The Raven's Plan
Author's Notes: Thank you all for the reviews! It's all much appreciated :) Enjoy! And Don't forget to Review! :D
Rating: M; it's Game of Thrones, anything less is not Game of thrones :D
Summary: The Second War for the Dawn is over, the Others have won. All that is left is one insane plan.
Chapter 47 Life Continues
Her time as Margaery Tyrell's handmaiden had been an education. A simple girl from the North, her mother had tried to prepare her for the splendour of Highgarden and the niceties of Southern courts. It had been difficult at first but Margaery had been surprisingly nice and kind to her despite Mira's much humbler origins.
House Forrester was a minor house of the North, though, as the near sole provider of Ironwood, that at times, gave them a disproportionate amount of power to their actual status, which went a ways to explain why the Tyrells had welcomed her into their midst.
Margaery had been a delightful surprise, treating her almost like a sister; it had made the absence of her own sister, sweet young Talia, much less painful. It had been a good life, with promising matches in her future...until that night.
That night, everything had changed.
These days...there was magic in the air. Powerful and world altering magic.
Overnight so many things had changed, the strain had appeared on almost everyone, words of war and rebellion had startled everyone out of their complacent lives. The Queen of Thorns' dark demeanor had people walking on eggshells as the fate of House Tyrell had spread. the Tales of the North had chilled her as the Boltons were said to have claimed the North from the Starks. The fate of her family would have been bleak considering the animosity between the Whitehills and the Forresters. the Whitehills would have stood with their direct lieges, the Boltons, against the Starks.
The story of the Red Wedding was nightmarish and calamitous. She knew that her father and brother would have been there, and it didn't bear thinking about what would have happened to them there.
Margaery had been tight-lipped for the most part about specifics, apart from cursing out Cersei Lannister privately in a manner that probably would have made an Umber proud. The looks of shame and regret that Mira had caught her giving her was not reassuring.
Mira had swallowed her questions and kept her cool, watching and listening as the world seemed to change almost daily. An army had gathered around Highgarden, bannermen from all across the Reach were here and war would be upon them all soon enough.
Against who- that had changed a dizzying number of times.
The Lannisters, then the Baratheons and now, the Baratheons and the Others.
And now there were the preparations for Margaery Tyrell's wedding to Dickon Tarly.
All things considered, the tension in the air was palpable and expected.
Still, it was a wedding and there was a modicum of cheer spreading around, more among those that did not remember than those that did. Nevertheless, Margaery's wedding was a rushed affair, and not nearly as grand as Mira had expected it to be. Mace Tyrell was constantly grumbling about it despite his mother's glowing looks.
Then again there was an army camped around Highgarden, waiting on this wedding to go off, before they could go off and face off against Robert Baratheon.
And then the Others.
Mira shuddered despite the warmth of Highgarden, she'd never expected to face that ancient enemy.
She shook herself again, grounding herself back in reality and pushing away from her wayward thoughts, she turned back to the task at hand, preparing for another tension filled day of wedding preparations.
She sighed and got to work. The day seemed to fly by as she and Sera Durwell, Margaery's other handmaiden, continued running around Highgarden on one chore after another for the Wedding.
Hours flew by and still there didn't seem an end to the number of chores that had to be completed quickly.
She'd sat with Margaery a number of times that day, picking out colours and designs for the seamstresses and other issues.
Mira was returning to the small balcony that Margaery had taken over for the preparations. As she approached she heard Lord Samwell's voice from a distance, the fat Lord had been a sweet and smiling boy the times they had met before, they hadn't really spoken since he came and took the Reach from Mace Tyrell. Here was one more example of someone that had changed to almost be unrecognisable. He'd been somber and confident the few times she had seen him these days.
Her musing fled from her as she came to an abrupt stop as she heard Margaery's reply, her voice couloured with a quiet and seductive tone that she shouldn't have been using with her future goodbrother.
With trepidation, Mira crept closer towards the opening of the balcony. Conspicuously, there were no servants in earshot of the balcony. Margaery was speaking again now, but Mira was still too far away to make out the low words. Mira stood at the entrance of the balcony, and cautiously, peered out, towards Margaery and Samwell.
They were rather conveniently alone on the balcony, a shocking breach of decorum for a Lady of Margaery's standing. Margaery was standing very close to Samwell, face to face with her hand lightly resting on his arm.
She was smiling coyly up at him, she batted her eyelashes at with a giggled once, "My dear Sam, come now, I'm sure I could change your mind," she stated rather openly, the suggestiveness of the comment oozing from her sultry voice.
The Samwell she had known, would have probably fainted away in nervousness when faced with Margaery like this.
This new Samwell gave Margaery a hard stare as she smiled at him guilelessly. After a moment he sighed and shook his head, "I know what you're doing my lady." He stated in a regretful voice.
She raised an expressive eyebrow towards him, "And what am I doing?"
"It's not going to work, whatever you do I'm not going to marry you," he paused for a moment, pursing his lips, "I'm man enough to admit I am tempted and flattered by what you're doing- you'd have to be blind not to be tempted...or Renly," he finished pointedly.
Mira saw a momentary flash of surprise and annoyance mixed in with sheepishness before Margaery's seductive mask was replaced.
Sam wasn't finished, "You know I'm not mad at you. You were always kind to me, even when I got so flustered talking with you and your ladies," Sam admitted, "But I'm not going to forget Gilly."
"Oh? Are you sure?" she purred seductively, gently running her hand along Samwell's.
Samwell took a step back, now a little flustered, "This," his voice was unwavering as he waved his hands around, "All this was done by Bran and the Children of the Forest...but it was my idea," His face darkened and he scowled, making him look almost like his father, his voice was sure and hard, with no room for compromise, "I found a way to bend Time to my will...all so I can get Gilly back."
Margaery looked stunned and stepped back towards a chair, where she sat down roughly, "What?"
Mira nearly gasped in surprise, just as stunned as Margaery by Sam's admission. Who was this Gilly to inspire Samwell so much?
His flustered expression disappeared, and he chuckled, giving her a kind smile, "I lost her. Then I found a way to get her back...it would be really silly for me to not marry her now, wouldn't it?"
Margaery stared at him in shock, impressed and mute. After such an admission what could be said? She blinked and shook her head, "No. There really isn't anything else you could do."
Samwell took a seat opposite her and just smiled, "Dickon is a good man...honestly, this is probably for the best. You know and I know and your Grandmother knows who's really going to rule Highgarden one day when you're married."
Margaery didn't shy away from Samwell's comment, she gave him a long look, before leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms across her chest, "I am aware...and you have no issue with that?" The shock and seductive tones were gone, replaced with a firm and assured tone, very similar to the Queen of Thorns'.
Samwell shrugged, "I have no issue with a woman ruling...and it's not actually that much of a change from what's already happening, is it?" he finished with a chuckle.
Margaery returned the chuckle, "No, I don't suppose it is," she admitted with a rueful smile.
"So...no more tries then?" he cajoled her in a friendly tone.
She nodded, "I believe we have come to an agreement. Grandmother won't be getting everything her way this time," she finished with an amused and accepting smile.
"Good!" Samwell clapped his hands together, a large smile growing on his face, "Now we just have to deal with our listening guest," he finished turning towards the balcony's doorway.
Mira's face reddened as she was discovered in her compromising position.
Alarm grew on Margaery's face as she twisted in surprise towards the doorway.
Mira came forward and bowed, with an embarrassed smile, "My Lord," she said in greeting to the new Lord of the Reach, "Forgive me, I could not help but hear," she stated truthfully and apologetically.
Samwell Tarly smiled warmly, "Lady Mira, I'm glad to finally see you again- I thought for a while that you were hiding from me. Asher and I often spoke about you."
Mira was startled at the mention of her banished brother. And the fact that Samwell apparently knew him now as well.
"Thank you my lord," Mira started, "I didn't realise that you knew my brother," she finished admitting her surprise.
Samwell nodded, "He found his way back north a number of years after the Red Wedding- Gared is a friend as well," he added another surprise.
Mira once more found a surprise laid at her feet, "Truly?"
Samwell nodded, "He was a fellow brother of the Night's Watch."
Mira blinked several times, "I see," she said, the words bringing more questions than answers, since last time she spoke with Gared, he had no aspirations to join the Night's Watch.
Some of her incredulousness must have appeared on her face, because Samwell laughed, "If we didn't have so many wedding preparations I would gladly explain," he lamented politely, he paused and pursed his lips, glancing back at Margaery, "Which brings us to one last piece of unresolved business," he turned towards Margaery and gave her a pointed look.
Margaery seemed to freeze for a moment, before seeming to slump in her seat, "Of course, my Lord. Mira, my dear, I have been very happy with your service, but…"
Mira froze in surprise and foreboding, Margaery's tone was light, but those words never came before anything good.
"...at the moment, Lord Tarly's sister has need of an experienced Handmaiden, though I am loath to lose your service, Lady Talla has a more pressing need than I," Margaery finished with a polite smile.
Mira had come to know Margaery well enough to realise more was at play than was being said here. She kept her questions and denials behind her teeth and simply smiled politely in response. She curtseyed once, "It has been a pleasure serving you, my Lady. I am sure Lady Talla will be most thankful for your helpfulness."
Samwell stood up, he bowed once to Margaery before turning to Mira, "Come along my Lady, my sister has been looking forward to meeting you for quite some time," Samwell stated with an encouraging smile, holding out an arm to her.
Mira gingerly nodded and took his arm, casting a confused look at Margaery. Her now former lady had a regretful expression on her face. They started walking away, leaving Margaery alone on the balcony.
Mira had one final glimpse of her, she watched as Margaery's regret turned into a mournful disheartened look.
Samwell was rather silent as they walked, the old Samwell would have been nervous and tried to fill the awkward silence, hemming and hawing and managing to make it more awkward in the process.
The contrast was stark and still quite jarring for Mira.
As they walked, servants, knights, lords and ladies that they passed bowed in respect to the new Lord of the Reach. Many of them gave her speculative looks, and a number of needless envious looks from the ladies were thrown at Mira.
Soon enough they arrived at the rooms given over for the Tarly's wedding preparations.
With a quick knock, not waiting for a reply, Samwell entered the room. She quickly followed him in.
Inside, she found a number of Tarly retainers. At the center of it all Lady Melessa Tarly sat with her daughter Talla, going through fabrics. Much like she and Sera had been doing with Margaery.
Lady Tarly looked up and smiled at Samwell when she recognised him, "Good you're here Sam, maybe you can do something helpful now," she criticized him.
Samwell laughed, "Of course mother, what do you need of me? I'm sure my duties as Lord of the Reach can wait," he teased mirthfully.
"Of course they can," his mother retorted testily, "We have a wedding to prepare for!"
Samwell just smiled in response before turning towards Mira, "Mother, please allow me to introduce Lady Mira Forrester."
Mira stepped forward and curtseyed once, "It is an honor to meet you my lady."
Lady Melessa gave a look before smiling welcomingly, "And you as well my dear," she stood up and gestured for her daughter to stand up, "Talla, Lady Mira will be your companion from now on- please stay out of trouble and listen to her," she paused and cast a respectful look at Mira, "from what I've heard, she's a very collected girl, you can- and will learn a lot from her," she cast a piercing look at her daughter that made Talla return a chagrined look.
After a moment, Talla turned to Mira and smiled at her, more a girl than a woman, though Mira knew she remembered being a woman, "I've never had a handmaiden before, father never saw the point of them," she admitted openly, "But I think we can be good friends," she finished optimistically with an endearing smile.
Mira curtseyed and nodded, "Thank you, my Lady." Both Tarly ladies seemed very welcoming, a good first sign.
Lady Melessa turned back to the preparations and frowned, "Come along, we have so many things to finish in such a short time," she cast an annoyed look at Samwell, who responded with an innocent smile, "Mira, my dear, you've seen Margaery's dress, be a dear and help us pick out something that matches for Dickon."
Mira smiled, "Of course my Lady," she meekly acquiesced.
The first hours of Mira's service to House Tarly passed in much the same manner as the beginning of her day had started. Margaery and Dickon Wedding was all consuming for both sides of the engagement.
Lady Melessa turned out to be much like her reputation, kind and understanding, though recently there had been suggestions that there was steel underneath her kind demeanour.
Talla on the other hand was a strange mix of childish girl and grown woman. The opposing nature of her physical and mental form were at odds with one another. Mira suspected that was going to be a problem for a number of people all across Westeros for the foreseeable future.
Time passed and Mira found herself working with Talla and her mother as if she had been with them for years. Idle chatter filled the time, Talla questioned her about her life in the North and about Ironrath.
Eventually, Lady Melessa was called away to deal with some issue raised by Lady Olenna. Thankfully neither Mira or Talla needed to accompany her for it.
Silence descended on Mira and Talla, Mira took the opportunity to ask about Samwell's sweetheart, Lady Gilly.
Talla's response was not what she expected, the girl's face went blank for a moment before changing into embarrassment, "Ohh...well Sam's sweetheart isn't actually a Lady...not technically..."
Mira frowned in surprise, his sweetheart was a commoner? Like Prince Duncan Targaryen and Jenny of Oldstones?
Talla winced once before answering, "...she's a...Wildling. I hope that won't be an issue for you? I know that Northerners and Wildlings aren't exactly friends, though that's changing from what Sam's been telling me," she stated carefully.
Mira was taken aback in surprise and shock. No this was worse than what happened with Prince Duncan. Revulsion came to her next. Her Father and brothers had fought Wildlings, Ironrath had lost people over the years to raiders.
All of the North had!
Some of the revulsion must have shown on her face as Talla reached out a reassuring hand on her arm, "It's alright, Gilly is a lovely person! She's so nice and polite."
And that didn't help, Mira knew she couldn't keep the incredulous expression from her face now!
Talla looked worried now, "It's really nothing that you have to worry about. You'll see when you meet her," the girl tried to reassure Mira with a gentle smile.
Mira couldn't answer immediately as she tried to come to terms with all that Talla was saying, "As...as you say my Lady," she kept her tone even, even as she wondered how such a world had come to pass.
What a world we're living in now…then again the Others were coming, so why not a polite Wildling?
Thankfully, Lady Melessa returned accompanied by Lady Olenna and Margaery, and such ideas that a Wildling could be were pushed aside for more believable things. Today was one of the few times she found Lady Olenna's attitudes and demeanour welcome.
The messenger in Hightower livery was no simple knight, but a not so distant relation of the current Lord, one close enough to still be given the Hightower name. Ser Maron Hightower stood patiently with a hard inscrutable look on his face. Whatever calamity he came bearing them, he was at least polite and respectful.
And it was most certainly a calamity if the Lord of the Hightower was sending such a messenger all the way to Winterfell. The Hightowers were still not seen in the best light, in the aftermath of Jorah and Lynesse, with much of the North blaming the spoiled southerner for leading Jorah down his dishonorable path to exile.
She opened the thick letter warily, the thickness was not a good sign. She began reading. As she read, she became both impressed and appalled by the sheer gall of the Maesters for such scheming, even Baelish would have been envious of all they'd managed to do.
She held herself still till she had finished reading the letter in it's entirety. Lowering the letter she looked around the room, father's solar was relatively crowded, Ser Davos, Lord Manderly, Maester Luwin sat around the desk, while the Hightower knight and Ser Rodrick stood by the door.
She pursed her lips and cast a suspicious look at Luwin, despite the message- thankfully, stating that he was innocent and held no part in the Citadel's conspiracy. She knew that maesters would no longer be as trusted as they once were.
She'd known Luwin since she was born, she knew he'd died to protect Bran and Rickon once, and she'd still had a flicker of suspicion over the old man's loyalties.
She sighed, doubting the loyalty of a loyal man was never a good thing. Especially in light of all that was coming.
Davos was giving her a concerned look, wordless she handed the letter over to him. Davos took it and started to read it, the old smuggler turned Hand of the King, at times still struggled with reading, or at least reading quickly...
It was a while before he was completely finished with all of Leyton Hightower's words.
"Fuck me..." he stammered in disbelief when he finally finished reading the letter, "just...fuck me," he deadpanned.
Wordlessly, he handed the message over to Lord Manderly, who's eyes were lidded and cautious as he glanced at her before taking the letter and reading it. He frowned for a moment even as his eyebrows started rising progressively, to the point that by the end of the letter they looked like they were trying to flee from the man's forehead and join the hair on the top of his head.
He gathered himself quickly, his surprise being replaced with anger and disgust, his face turning red, even as he turned to stare at Luwin with suspicion.
Maester Luwin was taken aback at Lord Manderly's suddenly hostile gaze. He shrank back from Lord Manderly in surprise, "My Lord?" he questioned, jerking away from the portly Lord.
Sansa held up a hand halting Lord Manderly's response, she looked to the Hightower Knight, "Thank you Ser Maron," she turned to Ser Rodrick, "Ser Rodrick, please show Ser Maron Winterfell's hospitality, he was done us a great service bring this news to us," she finished with a grateful nod at the Ser Maron.
Ser Maron bowed, "Thank you my Lady, it has been a long trip," he admitted.
Ser Rodrick nodded, suspicion and concern in his eyes, but he nodded obediently, "Of course Lady Sansa," he turned to the other knight, "This way Ser," he led the knight out, closing the solar's door behind him.
Sansa turned to Lord Manderly after the two knights had left, "Give him the letter," she ordered.
Reluctantly, Lord Manderly handed the letter over to maester Luwin.
Luwin took the letter with trepidation, he began reading...and turned whiter and whiter as he continued reading the letter, aghast at the audacity and malign plans of the Citadel.
"My Lady...Sansa...this is unspeakable!" he began with an appalled tone, "I had no idea that...that...that they could do such a thing!" His face showed clearly the horror he felt at such betrayal orchestrated by his order.
Sansa nodded in relief, "I did not doubt you, not after everything you did for my brothers," she lied, reassuring him, "Let us not forget, that maester Luwin died to hide my brothers from the Ironborn," she reminded Davos and Lord Manderly.
The anger in Lord Manderly's eyes faded and he nodded, "Aye, forgive my suspicions maester," he stated gruffly.
"This conspiracy and the conspirators seem to be well in hand," Sansa started, "Lord Hightower has shown them the error of their ways," she stated with a wolfish smile, "Their betrayal of my Grandfather and manipulations of my Uncle Brandon have been paid for. In blood. This changes much of our history, but...this does not-and should not distract us from the threats we all face," she finished, thankful to Lord Hightower for presenting them with a more or less solved problem. Each traitorous maester would the justice of the lord they served. And considering the distance between the Hightower and Winterfell, most should already be dead and dealt with, "This is one less dagger at our backs."
They all winced at the reminder of the hidden dagger that had been there, and of the sword still hanging over their heads.
Sansa focused and cajoled the men back at the task at hand, "Let us get back to work, war is on the horizon and we have little time as it is to prepare..."
The old maester was still reeling with shock and disbelief at all that had been under his nose as he escaped to the comforting aloneness of his quarters.
He sat down heavily into a chair, his eyes unseeing as his mind overflowed with the revelations of Lord Hightower's letter.
Maester Walys had conspired against Lord Rickard Stark, maneuvering him to stand against the Targaryens, as part of the culmination of a centuries old betrayal. He shuddered, such a thing should have been beneath the Citadel! The citadel was supposed to be a shining beacon of reason and understanding. An exploration of the world through reason! Not a place for a vendetta against magic! Magic had been and always would be a part of the world, to willfully, ignore it was foolishness of the worst kind!
He shuddered again, shaking his head in bafflement at the shortsightedness of the Archmaesters. He looked around the room, questioning many of his previous encounters in the Citadel with the traitors he had known there.
A number of situations suddenly stood out in a sinister light. Archmaesters had questioned him on simple matters, of little concern he'd thought then, now though…
He shuddered again. The ignorance and naivety of youth!
A thought occurred to him as he looked around his room. Once these had been Maester Walys's rooms...if he took apart these rooms would he find something of Walys's still there? The old traitorous maester was long dead, but after all this time, would there be some evidence hidden away and forgotten? Something to speak of the man's true colours, of his duplicity in the face of the old Lord of Winterfell and all that happened after the Tourney of Harrenhal?
It was a slim possibility but he would look. His hands trembled with trepidation at what betrayal he may find hidden away as he rose from his chair and began tearing apart his room.
Author's Notes: Changes and news spreading now. Also, in true Game of Thrones fashion, Sam is always a part of the solution! :D The scene I teased before between Sam and his mother will be in Conversations. As Always, Enjoy and don't forget to review! :D