Standing alone in the small council chamber, Tyrion poured himself another cup of wine as he reviewed the notes left behind by the scribe.
After all these years, I still drink wine and know things; occasionally, I can even remember them.
Taking his glass, he hobbled over to the window as the sunset on him, bathing him in purple and gold light. He looked out at the city and felt a certain satisfaction.
Down below, the fading light reflected off the tile roofs and pristine roads of the rebuilt capital, just one of Samwell Tarly’s many wondrous achievements. As Grand Maester, his first project was to divert a branch of the Blackwater, run it beneath the city and create a sewer system accessible through the back alleys of every neighborhood from Rhaenys’s Hill to Flea Bottom. Initially, the people in the poorer neighborhoods continued to dump their garbage and chamber pots out into the streets, because old habits there died hard.
However, a night in the black cells with the thieves and murderers of the city proved to be an excellent learning tool.
The city soon became a model of health and hygiene. The small council ordered the dirtiest trades to move outside the old city walls and they were soon protected by another set of walls and battlements. King’s Landing seemed to grow like some strange beast born of bricks and stones and mortar.
Tyrion finished his Arbor Gold, grasped his cane and walked out of the chambers. He closed the door and reached up to touch the golden plaque fixed upon it. After becoming the Hand of the King for the second time, he commissioned a goldsmith to craft a message that greeted every person who crossed the threshold where the Small Council did its work. It read:
“Jamie Lannister sacrificed everything to protect the people of King’s Landing from the Mad King. You owe the realm no less.”
Brother, you would have made a good and wise king, he thought. As he grew old, Tyrion spent more time speaking to ghosts than the living. In most cases, they were better conversationalists.
Losing your sword hand gave you membership into the brotherhood of cripples, bastards, and broken things. It taught you the humility and compassion required of truly great leaders, just as it had prevented Jon Snow and Bran the Broken from following the paths of the mad Targaryens.
As he limped across the courtyard, Tyrion passed guards and servants still on duty. They nodded their heads in respect, and none of those young faces showed the same hatred as the generation that came before them. None of them remembered that he had fought on the wrong side of the War of the Mad Queens. Not that there was a right side. Cersei had blown up the Sept of Baelor, along with a good portion of the dwellings occupying Visenya’s Hill. Daenerys Targaryen and her dragon had simply finished the job that the Mad King Aerys II had been prevented from doing.
Tyrion smiled at the thought of life’s little ironies.
Cersei wanted to create a Lannister dynasty to please a father who didn’t believe his daughter — or any woman for that matter — could rule men or hold power. Instead, she had died with her unborn child in the bowels of King’s Landing, buried beneath the stones and mortar of a castle built by the humble people she oppressed.
Daenerys believed she would break the wheel by liberating the entire world through blood and fire, never realizing that she had become a tyrant and murderer of the innocent.
Varys thought he was serving the realm, but did nothing more than help tyrants do terrible deeds.
Littlefinger thought he would lie and manipulate his way to the iron throne, but was played for a fool by the girl he loved, at the cost of his life.
Ned Stark “honored” Robert’s memory by keeping the peace instead of arresting Cersei and her children, and the result plunged the continent into a long, bloody war.
And Tyrion’s father Tywin built his empire to honor “family,” never knowing that his children would be guilty of incest, infidelity, and patricide.
For those who still believed in the Seven Gods, the destruction wrought by the dragon and its mother was a blessing in disguise for King’s Landing. For those who had fought in all the wars and witnessed the horrors committed in the name of some god, what happened afterward was simply the law of unintended consequences.
With millions of people either dead or displaced, most of the seven kingdoms were presented with the unforeseen opportunity of being forced to rebuild from the ground up.
In King’s Landing, The Red Keep was renamed the Castle of Red and White because it had been repaired with stones recovered from the ruins of Whitewalls, a castle destroyed after the Second Blackfyre Rebellion failed. How appropriate that the damage caused by one Targaryen was repaired with the mess created by another.
As time passed, almost all traces of the attack on King’s Landing disappeared over the years, except for some areas of the walls that had been blackened, but not destroyed. It was a grim and grimy reminder of the power of dragons, who could, in minutes, undo the work of decades. Scorpions, regardless of their past failures, were added to the armaments above the new walls of the city.
Reports tracking Drogon arrived at various times, and with various degrees of accuracy. One raven claimed he had been seen in Essos, headed to Valyria. Another said he had flown to Sothoryos to plague the Brindled Men. And a third message claimed he had avoided men until he passed over Qarth on the way to the Bone Mountains. The greatest city that ever was or will be was simply no more, and Tyrion thought no one would ever feel completely safe in King’s Landing again.
In the Reach, Grand Maester Samwell had been made warden and created a new order of rule formed by the Tarlys, the Redwynes, and the Hightowers. Laws were created by a high council. Even though he had the ultimate power as the Warden of the Reach, he was far too busy with his Grand Maester duties at King’s Landing, so he gave a tie-breaking vote to the Arch Maesters of the Citadel, to resolve any deadlocked decisions. Each house was given a leadership role over specific aspects of the kingdom. The Tarlys were responsible for training a small standing army that would maintain the peace and also help with major construction projects, such as repairing bridges and town walls or building roads and irrigation projects. The Redwynes were responsible for the navy and creating products (mostly wine) for export, to rebuild the treasuries of the kingdom. Displaced people from the wars were given a small plot of farmland to repopulate Highgarden and help feed the hungry in King’s Landing. As long as the farmers paid their rent in foodstuffs, this was as close as any peasant had ever gotten to being a true landowner. And the Hightowers, home to the Citadel, were responsible for education and trade.
In the North, similar agricultural reforms were required to fill and repopulate the empty lands of the Umbers, the Boltons, and the Glovers, whose failure to aid the North against the Night King had not been forgotten. They had refused the call one too many times, and the united Northern forces under Sansa Stark sent the entire family to the Wall. In their place, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch ruled the land, with the stipulation that any Wildling who wished to settle south of the wall would be given a place to farm.
Tyrion remembered the rebuilding efforts and reforms took place in The Riverlands, The Westerlands and Stormlands, with some direction from the King and the Small Council.
Littlefinger was almost correct about the nature of power — chaos wasn’t a ladder, but it did reward those who could build them.
And the merchants, tradesmen, and men of vision who rebuilt Westeros helped create a new society based on merit instead of one’s bloodline.
Tyrion crossed the courtyard and saw the glow of windows in the Royal Sept, mostly deserted since the election of the Three-Eyed Raven as King. His power came from the weir wood trees and the old gods. What use had he for the Seven? Still, Tyrion heard voices raised in song, and almost entered, so thirsty was he for companionship. To what purpose? He thought. I can’t sing, and the only song I do know is the Bear and the Maiden Fair, not exactly a part of the choir’s repertoire. There was one other song he knew long ago, but he had done everything in his power to forget it.
In those early days as the Hand of Bran the Broken, if a bard started playing “The Rains of Castamere,” Tyrion would shout the order, “Bronn, go cut the strings out of that man’s lyre, and don’t worry if his fingers get in the way.” That never failed to change the song.
With the music and prayers of the Seven behind him, Tyrion turned toward the Tower of the Hand and the magnificent elevator that would transport him to the top. Besides the Wall, it was the only structure in Westeros with a mechanical lift, designed by Grand Maester Samwell, and installed on the tower’s exterior wall when Tyrion had grown too old to climb the hundreds of stairs on the inside. Back in the days when he was still strong enough and drunk enough, Tyrion would laugh as he climbed on top of the lift’s protective railing to piss over the edge, aiming at the Royal Sept below.
As he reached the top of the tower, he could see the flickering lights of the entire city, a view of unparalleled beauty. Tyrion thought briefly of Tysha the crofter’s daughter, his first love, trying to remember her face. But if love is suffering, thought Tyrion, my greatest love will always be Shae.
He turned to his right and looked out at the ships anchored in Blackwater Bay, and thought about his friend Davos Seasworth, who had tried long ago to conquer the city, only to later help rebuild it. After the destruction of King’s Landing, the Master of Ships recovered the Golden Company’s treasure in a galley that had remained untouched with the other merchant ships and fishing boats moored a safe distance away from the defenses of the city.
Looking up at the heavens, Tyrion wondered how the heavens above could be so ordered and beautiful, while the world below was still so troubled? The answer, of course, was human greed. But the same motivations that brought trouble had also brought opportunity.
Bronn proved to be the perfect Master of Coin in those first weeks after the Dragon Queen’s attack. The Bank of Braavos had sent a raven demanding repayment of their loans, a concept Bronn had never quite mastered. A raven flew back with the message that the Master of Coins would come to visit and deal with any problems. Bronn’s “negotiations” consisted of leading a small team of skilled sellswords to penetrate the security of the Bank, kill the board of directors, and burn every record and ledger book in the building. Set free from its debts, and armed with the Golden Company’s riches, King’s Landing was able to focus the Six Kingdom’s resources on rebuilding the capital and those areas hit the hardest by the wars.
A year later, Bronn was sent to the wall for spending whatever funds remained in the Reach on building brothels and then using those facilities on a non-stop basis. Tyrion missed his old friend but was sure that if anyone could have a good time while freezing his balls off in the North, it would be Bronn.
Thinking of the Wall always brought Tyrion’s thoughts back to Jon Snow. Tyrion had fulfilled his promise and visited the Wall when he was still fit to make the journey. The reunion consisted of Jon, Tormund, Bronn and Tyrion. They shared ale and told stories, laughing and crying about long-departed friends and lovers. After Tormund and Bronn passed out from drinking, Tyrion spoke deep into the night with Jon about his travels north of the Wall.
“I found the Night King’s castle,” Jon had said, “inside it were wonders unseen by men for eight thousand years. I think I found some clues to the mystery behind the symbols in the obsidian mines at Dragonstone and the messages left by the army of the undead. The secret is hidden in the God’s Eye and the Weirwood forest there.”
The horns sounded twice and Jon turned his head. “The wildlings must be in trouble. I must go to their aid. We’ll talk about those discoveries when I return.”
Jon rousted Tormund and they left Castle Black in haste with Ghost at their side. Tyrion waited for weeks without word from Jon when a raven from King’s Landing demanded his immediate return. The years passed, with no word from the Jon, and Tyrion feared that his death would be just as much a mystery as his birth had been. The only word he received from Castle Black in the years that followed was a cryptic message:
“For the sake of the realm, I can no longer go south of the Wall. Your friend, The Bastard.”
Tyrion retired to his chambers, poured one last glass of wine, and added some milk of the poppy as he pondered the kingdom’s destiny. Bran had fallen sick and died in middle age, testing the new ways. A new Dragon Pit High Council surprisingly chose a young, olive-skinned woman to become the first Dornish Queen of the Six Kingdoms. Equally surprising was the new queen’s decision to ask a Lannister to continue as Hand of the King. The city grew in population, combining the surviving residents, refugees who had fled south to escape the army of the undead, and builders imported from the four corners of the world. Fear and distrust of the unknown were slowly replaced by an appreciation for the hard work done to restore the capital. In spite of the progress made, sleep would not come as Tyrion strained to anticipate any signs of trouble that could appear on the horizon with the coming of a new day. He didn’t have long to wait.
A soft light crept into the room with the stealth of a young maiden, caressing the tower’s white stone walls. The wind tickled the windows, and the cry of seagulls could be heard far below the room where the Hand of the King rested.
Tyrion laughed as he stood atop the Wall with Jon Snow and pissed off the edge of the world. It had all felt so real, but with the passage of so many years, he began to wonder if it had been nothing more than a dream. The pressure on his loins, however, was real enough and Tyrion began the climb back to consciousness. With his eyes still closed, Tyrion felt something warm and wet on his manhood, but it wasn’t creating the desired effect.
He thought of Roz, who had never failed to get his attention and wondered out loud “what are they teaching these girls at brothel school?”
Tyrion was disappointed no one laughed, but who was left to share in the laughter? Varys… Jorah… Barristan… Missandei… Sandor… all gone. As the milk of the poppy wore off, the pain returned. He reached out his hands to cup Shae’s beautiful face but knew she was just a ghost.
As was Jamie.
A tear welled up in his eye, remembering how he had failed to save the brother who had saved him so many times throughout their lives. Tyrion’s withered hand trembled as he brought the goblet of wine to his parched lips.
Then he looked up and saw an old friend with concern clouding his face.
“Why the dour look, Ser Davos?” Tyrion asked. “It is a glorious day. I am 80 years old, have a belly full of wine, and a woman’s mouth around my cock.”
Ser Davos looked puzzled.
“It’s Stannis — his son — my lord and I have come to seek your counsel. There are reports of Meereenese slaver ships raiding Storm’s End.”
Tyrion frowned, wondering why those perverse parts of the wheel they had broken so long ago had refused to stop turning. He waved off the young master of ships. “As you can see, I’m a bit indisposed at the moment. Let us speak again after I’ve broken my fast.”
The young master of ships bowed and left the room, and Tyrion hoped the peace would allow him to focus his concentration. The untrained girl continued working away down there, but the lion had long since stopped roaring.
This sad state of events would simply not do, so he did what he always did to lighten his mood, and decided to tell a joke.
“I once went into a brothel with a jackass and a honeycomb…” he began, but the old words sounded slurred and foreign.
The girl looked up, her washcloth still polishing Tyrion’s pillar and stones. “Come again, m’lord?”
I wish I could, he thought, then the room went black.
The last thing Tyrion heard was his old trusted nurse scream for the Maesters.
*Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) turned 50 on June 11th this year.
Nothing that Benioff and Weiss did to the last two seasons of Game of Thrones can extinguish the love we feel for GRRM’s epic story.