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The White Wolf and the Dragon Queen

Chapter Text

Jon

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

Jon stood numbly staring out at the assembled Northern lords, who were all on their feet, shouting at the top of their lungs proclaiming him their king. Him. Jon Snow, the Bastard of Winterfell, was being made King in the North.

It reminded him of the fantasies he had when he was a boy, where his father would legitimise him and he would become the Lord of Winterfell. He grew to be ashamed of those dreams but here they were now, when he had long since given them up, becoming true.

Jon looked to his left and saw Sansa looking at him. She smiled at him encouragingly and gave him a small nod. Jon felt a rush of guilt and sympathy for his sister.

She had won the Battle of the Bastards, as people had taken to calling it, just as much as he had.

Even more so, thought Jon.

If she hadn’t shown up with the Knights of the Vale, then Jon knew for sure that he would be dead. And here the lords of the North were proclaiming him as their King without even mentioning her involvement. Jon felt that she deserved better than that.

Jon shook himself out of his reverie and realised that the lords were still chanting for him. He raised his hands as a sign of both acceptance and that he wished to speak. The chanting took a good minute to die down fully. Jon cast his eyes across the crowd and saw that, while Davos had joined in the chanting, Tormund had remained firmly in his seat. Jon chuckled lightly to himself before addressing the hall.

“My lords and Lady”, began Jon, with a nod to the small but imposing figure of Lady Lyanna Mormont. “I thank you for the faith and trust that you have placed in me to become your king. I pray that I will be worthy of such an honour and become as worthy of your loyalty as my brother and father were before me.”

There was an outbreak of cheering and banging of goblets on tables in agreement at his words and Jon waited for it to pass.

“My first act as King, is to name my sister, Lady Sansa Stark, as the Lady of Winterfell”.

Jon turned to see Sansa looking at him, equally confused and grateful. He smiled back at her and continued.

“As the King in the North, I will have a lot of responsibilities,” Jon explained, turning to the hall once more. “If I am to rule over the North, I would like to have people I trust to help me shoulder the responsibilities. As the eldest of my father’s remaining trueborn children, I think that it is only fair that Sansa be named the lady of this castle in reward for the role she played in the Bolton’s defeat”.

There was another round of murmured consent and banging of goblets. Jon could see Sansa looking at him out of the corner of his eye and felt her squeezing his hand in gratitude but Jon didn’t respond.

He had locked eyes with Littlefinger and was pleased to see that he looked enraged. Jon realised, with a twinge of satisfaction, that this must put a large hole in whatever plans he was working on. After what Sansa had told him about Littlefinger, Jon didn’t trust a thing about him and knew that somewhere down the road he would have to be dealt with.

Jon looked towards the lords of the Vale, whom he supposed would be loyal to Baelish. However, he saw Lord Yohn Royce looking over at the man with poorly disguised contempt. Jon briefly looked between the two, wondering what had caused such enmity. He pushed it to back of his mind to deal with later. Lord Royce could prove a valuable ally against Littlefinger.

“Tormund Giantsbane”, called Jon above the ruckus, as he took his seat once more. “Approach please”.

The hall quietened immediately. Jon knew his decision to aid the Free Folk was not popular among the Northerners, who had been fighting them all their lives, but the Free Folk had fought beside him and deserved recognition for such bravery.

Jon saw the tall form of his friend rise from his seat at the table full of the leaders of the Free Folk and make his way towards him. Jon could tell by the way his beard was twitching that he was amused by the proceedings.

“Your Grace”, said Tormund sarcastically, with a large grin. “I hope you aren’t expecting me to bow down to you now, Jon Snow. You may be my good friend but that doesn’t mean you are my king.”

There was a round of murmured outrage at Tormund’s words which only abated when Jon started to laugh.

“I expect no such things my friend,” said Jon. “I know that is not your way and I have no intention of forcing you to do anything. I merely wish to reward the Free Folk for their bravery on the field and for coming to the aid of House Stark when we needed it the most.”

Jon saw several lords squirm uncomfortably in their seats at this. He knew that many of them were feeling guilty that they had refused the Stark’s call to fight for Winterfell. Jon didn’t hold it against them, as he understood their need to protect what was theirs. He was not, however, going to ignore the Free Folk’s loyalty in the face of their discomfort.

“In reward for your loyalty Tormund, I grant the settlement of Queenscrown to the Free Folk. It lies in the Gift, just south-west of Mole’s Town. The keep is largely intact but the surrounding village will need some repair. However, there is a large amount of land there for you to expand as needed for your numbers. I thought you would all like to remain as North as possible.”

Tormund stood for a moment staring at Jon in shock, as if he had just proposed a pact of marriage with the Night King. Just when Jon was starting to feel uncomfortable at the silence, Tormund bowed his head slightly.

“On behalf of the Free Folk, I thank you Jon Snow,” he said, looking at Jon with an expression of utmost respect on his face. “We are not used to this from you Southerners but this will go a long way to showing the other leaders of our people that things are beginning to change with you around.” He dipped his head slightly again and headed back to his seat.

“And now, for the next matter”, said Jon, addressing the hall once more. “Lords Manderly, Glover, Cerwyn and Tallhart, please approach.”

The four lords all go to their feet and made their way to Jon, before bowing down on one knee before him.

“You four represent some of the largest houses in the North,” began Jon, waving his hand giving them permission to rise, “I know your families were all loyal to my brother Robb, the Young Wolf, when he called the banners during the War of the Five Kings. I know you all took losses on behalf of my family and for this I thank you.”

Jon raised his cup toward the four Lords and took a drink, partly in toast of their actions and partly to steel his nerves for what he must ask of them next, as he suspected it would not be well received. Many other lords around the room followed in his example and he saw Lord Manderly’s chest swell with pride at such praise.

“As you know, the war is far from over and I wish to know how many men I could count on from each of you.”

“Your Grace,” boomed Lord Manderly, as he bent his knee once more. “We did take casualties in the War of Five Kings, ‘tis true. However, I still have fifteen thousand men that are yours to command.”

“I have ten thousand men, Your Grace,” said Robett Glover. “I have a lot to repay to House Stark. My men are yours whenever you need them.”

“Your Grace,” said Brandon Tallhart, as he took the knee. He was the son of the former Lord’s brother and had been thrust into leadership after his house had been decimated by the Ironborn. “My house suffered heavy losses at the hands of the traitor Theon Greyjoy and his Ironborn scum, but I still have five hundred men that I would be glad to give you.”

Jon looked at the young man, who was barely older than Bran, and felt a rush of sympathy for him. Jon could tell by the way he was standing, proudly alongside his Northern brethren but at the same time cowering slightly, that his time captured by the Ironborn had affected him greatly.

“I thank you, my lord,” said Jon as steadily as he could, while anger and hatred for Theon rose in his throat like bile. “And rest easy, for I will make sure that the Ironborn pay for what happened to you and your family. The North Remembers.”

Jon heard the room repeat his words and saw Lord Tallhart bow his head and mutter his thanks. Not wishing to keep the poor boy in the eyes of everyone for too long, Jon turned to Cley Cerwyn.

“And you Lord Cerwyn? How many men do you have available?”

“Near a thousand, Your Grace,” the young lord replied.

“I see,” said Jon, clasping his hands together on the table in front of him. “My lords, I will need a thousand men each from Houses Manderly and Glover, fifty from Tallhart and a hundred from Cerwyn. These men will ride North to help the Lord Commander Eddison Tollett and the Night’s Watch repair and man the remaining sixteen castles that have fallen into disrepair.

“They will not however”, said Jon, raising his voice and a hand to Cerwyn, who looked as if he was getting ready to argue, “have to take the black. They are there merely to guard against the Walkers. Once the Long Night is over, they will be able to return home.”

There was an outbreak of muttering at these words. Jon knew that very few people in the room believed his story about the Night King and the dead rising. Jon didn’t much care, he knew they would see the truth with their own eyes before long, but he hoped that people’s misgivings wouldn’t hamper their efforts to prepare for the war to come.

He needn’t have worried however as Manderly, Glover and Tallhart announced that their forces would ride north immediately. Cerwyn followed suit a second later, albeit grudgingly, as Jon could tell.

As the other three lords bowed and made their way back to their seats, Cerwyn remained where he was, with a determined look upon his face.

“Your Grace, if I may ask a question?”, asked Cerwyn, in a tone that Jon realised meant that whatever he was going to say next wasn’t in fact a question.

“Go ahead, Lord Cerwyn”, said Jon graciously, while inwardly praying to the Old Gods that this wouldn’t be his first time as King in the North that a vassal house would become unruly.

“What is to become of the remnants of Houses Bolton, Karstark and Umber?” Cerwyn asked, with an unusual gleam to his eye, which Jon quickly recognised as greed. “And what is to become of their strongholds?”

There was a murmur of assent at this and Jon could tell that many of them had wished to know this too, but were waiting for somebody to ask. Jon stood up from his chair and addressed Cerwyn, but made sure that his tone made it clear that he was addressing the room at large.

“House Bolton is in tatters. Their remaining men have scattered to the winds. They will be hunted down and dealt with as appropriate”, said Jon, glancing at Sansa out of the corner of his eye. She was staring resolutely forward but he knew that even the name Bolton caused her pain. “The Dreadfort will remain empty and will be allowed to crumble into dust. It will serve as a reminder to anyone who sees it what happens to traitors.”

Jon hadn’t meant for his words to sound so aggressive, but his anger at Roose’s betrayal of Robb and Ramsay’s treatment of Sansa had boiled to the surface and had found its way into his voice. He looked at the faces of the lords, who all looked shocked and nervous. Jon took a deep breath to calm himself.

“I believe that House Bolton will be the last Northern house to betray House Stark, and I trust the loyalty of all in this room,” Jon said reassuringly, trying desperately to not make his vassals believe that he distrusted them, not even a day into him being their King. Luckily, Jon saw that the majority of them visibly relaxed at his words, so he continued.

“Houses Umber and Karstark still have younger members, if I remember rightly,” said Jon, turning to Sansa, who nodded in confirmation.

“They are mainly younger cousins, brother,” said Sansa, looking at Jon. “Children who several years away from being men.”

“I agree,” said Jon. “These remaining members will not be punished and will retain control of Karhold and Last Hearth.”

“You cannot be serious?”, demanded Cerwyn furiously. “These families sided with your family’s enemy and actively fought against you!”

“They are children!”, roared Jon as he rose to feet, his temper rising with him for reasons that he couldn’t rightly explain. “They did not raise swords against us and I refuse to punish them for the actions of their elder relatives!”

A hush fell over the hall and Jon could see that many of them were as shocked by his outburst as he was and, out of the corner of his eye, he could see that Littlefinger had a smug look on his face.

He will twist this in his favour against me, Jon thought bitterly. I am sure of it.

This was something that he had noticed since the red priestess Melisandre had brought him back from the dead. His temper had either gotten worse or he had become less able to control it. Neither of which was a comforting thought, Jon pondered glumly.

“Are you all right?”, asked Sansa comfortingly, as she grasped his forearm. He looked at her and he could see that she was genuinely concerned for him.

“I am fine”, Jon muttered abruptly before he returned his attention to Cerwyn. “I apologise for my outburst my lord. This is something that I feel strongly about. The remaining members of Houses Karstark and Umber will retain Karhold and Last Hearth. They will not, however, be allowed free rein.

“I will require some men, from loyal houses,” Jon looked pointedly at Lady Mormont, who nodded her assent, “to act as wardens to watch over the young lords. They will effectively be wards in their own homes. The younger Karstarks and Umbers will be given the chance to prove their renewed loyalty to House Stark and regain the honour that their houses have squandered in recent times.”

Cerwyn looked at him scathingly for a moment before nodding his agreement and retook his seat. Jon sat down and scrubbed his face with his hands, taking a deep breath. He had been King for less than a few hours and was already shouting at his supporters. He would have to get a hold of himself if he wished to keep these men on his side. No one would follow him if he lashed out at them for every minor provocation.

“Is there anything else, my lords?”, asked Jon, as he raised his head once more. He inwardly prayed that no one would answer as he craved the peace and quiet of his chamber to recollect his thoughts.

For a moment, it looked as if his prayers were granted as everyone looked at each other to see if they had any issues to raise. However, the silence was broken by a timid voice to Jon’s right.

“There was something, my king,” said Maester Wolkan, nervously. Jon turned to the former Bolton maester to see he was looking at Jon apprehensively.

Jon recalled the first time he saw the man, hiding in the Maester’s Tower after the battle. Jon had taken pity on the man and, after remembering Maester Luwin had told him once that maesters were assigned to castles and didn’t necessarily have loyalty to the occupants of said castle, had allowed him to remain as Winterfell’s maester.

Jon had grown to respect and pity the man in equal measure. He was a skilled maester with a large array of knowledge and wisdom but he, like many people, had spent many years living in fear of Ramsay and his depraved actions.

It was Wolkan who had given him an overview of what had befallen Theon under Ramsay’s thumb at the Dreadfort. After hearing about the torture that Theon had been subjected to, from flaying to castration, the hatred that boiled in Jon’s gut for the former Stark ward had been cooled slightly by a feeling of pity.

Regardless of Theon’s crimes, no one deserved what Ramsay had done to him, Jon had thought angrily.

“Yes, maester Wolkan?” inquired Jon placatingly, well aware that the man’s nervous disposition was probably due to his own angry outburst at Lord Cerwyn being a painful reminder of his last lord’s temper.

“We received a raven this morning, Your Grace,” the man replied, bowing his head, “from Rodrik of House Forrester. He said that he was riding to Winterfell and wished to speak to the true Warden of the North and, as you are now King, that is you. He says he will arrive on the morrow.”

“Very well,” said Jon. “Have Lord Rodrik and his men fed and rested upon their arrival and I will receive them shortly after.”

“Your Grace,” said Lord Glover, rising from his seat and bowing his head in deference. “House Forrester are sworn to House Glover and I would like to be there when you receive Lord Rodrik. I know of what he wishes to speak to you about and wish to offer my council and aid in this matter.”

“I would welcome your aid, Lord Glover,” said Jon, nodding his head respectfully. Lord Glover nodded back and retook his seat.

“And now, my lords and ladies,” said Jon, as he rose from his seat, “if you will all excuse me. It has been a tiring few days and I would like to take some rest. Any other concerns I will listen to on the morrow.”

As Jon left the hall, everyone rose from their seats in respect but Jon didn’t pay much attention. As he made his way back to his chambers he became more and more aware of how tired he was. It was crushing down on him more and more with every step.

Winning a large battle and being named a king within a few days will do that to you though, thought Jon.

As he neared his chambers he began to feel relief that he could shut out the world for a while and just sleep. He reached out to open his door when he heard a familiar voice call his name.

“Jon”, said Sansa. Jon turned to see her walking down the hall towards him, a look of worry on her face. “Are you well? You seemed anxious to escape just now.”

Jon smiled at her reassuringly and took a deep breath, trying to fight off the renewed wave of exhaustion that fought to overwhelm him.

“I am fine, Sansa. Do not worry yourself.” Jon reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. “Thank you for your concern, sister. But I will be fine after a night’s rest.”

“Jon, I wanted to thank you,” she said, looking him in the eyes. “For making me Lady of Winterfell, but shouldn’t you be the Lord of the Winterfell, as you are the king?”

“As I said to the other lords, Sansa,” Jon explained patiently. “As king, I will have a great number of responsibilities, which would leave the issues at Winterfell woefully unattended. And I trust no one more than my sister to help me with these problems, nor is there anyone more qualified to do so than someone who grew up here.”

After a moment, Sansa nodded in agreement and Jon gave her shoulder a supportive squeeze.

“Get some rest Sansa and tomorrow I will have the lord’s chamber prepared for you, and as King in the North I command you to take it”, said Jon forcefully, as he knew that she would argue the point. She looked for a moment as if she would, but then she looked like she thought better of it, wished him a good night and left for her chambers.

Jon shook his head chuckling and headed into his chambers, and found Ghost curled up in front of his fire. It had been a long time since Ghost had been in this room and he now took up the majority of the space between the foot of the bed and the hearth. Jon amused himself for a second with memories of the direwolf as a puppy, the hours they spent in this room as Jon trained and played with him.

As Jon entered, Ghost raised his head and blinked his blood-red eyes at him blearily and Jon could tell he was happy to see him by the wag of his tail.

“It has been a hell of a day, boy”, Jon murmured sleepily, as he reached down and scratched Ghost behind his ear.

Ghost tilted his head to one side and blinked his eyes, seemingly confused for a moment. He then leaned in and nuzzled Jon’s cheek with his wet nose and licked his face in a reassuring way. Jon laughed as he stood up and stretched. He felt another wave of tiredness wash over him and he staggered to his bed and fell down, fully clothed, and was instantly asleep.

*

Jon rose with the sun and looked around the room. Ghost was still asleep, in front of the now burned out fire. Jon was used to the cold after so long at the Wall so the early morning chill didn’t bother him.

He moved to the window and saw the familiar sight of the sun rising over the wolfswood. The sight filled him with joy and half-forgotten memories of his childhood in these walls coming flooding back. Teaching Arya the basics of swordplay when Lady Catelyn wasn’t looking. Sharing his first ale with Robb on his eleventh name day in the dead of night in Lord Eddard’s study. Spending hours huddled with Robb and Arya planning ways to scare Sansa in the family crypts. Jon pushed the memories away as a wave of grief rose up inside him. It had been a couple of years since Robb’s death but the loss was still as fresh as ever. And Arya. No one knew where she was, whether she was alive or dead. Somehow that made Jon feel even worse.

He waited until the sun had risen higher in the sky before he straightened his sleep-crumpled clothes and headed down the Great Hall. He passed several servants who all bowed to him and murmured “Your Grace” in his direction.

That is going to take a lot of getting used to, thought Jon.

As he entered the Great Hall, he saw that he was among one of the first to rise, along with several lords, including Lord Cerwyn. They all greeted him, with Cerwyn careful to avoid Jon’s eye. Jon sat down at the high table and the waiting servants were quick to rush to him to take his request.

As Jon broke his fast, the hall slowly began to fill. Sansa was one of the last to arrive and she entered while talking animatedly with Lady Mormont. Jon smiled slightly at the sight and returned to his meal.

“Did you sleep well, Jon?” Sansa asked as she joined him at the table.

“Aye,” replied Jon, turning to her. “It feels strange being home though.”

“I know what you mean,” she replied darkly. “It has been full of enemies and traitors for so long it is strange to see it feeling a little like home again.”

Jon shifted awkwardly in his seat. Sansa hadn’t said much about her time with the Boltons, and the look that appeared on her face whenever he brought it up had convinced him to not press the issue. He had long since made the decision that if Sansa was going to share her experiences with him, it would be when she was ready.

Jon was saved from the awkward silence that followed Sansa’s statement by the approach of Wolkan.

“Good morning, Your Grace, my lady,” he said as he bowed low. “Lord Rodrik Forrester and his party arrived in the night. He was fed and rested as you commanded, Your Grace. It was a smaller escort than we were expecting.”

“How small a party are we talking about, maester?” Sansa asked curiously.

“Well, my lady, it was just Lord Rodrik, his sister Talia and his Sentinel, Duncan Tuttle. He said that the three of them have been alone for a long time, on the run from the Boltons.”

“When they rise, please show them in.” Jon commanded. “And could you inform Lord Glover of their arrival?”

“I already took the liberty, Your Grace”, said Wolkan with a small bow. “He is ready to aid you when you receive Lord Rodrik.”

“Thank you, Wolkan.” Jon sat back in his chair and thought of the Forresters. He vaguely remembered the name from his lessons with maester Luwin as a child. He knew that they were famed for their crafting of ironwood, which made their wooden shields as hard as iron.

We might need a few of those soon, Jon thought with a sigh.

Before long the doors of the Great Hall opened and Wolkan appeared, leading three people into the room. At the head of the three was a tall man with long hair and beard, who walked with a cane and a very pronounced limp. As he grew closer, Jon saw that he had heavy scarring to the right side of his face and Jon wondered where he could have received such injuries.

Behind him came another, older man who reminded Jon of what Davos would have looked like in his younger years. Jon saw that he wore a bracer on his left arm that he saw, as they came to halt in front of him, was emblazoned with what he assumed was the sigil of House Forrester. Next to him was a young girl that Jon guessed was around Arya’s age. She was looking around nervously at all the assembled lords and Jon felt a rush of sympathy to her.

“Your Grace, my Lady.” Lord Rodrik said when he reached them.

He then struggled to bend the knee. Jon was impressed by the man’s determination when he waved away his companion’s attempts to aid him, even though Jon could tell it was causing him discomfort. As he rose to his feet, Jon followed suit and addressed him.

“We welcome you all to Winterfell, Lord Rodrik. I was sorry to hear that you have had trouble with the Boltons. Too many people have suffered at the hands of those traitors.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Rodrik said, nodding his head respectfully. “May I introduce my sister Talia and my Sentinel, Duncan Tuttle.”

As he introduced them, Rodrik’s companions bowed to Jon and Sansa. Jon noticed that Talia stayed close to Duncan at all times. He wondered what had happened to these people to cause such a young girl to be so afraid.

“My lord,” said Sansa gently. “Do you need to sit? I hope I do not offend but you seem to be in discomfort.”

“No need to worry, my lady,” Rodrik replied valiantly. “’Tis merely an old wound that has never properly gone away.”

“Where did you acquire such an injury, my lord?”

“He got it at the Red Wedding,” piped up Talia furiously. “He nearly died there, along with our father, while fighting for your brother.”

Jon saw Duncan bend down to whisper in Talia’s ear, no doubt to berate her for speaking out of turn in front of the King in the North but Jon didn’t care. Jon had returned to his seat while Sansa had been talking to Rodrik but he now rose back to his feet.

“Lord Rodrik, on behalf on Lady Sansa and myself I offer my sincere gratitude for your service to our brother and you have our condolences for the loss of your father.”

Rodrik and Talia both looked momentarily taken aback at Jon’s words. Rodrik was the first to compose himself.

“I thank you, Your Grace. House Forrester have been loyal bannermen to House Stark for centuries, and both my father and I were honoured to take up arms for your brother, the Young Wolf. I consider it an equal honour to pledge myself to the White Wolf, who rid us of the Boltons.”

Jon stood there, stunned. Jon knew that Robb’s men had been tremendously loyal to him and it was still strange to have people hold him in equal esteem. It filled him with pride and he inwardly pledged, not for the first time, to be worthy of these men’s loyalty.

“You said you had need of our help, my Lord,” said Jon, returning to his seat once more. “Speak and, I give you my word, we will aid you as best we can.”

“After your brother’s death, our family was put in a precarious position,” Rodrik explained sadly. “I was wounded at the Twins and was presumed dead so my younger brother Ethan was named the Lord of House Forrester. Soon after, Ramsay Bolton came to Ironrath to get him to bend the knee. My brother did so out of fear for my mother’s and Talia’s safety. The bastard killed him anyway.”

At her brother’s words, Talia began to cry. Sansa rose from her seat and went to the young girl. She wrapped her arms around her and was whispering words of comfort to her. Jon was immensely grateful on Talia’s behalf that Sansa was there, as he would have had no idea what to say to comfort the poor girl.

He saw Rodrik say something gratefully to Sansa, before he returned to Jon.

“To make matters worse, Your Grace,” he continued, in a voice thick with suppressed grief. “He stationed a group of Whitehill guards at Ironrath. Tensions have been high between our two houses for years. He also sent our younger brother Ryon to Highpoint as a ward to ensure our obedience.

“Things escalated between us, as the bastard knew it would, and it resulted in the death of our brother Asher. The Whitehills then attacked our home and, while I was able to kill Lord Ludd Whitehill, they took Ironrath. Our mother was killed in the attack, our brother Ryon hasn’t been seen since and my betrothed, Elaena Glenmore, was taken captive. I have since learned she has been killed when she refused to wed Gryff Whitehill.”

Rodrik tailed off and stared at the floor as he tried to compose himself and silence fell in the hall. Jon stared at the two Forresters and felt a tremendously amount of sympathy for the people stood in front of him. He too knew what that kind of betrayal and loss felt like.

Jon walked down from the high table to stand in front of Rodrik, who raised his head in surprise as Jon placed a reassuring hand on Rodrik’s shoulder.

“My lord. I too know what it feels like to lose your father and brothers to betrayal. There are few things worse in this world. I give you my word that the Whitehills will pay for what they have done to your family.”

“Your Grace, if I may?”

Jon turns to his right to see Lord Robett Glover on his feet and looking distinctly uncomfortable. Jon stepped back from the pair and nodded, giving him permission to speak.

“House Forrester has been sworn to House Glover for centuries. I was aware of their trouble but I was, at the time, working to regain Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn invaders, and was warned off aiding them by Ramsay Bolton.”

He then turned to Rodrik and Talia, the latter of whom was looking at him furiously over Sansa’s comforting embrace.

“My lord and lady, I apologise to you both. I have failed in my duties to protect you and, in doing so, you have lost your home and several members of your family. I cannot imagine what you have both been feeling for the last year or so while you have been on the run from the Boltons. I offer you the full support of House Glover to reclaim your home from Gryff Whitehill, and the full hospitality of Deepwood Motte is yours until we have achieved this goal.”

Rodrik paused for a moment before shaking the outstretched hand of Lord Glover and murmured his thanks. Talia looked like she was about to throw his offer back in his face, before thinking better of it.

Jon and Sansa returned to the high table and he caught her eye. She looked like she was feeling the same as he was: that the plight of House Forrester was so eerily similar to their own that they couldn’t just sit by and allow the Whitehills to remain at Ironrath.

“Lord Rodrik, you and your companions are welcome to remain at Winterfell for as long as you need before you leave with Lord Glover. If you should need further assistance, you only have to ask. I wish you good luck in reclaiming your home and I hope you enjoy the same success that Lady Sansa and myself have had.”

Sansa nodded her approval alongside him and Rodrik thanked them both before leaving with Robett Glover, alongside his sister and sentinel. Jon watched them go with a sense of sadness and anger. Too many good people had been killed, or had their families ruined thanks to the Boltons.

Jon remembered back to when he had been told about Ramsay’s death, how Sansa had allowed him to be fed to his dogs. He had been shocked at the time and horrified that his sister had been capable of such an act. But now, as he watched more of Ramsay’s victims try to reclaim what was theirs after he had torn their lives asunder, he felt that maybe Ramsay had gotten off easy.

*

Later that day, Jon was sat in the study of Winterfell, remembering all the times he had been in here when it had been his father’s. Usually it had been to receive a scolding with Robb for shirking their duties or for scaring their younger siblings with their pranks. Jon smiled broadly and allowed himself to wallow in memories of a simpler and happier time, until he was shaken from his musings by a knock as the door.

“Enter,” called Jon, as he rose from his desk.

Maester Wolkan, bowing his head meekly, entered followed by Yohn Royce. The Vale man was an imposing figure which was exaggerated by the fact that he always seemed to be wearing his large steel breastplate. Ever since they had been introduced, Jon had thought it had made him look like he was a very paunchy man, rather than the seasoned warrior that Jon knew he more than likely was.

“Your Grace, Lord Royce as you requested,” said Wolkan obediently, with his head bowed.

Jon had told him many times since returning to Winterfell that he didn’t need to act so submissive in his presence, that he was not Ramsay and he wouldn’t punish him for minor transgressions. Since then, there had been an improvement, but Jon suspected that this would be a work in progress.

“Thank you, Wolkan”, said Jon gratefully, as he rounded his desk to approach Royce. “You may return to your duties.”

The maester nodded and backed out of the room, closing the door with a snap. Jon turned to Royce and extended his hand.

“Welcome Lord Royce. I thought it was past time we talked.”

“Your Grace,” said Royce, as he grasped Jon’s hand in a firm grip.

After they shook, Jon motioned for him to be seated opposite him and they both took their seats.

“I knew your father, you know,” said Royce, fixing Jon with a steely gaze. “We hunted together many times. He was a great man. I see you have his sense of honour in your actions, and this is among the highest forms of praise I can give you.”

Jon sat there, taken aback by this admission. He had known about his father’s time in the Vale as a child but he hadn’t spoken much about it, other than his friendships with Robert Baratheon or, Jon’s namesake, Jon Arryn.

“I thank you, my lord,” said Jon appreciatively. “My father was indeed a great man and I hope that one day I can live up to his example.”

There was a beat of silence between them, which seemed longer than it actually was given the exchange that had just taken place. Jon cleared his throat and proceeded.

“I have called you here, Lord Royce, as I wish to gain a better knowledge of the Vale and its people. I grew up in the North and know it well but you, and the other Vale lord that aided us against the Bolton’s, proclaimed me your king too, and I would like you to tell me as much as you can.”

Lord Royce looked at him curiously, as if he was questioning the validity of his request.

“With respect, Your Grace. Why me?” he asked sceptically. “Lord Baelish already knows your sister and is the uncle of our Lord.”

Jon couldn’t fail to notice the undercurrent of loathing that entered Royce’s voice at the mention of Littlefinger.

“There are several reasons why I have chosen you, my lord, over Lord Baelish.

“Firstly, Baelish is not of the Vale, you are. You were born there, you were raised there, it is in your blood. Baelish has lived there for what? A few months? Not even that? Hardly enough to give him the knowledge that I require.

“Secondly, while yes, he is the uncle of Lord Robin Arryn, it is only through marriage and, while it does give him a position of respect, it doesn’t give him as much as he thinks it does.”

At this, Jon thought he saw a small smirk appear on the man’s face, but it disappeared almost as soon as it had appeared so he dismissed it.

“And finally, after what transpired between my sister and the Boltons, I do not trust Littlefinger.”

There was no mistaking it this time, a smirk appeared on his face and he sat up a little straighter in his seat and narrowed his eyes slightly.

“You do not?” he asked inquisitively, leaning forward slightly.

“I do not,” repeated Jon unequivocally. “My sister spent time in the Vale didn’t she, Lord Royce?”

He nodded so Jon continued.

“Do you know how she made her way there?” Jon asked.

“Lord Baelish smuggled her out of the capital during the uproar surrounding Joffrey Baratheon’s assassination. He claimed that he did so due to the friendship that they had developed in King’s Landing, and that he merely wished to keep her safe from the Lannisters.”

“Do you really believe that?” questioned Jon, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. “From the little I know about Baelish, that was one of around ten reasons he acted in that way.”

“Ha! That might be an understatement, Your Grace”, exclaimed Royce.

Jon looked down at his hands on his desk and noted that they had coiled into fists into anticipation of his next question. The mere thought of it was enough to make his blood boil.

“And how were you told that Sansa was married to Ramsay Bolton?” Jon enquired, trying desperately to keep the rage out of his voice.

“He had told us that he planned to stow Sansa away to his home, the Fingers. However, we later learned that they had been ambushed by the Boltons and Sansa captured.”

“So,” said Jon, leaning back in chair, smirking slightly. “Their transport is attacked, Sansa is captured but Littlefinger is miraculously unharmed and allowed to return to you to spread word of her kidnapping. Highly convenient, wouldn’t you say?”

“I thought the same thing, Your Grace”, chuckled Royce approvingly. “But when I confronted him about this he used his influence over the young Lord Arryn and not so subtly threatened to have me executed if I spoke out against him.”

Royce had practically spat out the latter half of the sentence and Jon couldn’t suppress a smile. He had finally found someone who despised Littlefinger as much as he and Sansa did.

“What would you say about Littlefinger’s influence over your lord?”

“Lord Arryn looks to him as his trusted uncle and guide, even more so now after his mother’s death. But the boy is weak, he makes foolish and imprudent decisions – “

He stopped abruptly, casting a wary look at Jon. He was clearly not above criticising his lord but he also didn’t trust Jon fully yet.

“I promise you, Lord Royce,” said Jon conspiratorially, leaning forward slightly. “Anything you say in this study will stay between us. I am not in the habit of betraying people’s confidences.”

Clearly placated by Jon’s words, Lord Royce renewed his tirade.

“The boy was coddled by his mother his whole life! She was still feeding him from her teats when he was ten years old!”

Jon massaged the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb, trying desperately not to think too hard about the implications of that statement. Lord Royce didn’t seem to notice and carried on regardless.

“He has no backbone. No wits. No intellect. Every decision he makes, it with that whoremonger whispering in his ear. Mark my words, Your Grace, Littlefinger is the Lord of the Vale in all but name!”

Royce finished his speech, his face flushed from his vehemence, and sat glaring across the room at Jon, who sat matching his gaze.

“My lord, I think you will agree with me that something needs to be done with Littlefinger.”

When Royce furiously nodded his assent, Jon continued.

“I would ask you to return to the Vale and make efforts to get yourself closer to the Lord Arryn, give him another trusted advisor. Someday Baelish will overplay his hand and, if our plan works, he might not have the Lord Arryn to rely on to get him out of trouble.”

Jon looked at the man opposite him, whose brow was furrowed in deep thought. He was clearly running through the merits of Jon’s plan in his head. After a few moments, he nodded his head and extended his hand across the desk for Jon to shake, which he did.

“And now, my lord,” said Jon agreeably, pleasantly surprised that this meeting had ended up so well. “We have achieved one of my aims for this meeting, it is now time for the other. Knowledge of the Vale.”

For the next hour or so, Royce talked to Jon about various aspects of the Vale. From its noble houses to the mountain clans that they had clashed with for centuries. He spoke of the Eyrie, built high in the mountains, with its moon door and sky cells. At Jon’s request, he also spoke about Eddard Stark’s time there as a boy, about his blossoming kinship with Robert Baratheon and the respect he gained for his father figure Jon Arryn.

At the end of their meeting, the two shook hands once more and nodded, with silent agreement passing between them over their alliance. With that, Lord Royce bowed and excused himself.

After he left Jon settled into his seat and chuckled to himself. Maybe he wasn’t as dense regarding the politics of ruling than he thought. Shaking his head furiously, Jon didn’t allow that thought to take root for long. He was more than aware that this agreement with Royce, and his perceived skill in negotiating it, were more likely the product of a common enemy than anything else. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and Jon called for them to enter.

For the second time that day it was Wolkan, and he was looking more flustered than ever. His cheeks were red and he was panting. He had clearly run the whole way here. Jon looked at his quizzically and nodded at him, silently giving him permission to speak.

“There has been a raven for you my lord,” he puffed, holding out the scroll of parchment.

Jon, now more confused than ever, took it from the man’s shaking hand and looked down and the seal.

He froze.

It was a three-headed dragon. The sigil of House Targaryen.

He sat for nearly a minute, just staring at the scroll in his slightly shaking hand.

This can’t be true, thought Jon numbly. The Targaryens are all gone. Except for…

Jon recalled, with a jolt, that Maester Aemon, at the Night’s Watch, had mentioned to him once that he had received a note about his last living relative: Daenerys. Jon scoured his memories for exactly what Aemon had told him about her.

Apparently, she was a woman of well renowned beauty and was living to the east, in Essos, and she was acting as the ruler of a large section of Slaver’s Bay. She was also said to have three dragons but Jon hadn’t believed Aemon when he had told him this. However, later, after Hardhome, he realised the folly of such thinking. He had seen the undead led by four White Walkers, creatures that have considered just stories for centuries, whereas dragons were real, and there were many skulls and the tales of Aegon the Conqueror, and his descendants, to prove it.

Jon brought himself back to the present with a small shake of his head and turned to Wolkan.

“Go and find Lord Royce. Apologise to him for the suddenness but send him back here immediately.” Jon commanded, trying calm to swirling storm of his thoughts. “Then go and find Lady Sansa, Ser Davos and Tormund and send them up.”

Wolkan nodded his understanding and backed out of the room.

Jon broke the seal of the note and read it quickly.

To the Lord of Winterfell,

You are hereby commanded to present yourself at Dragonstone to swear your fealty to Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, rightful Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Breaker of Chains and the Mother of Dragons.

We are aware of your claim to be the so-called King in the North. In swearing fealty, you would be giving up any claim to such a title. If you refuse, you, and all who follow you, will be considered an enemy of Her Grace and will be dealt with accordingly.

Jon was stunned. It was her. The Daenerys that he had been told of by Aemon, come home to reclaim her throne. It seemed like the dragons were real too.

Jon shook his head in disbelief and looked back at the note and saw that there was another message at the bottom, written in a different hand.

Sorry about this Jon.

I have spoken to the Queen in your defence but she is not in the practise of acknowledging other sovereigns. I know that this seems more of a threat than a request but, regardless of her bluntness, Daenerys is the best hope for the Seven Kingdoms, certainly more than my fool of a sister who currently sits on the Iron Throne.

Please do come to Dragonstone, even if it is just to share a drink with me.

Your old friend,

Tyrion Lannister.

Jon felt a broad grin spread its way across his face. He remembered the dwarf from when he had made his way to the wall, a literal lifetime ago. Tyrion had given him some valuable advice and Jon knew that, without it, he probably wouldn’t have lasted very long at the Night’s Watch.

So Tyrion was with Daenerys, pondered Jon. That must be quite the tale.

At that moment, the door to the study and Sansa came in, followed by Royce, Davos and Tormund, all of whom looked confused at the sudden summons. Wolkan lingered by the door, looking uncertain.

“Will you be requiring my services, Your Grace?” he asked.

“No, thank you Wolkan.” Jon said respectfully. “I know you have many injured from the battle to tend to. They need you more than we do at present.”

Wolkan bowed and departed. Jon then turned to those who remained.

“Thank you all for coming so swiftly,” said Jon steadily. He held up the note so they could see it. “We have received a raven.”

“From whom, brother?” Sansa asked hesitantly.

“From Daenerys Targaryen.”

At this Sansa, Royce and Davos all gasped and their faces showed mingled shock and disbelief. Only Tormund didn’t have of a reaction, he was mostly confused about the effect this news had on his companions.

“She has landed at Dragonstone,” continued Jon doggedly. “She has requested that I give up my claim as King in the North and swear fealty to her.”

At his words, he passed the letter to Sansa, whose eyes widened further the more she read. Her expression softened slightly as she reached the bottom of the parchment, at Tyrion’s message. Jon knew that she had been forced into marriage with his friend, but Sansa had told him that Lord Tyrion had been very good to her and had not forced her to do anything she had not wished to, despite being ordered to.

She passed the letter on to Davos and met Jon’s eye. Her gaze was filled with disbelief and, unless Jon was mistaken, anger. When Davos finished the letter, he stared it for a moment, as if he was waiting for more words to appear to further explain. “

Fuck me.” He said finally, before jumping slightly, as he remembered whose company he was in and turned to Sansa. “Apologies, my lady.”

“No need Ser Davos,” chuckled Sansa lightly. “I have heard worse.”

While Royce read the note, there was silence in the room until he tried to pass it to Tormund. He looked at the parchment, with a look on his face like Royce was trying to pass him a dead animal.

“I cannot read the words,” Tormund stated bluntly. He turned to Jon. “What does it say?”

“It says that Daenerys of House Targaryen has commanded me to sail to Dragonstone to bend the knee to her as the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“I thought you were a king now, Jon Snow,” said Tormund, smirking slightly. “So why can’t you tell this Targaryen woman to go fuck herself and carry on as you are.”

“Because,” said Davos patiently, before Jon could answer, “telling a Targaryen, who are known for their bad tempers and worse sanity, to go fuck themselves is the same as saying ‘Please hunt me down and kill me slowly.’ And Daenerys would be even worse, as apparently, she has dragons.”

At this, Tormund, who had been listening with an expression of amused disbelief, recoiled slightly and his eyes widened so much Jon was afraid that they would leave his head.

“D-dragons,” he stammered, looking widely around the room as if daring someone to contradict Davos. When no one did, he took a deep breath to compose himself.

“How many does she have?”

“While I was with Stannis, we heard reports that she had three,” offered Davos hesitantly.

Jon looked at him and could see that was as unnerved by this news as Tormund was, but he was better at keeping a hold on himself. Jon lowered his gaze back to the letter, deep in thought, and let the discussion run past him for a moment.

“She is asking for a lot,” scoffed Royce belligerently. “And all of it under the threat of war if we refuse.”

“This is not that out of the norm, Lord Royce,” reminded Davos. “We received a similar message from Cersei Lannister a few days after taking Winterfell.”

“And what did you do with that one?”

“Ha! Jon Snow ripped it up and threw it in the fire,” said Tormund, sounding more like his usual self again.

“Well do the same with this one,” said Royce, banging his fist on the desk to emphasise his point.

“Her dragons could be useful,” said Jon quietly, more to himself than anyone in particular.

He looked up and saw the four others looking at him with looks of disbelief and curiosity.

“One of the only ways to kill the wights is with fire, and what is a better way to get fire than from a dragon? Plus, I imagine that she has amassed a large army, and we will need every man we can get in the war to come.”

“What are you saying, Jon?” Sansa enquired shakily, as she took a step towards him. “You would agree to her terms? Give up the title that the Northern lords have given you?”

“No”, replied Jon forcefully, shaking his head. “I will suggest an alliance. She aids us in the war against the Night King and we aid her to get her the Iron Throne.”

There was silence at his words, as they all valued the merits of his plan. Jon flicked his eyes between them and examined their expressions, to see who thought his plan had worth and who thought he was losing his mind. Before long Davos started nodding his head slightly.

“It could work,” he said, toying with the small pouch around his neck that Jon knew contained the bones from his removed fingers. “But will the Northern lords accept it if it means that they will send their men off to war?”

“I doubt it,” said Sansa uncertainly. “They have only just rid themselves of the Boltons and many of them are still recovering from their losses in the War of Five Kings. I can’t imagine that many of them would welcome a new war so soon.”

“We have no choice,” replied Jon resolutely, scrubbing his face with his hands. “If we do nothing then Daenerys will come North if she takes the Throne. Even if she fails, Cersei will do the same, as she hates our family.

“And besides, regardless of whoever is on the Throne, the real war will come from the North and that one we cannot and will not avoid. We may need this Queen’s aid and her dragons too. I have to go.”

Jon looked at the faces of his advisors, who were returning his stare, shocked. Jon set his jaw and crossed his arms across his chest, signifying that he was done speaking and needed their agreement. Davos and Tormund nodded their assent, followed by Royce. Jon turned to Sansa, who, after a moments deliberation, nodded too.

“Very well,” said Jon, rubbing his hand together absent-mindedly. “Davos and Tormund, I would like you to join me in this. Davos, Lord Manderly left this morning. Find Wolkan and have him send a raven to White Harbour for when Manderly returns there. It is the largest port in the North and we will need to sail from there to make our way to Dragonstone. We leave in three days.”

Davos nodded but Tormund looked at Jon questioningly.

“Why me, Jon Snow?” he asked. “I am not skilled in talking and I know nothing of your Southerner customs.”

“Don’t you want to see a dragon, Tormund?” Jon laughed briefly, before growing serious once more. “I need people I trust with me in this. Davos will help me negotiate with the Targaryen. You will be there to aid me if we should need to draw steel.”

Tormund nodded at these words and followed Davos from the room. Jon then turned to Royce.

“I would like you to leave for the Vale on the morrow, Lord Royce. We need to put our plan into action.”

And with that, Royce followed them out the door, leaving Jon and Sansa alone. Jon sat down at the desk and put his head in his hands. Being king was a lot more stressful than he had anticipated.

“That is a good idea, Jon”, said Sansa kindly, as she took a seat opposite him. “Out of Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister, I know who I would rather side with.”

“That was my thought too,” said Jon, smiling as he raised his head to look at Sansa. “I hope everything will be good for you here while I am gone.”

“‘There must always be a Stark in Winterfell,’” quoted Sansa with a sad smile. “That is what Father always taught us.”

Jon nodded in understanding and silence fell between the siblings, as they both knew that the other was wrapped in memories of their father.

“What is your plan with Lord Royce?” Sansa asked suddenly.

“Littlefinger,” Jon replied.

Sansa raised an eyebrow at him curiously and Jon explained the agreement he had made with Lord Royce. Once he had finished talking, Sansa sat in silence for a moment, deep in thought.

“That is a good idea, Jon,” she said finally. “Getting Robin out from under Littlefinger’s influence will deprive Baelish of a valued ally in keeping himself out of trouble. I am impressed, but we must be careful.”

“I wouldn’t get carried away, Sansa,” said Jon quickly. “The agreement I made with Royce was more due to the fact that we both despise Littlefinger, rather than my skill as a negotiator. Why do you think Davos is coming with me to Dragonstone?”

“Even so,” laughed Sansa. “It is impressive. I was going to ask you about this actually. What do we do if he tries something while you are away?”

Jon reclined in his chair, looking up at the ceiling and thinking hard. He would have to careful with any measure he took against Littlefinger, as he could use any mistake against him. An idea struck him, so he pulled a piece of parchment towards him and began writing.

“If you suspect that Littlefinger is planning anything, anything, put him in a cell. We will deal with him when I return.”

“Jon, that is a terrible idea,” replied Sansa fearfully, leaning forward towards him. “You do that and he will twist it and use it against you.”

“Sansa, I trust your judgement. I don’t know anyone else who knows the way he thinks more than you. If you have to imprison him, then you can use this as your justification.”

Jon looked down at the parchment in front and hoped that it would be enough to get past Littlefinger.

I, Jon Snow, the King in the North, hereby declare that any action taken by Sansa Stark, the Lady of Winterfell, against Lord Petyr Baelish was with my full authority and knowledge.

Jon signed the parchment and pushed it across the desk to Sansa, who picked it up and read it. When she finished, she looked back up at him with a strange look on her face.

“Jon,” she whispered gently. “You know this means that, if I make a mistake, he will make you the first person that he will turn his attention to.”

“I know,” replied Jon, nodding. “But I trust you Sansa, and I trust your judgement, so keep an eye on him and act as you see fit, as the Lady of Winterfell.”

Sansa looked at him for a moment before nodding briefly, with relief and gratitude in Jon’s trust showing on her face. She stood up and prepared to leave.

“Sansa,” Jon called, just before she closed the door. She put her head around the door to look back at him. “Speak to Lord Royce before he leaves. If you have any advice for him on how to handle Lord Robin Arryn, I would appreciate it if you would share it with him.”

She looked at him for a second, before smiling broadly and departing. Jon sighed deeply and settled back behind his desk. He looked around the room, not really taking anything in, as he lost himself in his thoughts.

Daenerys would either prove to be a valuable ally against both Cersei and the Night King or she would be the thing caused his death, with no Melisandre around to bring him back this time. Jon shook his head, knowing that he had no real choice.

He would have to ally with Daenerys Targaryen or he, and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, would be unlikely to survive the winter.

*

Three days later, Jon was in the courtyard of Winterfell, making the final preparations for his journey to Dragonstone. He saddled his horse himself, disregarding people’s protests, and checked his provisions for himself and Ghost.

He had decided to take the direwolf with him to Dragonstone. Besides the usual reason for Ghost being with him, that of their deep bond, Jon wanted to make sure that Daenerys saw him. If she was going to show him her dragons, something that represented the sigil of her house, then Jon would return in kind.

Jon cast his eyes around the courtyard and saw the Stark men, who would be joining them, preparing themselves. There had been multiple reports of former Bolton men that had fled into the surrounding countryside and had begun preying on travellers as bandits, so Sansa, Davos and at least seven other lords, had insisted on Jon taking an escort with him on his way to White Harbour, which, while unwilling at first, he had accepted.

Jon walked over to Tormund, who was in the process of saddling his horse, and recalled with a smile the events that had led to the Wilding wearing a new set of armour. The day after Daenery’s ultimatum, Jon had approached him to discuss the weapons and armour of the Free Folk. They were still using weapons that they had either crudely forged themselves or had taken from dead rangers of the Night’s Watch, and their amour was limited to various furs.

Initially, Tormund had been unwilling. He had said that he didn’t want to be fighting while wearing one of ‘those suits your Southern knights like to cower inside’. Jon had spent a long time trying to convince him that the enemies that he would be fighting would be wielding better weapons than the wildling tribes he was used to fighting, so his furs would be next to useless.

Eventually, he had succumbed to Jon’s reasoning, and the Winterfell blacksmith had made him a set of boiled leather armour, complete with bracers and greaves. It was better suited to Tormund’s style of fighting, allowing him to be agile enough to dodge most of his opponent’s attacks. He had taken it upon himself to tailor it further to make it more in keeping with the culture of his people. It now was fur lined and had various animal bones set into the pouches and belts.

Following his lead, the members of the Free Folk who still remained at Winterfell before heading north, had also been improving their armament. However, their sets were more mismatched, with various pieces coming from different sets of armours. Jon had assumed that they had salvaged it from the Bolton dead, which was confirmed when he had walked past a Wildling and seen his chest piece, with the Bolton flayed man sigil crudely scoured off.

Jon stopped next to Tormund and turned to face him.

“Ready to meet the Dragon Queen, Jon Snow?” Tormund asked, chuckling to himself.

“I think so,” said Jon, smirking. “Are you ready to meet her dragons?”

“I’ve seen the White Walkers. I think I can handle a few dragons.”

Jon and Tormund led their horses to the gatehouse, where Davos was already waiting with their half dozen guardsmen, and stopped alongside them.

Jon turned to look up at the keep. He had spent most of his life within its walls. When he had gone to the Night’s Watch he had feared that he would never see it again and the betrayal of the Boltons and their occupation of it had seemed to make it certain. Now he had seized it back from their hands, he was leaving it again and, once again, he couldn’t suppress the feeling that his destination could mean the end of him. For good this time.

The doors to the keep opened suddenly and Sansa walked out, surrounded by several of the lords who still remained at Winterfell. The group made their way towards Jon and his travelling party and stopped in front of him.

“Good luck, Jon,” said Sansa, as he hugged him tightly. “Be safe. I hope you can get what we need from the Dragon Queen.”

“As do I, sister,” said Jon, as he released her and took a step back. “I hope that all is well with you here and that you don’t have too much trouble to deal with in my absence.”

As he said this, Jon looked over to see Littlefinger standing against the far wall of the courtyard and saw him narrow his eyes at Jon’s gaze. Jon didn’t drop his glare, trying to convey his distaste for the man, and a silent warning that if he tried anything, Jon would be all too pleased to part his head with his neck.

Finally, Jon averted his gaze and looked back to his sister and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“Goodbye, Sansa. I hope to see you soon.”

Jon turned and mounted his horse. He led the procession out of the main gate on the trek south to White Harbour. Before Winterfell was out of sight, Jon swivelled in his saddle to gaze at it once more and made a solemn vow to himself, and the Old Gods, that the next time he saw it, it would be with Daenerys Targaryen and her army standing beside him.

Chapter Text

 

Daenerys

 

Dany stood on the deck of her ship with her eyes closed, feeling the salty spray whip across her face and hearing the call of the gulls high above her. She felt a rising excitement building inside her, the closer they got to their destination.

She was going home.

Dany had dreamt of this moment her whole life: arriving back in Westeros after so long away to reclaim her family’s rightful throne. It may not be in the manner she had dreamt of in her childhood; standing at the head of a union of Unsullied, Dothraki and rebel Westerosi houses, but she was finally doing what Viserys had boasted of for as long as she could remember. Dany couldn’t suppress a smile as she imagined the look on Viserys’ face if he could see her now.

Dany opened her eyes and saw land on the horizon. They had been at sea for several weeks now, with no landmarks to discern where they were, although Yara had constantly maintained that they were going in the right direction. After so many days of seeing nothing, it had been a relief, the previous day, when the mist had parted and the Seven Kingdoms became visible on the horizon.

Tyrion and Varys had been on deck with her and had shared Dany’s relief and joy at the sight. The dwarf had even raised his cup in a toast, which had caused Varys to roll his eyes disdainfully and Dany to shake her head, despite having a broad smile on her face.

They had decided to land at Dragonstone so they could rest and resupply before they started the conquest properly. It would also, as Tyrion had advised, give her a chance to give the lords of Westeros an ultimatum: bend the knee to the rightful queen or there would be no mercy given.

When Tyron had said this, a common worry of hers had resurfaced in her mind, one that she always tried to bury whenever it arose. What would the people of the Seven Kingdoms think of her? Would they see her as the rightful ruler returning from overseas to free them from their corrupt and uncaring rulers? Or would they see the last child of the Mad King coming to repress them, with her dragons and large army?

Dany had always assumed while growing up, listening to Viserys’ tall tales about their family, that the people would accept her arrival with open arms. However, as she had heard more and more about the harm that her father had done, killing innocent people by burning them alive, among other atrocities, she had begun to wonder, what if they saw her as a painful reminder of that terrible time?

Dany had resolved to try to rule with a firm but fair hand and to listen to her advisors as closely as possible. Her knowledge of Westeros had improved with hours spent with Tyrion and Varys, but she knew that she was still lacking in that regard. They had taught her the names of the houses and who they had quarrelled with, who their liege lords were, what other house they were joined to by marriage. Mormont, Dayne, Crakehall, Tarth. It made her head spin just thinking about it, but she was grateful for the lessons.

Dany turned to look down at the people on the deck below her. She shared her ship with Tyrion, Varys, Yara and Theon Greyjoy, Missandei, Grey Worm and a Dothraki commander named Barbarro. He was a former bloodrider to khal Forzho and had proven himself to be highly loyal to Daenerys since her takeover at Vaes Dothrak. He was a tall man with a long beard and a braid that reached mid-way down his back. Despite being on the ship for the best part of a month, he still always carried his arakh with him at all times, ready for a fight.

He also, interestingly, had a rudimentary knowledge of the Common Tongue, so Dany had made him the commander of her Dothraki forces, in a position similar to Grey Worm for the Unsullied, and commanded him to receive lessons from Missandei to improve his grasp of the language. She hoped that this would mean he could communicate better on the field of battle with her other commanders.

Barbarro had struggled initially with being on the ship. He, like the other Dothraki, had never crossed the ‘poison water’ before and had been violently sick for the first few days. He had been better since and had managed to grasp the Common Tongue enough to be able to take part in conversations, even if the sentences were a little simplistic.

Dany heard footsteps from behind her and turned her head slightly to see Tyrion swaying towards her. She suspected that his unsteadiness on his feet was an equal combination of the rocking of the ship and his constant consumption of the wine stores on board. He stopped next to her and braced himself against the railing.

“Yara says that we will arrive at Dragonstone before nightfall, my Queen,” he said, looking up at her with his emerald eyes shining.

“Thank you, Tyrion,” replied Dany distractedly, as she looked over the deck with unfocused eyes. She paused for a second before deciding to confide in her Hand. “It feels strange being so close. So close to everything I have ever wanted and yet…”

“And yet, what?”

“I don’t know what to expect when I arrive. Will they see me as the daughter of the Mad King who caused so much pain and misery or as someone who will help save them?”

Tyrion looked at her with pity in his eyes. She could tell that he was aware how much that this was weighing on her. She hadn’t known him for very long and yet he seemed to always know exactly what she was thinking and providing the exact words she needed to hear, even when he was as drunk as he was presently.

“No ruler has ever had the support of all the people. It is wise to learn that early so as to not overly raise your expectations. Not everyone will throw themselves at your feet upon your arrival. Too many of them have profited under the rule of my beloved family.”

Dany turned to him, surprised at the contempt in his voice. He had spoken little about his family, but she knew that he had murdered his father during his escape from King’s Landing, where he had been imprisoned suspected of murdering the king, his nephew.

As complicated a family as my own, thought Dany morosely.

Tyrion seemed lost in his thoughts, with a look of anger and distaste etched across his scarred face. After a moment, he seemed to shake himself and turned to her.

“If you rule as justly as you can, while still remaining stern on those who overstep their bounds, then you will gain many supporters. You will be fine, Daenerys.”

As he said this, he reached across and gave the back of her hand an encouraging squeeze. Dany looked down at him and smiled, her resolve bolstered by the warm words of her advisor. They both turned at the sound of a horn and saw Theon hobbling his way towards them.

Whenever she saw him, Dany was filled with a profound sense of pity. He had obviously endured something horrific, from the way that he would stand quivering in the corner of a room whenever people would talk, with his eyes darting around, as if he was expecting everyone to lash out and attack him.

Along with the pity, however, there was a sense of anger at the crimes he had committed. He had admitted to killing children and then burning their bodies to mislead people about the death of the two youngest Stark children. While she had no real predisposition towards the Starks themselves, it infuriated Dany that he was willing to allow children to die to save his own reputation.

Theon reached them both and bowed clumsily.

“We are approaching Dragonstone, Your Grace,” he muttered, still addressing his feet. “We have the wind and will dock within the hour.”

“Thank you, Greyjoy,” said Dany imperiously. “You are dismissed.”

As Theon scampered away, she turned to Tyrion.

“Could you please gather Missandei, Grey Worm, Barbarro and Varys and meet me in the war room?”

Tyrion bowed and made his way along the ship, swaying this way and that, which caused Dany to smile.

He may be a drunk, thought Dany fondly. But I would be lost without him.

Dany made her way below deck to the war room. It was a large cabin that they had repurposed with a large table in the centre that was covered in a map of Westeros and the walls were plastered in Targaryen banners.

When she arrived, Varys was already there, hunched over the table. When she entered, he stood up and bowed.

“Your Grace.”

“Lord Varys,” said Dany, as she circled the table to take her place at its head. “I assume that Lord Tyrion didn’t have to find you. I rarely see you out of this room.”

“You are right, Your Grace,” Varys replied, with a smile appearing on his face. “I have been preparing for our arrival. I expect that I will have many message from my little birds when we arrive on Dragonstone.”

The door then opened and Tyrion entered, followed by Missandei, Grey Worm, Barbarro and Yara. Dany was confused for a moment.

“I didn’t send for you, Yara,” said Dany inquisitively.

“I know”, Yara replied confidently, as she sat herself in a chair and rested her feet on the edge of the map table. “I needed to talk to you about our sea defences for when we arrive.”

“Very well,” said Dany, as she sighed and shook her head.

Dany had come to respect Yara greatly, with her experience in commanding her men evident, but her laid back attitude and dismissiveness frustrated Dany regularly.

“I make her go, khaleesi”, grunted Barbarro, as he unsheathed his arakh and moved threateningly towards Yara, who didn’t even blink.

“I’d like to see you try, horselord,” she scoffed, as she got to her feet and stared him down.

“Enough!” Dany commanded. The two continued to glare at each other for a moment before returning to their places. Dany looked between the two of them angrily before taking a breath.

“We are so close to our destination, we cannot afford to fight among ourselves. We need to discuss what we are to do when we land on Dragonstone.”

“I agree, my Queen,” said Tyrion, as he refilled his already empty wine goblet. “We have already discussed the ravens you should send to the other lords but there are many other matters to deal with.”

Varys took a step forward and addressed them all.

“Until recently, Dragonstone was the seat of Stannis’ branch of House Baratheon. Many people there might not be so welcoming to us.”

“We make them.” Barbarro said forcefully, with his hand once again on the handle of his arakh.

Dany had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes. He was an excellent solder and commander but Barbarro’s skills in diplomacy were limited. She had a feeling that this would be his suggestion for every problem that they would encounter.

“We cannot kill an island full of innocent people, just because they don’t want Queen Daenerys there,” exclaimed Missandei, scandalised.

Dany looked at her friend, and shared in her distaste for the suggestion. She knew that the noble houses of Westeros might not want her there but the smallfolk had little interest in the politics of the high lords as long as it doesn’t affect them too much. She remembered Ser Jorah telling her that long ago and felt a pang of loss at his absence. She looked around the table and her eyes fell to a space between Grey Worm and Tyrion.

He should be there, Dany thought sadly. I hope he finds the cure soon.

She had been angry at Jorah for a long time. He had betrayed her to the Usurper and had passed information about her to Varys while feigning his allegiance to her. But he had proven that his loyalty to her had become true by repeatedly trying to return to her, even on pain of death and, in the process, had even contracted greyscale.

Dany remembered the feeling of sorrow and guilt that she had felt when she had seen his scaly-looking arm for the first time. He had been so determined to bring her Tyrion that he had risked sailing through the ruins of Valyria, even while knowing about the stone men. In that moment, along with his declaration of love for her, Dany had forgiven him. She had finally realised the depths of his devotion to her and she had been grateful beyond words. Dany wanted him to be cured and find his way back to her. She wanted her first act as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms to be to pardon her long-time advisor and to finally welcome him home.

Dany was vaguely aware that everyone had turned to her. Evidently somebody had asked for her approval.

“I’m sorry,” said Dany apologetically. “Could you repeat that?”

“Of course, Your Grace,” said Varys. “Upon landing, we will put the Unsullied and Dothraki into separate camps, to eliminate any possible unrest between the two.”

“Unsullied will not fight,” said Grey Worm testily. “We fight when Queen Daenerys tells us to.”

“All the same,” Varys replied quickly, with an appeasing gesture towards Grey Worm. “It would be best to try to avoid it.”

“When we land, we should set up patrols around the island,” interjected Yara, as she drained her goblet and poured another. “We will need to keep an eye open for an attack from my dear uncle.”

“They all are sound ideas,” said Dany, as she stood up, drawing every eye to her. “Grey Worm, Yara and Barbarro I want to you to tell your men that no inhabitant of Dragonstone is to be harmed under any circumstances, unless I specifically order you to do so.

“I know that the Unsullied are unlikely to, Grey Worm,” said Dany, inclining her head to him. “But it still needs to be said.”

As Grey Worm nodded his assent, there was a knock at the door and Theon entered, his eyes firmly placed on the floor in front of him.

“We are approaching Dragonstone now, Your Grace,” he stammered nervously.

As Dany made her way to door excitedly, eager to catch a glimpse of her birthplace, she couldn’t help but notice the way that Theon jumped out of her way, quivering, like he was expecting her to strike him. Dany faltered a little, confused, before continuing on her way. She had grown used to his actions by now, even if she had given him no reason to suspect that she would harm him.

Dany made her way to the top deck, stared out at Dragonstone and felt her breath catch in her throat.

A towering castle loomed over the island, made of pure black stone. She craned her neck to look at its towers and saw that they were covered in statues of dragons, in place of gargoyles. Dany felt something swell something within her chest at the sight of something that had been built by, and had belonged to, her family. After living her whole childhood moving from place to place, at the mercy of people’s generosity, it made Dany joyous that she might finally have a place that could be hers.

Soon after, the fleet docked a little offshore and they made their way towards the island, where a large number of its occupants had gathered, curious to see who had arrived.

Dany took her first step on land for several weeks and stumbled slightly. She felt Yara support her and stopped her falling.

“It takes a while to get used to,” she said, chuckling slightly.

Dany straightened up and looked around at the assembled people. They were of all ages, from several young children hiding behind their mother’s skirts to old men huddled over their canes. They all seemed to be smallfolk, with Dany recognising that several were dressed as fisherman and one with a large, bloodied butcher’s apron.

“Greeting to you all,” said Dany loudly. She saw many people stand up a little higher, with worried looks on their face. Undeterred, Dany continued. “My name is Daenerys Targaryen and I have returned home to reclaim my family’s throne from the Usurper.”

An excited ripple went through the crowd at her words and many people’s expressions turned from worry to excitement and wonder. Dany felt a smile spread across her face. These people seemed genuinely pleased to see her.

From the crowd an old man stepped forward. He shuffled slowly, grasping his cane firmly. When he reached her, he came to a stop and bowed his head to her.

“I apologise, my lady,” he said croakily. “My old knees don’t allow me to bend down much anymore. My name is Mikken. May ask you a question, my lady?”

Dany nodded at him encouragingly, smiling widely.

“Would you happen to related to Rhaegar?”

“Yes, he was my brother,” said Dany excitedly. “Did you know him?”

“Yes indeed, my lady” he replied, nodding furiously. “I was his cook when he lived here with his wife, Elia. He was a great man. He always talked to me as an equal, not a servant. He always remembered what I had told him about my family, including the name days of my children. Rhaegar even offered to take my eldest son, Robert, as a squire when he reached the appropriate age.”

“I would love to meet him,” said Dany brightly. She was overjoyed at meeting someone who had known Rhaegar. Viserys had told her stories about their brother but, having spoken to Ser Barristan, she knew that very few had any truth to them.

To her horror, Mikken’s smile vanished from his face, to be replaced by a look of deepest sorrow.

“H-he died, my lady,” said the old man, shakily. “He caught the pox a year after Rhaegar’s defeat at the Trident.”

Dany’s heart went out to the man. She could see that it still pained him as clearly today as it had the day it happened. She made her way towards him and took one of his hands in hers.

“I’m truly sorry, friend,” said Dany solemnly, as she looked him in his tear-filled eyes. “I too lost my son. I never even got to know him, he had already died when he was born. There is no worst feeling.”

This wasn’t the full story of Rhaego’s death but Dany thought it would be less complicated than explaining the full account of Mirri Maz Duur’s betrayal and trickery, which no one would likely have believed.

Dany felt him give her hands a squeeze and a small smile crossed his face, as if he had finally met someone who understood his grief.

Suddenly there was a loud screech from above them, followed by two more. Dany looked up to see her three children circling lower and lower, looking for a place to land. Screams came from the assembled onlookers as they pointed and cowered from the sight of three large dragons swooping down on them. Dany remembered immediately that while she, and all those who travelled with her, had grown accustomed to this sight, the people of the Seven Kingdoms still thought of dragons as stories.

Dany took a step towards the onlookers and raised her hands.

“Don’t panic, friends,” she said loudly, raising her voice over the screams of both dragons and people alike. “These are my dragons. They will not harm you.”

At her words, the people collectively turned to look at her, with fear and wonderment on every face in equal measure. Dany felt the ground shake slightly three times in quick succession at they all landed behind her.

Dany walked toward Drogon and patted his black scaled nose.

“This is Drogon,” explained Dany to the crowd. “He is named for my late husband. And these,” she continued as she moved to stand between the two smaller dragons and patted their green and cream coloured hides, “are named Rhaegal and Viserion, after my two brothers. I know they look fearsome, and that dragons are told to you as creatures long dead, but they will not harm you. I will command it.”

Dany moved again, to stand facing her three children. They all fixed her with their eyes, coloured red, bronze and golden, and waited for her to speak. She had no idea if this would work. Tyrion had told her that dragons were regarded as smarter than men by many learned maesters but, in her experience, they often did as they pleased. She decided that she must try.

Drogon. Rhaegal. Viserion.” Dany began, as she switched effortlessly into Valyrian. “These people are our friends, my subjects. You will not harm them. Do you understand? If you hunger, you will hunt over the sea for your food. These people, and their animals, are to remained untouched.”

Dany stood for a moment, expecting a reaction. While she had been speaking, Viserion and Rhaegal had both cocked their heads to one side, and Dany was reminded of a dog listening to his master. For a moment, there was no reaction from any of them and Dany was wondering if they had even understood her or if they were merely ignoring her words.

Finally, Rhaegal gave a small roar and took flight once more, followed quickly by Viserion. Dany watched them as they rose higher and directed themselves over the sea. Dany heart soared.

They did understand me, she thought triumphantly.

She turned to Drogon, who fixed her with his fiery gaze, and Dany’s relief and happiness ebbed away. He had always been the unruliest of her three children and Dany wondered if that would continue now. For a few long moments, he stared at her, before he let out a small growl and lowered his head towards his mother.

Dany’s relief returned as she reached out and stroked his warm scales. His eyes closed contentedly at her touch and he stayed in place for a few moments before raising his head once more. He spread his large, black wings, which were now a similar length to Yara’s command ship, from hull to bow, and took off after his brothers. After a moment, all Dany could see were their small outlines in the distance, diving and swirling around each other.

With a smile on her face, she turned back to the surrounding crowd, who had gotten over their initial fear and apprehension and were watching the far-off dragons with looks of awe. Dany’s smile grew as she addressed them.

“I have instructed the three of them to leave you all untouched,” said Dany calmly. All eyes returned to her and she returned their collective gaze with her own. “If they do harm any of your livestock or damage your property, then please inform me of it and I will make sure you are appropriately compensated.”

As a round of murmured approval spread through the crowd, a young man in brown robes walked towards her. As he grew closer, Dany saw that he had a long chain around his neck, made of links of different metals.

This must be a maester, thought Dany.

He stood in front of her and bend down on one knee, bowing his head in deference.

“Your Grace, it is an honour to meet you,” said the man, as he raised his head again to meet her eye. “My name is Pylos and I am the maester of Dragonstone. I offer you my assistance and counsel, to be used at your discretion.”

Dany looked at the man suspiciously.

“How long have you been the maester here, Pylos?”

“I have been on Dragonstone for several years, Your Grace. I took over the position of maester after the death of my predecessor, Cressen.”

“Several years, you say?” Tyrion interjected from Dany’s right. “So, you served under Stannis Baratheon?”

“Yes, my lord.” Pylos replied, nodding. “However, Lord Stannis made his way north a while ago, and I have since learned that he has been slain.”

Dany remembered that, shortly after Varys had joined them with the navies of both the Martells and the Tyrells, he had pulled her into the war room to inform her of the death of Stannis Baratheon at the hands of the new Wardens of the North, House Bolton.        

“You served Stannis?” Dany inquired, her suspicions heightening. “Why would you pledge yourself to me?”

As if sensing her reservations, Varys leaned in and spoke in a carrying whisper to her.

“Maesters are assigned to keeps by the Citadel, Your Grace, and serve the current inhabitants. They serve the people of Westeros and, like the Night’s Watch, are politically neutral.”

Pylos nodded appreciatively at Varys’ words.

“Your advisor is very knowledgeable, Your Grace. And it is all quite true. I served Stannis as he was the occupant of this castle. Now it is yours and so is my knowledge and advice, if you would have it, of course.”

Dany exhaled deeply, her tension and suspicion lessening. After what had happened in Meereen with the Sons of the Harpy, she was fearful of a similar occurrence here and was grateful that Varys was here to inform her otherwise.

“Very well, Pylos,” said Dany, her smile returning. “Would you please show me the island? I would like to see more of my birthplace.”

“At once, Your Grace,” the young maester replied, bowing deeply.

Dany turned to Yara, Grey Worm and Barbarro.

“Get your men settled in, Grey Worm and Barbarro, and your patrols set up, Yara. I will meet you in the castle after I have finished with maester Pylos. Tyrion, Varys and Missandei, I would like you all to join me.”

As they all went off to fulfil her orders, Dany turned back to Mikken, who was looking at her with a puzzled look on his face.

“Daenerys,” he said, clearly deep in thought. “Daenerys. Daen-”

At this he started, straightening up slightly and his expression changed to one of triumph and understanding.

“I knew I remembered that name from somewhere, but my memory isn’t what it was. You were born here, weren’t you, my Queen? And smuggled away before the Baratheon forces could reach you?”

“Yes,” said Dany, slightly baffled at his enthusiasm.

“I knew it,” he said joyously. “Then allow me to be among the first to say this to you. Welcome home, my Queen.”

As Dany walked past him, to follow Pylos, she reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. She smiled at him and nodded appreciatively.

“Please come and see me when we are all settled in, Mikken,” she said warmly. “I would love to hear some more of your stories about my brother.”

The man bowed his head once more and Dany moved on, falling into step alongside Pylos. The crowd of people parted to allow them through. As she passed she saw many of them bow their heads and murmur ‘Your Grace’ in her direction.

Pylos walked her through the midst of the small fishing village they had landed near and Dany saw many more people poking their heads out of their doors or windows to get a better look at her as she passed. Dany tried to be as warm as possible with those who approached her, so as not to give them a poor first impression of her and, to her relief, it seemed to work.

 “Would you like to see the dragonglass, my Queen?” Pylos asked warmly, as he turned to her.

“Dragonglass? What is that?”

“It is also known as obsidian. There are vast caverns beneath Dragonstone, caused by the now inactive volcano in the midst of the island, and there is a large amount of it down there. Would you like to see?”

Dany nodded her approval and followed as Pylos led them down a winding path to a large opening below the keep. As she entered, she heard Tyrion let out a low whistle. She was too mesmerised to make a sound.

Dany saw veins of green weaving its way through the stark rock walls, causing the light from the opening to dance across the ceiling, in a variety of colours. She reached out and ran her fingertips over the glass. It was cold and smooth to the touch. Dany cast her eyes around the tunnel and saw similar veins running through both the walls and the ceiling. She could see that the thickness could vary from the width of a man’s bicep to hardly wider than a fingernail.

“This is incredible,” said Missandei, her voice hushed in wonder. Dany turned and saw that her eyes were wide, trying to take in as much as she could of the sight.

Pylos chuckled softly.

“If you are impressed by this, just think that this is but one tunnel. There are numerous others, among dozens of caverns full of obsidian. Would you like to see one?”

Dany nodded and Pylos ducked back out of the entrance for a moment. He returned with a lit torch, which threw its flickering light around the space, causing the glass to reflect it all around them. He led them down the tunnel, with them all falling into step single file behind him.

Even in the short walk to the cavern, the smoke from the torch, in the enclosed space, was causing Dany’s eyes to water. She was relieved when the tunnel opened out into a large space. She guessed it was about fifteen foot across at its widest point and she could see several other entrances spaced around the outside.

Like the tunnel, the walls and ceiling were lined with various different veins of obsidian that cross-crossed and intersected with each other every few feet. However, the main difference in here were the large formations that rose and fell from the floor and ceiling. The stalagmites and stalactites were made of pure obsidian.

“This is amazing,” said Dany, as she placed her hand on one of the large mounds of dragonglass. “What is it used for?”

“It is mainly used for jewellery and decoration, Your Grace,” replied Pylos, as he moved the torch in a large arc so as to illuminate as much of the cavern as possible. “It is quite brittle so the miners have to be very careful while excavating it. I have always thought that there must be some other use for it but I cannot fathom exactly what.”

With that, the group headed back for the surface and made their way towards the keep. As they walked towards it, Dany looked up and was filled with a sense of both appreciation and foreboding.

As Pylos led them thought the various halls and rooms of the keep, Dany realised that, even if she hadn’t known that her ancestors had built this castle, she could have guessed it from the sheer number of dragon-related items in the castle. Many of the rooms, especially the Great Hall, were built in the shape of dragons. There were also many tapestries and carvings that depicted dragons that adorned many of the walls.

They soon came to a large set of doors, which reminded Dany of the various different cathedrals that she had seen during her travels.

“Is this where you worship?” Dany asked, as she made to enter. She was surprised when the door was locked tight.

“It was,” replied Pylos, with a sad look. “Lord Stannis ordered the idols of the Seven to be burnt when he took up the religion of R’hollor on the suggestion of his red priestess, Melisandre.”

Dany noticed a concerned look pass between Tyrion and Varys, but she was far more curious in Pylos’ explanation of what had happened to inquire further.

“I imagine that the people of Dragonstone didn’t like being told that they must give up the religion that they had followed their whole life.”

“Many did not, Your Grace,” Pylos admitted solemnly. “However, Stannis considered it disobedience when many people didn’t follow his command to disregard the Seven and begin to worship the Lord of Light. Any who didn’t convert were burnt alive.”

 “He burnt them?” Dany asked, aghast.

“As sacrifices to R’hollor, as punishment for their sins.”

Dany couldn’t miss the note of distaste in Pylos’ voice. He may be sworn to serve the inhabitant of Dragonstone but he was still a man, with his own morals and opinions, and Dany could tell that Stannis’ actions disgusted him.

Dany was more than a little unsettled by this information, as it made her consider some of the harsh actions she had taken against those who had crossed her. She recalled when she had crucified a hundred and sixty-three of the Masters of Meereen in retaliation for their similar actions against slaves to intimidate her. Dany also remembered when, in her grief-fuelled rage after the death of Ser Barristan Selmy, she had fed two of the leaders of Meereen’s Great Houses to Rhaegal and Viserion. She had later regretted these actions but she couldn’t ignore the acts themselves, or the motivations behind them.

Dany saw the look of distaste on Pylos’ face and wondered if the men who had served her father had worn a similar look at the thought of him killing and torturing his subjects. Dany was determined to not have to see the same look on any of her subjects when they looked at her.

I will not become my father, thought Dany resolutely.

Despite this reminder of the somewhat distasteful history of this keep, Dany rather enjoyed being shown around. Every inch of every corridor and room had something of interest, from ornate decorations to expansive carved murals depicting various important events of Westerosi history. The largest of which, Dany was pleased to see, depicted Aegon the Conqueror’s successful invasion of the Seven Kingdoms. Dany could see in various places that it had been defaced, with many examples of the Targaryen sigil being crudely slashed at, as if by a drunk man swinging wildly.

The Usurper’s doing, no doubt, thought Dany furiously. He was equally known for being a drunk as his hatred for my family.

The most impressive room by far was the Chamber of the Painted Table, high at the top of the Stone Drum, as Pylos had called it. It was an enormous room but that was not what drew Dany’s attention. In the middle of the room was a large table, that stretched the near length of the room and was covered in a large, detailed map of Westeros. It was still littered with various notes and statues showing various troop positions that she supposed that Stannis had left behind when he had left.

Her eyes were drawn to the large throne next to the table that was, she quickly realised, in the exact place that Dragonstone lied in relation to the rest of Westeros. She sat herself upon it and looked down upon the table, wondering how many of her ancestors had sat where she was at this moment.

As if reading her thoughts, Pylos approached her.

“Your ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror, used the Painted Table when he planned his invasion of Westeros, Your Grace.”

Dany had heard many stories about Aegon. How he had conquered six of the Seven Kingdoms with his army and dragons. Dany couldn’t determine whether or not it was fate that saw her here, in the same spot, three hundred years later, with similar means at her disposal to try to accomplish a similar feat.

The door opened and Grey Worm, Barbarro and Yara entered. All three regarded the room with a look of amazement on their faces as they moved into position around the table. Grey Worm moved to stand next to Missandei, Barbarro stood in the centre with a look of bemusement as he tried to make sense of the inscriptions on the table and Yara move straight to the part that represented that Iron Islands, with a wistful look on her face.

“So, my Queen,” said Pylos. “What do you think of Dragonstone?”

“It is impressive,” said Dany appreciatively. “Very impressive.”

“I agree,” said Tyrion as he seated himself at the table. “I had heard many tales about the keep of Dragonstone while growing up. I must say that it lives up to such stories.”

There was silence for a moment as everyone looked down at the table between them, as if they were all contemplating the massive undertaking that they had yet to start. Dany was eager to begin.

“So,” she said, as she sat herself higher in the throne. “How shall we begin?”

“Your Grace, if I may make a suggestion?” Varys asked, hesitantly.

“Go on, Lord Varys.”

“I would suggest that we begin any strategy meetings on the morrow. I am still expecting several messages from my little birds and I would prefer to give you my full knowledge rather than speculation.”

Dany considered his words for a moment before nodding.

“Wise words, Lord Varys,” she said, as she rose from the throne. “I think we would all benefit from a night’s rest. It would also give Lord Tyrion a chance to sleep off the wine he has drunk.”

“Who, me, Your Grace?” Tyrion said, with a mischievous smile on his face. “I have no idea what you mean.”

Dany smiled and turned to the others.

“Are all the preparations made?”

“Unsullied are in their camp, Queen Daenerys,” said Grey Worm.

“Dothraki too, khaleesi,” grunted Barbarro.

Dany turned to Yara, who was still obsessing over the Iron Islands on the Painted Table. It was a moment before she registered the silence and looked up, meeting Dany’s eye. There was a sadness and desperation in her eyes for a moment before she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them, any emotion was gone, replaced by the efficient commander that Dany had seen earlier that day.

“We have set up patrols around Dragonstone, my Queen,” said Yara, as she moved closer to the large door that led to the balcony. “If my uncle shows up, we will know.”

“Very well,” said Dany, as she headed for the door. “I think we should eat and then rest for the evening.”

Two hours later, Dany was standing in the lord’s chamber. It was a spacious, high ceilinged room, with a large balcony that overlooked the island. There was further dragon decoration in here, with the headboard of the large bed carved into the shape of a dragon with its wings spread. Evidently, there were a few servants still in the keep, as there was fresh linen on the bed and a banner bearing the sigil of House Targaryen had taken pride of place on the wall above the roaring fireplace, again in the shape of a dragon’s mouth. Dany had lost count at the amount of dragon themed decoration that she had seen throughout the castle.

Dany smirked a little at it as she crossed the room and stepped onto the balcony and overlooked her army. There were tiny little pinpricks of light of their camp fires all throughout the two camps, which were at either end of the island, which shone out extra bright in the darkness. Sounds of raucous celebration reached her ears from the Dothraki camp, despite it being the furthest from the keep and her being at the highest point of it.

Dany fixed her eyes towards the sea, looking for any sign of her children, even while knowing that she would have little luck in such poor light. She wasn’t worried, they had all been gone longer than this before, but she was always comforted by the sight of them.

It seems that they have listened to me so far, Dany thought. I hope they will continue to do so.

Dany leaned her forearms on the railing and shivered as the chill night air whistled around her. She had noticed the difference in climate very quickly upon arrival. She had spent her whole life in Essos where it was never very cold, even in winter, so she had acclimatised to warm weather. She knew she would have to do the same here too, as Tyrion had warned her that winter was only just beginning and the maesters at the Citadel had warned that this would be a long winter, maybe one of the longest in living memory.

She remained on the balcony for a while, staring out over the sea towards the rest of Westeros, lost in thoughts about what the future would hold, before the chill got the best of her and she retreated back into the warmth of her chambers.

*

The following morning, after she had bathed, dressed and eaten, Dany made her way to the Chamber of the Painted Table, with Missandei and Tyrion. As she entered and made her way to the throne, she saw that it was prepared for their meeting. She saw various statues that she knew represented the various houses of Westeros. She saw the Stark wolf, the Lannister lion, the Tully fish and the Arryn falcon. There were various others, however, that she couldn’t yet place from memory.

She seated herself and waited for the others to arrive. Before long they too made their way in, with Yara being the last to arrive.

Pylos took a seat next to her throne. She was willing to give him a chance to offer his advice.

“So,” said Tyrion, as he moved his chair closer to the table. “Are we all ready to begin?”

“Do you have all the information that you need, Lord Varys?” Dany asked, turning to see the large stack of letters in front of him.

“I do, my Queen,” he replied, as he picked up the top piece of parchment. “My little birds have been sending me their messages all night.”

“Very well. What news is there from Westeros?”

“There are two major developments, Your Grace. From King’s Landing and from the North. Which would you rather hear first?

“News from the capital, I think,” replied Dany.

“Yes,” muttered Tyrion darkly, as he stared into the depths of his wine goblet. “Let’s hear what has happened to my family.”

At his words, Dany could see that Varys gave Tyrion an odd furtive look.

“Cersei Lannister rules in King’s Landing,” Varys began slowly, deliberately avoiding Tyrion’s shocked look. “After the death of Tommen Baratheon.”

There was a moment of silence at his words. Dany looked at Tyrion and she saw that he was opening and closing his mouth slightly, as if trying to find his voice again.

“How?” he spluttered finally, and Dany could tell from his voice that he was struggling to control his grief at the loss of his nephew.

“My birds say that he killed himself,” replied Varys gently, leaning towards his friend. “He jumped from a window in the Red Keep.”

“Why would he do such a thing?” Missandei asked, quietly. Dany turned to her and saw that she was watching Tyrion’s grief with a sympathetic and sad expression on her face.

“There was an explosion that levelled the Sept of Baelor. It is believed to be one of Aerys’ wildfire caches. Margaery Tyrell, Tommen’s wife, was caught in the explosion. He was said to be besotted with her and her death crushed him.”

Dany looked at Tyrion. He was staring at the table in front of him, unwilling to meet anyone’s eye. She got to her feet and walked towards him. When she reached him, Dany stooped down slightly so she was on eye level with him and put a comforting hand on his small shoulder.

He looked up at her touch and met her eyes. Dany could see his eyes shining with sorrow and gave him a sympathetic smile. Tyrion bowed his head once more and Dany turned back to the group, as Pylos spoke to Varys.

“Is this why the Tyrells have sided with Her Grace?”

“Yes,” he replied, with another look at Tyrion, as though waiting for a response. “They suspect that Cersei was behind the explosion.”

At this, Tyrion jolted upright suddenly, causing Dany to back away in surprise. She was shocked at the look of fury etched on his face.

She destroyed the Sept?” he demanded furiously.

When Varys nodded, Tyrion reached out and seized one on the Lannister lions from the table. He sat there for a minute, glaring at it, before throwing against the far wall with all his strength.

“That fucking vile witch,” fumed Tyrion, as he turned to Varys. “Do you know why she would do such a thing?”

“The High Sparrow,” Varys replied, calmly. “He was a religious fanatic, the leader of group called the Sparrows, that Cersei raised up to High Septon. She tried to get him on her side by reforming the Faith Militant but he turned on her and she was imprisoned.”

“I remember learning about them at the Citadel, Your Grace,” said Pylos. “The Faith Militant were disbanded two hundred and fifty years ago, when your ancestor, Jaehaerys I, negotiated their disarmament with the Faith.”

“Deluded bitch,” muttered Tyrion heatedly, oblivious to Pylos’ words. “She always thought that all she has to do is flash her tits and pretty face at someone and they will follow her every command.”

“If she was imprisoned,” said Dany, as she re-seated herself on the throne. “Then how did she manage to destroy the Sept of Baelor with wildfire?”

“Apparently, she repented her sins. She was allowed to return to the Red Keep, after she had performed the Walk of Atonement.”

“What is that, Lord Varys?” Missandei asked curiously.

“In Cersei’s case, she was forced to walk from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep, while naked. It is a sizeable distance and the streets were packed with a baying mob that followed her all the way.”

Ignoring Tyrion’s bark of laughter at his sister’s ordeal, Dany addressed Varys.

“A religious organisation did this?” She asked, confused. “It doesn’t seem like a very virtuous thing to do.”

“I did say that they were fanatics, Your Grace,” reminded Varys.

“So,” said Tyrion, the laughter dying and being replaced by cold fury once more. “She returned to the Red Keep and planned her revenge upon the Sparrow.”

“Yes. She was supposed to be at the Sept of Baelor for her trial but she didn’t arrive. Then the Sept exploded, killing all inside. Including Margaery, Loras Tyrell and your uncle Kevan.”

Tyrion winced slightly at the bluntness of Varys’ words but his grief was not the same as it had been for his nephew.

He must have thought a lot of Tommen, pondered Dany sadly.

“So,” he said, with his anger present in every word. “My sister killed everyone in the Sept, including our uncle, and in doing so she caused her son to kill himself after he learned about the death of his wife. And then she decides that she might as well help herself to the fucking Iron Throne!”

Tyrion looked down at his hands, as he flexed his fingers upon the table top.

“I can’t wait to kill her.”

Dany shared a shocked look with Missandei and Grey Worm. She knew that Tyrion hated many members of his family and had killed his father, but she had never heard him express such vehemence and longing to kill his sibling. Having heard what little she had about the Lannisters, however, Dany knew that they probably deserved it.

“So,” Dany said loudly, desperately trying to distract Tyrion from his murderous thoughts. “What do the people think of their new Queen?”

“They despise her,” said Vary quickly, picking up on Dany’s intentions. “She rules over them with an iron fist. There is a constant presence of Lannister guards throughout the city, ready to stamp out any dissent.”

“Who advises her?”, asked Tyrion, as he finally raised his eyes from his coiled fingers.

“Her council is comprised of only Jaime Lannister and Qyburn.”

“Who is Qyburn?” Dany asked.

“A disgraced former maester of the Citadel, Your Grace.” Varys replied with a look of utmost distaste and, unless Dany was seeing wrong, loathing on his face

“I heard stories of him while I was at the Citadel, my Queen,” injected Pylos. “He was thrown out for performing experiments that the Archmaesters had deemed illegal.”

Dany shook her head in disbelief.

A disgraced maester and a kingslayer, thought Dany. That is truly the council of a madwoman.

“How big her army,” grunted Barbarro.

“The Lannisters have the largest standing army of any House in the Seven Kingdoms,” replied Varys, as he shuffled through his pile to find the letter he needed. “Even after their losses in the War, they can call well over a hundred thousand men to their banners alone. Cavalry, infantry, archers and siege machinery. They have a great amount of resources to their name.

“In addition to that, the houses of the Westerlands and the Stormlands have pledged their allegiance to the crown, which adds well over seventy thousand more to their forces. However, the loyalty of the houses of the Stormlands is questionable.”

“How so?”, inquired Missandei, confused. “I thought you said they had pledged her their loyalty.”

“Quite so, my lady,” he replied, bowing his head in her direction. “However, their loyalty is based on her marriage to their former liege lord, Robert Baratheon, and her being the mother to the last two Baratheon kings. With Tommen’s death, however, House Baratheon is on the verge of collapse.”

Dany glanced at Tyrion out of the corner of her eye. He was too busy draining his wine goblet once more to notice her gaze.

“So, they have a large, well maintained and well provisioned army that they can call upon and they currently have the throne,” Dany stated, as she reached out and took one of the Lannister lions on the table to place it on the drawing of King’s Landing. “Is there anything else we should know.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” replied Varys, as he withdrew another sheaf of parchment from the pile in front of him. “It appears that Cersei has reached an alliance with Euron Greyjoy.”

Yara had spent much of the previous conversation gazing distractedly around the room while steadily depleting the jug of wine in front of her. At Varys’ words, however, she bolted upright, slopping wine down her front in her haste.

“From what I understand,” he continued, ignoring Yara’s spluttering and frantic attempts to clean the front of her clothes, “their agreement is that Euron helps destroy Cersei’s enemies and in return he can remain the King of the Iron Islands.”

“Fucking hell,” muttered Yara. “Just when it couldn’t get any worse, it does.”

Dany sighed and couldn’t help agreeing with Yara. This alliance meant that her enemies now roughly equalled her forces on both land and sea, which was not something Dany was comfortable with.

“What about the North?” she said, as she massaged her temples with her fingertips. “Please tell me that there is better news there.”

“Unclear at the moment, Your Grace,” Varys replied hesitantly. “After Stannis’ defeat, the Bolton’s remained in charge at Winterfell.”

“How was Stannis defeated?” asked Grey Worm. Dany started slightly at his voice as he had been so silent for their discussion so far.

“His men deserted him, when a large storm forced them to camp. They were attacked in the night by Bolton men and most of their horses were killed. So, Stannis resorted to some extreme measures to help him win and his men saw it as a step too far.”

“What did he do?” Pylos asked curiously.

“His daughter, the Princess Shireen. He…”

Varys tailed off and Dany could tell by his expression, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, that something terrible had happened to the poor girl.

“What happened to her?” Pylos repeated uneasily, as he rose to his feet slowly.

“He burnt her alive as a sacrifice to R’hollor, under the advice of his priestess Melisandre.”

An unnatural hush fell in the room, it was almost like no one was breathing. Dany felt her chest constrict and her breathing quicken as she thought about the pain and suffering of that poor child. Pylos slumped back into his seat and put his head in his hands.

He must have known her, thought Dany, numbly, while living as her father’s maester.

W-why?” stammered Missandei, in a pained voice. “How could someone do that to their own child?”

“Religions make people do strange things,” said Tyrion, wisely. “Even more so when you have a priestess whispering in your ear about how you are the ‘Lord’s Chosen’ and that you must win his favour to ensure your victory.”

“Even so,” said Dany, fighting to control the anger and hatred that had boiled up within her at this knowledge, “burning your own child to gain a throne is unforgivable.”

Another long silence followed her words, with Dany trying to comprehend Stannis’ actions. She couldn’t imagine a situation in which she would consider killing any of her three children, and certainly not for the Iron Throne.

“So,” said Dany, steadily, trying to get the meeting back on track. “Are the Boltons still in control of the North?”

“No, Your Grace,” said Varys, as he sat up a little straighter in his chair. “The current ruler is the so-called ‘King in the North’, Jon Snow.”

“What!” Tyrion exclaimed. “Jon is the King? What happened?”

“My little birds tell me that he and his half-sister, Sansa, amassed an army and retook Winterfell from the Boltons. It is said that he himself led the army into battle.”

“That can’t be right”, said Tyrion, as he stroked his beard thoughtfully. “The last time I saw him he was to join the Night’s Watch and, if he had left, I would have heard something, as the Hand of the King, about Eddard Stark’s bastard running around Westeros.”

At the mention of Stark, Dany’s ear pricked up even more. She had heard much about the Usurper’s close friend while growing up, as he had helped take away their family’s throne.

“This is where the stories grow very unusual,” said Varys cryptically.

“Hold on,” interrupted Dany. “If I remember correctly, you told me that the Night’s Watch brothers took a vow that stated that they shall not hold any lands or titles and that the penalty for leaving is death.”

“That is true, my Queen,” said Varys. “However, the vow also says that it lasts until their death. My reports say that Jon Snow, who was the Lord Commander at the time, was mutinied against by his fellow brothers and murdered. He was then resurrected from death by Melisandre, Stannis’ priestess.”

“That woman has a lot to answer for,” muttered Yara darkly.

“Why would they turn against their Lord Commander?” Tyrion demanded angrily.

Dany turned to look at him. He was staring at Varys with a look of curiousness and anger upon his face.

How does Tyrion know this Jon Snow? Dany wondered, as he studied the look on her Hand’s face

“Apparently, they didn’t agree with his decision to allow the Wildings to come south of the Wall.”

Dany remembered what Tyrion and Varys had briefly told them about the Wall and the duties of the Night’s Watch.

“Why would Jon Snow allow these Wildings, that the men of the Night’s Watch have been fighting for centuries, below the Wall?” Dany asked, baffled.

“That is not exactly clear, Your Grace. However, this act apparently caused his brothers to kill him.”

“It is very unlikely to be true that he was in fact killed and resurrected, Lord Varys,” said Dany, disbelievingly.

“I agree, my Queen. Regardless of the truth, however, the Wilding warriors have joined with Snow. They regard him as a god-like figure, after his supposed resurrection. They formed the bulk of his army, which he reinforced with men from Houses Mormont, Mazin and Hornwood, as well as the Knights of the Vale that his sister Sansa manged to acquire. After the battle was won, the Northern Lords, as well as those from the Vale, bent the knee and declared him the White Wolf and the King in the North.”

Dany sat there, completely amazed. The story was almost unbelievable and yet there was far too much to the story that made sense.

If this is true, thought Dany, impressed, then this Jon Snow, the White Wolf, must be a remarkable man.

“What happened to Lord Bolton?” Tyrion asked.

“Jon Snow cornered Ramsay Bolton inside Winterfell, according to my birds, and brutally beat him into the dirt. Later, he was fed to his own hounds by Sansa.”

“Fuck,” said Tyrion, softly.

“That seems… rather sadistic,” said Missandei, with a look of disgust on her face, which Dany couldn’t help but agree with.

“Good,” said Yara, suddenly. “That Bolton bastard was the one who locked up my brother and tortured him into the broken man he is now. Those Starks did the world a favour by killing that piece of shit.”

“I think I have to agree with Yara, my Queen,” said Tyrion, as he raised his goblet in toast to the Ironborn. “Ramsay Bolton, or Snow as he was, was always known to be a rabid maniac who killed and maimed many people. I think that Jon did you a favour by ridding your future kingdom of that monster.”

Dany considered Tyrion’s words, before nodding as she couldn’t really find a fault with his reasoning.

“So, Jon Snow is the king of the North and the Vale?” Dany inquired, as she got up to move closer to the Northern section of the table.

“Yes, Your Grace,” Varys replied, as he too got to his feet to follow her. “However, it could soon be more.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Riverlands are currently in the hands of the Lannisters. However, Edmure Tully, the ‘rightful’ lord of Riverrun, is still alive and their prisoner. If Snow was to free him and give him back his family’s seat, then I suspect that Tully too would bend the knee. There is also the fact that Edmure is Sansa’s uncle, so there is also a family bond between the Starks and Tullys.

“If this happened then Snow would have around a third of the Seven Kingdoms under his control. In my opinion, Your Grace, Jon Snow will either prove to be a very valuable ally or a dangerous enemy.”

Dany stood still for a moment, contemplating Varys’ counsel, staring at the table’s representation of Winterfell. She wondered what kind of man this Snow was. He seemed to be an impressive leader of his men but, at the same time, he was also potentially an oathbreaker, and that was not the kind of ally she wished to have.

“Lord Tyrion,” said Dany finally, as she turned to face her Hand. “You know this man. What were your impressions of him?”

Tyrion drained his goblet and fixed her with a piercing stare.

“I will not claim to know every aspect of the man, Daenerys. I knew him for but a few weeks as we travelled to the Wall from Winterfell, him to join the Night’s Watch and myself to simply see the sight. However, in that brief time I grew to admire him. He is very much like his father, an honourable man.”

“You know my opinions of the Starks, Tyrion,” said Dany, as she turned back to look at Winterfell and picked up one of the Stark wolves. She rolled it in her palm for a moment before continuing. “However, I am willing to discuss terms with him if he bends the knee.”

Dany turned back to address the room.

“Is there anything else, Lord Varys?”

“I don’t think so, Your Grace.”

“Very well,” said Dany, as she turned to the maester. “Pylos, I would like you compose letters to all the lords of Westeros. Command them to come to Dragonstone to bend the knee to the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. In the letters to Cersei Lannister and Jon Snow, I would like you to inform them to renounce their claims to their false titles, or they will not receive any mercy from me.”

Taking this as their cue to leave, her advisors all got up and made their way out and Dany could vaguely hear Tyrion asking Pylos to see his note to Jon before he sent it away. She kept her back to them and walked out onto the balcony.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the sea air. She was trying to take in all that she had been told in the last few hours. The longer she thought on it, the more she thought that Varys was right: Jon Snow would either be her close ally or a sworn enemy.

Dany just couldn’t decide which it was more likely to be.

*

A week later, Dany was sat at the throne, staring down at the map once more, flanked by Tyrion and Missandei.

They had received many ravens in the last week in response to her demand for fealty. Many had been flat denials, with many lords telling her that she would meet the same end as her father. However, many more were to announce that their lord or lady would be sailing to Dragonstone, in order to bend the knee to the rightful queen.

“The Houses of Dragonstone have all pledged their fealty to you, my Queen,” Missandei was saying. “Houses Bar Emmon and Sunglass say that their lords will be making their way to Dragonstone as soon as they can.”

“House Celtigar makes a similar promise,” said Tyrion, not looking up from the sheet of parchment in his hands. “They also wish to inform you of their family’s past loyalty to your own, with several of them acting in various position on the councils of Targaryen rulers, as well as your shared Valyrian blood.”

As Dany shook her head in exasperation at Lord Celtigar’s eagerness to impress, the door opened and Varys entered.

“I have urgent news, Your Grace,” he said quickly, as he bowed low when he reached her.

“What does this news involve, Lord Varys?” She asked, her brows creasing in confusion.

“Jon Snow, my Queen.”

Dany sat up a little straighter. A week had passed and there had been no reply from either the Lannister Queen or the King in the North and Dany had begun to wonder if there would even be any response.

“He has sent a raven?”

“No, my Queen. My birds tell me he left Winterfell two days ago, heading to the largest port in the North. I hear that he means to sail here, to meet you.”

Dany sat in silence for a moment, feeling three sets of eyes on her. This was not at all what she had expected. Dany reached out and took the Stark wolf into her hand once again and, making her decision, she turned back to her advisors.

“Very well. Soon we shall see exactly what kind of man this White Wolf is.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Sam

 

Samwell Tarly had fallen into a routine. After he had eaten his evening meal, he would return to his usual table, tucked into a corner and shielded from prying eyes by some bookshelves, and he would read every book he could get his hands on.

He would lose himself in their pages, blocking out the murmured conversations in the library and the scratching of people taking notes. As the hours passed, and the candle flickered lower, he would fill his head with all he could find about the White Walkers, dragonglass and Valyrian steel. Sam knew that Jon had sent him here to become a maester but he saw these things as more important to the coming war than almost anything else he could learn at the Citadel.

Frustratingly, all he had read so far was what he already knew. The White Walkers were talked about as though they were either stories told to frighten children or creatures long dead, killed in the Long Night. Sam had lost count of the times he had shaken his head in exasperation when he had read someone’s scepticism of their existence.

None of these people have even seen the Wall, Sam would think angrily. How could they know what lies beyond it?

It was a similar story with dragonglass and Valyrian steel. He already knew that dragonglass was used by the Children of the Forest. He also knew that the secrets of Valyrian steel’s creation had been lost in the Doom of Valyria. Luckily, Sam had only scratched the surface of the library’s contents.

Sam closed the book he had been reading and rubbed his tired eyes. He looked out of the window above him and, like usual, it was the dead of night. Sam sighed as he rose to his feet to return his books. As he approached the edge of the platform he was on, he looked around him and marvelled, for seemed like the thousandth time, at the Citadel library.

It was located in a large, circular tower and every inch of the walls were covered in books. There were staircases everywhere that allowed access to the many platforms and levels of the library. Sam had never seen so many books or so many stairs. What always caught his attention was the large, revolving model that hung from the ceiling. Sam had spent a good few hours just staring at it, wondering how it worked.

He made his way through the nearly deserted library, returned his books and started the long trek to the sleeping quarters. On the way, he decided to check on Gilly and Little Sam. They had been allowed to stay after Archmaester Willem, an elderly Dornishman with a chain so long that Sam was sure it reached his knees, had an attack of conscience about throwing a mother into the street with her young son. It hadn’t hurt that Little Sam had taken that moment to reach out and grasp hold of the Maester’s chain and begin giggling. Sam had been watching apprehensively but seeing Little Sam’s actions and the look of amusement that had melted the old man’s stony expression, his spirits had soared.

The old man had sighed and relented, giving the two an unused room next to Sam’s quarters. In return for allowing them to stay, Gilly had offered to help out around the Citadel, in the kitchens and helping to carry messages between the various buildings for the maesters. Sam had felt a little guilty that she was working hard while he spent his days with his nose buried in books. However, once word had spread that she was from north of the Wall, rather than being ostracised and avoided, she had spent many hours speaking to various maesters about Wilding culture and history.

As Sam entered the living quarters, he realised how tired he was. Ever since they had arrived, near a month ago, he had spent his days in the library and rarely left until past midnight. He would then be back up with the sun to begin the cycle again.

I really should leave the library a little earlier one day, Sam thought, as he stifled a yawn.

When he reached Gilly’s door, he strained his eyes for any sounds of movement. When none came, he gave a soft knock, trying not to disturb Little Sam. Again, there was no sound so Sam quietly opened the door and stepped lightly to limit the sounds of his footsteps on the stark stone floor.

It was a small room, with barely enough room for the bed, a small cabinet and the desk underneath a small window, which was pushed open a crack, allowing the night air into the room. Sam saw the candle Gilly had placed onto the cabinet had burned out, dripping its wax onto the wood surface.

Sam looked at the huddled form on the bed and a smile spread across his face. Gilly was lying on her side with Little Sam nestled in her arms, his sleeping face visible above the sheet that covered them both. As Sam moved closer to the bed and pressed a kiss to her forehead, he saw Gilly mumble something and shift Little Sam closer into her embrace.

Sam’s smile grew as he looked down at the sleeping child and brushed his blond hair out of his eyes. He remembered back on the ship to Oldtown, when Gilly had said that Sam was her son’s father. Sam had been too sick to express his feelings at the time, but his heart had swelled with joy and pride at her declaration. Sam had come to adore the little boy, as if he was his own, and hearing Gilly say that she felt the same was more than he had dared hope for.

Sam stood staring at the two for a moment, feeling a tremendous amount of affection for the two of them, before he turned and exited as quietly as he could. He then headed to his room next door and entered an almost identical room.

His eye was drawn to the biggest difference than the room he had just left. Propped in the corner was the large greatsword, Heartsbane. Whenever he looked at the sword he was filled with a sense of guilt. He had stolen his family’s ancestral sword from his family.

While it had seemed such a good idea at the time, he knew that it would probably cause a lot of problems for him down the road. His father wasn’t the most forgiving of people at the best of times, least of all with Sam.

As he looked at the sword, he cast his mind back to their short stay at Horn Hill. He remembered the meal they had all shared, the callous things his father had spat at Gilly, how he had just sat there and let it wash over him. The guilt changed into anger and disgust, at both his father and himself.

I was a coward, thought Sam bitterly. I should have defended myself, defended Gilly. But instead I just sat there and let him say those things.

Sam shook his head in disgust at himself. He had thought that his experiences at the Night’s Watch, killing a White Walker and surviving both the attack at the Fist of the First Men and the Battle of the Wall, would have given him some confidence, so he could stand up to his father’s criticism. But as soon as he set foot back in Horn Hill, he had reverted back to the scared boy he had been before he left, constantly awaiting his father wrath at his many perceived disappointments.

As another yawn escaped him, Sam pushed his bitter thoughts from his head and prepared himself for bed. He was determined to give his father little to no thought from now on, as he had to Sam for his entire life.

Easier said than done, thought Sam, as he rested his head on his pillow. Especially with his sword as a constant reminder to me.

*

The following morning, after he had broken his fast and spent a few hours looking after Little Sam, Sam settled himself back into his table, with a large stack of books in front of him. He was determined that he would not finish the day empty handed.

However, as the hours passed, and the stack of books began to slowly dwindle, Sam was beginning to worry that it was, once again, a day wasted with nothing to show for it. With a sigh, he heaved over the last book from the pile, a tome on Old Valyria. It was so old that Sam was worried that the leather cover was going to fall apart in his hands.

As he read, he became more and more despondent. While the information in the book was interesting, it held no value in his search. Sam was about to give up as another wasted effort, when he noticed that something had been placed between two of the pages.

As he slid it out, he saw it was a single sheet of parchment, easily as old as the book, that was covered in faded, ornate script. As he moved the paper closer to his face to read, he noticed that it wasn’t written in the Common Tongue. Judging from the book it had been placed in, Sam guessed it was Valyrian.

Sam had to fight the impulse to throw the parchment away from him, his frustration at his lack of luck boiling over. On an impulse San turned the page over and almost shouted out in joy.

“Thank the Gods,” muttered Sam under his breath.

Someone had translated the manuscript into the Common Tongue. Sam read the translation quickly, his eyes widening further the more he read. When he finished, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

It was instructions on how to make Valyrian steel.

Sam couldn’t believe it. With this they had the ability to forge new blades, rather than reworking old ones. As he pulled a piece of parchment towards him and began to make a copy, Sam struggled to contain his excitement. All those days pouring through book after book, page after page of meaningless information were finally worth it. He had finally found something that could make a difference in the war. He had finally made some progress in the task he had set.

As he copied it over, Sam pondered that, while his knowledge of weapon crafting was virtually non-existent, there didn’t seem to be anything here that would seem too far beyond a skilled blacksmith’s ability.

Then he read something that he missed before that spoiled his good mood.

All ore must be melted using dragon fire.

Well, thought Sam miserably. That is one of the reasons why no Valyrian blades have been forged in centuries.

Sam put down his quill and put his head in his hands. He had been so close, so close to make all these days with his head stuck in books worthwhile.

Sam was about to put the manuscript back in its hiding place when a memory struck him, of reading a letter to Maester Aemon about his relative Daenerys Targaryen, and her dragons. Sam’s excitement returned and he frantically continued copying the rest of the instructions.

While he had seemingly solved the problem, Sam was all too aware that it was far from over. Daenerys might not want to help. She might not even believe in the threat of the White Walkers. But at present, Sam didn’t have a better plan so decided to go for it.

When he had finished his copy, he replaced the manuscript and placed all of his books back where he had found them, before returning to his place. He decided to send a letter to Jon to inform him of his discovery. He hadn’t sent a letter to Jon since his arrival, as he had thrown himself into his research, so he realised it was past time.

Before long Sam was looking at the completed letter. He had tried to make it both concise and slightly vague, in case it fell into curious hands.

Jon,

Sorry it has been so long since we have spoken. We have all made it safely to Oldtown after stopping in Horn Hill to see my family. It went as well as could be expected.

While I was searching the library here, I found something interesting. I found an old Valyrian manuscript that says how to make more swords like Longclaw. The only problem is that we will need help from Maester Aemon’s relative, Daenerys, but I am sure you can work something out.

I hope that things are well where you are and that Thorne isn’t causing you too much trouble.

Your friend,

Sam.

Sam got up and made his way down to ground level, to find a raven to send the letter to Castle Black. As he exited the library however, Sam was too engrossed in his thoughts to realise that someone was calling his name.

“Samwell!” Archmaester Willem called loudly, for the fourth time.

Sam, finally shaking from his reverie, turned towards the old maester. He saw that the Dornishman was wearing a look of bemusement.

“Sorry, maester,” said Sam, bowing his head respectfully. “I was lost in my thoughts.”

“Ah,” Willem replied, nodding his head in understanding. “A common occurrence in this place. What has captured your attention so much, Samwell?”

“I found something in one of the old books, Maester. Something that I think that my friend, the Lord Commander, would be interested in.”

“I hope you aren’t planning to send whatever you have found by raven, Samwell?” asked Willem, with a stern expression on his face.

“No, maester,” replied Sam humbly. “I have written out a copy of it and plan to send that once I know it is safe to do so.”

“Very wise, Samwell. Off you go to the Ravenry then. Good luck to you, young man.”

“Thank you, maester,” said Sam, as he turned and continued on his way.

The Ravenry was located on the Isle of Ravens, a small isle that was connected to the bank by a wooden drawbridge. The Ravenry was the oldest building in the Citadel, with many stories surrounding its history. One of the most common was that it had been a pirate lord’s stronghold, praying on passing ships. Regardless of its age, Sam thought it was an impressive sight, with its walls covered in moss and vines and the large weirwood tree in its yard.

Once his letter had been sent away, Sam returned to the courtyard. As he walked through, savouring the fresh air, he turned towards the gates, with their flanking sphinxes, and saw an unusual sight.

Travellers were a common sight at the Citadel. Many were either here to join the Order or had a letter that they need to hire a scribe to either read to them or write for them. What was unusual about this one is that something about him seemed familiar to Sam.

He was a tall, middle aged man with a scruffy beard, who had the confident air and physique of a seasoned warrior. His attire reminded Sam of those he had seen in the North and he had a sword strapped to his hip.

However, there was a familiarity to him that Sam shouldn’t shake. As he watched, the traveller stopped and looked around him, clearly at a loss for where he should go. On an impulse, Sam approached him.

When he was close, the man still had his back to him so Sam reached out to touch his left arm to get his attention. Before he could get close, however, the man whipped his arm away from Sam, like he had been burned, and looked at him accusingly.

“I’m sorry,” said Sam hastily, holding his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

At his words, the man relaxed, still massaging his forearm.

“You didn’t startle me,” the man said in a Northern accent. “I’m just a little tense of late.”

“Well, I’m Sam. Samwell Tarly.”

“Where are you from Sam?” asked the stranger, as he resumed his examination of the courtyard.

“Well, Horn Hill originally. But I came here from the Night’s Watch.”

The stranger’s head whipped back around to stare at Sam, with a look of surprise on his face.

“How long have you been with the Night’s Watch?” the stranger asked, giving Sam his undivided attention now.

“A few years now.”

“Then you will have known my father. I believe he was your Lord Commander.”

Sam stood there for a second trying to process his words, before realisation hit him like a hammer.

“C-commander Mormont,” Sam croaked. “He was your father?”

“Aye,” the man replied, nodding. “My name is Jorah Mormont. Good to meet you, Sam.”

He held out his right hand for Sam to shake and Sam took it, wondering if he had heard about his father.

“Do… do you know what happened?” Sam asked hesitantly.

Jorah nodded sadly, as he released Sam’s hand. He stared at something over Sam’s head for a nearly a full minute, with a glazed look to his eyes.

“I heard he was betrayed by his own men,” he said finally, with grief and anger in his voice. “Is that true?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” said Sam, cautiously. “I was there when it happened. Your father was a good man, Jorah. He didn’t deserve what those traitors did.”

Jorah nodded at him for a moment, then grew even more solemn.

“What happened, Sam?” Jorah asked. “How did my father die?”

“Are you sure you want to know?” Sam replied reluctantly. He had no wish to add any further to the man’s grief at the loss of his father.

“Please, Sam,” Jorah pleaded, gripping Sam’s shoulder firmly. “I need to know.”

Sam sighed deeply, thinking hard for a moment, before nodding.

“All right,” said Sam, as he rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “Let’s get you something to eat, you have clearly been travelling for some time, and I will tell you everything you want to know.”

*

An hour later, Sam sat in the mess hall opposite Jorah Mormont. The Northerner had clearly not eaten a proper meal in some time. He had grabbed a little of everything on offer and piled it high on his plate. He had pork, chicken, a whole loaf of bread and a large, steaming bowl of something that Sam guessed was supposed to be some kind of broth.

Sam, on the other hand, had a more generous helping but he was picking at it without much enthusiasm. He was dreading telling Jorah about the circumstances of his father’s death. Not that Jorah didn’t deserve the truth, but that Sam wasn’t so keen on being the one to tell him.

Sam shook himself mentally.

Stop being such a coward, Sam chastised himself angrily. You owe this man the truth. You would want the same if you were in his position.

“So, Sam,” said Jorah, as he took a swig from the large tankard of ale in front of him. “Now we have our food, I would like to begin.”

Sam took a deep breath and looked at the man opposite him. He noted dimly that he was sitting with his left arm tucked close to his body. Ever since he had arrived Jorah had been very careful to not let anyone near his left side, even accidently. Sam couldn’t help but wonder what the problem was.

Don’t get distracted, he thought. Focus!

“Well to explain it fully, we will have to go back a way,” began Sam, pushing his plate away. “To explain why we were north of the Wall in the first place.”

Jorah nodded, his brow furrowed in curiosity.

“When me and my friend Jon Snow were taking our vows, his direwolf, Ghost, found a severed arm. We followed him to find two of our brother’s bodies. Othor and Jafer Flowers.”

“Direwolf, huh?” said Jorah, impressed.

“Yeah,” said Sam, smiling at the memory of Ghost, losing his train of thought for a moment. “Last time I saw him he was the size of a small horse. Anyway…”

Sam shook his head, trying to get back on topic.

“That night, before we had a chance to burn them, Othor rose and attacked your father.”

“Wait!” exclaimed Jorah, nearly upsetting his tankard. “I thought you said he was dead!”

“He was. Our maester confirmed it. But he rose all the same. My friend Jon saved your father and managed to destroy it, by setting it on fire.

“Jon said that Othor had glowing blue eye and didn’t feel any pain at all. Jon cut off his arm but he just kept attacking. He was a wight, a reanimated corpse that was revived by the White Walkers.”

As Sam had expected, there was an eerie silence following his words. Before Jorah could express his disbelief, Sam pressed on with his story.

“Your father announced a Great Ranging, over three hundred men would go north of the Wall to meet the threat of the Wildlings and to gather information about the rising dead.”

“I’m sorry, Sam,” said Jorah, holding up a hand. “But that is very hard to believe.”

“I know Jorah. But your father ordered the expedition. He sent Alliser Thorne to King’s Landing to warn them of the threat too. You knew your father better than I did. Would he have done that if he wasn’t sure it was true?” 

Jorah was quiet for a moment, thinking hard. After a moment, he shook his head.

“No. If my father had done something like this, then he would have been certain he was right.”

Jorah went silent again. Sam sighed in relief that he believed him. It would make the rest of the story easier to understand.

“White Walkers, huh? The Long Night was real?”

“Yes,” said Sam, sadly. “Unfortunately, yes. And we think they will march on the Wall before too long.”

Jorah’s eyes widened at him across the table. Sam wasn’t sure if he would believe the story himself if he was in Jorah’s position. Sam watched as he rested his head into the palm of his right hand, shaking his head slightly.

For someone who has just heard about the coming of the White Walkers, he is handling the news very well, thought Sam.

“So,” Jorah said hoarsely, raising his head. “You all went north.”

“Yes,” said Sam. “We walked for weeks until we reached the Fist of the First Men, the ruins of an ancient fort. We camped there for a few days, waiting for one of the ranging parties to return.

“And then they came.”

Sam raised his head to meet Jorah’s eye and saw horror and realisation dawning on his face.

“The White Walkers, and an army of wights, attacked us. It was a massacre. There were only around sixty survivors.”

Sam paused for a moment, memories flashing in front of his eyes, clear as day. Hearing that third blast of the horn. The White Walker riding past him on its decaying horse, looking at him with its dead eyes. The far-off screams of his brothers as they struggled for their lives against the rabid horde of wights.

“Did you see them?” asked Jorah suddenly, interrupting the flow of memories. “The White Walkers?”

“Yes, I did,” replied Sam quietly.

“What are they like?” asked Jorah in a hushed voice. He sounded both terrified and curious.

“Cold,” said Sam, horrified. “I know it is always cold at the North but… this was different. Every breath you take… it is like ice filling your chest. You can hardly breath or think. It is horrible.”

Sam reached out and raised his tankard to his lips and drained it. He needed something to steel his nerves if he was to get through the rest of the story.

“After the battle,” began Sam again, “we made our way back south, trying to get back to Castle Black. To warn the Seven Kingdoms of the danger that is coming.

“We ran out of food quickly. We were all starving and exhausted, with many wounded, when we arrived back at Craster’s Keep.”

“Where is that?”

“It is the homestead of a wildling that is a little less hostile to us than the others. Craster allowed the rangers of the Night’s Watch to stay under his roof in exchange for us leaving him be.

“However, once we arrived, tensions boiled over. Our wounded were dying all the time. Many of the men were getting angry that, while Craster was giving us bread filled with sawdust, he was getting fat on his hidden food stores. Rast and Karl Tanner began to insult him which only got him angrier.

“Karl then called him a ‘daughter-fucking, wildling bastard’, and killed him.”

“Wait,” interrupted Jorah. “’Daughter-fucking’? Is that true?”

“Yes,” said Sam, angrily. “Any children he had, he would sacrifice the boys to the White Walkers and would marry the girls to give him more children.”

“It sounds like he got what he deserved.”

“I agree,” said Sam angrily. “He was a monster. But Karl then grabbed one of his wives and held a knife to her throat, demanding for her to get the food stores.

“Your father threatened to have him executed and then Rast … he stabbed your father in the back.”

Jorah face went blank for a second, before being covered by a look of pure rage.

“Coward,” he spat. “Wouldn’t dare face my father man to man!”

“No, he wouldn’t,” agreed Sam. “Karl and Rast led the mutiny against those who were still loyal, like my friends Grenn and Edd. Only those two survived and were held prisoner by the remaining mutineers.”

“How did you survive, Sam?” asked Jorah, with a hint of accusation in his voice.

Sam couldn’t help but notice the tone of his voice and squirmed in his seat slightly.

“When the fight started, I slipped away.”

“So, you ran,” accused Jorah.

“Yes,” replied Sam, confidently. “I ran to help Gilly.”

“Who is Gilly?”

“Her”, said Sam, gesturing to her as she helped to serve the many hungry maesters that were in the hall.

Jorah followed gesture and his eyes widened slightly, before he returned his gaze to Sam and raised his eyebrows in anticipation of an explanation.

“She is one of Craster’s daughters. She had just had a son. I wanted to save the boy from being sacrificed to the Walkers. And Gilly… if she had been left there she would have been raped and beaten by the mutineers, like Craster’s other wives. I had to try to save them both.”

“How did you manage?”

“We escaped during the mutiny and headed to the Wall. On the way, we were attacked by a White Walker, who was after the baby, but I killed it with a dragonglass dagger. We managed to make it back to the Wall and I’ve been trying to keep them safe since.”

Sam looked at Jorah and saw his face was a mixture of anger and confusion.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t try to help your father, Jorah,” said Sam, desperately. “I just wanted to help the two of them. I am no warrior, I didn’t think I would make a difference. More importantly, I am a coward.”

“No, Sam,” said Jorah firmly. “You are not a coward.”

Sam looked into the man’s eyes, completely baffled. Jorah leaned in towards him.

“You risked your life in the middle of a mutiny to save a young woman and her child. You then escorted her back to the Wall, saving her once more from a White Walker. Out of all the many things you are Samwell, a coward is not one of them.”

Sam sat there, stunned. He had rarely head those words in his life, and certainly not from a complete stranger. Sam smiled and nodded his head gratefully.

“I have a couple of questions though,” said Jorah, as he settled back into his chair.

“Go ahead.”

“What happened to Longclaw? My father’s… my family’s sword?”

“Lord Commander Mormont gifted it to Jon Snow for saving him from the wight, Othor.”

“Good,” said Jorah, nodding approvingly. “I am glad that someone honourable had it rather than those mutineers.”

“if you don’t mind me asking, Jorah,” said Sam, uncertainly. “Why didn’t you have the sword, if your father was in the Night’s Watch?”

“I disgraced my family,” said Jorah, lowering his eyes to the table in shame. “I dishonoured my father.”

“I know that feeling,” said Sam, nodding in acknowledgement. “Everything I have done has dishonoured my father… according to him anyway.”

“Did you sell people onto slavery, Sam?” Jorah asked, with shame and remorse filling his voice.

“No,” replied Sam, shocking by his honesty.

Jorah lowered his eyes to the table and Sam could see that, while he had committed a grave crime, he was truly remorseful and shamed by what he had done.

“So,” said Sam, trying to change the subject slightly. “What was your next question?”

“What happened to the mutineers?”

“Jon led an expedition to deal with them. They were all killed. From what I heard Jon killed Karl himself and Ghost killed Rast.”

“Then it seems that I owe this Jon Snow a great deal,” said Jorah, impressed.

As Sam nodded his assent, a beat of silence passed between them. Sam didn’t break it for a moment, listening to the surrounding noise of various maesters discussing. Sam decided to voice something that he had been wondering since Jorah’s arrival.

“Why have you come to the Citadel, Jorah?”

Jorah looked at him for a moment before sighing deeply and rolling up his left sleeve. Sam’s eyes widened as he saw the scaly-looking skin that covered his arm to just above his elbow.

“Is that greyscale?” Sam asked, disbelievingly.

“Yes,” replied Jorah shortly. “I was going through the ruins of Old Valyria and was attacked by the Stone Men. Luckily, they only got my arm. I came to see if there is some kind of cure. I have something … someone that I need to get back to.”

Sam heard the note of desperation in his voice and his heart went out to him. He had read about greyscale before. About how those who were infected would slowly lose their mind so they would be sent to the ruins to live their days surrounded by others with the same affliction.

“I’ll help you Jorah,” offered Sam, confidently. “I’ll will look in the library to see if there is anything in there about a cure. In the meantime, there are plenty of maesters here who might be able to help.”

Jorah stared at him for a moment, completely at a loss for words. His face then split into a wide smile. He stood up and offered Sam his right hand to shake. Sam rose to his feet and grasped his hand.

“Thank you, Sam. You’re a good man.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Jon

 

After two full days of riding, Jon was beginning to get tired of it.

It should have only taken two days at most to reach White Harbour from Winterfell. however, when they had reached the White Knife, and began following the coast, the weather had turned. Bitter winds had come in from the sea, swirling up the heavy snowfall and blowing it directly at them, slowing their progress to a crawl. It was now the morning of their third day and the wind had finally died down enough for them to make a bit more progress.

Other than the weather, the journey had been mostly uneventful. The escort they had taken from Winterfell had not been needed, as the former Bolton men-turned bandits had obviously decided that attacking the King in the North was too much trouble than it was worth. Jon was glad for this, as it gave him more time alone with his thoughts.

Jon had spent a lot of time wondering about Daenerys. What would she be like? Would she accept his proposal for an alliance? Or would she take after her father and burn him alive?

And the dragons.

The more Jon thought about them, there was a feeling of excitement and dread in the pit of his stomach. While they were surely creatures to be feared, there was something about them that Jon was fascinated by.

How did she get them? Jon would think to himself. Where did she get them?

Jon was shaken from his thoughts by one of the guardsmen riding back from over the crest of the hill in front of them.

“Your Grace,” he said, bowing his head in deference. “White Harbour lies beyond this hill.”

As they reached the top of the hill, Jon saw the city sprawl out before him, with its wide cobbled streets lined with white stone buildings, surrounding its large harbour, filled with ships of all sizes. He saw an old fortress made of crumbling black stone, looking slightly out of place among the houses that surrounded it. Jon knew, from Luwin’s lessons, that this was the Wolf’s Den, built by King Jon Stark to defend against sea raiders, now used as a prison by the Manderlys.

Jon turned his head northwards to see another keep, set high on another hill, which was in stark contrast to the Wolf’s Den, and was made of similar pale stone to the rest of the city. Jon saw the trident-holding merman sigil of House Manderly flying from its towers.

Before long they had reached the gates and Jon saw, with a sigh, that Lord Manderly had assembled what looked like every resident of the city to greet him. As Jon entered, every one of them went down on one knee.

“The King in the North!” came their booming cry, so loud it caused every bird in the city to take to the air.

Jon raised his hand in acknowledgement, feeling very uncomfortable. He climbed down from his saddle and approached Lord Wyman Manderly.

“Your Grace,” said the white-bearded man, still on his knee.

Jon patted him on the shoulder to get his attention then waved his hands, giving everyone permission to rise. When they had, Jon extended his hand to Lord Wyman.

“Thank you for this welcome, Lord Wyman,” said Jon, as they shook hands. “And for preparing a ship for my voyage.”

“I offer you one more thing, Your Grace. I offer you the hospitality of House Manderly for this evening. You are no doubt weary from travelling and I am sure you could use a night’s rest before you set sail.”

Jon considered the man’s words for a moment before nodding. A night’s rest in a comfy bed didn’t sound so bad, as it would also give Jon a chance to make the final preparations for his departure, that he had thought of on his ride from Winterfell. Jon looked around him as he addressed Lord Wyman.

“Thank you, Lord Manderly. That will be much appreciated.”

Any response that Manderly might have given was drowned out by the shouts and scream from those at the front of the crowd. Jon turned to see what was causing such an outbreak of surprise and saw Ghost entering the gate.

He had gone hunting around noon the day before and hadn’t returned, but Jon hadn’t worried. Ghost always found his way back. Jon raised his hand to stroke his fur, while turning to the assembled crowd.

“Don’t panic. This is Ghost, my direwolf. He is well trained. He won’t harm any of you.”

As if sensing his words, Ghost lowered himself onto his haunches and allowed Jon to pet him. Jon saw that while many people were placated by his words, they had obviously heard of the Stark children’s direwolves, many still eyed Ghost with apprehension.

Well, thought Jon. I suppose a white wolf with red eyes that is the size of a small horse would scare me a little if I wasn’t so used to it.

“If you will follow me, Your Grace,” said Lord Manderly, beckoning.

Jon, Davos and Tormund, followed by Ghost and their escort, fell into step behind Lord Wyman. As they walked along the wide cobbled streets, many of the people that lined them whispered and pointed, mainly at Ghost and the wild, red-haired form of Tormund. Many other people bowed their head towards Jon and bowed low.

Before long they reached New Castle and Jon turned to look down at White Harbour

“You have an impressive city for your seat, Lord Wyman.”

“I thank you, Your Grace,” he replied proudly, as he too turned to gaze at it. “We stand in a good place, Your Grace. You can see most of the city from here. The Wolf’s Den,” he said, pointing towards it.

“And then there is the Seal Rock,” pointing towards a colossal stone that stood proudly fifty feet above the harbour’s waters. Jon could see an ancient ringfort of worn stones surrounding it.

“We believe that the First Men constructed the ringfort that surrounds it,” said Lord Manderly, following Jon’s gaze.

“Looks like some we saw beyond the Wall,” said Tormund gruffly.

The doors opened behind them and Jon turned to greet the assembled household. Lord Wyman turned to introduce them.

“This is my first-born son, and heir, Wylis and his wife Leona.”

Wylis, a very fat bald man with a large moustache, offered his hand to Jon while Leona, a plump blonde haired woman, curtseyed as best she could.

“Welcome, White Wolf,” said Wylis, shaking Jon’s hand vigorously. “It is an honour to meet you. These are my daughters, Wynafryd and Wylla.”

The two girls both curtseyed to Jon, their cheeks flushing slightly.

“A pleasure to meet you all,” said Jon politely.

Lord Wyman approached Jon once more, and gesturing to two men standing off to the side.

“This is my cousin Ser Marlon, who is the commander of the garrison here.”

“Welcome, King Jon,” said Marlon, offering his hand. “It is good to once more have the Starks in Winterfell.”

Marlon was a tall heavy build man wearing a full set of silver-coloured armour, engraved to look like flowing seaweed.

“Thank you, Ser,” said Jon, smiling. “It is good for us to be home.”

“And this,” said Lord Wyman, directing Jon to the red-faced, plump man wearing a maester’s chain, “is our maester, Theomore.”

The maester shook Jon’s hand briefly, before excusing himself, muttering about ‘unfulfilled duties.’ Jon turned to Lord Wyman, confused.

“Before he became a maester of the Citadel, Theomore was of House Lannister of Lannisport.”

“A Lannister?” asked Davos, stunned. “I bet that doesn’t sit well with many people here.”

“You could say that,” chuckled Wylis, stroking his moustache. “We have to keep him away from important meetings so we don’t give the treacherous little shit any chances to betray us.”

“Wylis!” admonished his wife, cuffing his shoulder. “Not in front of the girls.”

As everyone laughed at Wylis’ beratement, he looked to his daughters and winked, making them stifle their giggles behind their hands. Jon stood there for a moment, chuckling, before he remembered his duties.

“Apologies for my poor manners, my lords and ladies,” said Jon. “Allow me to introduce my companions. Ser Davos of House Seaworth. And Tormund Giantsbane of the Free Folk.”

Any remaining mirth in the room evaporated at Jon’s words, filled by a cold stillness.

“Fucking wildling,” growled Wylis, his moustache twitching in anger.

He took a step towards Tormund, his wife and daughters trying to slow his advance. Tormund, however, merely smiled evilly and maintained the man’s furious glare.

“Well, this ‘fucking wildling’ fought beside your king to get his home back, while you sat here feeding your fat face,” growled Tormund, taking step forward himself.

“Tormund!” shouted Jon, above the ruckus. “Enough!”

Silence broke out at Jon’s anger. He stared back and forth between everyone present.

“Tormund. I know you are still getting used to how things work here, but one of the main things we don’t do is insult the people who have offered us food and shelter for the night.”

Tormund looked at Jon for a moment, before nodding and backing away. Jon then turned to Wylis, whose momentary look of triumph vanished.

“Wylis. I know many in the North hold a grudge against the Free Folk but could you truly say you would act any different if you were them, doing what they can to survive. They are born on the wrong side of the Wall and spend their lives being treated and hunted like animals. Can we expect them to act any different after that?

“If it wasn’t for Tormund and his men, then Winterfell would still be in Bolton hands and I would be dead.”

Again, thought Jon.

“We all need to work together. All houses of the North and the Vale with the Free Folk. If we are divided then we will fall, to either the Lannister Queen or the Night King, whichever comes for us first."

Wylis looked between Jon and Tormund, before lowering his gaze to his feet in shame.

“I apologise, Your Grace,” he said. “I let my feelings get in the way.”

“Apology accepted, my lord,” said Jon firmly. “Now let’s put this behind us.”

Jon turned to Lord Manderly, who was watching with apprehension.

“Lord Wyman, I apologise for causing such a scene, after you have welcomed us into your home as you have.”

“Not at all, my king,” said Lord Manderly, waving away Jon’s apology dismissively. “No need to apologise.

“Now, my servants will show you and your companions to your chambers. Your men will be housed with mine at the garrison for the night. Will Ghost need any special arrangements?”

“Don’t worry yourself, Lord Manderly,” said Jon gratefully. “I will personally tend to Ghost.”

As Lord Manderly nodded and led them into his keep, Jon’s mind wandered back to the argument that had just occurred. Jon knew that, due to the position of White Harbour, the Manderlys hadn’t seen or fought the Wildings for decades. But despite that, they still held the same hatred that many in the North had for the Free Folk.

How long will it be before people get over their grudges? Jon wondered bitterly. Who was born on what side of the Wall won’t matter when the Night King arrives.

That evening, Lord Manderly held a feast in honour of Jon’s arrival in the Merman’s Court, the main hall. Jon took a seat next to Lord Manderly at the high table on the dais, waving away protests that he should be in the main seat.

Jon looked around the hall. The walls, ceiling and floors were made of wooden planks that were fixed together and which were painted to show various underwater creatures. Jon looked around and saw sharks painted on the walls, below various different ships on the waves, facing different weathers on each wall. Clear, perfect conditions on the right and a raging storm on the left.

I hope our passage will be calmer than that, thought Jon, staring at the choppy waves of the painting.

Jon turned his attention back to the food that Lord Manderly had provided, the majority of which were different varieties of seafood. While not Jon’s first choice, he was not going to turn it down after living on provisions for the last three days.

As Jon took a swig of his ale, he saw Lord Wyman turn to him.

“Is everything to your liking, my king?” he asked.

“Yes, thank you, my lord,” replied Jon, nodding gratefully. “I have a request of you, if you don’t mind me talking about it while we eat.”

“Not at all, Your Grace.” Lord Wyman replied graciously, as he drained his horn of mead and refilled it. “Anything that House Manderly can do for the Starks, we will do gladly.”

“I have further need of your fighting men,” said Jon, cautiously. “I thank you for the thousand men you have already sent north to the Wall but I have need of another thousand.”

“If I may ask, Your Grace?” asked Manderly. “What would they be doing?”

“I will need five hundred of them to garrison and reinforce Moat Cailin, while the other half will head to Torrhen’s Square to support House Tallhart.

“The last time a King in the North left the North, the Ironborn invaded and many Northerners died. I would rather that not happen again.”

Jon fell silent, his thoughts wandering to Robb. While Jon loved his brother dearly, he couldn’t help but question his decision to send Theon to treat with his father, Balon. The Greyjoys were known to despise the Starks, especially after Eddard had helped Robert Baratheon crush their rebellion. And sending Theon back to his home, where he had been taken from all those years ago, didn’t seem to be the best plan. Robb’s trusting nature had put him and the North in danger from the Ironborn and had ultimately killed him at the Red Wedding.

I promise to do right by you, brother, promised Jon solemnly. I will learn from your mistakes.

“It would be my honour, Your Grace,” boomed Lord Manderly, not noticing the far-away look on Jon’s face. “My men are yours to command.”

“Thank you, my lord,” said Jon, gratefully. “Your loyalty won’t be forgotten.”

“Think nothing of it,” said Manderly, waving his hand dismissively. “It is the least I can do. Your Wildling friend had a point earlier. I did not send men to aid you and Lady Sansa to retake Winterfell so I must make up for that now.”

“My lord,” said Jon seriously, turning in his chair to look him in the eye. “Both my sister and I have forgiven you and the other lords who didn’t rise to our aid against the Boltons. The fight wasn’t looking to be one we could win and you wanted to keep your family safe. I understand that, my lord. Believe me, I do.”

Manderly nodded at Jon, seemingly placated, before lifting his tankard to him.

“To House Stark.”

“To House Stark” echoed Jon, smiling.

*

At noon, the following day, Jon, following Lord Manderly and his son Wylis, led his companions down the hill towards the harbour. People once again lined the streets, trying to get a glimpse of him and bowing as he passed. Jon shook his head at the sight, still unnerved by the level of deference and respect he had been receiving lately.

As they reached the harbour, Lord Manderly walked toward the largest ship there. It was a war galley, with room for around a hundred oars. Jon looked around confused, seeing more war galleys lying in wait.

“Where did these come from?” asked Jon, turning to Lord Wyman. “I thought the North didn’t have a fleet since Brandon the Burner?”

“We didn’t for a long time,” replied the lord, with a devilish smile. “But we have been busy for the last few years, since the Red Wedding. We built them in case the Southerners decide to attack us from the sea.”

“How big is your fleet?”

“It is your fleet now, my king. It is relatively small, only around thirty or so war galleys. This one is now your personal galley.”

As he had been talking they had come alongside it and had walked along the jetty to stop near the front. Jon turned to see the large white wolf’s head on the front of the ship, with its gleaming red eyes sparkling in the sun.

Jon looked around at the Manderlys, both of whom were wearing identical looks of amusement and pride at his reaction.

“Our shipwrights have been working day and night on this vessel since we received your raven. It was already here and we wanted to make this one personal to you.”

“Does it have a name?” Davos asked, impressed.

The Wolf of the Sea.”, replied Wylis, proudly. “We thought the name should show that this is the first Stark ship in centuries.”

“Thank you,” said Jon, reaching out to shake their hands. “Thank you both.”

“It is an honour.”

“Good luck in Dragonstone, my king.”

Jon shook both their hands and then turned to follow the others as they clambered aboard.

“Ser Davos,” called Jon. “I think I would like you to be in control while we are aboard.”

“Very well,” said Davos, looking around him at the impressive vessel. “I think I should tell you though, I am used to vessels a lot smaller than this.”

“I’m sure you will manage.”

Jon turned to see Ghost was walking gingerly along the deck, clearly unsure about the sensation of the galley bobbing slightly in the water.

If he is unsure now, what will he be like when we take to the sea? Jon wondered.

“You know, Jon Snow,” said Tormund, as he clapped Jon on the back. “The last time we were on a boat together, we ended up at Hardhome, fighting White Walkers.”

“Well”, said Jon, chuckling slightly. “Where we are going now can’t be any worse can it?”

I hope, prayed Jon desperately.

*

Three days into the voyage, Ghost was beginning to get restless.

He had begun to become accustomed to the rhythm of the ship going over the waves and spent much of his time in Jon’s cabin. However, that morning was different. He had followed Jon out the cabin and had taken to pacing up and down the top deck. Jon watched him for a moment, confused as to what was causing this behaviour.

Eventually, Jon turned from his direwolf and headed over to Ser Davos, standing staring out at the sea.

“Enjoying being back at sea, Davos?” asked Jon, as he reached him.

“Yes, Your Grace,” he replied. “The sea was like home to me for many years.”

“And now we are heading to your other home,” said Jon. “What can you tell me about Dragonstone?”

“Well the keep was constructed by the Targaryens when they fled Valyria and they lived there for generations. Aegon the Conqueror planned his invasion of Westeros there. After Robert’s Rebellion, King Robert gave Dragonstone to Stannis instead of Storm’s End and it became his seat during his claim to the throne.”

Davos paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. Jon could tell from his face that there was something troubling him. Jon remembered hearing about the ‘offerings’ that Stannis had made by burning the idols of the Seven, and their worshippers, to Melisandre’s Lord of Light. Jon might not believe in the Seven but he didn’t believe that refusing to change your gods was a crime worthy of being burned alive.

“What about the dragonglass?” Jon asked, trying to distract Davos from his thoughts. “I heard Stannis say that there is some on Dragonstone.”

Some,” replied Davos, incredulously. “There are vast caverns of it, running beneath the keep.”

“Really?” Jon replied, his interest piqued. “That much? Well that is another reason to gain an alliance with Daenerys.”

Before Davos could reply, Ghost began to howl.

Jon’s head snapped around to look at him, shocked. One of the main reasons that he had been named Ghost is that he rarely made noise. If he ever howled like this then something was clearly very wrong.

“What’s wrong boy?” Jon asked, as he reached out to pet him, trying to soothe him.

Jon saw that his eyes were fixed on something on the horizon and followed his gaze…

And the breath left his body.

Dragons.

Two of them.

Even at this distance, Jon could see them, flying and writhing around each other in the sky. As they drew closer, Jon began to truly appreciate the size of them. Even the smaller of the two could probably swallow a sheep whole.

The crew began to panic lightly, at the sight of these formidable creatures.

“Get ahold of yourselves!” roared Davos.

“What the fuck is that?” shouted Tormund, who had appeared to Jon’s left.

As they grew even closer, Jon could see the differences between the two. One had dark green scales while the larger of the twos were jet black. The larger dragon was bigger than his companion by around a half. They swirled and danced around each other, playfully nipping at the wings or back of the other. Every once in a while, one would let out a loud shriek that would send a ripple of fear through the assembled crew.

Jon watched in awe at the sight. He had thought about what the dragons would look and act like many times but this was even more than he could have imagined.

Suddenly, the green dragon seemed to notice them and began to hover, gazing down at them. This set the crew’s nerves, already near breaking point, even further on edge.

Then it dived.

Shouts erupted as the crew scrambled to grab weapons, spears and bows and arrows. Jon reached to his hip but realised, cursing himself as he did so, that he had left Longclaw in his cabin, not expecting to need it in the middle of the sea. To his left, Tormund drew his blade, reading himself.

The dragon stopped suddenly next to the ship and began to hover alongside. He beat his green leathery wings gently, keeping pace with them, causing a wind to whip across the deck with every beat, as he observed the now stationary crew with his glowing bronze eyes eagerly.

Jon was amazed. He had expected that the dragon would set their ship alight before flying away but here it was, just observing them with what seemed to be curiosity.

On an impulse, that he couldn’t explain, Jon began to approach the dragon.

“What the fuck are you doing?” growled Tormund, as he attempted to grab Jon’s arm.

Jon pulled away from his friend’s grip and continued his approach. Ghost began to whine slightly, clearly trying to get Jon’s attention, to stop him from going further, but Jon blanked it out and kept moving.

The dragon turned its head, sensing Jon’s approach and fixed him with a glare. Jon met its bronze eyes and didn’t look away as he advanced. The dragon cocked its head to one side, curious at Jon’s actions. At that moment, Jon was sure, though he still didn’t know why, that the dragon wouldn’t harm him.

“Get back, Your Grace!” shouted one of the crewman, as he raced towards the dragon with his spear raised.

“No!” roared Jon, raising his hand.

The dragon opened its mouth, revealing sets of teeth like black daggers, and let out a low growl that sent a shiver down everyone’s spine. The crewman stopped dead, whether because of Jon’s command or fear of the dragon was unclear.

Jon saw orange and yellow fire begin to brew at the back of the dragon’s throat as it turned to the crewman with the spear.

“Drop the fucking spear!” commanded Jon loudly. “Now!”

He did so immediately, raising his hands above his head in submission, and backed away. The dragon watched him back away before raising his head and expelling the flame in a plume into the air.

Jon stood still, breathing heavily and feeling his heart pounding.

What am I doing? He demanded of himself, still unable to explain to himself his conviction that he would be unharmed that was continuing to drive him forward.

Shaking his head slightly, he began to walk forward again, causing the crew to recoil at once, shaking their heads in disbelief.

As the dragon returned its gaze to him, Jon raised his hand towards it.

When he reached the edge of the galley, Jon raised his hand further towards the dragon, who stayed still for a moment, still beating its wings to stay alongside the ship. Jon kept his eyes locked onto the dragons blazing bronze eyes, feeling the breeze from the wings ruffle his hair.

The dragon moved its head closer to Jon’s hand, its reptilian nostrils flaring slightly, catching his scent. Jon could feel his heart hammering in his chest. He was looking uneasily at the rows of black teeth, keenly aware that if his idea was wrong then the dragon would have no problem in ripping off his arm.

The dragon’s snout was now only inches from Jon’s hand and he could feel the heat radiating off the creature, like he was warming his hand in front of a roaring fire.

Then the snout made contact with his palm and Jon was sure that the contact was scalding his palm even through his leather gloves. The dragon’s eyes closed for a moment as Jon patted his scaly nose uncertainly, completely disbelieving.

The dragon stayed in place for a moment before it spread its wings and, with an ear-splitting roar, soared back to where its fellow was circling, high above them. Jon stayed as he was, hand still outstretched for a moment.

“What the fuck was that?” Tormund demanded, as he stood alongside Jon, looking at him as if he was insane.

“I have no idea,” replied Jon, honestly.

*

A few days later the island of Dragonstone came into view, with its imposing keep overlooking it. Jon stared at the jet-black stone castle, wondering what kind of reception they would get from its occupant. As Jon watched, he saw another dragon come into view, circling the keep and his mind went back to the encounter with the green dragon.

Jon still couldn’t wrap his head around why the dragon hadn’t harmed him or his own certainty that nothing would happen. Tormund and Davos were as confused about it as he was. Tormund, however, once he had gotten over the shock of it, had praised him.

“You’ve got a pair on you, lad,” He had laughed, while slapping him on the back. “Staring down a fucking dragon. After fighting and killing a White Walker, I thought you were fucking mad. Now I know you are!”

An hour later, Jon, Davos and Tormund along with Ghost made their way to shore, having docked The Wolf of the Sea a little offshore. As they grew closer to the shore, Jon saw two figures make their way down from the small village. One of them Jon could recognise even at this distance.

As they disembarked, Tyrion Lannister walked towards them, smiling broadly across a heavily scarred face.

“Jon Snow,” he beamed. “It is good to see you again, my friend. And you too, Ghost.”

Ghost padded up to Tyrion, whom the direwolf now towered over, and lowered himself down to allow Tyrion to pet him.

“It is good to you too, Lannister,” replied Jon, returning his smile as they shook hands. “This is Tormund Giantsbane and Ser Davos Seaworth.”

Tyrion stepped past Jon to shake the other two men’s hands, giving Jon a better look at his damaged face.

“It seems like you have seen some battle since we last met.”

“Ah this,” he replied, indicating his scarred face dismissively. “Compliments of a Kingsguard blade at the Battle of Blackwater. And you, Snow? Where did your scars come from?”

“From an eagle being controlled by a Wildling warg.”

Tyrion’s eyes narrowed slightly but there was an expression of amusement on his face.

“Well, well, Jon. The stories about you get increasingly stranger. King in the North, resurrected from the dead and now attacked by an eagle.”

“And here you are at the side of Daenerys Targaryen. I am sure that is a strange tale too.”

“One I will be all too glad to share with you, my friend. After you have met the queen. Ah, forgive me. Where are my manners? I believe you know my companion here, Theon Greyjoy.”

Jon’s eyes snapped to the man standing behind Tyrion and, sure enough, there Theon stood, staring resolutely at the ground.

Hatred and fury rose up in Jon like he had never felt before. Here stood the man that had betrayed his brother, caused so much pain to the people of the North and the reason that Bran and Rickon had to flee their home. It took all of Jon’s restraint to not unsheathe Longclaw and take his head there and then. Ghost moved to stand behind Jon, lowered onto his haunches and snarling at Theon.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that Tyrion was watching him closely, with an expression of curiosity and apprehension on his face. Jon dimly wondered what this was all about. Tyrion knew about what Theon had done to the Starks, so why was he bringing him here? Jon ignored his suspicions as he walked towards Theon.

When he reached him, Theon was still staring down at his feet but Jon could see, now that he was closer, that he was quivering. Jon pushed away a wave of pity for him and waited for a moment but it didn’t look like he was going to move on his own.

“Look at me Theon,” Jon commanded.

Theon waited for a moment, before raising his head to meet Jon’s eye. Jon saw, with a flicker of shock, that Theon was scared out of his wits.

“Why Theon? Why did you betray Robb?”

There was no answer at first. He just stood there shaking, meeting Jon’s furious gaze with his own watery one.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered finally, his tears finally falling free.

“Sorry isn’t enough Theon. You have done far too much to my family to earn any kind of forgiveness. However, luckily for you, there are two reasons why I will not be taking your life today.”

Theon looked at Jon with both relief and confusion on his face. Jon continued, ignoring Theon’s obvious joy at his words.

“First, I need an alliance with Daenerys and I doubt that killing one of her allies will be a good start towards that end.

“Second, you saved Sansa from Ramsay’s clutches. While that is not enough to erase what you have done to the Stark family, it is enough to convince me that I don’t need to kill you.”

Jon turned away from Theon and towards Tyrion, whose wide smile had returned causing Jon to scowl in confusion. He was clearly happy by the outcome of this meeting, but Jon couldn’t work out why.

“What was this?” Jon asked furiously.

“A small test,” responded Tyrion. “To see if you can put family grudges aside for us to work together. It will be needed for you and Queen Daenerys to reach common ground.”

“I think, Tyrion,” said Jon evenly, trying to quell the anger inside him. “That out of mine and Daenerys’ families, the Starks have the right to hold a grudge.”

“Point taken, my friend. But remember, Aerys was the Queen’s father and she sees those who took the throne as usurpers.”

Jon scoffed derisively but chose not to argue any further. He would save that for the Queen.

As Jon opened his mouth to ask Tyrion where exactly Daenerys was, there was a screech from above them, causing all to look up to see a very pale coloured, almost white, dragon circling down towards them.

It landed a short distance away and Tyrion walked towards it, beckoning for Jon to follow him. As Jon got closer he could see that there was golden colour mixed in with the white scales.

“This is Viserion,” said Tyrion, as he patted the scaly nose of the dragon. “He is the smallest and friendliest of Queen Daenerys’ dragons. He also seems to have taken greatly to me.”

“What about the green one?”, Jon asked, quickly. “Is he known to be friendly?”

Tyrion’s head whipped around, clearly baffled by Jon’s statement.

“How do you know about Rhaegal?”

“We saw him on the way here, along with the large black one.”

“That’s Drogon. What happened?” demanded Tyrion eagerly.

Jon told Tyrion the story of meeting Rhaegal on the ship. As he progressed further into his tale, Jon saw that Tyrion’s look of amazement increase.

“That is incredible,” said Tyrion, shocked. “Rhaegal isn’t known for being too friendly to strangers, though he is not nearly as hostile as Drogon.

“However, dragons are smart creatures. Rhaegal more than likely saw you order that crewman to leave him unharmed. While it is doubtful that he would have been greatly injured, he would likely be grateful that you protected him.”

“How do you know that?” grunted Tormund, dismissively. “It is a dragon, not a person. How can you tell what it is thinking?”

As if to answer him, Viserion growled slightly at him, causing Tormund to jump and move away from him.

“There you go,” said Tyrion, smirking. “They are very smart creatures. They understand what is happening around them. That is why Daenerys is able to command them as she does.

“Speaking of whom, we should get going.”

Jon walked beside Tyrion, with Ghost alongside him. Jon glanced over his shoulder and saw that Theon was following Tormund, still gazing at the floor, and he felt another pang of pity for the former Stark ward now that he saw first-hand the damage that Ramsay had done to him.

As they made their way through the village, Jon mulled over what Tyrion had said.

Earning a dragon’s gratitude, though Jon, amazed. Now I have heard everything.

Jon looked around and saw many different standards flying around here and there. There were some that he vaguely recognised but some, like a silver seahorse on green, that completely eluded him.

“I see we are not the only guests here.”

“No,” said Tyrion, smirking slightly. “Most of those here are the ones, like yourself, that showed up without sending a raven first.

“Many, like House Velaryon, claimed that they didn’t waste time with ravens and set sail as soon as they read Daenerys summons, ready to swear fealty to the rightful Queen.”

“Fucking bootlickers,” growled Tormund, causing Tyrion to burst into laughter.

“Quite right, my friend. The others, like Houses Tarth and Tarly, did it purely to prevent their raven being intercepted by forces loyal to Cersei, I suspect.”

“Tarly?” Jon said, surprised. “They are here?”

“Yes, Randyll Tarly and his son Dickon arrived three days ago. Why do you ask?”

“I know his older son, Samwell, from the Night’s Watch. He’s my friend.”

“Well maybe I could make an introduction?” Tyrion offered pleasantly.

“I don’t think that would go well,” responded Jon darkly. “I have heard too many stories about his father from Sam so it would likely end with an argument.”

Tyrion nodded his understanding as they climbed even higher towards the keep. Jon looked around him and saw a variety of people. He saw some that were clearly Westerosi knights but there were others that drew his eye. He saw some warriors with long braided hair and curved blades, speaking in a harsh language that he didn’t understand.

“They are the Dothraki,” informed Tyrion, following Jon’s distracted gaze. “Daenerys won their loyalty before she set sail.”

As they continued up the hill, Jon turned to Davos.

“Strange being back Davos?”

“You could say that, Your Grace,” he replied, smiling slightly. “But it I pleasant too. I called this place home for many years.”

As they grew closer to the keep, Tyrion grew more and more nervous looking.

“Jon,” said Tyrion hesitantly. “You know that Daenerys expects you to bend the knee to her?”

Jon chuckled slightly at his words.

“I’m sure Her Grace expects many things, Tyrion. That doesn’t mean they will happen. The Northerners made me their king and I would be a very poor one to give up the title not even a month into having it.”

Tyrion opened his mouth to respond but seemed to think better of it and shook his head. Jon was glad. He liked Tyrion and didn’t want their friendship to be soured arguing over his queen.

As they passed through the main doors into the keep, Jon felt a sense of excitement and anxiety begin to bubble in the pit of his stomach. As he walked through the corridors, he gazed at the dragon carvings on the wall and shook his head, laughing.

Well the Dragon Queen seems to have picked the right place for her seat, he thought.

They came to a large set of doors and Tyrion stopped next to it. Jon turned and saw that Theon had slipped away somewhere.

 “So, Jon,” said Tyrion, drawing attention back to him. “Are you ready to meet the Queen?”

Chapter Text

 

Bran

 

“If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him. You know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.”

Lyanna dying, in a bed of blood.

Eddard taking the baby from one of Lyanna’s handmaidens.

The baby.

Jon.

The vision faded and Bran came back to the present, breathing heavily as if he had been running, his mind racing in pace with heart. He couldn’t believe what he had just seen.

His aunt Lyanna was Jon’s mother. Bran thought he knew who Jon’s father was, given her kidnapping by Rhaegar being one of the main causes of the rebellion. Jon’s father was unlikely to be Robert Baratheon as, while he was known to be a drunk and violent man, he was unlikely to kill his own child, especially if it was with his beloved Lyanna, who had been stolen from him.

Was she stolen? Bran wondered.

He had been told his whole life that Rhaegar taking Lyanna was one of the reasons for the rebellion, but had she truly been stolen? Or had she chosen to leave with him?

As he thought back to the end of the vision, Bran felt a rush of respect for his father. He had taken Jon in, while knowing that he would be seen throughout Westeros as a man who had dishonoured his wife by fathering a bastard. He had then raised Jon, his nephew, with the same respect and love as he had his own true children.

Bran thought of Jon, his cousin. He recalled the coldness and indifference that his mother, and later Sansa, would have for Jon for as long as he could remember. He couldn’t help but wonder what would have been different if his father had told his mother about Jon’s true parentage. Would she have treated Jon differently? Would she have welcomed him as a true member of the family, instead of someone who constantly brought shame to the Stark name?

A rush of pity and sadness for Jon flooded through Bran. Jon had considered himself a bastard all of his life, a black mark of shame against his father’s honour. He had constantly distanced himself from everyone as though he didn’t really fit in, even joining the Night’s Watch to relieve himself, and the family, from the shame he thought he brought them.

I’m sorry, Jon, thought Bran, sadly. You didn’t deserve to have all this thrust upon you for so long.

“Bran?” Meera asked, looking worried at his silence. “Bran? Are you all right?”

Bran stayed silent for a moment longer, trying to control his whirlwind of thoughts.

“Y-yes,” stammered Bran, finally. “I am fine.”

“What did you see?”

“Jon,” Bran replied quietly, feeling a renewed rush of sympathy for his cousin at the sound of his name.

“Your brother?” Meera asked, looking confused.

“No,” replied Bran, shaking his head. “He is not my brother. He is my cousin.”

Meera’s eyes widened at his words, before furrowing her brow in confusion.

“My father found Lyanna dying from childbirth,” explained Bran. “As she died, father promised her that he would protect Jon, so he took him to Winterfell and raised him as a son.”

“Bran, I-”, Meera faltered slightly, her brow still furrowed. “Why did the Three-eyed Raven show this to you? It is important to your family, but everything he showed you was to help us against the White Walkers.”

“Well,” said Bran, thoughtfully. “His father could be Rhaegar Targaryen. I don’t know that for sure, although your father might. He was there with my father when they found Lyanna.”

“Bran!” Meera said suddenly, sitting up a little straighter. “If Rhaegar is Jon’s father, then he is a prince, an heir to the Iron Throne.”

“Yeah,” said Bran absent-mindedly, as he mulled over her words. “He would be, wouldn’t he?”

Bran was struck by a sudden memory, of overhearing Old Nan telling Robb and Jon about the Long Night.

“How were the White Walkers defeated?” Robb had asked, bouncing up and down in his seat, brimming with excitement.

“Azor Ahai, with his flaming sword, known as Lightbringer, defeated them.” Old Nan had replied.

“Who was Azor Ahai?” Bran remembered that Jon had been sitting with his eyes wide, hanging onto her every word.

“No one knows, child. But it is said that he will one day be reborn as the Prince that was Promised.”

The Prince that was Promised, echoed Bran.

If Rhaegar was Jon’s father, then he would be a prince. He had also been the subject of a literal promise, from Eddard to Lyanna. It all seemed to fit.

Could Jon be-?

“Bran,” said Meera, bringing him from his thoughts. “We need to keep moving.”

“Right,” replied Bran, nodding vaguely as he tried to wrap his head around his theory.

They made their way towards the wall very slowly, as they no longer had the sledge or a horse to move Bran. He half-dragged himself along through the heavy snow while Meera helped him when he tired. It was a long and arduous process.

Bran thought of the ease of their journeys before, with the help of Hodor. Bran felt a rush of loss and guilt for the absence of his friend, that had little to nothing to do with his ability to carry Bran around. He remembered Hodor’s last moments, the gentle giant sacrificing himself to save Bran and Meera from the horde of wights.

He was so much more than people thought, Bran realised sadly. I’m sorry Hodor. I’m so sorry.

After a few hours, they hadn’t gone very far but Bran and Meera were both exhausted and took a rest in a large clearing, under the branches of a large tree. Bran was grateful for the rest, as it gave him a chance to plan what he would say to Jon at Castle Black.

He had decided to tell him about his vision, whether he would believe it was another matter. Bran understood that his abilities, his visions that had predicted the future and now being able to see into the past through the weirwood trees, were hard to both explain and comprehend. He was sure that Jon would believe him though. Even if they weren’t brothers, they were still family and were as close as brothers.

However, what Bran was not sure of was Jon’s reaction to the news. The news that everything he had thought he had known about himself was a lie. He wasn’t the son of Eddard Stark but, possibly, Rhaegar Targaryen. The man they had all been told had stolen his aunt, really his mother, away from her home based on his lust for her.

Bran was woken from his thoughts by a sudden realisation.

It had become very quiet.

No birds chirping in the trees. No rustling in the leaves above them. Nothing.

Bran looked towards Meera and saw a look of horror spreading across her face. She had obviously realised what this meant, although Bran was still completely in the dark at the moment.

And then he heard it.

Footsteps in the snow.

From two different directions.

Bran’s chest constricted in fear. He had a feeling that he knew what was coming although he prayed to the Old Gods that he was wrong. The chill that was creeping into his bones however was confirming his suspicions. He had gotten used to the cold beyond the wall but this was worse, like his blood was turning to ice in his veins.

The footsteps were getting louder and closer. He could hear branches snapping and breaking as the two approaching figures pushed their way through the brush. Bran looked to Meera and saw her face was as white as the snow all around them, as she clutched at the hilt of the dragonglass dagger at her hip.

Bran turned back in the direction of the nearest of the footsteps and froze in place.

A White Walker walked into the clearing.

Bran looked to his right and saw another one, almost identical, come to a stop thirty feet away. Bran took in their appearance, tall with their night-black armour covering their pale blue skin that almost seemed to steam in the cold air. Bran saw their weapons, which sent another shiver down his spine. One had a blade that resembled a traditional longsword, even though it looked to be made of pure ice, while the other appeared to carry a spear. Bran looked at their blue eyes, which seemed to glow in the dim light of the clearing, and began to shiver uncontrollably.

Bran saw movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to see Meera rising to her feet, unsheathing her dagger. She stood still, her eyes fixed on the White Walker closest to them, on their left. A small, derisive smirk appeared on its cruel mouth as it began to move towards them.

Bran tried desperately to warg into it, hoping to be able to control one into killing the other. But Bran physically recoiled upon trying, feeling as though he had just run into a wall. He felt blood trickle from his nose as he looked at the White Walker, stunned. He didn’t know if the White Walker’s magic had pushed him out or if he didn’t yet have the skill required to do so.

A sound that was similar to ice cracking filled the clearing and Bran looked between the two White Walkers, who had halted in the tracks after Bran’s feeble attempt to enter their mind. They were looking at each other and their mouths were moving in what looked like communication. They both looked back at Bran and Meera and began to move forward, as one.

Bran looked on helplessly as the White Walkers advanced on them, grinning at them mercilessly. Bran saw Meera adopt an attacking stance, ready to fight to the death with her small dagger. Bran remembered hopelessly that the dagger wouldn’t last very long as, according to Leaf, dragonglass blades were notoriously brittle.

Then came another sound. One that made Bran’s heart soar.

The sound of a galloping horse.

Both White Walkers froze, the nearest a mere five feet away.

Every eye in the clearing was drawn to the sound and saw Benjen racing towards them, approaching the White Walker on the right, armed with the spear. Meera reacted quickly and lunged forward and plunged the dragonglass into the nearest White Walker’s back.

A horrific screech filled the clearing, as the White Walker thrashed helplessly, trying to remove the shard of glass from between its shoulder blades. It was hopeless however. As Bran watched the White Walker’s skin seemed to harden and become more and more like ice. It fell to its knees and literally shattered, its pieces spreading out over the snow. Bran saw Meera turn toward the other and followed her gaze.

They turned just in time to see Benjen’s horse reach the White Walker and Benjen swinging his sword down in an arc and make contact with the icy spear. His steel blade shattered, its pieces spinning everywhere.

As his horse continued on, Benjen swung down deftly from the saddle, drawing his second sword. This one was made of dragonglass, its jagged blade shimmering in the darkness.

Benjen rushed forward, dodging a lunge from the White Walker’s spear. He danced around it, dodging all its attacks. Bran could see that his uncle was looking for a weak spot to allow an instant kill, not risking his frail blade on parring any blows. He realised that this was the reason that Benjen had not used it while upon horseback. It too would have shattered on contact with the spear, just for different reasons.

The White Walker swung his spear toward Benjen, who ducked it just in time and thrust his blade through the face of the creature. There was no scream this time, it just burst into a cloud of icy fragments.

Benjen stood still for a moment, looking down at his fractured blade, which too had exploded into fragments. He threw away the useless hilt and made his way toward Bran and Meera.

“Come on Bran,” said his uncle, as he pulled Bran onto his back. “They were sent by the Night King to kill you. I passed them on my way North and decided to double back. We need to get you south of the Wall as fast as possible.”

“What?” said Bran incredulously. “The Night King sent them?”

“Bran, don’t be foolish!” Benjen snapped. “You are the Three-eyed Raven now! You are one of the few people who can warn those in the south about the oncoming threat. Of course, he wants you dead!”

“But, Benjen! What about the mark?” Bran asked horror struck, as Benjen hoisted him onto his horse. “Won’t it break the enchantments on the Wall? If it does, then the Night King will make through.”

“Don’t worry, Bran,” said Benjen, patting his arm reassuringly. “The enchantments and magics on the Wall are far more powerful and numerous than those on the cave. The mark you bear may weaken them slightly but not enough to allow the Night King’s army to cross.

“Even if it were,” continued Benjen as he helped Meera into the saddle in front of Bran and handed her the reins, “he isn’t sending his army towards the Wall. He is spreading them thin all across the wilderness, like he is searching for something.”

“Maybe he is looking for the remaining Wildlings,” offered Meera weakly.

“Possibly. But doubtful,” replied Benjen, looking pensive. “I believe he is looking for something that will help him to bring down the Wall and allow him to begin his invasion of the south. Which means you need to get there as fast as possible so you can warn them.”

“What about you?” asked Bran, worried about his answer.

“I’m going to head north, to continue fighting.”

“But you’ve lost your weapons!”

“Come now, Bran,” said Benjen, shaking his head slightly. “I am not that careless. I have a few more blades hidden around. I will be fine.”

Bran didn’t believe him. He looked at the face of his uncle, more damaged and weathered than he remembered from his childhood, and realised that this would be the last time he saw him.

Choking back his emotion, Bran nodded slightly.

“Goodbye, Uncle Benjen.”

“Goodbye, Bran,” replied Benjen, as he placed his hand on Bran’s shoulder.

They looked at each other for a moment, silently saying goodbye, before Benjen nodded at Bran and walked off into the trees. Bran watched him leave with a sense of foreboding, knowing his uncle was marching to his death.

Bran gripped hold of Meera’s waist tight, blinking away his grief, while silently willing her to leave the clearing. Meera seemed to understand, as she spurred the horse northwards. When Bran looked over his shoulder, Benjen had disappeared into the trees.

*

It took them an hour of hard riding to reach the Wall. Even though he had seen it before, Bran was in awe of the sight of it as though he was seeing it for the first time.

They headed for a large gate at the base of the Wall. Bran hoped that they were heading for Castle Black. When they had headed north, they had crossed through the Nightfort, which had been long abandoned. Luckily, the gate opened as they approached and they were received by several members of the Night’s Watch.

“Who are you?” called one of them, as they grew nearer.

“I’m Brandon Stark, of Winterfell,” shouted Bran. “I am Jon Snow’s brother. This is Meera Reed, of Greywater Watch.”

At the mention of Jon, the brothers looked at each other with matching looks of shock. Bran looked between them, with concern and suspicion.

Has something happened to Jon? Bran thought, concerned.

“What the fuck are you two doing?” came another voice from behind them. Bran saw a man of around Jon’s age with long hair and a short beard. When he arrived, the men seemed to back away in respect.

When the new man heard who Bran and Meera were, he ordered that they both be brought to the Lord Commander’s chambers, with plenty of food and water to be supplied for them.

As Bran was carried through the tunnel, he held his breath as he still expected, despite Benjen’s warning, that the Wall would crumble around him. While that didn’t happen, Bran felt something vibrate through him as he passed through. He knew that this was the magics that Benjen had mentioned and they seemed, for the moment at least, to be holding strong.

As they reached the courtyard, Bran began craning his neck, trying to look all around him and catch a glimpse of Jon. It seemed to be in vain, however, as there was no sign of him anywhere.

The Lord Commander’s chambers were quite small and decorated very sparsely. There was a desk, behind which the man with long hair was sat, as well as a few chairs and a narrow bed, behind a small partition. However, the roaring fire was welcome after the near constant cold that they had endured for the past few days.

Bran was placed in one of the chair on the other side of the desk, next to Meera, who was already tucking into the food spread across the desk. Bran saw that they had brought bread, cheese and various bowls of stew as well as a flagon of ale. It wasn’t until he saw the food on display that he realised how hungry he was and began to eat.

“I am the Lord Commander here, for the moment anyway,” said the man, as he poured himself a horn of ale. “My name is Eddison Tollett, but you can call me Edd.”

Bran nodded his understanding, his mouth too full to answer. Edd smiled slightly before continuing.

“So, you’re Bran? Jon has told me a lot about you.”

“Where is he?” asked Bran finally. “Where is Jon?”

“Well,” sighed Edd, as he took a large swig from his horn. “This is going to be hard to believe-”

“Trust me, Edd,” interrupted Bran earnestly. “I can believe many things after what I’ve seen beyond the Wall.”

“Yeah, I bet you can,” Ed smiled slightly before growing grave. “Well, Jon is not here. He left a few months ago.”

“He left?” replied Bran before shaking his head incredulously. “Jon wouldn’t break his oath. That is not like him.”

“Well, he didn’t break his oath. Not really,” explained Edd slowly. “The Night’s Watch oath lasts until death. Jon was the Lord Commander before me. But he was mutinied against and murdered.”

Meera choked on her mouthful next to him, as Bran’s mouth fell open.

“He was killed?”

“He was. He was resurrected by a priestess, Melisandre, who then began going around calling him the Prince that was Promised or some shit.”

There it is again, thought Bran, before pushing it away and focusing on more important questions.

“Who killed him?” asked Bran furiously. “And why?”

“Alliser Thorne,” replied Edd bitterly. “He and Jon hated each other from the moment they set eyes on each other. He was joined by Othell Yarwyck, Bowen Marsh and Jon’s steward Olly. They killed Jon because he let the Wildlings south of the Wall.”

“What happened to them?” asked Meera quietly.

“Jon personally executed them,” replied Edd, with a twinge of satisfaction on his face. “One of the first things he did after he came back.”

Bran nodded grimly. He was glad that death hadn’t seemed to change Jon too much, as he still seemed to be following Eddard’s teachings, by executing the traitors according to the Old Way.

“So, where is Jon?” asked Bran.

“Your sister, Sansa I think she said, she showed up here with a giant of a woman and her squire. Ramsay Bolton sent a letter challenging Jon to take Winterfell back as he had Rickon in his dungeons.”

Bran felt a cold sweat break out all over his body at Edd’s words. He was vaguely aware of Meera looking at him concerned but he gave it little attention.

Not Rickon, begged Bran desperately. Not Rickon too.

“W-what happened?” asked Bran shakily, his voice cracking slightly in expectation of the worst.

Edd’s expression seemed to confirm his worst fears.

“I’m sorry, Bran. From what I heard, Jon and your sister managed to take back Winterfell and kill Ramsay but Rickon was killed. Rumours are that Ramsay did it himself.”

Bran sat in his chair, feeling numb. He felt like his world was collapsing.

He can’t be gone, thought Bran. Not little Rickon.

Bran remembered his little brother, who had always run around the courtyard of Winterfell, trying to join in with Robb and Jon when they would practise their swordsmanship with Ser Rodrik. He remembered the look of joy on his face when Robb had presented him with the small, black direwolf pup, that he would name Shaggydog. He remembered the tearful look on his face that night in the windmill when they had said goodbye, for what would prove to be the last time.

Bran looked at his feet, as tears began to form at the corner of his eyes.

Father, Mother, Robb and now Rickon, thought Bran despairingly. And Arya is missing and who knows where.

Bran thought back to his training under the Three-eyed Raven. One of the first things he had shown Bran was the Red Wedding. The sight of Robb and his mother being killed by the Freys, in an act of betrayal, had filled Bran with such a feeling of sorrow and grief that he didn’t speak to anyone for days, mulling on their loss. The feeling was returning in full force at the loss of his brother, but Bran knew that he wouldn’t be able to shut himself away this time.

“What happened at Winterfell?” Bran managed to say, choking back his grief. Meera reached out and squeezed his hand supportively, and Bran returned its pressure unconsciously.

“Jon and Sansa managed to raise an army,” replied Edd hesitantly. “Mainly made of Wildlings but he managed to secure the loyalty of a few smaller houses, like Mormont and Hornwood.”

“Wait a minute,” interjected Meera suddenly. “Why did Jon let the Wildlings beyond the Wall? I thought that was one of the duties of the Night’s Watch.”

“It is,” replied Edd, and Bran could see that he looked uncomfortable at this topic. “Jon brought them south to stop them becoming part of the White Walkers’ army of the dead. I know that sounds unbelievable but-”

“I know it is true, Edd,” interrupted Bran, quickly. “I’ve seen them with my own eyes.”

Edd’s eyes widened slightly but then his face relaxed. He seemed relieved that someone knew that the White Walkers were real and not just some story, told to frighten children.

“After Jon and I fought them at Hardhome, I thought no one would believe us. Many didn’t. You don’t know how good it feels to know you aren’t the crazy one.”

Bran smiled slightly at his words, mainly because he now knew the feeling. He was glad that someone other than him had seen the White Walkers, someone other than him would carry the warning to the south. Jon had seen them too and had surely told all those who would believe him.

“Anyway,” said Edd, continuing his story. “Like I said, Jon and Sansa amassed an army and took back Winterfell, although not without loss. After the battle, the Northern lords, and those of the Vale, proclaimed Jon the White Wolf, the King in the North.”

Bran sat still for a moment, completely disbelieving his own ears.

“Jon is the King?” asked Bran incredulously.

“Yes,” replied Edd. “He has definitely has improved his situation.”

Bran sat for a moment, mulling on these revelations.

Jon has been through a lot. Bran thought sadly. Being murdered, resurrected, winning back Winterfell and being named King. And now I show up and will tell him he might be the heir to Seven Kingdoms.

“You shall stay here for a few days,” said Edd, pulling Bran from his reverie. “I will send a raven to Winterfell to inform them of your arrival. Jon has sent me a thousand men to man as many castles as I can. When they arrive, I will order a few of them to escort you home.”

“Thank you, Edd,” said Bran, nodding.

“Ah, it’s nothing. Jon was my brother so I will do all I can to help his true sibling.”

*

For the next few days, Bran and Meera spent much of their time resting or planning on how they would act to spread their warning of the Night King’s coming. Edd had taken them up to the top of the Wall. Bran looked out at the lands beyond the Wall and wondered about what Benjen had told them.

What is the Night King looking for? How long will it take him to find it? And what would happen when he does?

Three days after they arrived, the men arrived from Winterfell, a thousand strong. Bran looked out in amazement as he saw all the various standards that they carried.

Glover. Manderly. Cerwyn. Tallhart. Mazin. All houses loyal to Jon, thought Bran, with pride.

The various commanders of the men presented themselves to Edd, offering their service in the name of ‘Jon Snow, the White Wolf, and the King in the North.’ Edd then sent them to repair and man the many castles along the Wall. The Nightfort, Stonedoor and Queensguard among many other names that Bran couldn’t place.

Edd pulled aside six men, who bore the silver fist standard of House Glover, and ordered them to escort Bran and Meera back to Winterfell. As they prepared to leave, Edd approached them.

“Thank you, Edd, for everything you have done for us,” said Bran gratefully as he approached.

“It’s nothing,” replied Edd, waving his hand dismissively. “Tell Jon we will hold the Wall for as long as we can but we don’t have enough men to keep them back forever.”

Bran nodded his understanding and shook the man’s hand.

“I’ll tell him. Don’t worry. The Night King won’t win.”

As Edd nodded grimly back at Bran, a horn sounded indicating that it was time to leave. Bran led his horse through the gates and down the road towards Winterfell. He looked back over his shoulder several times, each time expecting to see the Wall collapsing on itself, his guilt over breaking the enchantments on the cave not yet gone.

It took them several further days to reach Winterfell, the excitement in Bran’s stomach building more and more with each passing hour. When the walls of his birthplace came into view Bran almost cheered in joy, unable to contain his excitement at seeing Jon and Sansa once more.

As they approached the keep, Bran’s heart soared ever higher at seeing the Stark banners once more flying from its walls. The fanfare that greeted them as they passed through the gates nearly caused his horse to bolt, however Bran was not concerned. His attention was taken by the young woman standing in the middle of the courtyard. A young pretty woman with long auburn hair.

Sansa.

Bran’s face broke into a grin and saw that his expression was mirrored on her face. One of the Stark guardsman helped Bran from his saddle and placed him into a chair that they had prepare for him.

Sansa strode across the courtyard, all sense of duty forgotten, and wrapped her arms around him, sobbing slightly into his shoulder. Bran returned the gesture, his smile never fading. As he held his sister close, he struggled to remember when he had been so happy. All the pain from the losses that he had endured; his family, Jojen, Hodor, all seemed to diminish slightly now that he had gained something back that he had thought he had lost forever when he and Rickon had fled these walls.

He was home.

Chapter Text

 

Tyrion

 

“Are you ready to meet the Queen?”

As his friend nodded his assent Tyron examined Jon Snow’s expression. He looked determined but there was also a sense of apprehension about him, like he was unsure about the outcome of the following meeting. Tyrion was more than aware of the bad blood between the families of Jon and Dany, but he was sure that they could put that aside for the good of the realm, especially if he was there to guide them both.

“Very well,” said Tyrion, rubbing his hand together. “I will go in first and when the door opens again, you can follow me.”

As Jon and his companions nodded, Tyrion turned on his heel and knocked hard on the huge wooden doors. They were pulled open by the Unsullied who guarded the inside.

Tyrion walked into the Great Hall and made his way to the far side of the room, where Dany had set up a temporary dais upon which a throne had been placed. Tyrion cast his eyes around the room, taking in the Targaryen banners that hung on the walls and the large amount of Unsullied guards that were stationed every ten feet or so around the perimeter of the hall.

He looked towards the dais and his eyes fell upon the Queen, sitting up tall on her throne. Grey Worm and Barbarro stood behind the throne, ready to protect her at a moment’s notice. Missandei sat to her left, her hands clasped in her lap, with Yara standing next to her, leaning against the back wall. To Dany’s immediate right was his own empty chair and then Varys, who watched his approach with quiet amusement.

Tyrion reached his chair and sat down, noticing that Dany had turned her head towards him with an inquisitive look in her violet eyes.

“Jon Snow waits outside, Your Grace,” said Tyrion, pouring himself a goblet of wine.

Dany nodded as she returned her gaze to the doors. Tyrion thought he could detect a look of excited anticipation cross her beautiful features and couldn’t supress a smile.

Since they had learned of the Northern king’s travel, Tyrion had lost count of the amount of times she had pressed either himself or Varys for information about Jon. His supposed death and resurrection, his time at the Night’s Watch, his first few acts as the King in the North. She had been told of his exploits that had given him the name the ‘White Wolf’ and his reputation as the greatest swordsman in the North. The more the stories were retold, Tyrion had begun to notice a tiny glimmer of admiration cross her face.

Is this her trying to be well informed about her guest? Tyrion wondered, as he too turned to face the entrance. Or is there something more to it?

Dany signalled to the Unsullied at the door to let Jon and his companions enter. Tyrion saw that Ser Davos and Tormund entered first, with Jon lagging behind with an awkward expression on his face, causing Tyrion to smile even wider.

When the two men reached the foot of the dais Davos nodded respectfully while Tormund barely jerked his head.

“Greetings, Your Grace,” said Davos, as he straightened up. “I am Ser Davos of House Seaworth and this is Tormund Giantsbane. We travel as companions to our king.”

At this both he and Tormund stepped aside and allowed Jon to approach, his cloak billowing around him as he walked. It was at this moment that his similarity to his father, Eddard, struck Tyrion. He had noticed it dimly the moment Jon had stepped onto the beach, but it was here that Tyrion could not ignore the comparison. It wasn’t just the physical characteristics that drew Tyrion’s attention however. Jon had a similar commanding presence to his father, with such a sense of self-confidence in his actions that made his men so ready to follow him.

Jon reached the dais and stopped. He looked up at Dany and Tyrion saw something flicker on his face for a moment, the corners of his mouth twitching slightly. Before Tyrion could identify his expression, his face returned to its usual sombre demeanour.

“Your Grace,” said Jon, nodding his head respectfully but remaining on his feet.

There was a moment of stunned silence. Every lord who had come into this hall had bent the knee to Dany, before declaring their loyalty to her as the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Jon was the first to defy her in this way. Tyrion looked at Dany out of the corner of his eye and saw her stiffen slightly. He reached out and drank more of his wine.

This is not going to be good, thought Tyrion.

“Your Grace,” replied Dany coolly, barely inclining her head in response.

There was another beat of silence, every eye in the hall drawn to the two sovereigns, neither of whom was dropping their gaze from the other, with an icy atmosphere spreading between them.

Missandei’s scream broke the silence. Tyrion turned to her and saw her terrified gaze was fixed to the door behind Jon. Tyrion turned to the doors to see Ghost making his way inside, barely sparing a glance at the flanking guards, who had raised their spears with disbelieving looks on their faces.

As Ghost made his way towards Jon, Tyrion saw that the Unsullied were looking at each other, completely at a loss for what to do. They had gotten used to the sight of Dany’s dragons, but the sight of a wolf that was as tall as they were had clearly shaken them. Tyrion looked at Dany and saw that she was staring open-mouthed at the direwolf, her hands clutching at the arms of her throne, turning her knuckles white.

Ghost padded up to Jon and stopped, turning his head towards his master. Jon reached up and buried his hand in the wolf’s snow-white fur.

“My apologies, Your Grace,” he said courteously, returning his gaze to her. “I should have offered a word in warning.”

“What is it?” asked Missandei, in a small timid voice. She was clearly still unnerved by the sight of the albino wolf.

“This is Ghost,” replied Jon, as he turned to Missandei and smiled reassuringly at her. “He is my direwolf. I apologise if he scared you, my lady. I give you my word, he is well trained and he won’t harm you. He only attacks those who are untrustworthy.”

A door opened behind them and Ghost’s demeanour changed. He instantly lowered himself to the ground, baring his teeth in a vicious snarl. Tyrion turned to see that Theon had entered the room, and was now cowering against the wall, shaking uncontrollably. Tyrion had to suppress his smile at the sight of the Greyjoy’s fear as he returned his gaze to the direwolf.

He deserves to be afraid, he thought scathingly. Knowing what he did to the Stark boys, I am still amazed that Jon didn’t take his head when he arrived. He must really need something from Daenerys.

Jon knelt down next to Ghost but kept his eyes pinned on Theon, a look of cold fury etched on his face.

“As I said,” he said, his voice trembling in suppressed rage. “He is not fond of untrustworthy people.”

Tyrion saw Dany’s expression change into one of understanding, as she looked between Jon and Theon. Tyrion couldn’t help but notice the flicker of anger on her face when she looked at Greyjoy.

“Where did you find him?” Dany asked, a slight note of interest in her voice as she turned her gaze to direwolf. At the same time, she raised her hand to stop Barbarro, who had unsheathed his blade and was eyeing the wolf with trepidation.

“As a pup,” replied Jon, as he returned to his feet. Ghost had settled down slightly but kept his blood-red eyes locked on Theon. “My father had executed a deserter of the Night’s Watch and my brothers Robb and Bran, as well as myself, had accompanied him. Even Theon was with us.”

Tyrion saw Dany turn her head toward Theon once more as Ghost let out a low growl from the floor.

“On the way back to Winterfell, we found a dead direwolf with five pups around it, one for each of the Stark children. As we left, I found Ghost, who had wandered from the rest. So, we took them in and raised them.”

“What did your siblings name theirs Jon?” Tyrion injected genially, as he refilled his now empty goblet. “I have forgotten.”

As soon as he said the words, he regretted them. A look of pure sorrow appeared on Jon’s face.

Fool! Stupid drunken fool! Tyrion chastised himself. Most of his siblings are either dead or missing. Their wolves have likely followed a similar fate.

“Robb’s was Grey Wind,” said Jon in a low voice, staring into the distance. “They both perished at the Red Wedding. Sansa’s was named Lady and was killed after Arya’s wolf, Nymeria, attacked Joffrey while protecting her.”

“Wait,” interrupted Missandei, confused. “Why would one wolf be killed for the actions of another?”

“Because Arya let Nymeria go, to stop her being killed for attacking Joffrey. Cersei then said that a wolf should die, so Lady was killed instead.”

“That sounds like Cersei,” Tyrion spat, as fury welled up inside him.

Of course, she would want to punish someone for hurting her precious Joffrey, thought Tyrion bitterly, trying to ignore the well of hatred that boiled in his gut. It wouldn’t matter if the person that was punished was innocent. Nothing must happen to her beloved son.

“Bran named his Summer,” continued Jon, with the air of a man eager to end the conversation as quickly as he could. Tyrion felt another rush of guilt for making him relive this. “I guess they are still together, wherever they are beyond the Wall.

“Rickon named his Shaggydog and… they are both dead.”

At this Jon’s voice cracked with grief and he lowered his gaze to the floor. Ghost, sensing Jon’s feelings, finally averted his gaze from Theon and raised his head to nuzzle at the back of Jon’s hand. Tyrion looked at Dany and saw a look of sadness on her face. Tyrion watched Jon mourn his losses with an overwhelming feeling of sympathy for him and distaste for himself.

You made him relive that.

Tyrion opened his mouth to apologise, to try and help his friend through his grief, when another voice spoke first.

“R-Rickon is dead?” It was Theon, speaking up for the first time since his arrival. Tyrion glared at him furiously, for his lack of discretion, and saw a look of shock and horror on his face.

“Yes, Theon!” roared Jon suddenly, raising his head once more, hatred and fury covering his face in equal measure. “Because you forced Bran and Rickon out of Winterfell! Bran then went north of the Wall and only the Gods know where he is! Rickon went to the Umbers, who then betrayed him to Ramsay Bolton, who killed him!”

“How do you know that?” demanded Yara, as she moved slightly in front of Theon. 

“Because he killed Rickon in front of me! My little brother died at my feet and I couldn’t do anything to save him!”

Silence fell in the hall. Every eye was drawn to Jon, who was glaring furiously at the Greyjoy siblings with such a look of anger and contempt on his face that Tyrion was surprised he hadn’t drawn his blade.

“Leave us, Greyjoy,” said Dany quietly. Tyrion was surprised to see that she was looking down at Jon with a sympathetic look on her face. After a moment it vanished, to be replaced by a stoic expression.

“So, my brother has to leave? But that beast gets to stay?”

At Yara’s scathing words and pointing, accusatory finger, Ghost began to snarl again, this time directed at both of the Greyjoys, his fur bristling and his sharp teeth bared. To Tyrion’s amusement, Yara recoiled slightly but didn’t back down.

“Between your brother and Ghost, only one of them has killed innocent children to save his pride,” responded Dany coldly, turning her violet eyes, that were shining with anger, towards the siblings. “If it troubles you that much, you may leave too.”

Theon looked down at Jon for a moment, clearly fighting to find the words to say, before he turned and left the hall. Yara remained however, in a sullen silence. Everyone was quiet for a moment, trying to process the revelations that had just happened. Tyrion looked between Jon and Dany and saw them exchange looks.

Jon’s was of gratitude that she had ejected the man who had betrayed his family and was responsible for so much of his family’s misfortune.

Dany’s was of sympathy and pity for Jon’s losses, which Tyrion knew that she could understand, and silent acceptance of his gratitude.

Well, thought Tyrion wryly, barely containing his smile. This is looking more promising.

“So, Your Grace,” said Varys from Tyrion’s right, disrupting the silence. “What have you come to see Queen Daenerys about?”

“An alliance,” replied Jon steadily, looking straight at Dany. “You want the Iron Throne, correct? I will help you get it. With the support of my forces, you will have the advantage of numbers on land. In return, once the Throne is yours, I will need your help, and your dragons, to defeat the White Walkers and their army of the dead.”

Tyrion’s eyes widened at Jon’s words, completely disbelieving.

He can’t be serious, can he? Tyrion questioned. They are just stories.

And yet…

Tyrion examined Jon’s expression. He was staring resolutely at Dany, with a look of determination on his face but there was something else, some haunted look in his eyes that seemed to Tyrion like he was recalling his encounters with these creatures.

Jon isn’t the type to lie, thought Tyrion. Especially not in a situation like this. He has come all this way, into Daenerys’ territory, to say this. Pretty poor jest if it is one, knowing that he would likely not go home alive.

Tyrion thought back to the stories he had heard about them while growing up. About how, during the longest winter in history, the White Walkers had attacked Westeros with their army of the reanimated dead and their giant pale spiders. They had been defeated by an alliance of men and the Children of the Forest and the Wall raised to keep them from returning.

An involuntary shiver went down Tyrion’s spine. He had always assumed that they were just stories, but what if they weren’t?

“How do you know this?” Varys asked, bringing Tyrion back to the present.

“Because I’ve seen them,” replied Jon, now looking at Varys. There was no mistaking the look on Jon’s face now. “I’ve fought them and their army of the dead at Hardhome.”

“And killed one,” interrupted Tormund gruffly.

“You killed one?” repeated Dany, incredulously. “How?”

“With this,” replied Jon, patting the engraved white wolf pommel of his sword. “Longclaw is a Valyrian steel blade. It can kill the White Walkers.”

“You know, Jon Snow,” said Dany, with a hint of disbelief in her voice. “The stories surrounding you are getting even more difficult to believe. The only one that has been confirmed to be true is that you left the Night’s Watch, breaking your vows, and became the King in the North.”

“Do you know the Night’s Watch’s vow, Your Grace?” asked Jon, with a hint of venom in his voice.

Tyrion saw Dany shake her head, but he was a little confused. He couldn’t see how reciting his vow, that he had supposedly broken, would help Jon.

“‘Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.’” Jon quoted calmly. “My death, at the hands of my brothers, freed me from my vow.”

“That is assuming, of course, you were in fact killed,” said Varys silkily.

“I was killed,” retorted Jon, a little defensively. “I have the scars to prove it.”

“If I may, Your Grace,” said Davos, stepping forward. “I was the one who found Jon dead in the snow. He had been betrayed by his men after he had helped Tormund and the other Free Folk. They stabbed him and left him to die in the snow.”

Tyrion looked at Jon and saw that he was looking off into nothing, a look of sadness and listlessness on his face, and he was instantly convinced that the story was true.

Whatever he saw, thought Tyrion. It wasn’t the Seven Heavens that the Faith of the Seven proclaim it to be.

“You know, Your Grace,” said Jon suddenly, breaking from his trance. “You say that the stories surrounding me are hard to believe. But here you are, the returning Queen with her three dragons. There are many in the Seven Kingdoms who find that equally hard to believe.”

“Do you?” Dany replied, raising her eyebrows questioningly.

Tyrion reached out and drained his goblet nervously.

This is not going well at all, thought Tyrion as he drank half his goblet.

“No,” replied Jon, meeting Dany’s eye once more. “I know that they are real. I have seen them.”

“More than that actually,” interjected Tyrion quickly, sensing an opportunity. “Rhaegal seems to have taking a bit of a liking to Jon.”

If Dany thinks that one of her children trusts Jon, then that might help her trust him a little too. Which will aid them come to an alliance, thought Tyrion triumphantly.

As expected, Dany whipped around in her throne to face Tyrion, looking both confused and interested. She fixed him with a piercing stare, her eyes glowing with curiosity.

“What do you mean?”

Tyrion raised his goblet to Jon, signalling that he should tell the story. Jon sighed, shaking his head, before facing Dany.

“On our way here, we saw two of your dragons, Rhaegal and Drogon, I think Tyrion said.” Jon said, looking to Tyrion for confirmation, who nodded excitedly in return. “Rhaegal flew down to look at all of the crewman on deck. One of them, thinking that Rhaegal was going to harm me, approached him with a spear.

“He was unharmed,” he continued, raising his hand in response to Dany opening her mouth furiously. “I commanded the man to stand down, and not harm Rhaegal. And then…”

Jon trailed off, a look of puzzlement on his face. Tyrion smiled, as Jon was clearly still trying to understand Rhaegal’s actions.

“Rhaegal let Jon approach him, and even touch him,” finished Tyrion confidently, once more draining his goblet.

Tyrion turned to Dany and was amused to see that she was as confused by Rhaegal’s behaviour as Jon was. Rhaegal, as Dany knew better than anyone, was not as wild as Drogon but not nearly as friendly and welcoming as Viserion. This behaviour was very strange for him.

“That is very unusual,” muttered Dany, almost to herself.

But useful, though Tyrion triumphantly, as he examined Dany’s expression. If Rhaegal has formed some kind of trust for Jon then Dany will want to keep him here for now, to see what has drawn her child to Jon. She knows, better than most, how intelligent her dragons are. And that will give them time to see that they will need to join forces.

“Back to the matter in hand though,” said Dany suddenly. “You wish an alliance with me and my forces but yet you refuse to bend the knee.”

“Yes,” replied Jon resolutely and Tyrion could see, from the determined look in his eye, that he was not going to back down on this. “As I said to Tyrion, I was made King in the North not by my name, but by the will of my bannermen. I would be a very poor King, and one not worthy of their loyalty, if I relinquished the title that they have given me as soon as you arrive.”

Tyrion looked nervously at Dany, anxious at how she would take this repeated display of defiance. However, she seemed to be seriously considering his words, her brow furrowed in concentration. Finally, Dany nodded, to Tyrion’s surprise.

“I understand the difficulty of your position,” she said diplomatically, despite there being a hint of anger in her tone. “While I won’t be recognising you as King in the North, I respect your loyalty to your people.”

Jon nodded slowly back at her, frowning slightly. He was clearly confused by her response, but he could not fail to notice her tone.

“I will also consider your proposal for an alliance between us. I invite you to remain at Dragonstone while we negotiate the proposed terms of said alliance. Our talks shall begin in two days.”

Seeing this as his cue, Jon nodded respectfully and turned to leave, his companions falling into step alongside him.

“C’mon Ghost,” he said, not looking back.

The white direwolf raised itself from the floor, with another low growl directed at Yara before turning and padding after his master. Tyrion watched the unusual foursome as they left the hall with a small sense of accomplishment.

As the doors closed with an echoing crash, Tyrion turned in his chair to face Daenerys.

“So,” he said, causing her in turn to face him. “That went better than I expected.”

“I’m sure it did, Tyrion,” she replied, smiling a little. “We will see if we can negotiate some kind of an alliance him.”

“If I may ask, Your Grace?” Varys inquired, bowing his head respectfully. “Why have you decided to try to ally yourself with Jon Snow? You didn’t seem very open to idea before.”

“There is something… interesting about him,” she replied, looking curiously at the door.

“What, because one of your dragons took a liking to him?” Yara asked, a little scornfully.

“That is enough to get me curious, Yara,” Dany responded coolly. “But this potential alliance is based off of a lot more than my curiosity. He has an army, maybe big enough to give us the advantage over Cersei Lannister.”

“How big is his army?” asked Grey Worm, stepping forward to stand behind Missandei.

“According to my birds, the North’s forces were hit hard in the War of the Five Kings,” said Varys, folding his hands in his lap. “But he can still call upon roughly forty thousand men if all his bannermen send every available man. The Vale can provide him around the same. That is not including the potential men of the Riverlands, that we discussed.”

“That would be more than enough to aid against my sister,” said Tyrion excitedly. This alliance was looking more and more profitable for all sides.

“Yes, but if you accept his aid then you have to help him with his White Walkers,” replied Yara, scoffing at the idea.

“That was strange,” said Dany distractedly. “His stories are completely unbelievable and yet…”

“He didn’t look or act like he was lying,” finished Missandei, equally curious.

“It is not in Jon’s nature to lie,” said Tyrion knowingly. “He is too honourable, too similar to his father.”

At his words, Tyrion couldn’t help but notice the look of scepticism cross Dany’s face. Her feelings about the Starks were well known, as close allies to the Baratheon usurper who had seized her family’s throne.

I hope she manages to look past that, thought Tyrion hopefully.

“Could it be true?” Dany asked suddenly, in a hushed voice. “Could the White Walkers be real?”

Tyrion looked at her and saw that she was looking at him with interest and, unless he was very much mistaken, a little apprehension shining in her violet eyes.

“I don’t know, my Queen,” Tyrion replied, deep in thought. “But if I was to guess, based purely off of the way Jon was speaking, I would say that they are.”

Dany nodded, a grim look masking her beautiful face, as she returned her gaze to the door, an action that Tyrion followed as he wrestled with his thoughts.

We invited Jon here in the hope he would join with us in the war against Cersei. But it looks like he might have brought us an even bigger one.

*

Later that evening, Tyrion made his way to Jon’s chamber, swaying slightly due to the wine he had already consumed. He carried another flagon of wine in one hand and two goblets in the other and so far, miraculously, hadn’t spilled a single drop.

Won’t be long before I do, thought Tyrion, as he swayed even more drunkenly.

He arrived at his destination and knocked on the door, swaying even more. He heard the sounds of movement within, which was followed by the sound of sniffing around the base of the door.

Ghost, thought Tyrion with a smile.

The door opened a crack and Tyrion saw Jon’s face appear, looking more tired than he had been earlier, his exhaustion making his usual sombre face even more so. However, on seeing Tyrion, and what he was carrying, a small smile appeared on his face.

“I did say,” said Tyrion, raising the goblets, “that when you came to Dragonstone, we would share a drink.”

“Yes, you did, Lannister,” replied Jon, as he opened the door fully.  

Tyrion walked into the spacious guest quarters and looked around. There was a large bed that dominated the majority of the floor space, the remaining belonging to a large rug that Tyrion suspected was older that him and Jon put together. Tyrion saw the one of Jon’s guard had placed the Stark standard in here, propped up against the wall.

Tyrion turned to Jon, who was now seating himself at one of the chairs in front of the fire, with a small table between them. Tyrion saw that the large cloak he had been wearing earlier had been removed and draped over the back of his chair. Tyrion saw that he was wearing the traditional Northern garb, boiled leather armour over a woollen shirt.

Tyrion seated himself on the second chair, his feet only just not reaching the floor, and place the flagon between them. He looked at Jon, ready to share a smile with him, but he saw his friend was gazing into the depths of his roaring fire, a pensive look on his face.

Tyrion poured a healthy measure into both goblets and pushed one to Jon. The sound of the goblet scraping on the wooden surface seeming to pull his friend from his thoughts.

“Cheers,” said Tyrion, raising his goblet in toast.

Jon did the same and they both drunk. Tyrion had raided the stores to find the best wine on the island, and it didn’t disappoint.

“So, Jon” said Tyrion, desperately trying to keep his friend’s attention, as he beginning to lose himself in his thoughts once more. “What do you think of the Queen?”

His question worked. Jon looked at him for a moment with a look of amusement, before he seemed to seriously consider the question.

“She’s…” Jon seemed to come to a decision, but shook his head, thinking better of it. “She’s…”

“Intimidating?” Tyrion interjected, amused. “Impressive?”

“Yes, let’s say that,” said Jon, seemingly grateful that he didn’t have to use the words in his head, which Tyrion suspected might be less polite.

“Jon, listen,” began Tyrion gravely, putting down his goblet. “I know Daenerys was a little… hostile towards you, today. But what you have to remember is that you are the first lord to openly defy her like that. If they refuse to bend the knee, they send a raven. You, on the other hand, sail all this way to do it to her face.”

“That is not why I travelled all this way,” exclaimed Jon, indignantly.  

“I know,” responded Tyrion, raising his hand to stem any possible tirade. “And Daenerys knows, as you do, that this potential alliance is in both of your best interests. You just need to put aside the hostility between you.

“Before you say it,” he continued, raising his voice slightly as Jon opened his mouth to interrupt, “Yes, the Stark family have been hurt by the Targaryens and I agree that you have every right to hold a grudge. But what you have to remember is that Daenerys has heard all of her life that the Starks were the Usurper Baratheon’s most loyal supporters, the ones that took away her family’s throne. So much so that every time someone mentions your father’s name or his honour, she scoffs at the idea.

“You need to show her that this impression that she, rightly or wrongly, has of the Starks is not the truth. You do that and she will be more open to an alliance.”

Tyrion saw Jon consider his words for a moment, before nodding his understanding. Pleased that he might have pushed these two a little closer to an agreement, Tyrion refilled his goblet. He thought back to the meeting earlier and remembered all the moments where Jon and Dany had been glaring at each with ill-disguised antagonism and hoped that he might have repaired a little of that damage.

However, Tyrion also remembered the look on Jon’s face when he had informed them of his brother, Rickon’s death, and felt a rush of guilt.

“I’m sorry, Jon,” he said lowly.

“What for?” Jon replied, looking baffled.

“When I asked you about your siblings’ wolves. I should have known better.”

Jon nodded in understanding, as the look of grief appeared back on his face, which did nothing to alleviate Tyrion’s feelings of guilt. However, a feeling of realisation soon struck Tyrion, as he remembered back to all the stories they had told Dany about Jon.

“We heard that you nearly beat Ramsay Bolton to death in the courtyard of Winterfell. That was because of Rickon wasn’t it?”

Jon nodded again, draining his goblet as he did so.

“Why didn’t you kill him? If that had been my brother that little prick had killed, I am not sure I would have held back.”

“Because of Sansa,” Jon replied, confusing Tyrion even more. “While I was attacking him, Sansa arrived in the courtyard, and I realised that she had more right than me to kill him.”

Tyrion raised his eyebrows at Jon expectantly, hoping for a further explanation. Jon, however, shook his head.

“That is not my secret to tell, Tyrion. I can only say that she had a very good reason to want him dead.”

“So, she fed him to his own hounds? That is very different from the Sansa I briefly knew.”

“She has been through a lot,” said Jon, cryptically. “Besides, you have heard about what Ramsay used to do with people?”

Tyrion nodded gravely, feeling sickened to his stomach. Even in King’s Landing, tales had reached them about the Bolton Bastard, about how he had flayed people, and worse, purely for his own amusement.

“Then you know that what happened to him was justice, and that he deserved far worse.”

Tyrion thought for a moment, before nodding emphatically.

That little shit deserve far, far worse than that, thought Tyrion.

Jon fell silent again, and they both became absorbed in their own thoughts. Tyrion swirled his goblet in his hand absentmindedly, staring into the red liquid. He decided to voice a question he’d had since the meeting earlier.

“Is it true, Jon?” he asked, in a hushed voice, not looking up from his wine. “About the White Walkers?”

Jon looked at him, and Tyrion saw that haunted look return to his eyes once more, the look of a man who has seen his worst nightmare made real.

“Yes,” he replied quietly. “Everything I said was true.”

Tyrion believed him, a feeling of dread spreading through him at the realisation. All those stories he had heard, and passed off as nothing more than tales to scare the children, were true.

How?” he asked at last. “I thought they weren’t supposed to be real.”

“That is what I thought too… until I saw them,” replied Jon, draining his goblet. “I saw them first at Craster’s Keep. He was a Wildling that sacrificed his children to them, and I saw a White Walker take away his latest sacrifice.

“Then I saw them again, and fought them, at Hardhome.”

“You said that earlier”, said Tyrion, gripping his goblet a little tighter after feeling a slight tremble in his hand. “What is that?”

Jon sighed and refilled his goblet.

“Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, amassed an army of a hundred thousand wildlings. When Stannis broke his army, the survivors headed for the settlement of Hardhome to regroup and wait out the winter.

“Tormund and I headed there, to get their support in the Long Night. We had little success, just over five thousand agreed to join us. However, as we were leaving the weather changed, a blizzard came out of nowhere. Then they arrived.”

Jon paused for a moment, looking like he was trying to collect his thoughts. Tyrion waited with baited breath, feeling a little like he did as a child when he had heard stories like this about the White Walkers for the first time.

“The wights came first, their reanimated army. Nothing stopped them. An arrow in the head, cut in half, nothing worked. They jumped from a cliff and just got up and ran at us. Fire is the only thing that kills them.

“But they weren’t the only things there. Four White Walkers led the army, including their leader, the Night King. I managed to kill one, after a long fight. Steel doesn’t work against them. It just shatters like glass. Only Valyrian steel and dragonglass can kill them.

“That is why I want an alliance with Daenerys. Her dragons will be invaluable against the wights and this castle is sitting on an almost limitless supply of dragonglass, from what Davos said.”

Tyrion nodded, finally understanding the full reasons behind Jon’s travel. After hearing his story, Tyrion was convinced that Jon was telling the truth. The tone of Jon’s voice, and the look on his face, had told Tyrion that every word was the truth.

Silence fell between them, broken only by the crackling of the fire. Tyrion drained goblet after goblet of wine, trying to comprehend what Jon had told him. After a while, the silence began to unnerve Tyrion so he decided to lighten the mood.

“Anyway,” he began, trying to sound as jovial as he could, despite his deep feeling of dread. “I came here for us to get a little drunk and share stories of a less despairing nature. So, let’s get started.”

Jon chuckled slightly, and looked toward Tyrion, who was pleased to see a note of amusement on Jon’s face.

“I don’t have many good stories, Tyrion,” said Jon, smirking a little.

“Then I will start,” said Tyrion, filling his goblet to the brim and doing the same for Jon’s. “I once took a honeycomb and a jackass into a brothel…”

Chapter Text

 

Arya

 

Arya watched as Walder Frey died, his hands desperately trying to clasp his slit throat shut, gargling and choking on his own blood. She felt a sense of accomplishment and, if she was honest with herself, peace. She had avenged the betrayal of her brother and mother, in this very room, with her own hands.

“Valar Mor-” she began, before stopping short.

No, she though resolutely, as she saw the last light leave the old man’s eyes. Any kills I make from now on are not for the Many-Faced God. There are for me.

Arya cleaned her dagger’s bloody blade on the old man’s clothes before returning it to her belt. As she lowered her hand back to her side, she caressed the handle of Needle, hanging from her waist. As she did so, she thought of when Jon gave it to her, before they had both departed Winterfell.

She felt a familiar pang of loss, that she always had whenever she thought of her brother. She missed everyone in her family. Rickon, Bran, even Sansa. But she missed Jon most of all.

I’ll see him soon, she promised herself. I’ll head North and find him.

With a jolt of anger, she remembered that the Boltons were occupying Winterfell. The thought of those traitors living in Winterfell, her home, made Arya sick to her stomach. As her hand unconsciously wrapped around Needle once more, anger flowing through her, Arya resolved that she would make a stop on her way to Wall. She would make those traitors pay for killing Robb.

When I am finished here, she thought, as she stealthily made her way across the hall. After I prune the Frey family tree.

Arya had been at the Twins for over a week now, wearing the guises of various different servants, while she learned the layout of the keep and planning for this night. She had learned about all the various nooks and passages of the castle, the common routes that the, thankfully small, guard took during the evenings and the locations of all of Walder Frey’s many heirs, both trueborn and bastards.

Arya was going to kill them all. Watch the life leave their eyes as she slid Needle into their throats.

All except one.

Olyvar Frey had been Robb’s squire, as part of his agreement with Walder Frey for their crossing of the Twins. While she had been gathering information, she had heard much about him, and even seen him once or twice. The stories were that Olyvar and Robb had become friends, with Olyvar being a loyal and dutiful squire. His loyalty to Robb had made his family nervous, so much so that they had sent him away from the Twins for the Red Wedding, to stop him from warning Robb.

Arya thought back to the first time she had seen him, three days into her stay. She had been cleaning the floor in the Great Hall, wearing the face of an elderly cleaning lady who had died in her sleep. There were around twenty of the Freys there, feasting and drinking. They were all laughing raucously as they retold, for the twelfth time that Arya had heard so far, the story of their participation in the Red Wedding. When they got to the part where Robb’s head being removed and replaced with Grey Wind’s, Arya had almost acted, ready to kill everyone in the hall. However, before her anger had taken over, Olyvar rose from his seat, looking almost as angry as she felt.

He was tall and strong, whereas the majority of his siblings were short and fat, his years as a squire clearly improving his physique. However, he was clearly a Frey, with the familiar facial features and attire. His anger at the story, however, was clearly different from his siblings.

“Shut your mouth!” he thundered, causing one particularly fat Frey to squawk in surprise and fall from his chair. “You murder people in our hall, after giving them guest rite, and now you sit here boasting about how you mutilated their bodies.”

“Of course, you would say that, Olyvar,” guffawed one of the Freys, who Arya later learned was Black Walder. “You weren’t trusted enough to be here, to help the family. You would have told the Stark fool about our plans.”

“You are right brother, I would have,” Olyvar replied, with such malice in his voice that Black Walder and several others recoiled slightly. “Robb was a good man and deserved far better than what you fucking animals did to him.”

Black Walder had risen angrily from his seat and made his way to Olyvar, trying his best to look intimidating. However, his drunken gait coupled with his unimposing, flabby build purely made it laughable.

Nobody can look intimidating wearing those stupid hats they wear, Arya had thought to herself, as she had found herself riveted by the exchange.

Black Walder stood in front of Olyvar, even though the top of his head barely reached his nose, and locked eyes with his half-brother.

“If it wasn’t such a sin to do so, I would find myself a kinslayer after that disrespect.”

His threat didn’t have the desired effect however. Far from making Olyvar cower, he began to roar with laughter.

“Don’t make me laugh, brother. When has sin stopped you from doing anything. It is a sin to lie with goats, yet you do that regularly.”

A roar of laughter filled the hall, clearly revelling in Black Walder’s humiliation. Arya saw that many of them were clearly exaggerating their mirth, obviously not wanting Olyvar’s attention turned to them. Black Walder gaped wide-eyed, visibly taken aback by Olyvar’s outburst, which was clearly not a regular occurrence. Olyvar, however, pressed his advantage.

“Black Walder, the Goat-Fucker. It is catchy, brother. You should use it more often.”

The hall rung once more with laughter, accompanied by the banging of many goblets on the table in hilarity. Before Black Walder could respond, Olyvar turned and made his way from the hall, casting a scornful look at all he past, causing their looks of joy to wither.

As Arya watched him leave, a small smirk spread across her face as she resumed cleaning, she had decided to allow Olyvar to live. He had clearly become close to Robb during his time as his squire, with his loyalty to her brother still clear even after his death.

Well, there seems to be one honourable Frey, thought Arya as she made her way to the giant stairwell. Stranger things have happened.

Arya contemplated the stairs before making her way up, towards the living quarters. From her time here, she had learned that the trueborn sons of Walder Frey lived here, in the Eastern castle, while the bastard children were located in the basement level of the Western keep. Olyvar Frey, after his outburst, had been moved to stay with his bastard half-siblings as punishment. Arya had decided to go there last, to give him a message to pass on.

Arya arrived in a wide corridor, with dark wooden doors on both sides, blending in with the wooden walls. Arya crept towards the closest one, the quarters of Stevron Frey, who had just unknowingly become the Lord of the Crossing after his father’s death. She opened the door to find a spacious room, covered in the colours of House Frey with their house banner hanging from the wall.

Arya looked to the large bed and saw Stevron lying there on his back, his breathing making the thin sheet covering him rise and fall. Arya saw his weasel-like features, so reminiscent of his father’s, relaxed in his sleep. Anger rose up in Arya at the sight of him resting here, peacefully, after his betrayal of her family. She drew Needle and made her way forward.

As she did so, the voice of her teacher, Syrio Forel, echoed through her head, guiding her hand.

Quiet as a shadow

Arya creeped close to the side of the bed, keeping her eyes of his face, illuminated by a strip of moonlight from the open window. She stopped next to him, her anger reaching a fever pitch in her gut.

Calm as still water

Arya reached out and clamped her hand over his mouth, to quell his shouts. He awakened immediately, his eyes widening in shock at the sight of her. She pressed the point of Needle against his throat, drawing a bead of blood at the pressure, and his feeble struggles stopped immediately.

“My name is Arya Stark,” she said calmly and quietly. His eyes widened even further in recognition and dread, filling her with a sense of amusement.

Fear cuts deeper than swords

“And this is for the Red Wedding.”

Arya pushed Needle through the man’s throat and withdrew it, causing a stream of blood to flow from the puncture. Like his father, Stevron began to choke and cough as blood filled his airway. Arya watched as the man struggled for life, his blood staining the sheets around him crimson.

When the life left him, Arya cleaned Needle and left the room, making her way down the corridor. Time and time again, she pushed Needle into the throat of the Frey heirs, each of whom completely terrified at the sound of her name, and watched as the life left their eyes. She left their wives alone however. Arya knew, from her investigating during the last week, that they had not participated in the Red Wedding and so, in Arya’s eyes, didn’t deserve to die. None of them had stirred while their husbands died next to them.

As she progressed, she was struck by a memory. The parting words of the Red Woman.

I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you'll shut forever.

Arya couldn’t help but marvel at the accuracy of her prediction. Since she had seen the Red Woman, Arya had killed many people, shut many eyes forever. It just made her hate the Red Woman all the more.

After killing the last of Walder Frey’s trueborn children, Ser Hosteen Frey, Arya stood in the hallway, breathing deeply. She was halfway finished her task, and now had to progress to the hardest part: crossing the walkway to the Western keep. There was a large tower in the middle of the Twins, known as the Water Tower, that guarded the crossing. Arya had noticed while crossing that there were many arrow slits in it, concealing an unknown number of guards.

While she suspected that the guard presence inside was minimal, due to the end of the War of Five Kings, she couldn’t be sure, as it was one of the few places in the Twins that she had been unable to gain access to, although not for lack of trying. It overlooked the bridge that connected the two halves of the Twins, the only way to cross. If Arya was to complete her task, she had to cross that bridge.

Arya exhaled deeply, before making her way down the stairs once more. As she stealthily made her way through the corridors of the keep, deliberately avoiding known guard routes, Arya felt her heart hammering in her chest. She knew that speed was important if she was to remain undetected, as any of the wives of the men she had just slain could awaken at any moment. Arya knew, in hindsight, that leaving them alive was probably a poor decision. However, her conscience, and Stark honour, had gotten the best of her. She had already killed the innocent servant girl whose face she wore while killing Walder Frey, and she didn’t want to kill any more people that didn’t deserve death.

Before long Arya came to the bridge, and she flattened herself against the wall, before lowering herself onto one knee to survey the Water Tower. She could vaguely see, through the darkness, the various arrow slits in the walls. Several had a dim glow shining from them, which Arya knew were from candlelight. She watched these especially, waiting for any tell-tale break in light from any guards moving around.

When none came, she began to creep forward. Arya made her way along the bridge, hunched over and blending into the shadows as best she could. She paused every ten paces or so, for a moment or two, to strain her ears, ready for any shouts heralding her discovery. None came however, no matter how far along the bridge she went.

When Arya reached the Western castle, she passed through the gateway and made her way to its staircase. Each keep of the Twins were an exact copy of each other, earning its name well. She came to the staircase and headed down, into corridors with stone block walls rather than wood-panelling. 

As Arya found herself in the corridor that she knew served as the living quarters for the bastard Freys, she heard mumbled voices making their way towards her. Instinctively she quickly hid herself in a nearby nook, behind a decorative suit of armour. Holding her breath, she listened as the heavy footsteps, of at least two guards she guessed, made their way towards her.

Blending with the shadows, her heart hammering like a drum in her chest, Arya waited, only vaguely hearing them complaining about their shift guarding the bastard Freys. After they passed her, Arya waited for a little longer. She knew that once they had left, she would have near a quarter hour before they returned.

Plenty of time, she thought grimly, as she left her hiding place and entered the first room.

These rooms were in stark contrast to the spacious, comfortable rooms in the Eastern castle. These were damp, cold and crowded, with four beds crammed into this one room, and Arya knew that the others would be similar. While this made a little more difficult to kill them all unnoticed, Arya would make the best of it. She drew Needle and got to work. The majority of the hall went just as planned, with none of them awakening to the sounds of their brother’s deaths.

Until the last room.

Arya knew that this was the last of the crammed rooms, before she arrived at Olyvar Frey’s quarters. Despite being sent here to be punished, he was still a trueborn Frey, worthy of his own quarters. She had entered the crammed room and had seen three slumbering forms, their wooden bed frames creaking and groaning under their weight. She had smiled to herself and begun.

The first died without incident, despite wheezing and spluttering loud enough that Arya was sure would wake everyone in the vicinity. As Arya killed the second however, a voice from behind her chilled her blood and caused her breath to catch in her chest.

“What the fuck!”

Arya spun around and saw a Frey rising bleary-eyed from his bunk, staring at the small form of Arya in disbelief. When he brought himself up to his full height, Arya could see that he was a foot and a half taller than her, but she wasn’t concerned.

No different than usual, she thought, calm as still water.

As he lunged drunkenly towards her, Arya ducked under his wild swing and thrust Needle up, piercing through the man’s temple. He crumpled and fell with a crash into a table, knocking goblets and glass pitchers to the floor. Arya stood for a moment, cursing silently at her sloppiness.

“Did you hear that?” came a voice from the corridor, sending another jolt of fear through her.

The guards were back early.

Arya moved to the wall behind the door and flattened herself against it, shrouding herself in shadow once more, reading Needle in expectation.

“I don’t know. Maybe one of those fat shits fell on their arse. Let’s check it out.”

Shit! Arya cursed desperately, having hoped that they would pass it off as a drunken Frey and move on.

The door eased open, causing a shaky triangle of light from their lantern to illuminate the floor. Before long it fell on the form of the dead Frey, lying among goblets and smashed glass. Luckily, he had landed on his front, with the majority of the blood hidden under his bulk. However, Arya knew that it wouldn’t be long before it began to spread, so these guards needed to either leave or be dealt with soon.

The guards made their way into the room, both passing so close to Arya that she could smell the alcohol and sweat odour coming from them both. As the door swung shut behind them, Arya moved before they could examine the body too closely.

Swift as a deer,

Quiet as a shadow.

She pushed Needle through the back of the neck of the guard closest to her and out of the man’s throat. As she withdrew Needle, the man fell to his knees, his hands clamping around his throat, trying desperately to keep the wound shut. The second guard, the one holding the lantern, turned at the sound and was greeted by Arya thrusting Needle through his eye, and out of the back of his skull.

The man fell like he was made of stone, dropping the lantern to the floor with a crash, causing it to extinguish itself. Arya stood stock still for a moment, hardly daring to breath. She strained her ears with everything she had, listening for any sounds of discovery, particularly from Olyvar’s room.

When nothing came, Arya exhaled deeply, hardly daring to believe her luck.

Thank the Gods, she thought, relieved.

Arya bend down to clean Needle, before an idea struck her, causing her to smirk slightly. Leaving the scene of death and carnage she had made in the room, Arya snuck out into the hall. She approached the door leading to Olyvar’s chambers, still listening hard for any signs of life from within. When none came, she eased the door open, entering a room just as damp and dark as the others along the hall, albeit with better furnishings and a candle burning on the windowsill.

Arya saw Olyvar’s sleeping form and smiled again, slipping off the pack that she had on her back. She reached inside and pulled out a thin, fleshy object from within and turned it so it caught the candlelight.

It was a face.

A grizzled, middle-aged man’s face, with a large jagged scar along the left cheek. It had belonged to a cutthroat who had been on the boat that Arya had bartered passage on from Braavos. She had killed him in the night, took his face and dumped his body overboard. Arya had prepared it, as best she could, like she had learned at the House of Black and White.

Now was the moment of truth.

The changing of faces had always fascinated Arya, ever since she had seen Jaqen H’ghar perform it on during their escape from Harrenhal. She had done it herself several times now, but it still amazed her how it was done. While the face obviously did little to mask her height and physique, it did give her the exact likeness of the person she had taken it from, as well as masking her voice somehow, so she didn’t sound like the teenage girl that she in fact was.

Arya raised the cutthroat’s face and placed it on her own and felt it attach instantly, like a second skin. She felt a sense of elation, knowing that it had worked. Fuelled by this, Arya made her way to the bed, desperately trying to limit any further noise.

All right then, thought Arya as she stopped next to the bed. Time to put on an act.

Like the others, Arya placed her hand over Olyvar’s mouth, and watched he awoke slowly, his eyes widening slightly as his eyes fell on the figure looming over him.

“Hello, Olyvar,” said Arya, in a voice so gruff she couldn’t believe that it coming out of her own mouth. “Sleep well?”

Olyvar’s eyes opened even wider, fear causing his breathing to quicken at an almost frightening rate. Arya kept her breathing steady, and let an evil grin spread across the face she was wearing.

“Congratulations are in order, Olyvar. You are the Head of House Frey, the Lord of the Crossing.

“Well, you are now,” continued Arya in that unfamiliar gruff voice, as she raised Needle, revealing its blood-covered blade. “After I just killed your father and all your older brothers. And your bastard brothers, just to be sure.”

Olyvar looked even more terrified, his eyes darting all around him. Arya maintained her gaze, hoping to unsettle him enough that he wouldn’t notice her build, still that of a teenage girl.

“In return,” she said, as she wiped Needle down the man’s cheek, leaving a streak of blood, causing Olyvar to close his eyes in revulsion, “all you have to do is remember who you are loyal to.”

Olyvar’s eyes snapped open, anger and recognition filling them. Arya leaned into the man’s face and whispered menacingly in his ear.

“Cersei Lannister sends her regards.”

Arya smashed the pommel of Needle into the side of Olyvar’s head, knocking him unconscious. Arya straightened up and exhaled, reaching up and peeling off the man’s face from her own. As she stuffed it back inside her pack, she couldn’t suppress a small chuckle.

Her plan had worked. It looked as if Olyvar believed that Cersei was responsible for this massacre, hopefully driving a wedge between these two families. If she was lucky, the Freys might even turn on the Lannisters and wipe a few of them out, before they were inevitably crushed by the Lannister’s superior army.

Arya checked that the remaining Frey was still breathing. When she was satisfied that he was still alive, she sheathed Needle and made her way back to the stairs, ready to make her way North.

*

The following day, Arya was riding north on a horse that she had taken from the stables at the Twins. She was beginning to get tired, her activities from the night before beginning to catch up with her.

Arya had ridden hard for several hours after leaving the Twins, trying to put as much distance between her and any following guards. When she had reached a safe distance from the Twins, she had slowed slightly, allowing her new mare to rest a little, as she followed the Kingsroad and continued on her way north.

Before nightfall, Arya came to a farmhouse. It was quite small and set back just enough from the road to not attract too much attention. However, Arya was beginning to grow very hungry. After she had left Olyvar’s room, she hadn’t risked the journey back to the Eastern castle to steal some food from the kitchens and had foolishly forgotten to take some the last time she had been through there.

Arya made her way towards the farmhouse, keeping her eyes darting all around, ready for any threats. On her way, she noticed a small stump and leap down from her horse. She saw that there was a hollow space underneath the stump, that was just the right size for her to store Needle. She placed a few rocks and clumps of loose snow over the hole, before straightening up and looking around her, etching the hiding space in her memory.

Rubbing her hands together to try to stave off the cold, she grabbed hold of the reins of her horse and continued to head towards the farmhouse, wondering who was inside and if she had made a mistake in not keeping Needle with her.

No, she thought to herself. If I am to pretend to be a lonely orphan, then it will look suspicious if I am carrying a blade of castle-forged steel.

Arya tied the reins of the horse to a low wooden fence and approached the door and knocked loudly. Before long the door opened to reveal a short, long bearded man peering through the gap suspiciously.

“What do you want?” he snapped.

“Please sir,” said Arya timidly, wringing her hands together, trying to convince him of her feigned sincerity. “I have nowhere to stay and it is getting very cold out here.”

“Where’s your family?” he said, clearly not mellowed by her performance.

“They are dead,” said Arya, allowing her eyes to fill with tears. “My father died at the Red Wedding and mother killed herself not long after.”

That worked. Arya could see the man’s stony expression softening at her words and tears. He shook his head before opening the door wide.

“Come in and get warm by the fire, child. I will tend to your horse.”

After muttering her thanks, Arya stepped into the farmhouse and was instantly enveloped by the delicious smells of cooking bread and stew. Arya looked to the fire and saw a short woman, in slightly ragged clothing, hunched over it. At the sound of the door closing, she turned and fixed Arya with her friendly eyes, before smiling widely.

“Come and sit down, child. I’ll get you a bowl of stew.”

Arya smiled back and settled down next to the fire, relishing the warmth that danced over her skin. Before long the kindly woman pushed a large bowl of stew into her hand, which Arya tucked into with haste.

She looked around the house and saw a number of beds lining the walls, many of which looked like they hadn’t been slept in for weeks. Confused, Arya returned to her food, making a note of it to ask later.

Before long the man returned and joined them round the fire. For a while, the only sounds in the farmhouse were the crackling of the fire and the clanging of bowls.

“What is your name, child?” the man asked suddenly, his voice muffled slightly by his mouthful of bread.

“Jeyne,” Arya replied, thinking back to Sansa’s old friend from Winterfell.

 I would even be happy so see her again, thought Arya. Even if she was awful to me.

“Welcome, Jeyne. My name is Torrhen and this is my wife, Beth.”

Arya nodded and returned Beth’s warm smile.

“Why are you travelling on your own, Jeyne?” Beth asked, with almost motherly concern.

“After mother died,” said Arya, faking hesitancy, “I wanted to be somewhere that wasn’t home. It reminded me too much of her and Father. So, I left. I travelled south and have been by myself ever since.”

“Why are you coming back now?” Torrhen asked, pouring himself some ale.

“It was time to come home,” said Arya, allowing a little truth into her lie.

“Don’t you have any siblings that could have taken care of you, Jeyne?” asked Beth.

“None that are still alive,” replied Arya, praying that she wasn’t right about this.

No, Arya thought resolutely. Jon and Sansa are fine. And I will see them soon.

“I’m sorry, child,” said Torrhen as he passed her a half-filled horn of ale.

Arya took it, a little confused, and looked into the old man’s eyes.

“To those we have lost,” he said, raising his horn in a toast.

Arya echoed his words and drank. She found the ale a little bitter, not used to the taste, but she didn’t mind too much.

“Who did you lose?” she asked, not thinking.

Torrhen and Beth’s faces both become covered with identical looks of misery and pain. Arya noticed the change and cursed her stupidity, the empty beds making more sense now.

“When the Bolton’s took over the North,” said Torrhen sadly, “we had three sons, Robb, Martin and Bowen, and a beautiful daughter, Lyessa. Before long the Bolton’s thugs came here to take everything that we had of value, in taxes they said. When they saw that we had nothing, they said that they would take Lyessa, as she was all we had of value.”

Beth covered her face with her hands and began to sob. Torrhen put his arm around his wife and gripped her firmly. Arya looked down at her feet, feeling awful for making these kind strangers reveal to her something that obviously pained them. She wanted to tell them to stop, to not hurt themselves any more, but the words wouldn’t come.

“When they tried to drag her away, Lyessa screamed, which alerted the boys, who were working with the animals in the fields. They came over with their tools, pitchforks and the like, and attacked the thugs, trying to save their sister. But… they…”

Torrhen tailed off, looking into the depths of the fire, as if hoping it would give him the strength to finish his story. Arya was filled with hatred for the Boltons and wished for nothing more than to kill them all.

“I understand, Torrhen. I’m sorry.” Arya said.

Torrhen held his wife for a moment, consoling her in their shared grief. Arya watched them and struggled to find the words to say to help them, but none came.

I was never any good at that, thought Arya sadly. Sansa was. If she was here, she would know what to say.

“Well,” said Torrhen, as he turned to look at Arya again, his sadness replaced by an almost cruel satisfaction. “Those Bolton fuckers got what they deserved though, eh?”

“What do you mean?” asked Arya, completely baffled by his answer.

“You didn’t hear?” he asked incredulously. “Sansa Stark and her brother Jon Snow, the White Wolf, raised an army and retook Winterfell. They kicked those Bolton fuckers out and killed that sadistic little shit Ramsay too. Jon Snow now sits as our king, the King in the North.”

As Torrhen refilled their horns, Arya wasn’t really paying attention. She had to contain herself from breaking into a wide grin, expressing the joy and excitement that she felt rising within her.

Jon and Sansa are both fine! She thought gleefully. And Jon is the King! They are both at Winterfell, together, where I will be soon.

“The King in the North!” Torrhen said loudly, raising his horn high.

“The King in the North!” Arya echoed, just as loudly.

Arya drank deeply, ignoring her initial dislike for the taste, savouring the joy she felt at the success of her siblings.

*

The following morning, Arya awoke at sunrise, before the elderly couple. She dressed quickly and grabbed the satchel of food that Beth had prepared for her when Arya had said that she would leave on the morrow, despite their initial protests.

Arya had been tempted to tell them of her true name, but had decided against it. While Jon was in control of the North now, there were still roaming bands of Bolton men roaming the North, according to Torrhen, who would punish them for sheltering her.

He had also told her about stories of a roaming wolf pack, far larger and more vicious than many others in the area. That had sent a slight chill down her spine, as well as a jolt of sadness when she thought of Nymeria. She wondered where her loyal direwolf was now, or even whether she was still alive.

Arya shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts as she prepared to leave the farmhouse. As she reached out to open the door, a thought struck her and she turned back to the large wooden table. Arya reached into her pack and drew out a small pouch of silver coins that she had taken from the Twins and placed it on the table, as meagre gratitude for the couple’s kindness.

Arya opened the door and stepped out into the chilly, morning air. She retrieved Needle, saddled her horse and began her trek north. She couldn’t wait to arrive back home, at Winterfell, where she now knew her brother and sister were waiting. The thought filled her with such a sense of longing and happiness that she spurred her horse on to go faster. For the next few days she rode north, without seeing anyone nor, Arya thanked the Gods, the wolf pack.

That changed one chilly, windy night.

Arya had set up camp in a small clearing, after spending a full, frustrating hour trying to keep her campfire alight. She huddled herself around it, eating a slightly stale crust of bread that she had taken from the now dwindling satchel of food that Beth had given her, trying to warm herself.

Before long, however, the sound of voices found her ears, barely audible above the howling wind. Arya stiffened, reaching for Needle. She strained her ears, desperately trying to hear more, and praying that she had misheard. When she heard the voices again, Arya scrambled to her feet, bringing Needle with her as she crept towards the sound.

Before long she saw the dim flicker of campfires through the trees, the sound of merry voices getting louder with every step. Arya heard the cracking of twigs underfoot, that was not her own, and instantly pressed herself against the nearest tree. She held her breath, listening as the footsteps grew closer. They stopped nearby and before long Arya heard what sounded like running water.

Curiosity getting the best of her, Arya poked her head around the tree. A tall man with long hair, tied back in a ponytail stood with his back to her, having a piss against a tree. Arya guessed, from the random, mismatched armour, that the man was some kind of thief or bandit. The grief-stricken faces of Torrhen and Beth flashed before her, as she remembered them saying that many Bolton men had taken to the woods, acting as bandits.

Fury rose up within her, as she crept from her hiding place and towards the man. She knew at the back of her head that it was unlikely that this was one of the men who had killed Torrhen and Beth’s children, but she didn’t care. Arya didn’t want to take the chance.

She stood behind him, reached up and grasped the end of the man’s ponytail. Arya pulled his head back sharply, forcing him to look up to the sky as she thrust Needle through the back of the man’s head and out of his eye socket. Arya pulled Needle out of the man’s head and stood back as he fell back to the floor. Arya looked at the bloody hole that used to be his left eye and felt a mixture of revulsion and disgust.

A shout of laughter from the nearby camp caught her attention. She crept closer, Needle at the ready. As she reached the crest of a small hill, the camp appeared before her. Arya instantly flattened herself onto her stomach, crawling forward on her elbows into a better position. She cast her eyes across the camp, taking in every detail and doing a quick headcount.

There was around fifteen men in the clearing, arranged into several smaller groups, each surrounding their own small campfire, with the nearest all sitting with their backs to her. They were all in various stages of drunkenness, which worked in her favour. A small smirk appeared on her face as she cast her eyes over the assembled men…

Which disappeared when her eyes fell on a small group on the opposite side of the clearing.

The group was made up of Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Anguy and the Hound.

Arya brimmed with anger at the sight of the Brotherhood, still furious about their betrayal of Gendry to the Red Woman. However, her anger was matched by her amazement at the sight of the Hound. The last time she had seen him, he had been lying at the bottom of a sheer drop, covered in dirt and his own blood, with a broken bone poking out of his thigh. She had expected him to die within a matter of hours, and yet here he was, months later, drinking and eating with the Brotherhood without Banners.

Arya’s reverie was disturbed by movement nearby. She looked and saw that one of the Brotherhood, in the group nearest to her, had stood up, waving his hands around drunkenly. Arya looked at over at the Hound and his group, and the anger flared up in her once more. She sprung to her feet and raced down the hill, determined to cross a few names off of her list.

The man who had stood up, turned at the sound of her approach, swaying slightly in his drunken state. He barely registered any recognition as Needle swung towards him, plunging into his throat, a thin spray of blood spattering across the front of Arya’s clothes. His companions all staggered to their feet, desperately clutching at their weapons as they shouted for aid.

Arya squared up to the nearest attacker, a one-eyed man who was swaying sideways where he stood. Her confidence grew at the sight, but she cautioned herself not to get too arrogant. The man swung wildly with his sword, which Arya easily side-stepped. She thrust Needle forward, piercing easily through the man’s leather chest piece and into his heart, causing him to crumple in a heap on the ground.

Arya saw movement out of the corner of her eye and turned to see a red-haired man raising his spear towards her. As he thrust his spear forwards, Arya deftly performed a forward roll, his spear sailing a few inches above her. As she righted herself she plunged Needle into the man’s gut, turning his armour crimson as he fell to his knees, trying to stem the flow of blood from his stomach.

Feeling movement behind her, Arya reached down and grabbed a long log from the campfire and swung it in an arc. The flaming tip made contact with the approaching man’s face, causing him to howl in pain and clasp both of his hands to his face. Arya silenced him with a quick jab to the throat.

Arya had raised Needle again, ready to continue her attack, when a shout rang out across the clearing, causing everyone to turn in alarm.

“Girl!” came the Hound’s gruff voice. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Arya turned furiously towards him to see him and the Brotherhood leaders making their way towards her, with looks of anger and disbelief on their faces.

“I’m here to kill you all,” replied Arya calmly, as she tightened her grip on Needle. “What do you think I am doing?”

“I don’t think you want to do that, child,” said Thoros, as he took a swig from his wine skin.

“And, why not?”

“Because we are heading north, to fight the real war, with your brother, the King in the North,” finished Beric, fixing her with a beady stare from his good eye.

Arya jolted slightly, completely unprepared for their answer. She flicked her eyes between them, trying to see any deceit on their faces. When she saw none, she returned her gaze to Beric.

“What do you mean, ‘the real war’?”

“The cold winds are rising in the North, child,” replied Beric, taking a step closer to her but still far away from the range of Needle. “We are heading north to confront it by joining forces with your brother and sister.”

Arya considered his words for a moment, before sheathing Needle with a sigh of impatience.

“I still haven’t, and won’t, forgive you for selling Gendry to that Red Woman,” she said darkly, taking a step towards Beric, while looking him dead in the eye. “But if you are willing to help Jon, I will agree to a truce. At least for now. But if you betray me, or either of my siblings, you won’t live very long to regret it.”

Beric looked at her for a moment, surprised at the brazenness of her words, glaring at her with his good eye, before extending his hand to her. Arya hesitated for a second before taking it and shook, not dropping her gaze for a moment.

“It is good to see you again, child,” he said, as he turned to head towards the dead men that Arya had left in her wake.

Thoros raised his wine skin to her in a mock toast before following Beric. Arya turned her eyes towards the Hound, his burnt face covered in a look of amusement and pride.

“You remembered where the heart is,” he said gruffly, jerking his head towards the corpses.

“Yes, I did,” replied Arya, nodding at him while not looking away. “I see you managed to survive that fall.”

The Hound nodded to her, a small smirk unfurling over his mouth.

“I was wrong.”

Arya raised her eyebrows in surprise at his admission, completely at a loss for what he is talking about.

“What do you mean?”

“The stupid dancing shite that you used to do. It looks like it is useful after all.”

He waved his hand, gesturing to the bloody mess that Arya had left in her wake, and Arya smirked along with him as she fixed him with a curious stare.

Despite all he had done, and all that she had been through since, Arya wasn’t sure that she wanted to kill him anymore.

Chapter Text

 

Sansa

 

For the first time in several hours, silence fell in the Winterfell study. Sansa sat back in her chair, looking over at Bran and Meera, who were seated opposite her. They had just finished telling each other what had happened since they had last seen each other, all those years ago, before Bran’s fall from the tower and Sansa’s journey to King’s Landing.

From the occupation of Winterfell by Theon and his Ironborn, to their daring escape and travels north and finally how they had crossed the Wall and made their way even further north to meet with the Three-eyed Raven. If she was honest with herself, Sansa was feeling a lot of emotions at Bran’s story.

Firstly, and most importantly, she was overjoyed at her brother’s return home. One of her final remaining siblings had returned back to their childhood home, ready for them to be a family once more.

Sansa was also a little disappointed that Jon wasn’t here for Bran’s return. Jon had told Sansa at Castle Black that Bran had gone north of the Wall while he was living with the Wildlings. He had told her how much he had wanted to find Bran and bring him back, and now Jon wasn’t at Winterfell when Bran did in fact return.

Sansa mourned with him at the loss of Summer and Hodor. She knew what it was like to lose their direwolves, knew that it had hurt as much as losing a family member. Sansa didn’t remember much about Hodor from her childhood, as she had been too interested in her lessons from Septa Mordane, learning how to become a ‘proper lady’. She had known him to be sweet and gentle giant, and knowing that he had given his life to protect Bran and Meera made Sansa respect and care about him all the more.

Finally, Sansa had been shocked by the horrors that Bran had faced. Jon had told her about the wights, the reanimated dead that the White Walkers used in their army. She had found it hard to believe at first, but the look on Jon’s face had convinced her that it was the truth. And now, knowing that Bran too had seen them, and had to escape from them, Sansa’s fear about the approaching war grew even more, fear of the creatures that had caused many nightmares for her as a young child.

Don’t think about that, she told herself firmly. Jon has gone to get help. We will deal with it when they arrive.

Sansa and Bran had decided that it was too risky to send a raven to inform Jon about Bran’s arrival. They had sent messages to all of the houses of the North, to inform them about the return of another of Eddard Stark’s children, but they knew that if they sent word to Jon, then the letter could be intercepted by forces loyal to Cersei.

And having the Iron Throne aware that another Stark had returned to Winterfell, this one a potential heir to Jon if he should fall, was not something that Sansa wanted at all.

No one is going to hurt my family again, she thought angrily, gripping the edge of the table. Not Jon. Not Bran. Not anyone.

A knock at the door broke the silence, making all three of them jump slightly, everyone being lost in their own thoughts.

“Enter,” said Sansa, sitting up a little in the chair, trying to show an air of command as the Lady of Winterfell.

Maester Wolkan entered and bowed his head meekly.

“The feast is ready, my lady,” he said.

The first thing Sansa had done, before heading to the study with Bran and Meera, was to order a feast in celebration of Bran’s return, with all the remaining Northern lords in attendance. Many had already left to return to their homes, like Lords Manderly, Glover and Cerwyn, but some still remained, such as Lyanna Mormont.

Sansa smiled and stood up, turning to Bran.

“Are you ready?”

Bran nodded at her, a little nervously, before turning to Meera who smiled encouragingly at him. Wolkan backed out of the room and signalled to the two guardsmen outside, who then entered to help Bran down to the Great Hall. Sansa and Meera followed them down the stairs.

When they entered the hall, the lords all got to their feet and began to shout Bran’s name and welcoming him home, with many banging their goblets, adding to the din. Sansa smiled as Bran was carried past the shouting lords, all of whom looked pleased to see his return. They made their way to the high table, which today had three chairs, with Sansa and Meera sat on either side of Bran.

As they were seated, the lords all began to quieten, some slower than others. Sansa looked towards Bran and saw that he looked a little disconcerted by the level of praise and happiness that he was seeing.

He has spent the last few years with only the Reeds and Hodor as company, Sansa thought, as she continued looking at her brother with concern. This must be very strange for him. Maybe this feast wasn’t the best idea after all.

“Bran?” Sansa said, as she gripped his forearm gently. “Are you all right?”

He didn’t answer for a moment, which didn’t alleviate Sansa’s concern at all. Finally, he nodded slightly, before raising his hand to the assembled lords for silence. When they finally fell to silence, Bran raised his voice to address them.

“Thank you for that welcome, my lords,” said Bran commandingly, with a tone of voice that reminded Sansa of how she had been that he had ruled Winterfell in Robb’s stead when he marched south. “It has been far too long since I have been home and it feels good to once more be in the halls of Winterfell.”

A round of approving murmurs followed his words. Sansa looked at Bran, with a feeling of pride. He was clearly making use of all those lessons from their father and Maester Luwin about how a lord should behave.

“I know that it is tradition for the eldest male to succeed as the Lord of Winterfell and that many of you expect me to do so. However, I will not be becoming the Lord of Winterfell.”

A hush fell over the hall at Bran’s words and Sansa looked over and caught Meera’s eye, with them both wearing identical looks of confusion.

“Firstly, my brother Jon Snow, the King in the North, named Sansa as the Lady of Winterfell. As his younger brother, I will not be disobeying Jon’s commands.

“Secondly, I have been away from Winterfell for several years whereas Sansa has been here, knowing and understanding what has been happening in Winterfell and whole of the North. She is the better choice to rule over our home.”

There was another moment of stunned silence after he finished, but before long there was a stammered murmur of support for his reasoning. Bran nodded gratefully at the lords before indicating for them to begin their feasting. He leaned back and rested the back of his head against his chair and closed his eyes briefly, looking relieved.

“What was that Bran?” asked Sansa in a hushed voice.

“I meant what I said, Sansa,” replied Bran, as he looked her in the eye. “Jon knew what he was doing. You are the best choice to rule Winterfell. You have been here for longer than I have and you have the right knowledge and skills for the politics of the role, which I do not.

“Besides, even if I wanted to be the Lord of Winterfell, which I do not, I have other matters that I have to do. I am the Three-eyed Raven now, and I have to develop my warging and Greenseer abilities before the Night King arrives. I won’t have time to do that if I have to deal with the formalities of ruling Winterfell.

“So, don’t worry Sansa.” Bran continued as he took her hand in his and squeezed it gently. “You are the best choice, and Jon and I will support you, whenever and however you need us.”

Sansa smiled widely at Bran, fighting back her emotion at his revelations. She was overwhelmed at Bran’s loyalty and support for her, even when he legally had the greater claim.

However, at Bran’s mention of Jon, her mind was cast back to when he was named the King in the North. She remembered the feeling of jealousy that she had initially felt when she had heard the Northern lords chant for Jon. She had felt that everything that Littlefinger had warned her of was coming true.

Then Jon had named her the Lady of Winterfell, effectively giving her what Littlefinger had implied that Jon would take from her.

In that moment, Sansa had realised the stupidity of her feelings and felt ashamed of them. She had allowed Littlefinger to once again use his words to twist her feelings, turning her against Jon, one of the only people that had treated her with kindness and consideration since she had left Winterfell, and put her own ambitions above her loyalty to her own family.

The more Sansa had thought about it, the more she had seen the reasons why the Northern lords had chosen Jon as their king. While she had brought the Knights of the Vale to help win the battle, she had kept it secret from everyone, even Jon. On the other hand, Jon had been fully open and honest with everyone and had led the army into battle himself, which had garnered him a great deal of respect from the Northern people.

Sansa also knew that her marriages had not gone in her favour, rightly or wrongly. While neither were of her choosing, or consent, they had not endeared her to the Northern lords, as they had both been to enemies of the North. The first meeting with Lady Lyanna Mormont was clear proof of that, where she had questioned Sansa’s loyalty to her husbands’ families, Lannisters and Boltons.

Later that night, when she had returned to her chamber after the announcement, Sansa had resolved to stand by her brother and to put aside all those jealous feelings, born of Littlefinger’s scheming. They were a part of the old Sansa, the young girl that had left Winterfell for King’s Landing, infatuated with Prince Joffrey and her head full of foolish naivety about how the way the Seven Kingdoms truly worked. The girl that had allowed people like Baelish and Cersei to manipulate her into feeling things that suited their own whims, and not her own. She told herself that Littlefinger would not influence her or her decisions again, in any way.

Sansa brought herself out of her reverie and nodded at Bran, with a grateful look in her eye. Bran smiled warmly back at her before he turned to his plate and began to eat with such enthusiasm that Sansa smiled even more, knowing that it must have been months since he had eaten such a meal.

Sansa cast her eyes around the hall, over the assembled lords. She saw Lyanna Mormont deep in conversation with Lord Hornwood, looking both stern and curious. Sansa had developed a great deal of respect for Lyanna, due to her outspoken nature and her fierce loyalty.

Sansa continued to look over the hall… and her eyes met with Littlefinger.

He was staring up at her with an unreadable expression on his face, not even bothering with the food and wine in front of him, nor the several Vale lords trying to get his attention. Sansa held his gaze for a moment, with apprehension and anger bubbling up in the gut, before his look shifted, almost imperceptibly, to Bran. A sly look crossed his face as he returned his eyes back to Sansa, and he raised his eyebrows questioning.

Sansa, who knew all too well about how Littlefinger schemed at every opportunity, knew instantly the meaning of his look.

He wants me to coerce Bran into something, she thought, with a jolt of disgust mingling with her anger now. He wants me to turn on my brothers to help him.

Sansa maintained her gaze, now burning with the fury that was writhing like snakes within her, as she reached across and placed her arm around the back of Bran’s chair. It was an innocent act, one that no one in the hall would question if they had seen, but Sansa knew that Littlefinger caught the implication of it, her loyalty to her brother. His smug look faded slightly to be replaced by one of disappointment and something dark, that Sansa guessed was anger, which was rare to see on his face.

I will not let him harm my brother, Sansa thought, as she refused to drop her scathing gaze from Baelish. Either of them.

*

The following day, Sansa stood in the courtyard of Winterfell, feeling the brisk winter air across her skin. She had spent the morning continuing to coordinate the rebuilding of Winterfell and Winter Town, which had suffered heavily during the Ironborn occupation. It was an important task with winter approaching, as the population of Winter Town would grow vastly, with a great number of smallfolk heading to Winterfell to wait out the winter snows.

Sansa heard a noise behind her and turned to see Bran, carried by his two guardsmen, and Meera making their way towards her. She saw that they had both changed their Wildling furs for garments more suited for the noble status, which Sansa could see that neither of them looked very comfortable with.

Sansa had also noticed the closeness between Bran and Meera. They had not left each other’s side since they had arrived, always there to support and confide in the other. Sansa was pleased that, despite what Bran had dealt with and endured, he had found someone that he cared for, someone who clearly cared just as deeply for him too.

Sansa was impressed by Meera. She could clearly take care of herself and Bran, and had no problem in telling people what she thought. Sansa had also been impressed by the support and comfort that she clearly offered to Bran, as he always seemed more at ease when she was nearby.

Earlier that morning, before she had begun her duties, Sansa had written a letter to her father, Lord Howland Reed of Greywater Watch. She had heard much about him from her father. Howland had accompanied Eddard throughout the Rebellion, and had even been present during her father’s defeat of Ser Arthur Dayne.

Sansa had taken a while to make sure it was worded correctly before giving it to Maester Wolkan to send away.

Lord Howland Reed,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. We have never met but I have heard a great deal about you from my father, Lord Eddard Stark. He told me a great deal about friendship you shared and your loyalty to him during Robert’s Rebellion.

I am writing to tell you that your daughter Meera has arrived back at Winterfell in good health with my brother Brandon, after they travelled north of the Wall together. I know that they travelled with your son Jojen, and I am sad to say that he didn’t return with them. You have both my personal condolences and that of House Stark for your loss, my lord.

I invite you to come to Winterfell to meet with your daughter, and you will be extended the same hospitality of House Stark that Meera has for the duration of your stay.

I hope to see you soon,

Sansa Stark,

Lady of Winterfell.

 

Bran and Meera come to stop in front of her, and Sansa smiled warmly at them.

“Are you ready?” Sansa asked, growing a little solemn as she looked at Bran.

He nodded resolutely at her, as Meera looked at him concerned. Sansa returned Bran’s nod as they turned and headed towards the crypt, to visit Rickon.

Sansa hadn’t been down there yet. She hadn’t been able to face the fact that her youngest sibling was gone, that little Rickon was in fact dead. However, she had decided that now was the best time, now that she had someone other than Jon to confide her feelings about his death to.

They descended the stairs to the crypt, soon having to rely on the torch for any light at all. When they reached the bottom of the staircase they made their way along the lines of stone statues of long dead Starks, with Sansa examining the stone visages of her ancestors, the former Kings of Winter, feeling a sense of relief and surprise that they had remained untouched during both the Ironborn and Bolton occupations of Winterfell.

Before long they reached faces that they recognised. First came Lord Rickard Stark, their grandfather, alongside his children Brandon and Lyanna. Sansa knew that her father had broken tradition by having statues made of his siblings, but now that she was in a similar position, it made her respect him all the more. She and Jon had decided to have statues made of Robb and Rickon, as well as Eddard and Catelyn.

They stopped in front of the statue of their father. The similarity was so striking that Sansa’s breath caught in her throat and tears burned at the corner of her eyes, as she thought warmly of her father. His gruff, comforting voice calming her after a nightmare, his strong arms picking her up after a fall.

Sansa shook her head slightly to dispel the memories as she looked to the tombs behind the statue. She knew that, apart from Rickon’s, they were empty. Her father’s remains hadn’t arrived at Winterfell before its fall to the Ironborn and the Freys had done horrific things to Robb and her mother’s corpses, and would never return them.

Don’t think about that! Sansa scolded herself, as tears of anger filled her eyes as she thought of the Red Wedding. The Freys will get what they deserve in time.

Sansa stood next to Rickon’s tomb and laid a hand on it, feeling the cold stone against her palm. As she did so, the grief and loss that she had been holding back since Rickon’s death burst out of her. Not caring who saw, Sansa allowed the tears to fall. She dimly noticed that the guardsmen placed Bran next to her, before backing away to give them some privacy.

After a few minutes, Sansa’s tears slowly slightly. Breathing deeply, she turned towards Bran and saw blearily, through her tear-filled eyes, that he had laid his head on the top of the tomb, his shoulder shaking slightly with what she knew were silent sobs. Sansa crouched down and pulled him into a hug, feeling his slim frame shake with his sobs against her and the shoulder of her dress become damp with his tears. But Sansa didn’t care. She only cared about comforting her brother through their shared grief.

Sansa noticed that Meera had moved a little closer and had placed a comforting hand on Bran’s back. Sansa caught her eye and gave her a grateful nod and smile, after seeing once again the comfort that she provided Bran, which Meera returned.

They stayed that way for some time, three people helping each other come to terms with their losses, before Bran pulled away from Sansa’s embrace. Sansa saw him drag his cuff across his eyes, furiously wiping away his tears.

“This is my fault,” said Bran thickly, returning his gaze to his little brother’s tomb. “I should have brought him with me. Then he wouldn’t have fallen into Ramsay’s hands.”

“Bran,” said Sansa, a little sternly, taking hold of his wrist. “This is not your fault. Sending Rickon to Last Hearth with Osha was the smart decision with you heading North of the wall. We thought that the Umbers were loyal to us. You couldn’t have known that they would betray him to Ramsay or that Ramsay would then kill him.”

“Sansa is right, Bran,” said Meera consolingly. “If we had brought Rickon with us, who knows if he would have survived what we went through. He might have died at Craster’s or when the Night King attacked the cave.”

Bran stared at Rickon’s tomb for a moment, not acknowledging their words, before he nodded, a little grudgingly.

“I just can’t help but feel like I should have done more,” he said, in a quiet, grief-filled voice.

“Me too, Bran,” confided Sansa. “When Jon and I were planning the assault on Winterfell, Jon was the only one convinced that we could save him. To me, Rickon was dead the moment that Ramsay had him. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. But I can’t help but feel that I should have been focused more on saving my brother, rather than defeating Ramsay, like Jon was.”

Sansa and Bran locked eyes and shared in their guilt and grief for a moment, before Meera interrupted.

“Nothing that either of you did caused Rickon’s death,” Meera stated firmly, as she took a step towards them. “Sansa, from what you have said about Ramsay then it is probably true that Rickon was dead when he had him, as he was a threat to his rule. Nothing you did or didn’t do after that meant that he died.

“And, Bran,” she continued as she turned to him, his eyes shining up at her through the gloom. “Taking Rickon with us wouldn’t have kept him safe. He would have been in danger the whole time, so you can’t think that bringing him with us would have kept him alive.

“The only people responsible for Rickon’s death are Ramsay and the Umbers. Not either of you two.”

Sansa and Bran remained silent after her proclamation, both looking into space, deliberately not making eye contact with each other.

While Sansa couldn’t help feeling the guilt, Rickon had been her brother after all, the logic of Meera’s words did get through to her. Sansa nodded briefly, acknowledging her argument, seeing Bran doing the same out of the corner of her eye.

Taking a deep breath, Sansa pushed down her guilt, knowing that they needed to keep their heads clear for the time being while they prepared, without any distractions.

“Meera is right, Bran,” Sansa said, nodding at her gratefully. “We need to focus on helping Jon now, to prepare for the Night King’s arrival.”

“Sansa…” said Bran hesitantly, looking at his hands nervously. “There is something you should know… about Jon. He is-”

“Bran!” interrupted Meera sharply. “I think that Jon should be the first to know. It does affect him the most after all, it is his life.”

Sansa looked between the two of them, extremely confused about what they could know about Jon that would so profoundly change his life. After a moment, where he was clearly thinking hard about Meera’s suggestion, Bran nodded.

“You are right, Meera. I am sorry Sansa, but this secret needs to be told to Jon first, before anyone else.”

Sansa looked at him for a moment, severely tempted to press for the answer. They were family after all, and what affected Jon would affect them all. But her temptation passed when she saw the resolute look on her brother’s face, a look that she knew from their childhood meant that Bran was not going to drop this.

“All right, Bran,” said Sansa, nodding. “We will do this your way. We can tell Jon when he returns from Dragonstone.”

With that they signalled the guardsmen to pick up Bran and they made their way back through the crypt, passing past their ancestors. After a few minutes of climbing the staircase, they came back into the courtyard, its chilly air greeting them.

Sansa turned to see Bran looking round him, taking the towers and spires of Winterfell with a wistful smile on his face. Sensing her gaze, Bran turned to her.

“It still feels so strange to be back here, after so long being away from home.”

“I know the feeling,” replied Sansa, mirroring his smile. “I lived here with the Bolton’s occupying it and it never felt really like home. But now, since Jon and I took it back, it truly feels like home again.”

“I saw Jon, you know,” said Bran suddenly, startling Sansa with this revelation. “At a Wildling camp, that I later learned was called Craster’s Keep. We had been captured there after I saw that Ghost had been put into a cage.

“Before long, Jon arrived with some members of the Night’s Watch to deal with the deserters there. I watched him fighting them, trying to call to him, but he couldn’t hear me. While I knew that it couldn’t happen, with the vows that Jon had taken and my journey to find the Three-eyed Raven, I couldn’t help but think that if he found me that we could go home, together.”

Bran trailed off, looking around the courtyard once more. Sansa looked at him with a sense of sadness and understanding. She knew exactly how he had felt, looking for any hope, any possible way, to come home with her family. And then, once she had been able to come home, it was in the company of the family that had betrayed and killed her brother and mother.

It has been a long road for the both of us to get here, she thought, still looking at Bran.

“I am going to go to the godswood,” said Bran finally, addressing the guardsmen carrying him. “I haven’t been there since I returned.”

Sansa nodded at him as the guardsmen carried him away, with Meera following close by. She watched them go for a moment, her smile lingering on her face.

A horn from the South Gate caught Sansa’s attention and she made her way towards it, passing several guardsmen and smallfolk who were looking towards the lowering gate with expressions of interest.

As Sansa grew closer she saw two people enter, and a smile returned to Sansa’s face at the sight. Even though they were on horseback, and glad in armour, Sansa recognised the sight of Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne, even at this distance. They had heard about the Lannister victory at Riverrun and the death of the Blackfish, but there had been no word of Brienne and Podrick. Until now.

Sansa sped up slightly, as she saw Brienne and Podrick dismount from their horses and began to lead them to the stables. When she grew close to them, they both dropped down onto one knee before her.

“Lady Sansa,” said Brienne dutifully.

“Rise, Lady Brienne,” said Sansa happily. “It is good to see you again. And you too Podrick.”

“Thank you, my lady,” said Podrick nervously, as he too rose to his feet. “You, too, my lady.”

“I am sorry, Lady Sansa,” said Brienne sorrowfully, as she hung her head. “I failed in my task. I couldn’t persuade the Blackfish to come north to aid you.”

“I know, Lady Brienne,” replied Sansa, consolingly. “I received your raven. Mother had told me of her uncle’s stubbornness and his loyalty to his family. It didn’t come as a surprise when he refused to come north.”

“He helped us to escape, my lady,” said Podrick. “While the gate was lowered to allow the Lannister forces into Riverrun, the Blackfish led us to a small boat.”

“The gate was lowered?” asked Sansa, completely baffled. “Why would the gate be lowered? Riverrun could withstand a siege for months.”

“Your uncle Edmure ordered it, I believe,” answered Brienne, looking at Sansa apologetically. “He has been held captive since the Red Wedding. He probably just wanted to make the torment stop.”

Sansa fell silent for a moment, trying to comprehend the information she had just received. She couldn’t believe that Edmure would betray his family like that, and led to his own uncle’s death.

But, then, I don’t know what happened to him while he was captured, reasoned Sansa. Like Brienne says, maybe he was treated so badly that doing the Lannister’s bidding might improve his situation.

“Well,” said Brienne slowly, clearly trying to find a way to change the subject slightly. “It seems as though you didn’t need the Blackfish and his men after all.”

“No,” said Sansa, latching onto the change of subject gratefully. “They would have been useful but we managed to win all the same.”

“And your brother is the King in the North?” asked Brienne, looking questioningly at her.

“Yes” replied Sansa. “He has sailed to Dragonstone to negotiate an alliance with the Dragon Queen, Daenerys Targaryen.”

Brienne eyes widened at this and Podrick took a step back in shock.

“Well,” said Brienne, clearly reeling from this news. “It seems that your brother is not one for taking half measures.”

“No, he is not,” replied Sansa, smiling warmly at them. “Come with me. Let’s find you both some quarters so you can rest.”

“Thank you, my lady,” said Podrick gratefully, as Brienne nodded her agreement.

“Excuse me, Lady Sansa,” came a silky voice from behind her, that sent a shiver of annoyance and disgust through her. “I was wondering if I could interrupt.”

With a sense of distaste rising within her, Sansa turned to see Littlefinger standing behind her, a smug smile on his face. Sansa returned his smug look with one of anger and contempt.

“How can I help you?” asked Sansa curtly, hoping that her tone conveyed that she would rather help Cersei at this point than Baelish.

“I was hoping to talk with you,” he replied, either not noticing her tone or not caring to acknowledge it. Sansa wasn’t sure which one was more infuriating.

Sansa nodded and began to follow him over to a secluded corner of the courtyard, after signalling to Brienne and Podrick to follow them.

I am not going to be alone with him ever again, she thought with a shudder, as she remembered their conversation in the godswood.

As they reached a semi-secluded corner of the courtyard, Sansa motioned for Brienne to stay a little back from the two of them. They were close enough to act if anything should happen, but far enough away to give the illusion of privacy. Sansa stopped and faced him, with her arms folded across her chest.

“What do you want?” she demanded.

“I wanted to speak with you,” he replied politely, holding his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. “It seems like you have been avoiding me.”

“I have,” replied Sansa, shrugging unapologetically. “I have nothing to say to you, so I stayed as far from you as I could.”

At this Littlefinger’s nostrils flared slightly, and Sansa smirked a little at seeing his mask of smug disinterest slip slightly.

“Have you given any thought to what I told you?” he countered, with a bite of venom in his voice now. “I told you that you might need an army of your own someday. It looks as if that day has come, with your half-brother as King now, with the full control of the North. If you had listened to me-”

“Stop!” snapped Sansa aggressively, taking a step towards him. “I know what you are implying. Jon hasn’t turned on me. He didn’t choose to be made the King in the North. The Northern lords chose him.

“And then, when he was made king, the first thing Jon did was to make me the Lady of Winterfell. My brother trusts me, and I trust him. Your schemes and words won’t turn us against one another.”

“Think about it Sansa,” he implored with a note of desperation in his voice now, as he reached out for her hand, causing her to recoil away from his touch. “You know my plan. You can still play a part in it. We can take the Iron Throne together. Now your brother Bran has returned we could manipulate the situation, gain support for him to be named King in the-”

He didn’t finish his sentence as Sansa took a step forward and slapped him across the face as hard as she could. The force that she had put into the blow jarred her wrist slightly, but she was pleased to see that it had hurt Baelish a lot more. He staggered back a step or two, clutching at his face, looking completely bemused.

Sansa stood staring at him, breathing hard.

“Don’t you dare threaten my family!” she said furiously.

“Is there something you need from me, Lady Sansa?” asked Brienne loudly, who, Sansa saw, had approached with sword drawn.

“Yes,” replied Sansa, turning back to Littlefinger, her anger still blazing inside her and her heart beating almost painfully fast. “Restrain him.”

Brienne sheathed her sword and approached Littlefinger, who raised his arms in a futile attempt to defend himself. Brienne seized the man by the throat and pinned him against the wall. Sansa watched for a moment as his face began to redden, the part of his face not covered by a red, hand-shaped welt.

Sansa approached him and looked him dead in the eye, noticing a look of panic in their usual unreadable green depths.

“You have done a lot for me,” began Sansa, steadily. “You helped me to escape from my torment in King’s Landing and helped me get to the Vale, even if you did then hand me over to the Boltons.”

He squirmed slightly at this, and Sansa remembered their meeting at Mole’s Town, where he profusely denied any knowledge of Ramsay’s actions and expressed his apologies. Sansa dismissed the thought as soon as it arrived. She cared little for his discomfort over her experiences or his flimsy apologies.

“Because of what you have done for me, however little it truly was, and out of respect for your role as Guardian of the Lord of the Vale, you are being given a last warning. But know that this will be your final, and only, warning.”

Sansa stood directly in front of him and leaned forward slightly, so that she filled his vision and he could see, as well as hear, how serious she was in this warning.

“If I even suspect that you are making a move, any move, against my family, I will have you executed. Do you understand me?”

Baelish simply stared at her for a moment, completely shocked. Brienne shook him slightly, causing him to turn an even deeper shade of red.

“Lady Stark asked you a question,” she snarled, inches from his face. “Answer it!”

Baelish said nothing but nodded his head jerkily. Sansa nodded to Brienne, who let go of his throat. Littlefinger fell to the floor in a heap, gasping for air and massaging his throat. Sansa straightened up and folded her hands in front of her.

“That will be all, Lord Baelish,” she said with mock politeness.

Littlefinger scrambled to his feet and hurried away, without a backwards glance. Brienne watched him pass her with undisguised hatred on her face and Sansa watched his retreating form for a moment, trying not to feel too pleased with herself. Sansa was well aware that she might have made things worse rather than better.

“Executed?” questioned Brienne, drawing Sansa’s attention. “You’re going to execute him?”

Sansa smiled reassuringly at Brienne, who was looking a little concerned, and placed a hand on her armour-clad forearm.

“Before Jon left for Dragonstone, he gave me a writ that allows me to act against Littlefinger with Jon’s full authority as King. Jon told me that if I suspected Littlefinger was up to anything, then I should imprison him.”

“So, you aren’t going to have him killed?” replied Brienne, looking extremely relieved.

“No, Brienne,” said Sansa patiently, maintaining her reassuring smile. “But Littlefinger doesn’t need to know that.”

Catching onto the meaning of Sansa’s words, Brienne smiled widely, vigorously nodding her approval, causing Sansa to laugh at her enthusiasm.

“Come now, Brienne,” said Sansa, as she took Brienne’s armour-clad arm in her own. “Let us find you and Podrick some suitable chambers.”

*

Later that evening, after Sansa had found Brienne and Podrick some suitable chambers and dined with Bran and Meera, informing them about the latest developments with Littlefinger as she did so, Sansa made her way to her chambers, ready to put the day behind her.

As she bathed, she thought back to her confrontation with Littlefinger, and once again wondered what the consequences of her actions would be. Baelish was never one whose actions could be easily predicted and Sansa was completely unsure about what he would do.

It wasn’t like her rejection of him was a new occurrence, as she had in fact done so multiple times, but never physically. Sansa wondered if that would mark a change in the way Littlefinger acted towards her or was he so deluded and obsessed in his plan that he would ignore it?

All Sansa knew was that the constant thinking about all the possible outcomes of what Baelish would do was starting to give her a headache.

That is enough thinking about it for one night, Sansa admonished herself, as she rose from the now lukewarm water and began to dry herself. I will not give that man any more thought than he deserves: none at all.

Before long, Sansa settled herself into her comfortable bed and allowed sleep to take her.

However, she wouldn’t rest long.

Sansa was awoken from her slumber by the sound of her door crashing open, causing her to sit up and look wildly around her. It took her a moment to realise that Meera had come running into her room. Sansa saw vaguely that the two guards that Jon had insisted be posted outside her room were still there, so they must have let her in.

“Sansa,” Meera panted, clearly out of breath. “It’s Bran.”

Sansa jumped out of bed and strode across the room in a frantic rush.

“What about Bran?” she asked fearfully, terrified that this was Littlefinger’s vengeance.

“He’s fine,” Meera said, holding up her hand to calm Sansa. “He had a vision and said that you needed to know about it.”

Sansa nodded as she grabbed a cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders before she followed Meera out of the room, her guardsmen falling into step behind her. As they made their way through the darkened corridors, the stone floor icy cold against her bare feet, Sansa became aware of what Meera had said.

If Bran had a vision in his sleep, Sansa pondered. How did Meera know about it? Her guest quarters are several floors away from his chamber.

As she realised that Meera must have been with Bran during his slumber, Sansa broke into a wide smile. But she knew that this was not the time nor the place to discuss such matters.

It didn’t take them long to reach Bran’s room and when she entered, Sansa saw that he was sat bolt upright in his bed, staring at the door. As Bran saw her, Sansa saw him relax slightly. Sansa rushed to his side and took one of his hands in hers.

“What’s wrong, Bran?” asked Sansa, concerned. “What did you see?”

“I saw Arya,” he said, his features brightening at the words.

Sansa’s heart skipped a beat.

Arya.

No one had heard from Arya since the day that their father had been executed outside the Sept of Baelor. No rumours or whisperings of any kind. It was almost too much to hope that Bran had in fact seen her.

“What do you mean, Bran?” asked Sansa, desperately trying to keep her expectations in check and failing miserably.

“I saw her,” he repeated. “I had a vision of Arya walking through the woods, surrounded by a group of men with flaming swords and a large dog with a burned face.”

Sansa mulled over his words, trying to process them and understand what he meant by it. She had no idea what or who the men with flaming swords were but the dog, that was a different matter.

“Sandor Clegane,” she whispered, almost to herself.

“What?” Bran asked, looking confused.

“Sandor Clegane,” Sansa repeated, louder now in her conviction. “You remember him? The Hound. He has a burnt face. He is with Arya and this group with the flaming swords.”

A small spell of silence followed her words, as the three of them tried to understand the consequences of that.

“Will she be all right?” asked Meera, in a small, concerned voice. “Is her being with this ‘Hound’ a good thing? Will he keep her safe?”

“He has before,” recalled Sansa, remembering Brienne’s tale of how she had crossed paths with Arya and the Hound. “I hope he will again.”

“What about the flaming swords though?” asked Meera. “Any ideas about them?”

Both Bran and Sansa shook their heads, with similar looks of despair and concern.

“She will be fine,” declared Bran confidently. “If she has lasted this long by herself, then I am sure Arya can handle these people, whoever they are. Especially if she has the Hound with her.”

“Arya always was a tough one,” agreed Sansa nodding slightly, despite the nagging concern in the pit of her stomach. “I’m sure she will be fine.”

I hope

 

Chapter Text

 

Jaime

 

As the sun rose over King’s Landing, Jaime stood on his balcony overlooking the various city districts, with the uneven rooftops and lopsided chimney stacks of Flea Bottom visible in the distance. Even from this distance, Jaime could see the maze of alleys that ran through the district, with the buildings that lined the alleys leaning over to touch at their apex.

Jaime turned his head this way and that, taking in all the various sights and landmarks of the city. From the colossal Dragonpit, set high up on Rhaenys’ Hill, to the bustling harbour and the nearby Fishmonger’s Square. Despite living in King’s Landing for much of his adult life, Jaime still found some enjoyment in looking over the city from one of the windows of the Red Keep, high on Aegon’s Hill. One of the only problems with that was that, even while being so high, is that the smell of sewage and shit still found its way into the nose.

Jaime looked even further and his eyes fell upon the vast, jagged crater on Visenya’s Hill when the Sept of Baelor had once stood. While Jaime was not a particularly pious man, he had admired the Sept, with its white marble structure and seven crystal towers. Now all that stood on the hill was a reminder of all the people who had died in the explosion.

As he looked over at the debris, anger rose up in Jaime’s gut. When he had arrived back in King’s Landing from the Riverlands with Bronn, the site was still smoking from the explosion, causing a dark plume to rise into the sky, often threatening to block out the sun for moments at a time.

Jaime had raced back to the Red Keep, terrified that Cersei had been inside when it had exploded, for her trial by the Faith. When he had arrived at the Keep, he had walked into the Main Hall to witness her coronation. She had been sitting proudly on the Iron Throne, crown perched on her golden hair, her legions of red garbed Lannister soldiers forming an imposing wall around the assembled smallfolk and her loyal servant Qyburn standing at her side.

Jaime had met his twin’s eye and had instantly suspected that she was behind the destruction. The more he had thought about it, the more it had made sense for Cersei to be behind it. She had despised the Faith and the High Sparrow for their actions, not least for her Walk of Atonement, humiliating her in front of the populace of King’s Landing.

Jaime had become certain of her guilt when he found out that Margaery and Loras Tyrell were among the casualties. The Tyrells had never been her favourite people, especially Margaery, even after the alliance had been forged between them. Cersei had loathed the young queen for the influence that she had cultivated over both of her sons.

Jaime’s anger had heightened even further when he had learned about the deaths of Kevan and Lancel Lannister. While Lancel had joined the Sparrows, and become a religious zealot with no regard for his family, he was still their cousin, still their family. Kevan was their uncle, one of their father’s most trusted commanders and confidants. The fact that Cersei had been willing to kill members of her own family, purely to gain revenge against the High Sparrow and the Tyrells, disgusted Jaime.

What had made it worse was the way she had done it, with Aerys Targaryen’s forgotten wildfire caches. When the Mad King had attempted to do something similar, at the end of the Rebellion, Jaime had slaughtered him and his pyromancer, Rossart. And now his sister, the woman he had loved for much of his life, had actually completed the act that the Mad King himself had attempted.

Jaime massaged his forehead with his left hand, trying to calm himself. His angry thoughts about Cersei’s actions needed to be kept in check, especially with him serving on Cersei’s Small Council, alongside Qyburn. Jaime didn’t think that she would harm him, although her actions had become a lot more unpredictable of late, so he couldn’t be sure.

Cersei had started to rule over the city with an iron fist, imposing a curfew and vicious punishments for any transgression. Whenever Jaime walked the streets, everywhere he looked he saw solders clad in Lannister red. They lined most of the major thoroughfares through the city, with many others patrolling the streets. They had been ordered to watch for any displays of dissent against Cersei’s rule. Those who were deemed as unruly and dissenting against the new Queen were grabbed in the dead of night by a squad of soldiers, their families also taken more often than not.

I am sure she gives them to Qyburn, thought Jaime, bitterly. For whatever twisted experiment he is working on now.

Jaime’s mind drifted to the Mountain, or rather the monstrous form of whatever Qyburn had turned the man who had formerly been Gregor Clegane into. While he had never been very civilised or talkative before his fight with Oberyn Martell, he now just lumbered around the Keep alongside Cersei, following her every whim.

If that is what he had done to the Mountain, what is he doing with all these people that Cersei gives him? Jaime wondered, as he questioned whether he truly wanted to know the answer.

Jaime, lost in his thoughts, reached out to absent-mindedly scratch the itch on his right palm.  It was only when he failed to make any contact that he looked down to his wrist, to see the absence of his hand.

Jaime sighed deeply and shook his head. He had heard many stories that people who lost their limbs still felt them there, as though they had never been removed. Jaime hadn’t given much thought to them before but since Locke had taken his hand he too sometimes felt as though his sword hand had never gone, especially when he was lost in thought or waking from sleep, often feeling an itch or a sudden urge to flex his non-existent fingers.

It was only when he looked to his wrist, as he was now, that he remembered the blinding pain when Locke had sliced though his wrist, the constant agony he had endured while being transported to Harrenhal. And then it had been Qyburn, oddly enough, that had stitched up his wrist and stopped the infection from spreading down his arm.

Jaime sighed again as turned away from the balcony and back into his chambers. He looked around at the ornate furniture, the vast bed and the countless banners and tapestries, all in Lannister red and gold. While he had long become accustomed to such lavish decorations, living in Casterly Rock and the Red Keep all of his life, but it didn’t decrease his feeling that they were far too gaudy or unnecessary.

Cersei had asked him to share her chambers in Maegor’s Holdfast, to continue their relationship like the Targaryens had done but Jaime had refused her. While he still held some affection for her, the actions that she had taken, and was continuing the take, had taken their toll. He couldn’t help but compare her, with poor results, to the woman he remembered from their younger years, the woman that he had fallen in love with.

Cersei had taken his rejection of her better than he had expected, although she had treated him coolly since then. It reminded him of when he had finally returned to the capital with Brienne of Tarth, after weeks of travelling, when Cersei had been incredibly cold to him for weeks after.

The thought of Brienne brought a warm smile to Jaime’s face, as he thought of his friend. The last he had seen her, she and Podrick had been sailing away from Riverrun under the cover of darkness. Jaime had been worried that she would be seen by one of the Lannister archers, but he had been lucky that the darkness had swallowed them from sight before long. He would have been able to talk down anyone who might see them and prevent their deaths but it would have caused rumours to spread about his loyalty to Cersei and the crown if he was helping Brienne, who was sworn to Sansa Stark.

Jaime walked to one of the tables in his chamber, upon which his golden hand rested. He had become used to putting on the hand and removing it by now, so much so that he no longer needed any aid. As he fastened the leather strap to keep it attached to his forearm, he turned the hand allowing it to catch the light from a few dimly lit candles that were still dimly burning from the night before.

There was a soft knock at the door.

“Enter,” Jaime called, as he settled himself behind his desk.

A small, timid looking messenger entered. The boy could have only been in his mid-teens and Jaime suspected that this was one of Varys’ former little birds. Once Qyburn had been made the Master of Whisperers, he had quickly gained the assistance of many of the eunuch’s former aides. However, there were countless more that they didn’t know about, ones that were still loyal to Varys, in his new role alongside the Targaryen girl, who had recently landed at Dragonstone.

“Queen Cersei has called a meeting of the Small Council, my lord,” the boy stammered.

“Thank you,” said Jaime. “You are dismissed.”

As the boy bowed and exited, Jaime sighed and looked up to the ceiling. If Cersei was calling a meeting at this time of the day, then something serious must of happened. And, based on her actions of late, then it would probably have enraged her.

This is going to be tiring, thought Jaime with a sigh. When she is angry, she is far more likely to lash out and less likely to listen to reason.

Resolving himself for the worst, Jaime rose from his desk and exited his chambers, making his way to the Tower of the Hand. As he made his way through the corridors, newly decorated to have the Lannister lion looking down from everywhere, and passed by the servants and other inhabitants of the keep, he noticed the looks they were giving him, that of fear and distrust. He had become used to these looks ever since he had killed the Mad King, earning his moniker of the ‘Kingslayer’, but it had been happening with even greater regularity lately.

Ever since he had returned, and Cersei’s coronation, there had been a constant sense of hopelessness and fear throughout the capital, that hung over the city like a storm cloud. It had only been heightened by the measures that Cersei had been putting into place, finding its way into every conversation and interaction, with people wondering who they could trust and constantly looking over their shoulder for the sight of any oncoming Lannister guards.  

That is how uprisings start, thought Jaime, as he watched a few servants pass him, none of whom bothering to hide their contempt for him.

Before long Jaime entered the Small Council chamber, and looked at those waiting for him.

Cersei sat at the head of the table, sitting up straight as an arrow in her chair, her crown perched once more on her head. Jaime had often wondered if she even bothered to take it off. The Mountain stood behind her, a massive gloved hand clasped around the hilt of his huge sword, giving no reaction to Jaime’s approach.

As he grew closer to his sister, he saw that she was looking quite unwell. She looked exhausted, with large dark rings under her glassy emerald eyes, and as Jaime sat down next to her he caught the smell of wine off of her.

She is still struggling to sleep, though Jaime, feeling a little concern for her.

A week after his return, Jaime had overheard Cersei talking to Qyburn, informing him of her trouble sleeping, plagued by nightmares of her children’s deaths. He had given her various potions and medicines, most notably essence of nightshade, but they had clearly not worked.

Jaime seated himself to Cersei’s left, opposite the only other member of the Council. Cersei had named Qyburn as the Hand of the Queen, in addition to his previous role as the Master of Whisperers. Soon after Cersei had pressured the Citadel into making him the new Grand Maester after the death of Pycelle, under threat of Oldtown seeing the might of the Lannister army first hand if they refused.

Jaime had already been the Lord Commander of the Queensguard, but Cersei had soon made him both the Master of Coin and the Master of Laws, neither of which had pleased him. Jaime had become convinced that Cersei had picked their roles to be as deliberately controversial as possible.

Qyburn had been expelled from the Citadel for conducting experiments that had been, according to the man himself, ‘too daring’. Having seen the fruits of his labour dealing with the Mountain, Jaime shuddered to think what Qyburn would think as ‘daring’.

Jaime also found it ironic that he had been named the Master of Laws, seeing as he had broken several of the most serious crimes in Westeros. He had murdered both Aerys Targaryen and his own cousin Alton, had been involved in an incestuous relationship with Cersei since they were teenagers and, his worst crime according to many, he had broken his sworn oath to his king.

As for him being made the Master of Coin, as much as he tried Jaime couldn’t understand Cersei’s decision. He had been a soldier for his whole life, training with blade rather than his mind.

That was what Tyrion did, though Jaime, a little bitterly. He still was angry at his brother for the murder of their father.

Jaime had struggled with the finances of the realm, so much so he had to employ multiple people to help him even understand the facts and figures on the page. The Lannister family coffers had run dry some time ago, Cersei had informed him. The Lannister gold mines had long since run dry and any other income was negligible at best. The crown was almost destitute at this point.

But Cersei hadn’t seemed to care whenever he had tried to broach the subject with her, which had caused an idea to begin to fester at the back of Jaime’s mind. He was beginning to think that Cersei didn’t much care about the security and wellbeing of the realm. He suspected that the entire Seven Kingdoms could fall into ruin and she wouldn’t care at all, as long as she sat upon the Iron Throne.

Not a comforting thought at all.

Jaime looked down the long table, and knew that there should be at least several more faces at this table, to help them shoulder the burdens of running a kingdom. Although Euron Greyjoy, through their recent alliance, had become the Master of Ships in all but name, two members of the Small Council was a woeful number of advisors to the ruler of the realm. A shortcoming that was becoming more and more evident as the days went by.

Jaime turned to his sister, and met her tired eyes.

“So,” he said slowly. “What is this meeting about?”

“News from the North, my lord,” replied Qyburn. “The Boltons have been removed from Winterfell by Sansa Stark and her bastard brother, Jon Snow. Snow has since been named the King in the North.”

Jaime was silent for a moment, absorbing the magnitude of this news. He though back to his visit to Winterfell while serving under Robert Baratheon, all those years ago. He vaguely remembered Jon Snow, Eddard Stark’s bastard. As he thought more, their discussion the Winterfell courtyard came back to him, with a twinge of shame, as he remembered how he had subtly mocked the boy for his decision to join the Night’s Watch.

And now he was a king.

What a tale this is! Jaime thought, a ghost of a smirk crossing his face.

“When did this happen?” asked Cersei acidly, her eyes narrowed at the look on Jaime’s face.

“A few weeks ago, Your Grace.” Qyburn replied, looking a little nervous.

“And why am I just learning this now?” she demanded, her voice full of venom.

“My spies are located in the capital, Your Grace. Any of Varys’ ‘little birds’ that are in the North, remain his. And seeing as the whole of the North has sworn their fealty to Snow, we have little to no allies up there to send us news.”

“Fucking bastard!” shrieked Cersei, spitting onto the floor. “Him and his murderous whore sister!”

Jaime stayed silent, inwardly marvelling at Cersei’s ignorance in this matter. He had not spoken to Sansa often during her time in King’s Landing, but he was sure that she hadn’t killed Joffrey, despite the malice with which he had treated her. While Joffrey had been his son, Jaime knew that he had been a monster, someone who could have been spoken in the same way as Aerys, if he had lived longer. He certainly wasn’t the son that deserved the level of devotion that Cersei had lavished upon him from a young age, which undoubtedly had not helped his spoiled, arrogant belief that he could do and say as he wished.

“You know,” said Jaime slowly, as a thought struck him. “It seems like Jon and Sansa might have done you a favour, Cersei. You said that Roose had betrayed you by marrying Sansa to his son. Now they are dead, it saves you the trouble of doing it yourself.”

“Roose died around a month before the battle, Lord Jaime,” said Qyburn, leaning forward slightly. “Ramsay Bolton became the Lord in his place, and it is he who was defeated by the Starks. He was killed in the battle by-”

“I don’t care!” screamed Cersei, slamming her hand onto the table top, sending a flagon of wine crashing to the floor. “Jon Snow is nothing but the bastard spawn of the traitor Eddard Stark, and Sansa nothing but a murderous, treacherous whore. I don’t care what those backward Northerners call them, I am the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“Of course, you are, Your Grace,” said Qyburn, bowing his head in a simpering display of loyalty. “Snow and all his supporters are traitors to the realm and you will crush them under the might of House Lannister.”

Jaime looked back and forth between the two of them, completely unbelieving. Qyburn had a look of pathetic obedience on his face as he was clearly trying to maintain his position, in the favour of the Queen. Cersei was wearing a look of triumph and confidence that, if he was honest, chilled Jaime to the bone.

As he looked between them, he was struck by how familiar the situation was, although he couldn’t place why.

And it came to him.

The interactions between Cersei and Qyburn were eerily similar to that of Aerys Targaryen and his favourite pyromancer, and later Hand of the King, Rossart. The obsessive monarch, completely convinced that what they were doing was within their power and right as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, and the subservient underling, who said whatever the ruler wanted to hear to maintain their position and suit their own needs.

The last time I saw something like this, I killed a king, thought Jaime morosely, looking at where his sword hand once was, now replaced by one of golden metal. I hope I will not have to repeat that.

An urgent knock at the door broke the silence. The Mountain tensed slightly and Qyburn got up to answer it. Jaime glanced at Cersei, as she poured herself a glass of wine. He was beginning to become very concerned about her behaviour.

She clearly wasn’t sleeping well, if at all. She was still drinking heavily. And she was listening to Qyburn’s honeyed words, which only fed her feelings of paranoia and entitlement.

Jaime saw Qyburn return to the table with a roll of parchment in his hand and a look of grave concern and anxiety on his face.

“Y-Your Grace,” he began, fumbling on his words slightly. He had been clearly unsettled by the news he had received. “I have received news regarding Jon Snow.”

“Well, what is it?” demanded Cersei sharply.

“He has travelled to Dragonstone, my Queen,” said the maester. For the first time, he looked petrified. “It appears he is negotiating with Daenerys Targaryen.”

Jaime couldn’t control his surprise at the news. The Starks and the Targaryens had a lot of bad blood between them, so much that it had caused a civil war. And yet here they were, years later, potentially sitting down to discuss terms against the crown.

Jaime looked at Cersei, and saw her face contorted into a mask of pure rage and hatred. He remembered the last time he had seen that look, a few weeks ago, when news had reached them of Daenerys Targaryen’s landing on Dragonstone. Cersei had raged for days, calling the Targaryen names that would have even shocked Bronn. And now, one of Cersei’s other most hated people had gone to meet with Daenerys.

Oh, shit! thought Jaime, looking cautiously towards Cersei, recognising her rapid breathing as a sign of her rage.

“Those fucking traitors!” Cersei shrieked, as she rose to her feet and hurled her goblet at the wall. “The Bastard of Winterfell and the Dragon Whore! What a fine pair they will make! I am the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and I will not let either of these fucking traitors undermine me or my rule!”

Silence fell in the room, broken only by Cersei’s ragged, angry breathing. Jaime looked over at Qyburn, who for once was staring with unfocused eyes at the wooden table, clearly at a loss for anything to say. Desperately suppressing a smirk at the maester’s discomfort, Jaime addressed Qyburn.

“When did he arrive? Or don’t you know that either?”

Qyburn, clearly not missing the subtle jibe, raised his head towards Jaime and fixed him with an angry stare.

“He set sail from White Harbour a few days ago, and landed on Dragonstone yesterday.”

“And now,” interrupted Cersei angrily, slamming her hand onto the table once more. “That Targaryen bitch has the means to defeat us!”

“We don’t know that yet,” said Jaime diplomatically. “We have roughly the same in terms of land and sea, now that we have allied ourselves with Euron Greyjoy. We don’t know for sure that Jon and Daenerys have allied themselves together.”

“But it is a safe assumption, Your Grace,” counted Qyburn, equal parts furious and eager, clearly detecting an opportunity. “They are both traitors, and they are now together. It seems only a matter of time before they join forces against us. We need to strike now, before they can move against us.”

Seeing the smug and contented look on Qyburn’s face, Jaime could have killed him there and then. Qyburn was indulging Cersei’s paranoia and anger, purely to suit himself and at the detriment to everyone in King’s Landing, and the Seven Kingdoms as a whole. Jaime was both baffled and angered by the level of disregard in the man’s actions. Especially as Cersei would likely act on it.

“Cersei,” said Jaime, urgently, as he reached out and grasped hold of her hand. “We need to tread carefully. The Starks and the Targaryens despise each other. They are more likely to fight each other than us! If we rush into action, any action, thousands of people will die.”

“I don’t care!” she screamed at him, wrenching her hand away from him. “They can all burn for all I care! I will kill both of those fucking traitors, I swear it! Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s heads will be on spikes before the year is out!”

The Mountain stepped forward, his armour clanging as he moved, with an almost inhuman growl coming from under his helm. He was clearly reacting to Cersei’s tone of voice, ready to come to her defence. Jaime raised his hands in defeat, with a bitter taste in his mouth. He avoided the smug look on Qyburn’s face, knowing that it would only enrage him further.

This is exactly as I feared, he thought despairingly. Her already foolish actions are being fuelled by the maester and his mad schemes. It is the Mad King and Rossart repeated.

Jaime looked between his sister and the maester, both of whom were wearing identical looks of understanding and triumph, as if they both knew the answer to their problems.

If he keeps advising her, then there might not be a Seven Kingdoms to rule over, thought Jaime, desperately trying to contain the hatred flowing through him.

*

The following day, under the cover of darkness, Jaime left the Red Keep, keeping his face covered to maintain his anonymity. Knowing that he was breaking the curfew that Cersei had implemented, Jaime kept to the shadows, sticking close to the shadowy walls of the various alleys and side streets that he travelled down, avoiding the main streets with the constant guard patrols. There were a couple of close calls, including once were two Lannister guards stopped mere inches from where Jaime had quickly hidden himself, but he managed to avoid detection during his journey.

Jaime made his way towards Flea Bottom, his feet squelching in the wet mud and other unknown substances underfoot. As he grew nearer to his destination, the alleys began to narrow even more, with more twists and turns to them. As he looked up he saw the tell-tale sign of the tops of the tall building leaning over to meet each other, forming a canopy overhead that would have left the ground underfoot relatively dry if it wasn’t for the running stream of sewage that run through the middle of most of the alleys, complete with such a foul smell that Jaime had almost retched several times.

He approached a tavern that was so old that it appeared near dilapidated, although Jaime knew that it had been kept in that state on purpose, in order to divert suspicion. Jaime opened the large oak door, its old hinges groaning under the strain, and headed down the stone stairs into what had obviously been the cellar of the tavern before its fall into disrepair. Jaime reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around the dimly lit room. While it was nowhere near anything resembling comfort, it was far above what it appeared to be from the outside.

All around Jaime there were various men and women milling around, drinking ale out large, dirty tankards, all the while shouting and laughing raucously knowing that the stone walls would likely muffle the noise from any passing guards. Jaime knew that this was the drinking place of many cutthroats, smugglers and thieves throughout King’s Landing.

Although he was only looking for one.

Jaime made his way around the room, casting his eyes around for the familiar face he was seeking. He came to a stop in front of a small booth, in which someone was making use of the whores who lived in the slums surrounding this hideaway, and exhaled deeply.

For fuck’s sake, Jaime thought angrily. I told him to be here!

Jaime looked around the room once more, mumbling angrily under his breath. He was about to leave when he heard a gruff, familiar voice from behind him.

“Well, fuck me,” said the voice. Jaime turned to see Bronn move the prostitute onto his knee, a sly smirk on his face. “Look at that! Jaime fuckin’ Lannister, here, in our humble establishment.”

“Shut up!” growled Jaime furiously, taking a step towards Bronn. “I don’t want people to know who I am.”

Jaime looked pointedly at the exotic woman perched on Bronn’s knee who was looking back at him with a sultry look on her face, her breasts exposed due to Bronn’s eagerness. At his gaze the woman pushed herself from Bronn’s knee to drape herself around Jaime’s shoulders.

“She doesn’t speak the Common Tongue, apparently,” said Bronn, draining his tankard.

“So, you don’t know for sure?” demanded Jaime, as he gently pushed the woman away from him, showing his lack of interest. She looked at him reproachfully before walking way towards a rowdy group of smugglers, who welcomed her arrival with a loud cheer.

“Well, she doesn’t look like she understands a word I say,” said Bronn, shrugging his shoulders. “And she hasn’t spoken any of the times she was with me.”

“I don’t blame her,” said Jaime as he seated himself opposite Bronn. “I wouldn’t speak to you either if I didn’t have to.”

“Well there is no need to be fuckin’ hurtful,” replied Bronn, his smirk of amusement betraying his tone of mock hurt.

Jaime couldn’t supress a smirk from crossing his face. He enjoyed Bronn’s company, all words to the contrary. He was able to joke in the strangest of places, while at the same time being one of the most resourceful and deadly men that Jaime had ever met.

“So, what did you want to see me about?” asked Bronn, looking over at him with curiosity.

“We need to do something,” replied Jaime, with a note of desperation in his voice. “Cersei is constantly listening to Qyburn, that fucking maester. He is pushing her to go to war with the North and the Targaryen girl, at the same time.”

“We are already doing something, what else can we do?”

For the last few weeks, Jaime and Bronn had been meeting in secret, in various different hideouts all over the city. The two of them had hired a group of criminals, many of them old contacts of Bronn’s, in various different professions, from smugglers to thieves. As Cersei’s laws and punishments grew ever harsher, Jaime and Bronn had put their small group to work, working to undermine the activities of the guard, to keep the smallfolk safer.

The week before, Qyburn had brought news of the impending food shortage due to the Tyrell’s defection to the Targaryen cause. Jaime had told her that there was now no one that they could buy food from, and no money to do so even if there was. Cersei had declared that the bulk of the remaining food stores would be placed in the Red Keep, to keep them supplied throughout the winter. When Jaime had raised the point that the smallfolk of the city would starve, Cersei had shrugged with disinterest.

The following night, after the food had been placed in the stores, Jaime and Bronn had set their men to work. The thieves had entered the keep, carefully avoiding the guard routes that Jaime had passed along, and stolen some of the food. Once they had escaped the castle they had made their way through various smuggler routes throughout the city, various tunnels and old sewers that had long been forgotten about, and distributed the food to the neediest of the smallfolk. This had gone on for a few days before the theft had been discovered and the food stores being out under higher guard.

“Why do you care so much anyway?” asked Bronn, squinting over at Jaime. “All the things that your sister is doing won’t affect you that much, living in that castle like you are.”

“A war won’t affect me?” said Jaime, scowling in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Not what I mean. You have working hard, spending a lot of your own money, to make sure that a few people in the city have something to eat. Why? It doesn’t affect you?”

“Because I have done a lot of bad things,” replied Jaime, looking off into space. “And I want to do a least one honourable thing in my life before I die.”

Jaime had thought a lot about it, asking himself many times the very question that Bronn had just done. While he didn’t much believe in any of the Gods, or in the concepts of sin or penance, he did believe that he needed to repay some of the dark deeds that he had committed in his life. He knew that he could become an honourable man if he tried, as he had made some progress towards it while travelling with Brienne of Tarth, such as saving her from Locke and his men, albeit at the cost of his hand, and from the bear fight in the pit.

However, as soon as he arrived back in King’s Landing, back into the company of his family, he had fallen back into the same pattern as he had lived for most of his life. One of the first things he had done is to have sex with Cersei, with her consent dubious, next to the corpse of their dead child in the Sept of Baelor. Since then he had gone from act to act, nearly back to his former adoration of Cersei, willing to do as she asked at a moment’s notice.

His most recent meeting with Brienne at Riverrun had changed something within him. Seeing her again, someone who had initially only seen him as the oath-breaking Kingslayer, and hearing her declare that she saw him as a man with honour, had awakened something within him, a desire to be a man who deserved such praise.

“So, what do you want to do?” asked Bronn, interrupting Jaime’s thoughts.

“Like I said, Qyburn had too much influence over Cersei,” replied Jaime, lowering his voice conspiratorially. “We need to get rid of him.”

“Ha!” laughed Bronn. “You speak of doing some good, and yet here you are, planning an assassination.”

“If it means that innocent people won’t die, either thrown hopelessly against two different armies in the vain hope of victory or in Qyburn’s horrific experiments, then yes.”

Bronn looked at him for a moment, squinting at him with curiosity in his eyes, before shrugging slightly and nodding.

“Alright then. But if we are going to kill Qyburn, then we will have to deal with his fucking monstrosity as well.”

“And maybe Ilyn Payne as well,” muttered Jaime under his breath.

While the mute executioner had been kept busy lately, dealing with the increasing number of people sent to the block, Jaime knew that if Cersei so much as suspected that there was any threat to her or Qyburn she would have him acting as a bodyguard.

“Ah, that is helpful!” said Bronn sarcastically. “As if that creature wasn’t enough, now you add him in too.”

Jaime shook his head in exasperation, not in the mood for Bronn’s sarcasm.

“Do you have any ideas on how to deal with him?” asked Jaime hopefully, as he himself had no idea.

“If he fights as he did before he…changed, then you will need to be fast and wait for him to tire.”

“I don’t know if he gets tired anymore,” said Jaime, a little helplessly. “I’ve never seen him so much as sit down, let alone sleep.”

“You don’t make this fuckin’ easy for me, do you?”

“Do you have any mercenary friends in the city? Maybe we can deal with him with sheer numbers.”

Bronn looked at him for a moment as though he was insane, before shaking his head and raising his hands in frustration.

“There are a few that I could get in touch with, who might be able to help. But they won’t be cheap…”

“I’ll pay whatever they want,” replied Jaime, a touch of desperation and anger in his voice now. “We need to get rid of Qyburn… whatever it takes. Once we do, then Cersei will be able to make some decisions on her own, without him whispering poison in her ear.”

“Do you really think that you can help her?” Bronn asked, not unkindly. “Maybe… maybe she is too far gone for that.”

Jaime didn’t answer him, simply staring around the room with unfocused eyes, not really seeing anything.

Unfortunately, he thought sadly. He might be right.

Chapter Text

 

Daenerys

 

Dany stood on the balcony of the Chamber of the Painted Table, her hair and dress being whipped all about her by the high wind, as she observed the island of Dragonstone. In the morning light, she could see the two large, sprawling camps that her soldiers had formed. The Unsullied had pitched their tents in rigidly ordered rows, while the Dothraki tents were pitched wherever they wished.

Dany thought that it showed a lot about the two different forces that she had at her disposal. The Unsullied were consummate soldiers, completely disciplined men who followed their orders to the letter, whereas the Dothraki were more wild, and only followed orders when it suited them, preferring to follow their own blood lust during the thick of battle.

They are so different, Dany thought, not for the first time. But they are both needed, for different reasons.

Dany’s knowledge of military strategy was minimal, with the vast majority of her victories being due to either her dragons or the skill of her commanders, but she could see the benefits of both the Dothraki and the Unsullied. Jorah had told her of the advantages of the Unsullied before she had liberated them from Astapor. They would follow her orders without question, their skill on the field of battle was renowned and they were cut, which meant that they would not rape any prisoners.

The Dothraki on the other hand…

Dany turned her head towards the Dothraki encampment, hearing raucous shouts echoing up towards her. The Dothraki were widely feared throughout the Eastern continent for the way they would pillage and rape any cities that they take, before they would then enslave the people who lived there. Dany had seen this herself, when she had been with Drogo’s khalasar when they had raided the Lhazareen village of Mirri Maz Duur. She had seen every living woman raped, and all others were taken prisoner and sold into slavery.

Can I control them? Dany wondered, a little worried. This is the way they have acted for centuries. But the people of Westeros won’t take kindly to a ruler who allows their army to rampage their way through the smallfolk and burning their homes, killing and raping all in their path.

As she thought of this, the gruff voice of Jorah Mormont went through her mind, speaking words she had heard long ago but had half-forgotten.

“There is a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand.”

Dany exhaled deeply, closing her eyes, deep in thought.

While she knew that death and injury to innocent people was an unfortunate consequence of war, and that many Westerosi armies raped and pillaged just as the Dothraki, she was determined to keep the number of innocents who died as a result of her conquest as small as possible.

I want to be known as a liberator, she thought, looking out to the outline of mainland Westeros on the horizon. Someone who came to help them, not one who brought more pain and death.

“Your Grace?” came a voice from behind her, interrupting her thoughts.

Dany turned to see Lord Varys approaching her, his hands clasped behind his back. Dany looked past him, back into the chamber, and saw that Missandei, Grey Worm and Barbarro had already arrived and were seated at the table, alongside Pylos who had entered the room with Dany.

“Yes, Lord Varys,” said Dany. “What news?”

“Jon Snow is on his way, my Queen. He is speaking with Lord Tyrion.”

Dany nodded her understanding as she turned back to the view.

In the two days since he had arrived, Dany hadn’t seen much of the Northern king. She had spent much of her time meeting the various lords who had arrived to swear fealty to her, and to hear their stories of how the various Baratheon rulers had harmed their families.

His direwolf had seemed a little cautious of her, a feeling that she returned in kind. Ghost had never given the impression that he would harm her, he certainly didn’t act towards her like he did towards the Greyjoy siblings, snarling like he was ready to rip out their throats at moment’s notice, but she was still a little cautious around the albino wolf.

Jon Snow, on the other hand, had seemed like he was actively avoiding her, mainly keeping company with his Ser Davos and Tormund and spending his evenings drinking late into the night with Tyrion. Whenever they had come across each other in the hallway, he would nod curtly at her before continuing on his way without breaking his stride. Dany supposed that his wariness was due to the bad blood that existed between the Stark and Targaryen families.

She thought back to the times where she had heard about Rhaegar and Lyanna, usually from Viserys’ lips so she couldn’t tell for sure if they were true or not. Viserys had claimed that Rhaegar had been unhappy in his marriage with Elia Martell, so he had taken up with Lyanna Stark. He had also blamed Daenerys for being born too late, as she could have married Rhaegar and made him happy.

It is hardly my fault, Dany had thought indignantly at the time.

Tyrion had also told her that many in the North, particularly the Starks, believed that Rhaegar had abducted and raped Lyanna. He had said that it had been the reason that Eddard Stark had joined with Robert Baratheon to usurp Aerys Targaryen from the Iron Throne.

While Dany had felt some sympathy for the Starks at their loss, she couldn’t help but think that their explanation of Rhaegar’s treatment of Lyanna to be a little too simplistic. From the stories that Viserys had told her, of Rhaegar’s love of fighting, she could well have believed the idea that her brother would kidnap Lyanna for himself.

But the stories that she had heard from Ser Barristan Selmy, a far more honourable and noble man than her brother, one who was not prone to lies or exaggeration, had caused her to question it. It was hard for Dany now to believe that her brother, the man who played his harp in the streets of King’s Landing for no reason other than he wished to and who didn’t like violence or killing, would take Lyanna away from her family purely out his own lust.

It seemed more likely that the two had left together, through love or lust Dany wasn’t sure, and the two sides had their own stories. So, while Dany could understand Jon and his family’s distrust, she couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated that they were not seeing the full picture.

But hopefully she could help Jon understand.

Dany thought back to when he had come before her a few days ago. She had heard much about Jon Snow, the White Wolf. She knew that many of his men regarded him as almost god-like, likely due to his story of his resurrection from death. That, along with the tales of his swordsmanship prowess and his leadership of the Night’s Watch, and now the North, had formed a picture of Jon in Dany’s head.

While he hadn’t matched the picture exactly, there had been something in their meeting that had grabbed her attention. There was something interesting about Jon Snow that Dany couldn’t quite put her finger on, no matter how much she thought about it. His tales had been completely outlandish, straying into fantasy at times, and yet he had stood there telling them with such sincerity, with such confidence in his voice, that Dany had found herself doubting her belief that they were purely fiction.

Dany had looked into his grey eyes, which had been shining with anger at their dismissal of his story, and had felt a knot of doubt appear in her stomach, which had only gotten worse when she had spoken to Tyrion later.

“It makes no sense for him to come all this way, to tell these tales if they are nothing but lies,” Tyrion had said, regarding her with a sage look on his face. “He knows you as a Targaryen, someone who might kill him if he angers you, and yet here he is, defying you by refusing to kneel and telling you about these White Walkers, creatures who are believed to only exist in stories.”

Dany had seen the sense in his words, which had made her examine Jon’s actions in a new light. His refusal to bend the knee, which at the time had made her angry, struck her now as both a sign of his loyalty to his men, the ones who had lifted him up and made him their king, and a sign of his conviction in his words. It had piqued her interest in him all the more.

And then there was Rhaegal.

The day before Dany had returned to her chamber, seeking an hour’s respite from the monotony of seeing lord after lord, hearing tale after tale. She had gone onto the balcony, hoping that the cool air would help her relax a little, and help her control her thoughts. She knew that this was a part of ruling, something that she would have to get used to, but it did nothing to alleviate the often tedious proceedings. Dany had leant against the railings and looked down to the beach…

And recoiled sharply in shock.

Rhaegal had landed on the beach with his long tail coiled behind him, its tip slashing at the incoming tide. Next to him stood two figures, Tyrion obvious even from so far away, and someone that Dany had guessed was Jon Snow. As she watched, Jon approached Rhaegal who, to Dany’s astonishment, bowed his head slightly, allowing Jon to pat his scaly snout.

Even from so far away, Dany could sense Jon’s wariness. He would whip his hand away at any slightest movement from Rhaegal, clearly unsettled by his razor-sharp teeth. However, Dany could tell by Rhaegal’s behaviour that he wouldn’t harm Jon, which confused her all the more. Viserion was the friendliest of her children, and had taken a particular liking to Tyrion since he freed them from their chains under the Pyramid of Meereen, but Rhaegal had not shown much affection to anyone other than her.

Until now.

Dany had spoken to Tyrion about the subject, knowing that he had read tomes upon tomes about dragons, from their history to their nature, hoping that he could help her to understand it. However, he too seemed to be at a loss for an explanation. The only thing that he had thought would be relevant was the nature of Valyrian dragon bonding.

“Dragon and those of Valyrian blood were known to have a bond between them, much like yours with Drogon. So, if Jon had some Valyrian blood in him, most likely from his mother, whoever she may be, that might explain it.

“However, no one knows who his mother is, not even Jon himself. From what he has told me only Lord Eddard knew, so he has likely taken the secret to his grave. She could have been part of a family with Valyrian blood, like House Velaryon or Celtigar, or she could simply be a descendant of some long-lost Targaryen bastard. Who knows?”

Dany had felt a rush of sympathy for Jon at that moment, knowing that it was unlikely that he would ever know who his mother was. Dany had never met her mother, who had died giving birth to her on Dragonstone, but at least she had known who she was, had heard some stories about her from Viserys and Barristan Selmy. Jon did not have this. He did not know if his mother was a noblewoman or a tavern maid, whether she was living or dead. The mystery of his parentage only increased Dany’s interest towards him.

The sound of the door opening drew Dany’s attention. She entered the room to see Jon walking in alongside Tyrion, with Davos and Tormund following behind them. Dany could see Jon’s grey eyes darting all over the room before settling onto the Painted Table itself, a look of amazement replacing his usual sombre demeanour.

Smirking a little at his reaction, Dany settled herself down into the throne overlooking the table. At Tyrion’s insistence, chairs had been placed nearest to the Winterfell portion of the map for Jon and his men. Dany was glad that Tyrion had suggested it, and was a little annoyed with herself that she hadn’t thought of it. It was a small gesture but one, as Tyrion pointed out, that would show Jon that she at least acknowledged his control of the North, even if she didn’t approve of it.

As expected Jon’s eyes fell to the Northern end of the map, with the three chairs arranged around it, and then he turned his eyes to Dany’s, with the ghost of a smile on his lips. Dany nodded slightly in return, as he and his companions made their way over and sat down.

“It is strange, being back in this room,” said Davos, as he took his seat. “The last time I was here, I served Stannis, and advised him to go north to deal with the White Walkers.”

“I wonder, Jon Snow,” said Dany loudly, sensing an opportunity to gain a better understanding of Jon. “How much can you trust your advisors when they are changing who they are loyal to?”

A beat of silence followed her words, with Davos looking a little shocked and Tormund mutinous. The fearsome looking Wildling opened his mouth to say something but Jon leaned in and whispered something to him. Tormund nodded jerkily and settled himself back into his chair, looking at Dany with eyes full of venom.

“Well, Your Grace,” Jon replied, with a slight undercurrent of anger in his voice. “I have had no reason to doubt Ser Davos’ loyalty since he joined me. His counsel has always been well thought out and reasonable and I have profited from listening to him.

“However,” he continued, with a small, confident smirk on his face that caused Dany to furrow her brow in confusion, “the same could also be said to you. Correct me if I am wrong, but two of your advisors have served different kings, multiple different in fact.”

Dany turned to Lord Varys and Tyrion, who was looking over at Jon with a look of mock outrage on his face, and nodded a little, conceding Jon’s point.

Dany was impressed. She could see that Jon had great respect for his companions and advisors and regarded them as his friends, rather than as people who would help him maintain his power, like so many of those with power often did. It was something that she had strived to do herself, and so was both impressed, and a little relieved, that she had found someone who felt similarly.

“You make a fair point, Jon Snow,” Dany said, as she turned to meet his grey eyes with her own. “I am impressed. You clearly value your advisors as people rather than just what they can give you. From what Lord Tyrion tells me of Westeros, this is far from common.

“I apologise, Ser Davos,” continued Dany sincerely, turning to face the man. “This negotiation has only just begun and it is not proper to begin such discussions with distrust.”

Davos looked at her for a moment, regarding her words with interest, before nodding.

“Apology accepted, Your Grace. With all things considered, I can see why this negotiation would be … complicated.”

As he said this, Dany saw him glance towards Jon out of the corner of his eye and, instantly understanding his meaning, nodded her understanding.

Dany met Jon’s eye once more, and saw that the anger he had just shown was gone, to be replaced by curiosity and disbelief. Dany could instantly see that Jon knew that her question was more of a test for him, than a true questioning of Davos’ loyalty. Dany held his gaze for a moment, as if challenging him to say something, but he just shook his head slightly, with a look of exasperation on his face.

“So, Jon,” said Dany, settling herself onto the throne in a more comfortable position. “I believe we should begin our negotiations. What exactly are your terms? You gave me the brief outline when you arrived, but I want to know everything that would be involved in any potential alliance.”

“Exactly as I said,” replied Jon, a bite of impatience in his voice. “I will aid you to gain the Iron Throne with the armies of the North and the Vale and in return you will help me to fight the White Walkers. Also, the North will remain its own, independent kingdom. I will not be bending the knee to you.”

Dany regarded Jon for a moment, feeling a little confused. She had expected there to be some way of gaining influence for Jon, or the North as a whole, with a marriage proposal suggested. But he seemed to be purely focused on the supposed White Walker threat.

He is taking this very far if it is a joke, said Dany, not averting her gaze from Jon’s eyes, trying to detect any hint of deceit.

“My lord?” came Missandei’s voice, breaking the look between Dany and Jon. “I grew up in Essos and have heard very little about these White Walkers that you have spoken of. What are they?”

Dany turned back towards Jon, and could see him looking at Missandei with a pensive expression on his face. She could hear Pylos whispering to Missandei behind her, obviously giving her a brief description of the tales.

“Tell us about them, my lord,” said Dany. “I wish to hear of your time at the Night’s Watch. It will help us to understand you and the decisions that you have made.”

Dany hadn’t meant for what she had said to sound so questioning and critical, but it looked like Jon had taken it that way.

“You mean the Wildlings?” replied Jon bitterly.

“Yes,” replied Dany placatingly. “The stories that you have come to us with are very hard to believe, as I am sure you appreciate. I wish to hear about what you have seen and experienced so I can understand you, and what you wish from this alliance.”

Jon considered her words for a moment, looking at her questioningly. Dany could see that very few people had asked him to relay his entire experience while with the Night’s Watch, if any had at all. After a moment of consideration, Jon nodded at her.

“All right,” he said, nodding a little reluctantly. “But you realise that this is quite a long tale, don’t you?”

“We need some wine,” said Tyrion suddenly, reaching out and grasping the nearest flagon.

“Of course, you do,” said Jon, shaking his head with exasperation, causing Dany to chuckle slightly.

Dany watched as Jon shifted slightly in his chair, clearly uncomfortable by what he was about to do. Dany felt a twinge of sympathy for him, but she needed to know the truth. If what he was saying was true, then she needed to know all she could about what was coming.

“Why did you join the Night’s Watch, my lord?” asked Pylos politely.

“Because I am a bastard,” replied Jon bluntly. “At Winterfell I was always the outsider, even among my siblings. I joined so I could finally…belong somewhere.”

Dany noticed the bitter tone to Jon’s voice, as he cast his eyes down towards the picture of Winterfell upon the table top and felt sympathy for him. From what Tyrion and Varys had told her about Westerosi customs, she knew that bastards were treated with scorn among the people of Westeros.

“After I took my vows, I was made the steward of the Lord Commander, Jeor Mormont,” continued Jon, causing Dany to recoil in shock.

“Mormont?” she said, completely baffled by this as she turned to Tyrion, who gave her a slight nod.

“The Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was Jorah’s father, my Queen,” he said, sipping from his goblet.

“You knew the Lord Commander’s son?” asked Jon, clearly thrown by this information.

“Yes”, replied Tyrion, before Dany could answer. “Ser Jorah Mormont served under Queen Daenerys for many years.”

“What did his father say of him?” asked Dany, turning to meet Jon’s eyes once more.

“He only said that Jorah brought dishonour to their house, but he didn’t say what.” Jon replied.

Dany nodded slightly, remembering how Jorah had told her that he had sold men into slavery before fleeing to Essos. She was silent for a moment, thinking hard about what had been said. Tyrion cleared his throat, bringing attention to him, as he raised his goblet to Jon, offering him the chance to continue with what he was saying.

“I was the steward to the Lord Commander,” continued Jon, with a grateful nod to Tyrion. “Before long we had our first experience with a wight.

“A wight,” said Jon, addressing Missandei directly, “is a corpse that is resurrected by the White Walkers, usually by the Night King, to fight for them.”

“How could you tell it was a wight?” asked Missandei, in a hushed tone.

“You mean other than the pale blue eyes?” asked Jon. “Because he was dead. Our maester, Maester Aemon, confirmed it.”

Dany sat up a little straighter in her throne, for reasons that she couldn’t fully understand. Tyrion jolted slightly in his chair.

“Aemon?” said Pylos, looking at Jon, who nodded resolutely back. “The maester at Castle Black? I hadn’t heard while at the Citadel about a Targaryen on the Wall.”

“Aye,” replied Jon, looking at Dany, with a smile on his face. “Not many people did know. He was your father’s uncle. He was a great and wise man, whose counsel I sought on many occasions while I was the Lord Commander, and even before that, which he was always willing to give.

“He often received letters about you, you know?” Jon continued, continuing to smile at her. “He wanted to know how his last relative was doing, wherever you were, even if he could do little about it.”

Dany sat in her throne, completely stunned. She had another relative out there that she didn’t even know about. When Viserys had died, and Rhaego had died before he had been born, Dany had thought that she was the last Targaryen, the last of her family. But now here she was, hearing about the existence of another Targaryen, from the last person she expected.

“Where is he?” Dany asked, trying to keep the quiver of excitement from her voice.

Jon’s face fell, and Dany knew at once what he was going to say, with her high spirits sinking.

“I’m sorry,” said Jon sincerely. “Maester Aemon died while I was at Hardhome. He died peacefully in his bed. His age caught up with him.”

Dany looked down at her hands, trying desperately to not let her overwhelming emotions show on her face. The idea that she could have someone to talk to, someone who knew about their family and who could help her in ways that Tyrion and Varys could not, had been so overwhelming that she had clutched onto it desperately, like a piece of driftwood in a flood, clinging on for all she was worth.

And now it had been snatched away from her, before she could even begin to fully comprehend in what it could mean. It was like the Gods were playing a cruel joke upon her.

Dany felt a warm, comforting hand on her shoulder and turned to see Missandei standing next to her, looking at her with a concerned expression on her face. Instinctively, Dany raised her hand and rested it on top of her friend’s and nodded her thanks before turning back to Jon.

“Thank you, Jon” she said quietly, looking him in the eye. He said nothing but nodded slowly at her.

There was a moment of silence, while Jon and Dany looked at each other, seemingly oblivious to those around them. Dany felt an inexpressible gratitude towards Jon for bringing her the news of Aemon, even if he was also telling him that the old man had passed. The news that she’d had another member of family that she could have known if things had been different made her all the more determined to win back the throne for her family, for all of them.

“Yes, so…” said Jon slowly, clearly trying to get the conversation back on track. Dany nodded to him, and settled back into her throne. “Me and my friend Sam found some bodies of our fallen rangers while we were taking our vows under the weirwood trees, beyond the wall.

“That night one of them, Othor, rose up and attacked the Lord Commander. I tried to kill it but nothing that I did worked at first. I cut off its arm and stabbed it in the gut with my dagger but nothing worked, until I threw a lantern at it. It caught fire at once and died.

“That is why I need your dragons to aid me, Daenerys,” said Jon, looking earnestly at her. “Fire is the only way to kill the wights. Your three dragons could be the difference between victory and defeat in this fight.”

Dany looked back at Jon curiously. As usual what he was saying sounded completely crazy, but he said it with such conviction that she had to second guess her first impression. Unsure of what to think, Dany nodded back at him, willing Jon to continue.

“A few days later we headed north, to try and find out what we could about the rising dead, and the Wildlings. Before long we made it to Craster’s Keep, a Wildling who allowed the rangers to stay with him. That is when I saw one of them for the first time.

“Craster left his boys in woods, as offerings to the White Walkers. I followed him one night and saw what took the child. I didn’t just see it though, I heard it. There was this whispering and cracking all around me as I made my way towards it, like something was moving through the trees. I didn’t see much more as Craster found me.”

Jon finished talking, and everyone fell into silence, absorbed into their own thoughts about Jon’s story. Dany didn’t have long to dwell on it, before Jon continued.

“We continued to head north, and met up with several other rangers, including Qhorin Halfhand. We left to deal with a few Wildling patrols, and found them high on a ridge. They were all killed except for a girl, her name was Ygritte, and it was my job to execute her… but I couldn’t.”

Jon shook his head slightly, and shared a look with Tormund, who clearly knew Ygritte too. Jon sighed deeply and continued his story. He told them how he killed Qhorin to join with Mance Rayder’s army of one hundred thousand and to gain their trust. He spoke of how he had spent weeks travelling with them, getting to know their culture and the way they thought and acted.

“That is why I decided to help them later,” Jon said. “I realised during that time that the Wildlings are just the same as us. They just had the misfortune to be born north of the wall, and for that they are hunted down like animals. I thought that was wrong and had to change.”

Dany couldn’t help but agree with him. She had never believed that the circumstances of your birth should mean that you are treated as less than anyone else. It had been one of the main reasons why she had worked so hard to eradicate slavery throughout Slaver’s Bay. While she was a member of a noble house, and was a Queen, Dany had also tried to not treat people as if they were beneath her, always treating people, whatever their birth, with respect.

As Jon had been talking, Dany had noticed the affection and respect in his voice when he spoke of the Wildlings, and in particular Ygritte. She guessed that the two of them had formed some kind of relationship, and couldn’t help but wonder where she was now, but didn’t press the issue.

“So, Jon,” said Tyrion, slurring his words slightly. “You are clearly still among us, so I assume that you managed to escape the Wildlings at some point and return to the Wall.”

“Aye,” replied Jon, with a note of sadness entering her voice now, confusing Dany slightly. “I climbed the Wall with Tormund, Ygritte and some others. A few weeks later I left them to warn my brothers about Mance’s army. We had a few weeks to prepare for their attack but even with that time, we didn’t stand much of a chance, as there were only around a hundred of us left.

“The battle lasted all night. When it was over, there were over fifty Night’s Watch brothers were dead, with many more of the Wildlings joining them… along with Ygritte.”

Jon’s voice cracked as he lowered his gaze to the table, a sad look on his face. Dany was sure now that he had fallen in love with Ygritte, and thought back to their first meeting and what he had said in the hall.

His father, two of his brothers and his lover dead, she thought sadly, looking at Jon’s hunched form. Another of his brothers and one of his sisters are also missing. He has lost so much, and yet he still acts with honour and respect. It is remarkable.

“Anyway,” said Jon suddenly, raising his head back to address them, his face solemn. “After that Lord Stannis arrived and broke the remainder of Mance’s army, who fled to Hardhome. Mance and Tormund were taken prisoner and I was elected the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.”

“A lot of good that did you,” grunted Tormund, causing Davos to snort a little and the corner of Jon’s mouth to twitch slightly.

“I decided that with the Long Night approaching that we would need to help the Wildlings at Hardhome, to stop them from becoming wights and for them to join us in the fight. Tormund and I headed there with a few brothers to recruit as many of them as we could. Only around five thousand agreed but as we were leaving the White Walkers arrived, killing everyone they could.

“I managed to kill one of them but there were still three more, one of them being their leader, the Night King, as well as their army of wights. There was nothing we could do but run. While we were sailing away, the Night King raised his arms and all of the dead Wildlings, thousands of them, all stood back up, turned into wights.”

Dany’s breath hitched in her throat at Jon’s words, for reasons that she couldn’t quite explain. While her brain was telling her that these White Walkers couldn’t be real, the sincerity and seriousness of Jon’s words were convincing her otherwise. She couldn’t imagine what is must have been like at Hardhome, fighting for your lives against creatures that couldn’t be killed without fire, which she supposed was in short supply North of the Wall.

“It is strange, isn’t it?” said Tormund, cutting the tension in the room as he turned to Jon. “How we went from trying to kill one another to fighting side by side, eh?”

“Aye,” replied Jon, smirking slightly.

“You were a treacherous little fucker though.”

At this, Jon and Tormund burst into laughter, with Davos smiling broadly, clearly as a way to relieve the tension more than anything. From what the two had said, Dany agreed with Tormund, it did seem strange that these two men could have gone from being enemies to such close allies. Dany couldn’t think more about it though as a realisation struck her.

“So, you brought the five thousand Wildlings back with you to the Wall,” she said. “And this must have angered the remaining Night’s Watch members, so they turned on you.”

“Aye,” said Jon, all traces of mirth gone from his face as he nodded grimly back at her. “Helping the Wildlings convinced many of my brothers that I was a traitor to the Night’s Watch, so the officers, led by Alliser Thorne and joined by my steward Olly, stabbed me one night, killing me.”

“And then, you were resurrected,” finished Varys, his voice dripping with sarcasm and disbelief.

“Aye, I was,” responded Jon indignantly.

“With respect, my lord,” said Davos quickly, interrupting before tempers grew, “I was the one who found Jon dead in the snow. His eyes were wide open and the snow was stained with blood a few feet in every direction.”

“Aye, I saw the wounds those fuckers left.” continued Tormund angrily, glaring at Varys with such malice that Barbarro rattled his arakh threatening, which only caused Tormund to smirk derisively at him. “It took a lot of knives to bring him down, six or seven at least. So, remember, you preening little shit, you weren’t there to know the truth, so don’t call us liars!”

“Enough!” said Jon commandingly, raising his hand. “Arguing about this gets us nowhere.”

“Agreed,” said Dany as she turned to Varys. “Lord Varys, I understand your scepticism around Jon’s story but I would appreciate it if you kept it to yourself for now, and not antagonise our guest any further.”

Varys nodded meekly to Dany, causing Tormund to smirk and mutter something that sounded like ‘fucking bootlicker’ before Jon nudged him angrily and whispered something into his ear, which caused him to nod too, albeit a lot more grudgingly.

“So, once you were resurrected,” continued Dany, trying to keep her own misgivings from her voice. “You and your sister, Sansa, raised an army and retook Winterfell from the Boltons, and now here you are.”

As Jon nodded his head, Dany leaned back in the throne thinking hard. While a lot of his story was so hard to believe, she couldn’t help thinking that maybe, maybe, it was in fact true.

“Well, Jon Snow,” she said finally. “While I am still not fully convinced that these White Walkers are real, and probably won’t be until I see them with my own eyes, I am convinced that we can work together.”

Jon thought for a moment, looking towards Davos and Tormund for their advice, before nodding his agreement. At this Dany felt her advisors relax slightly behind her, as she herself let out a long sigh, happy that they could come to something resembling an agreement.

“There is something I need to know, first,” said Jon, leaning forward slightly. “Before we discuss where and how my forces will be used, I need to know that we can put the bad blood between our families behind us.”

“’Bad blood?’” echoed Dany disbelievingly, her temper rising as quickly as her with her voice, her earlier thoughts of trying to make Jon understand her family’s side forgotten in the face of his brazen words. “Is that what you call it? Your father helped Robert Baratheon take my family’s throne, which caused the deaths of my brother and his children, my father and my mother, and caused me to go into exile! I think that is a little more than bad blood!”

“Do you even know why my father aided Robert Baratheon?” demanded Jon, looking as angry as Dany felt.

“Yes, I know about Rhaegar and your aunt Lyanna. I know that they vanished together.”

“That is not the only reason!”

Dany jolted in surprise, shocked by Jon’s statement.

Not the only reason? Dany wondered. What else could there be?

Jon looked stunned by the look on Dany’s face, as he looked back and forth between her and her advisors.

“Have they not told you?” said Jon furiously, glaring at Tyrion and Varys. “Have they not told you what your father did to Lord Eddard’s father and brother?”

Dany shook her head, completely in the dark about what he was talking about. As Jon continued to glare at Tyrion and Varys, looking angry and disbelieving, Dany rifled through her memory, trying to remember if anyone had told her about this, even when she was a girl. When Dany realised for sure that she had no idea of the circumstances that Jon was referring to, she returned her full attention to him, and saw him draining his goblet.

“All right then,” he growled. “Seeing as your advisors haven’t seen fit to advise you on this matter, allow me.”

He refilled his goblet, before leaning forward slightly, and looked into Dany’s eyes, his grey ones filled with anger. Dany returned his gaze, giving him her undivided attention.

“Brandon Stark, my father’s brother, was heading to Riverrun to marry Catelyn Tully when he heard about Rhaegar leaving with Lyanna. He was understandably furious, so he headed to King’s Landing to demand answers.

“When he arrived at the Red Keep, he began to shout, rather foolishly I admit, for Rhaegar to ‘come out and die’. That was enough for your father to have him arrested for treason. Aerys then sent a raven to Brandon and Eddard’s father, Lord Rickard, telling him to come to King’s Landing to answer for his son’s treason, where he was too arrested.

“Lord Rickard demanded a trial by combat, as was his right. He chose to fight it himself and put on his armour. Your father then claimed that the champion of House Targaryen was fire.”

Dany’s eyes widened, fear and disgust flooding through her. She turned to look at Tyrion, who met her eyes sadly and Dany knew instantly that Jon as telling the truth. Dany then turned to Missandei and Pylos, who were both looking as horrified as Dany was feeling.

Dany turned back to Jon, both wishing for him to continue and also for him to stop.

“Lord Rickard was suspended over a large fire, still in full armour. Brandon was brought in with a noose tied around his neck. He was told that if he could reach a sword on the floor, then he could free himself and save his father.

“What your father didn’t say was that the sword was just out of reach, and the more Brandon struggled to reach it, the tighter the noose became. Brandon Stark strangled himself as he tried to save his father. And Lord Rickard boiled alive in his own armour, after watching his own son die trying to save him.”

Silence fell in the room. Dany sat in her throne, feeling ill. She had heard many stories about her father, how he had burnt and killed many of those under his rule, but this was the worst she had ever heard. It had left her feeling sick to her stomach.

“And that,” said Jon, drawing Dany’s attention once more, “is why my father joined Robert Baratheon to go to war against your father. Not just because of Lyanna.”

“How do you know this?” asked Pylos quietly.  

“My father told Robb and I when we were fourteen. He wanted us to know that he didn’t go to war for his own glory, or to help his friend to gain the throne. He wanted us to know that he rebelled against his king to get justice for his family.”

Dany sat numbly in her seat, her breathing shaky and uneven. Anger rose up within her as she turned to Tyrion and Varys.

“Is this true?” she demanded angrily, causing them both to wither slightly in their seats.

“Yes, Your Grace,” said Varys finally.

“What else haven’t you told me about the Starks that I should know?”

 Dany watched as Tyrion and Varys look at each other, before Varys turns back to look at her.

“You’ve heard about how Gregor Clegane, the Mountain, killed Rhaegar’s young children?”

Dany nodded furiously, willing him to get to the point.

“Lord Eddard was furious about it. He believed it to be murder and was further angered when Robert referred to them as ‘dragonspawn’. Eddard left the capital after the argument. It very nearly broke their lifelong friendship, as it was only due to their grief over Lyanna’s death that mended the rift between them.

“And then, when Robert Baratheon sent assassins after you when you became pregnant, Lord Eddard refused to go along with the plan. He even quit as Hand of the King and was preparing to leave Winterfell because of it before he was injured.

“My Queen,” continued Varys, leaning forward slightly. “While Robert Baratheon may not have been, Lord Eddard was an honourable, and good, man.”

Dany rested her head in her hands, feeling even worse. Her whole life, thanks to all of the stories that she had been told by Viserys, she had believed Eddard Stark to be a treacherous usurper, who only cared about his own gain by deposing her father. But now, with all she had heard, she knew the truth. He was, in fact, an honourable man, who had even risked a lifelong friendship to try to protect her, a total stranger.

Jon’s story about the fate of Rickard and Brandon had turned her stomach, but it had allowed her to fully understand why Lord Eddard would go to war to get rid of her father.

My father deserved it after doing that, she thought angrily, her hands coiling into fists against her forehead. No crime fits that punishment.

Dany felt a fresh rush of guilt flood through her. She realised that she had allowed her perception of Eddard to affect how she had treated Jon. She had regarded his father as a usurper, and had treated Jon the same by association.

“Jon,” she said slowly, as she raised her head to look at him. “I’m sorry.”

Jon’s eyes widened in shock at her words but Dany didn’t much care. She only hoped her sincere feelings of guilt could be heard in her apology.

“I am so sorry for everything that my father did to your family.”

Jon held her gaze for a moment, his dark eyes filled with confusion. Dany watched him, willing him to speak. After a moment, he nodded towards her, causing a wave of relief to flow through her.

“Thank you, Daenerys,” he said, as he got up and began to walk towards her. “But you haven’t harmed my family, so I will not hold your father’s actions against you. I want us to be able to put this bad blood behind us. To not act as our fathers would have done, but to act as what we see is right, for the benefit of the Seven Kingdoms.”

As he stopped near her, he held out his hand for her to shake.

“I agree, Jon.” Dany said, as she too got to her feet.

Dany took his proffered hand and shook it, meeting his eyes once more. Dany could feel his strong, calloused fingers gripping her small hand but she felt no threat in his firm grip, especially when he smiled warmly at her.

They stood there for a moment in silence, their hands and eyes locked, finally cementing their alliance.

The silence was broken by the sound of the large door banging open with such force that it rebounded off the wall behind it. Dany turned to see Yara racing into the room, her race red from exertion. She had clearly run the whole way here.

“Yara, what is it?” Dany asked, furrowing her brow in confusion.

“It’s Euron,” she panted, pointing out of the window. “He’s here!”

Dany turned towards the balcony, following Yara’s finger, feeling a plummeting feeling in her stomach.

On the horizon, Dany saw several dozen ships.

All heading towards them.

Chapter Text

 

Arya

 

Arya and the Brotherhood continued to make their way north, feeling the air growing ever colder as they passed a few small settlements and farmhouses, all long since abandoned. The did not meet anyone, friend or foe, with little else to break the boredom of travelling.

Arya tried to keep as far from the Brotherhood men as she could, which was made easier by the fact that many of them kept as far from her as they could, eyeing her with distrust. While the majority of them did not treat her with outward hostility, she could tell that her bloody rampage through their men was not easily forgotten.

Arya stayed at the back of the column of men, a little way back from the others, as the cold hard ground made way to a blanket of snow. Every day they grew closer to Winterfell, filling Arya with both happiness and anxiety.

While she was looking forward to seeing Sansa and Jon once more, she couldn’t lie to herself that she was a little concerned about how they would receive her. She had changed a lot since leaving Winterfell, killed a great many people, not least her actions at the Twins. While Arya knew that they wouldn’t begrudge her taking vengeance, she knew that they, Jon especially, might object to the method that she had taken, killing them in their sleep rather than in battle.

Arya shook her head, dispelling these thoughts.

Don’t think that way! She scolded herself, feeling a little irritated by her worries.

One night, they found what appeared to be an abandoned tavern by the roadside. It had clearly been ransacked by bandits, more than likely the remaining Bolton men. Arya dismounted her horse, feeling the frozen grass crackling under her feet. She saw that many of the Brotherhood men had drawn their swords in preparation for a fight. Arya mimicked them without thought, her eyes scanning the darkening woods for any sign of movement, heralding a potential ambush.

When none came, she followed them into the tavern. While it had clearly been abandoned for several weeks, the smell of ale and smoke still lingered on the air. Arya looked around, at the overturned tables and chairs, half-expecting someone to jump out at any moment.

“There is no one here!” came a shout from the balcony above them, where the rooms were.

Everyone relaxed at the words, sheathing their blades. As Arya placed Needle back onto her belt, she caught a glimpse of the Hound, who looked a little annoyed that there was no one here to kill, causing Arya to smirk a little.

“Fuck me!” came another shout, this time from below. “Looks like those Bolton fuckers missed the wine! There are fucking barrels of ale as well!”

A gleeful roar rose from the assembled men, clearly pleased that they could get drunk once more. Arya shook her head in exasperation as she left the tavern once more to tie up her horse and to collect some firewood.

A couple of hours later, there was a large fire burning in the hearth, filling the room with heat and the smell of cooking rabbit. Arya settled herself at a table, with a plate of meat and a small horn of ale, the taste of which she was beginning to get a liking for. She looked across the room to see the Hound, sitting by himself with a sullen look on his face.

Arya thought for a moment, before gathering her food and making her way over to join him. He stood looking for a moment, before smirking slightly.

“You look a little displeased with the food,” she said, as she seated herself opposite him. “Would you prefer chicken?”

The Hound met her eye briefly, before returning it to his plate, the burned side of his face twitching slightly as a smirk spread across his lips.

“Aye,” he said, looking around the room quickly. “It wasn’t too long ago we were killing those Lannister fuckers in a tavern just like this. Led by that little prick. What was his name?”

“Polliver,” Arya replied, remembering the feeling of driving Needle into his throat, avenging Lommy.

“Aye, that cunt.”

Arya chuckled slightly, shaking her head.

“It was a little surprising to see you again,” Arya said suddenly. “The last time I saw you, there was bone sticking out of your thigh, after that woman threw you from the cliff.”

“And you left me there.”

“Wouldn’t you?” replied Arya, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.

“No,” he replied simply, as he stripped the flesh from another rabbit bone. “I would have killed you.”

“Of course, you would,” said Arya, chuckling again.

Silence fell between them, and Arya thought back to those weeks where they travelled together. More often than not they would be in silence, broken only to suggest to camp for the night or to point out food. Arya had revelled in the silence at the time, as it had allowed her to bury herself in her thoughts, envisioning the many ways that she would kill all of those on her list.

“What happened to you, after I left?” Arya asked, finally voicing the question that had gone through her mind constantly while on the road the last few days.

The Hound glared at her over the table, more out of shock than anger. He continued to look at her, unnerving her a little by the steadiness of his gaze, without saying a word.

Just when she thought he would not speak, he sighed slightly and drained his tankard.

“I was found by a septon,” he said, pouring himself more ale. “He thought I was dead at first so he tried to bury me, until I coughed. That scared the shit out of him!”

The Hound chuckled slightly, but Arya could tell that there was no true laughter behind it. Arya began to detect a hint of sadness and anger in his voice, so small it was almost missed.

“He got me back to health, so I helped him build his sept. Right in the middle of fucking nowhere.”

“Wait!” Arya interrupted, completely shocked. “You! Building a sept? I didn’t know you believed in the gods.”

“Ha! Fuck the gods,” he spat. “I didn’t do it for them. I helped them because they helped me, kept me fed.”

Arya nodded a little, still surprised by his story. The Hound had never spoken of helping another other than Sansa in the King’s Landing riots, at least not to her.

This septon must really have helped him, thought Arya.

“Where is this septon?”

“He’s dead,” the Hound replied bluntly, the angry undercurrent in his voice growing more noticeable. “He was killed by one of the Brotherhood. Some yellow cloak wearing cunt.”

“So, you joined them after they killed your friend? Why?”

They didn’t kill him. That fucker did. Him and his friends. I gave them what they deserved.”

Arya smirked to herself, certain that she knew his meaning.

Knowing the Hound, they probably were separated into several pieces, Arya thought, continuing to smirk.

“Beric and Thoros mentioned the ‘cold winds’ that are rising in the north,” she remembered quietly, puzzled over the meaning. “Is that why you joined? To head north to fight them with Jon?”

The Hound shrugged a little.

“What do they mean by ‘cold winds’?”

“The White Walkers, girl,” he said, his smirk widening at her look of amazement.

White Walkers.

She remembered hearing tales about them as child from Old Nan, of how they had attacked with their hordes of dead and giant, pale spiders. She had long since dismissed them as mere stories, merely to frighten children. However, after seeing what she had in the last few years, not least the ability to change faces, had given her cause to rethink this belief.

“So,” she said quietly, thinking hard. “Do you think that they are real?”

“I have no fucking clue, girl,” he said, wiping the mouth with the back of his hand. “I won’t until I see them. Until then, we will head north.”

Silence fell once more, and Arya used the time to dwell on the news.

If anyone knows that they are real, it will be Jon, decided Arya. He was at the Night’s Watch for years. If they are coming, he will have seen them surely.

As she thought this, a recurring thought resurfaced.

How was Jon at Winterfell when he had taken the oath of the Night’s Watch, a lifelong one?

Ever since she had heard of Jon’s coronation from Torrhen and Beth, Arya had wondered about the circumstances that had led to it. She refused to believe that Jon had broken his oath and deserted from his Watch.

No, he is too much like Father. Too honourable, Arya would reassure herself.

So how had this happened?

Lost in her thoughts, Arya was vaguely aware that the Hound has said something to her, looking at her with confusion on his face.

“What did you say?”

“Are you fucking deaf, girl?” he said, smiling slightly. “I asked you to return the favour, to tell me what you did after you left me at the bottom of that fucking cliff.”

Arya nodded, and began her tale. She told him of her travels to Braavos and her adventures within the city, her training within the House of Black and White and her rivalry with the Waif.

When she came to the end of her tale, with her slaughter of the Freys, she looked at the Hound, and saw his face was a mask of disbelief and pride.

“The Faceless Men?” he said gruffly.

“What?” she replied, only half listening.

“You joined the Faceless Men? Those fucking assassins that everyone shouts about.”

“Kind of,” she replied hesitantly. “I could have joined but I chose to return home. I did receive their training though, their ability to change faces.”

“Fuck me!” he exclaimed, nodding appreciatively. “No wonder you made those Brotherhood fools look like fucking children!”

Arya smirked slightly at the praise, as the Hound raised his tankard to her. Arya followed his lead, her smile widening further, even more firm in her belief that she no longer desired his death.

*

The following day, Arya broke her pattern. Instead of riding near the back of the group, she decided to ride at the front, between the Hound and Thoros. It was a particularly cold morning, with her breath rising in great plumes in front of her.

As they continued their march north, the woods on either side began to thicken, blocking out all sound other than the hooves of their mounts, crunching on the snow.

A few hours into their ride, Arya began to think she could hear voices, other than the boisterous talk of the men behind her. She turned to look at Beric, and saw that he was looking concerned.

Before long he raised his hand, calling the men to halt. They did so immediately, growing quiet so fast it was almost eerie. Arya strained her ears further and heard the shouts of men celebrating.

Followed by a woman’s scream.

As one Beric, Thoros and Anguy all swiftly slid down from their horses, quickly followed by the Hound and Arya. After leaving some men behind to guard the horses, they made their way toward the sounds, hearing them become louder.

As they grew ever louder, Beric called them to slow. They began to move stealthily through the trees, sticking close to the trunks for cover. As the trees began to thin, they saw a small cottage appear through the trees, set in a small clearing. As they came to the edge of the clearing, they huddled themselves against the trees, out of sight to observe.

Arya looked around and saw a scene of carnage before her. Counting quickly, Arya saw that there were fifteen men walking in the area in front of the house, all wearing various pieces of leather armour. She looked further and saw two bodies, clearly the owner of the cottage and his son. A little further away lay the man’s wife, whose scream had clearly been the one they had heard shortly before. By the way she was lying, with her dress ripped open, Arya could guess at the reason for her scream.

Arya felt disgust and fury rise in her throat like bile, her heart thundering in her chest. She wanted nothing more than to attack, to make these men pay for their actions.

As if sensing her thoughts, Beric pressed his hand on her shoulder firmly, preventing her from rising. After throwing a furious look towards him for impeding her, Arya looked back towards the men. One of the closest turned towards where they had hidden themselves, causing them to duck their heads to avoid detection.

Arya raised her head a little and saw, to her shock, the sigil emblazoned on the front of the man’s armour.

“Boltons!” she snarled, her hand coiled around the hilt of Needle.

“Fucking Boltons,” responded the Hound, sounding as furious as Arya was.

“What are we going to do?” asked Arya, looking toward Beric and Thoros.

“We shall give them justice,” replied Beric quietly.

As Arya tried once more to raise herself from the ground, Beric’s hand forced her back to the dirt.

“But we must first plan our assault.”

Arya looked towards the Hound, and his look of furious disbelief matched her own. She turned her attention back to the Bolton bandits, making note of where they all were, and what weapons they carried. The majority carried longswords, while a few wielded axes.

Neither of which are much of a problem, Arya thought with a smile.

As Arya watched the men moving around, she was vaguely aware of Beric and his men’s planning, which seemed to be turning in circles.

Rolling her eyes in exasperation, she turned to the Hound.

“How is this for a plan?” Arya said, gesturing to the Boltons. “You attack them and, while they are distracted fighting you, they won’t see me sneaking around behind them to stab them in the back.”

“Aye,” he replied, his eyes lighting up with excitement as he raised himself onto his knee and drew his sword. “Now that is a fucking plan.”

Arya and the Hound moved as one, both rising from the ground and racing off. The Hound moved to engage the Boltons, while Arya raced around the edge of the treeline, making her way around behind the house.

As she moved, she heard the clash of steel and the shouts of the Hound and his combatants. As she ran, Arya saw an archer climb onto the roof of the nearby stable. She changed her course towards it, knowing that it would mean the Hound’s death.

Using a bale of hay that had been propped against it, Arya hoisted herself onto the stable roof. As she did so, she saw the archer nock an arrow into his bow. She raced across the thatched roof, drawing Needle from her belt as she did so. She stopped behind the man and pushed it through the man’s neck, severing his windpipe.

Arya pushed the man from the roof, causing him to land upon another man, who was raising himself up from a drink-fuelled stupor. Arya jumped down from the roof, landing almost cat-like between this man and another, who had also risen to his feet. Arya slashed at the side of his knee, forcing him back down into the dirt. She then pushed Needle through the side of the man’s head, killing him instantly.

Arya spun on the ball of her foot, switching Needle into her right hand as she did so, and finished off the man still struggling under the archer’s body. She switched Needle back into her preferred left hand as she turned to examine the remaining men.

The Hound was fighting like a man possessed, limbs and blood flying in all directions as he swung his sword with tremendous ferocity. Arya saw movement out of the corner of her eye and saw two more archers nocking arrows. As she sprinted towards them, she saw them let their arrows fly, with only one finding its mark, into the Hound’s shoulder.

Arya saw the archer nearest to her turn at her approach, but she was moving at such a speed that he did not have time to react. Without much finesse, Arya barrelled into the man, sending him sprawling into the dirt. The man who remained standing looked on in disbelief as Arya slashed his throat open with a savage swipe. As the man fell to his knees, clutching at his slit throat, Arya turned to the first man, who had risen back to feet, and thrust Needle into the man’s eye.

As both men fell to the ground, Arya spun around and raced toward a man who had his back to her. However, this kill was not as easy, as he heard Arya’s approach and turned to face her, raising his axe. Arya came to a halt, raised on the balls of her feet in anticipation of an attack. The Bolton swung his axe towards her, trying to take off her head. His blow missed when Arya dropped flat to the dirt, landing on her right side, keeping her sword arm free.

Arya reached up and jabbed Needle twice. First into the man’s groin, causing him to drop his weapon as he clamped his hands to the bleeding wound, and then under the man’s chin, up through his head and out the top of his skull. As Arya raised herself to her feet, she turned in time to see another Bolton swinging their weapon towards her.

She ducked the blow as she stabbed Needle into the side of the man’s knee. However, as the man fell his body twisted, pulling Needle from her grasp. Without thinking, Arya pulled the dagger from her belt and pulled the man’s head back, slashing his throat open, causing a spray of blood to soak the ground before her.

Arya got to her feet, breathing deeply as she retrieved Needle and returned the dagger to her belt. She turned to where the Hound had been, now standing amidst a pile of corpses, their blood staining the ground. As one they both turned to the remaining man, who stood stock still, clearly terrified at what he had just witnessed.

The Hound and Arya locked eyes once more as they both made their way towards the Bolton man, their swords raised. As they got closer, the man backed further away from them, until he stood with his back to the wall. Before either of them could get with striking range, they both heard something whistle through the air, an instant before an arrow pierced the man’s throat.

Arya turned to see Anguy lowering his bow, an appreciative smile on his face as he stood between Beric and Thoros.

“Took you long enough,” growled the Hound, wiping the blood from his face with his sleeve.

“It looked like both you needed help,” laughed Thoros sarcastically, as he gestured towards the dead Boltons. “You both killed the same number of Boltons.”

Arya followed his gesture, and saw two very different pictures. On the side where she stood, were seven dead men, each of them killed with precise, often single, strikes. On the Hound’s side, it was very different. From what she could see, none of the men he had killed had remained in one piece, with their limbs often separated from their bodies by several feet.

“Well done, you two,” said Beric calmly, as he walked between them examining the dead. “But I would prefer you not do that again. You won’t always be so successful.”

The Hound scoffed loudly at this, causing a few of the men to chuckle slightly. He caught Arya’s eye and the two shared an appreciative smile.

“You know,” said Thoros, as he took a swig from his wine skin. “Despite the hostility between you two, you do make a good team.”

“You have a point,” muttered Arya in agreement.

Soon after a pyre had been built, to burn the bodies of the dead. Arya approached the pile of those ready to be fed to the flames, and sliced a sigil of House Bolton off a man’s armour.

As she moved towards the fire, she looked at the sigil, feeling hatred rising within her at the sight of the flayed man. When she reached the fire, she waited a moment before throwing it upon the fire.

As she watched the flayed man being enveloped by the flame, Arya saw it as taking symbolic revenge on House Bolton, for her mother and brother and for Torrhen and Beth’s children.

*

That night, after a few more hours’ travel, they made camp. They all huddled around several large campfires, cooking the meagre amount of meat that they had hunted through the day. Arya shared a fire with the Hound, Anguy, Beric and Thoros, cleaning Needle by the flickering light of the fire and allowing the conversation to run past her.

A blood-curdling howl split the night air.

Everyone fell silent immediately, fear spreading like mist throughout the camp. Arya strained her ears, gripping Needle’s hilt tightly. They all remained silent, listening hard.

The howl came again, closer this time.

Arya’s breathing quickened as fear gripped her chest. Torrhen’s stories of the wolf pack came unbidden into her mind, filling it with images of vicious wolves tearing flesh from bone. Shaking her head, she gripped Needle’s hilt so hard it caused her fingers to ache.

The howl came once more, so loud that Arya could have sworn it had come from beside her.

This time it was joined by others, some near while others further off. Before long the night air was filled with dozens of howls, giving them the impression that they were surrounded.

“Where the fuck are they?” growled the Hound, as he too drew his blade.

Arya turned to see him glancing all around them, no trace of fear on his face, no tremble in his hand. She looked around the fire, seeing the Brotherhood men all looking about them, desperately trying to see the approaching wolves.

All at once the howls stopped, leaving behind a silence so complete it was as if Arya had gone deaf. If it was possible, the sudden silence seemed to enhance the fear that was rippling through the Brotherhood men, who were still frantically looking around them.

Arya got slowly to her feet, feeling the Hound rising along with her. Their movement seemed to spur the men into action, as they too began to rise and draw their weapons. Arya looked into the darkness between the trees nearby, desperately trying to see any sign of movement. Once or twice she thought she saw something, but she didn’t get a clear look.

A low, rumbling growl caught the ear of everyone, causing one man to stumble backwards in fear, right into the still burning fire. As he thrashed about in the dirt, desperately trying to extinguish his burning clothes, all eyes turned to where the noise came from.

A pair of golden eyes glowed out of the darkness, several feet from the ground, causing many men to mumble curses as they staggered back from it.

“What the fuck is that?” muttered the Hound, gripping his blade even more firmly.

As the creature grew closer, its form melting out of the darkness, Arya’s feeling of fear subsided, to be replaced by one of knowledge and joy.

The tall, grey coloured form of Nymeria came into the light of the clearing. She had grown greatly since Arya had last seen her by the Trident, all those years before, as she was now nearly as tall as Arya’s horse.

The years in the Riverlands forests had clearly turned Nymeria wild. While Arya had not preened her coat in the same way that Sansa had with Lady, she had made sure that it looked neat, at least from a distance. Now her grey fur was shaggy and matted in several places with mud, and what looked suspiciously like blood.

Arya watched as Nymeria approached, making her way slowly into the clearing, still growling lowly. It didn’t look like Nymeria had seen her, as her golden eyes were fixed on the largest of the campfires, upon which cooked several plump rabbits. As the wolf grew closer, the men’s nerves stretched ever further, with even more readying their weapons. Arya saw several men nocking arrows, ready to fire them into her wolf.

“No!” Arya shouted, raising her hands. Her shout startled both man and wolf, with Nymeria’s eyes now fixed upon her, which Arya met with her own, her heart continuing to swell with happiness.

“What the fuck are you doing, girl?” growled the Hound, as he grasped her upper arm in a vice grip.

“She’s mine,” replied Arya, wrenching her arm from him angrily. “She’s my direwolf, Nymeria.”

A ripple of shock went through the men, with a few managing to avert their eyes to her for a moment, with muttered curses on their lips. Out of the corner of her eye, Arya could see Beric, Thoros and Anguy looking at her curiously, but she paid them no attention, with her eyes remaining fixed on Nymeria.

I can hardly believe my eyes, thought Arya joyously, as she deeply into her wolf’s eyes. I never truly thought I would see her again.

Without thinking, Arya began to walk towards Nymeria. She avoided the grasping hand of the Hound, who was desperate to keep her in place. She continued to walk towards her wolf, who was watching Arya’s approach with interest.

However, as Arya grew closer, Nymeria’s demeanour changed. She began to lower herself to the ground, hackles raising as she bared her teeth in a snarl. Arya froze, her fear returning slightly, tinged with sadness.

She does not remember me! Arya thought desperately.

Despite Nymeria’s behaviour confusing Arya, she was determined to not let her get away this time, to make sure she stayed by her side. She raised her hand to Nymeria and began to move forward once more, much slower this time, so as to not startle her. While Nymeria did not calm much, she began to stop snarling and her nose started to twitch slightly, catching Arya’s scent on the air.

When she grew close, Arya stopped walking, keeping her hand raised, allowing Nymeria to close the distance. Her idea seemed to work, as Nymeria seemed to calm a little as she began to towards Arya, her curiosity seemingly getting the best of her. As Nymeria grew closer, Arya’s hand began to tremble a little, as the size of the wolf’s teeth now clearer.

Nymeria closed the distance at an almost agonising pace, which only served to set the Brotherhood even further on edge. So much so that Arya prayed that none of them would lose their wits and attack, causing her wolf to retaliate. Arya waited, with bated breath as Nymeria grew ever closer, until she stood in front of her, nearly a foot taller than Arya.

Arya kept her hand raised, hoping that she would recognise her scent at least, if not her face. Nymeria lowered her head towards Arya’s palm, her nose twitching as she sniffed in deeply. As she did so, Arya moved her hand forward and touched her warm face, feeling her fur beneath her hand.

Nymeria instantly backed away, her teeth bared once more in a snarl. As tears sprung to the corners of Arya’s eyes, she realised the reason for Nymeria’s behaviour.

The last time she saw me, I was throwing rocks at her, she thought sadly, as guilt welled up within her. Several hit her. She remembers that more than anything else I did.

Arya lowered her hand, and gazed at Nymeria, wishing that she could explain the reasons for her actions, to stop her from being killed for attacking Joffrey. While she knew that the direwolves were far smarter than normal dogs, she doubted that Nymeria would understand all that she said, as much as she wished it.

Arya lowered her head in sorrow. As she did so, she saw Nymeria move forward once more, this time to sniff her face. Arya started slightly, now looking into her wolf’s eye once more as she closed the distance.

As Nymeria leaned in to smell her face, Arya closed her eyes. She hoped that this would show her trust in the wolf, that she would not harm her. Doubts swelled in her mind but she pushed them away.

She will not harm me, she thought resolutely. I am sure of it.

Arya felt Nymeria’s hot breath on her face, memories of their time of Winterfell coming flooding back. Nymeria’s playful nature meant that she spent many hours bounding after Arya as she raced around Winterfell after her brothers, jumping up to lick at her face. As these memories of better times filled her head, the tears that brimmed in her eyes finally fell free.

As they fell down her face, Arya felt Nymeria’s hot tongue on her cheeks, causing her eyes to snap open in surprise. Nymeria was right in front her, eye to eye. She stopped licking her face when she saw that Arya’s eyes had opened, but she did not back away this time.

Seizing this as a good sign, Arya flung her arms around her wolf’s long neck and after a moment felt, to her joy, that Nymeria lowered herself down slightly to give her better grip. Arya buried her face in her grey fur, breathing in the familiar scent that she had forgotten until this moment, now mixed with various others from the forest.

“I’m sorry, Nymeria,” Arya said, her voice muffled. “I’m so sorry.”  

They stayed that way for a while, with Arya ignoring the disbelieving mutterings from all around her. When Arya finally let go, Nymeria licked her face one more time, causing Arya to smile broadly.

A smile that vanished when the sound of multiple wolves growling filled the clearing.

Arya snapped her head around to see several wolves entering the clearing from the left, their black fur rippling, with drool dripping from their muzzles as they advanced. At once, Nymeria moved in front of Arya, her own rumbling growls overpowering the sounds of the others. The wolves stopped in their tracks, observing this act with suspicion. They stayed that way for a moment, the tension rising, before Nymeria raced forward, causing them to scatter into the trees.

For a few moments, all they heard were the sounds of snarling and ripping, occasionally accompanied by the sound of a wounded animal whining in pain. Arya knew that Nymeria was fighting them off, to protect her. It filled her with happiness that she was willing to do that for her once again, as though nothing had happened.

“Arya!” roared the Hound suddenly, breaking her trance.

Arya turned to see a large wolf, much larger than the others, racing across the clearing towards her. As she raised Needle, ready to defend herself, her vision was obscured by a large grey streak as it darted across her, straight into the path of the oncoming wolf.

Nymeria rolled in the dirt with the wolf, their jaws snapping at the other’s throat, going for the kill. The other wolf sank its teeth into Nymeria’s leg, causing her to whine in pain. She raised herself up, pinning the struggling wolf to the floor with her front paws before lowering her head to its throat, which she tore out with the sound of ripping flesh.

Nymeria turned and padded her way towards Arya, her muzzle dripping with blood. She stopped in front of her and nudged Arya’s cheek with her nose, leaving a bloody print there. Chuckling slightly, Arya raised her hand and buried it in her fur.

“Thank you, Nymeria,” she said softly.

Nymeria cocked her head to the side at her words and looked so much like she did as a puppy, despite her blood-stained muzzle, that Arya burst into laughter.

“Well, girl,” said the Hound, as he stood next to her. “Travelling with you gets stranger and fucking stranger.”

Arya laughed a little harder as she walked back over to the campfire, with Nymeria walking beside her. As she did so, she noticed the looks of surprise on the faces of the Brotherhood men as they passed her to deal with the body of the wolf. This only served to improve her mood.

She sat herself back in the warmth of the fire and felt Nymeria lay down behind her, curling her body around Arya’s back as she licked her wounded leg. Smiling more, Arya shifts herself so that she was laying on the ground, with her head resting on Nymeria’s warm back, who moves her head so it is resting inches from Arya’s hand.

Sleep came quickly for them both, with the burning fire of happiness in Arya’s chest refusing to die out.

Happiness at finally being reunited with her beloved wolf.

*

For the next few days they continued their journey north, now accompanied by the large grey form of Nymeria, who raced alongside them. They faced a few further attacks from Nymeria’s former pack, but they were quickly seen off by the direwolf’s sharp teeth and claws.

The further north they travelled, the deeper the blanket of snow became, slowing their progress. But Arya was grateful for it. It was something that she remembered from Winterfell where, even in the summer, the snow would fall.

Several days later, the form of Winterfell appeared on the horizon, its familiar outline instantly recognisable despite it being many years since Arya had been in the North. The sight filled Arya with happiness once more, her face breaking into a wide smile.

I am so close now, she thought, as they grew ever closer. I will see Jon and Sansa soon.

Beric wanted to make camp for the night, and make for Winterfell at first light. But Arya was adamant for them to keep moving. She wanted to go home as soon as possible, even if they were to arrive in the dead of night. Beric was only moved when Arya threatened to continue on her own, regardless of anyone else’s company.

They continued towards Winterfell through the night, its many towers looming out of the darkness to greet them. As they approached the gate, Arya’s heart soared once more at the sight of the Stark sigil flying once more upon the walls. While she had not seen it herself, the thought of the Bolton flayed man flying on the walls of her home had made Arya’s blood boil.

As they stopped in front of the gate, two Stark guardsmen approached them, their weapons readied.  

“Who are you?” they called.

“I am Arya Stark, sister to Sansa and Jon. These men have travelled with me and kept me safe on my journey.”

If they had any doubt over the truth of her tale, they were swept away when Nymeria came into view, with their eyes widening at the sight. Tales had spread throughout the North about the Stark children and their direwolves, and these guards would have likely seen Ghost many times.

At the sight, they returned their eyes to Arya and bowed their heads to her.

“Welcome home,” they said as they opened the gate to allow them entry.

As they walked into the courtyard, Arya cast her eyes around her, taking in all the familiar sights. She could see the stables where she would help Jon and Robb saddle and feed their horses. She could see the tops of the trees in the godswood where she would race and chase her brothers. She could see the Maester’s tower where she had spent many hours, less than she should have, learning from Maester Luwin.

The sights caused her happiness to increase ever further and she slid down from her horse at once. She turned around several times, drinking it all in, hardly daring to believe that she was in fact home.

The guardsmen passed a message on to a few more Stark men who, after casting amazed looks in her direction, raced into the keep, no doubt to raise their King. Behind her, Arya was vaguely aware of the Brotherhood men dismounting from their horses and leading them to the stables. Nymeria padded off towards the godswood, her nose to the ground.

She smells her brother, thought Arya with a smile.   

As Arya continued to look around her home, she noticed two dark shapes walking along the elevated bridge that stretched between the Armoury and the Great Keep. The sight caused Arya to furrow her brow in confusion.

News of our arrival couldn’t have spread just yet, she thought, as began to make her way towards it. Who is awake at this hour?

As Arya stealthily made her way through the darkened courtyard, she moved into the shadow of the Great Keep to shroud her even deeper in the darkness. As he grew close, she flattened herself against the wall of the Great Keep, thanking the Gods for her slight frame as it proved far easier to hide.

As she watched, one of the men moved into the light of one of the torches, illuminating his face, one she vaguely remembered from her time in King’s Landing, all that time ago.

Petyr Baelish, Arya was sure he was called, also known as Littlefinger.

As Arya listened closer, their words drifted down to her.

“- influence can be yours if you join with me in this, my lord,” came Littlefinger’s oily voice.

“You speak of dangerous fucking things,” came the voice of the other man. “Treason! You would move against King Jon!”

“Yes, I would,” Littlefinger replied. “For the benefit of us all.”

Arya’s eyes widened as she grasped at the hilt of Needle, as anger thundered through her.

As she watched, Arya could have sworn that Littlefinger’s eyes found her in the gloom. She slowly eased herself further back into the shadows, trying desperately not to be seen. The moments passed in agonising silence, with Arya expecting him to herald her presence.

But he did not.

“You forget one thing, Lord Baelish,” came the other man’s voice. Littlefinger turned back to him, with what looked like a smug smirk upon his lips. “What of Lady Sansa? What will she make of you plotting against her brother?”

“Do not worry about her. Lady Sansa will play her part.”

Arya’s breathing quickened as shock crashed over her in waves.

Sansa, she thought numbly. Is she helping him? Plotting against our brother?

The other man’s voice brought her back to her senses.

“She may be helping you, but I will not,” the lord said, drawing himself up to his impressive height. “Find someone else to aid you, you treacherous snake.”

“I would caution, my lord,” said Littlefinger, as the man turned to leave. “For you to hold your tongue over this little meeting of ours.”

“And, why would I do that?”

“Because, if you were to spill this secret of mine, several of yours might find their way from my lips. That of all the servant girls with bastards you have pumped into their bellies. That would do great damage to the honour of a man such as yourself.”

Silence fell at his words. Arya could see the lord quivering with rage at Littlefinger’s words, clearly restraining himself from grabbing the man by the throat.

“Watch yourself, Lord Baelish,” said the man finally, his voice shaking with fury. “One day, you will cross the wrong person, with no words to aid in your escape.”

Before Littlefinger could response, the lord turned and stormed back into the Great Keep. As Arya watched, Baelish turned and rested his arms on the railing of the bridge with his face illuminated by the burning torches, his smug look of triumph revealed.

At the sight, Arya drew Needle, ready to end the traitorous man’s life. She knew a small staircase lay on the other side of the bridge, that would allow her to sneak behind him, unnoticed.

However, as Arya began to move forward to begin, a familiar voice behind her caused her to freeze in shock and joy.

“Arya!” came Sansa’s joy filled voice.

Arya stood up and turned at the sound, all thoughts of treachery forgotten. Sansa was running towards her, her nightclothes and hastily worn cloak billowing around her as she ran. Needle fell from her numb fingers, clattering to the stone floor, as Arya ran towards her sister.

They met in a hug, full of so much vigour from Sansa that Arya was spun around to face the way she had come. Arya buried her face in her sister’s auburn hair, breathing in the smell and feeling the warmth of her skin against her, feeling unbidden tears of joy leak from her eyes.

“I cannot believe you are here!” came Sansa’s voice, muffled from its obstruction against Arya’s shoulder.

“It has been far too long without us together, Sansa,” replied Arya, feeling her sister press a kiss to her cheek.

At her touch, however, Arya remembered the conversation she had just overheard. She looked up towards Littlefinger, now observing their reunion with an unreadable expression on his face, with Arya returned with one full of murderous intent, her mind racing.

Are they truly working together? Arya thought, as she refused to lower her gaze from the man. I guess I will have to find out.

Chapter Text

 

Sam

 

In the few weeks since Jorah Mormont’s arrival, Sam’s routine had changed a little. Due to his promise to the Northern knight, Sam had begun to search for a potential cure for greyscale, in addition to all the other information that he was trying to discover.

He had found many references to greyscale, including how it supposedly came to the world, a supposed curse levelled by the Rhoynar Prince Garin the Great against his enemies. He also found many different methods of treating it, depending on the culture. The Free Folk believed that, even when the disease has stopped spreading, that greyscale never truly leaves a person and that they should be killed to prevent the spread. Sam had also read of how many people believe that soaking the infected area in vinegar or being treated with limes helps stop the disease from spreading.

His lack of luck in finding anything had been alleviated when he had inquired to various maesters, many of whom knew a great deal about medicine and diseases, about greyscale. Sam learned that there were several men who had helped to prevent the spread of Shireen’s greyscale who, when they learned about Jorah’s affliction, had gladly helped to treat the man. They had warned Jorah that, while they had cured Shireen, they were not sure exactly what had finally cured her, so he would have to go through a long process of treatments to potentially cure him, to which he had agreed with grim determination.

Sam visited Jorah’s room often, and had marvelled at the vast number of treatments that the maesters had used on the man. He had to drink countless vials of bitter concoctions, as well as wear a long leather sleeve and glove for hours upon end, which was filled with various foul smelling ointments and poultices. Whenever Jorah had worn the sleeve, the smell in the room had been so overpowering that Sam had often wanted to retch and could only imagine what it must be like for Jorah.

However, their efforts seem to worked, for the most part. His greyscale had spread all up his arm and had begun to stretch over his chest, but in the last few days its slow but steady progress had further slowed, to the point of almost being unnoticeable. Sam had been confident that Jorah was nearly cured, but the maesters had warned him that it was not confirmed yet so to temper his expectation.

Sam’s other research had also had a little luck. He had found a book detailing various mining techniques for obsidian that would allow it to be crafted into weaponry without breaking in the attempt. It had been written by an Archmaester who was still currently at the Citadel and Sam had found the maester in question who, after Sam’s explanation that he was there on the command of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and needed to know all he could about it, the man had spent several hours with Sam, explaining to him the processes in detail. Sam had made copious amounts of notes, not missing a single step, so he could give it to Jon on his return to the Wall.

However, after these initial revelations, Sam’s research had once again slowed down and he had not found anything of note in several days.

Several days after Jorah’s greyscale had been slowed, Sam had been sat at his table in the library, surrounded by several dozen books as he pored over their pages. He was once again learning very little from his reading, and had just set aside yet another tome of information useless to him, when a young maester approached him.

“Samwell Tarly?” the man inquired.

“Yes,” Sam replied, turning to face him curiously.

“There has been a raven for you,” he said, holding out a scroll of parchment. “I believe it is from the Night’s Watch.”

Sam took the scroll with a murmur of thanks and the maester turned and left him alone. It had been a few weeks since he had sent his letter to Jon to tell him of his success at finding the crafting process for Valyrian steel. He had meant to send another after his discovery regarding the obsidian but he had not gotten to it yet.

Sam unfurled the scroll and saw, to his confusion, that it had not been written in Jon’s hand.

Sam

A lot has happened since you left us.

Jon is no longer here.

He was mutinied against by Alliser Thorne. Thorne was helped by Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck and even Olly. They killed Jon, stabbed him in the gut. Thorne took control of the Night’s Watch and tried to have us all killed. He would have too, if the Wildlings hadn’t helped.

Stannis’ Red Woman brought Jon back from the dead and started calling him the Prince that was Promised, or some such shit. Jon hanged those traitors himself and then he left. He said that his vow had ended when he died. You were the one that was always talking about the different ways of interpreting the vows, so I guess we have you to thank for it, huh?

His sister Sansa showed up here, and they left soon after, to take back Winterfell. From what I heard he managed to get the Wildlings on side, as well as a few Northern Houses, and took back Winterfell from the Boltons. Jon was then named the King in the North. A bit of a step up from being the Lord Commander’s steward, right?

I guess I am the Lord Commander now. That is even fucking stranger. I have passed on the letter you sent to Winterfell for Jon to read, so you should probably send any more there too.

I hope you and Gilly are well, Sam. We are going to need some good news with those fucking things coming for us.

Your friend,

Edd

Sam sat in stunned silence, reading and re-reading the information in front of him.

Thorne killed Jon, Sam thought, with a surge of anger. I know he and Jon have hated each other since they met, but I never thought that Thorne would attempt to kill Jon.

Sam thought about how Jon had died, stabbed by his brothers. Sam couldn’t imagine the betrayal and pain that Jon must have felt in that moment, especially from Olly. He knew that Jon and Olly’s friendship became strained after Jon had aided the Wildlings, after some of whom had murdered and eaten Olly’s family.

However, Jon had taken Olly under his wing and spent a lot of time teaching and training with him, even making him his personal steward and it angered Sam that Olly could disregard that because of traitorous words whispered into his ear by Alliser Thorne. While Sam knew that helping the Wildlings was against what a lot of Night’s Watch brothers believed, and had probably been one of the main causes behind the mutiny, he also knew that it was what had to be done to combat the White Walker threat.

Why can’t they look past their petty prejudices? Sam wondered, as he remembered how Gilly had been treated with scorn by his brothers. Can’t they see that the White Walkers are the true threat, and not the Wildlings?

Sam looked back to the letter and read about Jon’s resurrection. Sam hadn’t had much contact with Stannis’ Red Woman, although he knew her name to be Melisandre. He remembered how he had been confused over her lack of warm clothing in the freezing temperatures, as she had been dressed like she was in the South.

The fact that she brought Jon back from the dead terrified him, despite his gratefulness that it had happened. Sam had seen White Walkers and their reanimated thralls, and had hoped that would be the only instances of dead people rising that he would ever see.

The Prince that was Promised

Sam looked at the words with a sense of recognition. He was sure he had heard the words before, or at the very least read them, but he couldn’t place where from. He would have to think hard about it, or hope that he crossed over it again while reading.

Jon is a King? Sam thought admiringly, proud of his friend. Edd is right. That is a step up from a steward at the Night’s Watch.

He thought of Jon back in Winterfell, the place where he had grown up and had missed greatly while at the Night’s Watch. He was filled with a sense of happiness that Jon was able to go home, with his family. Jon had spoken a little about Sansa, but Sam knew that the two had a strained relationship while growing up, so he was glad they had seemed to patch up their problems.

His thoughts were interrupted by low voices on the other side of the bookcase nearest to him, so close that he couldn’t help but overhear.

“I received a letter from Pylos,” came a deep voice. “He remains on Dragonstone. He says that Daenerys Targaryen has landed there with her army and her dragons.”

Dragons? Don’t be absurd,” came a second, more reedy voice that was dripping with derision and disbelief. “The dragons died out centuries ago.”

“No longer. According to Pylos, she has three of them. One of them apparently looks like Balerion the Black Dread reborn.”

“Is it true?” came the second voice, now sounding a little concerned.

“I’ve never known Pylos to lie. It would appear that Daenerys Targaryen, and her dragons, have returned home.”

Sam exhaled deeply, having begun to hold his breath unconsciously.

Daenerys is here. In Westeros.

When Sam had sent the letter to Jon about the Valyrian steel, he had assumed that Daenerys was still in Essos and that her aid in making the blades was not very likely due to the distance between them but had mentioned anyway purely out of desperation. But now she was here, within reasonable distance, with her dragons. He would have to send Jon a letter as soon as possible, so he could set sail for Dragonstone.

He had just reached out to grab some parchment when the voices began speaking once more, grabbing his attention immediately.

“And that is not all that Pylos tells of,” the deep voice boomed. “Apparently, the new King in the North has arrived to parley with her.”

Sam’s heart skipped at this information, hardly daring to believe it.

Jon is already there!

“I didn’t know that there was a new King in the North.”

“Oh yes,” came the first voice again, now sounding seemingly triumphant that he knew something that his companion didn’t. “Jon Snow, Eddard Stark’s bastard son, retook Winterfell with an army of Wildlings and was proclaimed as the White Wolf by the Northern Houses, as they named him their king.”

“A bastard as king? I thought we had just gotten rid of one of those.”

“Lower your fucking voice,” hissed the other man, lowering his voice menacingly. “All it takes it someone to send word to the capital, hoping for some favour from the Queen, and you will be executed by Cersei Lannister.”

“It has to tell her something though”, continuing the man doggedly, despite lowering his voice so much that Sam had to leave his chair and move closer in order to hear. “When the Starks and the Targaryens would rather talk than kill each other, that should say something about how much Cersei is despised.”

“I agree with you. But from what Pylos is saying, the Stark and Targaryen alliance hasn’t gotten off to a great start. When they first met, it was… tense apparently.”

“Not surprising though, is it? Considering their history.”

Sam nodded silently to himself in agreement, as the two maesters gathered their belongings and left the library. He had read a lot about Robert’s Rebellion and the causes of it. The Starks had been one of the most affected by the madness of King Aerys, with two family members being killed on his orders with another being kidnapped, and later dying, by his son, Rhaegar.

If Jon has gone to Dragonstone to seek Daenerys’ aid, it must be about the White Walkers, thought Sam.

As he thought this, a memory struck Sam. He remembered Stannis talking about Dragonstone, and the vast quantities of obsidian that were on the island.

And now Jon is there, Sam thought. I have to find some way of getting all the notes I have made to him. I can’t go myself yet, as I have not learned enough. There must be more for me to learn here.

His mind wandered to Daenerys, and he wondered what kind of person she was. Sam knew that many of the Targaryens went mad, with her father being the most recent of them, but he wondered if she too had followed this family trait.

Struck by a sudden need for knowledge about it, Sam wandered over to the section of the library that contained the tomes of family histories. He found that the Targaryen family, and its various offshoots like House Blackfyre, had multiple tomes dedicated to it. Grabbing them all he made his way back to his table and immersed himself in them.

The Targaryens had ruled in Westeros since Aegon the Conqueror had landed here with his three dragons, Balerion, Vhagar and Meraxes. It was a comparison with Daenerys that was not lost on Sam. Sam read more and more, filling his head with information that was either completely new to him or only half-remembered.

As he finished reading about the four failed Blackfyre Rebellions, which culminated in the War of the Fivepenny Kings, a hand clamped onto his shoulder, making him jump from his seat in shock.

He turned to see Jorah looking at him, with a look of amused confusion on his face. Sam could see that he was still wearing his long sleeve over his left arm and could tell, from the faint bitter odour, that he was receiving his latest round of poultices applied to his arm.

“Gods, Jorah,” said Sam weakly, as he returned to his seat.

“I’m sorry, Sam,” said Jorah, smiling slightly as he took a seat next to him. “I called your name but you were completely engrossed in whatever book you have there.

“So,” he continued as he leaned forward to look at the books spread on the table. “What book has you so interested that you have turned deaf?”

Sam closed the book to show Jorah the cover and, to his surprise, a wide smile crossed his face.

“Ah, so you have an interest in the Targaryens do you?”

“Only on behalf of my friend, Jon,” said Sam, pushing the book away from him. “I’ve just heard that he has been named the King in the North and has sailed to Dragonstone to parlay with Daenerys Targaryen.”

Jorah sat bolt upright, his smile widening ever further as a look of shock mingled with the happiness.

“Daenerys is here?” he croaked.

“You know her?” asked Sam, a little confused.

“Yes, I served under her while she was in Essos. She often spoke of her desire to come home. It is incredible that she has finally managed it.”

“Let’s just hope that she is better than her father,” said Sam, allowing a little bitterness into his voice.

“She is, Sam,” said Jorah, nodding reassuringly at him. “She is far better.”

They sat in silence for a moment, both contemplating the dragon sigil emblazoned on the cover of the book.

“You said that your friend Jon has gone to meet with her,” said Jorah finally, tearing his eyes away from the book. “You’ve told me a little about him. What kind of a man is he?”

Sam furrowed his brow slightly in confusion at the question.

“Why do you ask?”

“Well, Jon has gone to meet with Daenerys and I have technically not left her service. She commanded me to find the cure for the greyscale and then return to her. I would like to know a little about the man she is meeting.”

Sam nodded slightly.

“Jon is a good man, Jorah,” Sam said, looking at him. “Your father saw it too. He named Jon to be his personal steward and groomed him for command of the Night’s Watch.”

“My father was a good judge of character,” said Jorah, his eyes downcast slightly. Sam knew he was feeling guilty for the dishonour he had brought to his father and their family name. “He must have had a great opinion of the man.”

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” came a small voice from behind them. “May I join you?”

Sam turned to see Archmaester Willem making his way toward them, so Sam stood up and offered the old man his chair, which he accepted with a nod of thanks.

“Ah, the Targaryen family,” said the old man, as he tapped the leather cover of the book. “Fascinating amount of history there. What is your interest in them, Samwell?” 

“I take it you have heard about the King in the North’s visit to Dragonstone, maester?” said Sam.

The maester nodded slowly in response, with an unusual look on his face.

“Well, Jon Snow is my friend, and I wanted to know a little about the family he has gone to meet, particularly given the tension they have with the Starks.”

“Ah yes,” said the maester, nodding sagely. “There is no love lost between those two families, particularly after the Rebellion. What is your interest, Ser Jorah? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“I serve Queen Daenerys,” he replied shortly.

At this, the look of Willem’s face intensified, which Sam now recognised as a look of triumph and realisation.

“I think you two should come with me. I have something that you both should see.”

*

A short while later, the three of them were walking through the chambers below the Citadel. The bright light and relative warmth of above, despite the oncoming winter, had given way to the dark and damp, with the only light being given by torches that were lit along the stark stone walls.

Willem led the way, his long chain jangling in time with his slow, ambling steps. Sam and Jorah followed him, each looking around them at their surroundings and occasionally sharing a surprised look.

Sam looked along the walls and saw that in each of the recesses stood a large wrought iron door, that was so securely sealed that Sam wouldn’t have been surprised to have found mounds of gold and jewels behind each one.

“What is this?” asked Jorah, as he continued to look about him.

“The Citadel is a place of knowledge, where anyone can learn what they wish if they have the intellect and the patience for it.

“However, there are some things that are too dangerous or too evil to be available to just anyone. And that is what these vaults are for, to seal them away from prying eyes. No one can access all of the vaults, not even the Archmaesters.”

“What do you keep down here?” asked Sam in a hushed voice, feeling a chill go down his spine as they walked along.

“Many things Samwell, but I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to claim I know them all. I do know, for example, that there are manuscripts locked down here that detail some of the most heinous rituals known to man, with various dark magics involved. And this is where they should stay, far from those foolish enough to believe that they can profit from such barbarism.”

Sam heard the vehemence in the old man’s voice and couldn’t help but be shocked by it. He had never heard the man raise his voice in anger or contempt to anyone. So, for him to use the tone of voice that he was, these items that were locked away must be despicable.

“But what I am to show you,” said Willem, as he stopped in front of one of the doors and started to unlock it, “may not be as evil as what I have just described, but it is no less dangerous and potentially destructive.”

Sam and Jorah shared a look of surprise and curiosity.

What could he be wanting to show us? Sam wondered. It must be something to do with Jon and Daenerys or he wouldn’t have brought us when he did.

Willem pulled the chain away from the door and struggled to open the heavy metal door, so Jorah stepped forward to help. Between the two of them, the door opened with its ancient hinges creaking loud enough to rouse the dead.

The three stepped inside the small room, barely larger than Sam’s quarters all those floors above their heads. There was a small desk in the middle of the room and the walls were lined with various cabinets and bookcases that groaned under the weight of their forbidden knowledge.

Willem lit the candle and torches around the room and bathed the room in their glow. He walked over to a drawer, which he unlocked with a key that he had on a small chain around his neck, and pulled out a roll of parchment, which he carried over to his desk.

“I think you two should sit down,” the maester said, as he took his seat and indicated to the two others opposite him.

Sam and Jorah took the proffered seats, sharing another perplexed look. Willem regarded them both with a look of pity and, unless Sam was seeing things, dread.

“I have had this letter sealed down here for twenty years, waiting to know what to do with it. But it seems that the time has come to share its contents.”

The old man took a deep breath, and scrubbed his face with his hands. Steeling himself, he opened the scroll and read it aloud.

This is a declaration that in the year 281 AL, Prince Rhaegar of House Targaryen, the Prince of Dragonstone, and Lady Lyanna of House Stark were wed in the sight of the Seven and the Old Gods of the Forest.

“As a result of their union, their son, the Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen, was born, now third in line to the Iron Throne of Westeros.”

Willem finished reading and an unnatural hush fell in the room. Sam was stunned, barely able to think or breathe. Sam looked out of the corner of his eye and saw that Jorah had gone a little pale.

“I thought that Rhaegar had married Elia Martell. How could he have taken a second wife?” Sam said, more thinking aloud than anything.

“Come now, Samwell,” said Willem patiently. “Think about it. The Targaryens have never paid much attention to what the Faith of the Seven wanted. They wed brother to sister for generations and, in many cases, took multiple wives. Aegon the Conqueror, for example, wed both of his sisters.”

“Third in line?” said Jorah suddenly, drawing all eyes to him. “It said that Jaehaerys was the third in line to the Throne.”

“I believe that when this document was written Aerys was still alive, or at the least believed alive by whomever wrote it. Rhaegar had an older son remember? Aegon, who would have rule after his father.”

“When did you receive this?” Jorah asked.

“It arrived two days after we received word of King’s Landing sacking, and the death of Aerys. In light of that, and Robert Baratheon’s coronation as the new King of the Seven Kingdoms, I locked it away down here.

“Once he had returned to Winterfell, I sent a message to Lord Eddard Stark, to inform him of the document’s existence and what I had done with it. He agreed with me that, if it were made known publicly, it could incite another civil war, so he bid me to keep it sealed away.

“There were still many Houses that were loyal to the Targaryens, but had only bent the knee out of fear of Robert and his vengeance. If they had known about this Jaehaerys then they might have rallied behind him and declared against Robert once more.

“There was another reason why I kept it hidden,” continued Willem, a note of sadness creeping into his voice now. “My own conscience.”

Sam looked into the man’s eyes, completely bemused by his declaration. A quick glance at Jorah showed that he seemed as confused as he was. At the sight of their confusion the old man sighed deeply and rested his head in hands, and addressed the table top.

“When the news of the Sack of King’s Landing reached us, it came with the news that Prince Rhaegar’s older children, Aegon and Rhaenys, were slain by the Mountain. He dashed the infant Aegon’s head against the wall, and then wrapped the two bodies in Lannister cloaks and presented them to Robert.”

Willem raised his head and there was a note of anger in his voice now.

King Robert,” the old man spat, more vehemence in his voice now than Sam had ever heard. “He did not condemn that monster’s actions. No, he merely declared the young children ‘dragonspawn’, and the Lannisters were rewarded for their actions.

“After destroying the Targaryen lineage Robert Baratheon had sealed his fierce reputation, as well as his known hatred of the Targaryens. If he knew about the child’s existence, he would have stopped at nothing until he hunted the boy down and killed him. I could not have lived with myself if I had allowed another innocent child to die because of the content of this document.”

Sam exhaled deeply, completely overwhelmed by the information.

This is more than anything I expected, Sam thought. But Willem was right. This is just as destructive as anything else that are in these vaults.

“So, Ser Jorah,” said Willem, his tone calm and even once more. “It would seem that Queen Daenerys has a nephew out there somewhere, one who potentially has a better claim to the Throne than herself.”

And Jon has a cousin that he doesn’t know about, Sam thought.

“That is true,” replied Jorah. “But does Jaehaerys know of his birth? And even if he does, would he be a good king?”

“Maybe, maybe not,” said Willem, smiling slightly. “But the ability to be a good king is not always required in the heir to the throne, is it? Joffrey Baratheon is a perfect example.”

Jorah nodded slightly in agreement, as Sam leaned forward as a thought struck him.

“Where is Jaehaerys now? What happened to him?”

“I do not know Samwell. I have heard nothing about him in the last twenty years. He could have been taken to Essos, or even further east for all anyone knows.”

At that moment, Jorah sat bolt upright, his head turning towards the door. Sam followed his gaze, a little confused by his sudden action.

“Jorah, what is it?” asked Sam quietly.

“I heard something,” the man said as he got to his feet.

At that moment, they heard the sound of someone running away from the door. Jorah bolted to the door, with Sam following as fast as he could. As they entered the corridor, they saw the dark form of a man slipping into the shadows at the far end of the corridor.

“He could have heard everything that we said,” said Willem, who was now standing the doorway.

“It doesn’t matter,” replied Sam, thinking quickly. “Whoever he is, he can’t prove anything without the document.”

“Sam’s right,” said Jorah, his eyes still fixed on the shadows of the corridor. “Lock that up as tightly as you can, and maybe hire some guards to stand outside. Whoever he is, he might come back.”

As Willem returned to the room, Sam’s mind continued to churn with possibilities.

Who was that man? Did he already know about the contents of the room and had come to test out its defence? Or was he just an opportunistic eavesdropper who got lucky?

Neither of which is a comforting thought

*

A week later, Sam sat eating his evening meal with Gilly and Little Sam. So far there had been no attempt to breach the vault according to Willem, who had hired three mercenaries from Oldtown to act as the guards.

Sam turned away from Gilly and Little Sam with a smile on his face, and saw Jorah approaching him, dressed for travelling, with a large satchel over his shoulder. A few days before the maesters had told him that his greyscale had been cured, to the man’s joy. He had immediately begun preparing for his journey to Dragonstone, to reunite with Daenerys.

Sam rose from the table to greet him, with a small leather satchel in his hands.

“Well, it seems that this is goodbye, then Sam,” said Jorah warmly, extending his hand to him.

Sam took it, smiling back at him.

“Goodbye Jorah. It was good to meet you.”

Jorah turned to say his goodbyes to Gilly and Little Sam, who seemed to have taken to the Northern knight.

“You know, Sam,” Jorah said as he straightened up. “This does not have to be goodbye. You could come with me to Dragonstone, all three of you.”

Sam smiled again, a little ruefully this time.

“It is tempting, Jorah. But I need to stay here for now. I am not sure that I have learned all I can from the library here. Until I am sure that there is nothing more of note I can lean, I cannot leave.”

Jorah nodded in reply, shaking his head a little in exasperation.

“I thought you might say that,” he said as they shook hands once more. “Do not worry. I shall tell Jon, if he remains at Dragonstone, that you have arrived here safely.”

“Thank you, Jorah,” replied Sam, as he walked with him into the vast courtyard and towards the large gates, flanked by their sphinxes. “I was wondering if you could do something else for me?”

“I will tell them both about Jaehaerys,” Jorah replied, placing his hand on Sam’s shoulder reassuringly. “Do not worry.”

“Thank you, but that is not all I meant,” Sam replied as he handed Jorah the satchel. “Can you give this to Jon? It contains all the notes I have collected, on dragonglass and Valyrian steel including how to make more. I think both Jon and Daenerys would need to see that.”

“I think you are right,” Jorah said as he placed the thin package in his satchel. “Do not worry, I will make sure that it reaches them.”

With this, he clapped Sam on the shoulder once more and made his way through the gates, beginning his journey to Dragonstone. Sam watched his new friend go with a sense of sadness at his departure and happiness and pride that his research would finally find its way into Jon’s hand.

I hope all is well with you on Dragonstone, Jon, Sam thought, as he turned and headed back into the Citadel when he lost sight of Jorah. And I hope my notes find their way to you without incident.

Chapter Text

 

Jon

 

Jon stood on the balcony alongside Tormund, Daenerys, Varys, Tyrion and Daenerys’ handmaiden Missandei as they looked down at the oncoming ships, as darkness began to fall. The Iron Fleet was growing ever closer, spearheaded by a large war galley that Jon assumed was Euron’s, as they continued to approach Daenerys’ fleet, which was quickly forming into a defensive line.

The closer the ships came, Jon could see that there were several scarlet sails among the dark mass of the Greyjoy’s.

Lannisters, thought Jon angrily. Of course, they are behind this.

“Fucking hell!” came a furious voice from behind them.

Jon turned to see Yara Greyjoy returning to the room, looking thunderous, and took her place standing alongside Daenerys’ other generals, who Jon recalled as being named Grey Worm and Barbarro.

“Are we ready for their attack, Yara?” Daenerys asked, in a firm, commanding tone.

“We are,” Yara said, as she approached the balcony. “They are approaching from the south, and have been joined by some Lannister ships, no doubt picked up as they passed Lannisport.”

“What about from Blackwater Bay?” Davos asked, rising from his seat and approaching the balcony. “Are there any ships coming from there? We don’t want to be caught by a flanking manoeuvre.”

“So far there have been none,” Yara replied as turned her gaze west, where the shore of Westeros was laid out. “But we have positioned scouts to warn us of any that approach.”

Jon turned to look at the approaching ships, as night continued to fall around them. He knew that before long the battle would be shrouded in darkness, which was not a favourable option.

“How many ships are there?” Tyrion asked, who was for once sober, in the face of the coming battle.

“With the Lannister ships joining my uncle’s, they might just outnumber us,” replied Yara, her tone bitter. “It will be a hard fight, as they no doubt will have ballistae and catapults.”

“But we have my dragons,” replied Daenerys, turning her gaze to the fleet. “They will no doubt be of some use, against their wooden ships.”

As Jon heard the others agree with Daenerys, he too looked to the oncoming Ironborn and his hand unconsciously wrapped around the hilt of Longclaw.

“How many men can their ships hold?” Jon asked, turning around to face Yara.

“Euron’s longships can hold a hundred men each, and he has at least sixty out there,” Yara replied. “The Lannister war galleys hold more and there are around two dozen of them joining Euron.”

Jon nodded as he turned to Daenerys and met her violet eyes, which were looking at him with curiosity.

“If they should land,” Jon said resolutely, continuing to hold her gaze. “I know that you probably have the men to defeat them, but I will fight with your men to repel the Ironborn.”

Jon watched as Daenerys’ face broke into a grateful smile, which served to enhance her beautiful features. She reached out and grasped his bicep and squeezed gently, continuing to smile at him.

“Thank you, Jon,” she said quietly, not averting her gaze. “I appreciate it.”

Jon knew that his sword, and the few Stark men that he had brought with them, would likely not make much impact on the coming battle but he also knew that Daenerys’ gratitude had little to do with that. She was grateful that Jon was willing to fight alongside her men, rather than command his men to do so in his stead. Jon nodded solemnly at her, reaffirming his promise. Daenerys then turned to her generals.

“Grey Worm, Barbarro, I want you to prepare your men in case the Ironborn manage to land. Tell the smallfolk to remain in their homes until the battle is over.

“And, Barbarro,” she called after him as he turned to leave. “Remind your men that the people of Dragonstone are to remain unharmed. I know what the Dothraki are like during battle.”

Barbarro looked at her for a moment mutinously, as though he was considering to argue, but clearly thought better of it and left the room alongside Grey Worm.

“I will go too,” said Yara, as she turned to the door. “I will return to my ship, with my brother.”

“Good luck, Yara,” said Daenerys. “Do not fall.”

Jon watched as the two women shared a determined nod before Yara turned and left the room.

As one, everyone turned back to the sea, to the approaching army. As they continued to come ever closer, and night began to take hold, Jon felt a feeling of nervous anticipation begin to swell up inside him. It had been the same before the Wildlings had attacked the Wall and the night before they had retaken Winterfell. He was not scared about the coming battle, but he couldn’t lie that he was not nervous about its outcome.

There is no Melisandre to wish me back to life if I should fall, thought Jon morosely.

A sudden screech brought Jon from his thoughts. He looked up to see Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion circling above them, around the tower that they were in. Out of the corner of his eye, Jon saw Daenerys look up towards her dragons, with a look of pride on her face. From the little that she had spoken about them Jon had noticed the pride and affection that she held for her dragons, like a mother would have for her children.

Tyrion had told him of the bond that Daenerys shared with her dragons, and particularly with Drogon. He had spoken of how the dragons had hatched, when Daenerys had walked into the burning funeral pyre of her husband Khal Drogo and had emerged unharmed, a feat that she had repeated when gaining her Dothraki army.

Her tales are as equally unbelievable as my own, Jon thought with a smile.

Below them a horn sounded, and Jon turned to see that Euron’s fleet had come close enough to engage with their catapults. A few fiery projectiles flew through the air towards Daenerys’ ships, but only one found its mark. It exploded on the hull of one of the former slave master ships but before the fire could take hold, the waves extinguished them. While they had been extremely lucky with the first volley, Jon knew that it wouldn’t be long before their aim became true and the flames would take hold.

Jon, his attention on the battle, heard Daenerys say something in a language he did not recognise. He turned to see her looking up to the dragons who, at her command, flew towards the oncoming ships, screeching loudly. Jon watched as they dived down, the smaller two gliding between the masts of Daenerys’ ships, and began to breathe fire at their enemy.

“What language was that?” Jon asked, turning to Daenerys.

“Valyrian,” she replied, not averting her gaze from her dragon’s assault on the Ironborn. “As I raised them, I taught them to obey commands in Valyrian. I just commanded them to attack our enemy.”

Jon turned back to the battle, and saw that an Ironborn longship were already ablaze. Daenerys’ fleet also began to engage the enemy, their own catapults finding their targets, as well as the war galleys moving forward to begin ramming the Lannister ships. Jon looked down and saw numerous torches illuminated along the shoreline, the bearers of which were only dimly visible through the darkness. However, Jon could see that their numbers were vast, an imposing sight for any Ironborn who landed.

As the battle raged on, for what seemed like hours, Jon could see that the two sides were very evenly matched and the battle had quickly devolved into a stalemate, one that would need to be broken quickly.

“King Jon,” said Davos suddenly. “I’ve had an idea.”

“Please share, Ser Davos,” replied Jon, continuing to watch as Rhaegal and Viserion set a Lannister galley ablaze, with the faint screams of its crew reaching their ears even from so far away.

“I will take a small ship, filled with some of Queen Daenerys’ best soldiers, and I will sail for Euron’s command ship. They will steal on board and deal with Euron. Without their commander, the Ironborn will fall into chaos, and give us the advantage.”

Jon turned to Davos, and saw that the man’s face was covered with grim determination.

“Have you gone mad?” Jon asked, completely baffled by this proposal. “You plan to attack the largest ship in their fleet, in the middle of a battle and attack their commander. How do you expect to get that close?”

“My whole life on the sea was spent avoiding other ships. I can get close without them seeing us.”

“And how are you going to do that?” Jon demanded, growing even more confused. “They are attacking any ship not their own on sight.”

Davos took a deep breath and feel silent for a moment, with the only noises in the room being the long distant sounds of battle.

“Do you know how I met Stannis Baratheon, Your Grace?”

Jon furrowed his brow, not sure where his argument was going.

“I don’t think so.”

“It was during Robert’s Rebellion. A year into the siege of Storm’s End I managed to avoid the Redwyne fleet to provide food for those who held it. They were blockading the entirety of Shipbreaker Bay and I still managed to get past them, while they were looking for anyone trying to get past them to aid those holding Storm’s End.

“If I can do that, I am sure I can get my ship to Euron’s galley in the dark of night while the crew are busy worrying about Queen Daenerys’ fleet and dragons.”

“But I thought you were a smuggler, Ser Davos,” said Daenerys curiously. “Not a sailor of a fleet. Why would you enter a battle such as this?”

“Well, I would still be smuggling, Your Grace. Only this time it would be soldiers, rather than onions and salted beef.”

Jon was silent for a moment, thinking hard. Davos’ argument was making more and more sense the more he thought on it. He was undoubtedly a skilled smuggler and taking Euron out of the battle would definitely be a boon for them, sending the enemy into disarray. Jon grimaced slightly, knowing that he would find it difficult to argue with him.

Jon took a step forward, and grasped Davos’ shoulder firmly and looked him in the eye.

“Are you sure that you can do this and survive the attempt?”

“As sure as I can be, my king.”

Jon sighed resignedly and held out his hand to Davos.

“Then I wish you good luck, my friend.”

Davos took Jon’s hand and nodded determinedly, before turning to leave.

“Wait a moment, Ser Davos,” called Daenerys suddenly. “I have had an idea.

“Jon,” she said as she turned to him. “I think it would of use to us if Ser Davos were to capture Euron Greyjoy alive. Do you agree?”

Jon turned to Daenerys, initially a little confused at her asking for his counsel. However, he quickly realised that this was the first instance of their alliance at work. Thinking fast, Jon weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of Daenerys’ idea.

By bringing Euron to them alive, they could potentially gain some knowledge of Cersei Lannister’s plans to against their alliance and could move against them. They could also, although Jon found it quite distasteful, coerce the remaining Ironborn to side with them against Cersei.

Whereas if they killed Euron it might gain them a little more favour with Yara, who was already allied with them, but it also would deprive Cersei of a vital part of her strength at sea, a heavy blow to their enemy.

Jon nodded slightly and turned to Davos.

“If it is possible, bring Euron Greyjoy to us alive,” he said solemnly. “However, if it would mean your death to do so, I would rather Euron’s head be brought before us.”

Jon turned to Daenerys as he said this, as if daring her to contradict him on this but she did not, merely nodding her agreement. Jon turned back to Davos, who grimly nodded his understanding of his orders and turned to leave.

“Speak to Grey Worm about taking some of the Unsullied with you, Ser Davos,” said Daenerys kindly, as he continued towards the door.

“I will, Your Grace,” he said, turning back briefly. “I thank you.”

As Davos tried to leave the room once more, Tormund grasped his shoulder.

“Do not die, you mad fuck.” Tormund laughed.

Davos chuckled slightly and nodded as he patted Tormund on the back.

As Davos left, Jon turned back to the battle and saw that while they had been talking several more ships had been set ablaze, with their flickering light reflecting off the sea and illuminating the island’s beaches, with the scores of Dothraki and Unsullied, joined here and there by the few Westerosi soldiers who had been on the island, standing ready to fight off the invaders.

The battle raged on, with several more of Euron’s Ironborn ships being set aflame by the vast diving shadows that Jon knew to be Daenerys’ children. However, Daenerys’ fleet were not without their own losses, with at least six ships being lost, and those were just the ones that were in Jon’s eyeline.

As they all lost themselves in watching the battle unfold with almost grim fascination, the door swung open once and they all turned to see an Unsullied enter the room. He hurried across the room before falling onto one knee before Daenerys and began speaking urgently to her in a language that Jon could only assume was also Valyrian.

“What did the man say, Daenerys?” asked Tyrion as soon as the Unsullied stopped speaking.

“He carries a message from Grey Worm,” she replied solemnly as she turned to them with a grave look on her face. “Three of Euron’s longships have broken through the lines and are heading for the eastern shore.”

“Three longships?” replied Varys, and for the first time since Jon had met him he sounded concerned. “Three hundred men?”

“He says that Grey Worm and Barbarro have taken some of their men to deal with these invaders,” continued Daenerys.

“What about the main battle, Your Grace?” Tyrion asked, looking aghast. “The men will be lost without a commanding presence.”

Daenerys turned back to the man and began speaking urgently once more, every eye in the room on them. She soon turned back to them looking a little angry.

“Randyll Tarly has taken control of the Southern shore. Grey Worm has left his second in command, Black Rat, behind to aid him by commanding the Unsullied forces.”

Jon let out a relieved sigh. Randyll Tarly was a renowned battle commander, having led the Royalist forces in the Battle of Ashford, which turned out to be the only battle that Robert Baratheon ever lost in the Rebellion.

If anyone can hold the beach, it is him, thought Jon, a little confused by Daenerys’ anger.

“What about the Dothraki?” asked Missandei, clearly unsettled by this news. “Barbarro is the only of them that speaks the Common Tongue.”

“He just left,” Daenerys said bitterly. “He took nearly two hundred men and left.”

Jon, finally understanding the consequences of Barbarro’s actions, sighed and scrubbed his face with his hands.

“Do not worry, my Queen,” said Tyrion, as he patted her forearm reassuringly. “The Dothraki will do what they do best: fight. And with Tarly leading the Unsullied, it gives us an advantage on the field.”

“I hope you are right, Tyrion,” said Daenerys darkly, clearly not fully placated by his words, before turning to the Unsullied and speaking to him once more in Valyrian.

As the Unsullied left the room, Jon turned back to the battle and, once he saw the burning ships on the sea, he quickly came to a decision.

“I will join them,” he said resolutely.

Ignoring the surprised looks from Daenerys and her companions, Jon turned to Tormund.

“I’m going to help Grey Worm and Barbarro,” he said, seeing a grin spread across Tormund’s face. “Are you with me?”

“Always, Jon Snow,” his friend replied, his grin widening ever further as he clapped Jon on the shoulder.

“We will need to get Ghost from my chambers,” Jon said, as they headed for the door.

“Jon!” called Daenerys suddenly.

Jon turned to back to her and saw her standing in front of the wide balcony, looking towards him. Her silver hair was being blown all around her determined face by the night winds, her purple eyes shining brightly in the half-light and her whole figure silhouetted against the burning glow of the fires behind her.

“Don’t die,” she said softly. “Either of you.”

Jon nodded briefly, feeling a little surprised, but pleased, by her concern for them. He and Tormund turned once more and headed from the room. Outside were half a dozen Unsullied, who barely spared them a glance as they raced past them.

Jon headed for his chambers with Tormund close behind him, their footsteps echoing around the stark corridors. As they raced through the now deserted corridors, the sounds of the battle raging outside were now muffled but still a present reminder of what was happening.

Before long they arrived at Jon’s chamber, and he threw open the door to see Ghost sitting on his hind legs with his front paws on the window ledge as he peered outside, clearly trying to see what all the noise was. At the sound of the door opening, he turned to Jon and made his way towards him.

“Come on, boy,” said Jon as he stood to one side to allow Ghost to go past him. “We need you.”

The now three strong party raced through the halls once more, heading for the exit. When they exited the keep and turned to check on the progress of the battle, Jon let out a low whistle.

“Holy fuck!” muttered Tormund under his breath.

From their vantage point, Jon could see that there were now at least thirty ships ablaze, with their flickering light reflecting off the surface of the sea and lighting up the island. As they watched Drogon and Viserion both dived at one of the Lannister galleys, swirling and dodging the various flaming projectiles that were being fired at them, and both shot a vast jet of flame into the deck of the ships, causing dozens of screams of pain to reach their ears as the crew were burned alive.

“This is fucking mad!” said Tormund suddenly.

Jon turned to him and saw that he had a look of disbelieving wonderment on his face as he watched the dragons. They had been on Dragonstone for several days now and had seen the dragons on several occasions but they all still marvelled whenever they watched them in flight.

But this was something else entirely.

The three dragons were all soaring and diving among Euron’s forces, setting men and boats alight with what appeared to be little to no effort. They were clearly responsible for the majority of the losses that their enemy had suffered, as Jon had only seen a few longships being destroyed by Yara’s ships.

They are incredibly powerful, thought Jon, as Rhaegal swooped over their heads to join his siblings in laying waste to the Iron Fleet. With them on Daenerys’ side, I wouldn’t want to be Cersei.

As Jon continued to scan the battle, his eyes fell onto the large galley that he knew to be Euron Greyjoy’s command ship. He looked around the ship but couldn’t see any other ship close to it, so it would appear that Davos hadn’t yet gotten close enough to complete his mission.

Either that or…

Jon shook his head firmly, dismissing the idea before it fully formed in his mind, knowing that Davos’ skill would get him out alive.

“Let’s go, Tormund,” Jon said as he turned his back to the battle and started sprinting to the east coast of the island.

Even from this distance, there was a dim glow from the eastern coast of Dragonstone, heralding the fight that Grey Worm, Barbarro and their forces would be fighting against the Ironborn invaders. Jon, Tormund and Ghost raced over the uneven ground, with Jon and Tormund nearly losing their footing on several occasions. Ghost, however, sprinted over the dark ground, seemingly never doubting the sureness of his footing.

As they carried on running towards their destination, they moved through what was clearly part of the Dothraki encampment which they had set up on the high ground that ran along the beach. There were countless torches still burning in the Dothraki’s haste to join the battle, lining the paths between their tents that surrounded them on all sides, varying in size and shape, and often there were people poking their heads out of the flaps, usually women or children. As they ran past, Jon heard a few screams from them, which he was sure was due to Ghost.

Before long the camp began to thin out, with the countless tents being replaced by several large penned areas in which there were still dozens of horses, who were nervously stamping their hooves at the sounds of battle. As Ghost ran past the horses began bucking wildly and trying to bolt.

As they left the camp, the ran for another thirty feet before they reached the crest of the hill and looked down at the battle that was raging. There were around a dozen mounted Dothraki left, riding around the battle swinging their arakhs this way and that, with heads flying from their Ironborn enemies. However, Jon could see that they were being targeted by the Ironborn, who were desperately trying to remove the Dothraki’s advantage. As Jon watched, two of them were brought down, with the horses whinnying pitifully as they died. Jon could also see the Unsullied forces on the beach below, as they moved in their regimented formations, almost moving as a single person, with their moves so in time with the others.

Jon was confused as to why the Unsullied would give up the tactical advantage of the hill, in favour of a melee on the beach. However, as Jon’s eyes scanned the corpses that littered the battlefield and saw that they were primarily made up of Dothraki it became a little clearer to him.

Jon guessed that the Dothraki had charged down the hill, both mounted and on foot, as soon as the Ironborn had landed and Grey Worm had sacrificed the advantage that they held in an effort to support them and to minimise the losses that they suffered, as they would be vastly outnumbered in this battle if these Dothraki fell. Not least of which was Barbarro who was a vital member of Daenerys’ Dothraki forces, as well as a competent fighter, if the stories that Tyrion had told him was true.

As Jon unsheathed Longclaw, and discarded his sword-belt, he looked down at Ghost, who was looking up at him with his blood-red eyes.

“Go on, boy” Jon said, with a small smirk. “Go get them.”

With a low growl, Ghost bounded down the hill towards a sole Unsullied who had lost his helmet and was fighting two Ironborn. Ghost sprinted towards them, with one of the enemies noticing him as he ran and a look of terror covering his face, and leapt over the Unsullied and grasped one of the attackers by the throat. His momentum carried them both to the ground, where Ghost ripped out the man’s throat. The Unsullied, taking advantage of the confusion, killed the remaining enemy by thrusting his spear through the man’s chest. After withdrawing the spear the Unsullied turned to Jon, who saw that it was Grey Worm, who nodded gratefully to Jon before re-entering the battle.

As Jon raced down the hill after Tormund, his eyes were drawn to the sea and saw that the three longships had been joined by a Lannister galley.

Shit! Jon thought, knowing that this meant that ballistae and catapults would soon be joining the battle.

As Jon ran forward an Ironborn broke away from the battle and charged at him. The man was wielding an axe in each hand, the sight of which gave Jon more confidence that it should have done. He had fought against several Wildlings who fought in a similar style and knew that the best way to beat them was to remove one of their weapons.

The man swung his axe towards Jon’s face, who raised Longclaw to parry the blow, the man’s blood covered axe stopping inches from Jon’s face. Jon pushed the man hard in the chest before he could attack with his second weapon, causing him to stagger back a pace, before ducking under the Ironborn’s wild swing and slicing upwards with Longclaw, severing the man’s hand at the wrist. As the man staggered backwards, screaming loudly and clutching at the bloody stump of his arm, Jon stepped forward and thrust Longclaw through the man’s chest, putting him out of his misery.

Jon looked to his left and saw Tormund swinging his blade furiously, seemingly holding off three Ironborn at once. As Jon moved forward to help him, a movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. The Lannister galley had fired a volley from their catapults and several fiery projectiles were flying towards the beach…

One of which seemed to be heading straight for where they stood.

From his brief glance, it looked like it was going to land at their feet, but Jon wasn’t going to take any chances. Moving faster than he could ever remember, he bolted towards Tormund. As Jon raced towards him, Tormund slashed open the gut of one of the Ironborn before slicing the throat of another. As he reached Tormund, Jon slashed across the remaining Ironborn’s face, vaguely seeing the blood spray out from the wound, while at the same time grabbing hold of the scruff of Tormund’s neck and forcing him to the ground.

“Tormund! Get down!” he roared, as they landed in the blood-soaked sand.

As soon as they hit the ground, Jon felt the fiery ball fly over their heads, with a brief wave of heat accompanying it. It landed around thirty feet behind them, half way up the hill. Jon felt several burning spots on the back of his neck and reached up to rub away the remnants, as he could tell that he had been hit by some tiny fragments from the explosion that was burning his flesh.

Jon raised his head slightly and saw that several people had been caught by various other explosions. As Jon furiously wiped his face free of the blood-clogged sand he vaguely saw a Dothraki stagger across his vision, flailing his arms desperately and screaming loudly as he burned.

Jon felt Tormund rise up next to him and was about to do the same, when a boot slammed into the small of his back, knocking the wind out of him and pinning him to the floor.

“Where the fuck are you going?” rasped a cruel, excited voice.

Jon looked and saw the man’s other leg standing next to him and lashed out with his elbow, trying to knock it out from under him. He was unsuccessful as the man simply shifted himself, while laughing mockingly and delivering a crushing kick to Jon’s ribs.

However, the pressure was released almost immediately and Jon was hauled up out of the sand and turned to see Tormund standing over the body of the Ironborn, now without his head.

“Now we are even, Jon Snow,” Tormund growled, before he ran off into the melee.

Jon turned and made his way into the throng of people, slashing this way and that as Ironborn emerged from the writhing mass of people to attack him. One such Ironborn lunged at him with his sword swinging down, which Jon parried with Longclaw while at the same time grabbing the man’s sword arm, hoping to give it a vicious twist to make him drop his weapon.

However, out of the corner of his eye, Jon saw someone else run towards him, axe raised. Changing his plan quickly, Jon grabbed hold of the front of the man’s shirt and moved him into the path of the axe like a shield, which pierced into the man’s back with a dull thud. As Jon felt the man go limp, he let him drop to the floor and raised his blade and thrust it through the second man’s surprised face, straight through the bridge of the man’s nose and out of the back of his head.

Jon, breathing deeply, re-entered the battle. Ahead of him he saw an Unsullied warrior deftly fighting two Ironborn, simultaneously blocking one man’s blows with his shield while attacking the other with strong thrusts with his spear. Before long both men were dead and the Unsullied stood victorious, breathing heavily.

However, Jon’s respectful smirk was wiped from his face quickly enough.

There was a whistling sound and the man’s body was peppered with several spear-like objects, several more thudding into the ground around them. Three found their way into his chest while another pierced through the man’s right eye. Jon recoiled, breathing heavily in shock.

Ballistae, he thought numbly.

Jon turned to look out at the Lannister galley and saw, to his horror, that it had been joined by a second. However, no troops seemed to be coming from either galley. Jon could only assume that any troops that they had been carrying had already been dropped off somewhere, likely the southern, and any that remained were operating the weaponry.

Either way, we need to get off this beach, now, Jon thought firmly, as he pushed the guesses and assumptions from his head and forced himself on to find Grey Worm and Barbarro.

Jon forced himself on through the crowd, fighting of multiple enemies as they lunged out at him, as he looked frantically for any sight of Daenerys’ generals. As he moved he looked toward the hill they came from and saw that there were several burning areas from the catapults. However, they were never higher than halfway up the hill. As he noticed this, Jon’s plan formed even clearer in his mind.

We need to retreat to the top of the hill, to higher ground, out of the range of the catapults, Jon thought, as he beheaded another Ironborn.

As he looked at the mass of people in front of him, looking for two faces in particular, he began to think it would be a hopeless task to find them among so many people. However, as he thought this, Jon noticed Grey Worm, bloodied but still very much alive and fighting. Jon sprinted towards him and cut off the legs of an Ironborn that was about to put his axe into Grey Worm’s back. As the now legless man fell screaming into the sand, Jon raised Longclaw and plunged it into the man’s chest, killing him instantly.

Jon withdrew Longclaw and reached out to grab hold of Grey Worm’s shoulder. The man spun around at the touch and was about to put his spear through Jon’s gut when he recognised him and relaxed slightly, lowering his weapon.

“Grey Worm,” rasped Jon hoarsely, his throat dry from exertion. “We need to retreat to the hill. Get out of range of the Lannister catapults.”

Grey Worm nodded his agreement and turned to his men, shouting his orders in Valyrian. The men passed the order down their line and began to move for the hill.

“Where’s Barbarro?” Jon demanded.

“I do not know,” the Unsullied replied, but he gestured towards an area of the beach where the Dothraki were still battling the Ironborn. “I last saw him over there.”

“Fuck!” Jon exclaimed, running his hands though his hair, which was slick with sweat and blood. “Go with your men. I will find him.”

Grey Worm nodded and raced off after his men as Jon made his way towards the Dothraki. As he ran another Ironborn ran towards him. Jon, his temper now beginning to rise slightly, ducked under the man’s rabid swing, while at the same time cutting open the man’s gut, before standing up and cutting open the man’s throat with another slash.

Jon entered the melee and was instantly crushed by thrashing bodies on all sides, with their allegiance unknown. Jon pushed his way through, at this point not really caring who he was shoving out of his way, as long as he found the person he sought. He looked around and saw Barbarro a little away from him, his arakh moving so far that it was almost a blur.

As Jon moved towards him, a body lunged out of the thronging mass to his right, their weapon raised which Jon instinctively parried with Longclaw. However, he was surprised to see that it was not an Ironborn attacking him but a Dothraki, his eyes wide and bloodshot, his face covered in blood and gore.

“I am not your enemy!” Jon roared in his face.

The man responded with a sentence in a harsh tongue that Jon assumed was Dothraki and guessed that he didn’t speak the Common Tongue. Knowing that that he was running short on time and that the man wouldn’t understand his argument anyway, through lack of knowledge of Common Tongue and his raging blood lust, Jon stepped forward and headbutted the man with everything he had. The man reeled backwards and Jon gave him a sharp shove back into the battle. Jon vaguely saw, as he moved on, the man regain his senses a little and step forward to cut off the forearm of an unsuspecting Ironborn.

Focusing himself once more, Jon ran over to Barbarro and grabbed hold of the man’s sword arm. He turned to him breathing heavily and his eyes wide.

“Barbarro, we need to retreat to the hill.”

“No!” the man roared, spit flying from his mouth. “We fight here!”

“If you stay here, you will all die!”

As if to prove his point, a flaming ball from a catapult landing in the midst of the crowd behind them, the force of which forced several people into Jon and Barbarro, knocking them to the ground. Jon’s head thudded into the ground hard, leaving him disorientated for a moment before he regained his senses.

Growling slightly, Jon grabbed Barbarro and pulled the man roughly to his feet, trying to block out the desperate screams of the burning men behind and the acrid smell of their melting flesh.

“Get your men to the top of the hill or they will all die!” Jon shouted, as he released the man.

Jon turned and sprinted for the hill, vaguely hearing Barbarro barking orders to the remaining Dothraki. As Jon ran on, he was aware that many of them had begun to follow him.

Good! Jon thought scathingly. The man has finally seen some sense.

“Ghost!” Jon called, seeing the white form of his wolf as he rose from slaying another foe. “To me!”

Ghost raced over to join him as they reached the top of the hill and re-joined the Unsullied, at the front of whom was Grey Worm and, to Jon’s joy, Tormund. Tormund broke into a wide smile at the sight of him, and walked over to clap him on the back.

“I knew you wouldn’t fall, Jon Snow,” he said, laughing. “You are too stubborn to die again.”

“The fight is not yet over Tormund,” replied Jon, as turned back to face the battlefield.

The Ironborn were taking this brief reprieve to regroup and prepare to follow them to take the hill. Jon turned to see that while there weren’t very many Dothraki remaining, all looking bloody and disgruntled that they had been pulled from the battlefield, he could see that there were at least double that number of Unsullied soldiers remaining.

Their superior fighting skills are certainly aiding them here, Jon thought, as he looked at the many blood-coated spears in their hands.

And an idea struck him.

“Grey Worm!” Jon called, as he turned to the man. “Have your men form a defensive line along the crest of the hill. Do not let anyone break the line.”

Grey Worm nodded and relayed Jon’s orders. The Unsullied quickly moved into place, standing shoulder to shoulder, forming a wall of shields and spears that the Ironborn would have to breach. Behind the first line stood a second one, with these men each separated by around ten paces, ready to deal with any unfortunate enemy who breached the line.

“Grey Worm. Send more of your men around the top of the hill to act as scouts. The high ground will not help us much if we are outflanked.”

As Grey Worm quickly barked out the orders, Jon looked out towards the main battle. From the hill, they could just see a portion of the fierce battle that raged on the southern coast of the island. Multiple longships had made it to the shore here, which was ablaze in many places. The Lannister catapults were clearly giving them an advantage.

However, Jon could also see that the Iron Fleet has taken losses, with the dark shadows of the dragons still swooping in around them. Jon could see that they were acting a little warier now, not diving down as close, and he couldn’t help but wonder if one of the ballistae had found its mark.

The whinnying of horses brought Jon’s attention back to the situation in hand. Cursing himself for getting distracted, Jon looked over to see the horses that he and Tormund had passed by earlier and a memory flashed across his mind. A conversation he had had the previous evening while drinking with Tyrion.

“Ah yes! The Dothraki,” he had slurred, as he drained yet another goblet. “They are formidable to any army while on horseback. However, without them they are at a disadvantage, particularly to armoured knights.”

Jon jolted slightly, a smile spreading across his face, glad that his drinking with Tyrion might save them now.

“Barbarro!” Jon roared, as he marched over to him. “Get those horses calmed and your men mounted on them. When the opportunity comes, they will charge down the hill and catch our enemy unawares.”

As he listened, Barbarro’s expression change from anger that Jon was giving him orders to almost excitement when he understood what Jon was proposing. Without wasting another moment, he turned to his men and barked out the orders in Dothraki. As they moved towards the horses, Jon turned back to the Unsullied defensive line, which was already repelling the first wave of Ironborn attackers.

Jon sprinted over and joined Tormund in the second line of defence, anxiously waiting for any of them to breach the line. The Unsullied in front of him began struggling to hold back two of them at once so Jon gasped hold of the man’s shoulder to brace him, reached over and stabbed Longclaw through one of the Ironborn’s heads. The other fell just as quickly, with a spear in his gut.

“We can do this all night, Jon!” shouted Tormund, as he too killed another enemy. “But it won’t mean much if those ships are still there.”

“I know!” replied Jon, as he helped to brace the front line against another push from the Ironborn. “But there isn’t much we can do about it right now!”

This continued for around half an hour, with Jon and Tormund each killing another half dozen Ironborn who managed to find a small breach in the Unsullied wall, who were beginning to suffer from fatigue from fighting for so long, and the remaining on foot Dothraki repelling a few feeble attempted flanking manoeuvres from the dwindling Ironborn forces. Jon too could feel the sudden tiredness beginning to creep into him. While it seemed like next to no time had passed since he had left the keep, he was well aware that he had probably been running and fighting for a couple of hours at this point.

Jon gritted his teeth and determinedly pushed his exhaustion away, adamant that he would continue to fight until the life left his body for the second time.

As Jon thrust Longclaw through yet another foe, a dragon’s screech filled the air, drawing every eye to it. Jon looked up to see the black shadow fly over them as it headed towards the twin Lannister galleys that was piling the pressure on them. As it flew over their heads, the glow from the torches illuminated the dragon’s dark green scales.

Rhaegal!” Jon breathed in amazement, grinning despite his tiredness.

All eyes, even those of the Ironborn, turned to watch as Rhaegal dived down on the Lannister galleys, unleashing a vast plume of flame that set one of their sails alight at once. He quickly went to work on burning them both to cinders.

Seizing control of the distraction, and all traces of his tiredness pushed away, Jon turned and caught Grey Worm’s eye and nodded to him.

“Unsullied!” Jon shouted, maintaining eye contact with Grey Worm, who translated his words in Valyrian. “Move away!”

As soon as the command was given, the Unsullied wall split into two, moving away to leave enough from for four horses abreast. The Ironborn attackers, whose attention had been fixed on Rhaegal’s torching of their ships, turned at the move and stood staring dumbly in shock.

“Barbarro!” Jon roared, as he turned to the Dothraki riders. “Charge now!”

With a great thundering of hooves, and screaming of the riders, Barbarro led his men straight at the attackers. The sudden cavalry charge caught the Ironborn by surprise, with dozens falling immediately. Several horses stumbled on the way down the hill and fell, crushing several more attackers.

“Reform the wall!” Jon shouted.

As the Unsullied moved back into position, Jon looked down the hill and felt a relieved laugh fall from him. The Dothraki charge had been devastating to the remaining Ironborn attackers. Over half had been killed in the initial charge, either by blades or trampling from the horses’ hooves. The remaining were desperately trying to put up a fight against the mounted Dothraki, despite being at a disadvantage.

Hearing another loud screech from Rhaegal, Jon looked up to see him flying off to re-join the main battle, leaving several burning wreckages in the water in front of them. As he muttered almost silent thanks to the dragon, Jon felt an urgent hand clamp onto his shoulder.

“Snow!” said Grey Worm. “Look!”

Jon turned, following the man’s gesture and saw a small group of men, around twenty or so, that had broken from the battle on the southern coast and were racing towards the keep. Even from this distance, they were clearly not Unsullied or Dothraki.

“Shit!” exclaimed Jon.

Suddenly, a one of the Unsullied scouts shouted to them and they turned to see a contingent of men heading towards them, clearly trying to reinforce their men, not knowing that many of them had already fallen. Jon stood aghast, wondering how things could have gone from bad to worse so quickly.

“Snow!”, Grey Worm said, as he grasped his arm again. “I will take command and hold off these men. You go help Queen Daenerys.”

“What!” Jon exclaimed as he turned back to the man. “You are not going?”

As reply, Grey Worm looked down to his side. Jon followed his gaze and saw for the first time that the man was bleeding from a wound to his left side. It didn’t seem life threatening but it was hard to tell in the lack of light.

“I will not be fast enough,” he said simply. “You go. Help the men guarding Queen Daenerys’ room to protect her.

“And Missandei,” he continued, and as he said her name, his voice quivered for the first time and an almost pleading look entered his eyes.

Jon, seeing the man’s concern, nodded grimly and turned to Ghost. His wolf’s white fur was matted with blood, although thankfully none of it seemed to be his own.

“Ghost!” Jon called, causing the wolf to run to his side. “Stay with Grey Worm. Keep him safe.”

Immediately, the direwolf moved to Grey Worm’s side and sat down on his haunches. The Unsullied turned to Jon and nodded gratefully, extending his arm to Jon. Jon grasped the man’s forearm, the two men sharing a grim nod, both determined to see this through to the end.

“Tormund, with me!” Jon shouted as he raced through the camp towards the keep.

As Tormund caught up with him and the two of them sprinted across the dark ground, all traces of tiredness gone from them both, they saw that the men had already reached the keep and had disappeared inside.

I hope we are not too late, Jon prayed as they ran on.

Chapter Text

 

Tyrion

 

“Don’t die,” Daenerys said softly, to Jon and Tormund. “Either of you.”

Tyrion turned to Dany, surprised by her soft voice and the concern that was clear in her tone. While he hadn’t known her for but a few months, Tyrion knew that Dany was by no means a cold woman, completely devoid of concern for those who served under her or who she worked with, but she was also not one to outwardly show such concern, or in such a way, so soon after meeting someone.

Jon Snow, thought Tyrion with a wry smirk. You have definitely changed a few things already.

Tyrion was so absorbed by his confused thoughts that he didn’t notice Jon and Tormund leave. When he did, Tyrion felt a little guilty that he hadn’t wished his friend good fortune in the undoubtedly tough fight that he was going to join. However, this feeling soon left, being extinguished by a small rush of pride for his friend.

From what we have heard of Jon, he won’t need luck, thought Tyrion, as he turned back to the balcony.

Tyrion walked over to the balcony railing and looked out over the chaos in front of them. Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion were flying all over the Iron Fleet, raining fire down from above. Sails and masts caught alight, leaving the troops at the mercy of the choppy waves on their way to shore in their small landing ships.

And those were the lucky ones. 

Even from so far away, the screams of the burning Ironborn found their way into their ears. While Tyrion had no sympathy in their choice of leader, with nether Euron Greyjoy nor Cersei being a sovereign to boast about, he did feel sympathy for them to die in such agony.

Tyrion looked into the mass of enemy ships, and saw the golden Lannister lion sigil emblazoned on their scarlet sails. He felt a rush of bile in his throat as he thought of his sister sitting on the Iron Throne, especially after the way she had ascended to the throne by killing two members of her own family herself and indirectly killing Tommen.

For a long time, the sight of the Lannister lion had made him proud, proud to be a member of such a wealthy and prominent noble family. However, as time had passed and many more incidents began to plague him and their family as a whole, his pride at being a Lannister had begun to wane. Both Cersei and Tywin had hated him from birth, and he them in return, so he had long been used to their scorn and contempt but the aftermath of Joffrey’s death had been different. They had both been willing to see him dead despite his innocence, regardless of his father’s weak attempts to persuade him of the contrary.

But now the anger and hatred that he felt meant that now the sight of the Lannister lion only made his fingers itch, desperate to be placed around Cersei’s throat, and made him wish that the Lannister name could fade into nothing, forgotten to history.

Until he thought of Jaime.

Jaime, along with a few of his now dead uncles, had been one of the few members of the Lannister family that didn’t treat him like a stunted and malformed beast, but like his little brother. Tyrion thought back to the last time had seen his brother, in the cells of King’s Landing. Jaime had risked a great deal to see him freed from his cell although Tyrion knew in his heart that Jaime’s life had not been in danger.

No, Father would never let anything happen to Jaime, thought Tyrion harshly, as he watched a Lannister galley sink with a sense of satisfaction. He had to continue his legacy.

Struck by a sudden thought, Tyrion wondered if Jaime was leading the Lannister forces. While he couldn’t see why he would be, as Jaime was a soldier and not a sailor, the increasingly worrying news from the capital was making him concerned. The news from Varys little birds was that Cersei was growing increasingly more paranoid and only held Jaime and the new Grand Maester Qyburn to confidence. This made Tyrion wonder if she had made Jaime lead the attack himself, as her trust was very unlikely to extend to Euron Greyjoy.

He may be an ally to her now, Tyrion thought. But she isn’t always known for trusting or helping her allies. The collapse of the Lannister-Tyrell alliance is proof of that.

I hope you are not here, brother, Tyrion thought, as he looked out towards the mass of ships. I do not wish to see you fall.

Tyrion looked down to the amassing force on the southern shore. The Unsullied were forming into tight formation, no doubt spurred on by their acting commander, Black Rat, under the orders of Randyll Tarly. While growing up, Tyrion had heard stories about how his command in the Battle of Ashford had given Robert Baratheon his only loss in the Rebellion, even though many people say that the result was indecisive. Even so, his skill as a commander was renown and Tyrion felt more comfortable with him commanding the beach.

However, as Tyrion looked to his left and saw the mass of Dothraki forces that were waiting for the enemy, in no particular formation or with any discipline, a wave of worry went through him. Losing Barbarro was a huge blow, regardless of whatever comforting words that Tyrion had said to Dany. Without his leadership and ability to communicate with the other generals, the Dothraki were likely to do as they pleased in the battle, which will impede whatever strategy Tarly uses.

Barbarro, you bloodthirsty fool, thought Tyrion angrily, as he turned to look as the eastern shore.

From so far away, the battle on the eastern shore wasn’t very visible, partly due to the vast Dothraki encampment. All that could be seen is the glow from various fires that had been caused by the catapults of the Lannister galley that had joined the various longships. The sight of the Lannister ship, with its weaponry, made Tyrion feel a little worried for his friend. Jon might be very skilled with a sword, but that wouldn’t help much against catapults and ballistae.

As Tyrion turned back to the main force, he saw Dany too looking towards the eastern shore with a concerned look on her face, causing Tyrion to smirk slightly. Catching the look on his face, Dany looked down to the amassing force on the beach and removed the concerned look from her face. Tyrion continued to smirk as he followed her gaze.

“Will Lord Randyll Tarly be able to hold the beach?” Dany asked, and Tyrion could tell that she was trying to divert any of his questions.

“Well, he is one of the best commanders in Westeros, and certainly the best on the island,” replied Tyrion. “If anyone here can, it is him.”

“What has he done to inspire such confidence in his abilities?” she inquired, raising an eyebrow towards them in curiosity.

“You remember how he told you that he fought on the side of your father in Robert’s Rebellion?” said Varys, moving forward slightly.

As Dany nodded, Tyrion thought back to when the man had arrived on Dragonstone, only accompanied by his heir Dickon Tarly and a few men carrying the red huntsman sigil of their house. When he had entered the throne room, and he and his companions had bent the knee, he had explained to Dany how that while many of the noble houses of Westeros had risen up against her father in rebellion, he had remained loyal, and would continue to be loyal to House Targaryen.

“He commanded the armies of the Tyrells at the Battle of Ashford,” said Tyrion calmly. “They attacked Robert’s army and overran them, causing Robert to retreat. While many say that the result of the battle was indecisive, the fact that he had caused the Baratheon forces to retreat, particularly after the Battles of Summerhall, it was seen as a victory.”

“What happened there?” asked Missandei quietly. Tyrion looked at her and could see that she was slightly scared and was using the conversation to distract her.

“Robert Baratheon called his banners in rebellion against the Throne, but several lords refused to join him. The lords of Houses Fell, Cafferen and Grandison planned to assemble at the ruins of Summerhall and attack Storm’s End.

“However, their plan was betrayed to Robert. He marched his army to Summerhall and arrived before them all. As each of the three armies arrived, Robert surprised them. He fought three battles, against three different armies, all on the same day and won them all, defeating Lord Fell in single combat in the process.

“After the battle, Lord Fell’s son Silveraxe, along with the lords of Cafferen and Grandison, were captured and taken to Storm’s End. After some time, they joined their Houses to Robert’s cause. No one knows how he managed to convince them to join him but is it still quite an impressive feat, I would say.”

Tyrion looked at Dany out of the corner of his eye and saw her looking ahead with a stony expression on her face. Even if she was impressed by this story of Robert Baratheon, Tyrion knew that she would not acknowledge it. While she had been shown that the Starks were not the power-hungry usurpers that she had always believed them to be, Robert Baratheon would always be the ‘Usurper’ to her, the man who had sent her and her brother into exile.

A horn broke the slightly uncomfortable silence, and everyone turned to look at the battle. A single Ironborn longship had broken through the defensive line and was racing towards the shore, despite being on fire in several places due to the flaming arrows that were being rained upon it from Dany’s fleet.

Tyrion looked down and saw a lone figure on horseback in front of the small contingent of Westerosi knights, and guessed that it was Randyll Tarly. As he watched, Tarly raised his hand and a small group of archers ran forward, clearly following orders. They positioned themselves to give them the best shot at the landing party.

After what seemed like an age, the ship landed on shore and the Ironborn aboard began to pour out onto the beach. The archers fired their first volley and dozens of the enemy fell, their companions tripping and stumbling over their falling bodies. The archers fired volley after volley, with more and more men falling under the hail of arrows being fired towards them. Around twenty men survived the storm of arrows and charged towards the Unsullied lines.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tyrion saw Randyll give another order and as one the Unsullied moved forward in rigid formation. Tyrion watched as the Unsullied made short work of the undisciplined Ironborn, bashing at them with their shields to knock them backwards before finishing them with strong spear thrusts into their chests. Before long the last Ironborn fell, and the Unsullied retreated back to their original position. The whole skirmish had lasted less than five minutes and Tyrion once more was thankful that the Ironborn had not landed nearer to the Dothraki, as it would have likely lasted a lot longer.

Over the next hour or so, several more longships managed to sneak through the defensive line and headed towards the coast. The majority, like the first, landed on the shore near the Unsullied and Westerosi forces, and were similarly dealt with as swiftly despite there being a few losses, mostly from the few Ironborn archers.

However, one landed on the Dothraki section of the beach. Once the Ironborn stormed onto the shore, the Dothraki charged at them, their horses galloping over the sand. However, a few Ironborn archers let loose their arrows at the front of the charging horde, causing a few horses to stumble and trip those behind them. Dozens of horses fell, ether killing or seriously injuring their riders, Tyrion guessed, before they managed to slow.

The Ironborn archers were quickly killed by their Dothraki counterparts, and the on foot Ironborn quickly followed, unable to deal with the Dothraki’s advantage of being on horseback. Tyrion looked at the mass of horse and human corpses on the beach and saw a few Dothraki milling around it looking for survivors. It wasn’t lost on Tyrion that there were already over twice the number of Dothraki casualties after one attack than the Unsullied had suffered after repelling nearly half a dozen assaults.

As Tyrion shook his head, cursing Barbarro’s stupidity once more, he looked back at the sea battle. The Tyrell and Martell war galleys had gone ahead of Yara’s ships and were utilising their huge metal rams on their front of their ships. As Tyrion watched, a Tyrell ship rammed into the side of a longship, the force of which snapped it in half, sending planks of wood and crewmembers in all directions. Tyrion scanned the battle and saw several ships from both sides falling under the barrage of catapult and ballistae fire.

But the dragons were what caught Tyrion’s attention the most.

Thinking back to how Dany and her dragons had broken the Second Siege of Meereen, Tyrion remembered how the dragons had set the deck of the ship aflame as soon as they could. However, now they were acting differently. Once more marvelling at the intelligence that dragons were capable of, Tyrion watched the three dragons use their new tactic.

On their first fly past, Rhaegal would set the sail and mast of the ship alight, leaving the ship stranded, while Drogon and Viserion would destroy the weaponry on the deck of the ship, removing a major threat to the trio. The three would then fly away but circle back to attack once more, this time setting the deck ablaze, forcing the men to either burn alive or leap into the sea.

Tyrion appreciative smile was wiped away when he watched them attempt to do the same to a Lannister galley. While Rhaegal and Drogon managed to escape unharmed, Viserion was hit with what appeared to be ballistae spears. Viserion rocked in the air as he flapped his left wing a little weakly, as it appeared to have taken the brunt of the attack.

“Viserion!” called Dany fearfully, clutching the railing so hard her fingers went white.

A roar from both of Viserion’s siblings echoed around, as they both dived towards the ship. They lit a circle of flame around the edge of the boat’s deck, trapping all the crew within it with no escape. They then set the whole deck aflame, burning the crew alive. Tyrion watched open-mouthed at the display of what appeared to be vengeance from the dragons.

Well, thought Tyrion, as he watched Rhaegal and Drogon fly over to help Viserion stay in the air. If they are as smart as men, or even smarter, they will understand vengeance, if we do.

As they all watched, Viserion managed to right himself and began to fly a little stronger. While he was not a mobile as he had been before, it seemed like the wound from the ballistae hadn’t been as bad as first thought.

Tyrion let out a grateful sigh. He had become quite fond of the dragon, and was relieved that Viserion appeared mostly fine. Tyrion looked at Dany and saw that she was as relieved as he was and the two shared a weak smile.

The crash of wood broke caught their attention, so loud it seemed like a roll of thunder. They both snapped around to see that two Lannister galleys had smashed through the defensive line, with seven or eight Ironborn longships behind them, as they headed for the beach.

Tyrion watched on a little fearfully. The assembled forces on the beach had managed well against a few longships, especially as they came one at a time. With this many enemies storming the beach at once it would mean a full battle, which would show the chasm left without Barbarro’s command very clearly. Tyrion saw Tarly racing along the shore on his horse, accompanied by someone that Tyrion guessed was Black Rat to translate his orders, shouting his commands to the various Unsullied legions on the beach. As he rode past the assembled themselves into a wall, their shields raised to prepare for the enemy.

Tarly stopped by the Dothraki and was clearly shouting to them to form some kind of defensive line, but they could clearly not understand a word he said. Even if they did, Tyrion doubted that they would have obeyed his commands anyway. Tarly and Black Rat raced along the beach to get back to their command positions before the enemy landed.

Before the long the ships landed on the beach and hundreds of Ironborn swarmed out. However, this time Tyrion could see that they were accompanied by a few hundred fully armoured Lannister soldiers. They charged at the Unsullied lines, who managed to hold them off. The Lannister soldiers gave them more of a challenge but they too didn’t manage to breach the line.

However, while the Unsullied managed to hold off the attackers fairly well, the Dothraki were not having the same luck. While their high-risk, high-reward strategy of frequent cavalry charges was dealing heavy blows to the enemy, they too were losing a lot of men. The Dothraki who were fighting on foot were not having the same successes as those on horseback. While they managed to put up a decent fight against the Ironborn, with their negligible amounts of armour, they were finding themselves completely outmatched against the Lannister knights.

The battles raged on for a couple of hours, with the battles on sea and land being equally fierce. No one spoke as they watched dozens of ships being sunk, with both sides losing their share, as well as countless men on the beach falling in battle. The dragons were still diving around burning the enemy fleet, although they were all warier after Viserion’s injury. As Tyrion watched a Lannister galley sink, after being weakened by Viserion’s flame and then rammed by a Martell galley, Rhaegal broke off from the battle and flew over to the eastern shore.

Tyrion watched Rhaegal leave, completely bewildered, and shared a look with Dany, who was equally confused by Rhaegal’s actions. They all watched as Rhaegal swooped over to begin burning the ships that were attacking the eastern shore, which had now been joined by a second Lannister galley. Tyrion saw that the glow from the various fires had grown larger, meaning that there had been a lot of bombardment of the beach.

“I hope Grey Worm will be all right,” said Missandei quietly, who looked surprised that she had spoken aloud when everyone turned to her.

Dany leaned over and put a comforting arm around her friend.

“Grey Worm will be fine, Missandei,” she said soothingly.

“Quite right, my lady,” said Tyrion bracingly, giving her a warm smile. “Grey Worm is a very skilled fighter, and is accompanied by Jon, Tormund, Ghost and now Rhaegal. He will be fine.”

Missandei retuned his smile and looked comforted by their words. Tyrion turned once more to watch Rhaegal relieve the pressure on the eastern battle, and felt his smile fade.

Despite his words to Missandei, he too was a little worried about the outcome of the battle. While the two sides had roughly the same number of men, the Lannister galleys with their weaponry put their friends at a massive disadvantage and, while Rhaegal was now stripping away that advantage, the battle had been raging for a few hours now with an unknown number of casualties.

Tyrion felt Dany stand alongside him and turned to her, and saw the look of concern on her face once more.

“Do you think Grey Worm, Jon and the others will be all right” she asked quietly, clearly trying to damage Missandei’s spirts any further.

“Have you grown so attached to our Northern friend so quickly, Your Grace?” Tyrion jested half-heartedly, trying to ease the tension slightly.

Dany shook her head in exasperation at his ill-timed jest, before turning to him with a determined look on her face.

“We had just agreed to an alliance when Euron attacked,” she said quietly. “And his bannermen in the North do not know that, so I don’t think that they would honour the agreement we had made if Jon died fighting here, do you?

“No, Your Grace,” Tyrion said, shaking his head slightly. “I doubt they would.”

They continued to watch as Rhaegal set the ships aflame, trying desperately to get any little glimpse of the battle, despite the encampment frustratingly blocking their view. When Rhaegal had completely destroyed the enemy ships plaguing the eastern shore, he flew back to join his siblings in the main battle. Tyrion and Dany too turned their attention back to the vast battle that was unfolding beneath them, but Tyrion saw that Missandei continued to look towards the eastern battle, where Grey Worm was.

As they watched, the battle seemed to be tipping in their favour.

There were far more of Euron’s ships on fire and sinking than Yara’s, with the dragons clearly being an advantage despite their wariness of getting too close to the enemy ships after Viserion’s injury. Tyrion looked to Dany and saw that she was looking a little more pleased.

“The battle appears to be going our way,” she said warily, as though by saying the words the battle would suddenly shift against them.

“It would seem so, my Queen,” replied Pylos, causing Tyrion to jump slightly. The maester had spent much of the battle sitting at the Painted Table, writing various letters as a way to distract himself from the chaos outside.

As Tyrion watched another Lannister galley sink beneath the waves, he couldn’t help but agree. There were countless smoking wreckages where the Iron Fleet had been but far fewer on their side. Tyrion couldn’t stop a smirk from crossing his face.

At that moment, there was a shout from the hallway outside, followed by the clash of blades.

All eyes turned to the door, as the sound of fighting grew, with multiple voices hurling insults at the Unsullied and several others screaming in pain. After a moment, the sounds outside the door died away, with the last thing they heard being what sounded like a spear falling to the ground. Tyrion shared a worried look with Varys, neither knowing what to expect.

The doors opened and eight Ironborn walked in, all covered in blood and gore with wild looks in the eyes. They were all carrying either axes or swords, all dripping with the blood of the Unsullied guardsmen. Tyrion looked past them and saw multiple more Ironborn lying dead among the Unsullied.

They must have caught the Unsullied outside by surprise, thought Tyrion, as he turned to look at the survivors. That is the only way these men could have survived. But they still took their own losses.

Tyrion looked at the faces of the Ironborn. The majority of them were bearded, which were all tangled with salt and blood, but there was not a face that didn’t have at least one scar. Tyrion saw several that have gashes across their forehead or cheeks from small blades.

But it was the scars that the man at the front of the group had that turned Tyrion’s stomach.

Someone had clearly put a blade into the man’s mouth and slit open his cheeks, all the way from the corners of his mouth to his ears, giving him a permanent, grotesque smile.

He was a tall man with long and tangled grey hair and beard, that was parted along his scars, and one of his eyes was milky white with another jagged scar running across it, while the other was small, beady and almost black. When the man smiled evilly at them, he displayed his rows of brown, decaying teeth, and stretched his scars even further, making him look even more menacing.

“So, you are the Dragon Queen?” he rasped, his voice so hoarse that it was hard to understand what he said. “You are just a beautiful as the tales say.”

He smiled even wider, as his men chuckled menacingly at his words. Tyrion saw Dany stiffen slightly at his words as she continued to stare defiantly at him, a look of rage on her face.

“And, so is your friend,” the man continued as he turned his beady gaze to Missandei and theatrically licked his lips. “We are going to have such fun with you two.”

The threatening tone of his voice conveyed his threat very clearly, so much so that Tyrion felt a chill go down his spine. Out of the corner of his eye, Tyrion saw Dany step protectively in front of Missandei, not lowering her defiant stare from the Ironborn, rage and revulsion etched onto her face.

Tyrion grasped at the handle of the small dagger that he had in his belt, unsure how much he could actually help but determined to try. Tyrion turned to Varys and Pylos and saw that both men looked quite scared, knowing that neither of them would be able to put up much of a fight against eight armed men.

Suddenly, Dany started laughing. Tyrion looked at her and didn’t detect a hint of mirth on her face. All he could see was anger and, bizarrely, relief.

“And I am going to enjoy watching you all die,” she said, continuing to smile a little.

There was a beat of silence before the Ironborn all began to laugh at her words. However, their amusement at her words didn’t diminish her confidence. If anything, Dany began to smile a little more broadly, except that now Missandei and Pylos also started to look relieved as they looked towards the doorway. Tyrion tried to follow their gaze but his view was obstructed by the group of Ironborn.

“Really?” the grey-haired man snarled, his scars stretching even further. “And how is that going to-”

At that moment, a sword burst through the back of the man’s head and out of his mouth, sending several of his teeth flying across the room, causing blood to dribble out of his mouth as the man died. The man fell forward as the sword was withdrawn and Tyrion saw that it had been Jon who had killed him.

Jon pressed his advantage and began to attack the Ironborn, quickly followed by Tormund. Tyrion backed away slightly with the others as he watched Jon and Tormund fight their enemies and found himself admiring the two men’s differing fighting styles.

Jon was more calculated and skilled in his fighting, parrying and countering at just the right moment, his skill no doubt honed during his years at Winterfell and the Wall. Whereas Tormund used his brute strength and power to deliver a flurry of rapid strikes that forced the enemy to back away and make a mistake that would prove fatal for them, as Tormund would then deliver the killing blow.

As Tyrion watched, the two men began to cut down the group of Ironborn, their skill clearly outmatching their foes. However, Tyrion was brought from his reverie when an Ironborn broke from the melee and ran towards them, his blood-soaked axe raised above his head as he yelled a war cry. Tyrion once more fumbled for the dagger at his belt as he heard a small scream come from Missandei.

Suddenly the man cried out as he fell to his knees, revealing Jon standing behind him. Tyrion quickly guessed that Jon must have slashed across the back of the man’s knees to force him down. Jon raised Longclaw above his head and brought it down onto the top of the man’s head, cleaving his skull into two, right down to the bridge of the man’s nose. Jon withdrew his blade, and the dead Ironborn slumped to the floor.

Jon stood looking at them, breathing heavily. His hair had come loose from its binding, blowing around his face. The whole left side of his face was covered by blood soaked sand, which had long since dried into a gritty, red paste. The rest of his face and his armour were covered in blood and gore, as well as it dripping from his blade.

Tyrion recognised the intense, focused look on his face. He had seen it during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, when the men around him had been so fixated on fighting that they didn’t really take in all that was happening around them, so focused were they on keeping themselves alive and making sure that their enemy was dead.

As Tyrion stood staring, he felt Dany take a step forward and turned to look at her. She was looking at Jon in amazement, with her relief at his survival clear to see. Tyrion saw Jon turn to look at her and his determined look softened slightly at the sight of her.

A cry from behind Jon caught everyone’s attention.

They all looked in time to see Tormund fall to the ground after receiving a slash to the face from the sole remaining Ironborn. The Wildling hit the ground heavily, his sword spinning away across the floor, leaving a stunned silence in its wake.

With a cry of rage, Jon raced across the room towards the offending Ironborn, who raised his blade in preparation. As Jon reached him, the man swung his blade towards Jon’s head, causing Jon to duck under the swing and slash open his gut. The Ironborn fell to his knees, his hand scrambling at his stomach, trying to keep his guts inside his body. Jon straightened up, took hold of Longclaw with both hands and, with a powerful swing, decapitated the man, sending his head rolling across the floor and under the Painted Table.

Tyrion watched helplessly as Jon dropped his blade with a clatter and turned to examine his friend. As Tyrion hurried forward, he heard Dany urging Pylos to tend to Tormund.

“Tormund?” Jon said loudly, as Tyrion stopped behind him. “Can you hear me?”

Tyrion looked over Jon’s shoulder and saw that the left side of the Wildling’s face was covered in blood, with a long, deep gash along the length of his face, his ear split in half. As Pylos approached, Tyrion grasped hold of Jon’s shoulder firmly.

“Let Pylos work, Jon,” Tyrion said. “Let him help.”

Jon stood up and grabbed his sword, moving away to allow Pylos to examine Tormund.

“I need my herbs and medicines from my quarters,” Pylos said, as he turned Tormund’s’ head slightly, examining the wound. “He should live but there will be heavy scarring to his face.”

“I will get your herbs,” said Missandei, as she hurried from the room.

Silence fell in the room, as Tyrion watched Jon stagger to the nearest chair and slump into it, moving like he hadn’t slept in a week.

“Well, Your Grace,” said Vary, as he looked over the dead Ironborn and laying eyes on the decapitated man who injured Tormund. “I can see why you have received your reputation as the best swordsman in the North.”

As Tyrion followed Varys’ gaze, he couldn’t help but agree. While Jon might not be as skilled as other fighters such as Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, or even his brother Jaime, when he still had his sword hand, he was still an extremely formidable swordsman.

“What happened, Jon?” Dany asked softly, as she moved to stand next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, seemingly oblivious to the blood-soaked sand that covered him.

“We managed to hold the beach,” Jon replied, still breathing heavily. “But we suffered a lot of casualties, mostly the Dothraki.”

“Let me guess,” said Dany sharply, as she straightened up. “Barbarro?”

“When I arrived the Dothraki and Unsullied were in a melee with the Ironborn on the beach when they could have defended from the high ground of the hill,” said Jon. “From the little I know about Grey Worm, he doesn’t seem like the type of man to give up the tactical advantage simply to engage the enemy.”

Tyrion nodded, knowing that Jon’s words were likely true. While the Dothraki were formidable fighters, especially while on horseback, there were proving very ineffectual at following commands.

“Is Grey Worm alive?” asked Missandei from the doorway. Tyrion turned to see her standing there, carrying a small bundle of herbs and ointments, with a concerned look on her face.

“He is injured, but alive,” replied Jon, as he turned towards her with a sympathetic look on his face. “As we left a group of Ironborn broke off from the main battle to reinforce their allies facing us. Grey Worm stayed behind to hold the hill. He has Ghost with him, as well as Barbarro and the remaining forces. He will be fine, Missandei.”

She nodded slightly as she walked towards Pylos, still looking worried despite Jon’s words.

Tyrion watched as Pylos began cleaning and sealing the gaping wound to the side of Tormund’s face, with various foul smelling ointments and potions tainting the air.

Suddenly a horn grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Reinforcements!” came faint cry from below them.

Tyrion rushed to the balcony alongside Dany, Varys and Jon. They looked out towards the south, expecting more to be sailing this way, and saw no ships. Tyrion then instinctively looked towards Blackwater Bay, expecting more Lannister sails from King’s Landing, but there were none there either. Almost disbelieving, Tyrion turned his gaze east and saw around thirty ships heading towards the battle.

He shared a confused look with Jon before returning his attention to the approaching force. As they grew closer, it was clear to see that they were all flying the kraken sigil of House Greyjoy, which only confused Tyrion further.

Greyjoys? From the east? Tyrion thought as he watched the ships come closer. Has Yara had some ships that she has not told us about? Or has Euron sent some his men on a very long detour to allow for this flanking manoeuvre.

“Drogon!” called Dany loudly, breaking Tyrion’s concentration.

Drogon was helping Rhaegal set a longship alight but, at Daenerys’ call, he turned and made his way towards her. Tyrion was constantly amazed at the bond that the two of them shared. Drogon couldn’t have heard Dany’s voice, due to the distance between them and the noise of the battle, but he had made his way towards her as if he had been standing next to her.

He came to a halt at the balcony and hovered next to them to allow Dany to climb onto his scaly and spiked back.

“Daenerys!” Jon called, as she prepared to leave. “Make sure that you don’t die either.”

Tyrion looked towards Dany and was amused to see that her stony expression softened slightly at Jon’s words, before she and Drogon flew off to engage the Ironborn threat. They watched them go for a moment before Jon spoke.

“I’m going to help Grey Worm hold the beach,” he said as he turned to leave the room, bidding Pylos to take care of Tormund as he passed him.

“Jon!” called Tyrion, as Jon reached the door, causing him to turn back. “Be safe, my friend.”

Jon nodded back at him before departing. Tyrion turned his eyes back towards Drogon and his rider as they flew towards this new fleet of Greyjoys, causing Tyron to wonder.

Who are they?

Chapter Text

 

Daenerys

 

Dany and Drogon flew towards the oncoming ships, the wind whipping around her, blowing her hair all around her face. Dany held on tightly with her knees, with Drogon’s armour-like scales unyielding against the pressure. Over the few times that Dany had ridden Drogon she had worked out the best place to sit while on his neck, so that she had good visibility but also avoided the various spikes that lined his back.

As Drogon dipped slightly, Dany redoubled her grip to stop her sliding down his scaly neck. Turning her head to either sides, Dany saw that Rhaegal and Viserion had joined them, falling behind them to follow their lead.

Dany looked down and saw thirty ships heading towards the battle. They were all longships and were flying the kraken sigil of House Greyjoy. At the head of this small fleet was another longship, larger than the others with a large ram on the front.

Suddenly Drogon stopped diving, coming to a halt in mid-air and began to hover, allowing Dany to get a better look at the oncoming ships, in particular its flagship. Dany could just about see the name emblazoned on the hull of the ship.

Iron Victory.

Dany’s eyes found its way to the deck and saw all members of the crew looking up at her and she could see, even from the distance between them, that they were completely amazed by the sight of her dragons.

However, Dany’s attention was grabbed by one member of the crew.

In the middle of the deck stood a tall, powerful man in full plate armour, complete with a kraken shaped helm. As Dany watched, the man was shouting orders to the surrounding men, who all scurried around in their haste to obey him.

He must be their commander, Dany observed, as she continued to stare at the man. But who is he?

As Dany watched the man turned to her. With the helm covering his face, Dany couldn’t determine his expression at the sight of the dragons. However, Dany could sense the confidence in the man’s stance, completely at ease on the deck of his ship despite the choppiness of the waves.

After looking at her for a moment, the man turned back and raised his arm, revealing a large axe in his hand, raising it towards Euron’s fleet, giving a clear signal to attack.

As Dany watched, the Iron Victory turned towards the dwindling numbers of Euron Greyjoy’s fleet and moved towards them, their crews preparing for battle. Dany was completely amazed, not only by the sudden arrival of these ships, but also that they seemed to share their enemy.

Dany leaned down as close as she could to Drogon and called in Valyrian.

Leave these be,” she said, feeling Drogon react to her words as he twisted his neck towards her. “They appear to be our allies. Attack the other ships.”

Drogon turned immediately at her words and began to fly towards the remaining number of Euron’s Ironborn ships. Dany clung onto Drogon’s back tightly as the wind continued to blow around her, chilling her skin.

Drogon dived towards one of the remaining longships and unleashed a vast plume of flame that destroyed several catapults. It also ignited the burning oil that was used to light the catapult projectiles, making the casket explode. A wave of heat washed over Dany as the flames took hold, the deck rapidly burning. Dany watched as the crew rapidly scuttled towards the sides of the ship, desperately trying to escape the spreading flames.

Dany looked down and saw that there was only one Lannister galley remaining, the rest either smouldering wrecks or in the process of sinking. Dany saw the men aboard turning their weaponry to aim them at the oncoming ships. Even though the identity of these new arrivals were still a mystery to her, Dany wasn’t going to turn away a potential ally.

Destroy the weapons,” Dany called, holding on tightly once more as Drogon swooped down to follow her command, quickly followed by his siblings.

As they dived, Dany saw that her dragons moved to follow the same strategy that she had seen from the keep, with Rhaegal destroying the mast while Drogon and Viserion had destroyed the weaponry. Seeing it from so far way had filled her with wonder and pride at the intelligence of her children, but seeing it so close made these emotions grow even further, making her smile despite her surroundings.

Dany was brought from her musings when she saw that one of the enemy ballistae hadn’t yet been fully turned and was aimed directly at Drogon, the men preparing to fire.

Drogon! Move!” she yelled desperately.

Drogon rolled to his right, causing Dany to hold on even tighter as she slipped and slid on his scaly back, desperately trying to not fall. There was a whistling sound as the ballistae spears flew past them, barely missing Drogon’s wing. Dany was relieved that Drogon remained unhurt from the spears, as she had seen Viserion being injured by a similar weapon and, while he had quickly recovered, she had been petrified at the time that he had been seriously wounded.

However, as Drogon stopped rolling and began to hover in the air above the Lannister ship, there was the sound of a catapult firing and Dany raised her head just in time to see the flaming ball hit Rhaegal squarely in his belly, causing him to rock in the air.

“Rhaegal!” Dany called fearfully, praying that he was not badly hurt.

Her prayers seemed to be answered as, once Rhaegal righted himself, he didn’t seem to be too injured. Dany guessed that the armour-like scales that covered him had blunted the worst of the attack and she doubted that fire itself would harm her children. These comforting thoughts did nothing, however, to calm the raging anger that had brimmed up within her at the sight of Rhaegal being injured.

Dracarys!” Dany called as loudly as she could, making sure her voice carried to all three of her dragons.

It did.

All three dragons immediately expelled long jets of fire, engulfing everyone on board the ship. In a matter of second every person of board was writhing in agony, their screams of pain filling Dany’s ears.

Hearing these men burn to death cooled Dany’s fury, and replaced it with a sense of sickening worry as Jon Snow’s voice thundered through her mind.

“Your father then claimed that the champion of House Targaryen was fire”

Is this what they sounded like? Dany wondered, as she watched the Lannister men burn. Rickard and Brandon Stark, when my father murdered them? Or any of my father’s victims.

While Dany knew at the back of mind that these men were her enemies and would gladly see her dead, that this was a battle and that people would undoubtedly die, that she was misreading her anger as a sign of madness, she couldn’t dispel the worry that swelled within her.

Is this what my father felt when he did all those terrible things? Dany pondered, unable to stop herself. Did he feel this rage at his enemies? Or did he do it for pleasure? Or simply because he could?

Despite being adamant that she wouldn’t become like her father, Jon Snow’s tale had caused her to worry once more. Dany had heard many tales about the Targaryen madness, and had now learned that her father had suffered from it. Her whole life she had assumed that Viserys too had been mad, from his constant abuse of her as well as his incredibly short temper. After all, how many times had she ‘woken the dragon?’

But what if it wasn’t him that had inherited the trait from their father.

What if…

Dany shook her head firmly, desperately trying to not let her recurring worry take hold of her, now of all times.

Stop, you need to stay focused, she thought, as returned her thoughts to the battle.

Dany looked down and saw that the kraken-helmed man had rammed the Iron Victory into one of the largest remaining longships and was personally leading a boarding party. He was not hard to spot, not just because of the fact that he was the only man there wearing full plate armour, but also with the skill and ferocity of his fighting. Dany saw that he was armed with his axe in one hand with a large, round shield in the other, which too was emblazoned with the Greyjoy kraken.

As Dany watched, an Ironborn charged at him, swinging their axe down towards him. The man raised his shield to block the blow, while at the same time embedding his axe into his attacker’s knee. As the Ironborn screamed in pain, the kraken-helmed man withdrew his axe from his enemy’s knee, while at the same time bashing his foe in the face with the rim of his shield, causing him to reel backwards, before raising his axe once more and smashing it into the Ironborn’s face. Dany watched in shock at the ferocity of the man’s fighting as he turned, leaving his axe in the face of his first enemy, and grabbed another man by the throat before pushing him overboard.

Dany wrenched her eyes away from the battle, becoming very aware that Drogon was a very easy target while hanging in the air as he was.

Let’s go, Drogon,” Dany said, leaning down to speak to him. “There!”

Drogon turned and flew where she had directed him, towards three longships all huddled together. Viserion and Rhaegal suddenly flew out in front of them and began to attack the two ships at the front, that were clearly protecting the larger ship behind them. Dany was initially confused by Viserion and Rhaegal’s enthusiasm, especially as they both had been injured during this battle. However, as Dany grew closer she saw that there wasn’t any weaponry on these ships.

They are just troop ships, Dany thought.

Drogon rose over the top of the masts of the ships and began to head towards the third ship. As he lowered himself and coiled his neck back, which Dany recognised as him preparing his flame, Dany saw the men throwing down their weapons and gesturing to her their surrender.

Drogon! No!” Dany yelled, leaning forward and placing her hands flat on his neck. “They have surrendered!”

Dany watched as Drogon turned his head sharply to the right and sent his flame along the hull of the ship that Rhaegal was attacking. Dany swivelled around to look at the ships that were currently burning under the onslaught of Viserion and Rhaegal’s attacks and wondered, with a jolt of panic, if the men there had surrendered too. As Dany heard the men die, screaming in agony as they burned, she hoped not.

Dany turned back to the ship and saw that they were beginning to signal their surrender to all remaining ships, friend or foe. Dany looked around and saw that the remaining ships of Euron’s fleet were following their lead, laying down their arms and surrendering. A great cheer rose up from Dany’s fleet and the vast numbers of soldiers on the island beyond it, causing Dany to smile slightly, despite the carnage around her and the acrid smell of burning flesh filling her nose.

They had won.

Dany directed Drogon to the nearest of Yara’s ships, hoping that the woman herself would be there, alive and unharmed. However, Yara was nowhere to be seen when Drogon came to a halt next to the ship.

After scanning the deck for Yara, Dany addressed the crew.

“Who is your captain?” she called, and after a moment saw an Ironborn step forward. “I want you to pass on my orders to the rest of the fleet.

“The remaining members of Euron’s fleet are to be imprisoned and their ships seized. They are not to be harmed without my command.

“Then,” she continued, as she pointed to the Iron Victory and its small fleet. “Find out who they are. They seem to be sided with us but we need to be sure. If they are, send their commander to me. If not, send a signal and I will send my dragons to deal with them.”

After the man nodded his understanding, Dany directed Drogon to land on the beach. As they grew closer, she could see the debris of battle. There were dozens of small fires burning on the brush that lined the edge of the beach, with countless corpses, both human and horse, lying in the now red sand. Dany saw hundreds of thin rivers of blood snaking their way through the sand, down the slight incline towards the waves, staining the water red.

Drogon landed with a dull thud, followed by two more from behind them. Dany slid from his back and stroked along his neck, causing him to turn his head towards her and fix her with a stare from his red eyes.

Thank you,” Dany said, as she smiled gratefully towards him.

Drogon gave a low growl in acknowledgement and lowered his head to allow Dany to pet his head, which she did. After a moment, Dany left Drogon to examine her other two, more injured, dragons.

Rhaegal seemed to be mostly fine. The blow from the catapult didn’t seem to leave any permanent damage but Dany was still a little worried about him.

Viserion, on the other hand, was another matter. As Dany grew closer, she could see that there were two holes in his wing, that were leaking blood onto the sand. As she reached to check on his wing, he pulled it way from her, hissing slightly. Dany looked at him and could tell it was more from the pain of it than anger at her.

Don’t worry,” Dany said soothingly, as she stroked his snout. “I will get a healer, to stop the pain.

Viserion made a low noise in his throat, and rested his head on his front leg. Dany turned and saw an Unsullied making his way towards her.

My Queen,” he said in Valyrian, as he went down on one knee when he reached her. “Are you hurt?

No, I am fine,” Dany said dismissively, still worried about Viserion’s injury. “I need you to find a maester. My dragon is injured and needs help.

The Unsullied nodded and raced off and Dany turned back to Viserion.

“Your Grace,” came a gruff voice from behind her.

Dany turned back and recognised Randyll Tarly. He stood in front of her, clearly looking exhausted from several long hours of fighting, while spattered in blood, sand and sweat.

“Lord Tarly,” replied Dany, bowing her head respectfully. “You did an impressive job in holding the beach from Euron’s forces.”

“Yes, my Queen,” he replied, his stony expression not softening in the slightest at the praise. “And it would have been easier if those Dothraki had followed my orders.”

“The majority of them do not speak the Common Tongue, my lord,” Dany responded, a little defensively. “Their commander, Barbarro, left them to aid Grey Worm with the attack at the eastern beach.”

“Fool!” the man growled lowly, casting a scathing look over to where the Dothraki were gathered, no doubt with their commander among them. “And from what I hear he merely impeded the beach’s defence. I hear that Grey Worm and the Northern king only just managed to hold it, with their leadership.”

“I will be having words with Barbarro. Have no doubt about that, my lord.”

Before the lord could anything more than nod in response, a small team of healers, led by Pylos, bustled over to tend to Viserion. He was initially not trusting of them but he quickly allowed them to approach him when he realised what they were trying to do.

After cleaning the puncture wounds, they then stitched them shut and bandaged them, before promising that his wing should heal quickly, with no loss in his flight or mobility in the air. However, they said that this is only what should happen, as they have next to no experience in healing dragons.

As Pylos left, muttering something about checking on Tormund, Dany turned back to Viserion and saw that he had settled himself down on the sand next to Drogon, both of them clearly tired from all their actions during the battle.

Dany turned towards Rhaegal just in time to see him raise himself up from the sand and begin walking towards an oncoming group. Dany followed his path and saw, with a smile, that Jon was at the front of the group, alongside Tyrion, Varys and Missandei.

Rhaegal reached Jon not too far from where Dany stood, so she could hear the greeting that the Northern king gave her dragon, patting his snout with a wide smile on his face. Jon turned to Dany and his smile grew slightly, causing Dany to feel a wave of relief, that she didn’t really understand, that Jon had once more survived the battle but also that he didn’t seem to be very injured.

Dany thought back to when Jon had come to their rescue in the keep and remembering the similar feeling of relief that she had felt when she had seen him, at both his survival and his timely arrival, and how he and Tormund had raced into the room and had dispatched the remaining Ironborn. Dany had marvelled at Jon’s skill while fighting, as he had personally killed over half of the men in the room.

Dany felt a great rush of gratitude towards Jon, not only for saving her and her friends from the Ironborn, but also for his bravery and loyalty, that he would be so willing to take up arms to fight alongside her so soon after meeting her, when, as a king, he didn’t really have a need to. He could simply have ordered his men to fight in his place and stayed where it was safe.

But he had not.

“Queen Daenerys,” Jon said as he reached her, bowing his head respectfully.

“King Jon,” Dany replied, fully aware that this was the first time that she had called him that, and one of the few times where she had acknowledged him as a King.

After what he did today, Dany thought, as she smirked slightly at Jon’s bemused reaction to her words. He deserves to be seen as such.

“How is Grey Worm?” Dany asked, looking between Jon and Missandei. “Are his injuries serious?”

“Not too bad,” Jon replied, looking towards Missandei. “Maester Pylos says that he will be fine after a few days’ rest. He lost a lot of blood, but should be fine.”

Dany shared a look with Missandei, who was looking happier than she had in days. Dany knew that Grey Worm and Missandei meant a great deal to each other, and so was glad that her two friends were both safe after the battle.

“And how is Tormund?” Dany asked kindly, meeting Jon’s eye.

“He should be fine too,” replied Jon, his face becoming grave. “However, he took a bad hit. He is lucky that he didn’t lose his ear, and will only have a scar to show for it.”

“I’m glad,” Dany said softly, smiling at Jon, who returned the gesture.

“So, you are the King in the North?” Randyll Tarly asked gruffly, as he took a step forward and looked Jon up and down, clearly appraising him. “I only met your father a few times, but even I can see you look a lot like him.”

Jon nodded slightly in gratitude but, as he looked at the sigil on the front of Tarly’s armour and seemingly recognised the red huntsman of House Tarly, his face become a stony mask of distaste and anger. Dany became slightly worried, remembering how Tyrion had warned her that there could be some bad blood between the two of them, for reasons unknown to Tyrion.

“I hear that you helped Grey Worm hold the eastern beach, despite that Dothraki general’s best efforts in preventing a good defence,” the man continued, now nodding slightly in appreciation. “The beach might have been lost if it wasn’t for your and Grey Worm’s leadership. An impressive feat, my lord.”

At this Randyll Tarly extended his hand to Jon for him to shake, but Jon looked at it as though Tarly was presenting him with a dead animal. After a tense moment, in which Dany shared a concerned look with Tyrion, who was watching Jon’s actions with apprehension, Jon reached out and shook Tarly’s hand, in what seemed to be an unnecessarily tight grip.

“Thank you, Lord Tarly,” said Jon, his voice quivering slightly in suppressed anger. “It is a shame that you couldn’t find reason to praise your eldest son in such high esteem.”

Tarly jolted in surprise at Jon’s words, staring at him as though he couldn’t believe his ears, before his face contorted in anger. Dany watched as Tarly too tightened his grip on Jon’s hand.

“And how do you know what I might have said to my son?” Tarly snarled.

“Because he is my friend!” Jon growled, leaning forward slightly, not trying to mask his fury now. “If it wasn’t for Sam, I wouldn’t be here.”

There was a collective murmur of surprise and interest at Jon’s words, but he didn’t seem to register it. His gaze was firmly locked onto Randyll Tarly, who was matching his furious glare with one of his own.

“When my brother Robb called the banners and marched to war, I attempted to desert the Night’s Watch, to avenge my father’s death. Sam was one of my brothers who went after me, in the dead of night, and brought me back. If he hadn’t, I would have been executed as a deserter. Sam showed a tremendous amount of courage and honour that night. A trait he clearly hasn’t picked up from his father.

“Sam told me,” Jon continued, raising his voice over Tarly’s attempted interruption, “about how you made him join the Night’s Watch. You threatened to kill him if he didn’t, and tell everyone that it was hunting accident.”

Dany’s eyes widened in shock, a feeling that was clearly shared by Tyrion and Missandei, who both made noises of indignation and shock. Dany looked at Tarly, who hadn’t lowered his furious stare from Jon, looking defiant.

“My son,” the man snarled, leaning towards Jon slightly, who, Dany was impressed to see, didn’t back down from Tarly, “is a weak, pathetic, wildling-fucking coward, who doesn’t deserve to be at the heir to my House.”

“No,” Jon countered, continuing to hold his ground. “Sam might not be the greatest warrior, or even very brave most of the time, but he is a better man than you could ever hope to be.”

At Jon’s words, Tarly’s face contorted with rage once more, and Dany stepped forward to try to defuse the tension, before it escalated too far.

“Jon,” Dany said firmly, as she placed a hand on his arm. “We have just won a battle against our enemies, let’s not start a fight with our allies so soon after.”

Jon turned towards her and met her eyes with his own, and she saw his anger slowly disappear. He nodded and relinquished his tight grip on Randyll Tarly’s hand, before turning around to join Tyrion and the others.

“Lord Tarly,” Dany said sternly, any trace of the warmth she had shown Jon now gone from her voice. If what Jon had said was true, then Dany was disgusted that this man would consider hurting, or even killing, his son because he was disappointed in him. “I would like you to check on the casualties. Find out the number of our losses.”

Tarly nodded at her words and, after throwing another scornful look towards Jon, turned and began to walk away.

“Lord Tarly!” came Jon’s voice from behind Dany, causing her heart to sink. However, when she turned around, Dany saw that Jon hadn’t moved, and he didn’t appear to be angry again. “Did Sam and Gilly tell you how he killed a White Walker?”

“Yes,” the man replied, not even bothering to turn around. “I suppose it was that Wildling whore who told him to tell such ridiculous lies.”

To Dany’s surprise, Jon didn’t grow angry at Tarly’s words. In fact, he smirked slightly.

“It is not a lie,” he said, causing Tarly to snap his head around, looking shocked. “He did.”

Tarly’s angry look faded at this declaration, to be replaced by one of shock, as he stared at Jon for a moment, looking for any sign of deceit. After a moment, the man snorted disbelievingly and left, although Dany could see a little hesitancy on his face, as though he was not entirely convinced that Jon was lying.

“Well,” said Tyrion slowly, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen between them. “Apart from Lord Tarly’s pride, it would appear that we have all made it through this unscathed.

“Some more than others,” came a scornful voice from behind them.

Dany turned to see Yara walking towards them, and felt a surge of happiness at her survival. Yara was blood spattered and soaked through, her wet hair clinging to her face. Dany saw a large gash in her left cheek and another, smaller one above her right eye, but other than that she appeared to be unharmed.

However, Dany’s happiness disappeared when she saw the look of anguish on her friend’s face. Surprised at it, Dany looked past her to see four more Ironborn behind her, carrying what seemed to be a large piece of a ship’s hull between them. As they came closer, Dany let out a shocked gasp when she saw what was on it.

Theon.

When they placed him down, Dany saw that the man had a large gaping wound in his chest. His eyes were still wide open and had a glassy look to them. Dany turned to Yara and saw that she was looking down at her brother, clearly trying desperately to not break down. Dany went over to her and placed a comforting arm around her.

“He died for me,” Yara croaked, her emotion nearly overflowing. “I wasn’t paying attention to behind me. He jumped in the way of an axe that was meant for me.”

Yara pursed her lips together, trying to stop a sob from escaping. Dany held on tighter with her arm, and gave her a reassuringly squeeze. Yara stood there for a moment, choking back her grief, and Dany looked around at those assembled around Theon’s body. They were all looking at Yara with sympathy and pity on their faces, even Jon, whose hatred of the Greyjoys, and Theon in particular, was well known. After a moment, Yara raised her head and looked at Dany, with anger burning in her tear-filled eyes.

“Where is Euron?” she demanded.

Dany looked towards Jon, who shrugged slightly in response.

“I do not know. Davos isn’t back yet,” he replied, and Dany could tell that he was a little concerned by the continued absence of his friend.

Before Dany could respond, there was a voice from behind her.

“Queen Daenerys,” said an Ironborn. “You said that you wished to meet with the commander of these newcomers, if they were allied with us.”

Dany turned around to see the kraken-helmed man walk towards them, still in full armour. He was surrounded by Unsullied on all sides, yet he did not appear to be concerned by their presence. It was only now that Dany could truly see how large the man was. He was clearly a head taller than most of the Unsullied and when he came to a halt in front of Dany, he towered over her.

Dany felt Yara tense beside her slightly as the man removed his helm, revealing his face and his grey-flecked hair. As Dany examined his features there was something about him that seemed familiar.

You?” Yara asked, stunned.

The man turned to look at Yara, and the corners of his mouth twitched slightly.

“Niece,” he said, nodding slightly, his voice calm.

“Queen Daenerys,” said Yara, not taking her eyes off of the man. “This is my uncle, Victarion Greyjoy, my father’s Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet and the captain of the Iron Victory.”

Dany looked between Yara and Victarion, completely amazed by this revelation, with the familiarity of Victarion making more sense to her now. As Dany watched, Victarion looked past Yara, and his eyes fell onto Theon, and his small smile faded.

“Theon,” he said, as he took a step towards his dead nephew. “How?”

“He died fighting Euron’s men,” spat Yara.

Dany saw that Victarion’s eyes flashed with anger at the sound of Euron’s name, but his face remained a calm, passive mask.

“And where is my brother?”

“Here!” came a call from a way away.

Everyone turned towards the voice and saw Davos walking towards them, with several Unsullied with him dragging a man bound in chains. Dany looked towards Jon, and saw him smile in relief at his friend’s survival.

When Davos reached them, Jon shook his hand once more.

“It is good to see you survived, my friend,” Jon said, still smiling

“And you, my King,” Davos replied, before turning to Daenerys. “Your Grace, may I present, Euron Greyjoy.”

The Unsullied threw the man into the sand before her, and he raised his head towards her. His brown hair and whiskery beard sodden and matted with the blood from a large wound to his forehead. At the sight of her, the man leered slightly.

“So, you are Daenerys Targaryen?” he said, looking her up and down. “It is a pity that I couldn’t have you share my bed.”

Dany scoffed derisively as she looked down at him defiantly, not allowing her discomfort at his words to show on her face. Euron smirked slightly as he looked past her to see Theon’s body, with Yara and Victarion stood next to it.

“That’s a shame about Theon,” he said mockingly. “But then if he wasn’t such a cock-less prick, then maybe he wouldn’t be dead.”

At this Yara drew her axe and began to storm towards Euron, but Victarion raised his arm to block her, and Dany saw that he too had his axe drawn. However, Dany didn’t think that Victarion’s anger towards Euron was based on Theon’s death.

It was a little unnerving to Dany, the way that Victarion’s eyes could be filled with such anger and hatred but his face remained a calm, stoic mask, not betraying his feelings at all.

“A new axe, brother?” Euron asked calmly. “Valyrian steel too, if my eyes are not deceiving me.”

“Yes,” responded Victarion, as he turned his axe to show its rippled, dark grey blade.

“And how did you come by it?”

“I paid the Iron Price,” Victarion replied, a little sharply, as if offended by the insinuation that he had acquired it by other means. “From a Meereenese pirate. He had claimed many Valyrian steel treasures over the years, so he had them melted down to forge this axe. He didn’t have it long, although he put a very impressive fight to keep it.”

Dany tried to not allow her distaste for the practises of the Ironborn show on her face. Tyrion and Varys had told her of their history and customs, of how they had spent centuries raiding along the shores of Westeros and selling those captured into slavery or keeping the women as their ‘salt wives.’ But she needed the Ironborn as allies, and Yara had seemingly been open to changing their ways, so she kept quiet for the moment.

“I must say, it is a bit of a surprise to see you here, brother,” said Euron, still in that smug, mocking tone. “When I sent for you, I expected to meet you at Pyke. Not here, in the midst of battle.”

“He sent for you?” Yara asked, clearly confused by this as she turned to Victarion. “After what happened between the two of you?”

“He sent a message to me after he took the Salt Throne,” Victarion said simply. “He told me that when I came back, I would be the Lord Captain of his Iron Fleet, and that we would join with the Lannisters to see the Dragon Queen fall.”

Victarion turned his gaze to Euron, and for once the anger showed on his face.

“I decided not to accept.”

“So, where were you?” spat Euron, his smug demeanour slipping slightly. “When I came back and took the throne, you were nowhere to be found.”

“I was searching,” he replied cryptically. “For the Dragonbinder.”

Dany’s eyes snapped to Victarion, feeling very unsettled by the name.

That cannot be good, she thought.

“And what is that?” she demanded sharply.

“It is a horn,” the man replied simply, not reacting to her anger. “According to Moqorro, a red priest that I found, any dragon that hears the horn must obey the horn’s master, whomever claimed the horn with blood.”

Silence fell at this, the tension clearly rising among them. Dany felt rage and fear flooding through her, in equal measure.

Does this man have this horn? She wondered fearfully. Has he come to take my dragons from me?

“So?” Euron demanded, looking around theatrically. “Where is it?”

“I never found it,” Victarion replied, causing relief to flood through Dany’s body. “I hear many tales about it. Some say it was destroyed. Some say it was lost beneath the waves. Or even that it was found by a blue-haired mercenary, but I have never heard of such a man. I do not know where it is, or even if it exists. All I know is that I could not find it.”

Dany closed her eyes and smiled in relief. It appeared that this horn, if it even existed, was far away from here and nothing to worry about.

No one will take my dragons from me, Dany thought resolutely.

“Why are you here?” Yara asked suddenly.

Victarion turned to her and regarded her for a moment before speaking.

“I am here to offer you my service, niece,” he said. “I served your father faithfully for many years, followed him into two wars. I attacked Lannisport in our rebellion and raided the shores of the North in the War of the Five Kings. I even went to try and find the horn on your father’s orders, when he heard stories of the Dragon Queen from a captured merchant. I am willing to offer you the same loyalty.”

“Why?” Yara asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. “Why are you not claiming the Salt Throne?”

“I may not be a smart man but I do have eyes,” he said as he gestured to the various smoking wreckages in the water. “You are allied with the Dragon Queen, and I have seen what her dragons can do to our wooden longships. I am not so foolish as to declare war against them, like my brother.”

Dany looked at Yara and caught her eye. Yara was looking disbelieving but also a little hopeful.

“You would serve me, as my Lord Captain?” Yara asked.

“Yes,” he replied, with an unusual glint to his eye which made Dany a little nervous. “On one condition.”

As he said this, Victarion moved around to stand in front of Euron, and looked down at him with anger and contempt showing on his face.

“You let me execute Euron.”

A shocked silence fell at this with Dany turning, shocked, to Yara who didn’t seem that surprised by the request.

“Why would you want to kill your brother?” Dany asked, still shocked by this request.

“Because he defiled my wife,” the man growled, not removing his eyes from Euron, who was still smirking up at him. “Whether he forced himself inside her or if he seduced her, it doesn’t matter, and I don’t much care. I want him dead for it.”

Dany looked towards Yara, who nodded in confirmation of the story. Dany, feeling sick to her stomach, considered the man’s proposal. Euron was her prisoner and she needed to find out what information he might have about Cersei’s plans. But at the same time, Victarion was clearly a skilled fighter and a very capable commander, something that Dany knew that they could use as many as possible.

Dany turned to Tyrion and Varys, who both nodded to her, deferring to her judgement. Dany then looked at Jon, his arms crossed over his chest, and a look of distaste on his face. Dany knew that working with the Greyjoys was not something that Jon was comfortable with, so she was surprised and pleased when he too nodded to her.

“Once Euron has told us all he knows of Cersei’s plans,” Dany said, as she turned to the Greyjoy brothers. “Then you can execute him.”

As Dany turned to look at Yara, who smirked appreciatively back at her, Euron began to laugh.

“If that Lannister bitch has a plan, she hasn’t told me about it,” he said shaking his head. “All she told me is to come here, and make sure that you don’t leave the island alive.”

“Well, you have clearly failed in that,” replied Dany calmly. “And as you know nothing of Cersei’s plans, I think it is time that you paid for your crimes against your family.

“Victarion,” Dany continued, as she turned to Yara and looked pointedly at Theon. “You may execute Euron.”

Yara smiled at Dany, clearly understanding Dany’s meaning: that Euron’s execution was for Theon’s death, and all those that had died in the battle, just as much as it was for Victarion’s wife.

Victarion slowly walked towards Euron, who continued to smirk smugly at him.

“Come now, brother,” Euron scoffed. “You know kinslaying is forbidden among the Ironborn.”

“I know,” responded Victarion simply, as though it was the most obvious thing he had heard. The tone of his voice caused Euron’s smirk to falter slightly. “I knew it all those years ago, when you were banished by Balon. If our brother hadn’t stopped me, then you would have died then. And the passage of years has not dulled the anger I have for you. It has made it grow.”

When he reached Euron, Victarion reached down and grasped hold of the man’s head, Euron’s smirk giving way to a look of fear for the first time.

As Dany watched in horror, Victarion forced his chainmail covered thumbs into Euron’s eyes.  

The man began to scream, as his blood began to flow over Victarion’s armoured hands. Victarion pulled his thumbs from the man’s head, and Euron fell to the ground, his hands over his ruined eyes as he continued to scream. Dany looked over to her companions, the majority of whom were all looking a little unsettled by this. Except for Jon, who was looking at the writhing man with a look of anger and pity on his face, clearly disapproving of Victarion’s method of execution.

As Dany opened her mouth to tell Victarion to end Euron’s suffering, the man reached out and picked up his Valyrian steel axe with one hand, while grabbing hold of Euron’s throat with the other and forcing him up onto his knees. Victarion looked at his brother for a moment, before he raised his axe above his head and smashed it into the top of Euron’s head, carving his skull into two.

He withdrew his axe and cleaned the blood and brain from the blade.

“That was not what I had mind, when I said you could execute him,” Dany said sharply.

Victarion looked at her for a moment, with no answer, before he turned to Yara and formally pledged her his service. Yara, in turn, made him her Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet and told him to examine the seized ships, to see which ones were still fit to sail. Dany watched Victarion leaves with an uneasy feeling in her stomach.

Just who have I allied myself with? She wondered, as she watched the large man leave.

Shaking her head slightly, she turned to Tyrion and Varys.

“Send letters to King’s Landing and Pyke,” she said firmly. “Inform them of Euron’s death, and tell them that the same will happen to them if they do not yield.”

As they left, quickly followed by Jon, Davos and Missandei as they left to check on Tormund and Grey Worm, Dany turned around to look at her now slumbering dragons and the smoking carcasses of the ships in the sea.

She stood there for a while, wondering how many more battles there would have to be, how many more lives lost, until she regained her family’s throne.

Chapter Text

 

Jaime

 

Jaime strode towards the Tower of the Hand, his footsteps pounding in time with the dull ache in his head. He had been up since dawn working with his many assistants, trying to find a way for Cersei to not bankrupt the crown with her and Qyburn’s mad schemes.

Jaime growled slightly in frustration when he thought back to the latest of them, which had happened around a week before. Cersei had sent ravens to all houses that hadn’t already aligned themselves to Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen, mostly from the Stormlands and the Westerlands. She had demanded that they send all able-bodied fighting men, anyone aged fourteen or over, to the capital, so that they could offer their services to the throne. Once they had arrived, Cersei had then made the costly declaration that they would all be outfitted with the best armour and weapons. Some had then been sent off to the various camps throughout the Stormlands to prepare for possible attacks from the north, south or from the sea. Others had been sent to places that were unknown to Jaime, as Cersei refused to share such information with him.

Jaime had been amazed and furious in equal measure by this and had attempted to explain his concerns to Cersei, but she would not listen. She was adamant that they needed to swell the ranks of their forces, in preparation for a possible attack from ‘The Bastard’, ‘The Dragon Whore’ or both. Jaime had attempted to explain that that countless untrained, untested men wouldn’t be able to stand up to the battle-hardened men under Jon Snow’s command, or the Unsullied that the Targaryen had been reported to have, well-renowned warriors from Essos.

However, Jaime’s counsel was swept aside, as it so often was recently, by the confident declaration from Qyburn that, while these men might certainty be inexperienced, the Lannister commanders were the finest in the Seven Kingdoms and they would use the men in the best way. At this, Jaime had struggled to not let out a snort of derision. The Lannister army was indeed formidable, purely from its sheer size, but its strategic and tactical experience had taken massive losses by the passing of their father and soon after, due to Cersei’s machinations, their uncle Kevan. While Kevan might not have been as skilled as their father, he was still a competent commander, and his loss would soon be felt most keenly.

None of the men we have now could be held in the same regard, Jaime thought sullenly, as he continued his journey towards the tower.

On the other hand, both Jon and Daenerys both had very capable commanders in their forces.

Cersei had raged for several hours when she had learned that Lord Randyll Tarly, a commander whose skill had been renowned throughout the kingdoms since Robert’s Rebellion, had pledged his fealty to Daenerys. And that was without the others from the countless other houses that had bent the knee to her. As the days went past, more and more reports flooded in of all the various houses that had joined her cause. Houses Martell, Tyrell, Velaryon, Allyrion, Blackmont. The list was growing longer by the day. In addition to this, she had the leadership of Yara Greyjoy to command her fleet, who even Euron had spoken of with grudging respect in his letters, speaking of the loyalty that she had inspired in her men.

Jon Snow on the other hand was a different matter.

While the leadership of the North had suffered greatly in the War of the Five Kings and its aftermath, with many of its commanders and warriors, such as Greatjon Umber and the Young Wolf himself perishing, Snow still had numerous men at his command who had years of experience in battle, a significant advantage. His ranks were further swelled by the entire might of the Northern houses, who had pledged themselves to the White Wolf.

Once she had learned of Jon’s ascension to King in the North, Cersei had sent a letter to the Night’s Watch, demanding answers about Jon and the threat that he might pose to them, but there had been no answer. Jaime suspected that, while the Night’s Watch was supposed to remain politically neutral, their loyalty to Snow was still intact and they wouldn’t be swayed by a threatening letter from Cersei, especially when they were placed so far north, safely behind the White Wolf’s forces.

However, stories had begun to spread throughout the capital about the White Wolf, told in hushed voices by men that, according to Qyburn’s illicit means of interrogation, had been mercenaries that had been paid for by Stannis when he went North, who had since abandoned him. Tales of Jon’s leadership when the Wildlings had attacked the wall, and some of his later actions as the Lord Commander, had made Jaime both curious and a little apprehensive about the man. Jon was clearly a very capable commander of his men, and, according to the patchy reports from the few of Qyburn’s northern spies, he had inspired a great deal of loyalty from his bannermen.

Not looking good for us, Jaime thought as he approached the door. From either side.

Jaime walked inside and was greeted by the now familiar sight of his sister at the head of the table, the tall, imposing form of the Mountain standing at her back and Qyburn sat to her side, whispering into her ear. At the sight, anger had flared up within Jaime. His hatred of Qyburn grew by the day, as Jaime saw the influence that he was having over his sister grow, which Jaime knew that was mainly due to his sycophantic obedience, constantly feeding Cersei’s ego and paranoia to bolster his own position.

Jaime looked at Cersei and was a little shocked by how she looked. The dark rings under her eyes had grown further and when she looked at him, there was a tiredness behind her green eyes that told Jaime that she was still not sleeping. However, there was also sense of anger brimming behind her eyes as well which grew when she looked down at a letter in front of her, immediately extinguishing all tiredness. Jaime sighed and rubbed his forehead at the sight.

Something had clearly happened.

“What has happened?” Jaime asked, as he took his seat to Cersei’s right.

Saying nothing, Cersei pushed the letter towards him. Jaime picked it up, still looking at his sister curiously, who was looking off into space, her eyes still blazing with anger. Shaking his head slightly, Jaime looked down at the letter.

Dearest sister,

Euron Greyjoy is dead.

He and his fleets were destroyed by Daenerys’ army in his foolish attack on Dragonstone, and he was killed by his brother Victarion, who too has joined Daenerys. Euron was not well known for such rank stupidity, so I have to assume that you ordered this attack. Congratulations, sister! You have just lost hundreds of your own men, as well as nearly a thousand Ironborn, due to your foolishness and arrogance.

Daenerys has reached an alliance with Jon Snow, the King in the North. She now outmatches you on both land and sea and, between the two of them, they control four of the Seven Kingdoms that you claim to rule over.

She offers you, and your Ironborn allies, a last chance to surrender. Bend the knee, acknowledge her as the true Queen of Westeros and you will be allowed to keep your life, whatever it is worth.

Surrender, sister. If not for yourself, then for our brother’s sake. Even if the kingdoms and its people mean nothing to you, surely Jaime still does?

Regardless of your decision, I expect that I will be seeing you soon.

Your brother,

Tyrion

Jaime looked in shock at the signature at the bottom of the letter, instantly recognising it as his brother’s.

He is with Daenerys? Jaime thought, shocked.

While he was undeniably happy about Tyrion’s survival, despite his lingering anger towards his brother, Jaime was a little surprised that he had joined forces with the Targaryen against his family. While Jaime knew that Tyrion despised by Cersei and their father, he hadn’t assumed that his hatred was this great, that he would be willing to see her dead.

He read through the letter again, growing more confused and angry when he read about Euron’s attempted attack and his fate. Jaime looked up and saw that Cersei was still determinedly avoiding his eye.

Did you order this?” Jaime demanded angrily, holding up the letter.

Cersei finally turned to look at him, and he saw the look of cold rage on her face.

“Yes,” she replied simply. “I ordered the Ironborn to attack our enemy.”

“When?” Jaime asked.

“As soon as we learned of the whore’s landing on Dragonstone,” spat Cersei, her voice rising slightly, causing the Mountain to shift in response.

“Gods damn it, Cersei!” Jaime exclaimed, banging his golden hand onto the table in frustration. “I would think my experience in battle would mean you would include me in such plans.”

“And what would you have counselled?” she shrieked, rising from her seat. “Let that bitch gather her army on our doorstep?”

“I would have counselled against sending hundreds of our men to their death in wooden boats against her fucking dragons!” Jaime roared back, also rising to his feet.

The twins stood staring at each other, both seething with anger and breathing heavily as though they had been running. After a moment, Jaime took a deep, calming breath and rubbed his face with his hand.

“How many men did we lose?” Jaime asked quietly, trying to defuse the tension, knowing that they would not get anywhere while Cersei was shouting and raving at him.

“Around six hundred Lannister men,” responded Qyburn calmly, causing Jaime’s blood to boil, knowing that it was likely his idea in the first place. “And, like your brother’s letter says, just under a thousand Ironborn casualties.”

While he hadn’t said Tyrion’s name, the effect was the same. Cersei’s eyes narrowed into slits and her hands coiled into fists on the table top, her knuckles white from how hard she was clenching them. Jaime glared over the table at Qyburn, realising that the man was deliberately keeping Cersei angry so that she would be more likely to accept his schemes and less likely to listen to reason.

“So,” said Jaime loudly, addressing Qyburn. “We have lost hundreds of men, dozens of ships and Euron Greyjoy, the commander of our fleet. Meanwhile they have gained their first victory in this war and a new commander in Victarion Greyjoy. A man who commanded Balon Greyjoy’s Iron Fleet for years and has rarely lost a battle. I think we can all agree that this was a foolish move.”

Jaime didn’t lower his gaze from Qyburn, who defiantly met his eyes and couldn’t miss the implications of Jaime’s words and furious stare. Cersei, on the hand, was oblivious. She had sunk into her chair and was staring into the depths of her wine goblet, completely unaware of the battle of words between her brother and Qyburn.

“What about Pyke?” Jaime demanded, turning his gaze to Cersei. “We can assume that they will receive a similar letter, with news of Victarion’s return. He is well respected in the Iron Islands. What if they decided to follow him in joining Yara and Daenerys?”

“They won’t,” replied Cersei, not looking up from her goblet.

“How do you know?” growled Jaime through gritted teeth, his temper rising again at her seeming lack of interest.

“Before Euron left Pyke, he left his brother Aeron in charge,” replied Qyburn, with a smug tone. “We installed a garrison of Lannister men on Pyke. Two thousand men, under the command of Ser Daven Lannister, to keep the Ironborn in line.

“We have sent word to Ser Daven to install Aeron as the new king of the Iron Islands, and to keep him in alliance with us.”

“Will he accept those terms?” Jaime asked, as he remembered his vague lessons from childhood about the Ironborn of Pyke, in particular the kingsmoot that they held to select their rulers.

“He won’t have a choice,” snarled Cersei, as she finally looked up. “He will be given a choice. He can become the king and rule his people in alliance with us, or Daven will put Pyke to the sword.”

Jaime sat stunned by this. He thought back to what he knew of Ser Daven. He was the son of Ser Stafford Lannister, Tywin’s cousin and brother-in-law, who had been killed in the Battle of Oxcross by Robb Stark’s forces, apparently killed by Lord Rickard Karstark. Jaime was surprised by the orders that Cersei had given their relative. He vaguely remembered Daven as a jovial man and found it hard to believe that he would consider slaughtering innocent people, purely because Cersei had ordered it.

I wonder what she threatened him with, Jaime wondered as he looked at his sister.

Jaime was a little confused by Cersei’s certainty in Daven’s success at keeping the Ironborn in check. While Daven was a reasonably skilled warrior and his men were no doubt well-trained Lannister men, as they had been sent to Pyke prior to Cersei’s recent conscription scheme, Jaime couldn’t see how they would manage to keep the entirety of Pyke under control. While the Lannister men would no doubt put up a strong fight against the inferiorly trained and armoured Ironborn, Jaime knew that any attempt to use force on Pyke would more than likely result in Daven’s death.

Unless that is what she wants, Jaime pondered, as he looked between Cersei and Qyburn. Daven’s death would give her an excuse, as if she need one, to invade the Iron Islands and bring them under her heel.

The thought of it made Jaime’s head ache further. The secrets and schemes that Cersei and Qyburn had made were now so numerous that they twisted and entwined with each other, making it hard to tell where one ended and the next began. Jaime shook his head and tried to focus.

“So, you are going to install Aeron Greyjoy as the puppet ruler of Pyke,” Jaime said scornfully. “With you pulling the strings.”

“Yes,” she replied simply.

Cersei looked at him, frowning slightly at the tone of his voice. Jaime stared back at her defiantly, not bothering to hide his distaste for this course of action. As Jaime looked at her, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness at the situation and resignation at what he knew he must do. The two of them had been so close for their whole lives, too close in some ways, but Jaime could feel the chasm that had opened between them, like a dark abyss.

Jaime turned to look at the main architect of the divide between the siblings, and his anger and hatred burned inside him when he caught sight of Qyburn’s smug grin across the table. Jaime gritted his teeth and coiled his remaining hand into a fist, as he imagined reached over the table and smashing his golden hand into the maester’s face, sending his teeth to the floor.

One day soon, Jaime thought, as he continued to match Qyburn’s smug look with one of pure loathing, I will have your life, maester.

*

A few days later, Jaime and Bronn sat in one of the many locations that they used for their meetings, a bustling tavern by the docks. The crowd was thick with sailors of all kinds, the odour of various kinds of fish and sweat mixing with the smells of pipe smoke and ale that lay thick over the room. The two of them had picked this tavern as it was always full of drunken men, who were unlikely to overhear their conversation and, even if they did or if recognised either of them, they wouldn’t remember it come the morrow.

The two of them had spent the last few days thinking tirelessly of a way to remove Qyburn, the Mountain and potentially Ilyn Payne as well from the Red Keep. Jaime knew that time was of the essence as Qyburn could suggest another foolish attempt on Dragonstone at any moment, particularly now that Jon Snow was also there and allying himself with Daenerys.

Jaime sat back in his chair and sighed deeply in frustration. They had been thinking for days but had not come up with anything that would work. Bronn had suggested using the various secret passages within Maegor’s Holdfast and attacking them in the night, but Jaime had reminded him that, while the tunnels would keep them unseen, there was increased guard presence during the night and the Mountain himself kept vigil outside of Cersei’s chambers, along with half a dozen other guards.

After one of the servants, a young boy no older than twelve, brought over two more tankards of ale for them, Jaime leaned forwards and rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand.

“There has got to be some way,” Jaime said desperately. “Some way we can get to that fucking maester and his pet monster.”

Bronn didn’t answer him at first. He was staring across the room, with his eyes unfocused, clearly lost in thought. Then he turned to Jaime, with a look of mute triumph on his face.

“The Sparrows,” he said.

“What?” Jaime responded, raising his eyebrows in confusion.

“We can use the Sparrows to get the Mountain.”

“What the fuck are you talking about, Bronn?” Jaime demanded. “They are all dead. Cersei and her wildfire saw to that.”

“But does she know that?” Bronn asked cryptically. “What if there were some that weren’t in the Sept when it exploded? Either preaching their shite in the streets or in other parts of the kingdoms to praise the virtues of the High Sparrow.”

Jaime ignored the sarcasm in his friend’s voice at the end of his statement, as he lost himself in thought. Cersei’s hatred of the High Sparrow and his followers was well known but would it allow her to believe that she had missed some of them?

“So, what is your plan?” Jaime asked, looking at Bronn.

“Some of my men can act as the Sparrows, spreading a little unrest in the smallfolk,” started Bronn, his voice becoming more confident as his plan took shape. “When Cersei learns of it, she might send the Mountain to put them down and we catch him in an ambush.”

Might?” Jaime said, raising an eyebrow. “Might is not good enough, Bronn. What if she doesn’t? What if she sends a legion of soldiers and your men can’t get away in time? They will be decimated.”

“For fuck’s sake!” Bronn exclaimed. “You know your sister better than I do. Would she send the Mountain to deal with them?”

Jaime thought for a moment, thinking hard. He wasn’t sure if she would. The Mountain had been her shadow since Jaime had returned to King’s Landing, and he wasn’t sure if she would send him away from her. However, if she had Ilyn Payne at her side, then she might be more agreeable to the idea… particularly if Jaime suggests it to her.

Qyburn too might agree with me if I word my suggestion correctly, Jaime thought.

“She might,” Jaime said steadily, keeping his expectations low as he was well aware that Cersei’s moods were hard to detect these days. “But we will need to plan this carefully.”

“I know a few places where we could prepare a suitable ambush,” Bronn said.

“Why do you-?” Jaime began to ask before stopping himself. He wondered how many unsolved murders in King’s Landing were due to Bronn and the various men under his command. “There is one problem that we will need to deal with. Your men don’t have the seven-pointed star engraved into their foreheads, and I doubt that many of them would be willing to do that.”

Bronn nodded for a moment in agreement and took a swig from his tankard.

“They could wear masks with the star on them,” he suggested.

“Masks?” Jaime said disbelievingly. “Since when did the Sparrows wear masks?”

“Back then, they ruled the fucking city,” Bronn replied, lowering his voice as someone passed close to the table. “They could do whatever they fucking wanted, with no consequence, so they had no need to hide who they were. Now they would be hunted like dogs if they revealed themselves. They would have to be fucking stupid to not disguise themselves.”

Jaime considered the course of action they were contemplating. When she learned of possible Sparrows lurking the city, Cersei’s anger and paranoia would grow, and the restrictions on the smallfolk of the city would grow immeasurably. And, if they were successful and the Mountain was perceived to be killed by the Sparrows, then her reprisals would be dire for those she deemed responsible.

But hopefully Qyburn will be dead too before long, Jaime reasoned. And she might be more willing to listen to reason.

Might.

This was a lot to risk on such little promise of success, but what choice did they have? If they did nothing, then Qyburn would continue to manipulate Cersei and the realm would plunge further into chaos. Jaime decided that he would rather attempt to make things better, even if they didn’t succeed, than sit back and do nothing while the realm burned around them.

Jaime looked at Bronn, who looked as though he was feeling similar. They nodded grimly and raised their tankards in toast to each other, knowing that they would either succeed or, the more likely outcome, be killed in the attempt.

*

Over the next few days, Bronn’s mercenaries began to stir up trouble in the city. They began to attack those who would have been deemed as ‘sinners’ by the true Sparrows, various whoremongers and known drunkards, as well as preaching in the streets about how Cersei had been forsaken by the gods due to her incestuous relationship with her brother, and the products of this union had all died through the will of the gods. Jaime had been a little disconcerted when he had heard this, as the loss of Myrcella and Tommen was still fresh in his mind, but he realised that the preaching needed to sound authentic if their plan was to work.

It did… in part.

When she had learned about the resurgence of the Sparrows, Cersei’s rage had shocked Jaime. She had thrown numerous items across the room, while declaring that those responsible and their kin would suffer greatly, promising beheadings, torture and death by hanging as the kindest options of death.

Jaime tried to counsel for sending the Mountain to deal with them, to show the people the strength of the crown with the Mountain crushing the Sparrows. Qyburn too, to Jaime’s relief and surprise, had advocated the use of the Mountain but his reasoning was to scare the populace into obedience, under the threat of reprisals from the Mountain. Jaime, while a little uncomfortable with Qyburn’s motivation, stayed silent, grateful that the man was, for once, agreeing with him.

Cersei, however, ignored them both.

She had ordered the Mountain and Ilyn Payne to not leave her side and had instead ordered all possible Lannister troops into the streets, to search house by house until the Sparrows were found. She had also effectively placed the city into quarantine, with more guards lining the gates into the city. It had stretched the troops to breaking point, with many of them barely sleeping or eating, causing morale to dip.

However, Jaime’s main concern was for the citizens of King’s Landing. While he had known and accepted that there would be some action taken against them in retaliation, the level of punishment that Cersei had levelled upon them weighed heavy on his conscience. Entire families were uprooted and hanged on hearing the merest whisper that they had harboured the Sparrows and people could be arrested for merely pronouncing their faith in the Seven, in case they were Sparrows. He felt a crushing sense of guilt that he had forced this upon them, as well as increasing anger towards Qyburn and Cersei.

What also worried Jaime was Cersei. He had assumed that if Qyburn had advised her to use the Mountain against the Sparrows then she would follow his advice, as she had done so often before. Instead she had disregarded both of their advice and had implemented all of these harsh measures of her own accord. It made Jaime wonder just how much of the actions that he previously credited to Qyburn had actually been his idea.

It had also made him wonder something that plagued his thoughts, in his dreams as well as when he was awake.

Could Cersei be saved?

Jaime had lost count of the amount of times that he had had the same dream. At first Jaime had thought it was simply a dream of him killing the Mad King, something that he had dreamed of multiple times before in the years since the event. However, he soon saw that it hadn’t been Aerys sitting in the Throne.

It had been Cersei.

Countless times now, Jaime had watched himself kill Cersei and it had begun to make him wonder. Were these dreams merely showing him what he continued to dread that he would have to do? Or were they showing him that he would have to do, to keep the people of the Seven Kingdoms safe from another tyrannical ruler?

Jaime and Bronn continued to work in secret, redoubling their efforts to kill the Mountain and Qyburn in light of their guilt at the repercussions from their first move.

Luckily, Cersei seemed to made it a little easier for them.

When she had ordered her men into the streets to patrol or to stand guard at the entrances, it had meant that the guard presence in the Red Keep was significantly reduced. Jaime had been a little surprised that she hadn’t sent for her new conscripts but she had told him that she had them either still readying themselves for a possible attack from Snow or the Targaryen or they were forming a ring around the city, to stop any possible escapees from fleeing from ‘justice’.

However, she still had around thirty men that stayed within the keep, ready to defend her at a moment’s notice. Jaime and Bronn had decided to lure as many of them away as possible by passing on the news that the hideout of the Sparrows had been located, and that Jaime would need as many of the men as he could have to root them out.

Jaime and Bronn both recognised that it wasn’t the best plan and could very easily go wrong, but they had grown desperate. Their initial attempt had failed miserably and the people of King’s Landing were suffering for it. In the days before they had put their ‘plan’ into action, Cersei had implemented a new law: anyone who was even associated with someone who had been arrested under suspicion of being a Sparrow would too be arrested.

It was this that spurred Jaime and Bronn to finally act as, while they knew that their plan was unlikely to work, they had to try to stop this madness.

*

Jaime stood outside the door to the Great Hall dressed in full armour with his sword strapped to his hip, breathing heavily as he prepared himself. Steeling himself, Jaime opened the door and strode into the room, making his way towards the Iron Throne, upon which Cersei sat, bolt upright.

“Cersei!” Jaime called, as he headed towards her, his voice echoing around the room. “I have news about the Sparrows.”

She sat up a little straighter at these words, and every eye in the hall turned to Jaime as he came to a halt in front of the throne.

“They have been moving between different hideouts to escape detection. Bronn heard in one of the taverns about where they will be now: an old fishing warehouse near the harbour.”

Cersei stood up and looked down on Jaime with a look of vicious triumph on her face, and a wicked smile on her lips.

“Take as many men as you need, brother,” she said imperiously. “And kill them all.”

As she said this she waved her hand towards the men watched and ushered them forward to join Jaime.

“Cersei?” Jaime said, faking concern. “Are you sure you should send these men with me?”

“Only half of them,” she replied, as the men moved to stand behind Jaime.

“But that will leave you exposed,” Jaime said, hoping his voice sounded sincere.

“I will have the Mountain,” she replied finally, as though that ended the discussion. “As well as Ilyn Payne and the other half of the men. I will be fine, brother. Go! Take all the men you come across on your way there.”

Jaime nodded and made his way out of the hall, the other fifteen men following close behind him. As they marched out of the keep and made their way towards the harbour, Jaime knew that before long Bronn and his men would be making their way into the keep, using the tunnels throughout Maegor’s Holdfast.

Good luck, my friend, thought Jaime, as he came across a patrolling group of guards and ordered them to join them. I think you will need it.

The growing group of men marched through the streets, the noise from their armoured footsteps echoing around the cobbled streets. Jaime saw numerous people run back inside their homes in terror, afraid that they and their family would be taken. The sight fuelled Jaime’s desire to act and spurred him forward, calming the gnawing feeling of doubt in his gut.

Jaime’s group of men grew as they made their way through the streets and, by the time they reached the harbour, it had reached nearly fifty men. Jaime made his way towards the warehouse that he and Bronn had chosen, it had actually been one of their hideouts where they had planned this very act.

Drawing his blade, Jaime ordered his men to move inside and kill all those inside. As they headed inside the warehouse was completely empty, a fact well known to Jaime. As his men looked around, Jaime rearranged his face into a look of confusion and disbelief, while at the same time wondering how Bronn was doing at the castle and wondering if they had made the right choice.

After his men had searched the entire warehouse, and found it empty of anyone, Jaime had made himself looked shocked, as though he had been struck by a sudden realisation.

“It’s a trap!” Jaime shouted as he made his way to the door. “The Sparrows have drawn us away. Back to the keep!”

Jaime sprinted back through the streets, with his men hot on his heels. As they passed dozens of confused and scared citizens, Jaime prayed over and over again that Bronn had succeeded, hoping that his friend was still alive.

Before long the Red Keep loomed above them and they raced inside, heading for the Great Hall. When he reached the doors, Jaime threw them open…

And froze in shock.

The Mountain was standing amid a pile of corpses, with countless severed limbs littering the floor, holding the last surviving man up from the floor by his throat. As Jaime watched, the Mountain ripped the mask from the man’s face before grabbing hold of his head, underneath of the man’s jaw and, with an almighty pull, tore the man’s head from his shoulders.

Jaime’s breath caught in his throat as he saw the body fall the floor. The Mountain looked at the head for a moment, before turning to Cersei, who nodded to him. The Mountain threw the head towards Jaime. It spun in the air, throwing blood everything as it passed through the air, before coming to a stop in front of Jaime, face down. Unable to stop himself, Jaime bent down and turned the head over.

It was Bronn.

Jaime recoiled in horror from the remnants of his friend as a wave of remorse flooded through him.

My friend is dead, Jaime thought desperately, vaguely aware of all the men behind him drawing their swords. And it is my fault.

“Jaime,” called Cersei’s voice from above him. It sounded different than it had in a long time. Almost sad.

Jaime raised his head and saw that he was encircled by the Lannister men he had been with, their blades all pointing towards him. Jaime looked towards Cersei as she walked towards him. As she grew closer, he saw that her cheeks were wet and her eyes sparkled with unshed tears.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” she said shakily, and Jaime could hear the sadness in her voice all the more clearly now. “Qyburn told me that he had heard from Varys’ little birds that you had been planning treason.”

Fuck! Jaime thought angrily as he cursed himself for his stupidity.

He thought back to the tavern when he and Bronn had devised their plan to use the Sparrows as their method to draw out the Mountain. He vaguely remembered the small servant boy that had served them their ale. He hadn’t really thought much about it at the time, as he had been too engrossed in trying to find a method to draw out the Mountain, but now, in hindsight, it should have crossed his mind that he could have been a spy for somebody, even if it wasn’t Qyburn.

“So, why?” Jaime demanded angrily, as he straightened up to his full height, not allowing a hint of remorse or regret to show on his face, although his insides burned with guilt and grief at Bronn’s death. “Why did you allow me to go this far, if you already knew? You even gave me your men.”

“Because I didn’t believe Qyburn,” replied Cersei, as she continued to look at him through sorrow-filled eyes. “I told him that I wouldn’t believe that you would turn on me until I saw it with my own eyes. I gave you these men because I thought you were telling the truth about the Sparrows. I didn’t know the truth until the Mountain removed Bronn’s mask.”

Cersei looked at him as though she was seeing him for the first time, and Jaime refused to lower his gaze.

“Did you truly think that this would work?” She asked, shaking her head. “What was your plan? Kill me and become king yourself?”

“The plan wasn’t to kill you, Cersei,” Jaime replied, and he saw her brow furrow in confusion. “The plan was to kill Qyburn and the Mountain, to stop that smirking piece of shit having such influence over you.

“But, did I think our plan would actually work?” Jaime continued, as he looked up towards the cavernous ceiling. “Truly? No. Deep down I knew our plan was deeply flawed, and that we would both probably die. But I knew that I had to do something! Something to stop this madness!”

Cersei looked at him for a moment, shaking her head.

“And why should I believe your words now?” She said quietly. “I believed that you wouldn’t turn against me and Qyburn was proven right when he warned me against your treachery.

“I never thought it would be you,” she said cryptically, as she pushed her way through the surrounding ring of Lannister soldiers. “You! The Valonqar.”

Jaime looked at her, completely unaware of what she was talking about.

“What the fuck-?” he began, before he was grabbed from behind by several of the Lannister men.

“Take him to the Black Cells,” she said, her face now a mask of rage and cruelty.

Jaime was pulled from the room, his feet dragging on the stone floor behind him. He hung his head, allowing his feelings to well up from within him now that he was not facing Cersei. His guilt over Bronn’s death, his regret that their attempt failed, the resigned knowledge of not only his impending death, but also that he could now do nothing to stop the machinations of Qyburn and the deaths that would follow as a consequence.

As Jaime was dragged from the hall, he looked over his shoulder, as much as he could, and saw Bronn’s head still lying on the floor and once again felt a wave of grief.

He had failed.

 

Chapter Text

 

Bran

 

Bran sat back in his chair with a wide smile on his face, a feeling of happiness brimming within him as he looked between his two sisters. He had just got used to being back home with Sansa, and Jon’s return from Dragonstone with news of an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen was anticipated by all, when he had been roughly awakened in the middle of the night by a flushed-faced and beaming Sansa.

After being carried down into the main hall, Bran had seen Arya sitting at one of the tables, grimy and tired looking as she devoured the plate of food in front of her, and he too began to beam his excitement.

Bran remembered how, when she had looked up at the sound of the door opening, Arya had jumped up and raced towards him, calling his name joyously. She had thrown her arms around his neck and Bran was a little surprised by the strength of her grip, which was far firmer than he remembered. But that confusion was soon washed away by the way of relief and joy that he felt at being reunited with another member of his family.

It was now the evening of Arya’s second day back at Winterfell. She had slept for much of the first, having been on the road for so long, only leaving her room to raid the kitchens. She had finally risen at around noon on the second day and the three of them had retreated to Jon’s study to talk.

Arya had been cautious in telling her story, as though she was concerned by their reaction to what she told them. While Bran had been a little shocked by what Arya had seen, and done, he didn’t blame her at all. She had been forced to go on the run from the Lannisters, one of the most powerful families in the Seven Kingdoms, and had been beset by dangers the whole way. While she had killed many people, Bran knew that if she hadn’t then she would have died long ago.

Bran had looked over towards Sansa and had seen that, while she too was a little unsettled about seeing their sister talk about all the ways that she had killed people, he didn’t detect any sense of anger or disgust in her expression. He could only see pity for what Arya had been through and relief that she had made it through.

As Arya had explained what she had done at the Twins, Bran had been a little shocked. While he too understood the need for revenge against the Freys for their betrayal and murder of their mother and brother, he didn’t believe that slaughtering them in their sleep was the right way to do it. Maybe it was the lessons from his father about Stark honour that was influencing his choice, but he believed that they should have been captured and executed either by hanging or beheading, and giving them a relatively painless death, rather than being stabbed in the throat and choking on their own blood.

However, Bran also realised that Arya, who had made it to the Twins on the night of the Red Wedding and had seen part of the massacre first hand rather than in a vison in the weirwood trees, was probably in a better place to judge what the Freys deserved than he was. He also didn’t want her to believe that he was judging her too harshly for her actions, as he could still sense the hesitation in her voice, which had gotten more noticeable when she had begun her story about the Twins.

Bran was brought back to the present when he realised that both of his sisters had turned to him, with Arya clearly having asked him something.

“Sorry, Arya,” Bran said sincerely. “What did you say?”

Arya chuckled slightly before answering.

“I asked if you could tell me more about your abilities,” she said, looking curious. “I’ve seen some strange things but what you have said is nothing like that.”

Bran took a deep breath and looked up to the ceiling, deep in thought.

“They started after my fall from the Broken Tower,” Bran said slowly. “While I was sleeping, I would have dreams through the eyes of Summer or I would constantly see a Three-Eyed Raven.

“And then the dreams became visions.”

Bran saw Sansa and Arya looked at him confused for a moment, but he closed his eyes. He remembered how he felt whenever he awoke from one of those dreams. He had the certainty that something was going to happen, the helplessness with trying to work out what the visions meant and the frustration when no one really believed him.

Bran sighed deeply, and opened his eyes once more to see his sisters looking at him a little worried.

“The first important one was of Father,” he said, seeing them both stiffen at his words. “I dreamt that I went down into the crypts and I saw Father there. The next day I went down there with Osha and Rickon had gone down there before us, having had the same dream.

“Once we came out of the crypts, Maester Luwin came over to tell us about Father’s execution.”

There was a moment of silence in the room, and Bran could see that his sisters were looking impressed at his declaration but also saddened by the mention of their father’s death.

“How did Rickon have the same dream as you?” Sansa asked, looking confused.

“I have wondered that too,” Bran replied, as his half-made theories began to spin through his mind. “Maybe the Three-Eyed Raven reached out to Rickon too. Maybe I did without knowing it. Or maybe Rickon too had similar abilities that he never got a chance to develop.”

Bran jolted slightly at his own words, stunned by how blunt they had sounded. A wave of remorse and grief for his brother flooded through him as he looked over to his sisters apologetically, both of whom looking saddened too but not angry towards him.

Bran exhaled shakily, before composing himself once more.

“Not too long after that, I had another. I dreamt that the sea had come to Winterfell and drowned all who were within it, including Ser Rodrik. Not long after, Theon attacked and captured Winterfell with many people, including Ser Rodrik, being killed.”

Sansa and Arya’s eyes widened further and Bran could see that they were getting more and more convinced and impressed the more he explained.

“I didn’t know what the visions were,” he continued quickly, hoping to head off any questions. “Until I met Jojen. He explained that my visions were greenseeing, the ability to see things events that are happening now, in the past or in the future.”

Bran paused for a moment and thought of his friend, someone who had guided him all the way North to the Three-Eyed Raven, despite knowing that he would die in the process. Bran couldn’t find the words to express the gratitude he felt towards Jojen, even if he was still confused over why he was worthy of such a sacrifice.

Bran took a deep breath and pushed away his grief.

“As we headed further North I discovered my other ability: warging. I can enter the mind of animals and people and basically control them. The dreams that I had of me within Summer was me warging without knowing it. After a while I could do it at will and enter Summer whenever I wanted, as well as into Hodor. Jojen said that I am the only warg who has ever managed that feat.”

“You can control people?” Arya said with her mouth wide open, looking awestruck.

“Yes,” said Bran quickly, desperate to curb Arya’s enthusiasm. “But whenever I did it to Hodor, it was when we had no other choice, whenever we were in grave danger. I didn’t like doing it to him. It felt wrong, like I was invading his mind.”

And when I broke it, Bran thought solemnly, as he remembered how Hodor received his name.

Arya clearly saw the look of regret and remorse on Bran’s face and her excitement ebbed away to be replaced by a look of guilt.

“So, what happened when you reached the Three-Eyed Raven?” Sansa asked, as she looked cautiously between Bran and Arya, clearly trying to change the subject slightly. “Did you have any more visions?”

“I managed to develop my abilities through the weirwood trees,” Bran explained “Whenever I touch one, I can see things. The first thing he showed me was the Red Wedding.”

An eerie silence fell in the room at Bran’s words. None of them had really spoken much about Robb and their Mother’s death, only to express how angry they felt at their betrayal and how much they missed them. It wasn’t a subject that they had discussed often and Bran could see the tension build at his words, so he quickly continued his story to prevent it from growing further.

“I saw many other things too. I saw Father training with Uncle Benjen. Aunt Lyanna was there as well.”

The tension in the room vanished at these words, to be replaced by a feeling of curiosity and wonder. Lyanna had died before the three of them had been born and their father had not spoken about Lyanna often. The only way that they knew what she looked like was the statue of her in the crypt. Bran could see the slight look of envy on both of his sister’s faces, that he had actually seen their aunt’s face while they had to make do with the pale likeness of her statue.

“Were there any more of Father?” Sansa asked excitedly.

Bran looked at his sister’s face and, seeing the look of excitement on her face, felt guilty that he had little to offer in return.

“The only other vision of Father that I had was when he left for the Vale,” Bran replied.

Although that wasn’t the most important part of that vision, Bran thought, as he once more recalled the screams of Hodor as his mind was broken, torn apart by him entering his mind.

“Have you had any others?” Arya asked.

“I had one of you,” Bran replied, smiling slightly. “I had a vision of you walking through the woods with a group of men with burning swords and a large dog with a burned face.”

“Me and the Brotherhood,” Arya whispered, almost to herself.

Bran nodded to her, continuing to smile. However, inside Bran was conflicted. He wanted to tell them both of his vision of the Tower of Joy, of the truth about Jon. He wanted to tell them about how Jon was in fact their cousin, the son of Lyanna and a man who he suspected was Rhaegar Targaryen, and not their half-brother as they had suspected. Not only would it explain the truth about Jon’s past but it would exonerate their father from the only dishonourable act that they had believed he had committed.

However, Bran also knew that Jon deserved to know the truth about himself before anyone else, even his family.

He decided to compromise.

“I also had one about Jon,” Bran said, seeing Arya straightened slightly at the mention of Jon.

Bran knew that Arya had probably been the closest to him other than Robb while they had been growing up, so she would be very curious about any vision that Bran had had about him, particularly after what he had just told her.

“What happened?” Arya asked in a hushed voice, and Bran could detect an undercurrent of fear in her tone.

“I don’t think Jon is in trouble,” replied Bran placatingly. “My vision didn’t show him in danger.”

I hope, Bran thought, as he knew that if Jon’s true parentage was revealed it could have serious consequences.

“What did you see?” Arya demanded, as she leaned forward and grasped hold of the arms of her chair tightly.

“Arya, I’m sorry,” Bran said. “But I can’t say any more. I didn’t want to lie to you two about anything, that is why I told you that I had the vision. But I can’t tell you what happened yet. It affects Jon the most out of all of us. It is his life, so he deserves to be the first to know.”

Arya looked mutinous for a moment, looking as though she would object to his reasoning. But then she nodded jerkily and leaned back in her hair, folding her arms over her chest. Sansa reached out to place a comforting hand on her sister’s shoulder.

And Bran didn’t miss what happened next.

When Sansa’s hand made contact with Arya’s shoulder, she stiffened suddenly. Although she immediately relaxed as she turned to Sansa and had a thankful smile on her face, Bran thought it looked stiff and forced. He had noticed Arya’s strained behaviour towards Sansa earlier, particularly when she had explained her escape from King’s Landing with Littlefinger’s aid.

While Bran knew that his sisters had not always been the closest while they had been growing up, he had suspected that their time apart, and all the collective horrors that they had suffered, would have pulled the together like nothing else had.

Clearly, he was wrong.

A knock at the door pulled his attention away, and he turned to see the new Winterfell maester enter the room. Bran knew that Wolkan was a good, knowledgeable man who had advised Jon and Sansa well but it was still strange for him to see someone other than Luwin wearing a maester’s chain in Winterfell.

“Lady Sansa,” the man said, as he bowed his head respectfully. “I apologise but there is a visitor who will need your personal attention.”

Sansa sighed as she rose to her feet.

“I’m sorry,” she said, as she looked between them. “I’ll try not to be too long.”

As Sansa passed him, Bran felt her pat him on the shoulder slightly, but he was too busy looking at Arya. Now that Sansa’ back was turned, Arya wasn’t trying to hide a look of distrust and anger that Bran was very confused by. When she sensed Bran’s gaze, Arya’s face became a passive mask, but Bran’s curiosity was piqued.

This seemed to be a lot more than the sibling confrontations of their childhood years. Even during some of their worst fights and arguments, Bran had not seen Arya look at Sansa with such vehemence on her face, almost a look of loathing.

As the door closed behind him, Bran looked over at Arya, who seemed to be determined to avoid his eye. The silence stretched on for a few moments, before Bran decided to give voice to his suspicions.

“Arya,” he said firmly, causing her to turn slowly towards him, looking defiant. “What is the problem?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Bran,” Arya said, shaking her head dismissively.

“You do,” Bran continued doggedly. “You clearly have a problem with Sansa. What is it?”

Arya looked away from him, not even denying it, causing Bran to feel a small rush of anger.

“We have all be apart for so long, and all you seem to care about is resuming the childhood fight that you two used to have. Why?”

“That is not what is happening,” Arya said defensively.

“Then explain!” Bran responded heatedly, ignoring the shocked look on her face at his tone. It was not in his nature to lose his temper easily but he wasn’t going to sit back and allow his siblings to get back at each other’s throats, not when they had only just been reunited after so long and when there were far more important things to worry about.

Arya sighed deeply, before looking at Bran with an odd look on her face, an oddly furtive and appraising look, as though she was wondering if she could trust him. Thinking back to Arya’s story of her time away from Winterfell, Bran cursed his own stupidity. He realised that the last person that she had trusted had been the assassin, Jaqen H’ghar, or at least someone she had thought was him, and he had sent the Waif to kill her.

After that, it would be hard for her to trust anyone, Bran thought, with a feeling of pity as he looked at his sister.

“Arya,” he said in a far softer tone, as he reached out to grasp hold of her hand. “I know that it has been a long time since you could fully trust someone, for the fear that they would hurt or betray you. But remember, I am your brother. You have nothing to fear from me.”

Although his words did nothing to change her expression, he saw Arya’s guard drop when his hand made contact with hers. The carefully constructed walls of secrecy and isolation that she had built up over the years came crashing down around her and Bran saw a look of gratitude and helplessness cross over her face, melting away the defiant and stoic mask that had been in place for so long.

Bran wasn’t too concerned by the initial lack of trust that Arya has seemed to show in him, as he knew that not revealing her thoughts and feelings to others must be something of a habit by now for her, so much so that it would be hard to drop even for her family. As she looked at him, he saw the hesitation in her eyes and Bran remained silent, determined to not press her too far too soon, to be patient with her.

“When I returned,” she began slowly, “I saw Littlefinger talking to another lord. He was talking about his plans to overthrow Jon.”

Bran sat up a little straighter, shocked. He had heard about Littlefinger’s scheming, which had causing Sansa to wonder several times whose side he was truly on, but this plan for treason against Jon was different. It confused him that Littlefinger would be so keen to betray the man he had not too long ago pledged his allegiance to, with actions if not with words.

He remembered when Sansa had told him about Littlefinger’s plan for himself, to be on the Iron Throne, with Sansa as his wife. Was that what this was all about? Did he still believe that he could achieve this? The fascination with the Iron Throne Bran could understand, as he had learned about several civil wars that had broken around throughout Westerosi history due to someone coveting the Throne, but he couldn’t believe that Littlefinger still believe that he could seduce Sansa to join him.

Could he?

“All right,” Bran said, still not following. “What has that got to do with Sansa?”

“Littlefinger said that soon Sansa ‘will play her part’ in his plan,” she said hesitantly, clearly watching for his reaction.

“Arya,” Bran sighed, shaking his head slightly. “You didn’t believe him, did you? This is what he does. Sansa told me that he has spent his whole life plotting and scheming against others in order to move higher. How do you think he became the guardian to the Lord of the Vale? You can’t believe a word that he says.”

“Listen to me, Bran,” Arya said, raising her hands to prevent any interruptions. “You might be right. This is probably me being too distrustful, and seeing enemies everywhere, even among my own family. But what if I am right? What if Sansa is working against Jon? Let me investigate a little. If I find nothing, then I will tell Sansa myself.”

Bran sighed and pressed his forehead into his hands, shaking his head in disbelief. After hearing Arya’s explanation, Bran wished that it had been down to lingering childhood resentment.

That would have been easier to deal with, he thought, as he looked up at Arya and saw a determined look on her face and he instantly knew that nothing that he could say would change her mind on this.

“So, you want me to lie to Sansa?” he said lowly. “To pretend that I know nothing of this potential treasonous plan by Littlefinger, just in case she is involved?”

“Bran,” Arya began, before he held up a hand to silence her.

Bran was conflicted. He didn’t want to lie to Sansa, and he certainly didn’t believe that she would ally with Littlefinger to depose Jon. He certainly trusted her intentions more than he did Littlefinger’s. But at the same time, he didn’t want to isolate Arya by disregarding her suspicions as, while he didn’t believe them, she did, and was completely convinced in them. Rejecting them now would cause her to retreat back into herself and he didn’t know if they could bring back her trusting side again.

Bran rubbed his face with his hands as he came to a decision.

“All right,” he said, as he straightened up and faced her. “You have a week. No longer. If you haven’t found anything in that time I will tell Sansa myself what you told me. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she said, smiling slightly. “Thank you, Bran.”

As she got up to leave the room, she bent down and hugged him tightly, clearly showing her gratitude for his faith in her.

“Please don’t kill anyone,” he whispered, only half serious.

As he heard Arya chuckle into his shoulder, Bran heard another knock on the door and turned to see Sansa enter the room.

“Bran,” she said, looking excited. “Lord Howland Reed has arrived.”

Bran’s spirits rose, knowing that he could finally get some confirmation over his vision of Jon and could have the identity of his cousin’s father confirmed, to see if his suspicions were true.

Sansa moved aside and two Stark men entered the room to carry Bran down to the courtyard. As they walked through the stone corridors, Bran thought back to what little he knew about Howland Reed.

His father had always spoke of him with great respect and Bran knew that Reed had been one of his father’s closest confidants, ever since Robert’s Rebellion where they had fought side by side. Bran knew that this was unusual as the crannogmen rarely left the Neck, so Reed must have truly respected his father.

Meera and Jojen hadn’t spoken much about their father but whenever they did their voices were tinged with sorrow and longing, due to the time and distance of their parting for their father. Meera had described her father as, despite the short stature that was common among the crannogmen, a brave, strong and smart man.

After hearing both these stories about the man, Bran was eager to meet Lord Reed.

As they entered the courtyard, Bran saw a small group of men, with several of them carrying standards bearing the black lizard-lion on green sigil of House Reed. Amidst this group of men, Bran’s eyes were drawn to the man at its centre, clearly Howland Reed.

While he was indeed short in stature, Bran could tell that he had once been a very strong and capable man. His face was covered by a large and bushy beard, with its reddish tinge streaked with grey. As Bran was carried closer, the man turned his warm gaze to him and a small smile crossed his face.

“You must be Brandon,” Howland said, when Bran was lowered into a chair in front of him. “I remember when you were born. Your father sent me a letter, and I could sense his pride in his words. It is good to finally meet you.”

As he said this, Howland Reed extended his hand to Bran, who took it. As he shook the man’s hand, Bran heard a cry from behind him.

“Father!” came Meera’s voice.

Bran turned to see her running over towards them, her features illuminated by her happiness at seeing her father after so long. Howland Reed immediately let go of Bran’s hand and opened his arms wide to receive his daughter, as he flung herself into his arms.

Bran smiled widely as he witnessed their reunion. Bran had grown to care for Meera very much and he was pleased to see her so happy, reunited once more with her beloved father.

“It has been far too long since we have seen each other, my child,” Howland Reed muttered, his voice brimming with happiness.

“It has,” replied Meera. “But I wish that Jojen were here.”

As she said this, Meera’s voice broke with emotion and she clung ever tighter to her father, who in turn gripped his daughter tightly in reassurance.

“As do I, child” he said, in a voice thick and cracking with grief. “As do I.”

The courtyard was silent for a moment as the two Reeds clung onto each other, seeking solace with each other as they grieved the loss of their loved one. As he watched them, Bran once more felt a rush of loss for Jojen’s passing, for the loss of his friend.

After a moment, the two broke apart. Meera turned to stand near Bran and smiled weakly at him. Bran could tell, by the redness of her eyes and the wetness of her cheeks, that the loss of Jojen was once more weighing heavy upon her. As she reached him, Bran reached out to grasp hold of her hand, and squeezed it reassuringly. After a moment, she returned the pressure with a grateful nod and smile.

Sansa’s voice caught his attention and he reluctantly tore his gaze away from Meera to see his sister approach Howland Reed.

“It is an honour to welcome you to Winterfell, Lord Reed,” she said, as she bowed her head respectfully. “As I said in my letter to you, my father spoke of you often, with great respect.”

“I thank you for your generosity, my lady,” Howland Reed said, as he nodded respectfully, smiling widely.  “You remind me so much of your mother, Lady Sansa. I only met her a few times, but I see her beauty and grace in you.”

“Thank you, my lord,” Sansa replied, inclining her head lightly. “I welcome you to Winterfell, and I wish to tell you that our full hospitality is yours.”

As Howland nodded his thanks and began to make his way towards the keep, followed by the men who had accompanied him from the Neck, Bran spoke.

“Lord Reed,” he said, causing the man to return his gaze to him. “When you and your men have settled in, and you have fully caught up with Meera, I would like to have a few words with you, if that is all right? Maybe tomorrow in the godswood?”

Howland nodded and smiled.

“It would be an honour, Bran,” the man said, his face became covered with an odd look. “I get the feeling that you have many things to tell me.”

As Bran watched the man enter the Winterfell keep, flanked by Sansa and Meera, he wondered.

How much did he know?

*

Bran was standing in a snow covered clearing. There was a strong wind blowing through the trees, that was buffeting his hair all around his face. Bran looked all around him and saw that he was once again in the lands beyond the Wall.

But how?

Almost immediately, Bran realised that this must be one of his dreams, his visions.

Bran began to walk forwards, feeling his feet crunch on the powdery snow. If he didn’t know that this was one of his visions, he would have believed that it was real. As he walked forward, Bran heard a commotion coming from in front of him and rushed towards it, while at the same time knowing, without really knowing why, that this was happening at this moment.

As Bran hurried through the crushing mass of trees on either side of him, the sounds of combat grew. Before long he reached a clearing and what he saw made Bran freeze in his tracks.

In front of him was his uncle Benjen, standing defiantly in the centre of the clearing with his dragonglass blade drawn, surrounded by five White Walkers who had their own, icicle-like blades drawn and steaming in the frozen air.

Bran’s breathing caught in his throat as he watched helplessly as Benjen began to engage them, dodging and weaving around their lunges and slashes, desperately trying to conserve his brittle, precious dragonglass blade.

As a White Walker slashed past him, Benjen thrust his blade into its chest, shattering both his blade and his foe. Bran reached out his hand helplessly to his uncle, knowing in his heart that his time was limited, and that he could do nothing to save him.

However, the remaining White Walkers did not attack. They merely stood stock still in place, surrounding him.

Bran looked around the clearing, his confusion by the White Walker’s actions mirrored by Benjen. Clearly neither of them could understand why the White Walkers did not press their advantage and kill Benjen now, when they could. Benjen was one of the few people who knew of, and believed, the return of the White Walkers, so killing him would be a considerable advantage to their cause.

And yet they did not act.

Bran stood stock still, listening intently, as he looked sadly at his uncle, knowing deep down what he was about to witness and that he could do nothing to stop it.

Before long, Bran heard the sound of footsteps crunching in the thick snow.

Bran turned towards the sound and, upon seeing the cause, felt a crushing wave of fear rush through him as he involuntarily clutched at his arm, where the mark still showed on his flesh.

It was the Night King.

Despite knowing that he was not actually there, Bran was still terrified at the sight of him, knowing through experience that he could still harm Bran. The Night King looked similar to the other White Walkers, with the main difference being the almost crown-like spikes on his head, with his skin that looked pale even amongst the snowy backdrop. However, he walked with such a confidence and impressive air that Bran shivered despite not feeling the cold.

As he walked into the clearing the other White Walkers seemed to cower slightly at his approach, backing away in deference to their leader and commander. The Night King’s blue eyes seemed to burn in his face as he looked towards Benjen, the corners of his thin mouth curling into a cruel smirk, having finally cornered his prey.

As the Night King continued to approach Benjen, Bran called out in desperation, despite knowing that it could do no good, pleading with his uncle to flee, to fight, to do anything to evade his almost inevitable fate. As the Night King came ever closer, he reached towards his back and drew his weapon, a large sickle-like blade.

The Night King came to halt a few feet away from Benjen, his mouth now covered by a grin. Benjen took a run up and tried to attack him, although Bran could see that he was acting purely out of desperation, as Benjen would have known that he could do nothing to him with just his fists.

As Benjen’s fist made contact with the Night King’s face, Bran watched in amazement as his uncle seemed to freeze in place, his confusion mirrored on his uncle’s weathered face.

And then something happened that made Bran’s heart sink.

Benjen’s hand began to blacken further than it already was. First his knuckles, that were still connected to the Night Kings cheek, but then it began to spread down his hand onto his wrist. Benjen began to cry out in pain as he struggled to remove his hand from his foe’s face, to prevent the rapidly spreading frostbite from consuming his hand.

As a sound like ice cracking filled the clearing, Bran looked at the Night King’s face, to see that his smile had widened even further. So much so that…

Bran jolted slightly as he realised what was happening.

The Night King was laughing.

Mocking Benjen’s futile attempt to save himself, to prevent his death.

Bran watched helplessly, his heart hammering in his fear-constricted chest, as the Night King reached out to grab hold of Benjen’s throat. Bran saw that the skin around his uncle’s throat began to blacken at the touch.

The Night King raised his curved blade and swung it downwards, embedding it into the side of Benjen’s neck. Blood began to flow from the wound, immediately beginning to steam in the icy air. The Night King let go of Benjen, letting the man crumple limply into a heap in the snow, completely unmoving.

Bran looked on in horror. When they had said goodbye for the last time, Bran was sure that his uncle would die, but he could never have imagined that he would actually have to witness his uncle’s demise.

As Bran looked on, he was numbly aware of the Night King turning towards him. Bran followed suit, looking into the creature’s icy eyes. Bran felt his fear reach a fever pitch at the Night King grinned mockingly once more as he turned to look, almost pointedly, at Benjen’s corpse, as if to further Bran’s grief.

Determined to not prolong his own grief any further and to stop the Night King from laying a hand on him once more, who had turned back to him and had started to walk towards him, Bran used all of his willpower to force himself out of his vision, to come back to the present.

Bran awoke, breathing deeply and shaking in his bed, soaked in a cold sweat.

Bran laid still for a moment, feeling the rapid beat of his heart slow in his chest and his flesh warm itself once more under the layer of furs. Almost again his will, he saw the vision over and over again in his mind, watching his uncle die over and over again.

Feeling his grief well up inside him once more, Bran turned his head to his right and saw the bushy hair of Meera next to him. They had spent so many months sleeping next to each other, huddled together to prevent them from perishing from the cold, that it had seemed normal. Even when they had returned to Winterfell, and the threat from the cold had vanished, neither of them had really felt the need to break the routine.

Bran didn’t mind however, as her presence always gave him a sense of comfort, someone to confide in when his visions took their toll.

Like now.

Bran reached out and took hold of Meera’s warm shoulder, feeling her sigh and relax slightly at his touch.

“Meera,” Bran said quietly as he gave her shoulder a little shake, desperately trying to not allow his emotion to spill over just yet. “Meera, please.”

She awoke and turned to him, her eyes only half open.

“Bran?” she said quietly. “What is it?”

“I had a- a vision,” he said.

She immediately sat up, ignoring her tiredness, as a look of concern crossed her face. Bran felt a reassuring hand on his shoulder as she turned to face him fully.

“What was it?” she asked gently.

“Could you get Sansa and Arya for me, please?” Bran asked quietly, looking at her pleadingly. He didn’t like asking her to run all over the castle for him like this, but he didn’t know of any other way. “They will need to hear this too.”

Meera nodded in response, as she threw back the furs and grabbed a cloak, before hurrying from the room.

Bran laid there in the dark waiting for Meera’s return, seeing the pained expression Benjen’s face every time he closed his eyes. Bran bunched his hands into fists on the furs, grabbing handfuls of it and squeezing hard, trying to push the image from his mind, not wanting to see his uncle’s suffering any more.

Soon Bran heard hurrying footsteps in the corridor outside and Meera came back into the room, closely followed by Sansa and Arya who were both looking confused and worried.

“Bran?” Sansa asked, as she sat on the chair next to the bed. “What is it?”

“I saw-” he began, before his emotions took hold of him, constricting his throat, preventing him from speaking.

Bran felt Meera grasp hold of his hand, her fingers interlocking with his own and squeezing his hand reassuringly. Bran took a deep breath, before beginning his explanation again.

“I had a vision,” he said, looking between his sisters. “Of Uncle Benjen.”

Both of them straightened slightly, and Bran felt Meera’s grip tighten slightly on his hand. He turned to look at her, and he saw a flicker of fear in her eyes. Bran recognised that Meera knew him so well, that she could tell by his reaction that something bad had happened.

“What’s happened, Bran?” Arya asked, in a hushed voice.

“He’s… He’s dead. Killed by the Night King.”

An identical look of shock and sadness passed between the sisters. Saying the words aloud caused Bran’s feeling to rise up within him once more. Seeing the look on his face, both Sansa and Arya moved forward together and both engulfed him into their arms, holding him tightly.

Bran returned their grip while at the same time keeping hold of Meera’s hand, feeling more at ease with the warmth of her hand in his, and they all grieved for their uncle together, all secret grudges and suspicions forgotten for the moment in the face of their loss.

*

The following day, Bran sat in the by the heart tree in the Winterfell godswood, looking out over the dark pool of water in front of him.

He was lost in thought, thinking of the hours that he had spent here since his return, revelling in the peace and quiet as he constantly pushed himself to extend and further his control over his abilities. He had used the weirwood tree to have visions, to try to gain knowledge that would be useful in the weeks and months to come.

Unfortunately, he was still struggling to control what exactly he saw. He had often witnessed the Red Wedding again and many other visions that he had already seen.

However, there were some new visions, but he was having trouble working out what there were showing him or, once he knew what he was seeing, why exactly he was seeing them.

He had seen a small, silver haired woman on many occasions. A beautiful woman with purple eyes. Bran had suspected that this was Daenerys Targaryen and his suspicions were confirmed when he saw three differently coloured dragons surrounding her.

He had seen her in many different situations. He saw her difficult upbringing alongside her cruel brother. Her forced marriage to the Dothraki khal, Drogo. Her rise to be the Queen of Meereen, with all of the victories and setbacks along the way.

He had also seen a lot of Jon’s adventures. These visions had begun once he had heard a basic account of them from Sansa. He saw Jon’s faking his defection into the Wildlings. His growing relationship with Ygritte and his respect for the Free Folk grow. He saw Jon’s leadership over the Night’s Watch during the Battle for the Wall and Hardhome. Every time he had a vision of Jon, it would always end with the events of the Tower of Joy, with Lyanna’s words echoing through his mind.

Promise me, Ned. Promise me.

Even stranger was when he would have visions of a man that Bran vaguely remembered as Tyrion Lannister. He witnessed the Battle of Blackwater, and Tyrion’s courageous actions during the battle. He saw his murder of his own father in his escape from King’s Landing. He saw his first meeting with Daenerys, in one of the fighting pits near Meereen. But what he had seen most was of Tyrion releasing Daenery’s dragons from their bonds.

The other two visions that he had had frequently were even harder from him to explain as to why he was seeing them.

The first was of three large shadows looming out of the darkness towards him. He’d soon realised that they were Daenerys’ dragons, when they began to breath fire at a writhing mass of blackness on the ground below them. But as he’d had the vision more often Bran had begun to pay closer attention and had realised that the three dragons were not the only ones in the vison.

Each one had a rider on their back, only a small black shape in his vision, but unmistakably a person.

The second recurring vision was one that had thrilled and confused Bran in equal measure. Bran had been flying over the snowy ground, seeing a mass of people on the ground below him, feeling the icy, winter wind blowing onto his face. Whenever he had this vision, he always heard the voice of the Three-Eyed Raven, echoing through his mind.

You will never walk again… but you will fly.

“Bran?” came a voice, breaking through Bran’s reverie.

Bran turned towards the speaker and saw Howland Reed approaching him. Bran composed himself, before beckoning the man closer.

“Thank you for meeting me, Lord Reed,” Bran said, as the man took a seat next to him on the hard ground without any hesitation.

“My pleasure, my lord,” he replied, nodding his head. “In fact, I think I owe you my gratitude. I have heard much about you from Meera. About how you looked after each other and kept each other company while you were north of the wall.”

“Thank you, my lord. But Meera and Jojen did far more for me than I did for them. Sometimes I think too much.”

Sensing the meaning behind his words, Howland reached forward and grasped hold of his shoulder.

“You are so like your father,” he said, with a rueful smile. “He too would have accepted undue guilt for something that was not under his power to change. Bran, Jojen’s death was not your fault, and I do not blame you. And if I, as his father, do not blame you for his death, then you should not blame yourself.”

Despite not being fully convinced by the man’s words, Bran nodded slightly. Howland returned his nod before straightening up, looking at him expectantly.

“You said that you have heard a lot about me from Meera,” Bran began. “Has she told you of my abilities?”

“Yes,” the man replied, nodding. “They sound a lot like the abilities that Jojen possessed. He had them since he was a child.”

“I wanted to ask you about a vision that I had of you… and my father,” Bran said, seeing a look of curiosity cross Howland’s face. “Lyanna’s death.”

Howland’s curious look turned to one of shock and then into resignation and acceptance.

“Jon,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Bran nodded, causing Howland to lean forward with a groan and rest his forehead into his hands. He stayed that way for a moment before looking back up to Bran.

“What do you wish to know?”

“Who is Jon’s father?” Bran asked immediately.

“Is that not obvious, Bran?” Howland replied, raising an eyebrow expectantly.

“So, Jon’s father is Rhaegar?” Bran said, and Howland nodded in confirmation. “I thought that it was but I also tried to find another explanation for it.”

“If only there was another explanation,” Howland said, with a note of bitterness in his voice. “Then maybe your aunt wouldn’t have died in the way that she did. Alone, so far away from her family.”

“And neither you, nor my father said anything about it? To anyone?”

“No, Bran,” replied Howland. “I assume that you have heard of Robert Baratheon’s hatred of the Targaryen family?”

Bran nodded his assent. Aside from his drunkenness and whoring, Robert’s hatred of House Targaryen was his most well-known trait.

“If he had known that Jon was a Targaryen, particularly the child of Rhaegar, the man he so loathed, and Lyanna, the woman he loved more than any other, he would have slaughtered him in his crib. Just like he had allowed to happen to Rhaegar’s other children. Neither your father nor I wished to see that happen to that innocent child.”

“So…” Bran said, almost thinking aloud. “Jon could have a claim to the Iron Throne, as the sole remained heir of Rhaegar.”

“Could is a very important word here, Bran,” Howland replied, looking serious. “You and I are the only two people who now know of Jon’s true parentage, and neither of us could prove it. No one would believe your visions, and people would see me as a loyal bannerman trumping up a claim for his liege lord to gain more power.

“And, even if we could prove it, would Jon want the Throne? It is a big responsibility, with many duties. You know him better than I. Would he want that?”

“I don’t know,” Bran replied, honestly.

“Even so, Bran. From what I have heard since I arrived in Winterfell, there is another Targaryen back in Westeros. I don’t think that she would take kindly to Jon claiming the throne that she had returned to win back. Do you?”

“No. I doubt that she would.”

The two of them fell into silence, wrapped up in their own thoughts.

Bran didn’t think that, even if he learned the truth of his birth, that Jon would seek the throne. Nor did he think, as Howland said, Daenerys would accept Jon’s claim.

But Bran knew that couldn’t, and wouldn’t, keep this from Jon. He wouldn’t do that to the man that he loved like a brother. A man who was his brother, regardless of who his father was.

Besides, Bran thought as he gazed back into the dark pool in front of him. Knowing that they are family, might mean that Jon and Daenerys reach an alliance easier.

Hearing the call of a raven, Bran turned his gaze to the sky, and saw the dark wings of the birds as they flew from the maester’s tower, to points unknown. Bran wished that he could send one to Jon, to tell him as soon as he could about this secret, to urge him to return so they could all deal with this revelation together. But he knew that he couldn’t, in case it fell into the wrong hands.

Hurry back, Jon, Bran pleaded, as he thought back to Arya’s growing suspicions. We need you back here.

Chapter Text

 

Tyrion

 

Tyrion stood on the balcony of the room of the Painted Table, looking out over the aftermath of the battle. Even now, three days after the battle had ended, there were countless smoking wreckages in the sea around the island, the majority of them being Euron’s longships. Euron’s entire force, with the exception of around ten ships, whose crews had surrendered, had been destroyed.

These surrendering ships had been seized by Yara and, along with the thirty-strong fleet that had arrived with Victarion Greyjoy, had gone a little way into replacing the around ninety ships that their side had lost in the battle. Hearing a loud screech from above him, Tyrion raised his eyes to see the three dragons circling the tower and smiled at the sight.

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion had been responsible for the destruction of the vast majority of Euron’s fleet and Tyrion knew that without them, their forces would have lost far more of their own men.

Despite the leadership of Randyll Tarly, Grey Worm and Jon Snow, their victory had not come without losses.

In addition to the ships lost, nearly ten thousand Dothraki had been killed, with the majority of them burned by the Lannister catapults. Tyrion knew that they were lucky that the Dothraki had not lost more, as Barbarro’s decision to leave the main battle had meant that the remaining men had been leaderless and unable to follow the plan led by Tarly. Daenerys had not been impressed by this foolish action, and had made Barbarro aware of the fact that if he did something similar again then she would find someone else to lead her Dothraki forces.

The Unsullied had been a lot luckier, and had only lost seven hundred of their number. Tyrion knew that their vastly inferior losses were due to their superior tactics and fighting skill. Thinking back to the battle, he remembered how the Unsullied forces had formed a vast line that, to the best of his knowledge, hadn’t been broken throughout the battle.

There had also been a few hundred Westerosi knights on Dragonstone accompanying their liege lords, who were here to pledge their fealty to Daenerys. Out of these small number two hundred had died, and they had since learned that many of them had faced the heavily-armoured Lannister knights, having knowledge of how they fight.

Not a perfect victory, Tyrion thought as he looked out over the debris of battle. But a victory nonetheless.

A noise from behind him caught Tyrion’s attention and he turned back to the fellow occupants of the room of the Painted Table. Jon and Davos were huddled together at the northern end of the table, clearly in deep discussion. They were long into the second day in this room, discussing the various aspects of the upcoming Targaryen-Stark alliance, and it seemed like they were close to agreeing to the terms.

As Tyrion made his way back to his seat, and refilled his wine goblet, he thought back to the various discussion that they had had in the past days. Luckily, the discussion had been very cordial, with neither Daenerys nor Jon finding cause for argument.

One of the first things that Jon had demanded was that the North would remain as a free and independent kingdom, as per the wishes of its people. However, as a concession, he conceded that, while the Vale had declared their loyalty to him, they would be given a choice at the end of the fighting as to whether they wished to remain part of the Kingdom of the North or if they wished to pledge their featly to the Iron Throne once more. While Jon had looked a little uncomfortable when Daenerys had suggested this he had ultimately conceded, clealy grateful that Daenerys had been receptive to granting Northern independence.

Then had come the discussions over their troop movements.

This had lasted long into the night on the first day of talks and the majority of the second, with many different plans talked over before being thrown out by either Jon, Randyll Tarly or either of the Greyjoys. Victarion had been particularly helpful in matters of naval strategy, his years of experience clear in the advice that he gave.

Yara had been stoic and much more subdued than usual since the death of Theon, understandably so. Other than that, if she was grieving the loss of her brother it was not plainly clear from her outward actions, as she still commanded her men and advised Daenerys on naval matters with the same efficiency and skill.

But they had finally, just under an hour ago, come to a plan.

Daenerys would head to the North with Jon Snow, to rally his men to help regain the throne, as Jon had advised that his bannermen would be unwilling to go to war to aid her based purely on her word. But they might be more receptive to her personal delivery of the promise of Northern independence, along with Jon’s assurance that it would an alliance of equals. She would be accompanied by Grey Worm, who was well on the way to fully recovering, and his legion of Unsullied, as well as Missandei.

Tyrion meanwhile would travel to Dorne with Varys, Barbarro and the Dothraki, to act as Daenerys’ word and will. They would land at Sunspear and meet with the remainder of Daenery’s forces, who would then be placed under the command of Randyll Tarly, whom Tyrion was glad to have with him. Tyrion’s knowledge of military strategy, while not minimal, was nowhere near the level of Tarly.

They had decided to send the Dothraki to the south, rather that the North with Daenerys, as they knew that the cold would be a factor in limiting the effectiveness of the Dothraki. Dany and Barbarro had decided that the Dothraki would need to get used to the Westerosi cold, before they headed north to meet the White Walker threat.

They would then fight their way north, towards King’s Landing, removing the Westerlands and the Crownlands from Cersei’s control along the way. They would then lay siege to King’s Landing, in anticipation of Daenerys’ arrival with Jon and his forces. It would also, argued Tarly, serve to impact the morale of Cersei’s remaining forces, spending days on end seeing the bulk of her army surrounding the capital.

Once the loyalty of the Northern houses was secured, Jon and Daenerys would then march south, taking the Riverlands and the remainder of the Crownlands along the way. Hopefully, after hearing of the siege of King’s Landing, many houses would surrender to Daenerys, hoping for merciful treatment.

Her dragons would certainly aid in that, Tyrion thought, with a smile.

It was effectively a giant pincer movement, throughout the Kingdoms.

Meanwhile the Greyjoy fleet would remain at Dragonstone and would, led by Victarion and Yara, begin to blockade Blackwater Bay, preventing any further Greyjoy ships arriving from Pyke, to reinforce the small fleet that currently resided in the harbour of King’s Landing. A smaller force would begin to set up supply lines to the White Harbour and Gulltown, mainly of the newly forged dragonglass weapons, which was already being mined from beneath them at this moment.

It is a solid plan¸ Tyrion mused, as he thought it over again in his head. Not perfect, but few plans ever are.

Tyrion was not so foolish as to think that nothing could go wrong with their plan, but he was confident that with the leadership of their many experienced warriors, with Jon, Grey Worm and Randyll Tarly being the most prevalent among them, and with the might of Daenerys’ forces, bolstered by her three dragons, that their plan may just work.

Tyrion was pulled from his thoughts when Jon turned back to them and cleared his throat.

“I agree to these terms, Queen Daenerys,” Jon said, smiling slightly.

Tyrion, feeling elated, looked towards Daenerys and saw a wide smile spread across her face, enhancing her already beautiful face. Tyrion nodded triumphantly and drained his goblet in celebration. He had wanted this since Jon had arrived on Dragonstone and was glad that the moment had finally arrived.

“Truly a cause for celebration!” said Tyron joyously, as he refilled his goblet once more, ignoring the resigned sighs of both Jon and Daenerys as they shook their heads at his words.

“Indeed,” echoed Varys, surprising them all. “It would seem that history has been made this day.”

Tyrion couldn’t help but notice the small look that passed between Jon and Daenerys and smiled once more. He had noticed that the two of them were acting far more warmly towards each other of late, particularly after the battle.

“Well,” said Varys, causing all eyes to return to him one more. “As I think we are all aware, talk of alliance is all very well but there are other ways to cement them. Marriage, for instance?

“King Jon,” he continued, turning to face him, whose face had been covered by a look of apprehension and anger. “What do you think?”

Tyrion turned to Jon and was a little shocked by the look on his face. While Varys’ words were undoubtedly blunt and far too direct for Tyrion’s liking, the look of anger on Jon’s face was little surprising.

“Before you suggest it, Lord Varys,” Jon said lowly, “I will not be marrying off any of my siblings to secure this alliance. Sansa has already been married off twice, and neither of those turned out well for her.”

As he said this, Jon turned to look at Tyrion with a look of apology on his face, to which Tyrion responded with a dismissive wave of his hand. He was under no delusions that Sansa was anything other than repulsed by the idea of their marriage. While he had strived to be as kind as he could be while they had been married, he was not hurt to know that the experience had not been pleasing for her.

“Because of that,” Jon continued, returning his gaze to Varys, “I cannot, will not, force her to wed again against her will. Nor will I demand it of Arya or Bran, wherever they are now. If someone has to be wed to secure this alliance, then it shall be me, and there will be no further discussion on the matter.”

Tyrion sat looking at Jon, and was struck by a renewed rush of respect for his friend. He was giving himself up to be wed off to secure this alliance to spare his siblings the same fate. Tyrion had always known that Jon had dearly loved his siblings, he had seen the look of happiness on his face whenever he spoke of them, but this was the first time that he had seen it in action.

He may not have wanted to be the King in the North, thought Tyrion proudly. But if his actions since he arrived here are anything to go by, no one in the North is more worthy of the title.

However, at this thought, Tyrion began to think about the ramifications of Jon’s statement. If it had been Sansa, Arya or Bran who were to marry then it would simply have been a matter of a marriage to one of Daenerys’ staunchest supporters.

But Jon was the King in the North, and if this alliance was to truly be one of equals, then the only true match would be…

Tyrion turned to look at Daenerys, who was looking at Jon with a look of surprise and happiness on her face, and he could see that she too was impressed by Jon’s actions. However, she too seemed to realise the impact of Jon’s words, and looked at him for a moment, with Jon looking back at her.

“Very well,” she said finally, nodding. “We can discuss the potential marriage match at a later time.”

As Varys opened his mouth once more, there was a knock at the door. The vast wooden door creaked open and a messenger entered, looking timid and like he would rather be anywhere but here. Not wasting any time, he sped across the room towards Varys, gave him a small scroll and raced back out of the room.

All eyes were on Varys as he unfurled the scroll and read it quickly, his quietly curious expression turning to one of shock as he looked towards Tyrion, whose gut flooded with fear and dread.

“What is it?” he demanded, all remnants of his happiness over the alliance vanishing.

“It’s news from the capital,” Varys responded quietly, looking grave. “It appears that Jaime and Bronn attempted to assassinate the Mountain and Qyburn. Their attempt failed. Jaime is imprisoned in the Black Cells and Bronn is… is dead.”

Tyrion’s eyes widened as he felt his heart quicken in his chest. While he was vaguely aware of everyone turning to look at him, he didn’t really register it.

Jaime in the Black Cells? Tyrion thought numbly, thinking back to his own experience within them. And Bronn is dead?

Tyrion thought back to his memories of Bronn. Of when they had met, while he was a prisoner of Catelyn Stark. When the sell sword had offered to represent him in his Trial by Combat in the Vale. Of all the times that Tyrion had put one of his schemes into action, bolstered by the confidence that he had Bronn’s skill and support behind them.

Feeling a pang of loss, Tyrion bowed his head.

Farewell, Bronn, Tyrion thought solemnly. While I may have paid you for your services, there was no doubt that you were, in fact, my friend.

There was a respectful silence in the room, as his companions allowed him to grieve, for which Tyrion was immeasurably grateful. As he grieved for Bronn, his thoughts turned to Jaime, now locked up in the Black Cells. He initially found it strange that Jaime would make such a brazen move against Cersei, as the two of them had been as close as anyone he had ever knew.

The situation in King’s Landing must be dire for Jaime to consider such a reckless action, Tyrion guessed. What madness has Cersei done now to inspire such an act from our brother?

After a moment of grief, Tyrion raised his head towards Varys, who was observing at him in a respectful silence.

“Is there any other news?” Tyrion demanded. “Anything to explain why Jaime and Bronn would do something so foolish?”

“It would appear that Jaime didn’t agree with Cersei’s decision to send Euron to attack us,” Varys explained calmly, as he consulted the sheaf of parchment in front of him. “Also, my little birds say that he clashed with Cersei over her latest scheme to gain more men for her army.

“Cersei has conscripted any able-bodied men from her remaining vassals and has demanded that these men be sent to the capital so that they can serve the crown. She has sent them out to various camps throughout the Stormlands to have them trained, seemingly in readiness for invasions from the north, south or from the sea.”

“How many men did she gain from this?” Jon asked, leaning forward with a concerned look on his face. “And which houses supplies the men?”

“The men were mainly supplied from loyal Lannister bannermen from the Westerlands and many houses of the Stormlands, continuing to follow her out of loyalty to her marriage to Robert. I am not certain of the exact number at the present moment, but it will be more than enough to replace the men she lost attacking us here.

“However,” Varys continued, looking towards Daenerys, who too looked worried at this news. “With the alliance that we have forged here, we should still outnumber her forces. In addition, we have the added advantage of your dragons, and over half of the Seven Kingdoms backing us.”

Tyrion wanted to be persuaded by Varys’ words but he couldn’t shake the feelings of doubt. While the combined forces of Daenerys and Jon would now outnumber his sister’s army, he knew all too well that an advantage of numbers didn’t automatically mean victory.

The Battle of Blackwater is proof of that, Tyrion thought. Stannis had the numbers in that battle and yet he did not win.

Tyrion knew from experience that all it took was a seemingly mad plan that could turn the tide of battle. All it would take is some seemingly mad scheme from either Cersei herself or her maester Qyburn, that could turn the tide against them.

Tyrion hoped that he was wrong.

“If only we could find a way to remove the Stormlands men,” said Tyrion, more thinking aloud that anything. “Their loyalty is tenuous at best, and their bond with the crown is the most easily severed out of Cersei’s allies. If we could strip her of these newly gained men, it could turn the tide back to us.”

“As I said,” said Varys. “Their loyalty is because of her marriage to Robert, and being the mother of the last two Baratheon kings. However, the whispers about Joffrey and Tommen’s legitimacy continue. If we could present an alternative heir to the Baratheon forces, then their loyalty would be severely tested.”

“But Robert has no known surviving children,” Tyrion replied, rubbing his forehead with his hand. “Joffrey saw to that. We do not have the time to scour the kingdoms for any of Robert’s remaining bastards.”

“We won’t need to,” said Davos confidently. “I know just the person.”

There was a stunned silence as everyone turned to Davos, with mixed expressions of shock and relief.

“His name is Gendry,” continued Davos calmly. “And, to the best of my knowledge, he is Robert’s oldest surviving bastard.”

Tyrion grinned widely, hardly daring to believe their luck. If this man was who Davos claimed him to be, then they might just have a chance to deprive Cersei of a large part of her army.

“How do you know about this, Ser Davos?” asked Dany curiously.

At this, Davos’ face darkened with anger, causing Tyrion’s wide smile to fade slightly.

“I met the boy when he was brought here by Stannis’ priestess, Melisandre.”

At the mention of the woman, Tyrion saw Jon shift awkwardly in his chair. Tyrion knew that his friend must be a little conflicted, as he would be grateful that she resurrected him, but, at the same time, Tyrion also knew that Jon’s honourable nature meant that he would not forgive the woman for all the vile deeds that she had committed in the name of her Lord of Light.

“She had convinced Stannis to sacrifice the boy to give Stannis the power to crush his enemies and win the Iron Throne. I may have respected the man, and followed him into war without a second thought, but I could not follow him in this. I freed Gendry and gave him a ship to sail away from the island, to escape his fate.”

“And where is the boy now?” asked Tyrion, trying to keep the mounting excitement from his voice.

“I do not know exactly,” replied Davos, lowering Tyrion’s spirits slightly. “But I believe that he was heading back to King’s Landing, the place where he grew up and knew best.”

“Why would he return to King’s Landing?” Jon asked, looking puzzled. “Cersei would have his head in an instant.”

“The Gold Cloaks do not know his face. They have known my name and been searching for me for over twenty years, and yet I have been to King’s Landing dozens of times without ever being recognised by the City Watch.”

“An honourable act all the same, Ser Davos,” said Tyrion, raising his goblet in a toast to the man. “With that sense of honour, I would wager that you would make a good Northerner.”

Despite Jon silently nodding in assent beside him, Davos smiled sadly before shaking his head slightly.

“I thank you, Lord Tyrion,” he said. “But I have done plenty of dishonourable things in my lifetime.”

Before Tyrion could begin to understand the man cryptic confession, Varys continued.

“That is all very well, Ser Davos,” replied Varys politely. “But this was a couple of years ago. Nobody knows if Gendry is still in King’s Landing, or even still alive.”

“But if anyone could find out, it is you, Lord Varys,” replied Dany, turning to the man. “Send word to your little birds, to see if Gendry still resides within the city.”

“Of course, my Queen,” Varys said humbly, bowing his head.

Tyrion reached out and picked up his wine goblet, feeling a little more confident know that they had something resembling a plan to deal with Cersei. As he raised his goblet to his lips, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jon and Davos share a conspiratorial look. As soon as the look passed between them, it vanished but Tyrion was intrigued.

Just what was Jon planning?

“Well,” said Dany, as she rose to her feet and turned to look at Jon. “I think we should set sail for the North in the next few days, Jon. Do you agree?”

“I do, Your Grace,” replied Jon, as he too rose to his feet. “I also offer you the hospitality of my ship. It will give us a chance to converse some more and to plan the coming battles.”

“I accept your offer, Jon,” she said, smiling. “Thank you.”

Tyrion smirking slightly as he watched the two of them looking at each other, with the warmth in their smiles a far cry from the hostility that they had both shown when Jon had first arrived. Tyrion had noticed that the two of them, Daenerys in particular, seemed to be allowing their gaze to linger on the other a lot more lately, especially since the battle. Tyrion wasn’t even sure the two of them were aware that they were doing it.

Tyrion’s musings were interrupted when Jon and Davos excused themselves, to rest and prepare for their voyage. As Jon reached the door and opened it, Tyrion saw the frail form of Mikken standing on the other side, clearly about to knock to announce his presence. The man had often been seen in Dany’s company since their arrival on Dragonstone, relaying to her his many stories of Rhaegar which she received gratefully, eager for more.

At the sight of Jon, the man began to bow, but they could see that his old and frail build was giving him trouble. Almost immediately Jon reached out and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder.

“It is alright, my friend. You do not need to bow,” Jon said kindly. “I can see that it gives you trouble. Besides, if I am honest, while I may have only been the king for a month by now, the sight of people bowing to me still makes me uncomfortable.”

At this Mikken straightened back up, leaning heavily on his stick, with a grateful look on his face.

“Thank you, Your Grace,” puffed the old man. “I’m not as young as I once was.”

Jon chuckled at the man’s words and Tyrion saw his friend give the old man’s shoulder a reassuring pat.

“Do not worry, my friend,” said Jon, as he passed by the man and left the room with Davos.

Mikken watched Jon go with an odd expression on his face, a mixture of curiosity and confusion.

“What is it, Mikken?” asked Dany, looking equally curious about Mikken’s actions.

The old man walked over the nearest chair and sat down heavily in it, clearly tired by the exertion of climbing the staircase all the way to the top of the Stone Drum.

“There is something about the Northern King,” Mikken explained slowly. “His voice, the ways he speaks to people, the way he acts with people around him. It reminds me of your brother.”

*

A few days later, they were preparing to leave Dragonstone.

The Greyjoy fleet, bolstered the considerable might of the Redwayne fleet as well as the remaining slaver ships, were split into two, with their destinations White Harbour and Sunspear.

While Tyrion was still confident in their plan, he couldn’t deny that he was a little concerned about going to Dorne. As a Lannister, he doubted that he would be received very warmly there by the Sand Snakes, even if he was on the same side as them now.

Tyrion stood on a hill in the centre of the island, feeling the wind blowing around him, making his cloak billow around him. He was stood alongside Dany, Varys, Pylos, Missandei and a now fully recovered Grey Worm. They were waiting for Jon and his men to arrive so they could all say their farewells before they headed to the ships.

From their vantage point they could see Jon and the towering, red-haired form of Tormund standing on the beach, near a small group of men preparing to set off. Tyrion could just about recognise the form of Davos among the group, which caused him to remember back to the look that Jon had shared with his advisor a few days before.

Where is Jon sending Davos? Tyrion wondered, as he watched Davos set off and Jon make his way towards them. Is it something to do with Gendry? Or something else entirely?

Before long Jon and Tormund reached the top of the hill and Tyrion could examine the Wildling closer. The man now had a long scar reaching from his ear all the way to the corner of his mouth, carving through the tangled mass of his beard. The wound hadn’t yet fully healed but the man had demanded that the bandages be removed, so now they could see the stitching that Pylos had used to bind the wound together. His ear had also been split in half by the slash, so that too was stitched back together.

While the sight of the wound had caused many people look at him with a mixture of pity and disgust, Tormund had merely laughed when he had first seen it, impressed by the scar that he would soon be sporting. Tyrion and Jon had both laughed at this, both completely amazed by the seeming madness of that statement.

The two of them stopped in front of them, with Jon and Daenerys sharing a smile and a nod. Jon then turned and walked towards Tyrion, with his hand extended. Tyrion took the hand and shook it.

“It was good to see you again, Tyrion,” said Jon earnestly. “I hope to you soon, my friend.”

“As do I, Jon,” replied Tyrion, nodding back at him.

“So, Jon,” Tyrion continued, leaning in and lowering his voice. “Where have you sent Davos?”

Jon merely smiled slightly in response.

“You shall see soon enough,” he said cryptically.

As Jon moved on to bid a cordial farewell to Varys, Tormund took a step forward and grinned down at Tyrion.

“Don’t die out there, half-man,” said Tormund, smiling.

“I don’t plan to,” Tyrion replied, grinning too. “We shall have to have a drink together when we meet again.”

“Aye,” Tormund laughed.

At that moment, an Unsullied hurried over to Grey Worm and spoke frantically into his ear. A small smile broke over the man’s face as he turned to look behind the Unsullied, but what he was seeing was still below the crest of the hill, and out of the rest of their view.

“Queen Daenerys,” said Grey Worm, still smiling. “This man wishes to see you.”

As the newcomer walked to the top of the hill into view, Tyrion burst into a wide smile at the sight of him.

It was Jorah Mormont.

Tyrion turned to Daenerys and saw that she was beaming with happiness. Jorah walked towards her and instantly went down on one knee before her and bowed his head.

“My Queen,” he said gruffly, the tiredness from his journey evident in his voice.

“Welcome back, Ser Jorah,” said Dany, her voice brimming with her happiness as he motioned for his to rise to his feet. “It is good to see you once more. Were you successful in curing yourself of your greyscale?”

“I was, my Queen,” Jorah replied, nodding. “And I have returned to your side, as you commanded.”

Dany nodded her appreciation at his words, smiling widely.

“I’m glad you are back, Ser Jorah,” Dany said softly. “It wouldn’t feel right taking my home back without you here with me.

“Ser Jorah, I name you the Lord Commander of the Queensguard.”

Tyrion saw the man’s eyes widen in surprise at Dany’s words, before he bent the knee to her once.

“Thank you, my Queen,” he said solemnly. “You honour me. I hope to be worthy of the faith that you are placing in me.”

As Jorah rose to his feet once more, Tyrion walked forward and offered his hand to him. When he reached him, Tyrion saw that his left arm was covered in a long, skin tight leather glove.

“It is good to see you return, Ser Jorah,” Tyrion said, returning the Northerner’s smile. “And I am glad to hear that you are cured.”

Jorah followed Tyrion’s gaze to the long glove, and immediately covered his left wrist, in what seemed to be a reflex action.

“All of the best maesters at the Citadel have claimed that I am cured, and the spread of the greyscale has stopped,” Jorah explained. “But it is easier to believe if I wear the glove, to prevent even the slightest chance that it could still spread and infect others.”

Tyrion felt a rush of pity for the man. He couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like, having to be constantly aware of his surroundings to not accidently touch someone and infect them too, to almost be a pariah.

“Ser Jorah,” said Jon, as he too walked forward and offered his hand to his fellow Northerner. “It is good to finally meet you. I heard about you from your father, Jeor.”

“I am well aware, Your Grace,” responded Jorah, as he firmly grasped Jon’s hand. “I heard about your time at the Night’s Watch from your friend Samwell Tarly. He was at the Citadel when I arrived.”

Tyrion saw Jon’s face break into a wide smile, his relief at the news of his friend evident.

“It is good to hear that Sam has arrived there safely,” said Jon. “Thank you, Ser Jorah.”

Jorah nodded back at him in response, while at the same time fumbling with the leather satchel that he had over his shoulder.

“Sam has been busy,” he said, as he removed a stack of parchment from the satchel. “He has been scouring the Citadel library for days for knowledge about the White Walkers. This is all he has found.

“These are mainly recipes, I believe,” Jorah continued, as Jon took the parchment from him. “On how to forge weapons out of dragonglass but also, more importantly, how to forge new Valyrian steel swords.”

Tyrion’s heart began to race, even though he was half-convinced that he must have misheard.

“Valyrian blades?” Tyrion questioned. “But those secrets were lost in the Doom of Valyria.”

“Not all,” Jorah said, pointing towards the parchment that Jon was reading, with a look of surprise on his face.

Jon looked up and caught Tyrion’s eye and nodded firmly, confirming it.

“How are they made?” Tyrion demanded excitedly, as he hurried over to Jon.

“From what I can see,” Jon said slowly, as re-read Sam’s notes. “It seems that the key ingredient in forging the blades is dragon fire.”

At this, all eyes turned to Dany’s dragons, who were all flying high above, eager to be off. Tyrion reached out and took the parchment from Jon. He read the notes quickly and, after deciphering the unfamiliar hand, he began to realise the complexities of forging the blades.

“Who could forge these blades then? Tormund demanded gruffly.

“Tobho Mott,” said Tyrion, looking up from the parchment to see everyone looking at him. “He is a Qohorik armourer, the best in King’s Landing. I know that he can rework Valyrian blades, as he melted down Ice into two smaller blades, and I imagine that with this recipe that he will be able to forge some more.”

As he finished, Tyrion turned to Jon and saw a stony look on his face, as he looked out to sea. Tyrion knew that the mention of the fate of Ice, the ancestral blade of House Stark, would have pained Jon to hear, but Mott was probably the only man in the kingdoms who could perform the feat of forging such blades, and they would need his aid.

“So,” said Daenerys slowly. “If this Mott still resides in King’s Landing, then we have yet another reason to take the city.”

There was murmuring of assent from the those assembled, as Tyrion looked down once more at the notes in his hand.

“There is something else that I will need to tell you, King Jon,” Jorah said ambiguously. “As well as Queen Daenerys, but I think that it should wait until we have some privacy as the less people that know about this, for the time being, the better.”

Tyrion looked between Jorah and the two monarchs, who were both looking as lost and curious as he felt. Tyrion wondered what news that Jorah could have found at the Citadel that would affect both of them so much that they, and only they, could know about it.

“Before we leave,” said Jon suddenly, as he unfastened his sword belt. “I believe that this is yours, Ser Jorah.”

Jon held out Longclaw to Jorah, the white wolf pommel extended towards him. Jorah looked surprised for a moment, looking between the blade and Jon, but then he smiled and shook his head.

“Thank you, King Jon,” Jorah said. “But I cannot accept. My father gave you that sword for saving his life. That gives you more right to it that I.”

“But Longclaw is the blade of House Mormont,” Jon said, looking confused.

“It was,” corrected Jorah. “Now it is the Stark blade. Besides, even if I deserved to have the blade, I would still refuse to take it from you, as I too owe you a debt, for saving my father’s life.”

Jon looked at Jorah for a moment, before nodding and replacing the sword back at his hip.

Tyrion shook his head slightly, marvelling at Jon’s sense of honour once more. Despite knowing that the sword in his possession could kill White Walkers and that, as the King in the North, he could claim the sword as his own anyway, Jon still tried to give it away, to the man that he believed deserved to own it.

“If I may ask, Your Grace?” Jorah said, watching Jon. “What has become of House Mormont in my absence?”

At Jorah’s words, Jon’s face split into a wide smile.

“You have no need to worry about that, Ser Jorah,” he said, continuing to smile. “House Mormont is now led by your cousin Lyanna and, while she is only young, she is far fiercer than many other lords who have pledged their fealty to me.

“Despite the size of your house she pledged all of her men to aid my sister and I in retaking Winterfell. Soon after, she was the first to pledge her loyalty to me as the king. I wouldn’t be the King in the North without her help.”

Jorah smiled and nodded his thanks to Jon for the news, and Tyrion realised that this was probably the only news that he had had of his family since he had left Westeros, other than the news of his father’s death.

“You will see her soon, Jorah,” Dany said kindly, stepping forward. “We are heading to the North with Jon to rally his men. We will then march south to take King’s Landing.

“Pylos” she said, as she turned to face him. “We will take the Valyrian steel recipe with us but I would like you to take the recipes for crafting the dragonglass. Make sure that the craftsmen and miners know the best way to craft such weapons. I have a feeling that we shall be needing them soon.”

As Pylos took the parchment, Tyrion saw the look that passed between Jon and Daenerys, with Jon looking relieved and grateful that she seemed to be taking his warnings seriously.

“As you command, my Queen,” Pylos said, as he looked through Sam’s notes. “I will make sure of it.”

At this everyone’s attention was caught by two loud screeches and thuds from behind them. He turned to see Viserion and Rhaegal had both landed on the hill as well. Viserion made his way towards him, while Rhaegal move toward Dany and Jon.

As the pale dragon came to stop in front of him and looked at him almost sadly with his golden eyes, Tyrion felt a rush of sadness, knowing that he would dearly miss the dragon, having grown quite fond of him.

“Goodbye, my friend,” Tyrion said as he reached out to pat the dragon’s warm scales.

Viserion closed his eyes at Tyrion’s touch and lowered his head further to allow Tyrion to reach better. Tyrion looked towards the dragon’s left wing, and saw that his wounds from the battle were healing well, and he had already regained most of his flying mobility.

As he bid goodbye to the dragon, Tyrion looked over to the large, green form of Rhaegal as he allowed Jon and Dany to pet him. Tyrion was surprised to see that Rhaegal was now as affectionate with Jon as he was with Daenerys.

The more that Tyrion had thought on it, the more it had made sense that Jon’s mother, whoever and wherever she was, had Valyrian blood. His growing bond with Rhaegal was proof of that. However, there was no clues to her identity from Jon’s appearance as, frustratingly for Tyrion, he looked extremely similar to his father. But that didn’t stop the questions from raging through his head.

How and where did Eddard Stark meet a Valyrian woman in the Rebellion? Or was she fully Valyrian? Or did she just have some Valyrian blood in her from generations past?

However, Tyrion’s thoughts were interrupted when Viserion and Rhaegal took to the skies once more, eager to be off. Jon walked forward and shook Tyrion’s hand once more.

“Don’t die,” he said seriously.

“Nor you, Snow,” Tyrion replied, equally intently.

At this Jon nodded once more before turning and beginning to walk towards the northern shore of the island, where the smaller of the two fleets was waiting.

Dany bent down and pressed a small kiss to his cheek.

“Be careful, please,” she said, concerned, as she looked between Tyrion and Varys, “Both of you. Hopefully our plan will work.”

“Of course, my Queen,” Tyrion replied, bowing his head. “We shall see you at King’s Landing.”

Dany nodded in response, before turning to follow Jon and Tormund. Jorah nodded solemnly towards Tyrion, wordlessly wishing them luck in their mission. Tyrion returned the gesture and Jorah turned away, falling into step at Dany’s side.

Grey Worm and Missandei bid them good luck and farewell before they too left, ready to begin the journey northwards. Tyrion watched them go, with Varys at his side. Tyrion watched until they had boarded onto Jon’s galley, The Wolf of the Sea, a large vessel with its white wolf figurehead.

Good luck, my friends, Tyrion thought as he looked on. I hope to see you all safe and sound soon enough.

Tyrion felt Varys’ hand on his shoulder.

“Come, my friend,” he said quietly. “It is time we were leaving too.”

Tyrion nodded and turned his gaze from the northern fleet to look at the southern fleet. This one was far larger, in order to carry the bulk of the remaining Dothraki forces.

Well, Tyrion thought as they made their way to the southern shore, still littered with battle debris. It is time to be on our way.

Chapter Text

 

Sam

 

Sam sat at his usual table, bent once more over yet another thick and dusty tome. It had been over a week since Jorah Mormont had left the Citadel, and Sam had fallen back into his usual routine, of reading every book within reach for hours upon end.

However, there was a nagging feeling in Sam’s gut that had gotten stronger over the last week.

Sam was beginning to think that he might have exhausted the knowledge that the library could tell him about the White Walkers. He had read a countless number of books in the weeks since he had arrived, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to find any new books that might help him and, once he did, none of them had any relevant information.

Sam finished the book in front of him and snapped it shut in frustration. Pushing the book away from him, Sam leaned back in his chair and looked out of the window, watching the sunset. He had been at the chair for a few hours at this point, and was about to get up to stretch his legs when he heard shuffling footsteps moving towards him.

Sam turned to see Archmaester Willem moving towards him, looking strangely grave. Sam immediately got out of his seat and offered it to the elderly maester, who accepted it with a grateful nod. Sam hurried off to find another chair for himself, wondering what had happened to cause Willem to look so serious.

As Sam sat down next to him, the man turned to Sam.

“Samwell,” he began slowly. “We have received word from Dragonstone. Queen Cersei Lannister’s forces attacked the island and have fought with the forces of Daenerys Targaryen.”

Sam’s breathing quickened, feeling a rush of fear for Jon, wondering if he was still on Dragonstone.

“And, Jon Snow?” Sam asked desperately. “Was he still on the island?”

“Yes, but from what we have heard, the King in the North is not among the dead.”

Sam exhaled deeply, relief and happiness flooding through him. However, this only lasted for a moment, once Sam realised the meaning for Willem’s grave manner.

“How many did die?” he asked cautiously.

“Thousands.”

The word hung between them for a moment, leaving an eerie blanket of silence in its wake. Sam pondered for a moment, thinking of all the lives that had been lost in the battle. He looked over at Willem and saw that the man was looking off into nothing, lost in his thoughts.

After a moment, Willem seemed to collect his thoughts and turned back towards Sam, and looked down at the cover of the book that he had been reading. A look of understanding crossed his face.

“I have noticed that you are very interested in learning about the White Walkers, Samwell,” Willem said, nodding towards the leather-bound tome. “A strange field of study for someone wishing to enter the Citadel.

“Unless of course,” the man continued, looking at Sam knowingly. “You were not planning to study here after all.”

Feeling a little surprised, Sam met the old man’s eye and saw that he had a look of amusement and recognition on his face. When he felt a rush of guilt, Sam felt eerily like a young child who had been caught misbehaving.

“You are right, maester,” Sam admitted. “I had been planning to become a maester but the more I stay here, the more I realise that I would be of more use in the North, with all that I have learnt.”

“About the White Walkers?” Willem said, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.

“Yes, maester,” Sam said determinedly. “I know that it sounds crazy, but they are real. All the stories that we have heard all our lives are true. I have seen them.”

Willem leaned forward slightly, regarding Sam with a strange look on his face. Sam was a little nervous, wondering if the man would believe.

I probably wouldn’t, if I had heard that story, Sam thought, feeling a little frustrated with himself for not explaining more.

The silence stretched on for a few more moments with Willem still looking intently at him, as if trying to see the truth on his face. Unable to bear the silence any more, Sam opened his mouth to continue explaining, to try and let Willem understand the horrors that were coming for them. However, Willem raised his hand to silence Sam before he had even begun.

“You said that you have seen them?” Willem questioned. “How? What happened?”

Sam exhaled, feeling relieved that Willem was willing to give him an opportunity to explain, and not dismiss his warnings immediately.

“The Lord Commander, Jeor Mormont, was attacked by a wight, a corpse that had been resurrected by the White Walkers to do their bidding. After my friend, Jon Snow saved the Commander, we headed north to find out about the rising dead, as well as the growing Wildling threat.

“Things went badly,” Sam said gravely, lowering his head. “We were attacked at the Fist of the First Men. The Walkers and their wights attacked us, riding their dead horses. Only sixty of us survived to begin the trek back south towards the Wall.

“We stopped at Craster’s Keep on the way back. Craster was Gilly’s father. He had been marrying his daughters for years. Any further daughters that he’d had, he would marry them to get himself more daughters. But any sons were sacrificed to the White Walkers, as an offering. When we arrived back, Gilly gave birth to Little Sam, and I helped them both to escape, so that he wouldn’t be sacrificed.”

Willem nodded his agreement, looking both proud and surprised by the determination in Sam’s voice. Sam closed his eyes for a moment as he remembered what happened next. The calling of the ravens that was suddenly silenced. The slow march of the Walker towards them. The way it had shattered his blade just by grasping it in the palm of its hand.

Steeling himself, Sam opened his eyes to continue his story.

“We managed to escape from Craster, but we were attacked by a White Walker on the way back to the Wall. It had come for the baby. I tried to protect them, but it shattered my blade and threw me aside like I was nothing. I was desperate and stabbed it in the back with a dragonglass dagger that I had found at the Fist.

“Luckily, dragonglass is one of the few things that can kill the White Walkers,” Sam finished, as he remembered the way that White Walker had cracked and then shattered, blowing away in the wind.

Sam looked at Willem, trying the read the expression of his face, to see if he believed him.

“What else can?” Willem asked, his tone and the look on his face unreadable.

“Valyrian steel,” Sam said. “Jon killed another at Hardhome, with his Valyrian blade, Longclaw. While I searching the library, I have found a manuscript telling of the process of making Valyrian blades, as well as another that explains different mining and crafting techniques for dragonglass. I have made copies of them and sent them with Jorah to Dragonstone.”

Willem nodded his understanding before getting to his feet and walking away. Sam watched him go with confusion.

Did he believe me? Sam wondered, as he saw Willem head over to a small bookcase. Or does he think this story is just that? A story.

Willem pulled a large red leather-bound book from the bookcase and headed back to Sam. He placed the book down in front of Sam as he retook his own seat.

“I do not know much about the White Walkers or how to kill them,” Willem said. “But I have heard the stories, just as you have, of their supposed last attack. Of Azor Ahai, who supposedly defeated them.”

Willem reached over and opened the book. He began rifling through the dusty pages, clearly looking for something in particular. After a moment, he clearly found it and pushed the book towards Sam, at the same time pointing to a particular passage, which Sam began to read.

"There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour, a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him."

Sam finished the passage and looked back to Willem, hoping that he would explain more.

“Azor Ahai’s reincarnation is believed, by many different religions, of being the person known as the Prince That Was Promised.”

Sam jolted upright, shocked by this. He remembered Edd’s letter, where he spoken of Jon’s resurrection and the priestess referring to him as the Prince That Was Promised.

Coincidence?

As Sam looked back to the tome, to re-read the passage, he felt Willem grasp his forearm firmly.

“Samwell,” Willem said, almost sternly. “Do not put much stock in prophecies. This one in particular was made thousands of years after Azor Ahai supposedly lived.”

“Some of it sounds familiar though, doesn’t it?” Sam remarked.

‘There will come a day after a long summer.’

They had just finished one of the longest summers in recent memory.

when the stars bleed’.

Sam was reminded of the red comet that had trailed across the sky a few years ago.

the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world.’

Well that is clearly the White Walkers, Sam thought.

“Samwell!” snapped Willem, shocking Sam with the bite in his voice. “It is dangerous to believe every word of prophecies. They are intentionally vague. So, that when certain events happen, thousands of years after the prophecy was made, the believers can say that the prophecy came true, no matter how tenuous the similarities.

“Sam, think about it logically,” Willem said, pointing to the passage again. “This states that this hero will wield a flaming sword, Lightbringer, to push back the forces of darkness. That is exactly what the original Azor Ahai did, supposedly. If what you are saying is true, and the White Walkers have returned, then it clearly did not work the first time.

“Why would doing the same action have a different outcome the second time? Surely the Prince That Was Promised, whomever they are, will have to do something different in order to finally defeat the White Walkers.”

Sam nodded in response, realising that Willem had a point. Sam remembered the story of Azor Ahi from the stories he had been told as a child. Of how he had forged a sword over three days and nights and had the used it to kill his beloved wife Nissa Nissa, causing it to become the sword known as Lightbringer.

“So maybe, the Prince That Was Promised won’t have to kill the person that they love in order to make Lightbringer?” Sam said, causing Willem to nod in response.

“If he did at all,” Willem said. “Myths and legends such as this always have a basis of truth to them, but these events supposedly happened thousands of years ago. For all we know, Azor Ahai could simply have defeated the White Walkers in battle and the rest of his legend was built up in the years that followed, with the story being passed on through the generations.

“However, the story may very well be true, Sam,” the maester said, fixing him with a determined stare. “The Prince That Was Promised, Azor Ahai reborn, wielding Lightbringer might well be the way to defeat them. But until you know for sure, do not think of it as the only possible way to defeat them.”

Sam nodded, realising the sense behind the man’s words. If he regarded the prophecy as the only way to defeat the White Walkers, then he might blind himself to a better solution if it came along.

“I didn’t think that you would believe me,” Sam admitted sheepishly. “That is why I did ask you for your aid before.”

Willem chuckled slightly.

“It is an incredibly strange tale, Sam,” Willem said, as he rose once more from his chair.

Sam picked up the book to give it back to him, but Willem raised his hand.

“Keep the book Samwell. I know it is not much, but I cannot give you much else to aid you in your mission.”

“Thank you, Maester Willem. For everything.”

“Think nothing of it,” Willem replied, waving his hand dismissively. “I shall begin the preparations for your journey. Where will you, Gilly and Little Sam be heading?”

Sam considered for a moment. He was tempted to head straight back to the North but, at the same time, he knew that Jon wasn’t there.

And it was Jon that he need to see, to speak to.

For several reasons.

“Dragonstone,” Sam replied. “My friend Jon is there, speaking with Daenerys Targaryen. We shall head there.”

“Very well,” Willem said, turning away.

He walked away for moment, before stopping and turning back to Sam.

“It is a shame that you will not be staying with us, Samwell. I think you would have made a great maester.”

Feeling a swell of pride, Sam nodded his thanks.

“And who knows?” Willem continued, as he began to walk away once more. “Maybe, once this is over, you could return here, and we might finally have a tome in the library containing all you know about the White Walkers.”

As Willem left, Sam remained in his chair, the pride in his chest at Willem’s words growing. The maester clearly had a high opinion of him and his intelligence.

Now I need to prove it, Sam thought, as he picked up the book and went off to find Gilly and to pack. And help Jon defeat these monsters.

*

A few days later, Sam was standing in Gilly’s room, holding Little Sam as Gilly packed away the last of her things. Sam bit his lip as he watched her, knowing that she would not like what he was about to say.

“Gilly, are you sure you two should come with me?” Sam said, shifting Little Sam slightly. “I want to be with you both, but it is safe here. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Either of you.”

As expected Gilly turned to face him with an annoyed look on her face. She fixed him with a determined look.

“Sam, you promised that we would be together.”

“I know,” Sam said placatingly. “But I don’t want anything to happen to you. I don’t know what I would do if either of you were hurt.”

Gilly’s expression softened at this. She walked over to Sam, smiling warmly. When she reached him, she placed her hands on his cheeks and raised herself on her toes to kiss him gently on the lips.

After a moment, she pulled away and looked at him with affection shining in her eyes, her hands still on his cheeks.

“Whether we are in danger or staying in safety, I want us to do it together, Sam,” she said.

“Together!” Little Sam echoed from Sam’s arms.

Sam looked down in surprise at the beaming boy’s face, looking up at him with happiness. Little Sam didn’t speak that much, so it was a little bit of shock to hear his voice.

But at hearing the little boy’s voice echoing his mother’s words, and feeling the boy reach up to grasp hold of the whiskers on Sam’s chin in his small fist, Sam knew that he couldn’t leave them here while he headed off back to the North. Smiling broadly, Sam leaned down to press a kiss to the top of the boy’s head, while at the same time putting an arm around Gilly’s shoulders.

“Together then,” he said, causing Gilly to beam back at him.

She kissed him once more, before turning to grab hold of their belongings.

As a group, they all left the room and walked back through the corridors, with Sam turning his head this way ad that to take it all in for the last time. While his research in the library had been incredibly frustrating at times, he had enjoyed his time at the Citadel, being surrounded by books and other men of learning.

His meeting with Jorah had also been an experience that Sam was happy had happened. Sam wondered if the man had made it Dragonstone yet, to give Jon and Daenerys his notes about Valyrian steel and dragonglass.

I will find out soon enough, Sam thought, as they entered the courtyard.

Where something was clearly wrong.

There were maesters running in all directions, shouting words that Sam couldn’t hear over the combined voices and sound of running feet. Sam hurried forward toward the nearest of them.

“What is happening?” Sam asked.

“It’s Archmaester Willem,” the man said, pointing towards the building, where Sam knew that Willem had his quarters.

Fear bubbled up in Sam’s gut at these words. Sam turned to see Gilly reaching out to take Little Sam from him.

“Go on, Sam” she urged, as Little Sam settled into his mother’s arms.

Sam turned and hurried towards Willem’s quarters as fast as he could, his feelings of fear and trepidation rising with every step he took.

Before long, Sam entered the old man’s room and saw that his bed was surrounded by various men, with varying length maester’s chains. Sam approached the bed and pushed his way into the circle.

And froze in horror.

Willem was laid on his back, his throat slashed open. The blood from the wound had stained his bed linen and his clothes crimson. His breath catching his throat, Sam looked at the man’s face, and saw a look of fear on the kindly old man’s face.

Sam looked away, feeling grief and horror well up within him.

Who would do this? Sam wondered sadly. Who would kill him?

As Sam’s thoughts strayed to the vault hidden beneath them, a feeling of realisation and dread overtook him. Sam snapped his eyes back to Willem and looked towards his neck, feeling a little nauseous at the sight of the man’s slit throat, looking for the glint of the chain that he knew should be there.

But there was nothing.

His heart beating ever faster, Sam turned to the assembled maesters.

“Where is the chain that Willem wore?” Sam demanded, only vaguely aware of how loud and panicked his voice was. “The smaller one, with the key on it?”

The men all looked at each other, clearly a little shocked by Sam’s outburst, but Sam didn’t care.

He needed to know.

“He wasn’t wearing one,” one of them replied.

Sam’s eyes widened as he realised why Willem had been killed.

Sam turned and raced back out of the room, nearly knocking Gilly over, who had followed him. Sam blurted out an apology as he continued to race towards the vaults. As he hurried across the courtyard, he was vaguely aware of several sets of eyes following him.

Before long Sam descended into the bowels of the Citadel, feeling the chill and darkness coming to welcome him. He raced past the countless wrought-iron doors, that hid who knows what horrible secrets, towards the end of the corridors, where the guards were still standing,

The sight reassured Sam a little, knowing that whoever had stolen the key might not have made it into the room yet.

However, when Sam reached the men he saw that all was not as it seemed.

The men were dead.

They had been propped up against the wall in such a way as to look, from a distance, as though nothing was amiss.

Sam walked past them, trying to ignore the fact that he was now surrounded by corpses, as he pushed the door.

It swung open immediately to reveal the room that he had sat in with Willem and Jorah not too long ago.

Sam entered the gloomy room and saw that it didn’t look like anything had been disturbed. Nothing had been discarded in a search, although Sam hadn’t really expected it to be, as he was sure what they had been looking for.

Sam walked over to the drawer, where the declaration of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding was kept. Breathing deeply, he pulled the drawer, praying to the gods that it would remain locked, even though it was hopeless.

The drawer open and Sam froze once more.

“Oh, that is not good,” Sam muttered under his breath.

The scroll was gone.

Chapter Text

 

Arya

 

It was the dead of night and Arya was perched atop a wall that bordered the Winterfell courtyard, watching her target as he walked across the courtyard, seemingly oblivious to her watching him. Arya had been investigating Littlefinger and his possible alliance with Sansa for days now and knew that, come the morning, the week that Bran had given her to investigate would be up.

And she had found nothing to incriminate her sister.

As the days had passed, and Arya had continued to draw a blank on any possible involvement from Sansa in Littlefinger’s plan, a growing feeling of doubt had begun to plague her.

Have I made a mistake? Arya had asked herself on several occasions. Have I missed something?

Arya had replayed her arrival in Winterfell over and over in her mind, looking for any details that she could have missed, something that would absolve Sansa. While Arya had taken it upon herself to investigate her sister, she had hoped and prayed that she was wrong, that Sansa had nothing to do with Littlefinger’s potential treason against their brother.

Arya remembered seeing Littlefinger deep in conversation with a lord, who Arya had since learned was Lord Lyonel Corbray. Arya now knew that Corbray had remained firm in his opposition to Littlefinger’s scheming and had placed his support firmly behind Jon, the man that he had proclaimed as the King in the North.

Arya recalled how Littlefinger had momentarily turned to where she had hidden herself, seemingly shrouded in darkness, before turning back to Lord Corbray, with a smirk on his face. It was only then that he had revealed to Corbray that Sansa was supposedly working with him to oust Jon.

Had he seen me hiding there? Arya thought, as she continued to watch the dark form of Littlefinger striding across the Winterfell courtyard. Was his declaration of Sansa’s support exactly what Bran said? A trick to turn us against each other?

Arya had hoped that it was, as while she had no doubts that she had the skill to do so, Arya wasn’t sure that she had it in her to kill her own sister.

Father would never forgive me, Arya thought, as she turned her attention momentarily from Littlefinger to look at the swaying tops of the trees in the godswood.

Arya had thought a lot about her father, particularly since she had arrived back in Winterfell, and had seen the godswood for the first time in years. She remembered how her father would spend hours at a time sat in front of the great heart tree in the centre of the godswood, often cleaning his blade as he prayed to the Old Gods.

Arya had wondered what her father would make of the decisions that she had made in the last few years. She knew that he more than likely would not approve of the methods that she had employed to gain her revenge, in particular the events of the Twins.

As Arya looked down at Needle, at its place at her hip, she remembered her father words, spoken to her so long ago.

Try not to stab your sister with it.

With a sinking feeling in her gut, Arya hoped that she would not have to.

Arya’s attention returned to Littlefinger and she saw that he was talking to someone, hidden away in a dark corner of the courtyard. Making sure to remain low and shrouded in darkness at all time, Arya made her way closer, to see who he was speaking with.

Despite not finding any proof about Sansa’s involvement, Arya had found out several of Littlefinger’s contacts within the walls of Winterfell. One of them was Ser Lyn Corbray, Lord Lionel’s brother and heir. Despite his outspoken hatred for Littlefinger, and his loud and frequent declarations that Jon was the true king, Arya had seen the two of them conspiring, with fat pouches of gold being passed to the knight.

A few nights later, Arya had taken an opportunity.

Ser Lyn had spent the majority of the evening in the main hall, drinking endless tankards of ale while making countless toasts to Jon and the Starks, in one form or the other. Arya had been watching him and had seen him speaking with several other of Littlefinger’s staunchest opponents, whose hatred of Baelish was well known.

He’s clearly Baelish’s spy, Arya had thought, watching from her seat.

As the evening drew on, and Ser Lyn became ever drunker, Arya excused herself and had made her preparations.

It had been easy in the end.

He had been staggering towards his quarters, taking a route that took him past several staircases. All Arya to do was wait until he passed the one with the longest drop and give him a sharp shove, his neck breaking on impact with one of the stone steps during the fall.

He had been found a few hours later and, after his display in the hall earlier that evening, everyone had assumed that it had been a drunken accident.

Everyone except for Petyr Baelish.

Although Arya suspected that she might be imagining it, she believed that Littlefinger was regarding her strangely since Corbray’s death, as though he suspected her involvement. However, Arya knew that he would have no way of proving it, as she had made sure that she had not been followed by either him or any of his underlings.

Arya came to halt and lowered herself down onto one knee. He body was hidden by a low wall, with only her eyes and the top of her head visible over the top of it. However, she also flattened herself against the wall to her left which, while it limited her line of sight, it also reduced the risk that Littlefinger, or the person that he was meeting, would see her.

Arya peered over at the two dark figures and recognised the other man almost instantly. His name was Robert Stone, a bastard boy from the Vale. From the little that Arya had been able to find out about him, mostly overheard from between Sansa and Bran, he had been working as a servant boy at the Eyrie when Littlefinger had taken an interest in him and had taken the boy under his wing. It was also rumoured that he was one of Lionel Corbray’s bastards, part of Littlefinger’s coercion of the lord. He was now Littlefinger’s messenger, carrying notes all over the North and beyond.

Their whispered conversation drifted over to Arya’s hiding place, although she had to strain her ears to hear every word.

“It is done, my lord,” Robert was muttered, looking around nervously, as though he could feel eyes upon him. “The scroll will be in your hands within the week. I have ordered it to be sent with the fastest rider from Oldtown, as I thought that sending it by raven would be too risky.”

“You have done well, Robert,” Littlefinger said, placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder and speaking with such a proud tone of voice that he almost seemed fatherly.

However, Arya suspected that the only reason for Littlefinger’s action were simply to maintain the loyalty that the boy had for him. A rush of loathing welled up within her as she watched the Vale boy being manipulated by Baelish and it took all of her restraint not to race over and plunge Needle into the man’s smug face.

However, before Arya could act on the impulse, Littlefinger and Robert Stone turned and left. Arya let them leave unfollowed, knowing from the direction that they were heading that they were going back to their chambers and that she would not learn anything else tonight.

Arya got to her feet and began to walk. However, she did not begin to make her way to her chambers, but instead she began to walk towards the godswood.

As Arya walked through the dark trees, the atmosphere felt familiar and yet completely unknown. Arya had not been here since she had arrived back at Winterfell. While she had not completely abandoned her faith in the Old Gods during her time away, it had certainly been shaken by the events that had befallen the Stark family.

Father, Robb and Rickon all followed the Old Gods, Arya thought, as she made her way towards the heart tree. And Mother had followed the Seven. But their faith did not stop their deaths.

Arya sat down in front of the heart tree, brought her knees up to her chin and hugged her legs. Memories of her father sitting by this very tree burst into her mind, causing Arya to feel a rush of loss for her father.

I wish you were here, Father, Arya thought desperately, choking back her emotion. I do not know what to do.

Arya knew that come the morning she would need to tell Sansa what she had learned about Littlefinger. But she could not shake the feeling that Sansa might be involved in some way.

However, now her suspicion was tinged with a feeling of doubt.

How could she be sure that Sansa would betray Jon like this? Was this just Arya’s distrust of everyone that was tainting her perception of her sister?

At the thought of Jon, Arya felt a rush of relief, knowing that he would soon return to Winterfell.

A few days ago, they had received a short note from him, declaring that his business in Dragonstone had gone well and that he would soon be returning home. While it had been short and vague, and containing no hint of the outcome of the talks, in case it had fallen into enemy hands, Arya had relished reading the note, recognising her brother’s handwriting immediately. However, despite knowing that he would soon be returning home, Arya felt that Jon had never seemed so far away than now, when she need him the most.

Angry and bitter tears welled up in her eyes and, rather than forcing them away like she had become so accustomed to doing, Arya let them fall. Revelling in the solitude of the godswood, Arya allowed her feelings to rush to the surface; her confusion and indecision washing over her as she struggled with what she should do.

She sat there for several hours until the sun came up, barely feeling the chilly winds as they blew through the trees. When the sun rose, she got to her feet and dried her face, before heading back to the keep.

She knew what she was going to do.

*

A few hours later, Arya was sat in Jon’s study, opposite Bran and Sansa. Bran was looking at her with a look of hesitation on his face, while Sansa was merely looking curious as to why Arya had called this meeting so urgently.

Arya took a deep breath and looked into her sister’s blue eyes, so alike to their mother’s that it caused Arya’s breath to catch in her throat slightly. She was determined to detect any hint of treachery in her sister’s face at the news, although she hoped that there would be none to see.

“What is wrong, Arya?” Sansa asked, sounding and looking concerned.

“It’s about Baelish,” Arya said, registering the look of surprise on Sansa’s face. “He is plotting against Jon.”

To Arya’s surprise, Sansa did not look shocked or outraged by this revelation. There was simply a look of angry resignation on her face, as though she had expected this to happen.

“I had a feeling that he would do something,” she muttered angrily. “What did you find out Arya?”

Arya took a deep breath, before looking her sister in the eye once more.

“When I arrived back at Winterfell that night, I saw Littlefinger speaking with Lord Lyonel Corbray,” Arya explained. “He was trying to convince Corbray to join with him in conspiring against Jon. Corbray refused but he was blackmailed into keeping silent.”

Arya paused for a moment before continuing.

“Littlefinger also claimed that you would ‘play your part’ in his scheme.”

Sansa’s eyes widened in shock and horror at this news, looking disgusted by the suggestion that she would conspire against her brother.

And in that moment, Arya knew the truth.

Sansa was innocent.

She wasn’t conspiring against their brother. She hadn’t joined with Littlefinger to depose Jon.

Arya felt a crushing wave of guilt rush over her, joined with a feeling of disgust for herself. She had allowed her distrustful feeling to influence her view of her sister, and had allowed Littlefinger to manipulate her into believing her sister was the enemy.

Arya’s hands coiled into fists on the table. In that moment, she had never hated anyone as much as she did Petyr Baelish.

“He claimed I was helping him?” Sansa asked, looking scandalised. “And, you…”

Sansa’s eyes widened again as she looked at Arya, with a look of realisation dawning on her face.

“And you believed him? That is why you have been so cold and distant with me since your return?”

Arya nodded, her guilt rising ever further.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I should have listened to Bran. He warned me about Littlefinger and his scheming. I should have known then that this was just one of his plots.”

Arya looked into her sister’s eyes again.

“I’m sorry.”

Sansa looked at her for a moment before striding around the table and pulling Arya into her arms. Arya wrapped her arms around her sister’s waist and hugged her tightly.

“It’s all right,” Sansa said soothingly, as she pressed a kiss to the top of Arya’s head. “I know better than most what Littlefinger does. He manipulates people into doing what he wants and, right now, he wants us at each other’s throats.

“Arya,” Sansa said, as she crouched down to look into Arya’s face, brushing her hair out of her face. “I do not blame you.”

Arya burst into a wide smile, overwhelmed by her sister’s forgiveness. She had been terrified that Sansa would reject her for her distrust, but this instant understanding and compassion was more than she could have hoped for.

As she nodded her thanks, Arya saw Sansa give her a reassuring smile before placing another kiss to her forehead. Arya turned to see Bran looking at them both with a look of contentment on his face.

“And now,” Sansa said, as she placed her hands on Arya’s shoulders. “Let’s end that man’s schemes.”

Arya turned to look at Sansa, with them both wearing identical looks of determination, and nodded her agreement.

*

A few days later, they put their plan into action.

The three of them had spent hours in Jon’s study, going over and over everything that they knew about Littlefinger’s scheme. Arya told them both of the scroll that Littlefinger and Robert Stone had spoken of and the three of them had speculated about what it could contain, although they all agreed that it must be important for the level of secrecy that had surrounded its travel to the North from Oldtown.

Sansa had ordered that all of the Littlefinger’s incoming letters and messages were to be discretely checked to make sure that they could be aware of when it arrived.

Arya was brought from her thoughts and focused on her present situation.

She was perched high in the heart tree in the godswood, hidden among the red-leaved branches. She looked down to see Sansa standing at the foot of the tree, waiting for Littlefinger.

Sansa had sent a message to Littlefinger for him to meet her alone in the godswood, as she had something to discuss with him. Arya gripped the handle of Needle tightly, ready for any sign that something was wrong so she could intervene to protect Sansa.

They waited there for what seemed like hours, the wind making the branches around Arya creak and sway, until Arya became convinced that he would not show up. Sansa too seemed like she was beginning to doubt that he would arrive. She did not however look up to where she knew Arya was hidden, in case he did arrive.

Just as Arya became sure that he would not turn up, she heard footsteps in the snow, coming towards them. She turned towards the sound and saw the man walking towards Sansa. At the sight of him, Arya had to use all of her self-restraint to not leap from her hiding spot and kill the man where he stood.

But that was not the plan.

He came to a halt next to Sansa and looked at her with polite indifference on his face.

“I must say that this is a surprise, Lady Sansa,” the man said silkily. “The last time that we spoke, you made it very clear what your opinion of me was.”

“Well, as you well know, Lord Baelish,” Sansa replied cryptically. “Things can change.”

Littlefinger smirked at this, before looking around him.

“I see Lady Brienne is not with you.”

“No,” Sansa replied. “I do not think that she would approve of the subject that I wished to speak with you about.”

This got his attention. Littlefinger turned fully to face Sansa and, even from her position high above them, Arya could sense the man’s curiosity.

“Oh? And what would that be?”

Sansa took a step towards him and Arya tightened her grip on Needle, in case he tried to lay a hand on her when she got closer.

“Your plan for the Iron Throne,” Sansa whispered conspiratorially, leaning closer to him. “I have been thinking more about it.”

“Have you?” he replied, not sounding convinced. “And what has prompted this sudden change of heart?”

“I was thinking more about what you said,” Sansa said. “And about how I am regarded in the North. They see me as Eddard Stark’s daughter, and the sister to their king. They do not see the person who helped to defeat the Boltons. They do not see the person who brought the Knights of the Vale to help save the man they have chosen as their king.”

There was a bitterness behind Sansa’s voice that, had she not known that Sansa was purely acting to gain Littlefinger’s confidence, would have worried Arya. However, despite the convincing performance that Sansa was giving, Arya could see that it was not having much of an impact on the intended target.

“All of these things, I spoke to you of the last time we talked,” Littlefinger said suspiciously. “And you were dismissive of them then. What has changed?”

Arya closed her eyes, breathing heavily. Their plan was unravelling. Their whole plan relied on Littlefinger believing Sansa’s story, but he wasn’t.

Come on, Sansa! Arya thought desperately. Do something!

Sansa took another step closer to Littlefinger and placed a hand on his chest.

“The more I think about it,” she whispered. “The more I realise that you were right. And the more that I see what I want.”

“And what do you want?” he asked in a hushed voice.

“Everything,” Sansa replied.

And then she kissed him.

Arya was so shocked by this that she almost fell out of the tree. While she knew that it was all part of the act, to appeal to the part of Littlefinger that lusted for Sansa, Arya was still baffled by the action.

The remained joined at the lips for several moments, and Arya was enraged to see Baelish’s hands wander to grip at Sansa’s waist. Resisting the urge to cut off the man’s hand for daring to lay it on her sister, Arya bided her time, knowing that Sansa’s actions, while a little unsettling, might have just saved their plan.

Sansa pulled away from Baelish, and gently removed his gripping hand from her hip, while still maintaining the close gap between them.

“I see,” Baelish said, his voice filled with such a tone of triumph that Arya’s rage reached a new pitch. “Then it seems like we are allies once more.”

“Indeed,” Sansa said, as she placed a hand onto his shoulder. “So, what shall we do about my bastard half-brother?”

Arya winced slightly at the harshness of Sansa’s tone when talking about Jon, and memories of their childhood flooded back to her. Memories of when Sansa had been as dismissive of Jon as their mother had been, something that had annoyed Arya even in her young age.

“I have put plans into actions already, my love,” the man whispered, as he grew ever closer to Sansa, clearly drawn in by her display of seeming affection. “I have something coming to Winterfell that will call Jon’s legitimacy into question.”

Arya straightened up slightly in the tree at this.

This must be the scroll that he was talking about, Arya thought, praying that Sansa would press from more answers.

“And what would that be?” Sansa asked, seemingly reading Arya’s mind.

“As you know, I have spies all over the Seven Kingdoms,” Baelish replied quietly. “One of my agents in Oldtown sent word that there was document there that would be of interest to me. From what he told me, its contents will turn the entire North against Jon and his rule.”

While Arya was sure that Baelish knew more about what was hidden inside than he was letting on, she was more interested in what the letter could contain than thinking more about why he was concealing it from Sansa.

What could possibly be so bad that the entire North would rise against the King that they had chosen to lead them? Arya wondered.

“How long will it be until it arrives?” Sansa asked, with such an undertone of excitement in her voice that Arya had not heard since they were young.

“Do not worry,” Littlefinger said, chuckling slightly at her apparent enthusiasm. “It will be here within the week.”

“I don’t know if we can wait that long,” Sansa said, with mock concern. “You heard about the letter we received from Jon? He is already making his way back from Dragonstone.”

Arya saw Baelish turn away for a moment, clearly in deep thought.

“In fact, this could work in our favour,” he said at last, turning back to Sansa looking excited. “The Northern lords have all made their way here to prepare for the arrival of Jon. If we work fast, we can convince them to support you.”

“Very well,” Sansa said breathlessly, once more feigning excitement. “I shall get to work immediately. Give me a few days.”

“Very well, my love,” Littlefinger said, as he leaned forward to kiss her once more. “I shall do the same for the lords of the Vale.”

“Let me know which of them remain loyal to my brother,” Sansa replied darkly. “They will need to be dealt with appropriately.”

“Of course,” he replied, bowing his head slightly. “But what of your brother and sister? Will they agree with our plan to depose Jon?”

“Leave them to me,” Sansa replied, patting his arm. “I will make them see reason. Arya will be a little challenging as she is the closest to Jon out of all of us, but I am sure that I can convince her.”

Arya smirked slightly at this, as Sansa knew better than most that she would never betray her brother.

Baelish nodded once more before saying his farewells and hurrying away, looking sickeningly pleased with himself. Arya waited for a moment to make sure that he had left before climbing down the tree to land next to Sansa.

“The kiss was a nice touch,” Arya smirked. “But I am surprised that you didn’t vomit.”

“I wanted to,” Sansa said, looking genuinely ill. “Did you see the way that he was pawing at me? I was about to slap him.”

“I was thinking of cutting his hand off,” Arya replied.

At this, Arya saw that Sansa was beaming at her and realised, with a jolt, that this was the first time ever that Arya had shown any protectiveness towards her sister. Arya returned her sister’s smile, happy at the reconciliation between them.

However, their smiles faded when the conversation that had just happened began to sink in.

“What is this document that he was talking about?” Arya wondered aloud. “And what could be in it that would turn the entire North against Jon?”

“I don’t know,” Sansa said, sounding worried. “But whatever it is, we need to make sure that Littlefinger is imprisoned before it gets here.”

*

For the next few days, Sansa met with all of the Northern lords in private and explained to them their plan to trap Littlefinger.

Some of them would need to feign their defection, seemingly to support Sansa while others, such as Lady Lyanna Mormont and Robett Glover, would need to maintain their outspoken loyalty to Jon, so as to not arouse too much suspicion. As the majority of the lords despised Littlefinger, it was not hard for her to convince them to join with them.

Arya, Sansa and Bran had spent as much time together as they could, making sure that every aspect of their plan was working. Luckily everything seemed to be going their way. Especially as, from what Sansa had explained, very few of the Vale lords had agreed to side with Littlefinger. The only exceptions were a few greedy and opportunistic houses, the names of whom were noted by both Arya and Sansa, and a few houses that had been convinced by Sansa to also feign their support.

Despite everything seeming to be working in their favour, Arya was still a little concerned that their plan wouldn’t work in the execution.

Since seeing for herself the truth behind Baelish’s scheming and conniving nature, she didn’t trust that he didn’t have another scheme working behind the scenes. She had maintained her constant watch of the man, but had also extended her vigil to include Robert Stone, to make sure that she was aware the instant that the document arrived from Oldtown.

A few days after the meeting in the godswood, they put the final part of the plan into action.

Sansa had ordered a feast to celebrate the fact that the last of the Northern lords, the representatives of Houses Karstark and Umber, who were being given a wide berth by many, had arrived to welcome Jon home.

They had decided that this was when they would entrap Littlefinger.

Sansa had spoken to Littlefinger and had told him of her desire to announce her claim to the North at the feast. He had agreed that the time had come and had put his ‘loyal men’ into action, ready to support Sansa at her declaration.

On the night of the feast, Arya sat at the high table to Sansa’s left, with Bran on her other side. Sansa was sat at the large chair on the centre of the high table, which had become Jon’s unofficial throne during his brief reign, which had been left vacant in his absence. The sight of Sansa sat in Jon’s seat had caused a bit of a stir in the hall, largely of their own making, but Arya was pleased that it had, as it worked in their plan’s favour.

Littlefinger however, looking supremely smug at the sight of Sansa taking Jon’s place at the table, looking up with her with such undisguised pride and lust on his face that Arya had to physically grip the edge of the table to stop herself from attacking him. However, Arya smirked slightly when she looked to her right to see that Sansa was doing the exact same thing and felt a rush of affection for her sister.

The feast went on for several hours, with many of the guests getting progressively more drunk and rowdy. Arya, however, ate very little as she was on edge, anticipating the moment when they would spring the trap, constantly looking for any indications that their plan had been discovered.

Finally, Sansa rose to her feet and the hall fell to silence almost at once, which Arya knew was due to their collective awareness that the moment had come.

“Welcome to Winterfell, my lords and ladies,” Sansa said, with such grace and formality that Arya was reminded of their mother once more. “I hope that the hospitality of Winterfell has been to your liking.”

At this a cheer went up from the assembled lords, causing Sansa to chuckle slightly.

“As you can see, my brother has not yet returned from Dragonstone,” Sansa continued. “But I think you will all join me in wishing him a speedy and safe return.”

As the assembled lords all raised their goblets in a toast to the “King in the North!”, Littlefinger rose to his feet, all according to the ‘plan’ that he had devised with Sansa.

“My lords!” he said, as he strode into the middle of the hall to address them. “While I do indeed wish King Jon a safe return from Dragonstone, I do not believe that it is him that we should be raising our goblets to in toast.

“We should be toasting the true ruler of the North: Sansa Stark, the oldest surviving trueborn child of Lord Eddard Stark.”

A hush fell over the hall at Baelish’s words. However, it didn’t last long before there were murmurs of outrage.

“Jon Snow is our king!” shouted Brandon Tallhart, causing dozens of shouts of agreement at his words.

“Jon Snow is a bastard,” replied Littlefinger calmly. “The bastard of Eddard Stark, true. But a bastard all the same. Trueborn children hold a greater claim than bastards. By all the rules of succession, Jon Snow should not have become the King in the North.”

We chose Jon Snow as our king, not you!” Lyanna Mormont spat, her loathing for Baelish clear, causing Arya to feel a rush of respect for the fiery girl.

“You do not choose a king, child,” replied Littlefinger scathingly, causing Lyanna Mormont’s scowl to change into a look so venomous that Arya was surprised that Baelish didn’t cower. “The Targaryens didn’t rule the Seven Kingdoms for centuries because they were chosen. They did it because their fathers, and their fathers before them, ruled.”

There was another outbreak of outraged murmurs, which only silenced when Sansa raised her hand, bringing all attention to her.

“So, Lord Baelish, you are declaring your support for me, rather than Jon, as the leader of the North?”

“Yes, my lady,” Baelish replied, as he took a step forward and went down on one knee. “And I would be the first to pledge my fealty to you.”

Arya held her breath, knowing that the moment had come. That if Baelish had another plan, this is when it would come into play. She ran her eyes over the assembled crowd and, despite knowing that the vast majority of them were sided with them, felt completely helpless without Needle at her hip.

“So, you are confessing to treason then, Lord Baelish?” Sansa said calmly.

Littlefinger’s face changed from smug triumph to dumbfounded disbelief so fast that Arya had to force herself to not burst into laughter.

“I…” stammered Baelish, looking completely lost. “I...”

“You just declared that you would pledge your fealty to someone other than Jon Snow, the King in the North, as the ruler of the North,” Sansa stated calmly. “Correct me if I am wrong, but that is treason.”

A roar of approval rose up from the assembled lords at her words, with only the pitiful few of Littlefinger’s true followers remaining silent. Littlefinger himself just remained where he was, on one knee staring up at Sansa looking completely bemused.

Smiling broadly, Arya rose to her feet and offered her chair to Sansa, while at the same time grabbing a new chair for herself, leaving Jon’s chair unoccupied once more. Looking between them and the now empty lord’s chair, Littlefinger’s face became covered by a look of stunned realisation.

“Guards!” Sansa said loudly. “Take Lord Baelish to the dungeons. We will keep him there until King Jon’s return.”

“You can’t do that!” shouted one of Baelish’s men desperately, clearly grasping at any hope to stop the scheme that he had supported from failing.

“Wolkan,” said Sansa politely, turning to the maester. “Would you mind reading the note, please?”

Maester Wolkan took a step forward and, with an almost uncharacteristic smirk of enjoyment on his face, read aloud.

I, Jon Snow, the King in the North, hereby declare that any action taken by Sansa Stark, the Lady of Winterfell, against Lord Petyr Baelish was with my full authority and knowledge.

Arya watched as the man who had spoken fell into a stunned silence as the remaining men, those loyal to Jon, cheered at the downfall of Baelish.

“This writ,” Sansa said loudly, her voice trembling slightly in rage as she glared at the unfortunate man who was cowering under the glare of dozens of Northerners. “Gives me the authority to act with my brother’s full authority against Lord Baelish. And I am ordering for him to be arrested for treason. Now!

Four Stark men entered the room and grabbed hold of Baelish, who began to struggle pitifully against their strong grasp. The sight of him struggling woefully caused Arya to feel a rush of satisfaction, which was clearly shared among the collective lords, many of whom burst into mocking laughter at the sight as he was dragged out of the hall, closely followed by the men who had pledge their support for him.

“I thank you, my lords and ladies,” Sansa said loudly, getting to her feet once more. “For your loyalty and support for my brother. To King Jon!”

“King Jon!” echoed the room, amidst a vast clattering of goblets and glasses as they all toasted to their king.

As Sansa retook her seat, she looked between Arya and Bran, with a look of triumph on her face.

“Well,” she said, beaming. “We did it.”

Arya nodded enthusiastically, smiling from ear to ear as she thought of Baelish being dragged, kicking and struggling down to the dungeons.

Even more than before, Arya was wishing for Jon’s return.

They would have a lot to discuss.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jon

 

Jon stood on the top deck of his ship in the dawn light, feeling the sea breeze ruffle through his hair. It was the morning of their fourth day at sea but already plenty had happened aboard the ship to keep his mind occupied.

The day before, Jorah Mormont had demanded an audience with both him and Daenerys, so the three of them had retreated into the map room. Jon and Daenerys had seated themselves at the table and had shared a bemused look, neither knowing what could have caused such urgency.

“My Queen, King Jon, I carry a message from Samwell Tarly about something that will be of great interest to you both.”

At the mention of Sam, Jon had straightened up in his chair slightly. Jon had known instantly that it couldn’t have anything to do with the White Walkers, as Jorah would simply have told them when he gave them Sam’s notes about the dragonglass and Valyrian steel.

Jon remembered how Daenerys had looked at him curiously, clearly at a loss for what Jorah would tell them.

“While Sam and I were at the Citadel, one of the Archmaesters showed us a document that he had hidden there since the end of the Rebellion.”

Jorah had looked between them for a moment, before focusing on Jon. Jon had realised in hindsight, because of all the stories that he had been told his whole life, that Jorah expected him to have the strongest reaction.

“It was a declaration of the marriage between Rhaegar and Lyanna.”

Jon closed his eyes, blocking out the sight of the rolling waves as he remembered the feeling of the ground opening up from under him that he had experienced at hearing those words.

The idea that everything that he had heard his whole life about Lyanna was wrong, that she might have actually willingly left Winterfell with Rhaegar, was completely baffling to Jon. And, after catching her eye, Jon could tell that Daenerys was as awestruck by this information as he was.

But that feeling was nothing compared to what came next.

“And that is not all,” Jorah continued, looking very uncomfortable and apprehensive about what he was about to share.

He had paused for a moment, clearly steeling his nerves for what he was about to say.

“Yes, Ser Jorah?” Daenerys had said, a note of urgency in her voice. “What was the other things?”

“They had a child,” Jorah said steadily. “A boy, that they named Jaehaerys.”

Jon and Daenerys had shared a shocked look, neither of them quite believing what they had just heard. They both looked at Jorah questioningly, as if daring him to reveal that he was lying.

But he did not.

He merely nodded in confirmation.

“Archmaester Willem explained that he, and Lord Eddard after he was made away of the note’s existence, decided to keep it sealed away in the Citadel, for fear of igniting another civil war.”

“Wait,” Jon had interrupted, vaguely noting the note of distaste in Jorah’s voice at the mention of Eddard. “My father knew about this?”

Jorah nodded again.

“From what Willem said, your father wanted to prevent another war, but also to protect Jaehaerys from Robert Baratheon’s hatred of the Targaryens.”

While Jon had been initially hurt and confused by the lie that his father had told him and all of the other Stark children all of their lives, he understood and respected his father’s decision to protect his nephew.

Jaehaerys.

Jon had thought on the name a lot since that meeting, even late into the night.

Where was he? What was he like? What did he look like?

He would be of a similar age to me and Robb, Jon had thought, with a smile.

In Jon’s mind, he pictured a tall, strong man who looked similar to Bran, but the main difference being the silver hair, like Daenerys. Daenerys, like him, had looked surprised to learn of the existence of her nephew but, after the shock had worn off, Jon could see the hints of excitement in her face at the thought of having another family member.

Jon had noticed it too back on Dragonstone, when he had told her about Maester Aemon, her great-uncle that she had never known had existed. Jon had seen her face light up with joy at the prospect of having a family member, so she was no longer the last of the Targaryens. He had felt guilty in telling her the truth, destroying that dream.

He hoped that he wouldn’t have to see that look of disappointment and despair on her face again.

Jon was brought from his thoughts by the sounds of footsteps from behind him and turned to see Jorah walking towards him. Although he couldn’t exactly explain why, he was a little disappointed that it wasn’t Daenerys coming to talk with him, as she had done for the past few mornings.

Despite their hostile first meeting, he was now finding it incredibly easy and enjoyable to talk with her. There was a strength to her that Jon respected. It couldn’t have been easy to have convinced such a large number of warriors, particularly the notoriously wild Dothraki, to follow her. And yet they, despite Barbarro’s foolishness in the battle, followed her commands unwaveringly.

And yet, there was also a kindness to her that Jon had begun to see the more that he spoke to her. After their first meeting, Jon had thought her a little cold but he realised now that he had been mistaken. Her interactions with her handmaiden Missandei and, in particular, Mikken, the elderly man that had accompanied her to the North, had showed Jon that there was a level of compassion and warmth to Daenerys that he had not seen at first, and he smiled at the thought.

Jorah stopped alongside Jon and stood staring out over the sea for a moment in silence.

“King Jon,” he said finally.

“Ser Jorah,” replied Jon curtly.

While Jon and Jorah had not spoken to each other much while on the ship, their interactions had become increasingly more tense. They had been civil in their initial meeting, with Jon being polite to the man mainly out of respect for Jeor and his gratitude of the information that he had brought with him, but their politeness had quickly vanished.

Since their meeting, Jon had been dwelling over just what he should do with Jorah Mormont.

He knew of the circumstances that had resulted in Jorah’s exile from the North and was disgusted that the man could willingly sell men into slavery. At the same time, Jon knew that he couldn’t demand Daenerys hand the man over for execution for his crime. Not so soon after their alliance had been formed and especially not given the clear bond that the two of them shared.

However, the bond that was between them made Jon curious as, while they both clearly treasured the other’s company, they evidently did not share the same feeling over the nature of their bond. Jon had noticed the blatant affection that Jorah held for Daenerys, in the looks of adoration that he gave her whenever she wasn’t looking and his determination to be at her side whenever possible. Daenerys, however, seemed to regard Jorah as merely a trusted friend and advisor.

As Jon looked at Jorah out of the corner of his eye, he recalled the look on the man’s face whenever Jon would talk with Daenerys. It had started the day before, when Daenerys had spent a lot of time in the map room with Jorah, catching him up on everything that had happened in his absence. Since then, whenever he saw Jon and Daenerys conversing, he looked both suspicious and, if Jon was reading his expression correctly, angry. However, Jon now realised the motivation behind at least part of Jorah’s coolness toward him.

Jealousy, Jon thought, as he shook his head in exasperation.

But then there was the other, probably more important, reason.

He was Eddard Stark’s son, the man who had forced him into exile from his home to Essos and live out his life as a sellsword. While Jon had little sympathy for the reasons behind Jorah exile, he did realise that it could not have been easy for the man, to run away and leave behind everything that he had ever known.

They stayed that way for a while, neither speaking and just staring out over the rolling waves, lost in their own thoughts.

“So, King Jon,” Jorah said suddenly, breaking the silence. “What will become of me once we arrive in the North?”

Jon turned to him, not surprised by the question but surprised that it had taken him so long to broach the subject.

Turning back to face the sea, Jon answered curtly.

“If I was going to take your life, Ser Jorah, I would have done it already.”

Although Jon was not looking at him, he could sense the relief that the older man felt at his words. Swallowing back his distaste, Jon made sure to not leave him in any doubt over the reasons for his decision.

“The only reason that I am not punishing you for the crimes that you have committed, crimes so grave that my father would have executed you if you had not fled to Essos, is because of the place of confidence that you have with Daenerys. We are allies now and I would not risk the alliance that we have negotiated by expressing my desire to execute one of her most trusted advisors.”

Silence fell between them at Jon’s words, with Jorah’s face becoming a stony mask. Jon didn’t lower his eyes from the man’s glare, merely staring defiantly back at him.

“I am not proud of my actions, Your Grace,” Jorah replied gruffly. “I know that selling men into slavery is a grave crime, and I make no excuses for doing so.”

He paused for a moment, looking off into space.

“I hated your father for a long time for my exile,” he said after a moment, still looking out over the sea with a far-away look on his face. “It seemed easier to do that, to blame him for what happened, than to face the truth. To face the reality of what I had done, the dishonour that I had brought on my family’s name.”

Jon stood watching him for a moment, too stunned by his confession to respond. After a moment, Jon realised that he couldn’t just stand staring at him, so he decided to move the conversation along.

“Regardless of my decision concerning you, I don’t know how you will be received by the rest of the North,” Jon said, looking away from Jorah. “Not well, I would guess. Particularly from Lady Lyanna. Your crimes are not exactly secret and Lady Mormont is not known for hiding her opinions.”

Jorah chuckled slightly before answering.

“I am not expecting to be well received, Your Grace. As you say, my crimes are well known in the North. But I am not expecting to retake my seat as the Head of House Mormont. I am the Lord Commander of Queen Daenerys’ Queensguard. My place is by her side.”

“That might make it easier to accept,” Jon replied, nodding. “If they know that you will be going South with Daenerys rather than staying, they might be a little more accepting of you. But no promises.”

Jorah nodded grimly, seemingly resigning himself to remaining a pariah among his fellow Northerners and his family.

“Very well,” he said resolutely. “It is the best that I can hope for after what I did.”

Jorah turned and headed back down to the lower decks. Jon watched him leave with an odd feeling in his gut, feeling more confused by their conversation. While Jon did not understand or approve of Jorah’s actions, the man seemed to be genuinely remorseful and offered no weak explanation to try to rationalise what he had done.

Jon turned back to the sea, feeling a little surer of his decision to not to execute him.

I imagine the scolding that he will receive from Lady Mormont will be punishment enough, pondered Jon, with a smile as he thought of the fiery young lady.

*

The next day, Jon was sat at the desk in his cabin. It was nearing dusk and he was pouring over maps of the Seven Kingdoms, wracking his brain trying to think of any possible strategies to give them an advantage in the coming battles while at the same time trying to decide on how to persuade the lords of the North to allow their fighting men to head South to aid in Daenerys’ campaign.

It will not be easy, thought Jon, as he sat back in chair, abandoning the maps.

The Northerners had just finished liberating themselves from the rule of the Boltons and, before that, had suffered heavy losses during the War of the Five Kings. As Sansa had said before he had left Winterfell, the Northerners would not welcome another war so soon, with the potential for so many more of their sons dying.

They will have to fight, Jon thought grimly, as he looked back at the map to the Lands Beyond the Wall. Sooner or later, they will have to fight a war.

Jon wondered for a moment about what was happening north of the wall. He had not received any letters from Winterfell during his time at Dragonstone, so he had to assume that the Wall had not fallen in his absence.

I hope, Jon thought darkly.

If it hadn’t fallen, Jon wondered why the Night King had not pressed the advantage of numbers that the White Walkers had and attacked the Wall. As he thought this, Jon remembered the tales and rumours about the Wall that he had heard during his time in the Night’s Watch, and even before then, about the supposed enchantments on the Wall to keep the White Walkers from breaching it. No one had believed in them at the time, as nobody had believed that the White Walkers were even real.

But now…

I hope that they are real, thought Jon desperately, looking out of the window northwards. And I hope they hold long enough for us to gather our strength.

A knock at the door brought Jon from his thoughts.

Jon was about to call for them to enter, when the door swung open and Tormund entered, carrying a skin of something and two goblets.

“You know, Tormund,” began Jon, smiling widely. “You are supposed to wait for people to give you permission to enter their room before barging in.”

Tormund stopped on the spot, before looking around the room mockingly.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Your Grace,” he replied, putting as much sarcasm into Jon’s title as he could. “Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” Jon replied.

“Then shut up telling me about your Southern customs and have a drink with me.”

Jon laughed as he pulled up a chair for his friend, who slumped into it before pouring out the liquid into the two goblets. The flickering light from the candle threw his wound into sharp relief. The maester Pylos had done a good job of stitching the wound together but it was still a bit shocking to look at.

Not that Tormund minded much. He was still bragging to all within earshot about the scar that he would soon be sporting or laughing at the looks of discomfort that the crew was giving him.

He pushed a goblet of the liquid towards Jon, who looked at it before raising his eyebrows to Tormund curiously.

“It is a proper Northern drink,” he said, as he drained his own goblet before refilling it. “Not that fucking grape water that you have been drinking with the dwarf.”

Jon smiled a little as he raised the goblet to his mouth and drained it. The liquid burned the back of his throat as it went down and he had to restrain himself from coughing. He remembered drinking something similar, back in Mance Rayder’s tent when he was attempting to kill him after the Battle of the Wall.

Trying to control himself from bursting into a coughing fit, he refilled his goblet. As he did so, he saw that Tormund was examining the maps on the desk in front of them.

“So,” he said, as he smirking at Jon. “Have you devised a plan to win the war for us Jon Snow?”

Shaking his head in exasperation as he took another swig from his goblet.

“No, I haven’t,” Jon said, as he too examined the map. “I also have to devise a way to convince the Northern lords to allow their fighting men to head south to aid Daenerys.”

“You are their king,” Tormund said, looking a little confused. “Can’t you just order them to give you their men?”

“I probably could,” replied Jon patiently. “But if I did, then they wouldn’t want me as their king for long, would they? Did Mance just order of the Free Folk tribes to follow him, or did he convince them in other ways?”

“Good point,” Tormund said, nodding in agreement.

“Well,” Tormund continued, as he refilled both of their goblets, even though Jon’s was only half-drained. “You have me, and my men. Whatever happens.”

“Thank you, Tormund,” Jon said, grateful for the man’s loyalty.

“Well,” Tormund laughed. “I may not be a beautiful woman with dragons, but we still have our alliance.”

“What are you talking about?” Jon sighed, shaking his head.

“Oh, come on, Snow,” Tormund said, still chuckling. “A blind man could see that you and that Dragon Queen want each other.”

Jon drained his goblet to avoid answering, but Tormund merely laughed at his embarrassment.

The truth was that Tormund’s jest was actually a little closer to the truth than he realised. Daenerys was easily one of, if not the most beautiful women that Jon had ever met and the prospect of their implied marriage pact did not seem as daunting as he had thought that it would.

“So why are you here with me, and not in her cabin?”

As Tormund said this, the image of Ygritte’s face flashed in Jon’s mind and his stomach tightened. Ygritte had been gone for a few years now, but he felt the pang of loss whenever he thought of her.

As if reading his mind, Tormund leaned forward.

“She wouldn’t have wanted you to go back to your Crow vows for the rest of your days,” Tormund said, not unkindly. “If you remember, she worked very hard to get you off them in the first place.”

Jon chuckled at this, before draining the goblet once more, the alcohol no longer burning his throat. Tormund reached out and grasped hold of his forearm and Jon reluctantly met his friend’s eye.

“I know you still love her, but the dead want nothing, Jon,” Tormund said. “And she wouldn’t have wanted you to pine for her like this.”

Jon exhaled deeply and closed his eyes. Memories of Ygritte came flooding unbidden into his mind and his stomach knotted at the thoughts, accompanied by the dull ache of loss.

However, Jon knew that Tormund was right. If she was here, Ygritte would probably be chastising him for not pursuing Daenerys. And besides, Jon knew that as the King in the North, and because of the conditions of his alliance with Daenerys, he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

Not that it is much of a hardship, Jon found himself thinking, as the visage of the flame-haired Ygritte shifted into Daenerys, with her flowing silvery locks and striking violet eyes.

Jon mentally shook himself, trying to regain sense of his thoughts. Knowing that the strong Free Folk alcohol was not helping, he turned his drained goblet upside down on the table, showing that he was done.

Tormund raised an eyebrow at him curiously, before bursting into laughter.

“It seems like our strong drink has gotten the best of you, Snow,” Tormund laughed, as he clapped Jon on the back.

Jon chuckled as well, as Tormund got to his feet.

“I shall leave this with you,” he said, sliding the now half-empty skin towards Jon. “So, you can have a bit of practise before our next drink.”

As Tormund turned to leave, his eyes landed onto the map once more and his smile faded a little. After a moment, he turned to Jon, with a serious look on his face.

“You know,” he said, all traces of jests gone from his face. “After Mance died, I swore that I would have no other king. But I was wrong.”

Tormund paused for a moment and Jon looked back at him, completely shocked by this declaration.

You are my king now, Jon Snow.”

Jon stat in his chair, stunned. The importance of this confession was not lost on Jon. The Free Folk did not have kings, they would not kneel. Mance was one of the notable exceptions, but he was regarded as one of their own.

Jon was not.

And yet, here Tormund was, doing the Free Folk equivalent of swearing him his fealty.

“Tormund, I-” Jon began, before Tormund raised a hand to cut him off.

“I am not fucking bowing, so don’t ask.”

At this, Jon burst out laughing.

“I didn’t expect you to, Tormund,” Jon said, getting to his feet and extending his hand.

Tormund nodded and grasped Jon’s forearm in a vice grip. The two of them looked at each other for a moment, before nodding grimly in agreement, reaffirming their partnership, before they broke their handshake.

Tormund nodded once more before leaving the room.

Jon retook his seat, and looked back at the map. While he knew that he probably should resume his planning but, despite having achieved very little that night, he just couldn’t find the motivation to do so, particularly after his conversation with Tormund.

Jon buried his head in his hands, trying to dispel the confused thoughts that were still swirling through his head.

A second, much lighter, knock at the door that evening once again broke Jon’s thoughts.

“Come in” said Jon, not rising his head from his hands.

Jon heard the door open once more and expected it to be Tormund, mocking him for his insistence on knocking.

“May I join you?” came a familiar voice from the doorway.

Jon turned his head towards to door to see Daenerys standing in the doorway, smiling warmly at him. She looked beautiful with her hair pulled back and braided neatly behind her head, and wearing a flowing silver dress that matched her hair.

“Of course,” said Jon, offering Tormund’s now vacant chair to her.

She smiled at him once more and closed the door behind her. Jon quickly realised that she had come alone, with no sign of Jorah. Daenerys crossed the room quickly and took her seat.

“May I?” she inquired, gesturing towards the skin left behind by Tormund.

“I would be careful with that,” Jon cautioned. “It is a lot stronger than wine.”

Daenerys merely raised an eyebrow at him as she poured herself some. Jon simply smirked at her determined look and shrugged. She drank some and promptly began coughing and spluttering and Jon couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight.

“Y-you weren’t jesting,” she gasped, putting down the goblet.

“No, I wasn’t,” Jon smiled, as he sealed the skin. “Tormund brought it. It is what they drink north of the Wall. I have only had it a few times, but it is still very strong.

“I do have some wine,” Jon offered, as he got up from his seat to find where he had put the wine.

“Thank you,” he heard Daenerys from behind him. “I think that is a better idea.”

Jon smiled as he grabbed two clean goblets and headed back over to his desk. He filled them both up and pushed one to her.

“Healthy measures you give, Jon Snow,” she said, regarding her nearly full goblet. “I think you might have been drinking with Tyrion too much.”

“Maybe,” Jon chuckled, thinking fondly of the dwarf.

“He thinks very highly of you, you know?” she said, clearly reading the look on his face.

“He’s a good man. A good friend,” Jon replied.

They drank in silence for a moment before Jon broke it.

“What can I do for you, Queen Daenerys?”

Daenerys turned to him, and regarded him with amusement in her purple eyes.

“Dany,” she replied softly.

“What?” Jon replied, confused.

“You can call me Dany, Jon,” she said patiently. “There is no need to be so formal.”

Jon smiled at her words, marvelling once more at how their relationship had changed from their initial frosty meeting to this.

“All right,” Jon said, nodding. “What can I do for you, Dany?”

“I think that it is time we got to know each other a little better,” Dany replied, drinking a little more wine. “Whenever we speak, it is to discuss strategy and tactics for the comping campaign. But if we are to be allies and later…”

Dany paused here and it didn’t escape Jon’s attention. In all of the conversations that they’d had in the last few days, neither of them had explicitly mentioned the marriage agreement. While Jon knew that it hadn’t been overtly said that it would be between the two of them, he knew that they were both aware of the implication.

Dany cleared her throat and continued.

“If we are to work together, then I think we should know a little more about each other. I have only heard stories about you, stories that I assume have been exaggerated in places. So, I would like to hear the true events from you.”

“You already know about my time at the Night’s Watch, and my experiences with the White Walkers and the Boltons. What else do you wish to know?”

“Tell me of Winterfell,” she said, setting down her goblet and looking at him with interest. “Of your family.”

Jon set down his own goblet and collected his thoughts for a moment before beginning.

“It was strange, growing up at Winterfell,” Jon began, turning to face Dany and seeing her giving him her undivided attention. “I always knew, even from a young age, that I was a bastard. And, while Lady Catelyn, and later Sansa, were never particularly warm to me, I was never excluded. Lord Eddard always treated me like his son, and I was always close with my other siblings, especially Robb and Arya.

“And yet,” he hesitated for a moment, remembering his feeling of isolation in Winterfell, that feeling of not being sure that he belonged. “I always felt like the outsider. Like I said back on Dragonstone, I eventually joined the Night’s Watch so that I could feel like I belonged somewhere.”

“Do you regret it?” Dany asked. “Joining the Night’s Watch?”

“Sometimes,” Jon admitted. “I remember all the times that I heard about my family being torn apart. First my father’s death in King’s Landing, and Sansa and Arya’s supposed imprisonment there. Then, once I returned to the Wall, came the news of Winterfell’s sacking and the Red Wedding. All at once I heard of Robb’s betrayal and Bran and Rickon being on the run.

“Each time I felt so powerless, trapped up at the Wall, unable to do anything to help them. Even knowing that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do much, the idea that I couldn’t even try was frustrating.”

“But you did try,” Dany reminded him softly. “You said that you attempted to desert the Night’s Watch, to aid your brother when he marched to war.”

Jon looked at Dany, surprised that she remembered his angry outburst to Randyll Tarly on the beach after the battle.

“I did,” Jon admitted. “But even if I had made it to Robb, I don’t think that he would have accepted my aid, for me breaking my oath to the Night’s Watch.

“He was too much like Father that way,” Jon said, chuckling in spite of himself as he thought of his brother. “Besides, even if he accepted my help I would probably have died alongside him at the Red Wedding.”

As Jon thought once more of Robb’ betrayal, his hand, which had been laid on the desk next to his wine goblet, clenched into a fist as his sadness turned into anger.

“Jon,” he heard Dany say, as he felt her small, warm hand lay on top of his clenched fist. “You will get vengeance for what happened to your family. The Lannisters and the Freys will pay for what they have done.

“And I will help you,” she said resolutely, looking into his eyes with a look of determination on her face.

Jon smiled gratefully at her, which she returned with a warm smile of her own, as he matched her determined look. They stayed that way for a moment, before she retracted her hand and grabbed her wine.

Jon sat in silence for a moment, before deciding to move the conversation along.

“What about your family?” Jon asked curiously.

“You mean, other than the family member that we share,” Dany replied, with a wry smirk.

Jon, knowing that she meant Jaehaerys, smiled and nodded.

“I wonder what he is like,” Dany said, clearly thinking aloud. “I wonder what he looks like. And, where is he?”

Jon, despite having thought a lot about Jaehaerys over the last few days, once more fell into his own thoughts. In particular, he remembered Jorah’s revelation that his Father had knew about Jaehaerys’ birth.

Did Father help hide him? Jon wondered, looking back at the map. If so, where? Was he still in the Seven Kingdoms, or had Father sent him to Essos?

“I hope he is like his father,” Dany said softly, and Jon saw that she looked worried. “I hope he is more like Rhaegar, than my father or Viserys.”

Jon vaguely remembered Tyrion telling him that Dany had named her dragons after her brothers, Viserys and Rhaegal, and her late husband, Drogo. However, Tyrion had not spoken much more about Viserys.

“You never knew Rhaegar, did you?” Jon asked.

“No,” she replied, shaking her head sadly. “He had already died when I was born. I wish that I had though. All I knew about him was the stories that Viserys told me while I was growing up, and I later learned that they were all lies.”

Jon sympathised with her, with the recent revelations about Jaehaerys, and his father’s actions involved, being fresh in his mind.

“What about Viserys?” Jon asked. “What was he like?”

As soon as the words left his mouth, Jon knew that he shouldn’t have asked. Dany’s face become covered by a look of sadness and hurt.

“It was… difficult, growing up with Viserys,” Dany said quietly. “It didn’t help that we didn’t have any permanent home. We moved on every few weeks, at longest a few months. We stayed with various wealthy nobles and merchants that my brother hoped would support his claim to the Throne.

“However, this merely gained him the title of the Beggar King, which enraged him. Viserys had a short temper at the best of times. He used to call it ‘waking the dragon’ whenever I angered him.”

Dany didn’t elaborate but Jon could tell what she was hinting at. He couldn’t imagine how lonely her childhood must have been, moving from city to city, never staying long enough to make true friends, with only her abusive brother for company.

“And then he sold me,” Dany said, so bluntly that Jon was a little shocked. “He sold me to Drogo so that he could have an army to retake the Iron Throne. That is all I was to him: a way to get what he wanted. He said that he would allow the entire Dothraki horde and their horses rape me if it had gotten him what he had wanted.”

Jon had noticed that Dany was growing angrier and more upset the more she spoke, so he reached out and grasped her forearm gently to comfort her.

“Dany,” he said softly, but also firmly enough to get her attention. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

Dany turned to look at him, and smiled reassuringly at him as she covered his hand with her own once more.

“I’m all right, Jon,” she said softly. “Despite everything that happened, Viserys was still my brother. And I still loved him as my brother.

“I am happy for you though,” she continued, causing Jon to furrow his brow in confusion. “Despite everything, you seemed to have a very close bond with your siblings.”

“Something that you should have had too,” Jon replied, not dropping his gaze from her.

Despite her insistence that she was fine, Jon could see the hurt in her face as she remembered these things, and he felt guilty that he had made her relive them. He also held their supposed marriage pact in a new light, hearing how she had been forced into marrying Drogo.

He wanted to find a way to comfort her, to make her forget these clearly horrible thoughts for a moment.

Jon moved his chair closer to her and, ignoring her curious look, moved his hand from her forearm and gripped her small hand in his own. He gave her hand a gentle, comforting squeeze, which caused her to smile thankfully back at him. She leaned forward and pressed her forehead into his shoulder, while gripping his hand back.

Jon, without thinking much about it, leaned forward and pressed a light kiss to the top of her head, and left his head there, breathing in the smell of her hair, hoping that his presence was giving her comfort. Jon could tell that Dany wasn’t used to letting out of her feelings like this, showing her feelings of loneliness and hurt, preferring to hide them behind her mask of coolness and confidence.

She had been through so much, Jon thought, as he felt her hand continue to grip his own. She has suffered so much from people so close to her, and yet she has remained so strong, so determined. It is remarkable.

After a moment, Dany raised her head and smiled gratefully at him, and Jon was relieved to see that she was looking a little more like her confident self.

“Thank you, Jon,” she said softly.

Jon smiled back at her warmly. Without really thinking, he averted his eyes from her own and drifted down to her lips. With the intimacy of the moment that they had just shared clearly not gone, Jon felt an overwhelming urge to kiss her.

As if reading his mind, Dany leaned forward slightly, her mouth opening slightly. Jon hesitated for a moment, but then he too leaned forward towards her…

A loud crash and shouting from above them broke the moment, with both of them looking to the ceiling, where the loud shouting of the stand in captain was drifting down to them.

“Pick up that mess, you inept prick,” came his muffled bellows. “And stop making such a row on the deck of the King’s ship.”

Jon sighed, wishing that Davos was with them. He managed to keep control over the crew without yelling at every moment, a trait that his replacement clearly didn’t share.

He looked back at Dany who, with the moment between them passed, had leaned back into her chair once more. They sat in an awkward silence for a moment, before Dany got to her feet.

“Thank you, Jon” she said, smiling at him once more. “For everything.”

Jon returned her smile and nodded to her. She turned and made her way towards the door. Jon knew that he should say something to her, something to explain what had just happened, telling her that she didn’t have to leave.

But for the life of him, Jon couldn’t think of anything.

Dany opened the door to leave but at the last moment she turned back to look at him. There was a warmth in her gaze that Jon hadn’t seen since Ygritte.

“Good night, Jon” she said softly.

“Good night,” he replied, returning her smile.

She stood in the doorway looking at him for a moment longer, before turning and leaving, closing the door behind her.

Jon leaned back in his chair, sighing deeply. He banged his fist onto the table top in frustration, hard enough to cause the goblets to rattle against each other.

And then, he heard Ygritte’s voice in his mind, as clear as if she was standing next to him.

You know nothing, Jon Snow.

Chapter Text

 

Jaime

 

Jaime laid on his back on the hard bunk, looking up at the cobweb strewn ceiling through the gloomy half-light. He had been in the cell for a week or so by now, and his eyes had quickly grown accustomed to the gloom but even he could tell how dark it was in the cell.

Turning his head to the side, he looked around the small cell. Jaime had quickly realised that he was in the same cell that Tyrion had been kept in after the death of Joffrey. And nothing about it had changed since his brother’s incarceration.

There was a stark stone floor, strewn with small pieces of straw and rat droppings, with the sound of the rats themselves, scurrying out of sight, sounding far louder than it was, echoing around the small space. The only light in the cell came from the small barred window in the heavy wooden door, or from the small slit of the window. Jaime had tried to get any view of the city outside, but try as he might, he couldn’t.

While there was not much of a view from the window, Jaime could certainly hear sounds from the city. In the past few days, there had been what had sound like growing unrest within the city, with shouting and even the sound of clashing steel a few times.

The city is starting to fall apart, Jaime thought sadly. The people are starting to grow tired of Cersei’s madness, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

At the thought of Cersei, Jaime fell back into his own thoughts. One of the advantages of being stuck alone in the dark was that it had given him plenty of time to think and reflect on his actions, his mistakes. Many of them had involved Cersei, in one form or another.

He thought back to his younger years, when he and Cersei had first become intimate with each other. They had been caught once by a servant and their mother, Joanna, had moved Jaime to sleep on the other side of the castle. She had warned them if they had done something similar again, then she would tell their father.

What if I had listened? Jaime wondered. What if I had taken the warning, and never got involved with Cersei again? Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen wouldn’t have been born, but I probably wouldn’t have fallen under her spell like I did.

The thought of his now dead children made Jaime’s stomach knot uncomfortably. While he had never fully acknowledged any of them as his children while they had been alive, as a way of protecting them, he had always known, deep down, that they were his. And while he had never been particularly fond of Joffrey and his behaviour, Myrcella and Tommen had both been kind and innocent children, unwilling to hurt anyone, as different from their brother as it was possible to be.

But were they worth the horrible acts that he had committed in order to keep Cersei?

Jaime was sickened with himself as he thought back to all of the terrible things that he had done for her.

“The things I do for love.”

Jaime saw himself push Bran Stark from the window, fully intending to kill the child. While Bran had survived, he had been made a cripple. Guilt and remorse flooded through Jaime, so thick that it rose like bile in his throat. Swallowing heavily, he rubbed his face with his remaining hand.

How could I do such a thing? Jaime thought, disgusted with himself. How could I be so willing to kill a child to protect what I had with Cersei?

And not just children.

Family too.

Jaime thought back to when he was Robb Stark’s prisoner, during the War of Five Kings. Chained to a post in a small cage, covered in his own filth for months. He remembered Alton Lannister, a distant cousin of his, and how the young man had been placed in his cage. How he had excitedly reminded Jaime of squiring for him during the tourney at Willem Frey’s wedding.

And I killed him, Jaime recalled guiltily. I bashed his head in, just so I could attempt to escape.

To get back to Cersei.

Jaime’s guilt rose even higher than before and he rubbed his face even harder, as if hoping to scrub away his guilt. However, his remorse was joined by another feeling, one of rage, at both himself and Cersei.

The sound of the door opening caught his attention. He swung his legs off the bunk and sat up, shielding his eyes from the sudden flood of light entering the room, thrown by a flickering torch.

Once his eyes re-accustomed to the light, he lowered his hand and was surprised by who he saw. The torch was being held by the towering form of the Mountain, the top of whose head was just touching the ceiling. Standing in front of him, dwarfed by the man’s size, was Cersei and, to Jaime’s fury, Qyburn.

Jaime glared at the man, a little grateful that he no longer had to hide his distaste and contempt for the man. Qyburn, on the other hand, did not seemed phased in the least by Jaime’s open hatred for him. In response, he merely smugly smirked back at him, with only served to infuriate him further.

To stop himself from attacking Qyburn, to wipe the smug look of his face, and only serve to be killed by the Mountain, Jaime turned to examine Cersei.

She was looking even more gaunt than ever, with large dark shadows under her eyes, which contrasted starkly against her increasingly pale skin. She clearly had not left the Red Keep in some time.

She is still drinking heavily, Jaime thought. If the smell of wine is anything to go by.

Jaime met Cersei’s eye, and saw that she was looking down at him with a mixture of anger and pity on her face. He imagined that he didn’t look very good, covered in a layer of dirt and grime that covered the cell. He wondered which of the two feelings she would express first.

“How are you?” Cersei asked stiffly.

Ah, so pity then? Jaime thought sardonically.

Jaime looked around the cell mockingly before answering.

“Well. Apart from being imprisoned in the Black Cells, once again being covered in dirt and my own shit and eating food that I’m sure is the leftovers from the kennels, I am fine.”

Any pity that had been on Cersei’s face vanished, with it becoming a cold mask of anger.

“You are here because of your own actions against me,” she spat, visibly bristling with anger.

“Actions which were caused because of your actions,” Jaime growled back at her. “Yours and those of that smirking piece of shit.”

As he said this, he pointed towards Qyburn, whose smile faltered slightly for the first time. However, at Jaime’s accusing finger, the Mountain moved towards him, an inhuman growl echoing from inside the giant helm. Jaime looked back to where the eyes of the man, or whatever he was now, should be, determined to not show any fear or weakness.

After a tense moment, Cersei turned and raised her hand toward Qyburn and the Mountain, who lumbered back into his positon in front of the door. There was silence in the room for a moment, which was broken by renewed shouts and screams from outside the Keep, accompanied by the clash of steel.

Jaime turned towards the window, and saw that Cersei did the same, looking both apprehensive and angry.

It sounds like another riot is breaking out, Jaime thought.

“Fucking peasants,” Cersei muttered under her breath.

“Struggling to keep control over your people, sister?” Jaime asked, his anger still bubbling just below the surface.

She turned to face him, her own anger clear on her face. Her eyes were narrowed into slits, her nostrils flaring.

“I’m struggling to keep control of a murderous rabble, who attack my men in streets.”

“Because of what you have done to them!” Jaime roared back at her, feeling a small rush of satisfaction at the look of surprise and shock on her face.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself slightly, Jaime continued.

“Have you never wondered why they didn’t revolt against you sooner?”

Cersei looked shocked by the question and didn’t answer, but he could tell by the curious look on her face that she had indeed wondered.

“Because of me and Bronn.”

This shocked her even further, causing her mouth to widen in surprise and Jaime couldn’t supress a smirk.

“What are you talking about?” she snapped, although Jaime could still detect the curiosity in her voice.

“Whenever you enacted one of your idiotic plans, me and Bronn would help them. When you decided to horde the food in the Red Keep for the winter, to keep you and the other nobles well fed while everyone else starved, it was me and Bronn that led the thieves to it, so they could distribute it to those who needed it.

“The people that you were sending to the Qyburn, to do whatever foul experiments that he wanted to on them, because they dared to stand against you? It was me and Bronn that started to relocate them before you could find them, to keep them and their family safe.

“Do you hear me?” Jaime growled, taking a step towards her. “The only reason that this didn’t happen sooner is because of me, and the man that your fucking monstrosity killed.”

Jaime turned away from Cersei’s stunned face and sat back down on his bunk, looking to the ceiling. Silence fell in the cell once more, but it didn’t last for long.

“A very noble story, Valonqar,” Cersei spat, her voice thick with rage and contempt. “But after your betrayal, I’m not sure that I believe anything that you would say.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jaime said, turning to her. “What is a Valonqar?”

Cersei sighed deeply at his words, and her look of rage softened slightly. A flicker of what appeared to be fear flashed across her face for a moment.

“It is Valyrian,” She explained. “For ‘Little Brother’.”

Jaime merely scowled a little in confusion, so she sighed and continued.

“You remember what I told you of Maggie the Frog? Of how she told me of our children’s deaths?”

Jaime nodded, although he wasn’t really sure what she was trying to tell him. He had never given prophecies and predictions much credibility. Cersei, on the other hand, had clearly taken Maggie the Frog’s predictions to heart.

“She also made another,” she continued, wringing her hands and looking a little distressed. “About the one who would kill me.

“She said ‘And when your tears have drowned you, the Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you’.”

She stopped for a moment, and looked at her hands. Jaime looked back at her, shaking his head in disbelief.

“I always thought that it would be Tyrion,” she whispered, not looking at him. “That vile, wretched little beast has never hidden his hatred for me. So, I was always on guard against him, waiting for him to try to kill me.

“But,” she said, as she turned back to him. “There was something that I overlooked, something that my love for you clouded. I was born before you too, if only by a few moments. So, you too are my little brother.”

She looked at him for a moment, and Jaime could visibly see the distress and uncertainty leave her face, leaving a cold and cruel look in their wake.”

“You are the Valonqar.”

Jaime started to laugh, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Just when I think that you can’t act more fucking insane, you do this,” Jaime snarled, taking a step towards her and hearing the Mountain move forward as well.

Cersei looked back at him defiantly and Jaime knew, with a pang in his gut, that Cersei was, like Bronn had said, too far gone to be reasoned with.

He knew that he would likely have to kill her.

“If I kill you,” Jaime said calmly, meeting her emerald eyes with his own. “It will not be because of some fucking prophecy. It will be because it is the right thing to do, to save all of those beneath your rule from your fucking insanity. From the rule of Cersei Lannister, the Mad Queen.”

At the name, Cersei’s eye flickered with rage but Jaime didn’t care. He merely stared defiantly back at her. She held his gaze for a moment, before she turned and left the cell, not saying a word.

Jaime turned to see Qyburn flash him a devious grin that made Jaime want to split open the man’s head. Qyburn and the Mountain followed Cersei from the room, the door swinging shut behind them, shrouding Jaime in darkness once more.

Jaime sat on his bunk, waiting as his eyes readjusted to the gloom. He thought back to what Cersei had said and sadly marvelled at just how far his sister had fallen. He remembered back to their childhood and when they had been growing up. He thought of her then, the beautiful woman that he grew to love, and he mourned her passing.

That woman died, Jaime thought sadly. A long time ago. I was just too blind to see it.

Jaime thought back to what she had said about Tyrion, as he laid himself back on his bunk, staring at the ceiling. She had always hated Tyrion, and had never hidden that fact from anyone, especially not Tyrion himself. Jaime had always assumed that it had been because she blamed Tyrion for the death of their mother, something that he had always believed to be incredibly harsh.

But now it made a lot more sense.

Jaime thought of Tyrion, wherever he was, and felt a pang of loss and sympathy for his brother. Memories of his trial flooded into his mind, in particular his declaration to Tywin.

I am guilty of being a dwarf.

You are not on trial for being a dwarf.”

Oh, yes I am. I’ve been on trial for that my entire life!”

As Jaime lay on his bunk, he thought back over his brother’s life, the scorn and derision that he had suffered from on all sides, in particular from Cersei and Tywin. Despite having known about it, and being a witness to it many times, Jaime had been too self-involved, and too focused on Cersei, to realise the impact that it would have had on his brother.   

Being so hated and reviled by your father and sister would make you angry, Jaime reasoned. Angry enough to murder your own father? Maybe.

Jaime thought of Tyrion once more and felt a renewed rush of sympathy for him, but this time it was mixed with something else.

Understanding.

Jaime now understood why Tyrion had killed Tywin, how he had managed kill such a close family member.

Because he was feeling it too.

I’m sorry, little brother, Jaime thought, as he remembered his voyage to Dorne with Bronn, where he had declared his intention to kill Tyrion for killing Tywin.

While Jaime might not have fully forgiven his brother for murdering their father, he at least understood why Tyrion would want to, especially given the murderous thoughts that Jaime now had for Cersei, and he now knew that Tyrion deserved the chance to explain his actions.

I suspect these thoughts of killing Cersei are something that I share with Tyrion, Jaime pondered. Although for differing reasons.

Jaime sighed deeply, turning on his side to gaze at the small slit window. He strained his ears to listen to the sounds outside, which appeared to have died out. Jaime hoped that whoever had been out there, showing their defiance to Cersei’s rule, were still alive, although he doubted it.

Jaime turned over again, trying to block everything out of his head, praying for sleep to take him. His mind, however, returned to Tyrion.

Jaime knew that he was with Daenerys Targaryen, who would soon be beginning her attempted conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, if she hadn’t already. Jaime couldn’t help but think that the Targaryen girl, along with her already sizeable army and dragons, now allied with the King in the North might have a good chance of winning.

It seems that I will be seeing you soon, little brother, Jaime thought, with a smile. I hope so. It seems like we have a lot to discuss.

*

A few days later, Jaime was still lying on the bunk. He spent the majority of his time simply lying on the bunk and staring at the ceiling, lost in his thoughts. Thoughts of Tyrion, of Cersei, of their father. He thought of Qyburn and the Mountain and his and Bronn’s failed assassination, and about the next plan that he would have to create, to make sure that his sister didn’t harm anyone again.

The noises from the city were growing in intensity and regularity, as not a day went by without the sound of another riot breaking out somewhere in the city. Jaime lay there, listening to the sounds of dozens of hopeless people desperately trying to make their situation better, fruitlessly battling the Lannister guardsmen. Although Jaime couldn’t see the outcomes, he knew that they likely ended with all of the rebels being slaughtered, and likely their families too.

The more he thought about it, the greater his rage and hatred for Cersei and Qyburn grew.

How can they think that this is right? Jaime thought, as he tried to block out the desperate screams of the latest rebels as they were slaughtered. How can they think that this will end well for them? Can’t she see that she is becoming more and more like the Mad King every day?

Jaime’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door opening. He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sudden burst of light that flooded into the room.

After a moment, Jaime looked towards the door to see Qyburn and the Mountain standing there. Rage and hatred flooded through him at the sight, but there was also a feeling of confusion and curiosity.

Cersei wasn’t with them.

What is he doing here? Jaime thought angrily, as he sat up to face him down. Without Cersei?

“Well?” Jaime snapped, not bothering to appear courteous. “What do you want?”

“I think it is past time that we talked,” Qyburn replied calmly, as though it were normal.

Jaime scoffed, as the man took a chair that the Mountain had been holding and sat down opposite him.

“What the fuck do you want?” Jaime asked again, more insistently.

“I want to know what you hoped to achieve,” Qyburn said. “With your little scheme that you and your friend Bronn devised.”

“You know what I wanted,” Jaime snarled. “I wanted you, and that fucking monster, dead!”

“Oh, well,” Qyburn said, shrugging slightly. “I am a little disappointed. I would have thought you would try a little harder than that pitiful showing.”

Jaime scowled, suddenly realising the true reason why the man was here.

He isn’t here to talk to me, Jaime thought angrily, clenching his hand into a fist. He is here to taunt me, to goad me into a confrontation.

“Tell me something, Qyburn,” Jaime said, leaning forward slightly. “What do you want? With all this influence that you have over my sister.”

“I want to help her,” he replied simply. “I want to help her rule over her kingdom and destroy all of her enemies.”

“Yes, your plan to deal with Daenerys Targaryen was a masterstroke,” Jaime replied, laughing sarcastically. “You sent Euron Greyjoy, and the majority of his fleet, to attack the island and, in the process, we lost any hope of winning any battles at sea as well as our most experience naval commander. Well done!”

“I admit that it did not go according to plan,” Qyburn conceded, with a look on his face like it was chasing him physical pain to admit that Jaime was right. “So, I decided to refocus my efforts on advising Her Grace on keeping the peace in King’s Landing, something that I feel that I am better suited for.”

“You are fucking insane!” Jaime said, shaking his head in disbelief. “‘Better suited for’? So, you decide to starve the smallfolk? Experiment on those who defy you?”

“My experiments, as you call them, are needed. They have given us the Mountain back, someone who can solve many of Her Grace’s problems.”

“He’s a fucking abomination!” Jaime snarled, hearing the Mountain’s inhuman growl reverberate around the room in response. “The real Mountain died after fighting Oberyn Martell. And you should have left him that way.”

“But death isn’t the end, sometimes,” Qyburn said, leaning forward with a sickening glint to his eye. “Some people find their uses after their death. For the Mountain, it was to act as Queen Cersei’s sworn protector, and most loyal soldier.

“Your friend, Bronn, on the other hand,” Qyburn continued, smirking evilly. “He had other uses.”

Jaime’s heart sank at the man’s words.

“What the fuck have you done?” Jaime snarled, rising to his feet, causing the Mountain to take a few steps forward.

“Oh, do not worry,” Qyburn said, as he too rose to his feet, waving his hands dismissively. “I wasn’t able to bring him back, as I did the Mountain. No, the lack of a head seemed to be a big stumbling block on that.”

At this, he laughed loudly and Jaime was taken aback by the level of insanity that the man was able to possess.

“No, I merely used your friend’s body as a way to test some various potions and poisons that I was curious about. Their effect on certain internal body parts, for example.”

The true meaning of his words hit Jaime as though he had been hit with a warhammer.

“You-” Jaime said, his temper threatening to overwhelm him. “You defiled my friend’s body?”

“Yes,” Qyburn replied, smiling. “And he served more use then, than he ever did in life.”

Jaime snapped.

Not caring that the Mountain was there, Jaime flung himself at Qyburn, desperate to try and injure the man, to cause him some amount of the pain that he had inflicted on the countless number of people who had suffered in his experiments. Jaime saw Qyburn’s face be covered by a look of terror as he saw Jaime’s rage…

Before Jaime was seized around the throat by the Mountain.

Jaime felt the inhumanly strong grip tighten around his throat, stopping him from breathing as he felt himself being lifted into the air, his feet barely brushing the floor. Jaime saw his vision begin to blacken as his lungs burned from lack of air.

Just when the darkness was about to block out his vision, when Jaime was sure that the end had come for him, the Mountain flung him across the room. Jaime’s head cracked against the stone wall, nearly knocking him unconscious. Jaime lay there for a moment gasping, desperately trying to regain his senses.

After a moment, Jaime rose back to his feet in time to see Qyburn turn to leave. His anger not yet abated, Jaime called after him.

“Qyburn!” Jaime yelled hoarsely, his throat complaining after the pressure that it had been under. “This is why you came, isn’t it? To mock and taunt me over the sick experiment that you did to Bronn?

“Yes,” the maester replied, looking glad that Jaime had finally realised the truth. “I wanted to see your reaction.”

Jaime recoiled in horror at the man’s words, his hatred boiling up within him once more.

“I am going to kill you,” Jaime growled, as he took a step forward. “Do you hear me, maester? Even if it is the last thing that I do in my life, I will have your life.”

Qyburn merely laughed and left the cell, with the Mountain closing the door behind him, leaving Jaime alone in the darkness once more.

Chapter Text

 

Tyrion

 

Tyrion awoke from his wine-induced sleep with a start, hearing the sound of a horn from the deck above him. Now he was awake, he became aware of some frantic knocking at the door to his cabin. Clearly someone had been trying to rouse him, but with no luck.

Ignoring the pounding in his head, Tyrion rose from his bunk and staggered over to the door, partly due to his mild intoxication and partly due to his inexperience at sea. Opening the door, Tyrion wasn’t surprised to see Varys standing there, looking down at him with curiosity and, unless Tyrion was imagining it, worry.

“Well,” Varys said, smirking slightly as he took in Tyrion’s appearance. “It would seem that you enjoyed yourself last night.”

Tyrion raised an eyebrow in reply, trying desperately to stay upright.

“I’m guessing that we have arrived,” Tyrion said, beginning to head to the top deck, with Varys following. “Either that or you have decided that the only way to wake me was with a horn.”

Varys chuckled slightly before answering.

“We have arrived in Dorne,” he said. “But that is not a bad idea in fact. You are difficult to rise when you have been drinking the night before, which is quite often.”

Tyrion didn’t reply, as he knew that Varys was right. He had been drinking quite a lot recently, even more than usual. At first, he had drunk simply because he enjoyed it, but after the events of Dragonstone it had been simply so he could sleep.

If he didn’t drink, he would lie awake at night, with his brain churning with countless ideas and plans for the coming wars, against both the Lannisters and then the White Walkers, as well as wondering about the fate of Jaime in the Black Cells as well as Jon and Dany in the North. Drinking himself to sleep had actually allowed him to get some rest.

If only there wasn’t such a headache in the mornings, Tyrion thought, as he shielded his eyes from the bright sunlight as he headed out onto the deck.

Once his eyes adjusted to the glare, Tyrion walked past Barbarro to look out towards the horizon, where Sunspear lay before them. Even from so far away Tyrion could see two large towers, one emblazoned with the Martell spear while the other covered with a large sun. Tyrion knew from his reading, as he had never been to Dorne due to the high tensions between the Houses of Martell and Lannister, that these were the Spear Tower and the Tower of the Sun.

Tyrion continued to take in the sights of Sunspear, from its large walls that surrounded it, to the Sandship, the ancient keep of the Martells, that had developed into the keep of Sunspear. As Tyrion continued to look, he became aware of how warm it had become.

Clearly winter hasn’t reached this far south yet, Tyrion thought, as he mopped a thin layer of sweat from his brow.

A few hours later they managed to dock, with Tyrion, Varys and Barbarro leaving their ship first. Tyrion looked over his shoulder at the vast armada that had followed them from Dragonstone, all filled to the brim with Dothraki warriors, as well as a few noble houses, and felt a little more secure in their plan.

We still have to join up with the bulk of the Martell and Tyrell forces, Tyrion reminded himself. And if Jon can convince the North, then we should be able to win.

If.

A big word, Tyrion thought glumly.

As they disembarked from the ship, a messenger approached them.

“Lord Varys,” he said, in a thick Dornish accent, as he nodded to him.

The man then turned to Tyrion, and his expression changed from polite interest into looking like he was observing a dead animal.

“Lannister,” the man said, with a tone thick with distaste.

Tyrion sighed and shook his head. He had expected this, but that didn’t make it any easier to see. He knew that the Lannister name was spat upon in Dorne, for the events surrounding Elia Martell’s death, but Tyrion also knew that many of them would scorn him, as many of them would blame him personally for the death of Oberyn.

“Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes welcome you back to Dorne, Lord Varys,” the messenger said, returning his attention to Varys. “They await you, and the Lannister, at the Water Gardens, along with Lady Olenna Tyrell.

“Your men,” he continued, looking past them at the vast number of ships, “will be taken care of, have no worry about that.”

Tyrion followed the man’s gaze to see Randyll Tarly and Barbarro organising the troops. Even from this distance, Tyrion could see the tension between the two men, which had not dissipated since the Battle of Dragonstone. Tyrion had seen Tarly give the Dothraki a death glare every time they passed each other.

It seems that the man holds a grudge, Tyrion thought, with a smile. Something that I am sure Jon will be glad to hear of.

Amusing himself with the memories of Jon’s confrontation with Tarly on the beach at Dragonstone, Tyrion looked out over the vast camp of the mainly Dornish houses that they could see from their vantage point. He could see the black vulture sigil of House Blackmont, the golden hand on red and black of House Allyrion and the white sword and falling star on purple of House Dayne.

Impressed by the scale of the Dornish forces, he guessed around fifty thousand men, Tyrion turned and followed Varys into the carriage that the messenger was directing them too. Inside it was comfortably decorated, with plump cushions on the chairs, a table stocked with wine and food, as well as various incense candles burning, filling the carriage with sweet scents.

Tyrion poured himself a goblet of the wine and tasted it. He could tell immediately that it was one of the finest wines that Dorne produced. He settled himself into a chair with his wine, and began to dwell on what was to come.

Tyrion knew that neither Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s paramour, nor the Sand Snakes, his children, would be very welcoming to him, as either a Lannister or, in their eyes, the reason that their father died in his Trial by Combat. Tyrion shuddered when he remembered Oberyn’s sickening screams as the Mountain gouged out his eyes before smashing his head apart with his bare hands.

There was silence in the carriage for a while, before Varys broke it.

“Not a very warm welcome,” Varys said, the shadows over his face flickering in time with the swinging candle holders above him.

“I expected nothing less,” Tyrion replied, sipping from his goblet. “The Lannisters aren’t popular around here, and I’m guessing that I will be less so.”

“Because of Oberyn?”

“I’m guessing that Oberyn’s lover and daughters won’t be too happy to see me.”

“Probably not,” Varys conceded, nodding. “But we are all on the same side, all trying to aid Daenerys in getting what is hers.”

Tyrion merely nodded glumly in response, not convinced that this would be enough to convince the Martells to be, at the very least, cordial with him.

Soon after the carriage came to a halt. Tyrion drained the goblet in his hand, savouring the sweet taste, as he raised himself from his seat. The door was opened from the other side and small set of steps were placed by the door to allow them to get down easier.

Tyrion got down from the carriage looked around him. The Water Gardens were set nearby to a large beach by, what Tyrion guessed, was the Summer Sea. Here the heat of the day was cooled by the wind coming in from the sea. Tyrion closed his eyes for a moment, allowing the salty breeze to cool his skin, before turning and following Varys and their guide into the Water Gardens.

Tyrion was impressed by the place. There was marble everywhere he looked, with large trees growing and throwing their shade all over the gardens, allowing respite from the insistent glare of the sun, even now in winter. Tyrion looked at the various fountains and gleaming pools of water as he passed them, all empty.

As they came to a stop, in front of a small canopy, he saw why the Gardens were so empty. Lady Olenna Tyrell sat around a small table, with a Tyrell bannerman holding the Tyrell rose aloft standing behind her. To her left was a dark haired, very beautiful woman that Tyrion recognised at Oberyn Martell’s lover, Ellaria Sand. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of Tyrion, who merely nodded back at her defiantly. Next to Ellaria sat three young women, all of whom bore a resemblance to Oberyn, in either looks or with the confidence that they showed.

Ah, Tyrion thought, as he and Varys reached the table. These must be the Sand Snakes.

All three of them wore clothes in the same shade of yellow that the surrounding guards wore, several of whom shifted angrily when Tyrion passed them, gripping their spears tighter. This did nothing to alleviate Tyrion’s apprehension over this meeting.

When Varys reached the table, he bowed low.

“Greetings Lady Olenna,” he said politely, turning to her. “I hope you are well.”

“I’m sitting in this stifling heat with these murderesses, getting ready to send many Tyrell men to their deaths to allow Daenerys Targaryen to get her throne back,” Olenna replied, with her characteristic bite in her voice. “Please let us skip the formalities, and foolish questions, Lord Varys.”

Tyrion smirked slightly at Olenna’s bluntness, as well as the looks of shock and angry on the faces of Ellaria and the Sand Snakes at her insult of them.

“Lady Olenna,” Tyrion said, quickly removing the smirk from his face. “Forgive the formalities, but it is good to see you again. Please let me offer my condolences for your losses.”

“My losses?” Olenna snapped, bristling slightly. “You mean the deaths of my grandchildren, the future of House Tyrell, that your sister destroyed in the Sept?”

“Yes,” Tyrion replied, leaning forward slightly. “But now we both have a reason to want my sister’s head on a spike.”

Olenna was silent for a moment, regarding Tyrion with suspicion, before she smirked slightly.

“I long for the day when I can see such a sight.”

“As do I,” Tyrion said, returning her dark smirk.

At this moment, Ellaria Sand rose from her seat.

“Welcome to Dorne, Lord Varys, Lord Lannister,” she said, putting as much scorn into Tyrion’s name as she could despite her air of politeness. “Allow me to introduce you to Oberyn’s children.

“This is Obara,” she said, indicating the eldest of the three, who also had the most vehemence in her glare towards Tyrion. He saw that she was wearing leather armour, unlike her sisters, which he thought was odd. Tyrion could tell, by her more muscled physique compared to her sisters, that she took after her father with her martial prowess.

“Nymeria,” Ellaria continued, standing behind the middle daughter. Tyrion looked at her and saw, interestingly, that she was looking more detached than her sisters, regarding Tyrion with interest and calculation rather than open scorn. He guessed, from various parts of her appearance that were slightly different from her sisters, that her mother was from the Eastern continent. She was winding something through the fingers on her right hand and Tyrion looked closer to see that it was the tip of a bullwhip, which was coiled under her chair.

“And this is my eldest daughter, Tyene,” Ellaria said, placing her hands on the shoulders of the last Sand Snake. She was quite petite, with a pretty face that smiled up at her mother with almost child-like happiness. Tyrion, however, was not taken in by the display, as Varys had warned him that each of the Sand Snakes were dangerous in their own way, and that Tyene was known to act innocent to lure people into a false sense of security.

“A pleasure to see you again,” Varys replied, bowing politely.

Tyrion merely nodded in response, knowing that anything he said would likely escalate the tension that he could feel emanating from Obara in particular.

“I have something for you,” Varys said, as he pulled a letter out from one of his pockets. “As a gift from Queen Daenerys.”

He handed it to Obara who, looking a little suspicious, opened it and began to read it.

“Queen Daenerys had legitimised the three of you, and your younger siblings, as Martells,” Varys explained, to the joy of the Sand Snakes and Ellaria, the shock of Olenna and the trepidation of Tyrion. “I know that you being bastard children wouldn’t be much of a problem here in Dorne, but this removes any problems that you would have had in Westeros as a whole.”

Tyrion watched as the Sand Snakes thanked Varys, while sharing looks of triumph, with a feeling of uneasiness. He hadn’t been fully behind this idea when Daenerys had brought it to their attention, clearly influenced by the tales of the loyalty shown to Jon, a well-known bastard.

However, Tyrion was also aware that the Sand Snakes were not Jon, they had not gained their current position due to inspiring loyalty among their people, they had gotten it by subterfuge and the murder of Doran Martell.

An act that Tyrion was shocked to hear from Varys, on their journey from Dragonstone, that Daenerys had no knowledge of.

“How can she not know that they killed their uncle to take control of Dorne?” Tyrion had demanded, complete shocked.

“Because I haven’t told her,” Varys had replied simply.

“Why not?”

“Because we need the Martells and the armies of Dorne,” Varys had said, folding his hands in front of him. “If Daenerys were told, then I imagine she would demand justice for Prince Doran’s death and we might lose the support of Dorne.”

Tyrion had merely shaken his head, completely amazed by Varys latest scheme, even though he knew that he shouldn’t be surprised.

He is the Master of Whisperers after all, Tyrion had thought.

Tyrion looked between Varys and the now Princess Obara Martell and was struck by a sudden thought.

What else is he hiding?

A messenger approached and got Varys attention, before whispering into his ear. Varys then nodded, before bowing once more to those assembled around the table.

“If you will excuse me, I have received word from my birds,” Varys said, before hurrying away.

Tyrion watched him go, before turning his attention back to the table, where Ellaria had once more seated herself next to Obara.

“Be seated, Lannister,” she said, indicating to one of the vacant chairs.

Biting back a retort, Tyrion seated himself upon it, ignoring the furious glare from the new head of House Martell.

“I see that the armies of Dorne are ready to support Queen Daenerys’ forces,” Tyrion said, before turning to Lady Olenna. “I’m guessing the Tyrell forces are ready to do the same.”

“They are,” Olenna replied, nodding. “The majority of them remain in the Reach, to stop Cersei’s forces from following us through the mountains.”

As Tyrion nodded his approval, Obara leaned forward, with an angry look on her face.

“It is a shame that Queen Daenerys isn’t here,” she snapped, glaring at Tyrion. “And that we have to treat with the Lannister imp.”

Tyrion returned her glare, feeling his temper rising. Out of the corner of his eye, Tyrion couldn’t help but notice Nymeria rolling her eyes, clearly exasperated by her sister’s outburst.

“Well,” Tyrion growled back. “Queen Daenerys has gone north, with Jon Snow, the King in the North. A bastard who gained his title through the loyalty of his people, rather than murdering his own kin.”

There was a collective intake of breath from those assembled, and Tyrion took a vicious sense of satisfaction from the scandalised look on Obara’s face. He knew that he shouldn’t let his temper get the best of him, especially towards their allies and when he was surrounded by many people who despised him and his family name, but he was getting tired of their scorn of him for crimes that he hadn’t committed.

“Murder,” Tyene said silkily, leaning toward Tyrion, before her elder sister could speak. “A crime that you Lannisters know well.”

“I didn’t kill Elia,” spat Tyrion, now addressing the young woman. “The Mountain did, probably on my father’s orders. I wasn’t there during the Rebellion, was I? So, I can hardly be held accountable for that. In fact, you should be thanking me, as I was the one who killed Tywin.”

“What about Oberyn?” Ellaria said, looking angry now, a look matched by Obara.

“You know as well as I do, that I didn’t force Oberyn to fight for me in my Trial by Combat. He chose to. You act as if I wanted him to die fighting the Mountain. His death meant my own, remember?”

“Whatever you intended, the outcome was still our father’s death,” Obara said, glaring furiously at him.

Tyrion looked at them, feeling both angry at their insistence but also completely baffled that they could continue with these circular arguments. A feeling he could see mirrored on the face of the Queen of Thorns, who was shaking her head slightly.

“What do the people think, by the way?” Tyrion asked. “About being ruled by the killers of the previous Prince.”

Ellaria, Obara and Tyene all laughed at this, with Nymeria also smirking slightly.

“They think that Lannister spies killed Doran,” Tyene said. “On orders from your sister.”

Tyrion’s eyes widened at this, although he could see the sense of it. It would convince all those who were still uncertain about joining with Daenerys against the Throne to join with them, for vengeance over Doran’s death.

That’s useful to know, Tyrion thought, stopping himself from retorting and escalating the tensions even further.

At that moment, Varys returned to the table and stopped still, clearly recognising the high tempers around the table. He sat down next to Tyrion, and raised his eyebrows towards Tyrion curiously.

As soon as Varys had returned to his seat, Obara stood up.

“The forces of House Martell are Queen Daenerys’ to command,” she said. “They will be placed under the command of Lord Randyll Tarly, who Lady Olenna has told us is the best commander that Queen Daenerys has.

“And I don’t think that we have anything else to discuss without the Queen herself present, especially with the Imp,” she snapped as she turned to leave, and she was quickly followed by her sisters and Ellaria.

Tyrion watched them go with mixed happiness and confusion.

“Fools,” Olenna snapped. “They think that they are ready to rule a kingdom, and yet all I see is three spoiled children squabbling and pouting if they don’t get their way.”

Tyrion chuckled, as he grabbed a goblet from the table and filling it to the brim, fully agreeing with the comparison.

“I couldn’t agree more, Lady Olenna,” Tyrion said, raising his goblet to her in toast. “But they are in charge of Dorne, and we need the armies House Martell and their vassals.”

“The people we have to ally with to get what we want,” Olenna said, shaking her head slightly. “I hope Daenerys wins, to make all of this worth it. If I have to listen to those children babble on again, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

“I’m sure that Queen Daenerys will win, my lady,” Tyrion heard Varys say, as he chuckled into his wine at the old lady’s disdain for the Sand Snakes. “House Tyrell will get the vengeance that it seeks.”

“Ha,” she said, shaking her head again. “I’m not sure that there will be much of House Tyrell left once this is over, and after I die.”

“I thought that there were plenty more who carry the Tyrell name?” Tyrion inquired, confused.

“What? The children of Loras and Margaery’s cousins, whose names I can’t even remember?  

“No,” she continued, as she got to her feet. “They are too weak, too easily led by the promise of glory. That is not the legacy I want to leave my House with. If they are the ones who will be left in charge, then maybe the Tyrell name should die out with me.”

With this she left, the Tyrell bannerman following closely behind her, with Tyrion sharing a shocked look with Varys. There was silence left in the old lady’s wake, broken only by the sounds of the fountains behind them.

“So, I am gone for only a few minutes, and yet you managed to start a fight with the Martells,” Varys said, with an amused smile.

“They are determined to blame someone for the deaths of Oberyn and Elia and I, as the only Lannister that they have got nearby, seem to be the one that they have chosen to blame,” Tyrion said disdainfully.

Varys merely chuckled in response, and Tyrion was determined to move the conversation along, trying not to waste any more thought on the Sand Snakes.

“What news did you get from your birds?” he asked quickly, before Varys could continue.

Varys sighed, as he reached inside his pocket and pulled out a letter.

“From what they have said, the majority of my birds in King’s Landing have fallen under the wing of Qyburn, Cersei’s advisor,” he said sadly. “I still have a few that he doesn’t know about, but we must be more careful about how we get our information about Cersei now.”

Tyrion cursed under his breath. This was a real blow to them. He had been counting on Varys’ spies to feed them information about any potential troop movements from Cersei, but it seemed that they would have to do without, or at the very least it would be more difficult to get such knowledge.

Tyrion leaned back in his chair and rubbed his beard in frustration as he looked around the Water Gardens. As he did so, he was struck by a sudden realisation.

Myrcella.

When Varys had told him of Prince Doran’s fate, he hadn’t mentioned what had happened to his son, Prince Trystane, Myrcella’s betrothed, or Myrcella herself.

“Well, that was very useful,” Tyrion said sarcastically as he got to his feet. “But I am going to see my niece.”

“Tyrion,” Varys said softly, as he gripped Tyrion’s forearm with a look of sadness on his face. “Myrcella isn’t here.”

“Then where is she?” Tyrion demanded, despite already having an idea.

He recognised the look on Varys’ face, the soft and comforting tone of his voice.

She can’t be, Tyrion thought desperately. Not her too. The Sand Snakes wouldn’t, they couldn’t, have done that.

“She’s dead, Tyrion,” Varys said, confirming Tyrion’s fears.

Feeling a rising feeling of grief in his gut once more, Tyrion sat back down his chair and coiled his hands into fists on the table top. He sat there for a moment in silence, before his anger rose to the surface and he slammed his fists down onto the table, making the various goblets and plates rattle against each other.

“How?” he demanded, his anger and grief making his voice shaky.

“From what my spies told me,” Varys said calmly. “Jaime and Bronn, at Cersei’s insistence, came to Dorne to ‘rescue’ Myrcella but they were caught and imprisoned. However, Prince Doran and his son were more level-headed than the Sand Snakes, and an agreement was struck between them to prevent hostilities. Trystane and Myrcella would return with Jaime to King’s Landing, with Trystane taking Doran’s place on the Small Council, that you negotiated as a part of Myrcella’s betrothal.

“However, when they were leaving, Myrcella was poisoned by Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, and Trystane was later killed by Obara.”

Tyrion shook his head in disbelief, as he felt his grief rise even further, constricting his chest, just like it had when he had heard about Tommen’s death.

“Why?” Tyrion demanded angrily. “Why would they kill her? She was innocent! She had done nothing to them!”

“I think they saw it as taking revenge against the Lannisters,” Varys offered quietly.

“So, they decide to kill a young girl!” Tyrion said furiously. “Someone who hasn’t harmed anyone, or anything, in her entire life. Someone who, like Tommen, was as completely different than the other Lannisters, especially their mother, as it is possible to be!”

Varys had no response, and simply sat in a respectful silence, allowing Tyrion to dwell on what he had heard. He couldn’t believe the compete stupidity and cruelty of the Sand Snakes that they would kill someone like Myrcella for the crimes of her family, when she had played no part in it.

However, something else came into Tyrion’s mind the more that he thought on it.

“How long have you known?” Tyrion demanded.

Varys looked at him sadly for a moment before answering.

“A while,” he said finally.

“Define ‘a while’,” Tyrion growled, getting angrier now.

“Since we arrived on Dragonstone.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Tyrion demanded. “You told me about Tommen!”

“I told you about Tommen because the cause of his death was Cersei, who we were already plotting to defeat, and it gave you extra motivation,” Varys explained. “If I had told you about Myrcella too, then you would have been distracted, with your vengeful thoughts towards the Martells. And we needed you focused, so you could help us negotiate with Jon Snow and the other lords. Can you truly say that you wouldn’t have been distracted by the knowledge that one of our allies was behind your niece’s death?”

Tyrion thought for a moment, before looking away, grumbling under his breath when he relied that Varys had a point. However, the spymaster reached out and grasped hold of his forearm firmly, causing Tyrion to return his gaze to him.

“I’m telling you now, because we are in Dorne and you can act, to get the vengeance that you need.”

Tyrion looked back into the man’s eyes, his anger towards him tempered by a realisation that the man was serious.

“I say that as your friend, Tyrion. I know that you need to repay the pain that they have given you.

“However,” he continued, as his grip tightened slightly. “As Daenerys’ advisor, I need to tell you to be careful. We need the Martells and the armies of Dorne. So, be mindful of whatever actions you plan to take.”

Tyrion thought on Varys’ words later that night, as he lay awake staring at the moonlit ceiling of the chamber he had been given.

He rolled over onto his side and stared at the small dagger that he always had on his belt, and contemplated his revenge against the Martells.

Despite his anger towards them, Tyrion knew that he couldn’t simply kill them. His anger hadn’t blinded him to the fact that Varys was right: for their plan to work properly they would need the Dornish houses behind them.

Besides that, Tyrion knew that, because of the vast majority of the smallfolk thinking that the Lannisters killed Doran, if he killed the Sand Snakes and Ellaria, then doubt would be cast over his true allegiance that would be hard to disprove, despite his clear loyalty to Daenerys.

“Be mindful of whatever actions you plan to take.”

As Tyrion lay there, staring at his dagger, he decided that he would bide his time. There was no need to take immediate vengeance, as it would only serve to hamper their war effort.

No, Tyrion thought, as he rolled onto his back to stare at the ceiling once more. I will wait, for the opportune moment to take my revenge.

Chapter Text

 

Daenerys

 

Dany stood on the deck of the Wolf of the Sea, with Jon, Missandei and Jorah alongside her. She was staring out to the horizon, where the eastern shore of the North was visible, as they headed towards White Harbour. There was a rising feeling of excitement in Dany’s stomach at the sight, a feeling that was mirrored in both Jon and Jorah’s faces.

She had heard much about the North, from Tyrion and Varys during their lessons to her about the Seven Kingdoms and later from Jon, when he would tell her in detail about all of the various houses that had pledged themselves to him.

But they were not the stories that Dany preferred to listen to.

In the last few days, since their drink in Jon’s cabin, they had begun to share a small skin of wine every evening, in order to get to know each other better, which often resulted in them talking long into the night. Jon would tell her more about his childhood, and Dany was happy to see his usually sombre face break into laughter when he remembered all of the happy times that he had shared with his siblings before they had all left Winterfell.

He would speak the most about his brother Robb and his sister Arya, the two of his siblings that he had clearly been the closest with. However, he too had stories of how Bran, and later Rickon, would follow him and Robb around, particularly during their swordsmanship lessons with Ser Rodrik Cassel, and how he, Robb and Arya would scare Sansa in the crypts of Winterfell.

Dany liked listening to Jon’s stories of his family as, while she enjoying hearing and seeing Jon’s happiness over talking about his siblings, it also fuelled her desire to fulfil the promise that she had made to Jon, to make the Lannisters and Freys pay for all the sorrow that they had inflicted onto the Starks.

In return, Dany would tell Jon about her experiences throughout Essos. She told him of everything, from her wandering childhood with Viserys, to her time with the Dothraki and all the way to her landing in Dragonstone. There were times when she wondered if Jon would believe her. There were parts of her tale that Dany knew sounded unbelievable, with the birth of her dragons and her visions in the House of the Undying in particular sounding completely implausible.

However, Jon didn’t sound like he doubted a word that she said. He would merely nod his understanding before continuing to ask her more questions about her travels.

If anyone could believe me, Dany thought, as she turned to meet Jon’s eye. It is someone who has been through experiences that must consider mere stories.

Jon had told her again about his time with the Night’s Watch, this time in far more detail. Dany could sense the anger in his voice when he told her about his betrayal and death at the hands of his brothers. While Dany knew that it should be impossible for Jon to have died and then been resurrected from the dead, she found it hard to distrust him, to believe that he would lie about something as important as this.

Dany was brought from her thoughts when Missandei let out a small noise of surprise next to her. Dany turned to see her looking out over the rolling hills of the North in wonder at the snow that covered them. While Dany had seen snow once before, during her visions in the House of the Undying, she knew that Missandei had never seen anything like it.

“You have never seen snow before, my lady?” Jon asked her kindly.

“No,” Missandei replied, in a voice of wonder. “It is beautiful.”

Dany nodded her agreement as she tightened her grip on her furs against the increasing chill. While she had heard many people describe the North as a frozen, empty land, she couldn’t deny the beauty in the sights that her eyes laid upon.

Jon chuckled slightly before responding.

“The snows are something that I have known my entire life,” he said, looking out at the North with a contented expression on his face, clearly happy to be home. “It even snows in the summer here sometimes. I can’t imagine living my life without ever seeing it.”

Jon turned to face Dany, smiling warmly at her.

“And what do you think, Dany?” he asked, raising an eyebrow inquisitively at her.

“I agree with Missandei,” Dany replied, as she turned to look out over the North once more. “It is beautiful.”

As Dany continued to look out over the hills and woods of the North, she could feel Jon’s eyes lingering on her. Dany had grown accustomed to men staring at her, often with their lust so clear in their expression that is made her uncomfortable. Jorah, despite being her most trusted advisor and friend, had been guilty of this many times.

However, Dany couldn’t sense any of the blatant desire in Jon’s gaze that she had often seen in Jorah’s. She could only see a warmth that made her glad for his lingering gaze upon her.

I have only seen that look on his face once, Dany thought as she looked towards him.

She remembered the almost hungry look on his face when they had been in his cabin a few days ago, the way his eyes had drifted down to her lips and had darkened slightly as he leaned towards her. Dany had been a little surprised by the level of her own desire in the moment, as she had only known Jon for a short time by then.

However, Jon’s honourable and loyal nature, despite all the sorrow and betrayal that he had suffered, his strength in battle and his leadership skills, in addition to the kindness that he showed, in contrast to his stoic demeanour, had quickly gained him Dany’s admiration. She was sure that, had there not been a clumsy deckhand above them that had broken the moment, the kiss that had been interrupted would only have been the start.

Other than Dany thanking Jon once more for his comfort when her feelings had overwhelmed her, neither of them had mentioned the events of that night. However, Dany knew that the desire that they both had for each other, that seemed to be known by everyone if Missandei’s happy smile whenever she would see Dany and Jon would speak was anything to go by, would be shown again before long.

It had been a long time since Dany had felt such affection for anyone.

While she had grown to care for Drogo after their forced marriage, Dany had, in the back of her head, the realisation that she hadn’t chosen to marry him, that she had been forced into it by her brother and that she had to make the best of her situation.

While Daario had helped Dany to keep her feelings of loneliness at bay during her time in Meereen, she couldn’t bring herself to care for him like she knew that she probably should. Their goodbye was still fresh in her mind, when she had felt nothing in leaving him behind in the Bay of Dragons while she sailed across the sea to claim the Iron Throne, despite his love for her clear.

With Jon, it was different.

Both Daario and Drogo had made their desire for her clear early on, and she had then been married to Drogo against her will. Neither of these were similar to Jon. The idea of a marriage pact between them to seal their alliance, while expected from everyone, had only come when Varys had suggested it. Whenever it was mentioned Jon looked uncomfortable with the idea, especially since she had explained the circumstances around her marriage to Drogo. Dany was sure that, if she had asked him, he would have said that the marriage pact was unnecessary, and unneeded, to secure their alliance.

And yet, Dany was not fully opposed to the idea.

The more time that she spent with Jon, the greater her admiration and affection for him grew. As Dany stood on the deck and looked at him, she knew that any marriage pact between them wouldn’t be purely for political gain, like she had envisioned when she had left Meereen.

Dany brought herself back to the present and, after seeing Missandei’s knowing smile, averted her eyes from Jon to look towards Jorah. The man’s face was covered by a look of both happiness and apprehension.

“It must be nice for you, Ser Jorah,” Dany said, causing him to jolt slightly in surprise. “To be home after so long.”

He turned to her and smiled.

“It is, my Queen,” he replied, smiling. “It has been far too long.”

However, at Jorah’s words, Dany saw Jon stiffen slightly, which only increased her curiosity even more. She had noticed the tension between the two of them during the journey from Dragonstone and, while she had been curious, she had assumed that it had something to do with the fact that Jorah had fled into exile to prevent himself being execute by Jon’s father.

However, as she looked between the two of them, Dany wondered if Jorah’s reputation throughout the North would be an issue. Dany was well aware that Jorah’s crimes were no secret throughout the North, and would definitely be no secret from his family.

I will need to speak to Jon about it, Dany decided, as her eyes wandered back to him. To decide between us what to do about him.

The opportunity to do so came a few hours later, when the ship was preparing to dock in White Harbour. Dany headed back up onto the deck to see that Jon was already there, looking out towards White Harbour. Ghost was standing next to him, looking out towards the shore, as if he too was glad to be home.

Smiling slightly, Dany walked up to join him and followed his gaze. She gasped slightly at the sight of White Harbour, with its stark white buildings, including the towering keep set high upon the hill. As they grew closer, Dany’s eyes were drawn to the large rock that protruded from the sea in the harbour and then, the dark stone keep that had several smaller, white buildings protruding from it.

“It is very impressive,” Dany said, as she came to stop next to Jon and petted Ghost, who had begun to warm to her during the journey from Dragonstone.

Jon turned to her and smiled slightly at her words.

“It is,” Jon agreed. “I’m sure Lord Manderly will be glad to hear that you think so.”

 As he said this, Jon’s face changed from amusement to apprehensive. Dany looked back at him curiously, wondering what could have caused such a shift in his mood. As Dany was about to ask him, Jon spoke.

“Dany, I just wanted to warn you,” he said. “The Targaryen family isn’t well regarded in the North, particularly after the Rebellion. I don’t know how warmly you will be received here.”

Dany nodded in response, having expected as much. She had known all along that she would have to do a lot to change the perception of her family as a result of her father’s actions, and the North had suffered heavily at the hands of Targaryens. Both Rickard and Brandon Stark had been murdered at the order of her father and Lyanna had been taken by Rhaegar, or so they thought.

“I understand,” she said, nodding toward him. “I know that I will have to do a lot to show them that not all Targaryen’s are mad.”

“It won’t take long for them to see that you are not,” Jon said encouragingly. “That will reassure them. Any of them that are still cautious should be won over by you granting the North independence.”

“Should?” Dany questioned, raising her eyebrows.

Jon sighed at this, shaking his head slightly.

“We have a saying,” he said, as he met her eyes. “The North Remembers.

“Your father’s actions weren’t all that long ago, Dany,” Jon continued, as he leaned towards her slightly. “Even if they were, the Northerners have long memories. It isn’t going to be easy to win them over.”

Dany sighed slightly and nodded in response. She had expected as much, but it was still disappointing to hear.

“Will it be the same with Jorah?” Dany asked.

Jon sighed again, before nodding.

“Aye,” he replied. “His crimes are not exactly a secret, Dany. I doubt that he will be well received by anyone, least of all his family. He brought great shame to his family and the current head of House Mormont, Lady Lyanna, is not known for hiding her opinions.”

Dany looked away from Jon to look out at White Harbour.

It looks like this might be a little more complicated than we expected, Dany thought glumly.

Before either of them could say any more, they were joined by Jorah, Grey Worm, Missandei and Mikken. As the old man came up the steps, puffing heavily as he leaned on his cane before being supported by Jorah, Dany felt a rush of sympathy and affection for the old man.

When he had asked if he could accompany her on her journey, Dany had initially been wary. While she knew that his wife and children had already passed away, Dany felt reluctant to uproot him from his life on Dragonstone and take him with her to the North. However, the man had insisted and she had relented in the face of his stubborn determination.

Hearing his stories about Rhaegar and his children had allowed Dany to focus on something else, particularly after a bad day, while she had been on Dragonstone.

I have a feeling that I might be having a few more of those, Dany thought wryly, as she returned her gaze to White Harbour.

Before long, the Wolf of the Sea docked in the harbour and Dany looked around in amazement. It appeared that every resident of the city was there to greet them.

To greet Jon, Dany corrected herself. He is their king.

Dany turned towards Jon and, to her surprise, saw that he looked very uncomfortable as he headed off the boat onto the pier, with Dany and the others following behind him.

“The King in the North!” came the collective shout of the assembled crowd.

Dany looked around her and saw that they had all gone down on one knee in deference to Jon. Dany shared a surprised look with Missandei, who was just as amazed by this display of loyalty as Dany was.

Two men walked towards Jon, both equally large in their bulk, one with a large white beard while the other had a large moustache. As the younger of the two approached, clearly the son, Dany saw Jon’s friend Tormund take a step forward, while fixing the man with a glare. While the man recoiled slightly at the sight of the wound on Tormund’s cheek, which the Wildling seemed to take amusement from, he too glared back at him.

There is clearly some bad blood here, Dany thought, as she looked between the two of them, wondering what could have caused it.

Jon seemed to realise the rising tensions, so he stepped between them, breaking their eye contact. The two men went down on one knee before Jon, before the elder of the two spoke.

“Welcome back to the North, King Jon,” he said, as rose back to his feet, at Jon’s insistence. “It would seem that you were successful in your journey.”

“Thank you for this welcome, my lord,” Jon said, as he shook hands with Manderly and his son. “Lord Manderly, allow me to introduce our guest, Queen Daenerys Targaryen.

“Daenerys,” Jon said, as he turned to face her. “This is Lord Wyman Manderly and his son and heir, Wylis.”

Dany stepped forward to take Lord Wyman’s extended hand, and the man bowed his head respectfully as he took her small hand in his much larger one.

“My lady, welcome to White Harbour,” he said, as he released her hand.

“Thank you, my lord,” said Dany, noticing that Wylis seemed to be regarding her a little nervously. “White Harbour is most impressive.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Lord Wyman replied politely, inclining his head respectfully.

Dany then turned to shake the proffered hand of Wylis Manderly, her warm smile seeming to ease his nerves. Before she could say anything more, there was a loud screech of her dragons from high above them. The sound sent a ripple of panic and fear through the assembled crowd.

Dany turned to see that her three children were circling above her and was vaguely aware that every eye in the city was on them, as they swirled around each other, playfully nipping at the flank of the one in front of them.

Seeking to put them at ease, Dany addressed Lord Manderly.

“These are my children, Lord Wyman,” Dany said firmly, drawing his attention. “But have no fear, they will not harm you or your people. I have instructed them to leave you all unharmed.”

“And they understand you?” Wylis asked incredulously.

“Oh yes,” Dany replied, smiling. “My children are very intelligent.”

At this, the dragons gave another screech before swooping off inland, clearly desperate to explore the snowy landscape. Once the dragons were out of sight, Dany felt a collective relieved sigh from everyone.

Lord Manderly turned to Jon, clearly trying to get back on track after their distraction.

“Your Grace, the men you requested have been sent to Torrhen’s Square and Moat Cailin. They have repelled several small Ironborn incursions along the Stony Shore, but we have suffered very few casualties.”

“Thank you, my lord,” Jon responded, looking little uncomfortable again. “But I am afraid that I have to ask your aid once more. Once we arrive back in Winterfell, I will be calling the banners. We will be marching south with Daenerys to help her in retaking the Iron Throne, and to make the Lannisters and Freys pay for what they have done to the North.”

At Jon’s words, Dany could sense an initial uneasiness ripple through the crowd, for them having to send off their fighting men to aid her regain the throne, but it was quickly joined by some muttered approval over gaining vengeance.

“My men are yours to command, my king,” Lord Manderly said, with a bow. “And it is long past time that the Freys and Lannister paid for their crimes against your brother, and all of the men and woman who died at the Red Wedding.”

At the mention of the Red Wedding, Dany heard the muttered approvals grow in number and volume, along with several shouts of ‘The North Remembers’. Jon took a step forward and placed a hand on Lord Manderly’s shoulder.

“Thank you, my lord,” Jon said, and Dany could hear the relief and gratitude in his voice. “The Starks won’t forget this.”

Lord Wyman waved away his thanks, before addressing them both.

“We have prepared a feast for your arrival,” he said, looking between them. “It has been a long time since we have had two rulers in White Harbour.”

As he said this, the Lord turned and beckoned for them to follow him. Jon fell into step alongside them, being drawn into a conversation with Wylis Manderly. Dany fell into step next to Lord Wyman, hearing him explaining the various sights around White Harbour, from the Seal Rock to the Wolf’s Den.

As Dany listened to Lord Manderly, she looked around at the assembled inhabitants of White Harbour, who were observing her with looks of uneasiness and, in some cases, anger. Dany remembered her talk with Jon aboard the ship and, with a horrible sinking feeling in her gut, realised the truth in his words, as she saw it for herself.

I wonder what they have heard about me? Dany thought. And what will I have to do, to make them see that I am not the monster my father was?

*

A few days later they left White Harbour, with Lord Manderly sending word to all of his fighting men for them to prepare themselves. Jon told Dany that the journey to Winterfell would take a few days, but she didn’t mind, as it would give her more time to see the North as they travelled.

As they travelled northwards, Dany spent much of her time riding with Missandei and Jorah, with the Northman telling Dany about what they saw, from the White Knife to the far off Wolfswood, with him clearly relishing being home after so long.

Jon spent much of his time deep in discussion with Lord Manderly, with the lord telling him about anything that had transpired in his absence. Now that they were back in the North, Dany knew that Jon would find himself being pulled this way and that by his various vassals, as they demanded his attention to any problems that they had.

And yet, Dany was surprised to see that Jon kept their nighty ritual of sharing a cup of wine on the first night of their travel, now in her tent while they travelled North. When he came into her tent, carrying a small skin of wine and two goblets, Dany saw that he had a wide smile on his face.

“What has caused you to be this happy, Jon?” Dany asked, as he took his seat and filled their goblets.

Jon drained half of his goblet, before he answered, his smile only widening.

“Lord Manderly has just told me that Arya and Bran are waiting at Winterfell. They both returned while I was away.”

Dany smiled back at him, a feeling of happiness flowing through her. She knew from their discussions about their families, just how much his siblings meant to him. So, Dany knew just how happy he must be feeling now that two of them, both thought lost, were returned home.

“Jon, that’s wonderful,” she said, as she gripped his forearm. “I look forward to meeting them.”

Jon smiled back at her, before looking off into space for a moment, clearly lost in his thoughts, no doubt envisioning the moment he arrived back home to find all of his siblings waiting for him.

“Could you tell me more about them?” Dany asked, causing Jon to return his gaze to her. “I would like to know as much as I can before I meet them.”

Jon smiled and nodded. He began telling her more stories about them, including one from just before they all left Winterfell, where they had last been a family, where Arya and Bran had both shown off their archery skill, with differing results.

They spoke for over an hour, with the wine between them steadily decreasing, before they fell silent for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts. While she was happy for Jon, she couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. Her whole life, the only family that she had ever known was Viserys, who hurt her in many different ways.

Not for the first time, Dany wondered what it would have been like if Rhaegar had survived. From what she had heard of him, Dany knew that he wouldn’t have been cruel and abusive to her like Viserys had been. Dany wondered what it must be like to have a supportive and caring family around her, to help her through the hard decisions that she had made.

Her thoughts then drifted to Rhaegar’s son, Jaehaerys, her only living family member.

I need to find him, wherever he is, Dany thought resolutely.

“So, Dany,” said Jon, suddenly, interrupting her thoughts. “What do you think of the North so far?”

“The cold takes some getting used to,” Dany said, as she gripped her furs tightly, causing Jon to laugh.

“I suppose it would do,” he said, chuckling. “It is even colder north of the Wall though.”

Dany involuntarily shivered at the thought before continuing.

“Apart from that, I think that the North is wonderful. The country is beautiful and the people seem to be very loyal to their king. That was quite a welcome you received in White Harbour.”

Seeing the uncomfortable look on his face once more, Dany chuckled slightly.

“You are still getting used to it, aren’t you?” Dany asked, as she refilled her goblet.

“Aye,” Jon replied, nodding. “It wasn’t all that long ago when I was only seen as Jon Snow, the Bastard of Winterfell. Now all these people, lords and commoners alike, all bow to me whenever I pass them.”

“It does take some getting used to,” Dany conceded, patting his forearm sympathetically. “But it must be nice to see that all those people respect and support you, in return for everything that you have done for them.

“I only hope that I can do the same for the people of Westeros,” Dany said, as she looked into her goblet.

“You will,” Jon replied confidently.

“How can you be so sure?” Dany asked.

“Because you already have,” Jon said simply. “How many Houses have already allied themselves with you? And the Dothraki and the Unsullied follow your commands without question, apart from Barbarro’s foolishness during the battle. Neither of them are known for following just anyone, are they?

“You will be fine, Dany,” he said, looking into her eyes.

Dany sighed, realising that he was right.

“I’m sorry, Jon,” she said. “You are right. It’s just that, when I saw all those people looking at me with anger and suspicion, it just made wonder, like I often have, will these people just see me as the Mad King’s daughter?”

“Dany,” Jon said comfortingly, as he gripped her hand gently. “You are nothing like your father. Give them time, and they will see it too. It won’t take them long. I promise you.”

Dany looked back into Jon’s eyes and smiled gratefully at him, while gripping his hand back in turn. Dany marvelled for a moment how Jon, like Tyrion, managed to find the right words to ease her doubts, even one of her longest and most deeply held fears, despite only knowing her for a matter of weeks at this point.

After a moment, Jon released her hand and moved to seal up the wine skin, before standing up to leave.

But Dany wanted more.

She stood up in front of him, her eyes becoming level with his nose, and took a step towards him. Jon’s expression changed to one of understanding, once he realised what she was doing. Dany titled her head towards him, looking him in the eye, and, making sure to leave no doubt in his mind what she wanted, took another step forward until her bust was inches from his chest.

Dany’s persistence was rewarded when his expression changed once more, and the hungry look of desire was back on his face as he looked down at her, causing Dany’s stomach to jolt pleasantly. Seizing the moment, Dany leaned up on her toes and their lips connected.

Jon stood there for a moment stunned, before he relaxed and eased into the kiss, causing Dany to have a feeling of victory. She placed a hand onto his chest and the other on the side of his neck, gently pulling him towards her as she pushed her tongue towards his lips, which opened to allow her access.

As their tongues met and began to writhe against each other, Dany felt Jon’s hands move to grip her. One went behind her head and Dany could feel him gently pulling her further into him, while the other pressed into the small of her back. She moved her hips forward at his touch until their bodies were level against each other.

They stayed that way for a moment, with Dany feeling Jon’s beard scratch against her chin and around her mouth, before he pulled their lips apart. He didn’t remove his hands from her however, he merely leaned his head forward until their foreheads touched and he stayed there for a moment longer, his eyes closed, breathing deeply.

“I have a few things to deal with before I retire to sleep,” Jon said, his voice low and Dany could sense the reluctance there.

He looked into her eyes for a moment and Dany felt his hand move from the back of her head to cup her cheek, and she felt his calloused skin against her own.

“Good night, Dany,” he said.

“Good night,” she replied, as she leaned forward to kiss him gently once more.

Jon turned to leave and Dany, despite not getting exactly where she had wanted, felt a feeling of success. She now knew that, despite his seeming reluctance, her desire for him was matched in kind.

Dany stood there, breathing deeply as her heart, which had been hammering in her chest only moments before, slowed down. As Jon left the tent, he turned back to face her and smiled warmly at her, causing her stomach to give another happy jolt.

After Jon had left, Dany sighed happily before turning to get some rest.

*

The rest of the journey passed without incident. Around noon on their second day of travel they reached the crest of a large hill and, once they had reached the top Dany looked out to see a large keep on the horizon.

Dany took in the sights of its tall keep and several towers, all made of dark grey stone. From their position, they could see a smaller, squat keep that was clearly older than the rest of the castle, as well as the large walls that surrounded the keep. She could just, if she strained her neck, see the tops of some trees, that she assumed was the godswood that Jon had told her about. She was curious to see it as she had never seen a godswood before, let alone been in one.

As Dany gasped in surprise at the sight, she felt Jon stop next to her.

“Impressed?” he asked, smiling slightly at the look on her face.

“This is Winterfell?” Dany asked, and Jon nodded in response. “It is incredible.”

“I’m glad you think so,” he said, as they moved on.

As they grew closer to the keep, Dany became more and more aware of the scale of Winterfell. It soon loomed over them and, if she hadn’t known that it was full of allies, Dany would have found the sight a little foreboding.

As they grew nearer and nearer to the keep, Dany could sense Jon’s impatience and excitement. He was riding at the front of the group, setting the pace for them all. Dany smiled a little at his determination, knowing how long he had waited for the reunion he was anticipating.

As they reached the gates and were about to enter Dany turned in her seat to look for any signs of her dragons. While there was no sign of them, Dany wasn’t worried. They had often disappeared for long periods of time and always found their way back. She had wanted them to be presented to the people of Winterfell when she arrived, so she could ease their fears.

As they entered the keep, Dany heard Ghost give a yelp before sprinting off in front of them, towards another direwolf. This one was a little smaller than Ghost, with grey fur instead of his pure white. The two of them clashed before rolling around together, clearly overjoyed to be reunited.

Dany looked around her, seeing the assembled people clearly happy for Jon’s safe return and looking, like those in White Harbour, a little unsettled by her presence. Dany attention fell to the three people in the middle of the courtyard.

In the middle was a tall, beautiful, auburn haired young woman who, Dany assumed from her talks with Jon, must be Sansa. To Sansa’s left was another younger girl, this one about a head shorter than her, whose features were so similar to Jon that Dany would have known they were siblings without being told. On Sansa’s other side was a clearly tall young man, although he was seated in a large chair.

Sansa, Arya and Bran, Dany thought, as she turned to see Jon’s look of happiness as his horse came to a stop.

As Jon dismounted from his horse, Dany saw Arya race forward towards him. He hadn’t even made two steps towards her when she reached him, flinging herself into his arms. Jon staggered back a pace at the impact, but he soon righted himself before hugging his sister back with such vigour that her feet left the ground.

As Dany saw Jon press a kiss to his sister’s forehead, he began to move towards his other siblings. Jon half-carried, half-pulled Arya along with him as he made his way towards Bran. When he reached him, Jon stooped down and wrapped his free arm around his little brother’s neck, pulling him into their embrace, with Sansa joining soon after.

Dany watched the emotional reunion between the siblings from afar, not wanting to interrupt. and, with their conversations about their families running through her mind, she felt a rush of happiness for Jon. She looked to her left and saw that Missandei, too, was watching the Stark reunion with a wide, beaming smile on her face.

After a moment, the four Stark broke apart and Dany could see that all four of them had matching wide smiles. Jon turned towards her and, after their eyes met, Dany knew that she could approach them now and she dismounted from her horse, seeing Missandei and Jorah do the same.

As she walked towards Jon, she noticed that the looks of uneasiness of the assembled crowd weren’t all directed at her. In fact, Dany soon saw that most of them were in fact directed towards Jorah, in particular from a small, dark haired girl who stood under a standard bearing the bear sigil of House Mormont.

That must be Lyanna Mormont, Dany thought, as she examined the furious look on the face of the young girl. Jon was right. Jorah won’t be welcomed back with open arms.

Dany came to a stop in front of Jon and the Stark siblings. After sharing a small smile with Jon, he stepped forward slightly.

“Daenerys, allow me to introduce you,” he said. “My sisters, Sansa and Arya, and my brother, Bran.”

“It is wonderful to meet you all,” Dany said, bowing her head slightly. “I have heard a lot about you.”

Sansa stepped forward and extended her hand.

“Queen Daenerys,” Sansa said, smiling warmly at her. “Welcome to Winterfell.”

Chapter Text

 

Sansa

 

“Welcome to Winterfell.”

As Sansa heard Daenerys thank her for their hospitality, she took the moment to examine their guest. She had heard many stories about the renowned beauty of the Dragon Queen and Sansa had to admit that they were true. She was quite petite, with long silver hair and striking violet eyes.

The classic Targaryen look, Sansa thought, as she shared a look with Arya. What other Targaryen traits does she have?

Before she could think more about it, Dany spoke again, drawing her attention.

“Winterfell is very impressive, Lady Sansa,” the Dragon Queen said, with genuine enthusiasm in her voice.

“Thank you, Queen Daenerys,” Sansa said politely, bowing her head slightly. “It is an honour to have within our walls.”

“Please, Lady Sansa,” Daenerys said kindly, raising her hand. “You do not need to use my title here. We are in your kingdom. Here your brother rules, not me.”

At this she turned to Jon and gave him an affectionate smile which, to Sansa and Arya’s mutual confusion, he returned. Sansa looked between her brother and Daenerys, wondering just what could have happened between them to cause such a public display of warmth and companionship.

To prevent any awkward questions over her clear confused and incredulous look, Sansa averted her gaze to look at Daenerys’ companions. One was an attractive woman whose exotic look gave Sansa the impression that she was from the Eastern continent, where Sansa knew that Daenerys had come from. The other was a tall man, with a scruffy beard who, from first impressions, Sansa took for a Northerner.

Her suspicions were confirmed when she looked past him and her eye was caught by Lyanna Mormont, who was glaring at the man with poorly disguised contempt. Furrowing her brow in confusion once more, Sansa now looked between Lyanna and the man, wondering about the connection between them.

When she remembered.

In her conversations with Lady Lyanna the young lady had mentioned a ‘Jorah’, a former head of House Mormont who had brought disgrace upon her family. Once she had heard the name, Sansa was sure that it had sounded familiar but for several hours she couldn’t place why.

Eventually she had remembered overhearing her father speaking about how Jorah had sold poachers on his land into slavery, causing Eddard to declare that he would be executed for his crime.

So, is this him? Sansa wondered, looking the man in the face.

As if to answer her question, Daenerys took a step back from them.

“Allow me to introduce my companions,” she said.

“This is Missandei, my handmaiden and loyal friend,” she continued, indicating the young woman, who meekly bowed her head in deference, with Sansa and her siblings mirroring her action out of courtesy.

“This is Grey Worm, the leader of my Unsullied,” Daenerys said, indicating to a lean, leather clad man, wielding a long spear and shield. At Daenerys’ introduction the man took a step forward and removed his helm, to reveal a shorn head and an almost emotionless face. The man inclined his head towards them, almost imperceptibly, before taking a step back to retake his place.

“And, finally,” Daenerys continued, and Sansa could detect a note of uneasiness in her voice, “this is Ser Jorah Mormont.”

At her words, an outbreak of muttering rippled through the assembled lords and, from a quick glance at their faces, all of which were covered with anger and disgust, Sansa could see that none of them were going to be welcoming Ser Jorah home with open arms. Sansa could see Ser Jorah shift on his feet slightly, clearly uncomfortable with the hostility that he was receiving. Sansa looked towards Jon and, when he caught her eye, he gave a knowing nod and shrug, indicating that he had expected nothing less.

After a moment of awkward silence between them, which was often broken by further outbreaks of furious mutterings and barely audible curses directed towards Mormont, Sansa stepped forward to attempt to alleviate the tension.

“Daenerys,” she said, loudly enough for her voice to carry around the courtyard but not enough that it would appear hostile. “Would you care for a tour of Winterfell? I would be honoured to personally show you our home.”

Daenerys turned to Sansa, her face brightening. Whether it was out of genuine enthusiasm for the idea or relief that she and her companions would be away from the hostile glares of the Northern lords, Sansa wasn’t sure.

Sansa saw that Jorah too looked relieved at this development and the assembled lords begun to mutter among themselves rather than openly showing their scorn.

“Sansa, Daenerys,” Jon said, as he turned towards them. “I hope that you will both excuse me, but I fear that I cannot join you.

“I would like to aid in showing Daenerys around Winterfell but,” Jon then looked down to Bran and Arya, and Sansa could see his grip on their shoulders tighten slightly, “I think that the three of us have some catching up to do.”

Sansa nodded in response, smiling back at him. To her surprise, Sansa saw Daenerys looking over a Jon, with a look of happiness on her face.

“Of course, Jon” she said softly, looking into his eyes for a moment. “I know how long you have waited for this.”

Sansa stood there for a moment, looking between Daenerys and her brother, seeing similar warm smiles on each face, before they turned away from each other to move on their way. Suddenly the realisation of what she was seeing hit her, causing her to break into a wide well.

Well, well, Jon, Sansa thought wryly, as she watched him prepare to enter the keep with Arya and Bran, who was being carried by a few guardsmen. You leave to gain an alliance with Daenerys, and you come back with that and the admiration of the Dragon Queen herself.

As the three of them passed by her, Sansa caught Arya’s eye and could tell, by the way her sister rolled her eyes disdainfully at her as she passed, that she too had noticed the connection between their brother and Daenerys. Sansa chuckled slightly, knowing that if anyone was going to notice it, it would be Arya. After all, she had been the closest to Jon out of all of them.

Sansa was brought from her thoughts, when Daenerys stood in front of her, smiling expectantly. Sansa turned to face her, being vaguely aware the assembled lords were too beginning to disperse. All except Lady Mormont, who was continuing to glare at the Jorah’s back with such fury that Sansa was a little surprised that he hadn’t felt the heat of it against the back of his neck.

Sansa smiled politely at Daenerys and offered the queen her arm. Daenerys looked at the proffered arm for a moment, looking a little confused by the gesture, before breaking into a smile and taking it.

Sansa had decided on this gesture partly because of her lessons with Septa Mordane, on how to be a gracious host when welcoming a lady into her home.  However, it was also partly because she, out of concern for her brother, wanted to see just what about Daenerys had seemed to fascinate Jon so much, and Sansa decided that showing kindness was the best way to see just what kind of a person she was.

For the next few hours, Sansa showed Daenerys and her companions every inch of Winterfell, from the maester’s tower and the small sept that her father had built for their mother to the First Keep and the cavernous crypts, filled with the stone visages of countless Starks.

Daenerys proved to be an enjoyable companion during the walk, listening to Sansa’s explanations with rapt attention, and asking many questions about the keep with what appeared to be genuine interest in her voice.

Sansa listened carefully to her whenever she spoke, carefully examining her every word. And to Sansa’s surprise and relief, Daenerys did not appear to be the monster that many Northerners would expect her to be, being a child of the Mad King.

Sansa’s curiosity was also piqued when Daenerys, when passing through the glass gardens, took a clear interest in the blue winter roses that grew there. Sansa looked on as she, with an expression of curiosity and, unless Sansa was mistaken, recognition, brushed her fingers along its frost-blue petals. Sansa looked on for a moment, unsure whether she should inquire further. Before she could say anything, Daenerys turned back to her, all of her mysterious expressions gone, so Sansa decided to leave it be for now.

They then moved to the godswood and Sansa couldn’t supress a smile at the looks of shock and awe on both Daenerys and Missandei’s faces while they walked beneath the dense canopy of branches before coming to a halt in front of the heart tree.

“This is amazing,” Daenerys whispered, as she brushed her fingers over the pale white bark of the tree.

“It is a heart tree, a part of the religion of the Old Gods,” Sansa explained, as she took a step forward to feel the smooth bark beneath her hand.

“What is it for?” Missandei asked quietly.

“It is where we pray,” Sansa responded. “My father used to say that no man can lie while near a heart tree, as the gods can always tell when a man is lying.”

“What kind of tree is this?” Daenerys asked inquisitively. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“It is a weirwood tree. There aren’t very many left in Westeros, as many were cut down and burned during the Andal invasion. They mainly grow here and even further north, beyond the Wall. Many of the other godswoods in Westeros use other trees as their heart tree. In King’s Landing, they have carved the face into an oak.”

“Do you all worship the Old Gods?” Daenerys asked, looking towards Sansa.

“Yes,” Sansa replied. “But my mother made sure that Bran, Arya and I, along with Robb and Rickon, knew about the Faith of the Seven, but we all worshipped them differently. I worship both but I did follow my mother in placing more faith in the Seven, while Robb and Bran took to the Old Gods more, the religion of Father. Rickon was a bit too young to understand it all and Arya…”

Sansa chuckled slightly and paused for a moment, unsure why she was telling this to a group of virtual strangers. However, now that she had started, she found it hard to stop, with the words pouring from her despite the dull ache that had formed in her gut as she thought of her lost family.

“Arya was never really interested in any of the gods,” Sansa finished quickly.

“What of Jon?” Daenerys asked. “I know that he worships the Old Gods, but he never said if he followed the Seven as well.”

“No, Jon never followed the Seven. He and Mother never really got along, with him being another woman’s child, so she didn’t show him the Faith of the Seven.”

Silence fell between them, as Missandei and Jorah continued to examine the godswood, as Sansa immediately pushed away her grief, stubbornly not allowing it to break down the resolve that she had built to prevent her from feeling the loss, which at times was sill as raw and clear as it had ever been, despite the passage of years.

Realising that staying the godswood would not help her maintain her resolve, Sansa took a step forward to gain her companions’ attention.

“Speaking of Jon, we should probably head back,” Sansa said, offering her arm to Daenerys once more. “The welcoming feast will be beginning soon.”

Daenerys took her arm once more as they walked back towards the keep and Sansa felt her give her arm a comforting squeeze.

“Thank you, Sansa,” she whispered, so her words didn’t carry to Missandei and Jorah. “I can imagine that telling us those things couldn’t have been easy for you, but I appreciate your honesty.”

Sansa turned and met Daenerys’ violet eyes and returned her smile, grateful and a little mystified by the kindness that she was showing her.

However, Sansa couldn’t dwell on it for a long as, when they made their way into the courtyard, Sansa felt her stomach drop, a feeling that she was sure was shared by Daenerys, if the tightening of her grip on Sansa’s arm was anything to go by.

Lyanna Mormont was waiting for them in the middle of the courtyard, standing between two House Mormont men, both carrying standards bearing their sigil. She was looking thunderous and Sansa chanced a glace towards Ser Jorah and wasn’t surprised to see him looking very uncomfortable under her glare.

As they came to a halt in front of the young lady, she took a step forward, turning her gaze towards Sansa and Daenerys.

“Lady Sansa, Lady Daenerys,” she said, inclining her head to each of them in turn. “I would like to speak with my cousin.”

At this Jorah took a step forward and bowed deeply.

“Lady Lyanna,” he said, smiling slightly as he straightened up. “It is an honour to meet you. I have heard many great things about you, especially from King Jon.”

“I cannot say the same,” Lyanna replied, with such scorn in her voice that Sansa involuntarily flinched.

Ser Jorah on the other hand, merely nodded, with a resigned look on his face.

He had been expecting this, Sansa realised.

“My lady, I-” he began, before Lyanna sharply cut him off.

“You brought dishonour to House Mormont!” She said scathingly. “We now have to live with the knowledge that a member of our family, a former head of our House, sold men like cattle, purely for coin.”

“My lady,” Jorah said firmly, taking a step forward. “I know exactly what I have brought upon our family, and I live with that knowledge, and the shame of it, every day.”

Lyanna paused for a moment, her angry look tempered by a sudden ripple of confusion as she realised the meaning behind his words. Jorah sighed deeply before continuing.

“I know it doesn’t mean much, and it doesn’t repair the damage that I have done, but I am ashamed of my actions, and have been for a long time.

“But,” he said, raising his head to meet her eye. “You have nothing to fear from me, cousin. I have no intention of attempting to return to my place at the head of House Mormont.”

“You are assuming that I would give you that choice,” Lyanna said, causing Jorah to give a snort of laughter, that seemed to confuse her more.

Sansa took the moment to look at Daenerys and saw that she was observing the discussion with a mix of emotions on her face. Sansa could see that she was looking at Jorah with pity on her face, clearly sympathising with the harsh reception that he was being given. However, Sansa could also see the respect in Daenerys’ eyes whenever she looked towards the young lady.

“My lady, I will be headed south with Queen Daenerys,” Jorah said finally, drawing attention to him once more. “I have been named the Lord Commander of her Queensguard, and I will remain by her side once she regains the Iron Throne.

“I will go south, and leave our house in your hands which, from what I have heard from King Jon and from what I have seen here today, are clearly more than capable for the task. If all goes to plan, you will never see me again.”

Lyanna fell silent for a moment, looking both relieved and confused by Jorah’s declaration. Sansa held her breath for a moment, sharing a look with Daenerys, who was looking on with both expectation and dread.

“Very well,” Lyanna said, after a moment. “Maybe in serving a Queen you could restore the honour that you have squandered.”

With this, she turned and made her way into the keep, flanked by her men. Sansa watched her go, while exhaling deeply. She had been expecting a confrontation between the Mormonts but she hadn’t expected it to be so soon.

Sansa felt Daenerys let go of her arm for a moment, as she stepped forward to place a comforting hand on her Lord Commander’s arm, to which he responded with a grateful smile. After watching Daenerys’ concern and compassion for her followers with interest for a moment, Sansa took a step forward and showed them all into the keep for the welcoming feast, hoping that nothing would happen to disturb it.

*

Luckily, the feast passed mostly without incident, other than many of the lords glowering up towards Jorah. Jon was back in his place at the centre of the high table, with Sansa and Daenerys given the places on either side of him, Sansa to his right, Daenerys to his left. Arya and Bran were seated to Sansa’s other side, while Jorah, Missandei and the general, Grey Worm, joined Daenerys.

While Sansa hadn’t heard the man speak up to this point, she was surprised when Jon arrived at the table and shared a few words with the man, even eliciting a small smile from him.

I wonder what happened on Dragonstone, for Jon to seem so close with them all, Sansa wondered.

This question was soon answered as Jon spent the majority of the feast telling Sansa, having already told Arya and Bran while they had been catching up during the day, about the events of his time on Dragonstone, from his negotiations with Daenerys, although he was very vague on the details, to the attack by Euron Greyjoy and his forces. Sansa listened closely, being both impressed and a little exasperated by Jon’s decision to fight on the frontlines.

We need him here, Sansa thought to herself. He is one of the few people who know the true threat coming for us.

As she thought of it, Sansa felt an almost involuntary chill run down her spine. Sansa didn’t think about the coming of the Night King all that much, knowing that worrying and obsessing over it would not help, but it always gave her a feeling of dread whenever she did.

As Jon finished his tale, Sansa leaned towards him slightly and whispered to him.

“And where have you sent Ser Davos?”

“To get something for us,” Jon replied cryptically, as he took a swig of his ale. “To help us in the fight against Cersei.”

Sansa furrowed her brow in confusion and had just opened her mouth to enquire further, when he reached out and gripped her forearm gently, smiling at her.

“Don’t worry, Sansa,” he whispered, as he got to his feet to address the hall. “You will know soon enough.”

As soon as Jon stood up, the hall quietened, with everyone giving him their full attention.

“Thank you all for this reception my lords,” Jon said, looking from face to face. “For both me and our new ally, Queen Daenerys.”

At this, the angry looks that some of the lords were still giving shifted to Daenerys and, in the process, many became more suspicious than outright hostile. Some, like Lord Cerwyn however had looks of anger and blatant suspicion as they regarded her.

“As you know,” Jon continued. “I went to Dragonstone to gain an alliance with Daenerys to give an ally against Cersei and the Lannisters, and later the White Walkers. And, as you can see, we did manage to reach such an agreement.

“Part of which,” Jon continued, with a smirk spreading across his lips, “includes the independence of the North from the Iron Throne.”

At Jon’s words, Sansa let out an almost silent laugh, almost not daring to believe her ears. She turned and shared a shocked and happy look with Arya and Bran. She was aware that the assembled lords had begun to mutter among themselves, but Sansa could tell from their voices that they too were shocked but pleased by this news.

Sansa turned and looked at Daenerys who was meeting the eyes of several lords, many of whom were now looking at her with disbelief on their faces, and smiling warmly at them before nodding her confirmation of Jon’s words.

Well, Jon. That was one thing you didn’t tell me about, Sansa thought with pride, as she looked at her brother. I am impressed. How did you manage it?

Jon raised his hand, and the hall soon quietened down.

“There are other parts to our alliance, but as we still are waiting for several lords of the Vale, not least Lord Arryn, I will wait for their arrival before I reveal them all, out of respect for them.

“In the meantime, House Stark offers you all the hospitality of Winterfell, until their arrival.”

There was a collective murmur of approval and gratitude at this declaration, and Jon returned to his seat. Soon after the hall began to thin, with many of the lords retiring to their various chambers.

Sansa looked towards Jon and saw that he was looking relieved that the feast seemed to go off without any more issues or outspoken hostility. Sansa leaned in to speak to him.

“Jon, I think we should head to your study,” she said quietly. “There are a few matters that I need to tell you of that happened while you were away.”

Jon nodded before rising from his seat and addressing Daenerys.

“Would you care to join us, Dany?” he said, with Sansa taken aback by the familiarity of the name.

“Jon!” Arya said sternly, looking between them. “Are you sure?”

“Arya, we are allies now,” Jon explained patiently. “Dany might be able to help us.”

“Jon is right, Arya,” Bran said suddenly, surprising them all. “Daenerys should be there with us.”

Sansa looked at him for a moment and could see a look of dread and nervousness on her brother’s face. But, before she could say anything, his expression changed and he called for a few guardsmen to carry him to the study.

As they walked through the halls towards Jon’s study, Sansa looked at the back of Bran’s head, wondering what could be causing him such anxiety and fear.

Is this about the vision he had of Jon? Sansa wondered, as they entered the study.

But how does it concern Daenerys?

Jon took his place at the table with Sansa and Bran seated on either side of him and Arya perching herself on the arm of his chair. It was something that she had often done in their childhood and the sight of her doing it once brought a smile to Sansa’s face. Daenerys and Missandei seated themselves on the other side of the table, with Ser Jorah standing guard at the door, his hand resting on the hilt of his blade.

“So, Sansa,” Jon turned, turning to her. “What did you need to tell me about?”

Sansa sighed as she folded her hands in front of her.

“When Lord Glover arrived, he brought some news about the Forresters. Both good and bad.”

Jon sighed and shook his head slightly.

“All right,” he said. “What is the good news?”

“Ironrath has been retaken from the Whitehills, and Rodrik Forrester is the lord once more. He has pledged that his remaining soldiers, while admittedly few, as well as their stores of ironwood are yours.”

As she said this, Sansa saw the look of relief pass across Jon’s face and knew that he too was remembering the trio who had come before them a few weeks ago, having been cast out from their home by the Boltons and their allies. Sansa thought in particular of the young girl, Talia, and felt a rush of happiness in knowing that they too had retaken their home.

“And the bad news?” Jon then asked, looking nervous.

Sansa sighed deeply before answering,

“Gryff Whitehill has escaped and fled back to Highpoint. He and his brother Torrhen, the new ruler of House Whitehill, have refused to bend the knee and are now in open rebellion against you.”

Jon sighed against and rested his head in his hands, rubbing his forehead.

“How many men do they have to command?”

“Lord Glover guesses at around three hundred, if they put a blade in every hand. But they also have just under a hundred from their vassal, House Warwick.”

Jon leaned back and rested his head against the back of his chair, clearly deep in thought. They watched him for a moment in silence, anxiously awaiting his decision.

“We will send five hundred men to retake Highpoint, and bring the Whitehills to justice for their crimes,” Jon declared finally.

“Did you say the Forresters?” Daenerys asked suddenly, looking shocked.

Sansa nodded back at her, a little confused by the recognition.

“I met an Asher Forrester,” Daenerys explained, to every Stark’s surprise. “When I was taking Meereen. He said that he needed sellswords to aid his family, but I couldn’t spare them.

“However, I gave him gold so her could buy some more of his own. His uncle, Malcolm, stayed with me to aid me while I was in Meereen. He was a good and wise man, and he spoke often of his family, and the troubles that they had suffered.”

“What happened to him?” Jon asked. “I don’t remember a Malcolm with you.”

“He was killed in the streets of Meereen, by the Sons of the Harpy.”

Daenerys fell silent for a moment, and Sansa thought more about what she had said. Sansa had asked Wolkan to find out as much of the Forresters as she could. She remembered the name Asher, as the exiled second son of the family. He had been sent to Essos after he had caused a scandal by falling in love with Gwyn Whitehill, the daughter of their family’s hated rival.

The fact that Daenerys had met him is just incredible, Sansa thought. Of all the places that he could have gone to, he crosses paths with her.

“I will give you a hundred of my Unsullied to help take Highpoint,” Daenerys said suddenly. “Malcolm was a good man, and I wish to repay him for all the help he gave me. I will ask Grey Worm which of his men know enough of the Common Tongue to lead them as they join your men.”

“Thank you, Daenerys,” Sansa said, “but shouldn’t we send more than six hundred men? We cannot allow them to get away.”

“Sansa,” Jon sighed, as he turned to her. “When our men arrive at Highpoint it will likely become a siege, potentially a lengthy one. And we will need every available man.”

Jon paused for a moment, before looking her in the eye.

“When the remaining lords of the Vale arrive, I will be calling the banners. In return for her aid in facing the White Walkers, we will help Daenerys to regain the Iron Throne.”

Sansa nodded, seeing the sense to his words.

“I’m guessing that this is terms of the alliance that you spoke of to the lords at the feast?”

Jon nodded in response.

“And the marriage match,” Daenerys said under her breath, so quietly that it was almost to herself.

“Marriage?” Sansa said, her breathing and heart quickening.

Jon, clearly sensing her discomfort, reached out and gripped her arm gently.

“I am the one who is to marry, Sansa,” Jon said softly. “I will not force you, any of you, to marry against your will.”

While Sansa had known at the back of her mind that Jon was unlikely to force her into marriage, she couldn’t help herself picturing the idea. But hearing this from him, gave her an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratefulness towards her brother. Ignoring their company for a moment, Sansa leaned forward and hugged Jon.

“Thank you,” she whispered, feeling him grip her tightly in comfort.

After a moment, she let go and sat back in her chair and smiled at him, seeing him return it. Sansa then felt a small hand on her arm and turned to see that Daenerys had come over to her, with a sympathetic expression on her face.

“I’m sorry, Sansa, I should have explained better,” she said softly. “Jon mentioned that your previous marriages were not of your own choosing when my advisor, Lord Varys, suggested a match to secure our alliance.

“I know how that feels,” she continued, looking sad for a moment. “I was forced into marrying Drogo by my brother, Viserys. And, while I did grow to care for him, I know that this doesn’t happen in every one of these matches.

“I am happy though,” she continued, as she looked towards Jon and smiled. “That you have a brother who would willingly give himself up to be married to spare you all having to do the same.”

Sansa turned towards Jon too, and saw Arya hugging him as well, before turning her eyes back to Daenerys, feeling even warmer towards her, knowing that the two of them had been through similar experiences.

There was silence in the room for a moment, in which Daenerys returned to her seat, before Jon turned to her once more.

“I hear from Arya and Bran that you all managed to trap Littlefinger. Well done.”

Sansa smiled at him and, grasping hold of Jon’s clear attempt to change the subject, nodded in response.

“He was plotting to overthrow you, by declaring his support for me as the true ruler of the North.”

“And he still believed that you would work with him when you suggested it?” Jon asked, smirking slightly. “He was that deluded?

“Yes,” Sansa replied, returning his smile. “He genuinely believed that I was willing to conspire against you by getting the Northern lords to support me. He revealed his treason in front of them all, so he cannot deny it.”

“Well done,” Jon said again, smiling as he looked between them. “All three of you.”

“What are you going to do with him?” Arya asked, smirking widely from her perch on the arm of his chair.

“I will wait for Robin Arryn to arrive before I do anything.”

Arya opened her mouth to speak, but Jon raised his hand to stem any potential arguments until he had finished.

“If I execute the guardian of the Lord of the Vale, even for treason, without informing him of it first, it will be seen as an insult. I may be new at this, Arya, but I do not want to be the kind of king who does as he pleases, without consideration for his people, especially as, in this case, they are the ones who put me here.”

Sansa saw Arya looking mutinous for a moment and looked like she was about to continue arguing, before she nodded reluctantly.

“Don’t worry,” Jon said, patting her arm comfortingly. “He is locked up. I’m sure he will keep for a few days until the Vale lords arrive.”

Before Sansa could express her worries, and tell Jon about the potential letter that Littlefinger was supposed to receive, that they hadn’t yet found, Bran spoke.

“Jon,” he said quietly. “There is something that I need to tell you. And now that Daenerys is here too, it is the best time.”

Even though his voice was so quiet, everyone fell into silence at once. Sansa and Arya exchanged a glance, knowing that they were going to hear about the vision that Bran had been keeping quiet since his arrival. Sansa looked towards Daenerys, who looked as equally confused as they were.

“All right,” Jon said, sounding concerned. “What is it?”

Bran took a deep breath, and rubbed his face with his hands, clearly distressed by what he was about to reveal.

“I had a vision,” he said finally, looking Jon in the eye. “And… and I know who your mother is.”

At this Jon sat bolt upright in his chair, so quickly that Arya nearly toppled off the side. Sansa saw his expression change from concern and interest to excitement, the corners of his mouth curling into a smile. Sansa saw that Daenerys too was looking excited but Sansa couldn’t help but wonder.

What does this have to do with Daenerys?

“Who is she?” Jon asked, his voice quivering with excitement. “Is she alive?”

Bran opened his mouth but no words escaped him, and Sansa was concerned to see that he was looking more and more distressed. Bran swallowed hard before continuing.

“Your mother is Aunt Lyanna.”

Arya and Sansa shared another incredulous look, both looking like they believed they misheard it.

“Bran, that doesn’t make sense,” Sansa said consolingly. “Father would never-”

“That’s because Father isn’t Jon’s father,” Bran replied to her sadly, before turning back to Jon once more

“Rhaegar Targaryen is.”

Silence fell in the room once more, so completely and so suddenly that it was eerie. Sansa sat staring at Bran, whose face was shining with emotion, willing him, praying for him, to say that he was lying, that this was all some horrible joke.

But he didn’t.

Sansa turned to Arya, but saw that she was looking at Jon, with an expression of concern on her face. Following her gaze, Sansa looked at Jon and saw that his face had gone slack, looking completely stunned.

After a moment, Jon reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers.

“Bran-”, he began, before Bran held up his hands.

“I know, Jon,” he said, pleadingly. “I know how crazy it sounds, but you have to believe me. I would never lie to you, especially about something like this.”

“What did you see, Bran?” Sansa asked encouragingly.

“I saw Father find Lyanna dying, after he and Howland Reed defeated Ser Arthur Dayne and the Kingsguard. She was dying from childbirth. She told Father that if Robert Baratheon found out about the baby then he would kill him, and made Father promise to look after him.

“You, Jon,” Bran finished, looking at him.

Jon leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk, putting his face in his hands.

“How do you know that Rhaegar is the father, Bran?” Daenerys asked, her voice quiet.

“Howland Reed told me,” Bran replied. “When he came to Winterfell. He said that Robert would want any child of Rhaegar dead, so Father kept Jon safe from him.

“He and Meera left a few days ago, to return to Greywater Watch. When you go south, you should see him. He can tell you more than I can.”

He fell silent again and all eyes were drawn to Jon, still sitting with his head in his hands. Sansa felt a rush of pity for him, knowing his entire life was unravelling around him, with everything he knew about himself and his parentage being a lie.

After a moment, Jon raised his head and looked directly at Jorah and Daenerys.

“I’m Jaehaerys,” he said, in a voice full of realisation. “All this time wondering who and where he was, and it was me all along.”

“What are you talking about, Jon?” Sansa asked.

But it was not Jon who answered.

“While I was in Oldtown, to cure my greyscale,” Jorah said, taking a step away from the door, with a look of stunned realisation on his face. “Jon’s friend Samwell Tarly and I were shown a letter declaring that Rhaegar and Lyanna were married and had a child, named Jaehaerys.”

Sansa felt her stomach drop at this and frantically turned to see that both Arya and Bran had come to the same realisation as she had, and were equally panicked by it.

“Littlefinger,” she gasped, horror-struck.

“What about him?” Daenerys asked, looking confused.

“He said that he had received a document that would turn the North against Jon, and that he had gotten it from Oldtown. He must have gotten the marriage document.”

Jon turned to her and she could see the momentary panic in his eyes too, before he abruptly got up from his seat to begin pacing back and forth. Sansa noticed that Daenerys was watching him with a concerned look on her face, before she turned to them.

“How did he say that he got the letter?” Daenerys asked, looking between the three of them.

“He said that one of his spies in Oldtown got hold of it and sent it here, and that it should arrive within the week. Which means that it should be here in the next day or so, if it isn’t here already.”

Jorah had jolted slightly as Sansa spoke, and stepped forward.

“While Archmaester Willem was showing Sam and I the document, there was someone listening at the door,” Jorah said. “That has got to be Littlefinger’s spy.”

Sansa turned to Jon, who was still pacing, and she could tell that he wasn’t really paying much attention to the conversation, being too lost in his thoughts.

As he passed her again, Sansa reached out and grabbed his wrist, forcing him to look at her. Sansa could see that he had a far-away look on his face, clearly still trying to process the news.

“Jon, you can’t tell anyone,” Sansa said, gripping his wrist even tighter to convey her point. “Littlefinger is right. If that is revealed, then the North might turn against you. At the moment, you are seen as the eldest surviving child of Eddard Stark, but if this were revealed they might see you as merely the product of Rhaegar raping Lyanna, or even that he forced her to marry him.”

“Why?” Missandei asked, in a quiet voice. “Even if it shown to people, then why would they think that Jaehaerys is Jon? He doesn’t have the Targaryen looks, like Queen Daenerys does, does he?”

“My father was always known as an honourable man,” Sansa explained, loosening her grip on Jon’s arm slightly. “The only dishonourable act that he was ever considered to have committed was fathering a bastard son. If it was revealed that his sister, Lyanna, had a child of around Jon’s age, then it wouldn’t take long for people to work it out.”

As Missandei nodded her understanding, Sansa returned her gaze to Jon, who was still looking down at her. She redoubled her grip and shook his arm slightly as she pleaded with him.

“Jon. You can’t tell anyone.”

“I know,” he said lowly, nodding his head.

“We just have to hope that Littlefinger hasn’t told anyone yet,” Bran said, sounding worried.

“Another reason to want that bastard dead,” Arya growled, from Jon’s now vacant seat.

Jon cleared his throat, before pulling his arm gently out of Sansa’s grip.

“I, uh,” he said, as he pulled away. “I need some time alone, to deal with this.”

Jon then walked towards the door, with Daenerys reaching out to brush her hand against his fingers gently, and Sansa saw his eyes close at her touch. When Jon reached the door, Sansa called after him.

“Jon!”

He stopped, with his hand on the handle, and turned back to them.

“You should know that nothing that we just heard changes what I told you on the battlements that day, when you sent Melisandre away. Do you remember?”

Jon was silent for a moment, when the ghost of a smile unfurled itself at the corners of his mouth.

“You said I was a Stark,” he replied sadly, as if he no longer believed it.

“And you still are,” Sansa said firmly. “No matter who your father is.”

“She is right, Jon,” Arya said, with Bran vigorously nodding his assent too.

Jon looked at them for a moment, completely stunned before breaking into a smile, looking relieved.

“Thank you,” he said, nodding. “And I want the three of you to know that, regardless of who my father is, you are my siblings.”

He paused for a moment, looking between them.

“The ones that I choose.”

With that, Jon turned and left the room, leaving a stunned silence in his wake.

Chapter Text

 

Jon

 

Jon closed the door of the study behind him and made his way down the corridor, as his thoughts raged inside of his head. As he walked, several of the servants of the castle and a few minor lords greeted him as he passed them, but Jon didn’t hear them.

All Jon could hear were the echoes of Bran’s voice, thundering through his mind as though he were bellowing the words into his ear.

Your mother is Aunt Lyanna.”

That’s because Father isn’t Jon’s father.”

“Rhaegar Targaryen is.”

Jon continued to walk through Winterfell without realising where he was actually going. Before he knew it, he was at his chamber and pushed the door open, finding it empty but with a fire burning the hearth.

As Jon moved to sit in front of the fire, he dimly noted that Ghost was probably in the godswood with Nymeria, whose side he hadn’t left since their reunion. As he looked into the fire, Jon managed to calm down his mind enough to think coherently.

I am Jaehaerys, Jon thought, still finding it as difficult to believe as he had before.

But Jon knew that it was the truth.

As Bran had said himself, he wouldn’t lie to Jon and never about something as important as this. Jon also knew that Bran’s visions, from the few that he had shared with him, had never been wrong. He had seen their Father’s death and the Ironborn taking of Winterfell.

And now me as Jaehaerys.

Jon turned his head to look at the map that covered his desk and thought of all the time that he had spent staring at it, wondering about where Jaehaerys was, and chuckled slightly in spite of himself.

All those hours looking at it, wondering where Father had sent Jaehaerys and all I had to do was look at myself, Jon thought.

Father.

Jon jolted slightly as he thought that, before shaking his head.

No, not father, Jon pondered sadly, as he looked out of the windows at Winterfell. Uncle.

It felt odd to think of Eddard Stark as his uncle, rather than his father. After all, the man had raised him as his son for his whole life. As this thought flitted across Jon’s mind, he felt a rush of respect and affection for his uncle.

He cast away his honour, lied to his wife, children and his best friend, all to keep me safe, Jon realised.

Jon thought back to all of the times that Lady Catelyn had made her feelings about Jon clear, either directly to his face or towards Eddard or their children within his earshot. In particular, he thought back to when he had left Winterfell, after saying goodbye to Bran, where she had demanded that he leave.

And Jon couldn’t help but wonder what would have been different if she, and they all, had known the truth.

Would Lady Catelyn have treated me differently? Jon wondered, although he was sure that she would.

Despite all of their differences, Jon knew that she wasn’t a spiteful woman at heart. The love she showed towards her husband and children were proof of that. She had been cold and distant with Jon due to the shame and dishonour that she through that he brought onto her and the Starks, with Eddard bedding another woman.

But he hadn’t.

Why didn’t he say anything? Jon wondered, running his hands through his hair. Why didn’t he tell his wife at least? I’m sure that she wouldn’t have said anything.

Jon knew why Eddard had kept the secret from as many people as possible, Bran had said it himself:

“Robert would want any child of Rhaegar dead, so Father kept Jon safe from him.”

Eddard obviously hadn’t wanted the secret to spread across the kingdoms, as it surely would if a secret child of the crown prince were revealed.

He had wanted to keep Jon safe. Jon felt another rush of respect for Eddard at this, knowing what he had risked to keep him safe all his life, especially given Robert Baratheon’s vitriolic hatred for the Targaryen.

But Jon couldn’t understand why he would keep it from his family, not least his wife and the mother of his children, people who, if they had known the truth, would surely have kept the secret as truly as he had for all these years.

However, Jon’s curiosity and respect over Eddard’s actions soon turned to guilt. Eddard had let himself be considered as a dishonourable man throughout the kingdoms for fathering a bastard, when his whole life had been devoted to being as honourable and just as he could be.

All for him, and Lyanna.

Jon buried his head into his hands and rubbed his forehead hard, trying to calm the maelstrom of thoughts that raged within him. After a moment, Jon sighed before looking longingly over at his bunk. He was tired from their travels, but at the same time he knew that his thoughts would keep him awake for hours.

Not content with purely sitting in his room, with no company other than his thoughts and theories over his parentage, Jon rose from his seat and left his chamber. The castle was empty and dark at this hour, with the only sounds being Jon’s footsteps reverberating around the stone corridors.

As Jon beat a familiar path through the castle, he passed by a door that he recognised. It was Robb’s old room, where the two of them had spent many hours during their childhoods. As he passed it, Jon wondered what Robb’s reaction would be to the news.

However, Jon immediately chided himself for even having to ask. Jon knew that Robb’s response would echo what Sansa, Arya and Bran had said to him in the study.

As he remembered Sansa’s words, coupled with Arya and Bran’s agreement, a wide smile crossed over his face. When he had first heard the news, Jon had initially wondered what their reaction would be, but their immediate declaration that they still regarded him as their brother was more than he could have hoped for.

But the fact remained that he wasn’t.

Almost unbidden into Jon’s mind came the questions. What was his father like? His siblings? Jon knew that Rhaegar had two children, Aegon and Rhaenys, who were killed in the Sack of King’s Landing. Jon wondered what things would have been like if Rhaegar and Lyanna had lived.

Would he have grown up in King’s Landing, the son of the king? With Lyanna in his life from the start, the mother that he had been denied his whole life?

But Jon didn’t feel any longing for it, no regret that these events hadn’t happened. He merely felt curiosity and interest in what could have been.

As Jon entered the darkened Winterfell courtyard, he looked over towards the entrance to the crypts, and his mind wandered to the visage of Lyanna that he knew resided down there.

His mother.

Jon had always wondered who his mother was and had always held onto the hope that he might one day meet her. And, while he now knew that this was not possible, Jon felt a feeling of relief that the mystery that he had pondered over his whole life had finally been sold.

All of the Stark children had wondered often what their aunt was like, but they had received previous few stories about her from their father as he had rarely spoken of her. But now Jon had a burning urge to hear more of these tales, to know a little about his mother.

Jon had heard many times, mainly from when the other Northern lords would visit Winterfell and begin reminiscing with Eddard about their visits in their youth, about how Lyanna had been a wild, free spirited person. The ‘wolf blood’ many had called it. Many of them had compared her to Arya and, even though her statue was obviously not going to completely capture her true likeness, Jon could see the resemblance.

Struck by a sudden need, Jon strode over to the crypts and began to descend down the long staircase, taking a torch with him as he went. Soon he reached the bottom and walked through the towering forms of the Kings of Winter, the light from his torch casting flickering shadows over the walls.

Before long, Jon came to a stop in front of the statues of Brandon and Lyanna Stark, that Eddard had ordered crafted, in defiance of the tradition. He looked at the stony visage of Brandon for the moment, before turning to look at his mother.

Even while a statue, Jon could see that she was beautiful and he could see the resemblance to Arya that people had spoken of. Jon had looked at the statue many times before and had always had a curious feeling looking at her, wondering what she was like.

But now he had a rising feeling of loss from within him, looking at the face of the woman he would never meet. 

“Mother,” Jon whispered, as he reached out to touch the cheek of the statue and felt the cold stone under his fingers.

He stayed there for a moment, staring into where her eyes would be, before he lowered his hand and lowered his head.

“Jon?” said a familiar voice from behind hm.

Jon turned to see Arya standing there, looking at him concerned. Jon merely smiled at her before returning his gaze to Lyanna’s statue.

“I had a feeling that I would be seeing you,” Jon said, still smiling. “I have heard that you have been keeping some strange hours.”

Arya moved forward to stand next to him, and he turned to look at her. In the half-light, he could see that she was smirking slightly at his statement but said nothing. Jon turned back to Lyanna and sighed.

“It is strange, isn’t it? All these times we were down here, looking at the statue, and we never knew.”

“Jon,” Arya said, as she reached out and took his hand. “Are you all right? This is quite a lot to take in.”

“I am fine, Arya,” Jon replied, smiling reassuringly at her. “I promise.”

Jon could see her looking at him with scepticism and he turned away, not allowing her to see the confusion that still brimmed within him. Jon felt her squeeze his hand slightly.

“We meant what we said, Jon. You are a Stark to us, and you always will be. No matter what happens.”

Despite hearing it before, Jon felt a rush of happiness and gratefulness at Arya’s words.

“I was always half a Stark,” Jon said, returning the gripping her hand back. “It seems that not much has changed.”

“No, Jon,” Arya continued, as she hugged his arm and rested her head against it. “You were always much more than that.”

They stayed that way for a long time, neither of them speaking. Jon felt immeasurably grateful for her presence, offering her comfort and support to him. After a while, a wave of fatigue caught up with him and Jon had to suppress a yawn. Wordlessly the two them turned and left the crypt, not unlinking their hands until they reached the castle.

*

Jon awoke the next morning with a plan already half-formed in his mind. He waited for a while so as to not disturb him. After a few hours, Jon made his way to Mikken’s chamber.

He heard the old man beckon him inside when he knocked and pushed open the door. The man was sat by a roaring fire, huddled in thick furs. He turned to Jon when he entered and was about to rise, when Jon raised a hand to him.

“Keep your seat, friend,” Jon said, as he made his way over to him and indicated towards an empty chair. “May I?”

“Of course, Your Grace,” Mikken said, nodding. “This is your castle after all.”

“But this is your chamber while you stay here,” Jon responded, as he sat.

Mikken looked at him for a moment, before smiling widely.

“Thank you, Your Grace. Not many rulers would treat a man such as me with such respect.”

Jon returned his smile, before leaning forward slightly.

“So, what do you think of the North so far?”

“It is cold,” Mikken replied, tightening his grip on the furs bundled around him in response. “Very cold.”

Jon laughed.

“I guess it would be for someone who had lived in the South. Your winters are probably warmer than our summers sometimes.”

Mikken chuckled in response and the two fell into silence for a moment, with Jon trying to compose himself for what he was going to ask.

“So, what can I do for you, Your Grace?” Mikken asked suddenly.

Jon took a deep breath, steeling himself for what he was about to ask. He knew that Sansa had told him not to tell anyone, but he had to know.

“What was Rhaegar like?” Jon asked.

Mikken looked at him knowingly, before smiling widely.

“I know a great deal about your father, Your Grace,” Mikken said, causing Jon to jolt slightly in shock. 

Jon looked the old man in the eye, who merely smiled serenely back at him, sure that he had misheard him.

“How did you know?” Jon asked, feeling a little relieved that he wouldn’t have to try and explain it.

“There were a few things that got my attention,” Mikken conceded modestly.

“Oh, not in looks,” he continued, as Jon opened his mouth. “No, I see that you got your looks from your mother, whom I guess is Lady Lyanna?”

Jon swallowed hard before nodding quickly in response.

“You take after her in your looks then, as there is precious little of your father in your appearance.

“But in your actions, that is a different story.”

Mikken paused for a moment, rubbing his hands together in the heat of the fire. Jon watched him for a moment, anxiously waiting for him to speak. Just when Jon was about to break the silence, to ask his meaning, Mikken turned to look back at him.

“Rhaegar was, despite popular opinion throughout the kingdoms, and kind and honourable man. I know that in the North you are told that he kidnapped Lyanna due to his lust for her, and probably raped her.

“But that is not the man that I knew,” Mikken continued, looking into the fire, with a wistful look on his face. “The man I knew was kind and compassionate to everyone he knew, lords or servants alike. He went into the streets to sing to the people, and would give away the gold that he would earn while doing so.

“That is the part of him that I see in you,” he said, as he turned to smile at Jon. “Since I have met you, you have never treated anyone as beneath you, never demanded that people bow to you because of your title. What you did just now, asking to be seated within your own castle, is something that Rhaegar would have done.

“Your father was beloved by many throughout the kingdoms, much like you are here in the North. You are more alike than you know.”

Jon sat there for a moment, processing the man’s words. It was a little jarring to hear these words of Rhaegar, when he had mainly heard the man’s name spoken with scorn and outspoken hatred.

But, while he was a little relieved to know that Rhaegar might not have been the monster that he had always believed him to be, Jon couldn’t dismiss all of his concerns.

“You say that he was an honourable and considerate man,” Jon said evenly, not wishing to offend the man, who clearly held Rhaegar in high regard. “But when he and my mother ran off together, the confusion over this helped to stir up resentment against the Targaryen family, which led to the Rebellion. While Aerys is the one to blame for it, Rhaegar’s actions certainly helped, leading to the deaths of thousands.”

Mikken looked at him sagely for a moment, before chuckling.

“I am not going to sit here and say that all of your father’s decisions were wise. I agree that leaving with Lyanna without telling anyone, especially given the way that his father was acting, was not the wisest course of action.

“And yet, here you are, about to begin a war that will also result in the death of thousands.”

“It is not the same thing, Mikken,” Jon said, shaking his head slightly.

“Isn’t it?” the old man responded, raising an eyebrow. “Heading south with the woman that you love, an action that will result in upheaval and death for many people. It seems very similar to me, Your Grace.”

Jon opened his mouth to argue, but closed it again when he saw the disbelieving look on the old man’s face and knew that nothing that he said would have any impact on him. Jon merely fell into silence to dwell on the man’s words.

Did he love Daenerys?

While Jon had come to admire her greatly in the short time that they had known each other, he wasn’t sure that he could describe the feelings that he had for her as love.

And yet.

Jon thought back to their kiss in Dany’s tent, the feeling of desire that had risen up within him at the touch of her lips and body against him. Thinking back, Jon knew that he had been only moments away from losing his self-control and bedding her that night, something that he knew that she also desired from the look that she had given him.

But Jon now knew that she was his aunt, and that caused him to consider his feelings in a new light. He knew that these sorts of marriages, while uncommon, did happen throughout Westeros but he had never thought that it would be him who would go through one of them

Mikken seemed to notice his indecision, and reached out to grip his forearm gently.

“Two Targaryens marrying for love, rather than being told to do so, is not the worst thing in the world, Jon.”

Jon looked back at the man for a moment, feeling a little awkward at the mention of the marriage. Since he had been told of Dany’s marriage to Drogo, he had been debating whether to speak to her about ignoring the idea, having no wish to force her into a marriage once again.

“I am not a Targaryen,” Jon replied, not unkindly.

“Even better, then it would seem that you have nothing to hold you back,” Mikken replied.

Jon looked back at the man for a moment, wondering about the reason for the man’s interest. However, Jon soon realise that the man was simply loyal to Dany and the Targaryen family, and merely wants the best for them.

After a moment, Jon nodded and stood up.

“Thank you, Mikken, for speaking with me.”

“No problem, Your Grace,” the man said, nodding. “If you have any more questions about your father, I would be glad to answer them.”

“I know about my father,” Jon replied steadily. “Rhaegar and Lyanna might be my birth parents, but Lord Eddard is the one who raised me as his own son all of my life, who protected me from all those who would want me dead.

“He is my father.”

Mikken looked at Jon for a moment, looking both surprised and a little hurt. But he then he nodded, his expression changing to one of acceptance.

“Then you are lucky, Your Grace,” he said. “You have two fathers, both of whom are honourable men, worthy of being emulated.”

Jon nodded in response, not wishing to offend the old man any further, before turning and leaving the room.

Jon, his mind once more churning with unresolved questions, made his way to the godswood, the one place in Winterfell where he felt the closest to his family, now more than ever.

As he walked under the canopy of branches, Jon turned his head and saw Ghost and Nymeria laying together under the shade of a large oak tree. Smiling slightly, Jon made his way to the heart tree at the centre, standing proudly next to the pool of dark water.

Jon stood there for a moment, remembering all of the times he had come across Eddard there, either praying to the Old Gods or cleaning Ice. Smiling slightly, Jon bowed his head.

“I never knew just how much you have done for me,” Jon said quietly. “All of my life, I never knew just how much you risked and sacrificed for me. But now I do.”

Jon paused for a moment and raised his head towards the face carved onto the heart tree and imagined for a moment that it was Eddard looking out at him.

“Thank you, Father.”

How long he stood there, simply staring at the heart tree, Jon couldn’t say. He was broken from his reverie by the sound of footsteps from behind him. He turned to see Dany walking towards him.

It was the first time that he had seen her since the revelations of the night before. He had wondered what he would feel when he saw her, now that he knew that she was his aunt.

And yet, nothing that he felt changed.

She looked as beautiful as ever, her pale skin and silver hair seeming to shine in the gloomy grove, as well as her violet eyes glinting at him as she walked towards him. A small smile spread across Jon’s mouth at the sight of her, one that she returned when she grew closer.

“May I join you?” She asked quietly.

“Of course,” Jon replied, meeting her eye.

She walked forward until she was standing next to him, and looked at with concern.

“How are you?” she asked, and Jon could hear the worry in her voice. “What you heard yesterday, it was a lot to take in.”

“I am fine, Dany,” Jon replied reassuringly. “I promise.”

“I am glad,” she said, before a small smirk appeared on her face and she asked teasingly. “I was wondering, which do you prefer? Jon or Jaehaerys?”

“Jon,” he replied abruptly, although he too was smiling slightly. “Regardless of what we heard yesterday, Eddard Stark is my father and I am a Stark.”

“That wouldn’t be how some would see it,” Dany replied, as her smile vanished to be replaced by a look of deep thought. “They would see you as the ‘rightful’ heir to throne, being Rhaegar’s last surviving son.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Jon said quickly, wanting to dispel any notions immediately. “I have no intentions towards the Iron Throne. When we defeat the Lannisters, the throne will be yours.”

“Thank you, Jon,” Dany said as looked at him with a wide smile full of gratitude on her face, before she raised herself up onto her toes and kissed him chastely on the lips.

It lasted for only a second, but it was enough to set Jon’s heart racing and the want for more to rise within him once more. Although this time, his longing for her was also tempered by the knowledge of his true parentage.

Dany seemed to sense his restraint and pulled away from him, raising an eyebrow at him curiously.

“I don’t wish to sound arrogant or make things uncomfortable for you Jon, but neither Drogo nor Daario showed this much restraint when I expressed my desire for them.”

Jon shifted slightly at this, especially at the mention of Daario, a man that he, despite only having heard about him though Dany and Missandei, had taken an immediate dislike to.

“Does it not bother you?” he asked her. “The desire that we have for each other, knowing what we do now?”

At this Dany smiled at him, before reaching out and taking his hand.

“Jon,” she said patiently. “I am a Targaryen. We are Targaryens, whether you want it or not. Our family has wed brother to sister for centuries. My father and mother were brother and sister. I grew up my whole life thinking that I would marry Viserys.”

At this Dany paused, and Jon could see a look of distaste cross her face and he knew that she was envisioning what her life would have been like in that situation. Before he could say anything to comfort her, the look vanished and she returned her gaze to him.

“If I am to marry a Targaryen, my nephew, I am glad to know that he is a better man than Viserys could ever have hoped to be.”

Jon stood there for a moment, stunned, before smiling widely at her and gripping her hand tighter. Dany returned his smile and raised her free hand to place it on his cheek.

“I know that what you found out isn’t what you wanted to hear, Jon. I’m sorry.”

“I have been in similar situation before, Dany,” Jon replied, smiling at her reassuringly. “I will be fine.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, furrowing her brow as she lowered her hand again.

“Being the Bastard of Winterfell, being elected the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, being made the King in the North and now knowing that I am the last son of Rhaegar Targaryen.

“Very few things have been of my decision,” Jon continued, setting his jaw resolutely. “But I have managed before, and done my duty. And I will do so now.”

Dany smiled a little, before shaking her head slightly in apparent amusement at his stoicism. She moved her hand within his and linked their fingers together.

“Jon, I’m sure that it isn’t against your duty to take a moment to yourself sometimes, and pursue what you do want.”

Jon examined her face as she said this and felt his desire reached a peak within him. He looked into her eyes, which were looking at him with affection, and his restraint left him.

Jon reached forward and placed his hand at the back of Dany’s head and pulled her gently towards him, bringing their lips together once more. He pushed his tongue towards her lips which parted immediately, with their tongues meeting inside.  

While his worries about the revelations of the day before, and the effect that they could have on his relationship and feelings for Dany, had not completely gone, the feeling of having her in his arms again pushed them far from his thoughts.

He felt her moan into his mouth and she gripped the front of his shirt, which spurred him even further. Jon’s lips left hers and he began to kiss downwards, along her chin and towards her neck. When his lips reached her throat, he felt another moan leave her and felt her fingers untangle themselves from his own as she put her hands in his hair and pulled his head up to hers once more, their mouths reconnecting.

With her hands in his hair, Jon’s hands gripped at her hips, pulling her closer to him, before he moved his hands once more, running them along her curves. As she felt Jon’s hands begin to wander, Dany laughed into his mouth, which he returned.

However, before either of them could do anymore, the sounds of horns from the gates found their way to them, no doubt heralding the arrival of the Vale lords. They broke apart, with Jon looking into Dany’s flushed face with a wide smile on his face.

“It appears that your moment away from your duty has ended,” she whispered, looking him in the eye.

He nodded at her unsurely, all of his feelings and worries about them flooding back to the surface, along with new ones, all fighting against each other.

What am I doing? Jon scolded himself. Why is whenever I am with her, all of my restraint leaves me?

Dany smiled at him as she leaned forward and kissed him deeply once more before leaving the godswood. Jon watched her leave with a strange feeling in his gut, one of mixed longing and uncertainty.

Once she left, Jon buried his head in his hands once more.

“What the fuck am I going to do?”

*

Later that evening, Jon sat at his chair at the high table, with Sansa and Dany on either side of him once more. He looked down to among the assembled lords and saw Robin Arryn sitting next to Lord Royce.

Jon had heard a little about the boy from Sansa and Lord Royce when he had been at Winterfell, but he had still been surprised by how frail and sickly the boy was, and could instantly believe that Littlefinger would have little trouble coercing the boy into following his whims unquestioningly.

As the various Vale lords drunk and eat their fill, Jon caught Lord Royce’s eye, receiving a nod in return. Jon looked pointedly at Lord Arryn, and raised his eyebrows questioningly, his meaning clear.

Did our plan work?

Lord Royce immediately smiled before giving a single nod, causing Jon to feel a sense of relief. With Lord Royce counselling the young lord, there would be less of a chance of him causing an uproar over Littlefinger’s fate.

Jon rose to his feet and the hall gradually quietened. Once the last few laughs and clattering of goblets had died away, Jon addressed them

“Welcome to Winterfell, my lords. The Stark family is pleased that you all have made the journey to Winterfell especially the Vale lords, whose journey has been the longest of all.”

Jon raised his goblet in a toast to all of the assembled lords in front of him, and saw many of them look pleased that their king would do such a thing for them. As Jon drunk some of his ale, he wondered how many of them would still be as pleased when he called the banners.

“As you all know, I called you all here to tell you about our new alliance with Daenerys Targaryen,” Jon continued, indicating to Dany. Jon had noticed that many of the lords hadn’t been as outspoken hostile towards her since the announcement of Northern independence.

“However, there is a matter that needs to be addressed first.”

Jon then turned to where the Vale lords were sat and looked directly at Robin Arryn.

“Lord Arryn, please approach.”

As Robin and Lord Royce rose from their seats, everyone watched their approach with interest. When they stood in front of him, Jon retook his seat.

“Lord Arryn, I am sure that you are aware by now of the treason of your uncle and guardian, the Lord Petyr Baelish.”

“I-I am, Your Grace,” the young boy stammered, clearly intimidated by being put on the spot in front of so many people. “But there must be some mistake. My Uncle Petyr wouldn’t do such a thing.”

At this, there was an outbreak of outraged muttering among the lords, which did nothing to ease the boy’s nerves. Jon, feeling a twinge of pity of him, raised his hand to quell the mutterings.

“Lord Arryn,” Jon said placatingly. “Lord Baelish reveals his intent of treason right here, in front of most of the Northern lords.”

“It is true, Robin,” Sansa said from Jon’s right. He looked at her and saw that she was looking down at her cousin with sympathy. “He revealed his intention to stand behind me to depose King Jon.”

At this, there was a renewed outbreak of muttering, this time of agreement, which caused Arryn to visibly look distressed and angry. Seemingly sensing danger, Lord Royce leaned down to whisper into the boy’s ear. He initially looked mutinous, but Royce’s words seemed to have an effect as he soon sighed deeply before turning back to Jon.

“I apologise for the actions of my uncle, Your Grace,” he said stiffly. “I assume that he is to be executed?”

Jon nodded in response, causing several lords to murmur their approval.

“In that case, I have one request,” Robin said, and he then looked at Jon pleadingly, a look that was mirrored in his tone. “Please make it quick. And painless.”

Jon looked down at the young boy for a moment, his feeling of pity growing as he saw the look on his face, before nodding.

“You have my word, my lord. I will perform the execution personally on the morrow.”

Robin Arryn nodded his thanks.

“The might of the Vale is behind you, King Jon,” he said, bowing his head slightly, now doubt at Royce’s prompting.

“I thank you, Lord Arryn,” Jon replied, as he motioned for them to retake their seats. “I have a feeling that we will be needing them.”

As Robin and Lord Royce made their way back to their seats, Jon could sense that the other lord’s curiosity had been piqued by his last statement. As they sat down, on sighed again, before rising to his feet once more.

“And now, my lords, the terms of our alliance with Daenerys.”

Jon took a deep breath, steeling himself, before continuing.

“As you know, the North will be granted independence. The Vale,” he said, turning once more to the Vale lords, “will remain with us until the conflict is over, and they will then be given the choice of which ruler they wish to swear their fealty to.”

The Vale lords looked at each other, looking both curious and a little apprehensive.

“Queen Daenerys has also promised her forces and her dragons in our fight against the White Walkers.”

At this there was a mixed noise of both disbelief over Jon’s insistence of the White Walker’s existence but also anxiety at the mention of the dragons. Rhaegal and Viserion had flown over Winterfell when the Vale lords had arrived earlier, clearly drawn by the procession of people.

There had been a collective shout of surprise at the sight of them. However, Jon had notice that while many of them had watching them with fear, there had been some that had watched with awe.

“And what are we giving in return?” demanded Lady Mormont.

Steeling himself for the worst, Jon took a deep breath and answered.

“We will march south with Daenerys to aid her in gaining the Iron Throne from Cersei Lannister.”

As expected many of the lords, with exception of Lord Manderly and Lady Mormont, among others, rose in outrage.

“Why should we send our men to fight her war?”

“We have lost too many sons and daughters in the South.”

With many of the lords shouting over each other, Jon looked around them. He saw that while Manderly, who had already known of this, merely nodded his support to him, he saw that some, like Lady Mormont, while not shouting their outrage, where also not happy with this news.

“My lords!” Jon called over the din, raising his hands to get their attention. “Enough!”

Jon voice just managed to be heard over their shouts, and they quietened down enough to allow him to speak, although many of them still furious.

“I know that many of you lost men in the recent wars but-” Jon began.

“So why should we send more of our men to their deaths to help her?” Lord Cerwyn demanded, with several mutters of approval following his words.

“Because, like I said already, she has agreed to aid us in the coming war with the White Walkers.”

“White Walkers, that we have no proof of that exist,” Cerwyn responded.

“I have seen them with my own eyes, Lord Cerwyn,” Jon replied scathingly. “Are you calling your king a liar?”

Lord Cerwyn’s face went slack in shock for a moment, before shaking his head.

“My lords, I swear to you, on the bones of my father, on the Old Gods themselves, that the White Walkers are real, and they are coming for us. We will need to be ready for them, and we can’t be ready if we have to worry about Cersei Lannister as well.”

“Then why can’t we-” Cerwyn began again, causing Jon’s temper to flare.

“Lord Cerwyn!” he bellowed. “I have tolerated your interruption once already, and answered your question. I will not be so cordial if you do so again. Am I clear?”

Jon’s anger had the effect that his words didn’t. Lord Cerwyn nodded shakily before taking his seat once more and several of the other lords, who moments ago had looked mutinous, seemed cowed.

Jon sighed deeply, and rubbed his face with his hands, regretting his anger.

“My lords,” Jon began again, in a calmer voice. “I understand that you have all lost your sons and daughters in the War of the Five Kings and against the Boltons and that you want no more of your men to leave the North, never to return. Truly, I do understand.

“But we have no choice. We cannot sit here, doing nothing. If Daenerys goes south, and her army fails against Cersei, then the Lannisters will head North to deal with us, in numbers that we will likely have little chance against.

“However, if we join our numbers with Daenerys forces, as well as the larger host that she has already sent to Dorne, we can be sure that we can win and live our lives free from the threat of another attack from the South and, later, from the greater threat from the North.”

Jon’s words seemed to grab their attention. Jon knew that many of them had been worried about a potential attack from Cersei, particularly after Jon’s coronation, so the idea of a pre-emptive strike seemed to appeal to many of them. And, combined with the news that Daenerys had another, even larger army already fighting, seemed to appeal to many of them.

“But there is another, more important, reason for us to go south.”

Jon looked around at them, in particular those lords who had suffered the most during the War of the Five Kings.

“Vengeance.”

The single word gained more attention than anything else Jon had said. Every eye in the hall was on him as he spoke.

“Lord Manderly,” Jon said, turning to him. “When you declared me as King in the North, you said that I avenged the Red Wedding.

“But I haven’t. Not yet.”

Jon took a breath and looked around at the lords, seeing that they were all looking even more curious now.

“The Boltons have been dealt with for their part in the Red Wedding, but the Freys and the Lannisters haven’t yet faced the justice that they deserve for what they have done.

“While the Freys are not as powerful as they had been, they are still ruling the Riverlands for the Lannisters,” Jon continued, thinking of what Arya had told him of her actions at the Twins.

While Jon had little sympathy of those who died, because of their betrayal of Robb and his men and defilement of their bodies and guest rite, he wasn’t fully approving of Arya’s methods. However, this was not the time to think about that.

“The Lannisters, with the war ended, now sit on the Iron Throne, and neither of these Houses has paid for what they have done to us.”

As Jon spoke, his voice grew louder, and his anger began to creep into it once more. However, this seemed to have the desired effect, as many of the lords began nodding their approval at his words.

“This is why we must go south with Daenerys, my lords. To show the South what we mean when we say that the North Remembers.”

There was a sudden uproar of approval at his words, with many of them banging their goblets on the table or shouting ‘The North Remembers’.

“You have my men, Jon Snow,” Tormund said, rising to his feet.

“And mine, Your Grace,” Manderly said, as he too rose.

At the sight of Manderly, one of the largest and most influential houses in the North, pledging their support many of the smaller houses seemed to gain more courage. However, the sight of Tormund doing the same galvanised the others, not wishing to be outdone by a wilding,

One by one, they all pledged that they would follow him south. Glover, Mormont, Hornwood, Arryn. All of the lords of the North and Vale, even a disgruntled looking Cerwyn, pledged their support to him once more.

As Jon smiled out towards them, he became aware of Wolkan entering the room and hurrying towards him.

“Thank you, my lords, for your support.” Jon said loudly. “Together we will make them pay for their crimes against the North.”

Jon retook his seat, amidst renewed mutterings, this time speaking of their excitement at finally avenging their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters that they had lost.

“Well done, Jon,” Sansa said gripping his forearm.

“Yes, well done,” Dany echoed. “I am impressed.”

Jon nodded in response to their praise, before turning to Wolkan, who stopped behind them, his faced flushed from running.

“What is it, Wolkan?” Jon asked.

“Your Grace, Ser Davos has returned,” Wolkan replied, breathing heavily. “With a guest.”

Jon burst into a wide grin at this.

So, my plan has worked, Jon thought, happily. He is here.

“Show them in Wolkan.”

Wolkan nodded, before rushing off again. Jon, meanwhile, turned to Sansa, who was looking at him curiously.

“Now, you will see where I sent Ser Davos,” Jon said cryptically, smiling slightly.

After a moment, the doors opened once more. Davos walking in, looking tired and haggard from his travel, his beard longer than Jon had last seen it. He was accompanied by a tall, powerfully built, dark haired young man, whose face was covered by the beginnings of a bushy beard.

As Jon got to his feet to greet them, a shout came from Arya, one full of surprise and joy, that caused all eyes in the room to turn to her.

“Gendry!”

 

Chapter Text

           

Jaime

 

A couple of weeks had passed since Jaime’s last visit from anyone, and he was glad of it. He knew that he was lucky that he had come out of Qyburn’s last visit with his life. He remembered the grip of the Mountain around his throat, the choking feeling and the burning pain in his lungs as he suffocated. Not for the first time, Jaime wondered just what Qyburn could have done to him, to turn the already strong knight into the monster with inhuman strength that he was now.

As Jaime had laid on his bunk as the days past him by, blending into each other in the constant darkness of his cell, he heard more frequent and escalating riots, with the sound of blades clashing being more and more common, mixing with the sounds of screams and cries of people dying.

Jaime lay there listening, feeling powerless at hearing all of these people suffering under his sister’s rule. Especially as he knew that a lot of it was his fault, with his and Bronn’s assassination attempt only bolstering Cersei’s resolve to stamp out any and all dissent, her suspicion and paranoia of traitors in her ranks increasing by the day.

Jaime had overheard the guards outside his cell one night, their jaws loosened by boredom and the skin of wine that they were hiding beneath their cloaks and passing surreptitiously between them.

“The Queen is losing her mind,” one of them had slurred, as he leant again his spear.

“You have only just realised that?” the other had replied, spilling most of the remaining wine down his front. “She has been torturing and killing people since she took the throne. People are already calling her the Mad Queen.”

As the two of them talked, Jaime eased off of his bunk and slowly made his wa