me that if I went near her again she’d put a dagger in my heart. I have kept my distance from both her and Tommen for a very good reason.” 

Sansa grasped the back of the chair in front of her and looked at Jamie, “She’s starting a war that your father helped to end. It’s only a matter of time until the Reach strikes back for the imprisonment of Queen Margaery and Ser Loras. Lord Lannister will return from quieting the unrest in the North and the Riverlands only to discover that his daughter has started another war with the Reach. There has to be something that we can do to stop this madness.” 

“Cersei won’t listen to reason,” Jamie explained quietly as he looked up at them, his goblet of wine forgotten as he set it on the floor beside him. “She won’t listen to me anymore. She hasn’t listened to me since I told her the truth about Joffrey’s insanity and how it was impossible that he was a son of mine. Ever since that day, it has been a quick slide into a paranoid madness that I don’t think anyone will be able to bring her back from. I doubt that even our father could recover her. Joffrey’s death changed something fundamental inside Cersei and I don’t know how you could ever change it back. She welcomes a war with the Reach. She thirsty for blood and to see the downfall of Margaery Tyrell.” 

Ser Kevan looked uneasy and Sansa knew why. It was the first time that Jamie was speaking openly to anyone but his father about the true parentage of the kings of the seven kingdoms. Sansa sat down in the chair that was closest to Jamie and turned to face him with a weary expression on her face. She felt far older than she actually was and the feeling was beginning to feel like it would be a permanent part of her. Reaching out for Jamie’s only hand, she covered it with her own and gave it a gentle squeeze. 

“Margaery Tyrell’s political fall is no doubt a disaster, but I did not come here tonight to talk all about Cersei and trials,” she confessed quietly. “I came here to ask a great favor of you and I want you to know that if the task seems impossible or you feel that you cannot be a part of it, I understand. All I ask is that you do not tell Cersei of this conversation.”   

“What is it that you ask of me?” Jamie inquired with a raised eyebrow as he looked between Sansa and Ser Kevan. Sansa looked to Ser Kevan for a moment and when he nodded his head at her, she took a deep breath and turned back to look at Ser Jamie. Trust was something that was a precious commodity in the Red Keep and they were taking a great jump in placing their blind trust with Jamie. 

“November 18th is the next full moon,” Sansa explained. “When your father left, he left behind two hundred Lannister guards and the Commander to see me and Tyren to Casterly Rock. That plan did not go accordingly. I was meant to leave the day after he left, but I discovered that travel would be impossible for me. I am with child again, Jamie. You, Tyrion, and Tyren are to have another sibling.” 

If Jamie was shocked by the news, he hid it well and said nothing as Sansa swallowed hard before continuing, “I foolishly decided that I did not want Tyren leaving me side. That if I was forced to stay, my son would linger here with me.” 

“I hardly call that a foolish decision,” Jamie said quietly. 

“It was and continues to be a foolish decision. Your sister will stop at nothing until she hurts Tyren. She is convinced that I played a part in Joffrey’s death and I cannot convince her otherwise. Keeping Tyren here with me in the capital was a mistake. A miscalculation on my part and now, he’s trapped in a viper’s nest and with only two hundred guards to keep him safe. I am not foolish, Jamie. I know that your sister thirsts for revenge against me and she’ll strike soon. I don’t know what she plans to do, but I imagine that it will involve a trial and the faith militant. Ser Loras’s trial was only the beginning and you know that as well as I do.” 

“What are you asking of me?” 

“I am asking you to do what I failed to do and take Tyren out of King’s Landing and back to the safety of his father,” Sansa answered softly. “Do you remember that day on the beach when you promised me that you would always keep your little brother safe? I am asking you to uphold that vow and renounce your title as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and safely take Tyren out of the city.”  

Sansa held her breath. Her words seemed to have sobered him and he looked at her with fierce determination in his eyes. 

“I will do what you ask of me,” Jamie said without hesitation. “I only ask for one thing in return.” 

“Anything with my power,” Sansa answered quickly, her heart pounding in her chest with both relief and anxiety. 

“I want to take Tyrion with me,” he explained. “He’s not safe from Cersei’s wrath and the first chance that she gets, she will execute him on some trumped up charge of treason that we all know he did not commit.”

Nodding vigorously, Sansa squeezed Jamie’s hand tighter and smiled, “Yes, take Tyrion with you. God only knows that he’s going insane inside the stone walls of the Tower of the Hand. I am sure that he will be most happy to leave King’s Landing.” 

“Thank you, Lady Sansa,” Jamie murmured. “You have my word that I will do everything in my power to protect Tyren and see him safely back to our father’s protection.” 

Sansa gave him a rare half smile and felt for a moment as if she could breathe easier. Her plan was coming together and it would only be a matter of time until Tyren was safe and out of King’s Landing. 

Winterfell and the North was theirs. 

Standing in the crypts of Winterfell, Tywin studied the two statues of the young boys that he’d had commissioned only three days ago. The craftsmen had been ordered to work day and night in order to complete the statutes. According to many members of the household, the likeness of Brandon and Rickon Stark was uncanny. The craftsmen had been compensated well with Lannister gold and as Tywin stood looking at the graves of the two young boys, he reflected that they were his good brothers and did indeed deserve the burial that was due to their positions as sons of Lord Eddard Stark. There were always victims of war and Bran and Rickon had been casualties to a man that they had once nearly called brother. 

In an almost poetic sense of justice, Theon Greyjoy was barely a shadow of a man at all now. His ghosts haunted him and he’d gone as white as a sheet when he’d seen the statues of Bran and Rickon as they’d been made by craftsmen in the bailey. Heavy furs were draped around his shoulders and moving away from the graves of Bran and Rickon, Tywin moved to stand in front of the statue of the mother that had also been commissioned and erected next to the graves of the two boys. At the foot of the statue, Tywin read the words that had been carved into the stone.  

To the missing Lady Arya Stark and her mother, the lost Lady Catelyn Stark, 

May the mother keep them, bless them with eternal love, and protect them from the darkness of the world

Tywin Lannister had not liked Lady Catelyn, but he could not easily honor her sons and forget the woman who had given life to his wife. He had no body that belonged to Catelyn Stark to bury and he did not have enough time to have the likeness of a fully grown woman carved into a statue. Little boys were faster to crave than fully grown women, but everyone knew the likeness of the mother and he’d used her likeness to represent both a dead mother and missing daughter. He could not give the Stark family all the honor and respect that their dead were due, but he could try to keep the promise that he’d made so long ago to Sansa to see that her brother’s were given a proper burial and not left to rot in some unmarked grave that would be forgotten to both time and memory. 

As he stood before the newly installed statue of the Mother, Tywin reflected that it was by sheer, dumb luck that he had heard about the Battle for Winterfell while on route to see the castle in the North. Stannis, despite all his losses in the North, had decided to march south to Winterfell after burning his daughter alive as a sacrifice to his fiery god. Tywin was not deaf to the rumors enroute to the castle of what was happening to the last Baratheon king. He’d heard about how the northern lords had refused to rally for the last Baratheon king, choosing instead to stay in their castles and prepare for winter. Not even the wildlings from beyond the Wall would fight for Stannis. Not after he’d killed their leader, Mance Rayder. Tywin had even heard that Stannis had offered to legitimize Ned Stark’s bastard, Jon Snow, in an attempt to use the Night’s Watch as his army and had failed when Snow decided to keep his vows as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. 

The North was an unpredictable place and Tywin was not surprised when marching north that a snow storm had delayed Stannis’s march on Winterfell. What had surprised him was the news that Roose Bolton’s crazed bastard had sabotaged Stannis’s march south by destroying the last stag’s siege engines that had been created, destroying most of Stannis’s supplies, and killing many of the horses. If it was possible, Stannis’s position became even worse when the Stormcrows abandoned him and returned back home across the Narrow Sea. What had truly been stunning had not been how quickly people had abandoned Stannis and his cause, but by the man’s sheer desperation to win. The news that Princess Shireen had been burned alive at the stake in some crazed madness had surprised even Tywin. He had not imagined a man so devoted to having an heir becoming so desperate as to burn his only heir alive. 

Taking Winterfell in the aftermath of the battle had not been difficult, his fresh troops had routed Ramsey Bolton’s tired troops and easily defeated the last of the men. With Ramsey Bolton as prisoner, Tywin had expected to negotiate a new treaty between himself and Roose Bolton for power in the North. However, the news of Bolton’s untimely death and the death of his wife and newborn son had not been anticipated. Bolton’s decaying body had been found in a shallow grave dug not far from Winterfell and Lady Walda’s remains had been found in the dog kennel along with those of her son. Ramsey’s revelation that he’d fed his stepmother and newborn brother to his own dogs had been unsettling. It had even turned Tywin’s strong stomach. 

It had been Prince Aegon that had suggested the same method of execution for Ramsey Bolton, a surprise move that had left Prince Oberyn in objection. However, the soon to be king had gotten his way with the overwhelming support of Ser Willas Tyrell and in the end, Ramsey Bolton had been thrown into the kennel with his dogs. Specific orders had also been given to put the rabid animals down after they had killed Bolton’s bastard. There seemed to be no need to keep such vicious animals alive. It was something that was done at Ser Willas’s Tyrell suggestion. Considering Ser Willas’s love for hounds, the man’s suggestion had come as somewhat of a shock. 

Stannis Baratheon’s destruction and Ramsey Bolton’s death had solved two of his biggest problems, Tywin reflected. He was grateful to each man that had helped to solve both his problems in one swift blow. Bolton and Baratheon had destroyed each other and he’d been left with the pieces that needed to be picked up and the task had not been as monumental as Tywin had feared. With Bolton and Baratheon gone, the North was in even more risk of plunging into chaos. It was his army's presence alone that prevented such a striff from becoming reality. In truth, the northern lords knew that winter was coming. It was a universal truth that had been acknowledged by all the great lords and Tywin’s quick negotiations with them had resulted in a restoration of stability to the North. 

After a disastrous war with Robb Stark and the death of Lord Karstark, the northern lords had been wary of any Lannister interference, but the promise of a Stark heir had been enticing to many of the unsettled lords. Tywin knew the songs that were sung about Sansa being lost to the south, but he could promise the northern lords the one thing that they wanted above all else, a Stark heir. It would mean that one of his sons would someday be forced to set aside the Lannister name and rule as a Stark, but Lannister blood would flow through the veins of the Lord of Winterfell and that was all that mattered. Smalljon Umber, a loyal supporter of the late Lord Robb Stark, would assume stewardship of the North until such a time as an heir could be presented. With the promise of a Stark heir, the Lords of the North had bent the knee easily. In the eyes of the men that were present to bend the knee, Tywin could tell they were war weary and ready for peace. They would do anything to achieve that peace even if it meant bending the knee to a Lannister, their sworn enemy. 

Hearing footsteps, Tywin did not bother to look to see who was approaching. He’d been around the young prince long enough to know the sounds of his footsteps on the stone floor. Seeing his breath in the cool night air, Tywin moved to stand in front of the last statue that he’d come to see. Her face was peaceful and her outstretched hand was almost meant to be a peace offering for the destruction that she had caused, Tywin reflected as the torch light danced across her stone face. 

“Ramsey Bolton is dead and so are his wild beasts,” Prince Aegon said quietly as he came to stand next to him in front of the statue of Lady Lyanna Stark. In life, Lady Lyanna had been a great beauty and her statue reflected that great beauty, but it still failed to capture all the beauty that had stolen Rhaegar Targaryen’s heart. A stolen heart that had resulted in the deaths of thousands of men on the battlefield.  

“Good,” Tywin murmured as he continued to look into the face of the woman that had nearly destroyed the seven kingdoms. 

“She is the woman that ran away with my father?” Prince Aegon asked as he took in the likeness of the statue in front of him. 

“She is the woman that brought the seven kingdoms to its knees,” Tywin corrected as he looked at her outstretched hand, the same hand that Robert Baratheon had always placed flowers in when he visited Winterfell. “Never underestimate the power of a woman. They can unite kingdoms and destroy them with more force and power than any army ever could.” 

“Women like Margaery Tyrell?”

“Women like Sansa Stark,” Tywin countered quietly.

The Great Hall of Winterfell was a chilly place, Tywin decided as he sat at one of the circular tables near the great dais and read over the reports from scouts all over the seven kingdoms. The most troubling reports were from King’s Landing and he clenched his fist tightly as he read over a note from a spy within the walls of the Red Keep. News that Cersei had stripped his brother of all the powers as the Hand of the King was disturbing. What was more disturbing was the news that somehow Cersei had created a decree that reinstated the Faith Militant and that Ser Loras Tyrell had been arrested on charges that were so common knowledge that even the whores knew not to ask for Tyrell coin. What was more, Queen Margaery had been arrested at the trial of her brother on some other charges that the High Sparrow had created to imprison the rightful queen of the seven kingdoms.  

How Varys had managed to smuggle information out of King’s Landing was a mystery to Tywin Lannister, but it did not diminish his anger at the fact that events out of his control had taken place. He was furious that Sansa had not followed his explicit instructions to leave King’s Landing. Fear was not an emotion that Tywin Lannister experienced regularly, but he was loath to admit that he did feel some fear for Sansa and his son alone in the capitol with the Faith Militant and Cersei loose and out of control. It was a dangerous combination. 

The sound of the great hall doors being thrown open jarred Tywin from his thoughts as he looked up to see Prince Aegon marching into the hall with a rolled up parchment fisted in one hand. Prince Oberyn and Ser Willas were not far behind him, their faces grim and their body language told Tywin that Prince Aegon had most likely had an infamous fit of temper that some Targaryen Kings were known for. Setting aside the small parchment that Lord Varys had sent him, Tywin braced himself for the fit of rage that he expected. He’d had a lifetime of practice under King Aerys and he was confident that whatever had caused the Young Dragon to rage would be easily solved. 

“I have read your treaty,” Prince Aegon snarled as he leaned over the table towards Tywin, both hands on the surface of the circular table. “Most kings would find such a treaty insulting.” 

“You are not most kings,” Tywin countered, unafraid and unintimidated as he looked up at the young prince. “You asked for my support in taking the Iron Throne. Support does not come freely, surely even you know that.” 

His words angered the prince, Tywin could see it in the young man’s eyes. He was glad of the anger. It meant that the prince did care about his throne in some way. Their journey north had been enlightening in some ways as to exactly who the young dragon was. Tywin knew the boy to be impulsive and young with ambition and a certain lack of education about his own family and their downfall, but there was also a thirst for knowledge and the desperate need to survive as a king. Prince Aegon was not entirely blind to what he lacked as a leader and future king. He saw his flaws and that was the beginning of solving and fixing those flaws.  

“Sit,” Tywin instructed. “Sit and let us finally negotiate our treaty.” 

Ser Willas and Prince Oberyn approached and heard his words, but the men nodded in agreement that it was time for negotiations to begin on the treaty that would seal the fate of the seven kingdoms. Either the treaty was made or Prince Aegon lost the support of both the Houses Lannister and Tyrell in the course of one evening. Both Prince Oberyn and Ser Willas sat at the table, but Prince Aegon remained standing. The fire in his eyes still burned hotly and Tywin could see the struggle within the young man to control his temper. It was a good thing to see. A king needed to keep his temper in check at all times. Decisions made in anger and haste were always repented at leisure after they had been made. It took several minutes, but Prince Aegon finally did sit down beside his uncle and Tywin watched as the prince unfolded the parchment that had been clenched tightly in his fist.  

“You read the treaty,” Ser Willas began pointedly as he clasped his hands together. “As we all have read it, I am certain that we do not need more advisors or men to interfere with the negotiations than those that are present.” 

“Agreed,” Prince Oberyn said smoothly. “Too many men present only complicates matters. Shall we proceed, nephew?”  

“There are some things that I agree with,” Prince Aegon said with a forced calm as he sat across from Ser Willas and Lord Tywin. “There are other things that I cannot agree with without explicit explanation for why the terms are the way they are. You said that the terms are non-negotiable if I want my throne. If that is the case, I want answers and explanations of these terms.” 

“I am sure that Lord Tywin can answer any of the terms you wish to discuss with reason and logic,” Ser Willas answered calmly and Prince Aegon looked to his uncle, Prince Oberyn for reassurance that was given as a nod. 

“You first point about Targaryen incest,” Prince Aegon said as he sat back in his chair and took a deep breath. “The crown accepts this part of the terms and agrees that it will end any Targaeryen madness.”

“It won’t end madness,” Tywin interjected calmly as he rested his elbow on the arms of his chair. “The Targaryen line has a long history of madness. Your blood has been mingled together too much to end madness in one generation or even a dozen. By marrying into other great houses of the realm, it will reduce the power of the Faith and their ability to object to many issues on the grounds of marriage.” 

“If we are going to be speaking of marriage,” Prince Oberyn spoke up quietly. “Am I to understand that Queen Margaery Baratheon is still the primary choice to be the new king’s queen.” 

“Queen Margaery is expected to be the new king’s bride,” Ser Willas confirmed as he sat back in the chair, his cane resting beside him. “It is the only way that House Tyrell can be relied upon to uphold the treaty and participate in its role of governing, if that is agreeable to the future king. If not, I am afraid that House Tyrell must withdraw their support for Prince Aegon.”

Tywin had heard what the young man had said about Margaery Tyrell on prior occasion. He understood the young prince’s fear about Margaery Tyrell former marriages and her being on her fourth husband at such a tender young age, but Tywin also understood the importance of the continuation of the Targaryen line. Margaery had already proven herself to be fertile and Tywin suspected that Ser Willas had knowledge of his sister’s pregnancy and her taking moon tea to abort the child that she had carried. Margaery Tyrell might have been poisoned by Baratheon cock as Prince Aegon had described it earlier, but she was the best and only candidate that would bring unification to the seven kingdoms. All other candidates were either babes or already married and to break any alliances might bring about another war. 

“The crown accepts the marriage,” Prince Aegon replied calmly, handling the situation far better than he had the first time the news that Margaery Tyrell would be his bride. “I believe that the next order of business in the treaty pertains to the payment of debts by the crown.”

“Debts paid by House Lannister to the Iron Bank to prevent the invasion of forigen powers into the realm,” Tywin said quickly. “It is not a movable point to be had. The debts must be paid.” 

“And how much is the debt?” Prince Aegon demanded with a frown on his face as Prince Oberyn slowly exhaled beside the young prince, no doubt already aware of the vast sums owed to the House Lannister by the crown.  

“Five million gold dragons at last calculation,” Ser Willas answered calmly. 

“They are not my debts,” Prince Aegon argued, his face turning red with anger. “I did not incur so vast a sum under my leadership.” 

“Your leadership has hardly begun,” Tywin countered. “The House of Lannister kept this realm from being invaded by outside powers by paying the debts of the crown to the Iron Bank. It was Lannister gold that kept the Iron Throne intact and it is Lannister gold that will finance the opposition should you decide not to continue with the payments that even Joffrey Baratheon saw fit to continue making to the House Lannister even before he died.”

“You were the Hand of the King to Joffrey Baratheon. I doubt that Joffrey had any true choice in the matter.”

“Do not go tipping the scales, Prince Aegon,” Prince Oberyn warned. “There are many matters to negotiate about, but it is vital that we continue to have the support of both House Lannister and House Tyrell if you wish to fulfill your dream of conquering King’s Landing and the Iron Throne. All dreams have prices and this dream happens to be more expensive than others.”

“Nothing in this world is freely given,” Tywin uttered. “Not even my support is freely given. You want an army of men to help you take King’s Landing? I can provide men. The House Tyrell can support King’s Landing through the winter that is coming, but nothing is freely given to you. For Tyrell’s support, you must marry Margaery Tyrell. For my support, the crown continues the payments of gold with the proposed restrictions.”

“Yes, you’re to have my balls in a vice for many years to come,” Prince Aegon muttered angrily. “I am forbidden from plundering and pillaging the properties of the Faith, the nobility, charging outrageous fees for a man to claim his inheritance, a man to marry, and a widow’s remarriage. All were great sources of revenue for Robert Baratheon and other Targaryen kings. I am now forbidden from using such pursuits as revenue for my kingdom.”

“All were reasons that people disliked their kings,” Ser Willas answered. “The plan for payment was in place before you came forward with your claim for the Iron Throne. Part of the negotiations is that the payment plan stays as it was originally made without excessive taxation used to hurry along the paying off of debts. It is not meant to punish anyone. It is a simple tool to prevent any rebellion early in your reign.” 

“The transition of power will not be a smooth handing off of a crown from one man to another. It will be bloody,” Tywin murmured. “Rarely is any changing of power from one house to another simple and smooth. Robert Baratheon spent the first years of his reign learning how to rule and learning that not all rebellious lords are looking for a fight. Some simply wish to negotiate new terms and conditions for loans, marriages, and taxation. Baratheon decided that military action was easier than writing letters. It did not earn him the respect of the people and Balon Greyjoy rebelled against him as a result and forced another war between the great houses of the realm. The rebellion was put down, but it did cost Robert a great deal of money and time. Something you have neither to give to the realm.” 

Prince Aegon looked as if he were ready to argue when Ser Willas spoke, “You have not the manpower, nor the support of great houses to be fighting off rebellions so soon in your reign, your grace. Lord Tywin is correct in his assessment that the transition of power is never easy and to renegotiate the plan of repaying the debts may leave some lords unhappy in an already difficult process.”

The great hall grew quiet as the men gathered at the table watched Prince Aegon. Tywin half wondered if the boy would walk away from the negotiation table before the negotiations had even begun. They had barely started on the other parts of interest in the treaty and already, they were coming to disagreements about the most basic of issues that had to be dealt with in order for Prince Aegon to come into power. Prince Oberyn said nothing, something that surprised Tywin, but he supposed that Prince Oberyn had read the treaty and terms with his nephew and knew what the boy thought of each and every point. There were few men to advise Prince Aegon, and Tywin believed that it was all the better. Too many opinions would confuse the young man before he ever knew his own mind. With only Prince Oberyn as his advisor, Prince Aegon was forced to rely only upon his own understanding and wits to negotiate for his crown. There was much that Prince Aegon still had to learn, but Tywin could see the boy’s mind growing with every conversation and confrontation that they faced. He was growing to be a king and learning how to rule, something that could not be taught in a single breath or a single day. 

“Two years,” Prince Aegon finally charged, breaking the silence of the great hall. “Two years of keeping the current payment plan intact, however, after two years, I have the right to revisit the topic of repayment and renegotiate the terms and conditions of the plan. That is what I am willing to commit to on behalf of my crown.” 

Tywin thought over the young prince’s proposal for a moment before nodding in agreement. It was a bargain that he could live with. Besides, there were much bigger issues to deal with in the grand scheme of things that had to be accomplished. 

“Moving onto the third point of the treaty,” Prince Oberyn said calmly reading from the parchment in front of him. “The establishment and recognition of the rights of great lords and their houses as well as the king’s free subjects. These basic rights include firstly that the right that no lord shall be imprisoned, outlawed, exiled, or seized except by the lawful judgement of his peers. Second, no one can sell, be denied, or delayed the rights of justice. Third, the basic rights of marriage may be conducted freely without the input of the crown. Fourth, a recognized maximum exists for reliefs, taxes, and fees that a lord can pay for inheritance. Fifth, land cannot be seized for debts, but rents and profits can be seized by lords, not the crown, to settle debts. The list goes on to declare other basic rights that great lords should possess under the new king.”   

“You’re expecting me to give up power,” Prince Aegon argued fiercy as he pointed a ringed finger at Tywin. 

“I am expecting you to be a king and want what is best for your realm,” Lord Tywin countered with a fierce glare. “There hardly ever is a right way to govern. That is why kingdoms rise and fall. The goal of giving rights to the free lords of the realm is to eliminate the crown’s power from daily administration in the kingdoms and return more powers back to the kingdoms. The system as it is written now is oppressive and difficult to maneuver for even the lowest lord. I only seek to attempt to take the overgrown administration of the crown and give powers back to the lords where rights and powers have been denied. There was a time that the great lords of the seven kingdoms ruled their kingdoms under the eye of Targaryen kings.” 

“Yes, I have read my history books, Lord Lannister,” Prince Aegon said with narrowed eyes. “I’ve also watched you accumulate kingdoms in your very hands. You control the West, the North, and the Riverlands. Three out of the seven kingdoms belong under your family giving you power that many would see as dangerous to the crown’s interest.”

“I only seek to guard what belongs to my wife,” Lord Tywin argued. “Lady Lannister is the sole heir to the Riverlands on her mother’s side and the heir to the North on her father’s side. As her lord husband, it is my duty to see to the interest and wellbeing of her affairs. I am simply doing my duty until such a time that we have produced an heir that will rule the kingdom under their mother’s guidance.” 

“You mean to have your sons rule the West, the North, and the Riverlands.” 

“I do, your grace. Is that not how families control their interest by reproducing and letting their children continue on their legacy? Will not one day your son rule the Iron Throne or do you intend to rule from the grave?” 

“I see no issue with Lord Tywin’s heirs ruling their respective lands that they have inherited from their mother,” Ser Willas interjected as he clasped his hands together. “It has been done before by other lords when there are multiple inheritances to be had.” 

“We are moving away from the subject at hand,” Prince Oberyn said calmly. “These rights, I support as well as believe that it is imperative the crown recognizes them as well.” 

“And why should the crown recognize such rights and allow subjects to believe that they are free under the rule of the crown?” Prince Aegon asked, his fists clenched tightly and anger was growing. Tywin could see it in the young man’s body language and he understood that Aegon didn’t see what was so important about recognizing the rights and granting freedoms to the great lords of the realm. 

“It makes you appear different from Joffrey,” Ser Willas answered. “Joffrey is simply just another tyrant wearing a crown. These rights and freedoms are a guarantee that as king make you a different type of option for the people. You’re not a man wanting to simply wear a crown. You’re a man wanting to rule with new ideas and respect your subjects enough to grant them new rights and acknowledge the freedoms of free lords. If read and interpreted correctly, the treaty only calls for these rights and privileges for free lords. It does not include women, commonfolk, knights, merchants and so on. They are not free men like the noble lords of houses are. In the end, who are you really granting freedoms to but a handful of men?” 

“A handful of men who could turn around and use their newfound rights to take away my throne.” 

“Nowhere in those rights does it declare that a lord has the right to challenge the king,” Tywin argued. “I fear that you are looking at this as a challenge to your power and not seeing the great benefit that it gives you as a new king on the throne.” 

“I agree with Ser Willas,” Prince Oberyn said quietly. “Heed his words, nephew.” 

“I am to be overruled.” Prince Aegon said sullenly. 

“You wish to be king,” Lord Tywin replied fiercely. “You wish to rule, but do not make the mistake of believing that the seven kingdoms will simply crown a new Targaryen king with no issues. It cannot be said that your family did not use and abuse the lords and the common folk of this realm while their dynasty reigned the first time. Forgive me for being skeptical of your ability to rule and wishing to have in place a system that protects my family and the people under my guardianship in the West should you prove to be as incompetent a king as Robert Baratheon or as mad a king as your grandfather or King Joffrey.”   

“Which is exactly why you wish to establish a Council of the Realm,” Prince Aegon sneered. “Something to severely limit my ability to rule the seven kingdoms.”

“I don’t seek to limit your power,” Tywin lied. “I seek to slow down the process of government so that all who wish to take place and examine new laws and taxes have the opportunity before such decisions are made. The Council of the Realm would work directly with the king and the Hand of the King to address issues that arise from the Small Council. The Council of the Realm would include one representative from each of the seven kingdoms and work with the king to solve problems with diplomacy rather than war breaking out every decade due to mismanagement and misunderstandings between king and realm. It is a chance for peace, your grace. Something that had rarely been achieved in the seven kingdoms and it could define your reign. King Aegon the Peaceful or whatever name they seek to bestow upon you.”

“And why would I wish to slow down governing the people?” Prince Aegon demanded. “Is it not the right, no, the position of the crown to govern the people of the seven kingdoms as the crown sees fit?” 

“When Robert Baratheon first came to power, he had a concept that he wished to make into law. As I am sure you are aware, feudal dues are owed to the crown every year by the lords of the seven kingdoms. Robert proposed a tax that he called scutage or shield money. Money that the lords would pay to avoid sending their skilled and loyal knights to fight for the king. Theoretically, the money could then be used to develop a royal army and buy mercenaries to fight in the wars that Robert believed we were on the cusps of. It was a wildly terrible idea that nearly resulted in open rebellion against the king in his first year ruling. In Robert’s haste, he forgot to weigh the opinions of others and nearly plunged the seven kingdoms into a second civil war. All due to hasty governing. Something that the Council of the Realm would seek to restrain in the interest of peace,” Tywin explained as he laced his fingers together and looked at the Young Dragon carefully. 

The great hall became quiet and Tywin reflected that the boy was smart in seeing his true reasons for wanting to push the treaty, but he hoped that his words had temporarily blinded the young, ambitious prince. In truth, Tywin’s aim was to limit the power of the king and consolidate his own power in the regions that he controlled. 

One of his primary goals was to ensure that the Lannister gold that had been borrowed by the crown was repaid. By limiting the coffers of the crown, he could effectively control the amount of money that could be raised, borrowed, or loaned out at any given time and with the Council of the Realm, it would tighten the purse strings of the crown even more. A second goal that was entirely his own was to curb the abuses of power that the king wielded. He had not one, but two wives subjected to the abusive nature of kings. Perhaps it was a small sense of guilt that he still felt regarding Aerys’s treatment of Joanna that made his desire to attain this goal almost a thirsting need. Was there more that he could have done to protect her? Probably. Had he actually done something as he watched his once great friend descend into madness? No, he hadn’t done anything to attempt to keep Joanna safe. As for Sansa’s abuse, Tywin didn’t think he felt guilt. He felt a deeper need for revenge more than anything. A deep seeded need to see that those who had inflicted harm understood that a Lannister always paid their debts. 

Tywin had not spent months reading on the governing systems in Essos for nothing. His greatest goal of the entire treaty was to consolidate the Lannister power base that he’d been carefully building with Sansa at his side. Soon, he would control four of the seven kingdoms and he needed a way to keep a hold of the power that came with such a vast territory. It was partly the reason that having more sons with Sansa was vital to the Lannister legacy. It was also why it was vital that Prince Aegon agree to the Council of the Realm. He’d based it off an idea from the ruling free cities and the council system that the great families there used to control the cities and prevent uprising. By consolidating his power on the council, he picked up four of the seven seats including the North, the West, the Riverlands, and soon he’d be in control of the Eyrie through a marriage alliance with his child and the House Arryn. His legacy was meant to be power and he would use any diplomatic means to hold onto that power for future generations. 

In terms of changing the current system, the treaty had designed the Small Council to become more of an administrative body rather than a governing body. Power would be split between the Council of the Realm and the Hand of the King to advise the King on laws, taxes, decrees, and such. In order for any such measure to pass, a vote had to be taken and passed in the Council of the Realm with four out of the seven kingdoms agreeing on an issue. Even war was to become an issue that the Council of the Realm would control along with the Hand of the King. The future king could not act on his own in a matter such as war. He would need the permission and the votes from the Council of the Realm and the Hand of the King to pursue an act of war. Should the king not meet the demands of the Council or act outside the interests that had been voted on, a heavy fee would be imposed and some day, he hoped, that it would be possible for the Council to vote and anex the king from the Iron Throne. It was an extensive measure, but Tywin wondered just how hungry for power the young dragon was. If he was correct, Prince Aegon would foolishly agree to anything to reclaim his grandfather’s crown and give rebirth to the Targaryen dynasty.

Tywin watched the young dragon as he started down at the treaty and reread the lines of the agreement over and over again. It was obvious that the young prince was trying to come up with something to counter the most restrictive part of the treaty, but he was failing and Tywin couldn’t have been more pleased. He’d written the treaty to be impossible to out maneuver without the entire treaty falling apart. Prince Aegon could not accept one part of the treaty and leave another part off. It was either the entire treaty signed and sealed and accepted as law for the new seven kingdoms, or the Lannisters and Tyrells withdrew their support for the Dragon Prince and left him without an army or any supplies that would support a campaign to reclaim the Iron Throne.   

“I applaud you, Lord Lannister,” Prince Aegon said as he looked up from the treaty before giving him a slight smirk on his face. “I am entirely at yours and Lord Tyrell’s mercy if I ever wish to reclaim my throne. Your treaty and the small modifications that we have made are quite unbreakable and I expect that you designed it to be this way.” 

“I seek only to bring lasting peace,” Tywin replied easily. “Is that such a crime, your grace?”

“It’s not a crime, but I fear that treaties such as these rarely last. I have seen such forms of governing in the East when I lived there and the process of government was slow and tedious to many. I will sign this treaty as it is to reclaim my family’s throne, but I warn that I will not allow chaos to overrule commonsense in the seven kingdoms should madness happen. Therefore, I have one last proposal to make as an amendment to the treaty.” 

“And what is the amendment that you propose?” Ser Willas asked quietly, his hands clasped in his lap. 

“If the seven kingdoms do fall into chaos and the Council of the Realm proves that it is unable to function in tandem with me and my Lord Hand, I have the right to suspend the powers of the council and take back all the power until the realm is restored to peace, at which time I will return the rights and privileges back to the Council of the Realm,” Prince Aegon negotiated and Tywin saw his opportunity to solve another problem that had arisen in the south. He could feel Ser Willas’ eyes on him, looking for direction as to what would happen next in the negotiations. 

Pushing forward the note that he’d received about the faith militant and Queen Margaery’s imprisonment, Tywin looked at the young dragon and watched as he reached forward and took the note. 

“I will concede to such an amendment,” Tywin granted. “If only the Faith Militant is forever destroyed and made impossible to return to power in the seven kingdom and you let me be the one to do it.” 

“Agreed,” Prince Aegon said without hesitation. “I will sign your treaty, Lord Lannister. I only hope that you will see to it that Ser Gregor Clegane is promptly handed over to the crown on the day of my accesention to the throne. I will not have my mother’s murderer free while I sit on the Iron Throne.”