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

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Offline asterin

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For the rest of the day, Kirith somehow managed to successfully avoid her childhood friend. She had been more than prepared, having packed herself enough dried provisions to last her for the entire day lest he seek her out at mealtime. The heap of nets that had needed to be mended were all tended to in the hours she’d spent in the lean-to. Even some of the most mind-numbing chores she hated didn’t seem so bad if they would keep her from running into Griff.

She didn’t know what she could say to him. The flame-haired girl had once decided to make her take her with him if he were to ever leave--but he’d denied her the chance to even plead her case. He’d apologized that he couldn’t take her with him. That was it. And how could she beg him to stay? She had nothing to offer him, paling in comparison to whatever the world could give him. There was nothing to say, and she was afraid of what she might blurt out if she was cornered without any jokes and quips to shrug off the feelings she kept balled up inside.

It was all a mess, a headache. And so she hid.

When dusk fell she crept into her tent like a thief, and said nothing to her aunt. The older woman seemed content to maintain the silence, busying herself with other matters. Kirith sat in the corner--her corner, where her trunk of treasures lay. On top of the chest, the heavy tome he had gifted her sat unopened. Normally, she’d devour the book he brought back within a few days, never letting leave her side. It’d be a while before she tucked it safely into the trunk, more than happy to re-read her new treasure and her expanding visions of the world beyond. She regarded the book quietly, then placed it inside the chest, closing the lid with a note of finality.

She didn’t want to think about anything anymore. Her heart and her head hurt too much.

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

Running. She was running. Faster! The voice cried in her head. Faster! The young woman surged forward with a burst of renewed strength, the green, unfamiliar landscape blurring by. She did not know why she was running, and at the same time, the fear and panic in her heart propelled her forward. Her heart knew to whom she was running towards. The hair streaming wildly about her face was black and straight, and the hands that she fell upon when she stumbled were not the hands she saw every day. And yet, none of it was strange.

Hurry--faster! Faster! The voice urged, and she scrambled up, ignoring the pain blossoming through her as she rushed onwards. She could hear...the sounds of battle.

All around her, men were dying and falling, swinging their swords and belting out their battle cries. Yet in the midst of the chaos, her eyes shot to a single figure on horseback in the center of the raging water, locked in fierce combat with a black haired man. Her heart gave a lurch. “Griff!” She cried, but when her voice rang out, shrill with terror, it was another name that tore out of her. The figure turned at her voice, his beloved lips forming the words--

With a earth-shattering roar, the black-haired man began to transmogrify, bulging and twisting upwards. The man was no more, now a stag of gargantuan proportions towered over them, rearing up to the heavens with beastly scream. Its onyx black hooves came thundering down, towards him--

“NO!” she screamed. The hoof crashed into the silvery haired man’s chest with a sickening crunch, scattering hundreds of red jewels outwards. With a terrible sort of grace, he fell from his horse and sank to his knees, his dazed eyes locked on her horrified ones. He whispered a name--her name, his voice thin and transient. The sound of it snapped her out of her trance and she leapt into the river, scrambling towards him wildly, shouting his name.

However, mere steps away from reaching him, a sudden pain ripped through her core and she crumpled with a sharp cry, her body giving out. Her vision swayed madly from the twisting sensation coming from deep within her and she struggled to breathe, to keep her sights on his form. She had to get to him. She had to… She crawled forward pitifully towards him, her breathing rough and ragged. When she finally reached him he was lying limp amongst the rocks, cold to the touch. His chest spilled rubies still, each twinkling brilliantly in the bleak sun as if they were laughing at her.

“Griff?” she whimpered, though the name that escaped her was the other. There was no response. A cold, sickening feeling filled her up from within. Trying to ignore the panic blaring in her head, she desperately pressed her trembling fingers against his chest--but the moment she did, the jewels melted into blood, hot and stinking of iron. “No...no, no--no,” the word bubbled forth. Try was she might, the red seeped through her fingers like the waters surging through a broken dam. “Don’t leave me, please don’t leave me alone--” She pleaded, pulling his lifeless body close. “You promised--” The name fell from her lips over and over again, but it could not stop the light fading from his indigo eyes. “Please--” she sobbed, the word barely recognizable.

Another excruciating jolt shot through her and she doubled over next to his still form, choking on her tears as she convulsed. The pale blue of her dress was slowly being dyed crimson, and the river began to run red. She fought to say his name one more time, to look upon his beloved face, to tell him the words she so desired to say, but failing, she collapsed next to him. Her body was heavy as stone and try as she might, she could not turn her head to look at him. All she could see was the sky above; it was dark now, and something was fluttering down over them. It’s snowing, she thought deliriously. Like home. But as they fell faster, collecting on their bodies, they were soft and blue, and smelt of gentle memories she did not recall. She was fading, draining out with the red that lapped over them both--the river of blood consumed them whole, yanking them down into its depths.


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

The young woman woke with a violent start, a piercing pain in her chest and the stench of blood and roses still smothering her. Chest heaving, she pushed herself up, only to feel the tears dripping down her cheeks. The contents of the vivid nightmare came rushing back, and she felt the terror flood her heart once more. “Griff,” she mumbled to herself as the image of the lifeless silver-haired man flashed before her eyes. “Griff!” She staggered up from her furs and tore out of the tent, barely having the presence of mind to stumble into her boots.

It was deep in the middle of the night and the wind howled, but Kirith didn’t waste a moment, heading straight towards the tent towards the right. She threw open the tent without a warning, her eyes roving madly in the dark, attempting to single out the one she was looking for. The inhabitants of the tent woke with alarmed shouts before a light was lit.

“Seven hells! What ails ye, lass!” It Duck who raised the candle, his eyes squinting from the sudden brightness and her even more sudden entrance. She must have made quite a sight, her hair in disarray and dressed only in her nightclothes, but she didn’t have the time to answer any of the unspoken questions.

“Where is he,” she managed to blurt out, bile rising in her throat at the sight of his empty pile of sleeping furs. “Where is he!”

“Calm down, he’s with the sheep--” the man barely got the words out before she was off running again like a woman possessed. If she had been thinking rationally, she would have known to go to the sheep pen first. After all, that was where he most often spent his nights when he and Old Griff did not end the day on good terms. However, it most certainly was not her rational brain that was commanding any of her movements at the moment--it was her heart, filled to the brim with fear of loss. She ignored the burning pain in her lungs as she ran through the darkness; even her legs seemed all too ready to sprint, as if they remembered the urgency from her dreams. As the pens grew closer she only ran faster, her eyes straining in the dark to find him.

Finally, she sighted a slumped figure in the gloom amongst the sheep. “Griff!” she cried, vaulting over the fence and straight into the herd, frightening them with her sudden appearance. The poor lambs and sheep bleated, scattering away from her, but she didn’t care--there was only one thing on her mind. She rushed over to him and fell on her knees, reaching out to touch the no doubt stunned boy in a frenzy. He was warm to the touch, almost too warm, as usual, and his chest pulsed with the workings of his heart, not the terrible red. She stilled, staring at his familiar face--alive, alive--and her expression crumbled as she embraced him tightly, wrapping her arms around him as if he would suddenly dissipate into ash.

“I dreamt--I dreamt, you, you were dead,” Kirith forced out, her frame shaking along with her voice as the tears fell fast. Just saying the words aloud brought back the visceral, raw pain, the loss that had torn through her. “I-In the river, you couldn’t stop the giant stag, and it--” She could still hear the sound of the hoof smashing into his breastplate, and she could say no more, only clinging to the young man like he was life itself, as if he would ward off the stench of blood and roses and dream that had terrorized her.


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His body reacted before his brain had caught up with the present. Stirred from his sleep by frantic hands and frightened sheep, the young Griff heard his name called out in the dark. The moment the prodding hands came to his chest, lingering over the warm place where his heart beat from, he knew to whom they belonged. Forgetting their fight, forgetting his responsibilities and instead surrendering to a habit birthed of a lifetime of friendship, he pulled Kirith close to him. Nostalgic for the days when she had once rushed to his tent, tearful from a fevered dream, he cradled her head against his shoulder. The unoccupied hand he slithered beneath her knees and scooped her into his lap. It was there, warm and protected within his arms, that he had rocked her back to sleep in their youth. Those days of course, were simpler, and it had been many years since Kirith had come to him with a nightmare. It had been many years since Kirith had come to him with anything really, or he to her. Such was, it seemed, the process of growing up; the secrets and the accompanying walls they seeded and sprouted around your heart.

“Byka jorrāelagon,” he cooed in a sleepy voice. “I’m right here, I’m right…” tipping his head into her shoulder, he did his best to stifle a yawn. “I’m right here.” He promised.

Violet eyes still heavy in the darkness, he leaned himself into Kirith as she coiled around him, tremors wracking through the frame he held. Griff had hoped, in the remaining days they had together, that she would find it in her to forgive him. After all, for the young man, the thought of leaving Skagos on unfavourable terms with Kirith was unbearable. No matter the number of times Jon slammed reason into him as though it were the battering ram on the prow of a ship, the silver-haired boy couldn’t help but hold an image in his mind’s eye of one day returning to the island — or rather, returning to Kirith. He’d come upon the Skagosi shores as Aegon Targaryen, donning a crown, holding in his hands one for her as well.

The conversation of future prospects of marriage had been a ongoing one amongst the young Griff and his keepers since he was first able to converse at all. Alliances born through marital arrangements were common in times of war and conquest. Naturally, learning about the existence and status of a living aunt had only served to fan this already well stoked flame. Then of course, there was the list of potential Dornish suitors that his uncle Oberyn had provided him upon first meeting him. At the top of that list, his own niece and therefore Aegon’s cousin, Arianne Martell. This reoccurring subject, was the reason Jon had encouraged his charge to stay away from girls and remained unstained. While they planned his romantic life around him however, he imagined draping a cloak of his father’s colours around Kirith’s strong shoulders.

“Wait,” he reeled, lifting his head and craning it to blink against the darkness. “What did you say?” He asked, eyes searching darkness to find hers. At once, the young Griff was no longer clouded by a slow wake. Startled into alertness his body twisted to bring Kirith face to face with him. Her features were made softer in the darkness and he brought his face closer to hers, looking for some type of validation hidden in her expression.

“Stag…” He repeated. “You had a nightmare…” He noted, this time more quietly. “You had a nightmare that I was killed by a giant stag in a river.” The words fell out of his mouth, piecing together the broken information she had given him about what could have only been a vision. In a distant sort of way, his gaze fell away from her in the dark and wandered instead to the skittish sheep. With bent heads and timid steps, they sniffed at the air around him and Kirith. It were as though they could smell the tension rolling off them like it were the musk of their sweat, or the lingering sweet meats on their tongues.

“I have things I’ve never told you, byka jorrāelagon. I think you’ve always known that.” A gentle hand reached out towards one of the sheep, a crooked finger coming to rest upon a warm, sniffing nose. “But it seems somehow, you’ve learned them anyway.” He scratched at the sheep’s ear for a time before he brought the hand back to Kirith, wrapping it around her and pulling her tighter.

“I’ll never catch up to you, will I?” Holding her against him, they toppled sideways. Landing with a gentle thud, his shoulder taking most of the impact, he curled himself around her against the bag of grain he had previously been sleeping against. When they had been younger, he had played a game with her wherein he would try his best to pin her arms and legs against her sides. Unsurprisingly, she had always won, but in truth the game had been a ruse to created out of a unfathomably, overwhelming desire to hold her. Now, finally holding her in his arms, almost a man and almost in the way a man might a woman, he waited on baited breath for her to fight her way out.

“What else did you dream?” He asked gingerly, face hidden in her hair. If he could, he’d stay hidden in the flame red locks, happy to burn at Kirith’s stake.

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Offline asterin

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His embrace was warm and inviting--she buried her face into the crook of his shoulder as he murmured out sleepy words of comfort. He was warm and alive, he was there with her. No rubies, no blood, no rushing river. She tried to rein in her frenetic breathing, inhaling his familiar scent and letting it soothe her as it always did. Just as her tears came to a halt, it seemed that her frightened words had finally reached the young man who held her. He pulled away briefly to look her in the eye. “You had a nightmare that I was killed by a giant stag in a river.” Swallowing the remainder of her tears, Kirith nodded in response. Half-expecting him to brush it off as a simple nightmare, she was surprised by his solemn expression, even in the gloom of night.

“I have things I’ve never told you, byka jorrāelagon. I think you’ve always known that.” She glanced away from him and to the sheep instead, not desiring to face that as a fact. The sheep, recovering from their sudden departure from slumber, were now huddling about the two of them. They knew her well--she was usually the one who tended to the sheep in Griff’s absence, after all. “But somehow, you’ve learned them anyways.” That made her look towards her friend once again, the beginnings of a puzzled expression spreading on her face. Was he saying that her night terrors had some meaning to them--and not only that, but about him?

“What do you m--” she started, but the unfinished question ended instead with a soft squeak as they toppled over to the ground. His weight was not an unfamiliar one, for just two days prior they’d gone through their typical greeting ritual of wrestling. This time, however, she did not struggle or attempt to pin him down in turn. It was more comforting than anything else, and she could feel him breathing and his living pulse against her own chest. With their proximity, it was easy to breathe in time to his own inhales and exhales, and for a moment she could forget that they would ever have to part.

“What else did you dream?” he asked, his voice muffled by her hair--quiet, but very close.

Comforted by his engulfing weight, she scraped up the courage rekindled within her to speak. “There was a battle in the river,” she recounted softly. “Men falling, dying, fighting--and in the middle of the river, you were on a horse, in armour. There was another man on horseback…” her voice tensed. “He had black hair, and, and you were fighting him…” Swallowing the slow panic that was starting to twist in her belly, she continued. “And the man, he turned into this huge, black stag, and it reared back and the hoof--” Her heart began to race again, the horrible sound of his armour caving ringing clear in her ears. “You fell,” she managed after a moment. “You said my name, and I…” She paused. There was something strange about that, wasn’t there? He hadn’t called her Kirith. “No, you called me something else,” she said slowly, frowning. The more she thought of it, the more sure she was that the name had been another. Her frown deepened as she wracked her brain in an attempt to remember the word, whispered so brokenly by him in her dream. “I can’t remember,” she surrendered, frustration in her eyes.

Unfortunately, there was more to this dream she had seen. “I was running to you,” the young woman started again, taking a deep breath. “But I fell too. Everything hurt. And so I crawled to you, but I, I was too late, and these red jewels were spilling from your chest, and so I tried to stop it, but it just turned to blood and I couldn’t do anything, and you wouldn’t wake up--” her words came faster and faster, her voice going thin and tight as her throat threatened to close up with tears once more. She stopped, forcing herself to breathe in time to Griff’s breathing, slow and steady, until she could speak without her voice trembling. “You were cold and limp, and the blood wouldn’t stop, and then I was bleeding out too--” She could almost feel the sharp, twisting pain in her stomach again, a pain she’d never felt before to recall. “And it was...it was snowing. No...it wasn’t, it wasn’t snow. Flower petals?” she fumbled. “Blue ones. They made me...sad and happy all at once. They were really beautiful, but…” Kirith trailed off, unable to find a way to explain the terrible nostalgia they had struck in her. Why, she still couldn’t fathom--she’d never seen such a flower before in her life. "...And then I woke up."

There were too many unknowns in her dreams, and not just this one, but the many others she'd had so far. She did not tell him that all of her recent ones had been about him or contained his presence in one way or another. What would that tell him? More importantly, what would she be admitting, even to herself?

She fell silent, then finally struggled to free her arms. It was not to push him away, but to clutch him closer, if that was even physically possible. “Please don’t go,” the whisper was barely audible, scared and strained. “What if it really happens? I won’t even be there to know--how am I going to know if you’re alright? Who am I going to run to if I have these nightmares again?” Her tone took on an almost childish lilt, desperate as it was. “I don’t want you to go.” She was being stupid and immature, selfish, even, but she knew she could not bear to lose him--to the South, to death, to anything. But what could she do? She was helpless and useless, unable to do anything to make him stay, just as she’d been unable to keep the life from leaving his eyes in her dreams.


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“I don’t want to go either.” The words had fallen out of his mouth before he had time to catch them. In a life filled with deceit, truth always seemed to spill from the young Griff in Kirith’s presence. At least, in one form or another. “Truly, I don’t.” He continued, conceding to the honest words already brought to life in her company.

Unable to bring himself to look her in the eye, he instead leaned into her. Strong arms, grown stronger in recent days, coiled around her tighter. The tips of his fingers came to brush against the tiniest sliver of skin exposed from beneath her layers. Eager to quell the stirring he felt at it’s warmth, he moved to reposition the furs he had laid out over not only himself but this time Kirith as well. Pulling her close to him, surrendering to the white-knuckle clutch with which she held him in return, they melted together as two halves of a whole. It was for some time that Griff allowed the silence to sweep over them. Around their still bodies, the sheep settled once more. Filled with a forgetful sort of serenity, teetering towards the edges of sleep once again, he turned his head to Kirith saying, “they’re winter roses.”

“The flowers from your dream, the ones with blue petals.” He explained. “They’re blue winter roses.”

Like most children in the known world who had so much as ventured near the shores of Westeros, Griff had heard the story of Ice and Fire; of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and his Lady Lyanna. The version he knew, of course, was different from that of other storytellers. When he had been more than just the old man Griff, and instead Lord Jon Connington, his adoptive father had played witness to much of the Rebellion. After a few drinks in a foreign tavern, the one-time Lord would confess his guilt. Had he not lost the battle before the last, he might have saved the Prince Rhaegar. That is, he might have saved Aegon’s true father.

While he details of Robert’s Rebellion held a fascination within themselves, the true story was not the War itself, but rather the events leading up to the war. All of which, the young Griff had been familiarized with years ago. He knew therefore, not only the name of the flowers which spilled in Kirith’s dream but also the name of the woman to whom a crown made from such winter roses had been given. It was likely the same name that the man she saw in her world of in-between as him, had called out in his dying moment. There was a bitter, unsurprising feeling that accompanied the realization, because of course, that name was not his mother’s. Yet again, the edges of a picture the young Aegon Targaryen, sixth of his name, had painted in his youth began to fray. At each torn seam, the image seemed less magical than originally described, it’s purpose increasingly unclear. There was no sense in breathing life to the question that had been fluttering in his head with such violent wings of late. He had learned long ago he would find no answer.

What’s the point of it all?

“Would you like to hear a story about winter roses?” He asked. “It’s called Bael the Bard.” Making himself comfortable against Kirith, he eased them back into sleep the way he had when they were young. More than any other treasure, the legends and songs Griff returned from his adventures with were of the most use to Kirith, and therefore his most precious. The last time he had told her such tales, she had been shorter than him by a head and thin as the branches on a fledgling tree. Now, just as strong as him and almost as tall, it was a woman he held in his arms. While they might have changed over the years, the feelings between them grown more complicated, the stories always stayed the same.

Rolling his face into her shoulder, he stifled a yawn before continuing. “So, impressed with Bael’s preformance, Lord Brandon Stark offered the musician whatever reward he desired. In return, Bael asked for the most beautiful flower growing in the Winterfell gardens.” Tucking a wild lock of Kirith’s red hair behind her ear, thus securing it from falling in his face, he settled in the darkness. Sleep was circling Lyan now, and by the heavy steadiness of Kirith’s breathing, it was clearly encroaching on her as well. “Since the blue winter roses were in bloom, the Lord Stark offered Bael a single rose. Come morning, the Lord’s youngest, virgin daughter had gone missing. In her bed lay, a single winter rose.”

Smiling in the darkness Griff settled into a blissful, sleepy stupor, recanting the story with a rhythmic, absentminded allegory. As brothers donning black quested beyond the wall in search of daughter-thieving wildlings, and bastard boys grew to Stark men among Lords, the rest of the world outside the story Griff told Kirith melted away like ice in the summer. Together, they floated on a cloud over this magical world made of fantasy. Fighting the darkness, which lay at the end of the hero’s quest, the young Griff told her still about fathers and sons doing battle on a Frozen Ford. When finally the beautiful winer rose who had first loved the bard, flung herself from her tower in grief, it was in grief that Griff and Kirith both fell themselves into the realm of the dreaming.

In the night, the silver-haired boy dreamed of the girl asleep beside him. He saw her waiting and waiting for him, standing on the coastline of Skagos in the long winter and beyond. She stood facing the shore, her red hair blowing in the wind behind her. The shoreline before gave way not to the ocean, but instead the sweeping sands of Dorne. In this dream he was watching her but not as Griff, nor Aegon, instead he was Bael. Were he a wildling boy, and not a Prince, he might have stolen Kirith away in the night a long time ago. Yet a wildling boy he was not, and if he was to steal Kirith in the night it would not be a rose left behind in her wake. Kirith was not a girl of flowers and whimsy. In her wake, he would leave a ring of fire, and everyone would know that the dragon could be conquered.


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Offline asterin

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Lulled into a rolling calm by his soothing, beloved voice, Kirith tried to stay awake as long as possible, desiring to feel his company as much as she could. She listened, head tucked away in the crook of his shoulder, bringing to life the towering walls of Winterfell, the beautiful, nostalgic winter roses in the gardens, and the wildling man who’d stolen away the most beautiful of them all. She fell asleep, still clutching at the image of falling winter rose petals and the strange memories they held.

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

She was running again. Running, to the cliff. He was leaving, leaving Skagos, leaving her. The white sails of the Shy Maid were wavering in the wind, as if to mock the tears beading up in her eyes. “Griff!” she cried after him as she reached the edge of the cliff. The familiar figure shouted something back, but she could not hear it. “Please don’t go,” she tried to shout, but it only came out as a broken sob.  

“Are you going to let him go off like that?” the voice made her turn. Besides her was the raven--the old raven. He was watching her, but something was different about him. He had three eyes--in the center of its head, the unnatural eye stared out unblinkingly, seeing, seeing. Despite how bizarre it all was, none of it disturbed more than the fact that Griff was out of her reach, never to return.

“I can’t go after him,” she retorted bitterly through her tears. She had no boat, and he was too far away to swim to.

“Why don’t you fly?” the raven suggested, spreading his own black wings.

“I can’t fly,” she shot back with a note of exasperation and anger in her voice. Was this bird mocking her too?

The raven cocked his head, fixing her with its strange third eye. “Have you ever tried?”

“No…”

“Well, come on then.” The raven took to flight, circling the empty space off of the cliff. Kirith peered over the edge of the cliff--the drop was dizzying, and there was only sharp black rocks underfoot. She would surely meet her death if she jumped. The young woman still recalled that time several years ago when a poor drunken sap had misplaced his footing and fallen onto the boulders--the tide had washed his body away to sea before they could venture out to retrieve him.

“But--”

“Do you want to lose him?” the raven cut her off.

Immediately, as if in a swift response, Kirith vaulted off of the cliff, her legs pushing her forward into the vast void. For a few brief moments it felt as if she was gliding, held aloft by the wind, but then she was plummeting fast, down, down to the rocks below. “You lied to me!” she shrieked at the raven, who was diving down alongside her.

“I didn’t say you didn’t need to be taught,” the raven croaked, cawing as if he was laughing at her. He swooped down right before she could meet her demise, catching her by the scruff of her furs. “I’ll teach you, little one.” Had he always been so big? The raven swept her back upwards and continued skyward, flapping his giant wings.

“Wait, but Griff--” she struggled, only to yelp as the raven dug his sharp claws into her shoulders.

“Hush, or I’ll drop you. Listen. Watch.”

Dangling from the raven’s claws, the red haired girl could do little else but obey, eyes wide at the view of the land growing smaller and smaller. Soon they were flying over the island of Skagos--she could see the tiny cluster of tents, the dots of white that had to be the sheep--then the weirwoods, spread out like a mass of red. In the midst of the crimson she could see a spot of silver, the spring reflecting light like a mirror. Even from the distance she did not miss two moving figures, one with hair as red as the leaves of the heart trees, and the other with hair as fair as the silvery spring. Before she could point them out, the raven surged forward still, until Skagos was gone.

To her left she could see a snow covered land, and a hulking behemoth of a structure spanning the earth. She knew it instantly as the Wall--the barrier between the Far North and the Seven Kingdoms. Beyond it was the place she had been born, where her grandmother, aunt and mother had once resided as true Free Folk, though she remembered none of it.

Down in the frozen wastelands, trekking through the winter white was the two familiar figures--headed north, and north still, just as the raven was taking her northbound. “How far are you taking me?” she yelled against the howling wind.

“Patience,” was the only reply she received. The raven seemed to be picking up in speed, and Kirith reached up to grab at the bony ankle of the raven for fear of falling. The pair shot through the wintry sky, and far in the distance she thought she could see a cave. “At last,” the raven croaked, and before she could pose any question the bird began a sharp descent, diving towards the cave at breakneck speeds. A scream tore from her throat as they plunged downward and into the inky depths of the cave. In that moment she felt the claws release her, and she fell, landing none-too-gently onto the ground. It was pitch black, and silent.

Struggling to stand with a groan, she blindly reached out into the dark. “Where are you?” she demanded angrily. Unexpectedly, a hand grasped hers, the larger fingers wrapping around her cold ones.

“I’m right here,  byka jorrāelagon,” came his voice. “I’m right here.”

“Griff?” she uttered, stunned.

“Come on, he’s waiting for us,” Griff’s voice continued, and the hand around hers tugged her forward, further into the dark.

“Who’s waiting for us?” she questioned, confusion overtaking her.

As if on cue, a single bright red eye opened up in the gloom, terrible and overflowing with the secrets of the unknown. Then, like a ripple, hundreds of more eyes blinked open, hundreds upon hundreds. Stumbling back with a cry, she fell back and tripped, bringing her face to face with a puddle of water--and within the reflection, her own eyes were red, frightfully glowing.

She woke with a start, the clamoring cacophony of ravens rattling in her head. It took a moment for her to realize where she was--in his warm embrace, curled up together under the furs that had graciously warded off the night chill from them. The girl glanced up to her friend’s sleeping face in the hazy dawn light and then burrowed herself back into his chest. Taking in a deep, shuddering breath, she focused on the steady pounding of his heart in her ears, the feel of it pulsing against her cheek.

Come on, he’s waiting for us.

I’ll teach you, little one.

Do you want to lose him?

The words circled round and round her mind, pulling at her this way and that until all the strings of her uncertainty had been unraveled, leaving only a single, urgent desire. “Griff,” she hissed. Then louder, shaking his shoulder. “Griff, wake up.” She sat up, wrapping the furs tighter about her shoulders, now bereft of his body heat--she was only in the nightclothes she had dashed out with, and the morning wind could be just as chilly as the night. “Griff, we have to go.” As she said it, it was like she had never been more sure of anything in her life. She could feel it in her bones. “He’s waiting for us.”


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Initially, it was concern that wrinkled his sleepy face. Kirith had woken him with urgency in the morning, a more composed version of the wake he had been given in the night. We have to go, she had urged him. Briefly he sat up and regarded his surroundings. Her voice had been quiet enough that they hadn’t yet disturbed the livestock that slept around them. The damp fog of a new fall day hung in the air shallowly, still and shielded from the chilled breeze. Though the wind touched upon Kirith’s skin, forcing the furs up around her body, Griff remained impervious to the cold. Even as she pulled upon the soft browns, unintentionally stealing their warmth away from him, he remained immune to the goose-pimples that riddled her flesh.

“He’s waiting for us,” she pressed.

“Who?” He asked groggily. “Whoever he is,” reaching out he curled his arms around the girl before him, pulling her back towards him. Wherever he so lay his hands, the raised flesh fell again smooth, melted by his heat. “He can wait until we’re awake.” He was too tired for a fully enthusiastic attempt, but nevertheless curled his legs around hers, pinning her to him. In their youth, his brash challenge would have warranted an elbow to the nose. These days, however, their games felt different, as though there wasn’t really a winner anymore. When her restlessness persisted however, it became clear to the young man that whatever her reason for her frantic behaviour, it warranted his immediate attention.

“Was this another nightmare you had?” He asked, sitting up. Slowly his eyelids began to crack open, like a violent sun breaking over a horizon of thick black lashes.

Kirith was knelt before him. She wore only her night-dress, the furs he had brought with him to the sheep’s pen, were wrapped around her shoulders still. The dawn light shone upon her ivory face, bringing more warmth to her skin in the absence of his touch. Eyes like storm clouds looked down at him, fiery hair in a tangle around her heart-shaped face. Though her gaze was severe and purposeful, the young Griff found himself smiling at her. Of course, to marvel at Kirith’s beauty — which grew more frightfully impossible to ignore as the years wore on — was to have one’s heart both broken and mended in the same instant. His smile faltering, he tried to focus more intently on her words.

Griff himself had not yet decided whether or not he believed these visions to be a blessing or a curse for Kirith. Certainly she believed them to be the latter often enough, but on occasion the young man would have his doubts. Her most recent dreams however, did not serve to sway him in favour of their continued existence. Before, when they had been children, the pictures had come to her in images too broken to make sense of. Now though, her visions were violent and vivid. While their purposes and meaning remained elusive to Griff, Kirith became more sure of her interpretations as they mounted in savagery. Most of his worries were naturally centred around the effect these dreams had on their bearer, the flame-haired girl herself.

“Slow down, we’re not going anywhere just yet.” He coaxed. “And if we were to go anywhere, it would be South.” Pausing, his gaze cast down away from Kirith, the way it always did when he engaged in deception. “It was another nightmare.” He assured her, changing the subject was an easy way to ensure that one didn’t say too much on a given matter.

With careful hands, he pulled the remaining corner of the furs still over his lap onto hers. Her shoulders were less delicate than he remembered, stronger but with still enough grace that they ought be shielded from men’s eyes. His own body donned only a loose fitting tunic and worn trousers, but he didn’t need the extra layers. Likely as not, he wouldn’t even if he had been naked in the icy early air. The stone furnace living inside his belly kept him warm enough.

“Come, we’ll take breakfast in the wood.”

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Even though Kirith was doing her best to drag him forth from the clutches of sleep, Griff was not quick to wake. “Who?” he mumbled, his voice thick with sleep and his eyelids heavy. His arms, however, were not so clumsy as they wrapped about her, bringing her back down with him. “Whoever he is, he can wait until we’re awake,” he continued, entangling his limbs about her in an effort to lull her back to slumber.

She would not be swayed this time; all thoughts of sleep had left the girl the moment she had woken, and she struggled to pull away, protesting. “Griff--no, wake up--!” she insisted impatiently, squirming her arm free to pat at the warm flesh of his cheek. “This is important, we have to go!” At last he was roused, his lilac eyes peeking through his slitted lids.

“Was this another nightmare you had?” he questioned, though the gravel had yet to completely leave his voice.

“No, this wasn’t a nightmare, not really--it was a dream, I saw--I saw the raven! The old raven with the one eye, the one we see all the time, he was huge, he was talking, and he had this third eye on his forehead--” she motioned enthusiastically, tapping at her own forehead. Her words came fast, this time fueled by a swelling certainty instead of the terror that had driven her in the night prior. “He carried me North, beyond the Wall, Griff, to this cave, and you were there! You told me he was waiting for us, that we had to go to him, in the North--” The stream of words were brought to a halt by Griff, who did not seem terribly convinced.

“Slow down, we’re not going anywhere just yet,” the pale-haired young man stated. “And if we were to go anywhere, it’d be South.”

“But that’s just it, Griff, we have to go the opposite way!” she insisted, her lips pursing into an unhappy pout. “There’s something--someone--there, and he’s calling--”

“It was another nightmare,” he repeated, his gaze stuck to the ground. How she hated that look.  

“But it’s not!” she fumed, her pout stiffening into a frustrated scowl. Why wouldn’t he believe her? This was different, this was real, vivid, and she knew--she knew! But the young man wordlessly tucked the furs about her shoulders a bit more snugly, a simple, silent way of showing his affection. Kirith let out a sigh, her brow still marred by a frown.

“Come, we’ll take breakfast in the wood,” he coaxed her, and gathering up the furs, she stood with a bit of reluctance in her movements.

“Fine,” she grumbled, more to herself than the boy at her side. The red-haired girl settled into a brooding silence until they were in the familiar clearing within the weirwoods, the spring twinkling in the sleepy morning sun. She plopped herself down on her usual log. It had been this very place where they had spent many a blissful moment together, though it had admittedly lost some of its lustre due to the devastating news he had given her few days prior. It tore at her still, but the fear and pain that had reverberated through every ounce of her had solidified into something calmer, an iron-wrought sense of certainty.

As he ate the breakfast they had filched from the still quiet camp, her portion was going untouched in her lap as she recounted every detail she could recall from the dream, though she refrained from telling him exactly what the raven had said that had incited her to jump off the cliff. Do you want to lose him? Kirith was not ready to tell him it was always, always him she was running to in her dreams, that it had been for him that she had chosen to jump. She did not know how the words would sound released into the air with no taking them back, and so she kept them to herself, kept them close to her heart.

“I’m sure of it, Griff, we have to go,” she persisted. “Don’t you believe me?” Her jaw tightened stubbornly, her fingers balling up into fists. “And don’t say it’s just another dream. You said so yourself--they’re not just dreams. Yesterday night, you told me that I’d found out things you’ve never told me through that nightmare.” She had not forgotten, oh no--he had brushed off the topic before she could question him on it, as usual. The flame-haired girl was more than fed up with his evasive ways now.

“Well, whatever you do, I’m going,” she concluded flatly, fixing him with her steely, piercing gaze. It would not be an easy journey--even preparing for such a trek was a large task on its own. She would need a boat, not to mention an abundance of provisions and tools. Already she was mentally running through the supplies she would need, and just how she would manage to steal away one of the smaller boats for herself. “Soon. Maybe even before you head South.” She mustered a crooked, wry smile, though her eyes were far away. For once, he’d be the one seeing her off from the shore. How about that! He’d go off to the South, and she’d go off to the Far North. They’d be farther apart than they ever had been, this time of her own volition. Perhaps it had never been meant to be. And yet, at the same time, the raven had told her he would teach her to fly. Even if they went their separate ways now, perhaps she would gain the power to fly to him in the distant future. It this was the way she could receive the ability to stay with him, never needing to wait haplessly for him, then she would take that leap without a moment’s hesitation.


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He didn’t bother to cloth himself any further against the chilled air. From the livestock pens he took only his boots and Shepherd’s staff. The young boy who had taken over the duty after Kirith’s selection as a Spearwife, had come down with a fever in recent days. Taken to the healer’s hut, the young Griff himself had volunteered for the responsibility. More than ever, the crook felt welcome and wanted within his grasp. Passing through the central encampment they found food and further furs for themselves, the lighter of which Griff draped around his own shoulders. Sitting again beside one another in the company of the Heart Tree in the familiar wierwood, more awake and more alert, the silver-haired boy listened to his friend’s plea.

“Don’t you believe me?” She had asked him with such sincerity he couldn’t bring himself to admit to her that he did not. A forlorn expression overtook his face instead, in place of an answer.

“And don’t say it’s just another dream. You said so yourself — they’re not just dreams. Yesterday night, you told me that I’d found out things you’ve never told me through that nightmare.” She continued.

“So I did.” He admitted quietly, his face unchanging.

“Well, whatever you do, I’m going.” She insisted in rebuttal.

“Whatever I do?” He repeated.

Only then did it occur to Griff that he was the answer to every missing hole in her dream-or-vision-or-madness induced plot. Where Kirith had neither boat, nor the skills with which to sail one North, the son of Griff possessed both. Though provisions and tools were difficult to come by on the small island, he had easy access to all which were required. The only piece of the puzzle left missing was the destination itself, the only remaining ingredient to this recipe for doom being Griff’s — no, Aegon’s — faith in the heading she gave. While there might have been nothing more in this world that Aegon Targaryen wanted than to abandon the Kingdom he was chained to and flee with this touched wildling girl, something in him resisted her siren-like call. As if a deeper knowing had taken command of his heart, he felt a foreboding at her words. To answer to them, would be the end of him. He could feel it in his bones.

“When would you even go? The long summer is over and winter is coming, but you would leave and go walking headfirst into it?” He asked her.

“Soon. Maybe even before you head South.” She replied at once, a satisfied sort of smirk taking her pretty lips, breaking Aegon beneath the weight of his instinct-feeling.

“If you go by yourself, you’ll die Kirith.” The young man told her matter-of-factly. “And if you don’t die, then you certainly won’t make it back. In which case, you’ll die slowly.” The gratified expression she wore on her face at his turmoil was enough to give tell to her ability to manipulate. For she, above all others, knew that he would not let her go along — he would not let her go without him.

“Boy!” Came a voice, booming across the open space. At once the young man knew it to be his Knight, Rolly. Unlike his father, his protector was not afraid of the weirwood trees. Trees are just trees, he would say. Of course, a boy from the Reach would have seen more monstrous and formidable trees than those in the Skagosi woods; trees so big and ancient it would be impossible to cut them down even with a hundred men assigned to the labour.

“Time for yer lessons.” He explained, stating the purpose of his presence before it was even asked. Despite the early hour, the Knight was chipper, too much so in fact. At once, his charge’s gaze narrowed marginally in suspicion without giving voice to his concerns. “Sorry, girl.” The ginger-haired man offered as an aside to the young woman seated beside him.

“Yes, fine, just a moment.” The swordsman-in-training replied hurriedly, waving a hand to halt Ser Rolly a stone’s throw or so away from the pair. “Do not go.” He hissed at her firmly, taking her by the shoulders. Pausing he considered his words for only a moment before saying, “do not go, without me.” Releasing her shoulders he moved to follow his newly appointed member of his Kingsguard to their sparring lessons. “I’ll speak with you again tonight. Wait for me.” He asked of her as he stepped over the logs around the cool, sparkling pool. “And put on that necklace I gave you.” He added, half-joking but also meaning the jab sincerely. After all, he had been told that the ruby would protect it’s wearer, this being his reason for purchasing it as a gift for Kirith.

“Not to worry, girl,” Rolly called to her from over his shoulder, putting an arm around that of Aegon. “We’ll find a way t’smuggle ye’ South.” He accompanied the promise with a wide, toothy grin and a squeeze of his bicep around Aegon’s neck. The silver haired boy smiled quietly himself in return before carrying his smile over his own shoulder, giving it instead to Kirith.

She would not leave without him. He would not let her.


After his sword lessons with Rolly, and his afternoon chores with the livestock, he made for his evening teachings with Haldon. Walking to the Shy Maid, Aegon still carried the sword on his hip that Duck had brought with him when collecting the young man. Unlike most Westerosi men, Aegon did not have a sword he favoured, instead often choosing the worst blade in a collection for himself. He believed that skill made the swordsman, not the blade and finer steel should be reserved for those who needed the assistance of an easy swing in combat. Rather, it was the Shepherd’s staff that he carried with him still, sat across his shoulders with his wrists dangling over their curve, that he favoured. Whistling as he crossed the stony beaches and onto the dock, his eyes couldn’t help but settle on the small dingy hanging against the side of the Shy Maid. Her petite child stared back at him temptingly, Kirith’s words echoing in his mind.

She’ll leave with or without you, a voice whispered to him in the dark of the setting sun. The clopping of his boots along the wood of the docks halted, the voice seeming to come from right beside him, or rather perhaps within him.

Will you let her go? Will you let her go and die? the voiced urged, causing Aegon to pull the staff from his shoulders and hold it in a defensively manoeuvrable grip. Turning about himself in circles, keen purple eyes roamed the tree line and still waters for signs of an attacker, perhaps a monster. When his gem-stone gaze fell only on the fat raven, his blind hollow eye peering at the startled young man, his shoulders fell in relief.

“Oh, it’s you.” He said to it, watching as it turned it’s head this way and that. “That’s not you trying to scare me, is it?” He asked the bird, and while the question was rhetorical it inspired a loud caw! from the bird’s black beak, causing Aegon to jump in spite of himself.

“Blasted thing.” The young man cursed, striking the post on which it perched with his staff, forcing it to take flight and cease it’s wordless taunting.

Climbing the ladder onto the deck of the Shy Maid and crossing it’s breadth, Aegon swung open the doors to Haldon’s cabin without ceremony as he so often did. However, this time he was halted at the door by the sight of his father, or rather his adoptive-father, his arm exposed to the half-Maester. He had interrupted them in the midst of a treatment, a treatment for the malady that Duck had warned about. This warning did not prepare him for the sight of his guardian’s ruined arm. While Jon’s skin was of a pale hue naturally, the colour of the skin taken by the scale was a sickly, lifeless shade. It were as though the man was dying, death spreading from the place it had touched. In truth, of course, that is exactly what was happening.


“It’s spreading.” Their charge noted, eyes on the flaked, stone-skin that Jon attempted to cover in vain. Replacing his sleeve over the partially finished wrappings, no doubt doing more harm than good, he turned to Aegon with a hopeless proud look upon his aging face.

“Nothing’s spreading, son. I’m fine.” He assured him falsely.

“Your dying.” The boy nearly grown to man corrected. He had not the heart to argue Jon his claim for parentage this time around.

“Not yet.” He corrected in return, though he spoke the words on the breath of a sigh. Evidently, the copper haired man had no heart left in him to argue either.

“The taking is slow, child.” Haldon explained, rising from the table to place a comforting hand on his liege’s arm. “We have time yet to see Ser Jon healed. More miraculous things have been done before.” He assured him.

“Haldon, do you mind if my father and I have the room?” He asked politely.

“Of course, child. We’ll begin your tutelage when you’re ready. Today, we discuss geography.” Without fuss, the un-chained man dismissed himself to an anteroom off the main cabin. On his way he plucked a large tome and parchment, as was his way to never miss an opportunity for study. The loose ties of his hair bind trailed behind him as he floated his way from their presence, giving them privacy for their much-awaited conversation.

“Geography.” Jon repeated bitterly, a look of mock disgust on his face at the notion of the subject. The comment was one intended to lighten the mood, a true fatherly act in the face of a difficult moment.

“I’d rather have greyscale.” Aegon replied in banter. Both men cracked smiles and awkward laughs to one another as they seated themselves across each other. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked at once.

“I didn’t want you to worry.” The Lord Connington explained with a wrinkled, grief-ridden brow. “All I’ve ever wanted was to fight for you, my boy. Hard to admit that I might not make it there.” With a shrug he cast his gaze down to his plagued appendage.

“Why didn’t you tell me about my father?” Aegon pressed.

At that, his caretaker was given pause. Meeting his focus again he twisted his lips into a wry grin saying, “I didn’t think you’d understand.” Reaching out, Jon placed his good hand against Aegon’s forearm, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Though now, I see you do. In fact, you might be right after all. I expect you’ll come to understand love better than I ever did.” He admitted.

“Is it wrong to love her?” He asked. For a moment, he was a young boy again inquiring as to why the sky was blue. Only now, he was practically a man, and answers the likes of ‘we’re all living inside a blue-eyed giant’ wouldn’t suffice anymore.

“No, son. It isn’t.” Jon answered honestly. “But you are a King, and she won’t be the last girl to love you back neither.”

“Do I have to want another girl?” He asked, still unsatisfied with the cryptic response.

“I suppose you don’t, Aegon.” Came his sobering reply, pulling his hand away from his fostered son again as he leaned back in his chair. “You are a King, whatever truth is, it is of your design. We are beneath your command, aren’t we?” Flicking his eyebrow upward, the pair recollected in silence how the hidden King had declared his role to his Hand the night before.

“Are you?” He asked.

“Let me tell you my truth, son. The entire world is beneath your command. You need only give your order.” Jon confessed. “Your father believed you were a thing of myth and legend, a Promised Prince. I believe the same.”

Later, with the deck of the Shy Maid illuminated by the stars in the sky, Aegon paced the familiar landscape lost in thought. He had completed his lessons with Haldon, much of their geography exercises centred around those lands most easily conquerable. Thus, the subsequent discussion focused on conquest and not educational understanding. After his lessons, the young man had sat with his adoptive father whilst their supposed Maester treated his diseased flesh before seeing him to bed within the ship’s barracks. Haldon intended to observe Jon throughout the night and take notes on any potential night-terrors he might be experiencing as a result of greyscale. Leaving them to each other’s company Aegon had found himself standing on the deck of the Shy Maid, staring with crossed arms at the ropes which kept the ship’s dingy in place.

Will you let her go? The now familiar voice asked him from somewhere far-off and yet close-by, like in a dream. And at that moment, Aegon Targaryen, sixth of his name, decided his truth and of course it was the only truth he’d ever known.

Kirith.

And so he severed the ropes, and lowered the dingy.

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“I’m not afraid of dying,” she shot back stubbornly as Griff tried to reason with her. It was the bloom of youth that allowed her to speak with such bravado--and perhaps also the flame that had been ignited within her with burning conviction. “I’m going, Griff.”

“Boy!” The voice that interrupted their argument was not that of Old Griff, but of Duck. She made a face at him as he approached, as she was prone to doing at anyone who tried to steal him away from their time together. It was time for his pesky lessons, the very lessons she had often convinced him into leaving behind as children. “Sorry, girl,” the knight offered to her.

“Don’t worry yourself, we were done talking anyhow,” she called back, though her eyes were on Griff’s still.

“Yes, fine, just a moment,” Griff contradicted her immediately, waving hastily at the orange haired man before turning back to her. “Do not go,” he hissed at her under his breath, shaking her by the shoulders, but all she gave him was a stony look. Her heart was set on it--surely he did not think he could sway her from this. Indeed it seemed that her old friend knew her well, because after a moment of deliberation he spoke again. “Do not go, without me.”

A spark of joy entered her grey eyes, but her demeanor did not change drastically. “Promise?” she prodded  when he told her that he would find her come evening. “Of course, I’ll wait.” However, there was something in her voice that made it clear that this time, she would not be kept waiting for very long.

“And put on that necklace I gave you,” he added as he walked away.

“You’re the one who forgot to put it on me,” she retorted, a small smile hovering over her lips. “But fine, I will.”

Slinging his arm over Griff’s shoulders once he reached his side, the older man turned to her with cheerful glint in his eyes. “Not to worry, girl. We’ll find a way t’smuggle ye’ South,” Rolly told her, grinning like a mischievous lad. Kirith found herself chuckling wryly, waving him off. Not a day ago, she would have pounced on those offhand words with desperation. Now, however, it was not South that she would be heading towards. Her old friend glanced over his shoulder with a smile, and she smiled back with a nod. Once they were out of sight, she sank back onto the log next to the pool and exhaled a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding.

With a telltale flutter of wings, the very raven that had appeared in her dreams landed in the heart tree branching over her. She looked over, almost expecting to find that all-knowing third eye in its forehead. “It was mean of you to drop me like that,” she remarked ruefully to it. Though it didn’t speak back in the voice she still remembered ever so clearly, it stared at her knowingly and let out a derisive croak, as if to defend its actions in her dream.

“Yeah, well, I’m going, so it better be important,” she muttered, even though she already knew it was. “I don’t know if Griff thinks it is, but…” Her voice trailed off into nothing. She would have wondered if it was selfish of her to demand he come with her when it had been clear that he had much to profit from going South. Indeed, she wouldn’t have dared to ask such a thing before the dream had given her this newfound hope.

The raven cawed again, shaking her out of her worries. Then again, and once again. It almost felt like the old bird was urging her to hop to it if she wanted to be ready for the journey ahead. “Okay, okay,” she relented, standing back up. “I’m going.” Giving her one last satisfied croak, the raven took to the sky and swept away. Watching it go, Kirith began to make her way through the weirwood and back towards camp. While she was yet to know for sure whether her friend would come along, she had no intentions of tarrying for long--and if she intended to leave soon, there was much to ready indeed.

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

Within her beloved corner, Kirith went through her belongings with a careful eye, trying to decide on what she would be taking along with her. While she was not an experienced traveller as Griff was, watching him come and go over their long friendship had been enough for her to understand that there was always limited space. The most obvious and practical of choices had already been made, such as her spear, tools, furs and extra clothes. She was, however, reluctant to abandon her little treasure chest in its entirety. There were many books and memorabilia she wanted to take, but in the end she only placed the single book she had yet to read from cover to cover into her rucksack .It was, of course, the thick tome he had gifted her a mere few days ago. As precious as the other mementos were, their true purpose had been to remind her of her absent friend during those long travels. She supposed this book and keepsake already around her neck would have to suffice should he choose to not to come along.

The young woman paused, bringing out the radiant red jewel by the chain from under her clothes. Even within the tent it shone fierce as fire, as if it was not just an ordinary jewel. For a moment she recalled the twinkling red rubies that had spilled through her fingers and shuddered, forcing herself to put it from her mind. She tucked the necklace back under her tunic, turning her attention back to the contents of her satchel.

“So you’re finally up an’ leaving, eh?” Kirith near jumped out of her skin, but managed to force on an expression of vague innocence before she turned about. As expected, it was her aunt who had lifted the tent flap and walked in on the scene.

“What d’you mean?” she questioned, trying to look indifferent. Her aunt snorted and rolled her eyes.

“Spare me the lies, lass, you never were good with them.” she said, as she crossed her arms over her chest, but something about the action was forlorn. “I knew you’d leave some day. Got too much of Vreya in you.”

“My mother?” she questioned before she could think to stop herself. Though she should have known better to engage, the flame haired girl had always been eager to scavenge any detail about her mother that she could.

“Aye, your mother. Never sat still. Always going out for grand adventures, leaving us behind.” There was a deep rooted bitterness in her voice. “Even when she had you. Left you with mother and me and chose to go off like she was still some youthful cub. Others know where she is now.”

The tart words she had been forming in her mouth scattered as her mind came to a screeching, sudden halt. “You...you and grandmother both told me my mother died,” she heard herself say numbly, too stunned to attempt an accusatory tone.

“She might as well be!” the older woman snapped, “She was a reckless fool, traipsing as she pleased. It’d be a miracle if she weren’t dead by now.” Her thin lips set disapprovingly into the hard line Kirith was far too familiar with. She saw now that it had never simply been disapproval towards her in those eyes, but also disapproval of her mother.

“You lied to me,” she felt her voice rising in volume, something hot rising within her as she stumbled up. She had satisfied herself with the tales her Grandmother had told her of her mother to piece together a fractured image of a real mother--a mother who could be alive still. Still reeling from the revelation, she jabbed a finger in her aunt’s direction. “Why didn’t you tell me the truth?”

“And risk you rushing off in search of her as soon as you could wield a weapon?” she sneered. “No, Mother wanted to keep you safe for as long as she could.”

Kirith knew she could not deny it. Had her grandmother Aswen allowed her any sort of hope that her mother existed out there beyond the Wall, little Kirith would have attempted to paddle there a long time ago. “Well I can take care of myself now,” Kirith hissed back. “You can’t stop me.”

“Oh no,” the tall woman let out a sharp laugh. “No, I won’t stop you. I know there’s no use, I’ve wasted all my pleas on your mother.” Her tone turned mocking. “Go on, run off South with the Kneeler boy. See if he wants anything to do with you after a while. He’ll tire of you soon enough. You might have fire for hair, but you’ve got ice in your veins--Kneelers, they don’t fare well in winter’s embrace for long.”

The spurt of anger churning madly in her chest was suddenly sliced clean with an abrupt clarity. “Are you still talking about me? Or are you talking about yourself?” she asked coolly. The older woman flinched as if she had been slapped, and Kirith knew she had cut her to the core--yes, this had been the meaning behind her cryptic words two nights prior.

Both women stared each other down, grey on grey, glowering gazes like knives searching for a chink in the others armor. “Do as you wish,” her aunt spat out at last, bitterly conceding her defeat. “Don’t come sniveling to me when it all falls apart.” With her braid swinging angrily behind her, the woman stormed back outside, leaving the girl standing there in the silence.

Distractedly fondling the chain of the necklace, Kirith carefully returned her other belongings to their rightful place inside the chest. Even though her aunt had mistakenly assumed that she was leaving for the South, it would be bad luck indeed if Old Griff caught any wind of it. Shouldering her bags she left the tent without looking back, greeting the sky that was going from streaks of pink and purple to the deep indigo of nighttime. She made a beeline for the wood, and was fortunate enough not to catch the eye of any of those still lingering outside; she’d hate to have to come up with some excuse for why she looked ready to venture out into the unknown.

Griff was not yet there in their little clearing, but it didn’t worry her. She set down her things and settled down on her log. He had told her to wait for him, something that neared second nature at this point. Reaching into her bags she produced a whetstone and began to sharpen the spearhead in her hands. It was always well tended to, but she had more of a reason to rely on it now. The pole part of the spear was also special--it was the shepherd’s staff Griff had given her, the staff he had used for a long while before. She had fashioned it into her very own weapon, taking parts of him and melding it into herself as long time friends were apt to do. Her silvery eyes rose up to the moon and stars beginning to rise overhead, their light dappling through the outstretched branches of the heart trees.

Now there was nothing to do but wait. When he saw her, he would know just how determined and convinced she was--just how far she was willing to go to heed the words she had heard in her dream. Do you want to lose him?, the raven had asked. The answer had always been one and the same. Never, never, never.


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The tan that the young man had been gifted by the Southern sun had yet to recede completely from his usually pale complexion. With his silvery hair, made resplendent in the moonlight, covered by the hood of his furs, he moved as a shadow through the encampment. As an infant he had crept across the creaky deck of the Shy Maid, learning fast how to make not a single sound. In childhood, he and Kirith had been as creatures of the wood, racing across the forest floors of Skagosi without leaving a single trace. At the height of his youth, the streets of the Free Cities had played grounds to many a non-mutual game of hide-and-seek between himself and his keepers. Now nearly a man grown, the quiet wildling camp was a easy navigation.

With a pack, heavy and pregnant with needed supplies, slung over his shoulder, he stopped after his own tent to another in the central collection of huts. With his heart heavy from the weight of the letter he had left beside the sleeping Ser Rolly Duckfield -- the only man he trusted to understand it's contents -- he needed to look upon another face before he departed, one that might lift his spirits. Though the young Griff liked to think himself bearing an equal affection for all the children under the care of the settlement, he indeed had a favourite. This one in particular, was regrettably one of such afflicted by what the wood-witches believed to be the last fever of the long summer.

"You're awake?" Griff began, stepping into the hut and pulling the hood from his silver head. "And how are you feeling?" He asked, letting his pack roll off his shoulder before crouching to the bed's end.

"The fever will not break," came a scratching voice with a peculiar accent. "But the boy stays strong. The Gods favour him." It took only a moment to deduce the woman to be one of the tribe's wood-witches, her garb and face paint giving hint to her skill in her craft. The young man could recall the mention of their involvement, given by his teacher of the faith, Lady Lemore, upon their initial return. They were privy to particular secrets that many of the Free Folk were not, and as such their healers had called upon the witches for aid to lift the fever. Given the close quarters in which the settlers lived, it was no surprise that several other children were also afflicted with similar symptoms, thus a new type of healing was needed and so called upon.

"You return the staff?" His mother asked. She was knelt at his bedside, her eyes reddened from a lack of sleep, her face gaunt with worry. While her son's hair was a rich brown, hers was the pale colour of hay. Though they looked different enough, they had the same warm honey-brown eyes. The woman was a beauty but enigmatic, the identity of her child's father a mystery to all.

"He's leavin'." The boy answered plainly as though he already knew. "I can tell." He added, his eyes falling to the Shepherd's staff he had used after the position was passed from Kirith to him. He was a young lad, but devilishly clever and quite sensitive to the animals. It had been his mother who had spoken with Kirith and secured the position for her boy. Naturally, he had taken to it. "Who'll mind the herd?" He asked without hesitation.

"I've asked Gigor to do it." Griff answered patiently.

"Gigor? The son of a hunter and a butcher?" He asked back incredulously. With a face already flushed by fever, his forehead beaded with sweat and night shirt damp at the chest, he looked the part of a distraught guardian. This of course was why Griff had to visit the boy one last time, and he could not help himself but to smile.

"He is still young enough that the animals aren't afraid of him, and perhaps it will make him think carefully when he watches his mother skin the lamb he raises." He pointed out calmly. "You worry, Bael, but you'll get better and then you can teach him yourself."

"Are you leaving with the Seer then?" The boy asked, brushing aside the previous topic in favour of the elusive current.

"Seer?" Griff repeated, leaning against the young man's legs and crooking an elbow on the other side.

"That's what the trees in my dreams call her. Y'know, like someone who sees things, real things." Bael explained flippantly.

"You'll have to forgive my Bael," his mother began apologetically. "The fever has brought on such strange dreams for him…"

"It is the Gods." The witch said from the corner of the room where she prepared what looked to be a type of paste in a wooden bowl. "They gather around the boy and lend him their strength to keep him in this world, and so he sees what they see and knows what they know." She said it sternly, as though educating the present parties, dark eyes beading out from behind heavy black coal.

"And why do the Gods favour Bael?" The young Griff asked.

"Why indeed?" The witch asked in return, cryptically.

"They won't tell me when I ask them." He answered, interrupting their silent and tensed exchange. With the silver-haired young man's attention back on him he leaned in close to Griff and gripped the collar of his furs with a strong but small hand. "You should try talkin' to them, they favour you too." He offered as though it were naught but a playful secret exchanged between mates. Accompanying the advice with a smile, there was little else Griff could do but smile back.

"So what else do the trees tell you?" He asked, using gentle hands to guide the young Shepherd back to a lying position. With hands eager to make themselves useful, he took the bowl of cold water and cloths from the witch who handed it to him. In turn, Bael's mother took the paste she had made, given to her a moment after. As one, the two people moved in to care for the boy. While his mother smeared the paste across his forehead and beneath his jaw, Griff lay the cold cloths along his chest in an attempt to lower his inner temperatures.

"They say she's chosen, your Seer -- say she's mighty important indeed." He elaborated, never breaking contact nor losing his enthusiasm despite the circumstance. "They talk about you too, callin' you the sword and the like. Sometimes they call you Prince, but that ain't right. It's a sword you are, I'm very sure of it, Griff."

"Is that so?" He played along as the set aside the pail he had been handed , it's remaining chilled water sloshing inside.

"You're goin' t' be a King, Griff." Bael said suddenly and even when ill and wracked by a fever remained true to his namesake, his voice like a song.

"What?" He asked, stunned.

"You're goin' t'be the greatest King who ever lived. Then -- and only then, Griff, remember -- am I ever goin' t'see ye' again." He sang sweetly. "So don't die, alright?"

"I'll do my best, Bael."

For what else was there to say to such a darling boy? It wasn't after all, the most shocking thing he'd ever heard divined from the belly of some unknown beast. In fact, far from it.

His mother, Dorra, looked between her son and his friend, tears pooling in her eyes. Surely, her thoughts had fallen on the fever that gripped her son and the subsequent effects she must believed it had taken upon her child's mind. The hallucinations were known to be a sign of a worsening state, especially ones so vivid and adamant. The young Griff however, knew better. What the boy's mother might have imagined to be a light-hearted attempt to humour a spirited thought, was truly a sort of discussion growing more familiar for the fur-clad young man as the days wore on. For certain, more such days were ahead.

"I'll see you again." He said over his shoulder to the boy as he made to leave, the Skagosi witch escorting him out herself.

"You will." Bael agreed from his bed.

As Griff stepped out into the night, replacing his hood over his pale locks and re-positioning his pack over his shoulder, the witch turned to him. With dark, life-less seeming eyes she stared intently at the young man before her saying, "he is right, the Gods favour you." As she stepped forward, he could smell the scent of something unsavoury on her breath, beneath her makeup she was younger than she looked. "You will never die in the North, son of Griff, but you must take your Gods with you South."

"They are not my Gods." He corrected.

"They are your Gods, for they are her Gods. They will protect your byka jorrāelagon and so they will be your Gods in the end." As he lunged towards her threateningly she stepped back at once, her footing expert as she counter-moved against him. "You mistake me, I am your ally." She explained patiently. "I am only a messenger, she your guide and you -- you are the sword of the Gods. Soon you will find yourself at the hip of their champion."

While her expression suggested she expected the young man to ask her something different, he instead asked, "and will these Gods cure Bael of this fever."

"They might." She answered.

"Then I'll give them a shot."

And with that, he turned from the witch and disappeared as a thing of myth himself into the red and white wood, this time without the comforting weight of the staff in his hands.



When again he removed his hood it was once he stood at the tree line of their small and routinely visited clearing in the wood. The shiny white-silver of his hair must have been immediately apparent because at once she acknowledged his presence, rising. He strode to her with the confidence of a hopeless man, most ardently and rather irreparably tied to a singular purpose. There was, without doubt, a desperation in the course of action he had so chosen to take, as though he were a child further delaying his wake time so that he might play in the world of fantasy for a few more minutes. Certainly there were causes grander than just Griff, or even his ever-patiently waiting Kirith, or whatever complicated knotted net of feelings lay scattered between them, but those causes could wait just a little while longer. In fact, so long as the say was Griff's to have, the whole damn world could wait for Kirith. Quite appropriately, they would indeed have to.

"I've taken the dingy from the ship, it isn't much but it'll get us past the Isles and onto the shore beyond. We'll have to hide it from there, for the return, though I don't suppose you're going to tell me where we're going…" In his stern and layered way, he was of course telling Kirith exactly what she would assume he was telling her. Coming right out and saying a thing however, had never been in their fashion.

"I think we've got more than enough that we won't have to stop in any of the wildling camps but if we do I've brought some extra wares to trade.." He continued. "The boat's grounded on the North side of the island, since I'm assuming that's the intended direction."

Finally taking a moment to pause, the young Griff turned towards Kirith and took her hand. It was like that night, when he had told her he was leaving, but different still somehow. Whilst one had been an ending, this one felt more like a beginning. Finding his courage he continued saying, "I'm not going to leave without you again." The Targaryen-purple of his eyes found the crashing-steel grey of hers. "I promise. I'm never going anywhere without you, for as long as I live. And if you're going, I'm coming with you."

His thumb ceased to caress the back of her hand and instead slipped across her wrist to interlock with her own, following the rest of his fingers. Tugging her along, he nearly allowed himself to smile as for the final time he would indulge Kirith another one of her adventures. Once more he would follow her into peril, though this time their enemies would not be cross guardians and skipped suppers. This time the danger would be much more real, their childish games retired for the problems and confrontations of adults. Yet surely, there was nothing within the world that could keep the young Griff -- or rather, Aegon -- from his wildling Spearwife; not even raiders or giants, not even the dead themselves.

"This way," he encouraged, and they were off.

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The night grew deeper and stiller about her, but Kirith faithfully kept her vigil, moving not an inch from the old log that had served her well for many years. The heart trees seemed to sway and crane their branches, their eyes knowing as the wind rustled the vibrant leaves so reminiscent of the girl they watched. There was no fear in the woods--only peace.

Hugging her knees closer to herself against the chill, the young woman sucked in a deep breath before letting her eyes flutter shut. Though it had been several years she had last given in, this time she surrendered to the desire to close her eyes and hope with child-like wonder that she might hear the heart trees speaking. The faint sounds of the camp dwindled out into nothingness in the distance, and for a moment it was only jarring silence that swept over her, barren and cold. With the next breath she took, however, the very air seemed to quiver--and then the songs of the vast weirwoods swelled to life, seeping into her very bones. It was a wordless, formless melody, flowing from the gentle dulcet warmth of a mother’s lullaby to the heights of a wild, perilous battle cry and back again as if it were one and the same, beautiful, fierce, and sonorous. The girl sat transfixed, feeling something within her shudder and stir in response to the ancient tune; breath caught in her throat, eyes squeezed tightly shut, she strained to understand, to comprehend.

Before she could attempt any further, however, Griff appeared at the edge of the clearing, cloaked in shadow. She saw him at once, however, and stood immediately--only to catch the sight of herself rise from behind. As alarm streaked through her mind like an arrow, the song shattered back into the nighttime silence and her vision went dark for a split second before her eyelids fluttered open. She blinked dazedly as her friend approached, running her knuckles briefly over her eyes. When she looked over her shoulder, it was the familiar, weathered face of the heart tree that stared back. She turned back towards the young man, managing to gather herself before she gazed upon his solemn visage. She said nothing in greeting, her steel grey gaze hovering over his face in search of his answer. 

"I've taken the dingy from the ship, it isn't much but it'll get us past the Isles and onto the shore beyond. We'll have to hide it from there, for the return, though I don't suppose you're going to tell me where we're going…" he told her, sounding more duty-bound than secretive or conspiring. Of course, he did not bother to put into words what was plain to see. He had chosen to come with her.

Ignoring the burst of relief in her chest, Kirith gave him an impish grin. “Not knowing is half the fun, Griff,” she replied with her characteristic gusto for mischief. Such had been her flippant rationale for the many misadventures she had dragged him into as children, and here she wielded it once more, though this time it was not simple childish glee glittering in her grey eyes, but a sharpness of a much higher calling.

“Well, I’m all packed and ready,” She shouldered her bundles then reached for her spear. “Shall we leave, then?” Instead of the stiff nod she expected, it was his hand that curled about hers. She looked up at him quizzically as he seemed to search for the right things to say.

"I'm not going to leave without you again." He spoke finally, his eyes locked with hers. "I promise. I'm never going anywhere without you, for as long as I live. And if you're going, I'm coming with you." As each little word fell on her battered heart, they sunk in and soothed the hurt inflicted by the words he had spoken several nights prior--the night that had been so full of despair. Now, it was hope that they brought her.

Unable to meet his gaze any longer for fear he’d see them redden, she glanced away and down to the ground. “Don’t be silly, Griff,” she shook her head dismissively, trying to disguise the tremble in her voice. “Like I’d let you escape me yet,” Kirith snorted out with a forced laugh. And yet she almost had. She had almost resigned herself completely to letting something tear them apart--a concept that had always been unthinkable to her. Clinging tightly to his hand, she silently swore to herself she would never make such a stupid mistake again. She had to swallow the lump in her throat before she could speak again, and when she did, her words were a low murmur. “I’ll hold you to that promise.”

Griff tugged her forward and she readily followed, hand in hand. His grip was very warm, just as it always was, and it seemed to warm her entire body even as they walked into the cold dark. All she’d ever feared was losing him forever to the mysterious wonders of the world outside of Skagos, of him drifting further and further from her reach. The heat of his hand flowed through her body like a fire, incinerating the doubts and the fear that had haunted her from youth, and now she was truly fearless, a creature of flame and ether.

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


A fair trek through the coastline later, Kirith was able to make out the outline of the boat perched on the rocks. “At last,” she breathed as they made their way to it. She dropped her belongings into the dinghy, then finally released the hand she had been holding all along. Planting her hands onto the side of the boat instead, she helped her friend push it back into the sea before tumbling into the small vessel. Righting herself, she took the oar that was offered to her. Thrusting it into the cold water below, she paid careful attention to his instructions while they paddled out of the shallows. She was a novice in the ways of sailing, especially compared to Griff, but she was no stranger to hard work and she liked to fancy herself a quick study.

As they pulled farther out into the sea, the redhead turned to watch the island of Skagos grow smaller. Skagos, the only home she had ever known. She didn’t remember the handful of seasons she had spent beyond the Wall, and the island had both served as haven and prison to the girl who dreamt of adventure. Her mind briefly flitted to Neyah, then to her bitter aunt. She was wrong, Kirith was sure of it.

In the pale moonlight, she thought she saw the shadow of the old raven circling over the island. In the next instant he was gone, but she could hear his voice from her dreams echoing in her head. She turned back around, her eyes flicking up to meet Griff’s and the stretch of ocean ahead of them. There was no trepidation in her gaze, no anxiety springing from leaving behind all she had known. As much as she was abandoning, she knew he had sacrificed much more--there was no need for him to give voice to what he had given up. She did not ask him what his father and his companions had said, because she knew that he had not told them. If he had, Old Griff would have set sail straight for the South this very night, there was not a doubt about it. The older man had always seemed hell-bent on keeping them apart. In the end, however, just as she’d always been able to do in their childhood, the girl with the fiery locks and the wicked grin had once again managed to steal him away from his keepers.


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When his eyes opened, he wasn’t in the boat as he had been in before they had closed. He was underwater, the surrounding space dark and murky. Holding his breath, violet hues roamed the unfamiliar waters, though he didn’t panic -- after all, he had been here many times before. It was always the same dream, the same rolling current. First it was still and then it would roar and it would rush and no matter how many times the young Griff died in this watery grave it would still feel as new territory. Never was he sure at what point the hammer would fall, never was he sure what would come out of those mysterious waters, never did he know or remember where he was or why he was there to begin with.

“Aegon? My Aegon…” The nectar-sweet voice spoke from the surface, weakened and soft. Turning his face upward towards it, round eyes watched as the top of the waves erupted impossibly into a fit of red flames. What had previously been only the small light source of a pointed beam from a distant moon broke apart and illuminated the world in an eery and devilish glow. It was then that the young Griff became aware of the many bodies floating in the murky water around him. The black water had been made dark by their blood, licking up from their bodies like slow motion tendrils of a sea-fire all it’s own beneath the surface.

Engulfed so entirely by flame, the other presence made itself known to him, swimming and circling around him as his lungs began to lose their strength. It was accompanied by other predators, their teeth sharp and their cold hearts soulless; monsters of the depths. They were not here for him, only his spoils. One by one the bodies were snatched from the waters around him, dragged into the deepest reaches by unseen, fleeting nightmares. Then again, the same voice saying, “Aegon, my Prince…”

Looking to the surface and finally kicking his feet under him, the young Griff pushed for a pure death of fire rather than a quick one, choosing to follow the voice. As his arms pulled him toward the hellfire raging above him, the presence chased him, as though tied to him by a hook he never lay, pulled by a line he never set. While his lungs gave out, his flesh cracked like scales, like Jon’s greyscale, or maybe like egg-shell. Pieces of his flesh peeled off from him beneath the water as they should have above, ripping and falling away from him. Finally reaching the surface, his throat scorched with fire and his lungs filled up with nothing but heat and flame. Crumbling onto himself, he succumbed as he always did to the soul-bound creature that latched onto his back.

Lurching forward, the silver-haired young man caught the edge of the humble vessel as it wobbled beneath his weight. At its prow, Kirith sat vigil with her gaze on the approaching coastline. They would need to continue up a ways before reaching the Antler River. It was along it’s banks they were most likely to find a decent hiding place for the skiff. Now of course, having been jostled around to alert her to Griff’s rise, she was looking back at him. Steadying himself and twisting the sore spot out of his neck, he purposefully avoided Kirith’s eyes as he scooted himself along the belly of the boat where he had been sleeping. It wasn’t until he was seated at its stern that he met her grey stare, but only after his own purple one fell first upon the untouched map he had left out for her.

“I see you haven’t bothered to consult the map.” He pointed out with a tight-lipped tone. “How about the trees, have they said anything lately?” The last he added as a jab born from frustration, though certainly fueled by personal unease.

“Just promise me you’ll at least look at it once we reach shore?” He offered, a stubborn truce yet as close to one as their competition ever let them come. Busying himself with the blankets he had been sleeping on, he managed to avoid the look on Kirith’s face though as her friend he was keenly attuned to her. Thus he could feel her stare on him even without seeing it with his own. Wrapping the blankets and replacing them in his pack, he spoke idly in an attempt to avoid what she was likely to ask him -- that being, the dream that had woken him with such a start.

“Once we’ve rounded the peninsula, we’ll float along Antler River for a few stretches. From there we should be able to get our bearings and figure out a heading,” he paused then, meeting her eyes. “Though I get the feeling you’re going to tell me it’s North.” This wasn’t the first time he had attempted to obtain directions from Kirith since their departure, and likely it wouldn’t be the last. It was difficult to let someone else steer the wheel of his ship and captain their immediate future and potentially their imminent end, even if that person was the one individual he would trust to do just that. “We should try to stay out of the wildling camps as much as possible. They’ll trade but they’ll have too many questions. I doubt we’ll be followed by if we are, we don’t want them finding a lead.”

Pausing then, Griff took a moment to hang his head and feel a rolling instant of grief for the pain he was putting his father through. Finishing the fasten on the pack, readying them for their course, he swallowed back his regret and pushed his hair out of his eyes. Without letting his view find Kirith’s he admitted quietly, “he’ll never forgive me for this.” Landing on the peaceful waters they floated on, Griff’s hands followed his eyes and rested atop the surface of its sway. Taking a deep breath to fill his lungs with the salt of the air, he pulled his hand back from the sea and turned to his companion.

“The current is with us, we should be there before the sun rises.” He explained. Truthfully they could have arrived much sooner, even be there now, but Griff preferred to sleep adrift. The sea had always been the young Griff’s favoured cradle.


“Two days, Rolly? Two days you’ve had this?!” Lord Connington raged. He stood before the ginger-haired Knight that his son loved and trusted so dearly. It was difficult not to remark on that fact that it was perhaps the fact that a letter from their liege had been bequeathed upon Ser Rolly Duckfield and not the Hand of the one-day-King, that truly enraged him.

“Jon, calm yourself.” Lady Lemore insisted from Rolly’s side.

“Have you read it as well then?” He demanded, shaking the crumpled parchment in front of her. His other arm, worsening in the recent days due to the stress of their missing charge, rested against his chest in a sling.

“Yes, Jon.” She answered patiently.

He looked to Haldon who only looked down to the deck of the Shy Maid at their feet. Breathing hard out of his nose, quaking with a useless frustration he noted obviously, “so I’m the last to know.” The sun was setting on the day. Naturally, they had discussed with each other about what time was the correct one to present Jon with the evidence of Aegon’s departure. The worsening state of his health had likely been a factor, for he had been stricken with a fever since his son’s absence. Giving him this letter, the only evidence of the direction of his flee, at night prevented him from taking immediate action to follow the boy.

“We should go after him.” He said, feeling as though he were pointing out the obvious to a group of non-believers.

“Did you even read it, Jon?” Lady Lemore pleaded, keeping her tone stern. It was an exercise she had become well practiced in, teaching the willful young Aegon had been no easy challenge. “It’s not what he wants.”

“He doesn’t know what he wants…” Jon insisted stubbornly.

“I think he does, Captain.” Rolly, who had been mostly quiet up until now, interjected. “Yer’ boy’s a grown lad now, see. You did well. He’s a good man. He’ll be a good King. Y’did yer’ job right, sir. But we’ve got t’start takin’ his orders at some time. Why not now?” He offered in a patient tone, a logical and simple point spoken in a vernacular that would imply illiteracy. Wise words coming from a silly man. Looking to the others in their party he could see he was the odd man out, Lemore and Haldon clearly agreeing with the Duck Knight. That would make Jon the silly man then, wouldn’t it?

“What would you suggest?” He asked through gritted teeth.

“I know of a Maester in Dragonstone who treated a young Lady of the scale in her infancy.” Haldon offered, stepping forward to touch fidgety fingers upon Jon’s expertly bound arm. “It began on her face, but was halted before taking her completely.”

“Truly?” He asked.

“I hear she’s quite the well-read little girl, as well. Very bright indeed. Niece to the Usurper, the father was that Storm Lord who devastated the naval fleets during the rebellion.” His eyes looked over his shoulder to Rolly, a proud twinkle in his eye. Surely the uncomplicated man was unaware that the flower of leadership was blossoming in his chest in tandem with that of their liege’s. Close in both age and spirit, it was no wonder that Aegon favoured Ser Duckfield. “We could travel to Dragonstone, you and I. Lady Lemore and Duck could handle things here in Skagos. We’d be back before the week was out, in time to wait for his Grace at Storrold’s.”

“I couldn’t just abandon him, what if --” Jon began.

“What if ye’ die?” Rolly interrupted. “Read the letter again, Jon. We’ll decide thing’s in the mornin’, yeah?” The question was rhetorical but the Knight still waited for a nod from each of his companions before moving to the ladder of the ship, accompanied by Lady Lemore. The two would have much to do before the night had completely fallen, their hearts just as tied to the Isle of Skagos as Aegon’s.

“I’ll change your bandages at sunrise, Jon. Try to get some sleep.” Haldon encouraged with a gentle pat on his friend’s back, before retiring himself to his cabin aboard the Shy Maid. Left to his own devices upon her deck, Jon uncrumpled the letter that his son had left his Knight before running away into the darkness. Seating himself atop a collection of barrels, angling the parchment to the moonlight, he read the words his son had left for him.

I have left this night with Kirith. I will not try to explain to you why, or where we are going because in truth, I do not know. I could tell you that we are moving North, but I would ask you not to follow. There is something waiting for us there, a call that we both must answer together. Whatever you might think of Kirith, I have made up my own mind about her. I love her, and I will follow her just as she will follow me. Do not think I have abandoned our cause, do not think I have surrendered my birth-right. The Seven Kingdoms will be waiting for me when I return, and so will you. If I am to be King, then I must decide things for myself and if you are to be my council then you must heed my command. When I return from the North, we will take Westeros and I will be ready. If you do not have faith in Kirith, then at least have faith in me.

Duck, I trust you to deliver this letter unto the others when the time is right. In a month’s time, wait for us off the coast of Storrold’s Point. We will meet you in Hardhome. Kirith will be coming with us to Westeros, and I will not hear a word against it. Father, use this time to rest, I will need you.

Love, Aegon.


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Offline asterin

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Her own peaceful vigil was broken when the boat gave a sudden jerk, and she whipped around to see that it had been Griff, roused violently from his slumber. He immediately avoided her eyes, and she glanced away to the water again. “I see you haven’t bothered to consult the map,” he commented tersely. She shrugged, keeping her eyes forward. “How about the trees, have they said anything lately?” She shrugged again. “Just promise me you’ll at least look at it once we reach shore?” he attempted once more.

The red-haired girl turned, gazing at her old friend. There was tension in his body, unease in his eyes. Was that all because she refused to look at some map? She thought of repeating what she had said when he had first laid out the map for her--that it made no sense to her anyhow, and that she didn’t need it--but she could see it would just upset him. “I’ll take a look at it when we reach shore,” she agreed obediently, her voice soft in contrast to her intent, searching gaze.

He was trying to fill the silence with a stream of words, without a doubt trying to stave off her inquisitive nature for a little longer. There was no need to figure out a heading. She knew where they were headed, after all. She had seen it from the talons of the raven, and even as she steered the boat she knew that they had not strayed from their course. “It is North,” she supplied patiently, even as a small furrow formed between her brows. His dogged attempts to pry out answers from her were beginning to annoy her--partly because it felt as if he was doubting her, and partly because she could not give him a straightforward answer even if she wanted to. As much as they both had grown accustomed to leaving things unsaid as they had grown older, Kirith was no cryptic soothsayer, she found no particular joy in spinning riddles. She just knew--but she also knew that would not satisfy Griff.

“We should try to stay out of the wildling camps as much as possible. They’ll trade but they’ll have too many questions. I doubt we’ll be followed by if we are, we don’t want them finding a lead.” he rattled on.

“Alright, we’ll steer clear of them,” she agreed once more, trying to calm his worries. “We’ll be fine, Griff.” He fell silent for a moment, fumbling with his clothes, and she knew it wasn’t just about the map. 

“He’ll never forgive me for this,” he muttered, his quiet words muffled by the sound of the water against the boat. The regret in his voice twisted her heart, for it was she who had roped him into this. She opened her mouth to assure him that he and Old Griff were family, and that his father would forgive him, but the words failed her and she resigned herself to silence. After all, her mother and her aunt were family, but it seemed that her aunt bitterly resented her sister for her wayward ways.

Her lips sealed shut again, pressing together tightly. It was better that she said nothing at all. She turned back to the expanse of water ahead, easing the boat along, and the rhythmic sound of the waves soon blanketed the silence between them.

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

With a quick groan, Kirith stretched her limbs as she settled down onto a rock. Not much longer than two hours ago they had reached the shore, and as tendrils of pink overtook the sky they had dragged the boat onto the shore and managed to find a decent place to hide it. After another hour of walking, they had finally found a suitable place to take a break and eat. Griff had insisted she had a look at the map while he started the fire, and though Kirith would have much preferred building the fire to studying the map, she figured that there was no harm in appearing as if she was studying the map. It was a small price to pay to put him more at ease.

Spreading the map open on her lap, she squinted her eyes at the dizzying depiction of the Northern part of Westeros. Even in the bright light of the morning sun, she found it difficult to even find where they might be. She struggled for a moment, eyes roving about wildly until she spotted the island she had grown up in. Tracing her finger across the expanse of the sea, she tapped at the river Griff had mentioned--Antler River. So it would be safe to assume they were right about there….

However, what use was what to her? She scanned the map again, looking for any notes that included landmarks. The cave, the cave the raven had taken her to… But there was no sign of a cave sketched into the parchment. She could see the bird’s eye view of the course so clearly in her mind, but all the map was to her was flat and meaningless, without a trace of the landscape she had seen in her dream. She frowned, sneaking a glance at her friend to see if he watching. Luckily, he had just gotten a spark to take to the wood and was expertly fanning the flame to life. Within a few minutes it was a good sizable flame, and Kirith happily stretched her legs towards the fire, letting it warm her feet. The thought of a decent, hot meal was a welcome one as she turned her gaze back down to the map, trying to keep up with the charade. She could only hope Griff would not interrogate her afterward, for she had no more answers to give him than the night prior.

“Say,” she started casually, still keeping her eyes wandering over the map she held in front of her. “I was surprised by how well you slept on the boat. It must be all those years sailing, huh.” It was her best attempt at being discreet, but as most things went with old friends, she knew the disguise would fall thin very soon. After all, as easily as Griff had fallen asleep, rocked by the gentle sea, she had certainly not missed his abrupt awakening--and surely he did not think her so dense to think she had.

Peeking over the map’s edge, she snuck glances at his face across the flames. She could only hope he’d take the bait and explain what was going on without her having to pry. Kirith had always had the creeping feeling that he knew more of her secrets than she did his--perhaps because she had less to hide to begin with, or perhaps because she was a bit more willing to begrudgingly admit things. Whatever it was, there were times she thought it lonesome.

Worrying her lip, she sat through the silence, watching him preparing their simple meal. She wished there was a way to crack the dam of unspoken words between them, all the while knowing that the answer was quite simple yet still pretending it was unknown. After all, once that dam was broken, who wasn’t to say that it would not be a disaster? That the ensuing deluge would rush over them and leave nothing behind? What was said could not be unsaid. If she were to demand all his secrets, it would only be fair for her to surrender all her secrets as well. What would those words be, and what would they mean? What would it do to them? Losing him had never been an option, and so the dam remained.

Her eyes fell dejectedly towards the dancing flames, one hand leaving the map to absently fiddle with the chain about her neck. It was all so stupid, so juvenile, she thought to herself bitterly. Even the old raven would have mocked her if it had heard her just now. Then her self-deprecation abruptly turned to surprise as something flickered in the corner of her eye. Alarmed, she shifted her gaze, only to find nothing but the fire. She could have sworn she had seen something black, something moving--she blinked again, staring once more as the fire blurred in front of her. It twisted, it turned, and then she could see it, the image of the raven. It sat perched amongst the branches of the heart tree of Skagos’ weirwood, looking back at her with its knowing, wizened bright eyes. It took to flight as the third eye burst open on its forehead, and in the depths of its odd eye she saw the reflection of the snowy terrain. Shrinking back, the young woman squeezed her own eyes shut, rubbing them roughly. When she opened them again, it was just Griff’s face she saw over the flames, the silent question in his lilac eyes.

“How much longer is it going to be? I’m getting lightheaded from hunger,” she remarked cheekily, choosing to avoid telling him the real reason to her sudden dizziness. After all, he had written off her many dreams as simply nightmares--what was he going to say about her suddenly seeing weird and improbable things in the fire? It would most likely make him more ill at ease, and she didn’t need that. Offering him a grin, her hand found the pendant again, toying first with the chain and then the stone. Curling her fingers around the ruby, she was only vaguely surprised when the stone seemed to hum and pulse under her skin.


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“I’ve always slept better on the water.” He answered bluntly, purposefully keeping his eyes on the task his hands were busy with. Making a quick but hearty meal was the bread and butter of a traveller, or rather that of an unwealthy or inconspicuous traveller. Pouring a small portion of drinking water from his leather flask into a pot removed from his sack, he propped the vessel over the fire using nearby sticks.

Sometimes the young Griff wondered at the life he had constructed for himself in his lie. Having done the work of a merchant and tradesman for the sake of the wildlings on Skagos, he knew by experience that one could come by wealth honourably with a bit of cleverness. The idea of a life spent on the sea, traversing goods from one port to the next, sounded quite nice. It was the sort of life that could give one the luxury of a proper wife and children, a simply and easy existence. “Sometimes I think I’m a fish, that I don’t really belong on land.” He elaborated as he considered this false fantasy he had invented. Next to the hardship and suffering that would be conquering an entire Kingdom, a simple life sounded preferable.

Busy handed flittered in and out of his pack. As the water in the pot boiled, Griff added into it handfuls of salted meats, potatoes he cut with a knife from his boot and grains, which swelled and grew savoury as each absorbed the flavour of the others. Additionally, he unwound smaller gatherings of cloth to reveal and then add herbs to the mixture, enriching the scent and ensuring their energy would stay up throughout their trek. Around them, the wind was picking up. For now they had the shelter of the trees on their side, but as the day wore on and the cold grew more fierce the leaves wouldn’t be able to hold back the bite. While he may have made himself busy in an effort to avoid a confrontation with his childhood friend, he did not miss the way Kirith pulled away from the fire and rubbed her eyes. Finally meeting her directly from across the flame with his purple gaze, he let worry and questioning wrinkle his brow. Surely the reaction she had, had been the same one he experienced not long ago in the clearing by the Heart Tree. Surely, the expression he wore on his face now was the same one she had donned then.

“How much longer is it going to be?” She asked. “I’m getting lightheaded from hunger.”

“Nearly ready.” He answered, without changing the fixation of his features, still studying her. Stirring the meal he had made in the small pot, he finally let the amethysts sitting in his face to turn to the necklace she fidgeted with. He remembered the woman who had sold it to him. She had been donning a mask made from several identical brass charms forged in the same shape as the necklace she had offered to him.

“Son of Griff, maybe.” She had answered after he had introduced himself. “But blood of Valyria, blood of Rhoyne.” Only her eyes had been visible through the headpiece that covered her visage, but those eyes had been knowing. “You are fire, and so you must give fire.” She had explained as she had handed him the necklace. At once his eyes had been captured by it’s red, sparkling shimmer -- the same colour as Kirith’s hair.

“What does it do?” He had asked.

“To protect.” She had answered, and Griff hadn’t needed much more convincing.

“Cook gets the first mouthful.” The young man elaborated as he removed the pot from where it dangled over the fire just to set it in front of himself. He spooned the stew into his mouth and chewed satisfyingly as the warmth ventured down his throat and rested in his belly. Smirking over at Kirith he offered her the pot, along with its accompanying spoon. So long as she didn’t grimace at the taste, the meal was a success.

“Do you remember that dream I always had as a boy?” He asked her suddenly as she took a share of the meat and potato stew. “The one where I’m in the water, and it catches fire…” He elaborated, hoping the vague details would trigger her memory. When she had confirmed that they indeed did he offered her a solemn nod and then leaned back against a nearby rock, as he said finally, “that’s what woke me.”

Griff’s eyes hovered on the treeline around them for a time before falling back on Kirith. “I haven’t had that dream in years, but it came back.” He pointed out.

When she had finished taking her own share of the stew, passing it back to Griff, his hand skipped the pot’s handle and seized instead her wrist. Catching her attention with the action and forcing her eyes into his own with a keen focus he pulled her closer to him saying, “we need to trust each other.” Releasing her wrist he took the pot from her and spooned a portion into his mouth nonchalantly.

“If I tell you about my dreams, you have to tell me about yours.” He suggested after swallowing the spoonful. “Agreed?”


The young Griff sat upon the remaining solid edge of a rotten stump by the river. In his hand he held one of many fruits he had foraged during their journey. Thus far they had remained close to Antler River, doing their best to steer clear of the deeper reaches of the Haunted Forest that surrounded them. Time after time, however, a wildling path would present itself and leave Kirith stumped for direction. The rushing waters, as Griff had reminded his companion often, would not continue forever and the question was at what point to determine solid course. Yet, no matter how many times Griff pleaded with Kirith to consult the map or to listen to reason, she was convinced that she was going the right way.

Sometime before they had finished further down the Antler River, not long after abandoning their skiff beneath the fallen foliage of a small inlay, Griff had amassed the dark clay mud of the riverbanks and covered his hair with it. The excuse he had given Kirith for the strange action, was to keep his long-grown locks out of his face. In truth, the mud did indeed serve the purpose of slicking back his silver hair, which made it much easier to gather at the nape of his neck in a leather fasten. In actuality however, Griff had smeared his hair with mud in order to disguise the colour. With the hood of his furs up, covering the longer bits that were still unstained, his complexion looked more dark featured than it truly was.

“We can’t keep doing this, you know.” He called to Kirith from where he was perched. She stood a ways from the riverbank, staring intently down two separately cleared paths in turn. Behind her, he used his knife to carve the fruit out from it’s hard outer shell, hunched over with his elbows resting upon his knees. “If we stop like this every time you see a path, or something familiar, or something that feels like a sign, we’ll never get anywhere.” With a frustrated un-Griff-like arrogance, he rolled his eyes at her turned back and tongued a piece of the soft inner-fruit from the edge of his knife.

The tension between them had only grown worse as the day had worn on. Since Kirith was leading them, it was she who had to make a decision when Griff asked her about direction. Unfortunately for him, he had learned that in pointing out paths or shortcuts to other destinations, Kirith was given excuse to pause and consider. By the time the mud-haired young man had learned to keep his mouth shut, the fire-haired girl at his side had become wise to spotting the clues for herself. This of course, meant that she noticed everything. Every Heart Tree, every animal track, every often-tread mark, every crow that looked like their fat, feathered Skagosi guardian.

“This river doesn’t even run north, by the way,” he continued childishly, as though he were once again a boy trying to prove his point right to his stubborn mate. “It moves primarily west, inland, if you were wondering.” Tossing the shell of the fruit into the running water as he finished the last of it, he rose from where he was perched. Already the sun was beginning to set in the sky, it’s colour suggesting a night even colder than the last. As the days wore on, there was little doubt that winter was on Westeros’ doorsteps.

“We might as well set camp here for the night.” The young Griff conceded with a shrug. Looking about him with a practiced patience he pointed out a space close to the river but shielded from the night-wind by the trees. “Clear a place by that hollow,” he suggested, gesturing to a tree whose trunk had been carved out by an animal that had since taken its leave. “I’ll fetch us some dinner and set camp when I get back.” He started off into the forest and then stopped and looked back over his shoulder at Kirith. “And we’ll check the map again.” He added.

The forest had proved without fruit, unwilling to be beaten however, Griff had set a snare that he would check in the morning. Place to place, people to people, the young man had learned that the one thing that brought individuals together was food. Determined to fill Kirith’s belly with a warm meal in spite of their differences he had used a primitive method of wading into the shallows of the river with a rock. Even if one were to miss, after staying still for long enough to draw the fish close, the target would be stunned for long enough to snatch it up. After gutting their dinner by the water and then carrying it back to the camp, where Kirith had already set a fire, the young Griff left the lean, sliced river-trout on a flat rock by its heat to sear. Setting the camp was an easy task, given the added appendages encasing the large hollow in the base of this gargantuan, dying white tree. Their tent was small but efficient and their shared warmth would see them through the coldest nights. It wasn’t until the camp was set and Kirith had been handed the cooked fish, joined by more potatoes, that Griff elected to pull out the map.

“Just listen,” he started, rushing to interrupt Kirith before she could begin to object. “I had an idea.” He offered patiently, as he spread out the map before her. Without looking up from the map he reached out to take her hand and set her index finger down upon a point on the map. “This is where we are now.” He began. Moving her finger to a different point on the map, left-ways to where it had previously been. “Look at where it is,” he encouraged, gesturing to the parchment, before saying, “now close your eyes.”

“If you were standing there now, the Wall would be behind you in the far distance. Behind us too, but close, would be a wildling farm that we ought avoid. To the west a river, beyond that the Frost Fangs -- sharp and jagged, snow covered mountains. This path would take us right into the middle of the forest.” Pausing, Griff let himself regard her features in the light of the campfire. She looked so stern and focused, it was difficult not to admire her for her self-confidence. It was difficult not to trust her as fiercely as she trusted herself. “Open your eyes.” He encouraged.

Reaching to the map, he moved her finger back to the start. “This is where we are now,” he repeated, though quieter this time, more to keep his own thoughts straight than to patronize her. Moving her finger again he halted her at the place that the north-western path would lead them both if chosen. “Close your eyes,” he instructed again. “If you were standing here, we’d be much farther from the wildling farm. To the west there would be a large hill, called the Fist of the First Men. Along the river beyond it, there are a collection of mountains clustered together that look like a set of steps. They’re called the Giant’s Stairs. Another river runs north, west to the forest and sea. Open your eyes.”

Moving her finger one final time, he placed it at the end of Antler River. Of all the options placed before Kirith at this fork in their journey, this was the one that Griff dreaded she would choose. “At the end of the river,” he began, for Kirith had caught on well enough to the routine of this explanation. “There is only the forest ahead, the sea to the east and the river to the west. West of the river are the Frostfangs and north is Thenn, a place of wildlings who speak the Old Tongue.” Leaning back and replacing his plate of food into his lap he watched as Kirith digested the information given. “Does any of that help?” He asked her. “Does it sound familiar?” He took a bite of his fish and waited for an answer that never came. When he looked to his friend she wasn’t looking at him but instead at the flame of the campfire. It’s orange and yellow glow reflected against her grey eyes like paint to a canvas. She seemed as though she were in a trance. Peering into the fire himself, Griff was unable to see anything other than the familiar flamey tendrils.

“You see something, don’t you?” He tried. “What is it? Kirith, what do you see?” He pressed.


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Sitting by the fire once more, Kirith dug in hungrily into the meal, barely managing not to scald her tongue. Their camp was set, the grounds having been cleared by her in record time, fueled by no small amount of pent up frustration. It was annoying enough to have to ponder directions, but Griff’s increasingly passive aggressive commentary did nothing for her concentration. And all he did was go on and on about the stupid map--the map that did nothing for her anyhow. Nevertheless, she wasn’t petty enough to bring that frustration into meal time, and so she was eating in contented silence.

Or so she had planned, but before he even took a bite of his food, it was the blasted map he pulled out. Her expression soured, sending the piece of parchment a withering glare. “Just listen,” he began, before she could swallow her mouthful and say something to match her expression. “I had an idea.” Chewing begrudgingly, she let him take her hand and place it down on the map. When he told her to close her eyes, however, her wrinkled brow unfurled and she did so willingly, focusing intently on his voice. It was not difficult for the girl to bring to life a world to the sound of his descriptions--after all, she’d done the very same thing for years now, painting scenes of Westeros and Essos in her mind while he recounted his tales. In her mind’s eye the landscape sprung up, the Wall, the flowing river, the jagged mountains, the thick forests, the hill. When his guiding voice stopped, she opened her eyes again for the third time, silently surveying the world in her head, then comparing it to the wide landscape she had been flown over in her dreams.

The large hill--the Fist of the First Men, he’d called it. That seemed to overlap. Her brow furrowed, this time in concentration, not frustration. Before the raven had started that terrifying and sudden descent to the cave--hadn’t she seen something different? Something different from the motley of snow, rock and wood? It had been...a splattering of red. Yes, red--red like blood, her hair, like fire--

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

Her gaze snapped to the flames in front of her, the twisting and turning motion turning into a rhythmic dance. In the heart of the fire she saw a glossy black feather, tumbling down from impossible heights. It fell into the rushing river, and yet it floated gently on its surface, ferried quickly down the stretch of water. Before the river could die out, a strong gust of wind snatched the feather back into the air. Tossed by the fierce wind it soared, twirling dizzyingly, until it was caught by a red hand--no, dozens of red hands. Through gaps of the red fingers she could see in the distance a great mound, dyed red by the glow of the setting sun, and deep below, a black chasm that stared back at her unblinkingly.

The sound of her name tore her away from the terrible abyss--it was Griff who called her now. Immediately bringing a hand to her eyes, she fought the sudden spell of lightheadedness that came over her once more. He was questioning her about what she had seen, and had it not been for the dizziness she would have been stunned he had realized what was happening. After all, he was ever the skeptic, wasn’t he? “A feather,” she muttered, before she drew in a deep breath and collected the images that spun in her head. Red, red little hands--red like the leaves of the weirwood trees.

She reached for the map of her own volition for the first time, and without a moment’s hesitation, pressed her finger down to a blank spot on the vast landscape. “It’s here,” she said firmly. She ran her finger to the Antler river east of it, tracing the waterway the feather had traveled. “We follow the river, and then southwest--towards the Fist of the First Men,” she continued. “There’s a hill on the way, a steep one--it has a giant weirwood tree on the top.” She took his hand, and mirrored his prior actions, guiding his finger to the spot she had pointed to. “There.” Kirith looked up to him, her eyes sure as steel. “That’s where we need to go.”


Night had fallen, and along with it, the cold came rushing in. She curled a little closer to the young man beside her, burrowing into the warmth he exuded. He never seemed to get cold, and with the nights growing more bitter as they forged on, she came to appreciate her friend’s strange heat even more than usual. The past few days had gone quickly, with little conflict--after all, she had not faltered once after having seen their destination in the flames, and Griff was no doubt pleased to have an actual charted spot to head towards. They would reach the cave within a few days if they kept up this pace. She could almost feel that they were getting closer and closer to whatever called them.

Having fended off idle thoughts in favor of determination during the day, it was at night time that her mind chose to wander. “Griff?” she uttered into the darkness. At his answer, she gave voice to the information that had been circling her head for the prior hour. “Y’know how you told me about your mother?” She still had yet to fully confront him about his baffling parentage, but that was not what was plaguing her sleep tonight. “I thought I’d tell you something about mine.” Mothers had never been a popular subject between them even as youngsters, for obvious absence of either mother. Dead mothers were a difficult topic to breach, after all.

“You remember how my grandmother would tell me stories about her,” she continued quietly, “A brave, fierce spearwife, stronger than three warriors and the like--kissed by fire, for no man dared--” she trailed off with a little wry chuckle. Obviously, some man had dared. “She sounded more legend than human to me, but I wanted nothing more than to be like her someday.” Her smile faded slowly.

“Grandmother Aswen told me she’d died in a bloody raid,” she recounted, remembering the old woman’s sharp, grey eyes glimmering in the fire. “That it’d taken a half dozen men to bring her down.” A warrior’s death, she’d said, and little Kirith had believed it. She had told herself that it was alright that she had no mother to hold her, because her mother had been a fearless warrior with a great legacy. “But apparently that’s not the truth. They just didn’t know if she was dead or alive, because she was always running off…” she swallowed, feeling her jaw tighten. “Because she ran off after she had me, and she didn’t come back.” All her life she had comforted herself with a lie. The young woman didn’t know how to feel--hopeful for the chance that the mother she had so idolized could be alive still, or simply bitter at having been left behind. Perhaps it was the same bitterness her aunt harbored within.

“She’s probably dead,” the words were so curt, she surprised herself for a moment. There was a moment of silence, and when she spoke again, her voice was softer, halting. “I just...started to wonder, y’know, if she would’ve come back for me even if we hadn’t fled to Skagos.” Would she have come back in time to hold her hand as she took her first steps, or to show her how to hold a spear? Would she have come back before her daughter had children of her own? “I know, it’s stupid,” she uttered with a quick, faltering laugh before turning and burying her face back in his chest. These ponderings were pointless--these questions would never be answered, and she knew that. And yet, she wondered all the same.