I smiled down at Hestia during our daily work-out, which consisted of her crawling laps around my training spot, as well as jumping at the end of every lap, in order to strengthen her hind legs.
While she was in mid-jump, she was to unfurl her wings and glide back down to earth, before running once more.
In short, this work-out ensured that she increased in strength in all areas, except her tail— I just had her move relatively heavy rocks with it, for now.
We took a short break to regain our energy, by which time Jon would join us, Ghost along for the ride. Thus began the second phase of our training.
Sparring, or play-fighting in Hestia’s case.
I watched Hestia attempt to pounce on Ghost, who would shove her aside, or bat her with his large paws as she got close, while also forcing her to defend against his own lunges and bites.
It had been two weeks since Lord Tyrion Lannister had been brought to Winterfell— he was strangely cooperative after I’d let him pet my dragon— and Hestia was growing in leaps and bounds.
She was almost as big as a medium sized dog, at this point, and was capable of dishing out as much as she could take. I figured she would be ready to attempt flight or breathe fire any day now.
While Hestia did her mock battles against Ghost, I would spar against Jon. He had quickly gotten used to wielding Ice, swinging it as easily as he had done his previous weapon of choice.
But, wielding a great sword was different than wielding a long sword. The weight was not an issue, what with Jon’s increased strength, and the lightness of the Valyrian steel that Ice was made of.
Though, it was always important to note the sizes of the weapons. A long sword’s blade was known to be around thirty to forty inches, whereas a great sword’s blade was at least sixty inches— and that was being quite conservative— as well as being wider than the blade of a long sword.
So, while Jon could still wield it passably— in the beginning— his lack of skill showed when it came to high speed swordplay and he couldn’t compensate for the added reach the blade afforded him. But, after nonstop training for weeks on end, I felt that he had gotten it down pat.
After our spar, Jon and I would sit together, and theorize on the limitations of our respective magical powers, and the prospect of transfering some magic into Ghost. What ended up happening was Jon slumping forward unconscious, transfering his consciousness into his direwolf.
He warg-ed into Ghost.
It took a while, but with a bit of a concentration and a lot of calming down, Jon managed to return into his own body. The experience left him shaken and amazed— this wasn’t a power I’d given him, but one he’d been born with.
I briefly wondered if it was his Stark bloodline, or his bond with Ghost, that let him enter his companion’s mind. If it was centered around bloodlines, then he just might also be able to warg into Hestia.
Not that I wanted him to try it anytime soon; instead, the focus shifted on attempting to have Jon separate the fire from his magic so he could attempt to inject it into Ghost. The process was slow going, and quite frustrating, but I imagined Jon would eventually learn the skill.
I had given the idea of transfering some of my own powers to other people some thought, but Erebus had knocked it out of the window: apparently, only a select few were capable of withstanding my power without it completely damaging their system.
Only those with great magical power could have withstood my own filtering into their systems. This meant that, if Bran was not powerful magically, my attempt to heal his nervous system would have resulted in him being further crippled, or outright killed.
It was a sobering thought.
Speaking of the young boy, he had warmed up to me once more over the weeks. Likely, he realized that holding a grudge against me was pointless, as I had done my best to keep his family safe.
When he finally came to me with concerns of being able to see the future, I had linked my energy with him and felt amazed at the changes within him. Most of his power focused around his eyes and ears, enhancing his senses to such levels that he could predict any person’s moves a full second before they made them. That was even beyond my own power.
I even had it tested by having him watch a few spars in the Winterfell courtyard. I asked him to predict one of the combatants’ every move, whether it was offensive or defensive.
He had not missed a single move.
He decided to call it his Future Sight.
So Jon and I would help train him, sometimes, when Ser Rodrik was too busy to do it, himself. Mostly, Jon just sparred with him as I watched, pointing out what he was doing wrong and what was wrong with his tactics and stances.
Just because you could predict your enemy’s movements didn’t mean you were in shape physically to actually counter them. That part would require a lot of training and drilling to sear the stances and moves into his memory— his muscle memory, to be precise.
I could not transfer my powers onto everyone.
So, I did something else entirely.
With the help of Robb and the other Lords stationed at Winterfell, I began enchanting as many weapons and armors as they could bring to me. It was dull and tiring, but would probably give the North the edge it needed to survive the coming wards.
They had seemed leery of my magic, at first.
And then they’d seen an untouched blade shatter after being hit by an enchanted one. Their looks of unadulterated glee said it all, especially after I told them that their armors would also possess similar properties.
Robb had confided in me, that night.
“Your recent… Changes to our weapons and armor will likely serve us infinitely more than anything else.” Robb had clapped me on the shoulder.
“Keep in mind, Robb.” I stomped on his parade. “The armor will not bend or break by anything other than magically enhanced weapons— such as Valyrian Steel— but that still does not mean that the men wearing them are invincible.”
“Too true.” Robb agreed. “A spear to the face or through the neck would ignore the armor altogether. But, do not make light of what you’ve given us. It gives our men a distinct advantage, not just in offensive and defensive measures, but it also gives them peace of mind. They need not fear that a warhammer will cave in their breastplate, crushing their chests— that is just one example.”
“I’m not making light of it.” I smiled. “I’m just making sure you realize what the limitations of my magic are. If I could make myself share the same quality as that of steel, then I might not have almost died at King’s Landing.”
“Still.” Robb insisted. “You’ve likely solved our third biggest problem— the first and second being managing our food stores while on the march, and the funding required to keep campaigning.”
“About that…” I grinned and told him I could enlarge their food stores by at least ten times, as well as make it last for years without any chance of rotting, which, when combined with the fact that all of their equipment was unbreakable, would reduce the cost of the war immensely.
That’s not forgetting the fact I was loaded with gold— though there was no need of it, right now, considering the cost reduction in food and equipment would leave Robb with a lot more funding.
Robb had only shaken his head in resigned amazemement and let me do my thing.
“If we make it through this war.” Robb had promised resolutely the night before the march, as we all feasted, knowing that the days to come would be filled with endless marching, battles and blood. “I will give you anything you want. A Lordship, land, whatever it is you wish.”
That would likely make life a whole lot easier, when it came to dealing with strangers or foreign entities. While I could easily take care of myself in most situations, I would likely have an easier time of things with a Lordship under my belt.
It gave a person credibility.
Now if only the concept didn’t make me feel like Voldemort.
Jon, drunk off his ass beside me, nodded and smiled, correcting Robb none-too-gently. “When we win this war, you mean.”
“Aye, that’s the spirit, lad!” The Greatjon boomed, having overheard our conversation— or, at least part of it— before downing an entire mug of ale in a single gulp and slamming it against his table. “The Lannisters shall feel our cold, hard shafts, begging your pardon my Lady.” He added the last part at Catelyn’s disapproving glare.
“I’m not too worried about rewards.” I said easily, frowning as I rubbed at my left palm, distracted by the phantom pains. “I’d be happy sticking my sword through Baelish’s gut, for now.”
A chorus of agreement, though the Lady Catelyn still looked a little upset about her former friend.
The next day, our march began. There were tearful goodbyes all around. Arya tried to sneak into the army, only to be apprehended by her mother and sent back home with instructions on how she would be punished.
As expected, the trip was slow-going and dull, but the pace was thankfully much faster than that of the march we’d taken on our way to King’s Landing.
I figured, in a single day, we had covered about twenty miles. Checking my map, and making the necessary calculations, I figured we’d arrive at Moat Cailin in a few weeks time.
More men seemed to join our march, with every day that passed. Thousands of levies from the many villages in the North, and hundreds of men-at-arms charged with training them, as well as dozens of knights.
Morale was high— the prospect of never ending supplies and unbreakable equipment seemed to help alot. The sight of Robb, Jon and I with our respective companions struck a powerful image.
Robb Stark, the Lord Paramount of the North, with Grey Wind by his side; the Young Wolf. Jon Snow, a great warrior as the remainder of the Northern Lords had seen over the weeks, flanked by Ghost; the White Wolf they called him.
And then, there was me.
The man who had enchanted the Northerners’ weapons and armor— it was eerie, how people quickly accepted magic when it would make their war so much simpler; better than the fear I was expecting.
The only ones among the army that seemed leery of my presence were the Manderlys, and they were the ones who kept to the new gods— the Seven Who Are One.
Though, they didn’t say anything on the matter to my face. Behind my back, I knew there was some uneasy muttering, but nothing overly concerning.
So, if I maintained a “stay away from me and I’ll stay away from you” relationship, those that followed the Seven wouldn’t make any move against me. Neutrality was better than outright hostility, after all.
The men who kept to the Old Gods were surprisingly accepting of it— as the legends behind their religion revolved around the Children of the Forest, the Others, Giants, and the like. All magical creatures capable of much power.
Did I get a nice nickname like Robb and Jon? I got a few.
The Mage Lord.
As for the Maesters marching alongside us, they would approach me as I trained Hestia, asking all sorts of questions about dragons, magic, and Old Valyria— of which I knew very little. It made for some really interesting conversations, which livened up this dull march.
One of the many topics of conversation was the bleeding star that had appeared above us the day before I had hatched Hestia.
What was it? The debates held on the matter were pretty heated.
I wanted to tell them that it was probably a comet passing the Earth by, and that the red stuff behind it was most likely ice tinted in red being evaporated by the sun as it approached the solar system, but I imagined that wouldn’t go over well.
The men would whisper that it is a sign that they would win, that the gods, old and new, would favor them in battle. I rolled my eyes at their gullibility, but said nothing on the matter. Hey, if they believed they were divinely advantaged, who was I to stop them?
And so, it went.
Wake up. Eat, drink, shit. Clean up camp. Feed Geryon and Hestia. March for six to eight hours, depending on weather conditions. Rest for a while. Attempt to get the quickly growing Hestia to belch out flames. Fail miserably. Look upset. Eat, drink, shit. Go to sleep.
Rinse, repeat. At least Hestia was now able to hover in place for a few seconds before she tired out.
Eventually, we reached Moat Cailin, the army’s spirit and morale lowered none; awed by my feats of magic— enlarging the barrels of wine seemed to be biggest thing they liked. Figures.
Archers from both Deepwood Motte and Torrhen’s Square, one of which I recognized as the boy, Torwynd, from that inn I stayed in while I was there, were ordered by Robb to man the stronghold.
“A few hundred archers can hold the whole of the Neck against an invading army.” Robb said, poring over his maps in a room he’d commandeered in one of the still standing towers. Moat Cailin itself had fallen into disuse and disrepair since there had never been a true need to use it in that past— with the exception of Robert’s Rebellion, and now. “The swamplands and bog would be impossible to cross with an army, and the crannogmen under Lord Howland Reed will ensure that any lucky survivors of the swamps meet a quick end.”
A few of the other Northern Lords were also present, as well as Theon, Jon and I.
“Our scouts have indicated that the forces from the Westerlands have begun their assault.” Roose Bolton spoke softly, pointing at a few points on the map. “Already, the villages around the Mummer’s Ford have been sacked, their smallfolk butchered, the women taken; they sought refuge in their timber holdfast, but the Lannister men set fire to it.”
A few looks of uneasy horror flitted onto the occupant’s faces; likely they’d prefer to be killed by a sword than to be burned to death. I agreed.
“Events of a similar nature transpired over the Stone Mill, and Sherrer.” Bolton added, tracing his fingers along the map. “The House Piper at Pinkmaiden was also quickly overwhelmed, and the men were forced to retreat north east to Riverrun.”
“Their goal is Riverrun?” Lord Karstark said, studying the map as well.
“Perhaps.” Robb allowed. “Our count of the Lannister men is around thirty thousand. I doubt that they would simply all be deployed to Riverrun.” He pointed at Harrenhal and Darry. “No doubt, Lord Lannister has split his army into two, one portion to besiege Riverrun, and the other to take Castle Harrenhal— as his grandson rules from King’s Landing and must be defended. Though, there could also be some stationed at Darry.”
“Harrenhal.” The Greatjon agreed without hesitation. “Darry is too small and open from all sides. A lake from its south, and natural defenses so effective that an army would grow old and gray before even nicking Harrenhal’s damned walls. Likely the gold shitter has already taken it.” He gave me a sidelong glance. “Would take dragons to bring it down.”
I shook my head. “I doubt Hestia could light firewood, let alone an entire castle, right now. But I can easily have the gates open, and the defenses sabotaged.”
“Then I leave that task to you, Harry.” Robb nodded at me. “Though, we must focus on aiding Lord Tully and whichever of his vassals survived the initial Lannister invasion at Riverrun, before considering an attack on Harrenhal.”
The Lords gathered nodded in approval.
“Once the archers left at Moat Cailin are settled in, we march for the Twins and join their power to ours.” Robb nodded to himself.
“I would not be so sure, my Lord.” Catelyn said, shaking her head. “Lord Walder has gained a new title for himself at the end of Robert’s Rebelion.”
“The Late Lord Frey.” One of them said, and a short laugh was had.
“I have learned to expect nothing of Walder Frey. He will likely keep his men in reserve, before finally joining with the winning side to curry favor.” Catelyn said with conviction. “Either that, or simply do nothing.”
“Truly?” Robb seemed shocked at such a move. “He’s your father banner man.”
“Some men take their oaths more seriously than others, my Lord.” Catelyn sighed. “And Lord Walder was always friendlier with Casterly Rock than my father would have liked. One of his sons is wed to Tywin Lannister’s sister, though that means little of itself to be sure, as Lord Walder has sired a great many children over his years, each set to marry someone of high standing. Still…”
“Do you think he intends to betray us to the Lannisters, my Lady?” Lord Glover asked gravely.
“I do not know.” She answered after a moment. “Lord Walder has always had an old man’s caution and a young man’s ambition.”
“Regardless.” Robb shook his head. “There is no other way across the river, beside the Twins, Mother.”
“Why not just take it?” Jon cut in curiously.
“Easier said than done.” Lady Mormont, a short, stout, grey haired woman, cut in, hefting her spiked mace for a few seconds. “The Twins consist of two identical stone castles standing on each side of the Green Fork, with high curtain walls, deep moats, and a barbican and portcullis in each. To take them, you would have to coordinate an assault from both sides, as the defenders of one castle can quickly rush to the other. And, since we’re only on one side…”
“No chance in breaching through the gates.” Jon sighed.
“Except, why breach through the gates when I can just open them with my magic?” I cut in, gaining everyone’s attention.
“That could work.” Robb nodded. “Though, there is still the fact that the Lord Frey’s men shall still fight us the entire way.”
“It would be a slaughter for both sides.” Lord Bolton agreed with a strange gleam in his eyes. “Battles within the walls of castles are quick, cramped and nothing short of brutal. We would likely lose as many men as those in the Twins, even with the… Enhanced armor we have been gifted.”
The gathered Lords began to murmur uneasily, considering the idea or its alternatives.
“I am not prepared to make that sort of sacrifice.” Robb said, shaking his head. “I will attempt to reason with the Lord Frey to gain his allegiance— would have done so from the beginning. But if I am refused entry or if the toll he exacts is too high, I shall consider your idea, Harry.”
I shook my head.
“Fighting within the walls is indeed suicide.” I agreed with a nod to Bolton, who graciously returned the gesture. “But, I suppose I should have elaborated; you don’t need to fight from within the Twins. I can easily drive them out of the castles, and then you can finish them off on the open field.”
“Oh?” Robb and the rest of them leaned forward, gesturing for me to share my plan with them.
So, I did.
We kept on marching along the Kingsroad for a few weeks more, before branching off and heading southwest to the Twins. A few days later, I finally laid eyes on the two castles on each side of the Green Fork.
I had considered the idea of constructing a bridge purely with magic, but I realized that would likely take at least a week with me using the strongest magics I had available to me. The narrowest part of the Green Fork was still ridiculously huge. This wasn’t a simple stream.
The Twins looked exactly as the Lady Maege had described them. Identical in every way, earning their name.
We were met by a knight, Ser Stevron Frey, the Heir to the Crossing, as well as three of his brothers. He looked like a weasel, if I were to be brutally honest. They all did.
Way to fit the stereotype, mates.
“My Lord father has sent me to greet you, and inquire as to who leads this mighty host.” Stevron said, and I wondered with a headache why I couldn’t have been sent to a dimension in which people didn’t speak like they were in a medieval live action role play.
“I do.” Robb stepped forward on his horse, Grey Wind by his side. It scared the other horses, though a flicker of amusement passed by Ser Stevron’s face when he laid eyes on Robb. He was smart enough not to comment on the matter.
“My Lord Father would be host honored if you would share meat and mead with him in the castle and explain your purpose here.” Stevron said, and all were quiet for a second before erupting in protest.
Some attempted to change the venue, some tried to talk Robb out of it, before Catelyn finally decided she’d go in Robb’s stead.
Ser Stevron nodded, nudging at one of his brothers to move forward. “I am certain my Lord father would be pleased to speak to the Lady Catelyn. To vouchsafe for our good intentions, my brother, Ser Perwyn, will remain here until she is safely returned to you.”
“He shall be our honored guest.” Robb said as our new not-hostage dismounted and handed the reins of his horse to one of his brothers. “I require my Lady mother’s return by even fall, Ser Stevron. It is not my intent to linger here long.”
Stevron gave a polite nod, and then turned his horse, his brothers doing the same. “As you say, my Lord.”
Lady Catelyn followed, leaving us behind.
“Don’t worry.” Theon said. “She’ll come back in no time.”
“She’d better.” Robb promised dangerously, eyes smoldering as he stared at the Twins. He gave me a glance, conveying without words what he’d like me to do if his mother didn’t come back. I nodded in agreement, and we spoke for another hour, before I headed to the back of the convoy, where Hestia was busy roughhousing with Ghost.
“Is this really the growth rate of dragons in Westeros?” I thought as Hestia tied her tail to Ghost’s leg, dragging him as she began to crawl around, the direwolf in question struggling every step of the way, before he yanked hard, setting his foot free and dashing away. Hestia trilled and followed. “She’s already as large as a small pony, and strong enough to force Ghost to use a great bit of his strength.”
§No way to tell.§ Balthazar hissed to my mind. §Since the last dragon died over a century ago, and their growth rate was never documented in the few books we have on them.§
“A month ago she was barely the size of a kitten.” Jon said as he approached us and made to pet her head. He was the only one whom she’d taken a liking to— must have been his Targaryen heritage, or the fact that he’d been present for Hestia’s hatching. “Now, she’s easily contending against Ghost.”
“Balerion the Blackdread was said to be so large that he could swallow aurochs whole.” A familiar voice said from the side.
“Quiet!” A guard said before smacking the cage with the broad side of his sword.
“Let him be.” I said, and the guard gave me a fearful look. I frowned; did he think I was going to curse him, or something. “He’s done nothing wrong.”
I approached the cage.
“The great Blackscale, himself. I’m honored.” Lord Tyrion Lannister gestured grandly from his small cage, though there was nothing grand about it. He looked like a mess, though he seemed to retain his good humor despite everything. “And the White Wolf, as well? Truly a great day for one as lowly as I.”
I rolled my eyes at the pun. “Hello, Tyrion. I trust they’re giving you enough to eat and drink?”
“Perhaps enough to eat, but to drink… Not a single ounce of wine. The craven scum.” Tyrion grumbled at the end.
“Hm.” I said, digging into my pocket and pulling out my shrunken pitcher of wine, before Engorging it with a wave of my wand. I watched his eyes light up, both at the wine and my casual display of magic. “Come.”
Another wave, and his cage was open. A few more, and there were chairs and a table. The guards looked like they were mixed between arguing and staring open mouthed at me.
I stifled an eye roll and turned my head to the side.
“Jon, you want some?” I asked as the man in question joined the ‘battle’ between Hestia and Ghost.
“Pass!” He yelled as the dragon and direwolf joined forces to bring him down. “Oof!”
“Bottoms up.” Tyrion quickly took his seat and began to drink, losing what seemed to be years off of his face the moment the wine entered his body. His withdrawal must have been intense. “I haven’t had wine since… I can’t quite remember, any longer.”
“Yeah.” I said noncommittally as I drank some as well. Sometimes I wished I had some Pepsi, but there was nothing to be done on the matter. I doubted the necessary ingredients even existed in Westeros. “So, how was the Wall? I never got to ask, because, you know, you were taken prisoner.”
“It was quite the sight.” Tyrion said conversationally, easily transitioning between being a prisoner to sitting at my magically conjured table and drinking my wine— however ridiculous it was. “Majestic, even. It was difficult to believe that this was a man made wonder. Some would say the same about the Titan of Braavos, but the Wall is much larger in both height, and length, spamming across three hundred miles along the North. The view from the top was even more awe inspiring. I then pissed over it.”
I smirked. Of course, he would have.
“What else did you do, while you were there?” I asked curiously, pouring him another cup of wine.
“Not all that much.” Tyrion admitted. “Though the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, a man by the name of Jeor Mormont, asked for me to ask my dear family, as well as the King Robert— this was before he was killed, you see— for more recruits.”
“Why?” I asked.
“White Walkers or some such.” Tyrion said, though his eyes found their way to Hestia, who was currently being double teamed by Jon and Ghost. “But, then again, if dragons exist, then it is possible all of the other mythical creatures do.”
“They exist.” I promised to his surprise. “As you know I possess many… gifts.”
“Indeed.” He quipped, but gestured for me to continue.
“One of them is the ability to… connect, if you will, with this world.” I said slowly. “I can feel the flow of its energies.”
I paused to let him absorb that comment. This was the real reason I was making conversation with him, the reason why I didn’t let him be mistreated in any way. I needed the Westerlands, and he was the key to it all.
That, and he was a pretty smart guy. Very likable.
“I felt their power, north of the Wall.” I said gravely. “Undoubtedly, it was the most frightening presence I had ever felt.”
“Frightening?” Tyrion gave me a double take.
I nodded. “I don’t use that word lightly. I’ve come accross many things on my journeys, but the power gathering up there is enough to have me greatly worried. They are creatures borne of ice and death, and they will stop at nothing to kill each and every single one of us. Lannister, Stark, Tyrell, Baratheon, Martell, it doesn’t matter. We’re all meat for their army.”
“But, this war—” Tyrion countered, but I interrupted him.
“This war.” I said, anger in my tone as the body of Eddard Stark flashed in my mind. “Is the result of your sister’s vengeful intentions after she had lost her hand due to her own crimes. Likely, the Lord Lannister has been forced to launch an attack, knowing that the other Houses would take action. It’s what anyone would have done to keep their own kingdom safe. But it doesn’t matter. They will be defeated before long. Lannister, Baratheon, Tyrell, all of these greedy families will be left in the dust.”
“I very much doubt that.” Tyrion argued back. “Granted, you do have a dragon, which is a powerful weapon to be sure, but men have killed dragons before.”
“Who said I need a dragon?” I smiled. “I am more than capable of doing it, myself.”
“My Lord!” A messenger. “Lord Robb summons you to his tent. It is urgent.”
I nodded with a frown. “I’m not a Lord, but I’ll head there, thank you.”
“Lord in all but name.” Tyrion said, taking a long gulp of his wine. “The Mage Lord. Dragonlord, they call you.”
“It doesn’t really matter.” I waved it off, uncaring. “Lord or not, I know who I am, and where I stand on the food chain. I don’t need the self gratification a title would get me.”
Tyrion scrutinized me for a few moments, before getting off his seat and heading back to his cage. “I thank you for the drink, Harry.”
I stopped the guard from closing the cage back up.
“Come on, Tyrion.” I smiled. “I didn’t set you free so you could go back in the cage.”
“My Lord?” The guard said, confused at the turn of events. “He is our enemy. I—”
“Indeed he is, my good man.” I cut the guard off and extended my hand to the confused dwarf. “But, he doesn’t have to be. I’d prefer to have him as an ally.”
Tyrion gave me a long, considering look, before taking it and shaking firmly.
I smiled, and turned to where Jon was.
“Hey, Jon!” I yelled. “Get your white wolf ass over here! Your brother’s calling for us, and it doesn’t sound good.”
Jon complied and the three of us began to move towards the main tent. I could sense that Tyrion felt pretty nervous at all the glares sent his way— he hid it pretty well, though.
“Five dragons say Lord Frey wants Robb to marry one of Walder’s daughters.” Jon said.
“You think I’m stupid?” I scoffed. “I’m not taking that bet.”
“You’ve run out of wine, oh great Mage Lord.” Tyrion held up the almost empty pitcher as we almost reached the main tent. “Can you magic up some more?”
Why did I even release him again?
Oh, right, right. Casterly Rock.