A Dream of Spring Fanfiction

Gregor Clegane

New member
With season 7 done, here is how I would like to see the final season of Game of Thrones play out. Winter is truly here with the Army of the Dead crossing the wall. The living must ban together or die. But who will survive to the end of this Song of Ice and Fire? And who will meet with tragedy like so many other great heroes? Whoever lives and dies, they will not be forgotten

A/N: Hey everyone. It's me with a new fanfic. After the ending of season seven, I honestly cannot begin to imagine waiting two years for season 8. So, to fill the time, I'm just gonna write my own version.

This story is how I would like Game of Thrones to end, based on the last seven seasons of set up. Who knows how much will be accurate but it should be fun. I do love these characters. Of course, it's written in a prose format rather than TV script, but you get the general idea. With that, enjoy!


A DREAM OF SPRING

Chapter 1 - Coming Home

Jon


In the past few months, it seemed like Jon had been everywhere but home. From the South, in King's Landing and Dragonstone to the North, far beyond the wall. But not home. Not the familiar walls of Winterfell.

For so many years, Jon felt out of place in the great Northern hall of the Starks. He was not a Stark himself, though he had Stark blood. He had family but he often sat away from them at meals. In comparison to Robb-the golden son and heir to Winterfell-Jon felt like a shadow.

He took the black because that was what shadows did. They went North and joined a new family where they could be of use. He didn't think he'd miss Winterfell but he did. He had missed his father. His brothers. His sisters. The Stark household guard. The Maester. Even Catelyn Stark and her scathing looks. It was familiar at least.

He had no idea how he went from the Bastard of Winterfell to the King in the North. From a bastard to a man of the night's watch to the Lord Commander to King. He had never wanted that much power. He had wanted a name, perhaps, but not a crown or a throne.

He was different from Daenerys in that way. She stood on the bow of the ship as snow fell all around her, the flakes blending in with the white of her hair. They tiny particles stuck to her cheeks for moments before melting away. She was blindingly beautiful. Even blind men could see it. And she had the ambition of hundreds in her heart. She was the kind meant to wear a crown and call herself queen.

If only he could make the North see that.

"Enjoying the view, Lord Snow?"

Tyrion's voice startled Jon. He gripped the side of the boat and turned away. "I don't know what you mean."

"Oh, you know perfectly well what I mean. You're not a stupid as you look. Most of the time." Tyrion circled around him, leaning up against the ship. He was wrapped in a thick fur cloak but clearly still freezing. "Pledging yourself to Danerys in front of my sister... now that was truly stupid. You really looked like Ned Stark's son then."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Jon replied.

Tyrion took a swig from a flask. "I'm not sure it was, but take it as you please."

"You shouldn't complain," Jon said. "You turned things around for us and convinced your sister to help. I am truly grateful." If not for Tyrion, the North and Danerys armies would be on their own. "Really, Lord Tyrion. Thank you."

"No need to thank me," Tyrion said. "Much as I'd like to give myself a pat on the back, I still have my doubts about Cersei."

"You think she's planning something?"

"She is always planning something. It's just a matter of whether or not that plan benefits us," Tyrion said. "One thing I can count on: she loved her children. Now she's pregnant and will want to defend her unborn baby. But, after the Army of the Dead returns to their graves...I don't know." He took another swig from his flask, this time longer. "I just don't know. It's very frustrating for me. Knowing things is half of my personality."

"And what is your other half?" Jon asked.

Tyrion smiled and raised his flask.

Jon couldn't help but smile. How he had loathed the dwarf when he first arrived at Winterfell. He called him a bastard and Jon, the angry boy that he was, wanted to knock him in the face. But Tyrion had taught him one of the most important lessons in his life.

Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.

Being called a bastard was a very small problem now.

Tyrion nodded toward Daenerys. "You should talk to her. I find that women don't like men to be distant after love making."

Jon felt heat flush his neck. "I... don't know what you mean."

"Please, Jon Snow." Tyrion shook his head. "You are a terrible liar, and this boat isn't very big. Everyone knows what happened." He turned and started wandering back toward the steps. He stopped before going below and looked back at him. "Just...will you take a piece of advice from me?"

"I might," Jon said.

"Be careful," Tyrion said. "I can respect what you must be feeling. But she is a dragon. Treat her as such."

"You think she's dangerous? You're her hand," Jon said.

"Of course I think she's dangerous," Tyrion said. "All the best women and leaders are dangerous, Jon Snow. They cannot rule if they are not. Respect that. Or you will be burned."

Jon's mouth twitched. "She is not the first dangerous woman I have known, Lord Tyrion."

Ygritte passed through his mind. The wildling had been one of the most dangerous person he had ever known. She shot him with three arrows and still he went on loving her. He loved her even after she died. He never thought he'd feel such feelings stir in his chest again.

Yes, dangerous was a good word for her. But Jon liked that.

Tyrion gave him a nod. "I believe you. Now, I'm going below deck. I really cannot stand this cold."

Jon shook his head as he disappeared. Then he turned back toward the Dragon Queen. He took a deep breath and approached.

She was looking up at the sky as the snow picked up, her violet eyes almost enchanted. He opened his mouth to say something but she spoke first. "Did you know the first time I saw snow was when I flew my dragon to rescue you?"

"Is that so?" Jon asked. "Not a pleasant experience then."

"No," Daenerys said. "I'm glad to see it again now. It really is peaceful." She held out her palm and a few flakes dropped onto her skin. "In Essos, the climate is warm or blazing hot. I'm not used to these temperatures. But I imagined snow many times. I dreamed of it on occasion."

"I believe my name tells you my relationship with snow," Jon said.

"Yes." Daenerys smiled slightly. She had a wonderful, rare sort of smile. Usually her face was hardened steel, like a military commander. But sometimes it shifted and Jon had begun to live for those moments. "I can tell you're not used to warm weather. Perhaps that's why you wear your fur cloak even down south."

"I never thought I would have a need for warm clothing," Jon admitted. "The Night's watch vows are for life. I was sure I would die in the North."

"And so you did." Daenerys turned, reaching out to touch his chest. "A knife to the heart. Not an exaggeration, was it?"

Jon exhaled, resting his hand over hers. "No. Not an exaggeration."

He would bear the scars from his death for the rest of his life, but he hadn't thought about them much until Daenerys' lips had traced them a few night's previous. Now, they stuck in his mind. Those scars were his punishment for being a naïve leader. Like his father and brother before him, he had been killed. Unlike them, he was given a second chance at being a leader.

But how would the Northern lords like his choices? They had named him their king and he had bent the knee to a foreign queen. What would they think of him now? What would Sansa think of him?

Daenerys tilted her head to the side. "Are you all right?"

"I'm nervous, I suppose," Jon said. "It's been a long time since I've been back to Winterfell. A lot has happened."

"But you should be excited. Your brother and sister are alive," Daenerys said. "Returned home."

"And I haven't seen either of them in years. Sansa changed so much in that time. I know they have too." Jon exhaled. "But, they are still my family. I just... can't believe I'll see them again. It doesn't feel real."

Daenerys drew her hand away. "I'm happy for you." Jon didn't speak and she paused. "There's something else though."

"I do not yet know how the Northern lords will react to your presence," Jon said. "If they know I bent the knee..."

"I'd suggest lying," Daenerys said. "But I know you will not agree."

"I can't govern the north on deceit," Jon said.

Daenerys shook her head. "I knew you'd say something like that, Jon Snow." She rested her hand over his. "Your loyalty means a great deal to me. If you wish, I can speak to your lords. Maybe then they will see that I am not a conqueror."

"I should speak first," Jon said. "I'd rather not throw you to the wolves."

"You'll throw yourself, though," Daenerys said.

Jon shrugged. "I am a wolf. It's different."

He heard the ringing of bells in the distance and looked up. Through the mist, he could spy a large harbor coming close.

"White Harbor," he said. "We're getting close."

"How close?" Daenerys asked.

"A few days at most. If the weather is good," Jon said. "We'll ride the river as far as we can then go the rest of the way on foot."

"Very well," Daenerys said. "I look forward to seeing your home, Jon Snow." She turned. "I think I'll go below. I have not fully adapted to this cold yet."

"Give it time. Winter forces everyone to adapt," Jon said.

Daenerys' mouth quirked. "You know, I may be new here. But even I know that was a very Stark thing to say." With that she turned and left Jon standing alone on the bow. He stayed up there for a while, enjoying the bite of the wind, as they pulled into the bay. The air smelled fresher up north. Cleaner.

He was glad to be coming home.

Sansa

When Sansa was a girl, she never knew how much responsibility went in to being a queen or even a lady. She saw an endless parade of beautiful dresses and elaborate hair styles, not the line of accounts and planning. She read the stories of heroic princes without realizing how cruel and monstrous they could be. She looked back often on the naïve little girl of her childhood and pitied her for the hard lessons she had not yet learned.

Her life as the standing ruler of Winterfell was not all dresses and romance. However, she still did enjoy it. Though reviewing accounts and planning for the winter was tedious, she was good at it. Like her mother before her, she imagined. Now she didn't have to worry about Petyr Baelish lurking over her shoulder and the honeyed words that coated his poisonous tongue. Her thoughts were her own, and though she was mindful of the possibility of other plots against her family, she felt she could breathe. At least for the moment.

As she reviewed the accounts, Arya perched on a small desk, cleaning her dagger. The same dagger that had ended Littlefinger. Arya certainly worried Sansa, but in different ways. She didn't fear that her sister would plot against her. But the girl had a tendency to give Sansa a heart attack. Sometimes, Sansa would be answering letters and look up to see Arya had been in the corner for ten minutes. Other times, Arya would appear at her side when Sansa thought she was alone.

It was typical of Arya, honestly, to sneak up on Sansa. They always fought as children and Arya clearly got a childish sort of pleasure from seeing Sansa jump. She got a little grin on her face that proved as much.

Sansa didn't mind so much. It meant Arya was still her sister. Still the same girl behind her many faces.

"Five new shipments of grain today. We may survive at least part of this winter," Sansa observed, reading over the documents. "If only there was a way to predict how long it might last."

"Ask Bran." Arya looked up from her blade. "He can see everything now, right?"

"Yes, and because of that, he's not a particularly focused person." Sansa set down her quill. "I spoke to him about it. He can see into the future, but none of it is set in stone."

"I'm not sure if that's comforting or not," Arya said.

Sansa had to agree. So much about Bran confused her these days. He had helped them to see Littlefinger's full treachery, but on most matters he was so cryptic. He had hardly left the Godswood, sitting out there for hours at a time in his chair. She was so happy that he had come home...but he was only a shadow of their brother now. A shadow...or so much more. She couldn't tell most days.

"How is training going," Sansa asked. "Any improvements?"

She had set Arya to training many of the younger recruits, especially those who had never held a sword before. She would be a hard instructor, but a skilled one. Brienne of Tarth, since she had returned a few days previously, had continued drilling with some of the older recruits.

"The younger ones complained a lot at first," Arya said. "But then I scared them by changing my face and they haven't said a word against me since."

"Gods, Arya, we're not trying to scare them."

Arya shrugged. "Why not? If what Jon says about the White Walkers is true, we should all be scared." She flipped her dagger in her hand. "Fear can be a powerful weapon if you learn how to use it. I learned that many times."

Sansa looked up at her. "Are you ever going to tell me the details about your past few years?"

Arya sheathed her dagger. "Are you going to tell me yours?"

Sansa looked down at her hands. "Someday maybe." She exhaled. Her breath froze even indoors. "I understand if you don't want to speak of it. But no matter what you did. It wouldn't change my opinion of you."

Arya didn't speak for a long moment. Sansa assumed she wouldn't at all and went back to reading. Then:

"I killed Merryn Trant."

Sansa looked up. "Merryn Trant?"

"You remember him, right? One of the King's guard," Arya said.

"Of course I remember him. He was awful," Sansa said. "Joffery once had him beat me in front of everyone. I think he enjoyed it quite a bit."

"I'm sure he did. He liked hitting girls," Arya said. "I snuck into the brothel he visited. When I got him alone I killed him with a tiny dagger."

Sansa looked back at her sister. She could see Arya was testing her, trying to see how she would react. Would she recoil in fear like the old Sansa would? Would she judge her violent ways?

Sansa smiled. "Good. I'm glad. I hated that man."

Arya's shoulders seemed to relax. "Did you ever kill anyone we hated? I know you weren't responsible for Joffery. But anyone else."

"I didn't kill anyone myself," Sansa said. "But...I was directly responsible for one death."

"Who?" Arya leaned forward slightly.

"You didn't know him," Sansa said. "It was Ramsay Bolton. The man Littlefinger had me marry."

"Ramsay. He was the bastard you and Jon fought off," Arya said. "I knew he died. How did you kill him?"

Sansa paused before answering. Sometimes she couldn't believe what she had done either. And yet, she didn't regret it. It was a fitting punishment for him. "I left him in a cell with his starving hounds. They did the work."

For a moment, she could see she surprised Arya. Her sister, who had always seen her as weak and gentle, did not think she was capable of such things.

Sansa shook her head, turning her gaze back to her papers. "We've both changed Arya. And it's been a hard road. We've both done terrible things to get here. But we survived."

"We did," Arya said. "I'm proud of you. From what I heard of that man, he deserved it."

Sansa smiled softly. "And I think that is the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

"Don't get used to it," Arya replied.

A knock came at the door. Sansa straightened. "Come in."

The maester entered with a scroll in his hand. "A raven, my lady. The King has nearly returned. He'll be here before the day's end."

Arya stood from her perch, abruptly. "Jon is coming?"

Sansa almost smiled. Her sister almost looked like her old self then.

"Indeed, my lady, but not alone." The maester extended the note to Sansa and she unscrolled it to read.

"Who else is coming?" Arya asked, striding over to the desk.

"Many people," Sansa said. "Including Tyrion." She swallowed hard. "And the dragon queen."

"With her dragons?" Arya asked. Of course, Arya had always loved reading about the Targaryan conquests. When she rode a horse sometimes she pretended it was a dragon.

"I imagine so." Sansa set down her scroll. "The other lords of the North. Have they gathered?"

"Nearly all of them, yes," the maester said.

"Good. Then let them know of this news." She stood. "We must prepare."

A Targaryan was about to enter these halls for the first time in a long while. And dragons would cross the sky over Winterfell.

This was the first winter Sansa would truly remember. And what an auspicious one it would be.

A/N: That's all for now. Each chapter will have two point of views. Possibly more when we get into larger battle sequences. Review and let me know what you think and maybe give me your own predictions!

Until next week, happy reading
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Wow. Honestly I'm so stunned by the positive response to this fic that here I am with another chapter. Seriously, this became my third most alerted fic 24 hours after I posted so, thanks everyone.

I know that the chapters vary in length and that none of them are excessively long. Frankly, it takes time to write anything of quality so I'm never going to release chapters longer than 4,000 words. Most of them fall near 3,000, like this one.

But let's continue. I hope I don't let you guys down! Thanks for all the support thus far!


Chapter 2: Promises and Reunions

Jaime


From the moment the snow began to fall on King's Landing, Jaime did not look back. He rode North without one second of regret. Well...that wasn't entirely true. He regretted he hadn't left sooner. He regretted that he kept himself in the dark for so long.

Cersei was right about one thing. He was the stupidest Lannister. Tyrion and Cersei had quick minds from their father and studied the game while Jaime played with swords and ignored his studies at every opportunity. He took the longest to learn to read, because the letters mixed up on the pages for him.

But he still learned. Slowly but surely, he always learned. Unfortunately for Cersei, he had finally gotten around to learning what a heartless creature she was just in time for the winter winds to blow. She was a cold, manipulative woman who he could not love. Not anymore.

He felt oddly free, riding along the King's road. Like he could breathe a little easier. Of course, he had broken his vow to another ruler, but what was one more broken oath really.

Fuck loyalty.

Jaime had to laugh at the thought. When even Brienne of Tarth said such things, it was good to pay attention. He hoped to see her again in the North. He had to apologize for his behavior-behaving as if she were a stranger at that meeting.

He made good time on the King's road, and few people bothered him. With his hand covered and his clothing unmarked, he wasn't easily recognizable. Those who did know his face wouldn't know he was a traitor. Yet.

He risked stopping at a tavern for a hot meal one evening. Better not to sleep outside with the nights getting colder. When the tavern girl brought him his food, he didn't hesitate to eat. It had been awhile since he stopped for food. He ripped a chunk of bread off with his teeth, staring into the fire.

Leaving Cersei had been the first major step. But now he had other problems. What exactly would he do when he went North? How would he tell them of Cersei's betrayal. Would the Starks or the dragon queen trust his good intentions after all he had done?

Likely not. He suspected he would be thrown in a cell. Maybe even executed. Though, with any hope, Brienne could vouch for him. Maybe get him a comfortable cell instead of a grave. The result didn't matter. He still had a promise to keep.

A shadow fell over him and he tensed, his left hand going to his dagger. But a friendly hand clapped on his shoulder.

"So, Jaime fucking Lannister thinks he can leave the capitol without paying his debt to me, aye?"

Jaime relaxed. "Ser Bronn of the Blackwater." He looked up at the man. "You followed me."

"You're easy to follow." Bronn sat down beside him. "You fancy lords aren't used to travelling in secret. Usually you announce your damn presence everywhere you go."

"I'm not wearing any colors," Jaime pointed out.

"You radiate Lannister. I've been around your fucking family long enough to recognize that." Bronn leaned forward. "So. You're going north because your sister is a backstabbing cunt."

"That is the sum of it, yes," Jaime said.

"And you're going to ride your pretty ass up there like that's going to do any good?" Bronn asked. "One additional sword won't give them better odds."

"But I'm bringing them two." Jaime gestured to Bronn.

Bronn shook his head. "No. I won't be fighting any dead men, Lannister."

"You're riding in the wrong direction then," Jaime said. "If you want to avoid dead men, why not ride South? Go to Dorne. You enjoyed the climate there."

"Aye, I'd love to return to the place where I almost died of poisoning," Bronn said. "I'm coming with you because you owe me a debt. You promised me a castle."

"I'm really not in the position to give you a damn castle right now," Jaime pointed out.

"No, but one day you might be. So I have to protect my investment." Bronn waved over a serving girl and took a pint of ale from her tray.

Jaime smiled. "Why don't you just say you care and don't want me to die, Ser Bronn?"

"Fuck off." Bronn leaned back. "You haven't answered my question. Why are you riding North alone and without an army."

"I couldn't rally the Lannister army in King's Landing. There was no time," Jaime said. "I'm lucky I got out of there before Cersei put a price on my head. I couldn't convince all of those Lannister men to commit treason. Cersei would kill them all if they defied her."

"She would," Bronn agreed. "Which means you have to find yourself an army that doesn't know you're treasonous."

"An army that doesn't know I'm-" Jaime paused. "Wait...we do have an army like that. Not a large one, but enough to make some difference." He tapped his finger on his knee. "In the Riverlands."

"Aye. The Riverlands," Bronn said. "Word can't have traveled up there so quickly. And Cersei won't expect you to go there."

"No, she won't think I'm smart enough," Jaime said. "I doubt Edmure Tully will be happy to see me...but if he finds out I'm pulling out my troops and giving him back his castle, maybe he'll see reason. Maybe he'll even send his armies north."

"Don't get too ambitious now, kingslayer," Bronn said. "He hates your guts."

"He's not alone," Jaime said. "We'll sleep tonight and ride hard tomorrow. Will you go with me, Bronn?"

"No, I came all the way here just to give you a damn talking to. Of course I'm coming with you," Bronn said.

Jaime smiled. He was a slow learner. But he knew which vows to break and which ones to keep. He broke a vow to kill the Mad King Aerys and save the people of King's Landing, long ago. He broke a vow to Cersei now to help save countless more lives.

After a life of so much dishonor, it didn't matter to him anymore, what words he had said. Fuck them all. He would fight on the side of the living until he joined the dead himself.

Arya

Cersei

Illyn Payne

Berric Dondarion

The Red Woman

The Mountain

Arya's list had gotten shorter over time. So many of the names that used to pass her lips every night had passed away. Joffery was dead. Merryn Trant was dead. The Hound was dead. So was Tywin and Walder Frey and Polliver and the waif. And Littlefinger, who had featured on her list only briefly.

Now there were very few names remaining, and for all she knew, some had already died. But not long ago, she had been bent on crossing off every name. After killing the Frey's she had set a course for King's Landing, intending to kill Cersei, the woman who had been on her list longer than anyone.

It was the mention of Jon that had turned her north instead of south. At the crossroads, his name pulled her back toward Winterfell and her family.

She didn't regret the decision. Though Jon wasn't there to greet her, Sansa and Bran were. They had both changed so much but they were still her family and they had survived against all odds. Arya had been certain her whole family had perished one way or another. What a miracle that she still had three living siblings.

What a miracle that she still had a name.

Despite her unfinished list, Arya had begun to settle back in at Winterfell. Her home. She and Sansa understood each other like never before and finally she could fight in the courtyards without anyone telling her to go back and work on her sewing. People had accepted her needle. The needle that Jon gave her.

And now, at last, Jon was coming home. It didn't matter who he had brought with him or why. Seven hells, even the idea of seeing a dragon couldn't compare with seeing Jon again. She found herself pacing the battlements of Winterfell, watching. Waiting.

"He'll be here soon enough, my lady."

Arya did not need to turn to know Brienne stood at her side. She had seen her coming a mile away.

"I know," she murmured. "Is he well? You saw him at King's Landing, didn't you?"

"I did," Brienne said. "He is well. You have no cause for worry."

Arya nodded once, turning needle in her hands. She hoped she could so Jon how much better she had gotten with it.

Stick them with the pointy end.

"He gave this to me, you know," Arya said. "He had it made for me before we left for King's Landing. He never told me that it wasn't lady like to fight. He would even spar with me when no one else was looking." She looked up at the sky. "Even when I thought about giving up everything...even my name, I kept hold of needle and remembered."

"He seems like a good brother," Brienne said. "I wish I had a brother like him growing up."

"You had to fight to hold a sword too," Arya said.

"I did," Brienne agreed. "But none of the boys could keep me away from one. I towered over them all."

"I've never towered over anyone."

"You don't need to be tall to be a warrior." Brienne smiled. "But it helps."

"When did you become a knight?" Arya asked. "I always dreamed of becoming a knight."

"Well, I'm not a knight," Brienne said. "But I became a member of Renly's Kingsguard some time ago when I beat Ser Loras in combat."

"The knight of the Flowers," Arya recalled. "He's good. You must be good too."

"You've seen me fight, haven't you?" Brienne asked. "You're not so bad yourself."

"I trained hard," Arya said. "Very hard. For a few years, I did nothing but train."

"And with any luck you'll spend many more years training," Brienne said.

"Yes. And with any luck, you'll make a descent swordsman out of Podrick with a few more years." Arya glanced down into the courtyard where Podrick was practing with his sword.

"He has improved immensely," Brienne said. "But, he needs more time before he becomes any great fighter." She smiled fondly, glancing back at Arya. "I never thanked you, by the way."

Arya furrowed her brow. "For what?"

"Protecting your sister while I was away. I worried about Littlefinger's intentions."

Arya shrugged. "He never fooled Sansa for a moment. She pulled the strings. I only swung the blade."

"True enough," Brienne said. "I swore to protect you both. But it seems you no longer need protection."

"You've done a fine job of protecting us. And you saved Sansa more than once," Arya said. "I'm afraid you're not released from your duties yet."

"Of course not, my lady."

"You don't have to call me lady, Brienne. Arya is fine."

Brienne gave a knowing smile. As a lady herself who had only ever wanted to be a warrior, she must have understood. "Yes, Arya."

Arya heard a distant cry. At first she thought it was some strange bird, but when she looked up she saw them in the distance. Dragons. Two of them circling the air above a small caravan of people and supplies. They were only dots on the road, trudging through the snow. But she knew who was among them. In spite of herself, a smile broke across Arya's face.

Brienne gave her a nod. "Go on then."

Arya sheathed needle and ran down the battlements to give word to Sansa. Jon was coming home.

She waited on the edge of the courtyard as they entered Winterfell. Her instincts told her to get a look at everyone first. She needed to know if there were any threats in their number. Most of the people were unfamiliar faces, but she did recognize Tyrion Lannister. The imp. And Lord Varys, the spider. She had seen him often around King's Landing.

Walking shortly behind him was a beautiful woman with long white hair. Of course, she had to be the dragon queen. Her dragons had not landed but Arya could hear them flying far above.

And then there was Jon.

He rode in on a black horse, his fur cape billowing in the wind. The northern commanders greeted him, calling out his name. Lord Snow. Lord Snow, it's good to see you. How times changed. At one point, Jon was utterly ignored by those of Winterfell. Now they considered him their king.

"Jon."

Arya turned to see Sansa striding across the courtyard. She hugged him in greeting.

"I'm glad you're finally here. It's been too long."

"I know. And I'm sorry," Jon said. "A lot has happened. There is so much to tell." He nodded at the caravan. "But we have brought more dragon glass. Have you gotten the other shipments?"

"Yes, all accounted for," Sansa said. She looked to another man. "Ser Davos. I'm glad to see you brought my brother back in one piece."

"It took some doing, m'lady, but here he is," Ser Davos replied. Sansa seemed familiar with this man, though Arya did not know him. She would have to speak to him later to see what she thought of his character.

At last, Sansa's gaze turned on the Targaryan queen. The dragon in the courtyard. For a moment there was silence. But Sansa was not one to forget her courtesies. "Welcome to Winterfell. My name is Sansa Stark."

"I've heard a great deal about you," the Targaryan queen said. "I am Daenerys Targaryan. I apologize if my arrival is unexpected."

"You were expected. By me at least. I cannot speak for the other Northern lords," Sansa said. Somewhere in the distance, one of the dragons screeched again. Many in the courtyard flinched but Sansa did not even rattle.

"Will you assemble them for me?" Jon said. "We have much to discuss."

"I'll see to it," Sansa said. Her gaze moved again. Like Arya, she was taking in everyone. And now, she took in the smallest of the caravan. "Lord Tyrion."

Tyrion looked up at her. It seemed he had been trying to make himself even smaller since she arrived. But now that she spoke to him he replied. "Lady Sansa. It has been too long." He shifted. "You look well. I'm glad."

Arya was surprised to see her sister smile. "As do you, my lord. I am glad to see that you did not lose your head in that business with Joffery."

"Yes, what would I do without it? It really is my only asset," Tyrion cracked a smile as well.

"I'll have the servants find rooms for you," Sansa said. "You must be tired."

"Thank you," Daenerys said. "It's been a long journey."

Arya exhaled. Yes, Sansa really was a much better lady than her. Always polite even when she was suspicious. Meanwhile, Arya hid off in the corner like a stray cat, not sure if she should approach. She wanted to run at Jon but for some reason, moments before the reunion, fear gripped her chest. What if things had changed? What if he had forgotten all about her? It had been such a long time.

But as the strangers moved away from the courtyard, Jon reached out to Sansa, resting a hand on her shoulder. "Arya. Where is she? You said she returned?"

Sansa smiled and nodded in her direction.

Arya's throat grew tight as Jon saw her. For a moment she swayed on the spot, not sure what to do or say. He took a step toward her. Then another. Snow crackled under his boots. It had been years since they had last seen each other. Before they hugged goodbye, he had given her needle. And that sword had reminded her of her name, everyday, never allowing her to forget it.

Jon had saved Arya Stark, even if he didn't know it.

"You're home," he murmured at last.

Arya's voice cracked when she spoke. "I'm home."

Then she launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck. He embraced her in return, holding her close. He felt like home. Winterfell hadn't felt right without him here.

"Gods, Arya," Jon said when he at last sat her back on her feet. "I thought you were dead."

"I nearly was. Many times," Arya said. "I thought you were dead too. I thought everyone was dead, honestly."

"Well, we're not," Jon rested a hand on the side of her head, like he used to do often when they were younger. "There are four of us left."

Arya smiled, nodding. It had been a long time since she felt this happy. He had changed, but not in a bad way. He was still Jon but with more hard edges. More experience and age.

Sansa joined them, her expression warm. "And so we're all here again."

"Where's Bran?" Jon asked.

"In the Godswood, like always," Arya said. "We'll take you to him later, after you've addressed the Northern Lords."

"I told you in my letter," Sansa said. "He may be...different."

"You did warn me," Jon said. "You warned me that Arya would be different too. But you seem much the same to me."

Arya forced a laugh from her throat. "I've gotten taller. Perhaps that's the change she means."

Sansa gave her a look but Arya did not return it. She had told Sansa about the things she had done. But she didn't know if she could tell Jon. He still saw her as his little sister. She did not want to tarnish his view. She did not want him to see her many faces.

"You have gotten taller. Thank god you haven't passed me up. I worried I may be the shortest of the family," Jon said.

Sansa smiled, scanning the courtyard. Servants were unloading the caravan busily while some of those who came along with Jon helped. Her eyes widened slightly. "Is that... the Hound?"

Arya's heart dropped into her stomach. No. Surely, Sansa was mistaken. She turned to see... and then went cold. Sure enough, the Hound stood in Winterfell, very much alive. As ugly as ever, of course. But breathing.

When Arya had left him last, she was sure he would die within a few nights. She still didn't know exactly why she left him to die. Was it because she wanted him to suffer. Or was it because she couldn't bring herself to kill the man who had been her travelling companion for those months. The Hound had saved her life several times, after all. He had complicated his place on her list.

In the end, he had asked her to kill him. She had refused. She liked to tell herself it was because she was cruel and hardened but she wasn't sure. Honestly... that had been so long ago.

"Yes, that is the Hound," Jon said. "He helped me North of the Wall. We wouldn't have captured a wight without him. I know that he once served the Lannisters but now..." He shrugged. "I'm not sure if he's serving me or not. But he's with us still."

The Hound looked over at them. Arya dropped her gaze before she could lock eyes with him. There was no time for that now.

"He is welcome then," Sansa said. "He was kind to me once, a long time ago. In his own way." She stepped back. "I must see to it that the lords find their way to the hall."

She strode off, leaving Jon and Arya alone.

Jon nodded at Arya's hip where she kept needle. "The sword. You kept it."

"Of course," Arya said. "I'm quite good with it now."

"You'll have to show me later," Jon said. "For now...well there are matters of great importance to discuss."

"Of course," Arya said.

Matters of great importance. That seemed like an understatement with winter winds blowing, men rising from the dead, a Targaryan back in Winterfell.

And high above them all, two dragons circled the sky, like something out of legends.

Arya exhaled. Winter has come. And what a winter it is.

A/N: I enjoyed this chapter. Arya and Jaime are two of my favorites and I'm looking forward to them meeting in the future. As usual, if you liked this chapter, review, follow, favorite, share, all of that good stuff. And I'll see you with a new chapter on Wedensday. The next chapter will have Dany and Bran perspectives so it should be exciting ;)

I also have another Game of Thrones fic with a very AU version of the story. It features Jaime and Arya more than other characters so you might check it out.

And if you would like to support my original writing, there's a giveaway for the second book in my fantasy series happening on goodreads right now. Lord knows I can't put links but look up Season of Wind by Aimee Hyndman and you'll find it!


Happy reading everyone!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: And we're back with a new chapter! I actually lied, last week. The two POVs in this chapter are Davos and Bran. Daenerys' POV comes in next week, along with Tyrion. For now, enjoy this chapter. You continue to honor me with all of your follows and reviews!

Chapter 3: Truth

Davos Seaworth


Davos often didn't know how he found himself in the position of an advisor to such important people. When Stannis Baratheon took him on as his Hand, he thought for sure it was a mistake. Stannis came from nobility. Davos came from nothing. He never thought himself fit to engage with such fancy people.

Lords like Stannis inspired people to follow them but they were also dangerous. They believed the world was owed to them by some kind of birth right and that led them to do stupid or cruel things. Stannis had burned his daughter Shireen because he thought it was the path god wanted him to take. But if god had laid a path for Stannis, it was only to a grave. His lofty expectations for himself meant nothing in the end. Neither did his honor, apparently. He traded that all away.

Jon Snow, on the other hand, was more Davos' kind of man. He was born a bastard, the lowest in his family, and never expected anything. The people didn't follow him because his birthright but because he was the kind of many who inspired loyalty. And he was not hungry for power. He did not seek it out. He simply did what needed to be done for the people.

Davos had not been surprised when Jon bent the knee for Daenerys Targaryan. Their military alliance made sense and the Dragon Queen was their best hope against the winter. He had seen well enough the kind of loyalty the woman inspired. She reminded him a lot of Stannis, with her keen sense of purpose, and he hadn't decided yet if that was a good thing.

The real problem at hand was the Northern lords. They would not like the idea of a new, foreign queen. These were a stubborn people who were hard pressed to accept anyone but their own. How would they take to a ruler who had only recently seen snow for the first time?

Jon Snow took his place at the table, his sisters on either side of him. Davos had not met the younger Stark sister until that day. She was a suspicious thing, reminding him of a stray cat the way she watched everyone. And she certainly had the steel of the North in her. And she looked ready to use her steel as the Northern lords demanded explanations of Jon.

"Not only do you journey south to meet with a Targaryen as winter falls, but then you bring her back here?" one asked. "What if she decided to use her dragons? What of our livestock? We need them now more than ever as we approach the winter."

"Daenerys will not attack Winterfell with her dragons. She comes here in peace," Jon insisted.

"Trust a Targaryen? She's as tricky as Cersei Lannister. All she wants is to conquer us like Aegon Targaryen before her. You're a fool if you believe otherwise."

"Be careful how you speak to your king, ser," Arya said coldly. "You have seen me use this dagger before. Would you like me to use it again?"

The northern lord seemed to visibly shudder and Davos wondered what the girl had used the dagger for. She commanded as much respect in this room as her elder siblings.

"What my sister means is, Jon clearly has a good reason for doing this," Sansa said. "The Targaryen queen did allow us to acquire dragon glass. And with the Army of the Dead marching South, we cannot discount the usefulness of dragon fire."

"Aye, my lady, maybe not," another lord said. "But he should have consulted us. Next thing you know, the queen will want him to kneel. We cannot have a king who bends the knee to a Targaryen again."

Davos winced. This really would not go over well if Jon could not muster a lie. And already he saw the truth crossing the boy's face. He was such an honest lad. It had gotten him killed once already.

"In fact, my lords, that is one matter I needed to speak with you about," Jon said. "You all chose me as your king and I am very grateful. But there are a great many rulers in Westeros these days. We cannot remain neutral when the choice is between Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen on the iron throne. I have spoken with both women and I assure you that if Cersei keeps her seat, she will not allow us to keep to ourselves."

"What are you saying, your grace?" Lord Glover asked. "You want to ally with the Dragon queen?"

"I already have. She has already done much to support our cause," Jon straightened slightly. "I'm afraid, my lords, that I have already bent the knee."

The room erupted into angry shouting. Sansa's eyes widened and she looked up at her brother. Arya's jaw tensed and she drew her blade an inch from her sheath. Her hand rested on the table and Davos saw that she was ready to vault over it at a moment's notice.

Davos jaw clenched. This was going to hell fast. He strode forward, pounding on the table. "Enough. Enough, we won't get anything done with all of this shouting."

"Our King has surrendered the North without a fight," Lord Glover called. "We put our trust in him and he trades us away."

"What does the North matter when the Army of the Dead comes?" Davos demanded. "My lords, I have been with King Jon every moment since we left. His heart is true to you still. Ever decision he has made has been to protect the North." He looked at Jon. "He is not driven by his pride as a ruler. He is driven to help people. And Daenerys Targaryen can help. I've spoken to her and her people many times myself. Her heart is also true. She is not a trickster like the Queen in the South."

"And you are not a northerner," another lord said.

"Northerner or not, our King chose me to advise him so I will still speak my mind," Davos said.

The lord stood. "Then perhaps you should have advised him not to bend the knee."

"Quiet," Lyanna Mormont spoke up. "Fighting amongst ourselves solves nothing." She turned her gaze on Jon. "I have defended you more than any lord, my king. I trust you. But how can you ask us to bend the knee to a woman we have not met?"

"Here, here," several of the lords said.

"That is why I brought her North. So that you could meet her and see what I have," Jon said.

"Lady Sansa," Lord Glover called out. "You cannot agree with this decision. You would never have given away the North in this way."

Arya glanced at her sister and Sansa's back straightened.

"My brother does not do anything without thought. He has always tried to protect the North. He is not proud." She looked up at him. Davos could see that though her words were supportive, there was doubt in her eyes. She had questions for Jon. Dozens of questions. "He may have left me in charge but he is still the King. Do not ask me to turn against him. You have seen already how I deal with those who try to turn my family against each other."

Arya Stark smirked darkly and Lord Glover bowed his head. "I did not mean to give offense. I do not have vicious intentions like Lord Baelish did."

"Lord Baelish," Jon looked around. "What happened to him?"

"The Lady Sansa and Arya dealt with him, your grace," Lord Royce offered. "They revealed many of his treacheries. He was the one responsible for the death of our Lord Jon Arryn and our Lady Lysa Arryn. He also tried sent the assassin that tried to kill your brother a second time and sold your sister off to the Boltons."

"So you imprisoned him?" Jon asked. He seemed to swell with anger at the news of Littlefinger's treacheries. He had never liked Littlefinger, but with this charge...

"We executed him," Sansa said. "His guilt was absolute."

Jon paused, almost surprised that his sisters had handled such a situation themselves. "I see. Well...that sentence was just if he did all that you say." He looked up at the lords. "I understand your anger. Truly. But this isn't about kings. It is about survival. I won't ask you to bend the knee yourselves yet. There's no time. For now focus on making more weapons from dragon glass and arming your men. And trust that I will see that the North survives."

He nodded his head and left then. His sisters followed shortly after. Davos fell into step beside them. Though the Stark girls had stood beside their brother, he knew they would have more words for him.

Davos had been nervous watching Jon in that hall, but now he was equally as anxious standing in a back room while Jon's sisters finally spoke their minds. Supportive words or no, they were not entirely happy.

"I did not question you before the lords because I did not want to fuel the fire," Sansa said. "But really, Jon. What were you thinking?"

"Did she force you into accepting?" Arya asked. "The Mad King burned people who didn't kneel to him alive. He did the same to our grandfather and uncle."

"She did not force me," Jon said. "She has never made any threats on my life."

"But she could have refused her help until you accepted," Sansa said. "I know you, Jon. You would have put aside your pride in a moment if you thought it was best for the North."

Jon studied his desk. Davos felt for the boy, he really did. How to tell them that Daenerys Targaryan had agreed to help them regardless? It did make him sound rather like a fool.

"She insisted I bend the knee at first," Jon said. "But after she saw the Night King's army, it changed. She said she would help us no matter what. That's why I bent the knee. Because I believe in her."

Arya glanced between Jon and her sister, almost disbelieving. Sansa pressed her lips tightly together as she seemed to gather her thoughts.

"So you...gave away the north without a purpose then? Without a strategy?" Sansa asked.

"I did not need a strategy," Jon said. "She earned it. She saved my life North of the wall. She lost one of her dragon to the Night King to rescue me." He shook his head. "I understand. You don't know her. You wonder about her intentions. But if you have any doubts, you need only speak to her. You'll see then. Her intentions are true."

Sansa looked doubtful but she did not reply.

"I have a talent for telling when a person is lying," Arya said. "I could speak to her."

"I have a talent for that as well," Sansa said. She looked to Davos. "Ser Davos. You've met this woman. Would you agree with Jon's assessment of her character?"

"Aye, m'lady. Her heart is true. I can't say I agreed with him making an oath to her in front of Cersei Lannister. But, otherwise, I cannot fault his decision."

Jon winced as both of his sisters rounded on him. Davos raised his eyebrows. Apparently, he had said the wrong thing.

"You went to negotiate with Cersei and promptly bent the knee to another queen?" Sansa let out a breath. "Jon, you're lucky you walked out of there with your head."

"Father died in that place because of Cersei," Arya said. "We both saw it."

"I know." Jon held up a hand. "It was stupid. But I could not lie."

"You could stand to learn," Sansa said. "I learned in order to survive."

"Your brother is alive, m'lady," Davos interceded. "And there's nothing to worry about. Lord Tyrion handled the situation. And Cersei agreed to send troops north to help defend Westeros against the Night King."

"I don't trust that promise," Sansa said. "And I won't until I see her army. I know Cersei. She'll see the dead as an opportunity to eliminate her enemies. You've just made yourself her enemy."

"Well, we don't know that for sure yet," Davos said. "But if she sees reason, she'll know that's the right choice."

"Cersei does not specialize in reason," Sansa said. "She once ordered my wolf killed because another wolf had harmed Joffery. There is not a bone of reason in her when she hates someone."

"It's too late for me to take back what I did now," Jon said. "We must make do with what we have. Please." He looked between his sisters. "I need your support. When all the other Northern lords are against me, I need you both."

"You have our support," Arya said. "That's why we didn't berate you in front of a crowd." She rested a hand on Jon's forearm. "We will make do. We don't need Cersei's armies."

"We might," Sansa said. "I do trust your judgment, Jon. Of people at least. You're an honorable person and you know honor when you see it. Like father." She forced a smile. "I'll plead your case to the northern lords. They listen to me."

"You have gained a lot of their respect," Jon said. A smile crossed his face. "You took care of Littlefinger?"

"You're not angry?" Arya asked.

"No," Jon said. "If you hadn't, I may have killed him myself."

Davos' shoulders relaxed. The lords were a problem but at least the family was united. Nothing killed a cause faster than family squabbling. He had learned as much from the Baratheons.

A knock came at the door and Davos moved to open it. A large man he did not recognize entered, wringing his hands. He looked a combination of happy and nervous. But Jon's face lit up when he saw him.

"Sam."

He crossed the room, hugging the man.

"It's good to see you, Lord Commander. Or...Your grace? I'm afraid I don't know what I'm supposed to call you now," Sam said.

Jon pulled back, clapping him on the shoulder. "You can call me Jon, Sam." He stepped back gesturing to the girls. "These are my sisters. Sansa, Arya, this is Sam. My truest friend from the Night's watch."

Sam gave them a nervous smile, bobbing his head once. "We've met, briefly, when I arrived a few days ago." He looked at Jon. "Bran sent me to get you. There's something we must discuss."

"Bran sent you. Have you been talking?" Jon asked.

"Yes, about... many things," Sam said. "He wants to see you."

"Of course. I haven't been able to see him yet." Jon shook his head. "It's been so long. Is he alright?"

"Ah..." Sam made a face and shrugged. Davos frowned. That did not seem like good news. But then again, he had heard that the young lord Stark had changed quite a bit.

"Take me to him," Jon said.

Sam nodded, holding open the door. Then he and Jon departed without another word.

Sansa exhaled, holding a hand over her face.

"Sansa," Arya said.

"I know," Sansa said. "I know we must stand by Jon, but sometimes he can be very stupid."

"Oh, I'm not disputing that," Arya said.

"I understand your frustrations, my ladies," Davos said. "But if you please...Daenerys did save Jon's life when he went North of the wall. He believes he owes her his loyalty. You should talk to her."

"And so we will," Sansa said. She looked to Arya and her sister nodded.

"Yes. We will. Can you take us to her... what was your name?"

"Ser Davos Seaworth." He gave a bow. "I apologize. We weren't formally introduced."

"No need for apologies. I've never been good at proper introductions," Arya said. "Lead the way Ser Davos."

Davos nodded, holding open the door for the two women. He did hope they would get along with the dragon queen. Their opinion of her would determine Jon's fate here in the North.

Why did you have to go and fall in love with the woman, Davos thought.

Love complicated all matters. Especially war.

Bran

One would think knowing everything would involve answers. But truly, for Brandon Stark, knowing everything only brought on more questions. For instance: were the things he saw happening now or soon to happen? Which pieces of information were most vital? And if his visions were of the future, was that future certain or malleable?

It was a blur to him most days. He felt distant from the present and holding conversations with people was exceedingly difficult. He had to focus on making eye contact and put energy into each word to make sure others could understand. There really was no room for Bran Stark anymore. He spent every waking moment as the three eyed raven, where time had little meaning.

He was aware of Jon's approach long before his boots crunched over the snow. He looked up, focusing on his brother's face, pushing out the other white noise.

"Hello, Jon."

His voice was flat to his own ears. Most interpreted him as cold now. He did not mean to be.

Jon didn't seem to care though. He dropped to his knees in front of him, grasping his hand. "It's good to see you Bran. I thought...you were long dead."

"Not yet," Bran said. "And neither are you. You did die though."

Jon's eyes widened slightly. "Who... told you?"

"Bran has visions now," Sam said awkwardly. "He's the... three eyed crow?"

"Raven," Bran corrected.

"Yes. The Three eyed raven. Of course." Sam nodded once.

"What does that mean, exactly?" Jon asked.

"It means that I can see everything now. Past. Present. Future. All places and all times," Bran murmured. His eyes went out of focus for a moment until he reminded himself to look at Jon again. He had to keep present for this conversation. It was vitally important.

"When did this happen exactly?" Jon asked.

"North of the wall," Bran said.

"You went North of the wall?" Jon shook his head. "How did you get back alive?"

"Luck, mostly. And the protection of others," Bran said. "I saw them, Jon. The Night King. I've seen him many times. I know the danger of the Army of the Dead. But that's not what I needed to talk to you about."

"See, Bran and I have both discovered something," Sam said. "Well, Gilly discovered something by accident while she was reading. And Bran...he saw something. In a vision."

"What is it?" Jon asked. "Something to do with fighting the Night King."

"No. A bit more complicated than that I'm afraid," Sam said. "Gilly stumbled across a high septon's writing on...an annulment. The annulment of Rhaegar Targaryan's marriage. It seems he fell in love with Lyanna Stark and wanted to marry her."

"But Rhaegar kidnapped my aunt," Jon said. "It started the war."

"A lie," Bran said. "He did not kidnap her. She went with him willingly, because she loved him. I've seen their marriage myself."

"All right... so Robert's Rebellion was based on a lie. What does this have to do with me?" Jon asked.

"Rhaegar and Lyanna had a son. Lyanna died bringing him into the world," Sam said. "Lord Eddard Stark arrived at the Tower of Joy before she died and took the child into his care."

Jon stared at Sam, not seeming to comprehend his words.

"The child is you, Jon," Bran said. "You aren't the result of my father's infidelity. You are Lyanna and Rhaegar's child. Their trueborn son." He looked up at Jon. "You are not a bastard. You are not a Snow. You're true name is Aegon Targaryen."

Jon swayed on the spot. Sam rested a hand on his shoulder to steady him. Bran knew all the things he must be feeling. His entire existence was a lie. And more than that...he had made love to Daenerys Targaryen on that boat. He had fallen for the dragon queen with whom he shared blood.

"Why did Father never tell me?" he asked. "Why... why keep it a secret?"

"If Robert Baratheon had known your true name, you would have been killed," Bran said simply. "So Father took you on as his own. You had to believe that you were his child."

"He suffered Lady Catelyn's anger...let her believe he had broken a vow...just to protect me?" Jon asked.

"He promised his sister," Bran said. "You know Father took oaths very seriously."

Jon swallowed hard. It hadn't settled on him yet. Bran could almost see the new racing around his head, refusing to be absorbed. "What am I then...to this family?"

"You're our cousin," Bran said. "Still our family by blood."

Jon nodded once. "And...what am I to Daenerys Targaryen?"

There was the question that really weighed on him. Bran tilted his head to the side. "She is your aunt, Jon."

Jon let out a shaky breath and Sam squeezed his shoulder. "Now, I understand, it's a lot to take in. Perhaps you should sit down?"

"I don't want to sit." Jon paced away from him, brushing his hair back from his face. "I don't...this is madness, Bran."

"It's true," Bran said. "I understand your fears...after what happened on the boat."

Jon's head jerked up. "The boat...you know?"

"I told you. I know everything now," Bran said.

"Wonderful," Jon said. "Do you know...how the northern lords will react when they find out that they named a Targaryen their king? Do you know how Arya and Sansa will react? Can you tell me that, Bran?"

"I cannot," Bran said. "The future is a nebulous thing. Not set in stone."

"You realize what this means though, don't you?" Sam said.

"That I've been living a lie every day since I was born?" Jon asked.

"No," Sam said. "You're Rhaegar Targaryen's son. If we consider the Targaryen line of succession you are the true heir to the iron throne."

Jon blinked hard. He clearly hadn't even considered that. And that knowledge fell on him heavily, making his shoulders sag.

"I... need to go for a walk," he said.

"There are other things to discuss," Bran said.

"Later." Jon turned slowly, trudging off through the trees. "I need to walk. For a bit."

Sam bit his lip, watching Jon stumble away, his boots crunching heavily in the snow. "I don't think that went well."

"He knows. That's what is important," Bran settled back in his chair.

"Maybe we shouldn't have told him until later. But, what's done is done." Sam looked at Bran. "What else did you need to tell him?"

Bran blinked, already feeling himself fading back into the visions of the world. "It's not important. There are others on their way with the message. They'll be here soon."

"What message?" Sam asked distantly, but Bran didn't respond. His mind was filled with visions of the wall falling. Of the Army of the Dead crossing into Westeros. He had seen that moment already so many times that he could not tell if it had already happened or not. But he did see men riding for Winterfell at full speed.

They would deliver the news. The wall had fallen. That the Night King's assault on Westeros had begun.

A/N: And so the truth is revealed. This was a fun chapter to write, especially getting into Bran's head. I tried to fill in the gaps of why he seems so cold and robotic.

Next time, like I said, Daenerys and Tyrion will be the POV characters. Stay tuned and be sure to follow and review. Happy reading!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Happy Saturday. Here's another chapter, involving several interesting character meetings and remeetings. I had a lot of fun writing this one. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 4: Confrontation

Daenerys


Daenerys room in Winterfell was dark and cold, even before night fell. It was equipped with every comfort, of course, including rich furs on the bed. But it was not one of the more elaborate keeps she had seen. Then again, Dragonstone had also been rather dreary, and Daenerys preferred the snow of winterfell to the torrential rain. Ironic considering one of her many names: Stormborn. But snow had not yet lost its newness for her.

She circled her bed, running her hand over the soft furs. Somewhere, Jon was arguing her case to the Northern lords. And here she stood, feeling useless. Why did he feel the need to defend her when she could defend herself? She had done so many times before to all sorts of people all over Essos. Why should he have to speak for her?

Because he is a hero, she thought. And heroes feel the need to defend everyone around them.

Many had defended Daenerys over the years. Many had died doing it.

She shook her head, pushing away the thought. Jon Snow was not going to die. She had to focus on more important things like planning for the Army of the Dead. Ser Jorah was overseeing the movement of the Dothraki army. Grey worm could handle the Unsullied. They would reach the North in perhaps a week. She would have to convince the Northern Lords of her worth by them. Otherwise they would never accept the presence of her armies.

Daenerys placed a hand against her forehead, taking a deep breath. Westeros was her home and yet she felt like a foreign invader most days. She wanted to help these people. Truly. But they would not see her in such a sympathetic light. They were wise, perhaps, to doubt her intentions. Her ancestors had not made this easy for her.

A knock came at her door and she turned, hoping Jon had come. "Who is it?"

"Ser Davos Seaworth, m'lady," the gruff voice replied. "I brought you some visitors."

Daenerys' brow furrowed. "Come in."

Davos opened the door. Behind him followed two young women: Sansa Stark, who Daenerys had met in the courtyard, and another girl with dark brown hair and grey eyes. She guessed immediately that she was Arya, Jon's other sister. She looked much more like him than Sansa did.

"They wanted to speak with you, your grace," Ser Davos said. "I hope that you are not busy."

"I'm not," Daenerys said. "In fact, I hoped for something to do. I do not like staying still for too long." She nodded at Sansa. "Lady Sansa? We met earlier." She looked to the other girl. "And am I correct in assuming that you are Lady Arya."

"You do not have to call me lady," Arya said. "But yes."

"I thought so. Jon has mentioned you many times," Daenerys looked to Ser Davos. "You may leave us, ser. I expected this visit would come."

Davos nodded his head, glancing between the women, before excusing himself from the room.

"I know you must have questions," Daenerys said. "You're wondering what I did to make your brother bend the knee to me."

"That was the first question, yes," Arya said. She had a cool, controlled voice and an intense gaze. "Did you force him?"

"Force does not work on your brother," Daenerys said. "I demanded he bend the knee many times and he never did. He's stubborn. It wasn't until I gave up trying that he started to call me queen." She suppressed a smile. "It was frustrating really. But he moves on his own."

Sansa glanced at Arya. "What do you think?"

"She's not lying," Arya said. "Jon is stubborn. It's a Stark family trait." Arya circled the room. "Is it true you saved his life north of the wall?"

"I tried to," Daenerys said honestly. She could see already that she would not get away with a lie here. Not only were these women smart but they were fiercely protective of Jon. "I came with my dragons when they sent a raven. But I did not save Jon. He fell off into the water and I was sure he was dead. I don't know how he made it back to the Eastwatch alive."

"She's telling the truth again." Arya looked at Sansa. "You had questions too, didn't you?"

"Yes," Sansa said. She had a kinder voice than her sister-the sort of honeyed tone that most ladies of the courts adopted. But Daenerys knew very well that the Stark girl was made of steel. "What are your intentions for the North?"

"My intentions?" Daenerys repeated.

"Yes," Sansa said. "The Northerners named Jon their king and they follow his lead. But if they do not agree with his decisions, they may very well rebel against him. I am willing to argue his case, and yours. But I must know your purpose first."

"Then...you are our ally?" Daenerys asked.

"That depends on your answer," Sansa said. "I am Jon's ally, at the very least."

Arya paused in her pacing, lingering by the window. Daenerys saw her playing with the hilt of a very elaborate dagger as she watched her. Daenerys couldn't help but feel she was being stalked by wolves.

"I did not come to conquer the North," Daenerys spoke at last. "I know what my father did in King's Landing. I know he murdered your grandfather and uncle. But I am not my father. I want the Iron Throne, yes. I want to take back the crown they stole from me. And I have bled to get back to this country, more than you know." She straightened her back. "But I cannot rule over graves. The Night King is coming. I've seen him. Before I can think of the Iron Throne I must save the people of Westeros. My intentions are to help Jon and your Northern Lords as much as I can in the fight. That is the truth."

Daenerys had delivered many speeches in her life to those who doubted her. But in this moment, she felt she had the most to prove. Perhaps because she truly cared about Jon, and he valued his family above all else.

There was a long, palpable silence in the room before Sansa clasped her hands together. "We have all bled to get this far. I can imagine the sort of suffering you have endured. Arya and I have endured much the same. That is what it is to be a woman." She shook her head. "I do not know what will become of the Iron throne. If someone is going to sit there, I would far prefer it be you than Cersei Lannister. I loathe that woman with all of my being." Sansa took a step forward. "Prove your words with actions. Show us you mean what you say and the Northern lords will follow you. For now, we focus on the Army of the Dead. The Iron throne comes later."

Daenerys released a breath, nodding once. "I can accept that."

"Good," Sansa said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, there is much to do here." She turned and left the room. Arya started to follow after her but paused in front of Daenerys.

"Do not hurt Jon," she said softly. "I love him dearly and I support him in all that he does. But if you hurt him, I promise my face will be the last you ever see."

The girl meant every word. Her threat was not like those of the slave masters or the khals or any of the others Daenerys had burned. They were not the words of a man afraid of losing power to a girl. They were the words of a sister who loved her brother more than anything and would die to protect him. She spoke the words with certainty and Daenerys believed that if she did ever have the mind to double cross Jon, she would find the ornate dagger at Arya's hip in her heart.

"I have no intention of hurting him," Daenerys said.

"That's good," Arya said. "Then we'll get along." She headed for the door but stopped again in the doorway. "Your dragons. They are nearby?"

Daenerys nodded.

Arya smiled for the first time. "I'd like to see them sometime." Then she disappeared without another word.

Daenerys exhaled, sinking into her chair. She couldn't be sure, but that seemed to go well. At the very least, Sansa was willing to work with the Northern lords. And Arya... well, the way she smiled when she asked about her dragons, it seemed like she was an ally as well.

She couldn't help but feel a bit jealous of Jon. All her life the only family she had known was Viserys, and he was foolish and cruel. Jon had three living siblings who loved him dearly.

But with a barren womb, she could never dream of having such a family of her own one day. She was the last Targaryen. The last dragon. And it was her fate to be alone.

Tyrion

It had been a very long time since Tyrion had been to Winterfell and he did not miss the cold one bit. One of the benefits of travelling to Essos was the lovely weather. A shame that the beautiful days were so often marred by bloodshed and conspiracy.

That seemed to be the problem with all warm places really. From King's Landing to Mereen, the South was full of viper's nests. Maybe the North had less of that because of the damn cold. All anyone up here could think about was surviving. They didn't have time to play games.

Maybe that was what had dulled Littlefinger's sense. Or maybe the Stark children were devilishly brilliant now.

"I hear that the eldest girl is the one responsible for deceiving Littlefinger," Varys said, leaning over the railing beside Tyrion. They were looking out into the Winterfell courtyard, watching the Northern lords mill about. "Meanwhile, the boy unearthed everything he ever did. He calls himself the Three Eyed Raven now."

"Yes and the younger girl acted as the executioner," Tyrion said. "Quite a way for dear Littlefinger to go down. The master of chaos was taken down by three of the Stark children."

"I would have loved to see it myself," Varys said. "I'll have to congratulate them all later."

"Be careful though," Tyrion said. "If you speak to Bran, he may unearth everything you've ever done."

"And if he does he will see that I did indeed try to save Lord Eddard's life," Varys said. "I have nothing to hide. Nothing that would endanger my life anyway. The fact of the matter is, Lord Baelish served himself and I serve the realm. The further he moved up in the world the more complacent he became. And the moment he thought he had the world figured out..." Varys snapped his fingers. "It all fell away from him."

"Such is the way of chaos," Tyrion exhaled. "I can't say I'm sad to see him go. But you may miss him."

"Will I?" Varys asked.

"Yes," Tyrion said. "Circling about Littlefinger was one of your favorite hobbies."

"It's true, but I find with Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow's...military alliance, I have plenty of other matters to occupy my time with," Varys said.

Tyrion tapped his fist against the railing. "So...do you think it will end poorly?"

"Most things do. Robb Stark married for love and it killed him in the end. And Rhaegar and Lyanna's love started a war," Varys looked down at him.

"Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna. I'd hardly call it a great love story," Tyrion said.

"Did he?" Varys said. Then he turned and glided away.

Tyrion sighed. The spider was as cryptic as ever. But his plotting and scheming had gotten them this far. He was always Tyrion's favorite member of the court. And now the only one left from the original council. Littlefinger was dead. Pycelle was dead. So was Tyrion's father and so many kings.

Tyrion circled around the second level, drifting down the stairs. The younger Stark girl was training with Brienne of Tarth in the center. And from what he saw, Brienne was not going easy on her. Arya Stark ducked and weaved around Brienne's blade, her thin blade in hand. She had come a long way from the tiny girl he last saw in Winterfell, running around with a helmet on her head, playing at being a knight. Now, she was one. Or something close to a knight, anyway.

He settled on top of a barrel to watch. The courtyard was alive with activity and though he didn't like the cold he knew he would have to get used to it.

"Daenerys' armies will be arriving in a week's time. We must find a way to accommodate them." A familiar voice came from his right. "The west field should do."

"Yes, my lady," a man bowed his head and scampered off, leaving Sansa Stark alone.

She had gotten taller since King's Landing, if that was possible. She always was taller than most women...and all women towered over Tyrion. Her red hair blazed red surrounded by so much winter greys, and her silver eyes were hard and focused. Jon was right. Sansa Stark was beginning to show how smart she was, now that she no longer had to hide it in order to survive.

Sansa turned toward him and he looked away. Amazing that a beauty like her used to be his wife. He imagined she wanted to forget the whole thing. He would not trouble her. She had much larger cares on her mind.

But no sooner had he thought this, a tall shadow fell over him.

"When is the last time you came North, Lord Tyrion?"

A smiled tugged at his lips and he looked up at Sansa Stark. "Not since I stopped by on the way back from the wall. After your mother once took me hostage, I got the sense that I wasn't welcome."

"I can't imagine why." Sansa smiled in return. She didn't smile as wide as she used to. But she seemed to smile more often and more true. She was no longer a bird trapped in the cage of King's Landing.

"Am I welcome now?" Tyrion asked.

"You are," Sansa said. "Especially after that business with Joffery."

"I regret to inform you I did not do it," Tyrion said. "Though bless the one who did."

Sansa shook her head. "No. I know you didn't do it. You aren't stupid enough to poison the king at his own wedding." She looked down at him. "But I ran away and left you to take the fall for it. I thought you would lose your head. I am glad you did not."

Tyrion felt oddly pleased at this fact. "So, the Lady Sansa doesn't wish me dead. That is a relief."

"How did you escape?" Sansa asked. "They must have ruled you guilty."

"They would have. But I demanded trial by combat," Tyrion said.

"And you won your freedom that way?" Sansa asked.

"No. The man who defended me was crushed by the Mountain, and I was pronounced guilty still," Tyrion said. "Fortunately, my brother had a soft spot for me. He set me free and, with the help of Lord Varys, I sailed to Essos."

"Where you met Daenerys Targaryan," Sansa said.

"Indeed." Tyrion raised his flask. "And I helped to bring her back here to Westeros. I hope you will not be too angry at me for that."

"Do you truly care what I feel?" Sansa asked.

Tyrion's face grew serious. "Of course I do. To be honest, I always have."

Sansa observed her hands. "I know that. You were always kind to me. You were the kindest of my many fiancés and husbands."

Tyrion exhaled. He had heard of Sansa's marriage to Ramsay Bolton. By all accounts, that man was even worse than Joffery. She had suffered a great deal to get here. He knew there was nothing that he could say to apologize for her misfortune. Sometimes, even his sharp tongue was useless.

"I am not angry at you for serving the Dragon queen," Sansa said. "In truth, I am pleased someone has come to challenge Cersei. And Jon seems to think she is of good character."

"Oh yes, he certainly does," Tyrion agreed.

Sansa looked down at him. "Does he love her?"

Tyrion took a long swig of his drink. "Love is a complicated thing, Lady Stark."

"So he does love her." Sansa nodded once. "I thought as much. Jon gets a certain look about him when he defends those he cares about."

"A certain stupidity too," Tyrion said.

"Yes," Sansa agreed. "I wanted to ask you...what do you think of the dragon queen? I trust Jon's judgment of character, but I trust your mind. You've played the game for a very long time. Do you think she is a good queen?"

"I do," Tyrion said. "Not a perfect one. She sometimes has... violent impulses. But she recognizes as much. She appoints people to check her decisions. People like me." He tapped the golden hand on his chest. "And she often listens to reason and advice. Not always, but compared to the other rulers we've had in the past, she's a blessing."

Sansa nodded once. "Good. I prefer rulers who take advice."

Tyrion raised an eyebrow. "Do you see yourself in the role of advisor, Lady Stark?"

Sansa shrugged. "Perhaps. To be honest, I don't know how I see myself. I want to do my part to see that there is never a war of five kings again. I'll take on whatever role required to make that happen." She looked down at him. "Thank you...by the way."

"For what?" Tyrion asked.

"Calling me Stark. I've had many names. Thank you for calling me by the right one."

Tyrion smiled shaking his head. "You are easy to please, my lady. Perhaps because there are so many awful people in this world and I meet the bare minimum standard for human decency."

Sansa nodded. "Yes, perhaps that is it."

Tyrion looked out across the yard, taking another drink. He saw a towering figure heading toward them. Sandor Clegane stuck out like a sore thumb amongst all men with his size and his face.

"Hullo, dog," Tyrion called out. "Keeping busy?"

"Fuck off," the Hound said. "I'm not here to talk with you." He looked at Sansa. "I came to speak to her."

A softer smile passed over Sansa's face. "It's good to see you again, ser."

"I'm still no ser, little bird," the Hound said. "And you're not so little anymore, are you?"

"I have gotten taller," Sansa admitted.

"And tougher. You Stark daughters are tough as nails." The Hound looked back out into the yard where Arya was fighting. "Your sister talked about murdering me in my sleep yet? Or does she keep her list a secret from you too?"

"Her list?" Tyrion raised an eyebrow. "Arya Stark has a list?"

"She does. Be glad you're not on it," Clegane said. "Your sister is."

"If she plans to kill you, she has not informed me," Sansa said. "In fact she seems to be avoiding you."

"And?" Clegane asked.

"She doesn't avoid people on her list. She walks right up to them," Sansa said.

The Hound exhaled. "Well, that doesn't make me feel much better." He nodded at Arya as she spun around Brienne. "She's gotten a hell of a lot better with that little needle since the last time I saw her."

"Did you travel with her?" Tyrion asked.

"Aye. For a while. I wanted to ransom her to her family but they kept fucking dying." The Hound paused and glanced at Sansa. "Apologies, little bird. They were your family too."

"No need for apologies. You didn't kill them," Sansa said. "In fact, it seems you protected Arya for a time. As you once protected me. I'm grateful for that."

Clegane looked oddly uncomfortable for a man who so often made clear how little he cared about anyone else's thoughts. "I wouldn't say... protect."

"You can call it what you like," Sansa said.

Tyrion smiled, casting the Hound a glance. He knew if the lady were not present, Clegane would respond with foul words aplenty. But before he could think of it, the guard atop the wall called down.

"Riders! They're coming in fast."

Sansa straightened, hurrying forward. "How many?"

"Only two, my lady," the guard said. "Shall I let them in?"

"Yes, of course," Sansa said. Just two riders, even if hostile, wouldn't be a match for many of the people in this courtyard.

Tyrion slid off the barrel and stepped forward as the gates opened. Two riders barreled through and the men jumped from their horses backs before they even slowed.

"Quickly," one of the men, a large scruffy fellow with a red beard, stepped forward. "Where is Jon Snow?"

"I'm here."

Jon Snow entered the courtyard, reaching out to the man. "Tormund. What's the matter?"

"We're fucked, that's what's the matter," Tormund said.

Jon looked between him and the other man. It took Tyrion a moment to recognize him as Berric Dondarrion. How on earth was that man still alive? He was grim faced as he took a step forward.

"The Wall has fallen, Snow. The Long Night has come."

A/N: And so the plot gets rolling. If each chapter is about twenty minutes of episode runtime, perhaps this is the end of an episode one. But, the beauty of a fanfic is I don't have to time it!

Hope you all enjoyed. Review and follow. All of that good stuff. Next chapter will have POVs from Jaime and Jon. Until then, happy reading!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Hello everyone. Back with a new chapter! This time we go back to Jaime and Jon. I continue to enjoy writing this and I appreciate all of your feedback.

Also, for those wondering about Gendry (as many are), in my story I have him placed with some of Daenerys' armies moving North. He will arrive in Winterfell soon!


Chapter 5: Secrets and Vows

Jaime


Jaime did not expect to be well received by Edmuere Tully. He was fortunate that Lannister soldiers were garrisoned in Riverrun, or he never would have gotten through the gate. He glanced at Bronn as the heavy wooden door creaked open.

"What do we do if these soldiers have discovered my treachery?" he asked.

"We run," Bronn said. "And if things look bad, I'll abandon you and save myself."

"Now, that sort of attitude won't get you your castle," Jaime pointed out.

"I can't enjoy my castle if I'm dead," Bronn said.

"We could have you buried in it. It would make a lovely tomb."

"If I only get a castle after I'm dead, I'm going to come back in that cold fucker's army to kill you."

Jaime couldn't help but grin. Even when things looked dark, Bronn managed to cheer him up with his sense of humor. It was his wit that had gotten Jaime through training with his left hand. He was at least competent with a sword again.

He hoped that competence would help him here if things went badly.

They entered Riverrun and handed their horses off to Lannister soldiers.

"M'lord Lannister," one of the Captain's approached him. "What brings you here, and without the colors of your house?"

"Are you questioning your lord's choice of dress?" Bronn asked.

The captain paused. "Ah, no ser. Of course not."

"I didn't want the trouble on the road," Jaime said. "We had to get here as quickly as possible." He locked eyes with one of the Tully soldiers. "Take me to Lord Edmuere. I need to speak with him."

The soldier glared back at him but did not argue. "This way."

The hall of Riverrun was not particularly elaborate or elegant. They had never been even close to the richest or most powerful house. But they were reliable and they had endured for a long time. In recent years they had lost many of their family members. Now it was up to Edmuere to carry on his family name. Perhaps that was why he gave in to Jaime's demands months ago. At least under Lannister rule, he could remain the lord of the keep and have a chance to fight another day.

"I do not know why you have come, Ser Jaime," Edmuere said, tapping his fingers against the table. "I have given in to all of your demands and I have not resisted the occupation of Lannister soldiers. What more do you want."

Jaime raised a hand. "Lord Tully...I have not come to ask any more from you. In fact I come with a request."

"A request is an order from Lannisters as long as they sit on the iron throne," Edmuere said.

"Feel free to see it as you like," Jaime said. "I understand that this time has been difficult on you. I'm glad to see that you-"

"Get to the point, please," Edmuere said. "I grow weary of your presence."

Jaime bowed his head. "My apologies. I came to withdraw the Lannister armies from Riverrun."

"What do you mean?" Edmuere's eyes widened and he sat up in his seat. "Is this...some sort of trick?"

"No trick," Jaime said. "My troops are needed for more important matters. There is a very large army marching from the North."

"Have the Northerners turned against you too then?" Edmuere said.

"No," Jaime said. "In fact we've allied with the Northerners. We've put aside all of our petty conflicts to fight the real enemy. The one coming from beyond the wall."

"You speak of a rumor," Edmuere said. "I've heard of this Army of the Dead. But I did not take you for a suspicious man, Ser Jaime."

"I'm not," Jaime said. "But then I saw one of the dead with my own eyes. They are brutal and strong. And they are coming for all of Westeros. Our only choice is to fight them." He shrugged. "We can kill each other later."

"And you expect me to believe that your Queen has agreed to such an arrangement?" Edmuere said.

Jaime smiled joylessly. "No, I don't expect you to believe that. You're a smart man." He knew candor was the best approach here. To be honest, he was done manipulating and lying like Cersei. Like his father. He approached the table. "I'll be frank with you, Lord Tully, since my men are not present. I have parted ways with my sister. Treasonous, yes, but she wanted to hold back our armies and let the dead move as they please. On the other hand, she told the Northerners and the Targaryan queen that she would help. They expect Lannister armies and I will bring them."

"I don't believe it," Edmuere said. "You actually betray your sister?"

"She betray me first," Jaime said. "And yes. I did."

"You consider the Army of the Dead such a threat."

"Without a doubt, my lord," Jaime said. "That is where my request comes in. I will remove the Lannister armies. I don't need your permission for that, and frankly, I think you'd love to see the red and gold colors go." He leaned forward over the table. "But I'd ask, please, that you would mobilize your forces to go North as well. We need every sword in this fight."

"You must be mad, ser."

"Well, not yet," Jaime said. "I plan to ally with the King in the North and the Targaryan Queen. If we can defeat the Army of the Dead, I will help them defeat my sister as well. Once they are on the throne, if you helped them, I have no doubt they will restore Riverrun to you in full. No troops watching your every move. It will truly belong to the Tully's again. My sister will not allow the same courtesy if she remains on the throne. But if the other side prevails, I will see it done."

Edmuere clenched his jaw. Jaime could see in his eyes that he was tempted. He never was a gifted negotiator. Still, he tried to channel the iron of the Blackfish as he looked Jaime in the eye. "Why should a vow from you mean anything to me, Kingslayer?"

"It shouldn't," Jaime said. "But think of your kin, Lord Tully. Your niece is in Winterfell. Your sister may be dead but her daughter remains. When the Army of the Dead comes, Winterfell will be among the first to fall. I'm not asking you to fight for me. But fight for them. Fight for your family here." He swept out his hand. "Because the dead won't stop in the north. They'll keep marching steadily south until they reach the Vale. And then you. Then King's Landing and Dorne and every inch of this forsaken country. You must fight for the living. Or there will be none left."

That was the focus of this whole war, wasn't it? To stay alive? Jaime had cheated death many times but he never thought he would fight it. He found it sort of exhilarating. But Edmuere's support could mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially with Jaime's smaller Lannister army.

He had made a vow to the North and he would bring as many troops to them as he could.

Jon

The last twenty-four hours of Jon's life had been utterly bewildering. So quickly, the happiness of being home was crushed by the reveal of his true parentage, his birth name, and the destruction of the Wall. It seemed like one horrible realization after another and he still hadn't wrapped his mind around it.

He couldn't deal with the notion that he was a Targaryan or the true heir to the throne at the moment. He couldn't think about the fact that Daenerys, a woman he had grown to deeply care for, was his aunt. Now that the wall had fallen, there was no more time for petty conflict. They had to prepare.

"How much time do you think we have?" Jon asked in the hall. A representative from each Northern house was present, in addition to his family, Brienne, Tormund and Berric. Tormund was not even casting admiring glances Brienne's way. That spoke to the seriousness of the situation.

"Not a damn clue," Tormund said. "The Army of the Dead has never moved quickly but I did not stop to watch."

"We have more time than you think," Bran Stark spoke up from the corner where they had placed his chair. "The Army of the Dead wishes to conquer all of Westeros. They want every living man, woman and child as part of their army. So they have stopped to gather them."

"Yes. They aren't like any conqueror rushing for the iron throne," Berric Dondarion said. "They are a natural disaster. A winter without end. The Night King wants total rule."

"At the very least he gives us time to prepare then," Jon said. "How long, Bran?"

"Three weeks, perhaps," Bran said.

"It's not much time to ready ourselves for such a large army, but it is enough," Jon said. "We must focus on moving as many people as possible out of the North."

"How do you expect us to do that, your grace?" on lord asked.

"Send out small parties of soldiers to evacuate every town and city," Jon said. "Get as close to the Army of the Dead as you can without being seen. Many will have already perished but we cannot save them now. We must focus on helping the living."

"Why not just make a stand here? We can't send any forces North. We should be focusing on getting our troops in order," Lord Royce asked.

"You are not from the North, my lord," Lyanna Mormont spoke up, her voice like a knife. "Those are our people you speak of sacrificing."

"Yes, and every dead civilian is another soldier to the Night King's Army," Jon said. "The more people we abandon the worse our odds. But you are right about one thing Lord Royce. We must make a stand at Winterfell. We cannot allow the Night King to get too far South."

"You say the Night King has a dragon," Sansa said. "How are we supposed to stop that from getting South."

"A dragon will be able to break any line we set up," Arya agreed. "If it cut through the wall, it will cut through people much easier."

"For now the dragon is staying with the army. But I agree," Jon said. "In this fight our main objective will be taking down that dragon. I don't want the Night King to use that beast."

"Daenerys Targaryan gave them that dragon," one lord said. "If she hadn't gone North of the wall..."

"If she hadn't gone north of the wall, I would be dead," Jon said. "She did not mean for one of her dragons to die. She loves them like children."

"Then will she be able to kill this one?" Tormund asked. "You say it's her undead child. Will she be able to help us take it down again?"

"We still haven't agreed to fight with her."

"Can we afford not to?"

"She has forced our hand. If not for the dragon-"

"My lords."

Jon's head jerked up as Daenerys' voice rang through the hall. She strode toward the table with the confidence of a commander. The carriage of a queen. And though every eye turned on her, she did not falter.

"Who let her in here?" one lord muttered. "This meeting is for the North."

"It concerns the fate of Westeros and therefore concerns me," Daenerys said. "I came to help the North and I intend to. I did not know one had to ask permission to help."

The lords did not reply. Jon knew very well how stubborn they could be. His throat bobbed up and down as he watched Daenerys. This could go very badly if she said the wrong thing. And they could not afford squabbling amongst themselves. Not at this juncture.

"I understand," Daenerys said. "Last time a Targaryan came North he forced your king to bend the knee. I have forced nothing from your king. Last time, a Targaryan came threatening fire and blood. But I have come to help. To destroy the Army of the Dead." She placed a hand at her breast. "I know what my father did to the Starks. But I am not him. I will never allow myself to be him." She let out a breath. It solidified in the air like a fine cloud of mist. Even in doors it was cold these days. "All I am asking is for you to accept the hand I extend. There will be time later to argue over the matter of the iron throne and crowns. Right now, your lands are in danger. You want to protect them more than anything. I see that. So let me give you my armies and my dragons and myself. I am not your enemy."

The silence that followed seemed to suffocate the great hall. Jon did not know what to say. Daenerys spoke well and he worried he would ruin her words with his often clumsy tongue.

"I believe her," Sansa said.

"My lady," Lord Glover stared at Sansa.

"I have spoken at length with her outside of this hall and I believe her," Sansa said. "You named Jon your king. You followed me in his absence. If we tell you to work with this queen, then you will do so. We must save the people of the North."

"But what about-" another lord spoke up but Sansa glared at him.

"Do you disobey me now, my lord? Do you disobey Jon?"

No one spoke in response to that. Sansa's words seemed to silence some of the lords. They all respected her greatly. Jon often thought she would make a better ruler of the North.

"If our King commands, then we will ally with Daenerys Targaryan," Lyanna Mormont spoke up.

"Aye," another lord said. "If our king commands."

Jon's shoulders relaxed. Daenerys gave him a small smile, but it seemed to stab him in the heart. She did not know. None of the northern lords knew either... what he was. There hadn't been time to tell any of them and he could not begin now. It would just be another distraction they couldn't afford. They would not follow their king's commands if they had any idea.

A Targaryen cannot be trusted.

"Start preparing our defenses then," Jon said. "And send out scouting troops North. Send ravens. Pull every living person back. There's not a moment to waste." Then, without pausing for a response, he swept out of the hall.

Jon went to the crypt, because he wanted to be alone for even a few moments. He wanted the silence so that he could process his many chaotic thoughts.

Usually when he went to the crypt, he found himself standing in front of Eddard Stark, the man he believed was his father. Today he stood before Lyanna Stark, the woman who Bran claimed was his mother.

His father always claimed Arya reminded him of Lyanna. She was fierce and shared many of the same features. Jon could not tell all of that looking at the stone statues. But statues did a poor job of capturing someone's likeness.

He reached out, touching her hand. If this was his mother...she had died long ago. But she had died loving him. She had sworn her brother to absolute secrecy and he had carried that secret to the grave, even allowing Catlyn Stark to loathe him for it.

He had kept the secret from him too. Jon wondered if Ned Stark ever planned on telling him the truth.

The next time we see each other, we'll talk about your mother. I promise.

If Jon and Ned had met again... would he have told him? Would he have kept his word. Jon believed he would have. His father did not break vows.

My father. He couldn't stop thinking of Eddard Stark as his father even after Bran gave him the news.

"Your sister said I would find you down here."

Jon closed his eyes. Though he usually loved hearing Daenerys' voice now it sent a shudder through him. How could he tell her? How could he begin to explain?

"I'm sorry if I shouldn't be down here. I know this is an important place to your family," Daenerys said, walking forward.

"You may go where you please," Jon murmured, looking up at Lyanna's stone face.

"It seems I may... now that the Northern lords have seen my side. I think I have Sansa to thank for that," Daenerys said. "I didn't warn you about my coming to the hall. But after I heard the news about... about Viseron, I wasn't thinking clearly. I had to do something."

"I understand," Jon said. "It must have been a shock for you."

Daenerys paused by his side. "I don't want to see him again. I already said goodbye and now I must look at his face once more. I must kill him."

"It's not him anymore," Jon said.

"I know," Daenerys said. "And it will not change my decisiveness in the fight." She reached out, resting a hand over his heart, right over his largest scar. "I promise that."

"I am glad to hear it," Jon murmured, backing away from her hand. He found it so hard to look at her without blurting out the truth. He was a terrible liar.

Daenerys tilted her head to the side. "Jon...what is wrong?"

"Many things are wrong," Jon said. "The Army of the Dead most of all. I don't have time for..." He shook his head. "There's just no time right now."

Daenerys studied him, her jaw tense. "Am I a distraction for you, Jon Snow."

"No. You are not," Jon said. "It's just... everything has happened so fast. We must focus on the Night King. There is no time for anything else."

"I can accept that," Daenerys said. "But there is no need for you to avoid me. I am well used to putting my feelings to the side."

"Your feelings," Jon said. "What are your feelings, your grace?"

Daenerys paused. "I did not think you needed them spelled out for you."

The sincerity in her voice formed a lump in Jon's throat. "I don't. I think we have both made our feelings clear." He took another step back. "And I do wish we could go back to that boat. But were here now. So is winter." He bowed his head. "I have to go."

Then he swept from the crypt. He couldn't spend another moment near her without speaking the truth. And Daenerys did not need to know the truth right now. They all had enough troubles on their mind.

Jon's feelings-and his true name-were of little significance in the dark of the winter.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed! Next chapter will feature Arya and Daenerys. It's a long one! Until then, review, follow and all of that. Happy reading!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Welcome to this really long chapter. This one features Arya and Daenerys' POV. It has a lot of fun stuff in it so I enjoyed writing the scenes.

On another note, my second book comes out in three days, so if you want to support my original writing you can always buy the first, HOUR OF MISCHIEF by Aimee Hyndman, on amazon. I would greatly appreciate it!

But enough plugging. Back to the chapter!


Chapter 6: Dragons and Wolves

Arya


In the past few years, Winterfell had prepared for many attacks from the South. That, of course, was where the majority of their enemies lay. What a change that they now had to prepare to defend their home from enemies from the North.

Jon saw to the preparation of the Winterfell armies. He was experienced in leading soldiers and he commanded respect with a confidence that came from hard won experience. Sansa, meanwhile, focused on the civilians. She made arrangements for anyone who couldn't fight to go south. Even if they were crippled or young, they could still join the Army of the Dead.

The Dragon Queen, Daenerys, focused on the organization of her own armies. They arrived north only a few days after the news of the wall. With the help of her commanders and advisors, she organized a plan for the defense of Winterfell.

In situations like this, Arya felt quite useless. She had learned much in her time in Bravos. She knew how to kill a man dozens of ways. She knew how to move like a shadow. She could change her face at will like others changed clothes. But she had little experience in the art of war.

Most of her knowledge of warfare came from reading. She passed many an afternoon avoiding more lady-like studies by reading about the Targaryan conquerors and their dragons. But reading about war was one thing. Commanding whole armies... Daenerys and Jon had far more experience than her in that area. And Sansa... she had more experience commanding people. Arya had never seen a real battle. She had seen all of her cold blooded murder in back alleys and shadowy corners.

Some of the cold blooded murders, she had orchestrated herself.

She hadn't told Jon where she had been or what she had done in all these years. Not in specifics anyway. Sansa understood what pain could drive a person to do. She did not look down on Arya for her life. And Bran... he was all knowing now, and the vengeance of his sister could not make much of a difference to him.

But Jon... Jon was so much like their father. Honor bound and straightforward. Sometimes stupid. Her father never would have approved of the assassins life, and Arya knew it. Jon may think less of her as well if he found out how she ended the Freys.

It was fortunate that Jon didn't have much time to pry. Though Arya had grown quite adept at the lying game over the years, she wasn't sure she could lie to him. But he didn't have the luxury of asking questions. He spent every waking moment preparing, so Arya could avoid his curiosity.

She spent much of her time watching the newcomers for any suspicious persons. Jorah Mormont was one, who arrived quietly and asked Jon not to speak his name freely in the North. He did not want to draw the wrath of his family. Greyworm was another: a great warrior and leader of the Unsullied. He spent much of his time with Missandei, who was Daenery's hand almost as much as Tyrion.

They seemed like loyal people, all with a common cause to serve the North. None of them watched Jon's back as if they meant to shove a sword there. After the first few days of the new comers, Arya felt safer leaving Jon alone.

She liked to venture outside the walls of Winterfell often. In the fields beyond, the armies gathered in tents. They had great numbers and more came every day. Ever able bodied person, man or woman, who didn't have young children to look after, took up a weapon to join the army of the North.

Looking out over the vast tents, Arya could almost trick herself into thinking the odds were in their favor.

She saddled her horse nearly every morning to go for a ride. It became a routine for her. Now, no one even paused to look at her when she saddled her horse. They didn't ask if she was avoiding knitting lessons with the Septon. They let her do as she pleased without interruption.

Almost no interruption.

A week after the arrival of Daenerys' armies, Arya made the mistake of catching the Hound's eye as she settled her horse. She dropped his gaze quickly and focused on the buckles. Usually he avoided her and she hoped he would do so again. The heavy crunch of boots on the snow swept that hope away.

"Do you intend to pretend I'm a ghost forever, girl? Or are you going to speak to me?"

Arya did not look at him. "I have nothing of interest to say."

"I'll be the judge of that. I have some interesting questions you could answer," the Hound retorted.

"I don't have time, at the moment." Arya finished with the buckles and swung up onto her horse. But the Hound grabbed the reigns before she could.

"Don't. I've seen you kill plenty of men, Stark. Shyness doesn't become you."

"I'm not being shy," Arya said. She cursed with the slight rise of her voice. "I have more pressing things to handle at the moment."

"Then I'll keep this short," the Hound said. "You planning on killing me any time soon? Do you still say my name at night with the others before you go to sleep? I'd like to know."

"No," Arya said. "Until recently, I thought you were dead."

"Aye, but here I am. Because you didn't finish the job." The Hound could look her straight in the eye even when she was on a horse. He really was a tall man. "Why didn't you kill me. You made such a point of telling me that I was on your kill list. Then I handed you the chance to end it and you walked away. Why?" Arya didn't reply and he kept talking. "Was it because you wanted me to suffer? I understand. You didn't want to give me what I wanted. Unfortunate for you that I didn't die. Now you have to say an extra name again."

"I told you, I don't speak your name with the others," Arya said.

"And you haven't answered my question. Why didn't you kill me?"

Arya gripped the front of the saddle. "Because I didn't want to. Does that answer satisfy you?"

It was the Hound's turned to be bewildered and silent. Arya took the opportunity to steal the reigns back from him.

"Before that day, I had taken you off my list. Don't ask me to explain why, because I still don't know." She gripped the reigns. "That's all I have to say. Now move."

The Hound did, surprisingly, and she galloped past him, speeding toward the front gate and almost running over a watchman on the way.

The Hound's survival complicated so many things. If he had died, Arya could pretend she had crossed his name from her list. She would not have to face the confused feelings that came from leaving him at the bottom of the hill. To this day, she did not know if she did it to spite him or because she was weak.

The waif used to ask her about that day. She asked what had made a girl so confused. Arya did not lie, but she also did not quite tell the truth. Because she did not know the truth herself, most days.

It would have been easier, in some ways, to give up Arya Stark and become faceless. Then there would not be any confusion at all.

Arya rode further from the keep than usual that day. She wanted to escape for a little while into the icy cold hills she once called home. She was cutting a path through the woods when her horse seemed to startle and skid to a stop. It's nostrils flared and it pawed at the ground.

"It's okay," Arya said. "I won't let anything happen to you."

But the horse still would not go forward. Something shifted in the trees, something large. And Arya could have sworn she heard deep breathing.

Slowly she slid from her horse and tied it to a tree. She knew she should not draw closer to the sounds, but she could not help it. She crept carefully through the trees until she reached a clearing. And there, before her, rested two dragons.

Arya had always dreamed of riding a dragon. In some of her earliest games she played at being a rider, swooping about Winterfell and causing all sorts of trouble. She'd hop on Sansa's back to 'catch' her and her sister screamed and swatted at her.

But Arya discovered quickly that dragons no longer existed and she gave up such dreams. Until this very moment.

They were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. The green one had the most beautiful scales in the sunlight and the rays made his wings nearly transparent as he stretched them. The largest one, with dark scales, would not fit in the Winterfell courtyard. Even with his mouth closed, she could see his razor sharp teeth peeking out of his maw. In one bite he could swallow her up and that should have been enough to urge her to turn and run back to her horse.

But all survival instincts abandoned her as she took a step forward, closer to them. The largest shifted, one eye opening as she approached. It's lip curled further back, revealing more teeth. Arya stopped moving, holding up her hands.

"It's all right. I'm a friend." She swallowed hard. "You know Jon, I think. He's my brother."

The dragon shifted, raising its head slightly. She could see the muscles tense in it's neck. What a grand beast he was.

"I've always wanted to meet one of you," Arya said. "Everyone told me it was a silly fantasy. They told me to dream of things like marrying princes. But I'm glad I dreamed of you." She risked another step forward. The dragon did not shift away. It watched her as she drifted gradually toward him until she was level with his great snout. Then she carefully reached out and rested her hand there.

A breath left her-relieved and elated all at once. She smiled wide, one of her few real smiles. She wanted to laugh, or maybe cry. With the Army of the Dead nearing every day, bearing down on her home, this was a small pleasure. But it meant everything.

"They warmed up to your brother too."

Arya dropped her hand from the dragon's snout at the sound of Daenerys' Targaryen's voice. The dragon queen stood near the smaller green one, petting it's neck.

"Of course, it's a foolish thing to pet a dragon like that," Daenerys said. "They aren't dogs."

"No," Arya said. "But I read that some maesters believe dragons are more intelligent than humans. They know friend from foe." She looked up at the great black dragon. She still couldn't believe he was real even after she touched him.

Daenerys smiled. "That's Drogon. And the green is Rhaegal. I had a third, Viseron...but he was lost to the Night King." She looked down at the snow. Much of it had melted in the presence of the dragons, revealing the dead grass beneath. "I suspect I will see him again soon. The Night King used him to destroy the wall."

"I'm sorry," Arya said. "I lost my Direwolf. She didn't die, but she had to run away or they would have killed her" She looked down at her hands. "They're not pets, my father said. And they're just beasts. But he was wrong. All of my siblings... we felt as one with our Direwolves. Most of them are dead now."

"But yours is alive?"

"Yes. Somewhere," Arya said. "I saw her on my way back to Winterfell. I hoped she might come with me. But she's found a pack of her own now. She's been free for too long." She exhaled. She did not know why she was telling the Dragon queen this. The presence of the dragons let down some of her walls. How could she keep them up like this?

"Drogon went off on his own for a time," Daenerys said. "But he came back to me when I needed him most."

Arya smiled. "I can't imagine what it would be like to ride a dragon." She looked at Daenerys. "I used to read about your ancestors all of the time. Visenya and her sword, dark sister... she was my favorite. She was a woman but a warrior. I wanted to be just like her but I didn't have a dragon."

"You have a blade though," Daenerys said, nodding to her sword. "What is it called?"

"Needle," Arya said. "Jon gave it to me." She looked down at the dagger. "This knife has no name." She didn't want to give it one either. For a time, she hadn't had a name herself. It felt fitting to keep the dagger nameless. A weapon with a name. A weapon without. That fit Arya very well.

"I never learned to fight with a sword," Daenerys said. "I had others who protected me with them. When I do fight, it is on Drogon's back. I'm afraid I'm not as much a warrior as Visenya."

Arya shrugged. "Neither is Sansa. She's found her strength in other ways. I don't think I appreciated it until recently."

"We are all taught from a young age not to appreciate a woman's strength." Daenery's stepped up to Drogon and he lowered his wing for her, giving her a place to climb on. "I should be getting back."

"You plan to arrive on a dragon?" Arya asked.

"The people of the North will have to get used to seeing them," Daenerys replied. "When the Army of the Dead comes, they can't be gawking at the sight of a dragon. They need to fight."

"Fair enough," Arya said. "Though if you ask me, undead men are just as incredible as dragons. Though not as beautiful."

Daenerys nodded her head, conceding the point. She started to climb up her dragon's shoulder, then paused.

"Arya... you know Jon well. I feel as if he is avoiding me lately. Do you know why?"

Arya thought for a moment. "I haven't seen him in a long time. He may have changed. But it my experience he avoids people when he has something on his mind. Or when he worries about hurting them."

"I see," Daenerys said. Then she climbed onto Drogon's back. Arya stepped back out of the way as the great creature shifted. The beat of his wings created a great wind that almost set her off course. She watched the dragon take to the skies, then sprinted back to her own horse. She urged her into a gallop and her steed was more than happy to oblige.

Arya broke onto the open fields at the same moment as Drogon. She looked back on that moment as one of the most magnificent in her life. Galloping across the field, a sword at her hip and a dragon in the sky above.

They will write stories about these times someday, Arya thought to herself. If there are people left alive to write them.

It was a day of many surprises for Arya, and she surely expected petting a dragon to be the highpoint. She did not expect that auspicious moment to receive competition only an hour after she returned to Winterfell. Then Jon knocked on her door.

"How was your ride?"

Arya smiled. "I met the dragons."

"Daenerys told me," Jon said. "You ought to be careful though. You're barely a mouthful to them."

"They like me," Arya said. "Apparently they like Starks. Daenerys said they warmed up to you."

Jon looked down at his hands. "I'm... not a Stark."

"Don't be ridiculous, Jon. You have Stark blood. You're a Stark," Arya said. "No one cares about legitimate names these days."

For a moment, Jon opened his mouth and Arya thought he meant to tell her something. Something important, based on the grim set of his face. Then he shook his head.

"All the same. I didn't come to talk about names. Someone was asking after you."

"Someone?" Arya asked. "An enemy or a friend?"

"I would not have let an enemy of yours into this castle," Jon said. "He claims he is a friend. And since he has been of great service to me thus far, I believe him."

"Who?" Arya asked, truly not sure who Jon could mean. She hadn't made many friends over the past few years.

"Gendry Waters," Jon replied.

That name came from a lifetime ago. Gendry Waters. At one point it had meant a great deal to Arya... the name of the Baratheon bastard. At one point he had been one of the only things she had in the world. With her family scattered to the wind, she clung to him as her only family.

The Red woman took him away and she assumed she would never see him again. She assumed he was dead like everyone else.

But the boy-the man-standing in the courtyard besides the blacksmith, was very much alive. He was still unfairly tall with the muscles of one who worked often with a hammer. He had a trace of a beard on his face, and he had clearly seen more hard times since they last met. But it was still Gendry.

He locked eyes with her. Arya felt so many confusing emotions in her chest, none of which she could give a proper name to. Except for one.

Anger.

She stalked toward Gendry, her grey eyes blazing. He gave her a little grin, bowing his head. "M'lady."

She wacked him on the arm. "Don't call me m'lady, idiot. I am not your lady. I am not anyone's lady." Arya hadn't raised her voice at someone like this in a long time. She thought she had abandoned that childish anger long ago, along with her innocence. Yet here it rose up again.

"That's right. Are you a princess now?" Gendry was laughing. "Your brother is King in the North."

Arya fumed. "I am nothing of the sort, you stupid boy." She swung at him again, knocking him in the stomach. He gasped, stumbling back.

"Alright, alright. I surrender. Please."

Arya's anger faltered and she felt something else overwhelming her chest. Relief. Happiness. She lunged forward again, this time hugging him around the waist.

"Arya?" Gendry sounded bewildered. She didn't blame him. She was bewildered too.

"Shut up," she muttered. "Don't speak."

So he didn't. He rested his hands on her shoulders and did not make a sound. Arya was grateful. She needed the silence to regain control of herself.

Later, in the stables, they talked, once Arya trusted her own voice again. Gendry told her of what happened when he went with the Red Woman, and how he had almost died.

"I knew she was trouble," Arya had spit. "That's why I had her on my list."

"Your list of people to kill?" Gendry asked. He had known about the list, after all. She spoke it aloud many times in his presence. "Did you ever kill any off that list?"

"Some," Arya said, which was an understatement. But like with Jon, she did not want to scare Gendry. Not after she had just got him back.

Gendry told her of his time returning to King's Landing, working right under the Queen's nose. After a while, no one cared about Baratheon bastards anymore. Especially not since Joffery died. The realm had too many problems to worry about one bastard. So he became a black smith again. And when Ser Davos Seaworth came along, he left to join Jon.

"I like your brother," Gendry said. "He's a good man. Reminds me of your father."

"Yes, me too," Arya agreed.

"What have you been up to all this time?" Gendry asked. "When did you make it home?"

"Not long ago, actually," Arya said. "I've been many places."

"All over Westeros?"

"Yes," Arya said. "And Essos."

"Essos, really?"

"I went to Bravos for a time."

"And what did you do there?"

Arya looked down at her hands. "Lots of things." She did not want to lie so she decided to tell a partial truth. "Sometimes I sold things by the docks. Sometimes I ran errands for others. Sometimes I went to the plays."

Gendry grinned. "Did you act in them?"

"Gods, no," Arya said.

"Not an actor then," Gendry said. "Well, I'm sure you'll find another trade."

Arya bit her lip. Truth was, she had become quite an actor. Just not for the stage. She slipped in to other people's skin better than any theater actor could. With her faces, anything was possible.

"I'm glad you're alive," Gendry said. "After all that happened to your family, I thought for sure you must have died somewhere along the line." He shook his head. "Shouldn't have doubted you though. You're a survivor."

Arya swallowed hard, looking up at him. "I'm glad you're alive too. After so many others died, it's strange finding friends and home again."

"Well, I'm always happy to serve, m'lady," Gendry gave her a little bow.

"Don't call me that," Arya said. "Really." She pushed off the wall of the stable. "Before you left with the Red Woman, I asked you to stay. To run off with me. I asked you to be my family because I thought I'd never see mine again. You said it was impossible because I was a lady." She shook her head. "I never wanted to be a lady. I wanted to fight. And I wanted to be friends with who I chose. A butcher's boy or a bastard black smith. It shouldn't matter." She looked up at him. "I'm finished letting other people tell me what to do based on my position as a lady. You're my friend. Not my servant. My friend."

Gendry stared at her. "Sorry, Arya. I... didn't know it meant that much to you."

"It does." Arya gave him a small smile. "And I like it when you call be my name. You should do it more often."

Gendry smirked and Arya knew what he was going to say before he did. "As m'lady commands."

She punched him in the gut.

Daenerys

Jon Snow was beginning to annoy Daenerys.

If she thought about it, he had always annoyed her. From the moment she met him and he flatly refused to bend the knee, she had felt a certain irritation whenever she spoke with Jon Snow. He was stubborn, but not in the proud way of most men. Not in the way that looked down on her as a woman. He was not like other men, and that annoyed her as well.

She did not remember when her irritation turned to affection turned to something more. Her emotions were a blurred line for her. She must have felt something for him when she rode North to save him. Otherwise, she would not have gone. But she did not truly realize her feelings until after he nearly died.

Watching a person die exposes how you feel about them. If they are nothing to you, you feel nothing, apart from perhaps horror at the concept of death itself. But if they are a loyal friend or a lover or a child, their death opens up a gulf in your heart. A void that cannot be filled accept by their return.

Drogo had not returned to Daenerys. Her child did not return. Viseron would not return. Not really. But Jon... he had returned and Daenerys felt an unmistakable relief.

Speaking to him on the boat on the way to King's Landing, she decided she loved him.

Maybe he had decided the same about her then. And on the boat to White harbor, they had both laid their feelings bare.

So why was Jon Snow avoiding her now?

He spoke with her often, of course, when war was involved. They planned many strategies and debated the position of their armies. But outside of these meetings, he was nowhere to be found.

He has many things on his mind, she told herself. His home, his family, his responsibility as a leader to these people.

Yet she could not shake the feeling that he was hiding something for her. Jon was not a gifted secret keeper or liar. He had not been forced to learn that skill. Not like Daenerys. But she did not want any secrets kept between them.

Until she discovered one of her own.

Daenerys woke one morning, prepared for the day, and was suddenly struck by the realization that she had not bled in almost two months. She had never monitored her moon sickness with any regularity because she knew in her heart she would never get pregnant again.

Yet she had not bled.

She tried to think of all possible explanations. Perhaps the stress of the war was disturbing her body. Perhaps she was counting the days wrong. But she knew that could not be it. Sad to say, she had been in far more distress than she was currently and her cycle had not shifted. And she had not miscounted the days. She checked them twice in her head.

She sat on the bed, in shock. Jon had mentioned the witch that cursed her may not be a reliable source. She counted him as a fool. After all, how many times had she lain with Daario and not become pregnant.

And yet...

Daenerys placed a hand on her stomach. What sort of foul trick are the gods playing on me?

A knock came at her door and Missandei's voice called from the other side.

"My Queen. May I enter?"

"Of course. Always," Daenerys said. She stood from the bed quickly, flustered. Missandei noticed as she entered.

"You have not yet dressed."

"I suppose I got a late start." Daenerys' hurried about the room. "Will you help me? I'm no used to donning so many layers."

"Of course," Missandei said. "But...may I ask my queen... What is wrong?"

"Nothing," Daenerys said. "Besides the obvious. There is nothing wrong."

Missandei sighed, moving forward to help Daenerys with the straps of her dress. "I have seen you in many times of trouble. I know your expressions as well as any language. You are disturbed. Has something happened?"

Daenerys' shoulders fell. She could hide nothing from Missandei. She had been at her side for so long. "You mustn't tell anyone. Not yet."

"I would not dream of it," Missandei said.

Daenerys touched her stomach. "I... have not bled in some time."

Missandei's fingers paused on the straps. "Truly?"

"Yes," Daenerys said. "I think I may be pregnant."

"By Jon Snow?"

"He is the only possibility." Daenerys turned to face her. "I'm not sure what to do."

"Are you not happy, my queen?" Missandei asked.

"I am and I am not," Daenerys said. "This is a blessing. A miracle, really. And the timing could not be worse. There is a war to win and I have a child growing inside of me." She shook her head. "If Jon knew..."

"You do not think he would reject the child?" Missandei asked.

"Not at all. He's a bastard. He knows the pain of being born unwanted," Daenerys said. "I know in my heart he would embrace the child. But he would also worry. And when he worries he does stupid things." She looked down at her hands. "He would not want me in battle either."

"You must go into battle though, mustn't you?" Missandei asked. "They will need Drogon."

"Yes, they will," Daenerys said. "So for now, I think... I shouldn't worry him."

"Your secret is safe with me," Missandei said. "As always. But you cannot keep it from him for too long." She smiled softly. "Eventually these things start to show."

Daenerys nodded, returning to dressing for the day. She did not like secrets, especially when they concerned those she loved. But sometimes... they were necessary.

Knowing of the child within her stomach made it harder than ever to watch Jon keeping his distance. She told Missandei he would embrace the child, but how could she be sure when he pulled so far away. Was he worried about what the Northern lords would think of them alone?

She had to speak to him. She didn't know what she would say, but none the less she could not keep completely silent. She could not pretend there was nothing between them.

She looked for opportunities to speak with him alone. But the only place he seemed to go alone was the crypt. She did not like disturbing the sacred resting place of his family, but she grew desperate with time.

So she made her way back to the underground.

He stood before a statue of a young woman again. He always seemed to stand in front of her. It could not be his mother since he was a bastard, but perhaps an aunt? A grandmother? He had not spoken of a Stark woman besides his sisters who treated him well.

"You're a difficult man to talk to sometimes, Jon Snow," she said.

"I know," Jon replied, turning around. "I never was the charming one of the family." He looked upon her sadly. Like he had a mountain of words trapped behind his tongue. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Daenerys said.

"For avoiding you. Clearly you've noticed it," Jon said. "It's not you. It's not your fault. I just..." He trailed off.

"Secrets do not become you," Daenerys said, stepping forward. "I know you're keeping something for me. I can see it jumping in your mouth."

Jon looked away. He looked so sad. So tired. She moved closer, reaching out to grasp his hands.

"You would not be keeping a secret unless you thought it was necessary," she said. "I am not innocent. I am keeping a secret as well. We keep our secrets because we want to focus on the cause at hand and not lay any more troubles on each other's minds." She looked up at him. "Am I wrong."

"No," Jon said. "I wish I could tell you. But there's so much... so much to do right now."

Daenerys nodded once. "Then let us both admit we are secret keepers... and agree to confess the truth once we are in a safer place." She looked down at his hands, clasped in hers. "If we die in the battle to come, our secrets will not matter. But do not avoid me. Do not keep your distance."

Jon swallowed hard. Then leaned down to kiss her softly.

Daenerys had never grown tired of Jon's kisses. He was far tenderer than most men. Far more considerate. But this kiss was over all too soon as he pulled back.

"I will not avoid you. And when the Battle for Winterfell is over, I will tell you the truth."

"Do you swear it?" Daenerys said. She knew Jon could not break vows.

"I swear," Jon said.

"Then I swear to you the same." She kissed his cheek, near his ear. "Swear me one more thing."

"Anything."

"Swear that you will not die before me."

Jon clasped her hand between his. "You know I cannot swear a vow that I can't keep."

"Swear you'll try then," Daenerys said.

Jon exhaled, a sound deep as the night sky in winter. "I swear... I will try."

A/N: And that's all for now. See you next time! Review and follow as usual and happy reading!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Hello everyone. Sorry it has been so long, but this was quite a difficult chapter to write. Battle scenes can be quite exhausting.

Thanks for all of the feedback on the last chapter. For those of you worried that I am going to kill Dany and Jon before they reveal their secrets, I promise that I will not. This is only the first battle of the fic. I wouldn't do that to you guys!

This is quite a long chapter so I hope you all enjoy!


Chapter 7: Not Enough

Sansa


It was a cruel trick of fate that Sansa felt happy just as the world came crashing down.

Her whole life in Winterfell she had longed for a life in King's Landing with a handsome prince to protect her and beautiful dresses to wear. Since then she had grown up and put such childish ambitions behind her, and for years after her young dreams died, she could not even begin to think of happiness.

It was as Ramsay Bolton's wife that she realized she may never know happiness again. She was willing to die then, because death could not be worse than the hell that lay before her.

Then Theon saved her. And Brienne saved her. And Brienne took her to Jon.

From there, Sansa clasped triumph after triumph in her hands. She reunited with her half-brother. She helped him to reclaim Winterfell. Her remaining living siblings returned to her. And she finally cut away Littlefinger, the last of her enemies who presumed to think they could manipulate her. With Jon's return, everyone she loved was in one place, and Winterfell once again belonged to House Stark.

And the Army of the Dead was coming.

If only she could forget that one maddening fact, she could be content. She could rest. She should have expected fate to deal her this hand. She could not expect too many victories without a cost.

Still, sometimes, she allowed herself to pretend the dead were not marching south, steadily closer to Winterfell. Today was one of those moments. Pacing around courtyard, Brienne at her side. Arya trained in the center, whipping her dagger back and forth. She wielded the blade with a sure hand.

Jon looked on as well. He looked absolutely exhausted and she didn't blame him. But she crossed to his side.

"You're up early," Jon said, without taking his eyes off their little sister.

"I like to rise at dawn. It gives me a moment of peace before the day's tasks begin," Sansa said. "You're up early as well." Jon didn't reply. "You never went to sleep, did you?"

"No," Jon said. "The Army of the Dead consumes my every thought."

"If you're tired, you can't fight them." Arya sheathed her dagger, looking over at them. Of course, she was listening. She was always listening, even when she seemed not to be. "You need to keep your skills sharp."

"They'll be sharp enough," Jon said.

"We should be sure." Arya drew her sword. "Spar with me, Jon."

Sansa couldn't help but smile. At one point or another, Arya never could have gotten away with sparring in the courtyard. Sansa used to berate Arya for wanting to at all. Now she was happy to see her sister freed from the expectations of others.

Jon raised an eyebrow. "Spar with you?"

"Yes," Arya said. "I always wanted to spar you the boys as a child. I wasn't allowed to. Now I can do what I want and I want to spar with you."

Jon gave her a small smile. "Can't say no to that." He strode over to the blacksmith, grabbing a practice sword. "I don't want to cut you."

"You won't," Arya said. "I'll still use this." She turned needle in her hand. "But I won't put a scratch on you. I promise."

"I've heard that before," Brienne murmured from Sansa's side. "He's bound to be surprised."

"Likely," Sansa agreed. "But let's not spoil it."

Jon struck at Arya's side and she stepped backward out of the way. Another slash and she ducked neatly under him, spinning around to his back and tapping her sword against his back. Jon laughed once, glancing over his shoulder at her.

"Using your small stature to your advantage."

"I was taught to use everything I could to my advantage," Arya replied.

Jon spun, bringing the blade down toward her shoulder. She leaned to the side. He cut upward, and she leaned back the other way. Sometimes, she deflected his blade with a glancing blow from her sword. But mostly she used her body, slipping between the gaps in his defenses like a cat slips through a crack in a wall.

She looks so happy. And free, Sansa thought. She knew that Jon's return would lift her sister's spirits more than anything else. She always loved Jon best.

They drew eyes from all over the courtyard, but no one cared. No one corrected the bastard son of Winterfell anymore, or the young Stark girl playing at being a knight. Brienne smiled at the sight and from a distance, Sansa thought she saw the Hound watching as well, looking almost proud.

Sansa exhaled. For a moment it seemed they were all content to be here, on this trembling foundation of a world.

Jon knocked Arya back and she let the momentum carry her, using it to roll over into a crouch. She flipped her blade in her hand, grinning widely. Though it looked almost like the snarl of a wolf.

Jon shook his head lowering his sword. "Gods, Arya. Where did you learn to do all of this?"

Arya lowered her swords slightly. "Lots of places. I had many different teachers."

And teachers with many different faces, Sansa thought. Arya had told her some things about her time in Bravos, but she knew she was reluctant to tell Jon anything. Their brother was kinder than either of them, and more honorable. He may not understand.

"We all had many different teachers of many different sorts," Sansa broke in before Jon could ask more questions. "Considering the paths we have walked, it's amazing we're all back here. Half of the Starks survived at least."

Jon looked down at his hands. "I'm not..."

"You are a Stark," Arya said firmly.

He did not speak for a long moment. Then he looked up Brienne. "Lady Brienne... if you would not mind, I need to speak with my sisters for a moment. Alone."

Brienne looked to Sansa and Sansa gave her a nod. The tall woman left them alone then.

"What is it, Jon?" Arya asked.

"Not here. There are too many ears here." He looked between them. "The Godswood. Bran is there, isn't he?"

"Does this concern him as well?" Sansa asked.

"Yes," Jon said. "But he already knows. He knows everything now, doesn't he?" His face was even grimmer than usual which was saying something, given the current circumstances. She lay a hand on his arm.

"Come then. We'll go to the Godswood."

Sansa did not quite know what to say at first, or how to even react to the news. It seemed so ridiculous. Jon had always been Jon to her. Now he and Bran said that his name was really Aegon Targaryen.

It didn't seem right. How could they have shared a roof with a Targaryen all of these years and never known. For her whole young life, the Targaryens were painted as evil. Her father and Robert fought on the good side to over throw the Mad King who burned people alive. And Robert killed Rhaegar who kidnapped Sansa's aunt and raped her. That was how the story was told, and she believed it. She always believed the stories back then.

Now she heard differently. Her aunt had gone willingly with Rhaegar and had born a child before her death. And that child was Jon Snow, the one they thought was their half-brother. Their father had kept it a secret all of this time.

Arya leaned her hand against a tree, steadying herself. "Why didn't you tell us earlier, Bran? You've known since before Jon returned."

"It was Jon's secret to do with as he would," Bran said. "It did not really matter who else knew."

"But it does," Jon said. "I have not yet told Daenerys. She knows I am keeping something but I have not spoken with her or any of the Lords of the North. Only Sam and Bran know besides you two. I think you can understand why."

"If the lords of the North knew you were a Targaryen, they wouldn't take it well," Sansa said.

"And if Daenerys knew...does your name challenge her claim to the throne?" Arya asked.

"I do not know how Daenerys will respond," Jon said. "She will not turn on me because of a change in name. But... some things may change."

Sansa pressed her lips together. She knew that Jon had feelings for Daenerys. This had to come as a shock to him. "You will have to tell her."

"I will. When this battle is won," Jon said. "But I needed to tell you first. You need to be prepared."

"For what?" Sansa asked.

"When this fight is over...whether we win at Winterfell or retreat, I will hand over control of the North to you. Officially."

Sansa blinked hard. "Jon, why?"

"Because I am not a Stark. You are," Jon said. "You ought to rule."

"You're as much a Stark now as you ever were," Arya took a step forward. "You say that Aunt Lyanna is your mother? Well she was a Stark. You're still a wolf like the rest of us. It just turns out you are a dragon as well."

"Arya," Jon murmured.

"No," Arya cut him off. "When you were a Snow, I always considered you a Stark. It didn't matter what other blood you had in you. You were my brother. Just because you have some other name does not change that. You grew up as our brother. You are our brother still."

"She is right," Sansa said. "Nothing has changed, Jon. A few more truths have come to light but you are the same to us."

Jon smiled softly. "Thank you. But even so, I will still give the North to Sansa. It's the most strategic move."

"How so?" Arya asked.

"The Northern lords will no longer trust me when they find out the truth but they will trust Sansa," Jon said. "And Sansa trusts me. So by giving her the North..."

"You also keep their loyalty," Sansa finished. "Because I will support you, you will retain the North as an ally even as you take up the name Targaryen."

"Yes," Jon agreed.

"And what if the Northern Lords do not accept me?" Sansa asked.

"They already love you. They must," Jon said.

"If they do not, they will regret it." Arya's grip tightened on her dagger.

"You will not have to kill any of the Northern lords with that dagger. They will accept Sansa," Bran murmured. "And that blade will be better served against the white walkers." He looked up. "They will be here soon."

"How soon?" Jon asked.

"They do not move with any consistency. But we have only days now," Bran said.

Days, Sansa thought. Days until this happiness melts away.

Everything really had changed. Bran was the three eyed raven. Arya was a trained assassin. And Jon... even Jon was half a Targaryen.

I am changed as well, Sansa thought. From a naïve little girl into one who may control the whole of the north.

She hoped that these harsh changes would not be for nothing.

Three days later, the calm broke when Tormund Giantsbane came barreling through the gate again. He had been keeping close watch on the Army of the Dead and now he returned with fear in his eyes. Jon met him at the gate and Sansa and Arya hovered shortly behind him, waiting for the news. Though somehow, Sansa knew Tormund's words before he spoke them.

"They're nearly here, Jon." He dismounted and hurried to Jon's side. "They've realized there is no one this far South to claim. So they're coming. Quickly now. They'll be here before night fall."

Jon swallowed hard, gripping Tormund's arm. "We'll be ready."

"Not sure about that. But we'll damn well try," Tormund said.

Arya's grip tightened on the hilt of her dagger. "So...it's over now."

Sansa looked down at her sister. She wondered if Arya had felt the same happiness in this place, despite the circumstances.

"Yes," she murmured at last. "And the Stark's will survive it."

The next hour was a flurry of activity. Every soldier made preparations and hurried to their stations. The armies on the fields formed their ranks and lines and other units prepared to guard Winterfell.

Arya was ready to stand among them. Sansa could see her determination in the way she clutched at the hilt of each of her weapons. But then, Jon pulled her aside.

"I need you to go. Before they get here."

"What?" Arya shook her head. "No, I'm staying with you."

"We can't risk any Stark lives in this battle. It's too soon," Jon said.

"You're a Stark too." Arya gripped his arm. "Jon, I can fight. I can protect our home too. You've seen me fight."

"I don't doubt your skills," Jon said. "That's why I'm sending you away. You need to go with Sansa and Bran. If the white walkers break our lines and come for you, you're the best person to protect them."

Sansa exhaled once. Yes, Arya made the most sense as she and Bran's protector. Neither of them could fight and Sansa had given Brienne over to join the battle. Her skills would be sorely needed.

Arya stared at him. "But... what about you?"

"He has others to protect him, Arya," Sansa called out, stepping forward. "Many who are loyal to him. Jon will be all right."

"You see?" Jon nodded at Sansa. "She's right. There will be people to watch my back. I won't die."

"You say that but so many of our family has died," Arya said.

"I know. I won't be joining them. Not today." Jon pulled away. "Go. Go with Sansa. Find Bran. Keep them safe."

Arya stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. Then she straightened her back. "I will. I promise." She crossed to Sansa, grasping her arm. "We should go, quickly. We want to put distance between us and the battle."

Sansa nodded once. She glanced one more time over her shoulder at Jon as they hurried from the courtyard. He was swinging up onto a horse, looking every inch a king. She would not say goodbye. She would not allow this to be their goodbye.

Aegon Targaryen, she thought, toying with the name. Did that Targaryen fit on her brother's face?

No, she decided. He will always be Jon to me. No matter his blood or his words.

He will always be Jon.


Brienne

It was not enough.

Staring out over the might of the Stark and Targaryen armies, Brienne knew it was not enough. She had not seen many large battles but it did not take a tactical genius to know that the dead far outnumbered them. On top of that, they were mindless but also stronger than any human soldier. They did not die easily and they keep moving without eating or getting tired. They stopped only to kill and then moved on like water over a rock.

They had been collecting new soldiers since they passed the wall. Likely the dead of Night's Watch now joined them, along with every unfortunate who did not have enough warning to flee. That made thousands more soldiers in the enemy's ranks, and the dead had been growing for many years now with no resistance. While kings and queens battled for control of an iron throne, they marched uninhibited.

Brienne was afraid. She had not yet seen the armies of the dead herself. Only the captured wight in King's Landing. But considering all she had heard from the King in the North, she knew the odds. When they met in battle, many would fall, and every living man felled rose again to fight for the other side.

They had dragon glass, at least. The whole army was equipped with the spears and blades of obsidian mined from Dragon Stone. Soldiers were instructed to retrieve the weapons from their comrades should they fall. None of the dragon glass could be wasted. Brienne carried a black dagger, just in case, but she had a weapon of her own. Her Valyrian steel sword, Oath Keeper.

"You hold a rare weapon," Jon told her. "And you are a worthy hand to wield it. You have proven yourself a true soldier in the field. So, I would ask a special purpose from you."

Her purpose was to target the white walkers. She stood on the hill overlooking the battlefield, soon to run red with blood. King Jon stood behind her, along with his other chosen soldiers. Their job was to identify the location of the white walkers in the midst of the battle. And then make their attack.

"One felled white walker means that many of the dead will drop," Jon had explained. "They will keep themselves at a safe place in the ranks. But when the fighting begins it will all dissolve into chaos. We must watch for an opportunity. When they make themselves vulnerable we charge and pray that we kill them before they kill us."

"A damn fucked position to be in," Tormund Giantsbane commented. "If any one of us loses our horse on the charge we will be trapped. Certain death, I'd say. Even for a giant like her." He glanced at Brienne.

Brienne had looked away from Tormund at that. She always felt uncomfortable beneath his scrutiny. He looked at her with awe, to be sure, but she was not used to such admiration. He loved her perhaps, but she did not feel the same for him. They had never spoken, so how could she? There was no time for such things, anyhow.

Even Tormund seemed to realize that now, standing beside Jon. He fixed his eyes on the horizon rather than gaping at her. It would be a welcome relief if not for the certain death marching toward them.

She could see them now on the horizon, a thin mass of an army shuffling toward there's. Her grip tightened on her sword as she surveyed their army. The Dothraki screamers made up the vanguard. They had volunteered for the honor, as they wanted a chance to test their new weapons against dead men. Behind them, the unsullied and Northern archers formed a wall. And behind them still dwelled the less experienced soldiers, sitting in tense ranks.

Daenerys and her dragons occupied the opposite hill. Brienne could see her sitting atop Drogon, almost blending in with the snow. The dragons themselves were outfitted with makeshift armor: enough to protect their necks and chests. The Winterfell blacksmith had worked in conjunction with Gendry Waters, Robert Baratheon's bastard, to create something suitable. They did not know how well it would fare in battle but it would not obstruct their flying.

The dragons were both their greatest weapon and their only hope. The Night King had one dragon and their lines would not hold against it. If Drogon and Rhaegal could not fell their undead brother, countless more would die.

Jon also hoped that the dragons might unseat the Night King.

"If he rides his new prize, perhaps he will fall. If we can isolate him from the others, we can kill him."

It was a faint hope, Brienne thought. The Night King had proven already to be intelligent. He would not take unnecessary risks. But it was a nice thought: That Jon might be able to end the war with a single blow of his sword.

Brienne had come to find out the hard way that a single sword was not always enough.

The army of the dead shuffled closer. There was still no sign of the undead dragon though Brienne listened for the beat of its wings. Podrick shifted uncomfortably on his horse.

"You did not have to accompany me, Pod," Brienne said. "There are other places you could be useful."

"No, m'lady," Podrick said. "I am your squire. I must accompany you." His voice trembled as he said it but he kept his chin high.

He's still a child. Foolish, Brienne thought. But equally brave.

With half a mile yet between them, the army of the dead stopped. And waited. Dead quiet fell over the field.

"Where is the bloody dragon?" Tormund muttered.

"Lying in wait," Jon replied. The clouds were thick that day. He had plenty of places to hide. "Likely for Daenerys' dragons to attack."

Brienne pressed her lips together. Of course, it would be a worthy strategy. When Daenerys charged to break up the lines, the dragon could drop in from above. "Does she know that?"

"We discussed it as a likely possibility," Jon said. "It doesn't matter. We need to eliminate as many of the dead as we can before we lose any of our people. Drogon can break the lines. Rhaegal can watch for an attack."

"Are those beasts smart enough to watch?" Tormund asked.

"They are smarter than we will ever know," Jon said. "They will be wary. And they will protect their mother at all costs." He looked to one of his soldiers. "Light the signal."

The soldier nodded, lighting an arrow and shooting it into the air. In an instant, Drogon beat his wings and rose from the hill. Then he charged.

It was a thing of beauty and horror, watching the dragons. Drogon swept over the army, breathing fire down upon their front lines. They all fell to ash without even screaming. Brienne watched tensely, waiting for the undead dragon to make its appearance. But it did not yet come.

Drogon had burned through the front lines when he pulled back and hovered in the air. Even before he retreated, the Dothraki screamers charged, ignoring the flames. They wielded their dragon glass weapons and fell upon the dead, slashing and hacking. The dead fought back with considerably less skill. But there were so many of them, it almost did not matter. They had so many soldiers to spare.

"I don't see any White Walkers," Tormund said.

"They will come," Jon promised.

Brienne looked around, squinting her eyes. Snow had begun to fall heavily on the battlefield and it made it hard to see anything. Had the white walkers brought the storm with them? They were winter itself, so it would not be surprised. They seemed to draw the cloud cover to the ground until it surrounded the armies. Mist pressed in from the front and also from the back.

Brienne's eyes widened. Indeed, thick mist had rolled in from behind the armies of the North. And from below, she heard screams. A wight giant broke from the mist cloud, its eyes glowing blue, and stomped across the back of the army.

Jon let loose a stream of curses. "They used the weather to cover their advance while we focused on their bulk."

"How many?" Podrick squeaked.

"I cannot see," Jon said.

"They knew we'd have the weaker soldiers behind," Brienne said. "And if they attack from behind..."

She heard it then. The beat of wings. Drogon and Rhaegal turned toward the sound as well. "The dragon is coming from behind!"

As soon as she said it the creature broke from the clouds. Blue fire blazed from its gaping maw, cutting a line straight through the army. Its terrible blue eyes glowed and it moved with a speed that Brienne had not thought possible.

"Daenerys," Jon called, though she could not hear him. She did not need to, it seemed. The Dragon queen and her dragons were already swooping toward the great monster. Drogon's fire forced the Night King's dragon to rise, back into the clouds, but it cut through the mists. Brienne could better see the army attacking from behind. There must be a White Walker among them.

"There, your grace," Tormund was pointing back toward the main army. "I see two White Walkers, toward the front."

"Then that's where we'll go," Jon said.

"Wait," Brienne called. "I see another with the smaller group."

"He is yours, my lady," Jon said. "Likely he is controlling most of those attacking our flank. Kill him and save those soldiers before any more of them fall."

"We split then?" Brienne asked.

"Yes. You take half and I'll take the other half. Do not engage any wight unless necessary. Focus on their leader." Jon looked to the wildling commander. "Tormund, with me."

"Aye," Tormund said. "Let's give them a fucking fight they'll remember in their second grave."

Brienne's grip tightened on her reigns. She did not have time to hesitate or to observe the chaos of the battle anymore. With the dragons fighting overhead and the dead breaking through their lines, they had to act quickly. She spurred her horse forward, drawing her sword. She opened her mouth to let out a battle cry.

Who should I call for? For Winterfell? For the North? For the Dragon Queen? For Sansa Stark? For the living?

She did not suppose it mattered so she let out a wordless scream instead.

Her horse barreled down the hill. A good horse made for battle, he did not falter as they slammed through their first wights. She and her group of soldiers would have only a moment's surprise before the enemy tried to target them. They needed to reach the White Walker by the most direct route and hope that felling him cleared their escape.

The White walker was in sight. She could see its glowing blue eyes as it spotted her. She was so close. Three seconds away. Two. One.

She swung out with her sword at the same moment that the White walker unexpectedly ducked and drove it's blade into her horse's chest. The beast squealed and fell and she tumbled off, hitting the icy ground hard. She slid into a wight and knocked it off it's feet. She drove her obsidian dagger into its eye and pushed herself back up, gasping for breath. Where were her men? Where was Podrick?

Most were still on their horses in the mess. They hacked at the wights around her, beating them back. But none of them engaged the White Walker as he drew his blade from the horse's chest and stalked toward her.

Brienne tried to step forward but found a wight gripping onto her leg. She chopped it away. Another grabbed at her arm. She stabbed it with her dagger as well. But the wight's kept swarming her no matter how many she killed. And all the while the white walker made his slow and terrible advance.

She threw herself to the side in time to avoid a great swing of his broad sword. She snow softened her fall though her boots slipped along the icy patches. Her heart beat heavy in her ears. She had to kill him. She rose again, raising her sword, but two wight's latched onto her arm, staying her blade.

In an instant, Brienne recognized the certainty of her demise. This White Walker had control over these wights and thus so many more swords at his disposal. If she could not move, she could not fight.

He would kill her. And she would join the dead.

The creature began to raise his sword. Then a sword point broke through his chest.

The blade shattered moments after it broke through. Not Valyrian steel. Just a normal sword. But Podrick Payne had struck with all his might none the less. Staring at him, Brienne knew he must have lost his dragon glass and his horse in the battle. But he attacked anyway when he saw her in danger. He stared at her with wide eyes, his breath fogging as he panted.

The White Walker looked back at the squire, almost casually. Like he had barely noticed the stab. Then he cut a line across Podrick's throat.

"NO" Brienne screamed. Anger burst through her and she pulled her arm free. She killed three wights with a single sweep of her sword. She killed two more with a second. Then she stalked forward before the White Walker could finished turning around and drove her sword through his chest.

The creature fell to nothing and all around her wights fell as well. She mimicked them, dropping to her knees beside Podrick. She rested a hand over his bloody throat, as if to keep his life from spilling. But his eyes were already blank.

"No, no, no," she muttered. The stupid boy. He shouldn't have followed her into the thick of things like that. He should have stayed back safe. She could have sent him with the Stark girls to offer extra protection. Why didn't she insist?

She held back a sob, looking up at the sky. Above her the dragons raged. In front of her, Northmen screamed in the midst of battle. Not all of the wights had fallen. Many of them must have belonged to the Night King himself and he was out of her reach.

The Night King's wights noticed her on the ground. They started toward her again, converging. Brienne knew that she could not fight them all. Not with her hand shaking so. All of these soldiers would die one by one, sure as winter came.

It's not enough. I knew it was not enough.

Perhaps if the Lannister armies had made it north in time. But there was no word of help from King's Landing. Perhaps Cersei had lied after all. And Jaime...

Jaime. Why am I think of Jaime at a time like this? Brienne's grip tightened on her sword. If he broke his oath I will rise with the army of the dead and kill him myself.

She rose slowly, steadying herself, as the hoard advanced. She would kill as many as she could. She would not lay on the ground and cry like some child.

She was a knight with a sworn duty.

She would fight.

She let out a cry as the wights nearly closed the gap, and made her peace with dying on this battlefield. But before she could swing her blade, a horse bowled the dead over, sending them stumbling. She heard the shout of men. Living men. Slowly she turned to see those in Lannister colors coming in from behind. Lannister and Tully colors. They fought past the dead and ran for the corpses of the recently killed.

"Pick up their weapons!" A familiar voice called. "The dead cannot be killed by normal swords. Pick them up and fight."

Brienne blinked dumbly, looking up at the commander on his horse. It was Jaime. Jaime Lannister, with his golden blonde hair and beautiful damn face. Was she in a dream? Was she already dead? Or had he really come?

"We have to move," Jaime pat his golden hand on the back of his saddle. "With me, Lady Brienne. Quickly."

And Brienne snapped back to her senses and hoisted herself onto the back of his horse.

A/N: And so Jaime arrives, much in the dramatic last minute fasion of his father in the Battle of the Blackwater. This has only been the first part of the battle for Winterfell. Next time we will take Jon and Dany's perspectives.

Remember that if you would like to support my original work, it is available on Amazon. Look up Aimee Hyndman and you will find it. Book 2 of my fantasy series released just a week ago.


See you next chapter!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Welcome back everyone. I know it's been a couple weeks. A rough couple weeks for me, hence why this chapter is so late. It wasn't an easy chapter to write either, for that matter. I appreciate your patience. Obviously, writing work of quality takes time and I wouldn't want to give you guys a mediocre chapter.
Some things to mention, for all of you passionate readers: You all have you own ideas of how you want things to end. Obviously this is just my own imagining but a couple warnings for people who might have certain ideas in their heads about the outcome.
1: I am a chronic character killer, so before this fic ends, I'm gonna kill some major players. I think this is in keeping witht he Game of Thrones spirit, obviously, but be prepared
2: I am a Jaime x Brienne shipper. I've got some Tormund lover following this and while I love him as well I could go on for pages about how much the Brienne x Tormund ship squicks me out. Suffice to say- Just because Tormund is a good guy, doesn't matter. Brienne has to want him. And she does not, according to the show and the actress so...I'm not gonna force that.
3: Obviously not everyone is going to be satisfied with how I take this fic but I hope that I write well enough that I sell you on the possible ending. We're all having fun here!
Without further ado: Here's the chapter!

Chapter 8: Blood of a Dragon
Jon

Since he left for the wall, Jon's life had become a long string of seemingly impossible battles where he fought on the side with the disadvantage. As a brother of the Night's Watch in wildling territory, he was always outnumbered, and they only narrowly managed to hold the wall against Mance Rayder. They would have been defeated if not for the arrival of Stannis' armies.
At Hardhome, the masses of the dead had utterly overrun the wildling camp, killing everyone in their path. They were not prepared for the onslaught and it was only the safety of the boats that had saved Jon then.
At the Battle of the Bastards, they faced the Bolton Army, greatly outnumbered. Jon had stood firm before a great charge, sure of his death then. And when his army was surrounded and the weight of the bodies threatened to suffocate him, he was sure of his death even more.
Still he did not die. He had died only once and even then he had been jerked backed from the void by the cold, cruel hand of life.
At this point, Jon was used to impossible battles, but he still felt the surge of adrenaline as he charged down the hill, making for the first visible White walker. They broke across the lines of wights, scattering them to the ground. His horse's hooves crushed bone underfoot. And Jon urged the beast to keep going no matter what. They could not stop. If they stopped for even a moment, they would be overwhelmed.
He gripped Longclaw tightly in his hand, but he did not use it blindly. His companions cut down wights but he saved his blade for the real enemy. The White Walkers. There were two that he could see, one close to him and one further away but still within reach. He was close to the first now. Only a few seconds away.
His horse squealed and stumbled. Likely it stepped on a broken weapon that went through its foot. Or maybe a wight had sliced at the soft tendons of its leg. Whatever the case, the horse fell and Jon tumbled off. He rolled, coming up only feet away from the White Walker.
"Jon Snow!" Tormund called out, leaping from his horse to stand at his back.
"Keep the wights away if you can," Jon straightened.
"Aye. Won't let one of those dead fuckers get near you."
Jon nodded, stalking toward the White walker. The creature met his challenge openly, raising his sword. Their blades clanged together and the air seemed to fall into a deeper chill at the sound. Jon pushed hard against the sword, trying to break past the White Walker's defenses, but the creature was strong. It head butted him and he stumbled back, dazed.
Jon swung out blindly at the creature's legs as it came at him. It stopped a hair's breadth away from the tip of the blade, avoiding the stroke. Jon blinked hard to get his bearings. No time to be stunned. All around him he heard the clacking of wights. He heard the sounds of his men screaming and fighting. Tormund fought nearest to him, taking out dozens of wights with his dragon glass ax.
Jon only had a narrow window of opportunity.
Luckily he was used to these odds.
He steadied himself and came at the White Walker again, hacking and slashing with all his might. The creature blocked his strikes but stepped back, as if retreating from Jon's attack. Jon pressed on though his arms began to feel numb. He had no choice. If he did not, the soldiers who rode with him would die, including Tormund. More would join the army of the dead.
And he would die for good.
He could not allow that to happen. Daenerys would never forgive him if he died before her so easily. He had promised to try to survive.
The White Walker let out something between a cry and a screech and swung at Jon in a wide arc. Jon ducked narrowly and drove his blade through the creature's chest. The White Walker fell to nothing around them. Other wights crumpled in the same instant. Tormund looked up, pulling his ax out of the chest of one. For a moment, they had victory.
Then Tormund's face fell. Jon followed his gaze to the other White Walker. His wights still stood, and now they were running for them.
"Go!" Jon cried. "Back up the hill."
His remaining soldiers ran. Some of them were still on horses and could move faster. Tormund sprinted ahead though he looked back for Jon.
"Just keep going!" Jon called. "Don't look back. We need a more defensible position."
Tormund nodded and kept running. Jon followed him, until something caught his ankle and tugged, hard. Jon smashed against the ground, face first, the breath knocked out of him. He was lucky he did not fall upon his sword. Dazed he rolled over and hacked at a wight with only half a body, cutting off its bony, decaying arm at the elbow.
Jon caught his breath and pushed himself back to his feet-only to see the rest of the wight's bearing down on him. Jon knew he would not be able to outrun them at this stage. They were not exhausted as he was. They had speed and numbers.
Another unwinnable fight.
At some point, Jon had to lose. At some point, surely, the wound on his chest would call for his life and drag him back into the darkness. Perhaps, today was that day.
But he lifted his sword anyway, ready to fight...
Until a dragon broke through the clouds.
Rhaegal screeched down, cutting a line of fire through the wights. Jon almost stumbled from the gust of his wings as the green dragon flashed low over his head. He burned the wights trying to cut off Jon's escape well, landing on the ground. He turned his head toward Jon and let out a great roar.
Jon could not claim to know a dragon's thoughts. But looking into Rhaegal's eyes, something stirred in his blood.
This beast was named for Rhaegar Targaryen. My true father. Jon took a step forward. I have his blood in my veins.
The dragon looked back at him with eyes endlessly more intelligent than any normal animal. Jon rushed forward, letting instinct carry him. He did not know if it was madness or his long unknown name which drove him to climb onto Rhaegal's back. But the moment he seated himself there, it felt right. As if he was made to sit atop a dragon.
"Go," Jon said. "Fly."
Rhaegal did, leaping off the ground with a great beat of his wings.
And for the first time, Jon flew.
Daenerys
Fighting atop Drogon, Daenerys could see the whole of the battle below, and still she understood none of it. In the chaos and the mist she could not begin to discern which side was winning. The soldiers below were dots to her. Dots without faces or names.
From the sky, the dead and the living looked all too alike.
The only ones she could truly tell apart were the White walkers with their glowing blue eyes which shone bright even from a distance. She tried to target them with Drogon's fire, but she could never tell if she hit her mark. She did not have time to look before she flew on. She and Drogon had to keep moving, always.
If they stopped, Viseron could take them by surprise.
Daenerys had expected pain, but she had not expected the true ache she felt when she saw her dead child returned from the dead with such horrible blue eyes. She had nearly choked on her grief and Drogon and Rhaegal both let out pained roars.
But on the battlefield, there was no time for grief.
Drogon swooped below the undead dragon's fire, pulling up abruptly and snapping at his belly. His teeth scraped the icy scales but did not pierce the skin as Viseron twisted out of the way. The Night King sat on his back, as naturally as any Targaryen. But he did not belong there.
"Dracarys!" Daenerys commanded. Drogon reigned fire down upon Viseron but the undead dragon was too fast. He moved more swiftly than he ever had in life, as exhaustion no longer weighed on him. Drogon in his bulky form found it difficult to track the smaller creature's movements.
If she could only catch the undead dragon in a blaze of fire, perhaps she could kill the Night King or at least send him falling to the ground. Would gravity kill such a monster? She could not be sure. Valyrian steel could, though, and she found herself longing for a blade of such metal right now.
Not that she could wield it. In her recent battles, she found herself wishing for the ability to fight as well. A dragon made an excellent weapon, but how could she defend her dragons without any weapon of her own.
Drogon jolted to the side to avoid another one of Viseron's attacks and Dany gripped Drogon's spines to keep herself steady.
He has armor now, at least, she thought. Armor should protect him from some things. I will not let another of my children die.
She pressed a hand against her stomach. She could not die either. No... She would not lose the baby growing inside her. This child would live and grow up with everything Daenerys never had. She would lay Westeros before them and more and to do that, she needed to destroy this enemy.
Viseron disappeared into the clouds and Daenerys knew better than to follow and get lost. She kept Drogon low so that if the undead dragon charged again, Drogon would be able to react. As she flew low over the fighting armies, she looked for her friends amongst the soldier, but found mostly chaos. Here and there, she saw unsullied that could have been grey worm, and Dothraki that could have been one of her commanders. However she could focus on none of them for long enough to be sure.
It disturbed her, that her friends could be dying below and she would not even know it.
Jon could be dying and I would not know it.
She swooped low again, looking specifically for him. She had to at least know that he still stood among the living. He had promised her after all, that he wouldn't die before her.
He promised to try. But many have tried and failed me time and time again.
She did not have time to look for him. She had to continue fighting the wights in any way she can. But the armies had begun to mix and she could not have Drogon reign fire down upon them without killing some of their own. She could take out small chunks of army further back, which did some good, but she did not want Drogon to tire too much and become vulnerable to Viseron.
A dragon screeched and Drogon spun in the air. Viseron had ducked from the clouds again, charging toward them at alarming speed. The Night King had a great spear of ice in his hand, similar to the one he had felled Viseron with.
Let him try. He will not find me easy prey.
Daenerys gripped Drogon, preparing to evade him.
Then Rhaegal swooped in from beneath Viseron, knocking the undead dragon off course. Daenerys blinked in surprise-not at the sight of her other child-but at the sight of a rider on his back. A small black shape sat between Rhaegal's wings, sword in hand.
Jon. Jon is... riding Rhaegal?
How could that be? Jon was a bastard of the North. Why would Rhaegal let him onto his back. The dragons were intelligent, and knew, of course, that Jon meant a great deal to their mother. But how...?
Daenerys did not have long to think about it. Rhaegal knocked against Viseron again and Jon swiped out at the Night King. The leader of the dead blocked his strike with his spear. As Rhaegal circled around, Jon was forced to disengaged.
He meant to end the war by killing the Night King. Riding upon a dragon's back made him brave and foolish. He did not have experience fighting from dragon back and he was unsteady. As Rhaegal spun to evade a snap of Viseron's jaws. He slipped back...
And tumbled through the air.
Daenerys urged Drogon forward. Her dragon obeyed, flashing beneath Jon as he fell. The man crashed hard against his neck and started to slip again but Daenerys caught his arm and hauled him up with a burst of strength. Jon gripped onto Drogon, panting for breath. Somehow, he had kept hold of his sword.
"I have no idea how you did that," Daenerys said.
"Neither do I," Jon managed after a pause. But it seemed like a lie. "Thank you, my queen. I've escaped death again because of you."
"I told you, I will not have you die before me."
Jon smiled and adjusted himself on Drogon's back, looking up. Viseron had retreated into the clouds again. He exhaled, looking to the ground.
"They are starting to overwhelm us," Jon said. "If we persist here, we will only add to their armies and the White Walkers we have killed today will be meaningless."
"You're right," Daenerys said. "But even if we call a retreat, many will die. The wights have surrounded us. There is no escape route."
"One direction has fewer dead men than the other," Jon said. "We'll take the risk. Even if-"
A roar went up from the ground and Daenerys looked down to see soldiers charging through the mist. She feared more dead men but then she recognized Lannister red. They overtook the wights from behind, striking them down. Opening up an escape.
"The Lannisters kept their word," Jon breathed.
It shocked Daenerys as much as him. She had expected Cersei to betray them but here came the armies of Lannisters to provide them with much needed backup. Other colors flew with them. The Tully's of Riverrun had come as well. She had not even expected them. She could have laughed with relief. "Call the retreat then."
She steered Drogon toward the hill, allowing Jon to hop off and move toward his men.
"Retreat!" he called. "We must take our chance and retreat!"
The horn blower nodded, taking up the signal. The horn blast filled the valley and others joined with it. The ranks of Jon and Daenerys' men broke away from the wights and retreated behind the lines of advancing Lannister and Tully soldiers. These fresh recruits could give the injured a chance to run.
When it seemed that most of the living had fallen back behind the Lannister lines, Daenerys swooped over their armies, calling for Drogon to blast fire at the wights as they pursued. It only made a dint in their army, but it did slow them. The White Walkers would not walk their enemies straight into fire. Drogon kept up the fire, burning hot and bright, forcing the wights back a ways. He could sustain a flame for a long time, and as he breathed his great fire, the Lannisters and Tullys made their own retreat.
We are running, Daenerys said. But we have not lost the day. We have allies. The living will band together and we will recover from this.
Above her, the sky screamed and Daenerys looked up to see Viseron falling upon them again. The undead dragon sank it's teeth into Drogon's neck.
It was only the armor that saved the large black dragon from the teeth, but Viseron still had a strong grip on him. Drogon faltered in the air and Daenerys clung to his back. She looked up and saw the Night King staring back at her with those horrible blue eyes. He raised a spear.
Rhaegal slammed into the dead dragon's side knocking Viseron off course, and tearing his jaws from Drogon's neck. Drogon screeched, shaking his head and pulling back. Rhaegal moved with incredible speed that Daenerys had not known the green dragon to have. He snapped at the Night King and when Viseron tried to twist away, he sunk his teeth into his left wing and tore.
The flesh came away, falling to the ground. With a ripped wing, Viseron faltered, plunging back toward the ground. The dragon tumbled onto a group of wights. For a moment, Daenerys wished that gravity would kill him. But Viseron got up again. The Night King, too remained unharmed.
But Viseron could not fly.
"Good," Daenerys gasped out. Something changed about Rhaegal's eyes then and he shook his great head as if confused. But Daenerys did not have time to worry about that. They had work to do still.
With her two children, she fled the battle, burning wights and forests and trees as she went. Let the fire rage and stop as many of the dead as she could. She could cut a river of fire between them and their advance.
A retreat but not a loss.
They had killed multiple white walkers today, and crippled the undead dragon that was once her child.
Even if the wights overwhelmed Winterfell, the living would live to fight another day.
A/N: The first battle is at it's end with many more to come. Next we see the battle from the perspective of Bran and Arya as they flea. That also promises to be an action packed chapter. Until then, happy reading!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Hey everyone! Sorry, I meant to upload this a week ago but I was in an area with spotty internet so I couldn't get on to post. But here it is. The battle from Bran and Arya's perspective. This is the last action packed chapter for a little while now that the army is retreating, but there will be many battles to come!

Chapter 9: The Edge of the Battle

Bran


Bran had seen this day before in one of his many wanderings through time. He felt as if he had already lived it...unless this was only a premonition as well. It was difficult to tell the present and past from the future sometimes. They all ran together. Even in this moment, other visions danced before his eyes. Visions of death and winter's cold hand.

The future if the Night King should win.

The futures that Bran saw were never certain. They were only one possibility of infinite others. Small choices could alter the course of history in hundreds of years. Like a ten year old boy shoved from a window years ago. Or the decision of a tyrant boy king to take a Northman's head instead of showing mercy and sending him to the wall.

Things could have been very different.

"Bran," Sansa said. He felt his sister squeeze his hand. "We're going. Are you here?"

"Somewhat," Bran replied, looking around. He was in a covered cart, drawn by horses. The smaller Lannister, Tyrion sat across from him and Sansa, watching anxiously out the window. He could not fight in this battle much better than Bran could. Out the window, Arya sat atop her horse, holding a dagger.

"They're coming," she said, her voice hollow. "We need to go."

Sansa nodded once, swallowing hard. "It feels as if we only just returned to Winterfell."

Arya did not reply, but she clearly agreed. After so long away from home, neither of his sisters was satisfied with this short visit.

"You will return again," Bran murmured, though he was not sure that were true. It was possible, certainly. He saw both of his sisters alive and back in Winterfell in some versions. In others, he saw icy blue eyes where there were once soft grey. "You will find your way back."

"So sound sure of that," Sansa said.

"I am not. I am not sure of anything. You must be sure for me," Bran replied.

"So the rumors are true," Tyrion said. "You speak in riddles now."

"I do not try to," Bran said. "It is hard for me to speak words that make sense to others."

"I often faced that same problem in King's Landing. So many fools," Tyrion offered Bran a smile. If he was disturbed by Bran's current state, he did not show it. Once upon a time, the man had gifted Bran with a saddle to help him ride even with his crippled legs. The boy Bran was had been very grateful for a chance to have some normalcy back in his life.

Bran had left that boy behind.

He looked out the window of the cart as it started to move. The world rush by them and he could not focus on the landscape. He dipped back into visions of others. Visions of the battle happening so nearby. The armies had drawn first blood now. He saw Daenerys riding high upon her dragon and the Night King riding above her.

He saw soldiers battling for their lives and falling beneath the cruel blades of the dead.

"It's terrible," Sansa murmured.

Bran blinked hard, looking out the window. Their cart had reached a high hill, looking out over the field of battle. Drogon's fire burned bright across the armies of the dead, but he never had much of a chance to attack before Viseron swooped down from above. The larger dragon took an attack and Sansa gasped. But Drogon stayed in the air. His armor protected him.

A small decision, Bran thought. A small choice that altered the future.

Without that armor, Drogon and Daenerys would have perished and the war would surely be lost. Another bleak future evaded.

The third dragon smashed into the undead creature from the side.

The dragon has three heads.

And the head riding Rhaegal was Jon's. Bran could see him, though he looked like a tiny dot to the naked eye. Sansa let out a breath with Viseron was forced away.

"Thank the gods for good armorers," Tyrion commented. "We should keep going, don't you think?"

"A little longer," Arya said. "The dead will not reach this hill without us seeing them first."

She wanted to stay and watch because she worried for Jon. Bran saw him topple from his dragon, but Daenerys saved him. He released a breath. Good. No need to tell Arya of their brother's demise. Not yet. Though his life was still in question.

Valar Morghulis.

All men must die. Arya had said those words many times herself, and Bran knew it to be true. He had seen the deaths of all those he knew, one way or another. All those in the cart with him, and those on the battlefield, would die one day. They would all just be a few lines in a history book in a thousand years. Then, eventually, nothing at all. Parchment and ink did not last forever.

Considering the enormity of time, Bran should not worry about the result of this battle. Yet the boy he once was...did care.

Bran, the boy who loved to climb, he mourned the loss of his legs and his chance at knighthood, who lost his mother and his father and his older brother...he still lived somewhere within the Three Eyed Raven. A tiny shard of his heart that still beat like it used to. And that part of him worried for Jon and his loved ones. It longed to intervene.

You have intervened before.

With Hodor. Yes, Bran had interfered with the past and driven an innocent boy to madness. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. He should not interfere here. He should let things happen as they wanted.

"The Lannister army!" Arya called. "They've arrived."

"They have?" Sansa sounded stunned.

Tyrion released a breath. "They have. Gods... Jaime, you held her to her word."

Jaime Lannister had not held Cersei to her word, Bran knew. Cersei Lannister had betrayed her word. But her twin brother had not.

Small choices change the future. Small choices.

"They're sounding a retreat. Using the Lannister army as a chance to get away," Bran heard Arya say.

"Then we should retreat as well," Tyrion said. "The army of the dead will pursue."

It was a retreat though not a defeat. The army had made great strides today. And yet... The undead dragon still flew, and a future with that creature still in the air held dark things. The dragon could cut off escape. Destroy holdfasts and villages. Especially if Drogon faltered.

Small choices change the future.

Bran saw Viseron readying for another attack. So he pushed out of his own head and into the head of the green dragon. Rhaegal. He saw through the creature's eyes as if they were his own and forced the beast to turn from retreating. He beat his wings, lunging at Viseron. His jaws snapped. He caught up a thin piece of wing in his jaws and he clamped down, tearing with all of his might. It reminded him of hunting with Summer. Ripping at flesh. But instead of warm blood he only tasted cold.

Still he snapped and tore, taking away a great chunk of Viseron's wing. The beast faltered and fell as Bran pulled back. Then he retreated into his own mind.

"The dead dragon is falling," Arya cried out excitedly.

Bran blinked hard. "Yes." He looked to Sansa. "We must go. We've stayed to long."

Sansa nodded. "Right."

The cart rolled forward again at a faster pace. Bran saw other futures fade away as he leaned against the side of the cart, staring out the window.

Small changes.

Perhaps Bran was not just a watcher. He was still a boy from long ago, somewhere in the depths of his mind.

Brandon Stark is not dead.

Not yet.


Arya

Arya did not like to see the living retreat. She knew what it meant. She knew the dead would soon overwhelm Winterfell.

It shouldn't matter to her. All of the living had been evacuated from Winterfell. In fact, most of the living north of the Neck had been urged to move southward. The dead could advance for many miles without killing any innocents.

But Winterfell...the North...was still home. She did not like turning her back on it.

She did not like imagining her enemies walking where her siblings once played.

She imagined Sansa felt this way when the Boltons claimed Winterfell as their seat. She stood in their old home, surrounded by strangers and hounded by the sadistic bastard Littlefinger married her to. But the Boltons were mere men, and they could be killed. All men must die.

They were not supposed to rise again with their terrible blue eyes.

Arya forced herself not to look back as their cart retreated. She kept her horse at a steady canter, and her hand rested on the hilt of her dagger. Up the hill, they were far away from the shifting battlefield so they should be safe. But...

"Lady Arya, are you well?" Tyrion asked. "You look concerned."

"Did you miss the sight of the battle, Lord Tyrion?"

"No, but I feel it went rather well," Tyrion said. "The undead dragon is crippled. That will save many lives. And since my brother brought his soldiers, we have a chance to retreat and regroup."

"Forgive me if I don't celebrate yet," Arya's grip tightened on her dagger.

"She's right," Bran murmured. "It is too early to drop our guard."

Arya looked back at her brother, staring at her through the window. He spoke vaguely most days, but something about his words made her hair stand up on end. "Bran what have you seen?"

"Wights," Bran said.

Arya heard a hollow screech from above. She looked up in time to see a wight leaping down on her from above. She threw herself off her horse, rolling across the ground and coming up in a crouch.

"Arya!" Sansa cried out.

"Keep going!" Arya looked around wildly. The wight had fallen on her horse, gnawing at its neck as the creature squealed in pain. Her gaze caught on others shifting in the trees. Stray wights who had made it past the lines during the battle. Four. Five. Six? There could be more. She couldn't let them get anywhere near Sansa and Bran.

"Arya, wait," Sansa said.

"Go," Arya snapped. "I'll catch up."

She knew these lands well enough. She could make it on foot if she could deal with these wights.

The first came at her. She cut through the remains of its throat and it fell to pieces. Another swung a rusted blade at her head. She ducked beneath the swipe and stabbed her dagger through his stomach. She dropped low to the ground before a third could take her from behind and cut its razor think ankle out from under it. She followed up by plunging the blade into its skull.

Adrenaline pulsed through her as she stood, trying to take in her surroundings. She couldn't see any wights but there had been more than just three.

She heard a scream and the squeal of horses. The cart. They had gone after the cart. Arya sprinted off after her siblings at a break neck pace. The wights had begun to surround the cart and the panicked horses didn't know where to go. Perhaps because the way was blocked by a...

"White walker," Arya breathed. It was the first of the blue eyed creatures she had seen up close and for a moment it froze her. She had seen many horrible things in her life. Horrible people. She had lived among men who changed their faces, and even survived the blade of the waif. But at least in Bravos she had the comfort of Valar Morghulis. All men must die.

Unless they don't, Arya thought.

The White walker circled the cart, heading toward door. The door where Bran sat. Had the creature come for her brother to cut away his third eye and his life?

Arya steeled herself and flipped her dagger in her hand. Then she charged the white walker. It turned to look at her, swinging with its great sword as she approached. She ducked narrowly under the strike, jabbing out at its chest with her knife. But this monster moved far faster than the wights. It stepped to the side and came at her again with powerful strokes. He had Arya on the retreat. He had a whole sword, after all. And she could only kill him with this dagger.

Quick as a cat. Fluid as water.

Arya tried to keep calm as she dodged the blade. She could feel the cold from its edge when it sliced too close to her skin. She could not falter. She had to kill him or else he would kill Sansa and Bran.

Then, something caught her ankle. The hand of a wight with only half a body. She stumbled, falling backwards. She had the good sense to kill the wight on the way down, but now the White Walker loomed over her, blade in hand.

Valar Morghulis, Arya thought, sure, in that moment, of her death.

A wolf howled.

One moment the white walker stood over her and the next a mass of grey slammed into him, knocking him off course. Arya blinked hard, looking up at her savior-a great dire wolf with familiar coloring.

"Nymeria?" she breathed.

The dire wolf barred her teeth as the White walker regained its footing and brandished its blade. Arya let out something like a snarl and charged the creature while it focused on her wolf. She drove her blade into its heart and it screeched, falling to pieces around her blade.

The rest of the wights fell as well and Arya was left gasping for breath. Slowly, she turned back to look at Nymeria, her dearest friend from so many years ago.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"Arya, are you okay?" Sansa called out.

"I'm fine," Arya replied, not breaking eye contact with her wolf. Those eyes were as familiar to her as her own.

Nymeria edged forward, sniffing the air.

"You saved me again," Arya breathed. "I did not repay you the last time you did. I threw rocks at you. I'm sorry." She shook her head. "You can leave now. You've lived so long without me. I never expected you to return after what I did."

Nymeria did not turn and run though. She nudged Arya's chest with her nose. Arya reached out tentatively, laying a hand on her soft fur. She was so large, as big as any horse. Arya's own horse had been killed by the wights.

She exhaled, moving up to Nymeria's side. "Will you let me?" she whispered. "Nymeria?"

Her wolf did not move. And Arya swung onto her back. Nymeria lunged forward at a dead run.

"Follow me!" Arya called as she flew past the carriage. She gripped Nymeria's fur, holding tight with her legs. It was different than riding a horse. It was better.

Since they were children, the Starks had connections with their wolves that could not be explained. Most of their wolves were dead and gone now. Arya thought she had lost her companion long ago, along with her name.

Not yet though. On Nymeria's back, leading the cart forward, Arya felt lighter than she had in so many years. And all around them the woods filled with the howling of wolves.

A/N: While finally reading the books I was struck by the fact that all of the Starks have a warg-like connection with their wolves, as Arya dreams from Nymeria's perspective. As such, I knew Nymeria would still come to Arya's aid, as she is drawn to battle.

Until next time, we'll actually step away from the current POV characters and pop over to King's Landing with Cersei and Theon. See you then!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: So, many apologies for being gone so long. I started a job and that consumed most of my life. I haven't really gotten around to writing this fic until now. HOWEVER, I've hit another springt on this fanfic, and will be posting again. As a special apology for being so late, the next chapter will be going up tomorrow.

Until then, enjoy two new perspectives in the story: Cersei and Theon.


Chapter 10: Winter in the South

Cersei

It was snowing in King's Landing, but Cersei Lannister barely minded the cold. While many lords and ladies complained and fretted about the change of weather, she found the bite of the wind soothing. Winter down south meant that her enemies in the north were suffering.

Just the thought of it made her smile. It didn't matter how large the army of the dead grew. They would have to march through all those who opposed her before they reached King's Landing. By the time they arrived at the Red keep, she would be well prepared.

And those left alive when spring came would have no choice but to follow her.

She gripped her wine cup, glaring out into the snow. She imagined it covering the bodies of all those who would seek to take away her rule and her family. That foreign whore and her dragons. That stupid, bastard son of Ned Stark. Little scheming Sansa. Tyrion, who had been such an awful thorn in her side from his first breath.

And Jaime.

Jaime, the father of the child inside of her. The one person who was supposed to stay by her side. He abandoned her like everyone else. He looked her in the eyes and dared her to kill him. Then he walked away.

She should have had the Mountain kill him. She should have shown him what it meant to be disloyal to her. But she was weak for a split second and let him go.

Never again. Hang him now. Let him freeze to death and join the army of the dead. She did not need him. He could burn in the deepest of the seven hells, for all she cared.

In a sudden burst of rage, Cersei hurled her cup across the room. Wine splashed across the wood of the door, staining it blood red.

Fire and blood. That's what the dragon queen wants to give to me, Cersei thought. But I can bring blood as well. And fire.

A knock came at her chamber door and she straightened, easing herself into the carriage of a queen. "Come in."

Qyburn entered with a brief bow. He glanced only briefly at the fallen wine cup but did not question it. Cersei liked that about Qyburn. He only asked questions that mattered. "News from the north, your grace."

"Tell me." Cersei sat down, resting a hand over her gradually swelling stomach. She could feel her baby kicking sometimes, very faintly. By the time the child was born, Cersei hoped to secure their dynasty.

"The Army of the Dead has crossed the wall," Qyburn said. "They forced a retreat at Winterfell. There were many casualties, though it seems many civilians were evacuated in time."

"Fine, fine," Cersei said. "Is anyone of interest dead?"

"My spies have confirmed that Danerys still lives. Other survivors or casualties are currently unclear," Qyburn said. "However, Danerys followers will make another stand before they come anywhere close to King's Landing."

"More chances for them to die then. I can wait," Cersei said. "Even if they do beat back the army of the dead, their forces will be so weak when they arrive that they will be easily crushed."

"As you say," Qyburn inclined his head. "There...is something else, Your Grace."

A shift in tone. Qyburn was about to say something she wouldn't like. She inspected her nails. "What?"

"The Lannister army has pulled out of the Riverlands, led by your brother. Jaime," Qyburn said. "It seems they have joined the dragon queen in the fight."

Cersei's jaw clenched. No. She didn't like that at all. "It won't matter. Once Euron arrives with the Golden Company, I'll have soldiers to spare. All Lannister soldiers who fight with Jaime are traitors like him and will be dealt with accordingly. Or perhaps the army of the dead will take care of them. So many possibilities." Cersei leaned back in her seat. "I haven't been religious for some time. I haven't prayed to the seven since I was a little girl. But if this winter ends those traitors...I may consider giving a prayer of thanks to the Old Gods." She rubbed her fingers together. "Ancient and cruel. Those are the kinds of gods that suit my tastes."

"Yes, your grace," Qyburn smiled. "I have a third piece of news. Good news. Euron is only a day out from port."

Cersei raised an eyebrow. "And? The Golden Company?"

"With him," Qyburn said. "He did exactly as asked."

"Good," Cersei turned away, facing the window. In the distance, she could see the harbor, where Greyjoy's ships would soon dock. "At least there are some who still know how to obey their queen."

Euron arrived before the iron throne the next day in high spirits, his smile stretching wide across his face. With him came Harry Strickland, the leader of the Golden Company. He did not look like a soldier. He was portly and short, with only thin wisps of hair to cover his scalp. He looked more like a man of coin than a man of the sword. Though Cersei supposed where mercenaries were concerned, both were equally important.

Euron bowed low before the throne, arms spread wide. Always the performer, though at least he could perform what she asked of him. "My queen. I have done as you asked. The Golden Company has journeyed across the sea just for you. They are at your disposal."

"Is that true, General Strickland?" Cersei addressed the man beside Euron. "Are you indeed here to give me your swords?"

"In exchange for your gold," Strickland nodded. "You have the backing of the Iron Bank of Bravos. It makes you a sound investment."

"It does," Cersei agreed. "But are you a sound purchase? I have many enemies. Would you turn on me if they offered you more?"

"The Golden Company never breaks a contract. It would be bad for business," Strickland said. "And, if what Lord Greyjoy tells me is correct, your enemies are rather lacking in funds. They do not have the iron bank and they are busy fighting another foe in the North."

"A foe that could reach our doorstep in time," Cersei said. "You will not cower and run at the sight of the dead?"

"The fact that you still sit here without running tells me that you have a plan to repel them," Strickland said. "With all due respect, I have seen creatures and people just as terrifying in Essos. It is a larger continent than Westeros, with many more impossible things happening every day."

Cersei inclined her head. "Then you have your contract. I trust your reputation, but none the less I must say: if you do betray me, I will create a most disturbing end for you. I have suffered one too many betrayals."

"We will follow our contract." Strickland bowed. "You'll get what you paid for. 20,000 swords to use as you wish."

Cersei gripped the arms of her chair. Twenty thousand. Yes it was more than enough. No matter what army reached her keep, she had ways to deal with them. Steel for the living. Fire for the dead.

And blood. Blood for them all.

Theon

Theon had never been to King's Landing before. Most of his boyhood was spent in the castle of Winterfell. Since then, he had been many places, even across the sea to Essos. But never to King's Landing. Never to the Red Keep.

This was a place his family had disdained for many years-the seat of kings who paid the golden price for all of their power. There was no iron in this city. Even the sea seemed gentler in the south.

That made it quite easy for his band of men to navigate the docks without being seen. They slipped onto an abandoned stretch of beach that morning and made their way into the castle town. From there, they disguised themselves as typical citizens. The clothing did not befit his companions. It looked to light for all of them. But it would help them blend.

On the streets of King's Landing, children were playing in the snow. They packed it into hard balls and threw it back at each other. To them it was a curiosity. They had never seen snow before in their young lives and they did not truly understand real winter.

Neither did Theon, for that matter. But he lived among people who did for a long time.

"You are a Greyjoy...and a Stark."

Jon Snow had told him as much at Dragonstone. The boy he belittled all of his life to make himself feel bigger had turned into a man. A much stronger man than Theon would ever be. Jon had the carriage of a ruler now while Theon could barely stand up straight.

He could save his sister though. He could do that much.

"This place reeks," one of his men, Asher, spat on the ground. "So close to the ocean but you can't smell the sea over this stench."

"Keep your voices down. Don't draw attention," Theon ordered. He could heed his own advice well enough. He had learned how to make himself very small during his time as Reek. Now he could pass through these streets without anyone giving him a passing glance. His men were not so small, but they were damn good in a fight. He would need them.

"What is the plan?" another man asked. Victar. He was an excellent shot with a bow and arrow and just as good with a knife. Of all of them, he was the best at keeping his head low.

"My uncles ships are in the docks," Theon said. "That's the best place to find out where they are keeping Yara. On the ships or in the Red Keep."

"We'll never get her out of the Black cells," Asher pointed out.

"Not on a normal day, no," Theon said. "But winter is here, and nothing is normal right now. We'll just need the right opportunity. We must be careful."

"Girls are careful," Asher muttered.

"And smart men," Theon said, a note of warning to his voice. "We aren't in the Iron Islands anymore. This is a place of liars and tricksters. We're playing on their land, so we must play by their rules. I won't hear any arguments."

Asher spat again, but did not argue.

"So," Victar said. "We sneak into the docks and hear what we can."

"Yes," Theon said. "I want everything you lot can remember. Anything that could help us for even a moment."

"You best stay back, Theon." Victar said. "Euron will recognize you before he recognizes us."

"My uncle likely will not be there. He'll be in the castle," Theon said. "And you needn't worry. I'm very good at ceasing to be myself."

The odds were against them. Theon knew that from the beginning. He had only nineteen men. Not enough to make a stand as an army but perhaps enough to perform a rescue. His nineteen men had already scattered themselves throughout the city in groups of three or four to avoid detection. He had taken only his best with him.

Victar with his bow and knife and his sharp mind. Asher and his brute strength in a fight. And also Faron and Greyson, brothers who were good at listening though not talking.

He knew these men well enough now to know their skills. And if he knew where Yara was held, perhaps he could plan something that wouldn't get them all killed.

He could only hope that when he found her, she wouldn't be like he was. She had offered him rescue from Ramsay Bolton and he had cowered away, too afraid to believe in a true rescue. He was so broken then. He couldn't imagine what would happen if he found his sister like that.

But no. Yara was stronger than him. She had to be to earn the respect of the Ironborn, even as a woman. She was ten times tougher than Theon would ever be.

He could save her. He had to.

When they arrived at the docks, they found many ships waiting for them. Euron's fleet, of course, sat among them, great kraken banners flapping in the wind. But there were even more ships that flew solid gold banners with no patterns or coat of arms at all. There were thousands of them in the bay.

"What house are they from?" Asher asked.

"Not a house," Victar said. "They're from the Golden Company."

"Sell swords," Theon said. "You're sure? Why would the Golden Company be here?"

"Looking for a bit of gold perhaps?" Asher rubbed his hands together. "A Lannister sits on the throne. This is the place to get it."

"That means more guards," Victar said. "More soldiers. More ways to die."

"Maybe," Theon said. "Or maybe it means an opportunity." He glanced at Victar. "You have good eyes. How many soldiers would you say belong to the Golden Company?"

"I'd say at least fifteen thousand. Maybe twenty," Victar said.

"That's many sell swords to keep track of," Theon said. "Sell swords that the queen and my uncle are not familiar with. They'll expect many strange new faces in the red keep."

"So you're suggesting we become strange new faces as well," Victar said. "With golden colors."

"Yes," Theon said.

"Never liked gold. But it could work," Asher said.

"Well, then we best get some golden armor," Theon said. "Asher and Victar. I leave that to you. Take it from them the iron way, but be quiet about it."

"Yes sir," Asher grinned. He and Victar started down the hill.

"And you," Theon turned to the quiet brothers. "All this time you've simply been listening. I want you to do the same down there. Bring me news of my sister."

Faron and Greyson nodded, also making their way down the hill but in a different direction. Theon remained for a moment, looking out over the mass of ships. Even one of them could mean escape. If he could send a small team of his men to take the smallest one quickly and quietly, they could bring Yara there. Or perhaps it would be easier to escape by land. He would have to determine that later.

So many ways for this to go wrong. So many ways to die, he thought. But his life meant very little to him anymore. What was breathing worth if he could not help his sister?

To all the Old Gods and the New. To the Drowned God and the Red God. Let her live. Even if I die, let Yara live.

A/N: If that was too short for you, never fear, the next chapter is coming tomorrow and it is longer. This features Jaime and Bran's perspective and it will have some MUCH anticipated scenes. Until then!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: As promised, here is a second chapter. This one is longer than the one I posted last night and quite a fun one to write. It features Jaime and Bran's point of view. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 11: Confession

Jaime


When the battle was over and done with, Jaime found himself in more danger than ever before. He stood once again in the halls of Riverrun, where the surviving armies had retreated. Here, he found himself looking upon powerful people who might want him dead. Edmuere, lord of Riverrun, once again in control of his castle. Jon Snow...that boy had never been fond of him. Sansa Stark, who must have developed a hatred for all Lannisters. Jaime had even pushed their brother out a window. Did they know about that? He bloody hoped not.

But more importantly, there was Daenerys Targaryan.

Years ago-so many years that it seemed like another lifetime-he had struck her father down from behind. Now he found himself staring at another Targaryan ruler. This one had dragons and greater armies. She reminded him of Rhaegar Targaryan, her older brother. She was not mad but she was strong. She might want vengeance for her father's death.

Not to mention Jaime was the bearer of the bad news of Cersei's betrayal. He would rather be facing down the army of the dead again.

"You say your sister broke her word," Daenerys said. Her voice was cool and controlled. "Then why are you here? And why should I trust you?"

"An excellent question...your grace," Jaime said slowly. "I'm here because I gave my word to you. I took that oath more seriously than Cersei."

"Apparently," Daenerys said. "But how do I know that for sure? This could be some kind of trap. Lannisters are schemers. Our families have a poor history."

"That we can agree on," Jaime inclined his head.

"You don't have a history of keeping to oaths, Kingslayer," Jon said. "No one gets that title by keeping all of their oaths."

"No. No one does," Jaime said. "Sometimes oaths are meant to be broken. Technically speaking, I broke an oath to my queen to come here. You, Lord Snow, broke your oath to the Night's Watch to reenter Westeros politics. As for you, your grace," Jaime turned his eyes to the Targaryan girl. "I don't know what sorts of oaths you swore, but I guarantee you had to break many of them to get here."

"I have only broken oaths when absolutely necessary," Daenerys said tightly.

"As have I," Jaime held her gaze. He wondered if he would see a mad streak from her here.

"If I may interject," Tyrion said. "Jaime did bring Lannister armies to our aid. Without those soldiers, we would have lost many more lives. Imprisoning him seems poor repayment."

"Keeping ones word does not require payment. And while I appreciate your advice, I believe you are too close to this situation to judge it properly, Lord Tyrion," Daenerys said. "Jaime Lannister was among those who conspired against my family and brought them to ruin."

"Conspired," Jaime muttered under his breath. As if his murder of her father had been premeditated. Everyone always treated his king slaying that way. No one ever saw the act for what it was. A desperate play to save the city and everyone in it. Ned Stark had once looked at him with the same judgmental eyes.

"He murdered his king, my father. If I accepted him, he might murder me too. I have my father's blood."

"Hopefully not too much of it," Jaime said through gritted teeth.

"Do you deny the charges laid before you?" Daenerys asked.

"No," Jaime said. "No I don't deny that I stabbed your father in the back. Nor do I regret it. If you took me back to that moment one hundred times I would choose to end him in every single instance. Without hesitation." Jaime took a step forward, ignoring how the soldiers around the room stepped with him, lowering their blades. "But you are wrong about one thing. I did not plot. I did not conspire. I've never been good at any of those things. Ask Tyrion. Our father found my scheming very disappointing."

"You killed my father just after your father tricked him into opening the gates," Daenerys said.

"Which I urged the King not to do, because I knew my father came with bad intentions," Jaime said. "I gave your father council and I did protect him until I no longer could."

"Until you chose your family over your king. With Cersei against me, you could do the same again."

"I did not choose family over my king!" Jaime snapped. Rage boiled up inside of him. This was the same as it always was. Like explaining himself to a stone wall. No one was prepared to hear his reasons.

"Then what do you call it?" Daenerys asked. "You might as well make your confession here, ser. What do you call your choice?"

Jaime seethed. Hang them all. If he died today, he would be heard first. "I call it justice. I call it necessary. When I stabbed your wretched father in the back he was calling for his pyromancer to set fire to the city. To light ablaze the wild fire stored all about. He wanted to go out in a blaze and take every man, woman and child in King's Landing with him. He screamed 'burn them all'. He had been screaming it for hours. 'Burn them all. Burn them all." Jaime roared the words with nearly the same intensity as King Aerys that day. "So I killed the pyromancer. And I killed him. And King's Landing still stands to this day. Do I really have to explain to you, why I made that choice?"

A long silence hung in the hall. Jaime had never truly told the story to so many before. He had told it to his siblings. He had told it to Brienne in the baths. But never to this many because he thought they wouldn't believe him. It exhausted him now, laying that awful moment bare for all to see. The day he was reborn the Kingslayer. He rested his left hand over his forehead.

"I don't tell you this story to gain some sort of honor. Honor is meaningless now. I'm here because I want to protect the living. That is an oath I took a very long time ago. You can kill me if you wish. You can loathe me and call me foul names like everyone else has done for years. And while you do... the army of the dead is coming for a second battle." He glared up at the dragon queen. "Is that a proper confession?"

Daenerys gripped the edge of her seat. Tyrion looked tensely at her, waiting for the word. The entire room was taut with tension, like a bow string ready to loose. Ultimately, the Dragon Queen would have the final word on his fate. Jon Snow would not disagree with her, since he was so clearly in love with the woman. None of the Starks would disagree either. Jaime was at this woman's mercy.

"I know my father was mad," Daenerys said at last. "For a time, Ser Barristan Selmy served at my side. He told me stories about what he did." She raised her chin. "If what you say is true, then you made a noble choice. But no one was there to see it, were they?"

"No," Jaime said. "It doesn't make it any less true. The white walkers marched long before we knew anything about it. They're still real."

Daenerys inspected him. "The past seems to matter less and less when the future looks so bleak. You honored your pledge to ride North, and that action did save the lives of many soldiers. For that reason, I will postpone judgement of your past actions."

Jaime let out a surprised breath. He really didn't think shouting at the Dragon Queen like a madman would help his cause.

"You will always have eyes on you, however," Daenerys said. "So I don't recommend breaking any more oaths."

"Not unless absolutely necessary," Jaime bowed his head. "Thank you...your grace." It felt strange to call a Targaryan that again. However, he could see that she was not her father. Her father would have murdered him for raising his voice in such a way. Cersei might have to for that matter. This woman still had a faint kindness in her that the world had not quite driven out.

For now, her mercy had bought him another day in this world.

Not long after Daenerys released him from the main hall, Tyrion found Jaime standing atop the west wall. Jaime knew his brother by his footsteps before he even opened his mouth.

"Diplomacy never was your specialty," Tyrion said. "You're lucky Daenerys appreciates honesty."

"I'm surprised she believed me," Jaime said.

"Your story was in line with tales she heard of her father," Tyrion said. "And you did help us. I supposed you could be plotting with Cersei, but then, why would you have told us of her betrayal?"

Jaime gave him a tired smile. "I would have to be stupid. Which I suppose I am. The stupidest Lannister." He leaned over the wall. "That's what Cersei called me before I left. I think she nearly had me killed on the spot."

"It just goes to show how far she has fallen," Tyrion said. "If she hates you, no one is safe."

"She keeps surprising me," Jaime said. "She destroyed the sept of Baelor with wild fire. She blew it to pieces with many lords and ladies inside of it. She killed Uncle Kevan. She killed Tommen too, I suppose. Indirectly." He stared at the water. "When I returned to King's Landing and saw that scar across the city I remembered Aerys. I remembered how he called for all of his enemies to burn. I never thought I would see Cersei do the same."

"I did," Tyrion said. "But then, I wasn't blinded by love."

Jaime didn't even have a retort to that. He had been blinded for too long. Now he was finally seeing things clearly. It was easier to breathe all the way out here, far away from Cersei's toxic air.

"I had faith in you though," Tyrion said. "I had faith you would ride north. You're a much better person than Cersei, though the bar is set very low. I think you might be a better person than me too."

"I doubt it," Jaime shook his head.

"You've done terrible things, yes. We all have," Tyrion said. "But evil deeds never seemed to sit right on your shoulders. You always seemed to be...playing at it. Trying to imitate father."

"I was never very good at that," Jaime admitted. "You were always more like him."

"I'm not sure how to take that." Tyrion stepped up closer to the wall. "Do you still hate me for what I did?"

"Somewhat," Jaime said. "But I don't have much time for that right now. There are other things on my mind."

"I'm sure there are." Tyrion glanced to the side. "I hope you're prepared for another thing to add to the list."

Jaime turned as he sensed another presence nearby. A girl with dark hair and pale skin stopped before them, her hands tucked behind her back. Jaime recognized her look. She was a Stark. Arya Stark, who he had long assumed dead.

"Ser Jaime," she said coolly. "My brother wishes to see you."

Jaime felt his stomach lurch. "Ah...which one."

"Bran," Arya said. "Follow me please."

Damn, Jaime thought as the icy feeling of dread spread throughout his body. I may have celebrated my survival too soon.

Jaime followed Arya down the halls, his shoulders tensed. If she knew about his role in Bran's fall, she didn't say a word. She had a stony expression, much different from the snarling child she used to be. He hadn't ever spoken to her but he remembered her standing before the King, calling Joffery a liar without hesitation. He remembered how she used to scamper about the castle, chasing cats. There was even talk of her learning to fight, though people treated it as a joke.

Now, she rested a practiced hand on the dagger on her belt. Jaime had a sixth sense that it wasn't for show. Her wild energy was controlled. That made her dangerous.

At last, Arya stopped outside a room, opening the door. "He's waiting for you. He asked to speak with you alone."

Brave of him, Jaime thought. Most children would not wish to speak with their almost murderer alone.

"I'll be waiting out here," Arya said. "So that you know."

"Noted," Jaime inclined his head. My, she had gotten frightening.

He entered the room slowly, waiting for some kind of trap. He was almost surprised to actually find Bran alone, sitting in a chair, looking out the window. He so still he could almost be asleep. And though it had only been a few years since their last encounter, Bran looked as if he had aged at least ten. His face was solemn and his eyes were like that of an old man.

Jaime didn't know what to do or what to say. What could he say? What could he give as his defense? That he did it for love? That would not satisfy the Starks. It didn't even satisfy him anymore.

"Hello, Ser Jaime," Bran said at last. "It's been a long time."

"It has, hasn't it?" Jaime managed. "I see you survived the Greyjoy invasion. And the Boltons."

"And the far North, beyond the wall," Bran traced his fingers across the arm of his chair. "And falling out a window." He looked at Jaime then, with a pointed gaze. Jaime did not like his calmness.

"You remember then," Jaime said.

"I remember lots of things," Bran said. "I remember things that happened before I was born. I remember things from the distant future."

"Ah," Jaime replied. He did not know what else to say. Did the boy speak in riddles now or was he being serious? "But...more specifically..."

"Yes, I remember the day you shoved me out of a window," Bran said calmly.

Jaime's jaw clenched. "I...suppose I should apologize for that. Though I'm not sure my apology will mean much to you."

"An apology does not change the past," Bran said. "That's where everything started you know. In Winterfell over those few days, that's where everything began. The tension between my family and yours. The war of five kings. It all started at Winterfell, I part because I decided to climb exactly the wrong tower at exactly the wrong moment." Bran looked back out the window. "Small decisions can make large differences."

"They can," Jaime agreed. "But I'm curious...If you remember so much, why am I still alive? Have you not told your family?"

"It wouldn't be wise to kill you," Bran said. "You're a vital piece in this great war. For that reason, no, I haven't told my family. I cannot expect them to understand. Especially Arya. She hates you enough already, by virtue of your name."

"I noticed that," Jaime said. "Wisdom or not, you would be within your rights to take revenge for your legs."

"I don't mourn the loss of my legs. And I don't resent you for that day," Bran said. "It was important, you see. If I hadn't lost my legs I never would have begun my journey to the North. I would not have become the three eyed raven. Sometimes we must lose a great deal before we find ourselves. Haven't you learned that?"

Jaime was suddenly very aware of the golden hand at his wrist. Yes, he knew that. He thought he had lost himself the day he lost his hand. But who would he be if he hadn't?

"The story you told in the great hall today," Bran said. "About the mad king..."

"It's not a story," Jaime murmured.

"I know it isn't. I've seen it. I'm the only one who knows for sure that you are telling the truth," Bran said. "Because of a split second decision, you saved many lives. You have a habit of making split second decisions with dramatic results." Bran tilted his head to the side. "I hope you will continue to do so. And I hope those results will be to our advantage."

"So, you think I have a role to play in this conflict. That's why you let me live," Jaime said.

"I know you have a role to play in this conflict," Bran said. "And is not my business to decide if you live. It's yours. I'm only a watcher."

Jaime swallowed hard. "The three eyed raven has made you dreadfully grim, Bran."

Bran looked back to the window. "I know."

The door opened and Arya entered. "Bran. There's someone here to see you. Meera Reed, she calls herself. Her family evacuated and came here."

"Of course. We're done here, Arya," Bran said. He gave her a look. "You'll have no need of your knife here."

She didn't reply. She simply motioned for Jaime to follow her again. They passed a girl as they walked down the hall. Jaime wondered if she was the daughter of Howlyn Reed.

"Lannister," Arya said sharply.

Jaime turned to look at the girl.

"You should know that it is only by Bran's request that I don't gut you," Arya said. "And I assure you I could. If I hear even the slightest hint of you plotting against my family, I will add you to my list. And you won't stay there long."

"I have no intention of plotting against your family," Jaime said. "I've never been good at plotting, and I'd rather use what wits I have against the dead."

"Good," Arya said coolly stepping back from him. "Be careful. I have many faces and many eyes, Lannister. They will all be watching you."

With that she turned and strode off down the hall.

Jaime released a breath, feeling his heart pounding in his rib cage. Half of the Starks had been killed in previous wars. The ones who had survived had grown into fearsome wolves.

Even lions would be no match for them.

Bran

Bran had expected to feel something when he spoke to Jaime Lannister. Some flash of fear or anger for the man who had destroyed his legs and his dreams of being a knight. He felt none of that though. The boy he used to be was so distant from him that it felt like he was speaking through a corpse. A body that used to be Bran, who had long since passed on.

Meera had said as much to him before she left. "You died in that cave." Bran had agreed with her in some way.

Now, she stood before him again, her lips pressed into a thin white line. And he did feel something. A very distant flash of sympathy and maybe even fondness for a girl who had dragged him to safety. She had faith in him. In Bran. But he could not give her the old Bran. His mind had unfolded into so much more than that.

"I'm glad to see you safe," Bran said.

"Are you?" Meera asked. "I didn't know you could be glad anymore."

"I can be. I'm just not very good at it," Bran said. "I knew that you managed to evacuate in time. I could see it."

"Naturally," Meera said. He read the anger in her face. She wanted more warmth from him or maybe an apology. He wished he knew how to give either and sound sincere.

"Why did you come?" Bran asked. "Did you need to speak to me?"

"I'm not sure why I came," Meera said. "Maybe I wanted to believe my last memory of you was a lie. That I might find the old Bran again. I see I was foolish to think that."

She turned and started to go. Bran lifted his hand.

"Wait."

She stopped but did not turn around.

"I'm sorry," he said. His voice was flat but he meant it. "I'm sorry I can't give you the boy I used to be. Without you I never would have reached my destination or returned home. You deserve gratitude for that."

Meera's shoulders hitched. "That journey took so much away from me. I lost my brother. I had to go home and tell everyone that he had died." She turned around to face him, her eyes glassy. "He believed in your cause. He believed we were doing something important. Maybe we were. I just wasn't prepared to lose everything this way."

"I know," Bran said. "You've suffered a great deal." He looked out the window. "I don't feel much anymore. But I know the boy in me was always fond of you. Grateful. He would have done a much better job of expressing it all. But he's so hazy in my mind. You weren't wrong...to say I died in that cave."

Meera let out a shaky breath. "You've suffered too, Bran. Even if you can't feel it." She took a step toward him. "Do you think there is any way you will ever feel like yourself again?"

Bran shook his head. "No. I could learn to feel more clearly again. But I can't go back. We can never go back."

Meera nodded once. "My brother and I swore to protect you. My house has elected to fight against the dead. So I will continue to keep my promise no matter who you are now."

Faintly, in his chest, Bran felt something like warmth. It was so distant but still noticeable. When she reached out to take his hand, he accepted it, squeezing her fingers.

If we live, perhaps I could learn to be a boy again.

If we die, then it won't matter.

A/N: Ah, the long expected reunion of Jaime and Bran. 'Twas entertaining to write. Jaime is also in my top three favorite characters so, you know, I'm invested.


Next time we will have Arya and Jon's perspectives! We're going to go back to weekly updates cause I have that job thing. Until next week!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Happy Wednesday everyone! I'm here with a new chapter containing Arya and Jon's perspectives. This is a particularly good chapter for you Jonerys shippers out there ;) Hope you all enjoy!

Chapter 12: Promises Kept

Arya


Cersei.

The Mountain.

The Red Woman.

Arya's list was so much shorter than it used to be. She supposed that was a good thing. Her enemies had fallen one by one to many different causes. Some had died by her own hand. However, the names that remained still tormented her.

The Red Woman was out of reach, for now. She did not know where she had gone or how to find her. But Cersei and the Mountain...she knew exactly where they were. In King's Landing.

She had not returned to King's Landing since she first fled that awful place, years ago. It was a death trap and the lions of Lannister thrived there. Though only one Lannister remained there, it seemed.

She wanted to add Jaime Lannister to her list. She didn't trust him and his golden hair or any of his clever words. At one time, she had rather looked up to him as a master swordsman, but that changed when she realized the true nature of his family. That changed when he wounded her father in the square.

She did not know why Bran had wanted to speak to him. Bran was always vague these days and never spoke in straight answers. For all she knew, he had seen a dramatic vision of Jaime Lannister. He seemed to think he was important. For that reason, she could not kill him yet. When the army of dead had fallen, perhaps she could reconsider. She would not trust him, in any event.

One name on her list, however, would always have her focus. Cersei Lannister. The very first name she ever put upon her list, even before Joffery. She remained in King's Landing and now she had betrayed them, hoping that the Army of the dead would wipe them out. She stayed safe behind her walls, planning to wait out the winter. Arya couldn't allow that.

Imagine the look on her face if Arya road Nymeria into her great hall and killed her where she stood. Nymeria had once injured Joffery, but she would do worse to Cersei now. She would remind the Lannister queen of the power of wolves.

She was pacing agitatedly about her quarters when a knock came at the door. "Come in," she muttered.

Gendry peeked his head past the door. "Is this a bad time, m'lady."

Arya glared at him. "You're doing it again. Calling me a lady."

"So it is a bad time," Gendry raised an eyebrow.

"No. No it's not. Come in," Arya waved her hand at him. "I'm glad to see you have survived the battle."

"I did," Gendry said. "Others weren't so lucky. Berric Dondarian died on the field."

Berric Dondarian. He had been on Arya's list at one point too. No longer.

"You seem distressed, m'l-Arya," Gendry corrected himself this time.

"Everyone is distressed," Arya paced to the other side of the room. "Winter is here and it brought an army with it. Wouldn't you call that distressing."

"Aye," Gendry said. "But I don't think that's it."

Arya didn't reply.

Gendry stepped to the side. "Would you like to go for a walk? Then you won't wear out your quarters pacing."

Arya sighed. "Yes...a walk might be good for me."

They walked along the battlements, looking out over the fields. Several armies had pitched their camps out there in the steadily rising snow. The Dothraki, the unsullied, the Northmen, the Lannisters, the Tullys. Arya had never seen quite so many colors flying together.

Her gaze lingered on the red and gold of the Lannister flag. She wondered if the queen still flew Baratheon colors or if she had embraced the lion. Arya hardly ever thought of her as a Baratheon. Neither did the realm. They all called her Lannister.

"So. Which army is bothering you?" Gendry asked, leaning against the battlements.

Arya exhaled. "It's the Queen that bothers me."

"Daenerys?"

"No. The one in King's Landing. Cersei."

"Ah," Gendry nodded. "She bothers me too. Of course, she sent out soldiers to kill all of Robert Baratheon's bastards once. Her name has left a bitter taste in my mouth since then."

"She betrayed us. I want to make her pay for that," Arya said. "If I wanted, I could leave right now and ride south. I could kill her."

"You speak like killing a queen is easy," Gendry said.

"Anyone can be killed," Arya murmured.

"Aye. But it's harder to kill a person surrounded by guards." Gendry looked at her. "You know how to use that knife of yours though. And the sword. I saw you practicing in the courtyard."

"The guards wouldn't matter," Arya said confidently. "I could get past them. Only..."

"Only what?" Gendry asked.

"I don't want to leave my family again," Arya said. "We were separated for so long, and with the army of the dead marching...they need me now more than ever." She stared out at the horizon. "I would never forgive myself if one of them died...while I was down South."

"They might die whether your go South or not," Gendry said. When Arya glared at him, he held up his hands. "We could all die, Arya. I'm just stating facts. Maybe the White walkers will run over the whole land and kill us all. You wouldn't be able to stop that alone."

"Then I'd die with the rest of you," Arya said.

"Flattered, m'lady," Gendry said. "Listen, if you do go South...I'll go with you."

"I don't need you to go with me," Arya said.

"No, but I can make things easier for you," Gendry said. "I grew up in King's Landing. I know every route into the city, including the ones used by people who don't want to be seen."

"I'm good at moving without being noticed," Arya insisted.

"I don't doubt it. You've always been small," Gendry said. "Still, nothing wrong with having someone along to watch your back. I won't slow you down."

Arya let out a sigh. "Fine, fine."

"If you plan on riding south, I'm goin' too."

Arya whirled around and found the Hound standing right behind them. How had she not noticed him earlier. "You are not. I don't need that many people along."

"To kill the queen, maybe not," Sandor Clegane stepped forward. "But you forget, wolf girl...my brother guards the queen. I promised I would put an end to him and I will. Bring me along to distract the Mountain and you'll have a better chance."

"Maybe you'll both die and I'll be rid of the lot of you," Arya sneered.

"Maybe," the Hound said. "Doesn't make a difference to me. Long as he's in the ground and I'm the one who puts him there."

"You'll make it harder to unnoticed," Gendry pointed out.

"There is no goin' unnoticed in that damned castle. The walls have eyes," the Hound said. "You best be prepared to fight them all."

"It's irrelevant because I'm not going south yet," Arya said. "We need to stay with the army for now. But if we must retreat again, we'll have no choice. Cersei needs to die before we reach King's Landing."

"Fine then. We'll wait for your word." The Hound inclined his head.

"Seven hells," Gendry muttered.

Arya turned toward him and found him looking over the battlements. A lone figure road toward the gates, dressed entirely in red. Arya bristled.

"The red woman."

"Aye," Gendry said. "I don't enjoy seeing the likes of her here."

Arya's eyes narrowed as she contemplated one of the three names on her list. "I don't know. I'm rather glad."

Jon

Jon did not like seeing the Red Woman here again. When he heard word of her arrival, we went immediately to the hall of Riverrun to receive her. Fury burned through him. He had told the red witch to go and yet here she returned.

"Jon Snow," the Red Woman inclined her head. "I'm glad to see you well."

"I'm not glad to see you at all," Jon said. "I ordered you to leave and never return."

"You ordered me to leave the North, and I did," Melisandre said. "We are not in the north. You have journeyed south toward me, your grace."

Jon's jaw clenched. "Don't play games. You should not test my patience. I should have sentenced you to death long before. Your witch craft killed an innocent child."

"And brought you back to life to help lead the North to safety," Melisandre said. "Without my talents, you never would have convinced Daenerys Targaryen to let you mine the dragon glass. I brought ice and fire together and that has saved a great many people."

"Good deeds do not erase bad ones," Jon said. "Even so, I spared your life when I banished you from the North."

"That you did. But the Lord of Light has called me back here. His word is more important than my life."

"So you risk execution," Jon said.

"I do not fear death, Jon Snow," Melisandre said. "I have already seen my death in the flames. And it is near. If you leave me be, I promise that fate will take it's natural course. Until then, you could use the Lord of Light on your side."

Jon scrutinized her. The woman had always unsettled him. She was so calm and collected at every opportunity, never flinching from the idea of her own death. She had faith in her lord. Jon had never had near as much faith in the Old Gods.

"What does your lord want with me?" Jon asked.

"Not just with you. With many," Melisandre said. "But for now, continue as you are. When you have need of fire, you may call for me."

Fire, Jon thought. We often have need of that.

Later, while Jon leaned over a map of the area in his quarters trying to discern the best way to position the army, Daenerys found him. He had expected her to get him alone eventually, especially after the promises they had made before the first battle. Both of them had survived and apparently, they both had their secrets to tell.

"You spend more time at this map than sleeping," Daenerys said, resting a hand over his. "It shows on your face."

"I won't sleep well until the Night King falls," Jon admitted.

"That could be awhile yet," Daenerys said. "I must ask...what was that business with the red woman today? I only heard later from Lord Tully."

"She is the one who brought me back from death," Jon said. "But she has sent many more people to it. I'm not sure how to handle her."

"I understand the dilemma," Daenerys said. "I postponed judgement on Jaime Lannister today."

"You did. I was surprised," Jon said.

"Would you have done the same?" Daenerys said.

"Surprisingly, yes," Jon said. "He did ride South in good faith. And his story is true. I asked Bran."

"Your brother has a window into people's souls," Daenerys said. "He's a useful ally for any ruler."

"Would you have him advise you when you take the throne?" Jon asked.

"Perhaps," Daenerys said. "He would make a good master of spies, don't you think?"

"Varys would no longer have work," Jon said. "I hope Bran might have a chance to rest. I worry for him now. His mind is always somewhere very far away."

Daenerys rested a hand at his shoulder. "You worry often. And mostly about your family."

"Most of my family is dead and gone. It's sensible to be worried about the remaining Starks."

"You're as much as a Stark as the rest of them," Daenerys said.

A cold feeling settled in the pit of Jon's stomach. He had to tell her. He had made a promise. "I'm not sure I am."

"Bastard or not, you have their blood," Daenerys said. "When I take the iron throne I could legitimize your name."

"It's not about me being a bastard," Jon said. "I do have Stark blood, it's true. But until recently, I thought that Stark blood came from my father. It didn't. It came from my mother." He turned toward Daenerys and took her hands. "I promised to be honest with you about my secrets. And I swear I did not know until Bran told me."

"Told you what?" Daenerys asked.

Jon took a deep breath. This could change everything between them. "My mother was Lyanna Stark. And my father...was your older brother Rhaegar. My true name, the name my mother meant for me to have, was Aegon Targaryen."

Daenerys stared up at him for a long moment, uncomprehending. A slow realization dawned in her eyes and she pulled her hands away, pacing to the other side of the room. Jon let her muddle through the truth in silence.

"I always wondered at your way with the dragons. When Rhaegar let you ride him...I wondered even more. I wondered if it was my affection for you. All along...they sensed your true name." Daenerys looked back at him. "I'm not the last Targaryen."

Jon observed her carefully. "I know this...complicates things."

"Which part of it?" Daenerys asked. "You were afraid to tell me, I know. Which part worried you more? Your claim to the throne or your relation to me."

"Both," Jon said. "I don't seek the throne, no matter the blood line. I haven't even settled on my true name. I am still Jon to myself." He looked away. "As for our relation...you are my aunt by blood."

"I thought I would have to marry my brother by blood one day," Daenerys said. "When I was a girl at least. It was common for Targaryens to wed family. You are a far better option than my brother." She tilted her head to the side. "Unless it is an impossible barrier for you."

"Honestly, I'm not sure what to think," Jon said. "I haven't had time to think."

"What do you feel then?" Daenerys asked.

Jon swallowed hard. "I feel for you...the same way I did on that boat. That has not changed. I don't know how to feel about myself, but my feelings for you are constant."

Daenerys did not speak for a moment. Then she smiled. "That is good to hear. That will make my secret much easier for you."

"What do you mean?" Jon asked.

Daenerys approached him and took her hand in his. "I told you once...that my dragons were my only children. Yet it seems fate has dealt an unexpected hand to me again." She pressed his hand against her stomach.

Jon blinked a few times before he understood her meaning. The breath left him in a shuddering gasp. "You're..." He looked up at her. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure," Daenerys said.

Jon didn't know how to respond. He acted on instinct, surging forward to capture her lips with his. Gods, how had this happened? She was so sure she would never bare children and yet here they stood, at the edge of the world's end, and she was pregnant.

The kiss broke and Jon rested his forehead against hers. "I didn't think it was possible."

"Our lives have been full of the impossible. I suppose we should be used to it by now," Daenerys murmured, looking up at him. "So...you are happy?"

"Yes," Jon said. "Only..."

She rested a hand upon his cheek. "Only what?"

"I promised myself I would never father a bastard," Jon said. "We are not married."

"No, and there is hardly time for a wedding," Daenerys said. "It doesn't matter though, Jon. When I sit upon the iron throne, I can legitimize our child and no one will be able to protest."

"None the less." Jon gripped her hands. "I make a vow to you here, Daenerys Targaryen, that when this war is over and Spring arrives...I will marry you and make this right. If you'll have me."

Daenerys smiled up at him. "I'll have you...Jon." She squeezed his hands in return. "You may not want the throne, but it seems you will be a king none the less."

Jon cracked a smile. "I'll leave most of the ruling to you."

"Yes...ruling," Daenerys murmured. "It will be strange to do that after fighting for so long."

"It will suit you." Jon raised his hands to his lips, kissing her knuckles. "So...no more secrets between us?"

"None," Daenerys said.

Jon smiled, kissing her again. For the first time since Bran had given him the news, his name felt less heavy. Daenerys accepted it without hesitation, and her feelings remained unchanged.

He did not quite feel like Aegon Targaryen. But he could at least accept that part of himself a little more.

A/N: Hope you all enjoyed. Next time we will be returning to Davos' perspective and also getting our first Samwell perspective. Please review and continue to give me all of your thoughts!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Welcome back! Thus far, the consistent update schedule continues. Let's hope we don't jinx it. This time around we have perspectives from Davos and Sam. This continues the lull between battles, which will extend a few more chapters as well before I throw them into fighting again. Enjoy!

Chapter 13: Prophecies and Great Tales

Davos


It enraged Davos to see her again. The Red Woman. That witch had haunted his nightmares and his waking life for what felt like years now. Every king Davos served, she hovered behind them, whispering foul words.

Jon, at least, was less taken with her than Stannis. Stannis had followed that woman's word to the letter by the end, even going so far as to sacrifice Shireen, his own daughter.

Every time Davos thought of the girl, his chest ached. She was such a sweet thing, unhardened by the words people whispered about her face. She taught Davos to read and was always so patient with him. And Melisandre had burned her alive.

"Why is she back here and not in a cell," Davos hissed when he got Jon alone. "I told you what she did. I told you."

"I remember," Jon said. "In normal times, I would gladly have arrested her, Ser Davos. But these are not normal times."

"So you let her roam free because you think she could be useful," Davos muttered.

"Yes," Jon said. "Anyone can be useful to us right now."

"You shouldn't make use of her. She is full of tricks," Davos said. "And her god is cruel."

"So are the Whitewalkers," Jon said. "Make no mistake, Davos: I do not trust her. But this is a time of truce. We made a truce with Jaime Lannister, despite any of his past crimes. We would have done with Cersei had she accepted. She burned alive a whole sept of innocent people. I didn't see you complaining about making an alliance with her."

Davos' shoulders stiffened. "That's because...she..."

"Because she didn't kill someone you care for," Jon said. "I understand Shireen meant a great deal to you. My family meant a great deal to me and the Lannisters did their best to slaughter them. But we still made peace." Jon approached him, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Winter is here. That means any living person is useful, no matter what they've done. Do you understand?"

Davos nodded once, his eyes focusing straight ahead.

"If it makes you feel better I will not listen to any of her council without you also present," Jon said.

"It does," Davos said.

"Besides, you don't need to worry about her punishment," Jon said. "She seems certain she will die before this war is over."

Good, Davos thought. So long as she doesn't rise again as a demon.

Even after speaking with Jon, Davos remained restless. He moved from room to room in the keep, his mind racing back over all of the damage the Red Woman had caused. She was in the religion of asking for sacrifices. Davos did not want to see any more people caught up in flames. Except for perhaps the dead.

As he paced through the halls, it was perhaps inevitable that he run into her. The Red Woman.

He rounded the corner and almost knocked right into her. She was wearing the same clothing as ever, presumably unbothered by the cold. She had the gall to smile at him.

"Ser Davos. A pleasure to see you well."

Davos felt white hot anger burn inside of him. He raised his hand, wanting to strike her, but someone caught his arm before he could.

"Ser. Don't."

It was Gendry, and the boy had a very strong grip from years of blacksmithing.

"Listen to the boy, Ser Davos," Lady Melisandre said. "This is not my time."

"And when is your time, witch?" Davos spat. "When does your time finally run out?"

Melisandre did not even flinch. "Soon. I assure you. Until then, I hope you will avoid the temptation to finish the job yourself."

Davos jerked once again in Gendry's grip but the boy's hold did not give.

"Come with me," he murmured. "Leave her. It will be all right."

Davos gritted his teeth and let Gendry pull him away. He was still seething when they reached Davos' small quarters in the east wing. He sat down on his cot, burying his head in his hands.

"I understand," Gendry said. "She tried to kill me. I don't like her walking around here either. I keep watching the shadows, waiting for them to jump out at me."

"Smart I've seen her control shadow before," Davos said. "At least now she doesn't seem to care about you."

"Well, Baratheon blood isn't useful," Gendry said. "There are no Baratheon kings left."

"Not long ago there were three," Davos said. "The world was less complicated then...somehow. Robert died and his two brothers rose up to fight for his crown. That was all very typical of this country."

"Aye," Gendry said. "And lowborn scum like us somehow got caught up in the mix."

"A smuggler and a bastard, blacksmith's apprentice," Davos managed a grin. "Look at us now. Staying in a castle."

"And you're Jon's right hand," Gendry said. "That's an honor."

"I suppose I am," Davos said. "I've seen you sticking close to his sister. Is there a reason for that?"

Gendry sat down beside Davos on his cot. "We knew each other...a long time ago. Before the Red Woman took me away. We survived imprisonment at Harrenhal together. She's like no lady I've ever met."

"I've gathered that much," Davos said.

"I do worry about her though." Gendry ran a hand through his hair. "There's something much darker in her eyes, these days. I don't know what she's seen since we left each other. She won't tell me." He rubbed his hands together. "I hope to help her in whatever way I can though."

"Do you," Davos asked. "And why is that?"

"I feel like I owe her," Gendry said. "We should have stuck together. She was angry at me for leaving. Now...I don't know what happened to her after I left. Or if I could have stopped it."

"One extra hammer couldn't have stopped all of the hardship that happened to the Starks," Davos said. "Their family has lost so much that it will make a very tragic song one day."

"It will," Gendry agreed. "Do you think...we'll ever hear our names in the songs?"

"Maybe," Davos said. "This war will make quite a song. But somehow, I think the writer will focus on the dragons and white walkers. Not two lowborn men like us."

Gendry nodded once. "But we were here all the way through it."

"We were," Davos clapped Gendry on the shoulder. "Let's hope we'll be here after it's over."

Samwell

Samwell Tarly was reading. That was always his response to crisis: reading. There was something comforting about the caress of dry pages under his fingertips and the smell of ink. At this brief respite between battles, it felt like the only thing he could truly do.

Gilly sat in the corner, playing with little Sam. He was walking easily now, and he was curious about everything. Sam liked their company but he feared for them constantly. He had nightmares often of the white walkers breaking down the door to his room and dragging Gilly and little Sam away. He had nightmares about them returning to him with bright blue eyes.

The door creaked and Sam jumped, slamming the book shut as if he had something to hide. A bald man in a long robe stood in the doorway, his head tilted to the side.

"Is that a good book?" he asked.

"Maddeningly unhelpful so far," Sam said softly.

"I see." The man approached. "My name is Varys. I do not believe we have been formerly introduced."

"I'm Sam," Sam replied. "This is Gilly and little Sam."

"Lovely child," Varys said. "Yours?"

"Yes. He's his," Gilly said quickly.

"I didn't know the night's watch had changed their views on families," Varys said.

"Most of the Night's watch is dead," Sam said.

"True enough." Varys glided further into the room. "Samwell Tarley. I'm told that you are the one who figured out the application of dragon glass against the white walkers."

"Yes, my lord," Sam said. "I read about it in a book."

"You and books seem to agree," Varys said.

Gilly stood with little Sam in her arms. "I'll leave you two to talk."

"Oh, you don't have to go," Sam said quickly.

"If you're going to talk about the war, I don't want little Sam to hear. He understands words now." She gave Varys a clumsy curtsy. "My lord."

Varys bowed his head respectfully and watched her go.

"It must be hard being a father in such times," Varys said when Gilly had closed the door. "Winter is not a good season for children."

Sam stared down at his hands. No. It was not a good season at all.

"But Jon is lucky to have a friend like you who is so good with books," Varys said. "You read something else in a book rather recently, didn't you? Something that truly astounded you."

Sam looked up at him. "My lord?"

"Something regarding your friend Jon, yes?" Varys sat down in front of Sam. "And his parentage?"

Sam felt rather nervous, glancing around. "I'm really not supposed to...I'm not supposed to say..."

"If I'm asking, that means I already know the answer, more or less," Varys said. "My little birds tell me lots of things, even in winter. Nothing is a secret from me."

Sam swallowed hard. That was a shame because he was very bad at keeping secrets.

"So it is true," Varys whispered in an almost reverent voice. "He is-"

"A Targaryen," a voice finished. Sam looked up to see the red woman hovering in the doorway. He had not heard her enter and he shivered to see her here. "Born of ice and fire. True born, without anyone's knowledge. Including yours, spider."

"Lady Melisandre," Varys said. "I see you've returned. How did Jon Snow take that development?"

"I believe you already know," the red woman said. "But you did not know about Jon Snow, did you? Ned Stark kept his secret very well. That must frustrate you. Usually you know everything."

"Hardly everything, my lady," Varys said.

Sam shrank a little in his seat. This felt like a dialogue with too many meanings. "Shall I...shall I go and leave you two be?"

"Nonsense boy," Melisandre said. "Stay. This is not a secret conversation." She drifted over to the fire, staring into the dancing flames. The light cast shadows upon her pale skin. "I have seen so many visions in the flames. So many visions I thought to be the key to the prophesy of Azor Ahai. Every time I think I have it figured out, the visions shift again."

"Prophesies are dreadfully unreliable things, my lady," Varys said. "I never did hold much faith in them. But then I've never liked priests and priestesses much. One did take...a great deal from me." Varys clasped his hands together. "Could it be you are losing faith in your lord."

"No," Melisandre said. "Not in the least. It was his power that brought Jon back to life. But I shouldn't have been so overconfident in my reading of the flames. I should have questioned myself."

"First you stood behind Stannis," Varys said. "Then Jon Snow. Then it seemed Daenerys also found her way into your mind as a possibility. It does make sense. She has a fondness for fire. But they're both Targaryen...so who do you choose? Could it be both of them? One or the other? Neither? Who do your flames tell you is the prophesized hero now?"

"Does it matter?" Sam asked without thinking.

Both Varys and Melisandre turned to look at him. They seemed to have almost forgotten all about Sam.

"Does the prophesy even matter?" he repeated. "You're looking for the hero who will save the world but...what does it matter if it's Jon or Daenerys or anyone else? Everyone is just trying to survive." He gestured to Varys. "Daenerys never would have gotten over here in time without you finding allies for her." He glanced at Melisandre. "And Jon would be dead if not for you. Then what kind of heroes would they be?" He shook his head. "There's never just one savior. The songs just pretend there is to make it easier. And none of it matters, because if we don't live...there won't be a single song to sing."

Melisandre tilted her head to the side. "Say Westeros did survive the winter, Samwell Tarly...would you sing the song? This time with many heroes?"

"I could try," Sam said. "But I'm much more of a reader than a writer."

"I'm not sure," Varys said. "I think I would enjoy a story written by you. You're a smart one."

The door creaked open and Sam stood as Jon stepped inside. His friend cast a dark glance at the Red Woman. "Forgive me for interrupting. I need to speak with Sam for a moment."

"Of course," Varys said. "We'll speak later Tarley...I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on prophesies and heroes."

Sam nodded once. He wasn't sure he wanted the spider's interest, but he didn't feel confident enough to protest either. He had used up all of his confidence in that brief outburst.

Melisandre lingered for a moment longer in the room, as if absorbing Jon's glare. Then she gave him a nod. "Your grace."

As she glided toward the door, another shadow slid into the room, so quick that Sam thought it might be a ghost. But then silver flashed in the darkness and Sam realized it was not a ghost at all.

The silver of the dagger lunged for Lady Melisandre but Jon acted quickly, catching the assailant's arm and forcing them back. Melisandre backed up several steps out of range. The assailant struggled and Jon grappled with them, seized their hair, pulling hard.

Then, the strangest thing happened. The hair slipped off like a wig...only it took the whole face with it. And when Sam blinked, he found himself staring at a wild eyed Arya Stark.

Jon stared at his little sister in utter shock, letting her go at once. "Arya...seven hells, what..."

Arya took a few steps back, staring at him with suddenly guilty eyes. Then she turned and ran off down the hall, quick as a cat.

"You have my thanks, your grace," Melisandre said. "Fortunately, today is not the day I die."

Jon did not reply. He didn't seem to have words. Sam didn't blame him.

"Your sister has been on quite a journey of her own...to many unfriendly places," Melisandre moved toward the door. "I'm sure she has done many things that would surprise you."

With that Melisandre left them there, alone.

Jon stood there for a long time in the dark hall, seeming to sway as he tried to comprehend what he had just seen. Sam almost didn't want to speak for fear of startling him.

"Sam," Jon said. "Did I see that...correctly? Or is this war beginning to make me mad."

"No, you saw it," Sam said. "She must have spent some time with the Faceless Men."

"The Faceless Men?" Jon asked.

"They follow the Many Faced God. They are a bit of a cult in Bravos." Sam shifted uncomfortably. "They're... assassins. They can change their face at will and they are extremely skilled at killing."

"And Arya is one of them?" Jon asked quietly. "What would drive her to join such a cult?"

"Well, none of you have lived easy lives recently," Sam said. "But you should ask her. Maybe she'll tell you."

Jon stared straight ahead into the dark. "These wars have changed all of us. I have my family back but all of us are so different. Sansa, Bran...me." He shook his head. "I should have suspected the same changes of Arya. Changing is the only way we survived."

Sam swallowed hard. Technically speaking, Jon didn't survive.

"I won't lose anyone else, Sam," Jon said. "No more family. No more friends." He looked back at him. "You're going to survive this winter."

Sam smiled weakly. "That is the plan."

Sam wasn't sure, of course, if survival was realistic. But he did hoped to make it to the next summer. There was Gilly to think about and her boy.

He would like to look back on this winter in old age when it became a great song of heroes and monsters.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed! Make sure to follow, favorite and review to tell me what you think and give me your predictions. Next time, as I said, the lull continues with Daenerys and Brienne's perspectives. Until then.
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Oh boy was this my favorite chapter to write. You will soon see why, if you've paid any attention to what my favorite ship is. I do REALLY like the conversations in this chapter in general and I hope you do too!

Chapter 14: Broken Wheels and Walls

Daenerys


There was tentative peace at Riverrun, though no one was prepared to settle into it. The Army of the Dead was still at a distance, sweeping slowly through the north, gathering soldiers to replenish those that they had lost. At their pace, they would not reach Riverrun for another few months.

There was much work to do in that time. Cities had to be evacuated and the refugees poured further south, closer and closer to Lannister territory. The castle and surrounding fields were choked with people and there was not enough food to go around as temperatures continued to drop.

Even if they survived this madness, the Army of the Dead would leave a dark scar upon the land. It would not be an easy time to rule.

Daenerys thought about the future as she looked out the window of her quarters, her hand rested on her stomach. It had started to swell, and she sometimes could feel her child moving. It was such a wonder to have something growing in her womb again...and it terrified her. What if she lost this child too? What if she died before she could ever give birth? What if?

Everything about the future was uncertain, including the prospect of ruling.

Jon said she was suited to it, but he hadn't known her in Essos. In Mereen she tried to rule. She tried to transition them into a free city. However, it seemed her stay there only cause more chaos, and all around her the slavers rose up again. She destroyed them a second time, but she had no doubt they would find a way back into the cities while she ruled in Westeros.

Daenerys knew how to conquer. Dragons made that task remarkably easier. She knew how to storm a city and make an impression. She knew how to prompt an overthrow. She knew how to pull allies to her cause.

But ruling...sitting on the iron throne...what would that be like?

A knock came at her door. She glanced over her shoulder. "Come in."

Tyrion edged through the door and closed it behind him. "Your Grace. Might I have a moment?"

"You are my hand," Daenerys said. "You may have several moments if you'd like."

Tyrion nodded, stepping forward. "Your condition is beginning to show." His mouth quirked. "As your hand, I thought you might inform me of something so crucial as a pregnancy."

Daenerys sighed. "I'm sorry. I haven't told many people. Missandei knows. Jon knows."

"Soon everyone will know if they see you," Tyrion said. "Better to claim it than to hide it. If you hide it, people will assume you are ashamed."

"I'm not ashamed," Daenerys said.

"Then don't let them assume it," Tyrion said. "It will come up as we continue to plan the battle. You won't be able to fly with Drogon in your state."

"Why not?" Daenerys asked.

"Well, I'm not an expert, but I don't think battle is good for unborn children," Tyrion said.

Daenerys exhaled and sat in her chair. "I will announce it at our next council meeting. Does that satisfy you?"

"For now," Tyrion took a seat as well. "And how do you feel about this child?"

"I feel many things. Not all of them have words," Daenerys rested a hand over her stomach. "I am glad. Grateful. I'm terrified as well."

"A child and a royal wedding may be just the thing to distract Westeros after this dreadful war," Tyrion said. "If we survive."

"That's a very large 'if'," Daenerys said. "Tyrion..." She trailed off, unsure how to phrase her next words.

"What's troubling you?" Tyrion asked.

"I wonder..." Daenerys traced her fingers along her chair. "Do you think I will make a good queen? Or will I only be a conqueror with a crown?"

Tyrion observed her carefully. "How long has this been on your mind?"

"Years," Daenerys said. "But I am only just now really thinking about it," Daenerys said. "Conquerors and revolutionaries are good at fighting and they're good at making promises. But once there is no more conquering to be had...they do not always adjust. They do not always keep their vows."

"No. They must surround themselves with other people who will help them to adjust. And to rule," Tyrion said. "You have done that, your grace. You have me. You have Jon Snow's deep and abiding loyalty as well. With that you could also have his sister, who has proven a capable ruler. You still have Varys. Perhaps Bran will even be willing to peer into the future for you. You won't be alone, in any case."

"Maybe not," Daenerys said. "But will all of you force me to keep my promises? Or will you remain silent out of fear when I start to lose myself. Will you wait until the city is burning before you stab me in the back?"

"No," Tyrion said. "I do not think you have it in you to go so far as your father. The darker parts of yourself...you're aware of them. Self-awareness is the first step to being a good leader."

Daenerys nodded once but did not reply.

"What promises do you want to keep?" Tyrion asked. "It might help me to know, as your hand."

"I want to keep the realm safe," Daenerys said.

"If you manage to kill the Night King, you certainly will have done that," Tyrion said. "No one has seen a threat quite like this in living memory. What else?"

"Help the weak," Daenerys said. "I want to help the weak."

"Any helping of the weak you do will seem like a considerable improvement from recent monarchs," Tyrion said. "It's impossible to help everyone, but you can try. Queen Margery was quite skilled at that before Cersei blew her up in the sept."

Daenerys nodded once. "And I...I do want to break the wheel. The bloody exchange of power. I want to do away with it all."

"Ah," Tyrion said. "That's the tricky one, isn't it?" He leaned forward in his seat. "What does breaking the wheel mean to you?"

"Peace," Daenerys said. "Less uncertainty about which name will sit on the throne."

"A Targaryen dynasty then?" Tyrion asked. "It would be consistent. Is that breaking the wheel?"

Daenerys looked up at him. "Your tone of voice suggests you don't agree."

"The last Targaryen dynasty was hardly peaceful," Tyrion said. "The realm was still wracked with civil war and rebellion far before Robert Baratheon fought for the throne. It was just all in the family. And there were a lot more dragons." He held up his hands. "Even if you are a wonderful queen and everyone loves you, you won't be queen forever. Eventually, your child takes the throne. Then their child. Maybe multiple siblings fight for the right to the throne. Maybe there is another rebellion. After you are dead, there is nothing you can do to ensure peace."

"So what do you suggest?" Daenerys asked.

Tyrion rubbed a hand across his beard. "You believe that to break the wheel, you must sit upon the iron throne. Forgive me for saying, your grace...but the Iron throne is the wheel. Whoever sits on it is another spoke. Even a Targaryen. In fact, your family rather invented the wheel in the first place."

Daenerys' jaw tightened. "How so?"

"Before your ancestors came as conquerors to Westeros, there were many kings throughout the realms. The Targaryen's created the iron throne and the game for it."

"So you suggest we go back to a world of many kings and queens?" Daenerys asked.

"Not at all," Tyrion said. "There's something to be said for unity. Strong central leadership can help keep people together during difficult times. Such as winter. Breaking the wheel could not possibly happen overnight but with the right circumstances and a deft hand you could...dismantle it slowly."

"What would the end result be?" Daenerys asked.

"I'm not sure," Tyrion said. "It would depend on a variety of variables. Perhaps a small council with more power. Perhaps representatives from each of the realms. There are examples of such systems of government in Essos. We could learn from them." He looked up at her. "You asked for my honesty and you asked for help in keeping your promises. I want to help you break the wheel. But in order to do that, the game of thrones must end."

Daenerys looked out the window. There was wisdom in his words. For so many years she had dreamed of the iron throne. Her birth right. But as long as there was a throne there would be war.

"We'll speak more of the future of the realm when the war is won," Daenerys said at last.

"Of course," Tyrion stood to leave. "There is much to do before we even reach King's Landing."

Daenerys exhaled. "I thank you, Tyrion. For your honesty." She looked up at him. "I shall need it in the future."

"And the realms will need you," Tyrion smiled. Then he left her alone.

Daenerys looked back out the window. Snow was falling again, covering the fields and the tents of the soldiers. So many people were looking to her to help them through this winter.

She would do that before she thought about wheels or thrones.

Brienne

When the armies had reached Riverrun, Brienne pitched her tent near the outskirts of the camp and had rarely left since then. She hunted in the nearby woods for food but she did not attempt to make small talk with any of the soldiers. Nor did she approach the castle.

She knew that she should be playing body guard to the Stark sisters, but why would they need her? Arya could protect herself and Sansa...perhaps better than Brienne. After all, she couldn't even protect her squire in battle. He had to protect her and for that...

Podrick...I'm so sorry Podrick.

How the boy had annoyed her when Jaime Lannister first shoved him into her service. She had wanted nothing more than to climb onto her horse and leave him in the dust. Yet over those many months, he became something constant for her. He was naïve, but always helpful. Always trying his hardest.

She had been so cruel to him at times. She wasn't sure she had ever properly apologized to him for that.

Grief kept Brienne in her tent, away from all people. The last person she had spoken to was Jaime. Once he found her another horse to make her retreat, he returned to help lead his soldiers. Since then, she hadn't talked to anyone. She was too busy playing the battle back in her head.

The first sight of the White Walkers changed a person's view of the world. Seeing them over run armies without mercy stirred up a sense of fury and helplessness and equal parts. Brienne had felt both feelings many times over her life. Fury was expected of her. She had never tolerated injustice and she fought back against those who perpetrated it.

Helplessness, on the other hand, she thought she had drilled out of herself long ago. When she mastered the sword and donned a suit of armor, she shouldn't have continued to feel weak. And yet, constantly, she did. When Renly was killed in front of her. When Catelyn Stark died hundreds of miles away. When the Stark daughters seemed to constantly elude her. She felt helpless every time and no suits of armor or Valyrian steel swords could solve that.

She felt helpless now, after seeing so many die at Winterfell. Including Podrick. Though he had improved so much in his sword play over the years, he had still been killed, right alongside other seasoned warriors.

Brienne had survived, but the images of the battle played over and over again in her mind. She knew that she would face the White walkers again and that more would die. Maybe more people she was supposed to protect.

Maybe she would die, though that frightened her less.

The flap of her tent brushed back. She didn't glance up. She went on staring straight ahead.

"I expected to see you at the castle with the Stark girls. I worried you may have been avoiding me."

Brienne's vision cleared at the sound of Jaime Lannister's voice. She looked up at him, her mouth falling open slightly. She hadn't expected him to find her.

"I'm sorry," Jaime said. "I don't mean to disturb you."

Brienne shook her head. "You don't." Her voice came out hoarse to her own ears. "So you...you road north..."

"Well, you did give me a particularly convincing argument in King's Landing. 'Fuck loyalty'. It was a very stirring speech." When she didn't reply, Jaime softened his voice a bit. "And it was a much needed reminder about the importance of oaths. That conversation stayed with me you know...when Cersei wanted to break her promises."

"So you left her," Brienne said. "You came to our aid though she forbade it."

Jaime's eyebrow quirked. "Surprised?"

"No," Brienne said softly. "You are an honorable man."

Jaime didn't speak for a long moment. The Lannister loved to be witty but Brienne had a way of striking him dumb on some small occasions with her sincerity. She always counted it a small victory when she rendered him speechless. He loved to talk.

"And you're an honorable woman," Jaime said. "I worried I might be too late. I worried you may have died in the battle. Stupid of me, I know. You're one of the best swordsmen in the seven kingdoms. Certainly the best swordswoman." Jaime flashed a grin. "But, I've seen talented fighters fall from bad luck. I'm glad you didn't."

"I might have, if not for you," Brienne said.

Jaime shook his head. "Ah...I'm sure you would have made a miraculous escape."

Brienne didn't reply. She didn't agree, really. She wasn't the sort to experience miracles.

Jaime seemed to sense the weight of her silence. He drifted forward. "My lady... may I share your tent for a while? My brother is a bit busy at the moment and the castle is overrun with people who distrust me or want me dead. I'd prefer your company."

Brienne blinked, looking up at him. She wasn't used to such gentleness in his tone. So much of their relationship had been built on insults and fights. She still wasn't quite used to this kinder Jaime Lannister though she knew him to exist.

At last she nodded. Jaime released a breath and sat down across from her at the tiny stool that served as a table. Brienne's mouth twitched. In all honesty, Jaime was the only one who's company she could stand at the moment.

Funny how things changed. Jaime had called Brienne many names over the past few years. Wench. Beast. Big Brienne. Boring as she was ugly. All quips meant to get under her skin. Brienne was used to those. It was the softer names that really got to her. My lady, or just simply her name. Brienne. Amazing how few people seemed to call her that.

It was just as well Jaime hadn't figured this secret out until later, or he might have used it against her. But he had only called her by her name when he meant it with the utmost sincerity. Maybe, come to think of it, that was what made her react. The sincerity.

Sitting across from him at her makeshift table, she realized how far they had come together. From fighting each other on the bridge to fighting a bear together. Or more like running from a bear. That hadn't been Jaime's most graceful moment of heroism. At some point or another, she had stopped seeing him as the Kingslayer. She saw him as Jaime. Ser Jaime. A knight with honor, where his sister had none.

"Why didn't your sister keep her word?" Brienne asked.

"She is a liar by nature," Jaime said. "It's a Lannister trait I think, being schemers. My father would be proud of her."

"You're not a schemer."

"Ah, sometimes I am," Jaime said. "Not as much as my brother or sister though. They beat me soundly in that regard. They're more my father's children. Yet Cersei is a woman and Tyrion a dwarf. I was meant to be the golden son." He cracked his neck. "At least my father didn't live to see me turn my back on our family."

"Cersei is the one who turned her back," Brienne said. A fierce note returned to her voice. "If the White walkers mow us down, her enemies will be gone, but they will kill her too. She'd sacrifice all of her family to maintain power. If she saw how these things kill-really saw-she wouldn't be so cruel."

"Never underestimate Cersei's penchant for cruelty," Jaime said.

Brienne looked down at her hands. Somehow, Cersei's cruelty seemed a small thing next to the White walkers. Even Cersei could be reasoned with to some degree.

"Lady Brienne," Jaime murmured. "What happened in the battle? What has you holing up in your tent away from even the Stark girls? You were always so adamant about protecting them."

"What protection could I really give them?" Brienne pulled at the thumb of her glove. "I saw Podrick die. I was only feet from him when it happened. You sent him with me to keep him safe. But he only ended up in more danger. He should have stayed at King's Landing."

Jaime exhaled. "There was nothing you could have done."

"Maybe I could have."

"You're too hard on yourself. You always have been."

Brienne pressed her lips together. Her eyes burned but she forced any tears back. She could not cry. She would not cry.

Slowly, Jaime stood and moved over to her, resting his left hand on her shoulder. "Brienne. It wasn't your fault."

She didn't look at him. The touch had almost frozen her. He wasn't usually this familiar. He seemed to realize that he may have crossed a line and started to draw his hand back. But she held her hand over his, keeping him there.

Now a few tears escaped her eyes, tracing down her cheeks. She didn't speak because she feared her voice would betray her. But her eyes had already done that. Jaime sat down beside her, stroking his thumb along her shoulder blade. Brienne had never felt such a gentle touch in her life.

"No one deserves to die like that," Brienne whispered. "He should have...been given a clean death. Now one of those monsters has probably added him to their army. Podrick didn't deserve that."

"No, he didn't," Jaime murmured. Almost absently, he moved his hand from her shoulder to her cheek, brushing the tears away with two fingers. "No one does. I can't imagine...how I might have felt if you had gone the same way."

Brienne looked at him in surprise but didn't pull away. He was close to her now. Closer than she was used to, and she did not know how to react. His hand lingered. "Jaime?"

His whole body seemed to shudder at the sound of his name. "Yes, Lady Brienne?"

"I...what are you doing?" Her voice was barely more than a whisper.

"No fucking idea," Jaime murmured. Then he leaned forward and kissed her.

For a long pause, Brienne was in complete shock, feeling Jaime's lips on hers. She blinked rapidly, trying to figure out what was happening. Trying to discern the trick. People had tried to kiss her before as a prank. But it this was not a joke, why was he kissing her? Why was his left hand resting so softly against her cheek, his thumb tracing her skin?

A million questions circled her brain as she tentatively kissed him back. She felt awkward and clumsy, but she pressed on. Even if this was a dream, she couldn't let this moment slip away. Her hand rested on Jaime's wrist, just above his golden hand, holding on tight.

What kind of a miracle was this?

She didn't know how much time passed before Jaime broke the kiss. Maybe seconds. Maybe minutes. Something deep inside of her soul shuddered as he brushed her blonde hair back from her eyes.

"I should have done that long ago," Jaime murmured. "I should have left Cersei long ago. From the moment I saw the scorched sept I should have turned and run. I didn't. I really must be the biggest fool alive."

"You are," Brienne agreed. "Somehow your foolishness has driven you to kiss me."

Jaime grinned. "I don't think that's foolish. I think that's the most intelligent thing I've done in a long while."

Brienne's heart stuttered. "Do you really believe that, ser?"

His face grew serious again. His sincere looks and his smiles both cut right to the core of her being, like the sharpest valyrian steel. "I do, my lady. With all my heart." He took her hand, bringing it forward to rest on his chest. She could feel his heart racing. Could it be that he was nervous too? Why would such an attractive man be nervous? "I told you, didn't I? It's yours. It will always be yours."

"I thought we were speaking of my sword then," Brienne said.

"We were," Jaime said. "And we weren't. Ours has always been a complicated relationship, hasn't it?"

Brienne smiled before she could stop herself. "On that, we can certainly agree."

Something about her smile must have hit Jaime hard because he surged forward, capturing her lips with his again. Brienne went right along with it. She gripped onto his collar, unwilling to let him pull away. Now that he had kissed her once, she did not want him to stop ever again.

If this is a dream, I do not care, she thought. The white walkers could be upon us at any minute. I do not care. Gods, just let me have this moment.

A/N: I am so die hard for Jaime x Brienne that if they become canon in Season 8 I will probably need an ambulance for my poor heart. But until that day, take my fanfiction of it. Next time, we'll have Cersei and Jaime's perspectives so that's gonna be wild. Hope you enjoyed and REVIEW!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
Welcome back! I enjoyed writing this chapter and showing the contrast between Cersei and Jaime. Also I got to write more Jaime x Brienne so...that is always a bonus. Enjoy!

Chapter 15: Revenge and Relief

Cersei


From the moment she met him, Cersei had not liked Euron Greyjoy. He was crass and cocky, like so many of the Ironborn. But he was useful. He had ambitions to please her and earn her hand in marriage and he would do anything to gain her favor. Men with such ambitions could always be directed toward her interests.

She hadn't expected him to get this far, however. His victory over the Dornish and Greyjoy fleet was certainly a surprise. Then he also successfully snuck under the nose of Daenerys and her allies and made it to Essos and back with the Golden Company. Her enemies had no idea what lay in wait for them. Not yet.

Euron had succeeded where even Jaime had failed her. He had remained loyal. Yet at the same time, she knew it was not a blind loyalty. He wanted payment for all of his services. That was what brought him to her quarters that night. He had asked for a private audience and so she had granted it to him. The Mountain stood guard at the door, just in case. Cersei always had to take precautions these days.

"My Queen," he entered the room, all smiles. He played at a gentleman though it didn't sit well on the shoulders of a vicious killer. Cersei didn't mind that of course. She had grown up among killers. She was a killer. "I trust the Golden Company is to your liking."

"They are," Cersei said. "You were able to negotiate the contract quickly."

"Money makes everything go quicker." Euron rubbed his hands together. "They were eager to seek out prospects away from Slaver's Bay. The economy there has been awful since that destruction of the slave trade. Some of the richest possible employers were dead."

"That is true," Cersei said. "They'll make an excellent defense of the city. So will the remaining cashes of wildfire. Qyburn has already been working on redistributing them outside of the city walls. Whatever army comes, those traps will certainly carve a hole in them. The dead do not like fire.

"No they don't," Euron said. "Shame we couldn't have a dragon of our own."

His use of 'our' was familiar of him. Cersei thought for a moment of how much Jaime would hate the use of that word. Euron always made him jealous and she liked Jaime when he was jealous.

She hoped somewhere he was seething and miserable.

Euron paced around the table, his hands clasped behind his back. "Have I served you well my queen?"

"You have," Cersei said. "You get me results. I consider that serving well."

"I will always serve you well," Euron said. "I am loyal to the throne until my dying breath and all of my forces and talents are yours."

"I sense an 'if' in your words, Lord Greyjoy," Cersei said flatly.

"No 'if'. I'll still be loyal," Euron said. "But my loyalty would increase tenfold if I had the opportunity to wed a queen."

Cersei raised her chin. "I promised you what your heart desires, did I not? When the war is won. Do you not trust me?"

"Oh, I trust your word," Euron said. "But the war's end is a long way away. And there are many reasons to wed now."

"What are those reasons?" Cersei asked.

"You are with child," Euron said. "And you're not on particularly good terms with the man who put that child there." Cersei glared at him and he held up his hands. "I don't cast judgement your grace. I would never. I only say that Jaime Lannister is an awful traitor for abandoning you for the North."

Cersei gritted her teeth together. Traitor seemed too kind a word for Jaime right now.

"If we married now, before the child was born, you could claim it as my child. Imagine the barbs that would stick in his heart." Euron took a step toward her. "He walked away from you. Make him hurt for it. I killed my brother for doing the same to me. If you asked I would ride out and kill him myself. I could bring you his head."

"Noble of you. But I want him alive so I can take his head myself," Cersei said tightly. "Regardless, I do not want a Greyjoy child. I could simply bear this baby and give it the Lannister name."

"I'll sweeten the deal then. It's not a legacy for the Greyjoy name I'm after. I would never dream of asking you to take my name. You want to keep the Lannister name on the throne. I understand. Give the child that name too." Euron Greyjoy grinned. "As I said, I only want to marry a queen. The throne is still yours."

He made sweet promises, yet Cersei knew she shouldn't trust him. Still...if he did not want to force his name upon her what did he want? Was this really just some childish ambition of his? To wed a Queen and serve as her executioner all in one?

She did not trust his dreams. But she did trust her ability to handle him. If this made him happy for a time, then she could dispose of him later if he started to reveal his true intentions. Or if he began to bore her. For now, she should placate him. Keep him close.

Not to mention, it would anger Jaime very much if he heard the news. She wanted him to hear it and seethe with jealousy. The very thought of his anger made her smile.

"Very well," Cersei said. "You'll have everything you wish for, my lord. The ceremony will be secret. But news is sure to get out."

"News is sure to get all the way to your brother," Euron grinned.

"Yes," Cersei set down her glass of wine. "I'm sure it will." She seized the front of Euron's jacket and jerked his lips to hers.

The entire time she thought of Jaime. As she dragged Euron to her bed, she thought of that traitor and reveled in betraying him right back. He could have had her, if he wanted. They could have married and no one could have said a word. The Lannisters could have become the new Targaryen dynasty to last hundreds of years. Thousands of years.

He walked away, and this was her revenge.

The next morning, Cersei felt empty and hollow. She was used to that. Grief and anger and burned most of the emotion out of her over the years. Numbness now consumed her. When she was not numb, she was angry. Happiness...happiness was for children and for mothers. She would likely not feel happy again until she held her child in her arms.

Euron Greyjoy was a threat to that happiness. He was useful, but she could not let him remain into peace time. She would have to have him killed before that.

She needed to talk to Qyburn. He always had good council to give her and he did not question her intentions. He was in his chambers when she arrived, still experimenting with that damned hand from the undead soldier. It had gone limp by now, but he hadn't thrown it away. His fascination with the macabre was disgusting, but useful. It had given Cersei her finest bodyguard.

"My Queen." Qyburn looked up. "What can I do for you?"

"I am...going to marry Euron Greyjoy," Cersei said.

Qyburn raised an eyebrow. "And then? How long will that last?"

"Not very," Cersei said. "But if I placate him with his wishes, it will be easier to kill him."

"I can think of several poisons to do the job," Qyburn said. "As for the wedding ceremony, I can't imagine it will be public."

"Not very," Cersei said. "My advisors and allies will know. The Golden Company. The Iron Bank."

"That will be enough to get plenty of rumors going," Qyburn said.

"Let them. I want them to reach my brother," Cersei said.

"Of course," Qyburn said. If he was ever disgusted by the idea of Jaime and Cersei's relationship, he never showed it. Then again, he didn't seem disgusted by much, and he knew to keep his opinions to himself. "Euron Greyjoy will be a good man to keep close for now. His fleet is key to our defense. We do not want to deal with resistance from the Iron born."

"No, but we have his niece, do we not?" Cersei said. "Some of the iron born follow her. If necessary, we could still use her to bring them to heel."

"If necessary," Qyburn said. "I wouldn't murder him on your wedding night."

Cersei spun her lion's head ring around her finger. "I won't. But I must be ready for him to betray me."

"Of course," Qyburn inclined his head. "The wedding can happen tomorrow, if you wish."

"Very well," Cersei said. "I will let Euron know. He will be overjoyed to hear."

Her own voice was hollow and flat. Nothing about this situation caused her joy, but she didn't want Euron to get impatient and unpredictable.

For now, a wedding was the best way to keep him under her thumb. To make him think she had one.

And at least it filled the numbness inside of her chest with the delight of vengeance.

Jaime

Jaime could not remember the last time he slept so peacefully. He could not remember the last time his soul felt so settled in his own body. He did not startle awake. Rather he opened his eyes and let out a long breath.

He was in Brienne's tent still, and she lay beside him, still asleep. He had never seen her sleep like this before. When they had travelled together, she slept restlessly, waking often in the night to grab her sword. But her sword was on the other side of the tent now and there was nothing suspicious or restless about her face.

Last night was...Jaime ran a hand through his hair. What was last night?

After he had kissed her again, he expected Brienne to eventually push him away or ask him to leave. Except for she hadn't. She latched onto him as he had to her, like two people dying of thirst who had just come across a stream.

There was something inevitable about last night. Something that had been building for over a year now since that night in the baths.

In the baths, when Brienne stood bare before him and dared him to insult her again. He remembered that moment well. He remembered the sudden stir of respect and, beneath that, attraction. At the time, he had blamed it on delirium from his lost hand.

It wasn't that though, and it wasn't delirium that made him lay his soul bare to her there. It wasn't delirium that made him leap into the bear pit to protect her with no weapon and only one hand. It wasn't delirium that made him give her his sword-a valyrian steel blade from his father. All along, something in him wanted her to see him as more than the kingslayer.

Brienne had always made him want to be better than he was. He should have realized his feelings a long time ago.

He sat up slowly, feeling the bite of the cold against his skin as the rough blanket slipped off his shoulders. He breathed in deeply, closing his eyes. He knew they were in the middle of a war for the whole of Westeros...but in this moment, he barely cared.

Suddenly, Brienne startled awake beside him, fumbling automatically for a weapon. Jaime caught her should on instinct and squeezed. "Brienne," he murmured. "Brienne it's all right. The white walkers are still miles away."

Brienne blinked hard as she seemed to recognize her surroundings. Her cheeks flushed with color as she focused on Jaime. "Ser Jaime I...what...I, ah..."

Jaime grinned. It amazed him that Brienne could destroy opponents on the battlefield and blush like a maiden the very next moment. "I said it's all right, my lady." He brushed her hair back from her face. "Unless you mean to fight me. If we're honest, you would win."

"I don't mean to fight you..." Brienne said quietly. "Since you're here...I suppose last night was not a dream."

"No," Jaime said. "No it wasn't."

"I thought it must be," Brienne said.

"Do you have dreams like that often?"

Brienne glared at him and he held up his one hand in surrender.

"I only jest, lady Brienne." He tilted his head to the side. "Are you all right?"

Brienne rubbed her hands together. Jaime had become so much more familiar with those hands the previous night. "I'm...not sure. For years, men always joked about taking my virtue. Attractive men, who saw it all as a game. I suppose now that I'm awake...I'm waiting for the trick."

Jaime knew he was one of those who had made such cruel jokes to get under her skin in the beginning. But he shook his head. "There are no tricks here, Brienne. You have my word."

"I know," Brienne said. "It's still that feeling...that if it's not a trick then I must be dreaming."

"You're not." Jaime reached out, tilting her chin up. "You're awake. I'm here."

Brienne let out a shuddering breath. She had such bright blue eyes. Jaime wondered how he had ever found her ugly at all.

"I dreamed of you once you know," Jaime murmured. "A long time ago, on the journey from Harrenhal to King's Landing back before our...incident with the bear. My hand was hurting and I was feverish still from the pain. I dreamed of you then. When I woke...when I woke I knew I had to return to you. I could not leave you in that place. I rode as fast as I could to get there. I was almost too late."

Brienne swallowed hard but did not reply. She did not seem to have words to say.

"I dreamed of you other times after that," Jaime said. "I suppose I should have listened to those dreams and gone to find you again. But I'm a slow learner." He looked up at her. "You're not the only one who was out of their element last night. I've...only ever been with one other woman. I never expected to lay with anyone else. I expected to die before that."

"Yet here you are," Brienne said.

"Here I am," Jaime said. "I don't want to be anywhere else."

Brienne swallowed hard. "Honestly?"

"Yes. I try to be truthful with you. You get angry at me when I'm not," Jaime's mouth twitched.

"Someone has to," Brienne said. "But you have become...a much more honest man, Jaime."

The way she said his name still sent shivers through him. He loved the sound of it from her lips. He leaned forward, capturing her lips with his again, letting the kiss fog his brain like wine.

He had barely thought of Cersei, from the previous night until now. Being with Brienne seemed to wash all thoughts of her away. It felt cleansing.

Like that night in the baths.

After a few moments, they forced themselves apart again and dressed. The temperature outside was continuing to drop. Jaime picked up Brienne's sword and handed it back to her with a slightly cheeky smile.

"It's yours."

She gave him an exasperated look but accepted the blade once again, strapping it to her waist.

They emerged from the tent, both in need of food-and found Bronn sitting outside, eating a roasted rabbit. Brienne's eyes went wide and Jaime's eyes narrowed at the same instant.

"Bronn. What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you," Bronn smirked. "Saw you heading to the Lady's tent last night and..." He waved his hand. "Look. You're still here."

"How long have you been sitting there?" Jaime asked.

"Not long. Didn't want to rush you though." Bronn stood. "Been a long time coming between you two, hasn't it?"

"What do you want, Ser Bronn," Brienne said flatly. Her cheeks had turned deep pink.

"Ah, yes," Bronn said. "Actually I came to find both of you. The King in the North has called all persons with valyrian steel swords to the keep and, well that includes you two."

Jaime and Brienne looked at each other. Right, they were still in a war, weren't they?

For just a moment, Jaime had forgotten that.

A/N: Man, it's about time to get back to plot, isn't it? Only a few more chapters before we dive back into another BATTLE. And we all know how much I love writing battle scenes (I.E. I don't, but I try). Until next week!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: I'm here with the next chapter! This one was TOUGH to write because there's a scene with fourteen people in it. Anyone who has tried to write a scene with that many people knows that its hell to actually involve everyone. But I DID IT. It's a LONG chapter but I did it. Enjoy the fruits of my labor!
Chapter 16: A Battle Soon to Come
Tyrion

Tyrion always believed he had two great talents: drinking and knowing things. Often he did both at once. But when he did not know things, he tried to position himself favorably next to those who did. This was how he and Varys initially became "friends" of sorts (though ally might be a better term). This was why Tyrion kept Littlefinger close for a time, even though he did not trust him.
And this was why he now sought out Brandon Stark. These days, it seemed he knew more things than anyone else. He saw all throughout Westeros, past, present and future. True he had some difficulty sorting that information and he was not always forthcoming about the important bits. Really he needed someone to ask the right questions and Tyrion was very good at asking questions.
One person shared his strategy: Sansa Stark. Once a naïve girl who knew very little, she had gathered information and experience around her like armor, transforming her once soft exterior into one of ice and stone. She was every bit as steely as her mother Catelyn Stark now, perhaps even more so. She had taken in pieces of the many people around her and welded them to her personality in order create a perfect survivor. Littlefinger, Margery, Olenna, Cersei. She picked out all the bits she liked and made the old Sansa Stark little more than a memory.
She also wanted to know as much as possible, and so he found her with her brother Bran in the snowy courtyard, sitting beside his chair. Another girl, Meera Reed, stood close by, a hand on her sword. She glanced up at Tyrion when he approached, with distrustful eyes.
"Can we help you, Lannister?"
"Perhaps," Tyrion said. "I find most people can be helpful in their own way. What are your strengths, girl?"
"I'm a fighter," Meera said flatly.
"That's very helpful during war," Tyrion said, purposefully ignoring the silent threat.
"It's alright, Meera," Sansa said. "He's Daenerys' hand. He's trustworthy enough."
"Enough, yes" Tyrion agreed. "How are you faring today, Lady Stark?"
"As well as one can," Sansa said.
"Good," Tyrion glanced at Bran. "And you, Brandon? See anything interesting with your third eye?"
"I see many things," Bran replied.
"Yes, yes. So I hear," Tyrion said. All of the Starks had changed so much it could be quite awkward to talk to them now. Tyrion did not even attempt to engage with Arya Stark who slipped about the keep like a deadly shadow. Jon seemed the most normal of all and he had died and come back to life. "Perhaps you could share with me some of those things? Where is the army of the dead at this moment?"
"A ways off," Bran said. "They are replenishing their army. Sweeping through every corner of Westeros to pick off those we missed."
"They are returning to their original size," Sansa said. "As if the first battle did not even happen. We evacuated as many people as we could, but we must have missed some. Others didn't listen."
"No, I imagine not," Tyrion said.
"Jon thinks he failed the north," Sansa said. "He only sees the failure and does not see how many people we have saved so far."
"Perhaps because they are not saved quite yet," Tyrion said. "It could be much worse though."
"Worse and better," Bran murmured. "Everything can be worse and better."
Tyrion resisted a sigh. Bran knew many things but he could be very tedious. "For now, we must figure out how to create a true crack in their army."
"The white walkers should be the focus," Sansa said. "We saw Arya kill one and the others dropped. The more white walkers killed, the less of the dead we have to fight."
"Yes. Unfortunately, the white walkers will keep themselves at a defensive position. If the army moves as one unit, we have little hope of killing them without sacrificing good soldiers," Tyrion said.
"I thought of that," Sansa said. "Last time, Jon tried to force himself through their ranks. Many died and he almost died as well."
"It seems we would have better chances if we could spread out the army," Tyrion said. "Force them to open up their ranks more. If we could trick them into that..."
"The Night King will be difficult to trick," Bran said. "He is also a Green Seer. He can see many possibilities like me."
"We would have to bait him with something he thought was worth the risk," Tyrion said. "It's like a game of cyvasse. You are willing to sacrifice important pieces if it means killing your opponent's important piece. Did he focus on killing anyone in the battle last time?"
"Yes," Bran said. "He kept all of his army in one place except for one smaller group which he sent out."
"After our carriage," Sansa recalled.
"After Bran," Tyrion realized. It was the only explanation. The Night King knew nothing of Tyrion or Sansa or Arya. Only the last remaining Stark boy.
Sansa spun to look at Bran. "We are not using you as bait."
"It's the only way to draw the white walkers out," Bran said. "No one else is as much a threat to the Night King...except perhaps the remaining dragons. And I can step into their mind when I need to. I am dangerous for him."
"I won't lose you," Sansa said. "I won't lose any more family. The Lannisters took mother and father and Robb. The Boltons took Rickon. Enough."
"Bran is not trying to sacrifice himself," Tyrion said quickly. "If we surround him with strong fighters... he needn't die at all. Of course there is a risk, but there is a risk for all of us."
"No matter where you place me, the Night King will come after me, like last time," Bran said. "We might as well place me strategically."
Sansa's jaw tightened. Tyrion sympathized with her. She had lost so many people in her life, many to his family and their allies. She had lost her own name more than once to cruel arranged marriages. She had experienced her fair share of pain.
"I will keep watch over him," Meera promised. Tyrion had almost forgotten the girl. "I kept him alive beyond the wall for many months. I can keep him alive in the battle to come."
"Yes, and we can set other people to guard him," Tyrion said. "Others who are skilled fighters."
"Not too many," Bran said. "We must make him think it is worth the risk."
Sansa still did not seem sure. Tyrion could see her racing through the options. Her strategic mind was at war with her love for her family. Her desire to hold onto the few remaining Starks. But at last she exhaled and placed a hand over Bran's.
"This risk is yours to take, Bran. But please...be careful."
"I will," Bran murmured, his eyes a bit glazed.
"No. Bran, look at me." Sansa's grip tightened. He did. His eyes were still vacant, but he looked at her. "Promise me that you will try not to die."
Bran stared at her for a long time. Then he nodded once. "I promise."
"We will find the best people to defend him," Tyrion promised. "Jon has called a meeting for those with Valyrian swords. There are many capable warriors amongst them."
Still he understood the concern. There was no guarantee of Bran's life. Bran could not promise to survive. No one could. In the winter, nothing was guaranteed.
Jon
Jon had gathered as few people as possible to this meeting. He did not call the northern lords and Daenerys did not call most of her generals. They called together those with valyrian steel, along with a select few others who they trusted.
It was quite a gathering of people. Jon, Sam, Brienne and Jaime Lannister were all in possession of valyrian steel swords. Arya had a valyrian steel dagger. In addition to them, Jon had called Bran and Sansa, as well as Davos and Tormund Giantsbane. Bran had brought Meera Reed, though Jon did not know why. He chose not to question Bran most days. Daenerys had called Tyrion, Varys and Jorah.
They had their closest councilors and family. Plus those with the steel they needed. All and all, there were fourteen people crammed into the room, all with a history that made things dreadfully complicated.
Arya, for instance, would not look Jon in the eye. Since he had caught her trying to kill the Red woman, she avoided him whenever possible. He wanted to speak to her-ask her what happened-but she so clearly did not want to speak to him. She did keep glancing distrustfully at Jaime Lannister, a hand rested on her dagger. Most people did not trust Jaime, except perhaps Brienne and Tyrion who stood on either side of him. Jon did not know when Brienne had come to trust Jaime. Maybe she was just keeping him close to protect Arya and Sansa. Meanwhile, Tormund could not stop glancing at Brienne though she, as usual, did not look at him at all. Jorah looked at Daenerys much the same way, with both loyalty and longing. Bran did not look at anyone at all, vacant as ever. If he was concerned about offering himself as bait, he did not show it. Sansa was far more concerned when she relayed the plan to Jon. But they all knew it was necessary.
The room felt heavy with secrets and unspoken tension, and Jon was no exception to that rule. He kept looking to Daenerys, watching the hand rested on her stomach. That was a secret they would have to lay bare today. Their child...and Jon's name.
"Thank you for coming," Jon said at last. "You're all here for one of two reasons. Because we trust you or because we need you in the battle. Some of you are here for both. I have spoken with many of you about our next move. Today, we have it."
"Thank the gods for that," Tormund muttered, leaning against the table. "I thought we were going to sit here until the dead were upon us."
"We are not," Jon said. "This time, we are going to strike first. Last time we waited to meet them and they managed to trap us. We won't do the same this time. The army is more spread out than usual as it collects on the poor souls still north. They will be less defended."
"Bran and our scouts have given us an idea of their position," Daenerys pointed to the map. "The majority of the army has just crossed the Neck and is spread from the Twins to the Eyrie. In the next few days, we will ride to meet them and strike from as many sides as possible."
"They'll see us coming," Tyrion pointed out. "The Night King has similar powers to Bran."
"Yes, but they are in a narrow stretch of the country and they only move so fast," Jon said. "If we move quickly we can surround them from all sides."
"The dothraki would fair best here," Jorah pointed out. "They are fast and can circle the west flank of the army. Best they travel on the flatter ground."
"Agreed," Tormund said. "I can take the remainder of my wildling forces through the mountainous side and fuck them from behind. We know how to cover rocky ground."
"I was going to suggest the same," Jon said. "I will send some of the Northern commanders with you."
"Meanwhile, the Unsullied will attack straight on," Daenerys said. "They are strong soldiers and they won't flee at the sight of the dead. I have already spoken to Lord Edmuere and some of his Riverrun forces will join us. Another section of his forces will focus on evacuating civilians in the Riverlands."
"What about Lord Royce's forces?" Tyrion asked.
"Their focus is on protecting and evacuating the Vale of Arryn," Sansa said. "Lord Royce will oversee that. There are others who have held up in the Eyrie. It is supposed to be impregnable."
"Aye. By living people without a fear of heights," Davos said. "This is not an ordinary war. No one should be hiding anywhere. If the dead don't get them, the growing cold will."
Jon agreed with that, but at least most of the Vale would evacuate. What happened to those who chose to stay was his business now. Sansa continuously said that he could not blame himself for every lost life.
"What of the Lannister army?" Jaime asked. "I understand if you are reluctant to include them, but you need as many men as possible."
"The Lannister Army will guard our flank," Jon said. "It was your men who saved us from being trapped between two armies last time. They'll play the same role here. We'll make sure your soldiers are fitted with more dragon glass weapons for the fight."
Jaime nodded once. He knew as well as anyone that it was good to prepare for every eventuality in battle. A sneak attack had once landed him captive of Jon's brother Robb. That seemed like such a long time ago now.
"We know that the Army of the Dead wants to add to its numbers," Sansa said. "But the Night King will have other targets. The dragons are obvious. But last time, he also sent soldiers out separately to attack Bran. He sees Bran as a threat, so he might send several white walkers to kill him. The white walkers are our focus."
"They can be killed with Valyerian steel," Jon said. "And every time they are killed...a portion of the army drops. That means every white walker killed will reduce their power. That is why I called those with valyerian steel here today."
"You want us to kill the white walkers," Brienne said.
"As many as possible," Jon said. "Many of the white walkers will stay in the center of the army. I will target those from dragon back. It's the safest way to get to the center."
"You plan to ride a dragon?" Jaime asked. "Bold thing to try, Snow."
"Last time you tried, you fell out of the sky," Sansa pointed out.
"I did not have a saddle. I will this time. I will be going aloft on Drogon," Jon said.
Jorah looked to Daenerys. "My queen. Do you not intend to ride?"
Daenerys pressed her lips together and looked to Jon. He gave her a small nod. It was time to reveal the truth, at least to this room.
"What I say here must stay here," Daenerys said. "That is an order from your Queen."
A silence hung in the room. Everyone looked to her, waiting for the word.
"I am with child," Daenerys said at last. "I have been since before the last battle. This late in the pregnancy, I do not want to ride into battle. It could disturb the baby."
There was palpable shock in the room. Jon wondered who looked the most surprised. Perhaps Ser Jorah. Maybe Jon's sisters. Or maybe Sam who looked nervously between the two of them. Varys and Tyrion already knew, but to most everyone, this was a deeply unexpected development.
"I've only arrived recently," Jaime broke the silence, looking to Jon. "But I'm going to assume the father is you."
"You assume correctly, ser," Jon said. "When the war is over we will make the child and our vows legitimate. But there is not time for that now."
The shock of the initial news began to fade, but Jon knew he had one more thing to say. "There is something else. I know I must be honest with all of you if I am asking you to fight and die by my side." He glanced at Jaime. "You asked if I intended to ride a dragon. I understand you think that's a foolish idea. It would be if I was merely a Stark."
Sansa shifted. Everyone who knew Jon's second secret shifted. They knew exactly what he was about to say and looked to see reactions around the room. Arya especially became tense. She was preparing for someone to turn on Jon when he spoke.
"But I am not only a Stark," Jon said. "My mother was Lyanna Stark of Winterfell. My father...was Rhaegar Targaryen. They were married before he left for the battle of the Trident and she died giving birth to me. My true name is Aegon Targaryen."
The effect on the room was palpable. A murmur rose throughout. If the first news had not bewildered Tyrion the second news clearly did. "That's an interesting secret to keep for so long."
"A necessary one," Daenerys said. "I myself only found out recently."
"So who did know?" Tyrion looked around. "Out of curiosity, who was aware of this development? Please. I would love to know."
Sam nervously raised his hand. "I...found it in a book."
"I found it in a vision," Bran said.
"Of course. Naturally," Tyrion said. "A book and a vision." He gestured to Varys. "And of course you knew because you just know things."
Varys shrugged but did not deny it.
"I understand your frustrations, Lord Tyrion," Jon said. "This has been difficult information to process."
"Seven hells," Jaime looked absolutely amazed. "All this time, Ned Stark was hiding you, a Targaryen, as a bastard. I didn't know he could keep secrets at all." He laughed once. "It's amazing really. If Robert Baratheon knew about you, he would have killed you in an instant. So Lord Stark took your name to the grave. What does that make you to the Dragon Queen, I wonder?"
"Nothing you can criticize, Kingslayer," Davos said flatly, always quick to jump to Jon's defense. Also, given the likely accurate rumors about Jaime and his sister, he was right.
"I wasn't criticizing," Jaime said. "Just curious."
"If he is Rhaegar's son, that makes Daenerys his Aunt, technically," Sam spoke up. "Though it's hardly the closest Targaryen relationship in history."
"No, hardly. But I see why you did not want most of the Northern lords to know," Jaime said. "They might turn on you."
"If any one of them did, it would be treason," Arya said coldly. It was the first time she had spoken thus far. "And I would deal with them like I did with Littlefinger."
"He's dead too?" Jaime raised an eyebrow. "This is a day of many surprises."
"I'm aware that this is a shock," Daenerys spoke up. "And that some of you are upset not to be told sooner. We did not want this news to shift our priorities. If you have any further issues, you can take it up with both of us later."
The steel in her tone rendered everybody silent again.
"Good," Jon said. "Now, back to the matter at hand. I will ride Drogon into battle. We will need someone else with a Valyrian steel blade on the ground, taking advantage of the paths his fire creates."
Sam raised his hand slightly. "I would volunteer if I had any sort of skill with a blade. But it never was my strong suit and I am not too proud to admit it. My sword should go to someone who is a stronger warrior."
"If that is the case, then I have a suggestion," Daenerys said. "Ser Jorah. I would like you take it."
"My Queen?" Jorah looked up at her. He had gone very silent at the news of Daenerys' pregnancy. Jon knew well enough that he loved her.
"You've defended me for many years, ser. I know your skill. I would see you with that blade," Daenerys said.
Slowly, Jorah nodded and Sam handed over his sword. "I will be careful with this," he promised. "I know it is a priceless family heirloom."
"No matter. Most of my family never liked me," Sam said with a small smile.
"If we are speaking of passing swords," another voice spoke up. "I have a sword to offer as well."
Jon turned to see Meera Reed stepping out from behind Bran's chair. She presented a sword from her belt and lay it on the table. It looked very old but when she drew it from its sheath, Jon saw that the blade was untarnished valyrian steel.
"I did not know the Reeds had a valyrian steel sword," Jon said.
"We don't," Meera said. "I picked up this sword inside of a weirwood tree in the very far North. The Bloodraven was its last owner. But according to Bran it had many owners before that. The first was Visenya Targaryen."
"Dark sister." Arya's eyes widened with an almost childlike delight. It had been a very long time since Jon saw that look on her face. "That's Dark Sister?"
"It is," Bran said.
Meera looked up at Daenerys. "It is your ancestral sword. It's only fair that I offer it to you."
Daenerys appeared touched by the gesture. Her fingers grazed the steel very lightly, running over the flat of the blade. "Thank you, Lady Meera, for your kind offer. I am afraid that I do not have a skilled hand to wield it. Not yet at least." She looked up at Meera. "Do you have skill with a blade?"
"Yes, your grace" Meera said.
"Then use it in my stead during this battle," Daenerys said. "Use it to defend Bran Stark. You may return it to me when the war is done."
Meera nodded once and returned the sword to her belt.
"We will need others to protect Bran," Jon said. "If his suspicions are correct, multiple white walkers will come after him. He will be placed at a short distance from the battlefield at the high ground. Those guarding him should stay close, but not so close that we make our play obvious."
"I'll protect him," Arya vowed. "I've killed one white walker already. I'll do it again."
"I will fight nearby as well," Brienne said. "In case Arya is in need of assistance. I swore an oath to Catelyn Stark that I would protect her daughters, and Sansa will be well away from the fight."
Arya did not protest and Jon felt secretly relieved. He would feel much better about sending his sister into battle if she had a companion and Brienne had proven herself a formidable warrior.
"I'll fight there as well," Jaime Lannister said. This was a volunteer that surprised Jon and he did not know what to say for a moment. "It's better for me to be away from the thick of the fighting anyway. I'm one handed now, and less adept at fighting off a swarm. I can help repel a small force more effectively."
"And you'll protect my brother?" Jon asked.
"Yes. I assumed that was part of it." Jaime glanced at Bran. "Tell me, Bran, is there is a future where I stab you in the back."
"No," Bran answered calmly. "There is not."
"Then I suppose there isn't a problem," Jaime said.
Jon exhaled. "My apologies, ser. I do not mean to doubt your honor."
"You don't mean to, but you do," Jaime said. "Don't apologize for it, I understand. Starks and Lannisters have a bad history. Targaryens and Lannisters have a bad history too."
"Perhaps we will rewrite that history," Jon said. He turned back to the others. "Four valyrian steel blades should be enough to keep the White Walkers at bay. The dragons and the obsidian weapons will do damage against the rest of the army. We have more weapons pouring into Riverrun as we speak."
"I will be leading those who do not fight south," Sansa said. "We will regroup at Harrenhal. We can't go much further before hitting King's Landing, and we can't provoke Cersei just yet."
"That's not as far a trip south as last time," Tyrion pointed out. "The remaining dead will be close behind."
"Then I suppose we must hope that your sister sees them and has a change of heart," Varys said. His tone of voice did not sound hopeful.
"Of course. Cersei so often changes her heart," Tyrion said.
"Do the dead often rise?" Varys asked.
"A fair point but still," Tyrion said. "We will have to find a way into King's Landing one way or another. Or else millions will die in the Red Keep and the army will become insurmountable."
"I'll leave that to you to plan when you retreat to Harrenhal, Lord Tyrion," Daenerys said.
Tyrion nodded once. "I am familiar with King's Landing. I think I can make a proper plan to find my way inside."
"The official war council will take place tomorrow. Then I will speak with all of the army commanders," Jon said. "Remember...what you heard today about the child and my name must not leave this room. If it does, I will know not to trust all of you here, and I will find the traitor."
The room emptied out then, slowly but surely. Brienne left with Jaime and Tormund followed shortly behind her. Jorah drifting from the room, still looking rather dazed. Others had the same vacant expressions. But Jon still had one person he had to talk to.
He crossed the room and blocked Arya's exit before she could get away. "Arya."
Her face was a mask as she looked up at him. "Jon."
She tried to slip under his arm but he caught her shoulder. "Please, do not run from me," Jon said. "Two days ago...what happened? You were wearing another face."
"It's not your concern," Arya said. "Really, Jon. You have too many other worries on your mind."
"My concern is first and foremost for my family," Jon said. "What happened?"
Arya's jaw tightened. "We've all done terrible things to survive since we first left Winterfell. It's the only reason we lasted this long. When people are too good, this world destroys them. We all had to remake ourselves."
Yes, we did, Jon thought. He had done plenty of terrible things. He had killed more people now than he could count but he always tried to choose the honorable option. It had gotten him killed, just like their father.
Arya was twelve when she left Winterfell. She was in King's Landing when their father was killed. What must she have done to survive this long?
"It doesn't matter what you did, Arya," Jon said at last. "You're my sister. It doesn't matter."
"Then don't ask," Arya stepped away from him again. "I've had a lot of names in these past years. I want you to know me by Arya. Nothing more." Without another word, she slipped around him and left. He let her go.
Jon stood still in the middle of the room for a long while, staring at the map still laid out across the table. He felt guilty again, for so many reasons. He felt guilty that while Sansa and Arya were fighting to live, he was far away in the North, unable to help them. He felt guilty that Bran had been in the north with him and he hadn't even known it. He felt guilty for the lives already lost to this war and the lives that would be lost in the future.
"It's not your fault," Bran said softly.
Jon whirled around. He hadn't realized that Bran was still in the room, sitting in his chair, staring at the wall.
"I want you to know Jon, that none of this is your fault. Not the past, present or future," he continued. "We all chose to walk our own path and it led us here. There's nothing that you could have done to disrupt it."
"No," Jon murmured. "I wish I had tried."
"You always do," Bran said. "And you will always will. I can see that much."
"Really," Jon said. "Can you see...if we'll ever be like we were again? The four of us that are left...can we ever go back?"
"No," Bran said. "But we go forward as far as we can. That's something."
Jon traced his hand over the map-and the grounds of the battle soon to come. Yes. It was something.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed the VERY long chapter. If you did, be sure to review! The second battle is fast approaching. Until next time, happy reading
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: New chapter! This is the last chapter before we get into the second battle. It's also shockingly long cause I wanted to play with several character interactions so...enjoy!

Chapter 17: Just Before Battle

Sansa


Sansa stayed busy to keep worry at bay. There was much to do after all. She was in charge of organizing the march South to Harrenhal. There was much to decide. Who did they send first and how many supplies could they spare? How many soldiers would they need in case Cersei got word of them coming? How many weapons could they spare? Would there be room enough at Harrenhal, and how could she keep superstitious people from fretting over so called 'ghosts'?

But still, those concerns were relaxing compared to the real fears in Sansa's heart. She feared for Jon who would ride into battle on a dragon. She feared for Bran, using himself as bait. She feared for Arya who would be fighting white walkers to protect him.

Any one of them could die. All of them could die. Then Sansa would be left alone, the last Stark in the dark of winter.

The very thought made her shiver. She had been alone for so long. She did not want to go back to that awful existence.

As Sansa moved through the courtyard toward the raven's tower, she stopped at the clang of swords off to one side. Two men were locked in a sparring match while the third watched. Sansa recognized the fighters as the Hound and Tormund Giantsbane. The watcher was Jorah Mormont.

Ser Jorah was somber as usual, focused on cleaning the Valyrian steel blade loaned to him by Samwell. The Hound, likewise, had a serious face, but he rarely ever smiled. Tormund, on the other hand, seemed to be having a grand time.

"You're fast for a big fucker," Tormund said, swinging his sword in an arc over his head. The Hound deflected the blow with a flick of his wrist.

"You're not bad for such a tiny fucker yourself."

"I'm not small. You're just part giant."

"Am I?"

"Aye. But they call me Giantsbane for a reason."

Sansa found herself pausing to watch the fight. They were both capable swordsmen and warriors, but in her mind she knew that one or both of them could die in the war to come.

Tormund broke away from his clash with the Hound and pointed his sword at Jorah. "What about you Mormont? I know how your father fought but I've never fought against you. Stand up."

Jorah looked up at him. "Do you think I will be an easier target than Clegane?"

"Well, you're a fair bit shorter." Tormund grinned. "But you have a pretty new sword. I want to see how it sings."

Jorah inclined his head and rose to take up the challenge. "Very well. I need to practice swinging it."

The Hound stepped away from the fight. He glanced to the side and noticed Sansa watching. He hovered there for a moment, indecisive, before he approached her.

"I'm sure you have more important things to do than watch us play at fighting, little bird."

"You're not really playing, are you?" Sansa said. "In a few days, you'll be fighting for real."

"Aye. That's why we are playing. To get our minds off of it," the Hound said.

"Then perhaps I'm watching for the same reason," Sansa said.

"Really," the Hound said. "You never seemed to like violence much, little bird. Even tournament violence. I saw you flinch every time a man fell from his horse."

"That was a long time ago," Sansa said. "I've seen much more violence since then." Tormund and Jorah crossed swords again with a loud clang that rang throughout the whole courtyard. "Fights like this...I don't mind them anymore."

The Hound grunted in acknowledgement. "You go south soon, don't you?"

"Yes," Sansa said. "To Harrenhal."

"Be careful when you do. Cersei has many soldiers and they'll fight dirty. They'll attack citizens if she sees a benefit."

"They will," Sansa said. "But for now, Cersei will save her strength. She will let us fight the Army of the Dead for as long as possible. Then, when we are weak, she will strike. We're not weak yet."

"Might be soon," the Hound said.

"Perhaps," Sansa agreed.

"Well, well," a voice came from their right. A man that Sansa vaguely recognized was approaching them. She had seen him often around Tyrion during her time in King's Landing.

"Ser...Bronn, was it?" she said.

"Aye. It was. Still is." Bronn looked up at the Hound. "Funny seeing you here. You disappeared after the Battle of Blackwater and I thought you might be dead."

"I was for a while," the Hound muttered. "You lived."

"I did, didn't I?" Bronn said. "You know, I remember the two of us about to fight before that damn siege interrupted us."

"Lucky for you," the Hound replied.

"Lucky? I wanted to see what you were made of," Bronn said. "Maybe we could try it again now."

"I hardly think killing each other before a battle like this is a wise move, sers," Sansa said. "You're both good with a sword. Save it for the dead."

"Well I'm not gonna kill him, am I? Just spar a little. Like those two." Bronn nodded toward Tormund and Jorah as he drew his sword. "We need to keep our skills sharp."

"Aye." The Hound drew his sword. "You don't have to watch if you don't want to, little bird."

Sansa exhaled. Across the courtyard, Tormund and Jorah split apart for a break just as the Hound and Bronn began to spar. The Hound was big and quick but Bronn was even quicker and he had a way of ducking around his strikes, dancing all around the courtyard. Those who passed by stop to watch for a moment. Sansa knew she should leave them to this nonsense...but she didn't. She stood and watched.

In the back of her mind, a thought lingered. Of these four men, battling in the courtyard, at least two would likely die in the battle to come. Which of them would it be? Ser Jorah, one of the closest councilors to Daenerys? Tormund, one of the closest councilors to Jon? Ser Bronn and his always casual smirk? The Hound and his great height and strength? Two could die. Or three. Or four.

They could all live, but that seemed rather unlikely.

Across the way, she caught sight of Brienne walking toward her. Jaime Lannister walked at her side. They seemed to be with each other quite often since he had arrived, but she did not question it. At one point or another, they had travelled together. A lot had happened since then and there must be many stories to tell.

Brienne gave Sansa a brief bow as she stopped before her, then handed off a note. "From the spider. A raven arrived this morning and he bid me give this to you. Necessary information as you journey further south."

"Necessary information?" Sansa took the scroll.

"If I had to guess, it is likely word of the Golden Company," Jaime said. "Cersei sent Euron Greyjoy out to find them. It's possible that they have arrived."

Sansa's jaw clenched. "If the Golden Company is as large or as formidable as I've heard we will not be able to break past them."

"No, Lady Stark. You won't," Jaime said. "You will have to find another way. Talk to my brother about it. He's good at strategies like that."

"I will. Thank you." Sansa slipped the scroll into the folds of her dress.

Across the yard, Tormund and Jorah ceased fighting as Tormund noticed Brienne again and Jorah nearly knocked him over the head. A grin came onto Tormund's face, a bold expression of a man about to do something stupid.

"Tarth!" Tormund called out. "Come to spar with the rest of us."

"I came to deliver a message to my lady," Brienne said flatly. "Nothing more."

"Battle is coming soon," Tormund said. "And it's battle in the cold too. It wouldn't hurt to keep your skills sharp and your blood pumping." He turned his sword in his hand. "Why don't we make a wager?"

"What kind of wager?" Brienne asked.

"We fight. Winner gets a request." There was a sparkle of mischief in Tormund's eyes and anyone could see it. Brienne looked quite uncomfortable under Tormund's gaze, but she seemed to consider it.

Wordlessly, she glanced at Jaime. He shrugged and stepped back a bit to stand beside Sansa. She tried to read the silent communication between them but could not see it.

"Fine," Brienne said. "I'll take that wager."

The Hound laughed once as he broke away from his fight to watch. "This won't go well for him."

"No," Jaime agreed. "I've seen that look before. He has no idea."

Indeed, Tormund seemed rather pleased with himself for creating this wager. But Sansa had seen Brienne fight, and she knew well enough that few people could match her. If even warriors like Jaime Lannister and Sandor Clegane agreed, she must be a force to be reckoned with.

Brienne and Tormund circled each other-him with a grin on his face and her with an expression of utter determination. They waited to see who would make the first move. Unsurprisingly, Tormund did. He lunged, putting all of his strength into a blow. She blocked him with a loud clang and forced him back with a quick stab of her sword. Again he came at her, and she did the same, batting his strokes away. She deflected him and kept him at a distance but did not yet attack him.

"Idiot," the Hound muttered. "He's giving her everything. By the time she attacks she'll know his whole move set."

"Well, if he was bright, he would not have challenged her in the first place," Jaime said.

"Makes it fun though," Bronn had joined them to watch. He looked up at the Hound. "Amazing how giants like you two can move so fast. Is your brother the same?"

"Yes. And one hundred times meaner," the Hound muttered.

Tormund broke away from Brienne again, his breathing a bit more labored. She had not tired herself at all. "You won't win if you spend all day blocking me."

"I didn't intend to," Brienne said evenly. She let Tormund lunge at her again. This time when she beat him back, she took a few steps forward, forcing him backwards. He attacked again and she did the same. At the beginning of the fight she had been a mountain, standing strong against the advances of a bear. Now the mountain moved and beat Tormund back. Every swing of her sword seemed to rattle his and his arm. He seemed to realize his position as she pressed forward and tried to circle around her. She did not allow that.

Beside Sansa, Jaime was smirking. So was the Hound. They must have both fought Brienne before and they knew her tactics. Sansa could not help but smile herself. Brienne was a true knight even if she did not have the title and she did like to see true knights triumph.

Soon, Tormund found himself up against a wall and the next time he tried to get around, Brienne kicked him in the back of the leg, hard. He sprawled on the ground and she pressed her foot over his chest before he could get up, leveling her sword with his throat.

"Yield," she demanded.

Tormund released his sword. "All right. Yield."

Brienne gave a satisfied nod and stepped off of him. Then she walked away, back toward the others.

"Tarth," Tormund stood to his feet. "You won a request."

Brienne looked back at him. "I want nothing from you." She turned back to Sansa and gave her a nod. "My lady." Then she left without another word. Jaime followed shortly afterward.

"You're right," the Hound said as Tormund came over. "I do see the way she looks at you."

"Shut your mouth," Tormund said.

"Don't feel bad, mate," Bronn said. "You were just too late. She's had it bad for Jaime Lannister for years. And he just came around and realized he had it bad for her too."

"That blonde fucker?" Tormund grumbled. "I could fight him."

"You could try," Sansa found herself saying. "And Brienne would likely knock you to the dirt again."

Tormund sighed. "Well at least I got to fight her. She's amazing."

She was, Sansa had to agree. Yet even she could die in the battle to come, and rise again with the dead. It was depressing to think of, but Sansa had learned a long time ago that no one was immortal. Not even if you admired them, cared for them, loved them.

Anyone could be killed.

Sansa read over the scroll from Varys several times that day, but she read it again as she sat in the dead garden of the Riverrun keep interior. It detailed the numbers of the Golden Company, and the numbers of Cersei's over all forces. It spoke of a heavily defended King's Landing. Not only would it be foolish to fight Cersei, it would be difficult to sneak in. To make matters worse, it seemed she had also set traps of wildfire in the fields in front of King's Landing. These traps were a danger even to civilians seeking shelter. She clearly did not care who she killed as long as she lived and remained in power.

Yet somehow, this was a comfort to Sansa. It showed her that Cersei was nervous...perhaps even afraid. She was showing her weakness in her desperation and as long as there was weakness, they had hope. She was human, unlike their other opponents. And in the ink on the scroll, Sansa saw Cersei's foundation beginning to crack.

Still, she would have to plan with Tyrion to find a good method of approach. They both knew Cersei well and in different ways. She saw both of them as a threat, which was also a rather comforting idea.

Across the gardens, she heard a growl and the screams of a few women who had not yet evacuated. Sansa rose immediately, expecting to see a large dog out of its kennel. Instead she saw a giant wolf barring its fangs at the ladies. Arya's wolf.

"Nymeria." Sansa raised her voice, striding toward the wolf. "Stop that at once. They aren't a threat to you."

Surprisingly, Nymeria stopped barring her fangs, though she kept her head low. Sansa looked to the women. "Go on. It's fine. You should finish packing your things. You'll have to leave soon with the others."

The women nodded and hurried off. Sansa sighed and looked back to the wolf.

"You always were a trouble maker, just like Arya. You got all of her wildness." She tilted her head to the side. "You know, you're the reason why I lost my Lady? She was punished in your stead while you ran off and left her alone. She was your sister. You should have stayed."

Nymeria did not reply. She just stared back with intelligent eyes.

"No...I suppose you would have died then," Sansa murmured. "It wasn't your fault really. It was Cersei. It was always Cersei. You were smart to leave and get away as fast as you could. Now you're one of the only wolves left. You and Ghost." She hadn't seen her brother's wolf in some time. He always seemed to be off somewhere, more so since the dragons came. Perhaps he did not like the dragons.

Absently, Sansa reached out toward Nymeria. For a moment the wolf flinched and barred her teeth again.

"It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you," Sansa said. "A Stark would never harm a direwolf." She continued to reach out and Nymeria let her. Sansa exhaled as she rested her hand on Nymeria's thick fur. "You're so soft. Lady was soft too." She stroked Nymeria's fur. "I still miss her often. She was so young and sweet."

Nymeria did not reply, but she did not growl either. She didn't seem to mind being pet all that much.

"You'll protect Arya, won't you?" Sansa asked. "I know she does not need it. She's grown so strong and fierce like you. But even strong people die. I need you to protect her. She's very dear to me. I do not want to bury her."

"You won't have to bury me." Arya stepped out from behind Nymeria, resting her hand on one of her great shoulders. "I've faced much better fighters than these dead men. When the battle is over, I'll meet you at Harrenhal."

"I know," Sansa said.

"You don't sound sure," Arya said.

"Well it's hard to be optimistic for my family," Sansa said. "I thought for sure you were dead once. I thought everyone was dead but me."

"We're not." Arya crossed to Sansa, putting a hand on her arm. "I'll make sure the rest of us make it through. You and Jon and Bran. And me. We're going to see the spring again. I'll kill anyone who tries to stop that."

Sansa nodded once. At least one of them could be confident. She leaned forward, drawing Arya into a tight hug.

Please, she prayed to the Old Gods and the New who she had not talked to in a very long time. See that my family lives. I'll ask for nothing else my whole life. Just see that they live.

The gods did not respond, and if they did, their voices were drowned out by the cold wind rustling through the dead branches of the garden.

Two days later, in the early morning, Sansa said goodbye to her family. She hugged Arya tightly and made her promise to strike true with her dagger. She wrapped her arms around Bran and wished him all of the best in the battle. She embraced Jon, and warned him not to fall from his dragon in combat. She asked for all of them to meet her at Harrenhal as soon as they could.

The people of Riverrun split in half that day. Half went south with Sansa, Tyrion and the now visibly pregnant Daenerys. Half rode north to meet the army of the dead, with dragons flying overhead.

Daenerys looked just as reluctant to part with her dragons and with Jon. In this world, those who could not fight with swords often had to wait.

And hope that the fighters would survive.

Cersei

Cersei asked Euron to dine in her chambers which he gladly accepted. He seemed quite content since they were married. It was a very quiet ceremony, carried out by Qyburn and witnessed by no one else. But still news would reach Jaime at some point or another. She fantasized often about that fact. She liked to imagine the shock and anger on his face. It made her happy to think of his face twisted in jealousy.

But she had no real fondness for Euron himself. He was a means to an end for her and it seemed increasingly like she did not need him. She had Yara in King's Landing after all so she could still control the iron born. Even if she couldn't, the Golden Company came with ships. Why not just get rid of Euron now?

That was why she had invited him to dinner. Euron had given her the exact poison that she needed. Just a few drops of the tears of lyse would kill him before he knew it. Then she would not have to worry about him anymore.

It occurred to her that maybe she should keep him alive a little longer if only to further stir up Jaime in jealousy. But then, just knowing that Cersei had slept with Euron and been married to him for a month would absolutely tear at him.

Euron was in high spirits as the maid handed him his glass of wine. The maid was one of Cersei's trusted ears in the capitol and she had poisoned his cup. Cersei tried not to look to intently at it as she took a sip of her own wine. She could not give him hint to our plans.

"The Wildfire traps are complete and working," Euron was saying. "A little band of refugees accidentally ran over one of them when they traveled off of the King's road, too close to King's Landing. Bad luck for them, but a good test."

"Yes, that's all very well," Cersei said. "The city can't fit many more refugees. This will warn them to go somewhere else."

"Yes." Euron swirled his wine in his cup. He hadn't sipped yet. Cersei clenched her hands under the table, keeping her expression stone. "Word has it that the armies in the North are about to engage the dead again. Some of them are retreating to Harrenhal."

"I heard as much," Cersei said tightly.

"Shall we meet them there?" Euron said. "There won't be soldiers. We could send the Golden Company out to...welcome them." He kept swirling his glass. A few drops escaped the rim, dripping onto the wood of the table.

Drink you fool, she thought. Drink. Just drink.

"My Queen?" Euron raised an eyebrow.

"...No," Cersei said. "No I don't think so. We should keep the Golden Company close for now. The dead could take care of them for us. Then we can repel them with the wild fire. Or the dead won't take care of them and we'll pick off their wounded armies."

"The dragons will be the biggest problem. But I have capable archers. One good shot will take the beasts from the sky," Euron said. He did not drink. For a man who talked too much he did not seem to have much thirst.

"Yes, I believe you," Cersei said. "I'm sure Strickland has many men who can do the same job."

"Undoubtedly." Euron flashed a grin and set his glass down. It took everything in Cersei not to stare at it. Not one sip taken. "I can speak with him on your behalf. I am after all the one who made the contract with them."

"You made the contract for me," Cersei said.

"Yes of course. Because I am loyal to you," Euron smiled at her. There was something smug about that smile. She wanted to cut it off of his face. "And they are loyal as well. They never break the terms of a contract. I hope your relationship will be the same."

Cersei's jaw tightened. "It will. Obviously."

"Obviously," Euron repeated. "As long as your vows are true, then the Golden Company will remain loyal to you forever, my Queen."

Cersei stared at him. What in the seven hells was he implying? "Their contract is with me."

"Is it?" Euron's eyes gleamed. "Have you read it?"

Cersei gripped her wine glass. "They won't get paid without the Iron Banks money and that money belongs to the crown."

"I already have paid them," Euron said. "On your behalf, of course."

She stood abruptly, her chair scraping back. Euron did not move. He looked up at her with the same smug smile. She understood then exactly what he must have done. He made the contract in his own name and paid the Golden Company. If the Golden Company's contract was to him...

"What do you want?" She muttered.

"I already told you. I wanted to marry a queen. I got my wish." Euron stood. "As long as I keep getting my wish, there will be no issue at all."

"There must be something else," Cersei said.

"Not really." Euron picked up his wine glass. "You're terribly paranoid you know. Not everyone is trying to betray you."

"You think this is not a betrayal?" Cersei spit through her teeth.

Euron shrugged. "It's not. As long as I'm alive the Golden Company will listen to your orders without question. So will my fleet. As long as I'm alive, everything will be as you want it and more. This is not a betrayal, unless you betray me. I'm not trying to poison you." He lifted his cup. Cersei felt white hot hatred burn through her. He knew. He had known from the beginning. She had underestimated him.

"You know, you're very clever," Euron said. "Clever, beautiful, ruthless. All wonderful qualities in a ruler. I've heard people call you your father's daughter." He stepped toward her. "But there is a different between the two of you. Do you know what it is?"

Cersei did not reply.

"You're a terrible liar," Euron said. "After all you've done, you can't expect anyone to trust you or enter a deal with you without some sort of collateral. No one is safe around you. You've killed your own family. Bold move but it exposed you, my Queen. The world sees through you now like...a wine glass." He tipped his cup to the side letting the drink spill onto the ground between them. Red spread quickly across the stone floor. "Everyone knows exactly what's inside of you. So no matter how clever you are...you'll never have anyone's trust." He grinned. "Which is fine with me. I don't have anyone's trust either. It's why we make a good pair."

"You'll pay for this," Cersei vowed. "I promise you."

"Maybe," Euron said. "But if I pay...so will you." He let the glass slip through his fingers and shatter on the floor. Then he left the room, a little bounce in his step.

Cersei gripped the back of her chair, cursing herself to all of the seven hells. She had been so focused on Jaime's betrayal and her many other threats that she had not seen what Euron was doing. He was putting himself in a position where she could not kill him. She needed his soldiers. She needed him.

Until the war was done and maybe even after, she would be stuck with Euron Greyjoy. He had positioned himself perfectly.

How was it possible that she could sit on the iron throne and still feel helpless?

A/N: Alright. Make sure you review, subscribe and all that good stuff, because next time we have the first of THREE chapters for the second battle. We all know how much I love writing fight scenes (they are a pain), so it should be a blast. Until then, happy reading!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Time for the dreaded battle *deep breath* Here we go. Enjoy!

Chapter 18: Strong Hearts

Jon


The army rode north and Jon flew above them. He grasped tightly onto the seat built into Drogon's armor. Drogon had only let Daenerys put it on him before she left. Jon was a Targaryen perhaps and Drogon did seem to like him, but Daenerys was his mother first.

"This will keep you safe," she murmured. "You'll return to me when this battle is over."

Drogon seemed to understand. Perhaps it was true what they said about dragons being as intelligent as humans.

Now, Jon road atop a great beast of legend-the symbol of his father's house. His Targaryen name was becoming more real to him now. How could it not as he flew so high above the army. Every great beat of Drogon's wings sent a flutter through this heart.

This is like the great tales, he thought. This is like a song and I am at the center of it.

He peered over Drogon's shoulder, down at the armies below. The Unsullied and armies of Riverrun marched together, with the Lannister men shortly behind them. The Dothraki had already peeled off to the West and the wildlings and north men made their way toward the mountains. And in the distance...he could see them.

From this distance, the armies of the dead appeared like a fine mist creeping over the horizon. But the closer they drew, Jon saw their expanse. They had replenished their army. A few dead white walkers had not slowed them down. The ones that remained simply created more soldiers to replace them. Jon wondered how many of the new dead were northmen who had died fighting for them. Or northmen who had not escaped.

Anger burned through Jon, a white hot knife in his chest. Beneath him, Drogon seemed to rumble in preparation for the fight. He surged forward, flying ahead of the army and toward that of the dead. Rhaegal followed, keeping pace behind his older brother. Jon felt his stomach lift and drop as the ground rushed beneath him, and Drogon dove for the first time. The dragon's body warmed beneath him. He opened his great maw. And he reigned fire down upon the dead.

It was beautiful to watch. The two dragons breathed a cross of fire through the dead, burning them up like fragile kindling. Then they swooped around, dipping back toward the ground and continued their attack. It was one of the most elating feelings in the entire world. He felt nearly invincible.

Of course, that was a dreadful mistake in battle.

Something whistled through the air and Jon just barely ducked away from a great spear of ice. It flew so close to his face that it nearly cut his ear off. He gasped for breath, looking down, trying to see where the spear had come from. The Night King. Where was the Night King? He couldn't tell from this high up.

A screech echoed from below, and Jon gripped onto Drogon's armor. "Higher. Move higher."

Drogon did just as the Wight dragon released a jet of blue fire from below. The heat still blasted Jon and he closed his eyes tight as Drogon swooped away. The wight dragon was still as much of a threat on the ground. He could easily knock Drogon or Rhaegal from the sky if they weren't careful.

As Drogon circled again, Jon caught sight of his own army charging. They had reached the line of the dead and pressed forward, armed to the teeth with dragon glass weapons. Off to the west, a line of dothraki circled around from behind, too fast for the dead to predict. Tormund and his wildlings had made their way up the mountain, placing themselves above the majority of the army.

Now, Jon had to focus on killing white walkers, and if he could-the dragon.

Again, Drogon swooped down upon the dead, blasting holes through their ranks with fire. He was headed once again toward Viseron, as if reading Jon's thoughts. Jon drew his sword as they dove, ready to combat any attack.

Viseron shot more blue fire their way and Drogon swerved, throwing Jon a bit off balance. At that same moment, another spear flew through the air, tearing through Drogon's wing.

The dragon screeched and began to plummet. Jon's stomach leapt into his throat and he clung on tightly, preparing to jump. Just before Drogon landed he leapt from his back, rolling across the ground and landing in a crouch. He still had a grip on his sword though he had lost his breath. He looked up-and found himself staring into the undead dragon's blue eyes.

Jon had stared death in the face many times-and even passed into its shadow-but never had it slowed time for him so completely. The creature's pale, bloodstained maw opened and Jon felt the breath of winter hitting him. His grip tightened on his sword as he waited for the blue fire to engulf him.

Then Drogon leapt over his head, slamming into Viseron. The undead dragon tumbled back to avoid the larger creature's snapping jaws. It retreated up a high hill and Drogon followed, breathing vicious fire at its once siblings. Viseron returned the blows and their fire met in a flurry of orange and blue.

Jon heard a sound like the cracking of ice behind him. He swung around just in time to block the blow of a white walker. Not the Night King, but still something. With a yell he threw the white walker back, beating down upon it with long claw until he sliced it's head off with the valyrian steel blade. Around him, some of the wights crumpled and fell. But not enough. Jon would be in trouble very soon if he could not escape this place.

He looked around for Drogon again. The dragon had already moved too far away from him in pursuit of it's undead brother. They scrambled, flightless, over the hills, snapping at each other and whipping their tails back and forth. Jon did not see the Night King on Viseron's back, so where was he? Where was he hiding?

More wights came at him as he tried to move toward Drogon. Jon cut them down one by one, refusing to slow. He did not count the number of soldiers he felled. He had a goal in mind. Find the Night King. Kill the Night King.

But his situation was growing more perilous by the minute. Several of the wights had turned on him and were beginning to close from all sides. He could not fight from all sides but he could not escape without Drogon. Even then, he might not be able to escape. Would Drogon even be able to fly?

A wight leapt down on him from above, knocking Jon to the ground. He narrowly blocked its blade and head butted it, trying to knock it off. He caved in part of its ruined skull, but it barely seemed to notice. Jon gritted his teeth together, drawing a dragon glass dagger from his belt and spearing it through the eye.

He rolled the now dead creature off of him, ending up on his knees. A hoarde of wights ran toward him, eager to add him to the army.

A horse crashed through their ranks before they could, followed by a sword that sliced through their ranks like butter. Jon rose shakily as the figure circled around, leaping from his horse.

"Jon Snow," Jorah Mormont said. "Take my horse. You need to get to Drogon. Kill that undead dragon if you can."

"You could do the same," Jon said.

"Aye," Jorah agreed. "I could. But the dragon is more likely to accept your help than mine." He pressed the reigns into Jon's hand. "And you're more important than me. Now go."

Jon did not have time to argue. The wights were beginning to surround them again. Jorah turned, striking out at them with his valyrian steel blade. Jon swung up onto the horse and urged it forward.

This was a familiar sight to him. A familiar moment. Not long ago, his uncle had put him on a horse and bid him ride while he stayed behind and fought off the wights. His uncle had not survived that. And Ser Jorah...

Jon glanced over his shoulder. Through the crowd of wights he could not see the knight anymore. They had all closed in around him, blocking him from view.

Jon gritted his teeth and pressed on. He swiped the heads from the undead as he passed, moving toward the fighting dragons as quickly as he could. They had climbed one of the taller hills and stood high above the rest of the armies, breathing fire into the air, lighting up the grey sky. Jon had to flatten himself against his horse to avoid the swipe of Drogon's tail as he circled the hill and the horse squealed in fear.

Jon steeled himself and leapt from his steed, climbing up the side of the hill. He looked up just as Drogon nearly forced Viseron off of his perch. But before Viseron fell, the undead dragon's jaws snapped around the muscle of Drogon's injured wing, biting down hard. Blood gushed from the wound and Drogon shrieked in pain.

Jon cursed and pressed himself against the hill to avoid falling debris as Drogon's claws ripped into the earth. He bit down on Viseron's neck and the dragon released his hold. The two dragons were more easily matched now, and Jon did not know if he could get close enough to Viseron to kill him. He would more likely be crushed against the wait of their great bodies. But if he couldn't...

Drogon let out another pained sound, favoring his uninjured wing. Jon felt an ache in his chest for the creature. He thought of Daenerys, waiting for her child to come home. He could not come back without Drogon. He had to-

Another screech rang out, this time from overhead. Jon looked up in time to see Rhaegal dropping from the sky. He dug his talons into Viseron's body, pinning him to the ground before he could snap at Drogon again. He sank his teeth into Viseron's neck, latching on as hard as he could. There was a strange determination in the green dragon.

Bran, Jon thought. It must be.

Rhaegal's attack, was effective, and it allowed Drogon to get his bearings. With a surge of rage, Drogon lunged at Viseron again, tearing at his other wing. The undead dragon screeched and twisted.

Seeing his chance, Jon hauled himself the rest of the way up the hill. He ducked under Rhaegal's wing and Drogon's tale, drawing his sword again. He slammed against Viseron's great head and drove his sword deep into his eye.

For a long moment Viseron froze. Then, his great body went limp, and crumpled beneath Rhaegal's weight. Rhaegal dislodged his teeth from his neck, clicking his jaw a few times as he stared down at Viseron. Drogon's great chest heaved with pain and exhaustion as he too stared at his fallen brother. It was an almost mournful moment of silence between them, as their brother truly passed on.

Jon swallowed hard, drawing his blade from Viseron's eye and going to Drogon. The dragon flinched as Jon laid his hand beneath his wound. The muscle had been severed almost halfway through. Drogon would have to escape on foot.

"It will be all right," Jon murmured, climbing onto Drogon's back. "We'll get you out of here."

He urged Drogon forward, intent on getting him away from the undead army. Rhaegal took to the sky, creating a path by fire in front of Drogon to give them safe passage.

They were the last two dragons in the world and they had no choice but to take care of each other.

Brienne

They had placed Bran a little way's south of the battlefield, on a high hill with an excellent vantage point. Meera would stay by his side as the last line of defense. Arya would circle the top of the hill, along with her dire wolf, cutting off the approach of any white walkers. Jaime and Brienne were at the base of the hill, circling on horseback. They were the first line of defense. If all went well, the white walkers would not get past them. But of course, there were blind spots. Four people could only cover so much ground.

"If anyone gets in a bad position, scream," Brienne said. "Someone will be there quickly to help you."

"That means you especially," Jaime told Bran. "You see threats coming way before we do. Communication is important."

Bran nodded once but did not reply. His expression was particularly vacant today. Brienne could not help but wondering if he saw an unfavorable outcome in the future.

"No one will get past Nymeria and me," Arya said. "So you should not have to fight much, Meera. But be on guard."

"I always am," Meera said.

As the army advanced, they circled to get into their positions. Brienne and Jaime road to the foot of the hill, looking for any approaching threat.

"I'll circle around to the back," Brienne said. "I'm sure they will try to sneak up from behind."

"It's likely," Jaime said. "If you get into trouble, take your own advice. Call for help."

"Between the two of us, I think you're much more likely to get into trouble," Brienne pointed out.

"Oh, undoubtedly," Jaime said. "I've gotten much better with my left hand though. I'm not completely helpless."

"I know," Brienne said. She started to move her horse away but Jaime caught her reins and stopped her. "What is it?"

"Nothing," Jaime murmured. "Just...don't die, Brienne."

Brienne felt an ache pass through her chest as she looked back at him. Jaime's softer tones always made her weak, and here she heard such genuine concern. She swallowed hard and nodded. "I won't."

Then she spurred her horse away.

It was not in Brienne's nature to wait on the edge of the battle. She knew that protecting Bran Stark was vital, of course, but watching the two armies clash at a distance, she felt the urge to run to them and join the fight.

No white walkers had yet come for Bran, but they didn't have time to relax. An attack could come at any moment. Jaime circled the perimeter and Brienne periodically urged her horse up the hill to check with the others about what they saw.

"Anything yet?" Brienne asked.

"No," Arya said. "Only..." Her brow furrowed. "There is something over there."

Brienne followed her gaze. She saw a group of people running, but not toward the battle. Away. They were running away from wights.

"Deserters?" Meera asked.

"No," Brienne said. Even from this distance, she could hear them calling for help. Those were women and children. "Civilians. We should help them."

"We can't," Arya said. "We need to protect Bran."

"Let me go, with your permission, my lady," Brienne said. "I'll return as soon as I can. That group of wights is acting separately from the others. There may be a white walker with them."

Arya considered it. Then she nodded. "I'll be able to handle any attack for now. Go."

Brienne nodded and urged her horse into a gallop. Jaime passed her on the way down. "Where are you going?"

"Civilians. I'll be back," Brienne called out, not slowing for him. The wights were quickly gaining on their targets as they turned and ran up over the hills. Brienne was faster though. Her horse ran over the slowest of the wights as she reached them and she cut down the others with her sword.

"Help us," one of the women screamed. They had slid down the hill and huddled there, as if to hide from the wights. Brienne hopped off her horse and hurried down to them.

"It's alright," she said. "I'm here. You can take my horse and run if you need to. Head south." They didn't move. They stayed huddled where they were. "Please...you must hurry."

Suddenly, the women and children looked up at her, all with the same glowing blue eyes.

"Help us." They said in unison.

Brienne hissed and struck out with her sword at once, striking the heads off the wights. They were wights from the beginning...all along. Their white walker had spoken through them in order to attract some foolish soldier. Like her.

The hairs on the back of her neck rose as she sensed something behind her. Slowly, she turned and found herself staring at two White walkers.

Now she understood. This had been a trap set to lure her in. The Night King was playing a game of chess just like they were, and he wasn't just after Bran anymore. No, he had recognized the danger of the valyrian steel weapons. She imagined he wanted to recover them all, knowing that they could not be remade. He hoped to kill her here.

He would not find it so easy.

Brienne watched the two white walkers carefully as they circled her, gripping her sword and both hands. They both moved like practiced fighters. They did not lunge viciously like the wights without control. They were smart. But she would not attack first. They would have to come to her.

If she could learn how they moved, she could win.

Almost in unison the two creatures lunged at her, slicing from both sides she ducked and sidestepped the strokes, parrying a stab that followed shortly after. They worked together it seemed. It would be best if she could dispose of one as quickly as possible.

The first white walker lunged at her again, beating it's blade against hers while the other hung back. Brienne tried to keep an eye on the second as she retreated slightly. She couldn't let it get out of her sights or she would find it's blade in her back. She allowed the first white walker to press her away, putting distance between them and the second.

She ducked under another swipe and notched her sword into the white walker's belly. It croaked before falling to pieces around her. And as it turned to ice she found the other white walker right in her face. She barely managed to throw herself to the side. The white walker's blade cut through the male of her armor, slicing a deep wound across her shoulder. Brienne returned the favor by cutting its foot out from under it. As it fell she drove her sword up through its skull. It fell to nothing as well.

Gasping for breath, Brienne sat back on the snow. Warm blood trickled down her arm from the wound, but she could see the cut was clean. She gathered herself and stood, trudging toward the nearby hill to get a vantage point. When she reached the top, she gripped the trunk of the dead tree. All around, the dead clashed with the living, but a rather large group of wights moved along the sidelines at top speed, ignoring their other possible targets. They were heading for Bran.

They would not be able to fight so many alone. Jaime, Arya and Meera would buckle under the weight of so many foes. Brienne raced down the hill, swinging back onto horse and urging it forward into a gallop. She could cut off the army at least.

It was rather foolish-a lone soldier charging an army of wights. But Brienne had to do her part to protect the Starks, as she had promised their mother.

And Jaime. She had to protect him too...more for herself than anyone else.

Before Brienne could reach the army of the dead, several large boulders rained down from the adjacent hills, crushing the dead in their wake. And behind them-came soldiers. The Northmen and wildlings descended from the hills, crashing into the undead army from the side with their dragon glass spears. Tormund Giantsbane led the charge, swinging a dragon glass ax with both hands. One strike took out three wights at once.

"Tarth! Nice of you to keep their attention!" he called out when he noticed her. "Were you planning on killing all of them yourself?"

"Only most of them." Brienne cut through a wight that came charging at the front of her horse.

"Aren't you supposed to be killing White Walkers?" Tormund asked.

"I've killed two," Brienne said.

"Course you have. You really are something," Tormund said. "Say... Do you think-"

The wildling cut off abruptly as an arrow tip sprouted through his chest.

Brienne's jaw dropped and a choked sound of surprised left her as Tormund Giantsbane fell to his knees. She looked up, looking for the source-and found another white walker aiming a bow. With a snarl, Brienne urged her horse forward, charging at him gull speed. He aimed and fired. The arrow nicked her cheek but she did not slow. The second arrow hit her horse and sent the poor creature sprawling. She leapt from its back as she fell, bringing her sword down hard on the white walker's skull.

As it fell to dust, the soldiers all around her crumbled. The surviving Northmen and wildlings stopped to cheer at their victory. Another chunk of the dead army gone.

Brienne felt none of their joy. She stumbled back across the battlefield to where Tormund had fallen. He lay on his back, looking up at the sky. He was still breathing but the effort caused him to cough up blood. He looked up at her.

"Tarth...kill..." He retched again, spitting up blood. "Kill..."

Brienne understood. He wanted her to kill him. If she struck him with a valyrian steel sword, he would not rise with the dead. She let out a breath and raised her sword above his neck. He grinned and looked up at the cold, grey sky.

Brienne brought down her sword.

For a long while, Tormund Giantsbane had been an annoyance to her. But he was a skilled warrior with a strong heart. Those were sorely needed in this battle and he had fallen just like so many others. His death served as a cruel reminder of this war-there was no real victory. No matter what happened, there would be unfathomable loss before it was all over.

Brienne felt a pain in her side and was forced to sit as some of her adrenaline faded. She might have broken a rib when she fell earlier. It was minor. No doubt they would call the retreat soon.

She looked back to the hill. With any hope, her companions had survived. She hoped that her rescue mission had not doomed them.

Even with three white walker's dead...she could not feel triumph until the winter was over.

A/N: I'm not one hundred percent sure if white walkers can force wights to vocalize. But, let's call that creative license. It can't be that much more implausible than warging or raising the dead lol.

Hope you enjoyed the first battle chapter (and the first of the deaths, lol). See you next chapter for more battle and death!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Today's chapter is called 'Death' so...enjoy :)

Chapter 19: Death

Arya


As soon as Brienne left, Arya felt a shift in the air. A sudden chill in the wind. Perhaps it was only the knowledge that they had one less sword, but the hair on her arms and the back of her neck stood on end. She had good instincts for danger, honed in her years on the run and in Bravos. Without her sight, she had learned to sense danger without being able to see.

Nymeria too seemed nervous, pacing back and forth along the hill, her lips curled up over her teeth. Arya ran to one end of the hill, looking down at Jaime. "Do you see anything?"

"No. Do you?" Jaime asked.

"No," Arya said. "But I feel something." She went back to Bran kneeling beside him. "Bran, what do you see?"

Bran did not reply. His eyes were glazed over and his pupils hidden.

"He's warging," Meera said. "He can't hear you well when he's like this."

Arya cursed under her breath and stood again. She heard Nymeria growling quite loudly now and she hurried back to her side. Now her wolf was crouched, facing the forest. Arya squinted, studying the line of the trees.

Then she saw.

A group of creatures broke from the woods, running at top speed. A pack of wolves. But they did not move like a normal wolf pack. They moved like soldiers, on an attack.

"Wights," Arya muttered. She raised her voice. "Lannister! There are wolves. Undead ones."

"Of course there are." Jaime circled to the bottom of the hill, drawing his sword.

Nymeria's hackles rose as they drew closer. Arya wondered for a moment if any of these wolves came from her pack. She rested her hand on Nymeria's haunches.

"Go," she murmured.

Nymeria shot forward, flying past Jaime and tearing toward the wolves. She took down two with the weight of her great body, ripping into their decaying bodies. The others broke around her without even turning to look at their fallen companions. One leapt at Jaime and he sliced it out of the air with his sword. But most kept going. They were on a mission. They wanted Bran.

Arya flipped her dagger in her hand. They would not have him.

Five wolves approached her at top speed. She moved, quick as light, sweeping her hand in a wide arc to slice the throats of two. She turned at the same moment and seized the haunches of a wolf moving past her, leaping onto its back and driving her dagger into its eye. Meera stood ready to save the other two, cutting through both of them as they snapped their jaws at Bran's face. Their teeth brushed inches from his face before they crumbled.

Arya exhaled. That was too close. Her hand was trembling from the sudden rush of adrenaline, but Bran had not moved at all. He was in someone else's head, ignorant of the danger.

Meera's eyes widened as she looked behind her. "Arya!"

Arya's shoulders hitched and she threw herself blindly to the side. A spear struck the snow where she had been a moment before. She spun around and saw a White Walker looming over, it's blue eyes shining with malice.

Arya hissed and twisted to the side to avoid a second strike. She backed up down the hill, trying to coax him away from Bran. The white walker took the bait, stabbing out at her over and over again. She parried the thrusts, trying to get in close enough to strike him with her dagger. He did not make it an easy task with his long ranged weapon.

Fluid as water, she thought. Quick as a cat.

The white walker thrust his spear forward, barely slicing her arm as she dodged. She spun along the length of the spear and drove her dagger up into his throat.

Only moments after the white walker fell, she turned back to look for Bran. Meera was fighting another white walker, driving him back. And as she had her back turned, a third was coming up the hill, sword in hand.

"Bran!" Arya called out. She raised her knife and hurled it toward the white walker. He dodged it. "Bran."

The white walker raised his sword just as Jaime Lannister's horse broke over the hill. He slashed through the undead soldier with one strong sweep of his sword. Meera dispatched her white walker moments later.

Arya almost fell to her knees with relief. Gods, that was way too close.

"I thought we agreed to call for help if you needed it." Jaime dismounted, picking of Arya's fallen knife. He handed it back to her. "Here."

"Thank you," Arya said reluctantly, accepting her weapon. It seemed Jaime Lannister was serious about protecting Bran. Otherwise that would have been a perfect opportunity to let him die. "For being quick enough."

"You would have killed me if I wasn't," Jaime replied.

That was true. She very well might have.

"There's another down the hill," Meera called out. "On horseback."

Arya hurried to look. Sure enough, another white walker stood watching them from his undead steed. Then he turned and started to flee.

"He could go for reinforcements," Arya muttered. "Lannister! Get back on your horse. There's one running."

Jaime nodded, swinging up onto his steed and galloping past her. Arya ran after him, calling for Nymeria. Her wolf loped up beside her and she swung up onto her back, following closely behind Jaime.

The undead horse's pace was slower than their steeds, and they closed the gap quickly. Jaime thrust his blade through the horse's hind quarters and the beast let out an unearthly scream. The White Walker leapt from its back, stumbling back a few steps, but not quick enough. Nymeria lunged, locking her jaws around it's middle, holding him still long enough for Arya to drive her dagger through his eye.

Arya nearly collapsed on the ground. If she wasn't shaking before, she was now. She had not been in a fight this intense since her chase with the waif. And somehow, the stakes seemed higher now. Before, she was fighting for her life. Now she was fighting for Bran's.

Jaime slowed his horse beside her. "Are you hurt, Lady Arya?"

Arya shook her head. "No. Just...No, I'm not hurt."

"Battle can be overwhelming." He leaned down from his horse, offering her a hand. She accepted it, and he haul her to her feet. "This is the first time you've seen a real battle, isn't it?"

"Yes," Arya said. "Not the first time I've seen a fight."

"Well, I can clearly see that," Jaime said. "Where did you learn to do all that in such a short time?"

Arya's mouth twitched. "Many places."

"Very specific," Jaime said. "We should get back to the hill. I doubt the Night King will send many more white walkers. He seemed to send one for each of us. We just killed the one meant for Brienne."

"You're right. Four protectors. Four white walkers. Bran was right about him being a green seer. He sent one for all of us, except for Bran himself."

Except for Bran himself.

Arya paled at the realization. What if he did send one more? Jaime and Arya had left their station after all, leaving Meera alone to defend.

"Lady Arya?" Jaime asked.

"We need to go." Arya swung up onto Nymeria and urged her into a run again. She had an awful feeling in the pit of her stomach.

One for all of us. Except for Bran.

Except for Bran.

Bran I'm coming.


Bran

Bran had already seen the end of the battle. He had seen it a long time ago. Back then, the outcome had been rather fuzzy and uncertain. But the closer he drew to the battles end, the more solid the future became.

He did not speak of it to anyone, because he knew it would not help. He had a role to play in this battle, after all.

Sitting on the top of the hill, waiting for the battle begin, he watched Meera as she cleaned her blade. Her eyes were fixed ahead, on the horizon. Determined. She had always been quite determined.

"Thank you," Bran murmured.

Meera looked at him in surprise. He rarely offered such words anymore. "For what?"

"For staying with me until the end," Bran said. "Even when you could have run."

"I would never run. I would rather die fighting than run." She looked up at him. "It's not the end yet."

"No," Bran looked away. "Not yet."

Arya promised him, not for the first time, that she would keep him safe. He simply nodded and did not offer any words to the contrary. Jaime Lannister, the one who had set Bran on this path, reminded him to warn them of the danger in advance. Funny how he seemed truly determined to protect Bran now. A guilty conscious perhaps.

He watched his protectors fan out as the battle began. They would make a sizeable dent in the White Walker forces today. Their valyrian steel would eliminate many foes, setting them up for possible success in the final battle. Possible success. Nothing was certain. He allowed himself another glance at Arya, so fiercely determined to protect him.

He felt the urge to apologize to her, but he didn't. At that moment he heard the pained screech of Drogon and he knew he had to go.

He slipped out of his own mind and reached out across the battlefield, searching for a mind in the air. He slipped into Rhaegal's head, adjusting to the eyes of a dragon. For a moment his wings faltered and he focused on beating them to keep himself aloft. He looked around, searching for Rhaegal's brother...and his own.

Drogon was already on the ground, fighting Viseron. Jon had taken Jorah Mormonts horse, riding at top speed to help the dragon. Bran burned away his pursuers with dragon's breath. He felt the adrenaline of battle and the rage of a dragon protecting his own.

Protect. Fight. Burn.

Protect.


He had seen the future of this battle if he did not interfere. He had seen Viseron sink his teeth into the soft underside of Drogon's throat and spilling his blood across the ground. He had seen Jon fall because he could not find a way out without Drogon. He had seen them both rise up with the dead. He had seen the undead Drogon burn King's Landing with his horrible blue fire.

Unless he came to this battle. Unless he intervened.

He pushed Rhaegal forward, fearlessly, and dove in from above, slamming down on top of Viseron. He dug his fangs into his neck, tasting icy blood. Viseron shook and screeched, trying to get free but Rhaegal held on.

It gave Jon the chance he needed. The chance he needed to drive his sword through Viseron's eye.

Bran gasped for breath as he drew his teeth from the beast. Small decisions could change so much.

Bran!

Because of this...Jon would live. So many others would live.

BRAN!

Bran shuddered and pulled back from Rhaegal's mind, leaving the dragon alone to escape. He opened his eyes again-just in time to see the Night King run Meera through.

Bran had always seen the Night King at a distance-a foe from hundreds of miles away. Now he stood before him, looking down at him with cruel blue eyes. There was victory in his gaze as he ripped his blade from Meera's chest. She fell backwards, landing beside Bran, her final cry still evident on her open mouth.

Bran looked from Meera up at the Night King. Icy fear spread through him. True fear. It had been a long time since he had felt afraid. Meera was dead and there was no one else nearby to protect him.

That was by design, of course. He had seen a future where he warned Arya of the Night King's coming before she could run off in pursuit of the other white walker. In that future, he had seen her fall to the Night King's blade just like Meera. By being here, Bran had saved Jon. By staying silent, he had saved Arya. He was at peace with that, even though he knew Arya would blame herself.

"I knew you wanted me," Bran murmured as he held the Night King's gaze. "But I'm not the most important piece of this game. I never was."

The Night King stared down at him. Then, surprisingly enough, he spoke. Not in any human language. He spoke some ancient tongue that sounded like the deep crack of an icy lake. But with his third eye, Bran understood him.

"It will not matter."

Bran exhaled. "It might."

The Night King made another cracking sound, something like a laugh. It was truly the most awful noise Bran had ever heard in his life. Then he raised his blade.

Life flashed before Bran's eyes. Not just his life, but the lives of those before and after him. The whole world seemed to pour through Bran's head in one panicked burst. He could not have begun to make sense of it all-the endless wars and winters and bloodshed. The iron throne.

But he could make sense of some things. He could make sense of his father, who had always been so strong and kind. Bran wanted to grow up to be him as a child. Then he road south and did not return.

He could make sense of his mother, who sat by his bedside for a month, praying for his survival. Then she road south and did not return.

He could make sense of his eldest brother, who left Bran as the master of Winterfell, promising to return when he could. I have to do this, he had claimed. It's my duty. Then he road south and did not return.

He could make sense of his youngest brother, who he had sent away to keep safe. He was sure that Rickon would be safe with the Umbers. But when Bran returned, he was dead, shot through the back with an arrow.

So many deaths that he had seen from above. So much blood. How could Bran be blamed for wanting to see the rest of his family survived.

Sansa had tried to talk him out of coming to the battle. She pleaded with him because she did not want to lose another brother. Bran lied to her and promised he would stay safe, because she did not understand...she did not understand that Jon and Arya might have died instead.

Arya had vowed to protect him. She was always like that. Once when Robb was trying to scare his younger siblings, he dressed as a ghost and jumped from the shadows of the crypt and she had punched him in the face. That was always her instinct: to fight. To protect. She would have traded her life for Bran's, but Bran knew well enough that it would not make a difference.

Jon had hoped to protect Bran as well by giving him multiple protectors. Jon was not afraid to die. Yet he could not die on this battlefield. He was still needed. Still necessary.

In the end it wasn't just about who was necessary. It was about Bran's family. He was barely himself anymore. He could never truly be himself again. They could. They could keep going.

Like Jon, Bran knew what it was like to die. He had died twice before this. Once when he fell from a window and once when he touched the great weirwood tree and became the three eyed raven. Those deaths had one thing in common: fear. A moment of true terror that came with falling without end. Bran remembered grasping at air as he fell from the tower and grasping at strands of his consciousness when he fell into the three eyed raven.

Bran had seen this moment such a long time ago. Yet here, at the end of all things, he still felt afraid. Amazingly...he felt the fear of Brandon Stark. The fear of a child.

It was almost comforting to feel like himself again before the Night King's sword fell.

A/N: First POV character death. As you were warned earlier in the fic: I'm a character killer. Hope you enjoyed, even if I made you sad! I intend to continue making you sad next chapter. Until then, review, subscribe etc. Happy reading!
 

Gregor Clegane

New member
A/N: Welcome back to a new chapter. Last chapter was pretty rough and now I'm going to pour lemon juice on the wound! But I hope you enjoy :)
Chapter 20: Grief
Jaime

Death was a constant companion on the battlefield. It was expected. Through many wars, Jaime had grown used to seeing bodies twisted beneath him, their lifeless eyes staring at the sky. It was easy to become jaded from it all.
Still, sometimes, a death struck harder than others. Jaime remembered his horror at his mother's death. At his father's death. The death of all of his children. He was familiar with the agony of loss.
So he could sympathize with Arya Stark in the moment she found her brother dead.
Jaime knew Bran was gone before they saw him. He knew when a blue-eyed Meera charged them, with a screech and a bloody hole in her chest. Arya cut her down on instinct, horror written across her face.
"Bran..." she muttered. Jaime could already see the realization dawning. He followed after her as she scrambled up the hill-only to find her brother staring up at her with bright blue eyes.
Brandon Stark was crawling across the ground, a deep slash across his neck that had almost cut his head from his shoulders. It hung at an awful angle, as if it might tumble off at any moment. Even in death, he could not use his legs. An icy mix of horror and guilt pierced Jaime's chest.
Arya's legs gave out from under her. She fell to her knees, her shoulders trembling as she stared at what used to be her brother. "Bran...you're not...you can't..." Her usually stony expression cracked and tears filled her eyes. "Not again. Not today."
Jaime stared down at her, utterly unsure of what to say. What could anyone say? The girl had already lost her parents and two of her brothers. That was the cost of being a Stark in this age. How helpless she must have felt through each death-a child who could not do anything to stop it.
She must have thought that learning to fight would make her strong enough to keep people from dying. But it was never that simple. Jaime knew that better than anyone.
Jaime looked back to Bran. At one time, he had hoped for the boy to die, because that would mean keeping his and Cersei's secret. Now, he had hoped the boy would live. Bran could have had him killed with a few words but he hadn't.
One of us should have stayed behind with Meera, Jaime thought. I should have stayed.
Steeling himself, Jaime drew his sword. Arya stopped him, gripping onto his gold hand.
"Wait..." she croaked.
"He's gone, Lady Arya," Jaime murmured.
Arya did not move. Every one of her instincts still told her to protect Bran.
"Do want to leave him like this?" Jaime asked.
Arya shook her head once.
"Then look away." Jaime carefully pried her fingers from his wrist. "I'll take care of it."
Arya let go of his wrist at his coaxing, her hand falling limply to her side. Jaime took this as permission. He stepped forward and drove his blade through the wight's back. It fell still a moment later. Somewhere close behind them, Arya's dire wolf let out a mournful howl.
Cursing under his breath, Jaime returned his sword to his sheath. Arya had not moved and it did not seem she had looked away either. Her eyes were glazed with shock.
I hope Jon Snow survived the battle, Jaime thought. Or she might truly be lost.
In the distance, a horn blew. The signal to pull back. Jaime went back to Arya. "It's the retreat. We need to go."
She blinked and looked up at him. "I..."
"Come on." Jaime grasped her arms and pulled her to her feet. "Find your wolf." He circled the hill again, making sure they had not forgotten anything. He did not see any sight of Brienne. When Meera charged them, he worried that Brienne might have returned only to be slaughtered.
Meera. Her sword. Jaime hurried back to Meera's body and found Dark sister still clutched in her hand. He took the sheath from her belt and returned the sword there. Then he returned to Arya, offering her the sword.
"Here. You keep this for now. A valyrian sword could be of more use to you than a dagger."
She took the sword without a word, strapping it to her belt. "We need to take him with us," she said hoarsely.
"There's no time," Jaime said.
"We need to," Arya said firmly. "We need to bury him."
Jaime exhaled. "All right. All right we'll take him." He went over to Bran's body and wrapped him in his own cloak, covering his vacant face. Once the bundle was secured, he strapped him to the back of his saddle. Arya watched him the whole time as if making sure her brother's corpse was being treated gently.
The body doesn't matter and she knows it, Jaime thought. But it's the only thing she can cling to right now.
He swung up on his horse, looking out over the battlefield as the armies began to retreat.
He hoped the losses had been worth it.

Jaime did not want the task of delivering Brandon Stark's body to Harrenhal, but Arya was not large enough to carry him herself, nor was he cruel enough to make her try. When he led his horse into the Harrenhal courtyard, Tyrion met him first, relieved to see him alive. Jaime wondered, not for the first time, how he would feel if his little brother died in front of him. He imagined he would feel much the same as Arya.
"You made it back," Tyrion said. "Seems things didn't go so poorly after all."
"We killed several white walkers," Jaime said. "But things still went poorly."
Tyrion noticed the bundle on Jaime's saddle for the first time and his eyes widened. "Is that..."
Jaime's jaw clenched. The eldest Stark girl had just come into the courtyard to meet Arya. Her eyes were wide with questions. She was looking for Bran.
It was then that Arya's numbness seemed to break. Tears filled her eyes and the girl crumpled into her older sister's arms, mumbling apologies. And Sansa Stark, who had lost just as much as Arya, fell to her knees with her.
"Seven hells," Tyrion muttered.
Jaime looked up at the sky, as the Stark girls' cries echoed through the silent courtyard. Seven hells indeed.

He needed to find Brienne. Seeing the Stark girl bent over her brother, screaming for justice that would not come, Jaime's first thought went to Brienne. He had lost track of her in the fighting when she went after those civilians. But now...
She must have retreated to Harrenhal by now. But he could not find her. Had she fallen behind the army? Was she injured? Or had she not thought to come to the keep yet?
He spent an awful lot of time on the battlements looking out at the fields, watching for her return. Soldiers poured across the field in droves but he did not see her. He could not have missed her. He would recognize her pale blonde hair and the shine of her armor from a distance. He'd had that armor made for her, after all. He would know it anywhere.
In the back of his mind, another possibility lurked. Perhaps she had died upon the battlefield and he had not even known it. Perhaps she had fallen and risen again with the dead, her blue eyes gone cold like ice. The image that passed only briefly through his mind made him feel ill and he gripped the battlements with his good hand.
"You've spent an awful lot of time up here since returning," someone said from behind him. Jaime did not need to return to know it was Tyrion. "Watching for the undead?"
"No," Jaime murmured. "I'm waiting."
"Waiting for what?" Tyrion asked. When Jaime did not respond he sighed. "Fine. Don't tell me. No one seems to tell me anything. Jon did not tell me about his heritage, Daenerys waited to tell me about her pregnancy. Bran must have known far in advance about his death, but he didn't mention that either. It's very difficult to be an advisor when no one tells you anything."
"I'm sure," Jaime said. "That's why I don't advise anyone."
"You don't take advice either."
Jaime exhaled, thinking again of Brienne.
Fuck loyalty. This goes beyond honor and oaths. Talk to the queen.
"Sometimes I do," he said at last. "I still fail often but I take advice." He had failed Bran Stark, at the very least. The boy had kept his terrible secret, and the least Jaime could have done was saved him. And yet...
"I wouldn't lay all of the blame for Brandon Stark's fate on your shoulders," Tyrion murmured. "You weren't the only one set to guard him."
"I wouldn't lay the blame on his sister either. That would be too cruel," Jaime said. "And it would be cruel to blame the girl who died defending him. Seems easiest to blame me."
"Or the white walkers. Or the gods." Tyrion shrugged. "Take your pick."
"I owed Bran a monstrous debt and I could not repay it." Jaime looked down at Tyrion. "You know it. You've always known it."
"Yes," Tyrion said after a pause. "I knew it must have been you who pushed him."
"It seems cruel that he would survive so long only to die here," Jaime said.
"Winter is cruel," Tyrion said. "It takes many things from us. But I don't think he died for nothing. He helped kill the wight dragon. He told us truths we could not have known for ourselves. I'm sure he'll have a song written about him one day."
"Yes. And he won't hear a word of it." Jaime looked back over the battlements. Would Brienne be the same, he wondered? Would she die and be forgotten with the many other soldiers in this war? Would she...
Jaime straightened slightly as he saw a lone horse breaking away from the army and riding toward the door. He recognized the sheen of the armor and the pale blonde hair of the rider. He let out a breath.
"Thank the gods."
Then he turned and ran for the steps. Tyrion hurried after, looking bewildered, but Jaime did not wait for him. He sprinted for the front gate, sliding to a stop just as it cranked open. Brienne rode inside. Blood splattered her armor and she was clearly exhausted. Maybe injured. Jaime could not tell. But she was breathing-alive-as she swung off of her horse.
He felt like a fool in front of a goddess in that moment. People always said the Warrior was a man, but Jaime was not so sure of that anymore. How relieved he was to see her.
She saw him in that moment, and she seemed to release a long held breath. "Ser Jaime...you're..."
He didn't let her finish. He had already closed the gap between them, drawing her lips to his. He kissed her without any concern for those around him.
Thank the Gods. She's all right. Thank the Gods.
He had never thanked the gods so much at once.
She pulled back after a long moment, her face pink again. "What's gotten into you, ser? I'm fine."
"Yes, you are." Jaime said. "Are you hurt at all?"
"My shoulder. It's minor," Brienne said. "You?"
"No." Jaime shook his head. "What a miracle that is."
"Seven hells, Jaime."
Jaime turned to see Tyrion staring at him, looking absolutely stunned. He wasn't sure he'd ever seen his younger brother so surprised.
"What?" Jaime asked. "I told you I was waiting. This is who I was waiting for."
Tyrion laughed once. His expression shifted from shock to delight. He stepped forward clasping Brienne's hand in his own. "Have we ever been properly introduced, Lady Brienne? I'm not sure we have. I'm Tyrion Lannister. I'm overjoyed to actually speak to you."
"And I to you, my lord," Brienne murmured, still looking awfully flustered.
"Of course, you're the one who helped my brother safely to King's Landing," Tyrion said. "Seems you've helped him become smarter too. Thank you for that."
Jaime sighed. "Yes, yes, I know I'm the stupidest Lannister."
"Stick with this woman and that could change." Tyrion released Brienne's hand. Of course Tyrion would be happy about this. Tyrion had been an unfortunate witness and confident to Jaime and Cersei's relationship growing up. Of course he knew from rather early on. He had kept mostly quiet on the matter, but of course he did not approve. After a while, it seemed he accepted that Jaime's feelings for Cersei would never change.
Now they had, and Tyrion seemed eager to be the best of friends with Brienne.
In the aftermath of the battle, there were small bits of hope still. Jaime had yet to lose as much as the Starks, but that was of little comfort.
The war was still young, and he still had very much to lose.
Daenerys
Drogon's wound was deep. Daenerys almost lost her breath at the sight of him limping through the forest behind the keep. Blood stained his beautiful scales and he let out agonized croaks. She could feel his pain as if it was her own.
"I'm sorry," Jon said. "I should not have gotten so close."
Daenerys shook her head, going to Drogon's side. "No. It wasn't your fault." She very carefully rested her hand against Drogon's side. He flinched under her. "Shh, shh. It's all right. You'll be all right." She rested her head against his great neck. "You're alive. That's what's important."
He would never fly again. She already knew that. He was such a magnificent creature in the sky, but he would never fly again. Viseron had taken revenge on behalf of the Night King.
Rhaegal lingered nearby, chirping with worry for his brother. He was, fortunately, unharmed.
"Was the battle worth it?" Daenerys asked. "Did we make a dent in them at all?"
"We did," Jon said. "They no longer have a dragon as a part of their army. That alone is a victory. On top of that, we killed many white walkers. I saw huge pieces of their army drop. I can't tell you how many we killed until I meet with everyone. I killed two, I know."
"Good," Daenerys said. "Let's hope enough people evacuated to make a difference."
"Yes," Jon agreed.
Daenerys lifted her hand from Drogon's wound and stepped back from him. He limped away from her, finding a place to lie and nurse his wing. She exhaled and looked back to Jon. "I'm glad you're all right. I worried, as always. The worrying gets worse when you're waiting."
"I'm all right," Jon said. "I might not have been. Drogon and I both may have died if Ser Jorah had not lent me his horse. Because of him, I was able to escape and reach Drogon in time to help."
Daenerys blinked. "He...gave you his horse? Then what did he do?"
"I don't know, my queen. I didn't see." Jon dropped her gaze. "There were...many wights."
Daenerys' chest clenched. Jorah had been with her since the very beginning. He was one of the last things she had left from that time. Him and the dragons. They both came to her at the same time. Jon did not see him die, but his voice carried little hope.
He loved me, she thought. I know he did. But he knows I love Jon. He gave his horse to him. Jorah...I would thank you one thousand times if I could.
It was strange to think he might be gone, with no one even knowing for sure. But that was the way of war. Sometimes people died without anyone knowing.
Jon rested a hand on her shoulder, squeezing lightly. She instinctively placed her hand over his, holding on. She still had him, at least. He had not broken his promise to her yet. He had not died before her. Everyone else always seemed to die before her. Viserys, Drogo, Rhaego, her hand maids, Ser Barristan, Viseron. Now Jorah. But she still had Jon and she still had the child growing strong inside of her.
The snow crunched nearby and Daenerys and Jon turned to see Sansa approaching. Her face was pale and deathly serious, her hands clasped hard in front of her as if she was trying to squeeze strength from her fingers. Something was very wrong.
"Sansa." Jon took a step toward her. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Sansa opened her mouth to reply, but barely any sound came out. She breathed in deep, then tried again. "Arya has...Arya has returned."
"Arya?" Jon's eyes widened. "Is she all right?"
"She's unharmed," Sansa murmured.
"And Bran?" Jon asked. Sansa was silent. The blood drained from Jon's face. "Sansa, what about Bran?"
Two tears slid down Sansa's cheeks, nearly freezing from the cold. Daenerys caught her breath as Jon seemed to sway. He already knew the truth.
Winter's toll was very high today.

They toll rose over the next few days. Wounded soldiers who had escaped the battle perished in the cold and were promptly burned. Brienne of Tarth brought news of Tormund Giantsbane's death. That was one of Jon's closest advisors dead. A day later, Daenerys received word of an even harder toll: Grey Worm. The commander of the Unsullied had been wounded in the fight and his wounds took him a few days later. She attended his funeral and watched him burn. She held Missandei in her arms as she sobbed.
The fire will release his soul to the nightlands to ride with his ancestors, Daenerys thought. No...that's the Dothraki tradition, isn't it?
What did it really matter? Who cared which gods were real? With so much death she could only hope those who suffered had gone onto a kinder place, where they were whole again. And free.
Greyworm was gone. Jorah was gone. Barristan was gone. Only Varys and Tyrion remained of her closer councilors. Which of them would be next?
The Starks, of course, bore a steeper loss than hers. The loss of a brother. Daenerys' brother had died a long time ago, and at the time of his death she had ceased to love him. But Bran was loved by all of his siblings and his death cut them to their very hearts.
Three of their family remained. Jon. Sansa. Arya. She hoped for their sake that they did not lose anymore.
In the days following the battle, Daenerys was more aware of her baby than ever. She was growing quickly, pressing her stomach into a sphere. She had carried her for over six months now by the maester's evaluation. In three more, she would be born.
She, Daenerys thought. I keep thinking of her as a she.
Daenerys always thought of her first child as a boy. She had a sixth sense about it. But this child...felt like a girl. Perhaps she would be right again.
Daenerys was in the midst of thinking of her daughter when the door creaked open. Sansa Stark appeared there, her face sallow and her eyes tired. She looked startled to see Daenerys.
"I'm sorry...I thought this room was empty."
Daenerys stood. "I can go if you wish to be alone."
Sansa shook her head. "No...No stay." She slowly entered and sat down on the edge of the feather bed. "I was looking to be alone, but I don't think I will mind your company."
Daenerys studied her. She looked like she hadn't slept since her brother's body came to Harrenhal. Her voice was hoarse and her eyes red. From tears or exhaustion. Maybe both.
"I've cried so many times," Sansa murmured. "More than I can count. I cried for my father, my mother, my brother Robb. Rickon." She shook her head. "I cried for myself more than once. I am so tired of tears."
"I understand," Daenerys murmured. "At some point, you expect to have cried them all out. Then they come again."
Sansa nodded once. "I used to cry over stupid things when I was a child. When Arya wouldn't stop bothering me or...when I tore my favorite dress. Life was so easy then. Every problem felt like the worst thing that could happen. I was a stupid little girl."
"We were all stupid at one point," Daenerys said. She remembered when she was young and naïve and thought her older brother was truly a dragon and a rightful king. She remembered when she believed the lies that the people of Westeros waited eagerly for their rightful ruler.
"Yes," Sansa said. "I miss it sometimes. Being a naïve girl. I didn't know much but I was happier then, and I believed in the nobility of people. I believed most men and women, if faced with the choice, would do the right thing." She shook her head. "I know better now. And I smile less."
"That is the price of knowledge and power," Daenerys said. "A lot of tears and blood and death along the way." She looked at Sansa. "Do you still believe it could end well for us?"
"Yes," Sansa said. "I hate to let myself believe it, but sometimes, at night, I let myself hope for spring." Her gaze dropped to Daenerys stomach. "You're getting far along, aren't you."
Daenerys nodded. "A few months more and she will be born."
"She?" Sansa asked.
"I have a sense I will have a daughter," Daenerys said.
Sansa smiled sadly. "I hope she can grow up happy...surrounded by people who love her. I hope she never sees any of the cruel things we have seen. I hope all of this war and winter...is just a story to her. A distant song."
Daenerys rested a hand on her stomach. "Yes. So do I."
It was a nice dream, to think of her daughter in the springtime. She could picture her running down the halls of the red keep, the brightest of smiles on her face, without a care in the world.
She would fight for her daughter to have that future, and she would cry many more tears if it meant her daughter could step into the sun.

A/N: The second battle is at it's end. We are moving toward the endgame now. But we'll be taking a slight break from the action next chapter. Review, subscribe etc. See you next time!
 
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