Tyrell gave a grudging nod. "As you say. My Margaery prefers to be tried by the Faith, so the whole realm can bear witness to her innocence."
If your daughter is as innocent as you' d have us believe, why must you have your army present when she faces her accusers? Ser Kevan might have asked. "Soon, I hope," he said instead, before turning to Grand Maester Pycelle. "Is there aught else?"
The Grand Maester consulted his papers. "We should address the Rosby inheritance. Six claims have been put forth - "
"We can settle Rosby at some later date. What else?"
"Preparations should be made for Princess Myrcella."
"This is what comes of dealing with the Dornish," Mace Tyrell said.
"Surely a better match can be found for the girl?"
Such as your own son Willas, perhaps? Her disfigured by one Dornishman, him crippled by another? "No doubt," Ser Kevan said, "but we have enemies enough without offending Dorne. If Doran Martell were to join his strength to Connington's in support of this feigned dragon, things could go very ill for all of us."
"Mayhaps we can persuade our Dornish friends to deal with Lord Connington," Ser Harys Swyft said with an irritating titter. "That would save a deal of blood and trouble."
"It would," Ser Kevan said wearily. Time to put an end to this.
"Thank you, my lords. Let us convene again five days hence. After Cersei'
"As you say. May the Warrior lend strength to Ser Robert's arms."
The words were grudging, the dip of the chin Mace Tyrell gave the Lord Regent the most cursory of bows. But it was something, and for that much Ser Kevan Lannister was grateful.
Randyll Tarly left the hall with his liege lord, their green-cloaked spear-men right behind them. Tarly is the real danger, Ser Kevan reflected as he watched their departure. A narrow man, but iron-willed and shrewd, and as good a soldier as the Reach could boast. But how do I win him to our side?
"Lord Tyrell loves me not," Grand Maester Pycelle said in gloomy tones when the Hand had departed. "This matter of the moon tea ... I would never have spoken of such, but the Queen Dowager commanded me!
If it please the Lord Regent, I would sleep more soundly if you could lend me some of your guards."
"Lord Tyrell might take that amiss."
Ser Harys Swyft tugged at his chin beard. "I am in need of guards myself. These are perilous times."
Aye, thought Kevan Lannister, and Pycelle is not the only council member our Hand would like to replace. Mace Tyrell had his own candidate for lord treasurer: his uncle, Lord Seneschal of Highgarden, whom men called Garth the Gross. The last thing I need is another Tyrell on the small council. He was already outnumbered. Ser Harys was his wife's father, and Pycelle could be counted upon as well. But Tarly was sworn to Highgarden, as was Paxter Redwyne, lord admiral and master of ships, presently sailing his fleet around Dorne to deal with Euron Greyjoy's ironmen. Once Redwyne returned to King's Landing, the council would stand at three and three, Lannister and Tyrell.
The seventh voice would be the Dornishwoman now escorting
Myrcella home. The Lady Nym. But no lady, if even half of what Qyburn reports is true. A bastard daughter of the Red Viper, near as notorious as her father and intent on claiming the council seat that Prince Oberyn himself had occupied so briefly. Ser Kevan had not yet seen fit to inform Mace Tyrell of her coming. The Hand, he knew, would not be pleased. The man we need is Littlefinger. Petyr Baelish had a gift for conjuring dragons from the air.
"Hire the Mountain's men," Ser Kevan suggested. "Red Ronnet will have no further use for them." He did not think that Mace Tyrell would be so clumsy as to try to murder either Pycelle or Swyft, but if guards made them feel safer, let them have guards.
The three men walked together from the throne room. Outside the snow was swirling round the outer ward, a caged beast howling to be free.
"Have you ever felt such cold?" asked Ser Harys.
"The time to speak of the cold," said Grand Maester Pycelle, "is not when we are standing out in it." He made his slow way across the outer ward, back to his chambers.
The others lingered for a moment on the throne room steps. "I put no faith in these Myrish bankers," Ser Kevan told his good-father. "You had best prepare to go to Braavos."
Ser Harys did not look happy at the prospect. "If I must. But I say again, this trouble is not of my doing."
"No. It was Cersei who decided that the Iron Bank would wait for their due. Should I send her to Braavos?"
Ser Harys blinked. "Her Grace ... that ... that ..."
Ser Kevan rescued him. "That was a jape. A bad one. Go and find a warm fire. I mean to do the same." He yanked his gloves on and set off across the yard, leaning hard into the wind as his cloak snapped and swirled behind him.
The dry moat surrounding Maegor's Holdfast was three feet deep in snow, the iron spikes that lined it glistening with frost. The only way in or out of Maegor's was across the drawbridge that spanned that moat. A knight of the Kingsguard was always posted at its far end. Tonight the duty had fallen to Ser Meryn Trant. With Balon Swann hunting the rogue knight Darkstar down in Dorne, Loras Tyrell gravely wounded on Dragon-stone, and Jaime vanished in the riverlands, only four of the White Swords remained in King's Landing, and Ser Kevan had thrown Osmund Kettleblack (and his brother Osfryd) into the dungeon within hours of Cersei's confessing that she had taken both men as lovers. That left only Trant, the feeble Boros Blount, and Qyburn's mute monster Robert Strong to protect the young king and royal family.
I will need to find some new swords for the Kingsguard. Tommen should have seven good knights about him. In the past the Kingsguard had served for life, but that had not stopped Joffrey from dismissing Ser Barristan Selmy to make a place for his dog, Sandor Clegane. Kevan could make use of that precedent. I could put Lancel in a white cloak, he reflected. There is more honor in that than he will ever find in the Warrior' s Sons. Kevan Lannister hung his snow-sodden cloak inside his solar, pulled off his boots, and commanded his serving man to fetch some fresh wood for his fire. "A cup of mulled wine would go down well," he said as he settled by the hearth. "See to it."
The fire soon thawed him, and the wine warmed his insides nicely. It also made him sleepy, so he dare not drink another cup. His day was far from done. He had reports to read, letters to write. And supper with Cersei and the king. His niece had been subdued and submissive since her walk of atonement, thank the gods. The novices who attended her reported that she spent a third of her waking hours with her son, another third in prayer, and the rest in her tub. She was bathing four or five times a day, scrubbing herself with horsehair brushes and strong lye soap, as if she meant to scrape her skin off.
She will never wash the stain away, no matter how hard she scrubs. Ser Kevan remembered the girl she once had been, so full of life and mischief. And when she'd flowered, ahhhh ... had there ever been a maid so sweet to look upon? If Aerys had agreed to marry her to Rhaegar, how many deaths might have been avoided? Cersei could have given the prince the sons he wanted, lions with purple eyes and silver manes ... and with such a wife, Rhaegar might never have looked twice at Lyanna Stark. The northern girl had a wild beauty, as he recalled, though however bright a torch might burn it could never match the rising sun.
But it did no good to brood on lost battles and roads not taken. That was a vice of old done men. Rhaegar had wed Elia of Dorne, Lyanna Stark had died, Robert Baratheon had taken Cersei to bride, and here they were. And tonight his own road would take him to his niece's chambers and face-to-face with Cersei.
I have no reason to feel guilty, Ser Kevan told himself. Tywin would understand that, surely. It was his daughter who brought shame down on our name, not I. What I did I did for the good of House Lannister. It was not as if his brother had never done the same. In their father's final years, after their mother's passing, their sire had taken the comely daughter of a candlemaker as mistress. It was not unknown for a widowed lord to keep a common girl as bedwarmer ... but Lord Tytos soon began seating the woman beside him in the hall, showering her with gifts and honors, even asking her views on matters of state. Within a year she was dismissing servants, ordering about his household knights, even speaking for his lordship when he was indisposed. She grew so influential that it was said about Lannisport that any man who wished for his petition to be heard should kneel before her and speak loudly to her lap ... for Tytos Lannister'
s ear was between his lady's legs. She had even taken to wearing their mother's jewels.
Until the day their lord father's heart had burst in his chest as he was ascending a steep flight of steps to her bed, that is. All the self-seekers who had named themselves her friends and cultivated her favor had abandoned her quickly enough when Tywin had her stripped naked and paraded through Lannisport to the docks, like a common whore. Though no man laid a hand on her, that walk spelled the end of her power. Surely Tywin would never have dreamed that same fate awaited his own golden daughter.
"It had to be," Ser Kevan muttered over the last of his wine. His High Holiness had to be appeased. Tommen needed the Faith behind him in the battles to come. And Cersei ... the golden child had grown into a vain, foolish, greedy woman. Left to rule, she would have ruined Tommen as she had Joffrey.
Outside the wind was rising, clawing at the shutters of his chamber. Ser Kevan pushed himself to his feet. Time to face the lioness in her den. We have pulled her claws. Jaime, though ... But no, he would not brood on that.
He donned an old, well-worn doublet, in case his niece had a mind to throw another cup of wine in his face, but he left his sword belt hanging on the back of his chair. Only the knights of the Kingsguard were permitted swords in Tommen's presence.
Ser Boros Blount was in attendance on the boy king and his mother when Ser Kevan entered the royal chambers. Blount wore enameled scale, white cloak, and halfhelm. He did not look well. Of late Boros had grown notably heavier about the face and belly, and his color was not good. And he was leaning against the wall behind him, as if standing had become too great an effort for him.
The meal was served by three novices, well-scrubbed girls of good birth between the ages of twelve and sixteen. In their soft white woolens, each seemed more innocent and unworldly than the last, yet the High Septon had insisted that no girl spend more than seven days in the queen's service, lest Cersei corrupt her. They tended the queen's wardrobe, drew her bath, poured her wine, changed her bedclothes of a morning. One shared the queen's bed every night, to ascertain she had no other company; the other two slept in an adjoining chamber with the septa who looked over them. A tall stork of a girl with a pockmarked face escorted him into the royal presence. Cersei rose when he entered and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Dear uncle. It is so good of you to sup with us." The queen was dressed as modestly as any matron, in a dark brown gown that buttoned up to her throat and a hooded green mantle that covered her shaved head. Before her walk she would have flaunted her baldness beneath a golden crown. "Come, sit," she said. "Will you have wine?"