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The Lion and The Boy

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He stood in the center of his personal chamber at Harrenhal, bereft of his armor, bereft of his sword and squire, his only companion a cup of mulled wine kept warm by a nearby brazier. Long past sunset, the evening was quiet, kept from true silence by the hails of the night sentries and occasional barking of dogs, the calls and lures of the inevitable camp whores, the muted, rumbling murmur of his army far below his open window. It was a foolish mistake, perhaps, to leave it unbarred, unsecured; if there was a more open invitation for a knife in the dark from an agile assassin, it would involve standing in the middle of a field dressed in white with a red target painted on the back. Even this high off this ground, it was a foolish mistake, yes. And yet.

There was a storm that night, a bloated, sprawling mass of bitter winds and black clouds and biting rain that unerringly found the gaps in one’s armor and skittered into unmentionable places. Though the downpour continued outside, his sleeping chamber was free from damp, the fire in the hearth aided by numerous braziers around the room. Without his armor, clad only in a linen shirt tied loosely at the laces and sleep pants, Tywin Lannister stared unseeing at the map of Westeros before him, leaning slightly toward the worktable with rolled sleeves and strong bare forearms on the map itself. His expression was closed and his gaze speculative on the small-scaled models of The Twins, his combined allied forces, and those of Robb Stark, King in the North. The boy-king who was very much winning their war by his victories in the field, the boy who was the Young-Wolf and had raised over twenty thousand men at the senseless death of his father, whose actions had led to him receiving the most intriguing of propositions earlier that day.

The letter was still at his desk near the window, its seal of gray towers broken and its contents laid bare to what wind flitted through the casement. That letter, with its so-very-interesting details, with its fascinating proposal. Standing full, he walked away from the desk and table, moving toward the fire and his chair. The boy who had unleashed the North upon them all once Ned Stark’s head had left his body, he thought, settling into the familiar comfort and propping his chin onto his joined hands. Robb Stark, the boy who was forging his own greatness with steel and, whether by intent or no, building his House into a kingdom born from blood and victory and the devotion of his bannermen. The boy who had broken his infamous Stark honor for the sake of love. The boy who was so very much a boy, still.

A boy so very much like another, before fire and blood and burnt wolves and dying lionesses and fat stags as crowned kings and a lion without its paw. A boy like another that was to redeem House Lannister from the pall of blood on seven-pointed stars and the shattered cats of Castamere, who would be the man he himself could not. Tywin closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the fire begin to seep into his body.

Being ruthless doesn’t necessarily mean one is heartless. It means that one can close their eyes to what has been done, and will be done again, to what pain has been caused and that will be made again, by force of will alone. By the bleak understanding that our hearts are no longer strong enough to drown out the dark.

Seated now, in his chair before the fire, his fingers reached up, toward his throat, and drew out a leather cord hidden beneath his shirt, a ring swinging from its centermost point. The ring glinted in the firelight, its gleam winking and flickering against the dark shadows. It was a small band of beaten gold, too thin even for his long, slim fingers. He watched it spin, the aimless, directionless gleam of gold every so often catching the light of his green eyes. The red-blue coals of the fire had gone red and a dark, ashy gray before he finally took the ring into his hand holding it up to what light remained. i lyv wer is lovve. For a long time, he stared at the inscription, as fresh and distinct as the day it had been made despite the passing of decades. His fingers curled slowly, gradually, around the beaten gold, their blunt nails pressing crescents into the flesh of his palm as he remembered, promise me. The gold was swallowed by his hands, pressed to his lips as he thought about boys and wars and honor. The honor of the living, the honor of the dead. His hands, paler than bone from the strength of his grip, relaxed as he stood, making his way to the desk, taking a piece of parchment and a quill with ink.

With a careful, steady hand, he penned the order, the plain, precise wording leaving no doubt. Making his mark, he sealed the message with red wax dripping into place and the press of the roaring lion of his house. Placing the message with a set of others to be sent at first light, he stepped away, turning toward the bed. That night, like all others, he slept a dreamless sleep.