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The Mountain's Range

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He did not know what went wrong.

One moment, he and his partner had cornered the suspect into a one-way alley. The next, the sound of a gunshot filled the air. After that, all he felt was a rush of pain in his back. He had dropped his gun and collapsed onto his chest.

He vaguely registered the image of his partner turning around and firing at the source of the first shot. A shout of anguish was heard as the assailant crumpled lifelessly to the ground.

After securing the first suspect, his partner rushed to his side. He just barely discerned the words "Oh, God…"

He did not know how badly he had been wounded, but evidently, it was bad. Really bad.

His partner contacted HQ and hastily reported "This is Special Agent Vincent Moreno. We have an agent down. Repeat, agent down!"

After giving their location, his partner turned him onto his stomach. He supported him gently and beseeched him "Come on, Greg! Stay with me!"

Greg. That was his name. Special Agent Gregory Welch of the Central Intelligence Agency. That had been his job for the last five years. He and Vincent had been working together for two months. This was their first major case together. It would also be their last.

Greg struggled to respond via speech or movement to Vincent, but he found himself unable to do much of anything at that moment. He could not even catch his breath.

His senses gradually began to fade. All he could make out was a strange humming noise that blocked out all other sounds. Then, his vision became impaired. Everything around him seemed to get brighter and brighter. It was as though he was staring directly at a quasar.

Suddenly, all the pain vanished. It was replaced by a very peculiar sensation. Gregory felt as though he was immersed in liquid, yet he was not drowning. He also felt as though he was encased in an odd container, and its only opening was the bright light in front of him.

He had a strange inclination to rush towards that light. Alas, he found himself unable to move. However, that did not keep him within the container. Somehow, he was moving, anyway. He felt as though he was being propelled towards the light by some unseen, unexplained force. Progress was very gradual, but it was consistent.

Finally, he reached the light and exited the container. Upon his departure, he noticed he had been holding his breath. He let out a sharp gasp to take in some oxygen, and an ear-piercing wail emerged from his lips.

He abruptly felt large hands take ahold of him, and he was lifted into the air. There was a momentary lapse of pain on his navel – or where his navel should have been. But it quickly faded away.

He soon realized he was naked. Luckily, he did not stay that way. He was swiftly wrapped up in a blanket by the hands that had picked him up. Once he was securely wrapped up, he heard a feminine voice announce "You have a son, milord."

He was then transferred to another pair of hands. That brought him face-to-face with a middle-aged man. The man was tall, strapping, and gruff, but he held a warm countenance. He appeared to be bristling with pride.

"Hello, my boy," the man said happily.

Apparently, he was a baby. That alone was remarkable. But the fact that he was aware of it… that was rather unique. Was he supposed to remember this? If not, somebody had some explaining to do.

As his new father held him, he took note of his surroundings. There were three other people in the room. One of them was a young woman lying on a bed. Obviously his new mother. Another man and another woman were tending to her. The woman must have been the midwife. The man may have been a doctor, but since when did doctors dress in black and wear large chains around their necks?

"He's quite a large babe," the father remarked.

"You need not tell me that, Husband," the mother mumbled. She was clearly exhausted.

The father looked to the man with the large chain, as though he was expecting some news from him. The man grinned and proclaimed "Your wife is doing well, milord."

The father nodded and declared "Ryna, Maester Velix, you may go."

He assumed Ryna was the midwife. So Maester Velix had to be the man with the chain. Odd first name, that one. Then again, maybe it was a title. But had had never known anyone who had such a title. At least not in real life.

"Yes, milord," Velix said obediently. He and Ryna took a bow and left the room. The father carried his son over to the bed and sat down next to his wife. She moved closer to her husband and smiled down at their newborn child.

"Welcome to the family, little one," the mother cooed softly.

Greg had never believed in reincarnation. Then again, he had never been a strong opponent of it, either. He had admitted that reincarnation may have been possible, but he never would have thought he would experience it firsthand.

However, he soon realized this was something even bigger than reincarnation.

His mother turned his father and asked "Have you decided on a name, my love?"

"Yes," his father replied, still gazing down at his son, "He shall be Gregor. Gregor of House Clegane."

The fact that he had almost the same first name in this life would have been bizarre enough. But when he heard his new last name… he was downright flabbergasted.

He knew that name, Gregor Clegane. It was one of the most universally despised names in the whole of the fantasy genre. It belonged to a man... who was more a monster in human skin.

This particular man was from Greg's favorite fantasy franchise. It had started as a book series, but it had been made into a TV show, as well. He had read all the novels and seen all the episodes respectively. There were so many characters that it was nearly impossible to keep track of them all. But Gregor Clegane was unforgettable. For all the wrong reasons.

Greg was beyond stunned. This had to be a dream. A very long, very graphic, highly realistic dream, but a dream nonetheless. He must have gone into a coma after he was shot. This was just a fantasy he was going through until he recovered.

That was what he told himself at first. As time went on, he began to feel less and less sure of that. Before too long, he decided that even if this was a dream, he may as well see how it played out.

Life as a newborn and infant was far from eventful and glamorous. The soiling, the messes, the feedings, the teething, the endless cajoling, the feeling of total helplessness… it was no wonder the human mind was not supposed to form memories until the age of three. Nothing that occurred before his third name day was something he had any desire to remember.

Fortunately, Greg (or Gregor, he supposed) was asleep for around half of that time. So he was spared a number of degrading experiences.

His third day came around soon enough. Once it did, things started to improve. His mother and father began to treat him with a little more dignity. So did his father's soldiers and servants. Even at that age, they showed proper respect to his independence and his authority. He began to believe that he might actually be able to get by in this world.

Nothing very notable happened over the next twelve months. However, a little over a year later, his mother got with child again. Gregor was elated when his parents gave him that news. They assumed it was because he was looking forward to being a brother. Unbeknownst to them, the true reason for his joy was because he knew what – or rather who – was coming.

A few months after his fifth name day, Gregor became an older sibling. His little brother, Sandor, was born after a lengthy labor. Gregor was not allowed to witness the birthing process. But as soon as his mother's screams were replaced by a babe's wails, his father let him into the room.

Even as a babe, Sandor Clegane was large. Not as large as Gregor himself had been, but large all the same. Gregor noted that their father stood taller than any other man at Clegane's Keep. He had long ago come to the conclusion that all the members – or at least the men – of House Clegane were inherently big-boned.

Ryna and Maester Velix assisted with this birth, as well. They were soon dismissed by Gregor's father, but Gregor was allowed to stay with his parents and his newborn brother.

He gave his parents a few moments to fawn over their second child. After that, he asked their permission to hold Sandor. Even at the age of five, Gregor was abnormally big. His parents had no reason to worry that Sandor would be too heavy for his brother or that he would drop him.

Gregor's parents beckoned him over to the bed. After he was seated between them, his mother carefully placed Sandor in his arms.

Gregor held his brother tenderly. He could not imagine the original Gregor Clegane ever doing such a thing. Nevertheless, he had an even harder time fathoming a reason why Gregor had so deliberately and cruelly harmed this boy. He vowed on that spot that he would never do such a thing to Sandor.

He stayed true to that vow. He played an active role in Sandor's upbringing. His mother was delighted by her elder boy's willingness to help with her younger's rearing.

Although he spent a fair amount of time with his mother and brother, he spent just as much time in the training yard with his father. He spent many hours each day watching the master-at-arms drill the soldiers of Clegane's Keep at various exercises and combat techniques. But he only observed from afar whilst he was young. The moment he was deemed mature enough to wield a sword, he joined his father and his father's guards in the training yard.

By the time he was eight name days old, Gregor was convinced that this was not a dream, a hallucination, a fantasy, or any other figment of his imagination. There was no point in denying it any longer. Somehow, he really was in Westeros, and he would not be leaving it anytime soon.

Before he knew it, Gregor reached his eleventh name day. But at a glance, one would think it was his fifteenth. All his time in the training yard – as well as his 'Clegane genetics,' as he called them – really paid off. He was over five feet tall, and his arms, legs, and chest were bound with muscle. People were already starting to refer to him as "The Mountain."

Still, Gregor had been dreading his eleventh name day. After all, that year coincided with one of Sandor's most traumatic life experiences. The moment he received that toy knight from that travelling merchant, he knew it was coming.

Naturally, Gregor was not going to burn his little brother. Even so, he was not going to avoid that encounter altogether. While the experience had been one of the worst moments of Sandor's life, it had left him with a very somber and advanced viewpoint of the world. That mindset was one of the things that kept Sandor alive where so many others had fallen. Gregor wanted him to have that mindset, but he wished to spare him the physical scar that would have accompanied it.

One day after training with his father, Gregor headed up to his bedchamber. There he found Sandor playing with his toy knight. He was so mesmerized with the toy that he did not even notice Gregor entering the room.

Feeling a little devious, Gregor crept up on his little brother and shouted "Boo!"

Sandor jumped in alarm and turned around. Gregor could not help but chuckle at the expression on his brother's face.

As for Sandor, he looked horrified. But not because his brother had snuck up on him. He dropped the toy knight, backed away, and told him uneasily "Gregor, I… I was just borrowing it. I was going to take it, I swear! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

Gregor held up his hand, knelt next to his brother, and told him in assurance "It's alright, Sandor. I'm not mad you took the toy. I don't really care about that stupid thing. If you want it, it is yours."

"Really?" Sandor asked, looking both relieved and joyful.

"Of course," Gregor stated. He picked the toy knight up and handed it out to the younger Clegane boy. As Sandor received it in his hands, his older brother stated "But Sandor, next time, I would prefer it if you ask me first."

"I will," Sandor insisted, "I promise I won't ever take anything that doesn't belong to me."

"Oh, you don't have to promise that much," Gregor debated with a smirk, "Just don't take anything that belongs to a friend or family member. Or anything you couldn't get away with taking. Only take that which no one would miss."

Sandor looked confused. "Are you asking me to steal, Gregor?"

"No, I am not telling you to be a thief," Gregor simplified, "It's a hostile world we live in, little brother. One might call it 'survival of the fittest.' We're from a small House. We have the means to seize power, but we need the strength to hold onto it."

"How do we do that?" Sandor asked in interest.

"It will not be easy," Gregor contended, "There are few people we can call our friends. There are even fewer we can trust. Anyone – I mean, anyone – could turn against us at any time. We must choose our allies and our goals with care. Otherwise, we will fall."

Sandor absorbed his brothers' words. He looked off to the side and muttered "You're… you're scaring me, Gregor. Do you mean we'll never be safe? Everyone might be an enemy?"

"Not everyone," Gregor proclaimed. He knelt down, turned his brother's eyes towards his own, and told him "Even if every other person in the world turns against you, I never will. No matter how bad things get, you can count on me to stay by your side. I'll be there for you, Sandor."

That seemed to put the younger boy's mind at ease. He smiled at his brother and stepped forward to embrace him. Gregor happily returned the gesture. He was very pleased with himself. He had gotten Sandor to learn the truth about the harshness of reality, and he had learned that lesson without suffering a deformation.