Office of the Hand
Aaron sat quietly in the small alcove of the Hand’s office, a large fraying tome in his lap and glass of water on the table beside him barely touched. He was unaware of how much time had passed since their return to King’s Landing with the erstwhile Targaryan Knight, but judging by the increasing agitation of Adham Dannett, it must have been several hours. Every page Aaron read was punctuated by the passing of Adham past the archway to the main room, the tinny rustle of his armor having taken on a rhythmic quality.
“If you continue, Adham, you will end up wearing a hole in the Hand’s carpet,” said Aaron blithely in an attempt to lighten the young man’s demeanor. “which would be a shame as that’s one of the nicer Dornish patterns I’ve seen.”
Adham stood frozen in the archway, blinked twice, grimaced and then dropped heavily into the chair opposite. Silence fell across the room and after a few minutes, the young Lord could obviously feel the weight of it. “I don’t know how you can be so calm.”
“I had a good teacher.” replied Aaron glancing up through the archway at Ser Gerbold. The knight stood near the Fox Knight having neither moved nor spoken since their arrival.
The minutes dragged on as Adham shifted in his chair watching Aaron turn pages. “What are you reading?” finally asking, looking for any opportunity to break the silence and distract himself.
“It is a treatise on the last Targaryan war.” smiled Aaron. “It’s quite interesting. Among other things, it would seem that Ser Archay was quite the war hero in his day.”
“He’s not a hero, he’s a monster.” retorted Adham viciously.
With a thoughtful look, Aaron closed the book and placed it on the table beside him. “I suppose he could be both,” Aaron regarded Adham for a moment. “but that’s not what’s bothering you. What’s bothering you is that you can’t think why a senile, deluded old knight, still living in a world gone long before either of us were born would want to kill your people. You know that finding him has given us more questions than answers and, if you’re as smart as I think you could be, you’re wondering why it was so easy to find him.”
“It wasn’t exactly easy to find him-“
“With Ser Joris leading the way I would call it a miracle, yet here we are after just half a day.”
Adham stared off into space, frowning. “It was almost like he was waiting for us.”
“He was certainly expecting someone. Which means…?”
“Someone in our party is colluding with Archay and led us right to him.” finished Adham with some surprise. He thought for a long moment more. “It could have been you.”
“Agreed.” replied Aaron with a soft smile. “That would certainly be the obvious choice. Although if it was me I doubt I would be going to such effort to keep the man alive. I would be very worried about what he would have to say.”
Adham continued to think quietly. “He seemed to know the Lugases.”
“Of course, you may just be using that to deflect suspicion from your House. You may just be trying to confuse me. You must think me naïve.” Aaron failed miserably to suppress a smile which only served to infuriate Adham. “All this time saying you want to be my friend you’re just mocking me.”
Aaron smiled broadly and shook his head. “I’m sorry Adham. I do think you’re a bit naïve, and I do wish you had more confidence in yourself, but I’m not mocking you. I’m jealous of you.”
“You’re jealous of me?”
Aaron’s smile faded. “Adham, naiveté is a luxury, and it’s one I haven’t been able to afford for a long time. Not since my mother died, truth be told. I spend half my days trying to be the best Heir I can to house Pierce and the other half doing damage control for my Father.
I’ve had five assassination attempts on my life, mostly by people trying to get at my Father through me. One was a distraught mother whose young son had been executed. I ended up having to bludgeon her to death with a candlestick. I was nine.”
Adham looked at Aaron, his eyes wide. “Was the boy guilty?”
Aaron sighed heavily. “He was guilty of a crime, but not one worth two people dying for.” They both sat in silence for a long moment. “Did you know that every Lord of House Pierce has been insane to one degree or another? I doubt I will be the exception. So, if I call you naïve, don’t take it as an insult. Once you lose it, you’ll never get it back. I just hope I’m not going to be the one responsible for you losing it.”
Adham sat for a minute not knowing what to think. In the beginning everything had been so cut and dry. Now it was all murky muddy water. He couldn’t imagine having to live like this every day. “Can you tell me with surety that your House isn’t involved?”
“When you say ‘your House’ what you really mean is ‘my Father’.” Aaron pondered. “Truthfully? No. I have my suspicions about what’s going on, but I need more information. Initially, I’d considered his involvement as a possibility, and while I think that that is becoming more and more remote, I haven’t dismissed it entirely yet. However, that is not to say he won’t take full advantage of this situation.”
“What do you mean?”
Aaron, seeing Lord Arryn enter the main office, rose and looked down on his House Dennet counterpart. “You may not believe this Adham, but I’m starting to like you very much. I’ll do whatever I can to help you and your House, but spreading open accusations against House Pierce across half of Westeros will have consequences. Let’s hope we find who is really behind all this, for all our sakes.”