The story so far:

PrologueChapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18.

Chapter 19: The Passage Of Time

The passage of time can seem all too fast, or all too slow, or just right, depending on one’s perspective. A life spent enraptured in high drama seems to rush by like a dancing reel, but the notes of the tune never linger. They are meant to simply keep the mind from stopping to realize how mad the world has become. One must always be in motion lest the stillness contaminate the senses, and generate a yearning for something more.

     But for Tyrion one-time-Lannister, life had taken on a very new pace, a very new tune, worn into the years with a comfortable precision. The memories were interwoven gently, without the cut of glory or clash of guilt. They were love-wrought, softly, slowly, like the strings of a lyre in a lullaby. What dramas there were merely found there expressions in the change of chords without breaking through the song.

     And the song was laced through with the voice of a child. And her fair face, and bright blue eyes, and soft brown hair. They had decided to name her Sophie, in honor of the young woman who lost who life upon the swing, and for whose sake the lord of the manor had saved Sansa’s life with his skills as surgery. And as her name denoted, Tyrion hoped that she might grow in wisdom.

     One of the first things to catch baby Sophie’s attention had been a wooden hoop strung with ribbons of pink and blue and metal-fashioned charms of the sun, moon, and stars hanging over her crib. Tyrion first connected with her through it, for it was during spinning it and talking to her in his sing-song voice that he first got her to laugh. Though she was too tiny to understand any of it, he would make up stories for her, with the sun and moon as father and mother, and all the stars their children.

     He had been nervous to hold her for a long time, always tentatively asking Sansa permission whenever he drummed up the courage, and she always having to remind him it was his child as much as hers. Indeed, she indicated, with some small internal knowing, she was very especially his. Over time, he got much more confidant holding her, and she would clutch his shirt, and he would comment upon how she really loved his shirt.

     One winter day, when Sophie was one years old, Sansa had dressed her in a lovely little red hood and matching dress, and was showing her the beautiful mountain snow that had iced the balcony, and the view of the peaks in the distance. Sansa herself had been wearing a gorgeous burgundy dress and gold-fringed red cape. With Tyrion improved status and position, they could afford such things now, and Sansa had made short work of sewing them all proper clothing.

     Tyrion himself had learned to dress plainly and preferred it now to any former finery which brought too many mixed memories with it. Nevertheless, he loved seeing his girls look so beautiful, and when he came in upon them, he was beaming ear to ear.

     Sophie caught sight of him and with outstretched arms she cried gleefully, “Papa!”

     It was her first word.

     Tyrion turned positively pink with pleasure, although then he felt slightly guilty that she had not addressed her mother first. Sansa tried to hide it, but he knew that she felt it keenly.

     “She’s yours, Tyrion,” she stated, smiling softly.

     “Ours, love,” he assured her, taking the little one in his arms, but simultaneously squeezing his wife’s hand.

      That the little girl was clever beyond her years could not be doubted as she grew up. That her father had read to her constantly as a baby and a toddler no doubt helped inspire her own love of books, and her quickness to grasp concepts. That he had grown to love her with a depth only rivaled by his love for her mother was evident, for as her mother had assured him, she did not judge by his looks, his height, his past. She simply knew him for his love, and returned it to him.

     And their love was bound up in books, for Tyrion had become more than an archivist. He had managed to break down the wall between himself and the elusive Thurandin, and convinced him to allow him to formulate a library that could be utilized by the public as a means of educating the villagers. He had also earned himself a title as hand of the lord, and a mediator between the nobleman and the village counsels from who he had been separated for so long.

     “Knowledge is power,” he had repeated to Sansa when first telling her of the plan put into action, using his new position to make learning accessible to the villagers. “We have tried keeping it bottled up, and it betrayed us in the end. Time to let it out of the glass.”

     The seasons turned over and over again as Tyrion’s plans bore fruit. Meanwhile, little Sophie grew older, and when she was four, Sansa began to desire another child. But Tyrion was terrified of the notion, realizing how very close to death her last pregnancy had brought her. Sauriel had given her a beaded bracelet meant to help monitor the cycles of her body, and the method had been successful in avoiding conception. But it disturbed Tyrion to no end when she began to purposely “forget” to wear it.

     “Sansa, why tempt fate like that?” he would explode, exasperated, realizing she had no idea whether she had been fertile or not the previous night when they had relations.

     Because I want to be the mother of more than one child in my life,” she responded.

     “That’s just selfish,” he snapped. “You’re risking leaving me without a wife and little Sophie without a mother.”

     She felt sufficiently rebuked by this. “I’m sorry, Tyrion,” she murmured. “It’s just…so much a part of me, I suppose, to want more children. It’s how I was brought up. And…perhaps I was hoping the next child would be…more like me.”

     “What’s that supposed to mean?” he queried, somewhat annoyed.

     “I mean…Sophie is Sophie. And while I love her more than my life, she will always be more a mix of you, with your cleverness, and my sister Arya, with her wildness. She even looks rather like Arya.”

     “Sophie’s not that wild,” Tyrion defended her. “I mean, not in a really bad way.”

     “I never said she was bad,” she exhaled. “She’s not a bad girl, but…Tyrion, sometimes I think you let her run wild without discipline.”

     “She doesn’t do anything that bad…”

     “Maybe if she were a little boy. But she’s supposed to be a growing into a young lady…”

     “That’s an obsession with you, wife,” he grumbled. “Maybe she’s just not cut out the same way as…”

     “My point exactly.” She sighed. “I’m willing to concede to that. I tried to force my sister to be like me back in the day. It just caused us both a lot of needless pain. But the facts remain the same.”

      Tyrion shook his head. “What would have me do? Lock her in a tower to make her into a perfect lady for you?”

     She turned her eyes down and shook her head. “We said once that she was part lion and part wolf. I can see that in her, even at this age. And Tyrion, there’s more. She’s…”

     He shook her head. “Go on, say it. Say what you’re thinking.”

     “She’s very smart. Frighteningly so, sometimes. Have you not noticed her sometimes, imitating the stories you tell her? She makes herself crowns and scepters…”

     “All little girls do that,” he countered.

     “No. She makes herself crowns that serve as war helmets and scepters that serve as swords. She enjoys giving orders, and there is a look in her eyes when she does it…”

     “Sansa, really, she’s all of four years!”

     “She’s knows who she is, Tyrion, even though she has never been told.”

     “I see,” he whispered lowly. “Too much a Lannister for your tastes? Would you prefer to send her back, and get a replacement?”

      “Tyrion,” she exhaled. “You know that’s not what I mean. I understand how close you are to her. But can you not understand how I feel as well?”

     He met her gaze and sighed. As much as he wanted to say did not understand, he believed that he did. Poor Sansa was insecure as ever, had lost everything to the Lannisters, and even though she loved Tyrion deeply, he was still one of them in a way that manifested itself through the generations, and her daughter was a Lannister in a way that she never could be. And she felt she was losing her only child to him, the child she had nearly given her life for when that very Lannister father was willing to sacrifice her for Sansa’s sake.

      “I…understand,” he tried. “If another child comes to us through what you’ve done, I will…understand.”

     And sure enough, it did.

     The second pregnancy went much smoother than her first one. Indeed, as opposed to her onset of melancholy, she seemed to have grown rather giddy with joy during this one. Sauriel noted that she seemed certain the next child would fulfill the incompleteness she felt in her heart. Tyrion was not sure if this were entirely healthy, especially for Sophie, who contrary to her mother’s estimations, he knew to be a very sensitive girl little beneath the spunkiness and wit.    She was sensing that her mother seemed determined that this new baby would make up for everything she found lacking in Sophie.

     It was not that Sansa was ever cold to her dark-haired little girl; and yet she was always chiding her for one thing or another, as if she failed to meet some imaginary level of perfection in her mind. Tyrion’s seeming inability to take it upon himself to try and tame some of Sophie’s unruliness only exacerbated the problem. But taking to heart all the horrible punishments he had received as a child, he could not manage it with his own.

     What neither of them seemed to have anticipated was that the child would once again mirror the father…this time, in form.

      It was another baby girl. And she had to be straightened when she came forth from her mother. And Tyrion was heart-broken. Especially because she was a daughter, the daughter Sansa had so desperately wanted to be more like a proper lady…now all ruined…

      “Sansa, I’m…sorry,” he had blurted to her when he first came into her after the birthing.

      She looked from her child to him and just smiled, cradling her close, letting her nurse. Nurse. The thing Tyrion had always feared his mother would never have let him do…

     “She’s beautiful, Tyrion.” She smiled deeply. “She’s…everything I wanted.”

     “You don’t know…what hardship she will have to…bear up against,” he choked, “all because of me.”

     “But she will not suffer like you did,” she countered. “She will know she is loved.”

     “Yes, but even so…”

     “Husband, may I ask you a favor?”

     He blinked. “You know you can. Anything.”

     “Just…may I name her…after my mother?”

     He shivered. “I doubt Lady Catelyn would like that…very much…”

     “Oh, yes, yes…she would…” Sansa bit her lip at the suggestion that her mother would not like her newborn child. “I know…I know she could be…cold sometimes, but…no, no…she could possibly be that cruel…not to my baby…” She gestured for Tyrion to come closer. “Our baby.”

     Tyrion got himself up into the bed and inched his way closer to his wife and new child. A lump lodged in his throat and he touched the face of his dwarfed daughter. “Her face is…fine,” he whispered. “I think…I do think…in every way but the growth of her bones…she will be her mother’s own. Yes…yes, she is…beautiful, my love.”

     As the months passed, and Sansa spent more time focused on the special needs of her Caitey, Tyrion spent more time with his increasingly confused and rather put-off Sophie. And he started to tell her more about their past, about how they had come from a land across the sea, where once they had lived among the castles and grandeur in the storybooks he used to read her.

     “Papa, why did you leave the land across the sea?” the five-year-old had asked him one day as they walked in the garden. “It sounds like it was a grand place.”

      “Yes, grand,” he agreed. “But not very good. Do you understand the difference, Sophie?”

      She squinted in an effort to make sense of it. “I don’t know, papa.”

      “I’ll put it this way,” he started. “What would you choose, if it were offered to you, a crown jewel or a garden flower? Or the chance to live beneath a gilded ceiling, but never again to see the sun shine in the sky? Tell me, dear, would you take cake you knew was made with bad ingredients, even though it was sweet tasting, over a plain but filling piece of bread?”

      She looked at him deeply, and her blue eyes hazed over with a Lannister’s thoughts. “But you could have done great things there. You are smart enough. You could have ruled it all.”

    He smiled a little and shook his head. “I could have played but a small part, love, as one plays with puppets behind a screen.”

     “But you would have done it well, for you are clever.”

     “And if I were clever, and yet did not love, what would I be? If your mother were beautiful, as she is, and yet did not love, what would she be? And people cannot love when they are dead inside. And in that land, grand as it may have been, we were dying inside.”

      Sophie slowed her walk to a stop. “Mother doesn’t love me near as much as Caitey.”

      “Your mother does love you, Sophie,” he insisted. “Very, very much. It’s just…Caitey is special to her in a different way…like you are special to me in a different way. Some things can be both/and.”

     “But then why could you not have had both love and power? All things grand and good would have been yours.”

     “It is possible to balance the two,” he admitted. “But just barely. For one might easily be tempted to think…just a little too much of themselves, want a little too much for themselves. And then do you know what happens?”

     Sophie shook her head.

     “They lose everything.  And you know something, my love?”

     “What, papa?”

     “I wouldn’t want to lose you. Not for anything. And I feel rather grand for having you.”

     The little girl smiled softly, and slipped her hand into his. “Me too, papa.”

     He squeezed it in response, and turned to one of the bright yellow flowers growing through the cracks in the garden gate. He pulled it from the stem and stuck it into his daughter’s hair. “And now, your highness, you do look truly grand at that.”

Avellina Balestri (aka Rosaria Marie) is one of the founding members and the Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King, a literary magazine with a strong Tolkienite influence (which, by the way, is open to submissions). She reads and writes extensively, and eagerly seeks out the deeper spiritual significance of popular fandoms such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. And yes, she does have a soft spot in her heart for classic Disney movies, The Princess Bride, and Merlin 😉 She is also a recording artist, singing traditional folk songs and her own compositions as well as playing the penny whistle and bodhran drum. She draws her inspiration from the Ultimate Love and Source of Creativity, and hopes to share that love and creativity with others.