His is the Song of Ice and Fire
"He ain't human m'lord," the farmer said, eyes planted firmly towards the ground.
The smallfolk did that a lot. If a man’s crops grew early, he was a wizard, if a woman was nearby when milk went sour, she was a witch. They confused tricks with magic, skill with wizardry; and saw ghosts and monsters hiding behind every corner. The farmer was wrong. There was no such thing as magic.
Then why are you here? A small voice in Tywin’s mind asked. He shook it away.
“Look at me.” The farmers head rose, slowly. That was good. He was afraid. That meant he wouldn’t lie. “How do you know him?”
The farmer gulped. “We, that is, my brother, he first met him in the forest. We were looking for a cow that went missing. He, the healer that is, he was sitting naked in the grass. It was queer m’lord. My brother came back to bring me, and we went out to see him.”
“When did you find out he was a healer?”
“When – when he healed my wife m’lord.”
Tywin breathed sharply. There it is. “Explain.”
“She was sick m’lord. Fever, after the baby. He’d been healing before then, setting bones, fixing up snake bites; we asked if he could do anything to help. He went into my house, stayed there for about an hour, and then he left. When I went back in, she was awake. Weak, tired, but the fever was gone, and she weren’t sick no more.”
Tywin felt the blood rush through his body. The farmer wasn’t lying. “Where can I find this healer?”
The farmer told him. Tywin turned, climbed on top of his horse, and tossed the farmer a gold coin. “For your trouble.” He threw another. "For your silence."
Tywin felt his brothers’ gazes’ burn into him as he rode. Kevan had never approved, but he was dutiful and said nothing, Tyg thought he had gone mad; and Gerion, who knew what he thought. He’d simply japed about serious Tywin seeking a woodswitch, but had come along without further comment.
The Lannisters Four. Tywin felt odd, no, absurd. That was the word. He felt like a knight in some childs story, delving into the forest to seek a mystical power. The woods looked like they belonged in a story too, dark, damp, littered with dead leaves and rotting branches. He and his brothers rode through the woods, surrounded by silence.
Perhaps they’ll write a song about us.
Tywin was no knight. Tyg, Gerion and Kevan were. Tyg was the best sword in the Westerlands, and there were few men more loyal than Kevan in the seven Kingdoms. Tywin though? Tywin was a man who rebuilt a dynasty, a practical man who did was necessary; who didn’t succumb to foolishness.
So why am I here?
The Lannister boys rode through the woods, surrounded by silence.
“We should’ve brought guards.” Tywin looked up, startled. Kevan had come closer than he’d thought, and his brother wore a worried expression on his face. “I don’t like the look of these woods.”
Tywin snorted. “Afraid of the autumn woods Kevan? That’s not like you.”
“Dressed as we are, brother? I have a right to be. We’re cloaked in full Lannister garb, gold brooches, good steel, fast horses, plus, in that last tavern the landlords daughter spoke of bandits in the woods.”
“If we didn't look as such we wouldn't be respected, and we couldn’t bring the guards.”
“Oh yes, let’s bring my household guard. Let’s let them see me ride off into the woods to find a witch; so that every man in the Seven Kingdoms can know that the great Tywin of House Lannister has completely lost his sanity. That sounds like an excellent idea brother.” Tywin hadn’t raised his voice once during this outburst. He’d learned a long time ago how to rebuke without shouting.
Kevan kept looking at him. His expression had changed from wary, to concerned. “Brother, we’re worried about you. The maester said, we just have to be patient.”
“That’s not what they said.”
“If we return then for all we know –“
“That’s not what they said!” Tywin raised his voice that time. “What he said was: ‘there is nothing I can do.’ Do you expect me just to accept that?”
Tyg spoke up now. “Tywin, I love Joanna like a sister. We all do. But you know that this won’t work. This man is at best using cures the maesters found out about a long time ago; and at worst he’s a fraud.”
“Actually,” Gerion interrupted, “at worst he’s insane. Insane is worse than fraud, frauds can be reasoned with.”
“We are only saying this because we love you Tywin. We should turn back. If we find him, and he can’t save her, that will only make this ordeal worse.” Kevan held his hand out.
Tywin looked at his brothers’ hand. Then he looked at each of his brothers, Kevan first, then Tyg, then Gerion. The youngest was the first to understand.
“Or,” Gerion said, “we could keep moving into the dark and dangerous forest in order to search for the supposedly magical madman. That’s the second option.”
Tywin moved his horse forward without saying a word.
“Second option it is.” Gerion muttered.
They rode for about an hour. The sun started to set; its light fell through layers of leaves and broken branches before resting on the dark brown ground. With the evening wind came the songs of the wild, wolves and deer, birds and snake.
Tywin smelled smoke. Small amounts at first, a hint here, a wisp there, but as he rode further along the path he smelled the fire, the scent of coke; he heard the clanging of metal and the roar of the billows. Someone had built a forge in the forest, his healer, if the farmer could be believed.
Cold winds started rising. The light of the sunset mixed with the light of the moonrise, and shadows danced on the floor.
“For the last time Kevan,” Tywin said, “we are not turning back.” Kevan stared at him, frowning. “What now?” Tywin asked.
Kevan mouth hung open, as if the words wouldn’t come. “I, I didn’t say anything brother. None of us did.”
Tywin looked at each of his brothers; they all stared at him, eyes, wide open. He looked side to side and saw nothing. He heard only the rustling of the trees, the clanging of metal and the roar of the billows.
“Come on,” he said, “he can’t be much farther, not when he’s making all that noise.”
But the further they went, the less they saw. The wind blew harder and harder, and when the night came the mist started to rise.
“Stay close!” Tywin shouted, “We don’t want to lose each other.”
His brothers were shadows now, red and gold slivers, hidden by the evening fog.
He ignored the voice this time. He had no time for it. Whether the illusion of a demon or a sign of his own fractured mind; he had no time for it. His wife was dying, that was all that mattered.
“There is nothing for you here.”
The mist looked almost solid in places; a wall of white with leaves and shadows leaking through the cracks.
“Brother!” he heard Kevan cry, “There are creatures in the mist!”
He heard someone draw a sword. He heard the whinny of a horse, and his brother cry as he fell down.
“Kevan!” he shouted, but there was no answer.
“Tyg!” he cried, but there was no response.
“Gerion!” he pleaded, but there was only silence.
The mist disappeared. He looked left, and right, he turned his horse all the way around, but only trees and moss received him.
He drew his sword, slowly. The woods were silent. He dismounted his horse. He heard something snap behind him, and span around suddenly; raising the hilt of his sword.
Iron greeted him. A large iron gate with a ring of steel through a fox’s mouth for its handle. He reached forward, his hands shaking, and knocked three times. The first thud echoed loudly, shaking his teeth. The second sent tremors through the ground and with the third came only a whisper.