"It was a long time ago, when the First Men made their home and called their land Westeros. The people were free and unruly, untamed and wild leading to chaos. They needed someone to lead and discipline them and the first Kings of Westeros came into existence. They led their people in harmony but as time went on, corruption planted its ugly roots and the Land was divided among the rich, leaving the poor to starve. A long time passed and in came a mythical creature, brought true from stories. These creatures bore with them their Riders, big and strong. The Dragons breathed fire on the rich and corrupt and forged an Iron Throne, made by the swords of the fallen under the reign of their Riders.
While Westeros bowed down to its new rule of Dragons, the North didn't succumb. Cold and barren, the land had been ruled by the descendants of the First Men, the Direwolves. The Dragon King knew better than to ruffle a Direwolf but its pride and greed clouded all judgements. So the Dragons marched towards the North, creatures of heat bearing the icy cold. The battle was fought for weeks until the Direwolf lost his love to the battle. While he lay in the cold straddling her body, he cursed the blood of the Dragons. The war ended with the defeat of the mighty Dragons and they returned home.
Time passed and the curse took its hold on the Dragon family. To save their bloodline, they married within family and there came a time when the last Dragon King felt the weight of the curse. He had heard of a Witch who prayed in a Temple to the Gods beyond the seas and he set out on his journey. He found her at the Shrine and begged her to save him; he could feel the madness in his blood spread to his heart. The witch told him that he was beyond saving as there was no cure to his madness. But the King begged her, asking her to stop the same Fate from spreading to his children. But there was none, because his blood had been turned into poison, a poison which infested his whole family. And it was then, that the Witch told the King of a Prophecy, as old as the curse on his Family.
""There would come a time when the blood of Dragons will darken, cursed by the Cold who has not forgotten. The fire in their blood can only be saved by Ice; sculpted in the hands of a Wolf and a Stag.
Beautiful shall be the Wolf, proud and strong; loved by many and coveted by all, but her heart shall be won by the Stag, leaving the Dragon to covet her back.
But his efforts shall be in vain; she shall bear a child of the Stag. Her cold body will be the subject of a great war, causing the Dragons to flee far.
Her child shall be Ice in all his forms, cold and harsh with no warmth. His blood shall contain a Magic due to sacrifice of both his Mothers, his Light shall vanquish the Dead, his Magic will be the reason your Blood shall stay.
His destiny shall lead him to be a King, with a Dragon bearing his kin. His claim, and only his, on the Throne will rear the three Heads of the Dragon;
Blue shall be the rose which will blossom in the Ice, cured shall be the Blood which was poisoned, united shall be the Land which had been scavenged.""
The King did not believe in Magic, especially one which would not be carried by a Dragon. He took no heed of the Witch's words and left thinking that his curse has no cure. His madness spread like wildfire among his people, giving rise to a rebellion which led to his death. And Alas! The Last Dragon Kind died at the hands of a Lion, free from the madness which lay at his heart."
"And what of the prophecy, M'Lord? Was the child born?"
Aegon looked at the girl in his bed; sheets loosely sprawled across her body and gave a low chuckle.
"It's a story, you fool. Stories told to children to hush them to sleep. Now, dawn is upon us. Take the money for your services and leave me, I am sure you know the exit."
Aegon climbed out of his sheets and donned a robe and threw a bag of coins on the bed. He watched as the girl, slightly enchanted by him, took the money and left. As she walked out of the door, Arya walked in disguised in her servant attire carrying a plate of fruits, closing the door behind her.
"I thought that you were taking a sabbatical?"
"I am a man, Arya. Try not to sound too jealous."
Aegon sat himself at the edge of the bed amused at the look of disgust on Arya's face as she made a gagging sound.
"Have you taken whatever is necessary? We leave in another day for Westeros, there will be no delays permitted this time."
"Aegon, I still don't understand why do I have to be your 'pretend' wife? The maid disguise suits me better."
"Arya, we do not have to go over this again. After I become the Lord of Dragonstone, which I will, Cersei Lannister will squirm for my allegiance. In order to do that, she would make it her business to flatter the ones closest to me, which includes my wife. That will be a perfect opportunity for you to complete your revenge. Your hair has grown long, your body resembles that of a woman and if dressed, you shall be fit as my wife."
"And Cersei shall believe of your marriage with a woman of low class?"
"When it's love, it's love."
Aegon winked at Arya to receive another gagging reaction which had him laughing. He walked up to Arya and placed his hand on her waist causing her to jump and dig her knuckles on his fingers.
"Calm down, my Cat. If we are going to be married now; I can put a hand around my wife's waist, can't I?"
Aegon squirmed in pain as Arya dug in her knuckles causing him to release his hold on her. That's when he knew; even a fake marriage with Arya Stark was a death wish.
Sansa blinked more times than necessary to get adjusted to the pale light piercing through the curtains. She focussed her vision on the drapes which were a beautiful peach, the exact shade present in her room in Winterfell. Sansa's head spun as she tried to remember her tiring journey to her home and before she knew it, she was blinking back tears. A blurry face looked at her, concerned and asking her questions she could not register. After the ringing in her ears stopped, Jon's face became clearer, a look of worry etched across his face. Sansa sat upright, pushing aside her throbbing headache and looked at her brother in confusion.
"Sana, can you hear me? Are you okay?"
"Jon, you are real? That wasn't a dream?"
"Sansa, I am here and I am real."
Sansa extended a shaky hand to Jon's face and felt his rough beard beneath it. He was real and that mere fact made her cry even harder as she was engulfed in an embrace by her brother.
"It's okay, Sansa. Everything bad is behind you now."
'Everything bad was behind her now.' Her nightmares were over, her troubles were over. She was free from Joffery, from Petyr and from everyone who had hurt her. After running for so long, she finally felt free. And that's when Sansa felt anger towards Jon. She released herself and bit back angry tears.
"What's wrong, Sansa?"
"You left us; abandoned us. Robb, our Mother, Bran and little Rickon; they needed you. Our father was beheaded, our mother's throat slit open, not to mention what they did to Bran and Rickon, but stayed at the Wall. Like a coward."
"I was bounded by an oath!"
"An oath? The one you broke so easily after you met her? Only she resides in your heart; what about us, Jon?"
Sansa saw anger flare in Jon's eyes, raw and untamed. He clenched his fist in the sheets and tried his hardest to not raise his voice.
"You are right, I was a coward but now,I know what mistakes I have done. My blood boils each time I think about the injustice brought upon our family but Daenerys had no part in my decision to leave the Wall. It was for my family, it was for Arya and for you. I would never forget their deaths; it is a cross I will bear till I live. I would never give you up again, never let you out of my sight."
"It is true, Sansa."
Sansa looked up to find her sister-in-law Daenerys making her way to her bed. Sansa had failed to notice how beautiful she was. She sat down beside Jon on her bed, the silver of her hair weaving a beautiful melody with Jon's coal ones.
"Your brother left the Wall to seek justice for your Brothers and Mother; and to find his sisters. I merely helped him on the path that he was destined to take. There isn't a day which goes by when Jon doesn't worry about Arya and you, doesn't blame himself for losing you. Let go of the past Sansa, it has hurt all of us."
Sansa looked at Jon and knew what Daenerys said was true. Sansa might have ignored him the better part of her life but she knew that his love for them ran deep.
"I am sorry, Jon. It's been long since I have been in the company of people I can trust, ones who won't deceive me that I have forgotten to trust completely. I haven't been a good sister to you; I hope you will forgive me for that too."
"I won't hear any apologies, especially from you. Come tomorrow, you shall die your hair to your Tully features. I need my beautiful Sansa back. Rest for a few days and then we shall discuss on matters which are important. "
"Thank you, Jon. Thank you, my brother."
Jon squeezed her hands slightly and Sansa saw her brother leave along with Daenerys. She would not have to worry about tomorrow because she was safe, she was home.
"I sent you away so that you could lead a new life, not run back to the one you abandoned, Boy."
Gendry looked at the man addressing him and tried to place his features. His stature looked familiar but when Gendry laid his eyes on the missing fingers, he observed the man more carefully in the dim lighting of the tavern with concentrated eyes.
"Stop it, Boy. You are making me blush now. Gendry, that's your name, isn't it?"
Gendry hushed Ser Davos by placing a hand on his mouth which was followed by a death stare by the old man.
"I go by HotPie now."
"HotPie? Ridiculous. Well fleeing from death row warrants such a necessity. So boy, what brings you to Winterfell?"
Gendry recalled his entire story to the old man, of how his continuous rowing had led him to a village where he had tried to establish his identity as a blacksmith before being whisked away to the Eyrie to fix the moon doors, of his time with Alyane Stone who was later revealed to be Sansa Stark, of their escape from the clutches of Petyr Baelish, a wretched and manipulative man in his own right. The man opposite him listened with concentration to every detail causing their evening to pass.
"I saw her, the wretched witch in Red. She was standing beside Lord and Lady Stark. I could not think for a whole minute, paralyzed with fear. But she passed me, as if I was a merely a shadow. I am glad that I did not catch her eye, but why does Lord Stark stay in the company of such a woman?"
"Lord Stannis and Lord Stark have made quite an agreement and Lady Melisandre is merely the messenger. I will never know what the true intentions of that woman are, but I can assure you that Lord Stark is not easily swayed by temptations, no matter how magical they may sound. She will not be able to touch you this time around, since Lord Stark will never forget what you have done for his family."
"You speak very highly of him. I never thought that I would hear compliments of another expect Lord Stannis from you."
"Lord Stark commands the loyalty of all his men, including those which serve Lord Stannis. His strategies have won us many victories without horrendous casualties so he has the respect of many. Lord Stark is a good lad and even though it might sound as betrayal, I would have him sit on the Iron Throne along with Daenerys."
"Not just any Lady. She is a Targeryen by blood, a Stark by marriage."
"She is one of the Dragone? I had heard rumours but never believed them to be true, but what I have seen of her, she seems like a remarkable woman."
"Aye, remarkable and forgiving. She has treated me like a Father, along with Jon, for quite a while, easing away the pain of my own son's death."
Gendry looked at the Ser Davos and saw his lips curve into a smile, one which he believed made his eyes light up.
"Tell me of the war then, Ser Davos. I heard Lord Stark faced Roose Bolton alone."
"Aye, you heard correct. After Lord Stark recovered from his injuries, he decided to take back Winterfell. It was a harsh march of a fortnight before we laid eyes on his home. Daenerys has an army, whose number is immeasurable, but Lord Stark wanted most to defend the Wall. With a few Men of Night's Watch, Unsullied and Knights of Lord Stannis' army, we invaded Winterfell. Lord Stark called out Roose Bolton and asked him to surrender but that man had too much pride, mocking us on our numbers.
In the dead of that very night, we disposed the guards on the East Walls and lit up the distress fire. Lord Stannis marched upon Winterfell with a few of his men causing Roose Bolton to affix his attention towards the gates. While the Boltons were busy strategizing their next move, Lord Stark and I led a few men to the tunnels which lead to the crypt of the Castle. The tunnels were closed and we had to dig our way through them but due to the commotion, no one heard us. Once we were in the crypts, we made our way to the Castle, slaying every guard in out path. By the time, Roose son, Ramsay arrived into the Castle, it had already been won by us.
It took Lord Stark all his strength to fight Ramsay Bolton. That scoundrel knew nothing of rules in warfare, attacking even from behind. But Lord Stark did not falter. You should have seen it him. I had thought that Jon was merely a boy but he surpassed even the best of us. Ramsay was down after which we joined the war against Roose.
The fight lasted for quite a few days after which Jon decided to take matters into his own hands. The Boltons were losing great numbers because of their barbaric skills but Jon thought that he could not risk any more of his men. On Lord Tyrion's suggestion, he challenged Roose Bolton for a duel. It was ugly with Jon getting thrown around like a rag doll but the lad has courage. He took all the hits and gave some, the sound of scraping of iron profoundly heard. Roose played like his son and attacked Jon from behind, thrusting his sword in his thigh making Jon lose his sword in the process. We all thought that the end was near, but Jon thought differently. He picked up a stone and thrust it into Roose's legs, followed by his shoulder. He ran up to his sword and while Roose recovered from the pain, Jon thrust his sword into his rival's stomach. That was the day we all knew that he would make a great leader. His victory left us all surprised, earning him our respect. Since that day, no one has dared to call him a mere bastard. He has earned his place."
Gendry looked around the tavern and saw the festivities which were underway. The people of Winterfell seemed content with their ruler with the upright Knights also trying to join the merriment.
"I think that serving him as a blacksmith should be an honour. He has asked me to continue my stay at Winterfell and upon hearing you, I believe that staying shall be the correct path."
"We are always in need of another pair of hands. Call on me if you need anything, Hot..Pie."
Gendry watched Ser Davos leave on steady feet even after emptying, what he believed was, an entire jug of beer.
Tyrion walked with a purpose when he heard Daenerys beside him, walking in stride.
"Going to see your wife, My Lord?"
"Whether a wanted husband or not, Daenerys, Sansa carries my name making her my responsibility. It is only fitting that I enquire about her."
"Unfortunately, you will have to wait till tomorrow. Sansa is fast asleep like a rock, all her trials finally being put to rest."
Tryion halted in his tracks and turned towards Daenerys who was looking down the corridor with an amused expression playing across her features.
"My Queen, have I missed out on an amusing joke?"
Tyrion watched as Daenerys turned towards him, the amusement still playing on her face.
"Oh, Tyrion. I was merely amused by your urgency to lay your eyes on Sansa. They made me wonder whether you were merely concerned for her or is it something more?"
"Did you find an answer?"
"I might have found a quarter of one."
Tyrion looked at Daenerys and rolled his eyes. He knew that she was playful but such behaviour was not suitable for a Lady. Oh wait, he forgot that Daenerys did not care of such customs.
"Daenerys, I am afraid that Jon's company is making you more playful."
"You might be the smartest individual I have encountered but your façade is not iron clad."
"I wear no such mask, My Queen. Now if you will excuse me, I have some administrative business to tend to."
Daenerys watched Tyrion walk back towards his quarters before starting to walk in the opposite direction towards her own. She was greeted by an empty room with no sight of Jon so she settled herself in a chair beside the crackling fire under heavy blankets. She was looking at the flames when a piercing pain clenched her stomach. She smelled blood and when she drew back the blankets, her suspicions had proved true. She was bleeding between her legs and it took her a few minutes to believe what she was seeing. She had been told repeatedly that she could never bear a child but this changed everything. Jon had known of her condition but he had still married her because of his lobe for her, for which she will always be thankful. But now, things could be different. She could be a mother. Daenerys quickly cleaned herself and called for Lady Melisandre. After a few minutes, she heard a knock on her door.
"My Queen, your late night callings are raising suspicions."
"This is a matter of urgency. You told me that the Magic contained in Jon's blood gave me new life, bonding us. Am I right?"
"It is the truth."
"Could it have cured me of all my illnesses?"
"I do not understand, My Queen."
"After I lost my husband and my child, I never bled. The witch's spell had made me barren but I started bleeding again. I think that I can be a mother again. How is this even possible?"
Daenerys watched the face of the woman standing opposite her as a look of recognition passed her features.
"Humans, My Queen, can have no control over Fate. She plays a part in all our lives which we can't refute. I am merely an interpreter of her decisions."
"Then interpret mine."
"I am afraid that I am in no position to give you hope, My Queen. You should rest now."
Before Daenerys could protest, Melisandre had left her room. Daenerys paced a small length of the room, her brain tugging at a memory of not long, one particular statement ringing in her ear. When she had met the old lady in the Free Cities, she had only registered the threat lingering on Jon's life but now she could hear another statement loud and clear.
"His blood is magic you can carry."
That's when Daenerys knew, that there was reason to hope.
Theon Greyjoy scratched at the solid walls digging his fingernails deep into the bricks. Blood was seeping from his fingers but he diid not care. Spending his time in the cellar had brought him immense joy because he was away from the cruel man. As he scratched the lines deeper into the bricks, he heard footsteps inching closer to his cellar. And sure enough, Jon Snow now stood on the other end peering through the bars.
"Theon, you will be freed of your misery in a few days. Since we have known each other long enough, I have come to ask you whether you hold onto to any last wishes. I shall try my best to fulfil it."
Theon inched closer to the bars and held out a shaky hand towards Jon. He could see the confusion on Jon's face but Theon signalled him to hold his hand which he reluctantly did.
"That cruel man, yes, that cruel man…he despised me. He starved me for days, took away my pride, my fingers, my hair. Now I resemble some monster because I deserved it, yes, yes, I deserved it. While he whored his way through the day, I would roam this castle, these familiar walls. And then one day, I see this letter written by those Crows at the Wall to your father. They would always ask for help but in one, they told your Father that the Dead could walk and they needed his help. Do you know what Lord Eddard Stark wrote? He said that he would send his son, Jon, to stop them. Ha, would you imagine the great and noble Eddard Stark to just send his child to a place where he would die? But he did, Jon. He sent you. He did not care about you because you are just a useless bastard."
Theon jerked his hand off Jon's and started walking towards the wall.
"I don't need a bastard."
Theon went back carving the lines in the brick and admired his handiwork. Those words would be etched forever now and no one could ignore them.
Jon looked at the Theon and left the cellar with the words etched in the bricks swimming in his mind.
"They are coming."
That's when Jon knew that the Winter would be a long one.