AN: So here we are with the next chapter of the Road to Hell, it has been a while. Would just like to thank my Beta Foxmac for doing a fantastic job as always.
I hope this chapter goes down well with people as there is a lot happening and it hold many little nuggets that have some importance.
So without further ado please enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Seeing the expectant look on Ned's face, Harry gave his guard a significant look, which was acknowledged as he too left the room. This left Harry alone in the room with Ned.
"I hope you understand why I did what I did?" Harry said as he looked over at Ned, absentmindedly throwing up a few simple silencing charms around them as he did so.
Eddard looked at Harry sternly before he let out a sigh, bringing his hands to rub his forehead as he did so. "You were right when you said King's Landing was dangerous."
"Especially when you have pissed off queen wanting revenge for her little brat," Harry added. "Sending both Arya and Bran north will ensure they are safe, the queen's reach is not that long."
Ned nodded again at that as he knew how ruthless the Lannisters could be. "Do you think they will try anything?"
Harry shrugged at that. "I cannot claim to know how the queen's mind works."
"I heard that King's Landing is full of snakes. Can I trust you?" Eddard asked as he gave Harry an assessing look.
Meeting his gaze, Harry's eyes locked onto Eddard's.
"I would say yes," Harry said carefully. "I am more than happy to help you run the kingdom, to root out the corruption that infests it just as I am prepared to assist you in finding out who murder the previous Hand."
Ned stiffened at that his gray eyes now firmly locked on Harry. "So you believe the former Hand was murdered as well?"
"Yes," Harry replied truthfully. After all, he knew exactly who killed Jon Arryn, just as he knew why he was killed. Not that he was going to tell Ned yet, doing so would not suit his plans. Not yet.
( - )
( - )
The Dothraki army had come to a stop for the night. Already hundreds of tents were being put up as the Dothraki set up their rough camp on the grassy plains, a group of riders having already been sent out to forage for food and patrol the borders of the camp.
A soft and pained groan could be heard coming from the largest tent in the camp, a tent that had previously belonged to Khal Drogo but had now been taken by the Red Priestess Clementine as her new quarters. The source of the groans came from Lady Clementine herself, the once proud and beautiful woman was now strapped down to a bed, her body covered in slave soaked cloth.
The inside of the tent stank of sickness, and of death. It had been like this for the last three weeks, ever since Clementine had been found unconscious and maimed in the gardens of Pentos. Apparently, the Red Priestess had come across a spy, one who was himself practiced in the art of magic. A fight had ensued as Clementine stopped him from leaving and instead tried to capture him. The fight had not turned out as well as Clementine had thought it would.
The man she thought she had cornered and defeated had decided on a last gambit, he had decided to avoid capture and interrogation by taking his own life, whilst also trying to take Clementine with him. His plan had only partially worked. The man had died; his 'spell' had seen to that, there had been nothing left of him, only a bloody crater in the ground. This had stopped Clementine from capturing and interrogating him, just as his defense of the "messenger owl" had also stopped her from finding out to who he reported.
He had not however managed to kill Clementine, he had come damn close though. The explosion he had caused had hit her head on, it had destroyed her right arm completely just as it had torn her skin to pieces leaving her maimed, crippled and disfigured. The concussive blast of the explosion had also caused significant damage to her internal organs. Even now weeks later she was still coughing up blood, barely clinging to life.
Her injuries had not stopped her, however; instead, they had only fueled her. The moment she had regained consciousness, even though she was still too injured to move from where she lay, she had begun giving out orders. She had ordered the army to begin riding in the direction of Slaver's Bay, to be more exact in the direction of Quarth. There was a certain sect of Sorcerers that Clementine knew there, a sect that, like the worshipers of R'hllor, had gone through something of a magical revival. It was her hope that they would lend their assistance to help her recover faster from this pitiful state.
At the moment though, Clementine was not plotting away; instead, she was lying down on her bedded litter hoping to find some semblance of release from the constant pain that racked her body.
"Servant!" Clementine shouted out, hoping to attract the attention of one of her servants, or an acolyte. "Bring me some more milk of the poppy!" she shouted, her pink eyes tiredly looking around the tent as she tried to draw the attention of one of her attendants.
The sound of her tent flap opening alerted her to the fact that someone had answered her call.
"Illyrio," Clementine said coldly, as she looked at the fat, weak little man who scurried into her tent, a tray bearing a jug and a goblet in his hands. "Finally decided to make yourself useful?"
"M-my Lady," Illyrio stammered nervously as beads of sweat began to form on his forehead and drip down his flabby face.
"Well, don't just stand there, you fool, attend me. Give me something for the pain!" Clementine demanded, her already foul temper only made worse by the aches of her wounds, even speaking caused her pain as it caused the damaged and healing skin on her face to stretch.
"A-at once," Illyrio flustered, almost falling over himself as he nervously and cautiously approached the prone Clementine. His small beady eyes, roving over the many blood-stained bandages that covered her before they locked on her cold, cruel eyes. A shiver of fear ran through him, as he filled a goblet up and gave it to the woman who had systematically destroyed his life.
Reaching out clumsily with her left hand, her only remaining hand, Clementine snatched the goblet from Illyrio's nerveless fingers, uncaring that the action caused sharp pains to run through her body. The pain would soon be gone, she had ordered Illyirio to find the finest alchemist in Pentos and have him create draughts that would dull her pain and increase her rate of healing. So far it was working, if only slowly.
Greedily bringing the goblets to her scabbed lips, the Red Priestess greedily drank down the concoction. After taking a few gulps of the liquid, Clementine let out a satisfied sigh, she could already feel her nerves deadening and the pain leaving her, though it did appear the alchemist had changed the dosage as it never worked this well before, she would definitely have to reward him later.
Looking at her now empty goblet, she thrust it back at Illyrio, her eyes turning flinty as she caught the smug and satisfied look that momentarily crossed his face. What the worm had to smile about Clementine honestly did not know. He was probably just enjoying her suffering. Something she would make sure to repay when she got stronger. The fat man would be the first one she would sacrifice as one of the many who would be burnt so she could use their life force to empower her magic. With these unknown magicals interfering in her business, she would need all the help she could get.
"Are you still standing here for a reason?" Clementine sneered as she saw that Illyrio had not yet left.
Illyrio flinched at that, an ugly look momentarily crossing his face before he fled the tent.
Sniveling coward, Clementine thought as she watched him leave. For now, she had more important things to deal with that bringing pain to Illryio. It could wait until she was well enough to properly enjoy it as she had to deal with Viserys' continued attempts to usurp her. He had begun issuing orders to her army and telling them that those orders came from her. Just as he had begun to disobey her himself, it appeared seeing her in this weakened state had given her disciple more a spine than before. He would fall in line soon enough; she would make sure of that.
In a way, Clementine was barely holding onto her power over the Dothraki horde as it was. The savage horsemen had seen her current state and dissension had begun to filter through the ranks, no doubt spurred on by Viserys' foul whisperings. After seeing her in such a weakened state, they had begun to lose their fear and awe of her. It was troubling. Clementine knew that a few of the savages would have already left if it were not for Daenerys.
Daenerys had remained completely loyal. She had been meeting with the former Dothraki leaders, those that had prospered under their old Khals, and had been using her own fire magic to dazzle them, just as she had taken overlooking after Clementine's dragon. Already, the young girl had to make the difficult decision of executing a few Dothraki, punishing them for trying to betray them.
It was difficult for the girl, Clementine knew that. She herself had once struggled with doing what was necessary for the greater good. That was in the distant past when she was a little girl in Asshai and had only just become a Red Priestess with Melisandre had been her first disciple.
Clementine's vision began to blur as she thought of those far off days, back when the world had seemed purer and lighter than it was now when thoughts of the Long Night had been the furthest thing from their minds.
Blinking back her sudden fatigue, Clementine decided she would need to bring Daenerys in just to make sure the girl knew the importance of going to Slaver's Bay, of freeing the slaves and playing on their gratitude to building a holy army of the light. Viserys was unable to see the bigger picture, but Daenerys was. Clementine was firm in her conviction that the young Targaryen Princess would be the one to guide Azor Azhai, the Prince that was Promised, the chosen of the Lord of Light.
Shifting her head to the side, Clementine tried to call for one of her servants so they could summon Daenerys for her. Her words came out as a faint gurgling though. Frowning in confusion, Clementine suddenly doubled over in agony as she felt a sudden burning feeling in the stomach. Her mouth opened wide as she tried to let out a scream of agony, only for a rasping gurgling sound to leave her throat instead. Blinking her eyes in confusion as she uselessly tried to signal someone to help her, Clementine's confused pink eyes came to rest on the goblet of medicine Illyrio had left on the desk beside her bed.
Poison, Clementine thought as the burning feeling spread through her body, her vision darkening as the poison and her horrific injuries took their toll on her. If she had been fully fit, there was a chance she could have fought off the effects or at least fought them off long enough to get a cure or to make a sacrifice to once again extend her own life.
But it was not to be. Clementine was dying she knew that much even as the poison she had ingested was burning through her. Recognizing the effects now as Illyrio had obviously used the Tears of Lys. How else could she have not detected his poison?
The worst thing for Clementine was not that she was dying, she had lived a long life after all. It was that she was being killed by Illryio as she had underestimated the pitiful worm of a man and had never thought he was brave enough to do something like this. It was galling to realize this as she had always expected her killer to be something more. Maybe the Great Enemy recognizing her as the reason for his destruction and striking her down for it. She hadn't thought she would die writhing in agony, in some shit stinking Dothraki tent in the middle of nowhere, poisoned by a feeble excuse for a human being.
She had been alive for nearly two centuries now and for her life to end before she had completed her destiny was a bitter thing for her to deal with. She only wished she had been able to do more but all her hopes rested on her disciples hopefully doing what she had taught them . . .
( - )
(In King's Landing)
Wagons and riders were still pouring through the castle gates, and the yard was a chaos of mud and horseflesh and shouting men, as the king's party rode through the gates of King's Landing, Harry could say with certainty that he loved magic. After all judging by the expressions on the faces of the rest of the party, King's Landing still smelt as bad as the last time he had visited. No doubt the stench of the capital city was if anything worst for the residents of King's Landing than before they had left. After all, they had just spent close to five months out of King's Landing in the fresh country air. Yet again Harry was glad he had magic, just as he was glad he had learned the spell that muffles his sense of smell, he had the shenanigans of the twins whilst at Hogwarts to thank for that. Looking to the side he could see the relieved faces of Daphne and Fleur, as they too saw the reactions of the rest of the column, more than one person leaned over their horse and wretched.
"It stinks like shit doesn't it," Robert said from where he was riding between Harry and Ned, his Kingsguard riding both in front and behind the trio.
"Aye, the smell reflects the people who live here. It stinks like shit because it is full of shit. A word of warning to you Northerners from a friend: don't trust anyone in King's Landing," Robert continued with a bitter look on his face as he looked around in distaste, noting as he did so the cheering commoners and simpering nobles that welcomed him. No doubt these same people would be treating the dragonspawn like this if they had come out the victors. No, as far as Robert was concerned everyone in King's Landing was a worthless shit.
With that said Robert spurred his horse onward, leaving both Harry and Ned behind as he rode further up the column, his Kingsguard riding along with him.
The rest of the journey through King's Landing and into the Red Keep was uneventful. Their arrival in the Red Keep's courtyard, however, was not.
As the riders were getting off their horses, and the servants getting to work unloading the wagons and carriages that accompanied the column, both Harry and Ned were accosted by a particularly smarmy looking servant.
"Welcome, Lord Stark. Grand Maester Pycelle has called a meeting of the Small Council. As such, your presence is requested," the servant said as he strode towards the now dismounted Ned before his eyes flickered over to Harry, who had also dismounted by that point. "As the new Master of Ships, your presence is also requested, Lord Albion."
"He does know we just arrived?" Harry questioned in irritation. He had been hoping to have some time to settle in before he had to attend a Small Council meeting. He was conscious of the fact the Oberyn Martell was still in King's Landing, patiently waiting to meet with Harry when he arrived.
"Yes, he is aware. But the matters of state take precedence, so if you'd like to change into something more appropriate . . . " the servant commented, his raised eyebrow telling both Harry and Ned what the arrogant little twat thought of their travel clothes.
"Piss off," Harry replied bluntly and when the man made to speak, Harry leveled a glare that would have made Snape proud at the servant, his eyes flashing ominously.
The servant let out an audible gulp, before regaining his composure. "I shall go and inform Grand Maester Pycelle that you will be coming. Also, Lord Stark, we have given you Lord Arryn's former chambers in the Tower of the Hand, if it pleases you. I shall have your things taken there."
"My thanks," Ned said as he gave the man a tight smile, deciding to be nicer to the servant than Harry. Pulling off his riding gloves and tucked them into his belt, Ned turned around as the rest of his household was coming through the gate behind him. Ned saw Vayon Poole, his own steward, and called out. "It seems the council has urgent need of me. See to it that Sansa finds her bedchamber, and tell Jory to keep her there for now. I don't want her wandering around the Red Keep, at least not until we have settled in." Poole bowed. Ned turned back to the royal steward, the man dithering around as he waited to be dismissed sending Harry slightly nervous looks as he did. "My wagons are still meandering their way through the city. So it looks like what I am wearing at the moment will have to suffice."
As he heard that, the servant nodded, before he quickly turned on his heel and strode off into the Red Keep, no doubt to report to whoever paid him the most on what little he had observed.
"So much for treading carefully," Ned said blandly as he watched the servant disappear into the keep, his usually stoic face showing his amusement at Harry's rather blunt response to the arrogant servant.
"Just playing the game," Harry replied cryptically, not elaborating on his meaning as he took off his own riding gloves and walked into the Red Keep, quickly passing the Iron Throne as he headed in the direction of the Small Council chamber. Trusting Daphne and Fleur to organize their new abode in the Red Keep whilst he was in the meeting, no doubt the two of them would also visit Tracey depending on how long this meeting ran on.
As Harry strode through the Red Keep, he was conscious of Ned following him. Slowing his pace slightly, he allowed the man to catch up as they quickly made their way through the Red Keep, heading in the direction of the Small council chamber.
Luckily Harry remembered with pinpoint accuracy where the chambers were, after all, he had been in them just a year ago, wasn't Occlumency such a handy thing.
The Small Council chamber was a richly furnished room. Myrish carpets covered the floor instead of rushes, and in one corner a hundred fabulous beasts cavorted in bright paints on a carved screen from the Summer Isles. The walls were hung with tapestries from Norvos and Qohor and Lys, and a pair of Valyrian sphinxes flanked the door, eyes of polished garnet smoldering in black marble faces.
Entering the finely furnished room, Harry looked around at those present in the room his eyes flickering from Pycelle to Varys to Baelish and then to Renly, a slight smile now on his face as he gave a short bow to the room.
"Lord Stark, I was grievously sad to hear about your troubles on the King's Road. We have all been visiting the sept to light candles for Prince Joffrey. I pray for his recovery," the Master of Whispers, Varys, said as he greeted Lord Stark, his eyes flickering to Harry as he did before they locked onto Lord Stark.
Harry barely paid attention to the meaningless pleasantries that came next. With the other members of the Small Council giving their condolences for what happened on the road, it was all meaningless. Prince Joffrey had a broken nose and it was nothing to complain about. And with sending back the two younger Stark children and the butcher's boy back to Winterfell, there was nothing more to it. However, formalities had to be followed. So he nodded and laughed along as he greeted each of the Small Council members. Knowing as he did that all these men would happily stab him in the back if it served their purposes. He did note a few oddities, however.
Baelish was being surprisingly civil with him, not even throwing out any backhanded comments or sly digs. It didn't fit with what Harry had come to expect from the man, instead he was being courteous and almost friendly to him, Harry, the person who tricked him out of most of his worldly possessions, Harry instantly knew something wasn't right, and told himself as he did that he would keep a careful eye on Baelish, the man was up to something, why else would he be treating Harry so civilly.
The next oddity he noticed was how enthusiastic Renly was when he was greeting Harry. He had heard from Robert that Renly seemed to be keen on the new exports from the Iron Island, just as he had been told by Fleur that the man hung around Highgarden a lot. Renly was expected to be on good terms but Harry had not expected him to be so enthusiastic or genuine when he was greeting him.
Before he could think any more on it, he was interrupted by the voice of Pycelle, who it appeared had decided to take it upon himself to call the meeting to order.
"This belongs to you now and now we can begin," Pycelle said his attention on Ned, as he gave the northern Lord a hand shaped metal badge, the same one that had once been pinned on Jon Arryn's tunic, the Hand of the King's badge of office.
Seeing this Harry had to wonder if he got a nice ship badge to show he was Master of Ships. Somehow he doubted it though.
"Should we not wait for the King before we begin?" Ned asked with a frown on his face as he looked around at the other members of the Small Council, who didn't looked surprised as the King wouldn't be joining them at the meeting. Neither was Harry. From speaking with Robert, he knew the only interests the King had when it came to the running of his kingdom was war and the Targaryens, and if a meeting wasn't about those two things, then Harry doubted Robert would show up.
"Winter may be coming but I am afraid the King won't be. My brother cares little for the day to day tasks that involve the running of his Kingdom, why he chose us to deal with what he does not want to in his stead," Renly answered with an uncaring expression on his face as he took his seat at the Small Council table. The rest of the Council taking their seats as well, all of them sat in such a way that they were facing Ned, who, as Hand of the King, was the leader of the Council.
"His Grace has many cares and thus he only trusts some small matters to us that we might lighten the load," Varys explained, using a much more diplomatic language to explain Robert's absence to the Northern Lord.
"We are the Lords of all small matters here," Petyr Baelish added in with a hint of amusement in his voice as he looked around the room, his gaze meeting Harry's as he gave him a nod.
That was more like the Petyr Baelish that Harry had heard about. Still, something was off about him as he was acting too normal. He should be at least a little hostile to Harry but he was acting as if Harry had not cheated him out of his fortune, his brothels, and much of his power and influence. Harry was quickly beginning to suspect something magical was involved as why else would the snake-like man be acting so amicably.
Some might claim it was all an act but Harry was a good judge of character, and his enhanced senses and skill with passive legilimency allowed him to tell when someone was lying or being dishonest.
"My brother has instructed us to stage a tournament in honor of Lord Stark's appointment as Hand of the King. We are to apparently spare no expense," Renly said as he looked at a letter he had received before coming to the meeting, before he handed the letter to Ned, allowing the man to see the veracity of what he had said.
Hearing the statement Baelish let out a slight hissing sound, gaining the attention of the rest of the room. Harry already had an idea about what he would say next. After all, he had been through the man's books and had seen how he had put the Crown into massive debt. No doubt he had put the Crown into even more debt over the last year when Jon Arryn made a real mistake in keeping the man around.
"How much?" Baelish asked while he looked over his ledger, a quill in hand as he prepared to write in the appropriate amount.
"Forty thousand gold dragons to the champion, twenty thousand to the runner up, and another twenty thousand to the winner of the archery," Ned answered grimly, his brow furrowed in concern as he heard the proposed amount. Baelish nodded as he diligently wrote it down in his ledger.
"So eighty thousand gold pieces," he said with a nod of his head. "And we must not neglect the other costs. Robert will want a prodigious feast. That means cooks, carpenters, serving girls, singers, jugglers, fools-"
"Fools we have in plenty," Lord Renly interjected with an amused smirk on his face as he looked around the room pointedly.
Grand Maester Pycelle looked to Baelish at that, ignoring Renly's comment as he did so. "Will the Treasury bear the expense?"
"What Treasury?" Baelish replied with a twist of his mouth. "Spare me the foolishness, Maester. You know as well as I that the Treasury has been empty for years. I'll have to borrow it. Fortunately, the Lannisters will accommodate as expected if asked. We already owe Lord Tywin three million gold dragons. What's another eighty thousand more?" As he saw the look on Ned's face, Baelish shrugged with an apologetic look on his face as he looked to Ned.
"Are you telling me that the Crown is three million dragons in debt?" Ned asked a thunderstruck expression on his face.
"I'm telling you that the Crown is nearly nine million dragons in debt," Baelish replied calmly, speaking of the massive debt the crown was in like it was normal and nothing to worry about.
"King Aerys left a Treasury flowing with gold. How could you let this happen?!" Ned asked aghast as he glowered angrily at Baelish before he turned his glare on the rest of the Small Council. The frugal Lord Stark was incensed at these supposedly wise and powerful men for letting the Crown get so deep in debt. It was the type of debt that could cripple a Kingdom.
"It's simple. The Master of Coin finds the money, it is the King and the Hand that spend it," Baelish replied maintaining his calm demeanor, not at all bothered by the anger of Lord Stark.
"I will not believe Jon Arryn let King Robert bankrupt the realm," Ned replied angrily, not understanding how this happened.
"Lord Arryn gave wise and prudent advice but I fear his Grace has little sympathy for such matters and paid it little mind," Pycelle said surprisingly coming to Baelish's defense, though it was more likely that he was covering his own ass as well. The rest of the Council stayed silent as all of them were already aware of the dire state of the Crown's Treasury. Even Harry knew about the situation even after Tracey had taken over the running of Baelish's businesses. She had made sure to investigate his dealings, including his obscene embezzlement of money from the Crown.
"Counting coppers he calls it," Renly said with a chuckle of amusement more than used to his brother's irresponsibility.
"Nine million gold dragons?" Harry suddenly spoke up, getting the attention of the rest of the room. He already had ideas swimming through his head as he looked around at his fellow Small Council members. "I believe I may have a proposition for the Council, one that will help the Crown out of its debt."
Now that got the attention of the rest of the room. Baelish frowned slightly as he looked at Harry in confusion. Renly, however, had a look of interest on his face as he leaned forward in his seat with a faint smile on his face. Pycelle frowned slightly, somewhat taken aback by Harry's words, as if he was surprised the upstart Iron Islander was daring to speak.
Ned, though, looked at Harry sharply, before he gestured for him to continue.
"House Albion will cover the Crown's debts, clearing them away," Harry said as he thought about how paying out nine million gold dragons would affect their funds. The Order had accrued much gold over the last year from both trade and their other dealings. This sudden influx of wealth had been added to the gold they had brought with them, stolen from the vaults beneath Gringotts and added to the Order's war chest. The amusing thing was that a part of the money House Albion now possessed had been taken from Baelish, who had stolen the money in the first place from the Crown. So essentially he was offering to pay the Crown's debts with money that had originally been stolen from them. All in all, nine million gold dragons would not put that much of a dent into their funds or at least temporarily giving the Crown nine million gold wouldn't. After all, there were ways in which that gold could be acquired.
"A generous offer, Lord Albion," Renly said up with a nod of his head as he smiled in Harry's direction.
"Indeed, I hadn't realized you possessed such wealth," Baelish spoke up blandly.
"You would give the Crown nine million gold dragons?" Ned asked in surprise his eyebrows raised in confusion.
Harry frowned at that. "I wouldn't say I am giving it to the Crown. After all, you don't get something for nothing."
Ned frowned as he waited for Harry to expand on his point.
"I heard that Harrenhal and its lands have been in dispute for years now. With the last of the Whents dead, the land and its great castle have been left empty as no other House has a good enough claim to take possession of it and had reverted back to the Crown. The Lordship of Harrenhal in return for House Albion paying off the Crown's debts," Harry said his mind spinning as he thought about the benefits of owning a massive stronghold in the center of Westeros, one that could be easily fixed up with magic. It would be a great boon economically, politically and militarily.
" a large demand," Pycelle said in a blustery tone. "The Lordship of Harrenhal cannot just be given away as a favor. There is a proper procedure for these things."
Harry sent Pycelle a cold look as he said that, his eyes flashing red as he did so.
The old man's mouth went dry at that, his words died in his mouth.
Ned furrowed his brow, not paying attention to Pycelle or Harry as he instead thought on Harry's suggestion. It was a big demand but he was offering significant gold. This was not something Ned had been expecting to deal with on his first day in King's Landing as the Hand of the King.
"I will pass on your offer to the King," Ned replied with a frown, already thinking over the pros and cons of Harry's offer.
"As you will, Lord Hand," Harry replied, confident that Robert would not care about the logistics. Instead, it is more likely that he just wouldn't care and give Harry Harrenhal just because he currently favored him. Plus, the King would, no doubt, hear about the nine million gold dragons and no monetary dependence on the Lannisters, he would jump at it.
"I'll speak to him tomorrow," Ned said, his mind made up. "For now though I believe this tournament is an extravagance that we cannot afford, not until we deal with the Crown's debt."
"As you will, but it is best we make plans," Baelish replied while making notes in his ledger. All the same, he had not raised any objections to Harry's offer nor had he made any negative comments.
Once again Harry was suspicious of Baelish as he was out of character. He made a note to talk with Tracey later as Harry had a sneaking suspicion that she had gone behind his back and done something to Baelish.
( - )
(Beyond the Wall)
It was cold and windy north of the Wall, more so at sea. The crew of the large ship currently plowing its way through the partially iced over waters of the North could attest to that. The Remnant had set sail again; the massive ship of the line was just as sturdy as it had been when it had attacked the Iron Islands. A handful of rune cannons were still present on the ship, manned as they were by a dozen goblins that had volunteered to go on the expedition beyond the Wall to look for ore deposits in the more mountainous regions in the Far North.
The expedition was made up of another twenty-five people after that: ten centaurs, fourteen wizards and witches, and the last was Hagrid. A few of them were at the moment on the ship's deck, bundled up against the icy cold wind as no amount of warming charms could dampen the bone deep chill prevalent this far north of the Wall.
Packed in the large ship's stores was enough food for at least three months as well as some horses that were, currently, enchanted asleep. There were also clippings of the many magical plants cultivated on the Iron Islands and a quantity of other supplies necessary for the expedition.
The focus of their mission was to discover whether there were any magical plants and animals beyond the Wall as well to set up base in the ruins of Hardhome for future expeditions and to look into magic's existence, in general, beyond the Wall.
Both Neville and Hagrid had been put in charge of the expedition. Neville was leading the search for new magical plants and Hagrid was leading the search for new magical creatures. The group of goblins had their own leader, Gutrotter, who had also been put in charge of properly fortifying the new base at Hardhome through use of goblin wards and a few nasty curses. These were to be added to the transfigured defenses the wizards would create upon reaching the ruined city beyond the Wall.
"Everyone up on deck!" Neville called out as he looked out over the bow of the ship, his eyes narrowed against the cold biting wind. Watching as the shoreline loomed out of the swirling mist. "We are about to make land!"
What followed next was a flurry of activity as multiple wizards, witches and goblins who were on the deck searching for land rushed to join Neville where he was stood.
More commotion came from below deck as the rest of the expedition team left the warmth of the ship's cabins and braved the cold, near arctic winds of the North.
The most imposing of these was Hagrid. The massive ten-foot tall half-giant, having dropped what he was doing - preparing the trapping equipment and cages below deck - and instead stepped out into the wind, not bothered by the cold as he lumbered over to the side of the ship, his dark eyes squinted as he looked into the wind.
Looking up at the much larger man, Neville couldn't help but be awed by just how big he was. Neville had thought the Mountain That Rides was big when he had fought him but Hagrid made Gregor Clegane look like a pebble. The half-giant towered over the rest of the crew, even more than usual as he was currently clad in a mix of thick heavy furs and goblin-forged steel. His shoulders alone were easily as wide as a man was tall. Currently strapped to the half-giant's back was a crossbow that looked more like ballistae, and belted to his hip was a mace of about four foot long and ended in a massive bladed steel weight. Hagrid's mace alone probably weighed as much as a full grown man.
Neville was glad the half-giant was on their side.
"Prepare to go ashore! We've reached Hardhome!" Hagrid called out, his dark eyes narrowed as he saw the ruined remains of what had once been a small settlement beyond the Wall that had apparently been destroyed by invaders many years ago. "The sooner we set up the base, the sooner we can get on with exploring this wasteland!"
"There are some rocks up ahead!" one of the other wizards called out as he stood at the prow of the ship, taking note as he did so of the jagged rocks that could be seen protruding from the sea.
"Prepare the rune cannons!" Neville shouted as the goblins rushed to the large magic-powered weapons. "Blast the rocks away. Turn them to rubble. The strengthened hull will do the rest. Wizards, get on the side of the ship and uses some bombarding and reductor curses. We want to get as close to shore as we can."
What followed next was a series of loud explosions, as the goblin-manned cannons and wizards did their work. Blasting away any rocks they could see sticking out of the water. As they were doing this, the ship continued its journey. The magic-reinforced hull breaking through both waves, ice, and rubble alike as it forged onward, heading in the direction of Hardhome.
( - )
"So she's dead then?" Viserys asked as he looked down at Clementine's bloody corpse, his gaunt face set in a look of distaste as the metallic scent of blood filled his nose and almost made him wretch.
Illyrio gave the Targaryen Prince a blunt look.
"What will we do now?" Daenerys asked tearfully as she tried to avoid looking at the dead body. The woman had been her mentor, someone who saw her for herself and helped her become a stronger and better person. Seeing her like this was disconcerting for Daenerys, though apparently not so for Viserys, who just looked at her dead body with indifference.
They had been called to the tent barely ten minutes ago, by one of Clementine's rather frantic acolytes sent to them by Illyrio. Apparently, Illyrio had found her like this when he had come to deliver her meal.
"Do?" Viserys asked as he turned to look at his sister with a disbelieving look on his face. "What do you mean what are we going to do? We are going to do what we should have from the start; we are going to go back to Pentos, get some ships, and transport our army across the Narrow Sea and take the Iron Throne!"
"But Clementine said that we should go to Slavers Bay. She said that we need to bolster our army as well as a place to-" Daenerys began as she was confused by the way her brother was talking.
"Our army? This isn't our army. This is my army. As such I will take my army and retake the Iron Throne. There isn't a force alive that could match an army of sixty thousand Dothraki Screamers and three dragons," Viserys interjected as he glared at his sister. Clementine had gotten him his army and taught him her magic, which was all he needed from her. It was actually probably a good thing she was dead. If not, they would be wandering around Essos for the next few years bolstering their numbers.
Daenerys flinched as she heard her brother's tone. It was a tone he had not used for a long while which was soon followed by his declarations of her "waking the dragon".
"But we are not ready to go to Westeros, Clementine said so. She sai-" Daenerys began as she decided to tempt fate and talk her brother out of his rash actions.
She was not able to finish, however, as Viserys turned around and slapped her across the face as hard as he could, knocking her to the floor with a cry. Looking up in shock, her hand clutching the bright red mark on her face, Daenerys felt a shiver of fear run down her spine as she saw the look on her brother's face.
"I don't care what she said. She is dead and so it doesn't matter. Only what I say matters, and I say we are going to Westeros," Viserys snarled down at his sister.
"I-I won't go with you," Daenerys replied nervously as she pushed herself to her feet. A year ago she would not have even dared challenge her older brother like this but she wasn't able to use magic back then. A year ago she did not have a dragon nor was she as confident and secure in herself as she is now.
Viserys' eyes widened at her insolence before his gaze darkened. "You will do as I tell you. You will come with me and do your duty. It is about time you start making use of those birthing hips. When we go to Westeros, you will come with me. I think it's time that we start creating the next generation of Targaryens."
Daenerys backed away at that, her eyes widening as she realized what he was talking about. He wanted to force her to marry him, to become his sister-wife. The thought of it disgusted her.
"Now come along, sweet sister. We can start now . . . tonight . . . " Viserys began as he took a step towards his sister, his eyes gleaming in the light from the brazier.
Before he could take another step, he was distracted by a sudden roaring sound, followed by screams of fear and agony. Turning on his heel, his sister forgotten, Viserys swept back the flap of the tent to see what the commotion was. As he did so, his eyes widened in shock and fear.
Seeing her brother's back turned, Daenerys decided to escape now while she could. Without Clementine around to hold his leash, her brother had gone out of control. Daenerys would not suffer under it, not when she could escape his clutches. Turning to the wall of the tent, Daenerys sent a blast of fire from her palms, burning through the tent fabric.
Not even looking back, Daenerys ran through the opening and into the panicking camp, heading in the direction of her black dragon, Aegon. With Clementine gone and her brother apparently more unhinged than before, she wasn't going to stay here. She was going to get her dragon and flee.
( - )
(A few minutes earlier)
Blaise looked over at the horde of Dothraki before him. They had camped down on a large open field, completely covered in long grass. It was colloquially known as the Grass Sea and looking at it now Blaise could see why it was given that name. Letting out an impatient sigh, he looked at the eleven other wizards with him. All of them, like him, were under a disillusionment charm. But despite that, he could still see the distortion in the air where each of them was standing.
Looking back out at the large camp, Blaise let out another sigh as he didn't like waiting.
As if reading his thoughts, a soft popping sound announced the arrival of the scout Blaise had sent to the camp. Removing his disillusionment charm, Blaise took a step towards where he believed his scout was. "What do you have to report?"
"Good news and bad," Seamus Finnegan said as he pulled off the invisibility cloak he had been wearing, loaned to him by Harry.
"The good news then," Blaise requested as the rest of his team began to reappear around him, all of them removing their disillusionment charms after Blaise did.
"The Red Priestess is dead, apparently poisoned by someone we don't know who," Seamus replied grimly, a dark expression on his face as he spoke of the woman who was responsible for Dean's disappearance.
"Good," Blaise grunted. "Saves us some work. What's the bad news?"
"The bad news is that one her disciples, Viserys Targaryen, had taken advantage of the situation and has more or less taken over," Seamus snarled, an ugly look on his face as he thought about his missed chance of vengeance.
Blaise was not amused by Seamus' statement. Instead, he looked grimly over at the Dothraki camp and noted at how vast this army of savages was. Sixty thousand seasoned warriors and it was a force that would storm through Westeros, causing untold damage and threatening Albion's rise to prominence if they ever got across the Narrow Sea. Blaise would see to it that they never got the chance.
"So does that mean our mission is complete?" Winston, a member of Blaise's strike team asked as he looked to his masked leader.
Blaise looked coldly over at the man who asked. "No, we are not finished here. It's time we go through with Plan B."
Winston paled drastically at that as the other members of the team all shifted uncomfortably but didn't question him.
Seamus nodded at that, his face grim. "Plan B it is. Any objections?"
"It's not right," Winston suddenly spoke up, his voice an octave higher than usual as Blaise leveled his glare at him.
"No, it's not right, but it's necessary," Blaise bluntly said before he looked to the group. "Take your pre-planned positions and wait for my signal."
The group of wizards and witches nodded, as they all cast their disillusionment charms onto themselves and what followed was a series of pops as they apparated away. Traveling to positions they had already scouted out earlier that evening while they were preparing for the mission.
"Not you," Blaise said harshly as he grabbed Winston by the shoulder before he could leave. "You're going to stay where I can keep an eye on you."
Winston nodded at that, knowing better than to argue with Blaise, Harry's right-hand man and one of the most deadly warriors in the Order.
"Wand out, boy," Blaise ordered as he pulled out his own rarely used wand. Normally he relied on using his ritually gained wandless magic the same as Harry and Neville. However, for a spell like this, he would need to use a wand to properly focus and control it.
Seeing Blaise pull out his wand, Winston nodded nervously as he, too, pulled out his own wand. He had been picked for this mission because he was a strong wizard with good control over his magic as well as he had helped Blaise put down an enemy stronghold during the invasion of the Iron Islands. This, though, was on a different scale.
Raising his wand into the air, Blaise fired red sparks into the sky, giving the signal for the rest of his team.
Scowling as he looked down at the horde of savages camped in the plains in front of him, Blaise raised his wand.
"Fiendfyre!" Blaise shouted as his wand weaved through a set of complicated motions. What came next was an explosion of roaring golden fire that burst forth from Blaise's wand. The sea of cursed fire quickly spread across the grassy plains consuming all in its path as it charged towards the Dothraki camp.
Alongside Blaise, Winston conjured his own fiendfyre, which merged with Blaise's as it rapidly spread. Winston let out a gasp as he felt the strain of trying to control the potent and deadly fire even as his control was slipping.
At eleven other points around the massive Dothraki camp, the other members of the team released their own streams of fiendfyre, heading in the direction of the Dothraki horde.
Blaise narrowed his eyes as he saw the flames strike the camp, tearing through anything that got in its way. With a grunt of exertion, Blaise sent another set of red sparks into the air before he tore his wand away from the stream of cursed fire, breaking off his connection to it as well as his control. Seeing this, Winston thankfully did the same, his mind and body now aching from the strain of trying to control something that wild and uncontrollable.
Grabbing the tired Winston by the shoulder, Blaise apparated away quickly, moving fast as he saw the now uncontrolled fire heading in all directions, continuing to spread across the Grass Sea into the Dothraki horde as it did so. For how long it would continue its rampage Blaise didn't know, but what he did know was that this army would never be a threat to Westeros or House Albion.
AN: So yeah I hope it was worth the wait, as I said an awful lot of things happened. What will the reaction be like? What will happen to the Targaryens? How will things go beyond the North? What is brewing in King's Landing? So yeah a lot of things are happening.
I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter and would love to hear from you so please leave a comment or a review.
Have put a poll up on my bio page as I have decided to plan out an update routine for my stories so have a look if you want.
So I will see you next time with a fresh update.
Thanks again to my Beta Foxmac for all her ideas and help when it came to writing this chapter.