Chapter 3: At the House of Wolves – Part 2


Geralt's first week in Winterfell was a private one as he kept to his guest quarters and the Library Tower, studying through every book about this world's history. He was surprised at just how deep and rich Westeros history was, a fascinating yet confusing read. The farther back he read the more vague and fantastical history sounded. Then again, a few hundred years ago the continent had been conquered by dragon riding nobles who has escaped an empire destroying disaster. The oldest details on the continent's history were about First Men and the Children of the Forest, a mysterious and magical race which sounded like Godlings back home. The books all varied on what the ancient history truly was ranging from the humans and Children warring, the two living in peace or the sudden arrival of the White Walkers during the either their war or peace time.

"Now I remember why I hate oral history. Facts get muddled when they finally decide to write it all down." Geralt grumbled as he shifted his attention to another book.

One thing that he focused on though was the White Walkers. No clear description or history was given about these beings, only that they lived in the coldest reaches of the north where no man has ever braved. Some stories detailed them as graceful elf like beings, others being an ancient human race like the Valyrian's. Often though they are described as monstrous creatures, yet no clear description was given. However, the books detailed the signs of their arrival, that of endless life consuming winter…just like the White Frost the prophecies back home detailed. Maybe these White Walkers were the source of this Frost…or they were simply a coincidence of this world…

"Maybe they're just a myth that I'm getting too wrapped up in." He grumbled as again the books gave no answers, slamming the last book shut with a frustrated sigh.

Leaning back, he'd look to the nearby candles as he idly fiddled the Igni Sign with his fingers, making the flames puff out before igniting again. However, when he tried again the flames didn't go. He was certain he did the Sign right as he tried again and a second time. A third time got the candles lit once more, making him sigh in relief.

"Signs been getting weaker each day, means the Source in this world is weak." He muttered, having been testing his Signs secretly outside of the keep. Indeed every time he used them they were becoming harder to use and less powerful. If this had been happening back home he'd be more worried yet since this world lacked monsters he felt less concern. Fighting humans with Signs made most fights one-sided as he thought back to his encounter with the Wildlings. If he hadn't had Quin he would have been cut down quickly and Igni had wiped out a third of the group.

"Getting too reliant." He'd close his eyes, thinking back on Vesemir lessons during fencing training. The elder Witcher always surprised Geralt with his sword fighting skills, often relying on them more than his Signs. Thinking of his mentor did bring back painful memories, mainly his death by the Wild Hunt, yet he pushed that aside. Focusing on the present, he thought over the time he spent learning about the people who lived here in Winterfell, from the Stark family to they're loyal household and advisors.

Overall he felt the Starks were honest and honorable nobles, a first for him considering. Most kings he had met were often looked down on him or judge him for being a mutant. Foltest was the closest friend he had had among nobility, yet he had been a flawed man as well. Ned's only real sin was his bastard son Jon Snow, a child he sired during Robert's Rebellion. Yet he seemed to have raised Jon properly, though Geralt could tell his wife Catelyn had a silent scorn for the young man. Still it wasn't his business to question this family's values, being their guest after all.

Looking out the small window in his room, he could tell that it was quite the clear and warm day with the yard being quite busy as well. The clanking of weapons from soldiers training, banging of hammer and anvil along with the laughter of children. He still couldn't get over the normal and peaceful nature Winterfell had since even the most orderly places back on his world was suffering in some way from the Nilfgaard conquest. However, his sharp ears heard heavy footsteps just outside his door, followed by strong knock and familiar voice.

"Oi! Geralt! You're still alive in there aren't you?" Graffin spoke out through the heavy wooden door.

Giving a sigh, Geralt got out of his seat and moved to unlock the door to see the northern guard. The man had groomed himself since he last saw him a few days back, having trimmed up his beard and hair. He was dressed in a fitting leather jerkin like most of the men at the hold wore whenever the weather got warm enough, a suitable outfit for training and work.

The soldier glanced into the room, seeing the mess of books and papers all around the nearby desk. "If I didn't know better I'd think you'd be aspiring to be a Maester with how much you have there." Graffin chuckled, making Geralt give a small annoyed sigh at the jest.

"Have a lot to learn considering. A few thousand years of feudal history is a lot to take in." The Witcher remarked back. "Besides all that, a lot of this is personal research. Important with finding my daughter."

"Ah…Can understand your reasons there." Graffin muttered, being more somber being reminded of Ciri. "Still it's not healthy to be cooped up in there for days. You need to fresh air and sunlight to help with your ummm…complexion." He'd gesture at Geralt who frowned a bit at what the soldier's attempt to be amusing. "Look, everyone is talking about you. They want to see the lost Valyrian who crawled out of the woods."

"Huh…guess I do look like one if the books I've read are correct." Geralt muttered back.

"Eh, I think lack the dashing looks, far too gruff and scarred by my reckoning." Graffin jested, drawing another small scowl from the Witcher.

"So getting to the point, I take you want me to go out and spar with the others? Show them how one man like me slew a dozen Wildlings?"

"Pretty much yah." The soldier chuckled. "I'd be lying if I didn't want to see how you fight. When I checked your blades I could tell the design implies a unique style…just not sure which." Giving a shrug, he continued to speak. "So, are you going to stand there or go out there?"

"If it will get you and everyone off my back…fine. Guess I could use the exercise. Give me a few minutes." Before the soldier could even speak back, he had the door closed as he'd move to get his Wolf school armor from the nearby chest. Once fully armored, he'd make his way through the Guest House and outside to the Court Yard.

His attention focused to the center of the yard were Graffin was already chatting with the gathered men, two of which he recognized as Jon Snow and older man with an odd 'mutton chop' hair style that tied under his chin who seemed to be drilling the soldiers.

"At last our mysterious guest reveals himself. Geralt correct? My name is Ser Rodrik Cassel, Master-At-Arms for House Stark." The older man said, in a friendly deep voice, offering one hand towards the Witcher.

Geralt reached out and shook it, being surprise at the man's quite strong grip considering his age. "Glad to meet you Rodrik. I apologize if I've been a bit reclusive, just been needing some time to rest up."

"Understandable. At the least I'm glad you've come to join us for a bit of training. Bet a fellow like you can beat a little skill into the youngsters here." The Master-At-Arms chuckled out while the younger trainees gave annoyed looks.

"Think you're putting too much faith in the man Rodrik. He looks half stitched up with all the cuts he has and has more grays then even you." One of the younger men spoke out, stepping out from the main group. He had been chatting with Jon, the two seeming good friends from what Geralt could tell. He also seemed out of place among the northerners in appearance yet seemed to fit in well with the group.

"Then by all means Theon, you get to fight him first if you feel so confident." Rodrik answered back, drawing short look of surprise and nervousness from Theon.

He had heard about Theon, a political ward of Eddard's. From what he knew from around the keep, Theon's father was the ruler of the Iron Isles who tried to rebel against the new King Robert. Yet for a 'prisoner' he seemed happy and free enough with even quite the prideful ego.

Geralt smirked as the young man quickly hid his reaction, giving a huff as he'd move to the nearby weapon rack to get a training blade. "Fine…no complaints here." He muttered as he'd flex his sword arm and get a feel of the weapon's grip while the Witcher moved to check over the other blades.

He'd check over each of the practice swords to find the right one to fight with. By the time he picked his weapon Theon was grumbling as he was kept waiting. "About time…"

Turning the face him, Geralt gave a few test swings and spun the blade in his grasp in a small show of dexterity to his opponent before pacing forward into the sparring circle. "Knowing your weapon is key to every fight. Gives me an edge which you lack." He calmly informed his impatient foe.

"Smug bastard." Theon muttered as he paced around the sparring ring. Both of them faced each other, a dozen paces away while rest of the men surrounded the ring. Rodrik looked between the two before nodding to start the fight. Geralt shifted his stance as his sword arm was out to his side and blade low, seeming open toward his enemy. The Theon narrowed his gaze, unsure what Geralt was doing yet made the first move as he'd give a yell and rush in, sword raised up to strike down at the Witcher.

Yet if anything this left the young man exposed as Geralt quickly rose his blade up to parry the attack aside before shoving the Theon forward with his left shoulder, making him stagger back. He'd flow with his movements, stepping in as blunt blade hit at Theon's gut to draw a pained grunt from the man before Geralt shifted to the side. "Dead." Geralt simply stated, drawing a growl from the prideful man.

This time Theon kept his distance as he'd slash out more quickly, mixing in high and low attacks. Geralt simply focused on blocking and dodging, frustrating his enemy more. "Grah! Stand still!" The next high strike he'd raise his sword up to lock blades with Theon who struggling to overcome the Geralt's enhanced strength. Quickly Geralt twist their blades about, forcing Theon's sword down into the soft dirt before punching him right in the gut at the same spot he had striked earlier. The blow knocked the wind out of the man, leaving him stunned as Geralt stepped in with his right foot, tripping him roughly onto his back. By the time Theon struggled to get up he had a sword tip at his throat. "Dead again." Geralt remarked again with a small smirk. The gathered crowd chuckle while the young man growled in anger.

He'd bat Geralt's sword aside and hurry up onto his feet, the Witcher giving him a chance to do so. "Still trying? Keep this up and you'll have more than a bruised pride." Geralt warned.

"Not one to give up." Theon muttered with a tense grin across his face. "You fight defensively…not willing to risk open attack." He'd shift to have his sword up in a guard, a quite good one from what Geralt had seen before. Geralt move in to give a testing strike, Theon blocked and giving a quick slash to keep the Witcher back. It seemed Theon was taking this fight more seriously, not being at reckless as before. The Witcher decided to take his time, practice more dueling moves instead of the more complex attacks he often used against monsters.

For a moment Geralt debated on how to counter attack, thinking to outmaneuver him for a side or back attack. However he decided it was time to use a more unique attack to test Theon and be a show of his own skill. Putting some distant between him and Theon, he'd drift his blade low before stepping forward, raising the practice sword up and about before twisting about. The young man gave a surprised yelp as Geralt began to spin and slash about, blade whirling rapidly while a panicked Theon back stepped. Theon struggled to fend off the quick attacks as his sword clang against Geralt's spinning blade, causing the weapon being knocked out of the young man's grip. Disarmed, Theon tensed as the blunt sword spun down towards his neck, just stopping inches away. The young noble was panting from the exertion and hint of fear, sweat on his brow as he looked right at Geralt's calm face.

The crowd of men stared, shocked looks showing among the younger recruits while the older members muttered about, obviously impressed. In the end Geralt put his sword away before offering a hand to Theon, who still winded after that whirling attack. "Handled yourself pretty well." Geralt remarked he'd pull Theon up, who'd quickly dust himself off from the fall before picking up his sword.

"Thanks I guess…still never seen an attack like that." The young man muttered as he rubbed at his bruised stomach and moved out of the sparring ring. He'd move up to Jon and quickly the two began to chat with the Stark seeming to be asking many questions.

"Once saw a Dornish blades men fight spin about like that…just with spear or saber." One older soldier commented.

"Aye but Geralt's has more power behind those blows. A solid block would have a Dorn tumbling off his feet! Has more of that Northern or Stormlander ferocity to it." Another soldier remarked as the men were debating about the fight.

"By the Seven you're acting like gossiping maids!" Rodrik grumbled, making the others quiet down. "From what I heard you trained at some hidden keep right? How did they train you in fighting?" The master-at-arms questioned.

"Trained in learning multiple fighting styles from different countries and cultures. Different moves and stances are used to give us a flexible yet unpredictable. Considering it was made to fight unconventional enemies…well…you get the idea." The Witcher explained. "Had my whole life to practice and add my own personal touch to it."

"Still plan to spar a bit more?" Rodrik questioned. "I'm sure one of the veterans will really test yah."

Geralt though for a moment before nodding. "Sure…yet pair me against two or three of them." His request had Rodrik give a surprised look.

"Going three against one? I don't doubt your skills Witcher but…"

"If you're concerned, don't worry. The others seem a bit eager as well...I can handle it." Geralt reassured the old man.

Rodrik gave a shrug before looking to the group, where already a few were volunteering. Graffin grinned as he'd pick up sword while two other gruff soldiers got training swords as well. Geralt took the time to stretch a bit as the three moved to partly surround him, Graffin facing him while the two were more to the side. Looking between them all, they had focused looks as they took their fighting stances. "Try not to hold back Geralt. Hate to be disappointed." Graffin remarked as Geralt took his fighting stance. The Witcher just narrowed his gaze at Graffin who'd give a short yet before charging forward.

Geralt didn't hesitate as he step forward, blade up in a guard as he'd block the incoming attack yet twist about in a spinning slash. Graffin just dodged away yet the Witcher's move had another purpose of parrying the soldier on the right who moved in for a stab. The soldier staggered back before grunting out as Geralt striked him across the chest before reaching his sword arm behind his back to block the third soldier who tried to attack him from behind.

"How did you-" The man started before Geralt's turned fully about, sword cutting for the man's gut which the soldier blocked, yet left him open for a cracking strike from Geralt right elbow across his jaw. The Witcher didn't stand still as he'd move to the man's right side, getting the soldier in-between Graffin who was moving in closer. His practice blade flowed with his movement as he'd slice at the man's leg, the blunt blade cracking against the back of the knee and having enough force to knock the man onto his back. The soldier was out of the fight as he'd grasp at his knee in pain, no doubt the joint being cracked from the blow. With a real blade, the man would have gotten his leg lopped off easily.

"Damn you're agile!" Graffin growled as he and the other soldier moved in together, planning on attacking as one. Geralt nearly raised his left hand to make an Arad sign out of habit, yet stopping himself from using it. The two men shifted with who attacked as Graffin opened with a downward chop before stepping back to let his ally move in for a stab. Forcing Geralt onto defensive, the Witcher worked his blade about in a flurry of parries while constantly dodging and shifting about at the same time. Yet the two lost their time as they both striked at the same time, letting Geralt block both blades in a short clash. Despite the two trying to break his guard, Geralt growled out as he'd force both men back. With their defenses down, he'd step in sword up, striking at Graffin shoulder to knock him down onto one knee while at the same time his right leg swept at the last solider, tripping him onto his back. Twisting about he'd jab his blunt sword at the fallen soldier's chest, drawing a grunt of pain from him before then turn back to Graffin who soon as the sword blade at his throat.

Graffin glanced at Geralt, panting from the intense fight while the Witcher seemed hardly winded. "Gods man…You weren't joking around." He muttered before Geralt pulled the blade away and pulled the man up onto his feet. The Witcher moved to help the other soldiers up although the one he had hit in the back of the knee winced as he'd hobble on his leg.

"Ugh…could have pulled back on that last hit." He muttered as he rubbed at the injured spot.

"I was." Geralt answered calmly back, a chilling remark that had the man gulp nervously.

Rodrik chuckled while the gathered men cheered and clapped, amazed at the fight they had just seen. "Can say I've only seen a few men fight best a group as much. Ned, Robert and Jamie being prime examples." Glancing around the yard though the master-at-arms noticed Lord Stark and his wife approach the group, no doubt having watched it from one of the inner wall outlooks.

Everyone gave a small nod of respect towards the two nobles once they stopped before them. Ned look between Theon, Jon, Rodrik and then Geralt give a small smile to them. "Seems like the sparring circle is lively today. Perhaps we should make Geralt here our new Master-At-Arms."

"Ugh! A cruel jest my lord." Rodrik grumbled yet smirked back in amusement.

"The last man I fought with such skill was Artheur Dayne during the Rebellion. Never thought I see someone with equal skill." Eddard praised, making Geralt nod back in thanks. "Compliments aside, I take you've enjoyed your stay so far?"

"I have. Admittedly I'm not use to such hospitality." Geralt answered back. "Normally nobles who invite me into their homes often had a request to ask of me.

"Heh, do I seem like a man with a hidden agenda?" Ned chuckled. The Witcher just gave a shrug before the lord look to the group of men. "Need to take the Witcher off your hands for now. Besides if I left him with you all he'd have Maester Luwin busy for weeks patching you all up."

The men laughed out before Rodrik began to give orders, telling the Graffin and his companions to take a break while he'd have the younger recruits get back to drills. Eddard beckoned Geralt to walk with him, yet Jon stepped up to speak to Geralt.

"Geralt, perhaps later on you could spar with me. Show me how you have move around like you did against the others." The young man said respectfully. "Father and Rodrik has taught me much already, yet I feel you could give me a few pointers."

"Can't hurt I guess. Have a lot of free time on my hands." He answered back.

"Thank you! Will a week from today be good?"

Geralt gave a small nod, making Jon give a small smile before returning to talk to Theon over the news. The Witcher hurried to catch up with Ned who was busy talking with his wife which he could just overhear. "Cat, how about you go check up with the girls. Make sure Arya isn't fooling around during her studies."

"I suppose…yet are you sure its fine to be alone with that man?" Caitlyn muttered back.

"Of course. You need to relax Caitlyn. Scars and eyes aside, he's no different than any man I've known. Luwin has already vouched for him as well and you see how the others respect him.

"I just know he's hiding something. I keep thinking over his story…he's not sharing everything-"

"Which is what I plan to figure out. Trust me Cat." Ned gave a soft kiss to her lips, making her give a sigh as she decided to drop the subject along with realizing Geralt was nearing them. Giving a small hug, she'd move off to the Great Keep, leave Ned with the Witcher.

"Quite the caring wife you have." Geralt remarked as he'd walk along aside Ned as the lord led the way towards the north western part of the yard.

"Indeed. Our marriage was arranged yet we've grown to love each other early after our vows." Eddard explained. "She's protective and may seem judgmental, yet I value her options deeply."

"So why does she distrust me so much?"

Ned shrugged. "Maybe it's appearance. The scars may not faze me or the other men to her it's a sign of danger. After seeing the way, you fight it's obvious that fighting is your way of life…and she's a woman who detests people dedicated to conflict."

"My profession isn't like that." Geralt calmly stated.

"You've kept that quite vague really. You claim to be a hunter yet I've never heard of a man who chases wolves and bears with a long sword. It's impractical…unless your prey are men."

"Not a bounty hunter if that's what you're suggesting."

"Of course not." The two arrived at portcullis gate set between the Guest House and Library Tower. Already the guards were raising it to reveal a lush forest set beyond them, which Geralt realize was the Godswood he had heard about. "Yet I feel you will tell me in the end." With that said, he'd lead the way into the private woods, Geralt following along.

The Godswood was a beautiful sight, almost feeling like they had left Winterfell completely and into the heart of the northern woods. For a moment Geralt a silent along with Ned, listening to the lively birds and animals that roamed the large walled forest. After a long while, the two soon arrived at a big grove with a tanquil pond at its center. Beside the water was a towering, thick white barked tree with blood red leaves adorning it's hanging branches. At its base there was a plain face craved at it, a strange addition considering. Ned would soon stop beside the pool, his gaze set on the Weirtree.

"Have you read about our land's faiths? About the Old Gods and the New?" He questioned the Witcher.

"A bit. Religion isn't a topic I look into during my studies." Geralt answered back. "Still the Old Gods I know is Westeros's oldest beliefs. A simple faith compared to most."

"The Faith of the Seven is more favored in these times. Still, the North follows the old beliefs." Ned remarked with a small nod. "I don't know if the Gods are real or not…yet I can't deny that fate plays oddly with our lives." Pausing, he'd look to Geralt before continuing. "I can tell that there is something special about you. It isn't a feeling I can simply explain…a gut instinct if I had to put it simply."

"It's a sense I can say I've relied on and one we can often trust." Geralt muttered back.

Ned nodded in agreement. "I know you have reasons to keep secrets from us. A man has a right to share only what he wishes so long as others are not harmed by silence. I think your silence though only hurts yourself."

Geralt was silent, quietly agreeing that Ned had a point on the matter. "Perhaps…yet I bet you'd think I'm crazy if I told you everything."

Ned chuckled as he'd move to sit by the Weirtree while Geralt followed and sat on a smooth rock set nearby. "There is no else here to judge or doubt you, just me and the woods. I'm a patient man Geralt and we have plenty of day light left."

Geralt sighed as he scratched the scruff on his chin. If anything this reminded him of the time Vernon Roach interrogated him…although that had been in a dank dungeon with him falsely claimed as a king slayer. "Fine then…may as well get it off my chest." He muttered. "I'm not from some obscure land across the ocean, but from whole other world…"


Hours passed as Geralt shared every detail with Eddard. The full story and purpose of the Witchers, the shortened details on the political conflict back home and the twisted fate his life had been over the last few years. He spoke about the monsters, magic, elves and dwarves that mixed among the lives of humans. Then at last he shared the prophecy of his world's end and the fate Ciri had in saving it. Despite how fantastical it was, Ned kept such a calm look as if trying to see a hint of deceit from Geralt, yet the Witcher kept that set look during his long story.

"Wild Hunt…White Frost…Elder Blood." Ned shook his head slightly. "I feel you're in the wrong profession Geralt. You'd be famous a writer of fiction."

"Doubting everything I've shared?" Geralt questioned calmly.

"A few bits. Maybe you are exaggerating on some aspects yet I see no reason why you'd lie about such a detailed world like your own." Ned clarified.

"Better then you ordering the guards to cart me off to a padded cell." Geralt said with a small smirk.

"I'm more doubtful about your claims of magic though. In earlier years many believed the alchemists to be mages who could burn the flesh of their enemies or meddle the minds of honest men. Of course it turned out to be nothing more than mixtures and trickery." Ned questioned.

"It's real for sure. Just my existence to because of magic, it's what made me a Witcher." Geralt replied.

"Actions speak louder than words." Ned countered, drawing a sigh from Geralt.

"Is better not land me on a burning stake." He grumbled as he'd stand up, facing towards the small pond. With his left hand, he'd make the Arad sign and push his hand forward as a strong burst of telekinetic energy surged forward in an arc, enough to make the leaves of the Weirwood rustle and the water of the pond to splash about in a short wave. Glancing back at Ned, the lord had calm look yet his eyes showed the shock and confusion at what he had just saw. Geralt would simply sit down, staring at Ned as he waited for a reaction.

" did you do that?" Eddard muttered, fascinated yet tense after what he saw.

"A Sign, one of five. Its basic magic really that all Witchers know. A sorceress or mage can do far more such as heal the injured, conjure the elements, place curses and much more." The Witcher explained before looking at his left hand. "Yet here my Signs are becoming weaker. Not sure why just yet, just have theories." Pausing, he'd look back at Ned who seemed to have calm down slightly. "I trust you'll keep this between us."

"I doubt anyone would be believe me if I did." Ned remarked with a small chuckle. "If anything I was expecting a more flashy display." Rubbing his hands together slightly, he'd take a deep breath. "You've been good a keeping such abilities hidden, so I'm glad you trusted me with such knowledge."

Geralt nodded thankfully, surprised that Ned handled the news quite well, even if he seemed shaken from the reveal. "So what next?"

Ned was silent as he'd think for a moment before speaking. "There is one aspect to your tale that does greatly interest. This White Frost…this prophecy you described. It's almost exactly like the tales of the Long Night…at least in the outcome."

"Did read about that. The war between the First Men and Children against the White Walkers. From my understanding that war is how your family came to rule the North."

"Aye…my father and my father's father and beyond that shared the original tale. Sort of a tradition to make sure we never forget it." He'd pause, staring at the calm pond and at the orange life gleaming from the low sunlight peeking through the red leaves above him. "I doubt our ancestors build the Wall to keep a horde of wild men from ravaging the Kingdoms…no it was for something more and lately the reports the Night's Watch have shared concern me."

"What do you mean?" Geralt questioned.

Ned shook his head and gave a sigh. "I can't say for certain…not yet." Again he paused, glancing back at Geralt. "Yet our legend matches closely to your prophecy. The end of our world at the hands of an endless winter. But what does this Ciri have to do with it all, having this Elder Blood as you mentioned?"

"Ciri is descended from an ancient bloodline with a powerful connect to magic, unmatched by anyone in my world. It gives her the power to move freely between time and space...yet from what I've seen do possibly far more." Geralt answered back. "As for what she was to do to stop the Frost...I don't know. The prophecy says nothing, only that one of Elder Blood can stop it."

"Yet from what you said she did go to confront it? Did she stop it?"

Geralt was silent for a long moment, looking down as he questioned that as well. "I don't know. Maybe she did but is trapped…could be dead as well…or she failed…"

"Don't let such doubts fill your head Geralt. Nothing is certain just yet." Ned quickly interrupted, seeing the creeping despair that just hinted the Witcher's eyes.

The Witcher sighed and nodded before looking back up at Ned. "Bloodline aside, she has a duty back home."

"Becoming Empress of the largest empire as you hinted." Ned remarked. "This Nilfgaard sounds like it rival the Seven Kingdoms in size and power."

"With the Northern Kingdoms in their hands it will surpass it." Geralt stated. "That aside though I guess I'd better get to the point…is there anything you can do to help me find her?"

"I can inform my men and the other holds of the North to keep an eye out for this woman. However there is a lot of open wilds in the North…and we've can't exclude that she is beyond the Wall." Ned answered back.

"Can't the Night's Watch go beyond and look for her?" Although even he realized how desperate that was. If the known maps were correct the lands beyond the Wall were vast and harsh along with filled with Wildlings…possibly even worst things as well.

"I can't force them to do anything. Only King Robert has such authority." Ned quickly explained. "Even then the Night's Watch is a shadow of what it was in the past. Its numbers are barely a thousand and most are criminals or the desperate. In the past it was an honor to join the Watch, not a punishment or escape for one's crimes."

"Alright…dwindling choices. Maybe I should go off on my own then." Geralt suggested.

"Geralt, while I know you're a capable man that would be suicide. Only the most skilled rangers have gone far into the lands beyond the wall. Few ever made it back and most have been the North's greatest trackers and hunters." Ned warned.

"I'm no ordinary hunter though." Geralt simply stated.

"Yes, but running off blindly isn't going to help." Thinking, Ned continued to speak. "Robert could help. He's a good man and I'm certain the news about the Wildlings will give you some favor with him. With his influence he could get you an experienced group of men, organize the Night's Watch, fund supplies and more."

"I'd rather not get involved in politics. The last time I did it ended badly." Geralt remarked back.

"Sadly just staying with us gets you involved. Lately times have been…tense between us and the Lannisters, a southern House that helped the Rebellion succeed towards the very end of the war." From Ned's tone he sounded a bit bitter on the matter, the first time Geralt had seen the man in such a way.

"From my understanding the Lannister's helped you take King's Landing though some questionable means." Geralt answered back, having read up deeply on the Rebellion.

"They've been grabbing for power ever since, be it through Tywin or his daughter Cersei who is the queen. I'm worried that they have plans that will endanger the Kingdoms and Robert." Eddard explained.

"Huh…Tywin…" Oddly just the descriptions of the man from the books he had read and stories he had heard sounded familiar to one overly-controlling emperor. He did remember Triss and Yen mentioning dimensional theory once, about how other could worlds had relatable events or people within them. Of course, that was just a theory.

"They've been keeping a close eye on us since we're one of their strongest rivals among the Kingdoms. They no doubt have informants who will note your arrival. What they will make of it I can't be certain." Ned rubbed at his chin, sighing a bit in frustration. "I'll confess Geralt, courtly intrigue isn't something I favor. I prefer facing such problems directly not through scheming."

The Witcher nodded in agreement on the matter. "Yet here you are discussing it. Rather you get to the point Lord Stark." His tone was a bit more annoyed, almost rude considering.

Still, Ned couldn't help but smirk at Geralt's directness. "The Hand of the King is dying…maybe even dead already. Maybe it is age, sickness or poison. Point is Robert and the Lannisters are touring the Kingdoms and will be arriving here within a month. I know Robert…he's going to ask me to be his new Hand."

Already Geralt was thinking, realizing what Ned was hinting at. "You want me to help you somehow and in return you'll help me find Ciri?" The Witcher questioned.

Eddard nodded. "As the Hand I have access to the Kingdom informants, connections to resources and the best men Westeros can offer. Everything you'd need to scour beyond the Wall."

"Lord Stark…Why share such details with me? You've known me for a bit over a week yet I feel this is information you should be sharing with Luwin or Rodrik." Geralt remarked back.

"I have informed them of my thoughts and they have shared their advice. Yet you are an outsider entirely from Westeros, you have no true connections of affiliations yet a vast experience dealing with nobility and politics." Ned countered back. "In these times, I feel outsider;s opinion, such as yours, be worthwhile to hear."

"The Witcher's code doesn't-" Geralt started before Ned again spoke up.

"That is a weak excuse Geralt. After everything you've told me, you've let your morals and sense of right decide on when to be involved or not." Pausing, he'd continued "I'm not asking you to do this for my House's benefit. I'm not doing this for selfish gains like the lords and kings you've met before, this is about ensuring peace among the realm and keeping an old friend safe."

"My lord, even the best of intentions have consequences. I've seen it time after time. Always it leads to innocent people dying and renewed conflict." Geralt tried to argue back.

"I understand the risks. I'm not planning to war with the Lannisters or make a grab for the Iron Throne. I want none of that." Pausing, he'd tap one hand against his knee in thought. "I don't plan to rush into this, yet I feel your skills would be useful if trouble is to come. You don't have to swear or promise everything, just consider my request." Ned shifted to stand up and paced past Geralt, placing a strong hand on Geralt's shoulder. "You're an honest man Geralt. I swear everything you've shared with me will be just between us."

The Witcher was silent before nodding. "Thank you. Expect the same from me on what you've discussed."

Ned nodded before moving away, letting Geralt get up and follow the Northern Lord back through the Godswoods and back to the court yard as the evening creeped in, the low sun casting a beautiful light across all of Winterfell.

By now the men and workers were finishing up their duties for the day, showing just how long the two had been talking within the walled forest. Across the yard by the Great Hall gates, the rest of the Stark family were gathering up for dinner, Arya seeing her father started waving towards him. Ned waved back before looking to Geralt. "Plan to join the household for dinner? You've been staying up in that room for too long after all, so why don't you stay around." The Lord offered.

"That is kind of you yet I should get back to my research." Geralt remarked in an excuse.

"Geralt…one dinner isn't going to decide the fate of the world if that is what you're worried about. " Ned chuckled. "Enjoy the hospitality we offer. You deserve it after all you've been through." With that he'd move to greet his family, hugging his younger children and wife while chatting with his sons.

The Witcher watched, conflicted after his lengthy conversation with Lord Stark. He couldn't deny the respect Eddard had shown, accepting him despite his Witcher nature or even knowing about the magic he had. Even the most open minded lords back home judged him on these aspects, yet Ned judged him on character and personal interaction. He was hesitant to get mixed into the lived of this decent family, having a deep feeling that their lives face a dark turn.

Already he debated on what to do…could just run off…avoid the possible conflict he may face. Yet in the end Ned was right, he needed help if he was going to find Ciri, braving the world alone would just have him wander aimlessly or maybe even get himself killed.

"Damn it…" Geralt muttered, again looking to the family as they seemed ready to go into the Great Hall. Jon and Robb glanced over at him, curious if he come along. Arya was waving, calling out to him. "Come on Geralt!"

In the end, the Witcher sighed before moving across the yard, following the Starks into the Great Hall for dinner. For one of the few times in his difficult life, he'd laugh and share tales with younger Starks and the boisterous household. For once in many years he felt truly accepted…an odd feeling truly to him.