I own Nothing of the Licensed Content Involved in this Story.

.

.

.


Lord Walter Whent was not the happiest of men, he had never truly wanted to come north to simply to pay his respects at Brandon Stark's nameday celebration.

Now, he had to ride through this god's forsaken place, the cold was setting his old bones to a terrible ache. The boat ride from Maidenpool to White Harbor was bad enough, but this horrid trip through the rough of the North would be the death of him.

And then what?

There was no heir to his house, the curse of his lands, the ruined castle of Harrenhal, had seen to that. When he had taken his Uncle's seat, he had thought the curse all nothing more than a murmurer's superstition.

Of his five children though, only his daughter remained alive past her twentieth name-day. It would matter little in the end, she was wed to a Frey, her first attempt at the birthing bed led to a still born, and nearly her own grave. Not that her husband cared, we wanted an heir, and she was heavy with child once more, the Maester did not expect her to live through the attempt a second time.

The curse would take the last of them soon, leaving him to a cold wife and even colder castle.

In truth, there was honestly little to be gained by traveling here, gaining the favor of house Stark would mean little when he had no heir to secure his seat for. The crown would take Harrenhal when both he and wife had passed. They had both passed the age of bearing children, there was little left but to mourn the passing of another house foolish enough to think they could best the curse of Harrenhal.

He, and the five guards that he could spare from his war-torn garrison, froze as the sounds of snapping branches echoed form all around them. His guards reached for their swords, the steel did little to save them from the arrows the fell the two to his right.

The sparse woods around them exploded in movement as ten men in raged leathers charged them from their hiding placed behind the trees, wildings or bandits, there was likely little difference.

Men died far too easily, Lord Whent had always remembered the first lesson his father had taught him when he took to learning the sword. Men, for all our great accomplishments, could still die to the simplest of things, titles, after all, were no defense against cold steel.

Five of the attackers died before they had managed to bring down another two of my guards, they had left their backs open, foolish.

A horse has its strengths, it gives height, and such a better angle to strike, but every advantage comes with a counter weight. Horses bled just as easily as men, proof enough by the startled cry the one beneath me was giving out. Had I been thirty years younger, I'd have sprung from my saddle and continued the fight, but I was nearing my seventieth year, such feats were long behind me.

I could hear the last of my guard's men cry out in pain as I fell to the earth, my last thoughts were of pain, as my horse crushed me beneath its massive bulk.


I stirred awake to the sound of a crackling fire; I had not thought to wake at all, a ransom then?

They were fools then, there was no wealth left in Harrenhal, and my wife would only laugh at the news of my imprisonment, perhaps a letter of thanks. She had been kind once, but the loss of some many children would chill the heart of even the kindest soul.

"I see you have finally awoke, my dear Lord Whent."

My eyes opened slowly, the starry sky shifting in and out focus. I turned to the sound of my capture, it had been a women's voice, harsh and scratchy as it was. She sat by the five, dressed in torn and half rotted leathers. Her eyes looked up to meet mine, there was sheer agony in them.

I have seen that kind of pain before, in the eyes of men tortured past the point of breaking, where death became a treasured fantasy. Her eyes glowed in the darkness around them, the swirling violet, unnatural and entrancing. I couldn't place the cause for the shiver down my spine, fear or captivation?

"Are you my captor, or my savior?"

It was odd question; I should not have asked as I had already knew the answer. She looked every inch the wildling that the Northman spoke of in their horror stories.

"I am neither, though in some ways perhaps I am both." She moved closer now, removing the distance that had been between us and knelt at my side.

"I killed the men who killed yours, I mended your broken body, I even saved one of the horses that remained alive. There is a price for my aid however, the Old Gods told me of you Walter Whent, your price has already been promised."

Old Gods, the trees the Northman prayed to, so they wanted payment too, not as different from the Seven as they claimed. The women shifted from the fire, giving me a clearer view of her and she rounded the fire. She was young, no more than twenty and one, her skin was as pale as snow, and her hair the same blond as a yew of wheat. She was beautiful, though the anguish in her eyes left her the image of an unyielding flower among desecrated soils.

"What do you and your Gods want? I doubt trees have need of coin, what could I have that your Gods would covet?"

She smiled then, a twisted brittle thing. "It is not your wealth that I require, only your seed."

There were no words worth giving, so I simply laughed. It was a rough and humorless thing, even to my own ears it sounded empty. "I hate to break it to you girl, but this old body of mine won't exactly cooperate with you. Even if you could find some way, you'd get nothing but dust."

She merely shook her head in denial, "Your body will service well enough, tonight we shall lay together, and when you depart in the morning you will have left your child within me."

Those unnatural eyes of hers looked so certain, so damn certain. I'd have laughed had a whore come boasting something so foolish, but this woman was no whore.

No, she something beyond my rational definitions.

"Why would you wish a child from me? My line is neither rich nor powerful, I have nothing but a ruined castle with no…."

"Heir" She finished when I faltered, her grin was feral now, like a wolf who had caught the hair unsuspecting. "You shall have the child of our union as your heir, the gods have seen your empty line, you are not the only lord with a barren house, but you are the one they have chosen."

"Why?" I was waking, slowly, from my shock, an heir, even a bastard one, but an heir none the less. My wife and I had been barren for decades, I, in my desperation, had taken to whores for a time after my last son's death. No child had ever come from it, only pain and an empty marriage bed.

"I carry within me something that is not mine Walter Whent, I walked where the gods bid, into lands where men have not tred in millennia. There I found the last spark of a dead people, so lost in their own power that it brought an end to them, and the rise of another."

I watched as she shrugged her round casting the rotten leathers wrapping her body away, if not for the grotesque vision underneath, perhaps my heart would have raced.

The veins of your body were black, as if some great poison was in midst of its work. Her body seemed to pulse, the veins throbbing and bulging like some monster in the old tales.

"I took it into me, the last spark, the last drops of blood that dwelled there, in the last room guarded from the unending winter. The last of their legacy, preserved even from their own calamity. The Old Gods have spoken, the line of people lost must grow again, and I am to carry the first."

"What are you talking about, legacy? People?" The question was seemingly ignored, she began to strip my own clothes from me, I had long since grown out of bashfulness.

"Old magic Walter Whent, ancient, a people long lost even before the first men stepped upon these shores, our son shall carry that magic forward, though I will not see it. I was never meant to carry it, there is magic in my blood Walter Whent, even now it burns away my insides. An as it kills me, it keeps me alive, sustaining what it burns away, at least until it finds a home in one who was meant to carry it."

"Magic?" What sort of game was she playing, even if I wanted to cut down such a preposterous notion, could I call her a liar? Her eyes and body seemed to far from the normal, would it cost me my sanity to really know?

But to believe it….

"Your castle, ruined as it is, is drenched in it, the dragons fire on your stone, the Gods Eye among your waters, the ghosts that wander empty halls, the curses laid on those that dwell there. It is in the very land, one of the reasons the gods chose your barren house, better your ruined hall, as grand as it once was, then a perfect hall away from any and all that will allow him to grow."

She straddled my hips, reaching down grabbing me, for the first time in a decade I felt myself stiffen. How? I was long since flaccid…magic? It seemed a fool thought, but then nothing happening here belonged in a sane man's contemplation. It was wrong, in too many ways to express it was wrong.

"My life will flee me as the magic I stole becomes his, a woman will come to your ruined hall. She will bring the child, name him what you will. She will bring more than just the child though, old tomes to help him learn, stolen all the same, though the dead will not miss them. They are to be his, viewed by no other, not even you." Leaning forward, I groaned as her body pressed against me in earnest, "Will you meet my price, Walter Whent?"

I could only nod, an heir was all that mattered. Magic, even if it was more than fairytales and fools gossip, was meaningless in comparison to that. I could live a year, see if this was true, I could wait on the women to deliver the child, whatever the child was, he would be a Whent. If no child ever arrived, then I would be no worse off than before.

Keeping books away from prying eyes, a small price for a hopeless dream made flesh.

I moaned as she slid me inside of her, she made no sounds as she continued, it was only moments before it was over. My seed was spent, and if her words were true, it was my son she now carried. Darkness took me, whatever strength I had gained after being crushed beneath my horse was long since spent.

There was only restless sleep waiting in the quiet of my strained mind.


I woke to a dead fire and an empty clearing, I would have though it a dream, had my clothes not been in a discarded pile next to me. I stood slowly, my body protesting the movement in aches and pains. True to her words, there was a painted mare tied to the tree near the edge of the clearing.

It occurred to me now, I had no name to attach to the twisted visage. With all that she had been saying, asking her name was the least of my concerns at the time. Though, if she had wanted me to have it, she would likely have told me it.

A son…

If all that she had said was true, then I have a year's wait ahead of me.