I'm on a roll! Just finished Chapter 55: Broken Realms and posted it on my website.
Alas, that's the final aSoIFaL update for this month— In Pursuit of Magic looks to be the winner of this monthly poll. I'll be updating that, so stay tuned!
To those of you who wish to remain anonymous, thank you!
A big thanks to Abe, Ahtu, Alex, AnathemaRising, Aryeh, Brandon, Cauti0n, chris, Cody, Dan, dannyedi, Darrien, Deanna, DemonBane97, Devon, Drew, Eli, Fanguy59, FrostyNips, Harrison, Helios, Hemi, hev, Isabelle, Jayden, John, Jonathan, Jonathan, Kim, Lucerna, MagicWafflez, Maya, Misterschman, mohamad, No One, Phillip, Ricky03, Rob, Robert, Simon, Toivo, Tosin, War sage, weird song, Weise, Yaswanth and Zerak for being Acolyte supporters!
An extra thanks to John, Quentin and sam for being Mage supporters! You are killing it!
Navarr, Karthrax! You hold great honor as Somnian Remnants, as members of the ancient Kingdom of Sleep.
And last, but certainly not least, the legendary Hagrid Impersonator himself, Mythbot-chan! Did you guys know that this beast of a man has a flowing beard and is often mistaken for Thorin Oakenshield? Did you know that he suffers through reading Twilight for our sins? Well, now you know. Thanks for all the help, friend!
If you wish to become a supporter: "ZeroRewind", site-which-must-not-be-named. Go.
Jon Stark - Top of the Wall
"I hate this place." Sandor's voice came from beside him.
"I don't know." Jon shook his head as he gazed upon the vista of snow and forest, stretching as far as the eye could see. "It has a certain charm."
"You're a Stark." Was the sour man's answer. "'Course you would find it fucking agreeable."
Jon chuckled at that response. "I suppose that's fair: Starks have been manning the Wall for thousands of years, after all."
But you aren't a Stark, are you? Part of him whispered at the back of his mind. Not really.
Jon frowned at the thought, losing himself in his memories and wondering, not for the first time, if rejecting his true name had been the right thing to do.
"You cannot deny who you are, Jon." The shade of Aegon the First had told him, so long ago.
Back then, that was exactly what Jon had done. He had thought he would deny it until his dying breath.
However, his time with Harry and the man's then newly hatched dragon had given him doubts.
Seeing Hestia snuggled up into the arms of his friend had aroused his curiosity about his familial roots.
I should have spoken to Aegon more. Jon thought. Tried to bond to Hestia more. Now they're off in Essos.
"Those cunts." Clegane spat over the edge of the Wall. "They're hiding in the forest, waiting for the right time to strike."
Jon shook the thoughts away as he was brought back to the present.
"Aye." Jon said. "The Night's Watch has already found several bands of wildlings scaling the wall."
Sandor looked over the edge, all the way down, saying nothing for a few moments.
"... Scaled the wall." Clegane said, still staring down. "They've got some balls, I'll give them that."
"Quite a few groups have even managed to reach the other side." Jon added shaking his head— he knew he'd never try something this stupid in his lifetime. "The Lord Commander has requested Stark aid in the matter of hunting them down."
"The Lord Commander." Clegane repeated as if amused by the thought. "He was barely a squire when he got sent here. Now he's Lord fucking Commander."
Jon let out a long exhale, gesturing beneath him. "It's like the wildlings climbing this wall. There's something out there driving them our way. The same thing is driving Lancel's actions, I gather."
Every move Lancel made since Jon had gotten to know him had been an attempt at solving the issue without getting too many men on either side killed.
Just what has he seen out there?
Jon closed his eyes and opened himself up to the world around him— a skill he'd started working on, as of late.
Harry had been capable of sensing the energy of another person, or simply the atmosphere around them, and so Jon had decided that it would be in his best interests if he could manage a similar feat.
His progress had been slow, almost painfully so, but he'd become proficient enough to be able to detect things within a short distance.
However, sensing the looming, dark presence in the far-off distance required no skill from him.
It was everywhere, touching anything it could reach. Jon could almost feel it seeping into the trees and into the ground.
But it could not touch the Wall. Whatever magic his ancestors had used in constructing this defense was still holding, thousands of years later.
Jon wondered whether it would be enough, this time.
Is this what King Aegon felt when he came here? The corruption ahead, and the dread in his heart... Jon thought, imagining the silver haired man standing in his place and looking upon the lands beyond the Wall. If Harry were here, he'd make some comment about it being 'the North North'.
He snorted and shook his head, growing serious as the reality of the situation sunk its claws deeper into his shoulders.
Jon knew not when the attack was coming, but he had a sinking feeling that, by the end of the day, blood would be spilled.
Beside him, Ghost let out a steady, low growl, confirming his fears.
Wherever you are… wish me luck, because I'll need it, Harry.
Harry Potter - at the edge of the Valyrian Freehold
I raised my head, hearing the winds carrying the whispers of my name.
What the Hell was that? I thought, discarding the rope in my hands and standing to my full height.
"Um…" one of Arianne's guards said from my left, but I paid him no mind. "Lord Potter? Is something the matter?"
I stepped away from the back of the ship, letting my power flow outwards, wisps of bright blue swirling in the air around me.
There was a faint, lingering trace of a presence. I could almost touch it… there!
Harry. I heard Jon's voice in my mind as I saw a series of images flash before my eyes: a massive wall made of ice; a white direwolf staring down at a vast expanse of snow and trees and then… darkness from which eyes of blue began to open before they trained on me…
It's watching. I felt the chill run down my spine. Just watching? Does it not consider me or Jon as a threat?
"Harry?" Daenerys' voice tore through the vision, and I found myself tasting the warm, sea air once more. "Are you all right?"
That vision. I almost felt like I was there, standing atop the Wall.
I groaned, brought my hand up and rubbed my temple as I felt the pain coming, making me stumble a step.
Daenerys rushed to me, giving me support before I fell on my face. "Harry!"
"Thanks, Dany…" I said, finding my balance with some difficulty. "It's just a headache. I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." I forced a smile. "I just need some water and I'll be right as rain."
Daenerys, not looking convinced in the least, but knowing me well enough not to push the matter further, spared me the trouble and moved on to ensure the rowboats were being packed with all of the supplies we would need.
I took a deep breath, trying to make sense of what I'd just seen. It was the Wall. A white direwolf at the Wall staring down at the forest could mean anything.
Were the wildlings attacking? Or was it the Others?
If I didn't have to see those awful eyes again, it would be too soon.
"I saw it, too." Erebus whispered to me. "Your allies are beginning their first set of engagements with the enemy to the... north of the Wall. Whichever enemy that may be."
The sword's need to avoid giving me the satisfaction of hearing it say "North North" broke my unease and replaced it with some much needed levity.
It was a pretty stupid name, wasn't it? I thought, shaking my head and getting serious. Jon is there and he's about to face them.
I had thought the nightmarish vision of Ghost bleeding in the snow while I was hunted down by the Others had been just that; a nightmare, something I'd conjured up in my delirium.
It seemed, however, that it was not as imagined as I'd hoped. The Others were making their first move, and Jon was there, right in front of them.
Damn it! I resisted the urge to curse out loud and hit something. I have to help him, but I can't leave Hestia to rot here!
"Very true." Erebus agreed. "More than that, you couldn't make it there without Hestia, in the first place. To go by boat would take far too long."
"That's your reason for saving Hestia? Because the other option would take too long?" Balthazar said, sounding more exasperated than annoyed. "You wouldn't bat an eye if any of us died, would you, you phenomenal douchebag?"
"Take care how you speak, worm. I may celebrate your demise, perhaps." Erebus replied, his voice dripping with contempt. "But I have grown… fond of the little one. I said what I did to emphasize that this is the only way forward."
Erebus declaring his fondness of all things was enough to render Balthazar speechless.
I nodded at the words. "Phrasing aside, Erebus is right. Even if we survive the trip ahead, even if we rescue Hestia without hurting her— even with all of that, it would still take us too long to get to the Wall. Jon..."
My face hardened as I pushed away the fear in my heart. Steel your soul, Potter. You just have to believe in him.
I turned my gaze north-west in Jon's general direction and closed my eyes, sending a small prayer his way. Good luck, my friend. You're going to need it. As for me...
"Lord Potter." I heard a familiar voice greet me from behind and resisted the urge to grimace.
I've my own problems to deal with.
I opened my eyes and turned to the source. "Princess Arianne."
"I wish to apologize for the way I revealed myself to everyone. Secrecy was of the utmost importance." Princess Arianne said, flanked by two of her companions— her guards, I corrected myself.
I didn't reply, keeping my face blank.
Give nothing away. I thought as she took my silence as an indication for her to elaborate. "As I'm sure you know, my father Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne, has eyes and ears everywhere— even all the way to the East."
"I've heard the name mentioned a few times in King's Landing." I said, watching her as she walked circles around me. "Usually when referring to the sack of the city."
The mention of that day threw her off, judging by how pissed she got.
"Yes." She said, her big eyes narrowing and her face marred with anger. "A dark day for our family."
"Indeed." I said.
She mastered herself with an ease borne of years of holding court at Sunspear. "It was a terrible tragedy, to hear of my cousins and my aunt's murder at the hands of Lannister men— one of which you fought against, I believe?"
I nodded. "The Mountain; a brute with pitiful fighting ability. Everyone was glad to be rid of him— even his own brother. "
"It's as you say. The Seven Kingdoms rejoiced when the news reached their ears; Dorne, most of all." She said, inching closer to me. "You've done our... My House... a great service, Lord Potter."
She's trying to butter me up for something.
She came closer and I tensed up, inhaling the scent of her perfume— a beautiful scent which threatened to overpower me.
"Oh my… " Balthazar whispered in my mind as he processed the pleasant smell with his senses. "Lily, myrrh and cinnamon… ah, she's using susinum? Like the ancient Egyptians— an incredibly popular perfume even in the modern day. You can smell why, firsthand."
The mention of my home dimension brought me back to my senses, and I took a step back. "Don't mention it."
"Ah…" She continued to approach, a fire lighting in her eyes as she realized the effect she was having on me.
"Surely there must be something I can do to show our gratitude, as well as an… apology for what happened?" She sent me a smile that both gave me chills and lit a fire in my chest.
"This one is… interesting." Erebus whispered. "Can you not feel the subtle hints of her magic pushing you this way and that? I doubt she's even aware of it..."
I hadn't, but now that Erebus mentioned it, I did. Big mistake.
At that, my anger rose with my power, burning away whatever rudimentary facsimile of a spell she'd weaved around me.
"There is something." I said, watching her face shift into one of veiled satisfaction.
"Mmm?" She took both of my hands into her own, softer and smoother than any hands in this world had any right to be. "What would you like, Lord Potter?"
Soft hands. I thought again. She hasn't worked a day in her life. Never suffered.
A young noblewoman playing political games— that's what she was.
Unfortunately for her. I seized her by the wrists and squeezed hard enough for her to let out a startled yelp of pain. I'm not in a playful mood.
"What I would like…" I said as she tried to pull away and the men's faces shifted in alarm. "Is for you to get out of my sight."
The men by her side drew their weapons and approached us, their faces livid.
"Let her go, or I'll—"
"Erebus." I cut the man off, my lips curling with disdain. "Teach them the true meaning of fear."
In an instant, the air lost its previous warmth, replaced by my sword's glacial chill.
Arianne's eyes went wide in both shock and fear as she continued to struggle, her breaths coming out foggy. "What're you…!?"
The men beside her, however, were rooted in place, their black eyes wide with terror, and their previous attitude nowhere to be found.
"No, no, no!" "Make it stop! Please!"
I scoffed. This band of absolute clowns thought it stood a chance in the ruins of Old Valyria?
What a joke!
"Enough!" A flash of heat passed overhead, turning my attention to a glaring Daenerys, a bright red flame building in her hand. "Harry, let them go."
I held her gaze, not at all bothered by her reaction. I looked down at the one trying to escape my grasp.
Gone was her coy smile, her attempts at charm, her airs and her bearing. Now, she looked at me like I was the Devil, himself.
Maybe I took things too far— no, she had it coming.
I despised being manipulated, and that was exactly what she had done.
"As you wish, Queen Daenerys." I let go of the girl's wrists, watching her go backwards until lost her balance and fell on her ass.
Silence hung in the air. I watched as the three were rushed by the rest of their guards, who formed a wall between me and the Princess of Sunspear.
I resisted the urge to shake my head in amusement, feeling a little guilty for how I reacted.
"I would have you tell me what just happened." Daenerys finally said.
"The Blackscale." One of the guards by Arianne's side said before I could open my mouth. "He attacked the Princess without provocation— the things he made me see..."
Arianne did not make a comment, her eyes still glued to me, as if I would up and attack her again.
I suppose it does look like I attacked without cause. I thought with a sigh.
"Lord Potter?" Daenerys turned to me with an expectant look in her eyes.
"Likely, she's hoping there was one." Erebus whispered.
And so, I explained.
"Halfway through her half-assed attempt at seduction, I felt the subtle hints of magic being channelled from the Princess." I said, ignoring the outraged scoffs and denials from Arianne's entourage. "Inducing reactions in my body and mind that I would not have otherwise experienced. That is why I reacted the way I did. To touch my mind is to essentially forfeit your own safety."
"I see." Daenerys said, her gaze hardening at the information. "Very well, Lord Potter."
"Your Grace!" Said the same guard. "The Princess— surely you cannot condone this slight from your vassal towards the head of a Great House?"
I opened my mouth to reply but was interrupted by Daenerys' laugh.
"My vassal." She smirked, her intense violet eyes glittering with amusement.
She turned her attention back to the guard. "I fear you all misunderstand the situation: Lord Potter is not my vassal, but my consort— my equal. But I will forgive this… mishap, as we have not yet made the announcement."
The guard made to say something further, but Arianne grasped the man's shoulder, quieting him in an instant.
Are they all under her thrall? I wondered. He obeyed far too quickly. Perhaps, she simply instills that much loyalty in them.
Arianne stepped forward, her face schooled in a neutral expression as the wall of men parted. "I offer my sincere apologies, Lord Potter. I was unaware of your betrothal to Her Grace, and that I had been… weaving spells. I was unaware I could even use magic!"
I looked at her, not sure of what to say. She seemed genuine, but this all could be yet another trick.
"It is possible that you have a natural talent, Princess Martell." Erebus said out loud, saving me from the immediate conversation. "Your magic felt much like the soft currents of a river."
Whispers erupted around the Princess' entourage, with the words 'Rhoyne' and 'water magic' being thrown around.
"Perhaps I have misjudged you, then." I said, walking towards the dark haired beauty and extending a hand. "Let's try again, shall we? Harry Potter."
She stared at my hand for a moment, as if it would freeze her where she stood, before taking it. "Arianne Martell, Princess of Sunspear."
"Lord Potter?" Daenerys said, waving me over. "I'd like a word."
"Of course. We'll speak later, Princess" I said, nodding towards Arianne before breaking contact and heading towards the Queen.
"I look forward to it." I heard her words, but I didn't catch the Dornish Princess' eyes stare at me with a deep hunger as I moved to join Daenerys.
"She definitely wants you." Balthazar whispered to me. "That display only served to arouse her, more than anything."
I resisted the urge to look back and confirm what the snake was saying.
Oh well. We rarely get what we want in life. I thought, not giving the woman any particular care.
True, she was gorgeous, with alluring eyes and a great body, but she was no Daenerys.
Speaking of which...
"Are you all right?" Daenerys asked a few moments later, keeping her voice quiet. "Harry."
"I think so." I said, giving her a crooked smile. "If I start proclaiming my love for Arianne, at least you'll know what's going on."
It was meant as a joke, but it seemed to annoy the Queen.
"That will not happen." She said as she all but dragged me to the Queen's cabin, with barked orders to the men to continue loading the boats with the supplies we would need.
Daenerys glanced at my arm and the sword at my hip. I snorted.
Scram, Balthazar. I thought as I placed Erebus by the door.
"Yeah, yeah." Balthazar disentangled himself from me and went to curl around the mast of the ship for a nap.
"Shouldn't we be getting ready for the trip?" I said after she shoved me inside. "I wouldn't advise delaying any more than necessary."
"With the new additions, we'll require more supplies. Those will take some time to sort through and store." She said, closing and locking the door behind her. "Besides, Harry…"
Daenerys placed her hand on my chest, pushing me back towards her bed. "You need to rest before the trip. You seemed very tired, earlier."
I'm sure that's definitely what she intends for me to do. I thought as I made eye contact with her.
"Oh." I played along, letting her push me down. "All right."
I looked up at the silver haired beauty. Amusement mixed in with anticipation as I felt my heartbeat quicken.
"So, how can you be so sure the Princess won't try something like this again?"
"Because, Harry Potter." Daenerys said, crawling onto the bed and embracing me with a searing kiss. "You're mine."
An hour later…
"May all of the gods watch over you, my friend." The captain said as we clasped arms. "We shall await your return, for as long as it takes."
"Aye." Ser Jorah added, bowing to the Queen. "I will see to it."
"Thank you, Ser Jorah." Daenerys said, before addressing everyone. "I will return, and when I do, there will be much to discuss— of my return to Westeros, and the Conquest."
She let the statement hang in the air before ordering the boats be lowered to the water's surface.
I watched as, one by one, the brave men and women boarded the two boats.
I wondered just how many of them would survive the trip— or if any of us would.
Daenerys, standing in the other boat, caught my eye. "Shall we?"
I nodded and went to work. Fifteen modified Bubble Head Charms later, I activated the spell on the oars, exulting in the warm rush I felt coursing through me.
The oars came to life in an instant and went to work, rowing us away from the ship and towards Valyria.
"Marvelous." Princess Arianne said, staring at the bubbles around people's faces.
"Don't." I said, stopping one of her guards from poking it. "That bubble will be the only thing keeping you alive."
"What do you mean?" The guard didn't seem to understand.
I wondered for a moment how to explain the concept of air filters to an illiterate person.
I decided to keep it simple. "The old legends of Valyria speak of an uninhabitable hell, where even the air you breathe is poison."
"Of course!" Arianne said, eyes widening in realization. "And this spell of yours will keep our air pure?"
"It's… a lot more complicated than that, but yes. That's the general idea." I nodded at the woman, who seemed pleased. "It can withstand a few good hits, but I wouldn't recommend getting hit at all."
Everyone in both boats nodded.
And so it begins. I thought, turning to the ship to give it one last wave while they could still see us.
The nervous energy we all started with gave way to boredom as everyone sat down and waited for the better part of the next two hours, watching as the air turned gradually foggy.
"I didn't expect this to be so…" one of the men commented.
"Boring?" Another finished.
"I suppose things don't happen like in the stories." Arianne spoke before she looked at me. "Maybe some things."
I stifled the urge to roll my eyes. "Thanks for the compliment, Princess."
"It's a good point, though." I said, staring at everyone. "The... thrills and sense of adventure only happen for a few moments when compared to the whole. The important thing is to be ready for it."
"We will be." One of my most trusted men, Joqo, said. "We won't let you down, Khal Harry."
I smiled down at my faithful follower. "Choosing to brave the seas with me— to cross the poison water, as your people put it— I am already proud of you, my friend."
Joqo only grinned, in response.
"You are a Khal as well as a Lord, Lord Potter?" Arianne said.
"Oh yes." I nodded. "My time in Essos has been… eventful."
Joqo snorted. "Eventful is, ah… 'Understatement' is the word?"
"Yes, it is." I said.
One of the men was about to say something when one of the sailors spoke. "I see something!"
I was on my feet in an instant, checking my surroundings before nodding towards my boat-mates, who also stood. "Anyone else see anything?"
"No." Ser Barristan replied from the other boat. "Though, my eyes aren't what they used to be."
"I see nothing, as well." Daenerys said. "I haven't felt anything, either."
People murmured in annoyance as they sat back down.
That was when I felt it.
"There is something out there." Erebus rattled in his sheath. "But it's hiding."
"What do you mean?" Joqo asked. "Enemy forces?"
"Possible." Erebus said. "The fog is concealing its presence."
"A creature which relies on stealth is no threat." Said one of Arianne's guards.
"We are in the domain of Old Valyria, man." His fellow argued before I could. "Fell creatures of dark power may yet lurk in these waters."
"It's worse than that, I fear." Erebus said. "This magic reeks of illusion."
"I see." Arianne said. "So what we saw, earlier—"
"A literal trick of the mind." I finished, raising my voice. "We won't know which threat is real and which isn't."
"How are we supposed to combat this threat from beyond the shadows, then?"
"Illusions will not easily affect me." Erebus said. "And by proxy, yourself, Harry."
I smiled. Erebus' training was coming in handy.
"Then it is clear: we have to press forward." Barristan deduced. "And trust in Lord Potter's words, rather than our eyes and ears."
Everyone perked up at the words. "Aye."
It was impressive just how commanding that old man could be. Had he been a wizard on Earth, he would have taken the world by storm.
Rather fitting, considering he's from the Stormlands.
"That will only help them for a time." Erebus whispered to me. "Whatever is lurking beyond the fog is biding its time, waiting for us to weaken."
"We've enough food to last for a long time." Balthazaralso shared his thoughts.
"A different kind of weakening." Erebus thought. "Have you not realized it, yet? This 'fog' is more than mere vapor."
I closed my eyes and unleashed my power, sending wisps of translucent blue out into the fog.
Something about it wasn't quite right. It felt strangely familiar.
But it was faint. It wasn't something I could discern with ease.
"Not faint." Erebus said. "Merely small. Look closer, deeper."
And so, I did.
A moment later, my eyes opened in realization.
"You understand, then?" Erebus said as the two crews' gazes began to flit about, seeing things which weren't there. "This is no mere fog."
No. I thought, gulping. This is… maybe the Valyrians did deserve to die.
I'd thought the chill in the air was strange, but it all made sense, now.
Ghosts are cold to the touch.
There was no presence beyond the fog sending people nightmarish illusions.
No, the explanation was much simpler.
The presence was the fog, or should I say, a massive entity made up of the ghosts of the many fools who were either involved in the Doom or in the following attempts at reclaiming the old Kingdom.
And we're right in the middle of it.
Let me know what you think! As I said before, I'll likely be updating IPOM, next. Stay tuned for that!
Master link to my website, my Discord server, and the place where one patronizes: