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When he heard noises through the thick wooden door of his cell, Tyrion Lannister prepared to die.  Past time, he thought. Come on, come on, make an end to it. He pushed himself to his feet. His legs were asleep from being folded under him. He bent down and rubbed the knives from them. I will not go stumbling and waddling to the headsman’s block.  He wondered whether they would kill him down here in the dark or drag him through the city so Ser Ilyn Payne could lop his head off. After his mummer’s farce of a trial, his sweet sister and loving father might prefer to dispose of him quietly, rather than risk a public execution. I could tell the mob a few choice things, if they let me speak. But would they be that foolish?  As the keys rattled and the door to his cell pushed inward, creaking, Tyrion pressed back against the dampness of the wall, wishing for a weapon. I can still bite and kick. I’ll die with the taste of blood in my mouth, that’s something. He wished he’d been able to think of some rousing last words. “Bugger you all” was not like to earn him much of a place in the histories.  Torchlight fell across his face. He shielded his eyes with a hand. “Come on, are you frightened of a dwarf? Do it, you son of a poxy whore.” His voice had grown hoarse from disuse.  “Is that any way to speak about our lady mother?” The man moved forward, a torch in his left hand. “This is even more ghastly than my cell at Riverrun, though not quite so dank.”  For a moment Tyrion could not breathe. “You?”  “Well, most of me.” Jaime was gaunt, his hair hacked short. “I left a hand at Harrenhal. Bringing the Brave Companions across the narrow sea was not one of Father’s better notions.” He lifted his arm, and Tyrion saw the stump.  A bark of hysterical laughter burst from his lips. “Oh, gods,” he said. “Jaime, I am so sorry, but... gods be good, look at the two of us. Handless and Noseless the Lannister boys.”  “There were days when my hand smelled so bad I wished I was noseless.” Jaime lowered the torch, so the light bathed his brother’s face. “An impressive scar.”  Tyrion turned away from the glare. “They made me fight a battle without my big brother to protect me.”  “I heard tell you almost burned the city down.”  “A filthy lie. I only burned the river.” Abruptly, Tyrion remembered where he was, and why. “Are you here to kill me?”  “Now that’s ungrateful. Perhaps I should leave you here to rot if you’re going to be so discourteous.”  “Rotting is not the fate Cersei has in mind for me.”  “Well no, if truth be told. You’re to be beheaded on the morrow, out on the old tourney grounds.”  Tyrion laughed again. “Will there be food? You’ll have to help me with my last words, my wits have been running about like a rat in a root cellar.”  “You won’t need last words. I’m rescuing you.” Jaime’s voice was strangely solemn.  “Who said I required rescue?”  “You know, I’d almost forgotten what an annoying little man you are. Now that you’ve reminded me, I do believe I’ll let Cersei cut your head off after all.”  “Oh no you won’t.” He waddled out of the cell. “Is it day or night up above? I’ve lost all sense of time.”  “Three hours past midnight. The city sleeps.” Jaime slid the torch back into its sconce, on the wall between the cells.  The corridor was so poorly lit that Tyrion almost stumbled on the turnkey, sprawled across the cold stone floor. He prodded him with a toe. “Is he dead?”  “Asleep. The other three as well. The eunuch dosed their wine with sweetsleep, but not enough to kill them. Or so he swears. He is waiting back at the stair, dressed up in a septon’s robe. You’re going down into the sewers, and from there to the river. A galley is waiting in the bay. Varys has agents in the Free Cities who will see that you do not lack for funds... but try not to be conspicuous. Cersei will send men after you, I have no doubt. You might do well to take another name.”  “Another name? Oh, certainly. And when the Faceless Men come to kill me, I’ll say, “No, you have the wrong man, I’m a different dwarf with a hideous facial scar.” Both Lannisters laughed at the absurdity of it all. Then Jaime went to one knee and kissed him quickly once on each cheek, his lips brushing against the puckered ribbon of scar tissue.  “Thank you, Brother,” Tyrion said. “For my life.”  “It was... a debt I owed you.” Jaime’s voice was strange.  “A debt?” He cocked his head. “I do not understand.”  “Good. Some doors are best left closed.”  “Oh, dear,” said Tyrion. “Is there something grim and ugly behind it? Could it be that someone said something cruel about me once? I’ll try not to weep. Tell me.”  “Tyrion...”  Jaime is afraid. “Tell me,” Tyrion said again.  His brother looked away. “Tysha,” he said softly.  “Tysha?” His stomach tightened. “What of her?”  “She was no whore. I never bought her for you. That was a lie that Father commanded me to tell. Tysha was... she was what she seemed to be. A crofter’s daughter, chance met on the road.”  Tyrion could hear the faint sound of his own breath whistling hollowly through the scar of his nose. Jaime could not meet his eyes. Tysha. He tried to remember what she had looked like. A girl, she was only a girl, no older than Sansa. “My wife,” he croaked. “She wed me.”  “For your gold, Father said. She was lowborn, you were a Lannister of Casterly Rock. All she wanted was the gold, which made her no different from a whore, so... so it would not be a lie, not truly, and... he said that you required a sharp lesson. That you would learn from it, and thank me later...”  “Thank you?” Tyrion’s voice was choked. “He gave her to his guards. A barracks full of guards. He made me... watch.” Aye, and more than watch. I took her too... my wife...  “I never knew he would do that. You must believe me.”  “Oh, must I” Tyrion snarled. “Why should I believe you about anything, ever? She was my wife!”  “Tyrion –it…”  He hit him. It was a slap, backhanded, but he put all his strength into it, all his fear, all his rage, all his pain. Jaime was squatting, unbalanced. The blow sent him tumbling backward to the floor. “I... I suppose I earned that.”  “Oh, you’ve earned more than that, Jaime. You and my sweet sister and our loving father, yes, I can’t begin to tell you what you’ve earned. But you’ll have it, that I swear to you. A Lannister always pays his debts.” Tyrion waddled away, almost stumbling over the turnkey again in his haste. Before he had gone a dozen yards, he bumped up against an irongate that closed the passage. Oh, gods. It was all he could do not to scream.  Jaime came up behind him. “I have the gaoler’s keys.”  “Then use them.” Tyrion stepped aside.  Jaime unlocked the gate, pushed it open, and stepped through. He looked back over his shoulder. “Are you coming?”  “Not with you.” Tyrion stepped through. “Give me the keys and go. I will find Varys on my own.” He cocked his head and stared up at his brother with his mismatched eyes. “Jaime, can you fight left-handed?”  “Rather less well than you,” Jaime said bitterly.  “Good. Then we will be well matched if we should ever meet again. The cripple and the dwarf.”  Jaime handed him the ring of keys. “I gave you the truth. You owe me the same. Did you do it? Did you kill him?”  The question was another knife, twisting in his guts. “Are you sure you want to know?” asked Tyrion. “Joffrey would have been a worse king than Aerys ever was. He stole his father’s dagger and gave it to a footpad to slit the throat of Brandon Stark, did you know that?”  “I... I thought he might have.”  “Well, a son takes after his father. Joff would have killed me as well, once he came into his power. For the crime of being short and ugly, of which I am so conspicuously guilty.”  “You have not answered my question.”  “You poor stupid blind crippled fool. Must I spell every little thing out for you? Very well. Cersei is a lying whore, she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know. And I am the monster they all say I am. Yes, I killed your vile son.” He made himself grin. It must have been a hideous sight to see, there in the torchlit gloom.  Jaime turned without a word and walked away.  Tyrion watched him go, striding on his long strong legs, and part of him wanted to call out, to tell him that it wasn’t true, to beg for his forgiveness. But then he thought of Tysha, and he held his silence. He listened to the receding footsteps until he could hear them no longer, then waddled off to look for Varys.  The eunuch was lurking in the dark of a twisting turnpike stair, garbed in a moth-eaten brown robe with a hood that hid the paleness of his face. “You were so long, I feared that something had gone amiss,” he said when he saw Tyrion.  “Oh, no,” Tyrion assured him, in poisonous tones. “What could possibly have gone amiss?” He twisted his head back to stare up. “I sent for you during my trial.”  “I could not come. The queen had me watched, night and day. I dared not help you.”  “You’re helping me now.”  “Am I? Ah.” Varys giggled. It seemed strangely out of place in this place of cold stone and echoing darkness. “Your brother can be most persuasive.”  “Varys, you are as cold and slimy as a slug, has anyone ever told you? You did your best to kill me. Perhaps I ought to return the favor.”  The eunuch sighed. “The faithful dog is kicked, and no matter how the spider weaves, he is never loved. But if you slay me here, I fear for you, my lord. You may never find your way back to daylight.” His eyes glittered in the shifting torchlight, dark and wet. “These tunnels are full of traps for the unwary.”  Tyrion snorted. “Unwary? I’m the wariest man who ever lived, you helped see to that.” He rubbed at his nose. “So tell me, wizard, where is my innocent maiden wife?”  “I have found no trace of Lady Sansa in King’s Landing sad to say. Nor of Ser Dontos Hollard, who by rights should have turned up somewhere drunk by now. They were seen together on the serpentine steps the night she vanished. After that, nothing. There was much confusion that night. My little birds are silent.” Varys gave a gentle tug at the dwarf’s sleeve and pulled him into the stair. “My lord, we must away. Your path is down.”  That’s no lie, at least. Tyrion waddled along in the eunuch’s wake, his heels scraping against the rough stone as they descended. It was very cold within the stairwell, a damp bone-chilling cold that set him to shivering at once. “What part of the dungeons are these?” he asked.  “Maegor the Cruel decreed four levels of dungeons for his castle,” Varys replied. “On the upper level, there are large cells where common criminals may be confined together. They have narrow windows set high in the walls. The second level has the smaller cells where highborn captives are held. They have no windows, but torches in the halls cast light through the bars. On the third level the cells are smaller and the doors are wood. The black cells, men call them. That was where you were kept, and Eddard Stark before you. But there is a level lower still. Once a man is taken down to the fourth level, he never sees the sun again, nor hears a human voice, nor breathes a breath free of agonizing pain. Maegor had the cells on the fourth level built for torment.” They had reached the bottom of the steps. An unlighted door opened before them. “This is the fourth level. Give me your hand, my lord. It............
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