The wind tore past the entrance of the cave with all the fury of a charging army, whipping past so hard that Tywin was scared to stick his head out of the tiny hole for fear it might have been torn off by such powerful just of air. Even if he could walk in this blizzard, there was little chance he'd find the place he wanted, most likely he'd walk the totally wrong way then fall off a cliff into the freezing ocean and drown beneath the blue shifting waves. Crawling on his back through the tight squeeze he dropped suddenly into the large bulbous cave they'd taken shelter in, landing heavily on his feet that slipped from under him on the thin ice sheets but somehow he regained his balance and remained upright. The small fire they'd managed to create burned feebly giving off hardly any heat but at least it gave them some light to see each other with. 'It's bad...we're not going anywhere for a while.' Red Wolf was sat with her back against the wall with her arms wrapped around her in a feeble attempt to get warm; it still shook her violently every few seconds. 'How long do these blizzards last?
She coughed a laugh. 'How long's a piece of string? They can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.' Tywin swore sitting down on the wall opposite from her, resting his head back against the damp wall behind him.
'Why did you come for me?' she looked at him carefully, her blue eyes sharp as a predators.
'I couldn't see any other way you'd come back to us, I knew your knightly honour wouldn't let you leave a defenceless woman to freeze to death.' she said softly. Tywin laughed dryly.
'Knightly honour...' he whispered staring up at the roof.
'What about it?'
'Well let’s just say Red Wolf that I'm not exactly a very good knight, I've done things that...' he broke off. Shaking his head as the images flashed in front of his eyes like some horrible nightmare.
'Only because the king made you.' He laughed again.
'No...I always had a choice...I could have stood there and said no, but he'd have killed me...I didn't want to die...I took the cowards way out...'
'You stood in a circle of thirty and fought until you were brought to your knees by your own body and when offered death you stared it straight in the eyes and didn't even flinch,' said Red Wolf staring at the smouldering pile of dried twigs. 'I don't know you Tywin Phoenix Knight...but that doesn't sound like a cowardly man to me.' She looked up at him and for a brief instant something stirred in Tywin, a feeling he hadn't felt since Nana had been killed, since the first north attack.
'I've not been scared of death for a long time...there are worse things in this world than death.' he said softly looking into the flames.
'When were were travelling back to the Fang we had you strapped to litter on a mammoth saddle with me and a few guards...you screamed things.'
'Did I now.'
'You regret the things you did?' Red Wolf leaned towards him resting her chin in her hands. Twyin smiled dryly.
'Do I regret...' he laughed again. 'After Nana was murdered the king taught me that everyone we didn't know where our enemies, that they had hidden daggers everywhere who tried to kill me every night and if it wasn't for him I would have been dead a long time ago. Then I started thinking...what if he was the enemy...a good king doesn't hang starving people for trying to steal a loaf of bread from the bakers. A good king doesn't make a twelve year old boy take a kneeling man's head for a test of his loyalty, a good king doesn't order his men to burn people at the stake for acts of treason. But what could I do, I'm one man...he saved my life...at least...I thought he had...' pausing as tears ran down his face he looked up to Red Wolf. 'I regret a good many things Red...so many things...'
'Every soldier has regrets...'
'Do you?' that took her off guard.
'I'm one and twenty years old...the Mammoth Keep was my first battle...' she whispered the last words. 'I still see the faces of the men I killed...' she fell quiet. Eyes staring at the dying smoulders of the twigs.
'Me too,' he admitted. She looked up to him her eyes wet with tears. 'The first man I ever killed was under the kings orders; he was a soldier, a deserter from the Mainland. Ronnald Fitzrobert...I still remember his name after nine years, I still remember the feeling of his blood running down my sword handle, I still remember the sound his body made as he hit the floor...but I can't remember his face. I think I might...but it's probably so changed in my imagination after all these years it probably looks nothing like him.'
'Mine was an archer on the wall; I just jumped behind him and thrust. That was it, he fell back towards me...dead before he hit the ground. But his eyes still found me from the floor, so big and brown and empty...'
'Be thankful he didn't make you feel it, that was good and quick. The first man I killed in battle was a northmen when we raided that village...I never even learnt its name,'
'River Cross,' Red whispered softly. River Cross.
'God he was a fierce bugger...charged me with nothing but his sword in hand and the breeches on his legs. Brave fool. I cut his legs from under him as he swung, then as he laid there dying in the snow looked up at me...and there was no anger or hatred in his eyes, no fear even...just pity. He said something that I didn't hear and then just died...' Why the hell am I telling her all this? They were quiet for a long time after that.
'Elia...' Red said softly.
'My name...it's Elia.' she smiled cutely. Tywin smiled and reached a hand over the small gap between them.
'Tywin.' Elia smiled and shook it carefully. 'Pleasure.' What are you doing! A part of his head bellowed. She's the enemy! You have to go save Alaina!
'You told me and Cannis to go save somebody as well...Alaina?' he felt his smiled die at the mention of her name. She's probably been locked in the dungeons and tortured by now...he just nodded. 'She's a lucky woman.'
'What?' he asked bolting his head up to look at her. 'Oh no it's...no she helped raise me...she's like my older sister. She's the only family I've got left now.'
'Oh I see, I just assumed,'
'No,' he said with a small laugh. 'What about you?' this time Elia laughed.
'There have been a few but none stuck around longer than a few months...'
'Most men don't like to partner with a woman who can best them in a sword fight.' She smiled sadly. 'No one waiting for me either.'
'Aren't we a sad party then.' he smiled across the cave. She laughed softly; it was a nice sound, warm and somehow comforting.
'Tywin...can I ask you something?' dreading what was coming he just rested his head back onto the stone wall behind him, waiting patiently for her question. 'What things did the king make you do?' Don't tell her...don't tell her!
'Do you know what happened to the people I spared at River Cross?' he asked weakly.
'We heard that you took them back to the king and killed them in front of him one by one...but Harrad heard your orders himself, he believed the king brought them back for slaves...'
'I wish he had...' he sighed. 'I was a boy but even then I was filled with so much rage at losing Nana that I killed every man I saw, when we sailed back the Lord Commander of the Dragon Guard had smuggled all the survivors onto his ship without my knowledge. One day...the king took my for a walk into the main square of the Dragon Fort...he marched them in...naked...chained together by a mighty set of links that weighed each of them down so much it brought a lot of them to their knees.' tears rolled down his face as he stared at the floor by his feet. 'With all the Dragon's Guard there and half his court he put a dagger in my hand and told me to slit their throats one by one...to teach me a lesson, to obey his orders...When I refused he beat me bloody with the hilt of the dagger. Then Ser Jory Reinwood stepped forward as the king sat me up on my knees, again he put the dagger in my hand and placed it against a small girl’s neck...I dropped it.
'That made him angry. So he ordered Ser Jory to do it, he made me watch one after the other over a hundred people being murdered, if I closed my eyes he'd douse them in oil and set them on fire...I had to watch if I wanted to help them. A clean death, a quick death...watching was merciful...but four were burnt alive. Elders...women...children...all dead because of me...I killed them...' he broke down. He was back there in the yard bloodied and sobbing as the Black Bull slit their throats one after the other, the great silver chain slick with wet hot life force. 'I'm so sorry!' he wept into his hands. Sobbing like a broken man Tywin couldn't stop the barrage of tears, how long had he held these emotions up? Suppressed them for fear of the kings reaction. A gentle arm stretched around his shoulders as Elia sat beside him. After about twenty minutes the tears stopped, they just sat in silence. 'I'm sorry how I talked to you back in the Fang...' he said finally. She looked to him with a small smile.
'It's alright...you were scared.' She smiled removing her arm from around his shoulder. 'I'm sorry for the things the king made you do...it sounds like...hell.'
'It was...that's why I wanted you to kill me so then I wouldn't be used to cause anymore pain! I wish I was never given these bloody eyes.'
'I don't.' she whispered. 'Tywin you're a good man! The king sees you as a weapon to be wielding like a sword or axe, me and my people see a knight that inspires good. A knight that legends say fights for no king; a knight loyal to his own heart, the king took that from you and turned you into a weapon. We don't want you to be used anymore either Tywin...this is your chance to take control...right here...right now.'
'Elia Red Wolf.' he smiled looking at his newest friend. 'I think you're right.'