Sorry for the delay.
The White Knife, Northern Realms
The ship was sailing through the waters of the White Knife carrying the Starks bound to Winterfell. It was evening with light fading fast. Eddard Stark was busy in his small cabin looking over the papers relating to administration. Past year had been very busy. The Spring festival, the Northern games, bringing the Free Folk south of the wall etc. He had been busy. Over the years the population of the Northern Realms had increased rapidly. The latest survey done by the University on Aryan's orders pegged the population to be almost six million.
The University was finally ready. Unlike the Citadel which used to hoard knowledge, the University headed by Grandmaester who shuttled between the Unversity and Winterfell as and when required, was for giving away knowledge. Already the first batch of teachers and healers were being trained. The Citadel had objected at that and had petitioned the King to stop this practice. But it was still pending. Ned knew Aryan will solve this problem as his nephew had foreseen this situation long ago.
As for the Free Folk, most of them had been setup in the Western Coast which had plenty of water sources and forests for them. The Thenns had been given Lord status and were given the Old Gift to rule. Ned had gained the Royal Decree to reclaim the Gift. It was Robert who agreed to the decree even when the whole Small Council protested, even Jon Arryn. While the New Gift was annexed to various Lords who shared the border. Many of the Free Folk were accommodated in the New Gift under the Thenns. Also a thousand strong regiment of the Northern Army was stationed in the New Gift for now to stop any surprises from the Free Folk. Other than a few small skirmishes which were put down brutally the Free Folk were settling down peacefully and were content in establishing their homes.
And now that all was finished it was time for his nephew's wedding which was the most important event at present. It was going to be huge affair with all the Lords and their families in attendance. Ned had concerns about Aryan taking a bride outside the North. He had suspected a few Lords raising objections against that. But thankfully nothing of that sort happened. The alliance had been finalised. So the North had trade and monetary access to Essos. The wedding was going to be in a couple of weeks and the Rogares would be arriving within a week. So here he was going to Winterfell with his whole brood. He missed Jon, but Jon had written to him that they will meet at Winterfell. He wondered how Rhaella will react to see her only grandson. Though Rhaella stayed with him for some time initially it had been growing incredibly difficult since he was occasionally visited by the River Lords. Hoster Tully himself had visited a couple of time. Other than that Freys and Mallisters too had come to the Moat few times mostly to discuss about alliances. So they had to relocate the former Queen to Winterfell for now.
That didn't mean everything was peaceful. The pirates from the Three Sisters had grown bold again and started to harass the merchant ships coming throught the Bite. But this time he and Aryan decided to deal with this problem once and all by themselves after the wedding. Multiple reminders to the Vale and to Kingslanding remained unanswered. Ned knew this would damage the relation of the North with Vale. But something had to be done.
"Are you not finished yet Ned?" Catelyn asked coming in her sleepwear shaking him from his thoughts.
"Almost." He answered her and then asked, "Are the children asleep?"
"All of them are asleep." Cat said, "Except Arya."
"What is it now that is keeping her awake?" Ned asked tiredly rubbing his face.
"It is your fault. You brought that water dancer and started to train her. She is at the decks training with that wooden stick." Cat complained.
"Let her. At least she is listening to you and the Septa." Ned told her. Knowing how much Aryan 'loved' the Septa, Ned had asked her to stay back at the Moat.
"Just barely." She replied annoyed.
"That is more than enough. You cannot always force her. Sometimes we have to try other ways." Ned said getting up. "Come let us go to bed."
He was glad to be back. Winterfell, his first home. It had been long he had enjoyed the comfort of a proper roof across his head. Two years of squiring for the Blackfish had certainly had an impact on him. Jon's outlook of the world had changed. His father had taught him to be honourable and just. But over the years he had seen his cousin Aryan's actions which often clashed with his father's teaching which had confused him. But the years under Ser Brynden travelling across the Riverlands, the Vale and the Reach has taught him the harsh realities of the world. The world was a dangerous and unforgiving place. You cannot survive with too much honour. You must be ready to throw away honor if situation demands such. He had also learned to lead and fight better as well as to drink and fuck. Brynden was adamant on the last part. "You need to calm your young blood. And only a good fuck can achieve that," were the words of the Blackfish as he pushed Jon into the hands of a couple of whores. Suffice to say Jon had now found that he liked the new activity.
Also he had noticed that Brynden used to take him when meeting Lords and introduced him to them which he found rather strange. Squires were not supposed to have such privileges especially since he was a bastard. He still remembered the spat Brynden had with Hoster when he took him to Riverrun.
But right now he was home within the protective walls of Winterfell for his cousin's wedding. He had arrived yesterday night. He did not bother to stop at the Moat Cailin to meet father. Coming here he came to know that all the Starks from the Moat Cailin and Wolfbay will soon be coming to Winterfell. He went straight to Winterfell with an aim to assist his cousin till the wedding. The castle was being decorated. The Castellan and his assistants were busy preparing the castle for the large inflow of guests which was sure to happen. A servant had informed him that Aryan had summoned Jon as soon as he arrived. As Jon walked searching for Aryan he encountered many familiar faces whom he had missed during the last couple of years. He talked to Mikken the Smith and the cooks in the kitchen. On the way he saw Ser Rodrick and talked to the man.
"Lord Stark is waiting for you at the Godswood Jon. Hurry up and go to him." The master-at-arms of Winterfell said.
"Of course Ser." Jon said as he parted ways with his former trainer and went towards the Godswood. He had walked through the Godswood enough times to know where his cousin would be. And just like father, he found Aryan near the small pond but he was not alone. Aryan was playing with a dog while talking to a Septa. Jon smiled at the sight but then looked again. The creature looked too big for a dog and the dress the septa wore was actually not those which he had seen the Septas of Riverlands used to wear.
As Jon walked forward suddenly the creature turned towards him and started to growl. Jon stopped in his tracks unsure of what to do.
"To me, Remus." He heard Aryan call and creature obeyed. "Long time no see Jon. Come here. Remus will not do anything."
Jon smiled and walked towards Aryan while keeping an eye on the so called 'Remus.'
Aryan then embraced Jon and released him while keeping him at arms length. "Look at you. You have grown taller and gained some scars. Your life with the Blackfish seems to be exciting."
Jon absently rubbed the small scar on his forehead and said, "I gained it while fighting few bandits."
"A good warrior must have some scars." Aryan told him.
Looking at 'Remus' Jon asked, "What is that?"
"A direwolf Jon." Aryan said. "I got him when I was beyond the Wall."
"A direwolf!" Jon exclaimed. "But I thought they were extinct."
"As you can see, they are not." Aryan said.
Jon then eyed the woman sitting near and whispered, "Who is she?"
"A very poor soul who lost almost her whole family in the war."Aryan told Jon in a soft. Looking at the woman Aryan said, "This is my cousin Jon Snow."
There was a sudden change in her expression. Her face brightened. She slowly got up and came near Jon and grasped his face. "You really look like my son." She then embraced him. Jon saw she was crying.
Jon stood there unsure of what to do and looked helplessly at his cousin. Aryan then came forward and gently pulled the woman away from him, "Please calm down. You are making him uncomfortable."
The woman whom Jon noted had covered her head but Jon could see few wisps of silver hair. She wiped her tears and calmed down, "I apologize. That was uncalled for."
"Jon." Aryan called him. "This is Rhaella Targaryen."
"Oh." Jon said then, "What!"
"Shh..." Aryan said.
"But she is supposed to be dead." Jon whispered.
"It is a long story." Aryan then told him how she survived and how she came here.
"So only you and father and Lady Catelyn knows of this." Jon asked.
"Grandmaester Marwyn knows. And now you too." Aryan said. "And I want it to remain that way."
"You have my word Lord Stark." Jon assured him. "And congratulations for your wedding."
"Thank you, Jon." Aryan said. "You that you will not be returning back to the Blackfish. I need you here to assist me as well as to help the Queen Dowager."
"As you say My Lord." Jon said.
"Now why don't you tell us about your adventures with the Blackfish. I am sure it would be interesting."
"Well. One day..." Jon began.
They had arrived a week ago. Even after so many years Catelyn could not help but be amazed by looking at Winterfell. When she had first arrived here after marriage the whole place was actually very desolate. A mighty castle with a small town nearby with only a handful of houses. Winterfell did not have splendour or grace as compared to other castles she had seen. May be it was because the Northerners in general did not believe in vanity. Still she had wished that Winterfell being the center of the North it needed to be more than just a castle. It seemed that Aryan agreed with her too. And the result was before her eyes. A mighty castle along with a now sprawling city. Unlike other Lord Paramounts, the Starks had shared their prosperity with the other Lords and the people too. They had aided different houses in setting up their own means of income according to the resources available.
She had once asked Ned why did they do this. If it would have been her father he would have taken everything for themselves. But looking back she knew why Aryan and Ned did that. Not only did North or Northern Realms as they were known now prospered as a whole, the Starks also gained undying loyalty from every living person in the North. She had several times heard the small folk saying 'Bless Lord Stark' or something similar.
When Ned had brought Aryan she was disappointed initially. Gone was her chance to be the Lady of the North. She knew her father would be very disappointed. In fact she had even witnessed Hoster Tully screaming in rage and trying to convince Ned to take over the North calling Aryan Stark just a bastard. But Ned remained resolute in his decision. It was one of the rare occasions when she had witnessed her husband's rage which made Hoster Tully shut up. Over the years Hoster had tried again and again to convince Ned to become the Warden of the Northern Realms but it did not go well. Hoster even threatened to reduce the food supply to the North. During those years the North slowly started to change. Over the years the years North began to reduce their dependency on outside food. They made everything themselves. So Hoster's threat did not even affect them. When Ned had announced his decision to move to Moat Cailin she was sad again. Even though the Moat was a strategic point for the North, it was dilapidated. But Aryan rebuilt the massive fortress along with a canal and growing city too. And Starkhaven was now one of the richest city in Westeros. Its strategic location helped in bringing in more trade. And now Hoster had finally realised that his blood will never rule the the Northern Realms. It was ironic that she was here to receive the next Lady of the Northern Realms.
"There is the ship." Ned told suddenly from her side jolting her from her thoughts.
Cat looked in the direction and indeed there was a ship coming. It had a design foreing to that seen in Westeros. Living in the Moat and watching so many ships over the years she was confident to identify ships by their design. The whole Stark family was assembled there even Benjen, Dacey and their children. So was Aryan in the front looking restless which was unlike him. Usually he was calm and collected.
"Your nephew is looking restless." She commented to Ned.
Ned looked over and said with a smile, "It must be the pre wedding jitters. I too was suffering from jitters when we were wed."
Cat smiled at that. "But you looked very calm during our wedding. I was the nervous one."
"Believe me Cat. I was terrified beneath my calm appearance." Ned replied back with a smile.
By now the Lysean ship had docked. The servants quickly started their work to lay down the planks. Soon the bridal party started to come out.
"Come." Ned said as he led them towards the dock. Cat followed with their children following them. By the time they reached Aryan, he was already greeting a distinguished looking man.
"Uncle, Lady Catelyn this is His Magnificence Lysandro Rogare, the Chief Magister of Lys and my soon to be Goodfather and our ally for the foreseeable future." Aryan introduced the person. Aryan then introduced Lysandro to the rest of the Starks. Ned also joined the conversation. As they continued their small talk Sansa tugged her dress and asked, "Mother where is Lady Gabriella?"
And as to answer that question Cat heard a commotion coming from the ships direction. Looking there Cat saw a girl, no a woman to be exact walking down towards them. With silver hair and purple-blue eyes depicting her Valyrian heritage she looked rather radiant and seemed to draw everyone's attention on to her. Cat was sure she was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.
"That is Lady Gabriella." Aryan announced apparently having heard Sansa as the bridal party came forwards.
"Wow. Just wow." Benjen whispered. "I am so proud of him." This was followed by a small grunt as Dacey had discreetly jabbed him in his stomach.
As the elder Lady of Starks Catelyn went forward towards Gabriella to greet her with a warm smile. Since she had known that those in Essos are better versed in High Valyrian, Catelyn spoke in the same language, "Welcome to the Northern Realms Lady Gabriella. I on the behalf of the Northern Realms and House Stark welcome you."
"Thank you my Lady. I look forward to my stay here as this is going to be my home for the future." Gabriella replied smiling at Aryan.
The celebrations that accompanied the wedding were truly spectacular dazzling the guests with opulence. There were many Lords from South too. Wilas, Loras and Margaery Tyrell, Renly Baratheon, Kevan Lannister and Brynden Tully to represent the Lord Paramounts along with several other Lords too. More than a week had passed after the grand wedding and the guests had all went back. The Lyseni party had all returned back except for the bride and her handmaidens and a few personal guards. Winterfell was back to normal, with the celebration mood in distant past and everyone back to their business. Ned Stark and his family were the last leave yesterday.
Aryan was sitting in his solar reading letters and missives now in his capacity as the Warden of the North. There was a huge pile to sort through. He suddenly had a great respect for his Uncle who used to handle these matters till now. It was nearing noon. He had been sitting there since morning. He felt a headache already going through the letters. The door to the solar opened. Without even looking Aryan knew who it was. There was only person who had the right to do that.
"You seem tired mon chéri." Gabriella said as she came in.
Aryan looked at her and smiled. Even in this life she still had her sexy french accent when she spoke which did not fail to excite him. She came and sat in a chair in front of him.
"So this is your hideout where you do planning." She said. It was the first time she had come here as she had been busy these days mingling with the guests and the occupants of the castle.
"Among other things." He agreed.
"I like the change." Gabi said with a smile.
Aryan looked at her raising an eyebrow. "What change?"
Looking at his eye she said, "The Harry Potter I knew always hated politics and fame. He preferred direct action compared to the scheming and squabbling of the British Wizegamont. Now look at you. You are now doing all the things you despised in your old life."
Aryan shrugged. "You are right Gabi. I can't say that I truly enjoy what I do. But I am doing for my family and people. I had realized within few days of coming to the North that the people suffered very much compared to those in South. So I started working for their betterment besides empowering the North. And I like my family very much but unfortunately Uncle Ned is too honorable to a fault with Benjen no better. So I couldn't leave the Kingdom in his hands. And my guts are telling me that hard times are coming and I am preparing the North to face it."
"Now you have me. We will face everything together 'Arri." Gabi said coming to sit on his lap and then kissed him passionately which Aryan readily reciprocated. Gabi started getting excited. But before they could continue they were stopped by a knock on the door.
Aryan groaned and released her with a disappointing sigh. Gabi mirrored him her face flush from their make out session.
"Duty calls My Lady." He told her.
"I will be eagerly waiting for you in your chambers. You better not be late." Gabi said as she went out with a sway in her hips which sent shivers down Aryan's body.
He collected his wits as Ser Rodrick came in followed by Marwyn came inside with a serious look on their face which alarmed him.
"What happened? Why do I feel that I am not going to like the news?" Aryan asked.
Marwyn placed few letters before him, "Messages from White Harbour and Ramsgate, My Lord. The pirates had grown bold. Not only they managed to sink our two ships they also tried to attack Ramsgate which we easily repelled. But still..."
"... they are thinking that we will ignore it as we did before My Lord. They think that Vale will protect them and the Northern Realm will not dare to fight them ." Rodrick said.
"Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus." Aryan said as he leaned back in his chair.
"Pardon me My Lord. I did not understand." Ser Rodrick said after looking at Marwyn who shrugged.
"Something I heard in Essos. It means never tickle a sleeping dragon. And that is precisely what they are doing." Aryan told them. "We cannot wait any longer. I had enough. Send messages to White Harbour and Wolfbay to ready hundred ships each. Send messages to Commander Lord William Dustin to prepare the troops for the attacks. He and Uncle Ned will lead the attack." Marwyn nodded and quickly went away to do his duties.
"What about you My Lord? Are you not coming." Ser Rodrick asked.
"No. I have decided that I will sit this one out preparing to face the consequences. No doubt it will create headaches for everyone in South and they will call for answers." Aryan told him. "Ser Rodrick as you go out send Jon to me would you."
The Master-of-arms nodded as went out. Aryan took a parchment and decided to write a letter.
Lord Jon Arryn
Lord Paramount of the Vale
Warden of the East
Hand of the King
I am afraid this letter brings you grave tidings. Despite of repeated requests and reminders about pirate activities from the Three Sisters you had taken no action to address this issue. We had waited patiently for your involvement but you did not do anything neither as the Hand of the King nor as the Lord Paramount of the Vale while we were attacked repeatedly again and again. We abstained from doing anything for all these years because of the good relation between our two Kingdoms since the time our my grandfather Lord Rickard Stark. But no more. The pirates have now grown bold enough to attack our lands. So with deep regret I am informing you that the next attack will result in a very decisive response from us. Perhaps by the time this message reaches you we already would have made our move.
Lord Paramount of Northern Realms
Warden of North
Aryan sighed as he rolled the parchment and applied the seal. No doubt the relation between the two Kingdoms will deteriorate after this. But it had to be done. As he stretched himself in his seat rubbing his eyes Jon came in. "You called for me Lord Stark."
"Yes Jon. It is very important. You must surely have head of the pirate attacks in the Bite for the past few years." Aryan asked.
"Of course which is why we stationed our Navy there." Jon said.
"Precisely. But it seems that due to lack of a decisive action from us they had grown bold enough to attack Ramsgate." Aryan said.
"Attack the mainland. That is too much. Mere pirates never do that. They are of hit and run type. But this is far more bold which requires precise planning. I think we are dealing with something more than pirates here." Jon said.
Aryan was impressed. He also had similar thoughts. "I am impressed Jon. I had same thoughts. So I want you to go the Barrowlands to the Commander William and accompany him."
"You don't want me to go to the Moat Cailin to father?" Jon asked.
"Actually I don't have any problems. But I thought you many want to avoid potential awkward situations if Robb too wants to accompany you." Aryan said with a smile.
Jon cringed understanding Aryan's logic and nodded.
She had just returned from a full court. The Lords of Reach had just finished their rare meeting, one of those in which all the Lords whether they were major or minor had gathered. As expected the main agenda was to force the Northern Realms to buy food from them. While she had made a deal with Aryan Stark to sell food to Essos it had spectacularly backfired on her. Unlike the Northern products, the food that was produced in Reach was easily perishable. By the time their products reached Essos most of them were already wasted. So they were able to export only food grains that too at a marginal rate and had to reduce the production of fruits and vegetables for which the Reach was famous for. Decrease in demand has resulted in reduced production. Large tracts of lands remained unutilized. Unemployment was on rise as farmers had nothing to do.
Another problem was Starfall. She had learned of the small port setup there recently and had started to indulge in trade. A few of the Reach Lords near to the Dornish Marshes had started to trade with them. And slowly Starfall had stared to gain wealth and power. This was dangerous because if a war broke out Starfall could cause serious problems for the Reach.
Soon escorted by a servant she reached her room where she waited for her grandchildren to arrive to hear the news. While she had heard from her sources in the Northern Realms, in recent years she had learned not to trust them. Just as she finished her wine the doors opened as Wilas and Margaery came in.
"Grandmother." Margaery smiled and kissed her cheeks while Wilas just smiled and sat nearby.
She took a good look at them. Margaery had grown over the years. No longer was she a little girl. She had beauty and curves to emphasize it, with almond eyes, brown hair to accompany her beautiful face along with good teats and hips to show she was capable of bearing children. And as to Wilas, no longer was he lame. As promised he had been healed at Winterfell. He could walk alright only time will heal the small limp. But that was more than alright. Garlan had immediately started to teach his brother to fight. Olenna was glad to know the bond between the brothers as she knew in time Reach will need it. Mace was already against the Northern Realms which was natural as the prevailing conditions were harming the Reach. Olenna knew Wilas was the opposite. He had a good relation with the North and perhaps may be against any actions against the North.
That was her gamble as always. To play on both sides. With Mace supporting the current regime and Wilas who may had a good relation with the Starks. Whichever side wins the Tyrells can build bonds with them 'Grow Strong'. She could feel the growing tensions in Westeros. A conflict was sure in near future and she would be damned if the Tyrells lost. For now she kept these thoughts to herself and smiled one of her genuine smiles and asked, "How was the wedding?"
"It was grand I must say. Something that is not expected from the North. From what we had heard till now I had thought it will be simple ceremony. But from what we had seen the Stark wedding could easily rival a Royal Wedding." Wilas said.
"Is it?" Olenna mused then said, "The Starks are no longer poor dear. So now they can spend as much as they want without the fear of going hungry."
"Perhaps you are right. But it was a good wedding. It was nice to see a wedding ceremony of the Old Gods. While the ceremony was simple the celebrations were large. It seemed that the whole Northern Realms had come to see their Lord." Wilas said.
"Of course they would come to see their Lord." Olenna said and asked Margaery, "And what about the bride? Is she as beautiful as I heard?"
"Oh Grandmother, Lady Gabriella is so beautiful and a woman grown." Margaery gushed.
"Lady Gabriella is a true beauty Grandmother." Wilas agreed. "I think Queen Cersei's has a new competition."
"I am sure our Cersei would be delighted to hear that. The Rogares due to their Valyrian heritage were always good looking. " Olenna smiled. "Now why don't you go to your brother and resume your lessons Wilas."
Understanding his polite dismissal Wilas got up and left the room.
Olenna turned her attention to Margaery. Margaery was born to be Queen. Just like Tywin it was her ambition to have her blood sit on the Iron Throne and she was going to do anything to achieve it.
"It is time to learn finer points in Game of Thrones my dear." Olenna told Margaery as her education began on art of manipulation and subtlety.
Tower of the Hand, Kingslanding
Jon Arryn sighed as he finished signing another royal decree. As years had passed Robert had completely stopped himself from doing his duties as a King and it now fell to him to do those. Unless it was a potential war or something related to the Targaryens in Essos Robert rarely came for the Small Council meatings. The Kingdom was already in debt. Each member of the Small Council had their own agendas. That was not counting the headaches caused by Cersei. Then there was the problems in seven Kingdoms. With the rise of North as powerful Kingdom rich and prosperous of its own it was affecting the other Kingoms indirectly. Economy was disrupted. Granted that they were dependent on the gold from the Lannisters with the coming of the North everything was in imbalance. With the North growing its own food Reach and the Riverlands were facing its own problems with lots of land remaining underutilized. Also with spreading news about better living conditions in the Northern Realms had resulted in slow but steady migration of people into the North. The other Kingdoms were alarmed due to shortage of skilled craftsmen and essential workers. And of course there was the Faith. Not a week passed without a meeting with the High Septon who urged him to do something. Since the day of the massacre at the Sept of Baelor it had created a furor. The people were divided. Robert had become angry about the incident which was why Jon was forced to deal with the High Septon else the High Septon would be facing Robert's hammer.
But these were not his only problems. He was very concerned about his heir Robyn. The boy was very sickly. Even though seven name days old he was still not weaned of him mother's teat. He had several times tried to send the boy to fostering but Lysa always threw a tantrum and he was forced to relent. Jon was very concerned about the future of House Arryn.
And then there were the problems back in the Vale. Growing discontent among the Lords due to his long absence. And then there was the Three Sisters. He would not admit it but he did not have much control over them. Even though he had received repeated messages from the Northern Realms about the piracy based from the Three Sisters he had not acted on it. He had asked Petyr Baelish to look into it who later informed him that it was just pirates and the Northerners were just exaggerating and the Northern navy will prevent further escalations. Even though he had his misgivings he decided to heed Baelish's word. There were reports of attack on Ramsgate by the pirates but ignored it. He was just busy especially now that he discovered important information about Robert's offsprings.
He was jolted from his thoughts by the Grandmaester entering. Jon wondered why. Pycelle used to confine himself in his room within the Red Keep due to his old age. If the Grandmaester came here himself then it must be important. "How may I help you Grandmaester?" He asked.
"Grave news Lord Hand." Pycelle said as he gave Jon the message.
He saw the direwolf seal and opened the parchment. As soon as he read the message he had sudden headache and feel of dread. "Summon the Small Council Grandmaster. It is indeed grave tidings."
The Three Sisters, Vale
The Three Sisters are within the dominion of the Vale of Arryn and are ruled by House Sunderland. Houses Borrell of Sweetsister, Longthorpe of Longsister, and Torrent of Littlesister are sworn to the Sunderlands. The Three Sisters are sworn to House Arryn of the Vale, but the Eyrie's grasp upon the islands is tenuous at best. Some disreputable Sistermen were also known to use false lights to lure ships into wrecks to take their cargo. Two thousand years ago the islands were conquered by the North in an invasion known as the Rape of the Three Sisters. The Sistermen bent the knee to the Eyrie to expel the northmen. The Kings of Mountain and Vale from House Arryn and the Kings in the North from House Stark fought over the Three Sisters for a thousand years in the War Across the Water.
Greed was a powerful motivator. It made people do foolish things. Kingdoms had fallen due to one persons greed. And when there is group of greedy people the less said the better.
Donald Sutherland was just man twenty moons when he met a man over a drink. Donald was the son of the younger brother of Lord Sutherland. He did not have much future prospects as Lord Sutherland had three healthy lads to secure his lineage. Then the stranger had told him he would make Donald the next Lord of the Three Sisters in exchange of certain endeavors.. Donald just brushed him off initially but he thought it over again and again. He then went to meet the stranger who was at the Inn they had met for the first time and agreed. Lo and behold within a moon Lord Sutherland, his brother and his three sons died as their boat sank as they were going to Littlesister. And Donald became the new Lord within a week. The stranger then told him to create problems in the Bite and disrupt the ships that came to the Northern Realms. Thankfully it seemed the other Lords Borell, Longthorpe and Torrent had similar minds. The stranger had also provided them funds. Over the years they continued to harass the merchant ships. Even though the Northern Navy sometimes patrolled the waters they could not be everywhere. And the stranger had assured them that there will be no retaliation as both the Kingdoms had a good relationship.
And then a moon ago they decided on a drunken state that it was past time they started planning something bigger. And that was why attacked Ramsgate which proved to be a futile effort as they were repelled back. But they were planning another attack as they were yet to hear any response to their Northern incursion.
It is said it is darkest before the dawn. The attack came silent and swift when nobody was expecting it. A simultaneous attack on all the three islands. There was no shouting or any cheers. The highly trained Northern quickly disposed of anything moving as they went towards the Lord's Keep on each islands as the rest of the troops followed silently taking care of the rest. They quickly took over strategic points as the infiltrators started to do their work as they silently entered the Lord's Keep.
They were able to take over the Keep fo Sunderlands, Longthorpe and Torrents without any problems. But the Borells' guards were bit too alert as they discovered the attack and raised alarm. In the end it did not matter much. The well placed Northerners were able to quickly take care of incoming reinforcements and rest quickly surrendered themselves after seeing the size of the enemy troops they were facing.
Donald was asleep in chambers after a wild night full of drinks and debauchery with a few whores. He was Lord Sunderland after all and he could do as he pleased. He suddenly felt someone shaking him disturbing his wonderful dreams. "Go away." He slurred still half asleep.
"I don't think so." He heard a rather unrecognizable voice.
He squinted his eyes and looked towards the person and saw a black haired man younger than him may six and ten years odl with grey eyes looking at him with a mocking smile. "Who the fuck are you?" Donald asked.
"Language My Lord. It would be better if you lower your voice for your chances of survival." The person said.
"You bastard?" Donald roared jumping at him.
"Tell me something I don't know." The person said as he kicked Donald back to his bed. Soon two guards entered and pulled Donald to his legs and started to drag him out of the room. It was then he noticed several bloodstains and corpses of his own guards. He noticed the direwolf symbol on the soldiers and suddenly realised everything.
"The Northerners. You were not supposed to attack or retaliate. He had assured us." Words slipped out of Donald's mouth.
"What did you say?" The black haired man asked him.
"Nothing." Donald quickly shut up as the man looked at him intently.
Another group of soldiers led by another man who looked like a Lord came towards them. The Lord asked, "How did it go Jon?"
The black haired man Jon said, "It went as expected. There was no much resistance Lord Dustin. Do we have news on the other islands."
"Other than a feeble resistance from the Borells everything is under control." Lord Dustin told him. "And this is Lord Donald Sunderland?"
"Yes My Lord. And I think he has some important information for us asked in the proper way." Jon told him and Donald paled.
"If you are willing to do the honors yourself I don't see any reason to stop you. Take him to the ship and get everything out. I will take care of here till then."
Jon nodded with a smile as he walked with the guards dragging a struggling Donald behind him.
The market was full of people. Vendors trying to sell their goods and prospective customers buying or bargaining with them. As usual the streets of Pentos and busy and lively. It was rare they got to get out of the Illyrio's mansion. And today was one such day and Daenarys was thankful. Staying inside the mansion without much outside contact, infact any ourside contact was taking a toll on her. Illyrio said it was for their own protection form Robert Baratheon's assassins. So she had to accept that. Though she was grateful to him for protecting her and her brother and giving them a shelter, sometimes she felt that Magister had something planned for them. But she was helpless. Also she tried to remain outside her room while in the mansion. Viserys was less violent when she was outside with someone to keep an eye on her. Viserys had tried to threaten her and beat her when they arrived here as he did before. She had accepted that thinking she would be married to her Viserys as all the Targaryens. So she had not complained. But Illyrio had assigned to female guards for her after some time. After that the first time when Viserys had tried to beat her again, he learned that hard way not to repeat that again. Dany was thankful. While her guards did not speak much they always followed her. Dany felt safe near them.
And today also they were following her. Viserys was away not doubt in some brothel as always. So she was free from his oppression and her mood was happy. While she loved her brother as he was the only person with whom she shared blood. She still kept Lady Gabriella's words in her mind. Viserys had protected her till now. His had sacrificed his childhood for her. That was the only thing which stopped her from resenting her brother. But sometimes she wondered, how much more she must endure him? The past year she had spent at a business partner of Illyrio. Illyrio had said that she will needed to learn how to behave like a Queen so he sent her a handmaiden to his acquaintance. The said acquaintance was a female magister named Alamis in Pentos. Rumours were that the woman was married to three different magisters all of whom died under mysterious circumstances. Though Alamis was now aged she still held grace and command. Under her tutelage Dany learned about governance, economy, negotiation etc, It was also under her where her knowledge and belief about the greatness of Targaryens shattered.
It was one of those sessions in which they were discussing about what was happening in the world. As usual Alamis told Dany about the recent activities in the Free Cities. The civil war in Volantis and its aftermath, the defeat of the Golden Company in the Disputed Lands, the Dothraki raids in Norvos, the rising tension between the emperors of Yi-Ti etc to name a few.
"So girl, don't you want to know what is happening in your homeland?" Alamis asked.
"Westeros? I don't know anything My Lady." Dany replied.
"Tell me what do you know about your lineage?" Alamis asked.
"We the Targaryens are the last of the dragonlords. We..." Dany began before she was interrupted.
"I am not interested in your history girl. Tell me about your immediate family. What do you know about the circumstances which has lead to you hiding here?" Alamis asked.
That was the thing. Alamis always referred Dany as 'girl'. Initially Dany had resented that. But in time she realised it was for her security. Dany even had to dye her hair to remain anonymous.
"What do you know about your family?" Alamis asked.
Dany thought for a moment and told her as she had heard from Viserys. "My father was Aerys Targaryen who ruled Westeros in just and truthful manner. He was a great King respected by all. My mother was Queen Rhaella and my brother Rhaegar who was liked to play harp and loved by all. Then the upserpor Robert Bartatheon rebelled against us. With the help of his dogs the Starks, the Lannisters, the Tullys and the Arryns. Our family was butchered. My nephew and niece were killed along with my sister in law brutally." She finished with tears.
But Alamis cackled as soon as Dany finished. Dany felt a sudden rage rise in her and shouted, "Does the cruel fate of my family amuse you My Lady?" And just as she said that she was surprised by her courage.
Alamis stopped her laughter and looked at Dany. "So beneath your docile nature there is a dragon hidden. You must bring it out." She said then asked, "How did you know about of what you just told me."
Dany replied, "My brother told me."
"You did not confirm it from anyone else?" Alamis asked.
Dany felt puzzled and told, "Why should I do that? Viserys has never lied to me and he has no reason. Besides Illyrio has also many times agreed to what my brother has said and promised his help in getting revenge."
Alamis started to cackle again. This time a bit longer and finally she stopped. "Illyrio wants me to make you more confident and other qualities as required by a Queen. So here is one of the most important lesson. Do not trust the Cheesemonger?"
"Why? He has helped us a lot. He has given us food and shelter. He has also promised us to help regaining back the Kingdom." Dany said puzzled.
"Everyone has plans girl. Nothing in this world is free. Always keep that in mind. Who knows what kind of plans he is cooking. Think about it. The only possibility of to fight for you was the Golden Company. But their recent defeat has not gone down well. Now the only way to get the men for your cause is the Dothraki savages."
Dany felt a sort of trepidation rising within her. "Are you saying that Illyrio will sell me to the Dothraki's as a slave?"
"Everything is possible my dear. I cannot say anything for sure. An observant Queen should also be aware of what is going in the Kingdom. So always be aware of possibilities or situations that may affect you. Even if it is your brother do not trust blindly. Greed for power has made man do many unforgivable things." Alamis warned. "Now about your knowledge..."
Alamis then proceeded to tell Dany about the rebellion. A story Dany had not ever heard and could not believe. Alamis told her about the Aerys Targaryen the Mad King, his unjust reign, the kidnapping of Lyanna Stark by Rhaegar Targaryen and then the resulting rebellion.
"No. No. No. You are lying. They would not do that. We Targaryen united Westeros and ruled it for almost three centuries. My father was a great man. Viserys had told me." Daenarys shouted.
Alamis just laughed again and got up from her seat. She poured two glass of wine. She drank one and offered the other to Dany. Dany took the offered glass and sipped.
Alamis started to say. "If one day suppose you become Queen of Westeros you cannot be ignorant of the truth just relying on the facts you had been fed by your brother. Even your brother was just four name days old. Not grown enough to realize what was going on. He only knows what the others had told him. Did you not think of that?"
Now Dany thought about it she realised Alamis was right. Alamis continued, "While what happened to your sister in law and her children and you and Viserys was cruel I must say it was all brought upon you by the actions of your father and brother. If you ever thought that once you return to Westeros and you will be welcomed by all with open arms you are mistaken."
"You seem to have a good knowledge of Westeros my lady." Dany asked.
"I have enough. For a merchant it is necessary to be aware of what is happening across the world to remain in business. Then again I trade extensively with the Northern Realms. So I am privy to news. Though I don't have enough access to Westeroi news as Illyrio does." Alamis said.
That day had shattered all her illusions about her family. Her stay with Alamis had brought a gradual change in Dany. She became confident and learned the art of subtlety. She had of course made some discrete enquiries with people in rare moments she got to gain more insight of the rebellion that ended the Targaryen reign. Stiching together the bits of information she gained she was forced to accept that Alamis was telling the truth. Illyrio was hiding the truth from them and they were pawns in his plans. She had also started to notice the Illyrio meeting different persons and occasionally tried to pick up the conversation from the limited lip reading skills she learned under Aramis's tutelage. Viserys did not like the change in her. He was used to a docile Dany who endured his abuses. But these days Dany refused to go near Viserys whenever she felt that he was angry. She had thought whether to share her thoughts with her brother but seeing how close deep her brother was in Illyrio's clutches she changed her mind. But she had decided one thing. 'I will free myself from Illyrio's clutches.'
Shaking her head to remove those thoughts Dany decided to enjoy her day. She brought few clothes and fruits. They stopped to see some street performers in their act which she enjoyed. If Viserys had been with her she would not had been able to enjoy this because he considered such things not enough for a King. But Dany enjoyed them.
As they continued to walk she heard a vendor shouting. "Come all. The finest goods from Westeros. Relish the taste of Dornish Wine, Arbour Gold or the Honey Wine from North. Get drunk with Vodka. The finest wool from North and silk from Dorne. Beautiful glass figures from the Northern Realms..."
That caught Dany's attention. 'Perhaps I can learn some news about Westeros.' She thought and went inside the small emporium.
On seeing a potential customer the vendor came immediately attended her. "My Lady?"
"We are just looking." Dany told him as she entered with her two guards. There were three other persons inside looking through the wares. Dany also started to see the wares. She saw that the wares were actually very good especially the glass figures. Crystal clear and beautiful of different animals or just statues. She asked the vendor, "Are you from Westeros?"
"Yes My Lady." The vendor said coming near them but was stopped by her guards from coming too near. "I am from Crownslands."
"I see. How are things in Westeros?" She asked sounding disinterested while observing the wares.
"A fragile peace is holding the Kingdoms together." The vendor replied.
"What about the King?" She asked.
"His Grace, umm, is more interested in worldly pleasures than ruling the Kingdom." The vendor replied diplomatically. "The Small Council rules in his name."
'In other words Robert Baratheon is a terrible King.' Dany concluded.
The vendor quickly opened a small barrel and poured and offered her a drink. "The finest Arbour Gold from Reach, My Lady."
"Thank you." Dany said as she started to sip. She continued to talk to the vendor. As time passed she felt the vendor looking at her more intently. She looked around and saw the other three people also glancing at her discreetly. Suddenly she started to feel dizzy and her voice slurred. She stumbled. As her guard came to hold her Dany saw through her blurred vision the other people inside quickly moving closing the front of the shop while the others stabbed her guards who did not even stand a chance due to the surprise attack.
The last thing she heard as her vision went black was the vendor shouting. "Quick, we must leave the damned city before the Cheesemonger realizes anything. We need to return..."
For those who don't know "Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus" is the Hogwarts motto.
I had been busy with my job so it is difficult to find time to write. But I would try hard to post the next chapter at the earliest. Thank you for your support.