A Song of Rock and Fire

Knight of the Blushing Maid

I think the men were pirates originally, but with the King’s two largest dragons roosting at Dragonstone, and the royal navy patrolling in numbers and crushing any ship that sailed crooked, they must have been forced to turn to worse dealings. Some men will pay good money for young children across the Narrow Sea it is said, and this lot had herded together near two dozen of us crying dirty children over a few months period. I was only ten then, and remember being cold and hungry for much of my time in the stone cove the pirates turned slavers called home. They fed on meat and ale, sleeping in rough built shacks near their fire while we huddled together in a wooden cage and ate moldy bread. One of the men would come every night and pick a child for his personal monstrosities. I thank all the gods: old, new, and red that the man enjoyed the young girls not boys, but I still have trouble sleeping nights when I think of the way they’d come back bruised and bleeding. Their whimpers in the night break my heart to this day.

We were orphans or small folk to a child. The men talked often and loudly, “Fools go after kidnapping lords expecting ransoms and finding death, but no one cares about pathetic peasants. Especially children. So the clever man can make a killing with little fear.” They were right too, no one cared but perhaps the few parents of the children that had ones, and they were next to powerless. We knew no one was coming for us, and in truth that made our imprisonment easier to bear. Without hope, despair becomes a rock on your chest you know can never be moved, so you learn to live with it til it crushes the life from you.

About a month into my capture, when they had close to five and twenty of us they spoke often of their contacts coming and making a deal. How they would be rich men and could retire in the pleasure houses of Lys, or buy massive Pentoshi manors full of wine, cheese, and women. Each day they would talk of their contacts and their money, but each day that went by they would talk more quietly, and at less length. After a week the fear began in earnest. Their contacts had not come to them. “They have forgotten us,” some offered. “They will betray us,” came the conclusions of others. “We should kill the children and be rid of this place,” a few suggested, mostly to deaf ears thank all those gods above and elsewhere. As they neared their second week of no word finally someone came, and I knew my life would become a much fiercer hell than the cold wet pirate cove.

He was cloaked and alone and the men questioned him rigorously about where the rest of the buyers were, and how he would move all of us children alone. The man assured them he had friends not far that would take care of the children, but first he had to come in and make sure all the fine men got what was deserved to them. The cloaked man talked with an accent that I’d heard when I’d once visited King’s Landing with my Pa before his death. It was a strange version of the common tongue that folks only seemed to speak in the darkest meanest parts of Flea Bottom, or so Pa said. I knew this man had to have grown up among murderers, and rapers, and the worst Westeros had to offer. I knew this man would show us no compassion. Hope never even thought to flicker inside me.

They moved closer to our cage and the men kept crowding around him. “So, this is all of ‘um huh?” the cloaked man asked in his devil’s tongue.

“Yeah, five and twenty of the little shits.” The fat bowlegged pirate-slaver spoke up. He was the one that enjoyed the girls, and was something of their leader, though I have no doubt those men were too close to beasts to follow anyone but themselves. “More than enough for any man to wet his cock on or in. I’ve tried a few of the little twats meself. You can give a go or two if you want.” They all chuckled a deep devil’s tone, save the cloaked man.

“And all with jus’ the sevens of ya huh?”

“We’re smart. Took the kids no one would give a shit about. It’s easy when you’re taking someone no one wants. Well, no one wants except for them to shut up and open up ha ha ha ha.” More cackling.

“Yah, takin down some little kids. You all gots to be some of tha toughest bastards I ever met yeah yeah yeah.”

“Are you mocking us!?” the bowlegged man spat.

“Some of tha smartest too to figgya that one out.”

“Alright, we been real nice cause we know you work for Garbo, but if you don’t still that tongue I’m gonna. . .”

“You alls ain’t gonna do nothin’ but die in this cave. Garbo and his sick friends is dead. Now you and your sick friends is next. You can count on that yeah yeah yeah.”

The bowlegged man went for his knife and the cloaked man, well. . .I can’t say it was a maneuver he did really. Maneuvers involve moves, steps, things you can point to to say “here was a good move” or “here was a bad one”. The cloaked man was standing there covered in brown tatters one second and then the next he’s standing with a blade covered in blood in his hands while the bowlegged man is screaming. The men rushed him then, six men on one and I remember it looked like six flies trying to stop a dragon. They had old worn metal and sharp iron, he had steel and death. With one swing two men’s throats were opened and he wasn’t where he started. A lunge through the heart stopped another. The cloaked man set his feet wide then. He had moved in the battle and was facing me, with only three men left alive. I was just taking my first breath of surprise from when I’d seen bowlegged go for his knife. The man’s brown cloak had been thrown free in the fight and underneath he wore a bright white one. Not one drop of blood had touched it. I remember it looked as if some one had plucked down Gabby’s Star and woven it into cloth. His sword was red contrast, and at the hilt I could see the pommel was a woman holding a finger over her mouth, as if telling us children to be silent while this man in white danced death in the black cave. On his breast plate was a blushing woman. She looked like any old servant wench you’d find in a tavern or castle. She reminded me of my mother. To this day I wonder if it was the white knight’s mother he wore on his chest. Some woman who died before her time in some gods forsaken part of Flea Bottom. Then he was moving again and I could see nothing of him but a white blur.

The men came in at him at the same time and more the fools they, for the man in white just pulled back and swung. At chest height each man was cut in several parts, arms and bodies falling this way, heads another. On my second breath the man was already cleaning his blade on their clothing, and the fighting was done.

I remember the arms of strangers then, small folk from the area, a few soldiers here and there, a fat septa who kept thanking the knight in white, who in turn kept blushing and rubbing his hand through his hair like he didn’t know what to do with himself. I don’t know what made me go up to him, I was terrified of him of course, but he had just saved us all, so I adored him as well. Looking back I have to say that I went up to him because when I first heard and saw him I judged him to be a monster because of where he was born and how he spoke, and I knew I couldn’t live my life I’d just had given back to me as a man who judge so much on so little.

I asked him who he was first. “Ser Tommen Tommen of the Kingsguard, Knight of the Blushing Maid, little fella’.” he said with a smile.

Why did you save us I asked him. “Because for a longs time no one ever cared for me, and when someone finally did I ended up who I am today. I saved you because I care about you little fella. And I care about you because no one else did.”

I never saw him again, but he stands next to me every time I bring one of the poor into my manor, every time I buy a whorehouse to turn it into an orphanage or a school. And there are nights where I look into my polished looking glass after a day where I’ve lost gold to save someone pain, or lost a client to keep my honor. Those nights I squint very hard, and sometimes I think I see myself standing there in a white cloak woven from a star, and when I sleep, I sleep soundly, and I know he would be proud of me.

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Home

Toten was awake and sitting at his desk as he always was when she brought his breakfast in the morning. His father’s desk. She thought setting down the bread and bacon, burnt black. His hair remained dark even eleven years after he had come back from the wall, but his beard’s salt and pepper showed that the great King was indeed aging.

“Are you excited?” she asked with a familiarity of over a decade of taking care of him. As he looked up he gave her the smile he always gave to her, warm and kind, and hers. It seemed he had a different smile for everyone he knew, one for Natan, one for Elia, the Queen, Lons. She often wondered what his smile for Gabby must have looked like, but it was a painful thought.

“My daughter is getting married to one of finest men in Westeros. I am very excited Sara.” He was speaking as Toten, not the King, just Toten, a man she had fallen in love with a long time ago. His heart would never be hers, but Sara Jogs had long ago realized that love is more than two bodies together, it was loyalty, honesty, and trust. It was a truth of love the Queen had learned a long time ago as well. It was a truth that hurt and soothed at the same time.

“Tommen Lannister was always such a good sweet boy, and he became such a fine man.” Sara said as she thought back through the years, of a Rockfall filled with the laughter of children. Rockfall was always full of the young and the happy and Tommen and Myrcella Lannister were as loved as any of the children in Rockfall. Toten had once told Sara that Ser Jaime had let the hate die with him, so that all Toten could give his children was his love. Sara remembered the days of Tommen being pulled around by Elia, through old castle routes only she and Toten had ever found, pushing him into dark corners to play ‘Queen of the Castle’ and other such children’s games long after he was a man grown. Now the two were being married and would be a true family, though they had been for a long time before today.

“Oh, and Your Grace, his Lord Hand and the Queen wondered if you’d lunch with them after the tournament.”

“Of course I will Sara. Those two act like they won’t be sitting next to me at the pavilion.”

“They miss you is all.”

“They come down for a week or more at least every two months. Some times every month. They get enough of me I’m sure.” Toten said with the boyish grin he had found again some years after the Wall.

“Well, you are a man most people can’t get enough of Your Grace.” Sara said with a smile as she took his sheets out to be washed. Lons and the Queen ran the country and often spent more time working during their visits to Rockfall than visiting, but there was something about the old castle and its Lord that kept them coming back as much as they could. It was the same thing that kept Sara there as well. Daenerys had come to Rockfall very often in the early years, she said to confer with Toten about matters of rule, but Sara knew it was because she liked to pretend. Toten never knew the game of pretend was happening, and Elia refused to play it, but Natan and Dany lived it. Gabby was dead and Natan had no mother. Dany had lost a son and would never birth another. There was many a night where Toten would be asleep and Elia would sit awake in her anger, or perhaps jealousy, as Natan would sneak to Dany’s room to sleep next to her. She would smooth his hair and he would cuddle up to her, silver haired and beautiful, and Natan would pretend he had his mother back, and Dany would pretend she had her son. Both knew it was just a game, but it soothed their hearts in the early years, and in the end the two were as close as any in the family. Natan called her aunt in respect to Gabby, but in his heart he meant mother. Dany called him nephew, but meant son. Elia hated Dany all the more for it.

As she hit the bottom of the tower stairs Sara ran right into the one and ten year old Lyene Ashford, with her mother’s darker skin and her father’s blonde locks. “Sara, you have to make sure everything is ready for Elia today or there is going to be hell to pay, she told me so.” Elia, Tommen, and Lyene: the pack of three led by the Princess herself. Always sitting proper at the table or picking flowers or watching Tommen learn to joust and fight. Always collected and where they were supposed to be, the complete opposite of the other pack of three hellions, but they were a different matter. Little Lyene was still a child, but she was already running errands for the Princess and would be in her plots soon enough. At six and ten Elia was starting to rival her aunts Lena and Margaery in whisper collecting.

“Everything will be fine Lyene, now run to your father, he already has your brothers to worry about without wondering where you are.” Lyene harrumphed and moved on as Sara couldn’t help but think Lady Tyene may have been starting to show pregnant again, a fifth for Lons and who knew how many more would come. Sara smiled as she thought the man was quite busy for someone who used to be a Maester.

Her morning duties done Sara found her way out to the jousting yard to get a good spot for the festivities. It turned out to be one of the best tournaments in recent memory. The King, Queen Regent, and Hand sat together laughing and chatting as the contenders won and lost by their skill, and skill was in high supply. Prince Natan was put against Ser Edric Dayne and did not last past two passes, but handled himself with honor and seriousness. In the end the expected names made it to the finals. Ser Tommen the bridegroom tore through every opponent matched him until he faced Ser Tommen of the Blushing Maid, who himself fell Lord Hardyng, and half the Kingsguard. In the other bracket Robrik had a few close calls but found himself against Ser Edric who barely beat out Ser Brienne for the final spot. All the while Ser Barristan, who had excused himself from the tournament, chatted technique with whoever was not on the field at the moment.

The Tommens broke thirteen lances until the knight of flea bottom was ruled victor by the King, though it was a bare victory. The Princess eased her soon to be Lord Husband’s ego shortly there after. The other side of the bracket was much more quickly decided with Ser Robrik unhorsing Ser Edric, though none denied Ser Edric rode well. Ser Tommen and Ser Robrik had a bout that many harkened back to Ser Robrik and the Knight of Flower’s match at Highgarden many years ago. Nine lances broke, but the ninth was enough to send Ser Robrik to the mud. Upon winning Ser Tommen promptly declared Elia to be Queen of Love and Beauty, resulting in a huge cheer as the party convened for a late lunch before the wedding proper. The whole way Dany was berating the King for sneaking into another melee.

As she headed back to the castle to help with the lunches Sara heard the familiar antics of Rockfall’s other trio of companions. Arya Stark, beauty and ferocity mixed into a lithe figure, berated Toten Wyl on his antics as Prince Natan watched on with a smile. Those three were truly inseparable and even though Arya had almost a decade on the two boys she was dearly close to them. That did not stop her from grabbing Toten in a head lock and beating his head with a soup ladle to Natan’s laughter though.

Arya had seen her sister married to a Mallister and given Riverrun some years ago now. Arya naturally wanted no part of any marriage, so at five and ten when Margaery had told her she would be married or she would not be welcome in Winterfell anymore Arya had rode south to join the Queen’s court. The Queen did her best to help the girl, as wild as ever, but quickly found Lady Stark was not a good fit in the capital. Thus Lady Arya Stark, even then a very skilled swordsman, became the sworn sword of the Prince and was given a place at Rockfall. Ever since she had kept Prince Natan and his dear friend Toten Wyl out of as much trouble as she could, though the two often got the better of her.

At six and ten the boys were just starting to grow into manhood as Arya at five and twenty was well past when she should have had a family of her own, but Sara firmly believed that Arya never really wanted to grow up, so she tolerated the two boys to keep her youth. Even gripping on to childhood as much as she could Arya was as beautiful as any, with many saying she was the very image of her aunt Lyanna, the late Queen’s mother. Sara was no fool like the others and knew that in his heart Natan loved Arya, though whether Arya would ever see him as anything but a thorn in her side she couldn’t find the heart to remove Sara did not know.

“Come on Arry, let him go,” Natan said with a laugh.

“Why? He’ll just end up in some serving girl’s bed like he always does.”

“I resent that horseface! Sometimes I bed farmer’s daughters too you know.”

The laughter was unchecked after and even though Arya wore her Stark grimace her eyes were laughing. Sara left the three to their fun.

The wedding was a wonderful time. The bride and groom were both glorious and the service was performed by a very elderly Septon Argyle who had wed many of the royal family in the past. The feast was loud and grand as the Queen and King and Hand laughed and reminisced while the children played. Jance Martell and his mother Arianne, Princess of Dorne, shared spicy treats with any that would take them, though only the King seemed to enjoy them. The King spent a good bit of time speaking with the boy he had legitimized the day he was born. The stories are that a former guard captain of Rockfall had been with Lady Arianne in the past, resulting in Jance, but regardless of the stories Jance Martell sat as a true heir to the Martell name. Lena spoke with her brother as little Loras and Ty Tyrell played knights under the table. Arya and Toten Wyl had a fist fight that Arya quickly won, even as the aging Nymeria sat with head in Natan’s lap. Ser Tommen Tommen and Ser Robrik shared too many drinks with Ser Barristan telling stories of dubious truths and merriment was everywhere.

The bedding went as beddings normally go and the two houses of Lanncaster and Lannister were joined together once more for the first time in centuries. While most everyone were happy in the moment Toten and Lons had white knuckles until well after the coupling, old fears and worries coming to the front. As the night wore down people sat in various states of sobriety and wakefulness. Arya sat in between Toten Wyl and Natan with her arms around both as they all sang drunkenly and loudly. Ser Robrik lay passed out as Sers Tommen and Edric drew on him with ink. Even until the early hours Toten and Lons and Dany sat talking in enjoyment of one another, even with Lady Tyene and the Ashford children falling asleep next to them.

The next day Elia and Tommen would go to Casterly Rock, the Queen and Hand would return to King’s Landing, and everyone would go their separate ways. That wedding would turn out to be one of the last times everyone was together under one roof in Rockfall, as everyone moved on with their lives, but never leaving the castle in their hearts.

Rockfall meant so much to so many in those days. A place of warmth, and love. It was a wonderful place to grow up or to grow old or to simply grow. Lons had taught Sara how to read at Rockfall. Robrik had taught Natan and Toten and countless other boys how to fight and be knightly. Toten taught his children, his many children all of different names and ages, about what it meant to rule a people, what it meant to be kingly. The children had in time taught Toten how to be himself again, how to come back from the Wall he never truly left, even years after coming home. Through it all they had made a family, not based on name or rank or skill, but based on caring and respect. On love.

On that one special night for everyone there, from the King to the stable boys, from the knights down to the servants, all of them could look up and see a bright star burning solely over Rockfall. That one night truly everyone was there. That one night, the whole family was home.

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The Greatest Sacrifice (Part Two)

Lons trailed behind Toten as they marched across the field together to take on the greatest enemies man had ever known. He felt a surprising flow of power throughout his body. A sense of purpose, a sense of righteousness and a sense of…

His hip didn’t hurt anymore.

The muscles were no longer tight. He stopped and flexed the leg, feeling it respond as flexibly as it had before the accident. He looked back up at his enemy, the Lady of Winter, who shared the same dumbfounded look as the other creature.

Lons and Toten met their foes, Toten raising Shatterstone high into the air. Lons raised his hands as the Lady began to whirl her ice and snow at him, a snowstorm that would have blinded the greatest armies of the world and crushed the strongest fortress. The ice and snow washed over Lons, enveloping him in a cloud of death and destruction no man could have walked away from. His foe seemed to have a satisfied look on her face to the other onlookers, the same wicked grin etched on the face of the Winter King as he landed a a particularly brutal blow on Toten. Lons felt hands pushing him from behind, holding him fast against the gale as it turned to mist and vapor before him.

“You won’t fall before anything, my friend.” a distant voice spoke. Lons glanced over his shoulder, wondering who was insane enough to brave the needle-like ice and snow. As he did, his eyes widened with surprise as there was nothing there. A smile came to his lips as he realized he was wrong.

There was someone there.

It was no man.

He turned back around to face his enemy, sharing a glance with Toten as they realized they weren’t alone in this battle. One of the fallen was still there with them, lending the fiercest strength to blade and shield, and an iron will to mind and magic.

The King and the Lady renewed their fight.

But they fought no mere men. They fought a legend.

A woman harder than the most expertly forged steel, braver than any of the greatest explorers, and wiser than any priest.

Today, they fought a Queen of Dragons.

Together, Lons and Gabby willed the first counterattack into existence. Flames a deeper red than any man had seen shot forth from Lons’ hands. They struck the ice lady square in the chest, and she just barely mustered her guard to contain it. Lons’ returned her cocky smile.

“You thought you fought mere men this day… Men who would bow easily to your supposed power.” he paused, letting the creature realize how badly they had been mistaken. “Well…” Lons paused, thinking of the hundreds of sacrifices made on this day.

A tear came to his eye as he remembered his fallen friends, all of them. “Today, you fight the arm of man. A force stronger than you can ever muster… and at the head of all of it, is the Dragon Queen.” he bellowed, focusing his mind.

He thought of when he had first met Gabby, thinking of all the time they had shared together, however brief.

He thought of the seeds of distrust sewn by a cruel twist of fate.

And the fight he had made to save her children. Toten’s children. The hours slaving over needle and thread or antitoxins, with little more than a prayer and his mind to guide him.

He thought of his return to Westeros, where Gabby had been the one to bring Toten back from his broken state. Thought of the stories Toten had told, of how Gabby had overturned the kingdom to bring Toten back.

Lons mind focused on destroying this foe that had robbed him, everyone, of so many friends, lovers, brothers and sisters.

Suddenly, a massive dragon made of pure flame sprang from his outstretched hands. The ice wyvern that his opponent had hastily mustered sprang forward as well, buckling and breaking before the gigantic fiery beast.

No words could describe the look on the face of the Lady of Winter as he began to slowly step forward. Ice dagger after ice dagger flung itself at him, disappearing under his shield. They became increasingly erratic, based on pure instinct.

She lacked focus, relying on pure fear to guide her. Like a cornered animal, she knew what was coming. Lons reached out, hands grasping for that icy throat.

His hands closed around her neck, steam rising around his burning body as the creature writhed under his grasp. A brilliant light washed over the battlefield. Soldiers and Wights alike stepped back from the burning explosion. The icy monstrosity burned away, howling into the night. Next to him, Toten’s blows fell one after the other, the clashing of mythical steel crashing across the battlefield. The King’s sword blocked blow after blow, both of them ringing with the jarring slashes and parries. Toten slammed the King’s sword to the side, the great ice blade exploding into a million glistening points of light.

Then Toten’s sword pierced his chest. The great king staggered backward as Toten followed him, swinging the greatsword with a brutal ease he’d never before, and would never again, experience. The King’s head exploded as the sword struck him, mists of ice and fog whirling from the wounds. Wights burst into flames all around as the King ignited, burning brightly against the darkened battlefield.

And then, just like that, the battlefield was peaceful.

The bodies of the dead lay around. The Wights’ bodies had disappeared in a haze of mist and ice. Up above, the clouds parted, swirling away to reveal a beautifully starlit sky. The first sky any man had seen in months. In the middle of that sky, lay a new sight.

A star brighter than any other. A star that cast a watchful, protecting eye on traveller and merchant alike. It was a star that represented a noble sacrifice born of the fiercest love men had ever known. A sheer tenacity of friendship that even the harshest storms of life couldn’t falter. There was no question, and all who stood on the battlefield that day would knew it was Gabby’s Star.

Years later, the stories would spread. Her star would lead those lost, whether inside themselves or outside in the world, to their rightful place. Where you needed to be, there the star would guide you.

The battlefield took a long time to clear. It was not the clearing of the wounded and bodies that mattered. It was a sacred moment. Even the air they breathed was sacred. Men sat in prayer, or speaking in hushed tones, glad to have survived and yet conscious of such great sacrifice. The armies of man had defended their lands in unison. Knights and smallfolk alike played just as important of a part. One’s house didn’t matter, so long as you had stood to fight the common enemy that had united Westeros as one.

The trip southward was long, although a renewed vigor seemed to spread across the armies. A knowledge of what they had accomplished, mixed with the pain of loss of friends, family and so much more. Friendships forged would last lifetimes as the army disbanded, slipping off to their homes to rebuild their lives.

Toten and Lons stood in the great hall of Rockfall. Ser Robrik approached. The three of them had fought through hell and back, for each other, for the realm. For humanity itself. Lons stood with his cane, shifting his weight as he tried to get his hip to a comfortable position again.

”Have you boys heard the tale of a song of rock and fire?” Robrik spoke.

Toten and Lons smiled at the routine banality of it. In truth, it meant much more to them.

“No, Ser Robrik.” Toten spoke. “But I’d love to hear it.”

“It would be an honor, Ser Robrik.” Lons added.

“It all started with House Lancaster and Natan Lancaster’s cane echoing through these very halls…”

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Lanncaster Log 17
Or: The Last Lanncaster Log

“Reform the line!”

Toten bellowed out orders as the remaining men of his army formed into a tight circle. He watched the Others and wights begin to spread around the circle, moving to envelop it with their overwhelming numbers. This was it, and there was no mistaking it.

Toten wheeled Thorn around and rode to the head of the army, even as the last tattered regiments fell into place.

“Hear me!” Toten called, gathering their attention. He looked over them, and knew that they were all with him, that they didn’t need words to stand any longer. But they deserved them.

“We will not fail,” Toten yelled. “We will NOT FAIL! Men! Warriors! BROTHERS! WE WILL NOT FAIL!” His face was set in a hard determination as he raised Shatterstone high in the air. Behind him he heard the clang of thousands of blades being readied. Toten pointed his sword towards the evil in front of them and let out a yell that was joined by all the men with him, until it was no longer a war cry, it was a challenge. A call of defiance that was raised to the heavens, a call of honor and unity against the darkness that surrounded them. It was the roar of one people. And together they charged forward into the evil, the last beacon of hope in the world.

The groups crashed together and battles began to be fought. Brutal, dirty, final. Around Toten men fought and died as he slashed through Others and wights while shouting orders. He heard Robrik yell for a lance and his horse galloped off at breakneck speed. A moment later there the sound of a massive crash. Toten wanted to look after the man but he had his hands full. The wights crowded around Toten and he quickly dismounted lest he be overrun. Thorn kicked at a wight before retreating from the front as Toten slashed at five more, cutting through them. But there were more, there were always more no matter how much or how hard he swung. Above him the dragons roared and fire lit the sky. Around him Toten could see the banners and colors of Rockfall, could hear the bellows of the dothraki screamers and focused chant of the unsullied as all fought fiercely, like nothing the world had ever seen.

Toten heard the scraping screech of the Others and turned. A small clearing opened before him as three fully armed and armored Others moved into it. Men backed away cautiously. Toten strode forward towards them, his jaw set in fierce determination. The Others eyed him strangely, as if curious why one would approach them. Toten’s breath steamed out as he faced them. “Come then,” he said quietly, meeting their cold eyes. The three Others moved quickly, raising icy blades against him. Toten whirled Shatterstone around and parried the first blow as all three began to strike. He parried and deflected, dodged and spun, planted his feet and shifted forward, just like Ser Robrik had always taught him.

He waited for his opening. And then he struck. Like a flash, Shatterstone slashed forward and caught one of the Others. Spinning, Toten caught another blow on his shield and carried his momentum into a sideswipe that bit into the icy flesh of the second, tearing a massive gash in its midsection. He parried another strike and lashed out, backhanding the first foe with his shield, spinning him around before driving his blade through the monster’s back, slaying it. Ducking to his right, Toten came up again as the two remaining beasts cut at him from both sides. Toten leaned towards his shield side and caught that blow, deflecting down against the second with Shatterstone. He lunged forward at the second foe while it was still on the backswing and cut it swiftly through. Yelling, Toten used his follow through to come back at the last enemy, slashing down again and again until the icy sword burst under his attack. Toten lunged and stabbed the Other through the chest and it crumpled to the ground. Cheers erupted around him as the men surged forward again, renewed strength pushing them forward.

Ahead Toten saw a massive beast land amongst his enemies, and two figures climbed down from it, looking like a man and a woman. A strange wind began to blow, stirring up snow and ice. It swirled faster and harder, until the battlefield was nearly gone from Toten’s view. In his stomach, Toten knew that something was different about those two. That the battle was changing. Calling out, he pushed forward, into the rising winds.

He emerged into an opening in the force of wind and before him stood an Other, tall and armored in an elaborate sheet of dark ice. It held a massive blade that gleamed with a darkness that seemed to resonate from within it. Toten knew it could only be the fabled king of winter. Its eyes turned on Toten, piercing and colder than the snow swirling around them, threatening to shatter his resolve. But Toten knew this was why he had led all these men north, to face this creature.

Toten stalked towards the creature and gripped his sword with both hands, raising it high. With a yell he brought Shatterstone’s deadly might slashing down at the Other, the most powerful swing he could muster.

PING!

The blade jumped back from the Other, who had never moved to stop Toten’s attack, its armor stopping the attack as if it were nothing. Toten’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped. He struck again and again, each blow discarded like he was swinging paper. Finally, the Other turned to face him, almost lazily. It raised its dark blade and swung it up at Toten. He raised the shield Lons had made for him, ready to catch the strike. Toten felt the blade strike the shield and then felt his feet lift from the ground as he was thrown back by the force of it. Men surged around him as Toten rose to his feet. He saw the king of winter swing and five men were thrown in pieces backwards.

“No!” Toten shouted, pushing back to the front, noticing a large slice down the length of his shield as he did. For minutes Toten put himself between the Other and his men, using everything he knew to parry the creature’s attacks with his shield, making sure they were always glancing blows, sliding off the shield to keep his men safe. He soon felt strong hands on his shoulders, pulling him away. “No!” he shouted, struggling against them. “No, I have to help them!” “It’s no use, boy,” came Robrik’s strong voice as he muscled Toten away. “We have to regroup!”

Toten allowed himself to be led away, shouting orders all the while, the battle still in full swing around him as they found their way to a small opening in the midst of their forces. The dragons had landed and were breathing heavily, thick blood leaking from several cuts in their scales. Gabby threw her arms around him as Lons limped over, looking grim. Several red priests made their way over, heavy looks on their faces.

“Lons Ashford,” the lead priest spoke. “We may have a chance.” Toten and Lons both perked up at the words, leaping for any hope they could find. The priest began to explain of a ritual to bring back Azor Ahai. A chant and a transfer of power. “But it requires a great sacrifice,” he rumbled. “Two who are in love. And one must willingly sacrifice themselves to the other. This gift of love and life unlock the power.” Toten became aware that all eyes were on him and Gabby. The significance of the words sunk in and Toten turned to his wife.

“No,” he said, not wanting it to be true. His eyes met with Gabby’s and in that moment they shared everything. Their shared love flowed between them. Everything. Assurances, promises, unexplored dreams, faith, existence, friendship all passed between them as they looked at one another. An unspoken conversation between two people so in love that their souls were entwined. And in that moment Toten knew that Gabby would volunteer herself. And that he would could not dissuade her. He hung his head, words escaping him as he searched desperately for any solution.

Gabby appeared before him. “It’s ok, Toten,” she said softly, her gentle hand brushing snow from his armor lovingly. “It’ll be alright. We have to do this.” She managed a small smile and touched his face. Her face swam in his vision as tears welled in his eyes. Gabby gazed up at him and moved off as the red priests moved to close a circle around them.

Gabby moved slowly between friends, and time seemed to slow as if by some grace beyond their own. The battle was still being fought around them but here, now, in that small pocket, their own battle was one of farewell. Gabby exchanged a soft touch with each person, or a whispered word or two. Obara and Nymeria Sand both enveloped her in a soft embrace. Garlan Tyrell and Jance Morgan both bowed their heads before her. Tommen Tommen and Edric Dayne knelt before her and she touched each of their heads as she passed. Tommen’s shoulders shook as she moved by. She stopped in front of Brienne and whispered something. The first woman knight seemed to stand taller though her lip trembled as Gabby moved on. She paused at the Darkstar. She spoke softly to him and for once in his life, the arrogant man had no rebuttal save a mournful look and a brush of Gabby’s silvery hair.

She stopped in front of Willem Rains and pressed something into his palm. The captain of the dragons looked down and saw the Gabby’s gold dragon pendant in his hand. Willem looked up at Gabby’s sad smile. “For the strongest dragon who ever lived,” she said. She turned and moved on, leaving a tearful Willem behind her, gold dragon clutched tightly in his hand.

Gabby moved to Dany who embraced her, crying openly. Gabby returned the hug, stroking Dany’s hair gently. “The fate of the Targaryen’s lies with you now,” she whispered. Gabby took a step back. “You’re not Aerys, Danerys.” She took another step back. “And you never will be.” Gabby turned, leaving Dany to weep openly in the snow.

The large gray direwolf with Lena’s eyes looked mournfully at Gabby as she drew nearer. Gabby buried her face in the wolf’s shaggy fur as Lena nuzzled against her. “You’re the sister I never had, Lena,” Gabby whispered into the gray fur. “I love you.” The wolf’s eyes were deep and sad, emotion pouring from them as Gabby kissed the wolf on the head and continued on.

Gabby moved to Ser Robrik. The old knight, usually stoic and hard faced trembled as she approached, tears welling in his eyes. She smiled sadly up at the man who had sworn to protect her so long ago and had never broken his vow, searching his noble eyes. “Father,” she said softly. Robrik took a gasp for air as tears poured down his cheeks. “My child,” Robrik managed, taking one of her hands and holding it to his cheek, kissing it gently. Gabby lingered for a moment, letting the old knight’s strength and loyalty cover her like a familiar blanket, all the while meeting his tearful gaze, letting him see the love she had for him. Finally, she pulled away softly, his hand holding hers as long as possible.

Gabby walked towards the circle of red priests where Toten still stood, unmoving. She stopped in front of Lons and the former maester could barely meet her eyes. She could see him struggling for words and finding none. Gabby leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “Take care of him for me, Lons,” Gabby said. Tears rolled down Lons’ face and he nodded slowly. She smiled at him. It was a sad smile, but full of confidence, trust, regret over past misdeeds and unfair words, full of love and friendship. “I’ll do my best, Gabby,” Lons managed. Her smile brightened softly, a twinkle in her eyes. “I know you will, Lons,” she said. She embraced him and moved to the center of the circle, across from her husband.

Toten’s eyes burned into her, he couldn’t bear to look away. Each passing second was one closer to the last, and his eyes roamed over her, taking in every detail, his mind still racing, unable to fully comprehend the situation. She moved closer, and then she was kissing him. Toten breathed her in as their lips touched, and too soon she was pulling away. She nodded at Lons who began to chant, tears still trickling down his cheeks.

Toten kept his eyes on Gabby as Lons’ chanting grew louder. Around them the red priests began to burn, a deep red flame engulfing them, though they made no sounds of pain or any motions that indicated that they were even aware of the fire. Eventually the fire even spread to Lons, his chanting undeterred. Toten drew Shatterstone slowly, as if the blade were resisting him, trying to stay shealthed. He held it firmly in his hands, to keep them from shaking as he raised the sword to point at Gabby. She nodded softly at him and lowered her hands to her sides, spreading them slightly, inviting the strike that would end her life.

Toten drew back the blade, poised to thrust it forward into the woman he’d fallen into love with, the woman he’d sworn to protect. His arms shook, tried to move but didn’t. He tried again, and a third time, teeth clenched until his arms finally dropped uselessly and a pained gasp escaped his throat. “I can’t, Gabby,” he managed through tears. “I can’t…there has to be some other way.” He hung his head.

“Toten,” Gabby said. She moved closer to him and put her arms on his shoulders, holding him. “It’s ok, Toten,” she assured him through his sobs. “I know,” she whispered. Her hands trailed down his arms, to rest on his strong hands. “I know you can’t make this decision, Toten,” she said to him, her words gentle. “But I can…” Gabby raised her hands swiftly and surely, Toten’s clutched between them, flipping the sword towards her and pulling it into her body with a small gasp.

Toten felt her and the blade become one as it entered her. “No!” he cried as he flung his empty hand around her and they sunk to the ground. “Gabby, no…don’t…” Words failed him as he looked her over, trying desperately to grasp on to something that would hold her with him forever. Tears streamed openly as Toten pleaded with the old gods, the new, with R’hllor, with anyone to do something to help him keep her close for a moment longer.

Gabby trembled slightly and a small trickle of blood leaked from the corner of her mouth. She managed a shaky smile as Toten hung over her. “It was you, Toten,” she breathed. “It was always you…” she coughed softly. “You woke the dragon in me. You were reborn from the river…” Her eyes turned, taking in everything around them one last time. “And all these men came here, for you…” She seemed to trail off but then her voice grew stronger again. “Take care of the children, Toten,” she said, eyes looking up into his. “They’re both going to need you.” She raised a shaky hand and put it on his face and Toten nuzzled into it. Her words came shaky, but there was a strength imbued in them as she spoke. “I love you…my king.” Toten looked longingly into her eyes, seeing all that they had been together, everything that made them one, the experiences they’d shared, loss they’d suffered, and love they’d created. “I love you…my queen,” he rasped out. Gabby smiled, and for a moment there was a clarity to her features, an expression that was pure Gabby, all confidence and dornish fire, knowing and loving all at once. Her hand slowly slid from its position on Toten’s cheek as Gabriella Lanncaster passed from the realm of men, to be a queen in the next life.

Toten held her to him as she died. A tormented cry of pure anguish started low in him and rose until it could be heard across the battlefield, the pain of so much loss summed up in that one rending sound. As silent sobs shook Toten’s shoulders, light spread across Gabby’s body. Toten watched as the light spread until her entire body was filled with it. The light grew brighter and brighter and suddenly Toten was clutching nothing but the hilt of his sword as Gabby’s body burst into a thousand streaks of light, each shooting off in different direction. One cluster shot straight up, into and through the clouds. The dark grey cover parted for the first time in months and all eyes looked up to see the evening sky above, stars twinkling dimly. A new star suddenly blazed into view, brighter than the others. It shined down, pure and eternal. It spoke to every person on the field, words that were heard with the soul. It spoke of love and guidance, and the path home. It was Gabby’s star, and it burned with a love of the people of the world, ready to guide them forever.

Toten looked from the sky down to Shatterstone still clutched in his hand. A dark red fire burned heavily down its length and it radiated a power that was so pure that it was nearly staggering in its potency. He could feel the power move through the sword and into his body, sensed rather than felt that same fire engulf him in its protection. Toten looked up and saw Lons in front of him, the same red fire blazing around him, and Toten could feel the energy coming off of him. A small red dragon perched on the former maester’s shoulder. Toten nodded at his friend and they both turned, facing the center of the battle, where the king and queen of winter were waiting. Simultaneously, they both began to walk forward. Men backed away from them, putting up their hands to block the immense heat and light pouring from them. The snow around them steamed and melted down to the ground. As they moved into the Other’s forces, wights recoiled and burned as they passed, boiling away. Others sank to their knees as their icy skin melted away from them. Still Toten and Lons continued forward, driven by determination and purpose, the power of Gabby’s sacrifice guiding them. Lons’ steps were strong, his cane lying on the ground behind them.

The two men stepped into the open space and faced the Other king and queen. Lons stepped away and towards the queen. Toten raised Shatterstone before him. As he did a whisper floated to him. It seemed to come from inside and outside of him all at once. It was Gabby’s voice, speaking words he had said to her long ago in a different life.

“As long as you hold this sword, no blade can touch you…”

Toten closed his eyes as he heard her words, drawing them into himself and when he opened them there was a fire deep inside them. They shined with a deep purpose and determination, an unrelenting focus that pierced into the Other king, and for the first time, fear sparked there. Toten raised Shatterstone and pointed it straight at the Other’s icy heart and with a strength and fire that came from Gabby, he growled out two words.

“Single combat.”

The king of winter raised his icy blade and moved towards Toten. Toten blocked the strike casually with his blade. The Other struck again and again, but Toten moved, easily weaving and twisting around each, as if the Other was slowed down. Toten raised Shatterstone and swung it with deadly ease at his foe. The glowing blade struck and the Other stumbled back, a massive rend in his armor. He threw himself at Toten again and again but Toten moved around his blows and returned with his own, each one perfect and true as he staggered the Other. The king of winter raised his blade high in a mighty two handed blow and yelled in his evil tongue. Toten dropped his shield to the ground and raised his hand. He caught the blade in his fist and it burst into a thousand different shards. Toten stared into the creature’s eyes and through sheer determination, cowed the being.

“You may be a king of winter,” Toten growled, advancing on the creature. “But I am a king of men. And men can endure. We will endure your evil, and we will never again fear you in these lands.” He kicked out at the Other and the creature fell to its knees. Toten looked down at him.

“I am King Toten Lanncaster,” he said, voice rising slightly with each word. “The first of my name, husband to dragons, called the Titan, lord of Rockfall, reclaimer of the Rock, slayer of Mountains, reborn of the river, and protector of the Realm.” He glared down at the Other, righteousness pouring from his words, the fire still burning around him. “And I sentence you to die.” Toten raised Shatterstone high above his head and swung it down, sweeping the Other’s head clean from his shoulders.

There was a pause, filled with a pregnant silence. Then a blast of energy burst from the dead Other. It slammed across the battlefield. Wights crumpled into the ground under it and Others were flung from their feet. Men stumbled in its wake. The blast subsided and the few remaining Others drifted off north of the wall, fading into the trees. The clouds above peeled back slowly and clear sky was seen at the Wall for the first time in centuries.

Toten breathed heavily, looking around at the aftermath, feeling a lightening of his heart, and one in his arm. He looked down at Shatterstone, the red glow gone from it. A small breeze rustled his cloak as it swept by and his sword began to dissolve down into dust from the tip down to the hilt, each mote being swirled away in the wind until all that remained was the rock that had been its pommel, fit snugly into Toten’s palm. Shatterstone had sung its last song and now it belonged to the ages until such a time when the world needed it again.

Around him men stood awestruck, some weeping openly, others sitting hard on the bare ground. Toten looked to his right and saw Lons standing in silence. Toten staggered towards the former maester. Lons took a tentative step towards Toten but clutched at his hip. Toten reached out and grabbed at Lons red robes. He looked into his friends eyes and began to sob heavily. Unable to stay on his feet, Toten sank to his knees. Lons held him as tears rolled down Toten’s face, soft words occasionally breaking through his sobs.

“She’s gone, Lons…she’s gone…”

Toten stood on one of the larger slabs of ice that had fallen from the Wall when it had broken, staring out through the great wound in the ancient structure. No one really knew how long the army had sat before the wall after the battle. Some said hours, others days, but eventually, life beckoned, and work began again. Toten had been inconsolable for several days, but even so, he had eventually emerged from his tent, clad in a black cloak for the memorial that was planned.

Toten spoke softly but all the thousands gathered had no trouble hearing him. “We remember all. Those whose sacrifice allowed us to be here. Every one of us has fought bravely and valiantly. Their story will be told.” Toten stared off into the haunted forest for a long while but there was no unrest from the crowd. “Our work will go on. We will live for those who cannot. We’ll lead good lives for them. And now their watch has ended.” Slowly, the crowd began to disperse, but Toten remained, longer than any other, staring out past the Wall, Gabby’s star twinkling above him.

The line of troops stretched out far to the south as the remaining men began the long journey home. Garlan and Jance had decided to remain at the Wall, expressing a desire to help rebuild the fallen watch and pay back what debt they thought they owed to the men who had died in battle. Toten had granted their request, respecting their decision even if it meant not seeing them often. Banners stretched off in the distance, flapping carelessly in the gentle breeze. All but one.

Toten turned away from the Wall and found what remained of the dornish host before him. They all stood at attention, spearmen in front, archers behind, and Toten could see one of the commanders in front holding tightly to Venom, a long red scarf tied just below its double tip. The commander stepped forward as Toten looked them over, a question in the king’s eyes. The commander nodded as he snapped again to attention. “By your leave, Your Grace, we would be the last to depart the field.”

Toten felt unexpected tears well lightly in his eyes. The dornish had been with him longer than anyone, since the beginning. They had stood with him when no one else had, when the only goal he had was to bring his wife home. They still stood with him, even when other lords had left for home, the dornish stood fast. Toten nodded and spoke. “You have my leave.” He looked over the men. “And you all have my gratitude. The words of Martell are more apt than any I think I’ve ever heard.” Toten drew himself up and placed a fist over his heart. “As you will.” The dornish commander returned to his men. They each raised their weapons in one last salute to Toten and then turned as the commander led them to the road, the Martell banners flying proudly at the rear of the column.

Toten watched for several moments as the army continued on its course away from the Wall. Toten took the reins to Thorn but did not climb into the saddle. He gave the horse a pat on the head, took one last look at the beginnings of a new Castle Black, and led Thorn down the road, back towards Rockfall, and home.

The road was long, but Toten walked every league of it. He ate with the men many nights, unable to bear being near the larger tents where the lords slept and ate. He spent his days walking next to Lons’ cart, or plodding along with Robrik as the sun shined warmly down on them, the trees already beginning to bloom again.

They said their farewells to what remained of the northmen before long, and Toten knew many more would depart once they reached the trident. One early morning the forces came upon a crossroads with a large statue in the center. He stared up at the faceless marble of Sorrel’s Cross, the tribute to Jeck’s son he had had constructed some years ago. He felt Lons move to stand next to him and together the two watched as men began to move past, each leaving something at the base of the statue. Coins, trinkets, clothes, bits of food, weapons. Each man down to the last left a part of themselves there at the crossroads, in tribute to all the warriors who had died in this war, and all other wars.

The procession lasted several hours as the thousands passed. Even the dothraki and unsullied left what little they had, until there was a small mountain of items surrounding the statue. Finally the only ones left were Toten and Lons. Toten looked over and saw Lons holding something loosely in his hand, his other tightly gripping his cane. Looking closer, Toten saw it was a small link of chain. He held out his hand. “May I, Lons?”

The former maester nodded and placed the small link in Toten’s hand. Toten waded carefully through the items piled around until he was at the base of the statue. He climbed up onto it. Toten unfastened his shadowcat cloak and swung it around the stone shoulders of the statue. He took the link that Lons had handed him and clasped the cloak together. Toten ran a hand over the cloak one last time, feeling its heavy pelt. He stepped down and walked back over to Lons.

The two looked on for awhile longer before a voice broke into their reverie. “’Ello, boy.” Toten spun as an old man approached him, weathered but warm face widening into a smile. “Hello, Jeck.” Jeck Jogs came closer, his eyes gazing up at the statue, nodding. “We heard about what went on up there at that big wall up there,” he started. Toten found himself without words as the man continued talking. “There are a lotta men who fight a lotta wars, Toten Greenfork. For a lotta reasons.” Jeck looked back at the statue. “And most o’ those reasons are wrong. But you…you fought your war for the right reason there, boy. You did good.”

Toten nodded and tried to speak, to express somehow the depth and vastness of everything that was inside him, but he found no words, and just looked into the eyes of the man who had nursed him back to health when there was no one else around. But Jeck didn’t need words to know. He understood. He stepped past Toten towards the statue. “You know,” Jeck said. “I heard about what happened with Sorrel. I know he was out here, fightin’ against you, Toten. I think he’d understand though. He’d’ve liked yeh, and that’s more than enough fer, me.” Jeck pulled a gold coin from his pocket and placed it lightly on the base of the statue. Toten realized it was the same coin he had given the old man in his house after he’d woken there with no memory of himself. Jeck turned. “Sorrel did his part. And so did you. So, me and Sledge thought we might do ours, head up to that big Wall and help build it back up. You highborn folk can’t build worth a damn anyway,” he laughed.

Then he was in Toten’s arms, and the two shared a deep embrace of love and respect. Eventually, Jeck pulled away, clapping Toten on the shoulder. “You…you take care, Toten Greenfork. You’re a good king…and a good man.”

“I may be a good man,” Toten said as Jeck backed away. “But you’re a great one. Goodbye, Jeck.”

Jeck lifted a hand in one final farewell and turned, heading north, Stonesledge following close behind.

Toten found himself plodding along next to Lons’cart, the sun warming their faces as they continued down the kingsroad. The two talked here and there, long but easy silences filling the gaps. The small red dragon perched on one of the cart posts, bathing its wings in the afternoon sun.

As the miles stretched on, the dragon hopped from the cart to Toten’s broad shoulders, flapping its wings idly and curling around Toten’s shoulders.

“You know Toten,” Lons said, swaying with the bouncing motion of the cart. “I haven’t named it yet.”

Toten eyed the reptile. “You know far more about dragons than I do Lons.”

“I had some ideas,” Lons said. “I was just hoping you might help me.”

Toten sighed. Dragons were beyond his knowledge. He had spent his years here in Westeros, fighting wars. He had names for fighting maneuvers and war tactics, but not dragons. But for Lons, Toten would do what he could. “What did you have in mind, Lons?”

Lons rattled off a name or two and Toten grimaced. “Well,” Lons said. “I did have one…but I’m not sure…” he trailed off. “What is it, Lons? Out with it.”

“Well…Gabrella…”

The dragon raised its head and let out a sharp cry. Toten felt unbidden tears leak from his eyes. He grinned despite himself and looked over at the young dragon, its sharp and fiery gaze reminding him of another’s.

Toten nodded. “Gabrella,” he tried the word. “I can agree to that.”

The dragon curled again on his shoulder and rested its head against him, a soft sound rumbling its body gently as they continued on the road.

Toten stood atop the Red Keep. He gazed out at the waters of Blackwater Bay, the gentle sounds of night in King’s Landing rolling over the gentle waves. Things were finally settling down in the capital city. Natan was prince and Danerys was queen regent until he came of age. Toten had declined Dany’s question of marriage on the road back. There was only one woman for Toten Lanncaster, and he was hers until his last day when they would be together again. He didn’t fault Dany for asking though. He knew that it had pained her greatly, but that she was only doing what she had to.

He had made his appearances when necessary. There were many when they had first returned, memorials, decrees, the naming of Dany as regent and new lords to fill castles. The need for Toten had faded as Dany secured her position. Toten was required less and less to settle disputes or placate the people. It gave Toten more time to spend with his children.

The hardest thing he’d done upon returning was to tell Natan and Elia that their mother was gone. Natan had seemed to understand, but Toten often heard him sniffling in the night when he passed his son’s room. Elia had reacted with all the fire that her mother had given her, confused and angry, and she had walled herself up in some ways. Toten used his time to try and raise them as best he could. There were times he didn’t have answers and wished Gabby were with him to help fill in those gaps that only a mother could. Still, he was amongst a wealth of friends and family that aided him when they could.

Toten looked up to the sky. Gabby’s star was burning brightly to the south and slightly west. It had been there for some time, and Toten knew that home beckoned and that he would depart soon, leaving King’s Landing to its new protectors.

Toten walked through the gates of Rockfall. His home was much as he had left it, strong old stones under a grey sky. Toten inhaled deeply and the familiar scent of mist, moss, and dirt met him. The only difference in his home was that there were fewer people in it. Many had come north with him, but many had also fallen along the way.

The men who had survived had returned some months ago while Toten had stayed to take care of things in King’s Landing. Smoke was rising from Earnum One-Thumb’s forge and Ma Morgan was in the market haggling over some spices. Toten led Thorn through the gates, Natan and Elia on the horse’s saddle. Lons’ cart rumbled along beside them and Ser Robrik brought up the rear of their small party. Toten put a hand on Robrik’s shoulder as the old knight drew level with him and they shared a sad smile.

Toten gazed out one of the windows in his hall, a familiar draft carrying a small night chill across the stones. He’d been there for some time; he couldn’t sleep. He was home, but there was an emptiness to the rock halls and rooms of the castle that he couldn’t seem to fill. They’d dined with Ma Morgan and what seemed to be the entire town that night and Toten had been happy but the hollow feeling had returned as everyone had gone back to their homes, leaving him feeling alone in the gloomy castle. Even Lons was leaving the next morning, heading to Ashford and his responsibilities there. Toten didn’t fault him for it, but it still felt like he was losing another friend, abandoned in the shadow of the rocky peaks where Rockfall had been built.

Clack…clack…clack…

Toten half turned as Lons approached across the darkened hall.

“I can’t sleep either,” the former maester said as he rested his arms on the window, one hand rubbing out the stiffness in his bad hip. “It’s strange, isn’t it? Back here like this, after all this time.”

Toten nodded. He knew exactly what Lons meant, knew that his friend was feeling that same emptiness that he was, that pain of loss and loneliness. “I remember all those years ago when my father came to me in my chambers, before that tournament at King’s Landing,” Toten mused. “He told me he wanted to send me so I could learn to play the game.”

“What game?” Lons asked quietly.

“The game of thrones,” Toten said, a distant look on his face. “All that we’ve been through since came from that one day… All that we’ve gained. And lost…” The two men looked out into the quiet night.

“Boys,” a gruff voice came from behind them. They both knew it was Robrik. “Trouble sleeping?” They nodded. Robrik stroked his beard thoughtfully for a moment.

“Have I ever told you boys the story of House Lanncaster?” Robrik asked. Toten and Lons shook their heads.

“It’s a story of right and wrong, of life and death. A song of rock and fire. And a story of courage…and honor. It started with a lord and his son, back from a terrible rebellion. And with a maester, fresh from the Citadel…” Robrik spoke as the two boys turned men listened for hours, deep into the night.

Toten stood at the gates of Rockfall, Ser Robrik at his side. The sky was just brightening to show the hints of a coming dawn. Lons cart rumbled away from them, the former maester and his companions heading west towards Ashford. Toten waved a final goodbye as Lons rounded a bend and went out of sight. He turned and looked back towards Rockfall. In the last bit of night before dawn washed it out, Gabby’s star burned brightly, directly over his head.

He was home.

View
Prolific

Maester Fynn entered the small circular room and walked down the steps to the indented center, passing many Acolytes and Novices on his way. Many looked up as he passed and quit their teasing and laughing of one another in their teacher’s presence.

Fynn stood looking around at the four dozen students with no expression on his face and waited. Several minutes, each more uncomfortable than the last, passed as the students shifted in their seats or looked around giving nervous glances to one another.

“This is, ‘A History of Westeros from 295 AL until Present’, I hope you are all in the right place, or else you just wasted a large amount of time shuffling uncomfortably in the wrong lecture hall.” Much of the class chuckled and for the rest of the lesson the class was at ease with their new tutor. “As you know,” he continued, “normally Archmaester Perestan would be teaching the class, but his age is catching up with him, and as I am to be named Archmaester of History in his place once he leaves this world, the Citadel has taken preemptive action to place me in charge of the history department this year. Perestan had a pre-set list of books he’s been using for the past twenty plus years for current history, most written by himself, but as this current history class has been renamed ‘A History of Westeros from 295 AL until Present’ and put under my control I’ve made some stark changes to the required reading. Anyone notice anything special about it?”

A few looked at the small notes that had been passed around the room before they had arrived and finally a young novice in the back raised a hand and, once called on, said, “Yes, Maester Fynn, they are all written by the same person.”

“Who?”

“The Hand of the King, Lord Lons Ashford,” the small boy answered meekly.

“Correct,” Fynn smiled, “can anyone tell me why I chose books all written by our Lord Hand over say, Archmaester Persestan’s own. . .impressive. . . collections?” Fynn gave them a few minutes before he was forced to give them the answer himself, “Because our Lord Hand lived this history first hand. He was a corner stone during much of it, and though he was a prime player in that history all those that lived it along side him agree his recountings of that history are as accurate and fair as humanly possible. Many in the Citadel have scoffed at Lord Ashford’s works due to the fact that he was once a member of our order and chose to disregard his vows. Now, while I can’t say I agree with our Lord Hand’s choices I will say he is a brilliant mind, chain or not, and his wisdom is worth sharing. I know many of the up and coming Maesters agree with me and you may see his writings presented in other classes, especially Economics and Dragon Lore.”

Maester Fynn turned to his small desk upon which sat an impressive collection of books, all required reading for the class, and grabbed one of the smaller ones. “Our first book on the list, Kingsaver. Can anyone enlighten us as to the subject of this biography?”

An acolyte near the front put a hand up, “It’s about Ser Jaime Lannister formerly of the Kingsguard.”

“Yes. Now, can anyone tell me what title Ser Jaime had before Kingsaver?” A bit of time passed before an acolyte in the back gave the correct answer, “Yes, Kingslayer. Many people forget about Ser Jaime’s sordid past, something you will also learn about in my class on the Kings of Westeros, but for this class you will get to learn an awful lot of the knight himself as well as House Lannister in general. I want this book read by the end of the year, and you will be quizzed periodically on it, but this selection is mostly for a bit of background and because I love irony in life. I’ll buy a drink after next class for the Acolyte that can tell me why Princess Elia Lannister’s ownership of Casterly Rock likely makes Lord Tywin Lannister spin in his grave.” The Maester smiled as he opened the book and read an excerpt.

My cousin in his life had murdered a King, harmed children, committed incest and treason, swore death on my dearest friend, and sown infamy wherever he stepped. That said, I can with no doubt say he was one of the most honorable and good men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Life gives us difficult choices to make, and no one more so than Jaime Lannister. As you learn of him keep your heart and mind open and judge him fairly. Hate him or love him as you will, but choose neither until you have known him as we all knew him.
-Kingsaver, written by Lord Lons Ashford

As Fynn set that book down he picked up another and asked once again what the book was about. “Yes, correct, it is a biography of our Queen Regent Daenerys Targaryen. Parts of it also serve as a biography of some of Lord Ashford’s life, but I still am awaiting his autobiography: Adventures in Essos, the Shadow, and Life: An Advisor’s Journey, though that will certainly not be ready in time for this class. However, this biography will need to be read by the end of the year, it also is for background knowledge and not the prime source of study for the course. Fynn opened to read a part of the book.

She was born in the middle of a storm and spent most of her life fleeing from torture and death. In her life she would know abuse, she would be a slave and then a Khalessi of the Dothraki, she would birth dragons back into the world and free whole peoples. She would taste betrayal and death, but also friendship and love. She would be a Queen and a savior, but before all she would be my dear friend. Her life started in earnest in Pentos, on the eve of her marriage to the fiercest Khal the Dothraki Sea had ever spawned.
-Stormborn, written by Lord Lons Ashford

Maester Fynn set Stormborn down and picked up the final stand alone biography he would make his class read. “I have spoken to our Lord Hand precious few times, but on the subject of his writings he told me this book was his hardest to finish. Great costs were paid by those that came before us during the Great War, but some forget many still alive today lived it and personally paid those costs. Lord Ashford is one of them. I am making you read this book because so few of the young in Westeros spend the time to give the the dead the respect and honor they deserve. You will not be quizzed specifically on this reading, but I will never put a copper link on a man’s chain that has not read this book.” He read from it.

She went by many names. Dayne. Targaryen. The Hidden Dragon. The Princess that was Promised. My Lady. My Queen. Your Grace. Countless more. To me though, and to so many that knew and loved her she will always be Gabriella Lanncaster. A wife. A mother. A friend. She was a special person. Rare. Hers was a fire that not even death could quench. The greatest honor of my life was to know and love her, and even after her passing I find I can feel her somewhere just out of sight and hearing, wearing that smile she always wore, and still calling me Maester Lons long after I set my chain aside. To look into the sky is to know her, and to be loved by her.
-Little Star, written by Lord Lons Ashford

Maester Fynn set the book down with a hint of tears in his eyes and picked up a large tome, one of seven, that would start his lessons for the year. “You can see there are other readings that are suggest but not required, Red Viper, Lady of Whispers, Patriarch, Now Our Watch is Ended, The Young Wolf, and several more. I can’t tell you enough how fascinating and great they all are, but we only have so much time, so enjoy them when you have the time. Our prime material for the year will be A Song of Rock and Fire, Lord Ashford’s magnum opus, and I expect the first book in the collection, A House of Honor, to be read in the next two weeks. I know that these seven books look large and daunting, but I assure you, their tale is a long one, but a good one.”

The rain came down softly over dark brooding Rockfall, and Toten could hear the familiar click clack of his father’s cane on the ancient castle’s weathered floors as Lord Natan approached his son’s chambers from down the hall. . .

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The Greatest Sacrifice (Part One)
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13

The massive Ice Wyvern landed amidst the din of the battle. No one on the field that day could have missed it. The King of Winter stepped off of his mount, standing leagues above the soldiers around him. His greatsword swung in an arc around him, killing five men with one blow. Beside him, Lady Winter landed nearby, a cloud of snow billowing from under her mount as she crashed down. Men were crushed by the mount, its’ icy claws tearing them to ribbons. Toten and Lons instantly moved to engage them. At the rate these two were cleaving through the ranks, they would break the army in no time. Toten and the Kingsguard pushed through the ranks, slashing their way through wights and countless other horrors. Lons banked Viseryion, coming around to face the two of them. The woman, if it could be called that, moved her hands about as ice and snow whipped around in a hellstorm of razor sharp ice. Viseryion growled in pain as the ice cut right through his scales, bloodying the beast. In the distance, Dany and Gabby banked away as well. ‘Gods…they can even damage dragons?!’ Lons thought, mouth agape in terror and hopelessness.

As he circled back trying to think of what to do, he watched as Toten pushed forward, getting right up to the King, Shatterstone singing with the frost and ice of the unnatural creatures that wanted nothing more than to shed the blood of every living thing. Toten let out a roar that rose above the battlefield, louder and more proud than any man could have mustered. His blade fell, time and time again. Blow after blow fell that would cleave even a mountain in two. Lons felt his heart sink as the beastly horror just stood there and took the savage beating. He was completely untouched as Toten stood before him panting. Ser Robrik and the rest of the kingsguard had to drag him off of the creature as it began to swing at the nearest soldiers, slicing scores of men like a child stomps an ant hill. Gabby, Dany and Lons landed behind the lines as the chaos ensued. “What do we do? He took that savage beating without even flinching!” Lons said. Toten, Gabby, Dany and Lons shared looks of utter despair and hopelessness. The red priests arrived behind them, Moqorro at their head. “We are all that is left…” he said.

“We need to do something. How can we stop something so impervious?” Lons asked, seemingly trying to figure out any kind of solution. Moqorro paused for a moment. “There… is one way. It requires much sacrifice, but there is a chance.” he said. “When I was studying years ago, I had read many of the ancient rituals. You know the story of Azhor Asai?” The group nodded. “Well, this ritual is supposed to bring him back into the world. However, it requires a great sacrifice.”

“What kind of sacrifice does it take?” Lons asked, fearful of the answer. Everyone had already sacrificed so much for this war. It seemed cruel to ask for anything more, but then again, the entire realm of man was at stake. “It requires two lovers…” he said, speaking low, as if he himself didn’t want to ask this of anyone, yet knew there was no other option. “To bring lightbringer into the world requires one of the lovers to sacrifice themselves, as the legend goes. The priests conducting the ritual must also give their lives for the cause.” he said. Lons looked at Toten and Gabby, who shared their own worried look. An uneasy desperation came over the group, as if they had already known what needed to happen.

“One man chants, and pours his energy into the man who will become reborn as Azhor. Then, he must plunge his sword into the heart of his lover, but the sacrifice must be completely voluntary, as all sacrifices must be. The motive must be pure for it to work.” Moqorro looked over at Gabby, whose eyes dropped for just a moment before they regained their steel determination and will.

“I will do it.” She spoke up, breaking the silence among them.

Toten looked at her, as if he did not believe what he was hearing. “Wh- Gabby, no!” he yelled.

Gabby put her hands on his shoulders. “Toten, this is the only way… all of humanity is at stake here.”

She looked past him, catching Moqorro’s eye. “Is that all? Then what happens?”

“Well, it’s said that the one who wields LightBringer will be imbued with a great power, beyond anything ever seen before. The blade will cut even the King, or so it is said. The chanter will be given the power of all of the priests that assist as well, though all of their sacrifices must be voluntary as well.”

The other priests nodded, solemnly, but knowing that they were giving their lives for a far greater cause than any of them could have ever expected. R’hallor would be pleased, Lons’ knew, and he saw that they were as purposeful and knowing as Moqorro was. They had come here ready to give their lives and to do so on this ghost of a chance was nothing unanticipated.

Toten tried to protest again, knowing he couldn’t let Gabby go through with it. “There has to be some other way!”

“Toten…” Lons spoke. “You saw what your attack did. You are a skilled swordsman, and that thing felt nothing.

Toten nodded, tears welling up in his eyes as he realized the true despair of the situation.

Moqorro and Lons slipped off nearby to go over the chants. It was a simple one, and he would have to repeat it several times. What the ritual mainly required was the great sacrifice that would pain them to their death beds if they didn’t fall during the battle.

“Okay… I think… I think I’m ready.” Lons said.

The priests arranged themselves in a circle, with Toten and Gabby in the middle. Gabby approached Lons, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Lons…” Gabby said, a smile across her face. “Gabby… I-” he stammered, trying to search for words. What words could you give someone who was willingly laying down their life for such a cause? Luckily, Gabby spoke for him. “Take care of Toten for me.” she said, giving him a final embrace of years of friendship, mistrust and everything in between. A relationship that had truly been tested by everything the winds of fate decided to throw at them. “I’ll do my best, Gabby.” Lons replied, tears falling to the snow. Gabby smiled. “I know you will, Lons.”

Gabby went to Toten, holding him in an embrace that seemed like it lasted hours. In truth, the battle had raged on for only several minutes. Everyone wished they had more time. All wished for another answer, and yet there was nothing but loss to come.

“Toten, take care of our children for me.” Gabby said, tears of her own falling as she knew she was only minutes from leaving this world. “You are always and forever my King.” she said, kissing him as she said a final goodbye.

“And you were always my Queen.” Toten replied, the grizzled warrior broken by what he was about to have to do. “I will…” There were so many words unsaid, and yet what words could encapsulate what was about to happen? Silent knowledge of each other was all there truly was. Each person knew what the other was thinking and did their best to express a lifetime of love, companionship and friendship in mere seconds.

They stepped away from each other, knowing the ritual had to happen soon.

Lons began chanting as the priests sat cross-legged around him. The chant rose in volume, echoing louder than any man could utter it. Lons felt the words burning in his mouth as he chanted. Across from him, Moqorro exploded into flames. Lons wanted to stop, to help the man, but held himself back with the knowledge that this was a choice that they had made. A conscious sacrifice for the good of all men.

He looked up at Gabby as more of the priests burned with a deep crimson flame, their bodies disappearing into the writhing fire.

So much love and beauty was being given to the world, and they asked nothing in return.

Lons knew, at this moment, that he was surrounded by nothing but the finest of men and women that Westeros could muster. That the whole world could muster.

The last priest was wreathed in flame, motionless as the flames consumed him. R’hallor answered this final prayer.

Toten slowly drew Shatterstone, the blade glowing a deep red as Lons felt the power surging through him. The fires of each of the priests welled in him, as he transferred it to Toten’s blade, imbuing both the blade and himself with untold power. ‘Now.’ Lons thought, knowing what needed to happen next.

Gabby nodded to Toten, as he raised the blade.

No hands came up in hasty defense. No look of terror or fear.

Just the eyes of a dragon, human only in body, looked back at Toten. That same determination staring at him.

Toten’s arms shook as he held the blade up, quivering at the mere thought of hurting the love of his life.

“I-I can’t.” he muttered, sobbing as the fighter lowered the blade slightly.

As he looked back up, Gabby had grabbed the blade, guiding it into her own chest. She gasped slightly as the blade pierced her, wounding her heart as if nothing had been there. “It….was always you. My King.” she whispered.

“Gabby…” Toten stammered, grasping her hand and taking her in his arms as she slowly slumped. “And you, my My Queen.” he replied, sobbing as he watched her slowly begin to fade from the world.

“I love you.” Gabby stammered.

Toten stood a broken man in that moment. One of the last things he loved was being taken from him. He’d given so much for this war, and for the realm, that it was inconceivable that this would be wrested from his hands.

“I love you too…” he replied as Gabby’s body began to turn translucent, particles of light beginning to lift off from it. The battle around came to a complete halt. Men looked on purely awe struck. Wights and Others alike cowered back as the flames burned them from hundreds of feet away.

The dazzling lights drifted between the Kingsguard, slowly rising into the sky. All watched as they floated off into the night. In the distant night sky, a star brighter than any other came into being. It would come to be known as Gabby’s Star. The patron star of all sailors and travellers’, lost on seas or roads within or without. Rumor had it that it would lead you to wherever you were needed. A guiding star for all. In Lons’ pack, a loud cracking was heard and he looked to see not a new enemy, but a baby dragon, crawling from the harness on Viseryion. The creature immediately flew to Lons, bathing itself in the deep red fire that coated Lons body. The creature nuzzled him.

Toten was down on one knee, broken by the loss of his love, he sobbed for a moment. The King of Winter seemed to laugh in the distance, thinking the men had broken yet again.,

The sobbing turned into a low growl as he pushed himself to his feet and eyed the massive other with his own steel gaze that could crush a mountain.

Anger took hold as he looked upon the face of the one final enemy he must defeat.

He raised his blade, feeling the presence of the late Gabriella Targaryen.

Gabriella’s sacrifice would not be in vain. He would avenge it with every ounce of his being.

He looked across the field at the Winter King, glaring at him with a fire that was not entirely his own. He knew who it was. Everyone knew who that fire belonged to.

For the first time, the great Other knew fear as it quaked under Toten’s gaze.

“Single combat!” he bellowed as he charged across the field to meet this great foe that had taken so much.

‘This debt must be repaid’ he told himself. ‘For Gabby. For Jaime.’

‘For every man.’

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Lanncaster Log 16

The army pulsed around Toten, moving down the hill towards the Wall. Toten sat on Thorn on the hill, watching his forces move. He heard the creak of Lons’ cart wheel stop next to him. Ahead of them the massive structure of the Wall stood, stretching to either side farther than the eye could see, but ahead, where Castle Black had once stood, a gaping wound broke open the Wall, screaming pain into the air. The ice had crumbled but its pain still resonated, a subconscious pang that was felt by all.

Toten looked over and saw Lons next to him, taking in the same sight.

“Lons.”

“Toten.”

There was no other time, Toten knew. This would be where their fate, and all fates would be decided. This would be farewell in some final way.

“Lons,” Toten began tentatively. “I…I wanted to say…You know there’s…” he trailed off.

“I know, Toten,” Lons replied. The king nodded and they gazed forward another moment.

“Toten, I…I…”

“I know, Lons.”

The two men shared a look and in it was a lifetime of memories, a lifetime of respect, of pain, of loss, of love.

A lifetime of friendship.

Together they watched for several moments more before, wordlessly, the two friends parted, each marching forward to face whatever destiny had in store for them.

The dragons soared in the sky. The forces of men had arranged themselves according to Toten’s commands, all sixty thousand. Ahead of them in front of the gaping wall, eighty thousand wights, monsters, and others formed a line. He looked back at his own forces and saw fear and uncertainty. This was where many of them would meet their end. Friends and family, houses great and small all looked towards him. They needed their leader. They needed their king.

Toten loosed Shatterstone from its scabbard and held it high. “NOW!” he bellowed, and his voice seemed amplified by purpose and fate, carrying loudly over the gathered forces. “Now we ride! Here! This is our time! You have all marched together, from all corners of westeros, from all corners of the world, to fight back this evil! We will give them such a battle that your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren will sing of it! Today we are one house, one realm against the force of darkness. We will show them the strength of WESTEROS!” The men cheered as Toten rode by them, tilting spears and swords forward. Toten eyed them defiantly, willing them strength. “We will show them that we will GROW STRONG!” The men of the reach bellowed a roar of pride. “They will HEAR US ROAR!” Westerland men across the fields roared a challenge towards the Wall. “We will show them that it is THEIR WINTER THAT IS COMING!” The staunch men of the north let out with deep horn calls and guttural cheers as the direwolves howled. “We will show them that we are HIGHER THAN HONOR!” The heavily armored knights of the Vale banged shields and yelled. “We will show them that we are UNBENT! UNBOWED! AND UNBROKEN!” The dornishmen let out a bellow of fury and pride, and many of the other houses followed suit, throwing support with the king’s longest supporters. “With dragons we will give them FIRE AND BLOOD!” The unsullied troops clashed their spears, the sound echoing off the Wall and mingling with the yells of the men. “And when the battle is done, it is them who will be CAST OUT, AND CAST DOWN!” The sixty thousand men all yelled in unison, their weapons shaking with loyalty to their king, ready to battle to the end, unified, here at the end.

“WESTEROS!!!” Toten bellowed. The men took up the chant, the sound near deafening. Toten and his kingsguard raised their swords as Lons swooped low overhead, the blades igniting in one swift burst of flame. Throughout the men, weapons flared with fire as the red priests set to work. Toten turned to look at his closest friends and family, gathered close to him. His eyes passed each of theirs and despite everything, a small smile found its way to his face. Quietly, so only they could hear, he said: “To battle.” And with that he turned and led the charge spurring Thorn into action as the endless cries of “Westeros” and the beating of sixty thousand feet chased after him, but Toten would not be overtaken as he charged towards the line of wights, sword glittering and held high, into the final battle of his war.

Toten’s blade flashed. Always more enemies, more orders, more fighting. His group moved up and down the line, reinforcing where it was needed, barking our orders for the catapults to fire or for the infantry to advance. Above dragons roared and fire ignited the sky.

The battle raged on. On the western flank Toten saw the banners of house Stark beset amidst a pack of wights while on the eastern flank he could see the brighter colors of Tyrell and Wyl trying to hold back a relentless charge. The fighter in Toten knew that he could reinforce the groups. The commander in him knew that whichever one he chose, the others would most likely perish. His heart sank as he surveyed the field. The west flank was crawling with wights but the eastern flank was still being reinforced by hordes of mammoths and chariots. The men of the north are hard. They will do their best to stand. Toten called the order to reinforce the eastern flank. They charged and fought. Toten looked back to the west and saw the last of the direwolf banners fall, a distant mournful howl echoing across the field to him.

The battle wore on and still men fought with a reserve of power and soul that drove them forward. In the midst, Toten still sat high in his saddle, Shatterstone calling the names of its victims as it swung through the air. A cry from the dornish went up as they surged forward into the rush of Others that had joined the fray behind their footsoldiers. In front was the banner of the Red Viper, the orange standing out against the white of the snow. Across the field, the group of dragons led by Willem Rains ducked in and out of battle, cutting a swath through the wights, but their fights led them into the path of more of the Others, their position tenuous on the line. Again Toten knew a decision was to be made. One that would cost more lives. “Your Grace!” one of his banner bearers cried, searching for orders to relay to the field. “The dornish will not break,” Toten said, shouting orders to reform around the dragons lest their light armor open a hole in the line. “The dornish will not break.”
Amidst the dornish banners, Oberyn Martell lashed out at the front of the line. Venom was in his hands and its forked tongue bit again and again into the Others that charged at them. The Red Viper swung and speared, his viciousness matched by the other southern men around him. An icy spear found its way into his shoulder but the Red Viper did not fall from it. Nor did he fall from the second. Nor the third. A yell erupted from the Viper, but it wasn’t one of pain, it was one of defiance and fury. Still he remained on his feet, rage coursing through his body as he drove Venom into one of his assailants, knocking it down even as a fourth spear found its way into his body. Venom fell from his hands into the blood soaked snow as, still on his feet, the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell died, his body pierced but his spirit unbowed, unbent, and unbroken.

Toten removed his helm as the last of the others were slain and allowed himself a deep breath. It felt like his first one in a year. Around him, men began to cheer with victory, an echoing sound that filled the air. Toten did not share their enthusiasm. Too many. Too many dead. Too many friends. Northern men from Eastwatch rode up towards him. “Your Grace,” the captain said. “We wish to report to Lord Stark.” Anguish filled Toten as he thought of the ramifications of his choice. Robb Stark was dead, and with him, the last man in that line had also gone, and it would leave the north in a ruin. But his choice had been made, as unpleasant as it was, and Toten would stand by his decision, as his father had taught him.

The northern men moved off to join the rest of the cavalry as men began to move amongst each other, searching for friends or leaders who were no longer there. A horn blew loud and piercing in the distance, filling all ears with the deep sound of cold and fear. Toten watched in horror as more of the Wall crumbled under the terrible sound, the blue-white of the tower beyond pulsing as tens of thousands of more wights rose from the deep snows and formed to march forward. Toten took one look around at the forces left to him and knew that there was little chance. In the distance a large icy dragon flew down from the tower, a massive Other on its back. Even so far off, Toten knew it was looking at him.

Toten leaped back into Thorn’s saddle. “Ser Robrik!” he called loudly, voice carrying over the men.

“Reform the line!”

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Dragons and Pawns
"Death must never be in vain."

Lons soared above the battlefield, the icy wind tearing at his body and mind. Even with R’hallor’s presence within him, he still felt chilled. Viseryion roared mightily as he doubled back, trying to burn the living ice that set upon them like demonic dragons. Lons ducked to the right as Viseryion let loose a massive jet of flame, scorching one their pursuers. Flames shot from Lons’ hands as well as he dealt his own damage. The dragon dropped from the sky, dissipating into mist as it fell through the low clouds. One last dragon remained and Viseryion turned on it, the beast wanting revenge as much as any man on the battlefield. Lons climbed into the clouds, Viseryions wings carrying them quickly as the icy vapor enveloped them. As predicted, the wyvern followed, trying to attack Lons from below. Viseryion dropped out of the clouds, wings folded in to gain speed. His claws raked into the icy flesh of the wyvern. It was a boon to Lons to watch it fall from the sky, shrieking all the while before it hit the ground with a distant thud. As Lons dipped down he surveyed the battlefield, trying to see where he could help the ground fighters. In the distance, he could see Rockfall banners clashing with the Others. The monstrosities seemed poised to quickly overrun the small force. On the other side of the battlefield, the Night’s Watch tangled with their own assault of wights. The shambling hordes outnumbered them by an obscene amount. Lons had expected many things of his return home, but holding lives in his hands had not been one of the choices he ever wanted to see.

In a distant memory, Lons and Selmy sat in a courtyard after lunch one day, playing a game of Savass. The old knight moved one of his lesser pieces across the board, blocking the movement of his dragon. It would buy the old man some time, Lons noted. In reality, it was a good move, despite him losing a piece. He would be able to get his more important pieces out of danger with the sacrifice of only one unit. “That’s quite the move, Selmy…” Lons said, rubbing his chin in thought. Barristan laughed. “Yes, but the important thing to remember… when your on the field and the din of war is all around, these pieces aren’t just bits of wood and paint. They’re people. Faces, names, people you’ve probably lived with, broke fast with. Even friends. And you may have to make those decisions some day. His tone was serious, as if he wanted to really impart this lesson. Lons nodded. “Hopefully I’ll never be in that position.” He moved his dragon in, taking the pawn. He looked at the piece thoughtfully, thinking of friends from home, friends he’d lost on the road with Danerys. Selmy moved his piece. “Your move, my friend.”

Lons circled for a moment, knowing that a decision was needed. He could either save the Night’s Watch or the Rockfall Men. He glanced left, seeing Ghost and Jon Snow among the fray, slashing left and right, Ghost tearing into the direwolves that rushed them. On the right, Jance Morgan railed against the Others among the Stormlands men. He dove towards the Rockfall banners, hoping the Night’s Watch would hold.

In his heart, he knew they wouldn’t hold. Viseryion dove on the Others that slammed into Jance and his forces.

“Viseryion, burn them. Burn them now!” he screamed, his voice barely audible amongst the clash of steel and the roar of battle below. The Rockfall men surged forward, pushing the lines back and rallying against the assault. Lons had saved their lines. He could hear the men cry a collective roar of gratefulness and violence as they pushed forward. As Lons circled back, hoping he could make it to the Night’s Watch in time, he flew overhead just as Ghost was rended to ribbons by the wight direwolves. Jon Snow went down as well, sword swinging all the while, until the sword arm, and Jon himself were cleaved in two. Below him, the last of the Night’s Watch died. He cursed loudly, knowing that the decision was made and there was more work to do. Now was not the time for grief.

They served their realm without question, and Lons was not going to waste that. He set in to help Gabby tangle with her own group of wyverns.

Selmy’s voice rang in his head again.

“Whatever choice you make, that’s the choice you’re dealt. It’s what you have to stick with. There’s nothing to be done to change it. That’s just war, boy.” Lons could see the old man, hear the fatherly tone in his voice. He was as wise a sage as he was a knight. “My own decisions haunt me, in the dark of night. But in the end, that’s what a commander does. People die in war. But, they also know this is a possibility when they head out to fight. Don’t let their sacrifices be in vain. If you honor them in that way, you’re as good a battle commander as any.”

Lons nodded against the wind, the icy gales buffeting Viseryion and him. Viseryion flew on, unmoving. Lons tapped the back of Viseryions head, commanding him down. The great beast responded, diving in on the mass of dragons circling Gabby.

“A sacrifice is a loss of life so that another may prosper. A willing gift of life that allows the many to prosper at the loss of a few. The trick, my dear warrior, is to repay that gift ten-fold.”

The line came from some long forgotten tome he’d read years ago.

Even in death, the Night’s Watch would protect Westeros, buying those few critical moments for the line to reform and eventually beat back the horrors of the north. Lons would have to write their stories too, someday. This was a true new age of legends, and he had watched several fall just moments ago.

He dove back into the fray, energy poured into fireballs while Viseryion wreathed the night in flames, incinerating one of the pursuing ice dragons. He would pay it back. That much he was certain of.

Another dragon fell, this time shredded by Rhaegal’s claws .

He would pay it back in every ounce of energy he poured into his magic, every drop of misty blood spilled from the devilish creatures that threatened his home.

The debt would repaid.

Those lost would not be in vain.

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Lanncaster Log 15

Toten stepped heavily through the flap of the large meeting tent, the dark and cold of the late winter night whispering in after him, made so much darker and colder by the loss he had just sustained.

Toten had expected the tent to be empty but Ser Robrik stood before a brazier, its flames low and dim, the set of Robrik’s shoulders heavy.

“Robrik…” Toten’s voice was laden with pain. Robrik turned, facing the king and seeing a face that was furrowed in sorrow. Tears old and new stained the younger man’s face.

Toten’s eyes didn’t focus on Robrik but roamed over the inside of the tent as if searching for something that wasn’t there.

“He…he saved me, Robrik.”

“He did his duty to you, boy,” Robrik said heavily. Toten looked into the old knight’s eyes. “It could have been me, Robrik. He died instead of me…”

Fresh tears leaked from Toten’s eyes and he rubbed at his beard. “First it was Loras, Robrik,” Toten stammered out, voice soft. “Now Jaime…how many men have I killed?”

Toten’s thoughts turned backwards. He saw men being run through with swords or pierced with arrows. He saw the cavalry from Rockfall crumble under the walls of Highgarden, men he had known most of his life. He saw Tygor, calling out to him with that easy dornish smile that then turned to horror as a sword emerged from his chest. He saw Eddard, his father’s friend, a sword twisting in his heart as he watched his wife’s throat cut.

He saw Loras, pierced by many arrows, dead on his feet, pushing Toten out the window of the Twins, dozens more shafts poking through his body. He saw Mace Tyrell’s body lying motionless, dried blood staining his doublet. He saw Phinlan and Samson, white, unnatural bodies shuffling forward through the snow.

He saw the flash of Jaime’s golden hand as it flew over him protectively as they tumbled from their horses. He saw the stark white weirwood shaft emerging from his chest. Saw the light fade from his green eyes.

Robrik’s face emerged from the others, its sternness breaking through the ghostly images of the past. “You didn’t kill anyone, boy. Those men, they died for what they believed in. For what we all believe in. We all make choices in our lives, Toten. Those men chose to give their lives for you. They chose to risk their lives for a man that they loved.” His eyes cut into Toten’s solemnity. “They’ve given you the chance, Toten,” Robrik said, his hand falling heavily on Toten’s shoulder. “Now it’s up to you to choose what to do with it.”

Toten embraced the man tightly, clinging to his wisdom as if it were a raft in a storm. They stayed that way for some time, Toten letting the pain and anger flow freely from him, Robrik accepting it, an act of protection all its own. Eventually Toten stepped back, hurriedly wiping a hand over his face roughly.

“I’ll choose, Robrik,” the king said, meeting the old knights eyes. “I’ll choose to make it count.”

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Lanncaster Log 14

Toten stood before the raging flames, his cloak wrapped and flapping around him in the backdraft from the flames rising up from Ser Jaime Lannister’s funeral pyre. There was no noise but the roar of the flames, though Toten could feel the thousands behind him, watching intently, as if in waiting. Snow, white and heavy as the white cloak amongst the flames fell thickly around him.

Toten had stood at the head of the table in the long hall of a small town with a forgotten name deep in the north some days back. He had looked over the gathered lords, knights, and generals under his command.

“You, Grey Worm,” he’d said. The unsullied warrior had snapped to attention. “How many wars have the unsullied won?” The bronze skinned warrior paused for a moment before answering. “Unsullied have won many wars.” Toten had nodded, mouth set in a hard line. “They even beat the dothraki, didn’t they?” Grey Worm voiced his assent. “Fifty thousand rode against the three thousand unsullied. They threw their blades at our feet.”

Toten’s voice was hard. “And how did they win?” Grey Worm glanced around the room. “With discipline, and training.”

The fires of the pyre crackled higher and within them Toten could still the gleam of Jaime’s golden hand resting on his motionless body, swaddled in the white cloak he had earned back.

“Lons,” Toten called across the long hall. The former maester rose to his feet. “How many battles has lady Danerys won?” Lons’ eyes met Toten’s. “Many. And she has won all of them.” Toten nodded harshly. “How did she win?” Lons’ eyes burned with a distant light. “With persistence and swiftness. And dragons.”

“Red Viper,” Toten said coarsely, facing the man next to him at the table. “Your Grace,” came the terse reply. “How many battles have we won?” Oberyn Martell’s shoulders slumped in a sort of defeat mixed with relief and a small chuckle. “All of them,” he said back. “That’s what I thought,” Toten said. “How?” The Red Viper lowered his head somewhat. “With loyalty. Fierceness. And because we had you.”

The gold of Jaime’s hand began to run as the heat took its toll. The fire burned with an intense heat, so much that the gathered masses stepped back a few feet. All but Toten who stood rigidly near the flames, resolute in his vigil for the fallen knight.

“Ser Jaime,” Toten had called in the hall, his voice growing louder. “Yes, Your Grace,” the knight had replied. “How many battles did your father win?” “A great many, Your Grace,” Jaime said, a wry smile on his face. “How?” “With cunning and tactics, Your Grace,” he’d said, the smile spreading wider on his face.

“Lord Stark,” Toten called, turning his heavy tones on the young man. “You won back your home, did you not?” Robb Stark voiced his assent humbly. “And we did it with strength. And honor.”

“Ser Robrik!” Toten’s voice boomed. “How many battle did you win in the rebellion?” “A great many, Your Grace,” Robrik called back, his large voice filling the hall. “And we did it by not breaking. By staying true to our calling.”

Toten had turned his voice to address the full room. “And what happened on the field of fire, when all of westeros rode against the three dragons of Aegon the Conqueror? And we have three dragons with us now, don’t we?” The lords and knights had risen to their feet, slamming their tankards in fierce agreement. “We have dragons, unsullied, and dothraki!” Toten bellowed. “And we have all the men of westeros! What force could stand before us? Together we will make a battle like none have seen! And together, we will come home!”

He had waited for calm before turning again to Oberyn. “How many battles are we going to win, Oberyn?” The dornishman, who had remained sitting before rose, and clasped a hand on Toten’s shoulder with a grin. “All of them.”

The logs of the funeral pyre collapsed, snapping and popping in the heat, bringing a finality to the ceremony as Toten turned, snow crunching under his boots.

A mass of faces stood before him. Many he knew as close friends. Many more he didn’t, nameless faces that had sworn themselves to him and his service. So many bodies that had followed him into the near promise of death, for no reason other than he had asked. So many souls that needed guidance from their king.

“We will not forget these men,” Toten called out over the last rush of flames. “They were here for the same reasons that you are. Because they believed in something greater than themselves. Because they trusted.” Toten glanced back at the flames. “Because they were good men. Good men. They will not be the last. But we will make sure their sacrifice counts, that we will give them the world that they sought and fought for.” He drew his sword. “Because we are good men! And good men do not fight for themselves, they fight for their friends, their family. For other good men! They fight for their realm!” He shouted the last, raising Shatterstone high, the last of the flames glittering off its dark steel. The gathered men shared his challenge, roaring a chant to the sky.

Toten remained silent, letting them yell. For the first time he was grateful for the heavy snow and wind.

It masked the tears that rolled softly into his beard.

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