“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.