Have you ever had a stare down with anybody? They usually don’t last very long; I know you’ve read many a tale when men stare each other down for minutes on end— if not hours— assessing each other so minutely and so thoroughly that you’d think they were hawks.
Well, I, your personal hero, am here to tell you that that’s a complete load of shit you’ve been happily gobbling up!
Whoever wrote those stories and told those tales deserved to be smacked in the face before being thrown off a cliff, set on fire and, finally, being pissed on for good measure.
In truth, the tension lasted all of ten seconds, before the King deflated.
“Are you absolutely sure of this?” Robert said in a placating tone to his long time friend. “This is a grievous accusation, Ned. If you’re wrong…”
“Absolutely.” Lord Ned nodded emphatically. “There is no reason for my son to lie about this. This, I swear.”
“Aye, you might be right…” The King pinched the bridge of his nose. “Is the boy…? Will he be…?”
“He will make a full recovery, thank the Gods.” Lord Stark and answered, and this time, the two shared a genuine smile.
The tension lifted off of most of us, except the Lannister men who remained in the room.
“Kingslayer!” Robert barked, looking sharply at the man in question. “Go on and find that wife of mine. Have her brought here for trial, and that damn squire, too. Ser Barristan, go with him and make sure they don’t run off into the night to their Lord Tywin in Casterly Rock.”
Jaime bristled as Ser Barristan gave me a curious look and bowed to Robert. “As you command, Your Grace.”
He turned to Jaime and spoke awkwardly. “Ser Jaime…”
“Yes. Let us be off, then.” Jaime sighed, bid his brother goodbye and moved out of his chair, before leaving the hall, looking angry and perturbed.
I didn’t blame him in the slightest.
If anyone had told me my sister had tried to kill somebody, I supposed I would have acted in the same way— that’s, if I had a sister in the first place.
The King continued giving orders to have the Great Hall made into a makeshift trial room. The large chamber exploded in a flurry as tables, chairs and the like were moved to a semblance of a trial room.
It took a while, but eventually, Ser Barristan returned to the side of the King, while Jaime entered the Great Hall with his sister Cersei and their cousin Lancel, as well as the Royal children, who looked a mix of afraid and angry.
“Father?” Prince Joffrey spoke as he entered. He looked angry and displeased. “What is the meaning of this?”
He was about to say more but was quelled by his father’s harsh glare.
“Quiet down and go sit off to the side, boy.” King Robert rumbled like the storms his lands are known for. “There is a trial to be had.”
The boy did just that, albeit glaring petulantly the whole time. His siblings followed meekly, looking afraid for their mother. Looking at them once more reminded me of what Balthazar kept insisting. What if they weren’t the fat King’s children?
My gaze strayed to Jaime, who looked reasonably perturbed and worried— but what if it was worry over the line of succession and his own role in it?
Honestly, I wouldn’t have even cared about any of that garbage if Bran hadn’t been thrown out of the tower like that. I happened to like the kid, somewhat. We weren’t exactly best friends in any way, but he was a happy boy who liked running around and climbing things.
He had a very inquisitive mind, as well. Maester Luwin always spoke fondly of him, I learned from our long conversations and debates over the past few weeks.
The fact that the Queen would be willing to hurt someone like that disgusted me. It seemed that, no matter how many times I tried to avoid it, I always found myself standing against those who would do wrong unto others.
I shivered; thinking about Bran’s wounds again— the severity of them.
If I wasn’t there to heal his nerve damage, he would have been paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his days. In a society like this, he’d have been considered a joke by all of his peers. If not laughed at, he would have been pitied otherwise.
The best example of this was the dwarf Lannister, Tyrion. I noticed all of the dirty looks he kept getting, and for what? Because he was born with a height deficiency?
The man was charming, if a little crass, vulgar, and an accomplished hedonist— but could anyone blame him for trying to get away from all of the snide remarks he must often get by doing such acts?
I watched as Cersei and her cousin Lancel were led to two chairs to the right side of the high table, and made to sit in it. Her face was impassive, her eyes haughty and cold, just as they always are, while Lancel looked around frantically, like a cornered mouse.
“I can sense their fear.” Erebus almost purred in my thoughts. “The Queen is akin to a deer face to face against a pack of ravenous wolves.”
Or a lioness against direwolves. The symbolism was quite interesting, come to think of it.
“I will be the judge in this matter.” Robert said, taking a seat at the high table, before eying Ned, as if expecting him to protest. “The only judge.”
“So long as you consider the evidence fairly, Your Grace.” Eddard didn’t dispute his claim. “I know you will be just and thorough.”
That seemed to appease the man, as he ordered the people who had gathered after Queen Cersei’s entrance to sit down. All complied.
All was quiet as the King muttered a few words under his breath— probably curse words showcasing his annoyed reluctance with this whole thing— before he began the impromptu trial.
“I, King Robert of House Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, do hereby call this court in session.”
“Cersei, of the Houses Baratheon and Lannister.” Robert said. “Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Lancel, of the House Lannister, squire to the King. You stand accused by the Lord Paramount of the North, Eddard Stark, of conspiring to murder his son, Brandon Stark, by throwing him out of a window high up an abandoned tower.”
A series of gasps and exclamations were heard, but the people were quieted down immediately by the glare from their King. I looked at Lancel, for a moment. The boy was damn near shitting his pants, a stark contrast to the Queen, who looked as impassive as ever.
I felt a little bad for the guy; he was probably around my age, possibly older than I was by a small bit. Still, he brought this on himself.
“Did you attempt to kill Brandon Stark?” King Robert asked.
“No.” Cersei said calmly, while Lancel had said it shakily.
I saw Lord Stark bristle in anger at their denial and almost smirked. A father out for blood was something to be feared. I knew he would do his best to see that Cersei got what she deserved. She had been the reason his son had been in such pain.
Robert merely nodded, before speaking once more. “The Crown calls its first witness: Harry of House Potter.”
Heads turned to me as I made my way to the chair on the left side of the high table. The whispers quieted down as I took my seat.
“You are Harry, of House Potter. Correct?” Robert asked as a scribe wrote down the words. The King might be a whoring fat piece of shit, but at least he observed the laws properly. It was good to have records of things, just in case someone would doubt the true nature of these proceedings.
It was true that these records could be altered, later on, but it’s the thought that counts. Plus, with so many witnesses here, it would be hard to match the fake written accounts to what had actually occurred— if someone tried to alter them, in the first place.
“Yes.” I answered.
“Describe the manner in which you learned of these events.” Robert ordered.
“I will admit that I have not known Bran for long.” I said with a nod. “But, over the past few weeks, I have watched him climb those towers, with an ease that would make most men green with envy.”
“He was sure-footed.” I said strongly with as much certainty as I could muster. “And had been scaling those towers for a very long time, according to the many people who reside at Winterfell.” I nodded at the people in question.
“So, the fact that he fell at all was strange to me.” I said, deciding to leave Robb and the others out of it. “The fact that this happened in the night time, even more so. Why would a small child be climbing an old, abandoned tower in the middle of the night?”
“While it occurred to me that he simply might have been seeking adventure, I believed it merited at least a quick look around. If no foul play had occurred, then so be it.” I allowed. “I went in the abandoned tower, myself, and went up the stairs in search of anything that could reveal anything on the matter.”
“I ended up in a room which looked to have been used recently.” I said, continuing to weave the tale. “There was a small area that was bereft of any dust, while the rest of the room was quite filthy. This meant that someone had been there very recently. On a nearby table, I could feel dried up candlewax, the remnant of a lit candle. And…” I stopped for a moment, not sure how to broach the subject.
Or, at least, I pretended I wasn’t sure, to gain the maximum effect on what I was about to reveal. That farce of a trial before my Fifth Year at Hogwarts had made this kind of thing easy for me.
Playing to the crowd; that is.
“Go on, then.” King Robert broke decorum. “Speak.”
“There was a smell, Your Grace.” I said. “The room reeked of actions of an… intimate nature.”
“Lies!” Lancel finally shouted as the Great Hall erupted in whispers.
“Silence!” King Robert stood and thundered. “You will only speak when allowed to!”
He stared down the boy, who wilted under his gaze, before nodding in satisfaction and sitting back down on his chair, before nodding to me. “Continue.”
“The smell was that of sex, Your Grace.” I restated loudly. “And, if that didn’t convince me, I saw the remnants of his seed, on the stone floor.”
“And how exactly would you know what that is, Harry of House Potter?” The King challenged over the sounds of the others.
“I’m a man grown, Your Grace.” I said simply, mouth quirking slightly. “And I’ve been with my fair share of women—”
“Fair enough, you do not need to continue your explanation.” Robert said, not acknowledging my joking manner. “But, that does not place them on the scene of the alleged crime. How is it that you’re sure that the Queen and my squire have done this horrible deed?”
“I found long, golden locks of hair on the floor, Your Grace.” I said strongly. “The only woman with hair that long is the Queen. Later, Bran, himself, named the Queen Cersei and Lancel Lannister as the ones who pushed him.”
At the mention of the boy, Robert’s face took on a grimace. He looked at his wife with a strange expression. I much doubted that he cared about her frolicking around with other men, but he definitely had a problem with her trying to kill his best friend’s son.
“Very well, then.” Robert said gravely, doing a good show of hiding the anger on his face. “Your words have been noted and will be taken into consideration, Harry of House Potter. You may resume your former seat in these proceedings.”
“Thank you, Your Grace.” I said formally before doing just that.
“The Crown calls for Lord Stark, as his son Brandon Stark is injured and still in recovery.” Robert said, the scratches of the scribe furious and quick.
Eddard stood up, straight-backed and proud, and moved to the witness seat.
“You are Lord Eddard Stark, correct?” The King asked unnecessarily.
“I am.” Ned confirmed unnecessarily.
“Your son Brandon has awoken?” Robert asked.
“Indeed.” Ned answered gravely, though with some happiness. “And he has had much to say.”
A long, heavy moment passed. “Proceed, then.”
“My son had been injured. My Lady wife has been by his side, beside herself with worry.” Ned spoke gravely and with a hint of sorrow. “The Maester Luwin had said that he might not live through the day, but Brandon fought long and hard, clinging to his very life and won. When he woke, he told me what had happened to put him in that position.”
“He was climbing, as he always did, and happened upon a sight which he did not understand. He was afraid to even speak of it, but I assured him that no harm would come to him.” Eddard spoke, before shaking his head in disgust at the woman who caused the boy’s suffering. “Bran did not understand what he saw. He reached the window and saw the Queen Cersei Baratheon, on her back, while the squire Lancel Lannister was on top of her. They were engaged in intimate relations.”
There were gasps of shock again. I guessed that, if the honorable Lord Stark was saying it, it was as good as the truth.
“Bran did not understand this. He believed the squire was hurting the Queen— the Queen who then ordered her squire to push him out of the window, to an almost certain doom.” Ned finished heavily, glaring at Cersei at the end. She was still as impassive as ever, it seemed.
The King’s squire, Lancel, on the other hand, was shaking like a leaf in a storm, and with good reason; things were not looking well for the unfortunate boy.
The whispered strengthened once again before Robert banged his hand against the table.
“Do you have anything more to add, Lord Stark?” Robert asked.
It was strange to see, really. You would think the King would fight for his Queen’s innocence, but he was just letting this entire trial go off without a hitch.
“Maybe he is eager to get rid of her.” Erebus suggested logically.
§She does seem like a bit of a cunt.§ Balthazar added.
I could only nod in agreement.
“No, Your Grace. I only hope that my son will receive the justice he so deserves.” Ned said. Many of the assembled crowd nodded, with the exception of the Lannister men. It made sense; if they agreed, it would be considered a betrayal to their House.
Oathbreakers were executed in these lands.
“Then, you may resume your former seat.” Robert said, and the Lord Paramount of the North complied.
A moment of silence passed through everyone, before the King turned back to his squire and wife, an unreadable look in his eyes.
“I’ll ask you again.” Robert said. “Do you deny your actions against Brandon Stark, or do you wish to confess your crimes?”
“I— I—” Lancel stammered, eyes wide with fear as he looked around frantically.
“I see that we will receive no justice here.” Queen Cersei harshly cut the boy off before he could sentence them both to death. “I demand a trial by combat.”
One. Two. Thre— and then there was an uproar, people chattering, whispering, shouting and making exclamations of outrage and disbelief.
And, why wouldn’t they, after a tale like that?
“You realize that the proof presented is undeniable, do you not?” King Robert spoke, almost softly, at that. “The account of Lord Stark’s boy, who almost died from the damage of this fall, tells all that needs to be said.”
“I am the Queen!” She continued. “It is my right to request it!”
“This is true. You have the right.” Robert conceded, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Very well then. I, King Robert, First of His Name, sentence you, Queen Cersei of Houses Baratheon and Lannister, to trial by combat.”
He turned his gaze to Lancel.
“And you, boy?” Robert thundered. “You wish for a trial by combat of your own?”
Lancel whimpered for a few more moments before visibly composing himself.
“No, Your Grace.” He said shakily. “I wish to confess.”
People chattered excitedly before quieting down when the King nodded for him to do so.
“The tale which Lord Stark spoke of is true.” Lancel said shakily but his voice strengthened with every word. “All of it. The Queen Cersei and I were… were… engaging in intimate relations, and the boy Bran caught us. The Queen ordered me to push him out of the window or there would be consequences.” He got off his chair and bowed low to the ground.
“I only did as the Queen ordered, Your Grace! I am sorry! Mercy!” He kept apologizing over and over.
Robert nodded. “That’s enough, boy. We’ll deal with you, later. Take him away.” He looked at Cersei, once more, who glared daggers at Lancel now, who was being dragged away to Winterfell’s dungeons, presumably.
“Queen Cersei, you shall have a trial by combat.” Robert got her attention. “Who do you wish to choose, as champion?”
Cersei smiled as she looked right at me.
“Ser Gregor Clegane.” She announced, before adding. “Your Grace.”
There was uproar at her statement.
Gregor Clegane, the name sounded familiar; I just couldn’t put my finger on it, though. Who the hell was Gregor Clegane?
I noticed the guy who was wearing that ridiculous dog themed helmet bristle in anger— oh hey, he had some horrible burn scars on the side of his face. Damn, what had caused that? He looked downright ugly with those.
It would take someone with no morals to do something like that to another human being—
Then it hit me. Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain That Rides, the fucker who killed the Targaryen children before raping their mother, the children’s blood still on his hands, before cleaving her in two. I had read it in the first few days of my arrival on this world. The man with the burned face had his sigil, as well. This must be The Hound, Gregor’s brother.
“Ser Gregor must be in the Westerlands, at the moment.” Eddard objected. “It would take weeks for him to get here.”
“Then send a raven for him.” Cersei shot smoothly back. “I do not mind the wait.”
“But I do.” Robert cut her off after I gave him a slight compulsion. “Choose someone from here. Plenty of warriors on the Mountain’s level.”
The Queen looked angry at her husband’s exclamation, before staring at the available men. Her eyes landed on her brother, who gave her a nod to say he was willing to do this for her.
“I choose…” Queen Cersei said slowly. “Ser Barristan Selmy to represent me in this trial.”
For the hundredth time this hour, there was yet another uproar.
“And you, Lord Stark? Who is your chosen champion?” Robert asked, before quirking his lip in amusement. “Or, do you wish to do battle, yourself?”
Ah… So that’s what the Queen was banking on. She must have heard all of the tales about Ned Stark the honorable, with all the tales of the North— “The man who passes the sentence must swing the sword.” I heard him say to Bran once after they had come back from executing a deserter from the Night’s Watch.
She expected him to fight Selmy, himself.
“No, Your Grace.” Ned denied, shocking her. “I choose Harry, of House Potter. He has proven to be a strong fighter, with no equal. The Old Gods and the New will favor him. Of this, I am sure.”
Too bad he wasn’t the one passing the sentence, but the King. Plus, there was the fact that I beat the Kingslayer in combat, as well as those five guards outside. Not to mention the fact that I’m the one who did the investigation and healed his boy.
It seemed fair that I would be the one to end this farce.
It showed a degree of intellect, as well. He wasn’t stupidly honorable— Ned knew that a fight against the likes of Ser Barristan Selmy might possibly end up with him losing his life, and thus making Cersei innocent in the eyes of the Gods.
“And do these champions accept their appointment?” Robert looked to us both as we made our way to stand before him.
“I do, Your Grace.” Barristan and I said almost at the same time.
“Very well, then.” King Robert said, standing up and ordering the servants around. “We will adjourn in the Courtyard, outside. Bring the necessary chairs and tables.”
As the people around us exploded into motion, Ser Barristan and I shared glances.
“Why did you accept?” I asked.
“It is my duty to defend the Royal Family.” Barristan said simply.
“Even if she tried to kill a small child?” I shot back, a hint of incredulity in my tone.
A short silence.
“I am bound by oath to serve my King and Queen.” Barristan said heavily. “I cannot forsake my duty, even when things become difficult; I serve the Royal Family regardless.”
I shook my head, feeling my respect for the knight increasing.
“I don’t want to kill you.” I admitted freely. “I’ve read and heard nothing but praise when people speak of you. Barristan the Bold, they call you.”
“Quite confident, are you not?” Ser Barristan said. “Do you fear I present no challenge to you due to my age?”
“Oh, not at all— though you are quite old.” I said with a smile, which vanished quickly enough. “I’m saying I’m a better fighter than you, and I don’t want you throwing your life away for someone who does not deserve your service, someone willing to murder children for her own gain.”
Barristan opened his mouth to reply, but we were interrupted by the servants.
“If you could simply come this way, Sers…” One of them said.
“I am no knight.” I said, before following them regardless, Barristan right behind me.
We were led to the center of the Courtyard as we watched the many servants put enough chairs for over fifty people, with the King and his family having an area of their own. The people were excited again.
They’d seen me fight against the Kingslayer; now, I would be fighting against Barristan the Bold.
A few minutes more passed as seats were adjusted to ensure the maximum range which could be allowed for this trial by combat, before King Robert stood, once more.
“In the sight of Gods and Men, we gather to ascertain the guilt or innocence of my Queen, Cersei of Houses Baratheon and Lannister.” King Robert said. “The accused has chosen a trial by combat, so that the Gods themselves can decide.”
He nodded at the both of us. We gave a short bow to the King, neither of us taking their eyes off each other.
“The rules are simple. You fight until one of you yields, or is killed.” King Robert said simply. “Any questions.”
“None, Your Grace.” Barristan said, unsheathing his blade.
I shook my head and unsheathed my own.
I didn’t want to kill the man, so I had to figure out how to make him yield; but he was a proud man, who followed his duty to the very end. Failure for him was not an option. It was either success, or death. I could simply tell by our short conversation. He was a man who lived by his words, even in hardship.
How the hell was I supposed to get him to surrender?