Author's Notes: It's here! Not only is it the official Chapter 100, but this is a rather important chapter in the whole of the fic, one of the chapters that I've been writing up to this whole time! I'm so excited for you all to read it! Thank you for continuing to follow this fic on its impressive journey. I owe you all a massive debt of gratitude for reading and supporting this fic!
Podcast update: I will be recording the podcast with TheBlack'sResurgence here in the next couple of weeks. I will also be recording for another podcast for TDR next weekend. I really hadn't planned for a deluge of podcasts, but here we are! I'm unsure when the podcast I'm recording for next week will be available. If you're interested in hearing the content, I highly recommend you subscribe to one or all of the social media links below to get instant access. FFN stripping out links is a rather giant obstacle.
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He could feel sweat already beading on his forehead in the morning sun, but it had little to do with the heat.
They were finally going to reveal the wight to Westeros.
Aemon had been anticipating this day with a mixture of excitement and foreboding. This was where he and Jaime would finally reveal at least part of their hand that they had been playing so close to the chest. His heart pounded and he shivered despite the southern heat.
A thousand different outcomes had been racing through his head for the last few days, each more terrifying and unlikely as the last, but he couldn't seem to dislodge them. Worst among his fears was that the wight would turn to dust and blow away once the chest was opened. Then someone would call foul and the southron lords would butcher him and Jaime like rabid dogs. He'd forced Jaime to check every morning that it was still … alive. Jaime continually confirmed that it was, but he couldn't keep from fretting.
Daenerys had noticed a change in him when breaking their fast. He could tell it irritated her that he refused to say what was to be revealed. Another one of his fears was that word would get out that it was to be a wight and then no one would show, expecting it to be a jape.
Nearly everything they had been working so hard for came down to this moment. If Westeros refused to believe the threat beyond the Wall was real, then their efforts were sunk like a ship in a storm. The lords would squabble amongst each other and the Army of the Dead would sweep through, laying waste to all before it. Aemon feared that it would end under even more dire circumstances than the last time.
Would the Gods persist in righting this wrong? Or was this their only chance?
I shudder to think of the Gods' wrath should we fail, Aemon thought.
Being king had strained his relationships with his uncle, Robb, and Arya, and it seemed ridiculous to express his fears and concerns to any of them. While his uncle knew their ultimate secret, he still did not understand the depth of his and Jaime's experiences. Despite telling his uncle about the portents of a future that no longer existed, Aemon still felt there was a wall between them. He was concerned his uncle still didn't quite grasp the urgency of the situation despite House Stark's words.
He hoped the wight was what was needed to bridge at least a portion of that gap. If all went well, the realm would mobilize. The Reach would harvest and send a substantial portion of their food north to feed the people and the Night's Watch at the Wall. He would expand the mining at Dragonstone for dragonglass. They would recruit blacksmiths to start work making dragonglass daggers for every soldier who would be sent north. The lords would understand that the dragons were there to be protectors of the realm and need not be feared.
Lord Tywin would've sooner kissed my feet, Aemon thought with a wry shake of his head. The revelation of the wight was only going to make his time as king even more complicated than it already was. But it would level some things and he would cherish that.
No matter how things turned out this morning, his family would understand his fears. They would rally around him. Perhaps Robb would even let go of some of his resentment about the situation at Winterfell. Once the wight was revealed and he and Daenerys married, there was nothing stopping the North and Jaime from going to Winterfell and uprooting Roose Bolton.
He would have plenty of time to fret about Bran's fate until then. The Gods only know if he and the other children will be spared. Jaime's concern lay more with his poor son and the other Lannister bastards; Aemon felt for him, but Bran was his brother in all but name and his powers had been unrivaled. Bran's legion of ravens had made useful and swift spies. Chairbound as he was, Bran fell victim early to the Night King, but he had deftly tracked the enemy's whereabouts through his eyes in the sky until then.
A hand slipped into his and he stirred. Daenerys was smiling gently at him and squeezed his hand. "Have confidence. I'm sure all will be well."
He returned her smile with a shaky one. "I hope so," he whispered.
"I know … that you won't say what this is supposed to be, but … is it good news at least?"
Aemon looked down and then back at her, shaking his head.
Her smile fell and became troubled. "That is most unfortunate," she said. "This means a great deal to you and I know you don't do anything by half. I am still confident that no matter the trouble, we can overcome it."
"I hope you're right," Aemon replied as he watched the nobles drifting into the parade grounds. The demonstration was to take place in the mid-morning. He and Daenerys had arrived early to oversee. Much like when a tourney was held, there were stakes with ropes to mark the area off, but otherwise little else stood between the wight and the crowd.
Gasps and screams rang out as the dragons came in for a landing, settling on the rooftop of the stables nearby at Daenerys' command. Her dragons were now the size of large dogs and Rhaegal was the size of a lamb; he insisted on staying with Drogon and Rhaellon, like a child following his older siblings. He had been moved temporarily into the godswood where the other dragons currently sheltered. Aemon hoped that the Dragon Pit would soon be cleared and open as their new home, but as it was in quite a state of disrepair, cleaning it up and making it suitable was slow going.
Once the dragons settled, so did the other nobles. Even though the dragons had been around for a couple of months, they spent most of their time at sea, fishing for their meals; they otherwise retired for sleep in the godswood. Few were brave enough to venture into the godswood knowing dragons could be there, so many did not have the chance to see the dragons up close.
Jaime was calm and collected standing over on the far side with Brienne. They were both wearing their armor. For once, Jaime paid little notice to the dragons and did not shy from them as usual. Was it Brienne keeping him relaxed or was he making an effort toward accepting the dragons in light of what they were about to show?
"I'm not sure I've ever seen you so grim," Robb quipped with a lazy smile and lightly punched him on his arm.
"Robb, he is the king!" his uncle said.
"That just means I get to hit back harder," Aemon joked as they both grasped each other's forearms and nodded.
"Your Grace," Margaery began as Aemon planted the customary kiss on her knuckles, "I am so very curious what this reveal is supposed to be."
"I would temper your expectations, my lady. It is not exciting in that way," Aemon replied.
Margaery lifted her eyebrows and her eyes lit up. "Oh? You've only piqued my curiosity further."
"You'll know soon enough."
Margaery moved on to speak with Daenerys as Sansa stepped up and curtsied. Although Aemon did not see her often, he could already see Margaery's influence by the way she held herself. "Your Grace, I, too, am looking forward to seeing what it is," Sansa said.
Arya was vibrating with energy and her smile beamed like the sun. "I can't wait! You won't make it dull, will you?"
Aemon chuckled dryly. "It will be anything but dull."
"Are you sure she should be here?" his uncle asked, a concerned hand placed on Arya's shoulder.
Arya sighed greatly and rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Please, Father! Jon said I could come!"
"She really should see this, Uncle. It will be in her future too."
His uncle's face became clouded. "Is it what I think it is?"
"What do you think it is?" Aemon asked.
But his uncle only drew his mouth into a tight line and shook his head. He was fairly certain his uncle knew. He had, after all, told the whole of the North that the wights were a looming threat, but his uncle was the only one who knew the full extent.
Aemon walked over to Jaime. "Are we ready?" he asked.
"Of course, Your Grace," Jaime said. He looked behind him, pointed at the chest, and then pointed to the ground. Two men grabbed it on either side. Once it was on the ground, they could see the handles tremble from its struggles and it scraped slightly across the floor.
"I'll attach this lead to the front and when you unlock it, I'll pull it to reveal," Jaime said. "Be ready."
Aemon gripped both Lady Forlorn's hiltand the hilt of the sword Jaime had gifted him and nodded. He turned toward the crowd which had filled in around him. Their eyes were on the box. He didn't think anyone had noticed it tremble.
The last to arrive was Lord Stannis and Lady Selyse. He was unchained but a pair of Winterfell soldiers flanked him. Lady Shireen threw herself into her father's arms. He was stiff as he hugged her but kept a protective hand on her shoulder once they parted.
"Lords and ladies, my countrymen, I've brought you here to warn you of a growing threat to our lands. How many of you are familiar with tales of the Long Night?"
The lords and ladies of the North unabashedly raised their hands, but there was only a smattering he could see from other regions: the fewer the hands the further south they were from. He was surprised that Prince Oberyn had a hand up, his eyebrow cocked with mild curiosity.
"For those of you who aren't familiar, a long winter followed a long summer. But that winter was made of more than just cold and wind. It heralded the Long Night, where the sun set for months and the dead were made to rise and torment the living," Aemon said. When he paused, he thought he heard a low rumble of chuckles and many looked like they were merely indulging a child's flight of fancy. "You don't believe me? Well, here's your proof."
Jaime hooked his chain to the front and stood behind the chest to pull.
Aemon felt the sweat dripping from his face as he pulled the key over his head. He hesitated a moment and prayed, Gods, please let this wight prove my words. Then he swiftly stuck the key in, turned it, and jumped back.
Jaime pulled the lid.
A flailing of dead limbs erupted and in its scramble, the box tipped. Shrieks and yells split the air and Aemon thought he saw a lady faint out of the corner of his eye. As soon as it locked eyes with him, Aemon was taken back to the last battle with the sea of glowing blue eyes shining dully through the falling snow.
Aemon pulled his sword. The wight ran for him, screeching and growling. He sliced clean through its middle. Its legs continued to wriggle and flail. It flipped its torso over and started pulling itself toward him, still screeching its cries.
"Do you believe now?" Aemon asked. When he looked around then, every single person was aghast. A few men held their aswoon wives or daughters. Not a single face wasn't horrified. Margaery held a hand to her mouth in shock and Robb put an arm around her to bring her closer; Robb appeared unsurprised and grim, while Sansa was pale and wide-eyed. His uncle was gaping and when they locked eyes, he nodded stiffly. Lady Olenna was tight-lipped and pale and Lord Willas' mouth was working like a fish out of water. Ser Loras was staring at it with ferocious intensity. Prince Oberyn looked stunned and his daughter Saranella clutched at his arm. David fiercely glared at the wight, while House Alexandratos all recoiled in horror. The dragons all hissed like terrified cats, but they remained perched on the roof. Only Arya's eyes were bright with excitement as she jumped up and down on her toes.
"As you can see, they cannot be killed with normal steel," Aemon said, sheathing his sword and pulling out Lady Forlorn. He walked over to the set of legs and brought his sword down on its tailbone and the legs ceased their struggle. "However, they can be killed with Valyrian Steel and dragonglass. And they are susceptible to fire." He turned to meet Daenerys' eyes.
He could see terror in the outline of her body, but as soon as he looked at her, she drew herself up and wiped her fear. "Drogon," she called out, "dracarys."
The black dragon snarled and leaped over the heads of the crowd and started circling the torso. He opened his mouth and streamed a mixture of red and black fire. With a final shriek, the wight crumbled and lay still.
"Fall has only just begun, but this wight was captured nearly eight months ago. We cannot wait for Winter to plan or it will be too late. We must act now if we hope to have a chance against the Night King and his Army of the Dead."
"How did you become aware of this?" Lady Olenna asked.
Aemon was not surprised by the question, but he was still uncertain of the right way to answer it. Despite the miracle they had all just witnessed, he thought he would still be taken for mad if he confessed a connection to the Gods.
"I went to the Wall and Lord Commander Mormont brought it to my attention. This is a threat that cannot be ignored. We must act now."
"The Wall," Lord Tyrell began, "but there's the Wall! It was made to protect us, was it not?"
"Indeed it was, Lord Tyrell," Aemon replied. "But we should not rely on the Wall alone. The Night's Watch is no longer a robust force. Of the nineteen castles on the Wall, only three are even manned." A stunned silence followed his proclamation and he nodded, "Do you all see now how urgent this matter is?"
"I see you intend to steer a lot of resources North. Is this not a ploy to greatly enrich it?" Prince Oberyn said, crossing his arms.
"Yes, let's enrich those on the Wall. Those cold bastards deserve a little coin for bearing with the frostbite on their balls," Jaime sneered at Prince Oberyn.
Aemon closed his eyes and sighed, fighting to keep the laughter from bubbling up. "The North is the frontline, Prince Oberyn. I cannot change that any more than I can change the setting of the sun in the west. It is what it is. The threat is real and we ignore it at our own peril."
"How do we know this isn't the only wight?" Lord Tyrell shouted.
"I will have to congratulate the Night's Watch on finding the only wight in the entire territory of the North. That's quite a feat for an area that's larger than the Westerlands, the Reach, and Dorne combined," Jaime said. Brienne sighed and placed her hand on Jaime's shoulder, but his mocking smile did not falter.
"We have enjoyed summer for ten years, the longest summer on record. As has been noted by the maesters, a long winter is sure to follow. We must begin preparing now if we are to suffer a freeze of ten years or more. Are you with me?" Aemon asked.
Daenerys stepped forward. "If we work together, the Army of the Dead will not stand a chance against us. We must prepare our dragons."
He grinned and placed a kiss on her cheek. "Thank you, my love," he whispered into her ear.
"You have my support, Your Grace," Jaime said with a curt nod and then he turned to glare at all those present. "You will ever have an ally in the Westerlands."
"We're with you, Your Grace," Uncle Ned said. The Northern lords shouted their approval.
Ser Edmure Tully was visibly shaken, but his voice was steady as he said, "The Riverlands recognizes the threat of the Long Night and will support the fight against this army. For the sake of our people."
"Of course you will have the Reach," Lord Tyrell blustered, red in the face. "I will not stand for this threat when my daughter will be so close at hand." Margaery embraced her father and kissed him on the cheek.
"It pains me that my father is no longer alive to see this," Lord Andar Royce said. "He believed in your cause. I will do my utmost to rally the Vale for the benefit of us all." A few lords behind him were nodding as well.
Lord Edric Baratheon stepped forward, looking small in his fine clothes. His voice trembled as he spoke, but grew stronger, "The Stormlands recognizes this threat and will lend our aid."
Prince Oberyn cocked his head and drew out the silence as he studied Aemon. His mouth finally twitched into a smile, "Dorne will also lend its support against the Army of the Dead. You don't know me well enough, Your Grace, if you don't think I won't be right on the frontlines ready for this Night King to feel my spear."
Aemon chuckled and said, "Very well. The small council will be spending the next several days discussing how we will address this persistent threat. Before we leave, I would ask one thing: are there any volunteers for the Night's Watch?"
Ser Loras stepped forward. "I will volunteer."
"No!" Lord Tyrell shouted.
"Father, I am a man grown. The Night's Watch needs good fighters. I may as well put myself to use," Loras said with an expression of grim determination. Margaery broke away from her father to embrace her brother.
"I will volunteer, for the sake of my father and to avenge my brother," Robar Royce said. His brother Andar frowned severely at him, but nodded.
"I will as well!"
"Count me in."
Aemon felt his spirits lifting as more spare sons and even several knights stepped forward. "I thank you for your service. The Night's Watch will benefit from such strong and ready fighters. When Lord Stark and Lord Lannister strike North, you will ride with them."
"When is that day?"
"The day after Princess Daenerys and I are wed," Aemon said.
"Back to the North again," Jaime said with a heavy sigh.