It’s a clear, cool day in King’s Landing. A cold, gusty wind serves to keep some of less hardened nobles from the top of the tower for, though the rooftop garden is sheltered, the creaks and groans emanating from the panes of glass could be cause for concern.
But not for the two men—one younger, one older—who are here now. The younger wears a squire’s raiment bearing the sigil of House Estermont. He sits in silence, busily sharpening a sword. The elder is Ser Ammon Massey, called Ammon Blackhand by some. Massey stands apart from his squire, looking out over the sea and watching the horizon.
Underfoot, separated by only a thickness of stone, the keep seethes with schemes and gossip and manoeuvering in the game of thrones. But here, it is silent, above the cares of the city—of the realm—and those who rule it. Even the baleful keening of the wind and the tortured creaks from the glass serve to make it seem more peaceful, underscoring a silence perfumed by the delicate scents of rose and jasmine.
Then, another sound intrudes—a slow, steady tapping approaching from the long hall within, growing louder. A gust of wind blows the garden doors closed just as a man walking with a cane’s aid comes into view. The wintry light reflects off them, making it difficult to see through; there is only an impression of bulk, and of iron hair.
And of a gaze fixed on Ammon across the rooftop as the man stops on the other side of the doors.
It isn’t the tapping of the cane which gets Ammon’s attention, or the groans of the window panes, or even the slamming of the garden doors; Ammon Massey is oblivious to these as he keeps his silent watch over Blackwater Bay. But Benther Estermont, his squire, is not, and it is the boy’s start that causes Ammon to turn.
“For the gods sake, Ben, it’s just the wind,” says Ammon, not unkindly. Yet the boy is looking to the entry still, and Ammon follows his gaze, squinting through the reflected sunlight. “It’s just some old man. Keep sharpening; I’ll want it razor sharp. And if I have to go back over it again, I’ll give you a clout in the ear you won’t soon forget.”
And with that, Ammon turns back to the sea.
The man behind the glass doors does nothing save watch for a long moment, clasping both hands atop the cane—and when he leans on the stout wood, there is a suggestion of broad shoulders bowing with weariness.
Then, he straightens and pushes the doors open.
“They told me you were sorely wounded,” says Lord Allard Massey, his hoarse voice carrying across the open rooftop. The softness of age has blurred the powerful lines of his frame; there is fat now in his bulk as well, not just muscle. But for all of that, he is still an imposing figure in his dust-streaked riding garb, grey hair whipped by the wind.
“I see they were wrong.”
That voice -does- get Ammon’s attention. He turns, eyes wide and face paling. “Father?” he asks, lapsing into silence for a few moments.
His three fingered hand rises unconciously to scratch at his right shoulder, and the bandages evident beneath his doublet. Though clearly shocked at his father’s appearance, Ammon recovers quickly. “I am still alive, father, and recovering. Po—,” he pauses to clear his throat. The son inclines his head towards the father. “The maesters say I was lucky; I should regain full use of my arm, in time.”
There is not even a flicker of an expression on that craggy, weathered face. Lord Massey regards his youngest son as he might a horse he is considering buying, looking him over slowly, gaze lingering on the bulk of the bandages beneath his tunic.
Then, there is that tapping sound again as he makes his way across the roof. And stopping before Ammon, he flicks the cane up through his grip with a twist of his wrist, catching it halfway down its length. He reaches out with it, laying the rounded head against Ammon’s cheek—and then pressing cruelly hard, forcing the younger man’s face to the side so that the light falls full upon his profile.
A moment, and then the pressure is gone. He lets the cane slip down through his grasp again, limping to the crenellation; he continues to ignore the squire as he has done since the beginning, “Or not so wrong, perhaps. The maesters here know their job. You can tell how dangerous a wound was by…”
He gestures vaguely to his face with his free hand, looking out over the yards. And with no change at all in that almost-conversational tone: “Tell me what happened.”
Ammon is taken off guard as the cane pushes face away. He grunts, exhales sharply and, for those perceptive enough to see it, shoots his right hand to his left hip and if grasping for his sword. But, of course, the sword is in his squire’s hands, the boy watching wide eyed. And when the pressure is released, when Ammon regains his balance, he glares at his father—not with hatred, no, but not with love either.
“Leave us, Ben,” says the son. The squire listens, leaves, and Ammon continues when he is alone with Lord Allard.
“We were ambushed in the forest near Storm’s End by that whoreson Saan. I wanted to kill him, though he had other notions. I held his attention long enough for Longaxe to come up, but lost consciousness before it was decided.” Ammon shakes his head regretfully. “I heard afterward that Saan had called the retreat and Ser Dagur went after him, alone, to no avail.”
Leaning the cane carefully against the stone, Lord Massey braces himself against the crenellations, lifting his face into the cold wind even as its rawness makes tears dampen the corners of his eyes. He listens in silence, standing so—and at the end, echoes reflectively, “Saan. Sullehman Saan.”
He lapses into silence again after that, until finally he stirs: “She was a gift from the Gods, it seemed to me. Doryssa. Your mother had given me six children already and the maester had said she would have no more. I had two score years and ten. I was content.”
His manner is distant, and touched, somehow, with a strange gentleness, “And then, there she was. I had taken so much thought for her. The match I would have made for her. Ah, I would have set her higher than myself.”
Ammon’s rage cools as Allard begins to speak of his sister. He moves beside his father, leaning his back against the wall and watching the lord’s reaction. And when he speaks, he speaks softly. “Rys had her own ideas for a match, you will remember, my lord. She wanted to be a lion, to be wed to that git Galan.” Ammon pauses to scratch at his temple with his ruined hand, considers the scarred flesh.
“I’d have eschewed my own inheritance, such as it is, for her dowry; I’d have made another match for her, a better match: Ser Willard perhaps, before he was promised to Lady Andrya. Anybody but Ser Galan Lannister. The Green Lion.” And Ammon spits upon the cool stones at that name.
“But no. He scoffed at me, did Ser Galan, when we first met—it is the way of negotiation, is it not? We had planned to speak again when I returned from Crackclaw, but….”
“But you couldn’t save her.”
The wind slashes keen as a blade, and Lord Massey turns to his son, straightening, taking the cane in hand, mouth twisting with a raw bitterness that etches every word; that moment of gentleness is gone as if it never was: “You could not save my daughter. Given your inheritance for her? When came the time for vengeance, you could not give me even that.”
Ammon mirrors Allard, turning to face his father. And he says simply: “No.”
And with that word carrying on the wind, Ammon’s expression sets. If Lord Massey expected tears from his youngest son, he is sure to be disappointed. Ammon steps forward, looking up the few scant inches to his aging father’s eyes. His voice is low, icy, unwavering. “I could not save her, father. Nor could better men than I: Ser Dagur, Connington—these great men were as powerless as I was.” Another step forward, father and son are nose-to-nose now, and Ammon’s voice drops again. “And I relive it every night, father. -Every- night.” Ammon’s three fingered hand clenches, reaches out, wraps around his father’s cane at the old man’s wrist. “You think I failed to deliver -you- vengeance?
“Fuck your vengeance,” Ammon spits, scowling. He advances on the old man again, pushing him back.
“It’s my sister’s vengeance I want. And she’ll have it, while you, and Maslan, and Ham sit and rule over the Hook. There will come a day when Saan will wake in the morning and fear the name Massey. I will see to it that the whoreson feels what I’ve felt, a hundred fold. I will find who he loves and steal the life from them as he stole my sister’s. I will make it so the trickster no longer wants to laugh, or smile, and I will carve an eternal smile upon his lips. When he wakes in the morning, alive for another day, he will know that it is because -I- let him live. He will fear me, my lord father, and he will come for me.
“And you will be short a son. But you will have your vengeance.”
And he takes a step back, Lord Massey, and another, pushed back by his son. Surprise clears the bitterness from his face; whatever he expected, this, it seems, was not it.
For a moment. And then that bitterness comes flooding back, and a cold, towering anger with it. There are no more backward steps; he stops, and might as well try to move a mountain as shift that bulk. And he rips the cane free from Ammon’s three-fingered hand and taps it on the ground.
Once, twice and thrice, louder each time and the last time with a flat, final crack.
“Quiet. Quiet, boy. You fail every duty as a brother, as a son, and then you give me this defiance?” The cords of his neck are tense with the effort it takes him to restrain himself, “You mewl about other men not doing what you should have and then give me this defiance?” His voice is the grinding of boulders, “You cry me your pain—yours!—and then give me this defiance?”
His hand trembles on the cane, “Do you think Maslan would have been standing before me today if he had been in your place, or Harmon? They would have bought their sister’s vengeance with their lives already if need be. Ah, Gods! Half-a-dozen years younger and I would have had it myself!”
When his father stops, Ammon does as well, stepping back. “Are you so eager to see me dead, father?” he asks emotionlessly. “I do not mewl. I do not cry. You’d know that if you listened, my lord. As Rys lay dying, I alone amongst the company attacked the whoreson; when we stole upon Saan’s ship in the dead of night, I went to die, though they took only my fingers; when Saan’s ambush found us, I faced him alone—and when my blade shattered I -threw- myself upon his sword that another might kill him while he was distracted. He thrust his sword through my shoulder and pinned me to a tree. And yet here I am, still alive.”
Ammon swallows hard, glaring at his father—but still there are no tears upon the younger Massey’s cheeks. “It was good to see you, father, though you needn’t have come all this way to simply list my failings. I am well aware of them.”
And then Ammon walks away, stalking toward the entry to the garden. But he pauses, one hand upon a door handle, and turns back to the old, done man. “I expect I will make you proud of me soon enough, father—the Stranger seems intent on bringing Saan and I together. Once more will tell, I should think, one way or the other. And if there is some poetry in you, and you find it stirring as you stand over my bones, I would ask you to do me one small kindness.”
“Say nothing.” And then he is gone.
If his son’s words stir anything in the old, bitter man, it remains buried deep—for winter has him.
“Put your sister to rest truly,” he says to his son’s back in that moment before Ammon walks away, “and I will call you my son again.” His hand tightens on the cane and he straightens, implacable and made cruel by grief, “Until then, I will leave you my name for your mother’s sake.”
“But nothing else. You are not welcome in my hall, boy. You will have nothing of Massey until you give it what you must.”
And he turns to let the cold wind flense him as his son walks away.