Chapter 9 – Into the Lion’s Den

Westeros – Crown Lands
King’s Landing

Jaime woke up disoriented, his head pounding. The man who was called the Kingslayer didn’t recognize his surrounding, his body didn’t move the way it should… Poisoned.

He groaned, trying to fight his way up, only to find that he was bound, tied down to the bed. How was this possible? He had been in King’s Landing, inside the Red Palace itself. Hundreds of Red Cloaks, spies, and the city guard besides… how had they done this? Who could have? Who was even left to stand against his sister?

His vision was fuzzy, but there was a man in the room, he could see that much. “Who’s there,” he groaned, and Jaime hated how weak his voice was, how slurred. His tongue felt two sizes too big for his mouth. His vision swam like she was staggering drunk, but slowly it began to resolve, letting him making out the shape of the man, his hair, his…

“Bronn!” he cried out… or at least tried to. It slurred out, barely recognizable, but the man seemed to recognize it just fine anyway.

“Yeah, it’s me,” he said. “Made ‘em promise I’d be the one to get to speak to you first.”

“Why?” Jaime asked. “I told you, I’d get you your title.”

“’An I believe you, friend,” Bronn answered. “You probably would… but at this point, I don’t believe your sister has anything in mind for me but a shallow grave. I always thought I’d probably die young, but I don’t mean to die this young.”

“So you stabbed me in the back?” Jaime spat.

“Mate, I’m doing this for your own good!” Bronn said. He paused. “Well, for your own good and a pile of money and the Dreadfort. But for your own good.”

“The Dreadfort…” Jaime muttered. “So you’re throwing in with the Stark bastard? You fancy a castle in the snow?”

He shrugged. “I’ll light a big fire. It’ll be fine.” He turned to walk away.

“So you sold me to the Starks? After all of this?” Jaime raged.

Bronn paused. “Not to the Starks, no… just to a woman who wants to have a word with you. God knows you need a woman.” Then he walked out the door before Jaime could protest further.

Jami had recovered his speech entirely by the time that the door opened again and a woman he had never seen before walked in. Significantly younger than he, she was red haired and beautiful, and he had never seen her before in his life. She didn’t have the look of a Stark or a Tyrell, her complexion was all wrong to be one of the Dornish women who had it in for him.

“Hello my lord Lion,” she said as she stepped into the room, leaning against the door to close it. Slowly, she moved between the candles in the room, lighting them from a sulfur match before pinching it out between her fingers. “We meet at last. Even with help, you weren’t an easy man to get in touch with.”

Jaime narrowed his eyes at her. That accent… “You are Westerosi. I take it that you are Stannis’s pet witch then?”

She chuckled. “I don’t think you could be closer to the truth and still be so completely wrong,” she said, a smile on her face. “My name is Scarlett, and I serve the Lord of Light, and my Lord Jorah of house Mormont.”

“So you have come representing the North then.” Jaime said, resigned to his likely death. That was fine. It wasn’t like he had a lot left to live for anymore, anyway.

“No. While my lord Jorah is here, of course, I am actually here representing my other master. R’hllor has an interest in you, Jaime Lannister.”

“Tell him to take a number,” Jaime spat. “You want me to turn on my family? I won’t.”

Scarlett stepped to the other side of a candle, putting it between the two of them as she spoke, making him twist uncomfortably in his bonds to keep looking at her. “What family?” he asked, gently. “You have but a single family member left, and she is to blame for the deaths of nearly every one of them. All your children are dead-”

“I have no children,” Jaime protested.

“You can lie to me, but you can’t lie to yourself Lion,” Scarlett said. “There is no further harm that can befall them. They are quite beyond it now. Your first born… no matter who poisoned him at his wedding, can you doubt it was revenge against your sister? Your daughter, an innocent, slain as further revenge, and for what? Because your sister wanted so badly to be a queen. And poor King Tommen, the most innocent of all. His mother might not have pushed him off the balcony, but she as good as killed him herself when she murdered his wife.”

“The explosion was an accident,” Jaime protested.

“I’m sure she wants everyone to think that,” Scarlett said in a soothing tone, “but you know better, don’t you? How many people knew about the Wildfire? Your brother did, but he’s dead… the Queen as good as murdered him too, sending him to his death in exile.”

Jaime fell silent. He couldn’t turn back her words, couldn’t make them vanish much as he might wish to. “She’s my sister,” he said quietly.

“I feel for you, Jaime,” Scarlett said softly. “Really, I do. I’ve felt hollow before, felt hopeless, when I realized my life had been for nothing. That the purpose I had dedicated years to, sacrificed everything for, had been for nothing. I imagine thats how you must have felt when Cersei burned half of King’s Landing to the ground with Wildfire, wasn’t it?”

Jaime’s blood ran cold. “What?” he asked. How did she know? How could she possibly know? “What are you talking about?”

“I’m just saying I know how you feel,” Scarlett said with sad eyes. “You sacrificed your honor, your reputation, everything that you value, that you consider important to prevent an unbelievable evil. You had to let everyone think that you killed him for your family, because to reveal the truth would break a second oath… but it was a sacrifice you were willing to make for the city, for the people of Westeros… because unlike half the other Lords in this land, you actually care about the responsibilities of being a Lord… not just the privileges.”

She shook her head. “And then the woman who you thought you loved burned the city to ash anyway. I understand how that hurts.”

Jaime felt… stunned. Hollow even. Defeated. “How… how can you possibly know that?”

“It doesn’t matter, Lord Kingslayer.” She shook her head. “Kingslayer. Oathbreaker. They should have called you savior. I understand how it feels to feel like you failed… but you didn’t. You were betrayed… by a woman undeserving of your loyalty.”

She came closer, resting one hand in his chest. “I know how it’s like, to feel like you have nothing left… but you can find new purpose, if you can let go of the old. The Lord of Light promises rebirth… like the iron beaten in fire, reforged to a fine edge… but also rewards. Purpose and privilege, both.”

She bent down over Jaime, and he tried to ignore the tears that wanted to fill his eyes. “She isn’t worthy of your loyalty. If she ever was, those days are past, my Lord. Now she will kill anyone, destroy anything, that gets between her and absolute power.”

“Who told you?” Jaime demanded.

“Someone who cares about you…” Scarlett said softly. “Someone who wants you to be happy.” Then she turned and walked out of the room, leaving Jaime with his thoughts.

Scarlett closed the heavy door behind her, stepping out in the room filled with others sitting around the cheap Inn table. “We have him,” she said in answer to their stares.

Jorah and Ser Davos and Bronn were playing a card game, which Daario was quite clearly winning. “I hope you know what your doing,” Ser Davos said he went back to his hand of cards. “Didn’t think he’d ever turn against that murderess of a queen. Too strong of a family loyalty.”

“She lost his loyalty the moment she burned Kings Landing,” Scarlett said with a sigh. “He just couldn’t admit it to himself.”

“I’d trust her,” Jorah answered, laying down a card. “She’s better at understanding people than anyone else I’ve ever met.”

Scarlett let out a long breath to keep the shudder of pleasure from Jorah’s casual compliment out of her voice. “People aren’t complicated, my lord. Everyone wants the same things… Comfort. Love. Safety. Give people what they need to live, and most people can see reason.”

“Tell that to the Queen,” Bronn muttered as he flicked two cards into the middle of the table. “Don’t think you can buy her off with anything less than the death of everyone who could threaten her.”

“I did say most,” Scarlett agreed.

The seventh person in the room spoke up next. “Can I see him now?” Brienne asked.

Scarlett nodded. “Give him another few minutes. Let him think for a bit first. Then you can untie him.”

Brienne paused. “You aren’t worried I’ll let him go?”

“Not especially,” Scarlett shrugged. “I doubt he’ll want to… not with you here. And you won’t be leaving, I think.”

Brienne smiled at her… not a large smile, but she had clearly begun her recovery in the last few months since her escape from beneath Winterfell. “My sword is still for the Starks,” she agreed.

Scarlett smiled at her. She rather liked the frank blonde knight. “Go see him,” she said, stepping further away from the door and waving towards it.

Then she turned to the last person in the room. He was a small man, covered head to toe in a black, ratty cloak. Despite being apparently unarmed, and the smallest person in the room, Scarlett thought that he might be the most dangerous. “We’ll have your next targets for you soon, along with payment. More guards.”

The man shrugged. “Guards are cheap,” he said with a shrug.

Relatively speaking, Scarlett thought to herself… but she didn’t say it out loud. The cost for a Faceless One to work their trade on behalf of a customer was dependent entirely on the importance of that target. While she could have hired the assassin to simply kill Cersei, it would almost certainly be cheaper to bribe the entire Lannister army. A few guards, even guards assigned somewhere of important like the red Keep, was far cheaper, and with Jaime’s help would amount to something even better.

It was still stunningly expensive, as expensive as supplies for their growing army in the north for a month… but it had to be done. She had been insistant, and with the people who owed her trust and favors at this point, it was easy to get her way. They would need the Lannister armies for the dead on the other side of the Wall, she had explained, and it was true… but she also needed Cersei personally.

She turned towards the door, smiling. She had all the faith in the world in her read of Jaime and Brienne… but those hadn’t been just any candles she had been lighting in there. The incense contained inside was an aphrodesiac that she had found in Melisandre’s things… probably how she had gotten a notoriously frigid Stannis into bed. These two loved each other, she was sure of it… but they could probably use a little push.

She pulled up a chair, and slumped against Jorah in it, resting her head on his shoulder. “Wake me up when they’re finished. Will probably be a while,” she whispered sleepily. Jorah, ever understanding, stroked her head, his hand running through her red hair as his fingertips traced comforting patterns in her scalp. Scarlett was asleep in seconds.

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