Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.

Hello, I have been hard at work on some stories but faced some issues that slowed me down, not to mention I have been considering what story to do after this. Thank you to those that read and reviewed the last chapter and for your patience.

So far, I am caught between another X-over story but this time with Harry in Essos with Daenerys and maybe Hermione too. Or I have been considering doing a pure Game of Thrones story with a Baratheon character. I have set them both out but am unsure which to go for so I will put up a poll so you guys can tell me what you think.

Review Responses from last chapter…

Jebest4781 - Thanks!

KEZZ - Glad to hear you liked it!

frankieu - I love to write and you guys encouraging me like you are is awesome!

orthankg1 - Thank you!

10868letsgo - All in good time. Without giving too much away, there are hints in this chapter.

EP - Thanks!

SharonH - Am grateful for the support! What Catelyn did to Jon was bad but bare in mind Meera is her own daughter and while she didn't like she was strongminded and rebellious she was still her child. Not to mention the Red Wisps were influencing her decisions to some extent.

ironspike68 - I know, the battle still has a way to go yet and not all days will be good ones. Dany is always a tough one because I think she had far more potential than was ever explored. Her new allies will give her a key advantage. Happy to hear you liked it!

Jorge Peralta - Get why you think that but given how the North feels about 'Southerners' it would be seen as a punishment and/or insult. Not to mention Edmure isn't exactly the best catch outside of his position. He is pretty foolish and would irritate a woman like Dacey no end.

BioHazard82 - Thank you for the encouragement!

LectorHistoria - Did I? Sorry, just checked and you are right! I blame that one on autocorrect.

Blaze1992 - I know, the war in the south is reaching a crucial point that breaks in the next chapter. As for the war in the North? That is only just warming up. In regards to Dany? Yes, I have a different fate in mind for her.

aesir21 - Thank you for the comment! I know and things will soon be getting rather…difficult for Renly very soon. Loras? Not sure yet about him. I know, the cannibals are Stannis's version of the Mountain only worse. A terror weapon you use to scare your enemies.

Starpottergeek - I really appreciate the support! The pairing? Hints are in this chapter.

Joe02 - I am glad you enjoy this story!

Literary Consumer - Sorry if that is confusing, I probably should be clearer about it but most of the time they just do it by ship or horse. Thank you! I worry about writing for established characters like Tyrion and Daenerys as they are awesome and I want to do them justice.

cameron1812 - I really appreciate what you said. Cersei is foolish when she is angry but for now reasonably contained by Tyrion and Joffrey. When that changes you can expect her to let out her rage on someone. Also, in regards to the Stand. Yeah, I was hoping you would all like it! Has a couple more chapters to go yet.

Sky - Will do as soon as possible. Loki? I think he would see her as beneath him being a mere human. He has an interest in her but it is entirely for his own purposes.

On with the chapter…

Chapter 23 - Battle for the Dawn Part 3

Warm Caves, Beyond the Wall…

Jon and Meera were both sitting in the warm caves that gave the village its name, still recovering from their magical assault on the army of the dead, neither had moved since being put there by the others and were being put in the caves to keep warm and save on firewood. They were both eating some rations to regain their strength and the warm moisture filled air inside was helping restore them. They managed to sit up and did their best to get comfortable as they sipped some of the flavoured water the Free Folk had. It tasted nice and thankfully they were starting to get their strength back and eventually managed to stand on their own.

"We are never doing anything like that again!" Jon said firmly, hating how long it had taken for them to recover, sitting back down to eat some more of the rations and just in case their unsteady legs failed them. Meera at his side who had never felt as drained as she had the last day or so nodded slowly.

"It was a gamble but one that paid off as at least we reduced their numbers and maybe saved all our lives." Meera said with a small smile. It had been dangerous and they felt more exhausted than they ever had in their lives before but they had slain many of the wights and given them a chance, however slight of survival.

"I am glad you found a girl that not only cracks that shell of yours but loves you as you deserve to be loved." Meera said with a smile, deciding to change the subject. Jon blinked for a moment, not sure what she was talking about at first until he realised that she was talking about Ygritte.

"She…she is just teasing me. Trying to get me to react." Jon said rather too quickly as his cheeks heated. Meera smiled, seeing she was right that the interest was mutual.

"She might tease you Jon, but only for so long. To go on as long as she has and want to spend so much time with you? It goes deeper Jon and I am glad…you deserve a chance of happiness with someone at your side. Maybe even a family of your own." Meera said wondering if she was going to be an aunt again soon which made her smile.

Jon was taken aback at the suggestion and found that he was not averse to the idea of spending his life with Ygritte. That honestly surprised him as he had never imagined that before and yet he couldn't help but feel drawn to the idea.

However, his nervousness eventually made him change the subject himself as he was already embarrassed enough without his sister playing matchmaker.

"I noticed that Quentyn Martell has been attentive." Jon said, part worried and part wondering if his sister might actually enjoy his attention. Meera's expression changed to a frown before tell him.

"In his case I can't be sure if his interest is genuine or not. It could just as easily be part of some Martell Plot to do who knows what. Who really knows what really goes on in their heads." Meera said with annoyance. "Even if it was genuine, we could well be in the last days of our lives. The fight ahead is growing harder despite all we have done so far and I don't have time for that."

"Yet you say that me and Ygritte should. Sister perhaps you need to take more of your own advice, I don't approve of him. Be it brotherly concern or due to his family history but there might not be another time." Jon told her with a look in his eye that begged her not to turn her back on life after what had happened in the past. "If I and Ygritte aren't going to waste time neither should you." Jon said with care.

Meera was touched by his worry, she to be honest had more or less decided not to get involved with anyone. It was so hard defining who they were sometimes, was she Meera or was he Harry? Did they like boys or girls or both? These questions made her feel uncomfortable as the answers seemed elusive. She didn't really know how to put it into words and certainly although she trusted Jon, she wasn't sure she could tell him when they didn't understand it themselves.

Nearly eight and ten and still no idea of just how they had gotten here.

It had been odd enough having memories of life as a boy while being a girl but the idea of being intimidate with either a man or even another woman was confusing.

She honestly had no idea just what she wanted or even if she could actually be true to herself when she didn't even know who she was.

"It's a bit different for me." Meera admitted to him. "When Loki called me the one with two lives he wasn't lying. I think I remember the one that I had before this one. A world very different to this where I was a very different person with another name. It is very hard sometimes to separate myself from that earlier life Jon." Meera said with some reluctance deciding to throw caution to the wind and admit what was on her mind.

Jon was confused at her statement not really understanding what she meant but understood that she was unsure of who she was at times and told her as he put a hand on each of her shoulders to make sure she was listening.

"Whatever other lives you might have lived before, you are Meera Stark now. Daughter of Eddard Stark, sister to Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Rickon and me. Daughter of House Stark and Lady of the North. An inventor and the best spear fighter the North has ever seen. Live this life, you only get to be Meera once." He said with a smile.

Meera took a moment to absorb that before smiling a little, not sure if he really understood but getting his point. This confusion of who she was only hindered her, she would put that off till another time and focus on the here and now.

The fate of the world was at stake she thought with a feeling of being very foolish at putting her own feelings ahead of the mission even for a moment.

- x -

A short while later they wrapped themselves back up in their furs and left the cave to see how the others were doing, it was a small shock to the system leaving the warm caves and out into the cold again, but it didn't take them long to adjust and walk over to the walls where they found the others digging the shallow ditch outside the perimeter wall. While the others were working further along the wall they saw Ygritte, Samwell and Quentyn working together on the other side and they were talking quietly to themselves. Although they shouldn't Jon and Meera could help but listen.

"It was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen." Samwell said as he used the metal pickaxe to dig through the frozen earth so they could break it up and move it to deepen the ditch.

"I never knew the Starks even in their ancient days had such power. I mean they are one of, if not the oldest family in Westeros but even then, there is no mention of such power in the past." Quentyn said with concern, not having imagined this when he had been sent to repair relations with the Starks.

"But they might have saved all our lives with all their powers and nearly got killed doing it." Ygritte said with annoyance at their suspicion. Being from the other side of the Wall she had a much more open view on magic especially having been taken in by Sif and raised by her. She had seen Sif do some incredible feats in her life and knew magic was no dark art. True some fuckers did use it for bad shit but just as many used it for good too. "They might have bloody magic but it's good magic." Ygritte said firmly.

Samwell and Quentyn both looked a little guilty as they both had thought less than good things about Jon and Meera since witnessing their incredible show of power. It had been a terrifying thing to watch but the storm had been much less intense since like by cutting down the wights they had lessened the Walkers hold on the land somehow.

"Yes, whatever they can do…I have never met anyone more honourable and good hearted than Jon." Samwell said remembering the beating and treatment he had received at Castle Black until Jon had stepped in. He had never had a true friend before and yet Jon who literally could have just lived in luxury at Winterfell and not bothered with anyone was instead one of the most honourable and hardworking men that Samwell had ever met. Whatever power he had, he was a good man and one worth respecting.

The same Quentyn realised could be said of Meera, he thought with disappointment at himself for being so small minded. His uncle had long told them stories of magic and while some had been awful tales full of malice there had been also some truly heart-warming ones too. Meera was a once in a generation or more intellect. She had brought much innovation to Westeros, and it wasn't just to the North but the other kingdoms too. In time she would probably bring much more and whatever power she had she had used it to save their lives in a battle that could well decide the future of all life in Westeros and beyond.

They then noticed Jon and Meera were nearby and turned to look at them with worried expressions, but Jon and Meera just smiled back and picked up a pickaxe and a shovel and got right down in the dirt and started working with them. They resumed work after looking at the pair for a while, unsure just what to say but settled for leaving things as they were for now.

Jon and Ygritte kept looking looks at each other and finally when it came time to take a break Jon couldn't stand it anymore and turned to Ygritte.

"Can I speak to you? In private?" He asked and while the others looked on in curiosity Meera smiled quietly to herself, knowing full well what he wanted to speak to the other woman about.

"Whatever Snow. If you want." Ygritte said and followed Snow as he went into the caves.

Going deeper than they usually headed Jon shrugged off his furs as did Ygritte who looked at him with confusion.

"Well! What do ya w-" Ygritte started to say but Jon before his nerve kissed her with all the passion he could muster. Ygritte was shocked at the sudden move as she would have expected a clumsy come on but instead Snow had decided not to waste any time with that. She started responding though as he used her surprise to deepen the kiss and soon, she was kissing back just as hard.

Breaking only to breathe they soon discarded their remaining clothes and were as naked as new-born babes, wrestling on the ground and wouldn't emerge for some time.

- x -

While Jon and Ygritte were making their relationship into something more and the others continued doing what they could to improve their defences, Meera and Quentyn went out to collect more firewood for their stores since the Walkers seemed to be holding off attacking for now and they might not get another chance. Their little fire show seemed to have made them hesitant to attack for fear of them doing it again Meera thought or rather hoped.

They were silent, not talking at all and the tension in the air was strong for many reasons before Quentyn decided to ask a question in hopes of breaking it.

"So, what are your plans for the future?" He asked her, saying the first thing that came into his head.

Meera was so surprised by the question she was struck dumb for a moment before finally deciding to answer him.

"My intentions are to make sure my family is protected and safe, that the North is prosperous and protected. There are other inventions that I want to work on and hopefully after this business is sorted, I will finally have the time." Meera said eagerly, that was all she really wanted. To honour her vow and just ensure the safety and prosperity of her family and her country. She would be quite happy with that, not to mention treating her nieces and nephews rotten although not really. She wouldn't create a spoiled brat but soon Robb and likely Sansa, Bran, Rickon and even Jon now would likely have a family of their own. That was likely to mean a lot of children she thought with a smile.

"Seems lonely, not much room for yourself." Quentyn said bluntly as he chopped down another tree, it fell and Meera stared at him. His audacity to say such a thing annoyed her so she said back at him.

"What about you then? What will you do when you get back to Dorne?" She asked him sharply and Quentyn didn't react to her tone and said simply.

"The same thing probably, serving my family although that will likely involve getting married to one of my father's vassals and serving my sister when she needs me. In that I suppose we are alike; our sense of duty drives us to do the best for those we love first." He told her with small smile.

Alike? Meera thought with annoyance, she would grant that his loyalty was impressive as was his courage and devotion not to mention his consideration for others was admirable. He was she thought very much like Domeric had been but wasn't even going to entertain thoughts like that.

However before anymore could be said a shrieking could be heard in the distance along with fearful shouting. Both of them abandoned their wood and ran over to see what was going on and saw a few sleds being pulled by men and women in furs. However, the fact that the four sleds were currently being attacked by a small group of wights and a walker who were slaughtering the Free Folk with the sleds caught their attention first.

Meera without thinking charged forward with her spear in hand, ignoring the wights that were attacking the sleds she went straight for the source of the attack, the Walker who was away from the wights and not really having noticed she was around at first. He did see her approach and drew his ice-covered sword.

Meera was now much recovered from her magical assault and had strength for this, the Walker stabbed at her but she easily side-stepped and twirled her spear around to fend off the next attack before redirecting the attack away then with a single brutal thrust impaling the walker right in the chest with her three-pronged spear.

The Walker let out a horrible high-pitched screech as it turned into tiny crystals before their eyes and exploded into nothing. Meera felt rather than saw her spear absorb the corrupted magic energy of the walker and through it the wights before taking that and purifying it. She felt its energy level rise again, regaining some of the strength it had lost.

The wights without the walker to animate their bodies all collapsed to the ground, the Free Folk who remained, two men and a woman looked on in surprise and turned to face them.

"We were sent by Lorra and Sif." One of the men said with a still terrified look on his face. The sight of so many of his people not to mention likely friends dying at the hands of these creatures was horrible to say the least. "We carry fresh supplies and oil and animal fat to help with your struggle."

The mention of oil and animal fat gave Meera an idea, she went over to the sleds and carefully opened some of the jars and saw to her delight the black but thick liquid along with pale coloured if smelly animal fat.

She had a use for these alright she thought, and told the others.

"Take some of the fat to burn the bodies, have to make sure the walkers don't use them again. The rest of you though are coming back to Warm Caves with us. Its suicide to return to Niflheim right now." Meera said not keen to send these three to their deaths and hoped that not only would their supplies hold but that the extra muscle would benefit them.

"Can we manage to bring all the sleds back with only five of us?" Quentyn asked but Meera smiled.

"Yes, it will be difficult, but we can do it. Their cargo is too valuable to just leave behind as it may be of great benefit in defeating the enemy the next time that they dare come close." Meera told him as she took one of the smaller jars, lifting it like it was nothing and with care and some reluctance poured some of the fat on the bodies of the dead while the others with great dislike at having to watch took to distracting themselves with the sleds and getting them moving.

Taking a flaming torch from the last unattended sled Meera set the bodies of the dead ablaze to make sure they could rest in peace before as a group they moved back to Warm Caves, Meera with her strength now much better thanks to her spear being more recharged she had the strength to move a sled on her own. The others looked at her with astonishment but Quentyn was actually in awe of her as the made their way back to their temporary home, picking up the fire wood on route.

Niflheim, Beyond the Wall…

Unaware of the plight of her lady further North, Mira Forrester was sitting in the main hall with her two half-siblings drinking some rather strong brew that the Free Folk had made, similar to Vodka if far more rough and not as refined. It was heady and the first time Mira had tried some she had woken up with the worst hangover in the history of human kind.

So, she had decided to avoid it in the future and was now just drinking regular flavoured water.

"So" Elsera asked her as they drank. "What are our…your siblings like?" She said starting to say 'our' but thinking better of it. Mira was surprisingly annoyed by this as regardless of whether or not they had the Forrester name they all shared a father. They might not have the same mother but they were kin, something she made clear with her answer.

"Our eldest brother is Rodrik." Mira said with a smile before expanding on that. "He is the current heir to the house and he is easily as tall as Josera and built really strong. His skill with a sword is great and his presence is formidable. On the battlefield or off he has a strong aura that draws others too him and makes them unafraid to follow him into a fight. A leader and a very powerful warrior being an expert at warfare and the sword and riding. Recently he wed Elaena Glenmore and so a new heir will come soon." Mira said with pride at her eldest sibling. Elsera and even Josera listened, actually intrigued to know the family they had never had the chance to meet.

"Asher is the next in line and he is about the same age as you." Mira said moving on to her next brother. "Asher is far more light hearted that than Rodrik and makes friends and allies easily. He is as powerful as our eldest brother but is truly skilled at warfare. Few men can match him on a horse or with a sword. He has a quick tongue and fast to anger if his family is threatened. He is ruler of Sea Dragon Point now, a gift from House Stark and commands a strong force there. He wed Gwyn Whitehill and she gave him a son, little Malcolm named for our mother's brother who helped teach us at Ironrath." Mira said thinking of her little nephew and hoping he and the rest of their family was alright now.

The mention of being raised at Ironrath did seem to bring back some ill feeling so Mira quickly continued to stop things getting uncomfortable.

"The third is me." Mira said with a small smile which made them smile a little again before she moved on to their next sibling. "Ethan is our younger brother. He is so bright; he loves the Ironwood trees that are all around Ironrath and loves music and books more than anything. He is thinking of going to the Citadel in Oldtown to study to become a Maester and serve our family that way but has made no decision yet."

"Then comes Talia, Ethan's twin." She said pointing out that they weren't the only twins in their family which surprised Josera and Elsera but they recovered enough to keep listening. "Talia has a fire at the heart of her. She is so determined and resolved to protect our family but her voice is stunning to hear when she sings. She does her best to help in whatever way she can and no-one would ever think she does anything but love our family with all her heart." Mira said remembering her little sister and smiled hoping she was well.

"And lastly there is Ryon." Mira said turning her thoughts to their youngest brother. "He has so much energy but is scared easily. Easily riled up and yet he loves our family so much despite his young age. He loves to play with Ethan and Talia and will chase them through the trees all day." Mira said missing her youngest brother and hoped to see him soon.

"They sound…nice." Josera said with reluctance, not sure he was ready to consider these other people family yet after their father had discarded them but they were learning to accept Mira and if they accepted Mira then they would have to accept these other siblings as well. They were blood and from how Mira had described they wouldn't look down on them for being born out of wedlock and the idea of being a part of a larger family was certainly…attractive to them.

Moat Cailin, the North…

Bran was standing on the walls of Moat Cailin, looking out across the land and wondering if or rather when another attack was coming. The Iron Born hadn't come for a while now but Bran had looked into the future as best, he could and felt another attack was likely in the longer they went without one.

He just didn't know when it was coming, Bran thought with frustration.

It didn't help that so far none of the plants or other things found in the swamps around the castle had proven useful at all although he wasn't finished gathering everything yet.

Meera Reed appeared behind him and he was so caught up in his thoughts that he almost didn't notice but thankfully he heard her footsteps and turned around.

"There are men on watch. You don't need to keep a lookout yourself." Meera Reed said to him with a small frown but he said with a slight frustration mostly at himself for being drawn to the idea of going back inside.

"I can't ask the men to do anything I won't do myself. If I am going to be a lord then I have to prove myself to them that I am worthy of leading them." Bran said and Meera while not having the same 'sight' as her younger brother seemed to realise that what he was saying went deeper than that.

"You mean…prove to your siblings and the rest of your family." She said, not as a question but as a statement. Bran looked at her and tried to deny it but the hard look in her eye made him falter and cave to her.

"Yes." He said quietly finally getting to the heart of the matter. "I will be the first to establish a new cadet branch of House Stark in thousands of years and to hold such an important castle? My family is putting so much trust in me, my brother trusts me to guard the road to the North like our father before him. So does Jon, my sisters and Rickon. I have to prove myself that I am worthy of that trust." Bran said with nervousness starting to show on his face. Meera Reed smiled and put a hand on his shoulder.

"And you will. They wouldn't have put you here if they didn't think you were up to it and you will prove it, by taking one day at a time and not trying to do everything yourself. Jojen might be my father's heir but when he told me that I was going to be marrying into House Stark I was terrified. We are Reeds, swamp dwellers. We don't marry into important families and we don't have power or wealth. My father might have gotten a share in the gold mines but that is it." Meera Reed said, not liking to admit her own fears about marrying into such a powerful family and what might be expected of her.

"Then Jojen and our father sat me down and told me that I was over thinking things. Just like you are now. If you try to think of all the problems that you might be facing all at once, it'll break you." Meera said with a melancholy look on her face. "You take each day and problem one at a time. You don't need to rush." She said with a small smile coming to her face before she leant forward and pressed a small kiss to his cheek which immediately became enflamed and Bran put his hand to the cheek she'd kissed and held it there while staring after her. He was totally enthralled by her in that moment.

But one thing was for sure, for that day at least he stopped worrying about measuring up to everyone's expectations.

Going down to eat dinner that night he saw some sacks of strange white grains that apparently grew in the swamps but no one knew their true value yet, especially to the North.

- x -

The Stark/Tully Camp, the Riverlands…

"So, they tried to attack Seagard again but we beat them off." Lord Mallister said as he and a number of Northern and Riverlords all stood around a table with maps laid across it. "Yara Greyjoy was leading them again."

"Bitch doesn't know when to give up does she?" Edmure Tully said with a jokey expression on his face but it wasn't shared by any of the others around the table even his own vassals, his uncle Brynden especially looked on with disapproval.

"Just because we fight her off so far doesn't mean she will just give up on stealing land here. Not when it means she gets a chance at ruling the Iron Islands." He told them gruffly.

"Indeed. She is tenacious and will not give up easily. We may have to burn her last ship into the sea before she gives up." Robb said in agreement.

"But the riders you brought along with our own archers have inflicted heavy losses on the Iron Born whenever they sail up our water ways." Lord Blackwood said, mindful to be respectful as he was yet to be kin with the Starks until till his daughter married Rickon Stark. Robb nodded and turned to the others.

"So, we keep up the pressure, protecting the interior of the Riverlands and its key strongholds. As long as we can keep them from going any further than the coast, they can't achieve much of anything. Seagard is too reinforced for them to take it and so are the other ports while men guard the entrance to the water ways so they can ambush the Iron Born. We hold them here and we can bleed them hard every time they try. If they are so keen to be dead, who are we to not give that to them?" Robb said and the others cheered with a brutal blood lust as enjoyed the killing of these vicious thieves and rapists. Robb then made his own announcement.

"Many men are proving themselves in this war. Too many to name." Robb said with a look of pride at all those around the table many smiling at their own accomplishments. "So, we need to reward this, so for the men that fight the hardest…who fight the best and are the most loyal, the title of Paladin of the North will be bestowed." Robb told them.

The men around the table be they from the Riverlands or the North didn't seem to understand just what he was getting at so he explained.

"Like the Knights of the South we will have a title of our own. One that is of the First Men, sworn to them only much more selective. For warriors who fight the best, the most loyal and the most capable. Only a lord can recommend them and only the Stark in Winterfell can grant it. But their names and deeds will be recorded in a great book, a copy of which will be kept in each Northern stronghold so that they will be remembered for all time. Not a knighthood that can be merely given on a whim but something that gives a true chance at immortality." Robb said.

While the Riverlanders didn't look happy at his announcement as they probably considered it an affront to true knights as they saw it the Northerners all looked very excited at the idea. It was perhaps for the commonfolk the best way of finding employment and fame while noble sons and even daughters since the term wasn't gender specific could use it to increase their prospects and personal fame.

Besides, a chance to remembered for potentially centuries to come? They all thought with eagerness, that was worth it alone.

Robb wasn't blind to the fact that this could cause problems with people being reckless for the chance of becoming a Paladin of the North, that was a risk he was willing to take as if it found him some good people to help him regardless of where they came from, it was worth it he reassured himself.

Winterfell, the North…

Wylla was now almost ready for her child to come into the world. It had been some of the tensest and yet remarkable time of her life so far, the feeling of her son growing inside her and the worry they might lose him.

Today however she was due for a visit as her sister Wynafryd had arrived to keep her company during what they hoped was the last days of her pregnancy. She was sitting at the desk in her room when the door opened and she turned to see her annoyingly slim older sister standing there with her furs.

"Sister." Wylla said with relief at seeing her after so long apart. Wynafryd came over and enveloped her in a hug. Wylla hugged her back and then they broke apart. Wynafryd looked at her expanded belly and gently held her sister's hands.

"You're glowing sister." Wynafryd said with a smile of joy on her face. Wylla returned it as she answered.

"I hope so, given my husband is off fighting in a war and I feel like a whale." Wylla said with slight sarcasm. Wynafryd just gave her a sad smile before reminding her.

"He is the Lord of Winterfell and you are the Lady of Winterfell. Lord and Lady of the North itself and both of you are where you need to be. Him off protecting the North and its assets while you are here looking after the North while he's gone. You want power? In the North this is how you get it." Wynafryd said with a somewhat stern edge to her voice. Wylla was irritated at being talked to like that even if it was by her own sister.

"I hardly need reminding of that!" Wylla said knowing better than to lord her title over Wynafryd who would see it plainly as the power play it was. She instead decided to cut straight to the heart of the matter. "I have the first of the next generation of Starks inside me and on top of that I have been so ill I couldn't manage most of my duties. Sansa had to help me running the North and Lanna has had to take over some of the running of Winterfell! What must most of the North say when their new Lady Stark is bed bound and unable to do her duty?" She asked bitterly, hoping that when she and Robb had more children it wouldn't be anything like this. That he would be here and she would be able to be the Lady of the Castle at the same time.

"They are too eager to see this war end but you are doing the most important thing. Making sure you and your child are safe and healthy. Any mother knows that." Wynafryd said with a smile.

Wylla's worries eased a little with her sister's reassurance. She sat down on the nearby bed with her sister at her side.

"How are mother? Father? Grandfather?" Wylla asked and Wynafryd smiled to reassure her.

"They are well and send their love. They are eager to see their grandchild when they come." Wynafryd said and then told her about some news from White Harbour. "I will be getting wed myself soon. Austin Redwood, a knight in our service." Wynafryd told her with some pride.

Wylla remembered him, a young and rather handsome knight who came from a family of knights that served them. He was also while good at fighting rather smitten with Wynafryd and she would easily have him wrapped around her finger within days if she didn't already. She would insist he take the Manderly name so their house was preserved and while he would lead their fighting men, Wynafryd would rule White Harbour.

Wylla smiled as she saw her sister's ambition. Wondering briefly if she had wanted to be Robb's wife instead of her but put those thoughts aside and decided to just enjoy some time with her sister.

- x -

In the yard of Winterfell while Sansa, Lanna and now Arya ran the North and Winterfell and Wylla spoke with her sister, Rickon along with his much bigger direwolf Shaggydog was standing with his future goodbrother Harrion Karstark who had taken to teaching him some swordsmanship along with Ser Rodrik.

"Now with the longsword, the advantage is that its light enough to hold with one hand while you wield a shield with the other." Harrion told him demonstrating with a real-life example or each. "That means while you can employ both attack and defence at the same time. But discarding the shield so you can use the sword with both hands will allow you to put more force behind each hit but leaves you more open to counter attacks." Harrion said, using his own sword and shield to demonstrate with Ser Rodrik who then delivered a 'killing blow'.

Rodrik lowered his arms and sword in defeat before turning to the youngest member of House Stark and replacing the sword he had been using with another one and then showed it to Rickon.

"That is a bastard sword, longer than a longsword it is heavier and needs two hands to wield properly. But it has longer reach and it suits more aggressive fighters." Ser Rodrik said before Harrion put that sword down and picking up a much bigger one to finish their lesson.

"This is a Great Sword, or a Broad Sword as it is sometimes known. It's as you can see big and heavy and gives much reach with each swing and its greater weight means you can put more power behind each strike but…" Harrion said as he started warning his young student of the dangers of such a weapon. "It is cumbersome. Its size and weight make it awkward for most people to use, not to mention height is essential when wielding a weapon like this so if you are shorter then it is better to wield a different weapon."

Rickon nodded while petting his direwolf, understanding what they were saying and would probably wield a bastard sword like Jon did in the future. He was almost caught up in his daydreams of fighting on the battlefield alongside Shaggydog, not to mention his siblings and their direwolves. He was only woken from this when his wolf butted him in the head to make him aware that Harrion and Rodrik were both staring at him.

Feeling embarrassed he nearly blushed and gave them his full attention back. The two men wondered if this was going to be a regular occurrence but decided to keep on with the lesson, pulling out other weapons to see which one Rickon wanted to master.

The Red Keep, Kings Landing…

Jaime, now returned to Kings Landing took up his usual role as Commander of the Kingsguard was still unsettled by what had been said at Riverrun.

The Red Wisps. He could hardly believe it having put that out of his mind long ago as a figment of his own imagination brought about by the worst day of his life. The day he had broken his vow to save a city and killed his king, been given the name 'kingslayer' which followed him to this very day and more than that the day he had failed to save Princess Elia and her children.

His heart clenched as he remembered the gentle and kind princess who had been so nice to him and soothed his nerves being so young in the Kingsguard, she would have been a gracious and truly worthy queen Jaime thought with sadness that she had never gotten the chance. Certainly, better than the vicious harpy his sister had become he thought with hatred and venom.

But then he remembered the two small children and his heart hurt all the worse for failing to protect them. Aegon, so young he wasn't even off his mother's teat yet and had all the hearts in the Red Keep in the palm of his tiny hand.

Little Rhaenys, so full of life and energy yet like her mother and father so very smart and kind. He could imagine her grown up, so tall like her mother and yet so beautiful and gracious with an intelligence like her father.

All that…gone…sacrificed on the altar of his father's ambition.

That was enough to make him scowl and wish he had done that day to his father what he had done to the Mad King, Westeros would likely be a far better place if his vicious bitch of a sister hadn't become queen at the very least. If Robert the Whoremonger had actually had a wife that had given him actual children, then this war probably wouldn't have happened. He was angry enough at himself for helping bring about this situation, but he lay most of the blame at his sister's door.

Still, he thought, returning to the matter of the red wisps he had thought that a symptom of his own grief and self-hatred from that day. That all the stress had made him imagine it.

But now, he wasn't so sure Jaime thought and cast his eyes around, looking at everyone and wondering if a wisp might be hiding inside one of them. His eyes even moved over Joffrey and began to strongly suspect one might be inside him.

But how could be sure? Without running them all through?

Jaime tried to stop and make himself forget this and all this worry and suspicion would drive him mad if he let it. It was hard to shake this off but he must for the sake of his own mind.

But still, Jaime thought with a cold resolution and one last suspicious look around him, he would keep both eyes open.

Baratheon Camp, the Reach…

Stannis was preparing the next stage of his plans, looking for a potential target to attack in order to weaken the Reach or Lannisters so he could finally march on Kings Landing and take his throne.

He had been making good progress recently and some more minor Reach houses had come over to his side not to mention the remaining Stormlanders who had for reasons he couldn't fathom stayed loyal to Renly rather than their rightful king. He was of the mind to punish them but the need for men meant he needed to be careful.

Most of the Clansmen had been wiped out in several raids after the successful sacking of Longtable. Several of their encampments had been hunted down and destroyed by the sellswords hired by Olenna Tyrell. The remaining few had sought safety in his camp which was upsetting some of the other men, but they were still fighting for him, and he needed all the men he could get.

The idea of just abandoning this campaign and trying a landing from the water against Kings Landing itself had occurred to him more than once but he soon discarded it. If he tried to do that then all Tywin had to do was march his army back to the city and then he would be facing an unwinnable battle where Tywin could just throw arrow fire down from the walls or boiling oil perhaps Stannis thought knowing it was hopeless.

That would of course leave Tywin vulnerable to the Tyrell Army marching up the road behind him and either attacking him on the road or sieging Kings Landing like they had done to Stannis himself at Storm's End years ago but given the fact they hadn't fought in any battles at all in nearly half a month, Stannis had a feeling that some kind of deal had been struck and if so, his position was likely to get very difficult.

He looked at the maps to try and find his best option with Davos at his side who had just come with fresh reinforcements from Dragonstone, Davos was a sailor not a soldier but he was a practical man and knew what an army needed to march.

But the tent parted and revealed a most welcome sight as Master Kilburn arrived wearing his usual dark and understanded clothing.

"Your grace." The man said in his cold and clipped voice but did give a deferential nod of his head. Stannis accepted it and asked.

"Was your journey successful?" Stannis asked him and Kilburn nodded.

"The Iron Bank has become most displeased with the Lannisters for their failure to repay the debt they owe. So have the merchant guilds that make most of their trade with Westeros. They are willing to hear out a proposal for an alliance but more to the point six hundred more sellswords have come to join your army in hopes of lining their pockets with pillage." Kilburn said without a single care for any of their potential victims.

Stannis nodded which made Davos frown, not liking the changes in his king since Kilburn had entered his life. The Stannis he had known and served would never have permitted the savages from the extreme north to feast themselves on the people, would never have permitted so much looting and destruction. Yet now he did with so much ease that it honestly worried Davos that Kilburn was a demon of some kind that had ensnared the king but knew not to voice such things given the influence he had on the king.

At best Davos thought with some fear he would end up in the cells of Dragonstone or at worst…Davos stopped that chain of thought as he really didn't want to go any further with what might happen to him given who was now within their camp.

The idea of being slaughtered like a pig and then cooked like one over a fire was to say the least revolting and terrifying.

"But if you need more allies your grace." Kilburn said with a slow drawl. "It may be time to consider your daughter's betrothal?" Kilburn suggested carefully.

Stannis and Davos both stopped at that, Davos immediately speaking up.

"The Princess is still a child! She should not be wed off! Not so young!" He exclaimed, not liking the idea of the pure and innocent girl being sold to gods know who just to gain her father some support.

"Yes, she is." Stannis said, his love for his daughter making him stop thinking about the throne for a moment and instead on the safety and wellbeing of his first child. Reports indicated she was maturing well beyond her years and had such a pleasant and loving nature. She was one of the very few true bright spots in his life, more so since the salves provided by House Stark had cured her of those horrible scars. Yet she had faced those scars and that illness with such bravery and strength, Stannis thought with the smallest of smiles coming to his face. She was more a Baratheon than he was.

"But that doesn't mean you cannot find those that will marry her when she comes of age your grace." Kilburn said, unphased by their abrupt dismissal of his plan. "It is only a matter of a few years, and many would like a Princess for a wife even if they have to wait. Some in Volantis have eyes to expand their alliances here with the current situation with the Dothraki growing in their power. Or Dorne might consider the Princess Shireen for their own Prince Trystane and Dorne is well placed to cause major problems for the Reach if they should become involved." Kilburn said calmly.

That made Stannis stop and think. If his suspicions about a potential Reach/Lannister Alliance came true, then an alliance with Dorne might be very helpful in undermining that and helping him harass the Tyrells.

Davos could see that Stannis was considering and it worried him no end given how much the Martells and Dorne in general hated the Baratheons or having the poor girl he had helped raise be sent to spend the rest of her life in a city that honestly was worse than Kings Landing in some ways. That openly supported and used slavery as a way of life! He thought with disgust.

"I will look into your potential options if it pleases you your grace but there is another thing I learnt of when I was in Essos." Kilburn said, side stepping the issue for now to keep the peace. "There is a tactic that might truly scare the Reach into submission. They call it 'Scorched Earth'." Kilburn said with a cold smile on his face.

- x -

Loki, in his guise as Kilburn smirked internally as he manipulated Stannis with ease. He saw that surprisingly the rather simple Davos seemed to be suspicious of him but he wasn't overly concerned, he had been manipulating people for centuries before this fool's ancestors had even learned how to build stone tools. He could handle Davos Loki thought to himself.

Especially as all his plans were starting to fall into place. He could see the wheels turning and driving the different factions on towards the inevitable and when the time came to act, he would ensure that he got what he wanted. The policy of 'Scorched Earth' would only accelerate that fact.

Dothraki Camp, Essos…

The camp of the Dothraki was enormous and had based itself where it could rest after prolonged war and to ensure their new farms were secure.

Daenerys in her tent was now feeling enormous, she knew her babe would be due any day now and while she would be grateful for this to be over, she was scared.

Her own mother had died in childbirth giving birth to her as Viserys had never failed to remind her, her mother hadn't had a maester to help her or anyone else given how quickly they had fled Dragonstone and it being in the middle of a storm none of the sailors had been there. But although the circumstances would be very different for her of course.

She would have her ladies and she would have Haldon and Drogo at her side, all the help she could need.

But still, she thought with worry, would she be here to see her little babe?

Her dragons sensed her worry, crawling over to her and snuggling against her in an attempt to give her some comfort. She managed a small smile at how much they cared and petted them all in return which they loved. Beshka stood on guard, watching her Khaleesi with a smile as she was while a little afraid of the dragons, still fascinated by them and wondering just how large they would actually grow.

"Well Khaleesi, you are quite healthy and due any day now." Haldon said with a small smile at his patient. He had she admitted done his best to fit in with the rest of the camp, injuring sick or wounded Dothraki and even showing them how to make a saddle that could help those that had lost the use of their legs ride again. He was also teaching them to make battering rams and other siege weapons. The fact he actually rode along with all these other things had helped him endear himself to many of the warriors, letting him stay had been a good choice Daenerys consoled herself with.

"My moon. What is it?" Drogo asked with concern on his face as he saw her worry, the tiny creases around her eyes and the tensing of her hands. Things that only someone who knew you very well would notice. She smiled and told him in their language after Haldon had stepped back.

"My mother died giving birth to me. I want to be here with you and our son, I don't want to leave you both." Daenerys said with some tears coming from the corner of her eyes as her emotions started to come to the surface. Drogo without any hesitation wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips to her forehead and let her take any strength she needed from him. Beshka left quietly along with Haldon so the couple could be alone.

"My moon, you are the strongest woman I have ever known. Your mother from what I have learned was a tired, beaten and grief-stricken woman that was alone. You are not and never will be her, I will not allow it. You will have all the help that can be found and all the love and company you need." He told her and she leant into his solid chest as he spoke in Dothraki so she would understand his full meaning.

Daenerys desperately wanted to believe that, she really did and his arrogance that he would never let her become as broken as her mother must have been after losing both her eldest son, her grandchildren and her home was enough to make her smile. His own conviction that he would be able to stop that was incredibly arrogant but the fact he would try made her love him all the more.

Daenerys felt so secure within his arms that it was like nothing could touch her, the power and safety he created made her feel so much better that she just relaxed and managed to calm her worries.

At least she could content herself with one thing, during her forced time away from fighting she had managed to work out some of the next stages of her plans.

Now they had complete control of the Dothraki lands and had the Lhazareen with them completely they were free to establish trade routes through their territory and trade posts where travellers could rest and trade for supplies. That would earn them a good bit of gold but also the Lhazareen had recently come to her with a proposal, they wanted to start trading further afield but the road system was insufficient and wanted to try and create a port to trade by sea.

That was an interesting idea Daenerys and looked into places that they could establish a port and it was she admitted with some reluctance, very difficult. Much of the coast wasn't really usable for different reasons usually because of the ground not being firm enough or it being too expensive or whatever other reason there was. However, Daenerys then came up with an idea.

There were two existing ports on the northern coast, one was the ruined city of Sarys or Vaes Graddakh as the Dothraki called it. Now a ruin after being destroyed by the Dothraki during the Century of Blood following the fall of the Valyrian Freehold. It had a good-sized harbour from what she understood and stone buildings which mostly still stood not to mention a forest and rocky areas nearby which meant much in the way of materials.

The other was Morosh, a colony of Lorath that was poorly protected by them and would be fairly easy to conquer if they struck swiftly. It was very close to Sarys which made it a competitor if they rebuilt Sarys but if they conquered both it would be perfect. Giving them access to the sea at least to the north while she considered ways to get them southern coastal ports as well.

There might be some trouble from the Lorath but they had little in the way of warriors and fighting ships, chances are that they would probably be silent about it. Unless of course they wanted to bring the Dothraki down on their heads.

The other piece of good news was finally that someone from the Bone Mountains had written back to her. It was a warrior in the upper tier of their society and confirmed her assumptions that the supposed Great Fathers were any but and had been producing less and less children for some time. Not to mention those men were now fat and getting older, becoming less capable as sires for their children. While those Great Fathers usually controlled their society some of the duties had been handed over to the women warriors who were already starting to question just why they gave these fat, rather dumb and old men such power?

Especially when Daenerys could offer them a much greater option.

Ravager, The Stepstones…

A ship lay burning as Theon watched from the deck of the Ravager, smirking as he thumbed the gold medallion that he had taken from the ship's captain which was now around his throat and the nice curved swords he had at his waist. Qohor steel he thought with admiration, far better than what you would get in Westeros.

In the months since he had left for southern waters, he and his crew many of whom had never been far from the islands before had travelled to distant ports all along the Essos coast and raided many ships. Theon had never been as happy as he was right now or as rich. Taking whatever he wanted and enjoying himself as much as possible as was his crew. They could afford the best alcohol and women in whatever port they found themselves in and no worries beyond making sure the ship was in good repair, finding plunder and making sure they had enough supplies.

However recently there had been a rumbling among them, Theon thought with an uneasy frown. Some of the men were beginning to yearn for home and their families. Others wanted to go home so they could use their gains to gain their own ship and others were just tired of the constant roaming.

Theon had kept them at bay for now but he could see the discontent was growing, the shifty looks they gave him and some were now showing barely controlled anger in their eyes. Theon hid his nervousness with some of the resolve and courage he had built up over the months away from Westeros but he knew that a mutiny was a very real possibility. The Iron Born 'nobles' did not have the same loyalty from their people as the other kingdoms did as their religion encouraged 'self-improvement' by taking from others and while some would possibly stay loyal, Theon knew many would betray him to either enrich themselves or just because they were pissed at him.

So, Theon knew he would need to make a move and soon.

A part of him was tempted to simply maroon those that would betray him and replace them with others from Essos and the ships they raided. Going full pirate he thought with a smirk, that had an appeal as it promised to keep things as they were.

However, his own integrity and a small self of loyalty to his sailors wouldn't let him do that. No, he thought with frustration, so that left him with one option.

Give in and go home.

Despite knowing that doing so would almost certainly mean having to explain his months long absence and why he had not taken his ship to fight in the war. Facing his father and sister and likely being forced into the war. He would probably not be able to sneak away a second time.

But hopefully another chance would present itself, Theon thought trying to console himself but knew somehow that this wasn't going to end well for him.

So reluctantly he called his crew on deck and saw the mutinous looks in their eyes and told them with false cheer.

"Men, you have followed me far and we have been rewarded with much plunder and glory!" Theon said with a big smile pasted to his face. They did perk a little up at the reminder of all the raiding and pirating they had done which had saw them well rewarded.

"But now, it is time that we brought our riches and glory home. We're returning to the Iron Islands." Theon said with all the energy that he could force himself to show.

The crew instantly brightened up and cheered at the announcement and started looking like they were about to celebrate which only made Theon hate this situation more as he knew he had little to celebrate himself.

Deep Lake, the Wall…

The bitter cold of the winter made even their hardened people shudder as the winds seemed to slice right into them. The coming winter was going to be one of the worse if not the worst in the entire history of Westeros if not the world.

A fact Mance Rayder knew all too well.

He knew what was coming…the White Walkers and their Army of the Dead. He felt the icy shard of fear stab at his heart as he thought about those demonic creatures and knew his only hope for survival and that of his people relied on getting on the other side of the Wall and holding it against the Walkers.

However, most of his people hadn't wanted to flee, putting their faith in the 'Queen Beyond the Wall' and her living god mentor to save them. Provide them with warmth and food rather than him who had an actual plan to live.

If they hadn't been so stupid, he might have pitied them.

They were going to die and be brought into the Army of the Dead.

He and his people though would be spared that fate thanks to his own knowledge of the Wall and the castles of the Watch. Not having the full might of his people behind him had him to be more cunning and original in how he managed to get past the Wall. He couldn't afford to attack it even if a small group managed to get over the other side and attacked the vulnerable southern side.

No, he thought, he had been forced to use his knowledge of the abandoned castles, ones that had passages through the Wall and with the effort of almost three years had managed to reopen the passage into the old and deserted castle Deep Lake.

Mance was so relieved to be finally on the other side of the Wall he just sighed, smiling slightly as his people followed him through. The sight of the still unfrozen green coloured lake with its bountiful fish was a sight for his tired eyes. Even better he saw that many of the buildings were still intact and needed only a small amount of repair work. Something to shield them from the cold he thought, thanking the statue of Queen Alysanne who had paid for the construction of this castle herself centuries earlier, and it still stood there looking completely intact.

Mance watched as the last of their people came through and then re-blocked the passage behind them to prevent any chance of the fools who lacked his sense of what was real and clung to false hope following them. It was cruel in some ways Mance thought with sadness, but it prevented any chance of the Walkers penetrating the Wall.

That only left him with protecting them from the Nights Watch and the North, Mance thought with annoyance at having escaped death at the hands of one enemy only to face it from another. The Watch he knew with its hatred of Wildlings as they called them would never permit them to hold this castle and stay on this side of the Wall and would discover them eventually and come against them in force despite their depleted numbers perhaps with Northern support.

That left Mance with only one option…eliminate the Nights Watch first.

Warm Cave, Beyond the Wall…

The group of twenty-five now stood on the rough wooden walls kept warm by braziers they'd set up next to them; ten Unsullied, six Wildlings including Ygritte, Quentyn and his man Ser Archibald Yronwood, Edd, Jon, Samwell and Meera. The darkening sky was ominous as they saw a crowd of wights assembling on the path to the walled village. There were many of them but far fewer than there had been days ago. However, there were still far more than those inside the village.

Maybe two hundred in all, outnumbering the defenders by about eight to one which was a concern but as they charged the humans stayed resolute as it was time to unleash their secret weapon, something from Loki ironically.

The wights started charging forward, everyone even the Unsullied looked unsettled at the sight of mutilated corpses running straight at them. The sight was beyond anything even they had been trained for but regardless they all stood firm, ready for them.

When finally, they were close enough, they took the filled glass bottles with rags in them they were holding which Loki had supplied, lit the cloths alight with the braziers they had put up and threw them at the approaching wights.

The bottles hurled through the air before smashing against either wights or the ground, spilling the liquid while it ignited and covered the wights around them with fire. The wights shrieked an inhuman cry as fire engulfed them, falling down as the fire spread and took hold.

Multiple small waves of fire broke out as the firebombs which on Earth would have been called Molotov Cocktails hit the ground, engulfing a handful of wights at a time as they charged forward.

Those on the walls kept throwing the lit bottles as fast as possible into the heart of wight clusters. Fire spreading out and consuming a handful at a time with each one thrown.

Whatever liquid Loki had used it was very effective and burned very easily, eliminating many wights at a time, however some did manage to reach the ditch they had dug just before the walls. However, it was no longer empty. About as deep as a man it had a layer of oil at the bottom and Meera seeing them pile in took one of the bottles and threw it straight into the ditch.

The oil caught fire immediately, spreading along the entire ditch at breakneck speed and consuming all the wights inside. The wights shrieked as the fire consumed them but soon fell silent.

That formed an impenetrable barrier in front of the village, stopping any more wights from approaching as the others threw more bottles at them.

They had almost run out when they finally stopped and saw the incredible sight of most of the area around them on fire, not just trees and areas of the ground but the ditch seemed to their eyes like a river of fire that surrounded them. The area went silent as they all looked out around them and apart from the rumbling and crackling of the fire there was no sound to be heard.

It was eerie and unsettling as they all stared out at the scene in front of them, all in awe of the flame for a moment as it lit up the night and warmed their bones.

- x -

A distance away, furious blue eyes glowed in the dark as they saw the glow of the fire in the distance.

Its slaves had failed to destroy the humans, specifically the one that must die before any of its plans could have any chance to succeed. They still lived and they dared bring heat into their world.

This couldn't be tolerated any longer, the Night King thought as he stood with his acolytes and brothers on the nearby hill looking at the scene in the distance. He had underestimated them and his army had been depleted because of it. New meat could be found but first, that girl had to die and the boy along with her.

The idea of animating their corpses to serve him had become a rather attractive option, he thought coldly.

His army while now virtually destroyed still had some rather large weapons left, turning he saw four huge lumbering beasts with shaggy and blood matted fur. Huge gashes torn in the side of their exposed flesh and the truck of one was half missing.

Mammoths, stood still in the snow as the Night King went up to them and ran his freezing hand along their long and vicious looking tusks, turning his head as it assessing them as it was at last the time to break these humans and their pathetic resistance.

Well, there you are, hope you all enjoyed the chapter, please leave a review and let me know what you thought.

Next Chapter - The Night King releases a terrifying weapon against Meera and Jon, the Night's Watch is in great danger and in the south, there is a major shift in the balance of power.