Hello! Inspired by multiple fan revisions and overlapping with how the show actually went, the following is a reconstruction of the 7th and 8th seasons of Game of Thrones. In other words, I saw the bandwagon and jumped on it the first chance I "got." Fingers crossed that Martin finishes his books soon, but until then, we'll make do I guess. It's kind of all over the place, unstructured, and lacking in several areas. Please forgive and correct any lore fallacies, as I am a dope. Despite this, it was a way to get a little closure for the series. I tried to focus on the characters and what made sense for them, but also to keep in mind the themes of the show. It starts immediately after the end of the 6th season, with each chapter being an episode. There will be about 13 (very long, so sorry) chapters to supplement the 13 actual episodes in the 7th and 8th seasons combined. Nothing is mine, and a lot is a hodgepodge of fan theories I've overheard (I'll put links to good ones at the end). With that said, critiques, theories, and thoughts in general are always appreciated, and I hope you enjoy.
The evening sky over the Narrow Sea was colored a dark blue, and every now and then the dragons that sailed over their mother's fleet could be mistaken for little more than large, black, toothy clouds. Tyrion Lannister stood at the bow of the flagship, his knuckles white against the rail. Whether he was listening to the nearly silent flight of the beasts or the distant conversations of the men in the dining hall, he showed no indication. He was alone except for the foreign wind through his hair and the man who stood watching him in the shadows.
"It will look different," Tyrion said to the ocean in a quiet voice. He had a quick manner of speaking, one of those rare people whose eloquence matched his wit. "I almost can't believe I'm going back."
"Come now, we haven't been gone that long," replied the man in the shadows, realizing he'd been noticed and stepping forward to peer at his friend. He spoke with his eyes on Tyrion's white knuckles. "I know of at least two people who will be sure to recognize you."
The small man chuckled. "Varys, you do me wrong. Essos has been fantastic for my complexion, wouldn't you say?"
"I was the Master of Whisperers, not the Master of Lies."
The two men laughed and then were silent, each thinking of the last time Varys had been referred to as the Spider or The Eunuch, and thinking of the last thing Tyrion had been called by the people of King's Landing. Perhaps it was this memory or the sudden draft of cool air, but there was a shift the youngest Lannister then, as if he'd remembered something he'd long since forgotten.
"Yes," he said quietly to Westeros beyond. "Well where we're going, they're almost the same thing, aren't they?"
Varys did not respond to this, save for the small, worried expression that flickered across his features and that only the gathering night and maybe the sharp eyes of dragons could catch.
Winter followed them the way hounds chase frightened rabbits. They fled across the snow, stopping only briefly for food and vainly for rest; their journey was overshadowed by a fear so tangible Meera was afraid the White Walkers would be able to smell it on them. The simultaneous deaths of their hope and their friend lay so heavy on their minds and tongues that weeks would pass without one saying a word to the other. When the boy did speak to the girl, if only to tell her which way the birds said to travel, his voice was quiet, small, and strained. She could no longer look at his face or meet his eyes, and this hurt him in a way that no saddle or sleigh could fix.
"I'm worried for them," Bran said once as they slid between the trees in the gathering twilight.
"I'm going as fast as I can," was the hollow response. "We'll be at Winterfell soon enough."
"That's not what I mean."
A pause then, in which the only sound was the whistle of the wind. When she finally did speak, her voice was as pale as the snow beneath her feet, and her words were just as cold. "I don't know what you mean anymore."
The Three-Eyed Raven spoke to Bran in his dreams, but his messages were never clear and always frightening. There were images of trees and blood and snow, of Winterfell and the Night King and a strange woman with white hair. It was as if he were on the edge of something important, as if the answer was right on his tongue, but every time he tried to take a step forward, he would find himself falling. It varied where he was falling from, but it was always with the utmost horror that he would look down and realize that what he thought was strong and solid was crumbling away beneath his very eyes.
He did his best to stay awake during the day and even through the night. The images were his guilt and his fear, and their persistence haunted him. He didn't mention them to Meera because they were not her concern. If he could shield her from something, anything, then he would do it.
But he did not know that as he slept, she spoke to him. He did not know the way his body jerked and his eyes rolled or the way his voice sounded as he screamed. He was not awake to her warm hands on his cheeks and forehead, not aware of her tears in his hair. He listened but did not comprehend as she told him stories of her and her brother. He would not know why, in the morning, her voice would be hoarse and her eyes red.
And for her part, she wondered how the new Three-Eyed Raven, the one who her brother had died for, the one that she believed in, the one who held the future of Westeros within his cold hands, could see so much and know so little.
"Good, Podrick," Brienne nodded to her student and readjusted the sword in her hand. They'd attracted a following with their daily practices, and when Pod bent down to pick up his sword again, the loose ring of watchers cheered. "Lunge with your hips, remember."
Her squire nodded, flipped the sword expertly in his hands, and charged her. The onlookers watched with wide eyes as Brienne parried his attack and knocked the sword out of his hands. She stood back to let him pick up his weapon once more. "Do that again," she said warmly, "but keep your chest up."
"I can keep more than my chest up," a voice rumbled behind her. It was always cold in the north, Brienne thought, but nothing gave her goosebumps like the Wildling.
"I didn't ask you, Tormund," she grumbled.
Tormund made a sound that could have been a growl or a purr. "Aye, you didn't. But ye'll find out soon enough. Best warrior this side of the wall, mate. Like a fucking bear, she is," he added to a skinny boy as he passed by.
"You disgust me."
This made the Northerners chuckle, but none laughed as hard as the other Wildlings. Tormund was undeterred. When Brienne disarmed Podrick once more, it was to his windburnt, insolent face that she turned. "Gimme a chance, Milady. I won't disappoint ya."
"Well, it's much too late for that." Turning to Podrick, she added, "I think that's enough for today, Pod."
Podrick nodded once to his teacher, but he hesitated before leaving, his dark eyes fixed on Tormund's. Brienne caught his worried expression and smiled in spite of herself. "Go, Pod. You did well." Podrick nodded again, then flashed an embarrassed sort of smile at the men in the circle, who were busy finishing bets and exchanging coins. They patted his back as he passed through their ranks.
"Lemme challenge ya."
"Your rules, your way." Tormund spread his arms wide. "If you win, I'll leave ya alone. But if I win, ya have to gimme a chance and hand over that fancy sword of yours."
There was a ripple of interest through the crowd, and Tormund smiled that smile of a man who was using both the last and only trick in his book.
"Don't be ridiculous," Brienne told him through tight lips, beginning to take off her breastplate.
Tormund raised his eyebrows. "Aye?"
"Aye," replied Brienne, unamused. She threw down her practice sword and looked down at Tormund. "You don't want to embarrass yourself."
She pushed past him and began to march toward the keep. She closed her eyes as over the squelching of wet dirt, she could hear Tormund saying to the others: "A wild beauty she is, ain't she? Now just wait, ya hear - she wants me. Ye can always see it in their eyes."
"I think you're blind, Tormund!" Someone shouted from the crowd.
Tormund's head whipped around faster than he could wield his sword: "Who said that? I'll show ye what I can do blind!"
"The Wildlings are . . . spirited, to say the least." Petyr Baelish sniffed, watching Tormund from high along the walkway.
"Make sure the turrets are fortified all through the night," Sansa Stark told Lyanna Mormont, effectively ignoring her new shadow. "I trust your men should have no trouble with that."
"House Mormont will not fail you."
"I wouldn't think of it," replied Sansa with a nod. Turning to her other advisors, she continued: "And I noticed that some of the men were throwing out the bones when they're done skinning rabbits and deer. Wouldn't it be wiser to keep them? We could use them for soup and needles."
"Very good, Milady."
"And I want a full count of the livestock and produce we have on hand at the moment."
"You already have that, Mi-''
"No. I mean all of it. Include what the family has and the bordering farm lands. Leave nothing unsearched. There will always be something as long as we look for it."
"Right away, Milady. What should we tell your brother?"
Sansa raised her eyebrows. "You should tell the king just what I have told you."
One adviser turned to the others and smirked like a schoolboy. "Yes, but where even is he?"
The others grumbled in agreement. "And what should we do with the Wildlings?" Another spoke up. "All they do is eat and fight and -''
Sansa fixed them both with a gaze as cold as the coming winter, and they fell silent at once. "You will find your king in the war room, Counselor. Working on a strategy to keep both you and your family alive. If you do not appreciate his efforts, I'll make sure to let him know personally."
The adviser lowered his head. "That . . . that won't be necessary, Milady."
"And you. Have you already forgotten the Battle of the Bastards? You would not be standing here if it were not for the Wildlings. You'll take them with you when you sweep the countryside for leftover supplies. They were the last to see them, after all."
"Only because they were the ones looting it," the last adviser mumbled beneath his breath.
Sansa stared at him long enough for the others to become uncomfortable. Then she smiled warmly. "Thank you for your concern, Counselor," she said with none of the spite she'd had before. "It is odd, to trust people after they've done you wrong. But the Lord of Winterfell says that we are facing an enemy far greater than any we have faced before, and we must band together. That has always been the way of the North."
The other counselors exchanged placated glances, a little confused by the sudden sweetness in her voice, but satisfied. They pulled their coats closer around them and left to fulfill their tasks. As soon as they were gone, Sansa turned on her heel and began to march down the hallway.
"They have a point, you know," Littlefinger said in a low voice beside her.
Sansa shook her head. "The Wildlings are good fighters. And Jon says we'll need everyone for what's to come."
"Not about that, Sansa." Then, slyly, "but of course, the Lord of Winterfell always knows best."
The way he said it drew Sansa's eyes, finally, to his face. "What do you want, Baelish?"
Littlefinger concealed the flash of hurt with a smile and took a step closer to Sansa. They were but inches apart now, breathing the same cool air and disturbing the fur on each others' winter coats. He reached out and captured a lock of her red hair between his fingers, stared at it like it could warm him. "I thought you knew what I wanted," he said softly, finally.
And then he was gone, disappeared down the stairs, and Sansa watched him go with eyes blue as ice and a heart just as cold.
He was back where he belonged, and nothing felt better. When she woke next to him, it felt right to turn and look at him with features softer than they'd been in a very long time. But as consciousness caught up to her and she sat up in the bed they shared, her smile sagged and her eyes turned hard. She raised her face to the open doors, to the new, cool breeze that rustled the curtains, looking out onto the city below, and stared like a lion watching its prey.
He stirred when she threw her bare legs out from under the blankets and pulled on her robe. "Where are you going?" His voice was thick with sleep.
"I'm expecting a guest. Don't worry," she responded, turning and kissing him softly. "I'll have the servants bring you food and your clothes."
"Alright, but tell them - the servants?" Jaime Lannister was suddenly very awake. "They can't know I've been here like this."
His sister, meanwhile, was making her way to the door. "They can think they know whatever they'd like."
"Cersei!" Jaime wrapped his fingers around her wrist and spun her around to face him. "There's more to it than that, and you know it."
"I'm the Queen now," she whispered, and though her voice was void of feeling, her eyes shone. Staring at her, Jaime couldn't tell if she trembled with excitement or something else entirely. "I can do whatever I'd like."
"Don't - don't be rash," Jaime pleaded. "You need them on your side."
Cersei tried to pull her hand from his grasp, but Jaime held tight. "I'm the only one who has ever been on my side," she spat.
"You're not alone anymore," Jaime whispered. "And you'll never be alone again, I promise."
Cersei stared at her brother with guarded, darkened eyes, and for a breath, it seemed as if she almost, almost believed him. But then she smiled a sad, broken sort of smile, and the moment was gone. "Don't try to protect me now, Jaime," she said in a soft voice. "You're my last chance."
Jaime did not understand the twisted look on her features nor what it was that she meant, but he did understand the tears that welled on her bottom lashes, and he drew her close so that he could kiss them away.
Cersei shook her head into his shoulder. "They took our baby away from me. I . . . I helped them do it."
"It's not your fault."
"I won't let them get away with it."
"I know that."
She pulled back a little so that she could look him in the eyes, and he was startled by the fire he saw within them. "As long as they live, you will never be safe."
Jaime did not know what to say to this, so he only held her closer, trying to memorize the way her warm body felt against his and said the only thing he knew to be true: "Even with all the power in the world, we are always in danger of losing the ones we love."
Suddenly, her tears were gone. She shook her head and replied in a voice even quieter than his, "Not if all your enemies are already dead."
The balcony doors were thrown open to the city, scarred without the looming presence of the crypt. She stared at it with a hunger only wild things understand. When she had finished seeing something that Jaime could not comprehend, she turned to him with a face he'd seen only once before. When she rested her head against his chest again, he felt a bead of fear, cold and hard and desperate, slip down his throat.
The Riverlands were different than she remembered them, but then again, everything was different now. Westeros felt like a strange land beneath her shoes, the trees foreign, and the wind colder. She had ridden tirelessly since she arrived - long, hard nights and pale, yellow mornings. She would hate to admit it herself, but in the silence of her horse's hooves, sometimes she wondered whether it was not Westeros that was different, but herself.
Where there was once a girl, there was now something else. She no longer huddled quite as close to the fire as she used to. She did not jump when a stick snapped in the night. She had always, perhaps even before Henry Boratheon stepped into Winterfell when she was nine years old, possessed a self-assuredness about her, swift as wolves' jaws. Now that she finally had in her repertoire the tools she needed to execute her indomitable will, she rode forward with her single-minded purpose and left no room for fear nor doubt.
That's why, as she came upon the Twins and slowed her horse outside of Walder Frey's home, she did not have to think twice. Here is where they could have saved themselves. A ripple of disgust played across her skin, a chill her winter coat could not keep out. She stared at the doors, her knuckles white against the reigns. She heard the rush of the waterfalls, louder than the roar of her own blood. She thought it sounded almost like cheering, the way they cheered when they carried her brother's body through their halls.
Her horse whinnied, and at long last, Arya Stark took a breath. Jaqen H'ghar had taught her many things, but death was not one of them. She had learned death a long time ago, and she had also learned that the true masters of it were not graceful enough to do it themselves. No, if Jaqen H'ghar had taught her anything, it was that the true masters must pay. That, of course, and patience. So with a cold smile, she urged her horse into the sunlight, and waited for her presence to be known.
He felt her before he heard her. She disturbed the snow on the turrets, melted the air with her breath. "It's yours now," she whispered, and he knew she was watching him with those penetrating, new eyes she had borrowed from King's Landing. He felt that she could see him too clearly with those eyes, as if she always knew something about him before he did.
"It should be yours. We wouldn't have survived without Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale."
Sansa shook her head and rested a gloved hand on her brother's. "It's yours. It's good to have Winterfell back under the Starks."
He wanted to smile into the snow, but the weight inside of his chest crushed it before it could reach his lips. "Thank you," he told her, his voice brittle. "The North is in your debt. I am in your debt." He shook his head. "And I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not listening to you sooner. For not respecting your opinion like I should've. If I 'ad . . . if I 'ad, then maybe Rickon . . ." His words choked with emotion, and he fell silent.
Sansa shook her head once more, blinking away the heat behind her eyes. She made to squeeze her brother's calloused fingers. "Don't be -''
But the words died in her throat when he looked up, and she saw the look in his eyes. "I appreciate the action that you took, and I understand why you did it," he said, and his voice was strong and powerful. He took her shoulders in his hands suddenly, felt her startle beneath his touch. "But do not ever go behind my back again, do you understand me?"
He felt a twinge of guilt for the expression on her face, the shock on her lips, but the fire within his stomach told him it must be done. It was disconcerting how fast she could wipe her features clear of emotion. "I will do what I need to to save our people," she protested in a firm voice, not unlike his own. "I'm not sorry."
"No." He shook her gently. "Do you hear me? No. You talk to me, Sansa. You talk to me, and I swear I will listen."
Sansa shook her head. "You would have used them as numbers to fill in your ranks. I know it. And then we would all have died."
"No," he repeated firmly. "Not good enough. This goes deeper than strategy, Sansa. I was wrong to have doubted you, and it will never happen again. But we are surrounded by enemies. Lannister, Targeryan, to the north, to the south, within our own walls." He could not read the expression on her face, but he hoped she could see the one on his. "You're smart, Sansa, and I need you. I need you to trust me, and I need you to stand with me. If you don't, then all will be lost."
There was a moment then, in which they shared the cool air and felt the weight of their responsibilities build upon their shoulders. And then -
"Of course I am with you, Jon," she breathed. "But don't ask me to trust you."
Instead of anger, Jon felt a deep pity well up and spill into his chest. He saw Lord Mormont beyond the wall, saw his own blood when his brothers rose up against him, saw Sansa's small face, when it knew no guard nor lies. And he wrapped her in a tight hug that kept even the cold at bay.
"I will," he said lowly. "I will ask you to trust me. We have to have that, or we don't have anything."
He felt her body relax after a moment, felt her arms reach up and hug him back. "Of course I am with you, Jon. I'm with you." Her words sounded young against the gathering dusk. Jon knew them to be true, and yet he couldn't help the uneasy feeling lurking in the pit of his stomach, because he also knew what they meant.
"Society is necessary in any community, else the powers that be dissolve into distinct and utter chaos. And what is chaos but a fire? One that knows no bounds and burns without distinction. Yet it is undeniable that this is where we are headed, if no difference is made. From fire the world was born, and to fire it will return, is what the wise men -"
Sam shut the book with a hearty snap! that sent dust flying into the air. Several other Maesters in the library eyed him wearily over their own papers. "Sorry," Sam whispered, but that, somehow, seemed louder than the book, and only made them roll their eyes with more fervor.
With a huff, he packed up his belongings and shuffled his way down the quiet corridors. To fire it will return . . . He passed the west wing, where the restricted books were held, but hardly even noticed. He knew where he was going, and he would not be distracted. The door he was looking for loomed suddenly on his right, tall and stately as the man it held within. After a moment in which Sam straightened his short chains and took in a deep breath, he rapped on the wood and flinched before it opened.
"Archmaester Theobald?" Sam's voice squeaked.
The greying Archmaester raised his eyebrows at the boy. "Samwell Tarly." He spoke as if he had something unpleasant under his nose, which, to him, he of course did.
Sam swallowed. "I . . . I was wondering if I could have a word with you, Archmaester."
"Words are not something to possess, Samwell."
Sam wrung his hands. "Yes, well -''
"They are tools to be used and understood, but never to have. You must watch your tongue if you are to stay here."
A blink. "Yes, well, my apologies. It's just, I've been thinking -''
For a moment, it looked as if the Archmaester might actually smile. "Oh, you've been thinking? In that case, you best come in."
He moved from the doorway and clinked his way around his small office. Sam followed hesitantly, flapping his arms the way he did when he was nervous. He watched as the Archmaester lowered himself into his chair and pressed his fingers together. "What is it, Samwell?"
"It's just . . . It's just I . . . I've been reading, and I . . . I really think you ought to listen to me."
"All Maesters do is listen."
"Great. Yes. Well. Don't laugh. But -"
"Is this about your White Waiters?"
Sam pressed his lips together. "White Walkers, Archmaester, and -''
"We have told you many times that the role of a Maester is to record the truth. Fantastic stories make for better reads, but the truth is where peace resides."
"But Archmaester, I've seen the White Walkers with my own eyes. It's not just a fantastic story. I've killed one. They're real. And if we don't do something about them, there will be no bloody truth to uncover because everyone will be dead!" Sam paused to take a breath. "Sorry. It's just . . . it's not just me." From his bag, he produced the book he had been reading on the Archmaester's table.
He flipped through the pages until he found what he was looking for. Illustrations that at first looked like only long scratches on the paper. "There," he said, breathless from all his arm flapping. "The White Walkers aren't myths. I'm not even sure how you could say that when there's a woman who rides dragons somewhere in the East."
Archmaester Theobald was quiet for a long moment, the wrinkles on his forehead folding and unfolding over and over again. After a while, he leaned back in his chair and pressed his stony fingers together once more. It was that, the movement of his fingers, that made Sam feel as if he had already lost.
"Archmaester, I know I've brought it up before," he rushed to stop him, "but that's only because the evidence is irrefutable. Archmaester Louis knew of the White Walkers long before now. He knew we needed each other to fight it. He says that chaos will either destroy us all or save us all, and I think he's right. I've seen things that defy the laws of nature. I've seen dead men walk. I've seen people speak to flames. I've seen giants. I've seen the Watch and the Wildlings come together because they had no other choice. We have no other choice. I know you believe me. All I'm asking is that you do something about it."
The Archmaester waited until Sam had caught his breath once more, and then leaned forward. "Samwell, was it in your vast knowledge that Archmaester Louis was stripped of his title not long after publishing this book? Were you aware that he was known to fabricate and embellish until there was nothing left but lies? Do you truly claim to know what it means to be a Maester?"
"To be a Maester is to observe, advise, and record," Archmaester Theobald continued, his grey eyes sharp and cold like pebbles. "It is not to take action. It is to know. Our role in history is not to make it, Samwell. We surrendered our egos a long time ago. Our role is to be knowledgeable so that truth can lead the way.
"What would happen if we sounded the alarm for every small thing we think we know? Panic. Fear. Death. Reputation is a hefty thing, Samwell, and Maesters have been expelled for less."
Sam stared at Archmaester Theobald for a long time, trying to make sense of him. Then: "No."
"No. I knew a Maester at Castle Black. He taught me that the best action is sometimes inaction. I understand that there's a time for recording and peace. But I also know that there's a time when that's not enough anymore. A Maester's job means nothing if he doesn't use what he knows. If we don't, what are we but glorified librarians with metal around our necks? I'll find a way to make you listen to me. I don't have a choice."
There was a crack in Archmaester Theobald's icy exterior then that quite nearly looked like a smile. "It is not me you need to convince, Samwell," he rumbled after a short while. Sam, who had huffed his way to the door, hesitated for a moment more. "I will be here when you realize that you cannot change us just as you cannot change the course of history. What always helped me understand were long walks."
"Walks?" Sam hissed through clenched teeth. He heard Archmaester Theobald get up and move from behind his desk.
"Yes," the Archmaester agreed, taking the door and herding Sam outside. "A long walk and a good book. When the sun sets, you always get the most brilliant reading light."
Sam's eyebrows knitted together, his heart hammering wildly in his chest. He opened his mouth to say something else, to shake his book at the Archmaester, but something held him back. Archmaester Theobald nearly smiled once more, and before Sam could work out quite exactly what he wanted to say, the door had shut in his face, and he was alone in the empty corridor with only his books and a small niggle in the back of his brain.
A woman. Red hair. A familiar smile. His mother. "He has your eyes," she's saying, but her voice is colder than he's ever heard it before. "Catelyn," a shadow says. "I'm sorry."
Another woman. Red hair. A cave. An arrow.
Another woman. Red hair. She smiles. She can see him. She reaches out to him the way he reached out to his mother. "Who are you?" She asks. He doesn't have an answer.
A green glen, a small dog . . . with wings. Not a dog. A dragon. Now a large dragon, scorching the city. Wild eyes. A sword. Laughter. Screams. "You may now make her your wife."
Cold hands. Dead faces. The Children. A large tree. Dark eyes. Fire so real he can feel it. "We were so scared."
Dark eyes. Jon's eyes. Jon. Blue sky. Blue. Maybe they're eyes, too.
King's Landing, alive. King's Landing, burned. Death. Blood runs down the street. It's raining blood. Why is it raining blood?
A tree that speaks. It's bleeding.
Limbs arranged in circles. His father's voice. "The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword." Dark eyes. Not Jon's, after all.
Red hair. Red blood. The throne. Bodies and blood arranged in a circle. His sister. Death is king. She knows. Dark eyes. His brother's eyes. He watches his wife die. Except it's not his wife standing there now. Same dark eyes. And she's the one alive.
"Bran! Bran, wake up!"
Everything is white, not red. "Meera?"
Her blotchy face appeared in his line of sight. With a start, he realized that she must have been crying. She had the same eyes as his brother. Dark. Stark eyes. Not Targeryan. "What did you see?" She asked, and he felt her brush something from his cheek. With the same surprise, he realized that he must have been crying, too.
He opened his mouth to say something to her, but everything tried to come out at once, so nothing did. Probably for the best. It wasn't safe for her to know. So, feeling sick, he swallowed back his words and shook his head.
"You can tell me," she pried. Then, "you can trust me."
Bran stared, imagined what could be done to her if she knew the truth, that Jon Snow was the rightful heir of the seven kingdoms. If anyone knew. He shook his head.
He watched as her face closed once more, and she withdrew within herself. "Fine."
"I'm sorry," he whispered, but she only shook her head. He let her drag him back up onto the sled and readjust his blankets.
"Doesn't matter. We're here."
For the first time in a long time, Bran raised his eyes. He hadn't realized. His childhood home waited for him on the horizon, darker and colder than he remembered. Looking at it now, instead of joy, he felt only dread. There was the tower Jaime Lannister had pushed him from. There was the stable, where Hodor should be feeding the horses. There was the tree where his mother would pray. And there was the snow, not yet stained crimson, still white and cold and pure.
"State your business!" The boy could not be much taller than Arya. He rode one-handed and shared his father's watery, blue eyes. His brother beside him was taller and stronger, but he rode his horse with too tight of a grip that hinted at nerves and a weak core.
"Who are you?" The larger brother called.
Arya steadied her own horse and threw back the hood of her cloak. The boys blinked without recognition. "I am Arya Stark," she shouted, loud enough so that anyone walking by the windows of the hold might hear. The title felt unfamiliar in her mouth. "Daughter of Catelyn and Ned Stark, both deceased, and sister of Robb Stark, who was murdered within your walls."
The two boys drew to a halt. "A S-Stark?"
The smaller one put his arm down to the hilt of his sword. "What do you want?" He asked suspiciously.
"No Stark is welcome here," the bigger brother said waveringly.
Arya only smiled and held out her wrists. "I don't come here because I want it," she told them honestly. She made sure to look them in the eyes, willing them to believe her. "I come here only as your guest."
The boys exchanged suspicious glances. "We know who ye are."
"You have nothing to fear from me quite yet," she promised. "I wish to speak to Walder Frey. I have something that he might be very interested in."
The smaller boy attempted a sneer, but could not quite manage it. "No one gets to Walder Frey without reasonable cause."
"I bet you don't even know what those words mean," Arya shook her head. "It doesn't matter. You know what this means." She reached in her saddlebag and produced a heavy sack of coins. She weighed it in her hand for a moment, and then tossed it to the younger brother. "The damage your family has done to mine is irreparable, that's true. I will never forgive you for it." She wasn't quite sure she could get her next words out until she was saying them. They burned her throat: "But the Starks are nothing if not practical. You've shown us who you really are, and it's you that I need now. Show me to your father, or I will show him your heads."
The two exchanged another weary glance, sizing up the young woman before them. Then, as if with one mind, turned and beckoned her forward.
Arya did not look at anything or anyone as she passed. She put up her horse in the stable beside the place Robb's wolf had died, and her fingers only shook a little bit. "Well, come on, then," one of the brothers prodded her forward. When they stopped outside the grand hall, she allowed them to bind her wrists together, but she would not lower her head.
She had imagined this moment for so long, and yet everything was different. The door was darker than she had thought, the draft colder. And yet when the entryway was flung open with a grand squeal, she could not help but think that this was exactly as it should be.
She had eyes only for the man at the far end of the room. She knew the others were watching her with a mixture of fear and pride, flinching at the sound of her boots on the dirty floor.
Walder Frey, for his part, did not look up when Arya stopped in front of him. Instead, he continued his conversation with his new wife, sneering and groping and only when it suited him did he turn. "What is this?" he barked. "Who is she?"
"Lord Frey," Arya cut over him smoothly, stepping forward. "I am Arya Stark -''
"A Stark?" Frey coughed. "I killed all of you already, didn't I? How'd you get away?" He laughed until the rest of his house laughed in spasming, uncomfortable waves.
"Lord Frey," Arya tried again, her voice high and sweet. "I came because I need a favor from you. Believe me, I would much rather slit your throat and watch you die the way you killed my brother and mother, but we have a common enemy."
"And who is that, girlie? The cold?" Lord Frey laughed. "Or your bastard brother, Jon Snow?"
Lord Frey raised his bushy eyebrows and stood with a wheeze. "Your house has always looked down on old Frey. Don't deny it. But we put you in your place, didn't we?" He paused while the others laughed. "We fucked your mother and chopped the head off your brother, didn't we? So don't come wailing in these walls about favors and enemies like I don't understand the common tongue."
It was a moment before Arya spoke again. "Lord Frey," she began, softly, like she was talking to a spooked dog before she put it out of its misery, "no matter what you do, you'll never be able to escape the Starks, because the Starks have honor."
Lord Frey cocked his head to the side thoughtfully, his eyes flicking to the doors and back. "I've heard stories about you, Arya Stark." He sat back down and wiggled in his chair. It was oddly silent now, a strain over the meeting that no one dared to break. "Ol' Frey keeps his ear to the ground. And you know what I heard? Guess!"
Arya only stared, and Frey cackled. "I heard you been spending some time in Essos. Heard there's some rich folk in Essos. Heard there's some dangerous folk in Essos. But I don't give a rat's ass about fucking Essos." He leaned forward and narrowed his eyes. "Because when I heard that Arya Stark was coming to visit me, I knew exactly what she wanted. Didn't know what she'd do, exactly, maybe remind me the Lannisters don't have as much money as they thought. Either way, doesn't matter. I would've invited her in, and she'd of murder me in the dead of night like I murdered her family." He shook his head and cackled, the only sound in the whole room. "The Starks don't have honor, little girl," he said, leaning forward and staring into her dark eyes. "You're just like me."
A breathless moment then. Arya watched Walder Frey through eyes narrowed to slits. Her shoulders coiled by her neck, her hands tapping along the waistband of her pants. She waited until he'd waved his fingers, until she heard the slight rasp of a shoe beneath her, and then cast off her robe and spun with her fists.
The skinny brother's head bobbed backward, his nose crushed flat to his skull, spraying Arya with his warm blood. She ducked as another of Frey's men reached out to jab her with his dagger, drawing her kali stick from her belt and ripping him off of his feet. The women were screaming. He hadn't waited until the room was clear. No matter.
There was a sharp pain then in her right shoulder, and her eyes flicked up to the balcony. Of course there were archers. The pain made everything turn red and quiet in Arya's mind. She glanced around at the tables, knew that Frey would not leave until he saw her dead, and did a quick calculation in her mind.
Using one of the men's shoulders, she vaulted up and caught hold of the bottom of the balcony. She swung forward, flipped, and landed gracefully amidst the archers. As they scrambled backward, either because of the look in her eyes or the stick in her hand, she pushed forward. She cut herself free from her bonds and weaved her way through the Freys, slashing their chests, cutting their knees, knocking them over the ledge with her stick. She was sticky with blood that was not her own when she finally descended the balcony.
"Robb," she whispered beneath her breath as the remaining Freysmen stormed her with their swords drawn. As the first reached her, she closed her eyes and let her body take over.
"Catelyn," she continued, feeling a man's neck pop beneath her fingers.
"Ned." She swung and hacked and stabbed, and for a moment, she ceased to be herself at all. She was only the wind, or maybe the light, dancing across the pools of blood, breathtaking and beautiful and terrifying.
"Rickon." When the sound of footsteps began receding, she opened her eyes and turned to Walder Frey. He was right where she knew he would be, his mouth pressed into a thin line, watching his people flee from the open doors.
"Bran." She drew Needle from her belt, finally, and pushed the body of the man she'd skewered with his own sword away from her. They were heaped around her in odd, geometric patterns, like blood spatter or the way the pavement looks when it begins to rain.
"Sansa." She walked slowly, deliberately, until she stood in front of his raised platform.
"Jon." She raised Needle and pointed it at his chest.
"You were right," she whispered, "you were always going to die by my hands, Walder Frey. I would be your guest like they had been, but I would do what they could not."
"Well, get on with it, then," he huffed.
"I am a Stark, Lord Frey," Arya continued, walking slowly up the steps. "Tell me, is there anything more honorable than true vengeance?"
Walder Frey, with Arya Stark's sword against his throat, laughed. "She screamed when she died, you know."
Arya's grip tightened on the back of his chair. "I wanted you to feel fear," she told him through gritted teeth. "To feel regret for what you've done. But I realize now that you don't feel anything but pride. I could take everything away from you, and you would still be unchanged." As if to emphasize her point, Arya drove her sword into his new wife's chest, and only had eyes for Lord Frey as she crumpled to the ground.
"You're a silly girl, Arya Stark. The only thing worth having in this world is pride. It can't be taken away from you. Ask your father, he would know. He would never fraternize with us, the Freys. Maybe if he'd been a better man, your family would still be alive."
Arya was very still behind Lord Frey, looking out on his empty, blood-soaked dining chamber as if it were her own. Then, she bent low so she could whisper in his ear, and said in a soft voice, "you're wrong." She drew back and sliced the back of his heels. Walder Frey howled, but not as loudly as when she drove dinner knives into his hands so that he was stuck to his place at the table. She stabbed his eyes and watched him suffer.
"I can take it from you," she whispered. She wasn't sure he could hear her over his screaming, so she cut out his tongue. "I will take it all from you."
Her hands twitched with adrenaline. She'd done what she'd come to do. But watching him slowly bleed to death in his own hall seemed too mundane, almost. Had she really taken everything from him? Had he made her a liar? And so, her face empty of emotion and her heart made up all of a sudden, she drew away from his fear and spite and blood. She moved away, stepping deliberately back down the steps, reaching over the bodies of the men she'd killed, and disappeared down the far corridor.
Night was gathering now, and no one was around to light the candles in the halls. It didn't matter to Arya. The darkness was her friend. She walked down every hallway she came across, opened every door she saw. Sometimes, there was no one within them, and sometimes, there were. Frey's house was unprepared for a siege, especially not one from an assassin trained in Essos. The men fell easily, and so did the women.
In the back of her mind, perhaps, she knew what she was doing was not enough. It would never be enough. She knew that some of these people were blameless. But they held the Frey name, they lived in the halls that her family had died and that was guilt enough. Some of them fought, and some of them ran. She hunted them down, each and every one.
Once, she came across a room full of women and children, huddling in the back, trying to keep the infants from screaming. Which ones were Frey's children? Which women were his whores? Arya's fingers danced along the hilt of her sword, heard Jon's voice in her head. Jon.
"Go," she said quietly to them. "Go." And before they lifted their heads, she was gone, back down the corridor.
She wanted to make them scream, so that Walder Frey could hear them as he died. All that he'd built, she would destroy. She felt cold, like the air, and unstoppable. It was oddly quiet in the halls, as if the keep itself knew its time was near. Cowards. They were all cowards.
Eventually, Arya came across the Frey prison. She unlocked it with the keys she found on the guard's body, and the door opened with a squeal. There was only one person inside, and she tossed the keys in to him. "Who are you?" Was the raspy response, but Arya had already turned, making her way up the steps.
When she reemerged into the dining hall, her sword dull and her heart racing, Lord Frey was still sitting at the table. But even from far away, Arya knew he was dead. It was her fault. She shouldn't have made the cuts so deep. It didn't matter.
She strode to the only candles left burning in the Twins and smashed them in. They fell to the ground and quickly caught the wood of the tables, the tapestries, the bodies. She watched the fire grow, watched it consume the man at the top of her list, but could not find it within herself to feel relieved. Instead, as she rode out of the Frey home and into the night, all she felt was the blood drying on her skin, an emptiness within her chest, and the beginning of tears along her bottom lashes.
Theon Greyjoy now approached life with the ferocity of a small stinkbug and with the wonder of one, too. So it made sense that as his boat skipped across the sea with three, large dragons in its wake, he was the last to leave the balcony and head inside for anything. He liked the salty air. Sometimes, he forgot he was no longer Ramsay's prisoner, and he would suddenly be pressed in on all sides by an intangible fear that there was no way of dispelling. The salty air helped. Winterfell was many things, but coastal was not one of them.
"May I join you?"
Theon raised his eyebrows. "Of course, Your Grace." Sometimes, she surprised him, too. It didn't make sense to him that someone like her existed. He watched her out of the corner of his eye for a moment, her white hair like ocean foam. He couldn't imagine Ramsay being afraid of anyone, but maybe he would have been afraid of her.
"Does it remind you of home?"
Theon frowned without realizing he was doing so. "The ocean?"
Daenerys Stormborn returned his frown with a light smile. "What else?"
Theon shook his head. "I don't know where home is anymore, Your Grace."
"That's alright. I'm not sure I do, either." She turned to him with those vibrant, blue eyes. "But I know where I belong."
Theon nodded at her certainty and went back to watching the waves. "You've never doubted," he mused to them.
"Theon, you don't belong to a place," she said softly. "Whether you're a free man or a slave, you always belong to people, and you always belong to yourself."
Theon's eyebrows knitted together, not sure if he agreed. He startled when she put a fair hand on his tanned arm. "I heard what happened to you. Your sister told me. That man had no right to try to steal you from yourself." She looked out at the open ocean, but a faraway gaze had settled over her eyes. "That's what I want. For Westeros, and for everyone."
"You're sure to get it, Your Grace," Theon conceded, wondering about the ferocity in the young queen's distant gaze.
"As are you, Theon Greyjoy. You're thinking about it right now."
"About what, Your Grace?"
"The people you belong to."
"I belong in your army, Your Grace."
Daenerys looked at him with her sharp, crystalline eyes. "And the Starks?"
Theon cocked his head. "They're good people. Sansa, Jon . . . but I'm not sure I deserve to . . ." his voice broke, and he looked away. He thought suddenly of red hair, and for the first time in a long time, he genuinely smiled.
"Jon Snow," Daenerys echoed, her voice just as gentle as her touch. It startled him out of his reverie. "I've heard his name before."
Theon turned to look back at her. "You've nothing to fear from him, Your Grace. He's a good man."
Daenerys withdrew her hand. "There's no need to worry, Theon. I know I've won your loyalty." Theon could not help but notice the sudden frigidness in her words, the cold wonder in them. "But it shall be interesting to meet the few who've won your heart."
Theon thought he understood, and he glanced at the dragons flying above them, uncomfortably aware of what they did to traitors. He swallowed thickly. "Yes, Your Grace," he affirmed, and he held her gaze when she turned to look at him. Held it until she smiled and nodded her head.
"I need you, Theon. And so do they."
Once more, he thought of her red hair and her red cheeks in the frosty air. He opened his mouth to thank Daenerys for reminding him of - he wasn't quite sure what - but before he could, another man's voice rang loud and clear into the air: "LAND! THERE'S LAND!"
And when Theon turned back to look at his queen, he found that she had gone. Slowly, confidently, but like a spring struggling to stay coiled, she was making her way to the bow. Missandei and Grey Worm followed close behind. Theon wasn't sure how it was possible that they always knew where she was. After them, he caught sight of Tyrion Lannister and Vaerys emerge from belowdecks. Tyrion was smiling, but Vaerys looked nearly ill. Theon wasn't quite sure why their silence seemed so odd to him, but it wasn't until he felt his sister's hand on his shoulder that he could look away.
"We made it, little brother." She said it proudly, shaking his whole body.
Theon thought that just maybe, Yara was referring to something other than the land. So, with a deep breath to steady his nerves, Theon allowed himself a ghost of a smile. "That we did."
Daenerys, for her part, would not turn away from the shore for as long as it was in view. Because this, she was suddenly sure, was where she belonged. It was that way because it was where her forefathers walked, but more than that - because she was going there with the people who believed in her. They were who she belonged to. They were her home. All that she'd been through and all that she'd seen seemed suddenly very large compared to the size of those rocks on the horizon.
She hoped Jorah was doing alright.
She wondered if Khal Drogo, somehow, beyond the limits of death, was proud of her.
She closed her eyes and listened to the beat of her dragons' wings and the wind through their nostrils.
She watched as her dreams began to take a physical shape before her very eyes, and she vowed she'd never look away again.
This is Macabre Storytelling and he's got some really great ideas if you're interested
This is from Think Story and is also very good