A Tale of Magic and Monsters and Lords
Chapter 3. Thorns, Kings, and Other Corrupt Things
When Maester Aemon announced he brought a visitor, I thought it was safe to assume the man entering the room next would be Jon Snow, but I was mistaken. The tall man uniformed in all black that enters my temporary bedroom is much older than Jon, with graying blonde curls, tired blue eyes, and a face that is chapped due to the raw weather. He carries himself like a man with authority, no smile gracing his features, and when his eyes focus on mine they hold a strong suspicion, like the look on Lord Commander Mormont's face when he saw me not too long ago in the dining hall. I don't understand why these grown men are so wary and suspicious of a sixteen-year-old girl, but if I had one guess I'd say it has to do with me curing Aemon of his blindness; as harmless an act as it may seem to me, since I didn't know I could do such a thing, I suppose it is reason to be a little bit suspicious of my behavior.
"Hello," I greet politely, since my guest seems only to be capable of staring at the moment.
He grunts in response, staring some more, before finally introducing himself as, "Alliser Thorne, Master-at-Arms here at Castle Black."
Aemon, who I nearly forgot was in the room since he's been so quiet, pipes up, "Thorne here is also the trainer of the new recruits; future Brothers of the Night's Watch."
Alliser nods in confirmation of Aemon's addition. "That I am." Swiftly, he changes to a new topic; me. "It was one of my groups of recruits that found you out in the snow last night. One of them spotted you while on watch duty." Mumbling, he adds bitterly, "Shows how much he's been learning during training though, since he should have had his eyes north and not south of the Wall…"
"I'd say it was lucky he looked to the south," Aemon says approvingly, "and saved this lovely lady's life. I'd also say it shows he was doing an excellent job guarding the Wall, Alliser; he was not only watching but aware of his surroundings."
While Alliser ponders Aemon's observation, Aemon clucks his tongue at me disapprovingly and orders me to get back in bed before my toes freeze off. He thinks it was very stupid of me to leave the room without proper clothing, and makes me promise not to do it again. He wraps my legs tightly with layers of thick, warm animal furs before he checks my head for a fever. He seems worried at how hot and clammy my head is still, but I insist I feel fine. I don't feel as though I've got a fever at all, so I don't understand why he's so worried. Still, Aemon will not let it go, and he announces to Alliser Thorne and me that he has to gather more wood for my fireplace, and he'll return in a few minutes.
After he's gone, Alliser strides closer to my bedside, hands folded behind his back in a stern stance. With Aemon in the room, he seemed hesitant to speak with me, but now that Aemon has left, he has no problem demanding answers to questions I'm sure he's had for me all day. First he asks, "What brings you to the Wall, Storm Parker? How did you come to be so far north unaccompanied?"
"I…" I swallow nervously, wracking my brain for an acceptable response. Then I remember that I've already started forming a back-story for myself, after Shaene questioned me about where I am from. "I am from Essos. I came over on a boat with my family, but we were attacked, and I don't know what happened to them. I woke up here and…that's all I know."
"That's all you know," Alliser repeats skeptically. He doesn't accept my answers quite so easily as Shaene did. "Your name is unfamiliar to me, Storm. I have never heard of the name 'Parker'; is it common in Essos? What part of Essos did you say you were from again? I am also unfamiliar with your accent, so forgive me for being so curious." He smiles for the first time, but it is a smirk more than it is a smile, and it does nothing to ease my sudden nervousness at being alone with this man.
"Illinois," I reply idiotically, "It's in the northern part of Essos, very small…I suppose Parker is a common name there…" I trail off, hoping my answers are sufficient enough for Master-at-Arms Alliser Thorne. I don't like the vibe he's giving off, and I'd like for him to leave now, but I don't know how to say so. I hope Aemon will be back with firewood soon.
"And what business does your family have in Westeros?" Alliser presses, his questions more personal now, and I wonder if it's because he doesn't believe a word coming out of my mouth. He's trying to catch me in a lie, and…what happens if he does? Will I be punished? Will I be put in the dungeons? Will they send me out into the snow to die? I have no idea what to expect from these Brothers of the Night's Watch, and I'm starting to realize what an awful predicament I've found myself in. "It is not often a family crosses the Narrow Sea simply for pleasure. Are you of noble status in Illinois? Is your father the Lord there?"
I contemplate lying and saying 'yes, my father is the Lord of Illinois', but I don't know enough about this place and time to adequately answer all of his questions. I might be interested in history, but I learned about U.S. History and World History, not wherever-the-Hell-this-is History. With a frown on my face, I let Alliser Thorne know that I find him nosy and rude. "Why is it that you are treating me like a criminal? I've done nothing wrong. I never asked for your help. I simply woke up here, in a strange place I've never been before, all alone. As Aemon already pointed out, I am running a fever and I need my rest, so if you are quite finished, I'd appreciate it if you left now."
The look on Alliser's face is almost comical for a second, his blue eyes bugging out of his head in shock, but it is quickly replaced by a look of disdain. Maybe I shouldn't have opened my mouth and spoke so freely, but I couldn't stand the one-man interrogation he had going. Alliser composes himself enough to angrily spit out, "You may or may not be a criminal, Miss Storm, but you should be aware that you are currently residing in a castle full of criminals. Don't you know what the Night's Watch is made of?" He pauses, seemingly for dramatic effect, before he answers his own question, "Outlaws. Murderers, rapists, and thieves. You are no safer here than you are out there in the cold, alone. I do not know who you are or where you came from, but you should leave here, while you still can."
I'm not sure if that was a threat, but it felt like one. I guess Alliser didn't believe my story of lies as much as I thought he did. Is it true that the Night's Watch is made up of murderers and rapists, though? Aemon said I would be safe, that the Night's Watch would protect me, but how can I be safe with a castle full of criminals? Maybe Alliser is trying to scare me, and it's not really true at all, but either way he got what he wanted, because I am terrified and I don't want to be here anymore.
Pyp and I were relieved of watch duty by Grenn and Rast, both of them bragging about catching a glimpse of the mysterious girl who was found last night. Apparently, her name is Storm Parker, and she swept into the dining hall in only a nightgown and a blanket while everyone was supping. I ignored Rast's disgusting comments on her state of dress, thinking back on how she was wearing nothing at all when Ghost and I stumbled upon her. When she fainted, I took off my cloak and covered her with it, and that's when Sam and Pyp caught up with me. I carried her inside while Pyp ran ahead to call for Maester Aemon, and then I left her with him. Grenn said he heard some of the men talk of Maester Aemon regaining sight early this morning, that it had something to do with the girl Storm, but I didn't believe it. As Pyp and I made our way inside the castle to sup though, we ran into the very man we were speaking of, and the rumors were proved true when he waved to us both and greeted us by name with a smile.
"Jon Snow," Maester Aemon says pointedly, "You are the very man I was looking for. Do you have a moment? Could you take a walk with me?"
I am tired, my muscles are aching, and my stomach is rumbling for food, but blind old Maester Aemon can see and I'd like to know why. "Of course."
"Goodnight to you both then," Pyp continues towards the doors of the kitchen, "And good to see you...seeing again, Aemon."
"It is good to see again, Pypar," the Maester agrees, another smile gracing his aged face. "Come Jon, help me fetch a bit of wood for the young lady's chamber. She's burning up with fever, but the silly bird left her bed, said she was hungry." He chuckles before adding, "She wants to see you. But first, she needs a warm fire lit by her bed so we can get rid of this fever."
My eyes widen in surprise, "Did she say that?" He nods, and I wonder, "Why?"
"She only remembers seeing you and your wolf," Aemon theorizes, "She may want to thank you for coming to her aid." As we've reached the wood pile, Aemon picks up a few pieces, and I load up my arms with as many as I can carry back upstairs. As we walk, Maester Aemon continues to talk, "Her name is Storm, and she...is not from around here. She's different, special..."
"Is it true then?" I venture to ask, "Did she make it so you're able to see again?"
"She did, Jon Snow," Aemon says seriously as he looks me in the eyes, pausing his steps as we are just down the hall now from her chambers, "As I said, she is special. She touched my arm, and I felt a powerful heat travel into my body from her touch; the heat spread to my head and filled my eyes, and I slowly began to regain my sight. It is good that you found her, Jon; I think both of us are aware there are plenty of men who would not have been as noble as you were in discovering a beautiful young lady in such a...position as the one she was discovered in. I trust you will look out for her? I know that may be asking a lot, what with your training coming to an end and you taking the Black very soon, but...she will need someone like yourself keeping eyes on her in a place like this. Of course, now that I am able, I will have my eyes on her as well. And Samwell Tarly seems to like her quite a bit as well, although the boy was nothing but a stuttering mess when he saw her this morning..." Aemon finally takes a breath, looking to me for a response to his request.
It won't be easy, not with my schedule as it is, but I can't deny that Maester Aemon is correct. There are few good men at the Wall, not like it used to be, so I'm told. "I will do my best to keep her safe," I promise the Maester earnestly.
"That's all I ask," Aemon smiles, continuing towards Storm's bed chambers. "Now, let's get this fire started."
I am surprised, when Maester Aemon opens the door, that I hear Alliser Thorne's voice from inside, and he isn't speaking very kindly. In fact, it almost sounds like he's threatening the young lady sitting in bed. "...no safer here than you were out there in the cold, alone. I do not know who you are or where you came from, but you should leave here, while you still can."
"Is that any way to speak to a lady?" Maester Aemon accuses as he strides into the room, tossing his two small logs down on the stone floor by the fireplace for dramatic effect. "Did I hear correct, Alliser Thorne, did you threaten the girl? If you did, I'll have to inform the Lord Commander of your behavior towards our guest." Without saying another word, Thorne storms out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Aemon makes his way to Storm's side as fast as his old body can carry him, asking with concern, "What did he say to you, my dear?"
"I don't know," Storm says, her accent unlike any I've ever heard before. Her face is downcast, shadowed by waves of honey brown hair. "This is all a mess, a big, big mess. I don't know..." She looks up suddenly, only just noticing another person in the room besides Maester Aemon, and her eyes land on me. Her eyes, the same honey brown color as her hair, widen slightly and a wisp of a smile appears on her pale pink lips. "Jon," She says happily, my name falling from her lips in such a familiar way, I almost wonder if I met her before. "I was starting to think I made you up..." We haven't met, though, I'm sure I'd remember someone as different as her.
I don't know what to say to a thing like that, but I open my mouth and somehow ask, "You know my name?" I realize how stupid that sounds in hind-sight, but it is too late to take it back.
"Aemon told me," She replies, smiling fondly at the old man who has started to build a fire. I turn to help him when she speaks to me again, "I'm Storm. I wanted to thank you for...what you did last night. I-I..." She seems hesitant to continue, but she does, "...don't know what happened to me, and I probably would be dead if you and your wolf hadn't found me. So thanks."
"You don't have to thank me," I reply, feeling sympathetic towards her for all she's been through, "Any other decent man would have done the same." I make a point not to say 'any other man' because here at the Wall that is not the truth, and I don't want to lie.
"Alliser said this castle is full of murderers, rapists, and thieves," Storm informs Aemon and I, her voice taking on an accusatory tone, "So are there any other decent men here?"
I take over building the fire for Aemon as he straightens up and begins to tell Storm about the Brothers of the Night's Watch. He explains that being in the Night's Watch used to be seen as an honor and a privelege, but people don't believe as they once did that the Wall needs protection. Now most of the recruits are exactly what Alliser claimed them to be, but not all. There are still honorable men, like my Uncle Benjen, who chose to take the Black and who are proud of their title. I will be one of those men too.
"Why are you here?" Storm asks after Aemon is finished with his explanation, her inquisitive expression directed at me.
"I...chose to join," I answer, "I want to be a Ranger, like my Uncle Benjen. I will be proud to serve as a Brother of the Night's Watch."
She frowns slightly at my well-rehearsed response, but she doesn't question me further on the subject. Instead, she stares into the flames of the fire I lit moments ago and sighs. "I don't know how I'm ever going to get home."
"Lord Commander Mormont will help you locate your family, my dear," Maester Aemon tells the distraught girl reassuringly, "Not to worry, you will see them again."
She shakes her head sadly, "No, you don't understand." She takes a deep breath and releases it slowly, "I'm not from here." She says it firmly, "I don't know how I got here. One minute I was at my parents' house, and the next I was lying naked in the snow. I can't explain it; it was like magic." Storm looks from Aemon to me and back to Aemon again once she's made her confession.
"Like how you healed Aemon of his blindness?" I wonder.
She nods, "Sort of. That was like a...heat...that I felt pass from me to Aemon, but before it was different. When I was at home, I got this headache, and it wasn't bad at first but it started getting worse and worse. I tried to sleep it off, but that didn't help. The pain got to be so bad I wanted to throw up, and actually I did after, but then these waves of pain shot through my body. It was excrutiating. It was the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. Then the floor started shaking, and it disappeared, and then I was falling...and I..." She sighs, obviously noting the look of disbelief written across my face, "I know it sounds crazy, Jon, but it is the truth. Why do you think I didn't tell anyone else? I'm scared. I don't know what to do. I can't get home because my home is not here, anywhere. I'm from Chicago, Illinois, in the United States of America. Neither of you know what that is. It doesn't exist here." Her words slowly start to sink in as I realize what she is telling us, "And where I'm from, there is no Wall. There's no Essos, or Narrow Sea, or Westeros; there never was. Do you understand now? Do you believe me?"
"I believe you," Aemon's response comes right away, "Your secret is safe with me, Storm. I will help you in any way that I can. I owe you that, for restoring my sight."
"Thank you," Storm murmurs. Her eyes flick to me and she asks, "What about you, Jon?"
I know not why she cares if I believe her story, and though I promised Maester Aemon I would look out for Storm's safety, I cannot pretend to believe magic brought this girl to the Wall from someplace outside of everything that I've ever known.
Since I do not reply, Storm prompts, "What does your wolf mean to you?" I blink in confusion, and she elaborates, "Last night, I had a dream and in it there was a field, full of dead animals: wolves, lions, and stags. It's all a bloody mess for me, but does it mean anything to you?"
I look to Aemon before answering Storm's question. "The wolf is the symbol for House Stark. The Lannisters use the lion, and the Baratheons use the stag."
"Well, do those people mean anything to you?" She asks, almost exhasperated at this point with my unresponsive answers.
"My father is Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, so yes, it means something to me."
"Winterfell?" Storm repeats, then pursing her rosebud pink lips and frowning ever-so-slightly. "I remember that name...Is there a...a Highgarden that you know of?"
I nod, now befuddled as to how Storm could have knowledge of Winterfell and Highgarden if she claims to be other-worldly. "Both are castles belonging to Lords of Westeros," Maester Aemon supplies, "Ned Stark is Lord of Winterfell in the North, and Mace Tyrell is Lord of Highgarden in the Reach."
"How did you hear these names before?" I ask, not realizing how accusing my own tone has begun to sound with Storm, who is feverish and should be resting, not being held over the fire by me as I question her honesty.
A look of hurt flashes over Storm's face and when she replies she seems to have little hope I'll believe her words. "I dreamt of them, and I thought it was nothing but a dream, but...I've been trying to figure this out and I haven't got a clue. Because...I also dreamt of you, Jon Snow, and your white wolf, so what does that mean?"
It wasn't my plan to blurt out to Jon that I've been dreaming about him since before I met him. At least, not the first time we met; I figured I would eventually mention it, after establishing a friendship so as not to completely freak him out. Unfortunately, that isn't how things played out, because once I started spilling the beans on my true origin, I knew Jon wouldn't believe me unless I made him, and the only way I could think to make him believe was to tell him about the dreams. So I did. It might not have been the best first impression, but at least I know that he somewhat believes me now, and he did promise to keep my secret as Aemon did. I'm still unsure what links me to Jon Snow, but I feel safer when he's around, and even though it makes no sense to have such blind trust in a complete stranger, it feels natural.
That night, after Maester Aemon and Jon left me to get some rest, I dreamt of back home in Chicago. It was a terrible dream, a nightmare. In it, I witnessed Patricia and Mark, Ricky, Corrine and Holly, even Trey; not one of them remembered me. It was as if I never existed. When I woke up, I smothered my face in the pillow and sobbed for a long while, because I knew that my dream was the truth. The magic that brought me here erased me from my old life completely. Storm Parker never was...what does that make me? Do I even exist? Will I eventually just disappear?
The next day, Aemon assessed I was still too sick and feverish to be allowed out of bed, so I spent it reading, chatting with Aemon and Sam Tarly, who turned out to be better company than I first assumed. The best part of the day was right before bed, when Jon came to visit me with Ghost; that's his direwolf's name. Jon expressed that Ghost was strangely affectionate towards me, the wolf tends to be distant to anyone besides Jon. I think, somehow, I made Ghost remember me through my dreams when I touched his head. I can't believe how crazy that sounds, still, even now a day later, but I really think it's what happened. I felt the images flash from me to him, and the direwolf stared into my eyes with his albino red ones, and I just knew Ghost accepted me. I think he might even protect me if it came down to it. I didn't say any of this to Jon, though. I really am not trying to make him think I'm riding the crazy train.
I had another strange dream that night, but this one was not of Chicago. This dream was of a throne made of swords, sitting at the top of a mountain of dead soldiers, all wearing uniforms of different colors and patterns. Climbing the mountain, fighting amongst each other, were two dozen or so contenders for the throne. Some were men, some women, some young, a few very old, but all were clawing to be the first to the throne. It didn't look too special, this iron throne made of swords, it was sort of scary and intimidating, a throne atop a pile of corpses. King of the Dead. Queen of Destruction. Who would want that title?
I haven't been able to let go of the dream all day, especially some of the faces of the contendors for the throne of death and destruction. I recognize them from other dreams, and now I'm beginning to wonder if they might exist here in this world. I've asked Maester Aemon and Jon to help me figure out my dream, if at all possible.
"So the fat, bearded guy is the current King, Robert Baratheon," I state bluntly, "And the vicious blonde is his wife, Queen Cersei. Hmm...the little guy is Tyrion Lannister, and the tall, blonde, Prince Charming-like guy is his brother, Jaime Lannister. Both are brothers to the Queen...Your father is-"
"The Hand to the King," Jon fills in for me, since I keep forgetting the title, "His name is Ned Stark. But my father doesn't want to be King, he didn't even want to serve as Hand, but he couldn't refuse King Robert. You dream-"
"Doesn't literally mean your dad is going to kill people to try and steal the throne," I interrupt, "Jon, I am only telling you what I saw, but you can't always take a dream for what it looks like. Sometimes, you have to decipher the meaning, and I think this dream is a lot deeper than a simple battle for power. This means something more."
"What do you think it means?" Maester Aemon prompts, his wise eyes encouraging me to put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle inside my brain.
"Well..." I consider the dreams I've had over the past few days and the facts that I've learned from Aemon and Jon, "I think the King is in danger. I think there is a great possibility his thrown, and maybe even his life, may be taken from him in the near future. His death won't be a resolution though. Instead, it will cause more conflict, eventually causing a war amongst the people. It's the only thing that explains why my dreams have been showing so much death and destruction. Remember I told you about the field of animal corpses? There were wolves, lions, and stags: Starks, Lannisters, and Baratheons. In this dream, there were dead soldiers, and the same three families." I notice Jon bristle up like an angry wolf himself when I mention his father's name, so I quickly remind, "I'm not saying your dad is going to do anything wrong, Jon, but he does play a part in this somewhere."
Jon's face changes from angry to worried when he confesses that the last Hand to King Robert Baratheon was murdered not too long ago, and he doesn't want his father suffering the same fate. I don't blame him for worrying. Politics here is a lot scarier than the bullshit between the Republicans and the Democrats back in the good ole U.S. of A. From what Jon has told me of Ned Stark, and it isn't too much, he is a truly noble man who believes his place should be with his family in Winterfell, but he did what he had to. He's too good of a man to be involved in King's drama. I fear for his life too, because one of the fallen in my dream of the Iron Throne was Ned Stark, but I haven't told Jon.
Aemon retires to his bed chambers, which are closest to mine since I am technically under his care as Maester of Castle Black, reminding Jon to tend to my fire before he goes to bed. Jon does this now, so I assume he's going to leave too. I find myself thinking of a reason to make him stay a little longer, even though I know he's tired and it is selfish of me.
"Jon..." I start hesitantly, "can I ask you something?"
"Yes, Storm," He replies, seeming a bit short-tempered. I guess I can't blame him for being sick of the questions. I've been asking questions all day. Actually, since the day I officially met him, I've been asking questions. It's got to be annoying.
"No," Jon sighs, giving me his attention, "What is it?"
"I was just wondering why...why your name is Jon Snow and not Stark. I mean, you said your father is Ned Stark, so-"
"I'm his bastard," Jon interjects, his voice bitter, "Not worthy of the Stark name. Snow is the name they give all the bastards in the North."
I allow him a moment to wallow in self-pity before I inform him, "My parents abandoned me when I was three. I don't even know who they are. Patricia, my adoptive mom, found me in the middle of the road and took me in. She gave me the name Storm because there was a bad storm the night she found me. Parker is her husband Mark's last name, and he never even liked me. A name is just a name, Jon, it doesn't make us who we are."
"Maybe where you're from," Jon says quietly, "but not here."
I don't have anything to say to that, because maybe Jon is right. His name is a constant reminder that he's an illegitimate child, both to himself and everyone else. He's obviously been called a bastard his whole life, and even though he lived with his father, he also lived with his father's wife who was not his mother. That must have been hard. I know how it feels to be unwanted, but that can't be the only connection between Jon and myself.
"Goodnight Jon," I say from directly behind his back, smiling happily at his surprised reaction. I thought he'd hear me get out of bed, but when he didn't I had to continue sneaking up on him. It was worth it by his reaction. I giggle a little before surprising him further and putting my arms around him in a hug. "Thanks for your help. I'm really sorry if I upset you."
As the words spill from my lips, it feels as though time slows down for a moment. I can still hear myself talking, feel my arms around Jon's shoulders and my chest leaning gently against his, but my eyes are viewing a different scene. A young boy lies motionless on a bed, his face almost as white as his pillow, his eyes closed to the world. I wonder what has happened to him, and suddenly I know. I see the brown-haired boy climbing a tall tower, his feet quick and sure. He comes upon a scene in a window that he shouldn't have; a couple is sharing an intimate moment. The man caught in the act does something obsene and unexpected though: he pushes the boy out the window. I watch in horror as his little body drops, and then I gasp as the fall seems to snap me back into reality.
I grip Jon's shoulders tightly and choke out, "Oh my God, Jon! Who is he? Who's the little boy? The one who was pushed from the tower?"
"My little brother Bran," Jon says, staring down at me in concern, "But he fell. Why would you say he was pushed?"
I drop my arms from Jon's shoulders and start pacing the room, needing to figure out what this vision has shown me. "I thought you said Jaime Lannister and Cersei are brother and sister? Twins, or something?"
"They are," Jon confirms.
I stop pacing and turn to face Jon, holding my stomach as I now feel sick with the truth I've been shown. Unable to hold the information to myself for another moment, I inform Jon, "Your brother didn't fall. He was pushed, by Jaime Lannister...after he witnessed him screwing his sister!"
Thanks for reading! I don't know how I did with Jon's POV, but if you like it I can do it again, and if not I'll stick with Mari and Storm's POV's only. Mari was missing from this chapter since I wanted to focus on Jon and Storm's introduction, but she'll be back next chapter:)
Please review, I need your feedback:) I've gotten plenty of readers checking out this story but not too many followers/reviewers, so maybe I'm doing something wrong? If the story is lacking something or you don't like something about it, please let me know! I welcome constructive criticism, because I really want to make this an enjoyable story. I have a great idea for it, so let me know if it's worth writing or if it sucks and I'm wasting my time. Thanks. I really do appreciate your opinions.