Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Hello again! Glad to be posting the first update of 2023! Thank you all for you continuing support and I really appreciate it!
The response to the poll did surprise me but I can assure you Meera will not be paired with either Quentyn or Joffrey. I have evolved a plan but that will be looked at in the future.
Review Responses from the last chapter…
Isabella95 - Thank you, the support means a lot to me and I enjoy reading your comments. I know the pairing is a treaty issue.
candel06 - I appreciate your comments a lot, I hope to continue doing a good job. I get what you mean about that pairing, I hope you had a good Christmas!
raw666 - I know, Meera will not catch a break for a while as she is thrown from one situation into another. Next chapter she faces the climb.
chibichibi98 - Glad to hear you like it. I know, marrying Margaery is actually a bad move of House Lannister and Joffrey as a whole, Meera would be glad not to have to marry Joffrey but that being said House Stark is a better alliance for him. The Reach is a poor ally in comparison and believe me their troubles are just beginning.
Joe02 - Thank you! Your support means a lot! Meera is facing a big obstacle and this chapter sets up how she is going to have to deal with it, along with an unexpected secondary effect to destroying the White Walkers that makes her life a lot harder. The Dragon Eggs? The time is coming closer. Loki? Loki does have a plan and his end goal is something to do with Surtr.
Sanders7201 - Glad to hear from you! Magic working again will make some things easier but bear in mind unless Meera wants an Inquisition from the Seven after her and her family, they need to keep it quiet. Joffrey? His fate is already written. Tormund? Never even considered him but I think he's already 'married' such as things are.
Sky - Happy to hear you liked it. I think for any battle to have genuine impact there must be actual danger. Sif? Sif has a purpose in this story which is revealed at least a little in this chapter, will she get back to Asgard? Who can say. Meera? She isn't going to Asgard, at least not to live there.
BioHazard82 - Thank you!
Romeperson - Glad to hear you liked it. The Night King and his people are gone but as you now know the threat is not over. Meera will be using the spear's powers more in the battles to come especially with the arc planned for after the short Wall related arc. The Wall is seven hundred feet high and she can't fly so the spear isn't going to solve all her problems. A United North? Not sure that would happen given all the bad blood between them which goes back centuries but things can change and will do in the future. Tear it down? How? The spear is powerful but it would take a long time for her to bring down the Wall for reasons that will become clear. As for relations between the two, well there is something planned there.
Heimdall? Well what powers Hofund gives to Jon will influence what he does with it but Heimdall wasn't chosen at random. And you are right as the return of magic gives them some new opportunities. Theon is in a lot of trouble though as you will see in this chapter when he makes his decision over what to do. I think he hopes to slip away as the Starks will want their justice. Happy to hear you like the story and hope to keep in interesting!
KEZZ 1 - Thank you!
era-romance - There are problems with using the sea as I will describe in this chapter and the restoration of magic has some unintended consequences that make things a bit harder for them.
grovepip - Thanks!
Vasdos - Surtur being the villain was always the plan as I wanted to give them a slightly different threat this time. Surtr is only out for one thing, to destroy and in his state, the red wisps allow him to feed himself towards his own goal.
Blaze1992 - Having used the walkers as the end villain for a couple of stories now I felt something else was needed this time and so I wondered? What makes them want to kill off all living things? A greater mind. The Wall is a problem but how they will deal with it is shown in this chapter.
Jebest4781 - Surtr will be publicly revealed in due time but for now, there will be other threats and the red wisps to deal with.
10868letsgo - Shireen has an arc of her own to come and she will show that she is ready to lead. The Conningtons will be given a little wakeup call from Stannis in this chapter albeit for different reasons and see just how much Stannis trusts Shireen. Meera's pairing? I have a plan but it will take a while to appear.
Shugokage - Really glad to hear that you enjoyed the chapter!
EP - Merci !
frankieu - Thanks! Surtr will be a problem for our characters for reasons explained in this chapter and there is something else planned in the future. Not as many magical options as you think for perhaps a very ironic reason.
Warning - Mentions of Rape, person being blinded. Scenes some people might find upsetting.
Chapter 26 - Terror and Change
Niflheim, Beyond the Wall…
Meera was ready to scream with frustration!
Or punch clean through the wooden walls of the hall.
They had just faced what they really hoped would be the hardest battle of all their lives against the Walkers and discovered the greatest threat the world has ever faced was going to come after her with agents they could neither predict nor identify but now they had just discovered a complete arsehole had trapped them on the wrong side of the Wall!
Meera stood with her group, Benjen, Lorra and Sif in one of the rooms in the hall as they looked at one of the maps the Free Folk had of the Wall and the area around it.
"My scouts have confirmed that all the tunnels and caves have either been sealed off or collapsed. That makes passage by land impossible." Lorra told them with annoyance at what Mance had done.
"Why would he do that?" Samwell said with some worry.
"To prevent any chance of the Walkers coming through and keep us from following him, the little twat." Ygritte said with anger, hating the former crow who had screwed all of them up good.
"The North and Niflheim could be great trading partners. Are we sure it's not to stop that?" Jon asked, knowing that they could be of real benefit to both peoples if they managed to hammer out an agreement. Tormund, one of Lorra's best warriors shook his head in dismissal though.
"Mance is a prick, he wanted to be the King of all of the Freefolk, even tried to take Lorra to do it but she beat his arse too well. This was about punishing all those that wouldn't follow him and keeping the sick bitches that went with him safe." Tormund said with disgust at some of the 'people' who had joined Mance. Some of the worst of the Free Folk.
"He's just thinking short term." Meera said as she thought about it. "There is no way the Northern lords will allow him to rule the Wall. They'll want revenge for the Watch, he's so focused on the Walkers that he isn't even remotely thinking about the long term. And from the numbers you gave us, he is no match for the North even if it's just the Umbers and Karstarks alone."
"Couldn't we just build a raft and get around by the sea?" Quentyn asked and Meera shook her head while Lorra told him while shaking her head at his naivety.
"Clearly you are too used to the warm waters of the south. Do you have any idea just how cold that water gets? What happens to the body when it gets that cold?" Lorra told him. "It feels like a thousand knives being stabbed into you. It takes all the life from you and within a short time you can't move at all. Not to mention the waters around the edges of the Wall are notorious for being hard and rough which they stay all year round regardless of the actual weather. Don't think it hasn't been tried and its failed ever time." Lorra told him with annoyance.
"That's probably magic built into the Wall, designed to prevent just what you suggested." Meera said, knowing it was the most likely explanation given that it stayed liked that all the time regardless of the time of year or weather at the time. Ships going around had to give the immediate area a wide berth or be caught in those rough seas. It was partly what made monitoring the area for smugglers and slavers so hard.
"Not to mention even if we did make it, then the castles of Westwatch and Eastwatch would be right in way. Chances are since they are in Rayder's hands we'd be caught or seen. Go out further to prevent that and we would be at the mercy of the sea." Benjen said with an angry look in his eyes at what had happened to his sworn brothers.
All four castles were in Mance's hands according to the message from Lorra's spy.
"Are all the passages blocked or just sealed?" Samwell asked. Wondering if they could simply unblock them and sneak through that way but Benjen could only shrug as even, he didn't know which ones had simply been sealed or completely blocked. Checking them all would take far too long.
"Won't the Northern lords want their gold from the mines?" Sif asked, making a key point. "They get a delivery every month."
"Yes, and supplies go back the same way just as often." Meera said. "We could just wait for them to notice but with the war going on and most of our men at the coast to defend it against the Iron Born it might be a long time before anyone even notices something's wrong. Most of the lords aren't in regular contact with the Watch anyway."
Ygritte just started laughing all of a sudden making them all look at her with confusion at what could be so funny before she managed to pull herself together and through her tears of laughter tell them.
"Sorry…It's just…Starks and crows…stuck on this side of the Wall!" Ygritte said and while Tormund looked ready to laugh himself Meera with a cold frown told her.
"Yes, ha-ha the irony is not lost on us. But the fact remains, we can't go around the Wall, we can't go under it and we can't go through it!" Meera said trying to get the meeting back on track.
"Well, that gives you one option doesn't it." Sif said, not sure if this was the right thing to suggest given the risk. "Go over it."
The silence in the room so complete only distant noises of the town could be heard at her suggestion.
"Sif. They're my niece and nephew." Lorra said with a great deal of worry on her face.
"It's a hundred leagues long!" Edd said with astonishment at the bold suggestion. "And seven hundred feet high!"
Three hundred miles long and seven hundred feet high Meera translated privately. She honestly was terrified at the idea of having to try and climb that high, as Harry…this would have been easy as they could have just apparated or taken a portkey to get around it or used a broomstick to fly over it.
But magic simply wasn't at the point yet where any of those options were available. Magical teleportation was not working and making a broom capable of getting up that high and withstand the winds with what materials she had in the time and no prior practice even though she had the knowledge?
It would take weeks maybe months.
She had though to merely use a raven and her warging abilities to send a message to Winterfell or at least Last Hearth which was the closest castle to the Wall but when she had tried her connection to the raven had been severed the moment it had crossed the Wall.
She had tried twice more with the same result before realising that the Wall's magical protections were to blame. They were designed to stop magical creatures from crossing the Wall such as the walkers and the wights and the strengthening of magic around the world seemed to have increased their potency. The magical connection she had through the Weirwood just wasn't strong enough to survive the passage. If there was a trick to accomplish it then the Three Eyed Raven had never shared it. If the Wall had been damaged in some way, then maybe it could have worked but that was only an if as she wasn't sure just what protections Bran the Builder had weaved into the structure.
That only left climbing the Wall she thought with worry, knowing Sif was right.
"Can it be done?" Ser Wells asked and Ygritte scoffed.
"Of course, it can. Been doing it for centuries." Ygritte said, seemingly amused by their worry.
"But many of our people prefer the tunnels. You can get lost in the tunnels but you still have a chance to find your way out." Lorra said not wanting her family to take the risk. "If you fall from that height, you're dead. Or if you fall from low enough crippled."
"It's just too dangerous." Benjen agreed, knowing the Wall well and thinking it was far too difficult.
"But with the war going on we could be waiting for months before anyone comes." Jon said with a worried look, not that he minded being here he thought as here he was treated as an equal despite his southern roots and more importantly…he had Ygritte he thought with a smile.
But at the same time, he thought with worry the North was in danger, his family was in danger and he just couldn't stand by and let that happen.
"We should make the climb." Jon said but was surprised a moment later when Meera spoke.
"Not we, me." Meera said with some resigned reluctance. "If anyone is going to convince the Umbers and Karstarks to do something fast it has to be me. Some climbers would help since I have little experience in climbing." Meera said not willing to risk anyone's life other than her own this time.
With her spear and its strengthening of her body, she might be able survive a fall from a greater height but she wasn't willing to risk anyone's life other than her own this time. Jon looked ready to protest as did many of the others but she told them all sternly.
"I am best known of all of us. Lord Umber and Lord Karstark know me by sight so it has to be me Jon. Unfortunately, they just don't know you as well and I certainly can't risk anyone else here going with me. Just some climbers to help…no one else. Besides, even if we do get up the Wall and then down the other side safely, we still need to make our way to Last Hearth without being seen by Rayder and his thugs. A smaller group has more of a chance of sneaking through." Meera said firmly.
Mira, Jon, Samwell, Edd and Grenn had no climbing experience at all nor did her two surviving Unsullied and Ygritte was Jon's first love…no way was she going to let her risk her life. Quentyn was too important as well, losing him could cause them major trouble with Dorne.
No, she thought with determination. She was doing this alone.
Pyke, the Iron Islands…
Theon was hating every single moment as he rode back to the castle of his birth. He honestly just didn't know what waited for him there, he had brought a cart with several chests that had the loot he had taken in his time away and not spent on women, drink or just maintaining the ship. Hopefully it would help soften any blows that might be coming his way from either his sister or his father.
Riding into the castle he was momentarily struck with a flashback of his first time returning here and how he had been so nervous then too albeit for a completely different reason. He did his best to put that out of his mind and not act on the urge to return straight to his ship and sail away as fast as possible. This only got worse when he saw that his father and Yara were standing there to greet him. The frowns on their faces didn't make it any better although the chests he had certainly seemed to surprise his father.
"Father! Sister!" Theon said with a faked smile on his face. "Look at what I got down south."
His laidback greeting surprised them all and when they saw the chests were full of valuables Balon actually was impressed and nodded in approval.
"Better than your sister has ever done." Balon proclaimed which made Yara glare daggers at him and Theon honestly was scared for his life, knowing she would kill him if given the chance. "Paid the Iron Price with all of it?" Balon asked with an expectant look.
Theon just laughed and told him.
"Of course. You think any prick is just going to hand over good loot?"
"Good. Then you are worth being called Iron Born." Balon said with pride which only made Yara glower more. "Since your sister and the rest of my captains have completely failed to make any conquest in the North…you will command the next wave." He announced.
The eyes of everyone in the yard all turned to him and Theon suddenly felt like a bug under someone's boot. This was exactly what he had fled south to avoid, having to declare war on the North and worse fighting a war that he knew they would never win.
At sea, the Iron Born were near invincible…but on land, Theon knew the North would destroy them. Unlike his family and his people, he had lived among the Northerners and knew that they were strong. Much stronger than most people gave them credit for and too strong for his people. Any prolonged conflict was certain to end in their destruction or a humiliating surrender.
But he hoped that maybe a quick show of his loyalty even if it led to nothing would satisfy his father.
"Yes, I will lead us on an assault. One that will not fail." Theon said with a slight smirk as he knew from living in Winterfell all those years, just where the weakest points on their coast were.
The Red Keep, Kings Landing…
Joffrey sat on the Iron Throne, looking completely bored as he waited with the rest of the court for their new guests. The Tyrells were coming to Kings Landing and he sighed as he waited, not looking forward to this. His grandfather Lord Tywin at his side glared at him for being so slovenly but at the moment Joffrey simply didn't care.
The Tyrells to his mind were not a good ally, history had shown they never really did as they promised. They offered support but rarely gave any beyond the smallest possible effort and frequently changed sides when it suited them. The Wardens of the South had been a none factor in most political events going back almost to the formation of the Iron Throne and he honestly was humiliated that his grandfather was trying to force him to marry one of them. The Tyrells had proven themselves useless at war without Randyll Tarly to command their men and their food basket was in pieces and would not be recovered by winter so they couldn't even feed the capital. Their men were little more than warm bodies to throw at Stannis Baratheon and hope for the best. Their treasury wasn't going to be that much use either since they would have to spend a great deal on rebuilding after their poor war with Stannis.
He honestly wanted more than a wife from a house of stewards, a family that ruled purely because the Targaryens had chosen them out of expediency. They had no royal blood in them at all and little in the way of achievements. No exceptional knights or lords, few if any members of the family had served on the Small Council and no really useful marriages at present.
Hell, the heir had apparently run off to be gay lovers with Renly Baratheon!
What a complete farce, Joffrey thought with disgust at them sniffing anywhere around the throne. It was like something you would see on the stage of his dwarf uncle's theatre. Hell, he thought, maybe he should commission his uncle to write a play on the situation…let the people of Kings Landing see the Tyrells for what they really were.
Joffrey actually smiled at that; he would pay good money for that to be played out on the stage.
Lord Tyrion was standing at his other side which was something many would find strange but the dwarf did his job well Joffrey had to admit. The city was fed, law and order were strong and the people remained sheep with him as the shepherd.
His other uncle Jaime stood alongside the Hound today, the fact that he had two of the brightest and sharpest minds in Westeros along with one of its finest knights if not the finest was a mark of pride for House Lannister.
Who did House Tyrell have? He pondered as they finally made their way in through the door.
Lord Mace Tyrell led the process which as lord was only right but he hardly made the best first impression, balding with a groomed beard and an expansive belly. Fine clothes but his eyes were dim, Joffrey immediately seeing that he was far from a clever man.
Not a good start he thought with dismay at his future relatives before looking over to the Lady Olenna Tyrell.
Easily as old as his grandfather if not older she appeared to be a frail old woman but her eyes were much, much sharper than her son's. Joffrey quickly realised just who was the true leader of the family which didn't help his opinion of the Tyrells. What would happen to the family when she died? He asked himself and the answer was likely complete ruin.
Turning to the last member of the party, the girl he was supposed to marry Margaery Tyrell. He had to admit she was beautiful. Her hair was a rich shade of chestnut and she had very deep and large brown eyes, a good figure highlighted by her dress and clear skin. Her eyes were intelligent like her grandmother's but when he looked at her, he felt…nothing. No attraction of any kind, any remark about her beautiful was off hand like you were describing a painting or a garden.
Not his future queen.
"Your grace." Mace Tyrell said, bowing a deep and exaggerated bow which honestly was almost embarrassing. "House Tyrell thanks you for your gracious invitation and we pledge ourselves to your throne. We may have been blinded by the lies of Renly Baratheon but we have realised you are the rightful king and pledge our undying fealty. And offer our priced rose to you, present my darling daughter the Lady Margaery Tyrell in the hopes that you take her as your queen." Mace said proudly.
Seeing the man's mother look at him with exasperation and worry crossing the face of Margaery Tyrell. Joffrey honestly realised the man was a complete fool, it would be better just to not mention their brief alliance with his uncle and he had dared presume to offer Margaery to him.
"Bring her forward." Joffrey said with a bored look on his face. He could see his grandfather glaring at him but he honestly didn't care.
Margaery stepped forward. She curtsied which while fitting and perfect for a noble lady he couldn't help but find her lacking.
"Your grace." Margaery said with a wide and warm smile that he was sure was supposed to be enchanting but personally was nothing more than he saw every day from every woman or girl that crossed his path. "Tales of your great bravery have spread far and wide, setting many maidens hearts aflame. So, I have travelled far-" Margaery said but Joffrey who was already at the end of his tether with this drivel interrupted her.
"You travelled from Highgarden. It's a week or so with good roads." Joffrey said not buying any tale she was about to spin of travelling a great distance to see him. The shock of him interrupting made many eyebrows rise in the hall while she herself looked stunned. "While I have defended this city myself there are many men with brave hearts and until recently you were married to my uncle. A man you failed to entice into your bed. You wish to be my queen; you would not be here otherwise and so I must decide whether I am willing to give you such an honour. Rooms will be granted to you and your family. But until we spend some time together, I will say no more." Joffrey said, getting to his feet before leaving the throne room, followed by Ser Jaime and the Hound.
The room was totally silent, no one could believe that Joffrey would be so dismissive of the Tyrells especially with Margaery being so beautiful but that was exactly what he had done.
Tywin was furious, more than furious at his grandson and vowed to make that known but that being said, he too was wondering just if they were the best option given their situation and the only real value that the Tyrells had was that they still had a good-sized army and one that keep Stannis exactly where he wanted him.
Tywin however was not one to accept this stalemate for long, no he thought as he began to create a new plan in his mind to deal with Stannis and Renly as well if he dared stick his head up.
- x -
Olenna Tyrell was furious.
So much for being an easily led fool! She thought with frustration at seeing the supposed king was anything but. He was prideful and stubborn and more to the point, short sighted.
Margaery was going to have to work hard on this one she thought with annoyance, her own worries about Loras running off with Renly not helping her problems. She just hoped the boy came to his senses and returned home soon before the mobs ordered by the Faith found him first. Randyll had thankfully though managed to drive out all of Stannis' raiders and confine him to the Stormlands for now.
Worse yet the Citadel had just announced it was the end of summer. They had maybe one more crop before the winter really came, maybe she thought with concern as it was going to be real struggle to get some of the Reach through the coming cold weather. While she personally didn't care for the fates of the smallfolk, she knew less people making it through winter meant less workers next summer and those who starved would carry a deep hatred of House Tyrell for their situation.
Oh, what a mess she thought with depression and knew the next few months were going to be very trying.
- x -
Tyrion Lannister watched and almost smirked at Joffrey's actions.
Still lusting after the Stark girl, I see, Tyrion thought with amusement. He could hardly blame him, compared to Margaery Tyrell Meera Stark was a far greater catch. She came from a family that was both rich and powerful, who had more noble blood in their veins that any other family except the Lannisters, being one of the few families to survive the Andal Invasion and keep on ruling. They had proven their prowess in battle and had a strong army at their backs. She was intelligent, strong and resourceful. Knew when to be merciful and when to be harsh…perfect fit for a queen…a real queen who would be a true force in her own right.
Margaery Tyrell on the other hand came from a house that had proven itself completely useless in war, being beaten time and time again when they didn't have Randyll Tarly to lead them. They'd lost roughly a quarter to a third of their army and a great deal of their food basket. Their wealth was diminished and more to the point would be tied up with rebuilding their lands not to mention returns which had already been dented by lack of trading with the North would be delayed further due to coming winter.
They brought very little to the table. And to his surprise, it seemed Joffrey realised this.
Tyrion honestly wondered just how long they were going to be able to keep Joffrey in check, he was already openly disobeying Lord Tywin and didn't seem to be afraid of him. That didn't bode well.
The only bright spot on the horizon for him anyway was that Varys had been as good as his word and the proposed husband was dead, meaning for now at least Lanna was safe.
This was only a temporary setback; Tywin would find another suitor soon enough but Tyrion would ensure Tywin was gone before that happened.
At least he had decided on which of his father's strongest supporters to get rid of first. It had been close but he had finally come to a decision. Kevan Lannister, Tyrion's own uncle would be first to go.
It was kinslaying technically but then again Kevan was so much a puppet of Tywin he might as well be on strings. He had always treated him with disdain and was an obstacle to him becoming lord of the Rock. His three sons were all either too young or too foolish to be a threat or could be disposed of later.
Ser Gregor was certainly dangerous and Tyrion wasn't underestimating him at all. But the Mountain was only really dangerous on the field and he was preparing a way to kill him when the time came.
Tyrion's plans were on time and proceeding well. Looking at his father as he left the room; Tyrion couldn't help but smirk as he knew his father's plans were starting to come apart.
- x -
Tyrion was more correct than he could know, Tywin was furious.
Joffrey while seemingly competent in attending to the matters of state had shown considerable disinterest in fulfilling his duties as a king, to marry and produce an heir.
The Tyrells were the fastest way for that to happen, not the best way perhaps but until he had an heir Joffrey's rule would remain uncertain and Stannis was still very much a threat and he had an heir and a daughter to wed. It honestly surprised him that Stannis had yet to use his daughter that way.
But regardless he would need to find a way to make this marriage between Joffrey and Margaery happen, especially with the plan to wed the dwarf's daughter failing due to the proposed man's demise.
Tywin wandered through the castle corridors on his way to the tower to see if he could discover some way to force this deal with the Tyrells through. He finally arrived in the Tower of the Hand and saw that his daughter had apparently been waiting for him.
He frowned as he looked at her, she was passed out drunk judging by the cask of strong alcohol next to her and the glass that was perched precariously in her hand. He shook his head, his supposed golden daughter who had complained bitterly about Robert being a filthy drunk had become one herself.
Not only that though, looking at her he saw her beauty which was her greatest point had diminished considerably. Her skin had become unhealthily pale and stretched over her bones which only made the scar on her cheek seem bigger and uglier, she had lost weight too and her chest had shrunk as a result and her golden blonde mane had lost a lot of its sheen and volume, become thin and almost lifeless.
He had heard from Pycelle that in her depression over not being the chief advisor to her son and continuing to rule through him, not to mention a lack of relationship with Jaime and Tyrion holding so much power had caused her to not only indulge in vast amounts of alcohol but some 'substances' that apparently came from foreign shores that were said to give the consumer a sense of euphoria.
That it seemed Tywin realised with disgust had made her ruin herself.
Well, he would make sure those substances and alcohol were out of her reach until she had managed to somewhat restore herself. He summoned his most trusted guards and when they arrived, he told them.
"Take my daughter to private rooms in the castle and see to it no one but servants I allow and myself are allowed to see her. She is to be given water and food but no alcohol or any other substance, if she refuses to eat, we will force food down her throat till she is healthy and fit to resume attending court to support her son." Tywin commanded, Cersei while herself now not much use might still have some use if she was appropriately cleaned up and polished. If he had to make her suffer to get to that point quicker than he would do it.
He was short on options and needed all the pieces he could get.
Flint's Finger, the North…
The western coast of the North had been reinforced a great deal since the construction of Sea Dragon Castle and the River Gates, to the expansion and reinforcing of Deepwood Motte to say nothing of the building of a fleet to defend it from attack. Those defences had proven immensely useful since the start of the war with the Iron Born. Moat Cailin to the south had also been exceptionally important in keeping the North safe from Iron Born attack as well.
However, there was a hole in their defences that as of yet hadn't been fully closed.
Flint's Finger, a rough and rocky stretch of the coast that was hard to land on but longboats could get close enough if the winds and tides were right and unfortunately for the North, on the day that Theon Greyjoy came…they were in the Iron Born's favour.
He led a large group of raiders over a short stretch of the rocky land to a fishing village which would serve as a useful staging ground for raids further in land even if it was without their ships. The Northern Rangers rarely had reason to come this way and so few Northern warriors were in the area.
The fishing village was completely caught off guard by the sudden attack. They were simple people, just making their way through life as best they could especially in these difficult times. They had few fighting men, and those that could fight were poorly armed with makeshift clubs and fishing spears.
It was a hopeless fight.
Theon watched with a growing sense of horror, for all his raiding he had only really taken ships at sea with men that crewed them.
Now he was watching women and girls, some barely as high as his knee be raped and slaughtered like cattle…Theon felt sick to his stomach. He had lived among the Northern people, lived as an honorary son of House Stark…and now he was doing this.
He just looked away from the carnage, disgusted by his sister who was revelling in it and ignoring screams of her fellow women for help. She gave them no thought and just laughed or ignored their pleas.
Oh gods! Theon thought to himself. What have I done?
Camp, Unknown Location…
A camp in the middle of some gods forsaken wood was currently home to 'his grace' as he still called himself Renly Baratheon.
It was far from the splendour and luxury he had known at Highgarden, there he only had to ring a bell and his every whim was granted. Food made in their kitchens which was always perfect, wine that was simply divine and always at the right temperature, beds that were always freshly made, soft linen and warm.
Here in the forest…they had nothing.
The cold winds and uncomfortable bed rolls, eating only what they could scavenge or occasionally if they were lucky find some game. The cold and tasteless water. Staying in the same clothes for day after day.
It was no life for a king.
Renly was finding it hard to cope with their change in circumstances, from a man that had never known hardship, who had been raised a noble and then as the brother to the king. To being a king himself.
Now…he had nothing he thought with depression gripping him.
Loras told him they would find a way to gain back what they had lost and be treated as was benefitting their station…he was sure that his grandmother would relent and call off the mobs of radical Faith members that were hunting them across the countryside. That a lord would give them shelter or they would escape to Essos and court help from the wealthy in other cities or just travel the world together.
The rest of those in the camp however were more grounded and realised with their limited coin and now Renly's true 'nature' had been revealed, none would risk taking them in now even if they liked Renly which few as it turned out did…certainly enough to help them. He had always thought himself popular, but now he and the others were starting to realise that was only because he had been brother to a king and rather free with his favours but now that he had nothing to give…the well had dried up.
Loras too was finding it hard to adjust to this new life on the run, he had always been backed by his family's wealth but now he was deprived of it. Still, he could adjust he thought as long as he had Renly with him. He loved him much more than any of the comforts of Highgarden. He had begun to hate his grandmother and the rest of their family even his own sister for doing this to them, for ruining their lives and their best chance of taking the throne.
All to tie his sister to a bastard.
Well, Loras thought with disgust, let them deal with the consequences as he knew it would never end well for them.
Storm's End, the Stormlands…
Stannis Baratheon was feeling the pressure today.
The Reach Army now had its great leader back and was no longer fighting the Lannisters, meaning they turned their full attention towards him and so he had been forced to pull back all his forces into the Stormlands and dig in. His own fleet had been put on alert just in case the Redwyne Fleet tried to sail up the coast against him and now routinely patrolled their waters.
Looking at the situation he was re-evaluating his plans, he couldn't risk attacking with the combined size of the Lannister/Reach Army. Staying on the defensive and using hit and run tactics might work he thought pondering his next move, ambushes in the difficult or wooden areas near the border might also be a good move he considered.
Master Kilburn came into the room, looking as unruffled as ever. His face was so unemotional that it made Stannis look like he wore his heart on his sleeve. He bowed to him and told him.
"Your grace I have managed to convince the sellswords employed by the Tyrells to return to Essos and break their contract with Olenna Tyrell. It seems she has been slow in paying them and they are not willing to fight without coin in their pouches." Kilburn said and Stannis inwardly sighed with relief. Those sellswords had been some of the Reach's best fighters in this war and thankfully with them gone it would much easier to protect their borders.
"I shall have to rule from Storm's End from now on, at least until we have Kings Landing." Stannis decreed and the men around the table nodded in acceptance. Dragonstone was hardly convenient given his existing territory and he was far closer to the action here. It was better place and his ancestral home so he felt far more secure here anyway Stannis thought but then made a decision that might be seen by some as controversial.
"Send for my wife and son to join me here. I shall have a hand in my son's upbringing and more children will be needed in the days ahead. However, my daughter the Princess Shireen will remain at Dragonstone…and command there with Ser Seaworth and Maester Cressan to advise her." He ordered and many of the men were shocked at his decision but he was only being practical once again.
Here the main army and the formidable defences of Storm's End would defend his wife and son and allow him time to father more with his queen. The more children he had the better the chances of his bloodline surviving and that would give him more to leverage in marriages for support. Already he was making an offer to the Martells for Shireen to be wed to Prince Trystane but no response had come as yet. Not that he expected it too, given how much they hated House Baratheon.
As for Shireen, he thought with some pride. She was one of the few bright and warm lights in his life and he wanted only what was best for her. She was so intelligent greater than he was and yet so strong and graceful, just like their ancestors and he wanted nothing more than for her to be safe and if the worst should happen to him and to her stepmother and brother, she would be safe and able to escape. She was more than up to ruling Dragonstone as long as Ser Davos was there to help guide her. It would make the world see she was far more than just a girl, he thought with pride, that she was his daughter and would make one of the finest ladies in the realm one day.
No, he thought with realisation as she was growing up. She already was.
And should the worst happen to him, Stannis thought, she would ensure the future of House Baratheon…he was certain of it.
Flint's Finger, the North…
Theon Greyjoy, having taken one of the larger buildings of the village as his base while his people anchored themselves and their boats in was worried.
Taking this village had been one thing but he was very concerned as while a backwater few cared about, the deeper they probed into the North the greater notice they would attract. His 'warriors' he thought, using that word with considerable doubt in his mind, would be no match for the Northern army! It would only be a matter of time before they became aware of his landing and came against them in force and then they would be kicked out of the North again and with more than a sore arse, he was sure Theon realised with a considerable worry.
No, he thought with fear at what the Starks in particular would do when they found out that he had betrayed them by attacking their coast and harming their people. Unlike most noble houses and Great Houses in particular House Stark took their duty to the people seriously. They inspired great loyalty in the people with their care of them, in both their vassals and the smallfolk…it was probably the reason they had ruled for so long Theon thought with sadness that despite growing up with them…he would never be a member of their family.
Now more than ever, he thought with fear as he had sided against them.
Worse though, for him at least was a letter from his father. Balon Greyjoy was apparently excited by his success and was demanding that he be given more raiders and to expand deeper into the North and take more of it immediately.
The sort of thing that was going to get them noticed even faster, if it hadn't already, he thought with concern. He would need to see that some scouts keep an eye out for the Northern Army should it come…no when it came Theon thought knowing it was only a matter of time.
Robb, who was easily the greatest tactician that Theon had ever known and a far greater swordsman than he was. Him with an army at his back, Theon shuddered to think of how badly he would fair against that. If Jon was with him, who was an even better warrior than Robb. The bastard seeing his humiliation would just be more than he could bare.
However, if Meera was at their side, his heart stopped in his chest from fear. He knew she could be vicious if provoked and would no doubt make sure his end would be long and drawn out to ensure the maximum amount of pain and misery possible.
Compared to that, he was almost hoping Yara killed him first.
The glares she had been giving him since he returned home had only gotten worse and the fact that she had been forced to follow him hadn't helped much. His success and the praise from their father were merely the final straw and he was sure she was in some way plotting his demise…not least due to the humiliation father had put her through when she had refused to obey his orders.
He had men seize her and bend her over a table before pulling down her breeches and taking a paddle to her arse, smacking her several times in front of a number of their captains, even letting them join in till her backside was red and raw. The laughing at her expense must have been torture, worse than the act itself was it being done in front of everyone. It had not only hurt her pride but more than that he had cost her whatever respect she had gained from the other captains and lords present. They would never respect her properly now she had been treated like nothing more than errant child and Balon hadn't stopped any of the lords or captains from grabbing a hold of her naked arse when she had been unable to defend herself.
She must have felt violated, like her life was over.
But Yara he thought with some respect for her, didn't cry. She just fumed and plotted her own revenge, to get her own back on those that had disrespected her. That was a long list and he just hoped that he wasn't that high up on it.
"I am to marry the old lord of House Ironmaker, Erik the Anvil-breaker." Yara said as she got drunk on northern whisky. Her unhappiness clear and made worse by booze. Theon worried given how much she had consumed if she would even live to see her wedding which made him wonder briefly if that was her intention all along but then thought better of it. No Yara was not one to end herself because she did not like something…no he thought with some respect for his sister. She did something about it.
"Only if he lasts till the wedding. I mean the man's eighty-eight years old and can't even stand without help. Hell, if he managed to get to the marriage bed, he'd half a heart attack at seeing a woman naked. Let alone consummate the marriage, besides you can always just kill him." Theon said with a smile, trying to get on her good side.
"Really?" Yara said with a slight slur in her voice from how much she had drunk but managed to sit up. Theon actually was impressed given how much alcohol she had consumed that she was able to do that but smirked as he told her.
"Yeah, sure. We'll kill any old or fat bastard that tries to put his cock in you." Theon said and Yara, actually started smirking herself before swinging a punch at his arm only to miss and end up on the floor. She was clearly already well drunk now and actually fell asleep the moment she hit the floor and Theon knew it would be better to let her sleep it off, so he picked her up bridal style and was surprised at how light she was. Still, he carried her to bed and left her with a blanket over her, knowing she'd skin anyone alive that tried to undress her. He smiled as he let her sleep, knowing she would have a hell of a hangover tomorrow.
He wondered if their father was the reason she drank so much, he thought frowning. He had grown up healthy and whole at Winterfell, being treated well and almost like one of the family, Lord Stark's sons had been almost like his brothers. What had Balon Greyjoy been like as a father? Theon wondered with some worry at what she might have been forced to endure. He had seen what he had done to humiliate her into obedience back on Pyke and had other things happened that he didn't know about? What over demons might lurk in her past?
Theon wasn't sure he wanted to know even if he was right, could he handle the knowledge of whatever his sister had been forced to endure? He asked himself and had no idea just what to say. Maybe he was wrong and he hoped he was as if she had not suffered at their father's hands there was nothing for him to feel guilty over.
Tucking her in he listened as she murmured something in her drunken sleep, it was hard for him to follow but it sounded a lot like "Brother, let go swimming." He smiled at that, seeing that she was dreaming of the days when they had been small children and swum in the ocean together. He honestly was surprised she remembered as it was one of the few good memories that he had of life at home before he had been taken to Winterfell.
Sweet dreams sister, Theon thought with a smile and left her to sleep.
House of the Undying, Qarth, Essos…
In Qarth, in an old structure where the magic users of the city lived…there was a general enjoyment as they experimented with their new powers!
Before magic had been their source of influence in the world but was worryingly limited and that had inhibited them from doing some of the things they had wanted to do.
But now…something had changed.
They had sensed the destruction of the accursed ones over in Westeros and knew it had to be something to do with that. A vision of a girl and her incredible spear was repeated to them often. But another vision too had been happening lately, one of a girl with three dragons.
But it had now gotten their attention and they were keen to see just what use these two women would be to them.
Magic was now much easier to cast and their spells much more powerful, they were still unsure of exactly just what they were to do with all this new power they had gained. They could easily rule Qarth now if they wanted and more of Essos too. They were excited and planning for their conquest, it made their withered old tongues lick their cracked and blue lips with anticipation but they could feel with the change in its nature, the increased power, their bodies deteriorated the more power they put into their spells since their magic was not truly natural to them and came from rituals they performed.
So, they would need to find some powerful blood to drain to extend their own longevity.
The visions of the two women seemed particularly…appealing.
One was in Westeros and far from their reach even now, but the other was in Essos and now all they needed to do was find some reason to bring her to Qarth. To bring her to the House of the Undying and to drain her and her dragons…or maybe to try and bind the dragons to their will. That would give them a powerful weapon to rule with they thought with excitement or just a source of life they could live off of for a long time.
Both possibilities had them excited and now they were plotting some way to get the woman with dragons to come to Qarth. Once they had her and drained her of all her power, they would find the spear girl from Westeros and bring her here to the same thing. The potent magic they both held would sustain them for years if not longer, they licked their lips with anticipation of the feast to come.
House of Black and White, Braavos…
The Man, who was no one…was puzzled.
A great change had swept the world, one that they did not truly understand but what they had managed to be sure of was that the nature of magic had been altered. And them along with it.
How exactly the change had come about was unknown but they had definitely been seeing changes in the abilities they had.
Their ability to steal faces and wear them as their own, it had evolved. For those that drank the water from their pool in the House of Black and White, now they no longer needed to take the faces with them. Now it only had to be in the hall and they could wherever they were in the world take it on with their will alone. Change faces wherever and whenever they were in the world as long as they had it in their collection, they could take it on anytime they wished.
More than that, some of their older members had discovered they might be able to go further, a drop of blood may in fact be all that was needed if it was maintained in the hall. Changing faces also eliminated any damage they might have taken so it was a good way of maintain their own lives. Some even had discovered it was possible with great effort to take pieces from different faces and weave them into a new one.
The Man frowned at the changes but agreed it was a blessing to their order's work. One that would enable them to get into places far easier and in future who knows what more boons would become available to them as they probed the depths of magic that had now turned from a placid pond to a very deep and mysterious lake.
Dothraki Camp, Essos…
Daenerys laughed as she played with her son, he giggled as she did so and she was laughing along with him every moment.
It was moments like this that honestly made her life really worth living she thought with a broad smile, his light was so warming that she couldn't help but bask in his youthful exuberance and joy of life. Every day he was discovering something new and enjoyed every single moment of it. She knew she had to value this time as before she knew it, he would grow and not be her babe any longer but a boy, then a young man and finally a man.
That saddened her a little but it was the nature of life and she would enjoy every moment while it lasted. While he would hopefully not be her last child, he would always be her first.
He would inherit a great empire one day if she had her way Daenerys thought with pride.
The deal with the Warrior Women was now finally in place and steel was starting to arrive, she expected to hear news the Great Fathers had been overthrown any day now. She smirked as she imagined the look on their faces as they realised their women no longer wanted or needed them and they were being replaced but much better men. It would be worth a trip just to laugh at them Daenerys thought with amusement.
Still her empire building stole her thoughts away from more pleasant subjects. She thought as she let her son play with the dragons who loved their 'little brother' dearly. Rhaegal certainly was very taken with him she noticed with pride, knowing that was the dragon her son would one day ride.
Now they had Saath the Lhazareen were moving in and starting to make the most of their new port. Some ships had been in port already and now they would sail them and build more in the days ahead. However, that had led to some issues with moving their goods fast enough to the port to trade them.
But Daenerys had already thought of this and had sent people to set up river ports as she called them. Small places along the mighty Sarne river where small boats could dock to pick up and drop off cargo, moving up and down the river to the sea port at Saath. Rivers were far quick than the limited roads would be and the flow of the river would aid travel at least in one direction. Barges were under construction at Saath to make this river the best and safest trade lane possible.
But that was not all she was doing, Daenerys thought with a satisfied smile. She was having new roads marked along traversable ground that connected the Lhazareen settlements, Saath, the Bone Mountains, the Free Cities to the west and the other kingdoms to the east. Traders would be able to move more easily as would the Dothraki along these routes which would be a benefit both to trade and to conquest.
She would eventually need to see about finding a port along the southern coast, that was going to problematic she thought, slightly biting her lip as she considered just where that might end up being. She could try making a deal with a port down that way which might be faster but she wasn't sure which if any of them would strike an accord with them. She would need to put more thought into this.
For now, though, she thought letting her thoughts return to more pleasant things, smiling as she turned back to her son and her dragons. Unaware of plans that would being hatched in a great city far from here, plans that would challenge and endanger her.
The Gift, the North…
The Gift and some other parcels of land, held by the Night's Watch as their own, lands that were supposed to feed and support the Wall and the Night's Watch as a whole, but that also meant as with lands held by lords the Night's Watch was responsible for their protection.
With the Watch now gone, there was no one left to attend to that particular duty.
Mance's people, now secure from the Walkers and with the Wall in their hands after thousands of years of their people trying felt the need to celebrate and enjoy themselves. Some of them especially the more violent and bloodthirsty among them, not to mention the most lustful wanted to raid and descended on the small settlements in the Gift like it was a fox upon a rabbit. The villages had no warning of what was to come, no chance of survival as the Wildlings came.
The screams as men and boys were slaughtered and, in some cases, eaten alive filled the air, joined by the wailing of women and girls as they found themselves being forced to the ground and raped by the Wildlings, those pretty enough were taken as 'brides' in the loosest definition of the word by some while others joined their men folk after a long and drawn-out death.
The Weeper led one such raid, a thin and tall man with shaggy blond hair he carried a large and vicious looking steel scythe. Swinging it wide so he could cut men open at the middle and laughing with the thrill of their recent success. He watched as his men enjoyed themselves and laughed along with them as they cut deep into the people.
His attention was drawn momentarily to a woman, a fetching enough woman with a whelp that he assumed was her son trying to escape while the man who was likely the boy's father did his best laughable in how useless it was to defend them, The Weeper smirked and gestured for two of his men to grab them. They tried to run but were helpless as two of his strongest grabbed them and dragged them back, the Weeper slashed hard into the man's belly and sent his innards spewing all over the ground at his feet.
Seeing defiance in the boy's eyes as he struggled gave the Weeper a wicked idea and he smirked as he had another of his men hold the bitch down. Realising what was about to happen she and the boy struggled even harder but it was no use and he cut her skirt off and forced down his breeches while his men laughed, making the boy watch.
Her screams and pleas were like music to his ears as he took his pleasure from her and finally exploded inside her, he decided there and then to leave her alive and keep her at the Wall. If she gave him a whelp of his own maybe he would permit her to live as one of his bedwarmers for as long as she looked good enough and gave him whelps.
But as she lay broken on the ground he was not done yet. Pulling up his breeches he advanced on the boy who looked at his mother with horror and at him with the deepest loathing but the Weeper had an iron dagger at his waist and a torch for light, now he would burn that defiance out of his eyes forever.
Holding the dagger's blade's tip in the burning flame of the torch it didn't take long for it to heat up and with a vicious smirk he advanced on the boy and stabbed the boy into his eyes, deep enough that his mother being raped before his eyes would be the last thing he ever saw.
The boy's screams were joined by his mother as she saw what he was doing but perhaps out of mercy, the Weeper did give the boy a quick death afterwards.
His mother was now a broken shell of a woman, her husband and her son now both dead with such horror it would never leave her mind for a single moment. She was dragged back to the Wall without any fight left in her, she had lost everything that day.
The Stark Gold Mine, North of the Wall…
The gold mine was untouched by recent events and continued to work, a good-sized stockpile of gold was waiting to be transported south through the Wall to the rest of the North but it was going nowhere right now till the passage reopened.
Meera as she walked into the mine was greeted by the steward in charge.
"Lady Stark!" Quoryn Flint, a cousin from House Flint said warmly as she came in. "My lady we have been most worried. When we did not hear from you, we feared the worst."
"I will not deny that we faced some trying times up there but right now there is a greater matter that requires our attention." Meera said with a frown. "I have discovered the route through the Wall has been closed, the Night's Watch has fallen." She told him grimly.
The shock at her announcement was such that no-one who heard it said a thing or moved a muscle. Not a single one of them could accept the idea that after standing strong for eight thousand years that the Wall could have fallen now, not in their life time.
"My lady! That cannot be!" Quoryn said with denial but she shook her head and did not listen to his protests that it was simply impossible for the Wall.
"How they did it was that they managed to open the passages at one of the abandoned castles and sneaked through before attacking the occupied castles from the weakened southern side. He, Mance Rayder a former brother of the Watch, had the Watch outnumbered and by surprise. They had no chance. Now they have closed all routes south. How is the supply situation?" She asked the steward who was still dealing with the fact that the impossible had happened. He managed to pull himself together enough to answer after a few moments wait.
"Well, we have always been careful with consumption and the new glasshouses we have will help." Quoryn told her with a frown on his face. "But it will not last forever, we still need caravans from the south to survive. Grain and things like that." He said with worry. "With our present stocks…we should if we cut back on consumption, maybe last for two months. Perhaps a little longer."
"And we can't be sure the Northern lords will realise what has occurred before that happens." Meera said with a slight sigh. Trade with her aunt and her people would solve much of those problems but not the biggest issue. For that to be solved there was only one option, they would need to retake the Wall and Castle Black to reopen the road south. "So, our only option is to scale the Wall and inform the lords personally."
"LADY STARK!" Quoryn said in sheer surprise and then in fear. "I cannot allow you to take such a risk! I or any of my men will gladly do it! Please! Do not risk your own life!"
His concern was touching but the man was almost forty and his men while fit had no experience at climbing. She straightened up and told him with a smile.
"While your concern is noted and appreciated Ser Flint, I will ask no one to take a risk that I myself won't take personally." Meera said gently but firmly. He looked ready to argue but her strong gaze made him falter almost immediately and he only could look at his feet before asking her.
"Is there anything that we can give that would at least make such a risky endeavour safer for you? If I cannot persuade you not to do this." Quoryn asked with a dread at her even attempting this.
"Some climbing axes and rope would be appreciated. My aunt will be here soon with some expert climbers to assist me." Meera said with a smile which only made the man splutter as she mentioned her aunt which confused him as she was only supposed to have one that still lived. Turning around she saw Jon walking into the mine with Lorra, Benjen, Ygritte, one of Lorra's warband leaders Tormund and a group of five Free Folk.
"See to it…please." Meera said with a smirk at his confusion, adding the last word to really get him moving. He finally regained his wits and went to see to her request; she turned around to face the new arrivals and told them.
"Should have the things I need in a moment. Are these the climbers you found?" Meera asked Lorra who nodded.
"The best we have, Squirrel here first climbed the Wall when she was twelve and has done it six times since." Lorra told her indicating the apparent leader of the group, a young woman about the same age as her with mousy brown hair. She also had very prominent front teeth which probably didn't help with the name she had been given.
"Seven times!" Benjen said with worry, not that someone had taken that risk but that she had managed it seven times and not been caught once. 'Squirrel' it seemed was exasperated by the lack of faith and told him with annoyance.
"Yes, seven times! I know what I'm doing!" Squirrel told him. "So, you all listen to me! If I have to drag the three of you up that thing and then down the other side then you do what I say when I say. I don't care if you've got a castle! Up there, I'm in charge, got it?" She asked with expectant looks.
Meera nodded, bowing to her greater experience. But the mention of three of them going up there made her blink before she turned to Jon and Ygritte and realised, they intended to make the climb with her.
"No way Jon! Not happening!" Meera said firmly but for possibly the first time in his life, Jon argued with her.
"No Meera! We're family and I am not going to let you face whatever is ahead alone." Jon told her with a look in his eyes that told her he was going to be as unyielding as Valyrian steel.
"And where Snow goes…I go." Ygritte said with a frown, not willing to stay here like a southern lady while he went and risked his life. They took the risks together, she thought to herself.
Meera honestly was so anxious about this that she actually let it show on her face, the idea of her brother doing this when he had something to live for…of what might happen…of her having to tell the rest of their family. It terrified her but saw he was just not going to let this go. So reluctantly she nodded and decided.
"Okay, us three, the climbers but no more. We really can't risk to big a group." Meera said with a sigh and turned to Lorra who smiled a little even if she was still worried about what they were about to attempt.
"When you manage to get to the other side and get the passage open again my people are willing to add ten thousand warriors to your fight against the Iron Born especially after you defeated the Night King for them. They're fresh and eager to prove themselves, Tormund will lead them." Lorra said proudly. Tormund it seemed was very happy about this and said as much.
"A chance to show the southern whelps how to fight? Can't fucking miss it!" Tormund said and it made Meera wonder if this was a good idea. The North was not going to take kindly to a number of 'Wildling' Warriors showing up on their doorstep even if they were there to help them against the Iron Born. She actually wondered if the war might be over by now but then dismissed that as unlikely, Balon Greyjoy was many things but key among them was being a stubborn bastard.
There was no way he would quit so easily.
So, she nodded and waited for her equipment to come, knowing this was likely to be almost as dangerous as any mad adventure that they had done so far or faced in her life as Harry before that.
There we are. Hope you all enjoyed it! Let me know what you thought by leaving a review!
The effect of Cold Water that I described is called 'Cold Incapacitation' which happens especially when in really cold water. It drains all the heat from your body, that means your muscles and nerves aren't working right and eventually you can't move at all usually within ten to fifteen minutes. A lot of sailors' experience this when their ships sink and they end up in the colder oceans of the world like the Atlantic or the Bering Sea.
Next Chapter - Meera and Jon face a big climb, Theon continues his campaign in the North, Robb is left in a difficult position while Joffrey and Margaery get some alone time. Daenerys meanwhile faces a brand-new challenge.