Original posts in the Miscellaneous ASOIAF Thread, here, here, and here Inspired by Lorgar’s Cregan's brilliant prompt and QueenErisJane’s development in the Ruler Thread. Stannis It is the color of sin, he thinks. Or what the septons would prate about and call sin. He ignores them and their empty words. Duty might have stopped him, once. It might have made him obey and follow Robert. Until Delena. He could have loved Delena Florent, he thinks, or whatever others talk about and call love. He had felt something different towards her, those first euphoric days. That was before finding Robert and her in bed, the morning of the wedding. Then there was nothing to do but go ahead with the marriage, lest he become the laughing-stock of Westeros. Robert had taken everything from him – Storm’s End, Delena, his pride. Now Delena sits alone on Dragonstone, while Stannis finds every excuse to remain in King’s Landing. He feels nothing towards Delena now. This, however, is not love. This is passion, a burning fury, a blinding hatred that unites them. A hatred of Robert that proved deeper than any duty. But yet he cannot help but think that he enjoys this, being tangled in his paramour’s limbs and golden hair. Robert had shamed him; why should he not shame Robert? It seems so just. “Cersei,” he whispers hoarsely. Cersei It was to protect them both, she tells Jaime; best let Robert have a child, lest he come suspicious. But she cannot help feeling a flush of pride as she studies Joffrey’s black hair and blue eyes. Robert will laugh and call him a true Baratheon. But the boar will never bear a legitimate child; all those who spring from her wombs will be from the brother Robert hates so much. It is hard for Cersei not to laugh aloud at her victory, though nobody can know it but Stannis and herself. It is revenge; it is safe; it is so perfect. She will never tell Jaime as they lay and whisper together, but there is pleasure in it too. The hard jaw, the broad shoulders, the balding forehead, the iron will. Stannis is not the golden prince she once dreamed about, but he reminds her of another hard man. And Joffrey will grow up to be like both of his forebears, she thinks as she watches him greedily nurse. He will take what is his, and never let go or apologize. She will make sure of it. Let Robert love the boy; he will be loving his own destruction. Stannis The court begins to whisper of a King’s Party and a Lord’s Party. The King’s Party is Robert’s cronies, the scum of the earth whom Stannis would sweep away if he could. The Lord’s Party is those who stand with him, against Robert’s prodigious spending, against the corruption that oozes through the court, against the licentiousness that Robert represents. “Robert had another bastard,” Stannis tells the assembled lords and ladies, “the child of some tavern slut.” Perhaps it would be more theatrical – he scoffs at the thought – for them to be meeting in the hidden crypts below the Red Keep, but the hostility between the King and the Lord of Dragonstone is open now, and it is fitting for them to be meeting in the open as well, proud and defiant. Gyles Rosby coughs. “How does our gracious queen take the news?” “She retired to her new private sept to pray and reflect before the gods,” Tanda Stokeworth informs them. Tanda does not know that Stannis had gone there as well; the sept had been well-designed. A smile threatens him at the irony. Can the Seven threaten me, any more than they saved my parents? Stannis wonders. What power do they have? “Perhaps the Faith could be brought to censure him?” Rosby suggests. “Our High Septon partakes of the same fleshly desires as King Robert,” scoffs Anya Waynwood. “The Faith will never be on our side while he lives.” “The Seven Above surely frown on King Robert and the High Septon for their unfaithfulness,” Guncer Sunglass intones piously. Stannis wants to scoff at Lord Sunglass, but then a glimmer of an idea from the others’ words strikes him. Cersei will better know what to make of the idea. Yes, he will find a reason to visit that sept again soon. Cersei She fumes. Rolland Storm should have been perfect. A fierce warrior, who loudly pronounced his allegiance to the Faith and his disgust with its corruption. But the knight had rejected her. He had agreed with her at the beginning: the High Septon was a disgrace to the Faith, and a replacement would be desirable. But when her fingers had begun to dance up his leg, Rolland had shrunk away and then stormed out the room, as if his honor and faith were threatened. Cersei scoffs. There is no such thing as a truly honorable or faithful man. Perhaps one day she would again test how steadfast the bastard really is. But she has more pressing concerns. Richard Horpe is more understandable. “You denied me a spot on the Kingsguard,” he says with hate and lust in his eyes. “I had something more in mind for you,” she tells him as she slips off her gown. Stannis had been right; Ser Richard’s desires were simple. Yet Stannis was also wrong. Horpe had been so easily bought, Cersei thinks, as she reclines in a couch with a glass of Arbor gold and waits for the bells of the Great Sept to toll. Stannis The fat High Septon was dead. A new High Septon, of a more suitable temperament, had been selected. Lannister gold, Stannis thinks half-sourly, as he fingers another type of Lannister gold. The new High Septon thundered against the licentiousness of the court, against Robert. It had given Stannis something like pleasure to see the expression on Robert’s face, the first time the court attended the Great Sept after the conclave. Robert had stormed out, and now the tide was turning. Where people had once feted and drank to Robert, they now began to whisper of his faults. The faults were there all along, Stannis scoffs; people were just too blind to see anything wrong. Just as blind as they still were to the truth about himself and Cersei. “This is your chance,” Cersei whispers. “Be allied with the Faith. They already love me for my generosity to the Sept, but I cannot associate with you in public. Say some words, and let the people think of you when they discover their faith again.” “What is a man, when he must say what he will never believe?” “What are you, indeed?” Cersei laughs slightly as she pulls him into a kiss, and he is lost. “You have no idea what has been unleashed. The new High Septon has septons and septas going out into the countryside and cities and rallying the people in their faith. Embrace this, and they will embrace us.” Perhaps there is power in the Seven after all. Cersei She hides her repugnance at these representatives of the Faith. Wrinkled septons and septas, dressed in brown robes; some are barefoot, and one has brought a huge shaggy dog with him. But they can be useful to her. They speak of the corrupt being cast out from the septries, of septons now visiting towns that had been in the darkness for lifetimes, of people rediscovering their faith. They speak of the decades of wealth accumulated by the Faith being redistributed, augmented by Lannister gold, and of how in the villages, the smallfolk bless Good Queen Cersei. “But there are many who would prefer the old ways of darkness,” one warns. “There are those who assault us, and not just common cutthroats and bandits.” Perfect. “Would it be helpful for you to have your own protectors, serving only the Faith and not subject to the avarice of sellswords or whims of lords?” They blink and whisper. “That would indeed be a great boon, but you speak of the Faith Militant,” one of the septons finally says, the one with the dog. “The Faith Militant was disbanded, centuries ago.” “By a royal decree, and a royal decree can be revoked. King Robert will not grant such a favor to the Faith, though.” She pauses and lets them think about this. “I shall talk with Lord Stannis. Perhaps he can prevail on his brother to heed you, or at least work from his own resources to protect you.” The representatives of the faith look at each other. “Your grace,” one of the King’s Landing septons finally says, “we have heard…rumors…that Lord Stannis no longer keeps the Gods.” “Lies spread by his enemies,” she ensures them. She will have to remind Stannis to be seen at the Great Sept. “Look at his life, as austere and pleasing to the Gods as can be, unlike the hedonism of…so much of the court.” Cersei demurely crosses her hands in her lap and lets them fill in the names of Robert and his friends, like that convenient foreign red priest. And they do. We’ll have our army. Stannis Bonifer Hasty and Theoden Wells wish blessings upon his head as they depart. Stannis holds back a scoff; it is their men he needs, not their blessings. The Holy Thousand, they call themselves, though there are far more than a thousand now. Throughout most of the Seven Kingdoms, knights flock to join them. They are not sworn to the Faith or to any lord – Robert has enough intelligence to not allow that – but their swords and armors are blessed by the High Septon, and these come from the forges of Dragonstone, paid for with Lannister gold. The knights ride with septons and septas throughout Westeros, and rid the people of bandits and criminals. But their headquarters are in King’s Landing, and a hundred of them are in the capital at any time. Jon Arryn watches all this in horror. But the Hand can do nothing; half his household has joined the Holy Thousand, and many of his devout bannermen are among its patrons. What can he do, after all? The Holy Thousand are volunteers, beloved by the people, and no law restricts them. The Master of Laws is a nonentity, and his goldcloaks are controlled by Cersei anyway. Stannis detests the commander, but he grinds his teeth and accepts Janos Slynt. Bonifer wants to have the Holy Thousand take over the duties of the goldcloaks, but that will have to wait. Slynt’s day will come. Justice, Stannis thinks; it will come to all the realm, and the Holy Thousand will be its instrument. Robert has less power every day, and does not realize it; he goes on drinking and whoring with his friends, not realizing that the brother he always despised has become more powerful than him. Will you ever open your eyes, Robert, and see what was always there? Cersei Robert stares angrily at her. “You and my brother both, always nagging me about allowing the bloody Faith to arm itself,” he snarls. “You should be suited for each other.” At that moment, something black and ugly crosses his eyes. He has just begun to suspect something, Cersei realizes. She no longer cares. “Stannis is far more of a man than you ever will be,” she snaps back. Robert’s meaty palm connects with her face. She recoils, then turns back to face him. “And you are no man to strike me so.” Her husband stares for a moment, then storms out. You will never touch me again, Robert. Robert will have gone to a brothel, as if to reassure himself of his manhood. “I want him humiliated,” she tells Richard Horpe. “I want his body found naked with two whores.” And then I will piss over you, Robert, like you drunkenly poured your seed over me. “One will be a jealous lover, with a knife placed in her hand. Then good Sers Meryn and Boros will break in, too late to save the king, and in their righteous fury kill the whores.” The scarred knight scrunches his face. “It’s one thing to kill an old man. It’s another thing to kill a king. I’ll need some…greater recompense.” She wants to throw her wine in Horpe’s face. Perhaps it would improve his looks. She is his queen. But Horpe is dangerous, and useful. “Master-of-Arms for the Red Keep?” Aron Santagar is one of those whom Stannis has marked; as a foreigner and a boon companion of Robert’s, he is doubly doomed. Horpe shakes his head. “I want Castle Rosby,” he insists. “Gyles Rosby is old, and has no heirs.” The coughing lord has his uses; he is one of Stannis’ closest allies, after all. But she will be rid of Robert, and she needs Richard. Rosby is worth it. “Done.” As she waits for the news, Cersei imagines stabbing Robert herself. The farce will finally be over, this sham of a marriage. She does not know whether to laugh or cry. Stannis He stares out the window. The bells have stopped tolling for Robert; men run about in the streets, but they are Stokeworth and Rosby men and the Holy Thousand and their own redcloaks and Dragonstone bannermen. For all the loyalty that Robert supposedly inspired, in the end he is humiliated and abandoned. It is as they have always planned, yet he feels…is it guilt? “Whatever else he was, Robert was my brother.” He lifts his hands and stares down at them. “My hands are clean,” Stannis whispers. They are sticky, but there is no blood. “He always shamed you,” Cersei reminds him. “He brought his death down on himself.” Her hands slide down his sides. “But at last we can be together.” “My wife still lives.” “For now.” He pretends not to hear, and only focuses on Cersei’s body. Stannis wonders if this will endure. It is a union born of hate; would it survive, when there was nothing more to hate, or would it turn on itself? There is a knock on the heavy wooden door, and they reluctantly pull away from each other. It is Rolland Storm who is there when they have gathered themselves and open the door. “Thoros of Myr and Jalabhar Xho have been arrested as you ordered, my lord.” Rolland steadfastly looks past Cersei, past them both. “Lord Varys and Ser Aron Santagar are taken as well,” Richard Horpe reports as he comes up behind Rolland and salutes. All of Robert’s cronies, those who might resist the next step, have been taken. No doubt some charges can be found against each of them. They deserve it, Stannis tells himself; they have all taken part in beggaring the realm. “The Holy Thousand have gathered in front of the Hand’s Tower, and Lord Arryn remains cowed. Ser Vardis Egan of his household guard is with us.” “Then let us go meet the rabble outside,” Cersei says, gathering up her skirts. “Let me do the talking.” A group is crowded up against the door of the Queen’s apartments. Gyles Rosby and Tanda Stokeworth are at their head, along with some of the leading citizens of King’s Landing and officers of the Holy Thousand. “The Queen is within in prayer with Lord Stannis, seeking guidance and comfort from the Seven in this terrible time,” Ser Mandon and Ser Preston keep repeating as they hold them back, until Stannis and Cersei appear and the shouting falls to a murmur. It is all a mummer’s farce. They speak of how Robert left no will, and how the Hand is no longer the Hand since he served a dead king, and how leadership is needed in this troubled time. Joffrey is but a boy, and while he will doubtless become a better king than his father, guiding hands are needed. They acclaim Cersei as Regent and Defender of the Faith, and himself as Protector of the Realm, until Joffrey be of age. And Cersei protests so sweetly, till she submits to the will of the assembled council and accepts the burden, and he must follow suit. And then lest there be any doubt, it must be done again, on a larger scale. Ser Barristan and Ser Jaime join them at the Red Keep’s gate with Joffrey, the Lord Commander looking thoroughly confused beneath his helm at all that has happened, the new king stomping in his boots as heavily as a four-year old could. It is towards Baelor that they direct their steps. There, the crowd presses up against the steps of the Great Sept, atop which a great platform has been hastily built. It is a swirling mass of humanity, the colors of the Holy Thousand prominent among them. And as he advances to the front of the platform, with Cersei and little Joffrey beside him and the High Septon behind, the new banner of the realm is unfurled from the top of the Great Sept. It is the rainbow of the Faith, trimmed with red and with a white disk in the center, with a black stag at the center of the disk. A dozen more of these appear throughout the crowd as the people raise arms in salute and shout their names. “King Joffrey!” they cry euphorically. “Stannis! Cersei! Stannis! Cersei!” This should not be happening for the second son of Steffon Baratheon, the crowds lustily cheering his name. But it is happening, and he enjoys this, Stannis realizes as he stands and listens. He had never been able to inspire loyalty like Robert, yet here was power. Cersei has always known and been working towards this, he reflects, and that is why they are standing here on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor with the people chanting their names. Not Robert, not Tywin, but them. Cersei and Stannis. This will last. >>> The last scene is inspired by this scene from Ian McKellen's reinterpretation of Richard III. Just in case you thought they're supposed to be heroes. Because Stannis isn't a hero. He does heroic things, but it's the thin line between hero and villain for him that makes him so complex, and here he's had that final push onto the wrong side of the line. As for Cersei, I hope that I was able to write her as a character with motivations of her own; it's the first time I've written her.