Jon comes now to the Capital of the Empire and the Celestial college in hopes of discovering how he came to these lands. Kindly leave a review.
He had not gone with his father and half-siblings to King's Landing and so the only city that he had ever seen was White Harbor, this place easily dwarfed White Harbor and in truth he would not be surprised if he found that it surpassed King's Landing as well. In addition to the walled portion there was almost a second city outside the walls. Even at this distance Jon could see massive buildings. Back when they had all been children Maester Luwin had taught them about some of the great buildings of Westeros. These included the Wall, of course, but also included the Great Sept of Baelor and the Red Keep. They had seemed massive and greatly impressive to Jon when he was a boy, though they had dimmed somewhat when he had first beheld the Wall and was there long enough to being to grasp its immensity. Looking at this city Jon was sure that some of the buildings he was looking at would surpass the Great Sept and possibly the Red Keep, if not the Wall.
Several massive buildings, some so tall that they were hidden by the clouds, rose above the buildings around them, reminding Jon of the giants he had seen amongst the Wildlings. A great river ran through city and Jon could see a number of barges and other river craft to, through and away from the city. All in all, Jon received an impresses ion of a place ablaze with life and frantic activity. Gilbert looked over and smiled at the expression on Jon's face. He then swept out his arms to take in the city and said a single word.
'Altdorf.' With that he gave a command to the carriage and their escort, and they continued.
As they did so Jon realized that they were farther away from the city, Altdorf, than he had at first thought, and it was some time before they reached the city. If it was some time before they reached the city proper there was at least one part of it which reached them instead when the wind suddenly shifted, the smell. Jon found his nose wrinkling as the smell, a combination of smoke, sweat, river smells, sewage, and other odours which he could not identify him like a hammer. He had forgotten how much cities could stink so much; beside him Ghost too wrinkled his nose. Gilbert could only smile apologetically.
Gilbert's guards cleared the way through the crowd of people waiting to get into the city. As they pushed through Jon noticed that the fear of wizards appeared to be widespread as many whom they passed either spat or made what appeared to be symbols of warding. The guards appeared to know Gilbert, or at least know what he was as they were allowed through without challenge, and they entered the city. Jon had not thought that there were so many people in the world, let alone in one city. Despite this between their escort and the fear and awe that the wizard commanded they continued to make good time in their journey through the city. They moved towards the centre of the city and at first Jon thought that they were heading towards what could only be the palace of the king of this land, but he was mistaken. They turned off from it and head down one of the streets.
At first Jon was confused, from the way Gilbert had been acting Jon had thought that they were going somewhere important, but it did not appear to be the case. Despite clearly being in the most affluent part of the city, being so close to the palace, they appeared to be in a decidedly unimpressive alleyway. Mist hung to the ground the whole area gave off a slightly run-down appearance. Then Ghost seemed to stare at something and suddenly Jon could see what he was looking at. Before them was a wall with a massive door in it, but it was what rose up beyond the wall which caused him to stare. Sixteen slender towers, each built of blue and white stone and linked by walkways and gantries, rose high into the heavens. To Jon's eyes they looked as if they were taller than any other building around them. Each was topped with a glass dome and Jon's mind was boggled as he considered the skill needed to craft them, as well as the cost involved. Something of his thoughts must have shown on his face, causing Gilbert to smile at him in a manner which Jon considered somewhat strange. In was a mixture of pride, pleasure, and something else, a knowingness as if something that he had suspected had been confirmed.
Even as they approached the great gate it opened to grant them admittance. Once they passed through gate they found themselves in a cobbled courtyard from which the towers and various other buildings. About them men and women, some dressed as servants while others wore clothing similar to Gilbert's, though some were more elaborate and others less so, bustled about, most paying the newcomers little to no mind. There was; however, one exception. A tall, rake-thin man had emerged from one of the buildings, clearly coming to greet them. While his clothing was somewhat like that of the servants, they were of better quality and at his belt were a large collection of keys. From his neck hung a chain from which an emblem hung. Jon guessed his was a senior servant, perhaps a steward or something similar.
The carriage stopped before the man and the door was opened and Gilbert and Jon dismounted. The man took a step forward to greet them but came to an abrupt halt when he saw Ghost. Once he saw that the direwolf did not appear to be about to attack the man recovered himself and approached them, though he did so somewhat hesitantly and kept as far away from Ghost as he could. This was a common reaction among people when they met Ghost and Jon did his best not to smile. As he came up to them and bowed to Gilbert and they exchanged words he then indicated that they should follow him and headed towards what appeared to be the main building.
Despite the number of people, the place gave off a sense of stillness that seemed both calming and unnatural at the same time. As they ascended flights of stairs there appeared to be fewer people, most of whom wore clothing more elaborate than that worn by Gilbert. At last, at what had to be near the top of the tower, they came to another door. It was a large affair with runes and sigils both on the door and on the doorframe, which seemed to give off a light of their own. Without pausing to knock the steward opened the door and ushered them in. Inside was a large room whose walls were lined in many places with shelves filled with books and scrolls. Elsewhere on the walls were charts of what appeared to be constellations.
Sam would love this place. Jon thought idly as he took in the rest of the room.
The back wall, in the place of bookshelves, had instead a massive window. Before this a large brass telescope. Jon's attention though was drawn to the large desk which dominated the room. It was covered with books, scrolls, papers and ink pots. Seated at the table was a man whose clothing surpassed all that Jon had seen before in its elaborateness and number of devices stitched upon it. He was an older man, Jon guessed he was at least fifty years old, if not more. He looked at them with eyes that seemed to be deep and colourless. What struck Jon the most; however, was that those eyes gave the impression of having vast knowledge, not all of which gave the man pleasure. As they entered Gilbert bowed and turned to Jon and indicated the man.
The man, Julevno, looked at Jon in silence for a moment with eyes which now seemed to look right through Jon, making him extremely uncomfortable. The man then smiled in a friendly manner and rose from his chair. Reaching into a desk drawer and took out a small box. He came out to stand in front of Jon and opened the box. Inside was a necklace consisting of a fine gold chain with several talismans of the same material. Julveno took the necklace out of the box and motioned for Jon to put it on. Jon was not certain he wanted to, especially as the necklace was emitting more of the glowing light like the sigils on the door and doorframe.
Without giving it conscious thought Jon looked to Ghost. His wolf always seemed to have a sense for such things. Ghost was staring at the necklace but was giving no indication of fear or hostility. Deciding that it was safe enough he took the necklace, noting a slight tingling of his skin where his fingers touched it. He took it up, held it in front of his face for a moment and then placed it on his neck. It settled on his shoulders, and he looked back to Julevno. The man nodded and smiled. He then began to speak and as he did so the talismans glow slightly intensified.
'Can you understand me?' The man had spoken, and Jon could now understand him. For a moment Jon was too stunned to speak. After a moment he recovered himself and nodded and then spoke as well.
'Yes, yes I can.'
'Good. This is so much easier than pointing and trying to guess what we mean. Do you not agree?' Numbly Jon could only nod.
'How is this possible?' He asked. Julevno gave Jon a look that reminded the younger man of Maester Luwin back in Winterfell when he was about to deliver a lecture on whatever subject he was teaching them at the moment.
'The necklace that I gave to you are what the Elves of Ulthuan call a 'Talisman of Translation.' Put simply, it enables the one wearing to understand the words of those around them, even when they themselves do not understand the language being spoken and it also enables their words to be understood by the wearer.' Jon again found himself stunned. This was all so strange and bizarre. He had never seen, or heard, of anything like this, not even when the Red Priestess Melisandre had come to the Wall. Still, seeing was believing and he had seen things since coming to this strange place which he had never even believed possible. Speaking of which, it appeared that he could now get some answers which he had been struggling with since this all began.
'Forgive me if this sounds impolite after all the hospitality which I have been shown, but I must know.' He took a deep breath and asked the questions which had been plaguing him since he came here.
'Where am I and who are you?' Julevno nodded knowingly at Jon.
'I can understand your confusion, indeed I share it to a degree, but I will answer what I can.
'As for who we are,' he indicated Gilbert; 'You have already met Gilbert Hertel. I am Raphael Julevno, Magister Patriarch of the Celestial College of the Imperial Colleges of Magic.
'As for where you are. You are in the Celestial College in the city of Altdorf, the capital of the Empire.' Jon, his head beginning to ach, could only stare. Fortunately, his confusion must have been obvious on his face as Julevno continued to speak.
'Do you know of the Empire?' When Jon shook his head Julevno nodded, as if he had been expecting that reply.
'I suspected as much.' He began to wander the room and appeared to be attempting to gather his thoughts. After a moment he took a deep breath, turned back to Jon and began to speak again.
'I believe that you are no longer on the world that you were born on.' Jon's first impulse was to laugh at so a ridiculous an idea. How could he be on another world? Surely the man was mad. And yet, here he was.
He as in a place that he had never seen nor heard of and even if it was merely a part of the world, he had never heard of the question of how he got here from the Wall remained. There was also the fact that he had seen monsters and magic which as far as he knew did not exist in Westeros, nor anywhere else, that he had heard of, and he could not deny the evidence of his own eyes. As he tried to cope with these realizations, he began to feel bewildered and frightened.
'Hans.' Julevno called out.
A servant appeared and provided a chair and helped Jon to sit down. He then pressed a glass of wine into Jon's hand. Gratefully Jon drank deeply and then turned back to Julevno. The older man gave Jon a look of concern.
'Perhaps we should wait to continue this conversation until after you have rested.' Despite the offer Jon sensed that the man wished to continue, and he did so as well.
'No, no please continue.'
'Well, truth to tell, I am not entirely sure how you came to be here. As far as I know such a thing has never happened before.' He paused for a moment, as if he would say more, but then shook his head slightly, more Jon suspected to himself than to Jon. Though Jon thought that he was telling the truth, he did not think that the man was telling the whole truth. His attention was called back from his suspicions to Julevno as the man continued speaking.
'As such, to anticipate your question, no. I do not know how to send you back to where you came from. In truth, I am not even sure that it is even possible.' These words struck Jon like a blow from Donal Noye's hammer. The thought that he might be trapped here had been weighing at the back of his mind, though he had not wanted to acknowledge it.
His thoughts turned back to the Wall and the war to come. He needed to get back; his men needed him. However, he had no idea how that was to be accomplished and giving in to frustration and despair would gain him nothing. His father had always taught that a lord must control himself and he applied that lesson now. Taking another deep breath, he took another drink and addressed Julevno.
'So, what happens now?'
'Well, we shall, of course, do all we can to uncover how this was done and if it is possible to send you home. Unfortunately, there are other matters which I am occupied with at present so I cannot give it my full attention just now. However, we shall work on it. In the meantime, if you are willing, I will provide you with a guide to show you about and explain this place to you. I fear I shall need Hertel to remain with me, there are matters which must be discussed.' He turned from Jon to the servant.
'Fetch Apprentice Mensing.' The servant bowed and left the room. Julevno did not appear to speak further, and Jon was still reeling slightly from all that he had learned and so they all sat in silence until the servant returned and he was not alone.
With him was a young woman, Jon guessed she was a year or two older than himself, wearing robes similar to Gilbert and Julevno, thought far less elaborate. She had sharp features, pale skin and high cheekbones. She had hair so blonde it was almost white which fell in a thick braid past her shoulders. Her eyes were a flinty grey. Most surprising was her height. She stood at least an inch taller than him, perhaps a little more. She stopped a moment and stared wide-eyed at Ghost. She began to make a gesture with her right hand, but a Julevno cleared his throat, and she turned her attention to him. She stood before him and bowed, though she kept a wary eye on Ghost. Julevno nodded in acknowledgement and turned towards Jon.
'This is Ingfried Mensing, my apprentice.
'As I shall be occupied for the time being I shall have her show you around, both to answer your questions and to keep her busy and away from the Drunken Dwarf.' A look, half-amusement, and half disapproval crossed his face. Ingfried said nothing, though her face flushed red. Julevno turned back to the girl, who quickly forced her look of dignity back to her face. Julevno turned his attention back to her.
'Ingfried, this is the visitor whom I told you about. Please escort him to the quarters I ordered prepared for him. Thank you.' That last part was said in a tone which was a clear dismissal. Ingfried clearly understood, for she bowed again and motioned for Jon to follow her. Jon, for his part, also bowed, both to Julevno and Gilbert and then followed Ingfried out the door.
She led him down several flights of stairs to what was clearly a room reserved for people of high birth, though whither this meant guests or wizards, Jon was still getting used to that, along with everything else that he had experienced since coming to this strange place, though he had no choice but to accept it. As he had no possessions beyond what he wore and carried he soon found himself standing there with nothing to do but stare awkwardly at Ingfried while she stared back. Clearly this was not a duty which she often found herself with and was not sure what exactly to do now. After a moment of this silence, she took a breath and spoke to him.
'After your journey I presume that you are hungry?' She asked in a voice which sounded imperious and slightly ethereal. From her tone Jon guessed that she was of noble birth, though there was something slightly off about that last part, as if she were a mummer playing a part, he was reminded of Sansa when she was trying to imitate Lady Catelyn. Nevertheless, at her words Jon's stomach gave an audible growl, answering her question far more eloquently than his words could have. She smiled slightly and motioned for him to follow her.
'Come, let us see if we cannot persuade the kitchen staff to give us something to eat.' As she said this, she sounded a lot less haughty, and Jon found himself smiling at her.
She led him down still more stairs to a large kitchen, the heat radiating from massive ovens almost rivalling a blacksmith's forge. Men and women bustled about preparing food and carrying it out to places unknown. Some seemed surprised to see Jon and Ingfried and one stout, middle-aged woman who appeared to be in charge gave a look which displayed her displeasure. However, she did not appear inclined to voice her displeasure. The strangest thing: however, was how they reacted to Ghost.
While many of the Night's Watch were used to, if still somewhat wary of Ghost, he was used to people reacting with fear when seeing the dire wolf for the first time. Here there was fear of course, but there was more as well. There appeared to be almost a form of reverence. Jon saw several people made gestures with their hands and when Ghost made his way towards a plate of roast meat the man holding it placed it on the ground and actually bowed to Ghost as he gobbled up its contents. The more Jon looked saw it the more it looked like a reverence which struck him as almost religious in nature. He wanted to ask Ingfried about it, but he was very hungry, and it did not appear that he would be leaving anytime soon. Meaning that there would be plenty of time to figure it all out.
Ingfried led him to a small table near a fireplace and snapped her fingers to summon one of the servants. After a few quick commands from her soon brought the man and several others bringing bread, meat and beer to the table. It was plain fair, but good and Jon had eaten far worse. The beer was especially good, being thick and with a slight nutty flavour. After they had eaten, she led him back to his quarters. While they had been gone a tub of hot water had appeared and clean clothing had been left for him. She left him while he bathed and dressed.
The clothing consisted of shirt, pants, boots, and a heavy coat. The boots were of simple black leather and the pants were of dark blue wool. The shirt was of light blue silk and the coat was a dark red, fur-lined and had elaborate gold thread work. Even as Jon dressed, he felt slightly uncomfortable, having worn nothing but the black of the Night's Watch for so long. Unbidden his mind went to his first meeting with Mance Rayder beyond the Wall and Rayder had told him the story of his silk-stitched cloak. Jon felt like he was almost violating his vows just by wearing the garments. He shook his head to clear it and told himself he was being foolish. He quickly dressed and went out to the hall where Ingfried was waiting for him. For a moment they both stared at each other, Jon not quite sure what to say. Then Ingfried spoke up.
'Would you like to see something of the city? The sun is still up and much of the more interesting things here at the college will not happen until after sundown.' Not knowing what else to do and finding himself curious about this strange place that he found himself in he agreed.
'Very well.' At his reply she smiled with pleasure for a moment, before she appeared to remember herself and schooled her face back into its previous mode of aloof superiority.
'Good, if you will follow me, please.' With that she turned and started walking down the corridor with Jon following and noting that she was much prettier when she smiled.
They retraced the path that Jon had taken when the first arrived. They passed through the mist-shrouded area and into the city proper, the contrast between it and the college hit Jon immediately. While the college had seemed half-empty, this place was not. There were people everywhere, some walking while others rode carriages or horses. While more numerous the place was orderly and not overly crowded while the people were for most part either dressed in finery which marked them as members of the nobility, or in subdued but good clothing which marked them as upper-class servants. They were clearly in a wealthier part of the city. There were also men whose clothing was hard to place. Their clothing was finer than that of the servants, though not as fine as the nobles. They had a crisp serious air about them, and they moved with purpose. Jon also saw one or two people who appeared to be sorcerers as well, though some looked quite different from Ingfried, Gilbert and Julevno.
One man was all in red and orange and his bare arms were covered with tattoos. Another was all in white with an elaborate headpiece. There was also a sinister woman swathed in robes of purple who even the nobles gave a wide berth to. Now that his attention had been called to it, Jon noticed that many people went out of their way to avoid getting too close to Ingfried and the other sorcerers that he had seen. This was not done out of respect, but rather it appeared to be motivated by fear and dislike. As Jon considered this his attention was also drawn to the homes as well.
Separated from one another by high walls and surrounded by elaborate gardens and lawns each of them was as grand, if not grander, than many of the holdings of the lords under his father. While not as large nor as strongly built as the Northern castles, these looked as if they had been built for comfort and to display the wealth of those who dwelt within them. Unbidden Jon found himself thinking of Ygritte. The Wildling girl had wanted to see a proper castle. He wondered what she would have thought if she could have seen this place. He shook his head in an effort to drive the uncomfortable thought away as thoughts of her at times still brought him pain. Instead, he focused on where they were going.
The young woman clearly was familiar with the city and confidently strode forward with Jon hurrying to keep up. She led him through the streets with the confidence of a person born to it. As they walked, she had a mischievous glint in her eyes. As she led him on, he could smell water and they eventually came to the river that he had seen from the hill. Spanning the river was a massive stone bridge over which people were traversing back and forth. Ingfried motioned for Jon to follow her as she headed towards the bridge. Jon saw men armed and wearing uniforms of some sort who he assumed were the city watch. He wondered if there would be a toll to cross the bridge, but they were allowed over without having to pay it if there was. Indeed, the guards seemed to be made uneasy by the presence of Ingfried and looked at Ghost with the same fear and awe which he had seen often since coming to this place. His attention: however, was soon directed elsewhere for the other side of the bridge was quite different from what they had just crossed from.
The first thing which hit Jon was the smell; a horrid mixture of sweat, garbage, rotting food, unwashed bodies and sewage. It was also far more crowded, with people ragging from farmers to wealthy merchants bumping and gosling against each other and it seemed that everyone was compelled to shout at the top of their lungs, or at least speak in very loud tones. Ghost did not seem to like it either, but such was not the case for Ingfried. She seemed to move through the crowd with ease, like one of the Rangers or Wildlings moving through the forests beyond the Wall and on several times, she had to wait for Jon to catch up.
'Come on.' She commanded, though in an amused tone of voice.
'Where are we going?' He asked as he hurried up to her side.
'Several places. First, we are going to get a drink and then I am going to show you the Vargr Breughel Playhouse, perhaps the best opera house in the city. But, as I said, drinks first.' Jon was not sure about going to what sounded like a mummer's show. It was not that he disliked them, but he had never had the love of them that Sansa had had on the rare occasion which the ability to see one had presented itself. Still, after all that he had been through, he found that he needed a drink and so he made no protest as she led him down a street lined with taverns and other such establishments. Picking one seemingly at random she led him inside.
The inside was crowded, but not as bad as the streets outside. They made their way to a table, the area around it suddenly clearing and sat down. Eventually a serving wench came up to them. She gave Jon a friendly and slightly flirtatious look and then gave a cold look to Ingfried which she tried to hide with a false smile.
'What can I get for you M'lady?' Ingfried gave her a cold look.
'Spiced Tilian Red. And don't take all day about it.' The woman sniffed and left. Jon looked after her as she went.
'There was no need to be so rude to her.' Ingfried sniffed.
'What of it? She's only some peasant. Besides, why should I be polite to her, when she went out of her way to be rude to me. Just like everyone else.' The last sentence was said in a tone little more than a whisper and there was bitterness in her voice when she spoke again, still in a low tone of voice.
'It does not matter all that we do. That we train for years, endure all manner of hardships, risks our very souls tapping into the Winds of Magic. All of which we do to protect the Empire and them. But no, it's not enough, never enough!' Her voice became harsher, more vehement and full of rage and hurt.
'We are warlocks! Sorcerers! Consorters with darkness!' She paused and gave a bitter laugh.
'When, in truth, we have done more to defend the Empire than the whole pack of inbred halfwits!' With an effort she gathered herself and smiled apologetically at Jon.
'I am sorry, I should not have reacted that we. Please forgive me.' She paused again and when she spoke again the bitterness was gone and there was only sadness.
'We wizards are feared for the abilities which we are born with. When I was younger, I had a fantasy that if I did enough, if I fought the enemies of the Empire and protected them people would see that they do not have to fear we wizards.' She stopped again and blinked back tears and then gave a sad laugh.
'I know better now.'
Jon, who had been a little startled by her sudden outburst of emotion, merely nodded. He was also experiencing a strange sense of familiarity. At first, he could not understand why and then he did.
Looking at Ingfried was like looking at Tyrion. While they could not be more different physically in many ways, they were alike. Both had wealth and power and yet both were looked down on for something which they had not chosen and had become bitter as a result. Bitterness which they tried to hide and despite her words he did not think that the hope of her youth, of acceptance, had been abandoned as completely as she claimed.
After a moment Ingfried gave a slightly theatrical sigh and smiled and spoke with a voice of false cheeriness.
'Oh well. The day is good, let us not waste it on bitterness and silly dreams. Come, let us eat and drink and then see what pleasures await us.' Jon was not convinced by her act, but he did not care for where the conversation had been heading and was grateful for the change.
Shortly thereafter the wench returned with two glasses of wine. Jon sipped at it. It was good, though he found it slightly richer than he cared for, though he was sure that Tyrion would have liked it. The spices were more to his taste. Though not quite the same it reminded him of the spices which Lord Commander Mormont had always liked in his wine. Ingfried also ordered a platter of grilled sausages and a loaf of black bread, both of which were very good. After they had eaten and paid, they left the establishment and returned to the street outside.
They joined the crowd, many of whom Jon noted, appeared to be heading in the same direction. The flow of people took them to an area of the city which consisted of higher-end shops, places where drinks and food were being served and what he suspected were brothels. Ingfried held up her nose and sniffed at the latter, but she seemed to forget them when she saw several of the shops which sold clothing and jewellery. All the bitterness from earlier vanished as she gazed longingly at several dresses and various pieces of jewellery. The latter were being sold by another of the strange looking dwarfs. Jon had no interest in jewellery himself, but he had to admit that they were remarkably well-made. He was more interested in the effect which they had on Ingfried.
She seemed a completely different person. When he had first seen her, she had seemed a mysterious and powerful mage. When she had spoken in the tavern, she had seemed lonely and sad trying to hide it behind anger and bitterness. Here she seemed like any other young noble woman, at least how he thought that was how noble women reacted. It was how Sansa always acted around such things and she had always wanted to be a southern lady so that was how he imagined them acting. Thinking of his half-sister caused a wave of grief and homesickness when he remembered her and all the rest. He wished that they were altogether back at Winterfell, safe and whole and the Others were just monsters from Old Nan's stories. He even would welcome Lady Stark's scorn and harsh words if he could have all the rest. He shook himself to rid himself of these thoughts and reached out to scratch Ghost's ear, which always made him feel better. At last, Ingfried appeared to be satisfied with her perusal and, after speaking to several of the merchants, she led them on.
As they continued to walk down the streets people continued to make way for them, looks of fear and awe on their faces. While more than one of these were directed at Ingfried most were directed at Ghost. While the fear he could understand he was annoyed by the awe, and he could not understand it. He had noticed that even Ingfried had done so when they had first met and when they had been eating, she had fed almost as many sausages to Ghost as Jon had. He decided to ask her, both because she would be able to answer him and because it would give him a reason to talk to her about something which he hoped would not upset her. He was also curious to learn about this world. He coughed to get her attention, he had to do it several times to be heard over the sound of those around them. At last, she looked back him.
By now, though it was later afternoon, and the streets were far less crowded than they had been before. There was also a breeze blowing. It did not affect Jon much, he had become used to far colder weather even before he went to the Wall, but it seemed to be driving many people indoors. Ingfried, he noticed, did not seem to be bothered much by the weather either. As if sensing his thoughts, she gave a slightly contemptuous sniff at the people around them.
'So soft, these southerners. I swear, a little cold and they all go scurrying inside or bundle up like they are going to Kislev!' Jon found himself smirking slightly. Though they could not have been more differently in many ways, when Ingfried was mocking the weakness of 'southerners' she sounded a lot like Ygritte.
'The cold does not bother you then?' She snorted with laughter.
'Oh, gods no!
'I grew up on the coast of the Sea of Claws! When the wind blew in it felt like a thousand needles burrowing into your skin. When we were children we would go swimming, pushing chunks of ice out of the way as we went.' Jon was not sure that that last part was true or not, but he was not going to say anything. He was quite used to his brothers in the Watch engaging in bragging competitions. It was oddly comforting to know that no matter where he was there were some things which all humans appeared to have in common.
'So,' he said after a moment; 'What are we going to do now?' She looked up at the sky for a moment, gave a sigh and then turned back to Jon.
'It has been a fun day, but unfortunately, I fear that we must head back to the collage.
'I cannot neglect my studies and there are tasks which I must perform.' She paused and then gave him a grin.
'Would you like to see some magic?' Jon felt a slight sense of unease, but nodded anyway. He did not want to offend her after she had been so courteous to him and if he were to be perfectly honest with himself, he wanted to see her work magic. He was fascinated by what he had seen Gilbert do and he wanted to see Ingfried do it as well. So, he nodded his head in agreement. She smiled, clearly pleased with his answer and hurried on.
They retraced their steps back to where they had come, this time not stopping anywhere along the way. Once they were back at the collage. She led him to one of the towers and up seemingly endless stairs. At last, she led him through a door and Jon found that they were at the top of the tower. Jon stepped through the door and could not restrain himself from a gasp. He had been expecting a roof and railing along the edge. There were neither of these. Instead, he found himself inside a sphere of crystal which encompassed the entire top of the tower. It was almost like walking in the air and despite the fact that it was lower than the top of the Wall, he found himself fighting a wave of vertigo. Behind him Ingfried smiled at his discomfort.
In the centre of the floor was a telescope and next to it was a table upon which were a number of charts with what appeared to be drawings of constellations with writing on the sides of the pages which Jon could not read. There were also blank pieces of paper and a pot of ink and a quill. Above them there did not appear to be any clouds in the sky and so high was the tower that the lights of the city had no effect on their visibility. Ingfried looked up at the stars and smiled.
'Ah, magnificent. The weather could not be more perfect for stargazing.'
'You watch the stars a lot?' Jon asked. Even as he said it he felt foolish as the memory of all the star patterns and telescopes that he had seen came back to him. She laughed in a slightly mocking, but not unkind, way.
'Well, as most people call us Celestial Wizards, I should rather think that we do.
'Yes, that is what most people call us. We call ourselves magisters or astromancers. We study the magic of Azyr, the Lore of Heavens.' As she spoke a tone of pride entered her voice. Having very little experience with magic Jon was not sure what all that she had said meant, but she made it sound important and impressive. Though it made him feel slightly foolish he found himself asking her exactly what that meant. She did not laugh again, it seemed she welcomed a chance to expound on what she did.
'The Lore of the Heavens is the magic of the stars, the upper atmosphere, and the weather.'
'You control the weather?' Jon asked, not sure if he should be sceptical or horrified. If they really could do what she claimed that they could.' Her proud look remained but seemed to falter a little.
'To an extent. We can influence it, but control is not complete. We are not gods after all.' She paused for a moment and when she spoke again the pride had returned.
'We can; however, do some very impressive things. We can alter the weather to suit our desires, we can call down bolts of lightning and comets to destroy our enemies, and most of my order consider these but secondary skills.
'They consider our greatest talent to be our ability to see into the future.' These words gave Jon further cause for unease.
He remembered Maester Luwin teaching them that some people believed that peoples' futures could be seen in the stars. Luwin had told them that there was no proof that there was any truth in these beliefs. But here; however, Jon was not sure. He had seen more magic here than he had ever had before so perhaps it was true here. None of these thoughts were the main source of his unease. Before coming here, he had seen the future foretold by one who claimed to be able to do it.
The Red Woman.
Melisandre claimed that her god gave her the ability to read the future in her flames, though Jon had his doubts. Though he had never dared to say it in either of their presence he at times had wondered why the King had lost the Battle of Blackwater if she truly could see the future. There was also another reason why he was distrustful of Ingfried's claim to see the future and her magic in general once he began to think about it. What was price which had to be paid for this magic?
Melisandre's magic had always come at a price, the greater the spell the greater the sacrifice required. His mind went back to the number of times she had claimed that the sacrifice required was human life. It had been Jon's fear of that which had prompted Jon to send Mance Rayder's child and Maester Aemon away, to protect them from the Red Woman's fire.
He doubted that the magic of this world came free of cost, so that begged the question: what price had Ingfried, and her fellow wizards paid for their power? Might not that be the reason that people feared her, and others like her? Maybe they knew what price that they paid for their powers! Even if they did not have to pay some terrible price for it, the fact remained that they did possess the power.
That being the case, what prevented them from seizing power for themselves? He had seen enough to know that people were not shy about seizing power whenever they had the opportunity and the ability to do so. Given that they had magic and no one else seemed to have it, the temptation must be overwhelming. Could he trust these people? They had powers that he did not understand and motives that he did not know. He could easily find himself in debt to them and find himself being compelled to do things that he did not wish to do. As Ingfried fiddled with the telescope, Jon continued his musings and considered his options. He was not pleased at the conclusion that he reached.
For now, at least he had no choice but to trust them. He was in an unknown land, Seven Hells, he was in an unknown world! It had to be magic which had brought him here, so it was only through magic that he could be sent back. Furthermore, he had no proof that they entered into dark bargains or the like to gain power. Perhaps he had become overly suspicious of people such as these due to his interactions with Melisandre. So far he had seen nothing to suggest that Ingfried was anything like Melisandre.
He admitted that he could be wrong, and he might think that because he found that he wanted to like her. Yes, he could be wrong, but he might not be. After a moment he came to a decision.
I will trust her for now. He thought to himself.
He would trust, but he would keep a careful watch as well.
As he came to this conclusion Ingfried finished whatever it was that she had been doing and stepped back to examine her work. After a moment of staring at the telescope she nodded, clearly pleased with the results. She turned back to Jon, a smile on her face. She waved her hand at the telescope.
'Magnificent, isn't it? One of the finest in the collage. Of course, it is not the best one, of course. Those are Dwarf-made and only the masters are allowed to use those. This one and others like it are for students and Journeyman wizards. We are expected to study the stars frequently, preferably every night.' Jon saw an opportunity to learn more about her abilities and perhaps learn of the costs involved.
'So, how does looking at the stars tell you a person's future?' A pleased look came to her face. She drew herself up and her voice took on a slightly lecturing tone.
'As the wind of Azyr blows across the sky it distorts how the view of celestial bodies, stars and the moons and such. By studying how those distortions a skilled Azyr Magister can predict the future.' Jon was not sure that he understood all that she was saying, but he nodded in agreement. Despite this she seemed to see through him.
'I know that it is hard to understand it all if you haven't been training for years, but it can be learned.
'There is more than just magic involved, of course. There is also a good deal of mathematics and, of course, astronomy involved.' Jon was not entirely certain he believed all this, but at least there had been no mention of human sacrifice. He also had to admit that he found himself becoming curious about these abilities.
'So, who do you tell fortunes to?'
'Oh, anyone who asks…and who can afford the fees of course. We are oathbound to look into the future of those who ask and tell them what we see, fully and honestly.' Jon kept a snort bottled up. Of course, there would be money involved. He supposed that it made sense. It was potentially valuable information and he doubted that these buildings and all that they contained did not pay for themselves. They had to pay for it somehow. Seeing her still looking at him he smiled in a joking manner.
'So, can your powers tell my fortune?' He did not truly want her to, he was just trying to make a joke. To his surprise her expression became grave.
'I can attempt to do so, but I would prefer not to. While what we see is always the truth, we cannot always control what we see. I like you and I would not tell you something which would bring you no joy.' She gave him a penetrating look.
'Do you really want to know?'
Her sudden seriousness surprised Jon and he quickly shook his head. No, he found that he did not want to know. Seeking to change the subject he latched onto something that she had said and that he suddenly remembered.
'What did you mean 'attempt' to see the future?' At his words she flushed, and, after a moment of hesitation, she spoke in a slightly subdued voice.
'Well, if one must be entirely honest, I am not the best diviner.
'I can do it, of course.' She added hastily.
'If I couldn't, I wouldn't be here, but many of my fellow students can do it better. My skills lay elsewhere.' As she said this a mischievous grin tugged at the corners of her mouth.
'Then what are you good at?' Her face took on a mock-serious expression and she took on a fake pompous tone of voice.
'My skills lie with the proper use of magic. Blowing things up.' She laughed at his surprised expression.
'As I said, I have some skill as a diviner my particular talents lie more in the area of 'Battle Magic.' Destructive spells used on the battlefield.
'Some of my order say that those are the lesser spells that we can learn, more suited for those muscle-heads of the Bright Order, but Master Julevno disagrees. He told me that such spells require steely nerve and unmatched talent and those who wield them are carefully selected.
'He says that battle wizards, that is what magisters like me are called, while we may not be as highly thought of by our peers and outright feared by almost everyone else, are some of the most valuable members of the Collages.
'After all, what is the point of seeing future disasters if one cannot do anything about it?' Jon found that he could not argue with the logic of that.
'So, have you been in many battles?' She blushed and looked away.
'Well…to tell the truth, I have not been in any battles yet.
'My studies are nearly complete, but Master Julevno will not allow me to accompany him, or any other military force to battle until he believes my skills are ready.
'Still,' she said in an upbeat tone of voice; 'I am sure that I will do well.'
'We magisters are the most powerful weapons in the Empire. Truth to tell, I think that we could throw back our enemies in entirety if the superstitious fools would let us use our powers to the fullest.' She suddenly seemed to think of something and focused entirely on Jon.
'Have you been in many battles?' Jon thought back to the ranging beyond the Wall and the battles that had been thought there.
'I have.' He said simply. Seeing her eager expression, he continued.
'It is not like in the stories and songs.' She nodded.
'I know, I am inexperienced, not a fool. However, it must be done.
'The Empire is surrounded and under threat from foes and horrors which I doubt that you could imagine.'
'I think that you would be surprised.' She continued speaking as if she had not heard him.
'All the signs indicate that something is coming, bigger than anything which the Empire has seen in some time.' She paused, took a deep breath, and then continued.
'I do not know what is coming, no one does, the omens have not revealed that to us. But I am sure that whatever is coming will require all the strength that the Empire has, perhaps more. It will take all the wizards in the Collages and the strength of all the armies that can be mustered. Even if the situation were not so dire, it is common for there to be a threat some kind threatening some part of the Empire.' She stopped speaking for a moment and then with a burst of anger she slammed her fist on the table, causing the telescope to bounce slightly.
'I AM TIRED OF IT! I AM TIRED OF ALWAYS HEARING HOW OUR EMPIRE TEATERS ON THE BRINK OF DESTRUCTION AND I AM ALLOWED TO DO NOTHING!' She took several deep breaths and appeared to calm down. She met Jon's eyes and the anger was gone. She blushed and bowed her head slightly.
'Forgive me, I pray you. Devotees of Ulric are a passionate lot.
'But I speak the truth. The Empire is under constant threat, we here know that more than anyone else, perhaps even more than the emperor.
'I am not like the peasants in their fields. I cannot pretend that it is all alright simply because there are no Orcs or Chaos Warriors coming over the hill at that very moment. Nor, like them, can I simply trust that the local lords, the Elector Counts or the Emperor is coming to save me and neither am I helpless like them.' As she spoke her voice became firmer and there was a note of fierce determination.
'I am a magister of the Celestial Collage and a daughter of Norland. I command one of the winds of magic and I shall use it against all who threaten my homeland.
'I have not seen battle, but I am not a foolish girl either. I know battle and war are horrible things and untold suffering comes from them, but they are our fate in this world. We fight or we die and I will not shy from them. Ulric calls on us to be fearless in battle and I will not shame myself in his eyes.' Looking at her at that moment Jon was sure that she would not. For a moment she reminded him of something, but for a moment he could not figure out what. Then he did.
She reminded him of himself when he first left Winterfell to join the Watch.
While a large part of the reason that he had wanted to join was to escape Lady Stark and to join one of the few places in Westeros where his bastard status would not be constantly held against him, there had been other reasons as well. He had wanted adventure and to belong to an ancient and noble order, which he had believed the Watch to be at the time and there had been more. He had wanted to be a hero, like the ones in Old Nan's stories. He supposed he had sort of understood that battles were not as glorious as they had been in the stories, but that had not been something which he had considered much.
He saw an eagerness in Ingfried which similar to what he had felt and he suspected there was more. He remembered their conversation earlier where she had spoken of her desire for acceptance and how it mirrored his own desire for a place where he would be accepted as well. He did not say anything, but he silently wished her success. Just then Ingfried gave her head a shake and then laughed.
'Well, enough of such serious talk. Would you like to take a look?' Jon had never been terribly interested in the stars, other than for navigation and sometimes simply looking at them, but it would be rude to refuse an offer.
'Thank you.' He said and approached the telescope.
It was smaller and more intricate than the one Luwin had used back in Winterfell, but the controls were similar enough that he was able to work it with a minimum of instructions from Ingfried. He slowly moved the telescope in an arch as he looked at the strange constellations. He found himself interested as she named them and spoke of their history and their significance. He was listening to her one he noticed something odd.
From where he had the telescope aimed there was a light on the edge of his vision. Strangely the light appeared to be green. He started to the telescope towards it when Ingfried appeared to notice what he was doing. With a cry of alarm that caused the hairs on the back of Ghost's neck to rise she rushed to Jon and with surprising strength pushed him away from the telescope, she looked at him, a mixture of fear and disbelief on her face.
'Are you mad?!' She demanded, her voice somewhere between a yell and a shriek.
'What are you talking about?' Jon demanded, more startled than angered by her sudden change of behaviour.
'You do not look directly at Morrslieb! Even the dullest peasant knows that! Especially not now!'
'I don't understand what you mean?' Jon asked, becoming slightly frustrated by his lack of understanding of the situation. Ingfried took a breath and calmed herself. After a moment she spoke again.
'I apologize; I forget that you are not from here.
'Morrslieb is one of the moons of this world, the second being Mannslieb. Morrslieb is Mannslieb's dark twin. It is an unnatural thing and does not follow a predictable pattern. It is seen as a herald of ill-fortune. One of the first things that we learn from our masters is that one never looks at Morrslieb directly, nothing good can come from it.' Jon was not sure what to say to that.
On the service it seemed nothing but primitive superstition and seemed out of place in a place as advanced and sophisticated as the Empire appeared to be. On the other hand, he had seen many strange things since coming here, so there might be something to it. Neither, when he thought about it, was his own world without such fears and beliefs.
The Wildlings feared Hardhome and had avoided it till Mother Mole led them there and from the reports which he had received it seemed that those fears had been well-founded. As a child in Winterfell Luwin had briefly touched on the continent of Sothoryos. The reason that the lesson had been so brief was due to the fact that little was known of it. Luwin had told them that all efforts to settle Sothoryos had ended in disaster, and many said that the continent was cursed. Luwin had assured them that such beliefs were nonsense. It was merely an extremely inhospitable place due to natural and explainable factors.
Jon was not sure that he agreed. While he had not thought much about it he had thought that it odd that so many elements would be present in one place when he knew of no other place in the world where such hostility to humans existed Robb had agreed, that there was something unnatural about Sothoryos. He was not sure if his brother really thought so, or if they had just wanted to believe in a haunted jungle waiting to swallow any who entered it.
With an effort he brought his mind back to the present. This moon, this Morrslieb, did indeed sound like something unnatural. Ingfried had said that the moon had an erratic orbit and that indeed did not sound natural. Still, as he looked down at the city below, he could not see how it could be an omen of misfortune. The city was large and prosperous and the Empire, at least the parts of it that he had seen, appeared to be secure. True, there was war on what appeared to be the borders, but that was true in Westeros as well, otherwise there would not have been a need for the Watch for much of its history.
So, he did not see what was so ominous about the moon. But he remembered the expression on Ingfried's face and even though he was not looking at it he could almost feel Morrslieb shining down on him, almost as if it was watching him. He shivered with something that had nothing to do with the cold.
After that he offered no objection when Ingfried suggested that they go back inside, the thought of a warm fire was a most welcome one. As they made their way down the stairs Jon kept going over what had happened. He understood that Ingfried and her people clearly feared Morrslieb, but why? Unlike the superstitions of his own people, there seemed to be a definite reason for it. The way that she had acted indicated that there was something specific which she feared. As they continued, he wondered if he should ask her. He wanted to know what it was which she feared, but he was reluctant to do so. It had clearly upset her, and he did not wish to further antagonize her. With a pang of grief, regret, and sour humour he remembered his parting from Ygritte; a parting which involved her putting an arrow in him. He had not enjoyed that, and he had a feeling that he would like to have Ingfried throw magic at him even less so.
Just then they arrived back at his quarters, Ingfried entering without waiting for Jon to invite her in. She placed herself in one of the chairs while Jon contented himself with sitting on the bed. For a moment they simply stared at each other. Jon wanted to say something, but he could not think of anything to say. He remembered when he was younger, and Sansa had tried to teach him how to talk to women. Those lessons; however, had not touched on lessons for this situation. Sansa had always told him to tell them how pretty they were and such things. Jon had a feeling that telling Ingfried that she was pretty would not be particularly helpful. Fortunately, Ingfried spoke first.
'I must apologize.' She said in a tone which suggested that she was not used to apologizing.
'You are a stranger here and I need to remember that you do not know of all the dangers here.' Jon was relieved that that she had started the conversation and so saved him from having to do so. Despite his relief, he could not help but notice her strange choice of words.
Again, she had implied that Morrslieb was dangerous, but the way that she said it made it seemed that there was something specifically dangerous about the moon. That made him want even more to know what it was all about. Paying attention to her speech and expression he could see that she was genuinely nervous. He decided to simply go for the direct approach. He could see now that she was not angry, but nervous and he did not think that asking her would annoy her.
'What is it about Morrslieb which makes you so nervous?' For a moment he did not think that she would answer; it was clear that she did not wish to do so, at last; however, she did so.
'Morrslieb has always been an object of ill omen.
'To hear the peasants, talk of Morr, God of the dead, once saved the world and placed Morrslieb in the sky to remind us how he once saved us. That is why we call it Morrslieb, in an archaic style of our language it means 'Beloved of Morr.' She made a sound of contempt.
'They are wrong.
'Those of us who are educated know the truth. It is made of warpstone.' She clearly thought this a great revelation and was somewhat put off by Jon's lack of response, who had no idea what warpstone was, nor why it was as dangerous as she clearly thought that it was. After a moment she smiled a little awkwardly.
'There I go forgetting, that rather ruins my dramatic revelation.' She took a moment and gathered herself, her reluctance to talk returning.
'Warpstone is…an evil substance. It brings madness and mutation. Indeed, some say that it was warpstone which created the Beastmen.' Seeing his confused look, she elaborated.
'The monsters that you fought.' Jon remembered the creatures and felt disgust twisting in his stomach. Then another, more horrible, thought occurred to him.
'Are you saying that the moon is made entirely of this warpstone?'
'So they say.' She told him. As he shuddered, she continued.
'Things are even worse than usual at present.'
'What do you mean?'
'A number of my fellow wizards have been taking readings and they all concur that Geheimnistag is almost upon us?'
'Ge…heimn…istag?' Jon asked, sounding out the word carefully and beginning to become tired of having to have things explained to him like he was some kind of simpleton.
'Geheimnistag.' She repeated.
'Day of Mystery, one of the two days of the year when the two moons are full together. Due to Morrslieb's orbit being…erratic these do not always occur the same time every year.' Her face grew more solemn.
'It is an evil night, magic runs wild, and it can be death to be outside on that night.' She rose and began to pace the room.
'Tonight, was the last night of merriment for a while. Soon even the non-magically inclined will begin to see the signs of the day's approach.' She snorted derisively.
'When that happens fear shall grip the city and a great many people shall find depths of piety which they have forgotten that they possess…since the last Geheimnistag. People shall flock to the temples and pray as if all the forces of the North were descending on them. Then they shall bare their doors, put up holy symbols and pray till the sun rises.'
Jon felt uneasy at her words. They remined him of the stories Old Nan would tell them. Of stories of Old Night, a winter that lasted a generation. While not the circumstance may not be the same, a similar fear was certainly present. Even as the thought crossed his mind he noticed that Ingfried's face had taken on a look similar to that Luwin had always gotten when he was deep in thought.
'What is it?' He asked, but she did not appear to have heard him. She placed her chin in her hand and bit her lip. Absurdly he found it rather…attractive.
Where had that come from? It was a bizarre thought and completely inappropriate.
He was a man of the Night's Watch, sworn to take no wife, father no sons. He had broken that vow once before and he still felt the pain of that. Both from the guilt of breaking his vows and the pain of losing her. No, he told himself firmly. He would not allow himself to fail that way again. To his relief he saw that her expression return to normal. It appeared that whatever she had been thinking about, she had come to a decision.
'Now that I think about; the coming of Geheimnistag and your own arrival may be linked.'
'How so?' Jon asked, hope flaring inside him that he might, at last, have some answers.
'On Geheimnistag the winds of magic blow with terrifying strength. Rifts open up in reality. Often…unpleasant things come out. It is possible; however, that one such portal brought you here.' Jon could not see how that was possible, he had no memory of a portal appearing before he found himself here, but he had to admit that Ingfried knew more of such things than he did, and Jon suspected there was much more to learn though not all of it would be pleasant.