The walk back to the Fang was easier than they had expected when the storm had died down, Elia said every storm they had changed the landscape of White Isle drastically making it hard to know what direction to travel in. She said that was why they had so few villages and such massive cities, but the Red Wolf knew secrets of tracking through snow that Tywin had never heard of. 'See these?' she said pointing down to a small ribbon of snow that had grown above the surface making a small curve. 'These only happen when the wind blows from north south, that way.' she said setting off in a totally new direction. Tywin wasn't sure she really knew they were going but his fears were killed when the huge spear of rock erupted from the white horizon. Now they walked through the streets on compact snow the people whispering to themselves as they passed, children laughed as they played with wooden swords but even they stopped when Tywin passed them.
'They're all scared of me.' he whispered to Elia.
'The king wanted it that way, so they knew if they ever betrayed him or disregarded his rule that you would come and punish them...' she whispered back as they approached the Fang. It took them little more than an hour to reach the top and when they did Elia pushed open the doors to the stone hall, they made their way inside the empty building leaving footprints of white snow behind them. 'Wait here.' she said with a smile as she disappeared through one of the dozens of doorways that lined the walls. Tywin stood alone with his hands behind his back. It was a large hall with torches lining the walls between the doorways casting their orange glow onto the dark stone walls and floor. Twelve massive round tables were dotted around the hall each one with dozens of small tables dotted around them, but every table had huge oak wood chairs, all the same size. Even the long head table at the end of the hall had these chairs, only the shiny black throne of the White Isle was unique.Is that to show the High Lords power...No...It’s to make everyone equal.He realised with a smile.
'Hello...' said a small voice behind him. Turning a small girl stood almost directly behind him. She looked up at him with huge emerald eyes that glittered in the light of the torches, her long dark hair almost reached her waist in its thick heavy braid, a fine dress of green silk matched her eyes perfectly and she carried a small rag dog in her hand.
'Hi there.' he smiled. When she made no other move to talk he smiled and pointed to her doll. 'Who's that?'
'Ser Knight...' she said showing him the small rag doll. It was well worn with a cloth sword at his hip and a round shield in his hand. 'He protects me.'
'Does he? He must be very brave.' he smiled crouching down to the girl’s eye level.
'He is...he protects me from the bad guys like you.' Her words cut him like a knife.
'I'm not a bad guy...'
'Mummy says you are but Grandpa thinks you're lost, Mummy says you hurt people for the king, Mummy says you're going to kill us all.'
'Ariel!' barked a deep voice. The girl looked up with an emotionless face.
'Ariel go with your mother.' said Cannis harshly. Ariel gave him one last searching look before striding nobly past him, standing Tywin saw Cannis and a buxom woman with a elegantly pretty face and the same deep emerald eyes as her daughter stood at his side. Her hair was a lighter shade of red than Elia but still strong as molten iron.
'Lady Wolfborn,' bowed Tywin dutifully even thought his heart felt strangely broken. Cannis's wife stared at him with boiling eyes before picking up her daughter in her arms turning briskly and walking from the hall. As they left Ariel looked over her mother's shoulder and gave him a wave. He waved back weakly. 'Am I so hated?' he asked Cannis when they were alone. The High Lord of White Isle looked at him with a blank face.
'Would you prefer the truth or a lie?' said Cannis.
'I think you just gave me the answer,' sitting down on the nearest chair Tywin rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palms.
'I'm sorry Tywin...the king's propaganda against you has come thick over the three years Jade Isle held us, you are not the most welcomed person here.'
'So why do you and your father think me different than Baelor's words?' he asked looking up to the huge man as walked towards him.
'Maxum Croft is not the only man with spies in Dragon Fort,' smiled Cannis. 'I know the things he made you do...I know about your drinking...I know many things, not as much as that snake Maxum I admit but I know enough.' Tywin laughed dryly.Am I welcomed anywhere?'Your Alaina is safe,' he said as he sat on a chair opposite to him.
'Thank the gods...' he breathed.
'Still in the kings grasp but my people tell me she hasn't been harmed,'
'We have to get her!'
'I know...and we will but there are others things we need to talk about.' Cannis rubbed his callused palms together and stared at the floor for a long moment of silence. 'My aunt raised you...by our own law that makes you my blood...but the north stretches deeper into you Tywin.'
'I know I'm from the Ice Islands.' he said softly but something in Cannis's face stopped him from talking anymore. 'Aren't I?'
'The Ice Islands are surrounded by a thick fog cloud all year round called the Veil, no ship has ever gone through it safely...no one has ever been to the Ice Islands.' said the High Lord carefully looking at Tywin with huge brown eyes.
'So...if I'm not from there...' he paused knowing the answer as soon as soon as the last word left his lips. 'I'm from here.' Cannis managed a small smile before nodding slightly.
'The king has always had a strong hatred for the north, I'm not really sure why but he does. Did you know that White Isle had never harboured a Phoenix Knight, fourteen knights over countless millennia and not one came from White Isle, until one day we heard a rumour about a village beyond the Flakes...and a boy that had been born so hot that he burnt the midwifes hands and had eyes as bright as gold...'
'Who were my parents?' he interrupted. Cannis stopped and looked at him but Tywin couldn't meet his gaze.
'Your mother was a Astrologer studying the heavens, your father was a black smith one that rivalled the smiths from Iron Isle apparently...but as for their names or what they looked like I couldn't tell you. I'm sorry.'
'Astrologer and a smith.' He smiled. 'I like that...' Cannis smiled back at him but it didn't last long.
'The next is guesswork but I assume that when the king heard of your rebirth he either wanted you because you are so powerful, or because he was worried a Phoenix Knight from the White Isle would give us too much power...It was actually a barbarian attack that took your village, at least that’s what we believed...until you turned up at Dragon Fort with the king, then we knew.' They sat in silence for a long time, or at least it seemed a long time to Tywin sat staring at the floor by Cannis's leather boots.
'I'm a northman.' the words being said felt oddly relaxing, soothing, he suddenly felt like he had a home in the world again.
'Yes my nephew.' smiled Cannis. 'There was only one other survivor of your village, Elia.' grinned the High Lord. 'I was still a boy when my Father came back and put her in my hands, saying we'd raise her like our own...and we did and are. Just like my aunt did with you.'
'It has a certain ring to it.' Smiled the huge wolf. Grinning back Tywin felt...he felt...at peace. But one thing needed to be done.
'I want to speak to your people.'
'I'll call a council.' Tywin shook his head.
'No I want to speak toallof your people.'
'The whole city?' Cannis looked confused. 'Erm...we have a square at the foot of the Fang, people go there when the bells toll but only for announcements or death.'
'I'd like to speak to as many as possible, your wife, your daughter, every smith, maid, tanner, seamstress, jesters. Everyone who wants to hear me.' Cannis nodded standing with Tywin.
'I'll ring the bells.' And ring them he did. He didn't know where they were in the Fang but the booming dings carried through the city like nothing he had ever heard before, standing in the shadows of a large stone dais the crowd slowly started to gather in the huge square. They all looked confused about what they were doing here and people were so anxious to see they had run into the houses surrounding the square and stuck their heads out he top windows, some even climbing out to stand on the roofs. 'Tywin are you sure about this?' asked Elia worriedly by his side, with his hood up to hide his face, Cannis caught his eye at the front of the courtyard with Ariel on his shoulders and his wife stood at his side asking him questions that he didn't answer.
'I have to do this! If they don't trust me they'll never fight by my side...' he looked at her and her stubborn blue eyes looked back at him. 'I hear we're from the same place.' Her face softened slightly.
'Yeah...good luck.' then she turned and left without another word. It seemed everyone in the city had come to the bells call. Even Harrad stood in the crowd resting on a huge knotted wooden staff with an odd looking man in a pure white robe stood beside him. Sucking in a great lung full of air he walked through the small side street and up onto the stone dais with as much confidence as he could muster, the crowd fell completely silent when he stood before them with his hood still concealing his face. As he lowered it and shrugged off the cloak they burst into shouts of rage, some even in terror.
'People of the Fang!' he yelled raising his hands defensively. 'Hear me!'
'We don't wanna' hear your words dog!' bellowed a man in the crowd with several 'yeahs!' following his outburst.
'Please let me speak!'
'Your soldiers raped my little girl!' shouted a greying old man close to the front.
'I 'ad family in River Cross you bastard!' yelled a woman. Soon the mob was all shouting curses, Cannis made a move to climb onto the dais Tywin waved him down. A rock flew through the air. Acting swiftly he bent to the left and caught it with his right hand, then the crowd went quiet.
'I stand before you now...a monster. I have done unspeakable things under the rule of Baelor Barristan. I stand before you now as nothing! I have betrayed the names of my progenitors and made the title of the Phoenix Knight a thing of fear and hatred when it should be something of honour, respect, wonder. I stand before you and humbly ask for your forgiveness.' Uproar. A hundred voices joined together as one to shout him down.
'Why should we forgive a murderer!'
'Kill 'im!' one voice shouted. Others agreed and Cannis once again made to stand on the dais but Tywin drew his dirk from its sheath too quick, holding the blade point against his chest.
'Any man who wishes it can step up here right now and plunge this dagger into my heart!' the crowd stiffened slightly. 'I will not fight you, this is no trick. I deserve to die but I've come here in front of you asking you for life! For a second chance! A chance to try and make amends for my sins! I cannot bring your families back to you, those who died at River Cross did so with sword in hand swinging until their last breath. I tell I regret that day...with all my heart. I regret what happened to the survivors,'
'You 'ad 'em butchered!' bellowed a man near the very back.
'Do you wish to know what truly happened to the survivors of River Cross? Those who don't I suggest you leave!' no one moved. 'I was ordered by the king to kill everything and burn it to the ground, I ordered the men at my back to spare the women, elders, children and men under fourteen...they did but without my knowledge they were taken to the Dragon Fort. Stripped naked and chained together, the king ordered me to kill them all one by one but I refused...' tears slowly began to flow. 'I regret not doing it. I am a northman! Born to a village the king had destroyed to get me...those people deserved more than what they got...I regret not giving those people a quick death, they were killed by a monster. Just to teach me a lesson.' pausing he looked into the faces of the now quiet northmen. 'Kill me, if that's your choice I will respect it, but let me bring you Baelor Barristan's head first.'