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Dragonhearts

Chapter Text

-James & Alec-

The Knights stood looking over the body of the bright dragon. It was a reddish/brown and cream. When it had been alive it was one of the most unique; arms with integrated wings and a separate set of wings on the back. Now it was pinned to the ground by those wings like it was a butterfly specimen. The four wings, tail and head made a six points star. Held in place by ragged soot blackened pikes decorated with crude dragon motif.  

The knight in blue armour approached the shoulder and looked underneath the body. The wide and strong protective heart scale had been lifted up and another pike pierced the thin skin and the heart beneath.

“We are the last.” The knight in the red armour said. “I will search for Severine.”

“I will track Silva.” The blue knight answered.

Clasping each other's right forearm and hugging with the left, the knight brushed cheeks before separating. Both mounted their horses. The red knight’s horse reared then headed for the eastern sea. The blue knight headed in the direction of the dragon slayers tracks and hopefully to the knight who had corrupted their order like a plague.

--

The round faced man with short cropped brown/grey hair looked down the valley nestled in his lands.  By the lake was his home, the basic rectangular shape of the small keep on top of a rock with the village at its foot and a wooden fence encircling it. The surrounding high mountains with their peaks pierced the clouds. It was always bleak on his lands, even in the height of summer.

Arriving in the village, people cleared a path for him. Dismounting, a squire took his horse to the stables. The round faced man ran up the steps to the keep, and through the small door that entered into a hall. His wife took one look from the high balcony and was running to his side. “André?” she called, the thick accent from of a land across the sea and the almost white hair and crystal blue eyes confirmed she was not native to these lands. Here blue eyes tended to be darker and hair ranged from red to black and hardly ever blond.

While she moved to undo the belts around his dull grey armour, Andrew said, “The King. He is . . . I dare not say the word. He burnt the captain of the city watch. Disinherited the crown prince.” Down to the padded surcoat, Monique guided him to the high and ornately carved chair by the open fire at the side of the hall.

As the silence stretched on Monique asked, “Can Jacques not help?”

Andrew smiled, like his own name, Monique never called their son by the local pronunciation always the version used in her own language. Nodding, “It is already done. Perhaps they can end the madness. I will try not to offend the King but I will never head his summons again. And for once that honourable fool of our lord, Rickard agrees with me.”

Andrew sighed as he was given a bowl of stew and a tankard of ale. “The King approved the betrothal of the second son and the city's most famous whore.”

Giving a calculating smile, Monique mused, “My husband wouldn't know gossip from bird song. So how does he know the most famous whore in the capital?”

Andrew snorted. “A few years ago now, Prince Sherlock's birthday tournament. I was lonely and far from home. And like the capital itself, 'The Woman' is a sight a man should see once in his lifetime. Brandon even got the chaste Eddard to partake.”

Not offended by her husband's conduct. It was a fool who though that a husband and wife could go for months or years without seeing each other and always remain chaste. Concubines and mistresses were common in the courts of her old home where marriages were politically based and had little to do with love or even affection. Their agreement had been no bastards and no emotion, and she would never hold it against her husband. “I hope you didn't leave her with anything?” Monique mused.

Andrew looked into the fire, wondering how best to phrase the response. Finally settling on, “If my lady understands. That particular chalice has never been drunk from. But to be queen, she might let the new crown prince sip from it.”

Monique raised an eyebrow. A whore who was still a virgin. A deep dark part of her mind was contemplating what The Woman could offer to gain the reputation without giving up her chastity.

“SIR ANDREW?” The old Master at Arms shouted coming into the hall. Behind him was a broad, amour clad knight. A deep gouge scaring over the heart of the deep burgundy enamelled breastplate. His dark eyes wide and slightly panicked and his strange pale hair was wild and dishevelled.

Standing, Andrew looked at the man. “You are a brother of my son's order, are you not? Sir Silva?”

The knight nodded. “I am and there was no other I could turn to” Silva said. “I am being pursued, I have no horse. I am outnumbered twenty to one at last count. They scour the land for my tracks as I speak, perhaps I precede them by only a day.”

“You will have all we can spare.” Andrew said. He approached to offer his hand to the knight whom even the King had no power over and secretly hoped he could pull the man to heel for his conduct. As the two grasped forearms, Andrew's eyes caught the movement, but it was too late. In the Knight's hand was a short dagger and Silva thrusted into Andrew's neck.

Kincade drew his sword. Silva grasped the hilt and slashed the old man's neck. A narrow blade pierced Silva, from back to front. Laughing Silva tuned, the sword still sticking through him.

With the sword from the wall having failed her, Monique lifted a long and heavy candlestick. Swinging the heavy base, the knight's arm took the blow. She backed up until the wall touched her back. The Knight's dark eyes fixed on her. The point of the blade going through Silva touched her bodice. As Silva took another step the sword pierced the forest green dress and the woman screamed. With bodies flush, the one sword piercing both. Silva held the older woman as she showed the same resolve as her son. With her fading strength she tried to gouge Silva's eyes and scratch his face.

Separating, the woman's body fell. Grasping the blade going through him, Silva pushed it in. Then he reached around and pulled it out of his back. Savouring and relishing in the blinding pain. When the sword was removed, Silva prepared, placing a poker in the fire and pulling the items he would need from his satchel and positioning the father and mother.

Crouched down. Using the sharp dagger he slit the bodice of the blood stain dress. Bringing the blade between the mounds of the breasts, he dug in the point carefully peeling the skin and muscle back. Between the bones, Silva touched the thing he truly wanted. Breaking the ribs, he was careful as he extracted the heart. He then did the same for the father. Finally he used a stitch to hold the wounds closed then used the glowing poker to melt the flesh so it looked like his scar rather than an incision.

Coming out of the hall, Silva smiled at an old woman cowering. “I will be watching. Do not disturb my work and give the regards of Sir Silva to Sir James. He should be about a day.” He moved out the small door and saw his men setting fire to the village and massacring the men, wherever possible with stabs to the heart.  

Seeing a pen with hunting dogs Silva tossed in the hearts as it was the bodies that were the message.

--

James stood ridged with his arms crossed over his chest. He was perfectly at home between the massive shoulder blades of the creature. In the armour of sapphire blue, almost identical the scales of the dragon who allowed him to ride her, he was beyond skilled. He, like other members of his order, could fight from any point or position on the huge creature's back. Bond was grateful for the dragon Saphira. She too was hunting the disgraced knight. The murderer of dragons and the ‘Knights of the Old Code’. With her help, tracking the dishonoured knight had quickened. Together, James and Saphira would be far more formidable, each compensating for the weaknesses of the other so Silva and his Dragon slayers wouldn't be so successful.

From the bright sun above him they dropped below the clouds and into a valley. A familiar valley. James' stance broke, he dropped his crossed arms as the mountains he had climbed as a small boy passed them either side. Over the lake he had swum and almost drowned in. Taking a step forward and bending his knee, so he remained upright as the dragon pitched up before landing. Climbing down from between her shoulders. The creature towered above him.

Entering the remains of his old home. There was no one there. The village was abandoned and burned. The hunting dogs were turning on themselves and tearing each other to pieces in their hunger. Climbing the steps to the small arched door, he entered the keep. The smell of death hit him. Seeing the three bodies by the open fire place. The Master at Arms, who had trained him every day when his father couldn't was face down amid a pool of rancid blood.

James dared not approach the two bodies laid out side by side, but he had to. Crouching down between his parents. His mother's dress ripped down the front. Rage bubbled up then saw the line between breasts. Ripping his eyes away from her he turned to his father and saw an identical wound in the centre of his chest. A message. One person carried the same scare that was inflicted on his parents. James roared.

Breathing deep hate, rage filled his chest. Standing, James ran. In the kitchen he found the small wooden barrels. Cracking one open James doused the hall in oil. With rage and a contorted face, James focused on the torch as he sparked a flint. Going to the tapestries he set them alight. He stood and watched the wave of orange and red begin to dance over the walls and beams. A pale blue preceded where he had spilled the oil. He watched the three bodies take light.

James was still watching when, soft and commanding a voice filled the air with a weight that made it fell like it was in his head too, “James.”

James came out of the keep as the flame took hold. On the raised stone of the Keep, James was the same height as the dragon watching him. The long face with gold horns looked at him. James demanding, “Take me to...”

“I shall not. You need to grieve.” The dragon said.

“I NEED TO KILL SILVA.”

“You act as he desires. If you follow this path it will be to your suicide.”

James stormed down the steps. The dragon's footsteps making the ground shake as she followed. “You break your oath, Knight of the old Code. What's more if you act in anger, YOU WILL DIE and Sir Silva's evil will survive.”

James refused to listen as he marched on. The dragon fell behind but her pleading voice floated on the wind as he crossed the moors.

A roaring scream split the evening air. James was running back. He knew he was too far. The fire had engulfed the keep but a stream of orange and yellow light going up into the air could only have come from the dragon.

Getting closer, Bond could see men in a soot darkened armour with ragged pikes had surrounded the dragon. James shouted but they were focused and wouldn't be distracted by the lumbering knight too far away to interfere. One long and dark blue wing was pinned to the ground, a thick pike going through it. Another pike going through the tail. With a rope caught around a foot and a yank they pulled the front leg out from under Saphira.

Ropes went round her neck and pulled the head away from protecting her chest. James screamed and shouted as he ran. He watched in horror as the plate in front of the breast bone was lifted and a spear piercing the delicate blue skin and Saphira went still and lax against the ground.

When he reached the dragon hunters James was exhausted. A huge man easily subdued Bond with a single mace blow. The weapon denting the knight’s breast plate and shattering the blue enamel. Trying to lift himself up, a foot landed on his hand that held his sword. “Sir Silva invites you to join him. If you can find him.”

They tied him over the back of a horse. A blindfold made sure he would be disorientated. Then with a crack the horse reared and was running.

--

Across the seas and the foreign lands. The youngest knight of the old code stood on the prow of a small sailing ship. His bright red enamelled armour looked like glass. The strange language, fast and low, made him glance at the strange sailors. He was further east and south than he ever thought to exist. The locals had the darkest skin he had ever seen. He tore his eyes from the sight of the luscious onyx over tight defined muscles. Subtly, he adjusted his codpiece to alleviate the pressure then felt a sense of guilt and betrayal at his own arousal.

Watching the mountainous island get closer. The crystal blue of the sky and sea reminding him of his friend back home. Worry for his brother at arms washed over him. Pulling from behind the long cuff of his gauntlet a rolled up piece of waxed paper, rereading message from his father, giving news of what had been found at Skyfall.

The once beautiful white fortress on the nearest mountain crumbled before his eyes as it came into view. The moment they touched the pristine white beach, Alec was being ushered off. Then one sailor jumped into the surf with him and put his shoulder to the boat to push it off the sand. By the time Alec was out of the rolling waves the boat was again in full sail and heading away as fast as the men could achieve it.

The old fortress was more like a city of white marble. Now broken and crumbling. Looking up at the pillars supporting a broken roof, white dust rained down. Vines and vegetation were reclaiming the ruin. A flock of small birds flitted from one side of the street to the other. Then a scent caught Alec's nose, rotten eggs.

Coming to what would have been an amphitheatre, he climbed down into the oval arena. In the shadow of an arched and deep area, where the gladiators or animals would have been held before their bouts. Her face was very long and narrow with black horns; and her scales were a deep burgundy. The eyes were closed but there was no way she wouldn't have heard him.

“Leave me be.” The dragon pleaded and tucked herself into a tight ball.

“I saw the body of Cloudjumper before I left. My father sends word, the body of Saphira was found. Her heart pierced. Sir James in gone. His parents were murdered by a man who cut out their hearts.”

“Go” the Dragon whined and pulled herself as tight as possible.

“The realm is a disaster. King and prince fight for the throne. As far as I know you are the last High Dragon and I the last Knight of the Old Code.” Alec was flung away by the sweep of a wing.

Her wings and front legs were a single appendage. The narrow head, the long neck sweeping down so it was at Alec's eye level.

“None! There is nothing left of the broken order.”

“Then let us die in honour not what Silva will leave it in.” Alec begged.

The black eyes closed. The Dragon bowed her head. Using wing and back legs the dragon moved forward.

“There will be no honour. But I will help you end it.” Severine said.

Alec climbed onto her neck. Severine climbed the buildings. Only on the roofs did she launch off, quickly spreading her massive dark red wings to glide over the city and down the mountain. Alec watched as they easily overtook the sail boat that had brought him to the island.

--

In a cave, high up in the Crown Mountains, the northern most border to the kingdom, Alec tried to savour any heat from the fire. The thick furs he wore felt like they were doing nothing. The one hope now, Sir Silva would pull the same trick with him that he did with James. The bulk of the dragon stopped most of the snow coming in and from her position she could see his old home.

There was a shuddering breath from the dragon, “Sir James.”

Alec was up and pushed out of the cave. The snow so thick it was impossible to see his hand in front of his face, let alone all the miles Severine could.

“If we go and Silva is watching he will know it's a trap.” Severine warned. Her long neck turned in a U, to look at the man beside her. “But where Sir James is concerned wisdom was never your forte.”

Alec climbed up on to her and the large dragon launched off. Circling the old castle of his home, Alec smiled. The large walled garden, the towers and the broken and built up levels making it a little lopsided. He could almost feel the warm walls with the hot spring water running through them and the baths. The hot spring the reason it was able to survive so far north.

“Silva is there.” Severine called.  Only as they drew close, could Alec see them. Silva was on the high curtain wall. Standing against him, James and to Alec's horror his older brother, Ned. Ned had taken up their father's sword, but there was no sign of his father, or brothers, Brandon and Benjen. Both of whom were older than both Ned and himself. As Ned swung the huge sword, James stabbed for the weaker mail under Silva's armpit.  

Severine screamed and fell before catching herself. They landed on the edge of the forest far from Winterfell. “We need to get back.” Alec shouted.

“No” Severine said softly. Using the thumb claw she lifted her breast plate, showing the scar, the mark of her sin, her shame and her foolishness. “As long as I live, Sir Silva's evil will never die. It is time. End it Knight of the Old Code”

“We can capture Silva. Hold him. You are the last...”

“In the name of all that is good, STRIKE!”

The weight of his sword felt so heavy in his hand. Alec wanted to drop it. “But . . .”

“STRIKE! Please.”

On the grey wall of the castle Silva laughed. The long blade of the brand new Lord of Winterfell went through his stomach. Silva punched the brother that had been born with no humour in him, less so since he saw his father and brothers die moments before.

Silva deflected the swing from James. As he hoped, the best swordsman was blinded by rage. Swinging wildly. Not a shadow of his former self.

James vented his rage on Silva, still with Ned's long claymore type blade sticking through him. James' Norman one handed long sword beat down on Silva's hand-and-a-half sword. Silva laughed. James' eyes blurred and vision narrowed onto the man in front of him. He was tiring, with what felt like his last, James lifted his sword. Before he could strike Silva's face went blank and his whole body jerked. He fell from the ramparts, Ned's sword still in him.

James looked down on the body. A memory of a dark red dragon surfacing. Looking up and round, in the distance on the edge of the forest a dark red dragon was lying down, one long wing lying flat on the ground; the other sticking up at an unnatural angle.

“No” James breathed. He ran passed Ned picking himself up. Through the ward where men were still fighting and out. Across the fields and over streams, James ran. The Dragon appeared far bigger as he approached. A man was curled up against the tree and James instantly understood why.

James dropped his sword as he approached the man; his brother in arms. The face was hidden and James could understand why. Leaning against the tree, James lay his gauntlet covered hand on the shoulder of the huddled man.

“You killed it” Ned accused.

Alec surged up, showing his red rimmed eyes and tear stained cheek. He barrelled into his ignorant older brother. He beat the man's face until he was yanked off but still tried to fight.

“Oath breaker” Ned accused. The Master at Arms, hauling him to his feet and tried the get his lord to remain quiet.

James threw Alec behind him and launched at the lord himself. The young lord only saw in black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. When the Master at Arms pulled James off, Alec's bother had a clearly broken nose and his face was swollen.

A clunky noise made James look behind him. Alec was stripping out of his enamelled armour. And in that moment James agreed. Looking down at his own enamelled armour, the blue glass almost gone. He unbuckled his belt from around the middle and lifted the torso over his head. There were no other high dragons, and with the death of the last, the Knight of the Old Code were dead too. Unarmed, down to the padded underlay Alec and James walked away.

Ned shouted after them. “Turning your back on your duty. Breaking the solemn oath of the Old Code. Murderer of dragons. As Lord of the North I condemn you to death.” The master at Arms trying to calm him.

-Naming day, Quilan's 1st year-

Within the great cathedral of white marble, a series of high narrow windows in an arch shape on the back wall were spilling shafts of coloured light across the amassed congregation. At the alter a man in long flowing robes stood beside a tall lean man with wild hair sticking out from under the thee pointed crown. Beside the king, stood his wife. She was a good several years older than her husband. Very beautiful with dark hair and a lace dress in deep crimson, she wore a small gold coronet. Her green eyes looked quite bored by the event to celebrate the birth of her child. In her arms, dressed in long white lace gown, was the baby; already with tufts of dark hair and wide green eyes.

The arched oak doors were flung wide. From smallest to the tallest three old women came in. They were of a similarity, hard yet kindly faced. The first was smallest and very lean with grey streaks in her black hair. She wore a gown of violet, and a high pointed hat held on with a scarf. In her hand was a long wand with sparkling violet tip. The second was short and a little round, in white dress and without a hat. She carried a short staff of silver with an eight pointed star. The final was dressed in black, like the first she wore a wide brimmed pointed hat with silver hair coming out from beneath. Like the second, she had a staff of almost black glass with rounded top.

The three woman stood in a line before the alter. The Queen stepped forward to join them. Before the ceremony could commence though, the light through the stain glass windows dimmed, the candles snuffed out and the doors at the end of the nave banged and rattled. In a hail of splinters, the doors shattered.

The man standing between the ruined doors was long and gangly. He held himself slightly slouched and stooping. “Do excuse me, my invite must have gotten a little lost”

The King shouted, “Your King, our father banished you, begone!”

As he started to walk down the aisle, the new arrival said, “Brother, brother, brother, I AM THE KING, FOOL!”

“Guards!” the king bellowed. With a wave of the intruder's hand, the approaching guards slowed and turned grey as they froze into stone statues.

The tallest of the three women stepped forward, glaring at the intruder. Banging down the glass staff, the guards returned to normal. Her soft voice was contrary to her show of anger and aggression. “This is not the way. Please go.”

The man gave a nasty smile, his blue eyes seeming to glint.

“Stop!” the three women commanded in unison.

“Unto my nephew, I give a gift. May he know all that has happened. May a lesson not learned be repeated!” Then like a shadow he faded and light returned to the cathedral.

“Was that a true gift?” the king demanded.

The three women huddled. Coming to the conclusion that magic had been spilt with the exile's words; they judged a gift had been bestowed on the prince on his naming day. Debating the nature of the gift, keeping their speculation to themselves, they told King that a gift had been given. The King demanded, “Take back the gift.”

The tallest said, “A gift given can never be taken back. It is now woven into his fate. To pull the thread could unravel then all.”

A blond man beside the king took a liming step forward, “He will turn evil?”

The black fairy answered, “Despite your beliefs, the exile is not now or has he ever been evil. He is hurting so much he lets his heart grow cold rather than face the pain he carries.”

While the black fairy spoke, the white fairy stepped towards the baby who was sleeping soundly, oblivious to all going on around him. She smiled down on him and brushed the dark curly hair. Whispering, “There are others that let their hearts go cold rather than face the pain.” She then looked to the king raising her voice so all could hear, “There is something that can be done.”

“DO IT” the king roared.

The three women raised an eyebrow at him. The king squirmed under their glare. Then the three went into a huddle. “What are you planning? You are always too manipulative” the Black fairy said to the white.

“I see an opportunity to right many wrongs with one good king.” The white fairy said.

The Violet Fairy verging on a flap asked, “Oooh! Why can't we guide him to be an artist? One who can see truth and love?”

The white fairy snapped, “Not a time for wishy-washy notions. We need nobility, compassion, and more gifts than we can bestow, but we will do what we can.”

“You take the lead with the prince?” The black fairy asked and the white nodded.

Breaking the small huddle. The first and smallest of the women stepped forward. Raising her wand, and cast a violet light on the baby's face. Glancing at the two other fairies then back to the baby, she whispered, “A gift of truth. You will know yourself before all others.”

The tallest stepped forward, she held her staff aloft but there was no other sign of the magic she was spilling. “A gift of self. No matter the cruelty you see, you will never learn a lesson from it.”

Finally the middle woman stepped forward. She again brushed the dark curls. The big green eyes open and she spoke, “A gift of Love. You will draw those like you to you, they shall be your shields, and they shall be your swords. They shall be the protectors of you and all you that you stand for. ” With a final brush to the dark locks she stood back.

Then as one, the three women glowered at the king until he was visibly squirming. As one they spoke a word or phrase each, jumping at random from woman to woman. “This advice -you must take to heart -for his future -is in your hands. He is -who he is -meant to be. Heed -our -words” then all together, “And evil will never have a hold over him.”

The King smiled a little, but was put out over the theatrics. Going to the queen holding his son, the King called out, “Our son. The Crown Prince Quilan.”

-12 years later-

Through the sprawling coastal city, built predominantly of yellowish stone, the boy in a green surcoat and his father dressed in dark blue, moved. They rode under the high main gate into the palace square. The area was dominated by two sandstone halls with stain glass, high arches and spires. The cathedral and throne room had their main doors looking at each other; the church and the crown being the two dominating forces of most people’s lives. The boy and the man moved through the smaller gate at the back of the square into the spacious wards of the palace. The palace more like a fort with separate buildings within the walls. The wards were more like streets and squares of a city.

Coming to the stables, the king dismounted, handing the reins to a stable boy and taking the bow from his back and the pheasants from his saddle. His steel blue eyes landing his son, about to do the work of a servant and see to his own horse. The man shook his head, the dark and slightly curly hair bouncing vaguely. With an annoyed huff he headed for the apartments, leaving his son to his brush and grooming.

The moment he saw his father turn the corner the prince spat on his fingers and scrubbed his brow marked with blood from his first kill. Wanting the mark of the barbarism off of him. Dismissing the groom he led his horse into the stables himself. Raking his fingers through his long a dark wavy hair to push it off his hazel green eyes.
 
“Young, Q” Boothroyd greeted. He was in functional thick fabric trousers and coat. Q nodded and welcomed the stable master. The old man having taught him how to groom the horse himself.

They talked as Q brushed down the chestnut coat. When he finished Q led his horse round to its stall. Coming out and closing the door, a noise caught Q's attention. Following it to the end of the stalls he peeked into the last one.

One of the squires was at the back of the empty space, his hands on the wall and bare legs wide and his manhood standing up. Another squire was behind him. Q caught glimpses of the rippling muscles in the older squire's legs and arse as he thrust into the younger boy.

Q bit his lip, his eyes wide. The boy against the wall gasp and threw his head back his long auburn hair flying with the move. He leaned against the wall and continued to give gasps and shudder, his manhood spraying the wall. Q felt himself trembling with the adrenalin and excitement that his father had insisted he should feel when on the hunt. The other boy held the smaller one up against the wall and rutted until he to threw his head back and gasped.

A hand came round Q's mouth and he was pulled away from the stall. He was turned and came face to face with the stable master. The old and almost bald man said, “Best not interrupt the young stallions”

Q nodded and the Stable master let go. Starting to pull him along the row of stalls. As they moved, the image continued to play in his mind. “What were they doing?” he asked with a curious frown on his face.

The old man squirmed and rubbed the back of his neck. Continuing to walk them back out into the yard. “The thing is lad, some boys like girls, some boys like boys. And those two boys really like each other.”

Q was still very confused. Then a hand landed on Q's shoulder and he was stopped. The Stable Master crouched down. His face was sterner than Q had ever seen it before. “What you saw, was it wrong?” The stable master asked.

Shaking his head, “I don't think so. They weren't hurting each other.”

Boothroyd smiled and nodded. “Right you are lad. Very right. But there are others who say what they were doing is wrong, evil perhaps, a perversion.”

Q frowned in concern. Over Boothroyd's shoulder he saw the two older boys coming out of the stable block, back in the tabards and breeches, as handsome and well turned out as any of the other potential knights in training. Boothroyd glanced at them and back to the young prince. “There are people who would hurt them if they found out.”

Q was horrified and worried for the two boys. “I won't say anything.”

Boothroyd smiled, showing his missing teeth and sent Q back to wash up.

--

No matter what he did, Q could not get the image out of his mind. How people thought the two boys together was wrong he could not understand. Lying awake, thinking about it, sleep still wouldn't come. The two boys, they were right not wrong, Q's mind kept saying.

Come the morning, he breakfasted with his mother and father. The room was full, with knights and lords coming and going. All giving a bow at the main doors before entering or leaving. When Q stood his mother called, “Where are you going so quickly?”

Q looked at his mother. She had dark brown hair and wearing a golden dress, with a deep plunging neckline. A pendant with an emerald almost as big as his fist dangled between her breasts. Q noticed his father was also watching him, the crown ever present and his steel grey eyes scanning him.

“I wish to go to the library before my lessons.”

“You spend too much time inside. It makes a man soft” the king said and got a few chuckles from the court nobility. All except the bear of the Master at Arms who said, “The others would prefer the Prince to be softer. Can't wield a broad sword or use his fist, but give him anything else and he can match someone 2 years his senior”

The King gave a tight smile. Q being little more than long legs and thin arms with a large head and big ears. Not like some of the proud specimens the other lords had produced that were of the same age. As if reading the king, The Master at Arms said, “Perhaps the king would like to see how his son does?”

“I will do just that” the King said and Q was finally able to escape the room.

Finding the library. The old man in charge was not yet up. Q wondered if he died as he browsed the tomes. The Librarian looked like he could keel over in a gentle breeze.

The library was a long room with a wide central aisle and the shelves coming off it. At the back was a dark room barred by heavy iron gates and secured by chains. The books within forbidden to most; some even the king wasn't allowed to see.

Turning down a row. A boy sat at the table in the middle, reading in the morning light. His blond wavy hair shining in the sunshine streaming in the window. Q couldn't make out the crest on the front of the tabard. Fixing his eyes on the shelve Q found the empty place the book was meant to be in. “Bother!”

“Excuse me?”

Q turned round as the boy about his own 12 years old age, looked up. He wore a tabard of red and black. Q could now see the shield embroidered on the chest with the six black anvils of the Six Smiths. But it was the dark blue eyes that stole Q's breath for a moment.  “Hi. I was just looking for the works on the siege of Troy. You're new to the palace, aren't you?”

“Oh, you can have it and yes my father sent me. I arrived yesterday” the boy said and indicated he was reading the same book Q was looking for. He pushed the book to the side

Q hesitated, he remember a passage about Achilles and wanted to refresh his memory but the Stable Master's warning was ringing in his ears. “No it's alright, I just wanted to check something, thanks.”

“Have you read it?” When Q confirmed he had, the boy bit his lip and hesitantly asked, “Is it true Achilles and Patroclus were lovers?”

Q blushed and glanced at the blue eyes of the other boy. “I think so.” Coming to sit beside the other boy, he then found the passage he had wanted to check. Achilles lamenting 'Does it mean nothing to you, the unblemished thighs I worshipped and the showers of kisses you had from me?'

“Hi, I'm Rufus” the boy said and offered his hand.

Taking the hand, Q felt the warmth and strength in the fingers. “Quilan, Q if my father isn't around.”

Rufus' mouth dropped and nodded, the crown prince in front of him and rather pleasant. The two continued to talk softly. Rufus telling Q about his home on the west and a little north. How his father had built it up. How its universities were gaining the same standing for the learning of the Wizards and the Librarians. Q talked about the palace and the people. He spoke of the Stable Master and the librarian. Rufus knowing both and accepted Q's judgement. “The Master at Arms is a good man as is Nemo.”

Rufus shook his head. “They don't like me” he insisted. Q frowned it wasn't the first time he had heard it, but the men had always been good to him. Q went on to give a warning about some, his father's spies, the ‘Whisperers’. Some of the palace guards too.

A shuffling announced the arrival of the man in charge of the building. The Librarians were like the Wizards. They belonged to an order that protected the knowledge of man and the network of pigeons that spanned the kingdom and beyond. The man came round, his form stooping and his long white beard hung down to his belt. He gave a nodding bow.

“Rufus, and Q, you are going to be late boys” he chastised in a rough and deep voice.

Rufus jumped up in a panic. The Librarian shooed him out when he rushed putting the books back. Q chuckled and grabbed the other boy's hand to slow him. “We will walk together.” Q said commanded and Rufus took the order of his prince. Neither noticing the Librarian's hawk eyed gaze fall on the clasped hands.

As they came out of the library built so like a church. But where a church would have a bell tower, the library had its rookery. Already pigeons were arriving from all regions, to land on the flared room atop of the narrow tower.

Reluctantly Q released the other boy's hand as they moved through the network of stone buildings and courtyards.

Rufus rounded the corner, into the ward a stride ahead of Q. He froze at a roaring voice taunting.

“The little lordling has deemed to grace us with his presence.” And laughter went up. Q stepped out from behind Rufus and saw the Master at Arms close his mouth before he said more.

Then the barrel of a man said. “Your Highness. A new friend?” When Q nodded the man smiled. “Well you can be his first partner.”

Q looked at the boy beside him. Whispering, “Have you ever held a sword?”

“When I was taught how to make them.” Was the quiet answer.

Q gave a warning. He wouldn't go easy but wouldn't look to hurt Rufus. Going to the armoury, a room off the training ward, Q found his training sword. He watch Rufus pick one for himself. “Don't look so worried.” Q reassured.

Q stood in the centre of the high walled training ward. Boiled leather covered his torso, thighs and arms. His hands in thick gloves. In his right hand, was a training weapon made for him. A curving wooden sword to mimic his favourite scimitar.

Opposed to Q was Rufus. Although the same age the boy was taller and more solid. He too was in the armour and had a wooden two handed broad sword.

Around them was the Master at Arms, the other trainer Nemo and the King along with a few knights and soldiers. Others looked down from a garden that over looked the ward. The Master at Arms commanded them, “Fight!”

Rufus hesitated a moment. Q went to slash across the other boys' stomach. The broad sword came down in an arc, Q spun out of its path and continued. Hitting Rufus' mid-section the boy fell down and Q slashed for his neck stopping just before the wooden sword made contact. There was snorts and laughter from the adults and squires around them at how Rufus flinched and cowered slightly. In that moment Q wanted to take them all on and make them flinch.

“Next. Loras and the prince” The Master at Arms bellowed.

Q froze a moment recognising the boy that was in the intimate embrace of the other squire. Unlike Rufus, Loras had a short one handed sword. The moment the order was given, he lunged, the point of his sword aimed for Q's stomach. Again Q showed his agility, dancing out of the way, shouldering the older boy and bringing his wooden sword to the neck. There was some polite clapping at both Q's victory and the better show for the audience.

The final boy in the bout was the older one he saw with Loras, Renly. The older boy must have been 17. Q felt nervous he had never faced someone so old before. Renly used a two handed long sword. Unlike Rufus, Loras or Q himself, he was developing a muscular body that would let him wield the weapon with ease.

Renly gave a wide arcing slashed. Q met the incoming blade, using his sword and its curve to guide the incoming force up and over him, if it were real sword it would have ruined the edge on his. He then slashed for Renly's neck, the other boy stepped into Q sending the smaller boy to the floor.

Rolling, Q missed the slashing blow aimed at him. Finding his feet, spinning his sword, he dropped down and gave a pivoting leg sweep. Renly landed hard and Q brought his sword down in an arcing blow. With a powerful swing Renly hit Q's side with his sword, and Q couldn't stop in time. He cracked Renly in the forehead full force.

“Renly!” Loras shouted as he rushed forward with the Master at Arms. Q picked himself up from the blow he saw the blood running down the dark haired boy's face and how still he was lying.

Guilt was clawing at him. A firm clap to Q's shoulder and he looked up to the approving face of his father. “Not so soft” he said with pleasure and walked off.

While Q watched on with horror, Rufus came up beside him. Putting a hand on his shoulder and walking him away.

Only as the soft rumbling voice of Nemo sounded in the room did Q become aware he was in the library, sitting beside Rufus. The man from the eastern land, dressed in the long blue surcoat and a white turban came round the shelves. His dark eyes looking over the two, his beard twitched as his cheeks raised. Q let out a gasp and Rufus smiled. Nemo said, “Renly will have a nice scare to show off.”

--

Tying a piece of string around his waist then the other end around Rufus', Q stepped back until it was taut. “The aim of this exercise is to match your opponent.” Q said. He then took a step back and Rufus fell in a heap.

When both were standing and the string taut again, Q took a step forward and the sting went lax. “Keep it tight. When I move you follow.” Q reminded. He then took a step to the side and a moment later so did Rufus. A step back unbalanced Rufus but he matched Q.

“Don't look at my feet, the feet are the last thing to move. First at my eyes, they are the first I need to see where I'm going. Next my body, I shift my weight before I move. Finally my feet.” Q advised and guided the other boy to keep his head and eyes up.  

After about an hour Rufus was smiling broadly and so was Q. They were beginning to move as one. A step back, and Rufus followed. A side step to the left, Rufus a side step to the right and they circled each other.

A deep barking order from the Master at Arms, “Enough dancing for today, boys. And I saw Renly moving about.”

Q thanked the man. Only after he tore his eyes from the sight of Rufus, did he see how much shadow the ward was in. Not yet dark enough to light the touches, but not far off. Rufus guided him to the dorm where the squires that had been sent far from home, slept.

Entering the dorms. Renly was swearing at Loras and a few others that were making fun of him. Batting the long haired squire away as he tried to inspect the wound. “How will I know if it a handsome scar if I can't see it?” Loras teased deflecting the arms trying to push him away.

“Your Highness” another squire said standing. Drawing everyone's attention to Q and Rufus.

Moving to the boy that was well over a head taller. “It was a thrilling match. I always fear people go easy on me.” Q said.

“I don't go easy on anyone, your highness. And it was a thrilling duel. I'm told I will have a scar, apparently the girls like scars.” Q's eyes flicked to the beautiful Loras when Renly mentioned girls. The older boy noticing and his green eyes widening and Renly became a little uncomfortable.

“Yes, girls. How do you think they feel about bruises?” Q then lifted his long shirt up and showed the bruise Renly's blade caused and flicked his eyes to Rufus.

Loras noticing how the young prince was very aware of his association with Renly. And that the Prince was casting eyes at the newest squire as he boasted about his bruise.

Loras smiled wide and approached to inspect the rather large bruise, but better than a narrow impact that would break ribs. Brushing the purple skin over the prominent ribs. “For as long as he can show off his battle wound, his Highness should tell the story. ‘I beat down a man twice my size’.” Renly made a grumble both at the exaggeration in size difference and that he lost to a 12 year old. Loras flicked his eyes to the new squire seeing how uncertain and bashful and scared he was. Fully aware that he was as beautiful as many a maid, Loras could see Rufus knew he couldn't compete with him.

Leaning in Loras whispered, “And always know whose attention you want.”

Q stepped back and beside Rufus. “So who came off better, me or Renly?” Q asked the quiet blond squire. “You” Rufus said.

“What about me?” Renly complained and Loras consoled him. And went back to try and pull the dressing off the older boy's forehead to see the state of the wound beneath.

Chapter Text

-Quilan 16 years-

The two boys sat huddled around a piece of parchment. Early morning in the library was the time for themselves. The Parchment was an old, painstakingly copied illustration of Achilles and Patroclus in a nude embrace. “Loras brought it from Highgarden.” Rufus said, their hands almost touching. When the blond turned, his nose brushed the cheek of the dark haired boy. With a mischievous smirk, Q turned to his friend and pressed their lips together. Rolling up the parchment along with a few others that Rufus brought. They were all of men, nude, in an embrace or alone.

Coming out of the library they headed for the ward. There Q saw Renly in his dark golden armour with the antler crest of his family and a heavy cloak. He had grown a beard since the last time they met.

When Q's eyes shifted to Loras his breath was stolen, he had grown even more beautiful in the year since he had left. Getting a nudge from the jealous boy beside him Q gave Rufus a smirk. “I'm just looking, love.” Q teased and retuned his gaze to the shining almost mirrored armour with intricate vine embossed and adorned with delicate enamelled flowers. The man's long reddish hair cascaded over the neck piece and his eyes sparkled as he smiled.

Greeting the pair with a quick embrace. “Congratulation, this will be the last time I will be able to call you Renly without having to say Sir.” Q teased.

Renly smiled and gave a nodding bow. “Well, your Highness, we must always be formal. Q.”

There was a soft laugh from all. They were all close friends and in private, titles and etiquette meant little.

--

Q was in his best, a long green silk coat trimmed in silver. Within the waves of his hair was a small coronet of silver with a high pointed front. He stood to the back and right of the king, the same place he was always in when in the throne room. Beside Q was a monolith of a man, who smelt of strong drink, sweat and each outward breath was foul. He wheezed constantly having to stand.

The high arched doors were opened. The crowd separated to make an aisle up the middle of the room, directly in front of the throne. Renly entered the throne room, in his dark bronzed armour. His dark hair swept back and his brown eyes smiling. A flick of the brown eyes and Q followed the movement to Loras, in a silken silver surcoat with embroidered roses. Q then looked to the very side of the room. Rufus was also dressed in silk, a deep blue with a slightly darker blue pattern printed on his surcoat. They caught eyes for a moment and smiled at each other.

Renly stood at the foot of the dais and bowed deeply. The king stood and drew his ornately decorated sword. From a distance it looked like the most highly polished silver, but it was steel with intricate decorations on the surface that made the blade almost incandescent.

“Kneel” the King commanded and Renly dropped to one knee. “Do you swear fealty and service to your King? To uphold his command before any other duty or oath. To lay down your life for him, or to take another's in the King's name?”

“I do, your majesty.”


With a tap to each shoulder, the king commanded, “Rise Sir Renly, knight of the realm”

When Renly stood a great cheer went up. None louder than the older brother and head of the house, making Q's ears ring.

--

Q was getting ready to join the celebration. He was dressing down so he could sneak into the city. His chamber door opened and his Father stepped in. His grey eyes scanned the simple tan breeches, the light cotton shirt with the leather lace open at the collar. “Son” he said coming to sit on Q's large four poster bed.

When Q joined his father, the King continued. “Do you know what to do?” Q frowned and shook his head. “When with a woman...”

“Yes!” Q interrupted quickly. “Well sort of, the others talked.”

The king smiled with relief. “Good, I hoped you weren't that innocent. Just make sure the girl is clean. And you pay a fair price and do not tell her you are the Prince. There is nothing worse than a whore trying to lay a bastard at the gate.” The king said and patted his son's shoulder and went to the door. Giving a final “have fun” the king left.

Coming out of his chambers and through the palace. Desperately hoping his father wouldn't try to confirm his knowledge or try to give him more advice.

Coming out onto the palace square through the network of wards and building beyond the gate. The small group had gathered where the throne room and royal cathedral looked on each other. All had dressed down, Renly looking rather plain, like a farm hand. Loras' face set him apart, like an angle that had deemed to walk on earth. Then dark blue eyes, yellow blond hair falling over them, and earthly angels were forgotten for the handsome boy.

The climate here was always warm, even at night. Through the streets they walked. Loras flung an arm over Q one side and Rufus the other. “So how far?” he whispered. Q and Rufus blushed so deep it reached the tips of their ears. “So not that far.” Loras said translating the blush.

“Leave them be.” Renly called from a few paces in front where he was walking and joking with a few other squires.

“It was painful.” Rufus whispered.

“Then you weren't doing it right. I'll introduce you to someone. He will show you all you need to know.”

Q and Rufus exchanged glances. “You can trust Ronaldo. He is wonderful” Loras said. As they continued Loras was whispering encouragement to get the two over the final hurdle of the physical side of things.

The streets of the capital were crowded and as they approached a very popular district it became more so. Music filled the evening air. Perfumed smoke wafted on the breeze. Laughing could be heard from the buildings on either side of the street. Balconies displayed women and men, who called to the group as they passed.

Coming to a building with pillars of white marble and centurion like guards, the group entered. The inside of the building was open floor plan with a balcony going around the upper landing; all done in rich polished marbles. Very much like a Roman temple. Q heard from a side room the brother of Renly calling for more women, more wine, beer and mead, more venison, bore and pheasant. As they passed he was lounging on a large bed surrounded by all he desired.

They were shown to a bath, a room with mosaic tiles of fish and other sea creature, in blues and greens. Shaped like a grotto of caves where water flowed, cascading down into a large pool, while other baths steamed. There were women and men, barely dressed in long pieces of cloth that hung down to the ground at the front and back. The non-garments were held on with intricate leather laces around their stomachs. The men and women having their chests exposed and clearly nothing under the long loin cloths.

Q took a silver goblet off the tray of one of the server, unable to look at her. Loras caught Q and Rufus, showing then a deeply tanned man in a gold loincloth.

“Him.” Loras said then moved on.

A man in a violet loincloth was approaching Renly and Loras. Trapped between the two and kisses were exchanged. Clothing was shed as they lay on a carved marble slab.

Catching eyes with a dark haired man in a golden loincloth, he broke away and came up to Q.

“May I be of service?” he asked running a hand across Q's chest and his fingers slipping between the ties of his shirt to caress the skin beneath. Feeling a presence at his side and Q looked to Rufus. The golden loincloth covered man looked to Rufus, then Q. Amending, “Would sirs like my attendance?”

Q and Rufus shared a glance and nodded. They were led to the same large slab of marble as Renly and Loras. Sitting down, it was warm and the attendant soon had both men striped. Soft strong fingers glided over them with oil and sugar. Hesitantly Q reached for Rufus and noticed he was looking at something. Looking over, Loras was on his knees, he head down with Renly sliding his cock into him, while the attendant behind Renly was pressing into to the new knight.

“Is it sir's first time?” The attendant asked. Both Rufus and Q nodded. “Would sirs prefer me to instruct you and leave, I can show you, guide you” he breathed and Q felt a finger slide between his arse and over the delicate hole hidden within. “If not done right, it can be quite painful.” Rufus and Q nodded again, even with the advice of Loras their previous attempts had all been abandoned.

The Attendant had a nice smile. After scrubbing them he rinsed them down and guided them to a hot bath. He pulled a lace at the side and his garment fell away. Q froze seeing swell of the organ he had been hiding.

Touching the shocked young man's face, “Sir will enjoy tonight, I give my word.”

The attendant entered the steaming water where another of the older squires had a woman in his lap, her breasts bouncing as she rode him.

The wine flowed throughout. The attendant was slow and careful with the two young men. He then guided them to an alcove where there was another warm marble table with a carved gentle wave on top. Q and Rufus shared kisses often and deep. The attendant was not put out that he was not pulled into a kiss.

With Q lying face down on the table, the warm marble soothing. The hands of the two men running over his back, the attendant speaking and guiding Rufus. Tensing as the Attendant's thicker fingers slid along the crack of his arse and teased his opening. His erection was not so comfortable pressed against the table. Rufus' hands joined the attendant's and the oil made the slide of skin over skin slick and seamless. Then a finger entered him, slowly at first too narrow to be the attendant's.

Unlike the other times they had tried. Q was able to feel aroused rather than tense and frustrated. He was also in a place where he didn't want to give up and just ask Rufus to use his hand. He squirmed onto the penetration, feeling his cock sliding against the warm stone. It felt comfortable and relaxing and every so often there was a brush to something inside him that made him want more. It wasn't like the thing Loras described of seeing stars when a man moved inside him, but was nice.

Squirming and leisurely humping the table and pushing back in the penetration Q felt quite content. Then the fingers inside him pulled out, leaving him open and empty. Looking over his shoulder Rufus was climbing over his legs. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the sweat dampened hair, the squint of the beautiful eyes. The planes of the long lean body that had filled out into tight groupings of defined muscle. Q saw Rufus take himself in hand and felt the blunt tip at his entrance. This time Q knew that the pain wouldn't come. Lifting his hips up to make it easier, Q felt the heat of the man he loved; how hard he was like an iron rod. There was a stretch and Q bit his lip, and with a pop the shaft slid in and he could feel Rufus going ever deeper.

The desire to be like Loras that day in the stable was coming true, Q's muscles began to tremble. His mind chanting while that strange thing prying, penetrating joined him to another human, linking him to his love, his lover. Then the first pull out and Q gasped, as his body had to accept the move, then the stretch as he was filled again. It happened again and Q bit his lip, a long hissing breath, wanting more. A sharp thrust and Rufus stopped. He flopped down and the cock was going soft.

Rolling around, Q shifted Rufus off of him. The boy's closed eyes slowly blinked open. The attendant standing behind Q whispered, “It usually happens the first time.” And started to wipe down Q's legs and arse. Q was a little put out that it was over.

The Attendant then moved to Rufus and encouraged Q to copy him as he started touching him. As Rufus roused under the two men's touch, the attendant indicated Renly and Loras.

“It will take practice and time to become familiar and to pace and fall over the edge as one. They have been together so long they know each other's body as well as their own.”

Q was struck with the concept. He so wanted to know Rufus' body as well as his own. Not just the stolen moments, he wanted a lifetime of this. Just touching, tasting and finding all the places that would make Rufus wanton with desire.

Q was then guided to bring his hand up between Rufus' thighs. The rounded firm muscles so beautifully surrounded by pale skin, held wide and apart. “I think I know what Achilles meant.” Q breathed, caressing the tender inner sides, free of the thin pale hair that was on the upper. The attendant played with Rufus' cock, slowly and carefully stimulating but not enough to bring him close to completion. Under the attendant's instruction Q slid an oil slicked finger into Rufus. The ring of muscle so tight and smooth, he felt the end of the short tunnel and curled his finger. Bruising something inside, then Rufus moaned low like a cramped muscle finally relaxing.

Shuffling forward, Q brought his neglected but still hard cock to the other man's entrance. Rufus, resting his legs over Q's shoulders. Sliding in, Rufus let out a gurgle and arched his back. Q bit his lip, tasting copper, so tight, so hot and the ripple of the channel causing every muscle in his body to tense. Almost before he was ready, a body was behind him and firm large hands on his hips encouraged him to pull back. He gasped at the sensation over his cock, then a thrust in ending in a harsh snap of his hips, penetrating deep and fast.

Q concentrated on his thrust and pull and the tingling it sent through his body. Not feeling or seeing the attendant's hand wind round him to grasp Rufus' cock. The Attendant kept his hand still letting the man thrust as he chose. Letting the two men find the rhythm to achieve their completion.

Seeing the man in front of him becoming more frantic in his thrusts. The Attendant added a twist and a thumb rubbing over the Rufus' cock. It was only a few moment before the man in his hand spilled his seed and the one thrusting snapped his hips forward and his body going as tight as a bow string. The attendant moved the hand from the spent cock to the chest of the man coming out of his orgasm and becoming lax. He controlled the young Q's slumming body.

The attendant withdrew. He crossed the baths to pour two goblets of wine. Taking a plate he added a knife and fruit to it. Coming back skirting the others screwing, feasting and drinking. Casting a smile at his usual clients, Renly and Loras. He had seen them through their first time too. As a boy, Ronaldo, had been just trained in the arts of pleasure. The smaller and younger Loras was insatiable. If Renly didn't let him play with others, Loras would consume Renly leaving a desiccated husk of a man. Loras had already roused and taken another male attendant letting his lover and the first attendant rest.

Returning to the alcove and the two, in that stage he loved, no longer boys, not yet full men. 'Beautiful' he thought as they entwined. Hoping they would come again and he could share in their love. Sitting on the edge, plucking a red grape he brought it to the dark haired one, the deep red lips wrapping around the fruit and bruising his fingertips.

The break was nice and Q felt himself swelling again. He noticed the Attendant, he had been sitting feeding and offering them drinks for a while. From the first time he revealed himself, the long piece of flesh had not wilted and he had not found his completion. Sharing a glance with Rufus they smiled. Stretching his hand out he grasped the older man's neck and brought him down to lie between them. Pressing his lips to the Attendant's, his soft brown eyes wondrous and joyous. “Show us more, please.” Q whispered.

--

The King looked at his son. It had been over a day since he celebrated with his friends at the whorehouse and he was still threatening to doze off. “Crown Prince!” he snapped sharply startling his son and saving him from planting his face into his breakfast.

“If you celebrate like that for a simple knighting, I dread to think how you will celebrate your first real victory. I fear you may end up as round as Lord Baratheon.”

Chuckles went up and the older brother of Renly called, “His Majesty is correct, whoring, drinking and feasting are fine ways to celebrate. Just look how many victories I have celebrated.” He shouted in bombastic fashion and shook his rolling stomach.

“Not many victory now a days, dear brother but still celebrating.” Renly called. Now he was knight he joined them in the royal dining room.

“Impudent little shi...”

“Nobel gentlemen?” the Queen interrupted.

Q noticed Lord Baratheon whisper something to Renly and desperately try and stop himself from laughing.  

A small weedy man in black robes, somewhere between a monk and priest entered the room but made no attempt to approach any of the tables. He bowed to the head table and waited. The King stood taking his leave. Coming to the entrance of the great hall. The Whisperer, an advisor on the rumours and spies around the realm matched pace with the king.

“There is talk going around the squires, your Majesty. Apparently the Prince lost his virginity to two men, a whore was seen mounting him like a common beast.”

The king froze and glared at the rat faced man. Memories of his father's righteous fight against his brother and the turmoil the palace and country was plunged into. “I want proof, bring me a confession.”

The robed man bowed and scuttled off to do his king’s dirty bidding.

--

Pressing his lips around the small nub, biting and licking. Only when Rufus arched against him did Q give up the delicate flesh. Climbing up, he pressed his lips to the slightly parted and gasping. All the time Q worked the hard shaft in his hand, keeping Rufus on the edge.

Pulling back, Q hooked the long legs over his shoulders. Pressing in, he thrust slowly. Loving the way Rufus squirmed around him. Running his hand over the hard shaft, turning his head to press his lips to the milky flesh of the other boy's thigh, just above his knee.

Arching back, Rufus let out a shuddering gasp as he came. Q finishing a moment behind and falling on the sticky chest.

Coming to, green eyes locked on blue. Rufus' hand stretched out and swept the long dark hair off the other boy's face. Continuing on, running a thumb over the big ears that Q liked hide under his long hair. “I want to spend my life in your arms. My Love.”

Q put his hand on the long column of Rufus' neck. Felling the pulse against his fingers and the bob of the Adam's apple. “I can dream of nothing better than to be with you.”

The door banged open making them both jump and look to the two men locked at the lips. Renly opened an eye, seeing the two younger men in his bed and dropped his lover. Landing with a thud, the glaring Loras looked up, “What the... Oh, Yes! I let Q and Rufus use your room.”

Renly turned his glare from the two boys making use of his bed, to his lover who had apparently given them full permission.

Finding his feet, Loras jumped into the bed. Making Q and Rufus spring apart so he could land in the middle. “So how are my two favourite lovebirds?”

Renly smiled. He couldn't hold his annoyance long. Particularly when he saw how the lean blond was desperate to hide his embarrassed, of his nudity and the evidence of his coupling with his lover. Q was snuggling up to Loras as they gossiped. Talking it easy on Rufus, Renly scooped up his breeches from the floor and tossed them to the man.

--

In the dark and dank dungeon. Braziers and flaming torches illuminated the windowless room. Men strapped down to stone tables, once handsome now most of the men blackened with old crusted blood, red welts and open sores over their bodies. The Whisperer standing in front of one of the tortured men, “All name this one as the one who took the Prince's virtue. He has not said a word himself.”

The king looked at the man. The scarred and abused body. With a face clean and unmarked so he could have a public trial without upsetting the witnesses. “Geld the beast, offer it its life if it confesses” the king commanded and walked out

Before the king could leave the Whisperer called, “There is another name mentioned. I will need your permission, he is a son of a lord.”

“Get the truth.” the King shouted.

--

Q was practising with his preferred scimitar, an ornate sword with short gold coloured cross-guard, a sweeping handle bound in deep red leather and golden pommel. The tip of the blade was wider then swept to narrow base that made it a scimitar. He had been taught by Nemo, the friend of the Master at Arms. Nemo was a foreigner with skin the colour of burnt sugar, a long black beard, and his very long hair held in a cloth woven and tucked around his head.

Q did the complex spinning and arcing. It wasn't much use in a fighting but was excellent at dazzling and distracting an opponent. He did a crouching leg sweep, then complex kicks. Including Q's favourite, jumping and spinning in a butterfly kick.

“Your highness, Lord Loras wishes to see us.” Rufus said coming up to him in a jog.

Q saw the panic in the other boy. Sheathing his sword, Q dusted down the long coat with scales of green boiled leather. Taking his leave from Nemo, he headed in the direction of the stables. With Rufus beside him.

In the stall he first saw Loras and Renly in the intimate embrace. Loras was agitated pacing the confined space in the full splendour of the pale armour with the intricate embossing and the flowers. Renly was in his bronzed armour, with the stag's head on the chest.

Loras said, “The Whisperers raided the temple. All the men were arrested. There is a rumour that they are investigating who the prince lost his virginity to.”

“We are leaving the city, Rufus should come with us.” Renly said.

“NO!” Rufus shouted and clamped a hand over his mouth at the volume.

“You should go.” A rough voice said from the doorway. Boothroyd, the stable master was there with a grave expression on his face. “It is happening again” he said before he could continue there were demanded, variations of an impatient 'what is?'

The old man sighed, he stayed at the door so he could see who was approaching at the end of the row of stalls. “The Crown Prince took the captain of the city watch as his lover. The King became inconsolable with rage at the blasphemy of the scriptures, the threat to the lineage, his own inability to understand. He purged the city, executed anyone suspected of buggery, the lucky ones were burned, stoned or shot with a hail of arrows. The unlucky ones.... the unlucky ones faced something horrific. The Crown Prince's heart tuned black and as cold as ice. He studied the forbidden texts. He was disowned and your father became heir apparent. Your uncle murdered the king, just like the king murdered his lover. Then Q, the second son, your father became king.”

Q looked to Rufus, “Go, please!”

Renly sagged, “I'm not going, I will stay to protect the prince.” Loras agreeing with his lover.

Rufus also denied Q, “I am not going if you are not coming with me.”

Boothroyd said, “The prince will be safe. He is the only heir. The three of you will not.”

Q stepped close to Rufus capturing his hands. Holding them to his chest and looking into the dark blue eyes, “Please go. I will never forgive myself if something happens to you. I love you too much”

Rufus leaned in, pressing his lips to his lovers. “I love you to” he said pulling back seeing the shimmering green eyes. “I need to get a few things and I will return.” He said and darted out.

Q saddled Rufus' horse while Loras and Renly did their own. Renly saying, “Come to Dragonstone if you are in trouble.”

Loras adding, “Or Highgarden, or make for Dorn they are very open and are closer. Your father wouldn't dare provoke a war with them either.”

Q nodded. He didn't want to think about the separation.

The three horses were getting restless. They were ready and wanting to go. Finally Loras said what they were all thinking, “It's taking too long.”

“Go, I will send Rufus on.” Q ordered and marched off.

Moving into the palace. Coming to the dorm where the squires slept. There was a buzz and Rufus' bed and chest had been ransacked. “What happened?” Q demanded of the few in the room.

“The royal guards were searching the chest when Rufus came in. He was arrests and dragged away.”

Q marched out. Heading for the throne room his father was not there hearing petitions. Heading to the private apartments, finding his mother at tea with other noble ladies. Q asked about his father and got a lie of a non-answer.

Like a storming thundercloud Q moved through the halls and corridors. Finding his Father's private secretary, a short blond man with a limp. “My father, where is he?”

The old soldier squared his shoulders. Jumping. Q unsheathed his curving sword and stopped his swing as it touched the older man's neck. A thin trail of blood slipping down. “Not a time to try me, Sir John. Tell me!”

The light blue eyes hardened and the pale lips remained tight. So Q withdrew the blade and brought the pommel down on the top of his head. The man collapsed like a puppet with his strings cut.

Going down and down, the corridors losing the white marble and becoming grey then black. Smoke and rot, damp and warm. Two guards in his path tried to stop him, crossing their long pollaxes. With swooping upward cut, Q's blade shattered the wooden shafts. Dropping and spinning he slashed the back of one knee and stopped himself from pressing the point into the vulnerable area under the armpit of the other. “Back down!” The price growled his voice straining and braking a bit.

The guard reached for his sword. Q resisted the instinct to plunge his sword in. He swung right around hitting the man with the flat of the blade sending him to the floor in a daze.

Marching on, Q flung open the door they were protecting. A scream splitting the room. Immediately, Q went for the man pressing a red poker to Rufus' chest. Before he could make contact another poker came down from the side, hitting Q's just behind the wrist. Dropping his sword and grabbing his broken arm he looked up to the eyes of his father's bodyguard. The red hot poker waved in front of his face.

“Don't try it.” the pinch face man said seeing Q reach for his sword with his left hand.

Ignoring him Q took up his sword and the rod of iron landed across his shoulder blades and a foot stamped on his sword, trapping his fingers under the handle and against the floor. The bigger man then hauled him to his feet and dragged him away from the table with Rufus. Beside his father, he screamed and shouted. His father slapped him.

Recognising the unmarked handsome face of the man on the table beside Rufus. The mutilated body was horrific. The chest was rising and falling, indicating he was still alive.

The snide Whisperer stood beside Rufus. “Confess and save the Prince the same fate.” he said. Rufus opened his eyes. With a tensing of neck and mouth muscles he kept his mouth shut. The hooded man with the poker returned and pressed the glowing end to the sole of a barefoot. Rufus screamed but said nothing.

“Stop!” the prince ordered and was slapped by his father again. Twisting he tried to punch the man holding him. A burly hand clamped his broken arm and Q's knees buckled as the bone moved.

The king hissed, “Did you let that whore mount you? Sixsmith, did you spread your legs for him? Loras Tyrell? Renly Baratheon?” Q remained quiet.

Q closed his eyes, he was slapped. He looked away and his head was forced to watch his lover's torture. Rufus said nothing, no matter what was done to him or what he was offered.

Q was dragged away when Rufus couldn't be woken. Dumped in his chambers a mousey woman entered. She was a skilled healer. She set Q's arm and bound it.

--

Standing with his arm in a sling. Q tried to be stoic. The king's bodyguard, now his minder stood to one side and another guard the other.

The great hall was full of gawkers. It had been years since an indecency trial. Men of God called for death when their religion was about forgiveness. Any supporters were quite willing to sacrifice two for the hope the others would be overlooked.

Rufus and the Attendant, who Q had learnt was called Ronaldo. They looked good, their faces clean, hair groomed a luscious black and shining blond. Only a few knew the damage the expensive clothing hid.

The Whisperer called loud and clear, “We found images of vile depictions in your chest. Do you deny it?”

Rufus remand silent. Neither man made a sound. The witnesses, other prostitutes and Squires from the night. They all said they saw Rufus and the whore fornicating.

Q could see the carefully rehearsed answers. Q himself, the heir was not mentioned. Baratheon, one of the largest families, with a standing army almost as big as the royal army was not mentioned. The Tyrells, beyond rich held the debt of some of the crown and the other older and poorer noble houses. They were too problematic for the crown to name. The House of the Six Smiths was fairly new without alliances, much wealth and few men, they were safer for the king to exercise his hatred against.

Q's eyes flicked to the old man, standing with a walking stick. He looked worse than his son going through the trial.

“Death!” The King decreed when the trial came to an end.

--

High up. Between the two roof apexes atop of the cathedral that looked down onto the square that had the throne room one side and the cathedral the other. Three woman stood. The tall thin one in black. The shorter rounder one in white and the shortest and slimmest in violet.

They looked down on the public square far below. “History is repeating.” the woman in black said.

“Not precisely.” the one in white said.

“We should have tuned our back on this line.” the Violet one added.

Far below they watched the pyre being built and the two be tied to stakes and burnt. The white one gasped and clutch her chest, almost able to feel the pain of another person forced to watch. The Boy sagged and wiped his face. He tried to turn to run but the guard either side stopped him.

“Now is the time to move our pieces,” the white one said.

--

In a dark room the black clad woman sat at a small round table. Across from her was her godson, a sickly looking waif of a man, with prominent black veins.

Leaning forward she moved the queen to put the man in check. “History is repeating. Your nephew watched his lover die.”

The man snorted, moving a castle to block the check. If she took his castle her queen would be taken on his turn and she would be closer to loosing. “The boy's future is looking good. No usurper this time to replace him.”

“Why don't you go see him.” she said. Tipping over her king. Knowing she couldn't win, she herself had given the baby the gift of strategy.

--

Hearing a crunch and the faint grumble and moan. The blond man with crystal eyes pulled back his hood a bit and peeked round the tree. Along the tree lined road, moving through the shafts of light was a hunched old woman with gnarled staff. She was in Hessian cloak, caked with mud and obviously dirt poor. The rough cloak swayed open and he glimpse a heavy, velvet purse and his eyes lit up.

Cupping his hands over his mouth he gave a warbling whistle. Amongst the answering calls of the birds in the forest there was one that stood out to him. Stepping out into the narrow road James pulled out his sword and held it out to the old woman.

The hood covered head turned and another cloaked figure stepped out behind her. “Please sirs, I'm just...”

“Weighed down by gold?” James taunted. He used the tip of his blade to pull aside the brown sack like cloak of the old woman. The razor sharp tip sliced the velvet rope of the purse. Approaching he crouched down deflecting the weak blow from her knobbly staff. Giving a whistle there was enough gold in the small velvet sack to see Alec and himself through the winter, and possible a whole year if they were careful. Alec stepped around the small woman.

“Brutes!” she shouted hobbling after them.

James and Alec just lengthened their casual stride and she was fell away.

“Brutes!” she called and there was sob.

Alec looked back and saw her fall and struggle to pick herself up. She tried to hobble after them, waving her staff but as the road gently curved she fell from view.

Sitting in the small tavern. James and Alec shared a meal of mead and mutton stew. Between them they counted the gold, silver and copper. It was a small fortune.

Going to the room they shared. James then Alec stood at the tiny square window. As night began to descend, the woman had not made it to the village. In silent agreement the two men pulled on their cloaks and fastened their swords around their waists.

Heading out they, walked along the road. Approaching the place they met the old hag. Dread and guilt began to fill them. Arriving at the place they lost sight of the old woman, lying in the middle of the road was a Hessian covered mound.

“Hell!” Alec said and sprinted on. James, the slower of the two, a few paces behind. Coming to the mound Alec crouched down. Pulling back the hood, nothing, the mound collapsed flat against the ground. Looking to James in confusion.

“Witch!” James said. Making to run both men found their feet stuck to the ground.

“Fairy, not a witch good Sirs, Knights, war heroes.” a raspy cultured voice echoed around them.

Out of the twilight a pale white smoke formed into a short white robed woman with a silver staff with a star at the top. Her face was old and kindly with short silver white hair. Her blue eyes were indulgent but also hard, like an exasperated mother.

“We are no longer Knights, release us!” Alec called.

The woman chuckled and smiled. “You are a disgraced knight but a knight still the same, Sir Alexi, Knight of the Old Code.” Alec and James froze, no idea how the woman knew who they were.

“The old code is gone.” James said.

“Then there are no men standing before me, who have ever knelt before a dragon and said an oath that is now forgotten in the world of men?”

Both Alec and James said, “No!”

The old woman shook her head with a soft smile on her face. “Silly children. Denying a truth does not stop it from being true. I think you buried who you are to hide your pain. So perhaps I can help you find the way back to valour, a heart that only knows virtue, a blade that defends the helpless, a might that upholds the weak, a word that speaks only truth, a wrath that undoes the wicked.”

Both men dropped their heads. Shame coursing through them. The reminder of their extinct order and the oath they once swore.

The woman seemed to glow and lifted her staff bathing both in a silver light. “As the sun and moon, by day one form, by night another. Only a joyous heart, one half and whole, will free you.”

When she lowered her staff the two men could move. The fairy stood firm at the angry approach of the two men. The last rays of light faded and James screamed, dropping to his knees.

“I suggest you remove his belt.” The fairy said.

Alec glared at her. But was concerned for James, screaming and clawing at his own skin. James crouched down on hands and feet his back arching like a hissing cat. With one hand he ripped the shirt. Alec seeing the hand was pale blue, almost white, with ice blue spines on the knuckles and long blue talons. He swiped again shredding his skin and clothes revealing pale scaly skin below. Huge wings snapped straight up from his shoulder blades sending Alec sprawling.

James paced in circles clawing at his body and rubbing against the ground. His face deformed and as he shredded his own human skin, he seemed to grow bigger.

Alec looked on in horror. It was not the first dragon he had seen but it was the smallest, about the size of a large horse. Mostly pale blue with dark ice blue thorns and talons. Four legs and long tail with a heavy bulbous end covered in spines. When the face turned to look at him it was rather shallow and round with crystal blue eyes.

Alec looked around the fairy was gone. Slowly he stood and James pushed himself up tripping over his feet and tail in the process. “James?” Alec called and the big head turned to him. Alec waited to see if his friend recognised him. Slowly James lifted a fore leg and looked at the clawed foot/hand appendage at the end. He turned in a circle catching sight of the tail with clubbed end.

“James if you can understand me, lift your left arm.” Alec called. The blue eyes looked at him and lifted the front left foot off the ground. “Can you speak?”

The wide jaws opened, there was a harmonious sound of dragon song but no words. “Fire?” Alec prompted. There was a hacking and a sputter of flame and chocking, yelping and smoke coming out of the slit nostrils.

“You have wings?” Alec said. Again the flat face turned, the neck not particularly long but able to see the wings. There was an uncoordinated movement and a weak flap.

Alec checked over the garments on the ground, finding layers of James' skin, pink on the outside and red on the inside with little blood to be seen. His clothes were shredded like the skin. The belt of the sword was broken and the scabbard had a gouge in it. Pulling out the sword, the tip was still in the sheath and there was a ragged edge a few inches from the hilt.

After Alec bundled everything he found and together, they made their way into the forest. Finding a clearing with a stream and a pond, Alec gathered wood. About to bring out his flint he stood and looked to James still inspecting his new body.

“Hey, breathe on this.” Alec shouted and pointed to the fire pit.

With a hiccupping choke and another yelp of pain, a small burst of flame lit the wood.

“Stay here.” Alec instructed.

The dragon frowned and gave Alec a look of, 'stupid' he then returned to inspecting his body.

Walking back to the village. Alec looked at his hand, it still contained the bag of gold from the old woman. “I hate magic.” he grumbled.

Pushing his way through the inn, he went to his room to pack their belongings. Dropping a few coppers on the bar, he also took some provision of dried meat, preserves and the hard dried bread that only went mouldy if it got wet, it would break your teeth if you didn't dip it in something first. All good traveling food.

Arriving back, James was looking at himself in the reflection of the pond, under the bright moon and stars.

“You look pretty.” Alec reassured, trying to lighten the mood.

James came over, circled the same spot a few times and sat, curling around himself. 'Great he's in a mood now.' Alec though along with a few choice curses.

Building up the fire. Alec set up his sleep roll. Climbing in, he was on the verge of sleep when he heard the first hiss of the fire and a wet spot hit his face.

“RAIN? Fucking rain now! Give us a fucking break! What did we do to deserve this?”

There was a deep rumbling from the dragon's chest. “Fine! I know, robbing little old ladies. Should have let her die. . . We couldn't do that could we?”

There was a low noise Alec assumed to be a no. Then a large leather like wing came over him, just as the heavy rain started. It was so heavy it was running off in torrents.
 
Alec moved to tuck himself right under the wing and against the soft warm skin on the flexible under side. Eventually falling asleep.

Pain. Alec screamed. His skin felt so tight. Opening his eyes he saw James writhing and clawing at himself too. Alec managed to unbuckle his belt and throw his sword away before his fingers turned black, and became floppy and useless.

The two men tore and shredded their own skin. Eventual all movement stilled and in the first rays of morning light, a nude human James sat in the shredded remains of his dragon skin. Across from him was a black dragon. More sweeping face, short thick neck and a long tail with a fan. A double set of short blade like golden spines down the side of the back, merging and continuing down to the tip of the wide tail fans.

The dark blue eyes looked to James then the black hands at the end of short black legs. Alec continued to look over his shoulder to the wide wings and smaller wings starting at the hips and onto the tail. There was hissing hiccup and a blue ball of fire shot out and hit the pond, bathing the clearing in steam.

Throughout the day James watched Alec jump and flap his wings. He shot balls of blue fire, or a constant stream of almost white fire which made a piercing noise. The first time Alec glided with his wings across the clearing, he came and trotted up to James. Bumping the human with his head when James ignored the gloating.

When the night came the two prepared. James stripped. Their suspicions confirmed with the last ray of the sun. James screamed and tore his skin off to become the pale blue dragon and Alec became human again.

When they had recovered. Alec looked to James. “We are going to be trading forms until, what was that line about a heart?”

The round faced head, nodded James' agreement. They were cursed. To switch with the first and last light of the day.

--

The lamps in the room snuffed out. The boy in the bed didn't notice. His heart was broken and he cried.  

“Your father's anger, my curse, the friends that ran away. Such a cruelty you have endured, you must hate the world?” The waif like man said and touched the skin that felt like a fire to him.

Pulling his head up Q looked at the grey man. He frowned for a moment.

“I don't hate anyone.” Q muttered, scrubbing his eyes.

The man's dark eyes took a calculating and annoyed edge. “I cursed you.”

“How?”

The dark man's eyes darted about in confusion at the soft and genuine question. “Well to cast a sell is complex. The words are last part of a complex process. You must study fate, all possible scenarios and outcomes, create the affect, weave the affect into the fate, articulate the thought then speak it concisely.”

“So you saw me seeing two boys making love in the stables?”

“Well no, it would have been something”

“Did you make me know instantly that it was right and that I was like them?”

“Well, sort of”

“Did your magic cause a small town to gain a mayor who understood metalwork, science, engineering to such an extent that he took the small town to a great city within his lifetime? And be awarded lordship of that city state?”

“Well, not likely”

“Did your magic send the only son of that lord here to become a knight?”

“Perhaps”

“Did your magic make me fall in love with him?”

“No, magic has no power over love.”

“Did your magic make me dismiss the warning and kiss that boy?”

“No”

“Did your magic make me dismiss the warnings and threats and ask Loras for advice?”

“No”

“Did your magic make me dismiss the warnings and threats when we first touched each other in a private bath?”

“No”

“Or when in a whorehouse we finally shared in each other's bodies, fully, carnally, forbiddingly?

“NO!”

“What about the rumours the squires spoke of. The Whisperer overhearing those rumours. My father torturing my lover and Ronaldo, did your magic do that? What about my father's judgement, did your magic make him cruel or did he learn his cruelty from his father before him, before you even practised magic, Uncle?”

The man sitting on his bed hung his head. Q reached over to the frozen hand and clasped it. “My love was named Rufus, of the Six Smiths. Who was yours?”

The man looked at him, his breathing fast and eyes wide. “Why don't you hate them . . . or me?”

“Because I don't. When I am king, they will face justice but not my revenge. To kill is wrong, no matter the reason.”

The man stood and walked away. Almost getting lost in the darkness of the moon lit room. “It will get worse.” The man said.

“Possibly. You admitted the death of Rufus was your fault, I don't believe it to be true. I do not believe magic can interfere like that. But I forgive you, uncle for any ill you think you brought me. Now may I grieve for my love in peace?”

The light returned and the man was gone. Q wiped the snot from his nose and the tears from his cheeks. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his hands about them. His mind playing over conversations, words, touches, kisses any interaction he could remember and relive while they were fresh and not the steadfast silence of both Rufus and Ronaldo as they were burned.

Chapter Text

-Q-

Walking into the library, followed by the constant shadow of the pinch face former bodyguard of his father beside him. Q refused to learn his name. The Librarian was there, still alive, still old with a beard down to his belt.

The bodyguard perched on the librarian's desk, completely uninterested with the leaning within the room. Q went to the shelves. There were noticeable gaps, any book that even had an inkling of love between two men had been removed and burned.

Q walked down the long main aisle with the shelves coming off it. At the end was the barred and padlocked section of the forbidden texts. Turing down the row before the forbidden texts he found a book on heraldry. He had seen a new banner at court and was curious as nothing had been said around him.

'Lion on a field of crimson', Q soured as he read the accompanying passage.

Finding his father in his study. “When am I to be married, father?”

His father's grey eyes came up and said, “Within the month.”

“She will die a virgin because I will never lay with her.” Q spat and walked out.

Heading back to his room, he looked to the man that followed him. Swaying his hips, Q danced like the whores he saw the night of Renly's celebration. The Bodyguard waited until Q slid his hand down the front of his breeches before he gave a sneer and decided to wait outside. Changing quickly, Q put on his green breeches and boiled leather outer coat of dark green. Walking out he came to the ward. The guards noticed him, and took a more vigilant stance. His minder concealed his panic. Q was one of the best swordsmen and they feared when he was armed.

The big barrel shaped man with a golden moustache, the Master at Arms, brought him his sword. Q then went to the man in a turban. The two men went through the forms to slowly stretch and ready their bodies. Q started with a few slashing moves with round kicks then butterfly kicks and spins to increase the force of his blows.

Coming to a stop, a voice interrupted Q. “Your Highness, hello!”

Q looked to the new man in a gold surcoat with similar boiled leather scales. Jamie Lannister introduced himself. He was rather attractive with bright green eyes, and golden hair. His arrogance poured off of him.

“I am told we are to be brothers.” Q said.

“I am told that as well.” the new man purred. “Spar?”

“Practice swords or the real thing?”

“Always real.”

Q smiled. They squared up against each other. Jamie had an ornate sword with a lion's head pommel and an iridescent blue blade. He added a shield. Q dropped down to sweep the unprotected legs, Jamie leaping back. Q’s follow up kick landed on Jamie's shield as he used his sword to parry the other boy's sword. Jamie landed on his arse. Q landed on him, pinning the other man under his shield and bringing the point of the sword in front of those condensing green eyes.

“His highness.” the Master of Arms said, declaring the winner.

The pinch-faced bodyguard watched as the prince extended a hand and helped the Lannister boy up.

--

Sitting in the banquet hall, his intended looking down her nose at him. She had her twin brother's eyes and the same colour of golden hair worn in a long braid. She sat regally in an emerald green velvet dress.

Jamie was talking about the sparing to his father; a man with shaved head and sideburns that covered most of his cheeks. He glared at his son.

“You lost!” he snapped in a resonating growl. The son wanted to cower but managed to hold himself upright.

“Full knights, honed in war have fallen before me.” Q said to the Lord of the Westlands.

The lord smiled to Q then turned to his son. “Don't lose again.” he ordered.

After the meal, Q extended his hand to his intended. “How about a walk?”

Cersei took his hand and walked beside Q. There was a hanging garden that looked out to the sea. It was one of the highest places. The very edge looked over the sea lapping at the base of the palace wall. Q tried to talk as they walked. The small trees were blooming white. No matter how he tried or what he said he could not warm to her. Cersei was a spoiled bitch who Q didn't like.

--

Arriving in the Library, Q noticed the gates barring the end were open.  Making sure his bodyguard had wandered off in the boring library and the old librarian was not looking. Q slipped into the section he had never been before.

The morning light didn't make it into this area of a few rows of shelves. Stopping, Q noticed, to the side was a square table with a blond man. He had a narrow nose and crystal blue eyes. He was in a long grey robes of a wizard.

“Should you be here?” the man asked.

Q shook his head and sent the man a shy smile. “No. That is why I sneaked in.” Q teased.

The man smiled and his eyes seemed to look right into Q's soul and Q felt something he though was lost. He felt the first stings of stirring desire for him.

“You can read that one. It's not too dangerous.” the man said and pointed to a book.

Taking the book from the shelf, Q sat close enough to the other man to share his lamp. Q smiled, the book was about the Knights of the Old Code. They swore an oath before a high dragon, not a king. The dragons were old and wise, they were apparently the first teachers to mankind. Coming to a page with the oath the knights were to take. They swore loyalty to a code of conduct.

To Q, it was of a romantic time long past. Coming to the end of the story, he read an account of when an evil knight who tricked a dragon into giving him part of her heart turning the knight almost immortal. With the life of the dragon sustaining the evil knight. The Dragon lay down and let the last good knight slay it without a fight. As the dragon died so did the evil knight and the last high dragon passed from the world. There were still feral dragons in the world but unlike the high dragons that were wise and able to speak, feral dragons were just animals.

“Alistair.”

Q lifted his eyes from the book to the man beside him. Extending his hand and introducing himself, in return they shook hands.

Putting the book back. “Will you be here tomorrow?”

Alistair nodded with a soft smile that gave Q butterflies. “I should be”

Coming out into the ward, Q saw his father beside the Lord of Westlands with his intended standing on the high surrounding wall. Before Q could approach his preferred instructor from the far of lands, Jamie marched up to him, “I challenge you.”

Q sighed. He didn't like going up against one with something to prove. The Master at Arms forcibly removed the real sword from Jamie's hand and gave him a wooden practice one. Jamie was not pleased. Q accepted the wooden sword with ease.

Jamie lunged a hair before the Master at Arms began the match. Q dropped down spinning fast and hitting the back of Jamie's leg. If they had been using real swords it would have severed the lower right leg. Now, with practice swords he picked himself up and slashed at Q.

Q jumped back. Jamie was worse than the day before, today he was desperate and angry. Q cracked him on the head. The blow was light and Jamie shrugged it off.

Q swerved away from the next lunge, but tripped over his feet. Jamie hit him in the stomach with his blade and it forced Q to over balance and land on his arse. The wooden sword was brought to his neck, “Yield.” Q said.

Jamie looked up to his father for approval and was met with scorn from the Lord and King. Q saw his future wife bouncing and wanting to clap, completely oblivious to all but her brother. Q cringed, looking to the Master at Arms for conformation. He had been too obvious in throwing the match. His father and the Lord of Westlands were beyond annoyed.

--

Entering the library. Q saw the stranger again, sitting down with his back to him. Leaning over the blond man's shoulder, Q started reading the book on the table. Alistair turned and their faces were close. An instinct told Q to lean in. Pulling back, “Sorry.” Q muttered.

“I don't mind.” Alistair said.

“It's not a good idea.” Q said and escaped quickly before doing something stupid.

Entering the ward for training. Q stopped, there was a blotchy brush covering Jamie's face and his left eye looked almost swollen shut. He was sitting out on a bench by the wall. Going over Q sat down beside him. “Hi.”

“Hello.”

“My father is bastard too.” Q said.

“He beats you?”
 
“Not me.”

Jamie snorted in dismissal and turned away. Q said, “Do you know what happened three years ago?”

“No. Court life holds little interest to me.”

At dinner the hard cruel eyes of Cersei, livid, and pinned Q so sharply he jumped. “A walk, my love.” she spat. Nodding his agreement.

The Lord, her father teased the two as they walked by. “Off to speak of love?”

The King said, “To be grandfathers. I do hope the union is blessed quickly.” His words were in a soft and wistful tone, but Q could hear the threatening order within.

Walking the hanging gardens. “His highness looks handsome tonight” Cerise said. Q could hear her forcing out the civil tones.

“Thank you, you look... beautiful.” Q said. Knowing full well he took far too long to say the last word. While she was beautiful, she was beautiful in the same way as the crimson adder is beautiful, you would just never go anywhere near one.

Cersei smiled and Q saw her closing in. He remained stiff accepting the kiss until she pulled back. He gave her a tight movement of cheek muscle. “Is that a kiss?”

Her smile was scornful with too much teeth. “Yes, did you not like it?”

'No' was the immediate answer. “I am not experienced. . .” Q trailed off, dropping the 'with women'. Hoping he could avoid further kisses by feigning wider ignorance.

“Do you think Jamie will act as best man, I have no other friends?” Q asked. In an attempt to push the conversation forward.

“I am sure he would love that and to be your friend” Cersei said, a bit too eagerly for Q's liking. Only as she turned, and where the back of her dress had slipped, showed that her sudden interest had been beaten into her. It looked like there was going to be a marriage that everyone wanted but for those in it. But for all she didn't want to marry him, Q still didn't feel he could trust is intended.

--

Q sat with his head down. He wanted to carry on into the forbidden section of the library but didn't dare. A hand touched his shoulder; he startled and sat up. Q couldn't help the smile, Alistair was wondrous in the light of day, his blond hair the blue eyes and pale skin. He so wanted to brush his lips to the other man's

“Is everything alright?”

Quickly Q lifted his finger to his lips, calling on the other man to be quiet. The library was very large but his bodyguard might hear anyway.

Nodding and whispering, “I am to be married”

Alistair sat beside him. “I am aware, your highness” he said indicating he knew who he had been taking to. “You do not wish Lady Cersei?”

Q shook his head. Alistair took his hand, “I can not promise much. Those of my order go where we need to. Once my research here is done I will move on. But we could have tonight.”

Q wanted to jump up and down, his heart beat faster. He wanted to scream from the rooftops that for a moment he thought about happiness, not fear and sorrow. Shaking his head, “It is unwise. The people here are not open to such things.”

The man smiled. “I am a wizard. One of the best for my age. We are not so easy to subdue and this will not be the first city I have been run out of.”

Voices competed within Q, caution, hope, joy, fear they all had their say. “If you make it to my room, I will welcome you.”

--

It was the night before his wedding. There were feasts, presided over by his father. It passed in a boring blur for Q. He saw his future brother in-law slipping out. Heading after him Q called his name.

They were in a long gallery. The paintings lined all the walls of the long room, candelabras cast light, dancing across their faces. Both in the splendour of the colours of their respective houses, Q's blue and silver and Jamie in gold and crimson.

“I would like to ask you something, if I may?”

Jamie nodded and agreed. “It would be my honour and pleasure if you were to act as best man at my wedding?”

Jamie agreed and gave a shallow and respectful bow. Separating, Q headed back to the feast hall. Barely acknowledging his bodyguard behind him.

Sitting down at the head table, ignoring the dancing girls, Q looked to his future father-in-law and explained about asking his son to be best man. The lord beamed and raised his glass at the good news. Q's eyes slipped to his father and the frown the king wore. Q barely acknowledged him these days as well, he no longer cared what went on in that vipers nest of a mind.

Climbing the stairs, Q ignored the guards outside his room. Women were allowed in his room, no men. Only a few of the kings most loyal could enter. As he always did, the bodyguard entered. He searched the room.

Q started swaying his hips. Any attempt to seduce the bodyguard was met with concealed abject terror. Q had found it the best way to deal with him. At least until he was king and would banish him to a farm where he would work out his days doing something of good, tilling the soil, sowing the crop and reaping the harvest. Not a spindly, terrified coward in a suit of armour.

Q was down to his breeches and the man had not yet checked behind the curtains, under the bed or the attached dressing room. By the time he was finished, Q was stroking his waking cock.

“A man knows what a man likes” Q purred and the bodyguard fled.

Hands, warm and soft, came around his waist.

“I now what a man likes,” the soft articulate voice of Alistair whispered in his ear.

Q turned in the taller man's embrace. He rocked forward and kissed those pink lips. Feeling hands travel all over his back and arse, prying the cheeks apart. It felt so right to be like this. Q pushed the man back until he fell onto the bed.

“How did you get in?” Q asked, between kisses and pulling the overlapping layers of grey robes apart.

“I told you. I am a wizard.” Alistair breathed, running his hands over the naked man above him.. Fisting the long wiled hair and pulling Q down for another kiss, where they tasted and duelled with tongues.

--

Standing at the altar, a month to the day from when his father told him he would be here. Q was dressed in a long white coat, trimmed and embroidered in gold with a short three pointed crown. Waiting for his bride. He rested his hand on the pommel of his sword, it was only ceremonial, a hilt and scabbard, ornately decorated and as useful as a wooden one.

The organ wheezed into life and Q looked down the aisle behind him. Cersei, in a long flowing white gown, gracefully moved down the aisle to stand beside him.

The man in flowing cassock and a high, spear-head shaped hat, waxed on until Q was to give the green eyed woman a kiss.

During the celebrations, Q saw the wizard join the festivities. Q's eyes lingered on Alistair as he threw his head back and laughed at someone's joke. Thinking the image was wondrous. The hole where the feeling of the living Rufus once inhabited beginning to ease.

Q danced with his wife. The father of the bride spoke, but Q only heard the man's lust to enhance his family's position. The best man spoke, purring his words as he glanced at Q and the new princess. He spoke of friendship, close friendship with his brother. Q's gaze briefly landed on his father and the suspicious glance he was sending Jamie. Q glanced at his golden blond brother. Jamie saying, “. . . I should hope to grow closer with my Brother, as close as bothers can be . . .”

Q gave subtle shake of his head to the man in warning. Jamie frowned a bit but carried on. A knot was forming in Q's stomach. No matter how innocent, the moment Jamie said the word 'love' as part of his speech, Q knew Jamie had signed his death sentence. Already, the King's face had gone blank, having come to his decision.

Leaning to his wife, Q whispered, “You brother must leave, now, before the feast ends.”

The look of hatred that passed her face was fleeting. “I like my brother close” she said with honey dripping from her tone.

Before Q could give a better warning. The King commanded it was time. Taking Cersei's hand they made their way to his bedroom at the head of a long procession.

For the first time, Q's minder didn't inspect the room. Alone in the room decorated with petals of white blossom, Cersei striped quickly then looked to her frozen husband.

“Well,” she demanded.

“What?” Q snapped in impatience.

The snobbish woman shudder. Q resolved he would not seal their marriage. He intended to annul it the moment he became king and his wife needed to be pure for that.

Q was trying to find a way out of the situation as he was striped. When he was guided to lie back on the bed, Cersei climbed onto his lap. He felt a hand around his cock as she pretended to ride him. Q was cheering on the inside. She thought he was so naive as to not know the difference between a hand and a body. He spilled his seed feeling it lay on his own thigh.

She collapsed on him and Q closed his eyes.

--

Getting up early Q washed and dressed quickly. Cersei still nude and asleep. How Cersei had spilled a few drops of blood on the sheets he also didn't know. That could be a problem later but he would see to it at the time.

Heading out, his surprised minder caught up to him quickly. “Training, your Highness? Shouldn't you be seeing to your wife?”

“She is in the same state as she was before the wedding.” Q shot at the man with a malicious smile. Knowing what he said would be reported back to the King.

Heading to the ward he saw Jamie practising.

“A word, brother . . . your speech has put you in danger you must go.” Q said.

“I do as my father commands and he commands I stay, as does my King.”

“Run, please.”

Jamie shook off Q's concern.

“My father does not allow me close friends. Just ask Rufus of the Six Smiths.” Q insisted. There was enough people around the palace that could fill in Jamie and he could make is own decision.

Heading for the library Q found Alistair in the forbidden section.

“So why are you researching dragons?” Q asked.

“Over ten villages have been attacked. Would you like to see the skin?”

Q nodded and sat beside Alistair. From his satchel, Alistair brought out two hand sized pieces of tanned hide with a scale still attached. Q accepted the pale blue scale. Feeling the smooth texture and the rough skin beneath.

“Aren’t these just feral dragons?”

“That's what I'm here to research. Feral dragons would decimate the entire village. These new dragons only target sheep, goats, and livestock. As far as we can tell from the accounts, no humans have been killed.”

Q loved listening to the soft articulate tones of the other man and encouraged him to speak more.

-Alec & James-

The teenager yawned wide. The bleating of the sheep was rather hypnotic. He sat with another shepherd boy of a similar age, but taller and broader. Both around a small fire, to stave off the night chill.

A swoosh of wind and the flames fluttered and died down before picking up again. The bleating became loud, the sheep stampeded. The boys stood, one with a spear the other with a leather sling.

A scream that started out in the darkness and went up into the sky. The boys looked up and something fell, the head, neck and attached front left leg of a sheep landed by the fire. Both boys jumped back staring at the mutilated animal. Both looked for what did it.

Clicking, thumps and a low regular rasping breath. Both boys screamed as the pale scaly head came into the light of the fire. The wide jaw opened and with lightening speed, the big head stretched forward and snatched the dead sheep. With massive beat of wings, the monster shot straight up in the air.

The boys were still screaming a few moments later. Running, they arrived at their homestead. Battering the door until their father yanked it open.

“What, wolf? Shadow Cat? Speak!” the grizzled man demanded.

Both boys shook their head.

“Big” one boy said, throwing his arms wide.

“Blue” the other one said.

“Teeth” the first one said holding up his hand, showing the span from his index finger to thumb for emphasis.

“Wings” the second said pointing to the sky.

The father hit both boys in the head. “Lies! You lost the sheep! Find them you worthless little shits” he said and booted the bigger and slower up the arse as he ran off.

“THEY HAD BETTER BE ROUNDED UP BY MORNING, EACH AND EVERY ONE! OR SO HELP ME, I WILL SELL YOU TO THE MINES!”

--

The father looked over his 10 sheep, 1 sheep and all 11 lambs were missing. An entire year gone. He glared at the two boys. His older sons holding the younger two boys. The younger son was brought close his shirt lifted and breeches dropped. He received a trashing for every missing sheep and lamb. Then his slightly older brother got the same. The two crying boy were then dragged out with their older brothers to try and find the lost livestock.

The father and his two youngest, about nine and ten looked over the remaining sheep.  Seeing the fence and his neighbour counting his sheep, he approached the boundary of his land.

“Heard your boys lost the sheep?” the neighbour taunted.

“Aye, thrashed the little shites good. Still thinking of taking them to market. Not sure if the money I will get for them is worth the work I will lose. I hear the mines are always looking for strong boys. Not sure I could afford to not sell the boys.”

Suddenly, a screeching whistle became deafening above the men. The two men covered their ears. A giant black thing crested the hill and flew right over the two men. The father and neighbour looked up in horror as the black dragon snatched up one of the neighbour's sheep. With a beat of its wings, the black creature climb high. Then with a screeching dive, it accelerated and headed to the far off forest.

The two men breathed heavily. “A Dragon!” both men whispered in horror.

--

James walked into the butcher. A sheep across his shoulders. The man wiped the sweat from his brow and smeared it with blood from his hands. He looked at the sheep James brought.

“At least this one is whole.” he said.

“Well, the last one had a bit of an accident.” James returned.

“Ten coppers,” the butcher offered.

“Ten coppers and a quarter weight of salted meat.”

“Five and an eighth.”

“Five and a quarter weight”

“You drive a hard bargain,” the butcher said.

He then called a boy from the back. From a box James was given five copper coins, covered in blood. Then the boy took James out back to a shed where he was given a quarter of the dead sheep’s weight in dried and salted meat. James continued through the market. He picked up some fruit and vegetables. Some fresh bread and the hard dried bread suitable for travailing.

Heading out of the village to the clearing he and Alec had found. Alec was there, the long black dragon lounged, his fanned tail waving increasing airflow over the large glowing logs. The leg James had accidentally bitten off being slowly roasted.

James brought some water from the stream. Adding vegetables and some bones and meat from the leg. Before sunset he ate his soup with the fresh soft bread.

Stripping off, he stepped away from the campsite. With the last ray of light the pain washed over his body. He started clawing, ripping his skin off; revealing the dragon hide beneath. As the blue dragon stood on its for legs. Alec was pulling himself out from the shredded black dragon hide around him. He went to the spit and tore chucks of meat from the wonderful smelling slow roasted mutton.

“So we make for the village tomorrow?”

The blue dragon nodded. Then with unfurling of light blue wings, the dragon took to the skies.

--

In the small church, the biggest building in the village, the families had gathered. Men, farmers mostly, all shouting. The village elder tried to instil calm amongst the scared villagers. Already there had been three sheep taken, one from each of the biggest farms. More, mostly lambs had been lost in the chaos, some had been found and each lamb quarrelled over; the ownership in doubt.

The screech of an unsheathing sword silenced the room and they turned as one to see an almost white blond man in the doorway. His white armour looked light bluish/white with overlapping scales of boiled leather in teardrop shapes. His crystal blue eyes scanned the room. In his hand, he casually held a gleaming white metal sword, with almost no cross guard and a thick pommel. Similar to a Roman sword.

“I hear you have a problem with dragons?” James purred.

“Yes, good knight,” the Elder said. There were calls of numbers of seep lost from the crowd.

“Armour doesn’t make a man a knight and I am not good. If you want my help, you must pay.”

“What about a sacrifice, a virgin?” A man shouted.

James smiled at him, “Send the virgins my way. They are no other use for a dragon but for breakfast. And it will just come back when it's hungry again.”

A few farmers pulled their daughters closer. Having no problem sacrificing them to an animal's meal but not a sell-sword's lust.

“Given the number of attacks, and that they take the sheep rather than just eat them. I suspect a mated pair, who are preparing for a brood. My price is a gold piece for each adult dragon, and I'll throw in any hatchlings.” James said.

There were grumbles and protests. The Elder called for quiet then said, “We might afford one gold piece.”

James snorted and walked out. There were calls for him to return. He headed for the building with a sign of a horse pulling cart, sticking out over the door. Pushing open the door, an older teenage girl with long black hair and low cut bodice showing off her ample cleavage, smiled at the man, “Welcome to the Horse and Cart.”

James sat at the table near the fireplace, as the barmaid came over.

“Ale and something other than mutton.” he ordered slapping her rear as she walked way. Playing up the the scoundrel image he was trying to portray. The elder and several others crashed in. The group of men approached.

“Any virgin you want and one gold piece.”

James' mental voice swore. The virgin not something he truly wanted but was expected of someone like him.

Finally coming up with an excuse. “A virgin is only good for bragging. If you really want fun you need a fire breath whore and I will pay a fair price for her. And two gold pieces for two dragons. I will wait until you figure that is my fair price.”

The barmaid returned and James downed the horn tankard of ale in one go, then ordered another. When she came back with a jug, she had a pewter plate with a fowl, a pigeon or very small chicken perhaps. James tore the bird to pieces and drank deep. The town folk talked and begged him.

The door bust open, a man shouted about a dragon. The townsfolk ran out. James followed more sedately, helping himself to another ale on the way out. On the narrow muddy street of thatched building James stood, waiting.

A screeching whistle that Alec made every time he went his fastest, pierced the air. The black dragon streaked over the village. A blue light blasted from Alec's mouth cutting a house in two. His fire so hot it left behind a glass residue on the ground.

Alec arced up in a backwards loop. The people ran as he scorched the grazing fields. Cutting the boundary walls and fences. The panicked livestock stampeded.

As Alec disappeared into the distance. The Elder came up to James. “Fine, two gold pieces” he cried.

Heading out of the village, James walked a few hours till he turned off the road. Picking up on the noise of a soft crunch that didn't quite stop at the same time as he did. Turning, James looked between the trees with shafts of waning light slipping through the canopy.

“Come out!” James ordered, drawing his sword. The screech of steel on steel emphasise what would happen if he had to go looking.

A gangly youth of about 14 stepped out. Then another perhaps slightly younger, who was more solidly built.

“Are you going to kill the dragons?” the older one asked

James crouched down. Looking from one to the other. “Yes, I will kill them.”

“Can we help?”

“This isn't a place for boys.”

The two boys shared a glance. “Please!” they both begged.

“Slaying dragons has nothing to do with glory.”

The older boy shook his head. “It's for father, we have to make it up to him.”

“No. Now go back.” James ordered.

“Bu...”

“GO!” James shouted as the boys jumped and ran.

Arriving at the camp James saw Alec curled up and resting. Going over James pressed his head to the wide flat head. Stripping off his armour, he sat beside the dragon; resting against Alec and leaning against the wide neck. A wing came over him to shield him. A hand caressed the tough black scales.

“I miss you.” James said. He had not seen Alec in years now. He had not touched the man as a lover for as long. There was a low groan deep in Alec's chest that James took to be agreement.

The night came and with the last rays of the sun, the change occurred. Both ripping the flesh from themselves to reveal the form beneath.

When he was in his human form, Alec gathered his shredded skin. He scrapped the underside of the flesh. Then laying out the larger surviving pieces he turned them over. James came up and Alec stood back. James' breath was red and full of dancing flames. He baked the hide, cleaning it leaving only the ultra tough skin and outer scales.

Setting out his sleep roll, Alec curled up after having some dried meat and bread softened in some warmed dripping. Then from a pouch he drank some mead, from the skin. When he lay down the bulk of the pale blue dragon lay down beside him. A wing was lain over him. The short nose nudged him. Alec batted at the big face.

“Yes I miss you too.”

With the first light of the morning sun, the two men transformed again. This time James prepared the remnants of his dragon hide. Alec burned off the gunk from the inside. James then tied the bundle of the larger pieces of the blue and black scale. Pulling on his armour made of the same scales.

A black tail came whipping round and sent James flying. Pickling himself up, tasting blood dripping from his lip. Already feeling a bruise blossoming on his jaw and his chest and back hunting.

“Thanks a lot. Fucking hell, Alec.” James complained.

He knew that he needed to look like he had been in a fight but, James' eyes widened. A ballast of superheated air hit him. Screaming and rolling away. Coming up James felt his left hand, the skin blistered and red, along with his neck and face.

“Fuck you, Alec.” James shouted. He gathered up the skins and headed back to the village.

Arriving back. The village was in prayer. Kicking open the doors of the church, James marched up the aisle, looking every bit the battle hardened warrior. With dried blood crusting his face, burned and bruised.

He dumped down the hides in front of the preacher. The elder stood coming up to look at the hides.

James collapsed down. “Two gold pieces,” James ordered. He pried off the gorget from around his neck and even the chest plate, letting the folk see the wounds he had suffered.

A man in the most expensive robes smiled and said, “Why should we pay you now, the dragons are gone.”

Quicker than most could see James threw a carved black dragon scale and it lodged in the rich man's leg. He crashed to the floor blood spiriting and turning the blue silk a deep red.

“Anyone else?” James taunted.

James sat on the steps of the altar cleaning and binding his wounds. They would only last until he changed but they would be a pain in the arse until then. He sent hateful eyes at the villagers. They were either refusing to pay him the gold or the village truly didn't have any. Which he doubted. Piles of coppers, each a 1/1000th the value of a gold piece and a few silver coins, each 1/100th the value of gold.

“I'm going to be jingling all the way along the road.” James complained, the money was going to weigh a ton.

When it was done, James gathered up the money and the hides. One of the farmers demanding, “They're ours.”

“You paid for their lives, not their skin.” James taunted. “I will sell them for a full sliver piece.”

There were grumbles and complaints. Then one man stepped forward and handed over a single Silver piece. 'They can find the proper coins quick enough when they wanted.' James thought.

Grumbling all the way back, the coppers were as he had feared - heavy. The strap of his satchel pressed on his armour which in turn pressed on his burns.

Arriving in the clearing. Alec was in the stream bouncing and splashing. When he noticed James' return, he came out and shook off the water. Pressing his head under James' chin. Patting the wide flat head, showing there was no hard feeling.

“Next time we do it at night and you can be the burned and beaten one.”

James then put a blanket and a saddle between the dragon’s shoulder blades and wings. He attached the girth around Alec’s body and under his forelegs. Strapping the provisions to Alec, James then climbed on.

The big black wings unfurled and with a powerful jump and snap of the wings they were in the air. They climbed ever higher. The temperature dropping the higher they went.

They flew in a broad circle around the village that believed James had freed them from the dragons. They travelled north, following the road, passing over another tiny village, which had built up at a resting point along the main road. They flew further north to a bustling town at the base of low sprawling mountains. The far side of those mountains had been excavated. A rickety scaffold led down into a strip mine where emeralds were excavated.

Landing on the outskirts of the town. James dismounted. They made camp after James looked at the sun and decided he had time. Separating, James headed to the rich town with buildings made of dark granite and slate roofs.

James found a coin merchant. He got rid of most of his coppers. It cost him to exchange the coins but it would take too long to go through all those coppers. Coming out of the coin house, James entered the bustling square. The town was the biggest in the area and there was a constant market. Today seemed to be for horses. Biting his lip, James came up to the rail of the temporary fence. Horses were being led around the large circle.

James looked to a grey stallion. It was almost white with a back diamond on its head. James' eye followed it. Desire bubbled up within him. As a knight, he could see the horse wasn't easily startled. In the bustle of the market it looked bored, while others jumped and tried to run. Tearing his eyes away, James headed back before he did something stupid and buy the horse. He arrived back in time for the change.

When Alec was back in human form, the dragon version of James watched as the other man started to take the salvaged parts of the hides to the city. James made a chirping sound to the man.

“See you later, James.” Alec called.

James settled in for the night. Alec didn't get to socialise as a human often and hoped he had a good time.

Crashing woke James. Alec stumbling through the darkness, obviously having drunk the money he earned from the hides. He collapsed against James' neck. James used his wing to protect the man who had fallen asleep, without getting into his sleep roll. Breathing out, he relit the fire, also helping stave off the night time cold.

When the morning came, the change happened again. Alec, the first to recover, let out a low dangerous growl. James looked to the fire where a white gowned woman was putting frying pan on the growing embers. She then dropped in some bacon and eggs.

“Bitch!” James roared, rushing her, snatching up his sword. The moment the old woman's eyes turned to him, James' feet were stuck to the ground; a good sword length from her. He tried to slash her anyway. Giving up he threw the sword and it passed through the old woman to stab in the ground behind her.

“Temper, temper,” she chastised. “Are you going to calm and dress or will I have to look at that all morning?” The white fairy said and indicating James' nude state.

James growled, “Fine!”

He could move his feet again and dressed in breeches and his dragon scale breast plate. The way Alec lifted and lower each of his legs, indicating he too had been stuck to the ground.

“So to what do we own this pleasure and why are you cooking?”

The old woman looked up and held out the frying pan. “Breakfast, Sir James?”

“I am not a knight, you old bat, and why don't you take this curse off?” Alec huffed his agreement to James.

“A gift, Sir James and the power to wield it is yours.” The fairy said.

James plopped down by the fire and ate the breakfast so carefully cooked for him. If she was going to poison him it would be a relief. Alec curled around him, his eyes glaring at the small woman.

“So how do we end the curse?” James spat.

“I told you, a joyous heart, one half and whole.”

James shook his head and dropped the pan. The old woman rocked up from the tree stump she had been sitting on. “Come, Sir James. Much to do.”

“I told you I am not a knight.” he complained but got up anyway.

“And I told you denying a truth does not stop it from being a truth.”

As James and the old woman approached the town, she became more stooping. Her silver staff became wooden, knotted and gnarled. Her white gown darkened and turned to a rough brown fabric. Her hair lost the soft, short, silver style to become a dirty grey and in a long braid. By the time they set foot on the stone cobbled streets, she appeared as a low class old woman and not the powerful fairy.

James strode down the streets. No matter how far he lengthened his stride, the old woman always seemed to be a half pace in front and leading him. James asked if she had a name and the old woman spoke, “Yes, a long time ago. M something . . . I forget. Most call me the White Fairy, now.”

“Here we are,” the old woman said.

They were back in the town square. The town hall on the north, the coin house on the east, the cathedral on the south and the home of the owners of the emerald mine on the west.

Boys and girls of all ages were about the large square. Their father and masters of a trade were negotiating apprenticeships. Servants and heads of households offered employment. By far the longest line was the fathers taking boys up to the house on the west. There were no terms, each boy was inspected and a price paid to the father. It was indentured servitude, not slavery, because slavery was illegal but it amounted to the same.

A long arthritic finger uncurled and pointed to a father with two boys. James recognised them. They wanted to come help him fight the dragon. “They lost a full grown sheep and all of this season's lambs. A bitter blow to a small farm. Then the father had to give all he had saved because the richest person in the village could suffer the loss he couldn't. So he sells his children to the highest bidder.”

James glared at the woman. “It's not my fault.”

“So you did not steal the sheep and scattered the rest? Causing the lambs be separated from their mothers, to be eaten or stolen? Did you not squeeze every penny out of the people that need those dragons gone? Letting the rich man use the situation to become richer in comparison?”

The old woman was looking at him and James had the irrational urge to punch her. The bitch smiled as if reading his mind and the guilt he was feeling. With far off look the woman turned her gaze to the father and two boys.

“Only the royals know they have Fairy Godmothers. But everyone has one. That boy, the older, his name is Clint. I gave him a gift . . . the eyes of hawk. He uses a sling but if he ever picks up a bow he will be the greatest archer the land. The younger, Jed, I gave him an arm that could wield any tool. Given the chance, he could be a smith the likes of which have never been seen, or a swordsman unparalleled. Even the father, I gave him dextrous hands, can sheer a sheep in 2 minuets. For every child born, a Godmother stands over and bestows a gift.”

“What was I given?” James spat with contempt.

Not offended by the man's sudden anger and hostility, knowing it was born of a great guilt within, The White fairy said, “I gave you a heart that holds love even in sorrow. To Sir Alec, I gave heart that held joy even in pain.”

“You're my fairy Godmother?”

“To you and millions more. Sometimes we interfere when things are about to take a downward turn. One of my fellow godmothers gave a child a gift of certainty, but that certainty has become a problem. He is certain of something, that is wrong.”

“So I have to fix her mess?”

“You have to fix your own mess, Sir James.” And with the last word, the old hag vanished from his sight.

James headed for the lane that lead back to the outskirts and his camp beyond. The moment he stepped out of the square, James growled and turned back. He marched up to the father about to sell his sons.

“A silver piece for each . . . to be our squires.” James snapped at the farmer.

The round faced man gaped, his mouth opened and closed.

“Your wounds?” he finally said.

“Decide, farmer. My companion and I, or the mines until they die?”

The old round faced man nodded. James reached in and pulled out two silver coins. Handing them over James started marching off; the two boys trailing him.

“Sir . . .” James hit the younger boy upside the head. “Don't call me that. I am James and my companion is Alec. Be good and we wont eat you.”

The younger and shaggier boy was stouter and would be the taller man when he grew up. The older was leaner and more willowy, with short cropped hair. The two brothers exchanged fearful glances as they trotted behind the man.

Walking down the road, the man turned off and through the forest. The going was tough. The boys struggled to keep up. Suddenly, the man in blue breastplate shouted.

“Alec, I know you're going to be pissed, but that witch tricked me.”

The boys came into the clearing where the small camp was set up. They froze, when they saw the big dragon. Its flat head turned sharply to the other man and let ought a coughing noise.

“Don't start with me, Alec. Blast the witch if you want. But they are here now, so deal with it.”

The older boy grabbed his brother's hand and ran. In a dark blur, the dragon landed in front of them showing his teeth. As it growled there was a sudden intense smell of rotting eggs.

“Come back before he burns you.” James' voice called from the clearing. Slowly the brothers returned and the dragon followed.

When night fell over them, the boys still huddled in fear from the man and his dragon. Then they scream. Watching the man and dragon shred their own skin, pulling it off. They were about to run again when a new blue dragon stood up and the black dragon was gone. A new lean blond man with yellowish hair and the same shade of dark blue eyes as the black dragon stood in its place.

“Hello,” Alec said to them.

-Q-

Fast and quietly Alistair and Q shared a kiss. Apart from the night before his wedding, they had not shared in each other's bodies but spoke as often as they could. Pulling apart, Q straightened his tabard, giving a caress to the other man's chin, trailing a thumb over the sharp nose.

Silently they parted. Q joining the training in the ward until he was summoned. Q recognised the route to the dungeons. In the same long room where Rufus and Ronaldo were tortured Q saw his father waiting along with the furious Tywin. On the table, nude but as yet unharmed was Jamie.

The king glared at Q until the door opened. Cersei was led in. She gasped seeing her brother on the table and was held back by a guard.

The small weedy Whisper said, “Jamie Lannister has visited the Prince's chambers every morning, you Majesty. After that speech at the wedding he has been watched. I suspect perversion.”

Cersei screamed, “No, it's untrue he lies.”

The King came up to his son catching his chin in a firm grip. “Have you been fucking your brother-in-law?”

Passed the bulk of his father, Q saw his wife's face change to confusion then hidden calculating joy.

“No” Q said. And Jamie also denied the accusation. And Lord Tywin supporting his children.

The King frowned at his Whisperer. The man too, was a little concerned. “I do not understand your Majesty. I am sure a perversion transpired in the Prince's chamber.”

Cersei screamed at the Whisperer, “The only perversion is in your mind. We are happily married. My brother just visits me. We were born together, there is none I am closer to. I wanted him to know first, I am pregnant.”

Q flinched and his father's eyes landed on him. Never having let go of his chin the grip just tightened and the steel blue eyes studied Q.

“You have not consummated the marriage.” The King said, certain in his conclusion.

Q wanted to lie, but to lie to his father was impossible he could always tell. “I will never consummate any marriage. And the way she guarded her cunt, you would think she hides the crown jewels up there.”

“If you are not the father, are you?” the king demanded looking to the man on the table.

“No your majesty.” Jamie said and the king smelt the lie and his rage bubbled. He breathed heavily.

“The accusation . . .” Lord Tywin fell silent.

“Execute the entire inbred ilk! Wipe the Lannister from Westlands and the kingdom! Let the bastard grow then cut it out and mount it on a pike with its whore mother!” The King ordered.

--

Q was frog marched into the throne room. He saw the heads of the Lannisters on pikes outside; all but his wife, who was in the dungeon. There had been a trial. Jamie and Cersei confessed, their servants confirmed their confession. Only the lord kept his mouth shut knowing the trial as the farce it was. No matter what had been done or promised, they were going to die. Already the lands of Lord Tywin were being split amongst the nobles of the Westlands. No better way to stop a war than to give the minor lords a chance to increase their lands, holding and gain favour in doing so. None came to Tywin's rescue.

The throne room was almost empty. Only the closest advisors were with his father, who was sitting on the white marble throne, with his three pointed crown. The doors were opened and closed. Q's heart froze seeing the grey clad wizard coming down the empty hall.

When Alistair reached the bottom of the dais, he bowed deeply to the king.

“How may the wizards be of service?”

“My Son . . . He fornicates with men, like a beast. He refuses to consummate his marriage. He refuses to consummate any marriage to come. I want to force him. I want a spell that will cause him to fall desperately in love with the woman I choose.”

“Impossible, your Majesty.” The Wizard said. Before the King could vent his rage the wizard continued, “No magic can change a person.”

“I have seen a witch change a man into a frog” The King argued, impatiently.

“A physical act, your Majesty. The body is a frog but the mind, emotions, the very essence of the person is only affected in so far as any new experience affects all of us.”

“Then do it physically, make his body respond as it should to the woman I choose.” The King snapped.

The wizard smiled, “I am sorry, your Majesty, but that is doing harm. No wizard will do as you ask. Anyone who is willing will not be a person you can trust with the future ruler of the kingdom.”

“I CAN NOT TRUST THE FUTURE RULER OF THE KINGDOM!” the king bellowed.

“Has his Majesty considered the problem does not lie with his son but lies with himself?”

“IMPUDENCE, BEGONE OUT OF MY SIGHT!”

With a bow, Alistair turned and headed for the doors. Before he could reach them the Whisperer called.

“I was not aware you were so young. Nor was I aware you could be considered, handsome. Has the Prince ever propositioned you? You do talk often, don't you?”

Alistair took Q's breath away. He turned, his stance becoming no longer like a monk in prayer walk but as noble as a king. His light blue eyes hardened and emotion fell from his face.

“Handsome? I have dedicated my life to learning and teaching, my appearance does not come into it. Propositioned? He is the only one who is not stark raving mad.”

“Impudence!” the king bellowed.

“You said that before, your Majesty. Be careful, you are throwing accusations about without foundation. I will not be so easily dispatched, if you turn you paranoid eye to me.” Alistair said. He then walked out the door.

Q dared to look at his father and saw the man frown. His father had not seen the wizard’s deception. Alistair had lied and deflected the accusations. And the king’s famous ability to smell a lie had failed him.

--

Coming into the library. Alistair was checking over the books. There was a large pile under one arm and he was stacking them back on the shelves.

“You, bring me that parchment!” Alistair ordered Q's bodyguard.

The pinch-faced man begrudgingly picked up the curled piece of paper from the Librarian's desk and froze.

Turning to smile at Q Alistair  said, “That spell should give us about half an hour. Why don't we run away?”

“I'm scared to stay. I'm scared to go. But I want to be with you.”

The blond man closed the distance, dropping the books on a table as he did so. Wrapping his arms around Q, he pressed his lips to the prince's. Holding him tight, Alistair whispered. “My love.”

Q felt the tear slipping down. “I'm sorry, I do love you but there was another and it feels like a betrayal of him.”

Alistair held him close. “A heart is so very big. You can love him and me. I won't be jealous.”

Q sobbed like he had not done in years. He told of Rufus and himself. Alistair seemed to already know, or held his surprise well.

“I hate to part, but our time is almost up.” Alistair said. Q pulled back, wiped his eyes. Tuning to look at the man at the desk, “ANY TIME NOW.” Alistair snapped breaking the man out of his daze.

“Watch your tone, wizard.” The bodyguard snapped and held out the parchment. Just as Alistair was about to take it the bodyguard dropped it. “Oops”

Alistair gave a tight half smile and reached down to pick it up.

“Child,” he muttered shaking his head.

--

Meeting in the library. The minder now followed Q like a shadow around the shelves. Q noticed a strange narrow line on the floor and chalk symbols. He crossed the line but the moment his minder crossed he stopped all motion.

Q continued to the man caring for the books. Having a brief embrace, they separated. The two sat huddled.

“I will come for you the night after next. Be ready” Alistair instructed.

“Can you get my sword?” Q asked. With another brief kiss, Alistair agreed to get the sword and they separated.

--

Coming out onto the ward. Alistair went to the armoury door. The weight of the barrel shaped Master at Arms' eyes on him. Stepping in the long room with swords, spears and a host of other weapons lining the racks, Alistair looked for Q’s sword.

Alistair moved to the very end of a rack of armaments. There he saw the one he was looking for, a curving scabbard, a gold cross-guard, a handle wrapped in dark red leather and a heavy gold pommel. Sending a quick glance around him, he reached for the weapon and a dark hand closed round his wrist as if from nowhere.

He looked to the dark eyes of the man in blue turban, his thick long beard doing nothing to hide the downward tilt of his mouth.

“Do not be such a foolish wizard,” Nemo said. “That sword is watched, day and night. The moment it vanishes, the guards will know. There is however, another that passes unobserved.” The dark eyes flicked down and back up.

Alistair looked down, beneath the heavy blue cloak trimmed in silver an almost identical sword with a silver pommel was at the man's side. Slowly, Alistair moved his free hand undoing the small buckle on the strap and the scabbard came away.

“May fate smile upon you,” the man said touching his forehead.

Alistair mimicked the blessing of the man and responded, “And upon you.”

Stashing the sword in his robes, Alistair moved out and across the yard. The barrel shaped man bumped into him, a meaty hand landing on the concealed scabbard.

“Make for Dorn. And here, in a close fight, steel is faster than magic.” The Master at Arms said as he pressed a curving dagger into Alistair's hand.

Nodding, Alistair fled. Only when in the safety of the library did he look over the sword and dagger. He then went to the forbidden section where he worked rapidly to copy as much as he could. He couldn't turn his back on his research and needed to get as much done as he could before he fled or he would not be able to return to the citadel

--

Casting a simple glamour, Alistair walked the halls of the castle. Most would just see him as a servant girl going about her business, unless they were particularly hard to fool.

Pulling out a glass a vile and holding his breath, Alistair let the pink fumes escape as he approached the Prince's room. The eyes of the guard on either side of the door glazed over in the waking sleep. He entered the room and could breathe again.

Smiling, Q was dressed in a long coat of boiled leather died green, with silver trim. He held out his hand and accepted the sword noticing it was his teacher's; the one given to him by his father and his father before him. Securing the sword under the fall of the coat, Q pulled on a long black cloak.

With a nod and a quick press of lips they moved out. Getting to the stables the two men stopped. There, the Master at Arms, Nemo and Boothroyd waited for them with two horses. The animals were both rather ugly in their colouring but good in body and temperament, saddled and with full bags of provisions.

The old stable master came up to Q cupping is cheeks.

“Good luck, my boy, Q. We have sent messages to Loras and Sir Renly. They will meet you in Dorn. The house of a sapphire sea. A band of warriors, knights and exiled princes. By day, sworn to valour, their might upholding the weak, their wrath undoing the wicked. By night, lovers.”

“You were always a romantic fool,” Nemo grumbled.

The master at arms reminded, “Time to go.”

Alistair mounted and the three men watched the other two go into the night. With relief it was the morning when the first alarm was sounded. Duly, Boothroyd announced two of the newest horses had been stolen.

--
 
The King sat atop his throne, before him the Whisperer kneeled. There was no sight of the Prince and wizard in the three days since they had vanished. The blond advisor came from the side limping as he walked. Standing by the throne he leaned close.

“She is here” Nodding to a sentry, the advisor called loud and clear. “Vesper, the Fay!”

The doors were flung open and a white porcelain skinned woman with hair so dark it looked black, glided down the hall. The King stood as she approached.

“I have need and I am told you may be able to help me.” the King said.

The woman gave a curtsy, her dark eyes not leaving his, in clear challenge.

“My son. Can you force him to sire and remain faithful to his wife, to make him perform his husbandly duties?”

“Of course, your Majesty, simple” She purred. “I can also find him.”

“Good!”

--

In his private office, the advisor paced continuously. “Do sit down” the king snapped.

“She is evil, as evil as your brother.” The advisor snapped. The King refused to answer.

“My dear little brother can see so much, but never the truth.” A cold voice sounded. A shadow formed into a tall waif like man.

The King sneered at the man who came and went like the odour of a manure heap. “You fear evil yet you invite it into your midst,” the Waif taunted. He then looked at the man with short blond hair. “It must be so saddening for you to see the friend you once knew vanish with each passing moment?”

“It is.” The blond man said. The King snapped his attention to his most loyal advisor.

The blond man approached the desk. “Do you even remember running about the city, sticking our noses into any secret, any mystery, every fight and brawl. Your curiosity and excitement were a marvel to see back then, where has it gone?”

The waif answered, "Our Father, and our dear king's wife corrupted and killed it. To make the man we see before us."

--

Sitting in a corner of the Inn. The two cloaked men didn't look dissimilar from the other travellers eating stew. Q held his tankard up and some mead was poured into it. Alistair also took a refill from the pretty maid. They exchanged glances and smiles throughout. The chance for a hot meal, good drink and a roof covered bed was a welcome respite from the hard travailing. Alistair held up his horn tankard and Q tapped his against it in salute.

“To Dorn.” Q said.

Alistair adding, “To us” Both drank, Alistair gasped, the veins on his face becoming prominent and black. Q tried to stand and fell to the floor.

Soldiers seemed to melt out of the crowd. A trunk with row of narrow millipede like leg walked between them. The lid opened and Alistair was squeezed inside it.

The barmaid changed. The healthy milky skin changed into old and discoloured porcelain. The dark hair going completely black. She walked out, the guards carrying the unconscious Prince and the chest scuttled behind, on is many spiky legs with Alistair inside.

--

Q woke in a dungeon. Tied by wide belts to a strong oak beamed chair. In front of him was Alistair. He was hog tied and nude on the stone floor in front of him. The Woman took an oil dispenser. A single drop of black oil was dropped on Alistair's shoulder. He was then bundled back up into the chest. Then the woman left.

There was bang from inside the chest. “Alistair?”

There was another bump then, “Q?”

There was a discussion on their surroundings. Q had been trying to pull his arms free but couldn't move. He tried everything he could think of but was sure the chair had seen and held many prisoners in its time.

“Q, did you see the witch do anything to me?” The voice from inside the chest was muffled and a little scared.

“She anointed you with oil.”

“I have many regrets, Q. None are for the things we did, they are all for the things we will never do. I wanted to watch a sunset with you over the sapphire sea. To take you atop of the citadel and watch the sunrise between the mountains of Solace and Solitude. To grow old...”

“Alistair?” Q called in fear.

“I feel it. It's like joy and fear, my body is hot and cold. I am rotting alive. Be prepared. It will be a few days a week at most. When the chest is opened I will spill out, bone and sheets of skin. It will be foul.”

“Stop! Just talk to me, not about now, but something nice.”

--

Dismounting the two cloaked figures made their way to the Palace. A barrel of a man came to the gate. He did not help them overtly, he did distract the guards allowing the two to slip passed.

Following the instructions they came to a dark torch lit corridor of the dungeon. Up ahead, in front of a door a long wavy blond person was crouching at the lock. Only as they got closer were they able to identify the person as a man.

The shorter of the two cloaked men pulled the hood back, letting his own long hair tumble free. Pulling out a dagger he held it to the man's neck. “It would be so disheartening to kill someone so pretty.” Loras purred.

“I'm pretty? Just look at you, knight of flowers, far prettier up close. Gellert Grindelwald and he must be Renly Baratheon.” The man said as they were met with the sharp features of a heart shaped face and dark blue eyes.

With a click the door opened and the most disgusting smell washed over them. Destroying the hope it was still a rescue mission. The man stood, ignoring the blade at his neck. He moved to the chair where a dark haired man cried his heart out. A noise, and Gellert shouted.

“No!”

It was too late, Renly touched the chest and brown/blackish slime of putrefied flesh spilled out along with bones.

“Come on. Big boy, take him” the Gellert ordered. Using a silver bladed knife that cut the leather straps with ease.

Renly stepped up to the chair, sliding a burly arm under Q's knees and the other around his back and lifted him with ease. The three walked out of the room. Along the corridor. Gellert frowned, he looked to the end were he could see a faint torch flickering, then behind.

“Stop” he instructed, Renly a few paces behind. He tried to take a step back, he did take a step back but didn't increase the distance between himself and Renly.

Loras, having watched, tried to go on ahead. His legs moved in a ground eating stride but didn't move forward. “What magic is this?” Renly snapped.

Opening his arms and bracing Gellert ordered, “Throw me the prince.”

“Throw? He will flatten you.” Renly said.

“Just do it!”

Renly rocked his hands and counted. Trying to launch the slighter man on the third count, the prince remained in his arms.

“SHIT!” Gellert snapped. “Try to reach me,” he said stretching out his hand.

“It's no use.” A soft purring voice said. There was the crack of hard heels on the stone floor.

From the dimness, Vesper emerged. “Little Brother,” she purred seeing the blond man.

“SHIT!” Gellert shouted. His voice bounced off the walls. He grabbed Loras, the only one he could reach and with a crack they vanished.

Renly stood with the unconscious prince and the strange looking woman closing in on him.

--

“Your Majesty, I caution, if you execute Renly Baratheon his family might revolt. The Baratheons and their allied houses could plunge us into civil war” The King's advisor beseeched.

Letting out a snort, “I am aware of the politics. Renly will be our hostage to keep that barbarous clan in line.”

The Advisor nodded and took his leave. The moment he did a shadow appeared and became the King's brother.

“You have surpassed our father. The Baratheons, the Tyrells, what's left of the Lannisters, the Wizards. And you will never know how many sympathise with your son. You are quickly becoming the Mad King.”

“Be gone,” the king whispered.

“Now you plan to hand over the heir to that witch. I wait with baited breath to see the monster that returns once she is finished with him.” The waiflike man taunted and vanished.

The Witch herself entered next. She would be leaving tonight with his son. The king cautioned, “Remember, if you want your lands back, I want an heir that can be a husband and do his duty to the wife I choose.”

“My word is my bond.” she said with a curtsy.

“Why didn't Alistair vanish like the other wizard?”

Vesper parted her arms and shrugged, “One can never predict the mind of a wizard. They are greater trickster than the fairies.”

Which led to the king to ask how the blond wizard could vanish but not arrive by magic. Holding her hands close together.

Indicating her left hand, “The wizard creates an anchor in a safe place.” Indicating her right hand, “The wizard then goes somewhere. And a tie between him and his anchor becomes taut. If he gets into a situation, he lets the taut wire pull him back to the safe place. He can return instantly to the place of safety, but not travail from that place instantly.”

“Then why did Alistair not do that?” Again the witch shrugged and gave a warning on wizards.

Like market day trader, as one left another arrived, this one in glowing cloud of violet. His Godmother. The little woman in a tall pointed hat faffed about in a buzz.

“So not what we planned for you. But you were never to be king. Reason, you need more of that. Compassion, empathy, sympathy. There is so much missing for you to be a good king,” she muttered.

The king thought about calling a guard but dismissed it. The annoying woman would only pull some form of trick. “If Quilan was a daughter.”

“My problems would be solved. She could have any man she wanted.”

“If Quilan was daughter in the exact same situation. Why would the wizard not leave her?”

The king sighed his annoyance. His godmother threatening she wouldn't leave until he answered. Closing his eyes, he thought. Why would a wizard not run when he could, he had been poisoned, he would most like have died anyway. Why would he stay?

“To spend his remaining time with...”

“With?” the Violet Fairy prompted.

“Quilan.”

“Is there no other, better word?”

“No!” the king snapped.

“Denying a truth does not stop it being a truth. You know the word you seek.”

“Go”

With a shimmer of dispersing smoke she vanished.

“One man can not love another.” the King said.

“Are you sure?” the disembodied voice of the Fairy said.

Chapter Text

-Q-James-Alec-

A woman, with flowing blond hair, and full ripe breasts, pressed to his side. Then, lips warm and familiar pressed to his cheek on his other side. Q switched his eyes to the feel of those lips. The woman tried to draw his attention again, but all he was interested in were dark blue eyes, a narrow face and the fall of blond hair. The sight of Rufus swelled his chest with love. But before Q's eyes, the pale skin turned black, the dark eyes melted and burst. The flesh falling from bones like the tenderest of roasts.

Screaming. Q bated the image away. The scene vanished and he found himself on the cold stone floor of his tower prison. The porcelain faced witch stood above him. “No! You must turn your back on him,” the posh voice purred.

“Never!” Q hissed. The witch blew smoke into his face and the world around him faded again.

He floated in darkness until darkness was all he knew. Then slowly, as if waking, his chambers were around him, filled with bright morning light. Q pulled back the covers, dismissing the memories of the tower as easily as a half remembered dream. Getting up he went through his normal routine. Coming out of his room and into the great hall, for breakfast, he saw his father at the high chair. Q took his own place at the table. A beautiful dark haired girl came up beside him, she talked and laughed, as she touched his arm. She invited him for a walk, but Q refused her. Then across from him, was Loras’ beautiful face, and long auburn hair. Loras smiled and Q felt the stirring, there was no love but there was friendship, desire and lust.

Loras took his hand and swept him, supporting Q's weight, almost dancing in front of the breakfast crowds. There was a kiss. Tongues duelled and tasted each other. The arms let go and Q was falling, from the highest balcony of the palace. The wind rushing passed. He landed with a crunch, bones breaking, chocking on his own blood. Somehow Q was able to see the smirk on Loras' face as he stood far above him.

He endured magical visions, day in and day out; ever since he had come to this devilish place. In every one he had a choice, choose the man and suffer, their death, his death, pain, humiliation or betrayal. Choose the woman, he had nerve chosen the woman so had no idea how those visions went.

“I am who I am. I will not learn your lesson” Q spat at the witch, curling up into a ball.

--

“This is wrong!” The lean blond teenager ducked the hand making to slap his head. Smirking at James in triumph Clint didn't notice the next one and hissed as the blow rattled his head. Jed, the younger and stouter brother sniggered.

The three, all dressed in dragon scale armour. Clint in Alec's black scale, worn as a tunic with plates along his arms and legs. It left his joints vulnerable but he hardly ever got close enough in a fight, preferring to use the elven bow on his back. James and Jed were in his pale blue/white, made of more solid plates around their bulkier chests, arms, and thighs. James had a one handed Viking style sword, straight two edged with small guard and thick wide pommel. While Jed held a long war-hammer; the shaft resting over a shoulder

Arriving at the town, the three could see the stone work, and slate roofs having once meant prosperity. But the darkened stone and roofs, damp with moss growing on it showed the deprivation that existed now. There was a meeting already in progress. The town square was crowded with men in robes. An elder stood on the wall around a dry fountain where he could be seen and heard. James was concerned, they had been over zealous. The people were far fewer than the size of the town would suggest.

“I heard there is a dragon?” James shouted. There was confirmation from members of the crowd. James' eye cast over them, they were mostly older and infirm. Virtually no middle-age, youth and no children what so ever.

The elder, no fool, “And how much to get rid of the dragons?” When James gave the price, three gold coins, well they had more mouths to feed. “And the Witch?” the elder prompted.

The mental voice of James was swearing, every word he knew and in every tongue he had learnt.

“A witch!” Jed nudged him with an excited light in his blue eyes.

“We could do some real good for once.” Clint added.

“Four Gold coins and all the provisions we can carry, now and once we are finished.” James shouted across the crowd.

“Five whole coins and all the provisions you want once the job is done. No provisions now.” The elder called. James watched the gaze of the crowd bounce from him to the Elder. A hope sweeping over them.

“Done.” James shouted. Grumbling to himself as he and the others walked off.

--

Skimming the tops of the dying forest. The pale blue dragon's hide glinting in the moonlight. Climbing higher to accommodate the rising mountain. He followed the old path, no more than a winding gap in the trees. On the edge of the forest, beside the frozen northern sea, stood a group of black towers.

His dragon eyes and the archer riding his back surveyed the castle. It was well manned with soldiers in grey armour. It would have once been the seat of a great lord but was now a base for some corrupted Lady who terrorised any village or town within a few days travel.

A heel digging in and James wanted to slap Clint up-side the head again. James would have been dumped off by a high dragon if he ever dared to dig in his heels like one might do to a horse. Then he noticed what the boy wanted. A woman was crossing a stone bridge from one high tower to another, her long hair and flowing dress whipping in the frigid wind. A square glass enclosed lantern in her hand.

He felt the eager boy pull his bow. James barrel rolled. Clint clung on for dear life. The eager boy not understanding, you do not just take any opportunity to kill a witch. You must learn as much as you can because they tended to have surprises that could kill, easily and horribly.

Seeing a stock pen in the ruin of the village that once supported the castle, the round faced dragon smiled. He dropped down in the forest. Clint did not take the hint. James shook his body like a dog drying itself. Clint screamed as he was flung off and landed in a tangled heap. When the boy looked up, James brought a claw to the strap of the leather saddle around him. A silent threat the boy would be walking back if he didn't unbuckle it. Clint loosened the strap and the blue wings unfurled and the dragon launched up. Disappearing into the darkness.

James beat his wings, lunging ever higher. When he got to his highest limits where the biting chill made it through his hide and the lack of oxygen started to make him light-headed, he moved into a dive position. His crystal eyes fixed on the pen. Even from the altitude and darkness with clouds blocking the view, his target clearly visible to James' dragon eyes. Folding his wings back the rushing wind filling his nostrils giving a heady feeling as his body harvested the oxygen.

Fanning his wings, he pulled up, moving from the dive to swoop over the ground very fast. Alec was far better at this manoeuvre and he made an eerie screeching when he did it. With a blast of fire, James snatched up a pig in his forelegs. Feeling the arrows and the heavy spears bounce off his hide, he swooped between the crumbling houses.

Circling the castle, James saw the witch. She didn't attack him directly, and that was a good sign. Heading off into the distance, he landed in the forest, out of view of the castle. Clint re-saddled him and mounted. With their prize they set off again; landing in their camp.

Alec and Jed saw the pig at Clint’s side the instant they landed. Pork was not a common meat to their diet. Everyone fed up of rabbit, mutton, goat and the unidentifiable salted meat.

Jed and Alec butchered the pig and started the roast, as Clint discussed the scouting trip. Alec looked up.

“Did the witch attack you?” Alec asked. James shook his head. “So her offensive magic might be limited. We need to learn about her men, what they are capable of. See if the witch can watch them or if they have been given tricks to use.”

Clint drew a crude map on the ground. Alec came up with the first plan to attack. With four against an entire castle, this was not going to be easy, quick or safe. A gorilla campaign was the best they could do.

--

Clint stood on a high rocky outcrop, at the base of the mountains. From his position he could see the main gate of the castle, the road where it vanished into the treeline, and at several points he could see the road through the trees. A party of mounted knights sent from the witch's castle had been on the road for about half an hour. Clint saw them pass one gap in the trees, and his eyes were fixed on the next, waiting for them to be visible again so they could spring the trap.

Clint drew on the bow; the long swooping W shape of the recurve bow being forced into a gentle curve as he pulled back the string. Seeing the lead knight emerge and become visible, Clint let the string slip through his fingers. The loosed arrow sailed down from Clint's elevated perch, through the trees and embedded into the neck of a black knight travelling on the distant road.

The lead knight fell from his horse while his men went to his aid. Upon seeing the pale brown arrow sticking from between the helmet and neck piece, the half dozen men made circle for protection.

A shaggy haired blond man in white armour charged out of the foliage, with an arching swing of Jed's large war-hammer the nearest soldier went flying. James shouted and attacked the small group from the rear. From his high perch Clint loosed another arrow. Killing a man who was coming up behind his brother. The arrow slipped through the narrow visor and into the soldier's face.

Casting his eyes in the direction of the castle, Clint pulled a horn from his belt. Giving a long-shot-long blast, in warning. A host of heavy armour clad knights galloped down the road to re-enforce the raiding party. The advancing knights confirmed that some form of communication existed between the castle and the raiding part they had ambushed.

Climbing down from the crop of rocks, Clint mounted the proud steed. Digging in his heel to the grey almost white horse, he set off. He galloped down the road, joined by a swooping black dragon. James and Jed rode on the back of Alec. Clint smirked as the dragon seemed to labour under the weight of the two men.

--

When the night came, James returned as a dragon to the castle. He burned the broken village, as he looked for stores of food around the pen where he had stolen the pig from. Guards poured out from the castle to confront him. He climbed atop of an old house and bathed the men in roaring flame.

The witch appeared, high upon a tower balcony. James' eyes slipped from the witch's tower to the highest tower, where a man stood at an arched window, holding himself tight. The dark haired man watched the carnage with pain and sympathy. So rapt by the green eyes that seemed to gleam in the ultra-sharp vision of the dragon’s sight, James didn't see the spear-man taking careful aim.

Screaming a roar, James used his teeth to yank the spear from under his right arm pit. He spat the pole at the soldiers and belched an arc of rolling and dancing flame.

Launching up, James sailed passed the first of the tall towers. The witch still didn't attack him, despite the tempting target James offered her. Gliding past the second tower, the man smiled. As clear as day he smiled and waved. James gave into the juvenile urge and barrel rolled and did a few other acrobatics.

Landing at the camp, he met Alec's eyes and looked away.

“James?” the other man called.

The dragon collapsed and licked his wound under his fore left leg. It made little difference the moment they transformed the wound would vanish.

Sitting by his side Alec leaned against James' neck. “What? I know something has affected you. Tell me tomorrow.”

When the change came James walked off. The black dragon beside him. Putting his hand on the wide flat head. Massaging the area between Alec's swept back flesh covered horns and the ears.

“I saw someone. It felt like he could see me . . . the ‘me’ beneath the scales. He flirted, just a silly wave, and I flirted back, doing acrobatics.”

The wide flat head with the widely spaced eyes looked to James. The left ear flicked up and there was a tilt to the head, an indication of curiosity.

“I know, I know . . . Actually I don't. I have no idea why, but he haunts me.”

Again they raided the parties sent from the castle. Making the people weaker and more desperate. A three man one dragon siege.

--

Four days in, they attacked another group of soldiers. This time they tried to sneak out in travelling cloaks rather than try and appear as an army. After the party of soldiers had been dealt with, Alec burned their corpses to a fine ash with ultra hot stream as white flame. For the first time, Clint hadn't sounded a warning of reinforcements.

Alec looked at James and Jed. They were going through the rings, jewels and coins they pillaged from the men. James also added the swords to the bundle, a few were good but most were only worth only the value of the metal in them.

With a jump Alec entered the air. The black castle came into view. Circling, he could barely see any guards. He looked into a ring of slit windows around the top of the central tower. Alec's sharp eyes caught sight of the witch through the windows. Gliding in, he landed on the side of the central tower. His short claws gripping the edges of the large stones. He scrambled up and looked into the round turret room.

The witch stood, a bowl in her hand with red smoke moving like serpents to the man on the middle of the floor. The lean man in a long white shirt was writhing and crying out. His arms waving as if to push away something. The witch's high-born and deep drawl, “Give in . . . make the proper choice.”

“ALISTAIR?” The writhing man screamed. Tears slid from his squeezed shut eyes. His broken voice begged, “Say something, please. Make a noise. Please!”

Alec saw red. With a rumbling inward breath he drew the witch’s attention. Alec let out a breath of his hottest flame, so hot it became a stream of blue almost white light. The witch screamed. The force pushing her against the far wall, but survived the intense heat that melted the stone behind her. Alec's eyes widened.

Dropping away, Alec circled the tower, targeting a narrow window and blasting a wider hole. Alec slammed into the hole, forelegs scrambling for purchase, his wings too wide to get inside. Sending another blast at the witch. It forced her back but no more. Scrambling he was able to get a hold of a leg and drag the man closer. Tucking him between his front legs, Alec launched away from the tower. The unconscious man clasped in his claws.

He blasted the castle again. The stone melted and shattered with the heat. Towers collapsed and walls crumbled. There were no soldiers fleeing the destruction, but Alec feared the witch would survive. Nothing had survived his fire before.

Seeing James and Jed arriving in the village, Alec touched down and placed the man at James' feet. He then took to the air. He circled the castle, blasting it until he was exhausted and could produce nothing but body warmed air. A black glass mound was left and Alec was still concerned it wasn't enough.

They camped in the village that night. Wrapped in a cloak and under Alec's front leg and wing, Q woke. Pushing himself up from the oppressive heat, Q came, sort of, face to face with a head. Wide and flat, similar to a snake, just much bigger and black. The leg lifted and Q was able to sit up.

Looking about there were three men around a fire. Q recognised instantly the eyes of the older man.

“You are that dragon . . . the blue one.” Q breathed. The black dragon made a huffing sound that Q thought to be a laugh.

“Yes. James.” he said extending his hand to the man under Alec's wing, who introduced himself with, “Q”

There was another guffaw from the dragon and it stood, its head tuned out to the west were the sun was about to drop below the horizon. The dragon pulled away and James stripped.

One of the boys came up to Q and whispered, “Don't get too close.”

Both man and dragon screamed and tore at their flesh. Q tried to help and was held back. He closed his eyes and covered his ears. Tears slipped out at the sounds the two were making, the horror and blood. Q had seen too much and it was all crashing in.

Arms came around him and Q was being held against a bare broad chest. Thick fingers combed through his hair. Building up the courage, Q opened his eyes and the crystal blue eyes of the pale dragon were looking at him. The man holding him, the same dark blue eyes as the black dragon. He was lean in face with blond hair falling into the dark blue eyes.

“I'm Alec” the man whisper into Q's ear. He knew he was lying but he said, “The witch is dead. You are safe.”

Clint grumbled. “Not so nice to us. Never . . .” James roared and the boy closed his eyes as spittle hit him with the rushing air and whipped his hair. “Oh leave off. If you were going eat us you would have done it by now.” He said to the bared teeth of the wide mouth.

In a huff James curled up. Alec pulled Q to within the circle of the curling dragon. He held the man, wishing they had more than just some biscuits and boiled water from the well.

“You are safe.” Alec repeated to the sombre man. There was low gurgle of agreement from the dragon behind them. “I know this is a bad time. Can you tell us what she was trying to do?”

Q looked up through the fall of his fringe. He had known, could always tell. He saw it in the man beside him and in the eyes of the dragon the night before. “She was trying to get me to change.”

Alec snorted. “Well the witch we met made our change more physical.”

A memory bubbled up. “You, both of you. It's not a nest or new breed, you two are all the accounts of the dragons in the northern territories.”

Alec gave a cheesy smile, “Got to earn a living somehow.” Q smiled too, despite himself.

He told Alec and the listening dragon, “My father wanted me to take a wife. I have never been drawn to a woman. The witch was trying to change that.”

“Alistair?” Alec prompted. Q scrubbed his eyes and shook his head.

Alec let the matter drop. Asking, “Do you know if you were cursed by her?”

Q shook his head and described the visions where he had to choose between a boy and girl, and if he chose the boy he was given visions of horrors. Alec tightened his hold. Q did not sleep, so neither did Alec or James.

Come the morning and the change. James pulled the man into a hug then helped him mount Alec. Q held on for dear life as he was lifted into the air. Breaking through the low clouds, Q had to shield his eyes from the sun, the air was cold but the heat caressing his skin with the light. Then they descended, the clouds damp, into the weak light of the northern territories, where even in the height of summer it was grey and damp.

They landed in a clearing. The dragon breathed balls of blue flame, scaring off the wolves drawn by the smell of pork and other foods.

Q climbed down with the ease of a man familiar with large chargers. The dragon used its head and gave a purring chirp to bring Q's attention to sacks tied high up in the trees.

Alec watched Q try and climb up, and with a little amusement as the lean man scrambled and slid back down. Taking pity on the man Alec brought his flat head to the man's foot. Boosting Q up. Using his front legs to keep himself steady against the tree Alec raised up on the hind legs. Q was then able to untie and lower the sacks.

Nudging one of the packs with his blunt snout, Alec encouraged the man to change out of the white night gown that was under James' cloak.

Soon Q stood in a mix of borrowed clothing. He had Clint's breeches. From Alec, a pair of boots and a long cassock like tunic. It was black and accentuated his long and lean body. Q added a wide belt of James' to pull the tunic tight around his waist.

Alec perked up as he saw Q picking up his sabre. Then watched as the man's skilled hands made the blade dance with complex slashing, spins and throws. The cassock billowed as Q dropped and spun, kicked in a round house then a butterfly.

When Q looked up from his impromptu training. The Dragon's big blue eyes with slit pupils were wide. The jaw hanging open showing the row of rounded teeth.

“Sorry, I get carried away.” Q said and the dragon nodded.

--

Arriving in the village the people seemed surprised that they were here. James called to the elder that they dealt with the dragons and sold a couple of hides for some more coins. Then gave a warning that he tricked the dragons into attacking the witch and couldn't be sure if she was truly dead.

James, Clint and Jed stayed a night while the castle was scouted. The boys partook of some of the girls, unlike the whores of other towns and cities, the girls here were looking to get pregnant, to expand their dwindling populace. James only partook of the drink. When night came, James returned to their camp allowing Alec and Q to go to the village.

--

The village had been grateful as they parted with the gold and provisions. They had bought a couple of nags. The two boys rode them. The supplies split between James on the white stallion and Alec, who was carrying Q.

“So you are con artists?” Q said.

“Yes.” James answered.

“You don't aspire to be more?”

James growled. “Dear God! Another one? I'll hit you upside the head if you start preaching.”

The dragon underneath Q made huffing laugh. Q looked at the black scales, running his fingers over the ridges that ran down the back. The back beneath him squirmed and he figured Alec was ticklish.

“Where are you heading?”

“Deepwood. They mine gold there. A few lost sheep and weeks of travel to the next nearest town: with a threat of a starving workforce they'll part with some gold.” James said.

“We could go for the city of Forge.” Q prompted. The dragon below him huffed his displeasure with the idea.

“They are almost as bad as wizards . . .” James trailed off seeing the man flinch. Continuing a bit more softly, “Their weapons are a bit too dangerous for the likes of us.”

--

Q watched in amazement as in every morning and evening the two men changed. He watched as the dragon hide was salvaged and prepared.

The further north they went the clearer and colder weather became. Sitting by Alec, the more the man joined Q in his quiet, introspective reflection. Under the stars, beside the roaring fire, Q looked at the man's sure fingers carve and stitch. Alec held up a body section of body armour. The arms still needed to be attached. He lay it over Q's back, judging size.

“Can I ask about the dragons?”

Alec shrugged, the gesture pointless as Q's back was to him.

“We robbed a little old lady. She was the witch who cursed us. We raided their village and the witch came back to teach us another lesson.” Alec said and indicated the two brothers.

Now he had answered a question, Alec asked one of his own; where had Q learnt to handle a sword. Q told him of his training and Alec asked, “Who were you a squire to?”

“No one. I was the only son and heir. I learned from the Master at Arms.”

“I suspected as much. That's how James learned too.” Alec said.

“So Alec, where did you learn to be a seamstress?” Q asked,

“Cheeky sod” Alec said and batted the back of the other man's head. Only ruffling his hair.

Q thankful he had his back to the man as the moment of teasing joy also brought a stab of pain. Rufus and Alistair, a fleeting and strong thought.

--

By the time they arrived in Deepwood. Members of the City Watch were training and preparing. Q looked from the four wheeled wagon, with a pivoting crossbow mounted on the back, to James, who was still looking at the drill to fire the large weapon.

“Is this a good idea?” Clint whispered.

“It'll work.” James hissed at the boy and told him to stop speaking.

Going to the city library, Q found the librarian. The building was a hexagon shaped structure with a tall tapering tower, a little like a lighthouse. Inside the shelves were like the spokes on a wheel with a staircase curving around on the inside of walls, up to the rookery.

Finding an old man in functional brown heavy robes, a sense of Deja vu took hold as Q looked on the bald head; the Librarian’s hair growing mainly out of ears and nose, and a beard that reached the stooping librarian's belt. And most familiar, the frailty that made it appear the librarian would collapse if so much as a gentle breeze caught him.

“I need a pigeon.” Q asked.

The old man looked up. Then moved with a slow cautious plod, up the rickety wooden staircase into the loft. Pigeons in boxes cooed. “To where does his Lordship wish to send a message to?”

“I am not a lord, just Q. And to Forge.”

Q was given a roll of waxed parchment so thin he could see through it. He scribbled a note while the librarian opened a box and pulled out the pigeon from inside. With gnarled and practised hands, the old fingers added a capsule to the pigeon's leg. The Librarian then took the message and slipped it into the capsule and released the bird. Q handed over the coppers he had been given.

Q found James in the inn, with a tankard in hand and looking rather glum. “Let me guess, they don't need a knight in shining armour to protect them from Dragons?”

“They will!” James spat and drank the ale.

Getting back to camp, everything was gone. Clint called, pointing to some scratch marks high up on a fir tree, a message from Alec. “They're patrolling the area.” James said. Alec having scarpered.

Just before night fall, a laden dragon set down amongst the small group. The two men changed and they settled in for the night. Q told Alec about the new development; the crossbows they saw. James determined to scare the townsfolk some more, launched himself into the air. Flying off as Alec called after him.

“WAIT! Buggering hell!” Alec sat down, grumbling about impatience, also grumbling about placements he had seen and obvious traps.

Q and Alec, sat and watched the glowing embers and listened to the crackle of the fire. Clint and Jed tried to get some rest. With the snap of branched, James crashed down. Tumbling and sprawling, his wings limp. They reached James' side, where they found what looked like a narrow tree trunk in him. But it was completely smooth and a carved out notch at the back, for it to be launched.

James let out a low and long chirping sound. The three men scrambled. James clamped his jaws shut, to stop the noise. Alec was wide eyed and panicked. Q and Clint pressed the cleanest cloth they had to the sides of the wound stemming the flow of blood.

“He can't change like that.” Alec said.

“We need to stem the flow of blood!” Q argued, more concerned about the moment and not the morning, hours away.

“Should we take it out?” Clint gasped.

“He'll heal with the change.” Alec hissed. Q hoped he was right. Q took charge, deciding to stem the flow of blood, rather than risk an open wound that they couldn't close quickly enough.

As dawn approached, Q was getting worried. James was taking the most shallow of breaths. Alec looked to the east rising up on his tip toes in the vain hope the first light would hit him a moment sooner.

Q and Jed grasped the thick pike and braced against James' chest. Clint taking the end of the pole. With the first scream of Alec they pulled the pole out. Blood spilled. James didn't move as Alec tore at his own skin.

Seeing a split along the back of James' scales. Q dug his fingers in and pried the hide off. Clint and Jed followed his lead. The three peeled James out of his dragon form. Finding a pink and soft human inside. Turning him over Q looked at the chest feeling the shallow fall and rise. Thankful as he felt the flawless area where the pole had penetrated James under the ribs.

Q wiped the man clean of the red gunk that clung to him. It was a few hours before James woke. He looked awful, pale and shaky, with dark rings around his eyes. Looking to Alec, “Shouldn't you be out steeling sheep?”

The flat head swung from left to right once and nodded his confirmation of his decision. They were not going to provoke the town further.

Q cleaned off the blood, dressed in the armoured coat Alec hand made for him. The garment was made with a central body section like a long tabard of overlapping scales. The arms black. With tassets hanging down and around his thighs. With a satchel and Alec's sword at his side Q said, “I will be back in a few hours.”

Alec nodded. James tried to stand, but Alec used his blunt nose and pushed James back down. Ending the argument on him moving.

Arriving at the library, the old librarian brought Q up to the loft again. There was a response from Q’s message. Taking the waxed paper Q read as he descended. The king, his father, was believed to be mad. War was on the horizon. Those who spoke out against the crown or church along with magic users were being added to an ever growing list of undesirables.

Arriving back at the camp. “I am going to Forge.” Q announced.

“They will be worse than here.” James grumbled. Rebuilding his strength with some broth.

Helping himself to a bowl, Q explained. “Not to trick them . . . to see someone.”

With a huff from Alec and the dragon agreed. Clint and Jed added their agreement and James reminded the two squires, “You're servants and don't get a say.”

--

After another night as a dragon, and his return to human form, James had completely recovered. They made an easy way east and south.

The scenery was bleak and grey. Even the grass and trees seemed to be grey rather than green. Q was riding behind James, his hands resting on the other man's waist. Alec was flying, stretching his wings so to speak.

The first warning they were approaching a village was when Alec took off and went straight up. The moment he broke the cloud layer he was impossible to see. As the nearly deserted main road tracked around a hill, the spire of a church came into view. Then the sparse roofs of a few tall building, announcing the presence of a village.

Passing slowly through the village. They came upon a man dressed in the long brown robes and wearing a white ephod apron over them. The crown of his head had been shaved. He held a banner of the Royal house in one hand and the church banner in the other. He shouted proclamations.

“Witchcraft, is evil, practitioners should be burned. A man who lies with another man, is evil, practitioners should be burned. A woman who lies with a woman, is evil, practitioners should be burned. Denouncing the king, evil . . . burn. Denouncing the church, evil . . . burn.” On and on he went shouting and the people were too scared of the soldiers to not listen.

“Simple message.” James muttered.

“I saw the king burn two men, friends. Another was condemned to rot before his death.” Q said.

The next village they passed, the preacher was even harsher. He then chose someone at random and accused her of witchcraft. Demanding she suffer a brutal and torturous trial, that innocent or guilty would mean her death.

“Your bow!” Q demanded, his hand stretched out to Clint.

James grasped the outstretched weapon. Before Q could. With a practised hands James loosed the arrow, for it to embedded in the preacher's skull. The town quickly forgot about the witch-hunt. Some, like the accused woman and her family using the opportunity to run. The soldiers and others only backing off when a black dragon descended and burnt the banners of the king and church.

The three on horse back galloping away. Alec covering their escape.

--

After travel that had reached weeks. Q scrubbed his jaw. His wispy beard had grown rather itchy. Jed too was starting to grow hair, much to the annoyance of his brother who could only muster a bit of fuzz on his top lip. James and Alec apparently not needing to shave, just having bit of a permanent shadow on their faces.

The climate was getting warmer and fields of cultivated yellow crops covered the rolling hills. The well-trodden road became a compact brown path through the yellow and green fields. A dark river cut across the road but there was no ferry or ford but an ornately carved sandstone bridge arched over it. The first signs they were entering an area of affluence.

In the distance, they saw a strange city. It was full of spires and high arched halls. Not what most had come to expect from a city that was founded by the six brothers, all smiths and masters of their trade. It did not look industrial.

Alec took to the skies while the men headed on. The city was attractive. Built of sandstone, the cottages tending to be thatched while the larger buildings had slate roofs. They dismounted at an inn where Clint and Jed arranged rooms. The two boys then went for supplies and to sell some hides.

James, wearing a long cloak covering his armour, and Q, dressed in a black cassock, headed for a large hall with stained glass windows. Passing the guards in their shining breast plate and long pikes, the two men entered the long, arched and cavernous room.

The six heads of the City State sat at a wide table at the far end of the great hall. The oldest of the six, The Lord, sat in the middle in the highest chair. His drooping and narrow sapphire eyes had been watching the door for weeks now, as petitioner after petitioner came before them. When the two men entered, one reeking of danger and was hiding beneath a long cloak, but it was the green eyes of the companion that the lord focused on. The Lord of the Six Smiths stood.

“With me, Yo... my boy.”

Q moved from the crowds and passed the guards, to go to the side door where the lord was heading. Offering the old man his arm, they continued into the private chambers of the halls.

Within the corridors of carved, light brown stone and polished floors, they came to a walled garden, and walking along the covered cloister. The lord led them, sending a glance to James who was following and raising a quizzical brow.

Q answered the silent question, “He can be trusted as much as any scoundrel.” The lord nodded.

“The Kingdom is in a dire situation. Most think the King is mad. As the Church stands by him, they get to blame the witches and perverts, foreigners and the unfortunate for all the ills of this world. He took Renly Baratheon hostage, to keep his older brother in line. It is bad . . . one little spark and the entire kingdom could ignite . . .”

James frowned. The lord gave Q a briefing on the politics, welcoming him like a lost son. And together, they talked about the king like he was their problem. Then the old man said, “What we need is someone to rally behind.”

Snorting, James said, “War! That is what old men want and young men die in.”

Q looked at him and smiled sadly. “No one wants a war.”

“Are you sure about that?” James taunted. He had seen many willing to go war for no other reason than their own benefit.

“I do not want a war, but I will go if it is needed.” Q continued.

James fell further back, letting the two men blow more hot air than both he and Alec could manage in a lifetime.

--

That evening Q watched Alec wolf down the pheasants, partridges, and beef.

“So good!” he said around a mouthful, as he called for more wine.

“I think I am going to stay.” Q said. Alec stopped and looked at him with wide eyes. Alec forced down the mouthful with a gulp of wine.

“James told me, you want to go to war.” Q tried to protest the interpretation and Alec forged on. “I and James, we have seen war . . . real war, proper battles. We will not raise arms like that again. You may not realise this, Clint sure as hell doesn't. We are being more honest as crooks and scoundrels than we ever were as Kni . . . soldiers.”

“So you will not consider staying?”

“Will you not consider leaving?” Alec begged. He saw the green eyes of the man across from him darken in a way he had not even seen when he had rescued Q from that witch.

“I had a plan. I would have taken a wife and produced an heir and do all my father publicly wanted. The man I loved understood. We would have found a woman who understood, or wanted a sham marriage for her own reasons. I watched my father burn my love when he found about our relationship. I was forced to marry a bitch, who only liked the touch of her own twin brother. And that's when I met my next love. With Alistair I tried to run. I was pulled back. I listened to him . . . I listened to him control his own fear so I wouldn't be afraid. I listened to the dream he had built up for our future. I listened to him prepare me for the sight of his rotten corpse fall from the box he was placed in. I listened to the silence when he stopped talking.” Q swiped the tears away.

Alec pushed his meal away. His appetite for the wonderful food gone. “Q?”

“You should go. My father will hear about the witch soon and will come after me. I don't think I can watch another die, because I . . .” Q trailed off, shaking his head.

Alec stood, dropping a few coins on the table.

“We can protect you.” Alec insisted and Q smiled hollowly.

“You can only protect me by changing the world, and you refuse to go to war to do it.”

Alec walked out. He plodded along the torch lit lane as he looked around the streets of the city. It was by far the cleanest city he had ever seen. It was a credit to the best of humanity had to offer and Alec didn't believe it.

Seeing a group of boys in black robes of the universities, he snatched the arm of one, demanding.

“Whorehouse?” The blond boy spluttered out directions. Alec followed them.

Coming to the street he was directed to, Alec looked at the buildings. They were three levels high, with narrow stairs going up. Chains spanned the street with heavy lamps casting enough light to see by. Each of the houses seemed to be just a door and a window; some had people sitting at their windows. A woman lowered her bodice as Alec passed and beckoned to him. Beside each door hung a lamps with different coloured glass. Red, purple, pink. Some houses had many lamps, some only one. Some were lit while others were dark.

A man tumbled out of one of the doors and the woman behind him hung up a lantern with frosted glass making the flame look whiter. She sent Alec a smile, “Your pleasure?”

Alec shook his head. “Looking for something more #masculine?”

She pointed the doors with white lanterns meaning the person was available, the yellow meant it was a woman who entertained men. Pointing to other doors, she explained pink lanterns were for men looking for a man to mount. The Purple lantern were for men looking to be mounted and the red lanterns were for women seeking men.

With the meaning of the coloured lights explained, Alec moved up to a window. A light brown haired young man was hard at work poring over a large leather book. Beside the window there were two lanterns the white one and one of three panes of glass in a line, the top red, purple then pink. He looked up and Alec was met with the strangest shade of eyes. They appeared to look almost violet. The man stood and turned slowly, the sheer dressing gown was almost see through. Alec nodded and the man indicated the white lantern on the end. Unhooking the lantern, Alec opened the door.

“What dose sir like?” the man asked.

The room inside was narrow. A bed just inside of the door and a small desk in front of the window, beside the door. There was a curtained off area at the back of the room. And the man was pulling the curtains across the windows.

“I just want to lie naked, for a bit.” Alec said.

The man pulled the belt from his waist and let the dressing gown slip off, revealing a lightly muscled body shaved and slightly oiled. He nodded to a bowl on the desk, Alec pulled out a silver coin and tossed it in. The man's eyes going wide. “If sir wishing my services for a few days? I need the day time for university.”

Alec shook his head and answered, “A few hours, until morning.”

Alec undressed and laid down before opening his arms, “You can read, if you want.”

The man nodded and picked up his book. Alec held the man as he read his book. Alec's hand travelled from the think braid of hair down the muscled back and arse. Loving the feel of human skin against human skin.

“I didn't think the universities charged? I was told they looked for the best.”

Turning a page then man's soft warm voice washed over Alec and the breath tickled the hairs on his chest. “The university is free but I still need to feed myself, pay rent, buy supplies and I like to send some money home.”

“Your family? Make something up if you don't want to tell me.” Alec prompted.

He liked to talk but didn't like talking about himself. He listened to the man in his arms discuss his family on a croft on the edge of the county. How an elder of the village noticed his potential and championed for him to come to Forge.

Alec couldn't afford to let himself sleep no matter how comfortable he became. When the time came he rolled off the man, pressing his lips to the dusky pink and whispered. “Thank you.”

He then dressed. In a fit of gratitude he lifted the silver coin and placed down a gold one. Hearing a gasp from the man he thought to be asleep. The strange eyes wide at seeing more money than most would see in a whole year. Alec left, heading out of the town. He arrived at the camp. Pressing his back to the curled up dragon and sliding to sit on the ground.

“Q wishes to join the lord's war.”

Clint sat up. “I will stay with Q” he said. He jumped back as James turned, lifting the clubbed tail and brought it down on the quickly vacated sleeping roll. “Bloody hell, James. WANKER!” Clint screeched.

When the change came James ran for the city. Banging through the council chamber doors. The guard were startled and brought their pikes to him. The lord called the guards off and indicated the door to the side of the room.

James found Q in the cloistered garden, where there was a statue of a young man in simple tabard, with the city's seal carved on the chest. Q sat on the bench beside the statue looking up at it. His lips moving as if talking to the statue. Q stood and turned the moment he heard James crash into the secluded area.

“You're going to war!” James spat. Q nodded.

“I . . . we won't come for you,” James threatened.

Of the expected responses James waited for, the quiet “thank you” was not one of them.

“Please come back, we love having you.” James tried.

Q smiled. “I loved being with you too, and Alec, my knights in shining scales.” Q said with glistening eyes.

“You're a fool!” James shot. He got no argument. “You're going to get yourself killed.”

“Then at least I will not be getting another love killed.” Q said softly.

“Fool!” James shouted and stormed out.

James didn't think, he charged through what needed to be done. He bought a sack. He bought provision. Adamant they were leaving immediately. He went to a stables, they need more horses not the one good stallion and two nags. Seeing a black stallion with white socks and a chestnut mare he caught the Stable Master's attention. He paid far too much for the horses and the saddles. Mounting the stallion he set off.

At an easy walk, he rode down the far more industrial area of town. Rows of workshops lined the wide street. The workmen here crafting siege weapons. James recognised a crossbow on a large cart. The memory of the pain in his side came to him as he also remembered the trunk sized ammunition it used. There were other carts, like rickshaws with wide flat ends, full of holes and long narrow arrows (taller than a man) in huge mounds beside. Catapults, their ammunition, balls being filled with powdered red crystals.

He shook his head. These people were idiots. Toys had never won a war. They needed an army, knights, and soldiers. Horses that didn't balk at the smell of smoke, the clash of metal and would know what the rider need without too much encouragement.

James arrived at the camp. The two nags were piled with most of the supplies. Clint beamed at the lean light brown horse that was now all his. Jed looking over the strong and stout black horse. James went to the one they had been sharing, the almost white one with a black diamond on its head.

Alec kept pace beside James, the large wings tucked in and the long fanned tail swaying and dipping as he walked.

The field of high corps stretched on about them with the well-made road of bricks under foot. They could tell they were leaving the influence of the city as the road switched to hard compacted ground. Then to the worn track from the travellers. Trees started to build up and follow the line of the road.

They rounded a sweeping bend and in front of them was a familiar old woman in flowing white gown and shawl. Her hand held the staff with the eight pointed star. James was ready to ignore her and walk right passed. There was huff from the dragon beside him, Alec moved forward and his serpent like body came round in a crescent and he headed back the way they had come.

“Alec!” James shouted. Looking from the white fairy and her kindly blue eyes to the hind of the black dragon slowly returning. James' shoulders slummed. He too followed the gnawing in his gut and brought the horse around heading back.

For every lumbering difficult step they took away from Q, it seemed to lighten as they returned. The city seemed to come into view quicker than it vanished.

“Alec?” James said. He saw a resolve on his friend's face, he was not going to wait hidden in a field this time. “Shouldn't we at least prepare them?” James asked as Alec continued on.

They entered the wide main street of the city. James on a white horse and Alec stalking, sleekly beside him. Clint and Jed rode behind.

The people came out of their shops and homes, inns and pubs. Some running off. Others pressing to the buildings as they passed. A child stepped out and looked at the black dragon with huge amazed eyes. A gathering of students in their black robes stood in a clusters with their mouths agape. Alec looked to one with strange violet eyes and winked a big eye.

The prostitute gave a scared little wave and Alec flicked his ears up, James and Q always said it was cute when he did that, like a curios puppy.

Arriving at the council chamber, James dismounted. He shared a glance with Alec the doors were closed and the garden square in front was empty of petitioners. Approaching the doors, James had a foreboding as the two guards took up a defensive positions, even in the face of the approaching dragon.

Suddenly the doors were pulled open and the guards were told to stand down. James entered, drawing his sword. Alec beside him. Seeing Q, sitting in the middle of the lines of elders, looking rather relaxed and in a fine green tunic trimmed in silver, his hair a wild mane.

“If you are going to war you need to learn a few things.” James said sheathing his sword. A nudge that nearly sent James flying, let Alec get his attention and indicated Q. It took James a moment to understand what Alec was getting at. Before it was a council of six chairs but today there was seven. Q in the middle with the lord to his right, indicating Q was now the one in charge, not the Lord of the city state.

“We're going to war. You were talking about the king. You were talking about your father. Who is your father?” James demanded.

A gravelled voice from behind him answered. “The King, Sir James. And if the Prince would accept the council of a little, old, weak . . .” Alec huffed and growled at the White Fairy. The old woman smiled at the dragon. “You might want to seek allies. You might find you have more friends than you know. One might be the ruler of the black tower Baur-dur.”

“Would you just die you manipulative old hag!” James spat with contempt. The White fairy then raised and elegant eyebrow.

“Sir James of the Old Code, I see your temperament has not improved any.”

“The Old Code?” Q whispered.

James growled at the old woman who smirked. “Now that is manipulation, Sir James,” she taunted and vanished.

“The Old Code!” Q demanded.

James tried to say 'no' but the words stuck in his throat. “I . . . we . . .” James said and indicated the dragon. “We swore the oath. But after Sir Silva corrupted the heart of the last High Dragon, we had to slay her. After that we turned our back on everything.”

“But you are returning?” Q said and James reluctantly nodded.

--

Within the same day, mostly due to Alec's statement of walking down the main street. Q, still in a long forest green silk tunic, trimmed in sliver. A small silver coronet had been fashioned and sat among his wild curls. A platform had been hastily built on the steps of the council chamber. Q climbed to the top. He cast his eyes over the crowd that filled the square and the long wide streets. Looking down, he saw James, Clint and Jed at the base with a healthy circle standing back from the black dragon. Q started by thanking the lord, the elders and the people for their charity and their hospitality.

Now came the point. “For a city of such liberal values, whose learning has come into conflict with established doctrine, the rumours of the king must be concerning. I can confirm, the horror stories are true. Anyone who does not conform is being executed by the crown and the church. It is time to return justice to the land. To every man or woman willing, we will welcome you to our cause. Once sworn, you will be called on to do your duty. You will most likely die in the fighting. All I can say is the cause is just.” Q called. Q casting his eyes over the crowd, sure the Whisperers of the court reached even here.

“Anyone willing, gather on the Oxford planes in two days. Do not make your choice lightly.”

--

James and Q bumped shoulders as they smiled and watched Alec's antics. Being a dragon by day and human by night meant he didn't get to socialise that often. Alec had climbed up a tree, wrapping his tail about a strong branch and hung upside down, his wings making a cocoon. A carpenter had asked, on behalf of his son, if the child could come to work with his father to see the dragon. The men were arriving and a few boys arrived carrying their fathers’ tools, their eyes going wide upon seeing the black teardrop like cocoon hanging from the tree.

One of the braver boys approached and touched a leathery wing and Alec burst his wings wide scattering the screaming children. Q and James burst out laughing at their innocent high shrieks. Alec dropped down and trotted over with a smug smile on his wide face.

“Oh be nice.” Q chastised.

There was an innocent tilt to the dragon's head with a 'Who Me?' look. Q patted the snout and went to see the shed being built for Alec and James when in their dragon form.

With Alec hunting the hiding children, James came up to Q's side. Everything has been done so fast in the past days, Q only now brought up what the white fairy said.

“I think I'm going to go. If you or Alec carry me, it will only be a few days travel.”

“I will stay but be careful. I don't think that woman is evil but I don't trust her.” James insisted. They went on to discuss the formation of an army here.

“Your highness.” A page called running into the garden. “Visitors . . . asking for you.”

Alec stopped his stalking of a boy and came over. The corridors were just about big enough for the dragon to squeeze his way through, despite James insisting he could keep Q safe. Q not getting a choice in the matter.

Coming into the council chamber from the side door, Q's eyes widened. He ran, slamming into the man in ornately embossed and flower patterned armour. Pulling back from the hug he looked into the still beautiful face of his friend. The hair having been cut a bit and more wavy. Q ran his fingers through the curls, taking in that and other small changes.

“Loras” he breathed.

“It's good to see you too, your Highness” Loras said. The man beside Loras cleared his throat and gave his condolences, and Q was introduced to Gellert, a wizard of the same order as Alistair.

The beautiful blond wizard with heart shaped face approached the dragon. Immediately the pieces clicking into place and accused Alec of tormenting the towns and villages. Alec huffed and blew rank sulphur breath on the man making Gellert gag.

“Bloody hell! Alec! Don't do that inside.” Q wheezed and choked when the smell of rotten eggs reached him. Then Q guided Loras out, quickly.

On the way to the Oxford planes. Loras told them of making their way to Gellert's sister, the witch and the town telling them of the mercenaries. Then tracing them to Deepwood and then Forge. Loras finishing.

“If you are going to war. The Baratheons might rally to you. Renly is the King's hostage”

Q placed his hand on the older man's shoulder. “I want to give you hope, and if he lives we will get him”

“But I know your father.” Loras said hollowly. Knowing full well the King might have done something already, the fact Renly was alive might be all that could be said of him.

Arriving at the grass area. People milled about. More than Q thought would come. James observing, “A good start.”

Loras added, “We travelled with a caravan from Deepwood. About fifty mounted, a hundred or so in some form of armour and about another hundred prepared to train.”

James nodded to Alec, the dragon roared loudly, a screeching wail that hurt the ears. When the mass had quietened James bellowed for people to listen. He moved to a spot and called for any girl under fourteen seasons. Before James, a line formed. Taking a step to the side he called for boys of less than fourteen seasons. He carried on until there were about twenty lines of different length depending on how many were in them.

The men and dragon walked down the lines. Q looked at a boy a little younger than him, short and tight compacted muscles under a large shirt hanging off his lithe frame. He had a rounded face, the darkened skin and tight narrow eyes. His long black hair tied tight at the base of his skull. Q remembered Nemo telling him that there were people even further east than his lands, and this boy fit the description. At the boys' side was sword, similar to Q's preferred scimitar. Q judged him. He would never be a traditional type of Knight.

“Your Name?” Q asked.

“Wu, your Highness,” came the answer and Q asked about the man's motivations. Wu turned his head to look at the black dragon also scanning the volunteers. “They say I am descended from Dragons. I hoped to see one, not those stupid beast, a real one.”

“I welcome you, but Alec suffers from a curse. He is not one of the wise teachers I read about.” The boy shook his head and said he still wanted a chance to fight alongside the creatures of legend. “Come to my side when called.” Q instructed.

Before moving on, Q saw Alec raise his head up and tap someone with the bottom of his jaw. Chuckling at Alec's way of selecting those he wanted. Q crossed the line and told the man what it meant when the dragon had tapped him.

“You!” James' voice cut through the air.

Q and Alec looked as James' growled. Enraged, James was baring down on another foreigner by the looks of her. Crossing the lines, Q and Alec could hear an argument.

“You were steeling sheep!” the woman hissed.

“You nearly killed me.” James returned.

Calling the man's name, Q looked over the woman standing firm in the face of the irate man. Getting her name, Q said, “When called, go see Clint, if he doesn't pick you himself.”

“Of course, your highness” Eve responded and sent James a smirk.

When the first parade was over. James shouted loud and clear. “The last ten to get to Alec can leave.” He bellowed.

Alec launched straight up. Everyone looking to the skies. Q noticed Wu and Eve were the first to take off running. A few followed them. Others still looking to the clear the skies for the black dragon. Eventual all had taken to their heels and were following the dragon.

People were setting up tents and tables throughout the day. Q caught up with Loras and spoke with Gellert. Carpenters had worked continuously to produce wooden swords with lead cores. Poles for staffs, others for spears and pole-axes, war-hammers and maces. They all arrived in barrels, with carts full of different shaped shields.

James discussed his training regimen. There would be two types of training, the one that all would take part in and the specialist skills they all had. Clint was going to teach the bow. Jed, the mace and hammer. James, Loras and Alec would be doing the traditional Knight forms. Q was to teach his preferred scimitar and the martial arts his teacher had taught him.

When Alec landed. He came up to the table the others were at. It was a few hours before the first of the weary recruits arrived. James waited until it looked like most had arrived back. He bellowed that tomorrow they had better do better than today.

Alec lifted James up in the air and they returned to the council chambers for the change. When James set down, Alec dismounted the white dragon.

Q and the others ate the same stew as the recruits. Helping the recruits see they were all in it together. Alec greeted Loras and the wizard, now he could actually talk to them. A polite voice called them. Alec raised his brow as the man with violet eyes stuttered and waffled.

“Speak.” Alec instructed, to the man he had cuddled with a couple of night before.

The first attempt was little more than a garbled gibberish. Gellert snapped, hearing a word, “You made Faux Flame?”

The man shook his head. “We applied for permission and were denied. But with real dragons, and their genuine flame we wouldn't need to artificially recreate their breath. And we could use the genuine flame to make Dragon Steel.”

The wizard raised a pale brow and nodded, “You think you can reproduce the art?”

The prostitute's braided jerked and bounced bit as he nodded.

The wizard looked to the men around him. Their confusion evident.

“Dragon Steel! Metal forged in the breath of a dragon, it . . . The most famous sword forged of Dragon Steel is Excalibur.”

Although he was the one being looked to for a decision, Q looked to Alec and James for they were the one that needed to give their cooperation. James huffed and the student jumps out of his skin.

Alec taking pity said, “I will help.”

James made another huffing sound. This time more resigned to his fate as a walking forge with wings. The others took it to be his reluctant agreement.

--

Loras was by his side helping Q into the long dragon scale tunic. The white body hugging section like an underlay then the black outer tabard. Again his oldest friend voiced his concern.
“Two days and Alec and I will be back.” Q reassured.

“Your Uncle . . .”

“We will see the state of him.” Q argued. The two walked through the sandstone corridors.

Coming to the walled garden, Alec and James waited. Q could see James packing the bags on Alec's back and giving a warning. Alec bumped his head against James'; indicating he knew the man was concerned but was getting fed up. Before he could climb up, James caught Q's hand and pulled him into a hug.

“Don't get yourself killed.” he said and released Q.

“I get other people killed.” Q reminded softly.

With leap they were in the air. Alec climbed high and fast. Q pulled the shawl around his face. Hunkering down as flat as possible; Alec's preferred position for a rider to be in. They glided far after the initial climb.

As they moved back up north and further east, the land became desolate and grey again. Then between the grey north and the frozen north beyond the crown mountains, a land of black. Everything looked dead, rivers of red lava snaked from a volcano that belched black smoke.

Come the night, Alec landed and Q set up the camp until the last ray of light left and took Alec's dragon form with it. When Alec had changed, he and Q shared the simple meal. They drank mead from a skin. The sweet and spiced drink helped stave off the cold. They ate the hard bread and cheese, with thin slices of the salted beef.

When Q pulled himself into his sleep roll he felt a brief touch to his head, the thick fingers stoking his hair.

“I abandoned caution once, I fear doing it again,” Q admitted.

“I fear believing in something again.” Alec admitted.

The next day they continued the short distance to the black tower. The dragon landed on the balcony of the highest central tower. Q pulled out Alec's sabre and approached the archway into a throne room of sorts.

“I have been expecting you.” A voice said.

A pale faced man looked from behind a high backed chair.

“Uncle,” Q greeted and sheathed his sword.

He came round and saw a round table in front of his uncle. It had a chess board set up and ready. A pale hand with black veins that reminded Q of the witch’s hand, extended, and indicated the opposite chair.

Sitting, Q looked down at the chessboard. The white pieces to him and the black in front of his uncle. His uncle's cold and controlled voice said, “I will only talk for the length of a game.”

Q nodded and made his first move. “I was told you might aid me?”

The pale hand moved a pawn. “A voice in my ear has said I might be of help.”

Alec made a huffing sound and looked away. The pale man looked round at the dragon. As Q made his move, the man said, “I take it by your companion's annoyance, someone has been whispering in your ear too.”

“Not mine, Alec’s and James' though.” Q said and watched his uncle take his piece.

“Your strategy is clear, you only see two moves ahead.” The pale man mused.

“You're being generous. I barely see one. Everyone has beaten me at chess.”

“I am not surprised.”

Q remarked about going for the king and his uncle responded, “You will loose to him just like you are loosing to me, now.”

“I need a strategist.” Q agreed.

“Could I help? Yes. Will I help? No. I want to see my brother in ruin.” With that, the pale man moved his final piece into position and put his nephew into checkmate.

“Thank you uncle for hearing me.” Q stood and went to the balcony and his uncle's voice called, “No arguing? Bargaining? Begging?”

Q placed his hand on Alec's shoulder, and smiled at the dragon. “I let James and Alec go. They came back. I will not turn away help. But I will nerve force a person to do what is against their nature.”

Q then climbed the dragon's back and the great beast launched and glided over the ruined fortress of a long since gone sorcerer.

The pale man frowned watching his nephew go. A clink of glass on stone, and the crack of heels announced another visitor. She came up beside her godson and looked at the majestic creature as it vanished into the distance. “He is like you . . . the old you. We were careful of that gift. He will never learn a lesson born of pain. He will never learn a lesson born of hatred. Even now his heart starts to welcome another rather than allow it to go cold.” the Black Fairy said.

“Give up on me.” The man begged.

The black fairy placed hand on her godson's shoulder. “Never. How about a game before I have to go?” She said heading for the chess board.

--


“Where are we going?” Q shouted over the rushing of the air.

The sun was on his forward right, where it should be on his left if they were heading south. Unsurprisingly, the dragon didn't answer. They dipped below the cloud layer, still in the desolate northern territories. Just south of the jagged teeth piercing the clouds in the distance; the Crown Mountains. They glided lower and lower. Over wide moors of hardy grey grasses and forests. Out of the grey and brown landscape, tails of smoke reached high. Soon a castle came into view. As Alec circled it, Q able to see the men coming out of the great hall. The flags flying, something white on black, but it was too far to make out properly.

With a flare of wings and tail, Alec all but stopped in mid-air before gently touching down in front of the main gate. Dismounting, Q shared a glance with the dark blue eyes. Looking to the stone towers on either side of the gate. Q heard the watchmen shouting to someone behind them.

“I come in peace. A lost traveller.” Q shouted up.

The high gates were opened. Q locked eyes with the intense and hard faced man in the centre of the approaching group. Q saw something familiar in the approaching man's face, a little wider, with deep creases and his hair far longer and matted. Q placed a hand in the warm black scales and there was a very quiet and unsure purring noise coming from Alec.

“I am Lord of the North, Eddard Stark.” The new yet familiar face said.

From the side of his mouth, Q whispered to the dragon, “Not Trevelyan?” The dragon huffed and knocked him gently in response.

“Q. I was on a diplomatic mission to find allies. My friend brought me here.” Q said, indicating the dragon at his side.

“A dragon?” Eddard said, moving passed Q to approach Alec. Q seeing how uncomfortable and ridged Alec held himself, like a statue as the lord circled him.

“One of two, who have given themselves to my cause. Could we talk, privately?”

The lord nodded and Q followed him in.

“A knight? Old code? Your bearing is a little strange?” Eddard said. Q gave a soft chuckle at the man's impatience. “What about your friend?” Ned said with a jerk of his head to the dragon in the ward.

On the threshold of the great hall, Q looked back. Some boys were cautiously approaching the dragon. Led by two mid to late teenagers, one shaggy black haired boy and a similar boy with auburn hair.

“He's great with children.” Q assured.

Q was led through the great hall with the high table at the end. In the round room of a tower, Q felt the warmth in the very walls of the castle. The fire in the large hearth took the chill from the air.

“I am the Crown Prince.”

Eddard sighed and collapsed into a carved chair. “I am loyal to my King.”

“The King attacks all who are different. You hold to the pagan gods, as do most in your fiefdom. How long before his eyes lands on you and those you are sworn to protect? If we fail, then when he comes here, you will be facing the King alone.”

Eddard scrubbed his rough face. Q looked out the window and fading light. “I will say no more. Whatever decision you make I will respect. If you do not mind, may I stay the night? The Dragon doesn't travel well in darkness.”

Eddard stood and looked out at the dragon in the ward. The youngest and most fearless were shimming up the long black tail. A chuckle made him look to the young man beside him. They watched the long muscular tail curl back and deposit the toddler between the wide wings. Rickon crawling forward, right over the thin leather saddle and onto the wide flat head to look into a big blue eye.

“Is he a high dragon?” Eddard asked. Shaking his head, Q explained the black dragon was something new. Eddard mused. “The last high dragon was murdered here.”

“The last dragon died here, but she laid down her life to end the evil she created.”

“You weren't there.”

Q gave a soft sad smile. “Only your judgement differs from all other accounts.” Q said and gained an angry glance. “From the chronicling Librarians to the wizards, and even the knights that were here. The last dragon lay down her life to atone for her sin. Every life Sir Silva took, he was able to take because the dragon was the one who sustained his eternal life. I am told your father struck Sir Silva in the stomach, your brother's arrow pierced his chest and even with your sword going right through him Sir Silva still fought on. Only when the Knight of the Old code struck down Severine, did Sir Silva die.”

“You don't understand.” Eddard said.

Q didn't argue with the man who didn't want to hear.

--

The boy's black eyes spotted the strange man who didn't want to be noticed. He watched the strange blond man sneaking into the catacombs. With Robb, the boys followed the stranger. The man didn't strike a flint or light a torch. They heard the man's sure footsteps in the complete darkness.

Jon could sense Robb beside him. Knowing they were passing old kings, from when the north was a kingdom unto itself. Then lords after the unification.

“Boo!”

Both young boys shrieked like they got Arya, their sister, to do. A deep rumbling laugh. A crack and spark of light. A small flame lit and it cast light into a laughing, leaner and more handsome version of their father.

“Who are you?” Jon said.

The man moved deeper into the tomb. “A relative . . . the black sheep.”

“I though that was me.” Jon said.

“Ned still recognises you.” Alec teased a bit. Until his mirth vanished, when he found what he was looking for. Amongst the honoured ancestors a skull almost as big as him, long and narrow.

“Severine.” Alec said as he touched the white bone.

“You knew it?” Robb asked coming up to his side. Alec remembered the scales of deep crimson and horns of black. How she could fly so far. That she was big enough that her back was as wide as the path of the curtain wall. How, with a light enough footstep, you could walk on the wings while in flight.

“The dragon here isn't that big.” Jon observed.

“That's because it's not a high dragon.” Alec said and looked at the eager boys. Cupping the cheek of one and then the other. Shifting his eyes from one to the other. For all he thought of them as boys, they were at an age where they should be getting married, settling down, a bit younger than Q, running ages with Clint.

“I shouldn't have brought Q here.” Alec said and picked up the candle and blew it out, sending them into pitch darkness.

“Are you there?” Jon called waving his arms in the complete darkness, not feeling the stranger who had been standing in front of him.

“I think he's gone.” Robb whispered.

--

Waking, the same moment as Alec, mostly because he was lying on top of the wide chest. They had started on the very edge of the bed, but during the night they had shifted closer together. Until Q was lying on top of the other man. Q watched the man pull open the window and climb out. His naked arse disappeared into the darkness of the predawn. The air ripped what heat had built up in the room. Q buried his head under the cover, rather than risk the frigged chill.

The chamber door burst open. “Where is he?” Eddard demanded. Q flung off the blankets, to glare at the man, his black hair sticking up like a bush.

“Hu? Oh.” Q said, his confusion being wiped away. “Try the walled garden. Hurry, while he can still speak.”

Eddard ran out. Q darted out of the bed. Dressed quickly and pulled the long armoured coat and the belt around his waist as he followed.

Raised voices shouted. Q emerged onto the strange garden, a bit like a forest floor. By a tree in the middle with a strange face carved in it, the two brothers were shouting and roaring. One naked, the other in rolling furs.

A small group, the wife, and two oldest sons gathered. An old Librarian was calling for calm. The lord roared, “My Sword! You were condemned to death.”

Q's quiet voice, full of regal command, spoke out. “There will be no death sentence, now or ever. This I command!” Q held the man's gaze until he bowed to his prince. “Your religion makes you an enemy of my father. If there are any more executions in your domain, I too will be your enemy.”

“Your Highness, you are outstaying your welcome.” Ned said, reigning in his anger.

Q looked to Alec, then the sky. The clouds made it almost impossible. “I will be gone, as soon as Alec changes.” As if on cue Alec began to change.

Eddard backed away, seeing his brother ripping his skin off and the black dragon emerging. Q called to the emerging dragon, to meet him in the ward.

Q returned to the room, taking his provisions and headed out. Meeting up with Alec in the ward. Q was in the middle of strapping on the leather saddle when a voice came from behind him, “Can I come?”

Q glanced at the boy, the one with the black eyes and hair. “I will not give you permission, nor will I stop you. You are old enough to make up your own mind.”

“I will come.”

Q smiled and welcomed Jon. The boy ran into the castle to prepare. Q waited for Jon, watching the riders come and go, the people moving about to sustain the castle. The Lord emerged like a thunder cloud. Trailing him was not just Jon, but his eldest legitimate son and youngest daughter, all three prepared for travel.

“You have agreed to take Jon?” Eddard demanded. Q gave the same line, Jon was old enough to make his own decision. Eddard looked at a piece of waxed paper in his hand. “News of your arrival has spread. Some of our noble houses wish to rally to your cause.”

Q nodded. Not overly surprised. Magic and the pagan tradition were still very much alive here and the more southern settlements might be more concerned about the King than the lord was. “They will be welcome.”

“Robb will lead our banner men.” Eddard announced. He then sent a quick glance to the girl, “Someone has heard, you have called women and girls?”

“I take all that are willing to help and fight.”

“Arya. None better with a bow.” Ned announced.

“Eve and Clint might argue that point. But we will see how good she is. If she comes.”

Eddard looked to the girl. Rather short for her age but as stubborn as a mule. “The choice is hers.” Eddard said, knowing full well what she would choose.

Eddard said he would send word to all the nobles of his land, but would make sure they knew they were free to refuse.

“Tell them to make for Forge.” Q ordered. Eddard warned that some had already set off.

With a goodbye. Q backed away as brother and dragon spoke quietly, well Eddard spoke, Alec nodded. The four humans and one dragon headed out.

--

Q slashed for the oriental man's stomach. Wu jumped, tucking his legs so high, Q's wooden sword went right under him. The man landed and Q felt Wu's sword land on the small of his back. And Q fell to his knee, hissing out the pain.

The oriental man's black eyes scanned the crowd around them. The silence deafening. Loras was the first, “You beat the prince?”

“Yes he did.” Q grumbled picking himself up and dusting himself off. He made a similar bowing gesture as the oriental man did out of respect. “You, I think are good enough to help train the others.” Q said rubbing his back, where it stung and ached.

Calling an end to his own training. Q started to tour the vast camp that had grown around the city of Forge. Like a roll of thunder, men and women were practising with wooden swords. All in long lines toe to toe, with the likes of Loras, Robb and James drilling those learning to use shield and sword.

James came up to him, and the two walked. Their arms almost brushing. Q glanced at the tight padded tunic and leggings with boiled leather. Then his eyes landing on the crystal blues that were gazing at him in turn. Approaching the siege weapons, the two men watched as Eve was drilled her men. They practised with the rapid deployment of a large mounted crossbow. The wiry haired woman turned to them with a bright wide smile.

“Don't look so worried.” Eve teased James. “You have to be in front of it. Loose!”

At that moment a long narrow tree trunk flew out of the end, making the whole cart shake. The pike arced through the air and buried into the range beyond; beside a dummy on stake.

“You missed.” James observed with smug glee.

“Not when it counted.” Eve shot back. James growled in return, and started to storm off. Q gave a soft chuckle at the bantering between them.

They moved on. Clint, drilled the archers with Arya. She was good, but Clint still had the edge over her. But Arya had showed herself. Using the narrow piercing swords from the land directly across the eastern sea she was better than Clint.

An elbow nudged him. Q followed the direction James was indicating. Jon had taken to his uncle. The black haired man, walking beside the black dragon.


--

Looking over the armour. Most wore simple long coats of mail made of dragon scale, the infantry regiments. They were all the same, alternating scales of black and pale blue.

A few were given more ornate. Wu was getting a light covering of James' scale, similar to Q's style something he could move easily in. Still with the long bib of larger plates going over the chest and back, and hanging long, with the separate leggings and arms underneath. But where Q's arms and legs were made of the tiny black scales still attached to the hide, Wu's arm and leg pieces were of James' bluish/white.

Clint had made his armour the standard for his archer divisions. They were all black tunics that hung down to mid-thigh like a closed coat. Jed had made his armour the standard, heavy plates, cumbersome and strong made of James' scales.

Jon beamed a bright wide smile. Dressed in a long coat of his uncle's scales. The arms were made of the tanned hide so Jon could move easily. Down his chest and arms were the larger and harder plates.

From the workers making the armour they headed to the smiths that made the city state famous. Alec was there with the masters and students. He breathed a flame so hot, it became a beam of screeching light. The metal was folded and worked.

The man who first approached them, a sort of friend to Alec, plunged a blade into water and pulled it out. It didn't have much of a curve but did have a scimitar shape, single edged, wider at the tip and narrower at the hilt.

“Will it remain black?” Q asked when the man rested after the brief bout of frantic work.

The braided man wiped the sweat from his brow as he sagged a bit. “Yes.” Deo said.

Q looked at the blade. It was black, but it shone a bit almost like volcanic glass. Becoming more pronounced as it cooled further.

--

Q had been called to the council chamber. The lord stood and spoke. “Your Highness, the Six Smiths wish to give a gift. Your own banner.” He said.

A man with the same dark sapphire eyes as Rufus stepped out. A cloth laid across his arms. Accepting the cloth, Q unfurled it. It was a mosaic of blueish white and black, similar to the scale armour worn by the infantry.

Q gazed upon the banner. His heart clenched, this is what he would march under, the symbol of himself that people would fight, die and kill in the name of. He clasped it to his chest. The war becoming inevitable, real and to be fought all too soon.

“I thank you kindly.” Q said and gave a slight bow.

--

Q's heart beat fast as James clasped his hand. His army was building up, looking like a real army. It was less than an eighth the size of his father's, but it was impressive. Drummers practised keeping time, while soldiers practised with sword and mace, axe and hammer, under the command of Jed.

Mounted men practised with bow and sword, lance and spear. They answered to Loras. The dedicated archers were under Clint's heel. He was meticulous but patient and they were formidable. The siege weapons fell under James' favourite person, Eve. The woman had drilled her men, they could fire the weapons within moments.

Alec's prostitute - there had been fun and games when it was found out the big brave knight and dragon liked to snuggle – Deo had become the master smith for the hoard.

They returned to the walled garden for privacy. There, Alec could be part of the discussion. They sat and feasted on fruits and light sweet wines. On a table in front of them, canvas showing all the lands of the known world. But all knew it to be incomplete. James and Alec had stepped off the boundaries of the map. Eve said her forefathers had come from further south and east than the map extended to. Wu said he came from further east. Q knew Wu came from a land further east than Nemo’s and Nemo's realm was not even depicted.

The blond wizard pointed to the south of a range of mountains that ran from the northern to the southern territories, almost dividing the kingdom into two.

“The citadel of the wizards, Isingaurd. The king murdered a brother of our order, sought the counsel of my evil sister, and now turns his eye to all magic users mostly the good ones. My order is already debating what to do, it is why they let me go with Loras to get you, your highness. ”

Loras pointed to his home further south still. “We have a two thousand.” Then very quietly added, “If grandmother allows Father to send them.”

Loras then pointed to the west, to an inhospitable place almost as desolate as the north. “Dragonstone, the Baratheons might come to our aid.”

“You should go everywhere.” A superior and condescending voice said.

“Uncle?” Q stood and greeted the new comer.

Coming from the shadows, the man winced as the sun fell on him. The pale man looked over the map, squinting in the afternoon light.

“My brother is brash and foolish. Let your reputation build. Let his Whispers bring to him the rumours of your army and your influence. The king will either act out of hast or fear. Most likely send, say a quarter, of his army to scout you. That shouldn't be too difficult a battle and it will make him weaker and more desperate.”

Q nodded. He looked to James and got a shallow shrug, the plan as good as anything they came up with.

“Welcome Uncle, please join us, eat, drink.” Q was given a tight smile and the waif like man perched on a seat.

Tracing a route on the map with his finger. Q said, “Following Uncle's advice, we should march down the western side of the Long Mountains to Isingaurd. Perhaps there are Lannisters in the west looking for revenge.” His uncle complemented him on that point. “We speak with the wizard. We carry on to Highgarden for the Tyrells. We then move diagonally east to the Baratheons.”

“That leg will be the most likely the point you will be attacked by the royal forces,” the waif of a man said and James agreed.

--

Alec and Q heard a knock at his chamber door. Exchanging quick glances, Q called for the person to enter. His uncle pushed the door open, but paused when he saw the strange blond man lounging on his nephew's bed.

“I would like to talk to you about something?” the waif like man said. After Q agreed and spoke for Alec, he continued, “You need commanders, knights, people who can raise your banner if you fall.”

“I will have no one swear loyalty to me.” Q insisted. The idea of people killing in his name was one that left a hollow pit in his stomach.

“The old code.” Alec reminded, referring to the loyalty oath sworn before the High Dragons. Q smiled and nodded at the man, he liked that idea.

“That leaves, who?” Q mused.

His uncle advising, “The first should be the heir to the Six Smiths. Preparing and feeding an army is expensive. And welcoming you was, and is not, a popular decision.”

“Clint, Jed and Robb and Jon” Alec whispered.

“Loras, Eve, Wu and Deo possibly Gellert as well.” Q said.

--

Alec, stood on the highest point of a hill. It was little more than a steep mound of earth on the Oxford Planes. The black dragon, his head high and proud, with his wings splayed and held up.

Before the horse sized dragon stood Maximilian Jones. The man who had presented the banner to Q in the council chamber. He was tall, with a mane of dark hair and the same dark blue eyes and lean body shape as his cousin, Rufus.

Q stood to Alec's right and James to the left. Maximilian knelt before the dragon. Alec lifted the wide scale over his breast, revealing the soft tender skin that offered no protection to his heart. The man touched the warm skin feeling the organ beat within. James spoke the oath as Maximilian repeated.

“A knight is sworn to valour. His heart knows only virtue. His blade defends the helpless. His might upholds the weak. His word speaks only truth. His wrath undoes the wicked.”

In the far distance, three women stood on a rooftop. Despite the distance they saw exactly what was going on. The shortest made a humming noise of stress.

“It's going to happen. They will march on the King.”

The tallest comforted. “The Prince has a good heart, we were sure of that. The King's fate is in his own hands. The prince will show mercy, far more mercy than the King deserves or had earned.”

The middle sniffled and swiped a tear from her cheek. The taller shook her head. “You were always a romantic. Warriors upholding justice, truth and mercy. Lovers and champions.”

“What of it?” The white fairy snapped at the Black fairy and returned her gaze to the dragon. She waved and pointed. “Jon! Oh, I gave him the same noble heart as his father. Oh, oh, Robb . . . so dashing. I was careful that he didn't develop his mother's spite. She could be a right bitch when she wanted to be.”

The shortest fairy vanished first; in a wisp of violet smoke. The Black Fairy's eye lingered on a tall rake thin man at the side. The one she considered her godson. The lined and old face gave a tiny lift as she smiled. Ice still encased the man's heart, but surrounded by all the warmth it was beginning to sweat. And the pain that it would release wouldn't be so strong, when Mycroft wasn't alone to deal with it.

“Isn't he yours?” the White Fairy asked.

The Black Fairy looked to the lean blond man climbing the hill.

“Wizards don't get knighted.” she said and watched in mild shock as the blond knelt and swore the oath. “This is highly irregular.” she tutted and vanished.

The White Fairy stayed to watch all take the oath. As the night fell and fires built, she floated down. The years melted away. Skin becoming smooth, her silver hair retuned to a rich brown in a thick and long braid. Her long dress, brown with a little lace across her bust. By the time she reached the large bonfire, a young woman was striding through the crowds.

The music was lively. She watched a moment, declining when one of the new knights and their best archer asked her to dance. Seeing an old man tapping his foot, she approached. She knew him from a boy. When she gave him a gift of truth that he had turned into a whit that cut through all pomp with a humour that caused no offence.

The old wiry haired man was a bit bashful but didn't decline. They moved and joined the dance. The fiddle and squeeze organ keeping time. Those around the edge hummed or sang the words. In time with the other dancers, the two standing side by side, clasping hands and lifted their outer foot and slapped their thigh on the beat. Taking four steps forward, turned, and four steps back.

As they spun, the fairy appeared to lose her footing and stumbled into the solid chest of a man. Looking up to the towering figure, the short woman smiled. “My apologies good Sir.”

Alec frowned down, looking into the light blue eyes before shaking off the thought of recognition. “Do not fret young lady, I am hardy.” Alec reassured and the girl re-joined the dance.

The fairy and old man continued the dance. The fairy's blue eyes seeking out the dark haired boy as Alec re-joined him, their hands clasping before they slapped their boot in time with everyone else. Her eyes then found the one who asked her first, Clint and the short Stark girl, the only one to match him were dancing together. Loras and Gellert. Wu and Deo. Maximilian and a dark haired girl. Robb with Eve. Like Loras and Gellert, Eve and Robb, joining in the fun as friends, the fairy knowing the paths had not yet led them to their matches yet. As she spun, the fairy saw the two watching from the sides, a pale dragon sitting on its haunches nodding its head in time to the music. And a waif like man, Mycroft, gently tapping his clasped hands in time to the slaps where the dance dictated them to be.

--

With the lord's arm though his, Q supported the older man and lead them to the small cloister where the lord had erected the monument to his son. Seeing the statue, Q felt a gnawing of grief and his own betrayal that he kept falling in love.

“I know it is not done but could I consider you my son?” The old lord asked.

“It would be an honour to consider you my father,” Q answered. Wiping a tear from his eye.

“You do not betray him by moving on. That is just the way of life.” The lord reassured. Then wiped the tears being spilled for his son, from the man who loved him.

Q nodded a goodbye to the statue. They turned and headed to the Council Hall. The Elders not at the wide table but standing in a line. With the Knights, Loras no longer in the emboss armour with flowers but a mostly white/blue of James' scales with black rose bud down the centre of his chest made of Alec's scales.

Q thanked the elders and bowed, as did the knights. The elders followed them to the stone steps. Where in the square the knights mounted their horses and with Q leading, Alec and James directly behind them, made their procession down the main streets. The rest of the host joined them on the outskirts.

10,000 men marched south and west, heading for the distant mountains. Mounted riders and banners at the head, in the customised armour. Then on foot, the arches in long black coats. The men of the sword, spear, hammer, and axe in long shirts of white/blue and black of scale. Oxen pulled the heavy siege weapons at the back along with the supplies.

Chapter Text

Gellert, the first wizard ever knighted, broke rank to approach the head on the column. He skirted the newest addition, Tyrion, the head of the Lannister family. The man known as the Imp was as strange and unique as any amongst them, with intelligent mismatched eyes, knowing something was happening, he watched Gellert's progress.

Passed the Princes' uncle, who gave him the same glance as the Imp, Gellert moved between the walking dragon and the Prince. The road stretched on ahead of them. The shear rise of grey rocky mountain to their left.

“Beyond that pass.” Gellert said, while pointing to a ‘V’ shape valley between the two peaks of the mountains of Solace and Solitude.

By the time they reached the pass Alec was riding James' horse. His illegitimate nephew along side him. When the tower came into view, it was hard to see in the night. Just the high columns of flickering light stretching up into the air, indicated the citadel of the Wizards.

Looking to Jon, Q ordered, “Remain here. We will go on ahead.”

When the man acknowledged. Q picked up the pace with a Alec and Gellert at his side. Behind was Robb, Tywin, Loras and Maximilian. Each carried a small banner of their own houses. Coming first to a high wall, at least three times the height of the tallest amongst them. Gellert led them to a wide gap with a bridge spanning over it. Q and his knights noticed the lack of portcullis, or holes for the poring of boiling oil. Trees lined the path beyond the bridge and the grounds inside the perimeter wall.

“Rather homely,” Mycroft drawled as he looked up at the black stone of the conical tower.

Gellert went up the wide stone steps first. The foyer was large and high. Wide corridors curved off on either side with broad staircases twisting up the tower as they stretched to the other floors. The beautiful blond wizard went to a tall arched door before them. Beyond was a great hall. It was round with a vaulted ceiling and in a circle, in the center of the room, where several stone thrones stood looking in. Like the grounds, tower, and the hall, everything seemed lifeless.

Mycroft said, “They are here.”

Q shrugged not quite understanding. He and his knights stepped into the circle of chairs, looking around. When they were all within the circle, Q shouted.

“Hello?”

Suddenly, did life appear.

“Do please stop shouting?” A man in grey robes with long staff resting against the back of his throne drawled.

“We are not deaf, and your uncle told you we were here.” Another white clad old man said. His staff he held in his hand.

Q looked about. Gellert stood near a thin and tall man with long thinning hair brushed back. He was dressed in an almost black tunic and was the only one without a beard. The two were whispering rapidly.

A wizard in crimson and with gold stars, comets and crescent moons decorating his cloak and hat, fidgeted uncomfortable. He grumbled about missing his supper. The grey wizard snapped, “Heaven help us if Ridcully doesn't get his supper, be quick.”

Q looked back at the grey wizard. “I am . . .”

“The prince, I am Gandalf, get to your point,” the grey wizard snapped.

“War. I intend to depose my father.”

The white wizard retorted, “We do not go to war.”

The wizard in black robes stood. Gellert beside him, the blue eyes hopeful as they looked on the older man.

“My apprentice councils we go to war. The king called on Gellert's sister, the witch Vesper, to kill Alistair and to corrupt the prince. The king has made us his enemy.” Mallory demanded.

Gandalf adding, “I will help, as long as you seek justice, not revenge.” His hard blue eyes slipping passed Q to land on the grey skinned Mycroft.

Mycroft giving a tight smile at the accusation and said, “My nephew is, noble, like that.”

The White wizard declared, “My brothers talk in hast. Gandalf is guided by the loss of his apprentice and Mallory is guided by the passions of his headstrong apprentice. The matter will need to be discussed and debated . . .”   

Q held up his hand to stop the waffling.

“Please consider carefully what you do. We will head to Highgarden. We will be passing close by on our way from Highgarden to Dragonstone. If you are willing to join us, please meet us on the road, between the three points. If not, I thank you for listening, and apologise for wasting your time.” He bowed to the senior wizard and led the group out.

Gellert clasped the forearm of his mentor in a comfortable embrace and said. “I have sworn to the Old Code, before a dragon. I will be a member of the Brothers, but in the here and now, my place is with the prince.” He said and took his leave.

“Dragons? Old Code? Curious. Wolves riding with Lions. He courts the stag and flower. A necromancer and before us he calls on the Wizards. The Price is foolish or something is guiding him, something that has not been seen since . . .” Gandalf mused to his council brethren.

“Arthur, fell to corruption. He took his sister to bed. Sired the bastard that killed him. Let an unjust man rule in his stead, who destroy his marriage.” Saruman argued.

Gandalf's deep gravely voice carrying the emotion of loss as he said. “My apprentice... Alistair. He would not have stayed, unless it was his heart that guided him.”

Malory adding, “Gellert says the prince, Sir James and Sir Alec are dancing around each other. Apparently it is quite amusing to see. I think we can rule out the Prince falling into the trap of taking his sister to bed or siring any bastards.”

“Not in his nature?” Gandalf mused.

“But what is the Prince's nature? I am NOT talking of his orientation! What makes the prince, the prince, how will he rule?” Saruman demanded and the debate began.

--

Q looked over his shoulder as the tall black tower melted into the darkness, with just the stretch of orange light spilling from windows. Over head, a pale form caught the moonlight. Q waved up at James. A chirp came from the dragon. Alec seemed to interpret the sound with eased, raising up in his stirrups and looking back.

“Someone's coming.” Alec said.

Along the road leading up to the tower, a grey horse rode towards them. Gellert reared and headed back. Q and Alec followed. The two wizards were talking. The bright heart shaped face of Gellert turned to Q, with a wide smile in place.

“May I introduce Albus.” Q nodded to the wizard with wavy, very long hair and a pointed goatee.

“I'd like to travel with you.” Albus said. Q listened to Gellert speak the other wizard's praises, but saw the joy and excitement he was trying to hide.

“I welcome you.” Q said.  Gellert beaming a wide smile and saddled up beside the other wizard, exchanging smiles.

--

The King sat on his throne. His once bodyguard, then minder to his son knelt before him.

“You have a chance to reclaim your honour. You will take one third of my army. When my son makes the journey from Highgarden to Dragonstone you will ambush him. Wipe out his army, leave none alive but return with my unharmed son.”

“Yes my king.” Sir Moran responded with deep bow.

The pinch faced man took his leave to prepare. To the side of the throne room. The barrel shaped man of the Master at Arms scowled. He exchanged glances with the the dark man in a turban. The two nodded a silent agreement and headed out.

But unnoticed by all was the King's equerry and oldest friend. The old bearded soldier leaning heavily on a stick. Turning away, he too slipped out of the throne room. Both he and the King knew Sir Moran, too well. Sir Moran would not suffer the prince again, when he could just claim the price died, because in a bloody and chaotic battle, despite the number of eyes there would not be a witness to contradict Moran.

--

Q sat on the parapet of a raised terrace, watching as Alec played with the children in the gardens below. A small boy, so wanted to get close and Jon was letting the boy hide behind him as they closed in. Q loved the moment, with Alec being still and encouragement from Jon the boy pushed through his fear to touch the dragon's blunt snout.

Their hosts, the lord of Highgarden and his mother sat under the shade. The round bald man of Loras' father sat with the matriarch, Olenna who truly ruled the house.

“Your highness?” The beautiful sister of Loras said, coming to his side with a jug of iced sweetened juice. Q accepted the drink, as the strong sun of the south warranted it. Robb looked like he was about to melt at any moment not accustomed to the climate. Q's uncle was worse, fanning himself franticly under the shade of a parasol, and taking another iced drink.

Loras' father was walking a delicate line of offering support while also denying it. Gains versus loss. Mycroft translating, “I think Lord Tyrell seeks a suitor for his daughter.”

Q's heart clenched. He was willing to do it but his heart would never be in it. Nor would he lie to Margaery, she would need to know, friendship was as much as she could ever hope for from a marriage with him. And he glanced at James, as he felt a slight panic rising and wanting to reach out to the man.

The Matriarch saved him non-diplomatically. “He's a perfumed ponse like that one. Don't waste your breath.” She chastised her son, and indicated her grandson for emphasis. Loras' face went scarlet, at his grandmother's words. Then she looked at James standing at an easy but alert rest, she said, “I take it, it's your bed the Prince warms?”

“None of your businesses, hag.” James spat.

“If we are to marry Margaery, it will not be to the prince.” Olenna said, then her hawkeyed gaze fell on Robb. “The North, the River Lands. We would unite down the entire centrer road of the Kingdom.”

“I can't, won't force another to marry for my benifit.” Q insisted.

Robb caught eyes with the beautiful girl. “I'll do it.” Robb said, speaking for the first time.  Margaery perching beside the handsome man and poring him a cup of the iced juice.

When they left Highgarden they had half the Tyrell sworn swords, the other half remained as they were the closest to the capital and most at risk of reprisals. The Rose banner was flown at the head of the column and Willis, Loras' oldest brother joined them.

--

From the shroud of the morning mist, the horse emerged and the rider pulled to a stop.“Sir, the prince marches between the hills.” The Scout called.

The pinch faced man, Sir Moran, smiled. The fog at first was a curse but now it was their blessing. “Send word, When the Banners enter the valley we close in from the sides.”

The scout acknowledged the instruction and rode off to give it to the commander of the other hill on the far side of the valley.

Looking down, the peak of the hill was not quite so densely packed with fog. They watched the snaking column pass through the dip between the high grassy hills. The pinch faced man nodded and the man beside him blew a large horn. They charged, the troops on the far hill doing the same.

There was a eerie twang and whistling. Arrows rained onto the front rows. Then from the mist a great chain came spinning out with heavy ball attached to either end. It mowed down horses and rider like a farmer's scythe.

Low-high, low-high of a higher pitched horn sounded and the ground began to shake with the thunder of heavy horse. Far more then Moran had brought. Screams and shout were coming from their flanks.

Out of the mist like a maniacal ghost, rode a berserker on horseback. Like the mythical Thor, his long flowing hair fanned out as he wielded a long warhammer sending riders flying from their horses. As quick as he appeared he vanished.

A blinding defused light, like lightning made the mist glow. A scream of, “DRAGON!” carried through the ranks. A scary swooping screech was added to the clang of mental and the screams of the frightened, injured and dying.

The pinch faced man spun his horse, feeling terror surround his heart. People appeared and faded everywhere he looked. Out of the mist, he recognised the mane of black hair with a small silver crown. Moran galloped, charging the prince. Despite his orders, Moran lifted his long broad sword, aiming to take off the prince's vulnerable head. The Prince spun his horse round. He spurred the animal as the two bore down on each other. At the last moment, the prince seemed to fall to the side, yet was still on the horse. The Prince’s black curving blade slide along the side of Moran’s horse causing it to rear in pain. The blade severed the cinch of Moran's saddle. As the horse reared he slide back and landed in the mud, the horse toppled backwards and on top him.

The pinch faced man looked up to the perfectly mounted prince. Moran scrambling trying to get out from under his horse and grasp his sword. As quickly as he appeared the prince vanished into the white mist.

The pinch faced man remained trapped under the dead horse until two men in white and black mail shirts arrived and pulled him out. He tried to fight but they were able to subdue him. A heavy fist connecting with Moran's jaw and he went down.

Waking, the pinch faced man was just in the tunic that he wore under is missing armour. The fog had lifted, revealing the rolling hills of the long yellowish grass; the whins with their yellow flowers, and forest leading up to the mountains.

On a proud horse, the Prince looked down on him and the other defeated soldiers. In a big pile was their armour and weapons. A black dragon approached the high mound of weapons. Its breath screeched and light from its mouth was almost blinding. Then Moran watched with the others as their armour become a glowing red puddle of melted metal that hissed and spit. Slowly it cooled into a flat, solid black pond.

The Prince shouted, “Go!”

Behind the prisoners a gap opened. They walked down the lines of the Prince's soldiers. The absolute silence was more scary and intimidating than the jeers would ever be. The Pinch faced man looked back, the columns of the Princes' men reforming and heading for Dragonstone.

Moran's heart was like a bolder in his chest. Dreading what would happen when word reached the king.

--

The Stable Master looked about. There was a buzz about the place. The Whisperers were out in force quashing any rumours. Arrests had started happening in order to control the news spreading about.

“Geoffrey,” The old librarian called.

“Not like you to come get your hands dirty.” The Stable Master teased.

Tapping his nose the librarian came close and to the far end of the stalls were it was harder to be eavesdropped on. “A pigeon arrived for the King. The prince marches across the land, rallying houses. He seeks to unseat the king. And!” The librarian gave a quick account of the battle.

The Stable Master nodded. They separated. One old man headed back to the tower and the library with the rookery on top. The other old man headed for the large training ward.

Seeing the Master at Arms, the Stable Master came up to him. “The young prince was victorious. He continues to Dragonstone. I am told the battle was short, beyond short, humiliating. Sir Moran was sent home naked.”

The big man nodded and with a broad smile beckoned Nemo over to pass on the news.

--

Coming into the golden hall of Dragonstone. It was a place of feasting, drinking and debauchery, just as the Lord liked it. The firepit in the centre was being prepared with a whole pig and sheep. Rows of chickens were put on skewers for the nightly feast. Barrels of mead, wine and ale were being brought in

The Lord sat in his high chair with the table of honour in front of it. His nobles around the table prepared. The waiflike bother said, “So we do this dance again?”

“We will do it until our brother is freed and you let me put my foot so far up the king's arse . . .”

“Yes, yes.” Stannis drawled before his brother got carried away again. There was a new way of killing the king each time Robert tried to persuade them to march on the capital.

Robert argued that the king insulted them by holding the younger brother. Stannis reminded, “He was caught attempting to kidnap the prince and he has broken the law of gods and men by laying with Loras and possibly the Prince”

Another of the nobles reminding, Renly had gone through most of the stable boys and squires in this very fortress. Robert's beady black eyes glared at the minor noble attached to his house and lands.

Banging the table so hard it shook, Robert roared, “He fights, drinks, feasts and whores. That perfumed poof is more a Baratheon that any of you.” He said glaring at the men around his table. Seeing he son, a stout, muscled lad fidget Robert banged the table to get his attention, “Stop squirming or I will give you something to squirm about.”

Stannis spoke up, they had an army, the biggest outside of the Royal house but it wouldn't be enough. And reminded his brother of such.

“So your wise council is to stay here and drink until I am dead. Never to see my favourite brother again.” Robert lamented. Stannis made a sniffing sound through his nose, looking away at the insult.

“Father?” Gendry called, “ I feel something.”

Robert was about to hit the boy. Taking in a deep hissing breath through his nose. Stannis snapping, “You and your nose, like a dog scenting a bitch in heat.”

“War!” Robert breathed, his brown eyes going bright. He launched to his feet as if forgetting his age, girth and lifestyle. He almost ran, like a moving fur covered mountain. Out of his drinking hall. Through the buildings of the sprawling castle, built in concentric rings, almost the size a city itself.

“SCOUTS!” Robert bellowed, coming to the rows of barracks near the stables. He made his orders, sending riders out in all directions. And to report to him.

Watching their lord and his almost youthful sprint. Gendry came up beside his uncle. “So how are you going to hide the Prince's manoeuvrings when he pitches up on our doorstep?”

Stannis shook his head. “Your father will insist on going to war. He will get himself killed and the King will march right over all of us.” He said with concern tainting his voice. They watched the massive lord head for the training area, calling for his hammer and armour.

In the lord's burly arm, a long warhammer. They watched him hit a wooden man and send the training doll flying. Gendry said, “My Father might not be agile but I pity anyone who gets within range of his hammer. They will know what it is to fly like bird.”

--

Travailing the corridors, the King was in a foul mood. He pushed open a set of doors and stilled. “What are you doing? Don't say packing.” The King snapped seeing his oldest friend putting clothes into a pack and inspecting his sword.

The light blue eyes of the old and bearded soldier looked up. “You were going to let Moran kill the Prince. I have . . . You are not the person I knew and I can no longer stay at your side.”

“Are you going to join him?”

“If the prince will have me. If not, I might find a small village somewhere, Dorn perhaps. Take up being a healer again.” The blond man then pulled on a breast plate. The king even helping him to do the buckles.

“If we meet, I shall show no mercy.” The King warned.

Securing the sword around his waist and picking up his pack the blond man looked away unable to meet the steel grey and knowing eyes.

“Nor will I.” John whispered.

The blond man headed out. The King followed and when they reached the steps of the throne room he froze. The Master at Arms was leading a small host across the square. The Stable Master and Librarian were sitting in a cart. John crossed the square and took the horse that was tied to the back of the cart.

Sherlock frowned, John had not limped once. The king remained until the blond soldier had vanished through the gate that separated the castle from the city.

Returning to his apartments, the King sat at his desk. The air was warm and with the fresh scent of the sea. He looked to the billowing curtains. The weight of his decisions pressed in on him. He itched for an old release.

“You are alone now.” A soft high voice said. The king watched the violet smoke become his Godmother.

“I have always been alone”

“No you haven't. For one who was gifted to see so much, you miss anything that needs your heart to understand.” the Violet Fairy said. “Abdicate . . .”

“NO!” the King bellowed. “I will not abdicate, surrender, or anything. I will not let this kingdom fall to a pervert.”

“You were gifted to know your mind, you needed to know your heart. Your decision is made, so be it.” the fairy said and vanished.

The king surged to his feet. The itch grew. He stormed through the yellow sandstone corridors, his surcoat billowing out behind him. Throwing open the high arched door, he ignored the porcelain skinned woman and focused his eyes on his wife.

“I need to think clearly.” He demanded.

The woman in the long purple velvet dress deemed to rise. Moving to a sash that hung near the door the queen gave it three quick tugs.

A reddish haired woman came in carrying a long water pipe. Kate placed some dried herbs in the bowl at the top of the long narrow chimney. When Kate had placed a glowing ember of wood to the bowl, smoke started to rise. The Queen pulled her long hair over her shoulder and using a razor sharp silver knife, she cut a few strands of her hair and added it to the embers. Taking the end of the long pipe, the tube attached to the round reservoir at the base of the chimney, Irene took a long deep drag and held the smoke in her lungs.

The King watched as his wife's eyes fixed on him. She stalked closer and closer. A hand grasped the back of his neck and their lips almost touched. Opening his mouth slightly, he breathed in, as Irene breathed out. The vibrant pink smoke moved from her mouth to the king's.

The completeness, and the absolute certainty he was right filled Sherlock; destroying all doubt. “I have work to do.” The King said and walked out.

“The Prince, who is he?” Vesper purred.

“My son.” Irene said and took up her seat again.

“Why not support him then?”

“He is too noble and I have stood idly back for too long to be forgiven. He is threat my comfort. And I can't have that.”

--

Robert battered the shield of his opponent, nearly crushing him, as a rider on horseback drew to a halt. “Your Lordship, a host has been sighted. The lead banner, scale of white and black. There's the white hand of the Wizards, lead by the Grey Wizard and the Dark Lord. The dire wolf of the Starks led by Robb. The lion of Lannisters lead by the Imp. The flower of Tyrell. The forges of the Six Smiths. An unknown banner of a red eye. There is also a black dragon flying above the host. 20,000 men in all.”

Robert nodded. He bellowed orders. Soon he and his brother were mounted and riding out with a small contingent.

Cresting the hill, the group flinched at a shrieking squawk, a black dragon came out of the skies and swooped over them. The black dragon streaked across the fields and headed back to its host. A group broke off from the front of the approaching army. There was one of them for every one Robert had brought. A parley.

Riding to meet in the middle, Robert's eyes met the little delicate looking prince then landed on Loras.

“If it isn't may favourite pansy.” Robert blasted towards his brother's lover.

He launched off his horse and crossed the last distance sweeping Loras in to bear-hug. Loras’ armour clad feet dangled off the ground. Robert then looked to the Prince. One instinct said to capture him and trade him for Renly. As Stannis had advised.

“Are you marching on your Father?” Robert demanded.

“We are.” Before Q could continue, he was brought into the bone crushing hug.

“Then you have my support.”

--

Q sat to the right of Robert. The drinking hall smelled heavily of the drink, and food, and of men and women inhabiting it.

Robert roused his men, with speeches and rabble-rousing. Someone shouted about having heard about the ambush and Q was called on to describe the battle.

“I ask you WHAT BATTLE? They blundered on to our sword. We sent the snivelling bastards packing. My foot firmly up his arse, helping Sir Moran to hasten he speed. They sit in the capital licking their wounds and lamenting their loss. And I will double their woes when we conquer. My Father will FALL, down with the Bloody King”

There was a cheer and a firm hand clapped his shoulder. Drinking and eating. Robert took a wench with large breasts into his lap where she fed him by hand. Many blew off steam with hard drinking, feasting and fucking.

Q slipped out, an arm came around him and he leaned against Alec. As they moved through the reclaimed fortress, some of the walls looked like they had melted. Alec admiring the dragon's skill, some of it looking like glass.

Pushing open a door they hoped to be for a library. The two men stilled. By the open fire, sitting across from each other was Mycroft and Stannis. An ornate chess board between the two men, the pieces made of complexly shaped metal. Apologising, Q and Alec fled. In the corridor Alec asked, “Was that weird?”

Q shrugged, “I'm not sure if that is what passes for flirting for my uncle.”

Giving up they headed out. Finding Q's tent amongst the sea of canvas they collapsed into the rolls of furs over the latices of woven leather straps held in a wooden frame. Q lay his head on the broad chest hearing the thump of Alec's heart. Fingers raked though his hair.

Given this was the first respite since leaving Forge. And with the time in the city having been used for preparing. The outline of James being cast by the torches onto the wall of the tent. Now was the time to bring something up, that James had been equally curious and worried about.

Q prompted, “You seem to have taken to Jon.”

“Us, the disinherited and ostracised. We have to stick together.”

Q saw the silhouette of the dragon shift closer, obviously listening. “So, you still see yourself as Alec Trevelyan?”

“That's who I am now, just like Jon, even if he was recognises as a true Stark he would still see himself as Jon Snow.” Alec turned, so the two were looking at each other. Q no longer able to see the dragon shadow on the wall behind him. Alec cupping his face, but the eyes were looking past Q, to the wall with James beyond. “But if you and James are asking about Ned? He just ask me to keep an eye on Jon and Arya. It was a small branch, but where his children are concerned he dose trust me enough.”

Q wanted to lean in, press his lips to the other man's. But it still felt too soon, the relationship still a little uncertain. Lying down, Q felt Alec come closer and an arm winding behind this back. Settling, tucked under Alec's chin he fell asleep in the warm embrace.

Alec dislodged him as he moved to slip out. The movement roused Q. Deciding to get up, Q pulled on his long green coat made of boiled leather. Passing a naked Loras who was sneaking back to his tent, with just a small pennant to cover his modesty. Eve was at least dressed when Q passed her but she leaned heavily on Clint and groaned about her head.

“Just going to bed, Lady Eve?” Q called to her. He got a groan and a half-hearted grumble from her in answer.

In the old great hall of the broken dark stone keep, Q found those who had slept, and had not drunk to excess beginning to rise and breakfast. Q sat at the high table, beside Robert's son. Q gave his morning greetings.

James sauntered in fresh as a daisy. He plopped down on the bench across from Q and Gendry. Taking ham and eggs from the large serving plate and the weak ale, Q looked passed James to the group of Crimson wizards, headed by Rudcully. They feasted the night before and feasted in the morning.

Gandalf and Mallory came in and up to the high table. Mallory asking after his apprentice, Sir Gellert and Gandalf after Mycroft.

“I saw Gellert with Albus, asleep at their tent. And my uncle was in the library with Stannis last night.” Q informed. The two Wizards departed.

Looking to the son of Robert, Q asked after of the Lord. Gendry answering, “Since smelling war he does not seem to sleep. He will be in the practice grounds.”
 
Q thanked him and stood with James following. They headed for the library and Q pushed open the door to see his uncle and Stannis in the exact position as the night before. Both still frowning at the chess board between them. An annoyed looking Gandalf was sitting in the room; like grey storm clouds at one of the reading tables.

“You have only made one move since last night?” Q asked.

Q received a whitening look from both men. “It is a game of strategy and patience.” Stannis said.

“Quite.” Mycroft agreed.

Q glanced at the wizard and got a shrug. “I was planning on giving the men a week's rest, a week's training then we march for the Capital.”

“Yes, yes, you are disturbing my concentration.” Mycroft snapped and shooed his nephew away.

Gandalf raised and the room darkened like the thunderclouds before a storm, “That is assuming you make you another move before then.” The Wizard snapped at Mycroft and stormed out.

“Is he jealous?” James asked after the storming Wizard had departed. Mycroft glowered at the knight and returned his attention to the board.

Moving out. There was no sight of Alec. In the training grounds men competed in jousts. They neared Lord Robert, who trained with Jed. They had entered a game of sorts, using their warhammers, trying to send a wooden man as far as possible.

An arm came round Q's waist. Before reaching the Lord, James pulling Q to a full stop.

“Thanks for getting Alec to talk. It was hard to do the heart to heart crap when we were both men. Now it's charades it's all but impossible. Thank you!” James said and squeezed the man in his arms a bit tighter. Q felt the stirring in his heart, the desire to close the distance and press his lips to the other man's.

“LOOK OUT!”

James and Q sprang apart. A wooden human shaped dummy landed between them. They looked to the round mound of furs that made up Lord Robert, and the shaggy haired blond, Jed.

“Was him!” Lord Robert accused, then hastily passed the incriminating war hammer to Jed who shouted, “NO,wasn't me! It was him!” Then flinched as he was hit up-side the head by the lord.

“Don't argue with your elders boy.”

James and Q shared a smile. Q then looked at the two overly innocent looking men. “Who dares challenge me to a melee? Two on two?”

"Not fair." Jed whined. Knowing he and Lord Robert were to slow and bulky against both James and Q.

--

Q and the oriental Wu were training with the swordsmen who used single edged blades. Q used his black bladed scimitar, while Wu used a similar sword from his far off homelands, a Dao. There was a Tristan who used a sword that looked very much like a large triangular chef's knife. They all had a similar style of fighting to Q’s with lots of slashing and less stabbing.

Across the ward, Q caught sight of James and his black bladed sword. He was putting the other swordsmen through their paces.

Robert and Jed were roaring with laughter, amongst a group that had become known as the berserker, armed with hammers and maces. They liked to hit things, very, very hard.

The sun was warm and many didn't wear shirts, if they could get away with it. The clash of metal on metal rang out. Out of the din a set of hooves on the compacted grass, urgent and fast. The scout pulled to a skidding halt. Different people broke off from their groups to approach.

The Scout didn't dismount as he reported to his lord, the Prince and the knights. “A small host. Hundred or so. The banner is of a Nautilus on a field of blue.”

“Nemo?” Q said with a frown.

They prepared quickly. In full armour and with Alec flying overhead. They headed out.

When the snaking column came into view, the three riders at the head broke off. Q dug in his heels, with James one side, Robert and Mycroft the other. The others following close behind or overhead.

Even from the distance, the white turban was easy to spot. Identifying the man whose banner they were travailed under. Beside Nemo was the barrel of a bald man with bushy golden moustache. The man who was Q’s first teacher. Only as they got close did Q recognise the grey/yellow blond, bearded man as his father's advisor and friend.

The moment Q crossed his arm to clasp the hilt of his sword, the men beside him went on alert. Mycroft saying, “Hear him out.”

Q fixed his eyes on the pale blue of his father's friend. Before Q could throw an accusation the former soldier said, “I surrender to you”

Taking the surrender and with a piercing whistle, Q pointed to the blond soldier and then indicated the fortress over the rise and fall of the hills. In a swoop of black, the soldier vanished in a scream. The dragon disappeared in the distance, with the blond man between his hanging legs.

Q looked to the two men, with their swords drawn. “I will see to Sir John when we get back.” Q said to Nemo and the Master at Arms. Q circled his horse around the two men. They were teachers and his most trusted, but still their presence was concerning.

Q asked about their motivation and the motivations of the others who had accompanied Nemo and the Master at Arms; all the time continuing to circle the two men. Loras called to speak up for the two in the lead, “It was they, who sent word of your danger.”

“My boy!” Q looked up to a wagon pushing its way up the column, being driven by Boothroyd and the Librarian beside him.  

Q met the stable master, bringing his horse up beside the driver. The old and sagging face gave a wide smile, as did the leaner face of the librarian with long beard. The Librarian had taken a shine to Rufus, respecting the boy's learning. And Boothroyd had always been a quiet source of support.

“We are here to help.” Boothroyd said in a kindly and firm voice, usually used when Q had done something wrong and he was being quietly corrected.

Q looked down the column; he recognised a few faces but only knew four of the host. Not including Sir John, his father's oldest friend who by now should be in the dungeon of Lord Robert's.

“Welcome. You may approach.” Q said.

Lord Robert requested the small host should be set up outside the fortress. James and a few others agreed. While others, Stannis amongst them reminded some of the host could be spies, saboteur or assassins and should be guarded. Which, Q too agreed with, especially seeing sir John as past of the host.

Q agreed, “Those from my father's castle will camp beyond the wall of Dragonstone. Until loyalty can be assured.”

--

“This seems very familiar.” Q mused. The small dank cell dripped with water and moss grew on the walls. The blond man shackled to the wall shrugged. “No. Perhaps not. My father's dungeons were never this cold or damp. Did you ever see what that psychopath of my father's did to anyone in those dungeons?”

“Did you care about the others in the dungeon? Or just your lovers?” Sir John said.

Q sighed. He was letting his anger cloud his judgement. Centring himself Q asked, “My uncle says you have a secret you might wish to share?”

“No!”

Pacing the small cell, Q tried another line of questioning. “Loras speaks for the Master at Arms, the Wizards speak for the Librarian. The Stable Master, protected Loras and Renly, Rufus and myself. You offer no excuse for standing by. For all I know you could have collude my father. You give me no reason to trust you but your word that you do not support the king.”

The blond man looked into the distance. “Your father has always known his own mind. Even when it was wrong. He was like a force of nature, you could weather him, but never stop him.”

Q stormed out. Alec by his side, grasping his hand. Suddenly he was yanked back and held against the strong chest.

“Still nothing?” Alec whispered. Q shook his head.

“I don't know why he came?” Q answered.

Releasing his hold, Alec let Q continue. He followed him to the library where Mycroft and Stannis had only made another move each on the chess board.

“Why?” Q snapped at this uncle. Absently wondering about the fading black veins in his uncle's face.

Mycroft sat back, making a quick and absent move of his knight to a seemly random square without looking. There was a wistful tone laced with pain as he spoke. “In our youth, your father was, problematic. He had a brilliant mind with little heart. There were only ever two people he cared for, an injured soldier and a whore. The whore was not a good influence. The soldier was. Then . . . The whore had dreams of being queen and guided you father on the same path as our father. I tired to do what you are doing at this very moment, but failed. Few loved me, only one in fact, and he was the first to fall and I sought revenge. And twenty five years after my exile we stand in the Fort of Dragonstone and discuss the past.”

“That still doesn't imply I can trust Sir John.” Q snapped.

Rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Mycroft snapped, “Sir John has been in love with your father since they first met.”

Q snapped his attention to his uncle. “And now he suddenly works against him?”

“It would appear so.” Mycroft said with a frown, showing his own suspicion for the first time.

Leaving his uncle, Q entered the large compound that made up the fortress, surrounding the broken castle. Muttering, he looked for James, complaining how hard it was to find a dragon when he need him.

“Where are you going? And why?” Alec asked, keeping pace easily.

“I'm going to see my father. 'Why?' I'm not sure, it's confusing. Uncle said Sir John is in love with my father, my father should have seen it, he sees the truth even when it's concealed, but he never treated John like he treated me. I don't understand my father, or his motivation nor do I understand Sir John's. Unless I understand why Sir John came here, I will leave him to rot, because right now I think he's a spy, or even an assassin.” Q said.

Alec nodded. Prompting, “If we go, we might be able to do more than one thing.”

--

As the king walked on the hanging garden, even from this distance and regardless the late hour, the sound of the smiths working flat out could be heard. He sat on the end wall and looked out towards the black sea. The moon's reflection shimmered and elongated as it waned.

A shadow and a swoosh passed over the king, followed by a gentle thump behind him. The King spun to see a tall flat and round faced dragon. It looked almost white in the darkness and had thorns sticking from the joints of its claws and knees. From under the creature’s wing, a man dressed in overlapping plates down his torso that hung to the ground, stood. His arms and legs were covered in small back scales. It took the king a moment to recognise his own son.

“Come to kill me? No. You will not murder me, that will harm your claim to the throne. To talk, more likely . . .” A huff from the dragon got the king to shut up.

“Why did you persecute me, Rufus, Alistair? As the Crown Prince, Rufus understood I needed to marry and produce an heir. I would have. There had to be a suitable woman out there somewhere, like us, who would have wanted a show marriage for her own reasons. And all those others, the magic users, those who believe in the old gods, they never did anything to harm you. Just.... why?” Q asked, almost begging his father with pain lacing his voice.

“To be with a man is an abomination.” The king answered and Q asked, “Why?”

Q listened to the answer about scriptures and a god not approving and asked 'Why?' the question a powerful one, because it could only be truly answered with reason and not faith. Seeing the king, who championed reason and fact, rely on belief to justify himself. Q felt pity for his father, he truly was an unreachable fanatic.

'Perhaps he is just mad.' Q thought. Then wondered if that was what John finally saw in the king.

“Despite all you have done, father, a part of me still loves you. But I can not let your madness continue. How many did your zealots kill today? Were any of them truly guilty or was it just for show?” Q said walking to the side of the hanging gardens where far below the courtyard in front of the cathedral could just be seen. The embers still glowing from the pyres.

“You sound like John.” The king snapped. Q looked back to his father, there was hurt in the statement, when his father considered Sir John. It truly looked like his father was struggling with something were Sir John was concerned.

“Give up now and you can go into exile with Sir John and your entire ilk of fanatics.”

“Never!” The king surged forward. James came up to Q's back the big head stretching up and looking down on the king. Trails of smoke and foul odour was released from the slit nostrils in warning. Coming to a stop, ice blue eyes bored into the King's freezing him.

“Did you know Sir John is in love with you?”

“Don't be disgusting.”

Q saw the lie in his father's eyes. For some reason, the King turned a blind eye when it came to Sir John. Whispering, “You are afraid. What of?”

Sherlock's eyes blazed. “GO!” The king screeched and waved his hands trying to shoo the dragon and his son away.

Climbing back in the saddle, Q tightened his hold and James spread his pale wings and moved to the edge. “If you survive father, you will be shown mercy.” Q called and James launched off.

The King's eyes watched as the dragon headed out to the sea, then arced back to fly over the castle, soaring over the main courtyard. From the warren of passageways something glowing floated up, like a flying lantern. He watched as the dragon's claws snatch the lantern out the air and a person in a billowing cloak was pulled from the warren to dangle at the end of a line. The dragon was struggling to climb, with wings beating franticly as it vanished into the darkness.

Warning bells started to ring. Thinking, knowing that passage led to the dungeons, the king sighed as he deduced the facts. It was a few moments before a pageboy arrived and announced, “Sir Renly has escaped.”

“Indubitably.”

--

Glancing behind, Q could see the diminishing lights of his father's castle and the surrounding capital. Looking forward, he noticed the ground was coming up pretty fast. Q clung on to the dragon. There was a shout from below them, Alec swearing and complaining as they were dropped. Landing in a rather graceless thud, the impact sent Q over James' large head.

James collapsed into a heap stretching and panting. After James gave a tired grunt and flick of his head, which Q took to mean the dragon had strained himself and was tired but would recover. Q looked beyond James to the dishevelled man being supported by Alec, going up to him and giving a hug. “Renly” Q breathed and looked Renly over. The man was gaunt and his black hair and beard were matted and caked with mud and old gruel, the rough top was hanging loose, as were the baggy trousers.

Breaking the reunion Alec called, “We should keep going.”

Q looked behind them. The lights of the city were still uncomfortably close. If they sent out fast riders they could catch up to them in a few hours.

James groaned as he pushed himself up. The weak Renly was put over James' back. James letting out a yelping sound when he stretched of flexed his wings. They started walking.

--

It was daylight when they arrived back, and it was the black dragon that touched down. Q helped Renly off. Then Alec took to the air to go and get James, who they had to leave behind in the forest. Immediately Robert and Loras took Renly from Q's grasp.

After some thin soup, Loras and Q took the recovering man into the bath house. It looked like a cave within the broken sections of the old castle. Fed by hot springs that were pale and milky blue. The atmosphere was hot and steaming. The warm floor had been carved and polished, the rocks were hot and some had been carved into benches and tables.

Getting Renly onto a narrow bench. Taking a bowel of warm oil and sugar Q applied a liberal amount to one arm, Loras doing the same to the other. Rubbing in the mixture liberally all over the other man's body. Q then used a blunt crescent shaped knife to scrape the mixture and dead skin away. Q had offered to help because he wanted to see what state his father and whisperer had left the man in. There were bruises and burns, several scars on the chest. The muscles seemed so prominent with no fat to cover them.

“I could get used to this.” Renly purred, trying to reassure the two men.

“Don't,” James said coming in. “At least not where the Prince is concerned.” He then took some oil and a bone comb, taming the long scraggly beard, before taking a razor and cutting and shaping the beard and hair. By the time the three men had finished, Renly looked thin but well groomed and just needed the remaining oil and sugar washed off.

They then entered the large steaming pool. Renly reclined against Loras. Q guided James to turn and he massaged the muscles around James’ shoulder.

“How do you feel?” Q whispered.

“Well it doesn't feel like my wings are going to be torn off, but that is mostly because I don't have wings.” James teased, trying to look over his shoulder.

Wrapping his arms over James' shoulders Q pulled him to lie against his chest. While he and Alec had taken to sharing a bed, Q didn't get to lie with James as much. With James' head resting on his shoulder and his arms hanging over James'. Idly skimming over James' chest, Q relaxed in the warm water. A hesitant hand touched the inside of Q's knee, drawing little circles then skimmed down his leg. Q just hugged James against him tighter.

Renly only stayed a short time and Loras helped him out. Q and James were happy to stay until they were pink and prune-like. Coming out of the water. James dried him and Q returned the favour. In a green cassock coat with boiled leather, brought by Nemo, Q exited the cave. James in a long grey surcoat with a chest of boiled leather. Most of the men wore even basic protection, and always carried a weapon.

Heading back into the fortress, it was time to deal with Sir John. The guard of the dark dank dungeon opened the cell door. James waited outside the cell, allowing Q and the prisoner to speak privately.

Q waited until the door was pulled closed behind him. Sliding down the wall opposite the blond and bearded man, Q sat on the floor.

“I spoke with my father last night. He is mad, isn't he?”

John broke his gaze of the prince. “I don't like that word... but yes. I never thought he would ever truly harm you, not physically. But when he appointed Sir Moran to lead the raid, he knew the man would kill you given the chance.”

Q nodded. “You are right, Sir Moran tried to take off my head. Sir John, I shall release you under the supervision of Nemo and... What's the name of the Master At Arms?”

“Dawson.” John answered hollowly. “Please, in the battle, I would prefer not to go up against the King. I don't think I could face him.”

Q nodded in understanding and to the request. John then snapped his eyes to Q, with and intense look. “I overheard the fairy, she said you would show him mercy, will you?”

“If I can, but my father will fight and this needs to be done right. The King needs to surrender or I need to defeat him or my reign will be always questioned. But if I can, I have decided on exile, to any who survive.” Q said.

“I would like that. I want to be a healer again.” John said.

Q stood and called the jailer in to release John. James and Q then escorted John beyond the perimeter wall of the fortress, to where Dawson and Nemo had set up camp. After turning Sir John over to the custody of the two other men Q and James headed back behind the walls of Dragonstone.

As James and Q retuned passing the sentry on the gate to the fortress. A voice called form the side.

“Nephew?”

Q smiled at the man, in daylight his uncle was looking less grey. After asking for some privacy, they found a study with James waiting outside. Q sat watching his uncle pace a bit.

“I'm surprised you could tear yourself away from your game.” Q prompted when the silence stretched out.

“I need, your experience” Mycroft said. He sat by the unlit fire and gazed into the hearth. “Lestrade, his name is, was, is, Gregory Lestrade. He was a captain in the city watch. He kept an eye on your father for me. He was both innocent and experienced at the same time, strange and fascinating. I so wanted to get to know him so I found out where he lived and went there. I stood on the street and watched him kiss his wife on the doorstep before leaving for his watch. While I was felling hurt that the man I loved was happily married. A passing trader stopped at Lestrade's house. I thought it strange his cart was empty. He went in to Lestrade's home, and when he came out, his breeches weren't even properly tied. I found Greg and told him. He threw denials and accusations at me, some true, my intention wasn't noble. But the next day I hid outside Lestrade's again. Greg left as usual but only turned the corner and waited. When the trader stopped Greg returned home. He threw the trader and wife out of the house, naked. Greg raised his sword and brought it to the trader’s neck, he shouted at his neighbours that knew. I stepped out and convinced Greg not to kill the man. And that was the start of my time with my one true love.”

Mycroft broke his gaze of the empty fireplace to look at his nephew and the soft accepting smile that played on his wide dark lips. It was sad and a tear threatened to slip from the corner of a green eye. A clench caught Mycroft in the chest. He remembered the feeling of grief and pain. It was the feeling that made him turn his back on every hope he once held and let the dark coldness creep into his heart.

“The thing is, I believe in one true love...”

“The world is too big for one true love. We were meant to love, sometimes we lose a loved one but we can love again, if we let it. There is only one problem, when you love more than one at the same time.” Q mused.

“It feels like I am betraying Greg.” Mycroft whispered and clasped his hands.

Q closed his eyes to stop the stinging. It didn't work and a tear slipped out.

“I loved Rufus with all my heart. I know for certain he loved me with all of his. If I had died, I would want him to be happy. If that meant falling in love with another he would have my full blessing. And I think, I know, he would want the same for me. Alistair was the same. Our lives did not end with theirs. Find what happiness you can.”

Mycroft stood and headed for the door. Q called, “Stannis?”

Mycroft turned to him and raised an unamused eyebrow. “How unobservant. Gandalf.”

“Damn it! Alec's going to be insufferable, the smug git. Why not Stannis?”

“He is a little joyless, so serious.” Mycroft muttered then stopped, “A problem 'when you love more than one'?”

Q nodded and Mycroft smiled saying, “You are whole. You have each given and received half a heart.”

The door flew open and James glared at Mycroft, “What does that mean?”

Mycroft rolled his eyes at the oblivious men. “My nephew has given half his heart to Sir Alec and the other half to you. Sir Alec has given half his heart to my nephew and the other half to you. You have given half your heart to my nephew and the other to Sir Alec. A half and a whole, whether it is between two or three as long as you share your heart equally it is true.”

James nodded dumbly. When Mycroft left James grabbed Q's hand and went in search of Alec.

Finding the dragon, James tore him away from being the baddy in a training scenario.

“Do you love Q?” James asked. The wide flat head nodded once. “Me?” There was a moment of hesitation and the wide head nodded. “I love you and Q equally.” James said and turned to Q.

Q fidgeted and nodded, glancing up at the expectant looking man and dragon, both with hope shining in their eyes. “Yes, I love both of you, equally.”

“I don't understand?” James said, looking at Alec. “The witch said, a whole and a half heart.”

Going up to the disappointed man, Q wound his arms around him and rested his head on James’ shoulder. Alec rubbed the top of his head against them too. Offering comfort to James.

--

Deo worked a broad sword of the special steel with Alec acting as the forge. Beside the blacksmith, Renly was getting plates of dragon armour fitted to him. The large plates that protected the breast of the dragon and ran down the Dragon's under his belly being used; rather than the smaller more flexible sections of hide that Q's armour had been made out of.

The newest knight of the Old Code was hastily prepared. There was a concern that he had not recovered, but Renly was Baratheon. With his older brother's support and glowing approval, he was being out fitted and would join them on the march south.

--

The night before their departure they drank the hall dry. Many had a bleary head the next morning as they gathered to set off.

Renly had joined Q's host and rode behind him. Robert, like Loras' older brother, rode at the head of their forces.

Mycroft had joined the wizards, where his ‘Red Eye’ banner flew beside the ‘White Hand’. The ‘Lion on a field of crimson' was held beside the ‘Imp’ and one of the late lord's only loyal banner men, Gregor Clegane, the head of his house and his scarred younger brother Sandor.

“You do not like them?” James said.

Q pulled his gaze from those he was in an uneasy alliance with. When the Lannisters had been destroy, the Clegane had only been given token lands and incomes. It was an insult to them. The king was wary of making them too strong. Something Q agreed with his his father in.

“Not in the slightest.” Q said, then encouraged his horse to move on.

--

Sitting at the head of the long table, the King looked at the map of his realm. There were chess pawns to representing infantry. Chess knights were representing the cavalry; archers and wizards were the bishops and castles represented the siege weapons. A black king for his son and the tall queens represented the dragons. At the moment the pieces were all around the broken Fortress of Dragonstone.

In neat lines were the representation of his forces. A wiry haired woman said, “Using the dragon was a good ploy. The people don't think the walls will protect them. Some are leaving.” the captain of the watch said.

Sir Moran, who was reluctantly appointed Master at Arms said, “With the full force, we can crush the usurper, your Highness.”

At that moment the king flicked his eyes to the empty space. As if knowing the king was about to lose his patience with the absent man, the door opened and the Whisperer entered. In his hands was a small scroll of thin waxed paper.

“The Prince rides out. He left this morning. They have reached the pass of Gaul.” Someone moved the pieces on the map to indicate the progress, the Whisperer was reporting.

“Put them beyond the Dahl headlands.” The King said, taking into account the time for the news to travel to them.

The Master at Arms said, “That is a ten days hard march from here.”

“My son is in a position of superiority and control. He will not tax his men. Lord Robert will have given every single grain in his store. They will be fed, rested, practised and ready.”

“Ride out, hit them quickly.” The Master at Arms said.

The Whisperer interjected, “That worked out so well before. We need a field we can control and let them come to us.”

The King massaged his temples. There were places where his army could meet his son’s but his son could as easily go right round them.

“The only place he is sure to be are the planes around the capital, that is where we will meet him.”

The king's advisors voiced their concerns. There was only a flat area. The only advantage they would have would be their better numbers. Where the prince had wizards, war machines from Forge and dragons, to augment his smaller army.

--

Renly played a hand carved wooden flute. The large campfire was in the centrer of Q's commanders. Q sat hypnotised by the dancing flames. Lulled by the haunting pipe music.

People talked, Q heard snippets of conversation. Eve and Clint argued over the dynamic of a bow compared to Eve's mounted cross bows. Arya forgetting her rivalry with the man to help argue the bow was better.

A blast a fire lit up the night. Everyone was up and grabbing their weapons. James landed, the ground shook with the impact. He released a woman with dark red hair, she was bloodied and bruised. She screeched and lunged at the first person she saw, Loras.

She screamed and hit the knight. Eve and Arya went up to her and draped a heavy cloak around the naked woman. James paced and jumped a bit, showing deep agitation. His blue eyes were beyond angry. Q wanted to shout for answers but neither the woman nor James were in a position to give clear answers.

“Where did she come from?” Q demanded and James jerked his head in the direction of the Lannister camps.

Q walked, his sword belt being tightened around his waist as he did so. Following James, they passed men rushing and panicked voices. Entering the heart of the Lannister camp, one voice was raising above the others, the articulate and slightly arrogant of Lord Tyrion. Coming into the central part of the encampment of the Lannister supporters, Q looked down on the dwarf in the crimson and gold tunic of his his house.

“Why did James bring me a woman, covered in blood and beaten to an inch of her life?” Q snapped.

“I do not know your highness...”

A soft growl and a jerk of James' head indicated Q was not yet in the correct place. Set back from of the main road, between Dragonstone and the capital, a small steading, more of a remote inn/farm. Just a small farmhouse and barn and paddock. The men of Payne were milling about the yard.

Q's heart clenched, he had hoped to avoid locals, aware of the reputation of a barely controlled horde. Q roared at the Imp that he had given explicit orders not to approach any house they passed. Again Lord Tyrion argued his ignorance and he himself had ordered the same.

“Search every building, field, EVERYWHERE!” Q ordered his knights who had followed him.

Heading for the tiny farmhouse, a large man with bald head came out. The head of another small house still loyal to the Lannister Lord. Ilyn Payne. Q looked into the odd blank eyes for barely a moment.

“Stand aside!” Q ordered and the black clad man took a side step, giving a creepy smile.

Entering the tiny house, Q found a woman on the flagstone floor, by the hearth. She was nude, and the blood covered her and the stone. Her body racked with uncoordinated flails of her arms.

Quietly Q called over his shoulder, “Call John, time for him to earn his keep”. Unbuttoning his cassock, Q draped it over the woman.

Someone calling his title, forced Q to hand the care of the woman over to the Asian knight, Wu, until the healer arrived. Coming out of the farmhouse, Alec had drawn his sword. He was pointing it at Ilyn Payne, who still looked as smug and oblivious as when Q arrived.

Loras and Renly forcibly pushed more men out of the barn and towards the farmhouse. Tyrion identifying some of them as Clegane. Dreading what he would find, Q approached. The men of the farm were inside. The father looked dead, hanging by his left hand to the rafters. The right arm hung from a rope around the beam, but no longer attached to the man's body. Two son were naked and bleeding on the straw covered floor, no sign of life about them.

--

In the light of day, Q's anger had not subsided. The youngest son had joined his father in a grave. The Oldest daughter was physically the least hurt.

Tyrion took a breath. “It is the nature of war” the Imp tried to argue, without conviction.

Sandor, the Mountain, although not present at the farm house where some of his men were. Q shuddered as the Mountain condoned the actions of his men as their right as an army far from home.

Like Tyrion, Mycroft was trying to find a solution without the ramifications of the Paynes and the Lannister's largest supported the Cleganes leaving Q's host. Of all the people putting in their opinion, it was Robert that took Q by surprise.

“Strip them of their weapons” he counselled. He was not meaning the men's swords, but the weapons they used on the women and boys. “It is not right. In my youth I was the stuff of a woman's dreams, young, virile, right out of the bodice ripping fantasies. Now it is my coin and favour that brings them but not one is forced to remain. And never ever hurt.”

Q nodded his agreement. “Any man who confesses will lose his weapon. Any man who doesn't will forfeit his life. Any man who wishes to go, may do so. But none who was at this steading last night.”

“This will end badly.” Tyrion warned.

I will start with Ilyan Payne.” Q ordered.

The soft voice of Jon whispered with respect, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Alec nudged the boy, now was not the time for quotes from Ned or his father before him.

--

“Your Majesty” The snidely Whisperer said slinking into the room. His dark eyes were bright and a wide smile stretched his cheeks. “The Prince has executed Ilyan Payne. Castrated 15 men loyal to Payne and Clegane houses. The ‘Mountain’ Sandor and his men along with the remainder of the Payne men have broken faith with the prince and rides here this very moment to join us.”

“The Hound?”

The smile dropped from the snide man's face, hoping the question of the younger brother would be overlooked. “Alas, he remains loyal to the Lord Tyrion and the Prince's host.”

Going to the map, the king picked up a pawn. “Over 5,000 men, perhaps 7,000 at a push.” he mused and placed the piece on his side. “As Sir Lancel has refused my call, Clegane can have his lands as reward.”

“I shall send the word at once, your majesty.”

--

From the southward leg of the journey they started heading east. Q looked to his army behind him. Further along were different division and houses. The Lannisters now less than a quarter of what it was before. Q couldn't help the conflict, he knew he had done right by honour but they were reduced as a whole. Then thought, the mother and older son being added to the graves at the small farm. All that was left was the oldest daughter.

When they stopped to make camp. Q headed back along the train. Amongst the siege weapons, a covered cart being pulled by oxen. Inside, John and Eve looked after the girl. She was awake but refused to eat, speak or do anything.

While the healer was telling him of the girl's condition, the thunder of hooves was heard through the wagons. A white horse baring a grey rider. Gandalf pulled to a stop and said.

“Word from Isingaurd. The Cleganes are making for the capital. The King has awarded Clegane the lands and income of Sir Lancel Lannister so he has finally decided to join us. He passed Isingaurd with about 4,000.”

Thanking the wizard, Q headed for his tent. Collapsing on the camp bed, a firm presence joined him. It was rare that he got a chance to lay with James. Q told him of the changes.

“You truly hate doing this?” James asked pulling the lean man close.

Q nodded and buried his head in the man's shoulder. “I just want to hide, and live quietly in a place by the sea.” Q begged.

James pulled the young man closer. At times Q was every bit the king, like the day before. Q took Payne's head, and said a small prayer for him as he was buried, even after what he had done. At others times he was just the young man with too much responsibility thrust upon him and carried so much pain.

“You're not alone.” James tried to remind him. “Alec and I, we will always be at your side.”

“You can't promise that.” Q spat. His voice colder then James had ever heard it.

--

When the forests and hills fell away, the planes stretched on and on. Alec landed beside Q with a thump, making a chirping purr and indicated the distance.

“I take it that means my father is waiting?” Q said. There was a single nod from the dragon.

When the city was in sight, the constantly moving mass of the opposing army was just about visible. The son of Robert drew his sword, pulling down the faceplate of his bull shaped helmet.

“Put it away, boy!” Robert blasted.

Mycroft instructing the boy, “They are further away than they look. It's a trick of the light.”

Unlike the other times, the camp was laid out for defence. The siege weapons would make a channelling V shaped valley in case the king decided to charge while they were still preparing. Guards patrolled everywhere, as saboteurs and assassins were very likely.

After the evening meal, the battle plans were drawn out on the ground. An old strategy, like the wide horns of a bull. The horns would be two sweeping wings made up of pikemen, swords, bowmen and Wizards and would curve around the enemy herding them to the centre where the mounted knights and heavy footman would attack.

On the way out a meaty hand clapped Q on the shoulder, looking up to the grizzled bush of black beard, of Lord Robert.

“It is good to be young again.” He roared and left to rejoin his men.

Hands. Familiar. So gentle. Caressing the skin of his neck, where Q's armour stopped. The young prince pressed his cheek to the back of those hands. “I do not look forward to tomorrow, like Robert and the others do.”

“You do not shy from war but you do not court it or revel in it.” Alec said. “That is rare and something to be proud of.”

Standing, Alec, undid the buckles, letting the layers of his armer fall away. Climbing into bed, Q lay down with the man, naked and revelling in the closeness to him. A comforting raising and dipping silhouette of a dragon was cast by the firelight onto the wall of the tent.

--

The wizards had done their work again. A mist covered their manoeuvrings. Their lines were still mostly shrouded when Q, James, Mycroft, Renly and Loras broke off to meet in the middle of the field of battle.

They waited for a parley. Looking to the king in the bright and gleaming armour, like he was made of mirrors. But the king didn't come out nor did he send a representative. Q led the way back, noticing an unnatural chill in the air, the mist vanished and revealed their much smaller army.

Q took his place behind the heavier knights, where Jed and Robert had taken up residence in the exact centre. Q pulled on his black helmet, but it offered little protection. It came from a scale that protected the elbow joint of Alec's front leg. It was little more than an open faced brimmed cap with a crease running from front to back.

Drawing his sword, the others who used the similar style of fighting beside him. Nemo on one side with Wu the other. Tristan and the others were behind Q.

James reluctantly joined the other mounted heavy knights. Giving a quick glance to Q, then to Alec who glided above them.

A screech was heard overhead as Alec flew from one side of Q's lines to the other. Giving the eerie shriek as his speed increased.

Alec ducked low, chirping at the two of wizards. Mallory and Gellert looked up to the dragon who was trying to gain their attention. He then did a loop and pointed. Taking the hint, the dragon with visual superiority was indicating priority target the wizards waved in acknowledgement.

“ALEC!” Gellert suddenly shouted, a black pike hurtling through the air towards the dragon. The dragon avoided the pike, letting it land in the middle of the battle field.

Gellert looked at the long narrow pike, covered in a thick black oil, already the grass was dying and decaying where the pike was planted in the ground. “Living Rot” he identified. “My Sister is here.”

With a high arc, Alec beat his wings to climb higher. When the dragon looked down again, he was unable to see the armies, even with the enhanced dragon vision. He moved into a dive. Tucking his wings in, the shrike started and the wind moved over the spines, and manoeuvring fins at his hips and tail.

The ground was getting so big, the people seeming to rush towards him. At the last moment Alec pulled out of the dive. Flying from his own side and let out a blast of white fire, leaving a streak of melted glass, going right into the enemy lines. The men and horses panicked and stampeded. In the distance horns began to blow. The Battle had begun.

Chapter Text

-Clint-

The moment the black dragon let loose a blast into the King's army, the screaming men scattered. A horn blasted with one long and three short pips. In response to the signal, Clint and his archers on the left flank raised their bows in unison, pulling back on the strings. A horn sounded again and they loosed. The mass of arrows flew like a flock of birds, striking the fleeing men who were close enough to their lines. In a practised and coordinated move, every odd archer led by Clint, then even archer led by Arya, fired. After the heavy first volley, there was now an almost constant flight of arrows from the left flank of Q's lines. The archers continued until the King’s army regained order and realised they couldn't escape to that side.

“Incoming!” A voice shouted.

The return volley, a strange, quick, dense cloud, like a flock of swallows, struck terror into the hearts of the archers. But Clint and the archers held themselves still, rather than the norm of raising their shields to protect themselves. A screeching hiss came from behind the archers and the sky lit up. The incoming arrow exploded in smaller red stars. A fine ash danced on the wind, all that was left of the King's incoming arrows. Clint raised his bow, with the other archers and they returned fire.

Across the field of battle, the right wing of the King's lines was hit hard. With the flashes of red appearing over the opposing left flank of the Prince's lines, the King realised his arrows weren't hitting their mark. Beside him stood an ornately dressed boy, with a drum at his hip.

“Send in the horse.” The King commanded and the drummer boy beat out a rhythm that could be more easily heard across the army.

A horn sounded. The long-short-short-short, directed the archers of the left, then long-long-short-short-short directed the archers of the right. And one more blast from the horn signalled the commencement to firing.

Complying with the order, Q's archers and Wizards laid down heavy fire. The fire from the flanks, channelled the king's mounted men away from the edges of the Prince's lines and towards the centre where the King's knights could best be countered.

-Jed-

In the centre of the Prince's lines, with the Prince, himself, further back, Jed looked at the man beside him. Holding up his hammer, Lord Robert lifted his and the two clashed their weapons in salute. Atop of their horses and near the front, the two had a great view of what was coming towards them. The King's heavy knights were baring down on them. A thundering wall of armour clad horses and men, all with long lance. Kicking up dirt and dust as they ran.

The men at the very front of the Prince's lines lifted their long pikes at the last moment. Becoming a spiked wall of death to the King's incoming horses. Screams of horses and men drowned out all other sounds, as the galloping horses crashed into the stationary pikemen. Blood and splinted wood burst into the air. Jed reared his horse to the side as a knight and his horse managed to jumped over the pikemen. The knight landed safely, and charged between Robert and Jed. Jed swung forward and Robert around, the knight's armour crumpled from front and back between the duel impact of the heavy war-hammers. The riderless horse ruining through any gap it could find and off.

The remaining pikemen lowered their long weapons and made space. Jed and Robert roared and charged out, to finish off the men able to stop in time. Most of the King's knights had dropped their lances and switched to long swords. Seeing a large man in scarred grey armour and a bucket shaped helmet, Jed charged him. He hit him so hard the helmet went flying, taking most of the knight’s face with it.

Robert aiming for a pretty knight in highly polished and almost mirrored armour. The Knight tried to block Robert's swing, but the hammer and the force Robert used to wield it overwhelmed the pretty knight's broadsword. The Knight went flying with the impact, lading a few yards away. The knight’s horse bolted in fright without its rider.

-James-

The distant screech and bangs from Alec filled the air, along with whatever the explosions that the Wizards had deployed. All with the undercurrent of screams of pain and metal fighting metal.

After the failed charge of the King's heavy horse, James started moving forward with his men. Their line widening and curving round.  As the King's heavy horse were engaged by Jed and Robert at the centre, James closed in from the right. Renly and Loras on the far side of the King's heavy horse, closing on the left.

Lifting his fairly short, black, Norman like double edged sword, James charged forward. His men following close behind. Seeing a man with the shoulder piece of his armour decorated with the Clegane motif, James bore down on the knight. Sword hit shield and shield blocked sword. The two men battered at each other's shields like drums until James spotted an opening and with a stab he drove the point of his black blade into the armpit of the man and he fell from his horse.

-Alec-

There she was, the witch who had held Q prisoner. She was beside a large crossbow mounted on a wagon. As long as he moved quickly and with agility, it was hard for them to fire the weapon. A blast of white fire and the crossbow was no more. He sent another blast at the witch but she picked herself up, leaving the ground where she had been standing, a black crater of glass. Alec's ultra-sharp vision saw the look of hate on her face as she looked at him. Giving up on taking her on alone, Alec decimated the men around her.

When only the witch was left to retreat to the King's men, Alec banked and heading back for his own lines. Spotting the blond he was looking for, Alec noticed the wizards in the section had not been engaged yet nor were they involved in the centre-ground fighting.

With a swoop Alec snatched the blond wizard off his feet, the man giving a rather undignified scream. Barrel rolling, Alec threw Gellert straight up and ahead. The wizard screamed his lungs out as he was tossed about like a ball. Alec continued the roll, and felt the impact on his neck and back, as desperate hands grasped his horns. Alec felt the wizard's legs hook over his shoulders and the man settle on his neck.

Returning to the King's lines, Alec sent a blast at the witch again. She shrieked and threw an vial at Alec, which fell short. It landed on one of the king's men and the unfortunate soul began to melt, like an instantly rotting piece of fruit.

“Hit her!” Gellert shouted. There was tug on one of his horns, Alec turned in the indicated direction. “The pike!”

Seeing the long weapon abandoned, sticking out of the grass Alec swooped down. The man on his back making a sound of pain but as the pike didn't touch his wing. Gellert must have caught it.

The pair flew back over the King’s army, following the fleeing witch. Gellert raised the weapon and threw it. It pierced her shoulder and she suddenly shattered like delicate glass. “See, simple. That porcelain appearance wasn't just for show.”

Alec then retuned the wizard to his group and head back to herd the King's army.

-The King-

The King could see the battle was not going is way. He ordered an all out charge. He then drew his sword, the blade was gleaming and white as his armour. He dug in his heels and his horse leapt forward. The king followed his men in the fight.

The pinch faced, Master at Arms, Moran, at one side of the king. The snide Whisperer, Moriarty at the other. The three men entered the fray. He lost sight of the men quickly in the chaos. Someone swiped at him, deflecting the blow with the sword he slashed at the unprotected face. Cutting a stripe across the cheeks and bridge of the nose.

Out of the chaos, a rider came out. The black sword held over the rider's head, like the sting of a scorpion. The king raised his sword and charged at his son. Q tried to do one of his tricks, where he slid round the horse so he was at the side rather then the top. Rather than try to continue, the king veered away and beyond the reach of the black blade. He circled round but had lost sight of his son.

Looking about franticly, the king saw a man in dull and ill-fitting armour. The king would recognise his closest and oldest advisor even with his face covered.

Their swords clashed. They rounded in a figure eight as John lifted his shield, weathering the heavy blow. Sherlock avoided the thrust to his side, the point hitting the curving plate rather than the mail of his armpit. Thrusting himself, the king aimed for the weak point between chest and helmet.

John's horse reared and threw him before the king's stab touched him. Seeing the man pushing himself up, the king gave John a kick to the head. The King looked down on the unconscious man. He promised John no mercy, but now he reared away, something deep within him stopping him form finishing the job.

-Robert-

In the all out chaos of the battle, where planning had given way to an all or nothing push, the Lord Robert had been unseated from his horse. His son, a few paces off, was in no better state. As horse passed, whether the rider had noticed Robert or not, it didn't matter. Robert swung, breaking the animal's leg. The pretty knight in his shining and expensive greenish armour went flying forward and landed on his rounded helmet. The man didn't move, with his head planted in the ground and arse aimed at the sky.

The ground seemed to thump. Turning, Robert looked up at the man over two heads taller than him, and smiled. Trotting towards the Mountain, Robert swung low with the hammer, raising his shield. Robert's hammer smashed the larger man's knee joint. The claymore which the Mountain used one handed, cleaved through Robert's shield and into the man's shoulder.

The two men collapsed. Robert pushed up from the mud, his head going light. His arm and shield staying in a tangled heap on the ground. Robert swung his hammer, as the Mountain brought down his sword. The two weapons clashed, the claymore snapped, and the head of Robert's hammer being severed.

The Mountain raised his sword like a dagger; the remaining blade being only a few inches long. Just a ragged tapering shard of a point. Robert looked at that point knowing he had nothing left. Suddenly, the huge arm pulled back and threw the hilt, as roar sounded behind Robert.

Jed fell forward and crashed to the ground. The hilt of the Mountain's sword sticking out of his thigh. Robert picked up the shaft of his hammer, weakly he batted at the Mountain. A gauntlet covered fist sent Robert down.

Jed reached forward, wrapping his fingers around the short piece of remaining handle below the heavy head of Robert's war hammer. With a mighty effort, he launched himself up, swinging with all his might. He hit the back of the large square helmet. The metal deformed and the large man slumped on to the body of Lord Robert, the helmet and part of the Mountain's head cleaved off.

-Mycroft-

Seeing the snide little rumour merchant; the Whisperer, was trying to run. Like a whips of smoke, Mycroft formed in front of him. The Whisperer raised his ornate gold inlay sword, and stabbed. Mycroft let him, while giving a dangerous smile. The blade passed through the centre of him doing as much damage to the wizard as it would to a puff of smoke.

Moriarty smiled and wiped his mouth, as if he was dislodging crumbs after a meal. “You could be King. Just a few delicate strings and you could reclaim the throne.” Moriarty said, his eyes wild and darting. Still looking for a way out.

“Your venomous tongue could never sway me.” Mycroft hissed, closing in and puling out a dagger from the folds of his sleeve.

Mycroft drove the dagger into the man's neck. “For my nephew, who would forgive you. For me, who never would. For the lives of my first love and the loves of my nephew.” Mycroft whispered into the dying man's ear, holding him close. When the man stopped moving, Mycroft let the body fall.

Looking about, Mycroft's blue eyes took in the battle around him. They were still outnumbered, but they were fighting harder. Already the King's ranks were breaking with many of his troops fleeing.

-Renly-

The King's Master at Arms charged with his long sword held steady and true. Renly batted the sword aside as they clashed and drove his into the man's neck. He looked down on Moran. The man was not so strong when on an even footing. Bringing his horse around, Renly saw the King's army was collapsing; fleeing or dying.

It was several moments before he saw an unfriendly knight, but a moment later, Loras had slain the enemy. Renly joined his lover as someone shouted, “There!” The group turned to the direction the knight was pointing and they headed for where there was still fighting.

-Q-

Now on foot for an arrow having caused his horse to throw him, Q approached a circle that had built up. Pushing himself through his men, Q saw the battle. In the centre of the circle, the King and an exhausted band still fought on. Q's men knew the group was no match, they deflected the attacks but didn't move in for the kill.

“Surrender!” Q bellowed.

The King focused on the voice and charged. Stepping into the circle fully, Q met his father. The straight sword clashed against the curved, white against black. The King was tired with his heavy plates of metal and longer, heavier sword. Q was the more agile, he danced away or deflected blow after blow.

As they fought the men around stopped attacking each other. The battle itself ending with the King against Prince. The only other sounds above the clash of the two men's swords were the injured and dying.

Q lunged, stopping himself from delivering a killing thrust. Q's hesitation offered the King an opportunity. With sword against sword, the king back handed the prince with his free hand. It sent his smaller son flying back.

Lading, Q scrambled for his sword. Getting to his knees, he lifted his sword. Q held it across and above his head with both hands, he weathered the incoming downward swing. A knee to his face from his father, and Q rolled and regained his feet; his head a little fuzzy. His father pressed close, almost chest to chest. The hard and uncaring steel blue met shocked green. Gasping, Q was aware of pain and numbness. Q staggered back, the narrow hilt sticking out of his side. Touching the dagger, pain washed out the numbness in his body.

From the crowd a man in dull armour charged, John beat his sword down on the king like a club. The king, matching the slower style of fighting with more ease than when fighting his son. The King's men, again attacked those around with renewed vigour. While, the Prince's men closed in.

-James-

Screaming, his side feeling like he had been stabbed. Abandoning his opponent, he ran towards the crowd that had built up. Knowing something bad had happened there.

-Alec-

The pain in his side forced him from the sky. Hitting and tumbling along the ground, his wings caught and splayed painfully. A few of the King's men approached the downed beast. A blast of white fire quickly convinced them the dragon wasn't done for. Alec would not be an easy trophy. Pushing himself up, Alec climbed into the air with strong beats of his wings.

In one of the circles of a large crowd, Alec's eyes landed on James and a wild haired man. The two men fought. One in armour that still gleamed despite the dirt. The gleaming sword was like the king's armour, giving flares of light as it clashed against a black blade. The opponent in heavy matt plate of strong whitish/blue dragon scale.

In the other circle of the crowd. The healer, in dull armour, tended to the other. The black arms and legs with the white tabard was immediate recognisable to Alec. The way Mycroft, Loras and others stood, not helping, but just looking at the absolutely still figure, Alec knew Q had fallen. Alec felt the rage bubble up.

The dragon landed with a roar of rage, pushing the crowd back. With a sweep of Alec's flat head he sent the king flying. Rearing up, his front foot landed on the King's chest plate, making it buckle. Alec turned his head, wanting to see the moment the life drained from him.

A hand pressed to his neck and James came into Alec’s view. The healer, stood off to the side, looking away. A tear slipped down his face unable to watch but unwilling to leave. John would not stop what was to come. The King's mouth opened and he screamed as Alec slowly crushed him. Alec savouring the slow death, feeling the human's weak hands batting at his leg.

“Stop this!”

Everyone who knew the voice stilled, all slowly looked to the side. Mycroft and Loras reached down, and helped Q to pick himself up. Pulling the dagger out from his side hurt more than any physical pain Q had endured before.

The four, John, James, Alec and his father, all different shades of stunned blue eyes looked at him wide and shocked. Q let the bloodied dagger slip from his fingers. James surged forward, Alec bouncing up and off the King. Q being enveloped by the man and dragon, both. The pain from his side ripping through him.

A gasp from the crowd and a shout, as the king pulled his sword and charged. Gandalf emerged from the crowd using his long staff, hit the king's unprotected head. The king collapsed face first to the ground. His sword was kicked away, out of his grasp. Alec reared up and landed on the white blade shattering it. Looking to the Prince, “Unconscious, your Highness.” Gandalf said.

“Well someone had to stop this foolishness.” Gandalf spat and retuned to the crowd. Everyone looked at the king still face down on the bloody mud of the battle field.

--

“I'm fine.” Q complained. James, Alec, John and his knights stood around him, as everyone seemed to be poking and prodding the prince; offering a theory or idea. None more than Gellert and the wizards. Q batted away the blond wizard when he tried for another look at Q's side.

“You shouldn't be. That dagger pierced your lung, heart and god knows what else.” John said packing the wound and dressing it, unable to come up with anything better. He had heard that a dying man could do great things, a final heroic thrust, but not this long after the infliction of what should be a mortal wound.

“Strange?” Mycroft mused.

Gandalf hummed in response, then came forward, pressing his hand to Q's face. “Your colour is returning,” he said. Q batted away the grey wizard's hand too.

“We have to go!” Q ordered and pulled on his armour.

He climbed his horse, with a boost from James. Renly held up a small coronet of silver and Q placed it on his head. Q winced as he pulled the reins and moved the horse off. James at one side and Alec walking on the other.

Q and his knights lead the column of men. All walked behind the bound and gagged king at the very front. The king with his simple pointed gold crown in place so all would know it was he. Q felt a stab of guilt, for forcing the humiliation on his father, but it was needed. The people needed to see the king had lost the war.

Throughout the streets, the people saw the king. Some called out to him in support. A man in brown robes shouted from the steps of his church about blasphemy and damnation to those who attacked the righteous king. Others jeered, some with legitimate grievance. A mother damned the king for burning her daughter who had been accused of witchcraft. Others just wanted to tear down a man they saw as once having been above them.

They passed under the high arched gate of the Palace Square. The two great building, the Throne Room on one side and the Cathedral the other. They dismounted, then Q's soldiers, led by Nemo and the Master at Arms moved through the building, securing them.

A woman's voice called out, “Son!”

Q looked to his mother as she emerged from the arched doors of the Throne Room. Her long velvet dress with a plunging neckline billowed as she ran. Q stood still as she barrelled into him, hugging and kissing his cheek.

“Let go.” Q said softly, “I have decided on your punishment for your complicity in Father's conduct. Pretending to love me now will not save you.”

She pulled back and with tears in her eyes. “I do love you, my son.”

Q wound his arms around her, he had wished for this for a long time and savoured it for a moment. But after his birth she had almost nothing to do with him.

“Your future will be purely down to yourself, mother.” He said and pulled back. He gave a command that she should be brought.

Mycroft emerged from the crowd. Dismissing the soldiers, he called, “Sir Loras, Sir Renly, be so kind as to escort the Queen.”

Q looked to his uncle for an explanation. The man appeared less grey, more of a normal but untanned complexion than before. He gave a tight smile. “As the wolf can't be tempted by the grass, nor the sheep by the taste of flesh. What 'The Woman' can offer, neither Loras nor Renly will be interested in.”

Q looked passed his uncle to his mother. “A siren?” He asked. Mycroft shrugged, not quite sure what The Woman truly was, beyond having the ability to corrupt and manipulate.

As Q climbed up the stairs, the palace guards not interfering as the usurper entered. Q strode along the great arched hall of the Throne Room, climbing the steps of the dais at the end. Q stood in front of the throne. From the cathedral the bishop had been brought in and stood beside the king. Church and crown, the rulers of the realm.

“Do you abdicate? Do you validate my reign?” Q demanded of his father and the bishop. Both gave what amounted to a ‘no’, but was more pious and hate filled.

Q glanced at his uncle, who was the rightful king. Mycroft gave a tight smile and nodded. “I forfeit all claim. Recognising the son of Sherlock as the legitimate heir and rightful king.”

“Then as the only heir of King Sherlock. I am forced to depose my father and seize my birth-right.” Q said and sat down on the throne.

Within hours, every single one of Moriarty's known Whisperers, every one Of Moran's guards, every one of the city watch who had arrested someone on a trumped up charge and participated in their execution. These were the ones who acted with pride and impunity, openly admitting to their conduct(not considering their actions crimes). They stood in two long column down the centre of the throne room, headed by the king and his complicit queen. The healer, Sir John, joined them, of his own free will and stood behind the deposed King. A row of Q's guards on either side of those guilty of participating in the witch-hunts, separating them from the citizens who came to bare witness.

Q looked over the room. He did not like summary judgements, but these were the worst zealots. He needed them gone and quickly, before his father could build up sympathy and support or Q would be facing hidden threats form inside the city and possibly the palace. A statement needed to be made, that the reign of Sherlock was well and truly over.

“My punishment has been decided, there will be no changing that. Does anyone wish to show remorse for the harm they were a part of?”

A single hand waved. Q stood so he could see the man. Dressed in the white tabard with the seal of the city watch on it, the young balding man wasn't looking to his king but a woman at his side. She wasn't that old but carried herself like she was a hundred.

“Speak!” Q commanded. The man admitted to naming his brother, and him being burned as a result. The woman the Watchman had been looking at wept. Someone at her side escorted her out and the confessor's head dropped in shame.

“I thank you for your remorse. Are there no others?” Q called.

“I burnt a dozen and would burn a dozen more” someone shouted.

Sitting down Q decreed. “I abhor violence but I know it is sometimes necessary. I can not have your poison infecting the realm. So that leaves me with only one course of action. Banishment. You will be taken to the isle of Reichenbach. You will be given provisions, enough for one season. From then on, you will live upon the ground you till, the seed you sow and the crops you reap. It will be a hard life full of honest work, where you will learn there is more important things, like surviving. Rather than concerning yourself with who one person takes to bed or what another person believes.”

With a heavy heart, Q watched his guards escort the group out. Some needing more persuasion than others.

--

“To much magnesium, it will be too white.” Mycroft hissed as the wizard carefully measured out powders.

“My fireworks are famous.” The Wizard snapped, continuing to measure out the metal dust.

“They have to be perfect, not famous.” Mycroft snapped back.

“You do know, you're running late.” Gandalf said with an air of annoyance and exasperation.

“A wizard is never late.” Mycroft threw back. Then held up the grey wizard's own notebook and accused Gandalf of not following the formula.

“Oh come on.” Gandalf snapped and walked off, with Mycroft following.

Mycroft and Gandalf stepped out of his lab, a former cell that he had established in the dungeons.

It was not in the practical nature of wizards to be sentimental. The new king refused to use this place of pain, so the wizards claimed the unused space for themselves. Especially as it came with free access to the kitchens, feasting halls, libraries, servants and other amenities one would expect of a royal palace. With a little clearing out of previous furniture and removal of all the instruments of torture it was becoming rather homely.

The individual cells became the secure library and potion stores for the wizards. Moving along the corridor, Mycroft and Gandalf walked passed a large chamber claimed by the crimson wizards. The great fire pit was now barbecuing food instead of heating branding irons. As the wizards passed another door, they heard Gellert and Albus arguing about how to set up their lab to their mutual liking.

Mycroft smoothed down his long black cassock. Coming out of the underground tunnels and into the day, he glance up, enjoying the warmth of sunlight. Moving through the old and familiar corridors of sandstone from his youth. Everything so strange and yet recognisable, like the dreams of returning home he had been having for years. And now he had.

Coming out of a door, Mycroft stepped onto a large rectangle that appeared to stretch out to the sea. At the very end of the Hanging Gardens a lone figure stood looking out over the crystal blue sea.

Q watched the armada led by a three mast galleon with its sails billowing in the wind. The high stern castle, the area that housed the captain’s cabin and the royal cabins, was several decks above the water line. His father was on that ship, along with his mother and John. Even in prisoners, there was a class system. The islands they were being exiled to had been settled and abandoned many times over the years. But it still felt like he was sending them away to die.

“Their lives are in their own hands.” Mycroft said coming up to his nephew.

The grey wizard added, “Man has thrived in worse condition. The lands below the Crown Mountains are far worse. Less fertile, far colder, with devastating winters.”

Q nodded as he tore his gaze from the sea. Looking at his pale and rosy cheeked uncle. Q touched the thin hair at the sides of his head.

“I didn't know we had ginger in our blood line.” Q mused, the hair colour coming though and rather strange given it had been black a few days ago.

Mycroft gave a tight sad smile. “Mummy's contribution,” he said. He brushed his fingertips with his nephew's.

“It suits you.” Q mused.

The Grey Wizard agreed. “It does.” Mycroft blushing slightly in response.

Walking back into the castle, Q passed his guards in the white and black check scale shirts. They had completely replaced his father's, and for the moment the city watch as well.

Dressed in his scale armour, with his sword at his side, Q came into the throne room. Alec sat on his haunches to the right of the throne and James stood to the left. The waiting crowd parted; Q holding his head high as he walked down the congregation of lords and nobles from across the realm. Q climbed up the stairs and turned. Q stood looking out over the gathered assembly.

The first to approach was his greatest supporter, Lord of the Six Smiths. Emerging from the side and with the support of his nephew and heir he stopped at the foot of the dais.

Going down on one knee he spoke, “I swear to and recognise my one true King.” Q thanked Rufus' father and the Lord returned to his place.

The son of Robert, now Lord Baratheon came forward and knelt. “In the name of my house. I swear to and recognise the one true king.” Gendry said.

Lord Tyrion as lord of his house came forward and made the same proclamation as the others. His sister and the non-wife to Q, the annulment having been upheld and clearly explained to both Cersei and Tyrion. The child Cersei carried would never be Q's heir or king. But Q had to agree, the child when it was born, would be a legitimately recognised Lannister.

The father of Loras, as well as Alec's older brother, Lord of the Starks. All the key families of the kingdom recognised Q as their king.

Before taking his seat, Q called, “Does any contest my claim?”

When none spoke out against him, Q sat on the throne. Mycroft in the centre of the group of wizards stepped forward holding the crown. The gleaming piece of metal with three points at the front was placed upon on his head. Mycroft stepped back and the crowd saw their newly crowned king.

Gendry shouted a roar. Renly and Loras continuing until all were shouting. With a particularly deafening one from the dragon at Q's side.

--

A large bonfire lit the ward. The celebrations were going on throughout the castle and the city. The new king still wore his crown but had changed into a long surcoat of deep green and silver that match the crown.

Q grasped the hand of the man sitting next to him. Alec gave a squeeze of encouragement. Standing, as a blast of fire went over the crowd from the pale dragon, everyone’s attention drew to the king.

Lifting his tankard, Q said. “We have earned our merry making and I implore all to have fun. But I wish to honour those who should be with us still.” Looking to Lord of the Six Smiths, he shouted, “To Sons!” Lifting his tankard to Gandalf who was on the curtain wall with a long pipe in one hand and Mycroft at his side, he toasted. “Students!” Q acknowledged all the friends who survived, were injured or had died.

Deliberately leaving one to the last, Q looked to the long table with the Baratheons and to Gendry and Jed sitting together. Q dropped the sombre tone and spoke joyfully. “Fathers! Who in the throws of his death, cleaved in twain, still struck down a dozen men and hit the Mountain so HARD, he ripped its peak off. Sending it so far, it landed in a fox's hole on the far side of the battle. In his spirit, drink! Eat! And whore ourselves to this victory. Let us never forget Robert, the Mountain Breaker.” A cheer went up from the house. With each retelling of the story, it went a little further.

Then with a sudden whoosh and a bang, they were bathed in silvery light. From all around the city, shooting stars went up and burst like night time suns. Shapes burst into existence, for just a moment then faded. Sparkling dragons swooped in all the colours of the rainbow. Even as the initial wave the fireworks had faded new rockets were being launched around the city and palace.

Q's eye caught one of his knights sneaking off as soon as she could. The older were next to leave, followed by those who had found a partner to spend the night with. When a re-enactment started of Robert's last fight, Q suspected it was safe for him to leave too.

With Alec at his side, Q knocked on the door of one of his knights and his new captain of the city watch. Eve pulled it open and let him in. The girl from the farmhouse was sitting at the stone fireplace looking into the dancing flames.

“Natasha?” Q asked, coming to sit in the chair on the opposite side of the fire. The red haired woman's cold hard eyes turned to him. Pulling out a dagger, Q knelt at her chair. He held out the handle of the dagger and bore his throat.

“It was my decision to march the route passed your home. I will accept the blame. If you think revenge will give you a moment of peace. Take it.”

Q felt the dagger plucked from his hand. The girl lunged sending him to the floor. Q closed his eyes waiting for the stab but none came. Instead, there was ping of metal hitting the stone floor. Opening his eyes, Q saw his knife in the woman’s fist; the point dug into the floor by Q's ear. A drop of moisture fell on his cheek. Q looked up. No matter how hard Natasha squeezed her eyes shut, they continued to leak.

Q pulled her down, holding her close. He let her hide her face in his robes as she wept. Natasha pushed herself up a sort time later. The tears had stopped but she still held the knife. She pulled herself into a ball beside the bed. Her eyes looked at the dagger as she played with it.

Eve came out into the hall as Q exited the room. “You might not see it but she does...improve,” she said, tripping over an appropriate description.

“I will visit again.” Q said

Heading to his apartment, a large warm hand grasped his. Q looked in to the light blue eyes and exchanged smiles with Alec. The apartment of the king was a large series of rooms with a terrace running along them. Like the hanging garden, the terrace had a sheer drop to the sea far below. The rooms were all open and the warm fresh breeze filled them.

Q felt a hand cup his cheek and he was being pulled closer and closer. Q lost the focus of Alec's eyes just before their lips brushed. Q pressed against the man, winding his arms around Alec. Feeling his crown slip and land with a dull ping, Q knew it didn't matter.

A dull thump singled the arrival of the dragon. The two men pulled apart, breathing heavily. James' big head pushed through the billowing sheer curtains. His leather lips gave a slight uplift of a smile. The crystal blue eyes looked at one flushed and panting man then the other, James giving a suggestive winked at Alec then turned.

“What was that about?” Q asked.

Alec hesitated a moment in his disrobing of the King. He brushed the other man's chin turning it to look at him. Closing the distance he pressed his lips to the king's.

“The future.” Alec whispered pulling back. “If you'll have me by night. James will be with you by day. No jealousy and with equal love.”

Q nodded. “I love you.” Q said cupping Alec's face and brushing his thumb over the prominent cheek bone. “You miss him so much.” Q whispered, seeing the longing in Alec to see and touch James as a human again. “He misses you too.”

The moment was broken by the curtains being swooped open and James backing in tail first. The small silver haired woman at the front of the dragon, the cause of James' return. Alec bellowed, “Dear lord! What now? We learned not steal from the little old women. We learned there are still things to believe in and fight for.”

The old woman smiled and came up to the king. The bandage was still around his bare chest, holding the wadding in place. She looked from the wound to the two dragons, one in human form and raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “I have never met more foolish knights in all my time. Have you forgotten the words?”

James growled at her and stamped a foot in annoyance. The white fairy spoke ignoring the dragon’s attitude, “Half my heart to make you whole. Half my strength to purify your weakness. Half my heart at the cost of all of my soul.” Alec's face dropped and James' demeanour relaxed. Both men becoming introspective.

The woman looked to the king. She started talking about the first time they met on his naming day. It was a time before she got to the point of her story, that she gave a gift to the baby.

“But a fairy is not the only one who gives gifts. The High Dragons did too, when they walked the earth, flew the skies and swam the waters. The dragon would pierce their chest and pull out half of their heart and implant it in the chest of a worthy person. Then speak the words that would bind them and share their life with that person. Within the dragon beat the life force of both. Within the host was the very soul of the dragon. Although not so literal, you do possess half the heart of one dragon and half the heart of the other and the souls of both. Just as Sir Alec and Sir James received the heart and soul of each other and you. You are not immortal but as long as one dragon survives, so will you all.”

“Make me a dragon!” Q demanded, sharply. The thought the two men could die and leave him alone was something he was not willing to consider. James made a warning huffing sound at the demand.

“I suppose I could,” the white fairy mused and Alec demanded she shouldn't.

Q grasped Alec's hands desperately, gazing into the man's eyes. “I'm not sure how much fight I have left in me. I can not see beyond another loss. I couldn’t do as Mycroft did and find comfort in letting my heart wither at the death of my lover. I could only see...” Lips pressed to his. Stopping Q contemplating the other things that he considered to avoid the pain of loss.

Alec and James exchanged glance. “Fine,” Alec said for the both of them.

The fairy smiled and headed for the curtain. James stamped his foot and growled. “Our curse? Q?” Alec reminded.

Giving a weary shake of her head. “Gifts, Sir Alec. Gifts! Magic isn't all flash and bang, it can be a thought. And you've had control over your gift since you realised you had a half and a whole heart. Have you even tried to control the change or are you still letting the sun affect it?”

James stood a little straighter, with a tilt to his head. In the dying light, it felt like his human body was so small and the skin so tight. In the morning it felt like his skin was so loose. Always there was an intense irritating itchiness. Consciously trying to force the irritating feeling, he felt the itchiness between his shoulder blades again and he tried to scratch it, using his teeth. Then at his shoulder, that itch he could get, his teeth latching and biting the irritated and tough skin. The itchiness travelling to his stomach, knees and elbows.

Soon it was just like the other changes and he was clawing and scratching until he ripped his hide apart. Climbing out of the skin, rushing forward, James barrelled into Alec sending both of them to the floor. James' human skin touching cloth, with a growl he was pulling at Alec's clothes desperately. Running his cheek over the taught stomach muscles, seeing Alec in the full colour vision and not the ultra-sharp dragon's sight but with varying shades of grey.

James paused a moment when both were naked. Smelling Alec, the sweat, the ale, the dirt. Lunging forward James clashed his mouth with Alec's, tasting the man. All the time his hands were touching the other man and Alec was touching him in return.

Pulling back from the kiss, the two men looking at each other, their chests heaving. Then as one they looked to the lean man watching them with a smile.

“You belong here, too.” James ordered and held out his hand. The moment James had a hold of Q he yanked the lean man down into the tangle of limbs and bodies. The circumstances were too desperate for slow and loving. Alec and James having been apart for so long.

--

Come the morning, Alec felt the itchiness growing. He disentangled himself from the two other men, all their bodies littered with finger mark bruises and love bites.

Passing the bluish hide of James' and walking through the billowing curtains, Alec stepped out onto the terrace. The air was cooler but still warm and rather humid in the southern coastal city. Looking out to the sea, the sun was rising behind the palace and city so couldn't be seen as it breached the horizon. The sky was changing, a dark blue in the distance, lighter overhead and brighter still behind the palace. The stars vanished.

One set, then another, arms wrapped around Alec. Feeling the itchy uncomfortable sensation mounting he focused on James and Q. Rubbing against them, Alec stilled when he noticed it was causing the itchiness to increase. He took deep breaths and clung to Q in his arms with James at his back. Q pulled him into a kiss, deep, tongues clashing. Still tasting the ale from previous evening and the unique taste of Q underneath. When Alec opened his eyes, the sun spilled over the high conical roof of the King's apartments and warmed Alec's still human skin.

Dressed, Q, his arms entwined with the other two men, headed for the hall. James asked about the fairy and Q said she walked out when James emerged. Adding, “Great! My... our room is going to smell like dragon goop for days.”

James brushed his head against the slightly shorter man's, for no other reason than it felt like the right thing to do. And he could.

“So when can I try?” Q asked with a smile.

--

James explained the process as he had felt it. Alec explained as he remembered the experience. On his balcony, Q slid out of his surcoat, and stood naked, between the two men feeling rather silly.

Q scratched his hip hoping to build up the itch the other two men had described. Nothing. About to give up, he scratched his head. The two men tensed at the move.

“No” Q said, “It's just that stuff Loras recommended. It's made my scalp dry.” The two men sagged in the same disappointment Q was feeling.

Pulling on his breeches, Q scratched his scalp again. Then again quickly. “Perhaps it's fleas?” Q muttered. He was scared he was going to cut himself and the two men were smiling and backed off.

“I suggest you take those off” Alec encouraged, pointing to Q's clothes.

Trying to take off his breeches, Q saw his hand, the nail on his thumb had turned green. His finger ached and looked longer. Ripping off his breeches and concentrating on the itch, Q scratched. The itch migrated to his face and the idea of dropping to his knees and scraping his face on the rough stone floor sounded good. So Q did just that.

Ripping and clawing, as the pale human skin was shredded. The dragon appeared, the colour of a deep forest green with silver underbelly. From the emerging skin, a long pointed face with sliver spines and a long tapered neck. He stood on the short powerful hind legs. Q's wings and arms were integrated and he needed to balance his weight on his hook like thumb and knuckles, the position made his long fingers with the webbing of his wings between flicking up. From the font it gave Q the appearance of a 'W'. The wings and tail seemed to merge, with a wide flat spade at the end of the tail.

Alec's eyes widened. Green not burgundy. Silver highlights not black. Hazel green eyes not black. But there was no question, Q looked just like the last high dragon Alec had seen.
 
Q tripped over his wings, not accustomed to moving on all fours and with the long cumbersome wings attached to his fingers and arms. The long serpent neck allowed him to look at his back and tail with ease. He tried flapping his wings but fell on his face.

Alec burst out laughing. There was something so endearingly innocent about how Q moved. Like a baby taking its first steps. James punched the insensitive man's arm, Alec not noticing, Q his soul focus.

Seeing Q do a push up and try to flap and nearly land on his face again, James called out. “You're are a glider, like the big seabirds. You aren't meant to flap too much.”

The long neck stretched to looked over the edge of the balcony then pulled back and Q shook his head from side to side in a clear ‘no’. James stripped off and far more quickly transformed followed by Alec.

With a powerful beat James lifted off and climbed high and circled. Q looked up at him then to Alec at the edge of the balcony. Giving a slow demonstration, Alec gave a little wiggle of his body and launched off, his wings wide and almost still. He fell a bit before he was moving forward rather than down. A gentle flap and Alec climbed a bit.

Q moved forward. The fan like ears seemed so sensitive to the movement of the air. The spade of his tail too, and it was like there were shivers running up and down his spine. Griping the edge with his hook like thumbs and pulling back it felt like his arms were stretched in an uncomfortable but yet correct way. Squatting his legs, he pushed off the railing and pulled himself forward with his thumb claws. As if being launched from a catapult, he went further and faster than he thought he would. Spreading his arms and fingers, he stretched the wedding of his wings tight. With the feel of the air rushing over his skin and sense the sea was coming up to meet him, Q angled his fingers and tail. His body began to twist and respond and the sea was no longer coming at him so fast.

James dove ready to catch the other dragon if need be. Before the green dragon hit the water, the massive wings billowed and caught the air and the dragon was gliding. A couple of languid beats and Q was climbing gently. As a dragon, Q was easily the biggest of the three with a huge wingspan. A long tapering neck and tail. And a wing shape more like bat.

They flew. Alec and James keeping pace while Q learned to use his new body. Alec was the first to tire. He was the fastest and most agile but couldn't go for the longer stretches James could. James was a flying tank with the harder scales, with the more plentiful but less intense fire. Q looked slow and cumbersome but it seemed he could spend endless hours just gliding over the land and sea. They managed to convince Q to make a turn before Alec tired too much.

The moment they returned, Alec set down on one of the roofs of the palace. James continued to follow Q as he soared over the city and the planes. Seeing the way Q angled his wing forward, his speed slowed and he started losing height. James held his wince. There was little he could do to help. The green dragon's landing was better than he imagined. Q still landed with a bit of a splat, long neck, wings and tail spread out like a bug after it had been squashed. James touched down, already Q was pulling himself up. James looked around the grassy plane where they won their victory over the old King. They were joined soon after by the recovered Alec.

--

Standing over a crib, a White Fairy, invisible to all but the sparkling blue eyes looking up at her. “On your naming day, a gift of self. You will see beauty in all thing.” She cast silvery light on the girl, her god daughter.

A deep whoosh and the fairy moved to the window of the cottage. The new parents also looked out, in awe. From the distant hill, across the meadows and streams. Seeing the three dragons on the distant plane that was the filed of battle.

“You look pleased with yourself” the Black Fairy accused. Unseen by all but the baby girl and the White Fairy.

“I have hope again. A king, with love in his heart. Two Knights of the old code, king consorts that know honour even if they deny it.” the White Fairy said.

--

The black robed woman moved through the dark torch lit halls beneath the palace, a place that was once home to pain, but now was dedicated to learning and the solving of problems that faced mankind. Coming to a library she saw two men sitting with a board between them. The older one in grey was grumbling.

“This game is a mockery of strategy.”

“You are just saying that because you are losing.” Mycroft said.

Coming up to the table, the black fairy moved one of the Grey Wizard's pieces placing her godson into check mate.

“Getting old Gandalf?” She taunted, “Or were you letting your heart dictate your judgement?”

Mycroft looked at the woman that had been fighting for him for a very long time. “Did you plan this? My nephew I mean.”

“Plan? No. Guided? Yes. Fate and chance have wills all of their own after all.” She said and sat down. “You are looking yourself again. It's good to see.”

Mycroft called for some wine as it looked like she was there for a long visit.

--

The man in the blue turbine looked at their king. Children pointed and tugged their mother's aprons, pointing to the green dragon soaring over them. Myth, legend and reality were mixing. Nothing was perfect, the man mused as he saw a dirty and very thin child steal a loaf of bread while everyone's heads were turned up.

Catching the boy's arm, Nemo glared down into the dirty face. He then tuned the boy's hand over and placed a copper in it. “Go pay,” he instructed and held the loaf hostage until the boy did as he was told.

Taking the boy's hand, they returned to Nemo’s home, the loaf still held hostage. Sitting the boy down in the kitchen, Dawson, the old Master at Arms, was ladling soup out. They were joined by the former Librarian and Stable Master. The group having retired, with the crowning of the new king. The king was not short of knights willing and able to take up their duties while the king's uncle took over the Library.

After giving the boy his fill, Nemo said, “Come back when you are hungry.”

Given the boy had pocketed some cheese when he though no one was looking and a few other food items, Dawson bundled up a cloth with some more, including the loaf of bread and handed it to the boy.

“Do come back,” the barrel of a man said kindly. They let the scrawny boy leave. The four giving a wave as the dark eyes glanced back at them before the boy vanished round the corner.

Chapter Text

John, dug the hoe into the dirt. Wiping the beads of sweat from his face and feeling the sun bake his shoulders and back. The battle with the weeds in the neat rows of cultivated land around the cottage a constant one. Seeing the dark haired woman fanning herself, still in the regal and impractical splendour of a silken dress, he sighed.

“You could help!” he snapped.

The cold green eyes flicked up in annoyance. Her hand constantly waving the lace fan. Despite her best attempts, the once elegant and fine strands of dark hair were going frizzy with the lack of proper bathing and beauty ointments.

“We all have to pitch in.” A voice said from the roof. The once king hammered the slates back into place. The man laying horizontal row after row of the grey tiles. The cottage having been roofless when they found it.

Irene just ignored them. Fanning herself a bit faster, as she felt the oppressive heat. The sweat made her dress cling. This was not how her life should have ended, she thought. She had worked hard to steal the king's heart and desire. She was meant to live out her life in the lap of luxury.

“I did my part.” Irene hissed at herself, not even loud enough to draw the attention of the man in the garden or on the roof. “I gave him the little shit of a son. That was all I was meant to do.”

“My, sons!” A voice said, rising and dropping in tone. Approaching the crumbling and broken outline where there used to be a drystone wall. The old and bald man still wore the white and gold embroidered robes of the Archbishop.

John looked to the man with contempt. Sherlock shouted from the roof. “Get lost or start rebuilding that wall. The rabbits are getting at the shoots.”

The former archbishop threw his hands wide and said. “It is my divine calling, to look after the spiritual needs of my flock.”

John shot back, “My spiritual needs are less pressing than a winter starvation.”

“I'm a Bishop…”

“And I'm a king! Won't stop us starving if there isn't enough food.” Getting fed up Sherlock slid down off the roof. The drop at the end not even as tall as him. Going to the small porch were one annoyance had taken up residence he grabbed her upper arm and sent her towards the other. “Go! Both of you.”

He then went to climb on the roof again. His wife and the bishop argued their case. Missing the nail and shattering the grey slate, Sherlock closed his eyes, on the verge of tears. The slates had come from a cottage miles away. They had to choose, a cottage without a roof or a cottage without walls, now he was questioning the decision. Letting his hopeless frustration morph into anger Sherlock shouted.

“You were happy to be a whore when I found you. You are one of only three women on this island, so you will have a monopoly. As for you, your grace, STARVE! Because when the winter comes you will not get as much as a grain from us. There will be little enough with your help.” He threw the shard of broken slate at them for good measure. The two jumped back and when Sherlock held the other half the bishop scarpered. His wife too, following the path away from the cottage.

Climbing down Sherlock looked at the man who had finished the weeding and had moved on to fixing the old drystone wall. “You know it's not that bad here.” John mused.

“Your definition of 'not that bad' and mine are not the same.” Sherlock spat.

John looked up, sitting on the wall he took in the fresh air and the warm sun beating on his glistening body. Waving at the sea and the pristine white beach it met, he said.

“Beautiful, I think we might get some oysters, crabs and lobsters” Indicating the forest in the distance to the centre of the island, “Truffles, rabbits, dear, bore. The mountain supplies that stream with the freshest, purest water you have ever tasted. You said so yourself.”

Sherlock huffed. “Come the winter, gale force winds will buffet the area. The stream will freeze and have you forgotten the wolves?”

“I will look on the bright side.” John said returning to his work. Starting to whistle a tune.

“I'll be the realist. Now I need to make 5 five mile round trip to get more slates.” Sherlock said.

“I told you we should have brought more.” John shouted after them man. Sherlock deliberately ignoring the comment.

As Sherlock walked along the trail, the sun beat down on his shoulders. Like John he didn't like working with sweat soaked shirt clinging to him so went bare chested.  A shadow passed over, he looked up to their newest jailer. A dragon came every day, on the third day, was the green one. It stayed the longest and sometimes landed on the mountain. It would spend most of the day here before heading back to the mainland.

Sherlock arrived at the nearest cottage. No one had claimed the hovel and they were using the structure for spare materials to fix the one they had claimed. The end wall had collapsed out with large holes where the windows and doors had been. The roof was mainly intact, only near the missing end wall had it started to sag.

Already most of the slates were gone. Climbing up on the roof, Sherlock reached the apex. Shimmying along he came to where they stopped taking the tiles last time. John had advised they remove all and take more than what they need. Sherlock had only taking a few extra and those few tiles had been quickly destroyed by the work of unskilled hands. Carefully pulling out the iron nails he stored them in the satchel at his waist. He moved slowly across the rotten timbers and creaking joists.

Groaning and waking up, dizzy and disorientated, wondering how he got off the top of the cottage. The green eyes of his son were floating in and out of his vision. Groggily, Sherlock reached out and tried to sit up. His son’s voice told him to remain still. Slowly Sherlock realised the vision of his son wasn't a dream. His head hurt and touching it there was blood in his hair.

Slowly, Sherlock sat up, looking at the completely collapsed cottage. He could figure the building collapsed while he was still on top of it, but still asked, “What happened?” His son's worried voice confirmed his deduction.

With an arm over his son's shoulder he was brought to his feet. “Slates.” Sherlock said lifting his arm. Sherlock watched his son collecting the grey pieces of slate, wondering why Q was naked. Sherlock was still sore and the movements of his arms were sluggish as he slipped the strap over his head and handed the bag to his son. Q put it over his own shoulder then supported his father as they walked back to the cottage. Sherlock managed to ask about his son's lack of clothing.

“Dragons don't wear clothes.” Q said.

“You're the new dragon?” Sherlock said and his son nodded.

“When you're recovered. My hide is back at the cottage. Scrape away the inner residue and cut it from the inside. The scales you can shape like a stone. It's quite versatile and the outer side of the scale is as hard as steel. And the flexible skin is like the toughest leather.” Sherlock nodded and thanked his son for the information.

John came running when he looked up and saw Sherlock and Q. Q explained about seeing the cottage collapsing under his father while shifting the burden of his father onto the other man. John beginning to tend the man, and inspecting where Sherlock hit his head.

With a pair of borrowed breeches, Q climbed the roof and got to fixing the obvious hole. When John came out they talked for a moment before John moved to the wall building it up again. Sherlock came out a few hours later. He was walking gingerly but in better shape than when Q found him.

Saying his goodbyes, Q stripped off and shredded his skin. With a lunge he threw himself forward and snapped his wings down. The move strenuous and tiring but once he was in the air, it felt like he could sleep, the act of flying so effortless, only the starting and stopping giving him trouble.

Circling the island, Q looked down the inhabitants. The dragon sight allowing Q to see the people as if standing over them. The old fishing village was being repaired and built up again. He saw the bishop begging from door to door. His mother was speaking to two other women.

As the sun began to wane, Q dipped his left wing. He flew over the isolated cottage, his father helping John build the drystone wall. Sherlock still a little shaky as he lifted the roughly shaped stones and fit them together tightly. The two men looked up at him. Q headed out over the ocean, and home.

--

A shuffling forced John to snap his eyes open. Quietly, picking up the stick with a heavy rounded end, John heard the shuffling stop. As the time stretched out, the shuffling started again. Frowning, he asked, “Sherlock are you wanking or is that a mouse again?” The man would wake instantly, so if he was being quiet, it was out of embarrassment. Sherlock's silence being enough of an answer, John put down the stick.

The thought of the man's cock, long hard and thick and leaking cum as he moved his fist over it, seized John’s mind. John wanted to swear as his own suppressed arousal made him painfully hard. It felt like a piece of aching stone attached to his abdomen.

The shuffling started again. John palmed his erection and bit his lip, his imagination working in time with the rapid shuffling.

--

Sherlock and John waded out into the crystal blue sea. Finding the trap, Sherlock dropped under the surface. He caught hold of the thick net around the wooden frame. Sherlock broke the surface so he could look inside. Smiling Sherlock lifted the lobster trap, showing John the catch.

“Crab!” he shouted to the other man.

The blue eyes of John turned to him, with longer hair and now with a beard partially masking a board smile. Sherlock smiled wide too, overjoyed, the small victory over nature was better than any victory he had felt before. And John was here sharing it with him.

Sherlock headed back to the beach when John shouted him. John still up to his waist and held up oysters in his hands, in triumph.

“Tonight we feast.” Sherlock called. His eyes continuing to watch as John waded out. The hard work and less food had given both men tight prominent muscles that they had not had since they were teenagers. Sherlock's eyes traced the other man's body as with each wading stride the water revealed more of the tanned skin.

As the sea lapped around John's pelvis, just before it showed his loins. Sherlock spun away from the sight, mortified that his arousal was swelling and growing. Dropping the lobster pot, Sherlock grabbed the rough breeches that he wore most of the time.

“Would you stop it,” John snapped.

Turning, Sherlock held the rough material in front of his crotch. His eyes snapping to the other man's arousal and how the flared head was aimed at him.

John dropped the oysters, and fixed Sherlock with his eyes. He closed in. Slowly, John reached behind the hand holding the cloth to the other man's erection. Wrapping his hand around the hard and throbbing shaft, he gave it a pump and Sherlock thrust into John’s fist.

Two years and just the two of them. They avoided the village as much as possible. Two years and nothing but their own hands and now John was banking on the other man taking the option to let go of some of the frustration in a shared way.

Hands grasped John's shoulders. Sherlock thrusting into the still tunnel of the other man's fist. With a gasp, Sherlock flung his head back, throwing his long hair, his mouth open as he stilled and his cock sprayed a thick stream of cum. Collapsing down on the warm sand Sherlock recovered.

Wiping Sherlock's seed from his hand and thigh, John sat down. Pulling a knife from his clothing pile, he pried an oyster apart and ate it. John mused that it needed some seasoning. When no response came, “Are you going to be weird?” he asked and looked at Sherlock who had hung his head on his drawn up knees.

“It's just sex. And I don't see any better options.” John added. Sherlock pulled on the breeches and stormed off. “I have need too!” John shouted after him.

--

Waking before dawn, Sherlock dressed in simple black coat. He grabbed the bow and arrows he had made and with a last glance at the sleeping John, Sherlock left before the man woke.

Sherlock followed the path inland, along the course of a stream. Before he intended, Sherlock found a few rabbits. It was a find he couldn't let pass. With a quick movement, he slipped the bow from his shoulder and loosed an arrow. As he went to retrieve the rabbit, a shadow passed over the clearing. His heart clenched seeing the green and silver dragon. Running, he came to the edge of the grove of trees, continuing to watch the dragon as it glided serenely around the mountains and island.

Heading home, Sherlock saw John was awake. The other man was working within the boundary wall, digging neat rows for the crops. A pair of six foot tall crosses stood in the garden, with ribbons of old torn fabric to frighten off the birds. Behind the cottage and along the back wall, thick bushes of bramble and raspberry were allowed to grow wild.

Sherlock gutted, skinned and hung the rabbit. He then headed out again. Neither man spoke since that day on the beach almost a week before. Sherlock heard the fading sound of a spade working the ground.

Sherlock followed one of the flattened tracks away from the cottage. Some led deeper into the island while others led Sherlock to views of the sea. They were meandering and indirect, but far safer than going as the crow flies across the island. As Sherlock walked, a shadow seemed to follow him. Glancing over his shoulder, Sherlock saw the green dragon with its massive wingspan. Like a giant bat, with a long tapering neck and tail. Sherlock’s son always arrived early and spent most of the day when it was his turn to guard the island. But not since the day the old cottage had collapsed on Sherlock, had the dragon landed.

Up ahead was the village, the only village. One of the biggest buildings, the abandoned church, was now the brothel. His wife in firm control, just like when they first met. Her charms were no longer of interest to him, but many still sought her out. A guard stood either side of the door to the two story building. Only three adult woman resided inside, but as the high wailing from one of the windows indicated, there was new life to the island.

Moving down the road of the old fishing village, an old man came trotting up to Sherlock. The bishop wore only a loincloth. His arms and legs little more than sticks covered in loose, liver spotted skin.

“Your Majesty. You must help. The people are lost.” The bishop said bowing. Pointing an accusing finger to the church, “Fornicators.” Then sweeping his hand over the village. “Sodomites.” Grasping Sherlock's coat in is spidery hands. “We must bring righteousness to these sinners” He gave a wide manic grin showing his missing teeth.

“Be careful priest. You eat on the handouts of those sinners you scorn. And while the needs of the flesh might not call to someone of your age, it still calls to many. And some of us will not touch those harlots, again.”

“SODOMITE!” The old man screeched and pointed to Sherlock. Jeers and comments came from a few who heard. One man offering to let Sherlock suck his cock. Another, “Even the high and mighty spread their legs.” Others just remained silent, or told the mad old bishop to shut up.

Heading on, Sherlock came to the harbour. Coming to a small boat tied up, Sherlock crouched down. “A bow for the fish?” Sherlock said, pointing to one of the fish in the basket.

In response to the demand, Sherlock handed over his bow for inspection. A scream was heard. Looking to where the stone dock started, Sherlock saw two men were walking along down it. One hissing to the other, “Keep it covered. They can see but not hear.” The one holding a deep fishing basket then forced himself to relax and continue to walk normally as if he couldn't hear the crying from the basket

The fisherman Sherlock was negotiating with ignored the men and tested the pliancy of the bow. He drew the distracted Sherlock's attention back and agreed to the trade. Sherlock asked what was happening with the two passing men and the crying coming from the basket. The fisherman said, “The whores give the boys to the fathers and keep the girls. What happens after that, I don't ask.”

Sherlock followed the two men to another boat as the men prepared it for a fishing trip. Crying was still coming from the covered basket. Crouching down Sherlock commanded, “Give me the baby!”

The two men looked up. Then their eyes flicked up to the sky. Sherlock followed their gaze to the circling dragon then back to the two men. “Give me the baby or I will attract my son's attention.”

The dragon's eyes weighing heavy on the two men. The dragon started circling in ever tighter rings, an indication it had seen something strange. The one who carried the basket lifted off the wicker lid and pulled out the baby in rough blanket.  A deep gurgling roar sounded, so loud, it was felt in the chest and made the surface of the sea, itself, ripple. The man thrust the baby into Sherlock's hands.

A huge shadow swept over the harbour and in a blur of green, came a rushing wind, the thump of beating wings and a rumbling growls. The canoe like boat with the stabilising pontoon, was snatched up. The two men's screams faded as they were lifted into the air. The green dragon vanished over the mountains, the canoe hanging in its rear talons.

Sherlock removed his coat, and transferred the baby to the softer material. Marching on, Sherlock moved through the village. Many still shaken by the dragon swooping in. Sherlock fixed his eyes on the guards on either side of the brothel door, until they ducked their heads and wouldn't challenge him.

“Irene!” Sherlock bellowed. The large sanctuary of the church had been divided into small wooden rooms. Almost like indoor tree houses. From the largest one at the end of the centre aisle, where the altar would be, Irene emerged. She wore a light flowing silk dress, her hair long and cascading down her shoulders and back.

“Take that thing away.” Irene snapped. Sherlock demanded to know about the mother. Irene snorted, “I don't want the bastard.”

“He needs milk.” Sherlock demanded.

Irene sighed and called to the balcony above. “Kate?”  The woman came down and handed Sherlock a ceramic bottle.  “Leave, your majesty” Irene said spitting the title as if it was a curse.

With the quiet baby in one arm, and the fish under the other Sherlock headed out. Even moving quickly it took longer than Sherlock would have liked to get back to their cottage. Shouting to the man in the garden, John jumped the wall and ran towards him. John took the baby immediately looking him over. Inside the cottage, John worked quickly, boiling a little milk and using a piece of cloth he squeezed out some drops into the mouth.

“He's so still?” Sherlock breathed.

“He's very weak.” John answered. He could feel the heartbeat but the chest barely moved. Drop after drop. Then the small pale lips closed and opened, swallowing. Sherlock sighed and rested against John at the simple movement.

After what felt like an age the baby let out a mew and opened his strange coloured eyes. Between John and Sherlock, they kept feeding the baby drops of milk. A dull thump alerted them to a visitor. Sherlock pulled open the door to see the green and silver dragon with long pointed snout, resting on its folded up front wings. From under the wing came a bleating then a couple of goats wandered out.

“He is your brother. You should take him back.” Sherlock said. The dragon turned and launched itself up into the air.

John mused, “It looks like he's staying. How about Hamish?”

Sherlock looked at the shorter man giving a sardonic smile, “A little narcissistic, don't you think? John Hamish Watson.”

“Twat!”

--

Landing on the mountain. The green dragon looked down, across the forest, to the grass and the beach. In the shelter behind the grassy dunes, he watched the small cottage.

The dragon's sight couldn't see the colours of the world very well, everything a washed out silvery tone. But details and distance were perfect. So while Q couldn't tell the eye colour of the little boy pulling weeds, he could see the knit of the brow as he yanked on the dandelion. Letting out a snort of laughter as the plant gave way and the boy pulling with all his strength went arse over head, literally. The little face scrunched up, and his mouth opened with a downward tilt. Q couldn't hear the crying but immediately one man then another came to the boy. The old king scooping up the boy and wiping his tears, something Sherlock had never done for Q. John cupping the side of the boy's face too as he leaned against Sherlock.

--

The hazel eyed boy woke at the sound of his fathers. Coming out of his little bed he pulled back the curtain. “Morning.” John said and called him over to the table.

Picking up the wooden spoon, Hamish dug it into the thick vegetable stew. After, and behind John's back, Sherlock pulled a jar and held it out. Quickly Hamish dug in a finger and scooped out some of the jam. Sherlock also took some.

“I saw that!” John called without looking back.

When John turned he was met with the two still sucking their index finger. And both with innocent and 'forgive me' expressions on their faces. Picking up two bowls, “goats” John ordered. Hamish took one of the deep wooden dishes and Sherlock the other.

Coming out, Sherlock and Hamish came around to the side of the cottage where a new wall had been built over the years. It contained their small herd of goats. Hamish and Sherlock got to the task of the milking. It was a daily occurrence and they had become quite adept. Soon the two bowls were full. Sherlock took the one Hamish was carrying.

“Go on,” he said and indicated the field beyond the cottage. The boy ran, climbed over the wall and ran off. Sherlock returned inside.

“Where's Hamish?” John demanded in a panic.

“Let him play” Sherlock said.

“But...” John trailed off as the taller man closed in. Sherlock held the man's gaze, purring. “But?”

“I need, the, carrots...” John said. His thought getting a little less important as Sherlock backed him up against the wall, a hand massaging him through the leather breeches.

High up the green dragon watched the cottage. It grew every year. From a cottage with a small enclosed garden. To an enclosed garden and a pen. To the two enclosed fields, paddock and a square of a new drystone building that slowly grew higher. A barn Q guessed at.

In the area beyond the house, Q watched the boy. Q dived as a pack of wolves sprang from the tree line. Q landed, the boy between his front wings. Q stretched over the boy, swinging his lead left and right letting out a roar. The predators took fright and skidded. They broke off the attack and ran for the tree line. Q sprang over the boy, his wings were too wide and cumbersome to follow into the trees but stretched his head in as far as his long neck allowed.

Turning slowly, Q looked down on the two men fussing around the small boy held in the arms of Sherlock. Using his integrated wings/arms and short stubby hind legs, Q moved off. Digging in the thumb claws, Q pulled back, feeling the tendons and muscles stretch along his arms.

“Your Majesty?” Sherlock called before Q could catapult himself into the air.  Turning his long neck towards the group, Q listened as his father said. “This is Hamish. Your brother. From your mother.”

Stretching his head forward, Q held his long snout in front of his brother. Hamish looked from the steel blue eyes of his father to the scary creature. Sherlock gave a reassuring smile. The small hand reached out and touched the snout and Q pressed into that touch.

“I know this is meaningless after all I did. I'm sorry.” Sherlock admitted quietly, unable to look at his son. Shame coursed through him. Sherlock felt John place a comforting hand on his shoulder, although, in that moment he didn't feel he deserved comfort.

Sherlock listened to the solid thumps as the dragon moved away. A scared whine from Hamish and a gasp from John made him look up. Pushing out of the mounds of green and silver leathery hide and scales, a nude man was emerging. Sherlock realised, 10 years and his son had not changed, not since the last time Q had landed, or since the battlefield before that, not even since the day he let the witch take the crying man away.

Q walked out of his shredded hide and approached the family. Seeing for the first time the dark hazel, a strange shade going from blue, to green and brown of Hamish.

“Hello.” He said to the boy.

“Hi.” The boy said hesitantly.

Looking to his father. “I forgive you. God knows, I wanted to hate you. But I can't. If you want to atone, be a better father to Hamish than you were to me.”

“I will.” Sherlock swore. The family then watched as the nude man walked out into the meadow, and seemed to peal his skin off and emerge as a dragon. With a powerful lunge the dragon was in the air and gliding out to sea.

Looking down from the high mountain. Three woman watched, as the man with grey streaked black hair backed down and kept his adopted son. The woman in violet, wide brimmed hat and coat. She clapped her hands excitedly. “Oh, he made a choice between his heart and head. And chose his heart.”