Riverlands 302 AC.
One moment they'd been fighting the dead and the next they were not. It had been night and now was day and it took some time for her eyes to adjust to the light that they'd not seen in moons. She was not alone in this and when they finally did, she wished they had not. Benjen was on his knees and at first she feared the worst, her breath hitching in her throat as she moved to him. There was no injury that she could see, no wound that was exposed, and the closer she got the more relieved she felt until she heard the sobs. Val ran the last few feet and almost fell to the ground beside him. Her arms wrapping around her love as she allowed him to cry on her shoulder.
Not more than ten feet away she could see the other man who was sobbing just as much as Benjen was and the reason for both their tears. Robb Stark was knelt over the body of his father with his cousin offering him as much comfort as a hand on the shoulder could. Which wasn't very much at all it pained her to see. Beneath him lay his father, the Lord of Winterfell was unmoving and while Val had not seen him fall, fall he had.
She moved her hand down Benjen's back and rubbed it gently against him. The words she spoke were perhaps unheard, but she spoke them anyway and hoped they offered him some comfort for the loss of his brother. It was not until she mentioned his nephews though that it seemed to do much to change Benjen's mood. Val had seen the dragon land some distance away and Jae climb down off its back while ahead of them Robb had risen to his feet, with Cregan's help.
"They need you to be strong, my love. All of them, they need you to be the strong one." Val said and she felt him hug her tightly before he too rose to his feet.
After a kiss to her lips, he then walked from her to his nephews and Val followed. Benjen embracing Cregan and then Robb and holding the second of his nephews for far longer than the first. Given it was he who'd lost his father, that was understandable. Seeing that the man she loved and his nephews seemed to be doing a little better, Val looked around at the rest of the men near her. There were far more of them than she had expected and it made her wonder who amongst her own people had survived. Unfortunately, that was a question that she'd not be able to answer for some time.
How long they stayed there and at what point Jae arrived where they were, she couldn't tell. The king though moved straight to his brother, the two young men embracing and holding each other for what seemed to be the longest time. Then it was Benjen's turn, followed by Cregan's and Val watched as Jae then moved to kneel down over his uncle's body. She heard him say some words softly, though not what those words were. After a while, the men of the north and her own people started making their way to them as well. Val saw some of them moving to Benjen, and Jae and paying their respects to Robb and to the fallen Ned Stark.
"Val, thank the gods." she heard Mance say and though it was not something she'd normally do, she ran to embrace her goodbrother.
"I fucking knew you'd survive. You're too much of a hard bastard to die." she said happily.
"Aye, it's good to see you too, Val." Mance said with a small laugh.
Over Mance's shoulder, she saw Tormund and some of her people, the smile he wore a true one when he saw that she had made it.
"Benjen." Mance asked not seeing her love and she nodded and saw his own smile grow larger.
"His brother fell." she said softly before she was lifted from the ground by Tormund, the loud laugh he made was both welcomed and not "Put me down you mad fucker." she said as he did as she bid.
"We will drink tonight, drink under a fucking moon for once, and know when we wake it'll be to the sun once more." Tormund said laughing still.
"Aye, we'll drink." Mance said and Val felt her heart stir when Tormund then asked her about Benjen, his concern showing just how truly he'd been accepted by them and that her love was one of the Free Folk now.
"He's unharmed, but his brother fell." she said softly to a small nod of Tormund's head.
"Jae?" Tormund asked worriedly.
"He's over.." she began as she directed his attention to where she thought Jae was only to see he was no longer there.
Looking around she saw him off in the distance, he and some others bearing a body on their shoulders and it was only that she could still see Benjen, or she'd have thought it was his uncle's.
"There." she said pointing him out to Tormund who moved to hurry after the king, leaving her to stand with Mance as Benjen, Robb, Cregan and the Great and Smalljon's all raised Ned Stark's body into the air and began to carry him to somewhere she knew not.
"How many, Mance? How many of our people still stand?" she asked worriedly as she and Mance followed after them.
"Far more than I dared hope and yet less than I wish." Mance said and she looked at him to see that he seemed happy enough.
Ned Stark was brought to a tent that was surrounded by many other tents that she feared bore bodies too. She saw Jae's guard standing outside one of them, along with Jaime Lannister and Oberyn. Which suggested to her that the king was inside. After Ned was laid down, Benjen moved out of the tent as did Cregan. The younger man looking to Benjen before he and his wolf then moved to another tent a little distance away and entered it. Robb Stark's large wolf sat down outside the tent that he hadn't left as of yet and as Benjen moved to her and Mance, she saw some more men of the North make their way to it in order to pay their respects to the fallen and new Lord of the North.
"Mance, thank the gods." Benjen said his smile not quite reaching his eyes but it was a smile all the same.
"It's good to see you, Benjen. I'm sorry for your loss, your brother was a good man." Mance said his voice soft and Benjen just nodded as he moved to her, the kiss he gave her and the words he whispered in her ear were both welcomed equally.
"Aye, he was. We lost far too many good men today. My nephew mourns his father, my other nephew his goodfather and uncle. While Jae is torn between being with his brother and grieving for his uncle or paying his respects to a man whose been by his side for three and ten years." Benjen said sadly.
"He is unhurt? Jae?" Mance asked his worry clear and Benjen nodded emphatically.
"He is, thank the gods. He fucking ended that cunt, for once and for all he fucking ended him." Benjen said.
They talked of their losses, mourned those they'd not see again, and celebrated not only their own survival but that so many of their people had made it too. As they were doing so, she saw Jae come out of the tent he'd been in and Tormund move to him. The king embracing Giantsbane as if he was a long-lost brother and not an annoying fucker. Then Jae moved to one of the other tents and entered it, staying a few moments before doing the same at another and then another.
A guard brought them food and drink, the bread eaten hungrily while the water drank a little more slowly. Even after they were done, Jae kept going in and out of tents, until finally, he made it to the one his uncle was in and Benjen nodded to her before moving to join him. How long it was until they came out, she knew not. When he did though, Jae came towards them. Val was surprised when he embraced her and then Mance just how he had Tormund.
"It pleases me greatly to see you both unharmed. The Free Folk, Mance, their losses?" Jae asked worriedly.
"Far less than they should have been, Jae." Mance said happily "Your uncle, your guard, you have my sympathies."
"Too many good men fell today. Heroes one and all and the North will not be the only ones who remember them." Jae said with such determination that she knew his words were true "Tonight we mourn the dead and celebrate the living, Mance. All of us here won a great victory and should be proud of that. Wun Wun and Mag the Mighty along with the other giants should arrive before then, they too played their part and deserve to be feted."
"Then fete them we will." Mance said, his own determination showing through.
"We need to speak on the future, Mance. Decide upon what future that the Free Folk wish for themselves, but that's for the morrow. I am truly happy to see you both safe and well, truly." Jae said, his smile though sad was a true one she felt as he then walked away and headed to more tents.
Riverlands 302 AC.
Ser Richard Lonmouth.
The pages were strewn in front of him, Richard going over the numbers and the names and finding himself stunned both at the scale of their losses and the extent of their victory. They'd lost close to 30,000 men, the biggest single loss of life in any battle in the history of Westeros. Men from each region of the Eight kingdoms had spilled their blood and given up their lives. Mathis Rowan who had saved Garlan Tyrell's life at the cost of his own, Jeor Mormont, and almost the entirety of the Night's Watch, an order that no longer had a purpose. Some of the Faceless Men, men and women from Chroyane and a third of the Company of the Rose, including at least one of its commanders. Artos Snow having lost his life while Brandon Snow still fought for his.
The North had lost its Warden and Rickard Karstark and yet had lost the fewest of its men. While the West and Dorne had both lost more men and yet none of their lords. As for the Vale, they had been left almost unscathed, though considering how they'd been used in the war that wasn't a surprise. Tytos had told him that the Frey's had fought bravely and well and while Lord Stevron had taken a wound, he should recover and the Riverlands itself had lost half as much as the West or Dorne had.
He knew the king would be pleased when he heard about the Free Folk, they'd lost few and none that were among the chieftains or elders, another Hardhome this had not been. The loss of his uncle would be hard for Jae to bear, especially since he'd lost another uncle already during this fight and family meant everything to him. Ser Jors loss too would be something that bore heavily on Jae's heart, Richard himself feeling that loss most keenly. The man had faithfully served by Jae's side longest of all and was far more than a guard to his king. He was not a man you could replace easily he thought as he rose to his feet. His notes were now written and ready to be presented when Jae asked for them. Which he knew he would.
"Not as bad as it could have been, but worse than we could have hoped." he said looking to Ser Hugo and Lomas, both of whom he was relieved to have found out had survived.
"What now, Ser Richard?" Ser Hugo asked curiously.
"We mourn the dead, celebrate the living, and toast our victory, Hugo. Then we go home to those we love or the lives we must lead and we make ready for the next challenge that comes our way." he said smirking.
"You think there will be more challenges, Ser Richard?" Lomas asked and Richard shook his head before answering.
"None like this, thank the gods. But we live in a new world, Lomas. For the past few years, the king's focus has been on winning this war and so things that may have garnered his attention have been ignored. Soon they'll not be and it's up to us to be there and ready for him when they no longer are." he said to nods from both men.
Lomas was now officially his second in command, Hugo would run his men in the Riverlands and the Vale, one or the other would perhaps replace him in time. For now, he'd teach them all he could and make them into the men they may need to one day be. He had no intent of stepping down or being removed from his position, not that the king would seek to do so, but he'd be ready for it if it came and he'd ensure that those who followed him were good men and true.
"Come, I feel the need for a drink and there will be much of that this night." he said as he walked from the tent and made his way to where everyone was to be gathered for the night's celebration.
The birds had been sent out carrying the news, some bearing condolences for losses and others speaking of those who lived still. Those the king had handled personally, Jae's control over the birds making them even quicker than his lips would spread the news of the extent of their victory. Letters had been sent too, to a queen, to sisters, to wives, mothers, fathers, and to widows as well. Richard and his lips would ensure they arrived at their destinations as quickly as they could be delivered.
He knew that the king wished to be elsewhere, that he longed to be, and yet he would not leave this place, not yet. Tonight Jae wished to pay his respects to the living and the dead. To honor those who'd given their lives and those who'd fought so that others did not and were not needed to. As he made his way to the large open space and looked out upon the mass of men that stood there, Richard found himself eager to do likewise.
Torches were lit to provide light and yet it felt much different, each man and woman that was here knowing that this night they now faced would not be a long one. Ale and wine were being drunk and some men ate as they waited for the king to make his appearance. Richard telling Lomas and Hugo to find themselves some of either while he moved to where Jaime, Oberyn, Loras, and Arthur stood. He saw the princesses, both of them healthy and unharmed thank the gods, and the prince too standing with them and perhaps the most eager of all for this night to be ended. The news he'd given him from Dorne had made Tyrion wish to fly straight there and while he'd not do so tonight. Richard doubted they'd be able to keep him from leaving on the morrow.
"The king?" he asked Arthur under his breath.
"Putting on a brave face, for now." Arthur replied and Richard nodded as the tent opened and Jae stepped out.
Jae no longer wore his armor and bore no crown on his head. His hair was loose and untied and his shirt open and he looked as if he was going for a stroll rather than about to speak to an army. He had an easy smile on his face and to all, he'd look happy. Yet Richard could see in his eyes that he was anything but. It was a mummery, an act and as he began to speak, the tone of his voice proved that true, at first anyway.
"Before I speak for true, I ask that we take a moment and bow our heads for those who fell. Each of you has perhaps lost someone you cared for in this war. A friend, a brother or sister, a father or mother, uncle or aunt, son or daughter. No words I can say will make up for their losses, for no words can.
All I can do is offer my thanks to the gods for the time we all had with them and for what they all meant and will forever mean to us. I can promise that each and every single one of them that they'll not be forgotten, their sacrifice will not go unrecorded and their heroism will not go uncelebrated. From here on it'll not just be the North that Remembers. On my oath, I swear to you all here and now that we will remember, The Realm Remembers." Jae said loudly.
"The Realm Remembers." the shouts rang out and then as Jae bowed his head, so did every man and woman that had survived the battle and war they'd just fought in.
None raised their heads until the king did and Richard watched as Jae was then handed a mug of something, water perhaps since the king didn't drink, or so he thought until Jae spoke.
"I have in my hands a mug of ale, the first I've ever held truth be told." Jae said to some laughs "Water is no way to celebrate what each of you did here. Not just today, but for the last five moons that we've been fighting this war.
I doubt I'll keep up with you, and some of you even less than others." the laughs were louder now "But tonight I'll damn well try." Jae said to even louder laughs as he took a swallow from the mug, while around him each and every single one of them did the same from their own.
Richard tried not to look at the expression on the king's face as he swallowed down the ale, he doubted after tonight that Jae would drink it again though because of that look. Something that Jae himself confirmed a moment later.
"This will be the only night I drink, my friends. I'd not dishonor all that you did by doing so again and so for one night and one night only I'll celebrate as you all will." Jae said taking another swallow, this time to cheers "I now ask you all to look to the man or woman on your left." Jae said.
Around him, everyone he could see did as they were bid and even he did the same.
"Now do the same to the man and woman on your right." Jae said.
Again around him, everyone did as the king bid them to.
"Raise your mug and drink with me to honor those who stood with you. Those by your side are the reason each of us breathes here tonight. They are the reason that those we love will soon be back in our arms again. For it wasn't just you and I who won this war, it was the man or woman nearest to you as well. Each and every single one of you played your part. All of you are heroes and heroines, all of you are equal not only in mine own eyes but in the songs and tales that will be sung and told in the years to come.
King, Prince, Princess, Lord, Knight, or Smallfolk. From the North, West, Riverlands, Vale, Reach, Stormlands, Crownlands, Iron Islands, Dorne, or Chroyane. All of us are equal, all of us have spilled blood or sweat, suffered loss, and mourn those no longer with us. No man, not I, not you, nor the man or woman next to you played a bigger part than any other. So raise your mugs, raise them high and drink with me and those with you.
Drink, my heroes and heroines, drink as those who together Brought the Dawn." Jae said his voice ringing out loudly as he took another swallow from his mug, while around him every man and woman did the same.
Richard took a large swallow from his own and smiled broadly, they were good words the king had spoken and each man and woman earned the right to be thought of that way. He knew they'd all wake with sore heads on the morrow and years from now they'd remembered being feted by the king who had truly brought the dawn.
Riverlands 302 AC.
Jae had sung, played a harp that had been given to him by one of the men with Tytos Blackwood, and gotten drunk. Three ales were all it had taken him and then he and Loras had helped him to his bed. Arthur had at first refused to drink any but had then been practically ordered to by his king.
"No man doesn't drink tonight, Arthur, not even a Kingsguard. I'll see no man dishonor those we drink for and with."
So despite himself, he'd taken one drink and had sipped it and held it in his hands while around him men and women drank and made merry. Long after he'd put Jae to bed people continued to drink. Arthur couldn't begrudge any of them for doing so and yet he was glad when they too began to make their way to their own beds. As he stood outside the tent and listened to Jae snore, he wore a true smile on his face.
They had won, they'd fought back an army of dead men and had actually won. The losses they had suffered would hurt and in time Jae would feel them more than ever, but they had won and he thanked the gods and Rhaegar and Lyanna for seeing it so. Jae may have given credit to each and every person with his speech and Arthur knew that he and others had played their part. He himself had killed two White Walkers as had Jaime and Oberyn, and the gods only knew how many dead men he and Dawn had struck down. Jae though had beaten the Night King, he'd ended the fight and brought the dawn and Arthur had never felt prouder than he did right now.
He heard him stir as the dawn broke the next morning, Jae was not the only one who woke just as the sun began to rise. Around him, hundreds, thousands of those who'd fought and then drank to celebrate that fight, now stood looking up to the sky. Perhaps they needed to see it for themselves to be sure. Mayhap they feared the sun wouldn't rise and the light they'd known the day before would never return. Whatever the reason, Arthur stood with Jae who too was looking to the sky and his king wasn't the only one who wore a smile as he did so.
"You are well, you grace?" he asked when Jae stopped looking to the sky.
"Aye, but never again, Arthur. I meant what I said last night, no drink will pass my lips ever again." Jae said and Arthur nodded.
It was something that he could understand, something that he knew the reason for. Robert Baratheon had been a drunk and Jae would never do anything that made someone look to him and see the Stag King. No matter that he was a different sort of man altogether, Arthur knew that he'd rather forgo drink than have anyone even consider it and make the comparison, even were it briefly. He watched as the king rubbed Ghost's fur, the white wolf leaning into his touch and showing just how much he had missed it and him. To say it had shocked him to see him here was an understatement and the only one happier than the king that he was here, was the Smalljon.
"Come, Arthur, I wish to speak to Rhaenix before we break our fast. We'll be flying back to King's Landing later today." Jae said, the eagerness in his voice clear.
By the time they arrived back at the camp after speaking to the dragons, the others were already up and about. Arthur chuckled to see some of the expressions on faces as the giants passed them by. Those who'd not seen them and perhaps had not believed they existed, were still not truly able to accept what was right in front of their eyes. They broke their fast with Jaime, Oberyn, Prince Garin, and the prince and princesses, some of them would be heading their separate ways today, and only a few would be traveling on to King's Landing.
Shiera seemed to be more like herself, the princess wearing an excited look on her face for once as she awaited Rhaegal's arrival. Both Daenerys and Tyrion would be flying to their homes rather than King's Landing. The prince was eager to see his wife and new son, while the princess wished to be back in her husband's arms. Prince Garin and the Rhoynar would march to King's Landing before making ready to sail back to Chroyane, his soon-to-be former brother Loras would be leaving with him. The boy had spoken to the king and had been named as the Chroyane envoy much to his delight. His last duty as a Kingsguard would be to escort Ser Jors body back so it could be interred with other fallen brothers in White Sword Tower.
He'd not be the only body being escorted back to its final resting place. Benjen, Cregan, and Robb Stark along with the Northern Lords and army would provide Ned Stark with an honor guard and see him entombed in the Crypts of Winterfell. Jeor Mormont was to be escorted to Seagard and then to join his family in Lannisport before being brought to Bear Island and Ser Garlan wished to escort Mathis Rowan back to Goldengrove before making his way to join his wife and family at Highgarden. Other than the funeral arrangements, there were only a few things Jae had to handle before they too could leave. Jae, Jaime, Oberyn, Ser Richard, Ghost, and Arthur himself would be flying on Rhaenix and heading back to King's Landing before night fell again.
"Mance and the others are ready?" Jae asked when he'd finished eating and Jaime nodded "You wish to join us?" he asked and Jaime shook his head, though Oberyn gave Jae a look that the king picked up on.
So it was Oberyn, Ghost, and Arthur who accompanied the king as he made his way to the Free Folk. Jae stopping to look at where the Northmen's tents were as they walked before he then continued walking and soon led them to where the Free Folk had their own. The welcome they received was as friendly and as irreverent as ever. Tormund coming over to speak to them as soon as he saw them and Mance coming out from his tent the moment he heard they were there.
"You survived the night then?" Mance asked smirking as he looked at the king.
"Aye, though never again and I'm glad I never touched that god-awful stuff that Tormund was drinking." Jae said, scrunching his nose as he spoke.
"It'll be hair on your balls, Jae." Tormund said laughing as he wiggled his eyebrows, Jae shaking his head as he laughed with him.
"I'd rather they were bald." Jae said to laughs.
"We'll march on the morrow, Jae. Along with the Northern Lords. Some will be seeking to go back beyond the Wall." Mance said softly.
"There is no Wall, anymore." Jae said to nods.
"Aye, but to us, it'll always be there as a barrier between the North and the True North." Mance said sighing "At least to some." he added.
"And you?" Jae asked.
"My people are saved, Jae. That's all I ever wanted and the only reason I sought a crown. Some will seek to leave the lands they're on now, most will not or even if they do will seek the freedom to come back to them." Mance said as Jae looked at him curiously.
"It'll mean kneeling, Mance. I can allow them to be free on one side but not on another and any who stay…"
"Aye, I know. I look forward to seeing you in Queenscrown, your grace. I'd ask you accept my oath there?" Mance said as Jae looked at him confusedly "I wish my wife and son by my side when I drop to my knee."
"You are the King who brought us through the greatest fight any of us is ever likely to face. A fight we were destined to lose, Jae. I don't kneel easily, nor does Tormund, Val, Dalla, or any of the Free Folk. To you, I will kneel willingly though." Mance said and Jae almost seemed lost for words to Arthur's eyes.
"Queenscrown." Jae said holding his arm out.
"Queenscrown." Mance said as he grasped it.
Tormund did the same a few moments later and after a few more moments of talk, Jae then led them to the Company of the Rose's tents. Brandon Snow was not expected to make it through the night but had done so, Arthur doubted he'd make it to the morrow, and yet as he watched Jae move to the bed, he then felt he just might.
"I don't know if this will work, I believe it will, but I don't know." Jae said as he took a chain with a ruby out of his shirt and then a small pouch a moment later.
Arthur and Oberyn looked on as he soaked the ruby in blood and then placed it around Brandon's neck. Each of them having to turn their eyes away as a light began to shine when Jae took out Lightbringer a moment later. Hearing a gasp, he turned to see Jae take the ruby back and Brandon Snow sitting up.
"I thank you, your grace, truly." Brandon said as Torrhen Snow entered the tent and looked at his fellow commander with relief.
"The companies, plans, Torrhen?" Jae asked.
"The fort in the North, your grace. With your permission, we'd like to name it our home and swear ourselves to Queenscrown?." Torrhen asked apprehensively.
"I'd be more than happy to accept your oath, Torrhen, more than happy." Jae said and the man nodded as they left him to speak to Brandon and readied to make ready for their own departure.
Jae spoke to the men of the West, Dorne, Riverlands, and each of the other kingdoms. He spent some time alone with Jaqen and the Faceless Men, Arthur and Oberyn both watching warily but with no true worry. Then it was to the men of the North and a promise to make a journey back North as soon as he could before he spoke to his uncle, cousin, and brother and paid his respects once more to Ned Stark. Finally, it was Tyrion, Shiera, and Dany that he spoke to and after bidding them farewells and with night beginning to fall, they then made their way to the dragons.
Oberyn, Jamie, Richard, and then finally he climbed up, Ghost and Jae making them look uncoordinated with how easily they did so, and then with not even a look back they were in the sky and heading south. Ahead of him, he could feel the different levels of excitement that were being felt. Richard wished to get back to work, while Jaime and Oberyn wanted to be with their families once more. None though were more excited or eager to reach King's Landing than the king and Arthur could almost feel him urge Rhaenix to fly faster.
King's Landing 302 AC.
She had hoped he'd have come home before the night fell again. Even though she knew it was unlikely and that he no doubt had things that he needed to do, she'd hoped that when she went to bed that night it would be with her husband and not alone. Despite the fact that she didn't truly fear he'd been harmed and that she knew what had happened, or somewhat knew at least, she still felt fearful when he did not. As she did when the night itself fell, though in that fear she was not alone.
With no Ghost to offer her the reassurance that Jae was unharmed, it was a rough night's sleep that she endured and when she awoke the next morning before the sun had risen, she believed she wasn't the only one who looked to the sky in apprehension. Seeing the sunrise was a most welcome sight and yet her eyes then began to seek out an ever more welcome one, one that she did not find. Sighing, Margaery turned and made herself ready for the day ahead.
Despite the daylight, they'd done little the day before and had made few preparations if any. Most people in King's Landing just welcomed that it was no longer constant darkness that they were forced to endure and then seemed to take some time to get used to the light once more. Margaery and the Small Council hadn't truly explored what this would now mean or really considered what steps needed to be taken from here. Most of them though she knew, the return home of those from the North, preparations for harvests, planting, and a return to normal life. Of course, there would be some unknowns that would pop up as well. Truth be told though, most of her day had been spent glancing at the sky and thinking about Jae and the other's return. Even when she was not, others soon brought her mind to that line of thought as Elia, Joy, Joanna, and Martyn spoke on seeing Jae and Jaime again, while Tyene and her sisters did likewise in relation to Oberyn.
"Mama?" she heard Elia say and she looked to the bed to see her daughter awake and now sitting up, Margaery trying her best not to laugh at her messed up hair and the rubbing of her eyes.
"Good morning sweetling." she said moving to the bed, Elia hugging her tightly once she was close enough for her to do so.
"Morning mama. Papa, Ghost?" Elia asked softly and Margaery knew that she had to put on a brave face for her daughter if no one else.
"Will both be back very soon. Now come, let us get you ready and then we can go break our fast." she said to an eager nod from her daughter.
She combed Elia's silver hair as her daughter watched her through the looking glass. Margaery's golden brown eyes catching Elia's indigo ones every so often and her daughter's smile quickly bringing one to her own face. When she was ready, she led her to the balcony, and almost as soon as she did so the Indigo Dragon flew by. Elia calling out to it and naming it as dragon now, thankfully since she'd convinced her that Strawberry was a better name for a horse than a dragon.
Joy and Tyene arrived and were surprised to see both of them already dressed and then together they made their way to break their fast. Willas, Sansa, her grandmother, and Ellaria and her girls arriving not long after they had. They were eating when Gormon arrived, the Grandmaester almost hurrying into the room, and given what he carried in his hand, she was most grateful for it.
"Your grace, ravens from the front." Gormon said and as she looked at the scrolls in his hand she felt her heart begin to race.
Three bore the Three-Headed Dragon, another the Sun and Spear of House Martell, there was one with the Golden Lion of House Lannister and the last two were the Direwolf of House Stark and the Golden Rose of her own house.
"Ellaria, Sansa, grandmother." she said handing each of them the scrolls from their family's while opening the first of the Three-Headed Dragon ones. This one was for Joy while the next was for Sansa, leaving the last for her and Elia "Joy, Sansa, these are for you." she said handing them the scrolls as she hurried to read her own.
It's over, the Night King and his army are no more. There is so much I wish to say but for now, I'll just say that I am unharmed. Jaime and Oberyn, Tyrion and Dany, Loras, Garlan, and Arthur are unharmed and all things being well, I shall return on the morrow. Until then kiss our daughter for me and know that I'm thinking of you both. I long to hold you both in my arms once more, to see your faces, and I will do all I can to make that be as soon as it can be.
Love to you both,
She didn't need to look at any of the other faces to see their happiness nor a looking glass to see her own smiling face. When she spoke to Elia and told her that her papa would be back today, her expression was the only one that she needed to see to know how everyone was feeling.
"Grandmaester, have this brought to Lady Dacey immediately and I shall be calling for a Small Council meeting as soon as everyone has broken their fast, there is much we must do." Margaery said almost excitedly.
The rest of the meal was almost ignored, people ate sort of, but mainly they spoke about returns and reveled in the good news. Sansa wore the first smile she'd seen since she'd learned of her father's death. Willas telling her later that the raven from Jae and Robb confirmed the news and that Robb, Cregan, and Benjen were unharmed. That fact bringing comfort to her friend where it was needed most. Joy spoke of putting off the day's ride she had planned to go on, keener than ever now for her first ride to be with Jae and Winter.
Her grandmother seemed far more content than she'd ever seen her, the relief that Garlan and Loras were both safe and well only enhanced by knowing that Jae was too and that he was returning. Ellaria and her girls were perhaps the most effusive in their joy. Margaery was happy to see it as she had become closer to each of them during these last few moons. Rising to her feet, she moved to the door to speak to Barristan and Arryk who were on duty, Gormon had perhaps already told them but she felt the need to confirm the news herself.
"Ser Barristan, we've received word from his grace. The war is truly over and we've been victorious. His Grace, Lord Jaime, Prince Oberyn, Princess Daenerys, and Prince Tyrion as well as my brothers and Ser Arthur are all unharmed." she said to smiles from both men and then a frown from Ser Barristan which took her by surprise.
"Ser Jors, your grace?" Barristan asked and Margaery turned from him and hurried back into the room to find the scroll quickly reading it again while her grandmother and brother looked at her with concern.
"Oh Jae, my love, my poor love." she said softly, her hand going to her mouth.
"Your grace?" her grandmother asked worriedly and Margaery then noticed that Barristan had followed her back into the room and that other faces were now looking at her too.
"We'll speak in the Small Council meeting, it's nothing to be concerned about." she said hoping that the lie would hold and that her husband's heart was not as broken as she feared it may be.
It was almost midday when the Small Council came together, Gormon, Ellaria in Oberyn's stead, Ser Barristan as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Lord Wyman and Willas, Lord Monford and her grandmother. Before coming to the Small Council Chambers, Margaery had gone to speak to Dacey to ensure that she'd been given the raven and had heard the news and she found her to almost be floating on air. Her own note saying that Jaime would be returning with Jae on Rhaenix meaning that she'd be seeing her husband far sooner than she feared. Ellaria's too said that Oberyn would be arriving back with them and as she looked around the table at those sitting there she wore a true smile on her face.
"Some of here already know this news, though not because we were keeping it from those who don't. More because of how the news arrived. His grace, Lord Jaime, Prince Oberyn, Ser Richard, and Ser Arthur all plan to return today if possible. The war is over, the threat ended and our king and his army have been victorious." Margaery said to relieved looks from Monford and Wyman and even those who already knew this seemed just as happy to hear it once more.
She took a sip of her water and began to make ready to speak once more. This news was not so welcome and confirmation of something that Willas and her grandmother knew not and something that only she did.
"Victory though it was not without losses. Lord Eddard Stark has fallen as I believe has Ser Jors Whitewolf. No doubt there were others too." she said to a pained looked from Lord Wyman and even more pained words from Ellaria.
"Jae. Oh, that poor boy." Ellaria said and were it anyone else or in any other setting then perhaps Margaery or someone else may have called her out for expressing it that way, here and now they did not.
"His grace will take this hard, Lady Sansa has already taken it very badly and I know the Kingsguard will wish to mourn in their own way, Ser Barristan. Soon though we must begin preparations to right the realm and I'm sure Lord Wyman that those from the North will seek to return to their homes. Perhaps together with Lord Monford, you can begin to make the preparations for that return?" she said looking to the Master of Trade.
"Of course, your grace." Lord Wyman said, his voice almost cracking as he thought perhaps more about the loss of Ned Stark than anything else.
"I know my husband is not one for feasts or celebrations and yet if anything called for one it's this. I say we make ready to hold one in the next few days. One for the Red Keep and those inside and others for as many in King's Landing that we can." Margaery said to nods of agreement.
They spoke of other things then, ravens to be sent to Lannisport and the Iron Islands to ready to bring those who'd evacuated to there back home to the North. Some words from Ellaria on some minor issues in the city, not exactly crimes but more misunderstandings. After calling the meeting to an end, Margaery made her way to the nursery where Elia was playing with Joana, Jon, Dorea, and Loreza. Then for the rest of the day, she spent most of her time looking out the windows and to the sky.
As night began to fall, she felt a sense of sadness come over her. The thoughts that it would be another day or more until she saw Jae were ones that she couldn't shake. She doubted anything had gone wrong or that there was anything to worry about, but wondered if perhaps there were things that had required him to stay a little longer. Just as she was about to make her way to ready Elia for their evening meal she heard it. The trill from the Indigo dragon was so loud that it almost sounded like a roar. Rushing to the balcony she looked up to see Rhaenix in the sky and then before she knew it, she and Elia were hurrying down to the courtyard.
They were soon joined by Dacey and her children, Ellaria and her own, her grandmother, Willas and Sansa, Joy and Prince Trystane, and Martyn along with Wylla. Ser Barristan had gathered all the Kingsguard and she smiled to see that it wasn't to be the Dragonpit that Rhaenix was landing. Margaery wasn't the only one looking eagerly to the dragon's back either. Ellaria, Dacey, the children, all looked to make sure that their loved ones were truly here and that it was not just some of them who'd arrived back.
"Papa, Papa has Ghost." Elia said happily as Margaery held her daughter's hand, Elia threatening to break away from her at any moment. Something she did as soon as Rhaenix landed and Jae, Oberyn, Jaime, Richard, and Arthur climbed down off the dragon's back.
Even in the fading light as the sun finally went down, Margaery could see the smiles on the faces of those who came towards them. Jaime, Oberyn, Richard, and even Arthur all seemed so very happy to see them. As for Jae, gods it made her heart still to see his smiling face and she felt Elia's hand break from her own and looked on as her daughter ran to her father.
"Papa, papa, you caught it, you caught the sun." Elia shouted out happily and then she laughed loudly when Jae caught her in his arms and swung her around.
"I caught a little dragon too." Jae said as he kissed Elia's cheek repeatedly making her laugh even louder.
"Papa." she heard two excited voices call out as Joanna and Jon quickly decided that if it was right for Elia then it was right for them too to greet their father this way.
Jaime was just like Jae, picking them both up in his arms and swinging them around while he kissed each of them repeatedly. Oberyn's girls may have been older but when Oberyn gave them a look as if to say why wasn't he been welcomed back so, they then wasted no time in ensuring he was quickly embraced just as warmly and then Jae was standing in front of her. He looked deeply into her eyes and then she was pulled into his arms. Jae somehow moving Elia so that he now held them both.
"God's Marge, I.." he said and then he was kissing her and not on the cheek.
Later that night.
At first, they shared their reunions, Jae insisting that they all ate together and no one seemed to disagree with him on that. He held her hand and Elia in his arms while he ate, or to be more precise picked at his food. The company more than the meal itself seeming to be what he truly wished for. It very quickly became one of those meals, Jae acting like a big child as he played with the younger children. Her husband speaking to each of them and he even sang when it was suggested.
When it came time for everyone to leave and to have their own far more private reunions, Jae seemed reluctant for them to go. It was only their need to be alone with those they loved or perhaps he'd have sought them to stay all night. He spoke to Dacey and Ellaria, explained to her grandmother where Loras and Garlan were and why they'd not come back with him. The only time he was not in her and Elia's sight and they were not in his was when he spoke to Sansa in another room. Even when he talked to Joy it was facing them both, as if he feared not seeing them or letting them out of his sight.
Margaery watched as he hugged Joy and whispered in her ear making her laugh, promises of yentures yet to come she wagered. What he said to Sansa she had to wait until later that night to find out, but whatever it was it brought a true smile to his sister's face. Oberyn, Jaime and Arthur, Barristan and Martyn he spoke to and again some words she was sure she heard without hearing. Spars, morning meetings, days off where needed, she was sure he spoke of them all. Then finally she, Jae, and Elia were alone and he carried their daughter to their room and as Margaery sat down on their bed, Jae began to tell Elia a story.
"A long time ago, a boy who thought himself a wolf found out he was very much not. Nor was he the dragon that he would one day grow into." Jae began.
"Was he a little dragon, papa, like me?" Elia asked as Jae tucked her into bed.
"He was a dragon cub, little dragon, he was a dragon cub." Jae said smiling.
Margaery listened as he told their daughter a tale of his life, a version of it fit to be a tale at least. She smiled as the Golden Rose was introduced and at Jae telling their daughter how the Dragon Cub's heart was no longer his and his alone. By the time she was undressed and lying in their bed, Elia was asleep and Jae had quickly undressed and joined her. It would not be the night that she or he would perhaps have liked to share and she promised herself that they would find some time for themselves alone on the morrow. In time she'd move Elia back to her room but for now, she doubted that her daughter or her husband for that matter would agree to such.
"You are well, Jae, after it all you are well?" she asked and saw him smile at her, his lips then pressing against her own as he kissed her deeply.
"I am as well as I can be. I don't wish to think about the things I know I'll soon be thinking about. I don't want to concentrate on the losses, for in time I'll do so. I want to concentrate and think about good things, Marge. My sister is to be wed soon, Sansa has waited long enough to be happy and I'll see her so by year's end. Martyn too will be wed soon, and I can once again ride Winter with Apples and Joy by my side. Joanna and Jon, Dorea and Loreza and my cousins. Soon I'm to be an uncle twice over as both Garland and Robb are to be fathers. In Dorne, my nephew is soon to meet his father and on Dragonstone my aunts are safe and well and among people they love." Jae said the smile never leaving his face.
"And you, Jae, what of you?" she asked softly.
"I too am with those I love. Elia, gods, look at her, Marge, look how perfect she is and as for her mother." Jae said with a chuckle.
"What of her mother?" she asked raising her eyebrow and trying not to laugh at the look on her husband's face.
"You heard the tale did you not. My heart is yours and yours alone, Just Margaery." Jae said as he kissed.
"As mine is yours, Just Jon."
Outside Volantis three moons later 302 AC.
It hit him not long after he'd returned though not truly until Loras had and had brought Jors body with him. For a few days, he was as melancholy as they said his father was wont to be, thoughts of losses forcing away the truth of the victory they'd truly scored. Though he'd tried not to let it be that way, he was helpless to stop it. Word from the North of his uncle's funeral and the nature of the one they'd had for Jors along with Loras's departure and the knowledge that he'd not see him for some time all combining in his head.
It was partly why he'd taken longer to do this than he had intended, though partly that was because he couldn't bring himself to be parted from Margaery and Elia or to see his daughter cry when he told her that he needed to leave again. As much as he'd fitted into the time since the war had ended, he felt he'd did little and had achieved less. Mainly because as much as he achieved in Westeros it paled in comparison with what he was destined to do. It was the same with those that he loved, Joy, Sansa, his cousins, his squire, and others. The time he spent with them was rewarding, soul cleansing, and yet a part of him named it wasteful too.
Other than when he was with his wife and daughter he felt he was letting people down. Present but not present and only going through the motions of living the life that he should. Had it not been for the news Margaery gave him, then gods only knew where his mind would have taken him. Only the thoughts of being a father once more was enough to make him get a grip on himself and do what it was he needed to. The fight he then expected to have had never came as his wife told him to go and do what he must. As Elia then told him that she knew he'd return and as Joy, Sansa and others said pretty much the same. Even Arthur and Jaime had not tried to stop him or sought to go with him, both placing their faith in him unequivocally. Rhaenix though put it all in perspective, his sister bringing it all home in one single word.
So he'd bid his wife and daughter farewell, spoken to the little dragon that Margaery carried inside of her. Kissed all three of them, though the last was a kiss to Margaery's stomach which would have to suffice for now, and set off. He'd considered stopping in Chroyane to rest and see Loras again, but so eager was he to do what he had set out to do and so keen was he to get there, that both he and Rhaenix had decided not to stop and had just flown by the city. They rested instead on a hill outside Volantis and as Rhaenix slept, Jae offered up his thanks to R'hllor in honor of Melisandre, Thoros, and the men of the Fiery Hand who'd paid the ultimate price to see the dawn was brought.
In King's Landing they'd held celebrations, feasts, he'd spoken on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor and named those who'd fallen and those who'd not as the true Heroes and Heroines of the Dawn. Outside R'hllor's temple, he'd stood beside Kinvara and named Melisandre, Thoros, Moqorro, and the others as true as any other who'd fought and died by his side in the War for the Dawn. He knew it annoyed the High Septon and would provoke trouble with the faith and he cared not, for no Septon or Septa had spilled blood or sweat in that war.
There was much he needed to do in Westeros, rights he needed to wrong, lives that needed to be made better. Weddings that he wished to attend and nieces and nephews he wished to meet. He'd suggested a Royal Progress to Margaery for after their babe was born. A visit to each of the kingdoms and to show Elia each of the lands she'd one day rule. Highgarden, Winterfell, Sunspear and Summerhall, Queenscrown and what had once been the Wall. If what he hoped to achieve here was anything like he believed it would be, Valyria too.
"Jae it's time." he hard Rhaenix say and he looked at her confused for a moment until he realized he'd drifted off to sleep.
It took them less than half a day to reach the peninsula and they flew over the islands before landing in the city itself. Jae looking to the manse that had once been his family's home and feeling Rhaenix's excitement which then fuelled his own. Climbing down off her back, he took the pack he had tied behind him and carried it with him. Moving to her head, he leaned against he and looked deeply into her purple eyes.
"I am here because of many people, Rhae. My uncle Ned, Aemon, Jaime, Margaery. Daenys, father, and my mother. You though, without you I could never have done all I've done, without you I would be lost." he said softly.
"You will never be without me, little brother. We are bonded you and me, where you go, I go." Rhaenix said.
"Where you go, I go, always." he replied.
Turning from her, he took Lightbringer from its scabbard and felt the vibration from Rhaenix's wings as she left the ground and flew high into the sky. He knelt down, removed the jar from the pack, and let the blood he'd spent moons gathering flow over the sword. As it began to shine he began to sing. The song was haunting, the words coming from him though he'd planned them not. Valyrian ringing out in Valyria once more and it was the only sound that could now be heard. In the distance and around him the rivers of fire no longer flowed and rocks though they moved, made no noise. As he sang, towers righted themselves, buildings that had long fallen into disuse began to look new once more and rivers of fire turned into rivers for true.
On and on he sang, Lightbringer shining ever more brightly and his voice not once losing its tenor. The song just kept being sung, its words never faltering, and not once did he hesitate in singing them. When the end came he knew not, one moment he was singing and then he was as silent as the night. Lightbringer began to fade and Jae rose unsteadily to his feet before righting himself. He looked up to the sky and couldn't see Rhaenix and yet he worried not, she was with him always, and yet for now he was alone. He heard them long before he saw them, the sound of their voices carrying in the wind and as he moved toward them he heard the trill of dragons in the sky.
Looking up he saw hundreds of them, alive and yet not, and how he knew what they were was beyond his comprehension. Guardians, these were the Guardians of Valyria, the Protectors of the Land Eternal and he smiled at that, a smile that only grew ever more when he saw them all now moving in front of him. His grandmother looked just as she had the last time he came here, Viserys looked far more full of vigor than he'd ever seen him before. Egg looked like the king he should have been while Elia's smile stirred his heart so much like Oberyn's was it. His mother and father held each other's hands, both looking at him while Daenys stood a little to the side, and then he felt her arms around him, felt he kiss his cheek, and heard her speak.
"We did it, little brother, we did it The Lands Eternal are reborn." Rhaenys said and which of them wept first only the gods knew, though both of them wept tears of joy.
A/N: Two years ago in response to a terrible season, which then led to an even worst ending, of a show we'd all put so many years of our lives into, I decided to try my hand at writing a fic.
Despite not knowing what I was doing, something clear in the early chapters, I kept at it and it became what it now is. My intention was to concentrate on the things the show either forgot or ignored. To hit certain points that were glossed over and most of all to make the characters as key as the plot.
I wanted to show the magic and lore and give an interpretation of them that fitted into the plot I wanted to use. To make the reality of Jon Snow's parentage mean something and to delve into the idea of what the Prince that was Promised and the Song of Ice and Fire could mean.
To have characters behave in a way that made sense, rather than was simply plot points and that fitted in with their pre-established actions. Rather than have them suddenly be out of character because the plot needed them to be.
Certain characters I amped up certain characteristics of and I know that Cat, Edmure, Jon Arryn, and others behaved in ways that a lot of people completely disagree that they would. I've tried to explain both in the story and in my answers to reviews and questions the reasons for those behaviors and to some, I've perhaps succeeded in doing so, to others perhaps not.
With Jon Snow I know I've made him OP and some may say Gary Stuish, again I've tried to explain this within the lore and context of the story I've tried to tell. Jon here is a messianic figure because that's who he was almost meant to be in this story and perhaps in the one Grrm will seek to tell. The only difference being that he's not a sacrificial one.
I believe I've hit more of the marks I set out to hit than I've missed. That over time thanks to some great and pertinent advice and constructive criticism I've become a better writer, though some may disagree.
I've found a newfound love for the world of ASOIAF which given how the show ended is no mean feat. It's because of that love that I began other fics and I have many more stories that I wish to tell.
In the near future, I'll be posting some one-shots which are a collaboration with a good friend of mine, a shorter story, and a couple of larger ones that are ideas that I think are interesting.
Among my own separate ideas, I've mentioned some amongst the answers to reviews. A time travel fic that spans almost every key point of the Targ History from the Conquest to Robert's rebellion. A Jon/Margaery vs. Robb/Dany fic and even from a Targ lover such as myself a more Northern based Jon fic where the Targs may be more antagonists than protagonists.
Originally as I said in my last notes this story was to have large epilogues, but in the end, I've decided that they just wouldn't work.
There are still tales to be told in this world and with these characters. Enemies to be vanquished, love to blossom, adventures to come, and plot threads to be tied up.
So after a little break from this world, while I concentrate on some other works, I'll be delving back into it once more and telling even more tales.
For those who've not already done so I'd ask you to check out Leialani and Arrow's fic, TDC: Missing Scenes and What If Scenarios. It serves as not just a great companion piece to this but as an excellent story in its own right. You'll see some different perspectives of key events and a different take on others and it has influenced some of my own thoughts as much as this has influenced it.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you all, each and every person who's given their time to read this fic, long as it is. More so to every single person who reviewed, to everyone who offered advice, to those whose advice I took and whose suggestions made it into the fic, you know who you are. I've enjoyed every single back and forth with each of you, even when you tell me how wrong I am.
When starting this I never really believed people would read it. That so many of you have has overwhelmed me and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You've helped me greatly during these past two years. Through what we've all gone through in the world and through some personal losses that your best wishes meant so much to me for, I thank you all.
Jae, Margaery, Elia, Rhaenix, Jaime, Joy, and the rest will soon return for more Yentures in The Dragon Cub: After the Dawn.
Daryl Dixon: Perhaps not, I feel given what's to come in the sequel he did and that his arc was done.
Nina: So very glad you've enjoyed it.
Puffgirl: Hope this worked for you, the end is the beginning, has a nice ring to it.
Uncle Dork: Thanks so much for saying that, it means a lot to know you're liking it that much.
Mmnight: I wanted to give this an ending, and doing the follow-up allows for it to be an almost book ending rather than a limp to the end sort of thing.
Pauline: Wow, thanks for saying that it means everything to me that you've felt that way. You've summed up pretty much my entire goals for this story in your review, thank you.
Fletcher: Really happy you've liked this, while this is the end it's really not, so I hope you come along for the ride in the sequel.
Undeath: I had too with Blount lol, As I was tying this all up for the end I did a reread and found the sod was still alive so wanted to give him a worthy end lol. Stannis we'll see more of in the next fic, there will be big changes in his life, the fall of the Wall changes everything in regards to him.
Scarila: I'm so glad you liked it. I considered two different routes in regard to the deaths, either to almost pile them on together so we get the negative before the positive or to do it how I did where Ned and the deaths of the others, pretty much led to the other's survival. I wanted to have it tense for they could fall but because the Night King specifically targeted Jae's loved ones and because they'd taken so much magic from him, Jae was able to counter and some of those he sent White Walkers after were able to fight them back.
The Sphynx: Each time I've read one of your poems has been a true joy, my friend, this one just as much.
Xan Merrick; Thank you, my friend, I'm glad to hit a point where it's done, so that it would stand alone, rather than it being left open-ended. So in that regard, I'm glad it's done, but I'm so happy there is more to tell.
Victoria: My dearest friend, I feel I can call you that now. I really wanted to tie this up and concentrate on the elements that made us love the world. Direwolves, Dragons, Magic, Characters all should play such a big part especially in the War for the Dawn, the show kind of forgot a lot of that. Hell Ghost became an irrelevance, he's far too important for that and deserves his moment in the sun too. I'm so pleased you've enjoyed this ride and that even though this particular part of it is over, there's more to come. Stay safe, well, and smiling my friend, until we meet again.
Celexys: I hope this worked for you, I tried to show just enough because in time we'll see so much more of these characters and see their own reactions, and I kind of wanted this chapter to be focussed on fewer if you get me. To give us the end the story needed, but to open it up for what's to come.
Magnetic Ducky: You feel just how I do, one door closing but another opening.
Irish Hermit: I've been setting up the Goatsbane/Ghost thing since pretty much the first tourney of King's Landing, so it's good that not only did it pay off but the joke still hit too. I think there may be a new Ghost to come, Elia has or will be getting a white wolf of her very own, so maybe it'll be the smaller wolf that Goatsbane will take issue with lol. No, Tyron didn't know about Arianne until after the fight. That's it exactly with the blue eyes, the NK's magic slightly overwhelmed Jae's own when he absorbed it.
Remi: Thanks so much, so glad you felt that way.
Creativo: El malvado Rey Nocturno del Norte, jejeje.
Xand007: Thanks so much, my friend. Yeah, the blue eyes thing was to give a little shock. The Night King made a big mistake in going after Jae's loved ones, in essence by killing Ned Stark he ensured his own defeat as Jae wouldn't allow more to fall and the Night King lost more magic making him easier to kill. Had he just gone how he was going, he'd probably have achieved more. Thanks for saying that about the battles. Really glad you're looking forward to the sequel. Until then, stay safe and sound and smile my friend, smile each day.
Hkt29: So glad you liked the scythes, it struck me that they would be perfect for them, able to just brush aside those beneath them easily with such a weapon.
Moonlight echoes: So happy you feel that way, the closer I got to the end the more it felt like a dumb thing to do, it can work so much better in a sequel.
Jman: Thanks so much, it's been a long ride indeed lol.