A/N: I forgot a scene of Cersei and Joffrey in the previous chapter and put it there now and since the first chapter wasn't very clear with Lady Stark and how she recognized Harry I edited those parts so it would make more sense. What's in my head doesn't come down very well as written. If it still isn't clear let me know so I can attempt to make it better. Also, I put little snippets of what is happening in some scenes so I don't rewrite exact scenes from the show or books. It won't happen too often once I get past the necessary groundwork. But let me know your thoughts on that too. Thanks for all the reviews.
Harry had his own horse saddled and waiting this time. He was suspicious of the kind way they were treating him. Obliviation was nice and convenient and he was considering it. There were only six of them. The man wearing all black talked with Tyrion Lannister and then headed in the direction from where Harry had come the day before. But Harry and his newfound companions were riding for Riverrun wherever that was. It was important for some reason.
He stayed quiet listening to whatever they spilled when they talked amongst themselves. The small man had an interest in him as well. Tyrion would be watching him every so often.
There were limited conversations only the road remained. They rode past fields and stone buildings. It was a nice idyllic countryside and there were others who passed by them.
The knight Ser Rodrik gripped his sword whenever they heard riders. They were heading for the Hand's tourney in King's Landing he was told. Stuck in the middle ages in a different world. Interesting place to end up Harry, he thought.
Tyrion drew up his horse next to him. "Tell me, Harry, what do you know of dragons, stags, lions, and wolves?" he asked.
"Dragons, stags, lions, and wolves? That's a random assortment of animals," replied Harry wary to answer questions now. Everything he answered brought thoughtful gazes in his direction and each of those animals in that question had something significant to do with him.
"It is, isn't it? I have a certain fascination with dragons despite being a lion myself. It's a shame they are all dead, but the Red Keep still has the skulls of the Targaryen dragons. When I was younger I dreamed of having a dragon of my own."
Harry laughed. "Dragons are hard to tame even for a trained dragon keeper. They follow no one." Memories came to him of his own flight against a dragon and another on a dragon.
"A dragon keeper, Harry?" asked Tyrion puzzled.
Harry turned sharply to regard Tyrion. It was a cool gaze but his eyes looked old, of someone who had seen much in his life.
"Why do you have an interest in me?" he asked reaching into his pocket where he kept the Elder Wand.
"An interest in you?" replied Tyrion. "A little yes, there are some interesting things about you and I'm merely curious if you are who you are."
"If I am who I am?" repeated Harry coldly his eyes blazing intensely. "Do tell me, Tyrion. Who am I?"
"Why Harry, of course," said Tyrion gently.
"Say the entire thing," said Harry. His magic gathered around him. His horse neighed and Tyrion's moved a bit away.
"I cannot," conceded Tyrion, "for I am not sure."
Harry's magic settled as he calmed down a little. He hated that even in this world, dimension, whatever he still infamous for something. "Don't get your hopes up. I'm not anything special. I'm just Harry," he said.
He urged his horse forward to outpace his party. The wind in his hair felt wonderful again. Soon he was galloping hard and when he closed his eyes he pictured himself above the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts but without the usual maneuvers that he did on a broom. Thinking of brooms reminded him of his own and his pace slowed.
He was a mix of emotions ever since he arrived and his mind was not cooperating. When he slept he would see the images from when he touched that tree. He still hadn't let go of the war he finished and was whisked away from. Harry urged his horse to gallop hard again. It was better to get lost in good memories than deal with the present.
At long last, the day had ended and with it the "Hand's tourney". Perhaps now he could deal with matters which didn't concern the tourney every so often. Ned retired to his solar atop the Tower of the Hand. It was late and most of the castle would be asleep.
He took out the dagger and looked at it once again. This blade contained many secrets and motivations. He felt it was connected to many happenings from Jon Arryn's death to Bran's fall. Lord Stannis had not returned to King's Landing for the tourney. He had given Stannis time enough to resume his position on the small council.
A summons from the Hand would bring a response. He had not wished to do it earlier but as things unraveled around him only Lord Stannis and Lysa Arryn with her household held any answers. For now, all he knew Jon Arryn was looking after the King's bastards, to what end though? He would find out soon enough as he began writing the summons for Lord Stannis.
He had just stamped his seal when his door was knocked. "A man here to see you, my lord," called Harwin. "He will not give his name."
"Send him in," said Ned.
The man was hunched with mud-caked boots and rough ill-matched clothes and his face hidden by a cowl.
"We must speak alone, Lord Stark. I am but a friend," he said.
"Leave us," commanded Ned.
When they were alone, the visitor drew back his cowl.
"Lord Varys?" Ned said surprised.
"Lord Stark," said Varys politely. "Forgive my deception. You are watched quite closely it was prudent my visit went unnoticed, especially by the Queen."
His voice became sharp. "I will not keep you long, my lord. There are things you must know. You are the King's Hand and the King is a fool. Your friend yet a fool. Today was a near thing had you not saved him. They had hoped to kill him during the melee."
Ned was speechless for a moment. "Who?" he demanded.
"If you have to ask that you are a bigger fool than our King."
"Why did you not come to me at once?"
"I could have but I was curious to see what you would do. I did not trust you, my lord."
"You did not trust me?" asked Ned incredulously.
"There are two types of people in the Red Keep my lord. Those who the realm and those who serve only themselves. I was not sure until this morning who you were… but now I know for certain." He smiled plumply. "I see now why the queen fears you so much."
"You see my lord. When the swords come out challenging claims and defending others. You will be the only true friend Robert Baratheon will have. You are making them most anxious Lord Eddard. They will try again perhaps sooner and more discreetly. My little birds will be listening, perhaps we would be able to forestall them." He rose covering his face with the cowl. "We shall speak again. Do treat me the same as always. It should not be difficult."
He turned to leave when Ned called. "Varys. How did Jon Arryn die?"
"I had wondered if you would bring that up. The tears of Lys, it is called. I begged Lord Arryn to use a taster but he would not hear of it. Lord Arryn was a kind and trusting man. It could have been anyone."
"Why now? Jon Arryn had been hand for eighteen years. What was he doing that warranted his death?"
"Asking questions," said Varys slipping out the door.
The sun shone in his eyes as they approached Riverrun. Harry had only seen one castle, the castle which he considered his home. The sight of Hogwarts had always filled him with happiness and a sense of belonging. From the snippets of conversation, he heard the land where he was had many castles. The Red Keep, Riverrun, Winterfell, Casterly Rock. After hearing of Riverrun so often seeing it was something else. It was not a magical castle but it still held a beauty to it. It was three sided like a triangle, built along the banks of two rivers and tall enough. He wondered how it would fare in battle. The defenses of Hogwarts had truly astonished him when it was time for war.
"Who goes there?" called a man from the parapets. The drawbridge was lowered but the portcullis was down.
"Lady Catelyn Stark accompanied with Lord Tyrion Lannister."
"You may enter,"
Crossing the gate into Riverrun he could feel a call to his magic. A familiar call similar to where he had first awoken.
His head throbbed and he hastily erected a barrier in his mind to keep the images at bay. He needed to be away from people so he could go through them properly.
"Cat," called to a man striding towards her.
"Edmure," she said giving him a hug.
"What brings you here?" he asked looking over the small group. "And with such a small escort
"A long story. See to our guests. And I would like to see Father."
"He's in his solar. I'll take you."
Harry watched as the woman who found him left. She had a reason to bring him here for what he didn't know.
"Harry," said Tyrion breaking his musings. "The steward will show you to your room."
"Right," he said and gestured with his hand. "After you."
"For now, he followed the serving lady who would show him to his quarters.
Harry followed the serving lady to his room. The stone walls reminded him of his home but when he closed his eyes he wasn't seeing Hogwarts in its glory only a devastated one. He opened his eyes quickly not wanting to accept it right now. He stepped into the room.
"Is there anything you might need?" asked the steward.
"No, I'm fine. Thank you."
Harry walked over to the bed exhausted from the ride. Horses were nothing like brooms or thestrals or even dragons. He wondered what was happening in Hogwarts now. Voldemort died for good that was one thing he was completely sure about.
He couldn't sleep now. Every time he closed his eyes images would assault him. Harry knew he needed to sort through them sooner or later but it was as painful as the visions he would get from Voldemort.
Harry could still feel the slight tug on his magic guiding him somewhere inside the castle. He wondered if he should use his cloak to get to wherever his magic called. Harry opened to the door to see the corridor. There was a guard to the right of his door.
"Something you need, milord?" asked the guard.
Harry's stomach growled. "Some food would be nice."
"Of course, milord," said the guard who barked for a serving girl.
Harry retreated back to his room. He would have to wait until it was very late at night wait for the guard to be tired and sleepy. He would make his move then.
Catelyn and Edmure in Riverrun's solar.
"Are you certain?" asked Edmure leaning forward.
"Not entirely," said Catelyn. "But many things are evident. He's a mix of them both it's plain to see. Tyrion Lannister is completely sure that he shares eyes with Jaime Lannister."
"Tyrion and his brother are fond of each other and the opposite is true when it comes to his sister."
"You do understand this is outlandish. It's been seven and ten years, Cat," said Edmure taking a sip from his drink.
"Yes, but still there have always been those who believe him still to be alive," said Catelyn staring at her own cup. She thought of her own children. She had wondered quite often in those early years if one of her own children went missing or died soon after birth. It gave her no solace and terrified her every time. Her children meant everything. She thought of Bran still asleep back at Winterfell. All of her children were so far away.
A knock came at the door and a guard opened it.
"Forgive me, my lord. Lord Tyrion Lannister would like a word with Lady Stark."
"Send him in," said Edmure.
Lord Tyrion waddled in looking amused. "Such a marvelous view. This journey has given me many new experiences."
"Ser Edmure," he said nodding, "Lady Stark," he nodded again as he took a seat.
"Do you believe the boy to be who is?" asked Edmure.
"The boy has never claimed to be anyone, good Ser," replied Tyrion thinking of his few interactions with the boy. "Well mannered and polite. Secretive. Cautious. Perhaps he is wary of being known as something or someone. It is hard to say. He did claim to be nothing special, however."
"I have an inclination to think he is the boy. His eyes are like my brother's eyes. He looks somewhat like a younger Robert very thin and not as tall but tall enough. As a person, he is nothing like Robert or Cersei. He is his own self."
Tyrion paused to pour a glass of wine for himself and took a sip.
"Presenting him at court will be a spectacle for sure. I can count six to seven obstacles right now."
"Obstacles?," asked Edmure.
"Indeed, and these are only people mind you. Circumstances are an entirely different matter."
"What would you recommend?" asked Catelyn.
"Cersei prefers to believe he hasn't existed at all and dotes on Joffery excessively. Robert remembered him occasionally especially when Lord Jon spoke of him. Our past Hand never believed the boy was dead. As for others let's say there are many varying degrees of affection for the boy. I'd say we have a rider take a message that is not written on paper and have him deliver it to Lord Stark who would then inform his dear friend, our beloved King Robert." He took a sip of his wine and smiled crookedly. "That would be the best course of action. I can tell you for certain Cersei will claim us all to be liars. As for our King who knows what he will do."
"Lord Eddard," came Alyn's voice as he shook him awake in the dead of the night. Ned awoke slowly having slept late the previous evening. "Ser Davos Seaworth here to see you, my lord. He says it is urgent."
"Ser Davos, here to see me?" he confirmed.
"Aye, my lord."
"Bid him entrance to my solar. I will be there shortly." Ned remembered Ser Davos who had smuggled in onions and salted fish to Storm's End during the long siege letting the men inside survive long enough for him to break it.
Ned made his way to the solar disgruntled at the late hour. He found Ser Davos standing by the window looking out.
"Ser Davos, this is an unexpected visit at such a late hour," he said.
"Forgive me, Lord Hand. It is a matter of urgency and stealth. I will need you to come with me," said Ser Davos.
"I do not like your vague answers, Ser Davos."
"I do not wish to be vague, my lord." Davos came closer bringing his voice down almost to a whisper. "I have come for your summons to Lord Stannis. He awaits you in the harbor."
"Why the secrecy?"
"It is best you ask Lord Stannis, my lord."
"Very well." Ned opened the door. "Alyn, you and Porther will accompany me. We are heading for the harbor immediately."
It took longer than usual with Ser Davos leading the way in the night. He insisted on using no torches and took them along routes that were seldom used.
"We will take the dinghy to my ship. Lord Stannis awaits on board," said Ser Davos gesturing to the small boat.
"How did you come by without alerting anyone?" asked Ned.
"As a smuggler my lord. Black sails and the cover of night. It was deemed necessary," he said gently rowing out.
"Necessary, what for?"
"Jon Arryn's death has led Lord Stannis to be cautious, my lord."
"He knows it was murder."
Davos stopped rowing for a moment. "He does and forgive me for I cannot say more."
It was silent until they reached the ship, Black Betha of the Royal Fleet commanded by Ser Davos himself.
Ned followed Davos up the ladder to the deck followed by his guards.
"Lord Stark, I have answered your summons," said Stannis brusquely.
"That you have Lord Stannis. I seek answers. There has been no missive as to when you will resume your position on the council."
"A conversation meant for the captain's cabin," said Stannis gritting his teeth.
Ser Davos opened the door for them to enter and closed it behind them.
"I have no intention of resuming my seat."
"I know Jon Arryn had been murdered. I've heard he was in good health and oft went riding with you. I know you both were searching out Robert's bastards. To what end is what I need to know. I want to know where you stand Lord Stannis."
"Where I stand," said Stannis sharply. "I stand with Robert despite his slights. He is my elder brother where he laxes I must take action. What have you found out about Robert's children, Lord Stark?"
"They are not his own."
"Found that out, have you? Lord Arryn had suspicions about Robert's children. He came to me for support. We were treading dangerous ground coming close to accusing the Queen and with the addition of Robert's temper that would have led to disastrous results."
"Lord Arryn was gathering proofs. We both knew it to be true, the children were not Robert's except for his first born. Jon Arryn still believed him to be alive since a body had never been found even with the highest rewards."
"I believed the boy to be dead as did the Queen and the rest of the Lannisters except for Lord Arryn who had a strong belief the boy was stolen as did Robert, which was before Robert chose to ignore the matter entirely," said Stannis.
"An attempt has been made on Robert's life," said Ned softly. "Should the worst happen you are next in line for the Iron Throne."
"An attempt you say," Stannis paused, "I had an inkling it would happen especially after Lord Arryn's death. I removed myself from the small council so it wouldn't change the state of affairs at court. Regardless if the boy was stolen as Lord Arryn steadfastly believed it is his right to be on the Iron Throne. He may surface yet. I remember the boy's birth, black of hair, green eyes, a strong lad with a strong grip. Robert became quite fond of him."
"The boy may surface or may not. Why did you not come to me with your concerns as you did Jon Arryn?" demanded Ned.
"There was a successful attempt on the Hand's life who I collaborated with so I left. Make no mistake Lord Eddard. You are no friend of mine."
"So be it." Ned sighed. "It is true then when the swords come out, I will be the only friend Robert will have," said Ned heavily.
"You mistake me, Lord Stark. I will always be Robert's first and foremost despite everything. I held Storm's End for him yet he only thanked you for breaking the siege. I took Dragonstone in his name yet he blamed me for letting the Targaryens escape. I sat on his council helping Jon Arryn rule his realm while he drank and whored. But after Jon Arryn's death, he went to you, his dear friend to be his Hand."
"I did not ask to be made Hand and I have advocated for you more times than I can count. Naming you as Warden of the East for one until the boy comes of age. You may not count me as your friend, Lord Stannis, but I hold you in strong regard."
Stannis scowled. "Be that however it is, I am still Robert's. I will uphold my duty. I have not been idle since my leave from the small council. The Royal Fleet is maintained. Levies are being raised. When the need arises I will be ready to take the Iron Throne and if the boy surfaces install him upon it."
"There will be a need to communicate. Varys says Dragonstone is all but closed off to the world," said Ned.
"It is because of that damned eunuch with all his secrets that I have kept it so. He says his secrets are for the best of the realm yet he guards them zealously dispensing a few here and there as he sees fit."
"Ser Davos will be our contact I will bid him come to you twice a moon. There isn't much more to discuss and now I have answered your summons. The dawn comes closer, Lord Stark. It is best if you were to return now and I return to my seat."
Ned nodded and left the cabin.
It took long enough for nightfall. The guard had changed and he had to wait longer. Harry decided he would apparate to the point of his awakening instead of sneaking around. It would be easier and he was curious about the tree.
A slight pop and he was back on the isle under his invisibility cloak. Once again he could feel the strong magical presence. It went from oppressive to calming to just existing similar to Hogwarts. The magic flowed differently. It was still easy for him to perform magic as before but it felt different inside.
He took a step toward the tree with the face and red leaves. This time was different, sap was coming out from the eyes. It looked as though the tree was crying. Harry took a deep breath and placed his hand on the face.
Images didn't assault him. His hand felt warm. His body went taut. He felt as though he were petrified. His hand got hotter. He couldn't move. His eyes moved slightly and he thought he glimpsed movement in the surrounding woods. Whoever was in these woods were skilled at hiding as the centaurs in the Forbidden Forest.
He closed his eyes and focused on moving his hand away from the face of the tree. It wouldn't move and his hand kept getting hotter. Right as it was about to become unbearable an image flashed in his mind of a tree in darkness with a skeletal man. It shifted and showed the same tree surrounded by diminutive beings and men standing around. His hand burned hot and then turned cool excessively cool then icy cold, colder than the Scottish winters when at Hogwarts.
Harry shuddered and was thrown back a few feet. He took a few deep breaths to orient himself.
"I really should stop touching that face," he said as he lifted himself up slowly.
"You've only begun to tap its power. Why stop now?" came a strong voice.
A/N: Reviews appreciated. They helped me improve the last chapter. Again please do mention what you liked or disliked or anything I could improve. Thanks for reading.