So, I did a little experiment with this here short story of mine. I won't tell you what it is, but trust me, you'll immediately know once you see it, since it's something that is all throughout the following text. Remember the scene where Ned and Cersei meet in the garden, before everything hits the fan as they say? Well, this chapter right here is precisely about that scene.

I do want to be more involved with the ASOIAF fandom, since I loved the HBO show and the books are friggin' amazing as well. I hope that George is able to finish the books before he dies, and I have faith in the guy. We'll be reading The Winds of Winter soon enough.

Quote of the day:

"There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her; they never meet but there is a skirmish of wit between them."

— Leonato, Much Ado About Nothing

"For when you play the Game of Thrones," the Queen Regent continued as she finished the point that she was making against Lord Eddard Stark, her heart, though cruel, hoping that the Lord of Winterfell wouldn't force her to show him that the Lannisters do truly pay their debts, "you either win, or you die. There is no middle ground."

It was a quiet day in the garden of the Red Keep as Ned sat with the Queen Regent Cersei, and his mouth soured as he watched the woman who men around the country insisted was the most beautiful Lady in all of Westeros. It was true that she was a stunning thing to look at, long hair just as golden as all the wealth in the Westerlands that her father Tywin Lannister controlled, and eyes that were the clearest green that he had ever seen, but it wasn't hard to notice the hatred in the Queen's face, and the aura of death that seemed to almost emanate from her. Oh, this was a garden alright, Ned thought, but a garden of bones.

Ned closed his eyes for a moment, the gentle breeze of King's Landing washing over him as if there was nothing at all wrong in the world, and he hoped that Cersei would take the chance he offered her to save her own life and the life of her children. Robert's wrath was a terrible thing to behold, and he had seen as much when his old friend caved in the breastplate of Rhaegar Targaryen on the Trident, and he didn't want to be responsible for the deaths of Cersei and her brood. He wasn't a Lannister, and the blood of children didn't so easily wash away from his hands.

"This Game of Thrones," Ned opened his eyes and then began to stare directly into Cersei's, showing her that he could see her soul and that he knew exactly what she was, even if the rest of the world wasn't able to, "what happens when Robert's brothers start to play it? What happens when the Lannisters declare one King, and the Baratheons another? Renly is adored by the people of this country and has thousands of men loyal to him. Perhaps more than your Lord father has. Stannis is the rightful King, and a proven battle commander, and a more just man than any I have ever known. What happens when that happens? Can you survive A Clash of Kings?"

Cersei remained silent, watching Ned Stark, trying to gauge just what exactly it was that the man wanted. Almost any other man would be a simple enough thing to silence with twenty minutes of alone time and a quick opening of her legs. She wouldn't try her idea with Ned though, Lord Eddard Stark much too proud and dutiful to ever stain his honor like that. Still, Cersei thought, if he was so honorable would he have ever fathered a bastard named Snow?

She gave a taunting laugh, knowing that all of Ned's honor, Renly's popularity, and Stannis' justice meant nothing compared to her father's wrath. Even if the Kings did clash as Lord Eddard so grimly predicted and threatened, a Lannister always pays their debts, and Lord Tywin would pay his in blood and fire. If Tywin Lannister was willing to set his mad dog Gregor Clegane against Catelyn Stark's girlhood home, bringing fire and rape and death to her people of the Riverlands for the crime of kidnapping Tyrion, a son he hated, how much more would her father be willing to do for her and her royal children?

With that thought in mind, Cersei continued to mock Ned. "A Clash of Kings?" the woman scoffed, her golden beautiful hair waving in the breeze. "I would think it more of A Storm of Swords, of my father's men raining down on Robert's brothers and on Winterfell, in the same way that Gregor Clegane rains right now on the Riverlands. Have you heard of what's happening to your wife's girlhood home, and her people? Crops razed to the ground, smallfolk and nobles alike slaughtered, with no woman or girl left unraped by the Mountain that Rides and his men. You've seen what happens when a Stark lays a hand on the lowest of the Lannisters, so tell me, Lord Stark, what happens when you or Robert's brothers raise your banners against the highest?"

A dark pool formed in Ned's mind as he thought of everything that had befallen the Riverlands because of his wife's capture of Tyrion Lannister. He hoped that whatever came from this, whatever horrors that the Mountain raised against the place where his wife grew up, that bringing justice to his son Bran wouldn't be in vain, so that at least something could be shown for all the pain that had been suffered. It wouldn't unrape the women who suffered at the hands of Tywin's mad dog, and it wouldn't bring back all the people who were put to the sword in vengeance of the Lannister Imp, but maybe a semblance of justice could be issued when Lord Beric returned from the mission he had given him, bringing with him the head of Gregor Clegane.

Tywin was a dangerous man whose wrath was something to be feared, the Old Lion proving as much when he, at a time when he was not that much older than Robb, marched against the Houses of Reyne and Tarbeck when they dared to rebel against his father, slaughtering every man, woman, and child of both Houses, before setting their seats of Castamere and Tarbeck Hall to the torch. The thing that Eddard knew about Tywin though, was that Tywin was smart, and that he would see the lack of wisdom in rising up against the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. If Winterfell, Storm's End, or Dragonstone united, the enemies of the Lannisters had more allies and forces than Tywin could muster in the Westerlands. The Old Lion would settle for peace, and the Kingdoms wouldn't be plunged into war and death as it had been under the Mad King.

"If A Storm of Swords comes as you say," Ned decided to try one last time, hoping, but not believing, that he would get through to Cersei, "then all that will be left will be A Feast for Crows. I've seen war before, Your Grace," he spoke the title she didn't deserve with a bitter voice that he wouldn't hide even if he could, "and I've seen what happens when you put a sword in a man's hand. Thousands will die, perhaps even millions, and for what? A crown? Is a crown worth mass graves? Is a crown worth such destruction?"

A crown was worth that, Cersei knew, and more. Ned Stark was too much of an honorable fool to claim the crown for himself when he made her brother Jaime step down from the Iron Throne all those years ago, but that wasn't a mistake that she would ever make. Where Ned Stark had his honor, she had her ruthlessness, and where Ned Stark was willing to do whatever his precious duty entailed, she was willing to do whatever it took to survive, and whatever it took for her to win the Game of Thrones. Ned Stark may not have seen the value of the crown, but she did, and being Queen had always been her destiny, even if by the end of it all she only turned out to be the Queen of the ashes.

She knew what he was thinking, and he was a fool to think it. All the rest of the Seven Kingdoms united into one force to stand against the House of Lannister? Perhaps the rest of the Seven Kingdoms would be willing to do that if the Seven Kingdoms were made up of men as honorable and stupid as the Lord of Winterfell, but men weren't like that, and the country would tear itself apart long before it ever united into one force. If the whole country didn't unite to stand against the Mad King, how would they ever unite to stand against the Lannisters?

Cersei smiled, but there was no beauty in it, and instead only contempt. "Was it A Feast for Crows when you and Robert had your Dance With Dragons fighting the Targaryens? Or did you know even then that the crown, that the Iron Throne, is what truly matters in the end?" She paused as she sneered her next words, sounding more like she had been forced to whisper blashemy than anything else. "Robert's Rebellion? How romantic. I suppose 'The War for Lyanna's cunt' was already taken?"

The nightmares that haunted him, the screaming and burning flesh of Starks that came to him in his darkest dreams, returned to Ned in that moment. His fist clenched around his walking cane, Cersei having no right to talk about his father or Brandon. "They murdered my brother and father!"

Had Cersei not been a Queen, she would have spit on Lord Stark's words then and there. "And my brother and father murdered them, and you dare to look down upon them and call them monsters?"

He knew at that moment that nothing he could ever say to Cersei would be enough for the vindictive woman to ever heed his advice. It was hard considering the wound he had taken to his leg not so long ago by the Lannisters when they slaughtered Jory and the rest of his men, but Ned Stark forced himself to stand, his gaze never leaving Cersei's, not even for a blink of the eye. "If you don't listen to me, I hope that you're prepared for the Winds of Winter, Your Grace. For the Winds are strong, and Winter is coming."

It was then that Cersei too stood up, her beautiful green eyes just as piercing as any sword could ever be. "It seems that the Dream of Spring is only that," she almost whispered as the drums of war stirred in her heart, and as the gentle breeze washed over them, "a dream."

I hope that title dropping all of the books wasn't too annoying, since that was actually in fact the whole point of this current exercise in writing. I'll see you soon, since I do have a lot of ASOIAF ideas that won't leave my head. A lot involve the relationship between Jon Snow and a certain Lady Stark, and others basically the Secret Wars for those of you who also read comics to know what I'm saying, except using the characters of ASOIAF.

Read and review please, if you are so much obliged. No worries if you don't though. Peace be with you, and all that.