AN: The Bastard Knight steals a maiden (during the months between Myrcella's and Cersei's scenes); Harry is on his way to King's Landing for Joff's nameday tourney (about a week or so before Cersei's scene). King Robert's POV is next; originally, it was meant to be added to the end of this interlude, but I'm moving in a few days and I might not have access to the internet for a while, so I'm posting this as is. After Robert, we'll be Harry-centric for a good while.
Disclaimer: I own neither Harry Potter nor Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire.
The Bastard Knight
The girl's eyes snapped open just as his hands closed around her throat. She opened her mouth to scream, so he squeezed tighter, and tighter, and tighter still. 'You need breath to scream, little darling, and I can't have you screaming.' Tears pooled in her eyes, trickled down her freckled face. The confusion reflected in their bright hazel depths turned into fear. In the dim light of her room, she probably thought him a beast instead of a man, some creature born of her nightmares, come to ravage and rape. Her fists smashed ineffectively against his chest, legs flailing, kicking; she put a hand to his face and pushed, but her struggling only aroused him.
'I do love it when they fight.' He grinned, then backhanded her with a gloved fist.
The struggling stopped.
'There's a good girl. Sleep.' Her face would bruise up, certainly, but he was sure it'd be fine by the time they sold her. He'd like to have a bit of fun with her - he always wanted a bit of fun with the girls he took - but she was too valuable for his amusements. Too highborn. He'd take another for that. And what was one less lady rooster in such a big chicken coop, eh?
He rolled off the bed and tip-toed to the oaken door, putting his ear to the wood. He heard nothing beyond his own breathing. That meant that Gouger and Robar had done their jobs. The castle at Cornfield wasn't so mighty as the keep at Hornvale, or even the seat of those damned peacocks down in Silverhill; he'd needed six men to snatch up the Brax girl, and five for the Serrett. The bigger the castle, the larger the castle guard, and the more silver you needed to convince an underpaid, half-drunk gate guard to look the other way should you and your fellows steal off into the night.
Cornfield wasn't even a true castle. It was more a manse, albeit a large one, four stories of limestone and redwood, nestled at the foot of a mountain range, with two massive towers that overlooked the many fields of corn for which it had earned its name. Corn stalks stretched southward across many hundreds of acres all the way to the Red Lake, and west, to the forests of Crakehall. He had plans to go there next, but after that, he'd have to ease up. It wouldn't do to get greedy. Greed most oft lead to death or dismemberment for men in his position.
Better to lay low for a year or so, then start up again; four girls in half as many months had earned him enough coin to live that year in splendor. 'I'll spend the year in Pentos, maybe, or even Myr.' Littlefinger had connections in both cities, and the slimy cunt owed him.
There was a knock at the door, and his musings were cut short. His hand fell to the knife at his hip - his sword was too long to use in such a tight space - but then there was a second knock, and a whispered, "It's me," and he opened the door to see Gouger's ugly mug, blood dripping from his hands.
"One o' the guards didn't take the bribe," he said.
'So you gouged out his eyes like the sick fuck you are.' He'd met Gouger in King's Landing. He was one of many such cutthroats, but unlike others, he had a touch of loyalty to him, so long as the coin was flowing. "Where's Robar?" Robar, their third, was a bastard knight much like he was, with no land to call his own. Not a keep, nor a holdfast, nor even a rat-infested manse.
"He's already gone back to the carriage," Gouger said, wiping his hands on the thick cloth of his muddied surcoat, no doubt borrowed from the shitbrain who'd turned down their coin. "By sunrise we'll be half-a-hundred miles away."
Gouger collected the Cornfield girl - he hadn't a clue what her name was - and they made their way down the dark halls of the castle, careful to mind the creaky floorboards, feeling along the wall until they reached a stairwell. It took them down to the first level of the castle - empty of guards now, thanks to Gouger - where they left through the window that overlooked the gardens. Through it all, the girl never stirred.
He knew something was wrong when he saw men surrounding their carriage. The road was otherwise barren, bordered on one side by dense rows of massive trees, redwoods and black oaks and willows, and on the other by tall hedges, some taller than Roland himself. The men were facing away from Roland and his fellows, and for the moment, didn't seem to notice their presence. The shine of their matching black plate marked them as knights; wealthy knights, if not lords.
Gouger had noticed them too, as well as the girl, but her flailing did little but draw Gouger's ire - they'd long since bound and gagged her, and her muffled screams were swallowed by the wind. Where is Robar? Two to three do not good odds make.' Gouger edged his horse off the road, into the shadow of the trees. The morning light was still low, faint enough that maybe they wouldn't see her.
"Roland!" a voice whispered sharply.
His eyes darted to his left, and there he saw Robar crouched in the hedges, his horse tied to a bush a bit deeper in the underbrush. He made to join him, but when his eyes flickered back up the road he saw that the trio had indeed noticed him. 'There goes that.' He'd meant to mayhaps sneak up on them from the safety of the hedges, but that opportunity was lost.
"Get on your horse," he whispered back, "and follow my lead." He waited for Robar to do as he bid and then took off down the road; when he glanced behind him, he saw that Gouger had joined them, absent the woman.
"She's secure," Gouger mouthed.
Roland nodded back. 'Good. Now we can get rid of these three and be on our way.' They'd take their plate after they killed them; it would be worth a pretty penny. 'And the horses too.'
"Good sers," Roland called out.
"We see you've come upon our carriage," Gouger said.
"Thank you for guarding it for us," said Robar.
Closer now, Roland could see that these were young knights. He doubted even a single one of them was over twenty. 'Young and green and soon to be dead.' Their plate wasn't exactly matching, either. Each had something different etched onto their chest. The largest lad, who was six and a quarter foot tall at least, had the sigil of House Plumm worked into the metal of his breastplate, three golpes, two over one. His hair was cut short, and while he was large, his chin was thin and sharp, with the beginnings of a beard growing across his jaw. The red-haired lad had four double-headed eagles chiseled into his breastplate, and the last, the smallest of the three, with lank, dark brown hair and hard eyes, had the hooded-man of Banefort upon his chest. 'A Plumm, an Estren, and a Banefort. What the fuck are they doing out here?' They each rode coursers, beasts far finer than his own rouncey. 'But not much taller.' A taller mount made for better leverage, and in a fight, that leverage could mean the difference between life and death.
The Plumm and the Estren nodded pleasantly at their approach, but the man of Banefort...
"What is your business here?" he said. His horse, a big fawn creature, kicked at the ground, as if sharing in its master's agitation. "I see neither the rooster of Cornfield nor the boar of Crakehall upon your heraldry." He scowled mightily.
"Ease up, Quenten," the Estren said.
'Ah,' Roland thought. 'He must be Lord Banefort's son; or else Quentens are more common at Banefort.'
"Aye," agreed the Plumm. "You Baneforts are an intense lot. We aren't Crakehalls or Cornfields, and yet, here we are. Or maybe you're angry because Ser Kevan hasn't knighted you yet?" He eyed Roland and his comrades for a moment, and then, "I'm Ser Herbert Plumm."
"And I am Ser Bertram Estren," said the other.
The third did not introduce himself, and Roland wondered why the little shit was so suspicious, so wary. Did he notice something amiss?
"Good to meet you, sers," Roland said. "I too, am a knight, and these, my squires." He indicated Robar and Gouger. "We're riding for Crakehall, and after I see my old friend Ser Merlon, we mean to head south to see the cities of the Reach."
"Have you traveled the west as well?" asked Ser Herbert.
"Say, the lands of Lord Serret or Lord Brax?" said Ser Bertram.
Roland felt the beginnings of alarm stir in his gut.
"Yes," Robar said without missing a beat. "Lord Serret, Lord Brax, Lord Sarsfield -
"And now Lord Cornfield," the man of Banefort spat.
"You never gave us your name, ser," Gouger said to him, slowly edging his horse to the side of the road, to come at their flank.
"I have very good eyes," he said instead of his name. He nodded to Roland. "There's blood on your gloves." Then, to Gouger, "And blood on your hands." His companions' pleasant smiles turned vicious, and they palmed their swords. 'The little shits knew all along.'
But the boy wasn't done. "And then there's the matter of your female companion who's mysteriously disappeared."
There was a pregnant pause, a lull in speech or action, and then chaos. Roland attacked without warning, the shriek of his sword leaving its sheathe swallowed in a cacophony of similar sounds. Steel glinted in the dawning sunlight as he loosed a powerful backhand swing at the knight nearest him; Quenten. The boy's sword rose to meet his own with a loud clang, and the resounding noise was echoed across the road.
Roland swung high for his neck and was rebuffed with steel; a low sweeping blow was met with the same. He tried to batter the boy into submission, but he proved too quick to pin down, horse and rider moving almost as one, so he backed off, curses on his lips, trying to goad him into attacking. His eyes fell across the others. Gouger had engaged Ser Herbert, while Robar loosed a vicious salvo on Ser Bertram. The sharp ring of clashing steel was like music to his ears; his and Quenten's blades joined the metallic symphony, sparks leaping from the crash of their swords. He felt his blood come afire, mouth spread wide in a grin. Invigorated, Roland fell upon the Banefort heir with heavy, relentless, overhead swings.
His every attack was averted, and his joy soured to anger.
'Damn this fucking boy!' His apparent youth belied his skill. Roland had never won many melees, but he knew how to fight, knew how to kill a man as well as any other. He'd seen war, and petty squabbles, and honor duels, and drunken brawls, but this? This was madness.
He wheeled his horse around and came at Quenten's flank, swinging for the his head, but the young knight only leaned out of reach, and with a sharp twist of his sword arm sent his blow reeling high and away. Their swords met again, and again, and again once more - the young knight fought fiercely, savagely even, each swing of his sword quicker, sharper than the last, as if the rising sun itself gave him strength. He was tireless, turning away each of Roland's thrusts, parrying each slash, countering his every move.
He finally admitted to himself, when he saw Robar and Ser Bertram grappling in the dirt, and beyond them, Gouger cradling a bleeding arm to his chest as Ser Herbert drove him backward into the trees, that he might very well lose this fight. 'Fuck this. Let's see how he fights from beneath his horse.' Roland feinted for his head, and when the lad leaned away, just as he had before, he drove forward to spear his horse through the neck.
The Banefort heir moved faster than Roland had yet seen him move. A blinding riposte knocked his sword off course; there was a piercing screech of steel against steel, and then -
His sword fell from his fingers, blood gushing from the deep gash across the back of his hand. The white of his bone shown through the wound. "Fuck!" He tried to grab for his knife, but he could barely move his fingers, and the pain was so great...
The whistle of steel slicing through air had him ducking his head, chest pressed tightly against his horse's neck. He felt the wind of Quenten's blade ruffle his hair. 'I can't fight, not with my hand like this.' He had a moments reprieve when the devilish boy turned his horse around and rode down Robar, and he took the opportunity to kick his own horse into a gallop, away from the brawl and into the dense forests beyond the road. They'd give chase, he knew, but he'd be a fool not to try. If he stayed, he would die.
He had no intentions of dying. Gold was no good to a dead man. 'Gouger, Robar... it was good knowing you.'
The Black Prince
It was cold. Truly cold, like the frigid depths of the Shivering Sea. Cold like death, and just as dark. Inhuman things waited in the shadows; he could neither see them nor hear them, but he felt them, the utter wrongness of their existence, cold and broken and dead. They were abominations.
A flash of blue caught his eyes and the wind howled, loud and piercing, knifing through the icy valley like a dagger cutting through flesh.
"The night is dark and full of terrors," a voice said. It was a woman's voice, sonorous and exotic. The wind became screams, growing into the tortured yells of men and women condemned to grievous suffering. He could see their pain, painting the snow a vivid red, the blood still hot and steaming. "Show us to the Dawn," the voice said again.
Dawn? He saw no dawn. Only darkness, and death, and pain. It rose around him, engulfed him, a twisting deluge of the unnatural and the unholy, so cold he felt himself burning.
A body fell at his feet, the limbs cruelly twisted, black blood flowing from gaping wounds. The lips were parted just so, whispering with the wind. What was it saying?
He knelt in the red snow, straining to hear against the screams of dying men. "Harry," it whispered. His name. It was saying his name. "Harry. Harry." Blue eyes snapped open, startling him. He fell to his back as crooked fingers clawed at his face. Fear sunk its fangs into him, and his own yells joined the wind, rising to sweep across the red field.
Fire erupted, and the screams became deafening.
He awoke suddenly with a great gasp of breath, his ears ringing, eyes squinting against the warm glow of the morning sun that trickled through the gently parted tent flaps. Slender fingers caressed his brow in smooth, slow strokes. He looked up into a pair of dark eyes set beneath a crown of gleaming silver and gold.
"Your skin is hot," Aeryn said by way of greeting, voice softened by the early hour. She sat atop the furs, naked as the day she was born, one leg curled delicately beneath her. "Was it another dream?"
The sight of her chased the remnants of his nightmare away, as the sun chases the shadow. His desires for her had blossomed over the course their time at Casterly Rock, just as Aeryn herself had blossomed. 'And gods, what a flower she is.' She hadn't grown any taller, but her hips had widened and her breasts had grown full, and her skin was as soft as a cloud; he could imagine, in a certain slant of light, that she was a veela come from the world he'd left behind, dangerously alluring and inhumanly beautiful.
"Aye," he said finally. "Another dream." They were vivid, his dreams, but fleeting; trying to recall them was like trying to grab hold of the wind. Some things remained, dancing behind his eyes when he let his mind wander, flashes of white valleys and dark skies. The dreams had been coming for years now, once or twice a moon since he had turned one-and-ten. He thought that he might have been dreaming of the afterlife, but there was no peace in his dreams - not like there had been in death, that comfortable, constant absence of everything, that slumber most true. When he awoke from his dreams he felt agitated - wary, as if something were lurking just out of sight, waiting for his caution to waver, waiting to pounce and drag him into the abyss.
"Do you remember any of it?" Her hand fell along the side his face, slowly, tenderly. Her fingers were warm.
"Some of it," he said, closing his eyes with a sigh. "I was somewhere cold. Cold and dark." That, he always remembered. The coldness, the darkness... it never left him.
He sat up then, wincing against the sharp throb of pain from the purple and black bruise forming along his side. The bruise was a gift from Marvell, courtesy of a blow from his mace during practice the day before. It wasn't wise to train with such intensity, especially not on the road to King's Landing, nor with the tourney for Joffrey's nameday so close, but Harry enjoyed the spars too much to quit, and he enjoyed winning them even more. Maester Wulfric was worried he'd bruised his ribs, however, and he'd warned his knight's squires and the other mounted men not to spar or practice with Harry at anything other than sitting and resting, or they'd have Lord Tywin to answer to.
They had grown closer over the years, he and Lord Tywin; as close as anyone could truly be to a man like Tywin, anyway. He still didn't like his grandfather - he didn't think he ever would - but his respect for the Lannister lord had done naught but grow since the beginning of his fostering. Sometimes he could almost forget his grandfather's ruthlessness, his lack of empathy for the lowborn, his disregard for those he considered beneath him. Sometimes.
"That's quite a bruise," Aeryn said. "I didn't notice it last night." She leaned closer to inspect it; he felt her breath on the inflamed skin, and then her lips. A tingle of pleasure raced up his spine.
"I didn't notice either," he returned. He'd noticed the pain of course, only it hadn't been so strong the night before. Then again, his mind had been on far more sensitive matters.
"Of course you didn't," Aeryn said between kisses. "Boys are stupid like that."
"Oh I'm a boy, am I?"
"Yes," she said simply as she sat back. He valiantly ignored the sight of her breasts staring up at him, even as he recalled their sweet taste. "You're a silly - " she climbed up to her knees and edged closer, "little - " her fingers curled through the hair at the nape of his neck, "boy." And then she pulled his head to her bosom, and he captured one of her bright pink nipples in his mouth, sucking, nibbling. A soft, breathless sound escaped her lips, and slowly, they fell back into bed.
He still couldn't see himself whoring like his father did, but he could attest to the wonders of female flesh. Aeryn's, at least. She was exquisite, and while he'd never lain with another woman, he could imagine that there weren't many who could match her. Maybe it was all the time they'd spent together, the five long years at Casterly Rock in their room at the top of his tower, but she knew him, knew his many moods and flights of fancy, knew how to make him forget his worries and stresses, knew how to make him feel, knew him in a way that no one else could match.
Not even his mother.
They stirred again, later, when the day could no longer wait. No one had come to bother him, not Alik, nor Red Walder, nor Tion, nor even Maester Wulfric, but beyond his tent he could hear the sounds of men breaking camp, pots clattering, horses braying, voices complaining of yet another day riding to the capital. 'Hopefully Tion and Red Walder have already readied my horse.' It had been his Aunt Genna's idea for her youngest sons to serve as his squires, never mind that he wasn't a knight, and seeing as he'd gotten along well the both of them, he'd agreed. Thankfully, they took more after their mother in temperament, as opposed to their insufferable father; Emmon Frey was the sort of nervous boor who's company he wouldn't wish on even his greatest enemy.
"Let's have a look at that bruise, shall we?" Aeryn said suddenly, breaking his reverie. "I think I have something that will help." She rolled out of bed and dug into her trunk, muttering as she searched through the many jars; there were dozens of them.
His eyes swept the tent, the table that dominated the center of the pavilion, the wardrobe against the far wall - it had been taken with them all the way from Casterly Rock - and his own chests, sitting at the foot of his bed, that housed all his other letters from Marwyn. And then there was the rack of swords and axes and maces that sat near the entrance to the tent, filled with all the weapons he'd been gifted with other the years, from lords of the west and the Crownlands alike.
"How'd you get that bruise, anyway?" she asked when she turned around. She held a jar of some indeterminate brown substance in one hand, and a small pewter bowl in the other. "Quenten is the only squire skilled enough to even match you, let alone best you, and he's still in the west with Ser Bertram and Ser Herbert."
"I'm glad you think so highly of my abilities," he replied glibly. "But it was Marvell who gave me this wound." Her confusion was adorable, and it made him laugh. "He had help," Harry explained. "I fought Marvell and Nathyn together. Greyhand says it's good practice."
Aeryn's expression flattened. "You're taking advice from that old fool?" Aeryn had little love in her heart for Gavin Greyhand. The wizened old warrior cared naught for the fires of R'hllor, and he voiced his opinions whenever Aeryn was in earshot - and only when Harry wasn't around. He had even taken to wearing a token of the seven across the black plate that Harry had gifted his guardsmen with.
"Old he may be, but Greyhand's no fool," said Harry. "If he knows nothing else, he knows swordplay. Besides, they're squires, not knights. I wouldn't fight two knights at once." 'Not a seasoned knight, in any case. Not yet.'
"But you're just addled enough to try it," Aeryn replied. She rejoined him on the bed, grabbing a long strip of cloth from the bedside table. She had many such swaths of cloth; apparently, when she wasn't attending to him, Maester Wulfric had her bandaging anything and everything that needed bandaging.
"This will be easier if you're standing up."
He stood, and the pain didn't seem so great as it had earlier in the morning. "Go on then," he said, raising his arms. "Grease me up!"
She rolled her eyes and set to dressing the wound. "Your beloved squires forgot to clean up after you," she conversed as she poured a portion of the contents in the jar into the bowl. "Your letters from the Archmaester were all laid out on the table, where anyone could see." She dipped her fingers into the bowl and slathered his back and side with the odd smelling paste; it was cool against his skin. "Magic frightens people, Harry."
He wasn't worried. "We write in High Valyrian," he explained. "I'm confident that you're the only person here who could read it. Well, you and Maester Wulfric, but he already knows the contents of my letters, so it doesn't matter." The paste, cool only moments before, began to burn. "What is that?" he asked, indicating the brown mess.
"A mix of things," Aeryn replied. "Arrica, comfrey, powdered slippery elm, and a touch of Firemilk."
"It's supposed to sting." The pressure of her fingers increased.
"Ouch!" He frowned down at her. "Mind those hands."
"Oh stop your whinging. I have to massage it in."
His glare did not have the intended purpose, for she stood on her tip-toes and kissed him, slowly increasing the pressure of her fingers as her tongue danced with his. Her taste was as sweet and spicy as the first time they'd kissed. 'Like honey and cinnamon.'
"You'll thank me later," she said after she pulled away.
"Perhaps." He knew he would. Aeryn's potions and poultices always worked as intended. He told her as such.
She shrugged. "I've just had good teachers, I suppose." She wrapped the cloth around his abdomen, pulling it tight, and set the end in place with an adhesive. "I learn from whoever will teach me; maesters, hedge wizards, woods witches..."
She trailed off, eyes widening in apparent alarm - but alarm at what? Before he could ask, Aeryn pushed away from him and rushed to the wardrobe, teats bouncing as she ran. 'What in the bloody hell?' She ripped open the wardrobe's oaken doors and tore through his cloaks with such urgency that Harry felt some small measure of fear creep into his mind.
"Where is it, where is it?!" he heard her whispering as she searched, thick pelts of lion and wolf and shadowcat growing in a pile on the floor.
Harry joined her at the wardrobe, wondering what in the seven hells was going through her mind. He kept his silence though, content to watch and wait.
"I... I have something for you," Aeryn said at last, turning she to face him. She held a wrinkled slip of parchment in her hand. "I meant to give it to you weeks ago, but after everything that's happened... I forgot."
He could understand her forgetfulness. The last few weeks had been... educational, to put it mildly. 'And then there was that nasty business with Elaine.' "What is it?"
She handed him the note. "It's from the wise woman in Lannisport. Raylene."
"The one you buy spices from?" He opened it, and just like that, all thought of his dreams and his fever and his trysts with Aeryn drifted away, like leaves in the wind. He lifted a hand to his forehead.
There were no words on the page; only a thin, jagged line, like a lightning-bolt. Like a scar.