Woo, that was quite a climax for the Fleshbearer plot. I'm sad to see Asger go, if indeed he is dead, but his final moment was beautiful. Overall, well done, I'm excited to see the consequences of what happened in these parts.
Alright, well after that morose concoction of parts, we'll get into the Thenn storyline as previously planned - beginning with Lenlie. The last time we saw the Ice Rivers girl, she had just bore witness to Armun the Barbarian delivering the heads of Magnar Krygorn and Grekorid Delen to Sigira and Storg. Skyrnor moved in to take Armun's head, but with Skjorn's advice, Sigira ordered a halt to that action. Yrma spoke up against Sigira, and Lenlie stood in to her defence, and Storg calls for quiet amongst the crowd before having Armun sent away for torture. Skjorn would later approach Lenlie and voice his concerns for the safety of the future Magnar, requesting that if he gave her the word, she would take Storg and flee east. The next part takes place at the funeral of Magnar Krygorn.
A great pyre had been constructed for the late Magnar Krygorn; an excessive display for the burning of a decapitated head, but Lenlie did not dare to question Thenn tradition. Krygorn’s mutilated face had been tended to by the best, and he had been dressed with a straw body clad in his bronze armour. A funeral fit for a king, Lenlie admired as she gazed upon the pale face of the man that had once been revered as a god amongst men – now he proved to them all that he was just like any other, a mortal.
Princess Sigira stood closest to the pyre, with Prince Storg and Skyrnor by her side as they bid their father farewell and safe passage in the Old Tongue. Behind them stood Skjorn the Scholar and the newly named Lord Denyal Delen, who had privately buried his father in the Crypt of Delen beneath their ancient household. All the nobles of Thenn had gathered to commemorate and honour the life of their Magnar, and traditionally to see the naming of the new Magnar – though Lenlie doubted that proceeding would happen today with all the controversy.
When the final words were passed and the rituals chanted, the soothsayers gave fire to pyre, setting their god alight to take his place with his predecessors. His fire glowed bright and hot, with Lenlie shying her face away from the flames due to its immense heat. Her averted eyes were met by those of Gorgar’s, who sent her a caring smile that brought her a small comfort.
The embers soon settled to ashes, and the charred memorial collapsed into the dirt as was its fate. The conclusion of the honouring was a common saying in the Old Tongue that echoed across every Thenn. ‘Mar doh skagos dar bin hos.’ Lenlie turned her gaze to Gorgar with a perplexed expression. “What does it mean?” she asked, and Gorgar’s face twisted as he tried to explain it. “Ah, it means to become unbound from the tether of life,” he explained poorly, only further confusing her. “I thought skagos meant ‘stone’ in the Old Tongue?” she queried, to which Gorgar nodded. “It’s hard to translate to the common tongue,” he settled, to which Lenlie shrugged.
With that, the crowd disbanded, the soothsayers etched Krygorn’s name into the wall of prior magnars, and the royal family remained to stare at what remained. Lenlie turned her gaze to Gorgar, who gave her a sad smile. “The Thenns won’t let this slide,” Lenlie stated, to which Gorgar shook his head. “No, we won’t. I suspect we will soon be marching to war… Again,” he muttered, to which Lenlie frowned. She had hoped she could avoid fighting, especially against Fleshbearer. She never wanted to see that vile monster ever again, and yet she felt she was bound to him.
“What now?” she blurted with an anxious tone, to which Gorgar shrugged. “I suppose I should go check on the boy,” Gorgar stated plainly, and Lenlie gave him a small nod before he took his leave. She watched as he swooped the boy up onto his shoulder, then turning to talk with Sigira, and Lenlie noticed that Skyrnor had parted from them and walked directly towards her. She nervously prepared herself for the encounter, but to her relief the only seem of acknowledgement she received was a cold shoulder as he past her. She exhaled a sigh of relief.
“So you’re the one that travelled with Fleshbearer,” a gruff voice deduced from behind her, and Lenlie turned to meet two older men holding her under scrutiny. One was donned in bronze armour, with a bald head and a long beard – a tattoo ran down his face, over his brown eyes. The other was bigger, his head and face cleanly shaved with only scars to add onto his threatening appearance. His skin was as pale as snow, and his eyes red like blood. He wore fine robes, but it was clear to see this wasn’t his preferred attire. Lenlie lowered her gaze.
“Answer when spoken to, girl,” the one in the armour ordered, and Lenlie lifted her gaze. “I travelled with that monster, yes,” she answered coldly, making the lord smirk maliciously. “Fleshbearer is no monster, he’s a craven engulfed in his own trivial ego,” the albino grunted with a raspy voice, and Lenlie gave a small nod in agreeance. It did not send them off, however.
“Why would Fleshbearer leave his travelling partner in the Vale?” he then posed hypothetically, and Lenlie felt his hard glare piercing through her. “He didn’t plan to. It was Princess Sigira who saved me from returning to the Ice Rivers with him,” Lenlie revealed, and the man raised an eyebrow. “Saved you? Or doomed us all?” he queried, and before Lenlie could muster an answer in her defence, she was once again rescued.
“Lord Bjalner,” Sigira greeted with a voice that was less than jovial, and the albino gave her a respectable nod. “Princess.” Sigira eyed him over once with a small smile. “I hardly noticed you in the outfit. I can’t say it suits you,” she uttered, Bjalner held a stern expression and Sigira continued. “Still, you have travelled far and I appreciate you coming to honour my father’s life,” she concluded, to which Bjalner nodded.
“Krygorn was a strong man, and a fine leader. May he find peace with the Old ones now,” Bjalner bid politely, to which Sigira gave a thankful smile. “If you would excuse us, I must speak with Lenlie,” she stated, and Bjalner gave her a nod. “Bjorn and I were just leaving. Take care, Princess,” he uttered, then turning with his guard to egress. Lenlie turned her gaze to Sigira, who kept her glare locked on the albino lord until he disappeared around the corner. She was tense, and let out a sigh as she turned back to Lenlie.
“I hope he didn’t harass you too much, I came as quickly as I could,” Sigira explained with an apologetic tone, and Lenlie shook her head. “You didn’t have to, this is your time for mourning, I don’t wish to impede on that,” Lenlie stated with a caring tone, and Sigira flashed her a small smile before placing a hand on Lenlie’s shoulder. “Some people are best kept at a distance, especially in times like these. Come, walk with me,” she insisted, and Lenlie was in no position to deny her this.
They exited the courtyard of the Magnar’s keep, and egressed to the stone village that homed the majority of the Thenn population. It was regularly populated by a thousand or so Thenns, but since the great influx of Hornfoots seeking refuge from Raymun Redbeard, that number had almost doubled – mostly in children and elderly. It brought some comfort to Lenlie to see people here that didn’t belong – it made her feel less alone, less ostracised.
“Lord Bjalner’s keep resides in the snowy mountains north of here, it’s a day’s ride,” Sigira explained, and Lenlie raised an eyebrow. “Why so far away? I thought many of the lords lived here?” Lenlie stated, and Sigira nodded. “They do, but Bjalner and my father had history. The wall of Magnar’s traces back a millennium, and centuries ago, Bjalner’s bloodline were a line of Magnar’s. When my grandfather passed and my father was to inherit his title, Bjalner put forth his claim and my father met the challenge. It’s said that when my father prevailed he exiled Bjalner to the mountains, but Bjalner left by choice,” Sigira remarked, and Lenlie looked at her with concern.
“With everything that’s been happening, with Skyrnor and now Bjalner’s return… This cannot be a time for quarrels amongst us,” Sigira mumbled, and Lenlie nodded. “What can I do?” she asked with a helpful intent, and Sigira glanced around them with a frown. “These people came to us to flee Raymun’s rule. If Skyrnor had his way, I fear they would be expelled, or worse,” Sigira stated, and then turned her gaze to Lenlie, taking the girl’s hands into her own.
“Lenlie, you have already done so much for me, and you have my gratitude and respect. Would you take a seat on my council as my advisor, and as a representative of those taking refuge with us?” Sigira she asked, and Lenlie’s brow furrowed. “Princess, I am honoured, but wouldn’t a Hornfoot be better suited for this task? I think my presence on the council would be unwanted by many of the Thenns,” Lenlie stated, and to split the topic, a young Hornfoot girl ran up to them with inquisitive eyes of amber. Her hair was much like Sigira’s.
“Why hello there,” Sigira greeted, kneeling down to meet the child on her level. “What’s your name?” she asked, the girl shyly glanced at Sigira and then Lenlie. “Freya,” she mumbled with a squeaky voice, and Sigira gave her a big smile. “What a pretty name. Where are your parents, Freya?” she asked, and the girl’s eyes saddened as the fell to the ground. Sigira frowned and took the girl into her arms. “We will take care of you,” Sigira swore as she caressed the girl’s hair, and a voice called for her.
“Freya!” a boy cried, and the child turned her gaze to the boy looking around frantically for her. “Movar!” she yelled and waved at him, pulling away from Sigira and running to him. The boy, Lenlie assumbed to be her older brother, embraced her tightly and guided her away – the girl waving at Sigira before leaving. The princess rose to her feet and turned her saddened eyes on Lenlie.
“It doesn’t matter what my people think of you, it only matters what I think of you. Lenlie, soon we’ll be marching into war again, and I need you to be here to make sure these people are being fairly treated, and to make sure my brother isn’t manipulated. You can only assure that with a seat on the council, and I believe that soon we will have many of your people in the Vale once Fleshbearer is gone,” Sigira stated, and Lenlie glanced at her momentarily before giving her a firm nod. “I swear I’ll uphold Storg’s and your interests,” she answered decisively, and Sigira flashed her an appreciative smile before embracing her.
“Come, its best that they come to see us as friends rather than overlords,” Sigira stated, and Lenlie gave her a nod as she followed the princess through the village to the refugee camp.
Dusk had set over the Vale, casting an orange glow into the valley that danced with shadows amongst the stone architecture of the Thenns. Lenlie had been here awhile now, but it felt like now had been the only time she had taken to actually appreciate her surroundings. In comparison to where she had come, the Vale was heavenly. She had never held any ambitions to join the raids south, but she imagined the stone buildings of the Thenns to be akin to the likes of the southerners.
She had tucked herself into one of the private gardens of the Magnar’s keep, a grove alive with colour and the bearings of fruit and flower. She imagined this to be a beautiful place for children to play, just like the Hornfoot girl Sigira had met a few hours earlier. Perhaps in her new seat she could arrange it, if the Thenns would let her. That doesn’t matter, she reminded herself as she rubbed the cold out of her arms. Sigira had entrusted her with this, and her word was as good as law now.
“Enjoying the view?” a voice chimed, and Lenlie sourced it back to Gorgar with a startle before she let out a sigh. “It’s beautiful,” she stated, and Gorgar gave her an agreeing nod as he sat himself beside her. The two watched the sunset behind the mountains before Lenlie found her words. “How is Storg?” she asked, and Gorgar frowned with a shrug.
“He’s a tough boy, this is a hard road but it will only strengthen him,” Gorgar stated with a wisdom that Lenlie didn’t think he possessed. She glanced into his golden eyes for a brief moment before shying away from his gaze. “I think the same for the princess,” Lenlie added, and Gorgar smiled. “Sigira takes after her father, she’s bold but she’s also kind. She’ll be a fine leader if the Thenns let her,” Gorgar claimed, making Lenlie sigh.
“I suppose her heading this coming war will settle that,” Lenlie suggested with a melancholic tone, she was honoured with the responsibility that Sigira had entrusted her with, but she did not condone it separating her from the princess. Especially in war. Gorgar frowned, he had likely anticipated as much was going to happen, but perhaps hoped Sigira wouldn’t lead the effort herself. Lenlie lowered her gaze.
“She wants you to stay here, doesn’t she?” Gorgar realised, and Lenlie nodded. “To watch over Storg, and the Hornfoots,” she elaborated, and Gorgar nodded. “She cares for you, Len. She doesn’t want you getting hurt again, not by the likes of Fleshbearer or anyone else,” Gorgar claimed, but Lenlie stubbornly shook her head. “She shouldn’t worry about me, she’s the princess, her life is more important than mine. My life means nothing,” Lenlie muttered, and Gorgar grasped her hand, making her look him in the eyes.
“Your life means everything to me, and it clearly does to Sigira as well,” he stated firmly, and Lenlie glanced down at their hands before looking at him again. “Gorgar, when you said I would always be welcome in your home…” she started, but Gorgar cut her off as he took her by surprise with a kiss. Her eyes widened a moment before she fell into his charm. This is wrong, she thought, but her heart argued with her mind in that regard. She pulled herself away from him and gazed into his dreamy golden eyes that were attracted to her every movement. She thought back on Sigira’s words of Gorgar when they first met. “He steals women only to play one night with them,” she had said playfully, but it had aligned true with his character. Would he truly pull a stunt like that now? After all that has been? Or was this something else? Something… true?
Hey! Sorry it's been a while since I've gotten another post out, I've just been busy and a little unmotivated in some areas with this next part, but I've battled through it and am satisfied. Naturally, this next part falls to Skjorn the Scholar, and I'll say no more. Hope you enjoy
The Hall of Magnars was a magnificent display of Thenn architecture, having withstood the harsh elements of the north for countless centuries, some even believed these ancient stones to have stood from the beginning of time. Skjorn knew better than to indulge himself in the childish fables of the commoner, he trusted in his books and his wits, and Krygorn valued that over all his other councillors. And now he is gone, Skjorn thought to himself, almost defeated in his purpose. The halls of the keep felt empty without Krygorn’s presence, and as Skjorn stared at his leader’s chair, he felt shame.
“Skjorn the Scholar,” a raspy voice greeted coldly from behind, and the Scholar turned to meet the piercing red eyes of the Lord from the Mountains. “Lord Bjalner,” he recognised as the albino approached with a stern focus on Krygorn’s throne. “I heard you fought alongside Krygorn in his final moments, I couldn’t imagine Dramir Knightsbane’s son being anywhere near a battlefield,” the lord stated with a hard and honest tone. Skjorn’s father had been a revered warrior of the Thenns, and it was always a disappointment to him that his son had not grown up to be like him.
“I did as my Magnar commanded,” Skjorn answered plainly, and Bjalner nodded as he crossed his arms, staring at the Magnar’s seat. “I recall the times before all this horseshit, when we were younger men with righteous ambitions. The Vale of Thenn was revered as a home of warriors greater than the Free Folk had ever seen. Your father, Krygorn and I were proud examples of that ideology, and perhaps if Krygorn had still been robust, he would not have lost his head,” Bjalner stated, and Skjorn felt himself tensing up, but sensibly paid the albino’s words little mind.
“Krygorn had more to think about than his strength. He relied on the Lords of the Vale to be his muscle, and perhaps if all the lords had answered it, he would still be alive,” Skjorn remarked, and Bjalner turned his hard gaze onto him. “We are not southerners, Scholar, despite your efforts to try and turn us into them through Krygorn’s rule. We’re Free Folk, and I had the liberty to either answer the call, or pay my own price to the Vale. I’ve returned to start paying it,” Bjalner announced firmly, making Skjorn’s eyes widen.
“You always were a stubborn old bastard, Bjalner, but this? You think that the Thenns will support your claim after you abandoned them? After you betrayed Krygorn?” Skjorn asked with astonishment, and to his surprise Bjalner shook his head. “My ambitions to become Magnar were lost to the ice long ago. The gods graced my line with stillborn sons and a daughter, and while my name may soon be forgotten, there is still time for my legacy to live on as Magnars through another,” Bjalner stated, and Skjorn came to realise what he meant.
“You intend to back Skyrnor, and marry Olha to him, don’t you?” Skjorn stated, and the glance he received from the albino answered his query well enough. “And what makes you think she’ll oblige to that? As you said, we’re Free Folk, and our customs for marriage and love run a lot deeper than that of the southerners,” the Scholar reminded him, making Bjalner smirk. “Olha is her father’s daughter, she has experienced nothing but the cold and isolation since Krygorn banished us,” he claimed, making Skjorn roll his eyes.
“You chose to leave on your own terms, Bjalner,” Skjorn remarked, and the albino’s stern expression boiled up to near erupting. “He humiliated me! Shamed my blood and my legacy, backing his legitimacy by shitting over mine. We were friends once, he even confessed he never cared for his father’s throne, but when your father died, he changed. He took you under his wing and threw me aside like tainted meat. So yes, I may not have been banished by law, but gods knew I wasn’t welcome in these halls as long as he lived.” There was a fire in his blood red eyes that pierced Skjorn’s skin and left him bare. He did not attempt to challenge the man, it was clear it would only lead him to strife. Instead, Skjorn approached with a solemn expression.
“However it may have been, it is all in the past now. Krygorn is dead, and his son will inherit all this. Don’t let him inherit your pettiness as well,” Skjorn advised before parting with the albino lord. He egressed the Great Hall, his eyes quickly being met by Denyal Delen, whose blue eyes greeted him with a saddened relief. Skjorn flashed him a sympathetic smile.
“Denyal,” he greeted with a warm tone, and the young lord reciprocated his broken smile. “Hey, Skjorn,” he hailed in return, then turning his head over his shoulder. “Skyrnor was asking for you. He’s with Yrma in the dungeons, torturing that Ice River clan chieftain,” Denyal remarked with a cold tone, and Skjorn furrowed his brow. What does Skyrnor want me for? He wondered, but he imagined Denyal wouldn’t have an answer for him. “I’d best go see what he wants then,” Skjorn stated reluctantly, and Denyal nodded, walking with him.
Silence caught up with them as they glided down the empty halls of the Magnar’s keep. Skjorn shifted his gaze onto Denyal, admiring his new look. He had donned the golden armour of his late father, and had filled his old shoes as the new Lord of Delen. “Grekorid would be proud of you, Denyal. He always believed you would become a greater man. I’m sorry for your loss,” Skjorn stated with an admiring tone as he gave his condolences, and Denyal gave him an appreciative nod.
“I loved my father. I know I did a lot of things that ashamed him and our house, but I hope to redeem myself and honour his life as he raised mine,” Denyal claimed with a solemn tone, and Skjorn nodded. “I’m sure you will,” Skjorn supported, placing a hand on Denyal’s shoulder before the young lord frowned.
“I don’t like this, Skjorn. This quarrel for power,” he fretted, and the Scholar nodded. “Nor do I,” Skjorn muttered with concern before shrugging the thought from his mind. “The best we can do is give our allegiance to Sigira. Storg is our rightful Magnar, and until he is of age to lead, Sigira is his guardian and substitute,” Skjorn advised, and Denyal responded with a dutiful nod.
They descended the dark narrow stairwells that led into the dungeons; a certain coldness lingered that was never evicted, regardless of the hearths and torches that mounted the wet stone walls. Behind each thick oak door was a small cell of darkness, layered with thick stone and buried into the earth. It was the lowest form of punishment that a Thenn could endure – even death was preferable over a loss of freedom.
Skjorn heard which Armun’s cell was before Denyal showed it to him. The sound of beaten meat echoed through the dark halls like a butcher pounding fillets with a mallet, and the grunts that followed were barely audible. Skjorn deduced the Barbarian likely lived to his namesake. Denyal bashed his fist against the door before taking his leave, and the cell door swung open ominously, inviting the Scholar into its depths. His eyes adjusted to a gruelling scene.
The Barbarian hung by his wrists between two wooden posts by thick bindings that had chafed his arms raw. One of his eyes had blackened and split, while teeth and a pool of blood gathered beneath him – a constant trickle of drool, blood and sweat dripping from his nose and chin adding to it with each passing moment. An amused Yrma stood before him with rolled up sleeves and bloody knuckles. Skjorn’s gaze then met Skyrnor’s, who was overseeing this process from the corner of the room.
“Scholar,” he greeted coldly, and Skjorn nodded to him in turn. “You called for me?” Skjorn inquired curiously, and Skyrnor nodded, beckoning for him to take a seat beside him. Skjorn reluctantly obliged, sitting across from Krygorn’s nephew, who sat silently for a long moment. “How goes the interrogation?” Skjorn queried dryly as he glared at Armun’s barely conscious body. Yrma threw a fist into his gut, making sure the chieftain was still breathing. Skyrnor sighed.
“We’ve gotten little from him,” he admitted, his tone thick with disappointment and frustration. “All he’s told us was that he was in charge for weeding through the Thenns in Fleshbearer’s army for traitors. He’s admitted to being the one who killed Grekorid Delen, and supposedly Barryn lives, leading the Thenns Fleshbearer’s name,” Skyrnor claimed, and Skjorn’s eyes widened. He wasn’t sure what to say. “Fucking traitor,” Skyrnor said for him, “Apparently Raugan Varalaf and Alex Deepstone live as well,” he added, and Skjorn processed all this for a moment.
“Raugan was weak, but Deepstone led a third of Krygorn’s army into battle. It’s possible he could be conspiring against Fleshbearer,” Skjorn suggested, to which Skyrnor shrugged. “Or has been executed by Barryn, whatever the case may be, we know fuck all. I called you here because you wanted to keep this whoreson alive, so I say it’s your turn to prove all this hassle was worth our time,” Skyrnor muttered, and Skjorn glanced at the Barbarian before returning his gaze to Skyrnor.
“You’ve beaten him to a pulp. What do you expect me to do?” Skjorn uttered with a semi-amused tone, to which Yrma snorted. “You’re the fucking brains here, Scholar, or did Krygorn just keep you around to suck his cock?” Yrma spited, and Skjorn felt his fists clenching with anger. Skyrnor arose from his seat and approached her with a cold look on his eye.
“Run your fucking mouth against my uncle again, and I’ll make a room for you right next to this one,” he warned her before giving her a firm backhand to make sure the message was clear. Skjorn glared at Armun’s shallow breathing before returning his attention to Skyrnor. “Have you considered his terms?” Skjorn questioned with thought, making Skyrnor scoff with amusement.
“If you think I’m going to treat with a fucking Ice Riverman, you’re dumber than I thought,” Skyrnor mocked with a cold tone, making Skjorn sigh. As if to break the tension in the room, the door to the cell swung open, entering two guards and Princess Sigira. The princess glanced at the state of the Barbarian before averting her gaze, and turning to Skyrnor with disgust. “Do you have not a shred of honour?” she hissed, and Skyrnor glared at her.
“I’m doing as my Magnar commanded,” he argued in his defence, and on recollection of Storg’s words, this was what the boy wanted. The two locked eyes before Skjorn cleared his throat. “Princess, perhaps we should egress to the upper halls?” the Scholar suggested, but Sigira shook her head. “I’ve come to speak with him, if he can indeed still speak,” she muttered, and Skyrnor pushed past her with Yrma quickly following behind. Sigira turned her gaze back to her guards.
“Leave us,” she ordered, and one of the guards was bold enough to hesitate. “Are you sure that’s a good idea, my Lady? He’s dangerous,” the guard warned, and Sigira flashed the man a thankful smile. “He’s bound and beaten, and I have Skjorn here, but thank you,” she stated, and the guard gave her a hesitant nod before following his comrade out, shutting the oak door behind them. Skjorn watched the princess’ composure relax briefly before she turned her attention to Armun.
“Has he said anything?” she queried, and Skjorn reiterated what Skyrnor had conveyed to him. She paused a moment after Skjorn’s mentioning of Grekorid’s fate before she turned her gaze back onto the Barbarian. “Can you hear me?” she then asked, and the beaten chieftain lifted his head to give her a short nod. Sigira nodded in approval. “I have considered your terms, and I will sanction them. Your clan, if submissive, will be spared from our wrath – but your life I cannot account for,” the princess stated, and Skjorn’s brow lifted with astonishment.
“What do you wish to know, princess?” he asked with a weak tone, accepting of her word. He was in no position to bargain to begin with, Skjorn thought. It was considerate for Sigira to even grant him that wish. Or foolish. “Fleshbearer. Tell me about his army, tell me of his whereabouts, and his plans,” she requested with a cold tone, and Armun lifted his tired eyes up to his bindings.
“There’s much to tell. Cut me down and I’ll begin,” he muttered, and Skjorn stood from his chair in opposition. “You’re in no place to negotiate, Barbarian. Answer her question,” he ordered, but the chieftain paid him no mind. Sigira glanced at the ropes for a moment before meeting his gaze. “If I cut you down, who’s to say you won’t try to kill me or my advisor?” Sigira contemplated, and Skjorn urged her not to consider it with a firm shake of his head. Armun let out a heavy sigh.
“Bring in your guards and tie me to a chair if you wish, but let me sit,” he pleaded with a weary tone, and Sigira glanced at him for a moment before nodding. “Cut him down, Skjorn,” she ordered, and Skjorn gazed at her with reluctance. “Princess, please heed my warnings,” he insisted, but Sigira shot him a cold glare. “That was a request, Scholar,” she remarked, and Skjorn felt his heart sink as he hesitantly unsheathed his sword and slashed Armun’s bindings. The Barbarian collapsed to the floor, his hands gently attending to his raw wrists. Sigira took Skjorn’s seat and glared at the chieftain who took to his bearings.
“So, Barbarian, tell me about Fleshbearer,” she commanded, beckoning for him to take a seat opposite from her. Skjorn gulped nervously as he took to her side, keeping his sword close.
They left Armun’s cell embodied in the wealth of his information. The Barbarian had given everything he knew of Fleshbearer and his plans – his ambition to attack the Frozen Shores, and then the Vale, his culling of traitors, search for Raymun and a suspected conspiracy led by Alex Deepstone. He had even offered to fight for Sigira against him, but the princess hadn’t given him any indication of whether that proposal would be accepted. Silence crept with them until they were out of the dungeons and back into the Magnar’s halls, to which then Sigira turned to face the Scholar.
“What do you think of all of it?” she asked, and Skjorn frowned as he contemplated Armun’s words. “I think we should call the council. If we should act, then the lords should be informed,” Skjorn advised her, and she nodded in agreement. Their conversation was cut short by an echo of footsteps running out of the halls. What’s going on? Skjorn wondered, and Sigira was already a step ahead of him in sourcing out the commotion.
They coursed down the halls and followed the Thenns that rushed outside, forming a crowd around something that dwarfed them in size. Skjorn’s eyes widened for a moment as he gazed at the great woolly beasts that stomped into the courtyard, and watched as their pelted riders dismounted them. Giants. There were three that entered the keep, and with them was Gaston, who had sought out long ago to find them with his brother, Jaylen. The former of the two pushed through the crowd to greet them.
“Princess Sigira, Skjorn,” he greeted pleasantly but with also with a perplexed expression as he flickered his gaze between them. “You have returned to the Vale? Is the war over? Where is the Magnar?” he asked with a buzz of confusion, and Skjorn placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Krygorn is dead, Gaston. Fleshbearer betrayed us,” Skjorn informed him laconically, and Gaston’s gaze lowered in mourning, but Sigira had grown bitter.
“Where were you, Gaston? Where were the Giants when we needed them?” she queried coldly, and Gaston frowned apologetically. “Jaylen and I are close friends with the giants, but even we are no match to combatting their stubbornness. Mag Tun Doh Tol Weg was reluctant to march the Giants into war with all the grievances that Krygorn’s grandfather caused them,” Gaston explained, and Sigira raised her gaze to Tun the Tall, the chieftain of the Giants. “I will have words with him then,” she stated, and Gaston’s attempts to stop her were met with a cold shoulder.
Skjorn followed her through the crowd, exchanging glances with Jaylen before turning his eyes onto Tun the Tall. The mighty chieftain of the giants lived to his namesake, being notably taller than his accompanying brethren – he would have been just shy of twenty feet, a noticeable six feet taller than the average height of giants. Tun had a greying pelt, although predominantly his fur was still black, with beady black eyes to compliment his unappealing features. It had been some years since Skjorn had last seen him.
“Hello, Lady,” the giant greeted in the common tongue, recipient of Skjorn’s teachings some years ago. Skjorn flashed him a commending smile, but Sigira seemed less than amused. “We will be holding a council in the Magnar’s garden. I expect to see you there,” she announced in the Old Tongue, and the giant nodded with a curious look on his old eye before Sigira turned and took her leave. Tun immediately turned his concerned gaze to Skjorn.
“What has happened?” he asked bluntly in the Old Tongue, and a morose frown coated Skjorn’s expression in response. “I will explain on the way,” he answered plainly, lacking the energy to endure this pain for much longer, and the giant of giants gave him an impatient nod as he turned to tend to his mammoth.
The council formed around an old stone table positioned alongside a great weirwood that’s roots fed into a small pond. Skjorn suspected the heart tree had stood here long before the Hall of Magnars, or even the existence of the Free Folk. The Children of the Forest once ruled these lands uncontended, and now they are few and far between. The same could be said about the giants, which had almost been culled to the brink of extinction nearly two hundred years ago. The presence of the Night’s Watch and kings of the south had made them flee far north after they had become a subject of sport for hunters and smugglers.
Skjorn sat beside the princess at the head of the stone table, with Denyal Delen opposite him and a range of lords occupying the seats between them and the other end of the table: where Skyrnor sat with Lord Bjalner and his daughter Olha. The Ice Rivers girl, Lenlie, sat among them as well, now as the newly appointed overseer of the Hornfoot refugees. Tun the Tall and his two adversaries stood close by, grim and remorseful looks being exchanged between them since Skjorn had brokered the news to them. No apology would temper Sigira’s wrath now.
“My lords, I have called you here to discuss the next step for our people. We find ourselves in challenging times, but we have no other choice but to press on for the safety of our liberty, of our home and of our people,” Princess Sigira began, and some lords murmured in agreement. “Fleshbearer betrayed us, he mutilated and killed our Magnar, and he has enslaved our people into his army. We must avenge my father, and most importantly we have to save our people,” Sigira stated, and the table uttered their agreement.
“We have spoken with this ‘Armun the Barbarian’, and he has revealed Fleshbearer’s plans. The tyrant wants to attack the Frozen Shores, and after he’s done with them he’s coming back for us. I say we meet him at the Frozen Shores and show him how bitter Thenn bronze can be to oath breakers,” Sigira cried, and many of the lords cheered in her support, but some were sceptical.
“And how do we know this ‘Barbarian’ speaks the truth?” one queried, and Skjorn turned his gaze to the old lord who sat sternly beside the young Denyal Delen. “We have reason to believe he has been betrayed by Fleshbearer as well, and his concern lies with his people,” Skjorn stated, making Skyrnor scowl at him coldly.
“So you treated with him then. You gave the monster, who killed Grekorid Delen and brought of Magnar’s head to shame us, your word to save his people,” Skyrnor uttered with near disbelief, and Sigira nodded firmly. “I did,” she remarked, and the table turned sour, arguments sparking between the lords. Skjorn tried to get a word in but his voice was drowned out by the bickering. He turned his gaze to Tun the Tall, who gave him a firm nod.
“Enough!” the giant’s voice boomed, choking the table of their voices and turning their eyes to the great chieftain. “I refused to fight for Krygorn for fear of what war would bring to my race, but I will not hide behind my fear while Krygorn’s killer spreads terror to the North,” Tun announced, then turning his gaze to Sigira. “Princess, the giants will fight for you,” he stated, and Sigira gave him a stern nod before another spoke up.
“I suppose you will be the one to lead this parade then, Princess. Who will remain here to guard the Vale while you cost us of our remaining fighting force?” Skyrnor uttered with scorn, and Sigira eyed him coldly before smirking. “You are more than welcome to remain here, Skyrnor, if you are too craven to avenge your uncle,” Sigira muttered, encouraging Skyrnor’s glare on her.
“Oh you can count on me marching to war with you, Princess, but that still does not answer my question,” he assured her with a loathing tone, and Sigira turned her gaze to Skjorn with a frown. “My brother is now Magnar by birthright. His rightful place is here, but I know he is young. Until such stages that we return, I am placing Skjorn in charge of stewarding the Vale,” Sigira announced, and Skjorn’s eyes widened, as did the entire table. This was certainly a surprise, and perhaps unwelcomed, but he would not question her authority in this.
“As you say, my Princess,” Skjorn answered respectfully, and Bjalner stood to his feet. “I will not partake in this war of yours, Princess, but I will contribute my men to your effort. My daughter will lead this force,” he informed her begrudgingly, causing some dispute on the table, but Sigira expressed an appreciative nod regardless before the albino lord took his leave.
“It is settled then. Muster your forces, my lords, for we will leave in two dawns,” Sigira announced before standing to egress, and the council disbanded with her lead. Skjorn turned his gaze to Skyrnor, who glared at him coldly before taking his leave, and let out a sigh. Our people return to war, and I remain here, Skjorn thought disapprovingly, but he would not let his thirst for vengeance get in the way of his duty. He had served Krygorn faithfully, and he would avenge him by serving Storg faithfully as well.
A great part, the Thenn plotline continues to be top tier! And oh man, Bjalner surprised me a bit, I was fully expecting him to make a claim for the Magnarship and thus force Skyrnor and Sigira to cooperate against him, but it seems quite the opposite has happened in this part, now it's Sigira alone against them both. I am pretty hyped to see Sigira and Skyrnor marching to war together though, but I also fear Skjorn's position in the Vale will be anything but secure while they're gone. He'll most likely have some trouble with Bjalner. Oh, and the giants! I was wondering if you'd bring them into the story and I'm happy to see that you did
Alright, the next part is ready, and it goes to Rambton. It's not much, but it will tie more into the part that follows
His heart felt heavy when faced with this decision again. He knew what he would have done if faced with it only a few days earlier, but things had changed now. He let out a heavy sigh and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder, the fellow bastard glancing at him with a mix of astonishment and disappointment. The crazed fool that they all knew seemed to have mellowed into a scared boy abandoned by all that he came to love and know. Rambton needed not say any words, his decision was clear, and there was nothing more Jay Snow could say to convince him otherwise.
“Fools, the fucking lot of ya,” Jay muttered with a grieving tone, perhaps wiser than the rest of them. Jay turned his gaze to Paxtan, pulling the fellow deserter into a tight embrace before giving Daritus a nod in farewell. He then turned his gaze to Rambton. “You continue to bewilder me, One-eyed Crow,” Jay stated with bemusement, extending his arm to him, and Rambton smirked before grasping his arm. Without warning, Jay pulled Rambton close and pecked his cheek before pulling away.
“As for the rest of ye lot, enjoy getting fucked for a dead king,” he spited with a playful tone before turning his back of them. He exited the hall of Clan Greymyst alone, not daring to look back – he feared the shadow of his cowardice staring back at him. Could they really blame him? Jay Snow chose to live, and gods knew that their path looked unforgiving unless they were blessed with a greater army. Rambton felt a hand on his shoulder, and sourced it back to the Hornfoot, Varik.
“You’re making the right choice, Rambton. Raymun still lives, I know it,” Varik assured him with a hopeful tone, but Rambton felt it was ignorantly misplaced. The young Hornfoot parted from the group, with Nikita slowly egressing after a moment as well. The fisherwoman, Nerminy, burst into tears and stormed off, with her partner, Elliot, quickly chasing after her. Paxtan let out a heavy sigh.
“I’ve been praying to the Drowned God and the rest of them to part me from that bastard for two years now. Now they salt my freedom of him with guilt and sorrow,” Paxtan muttered before Daritus placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know what you mean. Come on, let’s get a drink,” he encouraged, and the two walked off in search for an ale. Rambton muttered something under his breath as he crossed his arms, and another took to his side as he glared at the old doors ahead of them. Harmilla Tusk. She would have at least been ten or fifteen years his senior, and yet there was a charm to her that allured him like a flea to a mutt.
She had a strength that Rambton had seldom seen in women south of the Wall, and an attitude that was much akin to his own. She surpassed him in height and likely in strength, but had a figure beneath all those furs that the One-eyed Crow desperately wanted to uncover. Her messy blonde hair was almost as white as snow, and her eyes like turned over soil. Fighting, fucking and fishing, Rambton thought with semi-amusement to its simplicity. That’s a life I could lead for the rest of my years, he wagered.
“Shit times ahead, Snow. We’ll likely be dead before the week is up,” the woman stated nonchalantly, and Rambton frowned. “Don’t call me that,” he grumbled, lifting a brow on Harmilla’s face. “Snow?” she queried, and Rambton nodded with an upturned nose, amusing the woman. “Are you ashamed of who you are, One-eyed Crow?” she then asked, a question which caught Rambton off guard, but it wasn’t a difficult one to answer.
“Aye, I am,” Rambton stated plainly, and Harmilla gazed into his eye with curiosity. “Why?” she prodded, making Rambton sigh. “I’m a bastard of House Forrester. I was bullied all my life by my older brothers, and by many boys in Ironrath. I dreamed to run away and squire for some hedge knight, perhaps become one myself someday. I fucked that up when one boy called me a bastard and I cracked open his skull for it. That got me a free ticket to the Wall, where I got to spend my time which a bunch of other fucking remorseful cunts. Then I abandoned them and lost my fucking eye to a big cat, so aye, I’m pretty fucking ashamed of the life I’ve led,” he elaborated with a bitter tone, and Harmilla eyed him studiously before sighing.
“You’re in the North now, boy. The true north. Here every man is as free and entitled to themselves as any other. If someone tries to take that away from you, you fucking open up his belly. You make a name for yourself by what you do, not by who you were. I don’t fucking care that you’re a bastard or a crow, I care about whether you’re a craven or a true warrior. Can I trust you on the battlefield?” she asked, and Rambton lowered his gaze.
“I can hold my own,” he stated, but Harmilla shook her head. “Any coward can ‘hold their own.’ I want to know if you’re going to fight for this army or just for yourself,” she elaborated, and Rambton lifted his gaze with a smirk. “I’m free to do whatever the fuck I please, however the fuck I want to. I don’t owe you or any other fish cunt here an explanation,” Rambton remarked bitterly, and to his surprise, Harmilla flashed an approving smile at him, which turned promiscuous as she eyed him up and down.
“Whatever the fuck you want, hm? And what do you want, One-eyed Crow?” she then asked, her tone flirtatious and bold. Rambton was quick to catch on. “I want to fuck you like this is my last night on this fucking miserable earth,” he stated lustfully, and was rewarding with a coy smirk. “We Free Folk have our way with love and fucking. We have to be stolen,” she stated wantonly, “If you want me, you’ll have to take me,” she added, and Rambton grinned as he grabbed her forearm, but she challenged his grip with her free hand.
“You don’t know if I want to be stolen though, One-eyed Crow,” she remarked, making Rambton smirk. “Oh, but I think I do,” he insisted, his other hand clutching beneath her legs. She released her grip on him willingly, and without warning Rambton hurled her over his shoulder.
Dawn was on the horizon as Rambton perched himself outside in the brisk. He was humid underneath all his furs from the night’s activities, so the cold was welcomed freely. Harmilla had been everything he had hoped for and more, they had fucked for hours into the night, and she had slept peacefully after that, but the same could not be said for Rambton. His mind wandered, haunted by his past, but also longing for another. Ariyana, he thought with some melancholy, imagining she had likely died on that battlefield. He had always wondered, but worse of all he had fallen for her charm, and occasionally he became this way. He quickly concealed these emotions as he heard footsteps in the snow approaching from the rear.
“Hey Rambton,” the Hornfoot, Daritus, greeted with tired eyes. He was accompanied by Paxtan and the fisherman – Elliot. Rambton assumed the Frozen Shore Man was on par with his age; he had two scars running across his cleanly shaved face, while his black hair was cut short, and behind his messy fringe could be found a set of hazel eyes. Rambton let out a sigh. “Brothers,” he greeted dryly in return, and they found their seat beside them.
“You’re up early,” Rambton acknowledged with a touch of curiosity, to which the men shrugged. “The hunt is best before dawn,” Da’ explained, and Elliot nodded. “Same with fishing,” he stated, and Rambton looked to Paxtan for his excuse. The fellow deserter simply shrugged. “I don’t sleep well,” he remarked, to which Rambton nodded silently, and a heavy sigh came from Daritus.
“So we find ourselves marching to war again, eh?” Daritus stated, and Rambton nodded shallowly. “And likely to our deaths,” he muttered, to which Da’ nodded. “Perhaps Jay was smarter than we,” Daritus suggested, but Paxtan let out a frustrated groan. “Can we not speak of that fucking bastard, please? He’s gone, we’re here, that’s that,” he grunted coldly, and Rambton gazed at him intently. The man was taking it hard, whether he had realised it or not, Jay was likely the closest thing he had to a friend for these years. And now he’s gone.
They all sat in silence for the hour, watching as the sun climbed up from the mountains in the east, setting a fiery glow across the frozen plains that surrounded them. It was a beauty, but something that became painful to the eye as the snow began to reflect the light. Rambton averted his eye from the rising sun, glaring across the shores. His eye flickered over a grey blob that was doused in glare. He stood to his feet, squinting his eye to identify a dozen or more figures. One was donned in red while the rest were grey, and there was a marking on their chests which Rambton recognised.
“Are those Ironborn?” Rambton realised with astonishment, bringing Paxtan to his feet to make out the kraken on their surcoats. Daritus and Elliot looked at Rambton with confusion. “Aye,” Paxtan acknowledged with a perplexed tone, before his feet started shuffling back towards the Greymyst halls. “Where are you going?” Daritus queried as he and Elliot rose to their feet. Paxtan reluctantly stopped.
“I may have once hailed from the Iron Islands, but it’s no secret that the Ironborn don’t like a Codd,” he elaborated laconically before turning to leave. Rambton raised an eyebrow before Elliot pointed his finger at them as they came closer. “Look! It’s Ha’akh, and Ox!” he exclaimed, and he began to walk towards them. Rambton exchanged glances with Daritus before reluctantly following after the fisherman. The Ironborn grew nearer until they noticed their approach, and their guard was put up to fend for themselves.
“Hold!” one of them called as they pointed a spear in their direction, only to evoke a groan from Ha’akh. “Put down that fucking stick you limp dick southerner. He’s one of mine,” Ha’akh grunted, and the Ironborn hesitated before he received a nod from the one clearly in command. Elliot past and embraced Ha’akh, passing a nod to Ox as well. “What’s going on?” Elliot then queried, but before Ha’akh could muster an answer, the one in red spoke.
“We are here on behalf of King Dagon Greyjoy, in search for Raymun Redbeard. Is he here?” the red-robed man queried, and Rambton answered. “No, Raymun was lost in the war against Fleshbearer. His brother, Prince Germun, is rallying an army in his name, but he’s not here at the moment either,” Rambton stated, and the man gazed at the Ironborn who was in charge with a disappointed eye before sighing. The one in command approached Rambton with a cold look in his green eyes; his long black hair fell past his shoulder, and his face was coated with a stubble.
“Who’s in charge here?” he asked, and Elliot spoke up. “Vormyr Gremyst, but he’s with Germun. His brother, Domund, is acting chieftain while he’s gone,” Elliot stated, and the Ironborn turned his gaze to the fisherman. “Take us to him,” he ordered, and Elliot obliged without question, leaving Rambton and Daritus in their wake. Ox held a fiery glare for Rambton before he was dragged away. This will complicate things, Rambton thought to himself as he then turned his eye to Daritus, who only shrugged. Perhaps I should go back to Harmilla, he thought, but then his mind also drifted to Paxtan. Or check if Codd is alright.
[Find Paxtan] I choose this mainly cause I feel like learning a bit more about Paxtan would be nice.
I gotta say, while Rambton's storyline has never exactly been a highlight of WBW for me, I really like how you write him. He is a bastard (and not just literally), but he still manages to be relatable and clearly has potential for some interesting character development. So, good job!
Post by LiquidChicagoTed on Mar 4, 2020 22:52:49 GMT
Finally, I'm here again! Apologies for missing so many votes, though rest assured that I read it all and I am fully caught up. I needed to catch up with the old parts as well, which was also worth it. Hopefully I will manage to vote on time in the future, because this story is worth it. I think I mentioned this before, it is kind of surreal, but extremely appreciated to see WBW again after so many years.
Gosh, almost three weeks since I've gotten a part out! I wish I could say I'd been pleasantly busy, but pleasant wouldn't be an accurate depiction. A lot has been going on which has just been disenchanting for me whenever I've had the time to sit down and write. I can't really say that problem has resolved, thus why it's taken me so long to get this one part done (which was meant to be a Phoenix part and then became a Germun part which I decided to rewrite twice), but I think I'm reasonably happy with it now. So without further ado, here it is (also welcome back Liquid, glad you're enjoying the story as much as I am ).
The Greymyst keep came into view in the far distance as their army wearily approached, their spirits uplifted at the sight of home. Many had been unimpressed with Neyla Greymyst’s decision to turn the army back home on the same day they had arrived, but Germun had witnessed the influence of her strength on the people of the Frozen Shores. They listened to her. Even her brother, Germun thought bitterly as he glared at the back of Vormyr’s head. Germun had been offered a place on Vormyr’s sled, be it for his act with the Walrus or simply for the absence of Eira, and had his legs not betrayed him he’d likely have refused. Fortunately there was space enough on this sled to find a place for his thoughts, and those who were of a busy mindset kept company with those of likeminded.
Germun dropped his gaze to his hands, looking at his grazed skin and bruised knuckles, they were a strange sight from the delicacy they had grown complacent with. It was no secret Germun had avoided a warrior’s life. Sure, he had learnt enough to get by with a sword if need be, but he had always had Raymun to deal with all the trouble he had caused. The memory of it brought a smile to his lips. The relationship between the king and his brother had never been a close bond, but by blood they were bound together and Raymun had always taken that seriously. He had fished Germun from many tight wedges between a rock and a hard place, and in return Germun would sing the song of Raymun’s Revelry – an oxymoron for the solemn warrior and his jovial brother.
The prince let out a sigh. It felt like these days of splendour had only been a night ago, and yet now Germun found his sleep haunted by the horror of an unwanted reality. Raymun may be dead, but while that thought pained Germun it was not what scared him the most. No, it was his blood binding that left him with sleepless nights. Raymun had proclaimed himself King of the Free Folk, rallying the many clans of the North to side with him in truly cutting the binds that tied them to the south, and that oath had sworn Germun’s servitude as well – not because of his blood or loyalty to his brother, but because that damned bastard had been paying it forward all these years and Germun knew the old gods would spite him if he didn’t.
So he looked at his hands, his eyes lost in a world of terror as his mind flinched at the possibility of these hands upholding a kingdom in his brother’s name. They grasped each other tightly, cutting off the blood that flowed through their veins until his skin began to tingle. His attention returned to the world around him when he noticed Neyla parting from her brother and approaching his end of the sled.
“Strange for a prince to sit alone, don’t you think?” she pondered as she found a seat beside him. Germun shrugged as he slipped his gloves over his hands and tucked them under his arms. “You need not call me a prince, Neyla. It’s my brother who lives for the titles, I just follow his requests,” Germun stated coldly, and the Greymyst girl smirked as she laid her head back.
“You’re a modest man, Germun. You make for a better leader than you realise,” she insisted, but Germun just rolled his eyes. “You’ve yet to meet the man I’m trying to convince you to fight for,” he remarked, to which Neyla shrugged. “We’re not fighting for Raymun Redbeard,” Neyla stated, pushing herself up. Germun furrowed his brow as he looked at her, and she flashed him a small smile. “We’re fighting for ourselves, and we’re fighting for you. You proved your strength to the Walrus, and I have seen your courage. You just need to convince my brother,” Neyla claimed, and Germun let out a groan.
“I gave him my woman, what more does he want?” he grumbled, and Neyla frowned as she placed a hand on his shoulder. “He did that to test your limits, he saw you as weak and played you for a fool. In return you portrayed him as weak for fighting Walrus when that fight was his,” Neyla stated, and Germun stared at her, perplexed. “I fought with Wacka for Raymun, not to cause strife with your brother,” he argued, but Neyla didn’t care for his motives.
“As for where it stands, my brother doesn’t have much love for you,” she stated blatantly, making Germun chuckle. “That makes two of us,” Germun retorted with a self-loathing tone, but a flash of Eira and Raymun before his eyes guilt him into constructive thought. “How can I set things straight with your brother, then?” he asked coldly, and Neyla shrugged in response. “It’s not for me to say. My brother is proud, he values our name and legacy enough to have murdered our father in cold blood for shaming the clan. Prove to him you’re worth following, and that you can make Clan Greymyst thrive from it, and he should follow,” Neyla advised, and Germun lowered his head in thought. Her suggestion was vague at best, but it was all he had.
On that note, the Greymyst girl departed, leaving Germun again to his thoughts. They overwhelmed him. This burden had surpassed that of which had been intended. I came here only to spread his name, not to lead an army for him, Germun thought anxiously, but it was no good to fret in times like these. Neyla was right, it was his duty to set things right with the Greymyst’s as it had been with the Walrus. If not for Raymun’s cause, than at least for his death. Germun pushed himself up, turning his gaze on the back of Vormyr, whom he reluctantly approached.
The clan chieftain consulted with his advisors, Fullerton, the Ice River man, and Walf the Horned - however as the ferret-looking man recognised his approach he took his leave. Vormyr turned his eyes to the path ahead of them, and Germun kept his eyes averted from the chieftain. “Can I help you, Prince?” Walf the Horned queried coldly as he glared at Germun – the Nightrunner prince held a strong composure as his brother had taught him. He crossed his arms, shaking his head.
“I’ve come to ask that very question,” Germun remarked, and Vormyr’s expression was perplexed a moment before returning to its stern state, and so Germun continued. “We have not seen eye to eye since I set foot in your halls, and while I may never be able to look at my woman in the same way again, I don’t wish that kind of disgust to be viewed upon our alliance,” Germun stated, and Vormyr remained as silent as a statue, making Germun sigh.
“I can see Clan Greymyst is an honourable clan, revered and renowned in the Frozen Shores. I’m asking a great amount for you to follow a man you don’t even know into battle, so what can I offer you to strengthen our alliance?” Germun questioned boldly, and Walf lifted his chin as he took a step towards him.
“You have nothing to offer, Nightrunner. You mock Greymyst’s glory by fighting the Walrus, and you prance around like a southerner. Do you know how many southerners’ skulls I’ve opened with this axe?” Walf taunted as he flashed his weapon before Germun’s eyes, but the brother of the king did not break his guard. “Quite a few, I’d imagine. If we can score an appropriate deal, I’d see you cracking open a few more,” Germun remarked, and the loyal guard snarled in response. Vormyr lifted his hand.
“Leave us, Walf,” he ordered, and the man scowled at Germun before obeying his chieftain. Germun gazed at Vormyr for a moment, who kept a stern glare at the frozen path ahead of them, before letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry I fought him, it wasn’t even my intention when we went to him, but I think it has been clear that it is Eira who is the diplomat of the two of us,” Germun claimed, evoking the first sly presence of emotion on the chieftain’s face: a smirk.
“She’s more than that,” he remarked with a provocative tone, and Germun swallowed the lump in his throat in favour for the greater picture. “I was acting on behalf of Raymun with the Walrus, but as my brother would say, we need to act on behalf of our people,” Germun remarked, and Vormyr shook his head. “The Frozen Shores know no king, and will not bend their freedoms to the will of one man’s ambitions. I allow your presence in my halls because my sister vouches for you, and you’ve succeeded in aligning the Walrus’ army with mine against my wishes. We will fight with you against Fleshbearer to defend our homes, people and freedom, but once the Ice River men are dealt with, our alliance is finished,” Vormyr remarked, and turned his shoulder to anymore discussion.
“I will be calling my people for council upon our return. You are expected to be there,” Vormyr then added, a gesture which confused Germun, but he nodded regardless. With that, Vormyr turned his attention elsewhere, and Germun left his side to return to his seat, feeling the eyes of Fullerton watch him as he did.
The day was drawing to an end by the time they had disembarked from their journey, the chieftain and his lobby of guards and advisors flocking with him to the great hall. Neyla past him an approving nod as she followed after her brother. Germun let out a tired groan as he ran his hands through his hair, gazing up at the glowing sky. A blood orange light graced the clouds that loomed overhead, and an aurora of northern lights danced around the early night, entrancing any who gazed upon their glory.
“Nightrunner!” a hard raspy voice shouted, pulling Germun from his trance and to a familiar old face. It was that old fisherman he and Eira had met before being sent in Clan Greymyst’s direction. It felt like almost an eternity ago. What was his name again? The giant of a man trudged through the snows with enclosed fists, and for a moment Germun thought the man would walk straight through him, but stopped close enough to impose his empowering stature over him.
“Hak,” Germun retorted with poor memory as he gazed at the large fisherman, who only lifted his nose with frustration. “Ha’akh!” he growled in correction, and Germun nodded with a small smile, not really caring to get the name right. “What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t interested in my brother’s war,” Germun stated, and the old fisherman snorted and spat before nodding as he crossed his arms.
“Aye, I don’t. Though some Ironborn cunts do, and they wanted to meet you,” Ha’akh stated, and Germun raised an eyebrow. “With little choice,” he added as he lifted his wrists, showing the chafing that had resulted from being bound. Germun shook his head with confusion. “Why would the Ironborn want to help us?” Germun asked, more to himself than anyone else, and Ha’akh shrugged carelessly. “Fuck knows, Nightrunner, but you managed to convince half of my village to fight for you after you left. Quite an army of Free Folk have arrived here since you’ve been gone yonder,” Ha’akh claimed, raising Germun’s eyebrows. He didn’t believe it.
“You look like shit,” he then added, and a small smile broke on Germun’s lips. “Well, that’s bound to happen when you choose to fight someone twice your size,” Germun remarked, and the fisherman glared at him with distant eyes before shrugging. “Never met a man twice my size,” Ha’akh grunted, making Germun grin as he placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Nor have I. Come, let’s go find some warmth indoors,” Germun suggested, and for once the two men found themselves in agreeance as they joined the crowd that flooded into the main hall.
When they finally made it in, Germun felt a wave of sticky heat engulf him. The stench of fish and body odour reeked through the halls of Clan Greymyst, but the hospitality was better than the frozen wasteland that surrounded them. Ha’akh took his leave to join with a few members of his village, and Germun found himself a seat on one of the dozen long tables, pouring himself a cup of ale to sit with his thoughts. They were shortly lasted.
“So you are the King’s brother then,” a voice deduced from before him, and Germun lifted his eyes to examine the man before him. He had a slim build concealed under a moody blue tunic and a trimmed gold cloak with two brooches that had engraved krakens on them. He took a seat opposite Germun, his deep green eyes staring harshly into Germun’s sea blue eyes for a moment before he flicked back his long black hair. “And you must be the Ironborn that Ha’akh was talking about,” Germun stated, making the man smirk.
“The halfwit speaks true. I am Phoenix Hwarden, advisor and friend to King Dagon Greyjoy, and captain of the Aquila,” the Ironborn introduced, extending his hand. Germun hesitantly accepted it. “Germun,” the Nightrunner remarked modestly, to which Phoenix nodded. “Did the halfwit tell you why we are here, Germun?” Phoenix queried, and Germun smiled to himself.
“Yes and no. You’re here to fight for my brother, but why you’re interested in Raymun’s affairs is still a mystery to me,” Germun admitted, and Phoenix crossed his arms. “My King has an interest in conquering the North under his banner, as does yours. Dagon believes we should not see each other as adversaries, but as allies. He has sent me in shape of his good will, and would like to meet with Raymun Redbeard to discuss this alliance further,” Phoenix revealed, and Germun raised an eyebrow before frowning.
“Well, I’m sure he would have been flattered, but my brother’s whereabouts are unknown to me. You may be going back to your king empty-handed,” Germun stated laconically, and Phoenix leant forward with a stern expression, his voice lowered. “I care not for who wears the crown over the wildlings, Germun, but I will see you savages attack the North from the north, or perhaps our services will go to the Night’s Watch instead of you,” Phoenix stated in warning, but Germun had grown tired and lax. He cared little for the Ironborn’s bluffs.
“You would have done that in the first place if you believed you could take the North on your own. I think your king knows that he needs an attack on two fronts if he’s going to stand a chance on taking the lands he hopes to keep,” Germun stated in thought as he rested his head back, “and perhaps he’s going to want people inhabiting the lands that are indebted to him, rather than looking to overthrow him,” Germun added, making Phoenix snarl, but the Nightrunner prince didn’t care.
“Be that true, I’m afraid we wildlings are likely going to die killing each other than the crows,” Germun uttered with a tired tone, and Phoenix let out a sigh. “Mayhaps, or mayhaps not. I have sent for my ship to navigate up the river to join us, and we have something that may help you in the war to come once this Fleshbearer is dealt with,” Phoenix claimed, making Germun raise an eyebrow, but the Ironborn did not reveal the mystery, and instead arose from his chair. “We will speak again,” he swore, and turned to join a crowd of his own. Among them, a man draped in red stared at him with transparent eyes that made Germun avert his gaze.
The booming voices of the Frozen Shore Men drowned out the hall of all peace of silence, but one voice could be heard above them all, and it silenced them like a headwind extinguishing a candle flame. Chieftain Vormyr stood at his table with his horn of ale lifted, surrounded by his advisors and family. Germun’s eyes met momentarily with Neyla before Vormyr spoke.
“Brothers, sisters! What a warm welcome home you have greeted us with!” Vormyr announced, and the folk of the Frozen Shores bashed their cups and cheered in approval until Vormyr once again silenced them. “We travelled to the far west, and we brought Wacka the Walrus into submission. He will fight for us against Fleshbearer.” Vormyr stated, and his people cheered as Germun rolled his eyes. With us, he wanted to say, but few would hear him, and fewer would care.
“Fleshbearer and his lackeys march to fight us, and we’ll give that fucker a good fight. We’ll meet him at the Falls, and we’ll fight beneath the ice until we stand victorious!” Vormyr shouted, and his people joined him in drink. “By morrow we’ll begin preparing for Fleshbearer’s arrival. So I say we fuck and feast until dawn!” Vormyr announced, and his people cheered in agreeance before recommencing their enjoyment and chatter. Germun let out a heavy sigh. This will be a long night.
The hour was late and the morning early when Germun decided to stagger out of the hall for a piss and rest. He alleviated himself and stumbled back to his room, pleased to find the hearth stocked on this cool night. His tired eyes focused on his bed with warm greeting, as he slipped his boots off and pulling off his tunic, he rested his sword in the corner of the room. When he turned to stagger to his bed, a red figure caught his eye by the fire.
“Hello, prince,” the voice greeted with an enigmatic tone. Startled, Germun stumbled back for his sword, but the man in red lifted his hand peacefully. “There’ll be no need for that, Germun. I come with peace,” the man assured him, and Germun furrowed his eyebrows as he glared intently at the man. “Do I know you?” he asked, his eyes barely able to focus on the man’s features. Unsurprisingly the man shook his head, lifting himself up from the fire and approaching Germun with solemn eyes.
“I am Asshkaan, a red priest in service of R’hllor: the Lord of Light and one true god,” the man stated, and Germun nodded carelessly. “Good for you, what are you doing here?” Germun asked impatiently, and Asshkaan looked back to the fire. “My Lord has tasked me with finding your brother, and I need your help to do that,” the man admitted plainly, to which Germun gazed at him perplexed before rolling his eyes.
“I told your captain, I don’t know where my brother is,” Germun grumbled tiredly, and Asshkaan nodded patiently. “I don’t need your words, only your blood,” Asshkaan stated, and Germun looked at him with a confused gaze before his eyes widened, and he quickly reached for his sword. The red priest caught him in the act, gripping Germun’s blade and opening a fresh wound on his hand. Germun looked at him with astonishment before the red priest backed away, flicking his blood into the fire and erupting a great burst of flame in the shape of a great elk.
“What sorcery is this?” Germun mumbled with wonder, and Asshkaan knelt before the hearth gazing at its burning red coals, the flames dancing in his eyes. “Come see for yourself,” he insisted, and Germun’s curiosity got the better of him. He sat beside him and stared into the flames, seeing nothing for a moment before suddenly something revealed itself. He saw the Wall in all its glory, stretching from one ocean to another, and atop of it a great flame that attracted all the beasts of the far north. Packs of direwolves walked beside reindeer and woolly mammoths, cave bears coursed down rivers with trout and salmon, and all the birds in the sky flew in the same direction. South. All to the one flame, one flame which would burn all in its path, burning the new and replacing it with the old. Germun felt a thick lump lodge in his throat.
“The flame… It’s Raymun, isn’t it?” Germun muttered in realisation, and the red priest nodded. “The flame atop the Wall still burns. Your brother lives, that is certain. You have king’s blood, Germun, I require no more than a drop to see what I must see,” Asshkaan pleaded, and as Germun stared into the flames, he brought his hand forward. The red priest sliced open his finger and let the Nightrunner’s blood flow into the hungry flames beneath. The fire turned black with his blood, and Asshkaan stared intently with horror. Germun saw nothing. The fire returned to its original state.
“What is it? What did you see?” Germun asked, almost frightened of what he may learn, and a shiver ran down the priest’s skin. “It’s what I didn’t see that frightens me. A dark magic surrounds your brother, and I cannot see through it,” Asshkaan revealed, and Germun’s brow furrowed with confusion. “What does that mean? Is he alright?” Germun uttered frantically, and Asshkaan shook his head. “I cannot be certain, but whatever is blocking me from seeing him is powerful, very powerful indeed. I must consult with my Lord,” Asshkaan muttered, and quickly egressed Germun’s quarters before the prince could even begin to comprehend what had just happened.
Germun crumbled before the hearth, laying his head in his hands. Oh Raymun, what have you gotten yourself into? Germun thought to himself fearfully, glancing back into the fire once again. He saw nothing but dancing flames. Letting out a heavy sigh, he pushed himself upright and moved himself to the bed, feeling somewhat sober and wide awake with thought. He stared at the bed with a heavy heart, his thoughts lingering on his sweet Eira. The memory quickly soured. Damn Vormyr to all the hells, Germun cursed as he rested his head against the bedpost, he could not manage to swear against Eira in the same way.
As if to further disturb him, he heard a knock at his door. For fuck sake, Germun thought with frustration as he walked to the door and opened it, giving a harsh glare to whomever stood on the other side of it. To his surprise, his eyes met with the icy blue eyes of Neyla Greymyst, who looked just as astonished as he as her eyes gazed upon his bare chest. She quickly composed herself, lifting her eyes to his. “I can come back later,” she suggested, and Germun quickly shook his head, opening his door to her. “Please, come in,” he insisted politely, and the Greymyst girl hesitantly looked at him before accepting his offer.
She gazed around the room and let out a sigh. “You left the ceremony early,” she stated, and Germun shrugged. “It’s been a long day, I didn’t want to outstay my welcome,” Germun remarked plainly, to which Neyla nodded. “My brother is a stubborn sod, but I think he will come around. He spoke more in favour of you this evening,” Neyla claimed, but Germun only rolled his eyes.
“I heard nothing but lies come from his mouth this entire feast,” Germun muttered, and Neyla nodded with a sigh. “He is the chieftain to a great clan, sometimes the truth isn’t what the people need to hear. Clan Greymyst has lived under the Walrus’ shadow for decades, the people need to believe we are free of Wacka,” Neyla insisted, but Germun shook his head. “Your people need to accept we are allies with the Walrus, not enemies,” Germun muttered, making Neyla scowl at him.
“Not killing each other at first sight is the closest our two clans have come to being friends, have patience. I can’t imagine the alliance between the Nightrunners and Hornfoots was easy at first,” Neyla claimed, to which Germun shrugged. “Didn’t really count for much at the end of the day. They all died, and we likely will too,” Germun muttered, making Neyla roll her eyes as she placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Do you remember what you said to me those years ago when I wanted nothing but death after having been a captive by Fleshbearer for so long?” Neyla asked, and Germun frowned. He had said much to women in distress, and Neyla had just been another one of those cases, but she need not hear that. He shook his head. “You said to me that no matter what, we had to keep living. You said that we were Free Folk, and as long as our hearts were beating, it was our responsibility to march on to protect our freedom. You gave me a purpose to live, it kept me alive. You kept me alive,” Neyla claimed, and Germun was somewhat astounded that he had spoken that kind of wisdom. Raymun’s words, undoubtedly, Germun rationalised, but that thought quickly left his mind as the Greymyst girl pressed a kiss on his lips.
His shocked eyes met with hers, and startled, he pushed her away. Immediate guilt and regret flooded her eyes as she shyly lowered her gaze, and a stream of thoughts rushed through Germun’s head. He was committed to Eira, he had not stolen her, but he knew in his heart he loved her. She was practically family. And yet there was a hunch, it had been put there by Vormyr, and Germun couldn’t look at her the same way again. He lifted his gaze to Neyla’s, feeling guilt but passion. Eira had wronged him in his brother’s name, if he did this, he could not hide behind Raymun for support. His actions were his own. Could I really ever love her again? Perhaps a Greymyst could mend his heart as easily as another Greymyst had broken it.
Alrighty, I have the next part ready, which goes to Phoenix. We recently saw him arriving with the Ironborn to Clan Greymyst in Rambton's part, and then talking with Germun in the last part. This scene takes place at the ceremony that Germun just left
The great hall buzzed with savage revelry, while Phoenix and his men isolated themselves into a far corner to enjoy their drink the iron way. Phoenix watched his men with amusement as Andiron Quarter-Iron played the finger dance with Kober Goodbrother. So far neither of them had been game to take a catch, which evoked boredom from the crowd. “Come on you cowards, catch the damn thing!” one of Phoenix’s men shouted, to which he received a hard glare from Kober. “You want to try, Agnar? Be my guest,” the man insisted, but the Ironborn just chuckled and crossed his arms. Phoenix let out a sigh and stood up.
“The only bastard foolish enough to play this game is Tanner, and we know how many fingers he has left,” Phoenix remarked, evoking a chuckle from his men. Phoenix walked to Kober and took the axe from his hands, relieving the Goodbrother of the game. He turned to his opponent, who took a wide stance and opened his arms ready for a catch. Phoenix smirked as he kissed the head of his axe, then hurling it in Andiron’s direction at such a speed that he was almost too late in throwing himself out of the way. The men boomed with laughter.
“Damn near shat your pants, Quarter-Iron?” one said as he offered a hand to Andiron, but the Quarter-Iron was not one to be mocked, taking the Ironborn’s hand and tackling the man to the ground. The men cheered as the brawl commenced, and Phoenix joined them in laughter as he watched Andiron pummel the teeth out of the boy – whose laughter had turned to grimace.
“Lord Hwarden,” a strong voice greeted from behind them, and Phoenix raised an eye to then meet their host – Chieftain Vormyr, with a dozen savages at his back. The Greymyst was empowering in height, and his cold gaze made Phoenix’s skin crawl. The Ironborn glared at the wild lord in pause. “You’re causing a ruckus, and my friends here are getting jealous of all the fun you’re having,” Vormyr stated, and Phoenix’s lips broke into a smile as he raised his cup.
“Forgive us, Chieftain. It is an Ironborn game, not for the likes of those with cold fingers,” Phoenix explained with a smirk, and his men supported him in laughter, but Vormyr kept a cold glare on him. “Is that so?” the chieftain challenged with an ominous tone as he circled Phoenix, his men fanning out around them. Phoenix kept a jovial spirit. “You’re welcome to try your luck, but I can’t guarantee the safety of your fingers,” Phoenix warned him, and the chieftain smirked at him.
“It’s not my fingers you need to worry about, Lord Ironborn,” the Greymyst taunted, and Phoenix’s men thrived on the challenge. Phoenix let out a sigh and shrugged his shoulders. “Very well. The game is simple, I throw an axe at you, and you must either catch it or leap over it without missing a step. You can either have an axe already, leaving you with one hand, or have both hands free. Fall and you lose,” Phoenix explained, and the chieftain nodded as he accepted an axe from one of Hwarden’s men. “Would you like to take the first throw?” Phoenix conned, and the man shook his head, spreading a smile across Phoenix’s lips. So be it, he thought as he took an axe and pressed his lips to it. With a swift fling, Phoenix hurled the weapon towards the Greymyst, and those watching gasped with result.
Phoenix’s heart sunk as he processed what had just happened. Vormyr stood before him with his feet planted, and Hwarden’s axe caught firmly in one hand, his own in the other. He had never seen a one-handed catch, nor someone catch an axe on the first throw, and alas it was now his turn, and he had two axes. Phoenix braced himself as he watched the chieftain’s movements closely, the man was patient and identical in Phoenix’s strategy. He hurled his first axe to Phoenix’s centre, which the captain merely managed to leap over. However the second throw caught him off guard, he had barely recovered from his jump before the axe spun towards his head. He merely managed to dodge it, with the sharpened edge kissing his temple as it flung past his ear. Phoenix fell to the floor disorientated.
“I guess that means I win,” Vormyr remarked plainly, but Kober was not of a like mind. “That was an illegal throw!” the Goodbrother yelled, and some of the Ironborn reached for their axes, provoking the wildling to reach for theirs. Vormyr remained complacent. “Was it?” he queried carelessly, and Phoenix left himself back to his feet, feeling a warm trickle of blood running down the side of his face. His men looked to him for direction, Vormyr’s men looked at him for blood, and Vormyr stood with full control. Phoenix couldn’t help but beat the smile off his face, it reminded him of a similar circumstance where he had bested Tanner, chopping off two fingers. Phoenix replicated his response.
“How about another round?”
An hour or more past and the Ironborn still played the dance with the Frozen Shore Men, joining in his arms and freeing of fingers. Andiron Quarter-Iron had remained champion so far, with Kober losing a finger and Agnar a hand. Those who did not play only encouraged others to keep playing, and Phoenix sat side-by-side with the chieftain, sharing an ale as they cheered on their men. The two had expressed few words in their time, but Phoenix had grown drunk, and his words were beginning to fall out.
“Where did you learn to throw like that?” he slurred, and Vormyr raised an eyebrow before shrugging. “There’s a great many things we Frozen Shore Men can do with an axe,” he said with pride, making Phoenix scoff. “We Ironborn are the axe!” he claimed, and some Ironborn cheered as they heard him. Vormyr expressed a small smile as he reclined back.
“Tell me, Hwarden, why does your king want to conquer the south?” Vormyr queried with interest, and Phoenix mellowed down a smidgeon in thought. He had never really questioned Dagon’s motives, it was not his place, and his actions coincided with Phoenix’s ambitions. “Those southerners have been shitting on us Ironborn for thousands of years. We Ironborn are a force to be reckoned with!” Phoenix exclaimed, making Vormyr chuckle.
“Aye, I can level with that. The southerners and Night’s Watch have hunted down the Free Folk since as long as we could remember, I can understand why a lot of folk want to follow a man who would take it back to them, but not me,” Vormyr stated, and Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Why the fuck not?” Phoenix questioned, almost more angered than curious, but the chieftain didn’t seem to care for his abrupt question.
“Before me there was my father, Skakal. He was a cunt of a man, constantly fighting and fucking until he could fuck no more and lost his will to fight. He made a lot of enemies, and he really fucked our clan. So I killed him to save my people, and I killed others to save my people. I won’t just march them down south to die for the sake of vengeance and anger, there’s more to it all than that,” Vormyr remarked, and Phoenix let out a sigh as he crossed his arms.
“Aye, there is more to it than that,” Phoenix agreed, his head feeling clearer in thought. “We’re prisoners. Aye, you may style yourself the Free Folk, but you’re hunted down and attacked in your homes by the southerners. You can’t leave here freely. Same with us, we have sailed the world as Ironborn, but there is nowhere in Westeros where we are welcome. They hate us, and it’s not about treating with them. It’s about getting rid of them and starting anew,” Phoenix stated, and Vormyr paused in thought before the two were interrupted by a familiar face.
“Asshkaan!” Phoenix greeted with a wide grin and open arms, but the red priest kept a stern expression. “Lord’s blessings, Chieftain,” Asshkaan greeted respectfully before turning his gaze onto Phoenix. “Lord Hwarden, may I have a word with you?” Asshkaan pleaded with an urgent tone, making Phoenix raise an eyebrow before letting out a heavy sigh and giving him a nod. “Excuse me,” Phoenix pardoned, and the chieftain nodded. The red priest had already began walking, forcing Phoenix to stumble after him.
“What’s this all about, priest?” Phoenix muttered with impatience, and the man of R’hllor was precise. “I visited the prince to see if I could find Raymun in the flames. I couldn’t see him,” Asshkaan claimed, and Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Phoenix queried, and for once Asshkaan shook his head at a loss. “I don’t know, he could be guarded by a seer of some sort, or possibly surrounded by some kind of dark magic. Whatever it may be, I must find out,” Asshkaan claimed, making Phoenix stop.
“What are you saying, priest?” Phoenix grunted, and Asshkaan let out a sigh. “I’m leaving, Hwarden. The Lord of Light tasked me with finding Azor Ahai, and he takes form as Raymun Redbeard. I must find him, no matter the cost,” Asshkaan retorted, but Phoenix shook his head. “You swore an oath to our king! You promised you would help him in our war to come!” Phoenix growled, and Asshkaan nodded.
“I promised I would find King beyond the Wall and aid him in attacking the North. I will honour that promise, but not with just any wildling chieftain. It must be Raymun,” Asshkaan proclaimed, but his prophecies only served to anger Phoenix. “Fuck Raymun! If you leave now, then you are breaking your ties with me and thus your oath to Dagon, I will have to kill you,” Phoenix warned him, but Asshkaan rolled his eyes.
“You can barely stand, Hwarden, and my position remains. I would have already left had I not the audacity to offer you one last token of my gratitude before I depart,” Asshkaan explained ambiguously, and Phoenix stared at him with a perplexed expression as the red priest revealed a long silver chain with a single great ruby as its pendant. It was unlike any gem that Phoenix had laid his eyes upon, it was transcending; it glimmered and glowed unlike any other ruby he had ever seen. The red priest offered it to him with a small smile on his lips.
“The night is dark and full of terrors; I hope that even if you choose not to accept the Lord of Light as the one true god, that you will at least accept this gift from me,” Asshkaan stated, placing the gem in his hand. Phoenix looked at it in trance before lifting his gaze to the red priest with a snarky attitude. “I’m sure I’ll be able to fetch a good price for it once we head back south,” he remarked, pocketing the jewel before turning his back on the priest. He did not care to look back, the priest may have shown empathy now, but Phoenix would not excuse his poisoning of Dagon’s faith to the Drowned God.
He headed back indoors, welcomed by the warmth and comfort of the Greymyst halls, which Phoenix quickly came to realise the significance of their name as his eyes got lost in the puffs of smoke that engulfed the roof high above. His head spun and his ears drummed with the sound of laughter all around him. He barely noticed he had found himself a seat at an empty table before he felt his legs relax. He pulled the necklace from his pocket and gazed at it for a moment, admiring its complexity. He wondered of its history.
“Pretty necklace, Ironborn,” a man gloated as he sat opposite Phoenix with a grin spread across his face, and Phoenix donned the silver, tucking the ruby underneath his shirt. He gazed at the man opposite him, vaguely recognising him. “Did you shave your beard suddenly, Vormyr?” Phoenix asked with a grin, and the man glared at him with a look that seemed loathing.
“I am Domund, we met earlier today, remember?” the man remarked with a cold tone, and Phoenix gazed at him for a moment before nodding. “Aye, the brother. What can I do for you?” Phoenix mumbled with a slurred tone, he was near ready to hit the bunks. “I hear you are looking for warriors to attack the south,” Domund uttered, and Phoenix chuckled as he poured himself another ale.
“Not much of a secret, but aye, that’s the truth,” Phoenix confessed as he took a sip from his cup. Domund crossed his arms. “You know my brother will never do it, right?” Domund claimed, making Phoenix shrug. “So he says,” Phoenix remarked, paying little attention to this conversation. Domund glanced around him awkwardly before leaning towards Phoenix with a hushed voice. “What if I told you I could lead Clan Greymyst south to fight with you?” Domund proposed, and Phoenix raised an eyebrow as he lowered his drink. Domund cleared his throat.
“I am my brother’s second, if anything were to happen to him, I would be the next chieftain of our clan,” he explained, and Phoenix found himself amused. “You’re proposing we undermine your brother, and how do you plan on doing that exactly?” Phoenix queried, to which Domund looked around nervously before answering. “Accidents happen on the battlefield,” Domund summed up plainly, making Phoenix laugh. The idea was preposterous, but there was some potential that Phoenix could spot in this plan. Domund was manipulable, and that could be used to Dagon’s advantage.
“Say you do go through with this little plan of yours and choose to help us in our endeavour to rape and reave Westeros, what is it you would want in return?” Phoenix queried, and Domund sat back for a moment before answering. “Germun is a loose end and Raymun is dead, whether the people like it or not. I want your help in making me king, and I want half of what we conquer,” Domund negotiated, and Phoenix had to hold back the urge to burst into laughter. Dagon would never accept those terms, no Ironborn would, but Domund need not know that. Phoenix needed an army, and while this method was flawed, Domund’s plan had potential. I could just sell him out to his brother and hope for the best, Phoenix also thought.
[Agree to Domund’s terms] [Tell him you will think about it – sell him out]
[Agree to Domund’s terms] Ahhh... scheming and backstabbing, let's go! XD No but seriously, it makes perfect sense for Phoenix to play the Greymysts against each other to his benefit, and I'd certainly like to see how that goes. I am kinda starting to like Vormyr though, so I won't even be that disappointed if this scheme fails
Alrighty, I had a bit with the next part so I decided to postpone it and move onto another one, which happens to go to Melinda (Raymun's wife). Overall I'm pretty happy with how this part came out, I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. I do apologise I'm not pumping out parts all that quickly as I was, I thought quarantine would motivate me with all this extra time, but it just turns out I'm lazy now that I'm unemployed and alone XD I am still writing though, be it for this story, my RD2 fan fic, or just sketching ideas for WN or the Invasion, so fret not. Always got big plans Anyway, here's next part.
That had drawn on long in her mind as she laid wide awake staring into the darkness. She was not unfamiliar with a sleepless night, they had plagued her for much of the duration that Raymun had been away at war, and even more so now that he had returned. However now what disturbed her peace was Raymun’s new founded plan, one which she had not been privy to, and still wasn’t. He had brought that crow into their home years ago, and Mel had learned to live with it and even come to accept him, but now to hold the leader of the crows in their home was unspeakable. It was unacceptable. Does he no longer value my opinion in all this? Her restless energy must have awoken him, as the king rolled over and glanced at her with those bright blue eyes, acting like beacons in the darkness.
“What troubles you, my love?” he whispered, cautious not to awake the kids. At least he has some compassion, Mel thought bitterly, and she needn’t even say what was on her mind before he reached to caress her hair. “Do you trust me, Melinda?” he asked quietly, and Mel frowned at the question. Of course she did, he was her king, her husband, her one true love. She nodded solemnly, and Raymun propped himself up on one arm. “Then why do you doubt?” he questioned softly, and Mel found herself averting his gaze.
“I live for you, Raymun, I give you all I can. My counsel, my love, two sons and my absolute loyalty. Why couldn’t you just inform me of this ‘grand’ plan of yours? Why did you hide it from me until it was already upon us?” It all came out of her with a strategic attack that she had been planning since the moment they hopped into bed, and it left her king at a loss of words for a moment. Mel’s instinct wanted to pounce on him before wronging her, but Raymun was no longer any ordinary man. He was a king, he was her king, and she had to have limits. Raymun let out a sigh.
“I never intended to hide this from you. You are my Queen, and I value you in every aspect, especially that of your counsel. Yet there are some things I must trust my heart with,” Raymun claimed, and Mel simply gave him a nod. The answer was unsatisfactory, but she was too tired to argue. She laid her head down to rest, and Raymun did the same, looking up to the ceiling. “I’ve been getting a dream ever since the battle. Too often for me to ignore,” he stated, and Mel turned her attention to him curiously.
“It is of a man, one with looks very similar to Rumak’s girl, hair as black as night and eyes like amethysts. He wears armour like that of a southerner, but he does not act like one. He rides a winged horse, preying a certain prey he has yet to find, while a white dragon preys on him. I see the Wall, and I see a boy in black,” Raymun stated, and Mel raised an eyebrow before shaking her head. “And you think this leader of the crows can help you decipher this dream?” Mel remarked coldly, to which Raymun shook his head.
“I think this captain of crows can safeguard me south of the Wall so I can find this man,” Raymun claimed, making Mel roll her eyes. “You should forget this dream, that’s all it is,” Mel urged him, but Raymun was adamant. “Some dreams are more than just dreams, we wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t true,” he remarked, making Mel sigh. “I want you to communicate with your mother, I will need her help in ‘convincing’ this Musgood to take me south,” Raymun added plainly, and Mel’s eyes widened before she immediately shook her head.
“No,” she blurted defiantly, and Raymun turned his gaze on her. “I don’t want to speak with her, I don’t want her near our children. I’ve been trying to shield us from her, she’s dangerous!” Mel argued, making Raymun frown as he lowered his gaze. “I have to take that risk, Mel. If we do not make our stand now, then our stand will be forgotten, and everyone who has died for me will have died for nothing. Please, wife, do this for me,” he pleaded, glancing at her with those eyes… She hated what those eyes could make her do.
“Fine,” she muttered reluctantly, to which Raymun flashed her a small appreciative smile. Mel had no interest in reciprocating it. This was no small feat that he had asked of her, if anything, he had just asked her to curse their blood and doom their destiny, but that was what he wanted. And who am I to defy my king? She lifted herself out of bed, dressing herself without a word. She felt his eye coursing over her with confusion. “You’re leaving now?” he asked, and she didn’t need to answer him. “I’ll come with you,” he suggested, but she shook her head. “I will go alone,” she insisted, and a cold look in his direction put him in his place. He let out a sigh and nodded, and with that she left the room.
She checked in on her sons before leaving, assured they were fast asleep. Her body began to tremble with the fear of putting them in danger. It was one thing to bring a crow into their home, but another to let her in. Mel pulled on her boots and headed outside, her eyes immediately falling on the glowing tent where the Lord Commander was being held. Her feet dragged her in that direction, and she was quickly met by Konnor, who was egressing the tent.
“Melinda,” he greeted with a mix of surprise and shock at the sight of her. “I didn’t think you would be up this late, or early,” he uttered awkwardly, and Mel sighed. “Just going for a night stroll. How is the progress?” she asked, to which Konnor shrugged. “Clara and Amathe are still in there, but the crow hasn’t spoken much. I don’t think there’s much left in him,” Konnor admitted, and Mel nodded.
“Leave someone to guard him and get some rest, Raymun will want to see him in the morning,” Mel stated, and Konnor nodded. “Can I give you some company, I don’t like the idea of you being out there alone,” Konnor stated, to which Mel gave him an appreciative smile but shook her head. “Thank you, Konnor. I’ll be fine,” she assured him, but he seemed less sure. Regardless, he gave her a nod and took his leave. Mel frowned as she watched his back, then turning to head to the edge of the village. She stared into the darkness, feeling her skin crawl as she looked beyond it. Let’s get this over with.
The tall trees of the Haunted Forest thinned out into an open meadow of nothing but snow and a single weirwood tree at its centre – it was as if the heart tree’s presence sucked the life out of anything for a mile in its circumference. A sense of unease crawled over her skin as each step brought her closer to tree, until it was finally before her, looming above her as an imposing figure of dominance. She dropped to her knees, her hands falling onto the petrified milky roots that extruded from the snow. Mother.
Her voice echoed in her mind, she let her eyes fall back, falling into the unknown. The earth ripped away from her, spiralling her into the abyss until only darkness revealed itself to her. She was in her grasp now, at her complete mercy, and she knew she didn’t deserve mercy. Soon the darkness began to form a picture. Mel found herself in a lake of blood, fuelled by the corpses that were littered in it. Melinda walked amongst them, gazing at their faces. Gronn, Konnor, Amathe, some faces mutilated, other faces that pleased her to be there, but her heart stopped once she saw her sons.
At the centre of this lake was yet another heart tree, more imposing than the last. Its red leaves had fallen bare into the red velvet that lapped beneath, and stood as a petrified corpse, with a thousand branches serving as a thousand arms, and upon those branches perched a thousand ravens. Its roots thrived on blood, and the birds on flesh. It had never been more alive. Mel crumbled to her knees before the tree, feeling three thousand black beads stare at her with despair.
“So the prodigal daughter returns, as I knew she always would,” a voice chimed, powerful and yet distant, omniscient and dark. Her voice echoed all around her, sending ripples through the blood that stained Mel’s cloak and drenched her knees. Mel lowered her gaze to the blood beneath her, and saw eyes staring back at her, blue eyes, and hair kissed by fire. She clamped her tongue, resisting her instinct to scream. She knew her mother would feed from it.
“I have come by my husband’s request,” Mel explained laconically with an assertive voice, but even she could tell her strength was waning in her mother’s presence. A cryptic laugh echoed around her, scratching at her ears, and the ravens squawked with deafening amusement. “Raymun Redbeard seeks answers to his dreams,” her mother proclaimed, and Mel lifted her gaze with horror. She knows.
“Of course I knew. Did you truly think you could hide yourself from me forever? Or your two sweet boys?” she remarked, and Mel’s heart thumped in her chest. “You leave them out of this!” Mel screamed, but this only served to further amuse her mother. “Such fragility, you truly have lost your nerve, Melinda,” she taunted, and Mel’s fists closed with rage as she turned her gaze upon the heart tree. “Perhaps young Tormund will prosper where you could not,” she suggested, and Mel’s eyes widened. NO!
Melinda’s scream rippled through the blood, surging around her and scattering the ravens from the weirwood. They squawked and screeched and circled her with death, swiping at her one by one. They pecked at her eyes and ripped at her flesh, digging their talons into her until together they lifted her into the air. Mel’s vision turned red, and her surroundings turned black with dark feathers, yet beyond that she saw her. Crawling out of the weirwood she saw her. Her flesh was as pale as snow, hardened and rotting, petrified with twigs and branches grew out of her hardened flesh. Her eyes wept a red stain down her cracked cheeks, her eyes bloody and black, and a crooked smile flashed a half-a-dozen black teeth, filed to a point with maggots and worms crawling out from her gob. Her presence rallied the conspiracy of ravens to dress her nude petrified flesh with their dark feathers, presenting the infamous seer in all her might. The Weir Witch. Beside her stood a frightened young boy, her youngest son, who hid behind her mother, staring at Mel with horror.
“Tormund!” Mel screamed, but her voice choked with silence, and this only evoked a chuckle from her mother. “He’s mine now,” she claimed, and before Mel could find the strength to reach for her son, she found herself being dragged deeper into the lake. Blood stained her flesh, stung her eyes and filled her lungs, drowning her in the deep red abyss. “Soon, they all will be.”
Voices yelled at her, echoing all around her and yet speaking in tongues she could not recognise. “Mel!” one cried, a voice stronger than the rest and all too familiar. She forced her eyes open, finding herself before her king, a startled look in his deep blue eyes as he grasped onto her tightly. Mel glanced around her frantically, the morning sky was cloaked with cloud, and the morning dew nipped at her skin. “Where am I?!” she screamed frantically, and Raymun pulled her close.
“It’s alright, you’re home, you’re safe,” he assured her, and Mel peered over her shoulder at their small village. Eyes. Eyes stared at her. Gronn, Konnor, Amathe, and all the rest of them, they crowded around her with those critical eyes. “Where are my sons?” she cried, then pulling herself away from her husband. “Raymun, where is Tormund and Geren?” she wept, but thankfully her question was answered when her two sons pushed through the crowd and came running to her.
“Mother!” they yelled, and Mel grasped them both tightly. “Thank the gods you’re alright,” she uttered, and Geren gave her a strange gaze while Tormund hugged her tightly. “What the fuck is going on here?” Gronn growled as he approached, and Raymun turned his gaze on Mel for a moment before arising. “You all have work to be doing, get on with it!” he shouted, and intervened with Gronn before he could make it to Mel and the boys. The two men exchanged distasteful glares before Gronn went his own way, and Raymun turned his gaze back on Mel. Konnor quickly came to his side.
“Mel, what happened?” Konnor asked with concern, and Raymun knelt beside her and the children, pulling her hair back from her face. “I found you out here twitching and screaming,” he stated, but Mel paid their words no attention. She glanced at her trembling hands that held both her sons, they were pale and white, but there was no trace of blood on them. She clenched them before pulling herself away from the boys.
“Konnor, take the boys,” she ordered him, and he did without hesitation. Mel turned her gaze on Raymun. “We need to talk,” she urged him, and he nodded. “Let’s head inside.” He helped her up and escorted her back to their home. Mel found herself a seat by the fire, and Raymun quickly found one beside her. He placed a hand on her thigh, but he was quickly met with a hard and swift punch in the chest.
“Damn you! You don’t realise what you’ve made me do!” she yelled, and Raymun kept his reserve as he recovered from the hit. “What happened?” he asked, his voice calm and steady but assertive. Mel lowered her gaze and shook her head. “She said she had known about us the entire time, about our sons, she said she has Tormund!” she exclaimed, and Raymun frowned.
“Do you think she may have just said that to provoke you?” Raymun suggested, but Mel shook her head with frustration. “She knew, Raymun! She knew, and now I’ve let her in because you wanted me to! Raymun I’m scared, I’ve endangered my sons and you, I…” her voice drifted, and Raymun grasped her tightly and pulled her into his embrace. “Everything is alright, Mel. We will protect them, nothing will happen to them,” he promised her, but she knew they were idle promises. There’s nothing we can do now, she thought hopelessly, and Raymun brushed her hair behind her ear.
“Did you mention my dream? Did she say anything?” he asked, and Mel stared at him with disbelief for a moment before letting out a sigh. “Yes, she claimed she knew of your dreams, I’m sure she’ll be in touch,” Mel muttered coldly, freeing herself from Raymun’s grip and putting her hands over the fire. Raymun frowned as he crossed his arms, voicing his concern and disappointment with a heavy sigh.
“I spoke with the Lord Commander while you were gone,” Raymun claimed, and Mel raised an eyebrow. “Get anything useful?” she asked, to which Raymun shrugged. “He gave nothing of the Wall’s defences or numbers, but urged me to not march on the Wall for we would be destroyed,” Raymun chuckled, “I take that as their numbers being low,” Raymun deduced, and Mel sighed. “So what are you going to do?” she asked, and Raymun brought himself to his feet.
“Tyno left earlier this morning to spread our name to the Cave Dwellers, and Amathe has been doping the captain of crows with poppy milk for the last hour. I’d say he will be more compliant now then he was earlier,” Raymun stated, to which Mel sighed. “And you still plan to smuggle yourself south?” she asked, and Raymun nodded. “I will take Konnor and Tormund with me,” he added, and Mel’s eyes widened.
“Konnor, fine, but Tormund? If that’s the case then I’m coming with you,” she stated, but Raymun shook his head. “If Tormund is in danger as you say, I’ll keep him as far away from your mother as I can, but I need you here to counsel Geren. I’m leaving him in charge, and the types of Gronn and Amathe aren’t too approving of that,” Raymun claimed, making Mel frown.
“Fine,” Mel muttered, and Raymun placed a hand on her shoulder. “There are many who will look to seize the opportunity of power while I am gone. Geren will need you,” he reinstated, and Mel nodded. She understood, more than she liked to admit. Men play at being the head, while women are the neck. Raymun moved himself to the other end of the hearth, staring into the fire with a brooding gaze. “I have sent Clara north to find any Hornfoots that are still loyal to our cause. Await for her and Tyno, and when they return, head west,” he informed her, and Mel raised an eyebrow.
“West?” she queried with confusion, and Raymun nodded. “The Frozen Shores,” he elaborated, and it suddenly dawned on Mel as if it were some distant memory. “We shall see what good my brother’s word is worth,” he announced, and Mel brought herself over to him. He embraced her tightly before laying a kiss on her. She savoured it, knowing it could well be the last one for another long while. Back again, if only for a moment.
Alright, it's been a month and I do apologise. Amidst the quarantine with Covid-19, it is that busy time of the semester and the pandemic hasn't made it any easier with motivating me to get my work done. I have been eager to get this writing back on track though, I just hit a block with this part and didn't want to do anything else with the story until I had overcome it, which I have now! This part is a little different than usual, it'll be showing a one-off PoV, and keep the wheels rolling from Mel's last part. I'll say no more!
“Hear my Vow, for now my Watch begins,” Jack knelt before the Lord Commander, a stout and bitter old man with a beard that crept past his chest. “I swear to uphold the Brotherhood, to take no Wife, father no Children, and hold no lands.” Ivan Longbeard had commanded at the Watch for nearly thirty years, and not once in all his days had he sworn in a brother like a knight would anoint a squire. “I am the Sword in the Darkness, the Watcher on the Wall, the Shield that Guards the realms of Men.” No, it was the first time any of the men in black had witnessed this rite of passage transpire this way. “I swear my life to the Night’s Watch, for this Night, and all the rest to come,” Jack lifted his gaze to the Lord Commander, and the man flashed him an approving smile.
“Rise, Jack Musgood - Sworn Ranger of the Night’s Watch,” he commanded, and the ranger did as he was ordered, and was commended with thunderous applause as he did. His new brothers patted him on the back as he passed, and suddenly found himself in the mess hall surrounded by them.
“It is of the decision of the Night’s Watch, that you should be elected as Lord Commander,” Maester Jon claimed, and Jack had never felt so honoured and yet timid in his whole life. “Do you accept this responsibility?” He did, and that burden would weigh heavy on his shoulders for the rest of his life.
A hard smack pulled him from his clouded thoughts, and his dazed vision loitered up to his captor carelessly. Looming over him, a young wildling stood with his calloused hands clenched into tight fists. Jack glared at them for a moment before his gaze fell. “Do what you will, you fucking bastard, I won’t give you a damn thing,” Jack grunted, but he knew his strength was weakening. Whatever they had done to them, it had sapped all he had. The wildling grinned.
“Good. I prefer it this way,” he stated, throwing a fist into Jack’s jaw. The Lord Commander felt his world jolt back, his eyes catching a glimpse of the ceiling before dropping into darkness. Another hit caught him in the belly, making him grimace as he hung by the bounds around his wrists. “You sure this is what you want, Lord Crow?” another voice chimed, her voice was hard and bitter, and Jack snarled at her. “Do your worst,” he challenged her, making her smirk as he freed a knife and walked towards him. “As you wish,” she smiled, and she cut the bindings of his right hand.
“What the fuck are you doing?” the robust wildling beside her asked, and the woman ignored him, closing Jack’s hand except for one finger. “I thought crows had talons?” she pondered aloud, and both Jack and the wildling man looked at her with perplexed gazes before she then slammed her knife at Jack’s knuckle, cutting his finger clean in half. He yelped with shock, but strangely, he barely felt it. His frozen panic turned to uncertain laughter that built as he gazed at the blood gushing out of his hand.
“Crazy bitch,” the male wildling grunted as he pushed the woman aside, grabbing Jack by the wrist and tying him back up. The woman picked up Jack’s finger, flicking it at the Lord Commander with amusement. “When I come back, I’ll take the rest of them,” she promised with a seductive tone, then disappearing out of the tent. Jack felt his hand go numb as blood gushed out the open half of his finger. The male wildling reluctantly started bandaging Jack’s hand, and the Lord Commander gazed up at the man. His face was familiar, but he couldn’t pick where he had seen it before.
“What’s your name?” he asked, his eyes beginning to droop and his voice slurring. The wildling kept bandaging his wound. “Konnor,” he grunted, and Jack nodded tiredly. “Well, Konnor, you understand that if you kill me, the Night’s Watch will destroy all of you,” Jack stated, and Konnor glared at him. “Not if Raymun kills you all first,” Konnor stated, making Jack roll his eyes.
“He might be able to do that, but he’ll be faced by the North and all the Seven Kingdoms then,” Jack stated, and Konnor did his best to avoid thinking on it. “Don’t die for them, boy. Set me free and leave this place. You’ll find you only have days left,” Jack proclaimed, and the man halted for a moment, almost tricking Jack into believing he had persuaded him. “A few days is about all you have left,” Konnor stated, tying off Jack’s finger tightly before turning to leave the tent.
Jack lowered his head, defeated and shamed. Is this it? He was no stranger to death, but he had hoped he would have a little more time before falling into his arms. Musgood didn’t hold much faith towards the Seven anymore, or any of the gods for that matter, he had seen enough of the world’s discrepancies to understand the gods were just a way for men to justify their misdeeds. Perhaps this is a mercy in disguise, Jack thought to himself with a smile, his thoughts clouded but his heart begging for rest. A few more days before my time is at an end, he remarked, finding some sort of peace at the notion of knowing how long he had left. It allowed him to reconcile on his past, to ask himself if it was all really worth it.
His stream of memories was soon interrupted by a couple of wildlings dragging in a man with long grey hair, and a young boy. Is there no limit to these animals? Jack thought bitterly as he watched the beasts tie their prey to a post a few metres away from him. Once they were finished, they flicked a distasteful glare towards Jack and then departed, one stopping outside the tent to assume guard duty. Jack dropped his head with exhaustion.
“Ursun,” the man uttered, and Jack’s eyes crawled over to the man tied to the post – he was looking back frantically at the boy, trying to loosen his bounds so he could reach him. The boy sat still, his head lowered and his eyes closed. A shallow breath left his lungs every couple of moments, evident from the mist egressing his nostrils. “The boy is breathing,” Jack stated, and the older man paused before letting out a sigh of relief, shaking his head. “They hit him quite hard when they caught us, they wouldn’t let me check on him,” the man claimed with a panicked tone, and Jack tiredly looked at the boy.
“Is he your son?” the Lord Commander asked, and the man nodded. “Ursun is his name, and I am Horamun… Horamun Jawbreaker. We are from Bear Island,” the man stated, and Jack raised an eyebrow. “Bear Island eh? You’re a long way from home,” Jack remarked, and Horamun nodded in agreement. “Too far for my liking. We were fishing off the coast before a rogue wave capsized our boat, and we drifted to the Frozen Shores. We tried to head for the Wall once we had collected our senses, but the Free Folk got to us first. They knocked my boy over the head when I told him to run, and almost opened up my throat. Now, here we are,” Horamun claimed, making Jack frown. He lifted his gaze to the man, staring into his blue eyes as if he saw something familiar in them. His grey hair fell to his shoulders, and his grey beard ran far down his chest.
“These wildlings are barbaric, as I’m sure you know with their skirmishes on Bear Island. Edric Mormont was with me Beyond the Wall, I’m afraid I don’t even know if he lives now,” Jack uttered regretfully, and Horamun raised his brow. “Edric… the Lord of Bear Island’s son?” the man asked, his tone seeming uncertain, and Jack nodded. “Aye, perhaps I made a mistake bringing him out here. I suppose there weren’t many good choices to pick from, the Wall isn’t what it was,” Jack remarked with some sense of guilt, and the man looked at him quietly, before Jack gave him a small smile.
“My name is Jack Musgood, I am the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch… although I’m not sure how long I’ll be holding that title for now,” Jack remarked with some dark humour, but Horamun found little amusement from it. “What are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be manning all your twenty castles safely behind the Wall or something?” Horamun asked naively, and Jack smiled.
“More like three,” he corrected, but shrugged his shoulders, looking to the unconscious boy behind the man, “I sent a close brother of mine out here to scout for me, there was talk of a new King Beyond the Wall beginning to rally an army of wildlings. Of his group of four, only two returned, one being Edric, and so I decided to try and find my friend, against the counsel of my advisors. We soon discovered he was dead, and the fourth member of the group had defected to the wildlings, be it to save his own hide for the Wall or for himself, I don’t know,” Jack stated, and Horamun took a moment to process all this.
“It was noble of you to try and save your brother. When we are bound by blood, everything changes. At first, I thought this young tacker would be a blight to my existence, but now I consider him the greatest blessing from the old gods. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him,” Horamun claimed before lowering his head. “Now I can only pray that they at least spare his life so he might find his way back to his mother,” Horamun stated, and Jack lowered his head, his heart lingering in the past.
“I always wanted a son. Before I was a brother of a Night’s Watch, I was a fool in love with a Dondarrion girl,” he spoke dreamily, seeing her before his eyes for a moment, gracing his tired face with a soft smile. “She was beautiful, and I hoped we could run away together and start a family, giving me a son. It was a fool’s dream, and she would be married off by her father a year later to the Lord of Storm’s End, giving him three. I protested and that got me a free ride to the Wall, and the rest is history,” Jack proclaimed, and Horamun frowned with sympathy.
Jack’s heavy heart moved away from her, away from Kieran and all the rest of them. He tried to think of the Wall, and there he saw Robett. The boy was probably the closest thing he ever had to a son, and he left him behind. If he could have felt physical pain his body would have been in anguish, and yet the only sufferance he was allowed was an aching heart. “I may not survive this endeavour, but I swear by the old gods and the new that I will try to return you and your son back to Bear Island,” Jack promised, even if it was an empty promise. Horamun flashed him an appreciative smile with thanks.
As if the gods had been eavesdropping on their conversation, they suddenly overheard an agonised scream, which was soon accompanied by shouts and clashing steel. Jack and Horamun lifted their gazes with startle and confusion, and soon a wildling entered the tent. It was Konnor, his hands and face bloodied, and his eyes enraged and staring at Jack’s direction. Horamun cleared his throat.
“What’s going on out there?!” he yelled, and Konnor kept his glare firm on Jack. “The crows have come for their daddy crow. King Raymun’s ordered me to kill you lot and burn your bodies,” Konnor uttered, and Jack gulped. “That wouldn’t be wise, boy,” Jack warned him, and his burning wet eyes rushed towards him as he unsheathed a dagger and pressed it to the Lord Commander’s throat.
“If I set you free, the lot of you, will you let me live? Will you let me south of the Wall and talk with Lord Stark, let me take land?” Konnor asked, and Jack gazed into his eyes for a moment before nodding. “I can do that,” Jack claimed, and Konnor let out a painful grimace of relief as tears flooded his eyes. “Swear on it!” he demanded, but his voice was powerless and begging. “I swear by the old gods and the new, you will be a man of the North under the protection of the Stark’s if you set us free,” Jack swore, and Konnor nodded repeatedly, cutting his binds and then the ropes holding Horamun and Ursun. Jack crumbled to his knees, his body weak and numb. Konnor rushed to his aid, slinging Jack’s limp arm over his shoulder as Horamun hurled Ursun over his own shoulder. “Come on!” he yelled, and they egressed their imprisonment together.
Jack’s eyes were met with a brutal scene upon his first breath of fresh air. Wildlings were at arms with brothers, brothers in black. They truly have come, Jack realised with disbelief, and Konnor dragged him away from the scene as Jack tried to reach his hand out to him. Suddenly the Lord Commander’s gaze was rolling around. The house that he and his brothers had visited earlier, that he now knew housed the King Beyond the Wall, was torched. Horamun gazed at the flames with horror, keeping at their heels as Konnor guided them into the darkness of the Haunted Forest. They were headed south.
Soon the clashing of steel droned out into the distance, and the cries of death drowned to silence. They were alone, or so they thought. “Hold!” a familiar voice shouted, and three torches ignited. Konnor dropped Jack and instinctively reached for his axe, only to be subdued by Horamun who tackled the wildling to ground. The three horsemen dismounted with their steel pointed at them, and Jack mustered the strength to bring himself to his knees. He lifted his gazes to the three brothers, locking eyes with the one in the middle: a robust man of great stature. Mikhail, Jack recognised, and the recognition was mutual.
“Lord Commander?” he asked with almost disbelief, and a weak smile came to Jack’s lips as the ranger lifted the Lord Commander to his feet. “It is you!” he exclaimed, embracing Musgood with a strength that made him grimace before guiding him back to his horse. “Sound a retreat, we return to the Shadow Tower,” Mikhail ordered, and a brother reached for his horn before Jack shook his head. “No. The others… George, Edric… They must be found. There are deserters in the forest… Khort, he betrayed us,” Jack exclaimed, and Mikhail’s eyes widened before he nodded.
“We’ll find them,” Mikhail swore, then turning to one of his brother’s. “Deal with these filth,” he ordered, but Jack caught Mikhail by his forearm. “Not them, they are of Bear Island. They come with us,” Jack stated, pointing out Horamun and his unconscious son. Mikhail nodded, and the brother proceeded to the restrained Konnor. “Get out of the way, Northman, we’ll take it from here,” the Watchman ordered, but Horamun did not budge.
“Your Lord Commander gave his word that this man would be spared and given a life south of the Wall!” Horamun exclaimed, making Mikhail chuckle. “Then he was a bigger fool than you, now get out of the way old man,” Mikhail grunted in order, but Horamun shook his head. “My name is Horamund Jawbreaker, and you’ll find out how I got that name if you even lay a finger on this man,” he threatened, making Mikhail growl as he pointed his sword at the man. “Last warning, Bear Islander,” he warned, and Horamun turned his gaze to Jack, who rested against Mikhail’s horse.
“Is this truly what you wanted, Jack? Did you just plan to use this man for your escape? I thought the Night’s Watch were meant to be honourable, but perhaps they really are just cowards!” Horamun shouted, and Mikhail pulled Horamun off the top of Konnor before lifting the wildling to his feet and putting his blade to the man’s throat. Horamun could barely contain himself. “Do something!” he shouted with hopeless anger, and Jack turned his gaze onto the frightened betrayed face of Konnor, before looking at Mikhail.
[Let Mikhail carry out the execution] [Take Konnor as a prisoner]
Post by LiquidChicagoTed on May 15, 2020 22:33:35 GMT
Ah Jolly Jack part, I can safely say that is unexpected. So, I understand he will be a one-shot PoV (even though I enjoyed him and wouldn't mind more), but is there any chance we'll see more of these? I think it's a really great idea to show viewpoints and include choices that won't really fit with any of the existing PoV's, kinda like what GRRM does with his minor PoV characters in Feast and Dance.
[Take Konnor as a prisoner]
So, while I have the feeling Horamun will step in and stop the execution regardless of our choice (though quite likely with more jaw-breaking if we pick the other option, which is almost tempting XD), it's a fact that he is right. Jack gave Konnor a promise. Now, he could break it and everything, but he's not just some Night's Watch grunt, he's the Lord Commander. He has a reputation to lose by not keeping his word and frankly, what would he gain from killing Konnor?
Ah Jolly Jack part, I can safely say that is unexpected. So, I understand he will be a one-shot PoV (even though I enjoyed him and wouldn't mind more), but is there any chance we'll see more of these? I think it's a really great idea to show viewpoints and include choices that won't really fit with any of the existing PoV's, kinda like what GRRM does with his minor PoV characters in Feast and Dance.
[Take Konnor as a prisoner]
So, while I have the feeling Horamun will step in and stop the execution regardless of our choice (though quite likely with more jaw-breaking if we pick the other option, which is almost tempting XD), it's a fact that he is right. Jack gave Konnor a promise. Now, he could break it and everything, but he's not just some Night's Watch grunt, he's the Lord Commander. He has a reputation to lose by not keeping his word and frankly, what would he gain from killing Konnor?
Hey! Yes for the moment Jack's PoV is just a one-off, and there are some other major characters (i.e, Raymun), that I sat on the fence for making a PoV when I rebooted this project, so safe to say you can expect a couple more one-off PoV's in the future, without a doubt! I was actually going to write from Raymun's perspective but instead decided to give Melinda a permanent PoV status instead XD
Alrighty, another month has passed and I'm only just getting back to writing again! In my defence, I've had a fair amount of assessment pieces due this last month, but fortunately I finished my last exam yesterday, and my monotony at work has left me to plan out the next parts, so I have rushed home to write a quick one now It's shorter than my usual, but it felt right given the brighter nature of the part to end it earlier, so it will require a follow-up part shortly after I'd say. Anyway, it's a Federico part, and I'll give a quick recap!
The young ranger was tasked with tracking down the mutineers post the events at Castle Black, and went to the Last Hearth to inform the Umber's that deserters were on their lands. Lord Osric gave he and Gareth Oaketh some of his men to track these traitors, and Federico was accompanied by Morsh, Noel, and Darron in their search for deserters. They would arrive at the Skull Tavern and fight Devyn and three other deserters. Two of these traitors would be killed, while Devyn was knocked out and another escaped. Morsh quickly chased after the escapee, and Federico quickly followed, coming to save his life with the aid of the Karstarks. They would return to Skull Tavern to learn that Darron was dead and Devyn was missing. They would then return to the Last Hearth, where Lord Osric would get himself involved. They would track Devyn to Mole's Town, and then navigate the tunnels into a cavern that Devyn had made into his den. Many of the Umber men would die at the jaws of Devyn's hounds, including Lord Osric himself, and a bloody fight would ensue between Federico and Devyn. Eventually, Morsh would save his life by stabbing Devyn in the back.
This part takes place a couple of days after the event, back in the Last Hearth.
The heat of the pyre radiated an immense force of heat onto the young ranger’s skin as he stood amongst the crowd gathered around it. At its centre lay a lord of giants, his wounds and pale flesh melting away from his bones as his hair and beard were kissed by fire. Federico gazed at the people of the Last Hearth, who all looked equally saddened at the passing of their overlord. With his sons at war on the west coast, the ruling stead of the Last Hearth was left to debate, a conclusion which Federico imagined he would hear about from the Wall.
Beside him, Gareth held himself upright with the aid of a crotch under his arm. They had all suffered their wounds from their encounter with Devyn, but Federico’s stab wound looked like a fleabite in comparison to the scars that Gareth would carry for the rest of his life. The beast, Mathilda, had mauled at his throat and face, and taken a thick chunk out of his right leg as well. While it would all heal in time, Federico imagined his fellow brother wouldn’t be ranging anytime soon.
The two exchanged glances before Federico let out a heavy sigh. “Come on, I think we’ve outstayed our welcome,” Federico stated as he gazed back at Osric’s pyre for a final time, and Gareth gave him a weak nod before accompanying him out of the courtyard. Awaiting them was the large bosomed brothel owner of Mole’s Town: Darla, who had been kind enough to care for their wounds and help deliver the dead Umber men back to the Last Hearth with her wagon. Now the only corpse that resided in the back was that of the kennel master, his beady black eyes staring into the endless void of his oblivion. Federico let out a painful sigh as he rested against the back of the wagon, and Gareth pulled himself into the passenger seat. Darla joined Federico at the back of the wagon, giving Devyn’s corpse one foul glare before looking elsewhere.
“Thank you, Darla,” Federico uttered through the skin of his teeth as he clutched his injured side with one hand, then rummaging through his pocket with the other. He freed a few silver stags and offered them to her. “Please,” he insisted, and Darla stared at the few measly coins before flashing a small toothless smile and closing Federico’s hand.
“There’s plenty of treasure in Mole’s Town for me to go back to, but the most important treasure to me was stolen by this whoreson,” Darla muttered as she turned a filthy look to Devyn, “and I’ll never get them back,” she claimed with a sorrowful tone, making Federico frown.
“I’m truly sorry,” he expressed empathetically, but the brothel owner shook her head. “What’s done is done, boy, I don’t want your gratitude or apologies. Let’s get you boys back to the Wall so I can get home,” Darla stated plainly, and Federico gazed at the older woman for a moment before nodding. The brothel owner climbed to the driver’s seat and flashed Gareth a toothless grin, to which the ranger dropped his head back with laughter, and Darla kicked the wagon into action with a sharing cackle.
Federico smiled as he watched them start down the road before the cold eventually kicked his bones into moving to the horses. As Gareth was unable to ride, Federico would have to lead his stead while riding his own. The way home was perhaps only a few hours from the Last Hearth, but Federico imagined he’d feel every stride and bump in that duration, and it was not one he looked forward to. He fastened the saddlebags and tightened the straps before feeding a carrot to each other the horses.
“Leaving so soon?” a voice called, and Federico peered over the top of the saddle to see the young teenager that had saved their lives: Morsh. The Umber boy had a stern look on his face, seeming almost older than what he truly was, but his eyes betrayed him, and Federico could see the tears that the boy had wept earlier still red in his eyes.
“Men in black don’t seem to fare well when they drift away from the Wall too long,” Federico explained with a touch of dark humour, which the boy picked up on with a short smile before his expression saddened. “Where do we go from now?” Morsh asked, and Federico raised an eyebrow with curiosity. “What do you mean?” he asked, and the boy’s brow furrowed.
“We’ve fought together, killed for each other, what does that make us?” he asked, as if he needed some sort of explanation to justify everything that had just happened. Federico sighed as he walked around the horse and stopped before the boy. “I saved your life, and you saved mine. I’d say that makes us even,” Federico remarked, but the boy didn’t seem satisfied with that answer, which made the young ranger place a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“A lot of my friends died at the hands of Devyn, and a lot of yours did as well. We have avenged them, but that’s not enough, you have the chance to live while they don’t. Honour that,” Federico advised, and Morsh’s eyes lifted up to the ranger’s before looking to Gareth’s horse. “You’ll be needing more men at the Wall now, right? After the mutiny…” Morsh suggested, to which Federico rolled his eyes.
“Stay with your family, fight for your lord’s house if you wish to fight. The Wall isn’t going anywhere,” Federico stated laconically as he mounted his horse, and Morsh frowned. “You two are about the closest thing I’ve got to family now,” Morsh lamented as he dropped his gaze, and Federico turned his gaze back to the boy. “My mother died when I was little, and my father in the war against the Skaggs. I grew up by myself, and when I made a name for myself, Lord Osric had me groomed to become his squire someday. Now he’s gone too,” Morsh stated, and Federico frowned as he turned his gaze back to Gareth’s steed. The Wall will need more men, Federico acknowledged rationally, but after what they had all been through, he was unsure if he could allow himself to bring the boy along. It was Morsh’s choice at the end of the day, but Federico sensed his decision would weigh heavily on what he was about to say.
[Invite Morsh to take the black] [Implore Morsh to serve the Umber’s]
[Invite Morsh to take the black] I'm sure Morsh knows the implications of taking the black, and the Night's Watch certainly needs more members who are there from their own free will. I wonder what's waiting for Federico once he returns to the Wall.
Alright, yet again another month has passed until the next part, although I was waiting for a vote and kind of drifted off doing other things, oh well. This part is much bigger than the last, probably one of the longest parts I've written in a while, but it felt all necessary to have given the slow progression of the story at the moment. I was considering postponing this part until I had the next part done, another one-off PoV I think, but I'm still undecided if I want to introduce their PoV this chapter or not, so I will think on it some more anyway, here's Cregard's part.
The Kingsroad stretched infamously as the longest path in Westeros, beginning at Storm’s End and ending at the Wall, or perhaps the other way around for these five weary rangers. Winterfell was only a few days ride south, but with the mutiny and uncertainty in the North, Cregard had advised they keep off the road where possible. It had added an extra day to their journey, allowing them shelter at a farm in the Gift before returning to the road. Cregard rode silently at the epicentre of their party, his eyes focused on Broken, who rode ahead of him in the company of Eadwyn Bravemaul. Cregard was still unsure of his decision to allow the Ironborn ranger to accompany them, but he figured best outcome overruled the worst consequence. Sacharia appeared to disagree.
The unacknowledged bastard of the North held a firm glare on the Ironborn ahead of them as he rode beside Cregard, his white hands gripped the reins of his garron with a tight ferocity. “Anything the matter, Sacharia?”Cregard asked with concern as he gazed at the young ranger. The man’s glare was briefly interrupted as his eyes met Cregard’s, before they lowered and he shook his head. “No, m’lord,” he stated, but Cregard had consoled with many over the years to know a lie when he heard one. Regardless, he did not pester the ranger over it.
“We can’t be far off the Last Hearth now, you grew up there, didn’t you?” Cregard remarked, and Sacharia frowned before nodding. “It feels like a lifetime ago,” he admitted as his gaze returned to the road, “I used to write to my mother, before everything…” he muttered, “she can’t read or write, but I like to think my words have reached her,” he added, and Cregard extended a hand, grasping the young man’s shoulder. “Perhaps we should stop over, let you see your mother,” Cregard suggested, but Sacharia shook his head.
“The day is still young, and our duty to the Night’s Watch doesn’t allow us to have a family beyond the Wall. Remember that when we reach Winterfell, m’lord,” the man advised, and Cregard gazed at him for a moment before nodding. “You’re a good man, Sacharia, and a loyal brother. Your mother would be proud,” Cregard remarked, and Sacharia exchanged a short appreciative smile before returning his focus ahead of him, and the Lord Steward pulled back on the reins to leave the man with some peace.
Ser Arthor Obsydian brought up the rear of the group, his amethyst eyes lost to oblivion as his body swayed with the stride of his steed. His wavy black hair naturally fell to his shoulders, but had been tied into a loose ponytail since they departed the Wall. Cregard watched him for a moment until the young ranger’s eyes suddenly snapped out of their trance, recognising the existence of Cregard’s company.
“Where were you, Arthor?” Cregard asked with a short smile, and the young knight turned his gaze to the sky. “Home, I think,” he answered with a slightly confused tone, and Cregard frowned as he gazed at the man. House Obsydian occupied a small chain of isles off of Sea Dragon Point, known as the Flame Isles. House Obsydian had once hailed from the Stormlands during the times of Aegon’s conquest, but a mix of bad blood and family feud had brought the small house north.
“Do you remember anything of the Flame Isles?” Cregard inquired curiously, and Arthor paused for a long moment before he painfully shook his head. Cregard frowned as he straightened his back, thinking to when he had travelled to the Flame Isles for the first time in his twenties. Arthor was merely an infant when Cregard had first met him, and now the old steward feared he would outlive the boy.
“Obsydia is a modest keep, built of black stone upon the high cliffs of the Flame Isles. It’s almost impenetrable to naval or land attack, and home to a proud Andal family – your family. Do you remember them?” Cregard queried, and the knight frowned as he shook his head, his eyes locked ahead of them. “Well, what do you remember?” Cregard queried.
“Wagon,” Arthor stated nonchalantly as he looked dead ahead, and Cregard’s brow furrowed. “You remember a wagon?” he asked with confusion, but the knight shook his head and pointed ahead of the group. Cregard followed the knight’s directions beyond the head of their party, where a small wagon was dragged by an old mare, followed by two riders. It wasn’t long before Cregard recognised two brothers in black among them, one on horseback and the other beside the driver on the wagon. The First Steward cautiously rested his hand on the hilt of his sheathed blade as he parted from Arthor to reach the head of the group.
“They look wary,” Eadwyn Bravemaul stated as he ran his finger along the edge of his axe, and Cregard observed the wagon slow as the two riders reached for their swords. Broken turned his nervous gaze to Cregard.
“Do you think they’re deserters?” he asked, and Cregard frowned as he gazed hard at them. “I don’t know. We should hold our ground,” Cregard stated, but Sacharia’s eye landed on one of the riders that urged him to gallop ahead. “Sacharia!” Cregard shouted with alarm, but it was too late to stop the young ranger, forcing the rest of the party to chase after him. Cregard watched as the men on the wagon quickly reached for their weapons, and the two riders’ circled the wagon anxiously.
“Morsh!” the young ranger yelled as he galloped ahead. “Slow down, Sacharia!” Cregard shouted, but it did little good. The Lord Steward did notice one of the men on the wagon lower his blade however, and before long they were circling the wagon. “Gods, it is you!” Sacharia exclaimed, and Cregard came to a cold stop beside the young ranger with a bitter expression. The young man sheathed his blade and urged the others to do the same as he jumped off his horse.
“It’s been a long time, Sacharia,” the one who was known as Morsh stated, and Sacharia dismounted his horse and embraced the young man. “Aye, you were only this big when I last saw you!” the ranger exclaimed as he marked his lower torso. “How have you been? How is my mother?” Sacharia queried, and the boy frowned as he grasped the ranger’s shoulder. “She’s gone, Sash. Since last winter, same with mine,” Morsh informed him with a sorrowful look on his eye, and Sacharia’s head dropped. Cregard frowned as he dismounted his horse.
“We’re heading back for the Wall, I’m going to take the Black. I think she’d be proud of that, as your mother was of you,” Morsh stated, and Sacharia lifted his teary eyes back onto the boy, nodding as he pulled the boy into a tight embrace. “There’s always a place at the Wall for more brothers, the Night’s Watch will be honoured to have you,” Sacharia stated, and Cregard nodded.
“Now more than ever,” he remarked, gaining the attention of the wagon. At the driver seat, he spotted the toothless grin of Darla, the tavern wench of Mole’s town. “Quite a way’s south for the likes of you, Darla,” Cregard observed, and the wench lifted her chin. “Out for the sights, m’lord,” she remarked coldly, and the brother beside her groaned as he turned to meet Cregard’s gaze.
“We tracked the kennel master, Devyn, to Mole’s town with the help of the Umber’s, and we got him,” he stated as he pointed to the pale white corpse in the back of the wagon, “but at great cost,” the ranger on horseback claimed. “Devyn and his mutts murdered Lord Osric and most of his men, as well as some of the girls in Mole’s town,” the ranger stated, and Cregard nodded with a frown. This would not bode well for them.
“You boys must be Oaketh and Reed, then,” Cregard remarked, and the two men nodded. “Dennis Stone mentioned you two were both out here despite the recall,” the Lord Steward stated, and Federico Reed nodded slowly. “We departed the Last Hearth immediately once we received your raven, Lord Steward,” he assured him, and Cregard raised his hand in assurance. “All that matters is that the North is rid of the deserters, and that you boys aren’t deserting,” Cregard stated, and the young Reed nodded.
“Is it true that Bloodstar is now the Lord Commander?” Gareth Oaketh asked with concern, and Cregard reluctantly nodded.
“Only until we learn the fate of Musgood,” he assured them, but even he was uncertain if that was the truth. Perhaps not through Dayne’s eyes. “So what now?” Gareth asked, and Cregard let out a sigh as he freed his ironwood cane from his horse. “Dayne has turned his eyes north of the Wall. Those fit to travel will hunt down the remaining deserters who fled north, hopefully before the wildlings reach them.”
“Sounds like you boys at the Wall have your hands full. Won’t hurt to remind some of them that there’s always some treasure to search for in Mole’s town,” Darla remarked with a toothless grin, and Cregard turned his stern glare onto her.
“The Night’s Watch appreciates your assistance,” he stated through the skin of his teeth, and the tavern wench smiled playfully at him. “Of course, Lord Stark.” Her smile quickly faded as she whipped the reins on the back of the old mare, sending the wagon forward. The rest of the company took that as their signal to continue on, Morsh and Sacharia giving their farewells to each other before mounting their garrons again. Cregard followed suit, and the young ranger on horseback stopped adjacent to him.
“Are we going to be alright, Lord?” he asked with a concerned tone, and Cregard stared into the young man’s muddy brown eyes. He couldn’t have been beyond his teen years, and yet he sensed a display of strength and leadership in this young man that was missing in rangers with years of experience. Cregard let out a heavy sigh. “Federico, wasn’t it?” he asked, and the young man nodded.
“I won’t lie to you, these are dark times… the darkest I’ve ever seen our brotherhood face, but the Night’s Watch has existed for thousands of years, and I’m confident it will live for a thousand more. We must demonstrate resilience and courage, and trust in our fellow brothers,” Cregard stated, and the young man nodded, “but I don’t believe the bloodshed is over yet. Tread with caution, Reed,” Cregard advised him, and Federico nodded.
“I understood my vows when I swore them. May the old gods and new watch over us,” Federico uttered, and Cregard nodded. We will need more than the gods’ watchful eyes, Cregard thought sombrely as he watched Federico catch up with Morsh and the wagon heading north. He then turned his gaze back to his own party, where Eadwyn and Ser Arthor rode ahead, with Sacharia not too far behind. Broken watched Cregard nervously, anticipating something more, but the Lord Steward only sighed.
“Come, Broken. There’s still many leagues between us and Winterfell, and I do not wish to spend another night along the Kingsroad.”
The sun was just setting in the west as Cregard and the party arrived to the north gate of Winterfell, where the Lord Steward was surprised to see who awaited them there. At this time of the night, Cregard remembered the castle to still be buzzing with activity, and yet it seemed like the streets were almost abandoned. The peace that war brings, Cregard thought ironically as he stared at those who stood at the gate. Two boys, with dark brown hair that fell to their shoulders and eyes as grey as the moon that would rise this night. William and Artos. Cregard smiled as he recognised his cousin’s two boys, albeit they were almost a decade older now than when Cregard had last seen them.
“Cregard!” the younger of the two shouted, and Cregard grinned as he dismounted and caught the two growing boys in his arms as they pounced him, barely managing to maintain his footing. “Hello boys,” he greeted warmly, holding them close before gazing at them. “What are you doing out here this late, hm? Aren’t you cold?” he asked, and William smiled. “Father received your raven today. I told him we would forego supper until you arrived, but it looks like we may still make it!” he exclaimed, and Cregard grinned.
“Excellent, I’m famished,” Cregard stated, and the two boys unhitched their horses and raced each other back to the Great hall. Cregard watched them disappear around the corner with a smile before mounting his garron again. Cregard led their party after them, while Broken rode by his side.
“They’re still close with you, after all this time,” Broken observed with an astounded tone, and a hint of envy. Cregard shrugged. “Their father tells them tales of when we fought against the Skagosi, and Artos always had an interest for the Night’s Watch, but I admit that I am just as surprised as you,” Cregard remarked, making Broken sigh.
“It must be nice, being loved,” he stated, and Cregard frowned. “You are loved, Broken, and don’t you ever forget it,” Cregard reminded him, and the boy hesitantly nodded. “Donnor is Beron’s eldest son, and your age, but he is squiring for Lord Donnel Arryn in the Vale. William and Artos are fifteen and fourteen, perhaps you would like to spar with them, or go riding?” Cregard suggested, making Broken frown.
“We’re here on a mission,” Broken argued weakly, to which Cregard shrugged. “I’m here on a mission,” he corrected, “Sacharia and Ser Arthor are just here because they’re better swordsman than I, and Eadwyn because he may be useful. I want you to make the most of your time at Winterfell while we’re here, can you do that for me?” Cregard asked as he grasped Broken’s shoulder, and the boy nodded with a small smile. “I can try,” he remarked, and Cregard smirked at him before guiding the group up the next series of roads to the inner castle.
William and Artos awaited them in the company of Tharn the Stone, the master-of-arms at Winterfell, and Lord Brandon Icestark. The two men, like everyone else, had aged some since Cregard had last seen them. Tharn was a big man in his thirties, black of hair with a thick stubble, and eyes as cold as the Wall itself. A scar ran from his lip down his chest, a wound he had received during the Skagosi rebellion. Brandon Icestark on the other hand was on his late thirties; slim, with features very similar to that of House Stark, albeit his eyes were an icy blue.
“Cregard,” Icestark greeted, and Cregard dismounted his steed and shook the man’s hand. “Nice to see you again, Brandon,” Cregard remarked, and the man nodded. “Tharn will organise your men with food and ale. We should head inside, food is about to be served,” Brandon advised, and Cregard nodded as he freed his cane from beneath the saddlebag. “Very well,” he said, then turning to William.
“Could my squire join you tomorrow for a ride? He’s been very eager to meet you lot,” Cregard queried as he pointed Broken out to William, the Stark boy nodded enthusiastically. “Of course, he can even have dinner with us,” William suggested, to which Brandon frowned. “Not tonight, William, the table is full enough as it is,” Brandon remarked, making Artos roll his eyes.
“Then we’ll eat with the Night’s Watch,” he stated, making Lord Icestark sigh. “Have it your way, then,” he uttered hopelessly, and the boys grinned at each other before going to introduce themselves to Cregard’s brothers. The Lord Steward held his breath as he watched the movements of the Ironborn ranger. It was a risk to bring him here, he admitted, and he hoped his choice would not haunt him.
“Come, Brandon, I am hungry,” Cregard urged as he pushed past the man, who slowly followed at Cregard’s pace.
Beron’s table was long and boisterous with noise and food by the time Cregard arrived, greeted with many faces. When his arrival was known, Beron was quick to rise to his feet and raise his arms in welcome.
“Cregard, dear cousin,” he greeted as he walked over to meet him, and Cregard accepted his embrace. “It has been a long time, Beron,” Cregard remarked, and the man nodded. “Too long,” he exclaimed, “Come, take a seat,” he urged as he ushered the Lord Steward to a vacant seat a few chairs down from the head that Beron sat at. Cregard found himself sat between two young ladies, one which he recognised to be Rodwell’s wife: Myriame Manderly, and the other which Cregard had not had the pleasure of meeting. Brandon Icestark took his seat beside Cregard’s other cousin – Lonny Snow, who sat opposite of Myriame.
“I think I should bring you up to speed here, Cregard. Beside you sits the beautiful Rila Bolton, daughter of Lord Matthew. His pleasant grand-aunt also joins us,” Beron stated as he took his seat at the head of table, and Cregard took Rila’s hand in greeting before his eyes widened at the old Lady Barba Bolton.
“You look like a man that has just set his eyes upon a frail old crone just shy of taking her evening nap in the crypt,” the old Lady Barba remarked humorously, and Cregard smiled awkwardly as he shook his head. “No, of course not, my Lady. It’s wonderful to see you,” he stated honestly, to which the old woman rolled her muddy snow eyes. “Life must be truly sombre at the Wall if I’m a wonderful sight,” she remarked with a cackle, and Rila grinned as she clutched the old lady’s hand. Cregard also allowed himself a polite smile.
“Lady Barba accompanied Matthew here from the Dreadfort for a change of scenery, against his wishes I hear,” Beron explained, and a wicked smile spread across the old woman’s lips. “Life is awfully mundane at the Dreadfort, and I care little for the idle company of my great-grandnephews and nieces, asides from this one here,” Barba remarked as she shook Rila’s hand with her frail own. “I don’t intend to make the return journey home, Lord Cregard, do you?” she asked with a shrilling tone that sent shivers down the First Steward’s spine, but Cregard held his composure.
“Duty calls, my Lady. It’s my life or the Wall,” Cregard remarked, to which Barba rolled her eyes with boredom. Beside Barba, and directly adjacent to Beron, was Lady Alys Stark – Lord Brandon’s wife, and Beron’s mother. Opposite her was Beron’s wife – Lorra Royce, and down the line from her sat her children: Berena, Alysanne and Errold. Donnor is at the Vale, William and Artos with the others… Where is Rodrik? Cregard wondered, and he feared to ask. The answer will reach me in time, he reconciled as he shook the thought from his mind.
“Please, Cregard, help yourself to whatever you like,” Lonny insisted as he passed Cregard a plate, and the Lord Steward gave his cousin an appreciative smile as he took a serving from each of the platters.
“I have received your ravens, but I’m afraid my news now remains the same as it did for the last brother that travelled here. Those in our dungeons and housed in the Wolf’s Den have been offered a place in the Stark Army to repent for their crimes against the North,” Beron explained, and Cregard nodded with a frown.
“I understand, but the Lord Commander is persistent. He hopes that we can the captive Ironborn with us to the Wall,” Cregard stated, and Beron chuckled. “The Ironborn don’t take well to captivity, Cregard, and I’d wager the few we have left alive in the dungeons would rather face the blocks than take the black,” Beron remarked, to which Cregard sighed. “That’s not their choice as prisoners,” Cregard stated, and Beron shook his head.
“No, it is my father’s, and he’s out there killing them at the moment,” Beron stated plainly. “Look, even if I could what few we have over to you, I can’t be certain they won’t just slit your throats in the night and run back to their buddies on the west coast. They’re not to be underestimated,” Beron advised, and Cregard nodded.
“I know, I brought a brother who is Ironborn with me in hopes that he may have a better chance persuading them,” Cregard stated, and Myriame choked on her wine. “You brought an Ironborn, here?” Brandon Icestark remarked with surprise, and Cregard nodded. “I brought a brother here,” Cregard corrected, but Brandon didn’t seem convinced.
“Times are tough for us, Beron. We’re desperate for more men,” Cregard explained, and Beron nodded. “I know, times are desperate for us all, cousin,” he agreed laconically as he took a drink of his ale, then turning his gaze down the table to his daughters. “It’s a shame you don’t accept women in your order. I have a couple of useless daughters that could do with some adventure, and a sister too,” Beron remarked, receiving a cold glare from his wife and some sticked out tongues from his daughters. Cregard smiled as he gazed around the table.
“Where is Arsa?” he asked, and Beron sighed. “Living her best life somewhere, although somewhere seems to be restricted to the Vale at the moment courteous to the plague. She is keeping an eye on Donnor though, thankfully,” Beron stated, and Cregard nodded. “How does Donnor fare, warding under Lord Donnel?” he queried, and Beron smiled as he began to delve into the pride he had for his eldest son, a conversation that clearly bored the rest of his children. Cregard found it peaceful to be at home again, listening to his family and enjoying a good meal. It was only spoiled by the absence of his own siblings.
“Have you seen much of my siblings? Torrhen, Aregelle and…” Aranna. Cregard had to bite his tongue from saying her name, or risk turning this table into a pity party for his sorrows. She had past two years ago, but her loss was still close to his heart. At least she did not have to outlive her husband, as many ladies do, Cregard thought sympathetically, but felt no ease in his heart for the recent passing of Lord Osric Umber. Beron frowned as he rested back in his chair.
“Aregelle still remains at Castle Cerwyn, while Lord Robard marches with my father. Torrhen held the Wolf’s Den, but he’s now at the Stony Shore fighting the Ironborn there,” Beron remarked, and Cregard nodded, “but your mother is here,” Beron stated, making Cregard’s brow lift. He had not seen her since he left for the Wall, nor had he wished to. What is she doing here? “I will take you to see her after we’ve finished here. Please, eat,” he insisted, and Cregard nodded as he turned his attention back to his meal.
She sat alone by the window of her room, staring out her tower into the realm of darkness she had been consumed by her whole life. Her memory had been shrouded by a time of what was, and series of unlived nostalgic moments that she had spent her life trying to recreate. He had left her like this six years ago, and unlike the others, she hadn’t changed a single bit. She had always been a wild one, wolf’s blood as she called it, and that had transferred to her appearance. Her grey hair fell openly to her waist, knotted and unwashed as far as Cregard could see, and a simple grey dress hung from her body like exfoliated skin. Serena the She-Wolf, she was once known as, and oh how she had formed a pack of she-wolves from all her scheming.
“Hello, Mother,” Cregard greeted dryly, unsure of what to expect in return as he stood alone in the open doorway to her chambers, the only source of light peering into her empty room. She did not flinch, nor turn her gaze away from whatever had caught it beyond Cregard’s sight. She just sat there, like a beast preying on her next meal, patient and silent. Cregard frowned as he entered, lighting some lanterns before he shut the door behind him. He knew better than to leave himself in the dark with her.
“I hear Torrhen fights along the Stony Shore, I would have thought you would have remained at the Wolf’s Den,” Cregard remarked as he took a seat at a small wooden table that was deprived of any commodities. Serena peered out the window uncomfortably, digging her claws into the windowsill.
“There is nothing at the Den without my alpha,” Serena muttered cryptically, and Cregard felt needles crawl across his skin. Her alpha, he thought with concern. She had used that term loosely when they were children, treating them like wolf pups before bed, but it had seemed that mentality had grown – or declined – much since Cregard’s departure to the Wall. Cregard let out a sigh.
“What of Aregelle? I hear she is still at Cerwyn, have you seen her recently?” he asked laconically, and he watched has her claws scratched against the wood. “My daughter is dead,” she hissed, making Cregard frown. “Yes, Aranna is, that haunts us all, but Aregelle…” Cregard started, and barely moved himself out of the path of the object his mother threw at him. “MY DAUGHTER IS DEAD!” she screamed, and the clay flower pot cracked into a hundred pieces on the wall behind the First Steward. Cregard turned back to her and nodded.
“It was nice seeing you, Serena,” Cregard lied, helping himself out of his chair, to which Serena just rolled her eyes and laughed. “Running away again? I’d say your balls must’ve frozen off at the Wall, but you never had balls to begin with,” Serena spited, and Cregard stopped a moment as he looked at her. “You left me! After you killed Jon, and then your sister, you abandoned us! Ran away to the Night’s Watch to delve in your sorrows. Tell me, do you feel shame when you stand atop the Wall, standing where you threw that girl to her death?” she hissed, and Cregard scowled at her before averting his gaze.
“I had nothing to do with Jon’s death or my sister’s, and you’re a fool to deceive yourself into thinking I did,” Cregard muttered, but Serena shook her head. “You were always a craven, Cregard. My eldest, and my weakest. You did us a favour, running away, now Torrhen will be the next Wolf of Winterfell,” she yelled, making Cregard shake his head.
“Oh yes? Remind me how that will work, when Rodwell takes Winterfell after Brandon, and then his heirs, or perhaps even Beron and then his heirs? Where will Torrhen fit into all of this?” Cregard queried coldly, making Serena grin wickedly as she turned her eyes back out the window. “Soon there will be only one true Stark to rule Winterfell. He’ll be the King in the North, and he’ll lead a great army south against the Targaryen’s to avenge my father…” she claimed, and Cregard pulled a chair beside her.
“Rickon died fighting for the Targaryen’s in Dorne, he had no sons, and so the lordship of Winterfell came to his brothers. You must stop filling Torrhen’s mind with this shit and give up this foolish game, you have been playing it far too long, and at too great a cost. Go and cherish your final years with your living daughter, or find yourself another husband before you return to the ground, instead of endangering the life of your last son for some twisted dream of yours,” Cregard implored her, but she defiantly shook her head.
“My only son,” she corrected, making Cregard frown at her.
“There was a time I believed in you, a time where I believed we were cheated and betrayed, but I came to understand with time that we weren’t. Rickon’s death was a tragedy to the North, yes, and what happened to you following was just as much so, but we are not your tools for revenge, Mother. We are our own men who must choose our own paths. Fall ill to your own peril if you must, but to do lead my brother astray,” Cregard pleaded, and Serena turned her gaze to him, looking beyond him motionlessly.
“Torrhen is his own man, and he has chosen his path as much as you chose your own self-imprisonment. He will succeed where you failed. He will be the alpha…” she uttered prophetically, and Cregard dropped his head.
Alright, so I've decided to introduce the next new PoV (and final newbie for this chapter), which will continue on the story at Winterfell: Lonny Snow. He is the bastard brother of Rodwell and Beron Stark, and like his brothers he is in his late thirties, and has lived a peaceful life in the war so far. Here he is
Sweat streaked down their skin as the passion of the moment escalated to the climax of their evening. Lonny had stared at his lover longingly across the dining table this evening, and their night was only delayed by the arrival of their new guest: Cregard Stark. Lonny thought little of the old cripple, and kept his focus on the desirable physique of his lady – as naked as the day she was born, a way he would have her over no other. Her beauty was unparalleled to any woman this bastard had taken his pleasure with, and perhaps it was the sheer circumstances of their situation that aroused Lonnel so greatly, but he avoided overthinking the minute details in moments like these. Instead he pulled her close, seizing for a moment as his seed infested the woman that clutched him so tight, and then fell limp beside him, her perfectly rounded breasts staring aimlessly to the cold stone ceiling. Her wavy blond hair dressed her shoulders like the mane of the finest mare.
Lonny wiped the sweat off his brow as he caught his breath, gazing across to his favoured girl who stared at him with those great turquoise eyes. The eyes of a mermaid, he thought as he kissed her passionately, erupting a giggle as his lips reached a sensitive point on her body. She grabbed at his hair and pulled his lips back to hers, and the two found comfort underneath the heavy furs once their bodies were reminded of the cold. Even above the hot springs that Winterfell’s foundations were constructed over, a nip in the air was always present.
“You were wonderful, my Lord,” she whispered in his hear as her fingers caressed his chest, making Lonny wince at the title. “I’m concerned you may have confused me for someone else,” he remarked with a chuckle, making the girl smirk. “Like my husband?” she suggested, and Lonny felt a sense of shame inside him – not because he slept with a married woman, but because he felt no guilt for it, or any remorse for her husband. “Rodwell leaves my chambers dull and cold as he fights his father’s wars, and you give me what he could never. Hard to mistake that, Snow,” she whispered promiscuously as her hand crept under the furs and took hold of his manhood. Lonny smirked as he cupped her cheek.
“My dear Myriame, if my brother had not taken you with marriage first, I’d take you away from here. Somewhere hot, where we could fuck under the night sky without a fear of being cold or caught,” Lonny remarked as he turned to her, guiding his own hands between her legs. She bit her lip as Lonny felt hard again. “I’d like that,” she whispered before playfully biting his ear, and the Bastard of Winterfell crawled upon the wife of Winterfell’s heir as they reunited in the pleasure they had just briefly recessed from.
At the rise of a new dawn, Lonny had crept out of Myriame’s chambers and navigated his way to the kitchens, fixing himself a meal before finding himself a secluded area in the castle to enjoy his meal in peace. He overlooked the castle with dull interest as the waking capital rekindled the errands that had been shelved the day before. Admittedly, Winterfell had changed drastically since news of the Greyjoy’s capturing Bear Island had reached them, and the city had only grown quieter with each coming day. A favourable outcome for some, Lonny thought lustfully as his mind drifted back to his beauty back in bed.
Asides, Lonny’s lifestyle had suffered minimally with this war. His father had rode off with his older half-brother for the Wolfswood some weeks ago, Beron had taken charge of Winterfell, and Arsa had been away from home for some time. Lonny admittedly missed his half-sister more than he liked to admit. Despite their differences, they somehow managed to complement each other in a manner that was beyond Lonnel’s understanding. She was ruthless and lively, and it paired well with Lonny’s charismatic independence from the rest of the family – they were both outcasts to the status quo, but at least she carried the name of Stark. Lonny had been humiliated with the title of Snow for the last thirty years of his existence, but it had its perks in a way, and those who saw past his bastardy truly let his potential shine.
“Sneaking around the castle again?” a familiar kindly voice remarked from his behind, and Lonny turned over his shoulder to meet the lovely brown eyes of his step-mother: Lady Alys. They were an unlikely of pairs, many would have considered Alys to have little love for her husband’s bastard, but they couldn’t have been so wrong. Lonny’s mother had passed during his birth, and out of respect for her, Brandon had taken Lonnel under his wing in Winterfell, though never given him much attention. Instead, he focused on Rodwell, while Beron stuck to his books and Arsa later to her adventures. Lady Alys was robbed of her children, and took sympathy to the bastard boy that her husband showed little interest in.
“You know me, Mother,” Lonny chuckled as he offered her a seat beside him. The late lady perched herself across from him, overlooking her people with tired eyes. Lady Alys was in her mid-fifties, although she didn’t look a day over forty. Her dark brown hair was slowly beginning to grey, but kept modestly in a tight bun above her head, while her thin physique was beefed up with layers that hid underneath her grey dress. She was wasted on a man like Lonny’s father, but she dare not let herself believe that. She was married to the Warden of the North – not because he was the man of her dreams, but because he was a man of great power. Their marriage had prevailed for forty years, but Lonny imagined Lord Brandon could fuck a dozen whores in their bed before Alys’ very eyes and the Lady of Winterfell would not bat an eye to it. She deserves better, Lonny thought sympathetically, but he dare not say it aloud.
“What are you doing up this early?” she inquired, to which Lonnel shrugged. “I had trouble sleeping,” he admitted half-truthfully, and Alys raised an eyebrow at him before shrugging. “Unfortunate for you. I haven’t been sleeping this well in years,” she boasted with a smirk, and Lonny grinned for her amusement.
“Finally have a den of silence, then?” he teased, and his adoptive mother nodded appreciatively. “Your father's snores’ are like a deafening horn with each breath,” she chastised, making Lonny laugh.
“Well, I’m happy you’re finding some peace amongst all this chaos, Alys,” Lonny said with a smile, and Alys shared the expression for a moment as she nodded, but eventually her aged stern eyes seized control, and a solemn look returned to her face. She remained silent for a moment, as if she were dwelling on the conflictions and regrets that had welled inside her for so long, before she snapped back into reality.
“Beron wanted to speak with you last night before you disappeared. It may be wise to go and see him later,” she informed him, and Lonny nodded as he finished his breakfast. “Of course, I wouldn’t deny him such an audience,” Lonny remarked with a half-smile, but his wit was wasted on her.
“Keep warm, Lonnel. Winter is Coming,” she reiterated firmly as she pecked him on the cheek before departing. It’s just been, Lonny thought to himself as he watched her disappear around the corner. He let out a sigh as he placed his bowl down beside him and overlooked the mundane people of Winterfell. The blacksmith beat at his steel and the mason chipped at his stone, and the women tended to their duties while the children chased each other with sticks. All around him he saw signs of war, and just like the folk behind these walls, Lonny had been shielded from it all his life. The Bastard of Winterfell, he thought laconically with little bother to it. He was not the first Stark bastard to have tainted the walls of this ancestral hold with his presence, and he doubted he would be the last.
The day had progressed to mid-afternoon when Lonny had chosen to seek out his brother, and the directions of others had led him into the godswood. An entire forest locked to solitude behind walls as old as the wood that grew here; it had been a marvel to Lonny ever since he was a boy, and the charm had never ceased. Sentinels, oaks and ironwoods towered above the old stone walls and formed a fortification of their own, overlooking the North for thousands of years. At the heart of this magnificent grove was a small pool that reflected the autumn-like leaves that loomed above it. The weirwood was the one beast of the grove that Lonny marvelled at the most; it had terrified him as a boy, and haunted him as a man. Perhaps his sleepless nights could be attributed to this one tree, or simply to his misdeeds in character. Either way, Lonny suspected the gods had a special seat awaiting him in one of the many hells that men believed in.
Resting against the white trunk of the heart tree, Beron shifted his motionless glance from the black pool to Lonnel as he sensed his approach. Lonny flashed his brother a half-smile, and the man nodded to him in response as he returned his gaze back to the water.
“Every day I sit in that hall, and if it’s not the complaints of farmers, it’s the bickering of nobles, or the screeching of Lady Bolton. Gods bless her, but I wish that damn crone’s tongue would be as mute as her ears,” Beron remarked as he tossed a twig into the pool. Lonny watched it sink as a shiver ran down his spine, and he forced himself to smile.
“I’m sure it won’t be too long until you’re back to spending time with the kids, and father is back to sitting in his chair drowning out the noise of the court with that piss ale he drinks,” Lonny stated with a chuckle, and Beron shared his entertainment for a moment before frowning.
“I fear for them, Lonny. Each day that passes, and every night that ensues… I can’t shake my mind from it. All the reports I’ve received claim that the situation in the Wolfswood is getting worse, and I’ve sent as many men as I can muster to aid father and Rod, and now Cregard is here for the same thing,” Beron uttered with a heavy burden of stress weighing down his shoulders, and Lonny sat himself beside his brother as he looked up to the red leaves above them.
“I can’t imagine you’ve found any peace beneath the weirwood then,” Lonny remarked, and Beron scoffed at the mention with a roll of the eyes. “Nor clarity,” he muttered as he slapped the thick white root that ran between them. “I remember when we used to play hide and seek here, you and Arsa would always hide in the same spots. Even as teenagers, we’d never come near here,” Beron chuckled, and Lonny smiled uncomfortably as he glanced at the heart tree that loomed above them.
“Well, that was all fun until Arsa fell from her hiding spot and broke a rib. Father locked her up in her tower for almost a year with the maester’s and septa’s,” Lonny stated, and Beron let out a small sigh.
“That was just after the wedding of Daenerys Targaryen to Prince Maron Martell, wasn’t it? That was an eventful occasion,” Beron remarked, and Lonny nodded. “So I was told,” the Bastard of Winterfell stated as he crossed his arms. Yet another event he had missed due to his bastardry. Beron let out a sigh as he turned to Lonny, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Lonny, I know that father has never been easy on you, and he’s never really included you as part of our family, but you are our brother, and I cherish that,” Beron stated, and Lonny gazed at him for a moment before giving him an appreciative nod. His brother only frowned as he lowered his gaze. “I trust you better than any of these goons left here, which is why I’m asking if you will ride south and hold Moat Cailin,” Beron then added, and Lonny felt his heart sink. There it is, he thought cynically as he averted his gaze from his brother.
“Moat Cailin,” Lonny reiterated, and Beron nodded. “I don’t want to split up our family any more than it already is, but frankly we’re at war, and with the Ironborn pushing up the Saltspear, we would be wise to defend our southern entrance,” Beron stated, making Lonny frown.
“I’m no solider, nor a commander, or even a Stark for that matter. What do you expect me to do at Moat Cailin?” Lonny queried with a frustrated tone, making Beron sigh. “I’m hoping your relation to the Fenn’s will bring the Crannogmen North, to help the war effort,” Beron admitted, making Lonny chuckle with disbelief.
“So that’s what this is about? I’m not good enough to be a Stark, but when it’s convenient I can call for the aid of my mother’s family to help you Starks. How ironic,” Lonny muttered, and Beron looked at him with pleading eyes.
“Lonny, please. I don’t ask this of you lightly, but I’m running out of men and choices. All of our father’s banners have answered the call, even the damn Skagosi, except for the Mountain clans and the Crannogmen. If we don’t get more men, then we may end up losing the North,” Beron stated, and Lonny scowled.
“Who’s to say they will listen to me? Father didn’t make any friends in the Neck when he impregnated Lord Reed’s soon-to-be wife with me. Why would they listen to the bastard son?” Lonny queried, and Beron shook his head with tired eyes staring over the pool at their feet.
“I don’t know if they’ll listen, Lonny, but we have to try. Will you do this for me?” Beron questioned, and Lonny turned his gaze back onto his brother, who looked drained for hope. It pained him to see Beron like this, but frankly Lonny didn’t care for this war. He half hoped for an Ironborn victory to rid him of his father and Rodwell, and to escape with Myriame amidst the chaos, but Beron had always been good to him. He just feared he was the wrong choice for a mission like this.
Air flooded his lungs with a startled gasp as his eyes forced themselves open. He was alive, wasn’t he? He launched himself up, patting himself down and catching his breath. Everything was still there, his breathing rapid but at least operating, and his head pounding like a bitch of a thing. He swung his legs over the side of the bunk, resting his head in his hands, a thumping pain residing at the back of his head. He felt his body gently sway from side to side, and as he opened his eyes he found himself in a foreign environment. His brow furrowed as he lifted his head. He was on a ship. How did I get here? That question was hardly at the forefront of his mind however. Someone had tried to kill him last night, and they had almost succeeded.
“Matthias!” a voice exclaimed with surprise, and the Ironborn’s eyes traced up to meet the startled gaze of his brother-in-law. Seamus, Matthias recognised with cold resentment, which transferred through his glare, wiping the relieved look off the man’s face. “Glad to see you’re finally awake,” Seamus muttered as he took a seat on one of the bed’s opposite him, distant enough to keep out of trouble. Matthias rubbed his eyes with exhaustion. ‘
“What the fuck happened?” he groaned, and Seamus frowned as he stared at Matt hesitantly. “You don’t remember?” he asked timidly, forming a bitter look on Matthias’ impatient eyes. “Answer the fucking question you daft cunt,” he grunted, making Seamus gulp as he scratched the back of his head.
“The fight at the tavern? Showing what it means to be truly Ironborn? Ringing any bells?” Seamus muttered as he crossed his arms, and Matt winced as he felt the back of his head beat with pain. “What happened to me you stupid bastard,” Matthias emphasised as he clutched the back of his head, which he realised was bandaged. Seamus frowned.
“I don’t know. You sent me off,” Seamus admitted, but Matthias wasn’t having it. The Ironborn rose to his feet, his hands fastening around the unsuspecting fisherman’s throat. “Didn’t like what I had to say, did ya? Or is it because I put some fucking meaning into your life that made you cheap shot me, and try to fucking drown me?!” Matthias shouted as he strangled her sister’s lover against the wall. He would finish something now he should’ve done years ago. That plan only fell short when he felt a hard jab in the back, leaving him gasping for air as he crumbled to his knees.
“Wasn’t this limp dick ginger that gave you the blessing of the Drowned God, Verlen,” a charasmatic voice exclaimed as he stuck a boot into Matt’s ribs, rolling him over to meet his assailant. The man was younger than Matthias perhaps by only a hair, being on his late twenties he reckoned, with short greasy black hair and a rugged face clean of hair. He wore the crest of the kraken on his surcoat, and a scimitar dangled from his belt.
“I am Torwyn Greyjoy, King Dagon’s son and heir,” he introduced, kneeling down to meet Matthias eye-to-eye. “You find yourself aboard the Mermen’s Whore, my flagship, and the vessel to your new destination,” Torwyn announced as he pushed himself up, and Matthias turned a perplexed glare to Seamus, who only avoided his gaze.
“You’ve been asleep for almost a week, Verlen. Quite pathetic, really. You missed the boat to the Stony Shore, and even my father sailed for the Wolfswood days ago. Perhaps it’s fate that we are to sail together,” Torwyn suggested before shrugging. “Be it as it is, you’re now joining me in taking the Saltspear, with a slight detour to Barrowton before we take Moat Cailin for my father,” Torwyn announced, and Matthias’ brow furrowed.
“What the fuck are we going to do at Barrowton?” Matthias muttered with annoyance, never having heard of any of these castles Greyjoy had mentioned. Torwyn smirked as his gaze lost itself in his own little world. “We will lay siege to it, naturally. Once the city is secured, I will send some boats to Moat Cailin, and I will send some boats to Torrhen’s Square, where my men will link up with my uncle’s forces,” Torwyn announced, then helping Matthias to his feet.
“Fortunately for you, sleepyhead, we will be surrounding the city within a day, so you have plenty of time to prepare for the action,” he stated with a warm smile before patting him on the shoulder and egressing from the bunks. Matthias stood there, bewildered for a moment as he processed the situation, and then simply accepted it as the new task. Only after that did he recall the presence of his sister’s pathetic boyfriend.
“What the fuck are you looking at?” Matthias grunted as he knelt beneath his bunk, finding his boots and gear thrown under there.
“I could’ve ran back to her, you know, while you were out cold for a week, but I didn’t. I sat by your fucking side, gods know why, and got us on a boat here. I don’t care if you think me a coward, Matthias, but you should know I’m doing this now whether you’re here to make me feel shit about it or not,” Seamus uttered coldly before taking off, and Matt watched him disappear up deck before rolling his eyes. He deludes himself.
They found themselves rowing up a tight inlet, barely three ships abroad, with less than a dozen boats in Torwyn’s fleet. There was a chill in the air that nipped at Matthias’ skin as he stood up on deck, covered in little more than a cotton shirt with his sleeves rolled up. His pants were simple and his boots worn, and hanging from his belt was a blade he acquired from his time in Meereen: a curved blade that was prominent amongst the Ghiscari warriors. Matthias was sufficient with any weaponry, the fighting pits had demanded that for his survival, but he had found a connection with this blade.
The North looked almost more barren than the Iron Islands, with snowy hills and emptiness as far as the eye could see. Guess that’s why the King wants it, Matthias rationalised with boredom as he let his eyes roam back onto the Mermen’s Whore. He spotted Matthias sitting on the balustrades on the portside, his feet dangling freely over the edge as he stared aft of the ship. A strong temptation surged through Matthias to go and push him off, but he was halted by a new source of attention.
“Remember me, fuckhead?” a booming voice questioned from Matt’s side, and he turned to meet a large hairy man approaching him with two weasel-like comrades at his side. There was something familiar about this beast, but Matthias couldn’t pick it.
“Should I?” Matthias uttered coldly as his hand fell onto the hilt of his sheathed blade, and he took a defensive stance. He was no stranger to fighting men double his size, but when the favours were odd, he wouldn’t take his chances.
“You knocked out a tooth of mine the other night in the tavern, you cunt. I’m looking to get it back,” he stated with a wolfish grin as he pummelled his fist, and Matthias found himself staring at the hole in the front of the giant’s crooked teeth.
“I’d say it’s an improvement,” Matthias quipped with a dry sense of humour, and the hairy man smirked, looking back to his comrades before surprising Matthias with a backhand across the cheek. Matt tumbled to the ground with surprise, and was barely able to regain his senses before the brute had his hands around Matt’s throat rattling him like a drunken sailor. Matt gripped him by the forearms had thrust his feet into the man’s chest, creating some space between them. The brute stumbled back before flashing Matthias a grin, and freeing his axe from his belt, making Matt smirk in return. Finally, he thought with approval as he unsheathed his blade.
The brute swung his axe like a madman, with Matt dodging his strikes and searching for an opening – when he found it, he jabbed his open fist into the man’s sides and spun around him. Delivering a finishing blow with his blade, the brute managed to catch Matthias’ strike in time, restricting his sword arm. Matthias struggled under the man’s strength, and caught the Ironborn’s axe by the handle before it could come down at him. Left with little else, Matt butted his head against the brute, but that did little more than disorient himself. Amused, the man tightened his grip around Matt’s wrist, forcing him to drop his blade, and threw away his axe to strangle Matthias with his other hand.
Lifted in the air, Matt dug his nails into the brute’s strangling arm, but it was no good. His hairy flesh was like boiled hide, and Matthias was running out of options. He kicked his feet frantically as the air was choked from his lungs, and all his tunnelling vision could see was the sick amusement of his opponent. Just when everything seemed lost, Matthias was released and allowed to breathe again. With immediate confusion, Matthias looked up to find his foe clutching the back of his head. A new figure had joined the fight, an oar in hand, which had broken over the back of the brute’s head. Seamus, Matthias thought with confusion and oddly some relief.
Seizing this moment, Matthias scrambled to his feet and tackled the man, pinning him against the starboard railings that he clutched onto for all dear might. Matt held him there with what strength remained as he fastened his hands around the brute’s throat. Unsuspectedly, Seamus came to his side, grabbing the man’s legs. What the fuck is he doing? Matthias pondered with distraction, and then Seamus’ plan was executed sweetly as he forced Matt’s opponent out of his grasp, sending him overboard. He hit the water like a rock in a puddle, drenching them as they watched his descent, and while Matthias found amusement in this, he was quickly pulled to his senses.
“Can’t leave you out of my sight for one fucking minute before you go and do something stupid,” Seamus muttered, and Matthias’ enjoyment turned to ire as he glared upon Seamus. His actions were only halted when he recognised the crowd that they had attracted.
“Bravo, Lord Verlen,” Torwyn applauded with a slow clap, easing through the crowd to meet them. “You’ve managed to get Borg to go for a swim, a special remark, certainly not a feat any of us have managed to pull,” Torwyn announced, and Matthias raised an eyebrow at him. Torwyn past him and looked over the side, where the brute struggled in the cold river.
“How’s the water, Borg?” Torwyn questioned, and a group of bellowing laughter erupted from the men. Matthias watched as the giant man shivered and struggled to stay afloat, and Torwyn turned his gaze to Matthias to elaborate. “Borg can’t swim. Unusual for an Ironborn, but then again, we Ironborn certainly are unusual,” Torwyn remarked before ordering his crew to throw Borg down a ladder.
“Come with me, Verlen,” Torwyn then requested, or ordered, and climbed to the helm of his vessel with Matthias reluctantly at his behind. “You see all these men?” Torwyn muttered as he leant on the balustrades overlooking the deck. Matthias nodded as he crossed his arms. “Most of ‘em are green. Fishermen and thralls from the far ends of the Iron Isles. These were the best my father could spare me, and he simply wishes for me to hold Moat Cailin for him,” Torwyn remarked before turning his gaze to Matthias.
“I’ll be proving my worth to him with what I have, Verlen, and you’ll be helping me. You’re a warrior, and you’ll be a commander of these miserable fools. The question is, what do you want to do with them?” Torwyn queried, making Matthias raise an eyebrow. He took a minute to process all of this.
“What are you talking about?” Matthias asked, and Torwyn sighed.
“Barrowton is a weak fortification, built more of wood than stone. Its defences will crumble with fire, but nonetheless, we must be tactical about how we approach this siege. This river forks off upstream, with the eastern inlet running alongside Barrowton’s defences. To the west, there is some twenty miles from the boats to the city, but I doubt the Northmen will suspect a land assault. That being said, our boats are our strength, and if we are caught off guard from the west, we will be left vulnerable. I want to hear your opinion on this dilemma I’m facing,” Torwyn then stated, and Matthias’ brow furrowed before he shook his head.
“Where is the dilemma? Just send boats up both ends of the stream,” Matthias remarked, but Torwyn shook his head.
“We have no way to communicate to each other if we split up, and I do not wish for half of my forces to be destroyed against some weak battlements before the other half even arrive. We must go one way or the other,” Torwyn stated firmly, making Matthias groan with impatience as he looked over the young faces of the crew. With all their ships, they would have around five hundred men, more than enough for a siege this easy, if it was indeed as Torwyn said. Either option was plausible if executed correctly.
Alright, I apologise for this part taking so long. With the accumulation of uni assessments and just life being shit in general for me atm, I've pretty unmotivated to sit down and write despite how much I love the story and this character in particular. That being said though, I have this next part finished and shan't leave you waiting any longer for it. The next part will be an Argus part which I've written the bulk of already, so that should be out sooner than later I hope, but until then here is Aegor
“The western blockade will need to be reinforced, and more pitch is needed at the southern gate. Those trenches should at least three feet deeper as well,” Aegor grunted with half of his attention, as his focus gleaned over the contents of a letter from Calla that had reached him not more than an hour ago.
“We’ve already hit rock at the trenches, and we’re running out of supplies to contribute to the blockade,” the captain of the guard, Wyle Stout, stated, gaining the amusement of Ser Robb. Aegor didn’t lift his eyes from the note.
“That’s not my problem, Captain,” Aegor muttered in dismissal, but the captain shook his head.
“Ser, it’s almost the darkest hour. The men need rest. They won’t be able to defend the castle if they topple over from exhaustion,” he argued, and Aegor put down the note as he rose to his feet.
“And there won’t be much of a siege if the Ironborn can sail through the main fucking gates. Deeper trenches, and more oil,” Aegor emphasised strictly as his piercing glare burnt a hole through the intimidated captain’s head. The guard nodded with a gulp and took his leave, evoking a chuckle from Reyne as he shut the door behind him.
“These whelps won’t last the night, let alone man these battlements during a siege. They’ll be shitting their breaches and making for the hills,” Robb stated confidently with a smirk, and Lord Strickland sighed as he rubbed his tired eyes.
“Whelps or not, we’re contracted to defend this shithole city from the Ironborn. That might not mean much to Brus or Vogero, but Aegor has chosen for us to stay, so we must honour our end of the agreement,” Strickland muttered with a tone that almost seemed disappointed with Aegor's actions. The Bittersteel snarled.
“I don’t give a fuck about the contract. The Dustin girl said she’d be in my debt if we protected her city, and that little shit wouldn’t shut up about it if I didn’t,” Aegor stated, making Robb laugh.
“I wasn’t aware you were taking orders from little Stark boys now, Bittersteel. Besides, what makes you think she’ll really honour that deal, or even be any use to us,” Robb exclaimed, and Aegor fought hard not to break the pompous knight’s perfect nose. Strickland stroked his white beard before he nodded.
“The Northerners are known for their honour, I have no doubt they will follow through with the arrangement. The key is not the Dustin’s though, but the Umber’s. They are a much stronger house and this Lady Evelyn happens to be married to one of them. Win Hoarfrost’s admiration, and you may well gain an ally from the Umber’s and Dustin’s both,” Strickland suggested, and Aegor crossed his arms.
“That won’t be enough,” Aegor muttered, and Strickland nodded in agreement.
“Be patient, it’s a start. What news does Lady Calla bring?” Strickland asked as he changed the topic. Aegor sighed as he looked down at the letter, then flicking it over to Strickland. The old lord gleaned over the contents of it before raising his eyebrows. “Daemon has left Essos?” the old man seemed to choke on the message, and Reyne lifted an eyebrow to it.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, and Aegor rolled his eyes as he returned to his seat. Strickland recomposed himself, rereading the note.
“It says here that Daemon is going to make a play for the Iron Throne, and has set sail for the Reach by the persuading of Lord Gormon Peake. He intends to recruit his father’s old allies at some tourney held by Ambrose Butterwell in a few months,” Strickland retorted, then putting down the letter and gazing up at Aegor. “What are we going to do?” he asked, his tone almost frightened. Aegor shook his head.
“Nothing,” he answered sternly, and Robb raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing? If Daemon has the support of Peake and the others, we may have a fair chance of taking King’s Landing if we attack with the North at our side,” Robb suggested, but Aegor shook his head again.
“We don’t have the numbers, and even if we did I wouldn’t march them down to put that faggot on his father’s throne, or give him his father’s sword. He is unworthy,” Aegor stated firmly, and Strickland gulped.
“Daemon is his father’s heir…” Strickland attempted to argue, but received a cold glare from the Bittersteel.
“And is unworthy,” he emphasised, rising from his chair. “As Daeron II was unworthy, thus leading to the Blackfyre Rebellion. Blood right has no jurisdiction over the future of our kingdom; only the fittest shall earn the right to rule over Westeros,” Aegor claimed, making Robb smirk.
“And who might that be? You? All hail King Bittersteel, first of his name and king of bastards,” Robb quipped with a playful smile, but Aegor did not feed the knight’s dull humour.
“When Haegon proves himself, I will launch the next rebellion to put him on the throne, but preparations must first me made. Alliances must be formed. We need the North, and I need to find Jacaerys and Danaerys,” Aegor stated, and Strickland let out a sigh.
“Those children were lost at a young age, barely walking by the time we went into exile. Who is to say they even survived?” Strickland questioned, feeling this search was a big waste of time. Had the ulterior motive not been in place, he wouldn’t have even left the warmth of Essos.
“Calla claims Daemon saw them in one of his dreams, wandering aimlessly in the snow. If they are here, I will find them,” Aegor swore, making Robb scoff with amusement.
“You trust enough in the faggot’s dreams, but not in his right to occupy the throne. You are truly a mystery to me, Bittersteel,” Robb exclaimed, and Strickland nodded.
“A mystery to us all,” he added with a smile. “Now go, find this Umber and talk with him. Ser Robb will go and oversee the defences,” Strickland stated as he held Calla’s note over the candle flame and watched it ignite, eradicating any evidence of its existence. Reyne rolled his eyes.
“Fine,” he muttered, egressing from the office, and Aegor stared at the old man for a moment, attracting his attention.
“What is it?” he asked, and Aegor frowned.
“Earlier, this Umber mentioned a bastard that was riding with Torrhen Stark. ‘Daemon Snow,’ do you think the name is just coincidence?” Aegor queried, and Strickland’s brow rose for a moment before he shook his head.
“If my memory does not fail me, ‘Daemon’ was the name Lord Robar Ryswell gave to his bastard son he shared with one of Rohanne’s handmaidens some nineteen years ago,” Strickland remarked, and Aegor furrowed his brow.
“Robar Ryswell, did he survive the war?” Aegor queried, making Strickland roll his eyes.
“I wonder if you even listen to me at all sometimes. Yes, he did, but I would say surviving is epitome of his life. He became bedridden from an illness not too long after the rebellion. His son, Edwyn, assumes lordship of their family now,” Strickland claimed, and Aegor nodded slowly.
“Robar was a close friend and ally of Daemon’s during the uprising, do you think his sons would be of any use to us?” Aegor queried, and Strickland shrugged his shoulders.
“They may be,” he suggested before rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “You’d have to talk to them, as you should be talking with Hoarfrost now. Leave me to rest, or I may too end up toppling over from exhaustion,” he remarked with a grin, and Aegor rolled his eyes before exiting the office. He headed for the main hall.
Heavy black bags had sunk under the restless giant’s eyes as he held his head in his hands, over-encumbered by stress and fatigue. Before him was a letter that detailed the recent circumstances at the Last Hearth, and the passing of his lord father. Aegor’s entrance into the wild giant’s domain was unwelcomed, but the Bittersteel was no stranger to hostility and disdain from anywhere he ventured, so he cared little for what the Umber felt for his appearance.
“I need not ask who you are nor your true intentions here. You hide your face well under that dark mane, but those eyes betray you, Bittersteel,” the Umber muttered as he gulped his horn of ale and poured himself another, then offering one to Aegor. The Bittersteel sat adjacent to the drunken giant and accepted the drink, clinking his cup with Hoarfrost’s horn before downing his ale in one swig.
“I did not come to hide myself,” Aegor acknowledged as he poured himself another ale, and Hoarfrost sat on his own for a moment, glaring at the small scroll of paper that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
“If you have returned to Westeros, then I suspect you are intending to cause trouble for the Seven Kingdoms again. I suspect you will want the help of the North in doing that,” Hoarfrost stated, and Aegor gulped down a mouthful of his drink before turning his gaze on the giant.
“That is the plan,” Aegor muttered nonchalantly, and a small smile broke on Hoarfrost’s lips.
“The North has been neglected by the rest of the Seven Kingdoms since Aegon conquered the continent. We have starved with the winter and still honoured the Targaryen’s as our sovereigns. We’ve given our lives for them, our crops to them, and taken their criminals to imprison at the Wall – who now break their fucking oaths and kill lords and peasants alike in our land,” Hoarfrost grumbled as he scrunched the small note within his great hand, and dropped his head in grief. Aegor glared at the man.
“The Targaryen’s are weak and unworthy of the power they possess. Even now, the Ironborn are crashing upon all of the western shores and they are powerless to do anything about it. I would see to remove that weakness,” Aegor stated, making Hoarfrost chuckle to himself, but the Bittersteel saw no amusement in his comment.
“Your brother’s rebellion split this continent in two, and while there are many here in the North that may support your motives, there are equally as many who will not,” Hoarfrost stated laconically, and Aegor shrugged.
“Such is the nature of divided loyalties. Westeros needs change, or Westeros will fall,” Aegor remarked, and Hoarfrost rolled his eyes.
“I don’t care for your politics, Bittersteel. My concerns lie with protecting my family and my people. That begins with Barrowton, to which I acknowledge your staying may well save my wife’s family from the storm that comes to consume them. If we survive this, I will give my good word to Torrhen Stark,” Hoarfrost stated with assurance, but Aegor shook his head.
“Your good word is not enough, Umber. I am putting a lot on the line to save your hide,” Aegor bargained, and Hoarfrost shot a scornful glare at him in return.
“You have some audacity to challenge my honour when you scheme behind your contractor’s back and ploy for civil war. Aye, my word may not mean much to you without swords and men to wield them, but my good word is about all you have if you want my help in this war to come. Help me save this city, and I’ll give you an audience with a man that is as ambitious for power change as you are,” Hoarfrost brokered, and Aegor stared at the bottom of his cup before reluctantly nodding. He turned his eyes on the giant’s letter before rising to his feet.
“Sulking over the death of your father will not save the people behind these walls. Your men need direction, go to them,” Aegor muttered, finishing his drink and egressing the hall. He walked himself to the quarters that had been granted to him, locked the door and slumped into the bed.
“Wake up,” a voice whispered to him as he sat underneath the stars beneath the Red Keep, the night calm and the gentle water rippling against the rocks. The bastard of the king opened his eyes, and found himself gazing upon another star, more beautiful than any that dotted the night sky. Shiera Seastar, a sister in blood, but bound together by more than just their father.
A rare smile touched his lips as he reached for her hand, but she flicked it aside and turned her back on him, staring out to the Narrow Sea that split them from another world. She had always dreamed of visiting Essos, while Aegor had never cared for it, and alas he had ended up there while she remained locked within this castle. His smile quickly faded as he climbed to his feet.
“What is it?” he asked, his shadow cast over her. Her mismatched eyes turned to meet the eyes his father had cursed him with, and he saw tears welling within them.
“I’m pregnant,” she claimed, but her voice was toneless, and foreign to the expression she wore. Aegor stared down to her belly, seeing it inflate suddenly like a bloated swellfish. Aegor backed away, but with each step in his retreat, she matched him in pursuit. “It’s a boy, I know it,” she proclaimed, stripping herself of her garments, revealing her swollen belly. “You are his father.” Aegor’s back hit a wall of rock. He shook his head.
“No,” he muttered distantly, and she snatched his hand, placing it on her belly. He flinched at her the coldness he felt beneath his hand, as if he were touching a ball of ice.
“The bastard father’s another bastard,” she remarked with a smirk, and Aegor’s eyes widened as he watched her belly move frantically, until blood streamed down her legs, and the Bittersteel watched with horror as he felt himself sinking into the sand beneath their feet. A hand freed itself from her womanhood, scaled and white, with boneless fingers that wriggled like worms under a rock and wrapped themselves around her legs up her torso. Following the arm was a head, white hair that was wet with her internals, and bleeding eyes that pierced through Aegor’s flesh with a single gaze.
“I will give to you what you took from me. A choice,” she then stated, watching as he descended into the pool of sand beneath him. The hideous creature clutched onto its mother, sucking at her tit and entangling its worm-like appendages around her limbs. “Me, or him,” she said plainly, offering Aegor a sharpened blade as she stared up, and the Bittersteel followed her gaze to a great beast that loomed above them. A black dragon circling above the Red Keep, tethered but restless. “Who will you cut loose?” she asked with sick amusement, and Aegor stared down at the dagger that trembled in his hands.
“She’s mine now,” the aberration chimed with a slithering tongue that coursed itself up her neck. Aegor’s fear quickly turned to rage.
“Get off her you white worm!” he shouted, slashing frantically at the parasite, but his swings only served to injure her instead. “This is all a dream,” Aegor told himself as he threw away the dagger, and Shiera knelt down to his level.
“And should that make this any less real?” she argued, and Aegor stared into her eyes with wells of emotion building in his own, which appeared to dismay her. “Wake then, if this is nothing but a dream.” Aegor shook his head as he reached for her.
“Don’t leave me,” he pleaded, but she sneered at him.
“Ser, wake up,” a soft voice begged, tugging at his arm. Aegor’s eyes flew open and tightly grabbed the small wrist of the boy that disturbed him. He recognised it to be his useless squire, Rodrik Stark. It became quickly apparent that his grip was hurting the boy, and so he released him as he pulled himself upright.
“What do you want, boy?” Aegor muttered, and Rodrik rubbed his arm as he looked to the floor.
“The Ironborn… they’re here,” he mumbled, and Aegor glared at him a moment before he stood from his bed and walked to the window. He peered out to see a dozen or more ships sailing up the Saltspear. It was still dark, but the boats were lit with lanterns, and dawn was on the horizon. Aegor left the window and grabbed his gear, strapping his sword to his belt and slinging his shield onto his back.
“Stay here,” Aegor muttered as he passed the boy, but Rodrik shook his head defiantly.
“I can fight,” he argued, and Aegor looked him up and down once.
“No you can’t.”
Aegor shut the door to his chambers firmly behind him, locking the boy inside. He walked down the hall and descended the stairwells until he was in the courtyard, where Wyle Stout was rallying a bunch of farmer’s boys and tradesmen dressed in gambeson, and Reyne’s statement wouldn’t have been too far from the truth. Naturally, when the Bittersteel found himself thinking of the arrogant knight’s wisdom, it meant he wasn’t too far away. In this instance, he was just entering the courtyard with Hoarfrost Umber and Lady Evelyn.
“Nice to see you’re finally awake, your Grace,” Reyne quipped with a smirk, but Aegor paid him little mind. Hoarfrost crossed his arms and Evelyn passed him, unsheathing her sword.
“Brothers and sisters in arms, the time has come to defend our city. Come with me and fend off those who would murder and rape our women and children!” Evelyn screamed, and there was a weak cry from the farmers as they rallied around her, then following her out of the court along with Captain Wyle Stout. Hoarfrost ran his fingers through his hair anxiously, and Robb rested his hands on his hips.
“This will be a hell of a siege. The southern gate is fucked, and Dustin is pulling all her guard to the east. I’ve left Strickland in the south to defend the entrance, but Aegor, if the Ironborn attack from the south, they won’t have any trouble getting in. We should move the Second Sons to the south” Robb advised, and Hoarfrost shook his head ignorantly.
“These stupid fucks won’t leave their ships to attack the southern gate, and we don’t have the numbers to hold them off at the eastern gate. Leave your man there with a handful of sellswords and let them sit out this battle, we need you and your company with us,” Hoarfrost pleaded, and Aegor cursed under his breath. Damn Crowl for leaving us, Aegor thought with spite, but he was just as guilty for making his own choice to remain here. There was nothing more they could do to prepare, it was time for war.
Choice 1: [Send the Second Sons to the eastern gate] [Keep the Second Sons at the southern gate]
Choice 2: [Go to the eastern gate] [Go to the southern gate]
Post by WildlingKing on Sept 10, 2020 15:42:45 GMT
[Keep the Second Sons at the southern gate] & [Go to the eastern gate] Compromise, kinda?
It's pretty interesting to see Bittersteel working on his schemes for the Iron Throne here, feels very different from the rest of the story, but not in a bad way. Just kinda adds a new perspective to this Northern conflict. The glimpse of Shiera Seastar was also interesting.
Apologies for the delay with this part, I've been pretty overwhelmed with all my uni shit that I just haven't had the time to even think about writing, and now that I'm somewhat in an interlude between assignments, I've lost my momentum. I intended to show the entire siege of Deepwood Motte in this one Argust part, but that was getting lengthy and I'm short for time at the moment, so I've decided to make the siege into two parts (which will mean a lot of PoV's next parts are going to be battle parts XD). For those gleaning from my SW fan fic, I regretfully confess I've yet to start episode 2, simply for the same reasons as I listed above, and I'd rather hit it all in one go as I get pretty addicted to that storyline. I'll likely resume more consistent writing once exams are finished, some time during November Anyway, enough excuses, here's Argus' part.
Lord Bolton conversed with his son, Jory, as the bulk of the Bolton army finally arrived to the cindered camp of the Northern army. Argus had perched himself upon an old charred stump, taking this time to hone his blade for the battle ahead. He had offered himself to join Matthew in infiltrating Deepwood Motte, and the lord had accepted his offer after a rigorous inspection of Argus’ form. He was agile enough to make the cut, and so was Ser Ilyn Baelish, apparently.
The hedge knight of the Fingers stood as still as a tower as he watched the Bolton men flood into the camp. His armour was finely forged from Braavosi craft, heavily resembling the Titan of Braavos in design. His sheathed blade bore a heart-shaped pommel, and on his back was a round shield. The two had been silent towards each other since their inspection for the infiltration squad, for no particular reason other than unfamiliarity to each other. Argus had never considered himself much of a socialite, but this past hour had grown monotonous in silence.
“So how did you come to meet the Volantene?” Argus asked as he sheathed his longsword, and the hedge knight shifted his body for the first time in this last hour. “Marcyn? We go way back, he was a pupil of my father back in Braavos, but I’ve always considered him as more of a brother,” Ilyn explained casually, and Argus raised an eyebrow. “He spoke quite highly of your father,” Argus mentioned, to which Ilyn nodded.
“My father was a revered mercenary in Essos before bringing his services to House Corbray. He made his name during the second Braavosi-Pentoshi war, where he was recognised by Darzos of Izulepsia – Marcyn’s father. The two became great friends, and in the third conflict between the two Free Cities, Darzos met his end on the battlefield, and my father swore to raise Darzos’ son as his own. Two years ago, Marcyn and I fought in the lastest war between Braavos and Pentos, and then he went on to build his sellsword career, while I’ve set up my home in the Vale,” Ilyn explained, and Argus nodded with interest before his gaze lowered at the thought of home. I left for a reason, Argus reminded himself.
To cut their conversation short, Marcyn revealed himself from the numbers of the Bolton army, accompanied by Alistair and Emilio. Ilyn and the Volantene sellsword embraced on contact, while Argus exchanged nods to his two companions. “Nice of you to finally join us,” Ilyn remarked as he patted his brother on the shoulder, and Marcyn rolled his eyes.
“If there was a darn horse to be bought I would have been riding with you,” he expressed, to which Ilyn rolled his eyes. Alistair bent over to catch his breath, and Emilio cleared his throat awkwardly. “So what did we miss?” he asked, and Argus exchanged a glance with Ser Ilyn before letting out a sigh.
“Well we’ve repelled the Ironborn from the Wolfswood and have won the war, looks like we can walk back now,” Argus said in a half witty remark, to which Alistair rolled his eyes, and Argus allowed himself a small smile. “We’re about to march on Deepwood Motte,” Argus explained in actuality, and Emilio’s eyes widened. “A siege?” he asked, his tone seeming frightened, and Alistair grinned as he punched the young bastard in the arm.
“Not afraid now, are you, Rivers?” he exclaimed, and the ginger Riverman just glared at him before walking off to find some water. Argus let out a sigh, watching as Emilio walked away. “I think we should talk about him,” Argus stated, and Alistair raised an eyebrow before shaking his head. “Later, I don’t want my head clouded before battle,” Alistair stated as he looked to Marcyn, who had clearly installed that idea in his head as a method to shut him up. Argus frowned as he placed a hand on Alistair’s shoulder.
“I think it would be best if you remain here during the battle. This camp will need to be defended,” Argus stated, and Alistair’s eyes widened with confusion and then bitterness. “You don’t think I can fight, do you?” Alistair exclaimed with offense, and Argus shook his head in argument.
“It’s not about what I think you can or cannot do, Alistair, it’s about what I fear the Ironborn can do. I’m not looking forward to this fight, hells I’m pissing myself over it, and I’d feel a lot better knowing you were here than on the frontlines,” Argus expressed, to which Alistair glared at him and then frowned, the reality of this situation beginning to dawn on him. “I’m not a liability, Argus,” he muttered, lifting his gaze up to Keding’s. “I’ll fight by your side, and we’ll fight these shits out of the North,” Alistair stated with a wavering confidence, and Argus frowned at him before nodding.
“Alright then, Bloodsword,” Argus sighed, and Alistair smiled at the name briefly, “but you don’t leave my sight, understood? You watch my back and I watch yours,” Argus instructed, and Alistair nodded in agreement. Alright, Argus settled, patting his friend on the shoulder before walking over to Lord Bolton to inform him of their extra member.
“You will split the forces, and then go for the ships with Rodwell, understood?” Matthew ordered, and Jory nodded before turning his gaze onto Argus, encouraging Matthew to do the same. “I hope I’m not interrupting,” Argus apologised, and Matthew shook his head as he dismissed his son. “My friend – Alistair, I’d like him to join us,” Argus stated, and Lord Bolton crossed his arms.
“I’m full up on men already, Keding,” Matthew stated with dismissal, but Argus pleaded with him. “I don’t have the time to test his skills now, can he hold his own?” Matthew asked, and Argus nodded hesitantly, to which the lord rolled his eyes and nodded. “So be it, but his death is on your hands if it proves he cannot. Now come, Brandon is rallying the troops,” Matthew stated, and Argus joined him along with the rest of the Northern army.
Argus stood amongst the few thousand men, most donned with leather gambeson and the Stark sigil – or the banner of another Northern house – somewhere on their equipment, but amongst the many Argus spotted the few who were sellswords that carried their own markings. At the head of this gathering stood three men on a podium: Lord Stark, his son Rodwell, and Lord Cerwyn. Lord Brandon finished consulting with them and turned to his army, his iron plated armour giving an old man the appearance of the strength he lost many a year ago. Argus had no doubt the Lord Stark could still crush the bones of his enemies with his bare hands, but there was no arguing that the years of lordship and war had taken a toll on his body.
“Brothers, sisters!” he called, and the Stark army began to bash their weapons on their shields. “I have had the honour of fighting side by side with many of you in the long years of my life, and I am fortunate to have you at my side once again. Those Ironfucks have the audacity to reap on our lands! I say we give them a Northern welcome!” he yelled, and his men cheered with thunderous voices that rattled the charred woods that surrounded them. Lord Brandon unsheathed his ancestral blade and descended the podium, heading east for Deepwood Motte, backed by an army with a thirst for blood.
The sewers of Deepwood Motte were tunnelled with cobblestone that had long mossed over with centuries of neglect. In many cases, the sewage system provided a natural vulnerability to any castle’s defences, providing an unguarded network for criminals and spies to sabotage an army from within. However, the Glover’s were a poor house, with walls of timber and a hub of thatch homes surrounding the small stone keep that was home to the vassals of the Stark’s. This tunnel led directly to the small keep.
Argus exchanged a grimacing glance with Alistair, who expressed a similar look as they trudged through the small rivulet of manure and waste that eventually funnelled out to sea. The tunnel was barely wide enough for two men to walk side-by-side, and the journey had already taken near an hour of ascending a slippery slope to the Glover’s stone keep. Argus wagered that if their surprise attack would fail, at least the stench of shit may save them from close contact with the Ironborn.
When they had reached the end of the tunnel, they held a moment to catch their breaths – a necessity they were ungrateful for given the circumstances. Argus stooped over and glanced at the tail of his surcoat, stained a dark colour that reeked more than he cared to smell, and wiped his hands on what little dryness of his tabard remained. Alistair had slumped himself against the wall with exhaustion, and Emilio stared at the filth on his hands with disgust. Ser Ilyn stood ahead of the group, scouting a drain overhead that led into the courtyard. In the distance, they heard the cries of war battling at the walls of the Motte.
“What the fuck could the Ironborn eat to make shit stink this bad?” Emilio questioned with disgust, and Argus reluctantly looked at him. The bastard of the Riverlands had managed to convince Lord Bolton to join them on this mission at the last moment, and he had avoided eye contact with Argus the entire duration of this trip. After what he had seen, Argus wasn’t sure it was such a great idea to have brought Emilio along. Alistair forced himself a tired smile.
“Can’t smell any worse than a bastard from the Riverlands,” Alistair quipped as he sniffed in Emilio’s direction before smirking at Argus and waving his hand at his nose. Emilio’s response was the antithesis of amusement, and he was about to open his mouth before Matthew shut it for him.
“Enough.” He jabbed his finger into Emilio’s chest before turning it to Alistair in warning. He then moved his gaze back to Ser Ilyn, who had climbed up to the gutter and stared out to the courtyard. Argus pushed past the Bolton men and patted the Vale knight lightly on the back, not to surprise him.
“How many do you see?” Argus asked with a hushed tone, and Baelish frowned as he slowly lowered himself from the drain.
“Perhaps a dozen men, and more on the battlements. They’ve locked down the keep,” Ilyn remarked, and Matthew nodded.
“We’ll split up. Fifteen men deal with those in the courtyard and get the gate open, and the rest will push with me into the keep. I’m going to personally remove that Greyjoy’s head from his shoulders,” Matthew stated, and his men bolstered his confidence with a small cheer. Ser Ilyn nodded as he unsheathed his blade, revealing Valyrian steel and a heart-shape pommel that Argus recognised well. Lady Forlorn. But why does he have it? Argus questioned to himself, but now was not the time to inquire about that.
“With your permission, Lord, I will help secure courtyard,” Ser Ilyn requested, to which the Bolton nodded carelessly. Emilio lifted his nose to Argus and walked to Matthew’s side.
“I’ll follow you into the keep, Lord,” Emilio stated, and Argus scowled at the bastard before feeling the prickling eyes of the Dreadfort’s lord staring at him.
“I’ll go wherever Argus is going,” Alistair said plainly, and Matthew turned his gaze onto Argus with an impatient eye. Argus frowned as he glared at Emilio. He didn’t trust the bastard, and figured it may be a good idea to keep an eye on him and help Matthew secure the keep. However, Argus knew the situation outside of the sewers, and felt confident he could keep Alistair safer out in the open at Ilyn’s side.
Alright, I got this part done faster than I expected so I figure I'll get it out now. It's a Robett part, and I've been looking forward to writing this one for quite a while now. Also looking back, it's been 9 months since I wrote the last Robett part! Kinda crazy how time flies. I'm hopeful I can finish this chapter by the end of this year, but that's a big hope. Let's see how I go XD
The Frost Blade had barely flinched to Robett’s rejection of the offer when the Weasel decided to refuse him. He likely saw Robett as a spineless coward amongst all the other stewards, and only offered out of pity for his relation with the Lord Commander, but Robett couldn’t even speak much to that bond anymore. Musgood abandoned us. The thought rung through the Weasel’s head like a bell of apathy, leaving him cold and bitter to those around him.
The ranging party had left a few days ago, and as planned Lyonel had taken command of the Shadow Tower and began orchestrating the teams and materials to head for Westwatch. Among that team would be Dani Evans, and Robett had also volunteered himself to serve at the abandoned castle. Dani had a strange charm to him which Robett felt attracted to, but he couldn’t place his finger on what that really was, and more times than not he found himself frustrated and bitter in the young builder’s presence. Alas, the two brothers sat in silence at the mess hall, tucking away at their stew before they’d say their farewells to the Shadow Tower and make for the true castle of the west.
Robett found himself in a state of discomfort as he glanced around the busy mess room. At the times he had usually pulled himself out of bed, all the brothers had already eaten and moved onto their daily tasks. Now Robett was forced to sit in their presence, and while alone at the table with just Dani for company, the Weasel couldn’t help feeling the prickling sensation that he was being watched.
“What is it?” Dani eventually asked with a mouthful of stew dripping down his chin, his tone disinterested but his eyes concerned. Robett felt his heart leap in his chest, as if he were a mouse spotted by a falcon, and his eyes quickly darted around the hall looking for an excuse. They landed on the bowl of stew in front of him. Dani’s disinterest turned to half amusement. “What, is the cuisine of the Shadow Tower not akin to the fine dining of the Lord Commander’s steward?” Dani remarked with a short giggle, and Robett rolled his eyes.
“I can’t speak much for the cooking at Castle Black, but in comparison, this is just…” Robett’s words stumbled as he lifted something slimy from the black broth.
“Shit,” Dani expressed with a half-smile as he finished the Weasel’s sentence, then lifting his bowl to his lips and drinking what was left. Robett’s stomach churned as he let the slimy ball of whatever slip off his spoon and back into the stew. “Commander Dayne has it that way deliberately. Reckons that to be a true ranger, you should be able to survive off the worst of the worst,” Dani remarked with an admirable tone, and Robett could see how clearly the boy had wished to be a ranger.
“I suppose that’s Lord Commander Dayne now,” Robett remarked sombrely as he swirled the broth with his spoon, and Dani nodded with a frown as he finished the contents in his bowl and looked at Rob.
“I’m surprised you didn’t go with the Frost Blade. Bastard humiliated me with that offer, but I would’ve understood if you had gone,” Dani acknowledged, and Robett simply shrugged as he tried to endure a mouthful of stew.
“You saw my sword fighting skills. I’d probably die by own blade before meeting the axe of a wildling,” Robett stated, and evoked a small girly laugh from the young builder who struggled to contain himself.
“I couldn’t see that happening at all…” Dani remarked sarcastically, and Robett just glared at him, making the builder raise his hands in apology. “Still, the rangers of the Shadow Tower are the best of the best. You’d be in no danger, and you’d have a good chance of finding Musgood. If anyone will find him, it’ll be ol’ Mikhail I bet,” Dani stated, and Robett shrugged the idea off.
“Who says I care to find him? He left us when we needed him, and a lot of brothers died because of that. He’s probably dead anyway,” Robett stated in closure, and Dani frowned.
“But don’t you want to know for certain? Serving all that time under Jolly Jack, I’m sure you must have admired him,” Dani suggested, and Robett felt his heart beginning to beat rapidly in his chest as his frustration rose.
“He left me, Evans. He abandoned his post,” Robett stated with a bitter tone, and Dani sighed.
“He was looking for his friend, Robett, surely you can sympathise with that. If given the chance, I’d leave here to go find my brother, be him dead or alive. Wouldn’t you do that for a friend?” Dani asked, and Robett’s spoon slipped from his hand and splashed into the bowl of stew, but the Weasel barely noticed. He stared at his hands, his thin white hands that had once been innocent of all misdeeds, and now still held the stains of blood that would never wash away. “Robett?” Dani called with concern, bringing the Weasel back to reality, and his moment of horror transitioned to pure apathy.
“You weren’t there, Dani! You have no idea what it was like, the death and the chaos, absolutely none! If Jack had still been there, none of it would’ve happened, but he had to go looking for fucking Keran. Maester Jon would still be alive, and…” Robett’s voice choked on the tears he desperately tried to hold back. Cruz. That was his friend. That was the brother he would have given his life to save if he had been given another chance, but he was too late. Robett buried his head in his hands as he tried to compose himself, and Dani was silent.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t still there… at Castle Black,” Dani stated after a moment, and Robett shook his head as he pulled away his hands.
“Be glad you weren’t.” He stood up and pushed the bowl forward, swinging his legs over the bench.
“Where are you going?” Dani asked, and Robett didn’t stop to answer him.
“I need some air.”
The winds howled and cried, ripping at the Weasel’s hair and stinging his skin. Robett tucked his gloved hands under his arms as the wind caught his heavy cloak and pulled at his shoulders. The chains of the winch lift clunked to a halt as the cage reached the top of the Wall, and Robett pushed the door open and egressed, causing a bell to ring as he shut the cage door behind him. Then the elevator descended back down the seven hundred feet it had climbed, and Robett felt truly alone. He wrapped his cloak tightly around his body and trudged through the snow, following the trench-like path.
The Wall was built of ice and stone, and had bordered the civilised from the wild for thousands of generations. Some had said that magic was used to build the Wall, but Robett had never believed it; magic was just a fable used to fascinate children, and the Weasel had never been one of those kids. He had grown up looting and conning just to survive, and the closest interaction he had with a wizard was at a court show in Flea Bottom, where he robbed the old fool of his purse and some firecrackers from Essos. Perhaps he cursed me, Robett thought as he dragged his feet through the snow, feeling the emptiness inside consume him.
Nothing had gone well since he arrived at the Wall. He knew he’d never be a ranger, and perhaps he had scored well becoming the Lord Commander’s steward, but that had also painted as target on his back for jealousy and scrutiny. He never got along with the other stewards because of that, and the likes of Devyn and “Small” Marsh were quick to bully him because he was different. Then they caused a mutiny when Jolly Jack turned his back on them, and nothing at Castle Black was too jolly after that.
Robett took a left once he reached a split in the path, and followed it as far as the next exit, which poked out to the north. Some wooden beams formed a makeshift shelter by the ledge, where a platform stuck out over the side of the Wall, and Robett suspected the beams were likely held together more by ice than any nail. A small fire was burning by the shelter, and the plea for warmth drew Robett near. He pulled off a glove and hovered his naked hand above the flame, but felt nothing other than the bite of the wind at his skin. He winced and quickly put the glove back on, tucking his hands under his arms as he stared at the flames. It was a mystery to him as to why the builders would bother to stock these fires if they offered no warmth. Probably to let the wildlings know someone’s still home, Robett rationalised, and he peered over to the ledge.
The wooden platform was coated with ice and without any barriers, making it incredibly dangerous to tread on. Robett had never been fond of heights, and that had stopped him from peering off the top of the Wall two times over when given the chance. It will not stop me again, Robett vowed, and albeit cowardly, he dropped to his hands and knees and crawled out on the ledge. His heart pulsated in his chest, but he willed himself forward with one hand in front of the other, until finally he was at the edge, and before him stretched leagues of forest and snow for as far as his eyes could see. The winds beyond the Wall howled through the trees and echoed back to him like whispers.
Robett crawled forward, facing his ear out to them as if expecting to hear actual words speak. Instead he found his curiosity staring him right back in the eye, as a seven hundred feet drop gazed at him from below, and suddenly the Weasel’s fear caught up with him. He scurried back, but the ice reminded him of its presence, and his hands slipped beneath him, sliding him to the edge of the platform. Panicked engulfed him as he saw his end drawing near, his hands powerless to slowing him. He forced his eyes shut, his breathing rapid and his fear rampant. He barely felt the grip on his leg yanking him back to safety until his eyes were open again. Then, he found himself looking back up to two brothers in black.
“What in the Seven Hells are you doing? Do you have a death wish?” one of them asked, and the other knelt down beside Robett and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Robett, isn’t it? Are you alright?” he asked, and Robett gulped as he stared at the two men. The one that had grabbed him shared an expression equally as startled as Robett’s, his dark grey eyes alarmed, and blonde hair blowing in the wind. Robett did not recognise him, but the one that knelt beside him was familiar; he had met this ranger before. Drymyr. His curly black hair fell to his shoulders, and his eyes an icy blue – a scar ran down his left cheek.
“I… thank you,” was about all Robett could muster as he tried to recompose himself. The other ranger wasn’t nearly as empathetic.
“What the hell were you thinking? The Wall isn’t a place for stewards,” he grunted, and Drymyr lifted a hand to stop his brother from rambling any further.
“Go finish the patrol, Cayde, I’ll get Robett back down to the Tower,” Drymyr stated, and the ranger rolled his eyes.
“Whatever. Just bring the next bunch up here when you come back? I’m freezing my fucking arse off,” Cayde muttered before trudging off. Robett finally got some kind of control on his breathing, and Drymyr rose to his feet, lifting Robett to his.
“Come, let’s get you by the fire,” he suggested, and Robett nodded hesitantly as he let the ranger guide him to the shelter. They sat out of the wind on the frozen bench, stretching their hands over the flames as they shuddered to the cold. “What are you doing up here, Robett?” the ranger then asked, and the Weasel’s teeth chattered as he tried to warm himself.
“I wanted to get away from everyone for a little bit. This seemed like the best way without losing my head,” he remarked with a dark sense of humour, and Drymyr gave him a nod of understanding as he stared into the fire.
“The Shadow Tower is seldom a hospitable place for newcomers. I can’t say I’ve found much welcome in it,” Drymyr acknowledged, making Robett sigh. He was convinced he had made at least one friend in it, although he wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about Dani. “It would be quite a boring place for a steward as well, I imagine,” Drymyr added, and Robett shrugged. “I fear that boredom won’t last forever,” Drymyr then stated, his tone seeming prophetic and wise. Robett recalled their previous conversation.
“You said you thought there was a war coming, with the wildlings?” Robett remarked, and Drymyr stared at him a moment as if he was scrutinising the boy for something, but then nodded plainly.
“I know it is,” he stated firmly, and Robett furrowed his brow.
“What do you mean?” he asked, but they were suddenly interrupted by the single blast of a horn. Drymyr rose to his feet and walked to the ledge, peering down the edge of the Wall until his eyes spotted something. “What is it?” Robett asked, pulling himself to his feet.
“A ranging party returning,” Drymyr stated enigmatically, and Robett raised an eyebrow.
“Who?” he asked, but the ranger shook his head.
“I don’t know. Come on,” he beckoned, and the two headed back for the lift.
The ranging party had already dismounted and attracted a great crowd by the time Drymyr and Robett reached the ground, obscuring their vision. The two exchanged glances before approaching the crowd, pushing through the see the rangers. Robett barely made it through before he recognised one of the riders, and it stopped him in his tracks.
The Lord Commander leant wearily against his garron as brothers came to greet him, patting on the shoulder and revelling in his return. Mounted beside him were a couple of rangers that Robett recognised from Mikhail’s hunting party, but he noted that none of the others had returned, which concerned the Weasel. They also brought the company of three others. One an old man with a great beard and long grey hair, another a young boy that sat with the old man, and lastly a man in furs that was beaten and bound, which one of the rangers pulled off the back of his horse.
Ser Lyonel Crakehall descended from the commander’s office, greeting the Lord Commander with a firm grip before seeing Musgood’s injured hand and calling for the maester. All their words and cheers droned out into a soundless hum, and Robett didn’t even notice his feet drag him out into the middle of the scene. His presence brought silence as the crowd noticed him, and Jolly Jack’s gaze followed theirs until his eyes met Robett’s. The Weasel felt tears building in his eyes as he stared at the Lord Commander, though whether his emotion came from a feeling of betrayal or disbelief, he did not know.
Jack’s expression remained distant and oblivious, as if he stared right through Robett without even noticing him. He did notice him however, and as he reached his hand forward, his body surged forward with it, and he collapsed into the mud and sleet. Robett stood there, motionless, as the crowd of brothers rushed to the Lord Commander’s aid. Something paralysed him, as if his body was no longer his, and he watched helplessly as the man he once considered like a father laid there – equally as limp as the Weasel.
Ser Lyonel had the men pick him up, rushing him to the maester’s quarters, and soon after the crowd disbanded. Robett was there alone, staring emptily into the void of his sorrow that was reflected back to him wherever he looked. Eventually his eyes met with the blue eyes of the old man, and the green eyes of his son. There was something about them which made Robett ill in the stomach, especially the boy, but he couldn’t place a finger on what it was. He shielded his gaze from them, fleeing to the resting quarters.
A few hours had passed since the Lord Commander had arrived, and he lay limp in a bed in the maester’s quarters. Dani had convinced Rob to go and see him, and alas for the last hour he had sat by the Lord Commander’s side as he stared aimlessly to the ceiling; present but also absent. All the while, Robett had listened to the maester give the diagnosis to Crakehall. Milk of the Poppy, Robett thought. The maester was sure of it. He proposed the wildlings had been using it to dull the Lord Commander’s senses, perhaps to extract information from him when physical torture hadn’t worked, but whatever the reason it was certain that the dosage had left Jack Musgood cognitively impaired. He was unsure if the damage was permanent or not.
“And you? The boys say you were also prisoners of this ‘Raymun Redbeard,’ and that you are supposedly from Bear Island?” Ser Lyonel queried as the old man and his son came to check on the Lord Commander. The old man nodded.
“Born and bred,” he stated, “I am Horamun Jawbreaker, and this is my son, Ursun,” the man introduced, but Lyonel seemed sceptical.
“And how did you and your son come to be captives of this Wildling King, if you don’t mind me asking?” Lyonel inquired, and Horamun frowned as he put an arm around his son.
“As well told your Lord Commander, we are fishermen, his mother has always been the fighter in the family. Our ship broke under a storm and we drifted to the Frozen Shores. We started heading for the Wall but then we were caught, and that’s when we met Musgood here,” Horamun explained, and Lyonel raised an eyebrow.
“Is that so? My men also tell me you prevented them from executing a wildling that held you and the Lord Commander hostage. I believe they even said you threatened to make them privy of your namesake,” Lyonel claimed, and Horamun frowned as he held his son close.
“That man was helping us escape, and the Lord Commander promised him safety south of the Wall in return, just as he swore he’d see us returned to Bear Island,” Horamun stated, and Lyonel gazed at him and the boy for a moment before crossing his arms.
“Well I cannot grant that kind of mercy for the wildling prisoner, he will remain here, but you and your son are free to remain at the Shadow Tower for as long as you like before you return home. I do have one last question, however,” Lyonel added, and Horamun looked as if he were growing exasperated with all the interrogation. “The Lord Commander went north with a handful of other rangers, Edric Mormont was among them. Did Musgood mention anything about their fates or whereabouts when you were locked up together?” Lyonel asked, and Horamun turned his gaze to the unconscious Jack, before flicking across to Robett and then back to Lyonel.
“No,” he grumbled, and Crakehall glared at him intently before letting out a disappointed sigh.
“Well I’m sure Lord Mormont will be displeased to hear that. Don’t let me keep you any longer, Jawbreaker,” Lyonel remarked in dismissal, and the two Bear Islanders gave a courteous nod before egressing from the maester’s quarters. Crakehall ran a hand through his short black hair before snarling.
“I don’t trust them,” he muttered to himself, and Robett peered back at him momentarily before turning his eyes back on the Lord Commander. Lyonel let out a sigh as he drew a chair beside Robett and took a seat. “Maester Olrich is of the opinion that Musgood should return to Castle Black,” he stated plainly, and Robett kept his gaze firmly on Musgood’s empty body.
“To do what? He cannot lead like this,” Robett remarked, and Lyonel nodded in agreeance.
“He will need help,” Lyonel suggested as he looked to Rob, and it took the steward a moment to understand what he meant. He wants me to return to Castle Black with him. Robett stared at the man he had once held in such high regard, and he was unsure what he felt now. It was hard to hate him in this state, but he felt no pity either.
“I don’t know that I can return to Castle Black, after everything that has happened…” Robett mumbled, and Lyonel placed a hand on Robett’s shoulder, attracting his gaze.
“You’ve suffered a lot for your age, and I have no doubt you will suffer greater losses as you grow old here. The Night’s Watch knows only one certainty: death. I understand if you do not wish to do this, I don’t know if he will even survive the night, but as his steward you may consider it your duty to do so,” Crakehall stated plainly, and Robett stared at Musgood with confliction.
“What about Dani? Could he come with me to Castle Black” he then asked with a moment of consideration, feeling a shred of guilt if he would be forced to leave his friend. I can’t leave again, not like Jack did, Robett told himself, and Lyonel let out a sigh.
“Dani will follow his duty to Westwatch,” Lyonel remarked plainly, and Robett felt dismayed that Lyonel wouldn’t even consider letting Dani go with him. The knight then stood himself up and walked to the door. “No one is going to take your head if you choose to stay here, but perhaps it’s a moral duty to remain with the Lord Commander. That choice is yours to make, he will make for Castle Black at dawn if he survives the night,” Lyonel informed him before exiting the maester’s quarters, and Robett turned back to Jack with a heavy heart.
Memories of the past flooded his mind, times that were and would never be again. He missed laughing and joking with him, and serving him was an honour which Robett pledged himself to with a great sense of purpose in the past, but that had all changed once he left. He felt a grudge that he wasn’t sure he could subside. Perhaps Lyonel was right, it was his moral obligation and duty as the Lord Commander’s steward to remain by his side, but perhaps he also had a duty to his friends. Cruz had been taken away from him, could he let duty take Dani away from him too?