Hari looked around her, her eyes widening at the desolate landscape in front of her. Ice. Snow. Three… no… Four trees. Lots of rocks lined with cold snow. No home. No cities. No towns. A cold breeze tore her breath away, making her cough at the coldest air that she had ever been in. She reached into her trunk, stepped into it and put on warmer clothes, throwing on a black cloak, a long-sleeve shirt and sturdy boots. She cast a warming charm on herself before she ventured back out into the country that she had appeared in, took a deep, chilling breath and walked up and out of the trunk.
“Of all the places that I landed in, it had to be a frozen wasteland,” Hari muttered, pulling her hair back into a tail when another cold gust of wind bracketed her. “Must be the Potter luck.”
She snorted at the thought, thankful that at least there was a sun in the sky, however ineffective it was. Her fingers wrapped around her holly wand as she continued to look around, looking for any sign of civilization. Howls started up in the distance and she stilled, imagining a ferocious pack of wolves running throughout the snow. She was fairly sure she could defend herself against a pack of wolves but better safe than sorry. Hari drew out her quidditch goggles, strapped them on, before taking out her Firebolt and mounting.
She could have just shifted into her animagus form and traveled that way but she didn’t know how her form would be accepted here. It was a form that would be uniquely suited to this area but… Flying on a broomstick would probably be less threatening. Probably. She sighed and flew into the air and kept under the few clouds in the sky as she looked for homes or buildings that meant people lived here.
It took several hours for her to reach any town or village and she slowed down when she saw children walking between small one story homes. One of the kids was a boy, his head of ginger hair a bright spot amongst the snow and ice. There was a big fire pit in the middle of the five or six small wooden homes and two women tending it.
The men that Hari could see were clothed in thick winter clothing that did not leave any skin showing. They held spears and axes in their hands and the look in their eyes was threatening, intimidating. There was a woman with a sword in her hands as well and Hari grinned slightly as she lowered down to the ground.
The kids yelled at her appearance and the ginger haired boy’s eyes widened.
“What the fuck are you?” The warrior woman turned to look at her, her blue eyes widening.
Hari’s eyes widened a little at the language but then again… She should have expected it. Anyone who lived here, in this climate and landscape, were hard people. The woman’s hand went to her sword as Hari put away her broom, miniaturizing it and tucking it away.
“Hari. I’m Hari. I’m not going to harm you.”
Their words and the shouting of the children had drawn more people to her, crowding around her in a half circle. Her magic sparked at the potential threat and she took a deep breath again, aiming for no instinctual magic getting loose.
“What’s with the broom? And how the fuck were you flying?”
“Who’s the leader of this village?” Hari questioned, peering down at the boy with ginger hair. He had snuck up on her as she was talking with the warrior woman. The boy stared up at her with wide blue eyes and she grinned at him.
“I’m going to steal you when I get older,” the boy said, smiling widely at her. “We’re going to have beautiful babies.”
Hari blinked. “Alright… How old are you?”
“I’m ten and two. Mother said I should steal a strong woman.”
“Tormund, get over here!”
“Aye, mother! I found my girl!”
Hari watched in bemusement as the ginger-haired boy, Tormund, ran off, back through the crowd. His mother stood at the corner home and tugged him inside when he reached her.
“Are you a witch woman?”
Hari turned back to the first warrior, a woman who looked to be ten or twenty years older than herself. “Yes? You’re the leader of the village?”
“Name’s Joanna. What are you doing here?”
“I just landed here myself. Where is… here?”
The woman stared at her, her dark blonde hair pulled back in a tight braid, and Hari stared back. They were both of the same height, around six feet tall.
“You’re in the Frostfangs,” Joanna answered finally, gesturing to the homes around them and to the great hall at the north end of it. “That’s Ruddy Hall.”
Hari nodded, pulling her cloak tighter around her shoulders. More howling filled the air and a few of the men cursed under their breath.
“Direwolves, again. Thought they stayed away last time.”
“Might be one of Haggon’s,” Joanna called over to the person speaking. “You have a home around here?”
Hari shook her head. “Direwolves?”
“You’re not from around here.”
“Come. I shall introduce you to the folk around here,” Joanna offered, gesturing around the small village. “It’s not usual to not know where one is. Be mindful of the wolves, snow bears and shadowcats.”
Hari’s eyes widened as she followed the woman, passing through the crowd as they walked through the snow. She could feel everyone’s eyes on her and shrugged it off, as used to the Ministry and the whole population of the wizarding world looking at her. At least these people weren’t staring at her scar, like they knew her. She wasn’t the Girl-Who-Lived here.
“Torik and I offer you a bed,” Joanna said as they walked back into her home an hour later. “You’re not a kneeler so no one will look down on you for that.”
“Folk who kneel to kings and lords,” Joanna explained in a quiet but firm voice. “Those are south of the Wall.”
“You spoke of the Night’s Watch. What’s that?” Hari questioned, as Joanna closed the door behind them. Two kids ran about the hall and stopped to look at her, their eyes widening.
“Men who guard the Wall. They forbid us from passing through it,” Joanna offered. “Hari, I would not recommend joining them. They do not allow women to fight unlike us free folk.”
Joanna grinned, showing off a toothy smile.
“People like us don’t need dragons to tell us what to do,” Torik called out, from the far corner of the home. It was a small thing, a small cabin, but Hari wasn’t going to complain. It wasn’t like it was smaller than the cupboard.
“Did you say dragons?” Hari echoed, her heart skipping a beat at the thought of it.
“Aye. The kneelers have the dragons as their king,” Torik said, grimacing.
“Dragons… as in fire breathing creatures?” Hari asked.
“They like to call themselves that but no one’s become a dragon. Or so I’ve heard,” Joanna said, rolling her eyes. “Few have tried, drinking wildfire and the like. They all died stupidly.”
Hari stayed at Joanna and Torik’s home for a week, helping out whenever possible. She met the villagers, none of whom stared at her awkwardly. Tormund, the ginger haired boy, stuck to her like glue, always joining her when she helped the women and three of the men get water from the nearest stream.
The first time she used her magic everyone’s eyes widened in awe. There had been a rockslide a month after she had arrived, three miles away from Ruddy Hall. The cliff that bordered the village to the north had been set off by something, no one knew. A few of the spearwives had gone hunting and had taken her, on Joanna’s suggestion, and Hari had caught the rocks in the air.
Lennora, one of the spearwives, had been the first to see what Hari was doing, her brown eyes widening so much. The rocks were suspended in the air above them, with Hari glaring at them like they had done her wrong. Her green eyes were glowing and that stick of hers was in held tightly in her hand. Snow flakes threaded through the witch girl’s black hair as it spread out against her back.
Lennora and the other spearwomen of the village all moved out from under the rocks, letting Hari have space for her craft. They watched her tap the wand against her leg, her fingers curling around it, and the rocks moved in the air, slowly floating to the left.
When all was done, Hari stood amongst the snow and trees alone. The witch girl wasn’t even breathing heavily, her shoulders lose under the fur cloak that she had been granted by Joanna.
Hari startled a little at the words, turning to look at Lennora and then rolled her eyes. “I told you folk my name. I don’t need another.”
“Aye, you did. We wildlings give each other names,” Lennora remarked, grinning and wrapping her fingers around her spear again. “That’s yours.”
“Fine. I’ll be Hariel Potter, the Girl-Who-Lived, the Woman Who Conquered and Lady Gryffindor. I’ll be Hariel Winterscar. That’s enough names for me,” Hari muttered, dropping her hand to the blade at her waist. None of the wildlings had seen her use the sword but everyone knew Hari could defend herself just as well with her craft.
The first attack on Ruddy Hall came not four months later while Hari had gone off with Tormund and the younger children on a hunt. Hari had learned about where the other clans were over the last few months but she supposed word had spread of her talents. Just like Tormund had said when she had first arrived, men wanted to steal her away to be their bride. Others just wanted a look at her, their eyes widening as they saw her do magic.
Tormund had turned 13 just a few days ago and was the eldest of them, fighting with an axe. Tormund gathered the children together, keeping them between him and Hari as they fought off the men. Hari whispered spell after spell, a few blasting charms and a hex or two, casting to injure, not to kill.
“Where are these men and women from?” Hari shouted over the icy winds of the day, snatching the arm of one of the kids as they ventured too far out of their tiny circle. The boy looked up at her with a chagrined expression and then kept close to her for the rest of the fight. Tormund grinned as he hit the last man standing, his axe pushing through the man’s body and going out the other side.
“They’re of the Frozen shore,” Tormund replied, checking over his friends. “Everyone good?”
“Aye. We’re fine,” Dorrell said, a boy of eight. He lived next door to Tormund. “We should get home. This could have been…”
Hari stared at the boy and then nodded. “A diversion.”
Tormund’s eyes widened before shouting to the others to get going. Hari took up the rear, magic curling around her as she looked around for any other men or women that were still standing. They quickened their pace as they came upon their home, seeing a dead reindeer at the first home. Tormund raced away, heading to his home while the children did the same.
The little village was surrounded by trees, unlike where she had first landed, and further south was the Frozen Shore, where another clan of free folk lived. And then there was the cannibal clan of the ice river. A few of the ice-river clansmen had ambushed the spearwives of Ruddy Hall and the warrior men, leaving three injured and two dead.
A fourth, younger woman was taken, dragged away unconscious to be a wife for one of their own men.
Tormund refused to leave Hari’s side as she drew her wand and began to heal the injured men and women, his blue eyes wide as he looked on. His hand was on his axe, with a white knuckled grip.
“Tormund, I’m too old for you,” Hari muttered, spelling her hair into a tight braid and pressing her hands down on the arrow wound in the man’s thigh. The man, a friend of Torik’s, grimaced but stayed still, having seen her heal others before.
“Aye. But we don’t want you taken or hurt.”
Hari glanced at her little shadow, seeing the 13 year old boy stare at her in determination. All of the children learned to fight at a young age and learned survival skills north of the Wall. Though Hari had yet to see this Wall, she imagined something big, some big stone thing covered in snow.
“I’m the only warrior who isn’t injured,” Tormund added, glaring at her like she was going to argue with him.
“Fine. Stay.” Hari sighed and whispered spells to clean the wound and knit the skin together under her hands. “Where does this ice-river clan live?”
“South. But not too south, Hari.”
Hari blinked again. “Who was killed?”
Her eyes widened, her heart aching at the thought of losing the blunt warrior woman. “She was the leader of this village! Who… The ice-river clans are cannibals, aren’t they?”
“Aye. The men of the Frozen Shore are at the deep south while the ice-river clans are between us and them. Before you came, I always wanted to steal a girl from the Frozen shore clan. They have reindeer there and dogs as big as direwolves!”
Hari laughed shakily under her breath, finishing up with Orlaf and seeing him dip his head in thanks. “Who’s the next leader? Is anyone going after the woman who was taken?”
“I am.” Tormund looked out over the big hall, seeing the many people crowded into the main room. “We must burn the bodies.”
Nods of assent were given and people filed out, their heads bowed. Hari could see no tears though, no long expressions of grief on these people’s faces. It was the way of the world for these people, the wildlings. No one grieved long for lost people.
The first time Hari came across men of the Night’s Watch, she was alone, south of Ruddy Hall. It was two months after she had arrived here, in this wintery world of Westeros. It was a group of five men, all cloaked in black, riding horses through the Skirling Pass. The pass was one of the ways to travel to the Frostfangs, named accurately for the sound of the wind when it traveled through the pass.
Hari was on horseback herself, having taken lessons from the teenagers in her village. Her sturdy mountain pony could travel all throughout the Frostfangs with no trouble and she wasn’t fond of apparating anywhere in the north. The last time she had tried, she had ended up right smack dab in the middle of a mountain. Now that… had not been pleasant.
Over the past few months, they had had a few wildling visitors who all knew her name, the word of her arrival having passed between clans rather quickly. The witch woman who could move things with just a word and who had become an honorary wildling. Her other form had not gone unnoticed either, fitting right in with the snow and the ice. Tormund and the other children had told her of the myths of creatures beyond the wall but they hadn’t seen another of the kind of animal she was.
She watched the men of the Night’s Watch as they rode through the pass, completely unaware of her presence. Her invisibility cloak was draped over her, making it seem like her pony was riderless. The Night’s Watch men rode on and she turned her own pony away after a few minutes, deeming the men down there harmless enough to her. She urged her pony, or garron as the wildlings called them, away and back north, heading for Ruddy Hall.
As night fell and the moon rose, she began to look for a clearing, one that would be easy to defend if need be. Howling filled the air and she felt her pony shudder at the sound. The mountain ponies weren’t warhorses but they were suited for the icy climate around them, with thick fur and large bodies. This one hadn’t seen many direwolves so she was skittish of any howling. But the mare hadn’t yet bucked her off.
As they walked throughout the woods surrounding them, a lone shadowcat ventured out from behind a tree to walk up to her and her mount. Her pony whuffed out a nervous sound and Hari patted its’ neck, watching as the big cat sat down on its haunches. The big creature was of height with her pony, sturdy and strong, with grey fur and dark eyes.
It didn’t look like it was going to attack as it just sat there, looking up at her. Hari stared and urged her mount onward, steering her pony in a different direction. The cat trotted over to her and cut her off, growling a little. Her mount trembled underneath her but stayed on the ground. Hari sighed and glanced down at the cat.
“You wouldn’t happen to be Varamyr’s shadowcat, would you?”
The feline growled and took a step towards her pony, leaping in to nip at its’ hooves. Hari grimaced and drew her wand, pondering the stories that she had heard of Varamyr Sixskins. The stories had traveled throughout the various villages in the Frostfangs but none of them were good. The women all claimed to have been stalked by the man’s wolves and occasionally a shadowcat. Stalked until they gave in and went to Varamyr’s home to be raped by him. Some men even tried to save the woman but it never worked. Her heart beat quickly and then she rolled her eyes, thinking of Lennora and Joanna, the warrior woman who had taken Hari in. She thought of the girls in her village, thought of Hermione and Luna and Ginny. Her heart clenched at the memories and she steadied herself before she urged her pony onward.
The cat roared up at her and trotted off and Hari urged her pony to follow it, turning right a mile off. The cliffs of the Frostfangs ended two miles to the north when the cat finally stopped, turning towards the mountains and a tower of smoke. Hari urged her pony towards the small hut she saw, seeing a snow bear pass them by, hidden by trees. She shivered at the sight of the big bear and drew her fur cloak tighter around her shoulders.
There were two horses tied to the hitching post at Haggon’s hut, one she was mostly familiar with, and the other had black saddlebags. And as she pulled her pony to a stop next to the horses, the one with black saddlebags had a brand burned into its’ rump. A brand that signaled that the horse belonged to the Night’s Watch.
She dismounted and tied her pony to the post, her wand slipping into her hand. She trudged through the snow, her boots a fair protection against the snow and ice. The cat that had led her here pushed through the hut’s fur door and then disappeared.
Hari raised an eyebrow, kept her fingers around her wand and walked into the tent, eying the inside of the home with distaste. This home was made of moss, of mud and wood, not much compared to the homes of most of the wildlings she had met. “Varamyr. To what do I owe this visit to?”
“I summoned you here to mate with me.”
Hari’s eyes narrowed and she glared at the man in front of her. He was sitting on a wooden chair in the middle of the home, surrounded by a three direwolves and one shadowcat. The animals looked unhappy, looked like they had been oppressed down to the last inch of fur.
“And where is the black brother that belongs to that horse?”
“Come here, woman. You look like you would bear strong children.”
She didn’t move an inch, her magic sparking between her finger tips. “I’ve heard tales of you, Varamyr. You’re more animal than human now. The people of my village are under my protection and no woman is coming to you now.”
“You came,” Varamyr replied, smirking at her and standing up. His bald head glinted in the stray moonlight that slid through the wood walls and she wrinkled her nose.
“I came to put an end to this… whatever this is.”
The man took a step closer to her. “Should I let my animals have their way with you after I am done? I hadn’t thought about that.”
Hari grimaced and murmured two words under her breath, a sickly green light erupting from her fingertips and racing towards him. Varamyr’s body slid to the floor with a loud thump and the animals in the tent shook themselves, free. She watched as the direwolves stared at her, blinked and then stood up, galloping out of the home, followed by the cat. “You ruined my day, that’s for sure.”
She strode through the home, casting a spell to detect the presence of life and came upon the black brother that Varamyr had taken captive. The man was injured and unconscious, the broken leg clearly evident. Hari looked him over, seeing the slow pulse in his neck, and knelt down at the man’s side. She whispered the word to repair the bone and held the man down when he woke up at the pain, staring at her wildly.
“Let’s get you back to Castle Black,” Hari spoke, helping the man up and skipping the introduction. She urged him through the home and outside, helping him up onto his horse and untying the mare. He looked at her like she was a saint and then she slapped his horse on its’ rear. She idly watched as the horse broke into a gallop and then walked back into the house, taking it in and then setting it on fire.
She quickly stepped out, holding her own pony down when sparks of flame came too close and then galloped off herself.
A week later and she saw the Wall for the first time, stopping in the Haunted Forest to get a good look at the structure. It was definitely the tallest wall she had ever seen and one definitely not made out of stone, but of ice. The thing was taller than the tallest skyscraper back in England, reaching up through the clouds. The Wall also had its own magic, ancient, powerful and cold as it reached out to greet her.
She closed her eyes briefly and then reopened them, seeing the now visible magic of the Wall. It wove in between the ice like veins, keeping magical creatures out and keeping the Wall standing. She imagined the building of the Wall, having heard tales from wildling children of how it was built. Giants and one kneeler hero, Brandon the Builder, going to work the ice, mold it into what was now the Wall.
It was a chilly morning, fog swirling through the trees as she urged her pony onward. Weirwood and heart trees stared at her as she passed them, their own magic flowing through the small clearings. She stopped her pony at the edge of the Haunted Forest and stared up at the Wall, now knowing that the structure deserved the capital letter. She idly wondered what the world south of the wall looked like, whether it was as snowy and cold as it was north of the Wall.
Once she had arrived back at Ruddy Hall a week later, she greeted Tormund and the spearwives and warriors of the village. Lennora grumbled about her going out on her own without another fighter but left her alone after a few minutes. Tormund did the same though he had thoughts on another matter, food and the rival clan of the Frozen Shore.
Hari kept to herself, joining in with the other woman to cook meals and help teach the young children how to fight. She didn’t know how to fight with axe and sword but she knew what it was like in battle, when everything went out the window metaphorically. She knew strategy, knew that having a friend in battle was a good thing.
She had just stepped outside of her home when she saw Tormund coming. “What is it?”
“I need someone to go to the Thenns,” Tormund called over, stopping before her. “One of their people killed ours.”
“Jon, one of our scouts!”
Hari stared at Tormund, the young man having grown taller in the month that she had been away. She turned to look around the village and then nodded. “I liked Jon. The man had a weird sense of humor. I’ll go visit the Thenns. I’ve been wanting to see further north anyway.”
Tormund’s eyes narrowed as he looked at her, crossing his arms. “Be careful. Don’t go into the Land of Always Winter, lass.”
Hari shrugged. “I won’t. There’s something weird with the magic over there though. I want to go see it.”
“Like the Wall magic?”
“No. It’s… It feels like death,” Hari remarked, her heart racing at the thought of it. Over the past month, she had felt strange, off, like something was luring her north, or at least farther north than she had already been. “And I’ve felt something like it before. Tormund, I’m an honorary wildling, right? At least to you and this village?”
“Aye, that you are. You are a wildling in our eyes.”
Hari nodded and walked off to saddle her pony. “I’ll leave tomorrow morning, at first light. The children want to hear another part of the story.”
Tormund grinned and stalked off.
“Where did I leave off last time?” Hari questioned, looking around at the wildling children in the circle. They were in her little home, past dinner, and all huddled around the fire in the center of her home. She only had a bedroom, a small little bathroom, a kitchen and the main room, where she met with people. It was mostly a room where people came to her for potions and or healing spells but at the end of the day, it became the story room.
With the fire roaring in the center of home, it was an intimate setting for story telling. It rather reminded her of Gryffindor House, the closeness of the girl’s dormitory and the common room.
“Right when you traveled in time, in your third year!” One of the younger girls called out, pushing one of the older boys away from her.
“Ah, well, that was a fun moment,” Hari said, grinning at the memory. “My dogfather, Sirius Black, had just escaped.”
Every child laughed at her words, at calling Sirius her dogfather and her heart clenched. She wanted children of her own, wanted a family but she hadn’t yet found someone to call her’s. Someone who loved her for who she was, not the Girl Who Lived, not Lady Gryffindor, not any of that. She was just Hari, just Hari. Tears pooled in her eyes when that memory flashed through her mind, of telling Hagrid that she was just herself.
The wind howled outside her home and then she began to tell the story of her fourth year.
Halfway through her travel to the land of the Thenns, she came upon the remains of a battle. She dismounted from her horse, leaving the reins to fall on the ground, and walked through the bodies of men of the Night’s Watch and the bodies of wildlings that she did not know. There was one survivor, a young girl, standing over the dead with an axe in her hands and breathing heavily. Blood soaked her clothes and every inch of bare skin, at least what was bare, was covered in blood also.
The girl looked to be perhaps 13 or 14, around Tormund’s age. Hari tried to catch the girl’s blue eyes, seeing the wild look in them and quieted her approach.
“Hey, sweetling,” Hari whispered, just barely raising her voice and using the term of affection that she had heard wildling women use for their own children, even though the girl looked only 4 or 5 years younger than her. “Are you alright?”
The girl continued to breath heavily, her long brown hair matted with blood. Hari took another step closer, seeing the white knuckled grip on the axe and taking another step. “I’m not going to hurt you. What’s your name?”
The girl finally realized Hari was there, her eyes widening a little. The girl visibly swallowed, opening her mouth once before closing it. “Karsi. I’m Karsi.”
“I’m Hari. May I… come closer? Are you injured?”
Karsi shook her head slowly, lowered the axe but kept a hold of it. “I don’t think I’m injured.”
Hari closed the distance between them, reached out a hand to hover over one of Karsi’s. “You can drop the axe. You’re safe now.”
Hari lowered her hand down to touch Karsi’s fingers and the girl let out a strangled gasp, her knees buckling. Hari caught her, pulled her in close as the axe fell to the ground with a light thunk. Karsi shuddered in her arms, shivering as Hari murmured spells to clean her up. The girl continued to shiver and shudder alternatively in Hari’s arms as the blood vanished and the dirt disappeared.
Hari looked out over the bodies then sighed, tightening her arms around Karsi and began to sing. She sang what she remembered of a lullaby Lily had sung her, the few remembered snippets of the song hopefully relaxing Karsi enough to relax. Hari didn’t remember a lot of songs from before her parents died but this one she remembered clearly enough. It had been a memory that she had used to fuel a patronus once and now…
Karsi slowly but surely relaxed in Hari’s arms as she looked over the girl for any injury and finding none.
“Are your parents close?” Hari whispered, smoothing the girl’s hair over and covertly looking for a bump on the head.
“I’ll take you them then.”
Karsi shook her head and pulled away, pointing to two bodies that lay in front of her.
“ Oh. ”
Hari shuddered and then sighed, guiding Karsi over to her horse and lifting her up onto the saddle. “Stay there. I’ll deal with the bodies.”
Hari turned and walked away, only for Karsi to jump down from the horse and help her. She glared at Hari before helping in silence, creating two big pyres for the bodies, one for the men of the Night’s Watch and one for their own kin. As soon as they were done, Hari flicked her wrist, whispered a spell and watched as the pyres lit up.
Karsi sung her own hymn and Hari joined in, singing in her language.
They waited until the fires were done and Hari walked over back to her horse, looking down at Karsi and raising an eyebrow.
“You’re the witch lady, right?”
“You ride like an untrained boy.”
Karsi nodded, picking up the axe that had been in her hands, and jumped up onto Hari’s mare. Hari’s lips twitched up and followed suit, ending up behind Karsi and directed her horse further north, to where the Thenns lived.
“A dragon! I saw a dragon!”
“What a load of nonsense! There hasn’t been a dragon in a century!”
“Besides, we have much more to worry about! The wildlings are acting weird again.”
“What does Maester Aemon say? If you really saw a dragon--”
“No, he didn’t! If Qhorin Halfhand hasn’t seen one, there’s not a dragon out there! We’ve been all throughout the lands beyond the wall. No one’s seen a dragon!”
Lord Commander Qorgyle crossed his arms and looked about the great hall, looking over the massed men of the Night’s Watch. Maester Aemon sat next to him, the blind man listening to Clydas, the steward assisting him with the ravens. The year had just turned in the last fortnight and now it was 278 years after King Aegon the Dragon had conquered Westeros.
King Aerys Targaryen the Second sat the throne, with his sister-wife Queen Rhaella Targaryen. Prince Rhaegar Targaryen had been born almost twenty years ago and the second prince, Viserys, had been born two years ago.
“What say you, Maester Aemon?”
“The dragons died out with King Aegon the Dragonsbane. It shouldn’t be a matter to worry over.”
“What about the wildlings? Besides the fighting south of the Thenns, we haven’t seen any in a while!”
“You don’t think there’s another King Beyond the Wall, do you?”
“What about that man over there? Jeor? What happened to you when you got captured by Varamyr?”
As one, most of the men of the Night’s Watch turned to look at Jeor Mormont, who had recently spoke his vows and joined the Night’s Watch. Everyone had heard that his son, Jorah Mormont, had become the Lord of Bear Island and head of House Mormont after Jeor had signed up.
“I was rescued by a wildling woman,” Jeor remarked into the silence. “She… healed my broken leg and then didn’t speak a word to me other than goodbye.”
“Eh, that’s nothing uncommon. Those spearwives are more likely to stick you with a spear than to talk to you.”
“Says the man who nearly got himself stolen by one of them!”
Laughter filled the hall, loud guffaws followed by bickering.
“Should we send word to King’s Landing?” Maester Aemon questioned, glancing to the Lord Commander. “Let King Aerys know of this?”
“No! It’s none of their business. There’s been no word of a King Beyond the Wall or any significant movements.”
“But that dragon though--”
“Shut about the dragon! It ain’t real! You were just drunk from the ale you had the night before.”
Aemon pondered this morning’s chatter amongst the brothers of the Night’s Watch, listening as Clydas fed the ravens. Mayhaps he should send a letter to Prince Rhaegar though. The boy craved any news or information on dragons and regardless of the piece of information being gossip, Rhaegar would probably like to know.
“Clydas, I need to send a raven to Prince Rhaegar.”
“Right away, maester.”
Aemon wasn’t completely blind yet but he needed some assistance and Clydas had proved helpful.
Hari arrived at the valley where the Thenns lived the next day, along with Karsi. The sun was doing its best to fight its way through the clouds this morning and failing, leading to a chilly, blustery day. It had rained in the wee hours of the morning too but she had managed to catch both her and the girl under magical rain cover for the most part. The valley where the Thenns lived was in the Frostfangs, the northernmost location that she had ever been.
The free folk scattered throughout the village all watched her coming, most turning up from what they were doing to look at her. Karsi was walking behind her, her axe out in her arms and glaring at anyone who looked at either her or Hari for too long. Some even walked up to her and trailed behind them, their weapons out.
“I’m here from Tormund,” Hari called out, stopping in what seemed to be the village center. It wasn’t a big town but it was bigger than Ruddy Hall and the people seemed a lot more… hardy and dangerous. They also looked better equipped, with their weapons and armor made out of bronze. “I want to talk to the Magnar.”
She repeated her request in the Old Tongue, having learned bits and pieces of it from her people. Loud thumps in the snow drew her attention to the giant that stood in between two homes, shaggy and as tall as a small hill. The giant wore a tattered cloak around his shoulders and a necklace made of bones around his neck. There was a… Her eyes widened at the sight beyond the homes, her eyes widening even more as the giant mammoth chewed grass in amongst the free folk.
She had yet to see any giant or mammoth and here she was. This tall man was taller than Hagrid, his dark eyes gazing at her in curiosity. The giant was probably tall enough to ride the hairy mammoth like a horse, its legs barely touching the ground.
“Don’t stare at him too long,” Karsi muttered, shaking her head. “They don’t like it.”
Hari quickly gazed elsewhere, where a young man awaited them.
“I’ll take you to my father. I’m Sigorn.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Sigorn looked her over, his grey eyes narrowed, before turning around and leading them to the biggest home at the opposite end. Hari lightly pulled on her pony’s reins and the three of them walked through the small aisle in between homes.
“Can you really change your shape?” Sigorn questioned, as they pulled to a stop in front and turned towards her. “Father says you can. You’re the witch lady, right? The one who killed Varamyr?”
“Yes, I am. Styr is your father then.”
“Aye. He’s right through there.”
Hari dipped her head in a nod and hitched her horse to a post. “Karsi, you can stay out here if you like.”
“I’ll go in with you.”
Sigorn stared at Karsi, the two teenagers looking roughly the same age, and Hari shook her head in bemusement as she ventured in. There were a few men in the home and as they saw her, they all pointed at the middle aged man at the back of it. Hari took in the man called Styr, the Magnar of the Thenns, seeing his grey eyes, the balding head and straight nose.
“You are the lady who became one of the free folk several moons ago.”
“I am called Hari. Tormund sent me here to see if we can come to an accord,” Hari explained, seeing Karsi out of the corner of her eyes. “Some of your people patrolled near Ruddy Hall and one of them killed one of our own.”
“It is the way of our world, Hari Winterscar. You know this. Free folk don’t have friends.”
Hari wrinkled her nose at the thought and at the name. “Everyone should have friends. In this world, no one should be by themselves. You lead the Thenns like a lord of the kneelers does. Does no one ever think that the free folk should band together, more like a united country than nomads?”
“There have been several Kings Beyond the Wall,” Styr said. “I aim to be one of them soon.”
“I’ve already heard of someone else becoming the King Beyond the Wall, near the Frozen Shore. There can’t be two Kings Beyond the Wall at the same time.”
“Can you really shape change?” Styr questioned, his eyes narrowing and his hand dropping to the blade at his waist. “A woman?”
“I’ve seen too many spearwives to know you don’t mean that as an insult,” Hari retorted. “Karsi here apparently defeated a whole patrol of Night’s Watchmen. You men squabble and fight amongst each other and will continue to do so. I’ve seen your like before.”
The men around them in the hut all took a step closer towards them and Karsi drew her blade. Hari sighed, calling the magic inside her.
“There has never been a Queen Beyond the Wall before, Hari. You won’t be the first.”
“If you don’t stop sending your men on ‘patrol’ near the Ruddy Hall, you’ll regret it.”
She flicked her wrist, tracing out a spell between her fingers. Every single man in the home froze, paralyzed, as Hari slowly backed up, keeping her front to the threat. She had Karsi at her back and the two of them made their way out, dipping her head in a nod to Sigorn as they mounted her horse.
Karsi once again took the reins and urged the horse to a gallop, loping out of the village of the Thenns. Once they were well out of the valley, Karsi slowed the horse to a canter and then a trot and a walk at last, letting the mare cool off.
“Where to now?” Karsi questioned, turning around in the saddle to look up at her. Hari had her arms around the younger girl, to steady herself on the ride.
Hari stared down at Karsi, raising an eyebrow. “Do you really want to stay with me?”
“Where else would I go?”
“Did you have any relatives left?”
Karsi shook her head. “No, it was just me, my mother and father.”
Hari sighed again, looking up at the clouds as it began to lightly spray rain. She grabbed her wand and wove it in a mushroom shape over them, conjuring an umbrella that would cover the three of them. “I wanted to go to the edge of the Land of Always Winter. The magic coming from there… I’ve felt its like before and it’s bad.”
Karsi shuddered in front of her but nodded. “That will take several days.”
Hari blinked and shrugged. Karsi turned around again and clicked to their horse, urging it on again.
It took them three days to reach the tip or edge of the Frostfangs, heading north at a slow and steady pace. As they approached, Hari’s magic roiled within her, pulling tight at her control and turning dark in color. She almost felt sick at the thought, the feelings familiar and horrifying. Everything around them was white, covered in snow and there was nothing else in sight.
It was just snow for miles and miles ahead of them as they stopped their horse and stared. Hari didn’t even dismount so Karsi didn’t either and Hari wrapped her cloak around the both of them even tighter.
There was darkness ahead of them, maybe not visible darkness, but it was clearly diseased land. Made sick by something, the land was tainted with death and the elder wand hummed in her pocket. Their horse whinnied in fright at the atmosphere, her tail flicking back and forth agitatedly. The wind curled around them and sped over the landscape and then Hari shook her head.
The wind whipped through them, buffeting them enough to make it hard to hear. She turned their horse and urged Karsi to get them away from the Land of Always Winter.
As soon as they were two miles out, Hari breathed a sigh of relief, the dark oppression of the heart of winter having mostly vanished. She wondered what was brewing there, in the northernmost tip of Westeros and shivered. They galloped another mile away as the day ended, finding a safe enough spot to camp for the night amidst some trees.
Karsi went out to hunt and Hari built a fire, pitching her tent and warding their small camp. Within a half an hour, the younger girl came back with two dead rabbits held in her arms and Hari watched as she skinned them and got them ready for the pot that was hanging in mid air over the fire.
Their horse chewed on its feed, tied to a tree within the warding. Hari leaned against a small tree trunk as they ate the finished stew, after it cooked for an hour, and stared out at the wilderness around them.
“Karsi, has there ever been a Queen Beyond the Wall before?” Hari questioned, keeping her voice quiet in the eerie silence.
“No. Why? You thinking of becoming the first?”
Hari continued to stare out at the frozen ice and then focused on Karsi. “There’s something out there, something… evil.”
“We free folk burn our dead for a reason,” Karsi argued, her eyes narrowing. “The legends of the Long Night carry on through the generations.”
“Tormund’s never told me about that.”
“The Long Night was supposed to have lasted a generation and it happened thousands of years before the kneeler King Aegon conquered Westeros. The Others fought and killed many men, women and children.”
“The Others?” Hari echoed, her heart skipping a beat at Karsi’s hesitation. There was no fear in her voice though, making her wonder what Karsi did fear.
“Demons of ice. They woke the dead after men fought them and no one could stop them until the children of the forest and men united. It’s been several thousand years though and no one’s seen any hint of them.”
“They woke the dead???!” Hari exclaimed loudly enough that it startled their horse. “I thought that was…”
“What? You thought what?” Karsi repeated.
“Never mind. It’s nothing. I did feel something there,” Hari continued idly, wrapping her cloak around her tighter. “And it was definitely… whatever it was… was alive. Well, alive to a point.”
Karsi stared at her, blinking wearily.
“If it wakes while we free folk are here… Everyone will die. We need to move south of the Wall. The Wall’s magic is tough and strong and should be enough to hold them back.”
“Every man or woman of the free folk get killed if we go south of the Wall. It’s been that way for centuries.”
“You folk haven’t had a Queen though.”
Karsi stared at her and then her lips twitched up into a small grin. “Or a witch.”
Sigorn watched as his father paced about in their hall, muttering under his breath in the old tongue. Two of the clan’s best warriors were in the hall with them, talking about the witch lady of the North. “Father, she doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“Stories have spread throughout the valley and beyond,” Styr said, frowning in thought. “Traders from other clans have said that she can move mountains, that she can walk unseen throughout the North. She was the one who killed Varamyr.”
“She said she had no interest in being Queen of the free folk,” Dorik remarked, hefting his spear in his hands. “Let us leave the spear wife alone and tend to our own tribe.”
“I aim to become King Beyond the Wall and for that we need the allegiance of every other man and woman,” Styr said. “Sigorn will hunt with you. I will take--”
A loud, inhuman cry flooded the valley, sounding like something out of a nightmare. Styr’s eyes widened before he grabbed an axe and ran outside, followed by Sigorn and the others. Every member of the Thenns joined them as they searched for whatever it was that had announced its presence.
The giants towered over everyone else, shaking their heads in bewilderment. The dim light from the sun did not help in their search, the sheer chill echoing throughout the valley.
Sigorn could hear people shouting that it wasn’t mammoths or direwolves, wasn’t a horse cry. It wasn’t… anything they knew and yet people were whispering about it being the Others.
The same sound came again, this time causing the trees around them to sway and snow to fall off rooftops. This time it sounded eerie, it sounded like a battlecry, almost like a shadowcat roar but not. No one recognized it as it came a third time and then… whatever it was that had made the noise, appeared from the north.
Sigorn and his father froze, along with every single man and woman standing in the village square. In between the mountains that hid their village from the north came a monstrous beast, winged and clawed and icy white. It flew through the air gracefully, its silver gray eyes almost glowing. It looked…
“Dragon. It’s a dragon,” Dorik whispered behind them, his voice faint.
The… dragon roared out again, breathing out a blast of white… It didn’t quite look like fire and Sigorn watched as the dragon did it once again, only breathing out its breath downward at a tree. The tree iced up, icicles and snow crawling up the branches within minutes.
Gasps flew from each person’s breath and Sigorn watched as his father ordered archers up, anyone who had a bow to nock it. Spearwives pushed their awed children behind them, with only one girl stubborn enough to stay put. Val’s mother hissed at her to stay with the others but the young girl didn’t move. Val wasn’t even drawing a weapon, only looking up at the dragon with narrowed, blue eyes.
A lone horse whinnied as it galloped into the town square and Sigorn recognized it as being Lady Hari’s horse. Karsi rode the mare into the village, stopping only a few feet before the assembled free folk. The dragon continued to fly towards their village, bringing with it a gust of wind that chilled their very bones through their cloaks and leather.
“Karsi, what is the meaning of this?” Styr ordered, watching as the girl leveled her spear towards them.
“Wait for it.”
“Wait for what?”
“The dragon’s going to kill and eat us!”
“No, she won’t! Just wait for it, damn you!” Karsi shouted, as the dragon circled above their village and dropped down to the empty corner of the village square. The dragon lay there in the snow, its silver eyes staring at each and every one of them.
Val came up to stand next to Sigorn, sparing a glance at him before focusing on the dragon before them. She was ten and five years old, sister to Dalla, and good with her chosen weapon, a bone knife.
The dragon almost seemed to blend into the snow around it, its tail curling around its body and wings pinned in. With each breath it took, everyone could see its body move and the four legs underneath it. After a minute or two of it lying there, it began to move, curling inward, shrinking more and more until…
Val gasped right next to him as Lady Hari took the place of the dragon, her black hair gone wild and her eyes glowing silver. Hari wore a cloak made from the fur of a shadowcat on her shoulders and she looked like a queen. “Styr, we need to talk.”
Karsi grinned and dismounted from her horse to walk to Lady Hari’s side, flanking her like a guard would.
Styr blinked and then finally nodded, his mouth opening and closing multiple times.
The wildlings have been acting weird, according to the rangers. There have been some sightings of dragons but my thoughts are undisturbed, knowing that more than half are false claims. The Night’s Watch brothers are drunk more oft than not in the evenings. These tellings were not enough to send word to your father but I thought you might like to know.
Rhaegar Targaryen looked over the raven letter that had just reached him, his heart skipping a beat at the contents. Aemon, his great great uncle, was the maester at Castle Black and had been one of the Night’s Watch for so long that no one else remembered he was a Targaryen. He sighed and dropped the letter in a pocket in his cloak and left the rookery, with Ser Arthur and Oswell falling into step behind him.
“What did Maester Aemon write about this time?” Arthur questioned, as they walked through the courtyard and past some lords who had come to petition the king. The autumn sun was paling as the hours went by and the moon had just come out. They had received a white raven from Oldtown a week ago, letting them know that autumn was here. Winter wouldn’t be long in coming and ravens from Winterfell and White Harbor suggested that winter was already there in the north.
“Nothing of importance,” Rhaegar remarked, brushing a strand of his hair back behind an ear. “He just says the wildlings are behaving strangely and that some have seen a dragon.”
Arthur’s eyes widened. “Surely not.”
“It is just drunken men,” Oswell commented. “Snarks and grumpkins like.”
“That’s what Aemon thinks,” Rhaegar said, shrugging. “Anyways, my father wouldn’t care that the wildlings are behaving weirdly. Don’t they always act strangely?”
“It may be another King Beyond the Wall,” Arthur offered. “The last one was Raymun Redbeard.”
“The one who killed Lord Willam Stark, I remember. Artos Stark the Implacable then killed Raymun,” Rhaegar said. They stepped into the Red Keep, going around the throne room to avoid King Aerys and his court. His father had grown even more paranoid ever since the defiance at Duskendale a year ago and Rhaegar couldn’t bear to be alone in the room with him.
His mother had kept to her own rooms since Aerys had come back from his captivity, trying to keep Viserys from seeing his father for who he really was. Rhaegar’s brother was two years old and beautiful already, with clear Valyrian features. Viserys though had paler eyes than Rhaegar did and silver hair like Rhaegar did.
“Your father is talking of wedding you to the Dornish princess,” Arthur said as soon as they had escaped the court and the flatterers of King Aerys the Second. “Princess Elia Martell is supposed to be beautiful.”
“I saw her a few times before I joined the kingsguard,” Arthur replied, his eyes narrowing in thought. “Elia was a happy girl.”
Rhaegar led them up a flight of stairs and to his mother’s rooms. His baby brother met him at the top, his light lilac eyes wide with happiness.
“Viserys.” Rhaegar scooped up Viserys and hugged him, looking him over. “Aren’t you supposed to be at the dining table, young ser?”
Queen Rhaella Targaryen stepped out of her rooms, her long silver-blond hair bound back in a braid. There were bags underneath her purple eyes and Rhaegar winced at her appearance. He wished that she didn’t have to put up with his father, wished things were different. He wished he didn’t have the weight of prophecy on his shoulders.
“Rhaegar, dear, what is it?”
“Aemon wrote again,” Rhaegar explained, tickling Viserys on his stomach. His brother squealed out and demanded to be put down. Rhaegar stared at him and Viserys stared back, a petulant frown on his face. “Viserys, you’re supposed to be at dinner, little brother.”
“I want to go see father!” Viserys exclaimed.
“Father is in with the small council, Viserys,” Rhaella whispered, grinning softly and walking over to gather her second child into her arms. “He doesn’t want to be disturbed now.”
“Besides, dragons get hungry easily,” Rhaegar remarked idly, smiling at their mother.
“I’m not hungry!” Viserys yelled, squirming around in Rhaella’s arms.
“Oh well then. You’ll never grow to be as big as Balerion was,” Rhaegar teased.
Viserys stilled, turning around to look at Rhaegar and then back at Rhaella. “It’s meal time then. Let’s go!”
By the time the day was over, Styr, Magnar of the Thenns, had bent the knee to Hariel Winterscar, Queen Beyond the Wall. Hari walked through the village of the Thenns, the shadowcat cloak that Joanna had given her lay on her shoulders, and looked out over the various free folk. Karsi walked a little ways behind her and so did the new girl, Val.
Val was the same age as Karsi, perhaps 13 years old, and already toughened by the world around her. Val’s blond hair was spread out on her back, whipping around in the wind, and her hand was on her knife, the thin blade of metal attached to bone. Val had attached herself to Hari’s side within an hour after Hari had made her entrance, something about Hari having adventures and Val being apart of them.
With Val, had come her sister, Dalla, who looked less of a warrior than her sister but Hari could see a glint of steel in Dalla’s eyes.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she could see Karsi and Val eying each other, taking in the other’s measure. She grinned and walked over to the tent of Styr, who was organizing their plans to head south. Sigorn stood outside of the tent, his eyes going wide when he saw her.
“How do you do it?” Sigorn questioned, the boy all of ten years old and excited.
“Trade secret,” Hari answered, grinning in bemusement and hearing Karsi laugh behind her. “Styr!”
“I am heading south tomorrow, to the Frozen Shore,” Hari said. “Send some scouts to start a camp at the Fist of the First Men. Our main camp will be there.”
“If there’s crows there… tell your men and women to not start a fight.”
Styr dipped his head in a nod before turning to discuss the logistics of the journey south.
“I’ll join you as soon as possible,” Hari said, raising her voice just enough to be heard. “I have business south.”
“You’ll want to deal with Craster,” Val muttered, as they walked back to Hari’s tent. Styr had given her one but had said that she would have a much better tent soon, something about her station. Hari lowered her belongings to the fur covered floor and handed Gryffindor’s sword to Karsi, who smiled widely at it.
“Craster?” Hari echoed, turning to look at the young girl.
“He’s one of us but he weds his daughters,” Val explained, as Karsi drew out a cloth and began to clean the sword. Hari had given her the sword before they had come back to the Thenns, knowing the girl might like it. It wasn’t any use in Hari’s hand so she figured it was better to use that kind of a sword than to let it sit in her trunk and gather dust.
“He is also friends to the crows,” Karsi muttered. “Val is right though. He needs to be dealt with. No one likes his ways.”
“He… weds his daughters?” Hari repeated, blinking in dismay. “His wives are his daughters?”
Dalla walked over to the corner of the tent and started to go through Hari’s clothing, drawing out some that needed mending. Hari watched as Val’s younger sister began to mend the holes and tears in the fabric but she could also tell that Dalla was paying attention to Val and Karsi. Her stitches were very precise, very careful.
“I can’t even…” Hari trailed off at the thought, her stomach roiling. “What does he do with his sons then? Kill them?”
“Sacrifices them to the white gods,” Dalla murmured.
Hari froze at her words. “White gods?”
“Well… I shall attend to that matter soon enough. I need to see Tormund and relay the news to him and spread the word throughout the North. Let’s get some sleep. It’s going to be a long week ahead of us.”
The three-eyed raven stared at her in her dreams, the eye right in the middle of its head seeming to glare at her. The image of a beautiful tree was reflected in one of its eyes and the Fist of the First Men showed in the other, a path heading east appearing.
The raven cawed again and then flew off.
Hari woke up right as the raven vanished, breathing heavily and sweating underneath just one fur. Karsi, Val, Dalla and… Sigorn had all bedded down around her, sleeping well enough. The echo of the three-eyed ravens caws flooded her mind as she took in the darkness surrounding their tent. Night had come and so had another mystery.
Hari stared out across the river a mile or two, tucking her hands in the pockets of her cloak, and urged her horse ahead. She was followed by Karsi, Sigorn, Val and Dalla, all of which carried weapons to their liking. Karsi of course carried Gryffindor’s sword while Val wielded a bone knife and her sister wielded a weirwood bow. Sigorn carried an axe and a bronze shield, a gift from his father.
“Are they rumored to be cannibals or does anyone know if they are actually…” Hari trailed off, glancing to her friends in question.
“They war with the clans of the Frozen shore,” Dalla remarked, lifting her shoulders in a small shrug. “No one’s ever come back from visiting them. That’s all I know.”
Hari nodded and led the way, studying the small tent village ahead of them. She pulled her fur cloak tighter around herself, cast a warming charm on herself and then urged her horse to a gallop. The river was on the far side of the clan’s tents and then the clan of the Frozen Shore was on the other side of the river. She would have to broker a peace between them before she earned their allegiance, from what Val said.
She had already visited the clans of the Frozen shore, had seen their dogs that were as big as direwolves and had met the Great Walrus, their leader. That clan had cowered beneath her dragon form as she had flown over the tents a week ago and then their leader had professed his loyalty to her quickly enough. Though the Great Walrus had given her one condition of his loyalty and that was to make peace between them and the ice river clan.
The sound of hooves thundering over the ground would never cease to excite her, their whinnies echoing across the land and carrying her further onward. She grinned as Karsi and Sigorn raced each other, galloping ahead of her and followed by Val. Dalla rode up alongside her, the quiver of arrows on her back and her bow in her lap.
“You’re not participating?” Hari asked as the two of them slowed down as they reached the village. The free folk of the village had all seen them coming already and stood outside their tents, their hands tight on their axes and various other weapons.
“I prefer to charge ahead when the potential winner is lagging,” Dalla remarked.
“You mean cheating,” Hari teased, her lips twitching up into a grin and Dalla winked at her.
“Call it what you want, lady.”
As they reached the village, Val, Sigorn and Karsi slowed down and rode alongside them, their hands going to their weapons too. The man that stood in the center of the folk looked to be in charge, his black hair wild and his hand gripping the hilt of an axe. The guy had war paint on his cheeks and chin, making him look intimidating, if Hari had had a different childhood and education. As it was, she stopped her horse a few feet from him and dipped her head in a nod in greeting. She heard Dalla string her bow and nock an arrow to it, sighting on the man.
“You the witch lady?”
“Word’s reached you then?” Hari questioned, not bothering to dismount. The man would probably be a few inches taller than her and she preferred to keep her ground.
“We don’t bow to anyone, let alone a witch.”
“You… eat them then? I don’t think I’d be that tasty.”
Sigorn let out a loud snort and she heard Karsi shush him. Hari stared down at the man.
“Besides, I’ve seen scarier,” Hari continued, shrugging idly. “Would you rather test me then?”
“You are the Queen Beyond the Wall. Let my son fight one of your guards. See how well they do.”
Hari raised an eyebrow, her hand going to her holly wand. “You will have to stop the people eating thing, if my friend wins.”
“That’s just a rumor.”
Hari stared at him and then dismounted, taking a step towards the man. “I may not be queen to you but I am queen to others. And they are under my protection. You are to stop eating human flesh from now on.”
“How about I kill you right now and we feast on your flesh and those women? The boy looks good too. Not so much muscle on the boy or you.”
Hari’s eyes narrowed and the trees around the village moved, the river water behind the tents speeding up and growing choppier. The wind picked up around them and blew her hair out of its tie. She took a deep breath and relaxed, loosening up her shoulders and rocking back on the heels of her feet. “I am not called the witch lady for nothing.”
She wordlessly cast a stunning charm on him, reaching her hand out and levitating the man up in the air a few feet. “I would do more but you are not worth my time or energy. We will have a fight and then you are ending the practice of eating human flesh.”
The man’s eyes widened as he flailed about in the air, or tried to. The stunning charm on top of being in the air had to be screwing with him so she released it, but still kept him in the air. She watched as he stared at her, a hint of fear in his eyes, before she dropped him to the ground and turned to walk a few feet away. Her friends followed and as soon as Hari stopped, they all started to argue amongst each other.
Hari cast a muffliato around them to hide their words and caught the eyes of the leader of the ice-river clan. He nodded to her and then turned to talk with his people.
“Alright! What is the problem?” Hari exclaimed as she studied her friends. The clan leader had called them her guards and maybe he wasn’t too far off the mark but she preferred to call them friends. She sighed, having been reminded of Ron and Hermione from their bickering. She missed them but she had made fast friends here, starting with the previous leader of Ruddy Hall and ending with Sigorn.
“He insulted you,” Val argued, crossing her arms and glaring back at the village in front of them before turning back to them.
“I should be the one to fight,” Karsi interrupted, her hand falling onto the hilt of Gryffindor’s sword. “I’ve been with you the longest.”
“Wait, you’re arguing about who should be the one to fight his son?” Hari said, looking around at their faces. “I thought this was about…”
“No, I should be the one to fight him,” Sigorn muttered. “He said I had no muscles and I am Styr’s son.”
“You’re just scared of us,” Val said. “I should be the one to fight him. I want to prove myself a warrior.”
“This is not about proving yourselves to be a warrior!” Hari exclaimed, shaking her head. “But I suppose Val can do it. There is still Craster to deal with and Karsi’s already fought the Night’s Watch.”
Val grinned and turned to look at the clan, eying the people like a eagle would her prey. Hari canceled the secrecy charm and yelled over that they were ready. The man was joined by a younger man, perhaps one about Sigorn’s age, who had short, blond hair.
“This is not to the death, Val,” Hari whispered, standing next to her friend. “I never wanted people to die for me.”
“I’m not going to die,” Val remarked, grinning before heading to the center of the clearing. The rushing of the river grew louder for a minute before settling back down. Val drew her bone knife and flipped around in her hands for a few minutes, deftly and clearly. Hari sucked in a tight breath at the maneuver and then the boy challenger stepped into the center too, wielding a spear.
“The village of Whitetree is empty,” Denys Mallister said, as everyone began to eat in the mess hall. “As well as the villages west of Craster’s Keep. Something is happening.”
“It’s probably nothing.”
“What does Qhorin Halfhand say?” Maester Aemon questioned, looking over at them from where he was sitting at the side of the dais. “He is our best ranger.”
“He hasn’t gotten back from his ranging yet.”
“What did the prince say when you wrote to him?”
Aemon turned to look at the man who had asked that, seeing Jeor Mormont’s eyes on him.
“He has not replied yet. It is probably just the wildlings.”
“That spearwife who rescued me from Varamyr… Craster says there has been rumors of a witch lady running about the North.”
“You think that was her? The woman who just… showed up out of nowhere?”
“Perhaps. No other wildling would have helped one of us like that. And she… healed my leg with a word.”
Aemon raised an eyebrow, having heard of that tale from Jeor when the man had returned to Castle Black.
“Mayhaps Qhorin should spy on them. Craster doesn’t know everything. Take one of them prisoner and question them.”
“Or more fully question Craster. He’s a bastard but he would know what’s going on.”
The fight ended with the boy yielding to Val, with her on his back and her knife to his throat. They were both covered in dirt and snow and Val had received a cut to her arm, her cloak having been cut through. Hari walked over to her and reached out a hand, helping Val up and then helped the boy up too, catching his eyes. The boy’s eyes were wide but he took her hand and then walked back to his village.
“Where’s your camp?”
“Styr and the Thenns are traveling to the Fist of the First Men,” Hari called over, walking over to stand in front of the leader. “What’s your name?”
“Take your people there and no eating people. I can shift into a dragon but that doesn’t mean I eat people,” Hari remarked, before heading back to her friends. “Be there. It’s a matter of life or death if you stay North of the Wall.”
Varolf stared at her, watched as she and her group mounted their ponies and then called his people to him.
It took them a week to traverse the lands beyond the wall to Craster’s Keep. They had traveled by the coast, keeping to the Milkwater. The river was iced up and cold but Hari easily melted and cleaned it for drinking and cooking with, cooking with Dalla to feed their group. They could also easily see the Wall from their position, north of what was the keep that held Craster and his family.
Karsi had already gone on ahead to scout the farm and had galloped ahead of them yesterday. Hari took in the small farm that was Craster’s Keep, seeing the big, black grotesque building that was supposedly a keep. There were no defensive structures, other than a thin fence surrounding the land.
Dalla had nocked an arrow the minute they saw the keep and Val had her hand on her knife.
“You expect a fight?” Hari asked, peering over to Val and Dalla.
“Craster is a friend to the Night’s Watch, lady. There could be crows in there now. I can’t even see Karsi from here,” Sigorn whispered.
“Well… It’s either a trap or it isn’t.” Hari stared at the building, seeing the various women walking around the land tending to the chickens or goats or cooking. The women varied in age from young to old and Hari could hear the cry of a baby from where they were. She urged her horse forward and trotted into the yard, bypassing the fence entirely.
There were three horses in the hut that passed for a stable, horses that had the brand of the Night’s Watch on them. Hari’s eyes narrowed and watched as the women, the daughter-wives of Craster, shied away from her and her friends.
She dismounted and tied her horse to a tree, reaching up to drop her hood off her face, and strode into the keep. Seeing this made her wonder what the homes south of the wall were like, if they were keeps or castles and if they were better looking than this one. She hoped they were. She hadn’t really thought about what would come after getting her people south of the Wall or how that would happen but perhaps…
Later. She would think about that later, after dealing with Craster. She couldn’t see any men on the land or around the keep but she saw Val, Dalla and Sigorn keep their weapons close.
She pushed open the door to the keep and stepped inside, stopping at the sight before her.
There was a firepit in the middle of the home, like Ruddy Hall had, and a second floor to it too. At the far end of the keep, a single chair sat in the center, like a throne and Craster sat in it. Craster was a powerful looking man, with a straight nose and black hair though as soon as he spoke, she winced. His teeth were rotten all the way through.
The women spread out in the keep kept their eyes away from Hari and no one looked at her or her friends.
“I thought you might come my way sooner or later. You would make a nice bride for my next wife. My newest, Gilly, has only just been born.”
Hari’s eyes narrowed at his words, seeing the woman with a baby in the back corner of the big hall. “I would not marry you if you were the last man in the world. Where do you sacrifice your boys to?”
Craster smirked. “You’re a woman. You won’t last long south of the Wall. Come to me and sit on my lap, girl. Your cunt is probably wet at the thought of bedding me right now.”
“My what now?” Hari recoiled but did not take a step back. Instead, she took a step closer to Craster, sparing a glance to the black cloak that lay at his feet and the… Gryffindor’s sword leapt to her hand when she called it to her, her heart racing. She felt like shifting shape and icing this whole damn place to the ground, imagining the keep having huge, giant spikes of ice through it. “What did you do to Karsi?”
“I did nothing to your girl. The crows only asked me to keep her company long enough to stall her.”
Hari bared her teeth and whispered two words, seeing green sickly light speed away from her fingertips. The curse hit Craster between his eyes and his body fell back against the twisted throne with a light thump. She took a deep breath and then turned to Val, Dalla and Sigorn. “Karsi’s been taken.”
Val’s eyes narrowed and she cursed in the old tongue. Sigorn stared and then stomped out, pulling out his sword out of its sheath. Dalla went over to one of the women and started to whisper to her, words that Hari had yet to understand in the old tongue.
“What do we do now?”
Hari turned around, her heart aching and took in the women around her. “You may have heard--”
“You’re Queen Beyond the Wall. Yes, we’ve heard.”
“Aye, she’s our queen now,” Val retorted. “Where is our friend?”
“The crows took her to their castle.”
Hari tried to relax, to loosen her shoulders, taking a step over to what looked like the leader of the group. She was the one who held the baby in her arms, the one that Craster had called Gilly. The babe had soft brown curls of dark hair and wide brown eyes as she stared up at Hari, blinking. Seeing Gilly made Hari wish she had children of her own, a family of her own but that had to wait.
“Go to the Fist of the First Men and ask to meet with Tormund. He’ll get you settled and safe.”
“But what if we don’t want to?”
“You want to stay here?” Hari questioned, catching each woman’s eyes and gesturing at this keep that stunk of pain and misery. “You deserve better than to have to wed your father. No woman should have to suffer at the hands of a man.”
“What’s going to happen to Karsi, to your friend?”
“I’m going after her. Val, Dalla, you do not have to follow me south of the Wall.”
“We’re going,” Dalla stated, walking back over to her and standing firm.
“I’ve never been south of the Wall,” Hari said, turning to step into the doorway and out at the Wall. “It’ll be interesting.”
“The kneelers aren’t that interesting,” Val said. “That’s why we call ‘em kneelers.”
Hari snorted. “Besides, Karsi will run out of things to call the crows if we don’t rescue her soon.”
Karsi cursed under her breath at the crows who stood outside her cell, baring her teeth and leering. The men of the Night’s Watch kept their backs to her, shifting uneasily as they guarded her. They had taken her a few days ago and hadn’t questioned her yet, mayhaps something about waiting her out. But she could hear men yelling and talking about the wildling woman they held.
Some were scared of her while others boasted about fucking her as she was chained. She had fought Craster and the crows tooth and nail but they had overwhelmed her, knocking her unconscious.
Heavy footsteps drew her attention to the door of the room they were keeping her in and she watched as it opened, tugging at the chains that were on her wrists in vain. Two men stepped in, one walked towards her with a sword drawn, and the other stood at the door, his hand on his own weapon. Karsi could even see another man standing behind him, with a bow drawn and nocked and grinned.
For all that she was 14 years old, she scared them enough to have three men come to get her.
“The Lord Commander wants you, wildling. No funny business.”
Karsi shrugged and watched as the first man stepped towards her and pulled out a key, bending down to unlock her fetters. The crow watched her like a hawk as he unlocked the chains and yanked her up onto her feet, tugging her towards the door and out into the courtyard of Castle Black. She looked around at the crow’s main castle, knowing that it was one of only three castles that they manned today.
As they passed other black brothers, they all stopped to stare at her, the wildling woman that they had captured. She could see the stables, the blacksmith, the barracks and what was probably the tower of the maester. Black ravens flew in and out of the tower, taking news and returning with it. Ravens were the way that the kneelers sent messages and Karsi remembered Hari telling her of the way that her people had sent messages and letters. The witches and wizards of Hari’s world had used owls instead of ravens and she had seen Hari’s tearful gaze when she had spoken of her own owl.
The men led her up a set of stairs, away from the Wall to the north, and to a doorway at the end of a hall.
“The wildling’s here, Lord Qorgyle.”
“Bring her in.”
Karsi was led into the room ahead and looked around at the office in front of her. It looked like the office of the Lord Commander, some old man from some kneeler house that she didn’t know. An older man stood in the corner, with glazed over white eyes and a bald head while another younger man stood next to the man at the desk.
“No harm will come to you, wildling, while you’re in here.”
“We just want information. I am Maester Aemon. That man is Lord Commander Qorgyle and the man next to him is Ser Jeor Mormont.”
“Information? Don’t you crows know anything?” Karsi questioned, grinning. “You could have just waited.”
“Waited?” Jeor Mormont raised an eyebrow, his grey eyes narrowing.
“For what?” Maester Aemon asked, looking to a spot near her. He might have been blind for all Karsi knew. There was not a member of the free folk who was blind or disabled amongst them. No blind or deaf woman or man would survive beyond the Wall for very long.
“For the Queen Beyond the Wall to make herself known,” Karsi answered, shrugging idly. She wished she had her axe with her or Hari’s sword but her words would have to be her weapons now.
Lord Commander Qorgyle, Ser Jeor Mormont and Maester Aemon all blinked, sucking in strangled breaths. Karsi took great glee in watching their eyes widen at the words.
“Queen Beyond the Wall? Did I hear correctly?” Maester Aemon questioned, taking a step towards her.
“Aye, you heard correctly. We have a Queen Beyond the Wall who's going to lead us south.”
“There’s never been a Queen Beyond the Wall, has there?” Mormont questioned quietly, looking to Maester Aemon for an answer when by all rights he should have been asking her. She was the actual member of the free folk here, not this Maester Aemon.
“No. She’s our first Queen Beyond the Wall and we’ve had no one like her before,” Karsi offered. “She’s the Ice Queen.”
Mormont blinked, his brows twitching as he crossed his arms. “Queen Beyond the Wall. That… Are you quite suite that there is such a woman?”
Karsi glared at him and nodded vehemently. She was pretty sure that Hari wanted her presence to be known and she hadn’t said otherwise about keeping her title secret. Besides, Karsi wasn’t going to give them Hari’s name. There were plenty of women beyond the wall who could cover for Hari, if the need arose. She could even claim it was her and be executed in Hari’s place, if it came to that.
“Queen Beyond the Wall.”
“That is the first piece of real information that we’ve received since the wildlings started to act weird. Where’s the Halfhand? We need more information. What is your name, child?”
Karsi bared her teeth. “Name’s Karsi and I’m not a child.”
Mormont nodded and whispered something to the Lord Commander.
“You shall have to be executed at dawn, Karsi. We do not take prisoners.”
“You have lower numbers,” Karsi whispered gleefully. “That is what you do not want the others and the queen to know.”
Mormont and Maester Aemon’s eyes widened.
“Jeor, guard her. I do not want our men to be taking bets on if the girl… I do not want them encouraged by her presence.”
“Aye, commander. I understand.”
“Go on, girl.”
Karsi smirked at the leaders of the Night’s Watch, knowing that they wouldn’t know a thing about taking Queen Hariel on and taking glee in the fact. She followed the Mormont crow, feeling her guard’s sword at her back as they stepped back out of the office.
Night fell on the fourth day of Karsi’s captivity and she tried to stay warm amidst the snow and the cold. The crows hadn’t even given her a cloak though she figured that that was because she was going to die tomorrow. The moon shone brightly through the windows of the room they were keeping her in, a full moon over the castle. The moon and the torches of the Night’s Watch were the only sources of light at Castle Black tonight.
There was no clouds in the sky, nothing to hide the moon and yet, a shadow flew across it. Karsi’s eyes narrowed and her heartbeat as the sound of huge wings filled the air. Screams erupted from below and she grinned. The chill that was already in the air increased and ice spread across wooden rooftops. Horns were blown and men scrambled out of their beds, being called to string their bows. Shouts filled the air, men calling in wonder and fear at the dragon that was circling their castle.
Karsi saw a glint of white in the air and glowing grey-silver eyes blinked at her before disappearing. The guards at her door yelled out in surprise as they were yanked to the sides, replaced by no one until Val and Dalla appeared as if from nowhere. Val held a folded up, beautiful cloak in her arms and grinned at Karsi, who smiled. Dalla bent over to one of the unconscious guards and picked up the metal keys, unlocking the door to her cell.
“Karsi, we hope you hadn’t offended the crows too much,” Val remarked, opening up the cell door. Dalla again stepped into unlock her fetters and Karsi rubbed her wrists as soon as she was free, standing up and taking the offered dagger from her.
“I delivered our Queen’s message,” Karsi whispered, grinning as Sigorn stepped into the light of the torch on the wall. He grinned when he saw her and beckoned towards the Wall. “We should get moving. How did you three get into the castle?”
“We have the Queen’s cloak,” Dalla answered, nocking an arrow to her bow but keeping it at her side as they ran off, towards the gate. “Here, before the Queen finishes her diversion.”
Queen Hari flew over the castle again, her dragon shape large and chilling as she flew over the four of them again. Her large wings beat in the quiet and the horses of the Night’s Watch all whinnied in fear as the dragon roared. Karsi looked up as she flew one last pass and caught a glimpse of ice lining the tips of her wings, the ice catching the moonlight on them and shining brightly. She smiled up at her queen and then shuffled into a small circle, almost tucked up against Val.
All four of them had their queen’s cloak over them as it covered them from head to toe. They avoided the brothers of the Night’s Watch as they slowly walked through the courtyard, taking care to step where the men of the Night’s Watch stepped to cover their tracks.
Ice streamed from Queen Hari’s mouth again, striking the walls of Castle Black, and Val led the way towards the gate, stopping a few feet before it to watch for an opening. As a few men yelled over to the gate to open it to make way for scouts, they waited until the gate was open just a bit and stepped through, keeping to an even pace for a few minutes until they were well out of sight of the castle.
“Come on. The Queen said she would wait for us,” Sigorn whispered, gesturing to a wooded area and to what looked like a clearing just beyond that. They stuck to walking under the trees after that, shedding the cloak and running not too long afterward. Sigorn held onto the cloak and they made a run for it as they saw their queen flying over towards them in the sky.
The big white dragon above them circled once before descending at a fast pace. Fast enough to make Karsi’s heart skip a beat at how close Hari got to the ground before slowing down. Queen Hari made a graceful landing in the small clearing ahead of them and dipped down, bending a leg in a clear invitation.
“She can’t talk in her other shape but she said we could fly with her,” Dalla explained as Val led the way onto the dragon’s back. “That’s how we got past the Wall and the castle.”
Karsi grinned and followed the other three, stepping up onto the dragon’s leg and then slipping up onto her back, grabbing a hold of a spike. The dragon underneath them was slightly warm, like a ember was burning underneath the skin and muscle but she was definitely cold to the touch. Definitely unlike the Targaryen dragons, Karsi thought.
As soon as they were all on and settled, Queen Hari lifted off from the ground with a heavy beat of her wings. Energy filled the air and rose around them, curling around Karsi and she suspected around the other three. Maybe Hari could do magic in this other shape of hers but Karsi wasn’t sure of that as they gained altitude.
Karsi leaned into Dalla’s back for warmth and the other woman wrapped an arm around her as they flew back towards Castle Black. The wind bit into her body and she shivered with it, gleefully smiling down at the crows. They were ants to them up in the air and she smirked, hearing their confused shouts and yells.
They flew over Castle Black and rose up into the air even more to fly over the Wall and Karsi sighed in relief as they passed the icy structure. She was more at home beyond the Wall and was hesitant about going south of it when the time came. What would happen to them when they were south of the Wall? Would they live in castles like the kneelers did? Would they have to bend the knee to the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch or to Lord Stark?
Whatever happened in the next few months, she knew one thing that was certain. Queen Beyond the Wall Hariel Potter would protect them with her life if need be.
Aemon stood in the doorway of his tower and seemed to stare at Ser Jeor Mormont as the man stood in front of him. Jeor stared back at him, blinking. His heart was still beating wildly nearly an hour after the dragon, the ice dragon , had attacked them. A dragon. A real dragon. Though this dragon had spewed ice at them, not fire, reminding Jeor of some of the Northern tales and legends some wet nurses told their charges.
“I must write Prince Rhaegar. We have real information now. He must know. What is the Lord Commander saying? Is he to write the king?”
“He is writing to Lord Stark. I don’t know about the king.”
“We will need the assistance from the Starks,” Aemon agreed, dipping his head in a nod. “If there is truly a Queen Beyond the Wall, we might not have the men to hold the wildlings back. Especially since there is a dragon in their camp. Did any of the men happen to see if there was a rider?”
“On the dragon’s back,” Aemon said.
“No. No one noticed anything beyond the dragon itself. What makes you think the dragon’s fighting for the wildlings?”
“The dragon attacked at the same time that the wildling woman escaped,” Aemon remarked. “If it’s a coincidence, it is a strange one.”
“Aye, it’s a strange one. I agree with you on that.”
They flew throughout the night, growing closer together to keep warm. They passed what remained of Craster’s Keep, which Karsi spit on over the side of the queen. The keep was ruins now, thick pillars of ice sunk deep into the wood and stone. Hari roared out as they passed it and kept going, beating her wings and sliding up into the air current above them to glide.
They made it to the Fist at first light and Karsi’s eyes widened as she looked down at the hill. It was a veritable city of tents and giants and their mammoths littered the area, rising above everything else. As they flew over the tents, heading towards the big tent at the very north end, they could hear people yelling out for them. They were mostly cheerful yells as the dragon queen beneath them slowly circled into land at the edge of the tent city.
Tormund awaited them as they landed with a heavy thump onto the snow. The ginger haired young man had a big, wide smile on his face as Karsi slid off their queen’s back, yelling to Styr that their queen was back. As soon as Karsi, Val, Dalla and Sigorn were off, Hari slowly shifted back to human, two legs and no wings.
Hari turned to look at Karsi and held out Gryffindor’s sword to her, which Karsi eagerly took back, strapping it to her waist. “I am sorry they took you.”
“You came for me, lady, and I got to call them names,” Karsi said, grinning at her. “It wasn’t all bad.”
Hari snorted and then turned to look at Tormund, grinning at him. “I hear you killed a giant.”
“They attacked the village,” Tormund retorted, crossing his arms.
Styr walked over from a few tents south of them and rolled his eyes. “They’re calling him Giantsbane now. No one’s ever killed a giant that young.”
“Uhhh… congratulations?” Hari offered half-heartedly, looking to the big tent that stood alone in front of them. “Whose tent is that?”
Val and Dalla let out quiet laughs at her words. Styr followed Hari’s finger and a kind of quiet pride came into his eyes. The tent in question was topped with pelts from a snow bear and above the tent flap was a great big set of antlers from a giant elk.
“That is yours, lady. The tent of our queen should be generous in its rank and material.”
“I’m not wearing a crown,” Hari retorted, crossing her arms. “If that’s in the offing, I’m not wearing it.”
“No King Beyond the Wall has ever worn a crown. That’s a kneeler thing,” Sigorn said.
“Well, it looks like our people have grown in number since I left,” Hari remarked, looking over the tents on the land below them.
“Word’s gotten out. Hari, I didn’t even know you had ambitions to be Queen,” Tormund exclaimed, his eyes narrowing. “You should have told me first.”
“It was kind of something that developed after seeing the Land of Always Winter,” Hari explained, shrugging. “Are Craster’s women settled in?”
“Aye, though there was some trouble first when they arrived yesterday. The ice-river clans also were troublesome.”
Hari raised an eyebrow. “They’re not eating people, are they?”
“Not under my watch,” Tormund muttered. “No one wants cannibals amongst them.”
“I better talk with everyone. Are there any clans unaccounted for?”
“No. The Hornfoots and the Nightrunners are on their way.”
“I’ll talk when everyone is here.”
The quiet, low rumble drew Hari’s attention to the woman walking between the tents towards them. A shadowcat walked alongside the woman, a beautiful cat of black fur and white stripes. Hari’s eyes widened as the woman approached, her magic reacting to the woman the same way it did for Varamyr. The woman had dark brown hair that fell down past her shoulders, tied in a braid, and grey eyes.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Briar. I would like to be a scout for you, lady. I came with a group of skinchangers led by Orell.”
“Very well. What kind of animal does Orell warg into?”
“An eagle. I wanted to thank you for killing Varamyr. He gave us a bad name, skinchangers.”
“You’re very welcome. If you want to scout, patrol the edge of our camp,” Hari suggested, gesturing to the perimeter. “Take breaks in between and come find me if you see crows.”
“Aye. I will.”
“Do not attack first if you see crows. Sound the alarm first.”
Briar nodded and then ran off, her shadowcat loping alongside her. The cat radiated contentment unlike the cat that Varamyr had and Hari figured that Briar was one of the good folk. “Tormund, have Orell come find me. I want to talk with the leader of the skinchangers.”
Two nights later, far south of the Fist of the First Men, Lord Rickard Stark sat in the great hall amongst his children. Lyanna and Benjen sat with him as he spoke with Yoren, just recently come from Castle Black.
“A Queen Beyond the Wall?” Rickard echoed, his grey eyes narrowed and his voice weary. “And a dragon? This bodes ill.”
“Dark wings, dark words. Literal in this case,” Yoren remarked, with a glance to the lord’s children. “The dragon didn’t blow fire at us. It breathed ice.”
Rickard blinked and looked to Maester Walys in question. Walys looked back, his eyes wide as he read the letter from the Lord Commander.
“I know nothing about ice dragons, my lord.”
“Does the king know of this?”
“Maester Aemon was writing to Prince Rhaegar. That raven left before I did.”
Lyanna watched as her father and the man from the Night’s Watch continued to talk. If only Ned was here, he could ask Yoren about the Queen Beyond the Wall without him looking at Ned weirdly. Her heart beat quickly at the thought of a Queen Beyond the Wall though and imagined what that woman might look like. She probably wielded a sword or some other kind of weapon. The Queen Beyond the Wall was probably strong and Lyanna sighed at the thought. If only she was a wildling instead of the daughter of a lord of a Great House. If she was a wildling, she would have definitely been allowed a sword and allowed to choose a man or not at all.
Next to her, Ben narrowed his eyes at his sister, knowing what was going through her mind right now. She had just been betrothed to Lord Robert Baratheon at the last moon’s turn and that had not gone over well. She was waiting for Ned to come back, to ask him about what Robert was like. Though everyone knew Robert already had a bastard child with some servant woman in the Vale.
“Lya, I know what’s going through your mind right now.”
“Ben, it’s a Queen Beyond the Wall. There hasn’t been a Queen at all, in all of history,” Lyanna whispered back, elbowing her youngest brother. “Even if she’s a wildling, I want to meet her.”
Ben rolled his eyes and heaved a great sigh. “She’s a wildling, Lyanna.”
“Wait until Brandon gets back, at least. He’s due back in a week,” Ben murmured, catching her eyes. “Don’t do anything stupid, Lyanna.”
Lyanna grinned and looked to their father, seeing his frown. “I don’t want to wed anyone, much less the man who already has fathered bastards.”
“Let’s see what Ned has to say first, alright? It could just be rumor.”
“Your Grace, a raven for you,” Grand Maester Pycelle said, handing the raven letter over to him and then walking off.
Rhaegar looked down at the parchment, seeing the seal of the Night’s Watch on it. Arthur raised an eyebrow at his expression but didn’t comment. At least they were nowhere near his father, who had begun to think ill of him since Duskendale. King Aerys now thought that Rhaegar had conspired with Tywin to force him off the throne and was conspiring against him.
They were in Maegor’s Holdfast, in his solar balcony that overlooked the city. His mother was sitting across from him, juggling Viserys in her lap and trying to keep him entertained. Rhaegar turned back to the letter and slipped it open, his eyes widening at each word.
Rhaegar, the rumors are true. There is a dragon beyond the wall, an ice dragon. It attacked us last night and breathed ice onto our buildings. The men don’t know what to do and what’s more, there is a Queen Beyond the Wall that is gathering the wildlings together. No one knows what to make of this so called queen but the men captured a wildling woman and questioned her. The wildling spoke of a Queen, a queen that she followed.
I know your father and mother are betrothing you to the Dornish princess and that you are busy now. But I hope you can spare some time to visit Castle Black and the Lord Commander. If there really is a leader of the wildlings, we will need all the help we can get. And I know the dragon will interest you. You might journey by ship to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and then travel inland to Castle Black.
Rhaegar was faintly glad he was sitting down as he finished reading the letter from his grand uncle. A dragon? A true ice dragon? Rhaegar’s heart skipped a beat and he stood up, accidentally kicking over his chair in the process and stumbling over one of Viserys’ toys and one of his own books.
“Arthur, make preparations to travel to the Wall. We go by ship to Eastwatch and then inland to Castle Black,” Rhaegar croaked out, his heart beating wildly. He combed his fingers through his silver hair, noting vaguely that his hands were shaking.
“Rhaegar, darling, what is it?” Rhaella questioned, glancing up to him.
“There’s a Queen Beyond the Wall, mother,” Rhaegar spoke, dropping his hand to her shoulder. “And… a true ice dragon, from what Aemon says. I must go see it, if possible.”
Rhaella’s eyes widened very much. Her hair, unlike Rhaegar’s, was pulled back in a braid and had more gold hints to it than Rhaegar’s. “Then go. I will have Pycelle send word to Lord Stark and the Lord Commander that you are traveling north.”
“Thank you,” Rhaegar whispered, seeing that Arthur had left already. Ser Oswell Whent was standing at the doorway to his room in his place and Rhaegar was glad of that. Oswell was one of the quieter knights, much less likely to tell the king of their actions. “I am not going to tell father of this news.”
“I think that wise, dear,” Rhaella commented, glancing down at Viserys then back up to him. “Travel safe.”
Val and Karsi watched as their Queen rode off, with Dalla and Sigorn trailing behind her on their own horses. They were headed east to find something that Queen Hari had dreamt of over the past month, the three-eyed crow. Val hadn’t put much thought into the Queen’s dreams but Hari had had a pinched look on her face last night and then this morning had said she was going to find whoever was sending her the dreams.
She had left Tormund in charge of the ever growing camp of free folk and giants, had promised that she would return. Hari had even lightly warded the perimeter of the camp and ruins, saying that the crows wouldn’t see them now. Val let out a noise of consideration under her breath and then turned to look out over the camp. They numbered at least 10,000 now, with stragglers coming in every day. Hari had had to settle at least a few disputes between the free folk, killing multiple men that didn’t want to live with Craster’s women. Val had killed another, the Lord of Bones, as he didn’t want to take orders from a woman.
“Want to spar with me?” Karsi questioned, intruding on Val’s thoughts as they headed back to the Queen’s tent. Hari hadn’t had a lot of belongings when she had arrived in the north but she had heard that Tormund and Styr had wanted to mark her tent as their queen’s. The big antlers on top of it shone in the misty sun and the furs from the snow bears provided enough heat that no one was cold in the tent.
“Sure. I can see how you fight with that sword,” Val retorted, grinning widely as they headed to a clearing behind the Queen’s tent and out of the way of anyone else.
“Val… I can fight as well as you can.”
“You’re a year younger than me.”
Karsi snorted as they passed by a few weirwood trees, slipping over some of the old ruins of the keep of the Fist. “I’m just as capable.”
Val drew her bone knife, fingering the hilt and looked for a good place to spar, walking through the trodden down snow and just as they spotted a good clearing, she stepped on something that made a good thunk. She raised an eyebrow and stopped, seeing Karsi turn to look at her.
“What is it? A rock?”
“I don’t…” Val trailed off and bent down, moving the snow off of where she stepped. Karsi came over to help as they dug down into the snow and came upon a big, leather bag. Val scooped it up and opened it, her eyes widening at the contents. “Dragonglass.”
Karsi’s eyes widened as Val poured the glass out onto the smooth snow between them, seeing the dragonglass arrowheads and spearheads. Underneath it all was a broken, old warhorn, rusted and ancient. Val picked up one of the spearheads and turned it to the sun, grinning a little at the shine of it.
“It’s so smooth,” Karsi whispered, examining one of the arrowheads.
“Dalla will like the arrowheads,” Val remarked. “Hari should see these when she gets back.”
On the second day of her travels, Queen Beyond the Wall Hariel Potter saw one of the children of the forest. She had just woken up, blinking awake to the dawn of a new morning to look up into the face of a short, human sized creature. It looked almost like a goblin but much more… human, though as Hari looked the child over, she saw only three fingers and a thumb on each hand. The child of the forest clearly wasn’t a child as Hari slowly sat up, looking right into her eyes, slitted like a cat’s. She had large ears on her head and brown skin that looked like earthen.
There was a strange magic or power about the child, an earth magic that was bound to the very trees and plants around them. The child lit up in Hari’s magical vision as she pulled on her own magic to look, little strands of power flowing through the child and into the earth.
“Hello. You are one of the children of the forest then?”
“You are the one that he wants. Come with me.”
Hari raised an eyebrow but nodded, getting up and nudging Sigorn and Dalla awake. When they didn’t wake up, not even with her nudging, she glanced curiously to the child.
“He wants you and only you, lady of magic. They will be safe. We will look after them. The cave is not too far away and the Others have not woken yet.”
Hari shivered at the child’s words, at hearing the old undertone to the voice. This child was clearly not a child, was clearly hundreds, if not thousands of years old. “If you’re sure then.”
The child nodded and Hari stepped out of her tent, seeing three other children standing outside. She couldn’t tell which were men or women but then… they didn’t look like they cared about gender or sexuality or anything else. They wore bark clothing around their middle and shirts woven of leaves on their chests.
“What’s your name?”
The child said something in yet an entirely different language, one that she had not even heard the free folk use. Perhaps the children had their own language between them, one that had even survived invasion from the First Men and the Andals. “Leaf. You can call me Leaf. I am the only one amongst us who speak the common tongue.”
Hari nodded and followed where Leaf led, venturing even further east and up a mile north. She stopped as soon as she saw the beautiful heart tree on the hill two miles from her camp, her eyes widening at the sight. Ancient magic radiated from it, digging into the snow and the roots beneath, a kind of warding flowing through the tree and the… “The cave…”
“He’s in there. I shall stay outside.”
“He… who is he?”
“The last greenseer.”
“It reminds me a little bit of the Whomping Willow,” Hari remarked quietly, staying right where she was, next to Leaf. Leaf looked up at her, the child’s eyes staring right at her, almost through her. “But this is so much more beautiful. Bit less with the whomping too.”
“He knows you, knows what you are.”
Hari shivered at the words, her heart beating like it was trying to get out of her chest. She took a step towards the tree and the cave underneath it, sighed and walked over to the entrance of it, feeling the old magic brush up against her. The hair on her arms stood up at the touch, something not unlike the power of the Wall and stepped into the cave, following where the path led. She stopped at the sight that met her at the center of the cave, her eyes widening.
A man sat in the center of the giant heart tree, with roots growing out of him and through him. One root grew right through his left leg and another grew right through his empty eye socket. Hari took a step back as goosebumps rose on her skin, the sight unnerving her more than Voldemort had when she had first seen his new form in the graveyard. The man’s white hair fell down past his shoulders and his red eyes stared right at her, reminding her a little bit of Voldemort. Hari continued to stare, unblinking, at him for a few minutes, feeling the eerie power around him and wondering what it was.
“You’re the three-eyed crow?”
The man’s eyes narrowed at her words. “Aye, I am. You are the Queen Beyond the Wall.”
“I am. Who are you? What… are you?”
“I was once mortal and human like you. My mother nursed me at her breast and gave me Brynden as a name but that would not mean anything to you, not right now. You are doing something that will change the whole of Westeros, by taking the free folk south.”
“I don’t know much about what’s south of the Wall but it’s gotta be better than north of the Wall. The Others… Leaf said they haven’t woken yet.”
“They will but they will be greatly diminished. They will not have as great an army as they could have had.”
Hari took a breath and nodded, the words not unnerving her as much as they could. The thought of a future threat being less than it could have been meant much to her. Besides, she had fought in a war before. “Why did you call me here?”
“I would ask a favor of you. There will be no free folk north of the wall to take my place when I am gone, no man or woman to learn my ways. I would ask you to train any future greenseers in my stead.”
“When you are gone?”
“I am old, young one. And you have a full life ahead of you, Queen Beyond the Wall. A Queen now and a Queen south of the Wall. Craster was wrong when he said that women cannot rule.”
Hari’s eyes widened. “You… were there?”
“I am here and everywhere. In the past and in the future. Greenseeing is a heavy burden to bear.”
Hari blinked. “Alright, so you can see the future and the past… I had a friend, back in England. She was a great seer but I don’t know if she could see like you can.”
“Luna. Aye. I saw you when you first arrived.”
“Alright. I’ll teach them. I do like to teach so it shouldn’t be too difficult. How will I know when a greenseer is born?”
“They will come to you,” the three-eyed crow remarked, his voice rough and dry as if it had been unused for years. “Your power is new and old. Come here, I will give you one gift before you go.”
Hari took a step closer and stepped up onto the lone tree root, watching as the three-eyed crow reached out with his unrooted hand and touched her on her forehead, lightly pressing on her scar. Her scar had not hurt since Voldemort’s death but it did now as memories flashed through her mind, visions of the past. Visions of House Targaryen and its dragons. Of King Aegon I Targaryen, the Conqueror and his invasion and all of the Targaryen kings and queens that followed.
Her knees buckled at the onslaught of memory, of past, and blackness invaded her sight. She fell back onto the dirt floor with a light thump and unconsciousness took her.
Rhaegar dipped his head in a nod as he stepped off the plank of the ship that had carried him, Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Oswell Whent north. It had taken them near a month to reach the northernmost point of Westeros from King’s Landing, having avoided stopping at Gulltown in the Vale or White Harbor. Rhaegar hadn’t wanted to draw attention to his travels. It had been almost a miracle that he had successfully requested both knights of the kingsguard to come with him.
The Wall was only a mile off and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, a castle of the Night’s Watch, stood in front of them. The ship that had carried them north was a ship of the Royal Fleet, bearing the banners of House Targaryen, and captained by a knight of House Velaryon. Rhaegar had decided to avoid Lucerys Velaryon, the master of ships, as he was a strong supporter of his father and Rhaegar did not want Aerys to know of his movements. His father was paranoid enough to begin with; the thought of his son going north past the Wall would not have sat well with the king.
Cotter Pyke, the commander of the castle, stood before him with a few black brothers as an honor guard. They had probably already received Rhaella’s raven and perhaps Aemon had sent something as well though they could have just seen the banners of the ship.
“You have received word of the Queen Beyond the Wall then?” Cotter questioned, his eyes narrowing as Rhaegar stood before him. Arthur and Oswell flanked the prince and Rhaegar was rather glad for their company as he studied the men of the Night’s Watch before him. He could not see many men in the docks and on the walls around them and many looked surly, dissatisfied.
“Yes. That’s why I’ve come. Maester Aemon sent word of the dragon that flew over Castle Black and attacked them. Have you seen it?”
“Some of my men have. I figured it was due to them being drunk or hungover,” Cotter remarked. “Come, we can talk in my office.”
“I hope my presence does not cause you much trouble. I do not plan on staying here for very long as I would like to talk to my great, grand uncle at Castle Black.”
“Yes, your Grace.”
“Does anyone know where the Queen Beyond the Wall is? Where is she amassing the free folk?” Rhaegar questioned, as they walked into the yard of the keep. Most of the black brothers all stopped to stare at him, the prince, as he strode past. No black brother in living memory had seen a Targaryen so his presence probably would cause a stir amongst them. If he knew his history correctly, the last Targaryen to ever go this far north was Queen Alysanne Targaryen, sister wife to King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. That had been almost two hundred years ago.
“No. The fucking wildlings are probably all dead or something. Having a woman to rule them, bah,” Cotter muttered, shaking his head. “No woman can do what a king can do.”
Rhaegar blinked at the man’s language then shrugged if off.
Hari slowly woke up after what felt like hours, blinking her eyes open to discover Sigorn and Dalla staring down at her. She was back in her own camp, the sun rising around them. She yawned, pressing her palm to her forehead and scar. It ached and she stiffened, visions passing through her mind at an alarming pace.
“Lady? We couldn’t wake you up,” Sigorn said, his eyes narrowed in worry. “Dalla was going to throw a canteen of water on you but I stopped her.”
Hari let out a strangled laugh, rubbing her scar a little more before sighing. There was so much information in her mind now, the history of House Targaryen starting with King Aegon I Targaryen and ending with the current king, Aerys II Targaryen. King Aerys II Targaryen was the 17th member of House Targaryen to sit the Iron Throne, which Hari blinked at as an image of the throne came to mind. The huge, iron monstrosity rose up in the middle of the throne room in King’s Landing, the swords of fallen enemies melted down by Balerion, the dragon of the first king.
“Fuck. That’s a lot…” Hari trailed off, reaching for her water and taking a big sip.
“You…” Dalla trailed off, her blue eyes wide. “You spoke with the three-eyed raven, didn’t you? What happened?”
Hari sat up and stretched, hearing her bones creak. “I did. The three-eyed raven did something to you two, to make you sleep until we were done. I’m sorry.”
Sigorn’s eyes widened and his skin went pale. “He magicked us?”
“Don’t worry. I can’t sense anything else to the spell, the spell that’s already gone,” Hari explained, peering over to the teenage boy in front of her. She shook her head at the thought. “They didn’t mean any harm though.”
“What did it want?”
“It… He wanted me to train others of his kind when he’s gone,” Hari offered, looking to Dalla. “Are there any greenseers right now, in camp?”
“No. There are the wargs and the skinchangers but no greenseers.”
Hari nodded. “Well. We should get back. I would hope that all the folk are at camp now. Has anyone gone to Hardhome to check if there’s anyone there?”
Sigorn’s nose wrinkled and he spat onto the snow. “No one lives in Hardhome. Not anymore.”
“The Screaming Caves are near Hardhome,” Dalla whispered, standing up as Hari did. “No one ever goes near there.”
“Alright. Let’s go back to the Fist then. I think it’s time to unveil ourselves officially.”
“Cotter shouldn’t have spoken to you like that,” Arthur muttered, as they rode towards Castle Black the next morning. “You’re a Prince of Westeros, not just a black brother or one of the smallfolk.”
“Life is hard in the north,” Rhaegar offered, tugging his red cloak around himself tighter. He didn’t get as cold as the others did, as they found out on the ship ride over. It was cold, cloudy and sprinkling rain right now and he wasn’t shivering, like Arthur was. Mayhaps it was a Targaryen thing. “The Stark words are winter is coming after all.”
“None of us are Starks though. And why aren’t you shivering?” Arthur questioned, drawing up evenly with him.
Oswell glanced to Rhaegar and Arthur from Rhaegar’s other side, raising an eyebrow. “It’s the fever. He’d have to have one to not be shivering. Besides, we’re going to possibly see a dragon and mayhaps run into the Queen Beyond the Wall. We’d have to be foolish to do that.”
Rhaegar snorted as they passed by yet another unoccupied castle of the Night’s Watch. The Watch had a total of 19 castles and only 3 were used as of now, Castle Black, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and the Shadow Tower. “Did you two see how few men the Watch had? Their numbers are dwindling.”
“Aye. I know Lord Stark occasionally comes down to fetch the people in the dungeons for Watch,” Oswell said, shrugging. “I didn’t know it was that bad though.”
“My Queen!” Tormund shouted, a wide smile on his face as he saw them ride in. Karsi and Val stood next to him, a bag held in Val’s hands. It had been another week of travel between the cave of the Three Eyed Raven and back to the Fist of the First Men and they’d seen quite a few groups of crows during their trip. It had seemed like the men of the Night’s Watch were looking for them and coming up with nothing, just the way Hari had liked it.
Hari rolled her eyes at his energy and pulled her mare to a stop and dismounted. “What did you get up to now?”
“Nothing, lady! Nothing!”
Hari stared at Tormund then sighed. “Is it about that speech I said I’d give?”
“Aye. Everyone’s wanting to know what their Queen plans to do to get us south of the Wall.”
Hari glanced up at the evening sky, seeing the northern lights flicker in the sky. She had never seen northern lights before coming to Westeros and these lands and now… She loved them for their beauty. The moon had already risen in the sky amongst the stars that were slowly flickering to life. It was a cloudless night, a cold one, like every other night.
“Tomorrow. I’ll talk tomorrow. I promised the children I’d tell more of my story when I came back.”
Karsi smiled and looked to Val. “We found something, lady.”
“I thought you might like to see this,” Val said, offering the bag over to her. “And later, you can tell us what happened with the three-eyed raven.”
Hari dipped her head in a nod, handing the reins of her horse over to one of the younger girls that she recognized from Craster’s Keep. The girl nodded to her and took her horse away, over to a pen that had been hastily put up to corral horses and goats and other livestock. A giant and his mammoth sat on the other side of the pen and Hari took in their size, wondering just how her folk would behave south of the Wall.
The seeming download of memories of the past from the Three-Eyed Raven told her of the houses of Westeros a little and the land even less. She hoped it was warmer south of the Wall at least and then peered down at the bag that Val handed to her, her eyes widening. “Obsidian. Where’d you find it?”
“We call it dragonglass,” Tormund offered.
“We found it over there,” Val explained, pointing to a section of the ruins. “In the legends of the Long Night, dragonglass was used to kill the Others. I don’t know if… it’s true but the children of the forest used to give the black brothers hundreds of dragonglass weapons each year.”
“I’ll keep this safe then. Did you take a spearhead for yourselves?”
Val shook her head, looking at Dalla before shrugging. “No.”
Hari walked to the perimeter of the village of free folk, standing right before her tent and breathed in the scent of snow, of ice, of horses and other livestock and humans. With each shift into her dragon form, she had realized that she could smell more, could hear more, could stay awake longer and she didn’t know what it meant. Perhaps it was the magic of this world. Perhaps it was nothing. But it still worried her a little.
She shrugged idly, ran a hand through her hair and then called the wards back in. Her magic eagerly unspooled from the warding and came back into her outstretched palm like children racing back to their mother. Hari sighed and looked out over the almost village and then ventured into her tent, stopping at the tent door at the sight that awaited her.
There must have been 30 plus children sitting in the main room of the tent, 30 girls and boys who all yelled excitedly when she stepped in. Karsi and Val stood in the corner and grinned at her too. Hari smiled and walked in, the children moving aside to give her room to sit at the front.
“They want to know more about their queen,” Karsi whispered. “The number by day while you were gone.”
“Do you want children of your own, Karsi?” Hari questioned quietly, smiling and nodding to the girls in front.
“Some day, aye. I’ll steal myself a man but for now, I like your company and Val,” Karsi offered.
Hari raised an eyebrow but smiled and turned to look at the children. “I suppose I should start over then? Start over from the beginning? I see several new faces here.”
“Yes! Start over!”
“I want to learn to be a dragon!”
Hari laughed, shaking her head and pulling her hair down in front of her to start braiding it together. “I’m afraid that it’s not a thing you can learn, sweetling. I was born with this magic. Though… You have your own kind of magic. Skinchanging and warging and greenseeing. Those are all lovely kinds of magic.”
“You have to be born with those,” a boy said, frowning. “Orell and Briar said so.”
“Warging is something I can’t do so we each have our own talents,” Hari offered, grinning a little. “Briar can warg into her shadowcat’s mind and run with her. I can’t do that. Nor can I use a sword and many of you can already.”
Most of the children laughed and a few of the familiar faces grinned at her words.
“Alright. Story time then. When I was 11 years old--”
“Ten and one,” a girl whispered to another. “She means ten and one years old.”
Hari smiled. “Yes, that’s what I mean. When I was 11, or ten and 1, years old, I received a letter…”
By the time she was halfway through telling the tale of her first year, Tormund and Styr ran into her tent, breathing heavily, with their sword and axe drawn.
“Lady, we captured some strange folk,” Styr said, his voice drawn and wary. “Three men and they ain’t crows.”
Hari’s eyes narrowed and all the children stood up as Hari stepped around them. “Alright, story time’s over. Go back to your mothers.”
“Ahhhh, I wanted to hear about the dark lord.”
“I wanted to hear about the time you tricked that professor!”
“The youngest man has been kissed by snow and says he’s a prince.”
Hari blinked as she helped the children up and out of her tent, watching them go. “A prince? Kissed by snow, you say? That sounds rather… He’s a Targaryen.”
“Aye. That’s what he said.”
“Where were they?”
“Briar found them through her cat, trying to move around us. They say they’re after the dragon.”
Hari laughed out loud, causing Tormund to grin at her. “Well, let’s go meet this man who’s been kissed by snow.”