He never knew why his clansmen had kept him alive—and he never cared to ask. He knew he was no fighter—nor was he big enough to steal a woman. He was, however, clever in his way; he could give his clan leader good advice. He’d learned a hard thing—to keep silent and only speak if he had something sensible to say. That’s what he’d learned from his foster-mother, who’d nursed him and brought him up, when his own mother died birthing him. She’d also taught him to keep his eyes and ears open for trouble, and to stay out of the way of men larger and more muscular than himself.
So it was rather strange that he did not follow her advice when it came to the little red-headed girl. Little was relative—she was a good ten years’ younger than Tyrion and as tall, if not as shapely, as a woman grown. She was Ygritte’s younger sister, and a sight to gladden any eye. She had several suitors, many of whom plotted to steal her from her sister’s side. Tyrion did not know why he kept a watch over the girl and found some way or the other to prevent the more unscrupulous men of the clan from stealing her.
There was the time when three of them planned to steal her as she came back from the well, both her hands weighed down with buckets filled with water. Tyrion climbed to almost the top of a tree that grew behind the rocks, where her would-be captors hid. His pockets were weighed down with stones and a slingshot, his favourite weapons. He struck the three men—thump, thump, thump—just as they were about to leap out at the girl walking up the path. She looked up when she heard the sound of stone striking flesh, and she saw him half-hidden in the branches of that tree. And then she looked at the three men, sprawled over the rocks, the backs of their heads slick with blood.
The next thing he knew, she’d invited him for a meal to her sister’s tent. She was not fond of hunting, she said, but she’d set a few traps, for rabbits and such-like small animals, in the woods. She provided a rabbit stew, thick with meat and the roots she’d gathered in the woods. When he thanked her, after partaking of the meal, and made to leave, she stopped him, drew the flap of the tent shut and gently drew him to a corner, where she’d spread her furs. She helped him take off his boots and drew him under the furs, promising to keep him warm for all the winters they should see together.