The lightning sparked all around me, bathing the area in bright blue, contrasting against the red and orange of the magma still flowing in the great crater Kirin had created.
At its center, the Keeper lay defeated. Its body broken, littered with ‘wounds’ which ‘bled’ freely, streams of magma pooling around its prone form.
“You actually managed to take that attack head on and survive.” I commented as Balthazar’s scales receded, returning back to my right arm with a series of clicks. “I’m impressed.”
“You… exceeded expectations.” The Keeper seemed to struggle to speak. “Still, if this is the extent of the power you are able to bring, then.. What is this?”
As he spoke, I collected the remnants of Lightning energy around me, converging them onto a single point over the palm of my hand.
I stared at the ball of Lightning for a moment, before consuming it without any fanfare.
Immediately, my body felt energized, a sizzling noise filling the air as wounds began to visibly heal.
I took a deep, long breath, savoring the feeling of power within me, my entire body tensing for a few moments before relaxing.
That had hit the spot, I thought as I stared down at the downed demon.
“What are you?” The Keeper said in a mix of confusion and fear.
“What am I?” I repeated, frowning. “I’m just another human. Perhaps with more power than the rest, but I’m as human as they are.”
“I have never seen your like before.” It insisted vehemently. “No human has ever possessed power like yours. It’s unthinkable. You cannot be human.”
“I would’ve been surprised if you did.” I replied, approaching the demon slowly. “You’re awfully chatty, now. What happened to the taunts? The declarations of superiority?”
“I go to the great Beyond, now.” The Keeper said. “Even now, I feel my essence slowly fading into nothing. Taunts are therefore meaningless..”
“I see.” I said, considering the demon’s words. “I really am only a human.”
A moment passed.
“Then, all is for naught.” The Keeper finally said.
Gravely. Ominously. “Your stand against us has doomed this world. If you persist in your foolish quest to eradicate our order, the Great Other will come for the living, and all will end with endless cold. The world will die.”
He was completely serious.
“That’s debatable.” I waved his misguided prediction off, a nervous look slowly coming over my face. “You aren’t the only faction with power in this game. The Raven, The Children— Even the Seven are alive and well.”
That one had been a surprise, all things considered.
I hadn’t even thought the Seven were real, but how else would I have been able to explain Ser Barristan gaining the power he did?
He’d even attributed his new prowess to the Warrior.
“You still don’t understand.” The Keeper ground out, cracks slowly beginning to form on his body. “There must always be a balance in this world. We are fire, and the Great Other is ice. Neither can be destroyed— only culled for a time. The other pantheons possess power, true, but only we can put a stop to the ice.”
“How many times have you done this? This culling of yours.” I asked, starting to feel unsure of the whole situation.
It could all be a lie on his part, but why would he lie at this point?
He had nothing left.
“Twice, now.” The Keeper answered.
My lips pursed as I considered his words. “So, the Others are always destined to come back, and the same goes for R’hllor?”
“Precisely.” The Keeper gave a nod with all the force he could muster. “Balance must be kept.”
“Balance..” I repeated, truly considering the concept. There was something completely off about this situation. “What balance? Neither of you hold any true power over the world for thousands of year at a time. What should it matter?”
The Keeper made no move to answer.
“I thought so.” My eyes narrowed as a new thought began to form. “You hold no real balance. Neither side actually does anything remotely productive. You both sacrifice people by the hundreds of thousands— one side raises the dead, the other burns them to cinders to harvest their energy.”
“What, then?” The Keeper almost wheezed. “Do you plan to destroy our balance and take our place? Bring another Doom to the world?”
Woah, that was what brought the Doom?
“Oh, yes. The Valyrians believed they could use our power for their own ends.” The downed demon almost laughed, a gravely noise which drew a wince from me. “The leaders of the Freehold tried to change the balance of power, in the hopes of taking the title of Lord of Light for themselves.”
“…And this caused the Doom?” I asked in fascination, not having expected any sort of information on the old, magical people. “I thought that it was some unexpected cataclysm.”
“Not so.” The Keeper denied. “Their own arrogance was their undoing.”
The demon chuckled with satisfaction. “They believed themselves to be gods in human form— blasphemy of the highest order!— merely because they were able to use magic and bind dragons to their will. What nonsense.”
“So, they paid for it, in fire and blood as the Targaryen words go?” I finished.
“As with all things that attempt to usurp our power.” The Keeper said. “We cannot be destroyed. It is impossible— unthinkable, even!”
I seriously considered the demon’s words, my frown deepening.
Was killing off the Red Priests really the right way of going about it?
A part of me answered with a furious ‘yes’. For, how could there be any other way? They routinely put other people to the torch, no matter their age.
Men, women, boys, girls, sick and old. They didn’t care. They burned them all alike. It was despicable.
Their shadow spawns got Geryon killed. Robb almost died, as well. If I hadn’t shown up to this world, he might have died that way, too.
Their actions were morally reprehensible at every turn.
The only redeeming quality of theirs was that they only wanted to kill a few people in order to fight against this ‘Great Other’ and maintain their balance.
It reminded me of the Sidhe balance in my homeworld. I hadn’t had direct encounters with any of their kind, but I’d heard about the balance from one of Hermione’s many rants.
It wasn’t something to be taken lightly. I could kill this demon and his entire faction and attempt to fight the Others on my own, but if that tipped the balance in their favor, then we were well and truly fucked.
I rubbed at the bridge of my nose and gave a long, tired sigh, before nodding to myself in resignation.
There really was only one thing left to do.
“I acknowledge your point.” I mused as the Keeper began to cough, magma flying out of his mouth and splattering his surroundings. “We do need all the help we can get.”
“Harry…” Erebus warned. He’d been silent through this whole exchange.
§What are you thinking?§ Balthazar questioned.
I paid them no mind, extending my hand towards the Keeper, linking my power with his. “You are defeated.”
“Yes. I am.” The demon seemed confused at to what I was doing.
“I’m glad you agree.” I said, before making a ripping motion and pulling at the demon’s energy, hard. “Any demon I defeat…”
I forcibly drew out the Keeper’s power and soul, a bright orb of light bursting forth from its chest.
Its body shuddered and wheezed with finality as the orb connected with my palm. “Is mine to do with as I wish.”
I felt the fire coursing through my veins, frowning slightly. Odd, usually, I’d receive a weapon of some sort, but it seemed as if the energy was being absorbed by.. Balthazar?
§What is this..?§ Balthazar hissed as his scales writhed with energy, absorbing every hint of remaining power the Keeper had left.
It began to pulse.
Once. Twice. Thrice.
On and on it pulsed, our surroundings vibrating slightly from the power being absorbed and released in short, rhythmic bursts.
For a single moment, everything stopped.
§I feel.. Different!§ Balthazar’s voice cut through the stillness, a skewed sound; the power rushed to the snake, its scales glowing a bright red as they changed their shape, forming octagons instead of hexagons.
I stared in amazement, not having expected something like this. §Balthazar… Are you all right?§
There was no answer for a long moment, as my arm pulsed suddenly. I pointed it away from me, a geyser of fire and lava shooting out into the crater.
“I feel incredible!” Balthazar crowed as my scales, which had always felt cold to the touch, writhed with suppressed warmth.
“It seems the lazy one has absorbed the Keeper’s demonic power..” Erebus noted thoughtfully. “Perhaps the concept of Devil Arms isn’t inherent to this universe, though you managed to do something very similar. Power absorption?”
“..” I said nothing, merely staring at my right hand. A conversation from a long time ago came to mind.
A prophecy made by the Raven.
“It’s just like the Raven said, isn’t it?” I said quietly. “My song is of ice, fire and lightning. Erebus is the ice. Balthazar is the fire. I am the lightning. Is this what he meant?”
Was this what I was meant to do the whole time? I still thought about the unknown power leading my every move— it kept me up many a night.
Was it not about gathering and training an army to fight against the Others and their army of the dead?
That had obviously failed, when Daenerys had rejected my offer. Now, thousands of my own army were dead, futilely struggling against the Keeper.
“Prophecies are flimsy at the best of times.” Erebus commented. “I trust seers as far as I can throw them.”
I made no immediate answer. Instead, I focused on Balthazar, who hadn’t said a word for a while.
§Everything good in there, buddy?§ I asked cautiously. Had the power corrupted him?
“Good? Heh, wait til you look at this!“ I felt the scales click and retract as Balthazar unhooked himself from me, resuming his original form— wait.
It wasn’t his original form.
“What the hell..?” I muttered as I looked upon Balthazar’s new form. “You’re as big as an anaconda!”
The black snake’s scales glowed red with suppressed power as he slithered around me, creating 5 thick rings with me at their center.
“I’ve never felt so powerful!” Balthazar opened his mouth and spewed more of the magma into the center of the crater. “Looks like I’ve lost my venom, though..”
“He’s speaking English.” Erebus added in quietly, though I didn’t really register what he said.
§You got something better.§ I replied easily. §So, are you a Devil Arm, now?§
The enhanced viper took a moment to consider my words.
“I suppose I am.”Balthazar replied. “Is this what my previous master meant for when he named me after an old demon from the myths? The Devil Arm Balthazar.”
More prophecies? This is getting ridiculous.
§Come.§ I said abruptly, moving away from the scene of destruction, stopping only to give my destroyed weirwood staff a sad glance.
I’d grown quite fond of that weapon.
Balthazar slithered alongside me, getting used to his new body as we made our way further away from the battle.
That was when Erebus’ earlier words had struck home.
“Wait, say something, Balthazar.” I said intently, stopping for a moment.
“Something, Balthazar.“ The large demon-viper replied, a normal looking tongue exiting from his mouth. Opening his mouth revealed a set of human-looking teeth.
“You can speak English, your tongue and teeth look like a normal human tongue and set of teeth, too?” I grimaced at the unnatural sight.
“Oh, I hadn’t even noticed!” Balthazar said excitedly, before he began to whistle. “Oooh! I’ve always wanted to do this! !”
How did absorbing the essence of the Keeper of R’hllor’s Furnaces translate into growing human teeth and a tongue?
I supposed I could understand the larger body— Balthazar needed more space to carry all of that energy in his released state.
But, teeth and a tongue? Magic just made no sense, sometimes.
I rubbed at the bridge of my nose for a moment, before shrugging everything off and resuming my course, to where Hestia was waiting for us.
She lay on the ground, looking a little tired. Her head was a little drooped, and her wings were closed snugly around her. Next to her, in a small crater, lay the red and black dragon.
Odd, wasn’t he supposed to be a ways away from here?
Hestia was continually poking him with her tail, and he wasn’t even trying to fight it back, likely too beaten down from our previous fight.
When his eyes landed on me, he snarled defensively, but an annoyed chirp from Hestia shut him up quickly.
With a gentle smile, I hugged Hestia’s head, rubbing at her crest just the way she liked. §Thank you, Hestia. Without you, I would have lost that fight.§
§Father, Balthazar is very big now!§ Hestia chirped excitedly as she abandoned her downed dragon companion and extended her tail towards Balthazar, who slithered around it and enveloped her body in a non restrictive manner.
The two began quickly speaking between each other, both lost in the excitement of the moment.
I smiled sadly, realizing that Balthazar could no longer wrap himself around me, like that. Those were the days, huh?
My eyes fell on the red and black dragon, unsure of what he was even doing here.
I took a few steps toward him, but stopped as he snarled at me, showing sharp teeth.
Even while he was downed, I had to remember that this was a dragon, a mythical creature capable of killing me at any moment, if my guard wasn’t up.
§Oi!§ I sternly pointed my finger at him. §None of that! I’ve already beaten you, child!§
The dragon reeled back in pure shock, not having expected anything like that. §You.. Talk?§
The words came out slowly, as if the creature was unsure of what it was doing. Had he not heard me taunt him during our tussle in the air?
Maybe he didn’t register it in the heat of battle, I thought with a mental shrug.
§…Yes.§ I decided to take another approach.
§Mother.. Not.. Talk.§ The dragon said slowly, his eyes looking at me oddly, as if something was kindling behind them.
Intelligence being cultivated? That’s what it seemed like.
§I think I am the only one able to speak to you like this.§ I said kindly, giving the downed dragon a gentle smile. §What is your name, little one?§
It seemed annoyed at being called little— I was much smaller than it, obviously— but it answered regardless. §Drogon. Name from Mother.§
Drogon, huh? After that famous Khal Drogo, no doubt. He had been her husband at one time, if I my information was correct.
§Drogon, huh?§ I smiled as I slowly approached the slightly confused dragon. §That sounds like a solid name. A strong name.§
§Yes.§ The dragon— Drogon— replied, slowly getting a hang of the language. §I am strongest among my brothers.§
He turned his head slightly, as if appraising my worth. §Your… name? No scale dragon.§
Did he think I was a dragon lacking its scales?
I supposed it wouldn’t have been the weirdest conclusion. I was able to fly, and easily fight at their own levels, defeating them without much issue.
§My name is Harry.§ I replied, keeping things simple. No need for this little guy to know my last name— not that it would have meant a thing for the creature.
§Harry.§ Drogon tried the name. §You are… like Mother. You must… meet… Mother.§
I winced, not really wanting to think about that disaster of a meeting.
I had come in the hopes of forging an alliance and sailing back to Westeros to destroy the threat of the Others, but she’d outright rejected everything I had to offer.
I really wanted to dislike her, to dislike the choices she made, but I couldn’t.
Sure, she was somewhat arrogant due to all the power and titles she’d collected, but who wouldn’t be?
As I understood it, she’d basically been sold off to Drogo by her own brother, only to then lose everything she’d known, as well as hatch her dragons at the same time.
A time of great loss and great gain— it would destabilize any person. It was only natural that the woman would be quirky.
§I would like to meet this Daenerys, Father.§ Hestia added in from behind me, lowering her head so I could pet her crest once more.
I frowned as I ran my hands over her crest, hearing the great she-dragon chirp in happiness at the familiar touch.
“Neither side made the best impression.” Erebus gave his input. “But, the situation is not unsalvageable. I’m sure many of the witnesses would corroborate your story. The Red Priests attempted to coax energy out of an underground volcano. This could have been our grave. Our fiery grave.”
“Good point.” I said as Balthazar uncoiled from Hestia’s body and coiled around me, merging with my arm. I shivered slightly at the now unfamiliar, warm feeling around my right arm. “That will take some getting used to.”
“You’re telling me.” Balthazar replied, sounding a little annoyed. “You’re awfully cold, Harry. And, I don’t even want to think about how cold Erebus is. How do you even live?”
“One day at a time.” Erebus replied, seeming annoyed. “To think that you’ve gained all of this power, what a world we live in.”
“What, you wanted the power of fire?” Balthazar said, his voice a mix of amusement and confusion.
Erebus didn’t answer.
“Oh, you really did?” Balthazar asked in surprise, before laughing. “You’re jealous!?”
“Laugh it up, you overgrown snakeskin jacket.” Erebus snapped, the blade writhing angrily within its sheath.
“Now, now, you two.” I placated my two Devil Arms— woah, that was weird to say. “Let’s focus on the topic at hand.”
“I say you should go back.” Balthazar gave his own opinion. “I’d hate to agree with Erebus, but there it is. She hasn’t really done anything wrong. To be honest, we were the ones being rough with them. It is sort of our fault that this whole situation happened.”
I considered his words with a nod of understanding. I’d been destroying Red Temples any chance I got, slaughtering every single one of their priests without even giving them a chance to speak for themselves.
I understood where Daenerys would be coming from.
There was nothing inherently wrong with the idea that all people should feel free to practice all faiths in a land.
In fact, something like that should be encouraged.
“Yeah, I might have mishandled that whole situation.” I said, scratching at my chin in slight confusion.
“Round two, then?” I moved to Drogon, who was still looking very unsure of the whole situation. §Let’s get you and your brothers fixed up first, eh?§
I was sure that would elevate the Dragon Queen’s opinion of me.
§Hurts!§ Drogon tried to smack me with his tail when I touched one of his many bruises.
I dodged it nimbly, holding his tail in place and sternly hissing at him to not move.
Dragons made for such annoying, irritable patients, sometimes.