Nov 28, 2020 2:47 PM
Annatar in the Game of Thrones
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Both parties look on in awe, and then Gregor’s men break. The thunder of their horses’ hooves prevents any remark Annatar’s companions may be inclined to make. 

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Annatar laughs, and spends a moment acquainting himself with his new body. This was a good idea! He could have just killed him, but something needed to be done and this was so much more efficient than making a full new body. It'll take a little while to integrate the fragment, but less than building a human body, and it'll even be more realistic that he's unnaturally durable.

He orders the Mountain tied up and brought with them, having the body act obedient and dumbstruck.

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“I’m confused,” Jon says after a moment, as the Stark guards set about binding Gregor’s compliant body. “Whatever happened was impressive, but my father always says that only a very great fool fails to notice when they are confused.” 

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"A predator will bow to the stronger will. Some men have moved beyond their animal nature, but not he."

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Jon seems to buy this explanation, and then Gregor is bound and his men scattered. 

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Then they can continue journeying, and Annatar will continue integrating his new body.

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Aside from appraising glances from his companions, the rest of the journey to the Dreadfort is uneventful. 

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Annatar can deal with appraising glances, and seems in particularly good spirits for the next few days. When they reach the Dreadfort, he sends a guard to announce them.

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The Dreadfort is a brooding, blocky structure, built atop a sheer-sided rise. Banners of house Bolton’s flayed man fly from every rampart. A village clings to the skirts of the great hill the castle is built upon like a gaggle of children clinging to their mother’s dress. It seems a dreary place, though not poor exactly, and the people hurry between buildings not making eye contact. 

A short man greets them at the entrance to the city, wearing finely tailored-if unembroidered- furs and tunic. He is surrounded by house Bolton bannermen and keeps his hand on the handle of his knife with the sort of loving tenderness one usually reserves for their child. He seems young though- barely outside of childhood himself, by the way these people seem to recon it. He gives greeting, and bids the party follow. 

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A reasonable design, but it could use some more spikes.

He follows the boy in. Stark found this house difficult to trust, so he'll also start listening to their thoughts. What do they think of this strange envoy?

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The armsmen are thinking that they were told to be ready, in case they are ordered to execute these newcomers- it would be so easy to disappear them if they come with a message house Bolton doesn’t want to have heard. So many people are ambushed on the road. Such a pity they never reached their destination. 

Ramsey Snow, bastard son of Lord Bolton, is surprised Lord Stark’s lackeys had the balls to take Ser Gregor Clegane captive, and wondering idly what will happen when house Lannister inevitably hears. Mostly though, he is busy wondering what Annatar will look like without skin, and if there’s anything more interesting that could be done first. Suspend him by hooks set in the skin of his ankles, a few slits in the fascia to start it going and let his own body weight skin him. That might be fun. Lock him in a small dark room and feed him at irregular intervals so he can’t gauge how much time has passed? Would he be lucid enough to appreciate the indeterminate period of suffering after being skinned? This Annatar man looks strong enough. A pity Ramsey’s father probably won’t let him... 

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And the entire family is supposed to be like this? It's impressive they've managed to hold a town together with a bloodline so predisposed to bloodthirst.

But no, sorry Ramsey, you aren't going to get the chance to skin Annatar. He'll keep you in mind if he ever needs an official torturer for something, though.

Are they going to meet with Lord Bolton?

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They are indeed. Lord Bolton is in the audience hall, which is the first chamber within the great steel-bound gates. He sits in silence, behind a table and writing out elements of the budget on a long ream of parchment. He looks up as the party enters, stands, comes around the table. There’s a long sword at his hip and the unmistakable tinkle of ringmail beneath his embroidered tunic. 

“Welcome to the Dreadfort,” he says. “This is my son, Ramsey Snow. What business has Lord Stark with house Bolton?” He eyes Jon appraisingly, and by the thoughts in his mind though not his expression, he seems to believe that sending ‘the bastard’ is an insult. 

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Annatar bows, and introduces himself.

"Greetings. I am called Annatar. I am new to these lands, and while Lord Stark has shown me great hospitality, I wished to meet some of the other houses, to see how they differ from what I have ready experienced. We are on our way north, but wish to stop here a day, if you will have us."

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Lord Bolton greets Annatar, and offers the hospitality of the Dreadfort. If Annatar requires anything, he has only to ask one of the guards. Ramsey is given whispered instructions to not do anything awful. 

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Annatar appreciates Lord Bolton's hospitality. Could he be shown around the fort? He's interested to see how different it might be from Stark's home.

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Guards are detailed to escort Annatar around the castle. Lord Bolton is busy. 

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Annatar takes in the sights, learns some things about how these people build their buildings, how the peasants seem to be treated, etc. He also asks the guards about Lord Bolton's leadership, their opinion of the other houses in the area, what they think of Stark's fears of a harsh winter. He listens to their thoughts as much as their answers.

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The buildings are squat and thick-walled, the ceilings low with pronounced rafters. Universally, the peasantry claim to be well treated, but in the faux privacy of their thoughts they remember friends and family that go missing without warning and the screams that sometimes drift over the moors like the omnipresent fog. 

The guards say that their lord is just, and that they are proud to be in his service. They remember the people they have been ordered to drag away though. Sometimes those people are political dissidents. Not always. Mostly, they are Bolton armsmen because at least then they’re less likely to go missing. The other houses in the area are Stark allies and they have no real complaints. 

Everyone knows winter is coming. They’re northmen; everyone in the North knows to fear the long night. This summer has been decades long; the winter will be the same. Grain has been stockpiled, but no one knows exactly how many decades the winter will be. House Bolton’s lands are a little farther south than House Stark’s and though they are concerned about the coming snows, they are dismissive of tales of dead things lurking beyond the wall. 

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Sounds in line with what he's heard from others. Potentially a useful sort of ferocity, but not one that seems to lend itself well to positions of leadership. Given their reputation, however, the name might be useful to attach to this forging town. Will he eat with the Boltons, or must he find another time to suggest the idea to them?

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The Boltons are happy to host him for dinner. It is held in a small dining room high in the northern tower- the view from the two narrow windows is spectacular. They serve primarily meats, roasted or served with a rich glaze. Jon seems uncomfortable around the Boltons and both the elder and the younger Bolton seem to revel in the reputation. 

“Tell me Annatar,” Lord Bolton says over dinner, “I see you have taken Ser Gregor captive, but I can’t imagine how. Do you care to talk of your achievement, or are the deaths of the men you lost in the endeavor still too fresh?”

 

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"You are right to be uncertain, his force was strong. But no, this was no military victory, and no lives were lost. Though he remains chained, he now travels with us willingly."

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“I confess, I’m surprised,” Lord Bolton says after barely a moment’s hesitation. “Ser Gregor has always been a Lannister man.”

”A Lannister man who burns Stark farms,” Ramsey grins. “I am forced to wonder if catching him wasn’t the true point of your little expedition.” 

Jon doesn’t look up from his meat and his face is sullen. “My father commanded him not to,” he retorts. 

“Indeed,” Lord Bolton muses, and his face is inscrutable. 

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"Hah, merely happy circumstance. I would not have wished to face him, but as it turns out, all he needed was to meet a stronger will than his own. It is not so uncommon, among brutish sorts of men. Rather like dogs, you know? They fight for their place in the order, but happily keep to it once established."

"But no, our purpose is less exciting. Lord Stark was intrigued that in my homeland we know of a way to draw heat up from within the earth to grow some plants without light. We mean to build a village, embedded in a mountain to test this. If it works, perhaps in future years the men of the North may retreat below the ground in winter, and emerge warm and fat! But for now, just a small experiment, and perhaps a useful learning opportunity for Jon."

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“That does seem a good opportunity,” Lord Bolton agrees, “and I can certainly see the use in it. Your purpose then is NOT a tour of the northern houses.”

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