It was about an hour later when I finally spotted the army encamped outside of the city of Meereen.
Well, I had spotted Meereen itself and Daenerys’ dragons from a great distance before I even noticed the army.
Good. They’ve strengthened the defenses and even built a few trebuchets. I absently nodded as Erebus set me gently down, far away from the army.
Seeing a skeletal being draped in shadows would likely have been too much for them. I tiredly rubbed at my eyes, letting out a long, suffering sigh.
“You need to rest. You can’t keep pushing yourself like—” Balthazar tried to say, but I cut him off with a shake of the head.
“There’s too much I need to do.” I wavered in place for a few moments. The lingering weakness was almost strong enough to bring me to my knees, but with a grunt— and mostly willpower, to be honest— I managed to stay on my own two feet.
I need to keep it together. I took a few, consecutive deep breaths before nodding and walking towards the camp, projecting as much confidence as I could.
“Erebus, I want you to—” I stopped as the progenitor of the Dementors morphed back into the familiar form of the sword, floating gently towards my hand.
I took the blade and pulled it out of its bony sheath, feeling a little invigorated by the very action.
I sheathed the sword and placed it at my waist once again, before resuming my strides. I kept them long and purposeful, even as outriders began to approach me with various shouts to identify myself.
“Khal Harry!” One of them recognized me, almost leaping off of his horse and giving me a deep bow. The others, Unsullied men I didn’t really recognize, gave a short bow, as well.
Perhaps some of Daenerys’ soldiers. I mused as I followed them, matching their somewhat hurried pace with a bit of difficulty. Then again, it’s not like I’ve memorized every face in my own army…
Hard to tell.
I discarded such distracting thoughts and turned my attention to the troops around me. Most were busy with their preparations.
Weapons were being handed out, the cooks were working overtime, Dothraki fletchers produced their arrows, Unsullied and Dothraki were sharing stories in small groups— interestingly enough.
Morale seemed to be high, and rising even higher when the men began to realize I had arrived. Their gazes flew to the sky, but then fell back onto me with confusion.
I felt the sting of their eyes on me, though none of them dared to approach.
It’s surprising that they haven’t immediately assumed the worst. Erebus whispered into my mind as I nodded to various members of the soldiery. I was slowly led to the heart of the encampment, where a large tent stood— the headquarters of this whole operation, I gathered.
“Khal Harry, I will announce your arrival?” The Dothraki fellow dismounted once again.
How oddly helpful. I mused, suppressing a snort. Not that it’s even necessary to announce my presence. I’m sure Daenerys and the rest have already been informed by the guards I noticed rushing ahead of my… could it be called a retinue if it was a single Dothraki man?
Yes. Erebus answered while Balthazar snorted. The levity of the moment rekindled my spirit enough to face the challenges ahead.
I nodded in response to the question that was not-quite worded as a question. The Dothraki language was still quite the strange thing to grasp, at times.
“You are in the presence of Khal Harry, greatest of Khals.” The man said loudly as he opened the tent flap, bowing his head for me as a gesture for me to go inside.
And so, I did.
A large group stood around a table filled with maps, riddled with figurines signifying troop placements— both allies and enemies. They were already staring my way as I entered.
More noticeably, they were staring at the ugly wound on my neck.
Bronn was the first to greet me. “Ah, my Great Khal Harry Potter returns. You’re a sight for sore eyes.”
If he’d known how close that sounded to something Dobby would have said…
“Your eyes are always sore.” I sniped back as Barristan sent the sellsword-turned-slave-turned-interpreter-turned-general a bit of a frosty glare. Bronn was certainly a well traveled and interesting man.
“Lord Potter.” Daenerys was ever-formal even as her eyes lingered worriedly on the my admittedly horrific looking neck wound.
“Queen Daenerys.” I forced the weakness out of my voice and gave the woman a nod, despite how much it hurt to even move my neck just by that much. I suppressed a tremble and continued. “I’ve destroyed a significant amount of the enemy fleet. The rest have either fled or were forced to go ashore.”
“So our scouts have reported.” She answered.
Grey Worm and Mormont stood at her side, sending wary gazes in my direction, though the third man, Daario, handed me his personal waterskin, giving me a sympathetic glance as he nodded.
A quick sniff of the waterskin showed that it was not, in fact, a waterskin; but one for wine.
I don’t detect anything. Balthazar helpfully added.
Just what I needed.
I drank deeply, the liquid mercilessly burning its way down my throat— but I didn’t care. If it relaxed the muscles even a little, then I would welcome its negative effects with open arms.
“A dance between two dragons, one of the reports said.” Daenerys edged around the topic of my battle against Hestia and the man who’d controlled her. “One of Fire, and the other of Lightning.”
She was probing the waters, watching my face for any reaction, I realized.
Despite our budding friendship, she still viewed me as a rival to her own power?
How to deal with this?
Balthazar pulsed in agitation, reddish power revealing itself behind the spaces between the scales on my right arm.
In response, the others shifted nervously, almost fearfully.
I smiled tightly. “I met someone very interesting on one of the ships.”
Only you could call that thieving scum interesting.Balthazar writhed with what little power he had, before a mental admonishment from me forced him to calm back down.
“He possessed all manner of arcane knowledge.” I continued, placing a finger against my neck. “He’s the one who left me with this. A parting gift, if you will.”
Bronn snorted. “I’d have liked to see what your parting gift to him was.”
An image of Euron fully healing his arm after I’d near lopped it off at the elbow came to the forefront of my mind. To think he was able to simply re-attach his limbs using water magic.
Had it even been water magic?
From what few books I’d read on the topic of magic, there was very little of use. It had mostly been a lot of assumption and supposition.
None of the authors had been practitioners— maesters who didn’t believe magic even existed, mostly. They knew the legends of magic all across the world: the Warlocks of Qarth, the Shadowbinders of Asshai, the fabled Children of the Forest, the water mages of Rhoyne, the Red Priests with fire magic, as well as the ever mysterious Valyrians and their own version of fire magic.
And finally, the mythical Others, north of the Wall, with their necromantic and dementor-like powers.
I had assumed it was all ancient, lost, elemental magic— and I had mostly been right. The fire magic seen by the Red Priests, the water magic used by Euron— though how exactly he’d received the water magic from Valyria eluded me.
Euron had used some kind of healing magic I’d never heard of; it was either related to blood or water— maybe both.
“You really wouldn’t have.” I discarded the thoughts as I leaned slightly forward, directing my attention to the table at the center of the group.
All instantly turned towards the table— all except Daenerys, whose eyes betrayed her curiosity and worry.
I gave her a nod, wordlessly letting her know we’d talk about it once everyone was gone.
She nodded right back, before gesturing towards the spot on the map showing our location south of Meereen, her delicate fingers pausing over a few key points. “Part of our forces has been hard at work, digging trenches and providing us with valuable fortifications.”
I nodded, having seen part of the effort. “The rest, I assume, are gearing up for a battle?”
“Precisely.” Daenerys agreed. “It’s hard to say how many men they have at their disposal, what with the annihilation of the fleet. We can assume the force to the south will be anywhere between thirty and fifty thousand.”
“Hiding behind the fortifications would have been a good idea.” Selmy pitched in, placing his finger to the right of the city. “Were it not for the other army, approaching Meereen from the east.”
“Ah.” My eyes passed over the fortifications once again. “We have to push into them before the two armies can either merge or have us in a double envelopment.”
“Yes.” Naharis nodded, placing his finger at the southern gates of Meereen. “We’ll also need some of the men to stand guard in the back line, in case the Sons of the Harpy make any attempts at us.”
I stared at Bronn.
He got the hint. “I’ll post some of my men there, as well.”
Just in case this isn’t some trick on Daenerys’ part. I thought warily.
Allies, we may have become, but my position had greatly been weakened, as of late. For all I knew of the woman, it was still possible she’d tear my throat out despite recent positive encounters.
Truly, the only House I even felt comfortable around was the one of the Starks.
“A wise decision.” Daenerys replied, both displeasure and a smidgen of respect in her tone, though she quickly hid her reaction by bringing everyone’s attention to the figurines representing the army. “We begin the march tomorrow. Relay the order.”
Her retinue nodded, taking it as their cue to begin shuffling out of the tent, leaving me with her, Bronn and Selmy, with guards stationed outside.
The two of us stared each other down, tension building in the air.
“I…” Bronn stopped, glancing between the two of us.
“We’ll catch up later, Bronn.” I dismissed the man with a glance.
Bronn gave an easy smirk.
“Fair enough. I’m going to find a woman.” He snorted and promptly left the tent. I rolled my eyes, his crass comment breaking the building tension.
Irreverent as ever.
Daenerys, on her part, merely nodded once at her faithful Kingsguard.
“I will wait outside, Your Grace.” Barristan said before addressing me with a nod of respect. “Lord Potter.”
“Ser.” I acknowledged and watched him exit, before turning to the woman in question.
There was silence for a few moments before Daenerys finally spoke.
“I was under the impression that we’d already moved past the hostility between us.” She started off the conversation, a wary look in her violet eyes.
I met her gaze, Euron’s threats and actions still fresh in my mind. “Would you have acted any differently?”
She looked away for a moment, before catching my eyes once again. “I suppose not.”
She’s like me; terrible memories of her own. I realized with a wince, shifting awkwardly. Should I apologize?
There’s no need to apologize for making common sense decisions.Balthazar added. Your neck’s already wounded. Why needlessly expose it in our current state?
True. I agreed, a sudden lance of pain shooting through me. I could still barely feel any power inside of me. My body had reached its very limits, and now I was having a terrible time coping with the resulting weakness.
Mundus always enjoyed mocking the humans for their frailty. Erebus pitched in, drawing an annoyed grimace out of me.
“Are you all right?” Daenerys moved around the table to come closer to me. Within arm’s length, she gently reached towards my neck. “Let me see.”
I made to move away, but seeing that worried look in her eyes made me stop dead in my tracks.
Not even ten seconds after talking about not exposing my neck. I would have chuckled if I didn’t feel so hollow. And I’m already doing it.
Her hands very gently traced the wound there, making me wince and waver on my feet. She murmured something— I was able to make the word “stubborn” out— and led me to one of the chairs off to the side.
“Sit.” She ordered, all but throwing me in the chair.
I gave a token protest even as I obeyed, the catharsis of no longer having to stand on my own two feet immediately overpowering whatever I was about to say next.
Who knew chairs could feel this good?
“Have you eaten?” Daenerys asked as she continued to check me over, noting the various cuts and bruises, as well as checking under the tears in my clothes.
She is being frighteningly forward. Part of me realized, but her touch was so soft and gentle, I almost forgot myself.
“Please.” I grabbed her hands and held them up.
Her touches were electric and refreshing in ways I hadn’t thought I was still capable of feeling.
She immediately stopped and looked at my hands around hers, as if only just now realizing what she was doing— was that a blush? “My apologies.”
“It’s fine.” I gently let go. “And, to answer your question. I haven’t eaten since…”
Since before attacking the fleet. I thought, images of an enraged Hestia filling my mind. I didn’t finish the sentence I’d started.
Daenerys headed towards the exit. She opened the tent flap and exchanged a few words with her guards, before coming back and pulling up one of the small tables and another seat, taking it beside me.
“I was planning on having my dinner in a few hours.” She explained, having seen my quizzical look. “But I think you could use the food more than I.”
I nodded gratefully. “Thank you, Queen Daenerys.”
Normally, I would have protested and claimed I’d get my own food, but…
I really am hungry. I thought. And I’m too tired to argue; plus, she’s being so thoughtful.
I shook off any thoughts related to Euron once again. She’s not him.
The two people couldn’t have been further apart.
“What?” I turned my head towards her.
“Just Daenerys.” She added, a little forcefully.
I frowned at her, mind whirring with the implications of a statement like this.
“Are you sure?” I asked in surprise. “I mean…”
She seemed to find something amusing in what I’d said. “If we’re going to be in battle together tomorrow, then it’s only fair, is it not?”
I can’t fault that logic. I thought. Though I have a feeling she means something entirely different.
Balthazar was snickering in the back of my mind. Shut up, Balthazar.
“All right…” I agreed. “Daenerys. But, you must call me Harry, in return.”
She smiled triumphantly as one of the men entered the tent, placing a tray of food on the table. Bread, salt, fruits, water and wine were arrayed before us.
The man informed us that the meat was still being cooked and would be ready to serve in a few minutes.
“Thank you.” “Thank you.” She and I said. The man gave a bow before exiting.
Before I knew it, I was just about stuffing the bread in my mouth.
Calm down.Balthazar almost seemed amused. You’re channeling your inner Ron.
I stifled my scathing reply, but slowed down regardless, directing an apologetic look towards Daenerys— who was actually smiling.
I swallowed, wincing as the shifting of my throat made my wound pulse in pain. I would have used my Lightning to numb the pain, but every sliver of my energy was being used to further the healing process.
Daenerys took a pear from the bowl of fruit and began to eat.
And so it went, for a while, a comfortable silence settling between us as the same man from earlier entered the tent, placing plates of meats and cooked vegetables on the table.
I could tell that Daenerys wanted to ask her questions, but she had thankfully not pressed the issue, just yet.
Thoughtful of her. I thought as I helped myself to some… boar, I believe? Tastes like boar, all right.
Eventually, I leaned against the back of the chair, sighing in satisfaction. “Thank you for the meal.”
Daenerys wiped at the side of her mouth briefly, before nodding in acknowledgment.
The silence dragged on for a while longer, with Daenerys slowly enjoying the prepared meal, and myself idly drinking the wine, a pleasant numbing sensation slowly replacing the persistent ache throughout my body.
Don’t drink too much. Balthazar warned. You’re going to regret it, if you do.
I already regret a lot of things. I thought flippantly as I took another sip of the wine. What’s one more?
Don’t be a—
Leave it, Balthazar. I warned. Not now. There’s already so much to do. Let me have this.
Neither of my companions pressed the issue.
I turned my attention to Daenerys, who had finished eating and was pouring herself some wine.
Speaking of things to do… Best get this over with.
“You have questions, I gather.” I started.
“Astute.” Daenerys’ mouth curled into an amused smile for a moment before her eyes moved to my neck. The mood turned abruptly somber. “What happened? You fought with Hestia, that much I was able to understand from the reports.”
“Yes.” I confirmed, staring down the cup of wine, and ignored the urge to fill it back up. Balthazar was right about regretting it later. I’d seen enough hungover men in my time here to know when to stop.
Last cup. I took slow sips as I pondered how to best reply.
“We were attacking the ships, as planned.” I said slowly. “Hestia had destroyed plenty of ships, and I’d taken care of thirty, myself; maybe twenty nine. But, then, I heard an awful noise— men, women and children screaming all as one.”
Daenerys did not answer, her eyes wide with shock.
“Before I knew it.” I took a long swig. “Hestia had already been turned against me.”
“Turned against you?” Daenerys repeated in alarm. “What do you mean?”
I paused, considering my words carefully.
“Her mind was subsumed under the will of a magical artifact.” I answered. “Owned by one Euron Greyjoy.”
“Greyjoy?” Daenerys frowned.
“You know of him?” I turned my gaze to her.
“…No.” She admitted, frowning thoughtfully. “I know of the Greyjoys, of course. Balon Greyjoy is the current Lord of that House, is he not?”
“True.” I nodded. “At least, he was when I left Westeros. News doesn’t travel too well.”
There was a short silence, before I continued my story. “His ship’s sails bore the Greyjoy sigil, and he had enough of a resemblance to Theon Greyjoy to make me believe his claim.”
“What is a Greyjoy doing all this way?” Daenerys wondered.
“I don’t know, for certain.” I sighed and leaned further back into the chair. “He said… He said he’d gone to the ruins of Valyria, and found—”
“That’s not possible!” Daenerys’ voice went up a notch as she abruptly stood up.
“Your Grace!” Barristan burst in the room, ready for a fight. Seeing me, a wine cup in hand, and Daenerys in no danger, he calmed down.
“Peace, Ser Barristan.” She held up a hand. “I merely was in shock at something Lord Potter said. My apologies.”
“Think nothing of it, Your Grace.” The man gave a respectful bow and left the tent once again.
“You’ll have to forgive Ser Barristan, Harry.” Daenerys sighed as she sat back down, pouring herself another cup of wine. “He is very serious about my safety.”
“Nothing to forgive, Qu— I mean, Daenerys.” I replied, a brief smile flashing over my face.
“He truly traveled to Valyria?” Daenerys asked, the doubt thick in her voice. “Through the Smoking Sea?”
“How?” She was confused. “It’s filled with volcanoes and smoking rocks. The water is said to be boiling, and it’s said that even the air there is full of poison, killing any who breathe it in.”
I was aware of the legends surrounding the lost dynasty. “I don’t know how he did it, but he did, and he’s now in possession of frightening magic. Powerful magic.”
I let the statement sink in for a moment, before continuing. “And, his knowledge…”
He knew I was from another world. How?
I shook the thought off. “He was able to control water, much like the Rhoynar. He had all manner of Valyrian steel, forged into weapons, even armor.”
“Armor.” Daenerys breathed.
“The last thing he had was a large horn— fashioned from an ancient dragon’s horn— weaved with such magic that it was able to bind dragons to the will of its owner.” I said quietly.
“That’s how he…” Daenerys didn’t finish.
“Yes.” I nodded in confirmation. I took another swig, forcing the tightness in my throat back. “He took control of Hestia and tried to kill me by using her, as well as his various arcane tools and magic.”
“Clearly, you defeated him.” Daenerys gestured at me. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here?”
I didn’t answer immediately.
“…Harry?” Her expression morphed into something that was less sure.
“I— I destroyed the horn, at least.” I forced myself to keep talking, each word weighing more and more heavily. “I freed Hestia from his clutch, but… She left.”
“I don’t know— I—” I shook my head, emotions I was trying to suppress rising to the surface despite my attempts at stopping them. “Her mind was too far gone. And—”
I was startled when Daenerys reached over and placed her hand over my clenched fist.
“I’m sorry.” She said, and it was the most sincere statement I’d ever heard her say. Her smell— no, I realized; her magical presence— wafted over to me, and she felt just like the first time I’d been shown her room at Mopatis’ manse.
So gentle, and caring. I wanted to lose myself in it, but I pulled my hand away from hers, instead.
Daenerys did not let go.
“Let go of me.” I said heatedly.
“No.” She said strongly, her energy unconsciously coiling around mine in an embrace I didn’t even understand. “I will not.”
“Please.” I tried, words failing me as I focused on holding everything in. “I’m not— I don’t—”
“I understand.” Daenerys moved closer to me, grasping my hand in her own. “My dragons are my children, too. If someone took them away…”
“I—” I felt the dam break and the tears go down my face. “She’s gone. She called me father, but now she’s gone, and he wasn’t even fazed! What am I supposed to do?”
“Live.” Daenerys replied instantly, her other hand stroking my forearm. “Continue to live on. After this war is over, you can search for your daughter and make that man regret ever crossing paths with you.”
Daughter. The word repeated itself a million times in my mind as Daenerys continued to comfort me. My daughter. I failed you. I’m so sorry, Hestia…