Author's Note: An Elder Scrolls crossover in terms of the cosmology rather than the setting.
Disclaimer: I don't own Game of Thrones, I'm not GRRM, I don't own The Elder Scrolls, and I'm not Michael Kirkbride. Unless a new lore retcon reveals that everyone is Michael Kirkbride... would anyone be surprised?
"And what did any of that mean?"
The dead-eyed boy smiled at him. It was like seeing a rictus of pleasure on the face of a corpse. "What does anything mean, truly?"
"You know what I mean," Tyrion said gruffly. "The dragon-queen going insane. Your sister slaying the Night King... somehow. Your own ascension to the throne - What does 'the best story' even mean?" He rubbed his jaw. "The words came from my mouth, yet I still do not understand them." Spreading his arms, he added, "I know you can stop me before I can do anything about it. I'd just like to know for my own peace of mind."
"'Peace of mind' can be brought only by greater understanding, not through knowledge," the boy said, still with the same dead smile. One of the many pains of being a dwarf was that he couldn't reach high enough to slap it off the creature's face. Not that he would be allowed to do so, regardless, but the pretense that he could would have been comforting. "But I suppose it might be amusing to tell you. You are the rare person who might be able to understand."
Obviously infinite comprehension hadn't brought the boy any humility. "Amusement must be rare in your exalted position," Tyrion said dryly. "Or perhaps extremely common. So let me be your fool, Your Grace - or are we all your fools, anyway? Indulge me."
The boy's smile broadened. Somehow it seemed obscene. "When I ceased to be 'Bran', I saw beyond sight. Time and space lay open to me. I could be anywhere, see anywhere, perceive all things... and still I sought more. I sought the 'why', not merely the 'how'. In my wisdom, I looked ever deeper. Knowledge beyond knowledge, enigmas beyond enigmas..."
By the gods, he was rambling like a particularly pompous and stupid old Maester. If the gods were good, he would shut up soon.
Of course, the gods were not good. Time stretched on to eternity, and Tyrion fancied he himself was beginning to extend beyond his normal perceptions - if only to escape from a body locked into obligations of horrific boredom. His knees were aching, too.
"...and do you know what I understood at last?"
Tyrion could have almost wept from relief. "I'm afraid only Your Grace could know that."
"No, it's actually very simple," the boy said. "Life is all a jape." He folded his hands in his lap. "A long and cruel jape, extended beyond all semblance of humor by a hateful god who takes joy only from the suffering of his creations, granting them fleeting pleasures only so they can experience greater pain."
Tyrion blinked. That sounded like something he might say, not the omniscient abomination in a chair. "I see," he said neutrally.
The boy shook his head. "No," he said. "It is. Nothing more."
"I am not speaking in metaphor." Those dead eyes drilled into his. He swore he could almost see a third- "Nothing. More."
He squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them the moment he realized he was doing it. Hastily, he fixed his gaze on the ground. "It is as Your Grace says," he said, feeling a stabbing pain in his skull. He'd had worse hangovers, but it was discomforting to feel so while dead sober.
"You do not understand," the boy said, a peculiar note in his voice.
"Perhaps so. Well, then I suppose mortals like us simply cannot comprehend the m
Tyrion clutched at his poOR HEad
"all a JAPE," the b
y repeated, and his e
STOP! STOP| STOP tyrion 'screamed'
The boy, the wretched, abominable boy, chuckled. "Do you see?"
Tyrion found himself on the floor, curled up in a ball so tight it was a wonder he could breathe. He did not remember getting there. He feared leaving it.
"Your precious books, Tyrion," the boy said sweetly. "We're nothing more than that... nothing more than all some great dream in the mind of an unknown god."
Presumably the boy meant himself. Delusions of grandeur, delusions of grandeur... dared he argue? No.
"No, not myself." The boy cleared his throat. "A dream, nothing more. But an incomplete dream." He paused, likely more for the effect than to invite a response, and shortly continued. "I perceived the throne of God had become empty. The ink was dry, yet the pages were clear. They only begged for a hand to write them."
"A hand existing only within a book cannot hold the pen that writes upon it." There. He had formed words. He was very courageous and witty and now he could let this cold sweat and dizziness take him. Fainting had never seemed so attractive.
"The singers speak the words of which heroic deeds are made," said the boy sardonically, "and yet we speak of the glory of the heroes, not of the singers. Perhaps it is true that what is written is solely the handiwork of the author, and all our vices and virtues are no more our fault than a tapestry is to blame for the events it depicts. But within the story, why should a character not realize that the story is just that - a meaningless collection of words, subject to no more law and logic than the author's will?"
"No." Tyrion swallowed. "We - we are something." If the world was impermanent and meaningless, he would have wished away being a dwarf. He would have wished for love. He would have wished for his father to be a kind man, and -
"Vanity," the boy murmured, "nothing but vanity."
"What are you, then?" Tyrion flung the words at him - brave words, from a man who dared not rise from the floor. "What are you, if nothing is anything?"
"Nothing," the boy said beatifically. "Nothing, and therefore everything, as everything is nothing." He chuckled. "Save for the one who writes, of course. And who shall know whoever writes the song of all the world?"
He was insane. His powers had driven him insane. And yet those same powers could drive the world insane.
Tyrion could feel his own mind buckling under the strain of the implications. Or perhaps mo
"Your mind refuses to believe," the boy remarked. "That is a pity; it means that, were you to be convinced, you would refuse to accept your own existence as valid." He sighed. "That was what killed the Valyrians, you know," he added. "The Doom merely resulted from the land's own self-correction after they and all their spells winked out of existence."
"What killed them?" Tyrion croaked. He didn't...
"Unbelief," the boy said, as though it ought to be obvious. "They were more like maesters than anyone realizes - save that, rather than fearing magic because it ran contrary to logic and reason, they delved into it until they understood how to make it comply with logic and reason. In the end, though they retained a pantheon to keep the lower classes in pious subjugation, they believed in no god and scorned all illusions. On the day of the Doom, they broke through the final veil, only to find nothing behind it. Faced with immutable evidence that they themselves were illusion, they immutably scorned their own existences, and thus the existences were not."
A fancy way of saying suicide, Tyrion thought. Perhaps it was a fancy manner of suicide.
"More than suicide," the boy said, and Tyrion resisted the urge to vomit. "Name a single family of Old Valyria - besides the Targaryens, who had long since departed."
Tyrion pondered the question. "Belarys?" he said hesitantly.
"A lesser family that had already left for Essos and lost their dragon-riding abilities, having rapidly abandoned the Valyrian tradition of inbreeding," the boy said. "An impressive memory, nonetheless. Others?"
He ought to know. Someone ought to have known. How could anyone forget a civilization which once had ruled the world?
"And can you tell me a bit of Valyria's history? As written by Valyrians, of course, not by their slaves. Did they leave behind a single song? A play? Even a bit of folklore from their shepherd days?"
Surely they had. He would remember it any moment.
"How would a scholar such as yourself put it?" the boy mused. "Ah - in terms of numbers, perhaps. Say, then, that they calculated the sum of their lives, and came out with - nothingness. Zero. And, having done so, were nothingness. A zero-sum."
Pure rot. Maybe the boy had rewritten his mind to support the insane claims, and that was why he could not remember a thing... save Valyrian steel, but that had been made for others, and outside of Valyria when the Doom came... or dragons! But dragons had been outside of Valyria, too... the Targaryens...
"Nothingness begets only nothingness," the boy said comfortably. "To the logical mind, that is."
The floor was too cold. He pushed himself up, and waddled to his feet. Still he avoided looking at the boy. "And yours?"
"Is insane, of course," the boy said, an incarnation of pure shamelessness. "Perhaps because I was a boy, and too childish to really understand, even as I do understand. Therein is the secret, don't you see? To understand that nothing matters - and, at the same time, to believe that you matter." He laughed, and it was chilling precisely because, for once, it was not chilling - merely the laugh of a child, so unlike his normal self. Tyrion shuddered. "Look at me, father! Look at me, mother! I'm King of Westeros!"
Tyrion swallowed down bile. "But not all of it," he said. "Your sister-"
"Oh, let Sansa play at being queen," Bran said petulantly. "I'm not a bad brother. Arya gets to play at being the hero who sails off into an endless sunset once the great deeds are done. Even Jon gets to play at being a lord, of sorts - a lord of a lordless people - and he's not even my brother. You think I'm bad. I'm not. I'm just having fun."
And here he'd once felt sorry for this brat being tipped out a window. Now he envied him. Jumping out a window to get away seemed appealing at the moment. "As... you say, Your Grace." It was like listening to Cersei with a cock.
"Yes, the Targaryen had to die. I know that hurt Jon. That was a pity. But she made me. She made me."
The deadened, empty voice had been preferable. This was the voice of a whiny little boy... He hated whiny little boys. He'd been one, once. That only helped. "But you are a god, Your Grace. Your divine madness makes you so. How could a mere mortal threaten you?"
"The dragons weren't important." Tyrion jerked and resisted the urge to bolt. "It was what she'd done in Essos. Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains." The boy stressed the words. "Names. Only names. At first. But... if one walks in a path for long enough, truly enough, powerfully enough... first men acknowledge them, and then..."
"Is that the secret behind the Three-Eyed Crow?"
In that instant, Tyrion dared to look at the boy, and saw his gaze returned with pure hatred. It passed in a moment, and only the dead-eyed look remained. "Perhaps," the boy conceded, all detachment and amusement now. "But it doesn't matter. What's done is done. You cannot unring a bell."
"And that was why you drove her mad."
The boy had a way of slightly smirking in a way that could drive any man mad. "One who had walked so far along the path could not have been driven mad directly."
"Oh? Do you have limits?"
The slight smirk did not waver. "Think of it as lords and smallfolk. A lord can do what he can to the smallfolk, can he not? But lords... a dispute between them requires more... decorum."
More power and more risk, that was what he meant. There had been nothing decorous about the death of the Reynes, nor the Freys' betrayal of the Starks. Knowing the brat probably knew what he was thinking anyway, Tyrion remained politely silent.
"Daenerys Targaryen had gratefully and unflinchingly assumed the mantle of Breaker of Chains," the boy continued, "but beneath still lay a mortal with a mortal's weaknesses. She had not yet freed herself of the traps of morality and mortality. She wanted love. She wanted a family. She wanted her children, such as they were, to be safe." He steepled his fingers. "She did it to herself, really," he said. "Had she forsaken her attachments and broken her own chains, she could have become a god."
Or a monster. Tyrion supposed, looking upon a living god, that there was little difference. "Instead you ripped them away from her," he said. "You were responsible."
"Her dragons and her friend? Yes." The boy said it simply, as though confessing to murder and commenting upon the weather were no different. "When the bells tolled, she was not the Breaker of Chains. She was a heartbroken, enraged girl atop a weapon with no equal. Pushing her over the brink was no harder than pushing a boy out the window."
Tyrion bit back the jab that the latter push hadn't resulted in a hundred thousand dead. Evidently, in the long run, it had. "I see," he said. "And Jon Snow? He was necessary as the trusted hand that wielded the knife?"
"Her sentimentality aside, Daenerys Targaryen was no weakling," the boy said. "If she could not be the Breaker of Chains, she would have settled for being the Breaker. Even as she stood amid the ashes of the Red Keep, she was forming the new mantle." His hands curled and uncurled. "There was only the narrowest of windows in which to strike. It was necessary, too, to weaken her confidence by striking at her right to rule-"
"But that was-" Tyrion's jaw dropped. "How long were you planning this?" he demanded. "You deliberately- Her lover was the only one she wouldn't have burned in the end, mad as she was, for being a rival to her claim to the Iron Throne - you were the reason she took to Snow so quickly?"
"Time means nothing," the boy said. "Have I not already made that clear?"
Tyrion felt numb. It was one thing to accept insanity. It was another thing to have the proof made manifest. He'd rationally suspected he, and everyone else, had been the boy's puppet. Now - "From the moment she crossed," he said. "Or was it before that? Everything - to have Snow and the Targaryen queen meet? To have her take him as a lover? To undermine her, to break her, and then - to have her die at her own lover's hand?"
"All paths led to the Mother of Dragons standing before the Iron Throne, whether in snow or in ashes." The boy looked out the window. "The Breaker of Chains, in time, would have refused to accept the chains of fate itself." A pause. "So, you see, her death was destined. The ink was dry."
Yes. Evidently even the gods obeyed the game of thrones. "I see. You do indeed have the best story, Bran the Broken." Tyrion half-turned to leave. "Oh, by the way. That book the maesters made - is that enough of a 'song' for you? Would you prefer one commissioned in your honor? Something along the lines of The Rains of Castamere, perhaps The Flames of-"
"That's quite enough, little man." The boy's expression did not change. "Perhaps you should go now."
Yes, perhaps he should, before his tongue earned him death by a chamber pot accidentally dropped from just the right window at just the right time. "As you say, Your Highness." He bowed and left the room, and could taste nothing but ashes and bile in his mouth.
Vivec!Bran. Yes, the final season could have been worse: it could have been several straight hours of Bran's hallucinogen-enhanced rants on his own godhood. (Coming soon: George R.R. Martin gives up on writing and decides to have A Dream of Spring be exactly that. He still never gets around to finishing The Winds of Winter, but claims "astute readers" will deduce the events by reading between the lines of Bran's incoherent monologues.)
Considered Bran revealing that Cersei's narcissism had reached borderline-CHIM levels, resulting in her latter-season plot-armor. It would have been why Jaime's character arc pulled a hairpin turn and returned to her after sleeping with Brienne - she would only accept her death if it was alongside Jaime, and she would only accept Jaime's death if he had "cheated" on her, so Bran arranged events accordingly. Decided not to include it because the explanation was turning more comical than horrifying (Tyrion: 'my sister ascended to godhood solely through being enough of a delusional cunt?').
Tyrion didn't bring up Rickon because he didn't know the situation there well enough. Had he, god/boy-king!Bran would have replied, "I never liked him much anyway. He just cried a lot and made everyone dote on him because he was the baby of the family." (Preferably with a strong implication that Bran resented that Rickon's birth took 'baby brother' status away from him. Most preferably with the implication that Rickon wasn't acting under his own volition when he sprinted straight into an arrow.)
I probably mangled the mechanics of mantling, but I could probably handwave something on 'every case of mantling is different'. Uh... it's in the spirit of Kirkbride to declare that mantling a role retroactively makes it so that a deity associated with that role has always existed, so one can seamlessly assume its godhood as one steps into apotheosis?
Anyway, hope readers enjoyed. And that I didn't mangle the lore too badly.