“Ben!!” Ethel cried in shock. “Let him go!” he said to Bronn drawing his sword in the mean-time. The rest of the men had drawn swords as well, though they didn’t come any closer. Arya had lost the anger she held for Tyrion for a moment, before it returned a second later with justifiable fury.
“Easy there lads, no need to do anything stupid. Now let’s take a step back and look at the case calmly. I can tell this man is your leader. Now I rather like this guy so I don’t want to hurt him, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.” Bronn speaks in a calm and assured voice. “Here is what’s going to happen. You lot are all going to head to that clearing down there. When you are, I am going to release your friend, take 2 horses and we will all go our separate ways.” The clearing he mentions is down a hill and past a copse of trees. If they go down there it will take about 10 minutes to run back up, though less than 1 for Brutus.
That would not work out for me. Judging by the steadiness with which he is holding the knife and the fluidity of his movement, he is very used to this position. I am confident he is used to such a situation, and is unlikely to make the stupid decision of trusting our word to let them go. Arya has displayed enough aggression that I would laugh if someone said we had no intention of causing them harm. This action of taking me hostage would only increase our hostility and remove the chance of peaceful negotiation. Which would be the correct assumption since I am planning to kill them both anyway.
He has already seen Brutus, they know the only way they are escaping is with a horse. That means they need to cut the other the other horses free or kill them. Both is not possible if I am here to interfere. As soon as Tyrion is mounted and ready Bronn would likely kill me and then run before the others could stop them. Brutus could still reach here before they get away, and even if they did, he is faster at traversing the landscape than horses, but they don’t know that. Nor do I intend to give them the chance.
I signal Brutus, who positioned himself behind Bronn, to growl. At the low rumbling sound, Bronn tries to reposition us so that he is facing Brutus with me as a shield, but doing so exposes himself. His balance shifts slightly and the knife slipped just enough away from my neck to give me some room to manoeuvre.
My hand flashes like a cobra, grabbing his arm which has moved slightly from my neck, and with incredible strength I wrench it down. Twisting his arm and turning my body with it, our positions are reversed. Twisting his wrist, I forced him to drop his knife and with a trip he was sent face first to the ground. With his arm held behind his back I kept him pinned to the ground with just a single arm of mine.
Everyone freezes at the reversal of fates. Bronn attempts to struggle, confused at my speed and strength, but with the application of a slight pressure he stops from the pain. I pick up his dropped knife and am about to stab down on his skull, when the dwarf speaks.
“Wait! Wait just a moment!” He holds his hands up and walks toward me. Ethel stands in his way, sword pointed forward. The rest of the men surround Tyrion and Arya, not giving any more chances for a counter attack. “Please you have nothing to lose by listening to me. If I can’t convince you otherwise you can still kill us. If you listen to me then you may know of a more beneficial option. All you have to lose is a few minutes of your time.” He waits in anticipation, knowing full well my answer will decide the fate of him and his man.
I consider the proposition for a moment. Checking that Bronn is held properly, I say to him. “You have 2 minutes to convince me it would be better to let you live than to slit your throats and leave you for the beasts.” Bronn is restrained and the dwarf is unarmed. He sparked my curiosity so I decide to let him speak. I pat Bronn down, then grab his other hand and place it flat on the ground outstretched before him, sleeves rolled back. “If that hand moves, I will kill you, then him.” With one hand held by me and another in clear view of any movement I am free from surprise attacks. I don’t take my eye off him though. As someone who just got out of a similar situation, I am not underestimating him.
“Tal, Harold, grab your horses and scout 200 metres down the road, both directions. Ride back if you see anyone coming. Brutus check the forest, I don’t want any surprise guests.” I still remember the hill tribe-men. Once the 2 men and one dog have gone, I nod to Tyrion. “Timers starting. I suggest you start as well.”
Tyrion takes a moment to collect himself, then turns and addresses Arya. “You are Arya Stark, am I safe to assume.” She looks surprised. “Don’t be shocked. Your obvious displeasure with my family name narrows down the options. I have spent very little time in the Vale and North. Considering that your mother and aunt just had me kidnapped and imprisoned, my luck tells me it can only be your family which I am in conflict with. Though the hair did throw me off, your age and face is close enough to determine who you are.” She looks to me and gives a questioning look. I nod to her, allowing her to answer. If he doesn’t convince me then he is going to die anyway, knowing the truth won’t change anything.
“Very well then. I will first assure you that I have no anger towards your family, now or in the past, despite recent events. I even helped your brother, Jon Snow, while I was at the Wall, and your brother Ban at Winterfell. Therefore, I can conclude your hatred of me is either the same as your mother’s, where I have been framed, or a member of my family has caused you harm, in which case you want revenge. In either case the benefits of keeping me alive outweigh the deficits. Since you don’t seem to be holding her captive, I am assuming you are taking Arya to Winterfell. Whether it is ransom, extortion or even punishment, it will be much more rewarding to take me with you and deal with me from there.” He finishes with his hands outstretched, like a prisoner waiting to be chained.
What he says makes sense. He is the son of Tywin Lannister, the brother to the Queen. As a political hostage he is about equal to Sansa and could be used to, if not free her, at least guarantee her safety until I can mount a proper rescue her. I look at Tyrion as I think.
“I have done nothing to harm you. I am just a victim of poor circumstances. Please, if you are going to kill me, at least make it for something I did. I can think of so many reasons. There must be dozens of married men who want me dead in Lannisport alone.” He jokes at the end. I smile and make my decision.
“Alright, you are coming with us. I will take you to Robb and he will decide what to do with you. If you run, Brutus will track you down and kill you.” He sighs in relief, as does Bron. “If you try and betray us you will end up like your friend.” I tell him as I plunge the dagger into Bronn’s skull.
“WAIT!!” Tyrion screams, too late. The dagger has sunk all the way up to the handle. He didn’t feel a thing.
“Why did you do that!?” Tyrion asks me, his fear forgotten to shock.
“Your time was up. I told you if you couldn’t convince me I would kill the two of you. You convinced me that there is benefit in taking you, but I see no point in keeping him alive.” It sounds harsh, but it was necessary. Bronn was aware of Arya’s identity and if he was let go then he could sell us to the Lannisters. Unlike Tyrion he was a commoner and no ransom or political benefit to be had in keeping him captive. He was also a skilled fighter and as he has just shown has no trouble taking someone hostage to ensure his escape. I don’t want to be on guard for his escape or betrayal throughout the entire journey. Next time he may take someone like Arya or Ethel captive and be much harder to deal with.
His death also serves as an example. I bend down so as to whisper in Tyrion’s ear. “Bronn seemed like a good guy, despite attacking me. I didn’t want to kill him. He just showed that he was better off to me dead rather than alive. For now, you are better off alive. Prove otherwise and I will remove your head and send it to your father to use as a flower pot.” I speak menacingly. Tyrion continues to stare at Bronn, shivering at the threat. I pat his shoulder and make my way to Arya.
I was exaggerating when I talked about flower pots. I am not stupid enough to admit to killing Tywins son and then taunt him about it. I may be on their shit list already, but I am at least not on top of it for the moment. There are plenty of Stags and Wolves to deal with. I will eventually get to killing Tywin, but it will be much easier if he is not looking for me specifically.
I face Arya and ask her opinion. “So, princess, what you thinking about?” I ask with a smile, which she doesn’t return. She is too busy staring at Tyrions back as he stares at his dead friend.
“He killed my father. The Lannisters killed my father and tried to kill me.” She states, teeth gritted in rage.
“Wrong little wolf. Tyrion was in the Vale, here, when Ned was killed. I don’t know much about the guy, and don’t really care to, but I do know he couldn’t have been involved.” I correct her statement. The girl is angry, justly so, when the enemy who took away her family appeared before her. If she wants him dead, I won’t stop her. Tyrion is an asset, one that carries certain risks, not an indispensable one. If Arya wants to vent then I owe her that after I failed her dad. But she will understand the facts before she acts, and I will allow no-one to interfere on her behalf. Ned had a saying, ‘the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword’. Not the most practical of examples, but suitable for the moment.
“Your enemies are your own to choose, Arya. No-one can tell you who is yours to kill, not even death. If you wish him dead, then deal it. If not then you must pass your hatred, for it will cloud your mind when faced with your true enemies.” Syrio, who had stayed out of the previous engagement, speaks now. It feels like he is encouraging her more than needs to be, but still has the same message as mine.
Arya rests her hand on needle, looks once more to Tyrion, then turns and returns to her tent where Nymeria waits for her.
“Ethel send a man up the road to fetch Tal, then start clearing the camp. Don’t bother sending someone for Harrod, we are heading his direction anyway. I am going to get Brutus and then dispose of the body in the forest.” I start dispatching orders and call for Brutus. Brutus can dig a shallow grave rather quickly so we can give him a somewhat dignified burial. I usually wouldn’t bother, but the carrot and stick method, fear and respect, would be the best to keep Tyrion docile. Showing a modicum of respect for his dead friend is one way to achieve that.
We tie his hands and allocate someone to ride with him, then head off, our group one dwarf larger.