The story so far:
Chapter 13: Honeymoon
“You’re spoiling her, Tyrion,” Sansa chided, observing her husband reclined on a picnic blanket feeding their donuts to the dog.
They were in the midst of enjoying something of an overdue honeymoon, and Tyrion had located a new special place for them. It was in the woods at the side of a mountain lake, where the water was so blue it mirrored the sky and the bottom was so deep it could not be seen by the naked eye.
“Oh, she’s enjoying herself,” he insisted, as Arya snatched up the second half the donut in his hand and gulped it down hungrily.
Sansa smiled, realizing he was enjoying himself too. “You know, you’re going to make her get fat, and I won’t be carrying her home for you.”
“But dogs should put a little more weight on before winter sets in.”
She rolled her eyes. “But she’s a lady, and ladies who put on too much weight lose the attentions of their men. You’d probably trade me off if it ever happened to me.”
He raised an eyebrow and scanned her fastidiously. “No, I believe I would keep you around,” he twitted, “just put you on picnic restrictions. No more pastries for you….ouch!”
He made a too-late effort to shield himself from the handful of fallen leaves she threw at him. “Well, well,” he clucked. “So it begins.” With that, he flung a leafy handful back at her in return, unleashing a small-scale war, with the dog barking and running around in circles as husband and wife pelted each other with leaves until both fell down in a heap, laughing till their sides hurt.
They were at the edge of the lake now, and she playfully splashed him with the water. He looked a little stunned for a moment, and she wondered if she had accidentally triggered off some unpleasant memory for him.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to get you that wet,” she apologized.
He quickly shook off whatever thought assailed him and smirked teasingly. “Are you joking? I feel thoroughly refreshed!”
She closed her eyes. “Well, you can do it to me now. Fair is fair.”
He smirked, dunked his hand in the water, but only sprinkled her with it lightly.
“That was it?” she responded, amazed.
“Aww, you’re too pretty to get soaked.” Just then, a flock of ducks landed in the water. “Oh, look. This must be a stopping point on their journey south.”
“We should give them messages to carry to wherever they go,” she suggested. “Likes notes in a bottle.”
“I think I’d prefer to give them…donuts.”
“Tyrion!”She exhaled in mock exasperation.
“Oh, there’s enough to go around,” he assured, gesturing to the small feast laid out on the blanket. She had to admit he probably had purchased too many different varieties of donuts. But having consumed more than a few of them herself, from the jellies to the creams to the pretzel-like twists, they were all delicious. The ripe autumn apples and golden and white harvest cheeses were quite nice as well. And of course he made sure to bring along a flask of local brew for them to share.
“You’re quite good with animals, you know,” she commented, as he tossed some of their food to the ducks.
“Not really,” he commented. “Horses absolutely spook around me. Just can’t figure me out. And I’ve already told you about my past stories with dogs, before I figured out how to tame their savage instincts with food stuffs. I did hand-feed a squirrel one time, though, when I six. It let me pet it…felt kind of like velvet.”
“I can imagine you doing that.”
“You can?” he queried. “Most people would be shocked to know the Imp had engaged in such activities as a child. They’d laugh themselves silly…”
She shook her head. “You have…a sensitive soul. I know that for a fact.”
He chortled a little at the description, and then fell solemn for a moment. He wondered if he was indeed sensitive, for he did remember that when he had found the squirrel a day later, shot through with an arrow by one of his father’s guards, it had felt like the arrow had been his. Of course, as he grew, he had taught himself to view death and suffering with indifference as it was meted out and returned. But that was training; not heart.
“I’m also a fighter, m’lady,” he reminded her. “Low the ground and snarling.” He barred his teeth teasingly, and she laughed. Then she tilted her head, contemplating on something.
“Yes, I know you’re a fighter, too. How could I forget? Four against one, Tyrion. And those guards were armed to the teeth!”
Ah. So she remembered the melee in Torquil’s courtyard. Every day her memory had continued to improve, and now she almost completely restored to her former self. But they had never discussed the events in Caffe.
“Actually, it was four against a half,” he quipped.
She rested her chin on her hand. “I must say, you…you did…rather well, under the circumstances. I mean…it was suicidal of you to try, but still…it was rather impressive, all things considered.”
Now he made a half grin. She was giving him his pride back. “A shield has always been my favored weapon.”
“Is that your motto for life?” she queried.
“I certainly could think of worse ones. I’ve bashed men’s brains out with…” He cleared his throat, realizing that questionable nature of the topic. “Well, suffice to say, I can take care of myself well enough. I was trained to fight in armor, you know, like a real knight.” He sounded like a little boy now, trying to impress a girl with his exploits. “You never saw me in full dress armor, did you, Sansa?”
She shook her head.
“Probably for the best,” he admitted with a chuckle. “It made me look quite ridiculous. I don’t walk very well as it is…always shuffling. With the armor, it made this clanking sound, and it was heavy. It always hurt my back…” He paused. “You won’t tell anyone that, will you?”
“Who in the world would I want to tell?”
“Oh, I…I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Sauriel, for one, would probably never let me live it down.”
She exhaled, and put her hand over her heart dramatically. “On my honor as a lady then; it’s between us alone.” She looked at him gently. “And…I don’t mind the way you walk at all.”
He turned down, his cheeks reddening. “You’re kind.” He gazed across the lake wistfully. “I always used to enjoy watching my brother and sister. Jaime took great, manly strides, and Cersei walked with the elegance of a cat. And when they danced…there was something magical about it.” He looked up at her. “Did you like to dance very much, Sansa?”
She shrugged. “It was more just a matter of me wanting to be good at everything a young lady should be good at, not really for the fun of it. I spent most of my childhood so eager to grow up I suppose I sort of…neglected that part, while my siblings enjoyed themselves.” She smiled a little. “But now that I am grown up, I actually am…having fun. With you. And those other things seem…rather false by comparison.”
His eyes brightened. “Really, Sansa?”
“Yes, really,” she confirmed.
Looking very happy with himself, he picked up a piece of shale at the lake’s edge. “Have you ever skipped rocks?”
She shook her head.
“Well, I can teach you how.” He tossed it out, and the shale skimmed across the water.
“Oh, that’s brilliant! Let me try.” She picked up another piece and attempted to repeat the process, but hers sank as soon as it hit water.
“It’s all in the wrist,” he instructed her, snatching up another pebble. “You have to flick it like this…damn.” He successfully skipped the rock, but then felt his wrist throb.
“Oh, it’s just an old strain,” he fluffed it off. “A childhood…accident.”
She noted the way he said that, and was dubious. “What sort of ‘accident’?”
“I…fell down some stairs.” He made an embarrassed half grin. “With help.”
She looked down. “What sort of…help?”
“I just made a little miscalculation,” he confessed. “You see, when I was very young, I still was under the impression I could get Cersei to like me. She was beautiful, even as a little girl, and I thought…my mother would surely have been like her.” He exhaled. “I…wanted her to hold me, very badly. I know it was stupid, but…no one else would, so I thought…she was my sister.” He saw the pitying look on Sansa’s face and began to regret starting the story. But it was too late to stop it. “So, getting to the point, one Yule, when we were going to the main hall, I asked if I could…give her an embrace for Yule. She said…no.”
Tyrion decided to withhold what she really said, that he was a malformed disease, a hideous parasite that sickened everything it touched. He decided to withhold the confused tears he had shed when she had assaulted his 4 year old mind with the gruesome details of how he had torn up his mother’s insides coming out of her, how the Lady Joanna had screamed for someone to kill her because the pain was so intense.
Shivering, he had instinctively hobbled towards her, his sister’s name caught in his throat like a sob…her fur coat looked so soft, he wanted to clutch it for comfort…but it was wrapped around a hardened heart…
“And then she pushed me down some stairs in the courtyard,” he finished, trying to sound nonchalant. “I fell on my wrist, and fractured it. Everyone was so busy with Yule, it wasn’t properly looked at until afterwards.”
And, the fact was, no one had cared. Jaime, his older brother and sole ally, was away for the season to be trained at the court, and he felt hatred fall in on him on all sides. They didn’t care that it made it hard for him to hold a fork at the feast; they just laughed at him as he dropped it and had to painfully struggle to retrieve it. Afterwards, they mocked him for eating with his hands. All Tyrion wanted was to stuff his face with the sweets, that helped take his mind off the pain, as drink would do when he came of age. But his father called him an animal that took away his appetite and ordered him away from the table.
“When the physician finally took care of the wrist, it was rather…out of sorts. Of course, my hands are a mess anyway, but…look, I’ll show you.” He yanked up sleeve and revealed the twisted bone of his wrist. She looked slightly pale at the sight, and he quickly regretted the display. “I’m sorry; that was uncouth of me.”
He started to pull down his sleeve, but she stopped him by taking his hand in her own, and gently running her fingers along the jutting bone in his wrist. He smiled a little. “Are you going to cast a spell on it?”
“Maybe.” She then tenderly kissed his hand and his wrist, as if trying to heal the memories with her lips. “Feel better?”
He swallowed a lump in his throat, and then took hold of her hand and kissed it, and kept kissing along her arm. She giggled as they both fell backwards in a pile of leaves. “Tyrion, there’ll be bits of leaves all in my hair…”
“I’ll help you get them out later,” he promised.
He kissed her neck and top of her shoulder exposed in her peasant dress, and she reciprocated by kissing both sides of his slightly crooked nose. She then brushed her fingers all the stubble on his chin, and let her lips playfully mingle with his.
Coming up for air, he smirked mischievously, and touched the front of her dress, softly massaging her breasts beneath the material.
“Naughty, naughty,” she scolded him. “You’re very naughty, Tyrion.”
“But doesn’t it feel kind of nice?” he tested her, continuing to rub gently in a circular motion.
“Maybe,” she admitted, leaning into him with a laugh. “You’re something of an expert at this, aren’t you?”
He paused for a moment, a slightly guilty look crossing his eyes. “Actually, this all feels…quite new to me.” He pulled her towards him a little more, until her forehead touched his. “I do love you, you know.”
“Then you don’t think…I’m a pervert, because I like it when we touch?”
“Of course not.” She smiled a little. “Not any more than men usually are, that is.”
“Oh, come, my demure young lady, have I completely failed in my efforts to please you?”
A smile crept across her face and her cheeks grew rosy.
“See, women are not so unlike we men after all! They know about warmth beneath the sheets…or…leaves, in this case.”
She clicked her tongue, and they both chuckled. “You clearly have plans for…my pleasure…during the long winter nights, my lord.”
“Well, as man and wife, there’s no more shame in it, at least.” He brushed his thumb over her lips. “I feel so very…right with you, more right than I’ve ever felt in my life.”
“That’s because we’re part of each other,” she reminded him softly. “One flesh…one heart…one soul…now and forever.”
His eyes glistened with unshed emotions at her recitation of their marriage vows, and he pulled her into a heart-felt embrace. She squeezed him back, feeling her own heart give a tug of unspoken intensity.
“Sometimes I wonder if I’m living in a dream,” he whispered in her ear, “and I’ll wake up all alone in hell again, and everything that is beautiful will wash away in blood…”
“That former world is just a dream, a nightmare,” she murmured. “This is reality.” She ran her fingers through his hair.
“But every so often I hear the voice of blood, and it is strong, and it calls to me…” His voice drifted out.
She gazed at him deeply. “The blood of Torquil?”
He looked surprised. “Did Sauriel tell you?”
“She didn’t have to. I can read you quite well myself.”
He closed his eyes. “He drained your precious blood, my love…”
“And it was restored unto me. Nothing has been lost.”
“But he still…did it. Does not justice cry out for me to confront him?”
“You can dedicate yourself to justice wherever you are,” she responded. “Live for it instead of dying for it. Love over it instead of hating over it.”
Tyrion inhaled as her kiss warmed his lips once again. “I fear I am a creature of both strong love…and hatred…it is equally weighed…”
“Is not love the stronger power?” she put the question to him, the moistness of her mouth seeping into his. “Is it not…all in all…?”
He sank his head back. “I…want it to be…”
“Then let the feuding end,” she pleaded. “Oh, Tyrion, we have everything to live for. I want you to hold our first born without the stain of blood on your hands. I am sick to death of death. No more…no more…”
She stretched over to kiss the scar on his face, and he found himself softly massaging the scar on her neck. “Oh, oh…Sansa…I would have died had you not come back to me…”
“But you brought me back,” she explained breathlessly. “Your tears…they called me…back to you…he could not take me from you…forever…”
He laid his head against her shoulder, and kissed her neck once more. “I do…want to live,” he confessed, “truly, for the first time…oh, yes, there have been many times I did not want to die, but…I never wanted to live…half so much…as at this moment…”
“And so you shall,” she assured. “I’m not letting you go, Tyrion, I’m not.” And they rolled into each other’s arms, hearts like thunder, eyes a-light, and lips nourishing as sweet rain.
The night, grown dark, was still full of splendors. The tiny woodside fire, hastily started, had died away almost entirely, but the honey-colored harvest moon hung high in the sky, gilding the lake with celestial orange flame. They lay together, wrapped in the silent shroud of their forest fortress.
And then he started singing, ever so softly, but also rich with warmth. It was an old song about a nobleman taken prisoner in a far away land and released by the jailor’s daughter, and how that same daughter followed him across the sea to be his lover.
“She tells him send her a cut of bread, and tells him send her a cup of wine, and to remember the brave young lady who did release him when he was confined…”
She had never known he could sing before. Perhaps she should have known, given the way his voice often contained a rather whimsical lilt. But in singing now, there was a depth and resonance she had not previously imagined. It was terribly romantic, like when her father had sung to her mother in their tender moments together. She remembered watching them as a little girl, and wanting a husband to sing to her someday.
Never in so many hundreds of years would she have imagined it would be the half-man…who was more fully a man than anyone else had bothered to realize. They never let him sing his heart, only tavern drivel, so they could label him according to their own design. But his heart was hers now, and its song bled into her own.
His voice grew softer and softer yet, like the last breeze that escorts the sun to her resting place at dusk. Then it fell still, like the fallen fog over the lake, and he fell asleep against Sansa’s shoulder, breathing peacefully in the crisp autumn air.
She smiled, gazing at him there. For a moment, he almost seemed like a small child. She knew better of course, with his blade-like banter and lusty play. But still, he could be adorable sometimes, with the crumbs of their picnic still on his shirt. She brushed them away with a motherly hand. Someday she’d teach him to eat neat and tidy, but for now…what did it matter?
Then very gingerly she tucked her arm around him, and felt him lean into her a little deeper. He liked to be held like that, she could tell. She wondered if in the depth of his dreaming, he saw his dead mother, who he always hoped might have still found it in her heart to hold him if she had lived to see his face.
Sansa felt a slight pain in her heart, envisioning Cersei shoving him to the ground for seeking an embrace in their childhood. She could imagine his lifetime of tortures for things he had no power to change, and his warped methods of fighting against it that threatened to turn him into the monster his family wanted him to be.
She thought back to her own mother, and the way she used to speak of the Imp who the Lannisters kept closeted away, plotting their devious schemes in dark corridors, altogether devoid of humanity in face and form, heart and soul. Back then, when she had imagined him, she had thought of some creature from a fairytale who stands on a bridge demanding the answer to riddles, lest you be thrown into the chasm of nevermore or be made to stir a cauldron of the black arts for him night and day.
But here they were a world away from everything they had known, and they had become friends, confidantes, helpmates, playmates, lovers. They had spent the day talking and laughing and throwing leaves at each other and feeding ducks and sharing naughty secrets and kisses. And his small, twisted body was wrapped safely in her embrace while he dreamed. He had been hurt so much by so many in his life, and yet he was learning to trust now, and there was an aching loveliness in it.
Because she loved him. It had taken more than a little while for her to come to that conclusion, but now she realized it was the truest thing in her life. He was kind, and clever, and loyal, and rough enough around the edges to know that he was the real thing, not some simpering milk-sop with malicious intent. Even his love-making was a winning mix of honesty, passion, and tenderness. He was far from perfect, but he was perfect for her.
She thought for a moment back to the interval when she had stopped praying to the Seven back at King’s Landing. She felt they had failed her, failing to protect those she cared about most, much her own battered body and soul. But now she found herself recalling her lessons about the Smith, the face of the divine who labored to put the world of men to right with hammer and flame. Surely, she thought, for the gods, there should have been an easier way?
But perhaps that was the mystery of it. Putting things to right was never a painless process, nor a predictable one. And yet all things flowed toward it, like snow in the mountains must flow down to water the valley. For all the evil that she and Tyrion had experienced at the hands of others, it had enabled them to find one another. They had been pawns in a game of great names, being used to disgrace and defile one another. And yet their captors had underestimated their souls. They had believed their own lie that Tyrion was a monster and incapable of loving or being loved. And yet she had awakened a whole new word inside him. And now they loved. And they were the true victors of the game.
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.