Author's note : Here's another chapter guys! Thanks again for the reviews and I hope you'll enjoy this one. Strategies and arrivals...and maybe a quick Jonerys moment ;)
« We can't let them past the Gift, we have to stop them before they find any village. » Jon stated, pacing in the snow in front of Winterfell gates.
« They're not making much progress, they're probably waiting for us to do so if what you say about this Night King is right. » came Tyrion's retort. The group was composed of four men, Jorah, Jon, Tyrion and Jaime. This meeting wasn't planned as they all walked into each other but every conversation they had always ended on the same subject. « He wants to lure us somewhere he's sure to win. We have to do the same, find a place where we can have the upper hand. »
« What about Lonely Hills? » was Jaime Lannister proposition. « Let them arrive that far, we would have Dreadfort on the South and the Karstarks to the East, we can attack from the West and the wildlings coming from the North. If we do it right, Long Lake can stop them and they're surrounded. » It was a good plan, Jorah and Tyrion were already nodding to it but Jon could only see one thing.
« Too low. We can't let them that far, they could destroy several villages on their way there. What about Last Hearth, we can't let the Umbers face them. » he argued.
« Move the Umbers to Karhold. The boy is young, you let him live and keep his castle despite their treason, he will do exactly what you want. » Tyrion Lannister added and Jon started pacing again. Both Lannisters had a point, they could have them surrounded. Karhold with the Umbers there would be a great force on the East as well as Dreadfort on the South, where they were planning to settle the Unsullied and Dothrakis when they arrived. Castle black would come North with the Wildings and the men of the Watch and the rest of them would leave from Winterfell to attack from the West. This could work even if Jon was not ready to let them go that far. He was too eager to get rid of them, not able to think as clearly as Jaime Lannister, a known and recognized soldier.
« Okay » he conceded after a few moments of thinking. « Let's suggest this to the Queen. »
« Your Grace! » one of the guards from the front tower called out to him. « A rider is approaching! » The four men turned towards the vast snowy valley surrounding the castle of Winterfell and they saw him, just a small dark sport in the distance that was slowly getting closer and closer. When he was just a few meters away from them, they realized someone was walking behind his horse, hands tied to a rope held by the horseman and they all silently reached for the pommel of their swords. His face was hidden under a black hood that also covered half his face. An arakh was hanging on his hip but there was no doubt he was not a Dothraki.
« Stop right there! » Jon Snow strong voice pierced the silent sound of the wind and the snow falling. Ghost was next to him, growling at the stranger. « Who are you? » The rider came to a halt and removed the hood covering his face. Jon did not know him but as Tyrion swore under his breath he guessed the Lannister did.
« Oh, damn. »
« I'm Daario Naharis. Tell the Queen I have a gift for her. » he presented himself, pulling at the rope holding his prisoner as for his supposed gift. Jon turned to Tyrion and Jorah, they both seemed annoyed by this newcomer but Tyrion was already making his way back to the castle and Mormont nodded this man was not a threat but Jon did not release the pommel of his sword.
« If you could be quick about it Tyrion, it's freezing down here! » and Jon could have sworn Tyrion Lannister slowed his pace a bit more.
They had allowed him to enter the courtyard and Jorah had explained he was the commander of the Second Sons, supposedly staying in Meereen to keep the peace on behalf of the Queen. He was the one he had sent a raven to just a few days ago after the meeting when they had talked about the Golden Company. Daario had just replied « Hum, didn't get that one. I had already left the city. » and they all stood silent, waiting for the Queen. Jon was still a bit suspicious about this man and the prisoner he had with him. After a few minutes of waiting, they heard footsteps on the wooden stairs and they turned as the Queen arrived, followed by Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm and some of her Dothrakis guards. Jon took a glance at this Daario Naharis who smiled as she approached, the look he had as his eyes followed her movements said more than a thousands words could. Jon felt a twinge next to his heart, his throat suddenly dry as his eyes shifted to her beautiful face, hoping he would not find the same thing he did on Daario's. But her face was closed, emotionless, impossible to read. He could not decide whether it was a good thing or not. However, Daario thought it was good, his smile growing wider when she stopped just in front of him.
« You're supposed to take care of Meereen in my absence. » she was the one to break the silence. Jon saw they had quite an audience as his siblings as well as others were watching from above.
« I was hoping you would be happy to see me, after all these months. » he was unshaken by her dry tone, still smiling as if the situation delighted him.
« I'm not, since you should be at Meereen, where I told you to stay… »
« Stay until they chose a leader. » he cut her without warning and her face started to show the anger she was feeling. She never liked being cut or challenged. « They did. You've been long gone, things are well there. »
« A raven could have been enough. If you had stayed there, you would have received Jorah's informing you of… »
« The Golden Company pursued by Cersei Lannister. » She threw him the darkest of glances for interrupting her again and this time, his eyes went to the ground for a second. « I've heard about it. »
« Then what are you doing here? I need you there to stop this deal! » she exclaimed, visibly annoyed.
« You know as well as I do I couldn't stop this deal from happening. » Silence fell between the two of them. « But I got a gift for you. » Her eyes left his to focus on the prisoner he had, but, to everyone surprise, he got a withered flower from under his leather jacket, holding it to her with a smile. « Remember? She did not survive the journey but it's still a good memory from… »
« Is that all? » It was her who cut him this time, her voice and stare showing real irritation as she totally ignored his flower. Maybe he was hurt, but it did not show for more than a second.
« Oh, I also got the second commander of the Golden Company. » He shrugged « I think he knows quite a lot about Cersei Lannister's plan with the rest of them. » She finally gave him a small smile, her eyes shining at the news. As much as Jon disliked this Daario, this catch could be of a great help.
« I'll take the prisoner then. » she said, looking at the man in chains before turning to Jon. « I trust we can find a place for him? » He wanted to believe her tone was softer when addressing him but shook this foolish idea away as he nodded. « Get him to a cell. » he called out to his men.
Almost two weeks had passed since Jon was back in Winterfell, two weeks during which he worried too much about the army of the dead and their progress past the Wall. They all had agreed to the plan of Lonely Hills. Last Hearth had been emptied a few days before. As expected, young Lord Umber had not argue a bit and the Karstarks had welcome them, reinforcing the allies to the east. Still, Jon was not sure this plan would go smoothly, he kept on assuming the worse, what if the dead decided on heading towards Karhold instead of going South. He had made sure everyone would be ready to leave if that were to happen. They now had a great amount of dragon glass weapons and they were just waiting for Bran to give them the green light. They were supposed to move once the army hit Last Hearth and according to his brother, they just arrived to Queenscrown which was deserted. They were moving pretty slowly but Jon tried not to make to much of it, the plan was solid, everyone was ready, they just needed to be patient. He wasn't much for patience, so he used his time to focus on something else, their latest prisoner. The man from the Golden company was silent as a tomb, he had tried threatening him, the Dothrakis even tortured him but not a single word escaped from his mouth. He was starting to wonder if something was going to come out from this man or not.
« Has he said anything? » he was startled to hear her voice, not expecting to see her in the dungeons since she never came to see the prisoner, only sending Jorah, the Dothrakis or even this Daario. He remembered seeing them together the day he arrived one week ago. They had talked for a few minutes, just the two of them, Daenerys was stiff at the beginning but at the end she had a small smile and he had seen her accepting that withered flower. Jon had turned around and focused all his anger on the prisoner. He didn't know why it hurt so much, he was aware she had a life before, and now, whatever was between them was on hold, forbidden. Yet, he couldn't suppressed his feelings nor could he stop staring at her good heart, like Davos said a few months ago.
« Not yet, Your Grace. » They both look towards the cells, the last one was occupied by the man but they could not see him from where they stood. It was so rare now for the two of them to be alone, the air was heavy with silence and he felt her eyes on his face. He didn't want to look at her, he wanted to stay focused, not to be distracted by his feelings coming back to haunt him, but he could not resist to try and read her mind. Her eyes told a thousand things, a thousand things that would confuse him even more, but he could not look away. He saw distress, pain, uncertainty and numerous other things he could not put words to. He was no longer in control of his own body when he turned completely towards her, raising his hand to touch her porcelain skin. Her eyes shut at the contact but then footsteps were heard and she moved away from his touch as he regain his composure, taking a step back as well. Daario Naharis appeared and her behavior changed completely. The moment was gone.
« So, do you want me to take him? » he asked her after nodding to Jon.
« Yes. » she answered and Daario walked towards the cell. Jon frowned, a questioning look on his face as he looked back at her.
« Where are you taking him? » She stared back, her eyes were unreadable once again. She had become quite temperamental those days, at one moment she could be soft and smiling and the next she would be stern and harsh. Tyrion was starting to fear her unstable behavior, afraid she might follow her father's path. Jon was confident, even though he could not understand her as well as before, he knew she was far from being mad and cruel but he was sure he didn't convinced Tyrion. Her Hand still eyed her every move and decision with question and if he was there, he would probably be as lost as Jon was.
« I'm going to make him talk. » she simply said, starting after Daario and the prisoner.