Tag: Game of Thrones (page 1 of 5)

Honor & Blood, VIII: Victor

The Twins

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this tale can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: Victor Luxon
has completed his task of returning heirloom blades to the great Houses of Westeros. He and his household make for their restored castle at Moat Cailin, but not before visiting his father-in-law, Walder Frey, at the Twins…

“So…” The word was drawn out for a moment longer than most would consider polite. Victor Luxon tore another mouthful of meat from the haunch in his hand. He waited for the speaker to lean closer before he made eye contact.

Walder Frey’s mouth never stopped moving. The largest orifice in the old man’s weasel-like face was even more animated as he entreated his son-in-law. “So! You still have some of those old swords, do you?”

Victor shrugged. “My father has them. They’re locked up, under the Mage’s Tower.”

“The Mage’s Tower.” Walder turned his head to spit. The gelatinous projectile sailed down from their high table and landed in the soup of one of Walder’s sons. The young Frey gave his father a withering look. Walder merely chuckled. “Serve ya right for being so pretty, boy!” The old man turned to Victor. “Too much of his mother in that one. Too pretty.”

“So you said.” Victor took a drink of wine. “Why do you ask about the swords?”

“Freys don’t have ancestral blades. It’d be nice to have one.” He got that leer in his look again. “Just be a matter of putting a different hilt on it, I imagine. Who’d know the difference? A sword’s a sword, right?”

“To the peasants and the dim lower nobles,” Victor replied. “Show it to any of the Great Houses, and —”

“Oh, yes, have them call me a liar! I’m not used to that old sausage, not at all.” Walder Frey sniffed wetly. Victor tried to keep his frown to himself. He’d traded that bastard and his irritable smile for a completely different definition of the word ‘disgusting’. “Or, better yet, would I be ‘dishonoring’ the sword if I put some Frey colors on its hilt? That’s something you Luxons know all about, eh? Honor?”

“It’s in our words.” Victor set down his goblet. “Do you really want a Valyrian sword that badly?”

Walder blinked as if stunned. “Who wouldn’t? Pretty things, those. Look quite fashionable over my hearth.”

“A sword’s meant to be used. It’s a weapon, not a sculpture.”

“And how often does your lord father use his?”

Victor frowned. This conversation was quickly going in uncomfortable directions. “Often enough to make men without sense think twice before opening their fetid mouths.”

Walder’s expression darkened. “Boy, you’d best not take that tone with me.”

Victor met Walder’s gaze. “If we were squatting over the same shithole, father-in-law, you can be damned sure I’d tell you if your shit stank. I’d expect you’d do the same for me.”

For a moment, the mouth of Walder Frey made no sound. Then, like a hole in a sack bursting wide under the pressure of its contents, the Lord of the Crossing’s jaw hinged downward wide, and he laughed loudly.

“You just might be the most worthwhile in-law I ever had the good fortune to put in bed with one of my daughters!” He slapped Victor on the shoulder. Victor barely felt it. “I’ve seen lesser men, even my own blood, piss themselves when I round on ’em.”

“You do remember every insult hurled at you, or so they say. Most of that, I imagine, comes from so-called highborn manners.”

“Too right, you are.” Frey took a large drink of wine. “What is it that you want?”

Victor narrowed his eyes. “That’s a broad question.”

“Well, then, make your answer broad. Come on, speak up.”

“I want what you want.” Victor paused. “I want to make my house great.”

Frey leaned back, a long “ah” sound coming from his mouth. “And how, exactly, are you going to do that?”

“By engaging in actions my sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters after, will speak of in awe and reverence. By taking what is mine. By denying my house’s lands, titles, and holdings to those who’d take them from us.”

“You’re starting to sound like you see yourself as some kind of conqueror.”

“And why not?” Victor gestured broadly. “The North is vast. The Starks will not be able to control all of it forever. There will be opportunities that House Luxon will seize. I would dishonor myself, and all the Luxons past and future, if I settled for less than I’m owed.”

“So the Starks owe you the North, eh?” Frey grinned his skull-like grin. “Come now, boy. Such things should not be shouted from the parapets. They need be whispered, between those of similar ambitions.”

Victor furrowed his brows. He was not used to whispering about such things. He found the very notion uncomfortable. Honorable men did not whisper. Still, he nodded.

“Good. You have some sense, at least.” Walder Frey beckoned him closer. “Come, let us whisper now about our liege-lords, and how we might best serve ourselves, rather than their fat arses…”

Get caught up by visiting the Westeros page.

Next: Jon

Mondays are for making art.

No Pity

Courtesy Adult Swim

Good media doesn’t just entertain. It invites us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our world. It shows us things that can change, or need to change. And, sometimes, it points the way to the tools required to make that change, to be that change.

Take Rick & Morty. In the midst of all of the cruel cutting humor and Cronenbergian body horror, there are moments of true introspection and insight. “Pickle Rick” provided wonderful for-and-against arguments regarding therapy. We’re seeing Morty grow and change, standing up to Rick more often and seizing opportunities to be his own person. And now, in “The Wirly Dirly Conspiracy”, we more closely Jerry, the sad sack that exists mostly as a punching bag, a savage take on the typical “everyman” character, and the unwitting catalyst for the family problems that are just as important to the storylines as Rick’s alcohol-fueled mad science.

“You act like prey, but you’re a predator. You use pity to lure in your victims. It’s how you survive.” – Rick, to Jerry

Maybe it’s just me, but I had to pause the episode, step away, and take a long moment to think about myself, my past behaviors, and the changes I’ve made.

At some point when I was very young, I developed a titanic guilt complex. I would be extraordinarily hard on myself. I would emotionally (and, at times, physically) beat myself up, punish myself, for making a mistake. I think that part of my motivation for doing so was that if I punished myself hard enough, other punishments would pale in comparison.

Another part was that if I was outwardly hard on myself enough, others would take it easy.

I, too, preyed on pity.

Writing that out is at once damning and freeing. It’s something of which I am deeply ashamed. I am struggling to put into words just how insidiously toxic such behavior can be. I think about my past behaviors and actions, impulsive decisions I made; the knowledge that those choices hurt people I love, respect, and care about hurts.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those things I did. That I don’t turn the evidence over in my hand and look for things to correct and change. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t admit to myself how afraid I was of being abandoned should these things come to light — and how much I still fear.

Courtesy HBO

Fear is no excuse. There is no excuse.

I cannot take pity on myself any more than I should expect others to have pity on me. The things inside of me that served as the roots sprouting that poison fruit are not excuses. They are explanations. When a tree in your garden is rotten, you have to deal with it, before it lays waste to everything. You salvage what seeds you can. Then, you cut it down. You burn it.

You plant anew and you move on.

I’m still hard on myself. I still examine myself more closely and more exactingly than I do those around me. But that is because I am still growing, still changing. I do wish, deep down, that those who were affected by my actions could see — maybe even appreciate — the changes I’ve made and the ones I’m still making.

However, the only validation that truly matters is the validation I find and give to myself.

Other people will always think how they wish to think, feel how they wish to feel. For whatever their reasons, the way they look at me is something beyond my control. It doesn’t matter if they choose to be “on my side” or not. All I can do is show up as the best version of myself I can muster, own my mistakes in the name of doing better, and be present for people I want to be present for me. How they deal with that is up to them.

They cannot and should not have pity on me. Neither can I.

I will talk about how I think and how I feel. There are others in the world who fight similar battles against depression, anxiety, PTSD, all sorts of head weasels that clamor and screech for attention. It is my hope that being open and honest and up-front about these things can inspire others, or at least reassure them that they are not alone. In the past, that would not have been my motivation. But that is what it is now.

The line between asking for help and begging for attention or pity can be a fine one. And if you’ve done the latter in the past as I have, there are those who may not believe that you are engaging in the former.

Look within yourself. Do whatever you can to remain on the side of the line that will lead to you changing and growing. Distance yourself from the people and things that would drag you to the other side.

This is not easy. For me, it is one of the most difficult things to admit about myself and one of the hardest changes I’ve made.

And I am never, ever going back.

There is no pity in my soul’s city.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

The Rains of Castamere

I was up rather late last night, and I think the best way to illustrate why is the following song. Hum along if you know the tune.

Courtesy HBO & GRRM

And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
as long and sharp as yours.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that Lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
with no one there to hear.
Yes, now the rains weep o’er his hall,
and not a soul to hear.

Flash Fiction: King’s Landing’s Hero

Courtesy HBO

I rolled for the Terribleminds ABC meets XYZ challenge, and got “Game of Thrones” meets “Batman”. I’m not sure I stopped there.

Night falls on King’s Landing. I find another dog with its guts spilling into the street. This dog was a person, once. Someone’s son. Maybe someone’s husband. Once a human being, now a chilling corpse. Like this city. It once held wonder and potential. Now it is only death and misery.

So be it, I say. If this is how the city wants to rot under the Lannisters and their little product of juvenile lust, so be it. But innocents suffer too much. They watched loved ones rot and wither under the gilded heel of the lions. They cry out for justice, without saying a word, for fear of the blade of Ilyn Payne.

I’ve decided to answer them.

The rooftops of the city are where I roam. There was a time when the Lannister soldiers on constant patrol were a source of fear for everyone there who was not in Tywin’s keeping. For me, it had become a challenge to avoid detection every night when I slipped out through the hidden corridors built by the Targaryens. The libraries and hidden alcoves throughout the keep had given me the knowledge I used; late nights with needle and thread helped me craft the cloak and cowl that hid my identity.

It’s after two bells past the sunset that I find tonight’s prey. As much as the Kingsguard are supposedly on duty every hour of every day, they’re also supposedly celibate. Yet there was Ser Meryn Trant, making his way towards the house owned and nomially run by Petyr Baelish, the man they called Littlefinger. Trant knew better than to walk the streets in his pure white cloak and golden armor, but his swagger was unmistakable. Arrogance and smug superiority propelled his every step.

I cannot tell you how badly I want to kill him.

I wait until he was inside. I move and jump from one rooftop to the next, my steps sure and silent. The claws on my knees and palms carry me down the wall outside the house, and I peer into one room after the next. I finally find him, with two of Littlefinger’s girls. He sits near the bed, sharpening a dagger as he watches them undress each other. I can’t discern what he could be planning, but I decide immediately he won’t finish whatever depraved thought that fills his head.

As soon as he stands, licking his lips like a wild animal catching the scent of fresh meat, I kick open the window and enter the room. Trant turns towards me with a snarl. Before he can say anything, I am on him, one hand clamping his jaw shut, the other delivering a quick blow to his throat. The Kingsguard staggers back, still clutching his dagger. He’s moving towards his sword, even as he struggles to breathe. He is, however, off-balance, and I sweep his feet out from under him. As soon as he’s on the floor, my feet are on his chest and his own dagger rests at his throat, clutched in my gloved hand.

“Whoever you are,” he manages to snarl, “you’re dead.”

“When morning comes,” I whisper, “you’ll wish you were.”

He laughs at me before I bludgeon him with the dagger’s hilt. Something tells me that will be his last laugh for a while.

When they find him, hours later, he was strung up over a street in Flea Bottom. Stripped and left to cook in the morning sun, his fingers were all broken, along with his wrists and elbows and knees. He had been cut many times, the most vicious cut being the one that left him without his manhood. He is, however, alive. Death, after all, is a mercy, to hear the Lannisters tell it. I’m merely playing by their rules.

From the Hand of the King to the lowest urchin in Flea Bottom, everybody wants to know who had done this. Of course, when they find the message on Trant’s body, they come asking me.

But I am a mere, lowly prisoner here. I have been since Ser Ilyn Payne took my father’s head. I’ve spent so much time learning to avert my gaze and agree that my family are a pack of traitors that nobody’s noticed the time I’ve spent preparing for that night, and all the nights to come. I keep my eyes downcast. I pretend to fear the queen. I mask my disgust for Joffrey. I can still convince them that a prisoner is all I am, and that I am no threat to their plans, their gold, their precious throne. But I’m not without that streak of rebellion. I carefully hide any evidence I leave, seek out stray red hairs, keep my face concealed; yet part of me enjoys the game, the chase, almost daring them to confront me, so I can tell them what I really link of their house and what they’ve done to me and mine.

That is why, into Meryn Trant’s chest, I carved the words “BAD WOLF”.

Historical Narratives

Courtesy HBO

Winter is not only coming, it is just about here, and as the weather turns colder, my thoughts turn to A Song of Ice and Fire, specifically House Stark. But it isn’t just the austere, wary words of the house, nor its nobles and vassals, that I’m considering. I’m considering the ties it and the other parts of George RR Martin’s world have to our own world.

Specifically, Martin eschews the traditional bastions of so-called ‘high fantasy’ tales, with rather flashy magic and exotic creatures and races, opting for a more grounded backdrop for his narrative, characters, and intrigues. In this way, he hews much closer to historical events and themes such as the War of the Roses, the specter of nomadic marauders, and the roles of international relations and gender politics. It may not be as high-octane as some other tales, but it makes for more concrete and interesting characters involved in situations with high stakes and deadly consequences.

The lack of magic and proximity to history also means that there’s no easy way out for our heroes. Any line that you could draw between “good” and “evil” almost immediately becomes blurred as characters who appear virtuous either to us or to their contemporaries undertake actions to survive or prevail that, normally, they would otherwise shun or dismiss as ‘beneath them’. It focuses tightly on the nature of these characters, showing them not as archetypes or ciphers, but human beings first and foremost.

While genre fiction doesn’t necessarily need to hew away from the fantastical or the far-fetched in order to do this, it certainly never hurts to establish some concreteness in the story, in order to add context and depth. “Hard” science-fiction does this by extrapolating from existing scientific research, rather than creating wonders that basically run on magic.

This is not to say that such narratives are superior; there’s still fun and character exploration to be had in more fantastical settings. It just seems to me that if characters don’t have an easy way out, if they can’t wave a magic wand or spout some technobabble to fix their problems, they need to work harder, and in doing so they reveal more of their character to the audience.

Do you have a favorite historical narrative? Or a hard sci-fi story that does this in an exemplary way?

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