The story so far:
Chapter 15: Lion and Wolf
The mountain villages were without a lord, and yet they did have a castle which an elderly man of noble lineage called home. He styled himself Lord Tibolt Maelfaes of House Thurandin, but lived as an eccentric hermit in his dilapidated stronghold, and his presence would have been altogether forgotten if not for his young squire who came to market to purchase necessities.
The House of Thurandin had always been a minor house, even when their power over the villages was strong, but since the village councils had secured charters to manage their own affairs, they had faded into even thicker obscurity. However, it still was a legends, and legends wield a strange power of their own that no time can kill.
So when the squire approached Tyrion at the home of the village magistrate seeking to employ him, rumors flew quickly through the streets. Everyone in the area had heard by now of the educated dwarf who was selling his services for sustenance, but the idea that Thurandin would want to take on such a man, and even offer him and his family to opportunity to stay on in quarters at the castle, mystified them. It mystified Tyrion just as much, but at the very least, he figured it was a chance to get Sansa out of the drafty hut and into some more appropriate surroundings for a woman in her condition.
Arriving at the castle, Tyrion discovered that the lord did not intend to show himself, but he was instead escorted by the squire into a huge room that made his eyes bulge. It was brimming with books of every variety, and he was informed that it was the lord’s desire to have them all properly categorized and archived, as they were in no particular order. He was further told that this was only one room, and that there were crates of documents also in need of sorting and sifting through. It was not a one-man job, and Tyrion knew it. But he dare not say anything to that effect. He needed this sort of work. Sansa and Sauriel needed this place. And the little one coming needed it. He had no choice.
A week after moving in, Sansa entered the library late at night to relocate her overworked husband and stared in amazement at how many piles of books there were all over the floor, some large and some small. It was clearly Tyrion’s attempt to create some rational order through categorization, but it just looked jumbled and overwhelming at first sight…and the organizer himself was nowhere to be seen. “Tyrion, where are you?” she whispered.
“Here…here…” came a tired sounding voice from behind one of the larger piles near a shelf.
She walked around to find him slumped down against it with a giant volume open in his lap and a chart on which he was scratching notes with a worn looking feather pen.
“What is that?” she queried, as if the book were some monster from the deep.
“It’s about…tax revenues imposed upon the exportation of…goat cheese,” he mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Exhilarating material.”
“I do hope he has some more stimulating subject matter in his collection than that,” she stated, gesturing around the room.
“Believe me, every subject that could possibly find its way into a book or ledger…is here.” He rolled his eyes. “All in need of archiving or updating. Isn’t it a dream?”
“Well, if anyone can make sense out of it, you can,” Sansa encouraged him. “You have a mind for such things, you always have.”
He smirked. “I’m afraid my armor in there is wearing a little thin. Seriously, these ledgers are near prehistoric. The taxation ones count for next to nothing at this point, but the household expenses…by the gods! His affairs are utterly bled dry…”
“Do you think that’s why he wanted you in his service? To restore the castle to working order, and rise himself up in the world again?”
He snorted. “I don’t believe that eccentric old wind-bag wants to rise to anything. He seems to have some vague concept about preserving this mess for his posterity…which, of course, is non-existent. So…in essence, all this is a purposeless trundle for the purpose of living between castle walls again. Truly…thrilling.”
Sansa let her eyes drift to the floor. “I’m sorry, Tyrion. You deserve…better than this.” He deserved to be master of his own castle and his own affairs, wielding the power he was accustomed to on the grand stage. As hateful as it was, he had a talent for the game-playing, and Sansa knew in her heart he missed the thrill of having something substantial to bite into.
Noticing the look of partial guilt on her face, Tyrion staggered to his feet, went over to her side, and squeezed her hand. “I deserve…nothing. But the gods gave you back to me anyway. They will never find cause in me to complain over anything ever again.”
“Even if we wind up living in the shadows until we’re old and gray?”
“What shadows?” he challenged. “You’re my candle, Sansa. Wherever you are, the shadows have no place. And growing old together is the only way I would ever want to face the passing years. It’s the only way they would mean anything to me at all.”
“Even if at the end of it all we both should die uneventfully in bed, without fame or fortune?”
Oh, she guessed out his inner thoughts too well. She knew the old drive that gnawed at him, for the roll of the dice in his blood, and the pleasure it had brought him. For his name bandied about on gossiping tongues that had to admit that he played his part like a true Lannister. But it was a poisoning sort of pleasure, and a man could grow sick to death of it, even if the flavor pleased his pallet.
He imagined his death in years to come, and the ability to close his eyes to the world knowing that his wife and children and perhaps grandchildren were safe and at peace, and that whatever small garden they were planted in would be made beautiful and nourishing because them. And then he imagined, in one garish moment, all that once constituted his pulse-pounding life of fire and ice, of a crown laced with lies worth a harlot’s bed, and soulless songs of the spindle’s prick and the fall that had no meaning. And he knew, all over again, what he truly wanted. And it was not that, regardless of its scintillating splendor that burned hearts black.
He held his high, satisfied and set in his course, and responded, “Being in bed with you is never uneventful, m’lady.”
She blushed at his words. “Then do you plan on sharing one with me tonight?”
“Sansa, I have so much work…”
“And you must build up your strength to accomplish it all,” she finished. “You need to take a rest, or else you will burn yourself out all at once and be unable to dig your way out of all this. Besides…your wife misses you.”
“Alright then,” he relented. “But first, I’ve got to shave.”
“Tyrion, you’re exhausted. Let it go for tonight.”
“If I’m going to finally share a bed with a woman again, I want to be…fit for it.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Knight of the Flowers?”
“No, just a humble clerk with ink under his fingernails who wants his wife to sleep with him at his best…whatever that may be.”
“You’re far too proud to be humble,” she teased.
“My fatal flaw, assuredly.”
“That’s because you’re a noble.” She leaned over and tapped him on the chest indicatively. “Nothing can drain that out of you. It’s all bottled up in there, where it counts.”
“And you’ll never stop being a princess,” he responded softly. “No…a queen.”
She smiled. “So will you allow the queen to help you shave?”
“That’s a very precarious job,” he said, pointing to his scarred cheek.
“Exactly why you need royal assistance,” she stated. “You’re look about to fall down on the floor you’re so tired.”
He bowed his head slightly in concession. “If your highness commands, I must obey.”
“Yes, you must.”
She took him by the hand and guided him out of the library. When they reached their quarters down the corridor, Sansa went over to the end table next to their bed and started to pour water into a basin and lather up some soap. “You’ll have to show me where you hide your razors.”
“I don’t hide them,” he retorted. “I just…keep them in a safe place.”
She rolled her eyes knowingly. “This castle life is putting you back on edge, there’s no denying it.”
He shrugged. He had to admit that he had always been wary of leaving sharp objects around back at King’s Landing, and this place did remind him strikingly of his old unnerving surroundings. But he decided to end the suspense for Sansa quickly.
“Lest you inaugurate a treasure hunt, they’re in the back of compartment in the writing desk.”
Sansa went and retrieved them, then ushered him over to the side of the bed. “I’m going to sit here, and you’re going to stand in front of me, like this…”
“And then you’ll carve me up for supper.”
“Hush, hush,” she quieted him. “Have a little more faith.”
He observed her warily as she began to apply the lather and get out the razor. “I’m not ready to be diced up,” he complained, dryly. “I must go on living to finish that goat cheese ledger.”
She clicked her tongue. “You are really making me think I should put you out of your misery, my love.”
“Cold, unfeeling woman,” he defined her dramatically. “You northerners can be terrifying.”
She chuckled as she worked around his scar. “I shan’t but nick you a little.”
“Thank you for the assurance. My confidence is restored in womankind. I may yet live to read another day.”
“So you shall read all of those books,” she predicted, “and then start plans to wrest control of the castle?”
“But of course, m’lady,” he twitted, “and together we shall rule over ever so many cows and goats and chickens on dairy farms…”
“And have our own mountain dragon,” she added, “to guard all our books!”
“I doubt anyone up here would even have the wherewithal to go after books like that,” Tyrion sighed. “I’m afraid we live in a scenic vale of literary ignorance.”
“I suppose it’s not the people’s fault,” Sansa pardoned them, moving the razor to the other side of his face. “It’s the same almost everywhere. There are those who have much, like Thurandin, and share very little for fear of losing their exclusive privilege.”
Tyrion blinked. “Enter Twyin Lannister. That he let me have access to books at all when I was young was a miracle.”
“Or even worse…enter Joffrey.” Sansa paused in her shaving for a moment and shuddered. “And no one can do a blessed thing about it, for all the power is solely held by the iron grip of a mad man.”
Her words caused Tyrion to latch onto a fleeting thought from days gone by, a thought that had sustained him through many hard years. “But knowledge is power. And one cannot own knowledge, can they? Not like any tangible thing. It defies being held too tightly, like a fist grasping water. It’s fluid, it’s alive, it travels…if only the instruments are available to convey it. And once it flies from the bottle, no one can shut it back in again.” He squinted, his mind running like the wind on the mountain. “Imagine…a goat herder’s son could become as learned as a lord’s, if his mind was as keen and books were at his finger-tips. If they both had access to the same knowledge, which would wield the greater power?
“Neither,” answered Sansa, somewhat amazed by her husband’s train of thought. “They would become…equals.”
“Yes! And then the law would inevitably come to recognize them as such,” he concluded, “and all the Twyins and Joffreys in the world would meet their overthrow, not by poison or dagger, but by pen and parchment. They would no longer be able to terrorize their victims as they do, people like us, Sansa…and the suppressed of the world would be able to free themselves with their own minds. The ever-turning wheel would then truly be broken.” Excitement sparkled in his eyes, then a submission to reality. He laughed shortly. “That was a long-winded tangent, wasn’t it?”
Sansa wiped away the last residue of lather from his face with a towel, put her hand beneath his chin, and turned his face towards her. “That was no tangent. That was Tyrion Lannister starting to scheme.”
“Me? Scheming? My lady!” he exclaimed in mock innocence.
She kissed him briefly on the now clean-shaven cheek. “And more power to you for it.”
He grinned broadly. “Are we planning on vengeance again, against those who have wronged us?”
“Why not? I think we had a certain talent for it…”
“You mean ‘sheep shift’?”
They both burst out laughing at the memory. “No, no, I’m all grown up now, and really quite ambitious about this…”
“Please,” he whispered, touching her lips, “don’t be too grown up.”
She smiled sweetly. “I’m ambitious about helping with whatever scheme you decide to launch.”
“And by that I am truly heartened. None can stop the joint force of lion and wolf!” He gazed down at her expanding belly. “I wonder what you get when you cross a cat and a dog…a kitten that barks or a pup that mews.”
“It’ll be a little angel,” Sansa murmured.
“Or a little monster.”
“Alright, we’ll compromise,” he decided, with a teasing gleam in his eyes. “An angel…that schemes?”
“Naturally,” she beamed.
Avellina Balestri (aka Rosaria Marie) is one of the founding members and the Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King, a literary magazine with a strong Tolkienite influence (which, by the way, is open to submissions). She reads and writes extensively, and eagerly seeks out the deeper spiritual significance of popular fandoms such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. And yes, she does have a soft spot in her heart for classic Disney movies, The Princess Bride, and Merlin 😉 She is also a recording artist, singing traditional folk songs and her own compositions as well as playing the penny whistle and bodhran drum. She draws her inspiration from the Ultimate Love and Source of Creativity, and hopes to share that love and creativity with others.