§You think we can trust them?§ Balthazar said once we were in the confines of our room.
§I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them.§ I replied, throwing a chunk of meat to Hestia, who cooked and swallowed it with one movement.
§That said, I trust their self interest, and their loyalty to Targaryens.§ I allowed after a few moments. §They seem to have a hard on for dragons — no wonder Lord Mallister recommended the Magister.§
§You think he’s one of theirs?§ Balthazar asked. §Wait, no. Never mind. They would have known about Hestia if that were the case.§
“Indeed.” Erebus sounded amused. “Try not to strain your mind too much, snake. You need all at your disposal. Every little bit.”
§How about you go eat shit, huh?§ Balthazar almost snarled back. §Asshole!§
“Tch.” Erebus clattered. “Why don’t you make me?”
“Do you guys need a time out?” I said in amusement.
§Nooo!§ Hestia piped in from the lavish balcony overlooking the city of Pentos. §No time out, father!§
I grinned in fondness at the words.
§Okay. No time out.§ I promised wryly as I looked around the room.
A humble lodging, Illyrio had called it.
“Humble, my ass.” I thought to myself. The overall theme of the room was fire. The walls were painted in red, yellow and orange. The bed covers were made of a fine orange silk embroidered with images of black flames and dragon heads.
According to Balthazar, he picked up the scent of a woman — which could have been anything, but his insistence that whoever had this scent was related to Jon led me to believe that this smell belonged to one of his Targaryen relatives.
So they had been hosted here by this Magister?
Interesting, but not absolutely crucial at this time.
Still, it was important to know, at the very least. Judging by the room’s lavishness in general, and my knowledge of the information on the two Targaryens’ lives of abject poverty prior to this, I had a feeling that the Magister Illyrio would be looked at fondly by Daenerys.
After all, he was the man who put them up when he had no reason to— when everyone was jeering and mocking them openly as they tried to survive on the streets.
Favors had power.
“It doesn’t matter.” I shook my head, before addressing my companions. “It’s been suggested that we hold off on attacking the Red Temple here.”
“Yes, we were there.” Erebus said helpfully.
I stifled an eye roll and kept talking.
“Pros and cons?” I asked. “Any input would be appreciated.”
“There are no advantages. What these two fools don’t realize is that these Red Priests don’t play by their rules.” Erebus explained. “Between access to magic of their own, as well as being linked to a deity… The more time we give them, the less chances we have at succeeding.”
§…Agreed, however much I dislike the stupid Demon sword.§ Balthazar hissed out.
I nodded. “So we are all in agreement, then. Good.”
“We’re attacking tonight?” Erebus asked.
“We’re attacking… Now.” I said, and got off my feet. “Let it be in the middle of the day. Hestia and I will burn that temple to the ground, just like Aegon did, hundreds of years ago.”
§That is, if you’re up for it, Hestia?§ I hissed out at the she-dragon, who was currently trying to sleep.
§No. I’m sleepy.§ Well, that completely took the wind out of my sails.
“Oh.” I said, pinching the bridge of my nose in irritation. “All right, fine, we’ll do it tomorrow.”
§Okay, father!§ Hestia chirped, before laying her head down and closing her eyes again.
I waited a few minutes before unsheathing Erebus and placing him beside the balcony’s exit, near Hestia’s sleeping form.
“Defense mode.” I said. “Anyone who comes in with ill intent towards Hestia, and—”
“Erase their existence, eat their soul, tell you what they know, yes.” Erebus cut me off, sounding bored. “Out for a little jaunt, then?”
“Hmph!” I grunted. “Yes.” I left the room shortly afterwards.
§So, what are we doing?§ Balthazar asked curiously.
§We’re about to destroy the red temple.§ I hissed back as I pulled out my wand and placed myself under the Disillusionment Charm.
§What!?§ Balthazar almost burst out. §Why did we leave Hestia and Erebus behind!? Much as I dislike the sword, he has never disappointed.§
§Erebus fell to their control too easily.§ I replied.
§So did you. What’s your point?§ Balthazar shot back.
§Correction, I had linked my magic and consciousness to them, allowing them to briefly overwhelm my senses and take control.§ I calmly replied. §Erebus was assimilated as he was trying to resist. Do you understand?§
A few moments passed.
§Oh.§ Balthazar hissed.
A smirk came unbidden.
§Yes. Oh.§ I repeated his exclamation. §However much I try to deny it… He’s a security risk, right now. There’s no telling what could happen if we take him into the heart of the territory of this universe’s version of an Emperor of Darkness.§
§And, Hestia?§ Balthazar asked.
§She’s too big, at this point. We’re trying to be stealthy, here.§ I reasoned, before shaking my head. §And, besides, who knows if they can control her fire? This is not a good time for such tests.§
§Then, how will you burn the place down?§ Balthazar asked.
§You’ll see.§ I replied back vaguely as we crossed through the heavily guarded entrance. Being invisible sure had its perks.
§Because that’s a very helpful explanation.§ Balthazar groused, but said no further as I wove my way through the streets, using the Point Me spell to find my way to the red temple.
The trip was long— navigating through this maze was pretty difficult, considering it was my first time exploring— but, after about an hour of constant detours, dead ends, and general aggravation, I found myself before R’hllor’s great temple.
It was built entirely out of red stone. On top of its great, square tower, there was an iron brazier twenty feet across which contained a massive, crimson flame. More braziers lined the temple’s walls, though these were much smaller.
As my gaze shifted downwards towards the entrance, I noted they had hung banners, proudly displaying a sigil of a heart on fire. The sigil was carved on the entrance doors, with an iron brazier on each side. Four men stood, side by side, blocking entry.
I made to step forward, but hesitated.
§What is it?§ Balthazar asked.
I closed my eyes and concentrated.
“Their barrier is a few feet ahead.” I muttered to myself, before nodding. §Balthazar, get ready to douse them with venom. But, before all that, I have to test this barrier out— find out its limits.§
§All right.§ Balthazar said, and went quiet as I reined my power in as much as I could.
After a few moments of constant suppression, I took a few steps forward past the barrier.
Then, I waited with baited breath.
One, two, three, four, five, six…
So far so good, there was no reaction to my hidden presence.
Thirty seconds passed.
Still nothing. I waited even longer.
I lost track of time, but I figured I had staked this place out for over ten minutes, at this point.
§An easily fooled barrier.§ Balthazar said.
§Not so easy.§ I denied. §These people— their magic might be growing, but they’re new to it. They don’t have the skills or the knowledge. I doubt they would have thought to suppress their own powers to cross this barrier.§
And with good reason; anything from this point on would have to done without magic.
§At least, until you no longer have need of hiding.§ Balthazar said, knowing exactly what I was thinking.
I smiled to myself, before pulling my hood up and making my way to the guards with a bit of a stumble in my step.
“Halt. Our temple is not to be approached.” One of the guards said in Valyrian. I didn’t understand any of what he said other than the word ‘temple’.
I kept fake-stumbling forward as Balthazar translated for me— apparently he’d picked up High Valyrian while I wasn’t looking.
“Did you not hear us, fool?” Another harshly grunted, taking a few steps forward and unsheathing his sword, a short little thing which he waved about threateningly. “Leave, now. Or be sacrificed to our God.“
“Heh. Why not just take him now?” Another guy in the back gained his fellow guard’s attention. “We would be doing Pentos a favor by getting rid of yet another worthless drunk from its streets.”
I saw my chance as the guard in front of me turned to reply to his fellow.
“Not a bad ide—” Was as far as he got before I brutally slammed my fist in his throat, feeling more than hearing his esophagus get crushed beneath the force of my strike.
I kept him from falling, long enough for me to grab the short sword in his hand and step over his dying body to engage the remaining guards, who had sprung into action at the sight of their fallen comrade.
I avoided the first man’s thrust, stepped into his guard and drove my sword upwards through his chin, the blade piercing his brain and ending his life. The light hadn’t even gone out of his eyes as I spun him around and used him as a shield— the feel of a thud indicated that he’d been stabbed just now.
I let go and backed away, watching one of the guards fall with the now-dead body, long sword embedded deep within him. He was attempting to pull it out.
The sound of footsteps behind me was the only warning I had before I met the sword with my right arm, the scales easily withstanding the blow. The next second, venom sprayed out of the hole in my palm, sizzling as it covered the guard from head to toe.
“AHHHHH!” He screamed for all he was worth as he fell to his knees.
I spared him no other glance, instead focusing my attention on the final guard, his bloody longsword ready, staring at me with unreserved fear.
“Do you value your life?” I asked quietly as I slowly walked to him.
He didn’t answer.
“I suppose you don’t understand this language, huh…” I trailed off in a disappointed tone. “So much for any interrogation attempts.”
“RAAAH!” He yelled out, charging at me with his sword. I stifled a sigh of further disappointment, pulled my staff off my back, and clubbed the offending guard in the head, knocking him out cold in one smooth blow, right next to the quickly dissolving body.
I covered my face in a futile attempt to ward off the stench; using the Bubble-Nose Charm was not an option if I wished to remain unknown in this infiltration.
§Not bad.§ Balthazar commented as we watched the man slam into the cobblestone, head lolling around and limbs weakly flailing. §Your swing’s gotten a lot better since you started using this thing.§
I didn’t answer immediately, instead sheathing my staff, grabbing the man’s longsword and decapitating him in one fluid move, before discarding the longsword and pulling out the shortsword embedded in the other guard’s chin.
I wiped the blood off, and moved to the door.
§So how do you plan on doing this?§ Balthazar asked, though he could probably deduce the answer without much help.
§Taking a page out of the Faceless Men’s book.§ I replied as I went to one of the guards, stripping him of his red robe and putting it on. It was a bit of a tight fit, especially with the staff on, but I would endure. §Kill everyone in this temple. Stealthily.§
With that, I went back to the dead bodies and dragged them off into a nearby alleyway, one by one. The dissolved one was the worst— the smell getting me dangerously close to puking, but I powered on until the entrance to the temple was clear of bodies.
This would buy me a few hours of time before detection— more than enough to get this show on the road.
I entered the temple, enjoying a good whiff of the relatively clean air, and closing the thick doors behind me so as to let a minimal amount of the smell penetrate through.
I was in an entrance hallway, it seemed like. In front of me, I saw another large set of doors— likely a large worship area— and, to my left and right, smaller doors. Side hallways?
I checked the middle one first, and it was as I expected; a large, ostentatious chamber filled with all manner of statues and banners depicting a flaming heart. At the center, there was a large, circular area, filled with the remnants of large bonfires.
§Human remains…§ Balthazar hissed to me as I knelt by the mix of ashes, coal, and darkened bone.
I stared for a few moments, before shaking my head and walking back out into the entrance hallway. Opening one of the side doors led only to empty quarters.
The last door revealed a set of spiral stairs leading down.
§Blood is in the air.§ Balthazar commented after I went down the staircase— this thing went at least four floors down! §Be wary.§
I nodded at the sound advice and crept through the dungeon, stopping to stare through the keyhole of a nondescript door.
I stared for a few moments longer, before gritting my teeth in anger.
Children, dressed in rags and looking almost unbearably thin, huddled together in one big, shivering pile.
I looked away and beat my Lightning back down. I could not blow my cover, not yet.
I took a deep, steadying breath, and walked on, hearing a very faint sound ahead. With time, it became stronger, and stronger; a drumbeat. Security was non-existent; had they seriously placed sentries at the entrance, and nothing else?
It was almost laughable— not that I really felt like laughing, at that moment.
Another few side doors yielded little: I found ceremonial robes, daggers and other implements which could only have been used for religious worship. Another was a simple storage room, filled with sacks of grain and salted meats.
So, I simply followed the noise.
§Like a moth to the flame.§ Balthazar made an offhand comment that completely set me on edge.
§Possible trap?§ I hissed back. §You think they’re onto us?§
§Not sure.§ Balthazar replied. §It seems too convenient to have such low security.§
I nodded in agreement, but didn’t reply.
It was pointless to.
We were so close that the beat of the drum was positively thunderous, rattling my body with every beat and showering it with magical power.
Even the music itself carried power.
Unbidden, a memory from my First Year at Hogwarts came to mind.
“Music, a magic beyond all we do here.” Dumbledore had said back then, during my first ever feast at Hogwarts.
Could there have been a shred of truth to that?
I walked forward once more, following the beat of the drum for a few minutes longer, until I finally reached a large set of red, steel doors, already open.
I peered inside. It was an exact replica of the worship chamber at the entrance with many holes in the ceiling, leading to the surface— likely there to expel the heavy smoke currently being churned out by the massive bonfire in the center.
Around it, five priests stood before it, each with five other guards behind him or her.
So this is where the security had been, the entire time.
They were all standing together, bunched up in front of the fire instead of encircling it.
I let go of my self-imposed magical restraints and took a deep breath, charging my lungs with as much Lightning as I could.
“Lightning Dragon’s Roar!“
A blast of bluish white Lightning burst forth, taking the group of priests as well as their guards completely by surprise and sweeping them away with its pure destructive force.
At the center of the blast, something pushed back, and I fell back a few steps, the flow of power completely cut off, revealing the devastated state of the worship chamber inside.
The bonfire had been completely disrupted, the Lightning completely atomizing the wood and.. other things feeding the flames. No fuel, no fire.
I felt the threshold barrier collapse entirely, but I knew the fight was not over. Whatever had resisted my blast was still here. The room itself became enshrouded in complete darkness as the last wisps of Lightning faded.
I pulled my red robes off, threw away the short sword I had taken from the dead guard— it turned out to be useless, after all— and switched to my weirwood staff.
The darkness raged and writhed in the large worship room in a way that was just like — but how was that possible?
Just like in the void…
I thought only the Others could…
“What the fuck are you?” I finally managed to say.
It answered by exploding outwards in a blast of darkness. I slammed the butt of my staff to the ground, channeling my Lightning through it and shaping a large, half dome which took the brunt of the onslaught, pushing me a few feet back — but I held on.
The wave of power stopped and retreated back into the darkness, giving me a few seconds to regain my bearings.
Long enough for me to hear the voice in the darkness chanting in low, guttural tones— words which no human tongue could speak.
The flames on the torches lining the walls suddenly flew off, converging to a point in front of me.
I had just enough time to pull out my wand and yell out “Aguamenti!” before the fireball was launched.
It slammed into my conjured water with a loud, sibilant hiss, launching harsh waves of steam both sides. I grit my teeth and deadened my nerves so I could fight longer — this will need some burn paste later on.
I pushed harder, overwhelming the entity and dousing the flames, submerging us all in darkness.
But the voice laughed in glee—it had lost the pissing contest on purpose!
Lightning exploded from every pore in my skin, tearing through the shadow’s hidden claws and spikes which were aimed at my throat.
“Maybe next time.” I grinned savagely as my Lightning swept outwards under the power of my staff, overwhelming the shade and making it scream in unadulterated agony. “Now, be gone!”
With a final furious roar, the shade let go of the magic binding it there, winking out of existence instantly, leaving me alone in the darkness and quiet of the room.
§Not what I expected..§ Balthazar hissed as I sheathed the staff on my back and left the chamber.
§Me neither, buddy.§ I hissed back. §I never expected them to have progressed so much with little to no knowledge.§
I cringed as the Lightning finally receded and the burns I had received reared their ugly heads. “Damn!”
I staggered to the side, fumbling through my pockets for the cylinder containing burn paste. With a wave of my wand, the paste fluidly moved to the affected areas, soothing me almost instantly.
“Much better.” I sighed before putting the cylinder back in my pocket and igniting my wand with a quick “Lumos!”
I navigated my way back through the halls of the temple in absolute silence, pausing to check all of the rooms I had previously skipped.
“A library.” I said, quickly rifling through a few of the books with gradually fading interest. These people didn’t know jack shit about magic.
§Enough to get you riddled with burns.§ Balthazar quipped.
§THAT was not them. That was some kind of demon possessing them. I know you felt it, as well.§ I shot back, feeling a headache in the works as I put the books back in and waving my wand at the far end of the room. “Incendio.”
And so I went from room to room, looting whatever seemed to be worth anything, before setting it on fire, until I got to the room filled with the slave children.
By then, I had accumulated no less than a hundred thousand of the golden coins used in Pentos— the faith of the Red God was as bad as the Seven, in that sense. The priests loved to preach about the Lord, but I bet they loved the riches even more.
I opened the door.
The children’s heads all swiveled to me, looking at me in pure, unadulterated fear. What had happened to them?
I shook my head; there was no point in this— it would only lead to heartache.
“Can any of you understand me?” I said slowly; gently.
A few nodded, but most looked confused.
“Okay.” I nodded and waved the kids who could understand over to me.
They stared at me for a few seconds, before walking to me with great trepidation. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they thought I was taking them as slaves of my own— or worse.
“You’re all here?” I looked at the small group in front of me, watching as the last one joined us. “Okay, good. Good. Now… I’m here to rescue you all.”
They stared, uncomprehending.
It made me frown.
§Likely, they think it’s some form of trick.§ Balthazar hissed to me. §A test to see who would betray the Red Priests.§
Ah, I understood. They probably thought that, if they followed me, they would be severely punished.
“I’m not joking.” I said, lifting my hand and charging it full of Lightning, before clenching my fist, the ensuing shock wave rattling everyone and knocking some of the weaker kids over.
That got their attention.
“Listen up!” I said, and this time, the kids were completely alert. “I’ve killed the Red Priests here. I’m going to take you to safety, all right?”
“Really?” A little girl said from the side. She had long, curly black hair, and blue eyes.
“Yes.” I said patiently, seeing part of the group tear up. “No! None of that! You can cry when we’re out of here!”
To my surprise, they stopped and sniffed it all back in.
I smiled. “You have to be strong, all right? Tell all the other kids— you can speak the other language, right?”
I got nods of confirmation.
“Good.” I said. “Go on, tell them.”
A few minutes later, I guided the children out of the Red Temple. The moon shone brightly in the clear, night sky. The children stared at it in pure, unadulterated wonder.
The priests didn’t even let the children go outside?
I ran my hand through my hair and let out a deep breath to calm myself.
Then, I led them all through the streets of Pentos to Illyrio’s manse, waiting patiently at the man’s gates. Eventually, he appeared.
“What is the meaning of this?” Illyrio demanded as he blubbered outside of his fortress, flanked by no less than ten guards.
“I just rescued these children. I want them to stay at your manse for a while.” I explained, holding my hand up to forestall whatever he was about to say. “Of course, I will pay for their lodgings.”
Illyrio sighed in resignation, and motioned for his guards to stand aside.
“Come, follow me.” I guided them all to the gardens, instructing one of the servants to get a feast ready for the children, before getting them settled. The process took about half an hour, but soon, the children were voraciously devouring every piece of food they could get their hands on.
I smiled and turned to leave.
“Mr. Harry! Are you leaving?” One of the kids called out, and they all stopped eating, looking at me with a mix of sadness and fear.
So many puppy dog eyes. Ugh! Stop it!
“Don’t worry.” I smiled in what I thought was a reassuring manner. “I’m just going to destroy the Temple. Just watch the sky— you’ll love it!”
With that, I launched my Air Raid, and took off into the sky, my bluish white wings easily carrying me in the direction of the Red Temple. A few minutes later, I was at the entrance, once more.
Time to finish up, here.
“Confringo! Confringo! Confringo! Confringo!” I cast over, and over, and over as the Red Temple erupted in massive, orange explosions which rattled the entire district.
“Now… Incendio Maxima!” A torrent of red flame poured into the convenient holes in the building created by my previous Blasting Curses, clinging onto the many banners, benches and various wooden furniture within the Temple.
Now, for my final spell.
The coup de grâce!
“Morsmordre!” I incanted and shot a blue light into the sky, grinning as I watched the small orb of light exploded into a snarling blue dragon which looked almost exactly like Hestia, barring size.
That particular spell had been a nightmare to get right. The first time I had tried it, I managed to scare Robb’s entire army, with good reason; the original incantation put the Dark Mark in the sky— a colossal green skull with a serpent coming out of its mouth.
It took days of tinkering, experimenting, and raging until I got it right.
“Impressive.” Varys’ voice said from behind me. “Quite the performance, Lord Potter.”
I turned to see the man— well, not really a man anymore, was he?— staring up at the lightshow with interest.
“Oh, how long have you following me? Since I got those kids to Illyrio’s manse?” I asked curiously.
Varys’ eyes went down to me, his eyebrow raised at the question.
“What makes you think I haven’t been following you the entire time?” He shot back.