As the sun rose over the horizon, the Hand of the King's private chambers filled with the shimmering light of dawn. Despite the welcome glow being cast about the room, the room was filled with sorrow and frustration.
"I am sorry, your grace," Grand Maester Pycelle softly said in a worn and weary voice. As he sat down on a wooden stool, Pycelle turned a tired face towards the body lying in the bed. "He has passed on," the elderly maester said with a touch of defeat.
King Robert Baratheon stared fixedly at the body of his foster father, Lord Jon Arryn. The king is no stranger to looking upon the bodies of the deceased, but this time was different. This was the first time the king watched the life depart from a loved one.
The king couldn't help but compare this moment to when he helplessly watched his parent's ship sank below the waves of Shipbreaker's Bay when he was young. Both events were terribly painful, but there was more horror involved in the death of his parents. Watching Jon die was just... saddening.
With the left side of Jon's face slack and sagging, the man almost looked like a stranger to Robert. The robust and tolerant father figure was nowhere to be seen. In his place was this shallow imitation of a great man.
"How?" Robert gruffly asked in an unfamiliar tone. The king's eyes never left the face of the Hand.
"Apoplexy," Grand Maester Pycelle answered before sharing a cautious glance at Maester Colemon, Jon Arryn's personal maester from the Eyrie. Even in his distracted state, Robert clearly picked up the tension between the two men.
"Speak," Robert commanded. "And be quick about it." King Robert normally had little patience for flattery and long conversations. The current situation would have expectedly removed the remainder of Robert's tolerance.
"None can dispute that the Lord Hand died to an attack on the brain," Pycelle began with only a slight tremble to his words. The act of attending to a dying man through the entire night is taking a toll on the hunched maester. "However, it is possible this is not from natural causes. There are several poisons that can duplicate the effects of apoplexy. And I understand that Lord Jon and Lady Lysa have been at odds lately," Pycelle finished in his bumbling speech.
"Preposterous! They were merely having a marital dispute on who should foster little Robin," Maester Colemon declared in indignation. "And besides, most poisons that attack the blood take days or even weeks to take effect," the white-haired maester heatedly said.
Pycelle snorted at his fellow maester's comment. "Essence of Heart's Bane takes a single day," the Grand Maester began before a sharp command silenced him.
"Enough!" Lord Stannis Baratheon growled at the two grey-robed men. "No one is accusing Lady Lysa of murder," Stannis stated towards Pycelle. "But her sudden and unannounced departure from King's Landing is rather suspicious. Especially on the heels of her husband's illness," Stannis said to a sullen Maester Colemon.
Maester Colemon failed to meet the eyes of the stern-faced Baratheon. The maester was either unable or unwilling to give justification for Lysa fleeing the city. Instead, the personal maester of Jon Arryn turned his attention to the Grand Maester.
The two maesters shared a stiff look with one another before breaking eye contact. Both men had every intention of continuing their debate out of sight of the royal family. After their unspoken promise to each other, the maesters silently turned to gather their medical equipment.
"Get out," Robert unexpectedly ordered. "All of you, get out," the monarch repeated when the old maesters didn't move fast enough for him.
Leaving their equipment and supplies for another time, the two chain-bound men shuffled out of the room. Both maesters gave their platitudes to the king as they walked by him.
Stannis remained by the chamber door after the room was emptied. He studied his brother for a moment before coming to a decision.
"Jon was a good man. An honorable man," Stannis said with a notable amount of sincerity. "He was one of the few men in this city I felt I could..."
"Leave," Robert interrupted. "And close the door behind you," Robert gruffly said as he approached Jon's bedside.
A sharp grinding noise filled the room but was ignored by the mourning king. Swallowing the rest of his words, Stannis stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.
I steadily made my way to the bellows of the Red Keep. The torch in my hand allowed me enough light to effortlessly traverse the winding tunnels hidden deep under the city. I ignored the rough carved tunnel walls and uneven stone floor as I marched towards my destination.
Rounding a bend in the tunnel system, I spot a cluster of crimson wearing men bearing torches. The light of my own torch alerted the men to my presence. My Legionnaires tensed for only a moment before they relaxed at the sight of me.
I silently stepped into the circle of light cast by the torches of my men. I absently handed my torch to a stone-faced Legionnaire, as my attention is drawn to the center of the group.
"Why is he still alive?" I asked aloud to the group as I stare down at the bound and gaged man.
"He claimed to have information you would be interested in, Lord General," Captain Slate said from the ring of men.
Moving towards the prone man, I do my best to ignore the reasoning for Slate to be down here instead of commanding the men inside the Red Keep. Kneeling down beside the heavily bruised and bound man, I can't stop myself from staring into his eyes.
Without comment, I draw my knife and plunge the blade deep between the ribs of the captive. I never break eye-contact with his pain-filled eyes as I give the knife a harsh twist.
I remove the blade and begin to clean the blood off as I patiently watch life slipping from the eyes of Hugh of the Vale. Once the last signs of life vanished, I stood up and turned to Captain Slate.
"Burn the body and dispose of the remains," I order in a clipped tone. Two Legionnaires step forward and collect the fresh corpse.
"He could have known something useful," Captain Slate casually offered. There's no real conviction in his words.
"I doubt it," I refute before glancing at the cooling body. "Besides, he betrayed his liege lord for a handful of gold coins. He would have turned on us the moment it slightly benefitted him." I inform my captain.
"True," Captain Slate said with a nod of his head. "He was the only thing linking us with Jon Arryn's murder."
I give a withering look to the older man for voicing such incriminating information. Despite the security of these black tunnels, it's a poor habit to get into.
"Any luck with the search for Varys?" I ask as I recollect my torch and begin the walk back to the surface.
"Several of the little spies reported seeing the Spider entering the tunnels after the Grand Maester was summoned," Slate said as he fell in beside me.
"Search every overweight man and woman you encounter," I sternly order.
"Women as well?" Captain Slate curiously questioned.
"Varys is a master of disguise and has dressed as a woman when the situation deems it necessary," I inform my second-in-command. "And the order still stands; kill on sight."
"He could give us valuable information," Slate tried to persuade.
"I'm sure he could," I readily agree. "But the Spider is a master manipulator that has perfected the art of lying. Anything he tells us will be shrouded in doubts and misdirections."
"Ha," Slate said with a snort. "You sell yourself too short, m'lord. I know you could sniff out the truth hidden in the eunuch's stories."
I shake my head at the man's confidence in me. "You don't try to play a game with a master and allow him to set the rules. You flip the table over and stab him in the chest when he's distracted by the pieces falling around him."
I catch the impressed look on Slate's face from the corner of my eye. The way he suddenly smiles before looking forward is worrying.
"You could do so much more with the right title, Lord General," Captain Slate quietly said.
"I will have all the titles I need soon enough," I reaffirm. "I will not forget the men that helped me along the way. And a Lannister always pays his debts."
Sorry for the delay, but life got in the way.
Enjoy and leave a comment!
More Privileged Chapters
Download the app and become a privileged reader today! Come take a sneak peek at our author's stockpiled chapters!Download
This's an experimental test for reading assistance in case.
We highly recommend you to enjoy the beauty of the original words.