The King in the North rose, heavily clad and draped with his usual leather and furs.

“This isn’t about living in harmony. This is about living,” his deep voice boomed across the pit as he walked to face Cersei. “The same thing is coming for all of us, a general you can’t negotiate with, an army that doesn’t leave corpses behind in the battlefield.” He inclined his head towards Tyrion who was standing beside him. “Lord Tyrion tells me a million people live in this city. They’re about to be a million more soldiers in the army of the dead.”

Cersei lifted a delicate golden eyebrow, a mocking smirk stealing across her face. “I imagine for most of them, it would be an improvement.”

I saw the muscles in Jon’s jaw work furiously for a moment. “This is serious,” he said in a near-hiss. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.”

“I don’t think it’s serious at all,” Cersei countered. “I think it’s another bad joke.” She turned to face us, pinioning my sister first with her arctic gaze, before me, then back to Daenerys. “If my brother Jamie has informed me correctly, you’re asking me for a truce.”

“Yes,” Daenerys replied, inclining her silver head slightly. “That’s all.”

“That’s all.” Cersei’s tone conveyed exactly what she thought about those two words and Daenerys’ assurance. “Pull back my armies and stand down while you go on your monster hunt or while you solidify and expand your position – hard for me to know which it is with my armies pulled back. Until you return and march on my capital with four times the men.”

“Your capital will be safe,” Daenerys said, “until the Northern threat is dealt with. You have my word.”

“The word of a would-be usurper,” Cersei spat.

My hands clenched and my eyes began to smoulder.

“There is no amount of discussion that will erase the last fifty years,” Tyrion cut in, stepping forward to get his sister’s attention. “We have something to show you.”

As though he had heard Tyrion’s words from the deep dark pit, Sandor Clegane emerged, hefting the massive oak box on his mountainous back. His heavily-scarred face working furiously as he battled with the weight. It seemed forever before he finally had the heavy box set down and open and the stench from within slowly filled the air. Knowing what had been shut down inside the box, I stiffened. The tension hung heavy over the pit like a widow’s wail. Nothing happened. The Hound grasped the pommel of his sword as sweat trickled down his scarred face. Still nothing happened. I heard Cersei give a small sigh of exasperation.

And then, throwing caution to the winds, the Hound kicked at the box and it overturned, and in that instant, the deathly wail of the wight filled the dragon pit as it emerged, eyes glowing like bits of burning ice. The Southern queen and her entourage lurched back in shock as the creature darted toward her, almost making it, its scabbed hands nearly snatching at Cersei’s pale face, before Sandor yanked it back by the chain that was bound around its neck. In a second, it had picked itself up with a deathly wail and lurched at Sandor, who cleaved it in half with a massive swipe of his sword. Unstoppable, the wight reached out for him as he cleaved off half its arm. The wails were becoming deafening. I chanced a glance at Cersei, catching the terrified expression stamped on her face, and I thought about how under different circumstances, that look would have been satisfying.

“We can destroy them by burning them.”

I turned back to the creature in time to see the King in the North light up the severed arm and toss it aside.

“And we can destroy them with dragon glass.” He pulled the ornate, obsidian dagger from his belt. “If we don’t win this fight, then that will be the fate of everyone in the world.” He said this while pointing at the writhing, shrieking creature on the floor. With a sharp jerk, he pulled the bust up by the arm and ran it through with the dagger, cutting off its shrieks.

Silence hung heavy for a while, and everyone watched Cersei, observing the unreadable mask her face had become.

Jon stepped forward. “There is only one war that matters, the Great War, and it’s here.”

There was more silence. Cersei sat still, as a though carved out of stone.

“I didn’t believe it until I saw them,” Daenerys intoned. “I saw them all.” Her voice broke at the end almost unnoticeably.

For the first time, the Kingslayer spoke up. “How many?”

“A hundred thousand at least,” I said, for a moment, enjoying the shock that flashed through his face.

The dark and surly-looking Euron stood up and walked to where the creature lay. He bent over it. It looked for a second like he was going to caress it. “Can they swim?” he asked.

“No,” Jon replied.

“Good.” He rose and faced Cersei. “I’m taking the Iron fleet back to the Iron Islands.”

She broke out of her trance, her voice coming like cracking ice. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve been around the world, seen things, things you couldn’t possibly imagine, and this…this is the only thing I’ve ever seen that terrifies me.” Wheeling around, he came towards us. Hands flew to swords and cleavers as he hovered over my sister. “I’m going back to my island. You should go back to yours. When winter’s over, we’ll be the only ones left alive.” A soulless smile crept over his face just before he turned and left.

And then silence returned.

Cersei broke it this time. “He’s right to be afraid and a coward to run. If those things come for us, there’ll be no kingdoms to rule. Everything we suffered would have been for nothing. Everything we lost would’ve been for nothing.” She leaned back, eyes intent on the scattered pieces of the creature on the ground. Then she turned to face my sister. “The crown accepts your truce.”

It was then that I noticed that I hadn’t been breathing as I let out a breath of relief. Here it was – the entire point of our journey.

“In exchange,” Cersei clearly wasn’t finished, “the King in the North will extend his truce. He will remain in the North where he belongs. He will not take up arms against the Lannisters. He will not choose sides.”

“Just the King in the North?” Daenerys’ voice had taken on the tone I’d learned to dread – cold and inflectionless. “Not me?”

Cersei snorted. “I would never ask it of you. You’d never agree to it, and if you did, I would trust you even less than I do now. I only ask it of Ned Stark’s son. I know Ned Stark’s son will be true to his word.”

There was silence again, heavier and more intense.

The King in the North took on the brooding countenance unique to the Starks of Winterfell. Moments passed, and then he looked up.

“I am true to my word,” he said, his tone characteristically sombre, “or at least, I try to be. That is why I cannot give you what you ask.”

My breathing stopped again. What was he playing at?

“I cannot serve two queens,” he continued, “and I’ve already pledged myself to Queen Daenerys of House Targaryen.”

Cersei sat for a while, her teeth clearly gritted in silent fury. For a moment, I wondered if we’d have to call the dragons.

Then she rose. “In that case,” her voice was steely, “there is nothing left to discuss. The dead will come north first. Enjoy dealing with them. We’ll deal with whatever is left of you.”

She swept past Jon, hands clasped together, her entire entourage trooping after her. I saw the massive blond woman, who had stayed silent and seated beside Jon, chase after them and speaking in furious low tones to Jaime Lannister. There was a brief intense exchange between the two, and then the big blond woman growled, “Oh fuck loyalty! This goes beyond Houses and honor and oaths. Talk to the queen!”

“And tell her what?” he retorted, his face a pitiful mix of frustration and sadness before he turned and moved off after his queen.

“I wish you hadn’t done that,” Ser Davos said in low tones to the brooding King in the North.

Daenerys rose and walked toward him, with me shadowing her footsteps.

“I’m grateful for your loyalty,” she began, “but my dragon died so we could be here.” The pain I had worked to suppress so far went through me like a shard of glass upon hearing her words. “If it’s all for nothing, then he died for nothing.”

“I know,” Jon said.

I felt my irritation mount and I snapped before I could stop myself, “I’m pleased you bent the knee to my sister. I would have advised it had you asked. But have you ever considered learning how to lie once in a while, just a bit?”

“I’m not going to swear an oath I can’t uphold,” Jon snapped back at me, his tone full of chastisement. “Talk about my father, tell me that’s the attitude that got him killed, but when enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. There are no more answers, only better and better lies. And lies won’t help us in this fight!”

I cursed under my breath, turning away in frustration.

“Calm yourself, brother.” Daenerys placed a hand on my shoulder.

“That is indeed a problem,” Tyrion spoke up finally. “The more immediate problem being that we are fucked.”

“Any idea how we might change that state of affairs?” Ser Davos asked.

“Only one,” the dwarf answered. “Everyone, stay here while I go and talk to my sister.”

Daenerys turned sharply to him. “I didn’t come all this way just to have my Hand murdered.”

Tyrion let out a bark of humorless laughter. “I don’t want Cersei to murder me either. If I did, I’d have remained in my cell and saved a great deal of trouble.”

“I did this,” Jon cut in. “I should go.”

“She’ll definitely murder you,” Tyrion snapped at him. “I go see my sister alone, or we all go home and we’re right back where we started.”

The silence that followed his words emphasized how out of options we were. My sister must have given her approval, because when I turned, the dwarf was hurrying after the retreating guards.


I strode to the brooding King in the North, a thought going through my mind about whether the man ever laughed. He nodded at me as I approached. In his hands was a misshapen dragon skull the size of a cat.

“No one’s less happy about this than I am,” he said quietly.

“I know,” I said with a nod, somewhat regretting my earlier outburst at him. “I respect what you did. I wish you hadn’t done it but I respect it.”

Footsteps behind me announced my sister’s approach. I turned. She walked up to Jon, staring at the dragon skull in his hand, her facial expression a mixture of stress and sadness. She reached for the skull and Jon handed it over. Slowly she turned the onyx black object in her hand, looking around the desolate pit.

“This place was the beginning of the end for our family.” She looked up at the rusty chains that hung from the stone walls. “Zaldrizes buzdari iksos daor,” she said quietly in our native Valyrian tongue.

Daor,” I replied with a shake of my head.

“A dragon is not a slave,” she translated for Jon’s benefit.

I walked slowly away from them, trailing a hand along the walls. I walked into a small crevice in the wall, trying to visualize this pit in the days of Aegon the Conqueror. In the days when it had been home to Balerion the Black Dread and his siblings, Vaeghar and Meraxes. In their bid to keep the dragons in check, our ancestors started chaining them up, and slowly they grew smaller, weaker.

“…your family hasn’t seen its end yet,” I heard Jon say in the adjoining cave. “You and your brother are still here.”

“My brother never did acquire a taste for women.” My lips shifted in a small smile as I imagined the honourable Jon Snow trying to digest that bit of personal information. Then Daenerys added, “He likes men.”


I imagined him nodding his dark head in understanding.

“Who told you that you can’t have children?” he asked.

“The witch who murdered my husband,” Daenerys answered.

“Has it occurred to you that she might not be a reliable source of information?”

Daenerys let out a short humorless laugh. Then I heard her sigh. “You were right. If I had trusted you, everything would be different.”

“So what now?”

“I can’t forget what I saw north of the wall, and I can’t pretend Cersei won’t take back half the country the moment I march north.”

There was heavy silence for a while, the silence of ponderation, of mental weighing of circumstances.

“I suppose Tyrion’s assessment was correct,” Jon said. “We are fucked.”

They both laughed. I had only a moment to wonder how odd it was that he had finally laughed before the sound of footsteps and armour clinking together reached us. I stepped out of the cave, and saw Daenerys and Jon emerge as well. And we converged on the platform again.

Tyrion appeared, leading the Southern queen and her entourage. They came to a halt in front of us. Cersei’s hands were folded, her back straightened by her regality. Her short golden hair gleamed in the sun above an exquisite face that was a smooth mask.

“My armies will not stand down,” she began curtly. “I will not pull them back to the capital.”

In that instant, my heart fell. Tyrion had failed.

“I will march them north to fight alongside you in the Great War,” she said.

My heartbeat leaped. Could this be true?

She wasn’t finished. “The darkness is coming for us all. We’ll face it together, and when the Great War is over, perhaps you’ll remember that I chose to help, with no promises or assurances from any of you.” Her lips were a thin line as she lanced us with an inscrutable glance. “I expect not.”

Then she turned to her exquisite brother, a mirror image of her, his hair the same shade and length as hers.

“Call our banners,” she commanded. “All of them.”

Written by Kainene

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