What Happened In the Godswood
catelyn tully/petyr baelish/lysa tully (1299 words)
There were berries that grew on the banks of the Trident. Red and green and deepest purple, they hung in clusters amongst thicketed branches — juicy baubles that taunted the birds above and the scurrying things below. They taunted the Tully children as well, Cat most of all. Whenever she ran past, she would afford them a glance, the braid of her hair whipping against her back in protest, like the reign of a bridle admonishing her, spurning her onwards.
Disobedient thing— the weight of her hair was as heavy as ironman’s rope between her shoulder blades. —be not tempted; the thorns would savage you. Now, on with you. Go.
As she ran, the Baelish boy would chase after. (He was smaller than all of them, a slip of a thing, but with bird legs that could hurry him along faster and quicker than anyone ever gave him credit for.) And without fail, he would always think that glance back was for him — the line of Cat’s profile offered to his jostling vision, those pale eyes framed by even paler lashes. Eyes he knew better than his own.
He was wrong, though; she would never look back for him. There was no need to, for Cat knew: where she went, Petyr would follow. Those were the roles they would play, and always.
A game, until it suddenly wasn’t.
After Petyr came Lysa (that was also part of the game), and where Cat would laugh and Petyr would snicker, Lysa would call out in her warbly voice: wait for me, wait for me, I’m coming, then stumble. The echo of her words danced like finches flickering between the trees, carried high above their laughter — the refrain of a song that no one but Lysa would listen to. But still she sang it, she sang and she sang until her throat stung and her knees ached with the scrapes they had collected so indelicately among the fallen tree trunks and gathers of wet moss.
There were twigs in her hair and her lungs had begun to burn as if they were on fire when she finally stopped to find her breath. With a hand, Lysa braced her weight against the sturdy spine of a birch and searched the distant trees for her sister’s white shadow moving amongst them.
Nearby sat one of those tempting berry bushes, its boughs drooping from the weight of its bounty. The fruits winked smugly at Lysa from amongst the thorns, as enticing as a high lady’s jewels. From somewhere beneath and inside, a creature rustled and the whole thing gave a shivering shake, its leaves kicking up a whisper. Perhaps if I am brave, Petyr will reward me, she then thought. If I go where Cat dare not tread.
But Lysa was not brave, her Tully fire ran hot cold, and she was scared more often than not. Still, earlier that week she had dove into the inland lake, had shut her eyes and hopped from the rocky outcrop that hung over its dark waters, even though the shallows had frightened her and taunted her from below. She knows she would not have been able if it had not been for the small hand that had grasped hers, the goading whispers from a boy who had to stand on tiptoe in order to reach her ear.
If it had not been for Petyr—
Lysa gathered her skirts and trembled. (No, she was not brave at all.)
Still, she crept forward. Still.
At first she tried tentativeness, her hands not daring to venture past the outer-most leaves, but few berries grew without the shade of the brushes’ branches and those that did had long been scavenged by braver, more daring creatures than Lysa Tully. After, she tried cleverness, wrapping the whole of her arm in the fabric of her skirts to form a protective sheath, like armor. No thorn would catch her, this much was true, but her fingers became ungraceful, leaden things and every berry she managed to grasp was soon squashed to jam as she tried to pull it from the thicket. In the end, there was no avoiding it; she would have to do it bare handed or not at all. But sweet sacrifices gave birth to sweeter rewards, or so that is what her septa taught, and Lysa had no choice but to believe her.
It is nothing, she told herself as the first of the barbs found her skin, the sting as bright and as vivid as anything she’d ever felt before. The berry it earned her was as heavy as a silver stag; its pebbled surface was as cool. It landed in the hollow of her welled-up skirts with a satisfying plonk against the cloth.
(It was a lie, of course, it hadn’t been nothing; but it had gained her something. And if that was not a reason for pride, then nothing truly was.)
Petyr, she reminded herself as she stared at that fat morsel and then thrust her arm into the bush once again. Wherever he had gotten to, he was calling out now (to her or to Cat, she couldn’t tell). Regardless, the thin echoes of his voice reached her ears and encouraged her, a salve to every bracing tear as the skin of her knuckles began to weep.
Petyr, Petyr, Petyr, Lysa repeated, until her skirt was heavy with fruit, until her cheeks were wet with tears rung from her by both joy and suffering.
She found them waiting for her, laid out across the dead leaves that had fallen from the crown of a sprawling oak. Its top-most branches stretched outwards into the canopy like the proud tines of a stag’s antlers, and so the tree had earned itself the name of ‘Storm’s End’. Lysa blushed when Cat admonished her disappearance, and then blushed further when Petyr gathered her hands in his own and breathed a warm breath on her wounds. You’ve been bold, he told her, a sly look about him.
Needlessly, her sister added as she wiped at Lysa’s red-rimmed eyes. But the chastisement began and ended with her words, Cat’s mouth soft upon her eyelids as she kissed one and then the other in gentle gratitude for the gift she had brought all of them. They invited her to sit at the base of the tree, where its elaborate network of roots had pushed upwards out of the soft to form a rise of knotted wood. And so, Lysa did, her back straight and her face flushed, regal if only for a moment, having been anointed by the approval gleaned from Petyr’s grinning eyes.
Like a queen, she watched with pride as they ate, the bounty of all of her hard work filling their mouths, dissolving like laughter on the tongue.
The afternoon yawned and sprawled itself over Riverrun like a brassy-haired dog. Stains dried on the hands of the Tully sisters and on the fingers of their father’s ward — smears of dirt and berries and blood, childhood things that would be washed away by the cool waters of the Tumblestone before returning home. The sun hung in the low-riding branches of the trees, a blood orange that threatened to fall from its perch and roll away behind the farthest of the foothills, bringing evening with its departure.
We should return soon, Cat told them, but the others pleaded and tugged at her skirts. (“I little while longer, Cat.” “A few more minutes, then we’ll hurry, we promise.”)
And so the three of them sat a while longer in the godswood. Lysa peering after Petyr, Petyr peering after Cat, and Cat peering through the trees, back to the river, to where she knew her father was waiting.