The tall, white-haired knight seemed to shrink as he stood there, scarcely breathing. "Your Grace," he said at last. "The Kingsguard is a Sworn Brotherhood. Our vows are taken for life. Only death may relieve the Lord Commander of his sacred trust."
Whose death, Sir Barristan? The queen's voice was soft as silk, but her words carried the whole length of the hall. "Yours, or your king's?"
You let my father die, Joffrey said accusingly from atop the Iron Throne. "You're too old to protect anybody."
Sansa watched as the knight peered up at his new king. She had never seen him look his years before, yet now he did. "Your Grace," he said. "I was chosen for the White Swords in my twenty-third year. It was all I had ever dreamed, from the moment I first took sword in hand. I gave up all claim to my ancestral keep. The girl I was to wed married my cousin in my place, I had no need of land or sons, my life would be lived for the realm. Sir Gerold Hightower himself heard my vows... to ward the king with all my strength... to give my blood for his... I fought beside the White Bull and Prince Lewyn of Dorne... beside Sir Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.