Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.
Hi again, I hope you are all well and I am happy to see so many of you have kept up with this story, believe me I am grateful for all the support you guys give. I can't promise all chapters will be this long but I hope to maintain quality though.
I have reached a crossroads with one of the pairings in the story and will be putting up a poll to see what you guys think, Meera's pairing is now decided but this one is to do with Jon.
Review Responses from the last chapter…
Klee's Humpty Dumpty – Oh don't worry, Meera is not going to end up with Joffrey. She does realise however that if the Lannisters win which to be honest given who they have leading them is a possibility it would be best to not only have a competent king on the throne but one that she is on good terms with.
KarlosRollos – I am glad you like it, I know the Norse Mythology is a bit off putting for some but it seemed to go well with the things I wanted to do with this story.
Guest – I know it is dangerous to make Joffrey better at being a king but let's be honest he is still Joffrey underneath and that will show in the future some times. As for Dany I always felt the show didn't really know what to do with her half the time and was often a victim/benefactor of circumstances. I really wanted to give her the attitude that will make her a real queen in her own right. Will she get dragons? You shall see.
Dragonfan91 – Thank you! I really hope to keep doing the story justice and believe me when I say Dany is just getting started. As for Meera and Tywin, cannot say whether that will happen or not yet.
On with the story…
Chapter 14 – Capital Arrival
Kings Landing, the Crownlands…
The sight of Kings Landing was amazing to most of the Northerners who had never before seen such an enormous mass of buildings clustered together. White Harbour, the only city in the North had not been seen by most of them and even those that had were awestruck as Kings Landing was many times bigger and far more impressive. The heat too as most of them had never experienced such a warm day in their entire lives, poor Arya was sweating a little as did the men in their armour as Northern clothes and armour were designed for warmth and protection so in the heat of Kings Landing it was far too hot for them.
Meera and Ned however were distinctly unimpressed by the city and both had experienced hotter climates before, Ned was troubled he knew the reputation of the city and was haunted by all that had happened here in the last war. Not only had this been the place were his father and elder brother had been cruelly burned and strangled to death by the Mad King but also were he had seen the aftermath of the sacking carried out by Tywin Lannister...the sights he had seen that day still intruded on his dreams and he had never trusted the Lannisters since. It had nearly broken his friendship with Robert too when the then new king had actually approved of Tywin's actions.
Meera meanwhile was unhappy to finally reach the city as well, not just for the events that had happened here before she was even born but the moment the smell hit her nose she grimaced. Lack of proper sewage disposal she realised with disgust, knowing that public health obviously was a concept that these people had never heard of. She knew how London and many cities in the other world had suffered similar problems which had taken centuries to fix.
"Oh what is that?" Arya asked her from their horses as she to noticed the smell and Meera grimacing a little explained to her sister.
"No proper way to get rid of all the waste the city makes, so it builds up and creates the smell. It really needs to be knocked down and rebuild with a system to take it all away but no one in centuries has ever tried to do it."
"Could you?" Arya asked, hoping that she could because if they were going to stay here for a long time how in the world were they going to cope with that smell? Meera just smiled at her sister. She could indeed create a decent design for a sewer system but getting that introduced and built was going to take far longer and need more money than any of them could spare. Starks saved their gold, they paid taxes and maintained their buildings or expanded as needed but she doubted the royal court that much money just laying around.
Seeing the ramshackle and unstable buildings almost brought a pang to her heart as she was reminded in some way of the Burrow, the home of the Weasleys. She became lost in the memories of her times with them as Harry and dearly wished for a moment that she had Ron and his family with her now. Despite not having all her memories back yet she could only hope with the dark times that they had come through okay. She hoped dearly, they had been good people.
But whereas the Burrow had been a single building held up with magic, half of the buildings she saw as they rode through the city looked ready to topple over any moment. It was almost frightening how little concern the people had about this as they simply walked around them with no care at all. Some she noticed with additional worry had cracks in the walls as different levels seemed to have been added on top since it was originally built and the existing structure could barely manage the stress of the extra weight on top. She knew a lot of buildings back in the other world had suffered terrible and sometimes fatal collapses with many injured or killed due to poor construction or no safety standards, the former was so common here it was terrifying and the latter simply did not exist.
Meera knew that London had only barely started getting those things in the aftermath of the Great Fire and then it had still taken centuries to finally get decent building practices in place and that was just in Britain, some countries even by the late twentieth century still had not caught up. She sighed, wondering how long it could take for Westeros to reach that level and didn't like the answers she came up with.
The sight of the Red Keep was almost a relief when it finally came into sight, the castle she admitted was easily the best build building in all the city with the possible exception of the Great Sept of Baelor which she could just glimpse the top of through the alleys and side streets that lined the road. One of the largest castles in Westeros it was she admitted reluctantly, an imposing structure. Built by Maegor the Cruel she remembered to intimidate his vassals and he had then killed all those involved in its construction so he alone knew its secrets, what an arsehole she thought with derision, the Targaryens had really produced their share of lunatics over the centuries she thought with dismay but what do you expect when they keep marrying their own often very close relatives.
Riding through the impressive gatehouse she was glad to dismount from her horse as was Arya after hours of riding. Father too groaned slightly with relief as his feet touched the cobbled yard. Looking around Meera could see no expense had been spared on the castle she thought but swallowed her first instinct to scoff as she had been raised in the relative luxury of Winterfell, what right did she have to be hypocritical she thought with a sense of guilt.
Nearby the Royal Family too dismounted from their horses or wheelhouse, the King wasted no time in leaving to find some whores, needing relief or so he loudly claimed after the long ride. Meera didn't waste her time feeling disgusted at his constant disregard for how he appeared or the way he disrespected others...it was a waste of time and she wondered if the stories of her aunt actually running off with Rhaegar to escape marriage to Robert were true. Tales she had heard seemed to make it likely since his behaviour now was apparently not that different to when he was a young man. Just as she considering that Prince Joffrey came over and she made herself smile.
"What do you think of my home Lady Meera? The centre of all power in Westeros?" Joffrey asked her and seeing that Arya who was unimpressed by the enormous castle would probably say as much spoke first to avoid an insult being dealt.
"It is most impressive your grace." Meera said managing to school her features into an expression that resembled awe. It made her want to gag at kissing this much arse but she would need to mind her tongue here to avoid making more enemies. "Little wonder the castle has never been breached or taken."
Joffrey seemed to enjoy that while Arya looked like she wanted to be sick at it all. Meera would speak to her sister later to try and get her to understand just how dangerous this place was.
They had barely a chance to get their bearings though when a servant came over to their father and the Prince, bowing deeply before telling them.
"Your Grace, Lord Stark. Welcome to the Red Keep, Grand Maester Pycelle has called an important meeting of the Small Council. The honour of your presence has been requested."
Lord Stark turned to Vayon Poole and Jory Cassel who had yet to dismount from their horses and told them to get them all settled in the Tower of the Hand where they would be staying for the foreseeable future. Meera turned to Joffrey and asked him.
"Will you attend the meeting? After all as the Crown Prince it is best that you keep informed of the events in the kingdoms you will one day rule." Meera asked and he looked confused for a moment which told her all she needed to know. He had never been to a meeting of the Small Council and was unlikely to unless pushed but her words seemed motivate him and he responded.
"Yes I will attend, it is indeed in my interest to know what my subjects are doing." Joffrey said, trying to look more certain which only highlighted his lack of knowledge and hidden insecurities.
"If you would like to change into something more appropriate." The servant said with a sideways look at the simple leather clothes father was wearing with a similar look in her direction, even more so at the similar if more elaborately decorated leather outfit Meera was wearing, more so since it had breeches covering her legs rather than a skirt.
Both Meera and her father were not impressed and Meera vowed to remember him and make him pay for that later whereas father merely removed his gloves. Getting the message the servant turned and led them into the Red Keep beyond. Father looked around and said to her with a long suffering sigh.
"Meera it might be better if you see to your sister and get her settled, this is the south and the Small Council are not used to you yet." He warned her while Joffrey looked confused at this which made Meera frown before looking her father dead in the eye and telling him.
"Then they had best get used to me fast, if they can't deal with a woman in breeches and a spear on her back then they won't be able to deal with much of anything at all." She said bluntly and father just shook his head in exasperation while Joffrey started smirking. The servant who was leading them looked scandalized and she only renewed her promise to make him pay for his snobbishness later.
"Come on then, we had best be at the meeting." Father said and passed gold cloaks as they made their way forward.
On their way to the Small Council Chamber they first went through the throne room, it was Meera admitted quite impressive. Easily as large as the great hall in Hogwarts with stained glass windows, decorated marble floors, pillars with intricate carvings going all the way to the ceiling and most importantly, the Iron Throne at the end of the hall on a raised plinth. On the steps leading the Iron Throne sat Jaime Lannister who had been rather quiet since leaving Winterfell, hardly surprising Meera thought with disdain after what they had learned about his role in what happened to Lanna's mother.
Their footsteps echoed loudly in the empty hall, father Meera noticed was looking very uncomfortable in this room and she could not blame him. A cold feeling ran up her spine as she considered just all the things that had gone on in this room throughout history, the centre of the room particularly haunted her as she remembered just how her grandfather and uncle in this life had been brutally killed in this very hall. She tried her best to put these feelings and thoughts aside as Ser Jaime started talking.
"Thank goodness your here Lord Stark." Ser Jaime said with disinterest, taking off his gloves. "About time we had some stern northern leadership." Ser Jaime added as he stood up and walked to the centre of the room, standing a short distance apart. The air between them was very tense and Meera and Joffrey stood almost forgotten behind them, wondering just what was going to happen.
"Glad to see you're protecting the throne." Father said with suspicion at the Lannister knight. Their past history hanging in the air.
"Sturdy old thing. How many kings' asses have polished it I wonder? And what's the line? The king shits and the hand wipes?" Jaime said with a mocking smirk at father, Meera would have said something, angry at the insult but her father cast a look down at the armour Ser Jaime was wearing and said with a suspicious look.
"Handsome armour. Not a scratch on it." Father said which almost made Meera smirk as she realised just where her father was going with this.
"I know." Ser Jaime said with a smirk, not realising the trap he was walking into. "People have been swinging at me for years but they always seem to miss."
"You've chosen your opponents wisely then." Father said, his dismissal of Jaime's so called prowess as hard to the other man as a sword blow. Jaime not seeming to get the insult just said or if he did just ignored it.
"I have a knack for it." Jaime said before trying to turn the tables on Lord Stark. "Must be strange for you. I'm standing right where it happened." Ser Jaime said looking down at the floor briefly before looking back up. "He was very brave your brother...your father too. They didn't deserve to die like that...nobody deserves to die like that." Jaime said offhand, not really caring and sounding almost mocking as he said it.
"But unlike others in this hall that day you did something about it...much too late but I suppose that was better late than never Ser Lannister." Meera said knowing just where this conversation was going and stepping forward to stop any more hate growing between her father and Ser Jaime, they didn't need more enemies right now. Jaime looked surprised at her interruption almost like he had forgotten that she and Joffrey were here. "To be truthful the Lannisters and the Starks have more royal blood in their bodies than the Targaryens ever did. Unlike every other family in Westeros our two houses ruled our own lands for thousands of years whereas they ruled for only for three centuries and that was only because of the overgrown lizards whose skulls used to decorate this hall." Meera said looking around and wondered briefly if the dragon skeletons were still around here somewhere but continued while she had everyone's attention.
"And in that time they have squandered their only true advantage, but still ruled like they were all powerful. So careless and short-sighted they had no idea that their existence hung on a blade's edge...till it was too late." Meera continued as her audience gave her their complete attention. "They forgot they were not gods...not dragons...just men and men die." She said knowing that despite all the good some Targaryen kings had done, most had been either tolerable or terrible. Meera then spoke personally to Ser Jaime.
"The real reason that my family dislikes you Ser Lannister is merely because you deprived us of our revenge." Meera told Ser Jaime who looked on with confusion. "When we Starks are wronged, we take our revenge seriously. Perhaps now we are known for honour but back in the times of the Winter Kings we were known for something else...ensuring justice was done. After all we wiped out our own cadet branch, the Greystarks when they betrayed us and only allowed the Boltons to live since we needed them. We wanted the Mad King dead but by our hand...you stole that from us and whatever your reason that was all that mattered. It was never a personal insult Ser Lannister, but it is a slight we could never avenge on our own." Meera said and then without further conversation walked out of the hall with her father and Joffrey stunned following her.
Ser Jaime was left behind, not sure if she was insulting him or not but understanding the Starks a little better he supposed, still thinking them a right bunch of bastards.
- x -
Soon after leaving the throne room they finally arrived at the Small Council Chamber, the door was opened to reveal a chamber with a large and detail tapestry on the wall and many of the same decoration as the throne room. A table was placed in the centre with six chairs around it and around that table were four men, a bald and effeminate man came forward and shook Lord Stark's hand.
"Lord Varys." Lord Stark greeted him as he, his daughter and the Prince entered the room. Lord Varys nodded politely before bowing to the Crown Prince.
"I was grievously troubled by your troubles on the road, the sellswords have at least been dealt with." Varys said and Lord Stark nodded with sadness at those lost.
"Aye they were."
Rather rudely Lord Stark then went to another man at the table with an immaculate beard and clothes that spoke of ridiculous attention to detail and hours spent in front of the mirror, one that he knew apparently far better than Lord Varys, smiling as he walked forward and gave the man a hug.
"Renly, you're looking well." Lord Stark said warmly, Renly too was friendly and said back.
"And you are looking tired from the road, I told them this meeting could wait another day but." Renly said before being interrupted by another man standing close by.
"But we have a kingdom to look after." The other man said with a friendly smile and apparently relaxed stance but Meera when she looked at him became uneasy, something about the way his smile didn't fully reach his eyes or the way he held himself just seemed off to her. The man while she studied him continued to speak. "I had hoped to meet you for some time Lord Stark. I wondered if your former wife Lady Catelyn mentioned me?" The man asked and the mention of Catelyn put both Meera and her father on edge given their own rather bad feelings towards her but before her father could say whatever he might say she jumped in.
"She did indeed Lord Baelish, she would often tell us of her girlhood days spent with yourself and her siblings at Riverrun and years later how you had risen so high to the Small Council." Meera said with a polite smile, not trusting any of her mother's friends on principal. Baelish liked that she noticed with concern, wondering just what his feelings towards her mother were especially as he had once challenged her late Uncle Brandon to a duel for her hand, one that had ended up with a vicious scar or so she was told from naval to collar bone.
"My lords this is my daughter the Lady Meera Stark." Father introduced her and she did her little curtsey which in breeches looked a little strange but curiosity appeared in all their eyes.
"It is an honour to meet you my lady. Any daughter of Catelyn is a friend of mine." Baelish said with a smirk but the fact he seemed to be buttering her up like this given that everyone knew, how poorly she and her mother had gotten on. She knew quickly he was not to be trusted but smiled and gave him a polite bow.
While she had been talking to Baelish though her father had been conversing with the Grandmaester Pycelle and while she missed what had been said he now had the pin of the Hand on his tunic.
"So shall we get started?" Baelish asked and all the members of the Small Council took their seats while Ned and Meera stood in confusion.
"Should we not wait for the king?" Ned asked and Renly just said with resignation.
"Winter might be coming but the same cannot be said for my brother."
"His grace has many cares." Varys quickly added to Lord Stark. "He entrusts some small matters to us so we might lighten the load."
"We are the lords of small matters here." Baelish said with a mocking voice that seemed to make light of the of the situation while degrading it at the same time. Impressive Lord Baelish Meera thought.
"Then it is just as well his grace the Crown Prince is here. He can sit in his father's stead and see that the realm he is to one day rule is run well by your good selves." Meera said turning to Joffrey and the Hound who had been standing at the door, watching them all before he walked in, trying his best to look imposing which unfortunately he didn't quite manage to carry off but still they all stood for the Prince as he walked in. Meera wondered if in all his years here if he had ever seen the room as he seemed to be studying it as he walked in.
"Indeed Lady Meera, fetch her a chair. She should have one to see just how the realm is governed." Joffrey commanded and a servant who had been waiting quietly at the side moved quickly at the prince's command although all the men around the table looked astonished but none dared say anything. Meera herself had been quite content to stand but smiled and Joffrey and told him.
"Your invitation to sit on this meeting is most appreciated and welcome Prince Joffrey." She said and when a chair was seemingly conjured up from nowhere for her between her father and Joffrey she waited for Joffrey to sit in the chair reserved for the king. He sat down and seemed to find the chair uncomfortable but didn't ask for a cushion or anything.
"So, what is today's business?" Prince Joffrey asked with an expectant look at the Small Council. Renly passed a scroll to Lord Stark while telling them.
"My brother instructs us to stage a tourney in honour of Lord Stark's appointment as Hand of the King." Renly told them and looked very uncomfortable at the idea which Meera noticed as she discreetly looked around the table was shared with the other members of the Small Council.
"How much?" Baelish asked nervously. Father read the scroll.
"Forty Thousand Gold Dragons to the Champion, twenty thousand to the runner up. Twenty thousand to the winning archer." Father told them and the sheer amount honestly staggered Meera who thought such amounts were ridiculous even for a royal tourney. And that she realised was just the prize money, that did not cover the food that would needed for feasts, entertainers needed to be hired, stands and a ring erected. That Meera realised with worry would almost double the expense if not more.
Pycelle nervously looked over to Baelish to ask.
"Can the treasury bear such an expense?"
Baelish was very uncomfortable at the idea of such a large bill to pay and told them with regret that appeared completely genuine.
"I'll have to borrow it, the Lannisters will accommodate. We owe Lord Tywin three million dragons already what's another eighty thousand?" Baelish said, seemingly not bothered with such a large sum. Meera, Joffrey and Lord Stark however were appalled and Lord Stark asked Baelish with disbelief.
"Are you telling me the crown is three million in debt?"
"I' am telling you the crown is four and a half million in debt." Baelish said which made the situation worse. "If not for the North's booming prosperity it would likely be closer to six million."
"HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN YOU MISERABLE CUNT!?" Joffrey said suddenly, leaping up from his seat, his eyes blazing with rage that was targetted straight at Lord Baelish who was cool personified and only raised an eyebrow at the Prince's outburst. "MY KINGDOM IS IN SO MUCH DEBT!"
"Then we must find a solution for that problem your grace." Meera said and placed a hand on Joffrey's, she gently squeezed it. That seemed to make him stop and turn to face her were she fixed him with a firm stare that seemed to start calming him down. He slowly sat back in his seat and the rest of Small Council looked on with curiosity never having seen someone calm Joffrey down so quickly and bring him under control before. Joffrey once he had gotten a hold of himself again asked her.
"What you suggest Lady Stark? It is an enormous sum." He asked and she smiled a little which seemed to ease the tension in him.
"The debt is mostly held by your own grandfather your grace so I doubt he would endanger your rule. So we must clear the debts held by those that are not potentially loyal to you but that can be sorted another day. First we must ensure this tourney happens as there are three places on the Kingsguard that must be filled and it is the king's command that we must obey." She said with a firm look to her father who was about to object to the tourney given how expensive it was.
"So we must therefore find ways to lower the costs, instead of such large sums instead we offer prizes to be won and a smaller sum and for those that perform well a potential place on the Kingsguard. There are three empty places that must be filled and many knights will be eager to take them especially hedge knights." Meera said and the Small Council around her looked on with curiosity.
"What sort of 'prizes' did you have in mind Lady Stark?" Lord Varys asked with a careful look at her. He was studying her Meera realised but resolved to continue on.
"House Stark could provide some barrels of our best whisky and other alcohol for the winners and runner up. Also Lord Baelish, I am aware your business interests lie along a particular...avenue?" Meera said turning to Lord Baelish who nodded with a bemused look given how she had stepped around the fact that he was what they would call on Earth a...pimp? The master of whores Meera thought with some mocking but got to the point. "If you could be persuaded to allow the winner a night or so free with your best that too could be offered as a prize? After all with the tourney you stand to make a great deal of profit from all the knights coming to the city and many men will need a way to relieve their stress."
Baelish looked astonished for a moment that she would make such a suggestion as did her father and Joffrey but then started smirking again and told her.
"I think I can allow that. The best service for one night in exchange for the coin the tourney brings. Did you have any other thoughts on potential prizes Lady Stark?" He asked her and she smiled before saying.
"A few, may I ask though Grandmaester Pycelle." She said turning to the old man sitting to her right who looked confused at what she would ask of him when she honestly in his opinion should not be in this august chamber. "Are the dragon bones that used to decorate the Throne Room still around?"
"They are my lady, most where moved to the castle's cellars." He said not sure what she was going to suggest next but she smiled and told them all.
"Then we can afford to render some down to make a bow for the winner of the archery. There are resources all around us we merely need to find and use them. Some more of the cost can be stripped away by requiring those that compete to pay a fee for entry or provide a possession of value. House Stark can provide a small loan to cover any other expenses. That will allow us to prevent the debt growing too much larger and give the knights something more to fight for. If they have so much more to gain and to lose." She finished before looking around the room.
The Small Council, Joffrey and her father were all looking at her stunned at all her ideas but Joffrey smirked before saying.
"This will be the greatest tourney seen in decades at least! Let us all get started with all speed." He demanded and the lords around the table all bent to the will of the Crown Prince.
Meera and her father meanwhile were still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that the realm was in so much debt...it honestly was so incredible they could hardly believe it. Meera meanwhile was beginning to suspect given how large the debt had risen too that Baelish may well be doing it on purpose for some reason and she had thought it best that House Stark lend them the rest of the coin because she didn't want the Lannisters gaining any more power than they already had or for the situation to get any worse. What Baelish might want she didn't know yet but she would need to find out and soon, meanwhile though she thought with tired resignation she had to see the construction of Joffrey's new crossbow and archery range.
- x -
Baelish meanwhile as he left the room to go and see to arranging this new tourney. It was he thought with mirth going to be good for him as it got him a lot of coin and his whores were going to be very busy. Yes he would have to give away a night for some tourney winner for free which would annoy him any other time but he could afford it and it was good for his image in serving the realm.
He was honestly shocked at how different and yet alike Meera Stark was to her mother, it was so strange he thought with mirth. The mother and daughter certainly shared the tendency to not be shy with their opinions but she was far more creative than Cat had ever been and much more aware of herself and her surroundings. Not to mention he would have never expected to see a daughter of Catelyn Tully wearing leather breeches and carrying a spear on her back not to mention a dagger at her waist.
He knew she was good with a spear, his spies had told him that but what really struck him was how well she managed Joffrey. The vicious bastard was a dangerous unstable person at the best of times Baelish thought but she was able to not only calm him but bring him under control very quickly.
She had a skill for manipulating people he thought carefully.
She could he realise ruin his plans but only time would tell if the girl had it in her to play the game or not. Her sister too he thought and then turned his attention to the Lannister girl they had brought with them. Honestly the Imp really did know how to fuck Baelish thought with amusement, mostly himself but the girl...Lanna he knew she was named could be a useful piece if he was able to find out how best to use her.
As for Stark himself, Baelish thought with disgust at how the man had treated Cat, he would pay for that soon enough.
The Wall, the North…
The cold biting winds were harder today, Jon was sure as she pulled his furs closer. Ghost at his side was perfectly happy with the cold and trotted along at his side.
He was settling in a little better now that he was here longer but all the same he was counting the days till he could leave in the back of his own mind. It was something that shamed him, so much so that he couldn't bring himself to talk about it but the day he could leave and return to Winterfell to see the rest of his family again would be a day that he was longing for.
His skill at arms had impressed Lord Commander Mormont though, Jon thought with pride. The old man had entrusted him with teaching new recruits swordsmanship alongside the increasingly sour Ser Thorne who Jon was gaining more and more of a dislike for. The man seemed to enjoy hurting others to make them as miserable as he was and taught them very little.
Jon however had a different approach, he wanted to teach...not torment. He would carefully show them how to wield a sword or shoot with a bow and correct them as they went if mistakes were made. The two different styles were as opposite from each other as night and day but the results would Jon dearly hoped speak for themselves.
Jon was standing with his own group of recruits leading them through some basic defensive moves when a new lad came into the yard, he was he admitted large around the middle and his face was slightly bearded like him. Dark haired but pale skinned, Jon watched him as he was sent to join Thorne's group and saw Rask, one of Thorne's thugs start hitting him.
However it was rather pathetic as rather than hit back, try to defend himself or even run away the large young man just stood there and cowered as he was hit crying out in fear.
"GET UP YOU PATHETIC PIECE OF SHIT!" Thorne said and actually kicked the huddled young man hard in the ribs. Jon would have winced as it was sure to hurt but decided instead to walk over and do something about it.
Just as Thorne was going to kick the lad again Jon came over and kicked Thorne's arse hard, sending the surprised face down into the dirt and then kicked him while he was down in the kick albeit more gently than Thorne had done to the lad. Ghost meanwhile growled menacingly at the thugs.
"Not so nice when you're not the one doing the kicking is it." Jon taunted Thorne who was still smarting from the blows while his thug recruits looked on with fear of Jon as he had dared stand up to their leader. Jon turned to the lad who was looking up surprised and offered him a hand.
"Perhaps you need to be in a different group." Jon offered and the lad looked distrustful for a moment before accepting the hand.
"Ser, thank you but I don't think I will be of much help to you. I'm a coward...I mean you saw me back there, I'm too scared to fight." The lad told him and his eyes were scared Jon recognised but somehow Jon didn't think that deep down the lad was a coward. Something about the lad told him that he thought he was a coward and maybe he was scared but underneath that there was courage that wanted to be free.
"Just because you can't fight doesn't mean you can't serve." Jon told him with a kind smile that the lad who was around his own age seemed surprised by. "You can be a steward or assist Maester Aemon, are those more to your liking?" Jon asked him.
"Oh yes! I wanted to study at the Citadel but my father..." The lad started saying before trailing off, showing it was clearly not a pleasant subject with him but he seemed to recover enough to finish. "He thinks it is a weak profession, I was his worse nightmare...a coward for a son. So he gave me a choice of joining the Watch or have an 'accident' while hunting."
Jon was appalled, his own father had never stopped him or his siblings from forging their own path especially his sisters who rebelled against just about every social norm for women Jon thought with a smirk coming to his face at the memory of all they had done.
"What is your name?" Jon asked, thinking this lad had probably had few friends in his life but he would need them here. The lad seemed to think a moment before answering, as if thinking it wise to answer but eventually he did.
"Samwell, Samwell Tarly."
The son of Randyll Tarly! Jon thought and was shocked, Lord Tarly was famous as a great military leader and the only man to have ever beaten the King on the battlefield. A greatly respected warrior and a powerful lord of the Reach. Jon was disgusted though if that was the why he treated his own son.
"Then Samwell Tarly, I am Jon Snow and I think we should go and see Maester Aemon to see if he has a use for you." Jon said with a smile and put a comforting hand on Samwell's shoulder before leading him away to find the ancient maester.
Nearby horses were being saddled by Benjen Stark, he and a party of men were preparing for a ranging beyond the Wall to see if these words of the Wildlings joining together were true. Benjen was the first ranger so it was only right that he lead it but he failed to noticed as did the others that one of the men, a man that none of them would ever recall having joined the Watch in the first place if they had thought about it. He wore the right clothes and looked as cold bitten as the rest of them but when none of them were looking, his eyes flashed an ethereal green for a moment.
Winterfell, the North…
Robb Stark was in trouble.
He honestly was in perhaps the most trouble he had ever been in for the entire span of his life so far.
What had he done you might ask?
Had he allowed the North to be invaded? No.
Had he failed to do his duties as acting Lord Winterfell while his father was away? No.
Had he failed to keep an eye on his two younger brothers? No.
So what had he done?
Got drunk and slept with his future wife before they were married. He looked down and the shining blonde hair of Wylla tickled his chin as they lay there, completely naked and while she slept and he had perhaps the worst hangover he had ever imagined he was confronted with the reality that he had managed to dishonour his future wife before they were even married.
Father and Meera are going to kill me, Robb thought with a near panic. How he thought putting his free arm on his head in frustration had he managed to get so full of drink he had abandoned all sense of propriety and integrity he had. He thought in frustration.
He felt Wylla stir and the movement of her body against his was so erotic that he honestly he struggled against the urge to press them closer together, the feel of her body against him was a feeling he couldn't even begin to describe and he was ashamed to feel that way...especially after he had dishonoured her and since she had not taken the potion to prevent her getting pregnant she might well be.
They needed to wed, now he thought desperately before anyone suspected something.
Wylla seemed to respond to his thoughts somehow and started waking up, she looked around confused about where she was before coming back to her senses.
"Well, best get married now." She said with a tired resignation realising just what the two of them had gotten up to last night and glad that at least they were both of age.
"Agreed." Robb said with a sigh, knowing he was going to have wed with most of his family away. Not having his father, Meera, Jon or Arya here bothered him a lot but there was little he could do about it given where they all were and what they were doing right now.
- x -
Sea Dragon, the North…
Sansa loved her homeland, many south people would think it a barren land but she knew far better, the thick forests and chilling lands were abundant with life that was strong to survive this place and nature itself at its harshest. Just the thought of it made her smile with pride. Lady trotted alongside her horse and she smiled down at her direwolf who it seemed was quite happy to ride with her around the North.
Sea Dragon, the newest northern castle was a welcome sight though as they finally came into view. The stone castle was modest in its size and surrounded by woods and bogs and the like but it was on firm enough ground to stand strong. It also from its highest tower gave good views of the area which would be exceptionally useful if trouble ever came to their shores again. Nearby a small port town could be seen, with ships moored close together and men going out to fish.
Sansa and her future husband husband Harrion Karstark rode with a small group of their guards and Mira Forrester to see Asher and Gwyn, neither had been to visit Winterfell since their rather rushed wedding and given things were relatively quiet Sansa to build tighter bonds with all the Northern houses had gone with her party to visit each one in turn. They had been warmly received in most of the places they had been too and were hoping they would be here too.
The castle walls had the banners of the House Sea Dragon, a single white circular shield with a green sea dragon rising out of the blue sea. It was strange to see but as the newest house in the North they had chosen a distinctive banner for themselves Sansa thought with amusement. It was also best not to copy either House Forrester or House Whitehill to avoid any sign of favouritism that could reignite the feud. At her side Harrion was marvelling at the strength of the castle and naval power it commanded while Mira was smirking a little, glad to see her brother had risen so high.
Riding through the gates the small party was greeted by Lord Asher and Lady Gwyn who were both smiling and met them warmly.
"Lady Stark, Lord Karstark. Sister." Asher said with joy as they dismounted from their horses and Gwyn came over to greet Sansa, exchanging a hug with Sansa and Mira who were surprised but neither had ever seen Gwyn so happy. Asher shook Harrion's hand and then dutifully kissed Sansa's hand before pulling his younger sister in a hug. Mira was eager to hug back as she had missed her brother and was happy to see him again. Then when they announced that Gwyn was pregnant, a stunned silence was broken by an excited cry as Mira ran forward and hugged both her brother and goodsister.
They were soon warming their weary bodies in the hall in front of a fire enjoying some tea to relax when Asher informed them.
"Lord Robb has declared his wedding to Lady Manderly will happen within a moon's turn, we received the letter this morning." Asher told them and handed them the letter, surprising them since Robb and Wylla were not supposed to get married for another year. Sansa in particular was caught off guard as she wondered what could have happened in her absence that would have brought about such a rush and then realised what had likely happened and sighed with annoyance. Her companions turned to her and she shook her head.
"Since it appears my brother has emulated Asher and Gwyn's example I suppose we should return to Winterfell soon. Will you both be at the wedding?" Sansa asked wishing they had more time but Asher and Gwyn who looked shocked and then amused along with Harrion and Mira while Sansa intended to knock some sense into her brother the next time she saw him.
Dragonstone, the Narrow Sea…
Stannis was not a patient man, he was stern and hard having no tolerance for fools or japes.
His unbending attitude had been compared to him being iron as it like him would break before it bent. He was offended by that comparison but then it was one of the many slights that had been levelled against him over the years.
Banished to this miserable little island rather than ruling over Storm's End which was his birthright instead of his useless and soft younger brother who had done nothing to earn it. His constant flirting with the Tyrells only rubbed salt into the wound as they had starved them for a year before their brother had taken the throne. Renly might have forgotten that but Stannis surely had not and when the chance came he would make them pay for that and all the men that had died.
But after all these years of slights and disappointments at last a light to brighten his life. His newest advisor had somehow convinced his former wife Selyse to join the faith and negotiated a new marriage for him, one to his own native soil. Alayne Connington might be from a house that was a shadow of what it once was but she was beautiful with warm red blonde hair and a fruitful womb as she now was in bed, giving birth to his latest child.
Stannis paced, his nervousness very high as so many times had he been here before only to find the child had died. He honestly wished he believed in the gods as it might be a comfort to have someone to pray too at the moment but he had lost that faith a long time ago and would not be visiting a sept any time soon.
His most faithful servant Ser Davos stood nearby waiting if he had any commands which was appreciated by Stannis but at the moment unwanted. He might have dismissed him but then the door finally opened and old maester Cressan emerged looking very tired.
"Well?" Stannis demanded without waiting and Maester Cressan who had known him since he was born took no offence, he knew how important this moment was to him.
"A boy my lord, a very healthy boy." Cressan said with a slight smile before stepping aside so Stannis could see for himself. Stannis with an expression of disbelief walked into the room and saw his new wife laying there in bed with a babe wrapped in blankets cradled in her arms.
He walked forward and saw a tiny boy, with a tuff of black hair on his head and his heart was soaring, almost afraid to believe that this had finally happened. He knew it was far too early to truly celebrate just yet as the boy was still very young and fragile but…
He had a son!
Stannis felt a pride he had never felt in his life before and announced to them all.
"Steffon shall be his name, after my father and one day he will sit on the Iron Throne." Stannis said with a dark look in his eyes. Alayne looked a little fearful of her harsh new husband as she was little more than a girl, barely older than his false nephew Joffrey but she had done her duty and would do it again Stannis thought.
As he would do his and take the throne back for House Baratheon.
- x -
In a set of rooms nearby though the Lady Shireen Baratheon was trying to distract herself with her toys, she sighed but put them aside as today they were not providing her any amusement. She was worried that her father was going to set her aside and discard her like he had discarded her mother.
She pushed a strand of thick black hair that had fallen in front of her face back, she caught sight of herself in the mirror and smiled a little as she saw her own face, clear of the damaged and broken skin that had once ruined her appearance and made her parents lock her away. She was so glad when her father and Ser Davos had discovered those wondrous salves that had repaired her face and let her out of that horrible room in the tower. She had been allowed to move around the castle again and see the island properly she thought a small smile coming to her face as she remembered all the delight and wonder. She had even been allowed to go sailing with her father and Ser Davos, her father had even picked up up so she could see the coast and the dolphins that had raced past the ship when they were at sea!
She had even started growing a small garden of her own which her father had built for her.
Now however she was worried he would forget her, now he had a new wife and a new child on the way.
A knock at the door and she turned to say.
The door opened and she noticed it was Ser Davos who bowed before her and said with a smile.
"My lady, you have a brother! Steffon after your grandfather." He told her and she tried to look happy but the news that it was the son her father had always wanted only made her fears grow. Ser Davos noticed her look of distress and asked gently.
"Is everything alright my lady?"
"I am afraid he will forget me." Shireen said, having finally managed to say what she had feared. "Father now has a wife that is beautiful and a son who will rule after him. What use am I to him? An ugly girl." She said with her eyes becoming full of tears as her worries became too much for her to handle.
Ser Davos with his heart going out to the poor girl that he honestly thought of as almost his own daughter, he walked over and with the experience of many sons sat her down on the nearby chair before he knelt before her and said.
"My lady you are a special girl! You are so clever and wise for someone your age, everyone says so and despite what some say you are not ugly. You are a girl that has yet to grow into a woman. Your father loves you and he would never let any harm come to you, he will not forget you! You have a new brother now that will love you too when he gets older and he will always want advice from his wise older sister." Davos told her knowing full well it might not work out that way but it was what the poor girl needed to hear. He saw her lip tremble a bit before she suddenly hugged him, he hesitantly hugged her back as he was careful of their different stations in life. She was a high born lady after all and if her father had his way she would soon be a princess, hells Davos thought she was a princess already even if it was not yet official.
Still she was just a girl Davos realised and she needed the warmth and comfort that her father was ill-suited to provide even if he loved her deeply, so he hugged her gently back and let her take some comfort from him instead.
Dragon Pit Theatre, Kings Landing…
Tyrion was sitting at his desk, putting the last touches on his newest play. He had been writing hard none stop since leaving the North and it was going to be one of his best yet...one that he hoped would finally let his daughter...Lanna he thought correcting himself as she had a name that he needed to remember, know what her mother had meant to him.
He sighed, feeling very tired as the last stroke of the quill was done. It had been hard to write some of the events that happened between him and Tysha even the good parts because of cause how it eventually ended. Those memories still haunted him and the hurt was never going to end, nor should it he thought to himself with determination, because if those memories helped him become a better man...he had to be, one that might one day have a child who would look at him with something other than hatred.
Still he was concerned as his sister had been strangely silent since their return, that was not like her at all he thought with fear and knowing how vicious and unstable she was she would try to hurt him in the most sickening way imaginable so his fear for Lanna was growing every day.
Breaking from his desk he walked over to the balcony were he saw his actors speaking to his solution to this particular problem.
The sellsword whose name he claimed was Bronn and a number of others had been hired to not only protect him, his people and his theatre but also more critically Lanna. Spies of his own were watching her closely every day without her even knowing to make sure whenever Cersei made her move Lanna would be safe. Bronn's loyalty was difficult to be sure of but that was why Tyrion had eyes watching him too.
However he was aware that it was not going to be enough, not to keep her safe and make his family pay for what they had done! He fumed, leaning on the balcony railing as he continued making plans in his head that would ensure that his revenge would hurt them all.
Revenge though was for now out of his reach however he prepared for it, no Tyrion thought for now he would have to build up his power base and wealth to make the next part of his plans possible and those were the ones he wanted to accomplish the most.
To that end Tyrion had been buying/building up land and businesses around the city that had the potential to give him coin back in return. He was making deals with Northern farmers to sell their produce here which would give him more power and influence in the city.
Finding trustworthy muscle to ensure those properties and investments were appropriately protected was an ongoing issue Tyrion thought with annoyance as half the men he had found so far were either put there for him to hire by his enemies or incompetent. Baelish was a particular annoyance in this matter and Tyrion was now looking at the Mockingbird with both reluctant admiration for the strength his network within the city and fury at his interference. To make matters worse and something that made Tyrion's blood boil Baelish had begun having his daughter watched by his agents.
The only reason for that Tyrion could think of was that the man was planning using Lanna for some purpose which he would never in a million years allow or worse having her killed to curry favour with Cersei.
That thought honestly made Tyrion feel more angry than at any other point in his life, he gripped the railings of the balcony so tightly that his fists became almost white and his eyes became very narrow with rage.
Tyrion would not tolerate a threat to his daughter...not under any circumstances and now was having agents of his own infiltrate and investigate Baelish and his operations as deeply as they could, searching for anything that would reveal his long term goals and a means to destroy him.
Just having him killed did have some appeal but Tyrion wanted to know everything about him first, to ensure that no element of the whoremonger's organisation came back to haunt him later.
He noticed another note from Jaime had been left for him and without a care Tyrion threw it into the fire. He watched it burn with cold and dispassionate eyes as he wanted as little to do with his brother as possible although Tyrion honestly hated thinking of Jaime as that. What Jaime's actions had cost him went far beyond what could be easily forgiven Tyrion thought with a fierce cold rage, his wife and child...a family forever ruined or tainted beyond repair and the fact it had been done by the one person in the world that he had truly trusted only made the pain worse.
Maybe he thought if it suited his plans he might allow Jaime back into his life and affect some kind of reconciliation but only if it suited him Tyrion thought with anger.
But that day would likely never arrive, Jaime had burnt a bridge with him and it would remain to be seen if it was ever to be rebuild.
- x -
Speaking of Tyrion's elder brother, Jaime Lannister was at the most miserable he had ever been in his life.
He had been a master of putting unpleasant thoughts and memories out of his mind but now they haunted him without any reprieve. He was dogged by the past regrets he carried with him and now he no longer could find solace with either of his siblings.
He just couldn't look at Cersei any more he thought with disgust, he had always been loyal to her. Joining the Kingsguard at her insistence and sacrificing his own life for her...giving her three children...staying at her side and doing her bidding no matter how disgusting or hard he found it. But regardless he had been at her side and never touched another woman since they had first come together as lovers at Casterly Rock. She however as he now knew much to his disgust and heartbreak cared nothing for him...only for herself and kept a barn of sexual partners to draw on whenever she was in the mood. He had been a tool to her...nothing more.
Tyrion on the other hand had been not just his younger brother but maybe the only true friend he had in the whole world. The only one that actually cared what he might have wanted and been willing to listen to his problems. Perhaps the only person who actually cared truly about him.
However he now wanted nothing to do with him Jaime thought with grief, the lie he had told about Tyrion's wife on father's order had poisoned their brotherhood perhaps forever although he desperately hoped not. The fact his brother refused to even see him did not create any hope for reconciliation.
In his position of guarding the king as he continued to fuck his whores was only chipping away at his last nerve, he was so ready to just desert his post and sail away from everything but he stayed as he had no idea just where to go.
But he did want to leave the city, even for a little while just to clear his head.
But Jaime thought with annoyance and anger the king would never allow it and neither would his sister, she still wanted him in her bed and honestly he would rather be elsewhere...hell he would rather be anywhere else! His anger spiking and he just wanted some space.
So...Jaime thought with great reluctance as he was at last relieved by Ser Moore, he had no choice but to go to Ned 'Fucking' Stark for help! The only person in the castle that could get him out of this miserable hole.
Waiting patiently his nerves became more and more tense with each moment till finally he was able to enter the Hand's office. Seeing Stark there honestly made Jaime's blood boil given the horrible name he now had thanks to this man but if he wanted to get some time away from the city and all his problems then Stark was his only hope of doing it.
"Can I help you Ser Lannister?" Stark asked him as he looked up and his grey eyes honestly looked so cold Jaime could feel the North's bitter winds coming out of them but as much as he wanted to tell Stark to fuck off he swallowed his anger and simply said.
"I need some time away from the capital, I realise the Kingsguard is short handed till the tourney concludes and new members are chosen but given the situation that has arisen between myself and my family it would be best to leave. The remaining three are more than capable of handling the protection of the Royal Family along with the Hound." Jaime said.
Stark regarded him carefully, not speaking or making any indication of what he was thinking but did ask him.
"And where is it you wish to go? Back to Casterly Rock?" Stark asked him with suspicion but Jaime shook his head.
"No, somewhere else for a time to clear the head. Will you grant me leave?" Jaime asked him with growing insistence.
Stark regarded him carefully for awhile, perhaps not believing him but eventually did say.
"There is a situation up in the Riverlands. Bandit activity around Durain's Forest has increased alarmingly in the last two years to the extent that they are now striking at the Kingsroad but no one has been able to do much about it. Each of the houses of the Riverlands and the northern Crownlands houses have assembled a force to try and deal with them but no one seems to agree on who will lead it. You will lead it in dealing with the bandits as a representative of the crown." Stark told him sternly.
Jaime was shocked, this was not at all what he had been expecting or even hoping for but it was he admitted a job that would get him out the capital for perhaps weeks. Stark might be trying to make him miserable or test him Jaime realised but given how desperate he was to be out of the castle Jaime did not hesitate in giving his answer.
"Yes, I will be ready to leave by tonight."
Stark looked surprised which gave Jaime a little thrill but nodded.
- x -
Arya Stark was bored.
It had been less than a week since they had arrived at the Red Keep and already she was running out of things to do. Exploring the Red Keep had been the first thing she did while her sister and father dealt with all the boring business of running the kingdoms, perhaps she could have helped them she admitted but that sort of activity was so dull that she would rather bang her head against a wall than do it. She knew how to run a home and could do it in her sleep but the effort would hardly be worth it.
So instead she had started looking into finding all the Red Keep's secrets.
So far it had proven to be rather disappointing Arya frowned, a few secret passages, the cellar full of Dragon skulls and little else. No hidden rooms filled with interesting objects or anything of that nature and it was starting to annoy her.
So she did the only thing she could think of in this situation, well two things she thought with a mischievous smirk coming to her face remembering the prank she had engineered with her sister's help. The snooty servant who had been so rude to their father the day they arrived had found a bucket of foul smelling liquid which Meera had created for her, waiting for him above a door. The liquid had splashed down on him and that horrible smell it had created now followed the man around no matter how much he washed or changed his clothes. According to her sister it would stop eventually, maybe after a week or so but he was now so humiliated that he had left the castle for somewhere were the 'smelly scribe' as some had called him (something that Arya would never admit to having started) would not follow him around.
But with that prank done and not really knowing who to go after next Arya had decided to train instead.
So in the yard as knights looked affronted she practised, ducking and diving around a dummy to practice her moves but she ignored them, wishing she was home as at least there she could spar with her siblings. Lanna was no fighter and Meera was so busy with all the other things she had to do including designing and building Prince Joffrey's crossbow and archery range.
So she was left to her own devices.
Soon however she became bored with fighting with training dummies that didn't fight back and walked out of the yard, now wondering if she should try exploring the city when she saw a vicious looking tomcat fighting with another two cats for a bird. She looked on and saw the much large black tomcat easily defeat the other two younger ones who ran away.
She saw the older cat that was probably even older than she was start eating the bird and she reached out with her powers, honed by practise with her siblings but rarely used since there was little reason too.
When she entered the old cat's mind she was struck by a horrible sense of loss, something terrible had happened to it...it had been a gentle kitten once she could feel but its kind mistress was gone now and it was all alone with no one who loved it.
Her heart went out to it immediately, the little girl whose image remained in its largely simple mind smiling forever had called it...Balerion Arya managed to sense and it struck her as odd that someone had named a cat after one of the most fearsome dragons in all of history but she none the less thought it fitting now for how fierce a cat it was.
She reached out to it and it turned to face her, growling a little as years of abuse and distrust fought against the bond she was trying to forge with the cat. Her will pushed hard and the cat slowly came up to her leg and she gently picked it up. She felt its resistance try to fight but slowly it relaxed as it seemed to realise she was being kind to it, something it had not felt in a long time.
Arya smiled as she gently petted the cat, it did she noticed need a bath and some grooming but at least now she had something to spend some time on, soothing its wounds and making sure it could trust humans again. With her wolf and horse in the North at least she had something here now Arya thought with some enjoyment as she took her new cat back to the tower so she could make sure it got some love and attention.
- x -
Meera herself meanwhile was sitting in her room working on something she had realised could help the Northern Rangers when she had all the details figured out. At present they used a leather and fur uniform as armour which while light and kept them warm provided not much protection. She knew their style of fighting relied on being extremely fast and mobile, giving them heavier armour especially steel or iron would only slow them down, not to mention she realised critically the horses to could struggle with the extra weight and they might need larger horses to handle it which of course would be slower, again not what she needed. The horse archers of the Northern Rangers were light cavalry, not heavy they never really got close enough to need heavy armour.
So she had been looking into different materials in hopes of finding some kind of armour that provided better protection yet was not too heavy to be usable. It had been a long search through the knowledge of the other world not to mention what was available here but at last she had discovered to her surprise that a very common material, one that was very easily available could be the answer.
Cotton, she could hardly believe it but she could make an effective form of anti-arrow armour with cotton. What she had done inspired by the ancient horse archers of Earth's history was create a three layer system, either processed cotton or wool on the outside but the inner layer was pure unprocessed cotton. Its fibres if used with a certain thickness provided not only warmth but had the strength to actually stop an arrow aimed at their chests. She could adapt this to make hats to protect their heads also and all the while maintain their speed and mobility.
She was still fine tuning it but would ensure the Northern Rangers received it all within a year, getting the information back to the North without being intercepted would be a challenge but doable. Wildlings she knew did have archers/hunters and other kingdoms did too so it would she hoped make sure their men had the best protection.
Still Meera put her quill down and sighed as she sipped some water, never one for alcohol despite being a producer of it, she was managing to get established here even though it was hard work. Speaking to servants especially the kitchen staff were much of the castle's gossip flowed had told her much of what happened here and crucially who the power players were.
The King himself when he was in the city and not out on one of his campaigns was often drunk and having whores all the time which Meera found reluctantly impressive given his age and general physical condition. He hardly noticed much of what was going on and so real power here fell to the other members of the royal family and the Small Council.
Renly was not much of a player, he did little but bugger Loras Tyrell and turn a blind eye to the troubles of the city which were largely due to the corruption of the Gold Cloaks he was meant to oversee. Stannis had not been much of a player either while he was here although he did attend to his duties as Master of Ships unlike Renly.
Varys was a mystery, suitable Meera supposed for a Master of Whispers but it was worrying. The man did nothing it seemed to further his own position and had spies just about everywhere but his constant failure to kill the Targaryens made Meera wonder if he was secretly helping them. As one of the two longest serving members he had served Aerys during the height of his madness and not wavered, perhaps he still Meera thought with caution, favoured the dragon.
Pycelle was a real surprise though, Meera could hardly believe the number of whores the man who was well into his twilight years had brought to his rooms. It was incredible but the important thing she had learnt was his closeness to the Lannisters, Tywin Lannister was his true master and so much of what he said and did went towards serving the Warden of the West's whims.
Then there was Queen who Meera already knew full well was full of rage, she too had her spies and many liaisons last night enjoying the bed of a knight that was most certainly not her husband. Meera could have gone to the king with this but it was hardly a secret she was learning so either he didn't care or was truly foolish. She also rode high on her family's gold and the presence of her father and the power he held. Her network though was small in comparison to the last person of power here though.
Petyr Baelish, she frowned as she knew he was one of the most powerful men in the capital now. His riches and whores allowed him connections and influence across the city right up to the king himself and many of the Gold Cloaks were in fact were in his pocket. He had little in the way of lands and titles given he came from a very minor house in the Vale but that only made his power right now more impressive and worrying. He had claimed to be the man who had deflowered both her aunt Lysa and her mother Catelyn which honestly she had no idea what to think about that, given her mother's adultery it could well be possible. But the number of times he had mentioned her mother in particular and how he had been humiliated by her late uncle Brandon made her think he might have some kind of vendetta against House Stark which made her think that the Queen might not be their worst or most dangerous enemy here.
Meera, now with a much clearer idea of just who not to cross here realised that the city was a jar of wildfire just waiting to go off with all the tensions and desire for power. Robert was powerless she was realising to change that and they were all really just waiting for him to die then all of them would try and press for the throne. She was almost sweating with how unstable the situation was and worried deeply for her family and their retinue here who were she was realised right in the middle of the snake pit.
A knock on the door broke her from her worried visions of them being surrounded and trapped and so she did her best to suppress her fear and turned to see her father enter looking more tired than she was. Her fear for him in particular since as Hand he might as well have a target on his back made her walk over to him and hug him.
"Hey, its alright." He said, surprised by her actions but did hug her back. "What's all this about?"
"Worry for all of us. You especially." Meera said with worry as they broke reluctantly apart. "We are surrounded by enemies and to be honest the only shield we have is your friendship with the king."
"Then it is just as well that we are spending so much time together." Ned said having just come from a session of games and drink with Robert, while enjoyable it was off putting as it gave him less time to find some solutions to the problems his reign had created. "It also gives me less time to find out what it was that Jon Arryn was looking into when he died."
"I know father, his death is suspicious but more likely he just crossed one of the players here. I will help you if I can but..." Meera was however distracted by the sight of Arya coming up the tower steps with a large and rough looking cat in her arms. "Arya...where did you get that cat?" She asked her sister who turned around and saw her father and older sister looking at her new pet with confusion.
"I found him wandering the castle, he is just angry and sad. He just needs some attention." Arya said as she petting the half-growling/half-purring animal. It had more than a few scars and father who was now wondering just what he could say to make his daughter let go of the cat told her.
"I found you a combat teacher, a Braavosi Water Dancer who will be coming to teach you to hone your skills." He said, knowing how a bored Arya tended to get herself in trouble if left to her own devices so he had arranged this as a distraction for her.
Arya who stopped momentarily petting her new cat to look at her father with annoyance, her cat noticed and started fussing which made her quickly resume her petting of him.
"Why do I need a teacher!? Meera and Sansa taught me!" Arya said with annoyance and a little anger at the slight to her sisters, one of whom was looking a little annoyed herself at this but Ned justified himself by saying.
"But he has tricks and skills that your sisters don't, it is never a bad thing to learn from more than one teacher to make sure you learn all that can be learned. He also gives you someone to regularly spar with." Ned told them and reluctantly both girls knew that much was true. Meera had seen that fighting Oberyn as that man had skills she could not learn from her own solitary teacher.
"Fine, but he had best be a good teacher." Arya said with irritation which relaxed Ned a bit as he at last knew she would be kept busy and not wandering around and getting herself in trouble. Meera decided to continue by saying.
"Let's make sure you have all the things you need for that cat of yours. Does he have a name?" She asked, trying to change the subject.
"Balerion." Arya said now with a smile on her face, looking at the rough looking cat who was looking content now she was paying attention to him but still looked at both of them with slitted annoyed eyes.
Just as they were wondering why Arya had such strange choice in pets they were distracted by a letter from Winterfell, Poole brought it in and when their father opened it he sighed with resignation before handing it to Meera who took it and after reading its contents starting glaring, wishing she could still apparate so she get back to Winterfell and punch her brother for acting like such a fool.
Still she thought, at least he was admitting it and getting married even if none of them were going to be there since they hadn't the time to get back to Winterfell before the wedding.
- x -
The newly named Lanna Lannister was nervously sitting at a table sipping tea with her cousin Princess Myrcella who had all but commanded her to come and share some time together. Lanna not one to disobey the direct command of the princess had done as she was told and thus found herself with Myrcella sipping tea while making polite chatter. Jory stood nearby, glad that Heward and Cayn had relieved him of having to stay close to Lord Stark today so he could be closer to his daughter.
"I understand Uncle Tyrion is putting a new play soon. We must attend the first day." Myrcella told her as she sipped her cup. Lanna appreciated that the princess did not refer to Tyrion Lannister as her father as she wanted as little to do with him as possible and frankly would rather pull out her own teeth than go to the man's theatre but if the Princess requested her presence...Lanna would have no choice but to go. The look on Jory's face showed he was not keen on the idea either but Lanna politely smiled as she took another sip of her tea.
"I would be honoured your grace." Lanna said politely and wondered just what she could expect from Tyrion Lannister? The man had at least kept his distance from her, apparently ashamed of what had happened to her mother due to his mistrust and neglect. Lanna was glad of that as the less time she spent in his company she thought with venom, the better.
- x -
Joffrey now having seen that his new archery range was under construction was eagerly awaiting its completion so he could train himself to be the greatest shot in all the realm. Something that he had achieved himself, the thought made him feel proud and so until then he went to visit the Grandmaester to indulge in his latest interest. When the Grandmaester did not reply to his light call for his attention Joffrey turned to the Hound who thumped loudly, a crash could be heard on the other side and a whore, with no clothes on at all suddenly ran from the room as the door sprang open. Joffrey and the Hound watched in astonishment at the sight and turned to see the Grandmaester, a man older than both of them combined struggling to put his robes back on.
A sight that would haunt them for awhile, shuddering as neither of them had ever wanted to imagine that but now it would be stuck in their minds forever.
"Your grace-" The Grandmaester quickly said but Joffrey, disgusted by what he had just witnessed decided to stop any kind of explanation and just move on...very quickly.
"I want the books I requested! Now!" Joffrey said sharply with his face approaching a vicious snarl. The old man quickly did as his prince commanded and with a speed the old man would have you believe he was incapable of he disappeared into another room and came out with a series of books that had been brought by rider from the Citadel specially at his request.
"All the most modern and descriptive books on different weapon designs from across the world your grace." Pycelle told him and Joffrey rather than take them himself let the Hound reluctantly carry them, the heavy pile easily handled by him.
He turned when he heard footsteps coming up the corridor behind him and saw Lady Meera and a pair of Stark men walking up in her usual leather outfit with gold embroidery and looking rather confused.
"Your grace, did I just witness a woman running naked through the corridors of the Red Keep?" Meera asked him and he frowned having hoped she wouldn't have seen that.
"It seems the Grandmaester has been enjoying her services, the moment they were interrupted she fled." Joffrey told her unimpressed and Meera with an unamused look just shook her head.
"I would have thought he was long passed that sort of thing. But changing the subject..." Lady Meera said hoping to get the images that had created out of her head as soon as possible. "The Tourney of the Hand will be a great opportunity your grace, especially for you."
"For me?" Joffrey said confused, he was looking forward to seeing some guts and blood but aside from that there was little to be excited about. Lady Meera smiled before explaining.
"You will have the chance to establish yourself and the image you want in the minds of those attending. To make the people see you as the future king the way you want them too." She told him and he was confused but interested in that, in making himself seen. "Not to mention if you were to compete in the archery as a mystery archer...and win...no one would be able to deny your skill."
Joffrey instantly became intrigued at that, the idea of him being known as the best archer in all of Westeros and making people see him as the future king. He liked that a lot.
"But everyone knows the Prince." Grandmaester Pycelle said with worry about the whole scheme. The Prince was too valuable to be risked and his mother would have him killed if he allowed this but Lady Meera had a plan for that.
"I have an outfit that should hide his identity not to mention myself and the Hound will be close by if needed. So are you interested your grace?" Meera asked him and Joffrey immediately grinned, letting her know he was.
Winterfell, the North…
The rushed wedding of Robb Stark and Wylla Manderly got a lot of tongues wagging around the North but since they had already been betrothed and were both old enough to wed it was merely a sly smile inducing rumour about the why the sudden rush especially as Lord Stark and his eldest and youngest daughters respectively couldn't get back to the North in time for the wedding.
Still the GreatJon stood at the Weirwood as Northern nobles who had managed to get there in time stood around the path to witness their future lord's wedding. Robb himself was sweating nervously as he stood with Theon who smirked at how his friend had gotten himself into this position. Sansa too stood there with Bran and Rickon and the pack of direwolves giving her brother a sideways glance of disapproval at how reckless he had been but whenever anyone was looking she played the dutiful sister to perfection. Bran and Rickon did not realise just yet why the wedding was happening so soon but they would be told when they were old enough.
On the other side of the tree the Manderlys were looking both pleased and irritated at the same time, annoyed at the rushed wedding but very happy their youngest daughter was being wed to the next Lord Stark. One of their family was going to be Lady of Winterfell, that was something that Wyman Manderly was exceptionally proud of as he stood there watching as his son Wylis walked Wylla up the path towards them. Wynafryd walked behind them to help with her younger sister's train while the girls mother did her best not to cry.
Robb was struck dumb by the sight of Wylla, she was already beautiful to him no matter what she wore but her white silk dress seemed to simmer around her graceful form and her shining blonde hair was carefully arranged to fall around her shoulders with blue winter roses woven into her sleek hair.
Robb was completely stunned and entranced by the sight before him which made all those around him smile even those that were annoyed with him. As she joined him at the foot of the great tree her eyes caught his and the look of nervousness in both of them was comforting as they stood before the GreatJon.
- x -
It was very lively in the hall an hour or so later as they all celebrated the wedding, Robb sat in his father's chair while Wylla sat in the one next to him, glad that there was no bedding ceremony in the North as she had no desire to be stripped down and paraded around like some broodmare. Her family too was enjoying the feast and her smile was brought till she overheard a private conversation between Robb and Sansa after Sansa was shown a letter by Robb.
"I cannot believe she had the nerve to do this!" Sansa hissed to Robb so they would not be heard over the party. "At your wedding no less!"
"I have no desire to even talk about it!" Robb hissed back. "She betrayed our father and slept in their bed with another man! And she has the sheer audacity to ask for forgiveness?! To ask to come to the wedding no less! So we can meet our...sister! The product of her affair with Oberyn Martell!"
Wylla now knew who they were talking about, the disposed Lady Catelyn Tully. The disgraced Lady that had humiliated Lord Stark and House Stark in general before being banished south for her betrayal of her marriage. Wylla herself was glad to the back of the bitch as although her family did worship the Seven they were far more at ease with the North's old god culture. Even then both religions took a very bad view of adultery so she had gotten off very lightly to the way some thought she should have been punished.
Wylla tried to put her less than kind thoughts of her former goodmother aside as Robb noticed she was listening and took her hand to kiss her palm. The move brought a flush to her cheeks as he lingered a little longer than he normally did and images of what they were likely to get up to tonight made her cheeks darken more.
"No worry my love, we refused her and made sure she knows she will not be forgiven for what she did." Robb told her to make sure she knew it was sorted. She relaxed a little at that but the feel of his rough hand against hers was very arousing.
- x -
None of them noticed however that a member of the wedding party had disappeared during the feast, presuming that he had gone off to enjoy himself with some willing woman.
But none of them knew that instead Theon was saddling a horse with some of his possessions.
Robb and Sansa weren't the only ones to have received a letter of late, he too had received one from his father in the Iron Islands delivered to him by a whore who was paid by them to see it done. He still had it in his pocket and he had read it a dozen times already.
His hands had been shaking when he had realised just who it was that was writing to him, he had heard nothing from his father in so many years but it was almost like gold to him...something of his family after all this time.
It had said very little, saying that he was unwell and wished to see his son again if he did not survive it, that Yara was worried for him and they both wanted to see him desperately. That it may be time soon for him to take the lordship of the Iron Islands.
That honestly terrified and excited him, he had dreamt of returning home gloriously to take over his father's seat and rule the Iron Islands. To sail with Yara as they had always dreamed and be remembered amongst the great sailors of their past.
Except he knew the Starks would never let him go...Robb would be sympathetic and might even let him go but Sansa wouldn't...like Meera or Lord Stark. He felt a good deal of resentment at that but he was a hostage after all, against his father and would only be allowed to return once his father died.
So he had waited and planned, glad now that Robb had been so eager to fuck the Manderly whore, she was a fine piece of arse but their quick wedding allowed him enough time to slip away while everyone was busy.
He looked at Winterfell, a stab of discomfort came through him as he thought of leaving the place that had been his home for so many years and where all his friends lived. He honestly was torn, he did not want to leave but this could be the last chance he realised...if his father was dying...what choice did he have? He could hardly leave Yara alone at such a time either Theon thought with regret, he could not even really remember what she looked like now whereas he knew full well all the Stark girls to recognise them anywhere.
That only made his decision more bitter but his mind was made up as he mounted the horse and rode out of Winterfell for what he hoped would not be the last time.
The Red Keep, Kings Landing…A Month Later...
Meera was looking at the casks of alcohol from the North and smiled sadly, knowing it would cost them a little but it kept the Lannisters from gaining any more influence and giving House Stark a little bit of a hold over the crown too. She was uncomfortable getting someone into more debt so they could call on it later but having studied the history of this world she knew it might be necessary.
The great game they called it she thought with concern for the complicated maze of constantly shifting alliances and enemies all vying for power in the capital. It seemed so pointless and underhanded that she was naturally repulsed and wanted nothing to do with it...but then she caught herself, they were a part of it...everyone was Meera realised. The constant struggle for power took place across all walks of life and here at the top of society the stakes were so much higher. The fate of nations, of so many people hung in the balance and she knew her family, who were supposed to be too honourable to play the game would always be the losers if they did not learn how to play properly.
Meera felt a horrible sinking feeling in her stomach and wondered just how one did that, she had plenty of knowledge in her head and what she had learned herself but it all seemed too little to ensure the safety of her family. One could not be defensive in this game she thought with tension running through her body, no one must be active in whatever their goals were.
So she frowned with worry, not sure exactly where to go with this as she looked through the money or valuables collected from the tourney entrance fee.
Like she had predicted many hedge knights had jumped at the opportunity to become a knight of the Kingsguard and so had many others which meant a great deal to sort through. Most of it she thought with disbelief was next to worthless but it had been all that some had and she would not deride that. The variety of goods was surprising as their were bags of sugar, wagons, horses, cattle, different types of weapons in different states of repair and much more. Thankfully with the small loan from House Stark it would be enough to cover the tourney and some she thought seeing a rather nice looking tome would do well if added to the prizes.
Still as she moved through all the gathered items she was stunned at a collection of objects that had been given for entry by some Westerlands knights. She knew what they were immediately having seen something very similar during their first and fourth years at Hogwarts, during the first task of the Triwizard Tournament especially, a shudder running through her as she remembered that year.
Four scaled dragon eggs, honestly she had no idea of just how the knights had gotten them but given they were from Westerlands knights perhaps they had looted them from the Red Keep during the Sack Meera thought with awe as she gently touched the hard scaled surface. The egg was a dazzling white platinum with gold flecks and she had never seen anything like it, nor the other three either; one larger in purple and gold, a gold and silver one with fire coloured veins running along its surface and the last was red with golden flecks and black whorls. They were almost like works of art to look at and as Meera touched them she wondered if they might still be hatch-able although she knew it would be very difficult to control them if she did. Perhaps she could with her skin changing abilities as could her siblings but dragons were magical creatures she thought with a frown so they would be harder to control.
Either way in that moment she made her decision, making sure no one was around she retrieved a saddlebag and carefully places all four eggs within. It would look strange her carrying the saddlebag but it was worth it. They were some of the few magical creatures she had found that both worlds had and she wanted to keep these eggs as perhaps one of the few traces of magic she had been able to find.
So she carefully left the room, making sure she was not seen carrying the bags till she got to the Tower of the Hand and her room but as she hid the eggs as best she could among her things she knew she would need to get them back to the North as soon as possible.
- x -
Some time later Varys arrived at the chamber himself having learned of the dragon eggs that had apparently been given as entry fees for the Tourney of the Hand. He had only been able to save three of the eggs still held by House Targaryen during the Sacking and so many remained missing so he was moving quickly to secure them and send them to Essos immediately. Even though they couldn't be hatched any more they still had great monetary value which would be very helpful to the Targaryens in exile.
He wished Viserys had been more like Rhaegar though Varys thought with sadness, while Rhaegar had instigated the civil war that had destroyed his family's dynasty he had at least been charming and capable, had he been king he would probably have been a good one Varys thought privately if a sombre king.
But Viserys was his father's son, Varys admitted sadly just as mad and no where near as charming as the Mad King had been in his youth. The amount of people he had insulted honestly beggared belief and it was a constant struggle for Varys to find people to take the Targaryens in. Given his behaviour had not improved since they had joined the Dothraki Varys could only assume he would likely be dead very soon.
His sister, the Princess Daenerys though, Varys thought with calculating look on his face was perhaps the best option he could have hoped for. She was perfect for the role of queen, educated, charming, capable, strong and ambitious. His good friend in Pentos had nothing but praise for her intelligence and charm, she had easily ingratiated herself with Khal Drogo and according to Ser Jorah she was already proving herself a strong and independent woman with plans of her own. In Westeros she would do well Varys thought with certainty if she was forgiven for being a woman.
Except she had no interest in coming here.
That was the latest report from Ser Jorah and it worried him greatly, Varys had always imagined she would come to Westeros to reclaim the throne when she had the chance but now it seemed she was intent on building her own empire in Essos. Varys was wondering if her ambition had overtaken her common sense but who knows what she had planned.
Just then Varys came to where the dragon eggs were being kept and saw to his horror that they had been removed already, this was not good Varys thought and wondered who might have beaten him here with the usual suspects being Baelish or the Lannisters but that mattered not as he was also worried about how much stability the Starks were bringing to the realm now Lord Stark was Hand.
Between him and his eldest daughter Varys knew they were capable of doing much good in their new roles but while he wanted that for the people of Westeros he did not want them supporting Lannister rule and would have to make sure that they learned the truth concerning the parentage of the royal children.
He sighed knowing he might also need to push harder to cause Daenerys and Drogo to come to Westeros but just in case Varys thought with some concern he had best ensure the safety of his third option, if he could find it Varys thought with annoyance and wished he had found a more stable screen to hide with and knowing this might take some time.
- x -
A Few Days Later…
The first day of the tourney dawned and Meera, wearing her usual leather clothes and with her spear on her back sat with her father and sister near the royal family. King Robert was already drunk as he sat waiting for the tourney to begin. Lord Stark looked uncomfortable here as sat there, not agreeing with the concept of a tourney at all and Arya already looked like she was having to sit on her hands to stop herself from walking off. Lanna who was sitting next to them too looked bored as well as nervous as everyone was looking at her, eager to see the newly discovered daughter of Tyrion Lannister. It was not helped by the fact that Tyrion Lannister was sitting nearby and occasionally caught each other's eyes, she was unsettled and looked away, shifting in her seat while Tyrion just sighed sadly.
Baelish and Varys too were sitting close by although Meera had managed to rearrange the seating to put them on the opposite side of the royal booth along with Tyrion. Cersei Lannister sat there looking as stuck up as ever and irritated at having to attend this display especially as her eldest boy wasn't here, Myrcella and Tommen looked uncomfortable next to her. Ser Barristan and the two remaining Kingsguard now Ser Jaime was out of the city stood around the box, not competing this time as they needed to protect the Royal Family.
When the first event was announced it surprised everyone that the archery was going first, a murmuring of voices followed and King Robert looked ready to say something rude but Meera spoke to him with a mischievous smile.
"Your grace, there is a reason for this. Just wait and see." She told him with a daring look in her eye. Robert was struck again at how much like her Aunt she was albeit much more calm than Lyanna had been. He nodded, now curious at what she had planned. All those around her too were confused and interested.
The archers all came out including one in dark leather clothes with a light helm on. Meera smirked at this and as they looked on as the archers lined up their shots, when they loosed the audience watched to see just who scored best. The one with the least number of points or those that failed to score was eliminated from the competition before the next shot.
Many did manage to hit the target including the dark leather archer who did very well in his shot. Those that failed however were moved away from the range so the next shot could be made.
Over the next hour more and more archers were eliminated until finally it was down to two archers, a Tarly knight from the Reach and the dark archer. The Tarly knight readied his shot, confident in his skill as he was his lord's personal attendant during a hunt and Lord Tarly was a hard task master. Just as he loosed though, no one saw Meera doing something with her hand, a slight twitch as she closed her eyes in concentration.
A sudden gust of wind threw the arrow off just as he made his shot, sending it off course and into the outer edge of the target.
The crowd let out a disappointed sigh as many had been cheering for him and the man himself looked ashen, not understanding what had just happened. But the dark archer came up and then made his shot, lining up perfectly with the target and shot his arrow straight into the centre.
A cheer went up as he was declared the winner and turned to face the royal box.
"Your skill is impressive archer, who be you?" Robert asked him, looking at the man like he might offer him a place in his household for his skill with a bow alone. However rather than answer, the dark archer simply removed his helm and a gasp of shock went up around the stands at his identity.
"Joffrey, your grace." Prince Joffrey said with a wide smirk on his face. He stood there with a proud look on his face and caught her eye and she smiled at him, his mother and siblings were looking on in complete shock and after a moment Robert burst out laughing.
"Well done lad! I honestly had no idea it was you! You earned this victory yourself on your own merits, I name Prince Joffrey Baratheon as the champion archer!" Robert declared and a cheer went up from the crowd. Meera stood and clapped her hands while nodding to him. He puffed up proudly as he basked in their praise.
Behind her smile though Meera felt guilty, she had stolen a possible victory from the Tarly man with her spear's powers. Her reading into it suggested it had the ability to command the elements and turn the weather against an enemy and it had seemed a good opportunity to test it. Commanding a strong gust of wind to happen at just the right time to throw off his shot. As Harry she would have been appalled at her own actions and to be honest she was now but if her efforts to straighten Joffrey out and make him into a decent king was to work she had to be prepared to do things behind people's backs.
At least she consoled herself with the fact her spear's powers were real, she was awestruck at how powerful the spear could be as she had only used a small part of its power just now.
After a short interlude Joffrey had changed back into his normal elaborate clothes and sat at his father's side, as the next event was set up Meera leaned over and whispered to him.
"Speak to the crowd. This is the chance to make sure they see you are going to be as charming as your father was during the rebellion."
Joffrey was surprised and unsure of himself.
"Its beneath me, that's what mother says anyway and what would I say?" He asked her and Meera hid her frustration with the bitch queen and told him.
"Let me help with your words. A king must be a good speaker as he must be able to bend people with his voice when swords might not be so easily available."
Joffrey did not look like he would enjoy that but did agree with a slight nod of his head to speak to the crowd. He stood up and made his announcement.
"People of Kings Landing, of Westeros and even beyond welcome! This tourney is held in honour of my father's greatest friend Lord Stark who has come all the way from the North to serve him and the realm. I thank you Lord Stark as I do your family for making this tourney possible." Joffrey said to Lord Stark who bowed respectfully. Rather than let him speak though, Joffrey continued.
"This tourney is a quest, to find the greatest that Westeros has to offer. To find those that can show not only the Royal Family but the rest of the world that they are the best at what they do. Three new members of the Kingsguard will be chosen today, three of the realm's best warriors will be called to serve and so I hope that all you will enjoy this chance for the great knights of our nation to show us all what they can do. Long Live Westeros!" Joffrey said and the crowd, surprised at the way the crown prince talking so well but cheered back.
"LONG LIVE THE KING! LONG LIVE PRINCE JOFFREY!"
Joffrey was instantly proud of himself for that moment of course what no one had noticed except some rather sharp eyed members of the court was Joffrey being fed his lines by Meera quietly who smiled and caught his eye. Both smirked a little but Robert who had seen what was happening smiled gently before telling Joffrey.
"Lad you have come a long way in the last few months. Attending the Small Council in my absence, competing and winning a tourney event fairly and even speaking to the crowd and showing your best side. I am proud of you for that, for stepping up to the responsibilities I never could. Well done lad." King Robert said and Joffrey beamed with pride at his father's words, a slight watering of the eyes showed how rare a thing this was.
Meera smiled a little as while she had her doubts over Joffrey's paternity she was glad to see that even if the Lannisters won maybe they might still end up with a half way decent king.
- x -
Near them Cersei Lannister was unable to hide her hatred and anger that was now so strong her skin had darkened to a near deep purple, storming away from the box and back to the castle. That little display back there was now ripping deep into her soul and she wanted to scream and rage at how much her child had fallen.
Ever since their pointless trip north her life had been in a downward turn, her brother was no longer talking to her and had fled the capital on some foolhardy mission for the Hand who was an insult to her family by his very presence. Almost foaming at the mouth now Cersei stormed her way forward, everyone jumping out of the way she appeared so fierce.
Making matters worse for her was the little bastard that she had been forced all her life to call a little brother had created a horrid little bitch that her husband had dared call a Lannister. She was so angry at that her heart was now becoming painfully tense and then worse of all her children even her beloved Golden Lion Joffrey was becoming so entrapped by the wolf whore that he would not listen to her any more. All the advice she gave him, all the time she wanted to spend with him to make sure he knew that such things were beneath him and guide him to becoming the greatest king the world had ever seen...to ensure her power was absolute was being rejected.
Instead he spent all his time with the wolf whore, she was almost spitting with rage and plotted that when the time came all of them they would all suffer like no one before them ever had.
- x -
The tourney continued as Cersei had a screaming fit in her room, throwing furniture around and smashing whatever came into her grasp, including a very frightened maid that received some very big bruises around her throat and chest from when the queen had tried to strangle her and then kicked her repeatedly while she was gasping for breath.
None of those present witnessed that of course, just as Cersei didn't witness the Mountain being defeated in the joust by Loras Tyrell and then the young Tyrell only being saved from death by the intervention of the Hound who was named the victor.
Meera was glad of that, smiling slightly as the Hound was a solid choice for the Kingsguard given he was already Joffrey's sworn-sword and familiar with the capital and court. The melee was next and as Meera and the rest of the crowd were treated to a display of one on one combat they were all eagerly looking for the next two Kingsguard knights.
The first few rounds passed without incident, many of the weaker competitors being easily dispatched by the more experienced and capable ones. Coming to the middle it started getting more interesting as the fighters faced opponents with more skill, some came close to getting into the final but were stopped by either their opponents being more cunning or a horrible twist of fate.
Finally though they were down to the last six, Meera thought with relief.
Mostly hedge knights and a few more skilled landed ones she noticed which suited the purpose, she almost reacted when one knight received a rather hard blown to the side of his neck that could honestly have caused a great deal of pain if not permanent injury.
However three were standing out to her.
Two hedge knights were fighting well, there were of course many great fighters here but these two stood out solely for the purpose that they were smart enough to work together against their enemies, watching each other's backs so they were more able to focus on offence rather than staying alert.
However there was another fighter who was in class all of their own and stood apart for another reason all together.
Her very dark hair was in a tight ponytail behind her back as she moved with the fluid grace of the most fast and slick predator, her footwork perfect and her blade-work as precise as the best surgeon's hands. She wore leather armour with metal plates carefully added in key areas for protection and ease of movement and her sword which Meera thought looked similar to a Dao, a Chinese sword but it looked almost like it was made of silver. She knew realistically that it couldn't be silver though as it had no problem matching steel and seemed to almost hum a little as it sliced through the air.
Soon only those three were left, the two knights both turned to the woman who stood there calmly and let them make the first move. The taller one with a chequered white, black and blue surcoat that had golden three eyes on it charged first, unwisely breaking from his partner and swung his broad sword hard in a sideways slash. The woman fighter however ducked and rolled under it and kicked hard into his codpiece which immediately shocked the knight in time for her to leap to her feet and swipe at the unprotected space on his leg.
The remaining knight, an older man with his hair cut almost to his scalp who readied himself and soon found himself being forced into a rapid dance with the woman who with a single hand almost like a water dancer danced around his skilled but slower strikes till she had her sword at his throat.
The knight knowing the duel was over dropped his sword and the crowd started applauding albeit with confusion as none of them had expected this strange woman to have won the melee. In the royal box they all clapped too with Meera and Arya being the most earnest with Lanna and the Princess joining in a little less but still enthusiastically.
"We have our best," The king announced as he got up. The three competitors all came up the stands although both knights looked at the mysterious woman with annoyance. "The Hound will take one of the spots and while your skill is consider my lady I cannot name a woman to the Kingsguard."
"Then all I ask for is the prize for the victor, I have no desire to stay here." The woman said and her manner of speaking was actually very polished, like a noble they all noticed and many looked affronted at her plain and blunt statement but Robert nodded while admiring her obvious beauty. Meera noticed that while she had the look of someone from Dorne, her skin looking naturally tanned her eyes were a strange luminous purple, maybe lilac. Her skill was more impressive when you realised that she only looked in her very early twenties at most and was only a handful of years older than Meera herself.
"Then you shall have it, as for you two knights...I would have your names if you are to join my Kingsguard." Robert said turning to two men who suddenly looked very proud of themselves.
"I am Ser Tallad the Tall." The taller of the two men said, the one with chequered white, black and blue surcoat that had golden three eyes in the middle. He was quite tall standing almost as tall as Hound except for a short distance.
"I am Ser Rex the Fierce." The other man with the shaved head and no standard. He was looking very stern and given how he had fought earlier they could all see how he got his name.
"Then Ser Rex and Ser Tallad will have their names added along with the Hound to the Book." Robert said and the crowd cheered with the newest knights to join the illustrious order. Ser Barristan too was looking more relaxed as he knew these two men could at least fight well which was a vast improvement on those that had once worn the cloaks.
- x -
The mystery sword-woman took the gold promised as the reward and left the rest, she had no interest in the alcohol or the night at a brothel. She just wanted to book passage on a ship and leave Westeros as soon as possible. Just being in one place for too long made her uneasy and restless, she had spent nearly all her life on a ship being raised by its captain as it travelled the world. She had seen more of the world in her time then most of these people would in a lifetime. Had her father not died and ship been taken by House Hightower when they were in Oldtown she would still be travelling but with this gold she was hoping to book passage back to Essos were it would be easier to earn a living.
"You cost us big whore!" A rough sounding voice shouted behind her and she turned to see around fourteen of the competitors from the melee had surrounded her, she became tense as she realised the odds but the weight of her sword at her side not to mention the other surprises she had picked up on her travels was comforting.
"I cost you nothing. You were beaten now go and find some tavern to drown your sorrows in." She told them sternly but instead they looked more infuriated at being beaten by a woman. Seeing a fight was unavoidable now she slowly went to her hand and got a firm grip of a weapon she had not had the chance to use in the melee.
They all charged at her but without hesitation she drew the strange looking weapon from around her waist and started swinging it around. It was a strange thing they had never seen before, a long but thin rope attached to a steel weight on the end. She twirled it around with the ease of many hours of practice and smacked it straight into the faces of one of her attackers and everyone of them stopped as the injured man clutched at his broken nose. The steel flying rapidly through the air and all of them were too afraid to charge in.
"Just get her!" The injured man screamed and one of the men did as he said but she adjusted her swing and caught the man on the side of the head with the steel weight which easily broken the skin and sent him reeling with a potential fractured skull. The others all now more wary stayed back as she waited for the next one to attack another one came and she stopped spinning her rope to throw a slim throwing knife from her belt at him, killing him as it hit him in the throat.
"I said…" The injured man said with pained yelling till he stopped with a small scream, they turned to see a bright golden spear point was buried in his chest before being roughly withdrawn. They all looked to see Lord Stark's eldest daughter standing there with her special spear in hand and after twirling it around a bit the others got the message and ran away.
That left Meera Stark and the mystery woman staring at each other, Meera told her.
"That is some very impressive skill, I have never seen someone fight as you do."
"I have travelled far and received much training in foreign parts my lady." The mystery woman said politely but anything the two might have said was interrupted by the king and the rest of the royal party approaching.
"That was impressive young lady, what a bunch of cunts." The king said loudly and the mystery woman flinched almost imperceptibly as he spoke, like she was expecting something bad. "But you are someone to keep around, since I couldn't name you to the Kingsguard you will be the sworn sword of Lady Stark from now on. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing that rope thing you do again." Robert said before leaving to enjoy an afternoon with some whores while the rest followed to carry out their own business which left Ned, Meera and Arya standing there with Lanna and Jory looking at the mystery woman who looked extremely uncomfortable. Meera sighed knowing this was likely going to be uncomfortable for everyone asked him.
"May we have your name? I know this was not what you wished but if you are patient we will see to getting your freedom back soon." Meera said and the woman nodded slowly while looking very unsettled.
"Pearl, Lady Stark. My name is Pearl." She told them looking like she would rather be anywhere else than here.
Dothraki Camp, Essos…
Daenerys moaned as she rode Drogo with all the passion she could muster, his rough hands massaging her soft breasts and heightening her pleasure.
Finally Drogo could hold out no more and came hard, his seed emptied into her womb and both breathed rapidly with the effort of their latest bout of lovemaking. He was Daenerys thought with a saucy grin very good at it when he wanted to be, then again so was she and they had enjoyed many nights and even days in only each other's company as they explored each others bodies.
She rested her head on his chest and her hand lazily traced its way across the hard muscle there, he seemed to enjoy the feeling and took her hand but took it far more gently than you would expect of a horse lord. He placed a kiss on her wrist and a shiver of excitement ran through her.
She had been lucky with Drogo Daenerys thought with happiness. He was a rough man at times and as ruthless as any of his kind but he had it in him to love with such tenderness it honestly was shocking when you saw it...fortunately she was the only one that ever did. It wouldn't do she thought for his people to think he was going soft, not that he had problems in that area Daenerys thought with a blush as they were still connected in a very intimate way.
Her idea for the new horse archers had as she predicted not gone well with everyone but many of the Dothraki women loved riding as much as the men folk and were drawn to the idea that they could fight along side them. Ser Jorah was gathering the materials and teaching them all on how to make a powerful composite bow that could be made with wood and animal horn & tendons all laminated together. Soon she would begin training them when they had enough bows and arrows for the task.
Some of the men were she admitted with annoyance angry at the idea but if it worked this could make their faction the most powerful of all Dothraki and she wondered if it might be possible to unite them all under one banner so to speak.
Uniting the Dothraki as one people and making an alliance with the Lhazareen were she admitted ambitious goals, if she succeeded though they would become one of if not the most powerful force in Essos. She smirked a little as she felt her husband harden again and let him flip them over so they could enjoy more time in their marriage bed.
There we are for chapter 15, I hope you all enjoyed it and please review to let me know what you thought.
Pearl is not a random character thrown in for no reason, she was put in for a very specific purpose which will come much later in the story and Meera will soon be needing her help.
Next Chapter – Jaime is busy in the Riverlands, Ned and Meera investigate Jon Arryn's last actions and things begin to heat up in the capital.