I wondered for the tenth time if this was the right course of action as I stared over the endless expanse of blue underneath.
Erebus gave a clatter of irritation, likely sensing my thoughts. I suppressed a smile of amusement.
§You all right, Hestia?§ I gave her a gentle pack on the neck as we glided over the Narrow Sea at high speeds.
It had been a week and a half since Robb had delivered the news of the slaughter of his men on the way to Harrenhal.
My destination? The Free City of Pentos.
§Yes, father.§ Hestia hissed back, sounding completely at ease. §I can do this all day!§
I chuckled in both mirth and pride— was this how my parents felt when I began to crawl and make attempts at talking?— and thought back on the events of the past week…
Plans were made with great care for detail; they were then revised, altered, and finally, scrapped altogether before new ideas were shared.
Jon would stay with Robb at all times in order to ensure his continued existence. Robb, who was fully healed by the time I left, was disgruntled but accepted the plan; most likely, he just missed his ‘brother’.
I left Jon a stone enchanted with the Protean Charm— see: my horrible attempt at one— only to be used in extreme emergencies.
Hopefully, whoever had come up with the assassination plot would realize it failed within the next few weeks; maybe they wouldn’t attack again— Jon was simply there to make sure any more attempts weren’t successful, and the stone was there as further assurances of safety.
Tyrion, on the other hand, began his movement towards the Westerlands along with his brother Jaime, while Tywin remained a prisoner in Robb’s camp at Harrenhal.
The point of that was to muster a force that would ally itself with the Riverlands and the North— however difficult the task would be.
Even Tyrion himself knew it to be almost a waste of time… Almost.
The Westerlands had chafed much under Tywin Lannister’s rule— from high taxes to the destruction of Houses that wronged him. The man ruled his lands with an iron fist, inspiring fear and hatred from the people, instead of love and respect.
Tyrion hoped that, with the help of his brother, they could at least regain the respect of the people, if love wasn’t possible. All in all, it was a great undertaking that would either keep the Westerlands out of the fight, or gain the North— and therefore, me— some valuable allies in the years to come.
This way, Robb could focus on sending a few thousand of his men to strengthen the Wall’s defenses as well as dealing with both Baratheon brothers and the remaining rogue Lannisters at King’s Landing— Dorne was too far south, and unlikely to attack the North or the Riverlands, as they would have to go through the Stormlands and the Reach to even reach us.
“Not that they would necessarily be our enemies.” I frowned thoughtfully. “Though, with our new alliances with the Lannisters… It’s hard to say.”
“And irrelevant, at any rate.” Erebus added in. “They’ve adopted a somewhat isolationist policy similar to the Vale.”
I nodded. “True enough.”
§They’ll be fine.§ Balthazar addressed my real concerns. §Jon has become truly powerful— as strong as you were when we came into this world.§
I smiled. Over the last few months, Jon had been progressing in leaps and bounds when it came to his training in his fire element— at a rate that surprised me greatly. I had no doubt that he would surpass me in raw power, with time.
A long time, I hoped.
Still, I couldn’t help but worry…
Erebus scoffed in response. Balthazar’s response was a little less scathing.
§You can’t watch over them forever, Harry.§ Balthazar hissed quietly. §You have to let them grow in their own ways.§
§I know.§ I admitted, a hint of sorrow seeping in as I recalled our first meeting at the courtyard at Winterfell. Felt like years ago. Theon was walking around, acting all arrogant until I humiliated him— now, look at him: single-handedly turning the tide of battles against the bloodthirsty pirates of his homeland.
I shook off these gnawing feelings of dread.
They would all be fine.
They were ready.
“Do you think that this informant has anything of use for us?” I questioned as Hestia swayed left and right out of sheer boredom. I flicked her on the back of her neck with a nice zap for increased power. §You stop that.§
§Oh, fiiiine.§ She whined, before righting herself. §I’m just so bored!§
§We’ve been up here for about three hours, Hestia.§ I pinched the bridge of my nose and pointed downwards. §You notice anything different?§
Hestia looked down, before looking forward again. §No.§
I palmed my face, but bit back the instinctive retort of irritation. “Don’t say anything mean, Potter, she’s still a child. She doesn’t know better.”
§Well, you see how the color of the water is getting lighter and lighter? It was very dark an hour ago, remember?§ I explained slowly, and gently.
§Yeah!§ She replied back, excitedly. §You’re right, father. The color is getting lighter.§
I smiled, glad she was understanding. §That means we’re getting closer to shore, the lighter the water gets. I wouldn’t be surprised if we began to see land, any minute no— there!§ I cut myself off and pointed to a small outcropping of rocks jutting out of the sea.
§Yay! We’re almost there, father!§ Hestia crowed in delight and increased her speed slightly— didn’t even know she had more in her! We were already going at over 200 mph!
“To answer your question on the informant.” Erebus said. “I do not know this Magister Illyrio Mopatis, but he was well recommended by Lord Mallister.“
“Not that it matters, either way.” Erebus waved off any concerns. “We should be able to discern their whereabouts using our own powers.”
“No.” I shook my head. “They’ve acquired methods of blocking our attempts at scrying.”
“Truly?” Erebus questioned curiously.
“Huh— weren’t you there when… Oh, that’s right, I left you with Hestia for a while, didn’t I?” I replied, palming my face for a few seconds, before letting out a deep breath. “I tried to use the ‘Point me’ spell to find them. Nothing happened.”
“Perhaps there were too many to choose from?” Erebus suggested.
I shook my head again. “If that were the case, the wand would have pointed to every possible direction, before settling down. No. They have already learned how to block themselves from me.”
§Which means that we will need an informant.§ Balthazar concluded, to which I gave a short nod of confirmation.
“Precisely.” I said and stoically stared at the horizon before us, effectively ending that line of conversation. There was no point to furthering the discussion, as we had already sorted through all of the relevant information at least twice.
Any more and it would simply cause my own resolve to waver.
Not that self examination was a bad thing, per se— it was actually quite important to me— but there was no good in doing it too much. Moderation was key, in this instance.
I pulled out my wand. “Point me Pentos.“
My hand turned sharply to the right.
“Now… to see if this Illyrio fellow is there, as well. Point me Illyrio Mopatis.” My wand went the same direction.
“Ho…” I smiled and patted Hestia on the neck. §Take a right— no, too much! There!§
A few minutes later.
“Land ho!” I grinned at the sight of the sandy coast ahead of us. Even from this distance, I could see Pentos, only just slightly. There were a few more hundred miles to go, after all— but at least, we were here.
§Are you good for another hour, Hestia?§ I asked gently.
§Yes, father.§ She replied, chirping happily afterwards.
§Great— oh, and make sure to have your camouflage up! It wouldn’t do for anyone to see us coming in.§ I instructed further. In response, her scales began to shine slightly, before fading altogether, showing me the lands below.
It was a little disconcerting, to say the least. I shook off the sudden vertigo, and initiated a Disillusionment Charm on myself so that no one saw me, either.
I watched on stoically, making sure to recast the Point Me spell to check if Illyrio had left the city, feeling— rather than seeing— my hand point in the direction of the sprawling port city.
And, what a city!
It had massive, high walls, and was filled with many square brick towers which dwarfed the many, smaller structures around them. Large torches adorned the majority of the top of the buildings, casting the city in orange-red hues, further accentuating a particular building among the set— I looked at it grimly.
A red temple, here as well?
“Erebus.” I simply said, and waited patiently as we glided ever closer.
“It is definitely them.” Erebus almost writhed in his sheath. He certainly was eager enough, it seemed. “I can feel their power clearly.”
“Hm…” I mused as my mind went a mile a minute, before nodding myself. “The plan remains the same. I will go and see this Illyrio fellow, first, before deciding anything else on the matter. Whether I destroy this temple now, or much later will be unknown. But it will be destroyed.”
Hestia greatly slowed down once we crossed the city’s boundaries so that she could search for the best place to land, as well as scout out the city itself— get a feel for it— before stopping abruptly, almost making me fall off of Hestia’s back.
“Whoa!” I exclaimed. §What’s the matter, Hestia?§
§There’s something ahead.§ Hestia hissed, backing away slowly.
All that was ahead of me was the red temple.
“A threshold.” Erebus explained calmly. “A crude one, from the looks of it. I doubt it can do more than alert them to our presence, once we cross it.”
“I see…” I said, before casting. “Point me Illyrio Mopatis.”
My arm went to the left— and on we went, until we finally reached our destination. It was a veritable stronghold, with brick walls twelve feet high topped with iron spikes; filled with lush gardens, pillared galleries and a tiled courtyard. I caught sight of a marble pool with some sort of statue in its center, surrounded by cherry trees.
A pretty sight, but otherwise unimportant.
A few noises grabbed my attention.
“Guards, it seems like.” I muttered to myself.
§And where guards are…§ Balthazar hissed quietly as a man who could give Robert Baratheon a run for his money in the weight department came out. He was the epitome of what my homeworld considered a bad noble.
“Fatter than a whale…” I stared in disgust as his flaps of fat bounced with his every step. “Is this really the informant…? Point me Illyrio Mopatis.” The wand pointed straight at the man, who looked to be chatting up one of his servants; a fair-haired young woman, it seemed like.
I sighed in irritation and thought of my options. If I tried to hover in any closer, the air displacement from Hestia’s wings would gain his attention.
“Perhaps a more direct approach?” Erebus suggested silkily.
“What, just drop in from the sky and introduce myself?” I scoffed.
§Actually, that might not be a bad idea…§ Balthazar backed Erebus up.
“You can’t be serious…” I trailed off, before shaking my head. “So, what angle do you think I should go with?”
§Unstoppable force of nature with extreme amounts of power?§ Balthazar suggested.
Hm. Maybe that could work.
§Stay up here until I call you, Hestia.§ I ordered. §You can rest on one of the higher structures if you get tired.§
§Yes, father.§ She replied. I smiled to myself and gave her a pat on the neck, before getting to work.
I pulled out my wand, and aimed it at each of the guards, casting Body-Bind Curse after Body-Bind Curse.
“Petrificus Totalus!” The last one of them froze up, and I nodded in satisfaction, before undoing my Disillusionment Charm, and initiating my air raid. The slots in the back of my shirt opened up— a little customization can go a long way, after all— as wings of bluish white Lightning burst out of my back, filling the air with a loud chirp.
I jumped off of Hestia’s back, slowly descending as my wings flapped loudly in the air, gaining the fat noble’s attention. He looked up at me with a look of shock, which was quickly replaced by awe.
A few moments passed until the man got control of himself back, turning wildly to look at his men, who were frozen in place.
Finally, he turned back to me, with a completely different look in his eyes.
“Now, he’s looking at me with fear.” I thought to myself as I hovered over the ground for a few seconds before gently landing, my wings winking out of existence as the slots in the back of my shirt closed up.
We stared at each other for a few seconds.
“Illyrio Mopatis?” I broke it first.
“Yes…” He said slowly, as if unsure as to where this conversation is leading.
“I was told you would be a good source of information.” I said in amusement, waving my wand and Summoning two of the nearby chairs so that they were next to us.
“Please, sit down.” I offered. Illyrio complied without any further prompting, and I followed suit. A few more seconds of silence passed.
“Excuse me, but…” Illyrio started, a little less uneasy as he began to realize his life was in no immediate danger. “Who are you, exactly?”
“Oh!” I made a show of being surprised. “Of course, news travels slow, after all. My name is Harry Potter.”
He shifted at the name. “Ah, you recognized it?”
“Something’s wrong.” Erebus whispered to me in an urgent tone. “He’s not truly surprised at what he just witnessed, or at your name.“
“Yes.” A voice silkily said from behind me, as I felt the dagger at my throat. “Impressive entrance, Harry of the Blackscale. Or, is it Lord Harry of the Twins, now?”
I recognized that voice anywhere.
“Lord Varys.” I greeted in amusement, as if I’d known of his presence all along. “Fancy seeing you here. Aren’t you supposed to be in King’s Landing, fending off Stannis Baratheon, or his brother Renly?”
Varys scoffed and rolled his eyes. “I know a lost cause when I see one— and I’m no Lord, if you recall, Lord Potter.”
My mind swirled with possible ways to escape this situation.
I could zap him, but that would get me killed, as his involuntary muscle spasms would tear my throat apart. Trying to grab the knife would likely result in similar outcomes.
I supposed I could simply let him tear my throat open, and I could cauterize the wound as quickly as it was opened— too risky of a plan.
Doable, though. Last resort, then.
“To think that you were part of these… blood magic cults.” Varys said that last part venomously— if a bit hypocritically, considering he could cloak himself with magic, just like I could. “Of course, I did not believe a single word of that drivel you gave the former King Robert’s Court. He was a good fighter, there was no doubt about that— but a foolish man, as well as a foolish King. He did not look into these tales, merely accepting them at face value. I, however… did.”
“And, what did you find?” I answered flippantly back.
“House Potter does not exist.” Varys said, pushing the knife harder against my neck. “At least, not to my extensive knowledge regarding the Free City of Myr. They certainly were not renowned blacksmiths, even if they did exist.”
“Impressive.” I smiled and tried to get him to keep talking. “What else have you learned?”
“I suppose the money you possessed was stolen from some wealthy merchant— accidents do happen, at times, and if a few valuable items go missing… Well…” Varys trailed off with a humorless smile.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended at his missing the mark completely.
Wait a second… This guy was a Targaryen supporter!
I had a dragon.
I almost whooped in glee as a new plan came together.
This just might work.
“Or perhaps, there was another reason entirely as to why I lied.” I said smoothly.
“Indeed?” Varys questioned, extreme doubt in his tone of voice. “And what is this reason?”
“Tell me something.” I said. “What did King Robert Baratheon do with what he termed to be dragonspawn?”
A few seconds of silence passed, before— “You are no Targaryen.”
“You don’t seriously expect us to believe these lies, do you?” Illyrio added in further.
“Don’t confuse me with that rabble.” I said arrogantly. “The Targaryens were not the only Dragonlords of Valyria. I descend from Emperor Aurion, himself, who raised forces from Qohor and attempted to re-establish the Freehold. Of course, history knows what happened to him.”
“Never to be seen or heard from again.” Magister Illyrio spoke, a strange glint in his eye. “You believe you are his descendant?”
“I know I am.” I said without hesitation. “My magic is proof.”
“The tricks of shadowbinders, red priests and their ilk.” Varys denied, pressing the knife harder against my neck. “I’ll admit, your right arm is a true mystery in its own right, even to the likes of I. But, it is still not enough.”
“A dragon, then?” I tried. “Would that suffice?”
They were silent, once more.
“Daenarys Targaryen possesses the last three dragons.” Illyrio replied stonily. “There are no others.”
I suppressed my reaction to that news, and smiled instead, feeling Hestia stealthily land behind us and de-cloak herself, gaining Illyrio’s attention. “That’s funny, because I’m pretty sure Hestia back there is a dragon.”
“By the gods!” Magister Illyrio exclaimed in shock. I felt a shift from behind me— likely, Varys was turning to look. I took my chance and grabbed his dagger with my right hand, spinning on the spot and pinning his arm behind his back in one fluid motion.
“What do you think, Varys the Spider?” I said strongly, twisting his arm slightly to make him grunt in pain. “Is this proof enough for you?”
“Amazing.” Illyrio breathed as he got over his shock. “It is beautiful.”
“How—” Varys replied through the pain, cringing as Hestia approached him.
§Should I eat him, father?§ She hissed, further frightening the man.
§No. He may prove to be of use to us.§ I denied and let him go.
“You can speak to it?” Illyrio said in awe.
“Her.” I corrected as I watched Varys awkwardly make his way to his friend. “I can speak to her.”
“How— ooh.” Varys massaged his right arm slightly. “How did you keep her a secret in King’s Landing.”
“Oh, that’s simple.” I smiled. “I didn’t have her at King’s Landing. The location of her egg was revealed to me before the assassination of the King and Lord Ned.”
“Indeed?” Varys narrowed his eyes. “And this information was revealed at King’s Landing, without my knowledge?”
He seemed quite skeptical. I supposed, with his invisibility trick, not much could escape his notice.
“Fret not, Spider.” I assuaged his concern. “This was not a secret held by the living. King Aegon the First revealed Hestia’s location to me, himself.”
“Impossible.” Illyrio replied. “Aegon died two centuries ago.”
“Yes, he did.” I agreed. “But part of him remained. It lingered, because of a grave threat approaching which he knew he would not live to face.”
Varys and Illyrio looked at each other with unease.
I latched onto that.
“You’ve felt it, haven’t you?” I asked knowingly. “Cold winds are rising north of the Wall, bringing the mythical Others with them. The Red Priests move against this threat, but they are a threat in their own right. I have come here to destroy the foundations of their power.”
“The Others?” Illyrio scoffed, but it didn’t even seem like his heart was in it. “A folktale from the North, nothing more.”
“They are as real as the Red God, and the old gods of the forest.” I disagreed. “I have felt their powers growing in the world. Even as I came to this city, I felt the marks of a threshold of magic around the red temple. They are growing stronger— all of them.”
“And, what do you plan on doing?” Varys asked pointedly.
“I’m going to kill them all.” I said after a moment.
“And take their place?” Varys kept pushing, though he flinched when Hestia lay her emerald eyes on him.
“What?” I spluttered. “Take their place? Why would I do that?”
A long moment passed.
“Just what is your goal?” Varys asked, sounding confused, if that was even possible— and in that moment, I was reminded of Tyrion’s own question. Varys couldn’t understand my motivations.
“I want to destroy the Others.” I said strongly. “I would have left the Red Priests alone had they not attacked us.”
“And, after this defeat of the Red Priests and the… Others?” Varys pressed, eyes gleaming.
I opened my mouth to speak, and drew a complete blank. “I guess I haven’t thought that far enough. Restore the Twins, I suppose—” Find a way home. Is it even possible? “—Make a family—” Daphne. “— I don’t know. I really haven’t considered it.”
“Perhaps… Visit the ruins of what used to be the Freehold.” I said finally. Maybe that holds the key to going home. “What matters, above all, is that I do not plan to rule the lands. I have neither the interest, nor the required patience for it. That is not to say that I am not capable of such a task… I simply don’t wish it.”
“Would you support a Targaryen Restoration?” Illyrio asked abruptly, much to the ire of his fellow. “What? You clearly do not wish to say it.”
Varys rolled his eyes.
“A Targaryen Restoration, huh.” I repeated, thinking of a conversation Jon had with his ancestor, Aegon the First. “You aim to place Viserys on the Iron Throne, then?”
“Hardly.” Varys said. “Viserys was killed by the Dothraki. The fool saw fit to bring steel into their sacred city, and paid the price for his transgressions.”
I wondered what the savage Dothraki did to him for a few moments, before shaking these thoughts off.
“Then his sister, Daenerys?” I asked as I scratched Hestia below her chin, drawing trills of affection. “With her three dragons?”
A nod was my only answer.
“I cannot speak for Robb or the men pledged to him.” I said. “But I know that the North and the Riverlands seek to defend their lands against the Others and Red Priests, as well as any invaders of any kind. They did not wish for war— they were forced into it. If Daenerys Targaryen respects this, then the North and Riverlands will accept her rule— or at least, not fight against it like with the current sitter on the throne.”
“An abhorrent boy.” Varys tutted. “Aerys the Third, they call him behind closed doors. On his first day, he executed fifty men who dared to oppose his claim. It has only worsened with time.”
“He will meet his end soon enough.” I waved it off. “If not by Stannis, then either by Renly, or the combined might of the North and Riverlands. But, let’s get back to our original discussion.”
I waved my wand and conjured a third chair for myself, before taking a seat.
“Please, sit.” I smiled as Hestia lay her head next to my chair, pinning the two men down with her piercing emerald gaze. “Let’s talk further.”