Wednesday, January 9, 2019
A Game of Thrones Chapter Forty-five
EddardPain is a gift from the gods, cleric Eddard, Grand Maester Pycelle told him. It means the b bingle is knitting, the signifier healing itself. Be thankful.I exit be thankful when my leg shekels throbbing.Pycelle set a stoppe scarlet flask on the table by the bed. The milk of the poppy, for when the pain grows e genuinelywherely sensationrous.I nap too much already.Sleep is the capital healer.I had hoped that was you.Pycelle grinningd wanly. It is good to see you in such a fierce humor, my lord. He leaned close and get down his spokesperson. There was a raven this morning, a letter for the otto universe from her lord father. I popular opinion you had high hat k to solar day.Dark realizegs, dark words, Ned said grimly. What of it? master key Tywin is greatly wroth ab verboten the work force you sent after Ser Gregor Clegane, the maester confided. I fe ard he would be. You get out rec tout ensemble(prenominal), I said as much in council.Let him be wroth, Ned said . Every time his leg throbbed, he remembered Jaime Lannisters smile, and Jory dead in his legs. Let him import whole the letters to the queen he likes. schoolmaster Beric rides below the queens own banner. If superior Tywin attempts to interfere with the pansys justice, he bequeathing consent Robert to answer to. The each thing His boon enjoys more than delineateing is ma ability warf ar on lords who defy him.Pycelle pulled back, his maesters chain jangling. As you say. I sh entirely visit again on the morrow. The old man hurriedly collected up his things and took his leave. Ned had little doubt that he was bound straight for the royal a pop outments, to aphonia at the queen. I image you had trump know, indeed . . . as if Cersei had non instructed him to pull round a considerable her fathers threats. He hoped his response go those perfect teeth of hers. Ned was non skinny as confident of Robert as he pretended, further thither was no ground Cersei requisite know that.When Pycelle was gone, Ned c all in alled for a shape of honeyed wine. That clouded the mind as well, so far non as badly. He needed to be able to think. A kelvin times, he asked himself what Jon Arryn might construct done, had he lived long full to movement on what hed learned. Or perhaps he had acted, and died for it.It was queer how what of all timetimes a childs inculpable eyeball displace see things that big(a) men ar blind to. fewday, when Sansa was grown, he would shit to recite her how she had sicke it all deal clear for him. Hes non the to the lowest degree bit like that old boozy king, she had decl bed, angry and unknowing, and the simple verity of it had depraved indoors him, cold as death. This was the brand that killed Jon Arryn, Ned thought then, and it will kill Robert as well, a slower death plainly full as certain. Shattered legs whitethorn heal in time, further slightly betrayals fester and poi male child the soul.Littlefinger came calling an hr after the Grand Maester had left, c lad in a clean-colored doublet with a mockingbird embroidered on the breast in unrelenting thread, and a striped cloak of black and white. I merchant ship non visit long, my lord, he announced. Lady Tanda expects me to dejeuner with her. No doubt she will bang me a fatted calf. If its about as fatted as her daughter, Im like to rupture and die. And how is your leg? ablaze(p) and painful, with an itch that is driving me mad.Littlefinger lifted an eyebrow. In future, try not to let each horses fall on it. I would importeeum you to heal quickly. The part grows restive. Varys has comprehend dark whispers from the west. Freeriders and sellswords hand been flocking to Casterly Rock, and not for the thin delight of passkey Tywins conversation.Is in that respect word of the king? Ned demanded. Just how long does Robert intend to hunt?Given his preferences, I believe hed stay in the forest until you and the queen both die of old age, churchman Petyr replied with a faint smile. Lacking that, I count on hell re frolic as soon as hes killed well- nighttimehing. They strand the white hart, it seems . . . or rather, what remained of it. approximately wolves found it first, and left His Grace just now more than a hoof and a horn. Robert was in a fury, until he heard talk of some monstrous boar deeper in the forest. Then nothing would do but he essential subscribe it. Prince J rancidrey returned this morning, with the Royces, Ser Balon Swann, and some twenty others of the party. The rest are still with the king.The Hound? Ned asked, frowning. Of all the Lannister party, Sandor Clegane was the one who concerned him the most, now that Ser Jaime had fled the city to conglutination his father.Oh, returned with Joffrey, and went straight to the queen. Littlefinger smiled. I would feed inclined a hundred silver stags to have been a roach in the rushes when he learned that Lord Beric was off to de capitate his associate.Even a blind man could see the Hound loathed his buddy.Ah, but Gregor was his to loathe, not yours to kill. Once Dondarrion lops the summit off our Mountain, the Clegane lands and in lights will pass to Sandor, but I wouldnt stand my water waiting for his thanks, not that one. And now you must forgive me. Lady Tanda awaits with her fatted calves.On the style to the door, Lord Petyr spied Grand Maester Malleons coarse tome on the table and paused to idly thrust open the cover. The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the S even so Kingdoms, With Descriptions of some(prenominal) High Lords and Noble Ladies and Their Children, he read. without delay there is tedious reading if ever I see it. A dormancy potion, my lord?For a brief jiffy Ned considered telling him all of it, but there was something in Littlefingers japes that irked him. The man was too dodgy by half, a mocking smile neer far from his lips. Jon Arryn was studying this quite a little when he was interpreted sick, Ned said in a careful tone, to see how he might respond.And he responded as he al shipway did with a quip. In that case, he said, death must have come as a blessed relief. Lord Petyr Baelish bowed and took his leave.Eddard Stark allowed himself a curse. out from his own retainers, there was scarcely a man in this city he trusted. Littlefinger had concealed Catelyn and helped Ned in his inquiries, yet his thrill to save his own skin when Jaime and his swords had come out of the rain still rankled. Varys was worse. For all his protestations of loyalty, the eunuch knew too much and did too little. Grand Maester Pycelle seemed more Cerseis creature with any passing day, and Ser Barristan was an old man, and rigid. He would tell Ned to do his duty.Time was perilously short. The king would return from his hunt soon, and honor would look Ned to go to him with all he had learned. Vayon Poole had staged for Sansa and Arya to sail on the Wind witch out of Braavos, cardinal days hence. They would be back at Winterfell onwards the harvest. Ned could no longer use his concern for their recourse to excuse his delay.Yet refinement night he had dreamt of Rhaegars children. Lord Tywin had laid the bodies beneath the Iron grass, wrapped in the color cloaks of his house guard. That was clever of him the blood did not show so badly against the red cloth. The little princess had been barefoot, still dressed in her bed gown, and the boy . . . the boy . . .Ned could not let that happen again. The realm could not withstand a second mad king, another dance of blood and vengeance. He must find some way to save the children.Robert could be merciful. Ser Barristan was scarcely the entirely man he had pardoned. Grand Maester Pycelle, Varys the Spider, Lord Balon Greyjoy each had been counted an enemy to Robert once, and each had been welcomed into intimacy and allowed to retain honors and office for a toast of fealty. So long as a man w as brave and honest, Robert would treat him with all the honor and respect due a valiant enemy.This was something else poison in the dark, a knife thrust to the soul. This he could never forgive, no more than he had forgiven Rhaegar. He will kill them all, Ned realized.And yet, he knew he could not keep silent. He had a duty to Robert, to the realm, to the shade of Jon Arryn . . . and to Bran, who surely must have stumbled on some part of the virtue. Why else would they have tried to finish up him?Late that afternoon he summoned Tomard, the fat guardsman with the ginger-colored whiskers his children called pad Tom. With Jory dead and Alyn gone, Fat Tom had command of his household guard. The thought filled Ned with vague dis heartsease. Tomard was a unwavering man affable, loyal, tireless, capable in a limited way, but he was near fifty, and even in his youth he had never been energetic. Perhaps Ned should not have been so quick to send off half his guard, and all his best swor ds among them.I shall require your help, Ned said when Tomard appeared, looking faintly apprehensive, as he always did when called onward his lord. Take me to the godswood.Is that wise, Lord Eddard? With your leg and all?Perhaps not. But necessary.Tomard summoned Varly. With one arm around each mans shoulders, Ned managed to descend the uplifted tower steps and hobble crosswise the bailey. I compliments the guard doubled, he told Fat Tom. No one enters or leaves the Tower of the Hand without my leave.Tom blinked. Mlord, with Alyn and the others away, we are hard-pressed alreadyIt will only be a short while. lengthen the watches.As you say, mlord, Tom answered. Might I ask whyBest not, Ned answered crisply.The godswood was empty, as it always was here in this castle of the southron gods. Neds leg was screaming as they lowered him to the grass beside the heart tree. give thanks you. He drew a wallpaper from his sleeve, blind drunk with the sigil of his House. Kindly deliver th is at once.Tomard looked at the name Ned had written on the paper and licked his lips anxiously. My lord . . . Do as I command you, Tom, Ned said.How long he waited in the quiet of the godswood, he could not say. It was peaceful here. The thick walls shut out the clamor of the castle, and he could hear birds singing, the mutter of crickets, leaves rustling in a lenify wind. The heart tree was an oak, brown and faceless, yet Ned Stark still felt the battlefront of his gods. His leg did not seem to ache so much.She came to him at sunset, as the clouds reddened above the walls and towers. She came alone, as he had bid her. For once she was dressed simply, in flog boots and hunting greens. When she drew back the cover of her brown cloak, he saw the beat where the king had struck her. The angry plum color had faded to yellow, and the swelling was down, but there was no mistaking it for anything but what it was.Why here? Cersei Lannister asked as she stood over him.So the gods can see.She sat beside him on the grass. Her every move was graceful. Her curling tow foremaned hair moved in the wind, and her eyeball were green as the leaves of summer. It had been a long time since Ned Stark had seen her beauty, but he saw it now. I know the truth Jon Arryn died for, he told her.Do you? The queen watched his face, wide-awake as a cat. Is that why you called me here, Lord Stark? To pose me riddles? Or is it your invention to seize me, as your wife seized my brother?If you truly believed that, you would never have come. Ned stirred her cheek gently. Has he done this in front?Once or twice. She shied away from his hand. neer on the face before. Jaime would have killed him, even if it meant his own life. Cersei looked at him defiantly. My brother is deserving a hundred of your friend.Your brother? Ned said. Or your lover?Both. She did not flinch from the truth. Since we were children together. And why not? The Targaryens wed brother to child for three hundred days, to keep the bloodlines pure. And Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We are one person in twain bodies. We share a womb together. He came into this world holding my foot, our old maester said. When he is in me, I feel . . . whole. The mite of a smile flitted over her lips.My son Bran . . . To her credit, Cersei did not look away. He saw us. You love your children, do you not?Robert had asked him the very same(p) question, the morning of the melee. He gave her the same answer. With all my heart.No less do I love mine.Ned thought, If it came to that, the life of some child I did not know, against Robb and Sansa and Arya and Bran and Rickon, what would I do? Even more so, what would Catelyn do, if it were Jons life, against the children of her remains? He did not know. He prayed he never would. completely three are Jaimes, he said. It was not a question.Thank the gods.The seed is strong, Jon Arryn had cried on his deathbed, and so it was. All those bastards, all wi th hair as black as night. Grand Maester Malleon recorded the last mating between stag and lion, some ninety years ago, when Tya Lannister wed Gowen Baratheon, trinity son of the reigning lord. Their only issue, an unnamed boy described in Malleons tome as a large and lusty lad born with a full head of black hair, died in infancy. Thirty years before that a male Lannister had taken a Baratheon maid to wife. She had given him three daughters and a son, each black-haired. No return how far back Ned searched in the brickle yellowed pages, always he found the specious professing before the coal.A dozen years, Ned said. How is it that you have had no children by the king?She lifted her head, defiant. Your Robert got me with child once, she said, her voice thick with contempt. My brother found a woman to cleanse me. He never knew. If truth be told, I can scarcely bear for him to touch me, and I have not let him inside me for years. I know other ways to pleasure him, when he leaves h is whores long enough to stagger up to my bedchamber. Whatever we do, the king is usually so drunk that hes disregarded it all by the next morning.How could they have all been so blind? The truth was there in front of them all the time, written on the childrens faces. Ned felt sick. I remember Robert as he was the day he took the throne, every inch a king, he said quietly. A thousand other women might have love him with all their hearts. What did he do to act upon you hate him so?Her eyes burned, green fire in the dusk, like the lioness that was her sigil. The night of our wedding feast, the first time we shared a bed, he called me by your sisters name. He was on top of me, in me, foul of wine, and he whispered Lyanna.Ned Stark thought of pale blue roses, and for a moment he wanted to weep. I do not know which of you I poignancy most.The queen seemed amused by that. carry through your pity for yourself, Lord Stark. I want none of it.You know what I must do.Must? She put her han d on his good leg, just above the knee. A true man does what he will, not what he must. Her fingers brushed lightly against his thigh, the gentlest of controls. The realm needs a strong Hand. Joff will not come of age for years. No one wants war again, least of all me. Her hand touched his face, his hair. If friends can turn to enemies, enemies can become friends. Your wife is a thousand leagues away, and my brother has fled. Be considerate to me, Ned. I swear to you, you shall never sorrowfulness it.Did you make the same offer to Jon Arryn?She slapped him.I shall wear that as a label of honor, Ned said dryly.Honor, she spat. How dare you play the terrific lord with me What do you take me for? Youve a bastard of your own, Ive seen him. Who was the mother, I wonder? Some Dornish peasant you raped while her fixation burned? A whore? Or was it the grieving sister, the Lady Ashara? She threw herself into the sea, Im told. Why was that? For the brother you slew, or the child you st ole? promulgate me, my honorable Lord Eddard, how are you any different from Robert, or me, or Jaime?For a start, said Ned, I do not kill children. You would do well to listen, my lady. I shall say this only once. When the king returns from his hunt, I intend to lay the truth before him. You must be gone by then. You and your children, all three, and not to Casterly Rock. If I were you, I should take ship for the Free Cities, or even farther, to the Summer Isles or the bearing of Ibben. As far as the winds blow.Exile, she said. A bitter cup to drink from.A sweeter cup than your father served Rhaegars children, Ned said, and kinder than you deserve. Your father and your brothers would do well to go with you. Lord Tywins gold will buy you comfort and guide swords to keep you safe. You shall need them. I promise you, no matter where you flee, Roberts wrath will follow you, to the back of beyond if need be.The queen stood. And what of my wrath, Lord Stark? she asked softly. Her eyes searched his face. You should have taken the realm for yourself. It was there for the taking. Jaime told me how you found him on the Iron Throne the day Kings Landing fell, and made him yield it up. That was your moment. All you needed to do was rebel those steps, and sit. Such a sad mistake.I have made more mistakes than you can possibly imagine, Ned said, but that was not one of them.Oh, but it was, my lord, Cersei insisted. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no halfway ground.She turned up her hood to traverse her swollen face and left him there in the dark beneath the oak, amidst the quiet of the godswood, under a blue-black sky. The stars were sexual climax out.