Okay so this is my rewrite of Gamer's Grimoire. I know, I know! Where have I been? Long story short, my flame died on this. Been battling depression, still battling, but my thoughts on this story were stewing even still. Let's see how long this flame lasts.
Jon Snow, or Targaryen, depending on who you talked to, was old. His once black raven locks began turning silvery three decades back much to the amusement of his family. But what was amusement and gentle teasing would slowly turn to concern as the years passed.
And a great many years have. And much change had come with it.
At the ripe old age of six and eighty, Jon could certainly say he lived an... interesting if not tumultuous life. He lived through the Conflict Beyond the Wall, the Great War and Daenerys's War for Westeros. In his old age, he had forgotten more than few things, but he still remembered how it used to be... before all of that. He remembered being a boy in Winterfell with his siblings, happy and not a care in the world. He remembered their smiles and laughter. The way father used too...
Jon looked down at the floor as his heart ached, remembering everything that came after: The War of the Five Kings, the fall of his family, him unable to save them, meeting and falling in love with Ygritte only to lose her. The same with Dany only so much more worse. Dying at the hands of the men he called brothers, only to come back to life, the scars on his chest still ached when his mind drifted to those memories. Becoming King in the North, battling the Dead, the destruction of King's Landing, and him killing Dany.
As an old man, Jon could say he did have a few regrets. Things that he wished he had done differently. His family had been a balm for his aching heart.
No, he was not speaking of the Starks. He'd not seen Sansa, Arya, nor Bran for ages. He'd gone to visit Sansa, the Queen in the North, in the first decade of his return to the Night's Watch. She would welcome him with open arms and a smile, clad in the grey colors of House Stark. As time went on, those visits ceased. That started to happen when he'd gotten word that Arya, who had gone exploring further west of westeros had died at sea. She had sailed west and her ship was never heard from again. He could still remember the last time he saw her: A grown woman, a trained killer, the one who slew the Night King himself, with tears in her big gray eyes as they said farewell.
Those visits to Sansa stopped fully when she died and war broke out between the North and South. Jon did not know what had happened, but from what little he could hear, his brother, King Bran the Broken, had changed. Memories of the little boy who loved climbing the walls of Winterfell and dreamed of being knight melded with the creature he had become when they reunited years later. After his return as the Three Eyed-Raven, Bran had become detached. Jon had not doubted the good that resided in his brother, but merely the lack of feelings he expressed. It was not as if he were completely bereft of his emotions. Jon had caught him smiling once or twice, even joking if in a subdued tone when they could breathe again with the Others gone.
But then Bran changed. From what he heard everything was going well. With the death of the Night King, the North changed from a cold inhospitable land to more lush and temperate one. The snows fell more lightly and less frequently. Harvests had been up as well as births. Especially in the South. Everyone was recovering. And then partway through Bran's reign, just after five years, he changed. It was not gradual by any means. One day he had been fine if not perturbed over something and then the next, he was calling for more godswoods to be planted, more heart trees, and then came the disappearances, the unexplained deaths. And it was not just one person either, but entire villages and hamlets disappearing. Then the Small Council vanished. Later, the discovery of blood sacrifices. Whispers of both men and beasts acting unusual and attacking others. And then one day, while Sansa had been holding court, it was said she had frozen in the middle of speaking, before her eyes went stark white and she screamed something unholy, before she took her hidden dagger and stab herself in the throat. When the screaming had stopped, she fell down to the ground dead. Without an heir of any kind.
Then, Greywater Watch had gone silent. Afterward, Moat Cailin had been taken by forces from the South and then White Harbor, Barrowton, and Torrhen's Square had been besieged simultaneously. During all of this, Jon and the Night's Watch had been preoccupied with something else: the Wall.
Or more specifically its degradation.
With the climate becoming warmer, the Wall began to melt and fall apart. His ancestor Bran the Builder had been smart in using the Night's King own power to ensure the Wall would endure, but with his death, the cold was gone, and so too was the Wall. Jon had long ago reasoned that his ancestor must have believed that with the Others well and truly gone, there would be no need for a Night Watch and had assumed that the order would dissolve and disperse. The fact that dangerously large chunks of the Wall began falling onto Castle Black made it inevitable. As the re-elected Lord Commander serving as both the Watch's 998th and now 1000th, Jon ordered his brothers at Castle Black and the Shadow Tower to take everything they could and evacuate North given that going South was not an option with the war.
They had sought to settle in Whitetree, just north of the Wall, but Jon began to notice the crows that were watching them. Entire murders of the black birds. Getting a bad feeling Jon commanded them to move further north towards where Craster's Keep had once been.
And then a raven came from the Shadow Tower, saying they had been attacked from the South. Not by any wildlings, or Free Folk as Jon knew them, but by men from Bear Island. And then that raven had attempted to peck his eyes out! The Bear Islanders were an honorable sort and held great respect for the Watch. People such as Jeor Mormont, Lady Lyanna, and Ser Jorah were prime examples. As such Jon could never believe they would do this unless forced to. With the raven as confirmation that something was terribly wrong, Jon had his men haul it to the Fist of the First Men only to meet a welcome face whose tribe had permanently settled on it.
Tormund Giantsbane, Jon's foe-turned lifelong friend, and Chief of the Free Folk, welcomed the Night's Watch with boisterous laughter and a smile. Said smile would disappear upon hearing the reason for the Watch's exodus. The two would then begin ordering their people to work together and prepare the Fist for battle: the Night's Watch taking the task of building the Fist into something more defensible and the Free Folk working together to find resources to make it so. As the moons turned other, smaller tribes of Free Folk began gathering around the Fist as well with tales of southron men and beasts attacking and encroaching further inland. Many more of the Free Folk would rally around the Fist, a few wargs among them who recognized Jon as one of them, taught him how to hone his own powers and use them for scouting as they did.
Then months later, they came. The Warged: Men, women and children as well as beasts of all sorts-all of their eyes white, thousands strong against the Free who consisted of Jon, Tormund, what little remained of the Night's Watch, and a few hundred Free Folk. However the Free had managed to rebuild and fortify the ringfort of the Fist in addition to a stockade that surrounded the base. Jon also had a trench dug around the stockade and filled with stakes. The Warged charged in with reckless abandon, much like the wights in the Night King's army had. Jon had ordered them shot and with every arrow volley, many fell, but many more got closer to the Fist. They filled the trench, trampling each other and piling against the wooden wall until it came down. If that had not been any indication that these people were not in their right minds, Jon did not know what would.
Jon did not allow the archers a moment of rest, having them fire volley after volley. And with every volley, a few dozen more fell, tripping over each other. As the Warged ran and climbed up the Fist, Tormund and the vanguard stood between them and Jon's archers. The vanguard's only defense were mounds which had been staked with sharpened logs and branches as well as a few rolling logs which Tormund let loose once it became clear they were running up the Fist. The logs would knock down dozens to their deaths. Jon had added these fairly last minute having realized these could have helped keep the dead at bay just a little more at Winterfell. The defensive mounds however were meant to be used to funnel the Warged into bottlenecks.
They worked... for a time.
The Warged slammed into them, deliberately pinning themselves onto the stakes with shouts that should not have come from any man. At this point hundreds had fallen but they were not the only dangers to the defenders. Birds of all sorts attacked them causing the volleys to halt and forced the archers to attack them instead, often missing the damn things unless they were up close. Then snow bears and wolves began pushing through defensives and soon enough it became a grueling melee between the Free and the Warged. The battle lasted for hours until eventually the Warged were all slain. Not a single one of them retreated. Whatever fell power had gripped them, for it could not be Bran as Jon refused to believe it, had refused to give any ground. At the last moment of the battle a single raven dived at Jon and when he stared into its white eyes, Jon felt a presence enter his mind.
This presence was unlike anything he had felt before. Everything had fallen away, he could not feel the light of the sun or even the movement of the wind. It was as if Jon had been shoved into the darkest void. He had felt other presences before when he warged into Ghost, his faithful direwolf, into ravens and other birds, but this presence-was evil. Jon could feel the malice in it, the enjoyment it derived from killing and watching others die, how it wanted to kill him and everyone else for no reason other than because it could.
This wasn't his brother Bran, it couldn't be! The darkness was amused by this thought. He could feel it. It answered him that he was right, and then it showed him what happened: how it possessed Bran one day, how it devoured his soul and then wore his body like a set of clothes. How it began to use his powers to destroy people's lives. All for its own amusement!
It showed him more flashes of what it had done: Tyrion thrown from a tower in the Red Keep, Ser Davos being a eaten alive by a kraken after his ship sank in Blackwater Bay, Sam being strangled with his maester's chain while Gilly and her children are forced to watch, Ser Brienne forced to cut her own throat. And so many more terrible things. One of the worst things it showed was what it did to Sansa. It had not forced her to do anything, but it made her think that all the progress and victories she had made were nothing more than a dream, and instead she was still married to Ramsay, heavily pregnant with his child with all sorts of scars on her body. What followed was the destruction of many more castles across westeros. Some he recognized and some he did not. A large white tower falling onto a city, a set of islands sinking into the ocean, Winterfell burned and ransacked.
If any people were alive it was because this thing had allowed it. Not out of mercy, but boredom. Because it wanted to hunt him and his people.
Jon at first despaired, but then he became angry. Angry at this-this creature that had destroyed everything. Angry at himself for not returning immediately upon hearing of Sansa's death and fighting this thing or being there to defend Bran. Or to save Tyrion or Sam and his family. Jon felt the fury in himself well up until it was all he could breathe. He glared at the presence with his mind, visualizing it smirking at him in the way he'd seen Ramsay and Joffrey do, as all terrible people do. He couldn't move his body, but he still had his warg powers. He reached out with his mind, feeling the presence's surprise and clawed.
The presence flinched away in shock and pain. Jon sensing this continued his assault clawing, wrenching, biting and everything else he could do to hurt it. The presence struck back in anger and outrage. How dare you?! It seemed to scream at him. It felt as if ice cold claws were digging into his head. It attacked harder, faster, more brutal.
He didn't care.
He was mad, he was furious. He wanted this thing to suffer for all it had wrought.
And then the presence stilled in shock...
...and Jon was suddenly in the Red Keep with an old wizened Bran who looked decades older than Jon himself, impaled by Ser Brienne's sword, Oathkeeper. The one who had done it was not Ser Brienne, but her former squire and member of the kingsguard, Podrick Payne who looked both exhausted and miserable with an equally tired looking older man. Surrounding them was a score of dead people.
Jon was suddenly back at the Fist surrounded by the survivors who had their weapons trained on him. Tormund would tell him he had been screaming and his eyes had gone white. When asked if he was still himself he replied yes and that the one who had done all of this was dead.
He was not believed immediately, and so he stayed away from them out of consideration. Allowing himself to be caged. He would later explain to Tormund and the other wargs what had happened. It was miraculous, they said, that he had survived. A warg taking over another warg, especially one who was more powerful and experienced usually ended badly, as in his mind could have been destroyed.
Jon was left to reflect on everything that had happened. He was Lord Commander to a Night's Watch without a Wall, that numbered in only a few dozen men. He was the last of both Houses Stark and Targaryen. The Seven Kingdoms were devastated. He was devastated.
When his men asked him what they were to do, Jon stood up and told them to go home and disbanded the Night's Watch. If they had any family they were free to go to them, or if they did not and wished for a new start they could begin here in the north or there in the south. Some men chose to get their things and leave immediately while others chose to stay with Tormund's tribe having nothing left to return to. Jon waited for nightfall, fully intending to go at it alone, live as a hermit in self-exile and wallow in his pain and heartache until he either wasted away or killed himself.
But Tormund knew what he was going to do and stopped him. He would not allow Jon to leave alone and when Jon would manage to sneak away he'd track him down and drag him back. This would continue on in Tormund's tribe until Jon met Val. Val was beautiful. A beauty that Jon expected to find in a royal court not this far north. Her hair was the color of dark honey, knotted in a braid that reached her slender waist, and her cheekbones were high and sharp which made her face all the more beautiful with her blue-grey eyes. And with a man's eye, Jon could see she had wide hips complemented by a full bosom in spite of the cumbersome furs she was wearing.
The two had much in common to Jon's surprise. Apparently, she had been sister Mance Rayder's wife something Jon had not known about as he had never seen Mance's wife. The reason for this being that Mance's wife, Dalla, had died in early childbirth. The babe had not survived either. Val had also 'stolen' her husband Jarl, instead of the other way around as was custom among the Free Folk. Jarl had died during the Mance's siege on the Wall years ago, and she had been there at the Battle of Winterfell too and led the first half of the Free Folk north of the Wall while Tormund had waited for Jon at Castle Black with the rest. The days would go on where the two would talk and meet up, even hunt together, something which Tormund and his former brothers ribbed Jon over, much to his embarrassment.
As the days went by, Jon found himself admiring Val more and more. He saw that she was fierce, resourceful, brave and a capable rider when they came across some horses in the wild. She was like a mix of Ygritte and Dany.
And with that thought he immediately began putting distance between himself and her. He kept his thoughts firmly away from things connected to the south and focused on things in the North. Jon and the former members of the Watch having Joined Tormund's tribe, they focused on rebuilding and improving ringfort on the Fist. It would later come to be known as Ruddy Hall by the men as everyone had red faces either because of the chill in the air, or from drinking too much mead.
Eventually though, people took notice, and Val confronted him about it. She then slapped him hard when he told the truth before proceeding to drag him to her tent and make him 'forget' all about Ygritte and Dany with the catcalls and cheers of the tribe following after them. It took time, and a lot of effort, but the wounds on his heart eventually mended thanks to her. In time they would have several children together, having twins the first time, and three more after. He thanked the gods that they did not take any of them from him during the births.
It was when Val was heavy with their third child that Podrick and a retinue of men from various Houses had found them. The lords and ladies of Westeros, those few who had survived were calling for a king. All of them had recognized Podrick as the hero who killed Bran the Breaker, as he was called in the south and had wanted him to be king but he remembered that Jon Snow who was the trueborn son of Rhaegar and Lyanna was probably still alive. And so he as well as a few other representatives of the houses came to find him. Jon was stunned to say the least and had immediately refused the offer with an apology until Podrick told him how dire the situation had become. The faith of the Seven had been completely destroyed, the Old Gods have been abandoned their godswoods being burnt even in the North, the Iron Islands were sunk into the sea! What few people have survived are killing each other, there had been no word from Dorne or the Vale. As far as everyone was concerned the Seven Kingdoms were not just broken, but shattered.
Jon still wished to say no until Val told them that he had to. That if folk were willing to follow them, he would have to lead them. He asked if she would come with him if he did so and replied with a yes. He had very reluctantly told them that he would be king, but he would travel only after his wife had given birth and recovered. This information would later surprise a number of lords and ladies when they would not only find who she was but the fact she was Wildling too. Even more of a surprise was when Tormund said he and the rest tribe would go as well.
As Jon and his retinue traveled south, others would join them from the North, the Vale, and the Riverlands before they settled in the Reach. It was agreed upon his crowning that given the mass population loss it would best to resettle in the most fertile kingdom, Jon had taken over Highgarden from Bronn who had abandoned it after helping Podrick kill Bran or whatever had possessed him. Years passed, then decades. Jon would rule well and the people of Westeros would recover. Politics, while engaged in, were reduced to little more than haggling over things which helped in rebuilding as no one wanted to ignite another war. Jon only had enough smallfolk and nobility to fill a kingdom and that was a sparsely populated one at that.
He would become a king known as the Preserver, who saved what he could and built the rest up. He would be remembered as a good king.
His children grew up, got married, and he had been blessed with many grandchildren.
Val... his lovely Val died a decade ago.
Jon was sitting down on a patio looking over the fields they had made near Highgarden.
"Father?" He turned to see is firstborn daughter. She looked just like her mother save for her silver-blonde hair. That was Jon's Targaryen blood shining through.
"Lyanna." Jon muttered, feeling very tired.
"Are you feeling alright? You look sad." She asked softly coming over to him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Just tired, sweetling." He replied not really answering her question, "Where's your brother? Ned?"
"He's overseeing the patrols. Bandits and barbarians have been seen skulkin' 'round" Lyanna replied with her northern accent showing in her anger. That was another thing that happened: several bandit kings had risen over the years in other lands ruling with brutality and fear over any unfortunate soul who had not left for the Reach. They had cost more than their share of grief.
"What of Arya? And Sam?" Jon asked as scooted himself slightly. His arse was starting to fall asleep.
"Sam's with his family in the gardens playing hide and seek. Arya's with her children in the practice yard." That made a smile come to Jon's wrinkled face. That made perfect sense to him as he had aptly named each of his children for those reasons. His girls took after their mother and inherited their father's Stark blood. He remembered when each of his children were named-all but the youngest, Val had allowed him to choose all but her's-he struggled because he had so many names.
Eddard or Robb?
Sansa or Lyanna?
Samwell or Bran?
But not with Arya. He had taken one look at his little wolf pup and named her Arya. He just knew she would be like her aunt. And she proved him right as she grew up. Lyanna had grown into a fine lady but she had steel hiding underneath her silk as many pushy would-be suitors found out the hard way. Arya, absolutely hated anything ladylike, preferring to hunt and ride her horse and was blunt as a battle axe. Jon allowed her to do this, but he forced her to learn sewing, because he came to value it as a skill. Arya in time came to the same conclusion.
Ned was so much like his father it was downright scary at times. Everyone says he is exactly like Jon. They are wrong, whenever Jon looks at his eldest boy, he sees his father in every move he makes and every time he sits still watching something. Sam, well, Jon had originally wanted to name him Brandon, but with everything that happened he had decided against it. Sam was similar to his namesake, Jon supposed. He was smart, always interested in learning new things. He had more martial prowess than his old friend, and the boy was not a craven as Sam had been before meeting Gilly. In fact his son could be considered fearless with reckless he was. The boy even climbed walls just like Bran did before he fell! That was a time Jon truly mourned not naming him Brandon. Though nowadays with his wife, a kitchen maid, and his children, the first being he had conceived out of wedlock, Sam was beginning to look like his namesake a bit more these days.
That last thought reminded Jon of the brief panic he had when he found out his five and ten nameday son had gotten a girl pregnant. He immediately had a wedding prepared and officiated it himself. Though shocked and horrified at first, Sam and his Violet, grew to love each other a lot and the fact that they have three of their own and another on the way says it.
"And Dalla? What's she up to?" Jon asked for his youngest. Val had named that one, and according to her she looked just like her sister had growing up. They had her much later than the rest. By the time Val had been pregnant with her, Ned and Lya had two and ten. Dalla was a sweet girl. Innocent and kind. She reminded Jon of how Sansa had been before she had gone to King's Landing. It was not as if they hadn't told her the truth of terrible things were. The girl accepted it as fact and continued to be kind to everyone she knew. She'd gotten married to Podrick's son, Tytos, and had recently given birth to her third child.
"She's with little Val in the nursery." Like mother, like daughter. Dalla and Tytos had difficulty conceiving a babe for a time, so much so that everyone began to worry. That is until Dalla got pregnant with her first baby, Torrhen.
"What of you father? Are you not cold?" Lyanna asked drawing Jon's attention. It was fall now, the seasons having become shorter to months instead of years, much to Jon's and most of the older generation's consternation. Their children were fairly used to it and they could not really believe there was a time when, yes summer would actually last a decade instead of three or four moons.
"No, my dear. I've lived in colder climes than this most of my life. Actually, the summer snows in the North were far colder than this warm breeze." He replied smiling at her, her eyebrow raised skeptically.
"Well it is beginning to get dark out, and I'm not leaving you out here. So come on, you look like you need a bed." She said grabbing his arms and pulling gently. He could not help but agree with her. He was more tired than usual since he'd reached his 80th nameday. Jon knew in his bones that his twilight was upon him. Whether that be tonight, tomorrow or later it was coming soon. He'd eaten his supper, mashed fruit and nuts. Most of his teeth were gone and his bowls were certainly not what they used to be along with his joints. Gods, he wished he could sit down or get up without his knees screaming. He couldn't even hold Longclaw anymore! Not that he could now having passed it onto to Ned.
As Lyanna helped him up the stairs (Gods! He remembered a time when a length stairs did not feel like climbing a steep hill. What had Gardners been thinking when they built this castle?!) and over to the bed, Jon remarked on how the times changed. Some of it was good, but he wished that things had been different. That at least some of his friends and family had been here to greet his children when they came into world. He wished the Seven Kingdoms hadn't been shattered, he wished he had been able to save his family from machinations of Petyr Baelish before it had been too late, to save Dany from the pain and the madness it spiraled her into, and save Bran from the demon that took him.
Lyanna gently lowered him to the bed before he laid down, his old mind going to a time when he was the one tucking her and her brother in with their mother nearby.
"Thank you, Lya. It does my old heart good that you are around." She gave him a sweet smile, before leaning down to kiss his forehead. She then blew out the candle by his bedside and left the room, closing the door behind her. Jon stared out his window looking up at the starry night sky until his his eyes could no longer remain open. His breathing steadied for before ceasing all together.
And so King Jon the Preserver passed away in his sleep, a good peaceful death for a man who had lived in a chaotic lifetime. He left behind five children and several grandchildren who would mourn him and try to live by his example. In time the other kingdoms would be resettled, but their history would be lost to time save for the few greenseers that would pop up over the generations. Centuries after, Jon would be a figure out of legend, on par with Garth Greenhand and Bran the Builder whose names would sadly also be lost to time. Westeros would face threats from the outside and inside. It would struggle, grow and rebuild, becoming strong again, but they would forget the wonders that made their history and land so memorable: The Children of the Forest, the Others, Dragons, the Andals, the First Men, the Rhoynar, even the great and noble houses who had ruled those lands for generations.
In the Repository
In a place far yet always near the world known as Planetos, there was a man in a library sitting at an ornate mahogany desk. He was an older man, with icy blue eyes, slicked back snow white hair on his head accompanied by a low-cut beard, yet he looked surprisingly youthful for his age which had to have been in his fifties maybe sixties indicated by the wrinkles on his fair skin. His attire consisted of a three piece black suit, a grey collard shirt, black leather shoes, and a black tie. He was currently in the process of finishing his on the final page of his book.
As the man reached the last sentence, his voice speaking in tandem with his hand, formed each word. He placed his pen down as he blew on the last page, a satisfied smile on his face, before gently closing the book. The man looked up at the person across from his desk as he stood up holding the book.
"So what did you think?" He asked, his voice a deep baritone, to the newcomer as he walked over to a nearby bookshelf to place his latest work down. The last thing Jon recalled was falling asleep in his bed at Highgarden only to find himself sitting across from another man with a desk between them in a very soft chair. As soon as he realized he was somewhere else, he looked around in shock. He took note that he was in a vast library, so vast in fact that he could not make out the ceiling. Around him aside from the desk there were figurines in jars, bookshelves and tables with chairs unlike any he'd seen in his life. The chair he was in was leather-bound and filled with what had to have either cotton or down feathers. The walls were a dark green with many portraits on them
"Wh-Where am I?! Who are you?!" Jon demanded in panic, causing the man to turn around after he placed his book on the shelf.
"Hmm? Oh!" The man replied with raised brows before turning a sheepish smile at him and an apologetic bow, "My apologies, my boy. It has been quite some time since I've had any new guests. Most of the time it's old friends, peers, or even a few would-be students. You've recently died and I plucked your soul before you could merge into the Ether. Welcome to what I like to call The Repository."
Jon merely stared at the older man, his mind reeling. He was dead!? He shouldn't be surprised, but he's died before and remembered none of this! The man in turn watched him patiently until Jon could respond.
"I'm dead?" The man nodded, "Why do I not remember this?"
"That is because the last time you died, your soul just like everyone else hadn't left Westeros. In fact once I allowed your soul to come back, you would not remember the time you spent in Dusk." The man replied matter of factly.
"The err... Purgatory of your world. You see Heaven and Hell are not places your soul goes to, but are actually a different form existence. When you die, your soul goes to Dusk, which is essentially where souls simply leave their bodies but stay in the same place you died, in your case your world Planetos. If you have no unfinished business, regrets that you accept are as part of your life and let go, your soul merges with the Ether; the life energy that flows through everything in your world. All souls eventually merge with it and so when you do that, you become one with all your ancestors and everyone else who let go. It would be the equivalent of a drop of water falling into the ocean. All sense of individuality is gone but there is a sense of completion and unity to replace it." The man explained in a way reminiscent of how Sam would explain things to Jon from time to time.
"And Hell?" Jon asked dreading the answer even more so as the man's eyes seemed to darken.
"That is what happens to wicked souls and those who do not accomplish their unfinished business. Evil people relish their time in your world, and they more than most would hate dying as it means losing what little they had in life. So, when they do die, they no longer have any power. No food, no sex, no violence, no power, no rest, no peace. Their wickedness or rather, their Corruption acts like a disease or infection on the soul. The more wicked they were, more widespread the Corruption and once it gets to a certain point, the Corruption devours the soul until all that is left is an angry, restless, starving beast known as a demon. Demons are doomed to wallow in their own self-inflicted pain and misery until someone exorcises them, be they mortal or ghost. And before you ask, no you were not to be demon." The man's voice had changed from warm and kind to ice cold as he spoke before switching back at those last words. Jon was relieved, but he could immediately think of a few souls who probably became demons and wondered if they were still prowling around Westeros.
"And those that have unfinished business but are not wicked?" He asked thinking of what would happen to those poor folk. The man went to a more neutral expression if a bit sad.
"Those whose souls are bothered are tied down in Dusk until they either accomplish what they must... or become devoured by the demons." He said in an even tone much to Jon's shock but before he could say anything, "I would have you know that it is ultimately up to them to merge with the Ether and be safe from demons. They are the ones who have allowed themselves to hold onto their regrets, they must free themselves. That is the price of free will. Beings of my station are not allowed to directly interfere like that unless it is a very special circumstance. And before you start on your own experiences with death, I'll have you know that you and Beric Dondarrion were special cases."
"Special cases? You can manipulate souls, and you refer to yourself as a being instead of a person. Who are you? Are you a god?" Jon asked trying to keep his mind together. It was too much! The man in turn merely stared at him for a moment before looking up, seemingly lost in thought.
"'Am I a god?'" He repeated as if he were figuring out what to say, "I suppose I would be from your point of view. I've gone by many names: R'hllor, God of Many Faces, Father, Stranger, one of the nameless Old Gods, etcetera." Jon's eyes widened in shock as he continued, "I do have the ability to influence your world, even end it on a whim if I wished, time moves differently for me than it does for you as I can easily look back and see your earliest ancestors and then see the last of your descendants. However..." The man's blue eyes met Jon's.
"From my point of view I am not a god. I eat, sleep, rest and have needs as much as any person. Despite my vast knowledge, I am not omniscient nor am I omnipotent. I am in fact very far from being a perfect being. What you see as a god is to me a man," He gestured to himself, "an author," he pointed to the bookshelves, "an artist," he gestured to the portraits, "an observer," he waved his other hand towards a nearby sphere in an apparatus that had the images of Westeros and Essos painted on it, "and a curator." He finished gesturing calmly by raising both arms out to the entire room.
Jon merely stared at him, a god who is not a god. Jon had always imagined gods to be things akin to forces of nature like a storm or a mountain. While he had imagined over his lifetime what it would be like to meet a god, it never really entered his mind that they would look... well... human!
"But if it helps in any way, my... job as it were has become more custodial recently. There is a mess that needs cleaning up." The man said before he perked up suddenly, "Oh! Forgive me, I'd forgotten, you may call me Grim. I of course know who you are, Jon." Jon was trying to say something anything to communicate how stunned he was. This 'Grim' was Melisandre's Red God? One of his and his father's gods?! One of the Seven?!
"How? Why?!" Grim looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
"I'm guessing you have so many questions beginning with those words that you can't get all of them out?" Grim did not even wait for Jon to nod, "Well then allow me to explain at least some of those: How am I all of those gods? Simple, when your world was in its infancy, I and others like me were walking around and giving it life. This is where the Old Gods and Seven religions developed. Over time I would show up to help while most of your races were beginning to take their first steps. I had no wish to be worshipped nor did most my peers, but alas followers who are taken care of seem to do so, as your are aware of. As time went on, the rest of my people left to make other worlds while stayed behind to take care of this one."
Jon knew what he meant. Some of the Free Folk had started worshipping him before the Long Night and those few that survived grew in number after the Battle of the Fist.
"As for How and Why I took a hands off approach with the world, allowing many terrible atrocities to happen, well I was no longer needed. With the Ether and the afterlife system setup, there was no reason to stay. There comes a time when the mother bird must allow her chick to fall or fly. A parent who does not do so ultimately cripples their child, so I had to leave. Even when it broke my heart." Grim said solemnly. Jon understood that, more than he wanted to. He did the same with his children and it hurt when he saw them fail instead of succeeding.
"On a more personal topic for you, why I allowed things to end the way they had? The War of the Five Kings, and the more countless atrocities in its wake? It was because I needed it to happen." Jon looked at him in horrified shock, ready to shout until Grim stopped him, "You must understand, the times that I do step in and interfere are usually in dire situations. The kind that put the entire world in jeopardy."
"Like the Night King." Jon stated in realization, his anger leaving him.
"Yes!" Grim nodded, "Brandon had become a major threat to your world."
"Wait, what? Bran? What does he-" Jon was cut off as Grim shook his head negatively.
"I'm sorry. I do not mean your brother, but your ancestor, Brandon of the Bloody Blade, father of Bran the Builder, the one whom you call the Night King." Jon froze in shock, not fully understanding what was just said. Seeing this Grim continued, "Brandon was the second son of Garth Greenhand who in his time, was a powerful warlock. Brandon was a born warrior and cared greatly for his people, but when the Children of the Forest killed a few of his men, he ignored his father's wishes and started the war against them. Eventually, he was captured and turned into the being you call the Night King."
"I... didn't know." Jon replied, digesting this information. That thing that had been raising the dead and trying to kill everyone all of those years ago had been an ancestor of his. Bran the Builder's father! Brandon of the Bloody Blade was a legendary figure who got his name from slaying so many Children at Blue Lake that it was renamed Red Lake. It was surreal to say the least.
"I doubt your brother, Bran, even knew that. If he had, there is no mention of him sharing that secret." Grim said as he folded his hand together in front of his face.
"Bran!" Jon said as he realized that Grim might be able to answer what happened to his brother. Why he turned on them and whatever that thing was that tried to take his mind. He could finally have answers! But before he could ask, again Grim stopped him.
"I know what you wish to ask. Everything ties together, please allow to explain, be patient and ask no further questions till I'm through." Jon closed his mouth and nodded. With a nod in response, Grim began his explanation, "Like I said earlier there are times when I must interfere, usually when the world is it at stake. I stepped in during the first Long Night and helped guide Azor Ahai and Bran the Builder, amongst others, to bring about its end. I did so again with the second Long Night. The only true way to stop him would be to trap him so I protected several key people who had a role to play in defeating the Others, including you. Arya was always meant to kill the Night King. She was my best chance. You and Daenerys were the greatest, and most obvious, threats to him with your skills and her dragons not to mention your armies. And every army needs champions who can slay more than the average soldier hence the addition of Brienne of Tarth, Jaime Lannister, the Hound, Gendry, Beric Dondarrion, Jorah Mormont, Grey Worm, several others you wouldn't recognize. But only Arya had stealth skills and speed to be able to get close enough to him. I used that which he hated most, the Three-eyed Raven, to lure him out. I ensured it would be Bran, so you and Arya for fight the hardest to defend him. I ensured Melisandre would be there to inspire others when they desperately needed it. And it worked. Once it was done, I left confident that things would be well now that it was all over. I believed that either you or Sansa would take care of the North, that Daenerys and Tyrion would look after the South. Maybe you and Daenerys would get married and rule together, but instead..."
"Everything else happened." Jon finished. It was all coming together in his head. His experiences at the Wall ensured he knew how serious the situation was with the Others. As King in the North he was able to rally everyone against the Night King. Grim had needed him to be King in North which meant he as well as both his father and Robb had to die. Jon had to be released from his vows, the North needed to want indepence which was why father had to die, and Robb could not be in his way.
"I was saddened that my backup plan had been necessary with Bran after Daenerys went mad." Jon looked down at that, the memory of what he'd done.
"Trust me when I say this Jon. The way she was, she couldn't be a good queen anymore. The woman you loved was being steadily erased. As terrible as it was, you did what was necessary for Westeros. Grey Worm would never understand that. It's why he eventually became a demon himself, sad as it was." Jon flinched. Had his actions done that? Grim more shook his head negatively. "No one can force another to forgive. That person must want to. You and Cersei may share some of the responsibility for that but the blame lies with Grey Worm himself for holding onto it."
Silence reigned as Jon went over all that Grim had said. His actions had a part to play in Grey Worm's fall as well as Daenerys. He had no wish to find out what happened to her soul after he slew her and so nodded for Grim to continue.
"Was it truly necessary?" Jon whispered still not wishing to believe it. Grim stood from his chair and bade Jon to walk with him as he opened a door. Jon did as he was asked and followed him with the door leading to a corridor. Down the corridor they walked, Jon seeing portraits of various things. Maps of unfamiliar lands, ships sailing in the oceans, towns filled with smiling people in strange clothes driving horseless carriages. Jon followed the godlike being until he stopped and pointed to one portrait in particular.
"Tell me, what do you see?" Grim asked. Jon looked at the portrait before answering.
"I see a full moon on a starry night." As that was what it was to him. He did not recognize the constellations, but he was sure of it. Grim merely shook his head.
"Look again. Closely this time." Jon did as he was asked and stood closer than he saw the familiar outlines that he had studied all the time wheneverhe had looked at a map. He could see Skagos and the Bay of Seals, just barely make out the Fingers of the Vale and the Iron Islands as well as the Neck.
"What am I looking at?" He asked as his gut felt like it was twisting inside of him. Grim walked up right beside him facing the portrait.
"You are looking at a Westeros that fell to the Others." Grim then took his two fingers and gently swiped them to the left, and the painting moved. It showed Essos, then it kept moving further east than any map he'd ever seen do. Then he moved his fingers up, showing Sothoryos and Ulthos and other lands that hadn't been discovered. Was the world really that big?! "Once the Others took Westeros, they moved East, then South, and they kept moving until everything died."
"I-How?! We stopped him!" Jon said almost shouting. Grim flinched minutely but explained away.
"Yes, but remember what I said before Jon. Time moves differently for me. The what-ifs and could-haves that occur to you are all real to me. This," He gestured to the painting, "Is a time when I did not interfere. Without me manipulating things, protecting or killing the right people, the world died. Without my interference, all that were left were weak, stupid and selfish people who died to the Others anyway, no matter how far they ran. And this isn't the only one to freeze."
"There are others?!" Jon nearly shouted looking between Grim and the painting. Grim nodded in reply.
"Now ask me again if what I did was necessary." Jon really wanted to. He wanted to decry it, but in the face of an entire world frozen dead by the Others, he couldn't. "And now another world is in danger, and worse it is due to my own mistakes."
"What do you mean?" Jon quiried, still trying to get over the idea that entire worlds had fallen to the others multiple times.
"What should have happened after Bran ascended to the throne was a time of peace rivaling that of the time of King Jaehaerys the Conciliator. After his rule was over, another elected monarch would take his place and then it would gradually change to not just kings being elected, but wardens, and other positions of power. Instead..."
"Instead the Seven Kingdoms were left at the nonexistent mercy of some monster and were decimated." Jon finished. The death toll was catastrophic. In the end the Seven Kingdoms were reduced to one out of necessity. The population had been too small for trade routes to have any importance, and they were spread too thin to protect each other from the slavers in Essos who had started back up after Dany's death.
"Yes... you at least furthered the progress of an elective monarchy. For that you have my thanks. Westeros will move forward with that." When it had been Jon's turn to step down as king, he had appointed no one to succeed him. He called for a Great Council to elect a new ruler and he had made doubly sure that his children knew that Westeros needed this system so they had no business stepping up to be elected. Unfortunately, one of his children had been one of the three candidates, and it was his son Ned who became king. Ned had been made into a candidate because several of the lord and ladies had proposed it. Ned was an excellent choice as he had taken over many of his father's duties growing up. All of Jon's children had. The other two had been men who had distinguished themselves in the rebuilding of the realm, but ultimately Ned was chosen. Jon had been both proud and troubled over the election. Proud that his son succeeded him and had not manipulated things to do it given the sour look that had been on Ned's face, but he was troubled by the fact that the other members of what little nobility remained had, more or less, subverted the election.
"Doesn't change the fact that the Seven Kingdoms are effectively gone. That we will forget our history, bloody as it was. But that doesn't explain how any of it is your fault." Jon replied dourly, brooding over what would be lost.
"Mhmmm, Drakhan does have penchant for causing wounds that last longer than most." Grim replied, agreeing with his statement which caused Jon to look up at him.
"Drakhan?" He questioned, dumbfounded. He knew no one by that name.
"Drakhan is arguably worse than Brandon had ever been. He had several names: the Terror of East, the Betrayer, the Embodiment of Darkness. History remembers him by his most famous title however, the Bloodstone Emperor." Grim replied, his eyes turning to ice at the mention of Drakhan.
"I don't recall ever hearing those names." Jon said, shivering a bit. Was it getting colder in here?
"I am not surprised. Drakhan is a figure from the first Long Night. While the West was beset by the Night King and the Others, the East was terrorized by Emperor Drakhan founder of the Bloodstone Dynasty of Yi Ti. And the one whose foul disembodied soul had possessed your brother Bran, devoured his soul and destroyed the Seven Kingdoms." Jon was stunned for a moment. Another? Another monster from the previous Long Night had caused of all of that suffering?! As he thought over his experiences after rejoining the Watch, remembering that dark presence that had attempted to take control of him all those years ago, an old rage welled up inside him before exploding.
"I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT COULDN'T HAVE BEEN BRAN! THAT GODLESS WHORESON! THAT DAMNED DEMON!" Jon raged, falling to his hands and knees as tears began to well in his eyes. All those years of not knowing what had happened, of what was behind it. Of people bad-mouthing him just as they had with Dany! He sobbed like he used too when he was a little boy, when Theon would make cracks about his mother, when his identity as a bastard became too much to bear. Jon did not realize how long he was on the floor for crying for his family, for everyone who had suffered at that monster's hands. When he began to quiet down, Grim kneeled in front of him placing his hands on Jon's shoulders. They were surprisingly warm.
"I am so sorry for what happened Jon." Grim apologized with genuine sincerity. Jon didn't answer for a few more moments, composing himself still staring at the tiled floor.
"You said this was your fault. How? How was it?" Jon needed to know this. Why was he brought here? What did it have to do with that monster?
"When Azor Ahai did battle with Drakhan, I had believed both had been killed. Azor Ahai had merged with the Ether, and while I hadn't seen Drakhan's black soul I had figured that he had instantly become a demon which had been very commonplace in Yi Ti around that time. However... I was careless. Arrogant. I never conceived that Drakhan would figure out a way to cheat death without my say-so."
"But he had?"
"Mhmm," Grim replied with a nod, "One of the things he's most remembered for is mass blood sacrifices. What I had failed to realize is that he used some of those for experiments with dark magic. All of it culminating in him being able to consciously separate his soul from his body and for his mind to endure demonization. Instead of being broken by turning into a demon his mind remained, and spent the ages devouring numerous souls and demons before he gained enough power to possess your brother."
"And then he devoured him." Jon finished, his voice hitching again.
"Yes, and every poor soul he devoured was stuck in eternal agony. That's what happens when demons devour other souls. They become part of the demon, suffering with it." Jon finally looked up at him, tears beginning to well up in his eyes once more. Oh, Bran. It was a worse fate than death itself!
"How could you allow something like that?" Grim flinched before replying.
"I gave the souls a fair chance. As demons had ways of devouring souls, souls had abilities to escape, or exorcise demons." Jon was tired, he wanted all of this to end. To get to the point.
"What does this have to do me being here?" Grim looked down in shame.
"Because Jon, Drakhan survived." Grim stood up and began walking back to his repository, as what little Jon knew shattered. He sat there, stiff and tense. That... that monster was still alive?! He shakily stood up and marched after Grim who had just reached the doors.
"What in seven hells do you mean he SURVIVED?! Podrick stabbed him clean through! I felt his presence disappear!" Jon demanded as the two walked back into the repository.
"What Podrick Payne stabbed was Drakhan's current vessel. He is not flesh and blood, Jon. He hasn't been since he split his soul from his original body. He is incorporeal. The only physical weapon capable of hurting him is Lightbringer." Grim said as he walked further into the room away from his desk. He stood in front of a large hearth. It was made of white marble and above the mantle was another moving painting. He began making pinching gestures with Jon watching as Westeros appeared this time vastly different from earlier. It looked much more alive with greenery.
"Lightbringer? You said Azor Ahai defeated him." Jon replied as he watched, caught between anger and being transfixed by the wondrous painting.
"Wrong, I said Azor Ahai battled him. Their deathmatch devastated Drakhan's imperial palace, but the Bloodstone Emperor used his powers to make the ceiling cave-in, crushing the to of them before Azor Ahai could deliver a fatal blow. The only other weapons that have a chance against him would be magic itself. You would know that since you used your warg abilities to hurt him. Though you wouldn't have survived if I hadn't been hastily manipulating things." Grim explained, narrowing his eyes as the painting began to emit a sound and the image began to fade in and out.
"How so?" Jon asked having turned fully to the not-god.
"Drakhan is not like any enemy you've ever fought, Jon. He's survived for thousands of years as demon: a hellish existence that no sane mind should be able to endure. To be able to do so speaks an entire library's worth of how strong Drakhan is. I ensured Podrick and Bronn survived to make a resistance. I ensured Podrick had Oathkeeper. I ensured that you killed many of those he warged which would tax Drakhan's formidable mental fortitude. That enabled you to put up a decent fight and distract him long enough for Podrick to kill his vessel. Without it, you would have lost to Bran's powers which Drakhan was using. With his current vessel dead, he'd be forced to take another, not that he could as his black soul is too potent. Any normal body would rot away. Unfortunately..."
"Unfortunately what? If he did not die where did he go?" Jon demanded his patience wearing very thin. Grim stopped and sighed before looking at Jon with a steely gaze.
"At the last few seconds of his vessel's life, Drakhan summoned every ounce of the Three-eye Raven's powers along with his own and sent himself back in time."
"He... what?!" Jon scoffed at the absurdity. Time travel? He understood Bran could see the past, but actually moving through time? No, Jon could not accept that. If Bran could do that, why didn't he use his powers to save their family?!
"The Three-eyed Raven has the power to influence time, however they can only make small influences. They can only bear witness to events, maybe influence a single person. Anything bigger would need a tremendous amount of magical energy. Thousands of souls worth, which Drakhan had. He used all of his power to send himself back to a few years before King Robert came to Winterfell. I'm trying to find him, but I'm having trouble locking on." Grim spoke, growling at the last sentence.
"And you brought me here to fight him?" Jon questioned turning back to the painting, rage and excitement bubbling in his chest at the thought of ripping Drakhan apart even if the demon had no body.
"I needed a way to clean the mess he's making within the confines of my laws. You think your people's laws are strict? If I don't fix this, I'll be demoted to destroying forsaken worlds instead of saving them. I figured that you'd want a piece of him. Two birds with one stone." Grim said as he still fiddled with the painting. The image not clearing up even a little.
"Is it really that bad for you? Couldn't you... I don't know erase him from existence?" Jon queired. It was strange why Grim who seemingly had the power of life and death at his disposal wasn't able to do anything.
"Believe me, I would if I could. But one of laws state that no soul can be erased unless you created it directly. I did not create him, otherwise I would've ended him when I found out he survived. As for how bad this situation is... look at all of these bookshelves, Jon." Jon did so, remarking the many bookshelves and cases that lined the room, some of them towering high into the unseen ceiling. There had to be thousands even tens of thousands. Sam would have loved it here.
"All of those books represent a world under my care, Jon. Each of them is a collection of stories, all of them with lives and souls. People as real as you and I. I do not write them so much as I correct them. I give them a decent ending where they can keep going later instead of just being finished or incomplete which does happen. Now, a sadistic maniac with a penchant for mass murder is bad. A powerful warlock who has dabbled in the darkest magics and found a way to circumvent death is bad. A time traveller who is hell bent on making things go his way is bad. Drakhan is all of these and more. How long will it be before he finishes with time travel? And instead moves on to other worlds? All those souls are in danger, Jon. That is a serious mark against me and my station. I need to nip this thing in the bud."
"And if I were to say no?" This time Grim meet his eyes with both white eyebrows raised.
"I would be surprised before I would send you back home to merge with the Ether of your world. Then I would look to find someone who will deal with Drakhan." Grim thought out loud before turning back to the painting.
"If I did this, my children may very well cease to exist." Jon stated, thinking on it.
"No, they wouldn't. They are preserved forever in their own timeline. By going back in time, Drakhan has essentially created a new book. Even if you do go back and change things, they'll continue to exist." Grim got a stern look on his face, "Though if you are going to make a decision, I'd suggest you make it soon. It appears Drakhan is going to kill the Jon Snow in the world he's jumped to."
"What?! Why?!" Jon nearly yelled as he walked closer to Grim trying to see what he was seeing on the painting which at this point had gone back to a clear image of Westeros, focusing on the North.
"I imagine he's angry about what you did to him. Mental attacks from a warg are the only real painful violence he's had to experience since his death." Grim said as he tried focusing in on the North more only to have it become faded again and begin making a weird noise. "What is wrong with this thing? Gahh! Look make a choice now! All of my plans are going to have to rewritten anyway to save this world since it looks like their Jon Snow is going to die. And you have an idea of how critical he is to my plans."
"Even if I did go, your plans would still change!" Jon shot back defensively as he began to feel pressured.
"True, but at least with you there, I can make sure that there is someone that can permanently kill Drakhan and my plans remain largely intact! Maybe even improved and/or unnecessary. You die, I can still rely on Arya to kill the Night King while having Robb replace you, but with Drakhan on the board every plan is put in jeopardy. If anything you should be leaping to do it." Grim said with mounting frustration.
"Why should I? I'm sure you could get Melisandre, Thoros, or even Dany over there to do it." Jon inquired with his arms crossed. Grim looked right at him with a glare that made Jon freeze.
"Because, Jon, you have the most potential. Because this offer I am extending to you gives you the chance to save a few extra lives while still defeating the Night King. Because Drakhan will gain even more power than he had before and this time no one will be able to stop him." Jon couldn't say anything, even as Grim continued, "Melisandre can't stop him, Thoros can't, Daenerys can't, and the Three-eyed Raven won't see him coming. The Three-eyed Raven cannot see the spirits of the dead. No warlock of your world can. They are too weak. The magic of your world is too weak. Though that may change with this one."
"How so?" Jon asked after a minute of thinking while Grim fiddled with the moving painting further.
"My instruments have detected a major disturbance in the Ether of this world shortly after its Jon Snow's death." The painting focused and its image became somewhat clear. It looked like a group of people were in a bog or swamp performing a ritual. There was a bright flash of light and the image was gone. Grim changed the painting to a map of the North only it was different. The clouds were moving and its forests were visible with the mountain peaks being amazingly detailed. "This is a bird's-eye view of the North in realtime." At Jon's blank look Grim explained, "This is what it really looks like if you were in the sky."
Jon looked back in wonder as he studied it. Incredible. Riding Rhaegal and later warging into birds had given him an amazing view of the lands, but this surpassed all of them! Then a bright light started to show somewhere near the middle of the Neck, almost halfway between the Bite and the Flint Cliffs. Dark clouds looked as if they were forming over it before they grew and expanded and was that lightning flashing in them?! "What's going on?"
"Unbelievable. He figured out how to use those? Well, things have changed big time if they hadn't already." Grim said as they watched what looked to be swirling mass of clouds break from the original and go North. "In the aftermath of the first Long Night, the major families saw glimpses of the Night King's return as well as the magic leaving Westeros. So they left behind memoirs which served as records of their visions, warnings and hopes. Along with these memoirs they left behind sources of power which would accumulate magical energy through the centuries. When these source were brought together and used in conjunction, they would bring magic back to Westeros."
"All right, but what is with the clouds?"
"That is how the magic is dispersed. It will take the form of storms and they will travel over the land. Magic will be infused in the wind, water and lightning, and once the storms pass, everything they've touched will be saturated with magical energy. No wonder the Ether was disrupted, that much mana being accumulated and dispersed would send shockwaves through it. But why would Drakhan do this? Is he trying to unlock Bran's powers early?"
"Early? How long is this before King Robert came?" Jon inqueried. How old was that Jon Snow when Drakhan killed him?
"Let me see..." Grim looked at the painting much more closely before answering, "294 AC, a calm year for you and your family."
"I was thirteen going on fourteen." Jon whispered. To die so young. What did that Jon think? What of his family?
"Yes, but why is Drakhan doing this? He must realize that Bran is too young for his powers even if he got them early, he'd still need a teacher to make them reach maturity. If not, his body wouldn't be able to hold Drakhan's black soul. Unless... he's getting impatient." Grim then proceeded to make the painting move all the way to the Fas East of Essos before moving his fingers in a circular motion to the left. The portrait now showed a desolated village with an oily black stone surrounded by dozens of people covered in filth. One by one, they all died with what looked like shadows moving from them into the black stone before the stone cracked and split apart, revealing an emaciated figure in black without legs.
"Is that him?" Jon asked glaring at the picture. The figure looked around for a moment before flying west at speeds that made even Drogon look slow in comparison.
"Yes, he appears to be heading west, no northwest," The demon crossed over deserts and mountains. Jon even thought he saw a few cities. Then it turned into a sea. Then the somewhat familiar sight of Widow's Watch. "Now north," The Dread Fort, Last Hearth, The Wall, "Even further... could he be going after Brynden?"
"Who?" Jon asked not taking his eyes off as the demon flew through the Wall not over it.
"Brynden Rivers, the Three-eyed Raven before Bran and his mentor." Grim explained not looking away either. Then the demon passed over a massive weirwood tree. "No, he's not. He couldn't be after the Night King himself could he?"
"What?! Can he do that?!" Jon panicked. With Bran's power, Drakhan had nearly destroyed them all! With the Night King's strength... no one would be able to stop him!
"It is not impossible, but I highly doubt it." Grim replied calmly. The demon went further than Jon had ever gone north, even after the Night King was killed. Into the Lands of Always Winter. It was a desolate, barren wasteland as far as Jon could see. It was nothing but snow and ice with the occasional rocky terrain that the demon zoomed past, until it came to a mountain.
This mountain looked as if it had been shattered by some unknown force. It had five peaks that protruded toward the sky like fingers. The summit was curved inwards with a large fissure running down the side towards a cave at the base of it. It was like a hand reaching towards the heavens. A natural fortress.
The home of the Others.
The demon flew into the cave, past what looked like an altar of ice and flew straight for the Night King! He had been standing along with the rest of his kind, eyes shut before the demon got in close. Jon had never seen his most fearsome foe looked shocked, but the Night King's eyes were wide with shock as he had somehow seen the demon! He moved to defend himself, but it was too late. The demon went into the Night King, who began shake violently. The other White Walkers stared in surprise as their king fell, brought to his knees, his hands followed shortly after. The painting made the sounds of what was happening clear as the leader of the White Walkers snarled, and growled, pounding his fist into the frozen earth, making it crack and crater.
"He's fighting him." Grim observed.
"Is that good?" Jon asked still watching as both monsters gave it their all for control over a single body.
"I think so." Grim replied smirking in what appeared to be triumph to Jon's confusion. With a shrill shriek Jon had hoped to never hear again, the Night King threw his arms back and the demon flew from his chest. The Night King actually looked exhausted as he stumbled back onto his feet. The demon righted itself in the air and charged again, this time aiming for another Walker. Once it was inside, it attempted the same thing, but this time the Night King raised his hand and crushed it into a fist. The Walker shattered in an instant leaving only the demon in its place. With a screech the demon retreated and left the mountain, heading south.
"Ah, so that's what happened. Drakhan attempted to possess Brandon, but he underestimated him or perhaps overestimated himself, either way the only bodies that could fully withstand Drakhan's possession are beyond his reach for the moment. So now he is forced to look for alternatives. He's cultivating vessels. And..." Grim made the painting follow the demon as it turned from a legless emaciated robed figure to a cloud of black. The cloud then split into several smaller ones before separating, going in different directions. "He's split his soul apart to possess more people and to extend the length of time a body has before his soul rots it. Hmmm, clever."
"Why not possess... what did you call him? Brynden! Why didn't he go after him? And how did he find out about these so-called sources of power in the first place?" Jon asked as the black clouds took hold of several unfortunate souls across Westeros.
"I imagine he found out about the sources during his time possessing Bran. As for why he's not going after Brynden... I'm not sure. Could be he wishes for a normal, mobile body. Brynden is literally rooted to a weirwood tree, unable to move. At least with Bran, he had some mobility. He's not as strong as he was in your time given all that was transfered was essentially his knowledge and experience, none of the power he had. It could be that his struggle with Brandon weakened him and so he wouldn't even try."
"How weak is he now?"
"Like I said, he's not as strong as he was in your time, having spent all of his power to come back. However, that version of himself got all of the knowledge and experience while still maintaining a significant amount of power. Only very powerful demons can possess people, even those who are weak, so chances are he's spent the last few thousand years feeding on other souls as well as demons to increase his power in order to enable possession. As soon as he had all the power he needed, he realized that no one was strong enough to hold him and when he did finally find one, his time with it was cut short. I doubt he was aware of the Others until Bran. Now that he's had a taste, he wants more. He probably thought he could take over Brandon with his level of power, but instead it cost him enough to spare any others with magic. Ironic."
"And so he's making other vessels with knowledge he most likely gained from his time using Bran."
"Mhmm." Grim nodded, moving his fingers in a circular motion this time to the right, and the painting showed a godswood Jon had not seen in years. And in that godswood was a younger version of himself. Jon the younger was kneeling before the heart tree of Winterfell, praying for guidance and strength if Jon remembered correctly. This was when he was beginning to think going to Night's Watch was best for himself. A stranger, a northerner who Jon had never seen before entered the godswood, trudging up to Young Jon. The boy he once was stood and threw out a greeting, asking if the man needed help or if he was coming to pray.
When they had an easy ten meters between them, the man's eyes went pitch-black, and closed the distance with a speed no man should have. And proceeded to stab the boy several times before leaving him on the ground bleeding. His younger self lay there in shock, tears in his eyes as he looked up at his murderer who merely smiled down nastily at him. The stranger spat at the boy before leaving, twirling his murder weapon cheerily.
"I need an answer, Jon." Grim said evenly. Jon looked from the portrait to Grim and back several times. He knew he was being manipulated. It was obvious when Grim began to show this, but... his younger self looked so pitiful that he wished he'd been there to help.
"If I said yes... wouldn't all of your plans go up in smoke? You know I'll do everything I can to save my family if I go back." He said slowly thinking over it. Grim was smarter than him. He knew it by the way the godlike being talked and moved.
"I know you will, but my goal isn't to kill your loved ones. It's not to kill anyone really. All I want is for the world to survive the threats that would end it, no matter who lives or dies. No more, no less. The game of thrones matters very little to me. And even if you do go back there's no guarantee you'll succeed. There's no guarantee you'll fail. That will rely on what you do." Was all Grim said. His host wasn't giving anything away with his neutral expression.
"If I did go, what could I do? I'm older than father is in that world. I show up like this," Jon gestured to his hunched elderly state and silver hair, "and I'll be thought of as some crazed old man."
"I've got a solution for that, but only if you decide to go. As for what you could do: win. If you can win while keeping your honor in check, great. If not, well, you already know what that's like." Jon flinched as if he'd been struck. The memory came unwanted.
'You are my queen. Now and always.' The look of complete trust and love in her violet eyes. The feel of her lips against his own as his blade pierced her heart. How he weeped in anguish as he watched the light from those beautiful eyes. The piercing scream of Drogon, and oh, how he wished the dragon had killed him instead of just melting the Iron Throne. Queenslayer, Kinslayer, and Oathbreaker. Jon never dreamed he would look more dishonorable than Jaime Lannister.
"Honor is not paramount." Grim spoke as if reading his mind, "Your father knew this when he protected you by lying to everyone. Jaime Lannister knew this to be true when he slew Aerys. You knew this when you stabbed her. Now," Grim held out his hand toward Jon, "What say you, Jon of Houses Stark and Targaryen? Will you brave this new world and try to save it? Or go home and rest for eternity?"
Jon looked at the hand, before meeting Grim's blue eyes. His gaze moved back to the painting showing the younger Jon having been discovered by his Robb and Theon, the former ordering the latter to get someone while the Heir of Winterfell clutched his brother, crying. Jon opened his mouth and gave his answer.
I know. You're angry and probably going to flame me. I am sorry for all those who were disappointed. I can't say I will be able to continue this indefinitely. But let's just see where this goes. Leave a like or a review. Constructive criticism is welcome as well any lengthy comment so long they are not hateful. Saying just 'good chapter' or if you're being cute, and saying something along the line of 'really good chapter,' please try to add a little more. It really helps my self-esteem.