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Kissed by Fire, Born of Ice (Game of Thrones)

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Offline Reigning King

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The waves rolled and crashed, teetering the humble ship and making it’s tattered sail flap violently in the winds that rocked the waters along the coast.  Inside the boat three men worked together, they found their grip onto rope and bearing, navigating through the thrashing waves in the calm matter with which a fish native to these seas in particular might.  Water filled their boots; their breeches, tunics and leathers soaked to the chest.  The damp however, was comfortable for these practised seamen.  A certain warm embrace was found in the cling of their fabric to flesh, a convenience in the way their long wet hair slicked back in the rain and wind.  Their skin was tough, bred amongst the rough climates of the North.  In spite of the conditions however, one among them wore a smile fiercer than any storm.  Full lips spread across a broad mouth, sheltered by sharp cheekbones.  The reason for his smile?

The ship was about to round the peninsula into the Bay of Seals.

“There it is,” the eldest of the three called from wheel, shouting over the rain and wind.  Indeed, in the distance an island could be seen with towering white trees. 

“We’re almost home.” The younger concurred thoughtfully.  He sat at the bow of the ship, the sheltered bay eased them into gentler waves, shielded by the fierce winds on the open waters.  The breeze carried them closer to the island in the distance, perched upon the farthest outreaching point of the ship, the young man watched the oncoming shore, willing it closer to him.  Streaks of blue still clung to his silver hair, the rain washing out what remained of the blue dye the pair had made from berries. 

“This isn’t your home.” The other reminded him sharply, sternly from behind him. 

“Oh isn’t it?” Turning around to face the ageing man at the wheel of the ship, the young man with the silver and blue hair didn’t care to hide his rolling eyes.  “Then where is my home, Father?” He asked condescendingly. 

“King’s Landing, of course.  Your place is on the Iron Throne, where your grandfather sat before y—”
x
“Are you sure?” He interrupted.  “Isn’t Dragonstone my true, ancestral seat?” He pressed, raising a blonde eyebrow, a darker shade than his silvery hair. 

“Well… well, that'xs…” The old man Griff began, eyes coming to his feet, as though he expected the belly of his ship to sing him the answers.  “Don’t get smart with me, boy!” He snarled, once more shouting over the sea winds. 

“Are you implying that I should get stupid?” He shouted back, feigning confusion. 

“Another word out of you, and it’s a thumping you’ll get!”

With a quiet smile, the young Griff turned back to the oncoming island.  Pressing his lips together, he silenced the quick remarks fluttering up his throat.  For a while he didn’t move, simply watched as the shore grew closer, close enough to make out figures along the shore line.  He watched as large men who looked small in the distance fluttered back and forth from the shore.  None of them were one whom he sought.  Waiting he continued to watch, the act becoming something of a returning ritual for him by now.  Finally, a spark caught along the rocky shoreline, flames licking along the edge of the tree line and moving towards the water.  Rising from his crouched position, he stood at the bow, a hand gripping onto a rope and keeping him balanced in his precarious position.  He watched those long, bright wisps of fire wove in the air around a figure slightly shorter than the others along the shore.  He couldn’t see her face yet at this distance, and neither could she, his.  She was there though, he could see her, and she could see him. 

Keep a weather eye out, for me.

He had said it each time he left her from the first day they had met. 

“You shouldn’t encourage the girl.” His father — well, not really his father — growled disapprovingly from the ship. 

His smile had been broad and beaming, but now it fell away from his face.  Such as with seemingly all other things in life, young Griff — Aegon, my name is Aegon — tucked his smile away with the rest of his secrets.  Turning from the shore, he sprung from his perch and onto the upper deck of the ship.  His eyes, like round, ripe plums, fell to the wooden planks beneath his feet as he brushed past his guardian and Captain. 

“Are you listening to me?” He asked sternly.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Aegon returned with a snapping tone. 

The shoreline came upon the Shy Maid quickly.  The calmer waters of the bay making for a easy shot to the island with the wind still on their side.  On the main deck, which Aegon descended a short set of stairs to reach, the third man in their crew prepared to dock the ship on the very dock he had built upon the island years ago.  Unlike the other two, he preferred to keep his hair short, though his was a shocking orange hue that hardly deepened with the rain.  It was a sickly, bright colour, nothing like the mass of raging hues that waited for him upon the rocks.  His beard was of a similar tone, his eyebrows as well.  Though he was a mountainous man, it was difficult to take him seriously. 

“Ready, Duck?” Aegon asked, approaching the towering man. 

“Are you two fighting again?” He asked, barely letting Aegon finish his sentence.  The rain had begun to pick up, forcing him to raise his voice in order to be heard over the din of the oncoming storm.  It would be warm and dry beneath the trees of the island, there would likely be a meal waiting for them judging by the time. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It was an easy phrase, one Aegon often used.  More often than usual as of late, it seemed. 

In the same moment that the underside of the Shy Maid came to slide against the rocks of the shore, Aegon leapt from the ships edge.  He splashed into the waist-deep water, crouching into the land in order to soften the blow.  Already wet, the full immersion into the sea did nothing to change his dampened state.  With a lumbering start, Aegon raced up the shore alongside the ship.  Above him, Ser Rolly Duckfield leaned over the banister of the main deck, watching Aegon as he left footprints and kicked up sand in his wake.

The moment he rounded the bow of the ship, his eyes fell upon her.  As always, she waited for him on the shore.  Always standing in the same place, close enough to see him coming but far enough away so as to make him come to her.  He wondered what she was seeing, looking at him now.  He had been gone longer than ever this time, almost half a year.  Of course, the passing of time meant nothing to Aegon, or the young woman whose open arms he ran into.  Greeting her in the same way he always did, he let himself crash into her, throwing his arms around her waist and tackling her against the rocks.  The pair grappled before she bested him, as she always did.  Her spear knocked into his shoulder awkwardly, as they rose from their spare, her hair getting tangled around his ear and caught on his nose, still it felt the same as it always did when he returned.

It felt like coming home. 

“I brought you something.” He said as they used each other's legs, arms and shoulders to rise to standing upon the uneven rocks. 

Aegon looked different than he had when he left.  He had gotten taller, his shoulders a little more broad.  His skin a different hue, the Southern sun bathing his flesh with a darker glow than he’d ever had before.  It had only, in the most recent days of travel, begun to fade.  Of course, his hair had also gotten much longer, now so long as to be tied back by a leather strap.  He watched her grey eyes, the steely pools he had missed so much, as they took in these changes.  It was only when her eyes met his finally that he realized he had allowed his hands to linger in the curve of her waist.

Curve?

She had changed too. 

Smothering the stirring feeling Aegon felt in his stomach, he pulled his hands away from her as though she had burned him.  Taking a calculated step back, he rocked backwards on his heels.  As he opened his mouth to say something else, however, he heard a familiar voice calling from the ship.  Beneath the lowered ladder, a collection of men had gathered to form an assembly line for the goods brought back to the island.  At the top of the ladder, a wiry man with a large wide-brimmed hat over his black hair shouted down at Aegon.

“Your duties include unloading the ship as well, young Griff!” He scolded. 

“Yes, Haldon!” Aegon called back.  “I’ll see you at the feast then, I’ll give you, your present.” He continued, turning back to the red haired beauty before him.  “We’ll stay by the fire, I’ll tell you everything.” He assured her as he began to back away further.  Before he took his final step beyond arms reach however, he reached out and seized a lock of her hair, letting it slide through his fingers as he moved.  A ghost of the smile he had hidden away resurfaced for the briefest instant before fading back into the far-reaches of his mind.  Turning on his heel, he headed back for the ship.  Sopping wet but secretly smiling, he joined the assembly line along the ladder with the other younger men. 

Jon and Haldon had told him about Dragonstone.  Supposedly, he had lived there for a time with his mother and sister.  His true seat, the place they assured him he would one day take for his own, was King’s Landing.  While seemingly the places of fable and wonder, none of them felt like home to him.  The places his caretakers spoke to him of were foreign and strange, not unlike the peculiar places to which he had travelled with them.  On the sea at night, aboard a rocking ship, Aegon didn’t dream of Dragonstone, nor King’s Landing, nor Skagos. 

He dreamt of Kirith, though. 

She felt like home.

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Offline asterin

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She ran towards the shore, her red hair whipping against her face as she rushed forward. Above in the sky a bright red streak hurtled through the clouds, arcing over the horizon. Faster! The voice urged her on. Faster! The radiant light whistled down into the sea, creating a giant explosion of waves. She dove into the water after it, the bitter chill biting into her bones as she surged down deeper—down into the inky dark depths of the ocean. The darkness swallowed her whole and she couldn't see anything, hear anything—but she could sense that there was something there underneath her, something alive, something of gargantuan proportions swirling in the infinite abyss under her. Blindly she thrust out her hand, reaching, reaching—

Something caught at her hand, grasping it. A hand. Her fingers curled instinctively around it, for she knew its warmth, she knew who it belonged to. It was him. It was—

She woke abruptly to the sound of her aunt cursing over her, having apparently stumbled on the stack of books she had next to her sleeping furs.

“How many times have I told you not to leave those blasted tomes lying around?” the older woman hissed. She was gaunt, her fading hair pulled away from her sharp face in a tight and unyielding braid. The eyes that were narrowed angrily at her were grey, and her mouth was curled disapprovingly as usual.

The girl pointedly ignored the woman, her own steel grey eyes dark with unspoken discontent as she turned away from her aunt, raising herself up to collect her precious books. She had fallen asleep while reading them—something rather common for her. Though her movements were still slightly clumsy with slumber, she smoothed over a wrinkled page with a careful hand, taking note not to tug at the worn paper. She had read these tomes many, many times over, and these, along with other certain items, were nothing less than treasures to her. She carried them to a chest she had right next to her furs, and tucked them into their rightful place next to many other strange oddities. This collection had started out small, but through the years it had grown large enough for her to look for a bigger chest. With a small huff she closed the lid of the chest and began to wriggle into her clothes. Despite her desire to stay huddled in the corner with her treasures and dream about the unknown world, there were things to be done, and it was time to start her day.

As she stepped into the blustery chill of the outdoors, she squinted her eyes and gazed out into the dark expanse of the tumultuous sea that she could see from the ridge. She scanned the horizon thoroughly, but found nothing, no tell-tale dot of white that would indicate sails. The sky above was cloudy, and she briefly wondered if it would storm—only to recall the vivid dream she had seen before her rude awakening.

Her dreams had been strange, of late. Of course, dreams were always strange, but she found that these were starkly different than the fantastical dreams of flying or falling that she had often experienced before—or even the wishful dreams of a certain ship docking at the shore. No, these were crisp and visceral. While the contents of them would vary, she could not help but feel that they were one and the same. Strange, silly thoughts, but she could feel it her bones, as her grandmother used to say. A wry chuckle escaped her. Perhaps she was just reading too much before bedtime. Or maybe, just maybe, she was missing her old friend.

And yet the dreams pestered her throughout her day, distracting her from task after task. She was sitting under a shelter to keep dry from the rain that had indeed come, doing the menial task of mending the fishing nets. The redhead was also trying to keep up with the words of the young woman next to her. Her name was Neyah, and she had joined the settlement only three moons prior—a bride for Darnor. Kirith had grown up with the lad, and she had little against him, but she certainly wasn't going to be telling Neyah that the jagged scar running down his forehead was from a year earlier when he'd been foolish enough to try and 'court' her. He'd finally secured his bride from a village beyond the Wall, quite the accomplishment for him. Speawife she was not, but Neyah had managed to outwit Darnor twice on the journey back, nearly making it back to her own village. It was story Kirith had heard more than enough times by now.

She liked Neyah well enough, she supposed, and seeing that the number of girls her age had been on the decline since they'd become women, she figured it would be nice to be friends with her. But the brunette was rather calm and sensible, perhaps a bit more than mischievous Kirith would have liked. “The raid was rather successful, wasn't it?” she was saying as she handled the nets a bit awkwardly, not yet used to mending them. “Darnor brought back some worthwhile things—a shadowskin cloak and three wolf pelts. I heard you took some fine pelts as well. What do you plan on doing with them?”

“Oh, I thought I would make a new cloak...maybe reline my boots,” Kirith answered, trying hard not to sound distracted as her fingers sorted mechanically through the net. Seven days ago she had gone on her first raid, quite a proud moment for her as a newly appointed spearwife. Her aunt hadn't been too impressed with the spoils she'd brought back—but then again, she doubted her aunt even knew how to be impressed. Her eyes trailed back towards the ocean, sweeping over it again. She imagined the streaking red light in the sky, hurtling downwards like it had in her dream. “It's been a year since I lined then last, and...” she trailed off into silence. She stood suddenly, spear in her hand, squinting her eyes.

“Kirith?” Neyah prompted, looking alarmed. “What's the matt—”

Two white dots shimmered in and out of sight between the waves.

“He's back,” she breathed. She repeated the words, this time much louder. “He's back!”

“Who's back?” the puzzled young woman questioned, but Kirith was already gone, bolting down the ridge and towards the shore. By the time she was making her way through the rocks at the shore she was flushed pink, her eyes bright—she took no note of the others' knowing gazes—none of it mattered, because he was back! She could see the Shy Maid in the distance, her worn sails flapping in the stormy wind, and standing at the bow, secured on his perch with only a rope, was Griff. She was trying hard to keep the grin off her face, to keep the brimming anticipation hidden away, but the corner of her lips kept twitching upwards.

Just as the ship reached the shore he jumped into the water, then raced up the sandy banks and onto the rocks, where she stood waiting. Their eyes met and she let out a shout, half-laughter, half-greeting, spreading her arms in anticipation of what was coming. If Neyah was among the crowd, perhaps she would think it was for a warm, tight embrace, but it was quite the opposite as he crashed into her, toppling them both onto the rocks. They wrestled fiercely, but it was laughter that spilled from her lips, not growls or snarls—two wolf cubs playfighting—though they were cubs no longer. She slammed him down by the shoulders quite roughly with a triumphant grin. “I win,” she breathed, her eyes shining with mischief.

In the next moment they were clambering up, supporting each other as they attempted to get sure footing on the rocks. “I brought you something,” he said, and chuckling, she reached up to disentangle the lock of hair that had gotten caught about his ear.

“About time,” she replied tartly, her own way of saying I missed you.

She could see him much more clearly now; he'd grown darker in the hot sun of some different land, no doubt, and though it had been brief, she thought that the frame that had crashed against her seemed somewhat wider. Standing now, she found that she had to tilt her chin to look him in the eye. He was still Griff, however—Griff, who had been with her since they were children—her dearest friend and partner in crime. Griff, whom the days felt long and lackluster without. He was finally back again.

She pretended not to notice as the young man's hand recoiled from her waist, for such things were better off without acknowledgment. It would no doubt make things awkward, and their friendship was something she would hate to see ruined by such a trivial thing. Unfortunately, before she could make some joke to change the subject, it was the voice of another who interrupted their reunion. She made a childish face at Haldon, trying not to feel cheated of her friend.

“I’ll see you at the feast then, I’ll give you your present. We’ll stay by the fire, I’ll tell you everything,” he promised, as if he had picked up on her dissent. He twirled a lock of her flame-red hair in his fingers affectionately before back further away, towards the ship.
 
“Fine, fine,” she held up her hands with exaggerated reluctance for humor that only hid her real reluctance. “I'll let you unload your ship. I figure I'll have to go cook for your bloody feast anyhow,” she made another quick face, even as the corners of her eyes crinkled up. “The things I suffer through for you, Griff. That present better be good!” she called after him. She turned and began to walk back up the shore, though she couldn't help but sneak one last look at him. Already she was itching to get some time alone with her friend—she had much she wanted to ask him, and much to say in return.

As she followed the other women who were rushing to prepare for the feast, she could feel the disapproving gaze of her aunt boring into her back. She had no doubt witnessed her reunion with Griff. She ignored it, shrugged it off as usual, focusing on starting the fire. There had always been many disapproving gazes aimed towards Griff and her, including her aunt and many more of the Free Folk, and even Griff's father himself. But she was finding that as the years passed and they reached adulthood, their gazes grew more and more condemning. As much as she had chosen to ignore it, there were times when it did get to her—not that she would ever let her friend see it. Kirith was staunchly determined that no one would get in the way of their friendship, and she was, after all, always prone to ferociously guarding what was precious to her.
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Offline Reigning King

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The bounty of their travels had been copious this time around. They’d travelled much farther and stayed for much longer upon this voyage. Of course, as always, they did not return with nearly as much coin as Jon would have liked. The measly massing of Gold Dragons he’d been tucking away in a chest within Haldon’s study was not nearly enough to buy Aegon the army he would eventually need. Each time they ventured out into the known world, there was a new list of commodities they needed to collect for the people of Skagosi, as well as those living within their small island community. With such a long grocery list, saving and accounting fell further and further down their list of priorities. It goes without saying, of course, that Lord Connington of Griffin’s Roost, presently known as Griff, did not intend for things to turn out this way.

The plan had been to keep moving. In such a situation, any military man with half a brain could tell you that the plan should be to keep moving. Of course the babe had been so young and impossibly fragile, just like his mother. Travelling had been out of the question for the first few years of Aegon’s delicate life, and at first it was easy for the one-time commander to justify a few extra hands around the camp. Soon, however, the Wildlings had begun arriving by the half dozen every week. Eventually, they had collected in large enough numbers for the native Skagosi to take notice, from there the arrangements began.

Of course, behind his facade as a dutiful man of the people and father, he was a warrior who had still yet to prove himself. Grey hairs interrupted the deep, earthy red of his long, wispy locks, crows feet tugged at the corners of his blue eyes and still he remained unproven. His fingers itched to grip steel, his feet desperate to charge into battle; his eyes swelled with tears at the thought of seeing Aegon upon his grandfather’s seat. It was a seat in which his father ought to have been. A seat that this one time Hand of the King was determined to place his best-friend’s son in. The son, however, was not the father.

Jon leaned over the edge of the ship, watching the young men who poised themselves along the ladder at it’s side. They moved the last of the Shy Maid’s cargo down and onto the dock. Much of their inventory was cause in of itself for the feast the people orchestrated upon each return of their founders. Spices, dried fruits, and of course, eight barrels of wine — three of which would be delivered unto the Skagosi. It was one such barrel that the young men moved along the wooden ladder in careful, calculated motions. Aegon, of course, had positioned himself in the centre of the ladder, the most challenging position. He’d grown stronger in recent days, taller too, looking more like his father with each passing moment.

He had his father’s look, his strong jaw and melancholic indigo eyes. Though in the past few months, with his skin darkened by the sun and his hair by the dye, Jon had been able to see Elia Martell smiling from behind a mask made from her husbands face. Aegon’s heart was his mother’s, gentle and unfailingly kind — almost, mind you, to a fault. His humour was quick and subtle like hers, his mannerism quiet and tempered. Curious, how it was only once Jon could see Elia through her son, that he began to understand his friend’s affections for her. Of course, it was this Dornish heart of his that made it impossible for their party to leave Skagos behind.

They had tried once. Aegon had been ten years old at the time, and it hadn’t taken him long to grow wise to their secret plot. His response had been to poison them. For three days and three nights they slept soundly and comfortably in their cabins. On the fourth day, when they awoke, the Shy Maid was easing towards the shore of Skagos with Aegon at the helm. This ten year old boy, with his skinny arms and his gawky frame.

“Aegon? You…” Jon had been at a loss for words.

“It would appear that the sea swears fealty to the Dragon,” Lady Lemore had joked.

There was no glory in caring for Wildling deserters, nothing to gain from paying for their continued protection. The only hope Jon had of convincing Aegon to leave Skagos was to transform the community into a self-sustaining one. Each passing day however, Aegon grew more attached to the Northerners, and they to him. The sands were slipping through the hourglass and their moment was fast approaching, they had to be ready. Unfortunately, they weren’t and Jon was running out of time.

“Griff!” Jon called from over the railing, his voice booming across the beach, his fists clenching at his side. Aegon had seized a rope alongside the ladder and slid to the bottom, feet hitting the dock and at once bounding for the tree-line. With the ship unloaded, it was no small wonder where he was running to, or rather, to whom. He stopped however, when he heard his primary guardian calling for him. Griff, he had gotten far too accustomed to that name.

“We have guests, son!” He called as he moved to the top of the ladder. With a sweeping gesture, he motioned up the beach, where a small party approached. Their arrival was announced, not by their lumbering figures, but by the clack of their decorative bones as they walked. The most ornate, clacking head-dress was worn by their leader who led them as their one-man vanguard. The jutting, spiked ridge once belonging to a formidable predator of the sea, rose over his head, it’s gapping jaw and razored teeth serving as a helmet and mask. His breastplate was set with the rib bones, his forearm bracers with the thin bones from it’s fins.

As Jon, whom these men knew as Griff, descended the ladder of the ship, Rolly and Aegon worked with the other men to sort through the accumulated goods. Three barrels of wine and steel was owed to the Skagosi in exchange for protection against raids from neighbouring Wildling tribes and peace between the two groups on the island. It would be the three crew members of the Shy Maid who walked out to meet them, as it always was from the time Aegon could walk. It was in this way that they had become the leaders of their small community. If the chief of the Skagosi was the one-man vanguard to his people, than Aegon was that of their own. He rolled two barrels in front of him, walking out to meet the Skagosi with Rolly close behind, lugging a large wooden chest on his shoulder. He lowered it onto the ground at the chief’s feet, kicking off the lid as he rose to reveal the steel within. They met on the beach, coming to collect their payment the moment they saw the white sails upon the horizon.

From behind the sharp teeth of a dead fish the chief skewed his face into a narrowed expression, bringing his hand up to his chin in thought. As Jon joined his comrade and his charge, placing the third wine barrel with the other two, the chief gestured to the gifts placed at his feet. A mischievous, knowing sort of smile came to his lips. It was an ugly sight.

“Not enough.” He croaked. “Four.” He insisted, pointing to the barrels of wine.

“No, Brunnr.” Aegon said at once.

The sharp clack of each Skagosi turning sharply to face him was deafening. Even Jon and Rolly looked to their ward with surprised expressions. The wind made the stray locks of Aegon’s hair billow around him, his eyes tuned keenly onto the Skagosi chief. He spoke like a leader, but that calm expression, that even tone, they were not his father’s. He stepped forward confidently, as though he didn’t see anyone besides the savage man he addressed. “Wine has medicinal purposes, and we have children.”

The two stared one another down for a heartbeat too long, and Jon began to reach for the sword at his side. Just before his fingers came to curl around it’s hilt however, the Skagosi chief burst out into laughter, slapping an enormous hand against Aegon’s arm. With a subtle gesture, the chief commanded four men to approach and collect their wares. He looked over Aegon now, addressing Jon instead. “The son of Griff grows more fearsome still,” he noted in compliment.

“Thank you,” Jon said lowly, extending an arm to take Aegon by the back of the neck and lead him away from the Skagosi. Obediently, Aegon let himself be tugged away, a slight push on his back sending him back down the beach with Rolly turning to follow.

“If the little King wants to learn to fight like Skagosi, you bring him to me, eh?”

At once Jon stopped, turning to look at chief Brunnr, son of Balthos, of the Skagosi. With a deadly look in his eye he asked, “what did you say?”

“My wood-witches have been dreaming of your boy, Griff.” He stepped forward, his garb echoing in his wake. “They call him, Aegon.”

“Do they…” His tone was sarcastic and full of venom.

“You can tell them I dream of them also.” Once more Jon was left frozen and surprised as Aegon shouted over his head, inspiring another eruption of laughter from the Skagosi chief.

“Your boy will always have friends in Skagos.” With a slap on Jon’s damp chest and another subtle gesture, chief Brunnr and his party were heading once more up the beach. They would keep to the beach until they were around the corner and out of sight before venturing into the tree-line. While their own settlement was close to the shore, the Skagosi lived deep within the forest amongst the weiwood trees. Was it the trees that spoke to them, who told them these secrets?

Jon turned round to see Aegon, once more bounding up the beach. He might not be a dragon like his father. However, if his mother had been the viper in the grass, then he was the cataclysmic monster lurking beneath waves of a calm violet sea. Perhaps, they were more ready than Jon had believed them to be. Aegon, it was a King’s name. Yet there he was, rushing with full speed towards the one individual for whom he would happily remain Griff. How could Jon have known just how dangerous the Wildlings would have turned out to be?

“Griff! Wash up first!” He called across the beach, freezing the boy in his tracks. The silver-haired young man hesitated where he stood, Jon knew him well enough to know he was considering defying the order and heading for the trees anyway.

“Griff!” He barked again. Begrudgingly, Aegon headed once more towards the shore.



People no longer took notice of the young Griff’s oddities. The island was home to several hot springs dispersed throughout the wood, many of which surrounded the settlement camp. Aegon, however, had no need to spoil his flesh with the comfort of a warm bath. The snow had not yet begun to fall over the island of Skagos, but the winds carried it towards them from the North. The air was biting, the cold suffocating. While the chill touched upon Aegon’s skin and rouged his cheeks, it never settled into his bones the way it did other men. Even now, as he padded his way towards the sea, peeling the layers of wet clothes from his body, steam rolled off his flesh and dispersed within the air like a licking flame. He stripped down to his underclothes, easing himself into the icy waters with no more than a slight intake of breath to welcome the glassy blue embrace.

Washing the sweat from his underarms and back, he caught his reflection in the flickering sunlight between the clouds. The blue dye from the berries still clung to his hairline, dripping rolling beads of azure down the side of his face. With the reflection of the waves against them, his eyes looked more the shade of the fading berry juice, than the blooming lilac of his supposed bloodline. Little king, chief Brunnr had called him. Aegon, he had been named after the first King of the Seven Kingdoms, the conqueror, who solidified the greatest dynasty in the known world.

Plunging his face into the sea, fingers both strong and nimble came to shake the remaining blues from his silver-hued mane. Beneath the cold waters, silence consumed him. He envied fish their silent lives, only the music of the sea to fill their easy minds. Looking up he could see the rain drops falling on the water above his head. One drop of rain in a vast sea, that’s all he was himself. Aegon — the name meant nothing but expectation. How could one boy do all that a name such as that commanded?

Breaking the surface of the water, he took a deep breath to fill his empty lungs. Letting his eyes fall to the rocks that dotted the shoreline, he spotted a seal bathing in the brief and fleeting sunlight. Reaching back towards the shore, Aegon took graceful strides to collect the knife he typically kept sheathed against his calf. The blade followed him back into the dark, cold waters as he moved towards the distant rock. With his blade in hand, he stooped once more beneath the surface, arms extending forward and pulling him through the salty bay like merman called from legend.

It was much simpler to be Griff.

When he approached the camp, the feast had already begun. The first barrel of wine had been uncorked and distributed to some of the men. Children flittered from group to group, catching pieces of stories and stealing bits off one another’s plates. At the sight of Griff they dropped what they were doing and ran to him. Granted, this was in part due to the fat, limp seal that he carried draped over his shoulders. Around his neck he had hung his leathers and furs to make carrying the gentle beast easier on his tender, overworked muscles. Still the steam rolled off him, beads of sea water dissipating before the eye, as though within him Aegon carried a well fed flame.

“Your back!”

“Is it true you fought a warlock in Asshai?”

“Whose King now that King Robert is dead?”

“Can my mom have this pelt for my cloak?”

“Away with you!” Than called, his brother Goregg coming up behind him. They were among the elders of the Wildlings, some of the first to join Jon, Duck and Haldon on the island. Goregg in particular had always been sweet on lady Lemore, and therefore snubbed among the other Wildlings for his interest in the faith of the Seven. Than, however, served as a leader among the community.

“Honestly, lad, you’ve done enough.” Than continued, in the wake of the scattering children. The two men hoisted the seal from where Aegon had set it on the ground, onto the still-bloody preparation table. Discarded to the side of the table were a set of antlers, which the silver haired young man plucked to inspect.

“I mean, when do you find the time to shit?” Goregg pressed, shoving Aegon in the shoulder. Not far behind Goregg, lady Lemore followed carrying fresh furs for her student. She placed the dry clothes into his hands, taking the wet ones from around his neck.

“Barely off the ship and already trying to feed an army.” Than joked, elbowing his brother as he drew a carving blade. Both men wore aprons of leather already smeared with the remains of whatever everyone was already eating. They laughed together at their joke and waited for Griff to join in, but he was paused, his furs hovering just over his head.

Army.

Jon had been saying that word to him a lot lately. It did not inspire a thirst for glory, it did not make his eyes shine with blood lust, and it most definitely did not motivate him to leave Skagos in pursuit of a throne he’d never seen. A life spent as Griff was easier —Aegon, my name is Aegon — and certainly simpler. If he had a choice — do I have a choice? — he would probably choose to grow old, never having another person call him by the name his father gave him. Pulling the furs over his head and righting them against a warm clean tunic, he allowed a calm expression of contentment to settle over his face.

“Lad?” Than asked, a paternal tone taking over.

“Let me know if you need anything.” Griff answered in a calculatedly pleasant sort of way. His eyes weren’t on Than anymore, nor Goregg or his Septa. His deep violet eyes, from the moment his head had lifted out of his furs, had been on the young woman seated across the way. Her face flickered into sight between the flames of the great fire in the centre of the camp. With her hair hanging down around her face, she looked to be sitting in the very heart of the radiating heat.

He brushed past Than, and made his way along the edge of camp. Quick feet paused only once at the tent he shared with his father, and only to snatch his sack from off the ground amongst the rest of their luggage. His father’s head emerged from the tent to call to him, but he was already headed past their dwelling and towards the central campfire.

“Close your eyes,” he said, breathless and practically sliding in beside her. His round eyes flicked to Kirith, fighting a smile that tugged on the corners of his lips. Opening his sack and plunging his hands inside, he retrieved a large tome which he then set upon Kirith’s lap.

“Alright, open.” He encouraged.

The Higher Mysteries
Wargs, Witches, and Children of the Wood


By: Maester Raenor

“I just… I thought it might help.” He added quietly. He wasn’t prepared to admit out loud how much he had worried for Kirith whilst he had been gone. The last few dreams that she had told him about before he had left had been rather unpleasant. Frankly, it pained him to see her so shaken from them. These, of course, were things he did not confront openly within himself. Honestly with oneself was a luxury that Aegon had not yet the privilege to.

“Do you like it?” He asked

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Offline asterin

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The feast was large and loud, as it tended to be. She sat in front of the roaring fire she had started. Though most were eating by now, she had yet to touch her food—she was waiting. Her sharp eyes found him the moment he joined them, a seal slung over his shoulders. It'd be a welcome prize for all of them, and not one part of the creature would go to waste. She waited for him to come to her, as he always did. Patience wasn't a virtue she had been born with, in fact, it was very much the contrary, but this was nothing compared to the many moons she'd waited for Griff.

She glanced up with a small smile as he sat down next to her, then fought the desire to lean a bit closer. Griff was always warm—actually, physically warm. In fact, though she was sitting in front of the large bonfire, she could feel the heat radiating from his body next to hers. She'd always thought him lucky; they called her kissed by fire, for her flame red hair, but he was the one blessed with the fire, it seemed. 

As he turned to her, his eyes glowed with anticipation, the same sort of excitement that her own eyes were no doubt betraying. “Close your eyes,” he prompted, reaching into his sack. She did so, her lips pursing with impatience. A familiar weight settled on her lap, and on Griff's cue she opened her eyes, sucking in a breath.

Lying on her lap was a thick tome. Slowly, with great care, she smoothed her hands over the bound cover. The Higher Mysteries, the title read. Wargs, Witches, and Children of the Wood.

“I just...I thought it might help,” she heard him mutter quietly.

“With what, silly?” she retorted lightly, her gaze focused on the book as she flipped through the pages. She knew what he meant, however. Those dreams, the strange ones, had started not long before he had left.  As usual, she had told him about them—mostly in passing, and always making light of them, but it seemed that perhaps he had picked up on the unease she had been feeling. Well, it was to be expected from him. The years of their friendship had made the two of them rather attuned to such details.

“Do you like it?” he asked, and she finally looked up at him. The warm flickering glow of the fire cast dancing shadows on his face—the face she'd missed very much for the long moons he'd been away.

“I suppose it'll do,” she teased. “Juuust barely.” Nevertheless, she gleefully cradled the heavy tome to her chest. It was rare that he didn't bring her back a book of some sort, and she was always excited to learn more about the worlds she had never seen before. “Another book to have my aunt trip over,” she chuckled to herself. “No matter, it'll keep me company next time you......ah,” she trailed off briefly. Griff leaving for these trips was no new thing, it was almost routine. To be expected. And yet, maybe there was a part of her that didn't like that—which was ridiculous, seeing how she was also filled with wanderlust. Maybe she was afraid he'd leave for good some day, leaving Skagos behind—leaving her behind. Just the thought of it made her feel sick, so she shook off the notion.

As she opened her mouth to ask him about his travels, per tradition, she noticed someone standing on the outskirts of her peripheral vision. “Ah.” She beckoned the young woman closer, and Neyah came to stand next to them.

“This is Neyah, Griff. Darnor's wife,” she introduced the brunette with something of a wry smile. Indeed much had changed in half a year—the world kept turning, time kept flowing. This was just another reminder that neither of them were kids anymore. “Neyah, this is Griff—Young Griff. We've been friends since we were whelps.”

“Oh, friends,” Neyah uttered, seemingly caught off guard. “Oh.”

Kirith chose to keep talking instead, pretending she hadn't caught onto what the other young woman had no doubt assumed. “Don't let Darnor get a hold of you, he'll talk your ear off about how tricky Neyah is,”  she quirked her brows humorously at Griff.

The brunette smiled awkwardly, looking rather apologetic about the mistake she had made. “Speaking of Darnor, I think he's looking for me,” she said, taking a step back. “It's nice meeting you, Young Griff.” Kirith watched her go off hurriedly, leaving the two of them in uneasy silence. She couldn't blame Neyah for the mistake, but she did think it was more than just a little unfortunate. The redhead had been hoping for some peace and quiet while she caught up with Griff. Her grip tightened around the tome against her chest.

“Guess who's the newest appointed spearwife in Skagos?” she turned to him with a broad grin, changing the subject. “Me.” She'd aspired to become a spearwife for quite some time now—and she knew that, unlike her aunt, Griff would be proud of her. “We went on a raid a week ago. Old Griff's drilling paid off.” She remembered those days well—he'd always gone especially hard on her. It hadn't escaped her notice that he'd never quite taken to her, even though she and Griff were as thick as thieves. But 'Old Griff', as she referred to him, had underestimated her tenacity.
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A fleeting, cluster of emotions flashed across Aegon’s face, contorting his features. Angst and worry furrowed his brow before he allowed the awe he felt in Kirith’s presence to swell his dark eyes and tickle the corners of his mouth. Of course, she had been made Spearwife and while naturally this inspired a deeply seeded concern, it also set him at ease. A Spearwife, after all, was not an easy subject of prey when the question of courtship arose among men. Though, Kirith had never been prey, not even as a girl.

Truth be told, he barely took any notice of the young woman he had been introduced to. His focus was keenly tuned onto Kirith, when she walked away, Aegon let himself sit in the heavy silence she had left them in. Allowing them to linger in that silence for a moment or two longer, he finally revealed the beaming smile hiding behind his lips. Leaning into her, he pressed his forehead against the side of her heavy red mop, just above her ear. Forgetting the sack beside him for a moment, he let his other hand come to rest upon the back of her neck. For an instant, sheltered within her thick hair, his face bathed in her smell, he could pretend that they were alone.

“I’m proud of you, byka jorrāelagon.” He whispered into her ear.

Leaning away from her, the smile lingered on his face. His hand fell away from her neck and slid down her back as he reached, once more, for the sack beside him. Quietly, and secretly, he smiled to himself as he plunged a searching hand into the depths of his collected goods. The nickname he used for Kirith, only she had ever heard. He said it to her when they were alone, or in a whisper, mouthed from across a stream; after all these years, he had still never told her what it meant.

“I told you that they would ask you, it was just a matter of time.” He added confidently as he pulled a leather pouch out from his sack. “I brought you something else.”

Setting the pouch on top of the tome in her lap, he loosened the small strings that kept it fastened shut. He eased his fingertips inside, lifting a chain made from a silver steel. At the end of the chain hung a thick but stout ruby, cut into a hexagonal shape and set into an ornate pendant made of a matching metal. He lay the pendant atop the pouch and draped the chain along the tome. Looking from the necklace to her face, he attempted to gauge her response.

“The priestesses in Essos wear them.” He offered, a slight anxiousness to his voice. From the time they had met as children, until now, he had never returned with jewellery for her before. It was not something commonly found within the Wildling communities of the North. Such ornate and luxurious expenses were exclusively a Southern occurrence. A gift of such a nature, however, came attached with certain connotations, such that would be considered foreign in the North. Another private secret to which he may retreat on those cold nights, awake and aloft at sea. Though, he had not chosen this particular piece of jewellery for purposes of a false religion, but instead it’s colour. He had kept it in his pocket, looking at it to remind himself of the colour of Kirith’s hair. Watching her holding it now, he smirked at the realization that their shade was a near exact match.

“Do you want me to put it on for you?” He asked, hopeful but still nervous as he had yet to receive a concise response from Kirith on the quality of this particular present.

“Boy! Have you eaten?” Aegon could have recognized that voice from across the Shivering Sea, shouted into the wind. “You’ll starve, you will.” He continued, coming to stand over the pair of young people sitting beneath his towering stature, warming themselves by the fire.

“Father, please, I only just sat down…” He began, pleading eyes seeking sympathy from his appointed guardian.

“Come, now.” He pressed. Stormy grey eyes darted from Kirith to Aegon and back again, falling to the present laid in the young woman’s lap. A sharp look was sent shooting down at his son, followed by a stern hand lashing out to snatch him by the furs.

“Father!” Aegon attempted, rolling his eyes.

“Eat first.” Jon, once more insisted.

“Wait by the fire, I’ll come back!” Young Griff promised as his father dragged him away.

“No, you won’t!” Griff shouted over him.

I will.

He mouthed the words, lifting his feet and catching up with his father enough to walk beside him. Still, he gripped him by the scruff of his furs, keeping him closely leashed. The moment he let go, he would be running back to Kirith once more.

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Offline asterin

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“I'm proud of you, byka jorrāelagon.” His voice tickled her ear and her eyes fell shut briefly, crinkling upwards in tandem with her lips in silent laughter.

“Thanks, Griff,” she murmured quietly. Perhaps in the end, the only thing that mattered that Griff was proud of her. It soothed the soreness of her aunt's constant disapproval, just as he always did. It also helped that the nickname he used for her made her feel as if they were truly alone, even if for a moment, and every disapproving remark could be pushed away. She didn't know what the words meant, but she always felt warm inside when she heard the nickname roll off his tongue. She'd always assumed it was her own name translated into the language he spoke with such ease and warmth. She gently leaned in, knocking her head against his forehead in an affectionate bump.

“Well, it's about time. I've been waiting for ages,” she rolled her eyes in response to his confident comment. After all, she'd been aspiring for the position ever since she was a little lass. Her grandmother had told her all the tales of great spearwives, Kirith's mother included. She'd listened, her grey eyes wide and shining, hung on every word for the details of a mother she'd never known. She'd dreamed of being as fierce as her one day. And now, perhaps she was on the right path.

But it seemed that Griff had another surprise for her. He rummaged about in the sack at side, then drew a small pouch out of it. “I brought you something else,” he told her,  tugging on the drawstrings.

“Reeeally?” she grinned, her eyes filled with mirth. “You spoil me.” She wondered what it would be—a pebble from some faraway beach, or perhaps some carved wooden charm. It could be anything, but what he did lift out of the pouch was something she wouldn't have been able to imagine. It was a chain of silvery metal, and swinging at the end of it, was a large red jewel; it shone brilliantly against the fire, like there was flame alive within in. She'd never seen anything like it. “Oh, I...” she searched for the right words. “It's beautiful.” Too beautiful for the likes of me, she thought, though she did not say it. She cautiously picked it up from where he'd placed it on the tome, watching it glint in the firelight. While she knew little about trade, it was obvious that it would have cost quite a sum.

“The priestesses in Essos wear them,” she heard him say, and she turned to him with a wry smile.

“Is it meant to protect me?” she responded teasingly. “You worry too much, Griff.” She nudged him with her elbow, though her gaze returned to the jewel. It was almost mesmerizing.

“Do you want me to put it on for you?” he asked—she realized he was a bit nervous to as whether she liked it. It made sense, it was gift unlike the other souvenirs he brought back for her. Indeed, she wasn't sure how she felt, but some of the heat she felt on her face was not simple fault of the fire.

“Yeah, that'd be nice—” she began with a nod, only to be interrupted with a familiar gruff voice. It was Old Griff, of course, always disrupting their time together. Later, she mouthed, her fingers curling around the pendant. She frowned, her lips twisting into a pout. “A spoilsport as usual, Old Griff!” she stood and shouted after the pair as the older man dragged away his charge.

“Wait by the fire, I'll come back!” her friend called. Despite his father's biting remark, Kirith knew he would. She nodded at his mouthed defiance, slowly sitting back down again. She knew he'd return to her, and she'd be waiting. She held the necklace aloft again, watching it sway. It really was something else.

“He's making you into a right Kneeler, he is.” She closed her eyes at the snide words, her jaw grinding together. She turned sharply to the figure standing behind her, looking down at her with condescending eyes as grey as hers.

“I don't know what you're talking about,” she hissed, using Griff's favorite line of dismissal.

“It's plain to see. He's making a a Kneeler out of you—first the books, the trinkets—weakening your bones. Next he'll want you be a simpering bitch like those southerners,” her aunt spoke matter-of-factly, as if she was stupid for not seeing it also.

“That's not true. Don't talk about Griff like that,” she snapped back. “He's grown up here with us. He's not like them.”

“He's not one of the free folk,” her aunt retorted, her lip curling with scorn. “And you're more fool than I thought if you think you are.”

The words felt like a slap in the face and she snarled, baring her teeth. “You know nothing of me—you done nothing for me,” she spat out bitterly. Aunt? It was hard to see even a trace of love for her niece, her own younger sister's daughter. All these years, she'd never shown her a hint of kindness. “I won't listen to your poisonous words, so leave me be!”

“As ungrateful as her mother,” the older woman hissed as she turned away, leaving behind the girl to stew in her anger. Kirith faced the fire once more, jaw still clenched tightly, her fingers wrapping and rewrapping the chain around her thumb. She blew out an exhale, her gaze falling to the treasures Griff had brought her. Her aunt was wrong, but her words stung so. Biting her lip, she glanced at the cold food she'd set aside earlier. She had lost her appetite, but she begrudgingly picked up her wooden bowl. It wasn't like they had a feast every night, after all.
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It was late when he again looked upon Kirith’s face. Of all the faces that existed within the known world, hers was the only one he cared to look upon. Unfortunately, hers was the exact face Jon did not want him looking upon. Griff, was certainly set, this time around especially so, in keeping himself firmly between the two young people. His efforts this time, were even more exacerbated than usual. However, like every time before, nothing he could do would keep Aegon from Kirith. It hadn’t taken him long to give his father the slip and with a handful of meats and dried fruits wrapped in cloth to boot.

“Damn, it Griff!” He called in the distance crashing through the camp after his light-footed charge.

The Young Griff’s eyes had been on his destination, and not his surroundings. Crashing a shoulder into a lumbering individual, the silver-haired young man reeled for a moment, spinning away from the collision. Fingers clutched at his thieved goods — though of course, he had been the one to butcher and salt those meats in the belly of a ship — as he kicked up the dirt of the central camp.

“Other’s take you, boy!” A black-haired man sneered, eyes falling to the rations he had dropped into the dirt upon impact.

“Sorry!” Aegon called over his shoulder, feet still carrying him closer to Kirith.

His hand reached her shoulder first, hoisting her by her furs to her feet. Thrusting the bundled food into her arms he edged her in the direction of the wood. Breathlessly he urged, “run,” as he stooped to snatch his pack from off the ground. Rising to his feet he pressed a hand against her back, repeating himself louder this time, “run!”

“You little shit!” Griff called, emerging from amongst the stalls and tents, a keen glare coming at once to his son and he young woman he urged forward.

They both took off at once into the wood. What started out as an escape dash, quickly turned into a highly competitive foot race. Not many of the free-folk strayed into the wood. They kept to the shores, they busied themselves with other tasks. The first time Aegon had ever met Kirith, it had been deep within the Skagosi wood. Unlike everyone else, she wasn’t afraid of the faces carved into the trees, just like him. There, they could be alone.

Of course, it had been a while since Aegon had been within the familiar woods. Woods in the south changed, but no woods changed quite in the same way the Godswoods changed. With a crooked grin, he watched as the red flames he followed passed him and then continued until he could no longer see them through the pale trees. She was like a thing from legend, conjured from the very wood, and after so long he had never been able to beat her, not once.

He emerged after her, breaking through the tree-line and into the deep-wood clearing. Eyes scanned the trees around him, the dark greens blending in with the reds. Before him, Kirith stood at the edge of a small pool. Unlike the other springs on Skagosi, this one in particular, was always cool, even with the sun shining on it. This nuance made it useless to the free-folk and Skagosi, rendering it permanently vacant, which suited the pair just fine. Looming over the small pool, a weirwood tree. It’s face was ancient, gradually changing as branches stretched to shelter the mossy rocks beneath. It was with a smirk on his face, that the young Griff turned his eyes back to the surrounding wood, taking a step forward into the clearing.

Lush green?

Eyes of purple scapolite scanned the clearing, unfamiliar hues of earthy browns where there ought be rocky greys and whites. Looking back to Kirith in desperation, he froze, seeing that she was no longer Kirith. Her hair was darker, longer and clasped at the crown of her head. The face over hers, was not the one he had fought so hard to see, but an unfamiliar one, aged and aging further as she moved towards the man sitting by the water, sharpening a blade with a wet-stone.

She reached for him as she neared him, calling out to him something that Aegon could not hear. As she did, her face began to harden, turning into what looked to be stone. Her hand reached and reached, even as her feet began to solidify in place just before she could reach him. Rising from his perch, the strong-faced man lifted his sword and placed it into the hand of the woman-turned-statue. Angling the blade horizontally, with the edge facing up, the man, donning boiled leathers and stringy pale brown hair, aligned himself with it. As he teetered forward on his toes, he let himself fall forward, his neck perfectly in line with the blade’s recently sharpened steel.

Aegon squeezed his eyes together tightly before the momentum could separate head from body. The tears of blood that had streaked down the stone-woman’s face had been too much for the young man to bear. Bringing his fingers against his eyes roughly, he furrowed his brow as he brought them to press against the bridge of his nose. Uttering a silent prayer to the Seven, he slowly reopened his eyes and let a sigh of relief fall at once from his parted lips.

“Hey!” He called, pointing a finger to a nearby rocky surface. Kirith was once again standing before him, but looking far more concerned than than when he had first emerged from the edge of the wood and into the clearing. Beside her however, a large raven had landed.

“Do you think he waits for me?” He asked Kirith with a quick smirk, attempting to distract her.

Indeed, this particular raven was familiar to Kirith and young Griff. Seemingly always around, fluttering in and out of their lives with brevity, the bird had to be at least as old as they were. It was easily recognizable as the same bird because of it’s white, sightless left eye. As though understanding he were being addressed, the raven cawed at Aegon, it’s wings flapping as it rose from the rock to perch within the weirwood tree. It was this oversized raven’s flight that the young man elected to focus on, instead of the vision that had just flashed before his violet eyes.

“Getting a bit fat, aren’t you?” He called up at the bird as he approached Kirith. Around the pond, many hollowed out logs were arranged haphazardly, having simply always been there. It was to one such cranny, that Aegon stooped. His gaze was still on the black, winged thing over his head as he reached inside the hollow space, though he could feel Kirith’s eyes on him.

As though hearing him, the raven squawked down at him loudly, offering it’s own insult. Retrieving a small, aged harp, roughly the size of the young man’s head, he lifted it into the air and strummed violently against the strings. Startled, the bird took to the air. Later, it would return to check on them again, likely late at night as it often did. It was only once Aegon looked away from the black shadow that his eyes finally fell upon the face carved into the weirwood tree.

It had been a long time since the Old Gods had shown him anything.

It’s starting again…

Looking away from the tree and towards a mossy perch, to which he moved to, Aegon elected to once more change the subject. He had never been the sort to linger on a thought, no matter how dire. Smiling up at Kirith he asked, “want to hear a song I learned?” No one would come looking for them in the woods, finally they would be left alone. For that, the pounding in his heart was worth it. He hadn’t know the man or woman he had seen earlier, their end however, seemed a tragic one.

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Offline asterin

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She'd been waiting by the fire, sneaking glances inside her new book when she heard the sound of pounding footfalls. She looked up to see Griff running towards her, something in his arms. Her brows furrowed. Why was he running? Was something wrong? She began to reach for her spear, but he hoisted her to her feet before she had taken a hold of it.

“Run,” he blurted out—“run!”

“What's the matt—” she began, only to be cut off by the sight of Old Griff bursting into view. “Oh.” There was no more need to persuade her, and she surged into a run along with her friend, making a dash for the woods. The cranky old man wouldn't be able to catch up with them despite his yelling, no match for the fleet-footed girl. That didn't stop them from continuing to sprint, and the initial need for escape gave way to breathless laughter as she tore though the familiar woods. She reached the clearing first, letting out a whoop as she came to a stop near the clear pool of water; Griff finally appeared at the edge of the clearing, and she turned, grinning broadly.

“Come on, you slowpoke,” she called. But as she saw him look around the clearing, a hint of confusion in his eyes, she knew something was wrong. “Griff?” He stood stiff, watching—seeing something that was not there. “Griff?” she repeated herself, her voice sharpening with alarm. She began to take a step towards him when he suddenly squeezed his eyes shut, bringing his fingers to his eyes. When he lifted his face once more, there was relief there, and she knew he was back with her.

He seemed to pay no mind to the anxious gaze she was levelling at him, choosing to loudly point out something behind her. She turned reluctantly, only to find the old raven perching next to her. “Do you think he waits for me?” he asked, and though she knew he was simply changing the subject just as she was prone to doing, the raven wasn't an unwelcome sight.

“Don't flatter yourself,” she snorted jokingly, reaching into the bundle of food and tossing out a piece of dried fruit. The raven flapped up and caught it expertly, swallowing it in one gulp. He cawed as if to converse with them before taking flight and roosting in the old weirwood tree overhead. The raven was always about, ducking in and out of her daily life as if to keep an eye on them—though she mostly attributed it to the fact that she had taken to feeding him here and there.

Griff continued to act like nothing had happened prior, poking fun at the raven before reaching into a log she knew contained his harp. Chasing off the raven with the racket of his harp, he seemed perfectly fine—but she knew better. She stared at him, her steely eyes roving for something she could hold against him, but in the end she found nothing. He seemed cheery enough, smiling as he took his place on his usual spot, harp in hand. “Want to hear a song I learned?” he asked, and Kirith blew out a sigh before sitting down on her log.

“Of course,” she answered, looking up at him with her usual grin. However, there was a growing unease she felt, watching him with the harp. She'd always loved listening to him play, sometimes singing along to the songs she'd picked up from him, but it wasn't quite the same ever since the dreams had started. He reminded her too much of Not-Griff. Not-Griff was, well, not Griff, but he was a man with such a striking resemblance to Griff that she always started out mistaking him for her friend in those dreams. Not-Griff, with his silvery hair and dark indigo eyes, also played the harp. He was scarce without the instrument in her dreams, and the few that she had seen him without it....

She shook her head, attempting to shrug off the feeling prickling at her nape. Just dreams. Nothing but dreams, she told herself. The red head tried to focus on everything else, like the music of Griff's harp and the beauty of the woods around her. This had always been a special place for them, a sanctuary of sorts. She'd never been afraid of the faces on the weirwood trees, never felt out of place in its hush. This wood felt most like home, where she blended in; the grey of the frost covered rocks was her eyes, the red of the weirwood leaves, stretching like small hands, the russet of her hair. The woods had called to her, drawn her in—even now. She'd used to imagine as a little girl that if she closed her eyes and stayed very, very quiet, she would be able to hear the weirwood trees speaking. Kirith didn't have such fantasies anymore, but she was inclined to hearing from her friend. After all, they were finally alone, without her aunt or Old Griff there to disrupt them.

“So,” she leaned forward, bringing her fingers conspiratorially together under her chin. “Tell me everything,” she demanded per tradition, her old spark of anticipation twinkling in her eyes. “Not one detail left out!” So she said, and so she had said for many years, but in recent days...well, Kirith wasn't sure anymore. Nevertheless, she swallowed her doubt; Griff was Griff, and she trusted him.
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Capable, practice fingers came to the harp in his lap. The music echoed from it’s taught strings and filled the small clearing within the Godswood. The rain had been stopped for some time and the clouds had begun parting overhead, revealing sparkling stars that looked down upon them and their absolute insignificance. While Aegon’s eyes never started, looking towards the heavens, they eventually found themselves gazing in it’s direction.

“The Dornishman’s wife was fair as the sun, and her kisses were warmer than spring.” He sang, a tickling smile coming to the corner of his lips. Kirith had always liked it when he sung for her. The songs he learned on his travels were ones that made her laugh or lulled her into a gentle, much needed sleep. While the young Griff was fond of singing, to be sure, it had been many years since he had hidden his harp away in the Godswood and told his father that he had lost it. The scolding and beating he had gotten as a result was well worth never again having to see that woeful, longing gaze on his face as his son sang to him.

“But the Dornishman’s blade was made of black steel, and it’s kiss was a terrible thing…” He continued to sing to Kirith, eyes falling skyward, as he leaned back on the log upon which he was perched. With his legs stretched out horizontally, one crossed over the other, Griff played the song he had learned for her, harp across his chest. The melody was a happy one, the song light-hearted, if not a little crude. Yet, the feeling in the harp-player’s heart was a heavy one. The song itself had not been sung for pleasure, but for tact. Eventually, Kirith would ask him about his travels and this time around, there was very little that he could actually share with her.

“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life.” Strange eyes, the likes of which he’d never seen looking back at him before, roamed the sky for answers. If the Seven came from the sparkling lights in the heavens, surely they could show him something in his aid. “But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife.” Fingers played the remaining bars of instrumental bridges, closing the song with a satisfying resolution. Knowing that the questions were fast approaching, Griff clawed desperately for subject of conversation, doing his best to keep the angst from his expression.

“Have I ever told you…” He paused, because of course, he knew very well that he had never told her. “Have I ever told you, my mother was from Dorne?” He asked her.

Eyes lingered on the stars for a moment longer before he rose to a sitting position. Setting his harp down beside him, Griff busied his hands instead with a nearby stick. In vague outlines, he began to trace the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea. Keeping his eyes down on the earth in which he drew shapes, he let a smile tickle once more at his lips asking, “do you remember the stories of Nymeria the Warrior Princess? The ones Haldon used to read to us?” They both knew that Kirith would remember those stories, as they had been some of her very favourite.

“I used to think of her like that,” he admitted quietly. “But my father…” He paused again, adjusting his expression to account for the lie. “My father told me she was often sick. She died when I was a baby, so I never actually knew her.”

Jon told his son many things about his mother, and while none of them were particularly kind he had always conceded to the fact that she had been ardently loved by his father. Though, of course, that was another, much more complicated story. Often Griff — my name is Aegon — found himself considering this complicated tale for it was the beginning of his own tragic and impossible fate. This consideration however, always reminded the young man in a brutal fashion that it was only through songs and stories that he would ever hear of them; what they were like, his parents and the people who opposed them.

“Anyway,” he conceded, answering to her prodding. “We began in Dorne, stopping over in Lemonwood before heading to Pentos.” Taking a deep breath, Aegon prepared his web of half-truths and long-stretches that would both satiate Kirith’s curiosities and quell her suspicions.


“It’s spreading fast, Jon…” Lady Lemore began, leaning down over the aging man’s hand and wrist. With small, sharp tools, she prodded at the dried and flaking skin. She had already returned from a brief visit with the neighbouring Skagosi wood-witches after the group’s initial re-immersion among the Free Folk. She and the women of the island often shared resources and intel with one another, preferring her company to that of their chain-less Maester. Unfortunately, the treatment they suggested for her affected comrade was not the sort of news he was receptive to.

“No.” He said back sternly to her unspoken prompt. She had arranged around her, a myriad of affects collected from the wood-witches, as well as her own stores. The crew of the Shy Maid, minus their collective charge, had sequestered themselves aboard their floating home. They had gathered within Haldon’s study, the most spacious and impressive cabin upon their humble ship. While Rolly and Jon would eventually return to the Wildling camp for the night, Lady Lemore and Haldon would remain isolated in their personalized crew-quarters, deep in study and prayer.

“I could do it for you, mate.” Rolly offered, placing a comforting hand on Jon’s strong shoulder. “I’ll do it nice and fast, make it clean, what do you say?” While his expression poured genuine empathy and compassion, it was not the sort that Jon sought at the moment.

“Shut up, Rolly.” He hissed, shaking off his crew-mate's hand. Jon did not particularly care for the fact that the ginger-haired man had become the first — first, only next to Jon himself, mind you — member of what would become Aegon’s Kingsguard. While the young man had begun affectionately referring to Rolly as ‘Duck’, Jon was undoubtably reluctant to encourage the facade. He hadn’t known the man for longer than a few years, and while the budding monarch adored and trusted the brute, Jon remained skeptical and undecided.

“Ow!” Jon hissed, eyes falling upon the murky substance Lady Lemore was filling the cracks along his hand and wrist with. “What in Seven Hells is that?” He demanded, flinching against the sting and pulling his hand back instinctively.

“It’s a procured sap from their Weirwood trees, very precious and holy to them.” She explained patiently.

“Sap? You’ll heal the plague with sap, will ye?” Jon asked sarcastically, a venomous edge to his tone.

“Do you want the arm or not, Jon?” Lady Lemore finally snapped. Her fists were balled at her sides and her expression was wrinkled into one of frustration. Dark eyes, like whips, lashed at him as they flicked to the only solution that Haldon had offered, lain upon the table beside them; a well-sharpened saw.

“Alright, alright…” Jon conceded in defeat, his voice trailing off in the tired sort of way that revealed his age. “Rolly, will you…” He began, gesturing to his forearm, which he lay flat on the table between himself and Lady Lemore.

“Say no more, Captain.” The lumbering man nodded, securing leather gloves upon his hands before placing them against his leader’s flat-lain arm. Shifting his weight to his locked arms, he held the wrist and hand in place, as Lady Lemore continued her work. With a wooden tool, she smeared and then poked the sap into the crevices of the one-time-Lord’s ruined flesh. Beneath his large, strong hands, Jon writhed in agony, his face twisting into an indignant expression for the sake of his pride.

“We have to tell him.” Haldon, who had previously been quietly studying a text, added from the shadows of his vast, dark cabin.

“No!” Jon repeated, still sternly, but this time breathlessly.

“And what if Aegon becomes infected with grayscale, Jon?” He asked bitterly. “What will we do then? He must know.” The black-haired man insisted.

“He doesn’t.” Jon prompted in rebuttal once more. “If I’m to keep the boy safe, I need two hands. When I lose control of the hand, I’ll let you take it, alright?”

“It might be too late then.”

Tsk-ing to himself, Jon turned away from his comrades, eyes falling instead to the walls of books of that surrounded him. Shaking his head, he muttered, “I should have let the bloody imp die.”

“Probably.” Rolly admitted with a nod.

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Kirith listened to her friend play, slouching against the log. The stars were numerous and bright overhead, and she periodically closed her eyes to see the pattern of the brightest ones buzzing against her eyelids. The song was lighthearted and cheeky, and she found herself chuckling softly to the lyrics, shaking her head good-naturedly. He always found the most interesting songs to bring back, whether they were sad or silly. She liked to hum them or sing snatches of them here and there when she was tending to the herds in his absence—it made her feel like he was there with her.

He plucked out the last few notes of the song and she clapped her approval with a wry grin. She was about to tease him for his selection when he began to speak first. “Have I ever told you...” he started, then paused. Opening her eyes, she tilted her head towards his voice.

“Mm?” she prompted.

“Have I ever told you, my mother was from Dorne?”

“No,” Kirith replied, opting to sit up as well when he righted himself. She'd figured she was dead or gone, much like her own mother—Griff had never made mention of her, and it wasn't a subject she had particularly felt like sticking her nose in. Mothers always seemed to be a sensitive subject, but it seemed he was open to speaking about her.

A smile rose to her lips unbidden at the mention of Nymeria. “Of course,” she grinned, answering eagerly to his question of whether she recalled the Warrior Princess. “How could I forget about her?” She was rather fond of stories about warrior women, after all. She'd sworn to herself as a young lass that she'd be every bit as fierce as them when she was grown.

Her love for legendary warrior women aside, she listened quietly to her friend's halting words. It was not common for her to see him like this, solemn and reluctant, and she found herself leaning closer to make his words out more clearly. It was as if he was finally telling her something—something real, something concrete. A deceased mother was something she could understand, something she did not have to paint in her mind.

“Well, she'd be proud of you,” she offered with a small but warm smile. Wildling he was not, but there was no doubt that the free folk of the settlement depended on him and were very fond of him. The Skagosi also held him high regard—no easy feat, for sure. She didn't know much of mothers and mothering, but if she was proud to call Griff her friend, why would any mother in her right mind think any differently? Kirith imagined that Griff took after his mother—always had. After all, he had the charm and the pleasant countenance that couldn't be found in his surly father. Even his pale snowy hair—

“Anyway,” he continued, unaware of the furrow that was beginning to take form between her eyebrows. “We began in Dorne, stopping over in Lemonwood before heading to Pentos.”

“Dornishmen are known to have olive skin and dark hair, aren't they?” Kirith spoke abruptly, having suddenly lost interest of what mysteries and fantasies could be found in the cities of Lemonwood and Pentos. She fixed the young man sitting across her with an intent look, her gaze gleaming near-silver. “You told me so yourself before. I remember it.” She remembered it because she had closed her eyes then, and from his lilting voice she'd brought the land of Dorne to life in her head, filled with the forms of lithe, sun-burnt sailors and beautiful dark-haired women. She'd relished in it—a world with a warmth and heat she'd never known. “Dark hair, black eyes, olive skin.”

She'd always assumed Griff took after his mother. After all, Old Griff had more resemblance to Kirith herself than to his son, having the remnants of fiery red in his greying beard and clear blue eyes. If any stranger were asked to choose parent to child, surely they would pick the cranky old man and the young woman to pair. She'd thought that his mother must have had that beautiful pale hair, those haunting indigo eyes, she'd thought...

She said nothing more, but something in the girl's expression fell, a glimpse of bitterness in the way her lips curved down. Swallowing hard, she averted her eyes, swallowing accusations and the sense of betrayal alike. There was nothing she could truly point out and say he had lied to her--lied--it was an ugly word, something she didn't want to think of. Griff, lying to her—Griff, lying to her. Try as she might, there was no other explanation—whichever way she turned it, either he had lied about his mother, or about Dorne, or about Old Griff being his father. She scrambled to try and not dwell on it, reeling back from how fiercely it stung. The feeling that he kept things from her was bad enough, but this? The redhead wanted to demand an explanation from him, to drill him for the truth. She would have, only a few years ago. But now she felt petty and childish for it.

After all, they weren't kids anymore, right? Things weren't the same, even if she liked to pretend nothing had or would ever change. The older they got, the more things went unspoken; she knew that. She tried to comfort herself with those words, but failed. She'd hung on every word Griff had ever spoken to her about the world out there, and she'd never questioned it because she'd never doubted his honesty. Why would she? They were best friends—they knew each other best. Right? Right?

“So,”
she choked out, forcing herself to look at the young man again. The words felt like needles in her mouth as she contorted her face to feign excitement. “Why is it called Lemonwood?”
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Dark hair. Black eyes. Olive skin.

All of which were traits typical of individuals native to Dorne; traits possessed by Elia Martell, but not her silvery-haired son. For an instant, Aegon forgot to be worried. He let his mind linger instead on how she had said the words, her voice sweeping through him in that gentle way it always did, calling forth the image of his mother Aegon had painted in his mind’s eye. Of course, he had no memories upon which to recount her face. There were no paintings that he had ever seen, nor statues or busts. The Usuper had seen to that, along with the rest of the world, Aegon would never know his parents, much less what they looked like.

“Dark hair, black eyes, olive skin.”

The silence that hung in the air between them was full of unspoken things. A different man, a simpler man, and maybe even a better man, would have found the courage to make the unknown heard. Unfortunately, it was the young Griff who sat across from her, the weight of the responsibilities associated with that secret name suffocating him. Words he’d thought for as long as he could think, and maybe even longer than that, got stuck at the base of his throat. The catch came in the form of a cough, hot air breathed steam into the thick, cold air between them. Unable to bear it any longer, Griff averted his eyes from Kirith. It would take him a moment or two before he’d be able to look at her once more, but he wanted his gaze to meet hers when he told her about the only part of his journey which mattered — in that, of course, this would be the last time his journeys brought him back to Skagos, to her. The next time he left, he would be leaving for good.

“The Lordships of House Dalt, who hold the seat of Lemonwood, keep several acres of lemon trees. Together they make a wood of lemons, or rather; Lemon-wood.” He kept his tone light, but his eyes on the earth at their feet. With dotted lines he charted the course of his journey along the coastlines of Westerns and Essos. While this was something he often did with recanting his adventures to Kirith, it’s primary purpose had always been to keep track of the false story as he told it. The visual aid served as something of a guideline throughout his deceit. More than any other time, he felt the guilt of his dishonesty sitting heavy in the base of his belly. He needn't raise his eyes to know that to look upon Kirith’s face would be further confirmation that this feeling was just.

After all, his voyage had not begun in Lemonwood, but instead Sunspear. The stop itself had not been one of resupplying and trade, but instead an arrangement to bring Aegon face to face with the first bit of familial blood he’d ever encountered. His uncle, Oberyn Martell.

“Father and I rescued an Imp,” he revealed, letting the usual smiles peel back his lips in laughter. Leaving out the conversation he had shared with the peculiar creature, who had turned out to be a Highborn from a powerful Westerosi House, he relinquished the details of his exciting rescue. It was with a sort of remorse that hadn’t struck him until now, that he had elaborated further to explain the Imp’s subsequent kidnapping. “— A kind man though, very smart as well.” He noted in summation. “I never found out, but I hope he’s okay.”

“There was a conflict going on in Slaver’s Bay at the time, too.” He continued, eyes still on his stick and drawing as he went on. “We stayed clear of it for the most part but…” He paused then, his violet hues flicking to her stony ones. “I found out that I have an Aunt in Meereen.” Halting himself, Aegon took a breath and considered his following words before he said them. “It seems she’s a woman of power, there.” He chose carefully.

Certain quick encounters, and more ambiguous interactions were easily retold with the familiar gusto that Kirith would have been used to. Dancing around other subjects, however, were more difficult. Griff, or rather Aegon, was a quiet boy in nature, but had not yet learned the art of keeping one’s true feelings from their expression. As the muscles in his face betrayed his guise, it would become clear to the young man’s long-time friend that his Aunt, was one such topic. Passing quickly from a difficult lie, to a genuine tale made it easier to blend things together. All that business with the Golden Company was too complicated to manoeuvre around, and so Aegon elected to leave it out, altogether. Finally however, came the greatest lie he’d ever have to tell Kirith.

“There’s something else.” He began, eyes still on the earth. “I’ll have to leave again soon, and when I do, I don’t think I’ll be coming back.” Pausing, eyes melting in spite of the cold looked upon the only face he’d never want to say goodbye to, but had to for the sake of the Targaryen name. Watching her visage contort as the words ripped their razor-sharp claws into her flesh, it became clear how steep a price it would be to pay. It was almost enough to make Aegon change his mind. “I mean, I might try one day…” He started, his back-peddle a knee jerk reaction to even the lightest inclination of Kirith’s potential pain. “But I don’t know how far in the future it will be, or if I’ll even make it that far.” Forgetting that the joke was only a private one with himself, his half-hearted laugh was met with silence. “A Master in one of the Free-Cities has offered my father a plot of land, and a fleet of twenty merchant ships to command.” He lied, quelling suspicion was important. After all, there was a decent chance that Aegon would lose the battle he intended to pick for the sake of the bloody line of succession. If such was the case, surely any found sympathetic to his cause could be subject to retribution. It was important the wrath of the winning party did not venture to Skagos.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t…” And he couldn't finish his thought because where would he even begin? “I’m sorry I can’t take you with me.” He recovered, the slightest shake to his voice. “I wish I could.” The admission fell from his lips haphazardly, as if by accident, an act of rebellion against the mind spearheaded by it’s very tongue. Embarrassed, the young Griff, the boy she knew, turned away from her but only for a moment. After a heartbeat passed between them, the closest thing to a true confession ever uttered hanging in the air over their heads, he took her hand. He had held it a thousand times before, but this time felt different. Meaningful intention lingered in the silent gesture of his thumb brushing along the back of her porcelain fleshed appendage.

“I wish I could.” He repeated.


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Offline asterin

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Chin on her huddled knees, she pressed her lips together and waited for his words to jerk back into motion. Her gaze glued to the ground, she watched his familiar hands move to and fro, sketching an outline of the worlds he had traveled—the worlds she'd never seen. She nodded along, interjected her usual questions, but she struggled to put forth the voracious gusto she had shown before.

“An aunt,” she repeated, peering at his dusk-violet eyes. Another time she might have asked him to describe her, asked him what she was like, and whose side of the family she was on. This time, she did not. “Hopefully she's nicer than mine,” she said instead with a wry smile, pulling forth the little humor left within her. Blood didn't always mean family, she had come to know.

“There's something else,” he began, and she glanced back at him, only to see that his gaze was back onto the earth as if there was some sort of script there that would aid him. She waited patiently for his words, but she could have never expected them. “I'll have to leave again soon, and when I do, I don't think I'll be coming back.”

She froze at the words, uttered so cruelly into the cold air. They tore into her, syllable by syllable, and she could do nothing to defend herself. The ruddy color of her cheeks drained, her face going as pale as Griff's silvery hair. He immediately spoke as if to ease the blow, to make light of it all, but she knew they were empty at best. Every word that came afterward only made her feel colder and colder, until her body felt numb and unknown. Her worst fear was coming true, and for a moment she desperately willed herself to wake. This was just another one of her strange dreams. She'd wake, and she'd be waiting for the Shy Maid on the horizon—anything, anything was better than this nightmare. But as much as she tried to wake, there was nothing but the stony weight in her gut that told her this was all real.

“Tell me you're lying,” she choked out finally, her voice trembling harder than she would've ever wanted. “Griff—tell me you're lying.” But he didn't. He was apologizing. She didn't want to hear it—hear any of it. He was leaving her. He was leaving Skagos and her and he was never coming back. His hand was warm and gentle, but she didn't want to be comforted, not when it meant what it did. It just hurt more. “I thought this was your home now,” she blurted out, something hot lurching up within her, bursting through the numbness. “I thought you—I thought I--” the words tangled and lumped up painfully in her throat, going unsaid. It didn't matter what she thought, apparently. It hadn't mattered at all. The girl wrested her hand away from his familiar grip, eyes stinging fiercely as she stumbled up, his face blurring in her vision. Her lips parted as if she was about to say something, but all she managed was a ragged breath before she took off into the trees. Though her vision was fogged with her tears, she tore through the woods like a pack of direwolves were on her heels, paying no heed to the branches whipping at her face.

As she burst out of the woods, she nearly crashed straight into Old Griff, who seemed to be in the midst of trying to look for his young charge. “Hey! Where's the little—” the man started angrily, but she ignored him completely, dashing past him before he could pose his full inquiry. The bonfire in the middle of the camp was burning low, and there were only a few dark figures hunkered down, speaking in low voices, but she continued to run, deaf to any of them calling her name. The throbbing in her head and the pain in her heart commanded just one thing. Run, run—faster. Faster!

She bolted up the cliffside, her legs feeling like they would give way any second. She didn't stop until she reached the very top, the vantage point she had always watched him go, the vantage point she'd looked for him every day. Only then, at the edge of the cliff, did Kirith come to a stop. She collapsed onto her knees, sucking in gulps of the cold briny air. The heaving inhales soon turned to sobs and she dashed the tears angrily from her cheeks, hating herself for being such a child. After she had tried to accept the changes that would come their way as they grew up, tried to be dignified about it, be an adult—this was how it turned out. Had she known this day would come? She'd always feared it, but perhaps she had wanted to believe it never would. Perhaps a part of her wanted to believe—believe that he'd choose Skagos over whatever wonders the South could give him, that he would choose her over... A self-deprecating laugh bubbled up from within her. She was so pathetic. From what she had managed to glean from his explanation, this would be quite an opportunity for Griff and his father. Perhaps it was what they'd always been working towards—a future with no place for her in it. Perhaps she'd been foolish to ever think otherwise.

Her miserable thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of fluttering wings and she whipped around, spotting the old raven roosting on the rocky outcrop behind her. “Go away,” she spat out, rubbing roughly at her reddened eyes. Raven or not, she hated the thought of anything seeing her crying like some stupid child. The black bird cocked its head, peering at her with its dark, wizened gaze. “I said, go away!” she repeated, louder this time. It only croaked back, fluffing its feathers and settling rather comfortably despite her. Kirith turned back to the churning, ink-black sea and the star-studded sky above. Digging in her pocket, she reluctantly pulled out the necklace he had given her. She'd forgotten to have him put it on for her. Holding it up, she watched it glimmer dimly in the moonlight. Had he only gotten her such a special gift because it was going to be his last? Her expression twisted, and she shoved it back into her pocket. If she'd known, she wouldn't have accepted any of it.
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When he found him it was deep within the weirwood. As a rule, the Lord Jon Connington did his best to avoid entering the secret world lost amongst the dense trees. Their pale colour and twisted faces made him uncomfortable. The first time, as a boy, he had seen one he had been scared nearly to pissing himself. The deep eyes, from which red sap poured, had haunted his nightmares for years after that. This time however, the reason was just. Though he’d been called a fool before, he was not so great a fool as to have missed the tears brimming in Kirith’s grey eyes as she brushed past him. He watched her go, barrelling through the sleeping huts and the main camp, fists clenched tight as she ran. Those tearful eyes were the sort belonging to a broken heart. Jon, himself, knew very well after all. His own eyes, so close in colour to the red haired girl, had looked the very same on the day he had lost Rhaegar.

“So he finally did it, eh?” He muttered to himself, his words carried from his breath and into the wind. If Kirith felt as though she had lost her young Griff, if her heart was truly as broken as he suspected it was, then surely the conversation he had been urging the young man to have with her had at last taken place. A painful conversation it was, but a necessary one. Of course, if Kirith was this upset, then so too would be Aegon.

Sat beneath a shrine to the old gods, he hung his head and wept, letting his tears fall against the knotted tree roots at his feet. The branches of the Heart tree seemed to envelope him within their many appendages and fanning, red leaves. When Jon’s eyes found those of the face carved into the tree, it’s eyes seemed to glare an him with an accusatory hostility. Though surely the Gods were in Aegon’s favour — for he’d never met a boy for whom that statement was truer — the anger he saw in the Heart tree’s face seemed one of maternal destiny and not omnipotent right. In the tree’s face he saw Elia Martell.

“You will fail him. I know it.”

Her words, spoken so many years ago, still echoed in his mind. They tolled like a noisy clock, reminding him each time he closed his eyes, night and day, how true they had been after all. Perhaps, in the end, it was Jon who was unworthy and not Elia. The same wouldn’t be said for Aegon, though. He wouldn’t fail the boy, the man, the King. This time around, the songs would end with Aegon sat upon the throne and Jon at his side, as it should have been with his father before him.

“My son…” Jon began gently, making his presence known as he approached.

“Don’t call me that. Not right now. Not here.” The young man’s words halted his adoptive guardian mid-stride. They pierced through him like spear, paralyzing him with grief. It took him a moment to recover from the blow and if the silvery haired boy had cared enough to look, he would have seen it written all over the Old Griff’s face.

“Come now, Aegon.” He continued, taking a seat beside him and resuming his parental tone. “This will all be worth it one day. I understand the pain you’re going through, but you must realize this is for the best.”

“For the best?” The venom had not left his voice. If anything, it had grown thicker, snarling through his tearful choke. “The best for who?”

“Well, for you, of course.” He answered plainly. “Look, Aegon, I understand…” he tried, but already Aegon was interrupting him.

“Understand? You don’t understand.” He accused, rising from where he had been sitting and turning to face Jon straight on. “If you understood, even a little, then you wouldn’t have made me do it.” He insisted.

“You’d sacrifice the Seven Kingdoms for some Wildling girl?” He demanded in return, an incredulous tone to his voice. Though Jon wasn’t frightened by Aegon in the slightest as an opponent, he couldn’t help but notice from his present angle just how much the boy had grown. “So what are you saying, is it love then?”

“As if you’d know anything about love.” He chided offhandedly, and at that, Jon was brought to his feet.

Now meeting Aegon’s eye line with an authoritative stare, he warned, “watch it.” Casting his gaze aside he continued in a quieter voice saying, “I have loved more deeply than you could ever imagine.”

“My father?”

He asked the question so bluntly, so cruelly, that Lord Connington couldn’t help the way he snapped his head up to meet the purple eyes of his friend’s son. Words choked him, stealing the breath from his lungs. His emotions couldn’t seem to decide between humiliation, anger, or grief. Certainly, within that whirl storm, he was unable to fathom reason and attempt to brush off the remark. Instead he watched as Aegon’s face twisted like the Heart trees from his nightmares into an expression of disgust as the face of the man he called father betrayed the secrets he already knew.

“You think I don’t notice how you look at me sometimes?” He asked, dolling further injury to the old man’s pride. “How you watch me?” Stooping he plucked the harp, the one that Jon had believed the boy had lost some time ago, and raised it before him. “Why do you think I hid this?” He demanded.

“You… you still have it?” Jon started, reaching for the harp. Then suddenly, all at once, the quiet and mild-tempered young man that he had shaped from infancy shed his very skin. All his patience flew from his exhaled breath, his violet eyes rolled, drained of all empathy. With an expression of stoic apathy, he tossed the harp over his shoulder and to the pool behind him. It was with a similar nonchalance that he allowed himself to be jostled to the side as Jon lurched into action to catch it. He leapt forward, his hand plunging into the water after it as he fell to his stomach. The very tips of his fingers touched upon it’s familiar wood before at last it slipped from his ginger grip and into the depths of the Skagosi springs.

“That was your father’s.” He breathed over the water. “Did you hear me? That was your father’s!” He moved to rise but was stopped by Aegon’s sudden proximity, crouched to meet his gaze. His face so close to his, was just the same as Rhaegar's. How horrifyingly agonizing it was, to see the contempt and malevolence swimming in those sparkling eyes.

“I have done all that you have asked of me.” His voice was deadly. It was a voice Jon had never heard come from Aegon before. Now, Jon was frightened. “But you will not use me as a replacement for my father. Not anymore.”

“Aegon…” Jon started, but it was too late. The full realization of the mistake he made came crashing in all around him, surrendering him to hopelessness. There was no love left burning in those gem-like eyes, just fire. He’d been a fool to think he was the one who had tamed this baby dragon. By severing him from his keeper and breaking the chain that tethered him to Skagos, he was a wild beast. His mother's gentility was locked away inside him now, the core of his Targaryen nature awoken.

“If you’re going to take the Seven Kingdoms with me, then it will be beneath my command.” Rising, his back straight and shoulders broad, he had never looked more like his father. “We will leave Skagos in two weeks, on my order.”

And with that, he left him, on his belly in the dirt. Alone with his demons, his nightmares, his worst memories, he fought against the chanting in his head.

You will fail him.

You will fail him.

You will fail him.

You will fail him. I know it.

King Kade - Reigning from the North


Character limits kill my vibe...


Offline asterin

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Crouched over on the cliff, the young woman huddled into herself for warmth--warmth that had left her a long while ago. Whipped at from all sides by the biting wind, she stubbornly kept her vigil. She couldn’t feel her legs anymore, much less her frozen cheeks. The tears had stopped now, but with each pulse of her heart, the bitterness spread through her veins. He’s leaving you, he’s leaving you, it said. Foolish girl, stupid girl. She blinked blearily, the red puffiness of her eyes mercifully shielded by the inky darkness of the night. Exhaustion was settling in, and even her mind was tiring. Every time her eyes fluttered shut, however, the raven would get out a croak, startling her out of it. Sleep--she needed to sleep, and she wished she could simply curl up and succumb to slumber right there. She wished she wouldn’t wake. It would be better than to have to stand there and see him go off forever.

The fourth or fifth time she dozed off, the raven seemed to finally have enough and began to raise a ruckus, as if it was telling a naughty child to be off to bed. Too exhausted to be stubborn any longer, she stumbled up in silence, trudging slowly back down to the camp below. Even in the darkness, she could pick out the tent that Griff and his crew pitched up. She turned her stiff and aching eyes away before the pain could seep through the numbness once more. The flame-haired girl entered her own darkened tent and blindly clambered into her furs without bothering to change into her nightclothes, eager to rest her eyes.

“Let me guess, he’s leaving.” The voice that cut through the haze was not one she expected, even though she had always shared the tent with its owner. It was her aunt, still awake for some reason. She made no reply, having no fight left in her to shoot back any sort of retort. The voice continued, however. “They always do. Traders from the south, they always do.” There was a small scoff. Kirith squeezed her eyes shut, cramming her hands over her ears. And yet, her aunt’s words seemed to creep in. “I’m surprised he even stayed this long. I told you it was no use befriending him.” Despite the characteristic gruffness in her voice, her tone lacked the acidic edge it was so fond of. Had Kirith any strength left in her, she would have questioned it all--how she’d known, why she was awake, why her voice seemed so oddly resigned--but her mind and voice failed her. Fatigue pulled her deep down into oblivion, and she surrendered, only desiring to blot out the twisting in her heart.

***********************


When morning came, she left the tent early--earlier than usual, before her aunt could rise, before anyone could wake and see the sullen look in her eyes. Her pupils, clear and striking as steel, were clouded and dark like the skies before a storm as she pushed her protesting body into the chill of the morning air. The sun hung lazily on the horizon, a hazy blotch of orange-red muted by the gloomy clouds surrounding it. She made her way to the lean-to she had been the day before and the nets she had abandoned when she’d seen the tell-tale sails on the waves. Recalling the jolt of elation she had felt then only sent a new surge of bitterness through her, and Kirith felt her fingernails digging into the palms of her hands.

She didn’t want to see him. She didn’t want to anyone, in fact. In any other circumstance she would have fled into the weirwood, but even that sanctuary was out of the question. After all, it wouldn’t scare off the one person she wanted to see the least at the moment. Picking up a net, she realized that she’d never tried to avoid or hide from her old friend. If she was ever avoiding or hiding from someone, it had always been from the adults that would attempt to pry them apart. Though she’d known things would eventually have to change, that had been the one thing she’d thought would remain the same. She’d thought they’d always be striving to stay together, no matter what. She’d thought that being away from her was an idea as loathsome as it was to her. Perhaps she’d thought wrong. After all, she’d always assumed that his tales were truthful. Yesterday night had been full of more than just one painful revelation.

Even in her sleep she’d been chased by heartbreak. She’d dreamt of the first time he’d left for his travels. She’d run to the top of the cliff--she always seemed to be running in her dreams, running, running towards him. She’d watched him wave back at her, but she’d then suddenly been struck with the realization that he would not be coming back. She’d cried in the dream, wailing for him to come back, come back--but the ship would not turn back, and even he had eventually turned away. She’d woke with the image of her younger self sobbing on that cliff, helpless to do anything, and felt the same despair. She was still helpless as a child. He was leaving her, and she couldn’t do anything to stop him. After she’d thought she’d become something more, a spearwife, an adult--she still couldn’t catch up to him, drifting farther and farther from her reach.

The young woman swallowed hard, her fingers halting in their practised movements among the nets. She leant limply against the wooden lean-to, her glassy eyes finding the sea once more. She wondered how much time she had left before he would disappear from her life, this time for good. It was childish of her to be acting this way when their time together was surely limited, but Kirith knew she would not be able to look him in the eye without betraying the tattered state of her heart. It would surely tell him more than she could even admit to herself.
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Offline Reigning King

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“Come here, you two.” The young Griff hissed, starting up the sloping face of the Skagosi hills. He had found a small plain of grass upon which the herd could happily graze. Unfortunately, two lambs had become a little over-excited by the adventure, and darted ahead of the rest.

“Did you forget how t’ do it?” Rolly called up from the base of the hill. He stood with a mass of sheep and goat at his knees, arms crossed over his chest. It was he who had awoken the silver-haired young man from his slumber in the morn. Concern ground deep canyons into his forehead, his bushy orange brow perpetually furrowed.

Sighing, Griff watched the two lambs he had been about to snatch, bounce away again. “Duck, will you please shut up, every time you talk they…”

“Oh, blaming it on me, are ye?” He shouted again, inspiring further fear from the lambs. “Not my fault you forgot how t’ do yer job!”

Ignoring the newly appointed Ser Duckfield, the experienced hunter, tradesman, and animal minder edged the lambs towards him with the assistance of his Shepherd’s staff. Once within reach, he was able to scoop them up, one beneath each arm. Turning to start back down the hill, he was able to return them to their kin, who took turns bouncing them between each other. From here, they’d self govern a bit, and once they continued moving the lambs were likely to stay with the rest. But before Griff was able to see to such transit, Duck was interrogating him further.

“So what’s all this business then, with you and the old man?” He asked, knocking playfully against the young man’s shoulder. Rolly was taller than his apprentice by a good head or so of height. A large boy in his youth, the orange haired lowborn from the Reach had grown to a very large man as well. Taller than both Griff and young Griff, he was a good choice for a sword master. Of course, in spite of the advantage of his size, the young Griff had gotten awfully close to finally besting him, even coming to a draw in some sparing matches. Unfortunately, the disadvantage of such focused training, was that Duck had become incredibly well versed in his pupil’s nuances.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Griff answered plainly.

“Yes, you do.” Rolly insisted.

“I just can’t believe he lied to me.” The young lad conceded, letting his weight fall into the large hands that had seized him by the shoulders. “He should have just told me that’s what this is all about.”

“Ah, so you found out.” Duck confirmed, nodding knowingly.

“I’ve known for a while, actually.” Griff added, changing the weight of his staff from one hand to the other as Rolly released his shoulders. Beginning with the first lumbering steps, they began their journey back towards the camp and the rudimentary enclosure for the livestock.

“I still think he should just cut the hand off, but you know Jon, he never listens to me.” The Knight babbled as they fell into step beside each other. It was a few strides later that Rolly realized his silver-haired monarch was no longer walking alongside him but instead halted in the middle of the path.

“What are you talking about?” He asked, an edge to his tone.

“Jon's hand of course, the greyscale…” Duck paused then, and Aegon watched as his expression changed, realizing that the two had not been talking about the same subject. “Why? What were you talking about?” He asked stupidly.

“Greyscale? Greyscale? When did he…” Thoughts fell back to the night that their company had been attacked by stone-men in Chroyane, how his father had stepped forward to save that imp — well no, not his father but still the young Griff — Aegon, my name is Aegon. “He’s dying then. By the mother, is my father dying then?” Now it was his turn to grab Rolly’s shoulders.

“No, damn it. Jon’s not dying. Look Aegon, don’t say anything, don’t tell him I told you that…”

“I think I’m going to be sick.” He mumbled, letting go of Rolly and stumbling towards a tree to lean upon. The lambs danced around his feet, anxious to get moving. Baa, they called to him. “Oh, now you have the nerve to rush me?


“Seven hells.” He swore.

Aegon stood with his toes at the lip of the cool pool beneath the Heart tree. The sun had begun to descend into the tree-line, but the light had not fully left the sky overhead. Still the shimmer of it’s glow cast upon the chilled water. The pool beneath the Heart tree was different from the other springs on Skagos, because it’s current carried from the sea, instead of to the sea. Always cold, always still, and clear to the bottom, it was not an unfamiliar place for Aegon to swim. Preferring the cooler water to the warm, he had plunged himself into it on a number of occasions. Today however, the task seemed daunting, the water somehow ominous. Still, he stripped to his underclothes and lowered himself into the deep earthy basin.

Treading water into the middle of the tiny lagoon, he forced away the childhood images that were immediately called forward. Chasing away foolish fears of sea monsters and krakens, he focused his mind instead on the harp he had thrown to the waters bottom the night before. The currents were strong and there was no way of even knowing if the harp still lay where it might have not even had the chance to land. Yet, it was with a deep breath that Aegon surrendered himself to the world beneath the surface.

The water had always been a welcome home to him. Swaying tides had rocked him to sleep more nights than not, it was within their bosom that he had been raised. Strong, broad hands pulled him deeper into the embrace. His strokes guided him as smoothly through the clear tears of old gods, as birds through the sky. Purple eyes that had grown too accustomed to the salt water for it to sting, opened at the bottom to search the muddy base. Fingertips, already pruned to accommodate his need for an improved grip, roamed through the black murk as his lungs began their count down. He followed the map of the current along the pond’s floor, nearly ready to give up when — at last! Fingers came to curl around the engraved handle, their grip so tight and feverish it could have split the wood had it been made of a lesser quality.

Pressing his feet against a sturdy rock face, Aegon bent his knees as his hair floated up around him, preparing to push himself to the surface. For a fleeting moment however, the kicked up pond base around him seemed to change. It’s black arms seemed to cease floating and begin licking up around him like flames, the water that surrounded him bubbling and heating. The breath seemed to flee his lungs all at once but just before he thought he might succumb, his hand squeezed against his father’s harp in his grip. In a divine moment of clarity, he launched himself from his perch, the rushing surface coming closer to him as he escaped the clutches of the unwelcome vision. Clawing for the moment he could take his first gasping breath, he made it, despite the crutch that the harp proved to be.

“Aegon! Aegon what in Seven hells…” The voice he knew at once to be Jon’s. He must have watched him wandering through the camp, looking for Kirith, and then followed him out here. While his tone suggested that he was preparing to give the young man a scolding, he lost his words at the sight of the instrument gripped in Aegon’s hand.

He paddled to the pool’s edge, offering no resistance when Jon stooped to hoist him to his feet. Coughing he doubled over, blowing his nose to force out the salt water before rubbing at his eyes. With his free hand he slicked back his nearly white hair, with his other, he slapped the harp against Jon’s chest. Letting him take it, freeing him from the burden, he flicked a sideways glance towards his gloved hands before stooping for his furs. “You didn’t have to do that.” Jon began as Aegon clothed himself. He pretended not to notice that his adoptive father gave him no privacy, and instead watched, that forlorn sorrow wrinkling his brow.

“Show me your hand.” He provoke, gesturing to the weaker hand at his side.

“What?” Jon demanded incredulously before continuing, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The laugh his words inspired from his charge was cynical. They were his words after all. “I saw you earlier, were you looking for her?” He continued. When Aegon refused to meet his eye he stepped forward. “You must stay away from that girl, Aegon, she’s nothing but trouble for you. Trust me, I only…”

“I don't know what you’re talking about.” Aegon snapped. With that, he turned and walked back to the camp. Clearly, the two men were not ready yet to reconcile. Tonight he would make a bed once more of the sheep who had spent the day dancing across his feet and testing his patience. They were a sad runner-up for the one he truly desired to spend his night with. The one who had been avoiding him all day. The one who was nothing but trouble. The one who was nothing, and yet also everything to the budding Prince.

King Kade - Reigning from the North


Character limits kill my vibe...