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Coup

Sidestep. Kick. Shield. Punch. Block.

“Oof!” I felt myself get carried off by the momentum of Jon’s strike, but recovered quickly and grabbed his arm. With a grunt of effort, I heaved and threw him to the wall, but not before I was forced to shield myself from the burst of flame coming off his hands, even as he was sent flying back.

I lowered my arms, stood back and watched him collide against it before dropping to the floor harshly, the breath most likely leaving his body.

“Not bad at all…” I trailed off, before my eyes widened as he recovered quickly and launched a stream of white hot flames at me. I jumped as high as I could, and drove my Lightning coated hands into the stone ceiling above me so as not to fall.

The flames guttered out, leaving the floor charred and glowing very slightly.

I whistled, greatly impressed. His fire had torn right through the stone!

“Been learning some tricks, have we?” I asked as Jon relaxed, signaling the end of the fight.

He looked up at me expectantly, as I pulled my hands out of the ceiling and adjusted my fall so I wouldn’t land on the still extremely hot stone bricks below me.

“I was sure that would’ve hit you.” Jon panted slightly, sounding slightly upset.

“You wanted to hit me with that?” I repeated.

Jon waved me off. “I know you can take it.”

I grinned. “Damn, so much for a guilt trip.”

“You’ve improved a lot, Jon.” I continued, my grin shifting into a soft smile. “That attack of yours would work on anyone but me, I can guarantee you that.”

He nodded, but still didn’t seem convinced.

I moved to him and gripped his shoulder. “I’m serious!”

I pointed at the steadily decreasing glow coming from the stone floor. “You’ve managed to increase the strength of your flames faster than I ever expected.”

I turned back to look at him.

“I’m proud of you.” I said. “You know that? You’ve learned all I’ve got to teach you.”

“Wha— Truly?” Jon asked in bewilderment.

“Yes.” I nodded confidently. “I’ve taught you how to shape your flames, I’ve taught you how to compress it to a degree that… Well…” I pointed at his handiwork. “The results are right there.”

“So, what now?” Jon asked.

“Now, you just work on getting physically stronger.” I said. “Perhaps learn how to fly with your fire alone, though that will take a lot of energy.”

“Fly…?” Jon sounded incredulous. “You think that’s possible?”

“Yes.” I said with a smile. “I can do it, though it tears through my shirts every time to make wings.”

“Wings?” Jon sounded both amused and intrigued. “Show me.”

I stared at him for a few seconds before acquiescing. I made sure to take off my shirt and then began to concentrate.

Electric blue wings quickly erupted from my back, filling the room with a gentle buzzing sound and a bright, blue light as the new appendages swayed gently in the air, causing it to vibrate slightly.

“A-Amazing.” Jon said, circling me with awe. “I had no idea you could…”

“Yes.” I said, looking faintly amused. “I can.”

I released my powers, the Lightning drawn back into my body— no need to waste perfectly good energy, after all.

“Though, I only use them in certain situations. For the most part, I trust Geryon to get me where I need to be. It’s much faster, and infinitely less draining on my own reserves.” I explained patiently.

In fact, I had only used my wings once, when I had landed in the new world.

“Fair point.” Jon spoke. “Geryon is unlike any other horse I’ve met.”

“No more special than Ghost.” I replied back.

Jon smiled, but then frowned. “What if.. No, that probably won’t work.”

“Hm?” I asked curiously. “What won’t work?”

“It’ll sound ridiculous.” Jon said.

“Humor me.” I encouraged him.

“Well,” Jon started uncertainly. “What if I gave some of my power to Ghost?”

Huh, that was an interesting thought.

“To Ghost?” I repeated. “I’m not sure. The direwolves come from the North North, and—” I smirked as I heard Balthazar’s irritated hisses in my mind for a second. “—It’s possible that adding your flames to him might not work. I doubt it would harm him, though. Well, the unaligned energy, at any rate. You might need some more training in energy sharing, to get that far.”

His face switched a hopeful look.

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, sure. I’ll see if I can teach that to you, at some point. Maybe, next week?”

Jon quickly agreed, and we exited the unused room, before making our way back to the Tower of the Hand. It was almost midday, I noted as we greeted the Stark guards and made our way to the Hand’s office, where Ned was waiting for us.

“You’re early.” He smiled slightly, and nodded in approval, before standing up. “Much to do today, Jon. As for you, Harry, one of Baelish’s associates had something to tell you.”

Now that sounded strange.

“Is that so, Lord Ned?” I questioned, hoping he’d elaborate.

Ned only grimaced slightly at the method of address, before replying. “Yes, though he only stated that it was something that might take some time, possibly the rest of the day.”

“Great.” I huffed in slight irritation. “It sounds like it will be… fun. Any idea where he might be?”

Jon snorted as his uncle spoke.

“He’s waiting for you at the entrance of this very Tower.” Ned informed me.

I gave a simple nod, and turned to leave.

“See you later, Jon, Lord Ned.” I said, and exited the office, hearing Jon’s call of goodbye as I began to descend the long flight of stairs. I passed by some of the guards, giving them nods and smiles as they greeted me.

I reached the bottom, where the man in question was waiting. He was a thin man, with wide eyes darting nervously every other moment. His round face was unshaven and peppered with pimples, especially on the top of his balding head.

Disgusting.

I greeted the man and he jumped, the dirty rags that he wore moving with him.

“Milord.” The man said, smiling. It was all I could do to not cringe away from those rotting, yellow teeth.

By God, was I happy I could still ensure that my teeth were clean through the use of magic.

“Hello.” I replied, not correcting him on my Lordship status. “I was told you wished to see me on Lord Baelish’s behalf?”

“Yeah.” The older man grunted, nodding quickly, tearing his eyes away from a nearby vase which looked on the expensive side.

“Lord Baelish said ta’ lead you to ‘im.” He explained, giving a bow. “Milord.”

I nodded. “Lead the way, then, my friend.”

“It’s a bit outta town, milord.” He hesitated.

“That’s fine.” I smiled in what I thought was a friendly way. “A little walking never hurt anybody.”

The man nodded and said “milord”, before finally leading the way. We passed by more of the Stark guards, who gave me a respectful nod, which I returned, before passing through the Red Keep proper.

The trip was slow going.

My companion?

“So, do you have any idea what this is about?” I asked again, a few minutes later, as we exited the Red Keep, and made our way through the streets of King’s Landing. “Maybe I could make the process go faster if I knew what we were dealing with.”

He only laughed, a whistling noise coming out between the large gap in his teeth, before answering that he hadn’t the faintest clue.

Of course, he wouldn’t know.

Far be it from Baelish to actually tell his underlings what the deal is. I’ve only had a few interactions with the man, but he was a seriously annoying man. Oh, he smiled politely, and attempted to be as unassuming as possible, but Erebus immediately picked up on the ill intent.

As the Emperor of Darkness, I had also managed to pick up on this, as well.

I figured he was probably finding ways to swindle people out of their money, or something. Greed is a strong, negative emotion, after all.

I passed by a few known bars and brothels, being frequented by large groups of burly looking men— though, not the knights in armor I was expecting.

I shrugged; perhaps they were here for the Joust that would occur soon.

We finally reached the gate leading out of the city. A few questions from the City Watch later, and we were off.

“Just ahead now, ’bout ‘alf an ‘our’s walk.” He stated in an accent which unmistakably put his place of birth as Flea Bottom— or so I’ve heard. It was a bit of cockney, mixed with this world’s language patterns as well as something else.

I didn’t care enough to learn it.

Heh, I’d probably lose quite a few brain cells if I tried— Lightning healing me or not.

Anyway, I buckled down and followed the man, who walked at a ridiculously slow pace. I frowned.

“Could we walk a bit faster?” I asked.

“Apologies, milord.” The man wheezed and rapped at his right foot. “Old thing’s been busted fo’ a long time, now.”

I sighed but didn’t reprimand him for something he couldn’t help. “It’s all right.”

Something shifted in his eyes, but he nodded resolutely and kept going forward.

Strange.

It was as if he was sad, for a second.

§Perhaps not many people are kind to him?§ Balthazar hissed quietly in my mind.

I nodded.

Fair point.” I thought back. “It makes sense. I could’ve simply ordered him to move faster or I’d have his head, and he probably would have complied.

Satisfied, I kept following him, as we passed by the shanty settlements outside of town and moved southwards to the Kingswood.

Hm, from the looks of it, I figured it would either be an animal problem, or some killer who lives in the woods. I entertained myself with thoughts of battle as we entered the large forest, walking straight ahead.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” I said after ten minutes of nonstop walking.

“I-It’s just up ahead now.” He said nervously, eyes flitting around at every sound in the forest, before he pointed at our destination. “You see? There it is.”

I looked to where he was pointing at and saw a broken down carriage lying on top of a large boulder.

“Huh.” I said to myself, before approaching the carriage to examine it. Its doors were cracked open, revealing nothing within. “I wonder what this is doing here.”

I turned to look back at Baelish’s envoy.

“Is this what I’m supposed to be looking at?” I questioned him.

A nod.

I looked at the carriage again and back at the man. “Are you sure? There’s nothing in there.”

“I-I-I don’t know, milord.” He stammered nervously, eyes still going a mile a minute, checking every tree and bush for danger.

“Relax, it’s just a forest.” I said reassuringly. “Nothing’s going to happen.”

The man responded by nodding jerkily again.

I sighed and resumed my examination of the carriage. Again, I saw nothing but cracked, but polished wood. Though this carriage looked quite familiar…

Wait.

This was the Queen’s wheelhouse.

I remembered it because I had fixed its broken axle, back when we were heading to King’s Landing. I’m guessing my charm faded at some point, because I spotted the same break on the axle when I bent to check its underside.

I stopped my examination to speak to the man again.

What was Baelish playing at?

“Is this some kind of joke?” I said in irritation. “Why would Baelish show me the empty wheelhouse of the former Queen Cersei?”

The man blanched and backed away.

I made to follow him before Erebus shouted in my mind.

Archers!” He roared and I immediately went into action, cringing as I felt an arrow pierce the back of my hand while the rest peppered the former Queen’s empty wheelhouse. I lost control for a second and fell to the floor, feeling two arrows graze the side of my neck, and my face respectively.

Immediately, I pressed down on the neck wound with my good hand and cauterized it, cringing and screeching in pain as the smell of burning flesh entered my nose— my modified Bubblehead Charm had failed, it seemed.

Opening my eyes slightly, I saw the thin man make a run for it. I got up and made to follow him, only to crouch under yet another volley of arrows. I felt a few stings as they bounced off my clothes, the Unbreakable Charm holding under the onslaught.

Though the impacts would definitely leave some really bad bruises, I would be fine.

My left hand, however… I snapped off the arrow head as cleanly as I could with my Lightning and pulled the rest of it out, weathering continuous volleys which did nothing but slam painfully into my back and bounce off.

Next step, cauterizing the wound on my left hand.

I screamed again as the Lightning closed the wound up, intensifying the smell of burnt flesh. It didn’t matter, the blood loss was stopped, and it wouldn’t get in the way of battle.

I made some over the top choking noises, before pretending to fall on my side. The volleys stopped. I pretended to choke some more— wasn’t really hard, with stabbing pains on my left hand, my neck, my face and bruises forming on my back.

“I think we got ‘im!” One of them said excitedly.

“So much for the great Blackscale, eh?” Another one said, most likely smirking.

A few laughs. Five men? No, maybe six? There was no way to tell.

“All right, boys.” A third one said, his voice deep and grumbling. “Let’s take the boy and bring him to Baelish. I’m sure the Queen will reward us further by seeing his dead body.”

A few excited noises, and a “get to it!” later, three of the men approached me, while the rest turned to leave, judging from the footsteps.

“You get the legs.” The first one said. “I get the shoulder and you get the middle.”

“Why don’t we just cut ‘im in ‘alf?” The man who led me here suggested. “Easier to carry, then, wouldn’t it be?”

“Don’t get any ideas in your head, Tyde.” The first one warned. “You might’ve managed to bring him here, but you’re still not the leader, here.”

Some grumbling later, and they began to wrap their hands around me.

I reacted quickly, ignoring the pain in my left hand and swinging Erebus hard as I got up and turned, cutting through all three men before they realized I was even awake.

The three were dead before they hit the ground.

I stared at them for a few moments, as the blood began to pool and the smell began to fill my head. I snarled in rage. My agony dulled, the nerves deadening around my various wounds.

Soon, it was nothing more than a steady thump, locked in the back of my mind.

I was going to kill Baelish for this.

But first…

“Hey!” The remaining ne’er-do-wells said as they rushed me, unsheathing their swords. “He’s still alive! Get him!”

I shifted Erebus to my undamaged right arm and made short work of the first man, whose thrust I sidestepped— rather clumsily compared to my normal attempts, I might add— rewarding him by swinging Erebus downwards through his neck.

It didn’t cut completely through, and I was forced to pull the dark sword out by kicking the man off me. Blood sprayed out of his neck, covering me in a spatter of crimson.

I quickly wiped at my face and estimated where the last two were, before swinging with as much strength as I could manage at who I thought wasn’t the leader. My trusty falchion tore through the man’s sword, clothes, and the man himself in a clean swipe, bisecting him diagonally and spraying me with even more blood.

I felt something hard slam point first into my stomach, keeling me over as the breath left my body.

“What… is this?” The man— the leader of these criminals, I noted thankfully— asked incredulously, pushing his long sword against the fabric of my shirt in a futile attempt to skewer me.

I wiped the remainder of the blood off my face and pointed my injured hand at him, sending a bolt of Lightning into him. Immediately, he let go of the sword and fell back, twitching uncontrollably, his armor making clinks and dings with every movement.

I took the time to regain my breath, Vanish the blood off of me, and take stock of my situation once more. I stared at the former Queen’s wheelhouse for a few seconds, my mind making the connections, before turning to the criminal leader.

While it was nice to make the connections on my own, this guy probably knew what the whole deal was. I shook my dizziness off temporarily and addressed the slowly recovering man.

His shakes had stopped, but he was still drooling.

Had I not watched my energy output and fried his brain? I knelt down slowly, making sure not to touch anything with my left hand— just because my pain receptors were dulled didn’t mean that I had to exacerbate my current wounds, after all.

I laid Erebus on the dirt floor, before slapping the leader on the face a few times with my scaled hand. He sputtered and struggled, but I had no sympathy.

The fuckers had tried to kill me, after all.

“Sto—” He tried to say as I slapped him again, feeling his teeth snap and crack with every slap. “Plea—”

Eventually I stopped, and he looked at me with unrestrained fear.

“Now.” I said lightly, staring at my hand in boredom as if this was an everyday thing, and I wasn’t in extreme pain. “Tell me everything you know, or I’ll pull your heart out and feed it to you. Your choice.”

“Please, pl—” He tried to beg, but went completely still with fear when I placed my hand above his breastplate, Balthazar’s potent acidic venom sizzling against his armor. He cringed as some of the liquid penetrated his skin.

“Okay!” He screamed and struggled. “All right! I’ll tell you, please just stop! PLEASE!

I nodded in satisfaction and sucked all the venom back up through the hole in my hand.

“So.” I smiled and retracted my hand. “What have you got for me?”

“We were or— ordered here.” He stammered, his previous calm and collected voice a thing of the past.

“Ordered by whom?” I asked calmly.

“L-Lord Baelish.” He answered. “He wanted you dead.”

“You’re not being honest with me, my friend.” I gave an eerie smile and placed my hand on his chest plate again. “Perhaps another less—”

“The Queen! It was the Queen!” He shouted.

I frowned, but kept my hand on his chest plate. “Keep talking. Omit any truth and you die.”

“The Queen sent us here to kill you. She made a deal with Littlefinger.” He said quickly, stumbling over his words but I could understand well enough. “He was to lead you here, and we were to kill you. Her orders, I swear it.”

“Interesting.” I mused. “For what purpose? I doubt the humiliation she suffered would be enough to arrange my death like this?”

Though, it was certainly possible; the world lacked for reasonable people, not emotional ones. Her son, Joffrey, had tried to assassinate me during the melee, after all. Sure, it was Lannister men who could have ganged up on me over some sense of camaraderie, but such an excuse was flimsy at best.

All in all, a very clumsy attempt; only attributable to kids with power: Joffrey, in this case.

Anyway…

“All I know is, she wants you dead so that you won’t interfere.” He said.

“Interfere?” I asked. “Interfere with what?”

He didn’t answer, instead closing his eyes.

“Interfere with what!?” I asked again, letting my poison seep in through his breastplate again. He screamed, and yelled. He struggled, but I held him in place with a few electric shocks.

“The coup!” He finally screamed, after holding out for what he thought was eternity. It was really half of a minute. “She’s taking over King’s Landing!”

Now that was worrying. I stopped the poison abruptly.

“And Baelish is… Just there to ride on her coattails. Is that it?” I asked, knowing he’d nod even before it happened.

With me out of the way, they could focus on the Stark guard and family easily.

My mind went through the possibilities. None looked good.

I got up, and started to make my way back to the capital.

The sound of the leader’s laugh stopped me. I turned to see him slowly get up.

“My job is done.” He smiled and looked up. “The poison should be taking effect soon.”

As if his words were the trigger, I suddenly found myself stumbling over myself, my sense of balance completely gone. I lost control over myself, bending over and immediately vomiting out whatever I’d had to eat earlier in the day.

I looked up, my vision blurring steadily, though I could see him bend over to pick his sword back up with a grimace.

“It’s too bad.” He said, slowly approaching me as I tried to move back and fell on my ass. “We could have used someone with your talents, boy. Ah, well, no use crying over spilt milk”

He raised his sword to finish me off.

I raised my right hand and sprayed him with all the venom I could. There was a loud, sizzling noise, and a very short scream, followed by a thud.

The only things I felt before passing out were Balthazar’s unintelligible yells, and the smell of dissolved flesh entering through my nose.

oooooooooo

“Ugh.” I groaned softly.

It felt like every bone in my body was aching, but I opened my eyes regardless. Well, I tried to; a sudden flash of red light lanced into my vulnerable eyes and sent a lance of pain ricocheting around my skull.

I instantly shut my eyes and clamped my hand over them, only to yell out in pain as my hand pressed on my face. Everything hurt, but my hand was the worst off.

What was going on?

I tried to sit up, with great difficulty, and managed to turn myself over so I was facing the dirt beneath me. Wait, dirt?

I opened my eyes to let them grow accustomed to the light in comparative shelter. A few seconds later, I pushed off the ground and surveyed my surroundings, stumbling slightly as I did so.

The sight was horrific.

I was in a forest. There was a broken carriage, and what looked to be the dissolved remains of a man.

What is— And then it hit me.

Queen Cersei tried to kill me, or stall—

“Shit!” I hissed out, ignoring the stabs of pain coursing through my body. “I have to warn the Starks!”

Too late, boy.” Erebus clattered from nearby. “That was hours ago.

Hours…? I stared back at the dissolved corpse.

That’s right. He poisoned me.

§He did.§ Balthazar piped up, though his voice sounded weak and tired. §I don’t know what that was, but I counteracted it as best as I could. It took all my remaining energy to eradicate it from your body, Harry.§

I nodded, moving to grab Erebus and sheathe him.

§My armor is still in effect, but you must not use my venom for at least a day. I don’t think I could handle the drain.§ Balthazar said tiredly, before going quiet again. I had the distinct feeling he was resting.

I stumbled slightly.

Treat your wounds, fool.” Erebus scolded. “Time is of the essence, true, but you are of no use to anyone if you simply show up at their door step, half dead.”

I almost snarled out a response, before thinking better of it and diving my good hand into my pockets, pulling out a small, cylindrical container. I popped it open with some difficulty, and began to rub its contents all over my wounds.

The Murtlap Essence did its job quickly, completely closing the hole in my hand. I witnessed the flesh knit itself together at an incredible pace, until there was nothing left but an angry red mark instead of the hole it previously was.

I poked it and winced. It still stung pretty badly, but at least there was something there, now.

I applied the Essence anywhere I could think of; my neck, my face, the bruises on my back and on my stomach, and felt my body release a lot of the tension it once had as the healing agent did its magic.

I allowed myself a short sigh of relief, before closing the container and pocketing it once more.

All right, Potter.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Check your body’s capabilities before going any further.

I tried to walk, to test my balance. As promised, Balthazar had completely counteracted the poison which was in my body, though his powers were largely unavailable to me.

No matter.

I had Erebus, my wand, and probably about forty percent of my real power available to me.

Forty percent was generous, but one could hope, right?

I disillusioned myself quickly and ran back to King’s Landing, enhancing my legs with as much Lightning as they could comfortably take at the moment. A far cry from my true speed, but enough to get me back within ten minutes, rather than the hour it had taken before.

I approached the gate silently, scrunching my nose at the overwhelming odor of human refuse and feces, as well as that of animals. It had been a while since I’d smelled this delightful stench.

I had honestly grown used to having a modified Bubblehead Charm on.

I didn’t want to waste any energy for anything, though. A little smell was unimportant when compared to ensuring safety of my friends and their families.

I used a Summoning Charm on the gates, and they flew open with a loud groan. I cringed at the noise and immediately made my way inside, the Disillusionment Charm letting me pass by completely unnoticed as a pack of Gold Cloaks showed up and stared dumbly at the entrance.

I made my way through the streets, spotting the same group of unsavory looking men I had seen around the brothels earlier— sell swords hired by the Lannisters, no doubt.

How did I not notice the signs?

How could I put Jon and the rest of my friends in danger?

Focus.” Erebus chided. “There are bigger things at stake here than your feelings.

I nodded, glad for the reminder, before steeling myself and making my way to the Red Keep.

The entrance was packed with guards standing side by side like a human wall. They were all in their armor— Lannister colors, I noted— standing at attention. A quick glance to the sides revealed half a dozen archers at the ready for anyone trying to enter.

This meant the struggle might not be over!

There was hope.

Still, no sense in barelling through these men. I was weakened, and it would probably take a whole lot of effort to kill them all— and the archers— without suffering any damage or drain to my reserves.

So, I did this instead.

Tarantallegra.” I cast the spell a dozen times at the guards and watched as they broke into dance.

“Wh—” The unlucky targets mouthed out as they began to tap dance in sync with each other.

“Enough!” One of the unaffected guards shouted.

“Stop that!” A man standing behind the group commanded.

“I can’t help it. My legs are moving of their own accord!” One of the unlucky guards yelled out as he did a little twirl.

The group broke apart as they tried to stop their comrades from dancing, to no avail. I immediately used one of the many openings to walk right past the group, and into the castle proper.

I immediately rushed to the Tower of the Hand, and hope began to die as I saw dead Stark guards. Men I had eaten with, slept with, rode with, and joked with.

I entered the Tower as quietly as I could, before making my way up the stairs, trying not to look at the dead guards every other step. As I reached the top, I stopped to look at Jory, his neck snapped and his eyes glazed over.

His hand still clenched hard over his sword.

A fighter until the end, huh…

I fought the tears away and knelt beside him, closing his eyes. His skin felt slightly warm to the touch. He hadn’t been dead long.

I swallowed the lump in my throat, and made my way to the Hand’s Office.

The sight was more horrifying than the rest, combined.

Drinks lay at each end of the table, with a few large meals in between. On one end of the table, was Robert Baratheon’s dead body. His eyes, glazed over, a chicken leg on the stone floor beside him— he’d likely dropped it post mortem.

A sword— the Valyrian blade, Ice— was run right through his chest. The chair and ground under him were soaked with blood and other, less identifiable fluids, which prompted a grimace of disgust and horror.

At his right side lay the body of Eddard Stark. He was face down, his hand directly below the sword impaling his King. A great pool of blood lay beneath him, though it was no growing.

They’d also been dead a while.

I stared at the two for the longest time, my mind trying to make sense of things. How did Cersei do this?

We are not alone in here.” Erebus sent me his thought calmly. “Don’t tense up.”

Tense up was just what I did, allowing me to leap to the side and avoid the whiz of darts, which embedded themselves in the table next to me.

“Impressive.” I heard as a man stepped out of the shadows in the room. It was almost as if he was part of them. “Not many possess the ability to detect my presence and dodge my killing strike.”

He’s magical.” Erebus informed me.

Oh, gee, how could you tell?” I thought back sarcastically. “Maybe it’s how he could easily detect my invisible presence and hide in the shadows?”

Erebus said nothing as I took in the newcomer.

“Who are you?” I spoke quietly, dangerously. “Did you do this?”

No answer.

“Answer me.” I said with clenched teeth. “I won’t ask again.”

“Yes.” He answered. “This man did.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat and pushed my sadness away. “Why?”

“The price has been paid. The contract has been made.” He answered without emotion. “The Gift must be bestowed.”

“An assassin.” I said.

“My apologies.” He said, not looking sorry in the least. “But I cannot let you live. My fellow is taking care of another boy— I believe he is the Hand’s son, judging from his reaction to his father’s death.”

What?

And then the assassin attacked.

Faster than any man I had seen so far. Faster than Jaime Lannister and Barristan Selmy put together.

But still not as fast as me, even at my reduced power. Lightning answered my call, strengthening my muscles, bones, and nerves as much as they could as I dodged the man’s pinpoint strikes at my point— all debilitating and aimed at precise spots at my body despite its invisibility under the Disillusionment Charm.

Enough of this.

I began to fight back.

I quickly swung Erebus at him, but he managed to avoid each and every hit.

He sidestepped my vertical slashes, leapt back from my horizontal swings, and merely kept his distance whenever he could.

I better understood his fighting style.

He was more of an ambusher, it seemed. Though he possessed speed far surpassing that of the greatest knights in the Seven Kingdoms, he did not have the necessary skill to back it up. The fact that he was trying to tire me out, rather than go for the kill, was proof enough.

In other words, he was slower than me, and not as skilled as me, either.

So it was no surprise that, after a few minutes of furious exchanges, I thrusted the blade through his head, puncturing through his eye and coming out from the back. His body feebly twitched for a few moments, before going slack.

I pulled the black blade out of his head with a sickening squelch, and wiped it on my shirt, before sheathing the blade and staring at the assassin’s dead body.

His magic was odd, but ultimately weak in comparison to mine. If I was at full strength, this exchange would have taken seconds rather than minutes.

I heard a choking sound, followed by awkward shuffling on the ground, and turned to stare at Ned Stark, who was awake and coughing.

“Ned!” I canceled my Disillusionment Charm before kneeling by his side and helping to flip him over and sit him up.

He tried to form words, but it seemed like his throat was slit. I quickly put pressure on the wound before pulling out the Murtlap Essence and covering it up.

Ned relaxed as I began to put more Essence onto his wounds— and there were many. It was a miracle that he was alive, still.

A few more gurgles, and then. “Harry.”

His voice was weak, too weak.

“Yes. I’m here.” I said, trying to smile but failing miserably. “I’ve got you. I’ll fix your right up, you’ll see.”

Ned shook his head slightly.

“No, no, don’t think that.” I said. “I swear, I’ll get you fixed up in no time.”

He’s right, boy.” Erebus sent me a thought. “He’s been in Death’s grip for a while now. He only held on through sheer force of will. Incredible will, easily matches yours.”

“Harry.” He said again, looking directly at me. “Arya. Sansa. Jon.”

“I’ll find them.” I promised. “I’ll keep them safe.”

He closed his eyes for a few seconds, before opening them. The level of sadness and despair I saw in them… It shook me.

“Tell Jon.” He struggled to say. “Tell Jon I’m… I’m not…”

“He knows.” I said. “He knows his mother is Lyanna and his father’s Rhaegar.”

Ned’s eyes widened at the revelation.

“He doesn’t hate you for it.” I said, watching the man tear up in happiness. “He knows you kept him alive, healthy and safe. He still loves you.”

Damn it. I couldn’t cry now.

I had to be strong.

The tears came anyway.

Ned merely nodded, before looking at his sword, resting his eyes on his dead friend, before gazing back at me.

“I did not—” He almost choked on his own blood. “Did not…”

“I know. This was Cersei’s doing. I promise I will make her pay.” I almost snarled, making sure not to jostle the dying Ned.

“The sword.” Ned said, his eyes beginning to glaze over, though his words were clearer than ever. “Bring it to Robb, or Jon.”

“I will, I promise.” I immediately said, and he began to smile, closing his eyes as he did so.

“Thank…” And then he stopped talking, going completely limp in my arms, a happy smile still on his face. It almost looked like he was sleeping peacefully, now.

But he wasn’t.

He was dead.

I stared at him for a while longer, feeling the tears stream down my face.

Why should I have been sad? I was going to leave this world any way, right?

Of course you’re sad.” A part of me scolded. “He’s been nothing but good to us ever since we came to this shithole. And Cersei killed him for it.

Yes.

Cersei did this.

She was going to pay.

I laid Ned’s body back down on the floor, gently positioning his hands so that they lay over his chest; it was a position of dignity which he deserved.

I pulled Ice out of Robert’s chest, and did the same for him, attempting to clean it up as much as I could.

Though… I looked at Ned’s corpse again.

His corpse. I couldn’t leave him here.

He should be resting at the Winterfell Crypts, with the rest of his family. I learned that from his many talks over the past few months I was serving under him.

I owed him that much.

I pulled my want out, and waved it over his form with a muttered “Reducio“. His body shrank to something that would fit in my hand. I fashioned a small wooden coffin for him, before placing him in it and applying the strongest cooling charm I had on it, as well as an Unbreakable Charm to make sure his body would not be disturbed.

Then, I pocketed it and took his family sword, Ice, staring at it for a long moment.

I had promises to keep.

I left the King’s dead body behind, intent on finding and rescuing Ned’s remaining family.

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