Chapter 38: The House of the Undying – Part One – Council of Madness
Forward: Editing credit to Rainsfere.
The Next Morning – Morning – Esso, Qarth, Xaro's Palace – Ciri
Ciri sighed as the first beams of the morning sun shined into her room through the veiled blinds of the window. "Ugh…morning already…" She grumbled, at last shifting to sit up in bed. As usual she prepared practical clothes even when she slept, currently wearing a loose gray shirt and comfortable pants, garments more fitting for a man. She always considered such clothes better suited for any surprise attacks in bed instead of the sleeping gowns many expected women to have. Brushing her messed up pale colored hair, she'd get up to do her usual stretches to loosen her body up before checking the nearby mirror. "Well…looking far better than I did when I was on the run." She chuckled to herself. Talking about the past with Dany had brought up a lot of memories, both good and bad. Still, she knew she couldn't let the past get in the way of today and beyond, especially since there was a good chance of meeting with the Thirteen again. Getting out a comb, she'd work on tiding up her hair into its usual bun shape before changing into her duelist attire. Fully dressed, she lastly strapped Zireael across her back before moving to leave her room.
Outside in the hallway, she waked across to Dany's room, deciding to check if she was awake and needed help tending to the dragons. They usually were active in the morning, no doubt their instincts urging them to hunt and eat at this hour. "Dany, are you awake?" She spoke out as she knocked. There was no answer, making her knock again. Again there was no reply and by listening closely she heard no sounds of the dragons. Curious, she tested the door which was in fact unlocked. "Strange…" She muttered to herself before entering while on her guard.
A short glance showed no danger, though it was obvious Daenerys was gone along with the dragons. "Maybe she…got up early to let them hunt in the garden." Still she continued to investigate, Geralt's lessons having always focused on getting a full idea of one's surroundings. Moving along the room, she noted the bed was left a mess as if Dany had suddenly gotten out of bed. "No signs of struggling though." She muttered, knowing that Daenerys would at least struggle, which in turn have her dragons become aggressive. There was also the fact nothing was out of order nothing knocked over or shoved around. Her attention focused on the nearby chest which was also unlocked. Sifting through it, she noticed the valuables were untouched with the only thing missing being Siglion. "Did she take it for protection?" Moving the silk aside, she noticed something out of place, a folded letter. Curious, she picked it out and unfolded it to read.
To my sister Vaera and to Ser Jorah,
I must apologize for leaving so suddenly, yet time was limited. Xaro and Pyat called for me late last night, warning me that new information had been found about our attackers. The Warlock had revealed new details, names and faces that connect back to members of the Thirteen.
The Prince of Spices planned to capture me or kill me for the Dothraki Khals, in return for them easing their raids on Qarth's land trade. Alongside, the Prince of Beasts would see my children enslaved to him, broken to his will as his greatest pets. Already both were planning a new scheme, one that could threaten both you, Jorah and the rest of the Khalasar.
Pyat has offered the full protection of the Warlocks against the opposing Thirteen while Xaro has gathered new evidence on the attack. I will be at the Citadel where he plans to confront those responsible, so please go their in haste.
From your sister, Daenerys.
The letter seemed so out of place for Daenerys as Ciri read it over multiple times, trying to find some clue or hidden meaning. It was her hand writing and nothing showed that it had been written in duress. "Did she really agree to this? If so…why not tell anyone at all?" Moving to leave the room, she quickly stopped herself when she nearly ran into Jorah who was about to reach the door from the hallway.
"Ci-Vaera." He quickly corrected himself before noticing the serious look on her face. Looking into the empty bedroom, he quickly realized what was going on. "Where is the Khaleesi?"
Ciri didn't reply as she only nodded for Jorah to follow her down the hall before handing him Dany's letter. Quickly reading over it, the knight showed confused disbelief.
"I don't believe this for a moment." He muttered, handing the letter back to her. "Even on the most personal matters, she always confided to those closest to her."
"I know. It is unlike her." Ciri remarked back as they reached one of the larger halls. Here, most of the Khalasar gathered to rest or work on the crafts in one of the palaces inner yards. The Blood Riders were also gathered, doing simple training drills with the Khalasar guards. What was notable was a few of her handmaidens were missing among the gathered.
"What I'm more curious about is what Xaro is planning to use against the other Thirteen. It could put our alliance with Siranea and Harito at risk if he plans to get them mixed up in all of this." By now Rakharo noticed them, quickly realizing something was wrong as he approached them.
"Something is wrong, isn't it?" Both were quick to inform him on Dany's and the dragons disappearance, making him curse lowly in Dothraki. "That explains why Xaro left with those Warlock twins, though I don't know how most of his Unsullied simply disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Ciri questioned.
Rakharo nodded. "We know their patrol and watch positions well. When me and the other Blood Riders got up, we quickly noticed a few were missing."
Jorah thought over this new information. "How many?"
"Eight or twelve at least. Xaro usually has twenty actively watching the palace, with dozens more watching his other properties."
"Then he most likely took them with him to the Thirteen. Question is how did he slip them away without anyone noticing…" Jorah muttered, pausing in thought. "Still…we can't risk leaving the Khalasar exposed, the Khaleesi would never want her people in danger. Xaro could very well use them to threaten us into submission."
Ciri nodded in agreement. "Agreed." Looking to Rakharo, she continued to speak. "I know you want to go after those who took Daenerys, but you and the Blood Riders are the best ones keeping the others safe. Get our guards alert and everyone together before hunkering down."
"While you go to the Citadel alone?" Though despite the remark, he smirked as he realized who he was speaking to. "Be careful. If Xaro is in league with the Warlocks, who knows what tricks they have."
"Trust me, I've dealt with worse." She confidently replied back before looking to Jorah. "Though by the look on your face, you don't plan to let me go alone."
He noded his head. "Two swords and heads are better than one. If things get dicey, I doubt you want to use your powers before the Thirteen."
She couldn't deny that was a good point, since if a fight did break out she would be going against well trained soldiers, ones she didn't fully understand unlike Jorah. "Then you best get your armor and ready to leave."
"I won't keep you waiting." He chuckled, wit in his words which made her blush faintly before he turned to leave to prepare.
Ciri moved to the entrance hallway, checking to make sure there were no Unsullied guards. It seemed they were gone as well, meaning they'd have no trouble leaving. "It's like Xaro wants us to follow." She muttered to herself. By the time she had gathered two horses from the stable, Jorah arriveed in his Northerner plate along with a small round metal shield he had bought within the market. "Not too rusty using a shield?" She asked, remembering him practicing with it over the last few days.
"I'd be a poor knight if I wasn't versatile." He remarked back as he took the offered reins for his horse and pulled himself onto the saddle.
"Expected nothing less. Now let's hurry to see just what Xaro has planned." Climbing onto her own horse, she took the lead as she rushed out of the palace courtyard, Jorah close behind.
The two raced through Qarth's streets, sticking to the main paths even though they drew attention from startled citizens to shocked guards. By the time they were approaching the Citadel of the Thirteen, a few of the regally dressed guards had followed after them. Reaching the steps of the Citadel, they came to a stop as the imposing armored form of the Warden stood at the bottom of the steps. With him in the way, the two slowed their advance which gave the chasing guards the time needed to catch up.
"Ugh…Warden…these two raced through the city…" One guard started
"For good reason." The Warden spoke before looking to Ciri. "I was informed that a meeting has gathered with the Thirteen without my knowledge, relating to an incident towards the Targaryens. Whatever issues Lady Vaera has caused are considered forgiven."
The guards were confused and for a moment, the one that had spoken seemed ready to argue. All it took was a glance from the Warden to silence him. "Of course Warden." They gave a short bow before leaving, muttering in annoyance.
"Seems you weren't invited to this gathering." Jorah remarked as the Warden led the way up the Citadel's steps.
"The tradition of the Warden is more than just safe guarding the Thirteen, it's also to be a mediator when there is a trial."
"A mediator who'd be impartial and duty bound to Qarth's laws." Ciri stated, making the Warden nod.
"By tradition, Soumai is more than just an oath of hospitality, but also a mark of protection to those it is given. No matter one's standing in Qarth, to attack those under Soumai is to risk losing everything they have, including their life."
"Quite the serious tradition." Ciri muttered.
"One that Xaro is using to his advantage." Jorah added, though the Warden didn't remark on this possibility.
As they neared the large doors of the Citadel, Ciri felt an odd tingling in the back of her head which became a sharp aching. She winced out as for a moment her ears rung, making her pause in her walk. She pressed her left hand up to her temple, easing the sudden stress she felt there.
"Vaera? Something wrong?" Looking at Jorah, he showed quite the concern, even placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Nothing. Just a sudden headache." She excused. However she had a feeling something was off as she looked at the knight and Warden. Both seemed a bit tense, though did quite well to hide it. She wasn't the only one to feel off put all of the sudden, though for her it was more intense. "No more delaying, let's go."
The Qarthian guards saluted to the Warden who gave a short nod back. "Was Lord Xaro accompanied by anyone?"
"Yes Warden. Two Warlocks, the twins who serve under Warlock Pyat along with a merchant who is a witness for the trial." One guard answered.
Ciri found that answer odd. "He didn't have any Unsullied with him?"
"None. It was just him and those three."
This detail made both Jorah and Ciri glance at each other. It made no sense that Xaro didn't have his Unsullied with them if he had taken them away from his palace. Unless he had sent them away, it was impossible to sneak in so many armed soldiers into the Citadel. Neither said anything more as the doors were opened and the Warden continued to escort them towards the council chamber of the Thirteen. Even before the next pair of guards opened the doorway, they could hear a fierce mix of debating and arguing from the council.
"Lies! Complete slander!"
"This is outrageous!"
"It breaks all our traditions!"
The 'U' shaped table had the varying Qarthian nobles standing around, yammering about with ferocity. Harito and Siranea were among the Council, the Prince of blades being one of the most vocal at the table.
"This attack can't be ignored! It goes against our culture of civility!" His glare was focused on the Prince of Beasts, who seemed quite on edge with the scarred trade prince nearly looming over him.
Standing before the table was Xaro along with the two Warlock twins who had been with Pyat. Before them they had a scrawny merchant on his knees, the disheveled man's head bowed low in both pain and shame. Xaro had quite the amused look hinting his face as he watched the council so divided, especially with the ire focused on the Prince of Spices and Beasts. If looks could kill the portly bald noble would have Xaro turned into ash by now. Meanwhile the Prince of Beasts had a far less composed look, openly nervous over what was happening.
"Honorable Thirteen-" The Warden started before the Prince of Spices snapped out.
"Warden! I never thought you'd be late to a council summons." The Prince of Spices sternly remarked before his gaze focused. "Ah and the…other Targaryen sister. I take you're here to serve in her place." His tone was dismissive with a hint of spite, a 'charming' mix.
"I was hoping I'd find her here as well." Ciri sternly spoke back, though her gaze was focused on Xaro. "I take it there was a change of plans Lord Xaro? I don't know what you've done to convince her to agree to all of this, but I won't let you use her as some political pawn."
"I do apologize that she is not present, yet it was for her own safety. It is a good thing her note informed you to come here." However, Ciri could tell from the man's look that he had expected it. He had lured her here to be shoved into the politics at play. "I know you wish justice for what has happened. So I have proof of the culprits." Walking over to the kneeling merchant, he placed a firm hand to his shoulder. "Care to repeat what you said to the Thirteen?"
The gathered council quieted down, seeming to want to rehear whatever the man had said. The merchant shivered before nodding. "I'm a merchant who serves under the Prince of Spices…a book keeper and caravanner. A few days ago, I was given a letter with the Prince's seal…giving me detailed directions to drive a delivery cart to a certain street in the merchant palaces." He gulped nervously. "I was then to fake an accident to stop the Khaleesi's carriage, but I didn't know about the assassins! When the fighting broke out…I fled until I was captured by Lord Xaro's men."
Ciri looked to Jorah who approached the man, getting a better look at him. While Xaro focused on the knight, the warlock twins had their piercing eyes on Ciri. Again that unnerving ache from outside was clawing at the back of her head. Despite the glare she gave them, they kept their calm confident looks, as if they knew something no one else did.
"So Ser Jorah, do you recognize the man? If I'm not mistaken, you did talk to the driver." Harito questioned from his seat.
There was a moment of silence before Jorah nodded back. "Aye, he is the same one." He simply answered, drawing serious mutterings among the Council.
"And when we searched his home, we found the said letter. The council has seen it already…" Xaro, took out a folded piece of parchment, the ends of it still having a unique wax seal clinging to it. Ciri took it, reading it over which detailed what the merchant had said. Nothing implied that an attack would happen, showing he was an unwitting accomplice.
"It matches what he says, though he had no idea about the Mongrel Men." Ciri stated before her gaze focused on the Prince of Spices. "I take the seal is authentic and that this man also truly works for you."
While the portly man kept that steely gaze, he did nod slowly back. "It is indeed my seal despite the fact I never wrote that letter. Besides, doesn't it seem foolish and short sighted to send instructions that could lead back to me?"
"Perhaps you were overconfident and did so anyway." Siranea coyly suggested, making a few of the Thirteen chuckle. "Despite your bravado, you aren't the most subtle among us."
The Prince of Spices growled faintly at her witty yet observant response. "Consider your words noted Lady of Whispers.
"So then, what of the Mongrel Men, the group involved in that attack?" Ciri then questioned.
"As your sister's letter said, the Prince of Beasts organized the muscle for the attack." Xaro explained, drawing everyone's gaze to the nervous trade prince. "Everyone knows he hired the Mongrels for his beast taming and hunts. Besides, with them being outsiders they'd have little care for attacking someone of Targaryen reputation, while a local sellsword would be dissuaded."
"That…is just all speculation…" The man muttered. "I'm not the only one who hired Mongrels."
"Yet they are the most capable of handling the dragons and subduing or even killing the Targaryen sisters." Xaro argued. "Your interest in the creatures was very obvious during the first meeting and Daenerys shamed you before everyone…a slight you no doubt took personally." The lavish beast master muttered under his breath, though Xaro would continue. "As for the Lord of Spices, we all know that the last few years have been hard for your business. Considering how sensitive your goods are out at sea…along with pirates seeming to favor your more potent 'stock', you've resorted to the land routes. Course with the Dothraki having so much control, you're paying quite much to keep them off your caravans."
"I question why you pry on personal dealings Xaro. Whatever my hardships I may face matters little to the rest of the Thirteen." The Prince of Spices sternly argued.
"Oh but it does. For the Khaleesi is wanted by the Khals for disobeying the traditions expected for her role, along with being involved in the deaths of Blood Riders. With her returned to them…alive or a severed head…you'd have a perfect means to earn free travel throughout all of the Dothraki Sea."
It was a logical deduction if the fact was true, though none of the other Thirteen disagreed. They no doubt understood the Prince of Spices situation better than she did. Even one in such a powerful position could have issues that weighed on his life style. "Fine then…I did plan the attack and for the reasons stated, yet it wasn't an assassination." The portly trade prince admitted in a stern voice. The confession drew a new uproar from the room, shock and anger flowing from the other Thirteen.
"ENOUGH!" The Warden spoke loudly out, silencing everyone. Glancing over the room, the warrior gave a low grunt and nod. "Prince of Spices, by admitting this you understand that you violated Soumai. In doing so you'll be judged by those you've threatened and by your peers."
"I know and I accept that Warden." The Prince of Spices muttered as he clasped his hands together. "Yet all of this was for the safety of Qarth, not just a selfish scheme as Xaro implies."
Jorah scoffed at the statement, shaking his head. "Safety? The Khaleesi has been nothing but formal and respectful to your city's laws and traditions. Barely a week and you've senselessly threatened her."
"Senseless…no if anything the last few days have proven that Daenerys is a far more dangerous than I had thought." The portly man calmly stated. "She's already shaken up the politics here on the council, what with having three of our members already allying with her." He glanced to Harito and Siranea at that mention. "If our city's leadership are going to run off supporting an aspiring queen, it threatens the stability of our city's government."
"Hah! Stability?!" Harito grunted. "How many times have you refused my defense proposals? You and half of you here are complacent in the dangers beyond our walls!"
"An issue that I agree with." Xaro remarked with a nod.
The Prince of Spices scowled. "Do all of you forget history? Do all of you forget what the Valyrian 'Freehold' truly was like and of the chaos the Targaryens alone brought?" While he changed the subject, his words did strike a chord with the gathered. The portly man then focused on Ciri. "The look on your face…I see your confusion and ignorance on your own heritage."
"Then educate me, Prince." Ciri remarked back. "From what my sister has shared, the Valyrian Freehold had been a place of wealth and knowledge until the Doom. Even Westeros was divided in petty wars before my ancestor claimed it." However she was curious about what the man had to say, since most of her insight was through Daenerys.
"The Valyrian Freehold…indeed it was an extraordinary place but only to the privileged. All that neighbored it were subjugated by the magic and dragons the Valyrians had, forced to pay tithes that were beyond just the bondage of people. Lives to be fuel for their blood magic." The man then smirked. "As for Westeros, it is true Aegon brought order to that barbaric place, yet his successors were more often mad or driven by destructive selfishness. That history has forever mark her as a threat, even more so with her having dragons."
"Surely…she can prove otherwise." Ciri argued, though even she knew that the man was right to a degree. Much of the world already has a perception of the Targaryen's, mostly of being a dangerous threat be it political or physical now. Even with good intentions, it wouldn't be easy to change what the past has already written. "I've been doing my best to educate my sister, to make her a strong leader. Attacking her like this doesn't help anyone, even if you believe so."
"Then we can agree to disagree." The Prince of Spices sighed. "We can debate endlessly, so let's move on to my judgement." Looking to the Warden, he'd nod. "So then what will punishment be for me and the Prince of Beasts? How will it be decided?"
"W-What!? I may have had a hand in this, but you were the one to convince me!" The beast master angerly snapped.
"Foolishness doesn't grant mercy in this case. You had plenty of chances to back away or report this." The armored warrior stated before pausing in thought. "As tradition states, the wronged party decides the punishment. Thus…in this case Khaleesi Daenerys will decide."
It seemed though the Prince of Spices knew this detail from the way he smirked. "Which she is absent in doing. So until then, nothing can be decided."
Ciri frowned. "Do I have no say in this? I am a Targaryen and was a victim of the attack as well."
"While that is true since Daenerys claims to have legitimized you as a Targaryen. However, since the Khaleesi still lives, she remains as the official voice of your group." The Warden formally explained.
"Then perhaps I can answer in her stead." Xaro calmly stated, drawing mixed looks of curiosity and confusion from everyone gathered. "I made sure to explain to the Khaleesi what this trial could lead to and the punishment she could decide. So…she felt that execution would be suitable."
The casual way the man spoke of execution, much less the claim it was Daenerys' choice made Ciri's blood chill. "I don't believe you." She coldly stated, Xaro not once breaking the faint smirk on his face.
"Perhaps you simply don't truly know her." The man stated, making anger boil deep inside Ciri.
"Lord Xaro." The Warden stated, stopping Ciri from snapping out. "Lady Vaera is correct. We only have your word that you speak for the Khaleesi, a weaker standing in passing judgement than even her sister."
The Thirteen muttered to each other with open concern, all of them seeming to have the same mistrust towards their fellow member. "If Daenerys wants my head, then I expect her to look me in the eye when she demands it." The Prince of Spices demanded, giving a good show of bravery.
"And risk putting her in harm's way? You already have nothing else to lose old friend, so she will remain hidden until all danger is gone." Xaro calmly stated back before looking to the Warden. "I demand that you fulfill your duties Warden. Order your men to apprehend the Prince of Spices and Beasts, then have them executed."
The Warden was silent, yet Ciri could see the way the armored man tensed. The subtle shift of stance along with the way he reached for the scimitar round metal shield at his back. "And if I refuse such an order?"
"Then I will take matters into my hands." Once more the man showed such confidence to such a threat. "Its obvious this council is far too corrupt to govern Qarth properly, too divided to do what is needed. This city needs a single ruler who can make decisive choices to preserve its future."
The idea drew a fierce outroar from the other Thirteen, enough to startle even Ciri.
"That goes against everything Qarth stands for!"
"Our ancestors left the east to escape such tyranny!"
"You aren't even a true Qarthian!"
The last remark sparked a fierce anger across Xaro's face, silencing the council though a few kept stern looks. "Hypocrites…all of you. The Grand Warlock was right, you've all twisted the founding ideals of our city. I do not enjoy the idea of using force…but in this case I see no choice."
Harito scoffed at that point. "Force? You have no one to fight for you! At this rate you should be the one arrested for all this chaotic speaking!"
At that point the warlock Twins chuckled together, a quite eerily sound that drew all gazes to them. "…From your point of view Prince of Blades..." The brother calmly stated.
"..Your emotions blind you…" The sister followed.
Again Ciri felt that ache in her head, now realizing the Twins were indeed using some form of magic that was affecting not just her, but the whole room. "Jorah!" She warned out as she reached for her sword, the knight growling as he did the same.
"…NOW SEE THE TRUTH!" Both Twins proclaimed, each raising their arms up over their heads.
In the blink of an eye they appeared, figures dressed in fierce dead gray armor forged into a skeletal like shape such as a snarling skull helm or a breastplate of exposed ribs. Their weapons were spiked cruel spears, weapons designed to bring a slow painful death to whoever they harmed. They carried round metal shields with the front designed to show faces of agony or snarling monsters. It was the Wild Hunt, the raiders of the Aen Elle. "No…it's impossible…" She muttered, tensed as she took a fighting stance, her back to Jorah and the Warden as they looked at their foes. They were in two groups of four, coming from the left and right to surround them.
"Where the hells did they come from!?" Jorah cursed, shield up as he looked about, seeming quite shaken.
"Sorcery! I knew the Warlocks consorted with demons!" The Warden growled out.
"Demons? These are Blood Riders baring Khal Jhaqo colors!" Jorah argued back.
At that point Ciri realized what was really going on as the Wild Hunt closed in, spears and shields up surrounded the group. "Because they aren't real, at least not what we see." Ciri muttered to herself, making Jorah glance at her oddly. "Don't think…just act Jorah!" With that she stepped up to the nearest Wild Hunt warrior who jabbed out with his fearsome spear. She twisted to avoid the aimed stab, using her momentum to swing Zireael down with full force at the weapon's shaft. Despite it being made of Aen Elle metal, the weapon was cut in half like it was a twig. "Just as I thought!" She then slashed upward, cutting across the grim chest plate like it was paper.
One of the Wild Hunt warriors closed, not hesitating despite watching his fellow warrior be cut down so quickly. Ciri turned her blade in an onward angle, parrying the spear to the side before stepping up. The sword grinded along the shaft of the spear until she struck with the pommel of her Zireael, striking the skull like helm right where the nose was. Despite being of solid metal, there was a sickening crack and she felt a small spurt of blood as she broke the 'elf's' nose. With him staggering in pain, he didn't hesitate to grasp her blade in both hands before driving in through his chest and into his heart, a fluid killing blow.
Quickly she turned to face the last two warriors facing against her, both having their shields up as they grouped together. The short pause gave Ciri time to get a quick look on the rest of the room. Both Jorah and the Warden were facing off against two of the imposter Wild Hunt, using their heavy armor and shields close effective distance of those spears. The Thirteen at the table were in a panic, babbling in near terror at what they saw.
"Demons! No it can be true!"
"No…I paid that debt. Why do they serve him?!"
"Their faces, why do they have no faces!"
"Insanity…" Ciri muttered as he eyed her foes who were slowly shifting closer, keeping up their defensive stance to avoid the same fate as their companions. Behind them the Twins had calm smiles on their faces while Xaro had a more concerned look seeing Ciri's skills in person. Taking a step towards her enemies, her foot suddenly slipped as she nearly tripped over herself. Suddenly the room was spinning, up felt like it was down as a nauseating sense of vertigo hit her. Her head ached as she tried to balance herself as she nearly dropped to her knees. "Ugh…another trick of theirs…" She cursed, staring at the Twins intensely.
"Kill her now! She's too danger-" Xaro began to order, only for the Twins to flash fearsome looks of rage at the man. That show of anger let out some surge of power as pain seemed to wrack the minds of everyone gathered, including the Wild Hunt.
"Her life is worth more than everyone in this city!" The brother declared.
"A single scar on her will bring ten-fold the suffering!" The sister followed.
Despite the head pain, Jorah had shrugged it off before the Wild Hunt had, giving him a chance to rush at the warriors threatening her. Giving a yell he drove his blade right through the Wild Hunt warrior's side followed up by a shield strike across the bridge of the face. "Good thing I'm…ugh…" He started before he staggered suddenly; eyes wide as he barely could stand now.
"Westerosi." The brother muttered. "You've proving to be troublesome."
"Die." The sister chuckled, nodding for the last warrior to attack.
Ciri growled as he tried to move, yet even crawling felt impossible as she barely could shuffle forward. Jorah shifted onto one knee, raising his shield up as he was stabbed at, just having enough coordination to block it. The warrior took advantage of his low position to kick at him to lower his shield arm before preparing to strike down at the exposed nook of his shoulder.
"Not if I can help it!" Harito yelled, the trade prince at last getting enough composure to fight back. The scarred man leaped over the council table, rushing at the Twins with a curved dagger in hand, startling them.
That timely distraction made the vertigo disappear from Ciri who quickly acted. Knowing she couldn't reach Jorah without dashing; she instead grabbed the spear shaft she had cut off earlier. With a yell she threw it right at the Wild Hunt warrior, the force of her throw not enough to pierce into his side though it did stagger him. That was all Jorah needed as he kneecaped the warrior's right knee with his shield, knocking him down. Before his foe could even struggle, he already wrestled on top of him, right elbow pinning down at the other warrior's shoulder while his left hand braced the pommel of his blade. The Wild Hunt warrior soon had steel shoved through his neck and further into his skull, bypassing his helmet.
Ciri though didn't hesitate as she moved for the Twins, the brother grappling with Harito to protect his sibling. The trade prince locked eyes with the warlock, making his legs seemingly to turn into jelly as he tumbled to the ground cursing. She knew that if he focused on her, she'd most likely be in the same state. "Jorah!" She spoke out, making the knight look up to realize the situation.
The knight quickly dropped his sword before grabbing the spear of his slain foe. Hefting it up and back, he gave a yell as he threw it right at the brother as he turned to face them. He gave a deep grunt as the weapon sunk right into his gut, his fancy clothes doing little against the strength of Jorah's throw. Staggering about, he tried to grasp the weapon before slumping to his knees, blood soaking his front and starting to trickle from his mouth.
"Brother!" The sister cried out, terrible shock on her face before she realized Ciri was closing in on her. While distraught, she seemed to have enough focus as those hateful eyes glared at her, the intense vertigo hitting her. With what balance she had, she leaped to tackle the woman down who cried out as she was slammed to the stone floor. With the vertigo gone, Ciri lash out with her left hand, a back hand across the jaw before a punch down on the nose. Between the angry strength and the sturdy leather glove, the woman passed out with a broken nose.
Panting, Ciri stood up and looked to Jorah who gave a short nod to her to show he was fine. They both turned when they heard a final grunt as the Warden cut down the last of the his opponents, Unsullied instead of Wild Hunt warriors. It was impressive that he took on four of the slave soldiers by himself, though between that armor and shield he had plenty of protection against those spears. Looking around the room, Unsullied corpses littered around the whole space, confirming her theory. "All an illusion. They made us see what we saw as a fearsome threat." She muttered to herself, though Jorah overheard her.
"Explains a lot. Don't know why I fell for it…never heard of a Dothraki using a spear and shield." Walking over to the male warlock who had fallen onto his back now, he prodded the body which remained still. "That dizziness though nearly got us. Head is still spinning after that."
Ciri already had some ideas on what kind of power they had been using, both to disguise and hide the Unsullied along with weakening them. Her attention though was on Xaro who had stayed aside during the chaos, the trade prince having his hands up in a nervous show of surrender.
"Ah…let's not be hasty no-" He started before Jorah punched him right in the gut to interrupt him, doubling over as he gasped in pain.
"I recommend you shut up my lord." The knight muttered threateningly.
Harito sighed as he got up, rubbing the back of his head. "Complete chaos that was. Blasted warlocks…" Looking to the Warden, he approached him as the armored warrior seemed to check himself over, having gotten nicked in the side by one spear. "Are you able Warden."
"A flesh wound. I will see to it later." The man calmly stated. "I believe Lord Xaro will need to be arrested for this attempted coup."
"Heh…obviously." The Prince of Spices scoffed. "I should have known he'd attempt it. All that ambition…"
At this point Ciri spoke up. "I hope you don't think Xaro's actions means your own are forgiven." Wiping her blade clean off one of the dead, she continued to speak. "When I find Daenerys, we are going to finish this trial, though I'll assure you that she won't want your death despite what you've done." The two stared each other down, yet the trade prince yielded.
"Fine…considering you did protect the council; you've proven to be as honorable as claimed. I swear that I will remain within the Citadel until the Khaleesi returns…or you pass judgement."
While it was good to know the man wasn't trying to squirm free from his crimes, the tone of Dany's fate made her tense. "You best keep that word. Now then…" Moving to Xaro, she grabbed him by the collar of his lavish clothes, yanking him up to stand straight as he recovered from Jorah's punch. "What did you and the warlocks do with my sister?" She growled.
"Lady Vaera…you must understand that-"
"I don't think you understand Xaro. The matter is simple, you answer my question and maybe I won't throw you off the top of Citadel."
The threat confused the man before her scoffed. "You think that kind of threat matters. What the warlocks can do…what the Grand Master…they will make death seem like a blessing."
At that point Ciri decided it was time to show how serious she was. "Warden, would you mind if I speak with Xaro privately for a few minutes?"
The armored man simply nodded before Harito and Jorah gathered up, the three no doubt quick to discuss plans on taking down the rest of Xaro's Unsullied in the city along with other hostile warlocks.
Dragging Xaro to the doors out of the chamber, she waited until they closed before glancing down the intersection of the large hallway. "Good…now then…" Her eyes glowed with power, the energy flowing around her form. Xaro gawked in shock before everything changed in a flash, the two no longer within the hallway, but a thin ledge that rimmed the domed roof of the Citadel. The position left the trade prince's heels at the very edge, the only thing keeping him from falling being Ciri's grip. "Where is Daenerys!?" She growled, the wind whistling around them as her arms edged him backwards.
"Gods! Oh gods…what…what the hells are you?!" He stammered out, shifting until he felt one foot nearly tumble off the ledge. "It's true…Targaryens having powers…"
"Enough whimpering. Answer me!"
The man glanced from her and then down to the street below, a fall that would undoubtably kill them. "The House of the Undying. The Grand Warlock…he…appeared last night, somehow lured Daenerys to my chambers. He…charmed her or something, convinced her to go to the House for protection."
It made sense that she'd be there if the warlocks were involved, yet the way Xaro looked aside hinted there was more to it. "Why do I feel like you're not telling me something?"
"They…The Grand Warlock seemed more intent on you. I thought it foolish since the dragons were…more obviously useful." Ciri again nudged him backwards, making him yelp fearfully. "I don't know anything more! Please just…get us down from here!"
She felt like there was nothing else the man could tell her. If anything this showed he was more of a pawn, a figurehead to all of this. Without a word, she again surged with power before warping them both back to the hallway. Letting go of Xaro, he fell back with a yell as he landed roughly to the floor. "Now…if you have any sense; you'll behave while I'm gone. Understood?"
All the man could do was quickly nod back as he staggered back to his feet, looking away in humiliation as he reentered the chamber of the Thirteen. By now more of the Citadel guards were around, clearing away the bodies and speaking with the Warden. Jorah was speaking with Harito, both too focused on their conversation to notice her return.
"I'll see to getting the Khaleesi's people to my home. They will be safe there." The Prince of Blades muttered before noticing Ciri. "Vaera. I take you got the coward to talk?"
She nodded. "The Warlocks have Daenerys and the dragons in the House of the Undying. Seems they did so to keep her under their watchful eye…and to lure me to them."
Mention of the warlocks home had the man pale slightly. "My lady…if the Khaleesi is there, then her freedom will be at the will of the Warlocks. No one who enters there ever leaves unless they wish it."
"Then I'll be the first then to change that." Ciri confidently stated. "They have some magic tricks up their sleeve, but we understand it better after facing off against the twins. Besides…if my role was switched with my sister I know she'd come for me despite the odds."
"You won't be going alone that is for sure." Jorah remarked, drawing a curious look from Ciri. "You don't think I'm letting you go in there alone. My duty is to protect the Khaleesi and it's going to take more than some illusionists to scare me."
Ciri smirked hearing how determined he was. If anything he had watched her back well throughout the last fight, even with whatever magic the twins used. "Haven't let me down yet…but considering what we'll face you should best follow my lead."
Jorah nodded in agreement since he knew Ciri had far more experience with magic, even if the her world was different from this one. "Anyway, the Warden is rallying the guard. They'll be surrounding the House of the Undying by days end. At the least they'll make sure no one goes in or out without them noticing."
"Or what they can perceive at least." Ciri muttered before gesturing for the door out. Harito and Siranea did look to them as they passed by, concerned looks hinting their faces. They knew the two were facing an unknown threat, though knew better then to dissuade them. With them out of the chamber, the two made their way out of the Citadel and for their horses outside. "So…any questions on what just happened?" She asked Jorah as they quickly walked.
"So how did Xaro get so many of his guards into the Citadel unnoticed?"
"Two ideas. They either made them unseen by others perception, think invisible but only to select individuals. I'm sure if the Unsullied did more than stand still or walk the deception would fade."
"Then I take the other approach was they were 'glamoured' to look like someone else, perhaps Citadel guards?"
Ciri nodded. "It's one of most basic illusions from my world, though based off skill and power there is limitations. Such as the fact the disguised Unsullied still had their favored weapons, only changed to suit their false appearance."
"And what about the dazing ability? If anything that one proved the most dangerous despite its simplicity."
That was a good question which had Ciri pause in thought. "From how the twins used it, it seemed to be limited by their vision and to a single person. They also seem to require intense focus, since pain or being startled broke the vertigo I felt."
"Still doesn't explain how they did it." Jorah remarked. "I've only really seen blood magic at work, so I expected more chanting and hand waving."
Indeed that was a curious point as well. Even magic from her world required a form of channeling, be it spellcasting or through magical focuses. "That's what is worrying…I'm not certain how the"
By now they had reached their horses tied up at the stands set for visitors to the Citadel. Mounting up, they began to ride off towards the House of the Undying, tucked away in the most northern reaches of the city. Already the city guard were about, the regal mounted ones giving orders to the foot soldiers as they seemed to urge people to their homes along with searching the city for stray warlocks.
"So what is our defense against these illusions and…mental attacks?" Jorah asked as they rode along.
"A sharp reaction be it to the caster or the afflicted can break it. Even if you know of the possibility of an illusion, your senses and logic are turned against you. A strong will can disbelieve it, or sharp pain can possibly snap one back to reality."
"Doesn't sound like we have many reliable options. Guess we'll have to rely on watching each other's backs."
The rest of the ride was silent, the two more focused on their surroundings. The north end of Qarth became more natural, small fields and tree yards growing exotic plants for trade or food. Yet among the plantation manors and cozy farm steads there was the looming shadow of inky black stoned structure. Its shape reminded Ciri of a tomb, that is if tombs were the size of a keep. The land surrounding the House was pools of water which had black bark trees growing within them, covered in inky blue colored leaves. Making up the border of the House was a low stone wall, crumbling from age with the only opening being that of the road she and Jorah approached by.
"Should be called the Tomb of the Undying if you ask me…" Ciri muttered as they rode closer, eyeing the strange trees.
"The Shade of the Evening." Jorah remarked. "I've heard they can only grow in the lands of the far east, though it seems the warlocks have their own. Not that many…but enough for their foul wine."
At last the reached the base of the House, the road leading to a short set of stairs that lead to large black stone doors. Staring along the smooth stone, Ciri felt a chill about her as her mystic senses felt a great power to this place. It reminded her of places of Power from her own world…but the source here felt… "Wrong…this place is very wrong… She whispered to herself before feeling a sense of being watched. Glancing back to the low stone wall, she thought she saw a lone robed figure beyond it, face covered by a red mask. "Quaithe?"
"Who?" Jorah questioned, not hearing her clearly.
She glanced at the knight then back to the wall, the figure simply gone. "Nothing." She quickly excused, shaking her head slightly. Looking at the looming black stone structure, the deep unease seemed to grow stronger. There was only going to be two outcomes…either they walked out of this haunted place or they'd be consumed by it. She had no plans to let the later happen, not without a fight! Looking to Jorah, she'd move up to stand beside him, the two stepping towards the black doorway of the House of the Undying.
Notice: A turn of events for the Thirteen along with a show of what a warlock can possibly do. Sorry for the House of the Undying being delayed to the very end, but I wanted to give a good twist of politics and action in this case. However this chapter got quite dense writing it, so it's been split into two. So in a few days the next chapter will be released! Expect to explore on a lot of unique lore and themes, with questions answered and new ones made.
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