(King's Landing: 11/12/298 AC) Tyrion V
"Dammit Cersei," he heaved, zipping through panicking Lannister guards and loyal Goldcloaks as he did so. Several of the City Watch, with irregularly fitted armor, stood guard, all reeking of piss. Their yellow cloaks were singed on the edges and stained with ash. The air within the halls, normally a mix of incense and shit, now smelt of smoke.
"Lord Tyrion! Lord Tyrion!" several of the men shouted as he approached, eying him in a way he had never been looked at before.
'The way they looked at my father,' he noted, nodding solemnly at the men.
Mixed in amongst the others were men with faces and armor covered in soot. Their frenzied cries of "Demons! Witches!" and "Sorcerors!" falling upon everything but deaf ears.
"Quit your whinging you cowards and get back to manning your posts!" Wode, his sole remaining guard, shouted as he trailed just behind him.
"You didn't see them, old man!" a voice bellowed from down the hall, causing them both to stop in their tracks.
"Ser Meryn?" he asked, taking in a quick gulp of air, as he gradually began to recognize the knight who's normally pristine white armor was black as coal. The elaborate assortment of feathers he once had upon his helmet had been reduced to burnt quills.
"They knew! That woman, and that man! They were waiting!" he hissed, as he reclined his head on the pommel of his sword, the exhaustion clear upon his face. "The commander of Azula's guard! She was a damned dragon! And that lowly teashop owner was a fucking demon of fire." A look of revulsion and fear swirled within his eyes, the whites of which stood in stark contrast to his blackened visage.
"You speak of Chi-Ha and Xai-Bau?" Tyrion pressed.
"Who cares about their names, dwarf?!" Ser Meryn bellowed. "Monsters! All of them!"
"How did you survive?" he addressed the armored grub, ignoring the tired old insult. "Did you flee?"
"I would not!" the man rose at his words, but stopped short of cursing. "She and her demonguards were waiting within the shop and cut down my men before I knew what was happening."
'Somehow I doubt that,' Tyrion couldn't help but think, remembering his brother's words on his fellow Kingsguard. 'Ser Meryn lacks finesse in both swordplay and words. He treats a sword like a club, his words like a hammer, and is none too bright. He would've made for a better sellsword if he wasn't such a coward.'
"Then she wrapped her strange chain weapon around my legs and pulled me down. When I fell, I saw the men I positioned outside of the teashop, a dozen of them, being engulfed in flames from somewhere above. When the screams finally died, the teaman entered, along with three Dragonstone men, all bearing their foreign uniforms. The woman lifted me up like a child, armor and all, then tossed me out of the building. Gods, she was strong! The chain from her weapon was still around my legs and I could not move. I only saw the sky and the ash that blackened it. She and the man stood over me, watching as the ash settled upon my armor." For a moment, the man grew silent, then in a low voice he uttered, "Tell the Queen; Fire Lord Azula will be here soon, to pull rank."
"What?" Tyrion asked, nearly missing Ser Meryn's words amongst the background noise of the others.
He looked up, with the fear still upon his face. "They told me to say that, and then let me go." The harrowed Kingsguard blinked, almost surprised at his outburst, before a deep frown overtook him. "Get me a drink!" he shouted, then stomped away before any response was given. "Bah! I'll get it myself!"
He and Wode continued on in due haste, and as they turned the corner, Tyrion saw the iron door leading to his sister's chambers. "Only three guards?!" he exclaimed, noticing the vastly undermanned door and the Lannister guards that stood between him and it. Several torch stands and wooden benches were strewn about in haphazard barricades lining the doors leading to the servant's quarters down below. Before he reached the reinforced door to Cersei's chambers, he turned to his grizzled old guard. "Go back," he said finally, recalling the nervous guardsmen in the halls they had left a turn ago. "Go back and keep them steady."
"As you command, my lord," the man nodded and turned on his heel, disappearing back around the corner from whence they came.
Tyrion stood in the hall and gathered himself, before stepping forward, only to find one of the guards blocking his path. A young man, seemingly barely out of his youth, began speaking in a shaky tone, "My lord, the Quee…."
"Don't start with me, boy. You know who I am. Let me through. Now," he rumbled, looking up towards fearful greenish eyes. 'The lion, no matter how small, would not be denied,' he said to himself, all pretense of subtle investigations and pleasantries having been cast away after first light.
"Apologies, my lord, I," the boy nodded, pushing open the door and foregoing anymore words, before clumsily stepping aside.
There, standing by the balcony, empty goblet in her hand was his sister. 'The Queen of the Seven-Kingdoms,' he muttered sarcastically in his mind, before eying the mess of broken goblets, wine-stained parchments and scrolls, all piled about around his sister. "What in the Seven-Bloody-Hells were you thinking?! Sending that pack of lummoxes?" Tyrion kept his voice low, and was nearly drowned out by the shouting from the streets below.
"How was I supposed to know they were bloody fire sorcerers!?" Cersei shrieked, marching towards him and glaring with her blazing green eyes, her wine spilling everywhere around her.
Tyrion looked out from one of the windows within Maegor's Holdfast, and watched helplessly as black pillars of smoke arose from several squares around the city. Three of which he knew were of grave import: the area within Cobbler's Square, where he assumed the teashop still stood. The area behind the Sept of Baelor, where Dragonstone Manor most likely still stood, 'If the resilience of the Teashop had been any indication,' he told himself, and the City Watch outpost near the Old Gate. 'And what in the blazes happened to the Commander of the City Watch?' Tyrion realized as an afterthought, after seeing the smoldering ruins of the outpost. The sun was barely over the horizon, yet in the distance he heard war cries and caught sight of numerous fireballs being shot into the air. A chain of banners bearing the burning stag, began being raised high beside the traditional gold and black banner of the single rearing stag, along the northwestern walls of the city. For a moment, he stood mesmerized at the sight before it dawned on him what it meant. "We need to flee, before they cut us off."
"Another suggestion," Cersei scoffed, before staring daggers at him. "Look!" she pulled him to the window and stretched out her arm towards the city. "Look at what your first damned suggestion has brought us! You cost me at least a hundred men and who knows how many others that have failed to report back! Their scorched weapons were piled upon the steps of this damned place! And nobody saw who did it! Not a single damned soul! In broad daylight no less! Not to mention that treacherous little shit, Baelish, whose men in the City Watch have sworn themselves to the bitch! When I get my hands on him, he will pay!"
He shook his arm out of her grip. "My suggestion was to simply bring them in. Not send in a company of morons who don't know the difference between tact and gaucherie! Only two of them made it back! Not that it did them much good!" he shouted, remembering the nightmarish screams that had awoken him. Cersei turned her back to him and took several steps forward before stopping and staring out of the small window, no doubt watching the rising banners.
"You…" Cersei whispered. A fingernail scratched glass, and he suddenly felt his hairs stand on end. She faced him with a venomous hatred clouding her brilliant emerald eyes. Clutching at her goblet of wine, she focused upon his mismatched ones, her knuckles slowly turning white as she tightened her grip. In a flash, Cersei threw the goblet at him. So quick was the throw that he barely managed to draw up the energy to duck away.
"Fuck!" he yelped as the cup flew by and shattered across the wall. "Are you insane?!" Tyrion demanded, patting his sleeves down as he did.
"No, but you must be if you think I'm ever going to listen to you again! Those fools knew the risks," Cersei sneered, speaking of the men she had sent to their deaths, before lowering her arm. Even through her shameless bravado, and for the first time in his life, the little lion heard a twinge of uncertainty in her normally haughty tone.
"Evidently not, since one of them had his helmet fused onto his face!" Tyrion slapped his hand on the table nearest to him, the shock reverberating up his arm. "And the other man? He managed to get away with only a horribly burned arm. An arm, which I might add, Pycelle was forced to amputate for his trouble!"
"And? We still have more men to spare," Joffrey's petulant voice spoke out from a darkened corner of the room, startling him as he did so. The crown prince, his nephew, swaggered out of the shadows with a strange and almost eager look in his eyes.
"Oh, really? And how many men do we have left? Hmmm? A thousand? Two-thousand?" he shot a look towards his nephew. "And how many of those men will wish to charge into the Stranger's fiery maw? They aren't toys you can simply toss away and replace at a whim! Do you know what they have been doing to our men?"
"They've started hanging their bodies on every street corner they control, what of it? We can still take them," Joffrey retorted in an irritatingly abrasive tone. "I will lead the damned cowards into Dragonstone manor myself, if they don't have the stones to do so! I will burn that eyesore down and mount all those traitor's heads on spikes!"
"You would never make it there," he supplied, his temper nearly reaching its zenith. "The Nobles have gone silent and Flea Bottom has suddenly started performing disappearing acts upon our men! Do not think me blind to the fact that men in Dragonstone colors were seen sequestering the parishioners within the Sept of Baelor. The High Septon hasn't been seen since you lot decided to pull this little stunt!"
"And if they've turned, then they'll all die alongside that traitorous bitch and her hellspawn!" he could practically taste the hate spewing forth from Joffrey's lips as he spoke.
"This entire city became a warzone in just one day because of you," he pointed to Cersei, "escalating things that should have remained un-escalated. I believed you could be discrete. That was my mistake. If we make it out of this, it would be a miracle!"
"You cannot speak to the Queen that way, you little monster," the boy hissed, stalking up to him and glowering down with a pinched face. Tyrion suddenly grew the urge to slap him across his preening, puckered face, but relented.
"Oh, I'm sorry, your Grace," he bowed in mock respect. "Your pack of dimwitted brutes brought this on us, and Stannis' wife is anything but," he countered, watching as his sister clenched her fist. In the back of his mind, he realized that the truth had been staring him in the face. 'Fire Nation,' he recalled from the book the Lady Azula had loaned him. 'Butcher of Shipbreaker Bay and the Stepstones, Scourge of the Reach,' all titles he now knew had not been exaggerated, judging by the utter chaos a handful of her people had caused within the capital.
"We should have known that detestable woman was planning something," Joffrey snarled and turned his back towards him, before stalking off to stare out of the thin window he and Cersei had been gazing out of only moments before. "Why else would she have waited so long," the boy prince clasped his hands at his back, mirroring the stance he remembered the Lady of Dragonstone favoring. "If she commanded such forces to begin with?"
"Finally! Some sense," Tyrion replied, surprised at his nephew's intuitiveness. 'The impetuous shit is right,' he said to himself, wondering how much the Lady of Dragonstone had planned and how much had been accidental in the whole sordid affair. "She's definitely patient, if she waited this long, but you forced her hand, Cersei. The only reason we still draw breath is because her men haven't received orders to take us into custody. They are waiting for direct commands, and that is our only opportunity, because what do you think will happen when she gets here now?! Which should be sometime within the day, by my estimate. The Ozai does not need the wind to make short work of the distance between Dragonstone and King's Landing. We need to leave," he reiterated his earlier, if ill-met, suggestion. 'This investigation would be pointless, if it wasn't already, should we die today.'
"I will not flee," Cersei grimaced as if disgusted by the thought.
"Neither will I," the boy prince mirrored his mother's words and look.
"Oh, by the Seven," Tyrion nearly pulled his hair out. "I thought we were beyond this casual dismissal of the Lady Azula, given recent events?" Tyrion chastised, pointing towards the pillars of black smoke. "The both of you do not seem to understand. If Azula Baratheon was able to bring those fire demons out there to heel, then just imagine how powerful she must be to do so!" A sense of dread washed over him, as he wondered on her power, and out of the corner of his eye he spotted a partially unfurled raven-scroll sitting just at the edge of the gilded table. "And…" he started, only to be cut short by a series of shouts and ringing steel just outside the room.
"Ahhh!" he heard a man scream at the top of his lungs, before the tell-tale sound of flame roared in the hall.
"Demons!" another yelped, before a gurgling sound overtook his words.
"Tommen!" Cersei screeched, and rushed for the door only to jump back as flames rolled out from under its frame.
"Excellent! They've come to me to die today!" a cruel grin line Joffrey's face and for a brief instant, he almost felt confident the boy prince could hold them back as he unsheathed his longsword, Lion's Tooth. A double-edged blade of polished blue steel, with a leather grip and a gold lion's-head pommel reflected sunlight along the mirrors and gilded furniture.
Tyrion reached for a golden candelabra at his side and faced the door, before he heard the clattering of steel behind him, and the meaty thump of a body hitting the floor. He felt a pinch at his neck, before a haze fell upon his vision and he started sagging to the floor, watching as Cersei befell the same fate. With what little energy he had remaining, he saw the fallen form of Joffrey with two darts embedded within his neck. A group of cloaked men, in faceless masks, stood in front of an opening within the wall, and surrounded a little boy dressed in simple black trousers with a brown tunic and little black boots. He spied a silver necklace hanging down the boy's neck with whatever pendant, or jewel, hidden just out of view. Before everything went dark, a woman he had never seen before, emerged from the blackness of the hidden entryway, and barked orders at the group. "We have the other one. We must secure them all, before the Fire Lord finds them, or the prince will be unhappy…"