So, here we go! Chapter 2! Just want to take a moment and thank everyone who reviewed, added this story to their favorites or chose to follow. Thank you all so much for the support!

Quick shout out to my beta reader and brainstorm partner for this story, Tellemicus Sundance. And if you haven't checked out his version of this scenario, 'The Jedi Of the North', I highly recommend that ya go and check it out!

And a slight correction to the last chapter, so the year when Nox arrives is 289AC, which makes Jon and Robb 6 while Sansa will be 4 and Arya just over 2.

Hope that you all enjoy this chapter! And please feel free to leave a review! Any questions I try and answer, but please be respectful. And right now I've almost got the next chapter completed, so I'm going to try and keep a biweekly update schedule, but with full time work, a huge project at work that I need to often take home, and a family at home it's often difficult to find time to write. So please be patient with me. Anyway, here we go!

Chapter 2

Groaning in discomfort, Jon Snow forcibly opened his heavy eyes groggily as he slowly came to. Blinking dumbly, he found himself staring skywards and seeing only tress and leaves above him. 'What…? Where…?' In a rush, it all came back to him. The falling star. His foolish venture into the wolfswood. His encounter with the wildlings and the strange kni – "The wildlings!" Jon shouted, shooting upwards into a sitting position, only to immediately fall back down onto his back groaning loudly as his head and the world around him started spinning uncontrollably.

"I wouldn't try to sit up again so fast, boy," a distorted voice said to him through the spinning world around him. "It's amazing you even managed to maintain the strength to keep going for so long after running out of food and water. What limited energy you had left has been used in the healing of your body. And you have nothing to fear of the wildlings, boy. Kind of hard to be a threat when they're dead."

Blinking and trying to stop the spinning, Jon groggily rolled onto his side in the direction of the distorted voice. The first thing he saw was a low burning fire made of twigs and branches. Resting above the fire on a makeshift spit was a hare, skinned and cooking. Jon's mouth watered greedily as the smell of the cooked meat reached him and his stomach roared, reminding him just how long it'd been since he'd last ate anything.

Fighting down the temptation to lunge for the meat, Jon forced his eyes past the fire and to the figure sitting just beyond. The mysterious knight was sitting with his back resting against a nearby tree, his strange helm still in place and facing towards him with unseeing eyes.

Biting his lip, Jon carefully and slowly made to sit up, taking care to avoid the world spinning on him again. "You…You saved me, Ser Knight. I – thank you."

"Think nothing of it, boy," the strange knight continued in his distorted voice. "That rabble was hardly a challenge. My morning workout is more taxing. Now, eat. I did what I could to heal you without having to use your own energy reserves, but healing a body is taxing, even with help."

Licking his lips, Jon hardly waited to be told twice before he all but lunged for the rabbit. Picking up the spit, he bit greedily into the side of, nearly moaning as the taste of meat hit his tongue after so long without food. Before he'd even realized it, he'd picked clean the little amount of meat on one of the four legs and had started in on the body of the hare.

"Not so fast," the mysterious stranger's distorted voice chided him, making him stop eating for a moment. "You haven't eaten in a while. Resist what your body is telling you and eat slowly. If you don't, you'll only make yourself sick."

Taking his words to heart, Jon forced himself to slow his eating, taking smaller bites from the hare instead of the large ones he'd started with. When Jon had finished off the last bits of meat from the small hare, his stomach felt much better than it had. Only to jump again when the mysterious knight held out a water skin for him.

"So, tell me, boy," the knight said as Jon slowly, but greedily, drank from the water skin. "What is your name? I can't keep referring to you as 'boy'."

Jon immediately felt his now moistened throat run dry. "Jon…Snow."

"Jon Snow? Interesting name." The stranger replied, but not with the tone that Jon was used to hearing. Instead the way he said his name almost sounded like…he didn't care. 'Does he not know what the name Snow means? Does he…does he not know that I'm a bastard? A stain on my father's honor?' "I suppose that turnabout is fair play. My name is Alim Nox. But you, Jon, may refer to me as Nox."

"Lord Nox," Jon greeted the Lord. He had to be a Lord after all. Only a Lord or a king could afford armor like what he was wearing. "Thank you for…well…for saving me."

"I was in the area. And I have a soft spot for those who cannot help themselves. A weakness many have said, but I find strength in it." Lord Nox replied with a shrug. "Now tell me, do you feel any lingering pain from the injuries you suffered at the hands of the wildlings?"

The stranger's question caught Jon off guard. But, now that it was brought to his attention, he realized with a start that, no, he didn't feel any pain anymore. In fact, he felt better now that he'd eaten and drank for the first time in days. As soon as the thought hit him, his eyes widened. Almost fumbling in his haste, Jon reached down to the backside of his leg and felt where the arrow had struck him. He could feel the still drying blood on his pants and the hole in the fabric that the arrow had made. But when his fingers touched his skin, he felt…nothing. There was no wound at all!

Eyes widening even further, he turned his attention back to Lord Nox. 'There…I was hit with an arrow! I know it! I remember when one of guards took an arrow in the arm during target practice. It took Maester Luwin hours to cut the arrow out of him! And even then, it took weeks for the wound to even heal properly! But he…whatever the stranger did made it so that it looks and feels like I was never hit with an arrow in the first place!'

There was only one explanation that Jon's six-name-day mind immediately jumped too. Magic. It was the only way the stranger could've healed him so fast. And…And it also explained how he was able to defeat so many wildlings with ease. And how he could create a sword made of pure fire! But that was impossible! Maester Luwin was adamant that magic no longer existed! That Valyria was the last ember of magic and that when the last of the dragons died, so too did magic! Even his father didn't believe in magic.

"Are…Are you a sorcerer? You can do magic, can't you?" he asked timidly, both afraid and excited about the answer to come.

Across from him, Lord Nox tilted his head to the side. "There are some who call me such. And given our current situation, the title shall suffice for now. And, yes, to put it in layman's terms, I can use 'magic'. Although, calling it 'magic' is a gross simplification of what the Force is."

Jon wasn't quite sure just what he'd meant by that, but neither did he care. All that he cared about was the fact that Lord Nox, the one who saved him from the wildlings, could do magic! "Can you show me!?" Jon exclaimed, jumping up to his feet and nearly bouncing in his excitement. "And your sword of fire! Can you do that all the time? What else can you do? Can you lift objects with your mind? Can you bewitch people? Can you make fire from thin air? Are there others who can do magic like yourself in your homeland? Can you-"

"Boy," Lord Nox said sharply, cutting off Jon and ending any questions he had. "Slow. Down. The Force, or magic as you call it, is not a party favor to entertain children with. Yes, I can do most what you asked, but I will not show it. Not now. Because there is no need to do so. Should the need arise, I will gladly show you what I am capable of. But not now. And as for my homeland… Suffice to say that it is now impossible for me to return home. As it is impossible for anyone from my home to find me."

It was all Jon could do to keep himself from bursting with questions as he sat back down. But the courtesy that his father…and Lady Stark had drilled into him as of late demanded that he accepts the stranger's command and cease asking questions. Licking his lips, Jon drank a little more from the water skin, trying his best to hold it in but in the end unable to do so. "Can…Can you teach others to…well…do what you do?"

Again, Lord Nox tilted his head to the side. "If an individual shows an aptitude for the Force, then yes, I can teach them what I know. But few have the conviction or desire to withstand the training one needs to go through in order to learn."

"Can you teach me?" Jon asked before he could help himself. Then he quickly started folding in on himself as soon as he did so. 'You're a bastard, Jon…Even if you could learn, he wouldn't accept you. A true born, yes, but not a bastard. No one cares for a bastard. Lady Stark has made that point many times.'

Across from him, Lord Nox crossed his arms over his chest. "Perhaps. You have the spark necessary. But the question is: do you have the will to do what I say when I say it? If I tell you to jump, will you jump? If I tell you to fight, will you fight? If I tell you to do the impossible, will you find a way to do it?"

Feeling hope swell in his chest, Jon eagerly nodded. "Yes!"

Jon could almost see the upturning of Lord Nox's mouth behind his mask. "We shall see if that is true. But that is a discussion for another time. For now, tell me Jon why does a boy of your age come into a forest like this unsupervised? Surely, your parents are worried about you."

At the mention of his parents, Jon immediately curled in on himself again. 'Bastard. Stain on my Lord husband's honor!' "I…saw a falling star. But no one believed me. I – I had to come. I wanted to find it. I wanted to prove that…that I'm…"

"That you're what?"

Swallowing past the lump in his throat, Jon turned his eyes away from Lord Nox took the plunge. "That I'm more than just a…a bastard."

That was it. Now Lord Nox would never be willing to teach him anything. He was a bastard. He didn't deserve the same lessons as his true born brothers and sisters. And he certainly didn't deserve to learn magic.

"A fairly foul term to use on yourself, Jon," Lord Nox commented, making Jon blink and turn back to him. "Unless, ohhh, you mean the term quite literally. As you were born out of wedlock. I see. And you feel ashamed of this. Why?"

"Because I'm a stain on my father's honor." Jon answered almost immediately, his lips moving before he even realized it as the words Lady Stark screamed at him not a moon's past came to him. 'I – I didn't mean to answer so quickly.' "Lady Stark…My father's wife, she – she has made it clear that I do not deserve the same lessons as my true born brother and sisters."

"Hmmm, I see. And what does your mother say?"

"I don't know. I don't know who she is." Jon answered again almost immediately. 'Why do I keep answering so quickly?' "My father, he won't tell me about her. No matter how much I beg or cry! It doesn't matter, he won't tell me who she is. Where she is. If she even loves me at all. All he says is that he will tell me when I'm older. I'm old enough now! I'm seen six-name-days! Yet still, he won't tell me."

Breathing heavily after his tirade, Jon immediately felt ashamed of his outburst. He had no right to be angry with his father for not telling him. His father took him in and was raising him alongside his true born children. Jon had no right to complain. None at all. If it wasn't for Lord Stark, he knew that he would be sent somewhere far away from home and never be able to return.

Across the fire from him, Lord Nox merely sat with his hands tucked under his chin as he listened to Jon. "I see. So, you were hoping that by finding a fallen star that you could somehow prove your worth to your father and this…Lady Stark?"

"Yes," Jon nodded, sitting down heavily, words falling from his mouth faster than he could think them. "The last star that'd fallen to the earth was found by House Dayne, and they forged the sword Dawn, the greatest sword in the land. I thought that if I did the same, then maybe…just maybe, my father would give me the Stark name. I don't care about the sword, or whatever they can make from the star, I just…I just want to be a Stark. A true Stark. Not a bastard."

By the time he was done, he was breathing like he'd just run through the wolfswood again. Risking a glance upwards, Jon looked towards Lord Nox, waiting and dreading his rebuke. The rebuke he knew was coming. The same rebuke everyone gave him whenever he tried to prove that he was worthy of having the Stark name. But instead, the knight merely sat across the fire from him in silence, his hands folded before where he assumes his mouth was on his mask.

"Interesting," Lord Nox rumbled without warning. "Keep that drive, young Jon. It will serve you well. And while I cannot help you find this 'star', I can perhaps still help you achieve your goal. But that will be a discussion for another time. For now, I believe that it is high time that I return you to your father."

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Jon's joy at hearing that Lord Nox might be able to help him was quickly dampened at the reminder that his Lord Father was more than likely out searching for him. "You're frightened," Lord Nox said suddenly, making Jon start. "Why?"

Swallowing, Jon lowered his head in shame. "My father. He's going to be so mad at me."

"Of course he is," Lord Nox answered, surprising Jon with just how quickly he did. "He's your father. And you ran away and went off on a potential dangerous, and, quite frankly, idiotic quest to find some 'fallen star' you may or may not have even seen. But do you know why your father will be angry with you?"

Biting his lip, Jon tucked his legs in close to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. "Because I disobeyed him."

"No – well, yes, in part," Lord Nox nodded. "But the true reason as to why he will be angry with you is because he is scared."

"Scared?" Jon repeated, looking up at the man who'd saved his life and feeling slightly offended. "My father is Warden of the North! Lord of the North! He fought in the Rebellion against the Targaryens and won! He fought against Ser Arthur Dayne and won! He isn't afraid of anything!"

The stranger merely shook his head at the end of Jon's rant. "Young man, there is still much you need to learn. First and foremost is that there are many, many types of fear. Just because one has courage to fight on the frontlines or face a superior opponent does not mean that they do not know fear. The fear that you instilled in your father is the fear of loss. For it is our loved ones that can usually cause the greatest of fears to rear its ugly head."

Blinking, Jon tried to piece together just what the masked Lord was talking about. 'Many types of fear? Those we love can cause the greatest of fear? He isn't making any sense!'

"But all of this philosophy is a discussion for another time," Lord Nox stated, bringing an end to the conversation as he rose to his feet and kicked some dirt over the small fire to smother it. "I think it is high time that I brought you back to your father, don't you?."

Rising to his feet with the masked Lord, Jon bit his lip as he turned around in a slow circle, trying to find any sign of the path he took to get to this point. After two passes and not finding any sign of how he got to where they were, Jon turned back to the masked Lord feeling more than slightly embarrassed. "Do…Do you know where to go? I – I lost my way and don't know the way back."

Picking up a single sack that was nearly half as tall as Jon was, the masked Lord slung it over his shoulder and nodded off in a seemingly random direction. "I don't think we need to worry about finding our way. There are over a dozen men less than a quarter mile in that direction. And one of them…has a familial connection with yourself."

Springing around quickly and facing off in the direction the masked Lord had nodded towards, Jon squinted into the forest trying to see if he could see the men. But all he could see were…trees. "How…How do you know?" he asked, turning back to the masked Lord. "I can't see anything other than trees."

Jon wasn't sure, but he was pretty sure the muffled noise coming out from under the masked Lord's helmet was him laughing. "In time, Jon, you will learn that there are many ways to 'see'. Now, come. If we're lucky, we can make this reunion short and make our way back to the camp the wildlings were using. They won't be using it again, and no sense in letting it go to waste."

Deciding to trust the masked Lord, Jon fell into step beside him as he led the two of them away from the smothered fire and off into a seemingly random direction of the forest. After a few minutes Jon was beginning to have his doubts about what Lord Nox had 'seen', because all he could see were trees and more trees. But just as he was about to say something, he saw a flicker of something between the trees a fair distance away. He felt his heart race as he spotted the flicker again, and then another beside it. And his heart went racing as he heard a faint but familiar voice calling his name through the trees.

"Father!" Jon yelled, taking off like a bolt from a crossbow through the tress as he sprinted for what he was sure was his lord father.

"Jon!" His voice! That was his father's voice! Which only served to quicken Jon's sprint even more.

Jon didn't even notice the trees passing him by, nor anything else as he ran as fast as his legs could carry him towards the towering form of his father. Nearly jumping the last little of space between the two, Jon began crying openly as he clung to his father. "I'm sorry, father!" he cried, holding tightly onto his father as all the emotions he'd been holding back came to the surface. "I – I should've never…I'm sorry!"

"Gods, Jon," His father's voice and arms that were holding Jon tight against him were as comforting as a warm blanket in the middle of winter. "Gods, Jon…I am so…gods…"

Feeling his father's hands move to his shoulders and gently push him back, Jon tried his best to hold back the tears falling freely from his eyes as he stared into his father's grey eyes. "I'm sorry, father." Jon sniffed. "I – I don't know what I was doing go-"

"By the gods, that's for damn sure!" His father growled in a low tone, making Jon flinch. "Do you have any idea what you have put me through these past few days? You could've been hurt in these woods! You could've died, Jon! What in the name of the gods possessed you to come out here on your own!?"

Feeling more than slightly ashamed, Jon suddenly found his feet incredibly interesting as he couldn't meet the disappointed look in his father's eyes. "I – I wanted to find the fallen star I saw. I – I wanted to prove that I – that I'm not just a…a bastard. I just…I just wanted you to be proud of me."

"Hells, Jon. Look at me, son," Lord Stark breathed, on hand going underneath his chin to tip his head up and forcing him to meet his father's eyes. "I am proud of you. I'm as proud of you as I am of Robb. Never doubt that. And never, never, do anything foolish like this ever again! Do you understand me!?"

"Yes, father." Jon sniffed, feeling conflicted as he felt happy that his father said he was proud of him, and ashamed at the anger and fear he'd caused in his father.

"My Lord," A guardsman, who Jon recognized quickly as the Captain of the Guard, Jory Cassel, walked up next to the two them, his eyes wandering around the forest. "We should leave quickly, my Lord. The wildlings from the camp we just found cannot be far from here."

"There is no need to worry about the wildlings. They have been taken care of."

Jon had never seen his father's men move so fast as they did when the distorted voice of Lord Nox spoke. Although, how the strange Lord managed to sneak up on them in the first place was beyond Jon. The guardsmen of Winterfell quickly formed a line in front of Jon and his Lord father, separating the two of them from Lord Nox while drawing their swords from their sheathes.

"Fath—Lord Stark," Jon said, trying his best to keep his voice steady as his fought against his still raw emotions. "This–This is Lord Alim Nox. He saved me from the wildlings! He's an incredible sorcerer! He fought the wildlings off with a sword made of fire! And he healed my leg as well!"

His father stared first at Jon and then up to Lord Nox. After a moment's hesitation that almost seemed to last forever, his father nodded to the guardsmen of Winterfell, all of whom immediately lowered or sheathed their weapons and took a step back. Falling into step behind his father, Jon followed Lord Stark as he stepped towards Lord Nox. Once they were within a few paces of the strange Lord, his father stopped, and Jon was left to stare with an ever-growing amount of worry as his father and Lord Nox just stood there staring at one another.

"Lord Nox," his father finally said, breaking the silence between the two. "I am unaware of any Lord carrying that name in the North or the South. Where do you hail from?"

"I would be surprised if you knew," Lord Nox answered in his distorted voice. "Suffice to say that it is a fair distance from these lands, such that I can never return nor can anyone from my home be likely to find me."

"He's lost, father." Jon spoke up, wanting – no, needing – to stand up for the man he'd soon realize he was quickly coming to idolize for saving him from the wildlings. "He has nowhere to go."

His father spared him a quick look before returning to Lord Nox. "I would ask then that you remove your helm, my Lord. I would know the face of the man responsible for saving my son's life."

Jon held his breath as Lord Nox moved his hand up to his face plate and grabbed hold of it. A strange hissing noise sounded as the mask almost seemed to fall off his face. As his hand fell with the mask in hand, Jon couldn't help but gasp. The strange Lord was young! Younger than his father. But even then, he had hair the color of silver! It was unlike anything he'd ever seen. But stranger still was the single black cloth that ran over the Lord's eyes. A cloth that would've been impossible to see though. There was only one other person Jon had ever seen wear such a thing. One of the old blind men from Winters Town. Which meant... "You're…You're blind?!" Jon nearly shouted in surprise.

"Jon," His father chided him, making him flinch.

But instead of seeming to be offended, Lord Nox merely smiled. "If you mean that I cannot see as you do, then yes. I am blind as you understand it. But as I told you just a short time ago, young Jon, there are many ways that one can see. And I use those ways to compensate for my lack of eyes."

Jon frowned until he made the connection. "Magic!" he shouted excitedly. "You use your magic to see! That's how you knew my father and his men were close by!"

"Jon," His father chided him once again, this time making Jon take a step back and slightly behind his father. "I apologize, Lord Nox, for my son's behavior."

"There is no need to apologize, Lord Stark," Lord Nox responded with a wave of his hand. "He is a child. An inquisitive nature is only natural. And something to be encouraged, as long as they understand that there are limits."

His father nodded and then paused as he continued to stare at Lord Nox. "You saved my son's life, Lord Nox, House Stark owes you a debt of gratitude. And as you are a stranger to these lands, I invite you to rest at Winterfell until such time as you can find your own way."

Lord Nox bowed his head slightly in response and Jon felt his heart jump at the thought of the foreign Lord staying with them for a time. "You're offer is much appreciated, my Lord."

His father nodded before adding, "Despite you saving my son, however, I must ask that you aid House Stark in some manner as you rest in Winterfell. Everyone in Winterfell has a purpose, and I would ask that you find one as well during your stay."

Again, Lord Nox's lips curled upwards. "Don't worry, Lord Stark. I'm sure there are quite a few things I can offer you and your House to help earn my stay."

Sitting before the low burning fire with his back set firmly against a tree and a soundly sleeping Jon tucked into a small ball next to him, Lord Eddard Stark stared across the makeshift camp at the one who'd apparently saved his son. The man was an enigma. First, there was the fact that he defeated a group of wildlings on his own while blind aside, a fact that Ned was still trying to come to terms with. And that he'd then brought Jon back to him had earned him Ned's gratitude. But even still, there was something almost…off about the apparently sleeping man across from him that Ned just couldn't put his finger on.

After finding his son and sending Jory and two others to verify that the wildlings were apparently dealt with, Ned had started asking the stranger a series of questions, trying to pry whatever information he could from the man without making it seem like he was interrogating him. He wasn't of Westeros, that much was obvious to anyone. But his accent, Ned couldn't place it. Essos was the most likely candidate, but of all the traders that Ned had spoken with over the years, which admittedly was a limited few, none had the same drawl as this man.

Then there was his armor. Ned had never seen armor like it before, but it was obviously very well made. And obviously made to intimidate with its pitch-black coloring and spiked almost claw-like gauntlets. It also appeared to be almost too thin to be of actual use in battle. A good war hammer looked like it could still cave the man's chest in without much trouble. But what it potentially sacrificed in strength, it more than made up for in terms of allowing a wide range of movement. While heavy plate mail was good for taking blow after blow on the battlefield, it could be highly limiting. This style of armor was not. Then there was the mask. A solid piece of metal with a strip of Myrish glass for an eye-slit. Another abnormality. How did he breathe in it without a way to let air flow through?

Then there was his face, which Ned could admit was quite comely, enough so that many a maiden would swoon at the sight of him without his mask. But it wasn't his comely look that demanded attention. Nor his silver hair which instantly reminded Ned of the Targaryens. No, that belonged to the finely made black and gold cloth that covered his now-ruined eyes. The fact that he was able to overcome such adversity and excel spoke volumes of his will. But even still, Ned had seen blind men before. Even if they'd had years to get used to their condition they would still fumble on occasion, especially through terrain such as the wolfswood. But this Nox did not fumble once. His steps were sure and his movements precise. Gods, he was even able to catch the guard that'd been walking next him when he'd tripped. Ned had no idea just how he was able to move as he did. But Jon apparently did; magic.

'Magic,' the very word stirred a complex well of thoughts within him. The North and the First Men have always been more open to the idea of magic than their Andal brethren. Hells, his own family's history was littered with tales of Starks that were supposed masters of the magical arts, including skin-changing into wolves and the greensight. And Bran the Builder had supposedly used to magic, in conjunction with the Children of the Forests magic, to help build his wonders. So, the Northern aspect of him accepted that it was a possibility. But he hadn't been raised in the North, at least not entirely. His time in the Vale had instilled a sense of…doubt, as it were. He didn't believe that magic was inherently evil, as many Andals believed. Magic was merely a tool, much like a sword. It all depended on the user. But at the same time, was magic even still around? And if it was, should it be used at all?

Valyria had been reputedly to be rife with magic, yet that did not save the greatest civilization from collapsing in the Doom. Many Maesters even accredited the Doom to some form of magic gone wrong. And then there was the dragons, the alpha predator and greatest of magical creatures. If magic still existed, did that mean that it was possible for the dragons to return as well? Such a thought did not bode well in the mind of the Warden of the North. Especially if the remaining Targaryens or their loyalists got a hold of them. If they did, they would no doubt live up to their house words and bring fire and blood to all those who were responsible for removing them from the throne. 'Well, maybe not all of them,' he thought, his eyes almost involuntarily flickering to Jon before he forced his eyes away and back to Nox.

Before he could ponder the enigma that was this mysterious Alim Nox, one of his guardsmen gently prodded him on the shoulder. "Milord, Jory has returned with the others."

Nodding, Ned carefully extracted himself from Jon's side, taking care not to wake the boy as he stood up. After casting one last glance down at Jon and a sideways glance towards Nox, he turned his back on the camp and made his way towards his Captain of the Guard who was standing just outside of hearing range from the camp.

As he got closer to his Captain and the two he'd sent with him, he noticed something. Despite the steadily fading light of the sun, all three men appeared to be slightly ashen for some reason. "What did you find?" Ned asked the moment he was close enough to Jory and outside of hearing range of the camp.

The three men looked at one another as if they weren't sure just how to answer his question. "We…found the wildlings, Lord Stark," Jory answered after a moment's hesitation. "At least, what was left of them."

Frowning, Ned looked around the woods. "Did an animal get to them first?"

"No," Jory replied almost immediately.

"Then what happened?" Ned asked, starting to grow impatient. These were grown men who, while they may not have been a part of the Rebellion, had certainly bloodied themselves on bandits and wildlings in the past.

"It…It was a slaughter, my lord." Jory finally answered, swallowing deeply as if trying to find the words to explain what he'd seen. "The wildlings, they…they were cut to pieces. Literally. Some looked to have drawn and quartered. Arms, legs and heads all cut clean off. There was even a torso that'd been cut in half with what appeared to be a single stroke of a blade. And that wasn't all my lord. All the wildling's wounds were…burned. Cauterized. As if whatever had made them was red hot. What kind of weapon can do that, my lord? And it wasn't only their bodies, but their own weapons as well. Spears and even an iron sword were cut clean in half. What weapon is sharp enough to cut through bone, leather, flesh, wood and iron while at the same time being hot enough to burn the flesh closed? It…It was almost as if he'd—"

"Used a sword made of fire," Ned answered for his Captain, echoing exactly how Jon had described the weapon Nox had used just a short time ago.

"Aye, my lord," Jory nodded. "Exactly as your bastard said. What should we do, my lord? This…apparent sorcerer, he massacred eight wildlings on his own while at the same time protecting young Jon and all without taking a single wound to his person. What manner of knight is he?"

Only years of practice kept Ned from bristling at the slight against Jon. 'He's not a bastard. But he has to be for his sake and the realms.' But Jon's status aside, Jory's question wasn't without merit. "We are not the south, Jory. We're the North. We do not bristle at the thought of magic." He said, doing everything in his power to keep his voice steady despite his own considerable doubt in his own words. "His abilities aside, the fact remains that he saved my son. Until he proves otherwise, he has earned the benefit of the doubt. And according to him, he has no way of returning home. So, once we reach Winterfell, he will be given guest rights and permission to stay if he can prove himself useful. We have no need for freeloaders in the North. But even still, I want a constant watch kept on him, but from a distance. Understood?"

"Yes, my lord," Jory responded immediately, closing his fist across his heart in salute. "And what of his apparent weapon? This sword made of fire. Just from looking at him, unless he has somehow managed to fit a sword in that bag he carries around, he looks to be unarmed."

At this, Ned scratched thoughtfully at his beard. "We will inquire to see his weapon on the morrow, before we leave the forest and ask for a demonstration of its capabilities. Better we learn now what he might be capable of instead of waiting for us to reach Winterfell. Now, you and your men get some rest. We've set a hard pace, and we will be setting the same pace on our trip back to Winterfell."

"Yes, my lord," Jory nodded, once again saluting him with a hand over his heart before setting away from Ned and making his way back to the camp.

Watching his man head back to the camp, Ned stared up at the steadily darkening sky above his head. He'd felt something…almost shift the moment Nox had accepted his offer to stay in Winterfell. It felt…almost like something was glad that this foreign Lord was going to stay in the North for some time. 'Is this a sign from the old gods?' He thought as he made his way back to the small camp. 'I cannot say for sure. But one thing I know, even without a sign from the gods, is that this foreign Lord is about to change things. I can only pray that the old gods are graceful and smile upon House Stark and the North, and that whatever changes this man brings about will be for the betterment of the North and the Realm.'

Their journey out of the forest, or as Lord Stark had referred to the 'wolfswood', was for the larger part uneventful. Save of course for the morning after Lord Stark and his men had come across Nox and Jon. That morning before they could depart, Lord Stark had requested a demonstration of whatever weapon he'd used to fight and the kill the wildlings the day prior. Seeing no reason not too, Nox revealed his single bladed lightsaber, the memento from his ancestor Lord Kallig that he always carried on him.

To say that Lord Stark and his men had been unimpressed and confused by the slightly curved lightsaber hilt he pulled out from within his robes would be an understatement. But those feelings were replaced immediately with wonder and fear the moment he activated his lightsaber, producing the blood-red blade. Those feelings were only exacerbated when Nox had then demonstrated the sheer power of the lightsaber as he cut down a tree nearly two feet in diameter with a single swing.

The demonstration unfortunately had the unattended consequence of making the Northmen more than slightly wary of him. Something that he didn't need. Not if he wanted to rebuild his powerbase and make a name for himself. So, to begin earning the trust of Lord Stark and his men, Nox had voluntarily surrendered his lightsaber to the Warden of the North. Of course, he didn't mention the fact that he still had over a dozen more lightsabers and saber staffs hidden in the bag he was carrying. He needed to earn the trust of these men if he was going to rebuild his powerbase, but he wasn't stupid enough to leave himself unarmed in the presence of those who were still unsure of him. He'd also decided to forgo his mask for the time being. He needed to be Nox, not Darth Nox, if he intended to win these men over at the start.

After two days of navigating the forest, they finally made their way out of the trees and into an open field where, amazingly enough, Lord Stark had previously ordered another few of his men to remain camped with their horses for the ride back to Winterfell. Lord Stark had, of course, apologized for not having a horse for him and offered to have him ride double with one of the small guardsmen. But Nox had declined, stating that he'd be able to keep pace much to the disbelief of everyone. After nearly a full day at a slight trot, Nox almost found the men of the North's expressions amusing as he not only managed to keep pace, but at some parts of their trek he was the one making the pace, not the horses.

His amusement however was cut abruptly short the moment the seat of House Stark, Winterfell, came into view.

To say that Nox was struck speechless was an understatement. Nox had traversed most of the known galaxy. He'd seen some of the most beautiful and amazing architectural marvels in the known galaxy. But Winterfell, the castle – no, the small city within a fortress – was a true sight to behold. One that would make even the most pompous of Alderaanian nobles green with envy. Especially when taken in with the fading light of the evening sun.

The first most notable thing about the fortress were the two sets of walls that served as the primary defense for the interior. The first of the two grey-granite walls reached nearly eighty-feet high on a low estimate, with the secondary wall behind it reaching even higher. The only access point he could spot on the north side of the fortress was large gatehouse structure built into the outer wall. As they passed through the gatehouse, Nox's amazement grew as he noticed that there was an actual moat that separated the two walls.

'Incredible,' he thought as he followed the horses across the two drawbridges that connected the outer wall to the interior wall and into the castle ward proper. 'To an army on foot, Winterfell is neigh unbreachable. The moment any army approached, they can raise the drawbridges connecting the two walls, effectively making it so that even if they could take the guard house, they would not be able to cross the expanse between the two walls. The only way would be to scale the walls, not an easy task. And even if you managed to claim the outer wall, the wooden bridges that connect the two walls up top look to be collapsible. Meaning the attackers would be stuck on the outer wall with no protection from the defenders on the second, more elevated wall. The only feasible way for an attacking army to gain access to the inner wards would be if they could fly. Not a hard task for the Empire or the Republic, but given the apparent technological placement of this world, it is doubtful they have any form of aircraft available to them.'

Once they'd passed by the inner wall, Nox was struck with his second surprise. The space within the fortress was…warm, far warmer than should've been possible. The tall walls certainly did a number in preventing cold winds from reaching the interior of the fortress, but that alone could not account for the sudden increase in temperature. Reaching out with the Force, he quickly found the answer for the warmth. 'A natural hot spring,' he thought, more than slightly surprised as he felt further into the very walls of the inner most buildings and felt something unusual for a society of this technological level. 'Interesting. They've managed to channel the warm water from the underground hot springs into the very walls themselves using a crude sort of plumbing. And they managed to do so without sacrificing structural integrity of the buildings. Simply amazing.'

But the one thing that truly awed Nox about the fortress of Winterfell was what he saw when he looked at it with the Force. It was almost as if the Force had been used and integrated into the very construction of every building and every wall within the confines of the walls. The entirety of Winterfell was positively radiating with the Force. In all his travels, he'd only ever encountered such a phenomenon four times before. The Force temples on Korriban, Dromund Kass, Yavin 4 and Tython. But unlike those four; which were steeped heavily in either the Dark or Light side of the Force, Winterfell was almost…neutral in regard to the Force as both the Dark side and the Light side of the Force flowed through it.

"Beautiful." Nox mumbled to himself as he walked side by side with Lord Stark as he guided his horse through the many buildings that made up the inner workings of Winterfell before passing through yet another gated wall within the fortress and into a large courtyard.

As they entered the courtyard, Nox felt himself once again awed at what he sensed. Directly across from him was what could only be the primary keep within Winterfell. The keep stood twice as tall as any of the other buildings in the immediately vicinity. Attached to the keep was large hall which he could only assume to be some sort of dining hall as he could only sense a scant few living bodies within.

Frowning at the observation, he stretched out with his senses again and felt completely puzzled. Despite the massive size of Winterfell, the fortress and the small little settlement that laid outside its walls were sparsely populated. 'Most peculiar.' Nox mused. 'So much space wasted. An opportunity…perhaps. There is room for growth. But there must be a reason why so few populate such a place as this. I'll just need to figure out what that reason is before I can begin working on changing it.'

Refocusing himself on the here and now, Nox straightened himself to his full height as the horses he was walking beside began to slow to a stop. As he righted his senses, he became aware of the line of people standing just before the entrance to the main keep. 'Lord Stark's family and servants no doubt,' he thought as he began running through the three lines of people spread out before them.

The rear most line was made up of servants to House Stark, small folk that'd been granted the honor and privilege of working for a Great House. Their thoughts and emotions almost screaming out that they were pleased that their Lord had returned. A few however were not just ordinary servants. The second line contained only three men. But those three were as different from one another as possible. Two of the men he could tell had keen intellects. But one, the one with a chain around his shoulders, was the more learned of the two. The third man however, while maybe not as intellectual as his counterparts, was martially trained. And well trained if the manner he held himself was any tell.

Then there was the front line of four; one grown woman and three children. 'Lord Stark's wife and children.' Nox thought as he immediately felt the connection between the three younglings and the man he'd chosen for follow for the time being. Lord Stark's wife was definitely a sight to behold. Long red hair, high cheekbones, fair skin and sharp blue eyes. But her beauty was immediately tainted for Nox the moment he sensed the maelstrom of emotions billowing within her. Sith embraced emotion, passion. But this woman…there was no pattern, no organization no path for her emotions. Love, anger, faith, fear, relief, disdain, hope, self-criticism…but most of all was the immense feeling of jealousy. An emotion that was only amplified as she laid eyes on young Jon. 'An enigma to be certain, one to keep an eye on.'

But as Nox shifted his attention to the children of Lord Stark, he felt himself smile despite himself. All three, to one degree or another, were Force sensitive. The youngest girl was the most powerful of the three with the eldest being a close second and lastly was the middle child. None were as powerful as young Jon, but each were easily strong enough to pass the Trials of Korriban had they been born in the Empire. 'So many Force sensitive children born into a single family.' Nox thought, the wheels in his mind turning at near the speed of light. 'Had this been the Empire, Lord and Lady Stark would've been elevated to the ranks of the highest nobility for being able to bring such powerful individuals to life. But none of them are trained…not even in the basics of the Force. Perfect.' If Nox hadn't already made up his mind to use Winterfell to rebuild his powerbase, seeing the children of Lord Stark cemented the idea in his mind. Four Force-sensitive, untrained children. The prospect was simply too great to ignore. 'Now…to find a means to keep myself here.'

Keeping himself in the back, Nox observed Lord Stark and his family carefully as the Warden of the North dismounted his horse with Jon and greeted his family. True to what he'd sensed earlier, the woman in the lead greeted her husband warmly and with love. But the moment her eyes laid of Jon those emotions evaporated quicker than a puddle of water on Tatooine. Replaced with the overwhelming sense of jealousy and self-criticism. The children however were completely different. They greeted their father and Jon with equal enthusiasm. Especially the young girl who waddled up to Jon and immediately demanded to be picked up.

"-found him several days walk into the wolfswood," he heard Lord Stark say as he forced his attention away from the reuniting children and their quietly disapproving mother to Lord Stark as he addressed the three men in the second line. "He would've been done in if not for the actions of our newest companion here."

"I merely acted as any other would have, Lord Stark," Nox stated calmly, stepping forward and giving the Lord of Winterfell a slight bow.

"Aye, but you did." Lord Stark nodded as he proceeded to introduce Nox to the line of people. "Alim Nox, this is my wife Lady Catelyn Stark of House Tully."

"A pleasure, my Lady." Nox replied, bowing slightly and pressing a light kiss to the back of her offered hand, even if the act turned his stomach somewhat as her whirlwind of emotion nearly threatened to overwhelm him.

Nox didn't mind that the Lady of Winterfell didn't deem him worthy of a reply. As far as he could tell, she was merely an obstacle that he would have to navigate around carefully as he worked to integrate himself into House Stark. 'It wouldn't be fun if there wasn't a challenge involved.'

"These are my children; my eldest and heir, Robb Stark. And my daughters, Sansa and Arya." Lord Stark continued when it became apparent that Lady Stark had already dismissed Nox from her presence.

"An honor to meet you as well. Your brother Jon has had nothing but good things to say about the three of you," Nox greeted the children kindly all the while ignoring the spike of hatred emanating from Lady Stark at the mere mention of Jon.

The eldest girl did a curtsey, which was mildly amusing and clumsy coming from the young girl. Robb and Arya however both merely stared up at him in wonder. Interestingly, it was the youngest of them who asked the most obvious question. "Why you…wear dat?"

"Arya!" Lady Stark snapped, turning sharply towards her youngest child.

Chuckling, Nox reached up and touched the cloth over his eyes. "I wear this because my eyes do not work as yours do, my Lady. For a time, I left them uncovered, but after a while, I decided that I like this better, makes me look more dashing, no? And it's a lot easier to catch others off guard if they simply assume I'm just another blind man that can't take three steps without tripping over his own two feet."

Amusement trickled off the four children as they all smiled up at him. 'Good, first impressions are the most importantly. And these children…they are the key. I can sense it through the Force.'

"Come, children," Lady Stark cut in sharply. "It is late, and you need your rest. You can speak to your Lord Father again on the marrow."

Righting himself, Nox watched as Lady Stark rounded up her children and led them back into the keep. 'Well…at least the children find me amusing. Or at the very least intriguing. This Lady Stark will be an issue. But I faced greater challenges than a scorned and hateful wife during my rise to the Dark Council. She won't be a problem. More a nuisance than anything else.'

"Forgive my wife…Lord Nox." Lord Stark said as he watched his wife retreat into the keep, leaving Jon behind to catch up as she kept her three children in front of her. "The hour is late, and it has been a trying experience for all of us since Jon disappeared days ago."

Nox doubted that it was Jon's disappearance that caused the Lady Stark's foul mood. More than likely it was his return that did that. But he wasn't about the call the Warden of the North on it. "Of course, my Lord, I understand completely. And no offense is taken."

Nodding, Lord Stark turned to the three men behind him. "This is Maester Luwin, Winterfell's Master at Arms Ser Rodrik Cassel and my Stewart Vayon Poole. Vayon, see to it that Lord Nox here is assigned a room in the guest quarters for the time being."

"Of course, my Lord." Vayon Poole said, bowing slightly before holding a hand towards the side building next to the keep. "Lord Nox, if you will please follow me, I will have one of the servants prepare a room for you."

"Of course, Stewart Poole." Nox nodded before turning back to Lord Stark once again, "Lord Stark, I look forward to offering House Stark and the North whatever assistance I can in the future."

After receiving a curt nod of dismissal, Nox turned and followed the steward away from Lord Stark and towards what he could only assume were the guest quarters. It irked him in no uncertain terms to be dismissed so easily, but for now he took it in stride. 'Soon, soon enough, I will place my mark upon this world. But for now, I must be patient. Lord Stark isn't a bad man. In fact, he is quite the opposite, almost sickly good. He'd make a fine Jedi…but even Jedi can be corrupted. I just need to work at it. Slowly, to be sure. But nothing worth having is easy. If nothing else…this will be fun.'

It wasn't until the sun had fully dropped below the horizon that Lord Stark was able to find measure of peace as he entered his personal solar and sat down in the Lord's seat. Despite only being absent for a sennight, there had been dozens of issued that he'd needed to see to before he could rest. Master Mikken needed more metal. Ravens that required immediate answering. Shipments of grain that needed to be overseen and counted as the recent count was low. And dozens of other matters that required the Lord's attention that'd been neglected during his absence.

'And to think, all of those were easy compared to what is about to come.' He thought sullenly as he bent over his desk and began leafing through the numerous stacks of parchment that'd been left behind by Maester Luwin. 'It will not be long until Cat and the others arrive. And whatever peace I've managed to find will be gone.'

True to his prediction, he'd only managed to get through two of the less serious ravens that'd been left to him before Cat made her way into his solar with Maester Luwin, Ser Rodrik, and Vayon close behind. Letting out the breath he didn't even realize he was holding, Ned set down the message from Rickard Karstark and gave his attention to his closest advisors. 'At least Cat decided not to do this in public this time.' "I assume this is about my decision regarding Lord Nox, is it not?"

Vayon and Rodrik at least had the good graces to look slightly uneased, but Cat was having none of it apparently. "Ned, he's a stranger, a foreigner. And you not only gave him guest rights but lodging in the guest house! Why?"

"Because he saved Jon's life." Ned answered simply. "Before we could find him, Jon was set upon by eight wildlings in the wolfswood. If not for that man, Jon would be dead, and I would have more than likely lost a few men in an ambush in the woods as well."

"Forgive me, my Lord," Ser Rodrik interjected. "But how could an apparent blind man best eight wildlings in a fair battle? Is it not more likely that he too is a wildling and he turned on the others?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," Ned nodded. "But it is doubtful that he is a wildling. His manner of speech speaks of a learned man. And his accent is completely wrong for a man of the North. And then there is his armor. It's far too well made to belong to a wildling, unless he stole it from a Lord. But even then, I have never seen it's like before. Not even during the Rebellion. But as for how he managed to defeat so many wildlings, I believe that his weapon made up for his apparent lack of sight."

Pulling out the strange hilt that Nox had surrendered to him, Ned placed the weapon on his desk and sat back. "Maester Luwin, I would appreciate your input on this weapon."

With a reverence as if he were being handed a newborn babe, Maester Luwin picked up the metal hilt and began to closely examine it. "This is…most unusual, Lord Stark," Maester Luwin mumbled as his fingers began to delicately trace the intricate patterns that were engraved into the hilt. "It's finely made…I know of no blacksmith capable of making such a piece. I doubt even the Maesters who have forged their links in metallurgy could fully explain this. Yet at the same time, it appears to be nothing more than an artistic hilt without a blade. If you forgive me for asking so, Lord Stark, how is it that you believe that this Nox was able to defeat the wildlings with this?"

Rising from his seat, Ned held out his hand and waited for Luwin to pass the hilt back over. Once he had it in hand, Ned carefully looked the hilt over until he found what he was looking for. When Nox had first demonstrated this weapon to them, Ned had paid close attention to how he manipulated the handle. And after he'd surrendered the hilt to him, Ned spent every night on the trip back to Winterfell trying to figure out how to duplicate what Nox had done. Placing his thumb over the slightly raised portion of the hilt, Ned held it across and away from his body.

The hilt hissed like quenched steel as the blood-red blade of fire extended outwards from the hilt. Luwin, Cat, Vayon and Rodrik were all struck speechless as they recoiled away in surprise, staring at the blade that hummed in air.

"By the gods." Vayon breathed, his eyes as wide as everyone else's as he nearly began to tremble. "What…What manner of sword is that?"

Maester Luwin was the first to overcome his stupor, as he cautiously stepped forward and reached out to take the now existing blade from Ned. "Be careful not to touch the blade." Ned warned as he carefully and slowly handed the weapon back over the Maester. "Nox gave us a demonstration the first morning he was with us. He felled an oak as wide as a grown man with a single, almost effortless, strike."

"How?" Ser Rodrik asked, overcoming his fear as he stepped forward and leant over slightly to better examine the glowing blade along with Maester Luwin. "It doesn't appear to have an edge. How does it cut?"

Maester Luwin didn't say anything, preferring to stay quiet as he slowly moved the blade through the air, taking note of the strange hum the blade emitted as it passed him by. Eventually, Luwin reached out and grabbed a blank piece of parchment from Ned's desk and, after receiving an affirmative nod from Ned, held the parchment just above the blade and then let go.

The parchment was cut in two the moment it passed through the blade, leaving two halves of parchment to fall to ground. Carefully taking the still humming weapon back from Luwin, Ned watched with a curious eye as the Maester leaned over and picked up the two halves of parchment from the floor.

"Most curious," Luwin muttered, examining the cut edge of parchment, which had a distinctive black tint to it. "I do not believe that this blade cuts, at least not in the traditional sense. It…If I had to guess, I would say that the blade burns through whatever it touches. Yet at the same time," holding out his hand, Luwin let his hand rest but a few finger widths away from the dangerous blood-red blade. "There is no heat being emitted from the blade. Incredible. Frozen fire that only exists when called upon…How can such a thing exist?"

It was Cat who answered first. Her already pale skin growing ever paler as her eyes were wide with fear and anxiety as a single word left her lips. "Sorcery."

Ser Rodrik's and Vayon's eyes both sparkled slightly in wonder even as Maester Luwin's narrowed in thought. "I do not believe that to be the case." Luwin muttered, looking conflicted as he visible tried to reason out what he was seeing. "Valyria was the last ember of magic in the world. And when the last of the dragons died out years ago, so too did the last bits of magic."

"Maybe in the south, Maester," Vayon responded quickly, his eyes taking an almost childlike delight. A strange look for the older man. "But this is the North. Magic still lives in the First Men and in the weirwoods."

Having gently taken the weapon back from the distracted Maester, Ned pressed down on the same part of the hilt again and watched as the blade retracted into the hilt and disappeared. "Jon believes Nox to be a sorcerer. Apparently before Nox came upon him, one of the wildlings put an arrow in Jon's leg. However, when we found the two, there was no wound. His clothes were bloodied and there was an arrow sized hole torn into his leggings, but his flesh was unmarred. Jon claimed that Nox used sorcery to heal his wound. And you've seen him move. Despite not having the use of his eyes, he moves with the grace of a skilled tracker. His steps never falter. And he has admitted that while he cannot see in the normal sense, he uses his magic to see for him."

"So, he admits to practicing sorcery!?" Cat nearly screeched. "Ned, you can't let him stay! Think of the influence he will be on our children! He could corrupt them irreversibly with his mere presence!"

Setting the hilt down on his desk, Ned dropped heavily down into his seat. "My decision is final, Cat. He has shown no reason for us to distrust him, magic or no magic. And until he does, and as long as he earns a place here in Winterfell, he will be welcome within these walls. I will not throw him out when he has nowhere to go for something that he 'might' do, Cat. His actions in saving Jon's life has earned him the benefit of the doubt at the very least."

Cat was clearly not happy about his decision, but she knew well enough that once his mind was set that there was no changing his decision. 'Doesn't mean that my bed will be warm for the foreseeable future. But perhaps she will find solace in my next decision.' He thought to himself before speaking once more. "However, I must admit that his arrival and saving of Jon was most…timely. Therefore, until he proves himself fully useful, I want him watched. Discreetly. Vayon, assign a few of the house staff to keep an eye on him. But stress that they are not to interfere with his day to day activities."

Vayon was quick to nod in agreement. "As you wish, my Lord."

"Maester Luwin," Ned continued, turning to the aged Maester. "I know that the discovery of this weapon would be of great interest to the Citadel, however I must ask that for now you do not inform the Citadel of its existence. At least until we gain a better understanding of this weapon."

"My Lord!" Luwin exclaimed, clearly taken aback. "Such a find should not be hord-"

"We don't even fully understand what this weapon is, Maester Luwin, nor how to replicate it." Ned stressed, cutting off the Maester. "If we spread word that such a weapon exists and is in our hands, there would be many in the Realm that would stop at nothing to get their hands on it. Can you imagine the devastation that this single sword could cause if it falls into the wrong hands? The Mountain Who Rides, for example? Or the exiled Targaryens? How much gold could this blade fetch to the right people? No. For the moment, it is best that this weapon remains a secret in the North. Is that understood?"

Maester Luwin was clearly not pleased, but in the end, he proved true to his oaths to Winterfell and agreed to Ned's request. "Ser Rodrik," Ned continued, turning to the Master of Arms. "I want you and Jory to test Nox in the yard. I want to know if his defeat of the wildlings was fluke or not."

"It will be done, my Lord." Ser Rodrik responded with a curt nod.

"Good," Ned nodded moving his attention away from the four in front of him to the mountain of paperwork that lay scattered across his desk. "That is all."

Cat was the first to leave, her head held high as she marched out of his solar with Maester Luwin close behind her. Once he was alone, Ned buried his head into his hands and prayed to the old gods that he wasn't making a mistake. But no matter what he thought, he knew that he was making the right choice. It was a…feeling he had. Almost as if the gods themselves were speaking directly to him, telling him that this stranger needed to find a home amongst his House. 'If he can do even half of what I believe, then he is far too valuable to let him leave. A fighter of his potential caliber is rare thing to find. And add his potential abilities with magic, he goes from being just rare to invaluable.'

After being shown to his room by the Steward of Winterfell, a relatively modest room that measured maybe ten to fifteen paces across and wide with a bed and desk as the only furnishings, Nox went to work immediately to make it more suitable to suit his tastes. The bed he moved to the far corner of the room and the desk he moved to the other corner in order to make as much room for movement as possible. When he noticed the chamber pot behind a partition, Nox just barely kept himself from shuttering. 'Alright…first things first. I think I'm going to have to introduce these people to the wonders of indoor plumbing. Because there is no way I'm pissing and shitting into a bucket for the rest of my natural life.'

After making sure he had adequate space in his room, he slung his bag off of his shoulder and dumped its contents out on the bed. Setting aside the dozen lightsabers and saberstaffs, Nox stared down at what he had left. 'First aid kit. Flashlight. Some seeds. Charcoal water purifier. Lighters. Compass. Personnel locator beacon. Not like that will be much use. And a durasteel knife. Not a lot to go with…but better than nothing.'

Stepping away from the bed, Nox raised his hands to shoulder height straight out to his sides and slowly began to turn. Reaching out with the Force, he examined every square inch of his room: the dimensions; how thick the walls, floor, and ceiling were; how many other people were situated near to him. And most importantly, to see if there were any spies looking in on him. He was almost disappointed to find that there wasn't. 'Hmm, Lord Stark was smart enough to assign a tail to me during the trip to Winterfell. But he isn't smart enough to put me in a room that can be spied upon? Although…it doesn't seem like any of the rooms have any hidden passages or compartments in this part of the keep. Foolish.'

Walking to the nearest wall, Nox pressed his palm against the warm stone. Through the Force he could feel the flow of the warm water running through the walls of Winterfell like blood running through the veins and arteries of a body. An architectural marvel, especially when one factored in just how long Winterfell has stood for. 'Water has been running through the walls of this keep for centuries. No. For several millennia. And yet there has been no erosion within the walls. If one didn't know better, then it would be easy to believe that Winterfell is only a few years old. The Force truly is a wonder.'

That was the only explanation that Nox had for the phenomenon. Somehow, whoever had built this keep had carefully woven the Force into every aspect of it to keep it from decaying to erosion or other natural factors. And they did it without using any advanced technology. Simply brilliant.

Walking the length of the room, Nox kept his hand on the wall as he searched for a section of wall that was deep enough and far enough away from the flow of water to suit his purposes. After completing half a circuit around the room, he found a spot. Kneeling, he carefully used the Force to break the mortar holding a group of stones in place and then pulled them out. Setting the section of wall on the floor, he summoned one of the lightsabers on his bed to his hand. Moving with the delicacy of a surgeon, he slowly and carefully carved out the back of the stone section until he created a pocket three feet across, a foot deep and two feet tall. Satisfied, he summoned the other lightsabers one at a time and carefully arranged them in the newly formed pocket and, once he'd set the last one in, placed the section of wall back where he'd gotten it from.

'There will come a time when I will have need of those.' He thought, running a finger along the broken mortar and doing his best to reseal it enough so that no one would notice. 'But for now, it's better to keep them in a safe place.'

With that taken care of, Nox made his way to the center of the room and sat down. Removing his chest armor, gauntlets and greaves, Nox made himself comfortable on the floor. Straightening his posture and relaxing, Nox let his emotions fuel him as he began to meditate. But the moment he felt the Force coming to him, his focus was abruptly and almost violently wrenched from him. 'That…tremor in the Force. Wha—What caused that?'

Rising from his spot, he approached his shuttered windows and threw them open with a push. Tilting his head, he reached out through the Force trying to find the source of the disturbance. 'There…It's within the walls of Winterfell. But it is not human in origin. What could it be?'

His curiosity getting the better of him, Nox stepped up onto his windowsill and out into the night, plummeting the three stories down to the ground and using the Force to soften his landing so that he hit the ground with barely a sound. Following the steady pulse of Force energy, Nox made his way around to the back of the keep, making sure he stayed in the shadows to avoid any prying eyes. As he rounded the back of the keep, he found himself faced with yet another wall, this one only twenty or so feet high, but still. 'Fuck…You can lock this place down tighter than a Hutt's credit chip if you wanted too,' Nox thought ruefully as he leapt off the ground and up onto the top of the wall.

'Well…that is something I didn't think I'd see,' he thought as he gazed out over the small woods that was encased within the walls of Winterfell. Scanning the tops of the trees, he focused in on the steady pulse that was emanating from the large red-leafed tree that dominated the center of the wooded area. 'A godswood…or weirwood I believe the wildlings' called it.' he thought, stepping off the edge of the wall into the wooded area beyond.

'No guards save for the ones at the entrance,' he noted as he made his way through the trees and towards the weirwood. 'I'm going to have to read up on these weirwoods first chance I get. They obviously hold great significance to both the wildlings and the people of Winterfell. But what that significance is remains a mystery to me.'

A memory syphon, much like the one he'd used on the two wildlings in the wolfswood, was useful to learn bits of information that could be considered common knowledge, like language or names. But it wasn't useful for prying out secrets of information that the victim held onto. Prying into those would often result in destroying the mind of the individual being question. And if the subjects did not have an organized mind, or if they weren't educated, then deciphering any meaningful information from them was infinitely more difficult. As it was, he was fortunate to gain a basic understanding of the language, let alone any other useful bits of information about this land.

Coming to the center of the woods, Nox found himself amid a small clearing. The weirwood standing tall and proud acting like a beacon in the Force across from him with a deep dark pool of water separating them. Making his way around the reflective pool, he stood before the weirwood. Red sap falling free from the face that'd been carved into its bark. 'Interesting,' he thought, stepping forward and reaching out to touch the beckoning tree.

The moment his fingers touched the white bark, he was forcibly pulled into a Force vision as darkness surrounded him. When the shadows cleared, he found himself staring at a game board. One end was situated with a throne made of thousands of swords that'd been melted together. As the vision progressed, he watched as stags, wolves, lions, dragons, roses, falcons, spears, fish and dozens of other animals and symbols fought over the right to sit upon the throne while all the while a spider and a mockingbird spread discord on all sides of the conflicts, each growing ever stronger. In the end, one did sit on the throne. A proud lioness who stared down with a smile at her fallen advisories. But as she sat, a darkness formed in the far reaches of the board…north. How he knew the direction he didn't know. But he knew the darkness came from the far north. And that the darkness had been watching the symbols fight and die while it waited to pick over their scraps.

As he watched, powerless to interact, the ancient darkness spread south and consumed all life. Eventually toppling the arrogant lioness off the throne and turning the swords to dust that scattered on the winds. With the fall of the throne, the darkness spread until it consumed every living thing on the planet. As it moved, darkness from all across the world also began to rise and joined with it, helping the ancient being to achieve its goal. And once it had, it set its eyes on the stars overhead, ready and willing to reach out for what lay beyond.

But before it could, the board was reset. The pieces returned to their starting places and a new game began. The moves were different, but the war was inevitable. Dozens of symbols were erased and in the end a dragon sat on the throne. Smiling vindictively at the smoldering embers of its enemies. Yet again, the darkness emerged and came south. And once again it consumed all life one piece at a time until all life was extinguished.

The board reset again. This time there was no war. Peace reigned throughout the land with a lion wearing the skin of stag sat on the throne of swords with a she-wolf at his side. But once again, the darkness emerged and began its conquest, slower this time. But the end was inevitable as once again it consumed all life in its path. Another reset. And Nox was more than slightly surprised as he took note that on this cycle, he himself was in the mix of symbols. He watched on, curiously, as his figure stood against the spreading darkness, only to become consumed by that same darkness and take part in bringing an end to all life on the planet.

Again, and again, Nox watched as the future played out, dozens, hundreds, thousands of configurations and outcomes. And each time the end was the same. No matter if there was war or not, no matter who sat on the throne of swords, no matter if he aided or not, the darkness consumed everything or turned it to its side. The visions came quicker and quicker as more and more options were presented. And, without fail, each one met the same outcome as the original.

'What does it mean?!' Nox raged in frustration as he watched another failed attempt to stop the darkness, only for the board to once again reset. This time, something was truly different. He didn't know how he knew, but something this vision was unlike the others. Most of the details to end were obscured, but the end was clear. A wolf had shed its pelt and become something else entirely now sat on the throne with wolves and dragons and…another at its side. And behind this new figure he saw himself, guiding and aiding him. And with the new piece's ascension, the others bowed down in reverence. And this time, when the darkness came south, it faltered against the new piece that'd not been present before. He'd seen this figure before. It'd been present in numerous visions. Sometimes as a wolf, sometimes as the piece it was meant to be. But it'd always failed before. But this time, this time the ancient darkness was defeated, its presence erased from existence. 'Why was this game so different from the others? Why was my sight of the moves blocked this time when it wasn't blocked before?'

With a rush, Nox was forced out of the vision and back into the waking world.

Rocking back on his heels, he raised a hand to his head and fought against the wave of vertigo that threatened to overcome him. 'Hundreds of thousands of outcomes…but only one that leads to victory,' he thought, rubbing his head trying to, and frustratingly failing at, remembering the specifics that led to the path of victory. 'Nothing is ever easy. But one thing is for sure. The path to victory requires the wolves, dragons, and one other to survive the necessary war to come. If those three are not situated on or around the throne, then the others will not submit and the darkness from the North will prevail.' Pausing in his musing, he turned to the east and the slowly rising sun. 'Well…if I wasn't already set on aiding House Stark during my rise to power, my path is now set. For I have no intention of becoming just another disposable pawn in the ancient darkness's plan. Peace is a lie. There is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength. Through strength, power. Through power, victory! Through victory, my chains are broken. The Force shall set me free. By this creed, the creed of the Sith. I will never be bound again!'

Far away from Winterfell, in the Lands of Always Winter, an ancient and long forgotten darkness slowly began to awaken. And as it did, a smile graced its lips as the time of reaping was finally approaching.