Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Welcome to 2022 readers! I am hoping this will be a great year for us all and I sincerely thank you all for sticking with this story so far!
Meera's pairing? A lot of you have been asking about it and while I can't reveal who it is just yet there is one planned.
Review Responses from last chapter…
Dragonfan91 – The Red Wisps are something to do with Asgard, at least a little.
AganishLottly – Thank you! I have to admit that Jon/Meera was once considered for this but as cousins I don't think Jon or Meera would go for it.
Zmanjz- I take that as a compliment thank you! There will be a lot of changes to the canon as you pointed out and Kings Landing will bring a few more so the war to come and there will still be a war will look very different to the way it did before.
Frankieu – Thank you! Does Viserys still meet the same end? We will see and Tyrion will be a strong force in the war to come.
Akire26 – Don't worry, I can confirm the pairing is not Joffrey/Meera.
crimson hearts – I know, Tyrion will be a different man at least a little this time. He is now aware of all his siblings and father's role in his past now and his loyalty to them is damaged as a result.
Blaze1992 – The war will be very different this time although better? That depends on who you are I suppose.
s.k.f.f.f – Loki has an end goal in mind, to achieve it though he needs others and as for the south being bad for Starks? Oh yes it seems only bad things happen when they go.
10868letsgo – In this story? The Red Wisps/Mist have an endgame and uses those that are potentially useful to that end. Did it drive all those Targaryens mad? Some of them maybe but not all. Some are that way because of their inbreeding and bad upbringing.
Cameron1812 – Thank you!
Malinkody – Loki is always out for himself and while this one does have some traits in common with the MCU Loki that is only because it is the version I thought most people are familiar with but he is not him. Will he be against Meera or not? Depends on his endgame.
Now on with the chapter...
Chapter 13 – Ride to Kings Landing
Winterfell, the North...
The preparations for leaving were going far too quickly for the Starks liking, trunks were being packed and their own smaller wheelhouse and wagons prepared. Father was his usual stoic self as he sat down and told Robb, Sansa, Bran and Rickon what would be happening while Meera and Arya sat down nearby.
"Robb, you will rule Winterfell and the North in my absence. I expect you all to support your brother while myself, Meera and Arya are in Kings Landing. I know you are all prepared for the responsibility that is being handed too you but know that I have faith in you." Father said to those that would be staying behind.
Meera and Arya both looked miserable, not liking this at all but they had little choice it seemed and Meera with a chill in her spine could not let her father go to face whatever dangers waited in the south alone. Arya was coming because she wouldn't be separated from her oldest sister and was determined to help and nothing they could do would persuade her not to come.
Meera gave the nervous looking Robb a smile to try and encourage him, he was more than ready to assume the responsibility of handling the North in their father's absence. It would also she thought with some reluctance prove he was not beholden to her for advice.
Meera herself was still deeply worried about going to Kings Landing, the thought of the place left a cold weight in her stomach as she considered the dangerous reputation of the city.
The Ruby Ford, the Riverlands...Two Weeks Later…
Having left Winterfell far behind and now were south of the Neck, the royal convoy accompanied by the Stark party was making good time. It was making far better progress this time as they knew which roads were easier to travel on and had taken the time to make repairs to the elaborate royal wheelhouse not to mention acquire materials for any more repairs before leaving the North.
The green and verdant Riverlands was a strange sight to Arya Stark who had never known anything beyond her own homeland and all the rivers they had passed was another strange thing. There were rivers in the North sure but not so many.
Arya despite being homesick and missing her siblings dearly was nevertheless enjoying the opportunity to see new places for the first time in her life. She looked out over the lands that they were slowly passing through and smiled a little, wishing she had Nymeria with her to run and play with but her dear wolf was back in Winterfell. She hated having to leave her but Meera and father had said it wasn't safe for them in the south especially with the queen around who had made her feelings about having them killed very vocal.
Arya nearly snarled with rage at the thought of that horrible woman trying to hurt her wolf, vowing to give her another scar if the vicious woman ever came close to Nymeria or any of her siblings direwolves.
However loneliness was tugging at her as she missed the chance to talk with her siblings, Meera was often busy with keeping an eye on Prince Joffrey and father was always with the king. Lanna thankfully was around but the poor older girl was scared as despite wishing to stay at Winterfell and Mira Forrester accompany Meera to Kings Landing the king had insisted on Lanna coming with them. Lanna often had Ser Jory almost glued to her side and it wasn't much fun to be with her either although she at least could spare some moments for her.
At least she was better conversation than Prince Tommen Arya thought with annoyance. The Prince was she admitted a far better person than his older brother, reminding her a little of Rickon in how kind he was to animals and to those around him but his obsession with his cats was something that she found extremely irritating and the childish games he was playing did little to improve her mood so instead she spent her time with her friend Mycah, the butcher's boy looking around the river for Rhaegar's rubies but eventually the pair became bored and spent the day just playing at the river side with sticks, pretending they were knights.
- x -
Joffrey meanwhile under the close watch of the Hound and the former Unsullied that followed Lady Meera around was donning a pair of leather gloves that the young woman had given him.
"How do these help with archery?" He asked, not sure what to make of them as while they were well-made they had a strange thick pad on two of the fingers that felt awkward to him. He slipped them on regardless though and he was surprised at how comfortable they were. Meera smiled a little before explaining.
"Archers sometimes cut their fingers on the bow string so the leather is thicker there to prevent that." Meera said as she demonstrated with the bow and arrow she had in her hand, aiming straight at the target she had carved into the tree. "Most people think that archers are weak or useless but even the greatest warriors can be brought down by a single arrow if it hits in the right...place." She said before letting her arrow fly and striking the target dead centre.
She turned to him but he looked at her with confusion, having always been raised to believe that men who wielded swords and war hammers were true warriors and archery was merely a skill that came useful in hunting and occasionally in battle.
"Like who, father always said a true man wields a proper weapon...not a bow." Joffrey said and Meera kept her polite mask in place despite her annoyance at the king and probably others dismissal at someone who wielded a much more useful weapon.
"A bow can strike much further than most crossbows in the hands of a skilled archer, and both further than a sword or the like. Find the gaps in a suit of armour and anyone can be brought down, one of the most capable men in all of Westeros's history was an archer by large...Ser Brynden Rivers."
The mention of the man's name really should have helped Joffrey realise her point, especially given his rather substantial impact on the country's history. The puzzlement on his face was exasperating so she suppressed her annoyance and answered him, staying as calm as possible and wondered if the Grandmaester was any use at all.
"Brynden Rivers was one of Aegon the 4th many bastards, he was born from Bethany Blackwood one of his later mistresses. He was an albino with white hair, exceptionally pale skin and red eyes not to mention a very noticeable birthmark. He had the sigma of being a bastard and he was nowhere near as strong or as handsome as his brothers but he had the cunning to use his mother's popularity to make useful connections around the court and when his elder half-brother Daemon declared himself king after their father died he sided with his legitimate brother Daeron 2nd and to fight in the war founded his own elite group of archers known as the Raven's Teeth. These longbow men under his direction brought the first Blackfyre Rebellion to an end, they rained down arrows on Daemon and his supporters after the false king had already cut down most of his challengers. No swordsman ended that war many had tried only to die at edge of Daemon's blade...Brynden did with his bows." Meera told him to make him understand before continuing on to a still confused Joffrey.
"After the war he became the Hand to Daeron and his Master of Whispers too, managing the drought and Great Spring Sickness that followed before stopping the second and third Blackfyre rebellion. He was disliked but he was efficient and got Westeros through those times, then when Aegon the 5th ascended to the throne to eliminate new king's chief threat he had Aenys Blackfyre killed even though he was promised protection. He cared not for what people thought just that he had done what needed to be done and when Aegon judged him guilty for his crimes he took the black and became the Lord Commander of the Nights Watch." Meera explained to Joffrey who hung on her every word.
"Why did his king banish him after all that he did and getting rid of his greatest threat? Surely he should have rewarded for that." Joffrey said confused and annoyed at Aegon for making that decision. Meera just said.
"The Blackfyre was promised protection and Aegon was still new to the throne and aware of what people thought, he knew uprisings were likely and might cause some to support enemies of House Targaryen. Without dragons he wasn't able to rule as his ancestors did so he did what he had to do for the stability of the realm. No man or woman can rise so high that they can't fall...people die be it by illness, accident, murder or merely nature itself. Be aware of your own limitations and while you must be firm, don't forget that it only takes one knife or a poison to end you. Just like it can take one arrow to end a rebellion." She said having gone a little off topic, Aegon the 5th was actually respected in the North due to him sending more food to help their starving people in that harsh winter so early in his reign. But getting back to topic she continued to explain.
"Besides if you practice with a bow you build up strength in your arms, allowing you more ease with the crossbow since it will be easier to load and lift. Not to mention it helps improve your eye. Like any skill it can become ruined with time if not practised frequently. So perhaps you might give it a try?" She said gesturing to the target and Joffrey with some reluctance took up the bow and with his arms trembling from the strain of using the bow just managed to fire the arrow.
It unfortunately didn't quite manage to hit the target, striking a bit off. Joffrey looked surprised at the miss and was about to rage but Meera gave him a stern look that stopped him immediately before she told him.
"That was good, had your arms been stronger you would have made the shot so we need to build up the strength in your arm. That means you can carry heavier crossbows and move more quickly when wearing armour not to mention look more dashing." She added with a smirk that instantly made him smirk a little too. He went to hand her back the bow she had given him but instead she pushed it back gently towards him.
"Keep it, as a gift from House Stark. It is dragonbone, one of the best materials to make bows from so when you practice you can learn to know how much you need to pull to make each shot. Learning to judge distance is a skill that will help which ever weapon you need to use." Meera said and he was looking at the bow with awe thinking it had come from a mighty dragon.
- x -
In the Stark's much smaller wheelhouse Lanna was nervously sitting around with Jory close by who was just as concerned as she was. Why the king had insisted that she come with them to Kings Landing when they were perfectly safe in the North neither could understand but as the King's will they were honour bound to obey it after he had done what he thought best to try and protect her from Tywin Lannister's wrath.
Oh gods Lanna thought with fear making her nearly shake, Tywin Lannister was her grandfather! The most ruthless and dangerous lord in all of Westeros was her grandfather! She shared blood with the same man that had buried one family alive and drowned them, had sacked Kings Landing and ordered the slaughter of House Targaryen and had ordered the gang raping of her mother!
The mere thought of it made her sick to her stomach and she was afraid to sleep in case in case assassins came for her in the night. Jory hadn't let her out of his sight since they left Winterfell and likewise was preparing himself to defend her to the death if he had too. He was a loyal knight and head of Lord Stark's guard so he had to come to Kings Landing but he would have felt a lot better if Lanna hadn't been forced to come too.
A knock at the door only made them both jump and with a shared look of unease they walked over to see just who was there, Jory carefully opened the door and saw Princess Myrcella and Ser Aerys Oakheart standing at her side. The princess was smiling gently and asked politely.
"May we speak? I would like to exchange words with my cousin." Myrcella said brightly which only added to the strangeness of the situation, powerless to resist a Princess's command Jory stood back to allow her and Ser Oakheart into the wheelhouse. If she was disappointed by how bland and under-decorated it was the Princess said nothing and kept her smile on her face.
"I am so glad that we have this chance to speak. I have had no cousins before and certainly few extended family my own age." Princess Myrcella said with a warm and gentle voice as she sat on one of the benches that doubled as beds for her and Ladies Arya and Meera. She was Lanna thought perfect in her posture and even the way that she sat was more lady like than anyone she had ever seen even Sansa. Lanna however was not put at ease because she was reminded again of their different stations in life and the fact she was related to the Princess! By her mother's first husband and rapist!
"Yes your grace, it is a shock to be sure." Lanna said carefully, not sure of what to say in this situation but tried her best to mind her manners. Myrcella nodded with small smile before saying.
"Do you enjoy reading? I know I do and we have a most fantastic library in the Red Keep." She said and Lanna nodded slowly.
"I do enjoy reading very much your grace, Lord Stark was most kind in letting me read from his library." Lanna told Myrcella who nodded.
"It is an activity that is common in our family, although my mother and brothers seldom read Uncle Tyrion does it all the time and makes the most enjoyable tales in his theatre. I will take you there when we arrive in Kings Landing." Myrcella said which only made Lanna more uncomfortable as she was reminded again of her father and worse finding out they shared something in common...a love of reading and of stories.
He had accompanied the column as they moved back south but thankfully had avoided her for the most part. The few times they had seen each other she had avoided his gaze but was conscious of his eyes on her and it unnerved her a lot and she was eager to get this trip over with so she could get back to Winterfell as soon as possible.
So far though she had not heard anything about...her grandfather's thoughts on her existence she thought struggling to think of Tywin Lannister like that. The man was pure evil in her mind after what he had done to her mother, she thought shuddering at the mere thought of it and wished dearly that the old man would go back to the deepest pit in whatever hell he had crawled out of.
Casterly Rock, the Westerlands…
The message from his spies in Winterfell was held in his hand telling him what they had seen and overheard and that his dwarf son had not only managed to create a child with the dead whore but she was now known to the King and had the Lannister name too.
He crushed the message in his hand, his gaze dark as he considered the fact that soon this entire sordid affair was going to be known around all of Westeros. He was not the only one with spies in Winterfell and many others would soon know the truth about the whore and her child if they didn't already.
The fact that this was going to befoul the Lannister name worse than any other event in the last two decades made Tywin fume with rage, wishing dearly and not for the first time that his dwarf waster son had died instead of Joanna but he threw the message in the fire and pondered deeply on his response.
The girl was an insult to House Lannister by her very existence, a reminder of how one of them had strayed into the dirt and he was tempted to end her quickly and efficiently. An assassin was easy to find when gold was involved, the fact that everyone would think it was him mattered little as long as their name still commanded respect.
However he restrained that first thought, he had no feeling for the girl at all. A child of a whore even if she did have Lannister blood was next to worthless in his mind but she now had their name and from all the information his spies had gained the girl was not only blessed with the beauty their house was known for but had none of her father's lecherous ways or had done anything disgraceful in her life made him pause.
He was in a difficult position he knew with the gold mines having now finally dried up and knew that Stannis and Renly were already preparing for their own attempts on the throne which he could not allow, Tywin thought wishing he had been given the opportunity to eliminate them both before hand but alas the chance had never come.
So for the war to come he would need allies, Cersei was now working on his last shred of patience as she worked to prevent any of her children from being wed. He would force the issue soon enough when the war started so he could find which were best to seek as allies but if he had another daughter to wed off it would allow him more options. She might be of poor stock but she was a Lannister and more to the point she was blessed enough to have beauty.
He pondered his next move as he considered the possibility or whether he would be better off just having her killed. Anger would not help here regardless of how he might have disliked the girl being one of them, she was one of them and if he was able to use her then perhaps it might be worth keeping her alive. Like any beast she could be taught if she was forced too.
Winterfell, the North…
Robb had been training for the moment he would succeed his father his whole life, he had always known it was his fate to take his father's seat and responsibilities one day but he had hoped for that day to not come for a long time yet.
The moment he had first sat in his father's chair in the Great Hall of Winterfell however all that training and preparation seemed to count for nothing as for the first time he was ruling the North without the safety of an experienced advisor to guide him. He was faced with real problems and had only his own wit and observations to rely on.
Well apart from Sansa who was thankfully at his side during this time although she was spending much of her time managing the trade of Winterfell which was a difficult role in itself. He had seen the tiredness in her eyes and in his own when he saw his reflection.
How he asked himself with exasperation did his father and twin sister do all that they did and not fall down?
But nevertheless Robb persevered and sat in attendance as all the work that came with running the North and Winterfell was handled day to day. He was just listening to one of the farmer's informing them of all the land dispute he was having with a neighbour when Wylla Manderly came bursting through the door.
Robb almost groaned as he was already busy with all his new duties as was Sansa, neither of them had the time or the will to host his future lady wife at the same time. She was just smiling though and walked up to him.
"Robb." She said and strangely she was speaking in her much more normal secret voice rather than her high annoying one. She walked over to sit in the empty seat next next to him and turned to the feuding farmers.
"It seems that the real problem is one of you needs more food than his land produces and the other has the land but doesn't produce food so why doesn't the one who owns the land grow the food and trade it to their neighbour for something else." Wylla said with a bright smile that stunned both of the feuding farmers who both frowned before turning to Robb who nodded after a moment to think about it.
"Acceptable, now my betrothed and I must speak." He said and everyone even Sansa left the room so the two of them were alone together.
"While counsel is always appreciated I do not like people bursting into my hall and snapping it out without being asked...interfering in my judgement is not acceptable. It was good advice and I endorse that but do not think that you can do whatever you want Wylla." He said, using her actual name to show his frustration at his still growing authority being potentially undermined by his own future wife!
Wylla seemed surprised for a moment then smiled and to his own surprise nodded slightly.
"Then I will whisper any advice in your ear in future Robb. I only came to ensure you know House Manderly is fully behind you while your father is in the south and to offer my help." Wylla said being surprisingly humble and Robb was a little unnerved by this but was glad of the offer all the same.
"I would very appreciate some help, with my sister gone running the castle is proving a headache to manage. Sansa has been doing a very good job but she needs to focus her time on running Winterfell's industries so if you would be willing to help in running the castle I would be most grateful." Robb said, thinking that it was perhaps past time that she had the opportunity to run the castle that she would one day rule with him.
Wylla's smile widened a little as she said.
"I would be glad to help."
Riverrun, the Riverlands…
Since the Maester and Septon had allowed her in on their secret search for mentions of the Red Wisps Catelyn had spent much of her time in the library with them searching for further mentions that could give them some idea of just what they wanted and why they were here. She was glad of the company too as the pair of older men had stopped looking down at her since they now understood just why she had done what she had and no longer judged her for it.
She was looking through the history of the great houses to see any other potential sightings as they knew that it was drawn to people in positions of power which made her wonder with concern if someone else in Westeros might already be under its influence and not even know it.
She tried not to think about but she was starting to become a little paranoid about it being somewhere around and just waiting to pounce.
She was just getting up to leave after the book she was reading proved to be a complete waste of time when she felt a rush of water at her feet. She looked down and knew that she was going into labour.
A few hours later she had been carried to her room and with the aid of the midwife and the maester was doing her best to bring her next child into the world. She was in great pain but concentrated hard on her delivery.
"I can see the head my lady." The midwife said with concern, focusing on the task at hand as Catelyn struggled with the pain and the pushing. When finally after what seemed like hours she finally was coming to the end and soon the babe was out.
"It is a girl milady." The midwife said brightly as she carefully wrapped the lady girl up in a blanket. Catelyn's eyes watered as she reached out. The other woman carefully placed the bundle in her arms, the feel of having another child in her arms was a balm to her soul after the events of the last few months but the moment she looked she realised the little girl she had given birth to had dark red hair, much darker than her own almost crimson, her eyes were a deeper shade of blue and finally the most damning of all her face was more slim than her siblings had been and her skin was a touch darker too.
She was Oberyn's Catelyn realised with great dismay, her heart breaking as any chance of reconciliation with her family seemed to break into the smallest pieces and her heart along with it. She cuddled her newest girl closer to her, knowing this little babe was the only chance she was ever going to have at being a mother now and a tear fell from her eye as she snuggled closer to her babe.
"So, is it Lord Stark's?" An unwelcome voice intruded said as it's owner entered the room. Looking over she saw that her brother Edmure and her father Hoster were there. Father she noticed didn't look well at all, his face was even more shrunken and his skin was losing colour but there was a softness in his eyes that honestly she had never seen there before. She was worried given how frail he looked.
Edmure meanwhile was standing there with his usual swagger and arrogance, it was him she realised that had spoken and he looked at her with great disdain. Any pleasure she might have had from the birth of her daughter was now being poisoned by his presence she thought with anger and wished he would just go away when months ago she would have dearly wished to see him and father.
"May I see her?" Hoster said his voice once so strong now sounding ancient which only deepened her concern for her father. Not willing to move yet she merely held her babe where its grandfather could see her. The softening of his old wrinkled eyes made him seem more human than she had ever seen him before and he asked her in a frail sounding voice. "What is her name?"
Catelyn hadn't even begun to think of names yet, she had been so caught up in her work with the Maester and the Septon but one name sprang immediately to mind.
"Minisa." Catelyn said, choosing her own mother's name and it seemed she had picked correctly as the old man's eyes became wet. "Please let me keep her! She will be a good girl and will be the greatest beauty in the Riverlands." Catelyn, aware that now it was clear that her babe was not Ned's her family would at best send the child to Dorne to be with the rest of her half-sisters down there and a sharp pain stabbed at her heart at the thought of her precious little girl being sent away from her.
Edmure looked ready to snap at her unimpressed but Hoster with some of his old authority coming back into his voice declared.
"She will be raised here in Riverrun, I would like to spend some time with one of my grandchildren before I pass." Hoster said looking annoyed at Edmure who had managed to bungle all the previous attempts to betroth him. Edmure as usual fell silent but Catelyn was so relieved and yet so sad at the same time. Her father would let her keep Minisa and she would know her grandfather's love even for a little while but the fact that he was dying was another stab at her heart especially as he had taken her back in and allowed her to keep her babe. It seemed to have softened him a bit she thought and dearly wished Lysa would come with young Robert so that their father could have all his children around him again not to mention some of his grandchildren. She had hoped that her own children might of come but her own actions had ruined that she thought sadly.
Still as the old man hobbled over and gently rubbed his bony finger over the small girl's forehead it did bring a small smile to her face, glad for this rare moment at least.
The Wall, the North…
Jon now dressed in his entirely black outfit was glad of the warmth the furs gave him as he was sure that the mere presence of the Wall made the air turn almost freezing. It was always cold in the North, it was a fact of life even in summer but here he was starting think that it was far more so at the Wall.
He put those thoughts out of his head as he went about his duties with Ghost trotting at his side, given his skill with a sword he had been chosen to help train the latest recruits alongside the sour Ser Alliser Thorne. The man made Jon grit his teeth with sheer frustration, the man had been a Targaryen supporter in the Rebellion and had been forced to join the Watch by Tywin Lannister. For his father and aunt's roles in starting the war Thorne seemed to hate the mere sight of him.
But it wasn't just him though Jon admitted, Thorne hated everyone and seemed determined to make them suffer for his pleasure. He did little actual teaching in the yard and instead simply beat the new recruits.
Jon however took a very different approach.
"Right, the most important things with fighting with a sword is making sure that you have a firm grip on your weapons so you cannot be so easily disarmed and making sure you have a good base with your feet." Jon said with as much authority as he could to the new recruits. Two of them Jon thought with satisfaction were paying attention. Pypar and Grenn were at least not criminals unlike most of the recruits Jon thought and were the most likeable of the group. They might not be his friends just yet but they were at least polite to each other and could share a joke.
One of the recruits who he had noticed with disdain was favoured by Ser Thorne, Rast who was a rapist and had taken the black rather than be castrated. He was mean and seemed to side with Ser Thorne merely because the man was a bigger bully than him. Jon immediately took a dislike to Rast and was not willing to hold back with the other young man while sparring with him.
Rast swung wildly which Jon easily avoided and with one fluid motion smacked the dulled wooden blade of his training sword into Rast's arm. The man cried out in pain and dropped his own sword instantly and Jon pressed his wooden blade to the man's chest.
Above him though he was being observed but he was largely unaware of it due to his focus being on the lesson he was giving.
"The boy's skill is considerable." Lord Commander Jeor said with a slight grin, a very rare sight indeed. His companion too was smiling but it was more commonly seen.
"Of all my brother's sons, Jon is the best sword by far. But he is also good at running things and reasonable at strategy. Either as a ranger or a steward he would excel." Benjen said to his commander, proud of his nephew who was doing well at the Wall so far.
"Then whether he joins us or not he will do well here." Jeor said, wondering if the boy stayed had he found his eventual successor as Lord Commander? But before he dared hope that he asked Benjen.
"Any word of the situation beyond the Wall? The wildlings have been very quiet recently." Jeor said, knowing that even with the mine wildlings had tried to cross the Wall but that number had dropped considerably in recent weeks and months with no apparent reason.
"What I hear is both good for us and bad." Benjen said, his expression turning grim. "A power struggle has emerged between two factions of wildlings, a fight for complete rule. This of course means that we don't have to fight them but if one triumphs over the other then all of the wildlings will be unified against us." Benjen said, wondering how big a force could be left by the time they were finished and if the Watch even with all their two thousand men combined would be able to repel such an invasion. They could count on Ned and Robb for aid both men knew but it was still a worrying thought.
Not to mention so whispers that didn't make sense from either further North, that something was stirring. Neither knew what they could mean but the words sent a strange shiver down their spines.
The Ruby Ford, the Riverlands…
The column had again been forced to stop moving for a day as one of the wheels on the royal wheelhouse had broken yet again and until it was repaired or replaced they weren't going anywhere.
Joffrey was up far earlier than was normal for him and determined to improve his aim, was practising with the bow that Lady Meera had given him. He was focused like never before and was now with his complete attention on the target doing far better with the bow then when he had started.
Cersei meanwhile was applying the same face paint that she would now have to wear every day of her life to cover up the scar the imp had given her. Her fury burned in her eyes but the little bastard had been keeping himself busy for the whole rotten trip and so far she had yet to come up with a good enough way to make him and his horrid little spawn suffer enough for what they had done to her.
Desperate to get some enjoyment in the day she decided to seek out her eldest, her golden lion to ensure he remembered she was here for him and to make sure he remained on the right path. Jaime followed behind her but did not speak which was very off putting for her as he was usually so verbose and trying to cheer her up when she was in a dark place but since Winterfell he had been strangely quiet and avoided her when he wasn't required to guard her. She tried to catch her other half's eye but he avoided it and this only increased her frustration but the sight of Joffrey with a bow in his hand shooting arrows at a target completely distracted her from her current difficulties.
The Hound at least was keeping vigil over her son she thought with some relief, at least he was good for something even with his ugly face. But she was disturbed by the fact her son was trying to master the bow when such things were completely beneath him and stepped forward so she could get some sense into him and get him to spend more time in the wheelhouse with her.
"My sweet lion, come you must have something to eat." Cersei said trying to find something that she could use to tear him away from his strange new hobby. Joffrey did stop and turn to face her though as he spoke.
"I already had something mother, I am working on improving my aim." He said before turning back to his archery practice.
The dismissive way he spoke to her was like a blow to her face in how hard it struck, he hadn't even really looked at her at just a glance and then back to what he was doing. Cersei felt her anger rising again and was about to grab her son by the shoulder to force him to look at her when Jaime stepped forward and stopped her.
Whatever she might have thought about this was completely stopped when suddenly a chorus of angry yelling started.
Cersei, her brother, their son and the Hound all looked over to see a large party of angry and rough looking sellswords charge out of the forest nearby, yelling at the top of their lungs with weapons already in hand.
Time seemed to stop as the image was frozen in their minds, so unexpected that it completely stunned them.
The Hound and Jaime recovered first and stepped forward with their swords quickly drawn as a large group approached, the other men in their group quickly went for their weapons too but surprisingly it wasn't one of the knights or men at arms that drew first blood.
Joffrey, with a bow and arrow already in hand for his practice shot notched and fired straight at a man with rotten teeth and a club running straight at them. The hours of practice he had been doing proved themselves when his arrow struck the man straight in the neck, stopping him immediately as it buried itself in his throat.
Joffrey was astonished to see the man dying right in front of him but also very thrilled and with a smile coming to his face feeling an incredible rush of sensation, he notched another arrow and fired at the next man that came his way. The Hound and Jaime were astonished by this but had no time to think as they raised their swords and met the sellswords head on.
- x -
Nearby the early training schedule that the Starks and their men followed meant they were already up and awake when the attack came and the more dedicated members of the Kingsguard too were on their feet already.
Screams from the fleeing or panicked servants filled the air and some unfortunates were caught on the run by the sellswords that were attacking. Swords, axes and daggers swinging or stabbing into people while those that could continued to run or fight back. The Unsullied given the incredible discipline were among the first to rally and impaled some of the sellswords on their spears without a second thought.
It was complete chaos with no one in command of either the attackers or the defenders, some sellswords were actually starting to loot the camp as the attack was going on.
However the disorganisation of the attackers gave the defenders a brief window to get themselves together and begin to repel them.
Meera was in the middle of her early morning practice with Gungnir, since she was not training with anyone she had decided to use her actual spear for once and was very glad she did as thankfully she had a real weapon just when she needed. A vicious and rough looking bunch of six sellswords came charging straight at her, thinking no doubt that she would be an easy target as a woman. Something that Meera decided with cold anger to make them regret.
So without any hesitation she began to twirl her spear around and as one man with rotten teeth swung a heavy axe straight at her head, she stepped back out of the way and with the grace of a dancer thrust her spear clear into his chest, punching straight through his thin leather armour before pulling it out again and leaping away from the other five who were so taken aback by her actually killing one of them it allowed her to slash her spear against another man's throat, opening it up and blood started flowing fast from it before she then kicked another hard in the chest sending him flying back with several shattered ribs for his trouble.
The surviving three were now very afraid given that she had so easily defeated three of their fellows but Meera wasted no time before renewing her attack, she stabbed forward at one impaling him in the chest before dodging a dagger aimed at her ribs and replying with a punch to the man's throat. He gasped for breath which gave her the opportunity to block the last man's crudely made iron sword from slashing at her before she used the leverage given by the blade lock to force the sword away and kick him hard in the knee. The sound bone breaking was very loud as was the scream of pain he gave out but if it was mercy or not Meera stabbed him with the spear straight in the throat.
With the six either dead or unable to fight any more she saw a man was trying to tear the dress off one of the maids that tended to Princess Myrcella, the girl was no more than fourteen and Meera seeing red and almost foaming at the month with rage charged forward and leapt to kick him straight in the head, sending the man back a step before she stabbed him with her spear through the dick and twisted, tearing it roughly off before she kicked him in the head again with even more force, snapping his neck.
Turning she saw the girl was holding her torn dress up to preserve her modesty and looked at her with awe, she winked at the girl and seeing she was safe for the moment went to rejoin the fight.
She looked and saw her father was holding Ice with both hands and fighting against a pair of more skilled thugs with the King who was surprisingly doing well with his war hammer despite the fat he had. Meera wasn't really that concerned about her father as he had two men at arms to help him and the King with Ser Barristan close by so he was reasonably safe right now.
Arya however was the one that worried her, she looked around desperately for her younger sister but could not find her straight away in the chaos.
- x -
Arya was never one to blink when it came to a fight and thankfully she was practising with the short-sword and dagger her sister had given her so long ago and was now finally getting a chance to use them.
She remembered what she had been taught, she couldn't pierce through plate or even hardened leather with the weapons she had but she could stab at the weakened points and weaved around them, side stepping or ducking around them rather than face them head on.
Turning her small size and better speed into an advantage rather than a weakness.
Arya was surprised as she felt very little when she buried her dagger in a man's side while avoiding his sword, it was almost like she was removed from her emotions and felt nothing. It was strange experience but she didn't hesitate to think on this and slit the wounded man's throat with her short-sword.
The sight should have unsettled her as blood flowed from the wound she inflicted, but she felt nothing. Not pleasure at his death, not sadness or regret...nothing.
But that served her well as she did not leave herself vulnerable and instead was fast enough to react to a man coming at her with an axe, she back-rolled away and then once the axe was not going to try and cut her in two she smacked her short-sword into the man's wrist which caused him to howl in pain and drop the axe. Arya then jumped forward and stabbed at his unprotected stomach with her dagger and short sword, splitting the man's belly open with a vicious tug.
- x -
When the attack came Lanna had still be holding an awkward conversation with her cousin, Princess Myrcella although the mere thought of being cousin to a princess through a man she hated was still enough to unsettle her. Jory and Ser Aerys had immediate had their swords drawn and ready to intercept any man that came too close to the wheelhouse.
Lanna too was ready and she reached into her bundle and pulled out a pair of leather gloves, a bow and a quiver full of arrows. She slung the quiver on quickly and pulled the gloves onto her own hands before picking an arrow out of the quiver and notching it quickly. Seeing her lord's sister Arya was in the thick of the action and men were coming up behind her she quickly let the arrow fly, her hours of practice proving useful as the arrow went straight into the man's back. She didn't wait and quickly notched another and let it fly to finish off the man she had just hit.
Seeing her so calm and collected during this situation instantly made Myrcella who had considered herself quite unflappable even at her young age stare in awe. She like her siblings had never seen woman who fought before and the sight of her cousin and the Ladies Stark actually aiding their defenders in repelling the attack was incredible to her. Ser Aerys too she noticed was surprised but Ser Cassel only smiled proudly at the girl he called his daughter.
Myrcella could now well understand his pride she thought with humility.
Ned himself was angry and concerned for his daughters at the sudden attack and was very glad when the attack was broken off and those that were able fled into the forest. Robert, himself in a great rage shouted to some of the knights.
"GET AFTER THEM! DO NOT LET THEM ESCAPE!" Robert yelled and the men didn't hesitate and chased after the fleeing thugs, scared by the king's anger. Looking around he saw a number of men and women lay either dead or injured, some of his own who had never even left the North before only to die the moment they do. Ned was struggling to control the rage he was feeling beneath the surface at someone attacking his people and his daughters especially.
Meera he knew was unfortunately already acquainted with killing people, something that really unsettled and upset him in private. He had never wanted any of his daughters to have to take someone's life, hell he had never wanted his sons too either Ned thought with depression but since they were all going to be lords one day they would need to be ready to hand out justice when called on.
Arya though was the one that concerned him most.
Instead of showing shock and depression as Meera, Jon and Robb had done the first time they had killed...she just looked completely calm Ned noticed with great worry for her state of mind. She honestly seemed to feel nothing at the dead men lying at her feet, ones whose blood stained her hands.
He looked around and saw that many of the men and women in the combined party looking at both Meera and Arya with awe on their faces, impressed at the number of sellswords that lay dead around them, Meera especially. Her spear in hand Ned became worried as when the Queen emerged from behind her brother and the Hound and noticed that the Princess Myrcella was staring at not only Meera, but Arya and Lanna with awe and almost envy. Ned had honestly never seen such hatred and anger in the face of the queen, not even at her worst had Catelyn ever shown this intense hatred of someone and he was becoming incredibly worried given they were going straight into the lion's den.
- x -
Meera like her father was worried for Arya, she had noticed the lack of expression on her face at what she had done, granted it might take time for the true weight of the fact she had killed two men to sink in but Meera wasn't so sure. She knew that Arya was not devoid of compassion or unable to form connections to others as she had many friends at Winterfell and her relationships with her and the rest of their family. Perhaps she was merely able to deal with what she had done better than the rest of them Meera thought, still worried about her little sister all the same.
However Joffrey who had to his credit downed a few of the attackers by himself was staring down at the bodies of his kills with not satisfaction but a flushed state of exhilaration. Meera was a little unnerved by this and wondered if her empowering him was a big mistake.
Looking at what she knew of him Joffrey appeared to be what the other world might call a potential psychopath. He certainly she thought was incredibly overconfident to the point of outright arrogance, lacked empathy for others and had no real relationships with anyone, was incredibly irresponsible, had superficial charm, had almost tunnel vision when he became focused on something to the exclusion of all else and as she was seeing now a liking for violence and seemed to prefer it as a course of action...even became excited by it.
Meera honestly now was quite alarmed as she realised just what was likely to happen when Joffrey came to power if he was what she suspected about him was true. A king who was a psychopath and almost unlimited power to do what he wished...it was terrifying she thought with fear at all the damage he might do.
But she thought, that was only her initial opinion and she could be wrong. Her knowledge of psychiatry was rather academic with little real world experience and she would need to be sure before she decided just what to do. That of course meant spending more time with him which she knew might be a challenge but she needed to know before she took any drastic steps.
A laugh emerged from nowhere and they all turned to see King Robert was marvelling at the bodies downed by Joffrey and smiling at his eldest son, he walked over and slapped the boy on the back before saying in his boisterous way.
"Well done! You do have some Baratheon in you after all! You done me proud my boy!" Robert said with a big smile that Meera noticed Joffrey seemed surprised by this as if it was the first time this had happened and he then smiled too, not the cocky smirk he usually had but a seemingly genuine one which surprised her too.
"Thank you father!" Joffrey said before he gave his father a hug which Robert returned.
It was a strange sight Meera thought with confusion, the enormous Robert and the slim Joffrey despite the years between them. The black hair against the gold, the blue eyes and the green.
Almost like they had no connection at all.
A strange thought passed through her mind, shouldn't Joffrey have darker hair if he was Robert's son? What about Myrcella and Tommen? They were golden blondes too, exactly like their mother and no sign of the Baratheon blood anywhere. Genetics she knew from the other world could skip a generation or two before appearing again but all three seemed to be pure Lannisters, surely one of them would have slightly different eyes or hair? Joffrey was nearly of age now and surely some sign of his father should be visible Meera thought, scrutinising their faces looking for similar cheek bones or a nose or anything alike.
And she found...nothing.
A cold feeling came into her gut as she looked over to Myrcella and Tommen who was with Ser Jaime and Ser Oakheart and after a careful look at their features realised to her great concern that they too looked nothing like Robert.
Oh gods! She thought with dread as she considered just what that could mean, what it could do the country if she was right and it got out. That the king had no actual children, or at least any legitimate ones as she knew his habits so he probably did have some illegitimate ones out there somewhere. She thought that she could probably see if any could be found in Kings Landing if she could.
To see if her theory was correct before she decided just what she was going to do, because civil war was inevitable if she was right.
She was also worried about just who had attacked them, these were no ordinary bandits she thought looking down at the bodies of the dead. Far too well armed and equipped for that she thought with proper leather armour and even plate in some cases and weapons that had seen the hands of a professional blacksmith not to mention knowing exactly where they were. Looking down at the dead men she wished they had managed to capture one alive to find out just who had hired them to attack the royal family no less.
The Street of Silk, Kings Landing…
In his main brothel where he conducted much of his business Petyr Baelish was frowning, his mind was always plotting to gain more power and many of his carefully thought out schemes were falling into place. However there were he thought with annoyance, a few issues that he had not considered which was so unlike him he thought to himself.
The destruction of his beloved Cat's relationship to the Stark idiot was a great boon to him as it opened the way to he potentially finally being able to marry her but Hoster and Edmure Tully were being exceptionally stubborn and judgemental Petyr thought with anger rising. They judged him below them and despite Cat's undeserved bad reputation they didn't even consider him worthy of her.
That sent a strong wave of anger rolling through him and he began to reorder his plans to see about disposing of Lord Tully and his son although with the former he thought with a small vicious smirk that might be unnecessary as he was unlikely to survive his latest bout of ill health according to his spies. Edmure he thought with derision was a fool and easily led, disposing of him would be far too easy and would open the opportunity to gain Riverrun by wedding Cat if he manipulated the situation correctly.
He rested his head on arched hands as he pondered his next move, the war between the Lannisters and the Starks that he had been planning for so long was coming closer and closer with each passing day and his spies brought both welcome news and not so welcome news. The welcome news was that Stark was foolishly coming here where he could engineer his destruction not to mention that Cersei Lannister, the vicious bitch that she was getting herself more and more angry at the Starks. She would probably cause a war without him even having to lift a finger Petyr thought with sick amusement at potentially thousands of people dying on the altar of his own ambition.
The not so welcome news however was that the bastard prince Joffrey was seemingly smitten with Meera Stark and she had gained considerable influence over him. That Petyr thought would never do and knew he might need to cause some trouble to strike a wedge between them.
Hence why he had very carefully hired some sellswords through puppets of his to try and create some discord between them and even kill a few if the plan worked...unfortunately it hadn't he thought with annoyance although the reports he had received about the Stark girls ability to fight had surprised him...who would have thought that Stark would let Cat's girls learn to be warriors.
Fighting of course was not his area of expertise and he was unimpressed with that but the fact that they were capable and respected for their strength across the North opened some possibilities that they would be worth meeting at least...to see if they might be useful to him. While he knew the girls had caused Cat more than a few problems over the years it was worth seeing if they had any of their mother in them he thought, and sparing them or saving their lives might endear him to Cat. Her sons would have to go he thought with old hatred, the Stark name had to die with them but he might allow her daughters to live if they proved useful.
Dothraki Sea, Essos…
Daenerys was glad to have grown used to frequent and uncomfortable travels when she was younger as being in uncomfortable beds and tents did not prevent her from sleeping or getting to know her future people. Especially as she was now dressed in their fashion, rougher leather and animal furs, it was not necessarily comfortable at first but she had worn rougher garments when running from the Usurper with Viserys.
Speaking of her brother she was seeing more of his spoiled and arrogant attitude already as she was spending much of her time with Drogo and her new people, already he spent much of his own time drunk and complaining, not wanting to ride since he found it so uncomfortable and they had allowed him to ride in a cart which she knew from her studies was one of the greatest insults the Dothraki could give.
Speaking of her new people, they were rough as she had predicted but other than the strange Dothraki traditions they had they were as she had expected just people with all the same drives that you would find anywhere else in the world.
Just like the three handmaidens she now had, Daenerys thought with concern not knowing any of them and now they were supposed to be her closest friends she thought with discomfort.
Jhiqui and Irri were both Dothraki girls, a little older than her and were she admitted quite open with her and seemed genuine in their words and loyalty although she was unsure of her judgement on them yet as they could she reasoned be exceptionally good spies. She would continue to watch them and see if they were worthy of her trust.
Doreah, the third girl was the outlier Daenerys thought to herself. She had been bought from the Lys Pleasure houses for the sole purpose of being her handmaiden and while her sympathy was for the former slave as she would never bind anyone in chains she knew just how good the women from that place could be at wrapping people around their finger. She would probably be better at it than she was Daenerys thought with discomfort, they also knew how to look out for themselves.
Daenerys was not sure she would be able to trust Doreah as readily as would Irri or Jhiqui and wondered for a moment if she was being unduly paranoia as none of the three had given her reason to doubt them yet but had no intention of setting up some kind of ridiculous test as that she reasoned could easily turn them against her.
Deciding for the sake of her own mind to simply observe them silently for now she was disturbed by the arrival of Ser Jorah Mormont, the other recent addition to their retinue. A Northern Knight which she knew from her reading of the customs of Westeros was very unusual and the circumstances of his exile from his homeland did little to ease her mind, selling poachers caught on his land to slavers for coin to feed his former wife's expensive tastes. Men could be easily fooled by women she knew but to actually sell people into slavery for coin made her uneasy. Viserys' bold claim that he would allow such things if he came to the throne (which she knew that he never would) and would only create more enemies since slavery was illegal in Westeros and a major cultural taboo.
One of its few good points in her mind.
Still he was a very skilled knight from what she had seen so far in his practises with the Dothraki warriors, a good sword at her side and with experience in war. That she reasoned could be very useful if her plans were to succeed. The man in question gave her a warm smile before presenting her with a fair sized box that he had been carrying since they left Pentos. Although she already missed its lovely water gardens she was immediately distracted by the intricately decorated wooden chest and what it might contain.
"Khaleesi." Ser Jorah said with a polite bow before placing the box in front of her. "This is a gift from Master Illyrio which he was unable to give you before we left Pentos. A wedding gift from him." Ser Jorah told her before he carefully opened the box, when she saw the contents her breath was let out all at once in a loud gasp.
Three dragon eggs lay on a delicate purple cushion inside, all in different shades; one was almost completely black with another being green and the other white. She had never imagined she would ever actually see real dragon eggs and her hand slowly reached out to touch them, the ridged shell of the black egg first and when her fingers touched it she had imagined that they would be cold like stone but instead she felt a heat, small and almost unnoticeable but she was sure she had felt it.
She carefully placed her hands against the green and white eggs and felt them, hoping it might be true of them too and she was elated to feel that small faint heat in the other two eggs. There was still life inside those hard shells she thought with awe knowing it must have been centuries since they were laid and yet they had not yet turned to stone. She wished she knew how to hatch them, it would be breathtaking to see them come to life and let dragons roam this world once more.
However her elation was short lived as she knew full well that the secret to hatching dragons had been lost centuries ago and many had failed to rediscover the secret but she just knew the answer was out there...somewhere and she felt a determination to discover just what it was. Then she realised that Viserys would try and take them if he learned about them and a fierce protectiveness surged inside her, not willing to be parted from even one egg. She therefore closed the box quickly to Jorah's surprise.
Daenerys turned her thoughts reluctantly back to her new people though and had been quite surprised that the women did not really fight with their men, most were just as rowdy and prideful as them and rode just as well if not better sometimes she thought, thinking that perhaps a way to increase the power of the Khal had presented itself...one that could not only endear her to them but her husband also. While she doubted that many would want to learn the sword or spear she had heard of a northern fighting force that had been created in Westeros in recent years, mounted archers. The Dothraki had no archers and it would be an excellent weapon against other khals that might threaten them and other enemies that might come their way. Turning to Ser Jorah she asked him.
"In your homeland, there are mounted archers that your people use to patrol trade routes yes?" She asked and Ser Jorah was caught a little off-guard by her question but he nodded.
"Yes Khaleesi, one of the few good things that the Starks did for the North, although it was other men that did most of the work." He said, staying true to her brother's preferred view of events which annoyed her as she knew full well the Starks had done a great deal for their people and this man was merely bitter that they had enforced the law rather than look the other way for a lord. She frowned before explaining herself.
"I am hoping you might be able to help me, I want to empower the women of the Dothraki and train a new force of my own to ride into battle with my husband. Mounted archers just like you have in the North. That would be an enormous advantage over the other Khals and maybe allow Drogo to rise above them all, maybe to rule over all Dothraki." She said with a little flush, a smile appearing on her face at riding into battle with a group of warrior women behind her. No one would doubt her right to be a Khaleesi then she thought.
Ser Jorah looked at her confused for a moment while he took in what she had said and her bold intentions. He frowned a little before saying.
"Many may not be happy with this, men will feel threatened and the Dothraki have no archers. It would be a hard task to teach them from scratch and learn yourself. No offence intended." He added with deference which still annoyed her. She pressed down her sour mood at how he dismissed her so easily and told him with a cold voice.
"I have been trained by the women of the Bone Mountains for years Ser Jorah, I am quite capable of doing it by myself if I must. I had only hoped that you might be willing to aid me in this task." She said before getting up to go and speak to her husband about getting the materials required to make the bows and arrows. For her new people a composite bow might be best since it had a great deal of penetrating power and in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing very deadly. Made of animal horn, tendons and wood it would be relatively simple to find all the materials and hopefully teach the Dothraki to make them. Arrows would be simple enough and she considered that spears might be another good weapon to give the Dothraki given they likewise were fairly simple to make and would be good against other horses.
She walked out of the tent with the stunned Ser Jorah taking a moment before rushing to follow her.
"Forgive me Khaleesi, I had no idea that you were already a trained warrior woman. I would expect that of the people on my island but not of a true princess." Ser Jorah said with a slightly panicked and worried look in his eye. His face was a picture of pleading and wishing to excuse his error, it almost made her smile but instead she frowned and said calmly.
"Then it would serve you well to never make assumptions about someone Ser Jorah. I have known for many years that my brother's dreams are nothing more than that, dreams. No one in Westeros is eager for House Targaryen to return and so I realised that I would need to make my own way in the world someday. I learnt as many skills as I could to that end and I hope you will remember that in future." She told him firmly, her manner and voice oddly powerful for a girl of her age and her posture was strong, Jorah was in awe of her despite the age gap between them she had such a presence about her that he was helpless but to listen. Knowing he had made a mistake he nodded and said.
"I am sorry Khaleesi, I will not make such a mistake again. I will gladly help you and I have actually trained with the Northern rangers as they are sometimes known so I know some of their techniques. I am of course willing to help you in setting up your mounted archers." Jorah said and she gave him a stare to make sure he was genuine before smiling slightly and saying.
"Good, when I have convinced Drogo I hope you will help me come up with a training schedule. In the meantime my brother is not to know about the dragon eggs. At best he would steal them from me to try and sell them, to pay for an army or whores I don't know which but I would lose them for certain. So he is not to know about them and if he does discover their existence he is not to touch them." She said giving her orders firmly to ensure they were understood, he looked surprised and nodded despite his confusion at why she would need to keep them from her own brother.
Daenerys nodded, glad that had been established before leaving the tent to see Drogo, sighing slightly as she considered just how much of a task she had set herself as she was not bothering with Westeros, that was the past for House Targaryen. She would build her own empire and ensure that she would be remembered for herself.
Not as her brother's sister.
Not as a beggar princess.
But for herself, a builder and a powerful woman.
Well there we have it, I hope you all enjoyed the chapter and let me know what you thought by leaving a review.
Next Chapter – The Starks arrive in Kings Landing, Daenerys begins her plans in earnest and all over Westeros people begin to plot.