The night is over-warm and still, and even children fall out early in such heat. Reyna Tyrell is half asleep herself, with her youngest son’s head cradled against her breast, and her eldest son dozing against her legs where they are stretched along the length of a sofa. Her head nods, her eyes heavy and all but closed, flickering open only occasionally as a sound reaches through the open windows to her ears.
There is the sound of a key entered the door, and slowly it swings inward.
Jonn Lannister leaps through and closes the door behind him. His face is paler than the Stranger’s.
“I told her,” he says breathelessly.
Reyna inhales sharply as Jonn enters, looking around in startlement. It takes a long moment before she registers what he has said; then she rises carefully and shakes Tywell’s shoulder. She makes a gesture to Jonn, asking him to wait, then carries Andrys out of the room, the sleepy Tywell staggering along behind.
She emerges a few moments later, and carefully closes the door. “Just as well,” she says calmly. “I’ve already told Jaesin, and Almer knows by now, I’m sure.”
“I suspected as much,” he says with a nod.
“Jyana sent me a note. Everyone knows, it said,” he offers up as explanation.
He rubs a hand across his sweating forehead. “I had to feign guilt and accuse of her of fucking my lord father.” He laughs. Actually laughs.
“You think this is amusing?” Reyna asks him, her face expressionless. “It’s all well and good for you, I suppose. I’m hardly the only woman you’ve had out of the marriage bed. Gods, you terrify me sometimes.”
“You are the only woman, actually,” Jonn says evenly.
“And it is good and well for neither of us,” he continues, rubbing his hands together. “We will need to come up with a proper story. Oh, and I /saw/ you looking at Jossart Vaith.”
“A proper story?” Reyna blinks and looks confused. “You think I’m going to perpetrate this? I’ve told the truth, Jonn. I told it to Keira Sand in this very room, when she came to learn what I’d done to make Almer so angry with me. I am through with lies.”
“You are exceedingly dull at times,” Jonn says with a shake of his head.
“You need not lie. You need not utter a word.”
“The next time I visit Prince Aegon, you will accompany me to Maegor’s Holdfast. You need not enter the prince’s apartments. Just go in and come back out.”
He pauses and nods to himself, as though considering some small detail. “I will let it be known that Aegon found you interesting and wished for me to explore the possibilities.”
He looks her sternly in the eyes. The green therein is as hard as jade. “You will act properly enraged when the public knows. You will find it hard to believe that even I could use a lady in such a fashion. You will not talk to me for a long time. You will curse me to the seven hells, which you have probably already done. Do I make myself clear?”
“And if I do not?” Reyna asks, circling her left wrist lightly with her right hand. “If I choose to speak only truth, and accept what comes of my actions?”
Jonn grinds his teeth.
“Mayhaps I will tear the tongue from your head and strangle you to death with it, mayhaps I will dangle you by your ankles from yon window until you do ask I tell you. Mayhaps I will do nothing. What does it matter in the end?”
“Do it and Almer will kill you,” Reyna replies evenly. “But he will kill you anyway, because I WILL NOT LIE.”
“Almer Connington,” Jonn says coldly, derisively. Then he snorts, “I am more frightened of my wife’s puppy than of him.”
“So be it, Reyna. Suffer needlessly. You will still burn in hell after you have died.”
“Hell is for the unrepentant, Jonn,” Reyna replies, her body overtaken by fine tremors even as she closes her hand about her wrist slowly. “I will never cease to regret every moment I spent dishonoring myself and your lady wife. Do with me as you will; the Seven know my heart.”
“You will tire of it soon enough,” Jonn says with a laugh. “And then you will fuck somebody else. Your very nature is to be wanton, Reyna. No amount of regret will ever change that. You should’ve fucked Connington instead. Then we might’ve avoided all this drama.” He places the key down on the table and turns to leave, his laughter accompanying his footsteps.
Reyna watches him go, her hand clutched tightly around her wrist. “Has it all been a game to you, then?” she asks after a moment, loosening her grip.
“Yes,” the Lannister says without turning. “It was all a game to me. That’s all it will ever be. A game.” He places his hand upon the door and laughs. A bitter, hard-edged sound filled with sarcasm.
Reyna crosses the room in a heartbeat, and her hand flashes out to slap Jonn’s face on the breathed epithet “BASTARD.”
Jonn catches the hand in a firm grip.
“Life is a game, Reyna,” he says, squeezing the hand. “Get used to it.”
“It needn’t be the sort of game you play,” Reyna replies, trying to free her hand. “You make threats you have no intention of fulfilling—I smiled at Jossart, Jonn, and at Keira. What will you do? Keira stood where you stand and I welcomed her. What do you make of that game?”
That only causes Jonn to laugh. He releases the hand because the laugh has made him short of breath.
Reyna takes advantage of his laughter to swing out again—this time with a closed fist.
That stops the laughter dead in its tracks.
Without thinking, Jonn unloads a vicious backhand at the woman’s face.
The Rose of Highgarden is not prepared to fend off true violence, and she takes the full force of Jonn’s blow full in the face. Blood flies from her lip as she goes sprawling, colliding with a table on her way down to lie still on the floor in a crumpled heap, the side of her face blossoming with incipient bruising.
The rage has him now.
He stalks over to the prone form of the woman and stands over her. He seems to be undoing the laces of his pants.
But then the rage slowly fades, and he thinks better of it.
He crouches down over her, a worried look on his face.
Reyna just lies there, unmoving. Only the regular rise and fall of her breathing gives any indication of life.
“Gods,” Jonn mutters to himself, sliding his arms under the fallen woman. He wrenches her up off the ground and walks over to the couch, depositing her gently upon it.
Reyna moans when she touches the sofa, and it is clear that she has struck her head on the table, for there is blood in her hair as well as on her lip.
Boots clatter outside, barely audible through the thick wood. A fist raps on the door; there is a moment’s pause and then whoever it is pushes the door open without waiting for a reply: “Your maid said…”
And then there is silence. The Iron Serpent stands in the open doorway, looking at Jonn and Reyna.
But only for an instant. And then he starts forward, his face blank, his eyes murderous.
“You,” Jonn Lannister says, whirling about. His eyes are no less murderous.
But: “What do you want?” he asks coldly.
Reyna’s eyelids flutter, but she is too dazed to take note of the confrontation. She struggles to sit up, finally managing to prop herself on an elbow, and touch her fingers to her rapidly swelling lip.
“Leave,” the ironman snaps. There is anger there but it is not the murderous rage of a few nights past. This is of a colder, deliberate kind—but no less menacing for it.
He doesn’t look at the Lannister, as if the man is too repugnant for even that; instead, he looms over Reyna, looking down at her battered face.
“Not a single word from you. Walk away from here.”
“No,” Jonn Lannister says coldly.
Something has changed in him, even since the other night. Something has gone out of him. And that something enjoyed living, apparently.
The ironman’s hand, reaching for Reyna’s face pauses—and then clenches into a fist and draws back. He turns slowly and regards Jonn with a certain detached astonishment. The candlelight plays upon the mens’ battered faces.
Then he says slowly: “I regret the day I went to Lord Crakehall.”
“Better a slattern with a nameless bastard than Jonn Lannister’s wife.”
Reyna coughs, and seems suddenly to realize what has happened. “Ser Dagur?” she says in confusion, her eyes on Dagur as if trying to place his face. Then she looks up at the Lannister. “Easy to hit… a woman… isn’t it… Jonn?”
The Lannister looks curiously at Dagur for a moment. Thus he… studies the other man for a moment.
Then he smiles.
It is almost menacing with one side of his face battered and his left eye unable to yet fully open.
“An eye for an eye,” he says coldly then, swiveling his neck to look down on the woman.
“Yes. Don’t stand, Reyna. A moment.”
And the ironman’s hand goes to his swordbelt.
For a moment, it lingers over the hilt of his blade. And then he draws a gauntlet tucked into the belt—and tosses it at Jonn’s face. “Ser Almer’s,” he informs the man almost gently. “He challenges you to a duel of honour.”
“To the death.”
“I serve as his second”—and he bares his teeth in what a fool might take for a smile.
Reyna moans incoherently, and covers her battered face with her forearms. “Jyana was right,” comes muffled from behind, and her whole body begins to tremble as if with cold—or fear.
The gauntlet strikes Jonn in the face and falls to the floor. He looks down at it, like a man might an offensive rodent.
“No,” he says simply.
“No?”—and again, that flicker of astonishment.
“You are a knight sworn in the name of the Seven, se…”
The ironman cuts himself off before he can complete the title, his mouth twisting as if he tastes something distasteful. “You are a knight,” he begins again, patiently, as if to a lackwit child, “And you have been challenged upon your honour. You do not say no.”
“You cannot say no.” The woman is, for the moment, ignored; the Lannister’s refusal holds all his attention.
Reyna, for once, has the good sense to hold her tongue.
“Did I st…stutter, Saltcliffe? No means no.”
The astonishment fades, to be replaced by a dawning contempt more damning than any insult.
“You shame every man who ever swore the oaths,” he says coldly. “Run, then, my lord of Lannister and be hunted down like a peasant if you won’t stand like a knight. I won’t deprive Ser Almer of his sport.”
And he turns towards Reyna, his back to Jonn.
“You’re forgetting something, ser,” Jonn says, bending down to pick up the gauntlet. He reaches back with one hand and brutally rips the gilded spurs off of his boots. He places them in the palm of the glove and folds it neatly in half.
Straightening his legs, he holds them out: “Give Almer Connington my regards.”
The smile remains.
Reyna slowly uncovers her face, and looks up at Jonn with contempt—or what would be contempt, on a face not so swollen and streaked with blood. “A coward…” she says, coughing. “I must have been mad. Will the Gods… forgive me, ser?” And she turns her eyes back on Dagur.
The Lannister is ignored entirely; the ironman does not deign even to look at him. He reaches again for Reyna’s face, as if to turn it into the light. And as for her question:
That too goes unanswered. His face is a brutal mask, half-shadow, half-wounds: “Where are your children?”
Reyna turns her face for him, the right cheek darkening and her lip broken and swollen. “They are there,” she says, raising a hand and pointing to a closed door. “With Gysa. Sleeping.” But she hasn’t missed the Ironman’s lack of reply; her eyes close for a moment as if in acceptance, and she does not repeat the question.
The Lannister hardly gives the Ironborn time to reply before placing a small key in the gauntlet and spurs and allowing it to slide from his hand and onto the floor. The clanging of the metal upon the floor marks his passage from the room.
Only with the sounds of the Lannister’s exit does Dagur glance over his shoulder. He looks at the discarded gauntlet—and his gaze finds the spurs. His breath hisses between his teeth; another moment thus and then he turns back to Reyna.
“Best they stay asleep. Can you walk?” he asks, confining himself, for the moment, to the practical.
“Won’t make you carry me again,” Reyna says with a grim and rather grotesque smile. She touches the bloody hair behind her temple, and shudders. “Need a maester.” She pulls herself up with a hand on the back of the couch, and sits there a moment with her eyes closed. “Is he gone?”
Eyeing the woman, Dagur shakes his head—and then stooping, he simply slips his arms around her shoulders and knees and lifts her: “Twice won’t break my back.”
He strides towards her bedchamber, nudging the door open with his foot: “And yes, he is gone. I doubt very much you will see him again.”
“Don’t care if it’s never,” Reyna says, groaning involuntarily at the motion of being lifted. When she opens her eyes again, she frowns. “Never thought to have -you- seeing my bed,” she mutters.
If the ironman is amused by the comment, he doesn’t show it. Indeed, he looks down sharply as if to say something—but holds his tongue. Laying the woman on the bed, he fumbles beside the bed in the darkness. A moment later, there is a spark, then another; a candle blooms, chasing back the shadows.
The ironman studies Reyna’s face in the flickering light, then grimaces: “No maester. Not unless you want this spread around the Red Keep by morning. Do you trust this Gysa?”
“Hard to hide regardless,” Reyna replies, with a glance across the room at the glass on the wall. “Yes. Gysa is loyal. Not good with a needle, though.”
“Stay in your rooms for a few days until it gets better.”
The ironman pauses, half-crouched by the bed, looking into the candle-flame: “They’ll be too busy talking about Ser Almer and Jonn to notice.” Then he shakes his head and rises, “I’ll wake her. She can sit with you while I get Poxy Alan.”
Reyna’s eyes are half-closed when she nods. Then she reaches out to catch one of the ironman’s hands. “Thank you,” is all she says before she lets it go again.
For a moment, the ironman does not stir, looking down at the woman. And then:
“Rest now,” he says almost harshly. “I will be back soon.” And he leaves the room, his tread light and barely heard.