Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.
Hello again, I hope you are all well. Thank you to everyone that reviewed the last chapter and I am glad for the support you guys give. I have been dealing with a few things in real life so the support has been really helpful so I thank you again. You guys are the best.
The reason I put Mira Forrester with Meera to go beyond the Wall will be revealed in this chapter. Also some of you might remember something I wrote a while back when Bran and Jon went into the past and saw Winterfell prior to the Rebellion, there is a plot thread from that which will be expanded on in this chapter.
Review Responses from last chapter…
LordRhyolith – Thank you, Joffrey is a sadist and that will not change but despite Meera managing to get some sense into his head he will still be Joffrey and his arrogance will come back to haunt him eventually.
Witch20, NightFury101 – Thank you!
WolfbrotherTitan – Thank you, glad to hear you liked my other stories as well. The North has always stood apart from the Seven Kingdoms which granted is true of Dorne and the Iron Islands too but the North doesn't want more than what it already has which makes them more endearing I suppose. The Starks are I think the most level headed of all the Great Houses, the rest are just scheming constantly or unbalanced or both so I do find them easier to write for. As for their being a Northern King? Can't really answer that just yet but whatever Loki's planning will feature into it. None of his actions are random, he has an endgame and the Starks or rather one of them plays into that.
TyrTheTaur, YellowGrinch – Thanks!
Blaze1992 – I know, but with all the scheming and upset in the country what else can you get.
SnyperLyfe – Quentyn is determined and of all his siblings easily the most level headed, he is determined to do the job he was sent to do and will do it whatever it takes. He is not ambitious like his older sister or a hopeless romantic like his younger brother, instead he is practical. Besides how did he follow them to the Wall? The Stark party weren't looking as they didn't think anyone was following them or going out of their way to be secretive and it wouldn't be that hard to find out by asking around and exchanging some coin.
24michael – Might Meera recognise Loki? Maybe, she certainly would know the name as she will another special character in the next chapter. Joffrey is a fool and arrogant even now, will he be murdered? We shall see.
Frankieu – Thank you! The Iron Born will get bored of the North kicking their butts sooner or later and go after a softer target.
Now on with the chapter...
Chapter 19 – Cold Reunions
Beyond the Wall…
The bitter cold beyond the Wall was something that caught even the Northerners by surprise. Maybe the Wall itself did more than just protected the North from what lay beyond but also kept some of the cold out as well.
Meera was pondering this as she lit the fire for them to warm themselves on as they spent their third day trudging on through the snow. The horses had not faired as well as they had hoped after a couple of days of riding and had become sick and died or lame from injury so they had little choice but to put the supplies they could carry in packs on their backs and keep going on foot.
Visiting the gold mine had been an interesting experience, Meera thought. It was a stone walled town with similar buildings to keep out the cold and well defended with many men on the walls and mounted weapons for defence. The people there had been more hopeful than she had expected, she thought. They were well fed and clothed there, they had a good dream, a good life waiting for them in the south if they worked at it.
Some she knew would find that, some wouldn't be she hoped that it was the former for most of them.
One she could perhaps maintain if she created gunpowder to defend the North.
She paused, not sure if it was worth the change and risk it could bring if she did recreate it for this world. All the traditional ways of war could well go out the window and although all the ingredients were available and some even stored for use as such she had only made the tiniest amounts for a test and told no-one of what she was doing.
She put those worries out of her mind though as she turned to look at Gendry and the Martells who she had reluctantly allowed to stick with them for what she hoped was safety in numbers.
They huddled close to the fire now it was going despite their thick furs, Meera could only smirk at little at the Martells in particular as this was as far from the climate in Dorne as you could get.
"How do people live here?" Quentyn asked her, his teeth almost chattering and she kept smirking as she and Mira started cooking their evening meal.
"People can live nearly anywhere if they have the will to survive, it can be difficult but not impossible." Meera said, seeing as Dorne itself could be very inhospitable. The desert was after all unforgiving to the ill-prepared, just as the cold could be here. "If you cannot stand the cold, it is not too late to turn back." She offered, knowing that things were likely only to get more difficult the deeper they went and if they turned back now it would be far safer than going on not to mention easier to reach the Wall safely.
Quentyn's men looked affronted at the suggestion while Gendry looked unsure of himself, not certain if his desire to prove himself warred with the harsh reality.
Quentyn however looked firm and told her.
"If my friends feel the need to do so, I will understand completely and bid them good luck but I will not retreat back to the other side of the Wall." Quentyn said calmly, surprising all of them. "I intend to complete the task I was given and if that means following you into the coldest depths then I will do it."
Meera was honestly shocked at the intense look in his eyes and she could almost feel his commitment and in that moment respected it. He was she realised very different to most men she had met, his calm and focused attitude honestly reminded her of Domeric for a moment. She didn't really know what to say but contented herself with smiling as she and Mira handed out bowls of the warming broth they had brought with them. She had created the recipe from dried ingredients that lasted a long time but had all the things needed to keep you going. All the vitamins and minerals as they referred to them in the other world.
Quentyn too was smiling at her and she was momentarily uncomfortable but it passed, not sure exactly just what was happening right now.
The cold air was only kept at bay by the warm fire that Jon and his fellow captives sat around the fire to warm themselves. Jon, Benjen, Grenn, Edd and Samwell sat around in a circle with the three wildling girls Gilly, Sissy and Dyah. Gilly they had all noticed had sat very closely to Samwell who was himself uncomfortable but not too much by the attention, showing it was welcomed and any fear being down to his inexperience. Even with his weight you would have thought that girls would have been flinging themselves at him for his wealth or rather the wealth of his family alone.
Jon could only presume that Samwell's father had been too stern to allow it, he remembered his...uncle had been unhappy about him, Robb or Theon going anywhere near the town brothel. Even been punished for it.
His uncle, Jon thought with a very uncomfortable feeling at thinking of Eddard Stark like that. He had only ever thought of him as his father before now. He understood why he had done it, called him his son because the Lannisters and Baratheons would have killed him if Eddard hadn't done that.
He had sworn an oath to his aunt...no mother Jon thought still trying to get all his head around that.
He wished that he could speak to the rest of the family about this...especially Lord Stark to finally get some answers but right now that was impossible.
Jon turned to the others and then looked at the Unsullied who watched them every moment, he had wondered about escaping but the supplies were being watched and this far from the Wall they had no chance of reaching it before starving or freezing to death.
Loki had not been seen for some time and Jon was hoping that he had left but just as he thought that he came in through the door and was smirking as he always did, in that annoying way that made you want to punch his face in but they didn't dare as the Unsullied would cut them down in the blink of an eye if tried.
"Well I hope you are all rested." Loki said with an irritatingly upbeat voice. "Wrap up warm, our latest guests are quite insistent that we go to meet their leader." He told them which confused all those present that what the hell he could be talking about.
That was until they noticed a woman had a bow and arrow pointed straight at his back, a group of Wildlings then burst into the room pointing bows, swords and axes at them which were surprisingly good quality steel for Wildlings. The Unsullied moved to engage them but Loki merely raised his hand and told them with complete calm.
"No need for that. I have been expecting them for some time now then, best pack for our trip. Make sure to bring the chests I brought with me from the south. Believe me, they will be needed." Loki said with a strange smile on his face.
The Unsullied, trained to obey reluctantly gave their weapons over to the wildlings and then went over to the chests that Loki had indicated. Jon got a brief glimpse inside when they secured them. They were full of bottles, Jon thought with surprise and a pile of rags. The bottles did seem full of some clear coloured liquid that could be water but Jon doubted that. Water was about the only thing you wouldn't be short of with all this snow around.
What they could be only increased the incredible number of questions that Jon had in his already confused and tormented mind.
However as he and the others put their warm furs back on Jon noticed that one of the wildlings, a girl around the same age as him with grey-bluish eyes and fiery red hair was staring at him with intense interest.
"Shame that one's a crow." A large man with red hair said to the girl who just smirked at her fellow wildling and told him.
"Never stopped one before." The sly smirk on her face captivating to Jon who honestly had never seen it directed towards him before.
"Careful Jon, she's wants to steal you as they put it." Grenn said with a smirk as he realised what was happening and Edd was smirking too as he saw what Jon did not.
"Steal him?" Samwell asked with confusion and Benjen shook his head before telling Jon.
"She wants to sleep with Jon perhaps even their version of marriage." He said causing Jon and Samwell to blush. Benjen turned to the two Wildlings that seemed to be in charge and asked.
"Just where are we being taken?" He said sternly and the man answered.
"Our leader has need of you, she sent us to find you and bring you and the rest of your party to her." The tall man with a shaggy beard said and Jon was reminded of an Umber in how tall and broad the man was. Knowing that if he hit you it would hurt.
"She?" Benjen said with a confused voice. "So you don't work for Mance Rayder. Who do you work for?" He asked pressingly but the girl answered with that same smirk.
"You'll find out soon enough. Now all of you...move." She told them and as all of them including the three girls and the Unsullied moved out of the homestead Jon saw the same sly smirk on Loki's face and wondered if this wasn't exactly what he wanted.
Confused and deeply concerned Jon wrapped his furs around him as they moved on, unsure of where they were going and what they would be facing when they got there.
Moat Cailin, Blazewater Bay…
Harrag had been a sailor his entire life, raised on the sea by his father who had been a raider and his grandfather before him and so on and so forth back into history. He was however he thought with pride, the first to ever command a ship, the Sea Bitch. He thought smirking at the name as it was a gift from Lord Balon for loyal service and this invasion of the North was so large new sea captains were needed to replace those lost in the last rebellions. So new men had to rise and Harrag had been one of the lucky ones.
He had a been a captain only a year but done some raiding in that time, he had a pair of salt wives and a good pile of loot he had taken here and there but today was his most important task. He had been told to lead a squadron of ships and four hundred reavers up the Blazewater to reach and occupy the ruin of Moat Cailin. His lord's intention to cut off the North and try to prevent any southern help coming to their aid not to mention take something from them in exchange for ruining their ambitions years ago.
Harrag was quite happy to be the instrument of his people's vengeance and could not wait to get himself a cunt from the North maybe a couple he thought with a vicious smirk. Paying the Iron Price was a true joy and one that he would do time and time again.
Coming towards the ruined castle Harrag however was about to discover that his lord's arrogance and assumptions not to mention the fact he had not been truly paying attention to the changes the North had undergone in the last decade were incredibly misjudged. He had assumed they would not bother to improve their defences, so stupid and complacent due to having the King's love.
The sight of the high stone towers along with strong walls of the same material made Harrag stop and wonder if he had somehow sailed too far south and was attacking some other castle. The North could never have rebuilt Moat Cailin, it was impossible Harrag thought and checked his chart and rechecked his heading to confirm that indeed he was in the right place. His confusion mounting at what was happening but he would never get those answers as a ballista fired from the wall, enhanced by the work of Meera Stark with a telescope as she had called it to aid in aiming them for more precise shooting over long range.
A sharp bolt made of steel shot through the air and impaled Harrag straight through the chest. The force of it throwing him back and stabbing him to the main mast. The crew were too shocked at the sudden death of their captain and then panic gripped them as they realised they had no leader, no plan any longer and were against a much stronger enemy than they had imagined. Looking to the sky they saw the tiny figures of men on the walls and then what looked like a very dark and somewhat broken wave coming from the top.
Only to realise too late that that 'wave' was a massive barrage of flaming arrows coming straight down on them. The arrows struck all around the ships and some harmlessly sank into the water, but many found their mark on the ships. Men screaming as they were stabbed by the arrows and wooden decks and ropes caught fire as the arrows dug themselves into the vessel.
- x -
From the walls of Moat Cailin Bran was sure he could hear the screaming, even at this distance feeling sick at the thought of men and even women dying out there. He knew this was necessary, these people had come to rape, steal and murder...it was literally their culture Bran thought with disdain. One that prized stealing and rape but only if it was them doing it, Bran remembered, if anyone did the same to them it was a crime which only made their hypocrisy more ridiculous.
The reminder of that stiffened his resolve and he went back to aiming his ballista.
Meera Reed at his side was helping load it and cocking back the lever back so he could fire again, punching a hole in the side of one ship while smaller catapults, other ballista and archers all fired their weapons at the Iron Born ships. Holes were punched in the hulls when they hit, fires on the deck or rocks crashed into them. Reavers, so cocky only a moment ago were now in a complete panic not having expected or even being ready for a real fight.
Bran glanced at Meera who gave him an uneasy smile, which he returned. They hadn't really had a spare moment to get to know each other with the rush to prepare for the Iron Born. Bran just hoped that would change soon. It might be years yet before they would marry but he would at least like to know her a little.
A little way off Jojen watched with a far away smile on his face, looking at his sister and Bran and knowing that they would in time have a happy marriage and a deep commitment to each other.
It had been that same visions that told him just where and when the Iron Born would come from, how many ships would come and how many would escape. Four hundred had come to plunder the Neck and take Moat Cailin but only a hundred and twenty would escape back to the Iron Islands.
He didn't like to use his powers like this but if it defended his homeland he would do it Jojen thought sadly. To keep his family safe.
- x -
Deepwood Motte, the North...Same Time…
A much bigger fleet of Iron Born ships led by Yara Greyjoy sailed towards one of the largest castles and towns on the western coast, the home of House Glover Deepwood Motte. Numbering five hundred raiders Yara was supremely confident in her success even before coming into sight of the objective.
Deepwood Motte had been a poorly defended motte-and-bailey style fortification originally and would have been easy to take, historically the Iron Born had therefore raided the area frequently since it was an easy target. The primitive castle was built on a tall hill though and had very good views of the surrounding area which was the main reason it had been built there.
However as with Moat Cailin to the south, Balon Greyjoy had completely underestimated his enemy. Relying on his own rather stupid assumptions about the North and inaccurate information that was years out of date. Given the North was slow to change he might have been forgiven for those old assumptions but not making sure they were still correct before attacking was unforgivable and would make him regret it.
Yara looked through her Myrish glasses to see the target as it came into sight and then frowned, not understanding what she was seeing and blinked for a moment before double checking and then rushing over to her charts to check she was where she should be. She frowned as she looked up at the coast in confusion.
The castle on the hill was not the primitive and easily taken castle she had expected. A stone wall now surrounded a decent sized castle on the hill where Deepwood Motte was supposed to be. She didn't understand where it had come from or where the North had found the coin to do this.
The truth not that Yara would know was that the Glovers had taken the coin they had gotten from the gold mines beyond the Wall and invested in strengthening their defences, eager to stop being as vulnerable as they used to be and had even built some walls around their larger towns for their protection. It meant they had less disposable gold for a while but it was worth it in their minds to keep them all safe and the Starks had helped by giving them some additional gold at their request.
Trebuchets had been set up along the mud flats next to the ocean and Yara froze for a moment as she realised that this supposed 'surprise' invasion was a complete mistake. The Northerners knew they were coming, had clearly planned for it Yara realised with shock and now stood ready to fight them.
Her father had been so sure they would have marched south to join the war between the other greenlanders...that most of their fighting men would be away from the North making it easier to conquer and raid but now Yara, who had known all along that they couldn't hold castles or even fight against land based armies was facing completely the opposite. At sea they were invincible but on land...they were as useless as a boat with no rudder or sails. With a hole in it she thought as sweat ran down her forehead.
Then to her horror she saw the trebuchets on land firing, flinging their enormous rocks at them and Yara froze for a moment as she saw the huge looking things flying straight at her before yelling out.
"Hard to starboard! Get us the fuck out of here!" She screamed to her crew at the top of her voice, just as the rocks began to land all around them. Some by chance found their mark and smashed down onto the decks, crushing sailors left and right, collapsing masts or plunging through the decks until they cracked the hull and water started to breach.
The trebuchets reloaded as fast as they could, directed on the shore by Robb Stark himself who had guessed given their history that Deepwood Motte would be one of their first targets and had decided to marshal their forces here just in case. The trebuchets were a gift of his sister, ones that could be dismantled and carried with the army and reassembled quickly when needed. Right now they were helping them bombard their fleet.
Yara back on her own ship was struggling to get her crew organised as she saw ships breaking formation in panic and turning into each other, watching as they crashed into their own ships in a desperate attempt to escape. Yara was powerless to prevent it as more rocks were flung at them and smashed into their ships more frequently than she'd have thought possible.
She took hold of the helm personally and began to steer her ship herself out of danger and she noticed with some relief that other ships began to follow her lead as the captains managed to get themselves and their crews back in line.
Once out of range of the war machines Yara sighed, resting her head against the hard wood of the steering wheel. That had been a disaster she thought with despair, looking around she could see at least ten ships had been lost to the Northern defenders and at least a couple of hundred raiders.
Her father would no doubt remind of her of that...of her failure the moment she got home but honestly right now she wanted nothing more than to smash his face in. He had never bothered to actually think about things at all she realised with frustration, had learned nothing about why they had lost the last time and hadn't even had the patience to actually scout the Northern coast before they attacked, to make sure they knew everything they needed to know. Now not only had they alerted the North to their invasion by the aborted attack but lost ships and men for no gain.
She knew this was going to be a lot harder than he had said, probably than she could even imagine and with regret set her course back for the Iron Islands.
- x -
Winterfell, the North…
With Robb off at the front against the Iron Born and Meera now beyond the Wall it had fallen to Wylla and Sansa to run Winterfell and the North in their absence. Not that this was anything new to the pair and Sansa was actually rather enjoying the power that came with her duties.
They stood watching as Harrion, Sansa's husband to be taught Rickon some swordsmanship. Looking down at her little brother swinging a wooden training sword around with his future good-brother made Sansa smile at the scene as did Wylla.
Wylla herself meanwhile was uncomfortable at Robb being away fighting, it was she knew inevitable as he was the Lord of the North and he had to lead their fighting men but it didn't mean she had to like it she thought with worry.
She was still new to her position as Lady of Winterfell but had thankfully earnt some respect by having the sept the late Lord Stark had built for his disloyal former wife removed. She wasn't particularly religious anyway and it helped the lords feel safer than the Seven had taken over Winterfell.
She felt something brush up against her and saw to her annoyance and amusement somewhat that Romulus and Rema, Meera's wolves were standing at her side again. She frowned as it seemed the wolves knew somehow that she was pregnant and had started following her around whenever they could. They growled whenever someone unfamiliar came close and put themselves between her and them.
The guards she knew found this amazing, whispering to themselves that she must be carrying a Stark for the direwolves to be so protective. She did not like any implication that she might not be carrying Robb's child especially after her predecessor's behaviour but didn't comment since the wolves at least were tolerable although she would be glad when Meera came back and called them off.
Sansa at her side had a shadow of her own thought Wylla thought, apart from Lady who followed her everywhere Arya and Nymeria were always close at hand and the intense look on Arya's face was somewhat disconcerting.
Nevertheless things were peaceful here Wylla thought with relief as she put a hand to her stomach, which had now started to expand with her babe. She was sure that it was a boy although she had no way to know till the actual day came. Sansa too smiled and both turned to see Maester Luwin coming to them with a package in his hands.
"Miladies, this just arrived from Riverrun, a gift for the future child." He said gravely and both Sansa and Wylla shared a look of anger as the only one who might be sending them anything now that Sansa's grandfather Hoster was dead was the disgraced Catelyn. Neither wanted anything to do with her and was about to throw whatever she had send into the flames as Arya seemed ready to do already reaching for it but curiosity got the better of Sansa who quickly plucked the package out of Luwin's hands and opened the bundle to see what was inside.
It was an absolutely beautifully made blanket, clearly stitched with the utmost care and attention it was a deep shade of blue with silver and gold embroidery around the edge. In the middle was a truly well stitched symbol of a wolf, standing tall and proud with striking blue eyes while next to him was a lovely mermaid with golden blonde hair and a trident in hand with scales of greenish blue.
It was everyone conceded a beautiful piece of work and they all admired it, Wylla gently took it and decided with reluctance.
"It is special, and warm too. We will send a message to express our gratitude but no more." Wylla said gently as she wrapped the blanket into a bundle. Sansa and Arya who had been admiring the blanket nodded reluctantly. It was a truly beautiful gift regardless of who it came from and despite their feelings towards her Catelyn was their mother and the future grandmother of the babe inside Wylla. They would give her this much.
Blueburn River, the Reach/Stormlands Border…
The river that flowed from the border of the Reach and Stormlands reached from the east to connect with the much larger Mander to the west. It was a much more gentle river in its current but still would need a bridge to cross it.
The banks of this river would serve though as the next battlefield for the Lannister, Tyrell and Baratheon armies.
Massing for battle again the morale of the men in all three camps was not good especially in the Reach who were now led by a Lord Orton Merryweather, a courteous man with a large and uneven nose. He was good at speaking and had been skilled enough at it to convince Lord Tyrell to let him lead their army in this battle now that Lord Tarly was bed-bound, although his wife Lady Taena of Myr might have had something to do with that since she was even better at manipulating people than he was.
He was decked out in his armour and it was splendid looking which fitted well with his family's words 'Behold our Bounty'. However the man had never led a single battle in his life and now stood with an uncertain force behind him.
The leader of the Lannister army and the leader of the Baratheon army were completely different, both Tywin Lannister and Stannis Baratheon were experienced men who had fought in many battles before.
The Reach army showing their inexperience acted first as all three forces converged by charging first in a disorganised wave. Their large numbers hopefully carrying the day, splitting their force in two so it could fight both at the same time. Orton himself commanding the men against Stannis.
He soon discovered his mistake when Stannis' cavalry managed to outflank him and he found himself surrounded face to face with the would-be-king himself.
Stannis was much taller and broader a man than Orton himself and when he hit with his sword against the shield Orton used it shattered the wood on impact. Lord Orton was stunned and knocked back and stunned before receiving a second blow to the head, this time a fatal one.
The other force that was attacking the Lannisters was not doing well either. Like Stannis Tywin had used cavalry to outflank the Reach forces and began to slaughter them.
When the devastated Reach force managed to flee from the fight, now leaderless the Lannister and Baratheon Armies turned on each other.
Already exhausted from the earlier fighting they were less eager but Stannis managed to surprise the Lannisters by revealing a force of archers on the other side of the river who had been hiding among the reeds. They emerged from hiding and started pelting arrows at the Lannister army. Men screamed as arrows started falling on them and Tywin at the back of his army gritted his teeth and had the retreat horn blown.
As the Lannister army withdrew Stannis watched with a grim satisfaction while his men cheered, he did not join in with them but this battle had been in his favour and now he had struck a good blow against the Lannisters and Tyrells.
Returning to camp he saw a message waiting for him on the desk of his tent. He picked it up and saw it was from Ser Davos Seaworth who he had left in charge at Dragonstone, he allowed himself a small private smile as it reported that his two children were doing well. Shireen was doing well in her lessons and young Steffon was a strong lad that was growing everyday.
Stannis wished he could be there to see these things for himself but his duty was here, he thought reluctantly leading his men into battle for the crown that would one day pass to Steffon. He put the letter down and saw another message nearby, a wax seal on the back that was a circle with a quarter of it each devoted to a season; spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Stannis opened it carefully, ever since the war had started he had received such letters. They claimed to be a loyalist to him living in Kings Landing and were sending him what information they could to help his ascension to the throne. While he had his doubts about this the information they had provided had been very useful so far.
He opened the letter and while it said little it did give him some very useful information, the location of a major Lannister camp and it was not so far from where the Ice River Clansmen were based right now.
He pondered on using them again, they were he thought a dangerous weapon but while they lacked horses they knew how to move quietly on foot. Stannis pondered, this might be enough to cause some severe damage to the Old Lion's army if done correctly.
Just then he saw that a few of his more loyal men were standing at the entrance of the tent and Stannis said sternly.
Lords Caron and Morrigen were standing there looking concerned. He grew impatient while they didn't speak and told them with a firm voice.
"Your grace." Lord Caron, lord of the Marshes and a good fighter not that it mattered to Stannis near spluttered with nervousness which did not improve Stannis's opinion of the man. "Its about the wildlings."
"What about the wildlings?" Stannis asked with a feeling of familiarity in his gut. This sounded like the same argument that had been raised before but this time as he was about to discover it was a different issue.
"They are taking women and girls they capture as wives, many wives despite age or status." Lord Morrigen said with fear at the mere mention of the monsters from the far north. "They are slaves in all but name and a lot of the men are not comfortable with them."
Stannis frowned as he was truthfully not comfortable using them either but they were a useful weapon, they were too valuable to him to just discard especially as they could go over to his enemies. The idea of Tywin Lannister having both the Mountain and the Clansmen was too disturbing to even consider.
"Yet they serve me well." Stannis said bluntly, coming to a decision. "They will do as they always have done and as long as they serve loyally they will have free reign." He said bringing a firm end to the matter.
However while Lord Caron nodded in acceptance, honouring his vow to his king, Lord Morrigen did not, his opinion was not uncommon in the camp and some were starting to question whether it was worth following Stannis at all.
The Red Keep, Kings Landing…
Joffrey was standing in the dudgeons watching as a man who had called him and his siblings bastards born of incest was killed for his lies, sneering as the man begged for mercy.
This torture was something rather basic compared to some of the methods he had used so far but it was he admitted effective. A board of wood was placed over the victim while more and more weight was added, slowing crushing the subject.
Seeing his squirming to get out from underneath the board was oddly satisfying Joffrey thought, not his favourite method perhaps due to its simplicity but he could appreciate that same simpleness if one had nothing more elaborate to hand.
The Hound, wearing his white cloak and armour who had been doing his best not think about his king's new hobby reminded him.
"Your grace, it is almost time for your speech to the people of Kings Landing." The Hound reminded him and Joffrey sighed, wishing he could stay longer but knowing his duty as king called. He left the man to slowly die while walking to the gatehouse at the front of the Red Keep, the Hound flanking his steps.
Arriving there he saw his uncle Tyrion standing there with his man Bronn, Joffrey could appreciate the capable killer that his uncle had managed to get into his employ. He never questioned his order to kill regardless of who it was. The man had also proven useful in finding good fighters to fill the depleted ranks of his Kingsguard. Tyrion, the ugly if capable troll gave him a scroll with the speech written on it and without so much as a glance Joffrey walked out onto the balcony to see the crowd that had gathered below.
Seeing them, so insignificant below was a truly gratifying feeling, they were beneath him, pathetic working a life in the dirt so he had best to keep it that way. Glancing the scroll as a bell rang out to quiet everyone so he could speak, Joffrey took a deep breath and spoke loudly.
"PEOPLE OF KINGS LANDING!" Joffrey said with his voice echoing in the air. "WE ARE ONCE AGAIN AT WAR. MY GREAT FATHER'S PASSING HAS BEEN SHOCK TO US ALL AND THAT MY UNCLE'S WOULD TRY AND USE HIS MURDER FOR THEIR OWN ATTEMPTS ON THE THRONE ARE A SHAME ON BOTH THAT WILL STICK FOR ALL TIME." Joffrey said before saying what else he needed too.
"I KNOW THERE IS MUCH FEAR THAT THIS CITY IS TO BE ATTACKED. NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF KINGS LANDING HAVE THESE WALLS BEEN BREACHED AND WHILE I AM KING I WILL NOT LET THIS IMPRESSIVE RECORD BE BROKEN. I AND THE CITY WATCH WILL DEFEND THIS CITY TO OUR LAST BREATH. I WILL NEVER LET THIS CITY FALL WHILE THEIR IS STILL LIFE IN MY BODY! LONG LIVE KINGS LANDING!" Joffrey called out.
A cheer rose through the air as the people bought his words and Joffrey lapped up their cheers.
Jaime and Tyrion watched, unnerved by the young king. While many years younger than them he was disturbing in how he revelled in the pain and misery of others, he was taking his responsibilities as king seriously and they were glad of that at least but his madness and depravity honestly worried even two men like them.
While they both had still not truly fixed their relationship as brothers and it may not ever be truly repaired they at least were on the same page about this.
Varys appeared nearby and shared their looks of concern before informing them.
"He may get the chance to defend the city sooner than he thinks. I have learned a number of Crownlords have declared for Stannis and are marching a force some ten thousand men towards the city." Varys told them and both Lannister men frowned as they considered the city's defences and had hoped they would not be tested so soon. But would have to do, they thought resigned.
- x -
Two Days Later…
The army of the Crownlands was arguably the smallest of all the kingdoms that made up Westeros and it was not even here in its entirety. A collection of more religious and Baratheon aligned lords had gathered together to try and take the city in the name of Stannis. Emboldened by the Lannisters being bogged down in the Reach and disgusted at the idea of a bastard born of incest ruling them.
The new men Tyrion and Lynthorne had recruited were on the walls ready to man whatever siege weapons they had to hand and piles of fresh bolts and arrows lay around.
Joffrey in his armour was near shaking with terror at the army outside, being in the light of day the entire enemy army was in front of them, seeming enormous to his eyes and as he stood there on the walls in his specially made armour he was ready to run back to the Red Keep.
He saw Ser Jaime who was standing nearby with the Hound close by, Ser Jaime reached out and grasped his shoulder. The unexpected touch shocked Joffrey but the firm look in his elder uncle's eyes made him stop and he turned, judging the distance and took a hold of the mounted ballista that was an enlarged version of his own personal crossbow with a pair of men standing next to it. All along the wall other men held similar weapons and also scorpions and catapults.
Seeing that they were at last in range Joffrey took careful aim with the large crossbow and pulled the lever.
A single metal bolt shot out and sped through the air and as a testament to his considerable skill as a marksman, it impaled and killed a man, the cold metal spike stabbing straight through and out the other side. Jaime marvelled at his secret son's accuracy which was better than any he had ever seen.
All along the wall men took that as the sign to start shooting. The Crownlands army were still a good distance from the wall as archers and wall mounted weapons started raining down on them. Many missed but given the tight formation adopted by the marching army enough hit them to slow their progress. The fact they had to march slower than normal due to the battering rams they were using didn't help, nor the fact that none of the men commanding had much experience at leading armies or attacking cities.
Their progress slowed by their heavy equipment and lack of armour meaning they had no real protection from the fire being thrown at them and started a panic in the inexperienced men's ranks. None of them were truly prepared and had little training so the sight of their fellows being stabbed by projectiles that seemed to be coming from everywhere or crushed by falling boulders was drastically eroding their confidence.
Joffrey's 'team' was like a well oiled mechanism, one man pulled the lever that prepared the strings while another loaded a fresh bolt before Joffrey fired with pinpoint accuracy.
Soon the attackers began breaking rank and began to flee as more and more men fell victim to the city's defence. Even knights began to flee as they saw the attempt to breach the walls was pointless under these conditions without greater numbers and better siege weapons. Some lords and influential septons that had encouraged this attack continued to try and get men to keep going but it was quickly falling apart until at last they realised they had failed and fled the field.
A cheer rose up among the men on the walls as the defenders celebrated their victory, yelling loudly and waving their arms in the air. Some even made rude gestures at the retreating enemy.
Joffrey was smirking widely in triumph, the fact that their king had actually led the defence and manned the weapons himself led many to start chanting his name which only made his ego grow.
- x -
Varys and Tyrion were sitting at the desk in the Tower of the Hand looking at the list of lords behind the attack.
"And all of them will be either killed or stripped of their lands as soon as it can be accomplished." Tyrion said with a sip of his wine. Due to his own limited manpower it was not really possible to go after them straight away with an army but hiring assassins to kill them was another story.
"And if the king's...hobbies continue to make people uneasy about him?" Varys asked with a raised eyebrow. "Word spreads regardless of how much it is suppressed and it unsettles many. They see too much of the Mad King come again." Varys said with a concern, having lived under one such king before he had no intention of doing so again.
"I know." Tyrion said with a nod of agreement. "While fear will keep him safe for a time, we can be at least comfortable in the fact that Tommen is far calmer than him and hopefully if Joffrey has children they will be more right of mind. Either way we must take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves." Tyrion said with a smug look in his eye.
Varys was unsure of exactly what Tyrion's intentions were but he knew that he hated Joffrey as much as anyone and would like nothing more than to see him gone, sharing the same concerns for his behaviour. He was using him to get power that much was clear but he knew he was secretly working against his own father for the sake of his daughter.
Varys was glad to see that, Tyrion didn't just seek revenge for what had happened to his late wife but was also protecting his daughter from her own grandfather by planning to bring him down. Whittling away his best supporters and those that might prevent Tyrion's own ascension to the lordship of Casterly Rock.
Still he was concerned about Joffrey's reign and knew that he had to be watched very carefully. And not just him Varys thought, but the rather bitter Queen Mother.
- x -
Cersei Lannister was sitting bitterly in the Queen's ballroom which despite not truly being hers any more she still took possession of. Since Joffrey was not yet married and it kept her quiet the king allowed this as did the Small Council.
But her 'court' such as it was in her mind pathetic, Cersei sneered openly at them which did not help her diminished and not recovered yet looks. Worthless self seekers who had no real power or connections. Cersei raged inside as she considered her situation and it was far from what she had dreamt of.
Joffrey was supposed to be taking advice from her! She screamed inside her own head at the injustice of it all. She had waited for years for Robert to die, groomed Joffrey into her golden king and the moment he finally takes the throne and she who had deserved power...real power for so long was ignored and rejected.
She was supposed to be advising Joffrey, Cersei seethed as her hands grasped the arms of her 'throne' so tightly that they turned white. Her, his mother who had been listening to her own father while both her stupid brothers hadn't and doing her best to prepare Joffrey to be the greatest king that the world had ever seen! While she would be the queen for all time.
That no one younger and more beautiful would ever replace.
And now...she thought with fury everyone was rejecting her. Her twin and all her supposed followers were at best ignoring her or useless. Joffrey worse of all.
The sight of Lancel coming up again, no doubt trying to gain some kind of position from her made Cersei grit her teeth. Something she was near powerless to provide right now but then again she thought as he mind turned calculating, he might prove useful she pondered and smiled as beguilingly as she could.
- x -
After banishing all the worthless self seekers for a private audience, Lancel was kneeling before her soon enough and she groaned as he made himself useful with his tongue between her legs. He was far from the best she had received but it was a relief to receive it.
Just as she achieved her release though the moment was spoiled when Tyrion and his ugly sellsword Bronn appeared at the door with a few men. They stared at her with wide eyes and she kicked Lancel away before adjusting her skirts.
"Much more of my sister than I had ever wanted to see." Tyrion said with a disgusted drawl before turning to Lancel who was quivering with embarrassment and fear.
"First cousin your face will be scrubbed till it is actually clean." Tyrion said with a slightly raised eyebrow, referring to the state of his cousin's face which only made Lancel cringe worse. "Then you will pack your things. You are old enough now to serve and Lord Lannister needs all the able-bodied men he can spare to fight the war. So gentlemen if you please." Tyrion said and a pair of the men with disgusted looks on their faces grabbed the weak and childish boy by the arms and dragged the struggling Lancel out of the room.
"YOU TROLL!" Cersei yelled at him with all her venom as he took a potential pawn away from her. Tyrion merely raised an eyebrow while Bronn smirked behind him.
"I think that particular insult has long passed being shocking dear sister, I think you will need to come up with a better one." Tyrion replied calmly. "Now if you don't mind I have a city to run while there is a war on."
Cersei however was not one to simply give up and instead snarled at him.
"Then why if they are so loyal does the Northerner barbarians and the pathetic Riverlanders not come down to fight for their king!?" She snarled at him with her face red with anger. Tyrion however did not rise to it and told her simply in the vain hope she might actually understand.
"Clearly someone has not been keeping up with court gossip." Tyrion said with a calm voice. "The Riverlands have their men in their fields making the food that feeds this city since I doubt anyone could rule a people who are starving and soon enough would storm this castle to rip our heads off." Tyrion stated. "The Northerners on the other hand have issues of their own but even those issues help us."
"AND WHAT EXACTLY WOULD THEY BE!? WHAT COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN SERVING THEIR KING WHEN HE HAS A USE FOR THEM? WHAT OTHER USE IS THERE FOR THOSE SAVAGES THAN DYING FOR THEIR RIGHTFUL KING!" She yelled at Tyrion who merely raised an eyebrow before telling her calmly.
"Those 'savages' as you refer to them if they were against us could use their influence in the Riverlands to cut off our source of food, not to mention invade us from the north while father's army is stuck in the south." He told her with the air of a parent speaking to a rather difficult and stupid child. "As it is they are fighting the Ironborn which keeps the raiders away from the Westerlands while most of its soldiers are fighting elsewhere, that means father doesn't have to split his focus and can freely deal with Stannis and Renly."
"They have more men than they need for that!" Cersei snapped back, not having anything that could rebuff what he was saying but singled on the one possible detail that might be a flaw in his argument. Tyrion sighed before telling her.
"And while they are doing that they are also facing a wildling invasion of a force that according to rumour numbers over a hundred thousand true savages, some of which are cannibals." Tyrion said with a stare which brought an uncomfortable look to even Bronn's face. "A force they have to stop other wise they sweep down through the North and Riverlands and straight on to Kings Landing. After all if the Wall can't keep them out what chance do the stone ones we have stand?" Tyrion asked with a pressing look in his eyes. "They are keeping the weight off of us and far from traitors are doing their duty by their king by staying where they are and dealing with his enemies. In time they can probably deal with the Ironborn on their own, saving us having to deal with the problem ourselves." Tyrion said with complete logic, but Cersei was never one to be logical or even think about the implications of things or even care if she did.
That was proven moments later when Cersei just stated like she was right and he had never spoken.
"They are cowards and will pay for their not coming south to fight for their king." Cersei said with complete confidence.
Tyrion was honestly surprised that anyone could be this impervious to reason, that even the most unassailable arguments couldn't reach but Cersei honestly was one of a kind and not he thought with disgust in a good way.
He knew to keep her powerless was in not only his interests but the kingdoms interests as well, a person that full of themselves and that arrogant and sadistic could only bring pain and misery to all.
Beyond the Wall…
Their trek north towards Craster's Keep as it was known had been stopped by a sudden blizzard and so they had taken shelter in a grove near the Haunted Woods. They shivered around the fire as the cold bit into them. Meera sat with Mira, sharing a cloak to stay warm. They all were as they ate some of their supplies and listened to Mira as she told them their position on the map.
"We are only a day away from Craster's Keep now. It's fairly flat ground but it does mean going through the forest." Mira told them and they all would be glad of that as it meant for now at least they wouldn't be travelling any more. However Meera told them all sternly.
"We might be close enough but now the real work of getting the hostages out of there begins. Not to mention we still have to travel back the way we came to get home." Meera told them, they all nodded, bowing to her authority even the Dornish.
A sudden breaking of a twig nearby made all of them look up and the tension rose in the blink of an eye. They all reached for their weapons which they had slept next to ever since crossing the Wall and listened intently for any sign of what might be around them.
A screaming battle cry filled the air as out of the snow and forest came a screaming horde of rough looking wildlings running straight at them. The group jumped to their feet with weapons in hand to meet the attack.
- x -
Gendry who had never really fought in a real fight before was momentarily frozen with fear by the sight of the horrible looking wildlings that were charging at them. They looked like something out of a nightmare with rotting blackened teeth and scar covered faces.
Fortunately he managed to recover his wits in time to move and swung his war hammer into the chest of one of the wildlings largely out of instinct. The blow lacked the strength to cave in his chest given he had to restrict his swing to not hit any of his party accidentally but had enough force behind it to knock him to the ground.
For a moment Gendry was stuck not sure of just what to say or do as he had the wildling man on the ground before him, he had been beaten but the vicious looking man who he could see had strange tattoos all over his face snarled and was trying to get back on his feet. Reacting in fear of his horrible face Gendry swung his hammer again, this time in an overhead strike straight into the attacker's chest.
The furs and leather did nothing to stop in, caving in his chest in a single impact.
Gendry honestly was so shocked at what he had done it was lucky none of the wildlings noticed him, had they done so he would have been defenceless. He had never killed anyone before and it was a sight that honestly horrified him, the crushed chest of the man in front of him, now peaceful in death while blood dripped off his hammer.
- x -
Quentyn meanwhile was no stranger to fighting any more, he had killed people before and while he did not relish to boast of it he knew it was sometimes necessary. His sword along with the weapons of his fellows swung around to deal with their attackers that seemed to be more animal than man. Snarling like beasts and covered with all kinds of marks.
He did notice however as her companion Mira Forrester picked off the wildlings with her bow and arrow, Meera Stark had her spear in hand and was moving with the grace of a dancer through the attacking horde. She was he noticed more grounded in how she fought than his uncle, her feet rarely left the ground although she was able to pivot and step step as elegantly as his uncle could.
She impaled one attacker through the chest before wrenching the rough spear out of his hands and then throwing it with surprising force into the chest of another and then, stabbing another with the other end of her own spear as he tried to come up behind her. Not stopping for a second she pulled the spear out and then swinging the three pronged end around in a wide arc, cutting down two of the wildlings before kicking another that managed to dodge the attack and sending him flying before Mira shot an arrow into him.
The fight was short and bloody, ending as soon as the wildlings realised that they were dealing with a far more dangerous enemy than themselves. They ran back into forest and not wanting to take the chance they might be led into a trap the Stark group did not follow.
"They have supplies, we could take some to replenish our own." Ser Cletus Yronwood said and the Northerners all shared a look of disgust before telling him.
"These are the Blizzard Men Ser Yronwood, you can tell by the marks they have on the skin. Made by cutting the skin with a sharpened blade and rubbing soot into the wound." Meera said with a frown on her face, pointing at such marks on one of the wildlings they had slain. "They broke away from the Ice River Clans after failing to usurp the leadership. They are nomadic and raid others for food. However they hold one thing over from their origins, they only eat meat...specifically human meat." She said with a disgusted look on her face.
The faces of the Dornish and Gendry were twisted with sheer disgust over that, never had any of them heard of something like this.
"They eat...people?!" Ser Gerris Drinkwater asked with horror and Meera told them with a sad look.
"Yes, in the freezing cold you will do what you must to survive but some get the taste for it." She said, not wanting to think of examples in both worlds she had known where people resorted to such methods to survive in horrible conditions like frozen in the coldest places or drifting far out at sea. The fact these people not only did it on a regular basis but actively revelled in it...honestly was one of the most sick and terrible things she had seen in both worlds.
However then they were surprised to see an enormous snow bear coming straight at them. Meera and the rest of their party turned and size of this one which greatly resembled a polar bear from the other world was much larger than normal. So large that two people could easily sit astride it but despite them clearly being ahead of it the bear did not charge.
Instead, it stopped just a bit short of the clearing and Meera suddenly felt a familiar touch of magic in the air and looked around before calling out.
"Show yourself Warg!" She shouted to the forest, knowing someone was controlling the bear, hence its behaviour. Her companions looked at her confused as she continued speaking seemingly to no one. "We know these tricks and will not go down easily." She challenged but the bear did not move, however from trees not too far away two people maybe a few short years older than her being in their early twenties stepped out and into the open, flanking the bear.
"She saw through your tricks brother." A girl with a very Northern dark brown hair and grey eyes said with a sort of mirth in her eyes while the boy scowled.
"I don't see you doing anything." He said, both turned to Meera seeing she was the leader, Meera now she had their attention asked them.
"Who are you? What do you want?" Meera looked at the pair with suspicion. The lack of tattoos meant they were unlikely to be Blizzard men but that didn't mean they didn't potentially belong to some other hostile tribe.
"We only care if you are here to threaten the Grove." The boy said in a gruff voice with his arms folded. "My friend Shadow here heard you coming way off. I am Josera Snow and this is my sister Elsera Snow." He said waving his hand towards the young woman at his side who smirked at them.
"Snow!" Meera said with confusion. "Then you two must have been born on the other side of the Wall." That made the pair blink in surprise at her deducing that.
Seeing Quentyn and his party look confused as while they knew Snow was the name given to a bastard in the North they had no idea just how that translated here. So Mira explained.
"There is no marriage as we understand it on this side of the Wall, no marriage means no family name being passed on. If someone gave them the name Snow that means they must have been born in the...south of the Wall." She said, nearly calling it the North when in reality this was the Far North and things were confused enough as it was.
"Yes, our father the high and mighty Lord of Ironrath banished us here to hide his shame." Josera said with a snarl that was echoed a moment later on the face of his bear.
That statement made the Northerners stop still right there and then, Mira in particular as she registered what they said. Meera with a concerned look stepped to the side of her companion as if she could shelter her from the explosion that was surely coming.
"Lord Gregor Forrester is your father?" Meera asked with a searching look on her face. Both of them looked confused at how this was important.
"Aye, he is." Elsera said wondering just why this was important. She shared a look with her brother before turning back to Meera.
"Then you can be assured we have no interest in the 'Grove' you speak of. We are only interested in finding my brother and my uncle. They were being held at a place I believe is called Craster's Keep." Meera said, wanting to spare Mira having to deal with the fact that not only had her father been unfaithful to his wife but the fact she had two fully grown older half siblings that were at least as old as Rodrik and Asher.
Josera and Elsera put looked disgusted at the mention of Craster but before they could answer they noticed the Stark Medallion that was hanging around Meera's neck and shared a look of confusion before telling her.
"There were prisoners being held there, but the one we serve rescued them and had them taken to her place." Josera told her and said. "They have a fancy thing like yours around their neck."
A Stark Medallion? Meera thought with surprise, here beyond the Wall? How could that have gotten here since neither Jon nor Uncle Benjen had been wearing one? She pondered and wondered if the pair were confusing it for something else. But before she could ask more questions on that Quentyn interrupted.
"Can you take us there?" Quentyn asked, confused by all this and wondering just what was going on and Elsera said with a grin.
"We will, even take you through Craster's old place if you want to see it is clear, we know the easiest and quickest route. Come." She said and led them towards Craster's Keep.
The party followed while Meera looked at Quentyn with an annoyed expression on her face that nearly made him look away with discomfort. She just hoped he hadn't gotten them into a trap.
- x -
Niflheim, Free Folk Settlement…
Jon looked at the wooden walled large town his new captors had brought them all too. It was he thought with amazement, just like a Northern town in many respects with wooden and even stone buildings arranged in an organised pattern with most being homes but others were clearly industrial. They had a smithy which shocked him and communal farming, even a storehouse for the food. A yard where men and women learned to fight.
It astounded him as he had not believed the Wildlings capable of all this nor that they wouldn't have heard about before now. He and the others looked around in shock especially Benjen who in all his years as a ranger had never seen anything like it on this side of the Wall. Gilly, Sissy and Dyah who had never travelled far from the place they had been born were in complete awe of this place, never having seen so many people in one place before.
Loki Jon noticed was looking rather bored but still pleased with himself, he wasn't sure just why but Jon was convinced that he wanted this for some reason. What that could be completely escaped him but soon he was distracted as they arrived at a sort of hall which stood in the centre of town.
It was rectangular with a fairly large base and width, it had support beams on the side and a curved roof almost like a boat's hull but upside down. A single large door on one end permitted entry, that along with armed guards at the entrance let them know someone of importance was inside.
Walking inside it was rather impressive, solidly built with beams and rafters decorated with runic markings. Bunks lined the wall and long tables with fire pits at either end filled the centre. More warriors both men and women appeared to along the hall until finally they came to the other end of the hall. There a raised stage had a throne made of wood sitting there with more guards and a girl with white hair and skin standing around it.
On that throne however was the person who caught their attention. A striking woman around Uncle Benjen's age with her fiery red hair in waves falling loose around her head and down to near her waist. She had a slightly rounded long face and her grey eyes were strangely hypnotic. She wore a mix of furs and other fabrics in different colours but what really caught Jon's attention was the Stark Medallion hanging around her neck.
Benjen however was struck dumb the moment he saw her, some might have thought he was admiring her as he stared intently at her but instead he was studying her features as if comparing them to something. Jon then noticed that the woman who had to be this leader they were being brought to see was looking at Benjen with the same intensity. She was as focused on him as he was on her! This only made Jon and the rest of their party except for Loki and the Unsullied look at them with confusion.
"Lorra?" Benjen said with astonishment and she too looked at him with the same look in her eyes before answering back.
"Yes...Benjen. I never thought I would see you again." 'Lorra' said before rising to her feet and walking over to Benjen who stepped forward. The guards made to stop him but she waved them off with her hand and now she was standing Jon could see she was at least as tall as his uncle. They stood in front of each other for a moment before she hugged him and he too their surprise hugged back just as earnestly.
When they finally broke apart Benjen turned to Jon and seeing his confusion told him.
"Jon, this is Lorra...Snow" Benjen said, not wanting to say she was a bastard even if she technically was. "The second daughter of my father, your grandfather Rickard Stark and your aunt. The sister Eddard never got to know before she was carried off by wildlings."
- x -
While the hall reeled from the announcement that the late and controversial Lord Rickard Stark had fathered a bastard daughter that was now a leader beyond the Wall, Loki looked up, past all this to a figure that was hidden in the shadows. The figure too noticed him and a scowl appeared on their face at the mere sight of him.
Rhaenys sat on a bench in the Water Gardens, enjoying the cool air and the sweet smells of the flowers around her. She closed her eyes just to make the scents more potent and feel the cool breeze even more keenly against her skin. She could almost feel her mother's presence here, even if she had died in Kings Landing a key part of her was here in this place. She smiled, feeling her warmth and her voice more clearly than ever.
Ser Barristan stood watch nearby watching with a peaceful smile on his face, himself feeling a lot better while in this place. It was he thought privately to himself a far better place than Kings Landing, less seedy and corrupt.
Nearby Adrienne and Trystane sat with their toes in the water, cooling their feet while they chatted to her.
"This time of day is always the best for being here. When I have children of my own I will bring them here to spend the time with them." Arianne said with a smile, not sure of her cousin just yet but willing to give her a chance as it seemed having her here had greatly bettered her father's mood and her uncle's too. Despite being separated from his family and being furious about that Arianne had never seen her uncle not carry the fury in his eyes that he had for nearly every day of her life until Rhaenys had arrived.
"Anyone in mind to be the father?" She asked with interest to which Arianne only smirked.
"One of my own future vassals, that is all you need to know." Arianne teased which made Rhaenys smile too. Poor fool she thought, someone out there had no idea he was in her sight.
"I am glad you came. It's healed a rift that was left in our family." Trystane said with a pleasant smile as he moved his feet in the water. "Father and Uncle Oberyn are the happiest I can remember them being."
"So am I." Rhaenys admitted, feeling more at ease and safe than she had in her entire life. Very glad she had decided to come, seeing her mother's homeland and meeting her family had filled up some part of her that had always been missing until now.
- x -
Doran and Oberyn sat together and enjoyed some wine as they sat opposite each other, while the return of their much mourned niece had eased tensions it hadn't completely repaired things. Oberyn had left his love and daughters to spend time together in one of the sitting rooms. The sight of Tyene sobbing into Ellaria's arms was heartbreaking, clearing the harsh treatment at the hands of the Faith and the shaving of her beautiful hair was too hard for his third child to bare.
Oberyn was still fuming about that but Doran appeared unmoved.
"You and your daughters to your credit have been well-behaved for the most part." Doran said as he sipped his wine.
"Yet you did...that to my daughter!" Oberyn said with a snarl but Doran was unfazed and simply told him.
"I ordered she be merely confined. The punishments she suffered were something she brought on herself, when she escaped her cell and seduced two other acolytes, poisoned three of the head Septas and then fled the compound before being caught. A Septa died as a result of her actions and while they at my request did not kill her, her lack of repentance merited a strong punishment in their eyes." Doran said with a raised eyebrow.
Oberyn blinked in surprise but then put his hand to his temple as he massaged it. He had always known Tyene had a streak of viciousness in her, a lot like her mother Oberyn thought with concern at how short-sighted and angry they could be. He only hoped they learned from this and he knew to watch both closely from now on.
"While I refuse to allow Ellaria and your older girls to stay in the Sandship, I will permit the brothels in town to serve you again." Doran said which instantly perked Oberyn up as the mention having some carnal pleasure with Ellaria and others after a year of nothing. It had been torture for him Oberyn thought, almost painful.
"While your punishment is now over I will still require your insights." Doran said with a calculating look in his eyes which made Oberyn feel on edge again, not sure what this meant. "I want you to spend time planning future invasions of the Stormlands, Reach, Crownlands and Westerlands. Just plans for now since we have no idea of just how things are going to progress. Quentyn has found the ground as frozen over as we expected but the fact he has been able to follow Meera Stark without being forcefully removed is a good sign that things are going well. When it comes time for Dorne to join the fighting, we must be prepared." Doran told him and Oberyn was wondering just where his brother got such a mind for planning from? And just what he was planning do with it?
Pyke, the Iron Islands…
Yara was not looking forward to this.
She walked through the grim and ugly corridors of Pyke, on its walls were some of the trophies that her family had collected over the centuries and not been forced to give back. As a child she and her brothers had played a game with the stories behind each item and most of the time she liked to look at them and remember better times...but not today.
As she had to explain her failure to her father.
She frowned, it had not been her fault she thought fiercely. She had no idea the North was going to be neutral in the war and therefore keep its army at home not to mention they would anticipate their invasion. She could hardly believe the tree worshippers could think at all she scoffed but it didn't matter as their invasion was going nowhere. If the North had garrisoned their coast then there was little chance of either raiding or taking anything.
She walked into the room and saw her father was to her own relief passed out from drink on the table nearby. She shook her head before turning to the castle's steward Helya, a bent-back woman who despite her back issues made this castle run smoothly, somehow. She was an ugly woman, but capable.
"Did he say anything?" Yara asked Helya who was tidying documents that had been left laying around. The woman with a voice as gruff as any sailor she had even heard spoke with a dismissive tone.
"Cursed you for hours, claims you should have beaten the North. He claims he was going to whip you and Theon when you both return." Helya said and Yara frowned, realising for the first time that she hadn't seen her brother since she left and asked.
"Do we know where Theon has crawled off too?" Yara said with annoyance, he should really have been part of her fleet. Him being there would have changed nothing she thought with a shrug but still it was irritating for him to abandon her when she needed support.
"According to rumour he's sailed south to look for richer pickings." Helya said with an uncaring shrug.
Yara sighed, knowing that loyalty was not any of their strengths and to be honest had she not been so urgent for her father's approval so she could succeed him she would probably have done the same thing. Theon it seemed didn't care enough to stick around to try and gain his approval, good on him Yara thought with resignation. He was free to do what he wanted.
She would continue the campaign against the North, it might seem hopeless but they would come away with this with a crown somehow she thought with determination...or at least she hoped as doubt crept in.
Unknown Farmstead, The Reach…
Lord Gregor Clegane rode his enormous warhorse with pride, eager to enjoy himself with the hapless Reach farms. Too long he had been confined. Not since the last Greyjoy Rebellion had he had much fun and now he was being given free reign on the Reach, a far better target than the piss poor Iron Islands.
However as he came upon the next farm he frowned, smoke was rising from the buildings and a horrible thought occurred to him. He pressed his horse harder into a fast run as did his men behind him only to yell in frustration as he saw the farm he had been planning to attack.
The buildings had been stripped and burned, with some still going and fire reaching into the sky. Dessicated corpses littered the ground and some had clearly been fed on and not by animals.
Gregor got off his horse and with his great sword in hand swung it at a still standing post in frustration, his anger making the swing so hard that it cut clean through in and left his anger still boiling.
These Wildling Clansmen were really starting to get on his nerves he fumed, they were stealing all his chances to take women and gold for himself and leaving him nothing but scraps. His face red with anger and his men looking terrified and ready to bolt at his fury.
Gregor swore to himself that he would get rid of these wildlings himself, with his own bare hands if he had too.
Lannister Camp, the Reach...
The Lannister Army even with its recent defeats was still very large and had a number of small camps scattered around to try and launch attacks on different targets from different positions if needed.
Lord Lefford commanded one of these smaller camps, one with a vital task. Stationed where the Kings Road and Rose Road met in the heart of the Kingswood, their job was to prevent any force using the road and forest to sneak up to Kings Landing.
But being in the forest, while it kept them fed with fresh game also put them in considerable danger. The trees made it very difficult to patrol the area frequently or properly, so the men could never really be sure they were safe. However after a few weeks of no activity they were starting to relax.
They had no idea that Tyrion, under the alias 'Four Seasons' had leaked the location of their camp to Stannis who had the Ice River Clansmen, sneak through the heavy forest until in the dark of the night they found the camp and with vicious sneers, took advantage of their ill-prepared state.
Not yelling their usual battle cries till they had managed to ambush the few guards still awake given the late night. The Clansmen who were well used to ambushing their prey rushed suddenly into the camp and with torches blazing began to set fire to the tents all around the place.
The Leffords and others were shocked awake by the sudden noise and fire, rushing out of their tents only to be greeted by thousands of screaming cannibals emerging like demons out of the dark forest. The men froze, knowing these were the same horrible monsters that Stannis commanded and some were struck with the fear of being eaten possibly while alive. Few men had armour or weapons ready for a fight nor where they themselves ready even if they had.
Lord Lefford, who had been enjoying a nice dream of his wife and daughter back home emerged from his tent only for one of the clansmen to bury an axe in his head the moment he left the tent which was burning behind him. The sight of this did nothing to help the panicking Westerlands men who soon completely lost whatever cohesion they had and started running.
Lord Antario Jast, second in command of the camp had a sword in hand and was doing his best to fend off the attackers while organising the men who hadn't broken rank under attack.
He saw a tide of cannibals coming right at him and held his ground, his sword in hand and his black steel chest-plate with three golden lions on it, glinting in the fire light. He swallowed but did not run as many men did and with all his determination faced his attackers, vowing his sons would know their father fought till the end.
- x -
The following morning smoke from the burnt tents could still be seen in the sky over head and the camp was completely in ruins.
The attack on the Lannister camp had been devastating, although the Clansmen had lost a couple of hundred in the attack, the losses the Lannisters had suffered were far greater. Over two thousand dead with many more wounded, Lord Lefford was dead and his body had been eaten by the cannibals who had dragged it away, only for the remains to be discovered the following morning. Lord Antario Jast by testament of his skill had managed to somehow survive the raid but was injured and needed to return home to heal.
As it would soon be known, the 'Ambush of Kingswood' would terrify many more people about the horrors these wildlings could unleash. No longer were the Wildlings something only Northerners feared, all of Westeros would shiver in their beds at the mere mention of their name.
Highgarden, the Reach…
After the 'Ambush of Kingswood' fear of the Clansmen in the Reach was now escalating to the point that Lords honestly were speaking of denouncing House Tyrell and removing them from power so they could negotiate a deal with Stannis on their own.
That was something Olenna Tyrell could not allow.
Never had the Reach been subject to such a threat she thought with a shake of her head. How did the North deal with this all the time? She thought with exasperation, no wonder they were so grim.
But she had a solution, it had taken some time but she had managed to employ a group of sellswords from outside of Westeros that had no fear of fighting the cannibals as they were fresh so to speak from wars over in Essos.
The Captain of the Windblown, the man known as the Tattered Prince a title that made Olenna scoff with how pretentious it was. She knew he could speak High Valyrian and was she admitted reluctantly quite well-spoken with a soft but strong voice when he wanted too. He was a few years younger than she was but still strong and fit, if she had been ten years younger she might have been tempted to see if he was as skilled a lover as he was a warrior. But she thought with slight regret she was to her mind a bit passed that now.
Still he and his sellsword company who numbered two thousand professional and skilled horsemen and foot soldiers was one of the best in the business and having been hardened by the worst Essos could throw at them, Olenna was dearly hoping that they might be the answer to her prayers.
"These barbarians from beyond the Wall are causing a great deal of damage and I want them dealt with as quickly as possible and by any means necessary." Olenna said sternly so he knew her true intent. The Tattered Prince nodded in acceptance and said in his low but soft voice.
"It will be done my lady. What of the prisoners they hold?" The Tattered Prince asked just to confirm what his limits were. They were paying him a lot of gold for this and he wanted to make sure he and his men got it after sailing all the way to Westeros.
"Any still alive can be released, but they are not to interfere with your main purpose." She with little care for the poor women and children still enslaved to the cannibals who surely were living in the worst kind hell imaginable. It was a harsh thing but she was practical, saving them was not as important to her as securing her family's position and future.
The Tattered Prince nodded and left the room to start task, his tattered cloak of many colours created from the cloaks of those he had slain flowing behind him.
Olenna watched him leave and then left the room herself, Left and Right at her side as always. It might be an expensive to hire a sellsword company but people in the Reach were now so scared of the cannibals most would never risk attacking them. Hardly surprising Olenna supposed given the Reach had large numbers but most were farmers not warriors. They left war to others most of the time.
As she entered the courtyard however her headache only got worse as saw Renly and Loras speaking with Margaery.
"My love, we need you to rally the people! The war is going badly for us right now and they are starting to lose faith in our ability to win." Margaery told her husband as well as Loras who never left his side. "These cannibals are terrifying our people and we need someone to encourage them to not lose hope and fight back." She said urgently, fully aware of how bad his lack of presence on the battlefield was and that so far no one had managed to defeat the cannibals.
Renly however looked completely frozen at the idea of rallying the people and actually fighting on the battlefield. He had never done so in his life and had been so far removed from the war by spending his days in privacy with Loras that he had no real idea just how bad the situation had become. Loras however, despite it being his own sister who was pressing only told shortly.
"His grace is aware of the importance of this and he has complete faith in House Tyrell to resolve the situation." Loras said with almost arrogant dismissal of the issue. Something that produced an exasperated sigh from both Margaery and Olenna at the same time, sounding exactly alike.
"Yes, of course I have complete faith in House Tyrell to deal with this issue." Renly said with a sudden and rather stupid looking grin and then said. "I am still waiting for my last Rainbow Guard to arrive. Lord Selwyn Tarth has sworn that she is the best I could hope for." Renly said, just as a tall figure appeared nearby.
She was a rather masculine looking, clad in full armour she was near completely flat chested and ungainly not to mention taller than both Renly and Loras. Her features were coarse and broad and short blonde hair on her head although she had very beautiful blue eyes. She did Olenna thought with admiration cut a powerful figure in armour, in a dress she would have been completely out of place but in armour she was impressive.
"Your grace, I am Brienne Tarth. Here to serve you on behalf of my father Lord Selwyn Tarth." The woman said, identifying herself as she knelt before Renly who smiled at her and said with a wide smile that honestly did not seem intelligent at all.
"Your father speaks very highly of you. I am sure you will do him proud." Renly said.
Olenna looked at the scene with dismay, her instinct that Renly was useless was proving more correct every day and frankly she was now fully open to finding a better option. One did exist that would get her Margaery on the throne so much faster and ally them with a powerful faction. It was a dangerous move but one that would move her family closer to the throne much faster than Renly ever was.
She knew much work was needed but it would pay off more than Renly ever world Olenna thought and went back to her rooms.
Main Lannister Camp, the Reach…
Tywin was full of anger however it never showed on his face, it was like he was gaining a disadvantage for every piece of good news he had.
The camp in the Kingswood had been devastated and the capital left open to attack. He should he thought to himself have anticipated that and already had sent five thousand men back to the city under the command of Lord Brax to reinforce the city in case it came under attack.
Those Clansmen had to go, he thought annoyed they weren't working for him given how effective they were at creating fear. Few would ever mess with Stannis right now including his own men Tywin thought, gritting his teeth with frustration. The devastation they caused not to mention eating people had broken the wills of many without even having to see it first hand.
To that end he had given Ser Gregor Clegane the sole task of hunting down and killing the Clansmen since he was the only thing he had that created as much fear as them.
He could only hope that Ser Clegane proved his usefulness again.
Vaes Dothrak, Essos…
The wars of Westeros meant little to Daenerys as she was far too busy with her own plans to care about the former home of House Targaryen especially when she was trying to make sure it had a future.
She was much more careful with her riding now she was pregnant. She did not want to risk her child and nor did Drogo. Ser Jorah. Irri, Jhiqui and the bloodriders were almost like mother hens for all the time they spent around her. If she wanted something she only had to ask and it was brought to her. They had also moved to the only city of the Dothraki, Vaes Dothrak although it was far from a true city to her mind but that was besides the point.
She did like this she thought with some decadence but the lack of privacy was starting to grate on her nerves she thought with annoyance.
Still she thought with some relief, it did allow her to focus on the rest of her plans.
The farms were really doing well now she thought with satisfaction, they were able to produce much more food now that the Dothraki were protecting them rather than raiding them. The horse ranches were taking a little longer but the Dothraki who loved and knew horses the best were already in the process of breeding more and it would take a while yet for them to see a return on this but it would in time see them gain much more and better steeds.
"Khaleesi, it is time." Ser Jorah said from the side and she sighed, not liking what she was having to do but knew it was tradition and if she wanted to keep the respect of her people then she would have to do it.
"Thank you Ser Jorah." She said with a smile and walked out of her private tent to the larger central one where people had gathered to watch her trial. Drogo sat on his simple throne with his riders around him and he gave her an encouraging look which she gratefully returned before taking centre stage. The leading dosh khaleen, important members of Dothraki society surrounded her and chanting began as she was handed the heart of a stallion.
She was conscious of all the eyes that were on her but did her best to ignore it, the large heart seemed way to big and tough for her at first and balked at the idea of eating the whole thing as was expected but she marshalled her courage and took a bite.
It tasted awful and she wanted to spit it out but forced herself to keep going and took another bite out of the hard flesh. Her stomach revolted as she swallowed but she forced herself not to be sick and kept on going, taking bite after bite from the large organ.
She could see men taking bets on whether or not she could do it, her rage at that was actually helpful as she became determined to prove those that said she couldn't finish it and keep it down wrong.
She did her best to focus on the task at hand, taking another bite out of the heart and not paying attention to the chanting. She was aware that this was supposed to show what kind of child she and Drogo were likely to have, she cared not but knew a son would be better for her position here. Drogo needed an heir to rule after him as did she, a girl could do it Daenerys thought with pride at a daughter like her taking power but in this world men held too many cards for her to ever rule easily.
So she had to hope for a boy.
She kept going, more and more of the large heart was bitten off and she forced it down her own throat until finally after what seemed like forever...she finally finished.
She felt her stomach rebelling against her and she fell forward, almost about to empty its contents all over the floor but just as she thought that she had failed, that they all thought she had failed she felt her belly calm. She forced herself back up into a kneeling position and looked ahead at her husband with a smile on her blood covered mouth which he returned with a very pleased grin.
One of the women near by who had been leading the chanting spoke with proclamation.
"Stallion who mounts the world." She said to the tent's people, some who looked annoyed at having lost their bets while others were pleased to have won. "A Stallion, who is the Khal of Khals. Who will unite all the people into a single Khalasar, all the people of the world will be his herd."
Daenerys with a raising determination to make these words reality managed to get to her feet and stand in full view and say loudly.
"A Prince rides in me!" She said with pride although to be honest she thought it silly to make such a declaration when she had no real way of knowing whether her child was a boy or a girl. She spun slowly around to face all in the room before adding. "And he shall be called Rhaego!" She said, choosing a name that was close to her oldest brother who she wished sometimes she could have met. Partly as apart from her mother he seemed to be the better member of her family and also to wring his neck for causing the rebellion. But also adding a part of Drogo's name too as he would be a Khal to rule over Khals.
Turning back to Drogo, she worried that he might be angry she had named their child without his consent but he was still smiling. As those present chanted the name Rhaego, Drogo got to his feet and walked over to the stage she was standing on. He picked up by her legs and she was so comfortable with him that she didn't complain as he carried her like that around the whole tent. Content in not only his love, but that of the people as well.
- x -
Later that day as she and Drogo sat enjoying each other's company, laying in their bed and her using his chest as a pillow as they held each other.
Irri made her presence known by clearing her throat but thankfully they had only been laying there and nothing more intimate but both turned with irritation to the man that came in. He was tanned and had dark hair like most Dothraki but had no beard and scars all over his chest.
"Khal Drogo, Khaleesi." He said with a respectful bow of his head. "I am Scoro, I request to join my riders to your cause." He said in their native tongue.
Normally this wouldn't be unusual as many riders had joined their cause as their territory and numbers grew but it was not usual for them to come up like this, nor did they carry a chest which was being held by a pair of men behind them. Ser Jorah and the bloodriders nearby all had their swords out and were ready to defend them and Drogo's hand was close to his sword if needed. She was however curious about something.
"Then say why you seek to join us. Speak truthfully or it will be the last words you say." Daenerys said with an edge of threat that cowed the man immediately and he said with fear and reluctance.
"I am in need of protection. I have a woman that belonged to Khal Rhalko, she wished to be with me and not him so we fled but he now seeks my head and hers. I am dead unless I become a part of your Khalasar." He admitted with fear in his eyes over the position he had gotten himself in.
Daenerys knew better than to just swallow the story as simply as that but as a woman forced into an arranged marriage herself even though it had turned out good she felt for him and especially for this woman. However the knowledge that it could well bring them trouble with Khal Rhalko who was one of their few remaining rivals for control of all the Dothraki made her pause. She wasn't sure if antagonising him was a good idea.
"And what will you do should we allow you to join us?" Drogo asked and she almost kissed him there and then for that, actually seeing what Scoro would do if he got the chance to be a part of their army. Scoro did however have something to offer.
"Myself and my twenty riders will serve you will all our strength and to show our bravery we have brought treasures from the ruined dragon city next to the sea that smokes." Scoro said and Daenerys was astonished they had risked going so close and even into that cursed land that she had to ask.
"Oros?" She said with surprise, it being the only city of the former Freehold that still was connected to the mainland as far as she knew. She then became immediately curious as to what they had brought and gestured for the chest to be brought forward.
Scoro's men did just that as did their own protectors in case it was some kind of trap. Opening the chest she was somewhat disappointed by the sight of gold and other trinkets, three other chests were brought in that were filled with the same but something did eventually catch her attention...two things actually.
One was a strange crystal that seemed to have a light inside it, she carefully picked it up and to her astonishment it felt hot to the touch but not so much that she dropped it. Carefully putting it back she then picked up the other object that had gained her attention. It was a book, a very old one and carefully as she opened it she nearly gasped as it was written in High Valyrian and was to her amazement, devoted to the subject of dragons and that the crystal and the book together could be used to hatch dragon eggs.
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, please review and let me known what you thought.
Lorra was based on Kerra from Britannia, played by Kelly Reilly. If you want an idea of what she looks like.
Next Chapter – Meera and Jon reunite while Loki meets an old 'friend', the Southern War continues as does the Iron Born's Invasion of the North.