Chapter One-An audience with a King
It was a tedious Sunday morning in the Red Keep. Tyrion had awoken to the call of an alarmed servant, being informed that apparently the current serving girl Joffrey had been torturing had run off with a visiting minstrel during the night. He had done his best to calm the brat down, but his mood was still black as ever. His beloved sister was, of course, being her usual unhelpful pain in his arse.
"I want her found!"The boy had grumbled as he took aim with his crossbow. It was new, by the look of it, with polished wood and a gilded trigger. What an utter waste of gold. He'd likely been looking forward to using it on the aforementioned serving girl. For now he'd have to be satisfied with the old and battered targets on the sun-baked training ground where they stood. The heat was hellish, though Joffrey was of course being sheltered under an awning held by four uncomfortable servants.
"My my, my liege, has young love finally struck you with its glittering arrow? Has the flame of heroic passion finally ignited our young king's royal bosom?" He'd said, standing carefully behind the boy in the shade of the castle.
Joffrey fired, just missing the ragged target, then turned back to face Tyrion with a glowing maroon coloring his face. "Be quiet, Imp! She was mine! I wanted to hear her squeal." He handed the crossbow to Meryn Trant, who was currently standing by as guard, to reload.
"Don't worry, Joffrey. She will be found." Cersei said from his left. He hadn't noticed her arrive. He turned to her with an overly pronounced grin. "And good morning, my comely sister. You've come to see our king assault manequins, I presume."
She scowled at him. "I've come to see that my son is well, you foul maggot!" She smiled at Joffrey. "As I said, my king, she shall be found, if we have to send all the City Watch to search for her."
Tyrion resisted the urge to slam his head repeatedly into the wall. "Surely there's no need for that."
Joffrey sneered. "You dare to suggest that my mother is wrong you dwarf? Do as she says!"
Tyrion resisted the urge to slam Jeoffrey's head into the wall. "My liege, we simply cannot send all of the City Watch to find one person! There are laws to enforce, prisons to be guarded, criminals to be arrested-"
"I said do it! You have to do what I say. I am the king." Joffrey said with a sneer.
Tyrion sighed. "The best we can afford is a quarter of the watch."
Joffrey scowled. "I want all of it."
Tyrion shrugged. "Fine. You should know, however, that will leave the Red Keep completely unprotected. Nothing to stop any possible mobs or hordes of angry rabble swarming up the walls…"
Joffrey's eyes widened. "Wait, what?"
Tyrion shrugged as he began to walk away. "I shall inform the captain immediately, and command them to search out the girl."
"No!" Joffrey said. "Stop!"
Tyrion glanced back. "What is it, my liege?"
"Command only half the guards to search. The rest shall remain around the castle." Joffrey puffed up his chest pompously. "This is your king's command!"
Tyrion sighed. With Joffrey this was probably the best he'd get. "As you command, my lord."
He walked to the guard captain's quarters and informed the rather shifty-eyed Janos Slynt of his new orders. He did not seem particularly worried, Tyrion noticed, but then again he cared more about the opinion of the king than he did for the city.
Tyrion returned to his quarters, joining Shae for a morning game under the covers, and wondered if this kingdom would survive its king.
Joffrey's court tended to be filled with fools and appeasers who applauded every arbitrary and cruel decision he made, and today was no different.
"Marcus Chantrey, cabbage Merchant." The steward announced. Said merchant, a man with a hard jaw adorned with a well trimmed brown beard, stepped forward.
"May the Seven bless you, my king." He bowed. "I've come today to request a guard be brought to justice. I was selling my wares by the stairs to the Sept yesterday, and a Guard named Duncan stole three of my cabbages. When I asked him to pay for them, he hit me," he pointed to a bruise on his cheek, "and smashed all of my cabbages. Said it was my fault for demanding money from a guard. My lord, I would ask of thee to please have this man pay the damages to my cabbage stand and my wares. May the Father guide you."
Joffrey scowled. "I see no reason to make a guard pay for cabbages. He can do what he likes. Now off with you!" The man's face grew a deep scarlet, but he bowed and left, his anger apparent in his stride. Yet another enemy. Sandor Clegane thought. Sooner or later, someone's going to try to kill the little bastard. He glanced to his right, where Sansa Stark sat, trying to keep herself as hidden as possible behind the first row of nobles. He was starting to truly pity the girl as she was now.
"Gregory Wheat, Farmer." The steward called. The man came forth, tentatively holding his worn and patched cap in his hand.
Joffrey sneered, slouching in the Iron Throne. "And who does this rat think he is, coming into the court of a Lion?" The attentive courtiers laughed as the man shivered uncomfortably.
"Beggin your pardon, milord, but I've got the right to go to court just as any other man does, don't I?" The poor man said.
Jeoffrey frowned. "Now that I think about it… why do we let the rabble into our courts, anyhow? What matters do they even have of importance enough to bring to a king?" The throne room grew quiet.
That little shit's about to bring a storm down on his head. The Hound thought. Deriding peasants was one thing, but taking away their voice would make them really pissed.
"M-milord…" The farmer said.
"What?" Joffrey snapped out, scowl forming in earnest.
"See, milord, it were this mornin'. Me daughter, Rosy, were out in the field, workin' on the crops." The man's eyes took on a haunted look. "There was some soldiers come ridin' through, on big horses. They was wearin' gold cloaks. They saw me daughter, and they surrounded 'er. Said they was lookin' for a girl, see. 'bout her age. Said that she run off, that the king were after 'er. I telled 'em that she weren't, an they laughed at me. Said that was good, 'cause then they… they… they took her, milord. Right in front of me. One by one." The man paused, struggling for words. "After… after that, they made me pay 'em five dragons, said it were th-the kings tax o-on whores." Red began to bloom in his face. "Me Rosy ain't some whore! She were a chaste girl, only thirteen, an now…" He faded off for a moment. "I come before you, milord, to beg ye to punish them fer rapin' my daughter!"
Joffrey laughed. A moment later, the whole court laughed. Sandor could see the disbelief, the humiliation in the man's face. "Tax on whores? That's a good one!" Joffrey said. "I'll make sure they give me the five dragons. Who are you, anyway, to question one of the City Watch? They can do what they like. Now get out of here, you filthy peasant."
He's on a roll. Sandor said as the peasant walked out slowly, head bowed but hands clutching tightly to his cap. I'd bet ten dragons the first assassination attempt will be within the month.
"And now…" The steward said, pausing for a moment as a look of confusion passed over his face. "Ahem… Naraven…Telvanni? The Nerevarinney? Arianna Carius… The Hero of Kayvach? Bromjun Kendov… the dovackin?"
The court erupted into whispers as three strange figures entered the hall.
One was a large man, light in complexion, who appeared to be wearing some sort of strange armor that appeared to be made of… bone? A strange choice… On his back rested a great battleaxe. The Hound tightened his grip on his sword hilt. If that man meant business…
To his far left walked a strange man dressed in extravagant robes of purple and gold. His head was covered by a purple hood, but underneath it he thought he saw the glimmer of strange red eyes…
In the center, however, was the strangest thing. It was… a woman. A woman striding confidently, grinning like a fool, wearing black armor gilded with ornate gold with a black sword strapped to her right side and an exotic dagger to her left. Her chestnut eyes brimmed with what the Hound thought to be a strange glee. In her left hand she carried a scroll.
"Greetings!" She exclaimed with a dramatic bow, alarming the court into silence. "We've been told that you are the king of this land. Is that true?" Her voice hummed with the rich tenor of an expert bard, spreading over those assembled like smooth frosting on a freshly baked cake.
Jeoffrey scowled. "Of course I'm the king! Who do you think you are?"
The woman's brown eyes twinkled mischeviously. "Why, the Hero of Kvatch, of course!" She shot a glance at the steward. "You may want to have your steward work on his pronunciation. Anyways," she waved at her companions. "These two are the Nerevarine and the Dovahkiin, respectively."
Jeoffrey raised an eyebrow. "Is that supposed to mean something to me, or did you just invent those odd titles to attempt to be impressive?" There was some nervous laughter from the court.
The strange woman ignored his question. "We've come here to represent the land of Tamriel! Well, specifically, the Empire. And I guess the Houses of Morrowind. And maybe those Nord guys…" She glanced at Bromjun. "Do you represent those… what was it, Stormcapes?"
A brooding expression took hold of the blond man's face. "…I suppose so. It would be the Stormcloaks."
"Alright then! The Stormcloaks." Arianna stated as she looked towards the king once more.
Jeoffrey smirked. "And what, exactly, are they supposed to be? I've never heard of these places. Have you made them up as well?" There was slightly more laughter this time as the court realized he was making a joke.
"Ahem." The woman unrolled the scroll. "In the name of Emperors Uriel Septim and Titus Mede, we have come to you in good faith to inform you of our arrival on this plane. Our land, Tamriel, has been transported by some mischief of unknown sorcery, to your world. We do not intend to alarm you with this, and we would like to offer you an agreement of peace and prosperity. As such, we have sent three representatives of our people to your lands. May your gods guide you, and may we be allies for as long as our realms are joined." She re-rolled the scroll.
The court was silent for a long moment. And then… Jeoffrey laughed. Again. And the entire court began to laugh. Even the Hound found this somewhat amusing, though that drained away when he noticed the looks on the faces of these three 'ambassadors'.
Joffrey was wheezing with laughter. "T-this is hil-hilarious!" He chortled. "Such ridiculous claims. Did you actually think that anyone, anyone, would believe that you're working for some Empire of a land that appeared here by magic?" He smirked at them. "And even if it were true, why would they send a woman to do it? No, not even a woman!" He said as he looked at her more closely. "You look more like a little girl trying on her father's armor!" He broke down into laughter again, as did his court.
There was a strange confusion in the woman's eyes, as if this was the first she'd heard of such comments. "Um, what?" She said, though the court's laughter was overwhelming the room.
"You know what I think?" Jeoffrey said. "I think you should put on a pretty dress, like a proper little girl, with a little bow on top!"
The woman's eyes narrowed dangerously. A hand drifted towards her sword. "Say that again." Her voice cut through the laughter, with a quiet menace that pierced through the laughter.
The hound stood quickly, hand going to his sword. The other members of the kingsguard drew up in front of the boy, noticing the danger of her tone.
Jeoffrey swatted at them annoyedly. "Back away, she's just a wench! There's not a wench alive who can handle a sword." He smirked at her, a malicious gleam in his eye."You know what? I think I'll have my guards get a dress and change you right here! Seize her!"
As two of the kingsguard moved forward the woman drew her sword. The Hound's pulse quickened as he noticed her expert grip, her perfect stance. This woman was dangerous, and right now she was coiled like a viper, her face a mask of fierce determination.
Behind her the large man had drawn his battleaxe. He too had the look of an expert warrior, legs braced and axe held low, ready to swing over into a powerful strike. That blade looked strong enough to crush armor, he knew from experience, and the screaming face on its side made the Hound feel still more nervous about the coming fight. To his left, the robed man had drawn his hands out of his sleeves, but still remained unarmed, and was the least threatening of the group.
Jeoffrey scowled. "You dare to draw weapons in the court of your king?"
The woman grinned, but the warmth was gone from her face. "With all due respect, 'milord', you're not our king. I suggest you stop this now, or we will be forced to defend ourselves."
"Guards! Sieze them!" The boy shouted.
Two of the kingsguard, Ser Mandon Moore and Ser Preston Greenfield, headed straight for the woman with swords drawn. Mandon slashed his sword down towards her neck but met nothing but air as she ducked under his strike and slammed the pommel of her sword into his sternum. The air left the large armored man in a great whoosh as he stumbled backwards into Ser Preston, who struggled to push him away. He was interrupted when the woman spun and slammed the flat of her sword into his face, knocking the two guards into a heap on the ground.
The Hound followed them more cautiously, advancing slowly with his sword drawn. The woman stood, sword pointed at the ground, and waited for him to strike. He didn't like this one bit.
On the other side of the room the Hound could see, out of the corner of his eye, Sers Meryn Trant and Aerys Oakheart advancing on the one with the axe. Aerys tried to jump in quickly with a jab at the man's armor, but the man sidestepped and punched the knight's helmet with enough force to slam him into the ground, out cold. Meryn began to back away, eyes flickering from the man to his king to the door and back again. Guess I'm the only one left.
The Hound feinted towards the woman's left and then swung hard at her right, only to find his blade deftly blocked with so much strength as to make it feel like he was hitting a brick wall. He backed away, only narrowly dodging her counterswipe and keeping carefully out of her reach as he slashed down again and again, meeting only air. This is like trying to kill the damned wind! He lost his focus as his back slammed into a noble too stupid to run away and at once the woman was on top of him, tackling him to the ground. Somehow she'd managed to replace her sword with her dagger, which now glittered menacingly at his throat.
She glanced back at the robed man. "Naras, get the doors!" The man nodded, bringing his hands up above his head. Suddenly an orb of white light formed between them. Sorcery! The Hound thought with astonishment.
The orb unraveled into tendrils of white light which sped towards each of the doors, entering the various keyholes and locking them with audible clicks. A large one shut the main hall door at the far end of the hall and slammed down the bar, then wrapped itself around it to form an aura of white light.
The woman looked back up that the boy who now sat on the throne with a terrified look on his face. "Now, then," she said with a wolfish grin, still holding her dagger to the Hound's neck, "let's try this again."