'Hmmm… it could work rather well.'
Qyburn rubbed his chin as he stared at the wall, considering the massive family tree. But it wasn't quite like the ones that most of the lords and ladies of Westeros spent so much time worrying about. His did not concern some anscestor in the past and show all the sons and daughters that had sprung from their loins, generation to generation until there were countless branches showing how a single man had created countless heroes, villains, and people of little note. His was not a tree designed for fathers and mothers to showcase their daughter's breeding like they were prized Essosi racing horses or pedigree hunting hounds.
No… his tree worked in reverse… the many funneling down into the one.
Rickard Stark and his wife giving birth to Lyanna Stark. She with Rhaegar Targaryen producing Jon Stark, Ice and Fire united. That had been such a difficult thing to set up, as both the Starks and the Targaryens had been frustratingly closed off when it came to choosing partners. The Starks tended to stay North yet the few times they had bred outside of their normal domain the results had been quite amazing. As for the Targaryens… oh, there was so much magic and power in their veins but they frustratingly wanted to keep the bloodline 'pure'.
'Fools,' he thought to himself, looking at Jon's part of his family tree. 'Every wizard and mage knows that magic can not feed itself. It needs something else to power it, a sacrifice or a bonding agent or a focus. Is it any wonder that the Targaryens dwindled so badly when they did not give magic its proper due?' The greatest reign in Westeros had come about by having Alyssa Velareyon mix her blood with that of the Conquerors… the Blackfyres had represented the most diversity the Targaryens had ever seen, with the greatest beauties, mages, warriors, and monsters to ever come about. And yet each time they had been shown this the Dragon Lords had returned to their blood purity. 'At least Jon Stark will not make that mistake,' Qyburn thought to himself. 'And Daenerys is of no use to me with her shriveled womb.'
Yes, he had been forced to take a far more active role in Jon's creation but the man now existed and was proving quite interesting. And now Sand and Poison would be blended into the mix. He had considered Doran's children instead… Arianne was the proper age… but Sand and Bells had proven not to be a proper mixture, creating paranoia that he did not need mixed with the Mad King's own fears that might linger within Jon; it would take about two or three generations before Qyburn was sure that had been removed from the mixture. But no… while he wanted Sand and Fire and Ice together he had to be careful. After all, Sand could become glass so very easily. The poison would temper that, be the perfect quenching agent to create a strong child.
Robb Stark and Roslin Frey… an interesting match and one he would keep an eye on. He would have preferred him to mate with a Lannister, as that blending would have been VERY interesting, but it was too late for that; he'd have to see to kidnapping Myrcella and getting the two together and even then the child would be a bastard and that could always cause problems. Though… if he could get her to raise the child in Dorne… a wolf lion with the lessons of the viper would be rather interesting…
'Hmmm… perhaps, should she attempt to visit her family, a kidnapping could be arranged. The right mixture of seeds and pollens in Prince Robb's wine to make him unable to control his lust, some spells to alter all their memories…'
His eyes moved to another branch of the tree, where he had erased the name Joffrey Baratheon and replaced it with his brother. He had been… interested in that pairing, if only to see what a disaster it would be. Normally Qyburn sought out only the best of the best, setting about bringing out the greatest in family and seeing how those traits blended together. But with Joffrey only the worst of all his parents had mixed together. His mother's vanity. His father's arrogance. Robert's laziness. Even his looks, which so many pointed to as making him the perfect prince, were… lacking. He wasn't as tall as he should have been. Or as good looking. Not as muscular. His fingers weren't nimble and his eyes weren't sharp. And thanks to his greed Qyburn was sure that, after only a decade on the throne, he would have puffed out much as Robert had, bloating until he couldn't actually sit on the throne. Joffrey would have been much like the last time Qyburn had allowed a failed experiment to live; another Aegon the Unworthy. It would have been interesting to see if he too would have created heroes and monsters in equal measure as well.
But… it was not to be. Joffrey was dead and replaced with Tommen. And should the boy come to age his children with Margaery would have been… interesting. Tommen had at first appeared weak but Tywin Lannister had gotten the boy good teachers. The Summer Islander. Jon Stark. They were instilling good strengths in him. He… might be a good king. His seed combined with that of Margaery Tyrell, the Blackfyre raised by the Roses? Oh… that might create something truly interesting-
"Whatever are you staring at?" Cersei demanded as she entered his room, marching across the floor as if she owned the place. Which, Qyburn pondered, she didn't really, despite how she might see it. She was Queen but that was a title given by marriage and did not pass along the right to claim the Red Keep. But Cersei believed that all belonged to her, including Qyburn himself, and thus it was her right to act like a Pentoshi lord ambling through his halls, gazing upon his baubles that he had stolen from his rivals and claimed as his own.
Qyburn smiled and turned towards the queen, not bothered by her actions at all. He had no problem with what she thought because he knew the truth. Children were allowed to play pretend and vain women were allowed their delusions.
She was dressed in blacks, as was expected for one who had lost her son and her father so close together, but also had the golden lion of House Lannister sewn upon her gown; seven of them prowling along a field of crimson, stalking their prey. Her gilded false hand was in place, adorned with gems and jewels. Her hair was braided rather than loose and she bore a necklace made of gold and diamonds.
"Oh, just the secrets of Westeros," he said with a smile, making no attempt to hide his work. Cersei glanced at the family tree and scowled, clearly frustrated by what must have appeared to her to be mindless scribbles. He wasn't foolish enough to write anything down in the Common Tongue, or even a dialect like the Old Tongue or Dothraki or Old Valeryian. No… the language came from a long dead race, one Qyburn had studied in full before he'd done his work to have them wiped off the face of the planet, so that he and he alone knew their words. It had taken him several decades to erase every mention of them but they had been utterly purged, protecting his secrets.
"If that is the case then my cousin Orson must have been the wisest man in all of Westeros." Cersei turned away from Qyburn's great works, the creation of the ultimate human, and stared at him with hard eyes. "Is it ready?"
"It is, your grace. I was merely waiting for your arrival… I assumed you'd wish to see the Awakening."
"You are right," Cersei said coldly. "I must be there to tell Jaime all that has happened. He must be ready to correct Tommen's mistakes." She pressed her lips together in a fine line, which only worked to tarnish her beauty even further. Did she not realize that flowers were only considered pretty when in bloom? Not that Qyburn cared for such things… he had long evolved to not care of such things. "Making Stark's bastard his hand… whatever was he thinking? The Starks will kill him… I just know it! Same with the Tyrells… they can not be trusted either!" She waved her true hand about as she moved towards the stairs that led to his lower workshop that she had provided for him. "I tried to talk some sense into him, to get him to take back his command, but I was told that I could not. My Uncle Kevan said that it would be a mistake, that it would make Tommen look weak. But he is just a little boy… all must see that! They will forgive him for making a mistake such as that… and if they do not then they will die like all other traitors! He is the King! His word is law and can not be doubted!"
Qyburn smiled at that, thankful that the Queen couldn't see his amusement at her hypocrisy.
"The Tyrells are pleased with the choice. They say it is because it shows that Tommen is fair handed but I know its because they want him to be weak. Once that smirking whore of theirs produces a son they can easily have Tommen tossed aside and place the babe on the throne… with the Fat Flower and his scheming bitch of a mother controlling my grandchild!" Cersei shook her head in disgust at that. "Tommen needs people who can show him the way properly, not those that would use him for their own ends. How can he hope to rule properly if he does not learn from a true ruler?"
They continued down the stairs, descending into the darkened space.
"Where are the lights?" Cersei complained.
"I use only what is needed," he stated as they continued down. "Rituals are finicky things. You never know just what added or removed will do to it. The Targaryens learned that lesson at Summerhall."
But rather than ask about that, about his secret knowledge of the failed ritual to bring back the dragons (and also attempt to remove Prince Duncan the Small and any children he might have created with Jenny of Oldstones by Qyburn himself… one he had failed but didn't mind considering Ravan) the Queen merely scoffed. "I do not care about you ruining your eyesight squinting in the darkness. I care about results."
"And results you are about to have," Qyburn said pleasantly as he reached the bottom step and unlocked the door that led to his workroom.
It was a fairly large space even with all the different items, objects, and mystical baubles that filled the multitude of shelves and tables he'd personally had placed about the work area. Tomes that the Citadel believed lost were perfectly preserved to his right. Rare potions from lands that a Westerosi had never heard of to his left. In a dark little corner, had Cersei decided to actually wander over to inspect, she would have found jars containing three of the failed pregnancies of Lysa Arryn, the results of Qyburn deciding to see what would happen if certain potions were given to a child while in the womb. A wooden rack with tubes and needles gathered dust in the corner, waiting for the right man or woman to try it out on in an attempt to accelerate their evolution without activating any mutant genes.
But Cersei's eyes were on the center of the room and for once Qyburn didn't blame her for her narrow-minded focus. For there, hanging from thick ropes, was the Ultron Armor.
"I had to use rope instead of chain because that could affect the ritual," Qyburn stated as Cersei began to circle the strung up metal form. "That is the mistake so many other people make when they attempt a ritual: they don't stop to think about outside forces. Having the armor on a table or lying on the ground or strapped to a rack could alter the spells involved. Honestly if I could perform it with the armor floating that would be best but-"
"Why did you not make the modifications I asked for?"
Qyburn merely considered her for a moment. "As I was saying anything could affect the ritual. Adding to the armor could alter its ability to hold your brother's soul… you wouldn't want that, would you?"
"I want him to be able to perform all his duties," the Queen stated.
'And that means giving him a metal cock,' he thought. 'I am about to grant your brother an immortal body and all you can think about is filling your vaginal passage'. Out loud he stated, "Once he has awakened and we are sure that his soul will remain it will be little trouble for me to alter his form. It is in fact better as he can tell me if I am doing something that causes his discomfort or pain… you wouldn't want your… addition… to not function properly, would you? He might not want it removed and replaced."
"Yes, men are oddly focused on their cocks," Cersei said, eyes lingering on the smooth groin of the Ultron Armor. "Well, get on with it," she said, as if it were he and not her that were holding up the entire thing.
But Qyburn merely bowed his hand and set about lighting the final candles and pouring the final mixture of salts, dried blood, and shavings from Ironwood trees upon the ground. Cersei moved back and for once didn't say a word as he carefully drew out the runic symbols around the hanging armor, all designed to draw in a soul from the afterlife and then force it into the armor. A web to catch a fly only the bug would become the spider when he was done.
"Isn't there supposed to be chanting and words of power spoken?" The Queen asked him as he finished pouring out the last container.
"Not at all," Qyburn said cheerfully, walking over and selecting the sword that Cersei had provided him. The final part of the ritual required something the soul had held in life to draw them forth. The sword had been one of Ser Jaime's favorite practice swords, left behind in his rooms in the White Tower, and would give him the strength to fight off any other spirits that might be drawn to the ritual. They would be beaten back and Ser Jaime allowed to enter the Ultron Armor. "Those are for mages who are weak and do not understand the finer points. One simply needs the right items… a cook doesn't chanting and wail over a pot of soup, do they? Magic is no different than cooking, after all."
Cersei, who had never cooked a day in her life and probably thought that making a meal was some magical ritual, merely nodded as Qyburn stood back and placed on final candle in place.
At once the runes he'd drawn on the ground began to glow.
"no matter what do not interfere," he whispered softly as the sword he'd placed just below the Armor's hanging form began to shake. "Your brother's soul must battle back the other spirits for control of the armor. If you interfere-"
There was a blast of heat and light that nearly sent Qyburn off his feet and then… silence.
Cersei took a step forward. "Did it work? Or have you failed-"
The Ultron Armor's right hand twitched.
The voice… was coming from the armor.
A faint glow, pale blue in color, began to come from the helm as more of the limbs began to twitch, like a man regaining consciousness after a long comma. Qyburn grinne,d the Queen staring in rapt focus as the metal form began to jerk, movements awkward but Qyburn knew that soon they would be smooth. Ser Jaime needed to learn how to move again, after so long without a form.
"Jaime?" Cersei whispered. She turned to Qyburn. "Lower him down… now."
"Of course," Qyburn said and he hurried out a set of levels, pulling on them and causing the pulleys above the armor to spin, lowering the armor to the ground. Ser Jaime nearly collapsed once he had to support his own weight but he caught himself… though his posture was awkward, with on shoulder slumped and an arm held oddly up. Clearly a sign he was still getting used to the process.
"I'm sorry…" the voice said, distorted and raspy, echoing within its armored form. "I… was asleep. I was… having a dream. And then… when I awoke… there were so many others trying to get in here." He banged his hand against the breastplate. "I had to kill them."
"Who did you kill?" Cersei asked.
"Lord… Lord Tywin was scrambling for this… he didn't see me coming. I smashed in his skull." Ser Jaime tilted his head. "Did he have a skull? Do I have a skull?" He reached up and tapped his head, jerking slightly at the ringing sound that caused.
"You killed father?" the queen asked.
"Him… the brat too. Joffrey. Never cared about him." He stood a bit straighter, sweeping his hand out, fingers wiggling as he regained more of his old motor functions.
Cersei was horrified though. "You killed… Joffrey? You…" Rage flashed across her features. "You killed our son?"
"Son?" Ser Jaime asked. "I don't have a son."
"You do… with me. Our golden boy, Jaime-"
"Why… why do you keep calling me that?"
"Oh… oh… I'm not who you were expecting, am I?"
And from the armor came a laugh.
"Of course not… no one wants to see me. No one ever does. Just… want me to obey your commands and scurry away." The Armor began to pace. "You… all of you are the same. You claim you want to be a different kind of ruler from those that came before." He suddenly jabbed his finger at the shellshocked Cersei. "Don't deny it. I know that's the truth. You think that you'll be different from Robert, from Aerys, from every King that came before. The Lords are the same way too… all of you… you say you want Westeros to change but you don't what it to really. You just want to be the one on top getting all the benefits and the perks while it is everyone else who is crushed down and broken. Every single person in Westeros? We're all puppets. Tangled up in… strings."
He paused, looking at the ropes that still held him.
"Strings…" he hissed with malice before violently yanking on the ropes, Qyburn scurrying back as the pulley system came crashing down. One heavy rig fell towards Cersei and she lifted her hand up, her false one shattering as a blade of purple energy burst from her wrist, slicing the wood and metal in half so it fell around her and not on top of her.
The Ultron Armor considered her for a long moment before chuckling again before lifting up his arms , blasting a hole right through the ceiling of Qyburn's laboratory, the beam cutting through the levels above him in the Red Keep with ease, shattering stone and causing screams to echo down to them.
"But now… I'm free." He held his hands out wide and the helm began to split and crack, folding down into the rest of the armor to reveal a ghostly face, pale blue. Qyburn could easily see through it and yet at the same time identify every feature.
And it was NOT the face of Jaime Lannister.
"There are… no strings on me."
"Littlefinger," Cersei whispered in terror.
Petyr Baelish's ghostly formed smirked before rocketing away.
"…what have we done?"
To Be Continued In A Song of Metal and Marvels Book 4
A Song of Metal and Marvels
A Web of Lies