One

A Game of Thrones fan fiction by

Douglas Neman

Just when Beric Dondarrion thought he was about to die one last time, Tormund's hand appeared above him. He grasped it, and Tormund helped him up the last few feet. They lay on top of the wall for a moment, panting. Beside them, three other men fortunate to be alive were doubled over, catching their breaths. The world was bleak and gray. The freezing wind whipped a light snowfall around them.

Tormund and Dondarrion climbed to their feet. They stood at what was now the end of the wall and stared down at the undead army as it headed for the gap the Night King had just made. The great host stretched back into the dense forest; they could not guess how many there were.

The Night King and his lich dragon circled at a great height. Whether he knew they survived or simply did not care was impossible to say.

Tormund assessed the situation. They had no torches and no food. The other men's faces were full of the same terror he felt. Even Dondarrion was deeply shaken by what he'd just seen.

"To Castle Black, with all speed," Tormund said. "We don't stop until we get there."

"Do you know how far Castle Black is?" one of the other men asked, incredulous.

Tormund grabbed him by the front of his coat. "Do you know how little I care?" he growled. "The five of us are the only warning the entire world has! Distance is not a consideration, you dolt!"

"He's right," Dondarrion said. "We move. Now. If anyone lags behind, no one will wait."

"Help me!" a voice called.

They looked over the northern edge. A brother of the night's watch lay about 20 feet below on an outcropping of ice. His right leg was clearly broken.

"We have no time!" Tormund called to him. "The drop over the edge is your best friend now."

Tormund and Dondarrion set off along the wall at a light jog. A few seconds later, the others followed.

 

"We bowed to a king, not a servant!" Lord Manderly thundered, his voice joined by dozens of others all shouting threats and outrage.

Sansa kept her face carefully still as she looked around the great hall. On her left, Bran's face was also still, unnaturally so; but that was how the Three-Eyed Raven always looked.

"A king will always do something someone doesn't like," Sansa said calmly. "He will never please everyone."

"He's pleased no one, in case you hadn't noticed!" Lady Mormont said.

"You promised to follow Jon!" Sansa shot back, looking at each of them in turn. "From this day until his last day! All of you! You don't go back on your word just because he does something you disagree with!"

"That word goes both ways!" Lord Glover said. "We promised to follow and he promised to be a king! But if he bent the knee to this dragon woman, then he was never a king, was he? What else is he but a fraud?" The others shouted again in agreement.

Sansa stood. She looked proud, but inside, she desperately wondered what she could say.

Providence spared her – though perhaps for something worse – for at that moment Arya sprinted into the hall. The look on her face told Sansa the insolence of the Stark bannermen was not going to be her worst problem that day.

Arya handed Sansa a small curled message, the type ravens carried. Sansa read it, and her face paled. The grumbling crowd quieted.

Sansa handed the message to Bran. She looked lost.

"News?" Lady Mormont asked.

"Harsh news," Sansa said. "The wall has been breached."

"That's impossible!" Lord Cerwyn said.

"This message comes from the lord commander of the night's watch," Sansa said. "The Night King has a dragon which breathes flames of ice. The wall at Eastwatch is down, Eastwatch is destroyed, and the Night King's army has marched through."

"A dragon that breathes flames of ice?" Lord Manderly asked, his face screwed up in confusion. "That's absurd!"

"It is the truth," Bran said. "The Night King has torn down the wall, and he is coming. He has taken to the skies, the dead march with him, and winter is his friend. When he arrives, he will not care whom you call king. Or queen."

Silence. Everyone looked at each other uncertainly.

"Jon and the dragon queen will arrive three days hence," Sansa said. "If any of you would renounce your fealty to Jon, you may say so to his face. Mayhap you will change your mind when you see who, and what, rides with him – and when you see the enemy who arrives on our doorstep. Until then, anyone who loses their loyalty will also lose their head. We are finished here today."

 

The Stark children crossed the courtyard, Arya pushing Bran's wheelchair. Sansa spied Gilly to one side, holding her baby. The wildling looked at them with apprehension. Sansa went to her. Gilly looked even more apprehensive as the Lady of Winterfell approached.

"Your name's Gilly, isn't it?" Sansa asked.

"Yes, my lady," Gilly said, nodding and performing a decent curtsy.

"And your husband is Samwell Tarly, a maester of the night's watch?"

"He's not my- erm, yes."

"Fetch him. I shall want his counsel."

"It's true what they say, then, isn't it? The wall's down?" The terror in Gilly's eyes was fierce.

"It's true." Sansa looked closely at her. "You're a wildling, aren't you?"

Gilly nodded and averted her eyes.

"Don't be ashamed," Sansa said. "Never be ashamed." She paused. "You've seen what's coming."

Gilly nodded. "I've seen. I've known my whole life. My Sam has seen, too. Sam killed a white walker, he did! I was the only witness, but he did. I know they can die!"

Sansa nodded, appraising her words. She also seemed to be appraising the woman in front of her, and liking what she saw. "Send Samwell. Quickly."

Gilly nodded and hurried away.

 

It was very easy to know when to line up to greet their former king and new queen. The sight of two dragons circling on the horizon made sure of that. During the previous three days, Sansa had had no further trouble from the Stark banners. Tormund and Dondarrion had arrived that morning, having ridden day and night to reach Winterfell. Their accounts of the destruction of Eastwatch frightened Sansa more than she had ever thought possible.

It hadn't helped that she had had to convince Arya not to kill Dondarrion. What is with that girl? she thought.

"We shouldn't be greeting her outside the gates," Arya said, quietly enough that only Sansa and Bran could hear. "Make her come in. Make her come to us."

"I want to meet her before she sets foot in Winterfell," Sansa replied, just as quietly.

"And if you don't like what you see?" Arya asked.

"I'll set you onto her."

Arya smiled a little. But she eyed those dragons, and knew her question had no answer.

Those dragons.

They were breathtaking. No one could take their eyes off them. Everyone was still, under the hush of pure awe.

"I want one," Arya breathed.

The dragons kept pace with their mother, circling the party below them, gradually getting closer to Winterfell.

Bran spoke plainly. "You know, I believe the ones who approach are the most well-protected group of people to travel the kingsroad in many a century." Sansa nodded, transfixed by the magnificent creatures.

As the moment of meeting drew near, Drogon swooped low over the assembled crowd.

Two people fainted. One servant just said, "Nope," and ran inside. Sansa did not stop her.

"Oh, I so want one!" Arya said with a gasp.

And then she came around the bend, riding a magnificent horse. There was no mistaking her. Blonde hair, regal bearing. Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Ser Jorah Mormont, and Varys rode beside her. Immediately behind her rode Grey Worm and Missandei.

Sansa locked eyes with her new queen every step of the way.

They arrived. The dragons landed.

Missandei rode forward. "I present to you the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons."

Sansa's eyes flicked to Jon. He nodded. Daenerys noted the look but did not react.

Sansa curtseyed. Everyone followed her lead, including the lords who had been so full of bluster and outrage just a few days before. They were silent now.

"I greet you and welcome you to Winterfell, Queen Daenerys Targaryen," Bran said. "I am Bran Stark, Lord of Winterfell. These are my sisters, Sansa and Arya."

Daenerys smiled at them, and her smile was genuine. "I have wanted to meet you for so long. Jon has told me all about you." She seemed to sense that although Bran had spoken, Sansa was truly in charge.

Sansa smiled graciously in return. "I hope you did not believe half of what he said."

Daenerys laughed.

A dire wolf burst out of the gate, heading straight for them, snarling. Jorah and Grey Worm's swords were in their hands instantly.

"No!" Sansa cried. "He means you no harm!"

The newcomers' horses did not bolt at the sight of the dire wolf, Sansa was grateful to see. They must be so accustomed to dragons that nothing else frightens them as much, she thought.

The wolf stopped short of Jon and let loose a string of barks, growls, and a few whines.

"I said I was sorry!" Jon replied.

Ghost was having none of it. He circled Jon's horse, sniffing. The horse tried to back away. Jon quickly dismounted and stepped away from his steed, getting Ghost to leave it alone.

"I told you I couldn't take you with me!" Jon said. "We traveled several days by ship! Wolves aren't meant for the sea. It would not have been a pleasant voyage for either of us!"

Ghost spent the next twenty seconds telling Jon precisely what he thought of that.

"You knew I was coming back!"

Ghost barked and snarled some more. He snorted one final opinion and trotted back through the gates in a huff.

Meekly, Jon looked around. Everyone was staring. He cleared his throat. "He'll get over it."

Not knowing precisely what to say after that display – somehow her protocol lessons had never covered such a situation – Sansa simply said, "Please be at home here. We've quarters prepared."

"Thank you," Daenerys said. Further behind her, the remainder of her host began to appear.

Courtesies over, Jon finally wrapped Arya in a hug. "Hey, you," he said softly. Arya buried her face in his chest and found herself weeping a little. She understood how miraculous this moment was. They held each other a long time.

Tyrion bowed to Sansa. "A pleasure to see you again, Lady Stark."

"And you, Tyrion."

Samwell and Ser Jorah shook hands, immensely pleased to see each other. "Glad to see you're still safe and healthy!" Sam said.

"I am, thanks to you," Jorah said.

Jon and Arya finally pulled apart. Jon tousled her hair. Then Arya looked beyond Jon and saw who was coming up the road, and stiffened.

Jon looked behind him, puzzled. What had suddenly upset Arya? Was it the appearance of Brienne? Or the Hound, who rode next to her? Or was it Ser Davos Seaworthy, just behind them?

Sansa noticed Arya's demeanor also. (Sansa had committed herself to keeping one eye on Arya at all times, especially during situations of delicate diplomacy.) She stepped close to her younger sister and whispered, "Don't kill anyone."

"You don't understand-"

"That's an order," Sansa said. "At least for now."

"I don't take orders from you."

"Then why did you come home? Either be a lone wolf or a member of the pack. You can't be both."

Sansa left her there and entered Winterfell with Daenerys and her entourage. Arya fumed, but said nothing.

Jon looked around. "Where's Littlefinger?"

"I slit his throat."

"Good girl."

Arya's face lit up. "Gendry!" she shouted, and ran to greet her old friend.

 

Sansa was both surprised and unsurprised when Arya stepped forward first, but she did not let her apprehension show. Whatever Arya's got, this should be interesting, Sansa thought. Let's get it over with so we can get on with normal things.

Arya faced the four people seated along the high table: Jon, Sansa, Daenerys, and Bran. "I have two matters to bring before you," she said. "The first concerns a crime committed by Beric Dondarrion. He sold my friend Gendry to a witch, knowing full well she wanted him for some dark purpose. I demand leave to execute Dondarrion." She glared at the Hound, standing to one side. "Properly, this time."

The Hound gave her a weary gimme a break look.

Dondarrion was seated in the audience. His only reaction was to raise an eyebrow briefly.

"I note that Gendry seems unharmed," Jon said.

"That's not the point."

Gendry, also in attendance, stood. "Arya...I appreciate this. Really. But...it's in the past."

"And that matters exactly how?" Arya said, turning to face him.

Gendry shrugged. "Well...really, it's my grievance, isn't it? More than it is yours."

Arya narrowed her eyes at him.

"So, if anyone should be asking for his head, it's me," Gendry said. "And here I am. And there he is. And here I am, not asking for his head."

"But why?" Arya demanded, practically offended.

Gendry shrugged. "I just don't have the energy to care. He risked his life, and Thoros gave his life, to bring proof to Cersei. And we need him."

Arya scowled, but seemed to concede the point.

"I agree that if the actual victim has no grievance, the matter is settled," Daenerys said. "What is your second matter?"

"I demand leave to execute Sandor Clegane for murder."

The Hound rolled his eyes. Brienne looked concerned.

"Tell us of this murder," Daenerys said.

"Three years ago, he murdered my friend Mycah," Arya said. "Mycah did no harm other than to defend himself against Joffrey, who was being a royal arse. The Hound was in Joffrey's service at the time. He rode down Mycah and killed him."

Dondarrion spoke up. "Sandor Clegane has already been declared innocent of this crime by trial by combat. Against me."

Arya turned to him. "I do not recognize your authority to conduct trials by combat, lord of absolutely nothing."

Daenerys looked deeply puzzled. "If Clegane defeated you in trial by combat..."

"Death was once a variable thing with me," Dondarrion said.

"I see," Daenerys said, though she clearly did not.

Clegane shook his head at Arya in exasperation. "Girl, did you grow shit for brains? Maybe you haven't seen what's coming, but I have! You're gonna need every man who can stand and every axe he can wield!"

"This is true," Sansa said. "The Hound is a fierce warrior, and we need all warriors now more than ever. And while I was trapped in King's Landing, there were times he protected me and showed me kindness." Her eyes met the Hound's briefly.

"I'll be sure to tell Mycah's ghost it's all right, then," Arya said coolly, looking at Sansa.

"Oi!" Clegane exclaimed, striding forward. "I killed a lot of people while serving the king. You want to blame someone, blame that inbred cunt!"

"You enjoyed it," Arya said. "And don't you dare blame duty. Duty didn't keep you from abandoning the Battle of Blackwater Bay. As if you and duty were ever acquainted in the first place."

"I kept you alive!"

"For your own gain."

Sansa stood and walked around the table, proud and ladylike. She knelt between Arya and the Hound and brushed her hair back, baring her neck. "Please make it quick."

Arya became still. "What are you doing?"

"Giving you justice." Sansa was also very still, and seemingly unafraid, though Arya, trained as she was to sense fear, could see the ever-so-slight tremble, the quickened pulse.

"Why would I kill you?" Arya whispered.

"I'm the one who lied about what happened that day," Sansa said. "In my ambition to be Joffrey's queen, I framed an innocent boy. I was weak and cowardly, and it was an evil thing to do. If you want justice for Mycah, here I am. Get on with it."

Arya was stunned. She just stared for a few seconds, then slowly shook her head. "I...I can't..."

"Why not?"

"You were a child."

"I knew right from wrong. Just as much as you did."

Arya swallowed hard. She stayed very still. "You didn't wield the blade which killed him," she finally whispered.

"Just as Dondarrion didn't wield the blade which would have killed Gendry," Sansa said. She still didn't move.

Arya glanced at the Hound, almost as if begging him to help her out, here. She was lost.

"I killed a lot of people, girl," Clegane said, more softly than she'd ever heard him speak. "Maybe that was a kindness, considerin' what's comin'. Maybe we're the damned, those of us left to face this wintry hell. Maybe this is our punishment. I figure I'll be punished for everything before this is over. One way or the other."

Arya couldn't stand it any more. "Get up," she whispered. "For heaven's sake, get up."

Sansa let her hair fall back and rose.

"I'm sorry about your friend!" Clegane blurted harshly, clearly surprised by what had just popped out of his mouth, and clearly uncomfortable at saying such strange words. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but didn't know what. "Ah!" he finally exclaimed, shaking his head.

Arya said nothing. She bit back tears.

Suddenly she was holding him. She didn't remember moving. "I've missed you," she said.

The Hound held her back, and snorted softly. "I've missed you too, kid."

Daenerys watched all this unfold, her chin in her hand and a wistful, confused smile on her face. As Sansa resumed her seat, Daenerys asked, "Is this how your northerners operate?"

"No," Sansa said simply. "Just Arya."

 

The Night King surveyed the northern reaches of Westeros from 10,000 feet and liked what he saw. No army could stop him. He'd already known it, but confirming it gave him a thrill nonetheless.

He steered Viserion back to his own forces and snorted in frustration. They had hardly moved. He landed on a crag just ahead of his massive army, and waited. And waited.

The Night King sighed. His army was invincible. But damn, they were slow.

 

Daenerys's face was a portrait of exquisitely controlled rage and pain. She shook, ever so slightly, and wept. "Are you sure?" she asked in a broken voice.

"I tell you truly," Tormund said. "A great winged beast breathing cold flame tore down the wall."

Winterfell's leaders, commanders, and advisors were now the only ones in the great hall: Bran, Sansa, Arya, Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Jorah, Grey Worm, Davos, Brienne, Podrick, Tormund, and Dondarrion. Maps lay on the table before them. Torches burned along the walls. Outside, the night was bitter.

"Maybe it's just a coincidence," Jon said gently. "The Night King could have all manner of foul beasts. It might not be Viserion."

"You know it is," Daenerys whispered. "He has taken...the body of my child...to use for his own dark, twisted purpose...and will attack me and his siblings with his animated corpse!" If her rage could kill with a look, the table before her would be ashes.

"I'm sorry," Jon said.

"You are not the only one, Khaleesi," Jorah said. "There will be others who will see their family in the enemy. We must spread the word to all our forces to expect it."

"We must also train our forces to do what they must when their brethren fall," Sansa said.

"I must be alone," Daenerys ground out. "We will resume this discussion in one hour's time." She pushed away from the table and strode from the hall with as much dignity as she could. Jorah obviously wanted to follow her, but his words stuck in his throat. He knew better, in this moment.

The door closed behind her. Immediately, Bran said, "You must be with her, Arya."

Sansa looked at Bran like his ears had suddenly begun juggling spoons.

"What?" Arya asked. "Me? I don't know her. And the poor woman said she wants to be alone."

"You know her better than you think you do," Bran said. "And in a few days, it won't matter."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jorah asked.

"It means we will either be One, or we will fail," Bran said.

"Not helping," Grey Worm said.

"Arya must be the queen's comfort in this moment," Bran said. "I have seen it."

"I'm not sure what you've seen-" Jorah began.

"I am," Sansa said. "Although I do not understand it – especially now, considering who Arya is --"

"Hey!" Arya said.

"-- I know that when Bran sees something, it is real." Sansa turned to Arya. "Do as he says."

"Don't blame me if I get roasted," Arya said, and trudged off after Daenerys Targaryen, her queen.

 

Daenerys stood on the front wall, gazing at the stars, her eyes wet with tears. The sentries carefully avoided her. "I clearly said I wanted to be alone," she said.

Arya stood beside her. "I have a request, your grace."

Daenerys glared sideways at her for a moment. "Speak."

"You've met Ghost, I take it? Properly, I mean."

"I have."

"Did Jon tell you about Ghost's littermates?"

"He did not."

"We each got a wolf, all the Stark children, and Jon, our bastard brother. Robb named his Grey Wind. They died together. Sansa named hers Lady. My father killed Lady on Cersei's orders. Bran named his Summer. He died protecting Bran. Rickon named his Shaggydog, because he was a toddler and that made perfect sense. Shaggydog died a few days before Rickon did; they were killed by the same person."

Arya paused. She embraced the freezing wind on her face, the world reminding her she was alive.

Despite herself, Daenerys wanted to know. "And yours?"

Tears sprang to Arya's eyes. "I named my wolf...Nymeria. And she was the most beautiful creature I've ever seen."

"Does she live?"

"I hope so. I drove her away to save her life. In fact, Lady died in her place, because when I sent Nymeria beyond her reach, Cersei killed Lady out of spite. That was three years ago, the same day Mycah died." Arya paused. "I met Nymeria again recently, in the wilderness on the way here. She was full grown and leading a pack. She didn't want to come with me. She had a new life." Arya paused again. "You're the first person I've told."

Daenerys considered this a moment. "You mentioned a request."

"Do dragons eat wolves?"

Daenerys gave a small smile. "You wish to protect Nymeria." They were silent for a few moments, watching the stars together. "I will introduce Drogon and Rhaegal to Ghost, and instruct them not to eat any of his kind. Will that be sufficient?"

"Yes, your grace. Thank you."

"You like my dragons."

"I want one."

Daenerys gave a little laugh. "Everyone wants one."

"How does one acquire a dragon?"

"I don't know. Lots of luck."

"Can you make more?"

"I plan to."

"May I have one?"

Daenerys smiled. "We'll see. Now...I really do wish to be alone."

Arya gave a tiny bow. "Yes, your grace."

 

The next evening, Jorah accompanied Daenerys to Bran's door. "I am not comfortable with this," Jorah said. "When has anyone with mystical powers been our friend?"

"I take your point, but my heart tells me I can trust him," Daenerys said.

"I don't trust anyone who insists that you be apart from your protectors."

"I'll be with Jon. Do you honestly believe he would allow me to come to harm?"

Jorah scowled, but had no answer to that.

"I'm sure I will be all right," Daenerys said. "I relieve you of your duties tonight. Enjoy yourself. Be with your family. I met Lady Mormont this afternoon. She seems quite remarkable."

"My family disowned me."

"If there was ever a time to make reparations, it would be now."

Jorah looked at her consideringly, then nodded. He bowed and left.

Daenerys knocked on Bran's door, and Bran bid her enter.

A fire burned in the hearth. Jon, Sansa, and Arya were already there, as she had instructed. Bran had insisted on this meeting, but Daenerys waited on no one.

A table was placed where a person would normally walk to the window. The table was situated awkwardly, with barely enough space to maneuver around it, and Daenerys got the feeling it had only been brought in that day. The others were seated around it. She took the final chair. They were alone.

"Lord Stark, you gave me your solemn vow that this is important," Daenerys said. "We have much to do, all the more so now we know Cersei has betrayed us. I feel this is time wasted."

"I tell you again, your grace, all will be lost unless we become One," Bran said.

"You've said that before, but what does that mean?" Sansa asked.

"It means the pack must be a single unit with one mind," Bran said. "No secrets. Perfect understanding."

"I am not a wolf," Daenerys said. "I am a dragon."

"You are more wolf than you realize," Bran said. "And I will tell you how. All of you need to brace yourselves, especially you, your grace, and you, Jon. For the time has come to learn who your mother really is."

Jon was puzzled. "Are you serious? You know?"

"I know. And now it is time you know, as well."

"How long have you known?" Jon asked. "And how could you know?"

"I have known for a few weeks. As for how, I will show you later. The four of you need to know the extent of our family."

"What does this have to do with me?" Daenerys asked.

"I will tell you," Bran said. "Nineteen years ago, Robert Baratheon waged a war against the Targaryens for the Iron Throne, and for a woman. That entire war was based on a lie. Thousands died, all for a lie. For Rhaegar Targaryen did not kidnap Lyanna Stark. They were in love. Lyanna went with Rhaegar willingly."

The others were silent, dumbfounded.

"When our father finally reached Lyanna, he discovered the truth of this. Rhaegar and Lyanna had a boy, whom they named Aegon. Lyanna died shortly after giving birth. She placed the baby in the hands of her brother, our father, and made him swear to keep the child safe. Our father brought that baby back to Winterfell, claiming him as his own bastard boy, and raised him as Jon Snow."

Horrified silence.

"What are you saying?" Jon whispered.

"I'm saying you are Aegon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen, and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne."

Daenerys stared at Jon, thunderstruck.

Jon snorted. "Bran..."

"I am not joking. You are the product of the union between Starks and Targaryens, between the wolf and the dragon. We children of Eddard Stark are your cousins...and Daenerys Targaryen is your father's sister."

The table was surrounded by four looks of horror as the implications set in. Jon and Daenerys's relationship was not a secret.

"We are all family," Bran said.

No one spoke for a long time.

Jon shook his head. "This changes nothing. The Night King is still coming. We must still fight for our lives. My name is not important."

"Oh, I'd say your name was important," Arya said. "If the rest of the North knew-"

"They won't know," Jon said. "I don't care. Bury this secret. Bury it forever."

"But you are ahead of me in the line of succession," Daenerys whispered. "I no longer have claim to the Iron Throne."

"I don't want the bloody thing!" Jon said.

"The Iron Throne is actually ugly as sin," Sansa said. Arya nodded.

Daenerys gave Sansa an indignant Oh, really?! look.

"Well, it is," Sansa said.

Arya nodded again. "When you see it, you'll agree."

"This information never leaves this room," Jon said, his voice low. "Never."

"Everyone knows it's ugly," Arya said.

"My birth!" Jon said hotly.

"Oh."

"Bran, does anyone else know?" Jon asked.

"Samwell Tarly."

"Fuck!" Jon exclaimed. "I'll have a talk with him. No one must know. I am Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark. Daenerys can have the fucking throne if we live through this."

"But that would dishonor the lineage of Rhaegar and Lyanna," Daenerys said. "It would end their family tree, and hide their love with a lie as if it were something shameful. They deserve better. They did nothing wrong!"

"Rhaegar and Lyanna are dead," Jon said. "Protecting the living is all that matters. If word left this room that I'm a Targaryen, before dawn I would be dead and the entire Northern alliance dissolved."

Daenerys had no answer. There was silence once more.

Finally, Daenerys asked, "Lord Stark, does this conclude our business here tonight?"

"Tonight, yes," Bran said. "But we must assemble here again tomorrow after the noon meal. Just the five of us. The knowledge of our family connection was only the first step." He looked at Daenerys, and she shivered at the intensity in his eyes. "Tomorrow, our true journey begins."

 

Jon sat on his side of the bed, his heart heavy with truth. Daenerys lay behind him, looking at the far wall.

"I'll gather up my clothes, and the rest of my belongings," Jon said softly. "Let's not feel any guilt, eh? We didn't know."

"We could still feel no guilt," Daenerys said.

Jon turned to her. "What?"

Daenerys turned over and looked at him. "You said it yourself. You're still Jon Snow, and always will be. If you mean that, then...well...maybe nothing has to change."

Jon stared at her for a moment, then shook his head. "No. I could never. Never again."

Daenerys nodded in resignation.

Jon gathered his belongings. Daenerys turned back to face the wall. When he left without a word moments later, she was weeping.

 

The morning was wet and dismal. Sunlight struggled to break through the heavy gray clouds.

Jaime Lannister approached the gates of Winterfell, doing his best to ignore the stares. By now, everyone knew the Lannister armies weren't coming, that Cersei's promise was a lie. They all knew what the lion represented.

He couldn't blame them.

The guards knew who he was without asking. His rich adornments, the lion on his breastplate, and his golden hand made it hard for him to be anyone else. The men looked distinctly uncomfortable and sullen as he approached.

"I seek permission to enter Winterfell and meet with Lord Stark," Jaime said.

With the tiniest movement of his head, one of the guards motioned him through. Jaime rode on, feeling their stares all over him. As if returning to Winterfell wouldn't have been awkward and painful enough in its own right.

He handed his horse to a stable boy and was told Lord Stark would receive him in the great hall. Grimly, Jaime went to him. He pushed open the doors and stepped inside.

When he'd shoved Bran Stark out of a window, he'd never thought he would one day honor him as Lord of Winterfell. It was one more twist in the insane maze the world had become lately.

Bran watched him approach. The boy's face was difficult to read. Some of the Stark bannermen were also in the great hall, as was Ser Jorah. Their stares were even harsher. The dragon queen was not present. Neither was Tyrion, for which Jaime was grateful. Tyrion would be another painful reunion, and he would rather not have more than one painful reunion at a time. He'd already experienced that at the dragon pit a week ago.

Jaime stood before Bran and gave a stiff bow.

"Why are you here, Jaime Lannister?" Bran asked.

"I've probably come to die," Jaime said. "My sister promised our armies. She lied. I have parted from her over that betrayal. Her promise was my own, as well. I promised you all the men under my command. Right now, this is all the men under my command. It's not much, but I'm yours."

"Leave us, everyone," Bran said. "I would speak with Ser Jaime alone."

Reluctantly, sullenly, the others filed out. Jaime's and Bran's eyes never left each other's.

When they were alone, Bran asked, "Is this where I receive an apology?"

"Is there one I could give that would be sufficient?"

"No."

Jaime nodded.

"Thank you for coming," Bran said. "Your skill and service are most welcome. You are renowned as an excellent commander and swordsman, but we have no troops who would follow you or fight by your side."

"I understand."

"If I keep you close to me, none of my bannermen will speak openly in front of you, fearing you a spy."

"You don't share that fear?"

"I am the Three-Eyed Raven. I know your truth, Jaime Lannister."

Jaime nodded again. He wondered what that meant, but dared not ask. He heard someone enter the great hall behind him, but paid the noise no mind, assuming it to be a servant or messenger.

"But I do not know how best to use your service," Bran said. "Find your brother. He has always seemed wise, and he knows you better than anyone else here. Have Tyrion figure out what to do with you. Do not kill him, Arya."

It took a few moments for Bran's last words to register. Jaime spun to find Arya Stark three feet away pointing a sword at him. It was tiny, but very sharp.

Jaime stared at her in wonder. "You're alive!" he breathed.

"Which is bad news for you," Arya said.

"She has a list," Bran said. "The moment she learned what you did to me, she added your name to it."

Jaime slowly shook his head. "We never found you. I thought you were long dead!"

"Face down in a gutter in King's Landing?" Arya asked. "Perhaps stabbed in a brothel? It wasn't for lack of trying, was it?"

"We would not have killed you," Jaime said.

"Well, that makes everything all right, then, doesn't it?" Arya asked. "No, you wouldn't have killed me. Just my father. And all his men and servants. And Syrio. I feel so much better."

"Should I fear you?" Jaime asked.

"Ask House Frey," Arya said.

Jaime absorbed this news and re-appraised the girl in front of him.

"My brother just ordered me to let you live. Do you deserve to live, Jaime Lannister?"

"I doubt it. Nor am I really expecting to."

"People keep saying that to me." She put her sword away. "You live only by the grace of my brother, who is Lord of Winterfell. Remember that."

She walked away calmly. Jaime just stared after her in awe. He finally turned to Bran. "She...she grew up."

"We tend to do that," Bran said. "Even when we cannot walk. You are dismissed. Tell the others to come back in."

Jaime gave another stiff bow and left.

 

Podrick fended off Brienne's attack, but the sight of Rhaegal soaring close overhead distracted him. The next thing he knew, Brienne's sword was at his neck. "When you're fighting for your life, your enemy is your entire world," Brienne said.

Podrick looked abashed and knocked her sword away. "I can't help it," he said. "How am I not supposed to react when a great fucking dragon flies overhead?"

"Actually, you sort of get used to them," Brienne said.

"I don't," Podrick said sullenly.

"Brienne," Sansa called from a few meters away. "Perchance do you know where my sister is?"

"I believe she went below, my lady," Brienne said meaningfully.

Sansa nodded, no further explanation necessary. She went to the crypts and found Arya sitting cross-legged in front of their father's statue, gazing up at the stone face. Sansa sat beside her.

"Can you imagine the weight?" Arya asked. "Can you imagine the weight of the secret he carried? He was loyal to Robert. Loyal to a fault. But he was loyal to his sister even more, and he alone carried the weight of that secret. He knew the war had been fought on a lie. He knew a Targaryen lived to threaten his best friend, the king. He knew a secret which would have ripped Westeros apart. And he didn't even tell Mother. He couldn't. Can you imagine the weight of that secret? He bore it every moment...alone."

Sansa gazed up at their father's face with her. "He was the strongest man I ever knew," she said. "The strongest man I'll ever know."

Arya nodded. Suddenly weary, she leaned over and buried her face in her sister's shoulder. Sansa wrapped an arm around her.

"It feels good to be part of the pack again," Arya said with a sigh. "I'd forgotten what it was like."

"I'm glad you're back," Sansa whispered.

They stayed there, resting, a long time.

 

Daenerys, Jon, Sansa, and Arya again gathered in Bran's room in the early afternoon, occupying the same seats they had the previous night. The fire in the hearth did its best to warm them. As soon as Daenerys sat, Bran began.

"Jon, you asked me how I knew the truth of your birth. I know that truth, and many others, because I am the Three-Eyed Raven."

Jon just blinked at him.

"Everyone hold hands, and I will show you," Bran said.

Hesitantly, they did as he asked. When the final hand linked, they were instantly transported to a pleasant summer day outdoors. A man and a woman joined hands in a wedding, and-

Sansa snatched her hands away. They were back. "What was that?!" she asked. Everyone except Bran looked at each other in amazement and confusion.

"Rhaegar and Lyanna," Bran said. "Do not interrupt. We don't have much time."

With trepidation, Sansa again joined hands with those next to her. The vision resumed. Rhaegar and Lyanna exchanged vows and kissed.

The summer day became a bedroom. A window showed daylight outside. Lyanna lay on a bed, dying, talking with a young Ned Stark. She handed him a baby. She made a demand, and Ned made a vow. The vision faded, and they returned to the present.

"This is what it means to be the Three-Eyed Raven," Bran said to Jon. "This is how I discovered Petyr's treachery, and the truth of your birth."

Jon shook his head, trying to take it all in. "That's...quite something."

"I see the past, I see other places, and I see possible futures," Bran said. "I see our future now, and it is bleak. Everything depends on the four of you."

"Just us?" Arya asked. "Not the thousands we've gathered to fight?"

"Those thousands need leaders coordinating multi-pronged simultaneous attacks," Bran said. "Jon and Daenerys, you are those leaders. Sansa, you hold Winterfell together; you hold the North together."

"What about me?" Arya asked.

"You are no leader," Bran said. "But you have a crucial role. The vision of you is murky. It's hard to describe, but during the upcoming battle, I see you everywhere, Arya. Like a shadow on all fronts."

Arya chewed her lip thoughtfully.

"But you are four individuals," Bran said. "There are walls between all of you. Distrust. Not open distrust, but the natural distrust of unfamiliarity. We must annihilate that unfamiliarity. You must know one another. You must be family. You must break down all walls, and bridge all hearts and minds. You must be One. Everything I see tells me this is the only way we will succeed."

"But Arya and I grew up together," Sansa said.

"And you still don't know each other. You never did. And even if you did, too much has happened. Separation hurt us all. Badly."

"What do you propose?" Daenerys asked.

"Each of you has endured trial by fire over the last few years," Bran said. "But each fire was different. Each of you has experiences the others need to know. Each of you must see what the other three have endured."

Daenerys practically hissed. "You can't be serious!"

"I am."

"We can't share our lives so intimately!" Sansa exclaimed. "We're strangers!"

"Exactly."

Jon shook his head. "This feels wrong. Each person's path through the fire is theirs alone."

"And in isolation, we fall."

"I'm not doing this," Arya said.

"Then we are doomed." Bran's expression never changed.

Sansa's throat was tight. She struggled to get out the words. "I am not reliving Father's death."

Arya paled.

"You suffered that event alone," Bran said. "So did you, Arya. You need to be with each other. You need to let Jon and Daenerys be with you. You need to reclaim that moment, and that loss, and know you are not alone."

They were silent for a while.

"Sansa, the other day, you said you believed in Bran's power," Jon said.

"I believe in Bran," Sansa said.

"So do I," Jon said. "Let's believe in him now, together. If he says we are doomed unless we do this, then let's do this." He addressed them all. "We will be together."

Slowly, nodding, they joined hands again.

"While you are with me in the visions, we will be the Watchers," Bran said. "We can observe only; nothing else. Your grace, we begin with you."

The Starks watched the life of Daenerys Targaryen unfold before them. And as they watched, she became a person to them, no longer just a title, a name, a face.

Daenerys came into the world on Dragonstone during a vicious, terrifying storm. The baby and her older brother were taken to safety across the Narrow Sea. As a little girl, Daenerys lived in fear of her rage-filled brother, used as a pawn in his quest for power. "I would let his whole tribe fuck you. All forty thousand men, and their horses, too, if that's what it took." Daenerys wed Khal Drogo, who killed Viserys with a crown of gold. She miscarried. Mirri Maz Duur burned but Daenerys did not, and the dragons hatched.

Daenerys freed the Unsullied and they followed her. Doreah betrayed her and conspired with Xaro. Daenerys grieved a little girl killed by her dragons, and locked them away, heartbroken. Ser Barristan Selmy arrived. Daenerys banished Jorah but he returned, and Drogon saved his mother at the fighting pit. Varys arrived, then Tyrion Lannister, but Barristan died.

The Dothraki tried to imprison a Khal's widow but found a queen instead.

Most of all, the Watchers saw a woman who could not be touched by fire. They saw a ruler who could have sailed for Westeros earlier, but her conscience would not let her leave Slaver's Bay until she had broken the horror of that place forever. They saw a queen who was flawed, yes, but tried her hardest to be fair, just, and kind wherever she went.

Daenerys sailed to Dragonstone on a fleet supplied by Yara Greyjoy. There, the vision ended.

They were back in Bran's room, overwhelmed, hands gripping one another. Daenerys wept, yet along with the sadness, she now felt some measure of peace and joy settle over her like a warm blanket. She could not explain that.

The angle of the sunlight and their lack of hunger told them only a few hours had passed. "We were gone for days," Arya whispered. "At least, it seemed like it. Sometimes, it only seemed like minutes."

"Time moves differently in the visions," Bran said.

"I never realized what you went through," Sansa said to Daenerys, looking at her in wonder. "Besides dragon, the only word I ever associated with you was queen, so I assumed you had simply lived as one your whole life, with no troubles. But...you truly are the unburnt, and the breaker of chains!"

"I try," Daenerys said, and heaved a great sigh. "I made mistakes, obviously."

"We all do," Jon said softly, smiling at her.

"But still, what you accomplished, and all those slaves you freed..." Sansa said. Arya nodded, looking at Daenerys with admiration.

"You did well," Jon said. "Better than anyone else who was dealt the same hand could have."

Daenerys smiled at them warmly.

"We still have a long way to go," Bran said. "I underestimated how long this will take. I should have had us begin first thing this morning." He looked at Sansa and Arya. "It is time for the sisters to be sisters."

"I need wine, first," Jon said.

Bran sent for wine, allowing them a short break. He also instructed the servants to refuel the fire, which had dwindled. Then they joined hands again.

A girl who wanted to be a warrior and a girl who wanted to be a lady constantly squabbled in Winterfell. ("Is that what I actually look like?" Arya the Watcher asked.) One girl received a sword. "Pointy end first."

A sibling quarrel involving Joffrey at the Trident got out of hand, resulting in the departure of Nymeria and the demise of Lady and Mycah. During this incident, Daenerys saw Robert Baratheon for the first time. After hearing so much about him all her life, she now looked upon him with curiosity and revulsion.

In King's Landing, Ned found an instructor for the warrior's "dancing lessons," and the other girl whined when her dress was not perfect.

Bran turned to Daenerys. "If you will indulge me, your grace, there is something brief I want to show you about our father, as long as we are observing the events in King's Landing."

The Watchers found themselves in a large room. At the far end of it, five men sat around a long table, and Ned Stark stood to one side. Bran told Daenerys who they were. "You know Varys, King Robert, and our father. The other three are Maester Pycelle, Petyr Baelish, and Robert's brother Renly."

Robert insisted Daenerys Targaryen and her unborn child should die, but Ned was horrified at the suggestion. Varys and Pycelle argued it was for the greater good. Petyr and Renly didn't seem to care about any greater good, and they certainly didn't care about Daenerys. Daenerys watched intently as these six men debated her fate. Five decreed she should die, while the sixth resigned as Hand of the King and ended his friendship with Robert over the matter. Ned walked away in pride and humiliation, hearing Robert's abuse follow him every step.

Daenerys nodded. "I understand, Lord Stark. Thank you for showing me that. If your father were still alive, I would certainly thank him as well."

"Our father was honorable," Bran said. "Too honorable for the viper's nest that is King's Landing. As we shall now see."

Ned confronted Cersei in the godswood at King's Landing, his honor giving her the time she needed to counterattack. "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." Petyr betrayed their father, and Lannisters killed all the Stark men-at-arms and servants. "What do we say to the God of Death?" "Not today." Arya ran, and scavenged on the streets like a beggar.

The Watchers stood by the steps of Baelor's Sept.

Their physical bodies held hands in Bran's room, but as Watchers, Sansa and Arya held each other tight. Jon gripped Arya's shoulder; he knew what he was about to see. Her face full of despair, her stomach knotted with dread, Daenerys placed a hand on Sansa's shoulder, wanting desperately to be with her in this moment. Bran looked on almost impassively, but he wept.

Sansa saw Arya by the statue and gasped. "I never knew you were here, too!" she breathed.

"I was here," Arya whispered, staring at herself.

Arya charged the steps only to be stopped and rescued by Yoren. "Don't look!" Yoren told her, but this time, as a Watcher, she did. Ser Ilyn Payne killed their father with his own sword, Ice. Sansa, standing by the boy king who had recklessly given the order, dissolved into hysterics. The crowd roared.

Jon and Daenerys wrapped their arms around Sansa and Arya for a long time. The sisters just held each other. "I should have stopped it," they both whispered at the same time, then each gave a slight smile at what they had just done. "I made so many mistakes," Arya whispered. "I could have done so much better."

"I made plenty of mistakes, too," Sansa whispered, and kissed the top of her head.

"Father would have understood," Jon said.

"Yes," Arya whispered. "He would have."

Joffrey tormented Sansa, and forced her to gaze upon the heads of her father and friends, mounted on spikes. Sansa almost pushed Joffrey to his death, but lost the chance when she didn't act quickly enough. She desperately tried to survive King's Landing, and renounced her family to live.

In the throne room, Joffrey threatened to kill Sansa in retaliation for Robb's victories, but ordered Ser Meryn to beat and strip her instead. "Leave her face. I like her pretty." Tyrion put a stop to it, and the Hound covered her nakedness with his cloak.

The Hound went to Sansa's room the night he left his old life behind, while the Battle of Blackwater Bay raged outside. Sansa married Tyrion. Arya nodded with satisfaction at the sight of Joffrey choking on poison. Sansa fled his wedding. Lysa was insane, and Petyr pushed her out the moon door.

Despite all the Watchers had seen thus far, nothing prepared them for Ramsay Bolton. As a Watcher, Sansa's face was hard as stone as she looked upon him again, and they witnessed his brutality (not directly; Bran spared Sansa that indignity). Daenerys put her hand over her mouth, horrified. Jon ground his teeth. Ramsay gloated about skinning alive the woman who dared try to help Sansa escape. Sansa met Brienne and fled to Castle Black.

The Watchers went back to Arya. She met Gendry and Hot Pie while fleeing north with Yoren. The king's men murdered Lommy and took Needle. The Mountain chose a prisoner each day to torture to death. Arya became Tywin Lannister's serving boy. Jaqen H'ghar declared a debt and Arya cashed it in, using him to escape Harrenhal.

"How much suffering could I have spared the world if I'd told Jaqen to kill Tywin Lannister?" Arya murmured.

Sansa squeezed her hand. "Like I said. We all made mistakes."

Arya recited her list every night before falling asleep.

The Hound killed Dondarrion, but Thoros brought him back to life. Melisandre collected Gendry. The red witch looked deep into Arya's eyes and said, "We will meet again." Arya and the Hound formed a bizarre relationship as they crossed the countryside. The Hound protected Arya when they learned Robb was dead. Arya avenged Lommy and regained Needle. "Something wrong with your leg, boy?" She laughed so hard when the Hound learned Lysa had died the day before they arrived at the Vale. The Hound fought Brienne. Arya fled to Braavos, leaving the Hound to suffer and die.

The Watchers saw inside the sacred spaces of the Faceless Men. Arya had never thought to see Jaqen in this place again, yet here they were. But she knew it was only a vision.

Or was it?

Jaqen walked through the central foyer of the Faceless Men's temple. The foyer was otherwise deserted. But Jaqen stopped, then slowly turned to look right at them.

"A man meets the Three-Eyed Raven," Jaqen said. "And a man meets a girl again, a little older, even though a man just left her downstairs cleaning bodies. And a man meets her friends."

"We are not really here," Bran said. "This is merely a history lesson. Go about your business."

Jaqen gave a small smile and a nod, and walked on.

"That was...different," Daenerys said.

"Why didn't he see us at Harrenhal?" Sansa asked.

"Who says he didn't?" Bran asked.

Throughout the rest of the vision, Jaqen did not acknowledge them again.

Arya trained to become an assassin and killed Meryn Trant. The waif became Arya's enemy. Jaqen removed Arya's sight for a while, forcing her to become a beggar again. She saved an actress's life, for a few days at least. Arya used the darkness and her experience of being blind to give her an edge over the waif in their final battle. "A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I'm going home!"

She smiled triumphantly as she left the corpses of House Frey behind her, her mother and brother avenged. She faced a major decision: south to kill Cersei or home to see her family? She hesitated...then turned for home. On the way, she met Nymeria again. "That's not you."

Bran ended the vision there, with Arya gazing wistfully after her departing wolf.

They were silent upon their return. They spent many moments looking at each other in support, or looking at the table in introspection. They continued holding hands.

Sansa finally spoke. She said to Arya, "To think we were almost reunited in the Vale, but Petyr murdered Lysa the day before you arrived. All we needed was one more day. Or for the guards to tell you I was there."

"And it was one day in the opposite direction with Robb," Arya said. "If I'd reached Robb one day earlier – even a few hours earlier – I would have died with him."

"Please tell me that monster Ramsay is dead," Daenerys said, weeping.

"He is," Sansa said. "But unfortunately, he could only die once."

Daenerys nodded.

"And I'm sorry, everyone," Sansa said. "I'm sorry for renouncing my family. I should have died proudly as a Stark rather than admit my own father was a traitor!" She wept.

"Renouncing Father to stay alive is exactly what he wanted!" Jon said.

"He died for you," Daenerys said. "He was no traitor. They held you hostage, and for all he knew, they held Arya, too. His final deed was a supreme act of self-sacrifice for his children, and I can tell you beyond all doubt that a loving parent would do anything for their children. You will know that some day. Had you thrown your life away just to be with him, that actually would have broken his heart a million times more."

Arya and Daenerys told Sansa at the same time, "Honor what you did to survive," then smiled at each other.

"Honor what you did to survive," Sansa whispered, a look of peace on her face for the first time in years. Just a little bit. "I like that."

"I will send for dinner," Bran said.

Servants rekindled the fire and brought them food, but Bran did not allow the servants to attend them during the meal. As they ate, they talked pleasantly and openly about things, with an easy familiarity. Bran's visions had shown them the important things only; they each still had little stories to tell which the others hadn't seen. But the stories needed no explanation.

"What about you, Bran?" Arya asked after dinner. "Will you show us what happened to you?"

"Perhaps some day," Bran said.

They joined hands again, and went to Castle Black to see Jon ride through the gates. Jon trained with fellow recruits, met Samwell Tarly, and became enemies with Alliser Thorne. Daenerys gasped when she learned the maester of Castle Black was her great uncle, Aemon.

Jon ranged beyond the wall, and received Longclaw from Jeor Mormont. The Watchers met Craster and Gilly, and learned the terrible secret of Craster's sons. Sam killed a white walker, saving Gilly and her son.

Jon killed Qhorin on Qhorin's own instructions and infiltrated the wildlings as a spy. He fell in love with Ygritte, then betrayed her when his spy mission came to an abrupt end. The Watchers saw how Bran, Hodor, and the rest of his party were hiding in the silo nearby when the wildlings discovered Jon's duplicity. Bran helped Jon flee by controlling both Summer and Shaggydog for a few moments, but Jon hadn't known he was there. Olly arrived at Castle Black, and the wildlings attacked. Ygritte died in Jon's arms. "You know nothing, Jon Snow."

Jon tried to save the wildlings, and the Night King launched his first major attack. The Watchers stood on the surface of the sea (for in visions, you could do that) and witnessed the Night King's victory, saw him raise his arms triumphantly as he animated the dead around him. Moments after the ones in the boat reached safety, the Night King turned and looked right at the Watchers, and they knew he could see them.

Jon put an arrow in Mance Rayder to spare him from the fire. He made peace with the wildlings, and his brothers in the night's watch murdered him for it. Ser Davos convinced Melisandre to bring him back to life. Jon executed his own killers. The Watchers looked on with sorrow as Jon and Olly simply stared at each other, neither saying a word, before Jon cut the rope. Sansa arrived at Castle Black with Brienne.

The Watchers saw the battle of the bastards. "You have to run. That's the rule." Ramsay died by Sansa's order. Davos confronted Melisandre over Shireen's murder, and Jon banished her. Jon became King in the North. He traveled south to meet with Daenerys, and the two slowly trusted and respected each other. A group of men traveled beyond the wall to obtain proof of the undead, and Viserion paid the price.

The Watchers saw the entire summit in the dragon pit. Cersei promised to send her armies north.

When they returned to Bran's room, it was a few hours after sunset. The fire had long since died and the cold was bitter. Bran sent for the servants to rekindle the fire. No one spoke until the servants had left.

"Jon...I'm so sorry about Ygritte," Daenerys said. Jon nodded solemnly.

"And Olly," Arya said. "And the betrayal of your brothers and...all of it." She looked at Jon in wonder. "The rest of us went through hell, but you actually died!"

"Yes," Sansa said. "And I did not really understand why you bothered to save the wildlings, but now I am ashamed I thought that. I didn't realize just how much you have done to save us all, and to prepare us for the true enemy. You saw, when no one else did. We owe you a great deal."

"Yes we do," Daenerys agreed. "And things must change. Whoever sits on the Iron Throne must devote more time and attention to what happens here in the north. It's too easy for a ruler to ignore what is beyond their sight every day."

"We have to live through this, first," Sansa said. She was deeply shaken by what she'd seen. She'd heard stories of the Night King and his undead army; to see them with her own eyes had redefined her world.

"We will," Arya said, and there was something in her voice which gave the others pause. Arya was looking down, pondering something deeply. "We will win this war," she breathed. "I know it."

"What are you thinking, Arya?" Sansa asked.

Arya looked at her. "What if I were both a lone wolf and a member of the pack at the same time...with your permission? Do you trust me?"

"I would trust you with all the stars in the heavens."

Arya nodded. "I think I can help. But you might not see much of me in the next two days."

"You do whatever you need to do," Daenerys said.

Jon placed his right hand in the center of the table. "We will all do whatever we need to do. For each other."

Daenerys placed a hand on his. "For the pack."

Sansa placed a hand on theirs. "For family."

Bran placed a hand on theirs. "For life."

Arya placed a hand on them all. "We are One."

 

The morning was crystal clear, beautiful, but stunningly cold.

Drogon and Rhaegal sensed their mother's sorrow and bent to greet her. She placed a hand on each of their faces.

"Listen to me, my children," she said. "You must be strong. You are about to face Viserion. But it is not Viserion. Viserion is dead. You face his corpse, reanimated by a necromancer. You cannot think of him as your brother. The only way you can give Viserion peace is to destroy the mockery this necromancer has made of him.

"No one can face Viserion except you. And I cannot ride with you, for you will need to execute aerial maneuvers I would not be able to withstand. You must face the corpse of Viserion, and you must do it together.

"You outnumber the necromancer's mockery. Use that advantage; always attack from two sides, and force him to choose which of you to face. Beware of his spear, beware of his touch, and you will win. Together, you will bring Viserion peace and vengeance."

The dragons nuzzled her. Daenerys kissed them.

She turned to find Sansa standing a few meters away. "Our scouts report the first skirmishes," Sansa said. "It has begun."

"Where is Jon?"

"He's forming a defensive line in the eastern wood."

"Find Ser Jorah, Bran, and Tyrion. Bring them to the great hall."

"Yes, your grace."

Daenerys headed straight for the great hall, and met Gilly on the way. "I wanted you and little Sam to evacuate south with the rest of the mothers and children," Daenerys said. "Why didn't you?"

Gilly shrugged. "If you lose, where could we possibly be safe?"

"Fair point."

"Samwell and I have our dragonglass. We wildlings are made of stern stuff, your grace!"

Daenerys smiled. "I know you are. See you on the other side, Gilly."

Gilly curtseyed and smiled also. "And you, your grace."

When Daenerys entered the great hall, everyone she expected to find was already there. Bran had a curious look on his face. She looked at him quizzically as she approached.

He held up a letter. "I found this slipped under my door this morning."

Daenerys read it quickly, her jaw dropping. "This cannot be serious," she breathed. "Do you really think...?"

"The Night King has over a hundred thousand troops who cannot easily be killed," Bran said. "I think it's our best hope."

 

Viserion would have wiped them all out in a matter of hours but for Drogon and Rhaegal. The dragons heeded their mother's words and kept Viserion busy deep in the clear blue sky, but some dark magic made Viserion stronger than he'd been while alive. Daenerys's children had their claws full. Their battle raged all day. They were three flitting specks high above, with streams of blue and red fires shooting among them. Occasionally, Daenerys could hear a faint roar from the great, distant battle.

That just left the undead on the ground. The relentless, countless undead. The Night King led them. He did not ride Viserion; like Daenerys, he seemed to know the dragon fight would exist in a sphere of its own.

Jon led the living troops in the field. They had spent the last week training with dragonglass blades and fire.

Bran frantically sent messages to all commanders. He worded the messages sternly in case any of them felt reckless or heroic. Daenerys personally wrote the message to her Dothraki army; retreat was not in their nature, but she needed them to obey. All their troops fell back in an organized withdrawal, fighting a rear guard action.

It was near sundown when all troops had retreated inside Winterfell's outer wall: northerners, wildlings, Unsullied, and Dothraki. Winterfell occupied many acres, but even so, the place was now completely packed. Far overhead, Viserion was wounded, but Drogon and Rhaegal seemed to be tiring – a weakness Viserion did not have.

Tormund stood just behind the outer gate, dragonglass sword at the ready. He wanted to be the first one the enemy faced upon breaking through.

Jon stood on the outer wall. Jaime carried Bran to join him. Daenerys, Grey Worm, Jorah, Davos, Tyrion, and Sansa went with him. They looked down at the Night King, who, as always, was silent. His army surrounded Winterfell like an ocean. Two white walkers stood beside him. His undead soldiers jostled around him restlessly.

An archer sent a flaming arrow directly at the Night King's chest, but it evaporated into fine ash before it reached him. All that touched him was a wisp of smoke. He didn't even react.

"Name your terms," Bran called down to him. "If you have any."

The Night King slowly shook his head, and raised his right arm. He suddenly pointed at Winterfell's gate. The white walkers stayed where they were, but the hordes behind him moved forward.

"Ready pitch!" Lord Cerwyn yelled. Soldiers prepared to tip barrels of boiling tar over the walls. Archers notched flaming arrows.

Then the Night King shrieked. It was a piercing cry which seemed to rip the very mountains from the sky. Everyone covered their ears, screwed up their faces in pain, and looked in wonder at...at...

At the dragonglass spear which had skewered the Night King from behind and erupted from his chest.

The white walkers tried to help their king, but they moved like puppets with tangled strings.

The Night King fell to his knees, a look of utter astonishment on his face. He gazed at the spear, daring it to explain itself. Then he fell to one side, lifeless.

The moment he hit the ground, his army died, too. In the sky, Viserion fell, twisting in the wind. The white walkers crumbled to dust, and every undead soldier dropped to the ground, a corpse once more.

Every soldier except one – the one who had thrust a spear through the Night King's back. That soldier peeled off her mask.

"Damn!" Arya exclaimed. "It took forever to get close enough without him suspecting!"

She had the immense satisfaction of knowing almost every person on Winterfell's walls were staring at the dead army with eyes as wide as saucers right now. Above her, Daenerys, Bran, Sansa, and Jon just grinned.

Arya grinned back at them. Her family. Her pack.

Tormund just about shit when he heard the command to open the gate. "Are you mad?!" he shouted. The soldiers behind him parted to make way for Jon, Bran, Daenerys, and the others, who were all smiling. Bran was back in his wheelchair.

Tormund looked at them with sorrow. "He's bewitched you."

"No bewitching," Jon said. "You missed the show."

The gates creaked open and Tormund turned to see the astonishing sight of the enemy completely vanquished. Beside the Night King's body stood a single slight girl, Arya Stark of Winterfell.

"He's bewitched me, too," Tormund said. "I am seeing things."

Jon clapped him on the shoulder as they passed. "Then it's a good vision. Enjoy it."

"This is why we withdrew," Daenerys said as they walked forward to greet Arya. "It was Arya's idea. She told us what she was doing. She needed the enemy troops to converge."

"Why?" Tormund asked.

Arya answered. "The Night King always stood alone, except for his white walkers, who constantly seemed to notice everything around them. And he controlled every one of his soldiers. I couldn't approach him without giving myself away. I needed him surrounded by a crowd of his troops rubbing shoulders with him, and the only way to do that was to manipulate his army into converging on a single point. I had but one chance; it had to be perfect."

"You were more than perfect!" Sansa said. "You were magnificent!"

"But how did you know all that about the Night King?" Tyrion asked. "You'd never seen him or his army before today."

"I have, actually," Arya said. "But I didn't want to ask anyone to commit to my plan until I did some research, first." She held up the mask. "I had to make sure I could impersonate an undead. It was a bit tricky, but once I figured out how, I knew I could do this."

"And you were brilliant!" Daenerys said.

Arya grinned and gave her a polite bow. "About that dragon, your grace..."

Daenerys laughed, a long laugh full of joy. "The first successful hatchling will be yours!"

Tormund was incredulous. "You risked all our lives...the entire world...on the word and plan of a single girl?"

"I did," Daenerys said. "It was actually no great gamble, for this isn't just any girl. I knew she would do it."

"Just as I knew Queen Daenerys would follow my plan," Arya said.

"But how could you possibly have known?" Tormund asked them. "You only just met a few days ago!"

Daenerys, Sansa, Jon, and Arya shared a special look with each other.

"Because we are One," Arya said.

Back to the Miscellaneous stories list

Back to the Fan Fiction page

Back to my home page