4 ‘And now it begins…’

Pleasant, safe, silent and reassuring warmth. These are the sensations I feel, as if I were at the bottom of an empty pool, in a meditative position, breathing slowly while gentle hands caress my skin.

I am inside the womb of my second mother." I think enjoying every moment in this different paradise.

'Correction I was...' The amniotic fluid dropped rapidly and labour began.

About three hours later...

Total frostbite, severe burning in the eyes and deafening noise.

'Ouch!!!! That was my umbilical cord. Whoever you are I curse you butcher!!!!'

'I don't understand what they're saying...wait My Lady yes...I understand maybe every third word'. As I think this, I feel strong twinges in my chest as if someone is giving me heart massage....

'Damn Matthew-Duncan squeal and cry like any normal baby would!!!'. I started crying and screaming with all the energy I had.

'You're dropping me like that on the first step of the 'Royal Gala Catwalk!' Dammit remember the first rule: [Show your skills, knowledge and qualities in a gradual and justified manner, otherwise armies of people will come marching after you based on the hymn 'Let's burn that Monster!!!']'. I think whipped.

POV: Varra Tallhart;

'I did it! You were born safe and sound' thought Varra happy and exhausted.

'You are beautiful my son!' she said clutching a dirty, screaming bundle to her.

"Maester, will my son be all right?" Asked the mother still a little shocked that according to Maester, the baby wasn't breathing at first.

"Yes my Lady, the child is healthy and strong...however you should not talk and you should try to save your strength you are losing a lot of blood..." Said a worried Maester Golbarth.

"Maester, do whatever it takes to save my wife! Your lady! That is an order!" said a furious and desperate Helman Tallarth (Torrhen's Square Master).

"No my love it is too late...I feel it...Leave me alone with my husband!" said Varra with a serene smile and an exhausted tone of voice.

"NOW, that's an order!" she shouted.

All the servants walked out in fright, the Maester seeking a nod of confirmation from his lord before walking out with a surrendered face.

"My love! Please don't say that...you can't leave me...sigh. Please don't give up!!!" cried Helman in despair.

"No Helman, it's all right. The gods foretold it, I was aware of it and so were you." Said a suffering Varra.

"He will be the key Helman...the key to a chance for peace between my people and yours...I have seen him in my dreams...Protect him, help him grow, guide him...and when the time comes tell him the truth." Said the woman with all the energy she could muster.

"Swear to me that you will do it, that you will do everything you can. Swear it..."

"I swear it by the Old and New Gods. I swear it on my life and everything I hold dear. May the gods and men damn me for eternity if I ever break my oath!" said Helman wholeheartedly.

"I thought...of a name...ugh...the name...that knight and his squire prince...you were telling me about..." she gasped exhausted with her remaining strength.

"Duncan...it is a perfect name my love...yes our son will be called Duncan Tallhart." Torrhen's square master announced loudly.

And with one last smile on her face she handed the child to her husband, who grabbed the bundle. Immediately the arms went limp and the light left the eyes of Varra Tallarth, daughter of the free people and descendant of the ancient King-Beyond-The-Wall Joramun.

End POV.


6 months later...

Year 278 BC, fifth day of the seventh moon.

'Yes I can finally more or less understand this sort of English-Anglo-Saxon-Norse.' I exult, clenching my little fist.

Some terms were still unclear, it wasn't easy. I mainly heard my 'father', the singing nurse and sometimes Maester Golbarth speaking. It wasn't easy at all. Metatron gave me a good tug of war.

I swear I must have seen at most three different rooms during this period. It was a silent cage where I could barely stay awake for six hours a day. I couldn't even apply my breathing techniques, I tried for one minute once and woke up in Maester Golbarth's room with Helman slumped in the corner. He had dark circles under his eyes and a scruffy, pained appearance. Ergo my body was not yet able to withstand any physical or mental exertion.

However, today was the day for my first debut. I'd been practising and was ready for the big event.

Helman Tallarth arrived in the evening for his usual 'Kiss on the head + Goodnight'.

When he leaned towards me as I was held down by my wet nurse Bicka, I moved my arms towards him smiling. He took me in his arms with a bright smile on his face and kissed me on the forehead saying, "Goodnight my little Ser Duncan."

'Houston we have OKAY, ready to roll in 3...2...1!'... "Gh...ghh...Ghuknight Dad!"

My 'dad' stared at me with his mouth open and eyes wide.

"Bi...Bicka did you hear that too!??" he asked stammering still in shock.

Bicka 'my Bardo-Milk Cow-Cradle' had her eyes glazed over with a trembling hand over her mouth.

"Yes MY LORD! Your son is a little genius blessed by the gods!" said a proud and excited Bicka.

4 months later...

Year 278 BC, 11th day of the 11th moon.

'Come on soldier up and give me six! I want six steps! And don't you dare crawl I want to see those high hands!' I get up after the thirty-second fall and put one foot back in front of the other trying to balance with my arms.

"'Tom! Tom! The little lord has run away again. Help me look for him!" echoed a voice from the corridor of a worried Bicka.

"'I'll go right Bicka. You go towards that corridor, he can't have gone far!" replied Tom.

'Oh no they've unleashed the hounds! I must at least reach the end of the corridor and get to the beginning of the stairs before the [END GAME. TRY AGAIN!].' I think as I was even more focused on the next step.

'10 metres...8...6...3...and I felt two hands grab under my armpits, but they weren't Bicka's.

Helman (Dad) was peering at me with a serious face. "You little brat! You already know what awaits you." He said in a thunderous voice.

"NO! NO! Good Duncan! Duncan good! Bad daddy! ...ghiahahah!!ghighighi!!!" the punishment began.

Bicka arrived and watched in amusement as one Helman Tallhart continued to blow on the belly of a ticklish child.

A minute later the torture ended...thankfully.

"Don't worry Bicka. I'll look after Duncan for the rest of the morning. Go and get some rest." Said Helman quietly as he saw Bicka make an apologetic bow.

"Duncan today is going to be a special day, we are going together for the first time to the Gods Wood and we are going to meet two special people. Do you want to come with Dad!?" asked a smiling man.

"YEAHHH!!!!PARKKK!!!" I raise my arms like I'm on a roller coaster and shout my approval as loud as I can.


'Finally the light!' For the first time in 10 months I was seeing something other than worked stone and wooden furniture.

I could see the entire castle of Torrhen's Square: a 30-metre-high stone wall with square towers at each corner and a square fortress inside the walls.

From that height you could see a landscape stretching for many miles. The fortress was situated on a small peninsula surrounded by a majestic lake. Beyond it stretched snow-covered mountain ranges (it was almost winter). On the opposite side one could see white valleys accompanied by small clearings of trees. It was breathtaking.

"Duncan this is the fortress we live in and all you see around it is our land we protect." Helman said childishly holding me tightly in his embrace.

"Land! Land! Duncan protects!" I exult clapping my hands and pointing at everything.

"hahaha! Yes and now we are going to the Park to meet your uncles!" he continued laughing at my childish gestures.

Gods wood...

"Brother, Lady Berena...May I present Duncan Tallhart my son and heir."

A man in his early twenties and a girl who must have been barely sixteen stared at me curiously. However, they were not the most curious. I was on tilt.

As soon as I entered the park I felt a refreshing and satisfying sensation inside me. The air filled my lungs and I felt increasingly calm and relaxed, and then I saw them. Two numbers made of green smoke adorned the two individuals.

Leobald Tallhart (Helman's brother): [4];

Berena (Hornwood, Helman's future wife): [1].

'That number should be the level, but why am I only seeing it now! It's never been activated before, I thought it was due to age.' I stood petrified in thought.

'Park of the gods! There's the answer. I must have come into contact with the divine energy that activated my first ability!' I thought, finding it the only reasonable answer.

"'My nephew has a piercing gaze! I've never seen a child who isn't even a year old stare at someone like that! Ahahaha." I wake up to the words of 'Uncle Leobald'.

"'Do you want to hold him? "' Helman asked.

"Of course I do! Let me have a look at this supposed demon genius you've been bragging about so much!"

'Oh yeah?! I thought annoyed. As soon as he took me in his arms and brought his face closer to mine, I made the first open-handed stroke towards his forehead. 'Spackh!" and continued on and on.

"Bad Uncle! Bad Uncle!" 'Spach!' 'Spach!' I manage to hit him three times before I can get far enough away.

Helman collapsed in laughter, Berena trying with much effort to maintain the calm and dignity of a future Lady wife. Leobald, taken aback by the blows, by the shock of a child of not even one year old who could partly understand him and above all articulate two words, stood still and stared at me for a moment before joining in the laughter.

"A true knight! Already ready to defend his honor and that of his lord!" roared Leobalth with a proud tone and a smile on his face.

An hour of praise and talk later...

"So brother have you decided whether to accept Lord Cerwyn's marriage proposal?" Leobald asked with a more serious and less playful look.

"Lady Myra Cerwyn is seventeen years old she is young, beautiful and pure. She is Lord Medger's only direct cousin and one of the few remaining of that noble house." Meanwhile I was perched under the hearth-trees pretending to sleep among the leaves and moss. I had my merchant ears well placed to catch every word.

"I don't know if I can do this brother, you know I'm not over Varra's grief yet," Helman replied.

"Brother winter is upon us, the populace will suffer without the Cerwyn's grain supply and as you know the Hornwoods are hundreds of leagues away. The roads are already blocked. We cannot risk being isolated here without allies." His uncle replied shortly after and continued, "Lord Cerwyn has already accepted my proposal to postpone the wedding but within a year at the very least we must accommodate Lady Myra."

"I would not insist if we were not in such a precarious situation." Helman took a few minutes in silence.

"I will send a raven to Lord Medger Cerwyn and accept the proposal." Said the lord of Torrhen's Square.

'Well well it looks like I'm going to have a stepmother soon' I thought as I continued to pretend to sleep.

'Well I shall have to give her a warm welcome. Winter is Coming after all.'

POV Myra Cerwyn

Year 279 AC thirteenth day of the ninth moon.

Myra couldn't stop thinking about the words of her cousin the Lord.

By now she was almost at Torrhen's Square to meet her future husband and son....

'Could I really do this to a child?' thought Myra not looking sad and remembered those words again.

"'Remember Myra this is an excellent opportunity for our family. The alliance between our two Houses will make us strong again and we will put down even deeper roots. Who knows, your children might even become the new lords of Torrhen's Square one day. After all, the rumours about his 'bastard son of the wildlings' might be true or maybe he might even have 'an accident' in the future." The word 'accident' held several meanings she knew. Her cousin the Lord was not an evil person, but over the years several 'accidents' had happened in his lands in various disputes with lesser lords tax collectors or dishonest merchants. Medger would do whatever it took to protect his family.

'Would I be able to do that?' She asked herself for the umpteenth time.

'In the future I might have a son and his half-brother might see him as a threat and so getting rid of him would be...' she interrupted this forced thought because the carriage had stopped.

It had finally arrived. A Cerwyn man-at-arms opened the door.

Myra stepped out of the carriage in her expensive and elegant fur coat lined with the finest wool.

She took a few steps and immediately caught sight of a small procession of guards leading to two individuals in the centre. A man in his early thirties about six feet tall, light brown hair, decently attractive and well-groomed, and a beautiful boy no more than two feet tall, unique steel-white hair, piercing green eyes with silvery tones on the edges of the iris, also dressed smartly in miniature clothing and a small toy wooden short sword on his strap.

Myra was mesmerised by the child and continued to advance, staring at him involuntarily.

"Lady Cerwyn, Torrhen's Square welcomes you. I am Helman Tallhart and this here is my son Dunc..." an innocent voice interrupted Helman.

"Daddy! Daddy who is that beautiful princess? Is she that fairy tale princess you tell me about at night?!" Said the child with an innocent and curious face.

Slight nods of laughter echoed through the castle.

"Duncan!!! I beg your pardon my lady. No she is the special maiden we spoke of this morning. My future wife and your future stepmother." Said Helman holding the child back.

"Really?!!! But daddy you are the luckiest man in the world! She is beautiful!!!"

This time not even the ceremonial guards in all their composure could resist laughing. Helman blushed embarrassed not knowing what to do.

Duncan slipped from his father's grasp and hurried a few steps away from Lady Cerwyn.

"So are you my new mommy Lady Princess!?" asked the child with a look that pleaded hope and expectation.

Myra Cerwyn collapsed to her knees hugging the child in tears.

'I AM A MONSTER!!! A MONSTER!!! Only a monster....deserves to rot in the seven hells for eternity just for thinking of hurting him!!!!' she thought over and over holding little Duncan firmly in her arms.

"Yes...sigh sigh little one I will be your new mommy!" managed to say Myra with a small smile between sobs.

"Why are you crying mommy!? Did someone hurt you? Tell me who it was I'll protect you!!!!" said the child pulling out his wooden broadsword and cleaving three imprecise blows to show off his skills.

"UARghh! aaaaH sigh sigh!" Lady Cerwyn shrieked in pain and tears, seeking a new embrace from her little knight.

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