He laughed. "No, I'm done with fields of battle, thank you. I sit a chair better than a horse, and I'd sooner hold a wine goblet than a battle-axe. All that about the thunder of the drums, sunlight flashing on armor, magnificent destriers snorting and prancing? Well, the drums gave me headaches, the sunlight flashing on my armor cooked me up like a harvest day goose, and those magnificent destriers shit everywhere. Not that I am complaining. Compared to the hospitality I enjoyed in the Vale of Arryn, drums, horseshit, and fly bites are my favorite things."
Littlefinger laughed. "Well said, Lannister. A man after my own heart."
Tyrion smiled at him, remembering a certain dagger with a dragonbone hilt and a Valyrian steel blade. We must have a talk about that, and soon. He wondered if Lord Petyr would find that subject amusing as well. "Please," he told them, "do let me be of service, in whatever small way I can."
Cersei read the letter again. "How many men have you brought with you?"
"A few hundred. My own men, chiefly. Father was loath to part with any of his. He is fighting a war, after all."
"What use will your few hundred men be if Renly marches on the city, or Stannis sails from Dragonstone? I ask for an army and my father sends me a dwarf. The king names the Hand, with the consent of council. Joffrey named our lord father."
"And our lord father named me."
"He cannot do that. Not without Joff's consent."
"Lord Tywin is at Harrenhal with his host, if you'd care to take it up with him," Tyrion said politely. "My lords, perchance you would permit me a private word with my sister?"
Varys slithered to his feet, smiling in that unctuous way he had. "How you must have yearned for the sound of your sweet sister's voice. My lords, please, let us give them a few moments together. The woes of our troubled realm shall keep."
Janos Slynt rose hesitantly and Grand Maester Pycelle ponderously, yet they rose. Littlefinger was the last. "Shall I tell the steward to prepare chambers in Maegor's Holdfast?"
"My thanks, Lord Petyr, but I will be taking Lord Stark's former quarters in the Tower of the Hand."
Littlefinger laughed. "You're a braver man than me, Lannister. You do know the fate of our last two Hands?"
"Two? If you mean to frighten me, why not say four?"
"Four?" Littlefinger raised an eyebrow. "Did the Hands before Lord Arryn meet some dire end in the Tower? I'm afraid I was too young to pay them much mind."
"Aerys Targaryen's last Hand was killed during the Sack of King's Landing, though I doubt he'd had time to settle into the Tower. He was only Hand for a fortnight. The one before him was burned to death. And before them came two others who died landless and penniless in exile, and counted themselves lucky. I believe my lord father was the last Hand to depart King's Landing with his name, properties, and parts all intact."
"Fascinating," said Littlefinger. "And all the more reason I'd sooner bed down in the dungeon."
Perhaps you'll get that wish, Tyrion thought, but he said, "Courage and folly are cousins, or so I've heard. Whatever curse may linger over the Tower of the Hand, I pray I'm small enough to escape its notice."
Janos Slynt laughed, Littlefinger smiled, and Grand Maester Pycelle followed them both out, bowing gravely.
"I hope Father did not send you all this way to plague us with history lessons," his sister said when they were alone.
"How I have yearned for the sound of your sweet voice," Tyrion sighed to her.
"How I have yearned to have that eunuch's tongue pulled out with hot pincers," Cersei replied. "Has father lost his senses? Or did you forge this letter?" She read it once more, with mounting annoyance. "Why would he inflict you on me? I wanted him to come himself." She crushed Lord Tywin's letter in her fingers. "I am Joffrey's regent, and I sent him a royal command!"
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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