The arrival of two golden-haired children has shocked the ghosts. Mouths agape, they stare at the laughing twins, still chasing each other around the dark and crowded space.
Robert: How did this happen?
Olenna: Does it change anything?
Ned: [firmly] It changes everything.
Cat: I can’t torture them now. Look at them.
Robert: [roars with frustration]
Ned: They don’t remember anything, my friend.
Robert: I’ve seen a lot of strange things here, Ned. But this…
Robert: This is so unfair! Years I’ve been waiting! YEARS! The thought of your wife making her cry was all that was getting me through it.
Cat: Lord Tywin, how old are they?
Tywin: [barely audible] Seven.
Robert: How can you possibly remember that?
Tywin: [tries to speak, then shakes his head]
Robert: [frowning, then turning in the direction of Cersei] Little girl!
She stops, and turns to look at the stranger. He looks confused and unhappy. Her grin fades slightly, but she remembers her manners. She is a lady, after all.
Cersei: Yes, my lord?
Robert: How old are you?
Cersei: Seven, my lord.
Jaime: So am I!
Cersei: But I am the oldest.
Cersei: Soon, we will have a little brother or sister! That’s what Mother says!
Cat looks at Tywin, and sees his pained expression. She looks back at the twins.
Jaime: I hope it’s a boy. I would like to have a brother.
Cersei: I am just as good as a boy!
Robert: [impatiently] Yes, yes. Of course. Do you know who I am?
Cersei thinks for a moment, and then a moment more. Slowly, her face starts to fall. She has a terrible feeling that she should know who he is, that Father will be cross with her if she offends this stern and formidable lord. She is furious when she feels her chin start to tremble.
Jaime: She’s going to cry!
Cersei: I am NOT! You are the cry baby!
Jaime: No, YOU are!
Robert: Seven hells…
Cat: [suppressing a shudder] Jaime, Cersei— we don’t fight in here. Say you are sorry.
The children mumble to each other, and look sheepish.
Cat: [perturbed but firm] That’s better. Now, how would you like to see some dragons?
Jaime: Dragons aren’t real!
Cersei: They are too! One day I will marry a handsome prince and we will have dragons, and we will RIDE dragons and everyone will love us!
Robert: Bloody hell…
Cat: Robb, take the twins and introduce them to the dragons.
Robb: Why me?
She raises her eyebrows and stares at him without blinking. It is a look she hasn’t given him since he was a child, but it works now as it always did then. Cat had had seven children in her care when she was alive, and she had mastered this look early on. She could hush the great hall with this look. It was a look that could start a war. Even now, it is a look that could reduce a warrior to a craven, or a rebellious King in the North to a good boy.
Robb: Fine. [to the twins] Come with me. Would you like to see some direwolves as well?
The twins gasp, and their excited prattling continues as they follow him.
Robert: [yelling after Cersei] THERE AREN’T ANY ELEPHANTS!
Cersei looks back and frowns, but only for a second. She has never seen an elephant either. Perhaps one day she will. But dragons and direwolves are much more exciting than boring old elephants. No-one here looks very friendly, but the man she had heard the stern lady call Robb is young and handsome, and she gazes up at him in awe. ‘This is what a king looks like,’ she thinks. ‘Not like that old, fat, shouty man. He never told me his name. What if Father is cross?’
Jaime is gazing up at Robb as well. ‘This is what a knight looks like,’ he thinks. ‘Handsome, strong and brave. One day I will be just like him. Not like that old, fat, shouty man. And one day I will be a fine and noble lord and take golden children to see lions. And everyone will love me.’
For Robb, the twins’ earnest gazes are unnerving. But he has shown kindness to Lannister children before. He couldn’t keep the last two safe, and it cost him dearly. He will protect these ones. He doesn’t have to like it. The right course is rarely the easiest. He learned this from his father.
Cat: As long as they are like this, no-one shall harm them.
There is a wave of disappointed sighs all around her. But her word is the closest thing to law in this space, and the special look is never far from her face. Tywin starts to walk away.
Robert: Where are you going? You can’t leave us with your bloody children!
Tywin: I am going to find my grandchildren. Unless you would prefer to tell them?
Robert looks down. He has long avoided the children he used to think were his own. Occasionally, this shames him. He has neglected them in death, as he did in life. But the shame doesn’t prick at his conscience as often as it should. It has been blunted by time and anger. Now it returns, like the slow, agonising rake of a claw. He feels Tywin’s question hanging in the air and it burns. At moments like this, the ghosts rely on one of the younger Tyrells to guide the conversation into safer territory. But even they are silent.
Cat: [to Tywin] What will you do?
Tywin looks away from the crowd, towards the far edge of the space. The veil. When he arrived, it was solid. It has not looked that way for him for some time now. Gazing at it, he thinks he can see it moving, like gauze in the breeze. He ignored it at first, but when his children arrived, he heard something for the first time. Whispers. A familiar and much loved voice from beyond. ‘Tywin. Come through. It’s time.’ Tywin never enjoyed uncertainty in the world below, and he hasn’t grown any fonder of it since he died. He doesn’t know what lies beyond the veil for him. But the voice is calling, and he feels its inexorable pull.
Cat nods, slowly. She understands. She has also seen the veil move in a breeze she could not feel. She has heard her father, calling for his Little Cat. Many of the spirits have had similar moments, suddenly noticing that a path once blocked is beckoning them. There are seven, this is the first. They have all wondered what awaits them on the other side. She sighs. What she is about to say weighs heavily on her. But she has lost her appetite for vengeance.
Cat: Take Joffrey too.
Many of the assembled ghosts gasp.
Cat: If he can pass through, there is nothing more we can do to him.
Tywin nods. ‘Family is all that matters,’ he thinks. He used to say it all the time, but he means it differently now. Perhaps that is why the veil is calling. Perhaps that is why he can hear her voice again. ‘Seven years old. It is a message,’ he thinks.
With a final glance around at his ghostly companions, Tywin strides off into the darkness, to round up his kin.
Robert: I can’t believe he’s not staying to see the end!
Ned: What is the end? We can’t stay here forever.
Stannis: He has another child.
Cat: [softly] Do you think Tywin’s face is the one Tyrion wants to see when he arrives?
Renly: Tyrion will want to see his brother.
Cat: I am sure they will meet again on the other side.
They fall silent. There is nothing to do but wait.
There has been a steady stream of spirits passing behind the veil for some time, but this group, a pride of seven lions, catches the eye of many a curious ghost still lingering in the space. From the biggest, Tywin himself, to the smallest, the brave and noble Ser Pounce, they line up with their chins high. Hear them roar. One of the boys is haunted and shaking. He has served his time. Another is pale and sad; the presence of his family soothes him, though he eyes his brother warily, and his infant parents with shock. His sister, radiant and carefree, is joined by her young Dornish lover. Seven lions and a lovestruck Martell.
Tywin looks at his pride. His brother had long gone on ahead, but he has been waiting. For what? His power was gone. His legacy lay in the ruins of the city below. All had turned to ash. But now, suddenly, there is something new. A purpose. For years now, he had waited, cold and insubstantial. His grandchildren were broken and foreign, without use. Below, he had been a stone lion since the twins were seven years old. Now, his tortured spirit, gossamer light and malleable, has found a new shape. Perhaps this time, he can be more than a patriarch. Perhaps this time, he can be a father.
This is the test then, the final reckoning with one’s old self. This is the payment for crossing to the beyond. There are seven, this is the first. Can you look yourself in the eye? What are you leaving behind? What are you taking with you? What do you want, with all your heart?
For a moment, they pause. Then they all hear the voice. ‘Come through, my loves!’
The twins’ faces light up and they run through the veil. Tywin gestures to his grandchildren, Ser Pounce, and Trystane, who follow silently. He closes his eyes, just for a moment. And then he steps forward.
Header Image Source: HBO