Chapter 5- Honour, not Honours
The cool sea breeze whistled quietly over the thin, off-white canvas of the sail, as the triple masted carrack glided smoothly through the bay of Pentos. From above the prow of the ship, Harry smiled tiredly. The late summer sunset, slowly falling over the sea behind him, was truly an event of marvellous beauty. Spears of pink and gold stabbed the sky, bleeding colour across the heavens. Salt spray splashed over the soles of his bare feet, dangling over the churning froth of the dark water. Harry relaxed, his shoulders slumping against the wood of the fore-deck.
"Come join me!" He shouted back towards the centre of the deck. Padfoot huffed heavily, turning his head to look away from his master. Harry grinned. "Don't be like that, Paddy. It's nice here."
Padfoot yawned, not bothering to raise his head.
"Alright, alright I get the point." To be fair, it was a surprise that the wolf cub had even come out of the cabin. For the whole of their journey; from Kings Landing, past Dragonstone and across the Narrow Sea to Essos, Padfoot had not once come out onto the deck, instead languishing in the relative luxury of their quarters or skulking around in the cargo bay in search of stray rats to feast on.
Lord Stark had booked them passage on a rich Pentoshi merchant ship that left Kings Landing as the sun rose. They had decided that it would be better to make sure that people saw Harry leave, rather than try to disappear in the dead of night. Instead he would start travelling incognito once he reached Essos. It would be much easier for a no-name from Westeros to vanish in the bustle of one of the Free Cities, while the disappearance of a trusted retainer from the household of the Stark family would be noticed quickly in Kings Landing.
"Heave!" The command rocked the boat as the crew hauled in the mainsail, stowing it away as quickly as possible. Four other sailors pulled down the mizzen sail as well, as a row of oars sprouted from holes in the hull, high above the water line. Rows of men, sitting on hard edged pews, toiled endlessly as the thick oak oars slid through the water.
The carrack moved quickly into port, heading for the centre of the dockyard where elegant caravels lay moored next to squat grey cogs that listed heavily on one side. Padfoot perked up as he caught sight of merchants pushing their wares along the quayside. His teeth bared, dripping with drool at the sight of long ropes of heavily spiced eastern sausages, sides of pork and beef studded with exotic herbs and spices that neither wolf nor master had seen before.
"Greedy mutt." Harry muttered, spotting Padfoot's excitement. He didn't care to voice his own hunger. "Come on, let me fetch my things, then we can get off this thing. I daresay you'll be glad about that."
Padfoot barked his acquiescence.
Harry gathered his things quickly, stuffing his clothes into a pack, lashing a small pot that he'd filched from the kitchens before he left, to the outside. He belted his sword onto his waist, also taking his wand out of his tunic pocket and strapping onto his right forearm. He hurried off the boat as soon as they had docked. Ten days on a lump of wood swaying and bobbing in the wind was quite enough for Harry. He had enjoyed the last bits of the trip well enough, the water was flat and smooth in the protected bay area. It wasn't like in the open sea, where occasional summer storms racked against the pitted oak ships.
Night had just begun to fall when Harry found himself lost in the city of Pentos. Long slums of ramshackle huts ran along the baked clay walls of impressive, towering buildings. From what he could see, Pentos looked like a city of contradictions. The poor spilled out into the streets and gutters in front of the buildings of the rich. He followed the path of the poorer, slumping buildings, away from the wealthier areas of the city where huge mansions sprawled across the three small hills that formed the northern edge of the city.
A small inn nestled cosily in between two houses caught Harry's eye. The sign was battered and bent, hanging jauntily next to a dusty, garish rose awning, but the front of the building was welcoming. The promise of a warm bed and a soft pillow was enough to convince Harry, who opened the door quietly. From behind him, he heard the low whine that he had come to associate with his moody pet.
"Are you coming in?" He asked the wolf. "No?" The beast shook his shaggy fur, turning away and padding off down the road. "Be back by dawn!" Harry called after his retreating form.
The air inside the inn was heavy with rich, thick smoke that wafted over tender sides of beef that lay roasting on a spit, causing gobbets of fat to drip down, landing in the fire with a satisfying hiss. Harry's stomach groaned at the smell of food. Ten days with naught but fish would do that to a man. He sat himself down on a table, wiping the little bits of drool that had gathered at the corner of his mouth.
'By the Seven, I'm starting to act like the wolf.'
The inn was crowded, with barely a free table left, filled with scruffy travellers seeking a good night's rest and aging whores plying their trade wherever possible. Hardly a quality establishment, but the smell of the food and the thought of a bed that wouldn't sway with the breeze was enough to make him stay. Quickly locating the innkeeper's wife, he hurriedly paid for lodgings for the night, before sitting down to eat.
As soon as he sat down, a tired looking barmaid wearing a greasy apron came and took his order with a smile and a wink. Loosening his pack, he pulled two silver stags out of a deep pocket, dropping them into the waiting girl's hand.
As she left, he pulled a battered piece of folded parchment out of his pocket and placed it on the table. With the tip of one finger he traced a path along the page from the small dot of red ink surrounded by spidery black lettering that spelled 'Pentos.' He followed the roads eat towards Qohor, the easternmost settlement of the Free Cities that stood at the edge of the Dothraki Sea.
Qohor would have to be his next port of call. If he was to find Daenerys Targaryen and her Dothraki khalasar, the city would serve as a perfect base.
"Qohor, huh?" A voice sounded from over his shoulder, husky and inviting.
Soft fingers traced their way over his shoulder as a thinly clothed woman wound her way round Harry, sidling into the seat opposite him. Long dark hair hung in waves over intense sapphire eyes, lidded by thick lines of smoky grey kohl. She wore a light Qartheen dress made of lavender cotton that draped elegantly from a knotted gold brooch, leaving one pert breast bare in the traditional style of the maidens of Qarth. A teasing smile quirked at the edges of her mouth as she regarded Harry, looking him up and down like he was little more than a piece of meat.
Harry shot her a lecherous grin as he regarded her in kind. "What's it to you?" He kept his eyes fixed on hers, not daring to look down. Nudity was far more acceptable in Essos than back in Westeros and Harry was not used to seeing quite so much of a woman, quite so publically.
She shrugged her tanned shoulders nonchalantly. "Just wondering how long I would have you for."
Harry's smile grew a tad more earnest. He loved brazen women, he didn't know why but he found bold and strong women inexplicably attractive.
"Isn't that a little presumptuous?"
"We'll just have to wait and see."
Before he could respond, the barmaid returned to his table with the food and a flagon of ale. Harry tore hungrily into the food, washing greasy mouthfuls down with long, deep quaffs from his flagon. If the girl across from him minded his atrocious table manners, she didn't say. Harry almost winced; generally he prided himself on being able to act like one of the nobility, even when half-starved.
"Will you join me?" Harry asked graciously.
She smiled sweetly. "Of course."
He signalled the barmaid to bring another pair of drinks to the table.
"So, what business brings a handsome Westerosi such as yourself to my fair city?" Harry was caught with his mouth full of gamey meat.
"My business is my own."
She stroked his face from across the table, running her feet along the inside of his thighs as she did so. "Come now, there's no need to be like that."
Harry blushed a little at her forwardness, his cheeks heating in further embarrassment when he realised that he was blushing.
"I'm a travelling sell-sword. I'm looking to find someone to hire me."
Her smile turned feral, as her toes inched further and further up Harry's thighs, tantalisingly caressing him with the slightest touch.
"No. Try again."
"You don't believe me?"
"Few would believe that. Sell-swords don't generally carry pouches full of Westerosi currency, nor do they carry castle forged swords made from fine steel. At least, the travelling kind don't. So, once again, tell me why you're here."
She picked up her tankard and drained it expertly in a few practiced gulps. She arched a sculpted eyebrow at Harry's nearly full mug, indicating him to do the same. With a sigh, Harry followed suit.
"Barkeep," she called loudly, "Two more!" She dropped her voice to a whisper. "The drinks are on you, I trust?"
Harry, extremely aware of her toes near his crotch, quickly complied, throwing down another few silver stags onto the table.
"Now, what were you saying?"
"It pains me to say it, but I am an exile from my homeland." Harry spoke in a low tone, as if recounting something that caused him pain to think of. "My liege-lord passed on, the Seven rest him, and when he died his bastard of a son took my land from me and cast me out into the cold."
Her toes stopped their mischievous dance, as she caught his hand and pressed a short kiss upon his fingers. An expression of genuine sorrow graced her face. "I'm sorry, my dear. I did not mean to pry."
Harry nodded in, what he hoped was, understanding sorrow. The alcohol had loosened his lips causing the fake story to leap from his mouth unbidden.
"I have… come to terms with it, but the slight is not easily forgotten."
"I could make you forget, my lord." She resumed her ministrations as her voice dropped further in pitch.
"You're shameless." He choked out.
She flashed him a winning smile. "I just know what I want, is all."
"And how to get it evidently." Harry drank deeply from his drink, enjoying the slight haze that had begun to fall over him.
"Of course." Her toes finally found their intended target and Harry stiffened uncomfortably, in more ways than one. She leaned her head in towards him. "Won't you invite me upstairs?"
Harry's eyes were drawn down her face, following the alluring curve of her neck before settling heavily on her ample bosom. With a start he realised that maybe he had had a little too much to drink. He tore his gaze from the woman across from him, looking up to make eye contact with a portly, unshaven man that stared back at him with furious anger in watery grey eyes. He wore around a dozen brash gold circlets around thick, greasy forearms. His hands rested uneasily on the hilt of a knife, but his eyes remained fixed, unmoving, on Harry.
"Methinks your man friend wouldn't like that."
"Who, him?" She snorted. "He's nothing, just some jealous old mercenary. I've never even spoken two words to him before."
"It doesn't look like that to me."
She grabbed Harry's face between her fingers, forcing him to look her in the eyes before pressing a soft kiss to his lips. "Jealousy is a terrible beast, my Lord. Pay no attention to such possessive men; they are beneath you."
She kissed him again, her lips only just touching his faintly, before she moved away.
"What say you, my Lord? Will you have me?"
Slowly, a hazy smile spread across Harry's face. The idea of a little fun sounded good right about now.
'Besides, what's the worst that could happen?'
"That whoring, bollocking, wanking son of a trollop." He roared.
His things were gone.
As was all his money.
And even the clothes on his back.
"How could I be so stupid?" He raged, searching for anything to cover his nudity. Unfortunately for him, she had even taken all the bed linens with her when she left… along with everything of value. The only thing he had left was the disillusioned wand that remained strapped firmly on his right forearm.
Harry remembered little of last night, save for hazy memories of the drunken sex itself. 'She must have drugged me.' He groaned heavily as he collapsed onto the bare bed, one hand clutching his, still slightly groggy, head.
"Of course she bloody drugged me. How thick could I be? No honest woman would ever walk up to some brainless, scruffy traveller who smells of fish, and all but ask for a shag, without even dropping a name."
He stared up at the ceiling morosely. She must have seen his money pouch when he paid for his meal. He still had his wand on him, but at this point, conjuring clothes was still outside the reach of what he could do. 'I guess I'll just wait here till somebody comes.'
A heavy knock on the door startled Harry out of his unhappy lethargy.
Harry started speaking as he opened the door, a little apprehensively. "Now I know that this looks bad, but if you wouldn't mind bringing me some clothes, I'd be most obl-"
He shut up quickly.
The very sharp tip of a hand and a half sword rested coldly on his neck, just below his pulsing jugular.
Watery grey eyes stared back at him. Harry's mind searched through foggy memories in an attempt to remember the paunchy face before him. Like a hammer it hit him; the jealous man from last night.
"Where is she?" He growled ferociously.
"I don't know what you're talking about, good Ser. Now if you would excuse me-"
"Don't fuck with me, boy." The tip of the sword edged further into his neck, drawing a thin trail of blood.
Harry's hands which had, up till now, been covering his 'pride', jumped into the air in a show of surrender.
"I'm afraid that she's gone, and she took everything of value with her."
A meaty fist crashed into his face, forcing him stumbling back.
"I know that, you little shit! Now tell me where the fuck she's gone or I'll gut you like a pig."
Thick blood dripped slowly from Harry's quite obviously broken nose.
"Fuck!" He roared, clutching at his face. His fingers gingerly touched his already swelling appendage. "Episkey." He murmured quietly, hiding the light flash from the wand strapped to his arm. His nose straightened with a sickening crack as it was forced back into place by the magic.
"Where is she?" The giant screamed hoarsely.
Harry dropped his wand into his hand, quickly flinging a sharp stinging hex at the large man, causing him to drop his sword as he clutched his hand where a small welt was spreading across the skin. In the confusion, Harry drove into him, tackling the larger man to the ground as his knees buckled.
The older man rolled with the blow, tucking his knees up before kicking Harry off him. Harry scrambled to pick up the sword that his opponent had dropped. Realising that he'd lost his weapon, the other man bolted out of the door, faster than a man of his size should be capable of.
"Coward!" Harry yelled, before following the man out the door, sword at the ready. If he didn't take the man out, he would come back with a greater fury.
He followed his opponent through the twisting hallways of the inn, before breaking out of the back door that lead through to the stables. He caught up with the podgy man in the stables, standing over a rather shabby looking horse as he was furiously unbuckling something from the horse.
He drew a terrifying great sword from an ornate sheath made of wrought silver and red leather pulled tight over warm cherrywood. He hefted the sword with both hands into a guard position, the terrible blade ready to cover attacks from any direction.
Harry lashed out quickly, the stolen weapon whipping out viciously in a one handed attack. The great sword moved slowly, but its sheer size let it shrug off the quicker strike. The fat man's return blow nearly took Harry off his feet as he just managed to bring his blade up to block it.
'By the Gods does he hit hard!'
Harry spun backwards, ducking under the follow up attack and simultaneously putting some space between them. The man swung wildly at him, the strike missing Harry by a whisker as he slid under the blade. The thunderous clash of steel on steel reverberated through the stables, as the combatants rained blows down on each other, locked together in furious combat. Their battle raged on until suddenly, the fat man put on a burst of speed and knocked Harry on to the ground.
"Peace!" Harry shouted. "I have no quarrel with you."
The man laughed; an ugly, grating sound that was harsh on the ears.
"I am the Commander of the Golden Company. I don't make peace, boy, I break it." He swung his sword, resting the, surprisingly, warm tip on Harry's cheek. "When you meet your gods, tell them that Harry Strickland sent you."
He sighed. He didn't really want to use magic to get out of this; that one stinging hex he had used earlier had been virtually undetectable, but if he used any noticeable magic now he would have to kill the other-Harry. It wasn't that he didn't mind killing the other man, it was that he would rather not give the man's companions a reason to come after him; the Golden Company were the most feared mercenaries in all of Essos.
"Suit yourself. Just remember that I did offer peace."
Strickland raised the sword high, ready to remove Harry's head.
A violent burst of scarlet light shone through the stable for a split second.
Harry Strickland hit the ground before he even realised what had happened. A clean hole, smoking slightly, had been punched clear through his left breast. Dark blood bubbled slowly out of the puncture as the air in his lungs was steadily replaced by his life-blood.
Harry pulled the great sword out of the dying man's hands before viciously driving it into the wound, killing the fat man instantly.
"Sorry about that, but I had to make it look more natural." A perfectly round wound would always look suspicious.
He pulled the sword up, examining the blade as rivulets of blood ran down the centre. The whole sword stood at about five feet, maybe slightly over. It reminded him a bit of Ice, Lord Stark's own great sword. As he scrutinised it further he could see tiny ripples in the steel, like small waves of metal that flowed along the blade.
"Valyrian steel." He hissed in surprise.
He dug the sheath out of the hay where Strickland had dropped it, the polished silver glinting against the dark red, almost black, leather. The handle of the weapon followed the same colourings as the sheath; sharp silver and carnelian red. The pommel was topped with the simple design of a roaring metal dragon, fangs bared and ready to strike.
A high pitched scream shocked him out of his reverie. He turned to see a terrified maid, pale in the face, run screaming at the sight of a naked man, standing over a corpse and holding a blood stained sword in the air.
"Shit." He cursed. He couldn't stay here any longer.
Harry hurried to pull the jerkin off the corpse, rapidly stripping the body of its clothes before putting them on himself. He regarded the now nearly naked cadaver with an expression akin to pity.
"Again, I'm sorry, but I need them more."
Quickly mounting the stolen horse, he fled from the inn, stopping only to collect Padfoot, before he sped from the city in all haste.
Months passed slowly as Harry tracked the winding path taken weeks earlier by the khalasar. He had decided to forgo starting his journey in Qohor, as the mysterious woman would know that he was heading there. He didn't want to spend a night in the city, only to wake up and find two-thousand angry mercenaries baying for his blood. Instead he had followed the river Rhoyne south and east, skirting its great banks for many days, before crossing the waters at the town that some call Chroyane, but most call the Sorrows. From there he headed due east, heading for the heart of the Dothraki Sea.
Forty-thousand Dothraki bloodriders were surprisingly difficult to find in the Dothraki Sea; there were no landmarks or cities for them to stop at, nor were there many travellers who had seen the horde and lived to bring news of their passing to others. Despite this, nearly three months after he landed at Pentos he caught up with the winding snake that was the khalasar of Khal Drogo.
A pair of scouts, dressed in patchwork leather and cloth, escorted him to see the Khal, their arakh held taut against his throat. By the time they reached the head of the column, the khalasar had begun to make camp. All about them, tents were sprouting up from the ground. The scouts led him to an open encampment, bordered by the largest tent, outside of which the great Khal sat drinking from a wine skein.
Harry was thrown to the ground, roughly, as his swords were taken from him. Drogo growled at him, roaring a primitive guttural challenge to the sky.
"I bear you no ill will, great Khal. I am here to speak to the last of the dragons."
Drogo grunted in a more placid -for a Dothraki- manner, causing one of his attendants to scurry away. Harry thought that he had heard the man say something about an 'Andal.'
Harry could hear the returning footsteps, but the edge of the arakh was pressed against the back of his neck, holding his head down.
"Let him go. He means us no harm." A familiar voice, but one that he couldn't quite place.
Harry felt the cold steel rise off his skin and he turned to look at his saviour.
"It's good to see you again." Harry's jaws opened and closed wordlessly at the sight of Ser Jorah, his exiled friend. "Did Lord Stark cast you out as well?"
Before any of the Dothraki could realise what happened, Harry was standing and Jorah was on the floor, clutching his face in pain.
"You fucker! You utter bastard!" Harry roared, kicking Jorah in the side. "Slavery? What the fuck is wrong with you?" It didn't matter that Jorah had armour on, or that Harry had probably broken a toe by kicking his breastplate. Harry was furious at the man, and no force on earth could stop him.
Jorah rolled away from him, holding his blood stained hands in the air, as a show of surrender. "Peace!" He roared. "I don't want this fight."
"I don't care if you want it." Harry raged, as tears stung at his eyes. Jorah had been one of his first friends and his betrayal had cut deep. "Why did you do it? Why would you betray me?"
Before Jorah could answer, a small woman with hair of pale silver and eyes of burning violet appeared at Drogo's side.
"Seize him." She cried shrilly. "Seize that man."
A pair of strong arms wrestled Harry to the ground, pressing his face into the dirt once more.
Drogo chuckled throatily at the commotion around him, before snapping an order in rumbling Dothraki.
"Khal says let him go. Fighting between friends is good for a warrior."
The silver woman barked a response in a slower, accented voice.
"Khaleesi says that the Andal is her retainer. By hurting him, that man has hurt an extension of herself."
Harry couldn't hear who was translating their words, but he was grateful for it.
"His life is mine! By law and by heart, my actions were right!" He shouted.
"He speaks the truth, Khaleesi. I beg you to let him go." Jorah's words were soft and imploring.
The weight on his shoulders was lifted suddenly as Harry felt another pair of arms pull him to his feet.
"Give me time and I'll explain everything to you." Jorah stated as he clasped Harry by the shoulders. "I swear that I never meant to betray you. All I wanted wa-"
Harry pulled him into a tight hug, cutting him off.
"I have not forgiven you, and chances are that I will not forgive you." He murmured into Jorah's ear. "But you are right; it's good to see you again."
Jorah smiled sadly as they broke their embrace. "It's a start, my old friend." He moved away from Harry before clearing his throat. "May I present Ser Harry the Potter, sworn-sword of House Stark and the Sword of the North."
Harry knelt in the dust, clasping one clenched fist to his breast. Jorah's blood still stained his hand and the earthy brown dirt marked his face.
"Harry, may I present the great Khal Drogo, son of Bharbo, ruler of the wandering plains."
Harry bowed his head further, in respect.
"And his wife, Daenerys of the House Targaryen, Princess of the Seven Kingdoms and Khaleesi of the wandering plains."
AN: The story is only starting to pick up now. I'm really just trying to get to a slightly later stage when the real divergences from canon will occur.
The title comes from the words of House Westerling of the Crag.