“But, I’m ready, Harry!” Jon protested one night during training.
“No, you’re not.” I shook my head and stifled another eye roll.
He was so exasperating, at times.
We had been in King’s Landing for almost a month, now. I managed to apply the Bubble-Head Charm to Lord Ned, and the other two direwolves, Nymeria and Lady, who seemed to take a shine to me after I’d erased their discomfort.
Not that they didn’t like me, before; they simply grew to like me even more.
Lord Stark was busy preparing some tourney being held by the King in his name— though he seemed quite angry on the matter.
Apparently, the Crown was six million gold dragons in debt— three million to the Iron Bank, whom I figured was the financial powerhouse of this world— and another three million to Tywin Lannister.
Obviously, Eddard seemed leery of borrowing from the guy who they had grievously insulted by punishing his daughter for her actions at Winterfell. The validity of the punishment had no meaning to the man, from what I was led to believe.
Hell, from the rumors and stories I’ve managed to glean from the fellow guards, Jaime’s account of what happened to the House Reyne, and a few offhand comments, Tywin Lannister was the most dangerous man on the continent due to his wealth, and his willingness to go any distance to secure his family’s position.
Obviously, chopping off Cersei’s hand weakened their position. True, Tommen was now the Heir to the Iron Throne, meaning his family’s position in King’s Landing was still secure, but an insult had been dealt, wittingly or otherwise.
Hence, Eddard’s reluctance of even broaching the subject of money.
How did I know so much of the subject?
Well, my dear friend, the answer is pretty simple: shameless eavesdropping whilst under a Disillusionment Charm!
“But I’ve gained enough control!” Jon’s protests brought me back to reality.
“You haven’t.” I said with a shake of my head. “Trust me on this. You’re progressing at a rapid pace, but you still lack the force and the speed with which you gather your energy.”
Jon bristled at the criticism and opened his mouth to reply.
I beat him to it, pointing my hand at his form, palm facing his body.
Lightning answered my call, swirling, writhing and coalescing around the center of my palm, flying out as a concentrated ball of energy which he dodged on pure instinct.
“What are you—” But that was as far as Jon got before he had to leap into a forward roll to avoid another ball.
Jon mirrored my initial move and concentrated his power. He got a small, blue ember going before I slammed my fist in his stomach, taking the air out of his lungs and doubling him over.
He fell to his knees as he coughed and wheezed, trying his best to fill his lungs with the air he had lost, to no avail. He raised his head, only to find himself face to face with my Lightning charged palm, merely inches from his face.
A few seconds later, I backed away and clenched my palm, a small shockwave rattling our surroundings— though no sound exited the room we had been using for training.
“As I’ve said, Jon.” I bit out harshly as the fellow teen slowly regained his breath and composure. “You are not ready to fight with your power in a pitched battle. The time it would take you to get a shot off, anyone would have cleaved your head off of your shoulders.”
Jon tried to apologize, but it came out half strangled.
I conjured a cup and filled it with water, handing it to the boy, who took the proffered drink and took a heavy swig.
“Thank you.” Jon finally managed to say.
I nodded in acknowledgement, before addressing the issue. “Sorry for the demonstration. I know you’re pretty stubborn, and this is the only way I figured would convince you.”
Jon was silent for a long moment.
“S’all right.” He said finally.
“It just takes time. We’ve only been at this for about a couple of weeks, now; or, is it three weeks?” I said and pointed my palm at the wall beside me. Lightning flew out and smashed against the red brick, the current strong enough to make the bricks glow red with heat.
It was good to reach near the level of strength I possessed before being flung to this dimension— though it took some time, a lot of brainstorming, and many exhausting sessions of magic control in order to get my magic to compress itself to the levels I required.
Jon stared in awe at the intensity of the attack, his anger replaced by a surging excitement— heh, if only he knew how powerful I really was. Then, he’d be excited.
“You’ll be able to reach that level in a year or two.” I promised, but frowned. “But you have to work at it. It’s not something you hop into battle with and improvise as you go along. You have to undergo strict training in channeling your power. You don’t want to end up killing the wrong people in a fight. Imagine if you hit Arya or Sansa with your fire.”
Jon grimaced and deflated immediately, his face turning solemn.
“Do you really want something like that to happen?” I prodded.
It was a little mean on my part to guilt trip the guy, but it was important to stress the sheer danger he could be to those around him if he lacked the necessary control.
Jon nodded and sighed.
“I understand, Harry.” He said.
I clapped him on the back. “Good. Go get some rest. And don’t forget—”
“Yes, meditate every night.” Jon said, exasperation bleeding through his serious visage. “You say that every time we finish training.”
“If I didn’t say it, you’d probably skip it.” I grinned unrepentantly. “Too eager to sleep, you are.”
“May be.” Jon smiled back, before leaving the room and heading to the guard’s quarters.
With a wave of my wand, I removed the Silencing and Obscuring spells I’ve had on the door, walls and windows. It wouldn’t do to have a servant, or worse yet, a spy, see what we’re doing and start blabbing to whoever was willing to pay him/her coin.
I tapped myself on the head with my wand, feeling the cold trickles of magic trailing over my body, connecting together and shielding my presence from the naked eye, before exiting the room.
Another wave and my footfalls turned silent.
I wandered through the Red Keep’s hallways, moonlight filtering through the many windows, giving the place an ethereal look.
It reminded me of nights spent wandering the corridors of Hogwarts Castle.
Has it really been months since then?
I could still remember it all as if it were yesterday. I wondered what I’d see if I looked into the Mirror of Erised now. Would it be my parents again? Would I see my home world? Would I only see Daphne and Sirius?
Or, was it a mix of all three?
Questions I might never receive an answer for.
I stopped moving as I heard the clinking of boots against the cold stone floor. A few seconds later, one of the Red Keep’s servants appeared gradually into view. His eyes flitted wildly to every nearby door, as if he expected someone to catch him in whatever he was doing.
So, naturally, I followed him.
A few minutes passed as we went from one side of the Red Keep to its northernmost tower, where the Spider, Varys, was waiting for him.
I suppressed the shock— though, considering this guy was the spymaster of this kingdom, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all— and followed them into a side room, making sure to enter as quickly as I could before they closed the door.
With a snap, the door was shut, and then locked.
“I came as fast as I could without arousing suspicion, Lord Varys.” The man said hurriedly.
“And?” Varys intoned softly.
“It is done.” He said. “The message has been delivered to the docks. I’ve secured its passage to Pentos where your contact’s men are prepared to receive it, as ordered.”
Pentos? That was one of the Free Cities, on western edge of Essos. Also, what kind of message would require travel by boat? Perhaps the ravens could be intercepted, somehow?
“Good.” Varys said. “You have done well.”
“Anything to have Targaryen rule back in these lands.” The man said, bowing his head.
“Quite.” Varys spoke, looking around to make sure no one was listening in, before giving the servant a piercing gaze. “Though, I would urge you to not speak of them. However secure I can make our conversations, I am not without faults.”
The servant wilted.
“You’re right, my Lord.” He bowed his head. “I apologize.”
“No harm done, my good man.” Varys said genially, clapping the man on the shoulder firmly, once, before backing off. “Now, I believe you have a few more tasks to attend to?”
“Yes, of course.” The servant gave one more bow before leaving quietly, closing the door behind him.
Varys tsk-ed, before homing on my exact location.
“You thought I wouldn’t notice your presence, didn’t you?” Varys spoke, just as softly, but there was a dangerous edge to it all. “Show yourself.”
I stayed quiet, even as he slowly approached my location.
He couldn’t quite see me, but he must have detected my presence, somehow.
Hm. No sense in drawing this out.
“Stupefy.” It came out as a whisper, and it was all the warning Varys had before a bright red light shot into his form, knocking him into the world of unconsciousness with a loud thud.
“Close one.” Erebus whispered to me. “You must go before anyone finds him. That servant was still nearby. He might have heard—”
The door slammed open, revealing the same servant from before; only, this time, he looked alarmed, which turned to panic when he laid his eyes on the unconscious Varys. He swiveled his head wildly, trying to find whoever did this, but saw nothing.
I wisely kept my calm and made my escape, even as the servant dragged the unconscious Varys to his personal chambers and stood guard.
I inched away slowly, until I reached a far enough distance and ran for it, making my way back to the Tower of the Hand.
So Varys was a Targaryen loyalist?
That made no sense. In the meetings I had been snooping on, Varys had never hinted towards such things— he even went as far as to suggest assassins be sent to Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding with the warlord, Khal Drogo; I recognized the name from one of the King’s conversations with Ned.
Perhaps it was all part of his cover? Or maybe he didn’t want all of his eggs in one basket. That way, he could be sure of his position in both this rule, and whatever may come in the future.
I stopped suddenly, feeling something brushing against the edge of my senses.
§What was that?§ Balthazar’s hiss came out.
§You felt it too?§ I hissed right back.
“I, as well.” Erebus intoned from his sheath.
“What do you think that was?” I asked and closed my eyes. Tendrils of Lightning leapt out of my body, writhing and swirling around me, before launching themselves outwards.
I opened my eyes and followed the trail, which led me to a door to the right. I grasped the handle and pulled. It didn’t open. I tried some force.
“Locked.” I murmured and brought my wand back out. “Alohomora.“
With a click, the door was open.
I smiled slightly to myself and pushed it open, the hinges creaking loudly, evidence of the door’s disuse over the years.
There was a set of stairs leading down into pitch blackness. I went inside, closing the door behind me and removing the Disillusionment Charm, and locking the door behind me.
A bright white ball of light emerged from my wand, illuminating the stairway once more. I waited for my eyes to adjust, before making my way down.
I pinched my nose a few times in order to avert a sneeze.
“Too dusty in here.” I murmured in irritation as I finally reached the bottom. It appeared to be a dusty, damp cellar.
“What’s so special about this place?” I wondered as I took a few steps in, focusing my power once more. It led me further in, to one of the many side doors lining the walls— though, this one was much larger than the rest.
I understood why when I went inside.
Various dragon skulls were packed tightly into the large side room. The first few were really small, no larger than a cat’s, but as I moved further and further, they got bigger and bigger.
§These are the dragon skulls which were displayed in the throne room during the Targaryen Dynasty.§ Balthazar supplied as we reached the final one— an absurdly huge skull to say the least.
“How big was the dragon?” I worked out the math in my head. “From the sketches in the books I’ve read, the dragons looked eerily similar to the Hungarian Horntail I’d tangled with a year ago during that stupid Triwizard Tournament. But this…”
It was unbelievable.
“Agreed.” Erebus wheezed out. “It seems as if the tales of Balerion the Black Dread were not embellished in any way.”
“Just look at its skull!” I breathed, running my hand across the skull’s snout. “Four— no, at least five. At least five times larger than a Horntail’s!”
“Then, it would be logical to assume the rest of its body would have been proportionately larger, had the dragon still been alive.” Erebus intoned logically.
I stayed silent for a few moments, absorbing the words and the absurdity of it all.
“It took dozens of wizards collectively using stunners to subdue the dragons from home.” I said slowly. “Yet these Targaryens rode them with ease on their own. No spells, no large groups of people…”
“Truly curious.” A voice came from behind me, startling me out of my reverie.
I spun quickly, a round house kick flying out and hitting nothing but air as I lost my balance and fell on my ass. I quickly regained my bearings and got back to my feet, finding myself face to face with a ghost.
“Even more curious.” The specter continued as it floated around me. It was a tall, broad shouldered, powerfully built man. His hair was short-cut and silver-gold, going over a steel circlet set with square-cut rubies which framed his forehead. More striking, were his eyes, a deep purple color that shook me with its vibrancy.
Even in death, this man looked regal in his black scaled armor.
“You can see me.” The ghost stated simply. “In the centuries I’ve been dead, no one has ever detected my presence— not until you.”
I remained quiet for a few moments, gathering my thoughts before finally speaking.
“You’re a Targaryen, aren’t you? The hair and the eyes…”
“I am.” The man smiled slightly. “They called me Aegon the First of His Name.”
I looked at the largest dragon skull again, before looking back at the specter. “Aegon the Conqueror?”
“Yes.” The specter— Aegon— confirmed without any heat. “The Conqueror. There wasn’t all that much to conquer. Some skirmishes here, and there.” Aegon floated to the largest skull and ran his hand over the snout, just like I did. “My dear Balerion did most of the work. Vhagar and Meraxes, too.”
“Not much to conquer?” I repeated.
“I suppose it does sound somewhat arrogant on my part.” Aegon smiled, though it was not malicious in nature. “I had planned my invasion quite well, and with my dragons, no army stood a chance against us.”
“True.” I allowed. “With dragons the size of several large homes, you could have conquered the whole world.”
“One continent was enough for me.” Aegon stated, but grimaced. “Though, with recent events… Orys would be rolling in his grave at what his descendant has done to our legacies.”
“Orys?” I repeated.
“Aye.” Aegon said, floating around the room. “My half-brother, Orys Baratheon.”
Ah, it all clicked together.
“Yes, Robert’s Rebellion.” Aegon said. “What our descendants have been reduced to…”
I nodded wordlessly.
One was a fat king who constantly whored and was drinking himself into an early grave, and the other was known to be an insane old man, burning his subjects alive with wildfire— often times mistakenly believing them to be traitors to his rule.
“The Baratheons have fallen far, indeed, despite it being a kingly House, now.” Aegon continued grimly. “And my own family… All that’s left of our fire are two small embers halfway across the world… Surrounded by darkness and enemies waiting for their opportunity to end my line, once and for all.”
No wonder this guy was a ghost, with heavy thoughts like these lingering in his ghost mind.
“Such is the way of life.” I said softly, uncompromising even Aegon leveled his glare on me. The glare faded quickly at the sight of my unflinching gaze. “Whoever rises to the top will eventually fall down, and hard.”
“You are right, of course.” Aegon admitted, before focusing his attention on me. “You are a powerful one.”
I gave the man a sidelong glance as I inspected one of the medium sized dragon skulls.
“What gave you that impression?” I spoke easily as I dusted my hands off and faced the specter.
“You can see me, for one.” Aegon had a good point. “It’s more than that; I can feel the power rolling off of you in waves. I had been slowly fading into oblivion over the last fifty years— at least until around a number of months ago, in which time I began to regain a measure of form in this un-life.”
That was about the time I had arrived to this realm.
So, I strengthened all of the ghosts just by arriving into this realm?
Did my magic inject into the world around me, somehow?
I pinched the bridge of my nose in irritation. If ghosts regained enough strength to resume visible form, then how much stronger are the Others, or the Red Priests? Or the shadow binders?
“I don’t doubt that you could possibly defeat my Balerion in combat.” Aegon spoke. “With power like that… How did you acquire such strength?”
“…” I said nothing for a few moments. “I was born with magic, and have been taught by mages much older than I. As for my Lightning… I’m afraid that’s a bit of a long story.”
Aegon the Ghost gestured at himself in a self-deprecating move and a disarming smile. “I have plenty of time.”
I smirked back.
This guy wasn’t half bad.
So I told him everything.
I told him of a young boy entering a wondrous society filled with all manner of sorcery and wonder. I spoke of trolls, dragons, wyverns, wyrms, nundus, merfolk, elves, goblins, and other creatures. I spoke of a magical castle with moving staircases, ghosts like him, talking portraits, and endless shortcuts and hallways.
I spoke of my teachers, old and wise mages who were well versed in their particular branch of magic. I told him of purebloods and mudbloods.
I spoke of Dumbledore.
And I spoke of Voldemort.
I spoke of the rise of dark forces even greater than the wizard who had killed my parents— and many others; Demons, ruled by their Emperor Mundus, who I had fought between realms.
Mundus, who was the reason why I was stranded on this world.
I spoke of the higher powers of this world taking notice of me.
“The Red Priests of R’hlorr.” Aegon said, a touch of familiarity in his tone. “I’m familiar with their religion.”
I nodded, remembering the visions the Raven had shown me.
“Obsessed with fire, they were.” Aegon continued, oblivious to my thoughts. “They believed me to be one of R’hlorr’s avatars because of my dragons.”
“Did they, now?” I asked noncommittally. “Why?”
“Over a hundred years before my Conquest of Westeros.” Aegon explained. “The Doom fell on Valyria.”
“I read about that.” I interjected before he could continue. “No one seems to know what the Doom really was.”
“I don’t, either.” Aegon added to that, smiling patiently. “What I do know, my father told me. My great-great-great-grandmother, Daenys Targaryen was a greenseer. We called her Daenys the Dreamer, as her dreams always seemed to come true.”
“She had a powerful, prophetic dream, depicting the destruction of Valyria, my family’s previous, ruined home. Her father, Lord Aenar, decided to move our family and all of our belongings to the Island of Dragonstone, as well as five dragons.” Aegon said.
“Twelve years later, the Doom fell on Valyria, and House Targaryen was the only dragon riding family left.” Aegon said. “Only a few Houses remained carrying the blood of old Valyria. Houses Celtigar and Velaryon, two houses with close ties to ours, though they have both fallen on hard times as well; but, I digress.”
“With my rise to power came the attention of the people, both from within Westeros and without.” Aegon said. “The followers of R’hlorr claimed that I was a devout follower of their religion.”
He scoffed. It looked rather amusing on a ghost. “The people overseas, of course, believed every word. How else would I be able to control fire breathing dragons if I was not a follower of the religion which worshipped fire?”
I nodded. “The simple-minded do tend to believe whatever sounds simple enough.”
“All too true.” Aegon said, smiling a little vindictively as he spoke further. “I quickly corrected their mistake by riding over to a few of their great temples and burning them to the ground, much like I did with Harrenhal. The fool priests did not bother me again— I merely had to deal with the followers of the Seven in Westeros.”
“Ah, yes.” I said with a grimace. That religion reminded me too much of Christianity— way too many ceremonies, rules, and a hatred of anything different. “The Seven who are One. A farce.”
“Agreed.” Aegon nodded. “A religion installed by the invaders from Andalos, attacking the sacred weirwood trees of the Children.”
I gave him a double take. I hadn’t read about Valyrians following the Old Gods or knowing anything about the Children, in particular. I had seen bits and pieces of them, when I was in the void.
An image of children waving at me flashed through my mind.
“Oh, yes.” Aegon smiled slightly. “Valyrians were aware of the existence of the Children. Written accounts of the many diviners using dragonglass candles— I’m afraid I did not possess the talent for it— who have seen the Children. And… The Others. Creatures borne of ice and death.”
I started a little, at that.
“It was part of the reason why my son, Maegor, built the Dragonpit in the first place.” Aegon said. “The main reason, obviously, was to weaken the hold of the Faith of the Seven over my family’s Kingdom. It served another purpose, of course. We meant to breed the dragons, in case the Others appeared once more and attempted to kill us all.”
“The history books never mentioned that— not even Maesters.” I said, remembering all of times I questioned Maester Luwin on magic, Targaryens, and the Others.
“Knowledge is lost, over time.” Aegon said, his tone of voice going sad. “An important speech someone says is written down. Later it is rewritten. Then it is misquoted. Then, the passage is barely even mentioned as the years pass, and the old books become unreadable. I have seen many works disappear over the years— a true shame.”
“You liked to read?” I asked suddenly.
Aegon nodded. “I was never a social person. The only people I wished to spend time with were my siblings. Visenya, Rhaenys, and my half-brother, Orys. When they were busy, I either trained with my dragons, or read books.”
“Where was I? Oh, yes.” Aegon smiled. “The Children of the Forest and the Others. I knew of their existence. So did my son, who built the Dragonpit for our dragons to breed and grow in numbers. If he knew that the enclosed, tight space would hinder our dragons rather that strengthen them, he would have gone a very different route.”
“Now, there are no dragons left.” Aegon said grimly. “Without one of their mortal enemies, the Others have no challengers— except, maybe, you. Harry of House Potter.”
“You know my name?” I said, startled.
“Indeed.” Aegon confirmed, a hint of amusement in his tone of voice. “I hear the servants of this castle all the time. Harry of House Potter. The Blackscale.” He gestured to my right, scaled arm. “An interesting sight, your arm. The rumors are running wild, of course, but the most popular one involves you, a warlock, a dwarf, a chicken, and a dozen eunuchs.”
“Uh…” I said eloquently.
How does anyone even respond to anything like that?
We ended up talking well into the night.