Sep 24, 2019 4:43 AM
Annatar in the Game of Thrones
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"Then I would be honored to speak with your smiths, and will be happy to accept your hospitality even if my art proves useless to you. But I suspect opportunity for us to work together! Would you tell me more of how you live, here? Do you mine your metals? Or are they brought from elsewhere? Can you tell me of the duties of a lord of this land?"

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“And I would be honored to work with you,” he replies. “Particularly if what you wear isn’t representative of your art.” His sons- as well as the mystery someone else- listen attentively. There are flashes of thought in Lord Stark’s mind. Ambitions of replicating lost art, reclaiming the miracle of Valerian steel. Ambitions of bettering his peoples, of making them wealthy and happy and safe from the depredations of lords he considers less honorable than himself. “We do a little mining here, but the land is too hard to mind deeply here. There are rumors that the Iron Isles have iron mines, but they deny this. Of course, they get their iron from somewhere and their name is telling.” You would think they would be more cooperative with the man that conquered them, Lord Stark thinks, but he also thinks that very little justifies war. Certainly not annoyance and the withholding of valuable resources. “Much of our ore we import from Braavos at painful expense, but the lands of the North can largely feed our people-“ pride here- “and the export of timber covers many of our expenses. Iron is expensive everywhere in Westeros-“ the country his lands belong to? “And only castle smiths have the skill and wealth to work high quality steel. There are local smiths who do work other than castle-forged of course, but that is useful only for horseshoes, barrel bands, plows, other tools.” It is clear by the joy in his mind, that his people are one of his only passions. “My duties are as one would expect. Arbitration of disputes, law making, overseeing public works, seeing to the prosperity of my lands, and the execution of justice where necessary.” His face grows as grim as before and his mood sours. “Such are the duties of a lord of this land. What of yourself? Are you a smith or a lord? If the former, are your masters just? If the latter, how do you rule?” Suspicion of an unknown kingdom, pain for commoners who may be suffering, hope for a prosperous trading partner... the king of Westeros may be Lord Stark’s friend, but the king has expensive tastes and the kingdom’s taxes make that his problem as well. 

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"Hah! If you mean my robes, I am afraid I have no skill in weaving I can teach, let alone that would improve on your own methods. But I assure you I can work steel as well as gold, and other metals besides. My peoples would not have such wealth as we do without enough practical art to reach more basic values."

A greedy look passes through Annatar's eyes as he imagines the raw mithril reserves that this world may unknowingly hold.

"There are tools and machines that may ease the pain of mining, but it may not be efficient. Perhaps the best use of effort here lies elsewhere. I am impressed that you have made these lands produce sufficient food! It is a stress on a people to know that they must depend on distant trade to avoid starvation. It was worth the difficulty to arrange a steady production for my own. I spent most of my time upon my craft, but I had a people of my own and a...right to rule? My people were hated by the other lords for old reasons, not relevant in many generations of men. But my power was growing while most others were weakening, and in fear they decided to cast me out. My people will be weaker without me, but at least they will survive. So many would have died if I had fought the judgement."

He looks wistful about that. It would be such a shame if they hunted down the remaining orcs at this point, with him gone. Maybe they'll grow up and manage something big on their own.

"I cannot say that I approve of those who passed judgement on me. They love beauty and prosperity, but happily sacrifice freedom, and would enchain or destroy all other races to advance their favored people. I did as I thought best for my own men, and I even taught the others some of my knowledge of the forge, but their fear was too deep and I have come out the worse for it."

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“I meant your ring largely,” Lord Stark replies. “I cannot conceive of how one might make a lantern so small, nor can I imagine how one might use it, but it speaks of marvelous craftsmanship and I am joyful that your trade is metalworking!” Thoughts of the horrors the man he executed talked of. “Winter is coming, and if your swords are half so fine we may endure it. I fear it shall be a long one. Long and cold. It sounds as though you were treated unjustly and if you wish to share your craft, there are many here who would be grateful.” He smiles in what he imagines is a warm fashion but his is the sort of face that rarely can manage anything other than grim. 

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"I have many trinkets with light of their own, but they are not my only trick. Come, hold these!"

He draws from within his robes a small hammer and takes an ornate ring from his finger, and passes them both to Lord Stark, gesturing for him to wear the ring.

The hammer starts heating up as he holds it in his hand. Within seconds the silver head is glowing a dull red, almost painful to hold.

The ring does nothing until he puts it on, when it spreads a vague blanket-like feeling over him. The heat of the hammer is dulled, as is the bite of the air, as his body stablizes at a comfortable temperature.

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“What a wonder,” he exclaims after a moment of astonished silence. “The lives this ring could save... is it possible to make more? Prohibitively expensive to widely distribute such a treasure I would guess? Come friend, I expect you are soon to be very wealthy.” His mind is filled with thoughts of applications- of peasants no longer freezing to death even while huddled around a fire, of soldiers marching on in a blizzard where previously they would freeze solid mid stride- but a small fear too, of whatever nation might exile a man like this.

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"I will happily teach you to make such items, but they are not so easy to make in large number. Even the most skilled smith will take months to forge a ring which defends against weather. Though the effect could be made at larger scale without adding so much time, so homes could be covered, or perhaps even towns or armies. Metal which heats itself is easier, but still adds weeks."

Annatar is happy to talk logistics of magic item construction for as long as the lord pleases. The main chokepoint will be how many humans he can instruct and equip for the process, and whether their efforts won't be better used manufacturing other items that could be even more useful.

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They talk logistics and approach the- insufficiently spiky- fortress. Lord Stark seems to prioritize things to keep his people warm in an impending winter which he hints as if everyone in the world knows, will be years long. He also seems very interested in replicating a material called Valerian steel which a telepath’s view of his mind reveals to be... slightly stronger and more rust resistant than normal steel. This is what his sword is made of, and seems to be the pinnacle of weapons technology, now long forgotten. In the privacy of his mind, Lord Stark also assigns it a number of dubiously plausible mythical properties such as “able to kill the monsters that live north beyond THE WALL which may or may not actually exist,” and “maybe forged by dragon fire? Who knows?” 

He is very impressed by Annatar and seems to consider that, and the rings of weather protection, to be the best that Annatar could maybe-offer, and sees these things as making Annatar more awesome than anyone he’s ever met except maybe his best friend the king. 

 

 

After a meaningful amount of traveling, a massive elk is found dead in the road, it’s throat torn out and strewn across the packed dirt like so many moldering rubies, it’s antlers snapped like a tree’s boughs in a fierce storm. Lord Stark grows pale, but approaches before his men, even without a horse. His armsmen are given orders to defend Annatar, then he and his two elder sons (and whatever is going on with the other young man who doesn’t really look like him at all) trudge into the woods to investigate. A few minutes later, they return and ask for Annatar to follow. 

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...Annatar has helped with designing dragons before, and could probably duplicate the process, but it doesn't seem likely to be more effective than an industrial-scale bellows system. He forged the Ring in a volcano because it was his place of power, not because metaphors for fire are actually better than proper forges.

But blood on the wind catches his attention, and he follows when asked, pleased to see what powerful predators they have in these lands.

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The predator lies dead about twenty feet from the road... path? Trail? Lord Stark regards the... road... as a major thoroughfare. 

 

The trees are thick here, one of the isolated thickets, and leaves lie thick in the beast's matted fur. It’s muzzle is a full two feet long and filled with gore-streaked fangs. It’s a canine of some sort, but no sort Annatar has ever seen. A wolf-like creature the size of a horse, maybe a little bigger, it’s fur thick and shaggy. Lodged in its throat is a section of the Elk’s antler and at its cold teats, six tiny pups try futilely to nurse. 

“A dire wolf,” says the man who doesn’t seem related to Lord Stark. 

“Aye,” Lord Stark agrees. “I’ve never seen one south of the wall before. I suppose we ought to count ourselves lucky we didn’t have to hunt the beast down.”

”My lord,” says the man who what’s his deal? He picks up one of the pups and draws a dagger from his belt. “Shall I dispatch the pups for you?”

”No,” Lord Stark raises a hand. “Friend Annatar, you ruled men in your land. Tell me, what would you do, we’re these your lands?”

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"A wolf of this size! What a wonderful creature! Can they be trained? I am sure no herdsman would wish to live near one, but it seems a great shame not to ally yourself with such noble beasts!"

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Lord Stark frowns thoughtfully. “Noble beasts? Hmm. I suppose they ARE my house sigil. Perhaps they can be trained. I have never heard of a wolf being trained and they’re as fiercer than wolves as wolves are than dogs, but... what do you propose? I think my master of the hounds would not thank me for giving him the task.” 

The youngest of his three sons regards Annatar with interest and excitement. He wants very much to be a knight and Annatar is an impressive enough king-standin that he’s captured the boy’s imagination. The boy’s name is Bran. He chooses not to speak of his daydreams. 

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Annatar considers for a moment and eyes the boy with a light smirk.

"If they are to wolves as wolves to dogs it is a simple task to train them, though perhaps not easy nor safe. I have seen wolves trained, and they must be directed with forceful will lest they decide you are unworthy to lead the pack. But it is easier when you begin with the pups, and they are clever, they have a better memory for instructions than dogs. And you have sons! It is a fine task for a child. If they can learn to lead a beast like this, I am sure they can lead any man."

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“There are five pups,” the unintroduced not-son says, “and six Stark children.” He seems a little hostile. Annatar is fairly sure, given better eyesight, that there are in fact six pups. 

“I’m not a Stark,” the unintroduced one of the two elder sons replies and doesn’t quite manage not to sound bitter. 

“Your words seem wise, friend Annatar,” Lord Stark cuts in. “In truth, I am loathe to slay a pup, even a direwolf pup. My children will raise them. They are to see that the creatures are fed, and trained, and housed.”

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It is an interesting family they seem to have here. A guest and a cousin, perhaps?

"A fair judgement. I hope they may be a valuable ally and lesson. But I see six pups? Look, the white one merely hides."

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“The runt of the litter for the bastard! How fitting.” The not-related man seems to take pleasure in wounding the unintroduced son but it seems the sort of pleasure born from a need to distribute ones pain rather than from innate viciousness. 

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To combatively compare status is a common human passtime, but it is curious that this one seems to be unsure of his position even relative to the bastard. Is the not-a-Stark favored for some other reason? Is the unrelated boy instead disfavored? Child of a criminal, or an enemy? Or perhaps an ally who the lord dislikes for personal reasons? Lord Stark does seem the type to keep his obligations even if he disapproves of the beneficiary.

But more importantly, they are taking the wolves! They are good wolves, he's sure, and they would look very good in armor. Annatar makes a mental note to start designing war barding by the time they are fully grown. Black would be a good choice, it would match the fur. But maybe the white one should wear mithril! He hopes the apparent bastard is strong enough to control the wolf well, it would be a fine sight to send him into battle on a mithril-plated direwolf!

Refocusing on the scene around him, Annatar reaches down and pulls the piece of antler from the mother's neck. He flicks away stray droplets of blood, all of which deftly avoid his robes, and places the fragment in a pocket.

"A fine coincidence, then! It will teach a useful sort of strength. Should something be done with the mother?"

 

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The unrelated man doesn’t think of his heratige. Lord Stark does, though. Theon Greyjoy, last surviving son of the lord of the Iron Isles. Lord Stark is very not-find of the Iron Isles. 

There is shame is Lord Stark’s mind as well- or guilt perhaps? Not the sort of “I slept with someone not-my-wife” guilt you would expect of the father of a bastard, but rather guilt over... dishonesty? He doesn’t dwell on it in enough detail for Annatar to catch. 

“I will send men to dispose of the mother,” Lord Stark replies. “If she isn’t actively a threat, she doesn’t require my direct attention.” 

If Annatar has nothing further he wishes to do or say, the party moves back to the road and continues towards the insufficiently spikey castle. 

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Interesting! Annatar will need to pay attention to these boys. Family ties seem to be very relevant on this world, which is not so different from his prior experience.

Annatar is content to continue to the castle, even if he would prefer more black-iron spires. These people can hardly manage steel, after all. It would be a lot to expect them to worry about aesthetics when they're just trying to avoid freezing to death.

Does anything interesting happen before the humans turn in for bed?

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A man in grey robes meets them at the gate. He wears a chain like a bandoleer, each link of a different material, and carries a letter written on a long thin ribbon of paper. 

“A raven came, milord” he says. “Letter from King’s Landing.”

Lord Stark thanks him and takes the note, reads it quickly, and passes it to his eldest son. “Jon Arryn is dead,” he says. 

“Assasination?” Rob, his son, guesses. 

“Fever,” Lord Stark corrects him. “Not necessarily exclusive of assassination, but not obviously foul play.” In his mind, nebulous fears of poison. “The king is coming to Winterfell.”

”To name you hand to the king?” His son guesses. 

“I can think of no other reason,” Lord Stark does not seem to view the idea of promotion with pleasure. “This man is our guest. Make up the room in the west tower, and see to his needs. Annatar, my apologies. I must go and help my wife to figure out how we’re to pay for a royal visit and the feasts that go with.”

 

Annatar also meets his two daughters and youngest son; Sansa the eldest daughter, Arya the precocious younger, and Rikkon the very young son. The daughters wear dresses of fine silk, Arya’s soaked through the elbows and knees with fresh mud (disapproving glare from her father). Rikkon is dressed simmilarly to his brothers. The extremely busy Lady Stark wears a tastefully embroidered silk gown and jewelry which seems limited more by tastefulness than budget. The armsmen are equipped simmilarly to the horsemen Annatar first saw, armored in toughened leather and ringmail. The servants wear well-spun wool. The kingdom does not seem impoverished, but Winterfell is a fortress first, the center of government second, and a palace not at all. 

An armsman is assigned to show Annatar around (his mind carries instructions to guard against treachery as well) and Annatar is permitted to wander. 

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Honestly, Annatar finds this kind of refreshing after spending so many years living with elves. Understated and warlike aesthetics are valid too.

But it is good to see some signs of wealth and power. It seems the king respects Stark, as well as the reverse. And more significantly, the king is coming to Winterfell! Now that will be a good opportunity, but he will need to be well-prepared to take advantage of it.

For the moment, Annatar will ask his guard if there's a library he can visit. He can derive a bit of the written language from the letter from the king, but becoming fully literate is a high priority. He'll also need to get to know the family, but tonight will be spent mastering the language both spoken and written, so he can properly communicate in this world.

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There is a small library, which the guard is happy to guide Annatar to. The guard seems to understand that they must- somehow- hold information, but is not himself literate. 

Annatar learns to read and then also many interesting things. No one disturbs him until morning. 

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Maiar don't have human psychology, or even elvish psychology. Or biology, for that matter. Annatar has more attention and patience, a better memory, and no need to sleep. He is fully capable of spending the night cross-referencing between books and the thoughts of the men in the fort, and by morning he is effectively fluent.

He's also gained a passing familiarity with some of the political structure of this world and its warlike history. There's a lot of room for improvement. Farming efficiency could be drastically improved just with new techniques, selective breeding has a lot of low-hanging benefits, even their road-leveling methods leave a lot to be desired. Better steel should be his first priority, since it's his own talent and it's so useful, but the most serious problem seems to be that all of their political fragmentation is setting things back years every generation! He'll need to see what the king is like.

Since he has the necessary footing now, he'll stop listening to the thoughts of the men. Does anyone come and get him for breakfast, or should he just ask to be shown to the forges?

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The young son- not the baby, the one who wanted to be a knight- Bran greets Annatar in the morning. This isn’t very unusual. He enters the library through the window. The window doesn’t seem built with entry as a design consideration. Bran is full of questions- about Annatar, about his homeland, swords, whether or not it is advisable to feed eggs to a direwolf pup. He eventually gets around to inviting Annatar to breakfast. It is implied that all three meals are held in the great hall every day and though breakfast and lunch are informal affairs with flexible hours, guests normally attend all three with the family. The Lord Stark also holds audiences during meals, which Bran regards as insufferably boring. 

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Annatar has answers for the boy, and a few questions of his own. He speaks about some of the impressive accomplishments of his home, their great cities and impressive weapons. He mentions the concept of gunpowder, and how an explosion may be harnessed to strike an enemy from far away. He also questions the child about the local customs, what they celebrate or mourn, what they worship, what he knows of the king and his court.

He is definitely not bored by audiences, and will be happy to eat with the family. Knowing what people want is one of the strongest forms of power, he mentions to Bran!

Do the lord and lady still seem stressed over the king's impending visit?

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