In the chilly white raiment of the Kingsguard, Ser Mandon Moore looked like a corpse in a shroud. "Her Grace left orders, the council in session is not to be disturbed."
"I would be only a small disturbance, ser." Tyrion slid the parchment from his sleeve. "I bear a letter from my father, Lord Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King. There is his seal."
"Her Grace does not wish to be disturbed," Ser Mandon repeated slowly, as if Tyrion were a dullard who had not heard him the first time.
Jaime had once told him that Moore was the most dangerous of the Kingsguard--excepting himself, always--because his face gave no hint as what he might do next. Tyrion would have welcomed a hint. Bronn and Timett could likely kill the knight if it came to swords, but it would scarcely bode well if he began by slaying one of Joffrey's protectors. Yet if he let the man turn him away, where was his authority? He made himself smile. "Ser Mandon, you have not met my companions. This is Timett son of Timett, a red hand of the Burned Men. And this is Bronn. Perchance you recall Ser Vardis Egen, who was captain of Lord Arryn's household guard?"
"I know the man." Ser Mandon's eyes were pale grey, oddly flat and lifeless.
"Knew," Bronn corrected with a thin smile.
Ser Mandon did not deign to show that he had heard that.
"Be that as it may," Tyrion said lightly, "I truly must see my sister and present my letter, ser. If you would be so kind as to open the door for us?"
The white knight did not respond. Tyrion was almost at the point of trying to force his way past when Ser Mandon abruptly stood aside. "You may enter. They may not."
A small victory, he thought, but sweet. He had passed his first test. Tyrion Lannister shouldered through the door, feeling almost tall. Five members of the king's small council broke off their discussion suddenly. "You," his sister Cersei said in a tone that was equal parts disbelief and distaste.
"I can see where Joffrey learned his courtesies." Tyrion paused to admire the pair of Valyrian sphinxes that guarded the door, affecting an air of casual confidence. Cersei could smell weakness the way a dog smells fear.
"What are you doing here?" His sister's lovely green eyes studied him without the least hint of affection.
"Delivering a letter from our lord father." He sauntered to the table and placed the tightly rolled parchment between them.
The eunuch Varys took the letter and turned it in his delicate powdered hands. "How kind of Lord Tywin. And his sealing wax is such a lovely shade of gold." Varys gave the seal a close inspection. "It gives every appearance of being genuine."
"Of course it's genuine." Cersei snatched it out of his hands. She broke the wax and unrolled the parchment.
Tyrion watched her read. His sister had taken the king's seat for herself--he gathered Joffrey did not often trouble to attend council meetings, no more than Robert had--so Tyrion climbed up into the Hand's chair. It seemed only appropriate.
"This is absurd," the queen said at last. "My lord father has sent my brother to sit in his place in this council. He bids us accept Tyrion as the Hand of the King, until such time as he himself can join us."
Grand Maester Pycelle stroked his flowing white beard and nodded ponderously. "It would seem that a welcome is in order."
"Indeed." Jowly, balding Janos Slynt looked rather like a frog, a smug frog who had gotten rather above himself. "We have sore need of you, my lord. Rebellion everywhere, this grim omen in the sky, rioting in the city streets . . ."
"And whose fault is that, Lord Janos?" Cersei lashed out. "Your gold cloaks are charged with keeping order. As to you, Tyrion, you could better serve us on the field of battle."
Excerpted from A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. Copyright© 1999 by George R.R. Martin. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Spectra, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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