King's Landing 299 AC.
They'd spent two weeks at Casterly Rock, Brynden happy to see that Myrcella and Bran got along so well and so before they left they agreed that she'd come to visit Riverrun at some point in the near future. He knew that he'd probably stayed for longer than he had intended, the thoughts of having to go to King's Landing were ones he found himself disliking immensely and so he had put it off for as long as he could. Bran was excited to see his brother and sister again though and while Brynden wished to see his grandniece, the same could not be said about the king, the queen, or King's Landing itself.
Had he his way then he'd have just traveled to the Riverlands and begun the task of teaching Bran all he needed to be the Lord of Riverrun. With that not an option, he'd have much preferred for them to ride to King's Landing and enjoyed the time on the road. Alas neither was to be though as Lady Genna insisted they sailed on the next Pinnacle ship and so they found themselves on the Lion's Tail as it made its way down to Oldtown and onto the capital.
While he may not have enjoyed the quickness of the journey, he did however enjoy its comforts and he found that sailing on the ship was incredible. His grandnephew enjoyed it even more than he, seeing the Hightower's flame burning as they arrived at Oldtown at night and then the city itself when the captain told them they'd be staying for a day. Brynden showed him the Citadel, the Starry Sept, and the Hightower itself. Bran asking question after question about each of them and despite his limited knowledge Brynden did his best to answer them. When they arrived back to the ship to leave he was surprised to see the Hightower men there and even more so to learn that some would be joining them on their journey. It took him until they were back at sea to find out that they had another guest on board who too was to heading to King's Landing.
"Ser Brynden, Lord Brandon, this is Lady Malora Hightower." the captain said as they sat down to eat their meal that night.
"My lady." Brynden said with a nod and was pleased to see Bran mind his manners, though his wolf did not and he gasped when Summer walked over to the lady and licked her face.
"Bran." he said chidingly and the boy moved to the wolf only for the lady to laugh and show she was not disturbed in the least by it.
"A little louder than your brother's wolf, Lord Brandon." Lady Malora said while looking at Bran.
"You know my brother?" Bran asked eagerly.
"I am well acquainted with his grace and with Ghost, you and I are kin Lord Brandon, by marriage. Her grace is my niece and is married to your brother is she not?" Malora said with an odd smile on her face.
"She is, we're going to King's Landing to see them, them and my sister Sansa." Bran said excitedly.
"And their wolves no doubt." Malora said though Brynden felt she directed that more to Summer than to Bran.
"Ghost and Fang." Bran said happily.
"And Frost too, your uncle's wolf is still in King's Landing though he is not." Malora said and he saw Bran look a little saddened by the fact that his uncle wouldn't be there to meet them.
Brynden sat down and they ate, Lady Malora speaking to Bran about things that he didn't know of the Hightower and Oldtown and then speaking to him about his brother and how well she knew him. While he had his own feelings regarding the king, to Bran he was his brother first and so the boy ate up every morsel that Malora fed him about the king as if he was starved. The lady speaking about Dark Sister and how he'd been gifted it by his father, of the Direwolves and the dragons, almost as if she was an expert on the king's life.
It interested even him and yet it disturbed him too that she seemed to know things about the king that wasn't common knowledge. At first, he thought she was simply embellishing a tale, making it something that a young boy would like to hear. The more he listened though the more it became clear that the woman knew things that he did not, things he was sure most did not know about the king. He became wary around her as the voyage went on, only staying close to her when she spoke to his nephew. By the time they sailed past the Stormlands he was certain she had noticed his reticence and so it proved one evening when he stood on deck and she approached him.
"You have nothing to fear from me, Ser Brynden." Malora said as he looked over the side of the ship, the darkness of the water beneath them and of the night itself something he welcomed.
"I do not fear you, my lady." he said softly surprising himself by his tone.
"Yet you avoid my company?" she asked.
"I find you odd." he said blunter than he would normally be and he heard her laugh, Brynden surprised it was a genuine one.
"A welcome remark, Ser Brynden for I am indeed odd." Malora said as she leaned against the ship's rail.
"Those things you know about the king, do they come from your niece?" he asked and she shook her head.
"No, those come from an even greater authority than his grace's own." she said forcing him to look at her in confusion "The gods' Ser Brynden."
"The Seven?" he asked and she laughed.
"My gods are far older than they." Malora said.
"You follow the Old Gods?" he asked surprised, a Hightower that was not a faithful member of the Seven was not something he could remember.
"I am their servant, Ser Brynden, as are we all though most of us know it not." she said and he felt a little uncomfortable when she looked at him.
"If you'll forgive me, my lady, I should head to my bed." he said and moved to walk away, Malora though reached out her hand and placed it on his chest stopping him.
"That blame you have for the king, for my niece, it's misplaced Ser Brynden, you know it is and yet you carry it with you. It may have been my niece who gave the order and it may have been the king's existence that sent your niece on her path but it was she who walked it and she did not do so alone." Malora said.
"What know you of my niece or how I feel?" he asked angrily.
"I know enough Ser Brynden, speak to your grandniece before you speak to their graces, ask her of the Mockingbird and the fate he received." Malora said and before he had a chance to speak to her she walked away.
He avoided the woman for the rest of the journey and he tried to keep Bran from her but his grandnephew had other ideas. Bran spent time with the lady and with Summer and Brynden felt there was more going on than simple conversation. When he asked his grandnephew, he was told that she was helping him with Summer, helping him with his bond with Summer and though he knew little about such things, he did wonder how a lady of House Hightower could help a Stark bond with a Direwolf.
Seeing King's Landing in the distance he felt a tightness in his chest and despite what he knew to be true and what the lady had said, he felt angered. Cat had died here and he had been far away and unable to help her. That she had turned down his help years earlier was almost forgotten as his mind instead refused to concentrate on anything but that. When the wolf licked his hand as he stared at the Red Keep In the distance, he felt that anger recede somewhat and as he turned to look behind him, he saw both Bran and the Lady Malora look his way.
There were guards waiting at the docks for them when the ship pulled in, Brynden surprised it was for the lady more so than for themselves. Though when Lady Malora informed the guards of who they were they were soon escorted to the Red Keep as part of the party. He looked to the lady when they reached the Red Keep, the small nod she gave him when she entered was one that spoke volumes. As he was about to walk inside himself, he smiled when he looked at his grandnephew and Summer. Bran was laughing as four wolves got reacquainted and it made him happy to see it. So much so that he didn't notice how the white one looked his way or the look that Lady Malora gave him from the door she walked through.
King's Landing 299 AC.
They had been luckier than he'd hoped, Jae had gone to Gormon to send the raven to Lord Blackwood and had also gone looking for the falcon himself. Finding much to his pleasure that Lord Harrold had not traveled far and that he had not traveled alone. Ser Richard had sent his bards after the man as soon as he left just in case and Jae knew he owed the man a debt of gratitude. Warging into the raven to send to the men was easy enough and after it had delivered its message all he now had to do was wait.
Jae watched as the men forced Lord Harrold and the others to return, first with the threat of the words he'd sent in the raven scroll and then with a far more physical threat. With that done, all he had to do was wait and so he did so, spending time with Joy and looking to the Glass Candles, warging, and doing all he could to find Euron Greyjoy or Bloodraven. He found himself to be annoyed once more when he couldn't find either of them anywhere and he was frustrated at the waste of time. He called for Rhaenix but she wouldn't answer, his sister was resting on Dragonstone and had refused to come to him and so it was with horses and not with a dragon that he and Joy had their ride.
Not that she let that spoil her fun, as the two of them raced through the Kingswood while Margaery, Loras, Tommen, and Martyn were left behind in their wake. He'd been pleased when Margaery had decided to ride with them, though Joy had insisted that she ride her own horse and that she'd not be allowed to win as easily as she had last time. Something that Jae had decided to play along with for her and much to Margaery's annoyance.
"They are so slow." Joy said laughing as they finished their race.
"That's why I had to put Margy in front of me on Winter." he said making her laugh even more.
"Maybe I should loan her Apples?" Joy said and he looked at her and shook his head making her laugh.
"Nah, next time Winter has babes I'll let her have one of them." he said and Joy nodded her agreement as the others arrived, Loras just edging out Margaery who Jae was pleased to see was smiling broadly.
"How do you two ride so damn fast?" Margaery asked and Jae just looked to Joy and winked, her giggles soon sounding as they led the horses to the steam so they could drink and rest.
The picnic they had was a fun one, though he wished Sansa had come and he knew Margaery would have liked having her cousins with them. Instead, it was only her and Joy and the rest of those with them were men or boys. Jae wondered if he could force more women to ride, or was it something they truly had to be interested in like Joy was. He found himself smiling when he thought that soon enough he'd have another rider to share it with. Joanna was almost at the age Joy was when he'd gifted her Apples and he looked forward to teaching her as he did Joy.
"What makes you smile so?" Margaery asked moving to sit beside him as Joy spoke to Tommen and Martyn.
"I was just imagining Joanna's first ride." Jae said and she saw his wife shake her head.
"Is that my husband's goal, to introduce all the ladies of the realm to the pleasure of riding fast on a horse?" Margaery asked her eyebrow raised and her grin threatening to become a full smile.
"A noble goal is it not, even have I to do it one lady at a time?" he said as she kissed his cheek.
"She seems better." his wife whispered as Jae looked to see Joy cutting up the strawberry pie.
"Aye, she's resilient, this helps. Thank you." he said looking to Margaery.
"For what?" she asked.
"For coming with us, I find I like having my wife with me when we ride." he said smiling.
"Your wife would never know it considering you rode so fast away from her." Margaery teased.
"Well, that's because you're so …" he said and she practically jumped on him, Jae laughing as she pretended to hit him and they rolled onto the grass.
"Why couldn't Margaery keep up, Joy?" he asked over her shoulder as she lay on top of him, Margaery laughing into his chest as Joy answered.
"She's so slow…So So…Slow, they all are." Joy said over extravagantly.
As much as he'd have liked to, they could not stay all day and so they washed their hands in the stream and once the horses had rested, they rode back to the Red Keep. What they must have looked like he had no idea, he and Margaery were dressed in riding gear and while he had Dark Sister with him it was on Winter's side and not on his hip. Joy, Martyn, and Tommen, all had gotten dirty and looked like the children they were while the Kingsguard and their guards all gave the impression that this was a far more official ride than it was.
He looked on as his wife waved to those who came out to greet them, even though it was a regular thing for him to ride in the Kingswood, it was not for Margaery and the people seemed to appreciate she was a queen who did so. At least he felt they did given how they were cheering and waving to her, though perhaps that could have just been for Margaery herself and not because she had gone riding with him. Reaching the Red Keep he saw Ser Richard waiting for them and as he dismounted Winter and took his sword off where it was tied to, he looked to the man who nodded back to him. Handing the horse off to Tommen, he turned and kissed both Margaery and then Joy's cheeks and followed after his Master of Whisperers.
"He's here?" he asked.
"He is your grace, we have him in the Maidenvault under guard." Richard said.
"Did he give your men any trouble?" he asked as they walked, Jae's pace increasing.
"No, his companions stood down as soon as they saw the scroll, and as dumb as Lord Harrold is he realized my men were bringing him back regardless." Ser Richard said.
"Thank the men for me, reward them Richard. And you have my own thanks." he said stopping to look at the man.
"I serve you, your grace." Ser Richard said proudly.
"And I'm most glad of it, Ser." he said as he began to walk again.
He was far calmer when he reached the Maidenvault than he had thought he would be. Jae almost expected that he'd have been ready to race through the Red Keep to reach the man and whether that was because time had elapsed and Joy was feeling better or something else, he couldn't be sure. Seeing Ser Arthur standing at the door guarding it was a surprise until he realized he wasn't actually guarding the man, but he was there for him instead. Something that despite the circumstances made him smile just a little.
"Afraid of what I may do, Arthur?" he asked to a shake of the head.
"No, your grace. Here in case, I'm needed." Arthur said and Jae reached out to pat the man on the shoulder, nodding as they both entered the room.
Hardyng was sitting at the table and at least had the wits to look worried, something that Jae had wondered if he had it in him to feel. Only a fool would say what he said and not think there would be consequences for it. To name her that in public and not expect his rage to follow was beyond foolish and after he was done with Hardyng it would never happen again. He'd not be giving a decree to say it was not to be done, not issuing an order that any who dared name his sister a bastard would face the crown's and the king's wrath. There would be no need to, as it would be perfectly clear to all by the time Harrold Hardyng was dealt with.
"You know why you're here?" he said as he looked at the man.
"Your grace, there's been a mistake." Harrold began as he tried to rise.
"Stay in your seat, and the next words you speak had better be truthful ones Lord Arryn for you've already incurred my anger, be careful it's not my wrath and rage that follows."
"Your Grace." Harrold said softly.
"You know why you're here?" he asked again.
"For what I said in the sparring yard, your grace." Harrold said.
"For what you said and for who you said it to, Aye."
"I'm sorry your grace, truly, I was angered and it just…"
"What slipped out, it was an involuntary thing was it Lord Arryn, something you don't truly think or didn't mean?" he said his voice angered though he was calm and he saw how Arthur smirked.
"You will be brought to the Throne Room, you will apologize to Lady Joy and you will make it a true and good apology Lord Arryn. One where you will speak up about your stupidity, your idiocy, your lack of grace, am I clear?" he said staring at him.
"You are your grace."
"A word of warning, Lord Arryn, when you apologize I'd try to be sincere, for once it's done you and I have a date in the sparring yard and it would be for your benefit not to anger me further."
"Please, your grace." Harrold said.
"No Lord Arryn, words and blood I'll take from you today, you have the choice to see which of these are to cause you the most pain, I await your decisions most eagerly." he said turning to walk from the room.
He smiled at Arthur as they walked down the hall, the knight looking to him and Jae feeling far more relaxed as they walked.
"Too much, Ser?" he asked.
"Just enough, your grace."
The Frostfangs 299 AC.
He'd forgotten how cold it was beyond the Wall, the chill in the air was not one he'd truly experienced in more than a couple of years. Even when he ranged he'd not gone this far in more than ten and whether it was that or his time in King's Landing, the cold was affecting him a little more. As was the feeling of being watched wherever he walked in the Free Folk's camp. Benjen may no longer be a crow but to them, he would always be one and his clothing still marked him as such. Not even the furs he wore over the black truly covered him up enough for the black to go unseen. Though he was starting to believe that even were he to remove his clothing and walk around naked, he'd still be seen as a black brother by some.
After Jae had left, he'd worried how he'd be accepted by those he'd left him with. Finding to his surprise that to Mance, Tormund, and Ygritte it wasn't Benjen Stark the former First Ranger of the Watch they saw. It was Benjen Stark uncle to the Dragonking and that, with those at least, bought him some good favor. Not so much though with those in the Free Folk camp it seemed and it took Tormund to explain to him why.
"They didn't see the dragon, Stark. Had they seen her then they'd think as we do." Tormund said to him.
"And how do you think?" he asked.
"I think we now have a fucking chance and it's for the best if we don't gut you and fuck it up, Har." Tormund said laughing loudly.
It had taken them two days to reach the Free Folk camp after Jae had left and Benjen had found out more about the Free Folk in those two days, than from all the conversations he'd had with Val in King's Landing. While Val had been forthcoming and had made an effort to get him to understand her people, it was traveling with them, sitting and eating with them that really showed him the truth of them. For years he, the Watch, and the North along with the rest of the realm had thought these people to be savages. Wildings they had called them and they had hunted them, killed them, he himself had killed more than one over the years. Yet sitting and eating with them it all became clear to him, they were people, nothing more, nothing less, and he felt some shame that he'd not considered them as such until now.
"You really are a grumpy one, Benjen Stark." he heard the voice say and he turned to see Dalla standing behind him.
"I'm a Stark, it's our nature." he said though he smiled as he did so.
"I need to gather some wood, help me?" Dalla asked and he nodded.
He walked with the queen, though no one called her that, to the edge of the camp and helped her gather some of the loose branches. Man, woman, child, King or Queen, it mattered not, you worked, you contributed and despite having a young babe, Dalla played her part too. After gathering the wood and finding that she looked at him more than once, they walked back to the camp. Benjen enjoying the silence and finding that if he looked at her briefly he could see her sister more than her. It was something that Dalla picked up on and as they neared the camp, something she commented on.
"Why haven't you stolen my sister?" Dalla asked almost making him drop the wood he was carrying.
"I'd rather not be gutted." he said with a laugh.
"She'd only mark you a little, Benjen Stark." Dalla said with a chuckle.
"You like her, I can see it, Mance, even my babe can see that." Dalla said looking at him more seriously.
"I was a crow since I was five and ten, before that I…and after I always kept to my oaths." Benjen said uncomfortably.
"You're no longer a crow Benjen Stark and Winter Is Coming." Dalla said.
After leaving the wood at Mance and Dalla's tent, he made his way through the camp. Benjen looking for the one other man who knew what it was like to be a crow and had sworn his oaths. He found him though he was not alone and the man with him was yet another crow. Stannis Baratheon and he had not really had a chance to really speak since he'd arrived here and though it had been something he'd intended to do, it had ended up low on the list of things he wished to.
"Ah, Benjen, I was telling your brother, or former brother, that he'd do better to come to Hardhome with us than to travel back to Castle Black, perhaps you can convince him where I could not." Mance said.
"You wish to travel back alone?" he asked turning to Stannis.
"If I'm found in the company of Wilding's they'll name me a traitor." Stannis said.
"They may name you one anyway, but given what's out there you'll not make it regardless." Mance said shaking his head.
"How far have you ranged, Stannis?" he asked.
"A little further North than the Milk River." Stannis said and Benjen shook his head.
"We're thrice as far from the Wall as that, thrice at least." he said looking to Mance who nodded.
"You think it best I wait until the King's ships arrive?" Stannis asked.
"My nephew said he'll send them to us at Hardhome and he'll meet us there himself. I think it's for the best that you travel with us." Benjen said and Stannis nodded.
"It's time you told Benjen what it was you saw, Stannis, what came after you in the cave that night." Mance said taking a seat.
"Aye, it's for the best I find out." he said looking to the man.
He'd heard the story from Mance, from Tormund and Ygritte but hearing it from Stannis Baratheon's lips was somehow different. It wasn't that he didn't believe what they'd told him, far from it. More he wanted to not believe them, hoped they and his nephew were wrong about what it was that came their way. Listening as Stannis talked of dead men and blue eyes, for the first time in his life Benjen knew what true fear felt like, and as he was told that all who fell rose again, he knew the Free Folk had to be moved.
When Stannis left them, he sat with Mance both trying to come to terms with what he'd heard and to find the courage to ask the questions that were on his mind. Questions that had nothing to do with dead men rising or with readying to face what came their way.
"Would you do it again?" he asked and Mance looked at him and smiled.
"I wish I'd never sworn that damn oath, Stark. I knew no better, knew of no other life that was open to me, and now as I think on it I realize that I knew nothing." Mance said with a chuckle.
"And you're happy?" he asked.
"I'll be happier when I'm on the other side of the Wall and my people are safe but, Aye, I'm happy." Mance said rising to his feet.
He looked to the King beyond the Wall, watching as he walked over and laid his hand on his shoulder, a small smile on his face as he did so.
"She's a good lass, and I wish you good fortune." Mance said walking away and leaving him sitting all alone.
The meal that night was a hearty stew, the sour goat's milk flowed and Tormund told tall tales and yet his eyes, his attention was all on the woman who kept looking his way. Benjen smiling at her when she got up to walk to her tent and he saw the nod that Mance gave him when he rose himself. He walked after her and could see her in the distance and he smiled to himself as he was about to do something he'd never thought he would. Benjen Stark was about to steal a woman and make her his.
King's Landing 299 AC.
While Jae went to speak to Harrold Hardyng, she found herself being told about arrivals that surprised her. Brynden Tully and Brandon Stark she had known were due to come and swear fealty before Jae's cousin was named as Lord of Riverrun. Her aunt Malora had not to her knowledge left Oldtown in years though. It was most strange to her and while Jae had said he'd spoken to her and to her grandfather while in Oldtown, he'd not mentioned she'd be coming here.
Seeing Elinor and Sansa walking her way, Margaery asked her cousin to go and fetch her aunt for her and to have her brought to her and Jae's rooms. Sansa though walked beside her and she could see she wished to ask her how the ride and picnic had gone. For whatever reason, she felt in a playful mood still and where she would usually have told her without prompting, she decided to wait for Sansa to ask her about it. Instead, she spoke about other things until finally it got too much and Sansa asked how it had gone.
"They ride so fast, were it not something I've become accustomed to then it would worry me so." Margaery said to a laugh from Sansa.
"Father always said Jae was much like Aunt Lyanna in that way, Joy too seems most similar." Sansa said.
"He's now speaking that Joanna is almost of an age to join them." Margaery said and Sansa looked at her in shock.
"She's still little more than a babe."
"I know, gods I fear Lord Jaime's reaction." Margaery said shaking her head.
"I imagine he'd be the same with your own babes, your grace." Sansa said before moving her hand to her mouth "Forgive me."
"As long as you've not spoken to anyone else of such, Sansa, you must be more careful." Margaery said reproachfully.
"I will, I'm truly sorry, your grace." Sansa said and Margaery nodded.
She'd been waiting on the right time to tell him and had only confided in Sansa and her grandmother. Margaery at first feeling a fool for forgetting to take the moon tea and then thinking it was fate that she did not. She was only a couple of moons late with her moon blood and it had happened before but she knew and when it had been confirmed she'd wished to run and tell Jae immediately. Jae though was beyond the Wall and then when he came back she was so wrapped up in first just being back with him and then with what had happened to Joy, that the time was just wrong she felt. Walking into their rooms she swore to herself she'd tell him once he dealt with Hardyng and was feeling better.
"Have some tea brought and send for my grandmother." she said to Sansa when she took her seat, her friend rushing off to see it done.
She was glad that her grandmother arrived before her aunt did, Margaery finding out that she was just as surprised by this visit as she herself had been. Sansa then arrived with the servant and the tea and a few moments later her aunt arrived. Margaery welcomed her to King's Landing and chided her for not telling them she was coming so that she could be welcomed properly. They had just sat down to drink their tea when Jae himself walked in, her husband not as surprised as she was to see Malora here.
"Your grace." Malora said moving to rise only for Jae to tell her and her grandmother to keep to their seats and to then walk to her and kiss her cheek before taking his own.
"Tea, lovely." Jae said and she nudged him with her elbow making him laugh as he poured himself some water.
"I was just about to ask my aunt why she decided to come and visit without notice." Margaery said smiling at Malora to show her that the words weren't a rebuke.
"I'm to travel to the Isle of Faces, your grace." Malora said and Margaery looked to Jae who seemed to be aware of this already.
"The Children await, they speak of you as the Lady in the Tower." Jae said and Malora laughed.
"As true a description as any, I look forward to seeing them." Malora said and Margaery was torn between looking to Jae or her aunt and in the end, found herself looking at neither as she and her grandmother stared at each other.
"I had intended to go to you and take you there myself or to ask my aunt or uncle to do so." Jae said and Malora nodded.
"I know, your grace. When your brother and his uncle arrived in Oldtown on their way here I felt it was fortuitous." Malora said.
"Bran is here?" Jae asked turning to her with a small smile on his face.
"He and Ser Brynden arrived with me this morning." Malora said.
Jae leaned in to whisper in her ear that he'd explain all of this later to her and though she wished to know about Hardyng or her aunt, it was not the conversation that took place. Instead, her aunt, herself, and her grandmother spoke of family matters and while Jae wasn't quiet by any means, he allowed them to talk and only interjected occasionally. When tea was finished, Jae called for Malora to be escorted to her rooms and asked her to join them all for dinner that night. Something that Margaery very much looked forward to, though when he then asked her to join them in the Throne Room in a short while, she found herself keener for her aunt to leave the room than not.
"Hardyng?" she asked once her aunt and grandmother had gone.
"Is to apologize and then face me in a spar." Jae said.
"Is the apology not enough, Jae?" she asked and he shook his head.
"Words and blood, Marge, I'll have them both." he said and she nodded.
"It's complicated, she's the Three-Eyed Raven now or soon will be. Her gift, her greenseeing is to be expanded upon with help from the Children of the Forest and the Old Gods on the Isle of Faces." Jae said and Margaery despite how seriously he said it burst out laughing, she laughed for some time, and each time she went to stop, she found herself laughing some more.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." she said laughing still.
"I am most pleased I can amuse my wife so, though it was not my intent." Jae said with a smile on his face as he looked at her while she tried to gather her breath from laughing so hard "Perhaps my wife can enlighten me?" he asked.
"What you said, how you said it, Jae. I know it's true and gods knows I've seen enough to understand the world is not how I once thought it was. But Children of the Forest, Three-Eyed Ravens, it was just too much." she said and though her laughter had stopped she was still smiling a little.
"When you put it like that." Jae said with a chuckle before he kissed her lips softly.
"Will you speak to Ser Brynden?" she asked as he looked at her.
"Not now, let's just deal with Hardyng and I'll speak to the Blackfish and my brother later. Does Sansa know that Bran is here?" he asked and she shook her head.
Jae nodded to her before he walked to the door and left the room before coming back after a few moments, telling her that he'd given Sansa the rest of the day to go and spend with Bran and her uncle. It was left to Elinor to help her get ready for dealing with Hardyng. Margaery soon feeling that she'd be glad to have Joy and Tyene properly amongst her ladies soon enough. She had suggested to Jae that he ask for Nymeria to join them but he said that Tyene was more suited and that she would be happier in King's Landing than her sister would.
Once she was ready, she walked from their bed chamber and saw that Jae was waiting, the two of them walking together to the Throne Room and all of their Kingsguard waiting for them as they did so. She could feel how tense Jae was as they walked, her soft stroking of his hand doing some to calm him but until Hardyng was dealt with she doubted he'd be truly in a good mood. Perhaps it would be even some time after that until he'd be happy enough for her to share her news with him, though she hoped it wouldn't be for much longer that she had to keep it to herself.
The Throne Room was full, Jae insisting she sat the Throne while he stood in front of it with Joy. She saw him whisper in Joy's ear and then take her hand. Margaery took her seat and she smiled when Ghost walked over to sit by Joy's side, the wolf and her brother were both keen to see the girl's tormenter brought low it would seem.
"Lord Harrold Arryn." the herald said and the room quietened as Harrold walked in, a worried look on his face as he looked to Jae, Joy, and a wolf that rose as he entered.
King's Landing 299 AC.
She would be furious when she heard what he'd done and he felt such a fool for doing it. He'd been angry and humiliated by being knocked down in the dirt by a woman. No matter that Brienne of Tarth was more giant than woman, more beast than a lady. He was Lord of the Eyrie and he'd been beaten by a damn woman of all things. To then have insult added to the injury by a bastard of all things, no matter that she was someone the king saw as a sister or that she was heir to one of the richest seats in Westeros. Joy Hill was a bastard and he was an Arryn, a lord, trueborn and noble and he would not be spoken down to by a baseborn girl, no matter who she thought she was.
The worlds had come from his mouth almost unbidden and it was only the reaction of those in the yard that had made him realize what it was he had done. Brienne said something to him telling him such but he barely heard her, his attention instead focussing on the girl who'd run off crying and on the trouble he'd brought down upon himself. He ignored his companion's suggestions to go to the girl and apologize, to go to the king and apologize and beg forgiveness for what he said. Whether that was pride or foolishness though he wasn't sure.
Running was foolish though and where he had intended to run to was something that even now he was trying to make sense of. It had almost been a relief when the men ordered him back. Harrold feared what he'd face for true but he feared he'd face much worse the longer it took him to face it. Images of a dragon setting the Eyrie alight while he hid inside it were ones that had filled his dreams the night before the men ordered him back to King's Landing. He did feel annoyed that those with him had given up so easily at the simple showing of a raven's scroll, but then again no one wished to be as foolish as him and to incur a dragon's wrath.
Now as he walked into the Throne Room it was with the eyes of the realm upon him, though it was the eyes of the girl, the wolf, and the King that he was most concerned with. The king's words still echoed in his head as he walked and stood in the middle of the Throne Room. Words and blood and it was to him to decide which was to hurt more. Harrold found himself hoping that the humiliation hurt less than the beating he was to take.
"Lord Arryn, you know why you're here?" the queen asked and Harrold nodded before realizing that he should speak.
"I do your grace." he said, his voice barely heard and feeling scratchy to him.
"For those of you who don't. After being beaten in a spar Lord Arryn directed words at Lady Joy Lannister, words that caused the Lady much distress. Words that caused his grace much distress. All of us know how highly Lady Joy is held in his grace's regard, how close she is to him and all of us know that to upset her so is not something his grace would tolerate. Is that not so Lord Arryn?." the queen said to murmurs and nods of the head, the feelings of the room made quite clear.
"It is, your grace." he said with a nod.
"Yet you dared to do so regardless. You spoke of someone who is not just close to me, someone who I do not just consider a foster sister but a sister of my heart. You spoke of her in such a way, despite this." the King said his voice angry and yet not raised.
"I did your grace." he said gulping.
"Were it her wish I'd see you brought low for such a thing, Lord Arryn. Were she to but ask it of me I'd see your title, your lands, your very name stripped of you. Were I a different man then I'd seek even sterner punishment, a more permanent punishment." the king said and Harrold felt his throat go dry "However she would not wish such a thing as she's a far better Lady than you are a lord. An apology is required however, a message must be sent, Lord Arryn, so I would suggest you speak your words and make them good and true."
"Your graces, my Lords and Ladies, and you most of all Lady Joy. The words I spoke were in frustration and anger and yet I say that not as an excuse or as justification. I did not mean them, I do not think them and it is with great humility and much shame I beg forgiveness for speaking them at all." he said to no sound.
"And to Lady Joy personally, you say what Lord Arryn?" the king said and Harrold realized his words had not been enough.
"My Lady for any upset I caused you I am most deeply sorry, if I could take back the words I would do so without hesitation and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive my words and accept them as those spoken but not those believed." Harrold said.
He looked nervously as the king looked to the girl, her green eyes looking to him as she waited for what seemed like the longest time to speak. When she did he felt some relief in her words but not in the voice that spoke them.
"I accept Lord Arryn's apology, your grace." the girl said turning to nod at the king.
"We've now all heard Lord Arryn's apology and so his grace and I ask you to join us in the sparring yard where Lord Arryn has agreed to face his grace in a spar to show there are no hard feelings remaining." the queen said and Harrold heard the excited chattering of those who were now leaving the Throne Room.
It was the giant Kingsguard who escorted him out to the sparring yard and Harrold waited nervously for the king to arrive. When he did it was with the Queen and Joy Lannister and he felt his anger rise as he looked at the girl. He'd been humiliated publicly for naming her what she was, for speaking the truth of her and it grated on him. Now he was to be humiliated once more as well as to suffer pain because of her and as he was handed a tourney sword he almost wished it was live steel they'd been using, just so he could gut the king who forced him to face such humiliation. It was but a brief thought as the thoughts of facing the king and Dark Sister for true were not ones he would welcome.
Still, he felt bitter and angry when the king kissed the girl's forehead and walked down the steps before heading to the rack where the tourney swords were. Harrold and the others who were watching all looked on in surprise when he passed by it and walked to the spears instead of the swords. The king then picking out a large spear and spinning it in his hands before turning to walk his way. He could hear the crowd's excited chattering as the king began moving around, spinning the spear and twisting it from side to side. Looking more like Oberyn Martell than Jaehaerys Targaryen to his and everyone else's eyes.
"To five, Lord Harrold." the king said when he was done loosening up, Harrold looking to the balcony to see the queen, Joy, and others leaning against the wall looking down eagerly.
"Or a yield, your grace." he asked almost hopefully.
"To five." the king said and Harrold gulped.
Was it live steel instead of blunted, then the first hit would have cost him an eye, Harrold feeling the swelling almost immediately where the spear had struck his cheek. The impact of the blow made him realize that there was a way out of this for him, he could win and so not face all five hits and if the hits were to be so hard, it would be for the best if he did so. So he moved to attack rather than to defend and he began to swing his sword, the king deflecting them with his spear and Harrold wondering why he wore a smile on his face as he did so.
The second hit was to his shoulder and he felt the pain run down his arm, the king allowing him time to shake the feeling back into it before he moved again. Harrold tried to hit him as he came at him but the king was there one moment and gone the next, spinning away from his sword and raising his spear to where he could take a hit at will. Not that he did and it was clear that he meant to hurt him and not to just beat him. The third hit was to his mouth and busted his lip, Harrold relieved when that was all it did even as he spat the blood to the ground.
The fourth hit was to his side and Harrold was sure a rib had been broken. He'd been tripped by the shaft of the spear and the king had then driven it down onto his exposed side and Harrold had heard the crack as he did so. It took him some time to rise to his feet, the king moving away from him to allow him to do so and as he rose, he coughed and was unsurprised to see more blood come from his mouth. The last hit had him seeing stars, the spear catching him above the eye, and feeling as if it had been dragged down his face a little. Harrold was knocked to the ground by the force of it and as he felt the king's hand take his own and help him to his feet he felt the blood that rolled down his cheek. Though it was the words the king spoke to him as he pulled him in close that he'd remember, even more so than the scar that the cut would leave.
"When you look at yourself and see that scar remember well why you wear it. You insulted my sister, be thankful I settled for your blood instead of your head." the king said his words soft and yet the threat within them remained.
Riding from King's Landing later that day he swore he'd remember, he'd remember it well and one day he'd ensure the king had something to remember him by too.
King's Landing 299 AC.
He had used the spear because he wished the spar to be remembered for a long time and him beating Harrold Hardyng with a sword while memorable, would not be. Using a spear though would be something that people spoke about and it allowed him to do as he wished. The lesson he thought him was one he doubted would stick and so he resolved to ask Ser Richard to make sure his lips stayed close to the Lord of the Eyrie and should it be needed, he'd deal with him more permanently.
Before that though he asked Joy to join him in the gardens, nodding to Walder to go and fetch the seed and kissing Margaery's cheek before telling her that he'd not be long. He briefly saw Bran and the Blackfish but he had no time to speak to them just yet. No time or no inclination as he wished to speak to Joy first and foremost. She walked with him to the gardens, neither of them speaking and Jae still sweating a little from the spar. Soon they reached where he wished her to be and he stopped her from walking further by reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder and turning her to face him.
"Was that enough?" he asked looking at her and seeing her nod "Are you sure, I can do more." he said to a shake of her head.
"You hurt him." she said softly.
"He hurt you and so I hurt him back." he said and she nodded before she moved to hug him tightly.
They were still holding each other when Walder arrived back and Jae asked him to fetch him some of the tools the gardeners used when Walder handed him the seed. Joy looking at it curiously as he held it in his hand.
"Do you know what this is?" he asked and she shook her head "It's a seed for a Weirwood tree."
"It is?" she asked and he let her take it from his hand.
"It is. When I was Beyond the Wall, Walder, Shiera, Arthur and I found the largest Weirwood I've ever seen, bigger even than the one in Winterfell."
"Bigger for true?" she said her eyes wide as she imagined it.
"Aye, bigger for true." he said smiling "When we left we burned that tree to the ground, Rhaenix let her flames loose and it's no more."
"It had gone bad, the magic in it was bad." he said and she nodded "Before we did it though I was given many seeds to grow new ones. For here, Dragonstone, Queenscrown, and many other places. I want you to help me plant this one here." he said and she smiled as she nodded eagerly.
Walder returned and handed them two small shovels and while he broke the ground, he let Joy dig most of it. Nodding to her he let her put the seed into the ground and then together they covered it up.
"In the North, an oath sworn in front of a Weirwood can't be broken, if it is the gods will punish the man who swore it." Jae said when he was done.
"Why?" Joy asked curiously.
"Because a man should live up to his oaths and yet not all men do." he said as she looked at him.
"You do." she said and he nodded.
"I do. I swear another oath here today, Joy, in front of the tree we planted together. Anyone who hurts you, any who dare to even try, then your brother will hurt them back, I swear it on the old gods and the new." he said and he leaned forward to kiss her cheek.
"Your grace." Walder said interrupting them his voice worried and so Jae turned to look at him.
He saw her then in the air and Rhaenix didn't look right to him, Jae needing a moment to see there was someone on her back. Rising to his feet he looked to Walder and to Joy and then motioned to the nearest doors that led into the Red Keep.
"Take her inside, now." Jae said.
"Your grace?" Walder said.
"Now. Joy, go with Ser Walder." he said and she hesitated "Joy, go." he said and she followed the knight inside.
Jae moved from the garden to the largest of the courtyards, Arthur, Loras, and Ser Jors soon joining him and he was glad to see that Loras was carrying Dark Sister in his hands.
"My wife?" he asked.
"Is with ser Barristan and Ser Richard, your grace." Loras said.
"Them too." Loras said as Jae looked to the dragon that was flying towards him.
"You should all stay back." he said as he moved toward Rhaenix.
"Your grace." Arthur said worriedly.
"She won't harm me, stay back." he said glad when they did as he asked.
He looked on as Rhaenix flew closer, the man on her back finally coming into view and he was sure now who he was and who he was not. In body, that man may very well look like Euron Greyjoy but in mind, in spirit, it was Bloodraven and Jae couldn't help the smile that came to his face. The Old Gods were right, he was coming to him.
Jae glanced to the windows and saw his aunt looking on, Shiera staring at him and not the man on the dragon. Malora too was looking on but she had left the Red Keep and was walking his way, a smile on her face as she reached him.
"It's time." she said simply, as Rhaenix drew closer.
"Sir Rhaenix, gaomagon ziry sir." (Now Rhaenix, do it now). He said as he closed his eyes for a moment before opening them and feeling her inside him once more.
The sound of her roar was loud and the way she spun in the air should have been impossible for anything that large to accomplish. He looked on and though he couldn't see the face he could imagine the surprised look on it as Bloodraven was dislodged from the dragons' back. Turning to Malora he saw her eyes were closed and she was speaking words that he knew not, almost a chant of some sort and he began to move toward the falling man.
He heard the sound of the crash, the impact loud and as he ran to where he'd fallen, Rhaenix moved to land also. The two of them almost arriving at the same time and when Jae moved to the man on the ground his sister landed behind him, ready to unleash her flames should they be needed. He felt her speaking to him, telling him that she was well and that he'd not been able to get into her head, that their bond was as strong as it always had been. Jae telling her that he'd speak to her once this was done and they would fly together very soon.
Looking to the body on the ground he could see the eye patch had fallen off, a black eye staring back at him as a blue eye flickered. There was no need for the sword in his hand though he held it anyway, the man on the ground was dying and as Jae looked into that blue eye, he saw the panic when Bloodraven realized he had nowhere to go. There was no escape, his body had been burned long ago and though he was trying desperately to warg out of the dying body he was trapped in, the old gods had a new servant and she wasn't going to allow such a thing.
"How?" Bloodraven asked looking to him "How?" he said as the blue eye flickered with life for the final time and to the world, it would be Euron Greyjoy who was dead while to him and those who knew better it was Bloodraven who had truly died this day.
Jae had no interest in giving him the comfort of knowing how his plan had failed. Even had he lived long enough for him to speak on it, he wouldn't have done so. Bonded dragons could not be tamed by a horn, only death released the dragon or the rider from the bond they shared. Even were that not true, he and Rhaenix were bonded far more strongly than any dragon or rider that had come before them. They were bonded in blood, in magic, one heart that beat as two, a life shared and one that was incomplete without the other. No man, not even a man with a thousand eyes and one could break that bond, and only a fool who'd lived in a tree would even dare to try.
He heard the rushing of people behind him, his Kingsguard, Jaime, Joy and Sansa, Margaery all of them heading his way to find out what had occurred and was he or Rhaenix hurt. Jae leaned forward and with his fingers closed both eyelids.
"And so passes Bloodraven, son of the Unworthy." he said softly as he rose to his feet.
A/N: Thanks to all who've read and reviewed. Up Next we take a trip around the world stopping off in the Iron Islands, the Dreadfort, at the Wall and Beyond, Highgarden, and a look at the lives of the smallfolk and we take a look through Rhaenix's eyes at Bloodraven's demise.
Daryl Dixon: So glad you liked it.
The Sphynx: Love the poem my friend.
Biohazard: Really glad you enjoyed it.
VfSnake: Well you got your wish and yep the Horn didn't work.
Creativo: Bueno, la profecía depende de quién la interprete. Harrold mantendrá el nombre de Arryn, sí.
Flatcher Bamford: I'm so happy to hear you say that, Marge is pregnant as for the prophecy we'll see.
Tfranco: It was Rhaenix yes and no the Horn didn't work on her, she played Bloodraven completely. We'll be taking another look into Dorne in a bit. I think you have Jae down pat here, he's so not the guy who could do that so we'll see. Really glad you're liking Live as a Wolf, the first chapter was originally intended to be a one-shot and I decided to continue due to the reaction it got but it was in some ways my own two fingers to the horror of the last season.
Keb: No, just Rhaenix. On the Azor Ahai, the story that Aemon relays is the original canon myth and is somewhat separate from what he's seen in the crypts, so there he's just seen the last part the Nissa Nissa, and not the Lion thing, so to him it's only Marge who's in danger. I do wonder if in canon it'll be Jon killing Dany/vice versa to end the Nk, but there are some very interesting theories that suggest something different.
Jman: Yes Rheanix was tricking Bloodraven, as for the other part, we'll see.
Emeraldduke: It's the only reason I ended it there knowing that there were only two days to it being resolved.
Remi: She was faking yes.
Svenion: Lol, it was a mummery.
Guest: she was indeed. I think with the horn it to me had to be something that only works on unbounded dragons, wild dragons but not ones with riders. I mean the entire power of the forty families was them riding dragons, if someone could just blow a horn and take one from them it kinda doesn't make it a powerful thing, also how come we never hear of it being done when there were dragons around. Like why didn't anyone just blow a horn to stop Aegon or during the dance or something. So no for me it's only unbounded dragons.
Anja: So very glad you liked it.
Noone2B: You got your wish lol and yes an Anya one is upcoming.
Celexys: With Harry, I think he's one of those characters that really everyone agrees with, I've yet to see a decent version of him in a fic. Bloodraven was always destined to fail, he crossed the old gods and they were waiting for him.
Silverglow: I had meant to, but holidays, works, various things haven't left me with the time to go over them. The message he received is something we'll see him work on in a bit, here Bloodraven did come to him and we'll see him head to DS soon. Mellario really never wished to leave Dorne, Doran yes but Dorne and her children no and so with him gone it allows for her to take the time to know them. With only two of them left, even more so. Ser Richard was on Harry's case the moment he heard what was said, no way he was letting him ride without having his men near him and so he's faced his punishment now, but will it take. As you see yes it was a mummery, the Horn imo can't work on a bonded dragon, it could perhaps take one of Dany's Viserion/Rhaegal though even then I don't now given how they were hatched but a dragon with a bond, no chance as far as I'm concerned.
Supremus: So very glad you liked it.
Hkt29: We will see, prophecy is a fickle thing. I think he would have gone further on Harrold if he'd had to deal with him right away, oddly as bad as running was it probably worked out better for Harrold than staying to face the music might have. I always think it's too much to expect the horn to work on a bonded dragon, it doesn't sit right with me.
Lady Octarina: I'm glad to hear you say that, I think you need some of that balance. Questioning of a character but it has to be the right character who does so and the right time so it doesn't skew too much like second-guessing. Like the protagonist being given free rein is too much but it's just as annoying as them being second-guessed all the time. I try to keep it that it's a line, and hope that I stay on the right side of it more than cross it.
He very much is, also that he ran, even though it was the wrong thing to do, it kinda was the right because if Jae had dealt with him while Joy was still so upset then he'd have been far harsher. I think that was the thing with Mellario, being married to Doran was just too much. I know the canon for her says it's Quentyn's fostering and then Arianne's threatened fostering that breaks the camel's back so to speak. I think also there was the power imbalance between her and Doran too. But I can only imagine how hard it truly was in that she was gone for ten years and they never saw her, so her coming back is such a good thing for Arianne especially.
I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, like did I say hate lol, stories where Jon is forced to kill Ghost. It's a rage quit moment for me, stories where he dies even have me on the brink. But ones where he needs to kill him for some reason. I read one recently where he need to kill Ghost to get a dragon and I was literally screaming at the screen, "Who wants a dragon that badly" it was so annoying.
Anyway, I will say for certain that Jae will not be forced to kill either Ghost of Rhaenix and I only am not saying anything about Margaery for spoiler reasons. As for Rhaenix and Bloodraven's control as you see, he had none.
Irish Hermit: I kinda wanted that bit of a call back to Jon A's attitude, almost a family trait so to speak. As you see he wasn't able to control her, it was a mummery. Not before Westeros will.