Disclaimer = I do not own Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Thank you to those that read and support the story with your encouragement. It really means a lot.
Shout out to azlil7 who kindly gave me an example of medieval punishment which inspired Joffrey's next act of cruelty.
Another Asgardian weapon and the only other one in the story will be revealed in this chapter. Given who it is intended for you might understand just why this one was chosen.
Sorry no review responses this time but if you have a question best send a private message. It might take me a while but I will get back to you.
On with the story…
Chapter 21 - Battle for the Dawn Part 1
True North, Westeros…
The town was in an uproar with the sudden curse and the knowledge that the Walkers and their army of the dead were on the way. Jon and Meera were in a private room as they argued about just what they were going to do.
"The Night's Watch will never let them through the Wall and you know it Jon." Meera said with frustration.
"Lord Commander Joer. Is reasonable, we could convince him." Jon started saying but Meera just shook her head.
"He might be reasonable but those under his command won't be. And even if you did convince the Watch to let them through the Northern lords would never permit so many wildlings to settle all at once. Not to mention we would have to leave the cursed ones here to die." Meera said plainly. They were in a bad situation and they knew it. So, with little else to say they exited the room and joined Lorra, Benjen and Sif who were debating much the same thing.
"You should take what people you can and take them south of the Wall Sif." Lorra said with a quivering lip as herself and her sons would be the ones who had to stay behind. Her own brother with her.
"Not a chance Lorra, I've been cutting down the Army of the Dead for years. Their numbers are much smaller now, they can be beaten." Sif urged her and turned to Jon and Meera. "If you are able to delay them for a few days we can prepare some defences and then fight them on more even ground."
"You want us to use hit and run attacks on the dead?" Meera said with dismay. "Before we even consider this just what works against them as I doubt a sword or spear alone will do it." She knew thousands of people were depending on them to do it but she wasn't rushing into it. She would much rather send for reinforcements from the North but if the Army of the Dead was as close as Loki claimed they probably wouldn't have time.
"The Wights themselves are vulnerable to fire and dragonglass. But their masters the Walkers are far tougher than they are." Sif said with the air of a very strict teacher. "Not only are they stronger than any mortal but far more resilient. No fire is warm enough to hurt them. The only way to kill them is with Valyrian steel and dragonglass. We have some of the latter so take that and what Loki brought with him. It should be helpful to you. Lastly, if any of your party die, burn the body. The Walkers will bring them back to kill you if you don't." Sif said, ever the practical one.
"Do what damage you can and then fall back here." Benjen said with dread in his stomach for having to send his niece and nephew to fight the Walkers even if it was just to try and limit their numbers, before they hit the town so hopefully they didn't all get slaughtered.
"This is insane." Meera said with a shake of her head, not believing this was really happening. Although her magic was limited here, she could sense that the curse Loki had put on the others was very real and while many of those affected meant nothing to her, she was damned if she was leaving Uncle Benjen and her brother's friends to die! Meera thought with fury at Loki, if she ever saw him again, she swore to make him familiar with the pointy end of her spear! She thought to herself, almost foaming at the month.
"Maybe, but the world is insane anyway. Why not this too?" Sif pressed and Meera could hardly believe she was even considering this.
"For the sake of those living here. We'll do it." Jon said and Meera frowned at him volunteering them for this but she could see that same thick-headed determination that had brought Jon to the Wall in his eyes again and knew he would not budge from this.
"Well, you'd best take the armour then." Lorra said with worry for her niece and nephew who were going to have to try and whittle down the enemy numbers. She knew what Valyrian steel was from seeing Ice in when she had been at Winterfell so that armour would be a major asset for them.
Meera would normally have insisted someone else wear it so they would be better protected but the armour had been made in her size. How Loki had figured that out was something she had no idea about but still it was beautiful armour and with reluctance she took the chest into a separate room and donned the armour.
When she emerged, they all blinked in awe of how well it suited her.
The armour had a blue warm fabric underneath while the Valyrian steel was layered in plates so it moved as she did and would not inhabit her movement although the chest piece was more of a single piece in front and behind. The greaves and vambraces too were made of Valyrian steel and even the boots had plates covering the shins. Furs for warmth were draped around her shoulders.
Meera had also put her hair back and tied it into some braids like those she wore while sparring.
She looked like a warrior queen and when she noticed they were staring at her she asked them with annoyance.
"Nothing." Benjen said with a smile, wishing dearly that Ned could see his little girl now. With Gungnir strapped to her back, the hatchet she had been given by Dacey Mormont at her waist along with the hunting knife her great uncle had given her and the sword the armour had come with…she looked very striking and if she walked around most of the time like this she would have men dropping at her feet just so she would look at them.
- x -
With the supplies and weapons loaded into primitive sleds that they had to drag with them they left the others behind while those that could and volunteers from the town joined them on their journey north. The snow was bitterly cold, even more so than their journey here and so deep it made moving the sleds very hard work.
Wrapped up in the thickest furs they could find it seemed to offer little protection from the cold.
"This cold could kill us if we don't find shelter." Meera said, her teeth chattering and dearly wishing she could cast a warming spell right now. Gendry who was one of the few of their party that had been willing and able to follow told her.
"The wildlings I spoke to back at the town said there's a village not far from here. Primitive walls, basic dwellings that might still be standing and caves if they are gone."
"It's Free Folk you fucking twit! But the lad is right about the village." Ygritte said from her position as guide. "Used to be called Warm Caves till it was abandoned after we built the town. Far safer from the nastier Free Folk in the town than they were there." Ygritte said with a smirk at having more knowledge than them but Samwell who had accompanied them because despite his own words about being a coward he could not let them and especially Jon, face this threat alone had questions to ask.
"Wonder why is called Warm Caves? Does it have hot springs like Winterfell?" Samwell asked with genuine interest and Ygritte who did not know what those were just said shortly.
"How the fuck should I know? You fat bastard? If we make good time, they we should be there by sundown." Ygritte said dismissively and kept on going. Samwell looked a bit unsettled but Jon patted him on the back and they continued on.
Arriving in the town it was actually in better condition than they had hoped. Some basic stone structures were still standing along with a wall as tall as a man made of badly organised and mortared stone which had an empty moat or ditch in front of it.
It was for the cold travellers a very welcome sight as they made their way in and with considerable effort pushed the primitive wooden log door closed. Settling in one of the larger stone buildings they made a fire and crowded around it to warm themselves while Jon and Meera went to explore these caves.
The heat of the caves was a great surprise and Meera felt the walls which were wet, despite sweating in their furs they kept on going, lighting torches so they could see the way ahead.
Soon they found themselves in a cave with a good-sized lagoon of water with steam coming off it. They were impressed and wiped the sweat off their brows.
"Hot springs." Meera said with a smile, this would be not only a source of water but somewhere to keep them warm when they needed it. Dipping her hand carefully into the water she felt it was indeed hot and you certainly shouldn't spend too long in there.
"This will do as a base for now." Jon said before he suddenly could swear, he heard a voice. He turned in the direction it came from which was deeper into the cave and asked Meera.
"Did you hear that?" Jon asked Meera who looked away from the pool and gave him a questioning look.
"I heard nothing Jon. I would say that you might have imagined it but given where we are, best not take any chances. Lead the way." She said, doubtful it was important but they needed to make sure they were secure here so they had better check it out. To be safe though she drew Gungnir just in case.
Despite being a hot spring and having several pools there was seemingly nothing of importance here and no sign of anyone. Just as they came to the last cavern which contained yet another slightly larger pool, they noticed something at its centre.
A small rock island was in the centre of pool upon which a sword was impaled into the rock. The obvious similarities to the sword in the stone legend were not lost on Meera, Jon however was seemingly entranced by the sword and without even removing his clothes he moved forward into the hot water.
"JON!" Meera called out in alarm but Jon was helpless it seemed to resist the call of the sword and plunged into the water, wading through it till he was up to his neck. Reaching the island quickly he clambered up onto it and without any hesitation while Meera watched with concern Jon grabbed the hilt of the sword and pulled it free of the stone.
It was a very large sword, easily as big as Ice but Jon seemed able to lift it with ease. The blade was elegant with a slight billowing at the end before the tip and the hilt itself was golden coloured with a curved and pointed cross guard. The length of it was covered in runic lettering and intricate interlocking patterns that ran along the hilt and even along the centre of the blade itself.
Even at this distance Meera was impressed at the sword and its craftmanship but moments later she was shocked when the runes on the sword began to glow and Jon started winching as if in pain.
"Jon! Drop it!" Meera said urgently as she leapt the small distance to the island, wading the last few feet. Jon however couldn't respond as he was gritting his teeth so tight, they might break. Meera scrambled on the island just as the sword's runes stopped glowing and Jon was able to drop the sword which clattered loudly as it hit the floor.
"Are you hurt?" Meera asked quickly, grabbing his hands to check them only to see there was no mark or discolouration at all. She was puzzled at that since Jon had been clearly in pain yet it had left no mark on him. Jon himself was confused but eventually he looked down at the sword.
Meera now she was closer to the sword read the runic words written on the blade and the name wasn't familiar but the style of the weapon was and the language was too.
"Hofund." Meera read off the sword's blade, not knowing what it meant but looking at the metal it was extremely similar to her own spear and made in the same style. Jon picked the sword up again and held it aloft, bracing himself as he expected the pain to return but it didn't this time. Jon was confused at this and more so at how the sword seemed so light, surely it should be heavier than a normal sword or at least the same weight but he could lift it like it was nothing.
Just as suddenly as the pain appeared though, intense blue flames appeared around the sword making both of them jump but as soon as they appeared, Jon thought to make them go away and they did as suddenly as they came.
Meera and Jon wearily looked at the sword but as nothing happened as Jon continued to hold it and Meera and Jon waded back through the water with their clothes now soaked through and removed them to wait while they dried. The sword Hofund lay next to Gungnir on the ground while their clothes lay out drying.
"They come from the same place, I'm pretty sure of that." Meera told Jon who had been strangely silent this whole time like he had something on his mind. Meera would have asked about it before but with everything that had been thrown at them she simply hadn't had the time. It was she decided it was high time she did find out what was bothering Jon so much. "What happened Jon? Even quiet as you are normally this is strange even for you? So, what is it?"
Jon was a little caught off guard by the question, his mind still spinning from the new sword that apparently had magic in it and may be as old as Gungnir. He was distracted from the matter of his parentage by that but now Meera, his sister who was not his sister was staring at him with those insistent eyes of hers and he just couldn't pretend nothing was wrong.
"I'm not your brother. I'm your cousin." Jon said with dread, thing those words as he honestly loved Meera and the others as much as you would a sibling and he knew they loved him the same way. "I am the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Their son that your father claimed as his own to protect him from Robert Baratheon and the Lannisters." Jon told her with bitterness, still wishing it wasn't true.
Meera took a moment to swallow what Jon had just told her, it was she thought very unlikely and she had to ask.
"Jon, that's madness. Who told you this?" Meera asked Jon who gave her a baleful look.
"Loki, I managed to use a Weirwood to confirm it." Jon told her with anger at the bastard that had forced them into this situation and torn the certainties away from their lives.
Meera would have doubted anything Loki said on general principal but the fact Jon had used a Weirwood to confirm it made her believe it. She didn't doubt Jon's abilities with magic having taught him herself but the idea that their father had been lying to them all these years was difficult to accept. However, if he was trying to protect Aunt Lyanna's child then Meera knew that is exactly the sort of thing he would do.
Father, she thought sadly, why didn't you trust us?
"Do you want the throne?" Meera asked, wondering if maybe he might because no one would be more dutiful in their responsibilities as a ruler than Jon would. He had more right to it than anyone in Westeros and beyond. Jon looked alarmed at the idea however and said quickly.
"No, never!" Jon said with a look of horror at the mere idea on his face. "I don't want the throne and never would be worthy the honour."
Don't want it, I can understand. Meera thought with a small smile. Not worthy? Never Jon, you are the worthiest of that power because you would respect it and the responsibilities that come with it. You would be a king that does his duty and serve as protector for the realm and its people. But why you don't want that weight on your shoulders? That I understand Meera thought sadly. Meera knew from her other life as Harry what the weight of expectation could do to a person, how the pressure of it could crush or break you no matter how strong you were.
She would never wish that on Jon, whatever else happened she would respect his wishes.
"Then it will go no further than us." Meera told him with a smile. "We'll have to tell Robb and the others because they will need to know in case anyone else figures it out but Jon, remember this." She said taking a gentle hold of his chin and made him look her in the eye to make sure he heard what she said next. "You are my brother. No matter what anyone else says, you are my brother and Robb's, Sansa's, Arya's, Bran's and Rickon's. We are family, come what may." Meera said with a bright smile.
She had never known what it was like to have siblings in her life as Harry, she had been lucky to have such loving people in their life like the Weasleys among others. But it had always been a sore point with them when they had seen families together, the unlimited and unconditional love they seemed to give without thinking. Their only family on that world couldn't have been further from that. The Dursleys themselves were the most narrow-minded people imaginable and love was reserved for those that met their standards alone.
So, when they had been given one on this world, they would never take it for granted and make the most of all the time they had with them.
Niflheim, Freefolk Settlement…
Mira Forrester was uncomfortable as she moved around the town, she dearly wished she was with her lady or rather that Meera was here with her now as she felt the roving eyes of the town's men on her. Some were truly lecherous and it scared her, Lorra Snow had her sons stay with her most of the time but sadly they couldn't be with her every moment.
So, as she walked back towards the hall, she found herself face to face with a tall and rough looking Wildling, he was dressed in the poor-quality furs and had a poor looking stone club on his back.
"Pretty thing, whelp like you would give me good sons I'll bet. I'm taking ya." He said and grabbed her forcefully by the arm and she felt terrified but called out.
"LET GO OF ME!" But no-one came and the wildling seemed to revel in the fact no one was going to help her and started dragging her off. She was nearly frozen in fear but remembered the dagger Lady Meera insisted she carry on her person wherever she went and something she had not failed to do since arriving here. She quickly picked it out and with all the strength she had stabbed straight into the arm that was holding her.
The wildling yelled out in pain and immediately let her go, she scrambled back with the dagger bloody and still in her hand. The rough wildling snarled at her, blood leaking from his arm and he drew his stone club, her eyes widened at the sight of it knowing she was almost certainly dead at this point but took a calming breath and swore to herself not to go down easily, gripping her dagger tight in her hand.
However, before he could charge a large snow bear appeared almost from nowhere and knocked the wildling down, standing over him snarling with his large teeth. The wildling went from angry to terrified in the blink of an eye. Mira meanwhile was confused about just where the bear had come from until she saw Josera and Elsera appear from the side smirking.
"What a halfwit." Elsera said with a look of satisfied amusement while the wildling just lay with the bear still snarling in his face, blood leaking from his arm and a wet spot forming on his breeches.
"Can't let you do it." Josera said with a mocking smirk. "After all, girl's our kin. Wouldn't be right."
Mira was astonished that not only had her two half-siblings come to her aid when she was likely going to be killed or raped, maybe both but also, they had called her kin. That alone was a shock.
"Go on, get out." Elsera said and the wildling didn't say anything just scrambled away with his arm still bleeding and his breeches stained. The snow bear walked back over to Josera who petted it and Elsera told Mira.
"So, you do have some Northern strength in you after all. Not such a prim lady underneath." Elsera said with a smirk and Mira just said.
"I'd have cut him well before he laid hands on me." Mira said with a challenging look as if daring them to contradict her. Both Elsera and Josera though looked pleased at her response.
"Good, can't have a weak sister."
Stony Shore, the North…
The Stony Shore was literally what its name suggested, a rocky shoreline where few people lived but it did have an inlet which became a river that led deeper into the North, specifically two small joined lakes where villages did exist.
Having been thwarted in other places the Iron Born had decided to try their luck at raiding here, sail up the rivers and raid the villages they came too.
However, Harrion Karstark had anticipated this tactic and had a small army in place to defend the river. Not to mention given its proximity to the Rills the river had been fortified with river gates like other rivers to the south.
So, the ten ships that had thought to try their luck by running the river were now bottled up as northern rangers fired at the ships mid river while they tried to turn around to escape as the gates blocked them from moving further. Some fired arrows which they had set alight to set fire to their longboats. Fire spreading across the deck and the raiders on deck throwing themselves overboard to avoid the flames. Some drowned but a few managed to swim their way to shore if they weren't picked off by northern archers in the water.
However, the few that did make it to the shore were in no way luckier than those that didn't as death waited for them there too.
Weakened by the hard swim in the cold water they staggered onto the shore only to see Arya Stark standing there with a vicious grin on her face. Without wasting a second with taunting them she used her short sword and dagger to slice through their throats or stab them through the chest. The few who had any strength left in them to fight were slow and sluggish, allowing her to duck and roll easily around them to avoid their poor attacks before striking back. Arya would duck and roll around them but slash at their joints as she passed. They often fell as their limb already tired couldn't support them and then she would finish them off with ruthless efficiency.
Arya was quite enjoying herself as she moved along the banks of the river, looking for survivors. She suspected Sansa had wanted to get her away from Winterfell for a while but travelling around the North to defend it was exactly what she wanted. She was proud of herself for actually doing this and defying all traditional roles for women.
Arya didn't see herself as a great hero but she felt accomplished when she did these things to defend the North and its people. She was doing this for herself as much as for the North and hopefully when this war was over, she would travel the Seven Kingdoms and maybe even further if she could Arya thought with excitement at the thought of seeing the world for herself.
The same tactic that Robb himself had deployed in the North, having the rivers patrolled by the Northern Rangers was proving equally as effective in the Riverlands.
Of course, given it was the 'River' lands there was a great deal more territory to cover but that was an issue for another day, right now Robb Stark was fighting to rid the Cape of Eagles of the Iron Born and their leader Yara Greyjoy.
He was in his armour and leading the charge against the Iron born camp personally. Ice in hand and Greywind at his side he was cutting a bloody path through them till he reached the heart of the camp looking for their leader. At his side was a group of men and one woman that he trusted, perhaps not as much as his own family but enough that he trusted them to watch his back.
Ser Lucas Blackwood, Roose Ryswell, Robin Flint, Daryn Hornwood, Eddard Karstark, Ser Donnel Locke, Patrek Mallister and last but by no means least his sister's old friend Dacey Mormont.
They were at his side in the thick of battle, providing him with his best defence as he fought on, calling them a Kingsguard was misleading as he was no king but the Battle Companions as he was referring to them were quickly making a name for themselves around the Riverlands.
However, as Robb managed to reach the centre of the camp and the last resistance was crumbling, he noticed that Theon's sister was conspicuous by her absence Robb thought but through his link to Greywind he sees a ship leaving, the Black Wind…Yara's ship.
Robb was furious that the woman had gotten away and from the looks of it any prisoners they had taken were gone too he fumed but at least he had managed to drive them out of the Riverlands, for now at least Robb thought darkly as he knew they would soon be back. He would be ready for that so they actually showed their worthless hides around here and again he would tear them to pieces for all the pain they inflicted on the people. Not to mention taking him away from Winterfell when his wife was having their first child.
A sound of a horn announced the end of the battle as any remaining Iron Born laid down their weapons and surrendered. He would turn them over to local lords Robb thought, let them deal with the prisoners and save him the trouble.
After all he had just received word that his grandfather Lord Tully had passed and for the sake of decorum, he would be expected to attend the funeral even though he hardly knew the man and had not had a good impression of him the last time they had met at the Twins. However, it also meant seeing his own mother for the first time in years as she would doubtlessly be attending the funeral and the last thing, he wanted to do was to talk to her.
A lord's work was never done, Robb thought with an exhaustion and prepared himself for the ride to Riverrun.
- x -
Riverrun, the Riverlands…
Catelyn was depressed at the passing of her father, taking a little comfort at the fact he had little Minisa and her of course to comfort him in his last few days. The only times he seemed to perk up was when she would place her youngest daughter in his arms and she would snuggle into him. She had almost tears in her eyes as such things would never happen again.
It had been a heart-warming sight. Catelyn smiled a little at the memory but her smile grew wider as she watched Minisa taking her first steps. The little girl giggled as she got used to her legs rather than crawling, she slowly made her way towards her and Catelyn held out her arms to encourage her. She had done this with all her other children and doing it again with Minisa made her heart feel so full of love it might burst. Minisa was already a beautiful child, her red hair had darkened to a much deeper shade perhaps even lighter crimson, deep sapphire-coloured eyes, her skin was clear and her smile brightened up the room. No one could help smile when she smiled and Minisa had already gotten most of Riverrun wrapped around her little finger.
The funeral was very soon and she would be there to see her father laid to rest but while she was not looking forward to that day there was something for her to be happy even hopeful about.
Robb was coming here for the funeral!
Her eldest son was coming here! She thought with joyful excitement. After not seeing him for nearly two years at last she was going to see him! Catelyn thought with a smile, the only thing that could make things better was if the rest of her children were coming but only Robb was this time.
This was perhaps her only chance to reconcile with her son and if it went well maybe with the rest of her children as well. But she thought carefully, one step at a time.
The Red Keep, Kings Landing…
"The lords around the realm are unnerved by his grace's use of wildfire against Stokeworth." Varys told Tyrion as they meant in private. His eyes concerned as many were starting to wonder if Joffrey was the second coming of the Mad King.
"It is to be expected." Tyrion said tiredly, he had been putting out political brushfires ever since and it was getting him to rethink allowing Joffrey to stay on the throne for long. It was a major headache keeping him in check and soothing the wounds he left even if he was making a lot of coin and power from his dealings as Hand. Tyrion was expanding his own fortune and better yet was doing it without breaking the law.
He had even increased the influence and wealth of his subordinates, Lynthorne had been granted the lands of Stokeworth now its ruling house was extinct while Bronn had gained the lands of House Langward whose lord had died in the assault on the city. He had even improved his illegitimate sister Marei's standing as recently he had wed her to Lynthorne, whose first wife had died last year of a fever and left him childless. She was without a doubt the best of his siblings and Lynthorne would treat her like a lady.
He knew the sort of things Tyrion would do if he hurt Marei.
Tyrion was also enjoying a break from Cersei's constant annoying rhetoric that all the kingdoms regardless of what they might currently be doing should come here to fight for Joffrey or rather serve her whims while their own homes burned. The injuries the whipping Joffrey had ordered had scarred her back quite badly and she was unwilling to appear in public till her gowns had been altered to hide all of them, something Tyrion enjoyed slowing just for his own amusement.
"But his latest action will only fuel that fire my lord." Varys warned him, bringing him back to the present and Tyrion nodded with stress tightening his face as he considered Joffrey's latest batch of terror.
A group of Stannis sympathisers had been arrested for speaking out against the king, and Joffrey had handed out a rather cruel punishment upon them. Rather than merely having them imprisoned or just killed, Joffrey had most of them blinded with a red-hot poker so 'he would be the last and only king they would ever see' before condemning them to a slow death in the Black Cells. The few he hadn't blinded had lost their hands and been sent to Stannis with what they had seen.
It had been done in the throne room of all places Tyrion thought with a frown knowing how quickly the news was going to spread when the entire court had seen it. It was a little better as it was only against his enemies that Joffrey punished like this but it was still going to make more people turn against them as much as some would obey out of fear.
Speaking of the devil, Joffrey chose that moment to walk into Tyrion's solar with the Hound behind him. Tyrion and Varys despite having no loyalty to him whatsoever leapt to their feet and said respectfully.
"Your grace." Both bowing in deference they didn't feel. Joffrey himself ignored the motion and made his declaration.
"Since the Riverlands has been feeding the city and has stayed loyal to the crown I suppose we should put an appearance at Lord Tully's funeral." Joffrey said and the pair of men had to stop themselves from rising their eyebrows as for a moment they thought Joffrey was actually going to go up there himself only to return to form a moment later by saying. "I have many duties that in war will not allow me to go there myself and both yourselves are needed here. So, I will send the head of my Kingsguard in my place." Joffrey declared.
Tyrion sighed internally, given the viciousness of Joffrey it was probably best he stayed here rather than risk insulting or harming any of the Riverlanders especially the lords who were selling them food. His choice of Jaime to go troubled Tyrion a little. Not due to any danger as Jaime should be able to take care of himself but Jaime was hardly the most diplomatic of men. Tyrion wondered if his plan was going half and well as he wanted but, in the Reach at least the most loyal followers of his father continued to fall while his own influence grew.
All for his own personal goal, the end of House Lannister and more importantly his father.
Bronzegate, the Stormlands…
On the eastern side of the Stormlands was Bronzegate, a castle that was right next to a road that led to Kings Landing and a group of Stormlords had on the orders of their king tried to use it to bypass the Lannister Army. However, Tywin Lannister had caught wind of their plan and moved his army to block flank them.
The thick forest that made up the King's Wood as it was known made it easy for Lannister soldiers to hide, lying in wait for the Stormlanders to come through. The men were eager for battle but fear of their lord made them wait silently as they were supposed to. Tywin himself was even present for this although he was in the tent nearby.
When the enemy finally appeared, it was starting to get dark but the Lannisters could see them in the dying light while the Stormlanders had nearly no chance of seeing them until it was too late.
When they had enough of the army on either side of the enemy force the horn was blown to signal the ambush. The Lannisters, eager for battle after waiting nearly all day rushed in full armour out of the thick tree line straight at the Stormlanders who were in column of march, not ready for battle at all with their weapons stowed and caught right in the flank by the Lannister Army.
The Lannisters, sick of being on the losing end for most of the war so far let all their frustration and anger out on the Stormlanders who were caught between a hammer and an anvil. Their screams filled the air as they found themselves enveloped and trapped with little hope of escape.
Tywin smiled from the side as he sipped his tea, this slaughter would remind the entirety of Westeros that they were a force to be feared.
- x -
Stannis Baratheon's Camp, the Reach…
Stannis was reading the raven about the ambush of his surprise attack force and felt a great deal of frustration at the Lannisters interdiction of his route north. He had the forces he needed to attack and probably take Kings Landing but was stuck in the Reach and Stormlands thanks to Tywin Lannister.
If that weren't bad enough the Reach had hired foreign sellswords to try and wipe out the Clansmen he thought with a frown. They were being hounded wherever they went and he had been forced to pull them back to the Stormlands for now till they could risk another attack.
However, the fear they had created had finally proved useful.
"Renly is a false king and we have seen how ineffective he is as a leader. We in the Reach have little stomach for war but we will pledge what fighting men we have and the food we make to you." Lord Ashford said with a sickly begging look on his face. Stannis could well understand that look since his lands not to mention the other lords he represented had been ravaged by the Clansmen and was eager to protect himself from more of the same.
The men being offered would allow he to replenish his ranks after the Lannister ambush not to mention the food would keep his army fed and healthy. It was a decent offer and they were not asking for much, merely for the attacks to stop and to be remembered when the war was over.
So, he decided to accept.
"Very well, your past transgressions against me will be forgiven and the Clansmen kept from your lands." Stannis told them sternly and the lords looked so relieved he had accepted their offer and that they would be safe from any further attacks.
"Your grace." Ser Lomas Estermont said as he entered the tent unannounced, something that would annoy Stannis even if they weren't kin but he told him. "Message from Master Lom Kilburn."
Stannis wasted no time in taking it as Lom remained one of his most capable men, the message was short but informative. While he had not been able to recruit anymore of the wildlings to fight for Stannis's army, he had managed to hire the Company of the Cat to come and fight for him. That did please Stannis as that company had three thousand men to bolster his forces.
Men enough that he should be able to attack the larger Reach houses.
- x -
Highgarden, the Reach…
Olenna sat at the table with her son Mace, Lord Rowan, Lord Hightower and a number of prominent Reach lords to discuss the current situation which was far from over. Her sellswords might have driven the wildlings out of the Reach but they were sure to return and worse a number of Reach lords had defected to Stannis due to those raids and the weak leadership from Highgarden. Losing them vassals, a part of their reputation and their fighting force all at the same time.
So, to find a solution she had called this meeting, her most powerful vassals, her son and more importantly Renly to discuss their response to this. However, the guest of honour had yet to arrive. The longer they had to wait, the greater their annoyance grew.
"Where is the king?" Lord Rowan asked looking distinctly unimpressed at the delay.
"His grace will be here shortly, I am sure." Mace said with a fair amount of sweat on his brow showing how nervous he was.
"I am sure." Lord Hightower said sarcastically, no longer bothering to hide his complete lack of deference and respect after all that was going on. Olenna's eyes narrowed at the disrespect and she quietly gritted her teeth.
Loras finally entered the room which was a blessed relief as Renly should be with him but then when they saw the ruffled young man who had clearly gotten dressed in a hurry and more to the point Renly wasn't there.
Olenna's ire returned at once and grew to greater strength as she realised Renly wasn't coming and Loras tried to explain.
"His grace is feeling rather unwell today-" Loras started saying but Olenna interrupted.
"You mean he is too hungover from drinking with you last night and can't be bothered coming to the meeting." Olenna said sharply and the glare she gave Loras had the boy quaking with terror. "Go and get the bloody idiot here…now!" She said with such a fury in her eyes and voice that Loras just bolted out the door to go and do as she said while the rest looked on in fear having never seen her so angry before.
- x -
The meeting if it could be called that was pointless Olenna thought as midday approached, Renly had taken a long time to stumble in but clearly could barely speak he was so hungover. She had literally had enough and given the directive herself to pull back any armies they still had in the field to recruit fresh levies and then they would go after the rebel houses. She hoped that by then Randyll Tarly would be recovered enough to lead their army again although if not then Lord Rowan would do it instead and Renly would be there with them this time she thought with anger at the useless prick.
Walking through the gardens to try and calm her mind she saw Margaery must have had the same idea as she walked slowly past the fools as they performed with Sera Flowers at her side. The annoyed look on her face giving away that she was almost as frustrated with the situation as Olenna was herself. Olenna made her way over to her granddaughter, perhaps the only real intelligence conversation around here she thought with dismay.
"My dear." Olenna said with a smile on her face that was not entirely genuine but if Margaery noticed she didn't call attention to it and smiled back.
"Grandmother." Margaery said with genuine warmth and as they stood watching the fool performing their mindless tricks and to make sure they could not be overheard Olenna dismissed Sera with a wave her hand so she would not hear anything she shouldn't. Margaery seeming to understand that this was a conversation it was better than others didn't know about and said nothing.
"My dear." Olenna told her with a careful voice. "Your current king isn't up to much as we both know by now. I was thinking that you might need another."
Margaery nodded immediately, her instant acceptance letting Olenna know she was as fed up with Renly as Olenna was herself was. She should really be coyer about it but given her own frustration Olenna didn't begrudge Margaery her reaction.
"Then my dear, I have a plan."
Riverrun, the Riverlands…
The funeral of Lord Hoster Tully was a sombre affair, while not well liked by many of his vassals he was still their lord and House Tully had brought Northern help when they needed it the most. So, the lords attended despite the situation.
The small boat containing Hoster Tully on a bed of straw, a blanket sewn by Catelyn and a shield both with the coat of arms of House Tully emblazed on them floated out on the river. Robb and Brynden pushed it out into the water themselves before returning to the dock.
Catelyn with Minisa in her arms stood watching the boat but her eyes kept going to Robb who was doing his level best to not even look at her which stabbed at her heart but she couldn't do anything right now.
Ser Jaime Lannister was standing there too and he was glad to get away from the worries that he had in Kings Landing for a while. He was also he admitted privately to himself finding it interesting how the Riverlands dealt with their dead. It was far more elaborate than the other kingdoms he thought with amusement.
Edmure, the new lord of the Riverlands was on the dock with them and took up a bow with arrows dipped in oil. He put the arrow head of one in a nearby brazier and set it ablaze. Notching the arrow, he lifted the bow into the air and let the arrow fly in the direct of the boat which was fast being carried away from them by the strong current. However, an audible plop let them all know it had missed.
The audience were far from impressed at the complete miss and Edmure, nervous at the failure quickly took another arrow, set it alight and shot again only for the second to miss too. The lords and others who had gathered all shared looks of dismay as their new lord consistently missed the target. On the dock Robb, who didn't really want to be here just shook his head in dismay while Jaime frowned.
Brynden Tully, it seemed had enough though and walked forward, taking the bow and arrow off Edmure, set it alight and with the boat now almost out of his range Brynden made the shot. The arrow soared through the air before plunging down into the boat.
The relief in the air was palpable although Edmure looked very sheepish as his uncle glowered at him and tossed the bow back to him but no one said anything as they all departed back for the castle.
Robb was not planning on staying more than one night, he disliked being away from his wife when the birth of their child was so close as it was or the front when there was trouble. Being around his mother…that was something he just couldn't stomach. The sight of her trying to speak to him was enough to make him walk faster to put some distance between them.
"We thank you for attending on the crown's behalf Ser Lannister." Robb said quietly, trying to maintain some sense of decorum. The knight nodded, his reputation having been rehabilitated somewhat by his purge of bandits from Durain's Forest and the surrounding area. Edmure really should have been saying this but his prick of an uncle had already disappeared leaving him to deal with Ser Jaime.
"I was just glad to get out of the city to be honest. It is a harsh place to be." Ser Jaime said with his usual humour although it was rather forced. Robb just nodded and Jaime asked. "How is your twin sister? I ask because I did not see her present." Jaime was not really curious but felt the need to say something. Robb frowned at the question but did answer.
"While I deal with the Iron Born, she is Beyond the Wall dealing with a potential Wildling Invasion. She is more than capable of it but it keeps us from supporting each other." Robb said, hoping the interest was just making conversation and not more than that.
"Being separated from one's twin is not an easy burden to bear." Jaime said sadly, he knew that from personal experience. His own separation from Cersei was like an open wound sometimes but he was far too disgusted at her and full of distrust to ever be with her like they were before. The pain was bad but when he was confronted with her vileness it was preferable to the latter.
"We will see each other as soon as she has dealt with the threat." Robb said and before the two men could part company Catelyn appeared before them.
"Robb!" She called out and smiled brightly at him. Robb however frowned and said nothing, ready to push past her but the a septon and maester blocked their path and Brynden came up behind them.
"Cat." He said reprovingly and was going to move her inside but Cat interrupted him and showed Robb the little girl with dark red hair.
"Robb, this is Minisa." She said with a smile and Robb looked uncomfortably at his bastard sibling, he had grown up with one of course and he knew that this little girl who was smiling brightly up at him was not guilty of any crime their mutual mother had committed but…he wasn't able to call her sister, not yet. He thought sadly.
"Minisa, this is your brother Robb. He is the Lord of the North, just like your uncle is Lord of the Riverlands." Catelyn said cheerfully, eager to show her daughter just who her eldest brother was. The little girl who hadn't quite managed to speak yet beyond a few basic words smiled up at him and Robb uncomfortably smiled back.
Jaime looked at the scene with a little amusement as the supposedly fierce young wolf was Robb Stark was becoming known was rendered almost helpless by this little girl. He looked passed him to the room that the maester and septon had come out of and saw something on the wall that captured his attention.
It was a sketching of a cloud that had been painted red and gold in places, he was struck for a moment.
"The red wisps, Ser Lannister." The Maester said eagerly, hoping to convince him that they were not mad and perhaps had discovered some great secret of the world. "They appear from the mouths of people who cause chaos and destruction and we think it both feeds on it and caused greater acts to create more of the same."
"Maester, I don't think Ser Lannister is that interested in your theories." Brynden said but Jaime with a distant look in his eyes said.
"Emerge from their mouths?" He asked as a memory he had long thought was just a delusion he had experienced during one of the most difficult moments of his life surfaced. "When they die?"
"Have you seen one?" The Septon asked with almost excitement in his eyes and voice. Brynden and Robb frowned, surprised that Jaime seemed to be intrigued by their strange theory. Catelyn on the other hand looked delighted as someone seemed to have some new piece of information.
"Once, no twice." Jaime said distantly. "In Kings Landing on the last day of the Rebellion. When I took my sword to the Mad King and his chief pyromancer Rossart. As I stabbed them these 'red wisps' as you call them escaped their mouths. I thought I must have imagined it." Jaime said as he realised what he had dismissed as him seeing things all those years ago might actually have some substance too it.
He walked away, not wanting to consider this anymore and put it out of his mind as the world was a dangerous enough place as it was without these things to worry about.
- x -
Robb looked as Ser Lannister left and didn't blame him, he himself knew things like this red wisps were possible as he had the magic to possess the minds of animals and see the past, present and future with the use of Weirwood if he chose too. He however did not think such a thing to cause his mother to do all the things she had done. Some part of her had to have been open to it for her to have done it. He shook his head and started to walk away as he felt a tugging at his breeches. He stopped and looked down to see Minisa as she was named looking up at him with a beaming smile.
Robb was at a loss over just what to do as while he had seen his younger siblings as babes and would see his own babe soon enough if the gods were willing, he had little to no idea over just what to do with this little girl. The one that was a creation of his mother's infidelity. He knew he could not blame her as she had no part in it and after seeing Jon as a brother all his life it would not be fair to exclude Minisa just because it was his mother that had broken her marriage vows this time.
He knelt down so he was face to face with her and Minisa smiled before trying to give him a hug. Her little arms and small height meant she couldn't quite manage it and he uncomfortably picked her up so she could wrap her small arms around his neck. She did and gave him a sloppy kiss on the cheek before snuggling close to him.
Robb honestly was surprised at how trusting and loving Minisa was, she had so much love in her it was like a blinding light in the dark. He hoped for her sake she never lost that.
Catelyn in the background was smiling herself as her oldest child and her youngest bonded, she had been worried this might never happen but Minisa had removed any obstacle by just being her normal happy self.
She just hoped that Robb might finally begin to forgive her and that perhaps her other children might do too.
Dothraki Camp, Essos…
The three little dragons were stumbling around on the rug of the tent, Daenerys smiled as she looked down at them as they acted just like babes which of course they were. She had consulted the book on dragons and read dragons had to have their meat cooked before they ate it, like their mother would do in the wild. Since they had no mother, she did it herself and smiled as they gobbled down the meat that she had acquired for them. According the book they needed to be not only to be fed regularly but also have room to move so they grow properly.
So, she had the biggest pen she could make for them put up and even connected another tent to theirs so she could watch them as they were growing bigger. At least until they could take care of themselves.
Daenerys was irritated however that her pregnancy was now becoming more pronounced so she wasn't able to lead her warriors into battle anymore. She wasn't able to ride like this, Irri would be taking her place till she had given birth and thankfully the other woman had established herself as a warrior in her own right and would have no issue with taking command till Daenerys herself could again. Even better Beshka had been able to start helping to train their newer warriors, she was just as Ser Jorah had said a very talented fighter and had added a very useful devastating style of sword combat to their abilities. Usable with one sword or two it was designed not to take opponents on head-to-head but to duck and feint around them, to deflect attacks away from yourself rather than merely take them which was perfect for her female warriors. It fitted their strength and build much better than what they had previously using.
Not to mention now her farms and horse breeding places were starting to bear fruit with food becoming far more plentiful and a large number of foals being born all the time. Dothraki were training them and soon they would have far more riders in the future. The protection offered by the alliance with their exceptionally large Khalasar and the resulting increase in productivity that it created had begun to draw more Lhazareen to join them.
That had brought new problems though, Daenerys thought when some of their own people had tried raiding the allied farms in search of easy loot. The Dothraki defending the farms however had caught them and brought them before Drogo who had ignored all words of it being their way and told them they had plenty of better targets but had been too cowardly to seek them out going instead for an ally than an enemy.
Drogo had established firm and bloody justice by killing the men there and then and having their horses sent to the farms for breeding.
Daenerys was however worried about one thing, more warriors meant they needed to have more weapons and despite their enormous Khalasar and territory they were struggling to equip all their warriors. They needed good quality iron or even better steel if they could manage it.
Getting more weapons or even just the material to make them on the scale they needed was tricky though and she would need to begin the next part of her plans soon. She would have to send out messages to see if it was feasible but from what she had heard it certainly was a possibility.
It was time she thought while watching the dragons play and holding her expanding belly, to expand her network.
Warm Caves, the Far North…
Edd and Samwell were out in the forest area near the village, foraging for additional food to stretch out their supplies and also to gather fire wood. Three of the Nights Watch scouts from Meera's initial group had joined them in hopes of getting some fresh game but so far, no animals had been seen at all, not even a mouse.
"There has got to be some meat around here somewhere." Bannen said with frustration. "I am not eating those fucking rations again."
"Be grateful we have them. Hard to eat fucking snow." Edd said with a smirk, enjoying his annoyance at the rations to try and keep things light.
"Maybe but what I wouldn't give for some venison about now." Harker said with an almost dreamy look on his face, lost in the fantasy of sinking his teeth into that deer he wished would show up.
"You're such a fucking snob." Stonesnake said with a joking smirk on his face. "Perhaps you'd like some wine with that?"
"No, a good cider or scotch perhaps?" Samwell said, joining in the joke. They all laughed and gave up trying to find food. The cold meant no plants round here had any fruit or berries and maybe that was why it seemed game was completely absent. They instead chopped down some wood to make fires with later and started carrying the piles back.
The sound of their footsteps in the snow was the only sound that could be heard again where, Samwell noticed as they struggled through the snow. No trees rustled in the wind nor could any birds be heard chattering or whistling. Honestly the longer this went on the more unnerved he became. They saw Jon coming to meet them as they reached the gates of the town with a torch in his hand given how dark it was getting and were mystified when Jon looked at them with surprise.
"Where are the others?" He asked concerned and Edd looked at him confused and spoke.
"They're just behind us." Edd said and turned to point them out only to see Bannen, Stonesnake and Harker had disappeared. He and Samwell both shared a look of confusion and they had been just behind them a moment ago.
The others all came forward to see just what was going on, the weather had changed dramatically in the last hour. The sky had become very dark with heavy clouds blotting out any sunlight that might remain and the wind was picking up not to mention snow had begun to fall. They couldn't see very far but after a couple of moments three figures began to stumble in out of the gloom.
"Thank the gods." Samwell said, relieved the others had caught up but then as they got closer, they saw they were very different.
All of them had what looked like fatal gashes and Bannen even had his throat torn out, wounds that you wouldn't survive and certainly you wouldn't be able to stand up. Then, however their gaze was drawn to their eyes, they were open and not human anymore. Instead, they had become an unearthly ethereal blue. They all reached for their weapons and Edd and Samwell very wisely retreated back to the others. Everyone instinctively readied for their weapons and those from south of the Wall were completely stunned as until now they hadn't truly grasped the fact that the Walkers and their wights were real. Some had even expected them to be just a particularly vicious group of wildlings from further North but now there was no longer any doubt in their minds about what they were facing.
The three former members of the Nights Watch suddenly went on the attack, snarling like rabid beasts that came charging straight at them. Lom, the final Nights Watch ranger that had joined them for this expedition who was now the closest to them was too frozen to defend himself, screaming in terror as the three fell upon him.
Jon and Meera now broke the spell and with torches already in hand rushed forward and jabbed the dead men who screeched out in a ghastly scream when the fire spread to them. They flailed about but soon fell soon after, the fire proving its effectiveness.
They looked down at Lom who was now missing almost half his face and with a look of revulsion on their faces set his clothes alight as well.
Feeling a prickling at the back of their necks they looked up and saw two figures walking out of the gloom, tall, easily seven foot each and with desiccated greyish white skin. Thin white hair covered their heads and they had the same strange inhuman blue eyes as the corpses they had just fought off.
If facing the wights a moment ago had been strange, especially for Jon as Meera had faced Inferi in the other world then this was downright unsettling. Unlike the Wights there was an intelligence in their eyes, a cold and ruthless cunning that cut through to the bone.
Even Meera with her experience of the other world had never seen anything like it, she swallowed her nervousness and pulled out her spear. Jon did the same with Hofund and both stood ready to face the Walkers.
The walkers walked forward with ice covered sword and spear respectively, they looked flimsy but they knew somehow that they were stronger than they looked.
And they were right, as Jon squared off against the sword wielder while Meera faced the spear walker.
Jon saw the walker swinging his sword quite heavy handily and Jon braced himself, raising his sword to block it, the blow was powerful but Jon was stunned at how little it seemed to hurt or strain him. The Walker seemed surprised too as he swung again but Jon with many hours of practice in the yard was able to block it again and again was surprised at how little it seemed to hurt.
The Walker himself was now growling with anger and pushed his attack, shocked that not only had the human's sword not breaking but the human seemed able to match his strength. Jon now seeing the walker seemed to use its strength to win found himself against an opponent like any other and began to use his greater finesse and skill with swords to gain the advantage.
Nearby Meera had made the same discovery as she used her spear in the swirling defence motion to catch an attack and force it away. But like his brother he was used to using its strength to win its battles for it.
Still the two Walkers were dangerous opponents as they never got tired and were relentless in their attacks.
Meera herself managed to jump aside in time to avoid a potentially lethal thrust before managing to impale her spear into the chest of the walker while it was still off balance from its thrust. The creature shrieked out in pain as the runes on her spear began to glow a bright blue only to then turn back to the gold glow they usually had while the walker itself dissolved into fine ice crystals before her very eyes.
Jon with the distraction caused by this managed to impale the walker he was facing and like with Gungnir Hofund's runes glowed blue for a moment before they turned gold. While the walker dissolved into nothing Jon could feel somehow that his new sword had become stronger, the magic within had been replenished a least a bit.
Both Jon and Meera were glad but noticed that although the storm closest too them had eased, in the distance it was still going as strong if not stronger than it had been here a moment ago. Their expressions turning fearful as they looked around to see the storm was now all around them in every direction. There were no gaps or breaks anywhere.
- x -
With no ravens around those inside the village had no way to see just what was arrayed against them but they were right about being surrounded, as the Army of the Dead, number in the thousands surrounded the settlement on all sides.
There we are, I hope you all enjoyed it. Please review and let me know what you thought.
Jon and Heimdall have many qualities in common and when I was thinking whether he could have a presence in the story I thought why not let his blade appear.
Next Chapter - The Campaign against the Army of the Dead forces Meera and Jon to get creative. In the south Robb continues to fight the Iron Born while Daenerys tries to make a new alliance.