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

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Offline Reigning King

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The young Griff, himself had never known what it was like to have a mother, but he did have at least a father. Perhaps Jon was not his father by blood, but he was yet still his father in each aspect otherwise. He raised him and taught him right from wrong, he provided the young Griff with purpose and lessons that had never failed him. Meanwhile, Kirith’s aunt had offered her nothing more in life than occasionally mild-mannered contempt. To learn then that one’s mother might still be alive, that her absence might have been a choice and not a tragic fate, was sure to stir upset.

Holding her against his chest in their humble tent, the muddy-haired boy let his hand find it’s way to the tangled mass of Kirith’s hair. With delicate, long fingers he unwound her knots, lock by lock, running his fingers through the long strands of red like the teeth of a comb. While the wind whistled against the thick canvas of their tent outside, between them heat blossomed into a comfortable shared climate. As though they hadn’t put the fire out, but instead brought it into their shelter with them, they were lulled to the brink of sleep by their homey warmth. As they lay with their limbs intertwined and their eyes shut to the world of the living and the young Griff’s fingers finally began to still, he at last found the courage to speak on the subject of Kirith’s mother.

“I don’t think she would have left you on purpose.” He said into the darkness, barely even sure if she was still awake. If she was, she gave no indication of it. “I don’t see how anyone could leave you on purpose, Kirith.” He added.

Keeping his eyes shut, he rolled himself against her, curling into her as she curled into him. In a whispered voice he continued saying, “and I don’t think she’d stay away on purpose either, not without a good reason.”

The young Griff, or rather Aegon, often wondered why his own mother didn’t simply steal away in the night with him and his sister. For what reason could she have chosen only one child to survive that night, left alone in the world? Sometimes, Aegon wondered if he shouldn’t have died that night along with his mother and sister; sometimes Aegon wondered if he didn’t wish he had. Though of course, the answer to this question was one that had been staring the boy in the face long before his adoptive father had brought it to his attention and spoken it in plain words.

She did it to give you a fighting chance.

“What parents do is often lost on their children,” the young Griff explained sleepily, quoting his own guardian. “Until they, themselves become parents.”


They travelled further again another day and night. Their disputes were few and far between now they each possessed a clear idea of their direction and heading. Gone with the spats were the dreams, or at least so far as the young Griff could tell. His own nights remained quick and black, void of cryptic imagery or dark terror. If Kirith had been dreaming, she hadn’t made any mention or sign of it. The territories that were usually at least somewhat frequently trafficked looked without tread in years, the usual paths overgrown and snow-covered. As they ventured further into the wood, breaking away from the River, the feeling of heavy unease began lowering itself around them in the fashion of a trap. With both parties on high alert, there was no telling at one point the snare would spring.

“Another one.” Griff noted, stooping down to pluck a forgotten cloth doll from beneath the freshly falling snow.

This camp marked the third they had passed. They were quickly lain camps, likely meant for only a single night of stay, fast moving much like their own they set each eve. In spite of their efficiency however, each one they had stumbled upon appeared abandoned in haste. It was unlikely to be raiders, as they ventured beyond the Wall and rarely attacked their own kind. Similarly, it was just as unlikely for the blame to fall upon the men of the Night’s Watch. Typically, the crafty crows cleared a wildling camp and waited for the spot’s next passerbys. An abandoned camp however, gave clear indication to trouble ahead.

“Something’s different…” Griff remarked as the pair past through the vacant encampment. “This one isn’t like the others,” he observed, looking around to the various tents and rudimentary huts. “Where’s the pots, the furs, their packs…? Their weapons...” He noticed looking about the clearing.

Should danger arrive and a group flee their temporary place of rest, they do so on foot with nothing but their lives to take with them. The Free Folk knew to live off the land, to abandon all worldly possessions if it means keeping your freedom. The Free Folk knew how to live, and living didn’t involve stopping to collect your kettles or butchery knives. Certainly not any jars of spices, or extra clothes. Not either any tools of construction or confrontation. Yet all remained absent from the places they should have been dropped in hasty escape.

“Can’t be thieves,” Griff observed, continuing deeper into the strange, ghostly place. “They left the tents. Without the canvas how could they possibly have carried it all?” Trudging forward further in the snow, still holding the doll in his grip, he came upon the central fire for the camp and was brought to a grinding halt.

“What in Seven Hells?” He muttered under his breath. All the things missing from the abandoned camp had been collected and arranged around a long-since extinguished fire. They streamed out from the ashes in a spiral pattern, moving as the veins of a cyclone. Each piece of the design was arranged neatly and precisely in mathematically spaced lines. It didn’t look like any Free Folk trail marking, nor any sign left by Night’s Watchmen he had ever read about. It looked strange. It looked, somehow, perverse.

“What could have…” Griff was never able to finish his sentence however as a small girl emerged from one of the empty tents. Her eyes were a haunting ice blue, on her lips frozen and aged blood was caked in the fashion of a dying gag. The small body that carried her moved in a grotesque, jerking fashion, it’s hollow gaze falling on the doll in Griff’s hand. Without hesitation he threw it at the tiny creature’s feet and filled his empty hand instead with the sword at his hip. The blue-eyed monster lumbered forward and stooped to pick up the doll, holding it to it’s chest and regarding the pair of living bodies before it with a dull indifference.

“Did your trees tell you anything about this?” Griff asked Kirith.


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Though they were no longer quarrelling, the atmosphere between the two of them couldn’t have been called light-hearted. It was no fault of a misleading dream or even missing or dead mothers, for both topics had been dropped as soon as they had started venturing deeper into the woods.

“Another one,” Griff said, bending and picking up a forgotten doll. She glanced at it, recalling a similar doll her grandmother had made for her when she was still a young girl. She had tried to use scraps of tawny leather to recreate the red of Kirith’s hair, though she had failed to match the vivid hue of it. It had made no big difference in the end, however, for she had always preferred roughhousing with the boys instead of nursing a doll. Nevertheless, she figured that a little girl would be missing it by now. It was just another testament to how abruptly they must have broke camp.

“What were they running from?” she muttered, kicking at the snow. Her eyes swept over the remains of the abandoned camp, trying to imagine what might have taken place. The Free Folk were far from being unable to fend for themselves, a people as hard and fierce as the Northern winters. This being the third camp they’d found abandoned only solidified the sense of foreboding that had been hanging thick in the frigid air. She walked alongside her friend through the clearing, her eyes darting to and fro. The wind rustled through the branches and tugged at the flaps of the empty tents, only adding to the unpleasant feeling.

“Where’s the pots, the furs, their packs? Their weapons…” Griff mused aloud.

“Looters, maybe?” she suggested. It was difficult to come across decent weaponry or supplies in the North, precisely the reason the Free Folk often went on raids. If anyone were to stumble across abandoned goods such as furs or weapons, they wouldn’t go abandoned for long.

“Can’t be thieves,” he objected. “They left the tents. Without the canvas how could they possibly have carried it all?”

“True. Maybe they’d already left behind those other things, then,” she shrugged. As much as the mystery of it bothered her, she wasn’t nearly as curious about it as Griff seemed to be. In fact, the unsettling atmosphere made her want to get away from it as soon as possible. She glanced around to check for some ominous presence for what felt like the umpteenth time as the young man wandered onwards. “Come on, Griff, let’s just lea--”

“What in Seven Hells?” his low voice cut her off. Raising her head, she hurried to his side to see what had taken him by surprise--only to be greeted with a sight that silenced the words in her throat. All the items that had been missing, from crude utensils to well-sharpened arrowheads had been placed down around the fire-pit, radiating outwards in a way that would have taken some painstaking effort to do. No one fleeing in haste in the middle of the night would bother with such a thing. No raider, or thief, or anyone else for the matter, would have a reason to indulge in such a pointless activity. Along with the chill that ran down her spine, something else invaded her senses--a strange, cloying smell, brittle and cold.

“Griff--” she began, her voice high and tight. In that moment one of the tent flaps rustled, revealing a little girl--no, what used to be a little girl. It was clear she was no longer alive, or even human, as a matter of fact. She immediately took a step back into a defensive stance, holding forth her spear. The revenant made no move to attack, only stooping to pick up the cloth doll that Griff had flung towards it. Was this the little girl who had lost her doll? Apparently the doll hadn’t been the only thing lost. She remembered the stories grandmother Aswen had told her, of the Others and the dead they made rise once again as wights, the very reason the Free Folk always burned their dead. Only fire would truly stop them, she had said--and yet, they were carrying no torch.

“Did your trees tell you anything about this?” Griff muttered to her.

Had the situation been any less serious, she would have pulled a face at him, but now wasn’t the time. “No,” she admitted instead. Her dreams had been free of anything that would point to them coming across the dead risen. It was nothing but the usual fare--dreams of running, always running to him--and now was certainly not the time for mentioning that, either. “What should we do?” the young woman hissed, looking from the animated corpse to Griff, then to the other empty tents. “What if there’s more?” While the dead child did not seem to have much interest in them, there was still the possibility that there were others lurking about.
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“What if there’s more?” Kirith asked in a whispered hiss. Of course, it was at that moment that the Son of Griff stiffened to utter stillness at her side. His free hand lifted in a slow and measured fashion to grip her shoulder tightly.

“Don’t turn around.” He whispered, practically feeling the ice of terror filling himself up and spilling all over Kirith, who could always sense his emotions so acutely. Should she have glanced down at him over her shoulder, she would have seen him peering with intensity out of the corner of one eye and whatever horrors were amassing behind them. “On my word, straight ahead, as fast as you can…” He urged her quietly as he tried to steady his heart’s heavy, wet beating.

Behind them, nightmares gathered. The clacking of bones left exposed by the elements rubbing together in tandem with slow, lumbering steps echoed. Dull scraping of weapons dragged through the snow slithered betwixt the trees as figures moved in his peripheral vision. They looked nothing like soldiers and yet they were armed as such. Fleeting glimpses of the familiar garb of Free Folk lost their relevance amidst the rotting, frostbitten flesh. As they grew in numbers, as if falling from the trees like leaves in autumn, their chorus of groans reached Griff and Kirith’s ears. It was that unmistakable noise which emanated from something or someone who was flirting with the boundaries between life and death.

“Now!” He shouted to Kirith, and at once they both lurched forward. The small thing that had once been a wildling girl was jostled to the side with little effort, only a light shove. Their larger problem however, was on their heels. They scraped and clawed, snapping and snarling their ungodly symphony of undead plight. Griff and Kirith had sure-footedness on their side, practiced legs carrying them across the forest floor with ease and putting distance between themselves and their pursuers. Yet their livelihood, the very thing giving them the edge in this confrontation, would be their downfall. Eventually, they would get tired whilst the things that chased them, would not. Instead, Griff and Kirith would have to be clever.

“There, the brook!” The silver-haired boy urged, pointing with a tensed gesture as he vaulted himself over a downed log. When Kirith was gazing his way he gestured again saying, “follow it!” A brook after all was running water, and running water always led somewhere.

The weak stream flowed through the forest in sweeping motions, their diligent following of which brought closer their attackers who ran seemingly blindly in a singular direction. It’s path brought them to the edge of a small but steep hill down which the babbling brook travelled before growing stronger and wider at the base and moving through a cave. The mouth of the cave was small and unstable looking, it’s presence seeming as more of an accident than an intention of the forest. Unsurprisingly, Kirith reached the summit of the hill before Griff, who at once seized her by the neck of her furs and launched her down the muddy slope alongside himself. As they slid he pulled her towards him, and lifted her onto his chest. On his own back, he bore the larger and more sturdy pack and thus was in a better position to receive the blows of the uneven forest floor.

“The cave…” Griff offered breathlessly, gesturing with a battered arm towards the unwelcoming opening. “Into the cave!” He urged her. Though death was upon them and his eyes shone with the fear of confronting his maker, he wore a smirk on his lips. Chasing after Kirith into the cave he plucked a large branch from off the ground and hoisted it onto his shoulder, bringing it along with him. Impossibly, once entering the cave, Griff stopped at its threshold to regard the architecture of its opening. Beyond the rocks, the undead spilled over the lip of the hill’s ridge and tumbled down like dolls dumped from a play-chest. Their target, who seemingly had a death-wish, made himself more easy to locate by striking at the cave’s opening with the branch he wielded at a high point. The noise directed them, like bees to a flower, of their precise location yet as they moved on the pair Griff remained unrelenting in his task. Once, twice, a third time, and again he struck at the rocky cave wall. At the fifth, the largest of the boulders that had fallen down to make the cave’s opening gave way to the pressure and commenced a rock fall.

Abandoning the branch he had been holding and instead turning to flee the falling rocks, he caught Kirith and dragged her along with him as the dead picked up speed and ran for the cave. As the first foot, free of flesh and glistening all white and bone, touched the threshold of the cave the rocks reached its base, crushing them beneath their awesome weight. While the world around them shook, Griff held tight onto Kirith, doing his best to shield himself and her from the smaller outlier rocks that struck their arms and legs. When the final rocks settled in their new place in nature and the snapping and snarling grew more faint beyond their wall, Griff turned his attentions first to the girl in his arms.

“Are you alright?” He asked in the darkness. Beside them, the stream trickled on through the black cave, echoing off it’s distant walls in spite of being choked off by the fallen rocks.

“Haldon used to say, ‘all structures made by man or nature have a weak point. To know it, you must know mathematics’. And to think of all the names I’ve called him over the years…” He mused. “Let’s find out where this cave goes…”

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Faster! Faster! The voice screeched in her mind as she fled the creatures that clawed after them. The raw cold stench filled her nose and her senses with that one blind directive--her wildling blood and bones instinctively fleeing the single thing their hardiness could not withstand--death itself. Only fire will destroy the fiends, her grandmother’s voice rattled in her head. Fire, fire. Kissed by fire, they called her, but her red locks would be no help this time.
 
As she tore through the snowy woods alongside Griff, one hand desperately squirmed through the pack bouncing at her back, trying to find the flint she had used just the night before. The young woman had no idea how they could buy the time to start a blasted fire, but it was clear that if they just went on running they would not last long against the undead. At last her fingers grasped at the roughness of stone, and she jerked back around to confirm what was in her hand. Unfortunately, it was in that moment of distraction that she hit unsteady footing; her limbs lurched outwards to maintain her precarious balance, and the flint went flying into the air. She swore loudly, her grey eyes wildly searching the snow for any sign of the lost stone, but time was not in her favour. “No, no, no!” she hissed, her frantic gaze shooting from the forest floor to the animated nightmares rushing towards her. Cursing under her breath, Kirith abandoned her hopeless search and broke into a sprint after her friend.
 
“There, the brook!” he shouted towards her, gesturing towards the trickle of water. She looked from the brook then back to him, confusion taking over her wild-eyed features. Fire being the only thing on her mind, whatever he meant to do with the brook was lost to her. “Follow it!” At his explanation she immediately obeyed--that, she could do.

Their race of terror took them down along the brook and up to the edge of a steep slope. She turned to Griff as he caught up, and fighting her heavy breaths, she asked: “What do w--” The question, however, was turned abruptly into a shrill shriek as Griff seized her by the furs and yanked her down the steep hill. Their landing was a rough one, but there was no time to lick wounds, as the wights had yet to abandon the chase. “They’re still after us,” she cried as they stumbled up.
 
“The cave…” Griff gasped, pointing at the foreboding entrance ahead. “Into the cave!”
 
“What if it’s a dead-end?” she countered breathlessly, but when Kirith looked back at him she could see a certain little look in his gem-like eyes. She knew that look, she knew it well--and with that, she dashed into the cave without another moment of hesitation. Griff clearly had something up his sleeve, and she could trust that in full. As she scrambled into the mouth of the cave, she swept out her spear, grimly standing at the ready lest Griff need her protection while he set about putting his machinations in order. When she realized his gambit, however, she scurried over and began to strike at the spot he was hacking at with the butt of her weapon, all while the dead came closer and closer. Finally, the large boulder gave, setting off a rumbling shower of rocks that threatened to bury them along with their pursuers, the earth-shattering sound drowning out her yelp. In the chaos Griff rushed her away, curling himself around her as the entire cave seemed to come down around them. She clung to him tightly, squeezing her eyes shut despite the darkness that had already descended open them with the crumbling stone.
 
After what seemed to be an eternity of holding her breath, there was stillness, silence. “Are you alright?” His voice broke the spell and the world jerked back into motion. Sucking in gulps of cold air, she let her head fall back against her friend for a moment.
 
“Are you?” she managed to ask as she unfurled and peered at him in the gloom, looking for an injury. Luckily, it seemed no real harm had come to either of them other than bruises, scrapes, and sore muscles. A weak chuckle escaped her as she rolled off of Griff and offered him a hand to pull him up. “If Haldon will let me, I’ll sit in for a lesson of mathematics next time,” she remarked. Out of all the lessons Griff had received from his keepers, mathematics had been the only one that had failed to capture her fascination in any way. It seemed there were some useful applications for such things after all.
 
“Let’s find out where this cave goes,” Griff breathed, and Kirith nodded readily in response. Neither of them had any intention of sitting there and wasting away. Her eyes had yet to fully adjust to the dark, but she could feel a slight stir in the air at her fingertips. She spread them apart, still and poised in order to gauge the flow of the movements. The source was gladly not the crumpled entrance they had destroyed, but in the opposite direction--further into the cave. Along with the little stream of water that persisted beside them, it was a very good indicator that there would be another way out. With that hope burning bright before them, the two friends stepped deeper into the gloom, shoulder to shoulder.

 
*********************

They had wandered through the caves for what felt like hours now--there was no source of light from the skies above, no sunlight, moonlight, or even starlight, and it was near impossible to truly gauge the passage of time. The labyrinth they stumbled through seemed unending, but wherever they turned, they were surrounded by the gnarled roots of the weirwood trees, bone white and twisted.
 
The passages seemed to slant at a downward angle, and still the stream flowed by, sometimes near, sometimes far away, and a small part of her was beginning to fear that they were only travelling deeper underground instead towards the surface. Unfortunately, Kirith knew that they had no choice but to proceed, to seek out what was waiting for them on the other side. Already they had travelled deep into the cave, and even if they were to return to their starting point, there was little chance that they would be able to set aside the boulders that had sealed the entrance. Besides, they both knew that there was only the dead lurking there.
 
“Griff…” she started, her steps slowing and her fingers catching at his sleeve. A slow crawl of dread wrapped about her throat, setting her voice to a small whisper. “What’s that?” she queried, her voice bouncing along the walls and repeating her smothered words. It had been disturbing enough to see the piles of bones that littered the passageways, but what greeted them now was something that could not have come about by accident or by the means of some predatory animal. The wall they faced was riddled with hewn out sections reminiscent of shelves--and placed carefully within each space lay pale skulls of a multitude of creatures. What--or who, exactly, had created such a thing? Was it from a time long past? Or was its creator...still there, hiding in the twisting tunnels?
 
Uneasy, she brandished her weapon and glanced about warily. Was her mind playing tricks on her? Tricks or not, she the distinct feeling of being watched by many, many pairs of eyes made the nape of her neck prickle. There were only the echoes of the stream and the dripping of water in the silence, and no glowing pupils peered at them from the darkness. Still, she could not shake that ominous feeling. Moving closer to each other, the pair continued onwards, albeit at a much slower, careful pace.
 
They had walked not a hundred yards from the macabre display when the flame-haired girl stopped short, called to keen attention. “Did you hear that?” she demanded, a peculiar look on her face. Though Griff’s reaction told her that he hadn’t, she stood statue-still with her head craned to the side, straining to hear. “There, again.” A rustle of wings, a distant croak. Far away as they should have been, they rang loud in her ears, even louder than her own leaping pulse.
 
Kirith’s stride, which had been nothing but hesitant and cautious, suddenly took on a rapid cadence as she rushed forward into the darkness. At her friend’s alarmed calls she turned back, only to grasp his hand tightly and pull him along with her. “Come on, he’s waiting for us,” the girl echoed, her steely eyes aglow with the same ecstatic light of absolute certainty they had held when she had woken from that dream. She offered no other explanation as she tugged him forward, sprinting through the tangled maze of roots and dirt as if the wights were chasing them once more. She made no pause at divergent paths, took no time to regard their surroundings--she charged straight ahead, her feet leading her as expertly as they would through their familiar haven. She could hear it still, growing nearer, and nearer--they were almost there, they were--
 
Inhaling sharply, Kirith ground to a dead halt at the end of a tunnel. Nary a second later, Griff crashed into her back, but the girl seemed numb to the force, wholly fixated on the vast expanse that spread out ahead of them. It almost resembled a grand hall, though the wildling lass had never seen one before. The weirwood roots that had been woven throughout the entire cave system seemed to have its heart there, all seeming to culminate up into this place, and at the very center of the hallowed stage was a single pale, ghostly figure.
 
The figure appeared no more than a corpse, so pale and skeletal it was--but Kirith knew instantly that not only was it a live being, but that it something greater than a mere mortal. It was this creature’s presence that seemed to fill up the entire void, terrifying and ancient. It knew they were there, and they were transparent before it. Even from the distance, she could see a single red eye glowing from a waterfall of white hair, and she knew it to be the one in her dream--she knew it had watched them from the very beginning.
 
Looking like someone caught between the throes of dreams, the girl finally took one halting step over the theshold, still clinging to Griff’s hand as if he was her only anchor to reality. With each step, more and more of the being’s features were revealed to her. The weirwood throne he sat on--for surely, that was what those white roots formed--was part of him, and he, part of it, or more correctly, part of the weirwood trees. Roots grew through and around him, and even an empty eye socket had been made haven for a single, thin tendril. An otherworldly, bizarre sight it was, and yet Kirith felt no fear.
 
“It’s you.” Her hushed words still rang out in the expanse, carrying them to the one who was clearly no longer a mere man, but took on many shapes.
 
“Aye, little one.” The voice was slow, like the creaking groan of aged wood. Though it was a far cry from the quick, harsh voice of the raven in her dreams, they shared the same piercing iron tone. His unblinking, red eye gazed steadily down at the boy and girl--he saw, he knew. He had always known. “The Sword and the Seer. Blood and Kin. You stand in front of me at last.”
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Kirith’s hand slipped from his as she took a stride forward, towards the creature that sat twisted and skewered by it’s Gods before them. When she found herself halted in place however, she turned to look over her shoulder and bear witness to a sight she had seen many times before. She had always been fearless, and curiously unafraid even as a little girl. There were times when the young Griff was convinced she was braver than he could ever hope to be. Whether it was the time she strayed too close to the cliff’s edge while hunting an owl, or the time she’d nearly dived headfirst into a shallow and stone-filled pond, or long before that, when she had been too small to pick the sort of fights she had become known for picking; always he was there, as he was now, with his hand curled around the leather belt she wore at her waist, holding her back from danger. Kirith did not know fear like Griff knew fear. For her, terror was a thrill or a challenge to her already mighty spirit. For the young Griff, for Aegon, fear was a far more treacherous monster.

”It’s you,” she had said, as if that had provided explanation for all his questions leading up to and until this point.

“So this is what we’ve come for?” He asked. There was an edge to his tone, a snarl born from a cautious and calculating mind. “I don’t like it.” He said at once, his eyes not on Kirith but surveying the terrain about them, in this underground catacomb.

A locale such as this was an excellent spot for an ambush, or a potential trap. Numbers wouldn’t count for much in such an enclosed space but there was no way of knowing how to escape the cave now, especially after racing through, dragged along by Kirith with heedless eagerness. There was no way of even knowing how deeply the cavernous system continued. Places such as the one they were in, were the sort of places that things which hunted at night and slept through the day called home in all texts the young Griff had read. Somehow, it seemed, Kirith had forgotten the bones they had seen scattered about the cave floor and decorating the walls. Griff had not forgotten. Griff never forgot anything.

“Blood and kin?” The young Griff repeated, still holding fast onto the belt at his friend’s waist. He had made it clear, by the way he had tugged her back, that the clever young man had no intention of letting Kirith take another step towards this creature until he had more information. “Who are you?”

“I have had many names…” It spoke with the voice of an old man, yet it’s ring echoed with the life of a young one. “You might know some of them.” It mused.

Though I imagine, this one might be most familiar to you… The words echoed inside his head like they did that night on the docks of Skagos. They bounced back and forth against the inside of his skull like they did in his dreams, in his nightmares. They filled him up and left him shaking from their weight like they always did, all his life.

He pulled her first, backwards but towards him, before releasing her only to give her a shove on the chest, sending her stumbling towards the threshold to the root-adorned chamber. The young Griff’s hand next went to the blade sheathed at his hip. Letting his pack roll off his shoulders he started towards the creature, his sword raised on high and his other arm braced to take any counterattack that may come his way. The roots beneath his feet were uneven and seemingly writhing in objection, but he maintained his sure footedness as he climbed their path to his target. Behind him, Kirith’s shouted plea faded willfully from his mind. If these were her Gods and this was their magic, than he wanted no part in it.

My father had your name… Aegon. He was not so worthy of it as you will be. That’s right, his name was not Griff, but Aegon; the only thing he ever forgot. His hands, both on the hilt of a sword preparing to swing, stilled.

“Who are you?” He asked again.

“You know who I am.” The old, withering thing answered back. Close enough to him now to gaze directly into his gleaming, red eye, it was easier to imagine how this poor, condemned soul had once been a man. Turning his head to look beyond the boy in front of him, silver hair swung about his ancient and serene visage.

Caw!

Turning, the young Griff watched the wonder fill up Kirith’s round eyes as she looked to the large, fat raven who flew above her. It glided along the delicate breeze that carried them along the same current into the belly of the cave. Flapping it’s black, wide-reaching wings it came to settle upon the edge of the blade that the young Griff never swung. Once more it cawed at the young man, exhausted and covered in mud, peering at him from it’s one blind eye. With his own otherworldly gaze he looked from the plump bird to Kirith, and back again to the being before him.

“All this time, it was you?” He asked.

“All your lives, it was me.”

“Why?”

“Because winter is coming.”

Kirith said something, stepping forward but as the young Griff turned to face her, raising a halting hand to caution against her approach, it was already too late. “Kirith, wait…” He began, as the raven at the end of his sword took flight. As she stooped to grasp a branch of the twisted roots, bracing herself to climb the steps of the throne made by her Gods, her eyes rolled back and she crumpled onto herself.

“Kirith!” He shouted, rushing to her side only to find her body limp, one hand curled with a white-knuckle grip about the root of the weirwood tree. “Damn it! Raven, what is this?” The young Griff shouted. “What is th--” But he never got the chance to finish, because suddenly the world around him fell away.



It was him. Aegon the Conqueror. Aegon of Old Valyria. He who fled the Doom that consumed his homeland, to unite the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and establish the greatest dynasty the known world had ever seen. At the prow of his ship, he watched the oncoming shoreline of the land he had taken for himself and his family. Overhead, his sisters flew upon the backs of their dragons, his own miles ahead. The sea had always been his favoured method of travel. When he mounted onto Balerion the Black Dread he wanted the monster to know it meant death and destruction for whosoever he should command it upon. Leaning his weight onto the sturdy wood of the ships that had taken his people from their home, to Dragonstone, now to their new home in this new world, he wondered at himself. Was he truly Aegon Targaryen, or was he someone else, someone whose name he had forgotten?

“Aegon,” he muttered to himself. “My name is Aegon.”

As the shoreline drew closer, the winds began picking up. There was a cold chill hovering over the land, concentrated deeper into the territory. It did not take long for it to become clear that what had at first glance looked to be a distant and broken skyline, was in fact a collection of individuals. Singular figures stood side by side in a cluster at the shore that stretched as far as the eye could see in any direction. From them a strange blue glow emanated. The nearer their ships drew the clearer they could spot that in fact, the eerie glow came from these beings’ eyes. Each one stood still as the grave with matching blue gazes which, though lifeless, reflected with a resplendent, and unnatural light. They were corpses, each and every one of them, and all of them were looking straight at Aegon.

“Your orders, your Grace?” Came a voice from his first-mate beside him.

“Forward.” He answered at once.

“Forward!” The first-mate called, as the main sail was hoisted into the lofts.

He was not his other self here. Here, he was Aegon Targaryen, who feared nothing save the wrath of his wives. The cold did not deter nim, nor did the winds or the storms. The darkness of a long night would not deter him, and nor would the very dead themselves. What was darkness, after all, to a man who had within him the burning light of a dragonflame? Yet to the surprise of the soldiers and their King, the dead put up no fight. Jostling past them, shouldering their limp and lumbering figures to the side as they ventured deeper, the blue-eyed demons continued staring off in a singular direction. That is of course, until suddenly and all at once, they turned to look at Aegon and he realized he was completely alone.

Drawing his sword, turning about himself, the greatest swordsman alive intended to prove himself as such as he waited. Circling and watching, the dead only looked back, dull staggering and absent swaying the only motions they made. None gave any indication of attack but Aegon was smarter than that, he knew better. At least, he thought he did, for someone had snuck up on him. Turning about himself, a man who had not been there a moment before, was suddenly standing across from him in the small clearing made by animated corpses. Jumping at the sight and at once squaring himself to his new target, he regarded the familiar look of him. With his silver hair, dark purple eyes and comely face, he could have been a mirror reflection of the man standing across from him.

“Father?” He asked, eyes falling to the ruby-encrusted emblem of his Targaryen House on the stranger’s breastplate.

“Hello son.” The only other living man in the world said. “My, aren’t you magnificent? I knew you would be.”

“What are you doing here?” He asked, his hostility in no way lessening at the realization that he stood before his father, the Targaryen Dragon Prince who never became King.

“I wanted to see what had become of my first boy.” The Dragon Prince offered back casually, his tone remaining light and friendly. “I can see that you are wise beyond your years and yet tremendously unafraid. That is good. Jon raised you well, I see.”

“What are you talking about?” The serious expression on his face cracked marginally, if only to allow for confusion to furrow his brow. “My father’s name was Aerion…”

“You’ve never known who you are. That was Jon’s mistake. These people you cling to, getting yourself caught up in the tangle of their lives, they could never hope to be what you are.” He took a stride towards Aegon, but was met with a raised blade. The Valyrian steel glistened cold and grey against the winter sun, poised for his throat.

“And what am I?” The once and future King asked back.

“You are the last in a great line of brave men, so mighty they took dragons for their mounts and learned to breath fire themselves…” He would have gone on, but the young man at the other end of the sword was interrupting him.

“A line you broke.” Aegon pointed out. “Because of your selfishness and arrogance the Realm was plunged into chaos, our family’s ancient line snuffed out.”

“Not quite.” He volleyed with a smirk. “Your flame still burns.”

“Why did you betray my mother?” Aegon had never been accused of being indirect.

“Because, my son, the dragon must have three heads.” He supplied at once. Opening his mouth to say more he was silenced by Aegon’s blade, pushed through his throat and out the other side. His own hand however, had been forced by an ice cold blue one that lay overtop. Dropping the blade and recoiling away from the touch, he turned to face what had once been a man. Though surely death had fallen upon this creature as with all the others, intellect and malice burned in his gem-blue eyes. Around his brow he wore a crown made from ice as cold and black as his heart.

Screaming as the pain tore through him, large leathery wings ripped themselves free from the fleshy confines of Aegon’s back. Like children eating their way through their own mother, they materialized from his ruined body stretching around him and casting a shadow greater than any dragon, living or dead. Flapping his wings, Aegon rose into the sky and away from the icy King who grew smaller and smaller at his feet. In this world, there was room enough for only one King, and it would be Aegon Targaryen, Aegon the Conqueror. Rising high enough into the sky, the true King could see what fate befell the King of Night and Winter. In the distance a great force crashed into the lines of dead, puppeted soldiers. They were men, hundreds and thousands of them, all united into a single force. Utilizing fire and siege weaponry they fought their enemy cleverly from great distances, as well as fearlessly and directly. Armed with swords made from black glass, they charged headlong into the lines of nightmarish militants, leaving snow and scattered weaponry in their wake. It was men and women, the living, who could stop the Winter from plaguing the land their King meant to conquer.

Ah, but man is such a fickle promise… The voice in his head reminded him.

“It’s the only one we have.” Aegon answered.


When the young Griff opened his eyes again, he was not aloft in the sky with dragon wings at his back. Instead he was again himself, rooted firmly and wholly to the ground beneath his feet, with no ability to take flight from the nightmare before him. Blinking away the black spots from his purple gaze, he watched on from the mouth of the cave as skeletons rose from the snow. He stood in his sweaty furs, the same clothes he had been wearing since they had first left their home in Skagos, and counted the living by contrast to the dead. There was a boy and a girl, of similar age and stature to Kirith and himself. They were accompanied by a large man and what appeared to be a cripple. Protecting the cripple, was a direwolf with a coat of grey and silver. It’s colour, was in fact, not too far off from that of the young Griff’s own hair beneath the mud and sap.

Turning to look to Kirith, who stood beside him, he noticed that she too seemed to be coming out of a sort of trance. “Kirith?” He asked her. Watching her expression change, he wasn’t given a moment to prepare before she was drawing her spear and bounding from the cave. “Kirith!” He called after her. With the direwolf otherwise distracted, the cripple had been left unguarded, a responsibility which the fire-haired girl had now taken for herself.

“Damn it, woman!” He swore, as he tore into the clearing himself, his sword curiously in his hand already.

The young Griff moved not towards his friend, who had already taken down two bewitched skeletons and had begun to drag the cripple-boy by his sled to the opening of the cave. Instead, his direction was aimed for the boy and girl who fought back to back, though it was clear that one protected the other with her superior skillset. Violet eyes that looked more black beneath the mud slicked over his hair and face, found the threat encroaching on the younger of the two, raising it’s dagger to strike a fatal blow. “Look out!” He called, but it was too late. Once, twice, and by the fourth it was clear the lad would not live to see another day. The young Griff hacked away the piece of the skeleton that had taken the life while the girl dropped to her travelling companion’s side. Still the dead remained relentless, as more rose to take the place of those who had fallen.

Squaring himself to his opponents, the young Griff fought back the fear that gripped his heart, squeezing from it his warmth and gentility. “Get up, girl.” He encouraged tightly, his eyes finding the mouth of the cave, which Kirith had almost reached, accompanied by the giant and the cripple. If he made a run for it now, he’d also reach that cave. “Get up!” He barked.

“I’m not leaving him!” She shouted back.

One among the ominously approaching undead took a running start, launching himself at the young Griff who reared back and timed the swing of his sword so that it split the attacker in two. Another followed after, who was harder to defeat, but with a cleverly placed elbow to the head and foot to the ribs, was left scattered to the wind. “He’s already lost!” He called, his voice heaving with his breath. The ache in his joints and muscles, led him to wonder how long they had been in that cave, waiting for the arrival of these strangers.

“Than so am I!” She called back.

Finally, Griff had no more softness left in him. Striding towards the pair and seizing her furs, forcing her eyes upon him, he said, “you’re going to die here!” When she didn’t answer, the orphan-raised young man decided to take matters into his own hands. Pushing her aside he moved over the boy she had been clinging to, who looked up at him with round green eyes.

“It’s you… I didn’t think I’d meet you before--” But he never got his chance to finish, as without ceremony, the young Griff snapped his neck.

“Come girl,” he offered coldly as she wailed, taking her roughly and throwing her over his shoulder as he dashed for the cave. She kicked at his stomach and pounded at his back, but finally was thrown against the inner stone wall of their shelter as the compiled, puppeteered bones pursuing them clattered into a dozen different pieces.

“Who are you?” The dirty-faced girl demanded as Griff rose, placing his hands on his hips and trying to catch his breath. Her eyes were narrowed into slits of hatred.

“Who am I?” He repeated, a quirk in his brow.

“Jojen knew your face. Who are you?” She insisted, as though a name served to fill all the gaps in her line of questioning.

“Who is Jojen?” He asked back.

“The boy whose neck you broke.” The girl answered back bitterly.

“Right. The boy you let get stabbed through the belly.” The young Griff offered flippantly, inspiring the girl to lunge at him. He caught her by the furs and slammed her back down against the cave wall. “I’m getting pretty sick of questions…” He offered slowly. “And I’m getting very tired of riddles. So why don’t you tell me who you are and why I bothered saving your life?” She only looked away from him, angry tears stinging her eyes, and Griff let her go, rising again. “Who are you?” He continued, gesturing to the lumbering giant in the corner. “Who are you?” He asked, pointing to the cripple.

“I’m Brandon Stark, of Winterfell.” The boy answered at once.

“Stark?” The young Griff repeated. Of course, the Northern name meant nothing to the son of Griff, but it meant quite a great deal to Aegon.

Thought was interrupted by a loud, explosive sound. Turning to look out the mouth of the cave, where once the boy called Jojen’s body had lain, now a fire burned in it’s place. Standing in the spot whence the volley of cannon-fire had come, was what looked like a small girl. She was strangely coloured and clothed, looking to be born of a union between man and tree. Her peculiar eyes found the young Griff and she cocked her head to the side playfully. “Brandon Stark is your friend, son of Griff.” She offered lightly. “Come,” she continued, looking to the rest of the group. “He is waiting for you.”


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Kirith looked back at the hand clutching at her belt, then up to Griff’s visage. There was suspicion running thick in his voice while his eyes glittered like onyx--full of mistrust and fear. She, on the other hand, could not see why. Oh, didn’t he see? Didn’t he see? The being before them was no pale monster or spectre. He had been with them all along, didn’t he see? There was no fear to be felt; it was instead the feeling of toeing the edge to something immense, something terribly wonderful, the ache of the wings before one took to flight. “Let go, it’s alright,” she tried to placate him, but he was paying no heed to her words. It was to the ancient being before them that his acute focus was directed to.

“Who are you?” Griff demanded, practically bristling with hostility. For a moment the cryptic answer he received seemed to satisfy him as the young man went still and silent.

“See? It’s alri--” she started, only for her words to turn into a yelp as he suddenly yanked her back, shoving her further away from the wizened tree. Managing to catch her balance, she turned in time to see her friend racing forth with his blade in hand. “Griff! Stop!” she cried out in horror, springing after him. It appeared that she would be too late to stop him when he came to a jarring halt, as abruptly as he had taken to action. Hurrying up to her friend, Kirith didn’t even have the time to let out a sigh of relief before a familiar sound rang out in the desolate space. Her grey eyes immediately looked upwards, sighting the old raven circling above them. A smile of wonder spread on her lips as it swooped down and landed casually onto the sword Griff was still gripping. The realization finally seemed to dawn on Griff as he looked from the bird to her to the ancient creature before him. They were one and the same; he had always been with them. He was no stranger, no, he was an old friend. Yet, how was it that they both there at once--raven and man? She had immediately assumed him to be a shapeshifter, like the ones in her grandmother’s tales, but….

‘Tis simple, little one, the voice came to her. Soon it will be naught but child’s play to you, as well. I’ll teach you to fly.

“Like you promised,” Kirith intoned, squaring her shoulders and taking a step forward.

With an affirmative croak the raven took to the air, and eager to follow, she reached up to climb the gnarled white roots--

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

She opened her eyes--had they been closed?--and found herself being carried in the claws of the giant raven. The winds were whistling past her, white with snow and frost, and Kirith squinted her eyes against the gusts. There was nothing but that cold air beneath her dangling feet, but for the moment, there was no fear. Craning her head she looked up at the giant old crow, meeting the mysterious third eye bright in his forehead.

“Am I dreaming?” she asked above the shrieking wind.

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Does one learn in a dream?” he answered, though it was not much of a reply.

“Are you going to teach me in riddles?” the redhead questioned, a brow arching above her steely gaze.

“I’ll be teaching you the only way you’ll learn,” the raven croaked. Then before she could demand any sort of clarification, he abruptly released his grip on her.

She tumbled downwards screaming, down, down, clawing at the air--but it was no use, her arms were a faulty replacement for wings. As gravity tore her through the sky she desperately searched for a glimpse of the raven who had saved her once before, but there was not a single black feather to be seen. There was nothing but white snow and grey rock beneath her, spelling a certain, gruesome death. Just then a spark flared in the white beneath, a red brand burning bright in the snow. As she plummeted towards it she realized it was not a flame at all, but a standing girl with her face turned heavenwards--her steel eyes reflected the vast sky above while her hair billowed about her head like fire. She realized in a split second after that it was none other than herself.

In that very instant the mirror like eyes rolled back into milky whites, and her fall came to a stop midair as she burst into ink black feathers and wings. There was a moment of disorientation, her vision swaying madly; then there was nothing but clarity. A cry of astonishment and delight escaped from her throat as she propelled herself upwards, higher, higher. As she soared to thrilling heights she could see herself standing on the ground far below, face upturned and her hair blowing in the wind, nothing but a tiny dot of red. The streak of delight in her belly shuddered and grew within her, filling her to the brim as she dipped and twirled in the dizzying heights, swooping over the stretch of frozen land that seemed to all be within her reach.Then the raven was beside her once more as if he had never left, gliding gracefully in contrast to her chaotic aerial frolicking. It was the most wondrous sensation, to be as free as the wind; she would go on forever flying if she could, she reckoned. Though she uttered no words, the raven seemed to know the thoughts rushing through her head.

“Flying is a delight, but you’ll do more than fly, child. You’ll run, you’ll swim, you’ll climb. You’ll be a thousand and more creatures.” As they swept over the frozen wasteland she became keenly aware of the hardened wildlife below her, from the tiniest lemming burrowed away in their holes to the lethal shadowcat prowling through the mountains. In the distance, she thought she could hear a wolf howl. Still, the voice continued, still, she could feel the raven’s third eye boring into her, overriding the other sensations. “That is not not all. You will see--you will see a thousand truths of the pasts and a thousand more truths of the future. I will teach you, little one, as I will teach him. Like two sprouts from a tree you will grow together.”

Him? Did he mean Griff? The raven, apparently having heard her silent inquiry, began a sudden, swerving descent. “Come--the hour is late, and he is here.” Diving down after the giant raven, it was not long before she saw a towering weirwood atop of a mound--the very same one she had seen in her dreams before. Was this--? A shout caught her attention, and her eyes shifted to what appeared to be people on the ground, running through the white landscape. They were being chased by others...no, that wasn’t right. Her blood ran cold as she recognized the unnatural and swift movement of the predators. Wights!

As they circled the clearing, she could see the struggling group of people clearly now; a large man and two slighter figures, and a curiously large wolf--no, a direwolf. It took her a moment longer to notice that the cargo they were desperately hauling along with them was no cargo at all, but a boy strapped to the sled. The undead continued to hound them, bursting out of the snow. They were outnumbered, that was easy to see. Without thought she flew at the wight that had reached the slighter pair, diving at its decayed head and tearing at it with her talons and beak. She was nothing but a distraction at best, but looking on and doing nothing wasn’t something to even be considered for the wildling girl. One of the two--a girl, she realized, took the chance to attack the abomination, sending it clattering back to the frozen ground. A stone’s throw away, the giant man batted frantically at the wights flanking him, while even more skeletons went rushing past him towards the boy on the sled.

“Bran! Save yourself!” she heard someone shout, but the he was still, responseless. “Bran!”

Kirith then heard the raven cawing overhead; “Save the boy, for he is blood and kin. Save the boy.”

For a few disorienting moments she felt as if she had lost all control of her limbs, as if she was moving at someone else’s will and her body would not yield to her, resisting her control. Then the force seemed to give, and as her wits returned to her she knew she was no longer a raven, but a fierce and angry beast. She was immediately assaulted with the stench of cold a hundred-fold sharper than ever before--then next, the scent of human sweat and fear. A savage snarl ripped out of her throat as she launched herself at the undead, knocking it away from the boy tied to the sled. Loping over the frozen ground with ease, she charged at another wight, smashing it into moldy bones under her claws.

As she rounded about, baring her newfound fangs, a strange--and yet very familiar--scent alerted her of a different presence. Turning sharply, she spotted two figures standing at the mouth of the cave still a distance away. She recognized him first; Griff, his hair colored with mud, and once again, herself, caught in a white-eyed stupor. The raven circling high overhead cawed out once more. 

“Save the boy!”



With a jolt she was back in her own body, feeling slightly nauseated and numb all at once. It almost felt strange to be back within a human form so abruptly, and Kirith fought the light-headedness that threatened to overtake her. Was that Griff calling her? His voice seemed so far away compared to the raven’s command ringing loud in her ears: save the boy! Sucking in a rattling breath, she launched into immediate action, grabbing her spear and dashing back out into the clearing, deaf to her friend’s calls. Two skeletons burst up out of the snow and rushed towards the sled, but she was quicker, intercepting them and driving her spear through the temple of one and smashing off the head of another. Instead of going to fight off the others, she grabbed the handles of the sled and began to pull with all her might. “Are you alright?” she blurted out to the boy, but when she stole a frantic look behind her, only the whites of his eyes peered back at her. Catching on quickly, she abandoned the idea of talking and focused on getting the sled to the cave. She had to hurry, Griff was out there now, she had to go and help.

The large man was rushing over to her, and she called out to him. “Help me pull!” she shouted.

“Hodor,” he uttered, but Kirith had no time to question what sort of foreign language that was. As the towering man lugged the sled over with ease, the boy they were dragging along seemed to stir; his eyes rolled back to reveal solemn eyes of blue.

“Who are you?” he asked breathlessly.

“Not now,” Kirith supplied, her own grey eyes wandering nervously back to the figures in the distance.

“Meera, and Jojen--” the boy began worriedly, but the flame-haired girl was no stranger to the kind of concern he was feeling.

“Griff! Come on!” she shouted, alarm beginning to take form in her gut. For some reason, he wasn’t making his way back towards the cave. What was the matter? With a final yank the sled was over the threshold of the cave, and Kirith raced out at once, her weapon at the ready. She had not made it more than a yard when she heard the girl screaming, followed by the sight of her friend tossing the girl over his shoulder and carrying her as she kicked and flailed. “Griff, what are you…” Kirith started, her brow wrinkled with confusion. “Where’s the other one--” Her question was interrupted as Griff flung the girl none-too-gently off of him. The girl scrambled up, her brown hair in disarray and looking nothing short of livid.

Kirith stood there dumbfounded as the hostile exchange occurred--just what had happened out there? “Who is Jojen?” Griff shot back to the girl’s furious accusations.

“The boy whose neck you broke,” the green eyed-girl spat at him, and Kirith’s eyes went round in shock, snapping up to her friend in a nonverbal demand for an explanation. Griff would never do such a thing--no, there had to be a mistake!

“Right. The boy you let get stabbed through the belly.” Griff returned sardonically, which only goaded the girl to attack him. Her movements were wild and fueled by rage--clumsy. He had her pinned in the next moment, his voice slow and suspicious. With wary eyes he looked to each member of the group, asking them the question they all needed to be asking: “Who are you?”

“I’m Brandon Stark, of Winterfell,” the boy on the sled answered. Kirith recalled the name she had heard shouted by someone--perhaps the poor lad who had died. Bran, he’d called him.

“Stark?” Griff echoed. Kirith noticed a strange look in his eyes, though before she hone in on the reason, a sudden blast of sound sent them all flinching. A fire was burning in the distance, and her grip tightened on her spear for a grim second before she caught sight of the source. She thought it was a child for a moment, so small and willowy was the figure, but as it turned and stepped lightly into the cave, they could all see that she was no human child. She had large golden green eyes and strangely colored skin, standing shorter than all of them. Unlike the rest of them, she was not swathed in furs and leathers, in fact, she seemed to be wearing clothes of a material Kirith could not truly guess at.

While they all stared at her, the creature seemed nonchalant to their shock. “Brandon Stark is your friend, son of Griff,” she said to the young man, her voice like the ringing of bells, sweet and high. “Come,” she looked around to them. “He is waiting.” Light-footed as a deer in the woods she went deeper into the cave as the small group of weary travellers exchanged various glances. Soon enough, the giant man and the girl began to maneuver the sled after her, though the girl did not forget to send Griff a withering glare before she turned.

“She knew your name,” Kirith remarked, her gaze leaving the figure of the mysterious creature to seek out her friend’s familiar eyes. Unlike Griff, she appeared more in awe than wary or suspicious--could it be? Could it be like the tales Grandmother Aswen had told her? Despite her wonder, she was not blind to his reluctance. “It’ll be alright,” she tried to reassure him, gripping his arm. “I know it.” Though it seemed that her convictions were beginning to mean less and less to him recently, it was all she could really think to say. There were too many things she had yet to learn, after all. “Come on, we’ll be left behind,” she reminded him, placing her usual mischievous smile on her smile. “Let’s go.”
« Last Edit: March 13, 2020, 03:51:43 PM by asterin »
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“You have to eat.” He tried again. It had been nearly two days since they’d arrived at the Three-Eyed-Raven’s cave and Meera had yet to eat one single morsel of food. Of course, that probably had something to do with the fact that the young Griff had become the group’s unofficial keeper. He hunted their dinner and stoked their fire, which meant that Meera remained decidedly cold and purposefully hungry. The only way she had found to truly avoid her brother’s killer was to stay close to the Three-Eyed-Raven himself.

Meera Reed and Brandon Stark sat facing one another, between them sat the food that the young Griff had left for Bran upon his awakening. Not far from them, merely a stone’s throw, Kirith lay cradled in the embrace of the weirwood roots, still deep in a world far beyond the physical limitations of mere man. They went together for the most part, but while the time spent in the netherworlds had shortened in recent travels for him, for her they had grown longer in duration. It was to her that Bran looked now. He regarded the whites of her eyes, the serene expression painted over her visage and wondered if he looked just the same when in the a similar position. She was pretty enough, in that plain-Northern way he was familiar with, yet there was something peculiar about her, or rather her presence. She had introduced herself, that first day, as Kirith. At once Bran had felt the energy rolling off the Spearwife who had saved him, welcoming and inviting. She felt like the wind; not like during a storm, harsh and cold. She was instead like the wind on a hot, sunny day, easy and uplifting. It felt like being atop the highest walls of Winterfell again, having her at his side in a dream with the Three-Eyed-Raven. Her tempests blew through his hair, through his bones, while his still-small hands gripped tight onto the battlements of the castle, of his mind. She felt the most like the home he so missed since he had left it.

“Where’s Summer?” Meera asked, ignoring her friend’s urging towards sustenance.

“With him.” He answered plainly, inspiring a groan hissed through clenched teeth from the Crannogman-born girl across from him. It was no secret that Meera had been irked, if not a little wounded, by the way the direwolf had taken to the son of Griff.

“You shouldn’t be so hard on Griff.” Bran offered delicately.

“He murdered Jojen.” She spat back at once. Her hands were kept busy by the strips of bark and straw she had been trying to weave together, a sorry replacement for the net she had lost in the scuffle with the dead. It was clear enough by the way she tugged at the strands, a white-knuckle grip on the tenderly stripped material, she had yet to get over the incident. Reaching across the space between them, Bran placed a hand over hers to still them.

“The dead murdered Jojen.” He pointed out gently.

“He could have carried him, he could have saved him, we might still…” Meera’s voice had started with the strong cadence of a long-winded rant, but quieted and fell off meekly as Bran squeezed her hands.

“He wouldn’t have made it anyway.” He reminded her. “You heard the Three-Eyed-Raven, Jojen knew what would happen if he came, but he came anyway.” The words landed heavy in his hollow, aching chest. “You should blame me.”

“Never.” She said back at once, her voice powerful and filled to the brim with a steely resolve. “I will never blame you.”

“You shouldn’t blame Griff either.” Bran observed calmly.

“He snapped his neck.” She pointed out bluntly, their hands still clasping desperately onto one another.

“Only because it was the kindest thing to do.”

“Kind?” She repeated, disbelief wrinkling her brow. “Jojen died to get you here and you’d call his killer kind?” Meera balled her hands into fists beneath his.

“Would it have been better to leave him to the wights?” He asked, which made her fast-held fists weaken. “Would it have been better to let him freeze to death out there or bleed to death in here?” He went on. “If his neck was broken in one try, that means it was quick, painless.” He let his hands leave hers then, moving to her chin he tilted it upward so that she was once more looking into his blue eyes. “If Jojen was going to die, then he deserved to die without suffering, knowing we’d both be safe. Griff gave him that.”

“Jojen probably would have said the same thing, if he was here.” Meera conceded, reason finally penetrating the haze of loss. Looking into Bran’s eyes, she allowed him to see the watery mist stinging at her own green ones. Always it had been her and Jojen, against the entire world. Now it would be just her and Bran, though she likely doubted she could do it on her own. Bran didn’t, however. Bran never doubted Meera once, not for even a second.

“What is it?” Bran asked, his hand falling away from her chin. Meera was looking over his shoulder now, at something behind him. Turning, he realized that the very subject of their conversation had entered the chamber. He looked uncomfortable, his eyes continuously sliding over to the unconscious figure that was his travelling companion and the withering one towering above her. While Meera was in a similar position to the young Griff, having been roped into this adventure by another’s accord, she was far more at ease in the company of the Three-Eyed-Raven than the tense young man who had taken to spending his days beyond the cave walls travelling the catacombs or even outside. So rare it was, in fact, for Griff to actually enter the chamber that his presence inside it was almost off-putting.

“Oh, it’s you.” Bran observed, offering the young Griff a smile. In spite of the favour that Summer seemed to show the dirt-clad brunette, he still seemed hesitant at warming to the Stark-pup and his four-legged companion in return. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he attempted to put distance between himself and the silver-grey wolf who leaned into him. Of course, Summer only slid in closer in response.

Instead of returning Bran’s greeting, he kept his eyes focused on Meera as she levelled him with a razor-edged glare of her own. “Kirith told me that Jojen was your brother.” He said, the statement surprising both Meera and Bran, neither one having heard much from the young man besides the few odd grumbles here and there since first meeting him. “I wanted to say I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have… anyway,” There was a genuine quality to his voice as he spoke and though her lips remained pursed in contempt, Bran noticed the way Meera’s brow softened at his words. “I got this for you.” He continued, revealing the girl’s net which he produced from a pack he carried on one shoulder. It would have been a dangerous venture, to travel out into the open to collect the ripped roping. “I did my best to fix it, but I’m not the greatest netter. Kirith is better than I am at making knots so if it isn’t to your liking I’m sure she’d take a look at it and--” He likely would have continued to ramble on if Meera hadn’t cut him off.

“Yeah,” she said, her fingers toying with the knotting that replaced the hole that had been torn into it. “I’m sure it’s fine.”

Awkwardly, the young Griff offered a tight-lipped nod before ducking out of the chamber with haste. While he appeared jumpy and a little brash, there was kindness in him. It was clear enough that he fought against his own gentility but even more clear that his goodness was the stronger force. In fact, Bran would not be surprised to learn that Jojen’s death weighed as heavily on this curious stranger’s heart as it did on his own. After all, the Three-Eyed-Raven would not have delivered them unto one another without justified cause. Though the cause, the purpose behind it all, had yet to reveal itself to them it was obvious that they would each have a role to play. For now their roles were of pupils and the keepers of said students. As such guardians, the young Griff and Meera likely had more in common with one another than either one was willing to admit. As she watched after him however, regarding him from across the breadth of the chamber, Bran could have sworn he saw the ghost of a sad smile pulling at her thin lips. Finally, she reached for the food between them.



The young Griff did not want to be here. Not at all. Not even in the slightest bit.

It had taken much convincing from Kirith to make him stay and at the time he’d had half a mind to try charging her and take his chances. Of course, he was smarter than that, wasn’t he? Even if he had given it a shot, dragging Kirith from that cave by force, she’d have overpowered him and run back at her first opportunity. Whatever it was she was so eager to learn from the doomed monster trapped in a tree, he didn’t like the effect it was having on her. She’d grown more distant from him upon beginning with these visions that seemed more like restless sleeps. There were times when her stormy grey eyes would find his and it would feel as though they regarded a stranger and not a friend. Over meals she either sized him up from across her dish like an enemy or remained utterly withdrawn, fully internalized in what new horrors or wonders she had been shown.

“I hate ravens…” He muttered to himself as he walked back through the woods, towards the cave.

He’d received enough lectures about going beyond the boundaries of the cave’s catacombs, but unlike the tree-demon that insulted life with it’s unnatural existence, Griff and his companions needed to eat. With that argument made there had been not much left with which to contest the point, only their growling stomachs. Even the Children appreciated the gesture, their own appetites far larger than he would have imagined given their small size. While it had been agreed that none would travel outside the cave alone, the young Griff had to admit that he was not sorry for the company. In fact, he was rather glad for it.

“Hodor.” Hodor replied.

“I was thinking the same thing; bird goes very well with rabbit.” The young Griff encouraged, slapping the big man on the arm, sending the rabbits hanging by their feet from the belt at his waist swaying.

“Hodor…” Hodor said again, his tone a little dismayed.

“You’re smarter than you look.” He remarked.

“Hodor.” Hodor said again.

The two walked alongside through the woods towards the cave doors. Amidst the labyrinth of the cave, there were several entryways. Though the small green gentlewomen, whom Griff did his best to staunchly avoid, offered to show him the various options for escape available to him, stubbornly he’d chosen to spend a few hours wandering and figure it out for himself. The time alone had been welcome. The time without being in the presence of those learning and able to poke around inside the deepest reaches of one’s mind, even more so. While the young Griff considered himself to be of an intellect, he had also found that those of simplest being were often the best of company. Without the expectation of conversation, it almost felt like being alone, except without the heavy weight of true solitude. No, Griff was not sorry for the company at all.

They sat together, the door into the cave kept slightly ajar should the need for a quick dash inside arise. As Griff set to the task of skinning the rabbits, Hodor snapped and ripped at the various vegetation he had gathered, pruning to an edible state. The rabbit’s skins and insides he would leave in the forest, but deeper in, further from the cave. The larger the animal attracted by the scent, the better for Summer in the end. Unlike the rest of them, he needed no one watching his backside before darting into the woods like the beast from song he was. Using the snow to wipe the blood from his hands, Griff watched the treeline and thought about how he envied Summer. He envied the wolf as he envied the shark.

“Hodor!” Hodor called, pointing as the direwolf emerged from the woods.

Blinking at the sight of the silver beast, the Stark sigil come to life before his eyes, it looked for a moment as if the direwolf were looking back. They regarded each other, one’s hands and the other’s snout both stained with the crimson colours of their hunt. Had he called the wolf to him with his thoughts? As though listening to those very thoughts, Summer approached the young Griff and lay himself in the snow. Licking the blood from his chops, the direwolf flopped onto its side, resting its weight against the side of Griff’s leg. Sighing, he realized there was little he could do now besides continue his task and hope if any wights came running towards them, they did so before his leg fell asleep beneath the weight of the beast against it. Griff had tried to deter the wolf from him, but in the end had neither the heart nor the stomach to truly kick or strike at the loyal and brave creature to make himself rid of him. Really, their bond had derived from a need they both shared to be freed from the confines of an enclosed space. Gods, how Griff missed the open sea.

“He thinks you’re a wolf.” Came a voice from behind him.

Meera was standing over him, her arms crossed over her chest. Scowling down at him, she looked to Summer, jealousy twisting her expression and making her features unbecoming. “He used to do the same with Shaggydog.”

“Who’s Shaggydog?” He asked.

“A wolf.” She answered.

“Well, then I see your point.” Griff answered, nonchalance coating his voice in velvet but rolling his eyes as he resumed his preparation of the rabbit.

“You’re doing that wrong.” Meera pointed out, though Griff chose to ignore her. “You’re supposed to start at the ears.” She continued, while Griff remained unmoved and yet unrattled. “If you start at the feet, then by the time you get to the leg--” She persisted.

“I know how to skin a rabbit.” The young Griff snapped.

“Obviously you don’t,” she pressed further. “Because if you did, you would have started with the ears.” She crouched down beside him, her arms resting over her bent knees.

“If I start with the ears, will you eat it?” He asked, challengingly.

“Maybe.” Meera replied curtly. Holding her eye contact, the young Griff flipped the rabbit in his hands and resumed his work, beginning again but this time with the ears. Lips pressed together, his irritation blatantly painted across his handsome but dirt-covered face, he looked back to the animal that would become their dinner in his hands. “I wanted to say thanks.” She added, her eyes still on him, burning holes into the side of his face. “For the net, and for Jojen.” He looked to her then and while there was pure heart put behind her words, there was also a suspicious glint to her eye that he recognized. “For saving my life.” She added more quietly.

“You’re welcome.” The young Griff offered stiffly. “I’m sorry about your brother.”

“Hodor.” The giant contributed from the other side of him, approvingly.

“He recognized you, before…” Letting her voice trail off, a drowning desperation reached her expression for a fleeting moment before her resolve was hardened to ice once more. “He knew your face when he saw it. Why do you think that is?” She asked him.

“I don’t know.” He lied, turning back to his labour. “I’m no one special.”

“You know how to hunt, cook and take care of people but you talk like a High Lord.” She pointed out, her brows quirking as she challenged him back. “You’re afraid of the Three-Eyed-Raven, but you’re an experienced fighter and killer and Others take you if you don’t bathe -- you stink worse than a corpse I’ll have you know.” Meera had dropped one knee now, talking with her hands and facing the young Griff more directly as she levelled her accusations.

“You don’t exactly smell like a rose either.” Griff bristled in return, keeping his eyes down to avoid her intense green stare.

“You said you were a merchant sailor, but there are no merchants who make dock at Skagos.” She continued on, never letting up, batting aside the volleyed insult as though they had never been uttered to being with. “And I’ve never once heard of a wildling who could mumble High Valyrian in his sleep. You’re definitely someone special. What I can’t understand is why you’re trying to hide it from us?”

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

“You’re lying.” She countered immediately. “But I doubt you’ll be able to lie for much longer, at the rate those three are going.” She added more lightly, dropping onto her rear next to Griff and drawing her knife, taking the last rabbit herself to begin preparing. “Terrible in there, isn’t it? Just watching them lay there like that.”

“Small spaces make me nervous.” Griff offered monotonously.

“Me too.” She admitted. “I see why you’re always out here, it’s quieter somehow.” Though there was hardly any noise from the woods and the wind in the leaves sounded much the same as the groaning of the roots within the cave, open space was always more peaceful for Griff than a small, cramped one. Seemingly, the same was true for Meera. In the end, the two were rather alike after all.

“Well, it was.” He accused, but with a smile tickling at the corners of his mouth. “You’re right, by the way.” He continued, before she could hurl an insult in rebuttal, as he gathered the entrails and skins of the rabbits. “It’s easier to start with the ears.” As he pulled his leg out from underneath Summer, who rose with him, he offered Meera another small, tight-lipped nod of the head before heading back into the woods from whence he had came. Unsurprisingly, Summer was fast on his heels, the young Griff slipping the wolf bits from the bloody bucket he carried.

“Hodor.” Hodor said.

“Yeah, you’re right, Summer will watch after him.”

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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These days she seemed to spend more time dreaming than awake. Well, was it truly dreaming? Sometimes it seemed she was more awake when she was walking within the world in-between. In that world she saw more than she had ever seen in her entire life, traversing over thousands of miles and even time itself. She saw more than she had ever thought she’d see. There was more truth in that world.

She opened her eyes, then immediately squinted them against the blustery wind. Red leaves fluttered in the overhead and dozens of knowing eyes stared at her--they were all at once walking amongst a grove of heart trees. She glanced up to the wizened old man next to her, then looked around patiently. Unlike the first few trips into the world between, she had stopped asking where they had travelled to. Soon, there would be some sort of event or interaction for her to see, and it would more or less become clear to the two young students.

Sure enough, a girl charged through the treeline, her hair burning bright in the fading sunset glow. She stopped, turned, and shouted behind her. “Come on! Hurry up!” For a moment Kirith expected Griff to race into the clearing after her, the girl with fiery red hair. Surely, this could be none other than a snippet of her own past. However, the figure that came huffing after was not a boy with pale hair, but a girl with her fair hair braided tightly away from her equally taut face.

“No, you come on!” the blonde girl snapped back crossly as soon as she could muster the words. “Don’t be stupid, let’s go home.”

“You’re wasting time!” the redhead complained. “It’s getting away!” she turned towards the two spectators, but looked beyond, deeper into the woods. As strikingly alike to her own image as a child, the differences made themselves clear; her eyes were further apart and upturned, her nose rounder, her build stockier. On her back was a child’s hatchet, in her hands, she held a notched bow. Kirith felt her heart leap. Could it be…?

“And you’re lucky for it,” the blonde girl shot back condescendingly, folding her arms over her chest. “I don’t want to go back and tell mother you’ve been torn up by a direwolf.”

The girl rolled her eyes. “It’s not even a direwolf, it’s just a wolf--so why don’t you just go tell mother I’ll be bringing a wolf pelt back!” With that the red haired girl turned and rushed off into the woods, sweeping past Kirith and her mentor like a gust of wind.

“Vreya!” the thin girl shouted shrilly after her. “Come back!” As if she knew it was hopeless to expect she would turn back, she set off into a run, resentment flashing in her eyes. “Stupid little fool, I can’t believe…” her words jumbled into a mutter as she disappeared as well into the trees, her blonde braid swaying after her.

For what seemed like the longest moment, the young seer stood there, rooted in place. Ever-so-slowly, she turned to gaze at the woods the girls had run into, then looked up to meet the red eye of her silent teacher. “Was that…?” she whispered, barely able to hear the words she uttered through the lub-dub of her heart. She asked, and yet she didn’t need to see him nod to know. Vreya! The blonde had shouted--the girl with her aunt Grisha’s sharp, stern features. Vreya, the way her grandmother sighed it, half admiration, half regret. Vreya, the name of the mother she had never known, the center of her nursery tales, an unreachable legend. She blindly took a stumbling step towards the wood, towards the two girls that were long gone. “Wait,” the words bubbled up, small and forlorn. “Please, wait…”

Before she could break into a run after her lost mother or even take another step, the world faded away from right before her eyes. She blinked rapidly as another image flickered into view--it was the now-familiar haven of weirwood roots that her eyes took in. Above her, her ancient mentor sat on his twisted throne, his single red eye gleaming in the dim lighting. Letting out a slow, shaky breath, she sat up.

“Welcome back,” a voice called out. She turned towards the boy sitting in the gloom not far away from her--Bran.

“Thanks,” she answered, a smile taking over her face as she scooted over to him. “How long has it been?”

“An hour or so,” he pushed the food sitting between them closer to her. “Here, the rest is for you.”

The sight of the meat--most likely rabbit--suddenly sent her stomach growling, and Kirith eagerly began to dig in. It was cold, but that hardly deterred her. She expertly picked out the bones, sucking down the meat, fat, and tendon as Bran sat by in amiable silence.

Bran was easy company--comfortable. Even though he was supposedly a lordling, he seemed thoughtful and kind. Though it had only been a few days since they had first met, the passage of time was starting to blur for her; how much time had they spent within the dream world, walking side by side after the Three Eyed Raven? At times it felt like seconds, other times it felt like years. Even when Bran was released from the dream world, when she too woke from her trance he was merely a few feet away. That was more than she could say about Griff recently.

“Where's the others?” she asked, swallowing her mouthful of rabbit. It was rare not to have Meera sulking in the shadows, her being Bran’s faithful companion more often than not.

“They’ve gone off to wander, I think. Maybe get some fresh air,” he answered. Kirith nodded in response, shoving a another hunk of meat into her mouth so she didn’t have to say anything that would reveal her bitterness. Bran was really nice, he truly was, but she wished it was Griff who sat across her right now. It felt like she saw him less and less, the moments with him getting buried in the torrents of waking dreams she had. It was made worse by the fact that when she did wake, he was typically absent, preferring to wander the complex system of caves beyond. Merely a short time ago, she would undoubtedly been right by his side, exploring the wonders that the mysterious caverns would have offered them--an exciting adventure! Things were different now. In fact, she was beginning to wonder if anything would ever be the same again.

“Where’d you go this time?” Bran asked conversationally, having noticed the dark of storm clouds rolling over her grey eyes. “If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”

She shook her head, waving away the notion as she wolfed down her mouthful. “Not far, that’s for sure. All snow and weirwood trees.” The redhead swallowed, pausing for a moment. “I think...I think I saw my mother.”

“You think?” Bran repeated, arching his brows.

“I suppose. I’d never seen my mother, but she had the right name, so…” The young woman shrugged, making light of the situation that she was still struggling to fully process. “It was strange seeing her as a whelp, though. I guess I’ve only ever imagined her as this fearsome spearwife, and not as someone who was once a child,” Kirith chuckled. “But she was just this...short, reckless little girl, arguing with her sister like any child would…” She shook her head, smiling crookedly.

Bran nodded. “I know what you mean, I felt the same way when I saw my father and uncles as children.”

“Yeah, I remember--" she paused for a moment, recollecting. "Brandon, the uncle you were named for, Eddard, your father, and Benjen, the youngest.” She listed the names off her fingers as Bran’s blue eyes widened. “Oh, and your Aunt. Lyanna.” Lyanna. That name bothered her.

“You remembered all those names?” the younger boy remarked, looking surprised. "I only said them once or so."

Kirith lifted and dropped a shoulder again. “I’m used having stories told to me,” she explained simply, her smile turning wry. “Griff brought back stories of his travels, and I’d have to listen hard if I was going to entertain myself while he was gone.”

“About Griff,” Bran began cautiously. Yes, about Griff, Kirith thought to herself. There were certainly a lot for her to think about when it came to Griff--especially she had started her training with the ancient being sitting above them silently. The more and more she saw in their waking dreams, the more confused she felt. Out of all of them, one bothered her the most. All the waking dreams she had seen remained lodged in her memory, but this vision in particular was crystal clear.

The shouts and cheers of more people than she’d ever seen in her life filled her ears. Lost and smothered in the crowd, Kirith surveyed her surroundings wildly. People--so many people--dressed in colorful clothes too thin to ever withstand the winter wind. Banners flapped in the air, sporting different likenesses of animals and symbols. Then she could what all the people around her were fixated on; down in a large ring, two men in flashing suits on horses galloped at each other with long spear-like poles. The multitude of people were shouting and swearing, cheering and screaming. “What is this? What’s going on?” she raised her voice as best as she could over the din, looking from mentor to fellow student.

“It’s a Tourney,” Bran shouted back. “They’re jousting--I think this might be Harrenhall.”

The sound of the crowd suddenly doubled in volume as one man was knocked off the horse. The remaining warrior cantered about the ring to the cheers, and the crowd cried out to him. As he came to a stop, he reached up to remove his helm, revealing a flash of silver hair she recognized immediately. “Oh,” she uttered, her mouth forming an ‘o’ of surprise and recognition. “Oh, it’s Not-Griff!” she exclaimed. There he was, plain as day, as he always had appeared in her dreams. His pale silver hair gleamed in the sun, just like Griff’s did. Though her remark had been directed more towards herself, Bran turned to her with a strange look on his face.

“Of course that’s not Griff. That’s Prince Rhaegar Targaryen,” he told her, shouting over the crowd. “Why’d you think it’d be Griff?”

“Oh no, I mean…” she began with a quick chuckle, but as his words sank in the laughter faded from her throat. She stared at Bran, then at the young man who was nearly a mirror image of her childhood friend. Silver hair, eyes of violet in the sun, the stern, furrowed brow. “Rhaegar Targaryen?” she repeated, her voice shrunken and tight.

“He was Crown Prince before the Rebellion,” Bran supplied, taking her reaction as ignorance.

“Why..why is his hair like that?” she asked faintly, her eyes frozen on the young man in dark armour. The Crown Prince? Having hair like that? But Griff had said...

“That’s the Targaryen colouring they’re famous for.” Bran answered over the noise. “They say it’s Old Valyria’s blood--white-gold hair and purple eyes.”

A slow dread crept up on her as the words began to sink in. Bran didn’t seem to think the silver hair was strange or unseemly. The cheering crowd certainly didn’t. In fact, from what he was telling her, the entire royal family had had those traits all along.
But Griff had said… The Three Eyed Raven’s red eye seemed to bore into her.

“Kirith? What’s the matter? Are you alright?” Bran’s loud words were suddenly the only thing she could hear as the crowd went silent as the dead. She looked up to see everyone staring pointedly, appearing stunned. Not-Griff--Rhaegar Targaryen--was lifting a wreath of blue flowers up to a pretty girl sitting in the spectators’ dais.

“That’s Lyanna Stark,” Bran whispered grimly to her in the silence, his blue eyes also fixed on the scene. “My aunt.”


The name had struck a chord within her, despite the shock she had been in. Lyanna. Lyanna. It stuck with her even when they woke, along with the scent of those faraway winter roses. She’d spent the rest of the day quietly. Even when mealtime had come, she’d pressed down the accusations crawling up her throat and kept her mouth shut. There had to be some sort of mistake, she’d tried to reassure herself. But the memory of his first lie still haunted her, and she could not be put at ease. Yes, thinking about Griff, her best friend and lifelong companion, only made the things she learned more confusing.

“Kirith?” she heard her name being called. “Kirith?”

“Sorry, what?” she shook herself out of her thoughts, only to find Bran fixing her with an inquisitive gaze.

“I said, Meera thought she heard Griff talking in High Valyrian in his sleep,” the dark-haired boy repeated. “Do you know if that’s true?”

“Yes, he speaks High Valyrian,” she nodded easily--a fact. Nothing confusing about that.

“Is that so?” Bran, on the other hand, seemed puzzled by her answer.

“He’s a merchant. People in the Free Cities, they speak Valyrian, don’t they?” Kirith retorted. “How’s he going to do business with them otherwise?”

“They speak Bastard Valyrian,” Bran continued patiently. “It’s not quite the same.”

Kirith frowned. “And so?”

“High Valyrian isn’t a widely spoken language anymore. It’s rare for anyone other than nobility and maesters to speak it,” the boy explained.

Kirith, of course, had been unaware of this, but she was not to be stumped so easily. “Griff had a maester,” she countered, a spark of triumph in her eyes. “So there.”

“See now, why would some stray merchant’s son have a maester?” Bran reasoned. “Nobility have maesters teach their children, but…”

Kirith paused, her brows furrowing again. “I thought it was a common practice. Merchants need to be learned, that’s what Old Griff always said.”

Bran went quiet. He said nothing, but she could already read what lay in his eyes--it didn’t make sense to him. If anything, his questions had only grown. She looked up to see the old, pallid figure gazing back at her, his red eye fixed on her meaningfully, all-knowing and filled with terrible secrets--no doubt, Griff’s secrets too. Everyone had their secrets, she knew that. Kirith had just thought--hoped--that even if her dear friend would keep the world blind to his secrets, she’d be the one who got to know them, to share the joys and the burdens. However, the more she saw and the more she learned, it appeared that she’d been only blind one all along.

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His dream was the same, it was always the same once it started. It had been years since he had dreamed this fiery dream, now it came almost every night. The closer he grew to the self that was Griff, the farther away the dreams and visions got from him. Now however, they seemed to be trying to rush in around him at all sides, like the creatures swimming in the depths of his mind’s eye. This time was like every other, and when the young Griff finally awoke, it was with a start. The blond brow that furrowed in memory of the dream was beaded with a chilled sweat, his hands tightened into a white-knuckle grip. Though the fear was sapping itself from his heart, it beat hard in his chest as his mind set to forgetting the suffering borne of his own unconscious thought. He drowned in water, he drowned in fire, and he allowed himself to be taken by the thing that latched itself onto him. All the while, following that melodic, sweet voice.

“Aegon,” it called to him. “My Aegon…”

Blinking away the sleep, he yawned into the bend of his arm as he lifted himself from the mat upon which he had slept. Crooking an elbow to support his weight, he reached for the cup of water he’d left on the cave floor beside him, but froze in place when he noticed the shadow skulking in the corner. Eyes on the moving, darkened figure his hand edged past the cup towards the place where he had left his knife, only to have fingers probe the cool stone beneath him coming to touch upon an empty spot. No matter, he lay between this shadow and the opening that led from this small dead-ended, rocky antechamber. The knife gave his enemy the advantage, but he had been up against worse odds before. From his position on his side, Griff began bending his knees and reaching for his boots. The leather ties that held the fur-lined warmth together could be a capable weapon in the right hands. A single stretch of rope could disarm an opponent and break their neck. As hurried fingers started with the straps, a voice emerged from the dark corner of the cave’s catacombs in which Griff had decided to set his private camp.

“Griff, it’s me.” Said the voice, which he recognized at once.

“Meera?” The young man asked, his tone tensed and confused. “Meera, what are you doing?” He asked again.

She took a timid step forward, catching the light and revealing herself to Griff. At once, his confused expression smoothed into something different, something even more harsh than before. She held in one hand his knife and in the other, she pinched a lock of his mud-caked hair in her fingers. At it’s frayed ends, the silver reflected like a shining coin. Absently, a hand at once went to his tangled mop, feeling around his head for the missing chunk of stiff, dirty hair. Finding it and running fingers over the mass of resplendent white-silver now left revealed on the side of his head, his eyes met hers again. “Meera…” He warned slowly, watching her gaze flick behind him in that telling, calculating way.

“Meera, don’t… Meera!” He lunged for her but missed her ankle as she kicked her feet high, leaping over him. Being in a prone position was unfavourable, and while Meera had the drop on him, she was also much faster than he had anticipated. By the time Griff was on his feet, the rapid patter of her footsteps was already beyond hope of reaching. When finally he caught up with her again, she was standing in front of Kirith and Bran, who were sat together around a morning meal that Griff had hunted the night before and Hodor must have salted at first light. Meera no longer held the stolen lock of his hair, but instead the Stark pup pinched it between his thin digits, holding it close to his face to inspect the way a Maester might an artifact. A collection of strands, nothing particularly remarkable or noteworthy quite honestly and yet, something the young Griff had been taught to staunchly defend and conceal.

“So this is why you have mud in your hair, to hide its colour…” The Stark boy observed, a thumb and forefinger cradling his chin. From beside him, the look Kirith was giving him was one he’d never seen before, one he couldn’t bear to keep looking back at. “Why?” The cripple asked.

“You’re a Targaryen, aren’t you?” Meera started at once, giving him no opportunity to defend himself, pointing an accusatory finger at the young man standing before her. “Aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not.” He said back immediately.

“Then why is your hair silver?” She contested in return.

“There are other families with Valyrian blood.” Griff’s face was smooth, void of any wrinkle or ripple that might indicate fabrication or half-truth. He’d been ready for this particular lie for many years and he words fell out of his mouth with the expert-like grace of a serpent’s tongue. Old Griff would have been proud. Young Griff, however…

“Is that true?” Meera asked Bran, looking over her shoulder at him. Kirith stayed quiet, her expression unchanging and her eyes never leaving Griff.

“It is.” He conceded. “There are a handful of Dornish families who can trace their ancestry back to Old Valyria, even before the Rhoynish invasion.” Most of what the lordling was saying was going over Meera’s head, that much could be discerned by the slack-jawed way in which she listened. While his words were in response to her question his body language suggested that he was talking to Griff, and Griff alone. “Which of the Dornish Houses does your father belong to?” He inquired with the confidence of a boy who possessed two working legs as well as a brilliant mind, no doubt moulded by chained Maesters.

“None.” Griff answered. “My father is a base-born from the Stormlands. I’ve tried asking about my mother, but he doesn’t much like talking about her. She died when I was still quite small.” He let himself think of his true mother then, the one whose face he’d never know. Allowing real grief to shape his expression to accommodate for the false, he could see that Meera and the Stark boy were accepting of the story he gave them. Kirith’s expression however, remained the same.

“Why cover your hair?” The son of Winterfell asked.

“For the same reason my father fled for Skagos once war was declared. After the rebellion every sellsword in the Realm, not drafted into the infantry, was out collecting silver scalps to lay at King Robert’s feet. The man your father supported.” There was a factual accuracy to what the young Griff said, which is of course why he had practiced and rehearsed the lie to make sure he would get it just right. Little was left to be contested, all rational explanation offered.

“Prince Rhaegar kidnapped my aunt,” the direwolf pup pointed out, his tone as even and unquestionable as Griff’s had been. “The Mad King burned my uncle alive in front of my grandfather before murdering him too. My father, avenged his family as a boy and chose a King he believed in.”

“So, he did.” Griff replied stiffly, an ugly malice flashing through his dark eyes, but only for an instant. “And that King wiped out the family that wronged yours.”

“But not your family.” Meera added, seeking assurance to her own assessment of the conversation.

“Not my family.” Griff confirmed, a lie.

“Well, then since King Robert is dead and I won’t be scalping you with two broken legs, I suppose there’s no need for you to keep reeking like a rotting corpse.” The Stark boy supplied, a pleasant smile poised onto his face to make light of both Griff’s insult and his own. “Convenient actually, as I need a washing myself. My furs too.” He shifted his weight under his bottom, preparing himself to be lifted as he often did with Hodor. Now however, he was preparing himself for Griff’s arms and the silver-haired, smelly young man couldn’t keep the incredulousness from his visage.

“You want me to bathe you, like a child?” He asked back, cruelty slipping unchecked into his tone of voice.

“No, I can do that myself. I mostly just need help getting into the spring. Usually I would ask Hodor but he’s out collecting more sprouts for the children.” The cripple boy kept his own cadence light and conversational, in spite of how Griff bristled at his words. He didn’t like the way the little Stark called them, children, as though it were a term of endearment. “Are you really going to leave a cripple-boy sitting sodden in dirty furs?” He asked, as though reading Griff’s own mind. And of course, he wasn’t.


The two boys sat in the hollow of the cave where the stream opened up, in silence. They had washed both their clothes and themselves with their backs facing one another, without uttering a word. Now, with their furs drying over a makeshift rack Meera had crafted some days ago, a low fire helping beneath, they had no other choice but to wait in some semblance of comfort. Griff was seated near the fire, impatient for the wet to leave his skin. Too delicate of flesh for the biting cold, the supposed Northern boy remained in the warm embrace of the pool. Having had the pleasure of himself, Griff, washing extra garb with which the Stark pup would be able to dry himself -- so as to remain comfortably warm until the penultimate moment of then clothing oneself and further staying so -- he was visibly irritated. Not that the son of Ned Stark could tell, as his back was kept to his naked and silent minder, a tactical position chosen by Griff with the boy’s immobility in mind.

“I’m sorry, by the way.” The Stark boy said suddenly, piercing the tensed but favoured quiet.

“You’re sorry?” Griff repeated in question.

“About your mother.” He supplied, speaking in an honest, plain way that reminded Griff of the wildlings. “I’m sorry you never knew her.”

A heavy feeling plunged straight through the young Griff’s throat, landing hard in the pit of his stomach. Despair clutched at his chest and stole his breath, and he bit back against the pain of it, drawing blood from his lip. Anger swelled up in place of his sorrow, an easier emotion for him to navigate. Leaving the cripple’s question unanswered, Griff chose instead to stew quietly in his hollow silence, as hollow as the place within him meant to have been filled with a mother’s love. Though he had hoped the Stark boy would take notice of this purposeful hush, he continued on anyway.

“My brother didn’t have a mother either.” He said cryptically. “Well, my half-brother, that is. Never saw him that way though, just a brother.” He corrected, providing clarification, yet still he prattled on further. “Our father never told him anything about her either. My mother didn’t really care for him, she might have even hated him if I’m being honest.”

“Can’t blame her.” Griff replied, the usual prickliness in his voice when talking to the lordling. “A man should keep his vows when he makes them. To his wife, to his countrymen, to his King…” The subtle jab he was attempting to make was obvious, and while he had hoped it would silence the talkative boy, it served onto the further their conversation.

“Jon used to say the same thing. He never blamed her either.” He agreed pleasantly, looking completely beyond the insult, nodding along as he spoke. “I think you’d like him.” He added, turning his head as though he might look over his shoulder to Griff, but stopping just short. “You’re both so serious.”

“I’m not that serious.” Griff retorted.

“I’m not that serious.” The Stark pup mocked, pulling a face and furrowing his brow to match the impression. In spite of himself, Griff found himself smirking at the joke. Admittedly, it had been a while since he’d had a bloke to joke with. He missed his wildling folk, his father, his Duck… “Are they dry yet?” The cripple asked, interrupting his thoughts.

“Dry enough.” He answered, rising and setting to his task.

Clothing himself was easy and quick, but clothing the Stark pup took considerably more effort. He didn’t need help with much, mostly just his breeches and the strappings of the long furs along his legs. After polite inquiry, and the knowledge that the young man couldn’t feel the cold on his legs anyway, left Griff to wonder at the reason for his labour. Having both boys clean and clothed, the furs they’d used to dry themselves left hanging over the same rack their clothes had previously occupied, Griff moved to lift the Stark boy into his arms. As an arm went around his neck and he began to hoist, a flash of light blinded his eye. Dropping the boy at once, Griff’s hand came to the assaulted organ, pressing against a lid as though that might blacken the lights dancing behind his eye. Looking down at him with half of his remaining gaze, he could see he held a small blade in his hand, having reflected the light from the fire directly into his eye and clearly, on purpose.


Why would you…?” He started, but the Stark boy was grinning wildly at him, the previous calm and pleasant demeanor shed like a snake’s skin.

“I knew it.” He started, his voice filled with something Griff didn’t like. “It’s hard to tell in the dark but your eyes aren’t blue at all, they’re violet.” He pointed out with a satisfied knowing. “You are a Targaryen. You’re Aegon Targaryen.”

As the boy spoke, Griff’s expression took on a deadly calm. Reaching down, he began dragging the Stark pup to the pool’s edge even before he had finished speaking. “And you talk too much.” He replied bitterly as he angled the boy in a position that could have only one intention.

“Why are you hiding?” He asked, eyes wide as they realized their present predicament, yet lips unable to still. “Why doesn’t Kirith know?” As the ends of his hair began to dip into the water he grasped at Griff’s furs, lifting himself out of a perilous death in desperation. “You’re going to kill me? Why?” He demanded, panic edging into his voice.

“I’m not going to kill you,” he explained patiently. “I’m going to drown you.” He was stronger than the Stark boy by at least tenfold, there was no hope for him and yet he persisted in struggling and grasping at Griff to keep himself aloft.

“And what will you tell the girls?” He asked hopelessly.

“That I looked away for an instant and it was a horrible accident.” Not one fraction of the anxiety in Brandon Stark’s voice could be found in the young Griff’s.

“What if I don’t say anything? I’ll keep it a secret!”

“And why would I trust you?”

“Have I given you a reason not to trust me?!” And at those words, Griff was given momentary pause.

“Why does it matter who I am?” He asked in return.

“Leaf told you that I was to be your friend, she and the other children told me the same. I needed to know who you were, because it certainly isn’t the Young Griff.” He explained, his words unknowingly setting the spark to raise a forest fire of self doubt within the very individual who held his life in his hands.

“Why?” He asked again.

“So I could help you.” The Stark boy offered at once.

“Why?” He asked again.

“Because I’m your friend!” He reiterated impatiently.

It was some time before Griff finally set the crippled young man down on the flat surface beside the pool he had previously intended to drown him in, but at last he did. The Stark boy breathed deeply, letting the fear pass before lifting himself to a sitting position and touching upon the wet ends of his hair. “You will not tell Kirith.” He told the blue-eyed Northerner. Coming to crouch in front of him, letting his broad shoulders cast a shadow beneath which he could cower, he repeated himself saying, “you will not tell Kirith.” After a moment’s hesitation he added, “say it.”

“I think she might already…” The Stark boy started but Griff was cutting him off.

“Say it.”

“I will not tell Kirith.” He said, the phrase spoken on a sigh. As though the five words held some sort of magic properties, the young Griff then stooped and lifted the Stark boy into his arms. Starting down the corridors, the cripple knew as well as Griff that the instant he returned the boy to the raven, he would make a dash for the outside before the winter sun had it’s chance to set. If there was any other dialogue he wished to engage Griff in, the time was now. “You look just like him, your father.” He whispered.

“I wouldn’t know.” Griff answered, bitterly.

“You should ask the Three-Eyed Raven for help, he could show you.” Griff only scoffed at the response.

“I can’t see visions like you and Kirith can. Only nightmares.” He explained.

“And memories.” Brandon Stark offered helpfully. “You have memories.”

“I was only a babe when my parents died.” He returned contrarily.

“Just because you can’t call up the memory, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You just need someone who could help you find it.” The words gave Griff further pause and they continued the rest of their venture through the catacombs of the cave in silence. When finally they reached the chamber in which the Three-Eyed Raven sat skewered by his weirwood, Griff’s eyes found the red of the monster’s more than before.

Setting the cripple down beside Kirith, he noticed that Meera couldn’t stop staring at him. “What?” He asked.

“Nothing. You look different, is all.” Meera offered, shameless in her assessment of Griff’s new appearance in her presence.

“Well, I’ll be…” He let his voice trail off as he gestured vaguely towards cave’s corridors. His eyes met theirs, and in them he saw each a different reflection. The most difficult to face was Kirith’s, but curiously it was the Three-Eyed Raven’s that he held for the longest before darting from this place that felt to Griff like grave. The first gasp of fresh air was always the most savoured. After a few paces into the woods, Summer and Hodor found him and again he was placed at ease.

Almost.

“Aegon.” He muttered under his breath. “My name is Aegon.”

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“You’re awfully quiet,” the brunette commented, her voice echoing through the hollow cavern. Kirith knew it to be true, but only shrugged, lifting one shoulder and letting it drop carelessly. Not long ago, it had Kirith who had attempted to goad Meera into some sort of conversation instead of sitting in the corner sullenly. “You’ve been mentioning we should spar. How ‘bout it?” Meera tried again, gesturing to the spear that had gone abandoned for some time now. How many days had it been? She truly didn’t know anymore. When had been the last time she had gone outside, felt the sun on her face?

“Maybe later,” she answered, her attention solely focused on the tunnel Bran and Griff had disappeared through. Meera shrugged also, letting out a huff of air. The idea of being able to move her muscles and heft her spear truthfully sounded appealing, but the flame-haired girl was not about to budge until they came back. Her fingers curled and uncurled around the stone he had given her. It still felt hot in her palm.

When the two young men finally returned, they looked--and smelled--much more cleaner than before. In Griff’s case it was that he had finally washed out the filthy mud from his hair, returning it to the pale white. You look different, Meera was saying. Even though she had always seen him with his white hair, when she looked upon his familiar visage she saw another there. She saw Rhaegar Targaryen there.

“Well I’ll be…” Griff muttered, all too eager to run away. She watched him go in silence, though her eyes never left his back. Once he was out of sight, she finally turned to the blue-eyed boy next to her.

“He told you something,” she remarked to him. It was not a question. She had known the moment they had returned--something had changed between the two of them. Bran met her gaze quickly enough, though his eyes seemed to shrink back from the piercing silver gleam in them.

“Well, we did talk,” he replied casually, a desperate attempt to be honest.

“Oh? What did you talk about?” she followed up, the feigned nonchalance in her voice hardening.

“Nothing important--” the young Stark tried again, but he was cut off by the sharp laugh the girl emitted. “Kirith?” he asked, startled.

“You too?” she laughed, her shoulders shaking as her head bowed. “You too…” As the hollow laugh died away in her throat, she staggered up, her feet turning towards the way Griff had left.

“Kirith! Wait!” Bran started, but ignoring his pleas the redhead broke into a run, disappearing out of his reach. At first, her body seemed to protest against the sudden sprint, but soon she was numb to the pain as she dashed through the twisting pathways. She knew not exactly where she was running to, but her heart knew--she was running to him. She knew her feet, far too accustomed to seeking him out even in the deepest throes of dreams, would lead her straight to him. Indeed, once she burst into the outside world, she could clearly see his beloved form amidst the woods with his two companions.

“Griff!” she called out, the wind lifting her voice and carrying it to him as she raced towards him. “Griff!” He turned to her--what would he see in her face, she wondered. The girl who had tearfully sought him out in the dead of night, terrified by a dream? The mischievous whelp who had tugged him into every sort of trouble possible? Just as they were close enough to embrace or fall into a tussle of a greeting, Kirith reached out and drove her fist straight into his jaw. Without giving him time to recover, she shoved him squarely in the chest, sending him stumbling away from her and landing in the snow-covered ground. In all her years as a fight-mongering little brat, she’d never once turned her fists towards him--no, never him. As much as she struggled against it, things changed; things she had once held sacred would go sullied. She would have to accept that now.

“Hodor!” Hodor bleated in alarm, starting to lumber over to Griff, but Kirith was quicker.

“You stay out of this,” she hissed to the gentle giant, clearly meaning the razor-sharp threat dancing in her eyes. Breath ragged, she stormed over to the white-haired young man and grabbed the collar of his furs. “Liar,” she accused, shaking him hard--but her voice only shook harder. Angry tears fell unbidden from her eyes and splattered over his upturned cheeks, punctuating the bitter word that would not stop bubbling forth from her lips. “Liar, liar, liar!”

She was done with trying to be good. She was done with trying to stuff down her doubts, to turn away her eyes from the hurtful truth. “Just what am I to you?” the wildling girl snarled, baring her fangs to the cold air. “A stupid little girl, is that it? Aren’t we best friends? Don’t we know each other best? I thought we trusted each other!” her voice broke, the raw pain of betrayal leaking from the seams. We have to trust each other, he’d told her. “You said…y-you said...she stammered out, her words dissolving into strangled sobs. Stupid, stupid, stupid.  Releasing his garments, Kirith roughly ran her sleeve over her reddened eyes, no longer willing to let him see her cry like a foolish child.

When she straightened and her arm left her face, she now gazed down at him with eyes of ice. “But I see how it is. You’ll trust a boy you’ve just met over me.” Seeing his expression shift she scoffed, dismissively waving a hand. “Don’t worry. He said nothing. He’ll keep your precious secrets.” She didn’t need to know what secrets he’d entrusted the Stark boy with. The first stab in the back had been the realization that her dearest friend had been keeping secrets from her, but it was even more of a betrayal to know that he had told them to Bran when even she had not been privy to them. Add to that the lies that had he had obviously been telling her, and Kirith had caved to the fire of her hair, the winter in her veins.

“You’ve been lying to me all along, haven’t you?” she demanded. It hurt her to say it. A part of her wanted to deny it still, but there was no stopping now. “Filling my head with nonsense, and I was stupid enough to believe you,” her voice turned to self-loathing, her nails biting into her palms. How could she have been so gullible? Why had it taken so long for her to even realize it all?

“Well, I’ve been seeing things,” she declared coolly, her steel grey eyes condemning. For a moment the wildling girl seemed to be as ancient and all-knowing as the twisted pallid creature who was tutoring her. “I’ve been learning things too. All the things you’ve been telling me--they don’t add up. They might have accepted your explanations back there, Meera and Bran, but now I know better than to blindly trust the things you say.” Jaw tight, she watched him--the snow-white hair, the lavender eyes, the furrow of his brow.




“You look just like him, did you know that?” she uttered a humorless little laugh. “I’ve been seeing him in my dreams for a while now. ‘Not-Griff.’ Enough for me to mistake him for you that night.” She knew he would not require an explanation to catch on to her meaning. “I didn’t think he was real, but you knew who he was, and so did Bran. We watched him at the Tourney of Harrenhal--Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.” The last three words rolled off her tongue slowly, three drops of poison that had caused her mind to fester with suspicion. She shook her head, the miserable, incredulous laugh still echoing in her uneven breathing. The more she knew, the more things tangled up in her head. Everything she had ever trusted in was suspicious, unreliable. From her mother to the aunt and grandmother that had fabricated her, and now her best friend. She couldn’t bear to look at him anymore. She stumbled back and away, looking as if she would flee back into the caverns, but at the last moment she halted, forcing herself to meet his eyes again. He'd never looked so much like a stranger. 

“Who are you? I don’t even know who you are anymore,” the girl suddenly looked lost and lonely, torn away from her life-long companion. “Was any of it true?” she whispered, her fierce eyes threatening to fill up again. Was it all a lie? 
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He hadn’t been expecting her to hit him as hard as she had.  It was enough to rattle his brain around inside his skull, enough that he felt the pain from her strike to his jaw shooting down his neck.  His mouth filled with the familiar hot taste of copper, the crimson oozing from his split lip spilling down his chin and dripping into the snow.  She hadn’t stopped with her fists of course, she had also pushed him into the forest floor, bearing down on him while he sat crumpled onto himself.  At first her shouting had sounded like noise, his head still spinning from her assault, unable to make sense of it.  He looked up at her with bewildered eyes until finally they narrowed as she said, “but I see how it is.  You’ll trust a boy you’ve just met over me.”

A dead boy, he thought to himself.  A dead boy who’ll never meet anyone else again once I’m through with him…

“Don’t worry, he said nothing.  He’ll keep your precious secrets.” She continued, childishly.  At her mention, his expression softened marginally, pleased to know the Stark pup had kept his promise.  His expression gave little away, save for indifference and thinly veiled frustration.  This was not the first time that Kirith had been cross with him, but it was the first time he’d seen her so hurt.  She had ignored him for weeks, followed him around badgering him, and even conspiratorially sabotaged his hunts.  All of these things she did in retaliation to him upsetting her in one way or another.  Sometimes he deserved it, other times he didn’t.  Every time, she sought to even the score, to make Griff feel as she felt.  If she wanted to make him bleed, it meant that she too had been cut somewhere along their journey.  While she might have expected a drop of empathy or compassion to reach his sharp features, they touched not even the violet of his eyes.  Instead his lips pressed into a hard line, his gaze passive and calculating. 

“You’ve been lying to me all along, haven’t you?” She accused.

Yes, he thought, his visage changing not one bit. 

“Filling my head with nonsense, and I was stupid enough to believe you.” She continued.

Yes, he thought again.  Jon had told him once, on a tear-filled night during which he had begged to share his secret with his dearest friend. “If she wanted to see, she would.  You’re a very special boy, Aegon.  People will want from you simply because you are in a position to have, even if you have nothing for them to take.  Remember that.”  The sage advice had stuck with him, resurfacing now as he looked up at Kirith, her fiery flame-kissed hair moving about her as she spoke.  The necklace he had gifted her dangled from her neck, catching the light of the setting sun reflected against the snow.  She looked as a divine vision, and yet he could feel himself hating her in spite of it. 

“You look just like him, did you know that?” Her words bounced against the ringing in his head from her blow, echoing with Brandon Stark’s voice, with Jon’s voice.  How many times had he heard someone say those words to him?  Now, as he looked away from her and back again, rolling onto his knees and then his feet, something of a deeper feeling flashed across his eyes.  Anger.  It bubbled in the deep indigo of his pools, rolling untethered against treacherous waves. 

“Who are you?  I don’t even know who you are anymore.” Kirith insisted, eyes wide and desperate for warmth in place of the snow in which her feet were buried.  The heat found in his hues however, was not the comforting, glow of a hearth but rather the flaring, rage of a forest fire. 

“You knew me just fine before we reached this wretched place.” He snapped back, turning from her to spit blood into the snow.  Worrying at the place where she had struck with his tongue, he could feel at once that he would need to ice the muscle and set the bone lest he desire eating only stew for the next month. 

“Was any of it true?” She asked him. 

“I’ll tell you what’s true,” the young Griff began, letting the venom trickle past his tongue at once.  “I was born in the hottest month of the Long Summer, I can hold my breath longer than a sea-otter and I have nightmares about fire.” As he spoke, he paced around her.  While Griff might have half expected Summer to give Kirith a growl at the onslaught of her attack, the wolf instead kept that smart gaze locked on Griff alone as though waiting for the moment the beast would be needed for protective intervention.

“I don’t know this Rhaegar Targaryen, and from what I’ve heard, I wouldn’t have wanted to know him.” He remarked smoothly, coolly.  “You heard Bran, he kidnapped his aunt and raped her.  This man started a war over selfish want and you think I should claim him?” Now it was his turn to raise his voice, the demand on his snarling lips instead of hers.  “And whatever you might think, the old man Griff is my father.  Since I was an infant babe, since my first memories, there has only been me and my father.  Everything I know, everything I am is because of him so piss on whatever your trees tell you, that’s what he is.” The words came up of their own volition, a revelation upon their breath.  He hadn’t realized just how much he missed the old man until now. 

Blood splattered from his lips as his voice rose to a dragon’s roar,  before quieting suddenly and without warning as he reached the true source of his wrath.  With fists balled and shaking at his sides, his violet eyes sharpened into daggers he said, “and I abandoned him, for you.”  He stepped towards her then, cruel in his need to make her retreat, for her to finally feel it too, just this once.  “Our home, our people, the only family I’ve ever had, I left them all behind to follow you.” He had known it from the first, he had seen it in her eyes that this place she led them to would be the death of them, the death of him.  “I trusted you even when you couldn’t give me answers, I followed you even when you couldn’t tell me where we were going…” Now, it was his turn to laugh.  Gesturing around himself with his arms outstretched, he let his heartless laughter echo off the trees.  “Is this what we came for?” He asked.  “So you could turn into this?” He gestured at her now. 

The young Griff spat again into the snow, the blood landing pink against the freshly fallen white.  The moss had already grown too thickly against the trees he had marked, keeping track of the passing time.  He had been ready to leave from the moment they had arrived, but now the sands were slipping through the hourglass.  Soon, the Shy Maid would be pulling into the harbour at Hardhome.  If this was the place Kirith intended to make her life, to tangle herself within a weirwood like the haunted creature she worshipped, he would have to leave her behind.  “Do you feel powerful?  Is this the magic you were looking for?” He asked her bitterly.  He had still more venom left to sap from his veins.  “To poke through a past I’ve never seen, to steal pieces of a life I’ve never lived, only to throw those stolen memories back at me…” He let the hurt reach his voice, allowed the ache of it to crack his solid cadence.  They stood before one another, both with an unyielding look reflected in each of their eyes.  The snows fell around them, landing against her bright hair, freezing his dripping blood to his chin. 

“My name is Aegon,” he let the wind take the words, spoken aloud for the first time, and carry them through the world.  It didn’t feel like he imagined it would.  “I can see now that knowing that doesn’t mean you know me.” There was no Griff-like kindness in his eyes.  Instead an indifferent, reptilian stare settled in the place of his anger.  “Maybe I was wrong to think you ever did.”

He turned from her with a shallow unfeeling, taking from Hodor the tools he had been using, collecting firewood and checking on the snares he had laid that morning.  “Hodor.” He said, concern wrinkling his simple brow. 

“Take Kirith back to the caves, I’ll finish and return with Summer.” He instructed the giant, who lumbered over to the redhead’s side.  “I’m leaving in two days.” He added, talking now to Kirith but refusing to meet her gaze.  “I won’t ask you to follow me.”  She reached for him but he shook her off, violent and uncaring.  Turning from her, he spared her not even a glance over his shoulder before starting deeper into the trees.

The silver-haired young man traipsed through the woods alongside the dark-coated direwolf until finally he had tired the fury from his feet, his stomping settling into a lazy stride.  The snares had proved worthy of the time they’d taken to set.  Enough silly rabbits, and even one winter skinny deer which he carried slung across his shoulders, were collected from his bounty that he’d be able to feed Bran, Meera and even Kirith before making his leave.  There may even be enough remaining to salt and stow for the travel.  He didn’t let himself think on Kirith, or his father and his withering hand.  He didn’t even let himself think on his name, his real name, whatever that meant.  Instead purple eyes watched the snow falling around him, thinking of only their slow descent towards the ground.  His gaze followed the white flakes in the same way by which they navigated the water, moving through the winter-touched lands as though they were the seas.  Thinking as a beast might, as a shark or a wolf, he quickly found himself deep within the forest, without any intention to find his way out any time soon. 


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“You’re wrong,” Kirith hissed at his accusations. It was all wrong. She’d never cared to grow stronger for the sake of power itself. “Is that what you think I came here for? I came here,” she began, but her words failed her, rendering her unable to speak the simple truth: she’d come all this way for him. Do you want to lose him? the raven had asked her. That had been all she’d ever cared about, attaining enough power to stay by his side, to fly after him even if he crossed oceans.

“I’m leaving in two days. I won’t ask you to follow me.”

All the anger boiling inside her suddenly came to a cold stop. Leaving? In two days? What felt much like panic lurched up within her as the words sank in. “My training--my training isn’t over yet,” she stammered out, too stunned to sound spiteful. He didn’t meet her eyes. I’m not going to leave without you again. I promise, he’d said. “Griff,” she uttered numbly, grasping his arm. Griff, she called him still, the name she’d spoken more than any other throughout her life. Griff! A mischievous whisper from outside his tent. Griff! A joyous laugh falling from her lips as he crashed into her on the shore. Griff! A fearful, frantic cry piercing the night like an arrow. He’d always turned to her voice calling his name, no matter what, but this time--this time he did not. This time he wrenched his arm from her grasp, twisting away without so much as a fleeting glance at her horrified face. Like a heartless stranger he walked away from her, leaving her behind and disappearing into the woods. I’m never going anywhere without you, as long as I live.

“Hodor,” the large man said softly, jolting her out of her stupor. He shifted towards the entrance of the cave, gesturing. “Hodor?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s fine,” she answered, swallowing with difficulty. “I can find my own way.” Yet she was rooted to the spot, unable to find the strength to move even one inch.

“Hodor,” he repeated, concern in his voice. Laying a gentle arm around her shoulders he led her back through the caverns like one would a child, and she walked along mechanically, her thoughts a blank white page. He’s leaving you, the mocking voice started again. He’s leaving you behind, silly, foolish girl.

As the two returned to the wide cave the young Stark immediately looked up, relief crossing his face. “You’re back,” Bran started to say, but she was not looking at him or Meera. Instead, she stumbled straight over to the twisted figure on his weirwood throne like a sleepwalking girl, her grey eyes fixed on the ancient being.




“My training--” she began, her face pale and drawn.

“I know what it is you are asking,” the ancient creature answered, his one eye staring down at her knowingly. “And it is impossible.”

“But he’s leaving in two days,” she choked out, “I can’t stay.”

“You are not ready yet. You cannot fly yet, you cannot see yet--you are but a blind fledgling. If you leave now, it’ll all be for naught. You might give chase, but you will plummet and drown.”

Kirith shook her head, sending her flame hued locks swinging. “There has to be a way,” she pleaded imploringly, but there was no sympathy in his expression.

“There is no such way.”

She backed away from the wizened being, dizzy with despair. No, how could this be? How could it end like this? She’d come here...she’d come here because… Someone called out to her--Bran? Meera? She couldn’t tell anymore. Why? Why? Unable to do anything else, she turned and did the only thing she could--she ran. Bereft of the one she had always run to, she ran blindly through the caverns uncaring of the footing, uncaring of the direction, uncaring of the destination. Twice she stumbled and fell, but each time she rose and threw herself forward. She ran and ran until she was hopelessly lost; she ran until she couldn't, until she had reached a dead end and her legs gave way underneath her.

Crumpled before the tangled roots of the heart tree that blocked her way she burst into tears. She cried like a child, cried like she never had even as a child, shamelessly letting her sobs and wails ring out into the darkness. A tear for each false word she had been fed, a tear for each false hope she'd been given, a tear for every secret gone unspoken, an ocean to fill the bottomless hole that had opened up in her chest. Nothing had changed--she was just as helpless as she had been on Skagos, just as helpless as the child on the shore. No matter how far as she stretched out to match his stride, she would always come up short, she would always be left behind. Her last shining hope snatched away she cried until she had no strength to do so, until she had no more tears to shed--and then at last, exhausted and numb, the girl fell against the white roots and surrendered to sleep.

As her eyes fluttered open, Kirith was not surprised to find herself on the snowy plains with the Three Eyed Raven beside her. "You lied to me," she said dully. Her voice was void of spite or hurt, filled with only a defeated acceptance. Her grandmother, her aunt, her dearest friend--why should there be a fuss over the addition of a mentor to that list? There was only so much she could muster an emotional response to, and now she was too drained to muster any.

"I've only spoken the truth to you," he insisted stonily.

“Have you? I came here so I wouldn’t lose him,” she reminded the raven, a trace of bitterness in her voice as she admitted to him what she could not say to Griff. “You promised me you’d teach me to fly, but I’ve lost him anyway.”

“And fly you shall,” the decrepit figure responded, not a care for the despair brimming in her gaze. “Human child, did you think it would be painless for you to sprout wings? For you to gain a thousand and one eyes? Did you not think there would be a price to pay for such power?”

“You could’ve taken anything else--you could’ve taken everything else,” the flame-haired girl spoke listlessly, her eyes falling to the snowy ground. “He was the one thing I couldn’t lose. He was the one thing I wouldn’t sacrifice.”

“A sacrifice beneficial for both of you,” he noted matter-of-factly. “You would only be a hindrance to him as of now, unable to do anything to help. But in due time you will see. You will fly.”

She looked up at him, but now her eyes had hardened to steel, her fingers balling into fists. “No, I won’t,” she shot back, a newfound edge in her voice. She was tired of riddles. She was tired of seeing. “No more. I’ve had enough.” What was the point of wings and eyes if they didn’t take her where she needed them to?  As the ancient being opened his mouth to speak another cryptic line, her own voice rose to a shout, ripping through the winter air like a howling storm. “No! Get out of my head!”

The twisted man froze at her words, frosting over and shattering into a shower of snow before her very eyes. Chest heaving, she stood in the abrupt silence; his presence was gone--no voice, no trace of his ancient energy. No more. She was tired--tired of everything--lies, riddles, dreaming, heartbreak. Sinking to her knees, she folded into herself on the barren landscape and buried herself in the snow. The powdery white had never felt more like home, the chill wrapping around her and soothing her burning heart. Slowly, it numbed her to the pain, and the young woman closed her eyes as the world dissolved away into darkness, into oblivion, into a sleep free from mysterious dreams. 


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


“Kirith,” she heard her name being called, felt a hand shaking her to wakefulness. “Kirith, wake up.” Recognizing the voice, she refused to open her eyes and rolled away from the source. She wanted to be left alone--how hard was that to understand? The voice persisted and she begrudgingly cracked her eyes open, her expression settling sullenly as she regarded the child of the forest before her. “Kirith,” Leaf repeated, holding out a bowl of what smelled like rabbit. “You have to eat.”

“Go away,” the wildling girl retorted hollowly. “I’m not hungry.” While she was being childish, she wasn’t lying--it was difficult to tell anymore. At first she’d woken with pangs in her stomach and her throat burning with thirst, but now she felt nothing. Kirith wanted nothing more to go back to the darkness she’d been pulled from; for the first time in what felt like ages, her dreams were blissfully free of anything to do with truths or long-forgotten pasts or the blasted future. After forcing her mentor out of her dreams, she continued to resist any such mental connection with a venomous ferociousness.

“It’s been more than a day,” the creature informed her, her sweet, high voice heavy with implication. Kirith knew what Leaf was alluding to, and she hated her for it. There was no time left. He would leave in another day, washing his hands clean of her folly and returning to his secrets. If it had been unlikely that he’d return to Skagos, she knew he would never return to this place of snow and ice. What was it that her aunt had said? Kneelers, they don’t fare well in winter’s embrace for long.

She’d never thought she end up having to admit that her aunt was right, even in the secrecy of her own mind. While Kirith had no intention of letting the woman getting the satisfaction of seeing her return to Skagos crushed and alone, she could not even begin to think of what she would do from now on. Perhaps she’d wander the land of her birth until she met a group of Free Folk, or until she was done in by an undead monstrosity. Or maybe she would just wither away here, a foolish and useless death for a foolish and useless girl. Her thoughts were beginning to fray.

Will you let him go then? the voice returned, ringing tones of iron.

He’s leaving me regardless, she replied despondently. She couldn't distinguish whether this was truly the raven or just a product of her wandering mind.

What of your destinies? it pressed.

It’s clear he doesn’t need me. She felt a streak of hurt run through her, but even that was very far away now. He’s spent most of his life away from me anyhow, I don’t see why he can’t fulfill a destiny without me.

And should he meet his doom because of you? Will you remain ignorant then too?

I don’t care anymore, she threw back petulantly, squeezing her eyes shut and trying to block out the voice within. She didn’t care about anything anymore. The raven’s promises had set her soaring high above the clouds, but now she could see that the higher one climbed, the harder they fell--now she was utterly broken. She was so tired now, so weary. She didn’t want to care about him or herself, or this nonsense about fates and destinies. Leave me alone. Then Kirith could feel the pull, the tug at her consciousness and she resisted, struggling for control. “Stay out!” she hissed, but her physical strength had depleted long ago and now her mental strength was beginning to fail, weakened by hunger and anguish. Even as she tried to stumble up and away from the roots of the heart tree the ground and cave were melting away, sending a rushing river sweeping against her body instead.

Wild-eyed she turned about, drinking in the sight that had replaced the dark, damp caverns. Recognizing it she shook her head, though this time it was terror twisting in her eyes, not childish stubbornness. “No, no, no,” she repeated, her words dripping with dread. “No, stop it,” she pleaded, raising her voice to the sky. “Please!” Her begging was abruptly drowned out by the sound of battle; men crashed into enemy lines, shouting their battle cries, falling by the sword and axe. Even though she was standing in the middle of the chaotic scene her attention was fated to be drawn to a lone figure locked in combat with another--a silver-haired warrior, decked in black and red. She knew before she even looked that this time, it was not Rhaegar Targaryen. “Stop it,” she cried, wanting to cover her eyes, to look away, to wake up. “I don’t want to see this!”

Why not? The silence seemed to mock. You don’t care.

Unable to argue she watched, her breath sticking painfully in her throat as the form of the man he fought twisted up into a nightmare--she knew how this would end, she knew how this would play out. Instead of taking the form of a pitch-black stag however, the vortex took on a glacial blue hue, exploding outwards to blanket them all. The enemy soldiers around her staggered awake in a different form, decayed and cold; the opponent that charged at the pale-haired boy was now no longer human, but a terrifying and ethereal creature white as snow with eyes of an unnatural glowing blue.

The sight of it struck a chord of terror within her, the kind of base fear that fueled an animal’s survival, adrenaline racing through her veins like lightning. Run, every fiber of her being commanded. Run! And yet, despite it all, despite the visceral fear clawing at her gut, she could not. “Griff,” she whispered, her feet propelling her forward before she was fully aware of what she was doing. Unfortunately for her, as she began to rush through the water she found that the cold emanating from the monster had spread at a fearsome speed, freezing the river and trapping her in place. Feverishly she clawed and beat at the ice, bloodying her knuckles, but the unforgiving ice would not yield.  

Once again, she was rendered helpless to do nothing but watch from afar as the pale otherworldly monster attacked her childhood friend, a wickedly sharp crystal sword in hand. Helplessness. It was a wretchedly familiar feeling, one she hated so vehemently. As a child, she had gone out of her way to prove that she was not helpless, that she wrought her own choices and consequences, bad and good. The only helplessness she’d felt was whenever he’d be taken away from her. No amount of thinking or pleading, plotting or struggling she’d done had been able to change a single thing; there’d been nothing to do but stand there and watch the ship pull away. Every single time, she’d been powerless. At the time she’d believed that only if she became older, stronger, more capable, she would no longer be helpless. When that too failed, from the depths of her dreams she’d been offered what had appeared like the true solution by a mystical raven. But where had that gotten her?

“What do you want from me?!” the redhead lashed out, a dark fury flashing in her stormy eyes. The raven was nowhere to be seen, but she bared her teeth all the same as she continued to thrash in her icy prison. “What are you trying to say? I want to be with him, you know that--you always knew that! But you won’t let me go and he’s not going to wait, so what do you want me to do?!” Almost as in response to her rage the ice around her split, finally releasing her. Frantically scrambling up from the pit she rushed forward, skidding through the raging battle and the animated dead grabbing for her to make her way to the dueling pair. He hadn’t been the only one to make a promise to her that night. No, she’d sworn an oath to herself as well, hadn’t she? She’d sworn she’d never resign herself to letting anything tear them apart--and as all bad habits went, she’d caved. No more.

Blind. Flightless. Helpless. Why do you fight? Why do you struggle? the voice returned to taunt as the swarm of wights clawed at her.

"I don't care!" Kirith spat back desperately as she tore herself from their cold grasp, scattering bones and flesh. She could only catch fleeting glimpses of his form from between the chaos, but she never looked away. "Flightless, helpless, I can't--I won't lose him." Never, never, never.

A noble thought, but how will you follow him without eyes to see where he is?

“I’ve found my way to him for my whole life,” she gritted out, wresting her arm from the clutches of another frozen hand. “My feet know the way. My heart knows the way.”

How will you follow him without wings to carry you over the sea? he insisted.

“If I can’t fly, I’ll swim. If I can’t swim, I’ll sail,” the girl retorted, her ragged words punctuated by her movements as she fought her way forward. She was close, so close she could hear the sound of blades clashing together. “If I can’t sail--even if I have to drain the oceans dry, I’ll crawl my way to him.” And all at once she realized she had made it through the throng of the dead and dying to the heart of the battle--he was but a short dash away. She raced towards him, shouting his name, but he seemed deaf to her voice. Though she was battered and bruised, she was not too far gone as she rushed over to notice that every time the crystal sword clashed against his blade ice was creeping over the steel. “Watch out!” she cried out, but as the warning left her his sword shattered like glass under a mighty swing, rendering him weaponless.

How will you save him from doom without a weapon? Without the power I’ll grant you?

The raven was right--she had no spear, no knife, no shield. Helpless. As the creature drew back with its frozen blade however, Kirith realized she didn’t need a weapon or anything else of the sort to save him. No, she already had everything she needed. Throwing aside all her doubts, she thrust herself directly into the path of the whistling blade. The sword plunged straight through her back, the deadly point coming to a quivering stop a mere inch from grazing the young man who stood before her. As she let out a sound that was half gasp, half laugh, as his violet eyes finally filled with a terrible recognition, time itself seemed to come to a sudden stop. In a whirl of inky feathers her wizened mentor appeared before her, his red eye glowing bright, and struggling for breath she met his gaze with a feral grin, her eyes smoldering with a gloating defiance.

“Is this your choice?” he demanded sternly. “You would forsake it all and remain powerless?”

“It is,” she spoke unflinchingly, her tones ringing with finality. “And I will make the same choice again and again.”

“All for a boy who lied to you all this time?”

“I...I don’t know the truth,” the wildling girl admitted haltingly, her features turning grim. “I don’t know how much of it was made up, or how much of it was real. But--but if there’s one thing that I do know with certainty, it’s how I feel.” Kirith glanced away from the Three-Eyed-Raven to the frozen visage of the boy she’d known as Griff. At the bottom of all that hurt and anger, she was still too much of a fool to cut him out of her heart. How could she, when he was the very thing that comprised so much of it? “I don’t care if you say I am helpless or stupid, I know I’m both of those things,” she remarked, letting out a weak, breathless laugh. “But if you ask me to choose between him and anything else in the world, it’ll always be him.” She turned to the ancient being once more, lifting her chin in stubborn rebellion. “So keep your wings, and keep your eyes, too--I don’t want them.”

The raven stared at her wordlessly, his eye glowing with a frightening light, but Kirith refused to back down, glaring back with the bite of winter in her pale eyes. Then the world began to dissolve like snow in the sun; the sword in her heart, the surrounding battle, Griff and the frozen monster all faded away to a blinding white. “Now you are ready,” the Three-Eyed-Raven’s voice rippled out through the emptiness, ringing still in her ears as her eyes opened again. “Come to me, Seer--it is time for you to take flight.”
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“You can’t go.” She said again.  It was only the hundredth time today he’d heard the same thing.  “They aren’t ready.” She continued, repeating the words he’d already stopped listening to.  “They need more time.”

The silver haired young man who ignored Meera, standing over him, crouched before his pack.  He wrapped the meats he had salted, binding them tight and layering the leathers around them.  All would be for naught, after all, if his well-planned dinner betrayed him and attracted a bear or wolf to make of him their own dinner.  The swamp-born Northern girl persisted in her nagging as he worked.  He had not been planning to stay in the cave for very long, just long enough to pack up his belongings and prepare for the travel ahead.  He’d start out at first light.  There wasn’t a doubt that he would arrive ahead of the Shy Maid but it would give him enough time to collect his thoughts and ready himself for the next chapter of his journey.  If he could find himself enough to eat along the way to Hardhome, sparring his rations, he’d be able to trade some of his salted meats for fresh furs and a place by a roaring fire.  Slowly at first and then all at once, his hands began moving in the opposite direction as Meera prattled on in his ear.  As he had been adding new bundles to his already bursting pack, he realized there was something missing. 

“Are you listening to me?” Meera asked, still ignored in spite of the shove she gave the young Griff’s shoulder.  “Griff?  Are you hearing what I’m saying?” She pressed. 

“My harp…” He muttered, hands digging through his pack. 

“What?” She asked. 

“My harp!” He snapped.  “Where is my harp?”

“The last I saw of it, the Three-Eyed Raven had it.” Meera explained casually. 

Now it was Griff’s turn to grumble, “what?”

“It was broken, right?  He was fixing it.” Before Meera had even finished getting the words out, the silver haired young man she addressed was rising from his crouch and brushing past her.  She didn’t follow him as he wound his way through the catacombs.  Likely, she knew what would be waiting for Griff in the great center of the cave with the weirwood bound devil he trod towards.  Indeed when he reached his destination, he found himself hesitating at the mouth of the cave room.  By his feet, laid amidst the gnarled roots of the weirwood, Kirith rested with the whites of her eyes staring up at nothing.  Her fingers were curled around one such root which cradled her into the netherworlds with a white-knuckle grip.  She had not been here the day before, or even several hours earlier, yet here she was now all the same.  Seeming to have forgotten his reason for coming to this place, his feet carried him towards her.   He dared not touch the roots which pulled her from the living world, but gentle fingers caressed her forehead, brushing tangled red locks from her face.  There was nothing he hated so much as the sight of his dearest friend in such a state.  In spite of himself, he couldn’t help but wonder at her, and where she might be behind those sightless white eyes. 

“Are you ready?” Came the cracked and aged voice of the tree-bound witch.  Griff found the shining red of his eye, the gaping socket where the other one once sat seeming to stare back at him too. 

“Ready for what?” He asked in return, his violet gaze turning to linger on Kirith’s still figure. 

“To see.” The Three-Eyed Raven finished plainly. 

Tucking a lock of white, shining silver behind his ear, he looked to the cursed creature before him.  “I thought seeing was Kirith’s thing.” He returned childishly. 

“And so she has, she has seen much.” The Three-Eyed Raven explained patiently.  “Now, it is time for you to see as well; to see yourself.” As he spoke, he produced from his robes the harp that Griff had been searching for, the one that belonged to his father.  Where the wood had snapped along the shoulder, it had been remade.  Where the strings had been ripped from the neck, they now held fast.  Where the crown had been chipped and the pillar warped, now the instrument looked as sweet and pristine as he had kept it for all these years.  Withering hands extended the harp to him, a knowing smile ticking at ancient lips.  He knew what would happen and yet he reached out to take the harp all the same, falling willingly into the blackness that swallowed him. 


“Aegon…” A sweet voice cooed.  It sounded close, so much closer than when it came to him in his sleep.  He could hear the breath she took at its utterance, feeling it brush against his cheek with a smell like berries and wine.  “My Aegon…” The voice said again, like it did in all of his most wonderful dreams, all of his very worst nightmares. 

He blinked against the blur in his eyes to find a face hovering over his.  Almost, he could make out the curve of her smiling lips, the brown of her kind eyes.  Blinking again, he realized that he was not actually held in her arms but instead standing off to the side in the corner of the room.  Beside him, the Three-Eyed Raven stood with his hands clasped together behind him, his shoulders back and his head high.  He looked as the man he might be beneath the magic of the Old Gods, the man he once was.  Straight hair spilled over his shoulders and framed his face.  The empty socket he displayed proudly in the Northern caves now peered from behind a curtain of shining silver, a wine-coloured birthmark staining his cheek and jaw on the same side.  He was not quite as tall as the boy he stood beside, nor half so strong.  Over his shoulder however, he donned a bow and quiver.  The weapon of choice for a quick, skinny man.  In spite of their differences, they could each find one another in their features.  Perhaps not quite so similar as a mirrored reflection, but rather the reflection seen in a pool of water, their kinship was unmistakable. 

“You’re a Targaryen.” He said to him, because it was the only thing he could think to say at all. 

“My father was Aegon Targaryen, fourth of his name, but my name was always Rivers.” The silver-haired soldier didn’t look to the young man he spoke to, but rather watched on at the scene pulled from his memories. 

“Brynden Rivers…” He said the name on a whisper, recognizing it from his lessons with Haldon.  “You were one of the Great Bastards.” He meant to press further and continue his line of questioning, but at the sound of his mother’s voice, he forgot to care. 

“He looks like you, don’t you think?” She asked.  Her kind brown eyes flicked from the silver-haired babe in her arms to his father leaning over her.  Tall and handsome, he sat himself beside her on the bed, fingers coming to tease at the infant she fawned over, inspiring a playful squawk.  Though his hair was thick and shining atop his soft head, his face was still wrinkled, his body still curled into itself as it had been in her quickening womb.  This memory, must be his very first. 

“I think he looks like you,” her husband, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, replied.  He smiled at his son, a desperate and ardent love brimming in his eyes.  That same feeling lingered when his indigo gaze moved to his wife, Elia Martell.  “Do you see the way the smile never leaves his eyes…” He prompted.  “That’s not from me, Elia.  That’s you.”  There was no patronizing in his voice, or even a drop of falsehood.  She was no great beauty, looking still frail even weeks after her son’s birth.  Yet, from behind her features there was an unmistakably light shining hotter and brighter than dragonflame.  It was a kindness, a sweet gentility that would never be extinguished.  Her husband, for all his shortcomings, could see it in her as her son saw it now looking on at the mother he’d never been given the chance to love. 

“Don’t be silly!  You have lovely eyes.” Elia insisted, a hand leaving her son to come to her husband’s cheek. 

“Jon says I have sad eyes.” Rhaegar returned, melancholy filling his voice. 

“And is Lord Connington your wife, or am I?” She asked, a playful sass twisting her lips and narrowing her round, friendly gaze. 

“You are, my sweet.” He answered, allowing her to pull his face towards hers. 

“Then mine should be the only opinion that matters, and I say that your eyes are lovely.” 

“Well, then they must be.” He conceded before surrendering to his wife’s lips.  They kissed tenderly, like true lovers, before bringing their attention back to the babe cradled between them. 

“He was good to her.”

The Three-Eyed Raven turned to the boy beside him at his words, surprise arching one brow higher than the other.  “He was.” He agreed. 

“Then why did he betray her?” The young man who looked on at his true-born father asked bitterly. 

“We cannot help who we fall in love with, my child.  You should know that.” The Three-Eyed Raven leaned towards him then and added, more quietly, “you should know that better than anyone.” He looked to him at those words, seeing a knowing shining in his red eye.  “But you should also know, that your parents loved you most of all.”

“It wasn’t just me,” the wildling raised boy mentioned thoughtfully as he turned back to the scene playing from his deepest memories.  “I had…” As he spoke, the large doors at the head of the room creaked open.  Turning at the sound, he saw a woman with flowing dark hair and eyes an even brighter violet than his own stepping into the room shyly.  Her gaze found Elia’s and she was met with a broad smile that made the Princess at once the great beauty he had previously denied her to be.  Her son was not watching his mother however, but instead the small thing trailing behind her mysterious friend.  Before he had time to think, time to wonder, he crumpled to his knees before the young girl who inched into the room.  He knew her at the first glance.  “I had a sister.”  He finished, his voice catching in his throat as tears misted his vision.  He blinked them away, unwilling to spare an instant looking anywhere but into his sister’s perfect face.  She had the dornish look, the dark hair which met at a widow’s peak at the top of her forehead, olive skin and full lips.  While he might have their mother’s eyes however, hers belonged entirely to the noble Rhaegar Targaryen.  Round, full and endlessly deep the indigo swirled in a melancholy ache, breaking her brother’s heart and mending it anew in the same instant.  “Rhaenys...”  For a second, he could have sworn she looked straight at him. 

“I found a certain someone running through the halls,” the black-haired beauty spoke.  “It seems she was able to give her tudors the slip, again.” Her tone was light, reflected in the embarrassed smile on the faces of the parents she informed. 

“Thank you Ashara,” Elia said from where she was nested in the bed.  “Did you find the dress I had made for you, the one for the tourney?” She asked.

“I did, your Grace.  Though surely, it’s far too expensive…” Lady Ashara offered bashfully. 

“Nonsense, you’ll look positively breathtaking.  No doubt you’ll be crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty by the end of the day.” Elia returned, her kindness knowing no bounds.

“That is, of course, Ser Barristan manages to unhorse me.” Prince Rhaegar chimed in, a teasing joke in his voice.  “But maybe he’ll have a lucky day, and you’ll find yourself with a crown of flowers instead of my wife.”  Though Ashara blushed, and the Princess Elia gave her Lady in waiting a knowing smirk, the intricacies of the jest were beyond the comprehension of the babe grown to boy who looked on at the memory.  Instead, his attention was keenly tuned onto his sister, whom his father approached to hosit into his arms.  He rose to standing with them, watching as she shrieked and laughed as her father’s fingers sent to tickling her, carrying her to the bed where his wife and youngest rest.  Her little hands tugged at the edges of his swaddling, eager to look at the baby brother her mother had produced from her belly. 

“This does not please you?” The Three-Eyed Raven asked. 

“I never asked for this, for any of it.” He retorted coldly.  Looking on at his family, the life he could have had were it not for his father’s actions, he felt anger rising in his stomach.  More so, than any other sight however, was that of his sister’s sweet face that most enraged him.  Why should he be here, after all, when she was not?  She was the eldest.  Stronger, more willful and blooming into a beauty that would end worlds and part heavens. It seemed unfair.  It seemed wrong. 

“It is what you were born for, my Prince.” The Three-Eyed Raven offered humbly. 

“I’m not a Prince.” He returned at once, snapping the words.  “I never wanted to be Aegon Targaryen.” 

“The world does not need another wildling boy.  It needs a dragon.”

“And the dragon must have three heads…” He finished for him.  When he looked to the Three-Eyed Raven, the hollow socket that once sat empty was filled with a grey eye gazing out at him from behind silver hair.  Now, she had seen him too. 

“And the dragon must have three heads.” The words were spoken from the Three-Eyed Raven’s mouth with her voice instead, echoing in his head as the memory fell away from him. 

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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On wobbling legs, Kirith trailed after the slight figure of Leaf through the winding path she’d blindly torn through. When they at last reached the great cavern, the red-haired girl approached the ancient figure in the center of it, her steel-grey eyes boring into the single red eye. Without being told, she seated herself before him, waiting.

“Eat,” her mentor rasped as Leaf pressed another bowl into her hands. This time, however, it was not rabbit. It was something she had never seen before, a strange white paste with streaks of grotesque red. She turned to where Bran was seated a distance away, and he nodded in silent affirmation. Too weak to question and too willing to argue, she lifted the spoon to her lips. Her face wrinkled in disgust as a wave of bitterness washed over her tongue, but as she continued to spoon the thick paste into her mouth, she quickly found herself warming to the taste--something bland, like gruel, then something better, the darkness and sweetness of mulled wine, then the taste of fresh snow and winter roses and Griff’s laughter. When she reached down for more, she found that the carved bowl was empty.

“Now take to the trees,” the red-eyed wraith creaked. “But take care not to lose your way. I will not be there to guide you, so you must focus.”

She raised a confused look up to the withered man, but at his knowing, prompting gaze, she understood. “My heart knows the way,” she murmured, and he gave her a slow nod.

Curling up into the familiar cradle, Kirith reached out to grasp a white root. This time, it was only when she willed it that she left her body, leaping into the heart tree. It was a sensation akin to being suddenly buffeted by a strong gust of wind as time blurred before her, jerking out of her control. She saw a child of the forest, tools in hand, stepping away to admire their work--the image barely registered before she was yanked another way, flung into the vision of a giant glacial dragon spewing forth blue flames. She tried to regain control, but the speed of the images was so disorienting she knew not which way to turn. They swirled around her, assaulting her without time for her to catch a breath; a stern-faced man and a stately woman in red staring as the flames consumed the trees, a young man dressed in black, murmuring an oath as he knelt before her in the godswood. Bran hurtling towards the ground, then there was the sight of a girl in a tower, dying in a sea of sand. Focus, she reminded herself desperately. Focus!



As she strained, the dizzying stream slowed, showing her a snow-covered wood. A huge beast burst through the treeline, a wolf--no, a direwolf, black and white in pelt. Hot on its heels, a young woman came charging after it, brandishing a hatchet. Her hair was fire and her eyes were steel, shining with the thrill of the hunt--reckless, fearless--and Kirith knew even without a shouted name that this was her mother. Letting out a wild whoop, the wildling woman rushed the cornered beast and the direwolf turned and flung itself at her, its teeth bared. They went down together into the snow in a fierce battle--but as they wrestled in the snow the direwolf turned into a dark-haired man and their snarls turned to breathless laughter. Before she could try to step closer, before she could make anything out other than his black hair, the vision slipped away from her grasp.

The next one that she faded into was a very familiar sight to her. It was their little clearing in the woods, their refuge in Skagos. Sure enough, two children sat together on the log, clustered together conspiratorially. The fair-haired boy had his harp in his grasp, plucking out a clumsy melody on the instrument. Her younger self had twigs in her hair and the beginnings of bruises on her face, no doubt souvenirs of an earlier tussle with another child. She made a teasing comment about his performance, causing the boy to swipe at her with a light-hearted kick, but the girl stumbled up and out of the way with a grin. Then suddenly she wasn’t a small child anymore; no longer smiling, but angry and heartbroken with tears in her eyes. She turned and tore out of the clearing, and Kirith knew what she was seeing. The boy who was now a tall young man stood and staggered closer to the tree she embodied, falling to his knees and weeping bitterly. His tears fell fast at her feet and Kirith could not help but be momentarily stunned--she’d rarely been privy to such a sight, and a trickle of shame ran through her to be intruding on such a private and vulnerable moment. Despite it all, the sound of his grief set her heart aching and she longed to embrace him, to comfort him--just as she reached out, the weirwood of Skagos melted away.

She was now standing in the corner of a beautifully decorated room unlike anything she had seen before. The first thing she saw was her friend, standing next to her--no, not her, but the form of the Three-Eyed-Raven. He was not looking her way, his gaze intent on the two figures curled up on the bed. She recognized the man at once as Rhaegar Targaryen, the man she had called ‘Not-Griff’ for so long. This time, however, he was not armour, nor was he holding a harp. He leant over a delicate dark-haired woman, a woman who seemed strangely familiar for someone she did not recognize. When she lifted her face to kiss Rhaegar Targaryen, Kirith realized it was the look in her eyes that had struck such a chord in her--oh, she knew those eyes, she knew them well. This was unmistakably his mother, and the bundle she held so carefully in her arms had to be...

“He was good to her,” the young man intoned as he looked up his parents, as if he had always doubted the notion. Had he known so little about his family? Her mentor seemed to be equally surprised by his choice of words as he turned to him.

“He was.”

“Then why did he betray her?” he retorted, staring at the image of his father with hard eyes. You heard Bran, he kidnapped his aunt and raped her. This man started a war over selfish want and you think I should claim him? his voice returned to her, cold and angry.

“We cannot help who we fall in love with, my child. You should know that,” she heard her mentor say, and her chest tightened. “You should know that better than anyone.” What did mean, she wondered, her thoughts suddenly a jumbled mess--but the raven continued on. “But you should also know, that your parents loved you most of all.” She stared at her old friend, her mind still in disarray as two more newcomers entered the room, a beautiful young woman and a small girl-child that at first glance resembled the woman on the bed.

“Rhaenys...” the young man whispered almost to himself, his eyes following the form of the small girl as Rhaegar Targaryen took her into his arms to carry her to her mother and younger brother. She cooed over the infant under the warm gaze of their parents--a picture-perfect moment of a loving, budding family. What she saw when she looked to her friend, however, was not longing, but a building rage. She couldn’t quite comprehend, sharing the same question the ancient being leveled at the young man.

“This does not please you?”

“I never asked for this, for any of it,” he shot back, continuing to shrug off the words of the Three Eyed Raven with a vicious kind of denial. “I’m not a prince. I never wanted to be Aegon Targaryen.” A prince. It was still hard to process--her childhood friend, a prince. But no matter how much he might fight against the notion, it didn’t change the fact that he was, did it? After all, who ever asked for their birthrights, their destinies? Who ever had the ability to choose the circumstances they were born into? Not her, not him...not anyone.

“The world does not need another wildling boy. It needs a dragon,” the withered figure reminded him, and in the corner of her eye, she almost thought she saw Rhaegar Targaryen turn to look straight at them.

“And the dragon must have three heads,” her friend answered, but was it him who spoke or his father behind him? The words struck her like a physical blow, sinking into her bones.

“And the dragon must have three heads,” she repeated, tasting the truth on her tongue. Then his eyes were on hers, that certain spark of recognition in them--he knew she was there, he knew...

His face blurred as she woke, the beautiful bedroom replaced with the dimly lit cavern. Above her, the white-haired young man stood as if he had been conjured from her vision and she blinked, for a moment unsure if this was reality. She wanted to call out to him, but her tongue knew not by which name to call him. Then again, it did not truly matter, did it? She could still call him her best friend.

The wildling girl rose on slightly unsteady feet, feeling all at once as if she had been reborn a moment prior and lived a thousand lives. She leant into him like a sleepwalker, her arms rising to gently coil about his form. “I was wrong,” she murmured from the crook of his neck, her voice slow and hoarse--from sleep or disuse, she could not tell. “You weren’t made in your father’s image.” He might have had his silver hair and fair complexion, the sharp brow above his twilight eyes, but those weren’t the things that made up her oldest and closest friend. What she cherished was the warmth that burned in him, the same flame she’d seen burning in the dark-haired woman’s eyes, the way she smiled like the rising sun. Yes, she still didn’t know the whole truth, or how much of it all were lies, but she knew how she felt--and she knew him.

“I’m coming with you,” Kirith intoned as she released him, the strength slowly returning to her as she gazed upon him, her eyes almost daring him to say otherwise. “I’m following you, and no man or myth or truth will stop me.”
.。*゚+.*.。bury me in the stars +..。*゚☾+


Offline Reigning King

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“Come with me.” He said the words at the same time as her own words of, “I’m coming with you,” fell from her lips.  “I’m following you, and no man or myth or truth will stop me.”

He was smiling down at her, working muscles in his face that had felt long neglected.  Reaching out, fingertips brushed at the red locks that fell across her face, tucking them behind her ears to reveal her brightly shining eyes.  Did he look different to her now that she had truly seen him?  They had spent their whole lives side by side knowing each other as well as two people who knew not their own selves could.  He had misdirected her with falsehoods and half truths, while she had always steeled herself against the magics that had followed her from girlhood into the long winter to come.  They had been here before, in this place of uncertainty.  Many times they had met each other, changed from their respective adventures.  Many times they had faced one another as individuals that differed in ways both great and slight from those to whom they had bid farewell to.  This time was no different and like always, it felt like coming home.

“So, you’re both leaving?” Meera asked, her blunt voice piercing the intimate silence.  Kirith and Griff both pulled their eyes from one another, turning to the Reed girl who stood alongside the giant who held the crippled Stark boy in his arms.  “You can’t.” She said, voicing her objections anew.

“They must.” The Three-Eyed Raven croaked.  “It is their time.” He explained cryptically.

“We’ll meet each other again.” The Stark boy offered helpfully, tapping Hodor on the shoulder to encourage him forward.  “I’ve seen it.”

“Of course, you have.” Meera retorted petulantly, rolling her eyes.

“I have a gift for you.” The Three-Eyed Raven crowed from his perch, capturing the attention of his disciples.  His red eye was tuned pointedly on the young Griff.

“For me?” He repeated in disbelief.

“I have held this gift through the winters of my long years.  Many have attempted to lay claim to it, but they have always been yours.” He explained.

“They?” The young Griff repeated.

With curiosity lurking in his asking expression, the silver haired young man tore himself away from his companion’s embrace, stepping toward the gnarled roots in which the Three-Eyed Raven had been willfully imprisoned.  Gesturing, the ancient being pointed to his feet.  As Griff climbed the twisted weirwood branches he followed the end of the bastard-born Targaryen’s finger, his gaze landing on what appeared to be a rock of a sort resting within a cradled, timeless embrace of white wood.  Crouching, the young Griff propped his elbow against the winding roots, careful not to touch them as he reached between the gaps.  He tried to palm the rock from its place of rest but the weight was considerable, far heavier than the wilding-raised young man had been expecting.  Bracing himself on his knees he plunged both hands within and curled his fingers around the fossil that felt scaled and warm to the touch.  Pulling it forth, he sat back on his heels as his violet eyes fell to the impossible gift he held in his grasp.

“Is this… is this what I think it is?” He asked the Three-Eyed Raven, his voice becoming distant.

“In my time, children born beneath the Dragon’s banner were given the gift of their namesake on the day of their birth.  For you, Aegon, that day is today.” At the final note of his speech, a sudden rush seemed to flow through the cavernous catacombs.  All at once, the warmth left the vast space, chased away by a sudden chill.  The heat gathered around the young Griff - around Aegon Targaryen, as he gazed upon the dragon’s egg he held in his lap.

“Do you hear that?” The muttered quietly, his voice thoughtful and trance-like.  “It sounds like… singing…”

“I don’t hear anything.” Meera grumbled from behind him, but the young Griff could barely register the words.  He stared down at the large boulder-like sphere he held, it’s flaked texture tickling at his palms with a pulsating heat.  It was a deep red in colour.  The small, rich crimson scales that enveloped the oval shape were flecked with gold.  Wide eyes traced the whorls of black that swirled in a dancing pattern, turning the egg over in his hands.  It was considerably heavy and inexplicably warm, not so unlike the young Griff himself.  He may have sat there forever, staring into the magic he held aloft, if not for the careful hand placed upon his shoulder that stirred him from his trance.  For a moment, he saw her differently.  While the colour of her red hair had taken on a cooler tone and her furs had diminished into a spectrum of grey, her cheeks were alive with glowing pinks and varied hues of blue.  He could see the heat of her blood, rushing through her veins and her steely eyes had taken on the resplendent radiance of a raging fire.  Blinking, the young Griff looked down to his lap and rubbed his knuckles against his closed lids.  When once more his eyes met hers, he saw her how he always did.  Red ringlets and freckled nose, just how she ought to be.  The expression she wore on her serious face was one of furrowed brow and concerning curiosity.

“What is it?” He asked Kirith.  She only shook her head in response.

“It is time.” The Three-Eyed Raven said once more, a note of finality in his ancient voice.

They stood at the mouth of the cave, gathered before one another as they were when they first met. Now however, they stood together as friends.  Meera Reed offered Kirith and Griff each a respectable nod of the head in bidding farewell, Hodor pulled them in against his broad chest for a crushing embrace.  Brandon Stark of Winterfell however, had choice words for each respectively in parting.  As Kirith bent low, crouched at where the Northern boy rested within his seated sled, Summer rubbed his face against the young Griff’s leg, whining and nipping at his fingers.  Bran shared one final embrace with the wildling girl who had become his companion in the words beyond, the only other person to truly understand him beyond the Three-Eyed Raven himself.  As Kirith righted herself and returned to her friend’s side, Bran’s steely blue eyes met Griff’s indigo gaze.

“I want you to take Summer with you.” He stated bluntly.  All eyes turned to the son of Eddard Stark, Warden of the North.  There wasn’t a face among them that regarded the cripple with more confusion or concern than that of the young Griff himself.

“Why?” He asked.

“I’ll be able to watch over you.” He explained in return.  “Both of you.” He added, turning his regard to Kirith.  “And you’ll be able to watch over me.”  The unspoken words that lingered between Kirith and Bran in their shared gaze was meaningful and heavy.  Something beyond what Griff or Meera could fathom.  “I will be with you, always.” He told her, before returning his blue hues to the dragon in wildling furs.

“Don’t die.” The young Griff told him.

“He won’t.” Meera replied on his behalf from behind him.  Stepping forward she placed a hand on his shoulder in a display of solidarity.

“Goodbye, Aegon.” Brandon Stark said, his voice as steady as his stare.

“Goodbye, Bran.” The silver-haired young man returned.  Reaching out, the two boys grasped one another’s arms at the elbow and nodded their heads.  A Northern sentiment; a farewell of friends.  There was nothing left to say.

Kirith and Griff trudged through the Northern forests of the Haunted Wood, their pace quick and their heading direct.  They were bound for Hardhome, the place where they would reunite with the secret keepers of Prince Aegon Targaryen.  Marching through the day and night, they watched the sun fall, rise and then fall again before they finally made camp within the shelter of the trees.  The snow stuck to the ground, packing on top of itself and making for a cold chill that pierced their furs and leathers.  Gathered around a small fire, Kirith and Griff shared the warmth of the low-licking flames, easing their growling stomachs with salted meats and frost-touched berries.  Summer sat with them, snapping and ripping at the spoils of a successful hunt, his muzzle stained red.  They sat in the snow, silence enveloping them.  Kirith stared into the flaming tendrils of the fire while Griff stared down at the dragon egg he held in his lap.  His thumb stroked the scales, as he chewed in his lip thoughtfully.

“Aegon…” He muttered to himself under his breath.  “My name is Aegon…”

With a sudden start, he looked up from the ancient fossil in his grasp to the girl who sat across from him.  He realized she had been watching him in his muted contemplation.  “I’m ready, if you are.”  He told her.  “I’ll tell you everything.”


King Kade - Reigning from the North


Character limits kill my vibe...