Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Hello again, I thank all those that read and reviewed the last chapter...I had hoped to have this one out sooner but I suffered a bit of a burnout. It took a bit for me to get myself writing again but I managed it.
We are now into Season 2 although many things will be changed from the canon although some things will stay the same.
Warning – Mentions of Cannibalism and Rape are in this chapter.
Chapter 18 – Returning Home
Winterfell, the North…
The people of Winter town were all up and lining the road as the small procession came in with Meera at its head. The Martell party had at least shown the sense to wait at an inn until they were allowed to approach.
There was no huge honour guard or elaborate ceremony, that was not their way. Instead they merely lined the road as the procession moved through it, led by Meera who was looking as stoic as her father on her horse. There were more than a look mournful looks shared by the common folk as they passed.
Arriving through the main gate was painful for Meera especially as she rode ahead of her father's body. Seeing the devastated looks on her siblings faces as the cart carrying their father's body rolled in. Not only had the entire house and household stood in the yard to meet them but Meera's heart sank even further as she saw many of the Northern lords had come too. The GreatJon stood with his son the SmallJon with a strangely mournful expression along with Lord Karstark and his boys. Lord Manderly and his son Wylis was there along with Lord Ryswell and his grandsons as well as Lady Dustin who was imperiously looking around. Meera paid them no attention though, she was too worried about her siblings right now.
She rode up and dismounted her horse, her face frozen in a mask which was the only thing that kept her from breaking down right there in front of everyone. She walked up to Robb, her twin who was doing exactly the same as her. She saw the slight moistening of the eyes and tense features on the face and she bowed to the new Lord Stark before removing Ice from behind her back and handing it to him.
Robb seemed to hesitate before taking the sword and looked at her with a mournful look that almost undid her, at his side Wylla held his hand and squeezed it gently to try and comfort him. They shared a look for a moment while guards took their father's body off the wagon to take it down to the crypts.
Meera caught the eyes of her other siblings and Sansa she could tell had been crying as had Bran and Rickon, she wanted to go over and hold them to try and ease their hurt but had to hold back at least for now. Arya was the one that worried her the most though, instead of just being full of grief like the rest of them she was almost shaking with rage.
Bleakly for a moment Meera considered if it was her that she was angry at, for not protecting their father.
They all followed the casket holding their father's body down the passages until they finally reached Eddard Stark's final resting place. The statue she thought with dismay didn't look anything like him, it was insulting but she knew that was the best the sculptor could do and so she said nothing as he was laid to rest.
She refused to cry, however much she wanted to let the tears fall she knew she couldn't. She instead stood by her siblings as the casket was put in place and stone lid closed. The sound of it echoed as it sounded the end of an era, the end of safety and anything being secure.
Everyone was silent as they mourned for the loss of their lord. The Starks all walked out of the crypt together as the others followed, intent on taking some time to themselves before dinner.
- x -
The moment they were outside of anyone's sight safe in the Lord's Solar, Sansa and her two younger brothers ran forward and hugged Meera with all their might.
"Oh gods we were so worried." Sansa said, so glad to have her sister in her arms again after what had happened. Meera hugged them back, the comfort being more important than anything else in the world for all of them while Robb looked at her with concern.
Arya meanwhile was looking at her with a bleak look and eventually joined in the hug after awhile before asking.
"Did Baelish suffer?" Arya asked her with a bloodthirsty look in her eye.
Meera nodded grimly and Arya seemed to accept that. They all did and Meera sighed.
"I noticed Theon wasn't here. Where is he?" Meera asked with an angry look while the rest of them all shared looks of worry.
"He slipped out during the wedding." Wylla said from the side of Robb. "We think he has returned to the Iron Islands."
Those words honestly froze her blood in her veins as she realised just what was likely about to happen and she suddenly became urgent and told him.
"Write to all the keeps on the western coast and to Moat Cailin and The Twins, we need them to rally and prepare. The Iron Born now have no reason not to attack us and with father dead they will come I assure you." Meera said, her urgency surprising all of them.
"Theon wouldn't..." Robb said but Wylla who had been thinking the same thing since Lord Stark's death added with equal concern.
"Theon hasn't even written to us once since he ran away. Either he's dead or with his father in the Iron Islands and neither is good for us! We need to be prepared! With the kingdoms divided it is the perfect time for them to strike." Wylla said, her voice losing all of its pretend squeaky and annoying tone and her face completely serious.
Robb looked torn for a moment as he felt the stares of both his sisters and of his wife. He trusted Theon but their insistent stares were breaking him down and he finally nodded.
"Good, because I think we are all going to be very busy in the next few months." Meera said with a focused look on her face. When the Iron Born came though, the North would be ready for them. She turned to Robb and told him.
"Then you have to make sure that our people are rallied and ready." She told him and with his suddenly fearful look; she, Wylla and Sansa knew they would have to prepare him for tonight. But then Meera told them something that honestly they really did not want to deal with right now.
"I am afraid to say a party of Dornish led by Prince Quentyn Martell himself has settled at the inn down the Kings Road. They followed us all the way from Kings Landing and apparently want to make amends for the actions of Oberyn Martell and his daughters."
The Starks in the room all looked at her with disbelief and then anger on their faces, Robb telling them while standing there with an exceptionally annoyed look on his face that the Dornish would choose to show up now of all moments.
"After tonight we will tell them to leave immediately or be made too."
- x -
At dinner that night as all their vassals sat at the tables with them, it was unusually solemn for a Northern feast. Usually there was much shouting and laughing and drinking but tonight things were much more quiet and sedate.
Robb sat at the head of the main table, in what had once been their father's chair but now was his. At his side sat the new Lady of Winterfell Wylla while on his left Sansa sat with her Harrion Karstark next to her. Perhaps Meera should have sat there but after helping run Winterfell for nearly a year she deserved to be recognised for her good service. Arya sat next to Wylla while Bran and Rickon sat next to her.
Robb banged his cup down on the table until he had the full attention of everyone in the room.
"I know this is a dark day for the North as well as House Stark, my father was not loved by you all I know that but he was at his heart a servant of the North and its defender. He will be missed especially as war is upon us." Robb told them and they all nodded, most having expected this. Some did look really annoyed at having to get involved with southern wars but then Robb said what his sisters and wife had insisted he say.
"However the North is not here to sort out the problems that Southerners create for themselves. We will watch out for our own interests, Theon Greyjoy has fled Winterfell which means that it is likely the Iron Born will be upon us again." Robb announced and the hall broke out in angered murmuring at the return of their old enemy.
"To that end we will use our strength to protect ourselves and our people. Our lands will be safe from the Iron Born because we will not let them sink their filthy and thieving hands on what is ours. All keeps and towns on the coasts will be alerted by tomorrow morning and if that wasn't enough the Night's Watch has just informed me that apparently a King Beyond the Wall named Mance Rayder has rallied an army to attack the North, that too will be need to be dealt with. So our strength will be solely used to protect the North and its assets." Robb told them.
The Lords and Ladies present definitely liked the sound of that, of not having to march south to fight in southern wars and fight for cheating Southerners that made so promises they would never keep. Fighting for themselves was something that they all agreed with and even the cold and stern Lady Dustin looked glad and relieved at that.
A cheer rose through the hall.
"All hail Lord Robb!"
"For the North!" Robb said with a smile and those present repeated his words with passion.
"FOR THE NORTH!" They all cheered and started drinking and shouting with excitement which was much more like it the Starks thought, they were still hurting from their father's death but at least they were doing him proud.
Riverrun, the Riverlands…
Catelyn had been inconsolable for days...ever since the news of Ned's death had reached Riverrun.
Her husband, the love of her life...dead years before his time and in the rat's nest that was the capital.
She had cried her eyes and face raw with weeping, she had dreaded this might happen...that her beloved Quiet Wolf would be killed like his father and brother.
Damn the King to the depths of the Seven Hells! She cursed, damn Petyr too.
That Petyr had been behind it was a horrible discovery, she cursed him and with a sudden rush of anger spat on the floor, she honestly wished her father had never been so foolish to as to allow that RAT to be fostered here! She wished he had stayed rotting at the Fingers and never crawled out of his filthy hole!
She however looked at the blanket she was holding and at the wolves she had sewed into it and her anger disappeared and her heart went out to her children when she considered how they must be feeling right now. Especially Robb who now had to shoulder the burden of leading the North at such a young age and with a child on the way.
That too hurt Catelyn, the fact she would never likely see her first grandchild.
She would she thought with a determined look in her eye, create a blanket for him or her whichever it might be, then send it to Winterfell as a gift before the babe was born. It would she thought with sudden excitement be a perfect mix of Stark and Manderly, it would be a great project.
One she hoped might be enough she thought with a pang to be get her children to actually talk to her again.
Pyke, the Iron Islands…
Theon looked from the dock proudly as he studied his new ship!
It was a lot like Yara's Black Wind, two masts with a raised bow and stern and a crew of roughly thirty. It was called he saw on the bow the Ravager, he smirked at that loving the name and couldn't wait to get out there with here and sail the seas.
But the fact that his father was expecting him to go and raid the North left a horrible lump in his throat.
He wanted to warn them, he really did but every time he reached for the ink and parchment he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
But at the same time he wouldn't raise arms against them.
So he decided to leave the invasion of the North to his father and sister, neither knew the North as he did or how much better its defences were now. They were up against an enemy they not only underestimated but didn't really understand.
They were going to get smashed to bits Theon thought with a little amusement.
Meanwhile he would take his ship south, maybe even as far as the Stepstones and do some raiding of his own. It would certainly provide much better pickings than the North he thought with amusement.
Rose Road, the Reach…
Three armies all stood on different sides of the field as battle was about to commence, the first of the new civil war.
The Lannister Army led by Tywin Lannister stood ready, across the battlefield Stannis Baratheon with his army was likewise ready for battle while Randyll Tarly led the Reach's army nearby.
A battle like this hadn't been fought in Westeros for hundreds of years and it was really going to be a hard one as none of the leaders of the army had any intention of anything less than victory.
So they charged.
Meeting in the middle the three armies had little tactics beyond simply killing the enemy to win the day. Cavalry fought cavalry while infantry slugged it out in brutal fighting with whatever weapon they had, some had nothing at all and were fighting with only their hands.
Stannis was right there in the thick of it with his men as would be expected of a Baratheon, Tywin meanwhile had stayed back 'commanding' from afar.
Renly however was nowhere to be seen, he literally was not here instead being miles away in Highgarden spending his days in luxury and in the bed of Loras. The Reach men and the few Stormlanders that had joined his side where not exactly thrilled by this, nor the Lannister men that noticed their king was here to fight either but they at least had Lord Tywin present, the Reach men were not happy about Mace Tyrell or his son Loras being absent either.
The Stormlanders however were fighting with a genuine passion, thrilled by the chance to prove themselves and emboldened by the presence of their king on the field. Stannis had a sword in hand and was showing he was a highly capable warrior, cutting down men left and right.
That passion added to the fact that the Stormlands put such an emphasis on fighting prowess given they were often one of the most attacked of all the Seven Kingdoms meant they were quickly gaining the upper hand in the battle.
However all that changed when over a nearby hill, a mass of fresh cavalry from House Hightower and some of the more southern Reach houses appeared. The fresh horsemen charged straight at the exposed flanks of the Lannister and Baratheon forces and hit them hard.
Tywin grimaced, now seeing that Tarly had only committed to battle so he could distract them and ambush them with his hidden cavalry and turned to his second in command Kevan.
"Order the retreat. We'll have to deal with Randyll Tarly another way." He commanded and Kevan nodded, loyal to a fault and blew the horn to signal the retreat.
At the command the Lannister army began to withdraw and Stannis seeing the situation turn grimaced before doing the same. There was little chance of victory now and he would need to discover a way to gain the upper hand on the Reach.
- x -
Tywin, now back in his camp fumed at the defeat and knew he would need to get rid of Tarly soon otherwise this war was going to go against him very quickly. Without Tarly he knew the Reach would fold or be otherwise useless in battle. Renly had no ability or even intention of commanding and Mace Tyrell and his son were next to useless.
That would leave him free to deal with Stannis, Tywin thought, pondering just how to deal with him.
At least the reports from Kings Landing gave him some relief from all the weight on his shoulders.
Joffrey had surprisingly managed to not turn the Starks against them and thanks to that and Tyrion's surprisingly good deal with the Riverlands to keep Kings Landing fed, Tywin didn't have to divide his forces to the north and south of the city. He could concentrate all his men against the true threats to his legacy.
He was to be honest surprised that Tyrion had shown such competence as Hand of the King, he had eliminated his own competition and entrenched himself well in the city with a powerful support base of his own. Tywin hated Tyrion, always had and always would for killing Joanna and insulting the Lannister name with not only being a dwarf but by his drunkenness and disgraceful behaviour.
But not only had he refused to die which Tywin did respect at least a little, but he had proven he had a mind when he chose to use it and he had managed to take over Kings Landing.
At least he was acting like a Lannister at long last. With him there to keep Joffrey under control and make sure the city stayed stable Tywin was free to find ways to destroy his enemies. His chain of thought though was broken by the arrival of Kevan who looked grave.
"Speak." Tywin said with his usual stern voice, Kevan not bothered with this after years of being exposed to it spoke.
"Our casualties were thankfully light but Lord Farman was slain by one of the Hightower horses." Kevan told him.
Tywin nodded, unbothered as Farman had been a thorn in his side before being reminded of just what happened to those that crossed him and knew he would likely have been a potential problem in the future.
"Send the Mountain and his men to raid Reach farms, tell him to steal food to feed our army but to make an example of those he finds." Tywin commanded and Kevan slowly nodded, loyal to his brother so he would not question his orders.
- x -
Stannis too was angry, like Tywin for losing the battle but also for the betrayal of Renly which was already costing him time and effort. If he had not had to fight Renly and the Reach too he would likely have won today! He fumed quietly to himself while on the outside staying perfectly calm.
He needed to make the Reach unwilling to engage him in battle, so afraid of him they would either sue for peace and abandon Renly or be unwilling to face him and concentrate their efforts against the Lannisters. He pondered over this before making a decision that was a difficult one but it might just achieve that objective.
He had not used the Ice River Clansmen in battle, they were to his mind far too undisciplined to be reliable as part of his army. But on their own with the simple order to lay waste to Reach villages, they would he thought be a perfect way to spread fear. Such tactics were not his normal style but he knew given who he was facing that he had to be at least as ruthless and as terrifying to his opponents as Tywin, Master Kilburn's advice but good one regardless, he just hoped the man returned from the Far North soon.
The Red Keep, Kings Landing…
Joffrey was up early in the day, training hard on the range as it was worked furiously to prepare himself to lead the defence of the city should it be needed. He honestly would never want to have to be in a position where his own life was at risk but he knew now that at least he would have to appear to be leading the protection of the city should it be needed even if other men did the actual fighting. His uncle Ser Jaime would likely be the one to lead them, now the leader of the Kingsguard which still had not fully recovered from the lost of Ser Rex and Ser Moore not to mention the desertion of Ser Barristan.
The mention of old knight's defection angered Joffrey so much that he actually missed a shot which only made him snarl visibly, making the servants around him nervous that he might start using them as target practice.
Something that had already crossed his mind as a fun thing to do. However he managed to restrain himself by enjoying thoughts of his other new 'hobby'.
His uncle Tyrion and the new Lord Mayor had been very effective in finding not only Baelish loyalists within the city but criminals and also those that had sided with his treacherous uncles curse them Joffrey thought, delighting in different ideas of just what to do with them when they were brought broken and defeated at his feet.
In the meantime he was testing different methods of torture he had discovered in his readings from different parts of the world. Burning people alive with oils or watching as their skin melted was rather amusing Joffrey thought and was certainly a favourite of his while the traditional rack also had its charms as did the rat in the bucket.
He had been gleefully watching when this was done, a rat was put in a bucket and placed against someone's stomach. A fire would then be lit on the other side to drive the rat against the skin and eventually eat its way to freedom. It had been an exhilarating sight Joffrey thought with a sickening smile and he still had many kinds of torture to try out yet.
However he was distracted from his practice and his thoughts by the arrival of Grandmaester Pycelle who bowed to him the moment he appeared.
"You sent for me your grace." Pycelle said in his rasping old voice and Joffrey swallowed his irritation at the intrusion as he needed to speak to the man about an idea that he had for the defence of the city.
"Yes Grandmaester. I was wondering if you have seen this." Joffrey said before handing his own personalised crossbow that Lady Meera had made for him. Pycelle took the weapon and carefully studied it for a moment before telling his king with an impressed look on his face.
"It is a well made weapon your grace." Pycelle said simply and Joffrey nearly rolled his eyes at the man not seeing the reason why he had brought him here. Instead Joffrey with rising irritation told him.
"Yes, Lady Meera created it for me specially. I want to see you take this design and make larger versions for mounting on the city and castle walls to help with defence since it is more sturdy and faster to load than the existing versions we have not to mention the range is better. Of course they will not need to be as beautiful as this...create less elaborate copies for the city watch to use." Joffrey told him with a hard glare that almost made Pycelle step back in fear.
Pycelle honestly did not believe that a woman could have made a good weapon but thankfully knew better than to insult the object of Joffrey's affections right to his face or anywhere he might learn of it. So he merely bowed again and told his king.
"It will be done immediately your grace, I will have all the weapon smiths in the city working night and day to see it done." Pycelle assured his king who merely stared imperiously down at him.
Jaime meanwhile was looking on with amusement at how intimidating Joffrey was being to Pycelle. Not to mention being impressed at Joffrey's idea to create larger versions of his improved crossbow to mount on the walls of the city and the castle to improve its protection.
While he still hated the Starks he had to admit the girl had been a good influence on Joffrey in getting him to take his responsibilities more seriously and to use what mind he had to its fullest effect.
But he was also disturbed by the tortures Joffrey was using on prisoners, the screams reminding him too much of the days when Aerys had ruled here and wondered if the people might call his son the second mad king one day.
- x -
Tower of the Hand, the Red Keep…
Tyrion Lannister was loving his new solar, it was comfortable and came with the highest office in the land.
It felt nice he thought with a smirk privately to himself, he knew not to be foolish though. No one rose so high that they couldn't fall he thought knowing from history that many powerful men and women had become drunk on that power and ultimately that had led to their downfall or enemies that they hadn't foreseen.
"We managed to increase the size of the city watch to nearly five thousand men but most aren't fit for anything more than pissing over a wall." Bronn told Tyrion as he reported his efforts as the new commander of the City Watch while the Lord Mayor Thomas Lynthorne sat next to him.
"With time even the stupidest men can be taught, keep at it and they will learn. Besides I have managed to acquire enough steel to arm and equipment them." Thomas said before adding. "And the city's stores are set with enough grain to last five years if needs be."
"Then we are better prepared in event of a siege, good. Now gentlemen if that is all, I think we are have duties to perform." Tyrion said politely with a smile to his two followers who nodded and left the room to see to their own business.
Tyrion was left alone for a moment to look over all the documents that required his attention and it was he thought with a bit of exhaustion hard to do along with everything else he had to keep track of.
"Lord Hand, I trust your meeting with Ser Bronn and Master Lynthorne went well?" A smooth and intelligent voice spoke from the other side of the room. Tyrion already knew who it was and didn't even bother to look up.
"As if you don't know every word that was said and what we are planning for the next month at least." Tyrion said without a care, if mattered little if Varys knew his plans for the city as nothing said had compromised his position.
"I don't know what you mean my lord." Varys said with a slightly amused smile on his face. Tyrion looked up with a bemused look on his own face.
"I am entirely sure, you are entirely sure what I mean." Tyrion said before Varys nodded in acceptance of that before telling him.
"I am merely here to congratulate you on your latest play's success. The tale of the vicious villain who manipulates a beautiful and kind princess to rule her lands before she grows strong and finds true love to defeat the villain to rule as a queen. I must admit I see that princess was inspired jointly by your own daughter and the Princess Myrcella and that the late Lord Baelish was the inspiration for the villain. I have heard it is widely adored by the people and distracts them from the war. I commend you on your ability my lord."
Tyrion nodded, glad to see another of his creations be liked by the city and amuse the people at a time when amusement was in short supply but desperately needed.
"Aside from that, I bring news from the war in the south. Your father suffered a defeat on the Rose Road to Lord Randyll Tarly. Stannis Baratheon too lost to the man there but the Lannister Army suffered greater losses than Stannis Baratheon. Lord Farman was lost and I understand that later Ser Jon Bettley and Lord Quentyn Banefort succumbed to their wounds in the aftermath." Varys told him gravely.
Tyrion nodded, looking very calm and calculating on the outside but in reality on the inside he was smiling broadly. He knew those men were loyal supporters to his father and their heirs were not. He had been hoping that Lord Tarly might take out more but he was content to wait for future engagements to ensure more of his father's most loyal men were removed from the situation.
After all, he thought darkly with amusement. A city wasn't built in a day although he was more interested in burning one down, specifically his father's legacy.
The Eyrie, the Vale…
"GIVE ME BACK MY SON!" Lysa screamed as men dragged her from the gates of the Eyrie, struggling all the time to try and run back inside and see her son who was sleeping in his room unaware of anything happening.
The guards said nothing as they dragged her over to a wheel house that had been acquired, specifically one with a lock that you could secure from the outside. She was thrown inside and the door locked while she hammered against it with her fists as hard as she could in the vain hope she might break down the door and escape.
Lord Royce and his fellows looked on relieved as the wheelhouse started off down the road on its way to Gulltown where a sept was waiting to take in the woman who in their minds was not right in the head. Feeding a boy from her own breast at his age!? They thought among other things, the chance to overthrow her and maybe ensure their future lord had a chance to actually grow up and maybe have a normal life had been too good for them to past up.
They knew this could come back to bite them, the Tullys they all knew would not be amused by this at all but with Lord Hoster on his deathbed any real threat was unlikely. Edmure might blunder but even he wasn't so stupid to go against the Vale without the North's help, something that Lord Royce knew was very unlikely to happen now.
The Tullys might now have some of their blood in the future of the North and the Vale but it was only a little and the Vale continued to be on good terms with the Starks. Lord Royce only wished he could have gone up to attend the previous Lord Stark's funeral, after all the man had been a good friend for many years but to his regret he had to remain to deal with the mad Lady Lysa.
Still he thought with relief, hopefully things would be a lot more quieter with her gone.
The sands of Dorne were completely unknown to Rhaenys, she had never seen them even when she was a princess, her mother had never been allowed to leave the Red Keep or Dragonstone and therefore neither had she by orders of her horrible grandfather who had kept them as hostages in all but name even before the war.
She could just about remember her mother telling her about the endless sea of sands and the large Red Mountains and from time to time she had seen her mother sitting at a window staring out of it with a look of longing on her face but when asked had just said she was fine and nothing was wrong.
As Rhaenys had gotten older she had realised that her mother had been homesick, she had remembered her mother had whispered once to her that one day she would take them to see Dorne and dance in the sands there like she had with her own brothers once.
The fact she had never gotten the chance and now she was here in her mother's place, making that journey...it was very emotional for her. Rhaenys thought as a tear slid down her cheek. Ser Barristan at her side if he noticed said nothing.
Seeing the sights of where her mother had grown up too was a very heartfelt experience, she could almost imagine her mother walking down these streets and speaking with such kindness that people would admire her wherever she went. Rhaenys wiped the tears from her eyes as she and Ser Barristan arrived at the Sandship, the uniquely shaped castle that House Martell called their home.
Quentyn had sent a message ahead to expect them and it had clearly arrived since they were permitted entry without being challenged, she rode her horse inside and a group of Martell guards wordlessly led her and Ser Barristan to the Water Gardens. Seeing the impressive creation that her ancestor had created for his Targaryen bride was another thing that brought a lump to her throat but she was suddenly aware of three people sitting at the other side, looking at her with very careful yet hopeful looks. Her family she realised with a very painful pang in her heart.
Trystane bless him was looking at her with a genuine and warm smile, she smiled at him and wondered briefly if her brother would have been like him had Aegon ever had the chance to grow up.
Arianne, the current heir to Dorne however was very different. She had the body of a woman grown and being roughly the same age as her but was unlike her youngest brother looking at her with suspicion which she supposed with regret was understandable given she had appeared out of thin air after being dead for years.
However in the centre was the man who ruled here and through whom she was related to the other two.
Her uncle, Prince Doran Martell.
He was a distinguished looking man she thought when she first cast eyes on him, he was unfortunately confined to a wheeled chair and was older looking more frail from his inability to do much physical exercise but his eyes were so sharp and piercing it felt like he was looking right through her. He too was studying her closely but a small smile was playing on his lips. He extended a hand to her and she slowly walked forward, feeling suddenly very afraid as if all this was likely to be snatched away from her at any moment.
But it wasn't and he took her hand in a surprisingly strong grip and held it tight with a smile on his face.
"I have never been one to believe in miracles, too often they prove false and disappointing...but a moment like this...is a miracle in itself." Doran said with a strange glint in his eye. She was left speechless at his declaration.
"You could never be anyone else than my dear sister's daughter." Doran said with a sudden joy. "Her light shines in you so brightly, even if you did not look so much like her you couldn't be anyone else than the daughter of Elia." Doran said with genuine warmth.
Rhaenys was unable to hold back the tears and squeezed his hand right back.
"I have wanted to meet you all for so long." She admitted, at her side Ser Barristan was smiling slightly as he witnessed her reuniting with her family.
- x -
Oberyn Martell last year or so had been a complete nightmare.
He had been kept away from his lover and of his daughters except his two eldest who had been able to stay with him. Obara and Nymeria too had been missing their sisters and their adoptive mother but with his brother making sure they stayed apart there had been nothing he could do. He had not even been able to see the birth of his latest daughter who he had been told was named Ashara who had been kept at Hellholt for now...he had not been there to hold her and it stabbed at his heart.
Doran had kept him busy rushing around Dorne, dealing with bandits and other tasks that he could have delegated to any of his vassals but instead gave them to him which Oberyn thought was probably to try and mend fences with their vassals and to keep him busy and not able to cause any more trouble.
But it was just torture, Oberyn thought with misery. Not being able to see his family or to travel as he wished too. It was like someone had taken all the colour and joy out of his life and left him with nothing to be happy about when he woke up in the morning.
When he had been urgently summoned home again he was about ready to get down on his knees and beg Doran to let him at least have his girls back even if he couldn't travel, just to have them in his life again.
The sight of Ellaria and his youngest girls waiting for him the moment he came in through the door like a gift from the gods. Ellaria was he noticed with concern looking more thin than he remembered and her face more drawn but the moment she saw him it was like she regained her full life and with a gasp ran over to him. She jumped into his arms and kissed him with a passion beyond anything they had previously shared, wrapping her legs around his waist and had his youngest daughters not been present Oberyn would have ravished her right there and then.
When the need for breath finally made them stop he reluctantly let her go so she could hug and kiss her adopted older daughters, Oberyn meanwhile noticed a pair of guards standing close to a figure in the dress of a septa. It took a moment for him to realise it given that she was just staring at the floor but then realised to his shock that it was Tyene.
Her time in the sept he could see with worry had not been kind to her, she was looking so lost and shattered that her fiery spirit was long gone which broke Oberyn's heart. Her face had lost most of its youth and vitality and he could see from a small peak under her hood that her beautiful dark hair had been shaved to her skull.
He felt a fury rising up inside him that someone would do that to his daughter and vowed the moment he was able to get her out of that Sept and damn anyone else he thought fuming.
"Follow me." The guard said and Oberyn full of fire and energy for the first time in over a year followed with a purposeful stride, ready to argue with his brother if he had too to let this torment for his family end.
Striding into the Water Gardens he was about ready to shout at Doran until he saw the young woman standing right beside him, Arianne and Trystane.
It was as if he had stepped back in time, to another part of his life...seeing the woman that had meant the most to him and his brother, romantic partners aside.
He was stopped still and wondered if he had died and had gone on to some kind of afterlife until he noticed her eyes were not the same, in fact they were a luminous and beautiful lilac colour...Targaryen eyes.
Then finally he realised that it was not his dearly beloved sister standing before him, but her daughter. The same daughter that he and most of the world believed dead.
The young woman was a beauty, put her in a dress and men would literally be laying at her feet if it meant she would give them her time and attention. They would sell their souls for her hand Oberyn thought as he walked forward and the moment he came up to her, he grabbed her in a hug and spoke quietly while everyone else looked on.
"Welcome home Rhaenys."
"Thank you uncle." She whispered back as she hugged him back.
Winterfell, the North…
Quentyn had at least enough sense in his head to wait a week before going up to Winterfell to meet with Robb Stark and the rest of the family. Not only were they grieving but with the funeral over the Northern lords had left meaning he could go in without glares from those that would be less than pleased about him being there.
Not that the Starks would be pleased either he thought with a small sigh, knowing this was going to be a difficult meeting.
Seeing the enormous citadel that was Winterfell ahead of him Quentyn had to admit it was impressive, much more grim and nowhere near as decorative as the Sandship but this place was not built to look pretty he realised. It was built to survive, to endure and to protect those within it from all potential dangerous be they natural or human. It would be a near impossible task to take this castle without inside help he thought, impressed at how well built and enduring the castle was.
Riding into the courtyard he was immediately beset with hostile looks and knew he was facing just as much of an uphill struggle here. He did not however let his apprehension show as he walked in with his men, walking straight to the great hall where he saw House Stark had gathered to meet him.
Robb Stark, the new lord was sitting in the Lord's chair as he should be with his wife Wylla Manderly at his side, both were glaring at him with great distrust. Nearby Sansa Stark the second daughter was sitting next to her Karstark betrothed who while more guarded with their feelings clearly did not like he being there with the tightening around their eyes.
Arya Stark sat with her two younger brothers Bran and Rickon were present as well, the boys were distrusting but did not look as angry as their older siblings while Arya on the other hand made him nervous with the intensity of her glare. He honestly wondered if she was planning his demise with how much anger she seemed to have in her eyes. She might be smaller than him but he could well imagine her creeping into his room and stabbing him with a dagger. The fact Meera Stark herself was not present was telling, she had apparently wanted her privacy and had left him to sink or swim facing her family.
He was suddenly struck by the fact that his family and the Starks were alike in one key respect, their loyalty to each other. Unlike other families in Westeros especially the Lannisters for example who were always at each others throats the Starks like his own family stayed true to each other.
They would never truly side with the Baratheons or the Lannisters when their father had died due to their actions, just as his family never would either. Any idea they would now that their father and Robert Baratheon was dead was completely foolish.
He knew his father would be very glad to here that.
"What do you want Martell? My family trusted yours once before and it shattered my parents marriage. Why should we take that risk again?" Robb said with a cold and dismissive voice.
Quentyn wondered just how to make them see he was not like his uncle, that he was worth a chance and quickly searched through all the history of House Stark had he had researched and with concern made his point.
"Are you the same as Theon Stark the Hungry Wolf?" He asked plainly.
The question seemed to surprise them all knocking them all off balance, Quentyn took a small bit of pride in that at least but took advantage of the pause to press his point.
"No, you are not the warlord that slaughtered thousands, nor are you Brandon the Shipwright or Brandon the Burner who without any thought to his homeland's needs had burned their fleet and shipyards. The same is true of me, I am not my uncle. He made House Martell outcasts among all of Westeros and enraged even our own vassals with his actions. I am here to show the world that we are not the dishonourable adulterers that he would make the world think us to be and it seemed best to start with those most hurt by him. I am here to do whatever it takes to ensure that House Stark and House Martell are on good terms with each other. I understand why you will not let us stay in the castle, it is a reasonable restriction but I will not simply give up." Quentyn said, while outwardly he was calm and determined, inside he was shaking with worry that he was going to ruin this and leave his family looking even worse than before.
"You speak well, but pretty words do not speak as loud as actions." Wylla Stark said from beside her husband, she looked at him with a calm and calculating stare which honestly would not have looked unusual on the face of his sister Arianne. The two women looked very different even with Wylla Manderly having stopped dying her hair and instead wore dresses in the sea green colour but he could see they both liked to play their own games.
"Then I will have to find ways to prove myself." Quentyn said while his men behind him all looked concerned, worried about what he was going to have to make himself accepted here.
- x -
Lanna meanwhile was helping Mira Forrester with the wedding cloak for Sansa, while it would be a while yet before the wedding to Harrion Karstark they wanted to make a magnificent cloak for her, one that would be talked about all across the North.
The cloak was made of deep blue silk and she and Mira had been carefully stitching golden and silver thread into runic patterns and other decorations into it. It might take months of effort but when it was finished it was going to be glorious Lanna thought with a smile on her face that was echoed on Mira's.
Lanna however was distracted by the letters she had received from her cousin and Tyrion down in Kings Landing.
Myrcella seemed to be doing well, with Joffrey distracted by his new power for now she was more or less free to do what she wanted, so she and Tommen were much happier than she had been before and Lanna only hoped that wouldn't change any time soon.
The letter from Tyrion though she thought with a frown, that made her feel more uneasy. It was perfectly cordial and told her a little about what he had been doing while asking her the same, however this new state of things after hating him for so long was disconcerting.
She had been reassured by him though that he would not allow his father to to wed her off, how he had known about that was scary, that so many seemed to be watching them.
She did her best to find reassurance in that and to put it out of her mind before turning back to her work, as Jory told her often there was little point in worrying about something that might happen. It got you nowhere and wasted your time.
- x -
Meera meanwhile had retreated into her workshop, the familiar sights and smells were as reassuring as a warm blanket after all the trouble of recent events.
She just wanted to lose herself in her work and just find peace in it. It was easier than thinking about anything that had happened, especially father...she thought, her head falling to rest in her hands as she felt the grief coming back to her.
The pain was lessened a little by being back home and the comfort of the rest of her family being around her but still it stabbed at her. The guilt for letting it happen, what her negligence had cost their family.
Her tears had long run out, now she was left with just a pit of despair that she was honestly feeling like she was about to topple straight into!
A knock at the door though made her sit up and do her best to compose herself and stood.
"Enter." She called out. Maester Luwin walked in and to be honest it was a real relief to see him as she could really use the familiar right now. However the grave look on his face made her immediately worry. "What is it?"
"A message just arrived my lady written directly to you, it is about young Jon." He told her gravely.
Her heart was now thundering and sick with worry, her family could not take another loss right now and she was terrified at thought of Jon, her dear brother laying dead somewhere. She took the message and opened it with great worry and trepidation.
What she read was a relief in some ways but in others was even worse. Jon was alive that much she was able to appreciate but the fact was he and Uncle Benjen had been taken prisoner by someone who was demanding that she go up there and retrieve them...in person.
She did not waste time speaking with Luwin about and ran straight from her workshop to the Weirwood in the Godswood. She reached the ancient tree and so desperate was she to know if it was true she reached out and touched the bark.
A rush of sensations ran through her mind but her focus was on Jon and Uncle Benjen, so she concentrated her mind on the specific time and place, watching as the forest beyond the Wall came into focus.
To her horror she saw that the message was right as Jon and Benjen were taken by Unsullied not unlike her own who were at her order currently resting. She saw them dragged to a rough looking homestead where they were now being held.
She took her hand away from the bark and frowned, not sure what to do for a moment as she was in so much upheaval over the last month. She fell against the tree as her legs gave way, no longer able to stand.
She stayed like that for a while, not able to make sense of things in her head, she was all over the place. It was just too much to take after so much but when she noticed Romulus and Rema coming to her she smiled a little and they rubbed their big fluffy heads against her to try and relax her. She held on to them for dear life as they honestly were the most welcome thing in the world at that point.
She stayed their hugging them for a while, just taking comfort in their presence until she saw Robb coming up to her with Luwin. She reluctantly stood up and handed him the message, he read it and her brother blanched, not wanting to believe it but if she was here would mean that she had already confirmed it.
Robb was now looking very close to exploding with rage, after everything like her he was at the end of his tether and ready to march an army through the Wall to get them back but Meera, now starting to get a clearer head after time with her wolves managed to say.
"You need to stay here and prepare the North for the Iron Born, not to mention I want my future niece or nephew to have their father here to greet them when they are born." Meera told him with a determined look in her eyes, her old fire starting to come back as she finally had a new purpose. "I will take a party north of the Wall to find and retrieve Jon and Uncle Benjen. The less people at risk the better and I am not going to let our family suffer any more losses." She said and turned to her wolves and gently rubbed behind their ears and told them.
"I won't be gone long, I need you to stay here to look out for the rest of the pack while I'm gone." She told them and she could tell they did not like being left behind again but licked her hands and she resumed cuddling with them.
"My lord, my lady...this isn't exactly a wise course of action." Luwin advised, worried that the pressure of the situation that the two young people were faced with along with their grief over the loss of their father was making them make bad decisions that could prove to be dangerous. Meera seeing the old man's concern put her hand on his shoulder and told him.
"This is a not something that is wise but it is all we can do. With the Iron Born coming the Northern army has to stay here to protect our home especially if another Wildling invasion is coming at the same time, if I can lead a small group to find and rescue Jon and Uncle Benjen then it is far safer. It might not be a smart thing to do but it is what I am going to do."
Both Robb and Luwin looked ready to continue arguing but the fierce look in her eyes made them back down while her wolves growled.
- x -
Gendry was still settling in at Winterfell and already it was much better than it had been for him at Kings Landing. His previous master had been reasonably good to him but he had little time to himself having to work all hours of the day to earn his living. Most of the labour in that shop had actually been his while the master had trained his new apprentices.
In Winterfell he still had to work hard but had more time to himself and the pay was much better Gendry thought with glee, he had a chance to practice with his war-hammer and Ser Rodrik Cassel, the castle's master at arms had even allowed him to train with the other men. Some whom actually had some experience with heavy blunted weapons like his hammer and had already given him some good advice on how to handle it better. The cold had been something that had shocked him at first but he was getting used to it.
It had been he thought with pride a good decision to swear himself to House Stark.
Later as he prepared to head out to the forges though he saw Lady Meera and her Unsullied guards alongside a group of Winterfell guards and Lady Mira Forrester all saddling horses. He was curious as there was no reason that he could see for them to be leaving just yet before he went up to Tom, one of the young guards who was a part of the group.
"What's going on Tom?" Gendry asked and Tom told him with a worried expression.
"Lady Meera's bastard brother and her uncle have been taken beyond the Wall, we're going to find them and bring them back."
Gendry was immediately surprised that the Starks would be so concerned for a bastard even if he was one of them but knowing this might be a chance to prove himself he spoke.
"I'll volunteer. Safety in numbers and all that." Gendry said but Tom just told him.
"We're going beyond the Wall! Only the Wildlings live there and its completely wild. No law or order, even the Nights Watch only go out there when they absolutely have too." Tom said with worry that he didn't fully understand just what he was getting into. "The only reason Lady Mira Forrester is going is due to her being very good at reading and creating maps, better than the rest of us which is really important given where we're going."
Gendry was a little worried for a moment but soon was smiling again as he got a horse to join the party along with some warmer clothes and his war hammer.
How bad could it be? He thought to himself as they rode out of Winterfell.
None of the party witnessed the Martells riding after them.
Rosemere Village, the Reach...
The village of Rosemere was almost picturesque in how peaceful it was, small and utterly without conflict with farmers and villagers living an almost idyllic existence, free of the troubles that plagued the rest of the country. Many were unaware of its existence given how little appeared in history or conversation.
However that also meant it had no walls to protect it, no force stationed there and no warning of the attack that was to come.
The sight of a few thousand rough looking men and women coming there was hardly even noticed at first, they had no watch or anything due to their small population and lack of importance. However when it finally was sighted there was virtually nothing that the inhabitants could do.
The clansmen, sweating with the heat of the south after the cold of the north charged in with their vicious cries filling the air. The mere sight of them was enough to terrify the villagers who all started running but the wildlings were far fitter than they were and more used to physical exercise.
Swinging axes and other weapons given to them by Stannis they began fall upon them, in one house a man with his family held the door as long as he could but soon enough the wood splintered and broke, allowing the clansmen in. Shaggy haired and covered with scars and almost black teeth they were almost like devils to the people, one men smashed a rough looking club into the father's leg and there was a sickening crunch as the bone broke and a scream of pain from the poor man.
One of the men grinning like a devil forced him to the ground and pulled his head up to watch powerless as the rest of the wildlings grabbed the man's wife and daughters and tore off their dresses before raping them right before the man's eyes.
It was a scene repeated again and again as houses and shelters were forced open, men and boys forced to watch as women and girls were violated and dragged out often by their hair and all made to stay in the village square where they would discover just how depraved humans could be.
The women and girls, those that were young and beautiful enough to be worth 'taking' were made to watch as the men and the women and children too that were too young to be useful were all gutted right before their eyes. Wives, mothers, sisters and daughters all screaming and sobbing as those they loved were butchered before their eyes and then worse...eaten before their eyes.
After stripping the village of everything that could be useful the clansmen dragged their 'prizes' with them back to their camp, leaving a shattered and empty village behind them. Some had managed to run or a tiny few managed to hide in the village as best they could to avoid capture. They would only emerge when sure it was safe and made their way to the nearest castle or walled town in search of sanctuary. Word of what they had just witnessed and endured would spread quickly across the Reach, letting everyone know just how dangerous war truly was.
Tyrell Army, the Reach…
A group of tents sat in a large area, largely green but with a few other colours thrown in to represent the different houses of the Reach.
News of what had happened at Rosemere had just reached the camp and honestly it was scaring a lot of the untested men. They had never heard any such tales before except in their most terrible stories and men were scared to death of having to face those savages.
Some were eager for revenge though, one of them was Lord Randyll Tarly himself. He had never met a wildling in his life and yet he despised them completely. The source of this hatred was not known to anyone but Randyll himself but right now he was too busy with thinking up a strategy to eliminate these monsters from beyond the Wall before more damage was done.
The security in the camp was very good under his leadership, it was a relief in some ways Randyll thought with annoyance not to have King Renly around. His presence on the battlefield would have perhaps been better for morale but he was quite aware of the man's shortcomings and idiocy. Having him interfering would only make the war harder on the men Randyll thought and it was easier for him to fight when he didn't have either Renly or any of the Tyrells getting in the way.
He sipped on his water, not drinking wine so he could keep a clear head unlike many fools who drank when they shouldn't. Randyll turned back to the map and after a while felt his throat begin to irritate him. He started coughing, gently at first but soon it started getting worse as the feeling of burning in his throat got worse and his men finally took notice in time to summon the maester as Randyll fell down onto the table.
- x -
Highgarden, the Reach…A Day Later...
Olenna held the raven message in her hands, her anger mounting as the situation for her and her family got worse and worse by the moment.
Right in front of her Margaery too was frustrated for admittedly different reasons that were justified.
"He just won't try grandmother." Margaery said with anger coming into her voice, a rare thing but in the privacy was acceptable. "Even when Loras tries to help him and with all the potions we acquired he simply won't lay with me. He looks at me with revulsion." Margaery said bitterly.
"I am supposed to be the queen, but he won't spend any of his time with me. Just going off with Loras and spending his days in blissful abandon as the war rages. I try to be supportive but all I hear is how he should be out leading the army instead of being here." Margaery then added with worry at how bad it looked to have a king who wasn't leading his own army.
Olenna had to agree with that worry, Joffrey at least had the excuse of being perhaps too young to lead just yet. Renly meanwhile had no such excuse, as a Baratheon in particular and as the brother to a famous warrior king while his older brother who might be the rightful king in many eyes led his army, to have Renly here, enjoying himself with their gold and spending all his time with Loras to say the least was not good for their image.
Olenna didn't care what the man preferred sexually but his laziness and entitlement was starting to erode confidence in him as a king regardless of what Loras and Mace the idiots thought. With Randyll Tarly leading the army she had at least some confidence in their ability to win this war but now Randyll had been poisoned!
She had been assured by the maester in the camp that he had survived but was completely bed bound by the experience and would not be able to lead for weeks or even months depending on how long it took for him to recover.
This she thought with anger could not have come at a worse time, with the Mountain and the cannibal wildlings riding around the Reach. Tywin Lannister and Stannis Baratheon were free to wreak havoc on their home, not to mention Renly and Mace doing a grand total of nothingto stop it...this meant people would at best doubt them...at worst begin to plot against them.
Olenna was very feeling not only anger at the fools she was forced to deal with but tired of this ridiculousness. She pondered for a moment and considered her options before wondering on a new plan that might not only fix all her current issues or at least most of them but also secure the future of House Tyrell. It would take time she thought to arrange but it could she reasoned by her best option.
In the meantime she had to concentrate, there were more immediate problems and she would need to deal with these 'cannibal clansmen'.
Small Council Chamber, the Red Keep…
The Small Council was meeting to discuss the defence of the city, Joffrey sat at the centre of the table with Tyrion close by and was smirking as he saw the report being given to him by his new Master of Laws who was also the Lord Mayor of Kings Landing, Thomas Lynthorne.
"With the expansion of the city watch and your grace's new mounted crossbow weapons on the walls we will soon have a good position to defend the city especially with the Lannister army to the south. Trade with the Riverlands now means we have enough grain stored for five years come winter and all the blacksmiths in the city are working to arm the new men." Thomas told the king who stiffly nodded at the man.
"Good Lord Lynthorne. When this war is over I will have to reward you with a title and some land. Now Ser Jaime, I have need of your insights. If either of my treacherous uncles does attack the city, just where will it be concentrated in your mind?" Joffrey asked his uncle who was perhaps the best man here for martial matters. Jaime who was rarely asked anything in these meetings and had been relaxed in his chair so was caught off guard but swiftly recovered and told Joffrey.
"Of all the city gates the Mud Gate is the weakest defended and the least reinforced. Given that Stannis controls Dragonstone and the former Royal Fleet it would be the best option should he launch an assault." Jaime said, glad to be asked a question that he could actually answer.
"Then perhaps we should concentrate weapons and more manpower along that gate to reinforce it, since the only other option would be to knock it down to rebuild it stronger which is not only expensive but also would leave a significant hole in the city's defences till it is complete. So it is probably best that we just reinforce it as best we can till after the war when creation of a stronger gate is not so dangerous." Tyrion said with a relaxed air about him.
Joffrey was confused for a moment as he considered just what his uncle had said but then seemed to accept their advice but the meeting was then interrupted by someone bursting in.
"Joffrey." Cersei said with a big smile on her face rushing forward to embrace him, she looked excited about something but Joffrey clearly did not feel the same way about her, he got up from his chair at her approach and stepped back.
"Ser Jaime would you please remove the queen mother from the room. We are in the middle of an important meeting." Joffrey said shortly, dismissing her completely which seemed to completely shock Cersei who simply did not know how to react at first.
Jaime knowing that the Hound who was standing a little way behind the king would be quite capable of protecting Joffrey did as he was told and got a firm grip on his twin sister and started dragging her out of the room. This seemed to make Cersei recover her senses and she started yelling with spit flying from her mouth and her face flushed.
"JOFFREY! JOFFREY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! I AM YOUR MOTHER! THE QUEEN!" She yelled but was not able to stop Jaime from dragging her out of the room and the guards closed it behind them. Knowing an argument was brewing Jaime did not let up struggling till he managed to force her into an empty room and closed the door behind them.
"LET ME OUT OF HERE!" Cersei screamed at Jaime, thumping her fists against his chest-plate but Jaime remained unmovable.
"Not until you swear not to interrupt the Small Council when you are not invited, and I need to remind you that you are no longer queen. You are the queen mother now." Jaime told her firmly. "You have no position there and unless the king permits it you will not attend any meetings."
"I AM THE QUEEN!" Cersei screamed in his face, her spit hitting his face at how close she was getting right up close as if to intimidate him. "HE IS MY SON! AND SPEAKING OF WHICH WHY IS THAT DISGUSTING TROLL SITTING IN AS HAND!?"
Jaime unfazed by her outburst just stood there with a cold expression on his face all the way through her yelling and answered much more calmly.
"Since you took so long to seek treatment for your illness that you managed to catch another disease, one that has not exactly done much for your appearance I will tell you what had been happening in your absence." Jaime told her, taking note of how drawn she looked. He guessed maybe the two diseases together had managed to age her at least ten years with her skin no longer as clear nor was she as shapely as she had been. Her skin was more pinched around her face and her hair had lost a good amount of its shine. Not to mention the scar across her cheek was now much more visible even with face paint.
"While father in the south fighting against Stannis and Renly we needed someone to run the city. Tyrion has been proving at least as an administrator that he is as good as father was at the job and had managed to not only see to our defence but keep us all fed. Joffrey has even been training himself to lead said defence should it be needed." Jaime told her while she floundered at his insult towards her looks.
"FATHER SHOULD BE HERE! AND JOFFREY SHOULD NEVER BE ANYWHERE NEAR A BATTLE! LESSER MEN SHOULD BE DOING THINGS LIKE THAT! MEN LIKE YOU!" She taunted him, foaming at the mouth while Jaime just glared coldly at her.
"Father is the best battlefield commander we have and the army needs him to fight against battle hardened men like Randyll Tarly and Stannis Baratheon. Besides a king that won't fight for himself isn't one people will fight for either. He will have his Kingsguard to protect him and that is the end of the matter." Jaime then left the room, leaving a seething Cersei behind him.
Castle Black, the Wall…
The Wall was something that all of the North held in awe regardless of whether they were lord or commonfolk, the tallest man made structure known to exist in the whole world and one that had kept the North safe for thousands of years.
Meera was very impressed when she saw it, it was far taller than any man made structure in either world that she knew of. Seven hundred feet tall and spanning from coast to coast it was an awesome structure and she could feel the powerful magical aura it created well before she could see it.
It was incredible she thought but did wonder just what had inspired Bran the Builder to create such a structure? It couldn't be the wildlings she thought with concern growing as she knew he could have built a far smaller structure to keep them out or just conquered them. She knew the ancient myths of course, about the terrible White Walkers but hoped they were long gone or never existed at all.
Castle Black however was far less impressive.
The castle had the Wall on one side but on the other it was poorly defended with a low and thin wooden wall and a few poor looking towers. The gates too were only wood and would be fairly easy to breach. Granted no house in the North was likely to attack them or allow such an attack to happen regardless of the Night's Watch being effectively a penal colony despite the odd exception given how valued they were by the North.
She sighed as the gates opened and she and her party entered, the bleakness of the environment was strange, feeling very much like somewhere you ended up when you had nothing else. Looking at the bleak expressions on the faces of the men around them only made this more impression stronger although the sight of her and Mira definitely brought about a change.
They were leering quite openly at them. Meera sighed, knowing she should have expected this and told her companion.
"Stay close to me and the Unsullied, some of these men are convicted rapists and will not hesitate to do it again. Understood?" She said sternly and Mira looked fairly alarmed at the warning but nodded.
"Yes my lady."
Meera nodded in acceptance and dismounted from her horse, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont stood there to greet her and Meera greeted him with a nod.
"Lord Commander, I trust you know why I am here." Meera said and Jeor nodded.
"Indeed Lady Stark, I would offer you my condolences on your father's passing but if you are anything like him I think you will want to get moving straight away after your brother and my first ranger." The old grizzled man said and Meera was actually grateful for that as the last thing she wanted was to dwell on that especially as she had to tell both Jon and Uncle Benjen when she found them. "My scouts tracked them to Craster's Keep. I have a guide ready to join you on your journey but I do have to caution you that the Watch won't be able to help much. The extra gold has helped us acquire better equipment and supplies not to mention find more men but word has reached us that Mance Rayder has rallied a large army of wildlings against us."
"I understand Lord Commander, the protection of the North is paramount. We have already arranged supplies to be collected at the gold mine and the forces of House Karstark and Umber will be ready should you need them." Meera said, the Lord Commander nodded and told her.
"Well prepared, I just hope you are ready for what is waiting for you beyond that lass." Jeor told her and while a little annoyed at the comment and its judgement of her, she did understand. She was heading into a land where they knew very little and had no allies to speak of against who knows what. She just hoped the few she had brought were up to the task.
- x -
Mira was nervously looking around and was very aware of all the looks she was getting from the men around her and wondered just how bad things might get here for a woman, her eyes darting around to see if anyone was too close.
One man, a man easily the age of her own father with greasy thinning hair and rotting teeth had managed to get right up behind her and was reaching for her right in front of everyone. She gasped and stepped away while the Stark guards moved to block the man but he was actually stopped by someone unexpected smacking the man hard in the back of the head.
"It is rude and unseemly to touch a lady without her consent." Quentyn said sternly to the man who rubbed the back of his head as he and his friends scuttled off with their tails in between their legs.
"Thank you Prince Martell." Mira said quickly with a slight bow despite how most of the North thought of him he had acted in her defence.
"What are you doing here?" Meera Stark said jumping in with irritation. She had thought they had left the Martell party behind at Winterfell and seeing they were followed only made her more angry.
"I swore to help House Stark until the relationship between us is mended, I knew the best chance of that is with you and seeing to your safe return from this journey." Quentyn told her and Meera nearly groaned with having to deal with this when she already had enough to worry about.
"Do you have any idea just what lies on the other side of that Wall?" She asked him pointedly and he could only blink before telling her.
"Then it makes sense to have some more men to help you." Quentyn said while his men looked nervously at the Wall.
Meera just felt like screaming with frustration, they hadn't even crossed the Wall yet and things were already going wrong. She got back on her horse and gave the Lord Commander a nod which he returned while the passage through the Wall was opened. To her annoyance she could see Quentyn and his people were going to follow them and briefly considered asking the Lord Commander to prevent them following but decided not to involve the Night's Watch in her problems. Hopefully when he saw just what it was like pass the Wall he and his people would return the way they came.
They rode through the long passage on their horses until finally after what seemed like a good while they emerged from the other side, seeing the vast untamed lands beyond and wondering just what was awaiting them here.
Moat Cailin, the North…
The rebuilt Moat Cailin was a formidable structure Bran thought as he arrived to learn about his new castle from Lord Reed. It was unlike the original made of stone rather than wood for greater strength with the better siege weapons available now but had many protected positions on the walls and in the walls themselves that archers could use to fire from without danger not to mention heavier mounted weapons like ballistas on the walls that were upgraded designs created by his sister Meera.
It was a strong castle Bran thought and all his.
Bran smiled a little at that given his important duty to guard the North's entrance, it was he thought with sadness his father's last gift to him and one that he would treasure for that reason alone. He was glad to be the first Stark in thousands of years to create a new cadet branch and one with a very important duty. True Rickon would share in this duty when he was old enough to rule the Twins further to the south but it would his regardless Bran thought with pride.
Still though he was greeted at the gate which made him abandon his thoughts and dismount to greet the Reeds who had come out to meet him.
"Lord Stark. Welcome home." A taller man with greying blond/brown hair that wore a lizard lion clasp on his doublet. This Bran remembered was Lord Howland Reed, one of the most loyal and dependable men in the North. Bran nodded and extended his hand which Lord Reed took hesitantly took it and shook.
"The honour is mine to meet you again Lord Reed. Your service to House Stark is not only highly appreciated but legendary." Bran told him with as good a smile as he could manage. At Lord Reed's side was the heir to the house Jojen who smiled warmly in his airy kind of way while next to him was the only daughter, Meera Reed.
Bran's cheeks heated a little as Meera had grown a bit since they had last seen each other, looking more like a woman being half way through her teenage years. He smiled nervously at her and she blushed a little back.
Lord Reed and Jojen both shared a knowing look, glad to see a nervous if good beginning.
Loki's Homestead, Beyond the Wall…
Jon was sitting next to the Weirwood that stood on the edge of the homestead where he, his friends and his Uncle were all being held prisoner. He was surprised to find it here but under the watch of the Unsullied he was allowed to approach it.
He had told no-one what he was doing, about his magic and what he was able to try...he just had to know whether Loki was telling the truth or not. As time went on, Jon had become more afraid as it seemed more and more likely that he was and Jon couldn't bare not knowing any more.
So walking up to the bark of the tree, he reached out his hand stopping for a moment as his fear and anxiety made him doubt whether he wanted to know the truth as either way it would change his life, his beliefs about himself and the relationships with the rest of his family.
But at the same time, he had to know so he reached out and touched the trunk.
He found himself in the much hotter weather of Dorne, he could see the Tower of Joy and the great knights Ser Arthur Dayne, Ser Oswell Whent and Ser Gerold Hightower. Riding up to them was a party of Northern men led by his...led by Eddard Stark Jon said, correcting himself until he was sure enough of just who had sired him.
Jon walked closer and saw them talking only arriving to catch the words spoken by Eddard Stark as all the men present prepared for battle.
"No, now it ends."
Jon was amazed at the brutal fight as it unfolded, the three knights clearly were every bit as skilled as their reputation suggested, butchering most of the Northerners that came against them with apparent ease. Eddard however managed to stab Ser Whent in the throat and took him out of the fight while Ser Gerold, maybe due to his greater age was felled by Lord William Dustin while avenging his goodbrother Ser Mark Ryswell.
Ser Arthur was now the last man standing although the forces against him were also much reduced. Only Eddard remained uninjured while Lord Dustin was holding his arm where it had been badly cut and Theo Wull was favouring his right side for the same reason. Lord Reed meanwhile was still alive but laying on his side nearby apparently out of the fight.
Jon watched as Ser Dayne cut down the wounded Lord Dustin and Theo Wull with ease, he now faced Eddard Stark alone and Jon who had always been proud to say that his 'father' had defeated the legendary Ser Arthur Dayne was now growing increasingly confused as Eddard was quickly on the back foot and only seconds from joining his comrades in death.
Then Lord Reed, who was still bleeding badly leapt up from the ground and stabbed a knife straight through the unsuspecting knight's back and neck. Jon was astonished, never having expected it to end like that but he remembered his father telling him and Robb once that the attack you don't see is often the one that will kill you. That he had seen that happen to the greatest of men.
Now Jon fully understood what he had meant by that statement.
He saw Eddard finish off the now helpless Ser Dayne with his own sword, Dawn. He dropped the sword straight after and turned to the Tower and rushed off to it while Lord Reed checked the others to see if any could be helped.
Jon followed up the steps, hearing the sounds of a woman screaming and his heart raced as they ran up the tower. Bursting in through the door he looked to see a very scared and young maid doing her best to help the young woman in a bed that was covered in blood.
His heart honestly stopped as he saw how much like Meera and Arya the young woman in the bed looked. Now he could understand why Robert Baratheon had been so surprised at the sight of Meera, had she and Lyanna been together they would appear almost like twins!
Jon watched as Eddard knelt down beside her and they spoke, his heart breaking with every word as he saw his father struggle to comfort Lyanna who was clearly dying and Jon in a moment of anger cursed those knights for being so stupid or uncaring that they had not found her the help she needed.
However Jon's heart nearly stopped when he saw a small babe being placed by the maid into Eddard's arms and heard Lyanna's last dying pleas.
"Promise me Ned, promise me..." Jon broke the vision as he knew now that Loki had been telling the truth and sank against the tree in depression as he learned that his entire life, everything he had been told was a lie.
Dothraki Camp, Essos…
Daenerys was now terrified as she threw up again, her morning meal now gone as she knew just what this meant and how badly this could go for her.
She wanted children, she did honestly and would dearly love to ride with her sons and daughters when they were old enough alongside Drogo but never did she think it would happen so soon!
She was still getting the first and second parts of her plans into place, getting the Dothraki and the Lhazareen under the same banner and boosting each others strength. While the Dothraki would be the muscle of her empire the Lhazareen would be the heart that beat the needed blood around it.
That was only the beginning though she thought with anticipation, the next phase was diplomatic but until she got more of the Dothraki under her and Drogo's control she had to wait. But right now her thoughts were centred on the fact that she had a child in her belly!
She knew she would have to tell Drogo she thought nervously, she was sure he would be delighted at the news she was carrying his child but she was scared she thought to herself.
Having to carry and give birth to a child, to raise it...would she be able to do that...to be as good a mother as her child deserved. Would she even survive giving birth? Daenerys thought with terror as she remembered her own mother had died giving birth to her...something Viserys had never forgotten to remind her of at every opportunity.
She sat there in the tent for a long time alone, not sure just what to do, she missed the evening meal which might be for the best given how unsettled her stomach felt at that moment. That made Drogo come to her with a worried look on his face, him coming into the tent honestly only made her own anxiety worse.
"My moon. What is the matter?" He asked her and took her in his arms with such tenderness she came undone right there and then, falling into his embrace and trembling and she told him what was so worrying to her.
"I carry a child within me my love." Daenerys told him with a quivering lip while she rested her head against him. His solid chest being the most comfortable thing in the world at that moment.
Drogo stilled for a moment, not seeming able to accept such knowledge straight away but soon was beaming with pride and actually lifted her up so she was face to face with him, she wrapped her legs around his waist to be a bit more stable and seeing her tears he wiped them away with the gentle touch of his finger.
"Our child will be strong, raised in the love we share for each other and will ride across the whole world." Drogo told her and she with her fears and doubts still strong asked him.
"How do we know we can do this? Raise our son to be strong and smart?" She asked, in real need of reassurance and Drogo told her with complete certainty and faith.
"Because my moon you are the greatest woman I have ever met, the strongest woman I have ever met. There is no task you or I cannot do if our will is absolute." Drogo told her and she smiled shakily at that.
The great Khal Drogo, Khal of khals and strongest of all Dothraki was comforting her at the thought of being a mother.
The world truly was mad she thought with some dry humour before wrapping her arms around his shoulders and kissing him with all the passion she could muster which he eagerly returned.
There you are, I hope you all enjoyed the chapter. Please Review and let me know what you thought.
Next Chapter – Meera continues her search for Jon while the war in the south gets more bloody and the North clashes with the Iron Born.