authorsnotes: 2 months of the new year, 2 updates, I'm doing my best...
received really nice feedback for the last chapter, which I appreciate, and so we explore kings landing some more
do follow/fav etc
songrecs: I Am Hers, She Is Mine - GOT Season 2
'All men are fools, if truth be told, but the ones in motley are more amusing than the ones with crowns'
- Olenna Tyrell to Sansa Stark
Needless to say, it was dark.
It took him a minute to adjust, but he knew he would. He had become used to only seeing by a flickering torch on the Wall (sometimes with only a far away brazier if the winds were fierce), had become used to walking by night when ranging beyond the wall without even the luxury of a torch to hand. His eyes would adjust, he knew it.
He didn't feel any fear, sure there was a tiny bit of uneasiness at his spine, to be exploring the secrets of Kings Landing, when he knew many would want the secrets to stay buried, but bigger than that was the curiosity, the quest itself had said; 'use them to your advantage' whether through secrets or a way to sneak around the castle, he fully intended to.
Besides, there was nothing to fear; he had Ghost by his side (who had better eyes than him), a backpack full of provisions in case he got lost and some tools if needed, sword at his side if he ran into anyone or anything unfriendly.
He was also reasonably confident in his navigating, and with each twist he took, and each turn he noted it down on a rough map; he could find his way back to the entrance at the servants corridor if he needed to, though he imagined there would be many more an entrance available to him too.
And so, he forged on.
It was after half of the hour of winding corridors, and nothing else that the book decided to give him a bit of a nudge.
Secrets of the Tunnels
Find the hidden room.
Reward: A mysterious object that is yours for the taking.
Failure: Said object remains lost to time and these walls.
Hmm, not exactly forthcoming, but it did make him smile; to know that there was more to the tunnels than just a way to move around, though that remained his man goal … to be able to traverse the Red Keep without being seen, what secrets would he learn? It could only be of use to him.
And perhaps he would tell Robb of them, pretended he'd stumbled upon one of them, he wouldn't tell Robb he'd fully mapped them (when he did), but he didn't see the harm in showing his brother some of them, especially as it would be a good, quiet, and secretive place to meet.
Still, he was getting distracted, and so with a nod, he moved on, this time taking more care to run his hands over the walls to feel for hidden doors.
Another hour and nothing.
An hour of bumps, several spiders, Ghost eventually growing impatient and settling on the floor, and then, down one left side corridor, split from the main track, almost hidden, he felt it.
It was another mirage almost; the door was hidden, no seams, no indication of any type of entrance. Instead he'd discovered it again by feel, and then when he held his torch up could see the crack of a door.
He pushed it open without hesitation.
This was what he was here to do; to explore, he couldn't get scared and go running, he needed to be bold, he needed to be brave, he needed…
Not to scream (and it was a close run thing not to at least yell), when he opened said door and found a skeleton.
Once he got over his shock, he stepped inside the room, ensuring the door was well pushed open, taking tentative steps to ensure no trap doors or mouldy wooden floors. Thankfully it seemed stable as he stepped inside. He also took a second to prop a heavy looking chair to the side against the door so it wouldn't shut on him, and then stepped further inside.
There was one body, laid out on the table, and as Jon placed his torch in a wall bracket he stepped closer to inspect as Ghost remained by the door as guard.
He smiled to himself as he glanced at his loyal wolf; that was one thing that had stayed the same, Ghost being his companion, by his side as they entered dangerous situations, they always had one another's backs.
Just as he stepped to inspect the body (he was thankful it was bones at this point, and decay was long gone, and the smell was only mild), a quest popped up, but not one he was expecting.
A Man and his Wolf
Take Ghost hunting in the Kingswood and see what you can bag.
Reward: +10 Hunting, +10 Relationship with Ghost, 100XP
Failure: -10 Relationship with Ghost, -10 Hunting
Optional Bonus! Bring Robb and Greywind for an additional 100XP and +10 Relationship with Greywind.
By travelling to a new place you have unlocked additional optional bonuses to quests! These will be small optional 'add one' to quests with small rewards but worth keeping an eye out for!
He nodded at that, it was a good quest and he was keen to get to Level 5 as soon as possible to finally understand other peoples levels and where he sat in comparison.
He would persuade Robb to go hunting tomorrow, for now however Ghost remained by the door, and he stepped forward to the dead man.
For it was a man, in a fine set of clothing, though it was moderately chewed through (rats he imagined), and dirty, it spoke to not quite being a nobleman but perhaps a trader or merchant, he had been around enough highborn people to note their clothing.
Funny how some skills and observations were relevant that he hadn't even noted before.
He wondered briefly then about other skills he'd yet to unlock. Several quests had 'unlocked' other skills as he used them, he imagined it would continue do so, and vowed to make sure he was practising and using new skills to ensure he could unlock and develop them.
Back to the man.
The man had clearly been placed atop the table, though Jon noted it looked more like a slab of stone, it was evident this has been put here to hold this man, all designed in advance. His hands (now just bone) were crossed over his chest.
Jon couldn't tell anymore, not from the body at least, it was too decayed, white splayed bone, it had clearly been there for a while.
However, it didn't matter that the body told him little, as in one of the boned hands was a piece of parchment which he snatched up, gently so to ensure he didn't disturb this man's final resting place.
And the paper told him all he needed to know.
It was a map! Not a complete one, if anything it looked more like wiggles and crosses and dots, but Jon could see it was a map, much like his own, only so much larger, more intricate, by a more experienced hand.
There was a desk in the room, and a stubby candle holder. He used it quickly, lighting from the wall torch and sat himself down. Ghost remained by the door, and he laid out the map, no bigger than both of his hands and yet so incredibly detailed.
It was simple to work out the winding lines were the tunnels and Gods they were vaster than he thought. The crosses he had to surmise were traps or dead-ends (which he'd need to test, carefully), he wasn't sure what the dots were, and he noted five suns as well, or what looked like suns, they were small, but he didn't know what they represented.
He would clearly need to find out.
He turned the map over, not expecting anything, and yet someone had left here a letter, in tiny writing he squinted to see, picking through the words, eyes widening as he went.
Dear whoever may find this and my final resting place with it,
I was ordered by his Grace to construct this elaborate labyrinth of tunnels beneath the Red Keep, to ensure a monarch's ability to come and go, as needed, as pleased, in secret or in fleeing persecution.
Me and my men spent years working on the network, adding secrets, traps and tunnels, dead ends, and caches where we went, all at his Graces orders, all under his watchful eye.
We knew that when we completed this task, we would not live long to see it used.
This is why I, as my final duty as Chief Builder, agreed to be put to death and entombed here by my fellow builders, to pass on the secrets his Grace may not even know himself, and to pass on mine and my men's greatest work.
King Maegor the Cruel was named so aptly, my men will no doubt have been slain and buried here, but that is our honour, to rest where we worked so hard, and achieved so much.
And now you, explorer (for I know King Maegor does not have the guile nor intelligence to find this hidden place), have found me, and my map.
Pay attention to the crosses that represent trapdoors, the dead ends, and do not get lost along the way. The dots) represent exits into the main Keep, each hidden, though some will come out in unexpected areas. The slashes represent areas you may listen in on the most sensitive areas of the Keep, I recommend the Northernmost slash – the Hands chambers if you want to learn real secrets!
And then finally the suns.
These represent hidden artifacts, hidden treasures that his Grace had sealed and hidden across the tunnels, five in total, even I do not know what they are, for he slew each man who sealed and hid them as soon as they the doors to each chamber were closed.
May you find them now.
Be careful around these tunnels, the dead sing in them now, but as long as you bear mine and my brother builders no ill will, we will not harm you here, we will be singing songs of encouragement in either the seven heavens or hells.
King Maegor will without a doubt be cursing you from the latter.
Best of luck adventurer.
Needless to say, that was not what he'd expected.
Yes, he'd read the history of Maegor the Cruel, about the Aegon Fort and his plans for it that had then been turned into the Red Keep, how Maegor had slain the builders to keep the secrets for himself, and yet … this builder has entombed himself, not tried to escape, had gone to death willingly to ensure the secrets may one day be passed on.
And they had been, to him.
"May the Old Gods keep watch over you" He said, almost out of habit, for it was something his Uncle, Lord Stark would say when someone died, when he needed to execute someone, when someone's time was up.
Jon's time had been up, he hadn't thought about his death a lot, thrust back into life so quickly, but it had, but no one had said those words over his body.
Perhaps that was why he had come back, perhaps the Old Gods had refused to take him.
No, he knew the truth, and it settled in his stomach like a hard pit, as the torch flickered next to him, as Ghost sat patiently, as he pulled out some meat for his companion, and ate some bread himself, drinking some water too, preparing to move on.
No, he hadn't come back because someone hadn't said some words over his body or because the Old Gods had rejected him, no he'd come back because the Gods, whichever ones, weren't done with him yet.
It was a tiring thought, and one that stayed with him.
The Gods weren't done with him yet.
Ten minutes later he'd repacked his bag, scoured the room (and there was nought than what he'd already found), relit his torch and was preparing to leave, he'd been in the tunnels for hours now, and though he could have happily explored for hours more, he knew he needed to get back.
And so, as he left the room, the final resting place of Haeron, the Chief Builder, he said those words again, "May the Old Gods keep watch over you" Before sealing it shut, he added the room to his own map, Haerons would be useful for sure, but it was good to develop his own too.
And as the door sealed, Ghost by his side, the book offered some light.
Secrets of the Tunnels
Find the hidden room.
Reward: A mysterious object that is yours for the taking.
Reward: A Map of Maegors Tunnels, +200XP, +1 PER.
Level 4: 2200/2500XP.
He smiled to himself as he closed the room, he had checked it thoroughly and didn't intend to disturb Haerons place of rest any further.
Besides, there was much more to explore.
But not today alas, however, there was one more thing he could do. Rather than turning back to leave through the servants' quarters, he instead walked a little deeper into the tunnels, not far, but far enough that he came across one of the dots on Haerons map, i.e., an exit into the main Keep.
It was probably foolish, not knowing what lay beyond, but he allowed himself this one moment of recklessness, rather than take the near two-hour trek back through dusty tunnels to the entrance he'd found, instead he'd allow himself a little recklessness.
Thankfully, he was rewarded … in a sense.
He found the door this time easily enough, the map was a boon, and he resolved once he returned to his quarters that night to copy the map out into the book, adding in Haerons additions, and anything more he found on his own.
The book, unsurprisingly glowed as that thought came to him.
Draw out Haerons Map
Reward: +20 Cartography, +200XP.
Failure: -30 Cartography.
Well, that was his evening plans set in stone then, he glanced at his XP: 2200/2500 – so close to Level 5! He smiled to himself as he tucked the book away, checked his weapons and motioned for Ghost to wait.
And then he pushed open the door, the secret door to wherever in the Red Keep it may lead.
Which rather anti-climactically opened up into a corridor.
Yet first he had to move a large tapestry out of the way, to allow him into said corridor.
He whistled Ghost through and closed the door behind him, wondering how no one had stumbled across it, and yet, that was easy to see as he closed it behind him. The door again sunk into the wall and was at the end of a long corridor. The corridor looked in use, but the door was tucked away and behind the tapestry, and Jon knew, as he stepped back, and whistled for Ghost to follow, you had to know it was there to open it.
Which he now did, and he smiled to himself, one hand on his sword, cloak sweeping the stone of the floor, intending to make his way to his room, the time told him it was near time for dinner, and so he planned to grab Robb (who he knew travelworn was likely still sleeping), get some food, and discuss taking Ghost and Greywind for a hunt tomorrow.
Then he'd retire, fill out the map, and go to bed a happy man, so close to Level 5, with the hunt with Robb tomorrow getting him there.
That was the plan at least, and it wasn't that impeded, not even as he turned a corner, and came face to face with one of the most beautiful women he'd ever met.
"I don't think you're supposed to be down here my Lord"
She spoke as he turned and saw her, a little smile playing at her lips as she spoke, an eyebrow raised.
And yet, Jon took a step back, even as something pink came to his cheeks, he was always wary of people who tried to charm him, and though he looked young, his mind was older, hardened, this body may have not lain with a woman, but he certainly had, Ygritte…
This woman was the opposite of Ygritte in every way possible.
Whereas Ygritte was hair of fire, this woman was brunette, her hair shining as though it had been brushed a thousand times. Whereas Ygritte had eyes of pierced blue, this woman's were soft and brown, inviting. Whereas Ygritte was a wildling, bow strapped at her back, wearing practical clothes, this woman was dressed only to look pretty, in green and blue, the cut of the dress showing her arms and chest, not at all designed to protect against anything, not even his eyes.
Whereas Ygritte her smiles had to be earned, this woman gave them freely. She was stunningly beautiful, likely felt a frown would mar said beauty.
He didn't have much experience with Southern women, and he couldn't be sure as to who she was, but he could guess.
And that meant he had to be very, very careful.
"And why is that my Lady?" He asked, far more confident than he would have been if younger. He didn't smile though, polite as it would have been, he wouldn't show she'd charmed him.
Not that she had, he wouldn't let her, pretty as she was.
And she was indeed.
"Well this is the guest wing for the Tyrell family" Ahh, so his guess had been right, "And I don't believe you're a Tyrell my Lord"
She wasn't telling him off, but teasing him, he'd have laughed if not to correct her, though a smile did play across his lips.
"I'm not a Lord, my Lady" He said, even nodded his head, having to repeat the same conversation he'd had with the Princess Mycrella, he wondered if it would be easier just to not correct everyone, but for now it was true, "Jon Snow, at your service"
No wonder his Charisma score was abysmal, and hadn't the book warned that Charisma would be important in the South? Or had he determined that? Either or he knew it was right, it was all charm and fluff down here, and as disdainful as that was, he'd have to get used to it.
To play the game.
The game he had decided to play, to save his family, to save Westeros.
"Jon Snow?" She asked, "Of the North?" Her eyes sparkled then, likely for something new and exciting and he smiled again, he could understand that.
"Aye my Lady" He said, "And you are?" Though he was sure he already knew, and as she spoke and the words above her head appeared, he was proven right, and smiled to himself for his observational skills, they did come in handy.
"Margaery Tyrell, at your service my Lord" She said, bowing her head low, he near smirked, charming indeed, continuing to be deferential even though in the pecking order he was far, far below her.
It was very well done, this enchanting Lady of Highgarden knew what she was doing, he was sure if he'd had the mind to match his age here, he'd be tripping over himself, tongue tied and blushing.
Daughter of the Reach
As to be expected, a minimal relationship, he supposed he should be happy she didn't despise him on sight for being a bastard.
Not that it mattered.
"Again, I'm not a Lord, my Lady" He said with a dip of his head. Perhaps he shouldn't bother correcting people.
"But you're Ned Starks son are you not?" She said, her eyes widening at her slip, intentional slip? She did know who he was then, "Noble at least"
"Aye" He said with a shrug, "But no Lord"
"And what are you doing here then, Jon Snow?" She asked, her tone sultry, still teasing. She stood a respectable distance away, but some mischief flashed in her eyes, those brown eyes, warm and kind.
He liked that, didn't trust it, but liked it.
"Exploring" He said briskly, for that was his cover plan for being caught unawares, though this was the least incriminating way … though he did realise if anyone found the two of them alone there might be a fuss, a Northern bastard talking to the flower of Highgarden, alone.
He near laughed to himself then, would she be so charming if she knew the truth of who he was? Or scared? Or maybe even more charming if that were possible?
If she knew she were chatting to a Prince would she dip her head lower? Would she smile wider? Step closer? Probably, and he felt annoyed at that, annoyed that if she knew who he truly was she might like him more, might want to talk to him more, all for his heritage, his parents, his blood, his name.
"And how has your exploring been?" She asked, playing with the edge of her dress, all deliberate, though that didn't mean it didn't work, he was no fool to admit it did, but it did.
"Interesting" He offered, "I'll be here for a while with my brother Robb, and so I like to know where I'm staying" He paused then, thinking it wasn't a bad idea to keep this Lady happy, both for tactical reasons and to keep her smiling, she had a nice smile, "Why are you in the Capitol my Lady?"
"Why for the nameday tourney for Prince Joffrey of course" She said, and there was something there, a hint of sarcasm in her tone? No, surely, he'd imagined it, she was wearing a mask, as was he, hiding their true intentions.
It was all so fucking false here, he despised it.
Pretty smiles aside, he wished people just spoke plainly. He knew that was why he'd never fit in here, and never fit with a girl like Margaery Tyrell.
"Oh, have I offended you?" She asked then, this flower who smiled and simpered, and whilst as devastatingly pretty as a flower, no doubt had thorns underneath.
At least he hoped so, prettiness alone was quite dull, he hoped there was some iron underneath.
"Why would you ask that?" He asked then, eyebrow raised, catching himself.
"You scowled all of a sudden" She teased, though she didn't look worried, "I hope it wasn't on the account of me"
"No" He said, perhaps a touch harshly, "Just thinking of this City" It was the truth, but nothing too truthful, no, that he kept to himself.
"Oh, it is dreadful isn't it" She sympathised, and he raised an eyebrow at that, "I miss Highgarden greatly, do you miss Winterfell?"
"Since the second I left it" He said, for that was the truth, he ached for the North, for where he belonged.
"As do I for Highgarden" She said with a sigh, and he sensed she was telling the truth, and he managed a smile at that, a kinship of being homesick.
A nudge next to him stole his attention, Ghost making himself known, he turned to Lady Margaery to warn her, and yet she just smiled as his direwolf, now the size of a very large dog stepped forwards.
"Oh, he is lovely" She said, and again he sensed sincerity, her hands didn't shake, nor did she flinch and he admired her bravery, to keep her charming mask in place she was willing to deal with a direwolf, he had to admire that.
Why did it seem all the Southern Ladies he'd met so far adored Ghost? Wasn't he seen as some fierce beast? Perhaps it was his snow-white coat, or his silence, or that he trotted around happily bumping his head against said pretty ladies hands.
"Ghost" He said, "Go on" He encouraged him, and it was just the same as the conversation he'd had with the Princess Mycrella, only whereas the Princess had giggled and blushed, and waited to pet Ghost, Lady Margaery held out her hand and Ghost trotted forward, brushing against it before brushing against her skirts, to which she grinned, totally sure he wouldn't hurt her.
"He is gorgeous" She said with a grin, stroking along his fur confidently, "How old is he?"
"Only a few months" Jon said, and nodded as Lady Margaery gasped, likely false but he indulged her all the same.
"He's so big" She said, scratching Ghost behind the ears, causing his companion to nudge into her happily. Yes, perhaps the ladies liked Ghost as he liked them.
"Aye" He said, then whistled Ghost back to his side, who did so, reluctantly, but he knew it was time to move on, he was already drawn into this conversation. "I should let you go my Lady"
"Of course," She said, eyes widened that he would be the one to leave her company, he imagined she wasn't used to that, wasn't used to not controlling the scenario.
Still, better he get away now, or be charmed for real.
"It was lovely to meet you" She said with a little grin, and Jon nodded, and he smiled without thinking, and knew his cheeks had to be a little pink, he wasn't immune after all.
"And you too my Lady" He said with a nod, and walked past her, whistling to Ghost, one hand on his sword to steady himself, as he needed steadying.
"Jon?" She asked, and he turned then as she spoke, "Come and talk to me sometime"
"I will" He said, regretted it as he did, for seeming as though he was trailing at her skirts, cleared his throat, "When would you like that my Lady?" He asked, going for polite.
"Whenever you like" She said, that little grin firm in place before she nodded and practically danced around the corner, away from him.
And he walked back to his room, more than a little dazed, feeling equal parts stunned and annoyed.
Margaery Tyrell was a beauty in truth, he'd have to be blind not to see that, but she was also the picture of a Southern girl, false, charming only to get what she wanted. He didn't despise that, he understood it, respected it even, women had few choices in this world, and she had to do what she had to do.
And yet, her clear attempt to manipulate everything around her was what he disliked, disliked, and needed to fight against.
It would be so easy to look into those soft brown eyes, fall for her pretty smiles, have Ghost at her feet, and he on his knees before her, so easy.
But, in this world, in this truth he was just a bastard, and bastards didn't get to be friends or anything more with flowers of Highgarden.
No, besides it wouldn't do any good to get distracted, as he arrived at his room and stepped inside, lay down on his bed, just for a moment, to straighten his head, catch his breath.
And then appeared…
Flower of Highgarden
Seek out Margaery Tyrell again and have some fun.
Reward: +10 Relationship with Lady Margaery, +5 Love with Lady Margaery,+1 CHA, +1 PER
Failure: -20 Relationship with Lady Margaery
This is a time sensitive quest! If you fail to complete this quest before the timer runs out, then you will fail it. Time sensitive quests offer less XP bonus, but generally higher other bonuses. These quests are also known as 'storyline' quests, in that they have a huge impact on the future! They will be rarer than other quests, but it is highly recommended you complete them!
Time Remaining: 1 Week
You will get more of these quests the more pretty ladies you meet, but be careful … some ladies smile, some bite.
"Hey, how was your afternoon?"
That was Robb at the door, and once he came inside, his brother laughed and laughed, as he told him not of the tunnels, but of who he had ran into.
The flower of Highgarden indeed…
As if he needed to make things anymore complicated.
this was dreadfully fun to write
poor jon just wants to storm the lands of always winter and save the world, but first comes the southern courts...
next time we meet more new people, and more adventures await