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hey supped alone, as they did so often. “The pease are overcooked,” his wife ventured once. “No matter,” he said. “So is the mutton.”  It was a jest, but Sansa took it for criticism. “I am sorry, my lord.”  “Why? Some cook should be sorry. Not you. The pease are not your province, Sansa.”  “I... I am sorry that my lord husband is displeased.”  “Any displeasure I’m feeling has naught to do with pease. I have Joffrey and my sister to displease me, and my lord father, and three hundred bloody Dornishmen.” He had settled Prince Oberyn and his lords in a cornerfort facing the city, as far from the Tyrells as he could put them without evicting them from the Red Keep entirely. It was not nearly far enough. Already there had been a brawl in a Flea Bottom pot-shop that left one Tyrell man-at-arms dead and two of Lord Gargalen’s scalded, and an ugly confrontation in the yard when Mace Tyrell’s wizened little mother called Ellaria Sand “the serpent’s whore.” Every time he chanced to see Oberyn Martell the prince asked when the justice would be served. Overcooked pease were the least of Tyrion’s troubles, but he saw no point in burdening his young wife with any of that. Sansa had enough griefs of her own.  “The pease suffice,” he told her curtly. “They are green and round, what more can one expect of pease? Here, I’ll have another serving, if it please my lady.” He beckoned, and Podrick Payne spooned so many pease onto his plate that Tyrion lost sight of his mutton. That was stupid, he told himself. Now I have to eat them all, or she’ll be sorry all over again.  The supper ended in a strained silence, as so many of their suppers did. Afterward, as Pod was removing the cups and platters, Sansa asked Tyrion for leave to visit the godswood.  “As you wish.” He had become accustomed to his wife’s nightly devotions. She prayed at the royal sept as well, and often lit candles to Mother, Maid, and Crone. Tyrion found all this piety excessive, if truth be told, but in her place he might want the help of the gods as well. “I confess, I know little of the old gods,” he said, trying to be pleasant. “Perhaps someday you might enlighten me. I could even accompany you.”  “No,” Sansa said at once. “You... you are kind to offer, but... there are no devotions, my lord. No priests or songs or candles. Only trees, and silent prayer. You would be bored.”  “No doubt you’re right.” She knows me better than I thought. “Though the sound of rustling leaves might be a pleasant change from some septon droning on about the seven aspects of grace.” Tyrion waved her off. “I won’t intrude. Dress warmly, my lady, the wind is brisk out there.” He was tempted to ask what she prayed for, but Sansa was so dutiful she might actually tell him, and he didn’t think he wanted to know.  He went back to work after she left, trying to track some golden dragons through the labyrinth of Littlefinger’s ledgers. Petyr Baelish had not believed in letting gold sit about and grow dusty, that was for certain, but the more Tyrion tried to make sense of his accounts the more his head hurt. It was all very well to talk of breeding dragons instead of locking them up in the treasury, but some of these ventures smelled worse than week-old fish. I wouldn’t have been so quick to let Joffrey fling the Antler Men over the walls if I’d known how many of the bloody bastards had taken loans from the crown. He would have to send Bronn to find their heirs, but he feared that would prove as fruitful as trying to squeeze silver from a silverfish.  When the summons from his lord father arrived, it was the first time Tyrion could ever recall being pleased to see Ser Boros Blount. He closed the ledgers gratefully, blew out the oil lamp, tied a cloak around his shoulders, and waddled across the castle to the Tower of the Hand. The wind was brisk, just as he’d warned Sansa, and there was a smell of rain in the air. Perhaps when Lord Tywin was done with him he should go to the godswood and fetch her home before she got soaked.  But all that went straight out of his head when he entered the Hand’s solar to find Cersei, Ser Kevan, and Grand Maester Pycelle gathered about Lord Tywin and the king. Joffrey was almost bouncing, and Cersei was savoring a smug little smile, though Lord Tywin looked as grim as ever. I wonder if he could smile even if he wanted to. “What’s happened?” Tyrion asked.  His father offered him a roll of parchment. Someone had flattened it, but it still wanted to curl. “Roslin caught a fine fat trout,” the message read. “Her brothers gave her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding.” Tyrion turned it over to inspect the broken seal. The wax was silvery-grey, and pressed into it were the twin towers of House Frey. “Does the Lord of the Crossing imagine he’s being poetic? Or is this meant to confound us?” Tyrion snorted. “The trout would be Edmure Tully, the pelts...”  “He’s dead!” Joffrey sounded so proud and happy you might have thought he’d skinned Robb Stark himself.  First Greyjoy and now Stark. Tyrion thought of his child wife, praying in the godswood even now. Praying to her father’s gods to bring her brother victory and keep her mother safe, no doubt. The old gods paid no more heed to prayer than the new ones, it would seem. Perhaps he should take comfort in that. “Kings are falling like leaves this autumn,” he said. “It would seem our little war is winning itself.”  “Wars do not win themselves, Tyrion,” Cersei said with poisonous sweetness. “Our lord father won this war.”  “Nothing is won so long as we have enemies in the field,” Lord Tywin warned them.  “The river lords are no fools,” the queen argued. “Without the northmen they cannot hope to stand against the combined power of Highgarden, Casterly Rock, and Dorne. Surely they will choose submission rather than destruction.”  “Most,” agreed Lord Tywin. “Riverrun remains, but so long as Walder Frey holds Edmure Tully hostage, the Blackfish dare not mount a threat. Jason Mallister and Tytos Blackwood will fight on for honor’s sake, but the Freys can keep the Mallisters penned up at Seagard, and with the right inducement Jonos Bracken can be persuaded to change his allegiance and attack the Blackwoods. In the end they will bend the knee, yes. I mean to offer generous terms. Any castle that yields to us will be spared, save one.”  “Harrenhal?” said Tyrion, who knew his sire.  “The realm is best rid of these Brave Companions. I have commanded Ser Gregor to put the castle to the sword.”  Gregor Clegane. It appeared as if his lord father meant to mine the Mountain for every last nugget of ore before turning him over to Dornish justice. The Brave Companions would end as heads on spikes, and Littlefinger would stroll into Harrenhal without so much as a spot of blood on those fine clothes of his. He wondered if Petyr Baelish had reached the Vale yet. If the gods are good, he ran into a storm at sea and sank. But when had the gods ever been especially good?  “They should all be put to the sword,” Joffrey declared suddenly. “The Mallisters and Blackwoods and Brackens... all of them. They’re traitors. I want them killed, Grandfather. I won’t have any generous terms.” The king turned to Grand Maester Pycelle. “And I want Robb Stark’s head too. Write to Lord Frey and tell him. The king commands. I’m going to have it served to Sansa at my wedding feast.”  “Sire,” Ser Kevan said, in a shocked voice, “the lady is now your aunt by marriage.”  “A jest.” Cersei smiled. “Joff did not mean it.”  “Yes I did,” Joffrey insisted. “He was a traitor, and I want his stupid head. I’m going to make Sansa kiss it.”  “No.” Tyrion’s voice was hoarse. “Sansa is no longer yours to torment. Understand that, monster.”  Joffrey sneered. “You’re the monster, Uncle.”  “Am I?” Tyrion cocked his head. “Perhaps you should speak more softly to me, then. Monsters are dangerous beasts, and just now kings seem to be dying like flies.”  “I could have your tongue out for saying that,” the boy king said, reddening. “I’m the king.”  Cersei put a protective hand on her son’s shoulder. “Let the dwarf make all the threats he likes, Joff. I want my lord father and my uncle to see what he is.”  Lord Tywin ignored that; it was Joffrey he addressed. “Aerys also felt the need to remind men that he was king. And he was passing fond of ripping tongues out as well. You could ask Ser Ilyn Payne about that, though you’ll get no reply.”  “Ser Ilyn never dared provoke Aerys the way your Imp provokes Joff,” said Cersei. “You heard him. ‘Monster’ he said. To the King’s Grace.  And he threatened him...  “Be quiet, Cersei. Joffrey, when your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you. And any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king at all. Aerys never understood that, but you will. When I’ve won your war for you, we will restore the king’s peace and the king’s justice. The only head that need concern you is Margaery Tyrell’s maidenhead.”  Joffrey had that sullen, sulky look he got. Cersei had him firmly by the shoulder, but perhaps she should have had him by the throat. The boy surprised them all. instead of scuttling safely back under his rock, Joff drew himself up defiantly and said, “You talk about Aerys, Grandfather, but you were scared of him.”  Oh, my, hasn’t this gotten interesting? Tyrion thought.  Lord Tywin studied his grandchild in silence, gold flecks shining in his pale green eyes. “Joffrey, apologize to your grandfather,” said Cersei.  He wrenched free of her. “Why should I? Everyone knows it’s true. My father won all the battles. He killed Prince Rhaegar and took the crown, while your father was hiding under Casterly Rock.” The boy gave his grandfather a defiant look. “A strong king acts boldly, he doesn’t just talk.”  “Thank you for that wisdom, Your Grace,” Lord Tywin said, with a courtesy so cold it was like to freeze their ears off. “Ser Kevan, I can see the king is tired. Please see him safely back to his bedchamber. Pycelle, perhaps some gentle potion to help His Grace sleep restfully?”  “Dreamwine, my lord?”  “I don’t want any dreamwine,” Joffrey insisted.  Lord Tywin would have paid more heed to a mouse squeaking in the corner. “Dreamwine will serve. Cersei, Tyrion, remain.”  Ser Kevan took Joffrey firmly by ............
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