"And he ignored you," Tyrion pointed out. "He has quite a large army, he can do that. Nor is he the first. Is he?"
Cersei's mouth tightened. He could see her color rising. "If I name this letter a forgery and tell them to throw you in a dungeon, no one will ignore that, I promise you."
He was walking on rotten ice now, Tyrion knew. One false step and he would plunge through. "No one," he agreed amiably, "least of all our father. The one with the army. But why should you want to throw me into a dungeon, sweet sister, when I've come all this long way to help you?"
"I do not require your help. It was our father's presence that I commanded."
"Yes," he said quietly, "but it's Jaime you want."
His sister fancied herself subtle, but he had grown up with her. He could read her face like one of his favorite books, and what he read now was rage, and fear, and despair. "Jaime--"
"--is my brother no less than yours," Tyrion interrupted. "Give me your support and I promise you, we will have Jaime freed and returned to us unharmed."
"How?" Cersei demanded. "The Stark boy and his mother are not like to forget that we beheaded Lord Eddard."
"True," Tyrion agreed, "yet you still hold his daughters, don't you? I saw the older girl out in the yard with Joffrey."
"Sansa," the queen said. "I've given it out that I have the younger brat as well, but it's a lie. I sent Meryn Trant to take her in hand when Robert died, but her wretched dancing master interfered and the girl fled. No one has seen her since. Likely she's dead. A great many people died that day."
Tyrion had hoped for both Stark girls, but he supposed one would have to do. "Tell me about our friends on the council."
His sister glanced at the door. "What of them?"
"Father seems to have taken a dislike to them. When I left him, he was wondering how their heads might look on the wall beside Lord Stark's." He leaned forward across the table. "Are you certain of their loyalty? Do you trust them?"
"I trust no one," Cersei snapped. "I need them. Does Father believe they are playing us false?"
"Why? What does he know?"
Tyrion shrugged. "He knows that your son's short reign has been a long parade of follies and disasters. That suggests that someone is giving Joffrey some very bad counsel."
Cersei gave him a searching look. "Joff has had no lack of good counsel. He's always been strong-willed. Now that he's king, he believes he should do as he pleases, not as he's bid."
"Crowns do queer things to the heads beneath them," Tyrion agreed. "This business with Eddard Stark . . . Joffrey's work?"
The queen grimaced. "He was instructed to pardon Stark, to allow him to take the black. The man would have been out of our way forever, and we might have made peace with that son of his, but Joff took it upon himself to give the mob a better show. What was I to do? He called for Lord Eddard's head in front of half the city. And Janos Slynt and Ser Ilyn went ahead blithely and shortened the man without a word from me!" Her hand tightened into a fist. "The High Septon claims we profaned Baelor's Sept with blood, after lying to him about our intent."
"It would seem he has a point," said Tyrion. "So this Lord Slynt, he was part of it, was he? Tell me, whose fine notion was it to grant him Harrenhal and name him to the council?"
"Littlefinger made the arrangements. We needed Slynt's gold cloaks. Eddard Stark was plotting with Renly and he'd written to Lord Stannis, offering him the throne. We might have lost all. Even so, it was a close thing. If Sansa hadn't come to me and told me all her father's plans..."
Tyrion was surprised. "Truly? His own daughter?" Sansa had always seemed such a sweet child, tender and courteous.
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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