So here with are with the sequel. For those of you who saw this first, you may want to go read "For Love of Magic" before getting started on this. You can certainly ignore me, but you'll be awfully confused about some things.
DISCLAIMER: Obviously, I own nothing.
Credit for excellent beta-ing once again goes to Joe Lawyer.
There was no light or even the concept of light. There was nothing to see, hear, smell, touch or taste. There was nothing that could be understood from a physical frame of reference.
Harry focused like he had never focused before, maintaining a firm sense of self against the swirling chaos that was trying to dissolve them like some kind of conceptual acid.
It took him precious moments to figure out that in this 'place' his power didn't have to overcome the resistance of the physical universe and was therefore effectively unlimited. A single stray thought or even subconscious desire was enough to bring his will into being. Something as simple as their need for air created a bubble of Earth-like atmosphere and their linear way of experiencing time made it pass in such a manner.
But that power came with a heavy price attached. With no barriers between them and what was not them, their souls would vacate their bodies body almost casually and that would be the end. Adrastia and Luna didn't even try to figure out how to escape, they clung to Harry and focused all of their attention on keeping their own identities intact, which served the secondary purpose of providing him with a sort of mental beacon to return to while he considered their options.
Were he not fully preoccupied with that task, Harry would have been highly amused and intrigued at the thought that he had actually found something very similar to the Warp. By accident no less.
Fortunately, unlike the Warp, this realm was not actively hostile to mortals. In the same way that hard vacuum wasn't actively hostile to oxygen-breathing lifeforms.
Still, that was a bad situation any way you sliced it and Harry knew that they had to get out of here immediately or else they would not merely die, but be completely unmade. This realm existed outside of time and a 'death' here would be the destruction of their souls and their subsequent erasure from past, present and future. It would be as if they had never existed at all. This he understood instinctively.
The situation took a further turn towards the unnerving when Harry sensed that they were being observed by something.
Mind immediately flashing towards the Chaos Gods, he frantically focused on creating a portal back to the material plane. Instantly, he was bombarded with infinite possibilities and it nearly broke him. Reeling from the onslaught of information, he blindly picked a world that felt appropriate for human habitation and hurled them towards it.
233 AC. The Reach, Westeros.
With a soundless roar, reality split open and spat out three naked humans, sealing up almost immediately after. They hit the thinly snow-covered ground and immediately began hyperventilating as bodily functions once again became important.
For several long minutes they simply reveled in the purely physical sensations of breathing, gravity, the cold of the snow and so on. Familiar, comfortable things that didn't eat away at their very existence.
Eventually, they all rolled onto their backs, still not saying anything and just enjoying the sight of the cloudy blue sky and the weak winter sunlight.
Harry suddenly began chuckling.
Adrastia frowned in consternation and turned to look at him. "What are you laughing at?"
The dark-skinned witch looked across him at Luna with a questioning eyebrow raised. "Should I be worried?"
"No, this is his epiphany laugh. Just wait for him to calm down." Luna replied and sat up, patiently waiting for her husband to get it out of his system.
"Well I hope he gets on with it quickly, because this cold is starting to become unpleasant." Adrastia said with a shiver. Unlike them, their clothing had no identity and hadn't survived the trip. Neither had her wand, which left her quite unable to deal with the low temperature.
"Your nipples look very attractive like this." Luna noted, staring at the other woman's exquisitely-shaped breasts and the dark pebbles currently topping them.
"My nipples always look attractive, now can you please cast a warming charm on me." The other woman requested, seeing that her none-too-subtle hint earlier had flown right over the blonde's head.
"Thank you." Adrastia sighed in relief as the cold was driven away. It wouldn't last long without clothes, but it was better than nothing.
"No problem." Luna replied graciously. "Would you like some clothes as well?"
"If you have any then that would be lovely."
Luna pulled out a set of her own clothes and quickly transfigured them into Adrastia's szie. At nearly six feet, the other witch was significantly larger than her petite 5'2''.
Adrastia blinked in confusion, wondering if she'd just seen right.
"Where were you keeping that?" She asked incredulously.
"Harry calls it hammerspace." Luna explained as she handed the clothes over. "He got fed up of carrying stuff around in expanded bags and found a way to store items inside a personal dimensional pocket in our souls, similarly to how clothes get stored during the animagus transformation. It took him seven years to get it right."
"I see." Adrastia said, frowning at the cackling wizard. His laughter was starting to get a bit annoying.
"Hmm..." Luna hummed, staring at her hands with a frown.
"What?" Adrastia asked, wondering what fresh trouble might have befallen them.
"Casting that warming charm and transfiguration took a lot more effort than I'm used to." The blonde said.
"...Hahaheeeeeh." Harry finally trailed off with one last chuckle.
"Are you going to explain that outburst?" Adrastia asked archly, deciding to put Luna's disturbing words aside for now.
"Six hundred years of learning and still I saw so little." He said, turning to her with a massive grin. "What else is there to do but laugh after getting a glimpse of infinity?"
"It would be very dangerous to try getting another glimpse." Luna observed, knowing exactly what was going through her husband's head.
"'For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return.'" Harry quoted and got up. "Leonardo da Vinci knew his shit."
"Yes, well, you can count me out." Adrastia said firmly. "That was the last time I get anywhere near your experiments. I should have known better, really. Serves me right for getting nostalgic and forgetting what a madman you are."
"You know you love me." Harry teased, his mood still ebullient after their recent experience. Most people might be traumatized for life after nearly getting erased from existence, but he was not most people. He was happy to have his eyes opened.
Adrastia rolled her eyes and decided not to reply to that absurd statement.
"Where are we, anyway?" She asked instead.
"Not in fucking Kansas anymore, that's for sure." Harry replied, amused.
"But we weren't in Kansas in the first place." Luna pointed out helpfully.
Adrastia, being much more at home with metaphor, froze in place and stared at Harry. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that this isn't Earth. The voice of the world is different."
"You got us transported to another planet?" She whispered.
Harry ignored her dangerous tone and frowned. "The real question is...why am I not dead?"
"Why would you be dead?" Adrastia asked, anger replaced by confusion.
"My last set of runes was linked specifically to Sol, Earth's patron star." Harry explained, idly rubbing at the spots where said runes were carved. "Being removed from its influence should have killed me or worse, but it only feels as if they've been...recalibrated."
"It does feel kind of similar to Earth here." Luna noted.
"It does at that." Harry agreed with another thoughtful frown. "Same gravity, same air, same grass, same trees. If I couldn't spirit-listen I'd never have noticed the difference. Multiverse theory confirmed, I guess. If it actually is Earth 2.0 then that might explain my lack of deadness."
"How can you be so casual about this?" Adrastia demanded. "We've just been ripped away from our home!"
"Home?" Harry repeated, amused. "My home is right here." He punctuated the statement by pulling Luna into a hug.
"Home is where the heart is." Luna quoted the corny old phrase with a beaming smile.
"Hmph. I'd prefer a home where I can sleep in the best bed money can buy, where I can eat the finest food and where I have access to unlimited wealth."
Luna looked at her sadly. "Wouldn't you rather have a hug?"
"No." Adrastia sniffed.
Luna gave her a hug anyway, much to the maneater's discomfort and Harry's amusement.
Once she managed to free herself from the pale blonde's attempts at being affectionate, Adrastia quickly changed the subject. "Luna said that she found casting magic harder here."
"Yes..." Harry said absently, conjuring a fireball into his hand. "Takes more focus to call up the power. Must be a low magic world."
Harry wasn't overly concerned about this. Using magic had gotten easier on Earth the more wizards, witches and magical creatures lived on it, so the added difficulty here was little more than an inconvenience. Plus...
"Eh, whatever." He shrugged. "I'm still the most powerful sorcerer to have ever lived."
"On Earth." Luna pointed out.
This time it was Harry who sniffed disdainfully. He didn't for a second believe that this doldrum of a planet could boast a magic user more powerful than him.
The croak of a raven from a nearby copse of trees interrupted their conversation.
"And there's our local guide." Harry grinned.
"Are you sure this isn't Earth?" Adrastia asked skeptically upon spotting the familair bird.
Harry waved her off and exchanged a few croaks with his new friend before taking a Legilimency dive into its mind.
"Alright, we've got some basic information." He said a few minutes later. "There are humans here and they speak English for some inexplicable reason."
"Are you absolutely sure that this isn't Earth?" Adrastia asked again, even more skeptically.
"Well if it is then we've traveled at least fifteen hundred or so years into the past, to a country that spoke late 20th/early 21st century English a thousand years before it developed to that point, because it looks like 11th century Europe out there." Harry shrugged.
This time the dark-skinned witch simply stared at him, her jaw actually dropping slightly in shock.
"So where are we going?" Luna asked.
"Thataway." Harry said, pointing southwards.
"Because there's a castle in that direction and castles in medieval societies mean something vaguely resembling an education. If you squint."
"How about you two put some clothes on first?" Adrastia suggested, recovering from her shock.
Luna looked down at herself as if only just realizing that she was naked. "Oh yes, my nipples are freezing and Pokey isn't looking too well either."
"You leave him out of this." Harry scolded.
A short while later, the three of them were ensconced in one of the empty rooms of Brightwater Keep, the seat of House Florent.
Since Adrastia couldn't fly under her own power, Harry and Luna had brought their Discs out. After sneakily arriving at the castle, Harry had invaded the mind of the first person they came across, which confirmed that they were definitely not in Kansas anymore, got him information about the castle layout, who rules it and most importantly, where to find the most learned man around, called a maester.
After pilfering the man's mind of all immediately relevant information, Harry rejoined the two women in the room they had commandeered to share the stolen information. A crude map of the world had also been transfigured and pinned to the wall based on the maester's knowledge.
"This world makes no fucking sense." Harry concluded some time later.
"Agreed." Adrastia nodded. "Almost every group of people on this planet seems to be an analogue for one from Earth. The Reach feels French, Dorne – Spanish, the Iron Islands – all the bad parts of the Nordic civilizations during the Viking Age and none of the good ones, the Free Cities – the Greek city states, with Braavos taking the role of an Athens built in the style of Venice, the Dothraki – the Mongol hordes, although with ancient Egyptian style swords for some reason, Yi Ti – China,...the list goes on."
"That's not what I meant." Harry shook his head. "Yes, this world seems like just a different version of Earth, right down to having the same size sun and moon with the exact same length of day, month and year, but something is just a shade off. I can maybe buy the lack of technological development since magic was apparently fairly common until a few centuries ago, but the same families ruling kingdoms in an unbroken line for eight thousand years? A whole continent having the same language, even if it had been mostly conquered by the Andal invaders, as if linguistic drift didn't exist? The expansionist Valyrian Freehold controlling most of Essos for thousands of years, yet not one of their dragonlords ever decided to conquer the comparatively puny Westeros before the Targaryens came here with their tails singed? The whole thing is giving me the Uncanny Valley effect."
Adrastia paused to consider his words for a moment before nodding thoughtfully. "Not to mention that there seems to be no sign of social degradation if the maester's memories are to be believed. Stagnating nations generally only take a few centuries at most to become utterly corrupt and degenerate before imploding or being conquered by a stronger neighbour. Yet, aside from the Andal Invasion, the Rhoynar Migration and Aegon's Conquest, there seems to have been no notable change in the composition of the Seven Kingdoms at all, despite its constituent nations constantly warring with each other. The political and cultural stability of this continent beggars belief."
"There are definitely shenanigans afoot ." Harry mused. "And then there's the freakiest thing about this planet, the goddamn seasons. There is simply no combination of weird orbit and axial tilt that would explain their wildly and inconsistently varying lengths, especially since everything else is so Earth-like."
"It isn't natural." Luna spoke up. "The cold clings too tightly."
"Yes, these 'Others' that the maester was so convinced were just old legends from the superstitious North." Harry frowned. "I'd bet my eyeteeth that they're actually quite real and still around."
He could feel the unnaturalness of the winter just as well as Luna. What he didn't mention was his sudden doubt about being the most powerful magic user on this planet. Power enough to affect the global climate was no joke, even if it seemed to ebb and flow. And the nagging sense of wrongness about this world went far deeper than just the freaky seasons.
"So, what are we going to do?" Adrastia asked, giving him a pointed look. "I tell you right now that I am not happy about being here. There is a certain standard of living I've become accustomed to and I am not willing to have it lowered."
"Nice to see that you've got your priorities sorted out." Harry said dryly, causing Luna to giggle.
"I merely know what my talents are." The black-hearted witch sniffed disdainfully. "I will leave the existential questions to you and focus on more material pursuits. To do that, I first need to know where you intend to take us."
Harry opened his mouth to reply but she cut him off before he could utter a word.
"One more thing before you start." Adrastia said warningly. "This is a medieval society and our appearance will factor greatly into what we can do without attracting a lot of unwelcome attention. You two could easily pass for Westerosi, but I look like a Summer Islander. Being a whore, mistress or maybe some low status lordling's wife is about as high as I could go without being accused of withcraft even if I didn't use any magic at all, whereas you two could get yourselves ennobled easily enough by contriving a situation where you rendered some great service to a given Lord Paramount or the King himself, or even through some mildly sophisticated form of bribery."
"That won't be a problem." Harry shook his head.
"It won't?" Adrastia returned archly. "Are you planning to take us to Essos? Such things would admittedly be of lesser importance there, but any benefit would be more than outweighed by the other problems we would face."
"No way." Harry denied firmly. "Most of Essos has a Middle Eastern sort of climate according to the maester's information and that's too fucking hot for me. I'm not going to live my life under constant cooling charms. Plus, dealing with all the slavers and greedy merchant princes would be a real drag. No, we're staying in Westeros."
"You aren't planning to conquer the lot of it are you?" She asked, suddenly amused. "Because I wouldn't be opposed to that if you were."
"No chance." He snorted. Like hell was he going to waste anymore of his time on being a leader for humanity.
"What then?" Adrastia asked in frustration. "Dorne is the only one of the Seven Kingdoms where my skin color might not raise too many eyebrows, maybe, but you already said you don't want to live anywhere hot, which is a stupid criterion by the way."
"I was thinking the opposite end of the continent, actually." Harry ignored her snark and tapped the northernmost region of Westeros on their transfigured map.
Adrastia looked at where he was pointing and her face fell.
"Harry, no." She said almost pleadingly.
"Harry, yes." He contradicted with a smirk.
"At least we'll be able to make plenty of snowmen." Luna looked at the bright side.
"But what am I supposed to do in a land populated by savages that have barely evolved past pointing and grunting?" Adrastia demanded. "My talents are suited for civilization, not cultures – and here I use the term loosely – where blunt force trauma is the primary method of communication!"
"I'm sure we can find you something to do if you get bored." Harry waved off her concerns. "Thing is, the lands beyond the Wall really are the best choice. I wasn't planning to keep a low profile, so the isolated location, harsh conditions and lack of lawful authority is perfect."
Once upon a time he would have scoffed at the notion of living around such people, tossing them into the category of 'human garbage without a second thought. The term 'human garbage' had since then become redundant because he now considered humanity as a whole to be worthless trash. Just another failed mutation. Nature's great mistake. Besides, seeing as this entire world appeared to be stuck at the medieval level, the wildlings beyond the Wall wouldn't have been noticeably lower in his estimation than any other group even by his old criteria, making the point moot.
Adrastia tried a new argument. "It would be a lot easier to keep you supplied with compliant little sex dolls from somewhere further south..."
Harry paused, because he had actually missed having a sex dungeon filled with a couple of willing slaves to play with, but then he shook his head. "A few toys aren't worth the bother."
"Is this about the Faith of the Seven?" She asked shrewdly, changing tactics yet again. "I know it's a lot like Dark Ages Christianity, but we could easily avoid them by settling on the Iron Islands or in the North."
Harry did indeed not have anything nice to say about the Faith of the Seven Who Are One, although the thought of a god with multiple personality disorder amused him tremendously. Or even better, divine conjoined septuplets lurching horrifically through the cosmos.
Maybe I could pay a visit to the Most Devout and fuse their flesh together? Harry contemplated, a smile growing on his face as he imagined the reactions of people to seeing such an abomination shamble out of the Great Sept of Baelor. It would be like that phalanx monster in the Painted World of Ariamis from the first Dark Souls game.
"I see you've forgotten all about my lessons on keeping your expression blank." Adrastia snarked. "What is that creepy smile for?"
"I was just thinking of providing the Faith a living totem for their religion." Harry answered, the aforementioned creepy smile widening.
"Leave it alone, dear." Luna said, patting his hand. "They're not worth the bother."
"Hmph." Harry shrugged and nodded. He'd keep the idea in mind though, in case he ever had to make a point. "Anyway, to answer your suggestions. The Iron Islands are a glorified pirates' nest and the North is a feudal kingdom just like all the rest. Either one would still have some entitled twat coming to bother me sooner or later and when I melted their face off, the local head honcho would get pissy about it, which would then require me to melt his face off and then the King's and before you know it I'd be spending all my time melting faces instead of doing something productive with my life."
"That scenario could be easily avoided by practicing just a little bit of discretion." Adrastia noted with exasperation.
"Sliding into foreign power structures is your thing." He retorted. "I couldn't tolerate being subordinate to anyone back on Earth and I'm certainly not going to tolerate it here."
She sighed and nodded. "I figured as much, but I had to try. You are a cruel master, forcing me to live in a frozen wilderness populated by savages."
Harry snorted and didn't bother replying. Adrastia's blood phylactery had actually been destroyed during their rather explosive exit from Earth, but since she still needed him to make her Elixir of Life that would just mean that she would have to give him a new blood sample soon.
Luna apparently thought that the remorseless killer needed some comforting, so she walked over and gave her a hug. "Don't worry, Adrastia. It'll be fun. I'm sure the Haunted Forest is beautiful this time of year."
"Err, yes." Adrastia responded awkwardly, shuffling out of the embrace and giving Harry a dirty look for chuckling at her discomfort. "Anyway, I had one final concern to raise about your choice of location. What about the Others? If they do still exist as you assume, then we would be on their very doorstep."
"What's your point?" Harry asked amusedly. Even If they were a serious threat to their lives, he was too old to be afraid.
"I wonder if they like tea?" Luna mused.
Adrastia rolled her eyes and visibly gave up on convincing either of them to to change their minds.
"When are we going, then?" She asked sourly.
"Immediately, but first we're taking a detour to the south."
"Why south?" Luna asked.
Harry smiled. "It would be a shame to not rob the Citadel before we go since we're already so close to Oldtown."
Before remounting their Discs and flying southwards, Harry asked Adrastia to give them a moment alone, to which she consented easily, although not without a speculative glance.
Once they were alone, Harry looked at Luna and she nodded at him with a sad smile.
He put a death-themed ring on his hand that had a shiny black stone mounted in it. The Resurrection Stone.
"Nymphadora and Fleur." He said solemnly as he turned the ring around his finger.
The shades of hus long dead wives appeared, much to both his and Luna's relief. They hadn't been entirely sure if they could still be reached from this new world, even though the Void felt the same.
"It's so good to see you again." Luna said happily.
"How long was it this time?" Dora asked.
"About five years." Harry answered.
"Only five?" Fleur asked, raising a spectral eyebrow. "Did something happen?"
"You could say that." He replied a tad sheepishly.
"Harry, what did you do?" Dora asked, suspicion and exasperation coloring her tone.
"You remember that thought I had about prophecies?"
Harry and Luna quickly went over what had happened, also mentioning that Adrastia had been yanked along for the ride, which amused the two dead women quite a bit.
"Looks like you've got a new adventure to look forward to." Dora said, smile turning sad. "We'll be waiting for you at the end of the road."
"Looking forward to it." Harry said and cancelled the summoning.
"That never gets any easier." Luna said somberly.
Harry put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into a hug. Shades summoned from the land of the dead had the nasty habit of beckoning you to join them, which was the true danger of the Deathly Hallow. Most people couldn't resist the call of their loved ones asking them to die, but the two of them still summoned Fleur and Dora every decade or so for a chat. Their sons and daughters they called even less often.
Harry's plan had been to wait until nightfall and then he and Luna would fly up to the Citadel to do their thieving. Adrastia had put the kibosh on that one by arguing that they needed to get a firsthand feel for how the culture operated, which meant actually interacting with the people.
Harry didn't necessarily agree with her, but went along with it anyway. It cost them nothing and it might provide a little amusement.
Indeed, the first bit of amusement presented itself almost immediately. While Harry and Luna no longer wore clothes designed present an image of wealth, dignity and power as they did in public appearances while he'd been King of Myth Drannor, their travelling clothes were still of high enough quality to pass for something that high status nobles would wear. They didn't even stand out too much because travelling cloaks never really went out of style in the magical world and they'd had a few stashed in hammerspace.
They made for quite the confusing spectacle. Their obviously high quality clothes marked them as nobility in the minds of the peasants, or 'smallfolk' as they were called in this world, yet they travelled without guards. Harry's clothes marked him as a noble lord and his build and scars marked him as a dangerous warrior, yet he carried no obvious weapon. Luna was assumed to be a highborn lady and Harry's wife, yet she wore trousers like a man. Adrastia didn't fit into the worldview of these people at all. Not only was she dressed just as richly as the other two in her body-hugging robes, but she also walked with them as an equal despite clearly being a foreigner and most likely Harry's mistress, so why did Luna look happy when she was being so blatantly, publicly shamed?
Some damned amusing rumors started going around before they'd made it even halfway to their destination.
Harry was apparently an arrogant deviant, Adrastia was a foreign witch and Luna was scandalous.
Harry decided to help the image along by grabbing a handful of rump on each woman as they continued walking, barely managing to suppress a snicker when an audible murmur of shock went through the observers.
"You are impossible." Adrastia murmured to him quietly.
"I can't help it, they're just so easily impressed." Harry murmured back, giving her a grin. After living in a society with a prominent veela population, seeing a bit of public groping get this much reaction was just too funny.
"Let's go over there." Luna cut in happily, eagerly tugging Harry towards a winding alley.
He couldn't hold in a snicker this time as he saw the even more baffled looks of the gawkers at Luna's behavior. Highborne women did not tug their husbands around like excitable children in medieval societies, and husbands, especially dangerous-looking ones like Harry, certainly did not go along with it while wearing expressions of fond amusement. Image was everything to a medieval noble and Oldtown's smallfolk population had no idea what to make of this decidedly atypical behavior. It was highly likely that they only avoided a cliché mugging scenario because there were too many people still on the streets at this hour.
It was even funnier because he knew it was setting Adrastia's teeth on edge. The Black Widow was a social chameleon and attracting this kind of attention by blatantly violating unspoken societal norms went against the grain for her.
So they left a trail of confused peasants as they walked through the labyrinthine mess of Oldtown's streets, slowly making their way to the Quill and Tankard, a very popular tavern. Adrastia had insisted on it, claiming that there were few better places to get a feel for the general disposition of a culture than the local watering hole.
Harry still wasn't entirely sure what she was hoping to actually do with this information, but didn't protest. Not like he and Luna had anything better to do until it was late at night.
But on the way to the famous tavern, Harry became aware of a most peculiar feeling.
"We're being watched." He murmured quietly.
"By who?" Adrastia was too canny an operator to tense even minutely, but she became more alert.
"That building has eyes." Luna said dreamily, pointing towards a large seven-sided building.
"The Sailor's Sept?" Harry muttered, recalling it from the maester's memories as one of the larger places of worship in Oldtown. They had passed close to the harbor on their way to the tavern. "How curious. Did we stumble upon a world with actual godlings in it? Or is this just some clever trickery?"
"Harry..." Adrastia trailed off warningly when he steered them towards the sept.
"Don't worry, I won't stage a bloodbath. Probably."
"That makes me feel so much better." She muttered.
They passed through the doors of the sept soon after and all three of them felt as if they had crossed something similar to a ward threshold, although it definitely wasn't one.
"I feel like a guest." Luna summarized the feeling, looking around curiously.
The sept was reasonably populated by various sea-going looking men, all on their knees before a collection of seven statues.
What was unmistakably a priest, a septon by local lingo, started moving towards them, most likely noting the quality of their clothes and deciding that they merited personal attention.
Harry quickly wove a mild confounding spell and aimed it at the old man. He had nothing to say to a priest and even less that he wanted to hear from one.
The feeling in the air became heavily disapproving and actively fought against his spell, trying to undo it.
Harry scowled and poured more power into the spell while shielding it from disruption. It was close, but he just barely managed to overcome the resistance and cast it, feeling as if he'd been wrestling with Fiendfyre.
"That was rude of you." Luna said.
"And foolhardy." Adrastia added disapprovingly.
Harry ignored them and glared at the statues representing the Seven Who Are One, feeling something glare back.
Our septon meant you no harm.
It was much like listening to a dryad 'speak', a collection of feelings and impressions more than words. Even a master wizard would have trouble deciphering such a thing, but Harry had centuries of practice.
"Your priest can get fucked, creature." He scoffed, quietly enough that none of the other people could hear him.
You dare speak so disrespectfully to a god? The Seven seemed displeased.
"You can get fucked, too."
We will have your obeisance within our temple! The offended god 'shouted'.
Harry felt the spiritual pressure bear down on him, using his own ability to perceive beyond the physical to try and force a gesture of submission out of him.
But the godling underestimated his will and he struck back, thrusting his defiance and contempt at the non-corporeal entity like a spear. The statues of the Father and the Warrior cracked minutely.
"You dare?" He growled lowly. "You, a dried up puddle of ectoplasmic excrement, dare attempt to force your will on me? Maybe my decision to not stage a bloodbath in here was a bit premature. I could start with every septon and septa in this fucking city."
Please, do not harm our followers. The disposition of the Seven changed drastically, becoming sweet and innocent, leading Harry to suspect that it was the Maiden aspect talking now. We apologize for the offence given to you, it was not our intent.
Harry continued glaring silently, making it clear that he wasn't even close to being appeased.
Picking a fight with a god, even one so limited as this, might not be the smartest thing he'd ever done, but he'd seen enough so far to know that it had very little power in the physical world. It couldn't really hurt him directly, just as he couldn't hurt it directly.
We saw your coming into this world. The Seven said, the feel of its' 'voice' changing once again, this time into what he tentatively assumed was the Crone aspect.
"I hope the Maiden enjoyed the sight of my cock dangling out in the open, mewling slut that she is."
Are you always so disagreeable?
You will not even hear our offer?
Harry paused. He was sorely tempted to tell the this absurd godling where it could shove its offer, but he was curious.
"Spit it out."
Not since Hugor of the Hill has a mortal been able to speak to us, and even he did not hear so clearly.
"Who the fuck is Hugor of the Hill?" He had focused on geography and general knowledge rather than specifics when raiding the maester's memories.
The first King of the Andals. You could be the second to become so with our favor.
Harry nearly burst into laughter at the idiotic sales pitch. How stupid did this thing think he was? Or was this world just that full of morons chasing after crowns like dogs after a bitch in heat?
"You want me to spread your shitty religion in exchange for a crown? Bitch, if I wanted to be a king again I wouldn't need your help." No doubt this 'help' would also have multiple hidden requirements and price tags.
Then what of knowledge? The feel of the Seven changed again as it spoke, although it was starting to sound irritated by his disrespectful manner again. We sense that you are a great craftsman. We could show you how to work wonders the like of which you cannot imagine.
"You can't imagine what I can imagine." Harry retorted to what he assumed was the Smith.
The Seven seemed briefly stumped by his reply.
"Fuck this." He said abruptly, shaking his head in disgust. "Your painfully obvious attempts to make a pawn out of me are sad, pathetic and frankly pissing me off. Word of advice for the future; don't rely on awe making whoever you talk to stupid enough to swallow the shit you're shoveling. Now I'm leaving, and you can be grateful that I'm too old to follow through on my threat unless you provoke me again."
A few tiny chips of stone clattered to the ground from the statue of the Warrior, dislodged by the hostilty radiating from it.
He turned around and stormed out of the sept, pulling Luna and Adrastia with him under the curious eyes of the regular worshippers who had only seen him muttering to himself while glaring at the statues.
"Well, that was interesting." Adrastia murmured as they continued on their way towards the tavern. "I assume you were speaking to the Seven?"
"He was very rude." Luna offered.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, I was as charming as I always am when someone wants to use me to further their agenda." Harry waved off.
"Actual gods, of a sort, would explain several of the peculiarities of this world, yet it opens up so many other questions." Adrastia mused.
"Indeed it does." Harry agreed. "I'm going to have so much fun dissecting that godling after I find a way to reach and trap it."
That sad attempt at manipulation he didn't care about. After centuries of Bjomolf and his multi-generational schemes and decades of playing spy games with all of Earth's intelligence agencies before he'd nuked the world with raw magic, that was more insulting for its clumsiness.
But demanding respect from him? Attempting to force a gesture of submission? That he did not forgive. When all was said and done, the Seven would wish he had only butchered its clergy, torn down its temples and destroyed its literature.
They eventually reached the Quill and Tankard and Harry's amusement at Adrastia's expense continued.
Obviously, they had to order something, but the local cuisine was a far cry from what she was used to.
"Thank you." Luna said with a beaming smile at the serving wench who had brought them their food, leaving the young girl blinking in surprise at receiving such friendliness from a 'highborn lady'.
Meanwhile, Adrastia stared at the bowl of stew in front of her like it was a freshly killed rat. Possibly a diseased one.
"I don't suppose you have a proper meal stashed away in your hammerspace?" She asked bleakly.
"Only alchemical nutrient dust and a few super dense protein bars." Harry replied amusedly, taking a sip of the tavern's specialty cider. The stuff had quite a kick to it.
"This world is horrible." Adrastia muttered, reaching out to take the wooden spoon as if it was poisonous. "I don't think I will ever forgive you for this indignity."
"I never realized what a spoiled princess you were." Harry rolled his eyes.
She glared at him, wrapped her haugthy pride around her like it was an armored mantle and began eating with poise worthy of royalty, although Harry could see the minute tells that betrayed how unappealing she found the simple beef and vegetable stew.
On his other side, Luna dug into her own bowl with gusto. They had spent the past century on the road and the stew wasn't much different than what they often ate.
Harry merely took one of the aforementioned protein bars out of hammerspace and nibbled on it while sipping his drink. Most of his attention was on the conversations going around him.
However, it seemed like the only thing people could talk about was the recent ascension of Aegon V Targaryen to the Iron Throne, commonly known as Aegon the Unlikely because he was the fourth son of a fourth son.
That was something he had already known from the memories of the maester at Brightwater Keep, but listening to the chatter did give him a little additional insight.
The smallfolk seemed to have a highly positive opinion of the new king, no doubt due to the fact that he'd spent much of his time among them while squiring for his knight master, Ser Duncan the Tall.
The various novices and acolytes of the Citadel currently in the tavern were of the opinion that Aegon was going to be killed by enraged nobles for the egalitarian bent he was already showing.
Harry agreed with them. There was always someone that wanted to kill you when you were a king and this Aegon fellow seemed intent on stepping on a lot of toes.
"Hmm." Adrastia's predatory humm drew his attention to her, which let him see that she was eyeballing a newly arrived acolyte with narrow-eyed calculation.
"What?" He asked, seeing nothing special about the boy. He was just a gawky looking brat of about seventeen or so, with dirty blond/brown hair, watery blue eyes and a weak chin. There weren't any empty tables, which left him looking around in awkward disappointment.
"Be a dear and call him over." She said.
Harry shrugged and focused on the boy.
"Hey, over here." He whispered, sending a powerful subliminal message to his target. "Come sit with us."
Immediately, the boy's attention was drawn to them and he began approaching with a gait that screamed of cautious hope.
"Good evening." He greeted once he arrived. "May I share your table?"
"Go right ahead." Harry said, gesturing to the last empty chair.
The acolyte smiled in relief as he sat down. "Thank you, my lord. I am Pycelle, an acolyte at the Citadel."
"Halaster Blackcloak." The old favorite among his numerous false names slipped from Harry's tongue with ease. It had been a very long time since he'd used his real one. "But feel free to call me Harry. These are my wife, Luna, and my mistress, Adrastia."
"Hello." Luna chirped, leaving the acolyte nonplussed by the sunny greeting.
Adrastia merely inclined her head regally, smiling alluringly as the boy flushed.
"I do not believe I've ever heard of House Blackcloak." Pycelle said after recomposing himself.
"That could be because there is no House Blackcloak." Harry smirked. "I'm not a noble."
"Oh, my apologies." Pycelle was clearly embarrassed by his miscalculation. "Still, you must be quite successful in your endeavours to afford such fine clothes."
It was an obvious attempt at fishing for information wrapped up in a compliment. The boy had a bright future as a brown-noser and a spy if he kept working on that skill.
"I do try to be successful in all my endeavours." Harry grinned as he drove the conversation into a dead end.
"I would like to hear about our new friend's endeavours." Adrastia salvaged it, smiling at Pycelle in a way that had led hundreds of men to the grave. "You must be quite the smart one to study at the Citadel."
Pycelle puffed out his chest like a peacock trying to impress a potential mate. "I do not mean to boast, my lady, but the archmaesters say they have seldom seen a student as brilliant as me. In fact, I am to take my vows two days hence."
"But you're so young!" Adrastia gasped and Harry had to struggle keep down a snort at her acting. "I thought all maesters were old men."
"It is true that I am indeed very young to be taking my vows, one of the youngest to ever do so." Pycelle laughed, quite obviously fully taken in by the Black Widow's charm.
"But isn't chastity one of the vows you take?" Adrastia went on, reaching out to take one of Pycelle's hands as if greatly concerned by this.
The teenager stammered some tripe about sacrifice and duty, flushing as red as a lobster. He also directed a nervous glance at Harry, clearly afraid of what he might do at having his mistress flirt with another man.
Harry decided to make him sweat a little by giving no indication whether he cared or not.
"Don't worry about him, darling." Adrastia waved off with a smile. "He's harmless."
That got her an arch look from Harry and a slightly incredulous one from Pycelle.
Then Luna decided that she wanted to sit in Harry's lap, giving credence to Adrastia's ridiculous statement.
Harry could only roll his eyes and start giving her a scalp massage.
Pycelle was notably less tense after that, although he also seemed quite scandalized by Luna's shows of public affection.
They continued talking for quite a while, with Adrastia pumping the hapless teenager for information in between bouts of flirting. She even included Harry and Luna in the conversation every so often so as to make it seem more natural.
When the hour started getting late, Harry and Luna went to one room, while Adrastia took her latest victim to another.
Adrastia walked into the wizard's tent that Harry and Luna had set up in the room they'd rented without asking for permission.
To her hidden glee, they were soaking in a hot bath. Perfect.
"Done already?" Harry asked as she began stripping off her clothes.
"He was just a boy." Adrastia shrugged, as if that was all that needed to be said, and stepped into the bath with a sigh of pleasure.
"Wait, where did you get that pudding?" She asked, noticing Luna snacking on it.
"Hammerspace." The moonbrained witch replied. "I keep a year's supply of it with me at all times."
Adrastia closed her eyes. This would grate on her pride, but it had to be done.
"May I have some?"
"Of course!" Luna beamed and handed her a large porcelain bowl filled with delicious chocolate pudding and a spoon.
"Thank you." And she truly was grateful. After eating medieval slop with a wooden spoon from a wooden bowl like some kind of peasant, the luxury of chocolate pudding in a proper porcelain bowl and silver spoon was not to be underestimated.
"So, what was that about with the brat?" Harry asked.
"The Order of Maesters has the most convenient ready-made spy network in Westeros." Adrastia began explaining in between spoonfulls of pudding. "Pycelle had all the signs of an awkward intellectual with little to no experience with women, an easy mark in other words. I nudged his ambitions along a little to make him more useful as a tool, but even if he amounts to nothing more than a castle maester he will still have his uses."
"A tool for what though? It's not like we're going to be playing politics with these primitive cunts."
"You might not play, but I intend to." She sniffed. "A lady needs her amusements and you are too much of a boor to provide anything other than sex."
Later still. The Citadel, library.
"Hey, listen to this." Harry said with amused derision as he held up the Seven-Pointed Star, the Faith of the Seven's holy text. "'Hugor of the Hill was crowned by the Father himself, who pulled down seven stars to make his glowing crown. The Maiden brought forth a girl as supple as willow and eyes like deep blue pools to be his wife. The Mother made her fertile, and she bore Hugor forty-four mighty sons as foretold by the Crone. The Warrior gave each son strength of arms and the Smith wrought each a suit of iron plate.'"
"Sounds plausible." Adrastia said blandly.
"Yes, I'd love to know what kind of stars the Daddy pulled down." Harry pondered mockingly. "Blue giants? Yellow main sequence? Red dwarves? Neutron?"
"I feel bad for the Stranger." Luna pouted. "He got left out."
"I guess they ran out of things to give Hugo the Boss." Harry snorted and carelessly threw the religious propaganda into a corner. "Alright, enough poking fun at the mentally handicapped, let's steal some shit."
The Citadel had the most extensive library in this world. It was still nothing compared to the collection Harry had amassed on Earth, but it deserved some credit. The efforts of the maesters to collect and preserve knowledge even got them a little respect from Harry.
Didn't mean he felt any regret about stealing from them though, and the three of them spent a couple of hours browsing the books and anything that looked interesting or useful got stuffed into hammerspace. They focused mostly on books about history and such, seeing as any knowledge the maesters might have about topics such as biology, economics, mathematics and so on was inferior to their own. They did take a couple of books on astronomy as well though, and Adrastia insisted on a few describing the noble families of Westeros.
The late hour and locked doors which only the archmaesters were supposed to have the keys to, but which were no match for simple unlocking spells, kept them from being disturbed.
The Citadel, currently vacant study belonging to the Archmaester of Magic.
"So that's a Glass Candle?" Adrastia asked rhetorically, looking at the twisting pillar of green obsidian. "What an ugly thing. Your Palantíri were much more graceful."
"Quite." Harry agreed. "But let's see about its functionality..."
He stepped forward and held his hands over it, easily figuring out how to interface with the magical artefact.
The Glass Candle began burning, its eldritch light doing strange things to the colors of the dusty study. Instead of banishing the shadows, they became as dark as pits to the abyss. In fact, every color become more intense and seemed to come alive.
Harry noticed none of this, his mind flying far away. Having centuries of practice with scrying devices, it was easy for him to adapt to the foreign device. If anything the Glass Candle was actually easier to use than his Palantir and quite a bit more refined.
That kind of annoyed him. Where did those lizard-brained twats from Valyria get off on making better stuff than him? Although they did have thousands of years to do it, so he supposed it made sense.
Through the Glass Candle he saw far. He saw the other three Glass Candles in the Citadel and even more across the Narrow Sea. One in Volantis, behind the Black Walls, nearly a dozen in ruined Valyria, one in Qarth, one in the city of Yin in Yi Ti and one all the way in Asshai-by-the-Shadow.
Not yet willing to disengage, he turned his sight north, to the lands where he intended to rebuild his tower.
What he saw pleased him. Ancient boreal forests and snowy plains, ice-clad mountains and frozen lakes, untamed wilderness and best of all, the definitive sense of magic. It reminded him of Greenland, which had always been one of his favorite places on Earth.
He turned his gaze further north, into the Lands of Always Winter and there he was stymied. Powerful necromantic magic blocked his sight and when he tried to push through the resistance, something struck his mind like a hammer, sending him stumbling away from the Glass Candle with a terrible migraine.
"Ow." He complained, rubbing his forehead.
"What happened?" Luna asked in concern.
"I tried to peek on the Others. They didn't appreciate it." Harry explained, using Occlumency to expel the leftover foreign magic from the counter-attack.
"And you still insist on going beyond the Wall?" Adrastia asked archly.
"Are we going now?" Luna asked, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
"No, we're stealing two more Glass Candles. The maester's are only using them to make some obscure point anyway, and they can do that just as well with one as they can with three."
Ill-gotten gains in metaphorical hand, the three of them zoomed north at high speed on the Discs. Had it been just Harry and Luna, they would have walked, even if it took them a year or two to reach their destination, but Adrastia would bitch about it the whole way if they did that and that would take all the fun out of it.
They made a brief stop in Highgarden, to take a look at the castle's heart tree.
The Old Gods religion had made it to the prestigious number one position on Harry's 'least offensive religions' list due to its lack of churches, holy books, dogma, priests or organization. Its animistic bent and worship of nature spirits won it a few points as well. It was still a religion so he sneered at it on principle for the excuse it gave people to not think by claiming that something was 'the will of the gods', but he was at the very least curious to examine a weirwood tree, particularly the special type with a face carved into it called a heart tree.
Now the three of them stood stood before the Three Singers, the trio of weirwood trees that had grown so entagled together that they looked like a single massive tree with three faces carved into them.
"These are more than just trees." Harry said softly, sensing something very unusual.
Stepping forward, he cautiously placed his hand on the white trunk.
As if from a deep sleep, he felt the weirwoods awaken and regard him curiously.
Greetings. They said through the rustle of wind in the blood-red leaves.
"Hello." Harry returned bemusedly. "Did I wake you?"
Yes. Long has it been since a greenseer last touched us.
"I'm not a greenseer." Harry denied.
Yet you hear us more clearly than any greenseer ever has.
He wasn't sure what to say to that.
"Why are you sad?" Luna interjected, hugging the massive trunk. No doubt she had sensed some kind of melancholy coming from the tree. Harry had too little empathy to notice such things unless he was specifically searching for them.
Our children are fading, soon they will all be gone.
"That's terrible." Luna sniffled. "Our children died too, only one of our sons is still alive."
The weirwoods 'said' nothing, but there was a distinct sense of compassion being directed towards Luna.
"You're different from the Seven." Harry muttered, having been straining his perception to determine the nature of the entity or entities speaking to them. "I could sense that it wasn't quite part of the physical world, merely connected to it, likely through the worship of its followers, but from you I'm sensing the exact opposite."
We were once of flesh, each an island unto ourself. Now we are one within the trees.
Harr'ys eyes alighted with realization. "A collective soul, and the weirwoods act as a locus to make it possible? Fascinating. How did this happen?"
We can show you, if you wish.
"I most definitely do wish."
Harry felt himself and Luna being drawn into a memory and allowed it. He had asked for it after all.
There was an ancient and withered creature kneeling on the grass, unmistakably one of the Children of the Forest. He had an obsidian dagger in his hand and cut his wrist, letting blood spill down on the seed of a tree.
He was chanting- singing, really – something in a language that Harry had never heard the like of, but which he could tell was somehow uniquely connected to this world.
Eventually, the ancient being died and the first weirwood grew from the seed, the new vessel for the soul. He watched over his children and eventually they joined him inside the weirwood. More seeds bloomed and more weirwoods grew. Faces were carved into them so that the souls within could see more clearly.
Harry inhaled sharply as he came out of the memory.
"Now that is an interesting form of immortality, but not my style." He said with a small grin.
A distinct sensation of a shrug came from the triple heart tree.
"And I'll bet that there's a lot of giants, animals, First Men, Andals and probably even a few Rhoynar in there as well these days." Harry said shrewdly.
We are all one. Was the answer, which he took as a 'yes'.
"You know, you are a lot more tolerable than the Seven." Harry commented.
Disappointed? The leaves shivered as if in laughter.
"Luna would never let me dissect you if you refuse to act like dicks, so yes, I am a bit disappointed."
"I want to plant more weirwoods, not hurt them." Luna interjected dreamily, nearly dozing where she was still hugging the heart tree. "Will you help me, Harry?"
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. Planting trees was hardly a new activity for them – they had been doing it for centuries after all – but the religious affiliations of this particular brand of trees grated on his sensibilities.
Still, he no longer concerned himself with humans and the stupid shit they believed, so it wasn't as much as it would have been back in the day. Seeing how the Seven reacted to a sudden resurgence of the Old Gods might even prove useful in cornering that conjoined cunt.
But at the end of the day, the crux of the matter was that Luna had asked him to do it and he didn't have enough of an axe to grind on the subject to refuse her.
The rest of the trip north was made almost without interruption. They made a brief stop in Winterfell to loot another map of the lands beyond the Wall, and then another at Castle Black to do the same, as well as to ooh and aah at the Wall for a little bit.
Then they were zooming through the frozen lands, looking for a likely place to start building a wizard's tower.
Harry had originally been considering somewhere in the Frostfang Mountains, but decided it may be best to keep those in between himself and the Others after getting his nose bloodied by their response to his scrying attempt.
Adrastia voted that they take over the ruins of Hardhome so that they could eventually build a port city there, but he had no interest in doing such a thing.
Now they were taking a look at the Fist of the First Men and Harry immediately knew that it was perfect.
The rocky hill that the Fist was situated upon was decently large and there was plenty of stone to work with in the area. It sat on the western edge of the Haunted Forest and offered a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. The Milkwater river passed by to the west and it was very close to both the Skirling Pass and the Giant's Stair, the two main ways into the Frostfangs.
"Alright, time to get started." Harry said, cracking his knuckles in preparation.
"Hmph." Adrastia sulked. She was bundled up in heavy robes laced through and through with warming charms, but she still hunched into herself to keep the biting wind from getting under the cowl of her cloak.
Harry never did understand people who hated a little cold breeze, but would happily sing praises of the sweltering, insect-infested summer. Lunatics.
He pulled his staff out of hammerspace...and then stared at it was if he'd never seen it before.
"What?" Adrastia asked snappishly. "Just get on with it already!"
"It's dead." Harry said blandly. "I should have figured. Neither the wood nor the core have any connection to this world, so they can't channel my magic here. Looks like it'll be wandless until we can make some staves out of local materials."
"So it'll take even longer?" Adrastia groaned.
"At least the concentration of magic is higher on this side of the Wall." Luna spoke up optimistically. "It shouldn't take us more than a week to fully erect the tower Harry wants."
"I still say a castle would be better." The miserable, tropically-inclined woman muttered.
"Dora, Fleur and Narcissa talked me into making a castle instead of a tower once, but by thunder I won't be swayed this time." Harry insisted stubbornly. "And I'm calling it Dol Guldur."