This chapter is the most boring one yet. Sorry. I get caught up in dumb shit like this all the time. I have no self-control when it comes to stupid details that no one really cares about…but whatever.
Just so you know, this story is not abandoned. None of my WIPs are (She Rises, The Zone Where Black and White Clash, and this one). If I ever abandon a story, I will put a note in the summary. But frankly, it isn't in my nature to abandon something I've put time and thought into.
Life has been a mess for me lately – I'm sure most of you can relate, as I think the majority of humans live rather messy lives sometimes. I've had a rough go of it the last few months. And I hope that y'all understand that I'm not perfect, and that I can't devote as much time and energy to Fanfiction as I want, but that I try my best.
So please, if you are reading other people's work, whether it's on Fanfiction or another similar site, do so with compassion. Treat authors with the same respect you would like to be shown, and remember that you can't possibly be aware of what that person's life is like outside of the internet. So don't be too harsh about update speed, or plot holes, or Mary Sues. Remember that these are people who are putting themselves out there, expressing themselves creatively for an audience. If you went to see your nephew in a school play that he'd helped write, and the play was terrible, would you boo? Would you go up to your nephew afterwards and say, "That was totally unrealistic, the character development was horrendous, and your acting was shit"? I should hope not; I should hope you'd be a little more gentle in your approach – try to be honest, yet encouraging. So please, don't behave any differently when you are protected by the anonymity of a computer screen. Honesty is appreciated. Ugliness is not.
"The free folk are some of the best archers I've ever seen in my life," Jon said, looking down at the map that they'd spread out on the table in the antechamber to the great hall. "Better even than the Dothraki. But unlike the Dothraki, they don't fight as well as a unified, organized force."
Tormund picked his teeth with a sliver of wood, lounging back in his chair and looking around the room with watchful blue eyes. "We fought well enough for you at Winterfell, King Crow," he said gruffly.
Jon grimaced. "Yes, you did. And you sustained heavy losses because of my idiocy. I won't risk the complete annihilation of your people by putting you on the ground. You'd serve better stationed on the Wall and on the cliffs here, across the plain." He pointed down to the Wall by Eastwatch, and traced his finger over the plains of the Gift until he reached the wall of cliffs he spoke of. "Your archers can pick them off from the sides while the rest of us do the heavy lifting down below."
"So the idea is to trap them," Jaime said, standing next to Jon and looking down upon the map. Lord Manderly, Ser Davos, Tyrion, Qhono, Beric Dendarrion, Yohn Royce, the Hound, and Thoros of Myr all sat around the table, drinking ale and watching the map with solemn, determined eyes.
"Yes," Jon said with a nod. "Unless they've got some sort of Wall-breaking machine, they'll have to cross at Eastwatch, when the ice gets thick enough. If we meet them before they pass these cliffs, we'll have them boxed in. They'll be stuck between the Wall to the north, the sea to the east, and the cliffs to the south. The bulk of our forces will meet them as they march west, cutting them off before they can escape the valley." He sighed. "Once the army has passed completely beyond the Wall, I'm going to send one of the dragons over to melt the ice. That'll cut off their escape, and we'll be able to finish them off once and for all. I want this to be the decisive blow that ends this war for good."
"And if they get past the main army? If one Walker sneaks past the wall of our forces and escapes south?" Tyrion said. "Even one White Walker could manage to raise old skeletons from the ground and take them south to attack Winterfell and beyond."
"Which is why Grey Worm will keep the Unsullied a few miles back, along with about fifteen thousand Dothraki," Jon said, pleased with the question. "They'll serve as a safety net, to catch any wayward wights or White Walkers. Neither the Unsullied nor the Dothraki have ever fought in winter conditions before. The farther south they can stay, the better."
"We've also deliberately left some of our forces behind throughout the rest of Westeros," Jaime said, looking at his brother. "If the battle goes ill, each city will at least have some protection. And we didn't want to leave the rest of the country vulnerable to any other sorts of attacks."
"Aye, that's smart," Beric said. "What better time for an ambitious leader from Essos to conquer Westeros than when all of its forces are stationed in the North? Not that it's likely to happen, but still."
"So you said one of the dragons will punch a hole through the center, another down the left flank, and another down the right?" Jaime asked.
Jon nodded. "Similar to what Drogon did with your forces. Except Drogon was able to punch one hole, and the Dothraki used that opening to get behind the lines, since you only had a shield wall and not an army behind. With the army of the dead, if we only buckle their center, they'll have us trapped and will be able to eventually surround us."
"Like the Battle of the Bastards," Tormund said with a grunt. "Only worse."
Jon nodded, feeling bitter. He had been foolish. So, so foolish. Because of him, more than half the wildling army was dead. Thousands of his men slaughtered, because he had been rash and unthinking.
He was a king, now. He had to do better.
"So we'll have to buckle their flanks, too," Lord Manderly said gruffly, sipping heavily from his flask of ale. "I imagine you'll send heavy cavalry down the middle?"
He nodded. "Considering the terrain, we'll station cavalry to meet their left flank and at the center," he said, trailing his finger over the map. "We have the high ground from the cliffs going north, and then it dips when it gets closer to the Wall. We'll have heavy infantry here with a shield wall and pikes, because their right flank will have the high ground and we'll have to go on the defensive."
"And the dragons?" Lord Royce asked. "After they rain fire down on their first pass, then what?"
Jon grimaced. "Until we know what tricks the Night King has up his sleeve, I want to be cautious with them," he hedged. "They aren't invulnerable, as you saw when Drogon was injured," he said, looking between Tyrion and Jaime. "And that was with a man-made weapon. The Others have strange magic on their side – magic that we don't know enough about. The ice spears that they use can shatter anything but Valyrian steel and dragonglass. It wouldn't surprise me if they could sink right through the dragons' scales. I don't want to get overconfident."
"So we get a feel for it before we actively employ them?" the Hound said, looking nervous. The dragons made him nervous. Fire made him nervous.
"Aye," Jon said, leaning over the table. He felt tired all of a sudden. "I'll station Viserion on the Wall, Drogon on the cliffs. Rhaegal will fly high and scout, and I'll send him around the back to destroy the ice bridge and cut off their escape. He's the smallest; makes for a lesser target. Normally I'd send Viserion up, but he'll blend in better with the Wall, just as Drogon is of a color with the cliffs. Anything that will make it harder for the Walkers to attack the dragons is useful, no matter how small." He paused, and looked around at them, lowering his tone. "Daenerys will be riding Drogon. The longer I can keep him grounded on top of the cliffs, the better. Because I'll be commanding infantry on the ground instead of riding Rhaegal, I'll be at greater risk. It would be disastrous if both of us were to die. I want to keep her safe. After this is all over, she is the one who matters most. I can't have her flying to the rescue, only to have Drogon get hit and for her to fall. I want Viserion and Rhaegal to take point on this. They might be smaller in size, but fire is fire."
"And the Greyjoys have plenty of ammunition?" Thoros of Myr asked, chewing on an apple and looking like he hadn't a care in the world.
"Each ship has one catapult and fifty fire stones," Jaime answered. "They'll do as much damage from the rear as they can."
"So we've got about a hundred and seventy-five thousand troops on the ground, mixed cavalry and infantry," Tyrion said, running his hand in a semi circle from the western point of the cliffs to the Wall, "about two thousand archers stationed on the cliffs and the Wall to either side, ninety-seven ships from the Iron Fleet floating at sea, and about twenty-thousand of the Dothraki and Unsullied a few miles back to act as a safety net."
Jon nodded. Everything was set. They had a good plan, and he was thrilled with the amount of troops they had managed to call up. It was more than he had originally hoped for.
"Our biggest advantages against the dead are the dragons, the obsidian weapons, and the mounted knights," he said. "The only horses they have are the dead ones that the Walkers ride. Even the tiniest sliver of dragonglass destroys them. And the dragons, obviously, because of the fire. Not to mention that our soldiers are far more skilled than the majority of the wights. Also, I'm hoping that we can cause enough chaos that any semblance of order amongst their ranks weakens."
He paused, looking around the table. "However," he continued cautiously. "They have a couple of advantages as well. The first is a given: they still outnumber us nearly two to one. Bran says he estimated a little over three hundred thousand, give or take. The second is that each White Walker is in command of a legion of about a hundred to two hundred wights, roughly. Which means that there are at least two thousand out there, possibly more. And White Walkers aren't like their foot soldiers. They're stronger, smarter, and have weapons that will shatter anything but Valyrian steel or obsidian, as you already know. They are significantly harder to kill." He sat down in his chair, exhaling deeply. "The third is that they have giants. Not more than a hundred or so, but enough to do serious damage. Our best tactics with those are headshots with arrows and spears. Anything that can be thrown or shot at the head and neck. Hopefully they'll be as susceptible to obsidian as their smaller counterparts. But we don't know. No one has ever fought them, not even the wildlings. So it's probably best to go for the kill shot, and their heads are the most vulnerable." He thought of Wun Wun, and frowned.
"Giants?" Qhono said from the corner, his voice heavily accented. He gestured with his hands. "How tall?"
Jon winced. "At least twelve feet, sometimes as tall as fifteen or sixteen. And they probably weigh…" He looked at Tormund, noticing out of the corner of his eye how many of the lords around the table looked skeptical. "What would you say they weigh?"
Tormund whistled, and looked around the table. "A few thousand pounds. Jon and I both saw Wun Wun kick aside a horse like it was a fucking mouse that had got in his way."
Qhono nodded, but looked undaunted. Jon was beginning to think that the huge Dothraki wasn't afraid of anything at all. Then again, none of the Dothraki seemed to be afraid to die. And what was worse than death, in the end? If death did not scare you, what would?
Jaime cleared his throat. He and Jon had talked long into the night the previous evening, and they had discussed their plan at length. Jon never thought he'd be grateful for the man who had once pushed his brother out a window, but the elder Lannister had a brilliant mind for warfare, and he and Jon worked well together when talking about such things.
"Each of you knows which soldiers in your armies are the most skilled archers," the blond said. "Each of these men will receive obsidian-tipped arrows, as opposed to just oil and fire. They'll be asked to concentrate their efforts on the giants and the White Walkers, as Walkers can't be killed by fire. We also have Qyburn's two scorpions from King's Landing. They'll be arriving with the company in two days and fitted with dragonglass heads."
"How many weapons have already been made?" Royce said, looking just as haughty and unpleasant as he always did. Still, Yohn Royce was an honorable man. Jon's general dislike of the man's affect did not change that he was a good man and an excellent military leader. Plus, he commanded the largest force on the continent, other than the Dothraki. The Vale, due to its general isolation from the rest of the country, had the most intact army in Westeros. They were contributing nearly forty thousand men, more than any other group except for the Dothraki – and unlike the Dothraki, they were all heavy cavalry and heavy infantry and used to fighting in harsher climates.
Jon would deal with Lord Royce's snobbery all day for the rest of his life if it meant he had access to the Knights of the Vale. He knew that without them, the odds would not be in his favor.
"About half of the Dothraki have had their weapons edged with dragonglass," Jon answered tiredly. "We're working through the night to make more. Many swords have been reforged with veins of obsidian. It's proven difficult to work with. Gendry Waters is particularly gifted, and he's gotten creative with ways to incorporate the glass into weapons that we already have – somehow fold it into the metal. Pikes and spears and arrows are easily fixed with dragonglass heads, and we have tons of knives and short swords – crude, but sharp and effective." He shrugged. "Right now, about two-thirds of our forces are equipped. If we keep going at this pace, we'll be able to arm most of our forces by the time we have to march for the Gift."
"And front lines are priority, I presume?" Royce said with a raised eyebrow.
Jon nodded. "Yes, My Lord. All of your men will be equipped. Every soldier fighting at the Gift will be armed with dragonglass before any of the Dothraki and Unsullied left behind. I don't want a single man in the main force to be fighting without an obsidian weapon. They would be practically defenseless."
"Good," Royce said, just as Lord Manderly nodded his head in appreciation.
"Let's break for the day," Jon said, standing. The rest of them followed suit. "Confer with your lieutenants. We'll gather again when the rest of our forces get here, when Grey Worm, Yara and Edmure can join us. Edd and Jorah Mormont should arrive here sometime tomorrow. Then we can finalize plans and smooth out the final details."
As they filed out, Jon spoke. "Lord Tyrion, Ser Jaime – Daenerys, Sansa and I would like you both to join us for dinner here in the conference room this evening. We need to go over preparations for winter. Shouldn't take long."
So I promise, next chapter you will see some long-awaited action between our two main characters. Sorry to have kept you waiting. Then, chapter after next will be the wedding! Yay!
I hope to have the next chapter out by the end of this month. But I'm not going to make promises. Just know that I haven't abandoned this – nor will I abandon it. You have my word.
Thanks for reading, and for being so awesome! Y'all are the best.