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Growing Stronger

Dinumero Gold Dragons.” I waved my wand at the huge piles of gold in front of me.

Wisps of energy appeared before me, coalescing into a number.

It read: “1,305,487”.

It was a neat little spell that I had found at one point, but never thought to use, as the need never truly arose. The Counting Spell was invented by a muggleborn of the name Richard Wilder, in the year 1203 in England.

He simply got sick of counting things, and devised the spell to do it for him.

Truly a hero above and beyond the Founders of Hogwarts, themselves— creating methods for us lesser wizards to be lazy and immediately get the answers to our questions.

Ironically, he ended up learning more about numbers to accomplish the creation of the spell, but still claimed it was worth it. Probably used the whole “wise wizard who created a spell” popularity to get laid.

Obviously, the spell had limited use in day to day activities, unless you were managing your finances without actual computerized equipment and counting machines. How else would you know how much money you had?

It was easy if it was a small pile of a hundred coins, but what if your money was like a mountain? In my first year, I had foolishly thought that Goblins manually counted the immense piles of Galleons, Sickles and Knuts— until I learned the Counting Spell.

So, yeah; in the Frey Vault, there was one million, three hundred and five thousand, four hundred and eighty seven gold dragons.

I took around half and deposited it in my pouch with a wave of my wand. The rest would be for Robb and his army— I was no fool. Without being allowed to… Sample the women, and after their massacring the escaping Freys, the army would need something to celebrate about.

And, what better way than to have their leader receive over six hundred thousand gold dragons and share it among his Lords?

And, that was simply the currency within. Red, blue and green shimmered from the sea of gold, evidence of rubies, sapphires and emeralds. There were some musty tomes which looked like they had some much better days in the past.

I spent a few minutes in the Vault, sifting through the Freys’ belongings until I came across a white, wooden protrusion from one of the piles.

“Huh.” I stared at it for a few seconds, before leaning forward and pulling whatever this was out of the pile. A long, gnarled stick made out of weirwood. My eyes unfocused as I watched old memories of the Lord Walder Frey using it as a walking stick, of sorts, when his legs had begun to fail him.

I felt a thrum of power emanating from it, exactly like the feeling I got when touching the weirwood heart tree in Winterfell.

§Not just any regular stick, then? A staff? And the old man was using it as a walking stick, of all things…§ Balthazar hissed curiously as I linked my own power with it. A sudden feeling of warmth and welcoming engulfed my form, and a smile immediately formed on my face.

“I wonder…” I said as I channeled Lightning to the edge of the staff, shaping it into a furiously spinning drill. “Edge.

“It worked.” I smiled and examined the spinning drill of Lightning, before forming another Edge on my right hand. “As I thought. The staff amplifies my powers— at least my Lightning, anyway. Let’s see… Wingardium Leviosa.” I aimed at a nearby rusted sword and slowly lifted the staff’s point.

The sword didn’t move.

Diffindo.” I casted, aiming to the end of the vault.

Again, nothing happened.

I nodded.

“So wand-spells don’t work with this.” I mused with a disappointed sigh, before shaking my head. “Still, this new weapon might prove to be useful in some way. The immediate benefit of saving power is there, and, the magic felt easier to shape, better focused.”

“Well.” I amended slightly. “At least the ones that are not direct Dragonslayer moves. My Roar will always originate from my altered lungs.”

I was more dragon in body than the Targaryens, themselves, after all.

A weapon is a weapon.” Erebus rattled from within his bone white sheath. “Refinement beats brute strength any day. The perfect example of this is your battle with Agni and Rudra atop the Temen Ni Gru.

I remembered that fight well. Those creatures were utter brutes in every sense of the word. They possessed no refinement, merely attacking furiously with their elemental swords.

I shook my head. There were better things to do than reminiscing.

The trip back to Robb’s camp was short, and uneventful. Robb’s army was already finished setting fire to all of the men they’d slaughtered, and were now calmly resting in camp.

A few of the posted guards that didn’t participate in the battle— and there were plenty, as you couldn’t really fit twenty thousand men in the small space the battle took place in— greeted me with happy cheers, and a few strange looks at my new staff.

I returned them with nods and gracious smiles, before making my way into the main tent.

“—Through the Whispering Wood. That’s where many of his men will be, assuming they are sieging Riverrun, still, and not already successful.” Robb pointed at key positions on the map.

“Our scouts will be relaying new information, on the march.” Roose Bolton said in his soft voice. “Though, I agree with Lord Stark, it never hurts to have additional information on the matters, at hand.”

“You give wise counsel, Lord Bolton.” Catelyn praised as I coughed to get their attention.

“Harry!” Robb greeted me, eyes flitting to the staff for a few moments. “You’ve returned. It is done, then?”

“Yep.” I said. “I emptied the second castle.”

“They are fleeing, like before?” Catelyn frowned. “Perhaps if we held the Lord Frey—”

“You misunderstand, Lady Stark.” I interrupted. “I burned them all to death. They’re nothing but ashes, now.”

A few moments of silence.

“You would have to wait a bit until the air clears.” I said unnecessarily. “Probably half of an hour, an hour at most.”

“I see.” Whether or not Robb was rattled by the casual way I referred to decimating over a thousand men and their Lord, he didn’t show it. “I thank you, Harry.”

“You’ll thank me even more once you get the loot.” I smiled slightly. “Over six hundred thousand gold dragons, as well as jewels and other trinkets.”

“Truly?” One of the Lords said in awe— Glover, his last name was?

“Yes.” I nodded and looked at them challengingly. “That’s only your half, anyway. I took my own share. Seemed only fair.”

Robb waved it off, despite his Lords bristling.

“It would not have been possible without you, to begin with.” Robb said easily. “Now, instead of taking a bride for myself and betrothing Arya, I receive the Twins, and six hundred thousand dragons.”

Catelyn whispered something in his ear, and Robb stilled, before his tone grew cold.

“Leave us, Lady Stark.” Robb looked away from her, nodding towards the entrance. She looked like she wanted to say something, before thinking better of it and leaving, holding her head high.

The other gathered Lords remained tense, looking between Robb and I, as if we were going to break into a fight at any moment.

Why?

Medieval mindset, boy.” Erebus supplied. “They believe Robb is losing face for deferring to you so much. Likely your comment about taking your own share without any sort of consultation, as well as his accepting it paint Robb as weak. He knows this. His mother knows this. His own banner men know this.”

So, how would I fix that?

I could simply apologize to Robb and act respectful, but it would only seem like salt in the wound, at this point— as if I was showing respect to him as a mere afterthought.

Or, there was another option, and that was to—

“Is that weirwood?” Robb asked suddenly, nodding at my new acquisition.

I nodded at the abrupt question. “Yes. The Lord Frey was using it as a walking stick when his legs began to fail him. He kept it in the Frey Vault, afterwards.”

“A walking stick!” Robb looked furious. “To desecrate the Old Gods in this way…!”

There was a chorus of “Aye”s, his Lords looking equally furious, their disdain for the interactions between me and their Lord Paramount completely forgotten.

I stifled an eyeroll. The religious were always so empty headed. I was half expecting I had to knock some sense into them.

“Good riddance to the old fucker, then!” Lord Umber bellowed, moving over to slap me in the back. I smiled, feeling the tension in the room lessen somewhat as the Greatjon laughed.

I nodded in agreement, as the meeting continued, with Robb detailing his plan, taking some input from the gathered Lords but making his own informed decisions. This was an area of expertise I had no real skill with.

Predicting army movements and reacting accordingly.

Sure, I could gather the information, scout an area out and list where the enemies were, but I couldn’t really figure out what exactly would occur in the immediate future.

But, the plan was to leave a fair few archers and men-at-arms— just like with the Moat Cailin, a negligible amount of men considering their army of twenty thousand strong, but enough to hold the Twins easily.

Other armies did not have a wizard who could sneak in a castle and sack it by reducing all of its occupants to ash.

Back to the plans in motion.

We were to ride to the castle and town of Seagard, which was directly southward along the map. There, we would join up with House Mallister, assuming they didn’t betray their Lord Paramount like the Lord Frey had, and move on further south, skirting along the mountainous region on our way to Riverrun.

There, we would hit the Whispering Wood, where Tywin’s men were likely waiting, if they were sieging Riverrun— or had already taken the castle.

In both cases, the plan was to smash the army to a thousand little pieces, before relieving the siege.

“A few more men will be left to take the remaining gold in the Frey Vault back into The North.” Robb looked to Lord Umber and Glover. “I’m sure the both of you can spare the men? I’ll be sending a few of my own, as well.”

“Of course, my Lord.” Glover replied, Umber a second later.

“Right, then.” Robb took a breath and looked at all of his Lords. “We march at first light. Tell your men to get a good night’s rest, for we will need it tomorrow.”

“Aye.” They all agreed, bowing their heads to Robb before they filed out of the tent, leaving me and Robb alone.

“You think they’re going to question your authority?” I asked when we were finally left alone.

Robb snorted. “They already do. In fact, Lord Umber had even tried something of that nature, a few weeks ago. I had to deal with him accordingly. He almost lost two of his fingers before I put a stop to Grey Wind.”

I raised my eyebrows in surprise.

I guessed I wasn’t paying as much attention as I thought I was, if this happened without me knowing.

But then again, such was life. You could never be sure of what people did outside of your own realm of influence and awareness.

It was worrying in a way— and I wasn’t referring to the Lannisters, either. That House was simplistic to the extreme.

I was certain that Lord Tywin had split his army into two, sending the main force to siege Riverrun while the smaller force made its way to King’s Landing, in order to defend it from the possible Baratheon incursions, either east from the Blackwater Bay, or south from the Stormlands and the Reach.

My true enemies were working in the chaos which ensued.

The Red Priests of R’hllor. The Others.

Both factions, though enemies, were likely doing the exact same thing; building their respective armies of followers— whether it be the dead come back to life for the Others, or the blindly devout followers who’d set anyone on fire to receive power for the Red Priests.

Other possible enemies were the Faceless Men. I doubted after killing one of their members, they would simply let me go. The order was mysterious, and reticent. In the month I’d been marching, I had spoken with the Lords and the Maesters extensively, trying to figure out what drove these men to the life of a nameless assassin.

They gave up their sense of identity for their mission— to bestow the “gift”, also known as death, to whoever asked for it.

And with it, came magic.

The ability to use the faces of the dead they collect, as well as enhanced senses, judging by how that Faceless Man could see me through my Disillusionment Charm.

Truly dangerous foes, if given the chance to act.

If they attacked while I was sleeping, distracted, or simply not paying attention, I likely could not react in time to save myself. When my guard was down, I was just as vulnerable as the rest of the humans. I had enchanted armor, sure; but, a simple stab through the face or the neck would fix that right up.

Still, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from them. Their religion was based on Death and bestowing it on others. Was the contract still resolved if I killed their member instead of him killing me, or would that have simply exacerbated the situation?

I just didn’t know.

At any rate, I vowed to test my food more often, as well as examine the people I’m talking to for any deviation in personality, however slight it may have been. Otherwise, I could die.

§That’s called being paranoid.§ Balthazar drawled in my mind.

Yeah, well, they said the same thing during my time at Hogwarts.” I thought back. “There’s no plot to steal the Philosopher’s stone, Harry; you’re just being paranoid. Voldemort didn’t try to come back by eating Ginny’s soul, Harry; you’re just being paranoid. There’s no conspiracy behind Sirius’ imprisonment, Harry; you’re just being paranoid. There’s no murder plot behind the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Harry; you’re just being—”

Agreed.” Erebus said in irritation. “I have been monitoring the powers in this world as much as I can— the experience is jarring and disorienting, even for an old being such as I.”

I heard Robb say a few words but it sounded like gibberish to me.

“Sorry, what?” I asked. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“Is anyone?” Robb sighed tiredly. “I was saying I was going to sleep.”

“Oh.” I scratched the back of my head and laughed sheepishly. “Yeah, I’ll go too. Take care!”

I heard Robb’s grunt, turned and left, making my way to where Jon, Tyrion and our assemblage of… pets were located.

You’ve been keeping an eye on the world’s energies?” I thought as I sidestepped a few men hauling carts of food and drink. Likely, they had drawn the short straw and were saddled with food duty.

Indeed.” Erebus replied, the sword vibrating slightly. “There are two Red Priests on this continent, now.”

I stopped.

What?” I replied in shock, before shaking my head. “One of them is probably Thoros of Myr.”

Correct.” Erebus confirmed.

And the other?” I asked.

Unknown.” Erebus replied. “But I have been feeling their power growing in the south east, as well as to the far east; likely, this is in response to the hatching of your dragon.”

Hestia was the cause? “No, you can’t be sure of that, Erebus.”

I cannot.” Erebus allowed. “But it fits.”

It did.

So, things were a little more complicated, now. For better or worse, I’d allied myself with The North, which was threatened from all sides.

“The plan remains the same.” I ground out, getting some curious looks from the people I passed by.

“What plan?” I heard Jon say as I reached our own spot in the camp.

Ghost and Hestia were lying next to the fire, while Geryon was grazing on a nearby pile of hay. Tyrion sat by the fire, glancing in my direction for a moment before nodding and turning back to the flames.

I greeted the fellow teen as I took a seat by the fire, sniffing slightly as the scent of cooked meat entered my nose. Normally, I would have been salivating at the thought of venison, but I had just finished setting thousands upon thousands of people on fire.

So, instead of voraciously devour it, I took quick, light bites, making sure to keep my mind on the threats to the north, south and east, instead of the people I’d killed.

Jon sat by me.

“Hey.” He got my attention. “What plan?”

I took another bite, and began filling him in.

“So, the Lannisters are still our most immediate threat.” Jon said with a frown. “But it’s possible these Red Priests will become the newest threat?”

I nodded patiently.

“And, all the while, the Others build their power north of the Wall…” Jon trailed off, a hint of worry creeping in his tone.

“Yes.” I nodded. “We’re in a bad way.”

“Are we?” Tyrion challenged with a frown. “The Red Priests are likely not even aware of your existence, or they could simply be assuming the mindset of ‘live, and let live’.”

Hm. I hadn’t even considered that.

“It’s a fair point.” I allowed. “All I really have to go on is the fact that magical power is growing from all sides.”

“But, you seem to be getting stronger as well.” Tyrion pointed out, patting the weirwood staff by my side. “The smart thing to do would be to wait and see if these Red Priests will initiate hostilities against you and yours. To attack them without provocation simply because of the possible threat they pose is not only foolish, but hypocritical.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose.

“Damn it, but you’re right.” I breathed.

“So, what do you plan on doing?” Tyrion pushed.

“Casterly Rock.” I said. “It’s still yours. After that, I’m not sure. Either the Wall, or defending against the Red Priests of R’hlorr.”

“We’ll wait and see.” Jon offered up. “We don’t all have to go to the same place, of course.”

I nodded, smiling slightly, and taking a long drink from the wineskin. “Yes. You’re right, Jon. I forget I’m not alone in this. You can handle the Wall. Tyrion will handle the West after we gain control of it. As for the ‘Lord of Light’… we’ll see.”

We rose early the next day, and began to march to Seagard. The Crossing took a little longer than expected, but there was only so much you could do with twenty thousand men— nineteen thousand, now— crossing a bridge.

Robb, Lord Glover, and Lord Umber left a few of their own men behind, both to hold the Twins, as well as transport the spoils of war northwards, back to Winterfell.

This victory alone would have made the war worth in, gold and influence-wise.

The trip to Seagard would take a few days’ time, but that only allowed me to get a better bearing on the situation with the energies of the world. It also let me ascertain what the general population thought of me.

Whispers ran rampant in the men’s camps, hailing me as a hero on the level of those of old. Dragonlord. Black Dragonscale. Castlesacker. There was admiration in their words, but also an undercurrent of understandable fear.

Whispers of a darker nature rose, though they were quickly quelled by the fact that I’d enchanted their weapons and armor to be unbreakable.

You couldn’t really argue that particular point.

But, it was only natural that they’d question my intentions— I would have thought the same thing: “if he has this much power, what’s to stop him from turning on us?

So, I would go around speaking with the levies, knights and men-at-arms, Hestia trailing behind me like an overgrown pet. I asked about where they were from, their likes, dislikes; their dreams for the future. Most would have called it a selfless move of someone who cares for the little guy— I called it self preservation on my end.

I felt a little bad for influencing them like this, but it was either this or allow for dissent to grow within the ranks, allowing for a worst case scenario of betrayal.

The gold from the Frey Vaults, and the fact that I reached out to the men mitigated that particular threat.

The first night of that march, I sat by Hestia after I’d gathered up some fire wood. I patted her on the back of her neck, hearing her chirp of pleasure at the touch.

With a wave of my wand, the wood ignited, crackling merrily as I pulled out and Engorged a leg of chicken, placing it over the flames to cook. Jon was spending the night with his brother, while Tyrion drank himself into a stupor with a few of the Stark men-at-arms he’d befriended.

I could hear their laughter even all the way from my own camp.

§Easy, Hestia.§ I warned her as she made to snatch it with her razor sharp teeth. §You’ll enjoy it more if it’s cooked.§

§Cooked. Good?§ Hestia hissed, looking at me as I drew back in surprise.

§You… You can understand me?§ I hissed back.

She nodded, a behavioral pattern she’d likely picked up from me and others around us.

I took a deep breath.

Hestia could talk, just like Balthazar.

Why was this so surprising to me?

§Tongue, familiar, but not. Something else.§ Hestia replied, the hissing sounding strange coming out of a dragon.

§It’s the language of the snakes, Hestia.§ Balthazar chimed in.

§What is “snake”?§ Hestia asked curiously.

I felt the scales from my arm recede as Balthazar emerged, slithering towards the she-dragon slowly, looking up at her. I took a moment stare at my right arm, unscaled as it was— how long had Balthazar been merged with me? I’d honestly lost count.

§I am a snake, young one.§ Balthazar hissed gently. §My name is Balthazar.§

Hestia stared at the smaller reptile, poking him with her tail and nudging him with her head. Balthazar let it happen.

§Snake. Balthazar.§ She hissed. §You are not like me.§

§You’re right, Hestia.§ I smiled and spun the sizzling leg of chicken over the fire, swallowing down the saliva that built in my mouth. §You’re a dragon.§

Hestia turned her attention to me as Balthazar slithered back around my body, easily merging with my arm once more, the metallic looking black scales reflecting the firelight. §What is “dragon”?§

§You are.§ I hissed back gently. §Would you like to see yourself?§

§Please.§ She replied instantly, sounding a little excited.

I smiled, pulled out my wand and incanted “Speculo.”

Silvery light came forth, coalescing in a circular disc of reflective glass. It was a far cry from something McGonagall could conjure, but it did just fine. Hestia approached it, staring at her own reflection intensely, studying every inch of herself.

§That’s what you look like.§ I smiled down at the she-dragon.

She looked back at me, her emerald eyes gleaming in the firelight. §I see. Thank you, Father.§

§I— err—§ I stammered slightly, before calming down and giving Hestia a wide grin, feeling something else bubbling up inside of me. Paternal love? §Don’t mention it, Hestia. Come on, the food is almost done.§

Hestia’s excited chirp made me smile even wider.

I was not alone, not anymore.

The next few days were spent almost exclusively speaking with Hestia, teaching her various words, methods of speaking, and the like. She picked up on it ridiculously quickly, showing an intelligence far surpassing that of a human.

§You’ve improved a lot in the short time you’ve learned this new language, Hestia.§ I hissed as I rode on Geryon, with Hestia lumbering beside us. Tyrion had been given a pony from the stables of the Twins, and was having a little trouble riding it.

The castle and town of Seagard was in view of us. It was nowhere near the size of King’s Landing, but had an imposing look all of its own.

Not surprising, as the fortress was built with Ironborn raids in mind. There was a large stone watch tower dwarfing all of the buildings around it to detect attacks on its coast. Entering the city through land would prove to be an even more difficult task, as it was sheltered by the Cape of Eagles it its west, and nestled near the headwaters of the Blue Fork.

§You really think so?§ Hestia hissed before chirping happily, the sounds disconcerting when used in quick succession.

§Yes.§ I smiled and dismounted Geryon as the army stopped to wait as a few horse riders bearing the coat of arms of the House Mallister— a silver eagle over an indigo field— rode to our location. §It’s made your growth a lot easier. You really have no idea how hard it was for me to try and teach you how to breathe fire.§

Hestia snorted in amusement, but said nothing in return. Turns out, she could breathe fire, but simply chose not to, as her flames were nothing more than weak streams barely worth mentioning.

She had, however, promised to light the fire every night as practice.

I saw the Mallister men eye me and Hestia with quite a bit of wariness, before focusing their attention back to Robb and the Lords surrounding him. They exchanged some more words, before they rode back to their castle.

“Harry!” Robb called out as I handed Geryon’s reins to one of the many men under Robb’s command. I watched the mighty horse get pulled away before motioning for Hestia to follow me and join the man in question, Tyrion doing the same. “Come!”

Robb approached me heedlessly— Jon, Ghost, and Grey Wind following him.

“Hey, Robb, Jon.” I greeted quietly as Hestia crawled over to the two direwolves. “Are the Mallisters joining us, then?”

“Aye.” Robb confirmed. “They’ve been ready for a while, it seems. Their scouts were aware of our marching, though I am not entirely sure if they’re aware of what happened at the Twins.”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure they care too much.”

“All too true.” Robb said. “The Freys have made a great many enemies among the Lords in the Seven Kingdoms. In any case, Lord Mallister himself shall join his power with ours in a short while.”

“Point to him.” I smiled. “He doesn’t want to use up any more time than is necessary.”

“Aye.” Robb agreed with a nod, before turning to me.

“Jon has been informing me of events of a more… magical nature.” Robb said as we walked around in wait, Robb’s guards never too far behind, though they knew, if I really wished it, I could kill him at any moment. “North of the Wall, as well as the priests of this Red God.”

“Yes.” I said. “That is the true war waiting for us— at the very least, the one north of the Wall.” I amended, before motioning to Tyrion. “Once we take the Westerlands, Tyrion will try to raise as many men as possible to send to the Wall.”

“And, what makes you think I would agree to have Tyrion be the Lord of Casterly Rock?” Robb asked in challenge. “Meaning no offense, my Lord.”

“None taken.” Tyrion replied easily, though he still looked irritated.

Who wouldn’t be?

“The fact that I’m going to be the reason you take Casterly Rock in the first place.” I answered dismissively, and I met his piercing blue stare with my own, superior— I’d like to think it was— one.

“Fair enough.” Robb huffed. “Being challenged by my own men has left me a bit standoffish, as of late.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I waved it off. “Those fuckers look for any excuse to screw you over. Just say that it’s your idea and I’ll pretend like it’s the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life. That should do the trick.”

Robb looked uncomfortable at the thought.

I sighed and prepared to give the “grow up” speech, but Jon beat me to it.

“You weren’t in King’s Landing, brother.” Jon said heatedly. “It isn’t like Winterfell. You saw the Freys, and how they acted. The people we’re fighting— their words mean nothing. Their oaths mean nothing. Why should ours? They killed Father, and then they tried to kill us. Sansa, Arya, Harry and I.”

Jon panted for a few seconds before mastering himself. “Forgive me, Robb. I don’t know what came over—”

“No, you’re right, Jon.” Robb said, looking down slightly.

“Father always used to say: ‘when the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.'” Jon said slowly, sorrowfully.

“Aye.” Robb nodded, a sad smile gracing his face. “He did.”

“We have so many enemies now.” Jon said and hugged his brother. “I don’t want you to die, brother. Not if I can help it.”

“Jon…” Robb said, overcome with emotion for a moment, before hugging him back. “Thank you.”

“Anytime.” The two pulled back.

Robb turned to me. “Harry. I will do as you ask. I just hope our men and the Lannister can work together long enough without killing each other.”

I nodded gratefully, a wry smile forming on my face. “Thank you, Robb. We’ll need all the help we can get.”

“They’re coming!” I heard a few shouts in the distance.

“Lord Stark!” One of the men approached us. “The Mallister men come.”

“I see.” Robb took a breath and we all headed to the head of his army. “Then let us greet them.”

The Mallisters rode out in force, bearing a flag of truce as the Stark men chattered on excitedly. Thousands of men, led by their Lord. He had brown hair mixed with white underneath a winged helm, a chiseled face, and fierce, blue-grey eyes.

“Lord Jason Mallister.” One of the Mallister men announced.

“Lord Mallister.” Robb greeted once they were close enough and their army settled in.

“Lord Stark.” Lord Mallister greeted back jovially. “I see the Freys have allowed you to cross their bridge quickly. I was not expecting you so soon.”

“They did not.” Robb refuted. “The Freys are no more. My friend, and close ally, Harry—” He motioned to me. “—saw to that.”

A moment later, Lord Mallister’s gaze shifted to me, and then to the dragon by my side. “Indeed?”

He dismounted and moved to me, completely ignoring Hestia and looking me over. Did this guy have no fear?

“Harry of the Blackscale…” Lord Mallister trailed off with grin. “I was there during the King’s Tourney. I watched you slaughter the Mountain with my own eyes. It is an honor to shake the hand of a man such as yourself.” He extended his hand, and I took it.

“Justice long overdue.” I agreed with a nod. “Lord Mallister.”

“All too true.” He said. “I was unaware you possessed a dragon, however.”

“Hestia hatched only recently.” I let go of his hand and patted her on the head. “Only the people here are aware of this, as far as I know.”

I evaded the questions on how exactly I’d sacked Frey’s castles.

“Lord Stark.” I formally addressed him with a pleading look. This guy was a little too excited to see a dragon. “Shall we go?”

“Yes.” Robb rolled his eyes in amusement. “Come, my Lord Mallister. Let us go and smash the Lannister armies and regain control of the Riverlands back to my grandfather, the Lord Tully.”

Lord Mallister looked torn between wanting to ask a few more questions, and going back to do his duty to his Lord Paramount currently under siege.

“Yes.” Lord Mallister said, still keeping his blue eyes on me for a few moments, before mounting his horse once more. “Let’s.”

§Well, at least you’ll have followers in the Riverlands when you’re done with this campaign.§ Balthazar opined.

Shut up, Balthazar.” I thought back as we began to march southward, once more.

Our destination? Riverrun.

One step further to my ultimate goal.

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