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One Who is Many - [Worm / Game of Thrones]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Scrimshaw_NSFW, Mar 23, 2021.

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  1. Sartek

    Sartek Not too sore, are you?

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    Ok, will start reading it in a bit.


    Really recommend editing in even a barebones introduction into the op.

    Even as basic as Taylor reincarnated as a sand snake.

    Because that wasn't something you could tell from first glance.
    Also doesn't give away vital information.

    I stopped to ask because I always enjoy a good got/worm story, but there are almost none out there.

    Or at least, most of them are dead
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2021
  2. Scrimshaw_NSFW

    Scrimshaw_NSFW Making the rounds.

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    For those who are aware, me and Alvor alluded to a spicy interlude that was in the works. One which we weren't sure whether we were goint to post or not. Well, I am here to announce that we did indeed write one and did indeed post it separately in the NSFW section for those who are interested. Since I am not sure whether it is allowed for me to post a link in this thread, I will keep from doing it for now.

    Hope you guys enjoy our first attempt at a spicy one off!
     
    t4315m, MorDrakka, cogi234 and 2 others like this.
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 15
    Scrimshaw_NSFW

    Scrimshaw_NSFW Making the rounds.

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    AN: Happy Spook-month everyone, Wyvern and the Warhawk here once again, bringing you the next installment of everyone’s favorite Teenage Witch. Though this time we’re bringing in the drama! As always, we’d like to thank all our loyal readers who keep us going. next up on our lists should be Flame Emperor and Mutant Bay.

    AtW: Sink or Swim will be posted twice over the next weekish, so look forwards to that too. Anyways, there may be a small delay as midterms are the next three days for me.

    CW: Now then. Onto the reading!



    Chapter 15 - Ring of Fire


    Ophelia Sand




    “That’s it my dear. Just like needlepoint.”

    Ophelia somewhat tactfully held back from mentioning that her needlepoint was, in fact, not on point. One could even venture so far as to suggest it was poor indeed. For the sake of her patient, and not her womanly pride, whatever such a thing might be, that secret would remain so.

    “Actually, she’s awful at needlework.” Sarella, of course, was more than happy to be a… good big sister. “Awful even. Tried to make a tree once, Father thought it was a snake, tried to make a sunburst and a spear and Uncle Doran thanked her for the image of snakes and a castle.”

    Turning to face her sibling, the witch chose to say nothing.

    But she did narrow her eyes.

    “Before you start ripping each other apart, finish sewing up my arm.”

    Eye twitching, the witch looked over at the Hound and smothered the impulse to pull the stitches a bit tighter. Instead she dipped the needle back into flesh and returned to her work.

    “I thank you for volunteering brave Ser-”

    “I’m not a knight.” Interrupting Healer Robert, the sworn sword half grunted the words out.

    “Just the same, there is only so much one can learn seeing to colds and the small nicks of small folk and their tools. This sword cut is just the right size for the Ladies to learn from.”

    Happily babbling away, it was clear to both the girls that their instructor was taking great pleasure in annoying the knight. And, dare they say, had seemed almost frustrated when he’d come in from the training yard sporting a cut, perhaps four inches long, down the outside of one arm.

    Apparently, both to ensure his skills remained sharp and to borrow the education of Maester Luwin, the healer had convinced Lord Stark to lend him the use of a spare room in the castle. A stable boy paid a handful of coppers later and the lad had four or five friends in there scrubbing it top to bottom with soap and boiled water, dried with fresh linens the old man had sweet talked out of the head maid, and the castle now had a suitable infirmary, at least according to his views.

    Located along an inner bailey it was on a slightly elevated section over a small slope in the interior ground, near where part of the old tower sat, and closer to the front gate than not. Still sectioned off by two interior gates it required an escort to approach but he’d been seeing to the wounds and illnesses of smallfolk, at cost to the Lord of Winterfell, soldiers, on the king’s coin, or nobles - though these he charged a respectable sum.

    Ophelia herself could confess to the paradox of gaining more highborn clients by charging them for the, ah, prestige of merely being tended to.

    In less than two days Healer Robert had probably tended to forty patients and fobbed off another dozen onto Maester Marwyn when the Mage’s own not inconsiderable medical training would see the job done.

    Though currently he was with Maester Luwin, Winterfell’s assigned man of learning, tending to a birth down in the village.

    Apparently a cow was having, of all things, twins and that necessitated medical intervention from trained veterinarians. It went without saying that the loss of such a valuable animal could be ruinous to an otherwise relatively poor farmer and Eddard Stark himself had requested their aid.

    Marwyn had been bribed with access to the journals of an old Stark Greenseer.

    So far, though, Opehlia had learned more than she had expected, her own medical skills seeming paltry in comparison to this learned and, more importantly, experienced man’s.

    To start with, the healer used specifically silver needles and catgut threads. The silver needles came in eight shapes, three straight, three curved, and two that had a more exotic shape for sewing at multiple points at once. Catgut, actually made largely from the intestines of sheep or goats, was found by him to be the most effective in avoiding long term complications.

    Additionally, the man had managed to make a simple form of ethanol from sugars and yeast and three decades of experimentation. While it wasn’t what would have been considered pure in her previous life it was still incredibly advanced. Using that, he cleaned his tools, including knives with blades of dragonglass, a dozen other tools such as a spreader, clamps, forceps, and more, along with a handsaw whose bit was made of Valyrian steel!

    Compared to her previous work in King’s Landing, her small cantrips, herbal remedies, and common sense advice was little more than woods witchery.

    Of course, that was only the initial preparation. To work with, the man wore a butcher’s apron over his robes and a layered scarf over his mouth and nose. His hair was kept short and when he had a surgery he would shave it totally. Before she began working Ophelia had been politely but firmly instructed to pin her hair up and cover it with a wimple to keep strands from falling near a wound.

    When it came to the work itself, he mostly used his fingers - touch was apparently one of the best senses for finding the absolute sources of injuries - but also his smell and sight too. Apparently, he could detect a broken bone, set it, and see it on its way to healing with what looked like a gentle grope.

    For Sandor Clegane’s injury the bastard girl had found herself armed with a curved needle of the smallest size and catgut thread that had been rubbed with a small amount of strongwine.

    “Give it a bit more slack my dear. You know he’ll be back at it again tomorrow and just a bit more room might keep it from bursting.” Chuckling, the healer finished washing one of his knives and sat it to dry - the silver blade glinting with a few drops of water and wafting of steam. “Though I suppose I wouldn’t mind charging the king double for my time and your edification if he did so.”

    “Charge… idiots… double… for… the… pain… of… dealing… with… them.”

    Sarella’s quill had been scribbling almost nonstop, sometimes taking great liberties with what was said but always sticking to the spirit of the Healer’s words.

    Mostly though she had documented his tools, their dimension and materials, and all the processes he had undertaken to keep them seen to. Those had occupied her time more than the repetition of basic cures, whom she had soon described down to the most basic of details, and seemed more interesting to the witch’s darker skinned sister.

    “So long as it’s the king’s silver and not mine.” Slightly adjusting how he was sitting, the Hound jerked his head at the very, very shiny handsaw. “Tell me old man, how did you get that.”

    “Peasant boys who’ve almost lost fingers move less than you. Now stop fidgeting or I’ll have to start over again.” Glancing up at the burned man, she met his eyes daring him to do more than comply. Thankfully, after opening his mouth with something close to a sneer he shut it. “Good. Now, I’ll try and finish this up.”

    “Heh. Since you’re being such an excellent example for my student, brave Ser-”

    “I’m not a bloody knight.” Clegane grumbled, Robert simply continuing on over him.

    “I shall tell you. Back when I rode with the Brave Companions I found myself often being paid in small trinkets and bits of valuable things instead of actual coin - to make it more difficult for me to simply slip enough with the funds needed to, let us say evade my then patron. So, over time, I continued to collect little bits of jewelry made with tiny pieces of Valyrian steel. You would be amazed at how much is just… floating about the place over in Essos. Perhaps here too, unless our dear witch gets to it of course!” Chuckling, he pauses, sitting down and seeming a bit out of breath. “Well, after working with a smith from Qohor, I saved his hand you see, he offered me anything he could make. So I chose this.” Smiling, the healer seemed proud and a bit melancholic, so it was with a quieter tone that Robert finished his story. “Nothing too grand about it. Just something to make a bloody business a bit cleaner and a bit quicker. I suspect, though, that it has maybe saved as many lives for the sureness of cuts as any amount of my little skill.”

    “Done. Now, pretty boy, unless you want more than just my sister and I having fun at your expense you can head on out.” Smiling, Ophelia let her eyes slide right over his burns and meet his. “So if you want to stay and let two pretty girls have a bit of fun with a big, strong man such as yourself… Well, don’t expect it to get physical. But we can comment on the disaster that is your hair.”

    Flexing his arm, the small giant of a man nodded as no new blood stained the linen wrap Ophelia had placed around it.

    “Thank you. You too, Master Healer.” Pausing, he nodded at Sarella. “And I suppose the scribe as well. I’ll make sure to let Squire Lancel know not to expect the traditional womanly skills from you.”

    Confused, it took the witch a moment to realize what he was saying. Though, when he was about halfway out the door, realization dawned on her and she tried to stutter out a protest.

    “What? No! What are you possibly talking about?”

    Sarella, coughing, looked up from her parchment.

    “You are fond of both blondes and peoples whose last names begin with Ls.”

    Doing the mature thing, the witch made a few spiders drop down into her sister’s hair.

    Responding in just as mature a manner, the hardworking scribe flicked a drop of ink right onto Ophelia’s forehead.

    Healer Robert merely chuckled and slipped out of the room, Ophelia’s creatures watching him as he made his way to the kitchens to fetch some lunch - a wise man indeed for taking advantage of what was most certainly a temporary lull in traffic. Something that the witch, ink splattered as she was, used to check on her egg.

    Bundled up against her stomach and swaddled in more than a few layers of cloth, the tiny life within was definitely growing but it left the bastard girl to wonder if she would have to wait the nine months all other women did. Or, perhaps, if it might indeed be even longer.

    Such were the frustrating vagaries of magic.

    Perhaps an hour later the three were still at work, alone for a while now, and Robert was listing out a number of bits of advice to Sarella who dutifully recorded them exactly as repeated.

    “...and that is why I do not advise bleeding, unless absolutely needed to relieve pressure somewhere vital in the body. While there are some who claim that it can restore the body of an ailing man I have found that it is ineffective at best and often fatigues the individual in question even further.”

    Then, hearing something through the ears of a half dozing dog, the warg had the creature open one lazy eye.

    Marching down the halls of the castle in a panic was a line of men carrying another on a stretcher. The old hound’s eyes weren’t so good and the angle poor so she could make out few details other than that Clegane was the one in the lead and the injured man had suffered a terrible wound on the leg - the smell of cooked meat making it obvious that it was some sort of terrible burn.

    “What is it my dear?”

    Shaking her head, she stood and made for the door.

    “I don’t know Healer, but a group of men are bringing someone who was burned terribly.”

    Frowning, Robert took up a few tools and made sure his surgery table was clear. Lighting three extra candles he made his way over to the slat windows and opened them fully to the early afternoon sun.

    “I see. Dear Sarella, would you mind moving over to the back? If the group of men mean to be present I imagine they might crowd you.”

    Working not quite as a practiced team the three were soon in position - the archer having little stomach for a surgeon’s work though she could record it - and it was Ophelia that confirmed the patient.

    “Put him down here, then leave. All of you are filthy and we need room.” Trying to shoo them away, a young knight almost sneered at her instructions.

    “I’ll not leave the side of the king’s son, not when he’s injured so!”

    Sandor Clegane, using his good arm, picked the man up by the throat and bodily dragged him out. Pausing only to nod at the healer and the witch.

    “Burned by nails on the leg, accident at the forge. See that he lives before the king arrives.”

    Nodding her thanks to the sellsword she turned to find Robert already hard at work.

    “We need to remove the nail… and bring your maggots girl.” Voice hard, he gestured at the burns while the witch began to summon, quite specifically, the blue bottle flies in her swarm. “Hold the wound, try not to break the blisters, the metal must be removed before it can burn any deeper. Careful, don’t burn yourself.”

    Taking up the tongs, Ophelia watched as Robert held the wound with one hand and wielded a long, thin metal instrument almost like a scalpel with the other. She took the other side of the burn and grasped the end of the still hot metal as the obsidian blade of the healer’s tool cut at flesh with ultimate ease. Taking great care, she made sure that the metal neither touched her fingers nor brushed the healer nor bumped against the boy more than absolutely necessary.

    What had happened is that the still hot nail had, somehow, pierced poor Gendry’s breeches, perhaps burning through them, and the point had settled itself into the meat of his thigh.

    The men who had found him had removed the leg of his pants and that made it easy for them to get at the wound. It also meant it was easy to see how bad things actually were. There were four burns, in a rough pattern, and they went up the side of his thigh.

    When the nail finally came free the Blacksmith woke up, crying out and trying to sit up before Robert pushed him down against the table with surprising strength.

    “We need help in here!”

    Clegane entered the room at Robert’s call, visibly blocking off the still fuming knight, and helped pin Gendry down.

    “Calm boy, calm. You’re hurt bad but the healers have you.”

    Surprisingly calmly, the large man held the scared bastard in place while Ophelia, looking for somewhere to dispose of the nail, dropped it into the cauldron they’d been using to wash tools between uses.

    “Sarella, get the boy a bit. Boy, what’s your name?”

    “G-Gendry sir.” Voice trembling a bit, confusion and pain and fear was thick in his voice.

    “You’re doing fine Gendry, you’re being brave.” Sarella stopped to grasp his hand, squeezing it and running a damp cloth across his forehead even as she slid a piece of leather into his mouth. “Just stay strong.”

    Ophelia came by and took his other hand, squeezing it too before moving back down to the injury.

    “What next Healer?”

    “It’s bad. Down past the muscle. Maybe to the bone.” His words were low and Robert stopped speaking just long enough to smile at the boy, it was a tight, empty thing. A motion meant to reassure, but clearly not reassuring. “I would say it looks like he maybe fell back against the nail, or maybe nails, and it was caught between him and something with less give than leather and skin.”

    Swallowing the lump in her throat, the Sand Snake jerked her head.

    “Is he going to lose the leg?”

    “Can’t lose m’leg.” Having spit out the bit, the apprentice shook his head. “Can’t work withou’ a leg.”

    “Is there nothing we can do?”

    For all of a second the Witch and the Healer stood silent, Ophelia’s question clearly pushing him to one direction. Something in her stomach warned her she wouldn’t like it.

    “Clegane, leave, please, and don’t let anyone else in here until we’re done.” Confused, the man seemed genuinely confused before ultimately nodding… but only once Robert had cut his eyes back to Ophelia - the implication clear. Once the door was shut, the old man took the young lad’s face and made him focus up. “Listen Gendry, we can save your leg but it will have a cost. A cost from me and you but most of all Ophelia. Doing this will, well, it will change the limb a bit. Are you willing to live with that?”

    No hesitation at all and the blacksmith nodded.

    “Please, don’t make me a cripple. I want to work… I want to be a master.”

    Words clear, though pained, the teenager communicated his desires specifically and unequivocally.

    “Sarella, milk of the poppy please.” In the ten seconds it took her to fetch the substance the healer had snatched up a few more implements and Ophelia was left to hold the boy’s hand.

    “That which is dead can never be returned to life and the nerves of his leg are definitely dead. But muscle and sinew is so much meat and meat can be made to move again, even meat scored by fire.” Once more he turned to Gendry, a strange gleam in the healer’s eye as Ophelia watched his hands twitch. “The price of this will be at least all the feeling in your leg below the wound to one degree or another the burns will never feel touch again. But we can make your leg whole.”

    Gasping, Ophelia actually felt a small tremor of fear.

    “You mean necromancy.”

    “Aye.” Robert nodded. “Blood magic. It’s the only way to save the boy’s leg. This or cut it off, the burn is down through the muscle and scraped the bone. Anything else would leave too much missing for it to ever properly work again.”

    “Please, Ophelia, help me.”

    Gendry’s words tore her. This was perhaps the one area of magic she truly had no experience in, her teachers never speaking of it except Mawli and she had said only that it was something Ophelia should not concern herself with until she was older or crueler and not before.

    “Are you sure? There’s nothing else at all we can do?”

    Shaking his head, the healer - the necromancer - rejected her plea.

    “Do you know of any spells that could cure this without sacrificing a man or ten?”

    Pausing, sighing, wanting to tear at her hair for approaching what had been perhaps the only taboo school of magic for the witch she shook her head.

    “No. A man and maybe a stag is the lowest price I know of to heal this otherwise.” Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. “Other than offending the gods and nature itself, what will be the price of this?”

    Giving her a sad smile, Robert picked up a knife.

    “A bit of blood… and maybe a year of life, between the three of us.”

    Sighing, the witch nodded.

    “For this Gendry, I am forgiven for dragging you into court that day.”

    The idiot boy did the worst thing he could do. He smiled up at her.

    “You let me meet my father. You’re already forgiven. Don’t do this if you don’t want to. I… I can’t ask for your life.”

    ‘Gods damn this idiot.’

    Guilt was welling up in her stomach and she turned away from the apprentice

    “Drink your milk and shut up already.” Glaring at the healer, Ophelia nodded her agreement. “Let’s get this done already then. Sarella, bar the door. I don’t know if I’ll be able to use my swarm to keep others out.”

    Scrambling to comply, both Ophelia and her big sister pretended they weren’t seriously conflicted about what they were doing and the healer, well, his blade drew blood and the ritual began. All the witch could do now was pray that this was the right choice and not some horrible, horrible mistake.



    Robert Baratheon




    Robert was a proud man.

    Rightfully so.

    He’d conquered the last of the Dragons. He’d cracked open the Seven Kingdoms in a journey for love and revenge the likes of which you often heard of in epic sagas detailing the lives of demigods from the far past, all the while smashing through his enemies with his trusty warhammer.

    Plus Ned.

    Ned helped.

    Case in point, Robert Baratheon was a proud man who had made the known world his own and celebrated it for the next ten years.

    He didn’t beg for help.

    He didn’t beg for anything.

    He was the King after all.

    But the gods would damn him if he didn’t feel like hunting down that Witch and offering her a castle or two in exchange for one of her miraculous products. Because of course the last one would eventually run dry and just after Robert had tricked the quiet wolf of the North into a drinking contest like in their youth.

    He’d won the battle and would lord it over Ned for the rest of their lives.

    ‘Gods, why must you punish me like this?’

    Perhaps that was the wrong thing to say. Here in the North where the only Gods were the ones his friend’s family worshipped, perhaps Robert should have known better than invoking such fearsome entities in a bout of pained frustration.

    Then again, he felt like his head was about to split in half.

    Laying awake on top of massive furs, Robert debated the advantages of pretending to be deathly sick. Perhaps someone might pity him and find more of the miraculous cure. Perhaps his Wife would take advantage of the circumstances and finally put him out of his misery like she probably wanted to since he called out Lyanna’s name on their wedding night.

    It would probably feel better than being punished for his love of the sweet nectar that was wine.

    Though, if he were being honest, Northern Mead wasn’t bad either.

    ‘Did they leave someone posted outside?’ Nobody would ever leave the King unprotected after all. Of course, there was a chance that it might be someone he was related to by marriage, so the possibility of asking a blonde for help gave Robert the will to resist and endure his torture.

    Of course, the choice was taken off his hands when his eldest burst through the doors.

    The banging of wood on stone sounding like a cannon to Robert’s ears.

    “Father, you must do something about this!”

    Boy had too much Lannister in his blood, he even sounded like his wife’s family. Always demanding something from him. As if they hadn’t swapped sides when it benefited them. Thinking they had won them the war when it was clear they would have stayed as the Mad King’s lapdogs had Robert failed.

    “Are the Others marching on us?”

    His response brought the boy up short, words heavy in a mouth like cotton.

    “W-What?”

    “Do you see any dragons sweeping through the sky as Aerys’ spawn come to cook us all alive?”

    “No?”

    “Then you better have a good excuse to come banging on my head at such an early hour, boy.”

    For a moment, he looked confused.

    “But Father, it’s already past lunch. I’m certain they are preparing dinner.”

    Robert felt his stomach roil in need.

    He’d missed breakfast and lunch? Truly his body had become weak under the ministrations of the Dornish Witch. He’d forgotten the cruel and unfair punishment of waking up under the yoke of a heavy night of drinking. Comfortable with her potions, he’d forgotten the pain and anguish that were his early mornings.

    He’d grown weak and soft.

    It wasn’t helped by the fact his skull was still ringing.

    “So? What’s happened? Someone important better be dead.”

    The way Joffrey stilled, mouth open as he considered whether to speak or not threw Robert for a moment. He knew the boy. Well, he didn’t spend as much time as he could with the boy, but he knew him well enough to know he was opinionated like his mother and as headstrong as a mule.

    “It’s… It’s Gendry.”

    And like that, Robert felt the chill of winter crawling up his spine.

    “Speak. What happened?” Already the old king started to roll out of bed, blindly fumbling for his trousers as his son raced over with his boots.

    “I don’t know the details. But there was an accident! He’s being tended to by the Witch and the Maesters. But he was hurt badly. Lord Stark and Lord Martel are having an argument and I couldn’t find anyone for help.”

    No one? Where in damnation was Cersei?

    She didn’t let their eldest out of her sight most days and she chose today was a good one to try and wean him off!

    Strength returned to his limbs, Robert fully climbed off the bed. Though his eyes stung and his ear yet rang, the King found it in himself the manic energy to belt his trousers up and throw the rest of his clothes on, lest he barge into a Maester’s office half dead and sick from the cold.

    “Take me to him.”

    He’d have to speak with his friend and the Dornish prince. Obviously the two of them knew what happened and were having a fight over it. Which he’d have to solve because of course he had to solve problems despite being the bloody King.

    But that came later.

    “Father?”

    Robert pulled the boy closer, hanging an arm over his shoulders as he pulled himself up. And then promptly slung the boy over his shoulder like a particularly shrill but small sack of potatoes.

    Gods, what were they feeding this boy? He barely weighed anything!

    And then off he went, thunderous steps carrying him through the doors and down the hallways as Robert Baratheon, first of his name and protector of the realm, tried to remember which way was the blasted Maester’s office. Because of course he’d forget where the damn books were stored.

    “Alright, calm. You’re calm. Stay calm.”

    “Father?”

    “I’m calm, son. You have to stay calm!”

    They must have cut quite the strange picture. The King carrying his son on his shoulder as he did his best to carry them through the ancestral home of his closest friend. So of course someone would take issue and come to him.

    “What do you want, Kingslayer?”

    The Kingsguard, poised and looking frustratingly chipper, fell in step behind him.

    “An answer for starters, Your Grace. Why are you carrying your son like fresh venison?”

    Robert decided he didn’t have time for this shit.

    “Because my son’s been hurt!”

    The blonde idiot had the nerve to look confused.

    “He doesn’t look hurt to me.”

    “Not this son, the other one! Gendry!”

    Just thinking about it had Robert hastening his step as he pushed open another door, heart thundering against his chest as he tried and failed to keep his breathing steady. Gods, how long had it been since he’d had to run this much carrying weight when he didn’t have the benefit of bloody magic? Joffrey wasn’t even heavy, and here he was huffing and puffing.

    He could have run across Winterfell as a toddler!

    Turning a corner into the great hall, he found it mostly empty, with only a few men who quickly stood and bowed to him and one of the prince’s bastards in the hall - carrying a large tray of what might be best described as snacks and tea.

    “Your grace?” The demure blonde Tyene inclined her head. “Why are you in such a rush?”

    “Gendry is hurt, do you know where the maester is?”

    Blinking, the girl child took a moment before responding.

    “I do believe that Maester Luwin and Archmaester Marwyn are in Winter Town, something about the smallfolk needing aid - Lord Stark asked them to see to it. However, if the blacksmith has been injured then surely his master would have either sent for Healer Robert or taken him to the man.”

    Confused, the good king Robert simply blinked.

    “And where is he?”

    “By the third bailey, your grace, near the old tower and down the side corridor leading off of the training yard. Between it and the side gate leading in from the first inner courtyard past the main gate.”

    Now even more confused than before he looked over at his Kingsguard who gave an apologetic shrug, still managing to appear both utterly calm and slightly smug.

    ‘I want to punch him. More than usual.’

    Focusing back on the task at hand he turned to the girl child who simply smiled.

    “It would be my honor to show you there, your grace.” Bowing her head, Tyene Sand called over to one of the men sitting in the room. “Ser Kay, if I might have a moment of your time. This is for the Queen and the Lady Stark and their other ladies besides. I know you’re quite busy, but would you do me this favor?”

    Pulling his cloak tight around his shoulders, the knight quickly made his way over and, inclining his head, took the tray with a few words.

    “The honor is mine, my lady, your grace.”

    Leaning forward as she handed the tray over, the king heard the bastard whisper in the man’s ear.

    “Molly is attending to the queen today, though I know she only has obligations for a few hours more. If you might spend a little time waiting on them I’m sure she’d be most pleased to have your company for a walk through the godswood.”

    Blushing, the knight bowed again and made his way to where the Queen was holding court - the tray of snacks quite carefully balanced before him. Robert would have laughed if the situation had been any less serious and instead simply gestured at the girl to lead on with his free hand, Joffrey still being held in the other.

    And that was how he found himself trying to keep up with a whip of a girl, the bastard moving with a grace that was belied by her comeliness. Obviously he had… appreciated her form, safely and from a distance, he wasn’t stupid, but he hadn’t really noticed that she, just like all of her siblings, moved like a fighter. Tyene hid it well, definitely better than both Ophelia whom he had spent the most time around and her older sister Nymeria, but it was how her eyes moved.

    Robert had known too many killers and it was only in that moment, as he huffing and puffing and trying to keep up with a girl that, still in a simple dress - nevermind the cold that she showed not the smallest hint of - managed to force his kingsguard to jog to keep up with, that he realized why he hadn’t been interested in the young woman.

    ‘Her eyes are like Cersei’s when she sees someone she doesn’t like.’

    Disturbing thoughts aside, the girl took him where he needed to go. Indeed, Sandor Clegane and a few other men were waiting outside and the door to the infirmary was open.

    “Your grace, he’s alright, but you might want to go see him.”

    Shutting down another, rather angry looking, knight with a snarl, the Hound lived up to his name. Taking Joffrey from the king he sat the very confused and slightly flustered boy on the ground - even getting an imperious thank you for his trouble.

    Still, the king hesitated. He could smell cooked meat coming from within the room and herbs and unguents and potions as well. In particular there was what smelled like warm honey mixed with vinegar and strongwine coming from within. That particular combination, he knew, meant that burns were being tended to. Serious ones.

    However, his hesitation meant one thing in particular.

    “Come on Father, why are we just standing around?”

    Joffrey, annoyed, petulant child he was, grabbed the old warhorse’s hand and half dragged him into the medical room - only letting go when he saw his brother and rushed over to his side.

    “Woah there, don’t jostle him, he’s sleeping my prince.”

    Sarella, another of the Snakes, and Robert couldn’t help but think that those Dornish bastards really were everywhere, gently stopped his trueborn son from grabbing his sleeping brother’s side.

    “If you want to speak to him you’ll need to let him get the milk of the poppy out of his system.”

    “But his leg! Is he ok? What about it! I saw the nail sticking out and it was still practically glowing! It doesn’t look like he lost the limb, but what about infection? Did it burn the bone? I heard some of the squires talking about how if a bone is ruined it can take the leg too and what about the other burns? The knight cut off his pants leg to stop the flames, I saw it smouldering, but what about those? Are they alright too? His skin isn’t going to peel away is it?”

    His rambling boy was an almost painful reminder that, for all his ability to preen and strut, Joffrey really was only twelve and that Robert hadn’t actually been in his life long enough to wash out the Lannister’s tendency to vacillate between demanding and cuntish. In this one instance, though, he’d forgive his mother’s blood as he wanted to know the answers too.

    “Your grace, my prince, I am here and I can answer your questions.” The old healer walked in, none of Pycelle’s feigned weakness in him, and inclined his head just enough to not be insulting. “But the leg has been saved. Here, I shall let you take a look.”

    Walking over, he peeled back the bed sheets and then, carefully, removed a linen cloth set over the area of the burn.

    The seared flesh was barely visible, hidden underneath the tincture applied to it. Though you could almost see past it and the striking wound underneath.

    “We have applied a salve of herbs, vinegar, honey, and strongwine. Obviously, the boy is lucky to have been brought here as soon as he was. No miracle would have saved his leg from a festered wound.”

    “Honey?” The king questioned.

    “To keep the mixture together and in place, as well as to form a base with which to mix the other substances and to help keep out infection. It was brought from the kitchens, but I assure you we took great care to make sure that it was clean and good for use. Though I shall have to apologize to Maester Luwin upon his return as I had to borrow a bit of his feverfew to help bring the lad’s temperature down.”

    Swallowing, Robert nodded, accepting the healer’s words as his fingers curled around his bastard’s hand.

    “And the witch girl?”

    “Asleep in the back your grace.” Sarella interjected, looking up from where she was still keeping the prince’s attention. “Treating his leg required a bit of effort and it was… ugly.” The dark skinned girl paled slightly and looked away from Gendry’s quietly sleeping body. “It took a lot out of her, you know they worked on your sword together. So my sister feels responsible for what happens to him, now that she’s dragged him into, well, all of this.”

    “Can I sit with him?”

    “Of course your grace.” Healer Robert slid back into the conversation, having finished putting away the last of his things. “I shall give you the time you need. If you have any further need for me, I shall be in Maester Luwin’s office.”

    Sarella, having discretely locked the door to the room her sister was sleeping in, though Robert had noticed the action, gave the king’s son a gentle pat on the shoulder and followed the healer too.

    Taking his healthy son by the hand he made him kneel. There, by the side of the sickbed of his eldest boy, he and his trueborn heir sat in silence.

    Eventually the king clasped his hands, though he did not pray, for he had not done so in a long, long time. No hymns came to mind, no great words of wisdom. Instead, he simply sat with his sons and silently hoped that his bastard would keep the use of his leg, that there would be no infection, and that there would be no more hardship in his life.



    Nymeria Sand




    ‘This is a disaster.’.

    The Lady of Winterfell’s smile went from almost brittle to so obviously pained it was hilarious. And, of course, taking a sip of her mulled wine, the Queen chose that moment to make another vaguely pointed comment.

    “As we’ve discussed the nature of the Blackfyres and the perfidy of bastards, I do have to wonder what your thoughts are on Lann the Clever.” Another sip. “Unlike the Royal Tullys, we Lannisters only rose through wit and the hand of a Casterly daughter.”

    ‘No, scratch that, Catelyn Stark has made a blunder of catastrophic proportions.’

    “I would never think to imply that your line was anything but noble, your grace, all I meant was that I understand how hard it can be for a woman to deal with her husband’s indiscretions.” Catelyn Stark let her smile fade a bit, settling for awkward disquiet, still intentionally not meeting Nymeria’s pleading gaze. “After all, his grace is attending to his own great bastard at this very moment - putting off an engagement with you to do so.”

    “Aye. Bastards… a curse on every house and the blot of a noble’s honor. Useless little monsters, wouldn’t you agree?”

    Thankfully the highborn woman, still very obviously confused, managed to finally pick up on the massive undercurrent of threat in the queen’s tone. Wisely she chose not to speak.

    Nymeria cursed the fact she’d been seldom given the chance to so much as string two words together, stuck between the two women as she was. Instead, she was forced to sit there, smiling vapidly like the mewling ladies in waiting that her sister played with as a child does with dolls.

    On the whole she wouldn’t complain too, too much. At the moment they were sitting on a covered balcony, set where a rocky outcropping had created a raised bank of earth that had been completed with a squat, round tower. And it was a testament to the sheer age and scale of Winterfell that places such as this existed. Set high up it had a clear view over half of the castle, driving home the knowledge that this fortification was built to hold a force of one hundred thousand fighting men, and giving the royal party a clear view of the vastness of Winterfell’s territory.

    The balcony itself was fair sized, able to hold thirty or forty people if they were squished in, with a removable wooden roof. It was sloped, but also slatted, some trick of clever design and hard work by an ancient carpenter that allowed sunlight to dance down between the thin planks of weirwood, no thicker than half a finger,and create an almost serene, picturesque sight.

    Small flakes of snow, no more than the lightest bit of powder, fell from the sky in lazy circles while the heavens above were dotted with a few clouds. Mostly though the Northern sky was clear and blue with a blazing sun above - still so cold Nymeria shivered under her three layers a bit, but of no bother to the Lady Stark and little trouble at all to the queen in her two layers.

    Sitting out there were fifteen people or so. The Queen, of course, who had been in a rather excellent mood - despite Ophelia’s disappearance. And Nymeria was almost tempted to ask her sane… ish sister for details. Cersei was quite beautiful of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that Nymeria was annoyed, stressed, and missing her twins at all. Opposite her sat Lady Stark, once Catelyn Tully, and the red haired fish’s plans for today had fallen apart so spectacularly she had to wonder if it had all been one of her father’s plans.

    ‘Nothing explodes quite like a Martell’s half drunken decision to storm a rival brothel with a small army of whores and their clients.’

    With them had come a number of ladies in waiting, three for each of the nobles, who sat quietly to the sides. They were knitting and gossiping at first but had now fallen silent. Completing the party were a trio of armed men. Ser Meryn Trant of the kingsguard, a Stark man at arms that Nymeria did not recognize, and the Darkstar as her own bodyguard.

    Apparently, the Dornish contingent had been drawing straws to set up the rotation of looking after the Snakes. He was her bodyguard today.

    ‘And I have no idea whether it’s a good thing or not that Tyene was sent for tea.’

    Right now complaining would have to take a backseat though. Tensions were already high between her father and Lord Stark after the Dornish prince had done as he always did. That meant their alignment with the royals would also be called into question, which wasn’t great considering that tensions in the North were already high. Combine that with the extensive preparations for a military campaign and rumors would be flying wild.

    ‘There’s no telling what Varys or Tywin would do if they thought they could drive a wedge between the North and everyone else. Doubly so if Tywin thought the North might be a threat to his… legacy.’

    One of the small benefits of her earlier conversation with the Imp had been a glimpse at his father’s psyche, invaluable insight indeed.

    ‘I’ll do something nice for the little lord. Perhaps one of the lewder journals Sarella recovered? If nothing else it ought to amuse him.’

    For now though, she had to work.

    No motion could be wasted.

    Not a second more could be spent dawdling on errant thoughts.

    Nymeria knew she had to strike while the iron was still hot and in the blacksmith’s thigh if she wanted to keep this situation from taking an unfavorable turn for House Martell, the very reason why she had been sent on this long winded trip to the North alongside her volatile father and sisters.

    Though she would confess to being surprised. Of all sisters to cause this sort of situation, Nymeria could scarcely believe young sweet Elia to be the culprit.

    “Your grace, my lady, do pardon me for speaking, but I was wondering when Lord Manderly would be arriving? My father wished to speak with him most dearly.”

    Catelyn Stark’s eyes tightened for a moment, instinctual dislike of bastardy, which had obviously festered for years with Jon Snow about the place, tainting her view of Nymeria. But considering Cersei had made it clear that she preferred the Dornish company to that of the Great Trouts, well, the Lady of Winterfell would have to deal.

    “Soon, I think, his sons have already arrived. However, the Mer-Lord is, well… generously apportioned.”

    Smiling, Nymeria bowed her head. She hadn’t noticed either of the men since the feast, when she’d been escorted by the Blackfish, but a point would be made to seek them out.

    Pursing her lips, the Stark woman seemed to chew on her thoughts for a few moments.

    “You know, I’m sure your sister meant nothing by it.”

    Raising one eyebrow, the bastard almost took offense at how blatantly the woman was fishing for an apology. For a way to put the impetus on the Sands and so that her own daughter would be justified in their little scuffle.

    “I must confess ignorance, my lady. I’m not even sure what words were or were not said. My lord father is speaking with Elia now, though, so he might be better able to address any such concerns.”

    Certainly, she had asked her informant for confirmation, knowing that it would have been much more likely if another of her sisters had been the one to cause an ‘accident’. Tyene would have been the safe bet in that regard. Father was distracted tending to his Lady Knight and their newest sibling, Ophelia had been… grounded with the Maesters until she could convince Nymeria she was not about to get dragged further north by malevolent spirits or nosy mages.

    Frankly, Obara had a higher chance of causing issues than Elia.

    Which explained why this had caused such a stir.

    ‘Maybe I’ll have to look into that abandoned tower after all.’ Though not for the sister she had expected.

    But first, she’d have to handle this situation.

    “I see. Perhaps it would be best left to the menfolk, then, to discuss such issues. But a woman cares for her child, as you will one day come to know. They are precious to us and if there was anything we could do to help them, then we would.”

    ‘Well, perhaps that was a tad over dramatic.’ Half an apology and half an accusation, Catelyn Stark was still trying to be a bit discrete, those few lines meant that her probing was done… for now.

    Nymeria reclined in her chair a little, considering whether or not to take offense. If nothing else Cersei seemed a little amused so that was good, though by now the balcony area was indeed growing dark. The sun had yet to fall under the line of the horizon, but now dark clouds muffled the last of its light as a small number of candles were lit. This kept the room from falling completely into shadows and it was at this time that a knight and a few servants, not Tyene, arrived with a tray of still steaming edible bits and several pots of tea.

    Certainly a pleasant smell.

    Of course, the women sitting at the table weren’t particularly interested in it.

    For all her attempts to connect with the two, Nymeria was a bastard after all. Nevermind the legacies which ran through her veins, before the Queen and the Lady of the North, she might as well have been a servant girl. Here to deliver news and gossip from the court to them like an errant maid, even if Cersei was more willing to indulge the snakes than not.

    ‘It’s not as far from the truth.’

    She pursued her lips.

    “Perhaps we should simply be honest. If my lady and your grace do not mind, I would be quite willing to relay what I know for certain.”

    Queen Cersei, with her golden curls and high cheekbones chiseled on a feline face, looked every bit the picture of a satisfied lioness. Mostly comfortable to watch her discomfort and Lady Stark’s as the other women spoke, the royal probably wanted to be with other people doing other things and that was particularly understandable.

    Unfortunately for Nymeria it was paramount to control the narrative. Blessedly, for once, she got a nod.

    “Earlier today the blacksmith Gendry Waters was carried to the Maester’s office by a group of men at the request of young Lady Arya. From the few accounts I have heard, there was an incident between your daughter, Lady Stark, and my sister. This resulted in the young man being injured and requiring emergency medical attention.”

    There was a time to be honest and a time to be cunning.

    Fortunately, she did not need to lie to the girl’s mother in order to be the latter. She would of course take the girl’s side if Nymeria implied Arya was solely to blame. It was best, then, to admit some fault than to have the bulk of it pushed onto them in an act of overprotective love.

    She could only hope her own father was not acting upon his own overprotective desires.

    “What of the slander my daughter was subjected to?”

    Lady Catelyn Stark, while not as imposing a presence as Queen Cersei, still cut a striking figure. With locks of deep auburn and eyes which pierced through the gathering evening, the woman looked the part of a bird of prey more than a fish as if readying itself to descend upon any unfortunate enough to earn her displeasure.

    Though she would find no serpent this day, Nymeria respected the noble woman’s desire to protect her own child.

    “Harmless, though it would seem she fretted for the young man’s injury. It speaks to her character that her immediate concern was for the injured party.”

    Cersei, brows creased in exaggerated concern, leaned closer.

    “And what of your sister? It pains me to hear she might have been hurt.”

    Nymeria dearly wished the woman would remain silent. She knew better than to bring up a bastard girl, no matter how well regarded, in front of a woman known to dislike them at the best of times. So this was probably revenge for Ophelia disappearing in the middle of the night.

    “Elia was also unharmed and called for dear Ophelia’s assistance on the matter. She is now tending to the blacksmith alongside Healer Robert while a messenger was dispatched to seek Maesters Luwin and Marwyn.”

    The mention of her other sister gave pause to the Queen’s needling.

    Trust the enigmatic Snake to make something of an ally out of the famously difficult woman.

    “It is clear that this was a simple incident between boisterous youths. I’ve been told that Elia and Arya are similar in temperament and taste. As they say, too much of a good thing often leads to mistakes. I’m sure that our father will dole out the appropriate punishment.” Inclining her head, the bastard thanked the two trueborn women for letting her speak.

    “And you wish us to impart that message to our husbands.” The queen finally threw her a bone, not needling the woman across from her any further. “That we should let the menfolk decide the course of the day and we should demurely sit to the side as children potentially cripple each other?”

    ‘Fuck. She’s still angry.’ The faux concern was just that and Nymeria knew her next words would need to be chosen carefully. “Yes, there is no need to drag out a simple incident. The boy will recover, and my sister will be cautioned for her poor conduct-”

    “Cautioned?” Genuine offense was thick in the red haired woman’s voice.

    Nymeria sat straighter, hands flat against the wooden table. “Lady Stark?” She had chosen careful curiosity.

    “Pardon me, but I believe you’re understating the part your sister played on that boy’s injury. Simply warning her to not do it again with a slap on the wrist won’t please the King. I am certainly not pleased.”

    Luckily, or perhaps not, it was the queen who replied for the bastard and the weight of that title at least meant that Catelyn bit her tongue instead of… making things unpleasant.

    “Your daughter too had a part in it, Lady Stark. We should let cooler heads prevail instead of exacerbating this unpleasant situation further than it already has been. Accept that both girls were involved in this incident and that they should share the blame.”

    Sighing, Cersei poured the last of her wine back into the pitcher she’d been given, took up her tea cup and stood.

    “I tire of this.” Ser Meryn snapped to attention. “I would see my children now.”

    And that was that.

    The two parties shuffled out, eventually leaving only the bastard and the Dornish knight. Coming over, Darkstar dropped into the Lady Stark’s vacant seat and kicked his feet up onto the queen’s.

    “Well, that went brilliantly.”

    Glaring at him, Nymeria opened her mouth to say something impolite.

    Instead, after smirking, she simply leaned back herself.

    “Tell me, where’s Tyene… and what do you think the queen will do when she finds out you put your filthy boots on her chair?”

    Pausing and paling, the knight very, very quickly removed his shoes and stood up - scanning the room as if the poisoner would be right behind him - and grunted.

    “I’ll remember that.”

    Nymeria stood and lightly patted his cheek.

    “And I’ll tell Ophelia to put something particularly angry and violent in your bed for when you sleep. Now come on. We have work to do and not the least is convincing the Northern Lords to view this as the Stark girl having Wolfsblood and the Dornish as being indulgent of youthful enthusiasm.” Pausing, she gave a small inclination of the head. “Do well and I’ll have Elia get you a sparring match with Ser Barristan, I know you’ve been itching to actually train with him and honest work deserves honest pay.”



    Olenna Tyrell




    “Took you long enough boy.”

    Wrapping her cane on the table, she did as she always did when some idiot thought they could push her around.

    “The next time you leave me waiting this long again I’ll simply have Margery marry Tommen and be done with you.” Harrumphing, she settled down in her large chair. “If nothing else the Lannisters are at least polite when they need you.”

    Renly Baratheon stood in the closed doorway of his private apartments with a look that was a cross between surprise, horror, anger, and outrage. Eventually he settled on the latter.

    “If I wanted an old woman in my bedchambers I’d be wed already.” His hair was mussed, his tunic disordered, and belt only half done. “How did you even get in here!”

    Olenna simply snorted.

    “A little bird let me in, how do you think, boy.” Running a hand across her face, the old woman toned down her speech to the level of a spoiled village idiot. “Now, I don’t care that you’ve been fooling around with someone, Loras doesn’t need to know about it unless you catch the pox, but when we have a meeting arranged it is best to be there. Youth may grant you vigor, but I’m not aging in reverse.” Muttering, she turned and looked out the window, taking in the sparkling sea beyond. “Besides, it’s expensive to distract both Baelish and the eunuch, gods know they’re too clever by half.”

    “What even is there to discuss?” Somewhat apologetic, Renly straightened his tunic and meandered over to the hearth in his room. “As for who I was with, Loras knows, ah, you could say that he even introduced us. Normally it was the three of us together when we had the time and we were actually discussing a surprise for him when he returns. If you would, do you know if he prefers the eggs of wild fowl or domesticated? And if he prefers the eggs of geese or chickens?”

    Annoyed at the folly of youth, the Queen of Thorns wasn’t quite pleased by these questions. But, and this was a very small but, she also knew the man currently stoking the fire across from her was utterly incapable of disassembly. So she relented just a bit.

    “He likes quail eggs. And still, we have much to discuss. My dalliance with Varys is in just an hour if you haven’t been so addled by your lusts that you’ve forgotten.”

    Standing up, the youngest Baratheon gave her a winning smile. Standing there in the low light, deep green tunic over white hosen, smart velvet shoes, and wind blown black hair - he looked like a storybook prince. And all Olenna could see was the wasted potential in his empty, empty words.

    “And what is there left to discuss? The royal bastards are just that, bastards, and none of my brother’s children will inherit. Tywin wouldn’t have it, assuming he doesn’t surrender when we take his children and grandchildren hostage. Meaning that leaves Stannis. Stannis, who has Dragonstone, maybe, and no one likes.” Shrugging, he brought over a pair of mostly clean cups and poured two steaming cups of water before turning to a box and fiddling around with some leaves. “Cruel as it is, that’s the truth.”

    “And everything will go perfectly?” Sheer incredulity was clear in the old woman’s voice. “You think the gods will simply will you to victory and that you aren’t going to have to get your hands dirty?”

    Holding his arms out, he gave her another broad smile.

    “People love me. And a beloved king is forgiven a great many things.” Starting to prepare the tea for both of them, Olenna was a bit annoyed he didn’t ask but also knew that Renly only drank the best tea despite otherwise being a quack when it came to art, the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands continued speaking. “With your help and the help of Dorne, Doran will have no choice but to back us as his armies will be off fighting over a bunch of pirate infested islands, that leaves the North, the Riverlands, the Vale, and the Westerlands.”

    Ticking off his fingers one by one, the prince laid out his thoughts.

    “Tywin will back down so long as we agree to let him make Jaimie his heir, a loss to be sure, but we could hold the bastards and his daughter as hostages.The Vale is under the control of a madwoman broken by probably having a hand in her husband’s murder and her only heir is feeble in body and mind. When it comes to that, we just declare the Harding boy as the new Arryn, perhaps bribe the Royces with a small council position, and they’ll be satisfied for a decade or two. The trout-men and the northern savages are either too busy dying of gout or fornicating with pet wolves from what I hear, I doubt they’d ride to aid a Lannister either way. And the Ironborn are still reeling from what my brother did to them years ago.”

    “Hoster Tully is slowly recovering. The Witch Girl gave him a potion on the behest of the king and taught his maester how to make a treatment.”

    Pausing, the prince passed the tea cup over and began to sip at his own drink.

    “And that is why you want to speak to the Spider?”

    Shaking her head, the Queen of Thorns spoke almost truly.

    “Hardly. His mind is going, slipping day by day, I know the like. You see, when you get old and you have a little cleverness you hide that your mind is going. Tricks to compensate for your weakness. My own guests in his court confirm he uses such things when I told them to look for certain signs. His boy, Edumure, he’s rash though. None of his father’s ambition or cunning, but all of his vigor and more loyalty to the Starks than can be broken.”

    Nodding, Renly agreed with her words even as he dismissed them.

    “Eddard loves my brother. That love will protect me once Robert dies. Either the drinking or the whoring or an angry husband or scorned lover or the queen will do him in. When that happens, all we need to do is step in and administer justice.”

    Pausing, he finished and raised his cup.

    “For the good of the realm.”

    Olenna didn’t respond, instead holding her cup and waiting for her conspirator to recline.

    “And if he doesn’t die.”

    Snorting, the beautiful man put his cup to the side and took in the green and gold dress of the lady of highgarden. From her wimple, embroidered with horses and knights and ladies, to the bodice that was pinned with a golden rose, to the long, flowing body of the garment. It was worked through with little bits of silver thread and seemed to shimmer as light glinted off of the semi precious stones sown into the hem.

    After deciding that it seemed to portray the story of the Field of Fire, the young man nodded.

    “Then I suppose he might need to be helped along. His great bastard was brought to court. I’m sure the queen sees that as a threat, why not encourage her to protect my inheritance and give us a cause to act at the same time?”

    “That means we need Varys. Maybe Baelish too. But definitely the Spider.”

    Her words were met with another shrug.

    “What does Varys want?”

    This time it was Olenna’s turn to shrug.

    “The Witch Girl. Dead. He’s convinced she’s using magic to influence the king. Why do you think he’s renested his little birds? She spooked him.”

    That got her a raised, artfully crafted eyebrow.

    “You mean that a eunuch is afraid of a little girl? A little girl whose powers allegedly let her summon gold from thin air, walk through shadows, and to command every beast that crawls, flies, or squats in the mud to worship her.” Snorting as he rubbed his face, the Tyrell matriarch finally took a sip of her now mildly warm tea as the young man across from her continued to speak. “Just… let him deal with her. If he manages it, we blame it on Cersei thinking the scary magic girl child had seduced the king or somesuch.”

    Right now it took every ounce of strength she had not to throttle the idiot sitting across from her. Already she’d come up with a dozen different issues that would need to be taken care of, not the least of which being Oberyn Martell himself, and how the only saving grace about her future son in law being an idiot was that it meant Margery would be able to control him without issue.

    Instead she gave him a small smile.

    “I shall see it done, your grace. For the good of the realm.”

    Privately, she couldn’t help but sigh in relief.

    ‘At least Varys won’t be an utter bore.’
     
  4. stads

    stads Versed in the lewd.

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    nice chapter thx for writing it
    hmm using her own life force meh mistake just get more animals :D
    nice to see the plotting going on me think the people are going to regret that
     
  5. Organmonkey

    Organmonkey Versed in the lewd.

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    Hopefully that necromacy doesn't have any negative side effects, that seems like something that could be hijacked by the Others easily.

    Cersei throwing shade and being a shitty mother as expected, Robert being a better father than normal, and Cat reminding us why her being a good parent (sans Jon) and caring person (most of the time) redeem a lot of her flaws.

    Oddly, I actually came away from this thinking that Renly is the better planner. He wants to bait others to do his dirty work for him and then hold the blackmail over them or others. This gives him a leaver on the Tyrells since if they act to cover the "blind spots" he can blackmail them or in an emergency throw them away and still come away clean. If he took care of it himself he would hold less power in the alliance.
     
  6. Daemonflayer

    Daemonflayer Certified Arachnos Arbiter

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    Oberyn. The Snakes. Cersei. All of Dorne. The Old Gods...
    And, of course, Best Shard.
     
  7. rad

    rad Making the rounds.

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    I think that a common thread of every perspective in this chapter is someone being stupid and someone going "aw fuck, I have to be the adult here don't I?"
     
  8. Oddboy

    Oddboy Not too sore, are you?

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    slow clap

    I get the impression that, on some level, Renly seriously thinks he's living in a faerie tale and he's the Prince Charming main character with all the plot armor that implies. No wonder Olenna is so frustrated.

    At least Varys treats Ophelia like an actual threat.
     
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  9. ROTH963

    ROTH963 Versed in the lewd.

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    He probably researched mages enough to know he got off easy with losing only his cock.
     
  10. ChiChi

    ChiChi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    but it's late at night and I've got to be up in the morning if there are any that you don't see obvious typos in point it out and I'll take another look to see if I can remember why I quoted it
     
  11. Ljapaubeaves

    Ljapaubeaves Getting out there.

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    hmm I feel like there should have been more of a "tangible" reason for them not to use animals for the "life-force". Unless i'm missing that they had to do it quickly and without others knowing what they did. (yeah, likely the second one...)

    Otherwise you somehow managed to write 11k words in such a fashion that i drank them in one gulp and it was over WAAY to swiftly^^. Well done and thank you for the efford.

    i seem to have found a smol error here tho:
    why is taylor a warg?
    edit:
    i have been made aware of some GoT lore...
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
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  12. ROTH963

    ROTH963 Versed in the lewd.

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    Because it allows her to have powers similar to what she had formally and because her mother is northern.
     
  13. Hopellopo

    Hopellopo Getting sticky.

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    Well, it seems like the political scuffle over Elia could be pretty easily quelled by Ophelia actually letting people know that she gave up a year of her life to fix the issue. Also, it was adorable to see Cersei get all defensive for Ophelia even when she has her own hated bastard.
     
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  14. Ljapaubeaves

    Ljapaubeaves Getting out there.

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    Ok, now i'm really confused.
    A warg is some kind of steroid wolf to me. like the ones in LotR. Why is Taylor called a warg then? Because of her mother? is this a GoT thing i'm not familliar with????
     
  15. Shoiran_Toushin

    Shoiran_Toushin Getting sticky.

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    IIRC a Warg in GoT/ASOIAF is a 'skinwalker' or in simpler words? a being that can put part of themselves into other beings (animals mostly, and by that i mean any and every animal including other humans, even f the latter is 'taboo') in order to share their senses, guide them or 'Assuming Direct Control' of them and in some cases 'having a spare body' in case somebody kills their main one...
     
  16. ROTH963

    ROTH963 Versed in the lewd.

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    It can be used on humans, but is unsafe, a mortally wounded guy tried to possess a woman to escape death (she was the only one nearby), and she proceeded to rip her eyes and kill herself.
    Sometimes people of Northern descendant get the abillity to control others (mostly animals) with magic, all the Stark children (the house controlling the north) are ones, magic is mostly dead, so most people don't believe it exist, them being all wargs is very weird, as it is mostly random, my suspicion is that the gods of the north, the old gods (who are basically magical trees with faces carved in) have control over it, as all the South doesn't have wargs in spite of blood connection to the north and prior worship of the old gods.

    The most powerful warg who isn't Taylor (and is also significantly stronger sorcerer and warg than her according to WoG) is Bloodraven, an ancient sorcerer who's mother was a northern, born a bastard to the former controlling ruling family, more than a hundred years ago, he acted as a spy master for the king until he broken an oath of non aggression to kill a bastard line that continuesly tried to take the throne, he was banished to the wall, a giant ice construct created when magic was strong to hold back the others, magical ice undead with zombie armies, they throw criminals there to keep the realm safe from wildings, people no longer believe the others exist, but the wildings are those left behind when the wall was built and they are stuck at the stone age (bronze age for the most advanced tribe), and they raid the south, so outlaws are thrown there to fight them back or face death.

    He abandoned the post after sometime like 40 years of work, he gone north and met the children of the forest, the first dying long lived worshippers of the old gods, with less than thousand left, he made a pact with the old gods, sitting on a throne made of roots that borrow through his flash, his life is extended and he is empowered by them, becoming a greenseer, his abillity to jump bodies like a virus, he is pretty powerful manipulator and even stronger sorcerer, but we don't know what exactly he does.
     
  17. Ljapaubeaves

    Ljapaubeaves Getting out there.

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    Thank you for the kind explanations!
    Now all is finally clear to me.
     
  18. JustOneGuy

    JustOneGuy Getting sticky.

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    I was under the impression that the tyrell were more or less the allies of the martell at this point, so Olenna considering acceding to the request of killing basically the favored daughter of the brother of her ally, to secure the service of someone that she describe as aging and needing trick to hide it is a bit strange.
    Is she putting a mask for Renly while having other plans, really confident on not being found out (or thinking the life of a bastard daughter to be of little consequences), or is the plan that important to her ?
     
  19. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

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    Imagine how Joffrey feels, seeing the first time his father ever acts the part is when his bastard half-brother is injured.
     
  20. Shoiran_Toushin

    Shoiran_Toushin Getting sticky.

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    Imagine how everyone else feels, seeing Joffrey not being a little shit or a creepy kid and the first time he actually acts like a sibling worried for his siblings is when his bastard half-brother was injured.

    because it was Joffrey who went to get Robert in the first place.


    so, both things are there, Robert acting like a Concerned and non-violent parent for once, and Joffrey actually caring for his siblings.
     
  21. Scrimshaw_NSFW

    Scrimshaw_NSFW Making the rounds.

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    Hey guys, sorry for the late reply! Anyways, here we go.

    You're very welcome~

    Yeah, there's a reason why she was in the back room and why no one wanted to move her.

    Maybe, maybe not, gotta see how things play out~

    Maybe it's a gun, maybe it goes off, maybe it doesn't. We'll have to see!

    Tbh, she hated Catelyn in canon too. Not sure if that was just general bitchiness or what, but it was exaggerated here since Catelyn's opinion on bastardy was made clear. it's a pity that Catelyn's so utterly out of her depth though. Thankfully she (probably) won't have a chance to fuck up everything she touches like she did in canon. Because, lol, that thing with the Freys was some shitty negotiating.

    Maybe Renly is an idiot genius then? Who knows. Certainly not us XD In all honesty, Olenna's opinion of herself, and most men, is well known. She's also quite happy to make it clear that she "knows" she's the smartest person in the room. We saw in canon how that can backfire.

    Wanna know what the down side of being an eccentric cunt is? You make a LOT of enemies. Oberyn and the Snakes have made a splash and that means enemies. Cersei is almost as paranoid as she should be, so maybe that saves her. But the Old Gods are a teensy bit distracted. Don't expect a deus ex machina to stop any blowback.

    Lol. Welcome to real life.

    In Renly's defense, he kind of is one. Incredibly handsome, charming, well liked, a literal prince, an orphan, spoiled his entire life, and a competent warrior whose beau is one of the best warriors in the land.

    Honestly, Ophelia kind of showed off. And that was a bit of a mistake. Though Varys's story is very minimally known so I don't think they could have planned for that. Or, even if the Dornish knew, would have decided not to use the tactics they did out of a lack of understanding of what Varys is capable of.

    Thank you very much!

    At the risk of a mild spoiler,
    who said Ophelia didn't?
    Why was she so out of it, while Qyburn was fine and Gendry didn't seem any worse? We'll be revealing it in the second scene of next chapter and explaining what happened and why necromancy won't be a cure all, but merely another hint at how the bigger picture fits together.

    And you're very welcome! We strive to do our best~

    That would require admitting to magic, which might invite questions, and would only solve the issue amongst the big families, because you can't tell the peasants that the witch who has amassed a HUGE amount of political capitol and the favor of the whole royal family just did magic on the king's eldest male bastard. That would IMMEDIATELY invite concerns of another Blackfyre. So mostly the idea is just that "the injury wasn't as bad as it looked". And yeah. She and Catelyn clashed in canon so we figured it would still exist here.

    Yes!

    More seriously, Olenna Tyrell just doesn't care about Ophelia. Or, rather, Ophelia is a Dornish asset and she (Olenna) wants Dorne to remain the junior partner in their alliance block. Without going into TOO many spoilers, most of what Olenna does is to advance the cause of House Tyrell no matter the cost. The only exception is when it comes to her grandchildren. Plus she still has a grudge against Oberyn over Oberyn crippling Willas way back when.

    So, to be honest, it's a little bit of all three. She sees Ophelia as a long term net negative to her position, sees Varys as a possible major source of a smooth transition of power, and and right now the Tyrells are in a position to have a child of their house be both the heir to the Seven Kingdoms and the Stormlands and Willas is marrying the former heir to Dorne.

    Remember, Jaimie was there too. He got to watch another man bond with his son while his boy worried over the fate of someone who wasn't actually his sibling.

    Heh. The whole thing was shit for a lot of people. But I will say it's a bit less shocking for Joff than not. Remember the scene with the reveal of the wildfire? Joffrey, and Cersei, both saw the man Robert could be in that moment.
     
  22. Threadmarks: Chapter 16
    Scrimshaw_NSFW

    Scrimshaw_NSFW Making the rounds.

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    AN: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! Team Scrimshaw here once again with the latest instalment of ‘My Witch Sister Can’t be this Adorable’! Unfortunately, real life gets in the way, as is the case for most, so we couldn’t post this at the start of the month as per usual.

    However, we are still committed to telling Ophelia’s Bizarre Adventure.

    As a heads up, since this is the end of the year and things are getting busier for me and Alvor, I’d like to warn our readers that there might be a slight delay on our other works such as commissions and other assorted stories.

    We’d thank you for your continued support and hope you enjoy it.

    AtW: Hey guys, just wanted to come let you know it’s me holding us up. I had a genuinely, utterly shit week, followed by a surge of schoolwork, combined with worsening health. Honestly, I think it’s stress combined with allergies doing it to me but I vomited up a mix of blood and mucus earlier… so yeah.

    We’ll try to keep at it, I promise, just please bear with us for a little while. Sorry for all this.

    Now, onto the reading!



    One Who is Many - Chapter 16



    Quentyn Martell




    Keeping his shield held high, the young prince ignored the growing numbness in his shoulder. This battle would be over soon enough - then he could get an armorer to pry the damaged joint apart and he could properly inspect the damage.

    “Steady!” Instead, he screamed his already sore throat raw to keep his men firm. “The ships are coming around!” More pirates gathered on their crude wall and continued to hurl stones and abuse on the trapped men. “Hold damn you!” One of the mercenaries wobbled, dropping his shield for just a moment and had a heavy stone nearly take one of his eyes. Quentyn mostly focused on shuffling a few men over and allowing his comrades to tend to the wound as best they could under a roof of wood and iron.

    “Thwack!”

    A large bolt smashed through a pirate above, catching him in the chest and knocking him off of the wooden rampart and several more soon joined the dead man on the ground below.

    Relief surged in his heart as, in the distance, several ships anchored themselves in the cove his men had seized. On the whole it meant the fight would soon be over, one way or another, and it all came down to if his reserves would hold.

    By now, the Gods alone knew how many months into their operation, the pirates were well informed of the fury coming for them. Some fled, some chose to hide, and the most desperate chose to fight. These pirates in particular, the largest remaining group in the islands according to their prisoners, were known as the Rake’s Bastards and were, allegedly, an entire clan of bastards descended from some rich Essosi nobleman.

    They slit their father’s throat and used his gold to buy a fleet… and the hundred or so men that escaped were all that remained of that mighty armada after a run in with Euron Greyjoy.

    What was important is that they held the entrance to Bloodstone, the largest of the islands in the Stepstones, and had chosen a sheltered cove as their stronghold.Vitally, all three other landing sites on the islands had been blocked with scuttled ships, mostly fat bottomed whalers and merchant vessels, and the enterprising pirates had even raised many of the sandbars by hauling large rocks onto them.

    This forced the coalition under Quentyn’s command to funnel itself into a single, narrow passage they had well fortified. Firstly, they had a chain of sorts, though a crude one, that had been lowered when the coalition ships had first approached, but more than that they had also set up a palisade around the landing site, several raised platforms to hold missiles that ranged from stones to cauldrons of boiling water to archers and even a large number of low, squat towers that would allow the Bastards to pour flanking fire onto any vessel that entered.

    A terrifying, layered defense with another wall behind it too.

    Quentyn had also learned, from Ser Daemon’s “interrogations” of a captured pirate captain, that the chief bastard himself had gathered at least three thousand cut throats, rogues, and brigands to his cause, fortified two or three old castles further inland, and was more than happy to let the Westerosi bleed themselves on his defenses.

    He had ordered all of their remaining combustibles be loaded onto a trio of their remaining hulks and that the great things be sent careening into the harbor.

    Once the screaming had stopped and the fire had mostly died down, he had led a force of mercenaries into battle himself. At his side were Ser Daemon and Lord Selmy and a small force of other knights, but they were the exception and not the rule.

    This too had been an intentional choice to not risk his better troops and instead hold them for his second wave - more traps were always to be expected.

    Rowboats had deposited his forces along the scorched sands of the beach and, with a squad of mercenaries sent ahead to find the way, the princeling had taken a moment to look out over the smoke-wrecked battlefield. Charred corpses hung from blackened supports, a great gaping hole had been smashed into the first palisade where one of the ships had managed to bring itself far enough up the beach to slam into it, and the other two still smouldering hulks had shifted to just below the waterline where all that was left of them now rested.

    That had been fifteen minutes ago.

    Now he and his men were pinned down before the second wall and were unable to climb it. This left them vulnerable as hundreds of enraged men set against them with everything the pirates could lay their hands on. However, zeal and fury was no match for the accurate, steady fire of scorpions.

    Those damnably accurate weapons could keep a position suppressed and would remain at the ready to fire for as long as it took for a target to expose themselves. Moreover, now that friendly ships had moved into the cove proper, more troops could be landed to support their advance. So, knowing what he wanted, Quentyn reached over and grabbed a knight’s shoulder.

    “Ser, run down to the beach and tell them to land the Summer Islanders. I want their goldenheart bows picking off enemy archers from the beach and the outer wall. Have work crews start to clear the landing area of rubble too - I want clear lines of reinforcement and, if need be, retreat.”

    His words were low enough to not overheard when he used the word retreat, there was no need to risk a panic, but he otherwise nearly shouted his orders. The firm nod he received gladdened him and, moving to cover the knight’s withdrawal, his retainers formed a small shield wall as his chosen man slung his shield onto his back and started sprinting.

    Everything fell into a lul once more and Quentyn held his men firm.

    Time would shift the balance of this fight and all that remained to do was wait.

    Not that it made the waiting itself any easier - though at least rocks had stopped falling upon his line. That didn’t stop the insults or the enemy archers, both protected behind the foe’s ramparts, but it did make things just a little more tolerable. Arrow loops were a bit of a challenge to put a bolt through though.

    A multitude of trumpet blasts came from the beach after a few more of his mercenaries fell, screaming, to bleed on the sand and dirt below. But the Summer Islanders let their shafts fly as one, accuracy unerring sending no less than fully a quarter of the enemy’s archers to the the Stranger. These miraculous men were quite capable of going where heavier pieces could not and, with a steady, thrumming song of death their bows sang of the end of the fight.

    Indeed, no sooner had the last of the pirates been suppressed than ladders had arrived from the ships.

    Crying out, Quentyn himself sounded a battlecry that filled the cove and sounded the clarion call and was up the ladder before any other man so much as touched it.

    His dagger took the fingers off the first pirate to lay hands on the lip of the device, arrows and scorpion bolts having dissuaded any other from trying up to that point, and hauled himself over the edge with his blood on fire. Half ducking back down the ladder, the Dornishman dodged a club before stabbing out and burying his blade in the throat of a surprised looking old man. Blood, hot and wet, splashed down across his face and it was half blind that he finally pulled himself over the lip of the enemy’s wall.

    Laying into the nearest man with his knife, he managed to get inside the man’s guard, taking a glancing blow on his already wounded shoulder as he did so, before managing to bury his dagger into the unarmored belly of his opponent six or seven times.

    Pushing the man back and ripping his blade free at the same time, he knocked the pirate into a group of his fellows. Catching their comrade easily, they were able to hold him up until they noticed his intestines had started spilling out along with large gushing spurts of blood. This momentary distraction, and the wailing of a man already condemned to die, bought the knights behind Quentyn enough room to climb to his feet.

    From there the bloody work became even bloodier.

    The battlements were slick with the fluids of the dead, pirates rarely had armor and where they did it was even less rarely good, and the clearing of the wall became one long series of very short, very sharp exchanges. With crowds of bodies pressing out from three points along the relatively short walls, the pirates were separated into smaller groups that slowly dwindled under the pressure of an ever increasing wall of blades and bodies.

    When their boats had landed the sun had been high in the sky above and now, with the last of the defenders breaking, the light had begun to fade.

    Quentyn, exhausted and sore and mind still filled with a lingering haze of killing, shuffled over to one side as a maester tended to his shoulder.

    “Definitely something cracked my prince. You’ll need a sling for a while. Of the rest of your wounds, only bruises and a bit of bleeding. Your armor did well.”

    He was a young man, more wisps of hair about his cheeks than even the start of a beard, and it occurred to Quentyn that he’d killed a man today that could have passed for his very own healer’s brother. It was queen enough to draw a laugh from him. A great, sudden laugh that burst out of him and washed over the prince in a sudden, all consuming fit of mania.

    His escort stood there in the dying light as the healer recoiled, wariness in the young, though still older than the prince, man’s eyes. Each man was a veteran and knew the laughter would pass soon enough. Instead, they stood in a blood splattered vigil as the smell of charred flesh, death, and burnt wood wafted through the air, a strange and rather new sense of respect in how they looked at him.

    “Prince Martell.” One of the captains approached the nobleman, inclining his head and saluting him with his sword, and spoke rapidly. “We’ve chased the pirates all the way up the beach, but just before the forest’s edge they have a fortified cave entrance. They’re firing on us from there and covered the fleeing men’s retreat. If we don’t catch them now the damn cowards will make it inland!”

    Calming down, and accepting a towel from Ser Daemon, Quentyn wiped his face and spoke.

    “Fire served us once today.” Rough and raw, his throat practically burned from the mixture of smoke and screaming. “Smoke them out. And have men in the ships look for smoke plumes, that’ll tell us where their exits are.”

    Soon more and more officers came and the prince found there would be no rest for him, the mercenaries and knights now strangely eager to ask his opinion and look for orders from him. This, the first true battle of their campaign, had seemingly made him a man at last.

    But such thoughts could, would, wait.

    There were wounded to see to, dead to bury, fires to put out, and supplies to offload. He sent out teams of scouts and ordered the shifting of rubble to block the forest approach and the felling of the trees to create a deadzone before the defenses. Around him sprung up a command post of tents and cots, where those needing aid were tended to and from where he could oversee the whole preparation of what was quickly becoming the first step of a wonderfully long and violent struggle.

    And only one part of many different operations taking place concurrently. Ser Garlan and Prince Xho both had their own detachments sent to clean out other islands and their own campaigns would likely be smaller, but far more numerous mirrors of his own.

    Hopefully his men’s superior arms and armor would mean that those operations wouldn’t take too long. After all, this was only the first phase of his father’s plan and there was still much work to be done.



    Ophelia Sand




    Waking up in a bed she didn’t remember getting into was always a bit terrifying, the smooth stone walls before her known only by the roughness on her palm. The room itself was pitch black and without so much as a hint of light and the whole of her situation seemed to press down against her - doubly so when she could feel a body clasping to her from behind.

    Thankfully, the loud snores of Obara were almost hilariously recognizable, had been for almost as long as the once-hero had been living in this world.

    It took the edge off of the guilt and panic and shame she felt - never mind the lingering weight of death she could still feel on the edge of her consciousness. Her swarm had rebuilt itself, living things slowly filtering back into the area around her, but Ophelia had done something she hadn’t in years. She… had sacrificed part of her swarm to preserve herself, reflexively.

    Snuggling deeper into her sister’s arms, the part of her that was Taylor rose up for a moment.

    Between the looming threat to the world and then dabbling in necromancy, allegedly for a good cause, that bitter, exhausted, tired part of her stirred. Old justifications and sins too.

    “I know you’re awake.”

    Obara adjusted her position a little and brought the witch’s head over a bit and away from the wall.

    “How did you know? I kept my breathing even.”

    Rolling her eyes, the once warlord relaxed as she sighed.

    “You snore.”

    “No I don’t.” The spearman grunted. “You cheated using your swarm.”

    Chuckling, the younger of the two women couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret.

    “Perhaps.” A few moments of long silence later and she found the words she wanted to use. “So, I take it the lot of you were worried I’d disappear again? How did the boy’s leg turn out?”

    “Aye. We drew lots. I lost the draw. That’s why I’m on a too hard bed in the back of a butchery instead of entertaining the Not-So-Little Jon.”

    That got a raised eyebrow.

    “Word play? From you dear sister?”

    Obara squeezed her.

    “You looked like you wanted to murder someone for a second there. Did I distract you a bit?”

    “Shocked me I suppose.”

    The two fell back into silence, Ophleia’s statement lingering, clearly the start of a confession of some sorts. But the weight of what she had done, what she had taken, was still heavy.

    “I suppose you want to know what I did?”

    Shuffling over a little, the spearwoman pulled the blanket up a little higher, their room wasn’t heated and the witch’s sisters didn’t benefit from her own resistances, before finally deciding on how she wanted to answer.

    “Will it help you to tell me?”

    Shrugging, the girl from a poor street on Earth Bet turned over.

    “Maybe. I don’t know. I… I guess I want to think that I’m doing better, being better than I once was. But it feels like the temptation to backslide is constantly there.” Thinking back to the spell, the witch wasn’t sure how to explain it to someone who’d have no frame of reference. Ultimately, she spoke as truly as she could. “When I felt his leg start pulling from me, it was like my warmth, my life, my soul was being pulled out. Not even a great deal, but just a little. A tiny part of who and what I was, was being used up. So I panicked.” The shame had returned, but still Ophelia pushed ahead. “Tapping into my swarm, I used them up instead. I felt their light die, because I chose to do something that wasn’t natural.”

    Grunting, Obara actually sat up on one elbow, the darkness doing nothing to hide her anger.

    “So you’re saying it’s worth the life of a few bugs to leave a boy crippled?”

    Confused, the witch recoiled, pulling away.

    “No, I’m not saying that I should have left Gendry a cripple, but-”

    “But what?” Pushing forwards, Obara didn’t allow her sister a moment of room. “You chose to heal his leg. You chose to pay a price. And when you did, instead of giving up part of you, you ate up a few bugs. Are you going to claim that you’ll not eat meat again next?”

    Frustrated and angry, Ophelia pushed back.

    “It’s not that simple! What I did was wrong, on a fundamental level. I twisted up nature and perverted the very course of life and death itself - no matter why I did it, I still crossed a line.”

    The unimpressed snort that answered her said a great deal.

    “Hardly. You’re whining like a child that just had to gut and clean their first fish. I have killed dozens of men in my life, a few women too. Does that make me someone evil who perverts life and death?” After a few harsh breaths the older sister calmed herself. “Do not take my words to be an attack against you, sister, but you used up bugs-

    “And took from a few birds and the last bit of life in an old dog and I took a few years off a cat too. I have felt insects die, dogs die, men and women and thousands of them at once die. But when something dies it simply leaves my control and my perception, it is gone in a moment before I can do more than simply move on. What I did… I felt their life be torn from them, like everything I ripped from their fles was twisted up into a ball and shunted into a splinter of Gendry’s flesh.”

    Feeling her sister put a hand over her mouth, the young woman smothered the urge to lick it just to annoy her sibling. Instead she sighed and settled down to listen to the rest of her telling off as, now that she had stopped, it was clear she was growing manic. But truly, what she had done was even more alien than the height of her powers as Khepri. And that alone had cost her all that she was. What, then, could the Blackest Arts take from her should she let them?

    “In the end, by your technique, you made his leg whole. Or at least as whole as it could be.” Obara allowed. “If the act was so wrong then do not do it again, but accept what you have done and move on. To linger on it indefinitely is to revel in cowardice and to insult the sacrifice of those you took from.”

    Huffing, the witch turned over and faced the wall again.

    “Burning Lorch alive was easy. He was a rapist and murderer. Plus I didn’t actually experience death when I did that. But that dog belonged to someone, even if it didn’t suffer, they did.”

    Rubbing her face, the exasperated older sister simply groaned.

    “Gods help me with my stubborn ass of a burden.”

    “Hey!” Ophelia exclaimed in the tone of younger siblings everywhere. “I am most certainly not a burden! I helped Sarella finish mapping Winterfell and most of its crypts yesterday morning!” Pausing, she asked a small question in a more polite tone. “It was yesterday morning, wasn’t it?”

    “You worked yourself to the bone and had to be carried to bed. I think that qualifies as being a burden, Ophelia. Even if you’re a bit lighter than a sack of potatoes….”

    The witch gave her eldest sister a deadpan stare.

    “Kindly refrain from comparing me to root vegetables, sister. I’d like to think I’m a bit more valuable.”

    Smiling, though the younger of the two could not see it, the older snake shrugged.

    “I dunno. You’re always saying vegetables are good for us.”

    “Then I suppose you won’t mind chewing on them raw like a rabbit when we get back home.”

    Her danmable older sister chuckled. Clearly underestimating the power a petty sibling could bring to bear.

    “I know you, sister. And I know turning people into animals is outside your domain for now.”

    Laughing, the witch agreed.

    “Aye. For now.” Eventually the two settled into an amicable silence, with small moments of sleep from both, though neither truly returned to it. And, eventually, once Ophelia felt ready for it, she once more turned to her sister. “Obara, would you help me to the Godswood? Bathing in the springs there would be… good for me, I think.”

    “Of course. You’re feeling weak aren’t you?”

    “Is it so obvious?” Her tone soft, the would-be sorceress hated the fact she was vulnerable.

    “Indeed.” Rolling out of bed, the warrior stood and popped her back. “You’ve been asleep for almost a full day and you didn’t immediately get out of bed to pee.”

    Crying out, Ophelia did the sensible thing and threw a pillow at her sister’s head.



    Ned Stark




    For a while now, months even, thoughts had been weighing on him. If he was making the right choices, if he was planning for the right emergencies, if there was something obvious he was missing. Because, truthfully, it felt like there was something just out of sight. A patch of weak ice and when he stepped on it more than just he would plummet to the frozen waters below. What had made it worse is that his younger brother, his foster brother, and a man that reminded him almost painfully of his older brother were all still in his castle. And the Lord of Winterfell was struck with an odd question, a fierce, burning question that gnawed at the back of his mind as he sat at his desk, cup of mead in one hand and cyvasse piece in the other.

    Looking over at the lesser Prince of Sunspear he wondered if he should offer a game.

    “If you had been in my brother’s place, what would you have done?”

    “Excuse me?” Oberyn looked up, genuinely confused, and Eddard Stark bowed his head slightly. The lord considered that melancholy might not be the best game to play, but that, at his wife’s insistence, it was a somewhat safer first foray into Southron play than he might otherwise find.

    “Apologies, I was thinking, Prince Oberyn. And I find myself with a rather serious question. My brother, Brandon Stark, was challenged for the hand of my wife, then Catelyn Tully, by Petyr Baelish. Are you aware of the story?”

    Closing his eyes for a moment, the prince slowly nodded.

    “Aye. I think I am, but I do not remember the details of the duel, save that your brother won.”

    Leaning back in his chair, the Lord Paramount nodded.

    “Sometimes I wish he lost the duel, for he would not have been able to ride to his and my father’s death had he been overcome.” Looking out of the window of his office, Ned sighed. “Then I hate myself because I realize that, if he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have my children. And I don’t think I could choose my brother and my father over them.” Looking back at his… guest, he finished his thought. “So I ask you, if you were in my brother’s place, what would you have done?”

    Smirking, the prince leaned back, his green and gold tunic open at the collar and his high necked jacket draped over the back of his seat painting him the picture of a lounging, green scaled serpent.

    “I would take them both then and there. That way everyone is satisfied.”

    Ned narrowed his eyes.

    “Hah! You Starks are as truly humorless as your reputation says.” Sipping on his cup of tea, the prince visibly pieced together his thoughts before answering seriously. “I confess I would have killed him, but not out of bloodlust. If his heart would remain against me for life then, to avoid a knife in my back, I would end him. But also, for the sake of his honor, I would let him die on my spear.”

    This time it was Eddard’s turn to be confused and, making his question known, he tried to avoid any openings that would allow the prince to turn the conversation onto him.

    “From the perspective of a Southron I suppose preventing an enemy makes sense. Though I am surprised at how concerned you would be for another man’s honor.” Blunt words, unkind words, insulting words, even, but the Martell simply grinned across the desk at him.

    “I know my own reputation is poor amongst many, but I am neither cruel nor callous. “

    Remaining quiet, the Stark lord allowed the silence to speak for him.

    “Truly, I am not!” The prince protested. “My passions are strong, my love is stronger than my hate though. Other than a few choice enemies I am without disdain for any man!” Oberyn smiled. “After all, it takes love to hate and while I may love greatly and love a great many… few are the men, and women, whom have proven worthy of my true enmity. That is why I slay my enemies quickly and grant them that honor which they have earned.”

    Nodding, Eddard allowed his fingers to tap his desk - a sheaf of papers blunting the sound of his nails hitting wood.

    “Perhaps you are a little like my brother, Brandon, but you are more different than alike. And I do not know if that is for better or worse.”

    “Oh? But you are exactly like my brother, Lord Stark.”

    Raising an eyebrow, the Quiet Wolf allowed the grinning Dornishman to continue.

    “Both of you put up with me wonderfully and need more excitement in your lives!”

    Ned just snorted.

    “Perhaps.”

    Settling into his high backed chair, he admitted to himself that there would never be love between this man and him. Ned was simply of the North, moreover they were too different. On top of that, Oberyn held a little hate for him, having been the one to draw up the plans that saw Lewyn Matell and his sister and her royal children dead. Eddard would similarly dislike how the prince challenged his guardianship over Jon, even if only privately, and the disrespect the man had and continued to show.

    ‘He’s already been in two duels with my bannermen, though neither were lethal. I have to wonder, though, if the Red Viper is called so from the red faces of the husbands whom he has cuckolded. One day that’ll see him dead if his pride doesn’t get him first.’

    Yes, there would always be friction between the two of them. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t work together -for the king’s sake at least.

    “When I received Robert’s letter and word that he would be journeying North, I genuinely hadn’t known what to expect from him. He is an old friend but I confess I parted ways with him in a situation that could be said to be… fraught. Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect.”

    Pausing, he gave his beard a stroke before frowning.

    “No, that isn’t right.” Thinking over what he wanted to say, and what should not be said, he eventually settled on the obvious, subtle and gross at once. “I had suspicions. And fears.”

    Eddard knew Robert didn’t trust anyone in King’s Landing, least of all the Queen’s family. The man had always been headstrong and prone to rash decisions while in the throes of rage. So when Jon Arryn had died… of course he would come all this way.

    Because Ned was his closest living friend, maybe his only friend left in the world.

    And that could only mean one thing. Ned was to be offered the seat of Hand.

    One of highest honors a man could hope to achieve. The right to rule with the power King, to wield his word and work in his best interests against all those who wished to betray Robert I Baratheon. To, in theory, carry the weight of the realm on his shoulders as much as his foster brother did.

    It was a dangerous offer.

    Ned hadn’t been to King’s Landing since their rebellion. He had no allies or acquaintances amidst the courts that far south. All he would have was the King and what few men he could afford to bring with him. Starks had a bad history going South and Ned considered rejecting the offer.

    “Indeed.” Oberyn drawled, swirling his wine about. “Suspicions… of murder and reward.” Sipping at the drink, the Dorishman let his smile turn feral. “Because with the sudden death of your foster father, and in most tragic circumstances, it is obvious that Jon Arryn did not die without effort.”

    “You tread dangerously close to accusing me of murder, Southron.”

    Laughing at the Lord Stark’s narrowed eyes and heavy tone, Oberyn waved him away.

    “Of course not. Sure, you may be the one to most benefit from his death, but the very act of killing the man goes against all you believe in. Plus you’re not the type to be very good with poisons, never mind a chirurgeon’s aid being misapplied to fatal effect.”

    He was the King’s last friend. The only one he could trust. It was good that he was not a murderer. At least that much was clear to Ned.

    “Aye.” The lord agreed. “I am not a poisoner. But you are.”

    “Me? Not my daughter?”

    The question was honest and it seemed that the prince was more confused than insulted.

    “You aren’t the type to send a child to take revenge for you. Besides, Ophelia seems to be more interested in… communing with the gods than in killing old men.”

    That got him a leer.

    “Didn’t you happen to have a run in with her when she was ‘communing’?”

    Ned frowned.

    “You’re not upset I saw your daughter naked?”

    “I’m just happy she has ambition.” Chuckling, Oberyn waved Ned’s concern away. “Besides, if she decides to seduce you, then Doran will stop whining like a child that’s had its toys taken away every time she wants to spend money.”

    Running his hands over his face, the poor Northman sent a quick prayer to the Old Gods for patience. Partly because he dreaded having to explain that previous chance meeting to his wife at some point, better she hear it from him than a servant gossiping, and because it seemed like the Southrons truly were all lunatics.

    Honestly, he didn’t know what to make of them quite yet, the Dornish that was. Their animosity as a people was well known, House Nymeros Martell playing the stereotype to an eccentric, swarming, sometimes charming T. They were, perhaps, one of the few Houses Ned had always had a measure of respect for, even if only in passing. They were passionate and prone to volatile behavior - a good match for the King’s own temper.

    And Oberyn Martell exemplified those qualities even more than the rest of his kinsmen.

    He was indulgent, passionate, prone to whims which matched the King’s own. In another time and place, if he was a younger man and still the second son, Ned was sure that the two would have been either bitter rivals or the best of friends. Admittedly, he still found the man’s company to be enjoyable at times… despite their disagreements.

    Brandon had been similar in that way too.

    As quick to anger as he was to humor. When he’d been alive Brandon Stark held that very same fierce temper, that fire which quelled the chill of winter with its ferocity. Seeing shades of that fire in the Dornishmen kindled a sense of bittersweet nostalgia within Ned. Of easier times when he’d had both a Father, a Sister, and an elder Brother.

    Perhaps that’s why they could see eye to eye on this matter.

    Because for all their differences, Ned Stark found there was something both he and the Dornish prince shared.

    They loved their children.

    And Robert, in his own way, loved them also - which was why they had to settle this now.

    Gendry Waters was a great bastard, of that much Ned was sure, there could be no doubting he was Robert’s son. And as the host of the King’s entourage, it was his responsibility and honor which demanded he defend his friend’s unacknowledged boy. Because the King wouldn’t stand for anything less and Oberyn wouldn’t stand for just his daughter taking the blame.

    Both girls were at fault, so both would have to be punished.

    “The boy will recover?” It was the topic they had both refused to touch on and, perhaps because Oberyn could see the change in the set of his face, the Southern man asked.

    “Aye, the Seven were kind to him. The Maesters told me he will have a scar from this ordeal, but that the worst has been avoided.”

    His companion took a sip from his cup, rising from his chair and standing across from him as the King suddenly entered, clear surprise at the seemingly perfect dramatic timing of the third of the three fathers. The royal moved slowly, dark circles around his eyes clear proof of both his drinking and his lack of sleep. Saying nothing as he entered, he instead gave the two men a wave and a nod and walked over to the small fireplace.

    It was a little eerie, how the amber glow illuminated the weary father’s face as he seemed deep in thought. Not something others expected from him. Ned knew better. The man who conquered the Targaryen Dynasty was not a simple brute.

    One thought did consume Eddard ‘How long has it been since I’ve seen him like this?’

    “He is lucky he kept his leg.”

    “We have my daughter to thank for that.” Oberyn Martell, standing to the side now and nursing his drink, couldn’t help but brag. Unfortunately the King didn’t seem to approve, shooting him a warning glance for bringing up such a thing without leave.

    “Daughters are tricky little things. They make fools out of us, their fathers. Your girls went a tad beyond the line this time. And I can’t overlook it.” Robert was calm though, his voice steady and words without great anger. Because his son might be the one hurt, but it had only been by the actions of two children in a moment of foolishness and there would be no terrible maiming.”

    And neither man would dispute it. Had it been them in his place, they would have surely demanded justice just as fervently as their king.

    “But I can be merciful.”

    Ned Stark found himself grateful once again - this time to the Dornish witch.

    There was no doubt that Robert was being lenient because the boy’s leg had been saved. Had he lost it, then the Demon of the Trident would have surely demanded something just as grievous in return. Reparations would have been made, of course, and Ned’s heart would have been that much heavier for it.

    Even Oberyn, passionate and given to protective anger, accepted this truth.

    Had one of his daughters been hurt, he wouldn’t have stopped at reparations.

    This was a slap on the wrist.

    “And what would your Grace demand?”

    “Cut the horse shit, Ned. I’m not chopping off your daughter’s leg.” The King poured himself a cup of wine. “But I can’t let those two get out of this lightly. An attack on the King’s family is an attack on the King himself. Hmm.” Before either man could speak, the knight-king nodded to himself. “They have to sit at the high table during the New Year’s feast, they aren’t allowed to train or to watch the knights train until we all leave Winterfell, and they have to spend the whole day in lessons with that Septa that serves your wife, Ned.”

    “Oh Gods.” Oberyn spoke. “Elia is going to be inconsolable.”

    Agreeing, the Northman submitted to his friend’s will.

    “Harsh but fair.” Still, he grimaced. “I hope Arya doesn’t get up to any trouble. Now that she’s finally stopped crying and those two have stopped praying, I fear they’ll get up to some scheme just to check on your son, Robert.”

    For some reason, this made the Dornishman laugh. When the other two turned to look at him, he simply grinned.

    “One of my daughters is aiming for a Lord Paramount, the other the bastard son of the king himself! I’m so proud.”

    Taking a moment to realize what the prince had said, the Stormlander turned to his foster brother and simply nodded.

    “It’s about time you took a mistress, Ned! And those Dornish girls are wild! Just be careful about the blonde one, I think she works for my wife. The warrior woman is great though.”

    Sighing, Eddard Stark simply buried his face in his hands again.

    ‘I really am going to have to speak to my wife soon.’



    Sansa Stark




    A proper lady didn’t run.

    A proper lady didn’t skip.

    A proper lady most certainly didn’t hum to herself as she strode through the Godswood on a cold afternoon. Nonetheless, that is what Sansa found herself doing as she hurried through the damp and loamy soil of the sacred forest, boots sinking awkwardly into the snow-melt made muck as the young lady struggled to walk as swiftly and respectably as she could. The surprisingly warm day, just enough for the light snow from the day before to melt completely in the clear noon sun, doing little to aid her advance.

    “Sansa, wait! Sansa!”

    Unfortunately, the girl’s friend didn’t share her enthusiasm.

    “Hurry up, Jeyne. We’ll be late and I doubt that Queen Cersei would appreciate that!”

    Frankly, she couldn’t understand how her best friend wasn’t every bit as excited as she was.

    How couldn’t she be after being invited to a meeting with the visiting ladies? The queen’s very own retinue. Sansa could scarcely believe it herself when she’d been handed the missive by one of the Queen’s servants. An invitation to spend the evening in the company of one of the most important women of the Seven Kingdoms.

    How could they not come?

    And Sansa, above all others, had to.

    This was her chance.

    The chance to prove to herself, prove to her family, that she was ready to be like the intelligent and graceful ladies who’d traveled to see them. To show her mother that she could trust her eldest daughter to be the woman she was raised to be. That she wouldn’t be a disappointment.

    And maybe, just maybe, Sansa… might be able to help Arya this way.

    Winterfell was aflame with gossip, servants and visitors alike chattering about what occurred between her sister, the Dornish girl Elia, and one of the boys who came with the King’s retinue - some kind of bastard blacksmith he’d brought along to work with the others.

    Sansa didn’t know and she didn’t particularly care about bastards either. What mattered was that Arya, her sister, was in trouble.

    Injuring a boy to the point he’d almost lost a leg, both she and the Sand girl had been confined inside Winterfell until the King, her father and the Dornish prince could decide on a proper punishment.

    What that entailed, Sansa didn’t know, but she wanted to help.

    Robert Baratheon was known as the Demon of the Trident and had… tolerated the deaths of the royal children, as recompense for Rhaegar’s rape and kidnapping of her aunt, Lyanna Stark. He wasn’t exactly known for being merciful and she knew that that meant talking with the Queen and the Prince’s daughter, surely they could help if anyone could.

    And if the worst came to pass, no matter how loath she was to plead with people who were so wild, Sansa would even beg the Dornish prince and his daughters for help. After all, she loved her sister more than her pride and the Stark girl very much preferred her sister to be called Arya Horseface, not Arya Horsemeat.

    “Slowwww down!”

    Frowning at her friend’s slipping, she turned and grabbed her by the arm, stopping Jeyne from face planting in the mud.

    “Come now, Septa Mordayne gave us permission to do this. If you come back with your dress all muddy we’ll both be scolded!” Continuing onwards, the red haired child of the North cursed the fact that she too was slipping now - footprints and not at all gentle progress having churned the ground up more than a bit.

    Chest aflame, Sansa felt her forehead dampen and heart hammer out of control as she tried to keep her pace. Gods, she thought, why did she have to dress up so heavily? What was the point of dressing up warm if she would cook inside her clothes or freeze with the wind?

    ‘Focus, Sansa.’

    She strove to calm herself, though it did little to assuage her heart as it drummed on.

    The eldest Stark sister could already hear the voices of the royal party, muffled and mixed together as they were. Unfortunately, the noble child couldn’t tell what they were talking about, bits and pieces getting lost as words blended together as what sounded like a large group of ladies spoke louder and louder over each other so as to be heard.

    How could Sansa measure up to that?

    Knowing herself, she wasn’t outspoken like Rickon, she couldn’t bulldoze her way through problems like Robb, nor did she have the foolhardy confidence of Arya - she was like Bran.

    Yet those thoughts, that lingering fear of being some middling child with no great gifts or destiny, waned as Sansa Stark continued to move in the direction of her goal, teeth grinding together in anxiety as the equally eager and scared child jogged through the tree line.

    Somehow she’d lost sight of Jeyne, who’d likely ran out of breath or got stuck trying to waddle through the loamy soil, and only realized it now. “Maybe I should go look for her.”

    It occurred to her that if she went and found her friend, then she wouldn’t have to face the most important woman in the Seven Kingdoms without backup.

    Not that it would have helped her.

    Not when she’d finally arrived at the meeting and saw for her own eyes.

    “Come on, Obara! I got gold riding on this!”

    One of the Dornish girls, the one Sansa had seen snooping around Maester Luwin’s study, called from the sidelines, aged diary in one hand and in the other a small purse which rattled with the sound of coins. By her side, her sister, a beautiful blonde woman giggled in amusement and waved a handkerchief like a noblewoman at a tourney. Both of them were in one of the hotsprings and a tray of fruits and cheeses and a bottle of wine sat between them.

    Their older sister, the intimidating warrior woman, knelt on the muddy ground, arm propped up against a slab of stone, face to face with Prince Oberyn’s latest paramour as each attempted to force the other’s arm onto the slab, straining with all their might as chiseled muscle bulged angrily.

    Sansa blinked, speechless.

    Sitting around the women, the ladies who accompanied the queen whooped in support of their chosen champion, many of them lounging about in the hot springs, drinks and snacks and party favors in hand as the Queen herself reclined in her own spring, uninterested in the contest as she conversed with the last of the Sand Snakes.

    The Witch… who was contenting herself with merely letting her feet soak.

    Shunting aside the fact that they were all without even a stitch of clothing, the young woman focused on the magic user - as there was a veritable swarm of spiders currently weaving a web between her fingers. She was someone Sansa wouldn’t have given much attention to before. But in hindsight it wasn’t for a lack of beauty that kept her from noticing the older than her witch. Rather, it was how striking everyone else around the Dornishwoman was.

    From the taller and muscle bound warrior sister to the innocent and beautiful blonde sister, or the regal and gorgeous second sister - Nymeria, the woman who shared a name with Arya’s wolf.

    Compared to them, the Witch’s beauty was… humble. And made a little terrifying by the nature of her abilities. In a way, Sansa was reminded of Arya, or at least if Arya knew spells.

    And that was the crux of the problem, all of their problems really. Why her father’s foster father had died, why the southerners had come to see them, why her sister was in such dreadful trouble.

    Magic. Or something as close to it as possible. But the point of all that was the fact that if the rumors were true, then Sansa owed a great deal of gratitude to the Dornish girl.

    ‘If she hadn’t saved the blacksmith’s leg…’ she shuddered at the thought.

    Sansa might not have been her sister’s biggest supporter, but she didn’t want her mangled or crippled because of a stupid mistake. It was in the king’s right to demand everything from a weregild to reciprocal injury to death. The North knew how damning it could be to lose a leg and royal blood was protected by their law.

    So all she needed to do was somehow convince the Witch, her sisters, and the Queen to help her. Gods, she felt ill already.

    “Well thanks for waiting, Sansa, I almost got… lost… eep.”

    Jeyne, finally finding her, had frozen up as she came out of the woods. She was also blushing head to toe and even jumped when a great cry went up, Dame Delilah Waters having managed to defeat Obara Sand, much to the dismay of half of the onlookers and the joy of the rest. Because somehow the bacchanal had needed gambling to go with the feasting and the drinking.

    It was Sansa’s turn to squeak and jump when something small and furry ran past her, a smug little fox that raced over to the witch and the queen. Stealing a sausage the critter hopped and jumped until it was in petting range of Cersei, the amused royal snorting before scratching its ears.

    “Come on you two.” However, it was the witch that spoke - through a raven. “Cersei wants to speak with you.” More terrifying than anything else was the fact that it was the Dornishwoman’s voice coming from the bird. “You have my word.”

    Fluttering off, the creature, just like the fox, seemed to tell them what they needed to do.

    Grabbing her friend’s hand, purely to calm the common girl - Sansa wasn’t scared, how could she be with such an absurd scene happening around her - she started forwards.

    Skirting around the main group of people, the Sand Snakes have decided to bully their eldest for losing in a rather public display of sibling fervor, the duo of young women avoided scrutiny as there was currently a pile of limbs flying about the place as several smaller and weaker, though equally as vicious, young women pulled their larger, stronger sister to the ground and got mud in her hair.

    Truly, the Stark thought, the Southrons were a savage and cruel race to do such a thing to their siblings! Never mind that she and Arya had done just the same a week ago - in a spat over this very visit in fact.

    “So, you’re the little wolf cub?” The queen drawled, holding a cup wine in one hand, long locks of wet hair hiding her nakedness as she lounged in one of the springs. “Come before a lioness?” Sansa had, in fact, come to stop in front of the older woman. “You do know a lion’s pride is her weakness… yet you keep shooting glances at my pet snake.”

    Curtsying, because there was no way in the Gods’ infinite wisdom they had seen fit to prepare her for this madness, she fell back on formality.

    “Y-yes, your grace. I r-received your invi-invitation.” Swallowing, she cleared her throat. “Thank you for extending such a courtesy to me.”

    “Oh do relax, we’re not Tywin, we don’t murder children.” The Witch snorted at the queen’s glare and Sansa could only pale. “Don’t worry Lady Stark, your sister is fine, and I’m sure her grace will be happy to speak with the king. Won’t you?”

    “Woe is me.” Taking a drink, the queen lamented. “My pet not only steals the attention of fair maidens, but gives out my favors too. Whatever is a lady to do with such profligate servants.”

    At this the Witch giggled, Sansa looking from one to the other in confusion, before the Dornishwoman simply gestured at the Northerner and her servant.

    “The hot springs belong to the Starks, she is a Stark, I’m sure you don’t need me to do the rest.”

    Huffing, the queen contented herself with rolling her eyes.

    “You’re all lucky I’m in such a good mood.” Turning back to face Sansa, she nodded. “Aye, as the bastard says I’ll speak with my husband. Now, come and sit with me. You and your peasant girl should make for better company than my own ladies. They seem content with watching a group of young women bludgeon each other to death over ruined hair… an understandable casus belli, no?”

    Once more overwhelmed and totally unsure of what to do, Sansa Stark and Jeyne Poole shared a look, a hesitant nod, and a silent prayer to the Gods.

    “As you say, your grace.”

    Complying, because what other option did she have, Sansa was unsure what it was she needed to do. That was when her issues were solved for her by a small blonde missile running past and jumping into the air.

    “Cannon ball!”

    Myrcella Baratheon, princess of the realm, did a flying leap into a nearby pool and soaked the whole group. This treated the young lady of the castle to one of the most ridiculous things she’d ever seen, even as she herself was left soaked head to toe. The Witch, Ophelia, had used her body to shield the spiders and their webs, ending up half sprawled in the mud as she tried to avoid jostling the little creatures… bottom up into the air, hair fanned out around her, and several sticks and bits of debris covering her. However, it was the queen who had ended up the most compromised

    Somehow entirely dry, the pure white fox had found itself on top of the Lannister woman’s head, perched in her blonde locks, looking insanely pleased at it’s excellent escape.

    “Get the rat out of my hair, Sand. Or I’ll turn it into the hat it seems to take after.”

    Upon hearing that threat the smugness immediately evaporated and the albino creature leapt away with all of its power. This somehow amazed the Witch who began laughing, despite her own compromised position.

    “I, hahahahahaha, I didn’t even make it do that!” Rolling over on the ground, the bastard girl brought her now drenched hair around. “You just scared a magical fox into running away! And they call me a witch!”

    Glaring imperiously, the blonde woman simply turned her chin up and away before purposefully washing her hair - something that only made Ophelia laugh harder.

    “Co-come on over Stark.” Waving to Sansa the Witch gestured for her to come closer, even as she let the spiders in her hand crawl onto a nearby tree, somehow transferring the web with them. “Do me a favor?”

    Suddenly a bit terrified, and not just because holding in her own laughter had started to hurt, she glanced over to Jeyne.

    “I… ma’am? What could I do?”

    Lifting a single eyebrow, the Dornish sorceress was thankfully more amused than offended at the clear stammer in the redhead’s voice.

    “Go distract Myrcella for me? You and your friend over there should get along with her wonderfully. I need to apologize to the queen for laughing at her… and possibly for passing on words to the princess that shouldn’t exist.”

    Nodding, still rather confused about everything, Sansa tried to lean on her mother and the septa’s teachings.

    “With your leave my lady, your grace?”

    A witch’s laughters and a haughty, queenly sigh were her amusing, and slightly terrifying, answers.



    Thoros of Myr



    “Wine or mead?”

    Thoros sighed, looking into his bottle and guessing he’d been at this for about forty five minutes. He’d never get the damn thing to last a full hour at this point.

    “So I am. What gave it away? Was it the smell, or perchance the ale I’m holding?”

    His tone was a little annoyed, a bit of heat to it and he wondered when it was that a single woman could make him so angry. Six months ago he’d have been trying to finagle his way into the witch’s smallclothes, taking the hint of a smile pulling at her cheeks as encouragement to show her a “magic trick”.

    “You were daydreaming again.”

    Grunting, he shoved the bottle into a tree’s hollow, wondering if he should reconsider his decision to cut back.

    “Can’t blame a man for dreaming. It’s all most of us have.”

    “Quite.” She inclined her head. “Though you’re not like most men, are you? A Myrish slave, risen to a Red Priest, then to a famed tourney fighter who wields a flaming sword. I would hope that whatever you were dreaming of would have been at least interesting.”

    And there it was again - that damn sense of knowing. As if this wisp of a girl, barely a woman really, had lived long enough to know what ailed the hearts of men. As if she knew their suffering. He’d met those who pretend to understand and sympathize with the common folk, masters of empty words and reassurance, but she cut through it.

    Her eyes said she already knew what he wanted to say and that the only reason she asked was to help him puzzle it out. How she stood there, the light snowfall drifting past her, covering up the faded signs of yesterday’s revelry, simply waiting. And it wasn’t even as if she was patient! No, Ophelia had precious little patience when dealing with people she thought foolish…. Yet she always had time for a child’s foolishness too.

    The Royal children, her own sister, even the Stark children, she more than tolerated them, doted on them, seemed to get along with them.

    A mother, though without children of all.

    A student, yet one who knew all the answers.

    A girl-child, yet with knowledge of the hearts of men.

    “If I said it was you, would you begrudge me?”

    The witch sighed and he hated her for it, because it was an understanding noise. A sound that said she wished she was less of a problem and more of an answer, that she didn’t choose to be so difficult. For a moment, Thoros almost wanted to strangle her.

    “Me? Of course not. But others might. You’ll have to be careful around Tyene, of course, but I’ll keep your secret. Though if you wish to stroke my ego I am afraid I shall need to know more.”

    Drawing a knife he let the tool sit in his hand for a moment. In the end, he gave up the murderous impulse and slumped in on himself, finally committing to his great sin.

    “My payment.”

    Answer and question, truth and lie, the Sand Snake gave her prey a sad little smile. Thoros saw the self loathing in her eyes as she did so and the bottle of fortified brandy slipped free of a single, voluminous sleeve. Taking the bottle, Ophelia finally advancing close enough to the Red Priest to hand it over, he took her in.

    A crown of daylilies sat on her brow, the burnished skin of the witch contrasting with the blue-white of her dress. Falling from her collar bone to about mild calf, it was a simple thing, heavy and woolen and warm, and with a great deal of embroidery about it. From stags, to wolves, to roses, to even a few trout, it took the foreign born man a moment or two to realize that it had heraldry from the house of every lord paramount in Westeros, lions and suns and dragons included, from a generation ago. Most significant about it was how the sleeves billowed, several colors of fabric visible from within and telling him the garment was actually heavily layered. Oddly, though, she walked with bare feet in the cold and dirt and seemed to dig her toes into the ground as she swayed, step to step.

    Around her neck was a scarf to keep out the chill, small gusts carrying with it unseasonably fierce winds for Autumn, though this was a simpler bright yellow and red, quartered, and unadorned. Her hands were free and as she stood there took up her hair, tied in a long braid, and began to lay it about her shoulder - keeping the ends from dragging on the damp ground.

    Somehow, the snow didn’t stick except about her eyebrows and on the flowers, and he couldn’t help but love her and hate her at once, that same murderous urge coming to him once again. This time it had a mouth and a face and a voice, his old master, and it snarled and screamed and pleaded with him… even as the memory lashed out, kissing his skin with biting, knotted leather, and it was in those jolts of pain that he remembered his very first vice.

    Thoughts of a knife and a bottle alike tormented him and so, setting aside the Dornish venom, for it was poison, he instead pricked a finger, the red of the blood somehow alike the green of her eyes in how it held the world.

    “I hate it when I get poetic.” Bending low, the witch watched as he blew on his finger, the droplets spiralling up and into the air… as embers burning on the breeze. “The Breath of R'hllor, Lord of Light and Shadow, the Fire Burning in the Breast of All that Live, and the truth of the world.”

    Reaching out, he mimed grabbing the embers and brought them to his chest. Sitting up, he dragged himself over to a nearby tree without rising from the ground and then cupped his palms. Breathing again he drew up the embers into a small flame, about what one would expect from a candle, and he finally smiled.

    “Allow me to teach you of my first desire.”

    Kneeling on the ground, the snow settled a bit more heavily around her, creatures that scurried and creatures that flew settled around them too, the witch turned her full attention to him.

    Thoros of Myr was not a blind man, he could see and feel the power she was already gathering about her and almost cried out. For this was an old and familiar vice.

    “As you say, teacher. I shall listen just as surely as I do with Qyburn and Marwyn.”

    ‘One of three… yet never enough.’ Shaking his poetry away he focused on the spell he worked at this very moment. “This is the vice of every mortal, master of their hearts.” Nodding, he quite liked his thrust. “She is an old mistress whose whims are difficult to navigate and who's wiles were irresistible to any like me, like your father, like Lord Stark and King Robert and the Spider and Marwyn and every man, woman, and child to have ever been.” It was more than what he could express, less than the truth still, and so very important he said this. “In all my many years basking in the many pleasures of the world, expensive wine, cheap women, and dalliances enough mischief to keep me afloat in the vast sea of the Seven Kingdoms, this is the single greatest thing I have ever imbibed.”

    Somehow she wanted with bated breath, though he knew the witch girl could control flames and snuff them out. Somehow she had turned a thousand eyes and a thousand minds towards this little Working. Somehow it was flattering and terrifying and the priest felt he was flying.

    “Lately I have seen fit to flit from desire, to impulse, to orgy, hoping to find a new vice to occupy my time with. But the thrill of spilling one man’s brains hardly compares to this.”

    Power, pure and simple, burned in his hand.

    Reaching out, he grasped onto the power around his student too and pulled it down. Channeling it into the flames the embers roared up, almost singing his beard, before dying.

    Once, where there had been a candle flame, now burned ten times that.

    “Do you remember where we ended our previous talk?”

    She nodded, dutifully reciting her lesson.

    “Fire is the prime mover, that which allows Earth to harden, water to flow, and air to drift. Without it, there is no ignition. It burns in a vacuum because it is the burn of the vacuum and death is only fuel to the flames. Purest of the four crude elements, fire is only overcome in potency by the Breath of the Gods itself and Aether is too pure to easily work in mortal shape. And men work fire through the use of breathing”

    “Well, few teachers could ask for such an attentive student. Reciting passages from books won’t help either of us to conjure up more flames, though. So let me see you breathe.”

    And that’s what their meetings had been about.

    The power of breathing right.

    Perhaps the greatest symbol of the Lord of Light’s doctrine. Fire was the medium by which Priests and Priestesses alike conversed with and received guidance from Him in the form of visions and whispers from the flames. Some of the texts Thors had gotten his hands onto even spoke of how the greatest amongst the clergy could conjure a swath of flames into being.

    A fanciful tale.

    Perhaps a metaphor for their great power of persuasion. Or their ability to ignite the hearts of men into action. It was the tongues of the Red Priests, not their slave-soldiers, that had advanced their cause across so much of Essos.

    But the Witch saw it differently.

    She saw power where others saw fantasy and he was forced to agree. What he touched now was a different sort of thing. Unlike any magic he’d courted in the past.

    To have the power his sworn brothers and sisters seldom, if ever, wielded themselves brought about a rush which Thoros couldn’t quite understand. A thrill that many would attribute to the tales of danger and adventure toted about by bards in inns and courts.

    It was like living in a dream, a never ending fantasy. One he could only live through as long as he held the attention of a certain woman. And after seeing the young woman call down beasts from the wilds as if they were loyal pets, Thoros was inclined to believe there might have been some reason to believe in her own obsession with the old stories of the Lord of Light’s most faithful.

    Either way, he won.

    Waking up meant the truth of the limits of magic were confirmed, continuing to dream meant that magic had never died in Westeros. It wasn’t normal and it certainly wasn’t safe. His instincts, dulled as they were by years of drinking, told him that much. But at least it was interesting.

    ‘Much more interesting than the dullards I usually have for company, at the very least.’

    “Enough breathing. Cast.”

    “What, I-” Blinking, and a bit confused at the sudden command, Ophelia tried to protest.

    “Act!”

    Standing, he threw the flame at her, old man and young girl caught in a mystical duel that lasted for all of a second.

    Slashing out with a clawed hand, she caught the fire and took it from him, Thoros eagerly passing control of the Working over to his student, and brought it to her breast. Breathing in, the Dornish girl let the flame dissipate - heat and energy and life filling her from her fingers to her toes - before exhaling.

    With it came a stuttering, guttering flame from nothing.

    Another breath, another burst of light.

    Another breath, a steadier flame.

    Another, final breath and, this time, her breath was long. Easily reaching three or four feet in length, the tongue of fire rushed out in a narrow cone.

    Snapping her jaw shut, whimpering slightly in pain, the witch screwed her eyes shut. Still keeping her hands cupped, she, tears falling from her eyes, managed to gather a steady flame about her fingers… without blood. Small, but steady, the fire was a cautious, gentle thing.

    “Open your mouth, child.”

    As his student complied, Thoros saw that she burned herself quite badly. Not so badly as a normal person would have been, they would have likely killed themselves choking on the heat they conjured, but still quite injured.

    Sticking a finger into her mouth, he pulled out the heat in her wounds with his own magic, gathering it to himself. It was a little trick, one all Red Priests learned in training.

    Meaning that when he turned the heat onto itself, using it to soothe the burns and relax tense muscles and kindle the flame within all flesh just a bit he was very, very good at it. Eventually, when her humors had been restored, he withdrew his finger - finding the skin covered in soot and ash - and brought with it a little burning coal about the size of his nail.

    Taking the burning pain, he placed it into a tree, watching as an area about the size of his fist crumpled and cracked as the heat and pain he drew out was paid for.

    “T-thank you.” Slightly slurred by the pain of it, Ophelia still managed to wipe her eyes and nod her head. “I almost lost control there.”

    Thoros was mostly focused on the fact that the flame she conjured, without using blood, yet burned.

    “It is a little thing, one I will teach you in time.” He paused, ultimately deciding to continue. “Though I am glad there are no slaves to practice it on. Now we sit… and breathe.” Taking up his bottle with one hand and flame with the other he settled down under the singe mark his God given powers had made. “Remember that. Fire is about Breath and Blood. One way or another.”

    Her eyes understood and Ophelia did not need words. The burns to her mouth, only mostly healed, were her sacrifice for this knowledge as nothing was ever freely given.

    But there was still something behind those too old eyes which cautioned him from testing the girl’s limits. He’d seen eyes like those people. The eyes of an old woman who’d seen the horrors of the world and the ravages of time. On a young maiden’s face, those eyes reminded him of some of the faith’s priestesses.

    ‘Eyes too old for those who should yet be children.’

    He feared what they might do with all the power of the Red God.

    For Thoros of Myr knew without a doubt that, upon this witch, his master would pour out all of his blessings… and curses.
     
  23. Broodlord

    Broodlord Versed in the lewd.

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    Ah, the worst punishment you could inflict on them, to act like a proper noble ladys.
    It's so amusing just how out of her depth Sansa is. None of her classes or teachers could have ever prepared her for this political quagmire she's just stepped into.
     
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  24. Organmonkey

    Organmonkey Versed in the lewd.

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    First off, I hope you get well soon .

    Quentyn is definitely in a better place as far as experience goes this time which is another thing that allows house Martell to make moves they couldn't otherwise.

    It looks like everyone realizes they owe Ophelia . Also Sansa seems like she may is focusing on Ophelia instead of Cersei as an example of feminine power. That could definitely be interesting. Something else to note is Sansa seems to have only been taught how to act in public in court not when in private with other ladies. Canon Margery shows the counterpoint to this because she is noted to be less formal and get involved in riding and other things when with her allies. Yeah they really aren't prepared for the south.

    On a separate note Thoros seems to have found his faith again a little sooner than canon and is definitely interested in Ophelia being strange magic wise. We also see him healing with flame here in a safe way. That's something that the supposedly higher priests Melisandre and Moqorro can't actually do in canon. Moqorro claims to heal Victarion's arm but his infection is definitely still there as he still has to drain his magic arm of pus regularly . I would say it's definitely a good thing that Thoros is the one teaching her as far as how to use the Red God's magics. Some of the other stuff we've seen in canon is , not pleasant.
     
  25. LuridThrone

    LuridThrone Sitting On The

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    Taylor: "Look at me... I'm the dragon now."
     
  26. Ph34r_n0_3V1L

    Ph34r_n0_3V1L The Best Monkey

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    It's a really good illustration of how damaging it is for a noble mother to die before she can educate her daughter(s). IMO, this is the end result of Catelyn's mother dying when she was still a girl, and Ned's mother dying before her time too. Catelyn never got the tutelage in the realpolitik of being a daughter of a House Paramount, and so can't pass along what she doesn't have. Ned is equally lacking in close female relatives to notice said lack of knowledge, and so he just assumes that his wife knows what she's doing since, hey, she's a member of a House Paramount. But it's likely that Catelyn was educated in only the official line (by septas?) and is passing along that same lack of real understanding to her daughter, hence both of them being completely out of their depths (and constantly shitting the bed) for most of the series.

    Thinking about it, that would be a pretty cool AU divergence point: Ned's mother survives to give Catelyn remedial lessons in how to be a Great Lady and ensure her grandchildren are brought up in the Stark way.
     
  27. Hopellopo

    Hopellopo Getting sticky.

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    This was an excellent chapter! The characters felt on point, and the scene in the Godswood was incredibly charming. Take care of your health, but I’m eagerly awaiting a new chapter and the teased snip from a while ago. Keep it up!
     
  28. ChiChi

    ChiChi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    their lives was??
    extra space
    missing or extra"
    missing period
    missing period
     
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  29. Jubjub3000

    Jubjub3000 I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Did Taylor help make the scorpions or did the dornish already have them? I wonder what other weapons they have hidden away ready to be used?
     
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  30. ATP

    ATP Versed in the lewd.

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    Dornish killed dragon with scorpions.Taylor should gave them missile launchers and guns.
     
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