A week had passed since I had arrived to this new world. In the first few days, I followed Erebus’ advice and sought out books and information on the necessary subject, despite my own reluctance.
But you have to do what you have to do to survive, and so I pored over the tomes in my afternoons as Balthazar curled up on the bed. I tried not to think about all of the people I left behind, but my mind unwillingly kept straying back to them.
I found myself looking at the doorway from time to time, expecting Sirius, Remus, or Daphne there, only to sigh in weariness when no one came.
They were not here. If I failed, I would never see them, again.
So, I kept reading, learning, understanding.
The history books were surprisingly interesting, considering that the history I learned in Hogwarts tended to send me to sleep— but then again, with a ghost constantly droning on and on, it really wasn’t all that surprising.
As far as I understood, this continent was occupied by a race of diminutive humans called the Children of the Forest, a people gifted with supernatural powers— though there are no specifics— who lived in Westeros since the existence of life, I assumed. There was also another race, though they were far fewer in number: Giants.
They all lived off of the land; hunting, gathering, farming, and they worshipped faceless, nameless Gods of the forest, stream and stone. They carved faces in weirwood trees— I would have to find one and examine it— bone white trees with red leaves and sap. Were these the children I saw in the void after clashing my will against that of the deities?
I had a feeling it really was.
At any rate, Westeros was invaded by Essos, another country to the East, by a race of people that would later be known as The First Men. These people crossed the Arm of Dorne, land which connected the land of Dorne to Essos— and which was later magically destroyed by the Children of the Forest.
The two people warred for centuries, possibly millennia, until a pact was formed between them at the Isle of Faces— which I found easily enough on my map, which started something called the Age of Heroes.
That was another place I should visit, beside the Wall.
Speaking of the Wall… It was known to be one of the Nine Man-Made Wonders in the known world, and there was some heavy history behind it.
Some unknown time after the pact formed at the Isle of Faces, the Long Night came— that was something else I found interesting, the summers and winters here were measured in years, not months— a winter which supposedly lasted for a whole generation, laying waste to the people through famine and terror.
It was apparently caused by a race of ice demons, called the Others. The Darkness with blue eyes, I assumed. They were considered to be strange, beautiful, and even elegant, possessing flesh as pale as milk and eyes as bright as blue stars.
I nodded unconsciously in agreement with the description.
The author cautioned the reader to take these descriptions with a grain of salt, as there were no real proofs to these matters as the tome was written many ages after the Long Night.
Then, it went on to say that these Others were capable of raising the dead to fight the living, and possessed razor-thin swords made of ice which could shatter any weapon used against it— not that the weapons themselves were of any use against.
That was until it was discovered that weapons made out of dragonglass could kill them.
This started another line of research. Dragons are real, here— or at least, they were until recently, having simply died off. But that’s for another time.
So, dragonglass, known as obsidian— oh, never mind, that was easy enough.
Then, back to the Wall, then. It was raised after the combined peoples of the Children of the Forest and the First Men, beat the Others back to whatever pit they crawled out of. With the help of the Giants and the magic of the Children of the Forest, a man now known as Brandon the Builder raised the damn thing.
It was three hundred miles in length and seven hundred feet in height, made of solid ice and stone. The top was wide enough for a dozen mounted knights to ride side by side, and is even thicker at the base.
Manning the wall was the illustrious “Night’s Watch”, men who gave up their lands, right to father children, and their general freedom to spend the rest of their miserable lives to defend the realm from these Others, and the wildling tribes in the North North— Balthazar smacked me with his tail every time I said that.
The last section of the book said that the Others had not been seen for eight thousand years.
But I knew that was false, or else I would not have encountered that monstrosity in the void.
For a while, Westeros was at peace, building its people back up from the aftermath of the Long Night— a full generation without being able to farm would most likely have caused people to die by the millions— and this peace lasted for thousands of years.
Until the Andals came from Andalos, with their own religion in tow and steel weapons, superior to the crude iron and bronze the First Men had. Another war was had, and the Andals eradicated entire forests of weirwood trees, killing off both the First Men and the Children of the Forest.
The First Men fought back, of course, but the Children of the Forest were thought to have gone extinct during that time— if anyone even believed in their existence in the first place. They landed in the Vale of Arryn and spread their faith and destruction across the continent, installing Septs, large buildings of worship with the seven pointed star as a symbol on their entrances.
So that was what that building was, in the Square Market.
The book went on in detail on the Andal invasion, and how each kingdom in the South fell to their rule, either to war or marriage proposal which cemented the ties between kingdoms— both barbaric garbage in my eyes.
The only kingdom that withstood their invasion was The North, with their crannog men at the Neck— a region filled with swamps and bog— and a fortress named Moat Cailin, both of which destroyed entire armies every time they showed their ugly faces.
Thus, the North was allowed to keep its practice of its faith to their own Gods of the forest, stream and stone, now popularly known as the Old Gods.
The New Gods were really only one God, with seven different avatars— kind of like how, in the Christian religion, there had been three avatars— and were named The Seven.
The first is The Father, who represents divine justice, and judges the souls of the dead.
The second is The Mother, who represents mercy, peace, fertility, and childbirth, often referred to as the strength of women.
The third is The Maiden, representing innocence, purity, love and beauty.
The fourth is The Crone, who represents wisdom and foresight.
The fifth is The Warrior, who represents strength and courage in battle.
The sixth is The Smith, who represents creation and craftsmanship.
The seventh, and final one, is The Stranger, representing death.
I supposed it made sense why the people flocked to this new religion. The Old Gods were unseen, represented by forests, streams and land— there were no outrageous services, no names; nothing about it was certain.
The Seven, on the other hand, installed their Septs everywhere. They had their own symbol, the seven pointed star. You had to appreciate the symmetry of it all. The name of the churches was Sept, which was French for Seven. There were seven gods, seven pointed stars, seven kingdoms…
Why wouldn’t any backwards ass farmer believe in this tripe?
Still, history was history, despite my feelings on the matter. So, the Andals invaded, the Kingdom of the North kept the stupid blond invaders off its nuts, and life went on for a few more thousand years; until, three hundred years ago, Aegon the Conqueror came with his three dragons, and subdued all of the kingdoms, one by one, uniting them all in a war comparatively much shorter than the previous ones.
Good; shorter wars meant less reading for me.
I turned out to be wrong in that assumption.
Instead, it turned out to be even more reading material than the books covering the thousands of year before it. Kingdoms surrendering or being destroyed, instead. Loyalties exchanged, maps rewritten, a new capital rising… The rule of the Dragon Kings was absolute, it seemed.
At least, until all of the dragons died, and all of the subsequent kings went mad, one way or another, trying to reach for their former glory. One of the kings apparently drank a volatile substance called wildfire, a green substance that can burn hotter than any known material, melting even stone. The man burned to death.
Another, King Aerys II Targaryen, used wildfire to burn his enemies alive, and he ended up going too far when the Lords Stark of the North confronted him about his son. The story went on that the King’s son, Rhaegar Targaryen, abducted the current King Robert Baratheon’s intended, a woman by the name of Lyanna Stark.
Lord Rickard Stark’s daughter; so it was of no surprise that Lord Brandon Stark, the Heir of Winterfell, went to the capital of King’s Landing to confront Rhaegar’s father, King Aerys.
Brandon and his cohort were then arrested and imprisoned on charges of conspiring to kill the crown prince. Their fathers were summoned to answer for these crimes, and were summarily executed.
But, what happened to the Lords Stark was different. The story went on that Lord Rickard Stark demanded a trial by combat, an option reserved in the Seven Kingdoms to prove your innocence on a matter, meaning that if you were strong enough, you could commit any crimes you wanted and demand a trial by combat, and walk away a free man— something worthy of note, since I doubted anyone on this earth could defeat me in one versus one combat.
King Aerys consented to this, and named his champion to be fire itself. He suspended Lord Rickard, still in his armor, over a fire beneath him. Rickard’s son, Brandon, was made to watch his father die with a noose around his neck and a sword out of his reach— he ended up strangling himself to death trying to reach it to save his father.
The whole story brought a bad taste to my mouth.
In response to this atrocity, Eddard Stark, Rickard’s son and now Lord of Winterfell, took up arms, joined Robert Baratheon, Lord of the Stormlands, as well as Jon Arryn, Lord of the Vale. They secured an allegiance with the Lord Tully of the Riverlands through marriage, and waged war on the remaining kingdoms— and won.
The war went on in detail, and I took the time to read of all the specifics of it, the many battles that occurred, Rhaegar’s death at the hands of Robert Baratheon, King Aerys’ death at the hands of his own Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister, who stabbed him in the back— forever earning him the pejorative nickname of The Kingslayer, though with an insane king like Aerys, it didn’t seem fair to hold it against him— the subsequent raping and killing of Rhaegar’s wife and children after the sack of the capital city, and the escape of the last two remaining Targaryen children to the eastern continent, Essos.
That rebellion ended fourteen years ago, according to some of the locals. I made sure to ask more than one person just to be sure. Years, days, even hours and minutes were pretty much the same as my home world.
It made things easier, at least— however easy it is to be torn away from home and sent off to a backwater shithole. I sighed as I closed the book and thought out loud.
I lay back in my seat and groaned in sync with that of the wood.
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” I asked after a few minutes, my mind automatically thinking about Daphne. The last thing I did was make her cry, and it weighed heavily on my mind.
She was probably crying, right at this moment; because, to her, I died thinking that I hated her after our last meeting. But I didn’t hate her.
Damn it. I furiously wiped at my eyes and scowled.
No tears. I had to be strong.
But to open a rift between the worlds… Is it even possible?
“Unknown.” Erebus replied quietly, so as not to disturb the sleeping viper on the bed. “Our own method succeeded because we had already been in between realms.”
“What would happen if I used a Dark Rift, right now?” I asked as I got up and paced.
“Nothing.” Erebus said with utmost certainty. “I do not sense my Dark Realm, and you cannot open a doorway to something that is simply not there.“
“Let’s try to make sure.” I grabbed the sword, and slashed at the air. “Dark Rift.”
Nothing happened. I closed my eyes in frustration.
“I told you it wouldn’t happen.” Erebus chided lightly, but I felt no irritation from it. The Devil Arm was as agitated as I was. With his longer life, the impact on him must have been infinitely greater than mine.
Balthazar didn’t seem to particularly care; as long as I was here, all was good in the world.
“Yeah… I had to make sure, though.” I pinched the bridge of my nose, as I placed Erebus back in his bone sheath. “What’s the chance of the existence of any magical artifact that can get us back?”
“Astronomically low.” Erebus said. It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear.
The rest of the day was spent walking outside, eating and drinking and reading more books— anything to keep my mind off of Erebus’ bone chilling words, even going as far as to leave both Balthazar and the Devil Arm in my room. What if I was stuck here forever?
What would I do, then?
Was there even a point to living— I stopped that train of thought immediately. Suicide was never an option. I was stronger than that.
After that, I returned to the inn, and had whatever the inn keeper suggested— rabbit stew. It was the first time I had such a dish. It was warm, rich with flavor and was quite heavy on the stomach. Needless to say, I scarfed it all down, almost cleaning my plate with my tongue.
The inn keeper had just chuckled at the sight, proud to be serving his customers well.
I gave him my thanks, and left a few coppers on the counter before heading up to my room once more, my thoughts more solidified. I greeted Erebus as the faithful black viper slithered up my body, wrapping itself around my torso and resting its head on my shoulder as it always does.
“So, have you decided on what we need to do?” Erebus asked bluntly. I liked that about the Devil Arm. He didn’t simper around like most do, beating around the bush and never getting to the point.
“As you say.” I began. “I don’t think we can make it home. I’ll definitely keep trying, of course.” I pulled out a book named ‘Old Valyria and the Doom’ by some Archmaester who-gives-a-shit-what-his-name-is.
“This might prove to be a decent read.” I said, before getting back on point. “But I can easily read it during my travels. I heard talk of the King riding with his court to Winterfell, so I’ll head there, see what kind of King this is, and then make my way north to the Wall.”
“Understood.” Erebus acknowledged. “When do we leave?”
I considered his words for a few moments, before nodding to myself.
“I’m moving out tonight.” I said. “I’ll buy a horse and stick to the roads.”
§Have you ever ridden a horse, Harry?§ Balthazar asked curiously as he bumped his head against mine in a rare show of affection. I patted his head.
§No, but I’ve ridden a hippogriff, and those are way more ill tempered, and a lot more easily offended.§ I replied. §How hard could it be?§
The rest of the day was spent bidding my farewells to the few here with which I struck up conversation— the inn keeper and his son Edmund, the bookshop owner, an old man by the name of Torwynd, and the collector at the Square Market.
Buying a horse was a simple matter. I had to get it a saddle, some food, and I was all set. Feeding it, and putting the saddle on would be child’s play; Hagrid made sure to teach us how to feed hippogriffs in my Third Year, after all.
It was always nice to see when your schooling paid off in the real world. I muttered a low thank you to the giant man, wherever he was right now, before telling the inn keeper that I was leaving.
When he tried to give me my money back, seeing as I was leaving early, I handed it back to the man with a real smile— adding a little extra to it— and told him to remain an honest man for the rest of his days. Heartfelt words were exchanged, and I left Torrhen’s Square, riding out through the Kingsgate on the eastern side of the city.
Torrhen’s square was reportedly around two hundred or three hundred miles away from Winterfell, and this horse could trot at… say… Ten miles an hour? I could probably get him to run at twenty five, maybe even thirty, but that would just exhaust the poor thing a mile out.
This way, I could maximize the distance ran and make good time.
So, assuming the road wasn’t a straight line, it would probably be around three hundred fifty miles at least. Knowing that, it would nominally take me thirty five hours to reach there. That wasn’t taking into account the fact that we would need to take breaks every five to six hours.
“Bequeath your power upon the horse.” Erebus added after we reached the Kingsroad in an hour’s time and made a left.
“It— It won’t hurt him?” I stammered slightly.
“Your power responds to your will.” Erebus chided gently. “Much like when the sons of Sparda shared their powers with you, so too can you share with the horse.”
“Speaking of…” I pulled on the reins and patted his neck to make him stop, before leading him to the side and tying him to a nearby tree. “We should name this guy.”
I gave the horse a carrot, and sat next to him, digging into a loaf of bread. I had bought twenty and thrown a preservation charm on them, before shrinking them to the size of a pea.
I learned that Balthazar could draw from the nutrients in my body when we were both merged. I knew not the hows and whys, and more importantly, I didn’t even care.
“So… what should we call you?” I smiled as I looked at the horse in question, who was munching on the carrot. He looked at me for a moment, and snorted.
He had come quite cheaply, I thought. The owner had been all to glad to get rid of him, seeing as he refused to be controlled by any rider. He was a majestic black stallion, powerfully muscled and with hair so soft that made you underestimate his strength.
His appearance reminded me of myself, to be honest. Wild, but soft at the same time.
He had calmed down as soon as I got to him and showed him the respect I would show to a hippogriff. To my surprise, he bowed back. A few minutes later, the owner of the stables had looked on in absolute confusion as I easily fed him a few carrots.
He told me it was the first time anyone got close to him, like that.
So I bought the guy, and here we were, having a late night dinner.
“Hmm… Phantom?” I started. “No, hm… I need something wild for you, something in keeping with the strongest creatures in the world.”
“There was a Demonic Horse in the Temen Ni Gru called Geryon.” Erebus offered. “He was also a black stallion, but his mane and tail were pure blue flames.”
“Geryon.” I repeated the name, rolling around in my mouth a few times, before turning to the horse in question. “Geryon. Hm. You like it?”
The horse stopped his chewing to stare at me for a few seconds, before nodding once.
I knew wizards could make the animals around them behave with more intelligence, but this was ridiculous! Or, maybe the horse himself was intelligent? I didn’t know.
He was here, he understood me, and that was good enough for me.
“All right, then.” I smiled and untied the horse from his tree. He didn’t run away. “Your name is now Geryon the Blacksteed.” I patted him on the neck and gave him another carrot.
A few minutes later, we were back on the road, still trotting at a leisurely pace.
“Here goes nothing.” I said, before channeling some Lightning into Geryon, willing it to not hurt the guy. The effect was instantaneous; Geryon gave a loud whinny, and his speed quintupled— still at a trot, I pointed out.
At this rate, I’d reach Winterfell in a fifth of the time! For the next four hours, we sped past roadside inns and quaint little villages, before stopping for a break once more— we needed to pee.
Geryon didn’t even seem tired.
“The power seems to energize him somewhat.” Erebus said, from the other side of the tree I was pissing on.
“Dude, not while I’m pissing!” I swore at the Devil Arm. “Never hold a conversation with a man when his dick’s out. It’s just… weird.”
“Why?” He asked curiously.
“Just don’t!” I said, zipping my pants back up, and washing my hands with some quickly conjured water. “It’s just wrong.”
“You humans and your strange behavior.”
The rest of the trip was spent in silence. I had to give Geryon some more power— a mere fraction of the energy it would take for me to launch a Breakdown Fist. All in all, it was much more energy efficient to ride on horseback than it was to fly, especially when Geryon’s enhanced trot was much faster than my Air Raid could ever hope to be.
The weather got colder, fiercer the further north we went. We happened upon a large hill as the sun was rising, and I decided to rest up its top. With warming charms, the wind couldn’t chill any of us.
As we got to the top, I noticed something in the distance, beyond the mist. A large and wide castle stood proudly, its walls a hundred feet tall at least. The castle itself was so big, they even had enough space to stuff a forest inside— or maybe they built walls around the damn thing.
Worthy of note were the red leaves on one that I could see— even from this great distance.
“So, this is the seat of House Stark. Winterfell.” I said, sitting to eat as the sun shone on my face, reinvigorating me. I relaxed some more, taking in the sight of the wondrous construct. It was not perfect in any way— it had that worn look to it, like it had been subjected to sieges and direct attacks in the past, and wasn’t quite as repaired as the people who lived there had hoped.
But that was what seemed to give it a powerful presence.
Because after thousands of years, it was still standing. This place was older than Hogwarts.
I cleaned myself up and made my way to it.