1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48
The brooch that fastened Ser Brynden Tully’s cloak was a black fish, wrought in jet and gold. His ringmail was grim and grey. Over it he wore greaves, gorget, gauntlets, pauldron, and poleyns of blackened steel, none half so dark as the look upon his face as he waited for Jaime Lannister at the end of the drawbridge, alone atop a chestnut courser caparisoned in red and blue.
He loves me not. Tully had a craggy face, deeply lined and windburnt beneath a shock of stiff grey hair, but Jaime could still see the great knight who had once enthralled a squire with tales of the Ninepenny Kings. Honor’s hooves clattered against the planks of the drawbridge. Jaime had thought long and hard about whether to wear his gold armor or his white to this meeting; in the end, he’d chosen a leather jack and a crimson cloak.
He drew up a yard from Ser Brynden, and inclined his head to the older man. “Kingslayer,” said Tully.
That he would make that name the first word from his mouth spoke volumes, but Jaime was resolved to keep his temper. “Blackfish,” he responded. “Thank you for coming.”
“I assume you have returned to fulfill the oaths you swore my niece,” Ser Brynden said. “As I recall, you promised Catelyn her daughters in return for your freedom.” His mouth tightened. “Yet I do not see the girls. Where are they?”
Must he make me say it? “I do not have them.”
“Pity. Do you wish to resume your captivity? Your old cell is still available. We have put fresh rushes on the floor.”
And a nice new pail for me to shit in, I don’t doubt. “That was thoughtful of you, ser, but I fear I must decline. I prefer the comforts of my pavilion.”
“Whilst Catelyn enjoys the comforts of her grave.”
I had no hand in Lady Catelyn’s death, he might have said, and her daughters were gone before I reached King’s Landing. It was on his tongue to speak of Brienne and the sword he’d given her, but the Blackfish was looking at him the way that Eddard Stark had looked at him when he’d found him on the Iron Throne with the Mad King’s blood upon his blade. “I came to speak of the living, not the dead. Of those who need not die, but shall…”
“… unless I hand you Riverrun. Is this where you threaten to hang Edmure?” Beneath his bushy brows, Tully’s eyes were stone. “My nephew is marked for death no matter what I do. So hang him and be done with it. I expect that Edmure is as weary of standing on those gallows as I am of seeing him there.”
Ryman Frey is a bloody fool. His mummer’s show with Edmure and the gallows had only made the Blackfish more obdurate, that was plain. “You hold Lady Sybelle Westerling and three of her children. I’ll return your nephew in exchange for them.”
“As you returned Lady Catelyn’s daughters?”
Jaime did not allow himself to be provoked. “An old woman and three children for your liege lord. That’s a better bargain than you could have hoped for.”
Ser Brynden smiled a hard smile. “You do not lack for gall, Kingslayer. Bargaining with oathbreakers is like building on quicksand, though. Cat should have known better than to trust the likes of you.”
It was Tyrion she trusted in, Jaime almost said. The Imp deceived her too. “The promises I made to Lady Catelyn were wrung from me at swordpoint.”
“And the oath you swore to Aerys?”
He felt his phantom fingers twitching. “Aerys is no part of this. Will you exchange the Westerlings for Edmure?”
“No. My king entrusted his queen to my keeping, and I swore to keep her safe. I will not hand her over to a Frey noose.”
“The girl has been pardoned. No harm will come to her. You have my word on that.”
“Your word of honor?” Ser Brynden raised an eyebrow. “Do you even know what honor is?”
A horse. “I will swear any oath that you require.”
“Spare me, Kingslayer.”
“I want to. Strike your banners and open your gates and I’ll grant your men their lives. Those who wish to remain at Riverrun in service to Lord Emmon may do so. The rest shall be free to go where they will, though I will require them to surrender their arms and armor.”
“I wonder, how far will they get, unarmed, before ‘outlaws’ set upon them? You dare not allow them to join Lord Beric, we both know that. And what of me? Will I be paraded through King’s Landing to die like Eddard Stark?”
“I will permit you to take the black. Ned Stark’s bastard is the Lord Commander on the Wall.”
The Blackfish narrowed his eyes. “Did your father arrange for that as well? Catelyn never trusted the boy, as I recall, no more than she ever trusted Theon Greyjoy. It would seem she was right about them both. No, ser, I think not. I’ll die warm, if you please, with a sword in hand running red with lion blood.”
“Tully blood runs just as red,” Jaime reminded him. “If you will not yield the castle, I must storm it. Hundreds will die.”
“Hundreds of mine. Thousands of yours.”
“Your garrison will perish to a man.”
“I know that song. Do you sing it to the tune of ‘The Rains of Castamere’? My men would sooner die upon their feet fighting than on their knees beneath a headsman’s axe.”
This is not going well. “This defiance serves no purpose, ser. The war is done, and your Young Wolf is dead.”
“Murdered in breach of all the sacred laws of hospitality.”
“Frey’s work, not mine.”
“Call it what you will. It stinks of Tywin Lannister.”
Jaime could not deny that. “My father is dead as well.”
“May the Father judge him justly.”
Now, there’s an awful prospect. “I would have slain Robb Stark in the Whispering Wood, if I could have reached him. Some fools got in my way. Does it matter how the boy perished? He’s no less dead, and his kingdom died when he did.”
“You must be blind as well as maimed, ser. Lift your eyes, and you will see that the direwolf still flies above our walls.”
“I’ve seen him. He looks lonely. Harrenhal has fallen. Seagard and Maidenpool. The Brackens have bent the knee, and they’ve got Tytos Blackwood penned up in Raventree. Piper, Vance, Mooton, all your bannermen have yielded. Only Riverrun remains. We have twenty times your numbers.”
“Twenty times the men require twenty times the food. How well are you provisioned, my lord?”
“Well enough to sit here till the end of days if need be, whilst you starve inside your walls.” He told the lie as boldly as he could and hoped his face did not betray him.
The Blackfish was not deceived. “The end of your days, perhaps. Our own supplies are ample, though I fear we did not leave much in the fields for visitors.”
“We can bring food down from the Twins,” said Jaime, “or over the hills from the west, if it comes to that.”
“If you say so. Far be it from me to question the word of such an honorable knight.”
The scorn in his voice made Jaime bristle. “There is a quicker way to decide the matter. A single combat. My champion against yours.”
“I was wondering when you would get to that.” Ser Brynden laughed. “Who will it be? Strongboar? Addam Marbrand? Black Walder Frey?” He leaned forward. “Why not you and me, ser?”
That would have been a sweet fight once, Jaime thought, fine fodder for the singers. “When Lady Catelyn freed me, she made me swear not to take arms again against the Starks or Tullys.”
“A most convenient oath, ser.”
His face darkened. “Are you calling me a coward?”
“No. I am calling you a cripple.” The Blackfish nodded at Jaime’s golden hand. “We both know you cannot fight with that.”
“I had two hands.” Would you throw your life away for pride? a voice inside him whispered. “Some might say a cripple and an old man are well matched. Free me from my vow to Lady Catelyn and I will meet you sword to sword. If I win, Riverrun is ours. If you slay me, we’ll lift the siege.”
Ser Brynden laughed again. “Much as I would welcome the chance to take that golden sword away from you and cut out your black heart, your promises are worthless. I would gain nothing from your death but the pleasure of killing you, and I will not risk my own life for that… as small a risk as that may be.”
It was a good thing that Jaime wore no sword; elsewise he would have ripped his blade out, and if Ser Brynden did not slay him, the archers on the walls most surely would. “Are there any terms you will accept?” he demanded of the Blackfish.
“From you?” Ser Brynden shrugged. “No.”
“Why did you even come to treat with me?”
“A siege is deadly dull. I wanted to see this stump of yours and hear whatever excuses you cared to offer up for your latest enormities. They were feebler than I’d hoped. You always disappoint, Kingslayer.” The Blackfish wheeled his mare and trotted back toward Riverrun. The portcullis descended with a rush, its iron spikes biting deep into the muddy ground.
Jaime turned Honor’s head about for the long ride back to the Lannister siege lines. He could feel the eyes on him; the Tully men upon their battlements, the Freys across the river. If they are not blind, they’ll all know he threw my offer in my teeth. He would need to storm the castle. Well, what’s one more broken vow to the Kingslayer? Just more shit in the bucket. Jaime resolved to be the first man on the battlements. And with this golden hand of mine, most like the first to fall.
Back at camp, Little Lew held his bridle whilst Peck gave him a hand down from the saddle. Do they think I’m such a cripple that I cannot dismount by myself? “How did you fare, my lord?” asked his cousin Ser Daven.
“No one put an arrow in my horse’s rump. Elsewise, there was little to distinguish me from Ser Ryman.” He grimaced. “So now he must needs turn the Red Fork redder.” Blame yourself for that, Blackfish. You left me little choice. “Assemble a war council. Ser Addam, Strongboar, Forley Prester, those river lords of ours… and our friends of Frey. Ser Ryman, Lord Emmon, whoever else they care to bring.”
They gathered quickly. Lord Piper and both Lords Vance came to speak for the repentant lords of the Trident, whose loyalties would shortly be put to the test. The west was represented by Ser Daven, Strongboar, Addam Marbrand, and Forley Prester. Lord Emmon Frey joined them, with his wife. Lady Genna claimed her stool with a look that dared any man there to question her presence. None did. The Freys sent Ser Walder Rivers, called “Bastard Walder,” and Ser Ryman’s firstborn Edwyn, a pallid, slender man with a pinched nose and lank dark hair. Under a blue lambswool cloak, Edwyn wore a jerkin of finely tooled grey calfskin with ornate scrollwork worked into the leather. “I speak for House Frey,” he announced. “My father is indisposed this morning.”
Ser Daven gave a snort. “Is he drunk, or just greensick from last night’s wine?”
Edwyn had the hard mean mouth of a miser. “Lord Jaime,” he said, “must I suffer such discourtesy?”
“Is it true?” Jaime asked him. “Is your father drunk?”
Frey pressed his lips together and eyed Ser Ilyn Payne, who was standing beside by the tent flap in his rusted mail, his sword poking up above one bony shoulder. “He… my father has a bad belly, my lord. Red wine helps with his digestion.”
“He must be digesting a bloody mammoth,” said Ser Daven. Strongboar laughed, and Lady Genna chuckled.
“Enough,” said Jaime. “We have a castle to win.” When his father sat in council, he let his captains speak first. He was resolved to do the same. “How shall we proceed?”
“Hang Edmure Tully, for a start,” urged Lord Emmon Frey. “That will teach Ser Brynden that we mean what we say. If we send Ser Edmure’s head to his uncle, it may move him to yield.”
“Brynden Blackfish is not moved so easily.” Karyl Vance, the Lord of Wayfarer’s Rest, had a melancholy look. A winestain birthmark covered half his neck and one side of his face. “His own brother could not move him to a marriage bed.”
Ser Daven shook his shaggy head. “We have to storm the walls, as I’ve been saying all along. Siege towers, scaling ladders, a ram to break the gate, that’s what’s needed here.”
“I will lead the assault,” said Strongboar. “Give the fish a taste of steel and fire, that’s what I say.”
“They are my walls,” protested Lord Emmon, “and that is my gate you would break.” He drew his parchment out of his sleeve again. “King Tommen himself has granted me—”
“We’ve all seen your paper, nuncle,” snapped Edwyn Frey. “Why don’t you go wave it at the Blackfish for a change?”
“Storming the walls will be a bloody business,” said Addam Marbrand. “I propose we wait for a moonless night and send a dozen picked men across the river in a boat with muffled oars. They can scale the walls with ropes and grapnels, and open the gates from the inside. I will lead them, if the council wishes.”
“Folly,” declared the bastard, Walder Rivers. “Ser Brynden is no man to be cozened by such tricks.”
“The Blackfish is the obstacle,” agreed Edwyn Frey. “His helm bears a black trout on its crest that makes him easy to pick out from afar. I propose that we move our siege towers close, fill them full of bowmen, and feign an attack upon the gates. That will bring Ser Brynden to the battlements, crest and all. Let every archer smear his shafts with night soil, and make that crest his mark. Once Ser Brynden dies, Riverrun is ours.”
“Mine,” piped Lord Emmon. “Riverrun is mine.”
Lord Karyl’s birthmark darkened. “Will the night soil be your own contribution, Edwyn? A mortal poison, I don’t doubt.”
“The Blackfish deserves a nobler death, and I’m the man to give it to him.” Strongboar thumped his fist on the table. “I will challenge him to single combat. Mace or axe or longsword, makes no matter. The old man will be my meat.”
“Why would he deign to accept your challenge, ser?” asked Ser Forley Prester. “What could he gain from such a duel? Will we lift the siege if he should win? I do not believe that. Nor will he. A single combat would accomplish nought.”
“I have known Brynden Tully since we were squires together, in service to Lord Darry,” said Norbert Vance, the blind Lord of Atranta. “If it please my lords, let me go and speak with him and try to make him understand the hopelessness of his position.”
“He understands that well enough,” said Lord Piper. He was a short, rotund, bowlegged man with a bush of wild red hair, the father of one of Jaime’s squires; the resemblance to the boy was unmistakeable. “The man’s not bloody stupid, Norbert. He has eyes… and too much sense to yield to such as these.” He made a rude gesture in the direction of Edwyn Frey and Walder Rivers.
Edwyn bristled. “If my lord of Piper means to imply—”
“I don’t imply, Frey. I say what I mean straight out, like an honest man. But what would you know of the ways of honest men? You’re a treacherous lying weasel, like all your kin. I’d sooner drink a pint of piss than take the word of any Frey.” He leaned across the table. “Where is Marq, answer me that? What have you done with my son? He was a guest at your bloody wedding.”
“And our honored guest he shall remain,” said Edwyn, “until you prove your loyalty to His Grace, King Tommen.”
“Five knights and twenty men-at-arms went with Marq to the Twins,” said Piper. “Are they your guests as well, Frey?”
“Some of the knights, perhaps. The others were served no more than they deserved. You’d do well to guard your traitor’s tongue, Piper, unless you want your heir returned in pieces.”
My father’s councils never went like this, Jaime thought, as Piper came lurching to his feet. “Say that with a sword in your hand, Frey,” the small man snarled. “Or do you only fight with smears of shit?”
Frey’s pinched face went pale. Beside him Walder Rivers rose. “Edwyn is no man of the sword… but I am, Piper. If you have more remarks to make, come outside and make them.”
“This is a war council, not a war,” Jaime reminded them. “Sit down, the both of you.” Neither man moved. “Now!”
Walder Rivers seated himself. Lord Piper was not so easy to cow. He muttered a curse and strode from the tent. “Shall I send men after him to drag him back, my lord?” Ser Daven asked Jaime.
“Send Ser Ilyn,” urged Edywn Frey. “We only need his head.”
Karyl Vance turned to Jaime. “Lord Piper spoke from grief. Marq is his firstborn son. Those knights who accompanied him to the Twins were nephews and cousins all.”
“Traitors and rebels all, you mean,” said Edwyn Frey.
Jaime gave him a cold look. “The Twins took up the Young Wolf’s cause as well,” he reminded the Freys. “Then you betrayed him. That makes you twice as treacherous as Piper.” He enjoyed seeing Edwyn’s thin smile curdle up and die. I have endured sufficient counsel for one day, he decided. “We’re done. See to your preparations, my lords. We attack at first light.”
The wind was blowing from the north as the lords filed from the tent. Jaime could smell the stink of the Frey encampments beyond the Tumblestone. Across the water Edmure Tully stood forlorn atop the tall grey gallows, with a rope around his neck.
His aunt departed last, her husband at her heels. “Lord nephew,” Emmon protested, “this assault on my seat… you must not do this.” When he swallowed, the apple in his throat moved up and down. “You must not. I… I forbid it.” He had been chewing sourleaf again; pinkish froth glistened on his lips. “The castle is mine, I have the parchment. Signed by the king, by little Tommen. I am the lawful lord of Riverrun, and…”
“Not so long as Edmure Tully lives,” said Lady Genna. “He is soft of heart and soft of head, I know, but alive, the man is still a danger. What do you mean to do about that, Jaime?”
It’s the Blackfish who is the danger, not Edmure. “Leave Edmure to me. Ser Lyle, Ser Ilyn. Attend me, if you would. It’s time I paid a visit to those gallows.”
The Tumblestone was deeper and swifter than the Red Fork, and the nearest ford was leagues upstream. The ferry had just started across with Walder Rivers and Edwyn Frey when Jaime and his men arrived at the river. As they awaited its return, Jaime told them what he wanted. Ser Ilyn spat into the river.
When the three of them stepped off the ferry on the north bank, a drunken camp follower offered to pleasure Strongboar with her mouth. “Here, pleasure my friend,” Ser Lyle said, shoving her toward Ser Ilyn. Laughing, the woman moved to kiss Payne on the lips, then saw his eyes and shrank away.
The paths between the cookfires were raw brown mud, mixed with horse dung and torn up by hooves and boots alike. Everywhere Jaime saw the twin towers of House Frey displayed on shield and banners, blue on grey, along with the arms of lesser Houses sworn to the Crossing: the heron of Erenford, the pitchfork of Haigh, Lord Charlton’s three sprigs of mistletoe. The arrival of the Kingslayer did not go unnoticed. An old woman selling piglets from a basket stopped to stare at him, a knight with a half-familiar face went to one knee, and two men-at-arms pissing in a ditch turned and sprayed each other. “Ser Jaime,” someone called after him, but he strode on without turning. Around him he glimpsed the faces of men he’d done his best to kill in the Whispering Wood, where the Freys had fought beneath the direwolf banners of Robb Stark. His golden hand hung heavy at his side.
Ryman Frey’s great rectangular pavilion was the largest in the camp; its grey canvas walls were made of sewn squares to resemble stonework, and its two peaks evoked the Twins. Far from being indisposed, Ser Ryman was enjoying some entertainment. The sound of a woman’s drunken laughter drifted from within the tent, mingled with the strains of a woodharp and a singer’s voice. I will deal with you later, ser, Jaime thought. Walder Rivers stood before his own modest tent, talking with two men-at-arms. His shield bore the arms of House Frey with the colors reversed, and a red bend sinister across the towers. When the bastard saw Jaime, he frowned. There’s a cold suspicious look if ever I saw one. That one is more dangerous than any of his trueborn brothers.
The gallows had been raised ten feet off the ground. Two spearmen were posted at the foot of the steps. “You can’t go up without Ser Ryman’s leave,” one told Jaime.
“This says I can.” Jaime tapped his sword hilt with a finger. “The question is, will I need to step over your corpse?”
The spearmen moved aside.
Atop the gallows, the Lord of Riverrun stood staring at the trap beneath him. His feet were black and caked with mud, his legs bare. Edmure wore a soiled silken tunic striped in Tully red and blue, and a noose of hempen rope. At the sound of Jaime’s footsteps, he raised his head and licked his dry, cracked lips. “Kingslayer?” The sight of Ser Ilyn widened his eyes. “Better a sword than a rope. Do it, Payne.”
“Ser Ilyn,” said Jaime. “You heard Lord Tully. Do it.”
The silent knight gripped his greatsword with both hands. Long and heavy it was, sharp as common steel could be. Edmure’s cracked lips moved soundlessly. As Ser Ilyn drew the blade back, he closed his eyes. The stroke had all Payne’s weight behind it.
“No! Stop. NO!” Edwyn Frey came panting into view. “My father comes. Fast as he can. Jaime, you must…”
“My lord would suit me better, Frey,” said Jaime. “And you would do well to omit must from any speech directed at me.”
Ser Ryman came stomping up the gallows steps in company with a straw-haired slattern as drunk as he was. Her gown laced up the front, but someone had undone the laces to the navel, so her breasts were spilling out. They were large and heavy, with big brown nipples. On her head a circlet of hammered bronze sat askew, graven with runes and ringed with small black swords. When she saw Jaime, she laughed. “Who in seven hells is this one?”
“The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard,” Jaime returned with cold courtesy. “I might ask the same of you, my lady.”
“Lady? I’m no lady. I’m the queen.”
“My sister will be surprised to hear that.”
“Lord Ryman crowned me his very self.” She gave a shake of her ample hips. “I’m the queen o’ whores.”
No, Jaime thought, my sweet sister holds that title too.
Ser Ryman found his tongue. “Shut your mouth, slut, Lord Jaime doesn’t want to hear some harlot’s nonsense.” This Frey was a thickset man with a broad face, small eyes, and a soft fleshy set of chins. His breath stank of wine and onions.
“Making queens, Ser Ryman?” Jaime asked softly. “Stupid. As stupid as this business with Lord Edmure.”
“I gave the Blackfish warning. I told him Edmure would die unless the castle yielded. I had this gallows built, to show them that Ser Ryman Frey does not make idle threats. At Seagard my son Walder did the same with Patrek Mallister and Lord Jason bent the knee, but… the Blackfish is a cold man. He refused us, so…”
“… you hanged Lord Edmure?”
The man reddened. “My lord grandfather… if we hang the man we have no hostage, ser. Have you considered that?”
“Only a fool makes threats he’s not prepared to carry out. If I were to threaten to hit you unless you shut your mouth, and you presumed to speak, what do you think I’d do?”
“Ser, you do not unders—”
Jaime hit him. It was a backhand blow delivered with his golden hand, but the force of it sent Ser Ryman stumbling backward into the arms of his whore. “You have a fat head, Ser Ryman, and a thick neck as well. Ser Ilyn, how many strokes would it take you to cut through that neck?”
Ser Ilyn laid a single finger against his nose.
Jaime laughed. “An empty boast. I say three.”
Ryman Frey went to his knees. “I have done nothing…”
“… but drink and whore. I know.”
“I am heir to the Crossing. You can’t…”
“I warned you about talking.” Jaime watched the man turn white. A sot, a fool, and a craven. Lord Walder had best outlive this one, or the Freys are done. “You are dismissed, ser.”
“You heard me. Go away.”
“But… where should I go?”
“To hell or home, as you prefer. See that you are not in camp when the sun comes up. You may take your queen of whores, but not that crown of hers.” Jaime turned from Ser Ryman to his son. “Edwyn, I am giving you your father’s command. Try not to be so stupid as your sire.”
“That ought not pose much difficulty, my lord.”
“Send word to Lord Walder. The crown requires all his prisoners.” Jaime waved his golden hand. “Ser Lyle, bring him.”
Edmure Tully had collapsed facedown on the scaffold when Ser Ilyn’s blade sheared the rope in two. A foot of hemp still dangled from the noose about his neck. Strongboar grabbed the end of it and pulled him to his feet. “A fish on a leash,” he said, chortling. “There’s a sight I never saw before.”
The Freys stepped aside to let them pass. A crowd had gathered below the scaffold, including a dozen camp followers in various states of disarray. Jaime noticed one man holding a woodharp. “You. Singer. Come with me.”
The man doffed his hat. “As my lord commands.”
No one said a word as they walked back to the ferry, with Ser Ryman’s singer trailing after them. But as they shoved off from the riverbank and made for the south side of the Tumblestone, Edmure Tully grabbed Jaime by the arm. “Why?”
A Lannister pays his debts, he thought, and you’re the only coin that’s left to me. “Consider it a wedding gift.”
Edmure stared at him with wary eyes. “A… wedding gift?”
“I am told your wife is pretty. She’d have to be, for you to bed her while your sister and your king were being murdered.”
“I never knew.” Edmure licked his cracked lips. “There were fiddlers outside the bedchamber…”
“And Lady Roslin was distracting you.”
“She… they made her do it, Lord Walder and the rest. Roslin never wanted… she wept, but I thought it was…”
“The sight of your rampant manhood? Aye, that would make any woman weep, I’m sure.”
“She is carrying my child.”
No, Jaime thought, that’s your death she has growing in her belly. Back at his pavilion, he dismissed Strongboar and Ser Ilyn, but not the singer. “I may have need of a song shortly,” he told the man. “Lew, heat some bathwater for my guest. Pia, find him some clean clothing. Nothing with lions on it, if you please. Peck, wine for Lord Tully. Are you hungry, my lord?”
Edmure nodded, but his eyes were still suspicious.
Jaime settled on a stool while Tully had his bath. The filth came off in grey clouds. “Once you’ve eaten, my men will escort you to Riverrun. What happens after that is up to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your uncle is an old man. Valiant, yes, but the best part of his life is done. He has no bride to grieve for him, no children to defend. A good death is all the Blackfish can hope for… but you have years remaining, Edmure. And you are the rightful lord of House Tully, not him. Your uncle serves at your pleasure. The fate of Riverrun is in your hands.”
Edmure stared. “The fate of Riverrun…”
“Yield the castle and no one dies. Your smallfolk may go in peace or stay to serve Lord Emmon. Ser Brynden will be allowed to take the black, along with as many of the garrison as choose to join him. You as well, if the Wall appeals to you. Or you may go to Casterly Rock as my captive and enjoy all the comforts and courtesy that befits a hostage of your rank. I’ll send your wife to join you, if you like. If her child is a boy, he will serve House Lannister as a page and a squire, and when he earns his knighthood we’ll bestow some lands upon him. Should Roslin give you a daughter, I’ll see her well dowered when she’s old enough to wed. You yourself may even be granted parole, once the war is done. All you need do is yield the castle.”
Edmure raised his hands from the tub and watched the water run between his fingers. “And if I will not yield?”
Must you make me say the words? Pia was standing by the flap of the tent with her arms full of clothes. His squires were listening as well, and the singer. Let them hear, Jaime thought. Let the world hear. It makes no matter. He forced himself to smile, “You’ve seen our numbers, Edmure. You’ve seen the ladders, the towers, the trebuchets, the rams. If I speak the command, my coz will bridge your moat and break your gate. Hundreds will die, most of them your own. Your former bannermen will make up the first wave of attackers, so you’ll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades. When the castle falls, all those inside will be put to the sword. Your herds will be butchered, your godswood will be felled, your keeps and towers will burn. I’ll pull your walls down, and divert the Tumblestone over the ruins. By the time I’m done no man will ever know that a castle once stood here.” Jaime got to his feet. “Your wife may whelp before that. You’ll want your child, I expect. I’ll send him to you when he’s born. With a trebuchet.”
Silence followed his speech. Edmure sat in his bath. Pia clutched the clothing to her breasts. The singer tightened a string on his harp. Little Lew hollowed out a loaf of stale bread to make a trencher, pretending that he had not heard. With a trebuchet, Jaime thought. If his aunt had been there, would she still say Tyrion was Tywin’s son?
Edmure Tully finally found his voice. “I could climb out of this tub and kill you where you stand, Kingslayer.”
“You could try.” Jaime waited. When Edmure made no move to rise, he said, “I’ll leave you to enjoy your food. Singer, play for our guest whilst he eats. You know the song, I trust.”
“The one about the rain? Aye, my lord. I know it.”
Edmure seemed to see the man for the first time. “No. Not him. Get him away from me.”
“Why, it’s just a song,” said Jaime. “He cannot have that bad a voice.”