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The Howling Star

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PART I

  ICE ROADS

 


Chapter 1: The Starry Wolf

 

Lyarra Snow is a maiden of ten and six with very long and wavy dark brown hair almost looking black, that at night looks like rivulets of ink. She has grey eyes that reflect her moods, turning soft as fog or sharp as steel, with pale skin, and a lean small upper body with long legs. She is the famous bastard daughter of the silent wolf Lord Eddard Stark and the beautiful Lady Ashara Dayne, who’s heart was so broken she jumped from a tower at Starfall towards the deeps of the sea. Everyone who meets Snow say she is half her mother Ashara and Lyanna Stark, her aunt who was kidnapped and raped, who later died in a feverish state. A tragedy for the North.

Because she was born among so much death, a child of war, whose lady mother killed herself after Lyarra Snow was born, everyone began to call her “The Bastard of the Stranger” even though she only believes and follows the Old Gods.  

Lyarra Snow even after being label a child of death, she lives a good decent life. Her lord father treats her well enough, and his lady wife Catelyn Tully ignores her for the most part; which is something Lyarra is grateful for, because it gave Snow the freedom to be and do whatever she wanted. Her best friend and little sister Arya envies Lyarra in that regard “I want to be a warrior! Not a silly lady” the little she-wolf had remarked more than once. Lyarra’s half-sister Sansa on the other hand, has a split attitude towards the Snow child where if she doesn’t ignore Lyarra like her mother does, then she will surely despise her with politely crafted insults regarding her parentage. Arya said that because Lyarra is more beautiful than Sansa and more a Stark as well, made the auburn hair sister boil in her fancy dresses in envy. The Snow wasn’t sure for her half-sister is regarded by all one of the most beautiful ladies to flower. Lyarra’s half-brothers for their part, are kind with her but not so close. Not anymore. And all because Lady Catelyn believes Lyarra will try to seduce them like her mother lady Ashara did to her husband. The time Lord Eddard heard that, was the last time Lady Catelyn suggested it. He had raged like the cold heart wolf everyone said he was. That time was as well the last year of closeness with her brothers for the Snow felt uneasy with the stamen, especially for a ten year old girl. The only one of the boys close enough to her without making the Lady of Winterfell hate or suspect her, is baby Rickon, who loves to follow Lyarra around and for her part loves to care of him. Not that she is good with children or incline to them, it was more about taking care of her pack.

The freedom she got from being motherless and having a busy if not absent father, permitted Lyarra Snow to learn many things, including how to fight with any melee weapon she could get her hands on. Her burning desire to be a fighter started when she heard all about her birth place, Dorne. About their traditions, views of life and bastards,and food. Also about the weather and how different is from the North, with an unforgiving sun and sinking sand, rather than clouds, fog and falling snow. The trees and plants so different from the North that would perish in the cold, and the animals in Dorne are different as well, snakes instead of wolfs and horses raised for hot temperatures instead of icy roads. From the moment she heard and read about Dorne, it became one of her dreams to go there with the hope to be like any other person, not just a bastard fruit of sin, or a stain on her father and mother’s reputation. Arya supported her desire to go there and wanted to visit as well, mostly to be able to fight like any other man. But it isn’t only that. One of Arya’s heroines lived and thrived in Dorne a long time ago, the maximum descendant of the dornish folk, the grand warrior queen Nymeria.

Lyarra confessed Arya her shared admiration for Nymeria during one of their secret sleepovers many moons ago. What Lyarra finds so fascinating from the woman is the commander skills the warrior queen demonstrated, and also her brave heart. When the Valyrian Freehold conquered the Rhoyne with their dragons, Nymeria the ruler of the Ny Sar saw her people on the brink of death took action against death. The commander and Princess Nymeria saved her people by leading the surviving Rhoynar into exile from Essos across the narrow sea to the shores of Dorne in southern Westeros. An admirable victory over extinction and slavery. But Nymeria wasn’t the only one the bastard of Winterfell feels deep admiration, she also admires many Targaryen women and secretly, the wild women of the free folk, for they fight and carry children in snow storms and frozen wastelands without breaking a sweat. The tales of all those women filled her mind since childhood, giving her hope for a life where a woman can be more than a wife or a mother. It helped Lyarra Snow to choose a life similar of her heroines, a life where she will be more than the ghost of a “lady”. She comprehends that she is never going to be considered a lady, it didn’t matter how hard she tried, for her father’s lady wife and banner men alike would never see her as one.

‘They will see a dirty bastard, the shame of their Lord. Whether I sit and sew or fight and hunt a bastard I will always be’

When Lyarra Snow realized her reality, she chose to learn how to fight, ride horses and hunt like her half-brothers instead of spending her energy and time on learning the womanly arts. Her father knew about it but kept silent as long as she was discrete and learned how to be a lady as well, even when she thought it wouldn’t help her at all in her bastardly life, except maybe sewing. ‘To make my own clothes and close wounds’ she realized the use after reading about the art of armor confection and seeing maester Lewin sew Robb’s cuts from a training gone wrong.

The bastard of Winterfell also knows that once Lady Catelyn finally gets the opportunity she would kick Lyarra out of Winterfell, and everything that wasn’t lady-like but warrior-like, would be the difference between life and death. It will secure her survival in a world cruel to women and inhuman for low-born women like the bastard girl of Winterfell.

And yet, she learned how a lady acts and is. The Snow knew how to sew, dance, play music and sing. She had sat with septa Mordame and heard all about her future duty as a wife and how she must suppress her bastardly instincts in order to never shame her future husband and to avoid dirtying the Stark name anymore. Lyarra didn’t know if she hated those lessons because she got bored or for the insults to her person.

Lyarra also received education in managing a castle and secretly how to manage a land, just like a Lord would have. That was thanks to maester Lewin, who lets her read as much as she wants in the library and explains to her everything she can’t understand. It wasn’t like Lyarra loves to read, but more about Lady Catelyn visiting very little the library. As soon as Lyarra learned how to read, the tower became Lyarra’s perfect scape hole when visitors came or when Lady Catelyn is in a fool mood, snapping at the bastard for reason at all. Of course, the Lady of Winterfell only did so when Lord Eddard visits his banner men because the Warden of the North wouldn’t let such attitude towards hi oldest daughter to happen.

Her life basically has always been a tranquil and decent one.

But Lyarra’s serene days came to an end the day she begged her lord father to let her go with him and the boys to the beheading of a Nights Watch deserter.

He tried to deny her by saying “It is a hard sight for a lady Lyarra”

To get what she wanted Lyarra only had to answer him “I am not a lady but a bastard. And as a bastard I am going to have a hard life anyway, aren’t I?”

He recoiled as if being slapped and accepted her request with sad eyes. She won the discussion but felt bad for her father’s expression anyways. Later at the field, she felt worse after seeing the sword swing and the head fall. Indeed, it was her first time watching the death of a person, but that wasn’t what terrified her when the head rolled over the green field. It had been the fear in the twitchy and lost eyes of the Night Watch brother who was extremely terrified, but not for his soon to be death. But for the reason, he ran off his post at the Watch. For her, it was like old nans tales came to life in that men’s eyes.

‘What drove him to seek death at my father’s hand than going back to the wall?’ The Snow wondered with uneasiness.

While the men were cleaning the area, she reflected that if she were a male, her destiny would have been less unforgiving and she would have joined to the Night Watch, where she would live, serve and die along her uncle Benjen, whom she loves dearly for he is the only one apart from Arya who treats Lyarra like real family instead of a bastard.

She started to feel better about how she felt after the execution when she noticed she wasn’t the only one affected by the deserter attitude. Her father was portraying a worried and surly face after all. Whatever the former Night Watch brother told him as his last words weren't something Lord Eddard felt comfortable with.

‘What could have been?’ Lyarra wanted to know what could make her father loose his cool expression.

On their ride back to Winterfell, every rider acted differently. Lord Eddard and Lyarra cool and silent, Brann, that just like Lyarra had seen a beheading for the first time was lost in though and very quiet. Robb kept talking about how brave the dead man had been, while Theon kept smiling like a fool, most of the time towards her direction.

‘What a fool kraken. The idiot must think just because I am a bastard I will fall in his bed She thought’, ignoring with all her might the older boy eyes.

 She directed her attention to her older brother Robb instead

“It was not braveness but fear what that man was feeling dear brother”

“Fear? Lya, he was brave! Didn’t you saw his eyes?”

“Aye, they were glazing with fear”

“So which one? Was he brave or afraid?” asked Bran, talking for the first time in their ride back to Winterfell

Their father simply intervened after Bran asked which one was correct by answering “A person can only be brave when is feeling scared”.

Lyarra liked the ring of that. It made sense in a sad way. When they were half their way thru the woods, Robb and Jory found a dead stag on the middle of the path and a trail of blood leading to the side of the frozen road. She approached them, examining with curiosity the dead stag.

“Wanna follow the trail little sister? Or are you shaken for all the blood today?” teased Robb knowing very well how to make her roll her eyes.

“Oh brother, if you only knew how much more blood I’ve seen for about four years ” she shot back while moving towards the trail.

“What does that mean?” asked Robb 

Before she could go lower the side path she heard her father and Jory chuckling. Robb came soon after still confused, he was about to ask her to explain when they saw it. A big beast of the size of Bran’s pony.

"A wolf?"  asked  Theon

“A direwolf,” corrected someone else.

When they went closer and down their horses, the two oldest children of Eddard Stark spotted five pups of different colors trying to suck some milk from their dead mother. Robb and Lyarra took them from the bloody snow, two on Robb’s arms and three on Lyarra's, who gave one to Bran, who was amazed by the tiny and furry thing. Someone else at their back declared they should be killed as a merciful act and their father accepted. But before Theon could kill the pup in Bran’s hands Lyarra stopped him mid step and called to her father.

“My lord” she started as serious as she could “There are five pups for the five Stark children.” She paused and continued after giving a fast look to the pups “There are even two females and three males pups for each of your children, and besides, the direwolf is your sigil, isn’t this a sign to give them to your children?” she looked at him at the eyes pleading for the life of the motherless pups just like her.

Her father expression once again changed from the cool one to a sad one.

He accepted her request to let the pups live “But only if each child takes care of their pup personally. Not with anyone’s help, except maybe Rickon”

Lyarra hurried and promised to help baby Rickon with his pup until he gets older to do so by himself. Her father nodded at that and turned around back the main road. She noticed then her father wasn’t the only one looking sad at her; she ignored it, hating their pity looks. She knew what they were thinking, at least Theon’s stupid smile worked to keep her from reacting badly.

After securing the pups they mounted their horses again and trotted back to the main road. They were half their way when Lyarra felt and heard something, stopping her horse suddenly, trying to hear better. The others did the same and asked her if there was something wrong

“Did you heard that noise just now?”

“What noise?” asked Bran, curious as ever. She didn't get the change to explain when she heard it again.

“That one! Over there” she said pointing at the place they found the pups. Robb and the others were looking at her in a weird way and he asked once again “What noise Lyarra?”

‘Didn’t they heard it?’ By the looks they were giving her, she understood they didn’t hear a thing.

“She is hearing things now. I knew she wouldn’t have come with us” added Theon in a mocking tone that irritated Lyarra in an instant.

“Ugh, whatever, just wait a moment I will check” she was already on her way back before anyone could stop her. When she got at the place she heard it again, stronger than before. She got off her horse and started to follow the sounds that got stronger by the step, she went a bit far of the direwolf mother, when she finally saw her. The tiniest ball of white fur Lyarra had seen. The pup is as white as the snow where the tiny thing was laying on her back, looking at the sky with small rubies for eyes. Lyarra realized very surprise that the little direpup had been there the whole time and no one saw her or heard her.

‘Just like a ghost.’ Lyarra smiled.

When she went back to their party of worry man, Lyarra’s smiling face made them feel better, even blessed. For the maiden never smiles like that. And when she got closer they noticed a white little pup sleeping under her neck. Lyarra had positioned the tiny thing in between her chest and neck inside her horse riding bodice.

When she arrived with a triumphant face she exclaimed,

“See? I told you a heard something! Can I keep her father?” she said with pleading eyes at Lord Eddard Stark direction

“Are you really asking Lyarra? Isn’t it obvious?” said Robb lifting an eyebrow, amused with his sister’s actions, she looked back at him with open and worried eyes, Theon chuckled “She is a bit slow sometimes isn’t she?” he said. She was looking at her chest, where the white pup was poking her little head.

“So… I can’t. Can’t I?” she said in a whisper, her shoulders fell and taking a big breath she said to the little white pup “I am sorry…I will give Ghost to…”

“Lyarra!” Lord Stark voice was so hard everyone jumped a bit from it, Lyarra’s head snapped back at him with a shocked look on her face and a bit scared. Ned Stark felt like crying at seeing his oldest daughter react the way she had.

“Y-yes my lord?” she stammered

‘My lord?’  Though Ned defeated, ‘Not even father?’

“You can” Ned repeated, but Lyarra only ooked lost and uncertain

”Ghost I mean. It is Ghost isn’t it? Your new pup’s name?”

As the clarification set in his daughter’s head she gave him a watery smile “Thank you…” she whispered and kiss Ghost’s tiny head who in turn and for the surprise of everyone was looking at Lyarra and licking her chin as if consoling her. She giggled and started to pet the white direwolf.

Robb then gave his father a sad look and Bran was looking at Lyarra with glassy eyes. The three Stark man didn’t know how it happened or when, but it was clear for them that Lyarra didn’t felt comfortable with them and apparently didn’t felt as part of their family. At least not in the way they did.

Lyarra on her side was in a bubble of joy with her new direwolf, her new friend. It was weird but fascinating the way she felt so connected with the little thing. Sadly it didn’t keep her mind away of how out of line she acted during their trip back to Winterfell ‘I acted like a fool, presuming things like always’. But what her mind keeps repeating over and over again is her lord father voice calling her name out loud with an angry tone. She promised herself to be more careful for now on, in order to never hear father speak to her like that ever again.

Lyarra Snow believes she is a strong person and even stronger woman; she is sure of her skills and training. She is well aware of her bastard status, so she can act according to it and so far she had done well in that regard. But that day became her reminder of her deep desire to be a real Stark, of being part of their family. But she would never be and that hurt her in ways she never knew, not until that afternoon.

After many moons turn later, many changes happened, one of them was Lyarra success at withdrawing herself from everyone who didn’t ask her to speak or to be with them. Lady Catelyn was pleased, and for that Lyarra knew she did well. She didn’t want to give then a reason to take Ghost from her after all. Another who changed is Lyarra’s pup, Ghost, who was the smallest of the litter, is now the biggest and most well behaved of the six pups. The pride of Lyarra. The pups have the size of approximately a full grown dog now, but Ghost was about a few inches taller than them. Arya even jested that Ghost probably inherited Lyarra’s long legs.

Now the two runts of the litter were currently taking a bath. Ghost sitting at the other side the bathtub from Lyarra who was washing her hair before doing the same to Ghost. That bath was something that it is currently prohibited for all the Stark children on Lady Catelyn’s orders. That rule is constantly reminded since none of them, even Sansa, follows their mother’s instructions. But because of Lyarra’s bastard blood she had no one helping her to prepare her bath or in bathing her like her two sisters have, making it complicated for them to break the rule as much as Lyarra did. Not that she has to follow it but she tried her best at hiding her actions because she fears Lady Catelyn will blame Lyarra for giving the idea to her children. When in reality it had been Rickon the mastermind behind such a good idea. It is actually one of Lyarra and Ghost’s favorite moments together.

That wasn’t the only think the Stark kids were to avoid, they also need to be careful with how much dirt their direwolves carry around the castle. Thankfully Ghost is very careful to not get mud in her fur to avoid the wrath of Lady Catelyn who already despised the direwolf pups, and finding out that it had been Lyarra’s plead the reason her children are now playing with dangerous beasts was not good for the Snowgirl, who since then walked on her tiptoes around the castle avoiding the heated looks the Tully shot at her.

At least in her newfound solitude, Lyarra was able to practice twice as much with her sword and footwork.  “Now that I can finally manage two swords at the same time I will be able to learn new moves… Isn’t it amazing my silent killer?” the Snow asked the pup seating nearby, red eyes shaded by its own wet hair after Lyarra rinsed off the soap from Ghost’s head “Just wait until I show Arya how good I am even with my left hand” Lyarra kept talking to the direwolf while rinsing her own head “Do you think I will be as good as my Uncle Arthur?”

Ghost only response was a lick in her face that left Lyarra giggling until she heard a knock at her door. She asked the visitor to wait while she got out of the bathtub and took a robe to cover herself. She was about to open her door when she saw Ghost trying to get out of the bathtub on her own. Lyarra in a panicking way took Ghost out and lay her on a fluffy towel designed only for the direwolf use. She laid Ghost close to the fire so she could start drying before Lyarra could help her with the most difficult areas to dry.

Another knock alerted of the impatience of visitor at her door. When she finally opened it she couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Lady Catelyn looking rather mad but composed herself before coming inside Lyarra’s room. Her hard eyes following first Lyarra’s shape and then moved around the Snow’s room stopping when she notice the bathtub and Ghost all wet. It was not difficult for anyone to know they were doing.

“So it was you that gave such disgusting idea to my children?”

“N-no my Lady…”

“It doesn’t matter, I already know not to believe you. Now tell me, do you know who’s coming today?” her tone was full of disdain

“Y-yes my lady, the King and his family” answered Lyarra looking at her feet

“And do you know what do you have to do?”

Lyarra knew very well, and she was good at it, even better since the day of the pup’s discovery. But damn herself if she didn’t add a bit of sarcasm in her answer

“Indeed my lady, I shall behave and stay away from the eyes of the visitors so to not perturb them and lure them away from their rightful paths with my bastardy presence” she finished with slight bow

‘Shit I went too far’

“Excuse me?!”

‘Don’t do it Lyarra…do not’

“You may my lady”

“You bastard! How you dare to answer me like that?! And to think I came to help you avoid embarrassing us and yourself in front of the royal family. You should thank me for putting up with you staining my family all these years.”

‘Keep calm Lyarra’

“You have my gratitude my lady and I shall not disturb you more in the future”

Lyarra managed to keep her voice firm and calm since she was used to her father’s wife attitude and words towards her. The only thing that still scared her of Lady Catelyn was the possibility of the Lady of Winterfell hitting Lyarra. And if she ever does the Snow would defend herself whether on purpose or by instinct thanks to all the time practices. 

Before Lady Catelyn had the opportunity to yell more at Lyarra, Arya’s voice cut them both like a knife

“Mother Stop!”

The two were looking at Arya who entered at Lyarra’s room, her face was red and her eyes ice cold, clear signs of the little she-wolf mood.

“Stop yelling a Lyarra! And let her dress, it is freezing! Do you want her to catch a cold and die? Would father like that? What about Robb? Or Bran? Rickon? Or me? Do you think we would like that?”

‘Oh wow, she used that… I respect your ladies rocks little sister’

Lady Catelyn flinched at the statement, her face grew harder than ever before and without looking a Lyarra she told her to "get dress with your best clothes" and "remember your duty girl". Then she walked out of the room but didn’t left until Arya followed her, to scold her that’s for sure. After all, she not only helped Lyarra but yelled at her own mother. Before Arya could leave Lyarra snatched her arm and hugged her hard while whispered her thanks.

Arya left with her face up and proud.

‘Like Nymeria probably did after rescuing her people from death’ Lyarra was sure of it.

After such a draining exchange, Lyarra felt exhausted, so before putting her finest clothes on she decided to sleep a little. It wasn’t like she needs a lot of preparation, she is simply the runt of Lord Eddard’s litter. She dried herself and Ghost lazily, taking good care of the direwolf’s sensitive areas. When they were properly dried, she took Ghost in her arms with all her strength toward their bed, where she laid the pup in her side of the bed, they cuddled before getting the much deserved repairing rest after encountering Lady Catelyn so closely. Lyarra only hoped the dreams about the crypts stopped. In the dream, she heard several voices telling her to go there, but she knows it’s not her place, and will never be, and that’s what Lyarra yells to the crypts every time she finds herself walking thru the graves of her northern ancestors.

Thankfully the tiring dream never came, thanks to Ghost waking her up just on time to get ready and take her place with the others. She was even thinking about not attending at all, it wasn’t like she was going to be presented or something similar to the royal family. She was even considering not attending the banquet later that day. But when she got out of her bed and turn her eyes around her room she saw a dress waiting for her by the door.

‘Am I dreaming?’

She wasn’t sure who left the dress, but it was gorgeous, the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. The color was divine, a wolfbane kind of purple with silver decorations at the long sleeves towards the end of each in the form of little stars and it was the same around the waist except that those looked like shooting stars. The neckline is covered with gray fur that matches’ the silver details. The combination of the colors somehow made her love the dress even more. It was like declaring that she was wolf immune to poisonous flower. The dress must probably come from Arya and someone else. Because Arya is the only one who knows Lyarra’s taste in clothing. And also how much Lyarra appreciates the symbolism around the details. And there must be a second person since the fabric and the stitches were perfect and well done. And Lyarra knows more than well that Arya’s talent with stitches will never go as far as closing open wounds. Whoever helps the wild she-wolf, has a real talent with needles. It didn’t really matter anyways. For Lyarra has the prettiest dress in her hands and she wasn’t going to deny a gift like that. She has to use at least once.

‘I have no other option but to attend to the damn banquet’

That also meant she couldn’t miss the welcoming of the royal family. So she approached her closet and choose a simple but pretty dark gray dress that she modified a long time ago. Lyarra attached some compartments inside the skirt to carry anything she wanted. That invention she copied from the maester's robes is the only reason that made Arya more agreeable to use a dress outside banquets or important events. “It is easier to hide things in them and now are actually useful” Arya had told her dreamily. And she was right, for Lyarra even carried a dagger most of the time in her own dresses and always has dried meat for Ghost.

When Lyanna finished dressing and braid her hair in a simple style, took the fastest path to the main entrance as quickly as she could since the King’s arrival had just been announced. When she finally took her place between everyone, she noticed Arya taking her place at the same moment as well. The wild wolf cached the starry wolf’s eyes and they were smiling with complicity. Lyarra’s luck was terrible that day because she also caught Lady Catelyn’s disapproving eyes, Theon’s leery ones and her father’s sad ones.

‘For the gods! Don’t they have nothing better to look at? Like the gates opening right now?’

First, some gold cloaks came in, followed by the kingsguard with their white attire reflecting their position, and in the middle of them, the king himself came trotting over a very tired horse. The king wasn’t anything like the stories Lyarra heard. It was just a tall and fat men, with piercing blue eyes and a sweaty appearance, who of course needed help to get down from his royal and surely dying horse. A disappointment for many in the yard. Lyarra shared the disappointed mostly because she expected to see a grand warrior like the one in the battles her lord father and the king fought together. The men surrounded by the kingsguard didn’t look like a warrior at all. Everyone kneeled and raised for their king, his stony face never left her father’s serious one. He got close to him and suddenly made a jest at her father’s expense, who for his part did the same with more respect, the two laughed and hugged like old friends. The king didn’t waste time and moved to greet Lady Catelyn and each one of her kids, making a comment on each of them.

“You look like a good fighter!”, “Many will declare you Queen of love and beauty!”, “You really are a wolf aren’t ya?”, “Knight Material over here, I can see it!”, “Young but with fierce eyes” and laughed each time. While he was at that the queen got off the carriage with her three children.

‘Now, she really looks like a queen; beautiful and regal, except maybe…a nice person, not happy that’s for sure.’

Her lord father was greeting her when suddenly Lyarra felt like she was being watched. When she finally reacted, every eye of the yard was looking at her direction and the king was in front of her with his blue eyes looking watery glass. She didn’t know what to say so just bowed like a lady must do in court and kept her eyes on the king feet.

“She is your bastard isn't she Ned?”

“Aye your grace”

“Yes, she has to be. It's like looking at her mother, tall and beautiful. Ashara isn’t it?”

“Aye…” Lord Eddard's voice sound regal and sad

“But I never imagined seeing Lyanna in your bastard, with pale her skin and wild beauty” The King sound enamored making the whole interaction very uncomfortable. 

Even when everyone was looking at her with their judgmental or jealous looks, Lyarra was feeling a bit proud of being compared to her mother and aunt. Two women, she cares for.  

“Indeed your grace” Lord Eddard’s voice sound sadder in his answer

“Let us hope she is not as mad and rebel as well” interrupted a terse voice with sweet venom. Lyarra felt like glaring at whoever had the guts to declare such a distasteful thing.

“Shut your mouth women! Respect the dead for once!” the King snapped out loud, the yard was dead silent.

“Forgive me, my love, I am just tired from the long trip. We should rest now don’t you think?”

‘So it was the queen… apparently, she got only the beauty and nothing more.’

“Yeah, yeah, do as you please. But first I must pay my respects to the dead; come on Ned show me where she is!”

“Of occurs your grace, over here”

Lyarra didn’t take her eyes from the floor until she heard the king go and the others move. She had planned to get lost as soon as she could. Moving as fast as a lady should Lyarra walked towards the side of the keep towards the Godswood in search of some peace and guidance. She wasn’t even half way out of the yard when the whispering started. The people on the yard didn’t even have the decency to let her go before gossiping about her. There wasn’t a thing she did that didn’t result in gossip at Winterfell, even in in the town. She walked faster, Ghost at her side well aware of her human’s distress.

The rest of the afternoon she moved from the Godswood, to one of the lonely towers she claimed as her practice space and then to the library where she met the infamous Tyrion Lannister, the younger brother of the Queen and the Kingslayer. He was at first very rude with her,

“Ah the bastard, said” he said

She could have said something like “Ah the imp” but thankfully she managed to hold her tongue. When Tyrion saw her expression at the declaration he jumped to explain to her how he didn’t say it as an insult but rather a fact. And add that she should use the surname Snow as an armor rather than shackles. Because nothing she does will change the fact of her bastardly birth.

“Don’t forget who you are, Lyarra Snow. Because the world won’t”

“What do you know about being a bastard?” retorted Lyarra annoyed by Tyrion’s advice

“All dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes” They stopped their talk after that for they needed to prepare for the feast in honor of the King and the royal family. She walked to her room thinking about how she unexpectedly learn about her harsh reality from no other than a lion from Casterly Rock. His words making real changes inside her mind for good.

The bath she requested early that afternoon was waiting for her. She usually did it by herself, but someone send a handmaiden to attend Lyarra for the day, ‘Probably to keep appearances’ she thought while taking off her garments and clean every inch of her pale body, her mind wandered to all that occurred during the day. Bathing with Ghost was her time to relax but bathing alone was her moment to reflect and clean the insecurities and bad feelings away from herself. Sometimes it didn’t work and took only the tension from her tired muscles after practicing for hours her footwork and swordplay.

Ghost who had managed to stay clean, was observing her like the direwold did the whole day after Lyarra left the yard trying to comfort her in every way she could. The direwolf always knows when Lyarra needs her company and a cuddle to keep her frustration away. After she cleaned and dried herself she started to get ready for the grand banquet in a few hours. Ghost was even helping Lyarra by bringing her shoes, brush or a smile by nuzzling her calves with tender licks and nips.

<Thank you Ghost, truly> Lyarra thought with gratitude, looking at her direwolf ruby eyes. She was about to say it out loud but Ghost bowed her head almost as she was acknowledging Lyarra.

“Oh are you bowing at me my pup?” she said in her silly voice designed only for the pups (including Rickon and sometimes Arya to annoy her).

Ghost bowed again. And Lyarra felt a sensation of security, making her think the bow was an affirmation for her question.

‘Wait… w-what am I thinking?’

“D-did you heard me? I mean… did you h-heard m-my thoughts?!” her voice almost broke but before she could continue with her inquiry the door opened and Arya entered her room.

“Lyarra! Stop talking to Ghost and get ready fast! Father send for you before the banquet so you better hurry!” she said matter of factly and added “And I need you help me with my hair because I flipped off the girl who was doing it first. And if mother, septa Mordame or Sansa see me like this I will never be allowed to touch foot in the courtyard again!”

“What? Father? Why did you flip her off?”

“Yes, father and because she was making stupid comments about you. Now hurry, do my hair and let's go! We cannot be late again I was warned already”

“Yes…”

‘What does father needs of me? Did I do something wrong?’

“But first, come help me with my dress”

Both sisters helped each other while talking about the events of that day. About the greeting to the royal family, their disappointment with them and about what they did during the rest of their afternoon. Lyarra told her about how bad and uncomfortable she felt with everyone looking at her, and about meeting Tyrion and finally to Arya’s delight of how Lyarra is able to use both of her hands in combat. She quickly promised to teach Arya; who for her part explained Lyarra how boring sewing with the princess was and how annoying her lady mother and sister had been all day. Arya’s only highlight had been that Nymeria finally obeyed her, by giving her the gloves she kept requesting from the direwolf for days.

The two she-wolfs got out of the room with their best appearance. Arya’s dress is dark gray with two silver snarling wolves stitched at her sleeves with bright yellow eyes just like Arya’s direwolf Nymeria. Lyarra made it for her with the hope of making it easier for Arya to wear a fancy dress. The dress also has pockets at the sides very well hidden with stitches coming from the waist to the hips distracting the attention of the pocket holes, the stitches despite a wolf in mid jump on each side of her. The neck is surrounded by a gray fur just like the one in Lyarra’s dress. In the front from the middle of the tummy, the dress opens exposing a deep blue fabric in representation of the Tully side of Arya. Even though she doesn’t look like one at all. Her little sister has all the characteristics of a Stark. Long face, dark brown hair and gray eyes, she is basically a mirror to their aunt Lyanna, mostly because of their shared wild personality. Or so their father and uncle Benjen say.

Lyarra fixed Arya’s hair in a rope-like braid falling over her right shoulder. She looked the loveliest and cutest maiden Lyarra has ever seen. The dornish she-wolf is convinced that when Arya gets of age, will become the next winter rose of the North. Lyarra’s hair, on the other hand, is laid free on her back like a waterfall of brown and ink waves. Lyarra didn’t add any accessories to her hair since the dress alone was enough. And whoever made the dress knew the young Snow’s measurements very well, because it hugged Lyarra’s body perfectly. Lyarra found the last prove of Arya’s hand on the dress design. Because the dress also has pockets on the sides and no one knew about them except from the two of them. Lyarra didn’t comment on it. And Arya did the same as if the dress didn’t exist at all. Lyarra is definitely going to speak about it with Arya and make her confess who else help her with it.

“You are going to be the most gorgeous lady today you know?” said Arya with a smirk “I can’t wait to see Sansa’s face when she sees you being prettier than her”

Lyarra made a pained face and answered, “First off, I am no lady but a bastard, which leads me to number two; Sansa has no reason to get mad because no one will say nothing about a bastard’s beauty and I also cannot be compared to your sister’s beauty at all”

Arya scoffed lifting her chin up “What if you are a bastard? That doesn’t change you are prettier than anyone I know, and of course, you can’t compare to Sansa’s beauty because you two are so different! And mostly because you are prettier.” She gave Lyarra a wolfish smile

Lyarra was getting worked up with what her favorite sister was saying, she really hopes her sister is joking or it would be problematic. And it will be hard to go unnoticed by Lady Catelyn and the other people at the banquet. The lady of Winterfell told her to avoid being an eyesore and Lyarra had already failed early that day. She can't fail any more. The starry she-wolf was getting extremely nervous about the prospect of causing problems to her family and making Lady Catelyn mad. And let’s not forget the distaste Lyarra Snow has over being the center of attention. Her heart was beating fast and Ghost who was walking behind them with Nymeria, also noticed how worked up Lyarra is, whining to her human in worry.

‘I really need to calm down and stop Arya from speaking before someone hears her!’

“You know who looks lovelier today? Like a winter rose about to bloom?”

“Who?”

“You.”

Lyarra had to smile at Arya’s disgusted face and new found silence for the rest of their walk to their father’s solar. If someone got disgusted at compliments more than Lyarra, that is Arya for sure.

When they finally arrived, the guards on duty saw the two girls with very large eyes, and one of them even has his mouth open. Lyarra almost laughed at their reaction. ‘Arya Underfoot looking so clean and lady like is really a sight to behold in Winterfell.’ Lyarra mused. But when she peaked at Arya to see her reaction at the two men looking at her, Layrra noticed she was not upset but smirking at Lyarra’s direction with an arched eyebrow.

“What?” She said aloud, not liking that smirk at all,

“Nothing Lya” the smirk was now a full smile,

“Arya…”

“Excuse me, our lord father asked for us” Arya interrupted her successfully, Lyarra glared at her little sister. The guards were finally out of their stupor, and bowed to them before answering

“Of course my ladies, please go in”

The two of them gave their thanks and entered the solar. The lord’s solar is one of the most relaxing rooms in Winterfell, with big windows and a medium size hearth decorated with a direwolf head in the middle, it is very well illuminated and warm all the time. Inside, seated or on their feet, is all the other family members waiting for them, including, to Lyarra’s mortification, Lady Catelyn Stark, who looked furious. Sansa at her mother’s side didn’t look happy as well. The boys, in turn, looked tense. Even baby Rickon was extremely quiet. But he squealed in happiness when he saw them enter. The red head pup jumped at Lyarra’s legs hugging them like he always does. She embraced his head and tenderly brushed his hair out of his chubby baby face. She cherished the tiny moment. It had been a while after all since they hugged. And just because of the direwolves. The Tully didn’t let any of her children spend time with the bastard who brought the wild beasts in her home. And it didn’t help that Lyarra choose solitude during that time.

“Lya!!!”

She lower herself to Rickon’s eye level, knowing how annoys the little pup to be looked upon on

“Hello Rickon, you look lovely today”

“Lovely?

“It means it is enjoyable to see you” she explained, Rickon’s face illuminated

“Oh! Then you are lovely too!” he said matter of factly

Arya, Bran, Robb and their father laughed at that, Lyarra only blushed

“Well thank you little brother” she said smiling at him

“Half-brother” Sansa’s voice took the lightness away in a second and her lady mother’s helped to drown it out from the room.

“Your sister is right Rickon. Now come here, you have to be careful to not get dirty”

Lady Catelyn might not have wanted to imply Lyarra was that dirt but it was exactly what everyone understood. Lyarra looked at her feet and bite her lips trying to avoid whatever she was feeling. She wasn’t sure if it was shame or anger, but the probability of tears was very high, being watery eyes her usual reaction to sudden strong emotions of any kind. She hated that of herself.

“Catelyn, Sansa, careful” their Lord father’s icy and calm tone made them flinched. Arya who was about to raged now was smirking, and Lyarra wanted to do same but abstain knowing it wouldn’t be wise. Their father continued in a very more calm voice, even sweet.

“Thank you Arya for bringing your sister like I asked” he gave extra weight on the “sister” part. Then he looked at his other daughter, giving her the calmest voice he could, he doesn’t want his oldest to feel attacked anymore “Lyarra, thank you for coming. Just like Rickon declared you indeed look very lovely.” He said and smirked when adding “I take you like the dress?”

‘The dress?! It was father?!’ Lyarra thought surprise never expecting such a gift from her father. She was open-mouthed with her eyes focused on her lord father, who only smiled at her with a melancholic knowing face.

“I-I… y-yes thank you, I love it f-father…” she didn’t know what else to say, she never imagined the dress would be a gift from her father.

“You are welcome, but I didn’t do much, it was Arya who helped me with the design and Old Nan with the stitching”

‘That makes more sense! Old Nan is the one who taught me the best techniques I know!’

“I… I had guessed she had her hand on it since it has lots of things I like and t-that represent m-my…”

‘No! Do not bring that out! Not here!’ She stopped herself in time.

Eddard Stark notice her hesitation at mentioning her dornish roots and mostly anything to do with Ashara. “I know. And it makes me happy you embrace the Dayne side of your blood as much as the Stark one”

‘He said it like it wasn’t a big deal… And he is happy? Can’t be…’ Lyarra is astonished by her father’s easy talk about Lyarra’s Dayne side.

‘How can he say that with his family in the same room?’ Lyarra was brought back from her internal panic by the nervous voice of her little sister.

“Lya…”

With a light blush in her cheeks, Arya proceeds “I hope you don’t mind that I requested for your dress to have similar characteristics to this one. I just want us to match…”

Lyarra smiled sweetly at her little sister,

“I noticed, and I like it very much”

Arya brightened with her answer

“You do!? You don’t mind to look like me?”

“Don’t we look alike already?” Lyarra’s eyebrows rose looking straight in the face at Arya, who looked back at her older sister with a blank face before broking in giggles at how truthful the statement was. The others chuckled at it as well, the room finally getting less uncomfortable.

“I have to admit Arya… you look beautiful today! Like a lady!” said Robb in an over acted way, Bran was smirking mischievously at his little sister and comented, “Robb is right, you will make the prince fall for your charms!”

“Iuhgggg! Stop!” Arya groaned

“Yes boys stop!” intervened Lyarra who continue very seriously “Arya deserves better than the prince” Lyarra was trying to hide her smile, looked at the boys and winked at them before saying “but I am sure the bard that came for today will make a song in honor of your beauty Arya!”

“Lyarraaaa!”

They were once again laughing with the exception of Sansa and her mother. Eddard Stark was lost in the sight of his children acting just like him and his siblings when they were young. His eyes traveled to his wife and his second daughter Sansa and grimaced at their attitude. He will never understand their hate towards Lyarra; she has always been a good person. Too good actually, then his oldest made everything she could to not make the redheads upset. Sometimes she even lets them blame her for things she had nothing to do with. But Eddard Stark couldn’t say anything in order to avoid any kind of confrontation that will lead to suspicion towards his first born daughter. He couldn’t play favorites or be just. And yet, that careful treatment never was meant to let others act wrongly towards his child. But he had to keep his head on the present and not the past. Ned didn’t need the kind of feelings those memories gave to him, not today and not right in that moment when he is finally taking the necessary steps to get closer to his daughter like he was supposed to do. Eddard Stark was going to treat his daughter how she really deserves. Or as much without putting her in danger.

“We will continue the japes for later at the banquet; now let us discuss why we are here. Our positions for the entrance to the banquet hall. Lyarra that is why you are here.” Said Lord Eddard with a happy but careful way, his daughter looked shocked at him and Arya was smiling to him approvingly, the others in the room already knew his decision to present Lyarra to the court like he had done with his other children many times. Apart from Arya, the boys also approved happily. But his second daughter and his lady wife didn’t. But is not like the Lord of Winterfell needed their approval, he wanted it though, he needed to see his family as a unit. But to Lord Eddard’s disappointment, he only saw prejudge and disdain in the redheads Starks.

“B-but father… I am a bastard” said Lyarra with conviction and confusion

“Does that makes you less my blood, my daughter?” he asked calmly

“No… but…” she whispered turning her eyes to the Lady of Winterfell and his half-sister Sansa.

“But nothing. You will walk after us accompanying… Theon or one the lion brothers, Jaime and Tyrion, you choose” Lord Eddard said Tyrion’s name with certain disapproval and fear of offending Lyarra, but he didn’t notice she brighten at Tyrion’s name, knowing she will enjoy her time with her new friend and not with Theon Grejoy.

“Tyrion Lannister then” she said with a security that surprised everyone

“Why him?!” exclaimed Robb extremely confused “I-if I may know?” he added trying to sound less imposing

“Isn’t it obvious” murmured Catelyn making Ned shot her a last warning look that made the Tully looked away shamefully. Lyarra answered like she didn’t hear the implication of Lyarra searching an easy marriage with a powerful man.

“Because when we met at the library in the day they arrived, we talked for a long time. I didn’t like his rude behavior at first, but I found he is very smart in fact. So the conversation with him wasn’t dull but entertaining. I also liked how blunt he is with any person, and I like his sense of humor, dry like mine. I didn’t choose Jaime because I don’t know him at all. Now, Theon on the other hand…” she was making a face with her last statement.

“Yeah… I get it now, you don’t really need to say more sis” said Robb with an ashamed smile, knowing full well how Theon acts with women and lately how he acts and tries to get close to his sister Lyarra. It made him feel awkward and with a big desire to punch him almost all the time.

“He was blunt with you? What did he say?” the Lord of Winterfell looked angry and worried, thinking that the Lannister had insulted his daughter in any way.

“The truth,” Lyarra said smiling

“Which is?”

“That I am bastard whether I like it or not”

‘And that I shall wear it as an armor so no one can hurt me again with it, not that I will say it out loud… except to Arya who already knows how it affects me’ Lyarra thought before continuing talking,

“It was rather refreshing to hear something like that without pity, shame or hate. He was just telling me the truth”

Once again everyone flinched. Lyarra’s words were a slap to many of the people in the room even if her voice didn’t have any bite or resentment. It was just the truth like the dornish she-wolf said. But the truth sometimes is harder to accept or confront.

“He sounds like someone I would like” commented Arya “I really hate when people try to avoid calling the things for what they are,” the little wild wolf said, shaking her head unapprovingly.

Before anyone continued their conversation a servant knocked at the door and told them it was time to start with the feast. They exit the solar and together walked in silence towards the main entrance of the great hall where the royal family was just arriving like them. They pair up like it was supposed to and went it just like that. First, Lord Stark with Queen Cercei, then the King and Lady Catelyn, followed by little Rickon and Bran, then Robb and Princess Myrcella were next, after them a smitten Sansa with fake smiley Prince Joffrey, then to the surprise to the attendants a very well dressed Arya with a nervous Prince Tommen followed by Jaime Lannister in his shiny Kingsuard armor. And lastly Lyarra and Tyrion Lannister. The two had been exchanging japes in a very discreet and polite way in order to avoid problems or to not annoy anyone. With the exception of Theon who was being an idiot with them out of jealousy.

At first, when the royal family saw her with the rest of the family before entering the feast prepared for them, they made all kinds of faces. From confused, offended and pleased. The one’s that made Lyarra feel weird were the King and Queen, one full of desire and the other of hate. She chose to ignore them and concentrate on acting like a lady should. And in making sure her little sister did the same. Tyrion had complimented her very politely and it had looked pleased and surprised to be the one paired up with her, probably expecting Lady Snow to choose his handsome brother instead.

When the rest of Winterfell and the visitors saw Lyarra Snow walk inside, many lost their words and others stopped mid-action in order to see the older daughter of Lord Eddard Stark entering the great hall, officially as a child of the Lord of Winterfell. The place was filled up with silence, except the low sound of the bards playing their instruments as ambiance. They all looked in awe how the disgraced bastard of Winterfell transformed on her walk. And others saw clearly a ghost come back to life.

The lights of the candles were bouncing over her dress, many sparkles came to live on the details stitched on her dress. Lyarra’s Stark eyes were shining like steel and her long hair danced in the little wind that entered from the windows and doors being open and close. Her skin looked warm and soft, her long face perfectly outlined by the contrast dark of her hair. Her lips looking full thanks to her nervous biting. Without any doubt Lyarra Snow was the living ghost of her lady mother in that very moment, but when she smirked back at her sister Arya who did so first from her seat, many needed to control the gasp coming from their throats, because Lyanna Stark had made her entrance in the tiny gesture on the starry wolf’s mouth. No one, especially the highborn adults seated at the high table, will forget that day when two long dead ladies made their appearance at the last feast in Winterfell the Starks would share together.

Tyrion Lannister only concentrated on enjoying how everyone was gawking at his new bastard friend and mostly his sister’s angry face.

'This will be an interesting night' the little lion thought in delight. 

Chapter Text

 Chapter 2: Lady Snow

 

Lady Snow became Lyarra’s new name. Somehow it bothers her more than being call bastard. She was already embracing being a bastard so why now change it to Lady? Arya was using it as well since the feast, but not with respect like others did but as a joke. One that works. Lyarra hate’s it, it depicts everything she should be but it isn’t, because the fact remains, she is a bastard. She can’t be mad with Arya though. Lyarra teases her just like that as well. If she had known this was going to be the result of attending royal feast she would have avoided it all together.

From the moment she entered the great hall with Tyrion, her life came crunching down.

The insanity began with several people approaching her to talk and, or to dance. She isn’t good at any of those. Anyone at Winterfell who knows her can testify to it. Lyarra Snow may look like a lady, but lacks all the talents of one, except sewing and embroidery. She can sing but hates it, she can dance very well but only with a sword in her hand and can hold an intelligent conversation but not an entertaining one. But nevertheless, she had to fulfill her role as a “lady” for that night. So with everyone who approached her, she spoke with, smiled and listened to the stupidest conversations she ever heard in her life. About dresses, jewels, beauty, positions, marriage and the gossip surrounding all that. Even the north men that spoke with her talked nonsense as if forgetting she is from the North and Dorne, not the uptight South like Kings Landings, the Riverlands or the Reach. They completely ignored her when she tried to talk about sword fighting strategy and the upcoming winter. Ant did so rudely, thinking she was trying too hard to make a good impression.

Only Tyrion and Arya made interesting and funny conversations, even Jaime Lannister had his moments, where she established a friendly camaraderie and would have ended in friendship if the golden lion hadn’t been more occupied with his very upset sister. The queen had her reasons of course. The king acted like the biggest fool and dishonest husband. Lyarra pitied the queen and would have felt really sorry for her if it weren’t of her apparent distaste with Lyarra in general. From what she heard from the queen’s brothers it had to do with her resemblance with Lyanna Stark, and that the King still loves her, even more than he had loved the queen. When they told her that Tyrion was half drunk and Jaime was complaining in clear rage. It was an apparent slip of the tongue.

Lyarra Snow danced a lot that day. First with both Lannisters, with whom she had small chat, then with all her brothers to the dismayed of their lady mother of course. Dancing with Lyarra was part of a plan designed by the Stark brothers to improve their relationship with Lyarra, from whom they craved the friendship and camaraderie they had once. Their wake up call for how bad their relationship is, was the day they found the direwolves in the forest. The way their sister acted towards them and their lord father made them realize how bad their relationship actually is. So when they got back to Winterfell Robb and Bran decided to change that. They tried many other things to get closer, but was hard with Lyarra hiding more than usual and their mother hating on Lya out of nothing.

Rickon was the first to ask her for a dance, even if he didn’t understand why he had too, he agreed fast anyways cos he adores to spend time with Lyarra. At their dance she basically had to carry him, their giggles never stopped during their dance, they were immerse in their own fantasy world where Lyarra was a giant and Rickon her prisoner being tortured by dancing. Then it was Bran’s turn, who didn’t stopped blushing the whole time. From the three brothers he is the shyest and the one who hates dancing the most, which made Lyarra and Arya curious with his decision to dance. Especially because he prefers to be covered in mud or running around than getting dress up, just like Arya does.

“You look p-pretty tonight”

“Thank you little brother, so do you”

“I don’t wanna look pretty”

“How do you wanna look like then?”

“Like a knight or like the Kingsguard”

“Oh I see. But you know… Jaime Lannister is part of the Kingsguard, and as far I’ve seen… he is the prettiest of all the man here you know…”

“…”

“And he is still one of the best swords in Westeros, is it not?”

“Y-yeah…”

“So… you can look and be pretty and a good sword too”

“Yes…yeah. You are right!” he smiled with more confidence

With Robb the dance was more personal than with the Rickon and Bran. Their relationship had been perfect when they were kids, but the moment Lyarra started to show more womanly features, Lady Catelyn separated them in fear of Lyarra seducing her own brother. It was weird for the two of them to be like that in public, especially in front of Robb’s lady mother. Their conversations were usually short and to the point. And Robb Stark was determined to change that after the day they found the direwolves. And so it bothered him to see his little sister in such good terms with a certain set of brothers that weren’t Rickon, Bran or him.

“Friends with the Lannister sis?”

“Aye”

“How so?”

“Just so”

“Why though?”

“Jealous bro?”

“Lya….”

“Robb…”

“They are older than you and not to be trust”

“I know, I am not blind brother. Have you even tried to know them?”

“Why should I?”

“Robb…you will be the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North”

“I know, and?”

“And you will need alliances. Don’t make that face; or at least you will need a peaceful relationship with them. Besides, you and I know Sansa our little sister, will marry the prince who happens to be half Lannister”

Robb sighed “I know and you are right”

“Of course I am.” She smirked

“Not just that. I am jealous. You are my first sister after all. And I feel the need to watch over you. Now you stop doing that face; it is not like I don’t think you can’t protect yourself. But because I need to do so. Wouldn’t you feel the same with me or any other of ours siblings?”

It was Lyarra’s turn to sigh “I understand. I would have done the same. And even if I don’t like it… thank you big brother to looking out for me” she smiled and the two siblings hugged before they stared making fun of each other for being such saps.

Lyarra’s good luck didn’t extend so much as to avoid dancing with Theon who didn’t stop talking and flirting with her. After the kraken she danced with the charming Jory Cassel, and after to her delight, Lyarra shared a dance with her lord father to the surprise of many in attendance. It is a really rare sight to see Lord Eddard Stark dancing. They didn’t speak during the dance, but the tenderness in Lord Eddard’s movements and eyes made it clear to anyone who watched, how much he loves his oldest daughter. It was almost too much for many to see. Some out of jealousy, others in remorse and finally many close friends of the Starks, out of grieve for father and daughter almost looked like two siblings from many years back in another feast. Many others asked Lyarra for a dance, but she declined, only accepting those who had been nice to her since childhood. She never expected, of course, to end up dancing with her father again in that night. No one did. But he had offered her a dance in order to save her from his drunk best friend. That second time they smiled and made small talk,

“Thank you father, truly, ” She said looking at her father’s eyes briefly before looking to the side.

“For the dress and the feast?” Lord Eddard asked, preparing to tell her how it was about damn time she attended to one as his honored daughter and not like a nobody.

“No father, for saving me of dancing with the king” it had been her first joke in the largest conversation she had had with her lord father, so it had been a big gamble that made her nervous. But to Lyarra’s joy, her father laughed out loud. She has never seen him like that and was delighted with it. Lyarra wasn’t the only one to be surprised. The other guests were as well because seeing their liege lord laughing so merrily was some sort of miracle they attributed to Lady Snow’s charms.

The rest of the night went out fast but not as much as she hoped. Lyarra’s feet were damaged to any other dance and her politeness got shorter by the hour. Thankfully she could use a stupid excuse about being so tired and needing to rest in the most mocking lady voice she could. Of course, those who didn’t know her believed the act. Bran almost choked laughing when he heard Lyarra speak in that way. And started crying from it when Arya did the same. Even Robb was trying to conceal his laughter more than once during the wild she-wolfs mummer's act.

That night Lyarra and Arya slept together with their pups in Lyarra’s room. They only did so after gossiping of all that occurred in the feast and what useful information they got from their endless conversations. Later at night during the hour of the wolf, Lyarra dreamt again about the crypts yelling at her harder than usual, “Lyaaaaarrraaa” the voices screeched in her ears so loud Lyarra knew blood would come out from them. In the dream, she got up from where she was sleeping, and filled up with fear and stubbornness Lyarra walked towards the crypts with only a candle in her hand to guide her steps, but before she reached the entrance of the ancient crypts, Arya woke her up. The wild she-wolf said she did because it was time for them to eat, get dress and sparred before anyone could stop them from doing so.

The dream left Lyarra so anxious and with too much adrenaline she relented to Arya’s proposition needing to concentrate her energy and mind in something else. That morning at Lyarra’s personal tower, Arya saw Lyarra’s new ability to use two swords. Lyarra taught her little sister some new drills and techniques in order to prepare her to someday be able to manage two swords. The little she-wolf assured her older sister that everything she learned from Lyarra would become her salvation during her adventures after escaping Winterfell before getting married to an idiot Lord from the South.

Later that day Arya’s fear became close to reality when all the siblings were informed their father was named Hand of the King and thus most of them would go with their lord father to Kings Landing. The only one who squealed in delight was Sansa who also was officially informed to her utmost happiness about her betrothal with Prince Joffrey. Arya was not the only one in a dreadful situation. Lyarra’s dread was bigger though. As a bastard daughter, she has nothing to do in the capital and in the royal court. But more dreadfully is the fact she doesn’t have a real place in Winterfell. Once her lord father and Arya leave, Lady Catelyn will kick out the dornish she-wolf with only her disgusted face as a farewell. Lyarra felt like weeping at the very probable outcome.

The next couple of days went by in a weird atmosphere. The two best friends repeated their training at the same time and place before attending to their usual activities and responsibilities around Winterfell. Their routines weren’t the same though, many changes were done in order to accommodate the royal party. One of the changes was Lyarra and Tyrion’s discussions about any topic they set their eyes on at the library. She was also made to attend to the stitching sessions with the rest of the ladies. Mostly because many of the ladies in attendance discovered that Arya’s dress was made by the dornish she-wolf. And all the ladies were in awe of her unique designs. In truth, she doesn’t want to go at all. Mostly because no one except Arya and surprisingly Princess Myrcella were nice with her. The septa only appraised her work when Lady Catelyn or Sansa were absent, which became the norm more times than not thanks to Lyarra’s presence. Also, the starry wolf has to take her supper with the rest of the family in the main table. At first, the ambiance was draining by the lack of conversation or the forced ones. But when Tyrion made a jest to her and she answered perfectly back at him, the atmosphere got lighter for the rest of the days.

But the good spirits lasted until the tragedy of Bran’s fall. It was a painful mystery to all the family of how their sweet child fell. Because no one can really explain how Bran Stark who is half squirrel, and the best climber they had seen, fall from his favorite spot to climb?

Winterfell became a grim place and no one could break the Starks and the Snow from their dark clouds full of misery. Bran hadn’t wake up since the fall and maester Lewin is afraid that if he does survive, which he can't be sure of, Bran probably won’t be able to walk ever again. Lyarra prayed at the base of the Weirwood tree, and she howled and wept every night with the rest of the pups for Bran. Her only consolation was Tyrion who offered to design an artifact that will assist Bran to at least be able to ride a trained horse. It hadn’t been enough to make Lyarra feel less miserable because Lady Catelyn didn’t let the starry wolf visit her brother at all, and Lyarra couldn’t sneak in in his room cos his lady mother never leaves Bran’s room. She even takes her meals in it and sleeps on the chair next to her son.

To worsen Lyarra’s gloomy mood, the dreams by then had become worse and louder. She was extremely tired all the time and so irritated she snapped easier at Theon or anyone who tried to jape with her. In consequence, she started to seclude herself inside her room or in her broken tower training until her irritation and resentment flooded out her body. But that didn’t do anything to make Lyarra feel any better. Because of the dreams and the imminent departure of her Lord father, she doesn’t know what she can do or where to go, everywhere she went around Winterfell she felt like an outsider, and the dreams about the crypts were still spitting at her pride. Reminding the bastard who she is every time she closed her eyes.

After three days of zero sleep and constant inadequacy, Lyarra finally decided it was time to go. She had it all planned anyways for about a year, in as an attempt to consoled herself when she realized how little future she had as a bastard not matter what she did. Basicall, her plan consists in her traveling to Dorne and meeting her other side of her family, her cousin Ned, aunt Allyria and especially her uncle Alystair. She started writing to her uncle for about five years, and their correspondence never decreased in that time. Lord Alystair was the one in fact who offered Lyarra to visit Starfall someday and even stay. She declined at the time, fearful to step too far from her bastard status, and she didn’t want to leave her father, little sister and even her less close brothers behind. But Lyarra’s uncle Alystair had assured her she was the one to decide what to do with her life so he didn’t need to worry about it. He had also been the one who taught her about that side of her blood, the Dornish one and the Dayne one. He even told her about the Dayne family and their many secrets and talents, like how many of them use easily both hands for everything. Being that piece of information that encouraged her to try using her two hands in everything she did, and thus she ended being able to fight with two swords.

Lord Alystair Dayne more than once expressed how proud he is of her, and her training at arms. But he doesn’t know yet how good she actually is and neither about her new ability to use two swords at a time. The dornish she-wolf had meant to write him about it but with all the thing happening around her and inside her head, the letter had totally been forgotten. Now though, with the impending future closer at her heels, Lyarra when remembering her uncle’s open invitation she felt a ray of hope and the enough amount of energy to made the decision. So on the first day of her travel preparations, she wrote to her uncle Alystair and send the letter before the day ended. The letter only described her desire to visit them in the near future and some hints of wanting to stay with them, she didn’t ask openly still fearing rejection. The second day consisted mostly in finishing getting everything she will need for her travel. Like storing enough food for herself, her pup and her horse whom she discreetly started to prepare for a long travel. The next two days were full of preparations where the dornish she-wolf also started packing her clothes and to complete the clothes she designed especially for the different types of weather she expects to confront in her travels, as well as some accessory pieces to hide her face in order to avoid recognition. Especially now that she was more famous than before because of the royal feast. Now people know the face and not just the name of the bastard daughter of the Warden of the North. Lyarra procured as well to keep checking out the progress of a gift she prepared for Arya.

On their last day at Winterfell, or more specifically the last for the royal party, the Starks and Lyarra’s, she plans to tell Lord Eddard her plan to travel south to Starfall. She waited until that day in order to avoid a negative response and to avoid explaining her fear of being kick out and the castle or about how she stopped feeling Winterfell like her home. But the night before doing so, the dream became louder than ever, so loud she felt her ears bleeding from the pain. The sound was like a combination of yells coming from all the Starks buried in the crypts who keep telling her to go there with them repeatedly, and her throat was so dry from her screaming about not belonging there and to stop asking her to go with them.

But before her throat started to bleed as well from the strain, Ghost woke her up. When Lyarra finally regained full consciousness she felt drench in sweat and tears, and her body felt so extremely tense that moving was painful. She ignored it all in order to hug Ghost trying to calm herself but it wasn’t working like it usually does. The calls of the dead were looping inside her head. Her mind was getting lost in the echoes of the dream, and she knew that was it. She is done. Her spirit can’t and wouldn’t take it anymore. Lyarra Snow is not craven, she is a child of the two strongest places in the realm. Yet she feared the dreams will only get stronger once she went away from Winterfell. So in a rush of energy and pure adrenaline, Lyarra got up from her bed, took a robe and some shoes, as quiet as she could get out of the warmth of her room to go down the castle into the crypts, with just Ghost and a candle for company to guide her tired steps.

Lyarra’s heart was pumping so fast she felt light head from time to time, but her feet couldn’t stop her body moving almost on its own. Her breath got caught at her chest when the big ironwood door was in front of her, already open to step in. She went very carefully over the narrow and winding spiral stone steps in a slow pace at first but without knowing she started walking faster and faster until she found herself running. Turning right, left, right, left and on and on until she stopped. Feeling dizzy and extremely tired she collapsed on the floor in front of an open tomb. The cold air flying down there soon help her regain her breath, and her vision was less shaky with the dizziness having stopped.  The candle for some miracle didn’t extinguish in her haste. It was lower than in the beginning and the illumination was dim, the light wind was making the light dance in the obscure hallway full of tombs waiting to be fill. When she was about to take the candle back from the floor where she positioned it, the dancing light moved just enough for the Snow to see it. Her namesake, Lyarra Stark. She almost dismissed it as her grandmother’s tomb when she remembered. ‘I stopped in front of an empty tomb.’  And indeed it was, Ghost was inside of it resting leisurely, only her red eyes and a bit of her white fur was at sight from the dark the candlelight wasn’t touching. When her eyes adjusted she noticed Ghost’s nuzzled holding something between her deathly teeth.

“Ghost? Girl was it’s that you got there?”

‘It’s not a bone, isn’t it? We somehow destroyed my grandmother’s tomb? We didn’t open it though… for the old gods my ancestors already hate me!’

Ghost sit up from her position and stretched enough from out of the tomb to lay in Lyarra’s lap a bunch of papers and sat up back to her initial position looking at her directly to the eyes with her ruby eyes.

“You want me to read this?” her voiced sound odd. Afraid. Ghost only straightened her nuzzle up never taking her blood like eyes from her human. It was as if the direwolf were expecting the starry wolf to do something. To move. And so Lady Snow did. With a loud bumping heart and nervous hands, she took the papers and inspected them closer to the light.

‘They are letters. Very old by the color of the paper and… the Winterfell seal! And the… Starfall one? What, who could? My mother perhaps?’

Lyarra gasped. She was right. The letters are between her Lord Father and Lady Mother.

‘Love letters from before my birth?’

The dates match, and there are some from the beginning of Robert’s Rebellion as well. Lyarra arranged them in order and started reading them one by one, her heart was amazed of how much her parents loved each other, and it was obvious in their words. She never imagined it in that way; she actually had though her Lady Mother had seduced her father in the early stages of his marriage with Lady Catelyn Tully. But it wasn’t like that all. If anything it had been the contrary.

“The Tully’s separated them!” Lyarra growled to the darkness. The Snow’s anger was starting to cloud her mind. The wolf blood in her howling in rage.

Ned in his letters clearly tells Ashara how the Tullys, mostly Lord Hoster, are pressuring him to follow the marriage deal that once was made between his deceased brother Brandon and Catelyn Tully. The letter also says Ned was going to decline because…

‘He had already wed my mother.’ Lyarra’s mind collided for a moment.

“W-what?”

Lyarra didn’t know what to think, she needs to understand. She feverishly searched for the next letter so she could understand better, she needs to before falling in one of her gloom states. What she found first, than the next letter, was the marriage document between her parents. Moons before him and Lady Catelyn wed or even talked about it. The document has their signatures, Lord Eddard’s messy but easy to read, and her mother’s writing was neat and curvy,

‘Like my own’ Lyarra mused with melancholy.

She kept looking in a dazed state the next letters. She found first the response from her mother to the last letter of her father, it came from Starfall

[Dear Ned,

It breaks my heart to know there are people who try to explode your position even though you are still grieving your father and older brother. It sickens me. Making me want to use my dagger on them. But I won’t, not until provoked.  But because of your need to grieve, I waited to give you the good news. I had kept it close to my heart for some time. I found out about it two moons later of our wedding night. But I refrained telling you because of what happened during that time but now I can no longer keep you in the dark if it means it can give you strength in these times my love. Ned, my silent wolf, I am with child! You will be a father! And I will have a piece of you in a few moons from now.

Don’t be mad dear but I will be the one to name the babe for it is not an easy task to carry one. My septa and maester tell me it won’t be an easy thing to bring a child into the world but I will not fail my love, of that I am sure because I am a dornish woman thru and thru, as you know of course.

If it’s a boy I want to name him Jon, not like your mentor but after the King in the North, what you told me about him was impressive and I haven’t been able to forget about it. But, if we have a girl, she will be named after your late mother Lyarra. I had wanted to name her Lyanna but I feel it could be confusing in the future. I hope you like them my love because I won’t change my mind. My siblings send their regards and Aly said in one of his letters that if he gets any information about Lyanna or Rhaegar’s he will write to you as fast as he can. He and I still feel bad about our brother Arthur helping Raeghar in such a folly like that but believe us my love, believe me, please, and not what Robert says! Rhaegar is not the kind of man to do what your friend implies. I don’t know why they did it… Yes dear, I wrote “they” because I also refuse to think Lyanna didn’t give a fight without taking someone down. She is a strong woman, a warrior if you will. Your sister will be fine Ned, so please rest and come back to me, to us…

Yours for the eternity, Ashara Dayne]

“She gave me my name Ghost.” Lyarra whispered to her white companion in a contained sob. Lyarra’s head was hurting for so much information and the pain in her heart was so overwhelming that the realization came slowly to her. The real breaker for her contained tears.

‘I am not a bastard. In fact… I am older than Robb.’

“A-All this years I-I’ve been suffering so much! So much for being a bastard! When… when…” The tears were out like a rain even when in her insides felt like a storm. Lyarra wanted to yell, and knew now why the crypts called for her every day. They were howling in her stead all that time, for the injustice on her mother and on her. She felt like boiling and biting someone out, her eyes looking almost red in rage. Suddenly her Starks ancestors came to mind, those who let their pain take over them. The starry wolf then knew how imperative is for her to calm down before being overcome with hate and the need for revenge. Before her usual calm self-gets swallow in such a painful path full of regret.

‘I won’t fall into it… I won’t waste my life in that’ she repeats it in her mind over and over again, ignoring the painful side of the truth she just found.

When Lyarra finally calmed, she started reading the next letter, which became the second stone cracking her skull even more. The letter was almost sent the same day as the one her mother wrote and in it the sad news. It was the one where her Lord Father said goodbye to her mother, where he explains how he chose the army in order to take revenge and save his sister who was still lost and in hands of Raeghar Targaryen the Mad King son, who was probably raping and torturing his sister every day. He expressed his sadness and pain about leaving her mother Ashara. That he was going to get an annulment to their marriage later on with the help of Robert and the Tully’s. And finally, it said he had just married Catelyn Tully, now Stark and was now marching to finish war fast so he can search for Lyanna in peace.  

‘How cruel, how unjust! Why father? Why?! And oh how my mother most have felt reading that letter, my poor mother… Was that your breaking point mother? It was that what made you jump?’

“Father…if you just had waited a bit more. You would have known mother was with child. That I was coming to this world…” her voice was raw as if she had screamed for hours.

‘If he had known about mother’s pregnancy would have he still chosen the army and saving aunt Lyanna over them?’ she wondered feeling almost dull, the pain barely there anymore.

Lyarra then found the last two letters of the bunch Ghost found. Her motions were slow and jittery. The first one contained her Lord Father’s reaction to the pregnancy news. It was short and full of apologies, asking for forgiveness and asking more about Ashara’s condition. The last letter though, it was a small parchment from Starfall, send much later on after Ned’s frantic apologies, even after the sacking of Kings Landing. Its contents only were,

[Go to the Tower of Joy and if you have any honor left never write back]

It wasn’t signed and the writing style she couldn’t recognize. She knows what that meant and happened next. Her father found Lyanna dead after killing the Kingsguard posted there including her uncle Arthur Dayne, and after tearing down the tower and taking Lyanna’s bones, he delivered the Sword of the Morning's sword Dawn at Starfall to her lady mother, uncle Alystair and aunt Allyria. Lyarra’s mother in her grieve jumped to sea. Lyarra didn’t hate her for doing so, only resented her. But know that Lyarra really mulls over the whole situation, she understands know why her mother did it. Ashara Dayne at the time was a young woman who lost her favorite brother at the hands of her husband who decided to abandon her, and she also thought her daughter was not going to live long. Lyarra had been a small joy when she finally was born but the maesters informed her mother that Lyarra would most likely never live more than a few moons because baby Lyarra was born prematurely. Lyarra didn’t know more details than that. No one wanted to tell her about it

‘Yet here I am’ the starry wolf thought glumly.   

It pained Lyarra when she found out the story behind her birth. She had blamed herself all that time about being the main reason her mother jumped into the sea. But now she knows the truth, not only about her false bastardy nature, but also the nature of her mother’s suicide, about how her Lord father Eddard Stark destroyed her mother’s heart apart.

Lyarra now comprehends his attitude around her.  ‘No wonder he sees me with sad eyes and never lets anyone say my mother’s name out loud…’

Lyarra couldn’t be there anymore, hiding in her own tomb. At some point, she realized it must be hers and not her grandmother.

‘What better place to hide the truth about my birth than my tomb.’ She thought bitterly  

Lyarra somehow curled inside with Ghost while reading. Her bones popped when she got up and out her tomb. She walked back outside with Ghost at her side never looking back where her body will someday rest and turn to dust. That moment felt peaceful and serene cos for the first time she feels welcome in there, and in Winterfell. During the walk thru the crypts, she made small stops to each ancestor and made a prey to them. At last, before she could get out, she turned back and looked directly into the depths of the crypts said,

“Thank you, I shall never forget who I am and what you did for me. I promise to come back to my rightful place. I do.”

‘But now I need to get out of here before I make something I will never forgive myself for. I need to go today, tonight.’

And so the hidden Lady Stark of Winterfell got back to her room, changed in her traveling clothes, took everything she had packed and went to Arya’s room. She found the wild she-wolf sleeping in one of her usual weird positions. Very carefully she approached giving a little wave and scratch behind the ears at Nymeria who had open her yellow eyes and stared at Lyarra’s and Ghost before lowering back to sleep. Lyarra positioned herself close enough and put her hand on Arya’s mouth shaking her out of sleep. Her little sister opened her eyes so comically big that Lyarra was trying hard not to chuckle.

“Shhhh it is me Lyarra”

She said in her most calm voice really trying to not chuckle and took her hand off of a very awake and furious Arya.

“What the fuck Lyarra?!” Arya whispered-shouted at her older sister

“Shhh quiet! I just came to say goodbye” Lyarra’s voice broke a bit at the end of the sentence and Arya’s face change to a mixture of worried  and confuse face expression

“What? Why? No, Lyarra, what is going on?” the little she-wolf pressed to understand her older sister’s words

“I…” Lyarra took a breath “I found something about me tonight, a big secret I cannot tell because it is very dangerous. No! Don’t make that face, shhhh, please listen, you only need to know that I have to go. Right now before anyone else wakes. And without no one else besides you can know where I am going.” She took another breath “So, I came to say goodbye only to you and to give you something as well…”

Arya was now more worry than confused and was about to talk when Lyarra took something from her big bag. A very slender sword was carefully put on her hands.

“I asked Mikken to do it for you. But you have to be very careful because this thing in your hands is not a toy and not for practice. It is a real sword, do you understand? Arya?”

Arya Stark felt astonished and any words she wanted to get out were stuck in some part of herself. She couldn’t believe she has her own sword.

“Y-yes I do… thank you!” she said very loud but they didn’t care now when they are hugging, probably their last hug in a long time.

“You know, the best swords have names” Lyarra whispered in her hair

“Well, Sansa is good at stitching with her needles, so I think is fitting if I have my own Neddle” Arya said in a reverent way

“Needle huh? It really suits your new sword little sister”

They end their hug then, the two looking at each other with watery eyes,

“Where will you go Lyarra? Dorne?”

“Where else?” Lyarra smiled sadly. “But I won’t be taking the boat at White Harbor like I wanted, I will have to go the Wall to East Watch by the Sea to catch the boat that will take me to Braavos and then to Dorne.” And added with a knowing smirk “I will see the Titan’s round rocks you know”

Arya giggled at the mental image, but her expression became serious and worried once again.

“Will we meet again? Will you write to me?”

“Of course you silly, who else would I write if not you?” Lyarra was trying to contain the tears before continuing “And…can you do me a favor, please say goodbye to Bran from me?” it pained Lyarra to think about Bran who she hasn’t seen yet.

“Mother didn’t let you visit him right?” Arya angrily whispered

“No, she didn’t. Not that I expected something different”

Lyarra suddenly started to giggle.

“Why are you giggling you idiot?” hissed Arya to her older sister who in some amusement in her voice answered “Because… you are asking nothing else.” Lyarra smiled a bit “You are not even trying to stop me! You just… accepted what I said…” Lyarra couldn’t keep the wonder out of her eyes.

“Isn’t it obvious you silly? I know you! So there is no way you would do something like this out of a stupid reason! And besides, you are just speeding up your original plan, right? And whatever you discovered tonight I know you will tell me someday. I trust you will, in general, I just trust you”

The two sister’s eyes were sparkling with unshed tears. They hugged again and Lyarra knew it was time for her to go, so she hugged Arya harder but separated herself slowly from her little sister well-known embrace.

“You need to remember, to not mention anything about the road I will take or my destination, no one”

“I won’t you idiot. In fact, I promise I won’t” the determination on Arya’s voice filled Lyarra with extra determination to succeed in the first part of her plan: Getting out of Winterfell unnoticed.

“It is time, I must go now”

Lyarra hugged Arya once more and then hugged Nymeria while Arya was hugging Ghost. The two litter sister shared a brief hug of their own and Lyarra thinks she felt a pang of pain in that very moment making her think it was what Ghost who felt it. But dismissed the though very fast in order to complete her first mission. But before she got out of Arya’s room an idea came just in time.

“Oh! I know, do you want to help me with something little sis?” Lyarra smirked mischievously.

A bit later after visiting Arya in her room Lyarra went to the yard and into the stables where her horse Bastard was resting. The horse was named out of the insults he received constantly for his wild and violent behavior. Bastard is black and tall with a long stride and with one of the lightest built a garron could have. It was weird for a garron to be at Winterfell since is a horse better suit for the worst parts of the North and beyond the Wall, but their uncle Benjen brought with hopes for the horse of being better trained in Winterfell. To everyone’s disappointment, the garron could only accept Bran, Arya, and Lyarra as his riders. There wasn’t any other rider that could control Bastard, not even their Lord father Eddard Stark. Even though it was a good horse for travel and war for the likes of a high-born Lord or any high-born really, the horse couldn’t be given to one, not even Bran or Arya who at the time were too young to use him. And so their Lord father, with the insistence of Bran and Arya, decided to give the horse to Lyarra, who at the time was tall enough to ride Bastard with little problem.

Now the horse and she were able to read each other’s moods easily, almost like with Ghost. But whatever Lyarra and Ghost have with each other is unique and stronger than anything Lyarra has ever felt. Even with the hour the horse was ready and not bothered by lateness because the former Snow had made it a habit of riding at different hours and in different climate changes in order to control Bastard easier. And for her to ride in any weather with little danger to fall or hurt her horse. Proving how it hadn’t been a jest for Lyarra when she decided a year ago to be ready for a long travel alone for Dorne. Now the day had come, sooner than she expected, but Lyarra needs to leave Winterfell to its deceptions and disappointment.

Lyarra Stark was ready to meet the rest of her family and to follow her new path as the firstborn child of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell and his first wife Lady Ashara Dayne of Starfall.

‘Time to live my new life, my chosen one’ the Stark wasn’t going to deny her bastard name. She was going to embrace it still, and without ignoring her Stark one.

‘I am both. Snow and Stark. Nothing will ever change that’

Lyarra settled her stuff and got on Bastard taking immediately a soft galloping towards her secret tower, where she as fast as she could deposit her most precious things inside of chest Lyarra keeps there. First the dress her father gave her, then the letters of her parents love, their wedding certificate and lastly all the gifts she received from her siblings over the years, with exception of Sansa. When she finished Lyarra closed the place and hid the entrance with broken wood and unsaleable carts spare parts. She got on her horse once again and in a faster speed galloped close to the gates where there was no one looking at that direction thanks to the little distraction Lyarra had set two days ago that can be easily activated by Ghost. And she also has Arya’s help, who at the moment she spotted Lyarra going towards the gates she started yelling like seven hells. The moment someone comes to her aid Arya will blame it to a nightmare. Arya did her work perfectly, even Lyarra heard the scream, actually, everyone but the deep sleepers did. With all those distractions Lyarra went out easily thru the main gates in full speed with Ghost at her side keeping up very well even for a pup. She galloped faster than ever to get away from anyone’s eyes in the walls of Winterfell or close by. The starry wolf galloped thru a normal path in a way that made it look like she was going south, and with the help of a secret road she discovered in Arya’s company two years ago the dornish she-wolf was able to go galloped back to her real destination towards the Wall without giving up her trail at all. She is sure, she practiced before.

Dawn was above her, with the morning star very tall on the sky, giving the young she-wolf and her very big direpup some sense of peace that would stay with Lyarra Stark for a few days.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: The secretive she-wolf

 

The castle was a chaos. Orders being shouted, hunting dogs getting out of their kennels, horses being saddled and feed for a long and hard ride. The best trackers waiting for their horse to be prepared and to receive the route they must follow in order to find the fugitive maid, Lyarra Snow.

The worst chaos was inside Arya’s head. Seeing all the turbulence in the interior of the gray walls of Winterfell and in her family was breaking Arya’s resolve to keep her sister’s secret

But I promised, so I must keep silent’ She repeated herself every couple of seconds. Yet that didn’t stop the pain she feels when looking at her desperate father whose worry and fear became plain on his face when he thought no one was looking. Her older brother Robb was just in the same state except he was boiling in anger as well “She wouldn’t have gone without saying good bye! She wouldn’t!” he shouted to no one specifically. The youngest of the siblings Rickon Stark was the only one who openly cried and kept asking every hour if Lyarra was back. The only ones gloating from the situation are her mother and sister Sansa.

“It doesn't surprise me really” said the lady of Winterfell,

“It is in her nature” volunteer septa Mordame, Lady Catelyn nodded.

“She is shaming our family more than ever!” shriek Sansa, making Arya stretch her foot a bit longer than necessary and making the red hair fall on her face. Arya smirked at the image of her petulant sister on the floor. Small victories are still good victories in the wild she-wolf’s head.

The guests, on the other hand, had an array of different reactions to the situation in the Stark family. The king was worried for his friend and irritated since apparently, it reminds him of his beloved Lyanna. The Queen was annoyingly happier than Arya’s mother, the idiot prince is bored and indifferent just like with Bran’s fall. Surprisingly, Jaime, Tommen and Myrcella Lannister are worried for Lyarra’s well-being. And not so surprisingly so it is Tyrion Lannister, who was also surprised and somehow proud, of course from what Arya could interpret from his comments,

“The well behave Lady Snow? Who would have thought with such a loving step mother?” she liked him a bit more after that comment since her mother blushed uncomfortably after her lord husband glared at her as if agreeing with the dwarf. The little lion kept making japes at the expense of Arya's Lady mother, sister, and septa. And Arya honestly didn’t care because she knows it is the truth. It shouldn’t make her feel good but it did nevertheless.

Arya still recalls how the news came to be.

Everything exploded properly when a sentry saw the gate wide open and the horse tracks leading to the road. Many were already up thanks to Arya’s scream and the distractions Lyarra had set and Ghost activated by pushing certain objects between each other making a lot of noise.

So far no one suspects of Arya’s participation in the escape, even if her scream was just after the first distractions were put in motion “I was having a nightmare and then I heard the weird sounds!” she had said in between hiccups with real unshed tears in her eyes. She really wanted to cry because her best friend and sister had just left. They only interrogated her on Lyarra’s behavior in the past couple of days, and about where Arya thinks she could have possibly gone. She answered truthfully only when asked the last question “Anywhere where she can have a good life” she said with determination.

‘Like Dorne, inside Starfall with her uncle, aunt, and cousin. Where being a bastard is not wrong’ the echo of that reality resonated within her knowing it to be true.

After a few hours, many of the searchers came back with their findings. Apparently, Lyarra proved once again to Arya that she is not stupid and maybe just as good as Arya on horseback ‘the clever idiot took our secret road… they won’t find about it until it’s too late…’ she was sure. The two she-wolves discovered it by fooling around in one of their endless races back to Winterfell from the Wolfwood.

Arya still remembers clearly that day. The morn came with strong winds and snow. The wind was in fact so strong that managed to make a steady person lose their footing and destination. And because of that, they were prohibited to go outside. Thankfully a little bit after midday the Wheatear change for good. The two of them after being closed for hours inside Winterfell with only the boring and endless stitching sessions with septa Mordame for entertainment made them almost lose their minds (Mostly only Arya). And her hideous sister Sansa didn’t help in their mood, leaving them starved for the outside world with its fresh snow, cold air, and cloudy sky. Once they notice the change the two girls practically jumped out of their seats (or Arya thinks Lyarra did as well) and ran for their freedom. Without even voicing it, the two saddled their horses and took off in a frenzied gallop to the Wolfwood, their favorite spot to talk openly without having to act like the perfect ladies. Arya’s tongue gets loose in those times, talking with every new bad word she heard from the town’s people and the folk working at Winterfell. Lyarra only laughed and warned her to not say them in the presence of her lady mother, or anyone really. It wasn’t the first path they had found, but was certainly the most random and unsuspected one. The entrance is very well hidden and it was big enough for three riders at the time. So Arya wasn't really surprised of Lyarra’s decision to take that path. Hadn’t she done so, they would be on their way to the Wall right now.  

The day went fast under the commotion, making her very exhausted. Arya excused herself early from their evening supper and went to sleep earlier than usual. She thought it had been the events of the day the reason of her tiredness, but when she finally laid on her bed in complete darkness, she started to cry. Hours or minutes passed with stiffed sobs leaving her mouth, and all that time Arya didn’t stop hugging Nymeria really hard. She wasn’t really sure why but the simplest thoughts related to Lyarra were enough to overflow her eyes with cold tears over and over again. She even had a routine out of it where she slept and cried, the cycle stopped until her body couldn’t take it anymore and she felt sleep for sure. Arya Stark knew where Lyarra had gone and was the only one she said good bye to, and yet, her best friend was gone and so she felt very miserable and alone.

The next day she woke up very late in the day, finding a tray of food at her table and clothes ready for her to use. She ate fast and went out from her room walking past everyone directly to the Godswood, hoping to find no one there for she wanted to avoid answering more questions or any talk related to her sister Lyarra. The day was cold like always but somehow it felt colder for the wild she-wolf, the place was almost silent if not for her and Nymerias steps, their breathing, and the occasional rustling of the leaves at the top of the trees. They found the Weeirwood alone with its own tears of blood, she sat where her lord father always do, and before she started to cry again she prayed very hard to the Old Gods ‘protect my stupid sister from death and my family from the despair. Please make me feel lighter, my heart and head hurt. And please, pleaseeee let me reunite with Lya again. Sooner than later if you don’t mind… oh and I want to be a great fighter’ when she finished, she lowered herself in a better position at the base of the gloomy tree considering to leave the tree behind for its white bark and red leaves and sap made Arya remember Ghost and consecutively Lyarra.

There is where her father found her and where they hugged for a long time. Any good feeling she won from her prayer to the Old Gods dissipated with her father’s pained expression and unshed tears in his eyes. Does he want to cry for Lyarra leaving without saying good bye? Or because Lyarra had needed to escape in the first place? Arya didn’t know and probably never will, she didn’t dare to ask him ‘Forgive me, Father, forgive me… but I promised so I can’t say a thing… please, please forgive me’ she repeated inside her head for the duration of their hug.

Later at supper their Lord Father informed the siblings they will still go to Kings Landing the next day, for the search must stop because a snow storm is coming and surely will erase Lyarra’s tracks and it would be too dangerous for the search party anyway. There was also the fact that the King became restless as much if not more than the Queen. And as much as it pains them to admit, Lyarra left on her own volition.

“She...She is a strong young woman” Lord Eddard said strong jaw set in stone but eyes red from lack of sleep or crying no one knows.  

“She knows how to fight!” exclaimed Rickon

“She is an excellent fighter you mean” corrected Arya with pride.

“She is smart too” said Robb with some defeat in his voice.

“A shameful fool” whispered Sansa very badly, Arya got up off the table about to yell at her when their father hit the table with a feast and said loud enough for anyone close to hear him,

“Aye, a fool for she left without saying a damn thing and in such an unpredictable wheatear. But as my daughter, she has my blood, the Stark blood, so she will prevail wherever she goes” then he got up and left the room with only his footsteps making a sound.

Robb was next, not without giving a hurt look at Sansa who tried to ignore him but the blush on her cheeks proved otherwise. Even with his six name days Rickon Stark was glaring at Sansa “She is not a fool she is my sister” he said and Arya added “Our sister, whether you like it or not Sansa. You should use your lady skills to hide better your disdain related to Lyarra, like our mother does” she didn’t wait for a response and left after waiting for Rickon to get up from his seat, knowing he didn’t want to stay with their sister and mother.

The two walked around the castle trying to find Robb. They did so in his room where Robb was sulking like Lyarra usually does. Without any word the two of them entered and closed the door. Robb kept quiet and just made space in his bed for them. The three were cuddling, being that their way to comfort each other when life was hard for the Stark siblings. They were grieving for their fugitive sister and their fallen brother Bran, they even did for their strayed sister Sansa who always ignores what really matters. And finally they did for their soon separation, cos Arya and Sansa would travel to Kings Landing with their Lord Father, and Robb, Rickon and Bran would stay at Winterfell with their Lady Mother. Nymeria, Grey wind and Shaggy Dog were there with them, giving extra heat and comfort to the Stark children who were lost in their fear, pain, and in their contemplation of the new paths ahead of them.

They fell sleep there, being Summer’s sad howl the last thing Arya heard before closing her eyes on their sorrowful puppy pile.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Castle Back

 

Lyarra’s travel has taken around seven weeks of hard riding from Winterfell to the Wall. Only stopping to rest and eat. Bastard had done an excellent work and also did Ghost. The direwolf even do is very tired, is also extremely satisfied and happy. Ghost enjoyed their travel a lot, with a road full of snow as white as her fur, and full of game to get her fangs on. Ghost had never eaten so much in her puppy life and the consequence of eating enormous quantities of meat showed on Ghost’s rather impressive growth in such little time. She was now taller than Rickon for sure, so much he could even ride her like a horse.

‘If she keeps growing that much I will probably be able to ride her as well’ but that was pure speculation from the starry wolf, since actually, no one knows how big direwolves can grow. She didn’t even know if the direwolf mother was young or old or if she was underweighted.

Disappointedly there wasn’t very much written about direwolves at Old Town or any other place. It was so little that even maester Luwin started to make annotations about the pups every day about their growth, habits and the strange behavior regarding the Stark children. The maester’s last notes had been all about Ghost and her whole quiet self. From her appearance to the differences in her development, like her very premature use of her eyes and legs, and her sudden growth in comparison with the rest of the pack. Now it was Lyarra’s mission to make annotations about Ghost’s development; after all, Lyarra was already helping Lewin with extra details focused around their relationship and the dynamic of power. Apparently, even their connection was very different from the one the other’s shared with their pups.

‘Our dynamic is just to trust and follow the other around basically.’ She contemplated with fondness.

‘And about Ghost saving my sorry ass like she has done the past weeks. If it weren’t for her I would have lead Bastard through paths where it is easy to break a leg or like the time she warned us of those thieves...’ The men were at the end of the shortcut they had taken, waiting to attack ‘That was my first real fight…and kills…’ Lyarra shivered at the memory ‘Three men under my sword and the other three under Ghost’s teeth. Six people.’ The realization came to her ‘We’ve killed six grown up man. We are killers now…’ Lyarra knows she isn’t being logical enough, that it was self-defense but still, ‘a kill is a kill after all or I wouldn’t have felt so bad afterward right?’

In the moment the fight began, Lyarra acted on instinct, she didn’t stop to breathe until the last one of them weren’t breathing anymore. It was fuzzy afterward, she cried first and burn them later; not without collecting their stuff first and dropping it on the nearby town at the orphan house. She only kept their weapons to sell for extra money. Lyarra still dreams about their dead faces with frozen expressions of surprise or horror, depending on who of the two slew them, one of them didn’t even have a face left at the end of the fight. In those dreams, she recollects little pieces of the fight; who she killed first, whose head she took or the sounds one of them made when her dagger end inside his neck. She remembers the screams of Ghost taking care of the last three. Lyarra doesn’t think she will ever forget them. Never. 

She had been able to travel throughout side roads for the most of her trip in an attempt to stay away from the main road trying to avoid discovery and recognition from any traveler or noble from the Houses close to her destination like Deepwood Motte or Last Heart. She also hides her identity by rarely taking her hoodie off exposing her hair and face in the open. And if it weren’t for her voice she could pass as a young feminine lad thanks to her long muscled arms and legs from so much training and horse riding. The boiled leather jerkin she uses instead of a chainmail covers her bodice perfectly making her already small chest look flat, it helped as well that she wears breeches and boiled leather boats that go over her knees for extra protection over her black breeches. She designed the boots in that way after getting cuts all over her legs when going hunting (by herself most of the time) or during her practices. Lyarra really can’t afford deep cuts in her legs during her trip or she would have to delay all her plans in order to nurse her wounds so it rare for her to take her boots off. Even when sleeping she kept them on, not wanting to be unprepared for any attack. But from her outfit that truly finished her shady look, it’s the heavy black coat with a hoodie that protects her curvy body from too knowing eyes.

It wasn’t like Ghost didn’t give her identity away, but for their journey in such a desolate country, it was easy to go unnoticed and besides, Ghost only needs to lay in the snow and keep her eyes close to be invisible for the world.  Another heavy give away, at least of her origins, is Bastard. Not just anyone has a garron as fine as Bastard. Another give away if one pays real attention is the quality of her stuff, from the fabrics to the weapons. Those things only tell people who spot her that Lyarra has a lot of gold on her. Probably the reason those six men attacked her, and why the other people after them did. Officially Lyarra and Ghost killed more than ten people, thankfully she only dreams about the first six.

And now after so much riding she could finally see one of the seven wonders of the known world; The Wall. A truly beautiful and ominous structure that made her shiver at the sight of its monstrous height. It was soon forgotten when she remembered Tyrion saying he plans to visit the place and pee from the top. Lyarra wishes she could do it too. Go to the top that is, but she couldn’t stop at Castle Black because her uncle Benjen was there and would send word to her father as soon as he could. Besides she has to be at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea before the next ship departed towards Braavos.

Or those were her plans, now coming down in pieces with the sudden snow storm hitting the Wall and its proximities with winds so harsh her hoodie left her head and her braid that she was using as a scarf rolled of her neck and was now being pulled by an invisible force unleashing her hair all over her back. Bastard he loyal horse had difficulty to run and she couldn’t see a thing beyond white snow dancing in front of her, the wind so fast it gave the illusion of a snow wall. Even Ghost was getting agitated, probably for Lyarra than her own furry self since direwolves are born to live in that kind of conditions. But the Lady of Winterfell wasn’t. Not that type of storm, with zero protection from the cold. She needs to find a refuge and fast,

‘Before I lose my fingers and toes, and even my bloody nose!’ she could feel her body going stiff from the cold, desperate eyes searching all around her ‘The Others take me! I can’t see shit except…’

Not so afar Lyarra could see the fire in the sky, tiny dots of red and orange for many miles in a horizontal line. The Wall stood just a half a mile from her current position. The starry she-wolf realized she will have to go to the Wall or die frozen so close to her goal.

‘Great end for a killer bastard… No! You are not just a bastard! You are a Stark and a Dayne, you can’t die in here Lya!’ she reprimanded herself

‘And there is Bastard the poor thing, Ghost would probably eat us after we die, she is a survivor, this is her place… not our…’ she was thinking too much she knows, she felt a tug inside her, something she immediately related it Ghost. It felt almost like a reproach ‘For seven bloody hells! Just move Lyarra!’ she yelled at herself, remembering she is not a craven or quitter.

The dornish she-wolf made her way slowly to the Wall, following the fireflies above her ragtag party of a girl, direpup and horse. The storm was suddenly getting worse and by the time she finally reached the gates of Castle Black her fingers fixed in the reins, and her whole body was shaking uncontrollably, her teeth never still. She felt like crying when a single horn was heard and the big gate started to open before her silver eyes. When it finally opened she wanted to ride inside fast, but at least her brain was functioning just enough to remember how dangerous that would be without being invited inside.

“Who are you?! What do you want?!” a identified man yelled

“I a-am L-Ly-Ly-Lyarra S-Snow-now!!!” she stutters from the cold, she was trying her best to stop shaking and say a complete sentence “A-and I-I just need a r-refuge while t-the storms wear off!!!”

“Who??!!!”

“LYARRA SNOW FROM WINTERFELL!!! B-Bloody hell it's cold as f-fuck let me enter p-please!!!” Her wolf mood spoke for her at last. She really feels frozen from head to toes.

“S-sure!!! Sorry!!!” the same voice answered back sounding truly sorry.

She went inside fast and only stopped when someone made her stop. It was a lad around her age, he apparently is going to help her with Bastard. In a quick move she dismounted Bastard and before she could give his reins to the boy there were shouts and fingers pointing at her with panic, the shouting men were asking her to run and save her life. Lyarra then saw what had them so preoccupied, Ghost.

“R-relax! S-she is with me!!!” her tone didn’t sound convincing from her trembling teeth.

“The fuck ya sayan?! That focking beast gonna kill ya girl!”

“NO SHE WON’T.” Her voice was firm and loud enough to the rest of the men to hear. Seeing she got their attention Lyarra called Ghost to show them her pup wasn’t going to attack her.

“Ghost to me!” she got close to Lya in a blink, and the man tensed up more, some even shouted a bit, Lyarra only smirked

 “Good girl, can you laid on your tummy and then roll a bit?” she asked politely. Just because Ghost is a direwolf doesn’t mean she won’t receive respect from Lyarra, they are equals after all.

And Ghost did so perfectly, she even kept laid on her tummy seeing Lyarra directly in the eyes, waiting for her next task. It wasn’t part of their relationship to be commanded like a dog, but it was a routine they developed to calm hysterical people like those men are.

“Well done Ghost, now you can get up because these men finally know YOU ARE WITH ME AND ARENT DANGEROUS,” Lyarra said while looking at every man in the eye to convey how serious she is.  

‘A fat lie of course, if any of you try to hurt me she will rip your heads off if I don’t do it first…’

“Impressive my lady, but I reckon she is not dangerous as long no one attacks you or her” said a new man over one of the small bridges, he has an imposing figure and wide shoulders, with a deep and strong voice that demands attention, ‘He must be Jeor Mormont the lord commander of the Night’s Watch’ Lyarra recognized him fast cos Lyarra’s uncle Benjen always talks about him when he visits Winterfell.

“Indeed my lord, just like any sane person would do if attacked” Lyarra’s voice finally came without stutter.

“Ha! You don’t play with your words just like your uncle Benjen! Steward! Prepare a room to the Lady in the King’s Tower” Jeor Mormont gave the order in a flash.

‘Shit, he knew immediately who I am…’

“My Lord, that is not necessary, I am not royalty but a bastard”

“But still a Lady and the daughter of the Lord of Winterfell. You will be safe there child do as I say” he told to Lyarra sounding almost like an order that made her accept without thinking much about it.

“Very well, thank you” Lyarra is impressed

He really knows how to use his Lord's voice. Just like… father’

“You can thank me at supper when you explain to me how in the seven hells Lady Snow end up in this forsaken place”

Lyarra isn’t so happy about that but was the minimum she could do as a form of gratitude for his protection. So she nodded to him accepting his request. Soon enough she was taken to her room. A very spacious one with a big window with a perfect view to the country yard, the place is separated into two parts, the one at the entrance where the window is has a desk and pair chair, in the middle of the room a dinner table with several carved chairs, probably designed to royal hosts or important Lords or Ladies. There are also two cushioned chairs, one larger than the other, the two located in one of the corners. The second accessed by an ornamental door is also divided in two areas by a thin wall. The larger area is the bedroom itself with a big bed enough for three people, a chimney already running hot, warming up the place close to it there are another two cushioned chairs carefully placed. There is also a beautiful closet with crows carved at the doors. And finally the second part, the smaller one opens to the washing area divided only by the thin wall. When she checked inside she noticed the bathtub was ready for a bath.

So after relieving herself in the chamber pot, and accommodating Ghost by the fire for her fur to dry peacefully, Lyarra took a very well received bath. All her grime from the travel and her first kills was being washed away from her toned body and tired mind. She did it fast so not to be late and before the water went cold. While drying herself she accommodated her clothes inside the artful closet that had charmed her in a strange way. In it, she placed with care her travel clothes and less warm ones. Like the dresses destined for her use in Dorne and Braavos, as well as her lighter travel garnets. She placed her sword in it and only took her dagger at her waist over her pale blue dress with long sleeves, and she also added a less heavy white coat made of bear furs on the inside. Even do that coat was better for the snowy landscape where she traveled in comparison to her heavy black coat, the white one is too precious for Lyarra to just let it stain with blood and mud during the trip, where it would have been impossible to clean it properly. The coat itself is a gift from her to her. She got the fur from a dangerous hunt Ghost help with. If her Lord father, Eddard Stark had found about it, he would have prohibited her from going out hunting for ever. Lyarra has to be honest and admit she acted like a green-girl during that hunt. She managed to stay alive only thanks to Ghost.

For her hair, she decided to let it fall over her back and chest in order to protect her neck from the biting cold of the Wall. Just when she finished dressing a knock came at her door, she went outside Ghost close at her feet, the same steward from earlier came for her and took her to the Lord Commander’s chambers a room very much like hers but a bit smaller and less fancy, the doors weren’t ornamented and there were no cushioned chairs anywhere, the desk was bigger and full of papers, and the dining table smaller for at least two people at most. She had expected to see her uncle Benjen waiting for her with the Lord Commander, but he was not, which makes her feel a bit disappointed even if had meant to jeopardize her whole endeavor.

“My Lady Lyarra, Ghost” the commander saluted them both, Lyarra couldn’t help but smile, not many people treated her with respect and it was worse for the poor Ghost.

“My Lord, once again thanks for your courtesy and for letting us stay today, but more importantly, for asking your steward for a bath, it really helped me more than sleeping could”

The Lord Commander chuckled “I know that very well my Lady. After traveling under this kind of weather the best thing at the end of it is to take a hot bath and then a full meal with some warm wine, but if you would like something else to drink you can ask and we shall see if we can provide it” the Lord Commander Jeor added.

“The meal and the warm wine sounds perfect my Lord, even though I prefer drinking ale, right now the wine sounds better”

They took their seats and different steward brought them their food, venison with potatoes and a very filling broth with some bread that Lyarra dipped inside the broth automatically. The food and the wine had made so much good to Lyarra’s tired body that a sigh came out of her mouth after having the last of her meal completely forgetting her manners

“Weren’t you eating well child? Should I ask my steward to bring you more?” the Lord Commander wasn’t jesting by the look of his face, and honestly, Lyarra would love to ask for more if it weren’t of her full tummy.

“No my Lord, it has more to do with warmness of the food than the quantity, it is my first warm meal for weeks”

“I see. So, now that we have finished, and you just mentioned your travel time, how is it that you are this far north my Lady?”

“Just like my uncle said you are, always straight to the point. Very well my Lord, I will tell you. I left Winterfell on my own decision after finding out two things of the most importance for me”

“I know of your escape, you should probably know too that we know about it cos we received a noticed of it from Winterfell, but what I don’t get is the reason why you did it or where are you going”

“Escape? Yes indeed, you could call it like that. I can just say that escaping was the best course of action for me. You see… those things I found out were the cause of such sudden escape. In reality, I had planned on asking my Lord Father to bless my trip, but those things, those truths were too much for my heart to bear. And thus the best decision was for me to flee that very same night with no one being informed about it”

“Will don’t you tell me what those revelations are?”

“Only if you keep it to yourself, my Lord, because it is dangerous for that information to go out from my mouth and soon if you listen to me, yours.”

“If dangerous, why consider telling me?”

“Because by listening to my uncle Benjen’s words and tales of the Wall I have been able to meet you my Lord Mormont, so I know you are no fool and an honorable man who serves the realm first than anyone’s House”

The Lord Commander Jeor Mormont observed her in silence, surveying her words, analyzing if knowing what she knows will be wise or not, and if depending on the veracity of it, he would have to lose more of his honor by speaking about it to others. He needs to analyze it in depth before deciding.

“Let me think about it child, I fear your words gave a stop to my curiosity”

‘His taking me seriously…good’

“Very well, now if I could know, where is my uncle? I would have expected to see him here at least to scold me to death”

Lyarra was trying to lighten the mood but failed by the sudden change in the Commander’s expression. She felt dread creep up on her.

‘Did something happened to uncle Benjen?’

“Your uncle went out to a ranging expedition about five days ago and hasn’t come back”

“But, doesn’t his ranging extend sometimes for a month?”

“Indeed child, but he just went out to a circle of Weirwoods very close to Wall, he has gone there since he came here many years ago. So, your uncle knows that path better than the wildlife in the forest and it’s not only that, he didn’t go alone, two of his men went with him and neither has come back”

‘No…not uncle Benjen…’ Lyarra’s heartbeat increased, the uncertainty invaded her deeply feeding her fear.

“Did you send someone for them?!” Lyarra knew she was asking a very stupid question but she couldn’t comprehend how an experienced ranger like Benjen Stark could get lost so close to the Wall, and the only logical explanation was that someone or something took him from there.

“I won’t take offense in your implication my Lady, it is your weariness speaking, but yes we did. Not the men nor the dogs found a thing” His voice was indeed calm and he didn’t sound offended, she needs to be careful to not shorten her stay and luck with the Lord Commander, not that she believes he would let her out in the snow to die.

‘I don’t calm down he wouldn’t let her go out to search for clues with Ghost. Calm Lya, calm’

“My apologies Lord Commander, it’s just… uncle Benjen has been one of the few who treats me like his family. So, I can’t think he is… he is…”

“I know and understand. Do not worry about me. I am a strong person who has lived in this forsaken place full of worse talkers than you will ever be my Lady Lyarra”

‘Good… now or never’

“My lord?”

Jeor looked at Lyarra’s face set on a determined look he had seen countless of times in her uncle; he knew it what she was going to ask.

“No, it’s dangerous” her expression grew harder and her determination only grew, she wouldn’t get a no for an answer without fighting.

“If you are saying that because I am a woman and because of my lack of experience at ranging then let me show you my worth with a sword, and for my inexperience outside the Wall simply let me join with others. Besides, Ghost is excellent at fighting and tracking than anyone in this place. Hell, probably better than anyone in the North”

‘Not better than Grey Wind but close enough. The Lord Commander doesn’t need to know that’

The Lord Commander knows Lyarra Snow was supposed to be the living image of her Lady Mother Ashara Dayne but in that speech of hers, Jeor Mormont could only remember young Lyanna Stark and her stubborn head.

This one has the blood of the wolf just like her ancestors’ observed Jeor Mormont ‘I hope it is diluted enough to stop her from doing something stupid as well.’ Jeor Mormont will never forget what Brandon Stark’s actions end with and if the rumors are true… Lyanna’s actions as well.

“Alright, first thing in the morning if the storm calms down we will let you prove yourself in a fight, and if you do, you will have the chance to go where your uncle prayed every full moon”

They gave their good nights and went to their own bedrooms to think and decided what their next step should be regarding the new circumstances in their lives.

Sensing her heavy heart full of worry Ghost cuddled with Lyarra that night, closer than ever. In gratitude she opened the window knowing the room was too hot for her pup, even she felt a bit hotter now that she was used to the cold hands of the North by sleeping outdoors. The coldness embraced her day and night for days on a desolated road enough to give the starry she-wolf some resistance to the harsh weather. Lyarra petted Ghost in her favorite spot until the two fell to sleep.

 


 

 

Lyarra Stark excitement was high and so her energy thanks to the best night sleep she has had in many moons, and her good mood increased when she noticed the storm was subduing by the next hours will probably be gone. The dornish she-wolf started to prepared her armor and cleaned her weapons,

Today is the day. I will try out the man of the Nights Watch and myself.’ She feels excited by the test but her humor dampened by remembering why the test is needed in the first place ‘I will search for you uncle Benjen. I swear Ghost and I will do our best to help you, just don’t be dead please.’

The steward of the night before came and went, cleaning her chamber pot, changing the washing water, bringing her food and finally after a couple of hours he informed it is time for her to go to the yard. But before Lyarra went out her room she kneeled at Ghost’s eye level and told her, “It's time girl, do not interfere just watch and learn our movements for the future” Ghost only watched her in the eyes before licking her face and taking the lead down towards the training yard where many people were waiting. Many of them are there whether to fight or watch. Both things made her blood pumped faster. It is the adrenaline she usually feels when showing her progress to the master at arms in Winterfell and to Arya without a doubt. And this was going to be the first time showing her skill with the sword to others. And what made it better is that they are something close to her childhood heroes “the protectors of the realm”. Yet nothing could win over her deep desire to find her uncle ‘I need to win. I have to’.

“Good day Lord Commander, everyone” some nodded to her, others leered at her body and others watched with disgusted fascination to the only woman, a bastard of a high born trying to be a warrior, ‘They think I am weak…I must prove them wrong.’

“My Lady good day to you as well, I hope you slept well”

“Better than ever my Lord Mormont. Shall we begin?”

“Eager ey? Ya wanna hurt ya face pretty thing? Said someone in a mocking tone, others laughed but the Lord Commander gave her an apologetic face

“New recruits, don’t know how to treat people that aren’t their victims or other criminals”

‘Victims? Criminals? So the rumors were true… Tyrion said the truth. She still can hear his mocking tone, “Honor?! Oh my Lady bastard, the Wall is mostly composed of criminals that choose the Wall to not lose their cocks, hands and lives” ‘He even said I should be happy to be a woman, otherwise I could have ended in the Wall with a bunch of murderers…’

“Doesn’t matter I am already used to that kind of language, I am a bastard remember?” Her tone was firm, she really is used to that kind of teasing.

“Lady Lyarra….”

“It is really alright Lord Commander, just keep them coming as you think is best to prove my worth in battle”

“And the direwolf?” asked Jeor Mormont

 “Ghost knows this is my test, not hers, she won’t intervene Lord Commander, on my word as the daughter of Eddard Stark”

“Very well then, the disgraceful fool who spoke without my permission, come, get ready and fight! The other ones, be ready at my word!”

 Lyarra, a man with an obvious past injury in the nose and a bald head lad changed in their sparring clothes and took the blunt swords, and then it began. The broken nose man charged at her with all his strength thinking he could overwhelm her with it, Lyarra simply stepped aside crouching a bit and with her sword on her left hand she put on enough weight to hit his ankles making him fall on his own face breaking his nose.

“Ha! Look who hurt his face! Next!” the Lord Commander was chuckling merrily

Cheering for me old bear?’  Lyarra was thinking amusedly while circling her new opponent, who she didn’t give a chance to do much by taking one step to the right only to change her sword to the right hand and hopped quickly to her left taking her full weight against her opponent on his unprotected left flank making him lose a bit of balance. He didn’t fall thanks to his bigger complexion but it was enough distraction for her to move to his back and taking his left arm on against his back and her sword to his neck

I am so happy for having long legs or this could have ended in an awkward position’ Lyarra thought while stretching her arms trying to maintain the sword in place at the tall man’s throat.

“Do you yield?” she said while increasing the pressure on his arm just like Robb once taught her on the rare occasions they spend time together.

“I yield!” the man yelled, she let him go and before the Lord Commander could give the sign for the next opponent to advance, two black brothers came at her at the same time. One of them was the first men with the broken nose she defeated, the other one much younger.

Oh this is more interesting, two against on’

When they were about to hit her from both of her sides she ducked between the space of their swings and launched herself towards a young lad who had a blunt sword and took it from the lad’s hand. In a swift move, she tested the blade on her right hand while moving the other sword in her left.

It feels weird after not practicing for many days with my two hands…’ Lyarra realized.

The floor is slippery, she is being circled by the two men.

“That is all you can do? Walk around me?” she provoked them, the two snapping in action by the few chuckles her comment induce from the spectators. They commenced their dance, where the three slashed, deflected and clashed. A few hits touched her, the most painful one in her right cheek where she is sure her lip also received damage enough to break. She feels the tinge of blood from where she was punched by the back of the broken-nose man’s hand. She feels tired, but they are not better, worse even. The sweat is falling into their tired eyes, their heavy breathing too rapid and short, one of them even has a broken nose with blood oozing slowly from it. Lyarra had only three disadvantages at the moment. She doesn’t know the terrain very well like they do, she can’t hurt them like she wants to, and her honor keeps her from using many tactics that passed over her head. Dirty ones, learned from the life or death confrontations she experienced in the last couple of days. She is not in one of those situations, her life is not a stake.

‘Only uncle Benjen’s life that is’

They launched at her at the same time again, she pivoted and hit them respectably in the chins and in fast turn of her body she concentrated a jab directly at one of them in the back of his tights making him trip in the muddy snow. She continued moving towards the broken-nosed man from who she deflected an attack and mauled him in the side around his ribs making him released a shout, he fell at his knees, she put her swords at his neck forming an x.

“Do you yield?” Lyarra asked stoically

“Fuck ya stupid cunt’” he answered back.

The broken nose man only smirked at her, his eyes flickering behind her, she smirked back before side stepping out of the way of the uppercut being launched by the other man. She only saw them collide and heard a loud crack before the men on his knees released a shriek of pain from his arm being broken in the impact.

“Enough! Lady Snow wins! Now someone take this unyielding idiot to the maester, quick! Lyarra! Come close child” she did, he took her chin in his hand and inspected her face carefully before nodding “Good, your face just needs some snow on it.” He declared more relaxed, and continue talking “Let’s take supper later in the common hall to talk about your victory and what comes next. Oh, and there is someone who wants to meet you there as well”

“Aye Lord Commander with pleasure, just let me clean up and take Ghost out in the forest to search her meal”

“Nonsense! I will have something for your girl as well, now go rest before supper is ready”

“Very well then, with your permission my Lord”

She walked in a jittery pace thinking about her victory. Not that she expected something different “they weren’t that good…” She murmured to Ghost walking at her side. Lyarra knows she must keep practicing without letting that sorry victory to go into her head, cos it wasn’t a fair fight

They didn’t have the opportunity to learn like I did’ Lyarra knows.

Lyarra took off the big practice garments and delivered the equipment and swords to the armory where a man with a very disgusted face expression was resting on the wall “The shameful bastard knows how to fight!” he said with a mocking voice “You fight better than many of this man, bastards just like you, but their mothers weren’t the whore sucking at your lord father’s honorable cock”

‘What did this pig said? My mother a whore?!’ her wolf blood stirred from the distasteful comment.

Lyarra was about to slice the asshole in two with her dagger when Ghost came close to her side, showing her white and long teeth to the man in a silent snarl, Lyarra knows she only needs to give the sign and the ugly pig will be torn apart by Ghost’s powerful jaw.

“Allister stop being a prick and get the fuck out of my work space, and you Lady Snow better hurry or you will be late for supper. And the only thing left for you to eat will be the nastiest scraps at the end of the cauldron” another man came from one of the doors located in the back, he has a big belly over a muscular body yet looks strong like any other man, she reckons he is stronger actually even with one hand missing. The one called Allister Thorne shut his mouth and left them, not before spitting at Lyarra’s feet.

“Thank you my Lord” Lyarra said, feeling really thankful from being released from killing a man in plain daylight just because her mother became a sore subject for her.

“Lord? There’s no lord in me girl, only a smith, I am Donal Noye the one in charge of the armory, now go. I wasn’t kidding about the last bites of food being shit”

She nodded slightly and left to the Kings Tower in a fast pace breathing in and breathing out, trying to calm herself. She was really considering killing that asshole there and there if it weren’t for Noyle. Lyarra and Ghost would have ended in the ice cells of Castle Black, freezing their wombs until death. Even Ghost was thirsty for that pig’s blood.

Or did she just sense my own?’

 


 

 After cleaning herself and dressing in a deep grey gown with long sleeves that perfectly hug her toned arms, and down her skirt a pair of breeches tucked inside her long over-the-knee boots “It is too damn cold to go around with nothing down my legs” she complained to Ghost who simply ignored her. Lyarra let her long hair down except for a slim braid made from the side hair at the side of her face, uniting the strands of hair at the back of her head with a the braid, to keep her almost black hair from her face especially when the wind picks up its cold dance making her hair try to choked her or it transforms into a series of painful knots. Before exiting, the starry she-wolf took a small dagger Arya gave her for her last name day, that obviously their Lord Father had a hand on it because Mikken wouldn’t have given Arya a weapon of that kind so easily “to keep it between your skirts and cut anyone whose hand goes too far” Arya had said to Lyarra with a smirk on her long face. Of course, Lyarra loved it so much that had secretly named it Fang. It was one of her secrets. To name all of her weapons, including her wooden practice sword.

’Anyways, I might use it here in Arya’s honor and then I shall write to her about me cutting a men’s balls off in her name’ she mused and giggled on her way to the common hall.

When she entered, Lyarra observed the hall was decorated plainly with long tables and benches inside the immense and drafty place, even with a fire roaring in its great hearth the cold embraced hall’s occupant’s bones in a constant chill. She was overcome with a different chill when every black brother sized her with not brotherly gazes, and others like Thorne looking at her with a hate only the gods knew where came from.

The old bear on his seat had the saddest eyes, close to her father’s when he was looking at Lyarra. It made her feel homesick and a little bit guilty to have fled. A very old man was at the commander’s side with a solemn face where his white and glassy eyes were moving like surveying the place around. The blind man has an easy smile that reminds her a bit of old Nan, making the dornish she-wolf ached in need to go back to Winterfell.

“Good evening my Lords,” she said with the best courtesy she could manage, somehow wanting to please the old bear. And took a seat at the Lord Commander’s wave of the hand.

“Good evening to you my Lady, may I present you maester Aemon” the blind maester smiled and stretched his trembling hand above the table, she took it in hers as she did with old Nan.

“Ahhh indeed I can feel a young hand and of a warrior as well, just to be expected from a child of the North.” The maester continue after a contemplative pause “Finally we met Lady Lyarra, finally indeed” his voice was soft and to her surprise pleasant to her ears

“Nice to meet you too maester Aemon, and yes you are correct, I do have warrior hands, not a lady’s hands. So Lyarra should suffice my Lord Maester” it was a bit rude from her to correct him but she really wasn’t a Lady, just a bastard that is what always she been, that is what she is comfortable with for the moment.

“Then you must forgive me if I forget next we speak, but to be fair you talk like one child” the maester was smiling with some mirth at his little win

“You got me there my Lord” she said giggling a bit for the unfunny talk that shouldn’t feel so light that made her low her defenses. The dinner was served after that and Lyarra was glad she came early cos the food looked like nothing she had eaten before so Lyarra wasn’t app to find out what the scraps would be. The soup was brown and smelled like nothing in particular; but to her surprise is was a simply rich broth with onions and potatoes that could take away a bit of the cold from a dead man, the freshly baked bread that accompanied the soup was good enough to fill any empty body a bit of energy back. Or the food felt so good because she was famished from the fight earlier, sadly Lyarra couldn’t wolf it out like she did in Winterfell with Arya and her little brothers. She has to act the part of a Lady trying to somehow don’t disappoint the Lord Commander and the nice maester with bad manners and her usual glum attitude. While they ate there was an easy conversation where she learned more about the new recruits and some stories about those new recruits from Donald Noyle who was seated with them at the commander’s table. Lyarra learn about Grenn and Pyp’s bad luck, she even heard about Satin, the newest of the recruits, mostly about his origins in a brothel that made Lyarra feel it was a warning of sorts. The one that surprised her the most was about Samuel Tarly’s unforgiving father ‘he is the oldest son and legitimate!’ She wanted to yell in the frustration, the dornish she-wolf couldn’t fathom how a father could do that to his own child. But mostly was the fact of another first born child like her being treated in such an unjust way.

That night at the quietness of her chambers on Castle Black, Lyarra Stark bowed to her honor as a legitimate child to help Samuel Tarly from the wrongs of his father to him and she also made a bow as a Snow to her fellow bastards Grenn, Pyp and Satin to help them as well as much as she could. It was a first for her to feel proud of having lived as a bastard, for she reflected on the good it did to her soul and nature.

I know the pain of a bastard, the taste of the disrespect, the feel of the hate and disgust coming from others towards me, the mistrust the people have on my every move... and yet, thanks to the Snow name, I learned so many things to aid myself and others in their troubled times. I must honor my ancestors and myself, as Stark, as a Dayne and a Snow, I swear to the Old Gods.’

She dreamt that night of running in the forest over the snow as white as her fur, the darkness was no issue for her red eyes, even her ears and nose help her see in the dark. She was not blind and not alone… a rabbit she knew thanks to its hops and characteristic smell mixed with fear and a panic, the tiny heart pumping so fast that made the direwolf’s own blood rush inside her faster for the excitement of the hunt ‘PREY’ she thought with intensity. The most she approaches the most excited she gets ‘CLOSE-PREY’ she felt about to burst, she saw it then. With a big jump, she landed her fangs on her prey’s neck crushing it in an instant, tasting the blood on her snout covering her muzzle in pure red ‘WARM-GOOD-LYARRA’

Ghost?’ She awoke with dazzled eyes and heavy memories of a hunt, blood on her mouth and the need for food. ‘Meat…I want meat.’ That morning she ate her good share of meat and bread only with a lot of ale to wash it down, forgetting completely her manners while Lyarra wolf out every bit of her food.

Later she observed her targets at the training yard and prepared her scheme, in where her first move would be to safe keep the Tarly boy out of Thorne’s hoofs. That will require making her acquaintances with the big reach boy and if she could, will do so with the other boys at the same time when their training comes to an end.

It had only required four days at most to befriend each of her targets. Being Pyp and Grenn the easiest for her supposed “Lady charms” as Arya use to call Lyarra’s whole presence. Sam and Satin were a different story. The reach boy being too shy and afraid of Lyarra, and Satin being too worry about her status, probably thinking she would mistreat him like others did. But in reality, Satin Flower’s feared to stain her reputation by association.  

It those days she learned a lot of them. About their talents, fails and the things they lost and yearn for. About Pyp’s love for acting, Grenn’s gullible nature and yet instant loyalty, about Satin’s cleverness and even about how he keeps his curls so soft, and more importantly about Sam’s intelligence and love to read because that’s exactly what will become Sam’s salvation. In those days she also spends her time with the old bear and the gentle blind maester, with whom she talked about taking Sam as his steward when the time came.

Lyarra was currently sparring with Grenn in her pursuit to teach him how to make use of his shield in a way no one could use it against him. Like she had done several times since they started their joined training.

“Grenn for the love of the seven you follow! Don’t bend your elbow like that or I will punch you again in the face with your own shield! AGAIN!” his nose was tender, with two more hits and it would break, she wasn’t even being harsh.

“Bend how?!” he said desperately

“Lya, not even the seven will help him, believe me, maybe another hit with his own shield will help more” advised Pyp with the grin designed only for Grenn.

Lyarra seeing that only recalled Satin's words “Pyp only grins at him in that way, never another. I am sure” his voice had been amused that time. But now Satin was looking between bored and annoyed cos he has already mastered that part of the training. The Old Town boy became the best fighter of the starry she-wolf rag tag students. On the contrary, Sam was the worst, maester Aemon could beat him good if he tried. Lyarra is set on changing that. ‘He won’t be my uncle Ser Arthur but he will have a better opportunity on surviving…’ She hoped.

“Well if isn’t tha bastard bitch and her bed warmers, are ya teaching them how to slay yar cunt with their small swords bastard?” Rast voice invaded the yard and Thorne who wasn’t far from them laugh at the rapist he was so fond in commanding him to bully the green recruits like Sam. Who by being Tarly, is Thorne’s favorite, he had even named him “Ser Piggy” to Lyarra’s distaste and Sam’s shame.

“Shut your hole Rast” exclaimed Satin now visible annoyed and very angry by the look of his rosy cheeks and hard eyes.

“Ya know bout holes better than me, right whore boy? Or this bitch is nough for ya now? Is cunt yar new thing?” he mocked before Lyarra’s sword hilt broke his nose in a not very clean way that would make it for the nose to cure correctly. Just like she wanted.

“See Grenn? That is what happens when you don’t protect yourself properly with your shield” she proclaimed winking at her friends while smiling not helping herself from it. Hitting Rast hadn’t been correct, and yet, too satisficing and was long overdue anyways. Pyp laughed, Sam giggle silently with a hint of fear behind his hands, Satin smiled at her with full white teeth and Grenn didn’t know if laugh or worry about seeing how close he was of having a broken nose by not using the shield correctly. Rast, who was getting up from the muddy yard with feasts ready to a fight was stopped mid action when the first steward Bowen Marsh shouted for everyone to hear,

“Those we mentioned yesterday, stop whatever the fuck you are doing and come! It’s time to announce your positions as future Black Brothers!”

The Lord Commander was approaching behind him with maester Aemon at his side, the other leaders of the order of the watch were coming as well. They positioned themselves at the view for everyone at the top of some wooden steps, when the recruits mentioned and some out lookers approached the higher up’s position Bowen March continue speaking,

“I will know mention your name and position so listen carefully!” the recruits stirred with excitement. After many days rotating from work to work showing their abilities and knowledge in each area of the castle, they would finally receive a steady position with work suited for them. Sam looked about to pass out from the nerves.

He doesn’t know…he thinks he will stay with Thorne and his hoofs’ the starry she-wolf smirked at her successful plan, it was a wolfish kind of smirk that made those who were keeping an eye on her shiver, not knowing if they should feel scared or charmed.

 “Grenn, Rangers! …. Pypar, Stewards! Satin, Rangers! Tarly, Stewards! Oi Sam, you will go directly to maester Aemon... now Rast…” Sam’s face went from sweaty from the nerves to relieved and delighted.

You are welcome my friend.’ Lyarra though feeling pleased. Not many things worked for her, so getting something done so was delightful for the Stark girl.

Bowen Mars then instructed those who wanted to recite their vows under the Old Gods to wait under the main gate before noon. Not so many wanted to go apart from Sam and a few northern boys, Lyarra couldn’t hide her surprise like the others did about Sam’s decision, cos as far as Lyarra knows Sam comes from the reach where the Seven are kept closely from birth, “The Seven had never done much for me, maybe the Old Gods will” the former heir of Hornhill declared. Lyarra couldn’t falter his thinking since she had no love for those gods anyway. Before the lords moved away Lyarra took the opportunity to express her desired of going with the new recruits outside the Wall to pay a visit to her gods and meet the famous Weirwood circle from the Haunted Forest. Thorne and others brothers from the watch denied her, saying the vows were meant to be said between brothers only. But no one paid them attention while Lyarra and the Lord Commander Mormont shared an unamused look on such declaration. It was no secret their mutual distaste for Thorne, she had even gone as far as to suggest changing him from his position as Master-at-arms. “He is the only one we got to train them…. And before you jump for the job, even if I would like to, the man deserves some respect. And for that matter not many, if none will respect your commands, for not only cus you are a woman but a very young one. Let us be serious my Lady, your handsome face won’t help either” the lord commander conveyed to her in one of their walks over the Wall. In their shared look they knew that moment was their chance to get on Thorn’s shackles without much trouble. And at the same time, it was the best opportunity for the Lord Commander to comply with the promise he made to Lyarra about letting her go beyond the Wall where her uncle had last gone. “Nonsense, she will go” the Lord Commander mustered. There weren’t any more words to say after the commander final decision. Lyarra Snow would have smiled if it weren’t for the fear blossoming in her insides about finding out whatever happened to her uncle Benjen.

The afternoon came, their horses were saddled and prepared for the half day gallop it would take for them to arrive at the Haunted Forest where the Weirwood Grove resides. Ghost was beaming in her ardor to run around a new place having already explored her good share of the open space outside Castle Black. Lyarra felt just as much excitement plus a rush of newfound resolution in getting some clues on her uncle’s whereabouts. Even Bastard was feeling restless at Lyarra’s and Ghost’s shared energy.

The ride was not hard thanks to the storm less prickly mood and a good sun that was still shining when they had left Castle Black. Now the sky was changing its color from yellow to a sad orange with tints of purple, the light was giving its farewell until the next morrow. The Haunted Forest consisted of lots of ironwood, Sentinels and oak trees, the path has white in every crack and blue where there was ice that once was just water. It was an enchanting cycle, where depending on the moods of the North the water would freeze and melt according to the day changes. It is strangely beautiful for Lyarra Snow, the mantle of snow over the trees, the sound of the wind making the frozen branches move, frozen lakes that reflect the light and the fog coming and go. All that gave Lyarra a different kind of chill, one full of wonder and discovery. For her, only the strong could survive in that kind land she walks in. That realization increased the deep respect she has for her fellow north man, north woman, the Night’s Watch and the secret one reserved for the Freefolk who live in far worse conditions than anyone else.

Since they trip started Sam hadn’t stopped talking all full of nerves, mumbling about all he knew about the Haunted Forest from the books he read at Hornhill the ancestral seat of the Tarly’s. He even spoke about the Children of the Forest and Lyarra listened with a heavy heart remembering her past at Winterfell. After a while of darling memories, she opted to focus on her new task of finding her uncle Benjen before tearing up at what was once.

Beyond the Wall half a league from the Castle Black, they found the grove of Weirwoods, and mayhap the Old Gods as well to help them on their way back and on the recruit’s new life, even Lyarra could be blessed with luck.

I shall pray for the Old Gods to be there with me until I find my uncle’ Lyarra decided when looking in front of her, nine faces with sap red as blood flowing out of their hollow eyes with grim expressions as if they were in deep grieve. They might not have names and songs but their faces are unique with a strong presence that frightens most people and enchants others like Lyarra, who has always maintain a deep respect for her Old Gods and the crying trees with thousands of red hands and pale faces. They were now in a small clearing without their horses since Bowen Marsh commanded them to leave them outside the circle. “This is a sacred place, we mustn’t defile it,” he said. In the deep of the wood where nine Weirwoods grew in a rough circle, the wind picked up making the Weirwood’s branches full of ruby hands dance. The combination of noises made it sound like a song, the Old Gods song. “The old gods were expecting us.” She whispered with understanding, for the song got loud as the wind blew harder, Sam was shivering and the others silent as Ghost.

‘It sounds like home’ Lyarra realized and she felt like crying. But instead, she knelt and prayed never taking her eyes off the faces who never close theirs. The others reacted at her movements and started their own pray as the form of a vow for they would kneel as green boys and will get up as men of the Night’s Watch, the defenders of the realms against what’s beyond the Wall. Above them, on a black night, the stars were shining brighter than ever with the storm gone. Lyarra having finished her prayer was admiring its beauty and hearing her companions with absolute wonder and serenity inside her.

“Hear my words, and bear witness to my vow,” they recited. Their voices filling the twilit grove. “Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

She repeated most of the words in her mind, the ones that resonated with her “Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death… I am the sword in the darkness… the light that brings the dawn… the shield that guards the realms of men… “she wished once to be born male for her opportunities would have been better, and mostly because once she believed that belonging as a member of the Night’s Watch was a great honor, she stills does but not with the same respect. It became a different kind of respect based on the words just spoken ‘They might not be here by choice, and their crimes make them no honorable men but after the vow, the promise they make, they become something more, they are somehow reborn … they have a second chance to get their honor back.’  

When the new brothers of the Night’s Watch finished, Lyarra helped Sam back to his feet. The other Rangers, the older members gathered around to offer their smiles and congratulations to their fellow brothers, she even joined, giving them her blessings as the only Lady on the Wall like Satin sometimes joked, all did but the chapped old forester Dywen who in his tired voice said “We better start the way back, m’lord,” to Bowen Marsh and continue “Night getting darker, and there’s something in the smell o’ it that I mislike.”

Just as his words died, suddenly Ghost appeared after running off her won earlier that day, she came stalking softly between two Weirwoods. White fur and red eyes, Lyarra fathomed, ‘like the heart trees…’

The direwolf had something in her jaws. ‘Is it black?’ “What’s you got there?” asked Lyarra to her direwolf friend.

“A..a…H-hand…” the anxious observation of Sam made them all aware of the black fingers poking out of Ghosts muzzle.

“To me, Ghost.” Lyarra knelt, “Bring it here girl.”

She felt like shaking, the place got colder and her heart was beating faster by every step Ghost made to her ‘It’s not uncle Ben’s hand, it’s not his, it’s not him…’ Lyarra Stark repeated in her mind in a loop.

Ghost opened her mouth deposing the hand to everyone to see. Indeed a black hand with part of the bone poking from its darkened skin.

Sam gasped. Lyarra prayed again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Alystair Dayne’s strayed niece

 

The moon light was dancing over the sea waves, the wind was pleasant and the fresh smell of the sea salt filled him up, the sun had just faded away and the evening star made its appearance in the distance. He watched the same view from his studio’s large window every day for many years since his birth, he only did not during his time out in Kings Landing. It was a view that fills him with joy from the morn to the eve. But his eyes moved to the letter on the top of the desk and that made him feel no joy but an emptiness inside him he can recognize feeling sixteen years ago. Alystair doesn’t really know what other things to feel or what to think. He is just aware of how hollow he feels, waiting only to that empty space to be filled with either despair, sorrow or anger. Maybe the three after a new reading of such dark news.

“She took her things, Ghost and her horse with her during the night, no one noticed thanks to the clever distractions she set. Lyarra knows the Castle and its movements very well Dayne, she had it planned, even her tracks were almost impossible to detect, she covered them very well, too well, not even our dogs and best hunters could get ahold of her destination for hours. When they finally found something too many hours had passed and her tracks were found miles away towards the Wall, probably Castle Black, and the road to it has been hit by storm after storm making it hard to follow. I wrote to you as soon as I got the raven while on the road, please if you get news from her write me back, not for me. But for her, for Lyarra. She is strong but…”

He could read in the nervous writing of Eddard Stark the worry the men felt at the moment of writing it. In those words he could taste his fear, and yet the lord of Starfall really didn’t care what Eddard Stark was feeling, except maybe the fact that if the Lord of Winterfell felt in that way, it is because there is a good reason to really fret for one of their living links in this world that keep them in contact; the most important for Alystair Dayne, his niece Lyarra Stark, the only daughter of his sister Ashara, his beautiful sister, best friend and confident.

He had never forgiven Eddard Stark for breaking Ashara’s heart and from keeping the truth from her. As well, for not being there when she needed him the most, knowing fully well Alystair couldn’t be by her side for the moment because of his duty. Eddard still left her alone. What destroyed Alystair the most about the last days of his sister life, was that he also, just like the quiet wolf, wasn’t there for her. He wasn’t able to help his sister at the time, he really couldn’t be at Starfall during her darkest time. He knows logically that, but the guilt was already rooted inside, growing every morn and evening while looking outside his favorite window; the place where he asks for Ashara’s forgiveness every day. And now, after so many years he was feeling the same impediment of not being able to help another love one; his niece, his little warrior princess, Lya.

‘Lyarra… where did you go? Why aren’t you here yet?’

His niece had written him one last time before her escape from Winterfell. Lyarra’s letter informed him of her decision to come and live at Starfall with them, her real family in Alystair’s opinion. He had asked her many time before to come to them, but she had rejected him in what she thought was a subtle way or Lyarra had simply ignored the topic altogether when mentioned during their correspondence. Even if that had pained him, he understood.  His niece grew the better part of her life in the North under her father’s wing after all. If it had been Alystair in that situation, he would have done the same, cos leaving one’s parents and siblings were something hard he knows too well. Of course that never stopped him for keep trying, because the Dayne's never swayed far from their goals no matter how hard they are and how difficult the obstacles can get. Probably that’s why her letter to him had shocked him a bit, but not enough to stop the happiness he experienced by her words. At the time when he had finally calmed from his joyful outburst, he read the letter again more calmly. That time he didn’t feel the same anymore because after the second time reading her words Alystair’s happiness dampened and was replaced with sorrow by the words in Lyarra’s letter, words that danced around his head for a while, “I will visit you… I will stay as long as you let me… don’t want to impose…” Her words worried him a lot. Her ever changing hand-writing expressed that she wasn’t planning on staying, and how she thought he would kick her out after some time. Even worse, she believed her presence was an inconvenience, a burden of some kind. ‘It is that what you think of yourself Lya?’ he asked to himself, ‘Hadn’t Ash felt the same at some point?’ Alystair got afraid at the thought.

So he had written back as fast as he could, explaining how it was alright for her to come, about how excited everyone was to meet her, of the reaction he got from each of her family members.

About how her aunt Allyria had proclaimed “I must ask for new clothes for her! She will roast in here with her furs and warm dresses!”

Of how Ned had piped in by declaring “And I shall prepare for her a new set of dornish styled armor, maybe with a direwolf and a shooting star in it?” and how Alystair was instructed to ask her for her measurements for both things, the clothes, and the armor. He detailed as much in his letter, hoping to make her understand their love for her. The Lord of Starfall also wrote and clumsily draw her the best route from Winterfell to Dorne, what she must and mustn’t do on the road and on a boat, adding to it that Edric came to him asking to personally go to Sunspear and wanted for her in his desire to be the first member of the Dayne family for her to meet. And of course, Alystair reminded his niece to ask her Lord Father for all the necessary accommodations and help she was going to need for her upcoming travel. He did so, knowing she wouldn’t ask her father like she should. Only because of her title as a “bastard” who can’t ask for more than she is given to her.

She had improved from the overly ashamed and frightened child she was once, but with the help of his letters and the words in them, full of encouragement, love and pride, gave the little Lyarra of that time, everything she needed to break out from her sad stupor as a “not desired child” or “not worth the trouble”. And once she gained more love for her own persona, Alystair’s little princess started asking about her blood heritage; from the culture of Dorne, about him and the other Dayne members, good books to read based on Dorne, and many more things that filled him with hope and happiness. Every new letter from her was full with more love, and sudden determination to know everything she could about the other half of her family. The one thing she asked more than any other, was how her mother had been, what she looked like and what she liked. But never how she ended, nor why she did it… why Ashara jumped. He was afraid his niece's image of her mother was stained by the rumors and the false fame people hanged on his sister’s name. They depict Ashara as a whore, a Stark lover who had slept with the three brothers at Harrenhal. When in reality she had only fallen in love over the long talks she shared with the quietest wolf from the litter, Eddard Stark. She had even giggled when she recollected how red “Ned” got when she looked at his eyes deeply, ‘you really left that damn place in loved of him, didn’t you Ash?’ he thought with sadness “More than one person lost their hearts for another at Harrenhal. And later, they lost their lives…’  Alystair Dayne analyzed with pain and a morbid melancholy for the past.

And just like in the past, not so after receiving his niece’s letter, Alystair got another one informing him about his niece’s escape and how the Starks didn’t know where she left or why. The letter came of course from Lord Eddard Stark a man Alystair didn’t know if love or hate. He had even gone as far as to let people call his son Edric by the name of “Ned”. His little sister Allyria was the one who had nicknamed his son like that, probably because Allyria doesn’t harbor any unpleasant feelings for the Lord of Winterfell, given the fact she was very little when everything happened.

It is probably more love than hate what Alystair feels towards the silent-wolf, perhaps thanks to the other good things the man did at the time and even after Robert’s rebellion. The Lord of Starfall can also remember how the usurper and the Tully’s had forced Eddard’s hand in one very desperate time for the new heir of Winterfell making him more sympathetic with the man. Yet, Alystair sister still jumped from the tower after Eddard’s last visit to Starfall.

And now that certain love ALystair harbors for the silent-wolf was declining very fast with the news of his niece escaping from her supposed home without any notice. Even when she had planned to get out of Winterfell by the correct means, by the logical way it nags Alystair the sudden change in plans, especially from Lyarra. Which only meant that his niece had been forced to do leave in such a way, whether by someone or something. He still doesn’t know which one and couldn’t think of any reasonable possibility because of the lack of information, it doesn’t help either how absorbed he is from Lyarra’s possible outcomes.

‘If she had followed with what her letter said, she would be here, with us, her only real family’ He thought, realizing how resentful he was getting by the days empty from news about his niece born sixteen years ago. The Daynes of Starfall had met Lyarra Stark when she was just a babe. From the moment each sibling casted their eyes on their niece, they knew how much in love they were already with the tiny babe that was born before her time.

“She was impatient to be with me” had joked Ashara,

“She is a falling star, coming fast and without notice” Alystair had commented, Allyria only cried from happiness, and Arthur when he read the letter did the same, he cried silently trying to not disturb the already sour ambience in the tower where he resided at the time. He could still hear his sibling’s voices before tragedy became a constant companion in the realm. Now the babe was a lady, a warrior and still his little princess, but also, his strayed niece.

When Eddard received the letter Alystair had sent, the Lord of Winterfell wrote back soon enough with many questions and little news about Lyarra. The Lord of Starfall had answered those question honestly and even send his response together with the original letter that Lyarra had sent to him before her harsh travel; not without asking his own questions about the nature of Lyarra’s escape. The answers came to him in the current letter on his desk, waiting to be read for the ninth time with the hope to gain any more insight of the situation.

So far Alystair concluded three things. First of all, that Lyarra was forced to leave before time, by a probably very good reason, an important one for her at least. The second thing he concluded was that his niece was a damn good rider and hunter demonstrated by leaving little to nothing for the Lord of Winterfell best man to find. And lastly, that Lyarra Stark Dayne was detained by another incredible situation at the Wall or at Braavos, cos the only path she could take from Winterfell is the Kingsroad, whether to White Harbor or Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, there was no doubt of it.

Annoyingly their luck was not on their side, and not in Lyanna’s as well, with the harsh snow storms hitting the northwest side of the North for the past weeks, especially in the area close to the Wall. ‘I hope you are not frozen little princess’  he worried at the thought, and consequently made plans to pray for the Old God and the New to keep her alive, and for his own strength to keep a promise he made a long time ago when the dragons still ruled over the Seven Kingdoms.

Tiredly he sat at his cushioned chair and prepared his quill, ink, and took out enough paper for all the things he has to write before bed. One letter to Lord Stark, another to the hairless spider and the last one to niece Lyarra who probably is staying at Castle Black or at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. He wrote the last letter with only hope in his heart and with fear of his warrior princess being at such cold and dangerous place.

‘She is a wolf though... I Dayne wolf.’

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: The maiden and the blue eyed demon

 

The black hand Ghost found belonged to a man called Othor, who for what she recalled hearing, had been a big ugly man with a penchant for singing as Rangers went out beyond the Wall. Later that eve they also found Jafer Flowers corpse frozen a few steps from Othor’s. Now the bad singer Othor is just an ugly corpse and Jafer had one hand less than when alive. Their flesh was white as goat’s milk but their hands were black as jet. On the blanched skin were blossoms of froze cracked blood over the mortal cuts. What unnerved Lyarra was their wide open blue eyes, shining like sapphires and also the unlikely matter of their deaths. No axe for the clean cut of the hand Ghost found. And from what the others said, no wilding, especially Mance Rayder would be so close to the Wall.

“Who did it then?” asked one of the brothers

“Dunno” answered another with some nervousness. Lyarra knew though, everyone knew but no one was going to say a thing. The Others. The white walkers, the monsters from the children tales. Old Nan tales. Those legends have been gone around eight thousand years, creatures from the cold that no one knows how they look like. But that for sure bring the cold winds of death on their march. She really wanted to ignore it, the nagging certainness of this being the Others work. But she is no child. She is a woman grown, a warrior with Stark and Dayne blood.

The Lord Commander Mormont decided that the best thing was to take the bodies back and let maester Aemon examined them. He decided so after seeing the weirdness of the bodies and after hearing Sam’s opinions about their state. Like, how it didn’t smelled even do it wasn’t a fresh kill at all proved by the coagulation of the blood on the wounds. And the bodies weren’t rotten as they should. There is the fact as well that the animals had cowered away winning in complete anxiousness. Every dog and horse did so, even the wild fauna left the bodies intact. Every animal except Ghost who kept her silent watch over the forest, the moon, the corpses and Lyarra. The dornish she-wolf discomfort was rising because of old Nan’s words repeating over and over again on her head. She could almost hear the old woman’s voice accompanied by the click-click-click of her needles “In that darkness, the Others came riding” she used to say, dropping her voice lower and lower “Cold and dead they were, and they hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every living creature with hot blood in its veins... Holdfasts and cities and kingdoms of men all fell before them, as they moved south on pale dead horses, leading hosts of the slain. They fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children . . .”  Lyarra always loved those tales. Now not so much. Not when so close to those words.

But the old bear and the other brother's words were also very present in her; “They were Ben Stark’s men, both of them."

 “Ben Stark had six men with him when he rode from the Wall. Where are the others?”

“Two of our brothers butchered almost within sight of the Wall, yet your rangers heard nothing, saw nothing. Is this what the Night’s Watch has fallen to? Do we still sweep these woods?”

“This man wears a hunting horn.” Mormont pointed at Othor. “Must I suppose that he died without sounding it? Or have your rangers all gone deaf as well as blind?”

Ser Jaremy had bristled, with anger had responded “No horn was blown, my Lord or my rangers would have heard it. I do not have sufficient men to mount as many patrols as I should like . . . and since Benjen was lost, we have stayed closer to the Wall than we were wont to do before, by your own command.”

“It has been close to half a year since Benjen left us, my lord,” had said Jeremy again after a pause.

The Night’s Watch brother’s insight on the matter clouded Lyarra’s mind for the rest of their travel back to Castle Black. She was trying to form with all of it something coherent, ‘Half a year and two of my uncle men are dead at plain sight close to the Wall, no horn blown and the corpses are unnatural, not a wilding work… Old Nan tales… The Others…’ Lyarra was starting to shake ‘He is not dead. He is the best ranger and one of the best swordsman. He is my uncle, and a Stark of Winterfell, a descendant of the first men… he is not dead.’

Those were Lyarra’s recollections of the day, before falling sleep. She had not eaten for lack of appetite and had felt extremely tired from the weight she felt in her heart. So she had gone directly to her room after binding good night to her friends and the old bear, who like her, choose the confines of his chamber. He had asked her to come by his chamber the next day, probably to talk about her uncle possible end. Sam had tried to talk as well, but she couldn’t. Not yet. So ignored her big friend’s curious and sad eyes. She needed to be alone. She needs to think and analyze the facts before letting the panic inside her blossom. So the sleep she accepted instead.

She found herself wandering the empty castle of Winterfell. Searching for something, descending into the crypts. In the dark, she heard the scrape of stone on stone. When she turned, she saw that the vaults were opened, one after the other. As the dead kings came stumbling from their cold black graves calling for someone. A name she had never heard before.

Lyarra then woke in the pitch-dark of her room, her heart hammering for the dream she thought would never have again. It had stopped tormenting her nights after finding out the truth behind her birth and family. She took a shaky breath trying to calm herself. Ghost leaped up on the bed nuzzling at her face, she could not shake his deep sense of terror from the dream and everything that happened that day, wondering if she dreamt about the crypts because of the possibility of uncle Benjen being dead. She dared not go back to sleep, resolving instead to climb the Wall and walk until sunrise touched her skin. She needs to move, she feels too restless to stay put, her legs were very stiff and cramped while her arms itch to be moved.

Suddenly, Ghost stood on her hind legs, and left the bed towards the door and started scrabbling at it “Ghost, what is it?” she asked gently. Ghost turned her head and looked down at her, baring her white and sharp fangs in a silent snarl. “Girl, did I upset you?” Lyarra was confused by her friend's attitude, “It’s me, Ghost, what do you need?” she questioned, trying not to sound afraid. But she was trembling horribly.

Why is it so bloody cold?’ Ghost backed away from the door, and looked at Lyarra again intensely. Lyarra couldn’t phantom why “There’s someone out there, isn’t it girl?” she whispered. The direwolf crouched and crept backward, her white fur rising on the back of her neck.

The guard! The old bear assigned one for me in case someone tried to rape me in the night  ’ she remembered, ‘Ghost smells him, that’s all… But she had never acted like that the other days…’

Carefully Lyarra took her sword and a heavy black robe Pyp got for her, then she went slowly to the door, shivering uncontrollably even when the fire was still up on the hearth. Not even the robe helped her from the cold. She grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it inward. The creak of the hinges was hideous in the silent night. She jumped a bit and her whole body tensed up when she saw her guard was sprawled bonelessly across the narrow steps, looking up at her even though he was lying on his stomach. His head had been twisted completely around. ‘No, no, no it can’t be! I must be dreaming again… I should have been able to hear something!’  Lyarra told herself terrified of such unnatural position for the head. A complete twist.

Ghost slid past her out the room, almost making her fall from how big she was. The direwolf started up her path towards the commander’s tower but then she stopped, looked back at Lyarra like urging her to follow, so she did. They were on the steps of the Lord Commander’s tower when she heard it; the soft scrape of a boot on stone, the sound of a door opening. The sounds came from above ‘the Lord Commander’s chambers?’

The heft of Moonlight in her curled hand made her bolder to keep going. She moved up the steps, Ghost padding silently before her. She went warily, surveying any suspicious person and darkness with the end of her sword.

Unexpectedly she heard the shriek of Mormont’s raven. “Corn,” the bird was shrieking “Corn, corn, corn, corn, corn!” Ghost jumped ahead, and Lyarra went after not wanting to leave her friend alone. The door to Mormont’s solar was wide open, they went through. Lyarra decreased her steps almost stopping, trying to adjust to the darkness “Who’s there?” she called out as menacing she could make her voice sound.

Then she saw it. A dark bulk with two blue orbs, sliding toward the inner door that led to Mormont’s bedroom ‘No, no, no…It can’t be, he is dead!’ Lyarra couldn’t believe it. Without waiting a beat, Ghost leaped to the blue eyed corpse going down the floor with the direwolf. They were rolling around the room in their fight and they smashed into a chair, and knocked over a table laden with papers. Mormont’s raven was now flapping over that nightmare, screaming, “Corn, corn, corn, corn” louder than before.

Lyarra felt blind in the darkness of the room, she was sliding towards the window to rip down the curtain. When she did, the moonlight flooded the whole room, finally seeing she was no dreaming and how dangerous the situation was. The blue eyed demon had its black hands buried around her direwolf’s throat, tightening. Ghost was twisting and snapping at the thing, her legs flailing in the air, but she couldn’t break free and Lyarra wanted to scream but she had no time to yell or to be afraid. No when her best friend was in such a peril. Lyarra threw herself forward, releasing a war scream instead of scare one, bringing down her sword with all her weight behind it. The steel went shearing through the thing, yet it had sound wrong. The smell that engulfed her was so strange and cold she almost gagged. She saw her cut was successful by looking at the arm and the fingers of the hand wriggling on the floor, letting Ghost wrenched free. Lyarra slashed at it without hesitation now that Ghost was out of danger. Her sword opened the demon to the bone, taking off half his nose and opening a gash, cheek to cheek under those death blue eyes of Othor. She then felt something scrabbling at her ankle, she almost screams again when black fingers clawed at her calf, crawling up her leg, ripping part of the robe and her skin. Yelping from pain and revulsion, Lyarra put out the fingers off her flesh with the point of her sword and punched the arm away now laying shaking, its fingers opening and closing making Lyarra shake as well at the strangeness of it. The white corpse lurched forward with its one arm and bloodless cuts like if didn’t felt a thing. Lyarra held her sword prepared before her as if warning the thing to stay away or pay the price.

“Corn!” screamed the raven, “corn, corn!” Ghost had pounced to the arm to following the fight and got it between her teeth. Finger bones crunched. The thing didn’t care of Lyarra’s evident warning and kept lounging itself at her, who hacked and slashed at the corpse’s body and neck, feeling the steel bite deep and hard. Dead Othor slammed into her slender and smaller body, knocking her off on the floor making her lose the air out of her lungs when the fallen table caught her between her shoulder blades. The sword was knocked out of her hands as well, and she was trying desperately to find it with her flailing arms. When she opened her mouth to scream in desperation, the wight jammed its black cold fingers into Lyarra’s mouth. Digging deep. Gagging, she tried to shove it off, but the dead man was too heavy and bigger than her. Its hand forced itself farther down her throat, icy cold, choking her, tears gathering at her eyes. Its face was against her own, its frosty blue eyes directly in front of her. Lyarra scratched the disgusting frozen flesh with her nails and kicked at the thing’s legs in complete fear and desperation. She couldn’t breathe. She tried to bite, tried to punch, tried to take in some air, nothing occurred. The tears were out sliding down her cheeks…

No, no…Ghost…help…’ 

And suddenly the dead man weight was gone, its fingers out of her throat. Lyarra in her stupor trying to catch some air rolled over, retching and shaking. Ghost saved her. She watched half conscious, for a long moment as her direwolf buried her teeth in the wight’s gut and began to rip and tear mercilessly. When there was enough air in her lungs she finally remembered to look for her sword. And then almost scaring her again, she saw Lord Mormont, naked and groggy from sleep, standing in the doorway with an oil lamp in hand.

Gnawed and fingerless, the arm thrashed on the floor, wriggling toward him. She tried to warn him, but her voice was gone. Staggering to her trembling legs and feet, she kicked the arm away and unconsciously snatched the lamp from the Old Bear’s fingers. The flame flickered and almost died. “Burn!” the raven cawed. “Burn, burn, burn!”. Spinning, Lyarra saw the curtain she’d ripped from the window, so she flung the lamp into the puddled cloth with both hands. Metal crunched, glass shattered, oil spewed, and the hangings went up in a great whoosh of flame. The heat of it on her face was sweeter than any kiss Lyarra had ever known “Ghost!” she shouted. The direwolf wrenched free and came to her as the wight struggled to rise. Dark snakes spilling from the great wound in its belly. Lyarra plunged her hand into the flames, grabbed a fistful of the burning drapes of cloth, and threw them at the dead man. ‘Let it burn’, she prayed as the cloth smothered the corpse, ‘Old Gods, please, please, let those eyes burn’.

They did just as good as the Lord Commander’s tower. The whole castle woke from the burning disaster. The Lord Commander helped her to escape from the fire since she still felt dizzy from the attack. Ghost helped as well even when she had suffered the same from those black fingers. Lyarra was taken to see maester Aemon for her injuries especially her burned hand. She hadn’t felt the pain at first but when she did, Lyarra would have passed out from the pain if it weren’t from the milk of the poppy the blind maester gave her to drink. She finally slept.

 


 

 

After the wight incident, many things changed. Her dreams transformed into nightmares from that day. But instead of Othor it was her father with blue eyes and not gray. Only Ghost presence calmed her after those. Her friends were more protective of Lyarra because of her injured hand and calf, but that didn’t stop her for instructing them while they were at the training yard. Whether with swordplay or bow and arrow “My eyes and mouth are fine, so stop complaining! And it just happens that those things are the ones I need to instruct you. Not my burned hand. Besides, I can use my left just as well” she said annoyed at being prohibited of any physical exercise. She didn’t use her left though, maester Aemon prohibited her from doing so since she needed to rest or that is what he said. Lyarra suspected someone had told him to say that, probably the old bear.

She still didn’t know why he was being too careful about her. She was injured of course but not so much but it went far from it though. The starry she-wolf suspects the reasons behind it, and none where of her licking. One of them, the easiest to come to her mind, was because of her sex. Whether because women are supposed to be weaker or because the commander saw his sister and nieces in Lyarra, so that made him more worry than normal. The second option, the dreadful one, was the rumors that broke from the wight attack. It started with the question “What was she doing there so late?” Lyarra had explained why and how, but many didn’t believe her and openly accused her of going to the commander’s sleep chamber or to another brother quarters to “f’ck with them… maybe she was too cold” said Rast. Another one added “If you are just come and find me sweetie” They all sneakered. She wanted to punch each one of them, but the Lord Commander defend her as well as her friends. That only stirred the fire more by making everyone think they were her lovers protecting their “wolf bitch’s cunt”. Part of those rumors also were born from the incredulity of a dead man moving around the castle killing brothers. They thought it was an excuse. Even when one of them end up dead with his neck unnaturally twisted.

And to add more in their problems, the Lord Commander started using the King’s Tower’s upper rooms for his solar and sleeping quarters, just a few steps from Lyarra’s own room. It didn’t matter they both had guards from day to night who could tell anyone how they kept their distance and mutual respect. Even her friends were suffering from bullying by being accused of breaking their vows or by not sharing her heat with the others. Lyarra was already used to rumors of that kind. But her friends and the old bear were getting many problems from it. Because of her. That’s why lately she only interacts with them in the open yard or in the common hall during their meals for everyone to see.

The Lord Commander called for her in that moment, making her concentration on her sparring time with the others at the yard stop. She was finally training with the others using her left hand. She groaned a bit of being interrupted at the first real exercise in days. But she did as commanded. “I will be back soon boys… so leave me someone to fight please”. They just chuckled at her eagerness and Satin promised to spar with her. 

Some of the brothers threw at her leery expressions and very indecent comments on her way over the old bear’s new solar.

“It is finally old bear duty bitch?”

“The shewolf prefers bears huh?”

“wanna try my milk”

Their comments weren’t very smart but didn’t lack on disrespect. Ghost showed her teeth in warning more times than she had ever done in her short life. Lyarra loved her the most when she acted all protective with her. The direwolf even did so when people bully Sam, Gren, Pyp and Satin. Whom in exchange had done the same for Lyarra and Ghost. Not like they need to, and they know it, “It is more about making me feel better, and besides you do the same for us Lya” had said Satin once to her when she asked them to not bother.

The old bear steward was waiting for her and let her in, and follow after her with the idea of staying inside to avoid more problems. The Lord Commander was sitting on his desk reading a letter with a somewhat sad expression that he kept when he finally looked at her.

“It is something wrong my Lord?”

“Many things child, but nothing we can do about them. How is your hand?” he asked without skipping a beat,

“Better now, maester Aemon said that I can use it in a couple of days”

“That’s good. Say, girl, I heard that you can use your left hand as well” that comment surprised her, she answered still,

“Yes my Lord, just as good as with the right”

“Just like your uncle Arthur. The Dayne blood really does passes the talent for swordplay then”

“A bastard girl can dream my Lord. But my uncle was more than talented from what I heard from my Lord father”

“Indeed. A swordsman so great we might never see someone like him for a long time… Can you use both hands at the same time like him?”

“Aye my Lord. That is why I learned to use my left hand so I could fight like with both and my dream is to someday be as good as my uncle”

She was being too bold she knew. But her blood was of great pride for her, especially when her talent with swordplay was the center of the topic since it is a big part of her identity as a Dayne. Her uncle Alystair had written her about the great warriors of House Dayne over the years, being Arthur Dayne the one he most wrote about. Mostly though, her uncle Alystair described in great detail the techniques of his brother Arthur and how she could achieve his level. The letters about it were so well detailed that by reading them she was able to follow an image of her uncle Arthur and learned by it. Now Lyarra wasn’t as afraid as before to proclaim being Arthur Dayne’s niece. She had a long way still to even be at her uncle’s talons, but she doesn’t expect to surpass him either. Not even Jaime Lannister did nor Barristan Selmy, so why her? Yet, her stubbornness and pride would never allow her to not try.

“Perfect” proclaimed the Lord Commander Mormont proudly. When in that moment Lord Mormont laid a large sword in a black metal scabbard banded with silver on the table between them. He looked at her gray eyes and smiled.

 “Here. You’ll be ready for this, then.”

The raven flapped down and landed on the table, strutting toward the sword, head cocked curiously. Lyarra was surprised, she hesitated with no clue of it what it meant.

“My Lord?”

“The fire melted the silver off the pommel and burnt the cross guard and grip. Well, dry leather and old wood, what could you expect? The blade, now... you’d need a fire a hundred times as hot to harm the blade.” Mormont shoved the scabbard across the rough oak planks. “I had the rest made anew. Take it.”

“Take it,” echoed his raven, preening. “Take it, take it.”

Awkwardly, and yet a bit excited, Lyarra took the sword in her left hand. Carefully she pulled it from its scabbard and raised it leveled at gray eyes almost black from her excitement.

The pommel was a piece of pale stone weighted with lead to balance the long blade. It had been carved into the likeness of a snarling wolf’s head, with chips of garnet set into the eyes shining very red thanks to the reflecting daylight. The grip was virgin leather, soft and black, as yet unstained by sweat or blood. The blade itself was a good half foot longer than those Lyarra was used to, tapered to thrust as well as slash, with three fullers deeply incised in the metal, this was a hand-and-a-half sword, sometimes named a “bastard sword” Lyarra smiled at the thought. Yet the larger sword actually seemed lighter than the blades she had wielded before. When Lyarra turned it sideways, she could see the ripples in the dark steel where the metal had been folded back on itself again and again.

“This is Valyrian steel, my Lord,” she said wonderingly, feeling a bit like fading in any moment. Her father had let her handle Ice once; she knew the look, the feel of Valyrian steel. She had memorized it from than one time with ardor, knowing the ancestral sword would belong to Robb. And that because of her body built it would be very hard for her to handle such beauty easily. Even raising it over her head would be extremely difficult.

‘But this sword…’

“It is,” the Old Bear told her, “It was my father’s sword, and his father’s before him. The Mormonts have carried it for five centuries. I wielded it in my day and passed it on to my son when I took the black.”

‘He is giving me his son’s sword.’ Lyarra could not believe it. The blade was so exquisitely balanced she felt like crying. The edges glimmered faintly as they kissed the light. Lyarra Snow is dreaming something good at last. It has to be a dream for a bastard raised girl like her to handle a sword like the one in her hand. ‘But… I am not a Mormont, nor his son or even a highborn to anyone’s eyes or knowledge’

“But your son—”

“My son brought dishonor to House Mormont, but at least he had the grace to leave the sword behind when he fled. My sister returned it to my keeping. But the very sight of it reminded me of Jorah’s shame, so I put it aside and thought no more of it until we found it in the ashes of my bedchamber the day after the attack. The original pommel was a bear’s head, silver, yet so worn its features were all but indistinguishable. For you, I thought a white wolf apter. One of our builders is a fair stone carver.”

“You honor me my Lord, but I am a woman and not a son. And obviously not a Mormont”

“Quite obvious my Lady Snow”

“But…”

“Spare me your but’s, girl,” Lord Mormont interrupted. “I would not be sitting here were it not for you and that direwolf of yours. You fought bravely and more to the point, you thought quickly. Fire! Yes, damn it! We ought to have known. We ought to have remembered. The Long Night has come before. Oh, eight thousand years is a good while, to be sure . . . yet if the Night’s Watch does not remember, who will?”

“Who will,” chimed the talkative raven. “Who will.”

Truly, the gods had heard Lyarra’s prayer that night, which reminded her of going back to the Weeirwood circle to give her thanks and pray for whatever that thing was and to never encounter more of those.

She was in her own sleeping chamber now, with the sword in hand. She felt a bit ashamed cos it was not meant for her.

“A sword’s small payment for a life, take it, I’ll hear no more of it, is that understood?” Mormont had concluded their conversation with that.

And yet, the sword was not Ice, and the old bear was not her father.

“Longclaw” she whispered with reverence. She was in love with the sword. From its design to its name ‘named after a bear but apt for a wolf too… a direwolf like me’.

Ghost was watching her now, “Do you like it?” she asked her white haired friend. Ghost said nothing. Not like Lyarra expected anything but somehow she felt her red eyes glinting like approving the sword. Or did she felt it?

Her other friends, on the other hand, went crazy with Longclaw. Each of them had a try with it, Sam being the only one who had seen valyrian steel before because his family also has an ancestral valyrian sword called Hearstbean. He had never had it on his hands though. Now thanks to him, Lyarra knows more about that kind of steel than ever before. Sam even mentioned his plans on reading more about valyrian steel after finishing his tasks as the steward of maester Aemon. Who she visited once in a while to talk about many topics. Regarding her hand or to help him in what she could.

After a fortnight from receiving Longclaw Lyarra could wield it easily as if it were her own arm. The weight was perfect and the balance as well. Her hand even though felt awkward was completely healed, so it didn’t interrupt her from wielding Longclaw for hours in the training yard, where it was the first place you could find Lyarra Snow practicing on her own. Or acting almost as the master at arms of Castle Black after Thorne was sent in a haste to Kings Landing to show the black hand Ghost tore off of Jafers Flowers’s arm. The commander, of course, solicited a replacement Lyarra was eager to meet. Ser Andrew Tarth was on his way from the Shadow Tower, who will be the one to teach her some new moves with Longclaw and also help her work her two-hand strikes with her sword since it is the first time for her using a bastard sword. Besides, she wants to learn how to use Longclaw and her own long sword called Moonlight. The longsword was a gift her brother Robb prepared for Lyarra for her last name day at Winterfell. He said he did so after he discovered her destroying a practice dummy with only a tourney sword on her left hand and her pure rage ‘you looked out of your mind little sister’ Robb had joked a bit uncomfortable. And with reason, Lyarra sometimes when extremely mad she has problems restraining her rage. That time she had been in such fool mood after being chastised for supposedly teaching Robb how to say dirty words when it was Theon’s fault all along. Moonlight was made close to the looks of Ice, except that the coloring was represented in the hilt and the scabbard, all black as ink, the pommel had the form of a fang almost forming a half moon in all white. The blade had a similar whiteness to it, perfectly balanced and made especially to suit her left hand. Robb had mostly given it to her as an apology than for being her name day. He had felt terrible for the whole situation. But it hadn’t been his fault either. That is why Lyarra never mentioned anything to Robb about the scolding she received. Yet he found out about it because Arya yelled at him in her fury and indignity over Lyarra taking on the blame for something like that. Arya had been there when Lady Catelyn reprimanded Lyarra. After it, Arya hit Theon really hard on his chins before bolting to Robb’s room and do the same for such folly.

Lately, Lyarra had been practicing longer and harder than ever. With no more duties than the ones she took on herself that the commander let her take, she had a lot of free time for herself. So after helping maester Aemon in the rockery, taking watch with one of her friends up in the Wall, and helping those who wanted help with their swordplay, Lyarra would stay in the yard practicing with Longclaw for hours until meal time. She uses Longclaw over her shoulder, since it’s too long for the hip, and cos she is too short for it. She had been working on her two-handed strikes as well. Ser Endrew is supposed to teach her better how to use a bastard sword. Yet she couldn’t wait patiently and didn’t want to be mediocre when the new master at arms started to help her. Lyarra was so eager to learn because when she finally gets a good hold of her new sword, she will focus on using Moonlight and Longclaw at the same time without losing her timing and footing during a fight. So far she hadn’t use two swords in a real fight, only Moonlight and Fang. A longsword and a bastard sword together, on the other hand, was going to be a real challenge for her. It is an exciting prospect to the starry she-wolf.

But there was more to it. Lyarra concentrated on those tasks and in her goal to master her new sword, mostly so she could avoid thinking about the Wight and the strong suggestion of her uncle Benjen being dead. Ghost had tried to help in that regard by “taking” her to hunt and by sleeping with her almost every night with her muzzle buried in her throat or vice versa. It wasn’t only baths now the direwolf’s tactic to appease the war on her human’s head. The direwolf could feel it. The chaos in Lyarra. And Lyarra was really grateful with her furry companion. She always feels better when she is close to Ghost. The direwolf’s presence calms her greatly. It was somehow funny because Lyarra was moodier and predisposed to be overcome in rage than her direwolf Ghost.

Her friends had tried to help as well, but she was not much of a talker. Lyarra’s sullenness didn’t help either. So she kept working out, practicing with her sword, moving around and pouting all along. Pyp was now calling her Lady Snow in a mocking way after she flipped him over at supper; she had just wake up that day so her mood was not good at all. It wasn’t a surprise that everyone called her “Lady Snow” now, and had to use it in their dirty japes or in their disgusting suggestions. She had almost use Fang in many of the brothers who had tried to act over her than just suggesting anything inappropriate. They really believed she would fuck with them. The rumors had done their job very well indeed.

She was just on her way to clean up after her individual training when the Lord Commander’s steward called for her to his Lord’s solar because there was a raven with a message for her. She went fast almost running on the steps at the King’s Tower. When she got there she was all flushed and sweaty. The Lord Commander Mormont didn’t look impressed, but she ignored him for the parchment on his hand.

“My apologies my Lord… it is that for me?” she asked directly with no finesse

“Girl, you didn’t run over the icy steps did you?” he ignored her rudeness

“Lord Commander” she insisted looking at the parchment instead of the old bear’s face.

“Yeah yeah, it is for you, impatient girl”

“Can I… please” she remembered her courtesies again, now that she was calm and rested from the run. He gave her the parchment and she read it promptly, having to read it a second time to truly understand.

“My brother woke up!”

“He did, but he won’t walk…” explained Mormont with certain regret in his voice

“But he is alive… Bran is alive!” she smiled for the first time in days, feeling like running once again. The Lord Commander then took out another parchment still closed and hand it over to her. It has the violet wax and the seal of Starfall. She opened it not caring the old bear’s presence and read it in a haste, knowing her uncle Alystair was the most likely to write to her at Castle Black.

“It’s my uncle Alystair Dayne…he is asking for me and… he is telling me to…”

“Go to Starfall. And you should”

“What?! Why? But uncle Benjen!”

“Girl! Hold your words and slow down your mind. Are you really asking why? You are not that stupid child of that I am sure, you know very well the reason”

She shut her mouth. Lyarra knows he is right. She was being stupid. There was more than one reason for her to leave the Wall. The rumors were at its worst. Not only for her but also for her friends and the Lord Commander. And there is also the fact that her uncle Benjen had been lost for more than half a year, with no other rangers, not even Ghost being able to find any clue of his whereabouts or any sign of life from the place he was last known to go. She understands all that. But she can’t give up on him and the rumors…

“Sorry, I know… It just…”

“Yes, you are not the only one who knows why girl. It is complicated, but the snow storm finished more than a few moons ago. There isn’t anything you can do for your uncle Benjen and your reputation it is getting soiled even if the rumors are fake.”

“Your reputation as well my Lord…” she added with regret all over her face.

“Mine? Huh! What it’s the reputation of an old man compared to a maiden?”

“A lot my Lord… believe me, it is something I learned a long time ago”

Jeor Mormont sobered at the comment. Lord Eddard Stark honor had received a big blow from siring a bastard daughter after all.

“More reason for you to get out of this ice cell. In here the one reputation you have can get destroyed”

“I don’t have any my Lord. I am a bastard. A woman who fights and a fugitive from my own father’s home”

“Girl…”

He didn’t finish his sentence because there was a knock at the door, his steward announce the arrival of Ser Endrew Tarth and there were others who were seeking audience with him. She took the chance and got up from her seat, gave a hasty courtesy and left in the same haste avoiding the eyes of anyone she passed. Lyarra felt her burning cheeks get hit by the cold air and her eyes felt a bit irritated by the tears she held back. At her room, she asked Satin for a bath to be prepared. He had been selected by her in the Lord Commander’s suggestion, as her steward for her time there, just for things like that. Especially since she couldn’t bath in the common bathroom like everyone else or wash her clothes in peace without someone leering at her every move. When he saw her enter the room, Satin looked like he wanted to interrogate her about her sour attitude and glistening eyes but held back and did as she asked. She felt very grateful to him, so she promised to herself on telling him later at supper about her attitude. Satin had become her second shadow after Ghost thanks to his steward responsibilities and because Lyarra was one of the few, who treated him as a person and not as a boy whore. He had been so helpful with the rumors by talking with her, and how to answer back in ways that would make the talker to shut their mouths. He helped her mostly to understand what they were saying to her, she is a maiden after all. The little things she knew about sex were from the gossips she heard at Winterfell and the town, but nothing more. When the bath was done, she secured Satin’s time at supper for an explanation and gave her thanks to the Old Town boy.

The moment she submerged her entire body from head to toes inside the water, her wall cracked and her tears fill the tub a bit more. Lyarra is a very emotional and moody person. She could be fuming as the coals in a hot fire one minute and then calm as the morning fog in the other. And what’s worse; her eyes were her doom at deception. They were an open window to her feelings. Lyarra hates that she cries when what she feels it’s too big, it doesn’t matter what it is, she could be happy and crying or mad with wet eyes and cheeks. She really hates it. Arya often called her the “crying pup” if not the “broody pup”. Her disdain for it was so big that Lyarra created a technique where every big emotion she would immediately compact it and piled it up, one over the other, creating a wall. That was a way of giving herself enough time to cool down or to run and cry in secrecy. This time she did the last. It was inevitable. The emotional wall had been in construction constantly for the last days, with little time to deconstruct. So when the commander Mormont gave her those letters, the wall hit the limit faster than she imagined and came down on her. She had been just too happy and needy for her family. And then the old bear knock it over with his words of leaving her uncle Benjen behind. Mostly though, she felt overwhelmed by how much he actually cares for her.

‘He worries about me… even though I am a bastard. He has treated me with respect like family does… He isn’t even thinking about himself! It is my fault after all. Everyone, Pyp, Sam, Grenn, Satin, the old bear, even maester Aemon has been mention in those nasty rumors destroying their honor! Nevertheless, they still are there for me…’

When she finished her bath, and changed in a warm black gown someone got as a joke for her in the first days at Castle Black. The joked land flat after she inspected it and end up liking it a lot. Lyarra likes black, anyone could say it is her color. While she was brushing her dark waves she analyzed the situation all over again. She doesn’t care about the rumors. Words are wind after all. But her friend's comfort was in jeopardy thanks to her presence at Castle Black. And so, she made a hard decision. Hard of course only for her pride. She will leave the Wall, even if she enjoys her life there with her friends, and even if it pained her to leave her uncle Benjen behind.

 ‘I must say good bye’ Lyarra mournfully concluded while making her way to the common hall to spill her thoughts at her dear friend Satin who she promised a word with. And to enjoy her friend’s time as long as she could.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: Samwell Tarly’s first mutiny

 

The rookery is the nesting place of Castle Black's ravens and consequently, maester Aemon’s quarters are located in a stout wooden keep beneath it. Where Samwell Tarly had been spending most of his time since he recited the vows of the Night’s Watch kneeled facing the nine long faces with red sap down their white trunk, the Weeirwood Trees Grove.

Lya once compared her direwolf Ghost with them, “Somehow it’s like having the Old Gods with me when I see Ghost red eyes over her white fur… she reminds me of home” her tone was dreamy, a really weird thing on the she-wolf of Winterfell. Sam had to agree though. Lyarra’s direwolf really shared a strong resemblance with the famous heart trees. The way she often spoke of her gods and the correlation with Ghost (one of Sam’s saviors more often than not) it’s what made him respect the Old Gods and even made him believe in them more than he did with the Seven. The day he took his vows, was the day he became someone else. What better place than in front of the Old Gods of the North to become a black brother of the Night's Watch. He likes as well how all you have to do is to speak to them in the middle of nature, the purest thing in this terrifying and unjust world of them.

To Sam’s bad luck, his new life started with a horrific way. When Ghost, as if representing the Old Gods emerged out from between the nine Weeirwoods with a coagulated hand on her muzzle that led them to the discovery of two dead Night's Watch brothers, that later became murderous walking corpses known as wights. Sam wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen the bodies himself. The strangeness of them, the unnatural way of its state. And later the words of his friend and most fervent defender Lyarra Snow had been looping around in his mind for days since the incident of the burning commander’s tower. She told them every detail of that night.

“It was Othor… I couldn’t believe my eyes but…there wasn’t time to think really… not when he… that thing was going after the old bear and then he was trying to kill us so desperately.” She gulped and took a breath “When I saw his black hands on Ghost I just moved and fought. I didn’t stop until those blue eyes were burning to its end… I will never forget it Sam. Othor’s hand and fingers down my throat or the other hand ripping my leg, and the dead blue eyes looking at me…with no emotion”

Sam and the others had never seen Lyarra so vulnerable like that night when she recited in a scared and rasping voice what she experienced over just one hour that night. She had the battle wounds to accompany her testimony. From her neck, hand, and leg to some of her ribs that now were very big and purple bruises. He saw how much it had to hurt when he help maester Aemon tend to her wounds. Even Ghost the fearless direwolf, no longer a pup, has some difficulty to swallow her food and water. And since the incident the direwolf’s attitude towards anyone getting close to Lyarra was suspicious and it had been very aggressive for the first three days. Sam didn’t blame the Ghost. Pyp, Grenn, the commander Mormont, maester Aemon, Satin and him had done the same for her, especially now that there were nasty rumors about her “giving her warmth” to all of them. Many didn’t believe in her story and were sure she was the mistress of the Lord Commander. It made Sam very angry ‘How could they think that of her? She is nothing but noble!’ He admired her strength because she never lets that to affect her, and simply keeps on helping them with their training, on taking watch over the Wall and at the rookery.

Truth to be told, Sam never would have believed if someone had told him about warrior ladies goods as seasoned knights. But now, he knows better. He had read about the Northman being savages that even the women had to fight. When in reality, as far as he knew, it was just the woman from the Bear Island of House Mormont, the skagosi who are said to be skinchangers and cannibals and the wild women from the Freefolk known as spearwives. And there is also the fact the Northman aren’t savages at all. Just more hardened and direct in their speech than the southern people who didn’t need to worry about dying if they took a stroll in the woods because of the cold changing weather. He had seen none of those women though he had read about. Only one woman fits in the description of warrior and women. One who hadn’t been included in those groups, Lyarra Snow the bastard of Winterfell. She had really surprised all of them with her sword skill and then with her courtesies as a lady. Not that she was as good with being courteous as with her sword. She is too serious and direct. Lyarra also lacks the sweetness usually showed by a proper lady. Indeed she knows the words and how to act, mostly she knows how to dress like one, and her handsome face was a big help on her “lady” persona. She was truly one of the most beautiful women Sam had met, but he didn’t know many women so in reality his opinion was flawed by that. Strangely, even if at first he felt extremely nervous around her for her beauty and mostly for being a woman in general. Sam learned later how much in common they have and how nice she is once you ignore her awkward courtesies and silent gloomy personality. Their others friends had been less nice with her at the beginning and very vulgar, but that changed when they got to know her better. And, of course, after she defeated them in the courtyard.

And somehow Samwell Tarly became best friends with the maiden of Winterfell and only daughter of Ashara Dayne. When he learned that he was surprised at how unsurprising it actually was. Probably because one just needs to observe how handsome Lyarra is and how talented she is with a sword, just like her uncle Arthur Dayne the Sword of the Morning, the last owner of the famous sword Dawn. It was just obvious and unsurprising, really. At least for Samwell Tarly.

What was a real surprise is that the more you get to know her the less you fall for her. Or that was the case for Grenn, Pyp and himself. Not so much for poor Satin, if what the other two said was true. But he can’t tell afar from how the Oldtown boy stares at her longer than normal. He had tough it was because of how unique she was or because of her direwolf Ghost. Basically an almost mythical creature, only seen in the books Sam had once read over at Hornhill when life had been tranquil for him. Now, Sam’s life it is plagued with uncertainty since the Wight attack. Or the White Walkers attack for being more exactly, even if it sounds stupid and childish to think like that of the northern tales. ‘

But, what else could have done anything like that? What else can raise dead men to fight?’  The question had been pestering Sam for several nights when sleep abandoned him or it was backward?

The responsibilities as the steward of maester Aemon were very enjoyable, except when feeding the crows that were the guilty ones on the multiple cuts he sports on his hands. Sam was currently finishing to clean his new wound when a crow came in. Sam attend to it quickly and took the dismissive with his uninjured hand. The parchment came from Kings Landing, specifically from the King. Sam didn’t have time to wonder so much about it when maester Aemon who was sitting while finishing to feed his side of the ravens, asked him to read it for him. Sam read it and stopped. He usually enjoys getting news from around the kingdom but what he was feeling in that moment was a new kind of pain and regret in him, the one reserved for his friends suffering, “Eddard Stark of Winterfell was imprisoned and executed by the order of…” Sam couldn’t understand what the note says. Not so long ago they received similar news where the King was the one who died and Lord Eddard Stark was imprisoned under the accusations of treason.

That alone had made Lyarra fall in despair and had shouted after hearing the news, “My father is not a traitor! They were best friends! He couldn’t… he…”

Later that day at supper Lyarra almost killed Rast with her dagger Fang, after he made a distasteful comment about her father. More than two brothers were required to stop her to the surprise of everyone. She had really lost it that time, Sam had been a scared of her eyes full of range in that moment. She was really going to kill Rast. He made a note to himself to never piss her off. ‘How would she react now that her father is dead?’

“Well?” asked Aemon, waiting for Sam to read the news.

“I-it says…that Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell has been e-executed…”

Maester Aemon kept quiet for a moment, his face had lost his easy smile.

“Does it say more?” Aemon asked with a close off tone.

“N-no…”

“All right…” he closed his eyes as if the light annoyed him “We must tell the Lord Commander and Lyarra Snow”

“B-but maester A-Aemon… I-I, Sh-she won’t take this very well…” he really doesn’t think she will, at all.

“Sadly Samwell I agree with you, nevertheless she must know, better from the Lord Commander Mormont than us of course. He is like a father figure for her my young Samwell, so it would be easier I think to receive such dark news from him. Take the news to him first, go now. I can be myself for a while.”

‘He really looks sad…’ Sam feels the same though. He really doesn’t like to see his friends suffering.

On the way down the rookery towards the Lord Commander’s new chamber on the King Tower, he noticed two people fighting close to the Commander’s rooms. He walked faster over the connecting bridge in desperation to reach the two people when he recognized one of the opponents having a very long dark hair ‘Lyarra!’  he knew. Sam didn’t even think when he increased his speed.

But before he got there, he saw how Lyarra kicked the other person between his legs, who now Sam could see was one of the new recruits sent at Castle Black from Kings Landing. When Sam finally made it there Lyarra was on top of him with Fang on her hand. ‘I thought the commander took all her weapons from her as a punishment” everyone knows that, ‘maybe that’s why this man tried to attack her…because she is supposed to be defenseless’ Sam was filled with disgusted.

“If you ever try to touch me again I will cut your balls and then your filthy hand, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Lyarra said with a cold voice that made Sam tremble, he couldn’t imagine what the guy felt then with a dagger in his neck “I said…”

“Lyarra Snow!” came a stern voice, the Lord Commander’s voice.

“I just gave you back your weapons and you are already using them?!”

Sam was stunned in the middle of the two ‘Why me?’

“Aye, my Lord. You made me promise to use them only for my protection and I keep my promises. Not like this one over here” Lyarra answered without looking at the commander who grew tense and serious at her comment.

“You are one of maester Aemon’s stewards aren’t you?” the commander questioned looking at the criminal’s from his position. Sam almost answered before he remembered he isn’t the steward the Lord Commander was talking too. It was to Chett.

“I-I m-my Lord! This bitch! She attacked me I swear! Came out of nowhere! And…”

“That’s a lie!” shouted Sam before his conscious cached up with his anger, the commander and Lyarra looked back at him not having noticed his presence, Sam stammered “I-I w-was coming and s-saw Chett gro-groping Lya by the b-back and s-she…”

The Lord Commander Mormont stopped him “Chett is it? I understand Sam thank you.” The Commander looked then a Lya “Lyarra, bring him to my solar and don’t injure him more, I will take care of him”

Lyarra didn’t look happy but did as commanded, she was more obedient than most brothers of the Night’s Watch. She was so obedient that many called her sister and considered her part of the Night’s Watch. Of course, it was only those who didn’t fantasize with raping the warrior maiden. There has been even a group who sang about Danny Flint with twisted smiles full of lust. They were stopped of course. But once in a while, someone hums the song when Lyarra is close. If Sam were in Lyarra’s place he would have nightmares every day and would have run away long ago. Lately, he was very grateful to be a man and no a lady in such cruel world. He even prays to the Old Gods for his sisters Talla and the twins Melary and Rylene.

“You have something for me Sam?” the Lord Commander’s question took Sam out of his wondering.

“Y-yes, from K-Kings Landing my Lord”

Oh gods, I forgot, Lyarra is here!’  

“Very well give it to me and go tell Aemon about what just happened. And to come have supper at my solar in the eve, he will know what about”

 

Sam gave him the parchment and wanted to add a warning but abstain himself, remembering the words of maester Aemon “He is like a father figure to her” and indeed he was, he even was for Sam and many other young men in Castle Black. Sam gave him a nod before turning back to his duty. When he was on his way he noticed a group of brothers close to the Kings Tower but Sam didn’t pay them mind. It isn’t weird to see groups like that loitering when they were new at the Wall, and it looked like Alan Rosby and Garth of Greenaway were with them probably instructing or chastising them by the sour looks on the green boys and the serious ones on the sworn brothers.

Samwell hadn’t been in the tower for more than two hours when he heard the screams. The first thing it came to his head was that the wildings at Mance’s service had come just like the reports said from the last weeks. But when no horn had come he thought of the Others and their wights. Yet once again the horn was silent. Pyp crashed then inside the Rockery with a white face,

“There’s a mutiny! Lyarra said to come and protect maester Aemon at all costs!” Pyp was sweating and with crazed eyes.

“M-mutiny? W-hat a-are you…?” Sam was stammering again while Pyp was closing the door with a sword in hand.

“Where’s the maester?! Sam!”

“H-he i-is sleeping…”

“Sam? Is it time?” said the frail and sleepy voice of maester Aemon who had taken a nap in a makeshift bed in the corner of the Rockery.

“Maester Aemon we are in need of your service, Lyarra Snow send me here to protect you and Sam from the mutineers. Lord Commander Mormont is dead, killed in his solar, the Kingdoms needs to know. Or that is what Lyarra said” Pyp informed in a quick speech and rather eloquent from him. It was probably the adrenaline from the fear, now noticeable by his shaking sword.

The maester sit straighter and took a deep breath.

“Samwell, start writing and send the news to every House and to Kings Landing. Young Pyp is it?” Pyp nodded frantically and then gave a talked response after remembering the maester is blind.

“What else happened? Where is lady Lyarra?” asked the old maester.

‘Oh gods Lyarra! Most of the men will attack her! How could I forget about that!’

“I…she is the one who sent me, Grenn, Satin and Dolorous Edd are with her fighting off the mutineers on their way here I think… And, s-she is the one who found him, sir, she is crazed and very….”

A series of knocks came over startling the three of them.

“Pyp! Sam! Open this god damn door now!” it was Grenn’s voice. Pyp didn’t think twice and did as told. Grenn and the party mentioned before came inside. Lyarra was being dragged by two of them and Ghost entered last, her muzzle red.

“W-what happened to Lyarra?!”

“We knocked her out before she took us down with her to an early grave” commented Dolorus Edd in his usual dry voice, now also filled with concern.

“W-what?!” asked Sam again. He really doesn’t know what is going on.

“Come, lay her in the bed in the corner and tell me what’s happening outside” urged the old maester with determination and a more relaxed expression probably cos Lyarra was secure with them in the room.

The newcomers took a seat and some water Sam provided them before giving their report on the situation. Green who was quieter than ever began to talk, “We were on our way to our shift with Satin when he saw a group of brothers and new recruits running towards the King Tower. They all had weapons on them. We didn’t like the look of it so we went to see what was wrong to only find Lyarra and Ghost fighting them off. She was cornered and crying… I had never seen her cry like that so I was shocked a-and then-“

“I attacked them from the back. I killed Chett I think and some green boy I didn’t know his name. Grenn then helped me fight them over. Then they focused their forces on the two of us and not only on Lya. Who kept seeing at her side…we followed her eyes and that is when we saw him…”

“The Lord Commander was on the floor at the foot of the door of his solar over a pool of blood and Ghost… when she wasn’t tearing someone off was defending the Commander…” Grenn stopped talking abruptly.

“He wasn’t breathing maester” declared Satin with a mournful expression. Edd sighed loudly and continued where Satin left it, “Pyp was with me, unfortunately, cos he is the one who saw the commotion, and we end up in the middle of a bloody fight! I don’t even know why I am still alive! I can’t fight for shit!” commented Dolorous Edd with the most mournful expression Sam had seen in the man.

“We started winning thanks to their help. But more people joined the mutineers so we had to drag Lyarra with us. All the time they were shouting filth at Lyarra or to the Commander. Even at us! Of how selfish we were” talked Grenn again.

“S-selfish?” Sam muttered without realizing he had done it out loud.

“For no sharing Lyarra with them….” Whispered Grenn in response.

Everyone became silent. Sam couldn’t believe it. ‘A mutiny. Over what? Their need for a woman?’

“He is dead because of me” whispered a tiny voice. They jumped at it, noticing it had been Lyarra. She was sitting in the bed and her eyes were red and full of unshed tears. Lyarra also had a cut in one of her lips and a black bruise was forming in her left eye. She continued, “They called me his whore. They attacked us when I was leaving the commanders solar… he was just… The old bear was hugging me because… because I was crying at the news of my father’s death.” Her voice cracked and her tears were falling steadily.  

“Lya…” started Satin but couldn’t finish by Lyarra’s rapid words.

“They pushed me to the floor, my face hit the floor so I barely saw when Ollo stabbed the Lord Commander in the belly. More came, and tried to take me inside the solar… but they didn’t see Ghost was there. And we just… fought… they killed him because of me… he is dead because of me…” she sniffed but didn’t stop, “So Ghost and I killed them in return…not all of them…” Lyarra had looked disheveled once but her now wet eyes went from deep sadness to a cold anger Sam had never seen before. Her voice had been shaky and almost monotonous but at the end, it had a determined tinder of full rage.

“We have to kill all the mutineers. We have to go out there and make them pay” she declared looking at them in her poised anger.

“No, we shall not. Not now. How many mutineers were there and how many are now?” cut maester Aemon. He sounded angry but also careful with Lyarra.

“About fifteen of them I think” said Satin. Edd made a gesture as if thinking “Then about ten or eight are alive” he said.

“But those are the ones we saw, we had to knock Lyarra out when we heard more coming” added Grenn a bit nervous.

Aemon was silent for a moment before giving the command “Satin and Pypar, go out and take a look around and come back to inform us about the situation. Go fast and be careful”

They did as told. Maester Aemon turned to Lyarra to see her wounds. They didn’t talk. No one did. Pyp and Satin came back rather fast but they were sweating inside the black garbs. They didn’t waste time giving their report to the whole room.

“There’s war my lord. Everyone is fighting everyone”

“What places?”

“The yard and the Kings Tower” said Satin who added in anger “They are searching from Lyarra” he looked a Lya with raw concern. She didn’t pay mind to it.

“Very well. Grenn, Dolorous I need the two of you to go to the kitchens and prepared a saddle with food for a long travel. Pyp and Satin, I request you to prepare the horse of lady Lyarra.” Aemon touched Lyarra’s hand in his and with a paternal tone told her, “My lady I am afraid it is time for you to go”

“I won’t,” She said stubbornly ‘always trying to stick to her family sense of honor’ thought Sam knowingly to be true. He knows she won’t go easy if there is she can help. And her mind is also cloud in her need for justice…or revenge.

“It is not a request is an order.” Aemon’s tone got harder “Brothers go, hurry” The lot went out again to their missions and Sam almost wished to go with them not wanting to see what was about to happen. Yet, he is a curious man.

“Sam, I hope you are writing and sending the messages” the maester added. Sam flushed and continue where he left the note half way, not without keeping an almost strained ear to the awkward conversation behind his back.

“Are you aware that the Lord Commander planned to let you go?”

“Yes…”

“You were in danger here and you are in worst danger now. That’s why he and I decided it was for the best. Now it has to be done whether you like it or not”

“But you will need every fighting man to defeat the mutineers!”

“You are not man”

Lyarra huffed before shouting, “They murdered him because of me!!!”

Sam almost fell from his chair and totally ruined the current note by spilling ink on it.

“That I heard. But they actually killed him because they were weak of mind and made a terrible and dishonorable choice of killing their Lord Commander. You did nothing wrong” the master’s voice was very reassuring and serious. He is really trying to get in Lyarra’s head she was not guilty of anything. Not that it worked.

“Maester Aemon…” Lyarra was about to say something when Aemon interrupted her with a hard voice

“Lyarra Snow of House Stark and Dayne. Would your family want to receive news of you being raped and killed? Let me tell you, my girl, they won’t. Not like I did when hearing about the destruction of my family. Specifically of how Ellia and the children were butchered in their room. No. They won’t like it. So you will leave before you end like Ellia, Rhaenys and Aegon. Not on my watch. ”

‘Ellia? The children? Destruction? For the gods! He is a…’

“You are a Targaryen?” asked Lyarra with a more tender tone, full of surprise.

“Indeed. Or I was before I took the vows. Now I am a brother of the Night’s Watch, and my duty is to protect you, for the time being, so do as I say girl, and escape, go to your uncle in Dorne and live.” Aemon Targaryen’s voice trembled a bit from the painful memories his confession brought up back.

Sam was finishing half of the letters when the others came back half successful. Green and Dolorous could only get some food and not the best one cos many started to raid the kitchens stupidly, not thinking about how hard is to get food so north to the Kingdoms. Whatever they ate would last little and then they would die of hunger. They related that thankfully, before the food got wiped out, Three-Finger Hobb with some others defended the kitchens and later Hobb aid to their cause.

Satin and Pyp had Bastard ready successfully. But the fight was moving fast towards the stables so Lyarra had to hurry up. What surprised them all was that they also brought with them a bag with most of Lyarra’s things from her room. The old town ranger explained that no one was there searching for her anymore and so he thought why not? Lyarra was really grateful, not wanting to leave many of her clothes being gifts from her family and especially her father.

Reluctantly Lyarra Snow prepared for her trip adjusting her custom armor, her weapons, and her heavy white coat with the hoodie over her head and a scarf to cover her face. It was time. The sounds of the fight were getting closer. They needed to hurry Sam knew, so with a heavy heart, he started the good byes, getting up from his seat and stood in front of Lyarra.

“Lya… Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and take care for yourself please” he hugged her without thinking of propriety and whispered to her “May the Old Gods watch over you” Sam was really going to miss Lyarra. She was the only woman Sam was eloquent with and his best friend. He had tried to be brave, but even if his voice didn’t wobble his chin did and his eyes were glazed. The hug didn’t let Sam see the same expression was on her face, “Thank you as well, Sam…I will miss you too”

Grenn, Pyp and even Edd gave their good byes, being Edd’s the more depressing one than it was supposed to. Satin was the last of the young brothers, who only hug her and then shied away in the back not looking at anyone. ‘Lyarra is his best friend… his first friend in here like mine…’ Sam can see it will be hard for Satin when she goes ‘It will be hard for me as well…’

Maester Amon approached last. He hug her as well, giving her a tender kiss on her forehead, his voiced trembled a bit when he told her “Thank you. Saving you is like saving my family when I couldn’t. Go now girl before you lose your opportunity”.

Lyarra and Ghost were going to be escorted by Grenn and Pyp in case any issue aroused. Without more words, they started leaving the Rockery one by one. Lyarra stopped at the door and look back at them with her red eyes from all the crying and with a bruised face, she gave them her trademark sad smile and a nod “Brothers” she said before leaving completely.

‘Sister’ Sam thought with pride and with a great need to cry.

After a couple of minutes, the blind dragon sighed and cut off the silence and Sam’s soon to be crying time.

“Now then… we must take back Castle Black from the rebels. Sam, Edd, Satin report to me the current situation outside and tell me your ideas of what we should do. Even the ones you think are stupid.” He smiled sadly before adding “I was reminded by a clever young direwolf that everything has its potential in the world…”

Sam somehow knew what he was referring to. He smiled at the reason why he was Aemon’s Targaryen steward and not fodder for Allister Thorne…

‘The starry she-wolf Lyarra Snow.’  

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Craster’s Wives

 

It was nighttime when she found the village. The woods were filled with an ominous silence. Not one single person was around. Only empty rustic cabins with some dry wood and too many cracks on the walls, letting the cold breath of the north enter unbidden. She would have gone mad in that place if it weren’t for Ghost and Bastard to keep her company. Lyarra decided then to take Whitetree as her seat for the three of them, well, four if she stopped ignoring the old bear’s raven that followed her all the way from Castle Black that is. But she couldn’t, or that would mean to acknowledge his death and Lyarra couldn’t mourn him at the same time she mourned for her Lord father, executed by his best friend’s sadistic son, Joffrey Baratheon the now ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.

She had made the decision to stay there as long as she could, leeching herself into the ancient Weeirwood tree that provided her the extra presence she needed in her pain. She had been praying every day over the eyes of the Old Gods since her arrival at Whitetree. Sadly the food was almost gone and her body was in real need for a better place to sleep in, before her extremities went black thanks to frostbite from the cold air entering the destroyed cabin she stayed at. Bastard needed proper food as well, even if this was the type of climate and ground he was breed to walk on, Bastard was not going to survive on what he was eating and Lyarra really didn’t need another loss at all.

“This is our last day in here Bastard, tomorrow we will search a better place all right?” Lyarra was tending to her horse, as usual, preparing him for their trip the next morn. Ghost came out of the woods in that moment with the catch of the day. A rabbit white as Ghost, with the exception of the spots of blood here and there from the fatal bite her friend gave the tiny thing. Lyarra already knew what she was going to do with the fur. The she-wolf of Winterfell apart from praying and trying to survive, had taken to design new clothes in an attempt to keep her mind distracted. Mostly cos sparring was not an option anymore with so little rest and food to keep her going. Thereafter she started to collect furs and materials for what she had in mind. And would keep it in there for a while because she couldn’t make the clothes for lack of tools and other necessary materials. Ghost had been her major source of furs from all kind of prey. Lyarra was also collecting the bones and feathers from the kills to add details to the clothes.

Her wondering about new garments began when she noticed how extremely dirty her current clothes were after many days of travel thru the Haunted Forest. She would have changed in something clean if Lyarra hadn't dropped her bags inside the icy tunnel of Castle Black in her haste to escape from the wave of mutineers coming to attack her and her friends. I had been a critical decision of the moment, to stay or abandon the original plan to go Dorne. In truth the plan was already futile when the main fight was being partaken just at the gates of the castle, impeding her discreet escape. She at least had been wearing her armor and two layers of thick cloth over her. Her favorite white coat covered by the black cloak Pyp gave her before leaving Castle Black, “It will hide you better” he had said when the plan was still for her to go over Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and not beyond the Wall, where wearing a black cloak of the Night’s Watch was a death sentence. Yet, in a depressing way, the cold past the Wall was worse than anything Lyarra had ever felt, and besides, the black wasn’t so bad when traveling at night or as a second layer of her white coat. So she had kept it with her, replacing the order of the coats depending on the need she had. To hide in plain snow on the day, or to hide in the darkness of the night.

Lyarra knelt to received Ghost from her hunt, “Hey girl” she took the rabbit from Ghost’s muzzle, “Thank you Ghost, I promise I will make something for you too with these materials, so you are as protected as I am…maybe a comfortable armor?”

‘Because I don’t want to lose you too. Not you…’ she confessed in silence.   

Early the next morn, she took off a new path. To a better and warmer place to curl up in her pathetic pain. Lyarra has a vague idea where she was thanks to all the books she read about the Wall and the lands beyond it. Sam talked a lot about it too, so it was fresh on her poor memory that only absorbed interesting information related to the things she loves, like fighting techniques, survival stuff, warfare and story of grand warriors. She knew a little bit about the maps since the story about her ancestors was one of her favorite things to learn about, and that included old Nan tales about the Lands of Always Winter. Maester Lewin hated the tales the old story-teller taught the Stark children. Lewin complained more than once that everything Old Nan related was pure fiction to scare little kids, but Lyarra didn’t care. She, Arya and Bran always respected Old Nans words in a weird way. That’s why, one day after hearing about those ice cold lands, she went to the library in search of pictures, whether in illustrations or grand tales. To her disappointment the only thing she could find was maps.

And here I am… moving around this place with some ease thanks to those disappointing maps…’

It was around her fifth day riding that she saw it. Smoke over the pale blue sky. Ghost felt it first of course since she couldn’t keep her excitement or weariness, Lyarra couldn’t tell which one. The best way to proceed was to explore the most discreetly possible. So she placed Bastard far away and went on foot towards she calculated the smoke was coming from. She found the place and walked in a full circle around the place, trying to catch who lives there and if she should make herself noticed. Observing every detail of the keep from it every angle. Thankfully Lyarra had partaken in many hunts at Winterfell and she practiced her tracking and hiding skills a lot with Arya, Bran, Rickon and sometimes Robb when they played hide and seek around Winterfell. She wasn’t that good at hunting as Robb and his direwolf but she knew more than the basics to avoid getting caught. Besides, she knows how to cover her tracks rather well. Years of hiding from the public eye helped a lot. The keep sits atop a low hill with an earthen dike around it. There is, as far as Lyarra noticed, one gate on the southwest side of the compound that was very well situated close to a stream around the north end of the hill. They have animals by the looks of the constructions inside the dike which meant food for Bastard. And the large keep meant a warm place for her as well.

‘I hope they are good people because I am no thief… yet’

If Lyarra had learned something from her friends at Castle Black, is that there is a moment in life when you have to choose between two things, both with bad conclusions. For her, it was the decision to feed Bastard by becoming a thief or keeping her honor intact, letting her equine friend die. While Lyarra was lost in a moral predicament a very pregnant girl with dark hair and a slight face came out from the keep’s only door. From Lyarra’s position, the girl looked younger than herself but her big tummy told otherwise…

‘Or they are so cruel to take girls that young!’  Lyarra felt disgusted and the shiver overtaking her body was from imagining being a mother at that age in such a tiny body. Old Nan had warned her to avoid getting with child too young or she wouldn’t make it past a few moons after birthing the babe, or the babe dying in the process. The books at the library confirmed many of those things, giving Lyarra nightmares for days until old Nan explained to her that she simply needs to protect her maidenhood until she weds at the right age. One of Lyarra’s pretty friends, who works as a whore told her the solution for an unrequired pregnancy was moontea before the first two moons and nothing more. She kept both pieces of advice close to her. Currently, she still isn’t sure of having a babe herself or even marrying for that matter. And no way in seven hells she is going to mother a bastard just for them to suffer like her, ‘never!’ she thought and chastised herself from not concentrating on her actual situation.

Lyarra kept watch of the keep from a safe distance for two days observing the people living in it. So far, only women reside in the place. They had almost the same appearance only differing in the tones of their hair color and in age. So Lyarra concluded they were all related in some capacity. Lyarra also confirmed that they indeed have animals. Pigs and sheep, not ravens or chickens. They are good hunters and know how to place traps expertly in a different way than in Winterfell. She had also noticed their gentle nature with each other and their animals. For Lyarra that was enough proof about their not murderous nature, deeming them safe for her companions and herself.

She was advancing in that moment with a careful pace to the keep. When she heard someone yell very loudly. Lyarra halted in her walk and backtracked to her original hiding spot as fast as she could. The yell came again. And again until it became full screams of pain.

‘Is the pregnant girl!’ Lyarra recognized the rhythm of the screams. She had the bad luck to attend a traveler giving birth once. Another fodder to her nightmares.For the gods… will she survive?’ she questioned, remembering the traveler and her babe didn’t.

Lyarra couldn’t see from her position, so she moved a bit, finally seeing the young girl being taken inside by the others, her face wrinkled in pain that only changed when she screamed. Somehow that vision scared Lyarra away and went back to her camp not wanting to hear more screams. Or worse, see the other women carrying her dead body after birthing the babe.

Despite being back at her camp, she couldn't stop thinking about the girl and her babe. And cos her mind kept drifting away to it, she took Longclaw in hand and after many days without practicing she tried some moves Ser Andrew Tarth taught her before everything went to shit. Her mind doing summersaults to worry after worry related to the chaos her life is.

I hope he lives… that he wasn’t one of the mutineers… How are they? Did Sam keep maester Aemon safe? Did Pyp found a new coat? Has Grenn kept up with Pyp’s japes? Has Satin used the shield like I told him? Did they burned... did the old bear received a proper goodbye?’

When she finally took a rest, the night was upon the she-wolf maiden and her cheeks were frozen by the tears she shed and from the sweat of a very emotional sword practice. It had been just what she needed to finally think in a clearer of the “Keep” situation. Or so that she attributes her tears from.

Am I really afraid of a baby? Or life?’ She mused over her ridiculous attitude knowing it was true, she was terrified of a new life coming to this cruel world, thinking how unfair it would be to bring a child only to suffer in it. Or because she is afraid to lose more.

Thank the Old Gods for moontea and for giving me guts. I am no craven that hides from a baby!’ She got up, set on making herself know to the women before Bastard and she die of hunger or worse yet, as wights. She made it fast to the keep, she was making her way up the hill when she got a glimpse of movement at the Keep’s door. Her instincts kicked in, hiding behind a robust tree. She peeked and saw a man with a cruel face came outside, his gray hair almost white thin in some parts of his head. And in his arms, he carried something, a wailing something…

‘A baby? The slim girl’s baby? Where is he taking the babe in this cold?!’

She was close enough to be hidden and be able to hear another wail. A girl was pleading in desperation “Please let my babe with me! Please, just this time!!! Please father!!”

Lyarra couldn’t understand the reasons why but saw and hear enough to understand what was happening. The world was making itself known to the babe, how cruel it can be. The girls plead stirred something in her.

Before Lyarra made the decision she was already following the cruel man thru the snowy path, tall sentinels into the dark night, her dagger at hand and a shaking breath. The old wilding walked briskly, no caring about the discomfort of the babe who hadn’t stop wailing the whole time. She could hear the man snapping at the babe because of it. After a while not so far from the keep, he stopped and crouched depositing the infant on an apparent unimportant spot in the snow. He straightened himself and left the crying babe there, alone and cold.

Once again her body moved before she ordered it to do so in direction of the new born. She hadn’t walked more than seven steps when something hit her in the head so hard that made her fall on her knees. The pain was enough to delayed her movements and her vision blackened for a moment not seeing anything, not even Ghost being kicked in her belly making the direwolf hit a tree, she also ignored the cruel man standing over her now, she could only hear him do all those things and talk to her obviously confused with her presence.

“A woman? That fack this bitch doing h’re?” he took her by her chin and examined her face “A pretty thing aren’t ya bitch? Yar different too from my daughters… ya would be a good last wife before me cock freezes…” while giving his speech he was taking his breeches off and started stroking himself with one hand while keeping Lyarra over her neck. The action only reminded her of the Wight attack. The memory of black fingers down her throat causing her to catch too late his words and meaning. She was already on her back, his free hand touching her tights and then he used both to try taking her clothes off. When her head finally cleared out, the disgusting man hadn’t been able to advance much with getting her naked. Her garments had always been different than the usual ones. And she was so grateful for it and so proud that she made them.

He was struggling with her over-the-knee boats when she sat swaying a uppercut at his head returning the hit and almost immediately Ghost was on him and ripped his throat out in an elegant twist of her teeth. Her white fur painted now in warm red made the young direwolf’s red eyes shine in a beautiful way. Lyarra got chills from its beauty, almost getting lost in Ghost eyes if it weren’t for the sudden drop in temperature, becoming impossibly colder. Ghost hair bristled and her white and red teeth were on display in a silent snarl with her attention towards the still crying baby.

‘The babe! How did I forget about the babe!?’

The thought made her move. The ball of cloth was thrashing from the strong screams the babe gave. She took the babe to her chest, and closed her white cloak around the two trying to give so warm back to the tiny body that felt like a block of ice. She was about to turn back when the forest lost all sound and two blue orbs appeared from the woods, approaching silently her way. She almost dropped the babe in her fright but the memory of another two blue eyes snapped her into action, almost dropping the infant for real. Lyarra embraced the babe in one arm and took Moonlight in the other, Ghost was already before her with her red eyes warning the thing coming for them. When the actual moon light fell upon what she realized was a clearing, the creature took form, or tried to. Cos its appearance was almost inhuman for its coloring, almost transparent for its pale flesh just like milk, it was taller than any person she had seen and the Other’s eyes were cold and blue like burning stars. The White Walker is wielding a longsword made of crystal with an evident sharpness that was enough to stop Lyarra from her curious observation of the creature. Although she wasn’t the only one observing. The Other was inspecting her from head to toe, it’s shiny blue eyes finished it’s assessing by resting over her own steel gray ones, drawing shivers all over her spine.

The babe wailed again and the Other launched forward with its crystal sword over his head, aiming to her own. Ghost launched her body at the White Walker’s feet making the Other loose balance, giving Lyarra an opportunity to avoid the slice with her sword Moonlight, that after a few moments of contact shattered like glass. Her breathing stopped from the shock and almost fell in a wave of desperation from the nakedness of an empty sword hand. She sidestepped the next blow, and Ghost helped her again. Lyarra remembered ‘Lonwclaw!’, she barely took it from her back when the Other swung the ice longsword to Ghost’s head stopping mere inches from the direwolf’s nose thanks to Longclaw’s black blade getting in the way. Lyarra made the move just barely in time by pure instinct, her arm trembled in the impact and pain traveled all around the extremity. They locked eyes in their mutual surprise. Not only she stopped the sure slice but Longclaw didn't shatter. Her breathing hitched at the Other's reaction, who recovered first and pushed towards her chest where the babe was thrashing in panic. She wasn’t able to swing it back or attack cos the White Walker’s strength was superior by far and her arm could barely handle such power. She made the decision then. She pushed enough to paced back in large steps outside the White Walker's range and kneeled living the babe in the snow. With as much power left in her tired legs, she launched herself back to the Other, “Ghost take the babe and protect it!”  Lyarra yelled, trusting Ghost to follow her instructions.

The most frightening dance of her life began and as fast as it started it ended, by making use of the “Ghost Counter” drills Ser Andrew taught her. He told her it favored her lean frame and fast footwork to avoid attacks and still being able to hit the opponent after it. That time she had laughed at the name and groaned a bit to the long hours of repeating the ghost counter drill with no rest until she mastered it.

But now, after avoiding a dangerous blow thanks to the ghost counter, Lyarra didn’t laugh, especially not after being able to find an opening and swinging with all her body strength left in her towards the Other’s right side, slicing the Other from shoulder to chest. The wound was oozing blue blood before the most shrilling screech came from the creature’s mouth, whose eyes were shining more than before and were set onto Lyarra’s scared ones. The White Walker shattered in a million pieces of ice at her feet. Lyarra fell to her knees breathing in short intakes of cold air, her face wet from the tears in her eyes. Her legs, arms, and head hurt. She wasn’t sure what to feel. She had just fought an Other and she won. But she was never going to forget that moment. How could she? When killing that creature was worse than killing those man on the Kings Road almost a year ago? Those men faces were replaced by the eyes of the dying Other, looking as terrified as she was, showing her he or she wasn’t a mere creature, a monster...

‘They feel fear like us, they feel… they…what are they?’

The cries of the babe once again took her out of her foggy mind full of a real life nightmare she would have to thoughtfully think about later to understand better what just happened. And if will occur again or not. On shaking legs, she approached to Ghost who had the babe on her nuzzle by the cloth the tiny human is wrapped. Lyarra took the babe in her arms and for the first time, she noticed the infant’s sex, a boy. She repeated her earlier procedures by protecting the little boy from the cold air blowing strongly through their bodies. She shivered and swayed on her walk back to her camp. Her head pounding with newfound strength.

It took longer to go back, to Lyarra’s relief most of her things were already packed. She proceeded packing the last of her stuff as fast as she could with a babe in arms and a tired body. When everything was ready, with an extreme effort she got on Bastard with the babe on one arm without smashing him with her body. They were faster to their way to the keep thanks to Bastard. She halted by the half open gate flanked by a pair of animal skulls on high poles, a bear to one side, a ram to the other. Lyarra realized she really hadn’t planned anything far from presenting the boy to her mother and maybe staying with them at least a day to rest. She could see the boy’s mama just on the other side seated on the snow. The young mother appearance was weak. All wan and pale with her head lowered. Bastard huffed. The girl jumped a bit. When she noticed their presence, her doe eyes opened widely looking up at them from her disarrayed position. It was obvious she hadn’t stopped crying from how red her eyes were.

“I got your baby boy” was all Lyarra could say, and it was enough for the girl who in a surprisingly fast move got up and ran towards the gate opening it in haste. Carefully Lyarra commanded Bastard into the property with Ghost behind them. The girl screamed in fear and Lyarra had a hard time to notice why with how sluggish her mind was.

“Don’t worry, the direwolf it’s with me, she won’t hurt you” Lyarra wanted to punch herself of how curt she said that.

But the girl kept screaming and the other women came out from the keep, some of them with spears, bows, and arrows on their hands.

“Don’t get closer to her or you’ll die!” A very voluptuous archer warned Lyarra who the only thing she managed to do was yell back,

“I am not going to hurt her! I am not here to fight!”

“Get out now!!!” screamed a very young girl

“I AM TELLING YO-“ Lyarra was shouting incredibly annoyed, tired and about to bolt from there or passed out on Bastard.

The boy wailed. Everyone shut their mouths and the group of strangers looked at her in shock. The doe eye girl apparently remembered Lyarra’s declaration about her babe.

“My babe! It is my babe right!?” her doe eyes shined with newfound emotion.

“Yes, your babe, I got him… here.” Said Lyarra while taking the tiny baby boy out from her cloak depositing him on her mother’s arms with a certain difficulty because of Bastard’s stature. When the girl embraced her child Lyarra continued, “See? I don’t want any problems, just some food for my horse and a place for my companions and I to stay for the night.”

“Where did you get the boy?” asked a woman around her thirties with a quavering voice full of disbelief.

“From where the old rapist left him” Lyarra’s voice had a sharp tone full of disgust.

“And where is the old cunt?” the woman was now suspicious.

“Dead, close to where he left the babe” Lyarra was not, for the first time regretting a kill.

“Dead? Did ya kill him?” asked a girl with a spear larger than her.

“No, I wanted to, but my direwolf Ghost ripped his throat off after he tried to rape me”

They all looked a Ghost at Lya’s side more scared than in the beginning.  

“Who are you?” asked the doe eyed mother.

Lyarra had no energy and talent to lie, she had not time either or else the cold and shock from that night would kill her. She’s already feeling it deep in her bones.

“Lyarra Snow from the other side of the wall, I am escaping from more rapists” She left out the Night’s Watch part just in case.

“What about the Old Gods?”

“The heart trees, the Weeirwoods?” Lyarra doesn’t know what they are talking about.

“Nay, the ice ones” clarified another woman around her twenties.

Lyarra froze. ‘They know?’

“That thing…I killed it” her voice shivered.

All of them gasped and looked at Lyarra with big eyes, some started to cry while others went to their knees embracing each other.

“Dyah bring bread and salt. You follow the guest right southerner?” asked the oldest of them.

“I am not southerner, and I do follow the old ways of the North and also believe and pray to the real Old Gods, the Weirwood Trees not the ice ones”

The maiden Stark hoped these wilding women didn’t follow the Others either.

“Any person from the other side of the Wall is a Southerner” declared petulantly another young girl.

Lyarra kept silent, she really was tired and wants only to close her eyes. Their words don’t matter anyways, she indeed has southern blood and was born in Dorne, so the young girl was no wrong. A woman, who Lyarra thinks is around twenty name days came with the bread and salt in a bowl, Lyarra ate, the others did the same.

“The name is Ferny, the mother of the babe you saved is Gilly and the other girls… well, you will meet them soon” declared the old woman while directing Lyarra towards the keep. Lyarra had taken her stuff and bid goodbye to Bastard with a scratch behind the ears. A few of the women were tending to him with care. Ghost was following behind Lyarra like a shadow with her guard down after Lyarra asked her to show them she wasn’t aggressive so they could let her inside as well. Ghost did as the smart direwolf she is.

The woman had a strange facial expression when they saw Ghost, and after seeing the two of them interact started calling Lyarra a skinchanger and the older ones called Lyarra warg, ‘like the ones on Old Nan tales and the ones mentioned in some books at Winterfell’, she made a note to herself to ask more about it later cos her eyes were barely open in that moment. She said as much to her hosts and then everything moved quickly from there.

Lyarra didn’t even pay much mind to the inside of the keep and were directed to the upper floor towards a makeshift bed. She just flopped on it, releasing a groan of pleasure when her body touched the soft sheets that smelled of fresh snow, pines, and smoke. Somehow the scents lure her faster to her sleep. The last she remembers before closing her eyes was Ghost pressing at her long body at Lyarra’s side. Ghost had grown so much that her body didn’t leave any part of Lyarra unprotected from her left flank.

Lyarra Stark Dayne was finally sleeping in a warm place. Unfortunately, her mind was now plagued with a new set of blue eyes she would never forget about on top of the faces of those she lost. What she did forgot about is the raven that followed her from the Wall, currently binding it's time on top of the sentinels around the home of the once wives, keeping a close watch over the starry she-wolf of Winterfell.  

"Snow, snow, snow" it chirped, the sound bouncing in the star sprinkled sky.  

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Craster’s Widows

 

Gilly and her sisters changed a lot over the six moons that they have lived with their new sister the warg, warrior, and southerner Lyarra Snow, whose name is cursed. Lya often compares them with the Night’s Watch cos they worked and lived together under a common objective.

Her sisters often got angry with her “We are no crows! We are free woman!” said Nia the youngest of them, she and the other younger ones were the only girls to think that. Probably some of the older women did as well but they never say much for anyone to really know. But in Gilly’s opinion, Nia, Lola, Noni and Prim never wedded their father so they don’t know that not one of them were really free until Lyarra killed their father with her warg powers and direwolf.

Gilly always shakes when seeing the beast. The direwolf is taller than all of them and there were days when you could only notice Ghost, like Lyarra named the beast, when the direwolf has her bloody eyes open. Gilly knows the beast comes from the Old Gods, the good gods. She knows the heart trees are the only gods because she had prayed for them to save her babe if a little cock was between the legs. She prayed so hard when she was big with child cos all the sisters knew from the moment they flowered, that only girls were to stay and wed their father, and the boys to be taken as a sacrifice to the ice gods. Gilly hated that, and thus hated their husband and their father, not only for that though, but because of everything, he did to them.

He had touched them without their permission and killed their boys and raped their girls as soon their moon blood tainted their tights. When she was little, before flowering, Gilly’s only worry was to not make him mad and to complete her chores to have time to play with her other sisters closer to her name days. Those times were her only happy ones, or so she thought. Until now, with her babe in arms, observing their savior teach many of her sisters how to make new clothes. Other days she taught them how to make armors or protection easy to use from the leather they have. They wouldn’t have care about armors before, but now with them being the only women in “a good spot in a hard land to live” like Lya had said, they were in danger for it. The danger isn’t coming not only from the other Freefolk but as well from the Others or White Walkers as Lyarra calls them,

“They are not ice gods Gilly, they are… something like us but magical…different” the fear was "palpable" in Lya's gray eyes, but her hands had been curled in a death grip on the pommel of her sword Longclaw, she had called it like that.

She really likes naming stuff’ Gilly mused.

And so, they have also been learning how to fight. Some of them were good with a wooden sword, yet they were better with spears, other ones, the stronger girls are “naturals” with clubs, and many of them were “excellent” with bow and arrows in Lyarra’s opinion.

They had even “reinforced” the “surroundings” of the keep with “better defenses”. Like a moat around the keep grounds. They were still working on it because it has to be deep Lyarra said. She had also planned to make towers but none of them knew how so she made it and habit for the good climbers to climb the trees close to the keep and keep watch in turns. They even expanded parts of the keep grounds so they could have at least some trees inside their territory. Many of the younger girls had taken the job with delight and were becoming very good climbers “Like little squirrels” whispered Lyarra one time so low that she probably didn’t expect anyone to hear. Gilly, and Dyah’s daughters Ygna, Rossi and Fanyr did though. Since then, the three of them call the younger girls “the squirrel tribe”. Only Gilly giggles when they say it out loud. Lya knows too, but she rarely smiles.  

There are so many other things her warg sister wanted to do but didn’t know how. The “frustration” on her face was “evident” for anyone in the keep. Gilly feels “pity” for her, especially when she goes walking with just her beast at her side, or when she doesn’t sleep much at night, making her “irritable”. That’s Gilly’s new word.

She had been learning so many new words since Lyarra arrived at their lives. Lya was even teaching them how to write and read. Many resisted in the beginning but when they didn’t understand what Lyarra said to them, or what Lya and the ones who were learning were speaking, they relented in their frustration on wanting to know more. Or as Asterr, one of the first students said: “They just want to be part of the gossip”.

The best of them were the young ones of course, or so Lya said it was normal “Young people learn faster than the older ones”. The other best group was what Ly called “the second generation” who were eager to follow their warrior sister everywhere. Probably cos they as the last wives of Craster they had feared Craster could wed and rape their young daughters. Now they will never know how terrible that was.  

Their warg sister also taught them new songs, tales from their side of the Wall and from the South side, and also about “survival skills”. But the free sisters weren’t the only one that learned in those six moons. Lyarra had asked them to teach her all they knew as well. From their own survival skills, hunting and healing “techniques”, their story, “culture”, songs and even the old tongue. Not that all of them knew everything from their part of the Wall. There are so many things they don’t know cos Craster didn’t like to spend so many time with other free people.

That’s why Lyarra, seating next to Gilly, is now sewing a new cloak fashioned like the Freefolk “style” that Fanyr the clothes maker taught to her. The style is warmer than the ones Lyarra had with her, with the “exception” of the white cloak because with what they taught her, she “modified” her cloak with the fur of the white bear she killed applying the bow techniques her sister Rossi taught Lyarra, who at the time thought it impossible to kill a bear,

“Is not easy, no. But it can be done” had declared Rossi before sharing her “knowledge” with Lya. It wasn’t like Rossi had killed a bear before but had talked about doing so since she learned how to use her oak bow. And now with Lyarra’s “encouragement” Rossi did. Cos they killed one bear each, Rossi’s was white like fog, not like the snow white from Lya’s kill.

Many japed about her cursed name Snow, saying maybe it protected Lyarra from the evil of the North cos she carried the name on her. Lyarra didn’t laugh at that, it was weird to see her laugh anyway. She is the most “mellow” person Gilly had ever met and all her sisters were of the same mind. Many tried to make her smile. They failed. The only times Lya smiled was because one of them “achieved” to learn or do something new Lyarra taught them. And even those smiles were small, short and full of sadness. The only time Lya smiled without any of those things, was because the only boy in the keep was in Lyarra’s arms when he giggled in delight after Ghost licked his tiny feet.

Ghost, the white beast, was never far from her master except at the early hours of the day when she went out hunting for her food. It was as if the beast blessed by the Old Gods is worried for Lyarra the warg who controls her. Lyarra keeps correcting them about that, saying she is no warg and no master of the white beast, but they know better, every Freefolk does.

The only thing that “unnerved” them about Lyarra’s arrival was the bloody raven that she brought with her,

“He followed me, I didn’t bring him” she explained and never talk about it again. In fact, Lya ignores the crow all the time, which impresses Gilly cos the crow speaks a lot. Usually, the crow repeats what they say at the moment, but other times, when no one speaks, the crow perches itself close to Lya and cows “Snow”, “Crow”, “Go, Go, Go”, “Burn!, Burn!”, and other things that usually made Lyarra’s mood very fool for the almost the whole day until she hits the dummy practice that Elsa, one of the older woman and constructors made for Lya. Their warg sister spends lots of hours there when her duties are over for the day. Gilly only accompanies Lya when the babe is sleeping cos she had taken a like to the weight of a spear on her hand or the feel of a bow and quiver full of arrows in her back. She also enjoys the idea of protecting her son. It was like sunlight on her skin, like a warm and cozy feeling.

Some days it “overwhelmed” Gilly how many things she knew, and how much she still needs to learn, “You are not the only one. Everyone must keep learning… changing…” explained Lya to her when she mentioned how it felt for Gilly to learn new stuff. Yet Lya who knew a lot was the one never stopping to do so. She always asks things, not as much as Gilly but a lot.

“What are you doing Lya” asked Nia one of her sister close to Lola’s and Noni’s age, interrupting Gilly’s musings.

“A new coat” answer Lyarra patiently, or as a patient, she could be after spending so many hours without one of her strolls around the keep. By herself.

“Not that shewolf. Why are you making it in that way?”

“Oh. Well…I wondered how it would look if I made it like a direwolf head…” acquiesced Lya who was finishing to sew a wolf ear.

“That sounds dumb” Nia cut in in her usual harsh tone of a younger person.

“You say that all the time Nia” interrupted Prim with whom she always fights for anything.

“Well, it is dumb yes. But I still want to do it” remarked Lyarra with a cool voice, it was obvious she didn’t care for Nia’s opinion or anyone’s opinions.

Maybe that’s why she does many strange things’ concluded Gilly with a certain curiosity. And that curious mind is what made Gilly different from many of her sisters. She is the most curious of the lot, and currently the one who best reads and writes because of it. And the second best in knowing a lot about the southerners and the history of the “known world”. That’s why Gilly already picked a name for her babe even if he hasn’t lived three name days. Sam, he will be called when the time comes, for now, she refers to him as little Sam in her head. The other boy names she heard were too funny for her or too long. Besides that “Sam” Lyarra talks about sounds like a good man,

“He is the smartest person I know,” said Lya once in one of their weird night talks. And Gilly wanted her babe to be smart, not dumb like she is. So it was no weird that Lyarra Snow had a second shadow in Gilly, who with little Sam in arms followed Lya around making lots of questions.

Many days passed and the moat was completed. Now Lya had started to make shields, or something similar since none of them knew how shield are made “correctly”. They somehow ended with slim planks about their side. Lya made them carry one each to get used to the weight and she also told them to hide under them with some snow above the shield in order to hide if needed to. They even made a game of it. Lyarra had said it was like hide and seek, something she did with her siblings when they were children. The younger girls loved the game, even the older ones enjoyed it from time to time. After a moon turn of playing like that, they decided to make it harder, a “challenge” so they made teams, added snow balls to hit each other with and targets that each team had to hit with their arrows. The team who hits all the targets first wins. It was more fun in that way and Lyarra was the merriest while playing. Rossi was one of the most excited ones with Gilly, who now was one of the best archers in the family.

Rossi excitement was also a thing because their hunting grounds expanded enormously thanks to the hiding “below” the tall shields. It was easier to get harder game. They had now a good amount of food with the extra meat, enough for four years of hard winter. Not that Gilly likes dried hard meat that much, but food is food.

One night the fun came to an end.

They were each on their own tasks, the majority inside the keep. Some were skinning the game of that day, the older ones were sewing new clothes, and others were practicing in the yard, like Lya and Gilly. Little Sam was seated close to them with his little body being supported by Ghost who had gotten so big the babe didn’t bother the white beast at all. Gilly was helping Lya on how to use the bow in a better way to avoid cutting her fingers so much. She was directing Lya’s fingers when the first blow of the horn came. The two of them froze, they waited. The second made its appearance, and they moved. Lyarra took Longclaw and Gilly little Sam. She then took her bow and quiver when the third blast finished its yell. Gilly paled, ‘the ice gods’ 

“The Others!” came the panicked and girlish yell of Lola, from the tree closest to them, she had been the one to blow the horn.

“Stay there! Don’t come down yet, unless is too dangerous to stay!” commanded Lyarra, Longclaw on her left and Ghost to her right. The direwolf had her eyes focused towards the tree where Lola is perched.

The cold air got worse in an instant, the fog started to come from everywhere. Gilly could only hear her sisters moving around her and Lyarra’s orders to get inside the keep, to take weapons and to have the fire prepared. Little Sam was crying in her arms and squirming. But Gilly couldn’t take her eyes away from the thing in the woods. ‘Just like Lya said…Blue eyes and flesh white as milk…’

“Gilly! Run!” yelled Lya to her, but couldn’t pay attention to it because the thing was now pointing at Gilly, directly at her chest.

No, not my chest…” realization came “my babe! He wants my babe!’ she sobbed.

Apparently, Gilly said it out loud or simply the others that stayed to fight also noticed, because they were now taking her inside the keep from both of her arms and little Sam was being carried by Nella who entered first to the keep. Gilly felt the change in her skin from freezing cold to a warm relief when she passed the threshold made of two flaps of deer hide. The door was immediately shut when the last of the weaker sisters came in. Then she was given little Sam again and a few of them surrounded her with their backs towards the entrance.

Where screams could be heard, her sisters screams. Then another scream came louder than the others an unnatural scream that chilled Gilly’s bones. She felt her eyes water from the fear.

And then…silence.

Every woman inside the keep was holding their breaths. They were rooted in their place with tense bodies ready to fight.

More screams came, different ones, pleading ones.

“Lyaaaa!!!!”, “Lola!”, “My arm!!!”, “Lyarra!!!”, “Help!!!”, “Where’s Elsa?!!!”, "Noooo Ferny!", “Open the door!!!”, “Rossi over here!”,"Mamaaaa!", “Elsa!” “Lya needs help!”, “Lola!!!!”

They moved.

From the moment they opened the door and saw the result of the fight, the night got worse and worse.

Almost all of the fighters were injured, including Lyarra who had a scratch on her back and a cut in her right side close to her ribs, “The Other did it, but Snow won, she did it” explained Lola very perplexed and with big eyes lost in nothing. Lola wasn’t injured far from her mind, she didn’t climb off the tree until several hours later of the fight, and all she did was murmured the details of the attack from beginning to end.

Rossi had many scratches from the Wights that tossed lances at her and three of their sisters died, Cally, Astara and Ferny. The remaining sister and daughters burned their bodies in an intimate matter after burning away from their keep the Wights that attacked them, not wanting to share their goodbye with such creatures. No one slept except the injured ones after drinking the milk of the poppy. The only thing you could hear was Lola’s murmurs, the cries of the surviving sisters, of Daria, Karny, Asterr and Prim who lost their mothers Fenyr and Astara. And finally, the sound of Gilly humming a calming lullaby for her son. That also served for the grieving girls.

It wasn’t a long fight, but it was enough. They now understand why their father kept nourishing the ice creatures with their babes, they now know he helped those things to grow. Cos they knew, the Other that led the attack was no other but one of Craster’s sons, one of their brothers and sons. Forever dead and cold.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: The blind acting Lord Commander’s steward

 

He was struggling on his way to the rookery, the winter’s air was striking his sweaty skin, whisking the heat away from his exposed face. The young steward could hear the ravens from afar quorking “Snow, snow, snow.” He had taught them that in a way of keeping his best friend fresh on his mind. Even with the newcomer birds, the ravenry seemed miserably empty. Few of the birds that he had sent off around the North and Kings Landing had returned as yet.

The Night's Watch cries of help weren’t answered and so the mutiny went on until there were many dead and no control at all. Until those loyal to their vows and to the late dead Lord Commander Mormont made calculated moves through the whole castle breaking the different branches of deserters of the Night’s Watch. It took them around three days to achieve such task but once they did, many pyres were made to burn the dead. One full of honor and the other one full of disappointment. Less than the half of the brothers of the Night’s Watch was left to say the words “And now their watch has ended” before lighting the pyres on. Sam hadn’t been there, missing the change to say goodbye to many brothers that treated him well and to say good bye to the Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, the old bear they called him, Sam would miss him.

Sam at that time, had been running for his life from a group of wights, after escaping from being sliced up by some mutineers that were set on killing “Ser piggy” as they shouted to Sam. He doesn’t understand nor remembers how in the world he ended up running out to the north side of the Wall. He had been too scared at the moment to register the ice tunnel around him while ran. He only realized his predicament when the icy winds hit his face like punch after punch. He didn’t stop running, he couldn’t turn back because the ones hunting him were too close for Sam’s liking and just the path for his way back. So he ran and ran until his puffs of hard breathing and the eloquent yells of the cold winds were Sam's only accompany deep in the woods. He had heard nothing and stopped for a moment. When thought he was free, the screams scratched his back. Sam had only given a look behind himself to see his pursues falling from the cuts of a long crystal sword that Sam knew now belonged to an Other, a White Walker. He kept running then cos the dead mutineers were wights now, with a bigger need to kill him and with no sense of stamina or pain for his advantage. They wouldn't have stopped until Sam died and became a wight himself.

He could have had blue eyes and black hands if it weren’t for his savior Cold Hands. Sam named him like that cos no names the mysterious hero gave to Sam. The strange brother of the watch was mounted over a giant elk, his face was covered except for his black hands, dead by frostbite. Cold Hands made use of them like nothing was wrong and saved Sam in a matter of an instant. With not many words Cold Hands took him back to Castle Black but made sure Sam promised to help him when the time came “It is for the good of the realm brother” he said before leaving towards the white background into the Haunted Forest where Sam almost lost his life.

Moons passed and more dark words came to Castle Black. Lyarra’s brothers Bran and Rickon Stark, dead by the hands of Theon Greyjoy, the once squire of their late Lord father Eddard Stark. He did so after sacking and burning their ancestral home, Winterfell. Sam couldn’t fathom why the Starks were suffering like that. Sam and his friends pray to their gods. Some the Seven and Sam the Old Gods.

Not long after that, Sam dreamt about Cold Hands in the Haunted Forest, close to the grove where Sam took his vows, the man with black hands stood in the middle of the heart trees looking at Sam all the time before entering deeper in the woods. disappearing from Sam's eyesight. When Sam woke up, he knew, it was time. The day after, one horn echoed around Castle Black signaling Cold Hand’s arrival. Therefore with fear, Sam went beyond the Wall with the authorization of maester Aemon, who knew everything Sam lived and seen the night of the mutiny. The old dragon thankfully believed in his words, food for travel and a good horse, though Coldhands denied it with his strange raucous voice “My elk is enough and do as I say”.

The ever quiet and patient Cold Hands directed Sam far away from Castle Black but always keeping the Wall over their right side. Obviously, Sam had asked the necessaries “How’s” and “Whys” once his fear dwelt down a bit, but Cold Hands said nothing apart from extracts of the Night’s Watch vow that quite frankly irritated Sam, he needed to know. He really doesn’t know for how long they traveled, just that they made it close to nightfall to the Night Fort. The ancient haunted castle of the Wall, the one where many tragedies happened; the rat cook tragedy and where the Night King ruled together with his blue eye wife.

Was she a White Walker?’  wondered Sam when the connection came, he had made a note to himself of investigating about it once he got back to Castle Black, ‘if I made it back of course’. At last, he did, but not after having the most unbelievable experience in his life. Not only he opened a gate with a face in it that could talk but entered inside its mouth down to a tunnel that took him inside the Night Fort where Bran Stark, Lyarra’s brother and his companions Meera and Jojen Reed, Summer Bran’s direwolf and Hodor the gentle giant were waiting for him. They told Sam what happened at Winterfell and about their mission beyond the Wall, of how they knew someone was waiting for them on the other side of the magical gate white a carved face. Sam warned them of course, yet they insisted to go. At last, they left, Sam closed the gate on the inside of the Night Forth, where in the yard were Grenn and Pyp waiting for him with a third horse, just like Cold Hands had directed Sam to do. The travel was shorter from their side of the Wall. The wind was calmer and less cold, even the sun shined more and there isn’t, of course, the dreadful atmosphere in every snowflake that falls, as if a White Walker would appear to kill them all. When he gave his report to maester Aemon, the old dragon grew sharper than ever and ordered Sam to write about his experiences in a secret book cos what he lived deserves recollection for the next generations, and for Lyarra to read about it from a fresh memory than from a long passing one.

After that, they concentrated on bringing some order to Castle Black, especially after the reports they had received about Mance Rayder and his host of wildlings moving towards the Wall. The reports came from Qhorin Halfhand the second in command on the Shadow Tower. Halfhand intercepted the information at the first searches parties for Benjen Stark that the now dead Jeor Mormont had ordered him to lead. On the way to his group rendezvous, Qhorin ran into a wildling scouting party led by Alfyn Crowkiller, which the Halfhand practically destroyed but for one prisoner that revealed Mance Rayder’s location in The Frostfangs. Mance was apparently searching for some “magic” to bring down the Wall and be able to pass with his enormous host to the South. Because of the mutiny, nothing was done about that report but it was enough to make the Night’s Watch more alert.

A new party will be formed and sent to investigate how true those claims are and how dangerous their situation is. Many prayed for it to be a lie cos the Night’s Watch received a big blow into their ranks of fighting brothers, food, and weapons during the duration of the mutiny and then during the internal war for power inside Castle Black.

Not only that, they were renovating and fixing several buildings that got damaged whether for the age or by the fires caused by the rebel brothers. They were severely lacking resources for many of those tasks and no help had come from the Lords of the North, and worse yet, from the King. The crown usually ignores them but with what now is known as the War of the Five Kings it was not surprising that the young King is ignoring their cries of help for his claim was poor with five Kings asking for his head to be removed from the crown. Sam has been amazed by his grandeur as a commander and King at such age and all in order to avenge his father and rescue his sisters. Not only that, the Young Wolf was proclaimed King in the North by his people, not like Balon Greyjoy, and Renly and Stannis Baratheon.

Like always, Sam never ceased to admire House Stark. First, it had been the history of the House from the few books Sam read at Horn Hill, then it had been Lord Eddard itself with his admirable reputation. Of course his best friend Lyarra Snow was the next to show him the excellence of the Stark blood that later, Sam once again appraised with her brother Robb Stark and lastly with the young Brandon Stark, who even cripple went far from the Wall towards the Lands of Always Winter in search of a three eyed crow.

I hope he runs into Lyarra so I don’t have to keep anything from her like I promised…’ Samwell pondered cos he promised three times. To Cold Hands, the Reed children and Brandon Stark, “Not a word about us, not even our family”. Sam kept quiet with the exception of maester Aemon of course. That had been Sam’s request in the whole affair, to tell the old dragon. The blind maester commented a thing or two about what Brandon Stark and his group related, yet maester Aemon didn’t share any of his personal opinions. It was obvious he had many of them but Sam didn’t pressure though, the old man had enough in his tired brain and shoulders to worry about. Between those, the possible wilding attack.

Back in the present, when Sam entered the Rookery he noticed the new arrival from Kings Landing. ‘Oh! Oh! They answered!’ Sam was excited, they really need support. Sam was wrecked between sending the new letters for help or to take the message back to maester Aemon when he remembered that as the maester’s steward he is the one who opens and reads them anyways. So Sam broke the seal and read full with anticipation and cheer, only to feel a slap in his face by the tragic words. The Young Wolf, King in the North was slain at the Twins during a wedding and with him his Lady mother Lady Catelyn Stark nee Tully. ‘One less king for the realm and one less kin for Lyarra... How in seven hells shall I tell her when I see her again? I won’t even be able to tell her about Bran and Rickon being alive! Only about their deaths!’

With a big weight on his conscious Sam wrote the letters and sent them away. He left, head down and lost in thoughts towards the kitchen to fetch the maester’s special food. The old dragon couldn’t eat too greasy things any longer in addition to needing more fiber for his digestion, but not too much. Three-Finger Hobb mastered the acting Lord Commander’s food necessities after a long time doing it, so it was always ready to only pick it up from the kitchens. Out of the kitchens, with a tray of food at hand, Sam made his way towards the sleeping quarters of maester Aemon, located in the lower part of the Rookery. Lately, Sam only jumped from the Rookery to the kitchen and to the Rookery again, then to the top of the Wall for his shift and once again to the Rookery. He rarely saw his friends with all they need to complete before the Others or the Wildings came for them. Sam knows the path so well even in the darkest night he could make it there. Sam got inside the maester’s room where the old dragon was already seated and done with his work for his meal.

“Good eve Samwell,” Aemon saluted before asking “any news?”

“Y-yes m-maester Aemon, f-from K-Kings Landing…”

The old dragon sighed recognizing Sam’s anxious tone “More dark words then? Do read it Sam”

“T-the King in the North, his L-lady mother a-and a good substantial part o-of his army that attended the wedding b-between Edmure T-tully a-and Roslin Frey were b-butchered at the wedding by H-house Frey with the exception of t-the newlyweds”

Sam finished to read just in time to register the old dragon’s shoulders drop, his jaw tensed up and the way he closed his eyes.

‘He probably feels the same disappointment as I? The despair to someday tell a friend their family is almost extinguished?’

Maester Aemon’s voice came out defeated, “another great House, one of the most ancient ones disappearing so easily. I never imagine feeling almost like I did over sixteen years ago... Never”

‘And I never imagined to meet two survivors of those Houses,’ thought Sam bitterly, wishing the tragedies to stop.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: From beyond the Wall to Castle Black

 

The lost direwolves

The brittle whisper of the wind knots her stiff hair, the empty and scrunching sound coming from her steps on the snow echoes in her ears, Ghost’s paws ahead of her and Lyarra’s tired legs. She could only detect emptiness and a constant need to scream while she squinted around for a familiar land mark. She huffed, Lyarra confirmed once again that she is irrevocably lost in the woods. In the bitterly cold and humid woods after the constant rain only replaced by snowflakes freezing every wet crooked object around her. Such an annoying and inconvenient combination for a lost person, especially one that’s very tired and hunting for food. Not even the animals moved around in such climate. It didn’t matter where Lyarra looked, every surface, every hair in her body, blade of grass and branches from the trees were white, frozen or currently on its way to it. Long ice crystals were forming in different lengths in different places, even on her damn eyelashes, she swears she can feel it.

Lyarra went back to her own almost frozen crooked cave, ‘there is nothing to hunt anyways…’ The food she managed to gather was almost gone, just like the dry wood and the hope of going back to the keep, back to her free sister's company, or to her warm cozy bed close to the door. She chose that space in order to stop anyone who tried to attack them, the starry she-wolf was sure she could be their first defense against any danger entering their home.

“Our own she-wolf will reap any intruder’s throats with her fangs!” Daria had joked with tenderness laced on her sarcastic voice in the first weeks of Lyarra’s arrival.

But now it didn’t matter, she is not with her free sisters to protect them, not that they really need her. They are strong. Lyarra can only wait for her death inside the cave she is using as a refuge from the harsh winds of the north from beyond the Wall, same Wall that separates the Stark girl from her blood relatives. If she were honest she would confess to herself that many of those family members weren’t really that close or dear to her. Not after learning that family is more than what flows inside her veins. Her black brothers and free sister taught her that. Yet, thinking about Winterfell made her feel extremely sad and Ghost wasn’t even there with her to lick her pain away from her salty face, ‘like she should after bringing me here’ Lyarra though bitterly and unjustly. She knows it both of them guilty of it.

‘If I hadn’t left the Keep… If I hadn’t followed Ghost…’

The day they got lost, Lyarra Snow went out to hunt with Ghost after Ygna found some bear tracks a bit far from the keep “it’s an easy path, I reckon anyone who goes will come round’ supper” Ygna stated. And Lyarrra, who had been feeling extremely annoyed for the lack of privacy in the keep to think and reflect everything in her life was making her mad, how breakable happiness really is. She has been a summer child just like Old Nana told her and that was strangely a comforting piece of memory to recall.  It was especially irritating because she wanted to confront everything that happened to her since she left Winterfell. Lyarra finally was brave enough to confront some harsh realities from all that time, like the deaths of both her father figures, the rape attempts, the nightmares of the men she killed and the chaos that exploded all because of her. But the lack of privacy didn’t give her a chance to do so. So when Ygna talked about an easy hunt very far away from the keep, Lyarra jumped to the opportunity without thinking twice.

They had been very close to the place Ygna talked about when the tracks appeared in some areas and the rest just vanished. It didn’t surprise Lyarra cos is harder to hunt in places with so heavy snow and changes in the climate.  Thankfully Ghost had accompanied her, and her direwolf friend is the best hunter Lyarra knows, so she just shrugged it off and changed tactics, “Here. To me, Ghost.” The direwolf had circled her, sniffing Lyarra just because, it had been weird. She couldn’t ponder about it when out of nowhere the wind picked up, and Ghost kept moving, sniffing all around, never stilled not even when Lyarra asked her to. From Lya’s perspective Ghost didn’t seem as if she were after prey right in the moment. She actually looked like detecting something else, nervous. Lyarra’s mind caught up with her then, remembering that when Othor walked, Ghost knew and Ghost acted just ass weird.

She woke me, warned me!’  Wary, Lyarra got into a fighting position, preparing to fight anything coming at them “it is something close?” she gripped Longclaw harder, her direwolf didn’t acknowledge her, “Ghost, do you have a scent on something?”

The direwolf moved far from her, stopped, looked back at Lyarra ‘She wants me to follow?’  

So Lyarra did for a long time. With every stride the air got colder, too much for her nose that was red from it, the wind too sharp for her ears. She could only huddle beneath her black cloak Pyp gifted her in her escape. They walked for many hours, the day getting darker. When Lyarra was about to call for Ghost already exasperated, but her direwolf stopped over a bundle of snow and started to dig in it until a flat surface was seen.

“What is that girl?” Ghost only looked at her and then at what she just excavated. Lyarra understood what her companion asked for her and kneeled to examine the thing that resulted to be an old shield and behind the shield a black cloak ‘from the Night’s Watch’  Lyarra concluded, she could see the telling details in comparison to the one she owns. In between the cloak, there were a bunch of glittering dark dozen knives, leaf-shaped spearheads, and numerous arrowheads. Lyarra picked up a dagger blade, feather light and shiny black, with no hilt. The little sunlight left in the sky ran along its edge, a thin orange line that spoke of razor sharpness. ‘Dragonglass! What the maester Lewin called obsidian…’ Lyarra thought fascinated, inspecting the beauty of the color. Beneath the dragonglass was an old warhorn, made from an auroch’s horn and banded in bronze. She shook the dirt from inside it, and a stream of more arrowheads fell out to the snow. She collected everything in a hurry cos the sun was fading faster than she imagined. And there was also the fact of Ghost pacing the whole area very anxiously, and there was a restlessness in her eyes, red orbs moving all around the trees surrounding them. Lyarra didn’t like it.

“Ghost…” she started to say but stopped when the air went from cold to freezing. Lyarra almost choked at the sudden changed, feeling her nose burn from the inside and not just the outside. Ghost was now growling her silent warning towards their right side where Lyarra could see fog coming out of nowhere. ‘Not fog, a snow storm’ she thought with incredulity ‘How? How can that be just in one part of the forest?’ She never had the time to keep analyzing when a tall figure she recognized very well made her blood freeze, her breath shortened and her heart beat uncontrollably against her chest. “He” wasn’t the only thing coming though. Many misshapen people with cuts and dry blood, with blue eyes like Othor staggered behind the White Walker, who was looking at Ghost with something close to fascination, the thing’s face transformed in pure hate when he laid his eyes on Lyarra ‘Move’ she commanded her legs, and they did.

Lyarra ran, did so for hours against snow and rain, until she saw a cave and went inside it. When she saw around the cave, noticed Ghost wasn’t there with her, making Lyarra released a sob before seeing her ruby eye friend coming inside. Lyarra didn’t stop crying for her friends until the direwolf laid herself at Lyarra’s side totally smashing the starry-wolf to the cold floor. Lya didn’t care though, it made Ghost presence real. She also understood what Ghost was doing, ‘a puppy pile’, one of the few things that manage to warm Lyarra body and mind in an instant. She had slept there that night and the next ones to follow.

 

She stopped thinking of her failure as a hunter and went to sleep. Again.

She dreamt about her past. Where she saw five direwolves, all in different locations around Westeros. She mourned from one of the pack, his sister who was missing from the spirit shaped direwolves. The emptiness of her death serving as a scratch in the connection within the others. She feels like howling to the stars.

“Lyarra” a very familiar voice called for her

She moved around the snowy path, searching for the voice. A voice that resonates with her very deeply. The voice called for her again, it was like a shout but silent. When she turned, she saw it. A Weirwood. A slim and growing Weirwood, a sapling, stretching into the sky with the roots sprouting from solid rock. She ventured her white slender body around it searching for the carved crying face all Weirwoods have.

The carved face exposed the features of her brother Bran. There was no doubt about it, the face was long, and the eyes shaped as Bran’s and the blue orbs reflect joy at the sight of her in apparent recognition.

‘He has three eyes?’ she questioned

“Aye sister” the voice echoed, “not always, not before the crow”

Warily she got closer, sniffing the sapling identifying the scents of “young man”, “tree”, “earth”, “direwolf”, “stone” and something terrible that provoked her. While baring her fangs she stepped back, the smell was of “death”. 

“Don’t be afraid sister, I like it in the dark. No one can see you, but you can see them. But first, you have to open your eyes. Like this.” Bran, the tree, reached in a strange manner down with its branches touching her forehead.

And suddenly Lyarra was standing in the mountains, her paws sunk deep in a pile of snow as she stood upon the edge of an enormous precipice. Before her red eyes, an open space full of airy emptiness, and a long vee-shaped valley lay spread beneath her and in it there were people down in the valley, many of them, thousands, a huge host. There were men, children, women and even what she can conclude are giants. Some were tearing great holes in the half-frozen ground, while others trained for a fight, ‘a war’ her mind provided. She observed as a swarming mass of riders, astride horses no larger than ants, and mammoths, big beasts full of fur.

Suddenly a gust of cold made her fur stand up, and the air was filled with the sound of wings. As she lifted her eyes to the sky, a shadow dived from above releasing a scream.

‘A bird, an eagle?!’ it attacked ‘Ahhhh!!”

“Ghost!” Lyarra shouted, waking up. She could still feel the talons piercing in her, the pain.

“Ghost, to me!” she repeated in panic but her friend never came. She got up from her position and went out the cave running with sure direction. Lyarra couldn’t see much in the snow constantly falling with so little light, the evening star was already twinkling in the pink and purplish sky. Out of nowhere, she crashed with someone else making her stumble back, automatically she took out Longclaw ready to attack. The other figure did the same, in fact, was already launching its attack with a wide slash to her right that she managed to deflect. They were face to face. Two black cloaks dancing in the wind.

“A brother?” the man asked,

“A sister” she answered.

The two stepped back and observed each other critically. After a couple of seconds, he said,

“You are Lyarra Snow”

Her gray eyes widen in surprise, it was apparently a good enough question for the other person who explained,

“I know because of your Stark features, your uncle Benjen’s description of his bellowed bastard niece and also because of most of all Jeor Mormont’s letters”

'Letters?'  She didn’t know the old bear had written about her. She didn’t know if she feels betrayed or glad.

“Letters about what?” she asked,

“About your arrival, desire to find your uncle and your actions within Castle Black. The last one was about his suspicion on some brothers wanting to lay their hands on you, but what he really feared was you killing them easily” he chuckled at the end.

“I would have…” she started “I did” she corrected. The memories of that bloodshed she doesn’t want to remember, not in that moment, her bravery had died.

“You did?” he didn’t sound mad, just alarmed. Lyarra realized then, she doesn’t know who that man is. She suspects though. He is not the only one who’s heard her uncle talk.

“And you are?” she asked instead. The man chuckled again.

“Pardons my Lady. Qhorin Halfhand”

She guessed correctly, the man standing in front of her has all the characteristics her uncle Benjen talked about.

“No problem, and yes, I did kill some of them” she answered, and inhaled deeply before continuing the despiteful news, “I did so when a group of brothers attacked the Lord Mormont and I outside the Lord Commander’s solar… they accused us of sleeping together as men and woman. They… they killed the Lord Commander, and so I killed a bunch of them. Mostly because they were coming at me after they stabbed the old bear… they were…they wanted to rape me” her breath hitched “My brothers, my friends, they helped me just in time, I couldn’t fight so many... After, Maester Aemon hid me for a while and then ordered me to flee towards East-watch-by the-Sea, but there was a fight in the gates and so I had to flee beyond the Wall thru e open gate... I still don’t know why it was open. Now, here I am.” She almost said ‘here I stand’ it hurt to avoid it. The report she gave was a necessary pain. It rips her to think about it, but to talk about it? Reaped her again more deeply because it made it real. Lyarra didn’t notice her tears, now frozen over her pale skin from lack of proper food and sunlight.

“For the Old Gods…” Qhorin whispered, “Did someone wrote to the other towers?”

“Aye, maester Aemon asked Samwel Tarly, his steward to do so,” she said, cleaning her tears.

“Good. They will pay for the betrayal” there was heat in his words “It is said a direwolf runs with you” he added out of nowhere.

“Ghost!” the memory of the attack coming to her “She is hurt! I saw it!” she exclaimed agitated once again

“Saw it? It happened here?”

“No, not here. Over the mountains, close to an enormous precipice and beneath it a long valley lay spread all over, a frozen river. It is where Mance’s host is! But I don’t know where it is or where to go, I…” she said in rapidly trying to remember the environment pinpoints to find Ghost easily, trying to describe it as well as she could so Qhorin could help her. She remembers her uncle Benjen saying Qhorin being a good ranger.  

“Mance host?” he took her by the arms and asked, “What did you saw?”

“Thousands of people. Men, woman, children. Giants and mammoths! Do you know where is that place?!” she was desperate for a name, a location.

“So the information was correct…”

“My Lord! Do you know or not!?” she snapped.

“Aye, the Skirling Pass. Come on, follow me. Let us search for your direwolf and King-beyond-the Wall” he answered calmed, too calmed for her boiling wolf blood.

Yet, she didn’t need to be ordered twice. Lyarra was extremely worried for Ghost. How could she live without her best friend? The direwolf was more than her companion and protector. Ghost is a part of Lyarra Stark, her other half.

The man thankfully had a horse close to their position. It was a good garron, not as good as Bastard but strong enough for the both of them. While they traveled, the two talked a lot about many things in order to distract her from the possibilities of finding Ghost dead. Qhorin even taught Lyarra how to move with the stars, especially that far North. He also explained to her the best ways to travel beyond the Wall and important landmarks of the Northern North. She paid as much attention as she could, but Ghost was accompanying her in those lessons too. For her part Lyarra kept quiet, making a comment or question when only necessary because her mind couldn’t stop thinking about her direwolf. The only moment she talked a lot was when she encountered what happened in Craster’s Keep. How Craster sacrificed his sons to the White Walkers, how she killed Craster because of new rape attempt and later, how she fought for the babe, her direwolf and her life against the White Walker. Qhorin was galloping in complete silence during her tale, only urging her with “hmm” or “huh” and “what else?” when she got lost in thoughts of that night or in Ghost’s bloody body. She also talked about the fight itself. Of how the White Walker looks like and moves, of how Moonlight was shattered but not Longclaw, that in exchange, her valyrian sword shattered the Other by melting its body away. Then, without her noticed, Lyarra proceed to tell him about her sisters and her hunting travel where Ghost found the obsidian. Material she left in the cave in her haste. He assured her the cave is easy to find and told her how to find it in case they got separated. She finished her tale with the dream. Where Qhorin finally made more questions and details about it. When she finished the dream he declared with security,

“That was a wolf dream Snow. The Old Gods are still strong beyond the Wall, the gods of the First Men… and the Starks. Your gods Lyarra Snow” he added at the end turning his head enough to see her out the corner from his left eye. She doesn’t know why but nodded back at him feeling the truth in his words. He then talked more about what he had heard about Mance’s host, and of what he knows of the skinchangers and wargs, he even declared Lyarra as one, just like her free sisters used to tell her. He also explained to her why he was on that side of the Wall.

“I heard about Benjen, and thankfully Jeor commanded me before his death to search for Ben…during that time I acquired some information about Mance’s host, later I saw how empty the villages were getting until no one was left behind. Not so long from this day, my party and I were separated by a big snow storm. I decided to go to one of our many land points for protection, the cave where you were in fact. I haven’t seen anyone else for a couple of days, but you Snow” he didn’t talk more after that, none of them did. Only the wind wailed around the two of them.

After a couple of hours, they were closer to Ghost. She could feel it. One more hour and a few meters away she saw her direwolf laying on the snow. Lyarra jumped from the horse so fast she stumbled and fell on her face so hard she almost twisted her ankle and broke her nose, but she didn’t care and got up instantly, running to her best friend, whose fur was red as her eyes.

“Ghost!” she knelt at her side inspecting the wounds. Gashes all over her sides oozing red slowly falling to the white snow covered Ghost’s sides. The slowness of the blood flow showed the wounds to be shallow to Lyarra’s relief. Qhorin got closer with a wine skin at his hand, Lyarra knew what he was going to do, her stomach dropped knowing more pain would come to her friend. He moved to Lyarra’s side and knelt inspecting with his eyes the gashes methodically. While he did so, she reaped part of her black cloak and gave it to him. Qhorin didn’t give a sign when he poured wine into the ragged gashes making Ghost wine and snarl at the men.

“Shhh girl, it’s ok, it will help your wounds, relax” Ghost snarled once more before it lowered her head to Lyarra who had wrapped her arms over her direwolf, and murmured more soothing words. Qhorin kept his ministrations, wrapping the strip of cloak around the wounds. When he finally finished taking care of Ghost’s wounds the sun had long disappeared, leaving them in darkness. They had no fire and Qhorin ordered her to not do one “Too dangerous” he said.

It didn’t matter, soon enough the eagle came back barreling at Lyarra this time, right at her face. She could feel the talons burying in the skin, she screamed. She tried to move, to take her sword but it was a chaos of movements, feathers, shrieks, pecking and blood. Suddenly, there was nothing on her. Only fierce pain. Lyarra sensed Ghost over her. What she didn’t see was the eagle between the direwolf’s fangs, blood covering her white fur and the snow down her paws.

 “My eye!” she screamed in panic, raising a hand to her face where only warm liquid could be felt on her left side that was throbbing intensely.

Qhorin had her by the face inspecting the wound “It’s only blood, Snow. The eagle missed the eye, just ripped your skin. Your direwolf acted faster than the bird”

Ghost ate the eagle fast and came at Lyarra’s side to start licking her face while Qhorin was still taking a look at her left.

“We have to move fast befor-” Suddenly a spear was pointing at Qhorin’s back. Ghost was baring her white teeth’s all around them with her body covering Lyarra protectively.

“Nah ya won’t move Halfhand” said a gruff voice, “Ya too girl, that goes for ya beast too!”

Lyarra could feel herself losing consciousness, but the only thing in her mind for the moment is Ghost. They would kill her. If what Qhorin told her about skinchangers is true, then Ghost had just ate the companion of one of them. ‘They will want to kill Ghost’ she knows, she would do the same.

Ghost leave’ she thought, nothing, Ghost didn’t react. She did again intensely, <Ghost leave!> the direwolf’s ears twitched and gave Lyarra a very specific look, hope filled Lyarra who kept thinking with intensity, <Go Ghost, run away>

<NO> came the angry voice of her direwolf and Lyarra almost jumped at it.

Qhorin had been right or it was her imagination but she didn’t have time to panic or to question her sanity,  

<Yes! Follow us if you must, but don’t let them see you! Please! Go!>

<MINE> it said <TOGUETER!> it pressed. 

Lyarra didn’t know what to do. ‘Why are you so stubborn like me?’ She thought very tired, she was dozing off, but before she fell to the nothingness of her tired body she used her last strength in a shout-order <SCAPE!!!!> And everything went dark until it wasn’t.

 


 

Qhorin only saw Lyarra Snow crunching her face with intensity keeping her right eye set on her direwolf who did the same keeping her red eye strained on her than in the enemy around them. It was like they were talking with their eyes. Suddenly Lyarra Snow fell in the snow, totally knocked out and her direwolf Ghost ran away at full speed. It was so fast no one reacted in time and the direwolf got lost in the white woods.

“Tha’ fuck! That bitch is a warg! Kill her!”

“No!” shouted Qhorin “Mance wouldn’t want that!”

“Wadaya think that Halfhand?” asked a red hair spearwife with crooked teeth.

“She is the bastard daughter of the Lord of Winterfell Eddard Stark, an important person if you want to cross the Wall” he said tentatively not knowing if they would care or believe in him, it didn’t hurt to try.

“Ya think we care?”

“Or that we believe ya?” asked another

‘Didn’t think you would’ he thought preoccupied but hopeful. They haven’t killed her yet.

“Halfhand is right” said another man, an older one “She has the looks of a Stark. I can see Benjen Stark on her pretty face”

“Mance would want her” added the red hair from before

“Shut yar mouth Ygritte!”

“Ygritte is right, Mance will” agreed another

“ARHG! A’right ya cunts! Take them! We move fast!” he walked away while the others started to tied Qhorin and Lyarra hands to their backs.

“You should cure her” Qhorin said carefully, still hoping.

“Aye, Mance might don’t like her pretty face all fucked” answered Ygritte who was already cleaning the wound.

It wasn’t long after that. They were making their way towards Mance’s host. And from what Qhorin heard, it was going to be a long way. After a few miles Lyarra came back to her senses, so the wildlings made her walk. Ghost never came back during their trip. When Qhorin could, he talked with her, first asking about her state, “As good as I can” she said, then asked about her direwolf “Gone far away from here” she confessed sadly, eye shot from the swollen gash in between her eye. Qhorin finally gave her an order based on the plan he had been cooking around his head while she was passed out, a plan to secure the well-being of the Wall and the realms. He ordered her as the only sister of the Night’s Watch, “Blend with them. Live with them. Learn from them. Then inform what you recollect from the wildlings to our brothers, not only about them but the White Walkers as well” he said, never flinching from the next thing he was about to do. Never giving away his real feelings. He only gave the Snow the trust he has left for her to do what he won’t be able to do.

“Blend with them. Live with them. Learn from them. Then inform the information you recollected from the wildlings to our brothers, not only about them but the White Walkers as well” he said, never flinching from the thought of the next thing he was going to do. Never giving away his real feelings. He only gave the Snow the trust he feels for her to do what he won’t be able to.

She has a chance I will never have, forgive me Lyarra Snow for the weight I will add upon your shoulders… and heart

Qhorin inhaled and checked again discreetly the sword that will serve him in his last task as a brother of the Night's Watch. Before acting, he saw her eyes again thinking ‘At least I will die under the gaze of the same gray eyes…

 


 

 

Lyarra couldn’t believe what Qhorin Halfhand asked from her. ‘How can he ask a mere bastard, a woman, to do something so big?’ She can’t even lie correctly, she is a bad mummer. ‘Why would they believe in me hating on my people anyway?

Qhorin didn’t let her think any more about it when he started shouting about her “proposition”.

“I won’t betray our kind! Our brothers you filthy bastard!” he yelled “How can you ask me to join with them!? What!? Is that why you are so far north you wench?!” he yelled, the attention of the entire party on them.

“I-I j-just!” was the only thing she could say nervously, not knowing what to say, mostly because of the Halfhand’s believable performance.

Everyone was looking at them. Some with doubts in their face, another’s were amused. Their expressions changed when Qhorin took a sword from a spectator who reacted to slowly, even Lyarra saw the obvious course of action. The Halfhand launched at her. She jumped out of the way falling in the snow where she saw her sword fall in front of her. She took it automatically and deflected a new attack just in time. They started to spar for real. The Stark was fighting for her life at the hands of one person she thought to be her new brother, a hero from her uncle’s tales.

Their dance was fast but beautifully performed. The best one the starry she-wolf had ever had.

It ended with Lyarra slashing Qhorin’s right tight making him fall on one knee and finished by cutting his head off in a wide arch created by rotating her body back to him. It was clean, painless, just like she wanted.

The silence was imminent. Her regret just as much.

“Take her bindings off, she is one of us now. A crowkiller” an unknown voice said, it dug in her mind while she observed Qhorin’s headless body draining in the snow.

And so, Lyarra Snow started her unwanted mission deep in the North.

 

 


 

 

The free sisters

 

The day began like it always did for the past four moons. With pain.

Since the White Walker attack and Lyarra and her beast Ghost left to a hunt, their happiness went low by the days their warg sister didn’t come back to them, while the absence of their dead sisters became evident by their things being unused collecting dust. Their training sessions increased by a way of distraction and because of the fear of a new attack.

“She is strong yeah... She wouldn’t have fallen easily... So something very bad must have killed her” declared Fanyr with a pained face.

“Lya is not dead!” Gilly shouted defensive,

“But she is not here either” whispered Daria with resentment.

They also kept working. The ones who could, did the changes from Lyarra’s plans on the keep and the surroundings for better defense. Others patrolled more than before and always keep a watchful eye towards the path Lyarra took the day of the hunt. But they also kept a constant eye around in case another brother of them came to claim their lives or Gilly’s babe. The creepiest thing for them is they haven’t seen any other human apart from themselves and the local animals.

As a way of comfort and remembrance, Gilly started to follow Lyarra’s costume of going every week to the nearest Weirwood tree and pray to the Old Gods. They have never been a religious people, her sisters and her, not like other Freefolk who follow the Old Gods and other ancient ones since birth. But Gilly enjoyed doing it when she went with Lyarra, now she needs it like the warmness from a fire on cold lands. It gave her some sense of peace. They had gone to give her thanks for saving her babe and to spend some time with her ward sister who usually in those times Lya opened to Gilly and talked about her past. Now Gilly does with a need for normalcy and to leave behind the painful memories of her sister dying. When Gilly went with Lyarra, they didn’t ask anything from the Old Gods, she had just prayed for what she hopes but never asks for it, “They are Old Gods not because of the new ones, but because they have always been here, they have watched us come to life and die. Always watching. Never judging, and never expecting things apart from respect to their life even others. We live peacefully with each other, giving company in such a cruel world. You see Gilly, they respect my choices and I do theirs. Simply, uncomplicated.” Lya had once told her and added sheepishly “But that is my interpretation of them of course… you must find yours”. Gilly did. They are her peace and hope for life, she even feels secure in their presence. And so she started to visit them every week since Lyarra disappearance. Little Sam enjoys their time there, and some of Gilly’s sisters went with her, claiming to be there for protection. Gilly knows better though. She can observe her sisters watch the tree with benevolence, respect or calm. They went there with Gilly and little Sam for whatever the Weirwood tree made them feel. 

Gilly was putting little Sam’s “one-sie” or something like that was the name. Lyarra made a couple of those garments for little Sam and added cute details on the onesies, like animals ears or very detailed stitches with gilly flowers on them or Sam’s name. The onesies are very warm and cozy for her babe which led Gilly to make more with different kind of furs. When she finished clothing herself and her son Gilly made her way towards the Weeirwood tree.

For it, she has to do so very early cos the ride it’s quite far without a horse, and that day she would go with three of her sisters, Karny, Asterr and Amari, who were already waiting for Gilly with their two horses saddled for the trip. Gilly attached at her middle a “carrier” done to carry little Sam without problem for Gilly to use her arms and hands, and even run. It was one of Fanyr’s idea after Lyarra explained to them how her cripple brother could use a horse without the use of the legs thanks to a series of straps. When the carrier was done, Lyarra liked the idea so much that she said she would share the idea with other women in the North, if she ever left them of course. ‘And she did’ thought Gilly with so bitterness in her inner voice. Some of the most pessimistic of the sister think that is the why Lyarra hadn’t come back to them. Gilly still, knows better. Lyarra wouldn’t betray them or abandon them without a goodbye, ‘Lya is no craven’ the bitter feel replaced by security.

The day was clear from black clouds, fog, and snow. It was what they would consider a perfect day for traveling that far their keep. Gilly and her sisters were prepared for anything anyway; they have food, things to make fire, sleeping bags, and some weapons. It was important to take that much cos that far North the climate can change in any moment without any a heads up of the upcoming wave of unforgiving coldness. Thankfully they had also prepared all they could need to patching someone up from deep scratches or basic ills and infections, because after a couple of hours riding they made it to the Weeirwood tree, where down its shadow laid down in between the roots a very injured Lyarra Snow with a very worried Ghost surrounding her bloody body impaled with two arrows. One in the leg and the other in the shoulder, blood oozing from the wounds and bathing the snow under the heart tree ‘Feeding it’ Gilly thought with a weird certainty in it.

“Lya!!!” Karny shouted alarmed

“Aye…?” Lyarra answered slurry.  

Ghost didn’t even stir, the direwolf had been aware of their presence from miles back, waiting for their help. Ghost was looking at them intently and whined impatiently.

 “Seven hells!” yelled Asterr very alarmed when they got closer to Lyarra and Ghost. There was more blood than what they saw.

Lyarra chuckled with pain “Seven hells? That’s what you learned from me?” she finished with a tremble and pained expression. ‘She looks pale’, Gilly got more preoccupied, it was too pale for any of the sister’s comfort who were tenser than before at the red drenching the snow.

“Shut yar hole Lya. Asterr keep a watch, Gilly come help me with Lya and calm Sam, Karny bring the things and then help Asterr” said Amari very seriously, she was in her healer persona. All of them move as their sister commanded while she was assessing Lyarra’s injuries. Gilly was trying frantically to appease Sam who only calmed when Ghost nudge her big head in Sam’s little body. Sam giggled but Lyarra groaned in pain remembering Gilly of the situation.

“Thanks to the Old Gods! These are clean shots, it didn’t touch any important things” Amari sound relieved, “Gilly, I need you to change places with Karny for a moment. We have to take those arrows fast and that means a strong hand.”

Amari didn’t need to say more, everyone was paying attention from their positions around the tree, they changed places. No one waited, Karny and Amari started their task. Gilly could only hear Lyarra’s strangled screams of pain ‘One of them probably gave her something to bite’ Gilly though worried for her warg sister.

Faster than they imagined they were back on their horses, now with extra weight. Asterr had brought her shield with her to their luck cos that’s where they deposited Lyarra now completely unconscious. They stripped her around it with some ropes from one of their horses for her security.

They rode back fast, Gilly kept an eye on Lya’s all the time in case she bumped into a rock or something else. Thankfully the night before snowed all day, leaving the road full of softness instead of a hard path. It took them as long as their ride to the Weirwood. When they finally came upon the keep, several of their sisters saw them approach from their positions above the trees. They must have seen Lyarra because Rena, the best healer from the sisters, was waiting for them and directed them towards her working space inside the keep. She and Noni spent the rest of the day and a half morning from the next at Lyarra’s sick bed trying to reduce damage and infection. Lyarra on her part came and went from unconsciousness during that time. She only slept peacefully after drinking a good quantity of milk of the poppy combined with an especial tea Rena prepares to void the excess use of the milk.  

After three days of the sisters worrying constantly for their silvery eyed sister, Lyarra woke up. She did so ranting about an attack, and the danger to come. They didn’t understand what she was talking about until they managed to calm her.

Lyarra talked about everything that happened during her time lost far from their home, beyond from the Fist of the First Men. She related how Ghost got them lost, about meeting the famous Qhorin Halfhand and being attacked by the wildling party.

“That is the scar on my eye…” she flinched a bit from the memory “After that… Qhorin came up with a plan…a plan where I killed him and won the trust from the Freefolk so I could live and learn from them… it was mostly for me to know their plan on attacking the Wall”.

The last Lyarra thing she related to them, was her escape from Mance’s host of thousands, “Ygritte… she… she shot me…” her voiced was soft and pained, eyes lost in nothing she kept talking, “she is so talented, kissed by fire… I was very far away already when she shot me… s-she w-was crying”.

Her eyes were full of unshed tears. It was obvious for the free sisters how much it hurt Lyarra to talk about that Ygritte. They would have asked about her more but knowing Lyarra Snow nothing more would come that day, knowing full well how Lya closes herself from others when she is in pain. They gave Lyarra some food and drink laced with a bit of milk of the poppy so Lyarra could sleep a bit more.

The next day Lyarra continued her tale. She told them about what Mance and his host of Freefolk plan to do. And the most likely result of their attack on the south side of the North. Of how many lives will be lost, including her blood family.

Every single one of the free sister heard her speak, cos they were curious in the silent she-wolf on in weariness for the future. Lya related her biggest fears and troubled feelings regarding the imminent attack to the Wall. But also how she understands the importance for every Freefolk to cross the Wall in order to avoid joining the army of the dead. When Rena noticed Lyarra’s irregular breathing made Lya sleep more for the day, she did, but after protesting a lot about it, “I can’t keep sleeping! The Wall!” she repeated until Gilly with gentle words managed to convince Lyarra of drinking some calming tea her mother Rena does.

The next day Lyarra woke up crying silently, and after a lot of nagging to tell them why Lya snapped at them “Just leave me alone!”

Gilly was the one who asked again later that day, she had sat at Lyarra’s side and gently started to pat her head, just like Gilly does when one of her sisters feels bad.

“Does something hurts Lya?” Gilly asked loud enough for Lyarra to heard without alerting the others around the keep.

Lyarra who had relaxed at Gilly’s ministrations eventually whispered “Ygritte” and after a pause, “I-I betrayed her, I did it for my family…I-I made a choice” Lyarra kept her voice low and her body tensed in a tiny ball like Ghost usually rests. Lya didn’t say more, but Gilly saw her expression during that moment, it was full of painful regret ‘Who is that Ygritte?’ Gilly asked to herself afraid of asking Lyarra and upsetting her like the others did.

Lyarra’s face changed to something more serious. When she seated with difficulty, aided by Ghost and Gilly, Lyarra cleared her throat loud enough to catch so eyes on her, and in the highest tone of her voice, she made them a proposal that shocked them all.

“Come with me to Winterfell! Come as my trusted companions, not servants! Or nobodies! But as my free sisters!” she sounded desperate and hopeful.

Some of them liked the idea but others got offended by it.

“We are not kneelers!” said one of the younger ones, Nia with disgust by the idea. Lyarra didn’t react badly, she just gave one of her heavy sighs, before speaking again.

“I still don’t understand the mutual hate. Both sides acted wrong! The two have killed innocents who did nothing but be. Yet, what is the real reason for it? How did it start? It is worthy of your own lives?” she inhaled and exhaled very heavily before continuing,

 “That doesn’t mean I will ignore it or that I don’t understand the need to avenge your loved ones… But I won’t let my family die because of a stupid rooted hate over many years ago! And that includes all of you! So please, think about it and join me…please.”

“Lyarra…” Daria one of the most serious sisters started but Lyarra interrupted her suspecting a negative response from her or any other.

“I will leave as soon as Rena lets me… And anyone who wants to come with me must be ready by then” Lyarra finished and laid back in her spot giving her back to them, Ghost curled at her side blocking Lya’s body completely from their surprised doe eyes. It was obvious she wouldn’t speak more unless perhaps about the travel preparations and route for the trip back to the South. If there was someone stubborn in the keep, it’s without doubt Lyarra. She won’t change her plans.

Their talked ended there. But the words were still on Gilly’s head. The words always stirred back inside her head every time she saw her son moving around the keep on his hands and knees, ‘In a few more moon he will walk’ she remembered her younger sister Nia doing the same around that time in her life. And when Gilly saw him trying to stand on his tiny feet, she remembered the Others, the creatures her father used to feed with their brothers, little Sam’s cousins. Gilly is aware the ice gods came once and that they will surely come again.

‘Will they come back for my Sam?’ Gilly wondered with fear ‘Will my babe live long enough in this cold place with those things out? Can I protect him here?’

Four more days passed, and even though Rena hadn’t give Lyarra any kind of permission, she started to prepare her leave in the next five days. And the only ones who were helping here with it were Gilly, Rossi, Asterr, Lola, Prim, Karny and to everyone’s surprise Daria. The other girls hadn’t say a thing but the keep had a sour feeling on the air from the last group conversation when Lyarra proposed a scape to the South. The only loud sounds inside their home came from little Sam when he played around the keep with Ghost, the beast indulging the little babe in his curiosity.

It wasn’t long after when what they feared the most happened. Two days before their departure their lives turned to the worse. It started with the wind getting stronger by the hour. It was easy to know cos the wind sounded very loud, like a scream of a dying animal. The keep was crying from the constant hits it received and so did little Sam from how terrible everything sounded. The trees played a violent song with their rattling branches. A very strained one. Just like the nerves of everyone inside the keep.

Until… everything turned silent. There weren’t any sounds from outside the keep. Not from the wind, nor from the trees, and no animals made a sound. Not until their pigs, goats, and horses started to cry in panic in a unison ballad telling them to be afraid. Ghost in an instant with the back of her head’s hair bristling and her fangs exposed. But the beast’s eyes were everywhere. They move right, left, right again, her head moved and the direwolf now was keeping her eyes in the front and then the back. The movements made them lose hope. They were without a doubt, surrounded.

Lyarra moved close to the door. Slowly and signaling them in their silent speech to keep quiet but with her eyes wide open and a weapon at hand. She also gave a look at those who were positioned close to their packed goods for the travel, and to the ones close to the cooking area. Lyarra made them signs for them to take everything they could from those things. Finally, she unshed Longclaw and waited with her body ready to act.

The only thing that changed in the next couple of breaths, is that everyone had something on them. Whether food or a weapon and that the animals went even crazier with louder cries and finally, the air coming from their mouths turned the whitest any of them had ever seen from how cold it got. Even the blazing hearth died.

Gilly’s last hope did as well at the sight, ‘I can’t lie to myself anymore…they are here. They are here for my babe… my little Sam… Old Gods…please…help’ Gilly didn’t know if the Old Gods heard her prayer of if they were going to do something at all. It made her feel better, all the same, it gave her the last push she needed to make the impossible for her child even when her whole self was trembling like leaves against the air. Gilly secured Sam in his carrier for the last time and positioned her bow and the quiver full of her new arrows Dyah confectioned for her as a parting gift to the South. Thankfully Gilly had managed to sleep little Sam with a bit of tea her mother Rena made for her when Gilly had trouble sleeping in her early years. Otherwise, Sam would be crying uncontrollably in that moment. Gilly took one arrow preparing for the inevitable.

The gate could be heard as it opened. And Lyarra finally gave the order the free sisters were waiting for.

“Move!” they went outside and immediately Lyarra yelled again,

“Defense circle!”

All of them moved, enclosing Gilly and the oldest of them in the middle with Ghost as their second defense. They had practiced that kind of “strategy” to protect Sam from the Others many times before. So they moved as one slowly but with security over the white yard. Each sister protecting their respective flank.

Gilly could feel it all around her, she shivered. They are being watched, “scrutinized” like Lyarra said once. She didn’t need to strain her sight cos she saw them, and her sisters did as well by their reactions. Blue orbs floating in the darkness of the densest parts of the trees. They were so many, too many for seventeen women, a babe and a direwolf. Gilly was losing her wit and she could hear some of her sisters crying in fear. They never lowered their guard though. No, they trained for that moment.

“If I can see it you can see it and you know what I know,” said Fanyr in a whimpering tone, the anger was palpable.

“Aye…” came the characteristic answer of Lyarra, her raspy voice deeper than ever.

“We are f’cked’ commented Daria in her matter of fact tone.

“Shut yar hole” snapped Asterr

“The youngest girls are the priority” declared their oldest sister, mother and grandmother Nella.

Gilly cried then, her fat tears falling in her son’s brown hair. It was obvious that not all of them would make it. There wasn’t anything secure in that moment, just the promise of death.

“Aye” said Lyarra again now determined “the younger ones must escape at my signal”

Many of the older women chuckled at that with no fun in them.

“Don’t act stupid Lya” said Rena

Lyarra look offended “What are yo-“

“You are in between the youngest Lya…” explained Rossi with tears in her eyes ignoring Lyarra’s face.

“You as well child” said Dyah the mother of Rossi, Fanyr and Ygna, who denied with her head at her daughters pleading eyes to stay with her, Dyah told them now ignoring her daughters, “The youngest girls and the youngest mothers…that includes the two of you, so you will go”.

 

“That doesn’t mean you won’t fight right?” asked a very heated Ygna in an accusing tone cleaning with her shoulder strayed tears.

“That’s correct girl, we’ll fight” declared Elsa.

The conversation ended with more tension than before. The mood was dark and sad. And those who hadn’t shed a tear were doing so in that moment.

“Save your f’cking tears for lat-” started Daria to say when a sudden screeched invaded their ears from every place. It was so loud and horrible Gilly thought her babe would wake up from it.  She could feel her head pounding from the pain and her eyesight went black for a moment. She couldn’t even check if her babe woke up or if he was in any pain after such inhuman sound because the fight for their lives began. Many wights running to them.

“For the living!!!!” someone shouted at Gilly’s side,

“Ayeeeeee!!!!” others answered with loud screams of their own.

Many others screamed while launching their attacks. It was a chaos of sounds all around her in the middle of her family.

‘Aye’ Gilly though before losing an arrow to a wight’s blue eye. Her hands didn’t shake from fear, not after feeling reassured with the weight of her babe on her chest. Reminding her she must win, she must live.  

‘For my family’ Gilly promised while nocking her next arrow ‘for life’ she released it, already taking the next arrow not ready to give up her son’s life.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: The broken prince

 

He can see his father seated at his favorite spot at the Winterfell’s Goodswood below the shadow of the great Weirwood tree. Ned Stark looks peaceful and content in his work of cleaning his great sword Ice, the ancestral sword of House Stark. Bran remembers seeing the sword from afar, fearing that if it fell from his father’s hands it would crunch him to death. But his father was so strong that he never sagged when swinging it. Bran admired him greatly for that, thinking him invincible. He wasn’t, and Ice was his father’s demise and not Bran’s.

At that time the sword had been bigger than Bran. Now he was about to be taller than the sword if he keeps growing as fast as he is doing or so Bloodraven commented once. Not that it matters. He will never be taller than anyone, not Robb, not his dad, not even Rickon, if he can’t stand on his own useless legs.

The ranting inside his head began and the scenario started to change. He had lost his concentration again and the things he fears to see would come to him.

‘Where will it take me this time?’ he wondered apprehensively.

Everytime he stops focusing on what he wants or needs to see during his sessions with Bloodraven, the heart trees will choose for him. The Three-Eye-Raven’s words came to him,

“They are like a mirror. They see in you and show what they saw of your past, present, and future or about those who share your blood. Whether you like it or not the trees will present your reality. So be careful Brandon Stark, focus or you will fall again in memories that may scar you”

Bran, of course, had been curious about it. So one day he did what he wasn’t supposed to do. He let himself slip and he still regrets it.

He went from seeing Winterfell in its beginnings where the sept or the towers he climbed up didn’t exist to seeing his grandfather and his namesake Brandon Stark die at the hands of the Mad King. He saw how no one in the court said a thing. Not the nobles, not the common folk and not the Kingsguard he admired so much. All of them closed their eyes at the horrific scene in front of them. Bran didn’t. He saw every part of it. How his grandfather’s flesh melt slowly from him. His skeleton becoming ash and Brandon Stark unfocused eyes after asphyxiating himself to death, trying to save his father at all cost from the wildfire engulfing him whole.

Neither Meera nor Summer could calm him down. A week passed before he accepted to go back down the Weeirwood roots to learn how to fly. He only did cos he really hates to be still. Whether by body or mind.

Currently, everything was pitch black after losing his concentration. Not rapid flashes of light, image or sound. It never happened like that before. Bran was confused.

‘What is happening? Where are the images? Where is everything?’

He heard it first then he felt it, the wind. It sounded like the wind pacing around the trees at the Wolf Wood but different. There was something he didn’t remember. A howl. An angry howl that reminded Bran of…

‘Shaggydog!’ He opened his eyes and there he was, his brother’s direwolf in mid jump towards a ‘unicorn!?’

The black direwolf fought an incredible fight, the unicorn was bigger than the young direwolf by far. Out of nowhere another furry figure came out of the bushes and jumped on the unicorn’s back as well. The horned beast fell on its side releasing a pained cry. Shaggydog got up from where he had fallen in the impact and turned to the other figure to lick at his blood covered face, Rickon’s face.

 Bran was astonished. His little brother was bigger, older. Red locks falling over his skinny but wider shoulders from where the nasty scars started and went down his arms. Very strong arms for a child, uncovered from the clothes made of black furs and leather. And his eyes were blue as Bran remembers but so much colder, savage. Rickon’s long face more alike than ever to Bran’s namesake, just like their father had once declared with melancholy, “Rickon when you get older I’m sure you will look just like my older brother, you are even as wild as him” his father’s voice came to him while watching his little brother cleaning his sharp weapon he used to gut the unicorn’s right side. But most of all, Rickon’s face was full of unbidden fury, ‘The wolf blood’ Bran knows and doesn’t like what he is seeing, it was more than the Stark wild blood.  

‘Uncle Brandon’s face and Uncle Brandon’s wolf-like personality, it isn’t that what took him to his early death?’

His baby brother wasn’t the one he knew. He was not the one Bran left at the South side of the Wall with Osha.

‘I don’t know him at all. Who is him? Would he recognize me if he saw me?’

“Rick-” he started to call for his baby brother but everything stopped. His voice was stuck just as his movements. And the calmness of the forest where he had land erupted in a cacophony of sounds getting inside his ears, moving around like ants moving in their nest. His feet weren’t over the earth, he wasn’t even in the forest with Rickon anymore. Bran was floating. And down himself, he saw many things…

Arya with a slender sword just like her, the blade getting out from a men’s neck. His sister was sporting a shorter hairstyle and eyes much like Rickon’s but with a spark in them, a satisfied one. Another big man at her side with half of his face burned ‘The Hound!’ But all changed to Arya on board a large boat. The Hound wasn’t with her not even Nymeria, he noticed finally the direwolf’s absence. Arya looked lost in thought but also confident like she usually moved around people.

The scenario changed.

He saw Sansa in the sept of Kings Landing, kneeling, and Tyrion Lannister cloaking her slender and feminine back. Before they kissed the imaged shaped differently and Sansa was now looking out a window from what Bran is sure is the Eryie. She has no red cloak over her but her new black hair longer than before covering her back. His sister looked so different, so sad but also sharp like a hunting knife.

Bran saw how the moment disappeared to show Bran his older brother Robb seated over a simple but tasteful chair. His brother was inside a very spacious tent, and over the only desk, Robb was bent over his elbows clearly writing or drawing. At his side, Greywind had his enormous head over his brother’s lap with his eyes closed as if listening to the ink flowing over the paper. Bran wasn’t floating anymore he noticed, so he crept to peak over Robbs shoulders like he used to do when they were younger, and Bran wanted to see Robb’s next talented drawing. But what he saw over his brother’s shoulder wasn’t a picture of one of their siblings or the direwolves. But a royal decree, where it’s instructed that if King Robb Stark ever dies, his sister Lyarra Snow will be legitimized and become the heir of Winterfell and the Queen in the North. It also explained the causes for such decision. First, the loss of his two sisters. One disappeared, probably dead, and the other one lost to the Lannisters as their bride. Secondly, the murder of his two little brothers at the Greyjoy’s hands. And him the King, still waiting for a babe of his recent marriage to be conceived and born. Robb signed it with an elegant swift of his hand and turned his head behind himself looking at Bran directly in the eyes. Or so Bran thought.

“Mother,” his brother said happily but nervous, and Bran turned as well, where at the entrance their mother stood in one of her gray and blue simple dresses that reflected her Stark and Tully side for everyone to see. She was always a proud Lady.

Bran’s blue orbs were watering, his lips trembling at her sight. He hadn’t seen her in so long. Not since his fall. The pain, regret, and longing made him comprehend how much he really missed her ‘Mother’ his mind begged for. He took a step towards her to only enter a large room, a different one. ‘A great hall’ he identified by the long tables and the elegant decoration. All the tables were empty of people by the battle unfolding inside the place. It was a massacre. One he didn’t understand. One, his head was trying to make sense of. But it was hard with Dacey Mormont at his feet with lifeless eyes wide open and dagger at her neck, or with Lord Greatjon Umber being beaten up by three men, boots digging at his gut, head, and back. And how could he make sense of his mother’s screams, pleading for her first-born, for Bran’s older brother.

Robb!’ Bran wanted to warn at the sight of the crossbows.

But it was too late. There was nothing to do, each arrow met their destiny. His mother with a painful scream was now cutting a man’s throat and Robb was falling to his knees, his body full of arrows and Greywind on his lips.

Bran yelled and Bran woke up to his own screams.

And Bran didn’t go back to his training until a full moon’s turn later. Time during which he had barely rest from the draining never ending nightmares he started to have since that memory dream. Where the only thing he can see in his sleep is his mother screaming and Robb’s tears streaked eyes losing their light.

Blood Raven didn’t even chastise him for denying the training and for not keeping his concentration for long after he began to assist his flying lessons again, ‘He probably thinks I was already punished for my lack of attention…’

Bran silently as ever made his way to the lower levels of the cave with the children’s help. When they made it there Bran crawled to his usual space between the roots.

“What will I see today?” his tone was dull, not caring for real.

“Your older sibling” Red eyes watching him, cold as always.

Bran stiffened, his heart sank. He doesn’t want to see his dead brother, not for the moment. Maybe never again.

“Why? Robb is dead already” Bran’s tone was acidic, full of resentment.

“Who said Robb Stark?” Blood Raven looked serious in the stamen that took Bran aback.

“B-but he was my older brother…”

“Yes he was. But not your older sibling”

Bran was confused. Lately, he is always confused. And he was extremely tired of being in that stupid cave with the stupid quiet Children of the Forest and their blood red sap food that makes Bran see horrible things about his non-existent House. He hates to be there without exploring the caves with the use of his own legs. He hates everything.

“Stop it! Stop confusing me!” he was so done.

“I was talking about Lyarra Stark” Blood Raven didn’t even react to Bran’s shouting.

“Lyarra? But she is younger than Robb and she is a Snow…” Bran remembered, upset he presumed, “The decree changed that?”

“No. It changed nothing.”

Bran was about to scream in frustration from the short responses he is tired of receiving from the corpse-like man. But Bloodraven continued explaining as if reading Bran’s mind, “She was born a Stark, and she was born before Robb.”

Bran gasped, “What do you mean? That can’t b-”

“You will soon see…” Bloodraven trailed off.

Leaf appeared out of nowhere like she always did. On her hand the bittersweet drink similar to a heart tree’s sap. Bran took it from her, equal parts extremely curious and irritated from the old man’s curt attitude and secrecy about that day’s vision. Bran drank it all at once ‘Hmm...It was easier like that’ he mused while searching a comfortable position to lay himself before falling in the net of memories inside the ancient Weirwood tree ‘Not mirrors today please.’

Bran closed his eyes…

In a series of flashes, Bran Stark saw the truth about his half-sister Lyarra Snow. And he cried for everything his greensight let him watch.

He saw his father happy, marrying, and his father crying while writing a letter to his first love, and then, new tears fell while reading another letter with a purple seal with terrible news in it.

Bran saw Ashara Dayne shining like the moon, getting wed with her love and finding out she was with child, the tears of happiness invading her violet eyes. And Bran saw Ashara’s heart pierced in pain from the rejection of her husband. And finally, Bran saw her jumping from the Tower at Starfall where she had given birth to her only child Lyarra Stark Dayne. The first born child of Eddard Stark.  

He also watched parts of his Tully side he never imagined was buried under the Southern courtesies. He also remembered how his mother treated Lyarra, he saw it with his own eyes, ‘She knew…’ he thought ashamed ‘She knew Lyarra was first…and legitimate. Yet she still treated Lya like that…

When he finally calmed he questioned the old man, “Why did you make me see that? You want me to hate my dead mother and father?!” his voice trembled with the shame and anger he felt.

“The truth?” Bloodraven pointed out as a matter of fact.

“Aye…” Bran’s tears stopped falling, he waited for a good response for such painful memories. A good reason for him watching such disgrace.

“Because it will serve for the future of the realm”

“But how?” he demanded with tired irritation.

“By Lyarra Stark being whom she actually is, not what she was told she was. She needs to kill the girl and let the woman be born”

That wasn’t what he asked and Bran didn’t understand a thing. Not Bloodraven and not his father and mother or his grandfather Hoster. He doesn’t even understand himself anymore. He wants to learn how to fly but he doesn’t want to see more about the past. He just wants to climb the walls of Winterfell and then have dinner with his family. He want’s Summer at his side as his support, as his reminder of his old life.

“I’m tired” he declared instead, wanting nothing more than being alone.

“Not yet” retorted Bloodraven.

Bran huffed at the tone, at the whole situation. Bran snapped, the real questions his heart demanded pouring in quick succession, “Why me?! Why did I have to see all that?! And why can’t you just simply tell Lyarra yourself?! Why isn’t she the one looking at that?!”

Bloodraven didn’t blink or looked mad at him, “Because of your blood” he said.

“Just that? My blood?” disbelief clear on Bran’s words.

“Your blood has the power of the children and from the purest skinchangers. And your blood unites you with Lyarra Stark, thus she will believe in you no matter what you tell her and how” the wrinkled mouth stretched in a smile and added “So you see Brandon Stark, yes, it is because of your blood”

“Couldn’t have someon…” he shut his mouth at was he was about to suggest; pain for others not for him.

“No. Your other siblings are not as strong as you are for this. They are just wargs, and even when the youngest is like you, his age is too tender and his blood is less strong, he is too wild as well. But you… you are the two things necessary in equally strong ways. You are the most magical of them all. You are the Green Prince Brandon Stark.”

That finally calmed Bran. He somehow understands now, ‘No one else can take my place just as I can't ever walk again’. Bran can’t just simply drain himself from the magical blood just like he can’t grow a new pair of legs ‘It has to be me...

He really needs time to think, “Why can’t I go yet?” he pressed his hands on his forehead nursing a small headache from all the information.

“You can now.”

Bran snapped back at the red eye man “What!? What do you mean? You told me I couldn’t go yet!” his headache increased.

“We just did what he had to do, talk” the old man smirked, and Bran was finally understanding things better. Bloodraven wanted him concentrated and there is nothing that makes Bran entirely focused than being frustrated with something he can’t get or wants. Like long and detailed answers. He was provoked on purpose and he would have been angrier if it weren’t because of how tired and pained he is from so many visions and unwanted information of his unjust side of his family.

“Hodor” echoed Hodor’s voice

“You moved him here?” Bran asked in disbelief, thinking he was the only one that could.

Bloodraven glared at his supposition, Bran asked differently “You called him here then?”

“That I did, I don’t need to control him, I never break that rule” the old man was still smirking but dangerously, “one day you will be able to do the same Brandon Stark, if you just only focused without my help” there was a warning in there “If you only realized how a real prince should really act.” he finished and red eyes went blank, head lolled to one side. Bloodraven was now in another place, probably watching the other pieces of whatever game he is playing.

Like me’ thought Bran realizing he was just that, a piece in a game he never agreed to participate in. An instrument. He sighed again and rest his head in the cold stone of the cave waiting for Hodor.

I don’t want to be an instrument…. It’s this how Summer feels? How Hodor feels? Do I want to be like Bloodraven?’ Bran hadn’t really thought about the others, about his direwolf and his friend Hodor who carries him around or about the Reed siblings who are risking their lives for him. For a cripple boy who can’t even concentrate without being riled up by an old man.

Am I that pathetic?’ he asked himself ‘Am I that egoist? And what did he meant with the rule thing?’

Hodor arrived and leisurely took Bran in arms and back to the upper grounds of the cave where Summer was waiting for him at his makeshift bed. Meera was with her head lowered down, her eyes looked red and puffy.

“Meera?” he asked while accommodating besides Summer who was receiving all the pets Bran had forgotten to give his direwolf for the past days in his gloomy attitude.

“Meera are you all right?” he pressed, he is worried but also needs something else to think about than in his family.

“All right? Are you serious Bran?” she sounded drained out but her tone has an edge Bran is sure will cut him if he keeps talking.

“Yes I am, are you all right?” Bran chose the cut.

“No I am not! Jonjen refuses to eat and spends all his time with those weirds children! And you! You barely keep us company! You barely talk to us! I am the one who hears Summer whining when you are gone, the one who sees Hodor fret at every shadow in this dark cave! And this place? This place is so scary, I haven’t seen the sunlight in a long time Bran, and I… I’m tired… I want my brother back, I want him to eat and get some strength in his body, I want you to talk more with us and not just angrily brood over you being a cripple. I want to go home…”

Bran had never heard her speak so much and never so frustrated. He hadn’t surely seen her cry. And she had never said a thing of what she feels or wants ever in their travels.

“I’m sorry…” there wasn’t anything else to say, he doesn’t know what will make her feel better. In fact, he doesn’t know her at all. The regret was piercing him. He wasn’t aware of what she mentioned. 

“You are forgiven…” her tone was miserable, but sincere “But I won’t forgive you again if you keep acting like…like you are the only one who suffers…”

Another slap of regret.

“I know…I wasn’t paying attention, I wasn’t…”

‘Focused’ Bloodraven’s voice echoed.

They didn’t talk more. Jonjen came a few moments later accompanied by other children of the forest who brought with them supper. Dried small fish and sour roots that gave the food some flavor. Still, no one made a sound during their meal.

That day was really the day to understanding and finding information for Bran. Because he also found out he had been so into his own self that didn’t notice how Jonjen lost weight, how pale he was and how little he eats.

He didn’t notice how little light gets into the cave or how Hodor is scared of the place, shaking almost all the time and whimpering “Hodor” in his fright.

Bran hadn’t realized how Summer resents him and missed him. He can’t remember having wolf dreams in many moons. He only recalls controlling Summer’s body to escape from the other’s presence.

In fact. Bran hadn’t even noticed how much he had actually grown. His hair was so much longer that it passed his shoulders and it is red as blood. Of how his skinny legs were long as branches and how his arms were thicker than before. Not even how his hands were larger with dirty nails covered in mud and red sap.

“How… how long have we been here?”

Meera looked surprised at his question “You don’t know?” Bran denied with his head.

“We have been in this cave about two years…” she informed him at the same time she scrutinized his reaction.

Two years?!’ Bran couldn’t believe it. He was now twelve name days, almost as old as Sansa was once. Which meant his remaining siblings were older as well, much older. ‘Rickon must be eight and Arya thirteen like Sansa before leaving to Kings Landing, who should have fifteen just as old as Robb was before becoming the Lord of Winterfell. And Lyarra, the oldest… with eighteen name days…

Half of the Stark blood are grown adults and the younger ones are half there. If everything had been like it should, Robb, Sansa, and Arya would be married, even Lyarra would have been a mother. Bran himself would have been meeting his possible wife and Rickon would be training restlessly with his sword under the care of Sir Rodrik. Their parents would have been watching from their ever constant place above the training yard. Always keeping company with their children every time they could.  

But they are dead and all my siblings are lost in the world’ he reminded himself. He always needs to do it.  

“I… I was really lost, wasn’t I?” he couldn’t keep his own anger at himself from showing. He had never thought of himself as selfish or egotistical, or like Arya accused Sansa sometimes of being single minded. He knows better now, he can see the fruits of his lack of attention clearly around him.

“Yes, you were. But I suspect that will change?” she asked, keen eyes on him. She never stopped watching him.

She has always looked out for me…for us’ he concluded with amazement at how diligent Meera is.

“Yes, I hope so… I want to leave that attitude behind”

Bran really does. He was losing so much of himself in the deeps of the cave, most of all he was losing his friends, ‘I will change that, I need to change’ he promised himself ‘I have to observe and not just see. I have to keep an eye on everything’.

Bran took a deep breath, cleared his throat a couple of times and steeled himself for the first step he would take ‘You are Brandon Stark, a warg..’ he remembered Bloodraven’s words, ‘You are the prince of Winterfell, and…the winged green prince, act like it’

“Jonjen” he said firmly, but Jonjen barely looked at him, eyelids heavy and his cheekbones extremely sharp from the lack of fat in his body.

“JONJEN” he said again and Meera helps by shaking her brother’s arm. Jonjen looked at him with curious green eyes.

At least he hasn’t lost that curiosity’ Bran thought mournfully and summoned the tone his mother used on him after being found out climbing.

“You will eat more” he notified to the Reed boy. Meera was looking at Bran once again surprised.

“Bran…” started Jonjen with a tired voice, lifeless even. Bran didn’t like that, how weak his friend actually is.

“No. If you don’t do eat, I won’t either, and I will die. Do you want me, your green prince to die Jonjen?” Bran used the same tone and speed Bloodraven uses when he talks to him about what he has to do and what don’t during their sessions.

Jonjen gave him the same look Bran is sure he has given the old man many times. A disfavored and annoyed one.

“Leaf,” he said next, keeping the old man’s tone, apparently working better than a stern mother, “Bring Jonjen food…please”

She did, but before she could go, Bran declared loud enough for everyone to hear like Robb did as Lord of Winterfell, “And Jonjen won’t go anywhere if he doesn’t eat all his food” he was looking at Leaf when he finished. He knows Meera doesn’t like Jonjen going with the children all the time. Bran can’t do much about that but can and will make sure that Jonjen eats all his meals. Bran thinks he saw disapproval in Leaf’s eyes but he wasn’t again paying enough attention. He has to do better.

Focus Bran’

“Summer,” he called, his direwolf went to him, head to head, blue against gold “You will… I mean, can you keep a watch on Jonjen until he eats all his food and after that, can you accompany Meera and Hodor to the entrance of the cave for a couple of hours while the sun is up?”

Bran felt something in him, something he thinks came from Summer ‘approval?’ he isn’t sure, probably it was that, because Summer licked his face making Bran giggle, it was weird to hear himself making such sounds. He hadn’t laughed in a long time when he thinks about it. Bran comprehended with it how much he really missed his direwolf’s companionship.

I have really been an idiot haven’t I?’ he analyzed his past attitude with all of his friends while scratching Summer’s favorite places.

While Jonjen ate, Meera got closer to Bran, seating at his side and very discreetly she said to his ear “Thank you” and gave him a peck on his right cheek. Bran could feel heat invading that exact place. He needed to clean his throat again before speaking to her, just as discreet.

“It’s the only thing I can do really…” he said not being able to look a Meera.

“It was something, it was enough” she answered, Bran could hear her smiling, and he smiled as well at the idea of her being happier.

“Good...” he murmured.

I really need to be better’ he reaffirmed himself thinking about Meera’s lighter tone, ‘I want my friends to feel better’ he agreed when satisfaction still lingered in him knowing Jonjen would eat more, that Hodor and Meera would see the sun again and that Summer approved of him.

And that he won’t longer be an unaware piece of wood moving around to be played with.

‘Like a prince, I must be… like a Winterfell Prince, I shall be’

 


 

It was hard to be better.

He had been so used to just taking what he wanted, like Hodor’s or Summer’s bodies that asking for their permission and being denied to was a bit annoying.

But he then remembers Meera’s anger at him. When he talked with Meera about it, she chastised him harshly “no one wants their body to be taken without permission Bran! Would you want that for yourself?” He hadn’t thought about it in that way. But when he thinks of her reasoning… he wouldn’t want someone controlling him in any way. That is what made him mad about Bloodraven. Of him being used as a cyvasse piece on a game he never knew was part of. 

Now he asks patiently and pays more attention to everything. Especially his own actions and words within every situation.

He moves more by himself as well. At first, his arms hurt a lot because of the strain. It still hurts but Bran can feel his arms getting thicker and stronger by the days.

He even asked Meera to teach him how to use the frog spear so he could be able to defend himself in case the others were occupied trying to save their own lives. Those lessons are Bran’s favorites. Meera smiles and talks a lot in those moments, he likes her smile.

Jonjen is less skinny and he is talking more with them. Jonjen still goes with the children and comes back late but Meera says it is better than before. “I can feel my brother coming back to me…I am starting to see my little brother again…”

Bran is happy for her, yet he wishes he could see his own siblings, mostly his little brother Rickon. It stills haunts him the image of his brother covered in unicorn blood and cold eyes surveying his kill. ‘Can I help him somehow? Can I do anything at all than just dreaming?

Another change in Bran is that he also started asking more: Why? What? Where? How? Whom? Should I? Can I?

Bloodraven liked that if his longer sentences when talking meant anything. Leaf and the other children didn’t like it that much, yellow eyes glinting weirdly when Bran asked the reasoning behind some action or vision. Jonjen fluctuated in between liking it or hating it, depending on Bran’s questions. Meera and Hodor were delighted, and Summer… his direwolf was the happiest with Bran’s new inquisitive attitude. Because it meant more wolf dreams, where Bran would lay back and watch behind golden eyes instead of controlling his direwolf’s body.

To Bran’s surprise, he can now hear his direwol’fs voice <YES> he had said the first time Bran asked to use Summer’s strong legs for a stroll around the cave. Bran was giddy with the new ability to talk with his friend. Well, it was more like communicating than talking since Summer just repeats certain words he understands by pairing them up with his own instincts. It was enough for Bran though.

Bloodraven told him that he had always been able, but that his selfishness and grief were impeding the communication between the two of them.

“Summer is more than your direwolf, he is your familiar, your companion” the old man advised as well as the rules of skinchanging Bran had been shamelessly breaking. Another rock in his bag of guilt.   

That made Bran put in a different light what a warg actually is. And just like with his role as the prince, Bran will also live to the expectation of being a warg, a skinchanger worthy of the ability and not just a broken boy who uses his direwolf like a rag doll.

With Bloodraven’s help, Bran got better at skingchanging. Specifically, at making connections with the animals he borrows their bodies from. Bran so far had connected with four young ravens and other wolves around the cave. Yet, Bran has his eyes on an adult direwolf. A big black one with blue eyes. It is extremely big, bigger than a horse and Bran trembles at the thought of Summer being that big. Not because of fear, but excitement. He can’t wait to his direwolf to grow older, stronger and fearsome. Summer is equally excited, Bran perceives it in their connection, especially when the two follow the black direwolf around. They always lose him though.

Bloodraven chastised him again by going for that direwolf “He is older, a warrior, a pack leader. He will never fall for a kid and not a kid that has already bonded with another direwolf. Remember Bran Stark, being a warg with a wolf is something admirable, but being a warg with a direwolf? That’s something weird and special.”

Bran with that information can comprehend how old and powerful the Stark blood is. Because is not one Stark boy who’s a warg, but all six of them. Mournfully, two direwolves were dead, and one Stark warg as well.

Bran hopes Sansa bonds with another direwolf, but that seems impossible with what Bloodraven told him about their direwolves being a unique thing to warg and bond with ‘Maybe a wolf?’ he tries to imagine his sister with one he has met around the cave but none strikes Bran as a good companion for his sweet sister. He actually can’t even imagine any other wolf or direwolf that is not Lady at Sansa’s side. Bran still remembers seeing his sister crying after Lady died. He had seen her before he woke up from his endless sleep after the fall, Sansa had cried bitterly like Bran had never seen. He didn’t know at the time what he saw was real, until he made it to the cave. He takes seriously everything he sees now.

Like what he saw last night…

His oldest sister Lyarra in such peril that he fears she might be dead or die very soon. He can feel it in his gut that nothing good will come for her. Not after seeing her kneeling brokenly crying and praying to the Old Gods.

That dream started just fine. Lyarra had stood at the side of the black brothers of the Nights Watch while the new recruits said their vows. He saw his sister saying them as well. But they had been the old vows, he remembers those words from the time Samwell Tarly recited them back at the Nightfort to open the magic Weirwood Door with the face of Bloodraven.

She doesn’t know she just became a sister of the Night’s Watch’ thought Bran amused at Lyarra doing what Danny Flint did once. But without the rape and murder. She had looked at peace surrounded by the Weirwood Grove, ‘Like a true born Stark should’ Bran was still ashamed by all the wrongs done to Lya and her mother Ashara. ‘Robb took care of that’ Bran reminded himself or to be more exactly he justified the past sins of their family with the good deeds of his brother who unconsciously did so with the decree and last will.

In the memory dream, Ghost appeared with something in her muzzle but Bran never saw what it was when the place changed. From orange afternoon to dark evening and his sister was no longer in the grove but kneeled over a giant Weirwood tree. ‘Whitetree’ Bran recognized from his flights as a raven.

She was pale, terribly so, her long face wet with tears. She was trembling horribly and her eyes were silver with emotion. She had her right hand over the tree while the other was over her right chest, ‘Blood! She is bleeding!’ Bran could feel his insides doing summersaults, his own tears coming to him.

‘Is she dying like Rob!? Like, mother and father?

“Please….” Her voice barely loud in the strong wind that made the snow around engulf her shape in a white mantle, she was pleading “I never ask for anything but please…let them live, let them make it to the Wall… let us make it there alive, please…” she was fully crying now “take my blood if you must!”

“Then the Old Gods will have to take mine as well!” yelled another girl, with one eye black from a nasty hit and a deep gash on her arm “Cos I won’t let you die because of me! Not like the others!!! You hear me Lya!? I won’t let you die!!!” the girl was crying as well, her anger palpable in her face.

Bran heard it then. More cries.

He looked around. Another nine women were in between the roots of the tree. Some were crying and others were silently crouching away from the cold, their dark eyes lost in the nothing behind the trees. He could even hear a babe whaling nonstop whose mother, Bran noticed, was being nursed by an older woman, she was cleaning a calf cut. The young mother wasn’t the only one hurt. All of them had a cut or deep gash in some place of their bodies.

Lyarra was still murmuring to the tree, asking for safety. Bran couldn’t take it. He didn’t want to see another sibling dying. He closed his eyes hoping for Bloodraven to take him out of there, ‘Take me out! TAKE ME OUT!’

He did. But Bran still hears Lyarra pleads, “Please I don’t want to lose anyone else…please…”

Bran Stark didn’t visit his dreams for another week, not when he dreams for real he can only see his sister’s blood covering the Weirwood roots that are impaling her body, from neck to toes. It was as if the white tree fed from her. And all the time she sang about the rat cook paying for his sin and about a prince drinking from his friend that likes to dream.

Something in Bran told him, what other change he has to make urgently.  

Chapter Text

Chapter 13:  Battle Commander Snow

 

Star-cross direwolf

 

First horn. She takes Longclaw in hand and runs ignoring the pain on her leg, limping still from the wound a resentful arrow caused.

Second horn. She is being lifted up to the top of the Wall, as fast as the strength of the men pulling them up can afford.

The wind is strong on the top, she blinks at the brightness in such darkness, and the forest is ablaze. Mance didn’t change the signal. He underestimated her; again. Everything looks red ‘like her hair…her beautiful hair.’

One week passes after the fire. Preparations are made for the war to come. Orders are given, and the men sneer at her words, “Fucking bitch” some snap, but they still follow her instructions. She doesn’t know why.

Four days passed.

The first horn comes. She looks at the south gate, her left-hand reaches Longclaw’s pummel for reassurance. The blade at her back always calms her.

Second horn. She grabs the first bow and quiver of arrows she finds, walks among the men, climbs up with Ghost’s help, and position’s herself beside Satin and Rossi. Her brother and sister. She takes a look below, a few meters from their position searching for the attackers, ‘Are you there with them my love?’ Lyarra’s mind betrays her like she betrayed another, thinking things she shouldn’t. Not in a war at least.

“Nock”, Rossi whispers, “Nock” Satin yells, Rossi is a better archer than the Old Town boy but the black brothers would never follow the orders of a free woman. Satin is Rossi's cover.

“Release!”  Satin echoes Rossi’s commands again. Arrows fly to their targets, a couple of the Freefolk fall, not all of them though, not all the crows are well trained. Its dark to the crow’s bad luck, the Freefolk know how to use the veil of the night in their favor. The black brothers don’t, not as easy. Many of them will perish with the Freefolk.

If they remember my warnings and orders they will survive’ she argued ‘but did they hear at all?’ she doubt it, so Lyarra simply nocks her next arrow, there is no time to ponder in the past. 

It wasn’t long until the only resemble of a gate in Castle Black was breached. The Freefolk entered in between the spaces in the towers, the Watch had little men to defend those open parts. She swore in high valyrian and the common tongue while taking her sword and advancing to the lower ground, ordering those who heard to follow her and fight.

She fought harshly, ignoring the barely healed wounds. She slew and deflected. And all the time she could never stop thinking ‘where is she? Did she make it to this side? Does she hate me? Will I have to fight her?

The starry she-wolf ducked, slashed, stepped back and launched her sword to everyone who attacked her. She moved fast; her mind focused on her task of avoiding fire kissed women coming close to her, ‘She prefers the bow, she is not here, she isn’t’ She assured herself. The thought had been a distraction, one that ended in Lyarra getting hit by spearwoman, grazed by an arrow and mangled by a fist. She still prevailed, and to Lyarra’s relief, she hadn’t killed anyone with red hair and crooked teeth.

Yet.  

A yell, “Lyarra!” it came from the elevator, Grenn and Pyp were coming her way, frowns in their faces and sweaty brows, she intercepts them, slashing some attackers in her way.

“We need you on the top!” one of them shouts over the battle screams.

“Noye came down to defend the ice tunnel but hasn’t gone up, we need you to command!” the other supplied urgently.

She didn’t protest or said a thing, Lyarra just acted. It’s the only thing she can do in the moment ‘better than stay here and come to fight her’

The warrior inside Lyarra calmed for a moment, and so, the commander talked, “Pyp stay here, defend the recruits attending the elevator, Grenn follow me” she ordered. Her friends moved.

They ascend steadily, the elevator creaking by the lack of oil, and shaking by the wind. Always the bloody wind.

The top of the Wall shows people that resemble ants climbing the ice, or running in the bottom when the Freefolk decide to light some torches around. Lyarra notices the crows around her losing feathers in their fright over the imminent attack. She feels like sighing at that or snapping at them but sends Grenn to tend the current climbers with the scythe and rocks instead. She finds chaos were it shouldn’t be ‘they are supposed to be trained man, they should be losing arrows, not their wits. Did all the trained ones died in the mutiny?’ she asked herself tiredly while assessing what to do with the fearful crows.

<Ghost, girl, go check on our sisters> she requested the direwolf, hoping all the other free sisters to come from the fight alive, there were currently defending the Rookery and the surroundings, keeping maester Aemon and the sick people in there alive. When she got confirmation of Ghost via their connection she inhaled and exhaled.

“Edd!” she shouted, his attention on her, Lyarra appreciates his rapid response, she commands him, “take care of the bows in the right flank, I’ll take left” he did as told, he is diligent like that even to a bastard’s words ‘He is loyal when I’m not’.

She took a bow, prepared a good fire at her side, and started shouting orders for the other archers to do the same, “Let’s get more light!” she shouted, not caring if all the brothers were following her orders. She knows they heard.

“Nock!” she orders, “released” she yells.  

They stay there for hours, shooting arrows, making wildlings fall from the Wall, blazing some dry furs in the ground. Making big rocks break some skulls, and releasing the scythe, swinging at the Wall’s side, making red rain fall upon the Freefolk still alive at the bottom.

Some of the black brothers die at the giant’s spear-like arrows or by their strong arms throwing rocks at the top like unstoppable catapults. Some even fall to their doom by the vibration the giant’s projectiles have. She decides to answer back with their own power.

“Catapults ready! Scorpions ready!” she demands aloud. Her tone resonates with the men fear. They want to finish the war quickly, so they follow fast her demands, even when it’s a woman they despite who makes the order.

Her voice and Edd’s echo around the top of the Wall. Everyone moves, some bringing more rocks, a quiver full of arrows, or preparing more fire. The big weapons are ready fast, “Release!!!!” she shouts, her voice is silenced by the swoosh sound the projectiles made at how fast they make their trajectory down the Wall, cutting for a moment the screams from behind her back with the force it has.

The screams are renewed full with pain, many Freefolk being pierced, a giant falls as well, all below her eyes ‘I ordered their death...’ Some mammoths are victims of the attack as well, falling with a loud thud that she is sure shakes the earth the Freefolk stands. The other mammals that are not pierced riot around, smashing everything around them including slow soldiers. The crows are happy, the Freefolk cries. Lyarra laments the battle, thinking of how they shouldn’t be fighting between them.

Still, she orders a repeat of their attack. There is no time to lose, there is nowhere to hide. She nurses her hurt tight where Ygritte’s arrow rested once, now is throbbing with the remnants of Lyarra’s betrayal. The arrowhead pierced where once it had been caressed by the Freewoman’s hand inside their cave. The place that for a moment cut them both from the reality of their lives, from the Stark's mission towards the realm. The pain in her tight reminds Lyarra of her shameful act towards the woman she promised things she shouldn't have.

Were you the one to set the forest on fire like you did with my heart? Or are you the one who raid the villages at the South, hurting innocents like I feared?’ Lyarra whimpered in her insides, trying not to think of her love.

I am at war’ Lyarra reminded herself.

She demands the release of the barrels containing frozen rocks with melt snow after Grenn informs her there are no more rocks to throw. The barrels proved how dangerous they can be when they fall, smashing on the bottom and crunching people’s bodies. It’s effective when the victim is directly above, painful if you are at the sides when it lands and breaks, releasing chards and chunks like projectiles hitting flesh that don’t kill fast enough.

How many of those dying below the Wall did I met? With how many of them  did I shared food and words?

She remembers those moons with them, with the Freefolk, Lyarra can clearly hear their laughs, the tales, and the songs she had never heard but now loves with all her heart.

It’s Val down there? Or Dalla? Has she given birth? Tormund stayed or went beyond the Wall? She probably did, no, she did, Ygritte needs to kill me first, I’m hers after all’ she almost smiles at the strong drive the woman she loves has, at her “all or nothing” attitude that lured Lyarra gray eyes to her shape and fiery hair. That led Lyarra to discover what love feels like.

The morn comes, Lyarra is resting her back in a boulder of ice while she observes the last star fading away. Then Lyarra breathed in deeply before inclining a bit to see the horrors she caused down over the northern snow from beyond the Wall. Lyarra curses internally, feeling numb for a moment at what she sees, bodies all around, dots of red everywhere. ‘Many fires will be light today, and many others when the next attack ends’ she concludes bitterly and sick of what her orders did.

She rejects the food someone brings for the fighters on the top of the Wall. Lyarra needs to assess the damage in her own ranks ‘Not my ranks, not my brothers’ she chastised herself. She walks to the old elevator, preparing herself for the death toll she is about to discover.

Lyarra Stark is mourning. Ygritte died on her lap.

While she walked around assessing the Watch loses, Lyarra had spotted the red from afar. Ygritte had been laying over the muddy snow with an arrow piercing her chest. Lyarra had moved Ygritte’s head on her lap, caressing her fired kissed hair. They shared some words before Ygritte gave her last breath. Words that will stay in Lyarra’s head forever. Words meant to be shared with a lover, not an enemy ‘She never stopped loving me’ she laments.

“We should have stayed in the cave” Ygritte’s brisk voice invaded Lyarra’s mind, her crooked teeth had shown in a painful smile. Lyarra started crying again at the memory, Ghost curls at her side feeling her human’s emotions. After some moments, someone separated Lyarra from Ygritte’s body and takes her to maester Aemon who manages to make her sleep for a couple of hours.  

Gilly and the others helped Lyarra prepared the funeral pyre like the Freefolk does. Everyone in Castle Black sees her mourning for a free woman, she doesn’t care. Not when she lost another piece of her heart. Hadn’t she lost enough? Her mother, father, and brothers. Many of her Free Sisters, Qhorin and now Ygritte, ‘My first love.

Days pass, the battle continues until both sides are too tired to continue. Soon the Night’s Watch will disappear.  

It’s not too surprising when she is summoned by those who are in charge with the exception of maester Aemon. She arrives at the common hall, everyone that hates her and tolerated her are there. Angry and disgusted with her, she doesn’t give a damn. They call her a traitor, even a turn cloak when she is no brother of them. Not a sister as well. They don’t care, they despise her. They hated the bitch giving orders to their men.

“Death” some shouted.

“Ice cells” others suggested.

“She will parley with her friend Mance” Janos Slynt, the new favorite declared, Thorne smiled at his words. And Lyarra saw clarity in their decision, or so she thinks. Lyarra knows then she must parley for the realm, for her friends, and for the Freefolk. The more people die, the easier the Others will win. She has nothing to lose anyhow, ‘they will kill me either way, Mance or the Crows’.

Thorne gives her the conditions of the treaty, Lyarra argues Mance will probably don’t accept, he shrugs smirking with triumph.

She sneaks out from her friends before dawn makes its appearance. Lyarra leaves Longclaw behind with a drugged Ghost sleeping on her bed and at her direwolf’s side a bunch of letters for everyone she loves. Lyarra chose to betray Ghost cos the direwolf could have read her so easily knowing something was up. Or could have easily known what Lya was thinking, it had been that way ever since the tree touched Lyarra’s forehead in the wolf dream.  

She ignores everything else in her mind, she has a mission to complete.

Lyarra goes to her sure death wearing her armor and her white cloak, the one she obtained in Winterfell, and the same one she modified in the free sister’s Keep. The cloak is a perfect duality of Lyarra’s happiest times. The perfect representation of her only marriage cloak she will wear to marry the North, her home.

She is received by Tormund, they don’t speak much apart from Ygritte, the two share a cask of strong drink to the Archer's name. Lyarra sheds some tears, she never regrets doing so for her ‘For Ygritte.’

She is taken to Mance, who is standing beside the fair Dalla and the stunning Val. The wood witch sisters. Dalla is pale and sweating ‘giving birth’ Lyarra recognizes the look.

“Shewolf” Mance greets standing, chin up with pride, eyes hard.

“King” she answers and nods to the other two with honest respect.

Val glares. Dalla shivers in her own pain.

“What brings you here traitor?” Mance asked oddly amused.

“To do the only thing a traitor can. I search for a parley, a cease in the attacks” she said with seriousness.

“Your idea?” Val laughs with something akin to disgust

“Their idea” she comments with some disgust in her own voice. Just because she accepted gingerly doesn’t mean Lyarra agreed with their reasons.  

Mance reads her reaction well cos he says, “Ah, they send you here to die”

Lyarra smiles with no humor as confirmation to the King Beyond the Wall who smiled back at her.

“What do they offer…” Mance’s question is cut by shouts and warnings from outside the tent. Soon the earth starts trembling softly but steadily, ‘Like a horse’s gallop’ she thinks “A cavalry?” she questions.

“Liar!” Val shouts, Lyarra glares offended.

“No Val,” Mance says alert taking his sword from the scabbard, “She didn’t know, I can see it, besides, the Night’s Watch doesn’t have cavalry”

Lyarra didn’t say a thing, she could have known about a secret attack but Mance like many others think her below treachery or lies, even from being smart. She can play that game, it’s just Lyarra isn’t very good at it.

There is nothing she can say, not when Dalla is screaming in pain, or when Mance is shouting orders to his lieutenants that entered with nervous faces. Lyarra can’t talk when she can hear the horses running all around, ‘a cavalry indeed, from whom?’ Dallas its yelling loudly, Val is focused on her sister, and Mance had just left them to fight against whoever is attacking them. She doesn’t like the sounds from outside so she takes the closest weapon she can find and positions herself in between Dalla and Val.

A soldier enters covered in blood, Lyarra attacks.

It’s not long after she left Castle Black, before Lyarra is back at the Wall. The war against the Freefolk was won thanks to Stannis Baratheon intervention, the self-proclaimed King of Westeros. She was sent where Stannis army placed all the free women and children at Mance’s camp, thinking Lyarra as one of them, probably because they found her defending Val and the currently giving birth Dalla who is in the next room to them. Her screams are loud, too loud.

Lyarra doesn’t care that they confused her as a freewoman, she is in some way one of them after living together and sharing food with the Freefolk for several moons turns. In that time she got to know the side of the Freefolk no one talks about at the south of the Wall. Lyarra observed their human side. They love, fuck, and eat like anyone else. The Freefolk have families and friendships, enemies between them. They have religion and their own education, even art and songs.

They are like us’ she had concluded in deep regret one night after tasting Ygritte’s heat in a daze, just after being eating out by the free woman’s clever mouth.

The guilt and regret Lyarra felt all those moons with the free people was because she knew full well what she was going to do once they reached the Wall, Lyarra felt terrible all the nights Ygritte and her loved each other in their shared furs or after she laughed with the other Freefolk in their party moving to the Wall. Lyarra was deceiving them all the time, ‘They fed me and treat me rather well while a lied, and lied, and lied.’

In the couple of days she spent as a prisoner with the free women, Lyarra was confronted and graciously slapped by the angriest of her free sisters, Fanyr the clothes maker of the bunch, in retaliation for leaving them behind to a sure death in Mance’s hands, “Stupid bitch! I thought you smart! Not a stupid cunt like the rest of us, what the fuck Lya?!” she had yelled, Lyarra only lowered her eyes. Others hug her and cried on her whimpering words full of relief “I thought you dead!”, “Don’t ever leave us like that!”, and many more request Lyarra wasn’t sure she could do something about it. Lyarra’s cloak was wet in tears and snout by the end of that day. Ghost was there as well to Lyarra’s relief, just as Longclaw her gift from the old bear. Gilly with her child’s namesake Samwell Tarly went to Lya’s room and brought both, direwolf and sword to the sister’s new prison. Lyarra cleaned her sword and endured Ghost’s own anger at Lyarra’s actions by making holes in her head with clear words full with resentment <BAD! SAD! TOGETHER!>. She deserved every word, nodding alongside her direwolf’s angry rambling.

Not many hours later on the fifth day, she was called to the King’s presence. .They had finally found out who she is; a bastard from the North, not a free woman from beyond the Wall.

The proclaimed King was unsurprisingly in the King’s Tower. When she entered the room she saw a man with a peculiar bag hanging from his neck a Lady in simpler clothes and big ears, and a woman completely red, from the iris, clothes, lips, and hair. ‘Nothing like the red in Ygritte’s hair’ she thought, not liking the red woman already, at her insistent eyes surveying Lyarra from head to toe.

“You are in the presence of the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms, King Stannis Baratheon the first of his name,” said a woman with the big ears. Lyarra wanted to huff but only kneeled as a peasant should ‘Anyone is royalty these days, only those chosen can be, like my brother Robb’ she thought bitterly with her head lowered as a false sign of respect.

“Your grace,” she said as a Lady is supposed, then she stood up and nodded in acknowledgment to the others when they made their own pleasantries.

“You really are your mother’s daughter” the King commented. Lyarra was satisfied with such comparison to her late mother, but a memory of the past pulled her out from it, another King’s voice said the same once, at a time when her father and brothers were alive.

“And the Stark blood really runs thru your veins as well with those gray eyes and long face, but are you as wild as your aunt?” he asked.

Lyarra was now annoyed at his tone and accusation against her aunt Lyanna. She knows very well why he asked that. There is a popular belief between many nobles that her aunt Lyanna was the one who seduced the prince, and thus never blamed the Prince for succumbing to his lust at capturing her. They only searched faults in women like always, especially in those women that never fitted in their standards.

“Mayhap my King” she answered, keeping her composure as well as she could. Lately, it became hard for her to maintain her emotions in check. Stannis’s face didn’t change at her tone, but his wife Selyse snared at her, “Impertinent bastard” the supposed Queen said before taking her leave at her husband’s request not so later.

“We’ve heard a lot about you Lyarra Snow” Melisandre of Ashai commented when only the four of them were in the room, the woman smiled sweetly at her before continuing, “About how you came here and stirred a mutiny with your beauty only to escape after the commander, your lover, fell dead at your feet by the hand of those you lured. Then how you came back to Castle Black with wildling women at your service. About how you warned the maester about an imminent attack you heard after living with the savages beyond the Wall. And of course, about you leading the men left alive from your folly in the Wall like a lustful enchanter to fight in your name against the real reason the wildling attacked Castel Black, because of you were escaping from a powerful lover, the King Beyond the Wall.”

Lyarra’s wolf blood fired up, howling in her insides. But she didn’t give the red woman what she expected, an uncontrolled screaming girl. Lyarra simply said “Inaccurate but close, just like good lies are for simple minds.[ she smiled sweetly back at her “at the end, you may think what you want my Lady, since a bastard’s words never reach any one who doesn’t want to listen” Lyarra finishes and cursed herself at her words being too blunt, regardless she was filled with satisfaction as well.

Stannis almost smiled at the bastard’s observation. Melisandre did so, but it was a victory smile Lyarra didn’t like.

“Indeed. It seems you are not stupid as many said you were. You see Lyarra Snow, we also have heard the other side of those accusations against you”. Said the red women, smiled widening, probably at the irritation in Lyarra’s face. 

“The sources of that information regarding your time here my Lady Snow, were adequate than the first ones that spoke ill of you” added the men with the bag around his neck, Ser Davos he had been named when the presentation was made.

“Perfect for the heir of Winterfell” the red woman declared, her victory smile stretched in her face.

Lyarra paled ‘they know the truth?’ she was officially feeling something besides drowning sadness.

“Of course, if you accept our proposal” the red mouth intoned sweetly “of claiming Stannis Baratheon as your King to the Lords of the North, so they back up the rightful King in the great war to come.”

Lyarra glared at her, somewhat relieved of her secret staying hidden, “I’m a bastard” she commented offhandedly, pointing out the obvious failure of that plan.

“I will legitimize you of course,” Stannis said with security in a bored tone.

Lyarra refrained from rolling her eyes, she is tired already of acting like a Lady in front of them, and they don’t even see her as such anyway. Lyarra, in general, was tired of everything.

“I don’t accept your proposal, and I won’t in the future, so don’t ask me to consider. And thank you for your offer your grace” she answered bowing her head at Stannis Lyarra was invaded by a sense of relief at their empty prize for her.

‘I am the heir nevertheless, now that my brothers are all dead and my sisters lost’ her eyes watered, she didn’t blink hoping the cold air would dry her eyes, not wanting to cry among strangers with distasteful proposals.

The three frowned in their own way at her denial. Lyarra almost smiled but she would probably never smile again, not with the hole in her chest.

“Why not if I may ask?” said Davos Seaworth curious eyes on her.

“Contrary to popular belief” she began, “not all bastards search to usurper their siblings from what it’s theirs” she answered, avoiding to lie, by saying another thing completely of what was asked. That’s her own way to keep some honesty in her, after betraying her principles and of her House so many times.

She didn’t look at any of them, her eyes were finally watering less and she searched for Ghost’s presence in her mind to calm herself from the exhausting conversation. So Lyarra didn’t see the expressions of the smuggler, the sorceress, and the King. The first was oddly impressed, the second annoyed and the third was a perfect combination of annoyance and respect.

“Nothing will make you consider, isn’t it? You are definitely Ned Stark’s daughter” commented the King, “honor in a bastard” he huffed softly, “only the quiet wolf of the North could manage such thing.”

Lyarra’s jaw tensed at the insulting comment. Nevertheless, she kept silent, waiting for the order to kill her or imprisoning her.

“You may leave,” the King said at last. Lyarra looked back at him sharply a bit surprised.

Ser Davos saw her expression and said “The King is merciful my Lady. Besides, more than one brother of the Night’s Watch spoke in your favor, it wouldn’t be wise for any of us to hurt you.”

Lyarra was surprised at his assurance, never expecting such thing from the King or from the brothers of the Night’s Watch, ‘Most surely was maester Aemon and Sam who gave them some kind of silent warning’ she concluded, knowing no other in Castle Black has the power the old maester has or the last name of a big House in the Reach as Sam does.

She left the King’s Tower, a place she now loathes with a fiery passion because of the past crimes committed there, she remembers exactly where the old bear took his last breath. Lyarra went to the rookery, in order to find out exactly what Aemon and Sam said to aid her. When she made there, Lyarra found all her other stuff gathered in there, avoiding anyone from the new party to stole anything. There she also received the scolding she deserved from her brothers, and very harsh words from the dutiful maester who at the end of his speech hugged her in his relief “You are the second last of your family Lyarra Snow, don’t forget that”.

She teared up a bit in her guilt, never expecting for so many people caring and worrying about her, ‘but of course, they are my family too’ she reminded herself ‘I can’t just give up…but, I am so tired.

After that first day out of her imprisonment, Lyarra fought for the right of her free sisters and the other freewomen, and children, to be fed properly and also to be given some blankets for the cold. She tried to do the same with the freemen but it was in vain.

Lyarra also managed to explain the majority of the Freefolk the situation they were in, and what they should do in order to survive at the hands of the proclaimed King and the majority of the Crows. There was of course backlash from many of them like from her words and warnings just Lyarra expected.

I did my part’ she argued to herself when she heard about some free people trying to escape or that acted violently, which led them to be hanged. Lyarra repeated it inside her head that she had warned them, trying to calm her heart from the ache that grows with each scared face she sees in the ice cells or the few rooms where the sick, pregnant and babes were confined. She did so for the next three weeks with no rest, ‘I’m doing everything I can, I did my part, I did…didn't I?’

During that time Lyarra heard the rumors of the red woman, and the religion she brought from Essos. How she poisoned the King with enchanted words, her ripe body and the magic from the other side of the sea. It wasn’t only the King, is was everyone that follow him, including his wife, who is the biggest believer from them all. Lyarra also heard about how Melisandre of Ashai burns other gods, people who don’t worship her god Rh’llor, and about the red woman’s obsession with King’s blood. And thus, about her clear interest in Mance Rayder or his newborn babe, now, in the care of Val after Dalla died in labor.

Dalla is another death that weights on Lyarra every time she sees the nameless babe babble in Val’s arms. The fair spearwoman grieves for her sister while Mance rejects every offer the King makes to him. If Mance keeps denying the King’s offer, Lyarra is sure the red women will burn him alive, never being able to meet his son.

The brothers of the Night’s Watch in the meantime are trying to choose their new Lord Commander. The voting having been restarted in many occasions or so Grenn complained. If what she remembers from the books Sam read out loud to her are correct, it wasn’t weird for such event to last more than five moons, even years until the Crows choose a new Commander.

Lyarra for the next weeks would concentrate on keeping the peace between the South and the North from the Wall.

If I save them would you forgive me, my love?’ she asked to the sunlight where Lyarra thinks Ygritte is, other times she did the same to the hot coals in the hearth at her room.

Will you rest better if I die instead?’ intrusively her inner voice whispered but Lyarra reminded herself of Ghost, her brothers, and sisters. The blood ones and the chosen ones, ‘I can’t insult their love, not again…’ she scolded her gloomy mind.

Lyarra’s hand stopped caressing Longclaw for an instant, she shook her head, trying to dismiss such ideas. She was currently sitting on the top of the Wall, choosing to concentrate instead on practicing the old tongue while cleaning her dear sword. She really wants to try what she has learned with the giant Wun Wun, Lyarra became really curious in the big man after finding out about his gentle nature but sharp mind, or so Val confessed once after Lyarra helped the blond spearwoman watch over Dalla’s babe.

Will I forgive myself? Does it even matter if I stay alive? They don’t me, not really…’ her thoughts started again. She sighed giving up the old tongue for the moment, and stopped cleaning Longclaw, deciding on practicing some drills in the courtyard before the sun lightens the Wall, ‘None a single person is using it at this hour anyway’ she had found herself lately unable to sleep well. Sometimes not sleeping at all. That’s how Lyarra always found herself walking as long as she could at the top of the Wall or in the courtyard practicing any weapon she had access to. Psychical exercise never failing her to calm her mind.

She practiced until the sun bathed her skin completely, and her muscles were raw from exhaustion, ‘Good morning my love’ she thought at the sight of the light. Fighting uninvited tears Lyarra remembered how Ygritte would shine under the sunlight.

The sun only warmed her cheeks, nothing more.

Lyarra dint wait for the fire kissed archer to answer her, ‘The dead don’t speak, they just roamed and kill’ she bitterly spat while commencing a new drill, trying to exhaust herself to at least sleep some hours before attending her duties of the day.

Ghost whined where she stood, worried at her companion’s behavior and the unhealthy smell of “grieve”, “sadness” and a weird kind of “sickness” that surrounds Lyarra. What worried the direwolf the most was the smell many projected while watching Lyarra. Such scents made Ghost angry and ready to maul anyone wanting to hurt her warg, <PROTECT> the direwolf whined again, preoccupied for her friend, red eyes never leaving the warrior Lady shape.

 

 


 

The Slayer’s first love

 

He sighed at the sight of brown hair and doe eyes. He looked away when the brown orbs landed on him, nervously he walked away.

Gilly is really beautiful’ he thought ‘and so strong and talented’ he testified very sure thinking of her varied set of skills, ‘she is a better warrior than I am’ Sam should feel ashamed at that but he couldn’t, he was too impressed with Gilly. Too enamored by her whole existence.

She is such an amazing mother too… even feeds another woman’s babe!’ Sam gushed with pride at his friend.

He sighed again, walking away from the doe eyed woman. Samwell Tarly for better or worse is in love with Gilly, and doesn’t know what to do with such emotion.

It had been more than five moons turns since he met the free woman with doe eyes, warm smile and babe in arms who she named after him, a pleasant surprise. It had been two moons since he realized what falling for someone felt like. Especially when that someone was one of your new friends.

His best friend Lyarra didn’t help much on the topic after having lost so many loved ones, including her first love, a spearwoman called Ygritte.

Sam at first had been surprised at the fact, mostly at Lyarra’s confidence on telling them about her interest in her same sex, and how she loved the kissed by fire archer. The truth is it really wasn’t too shocking for Sam, not after meeting a few people like Lyarra in the Reach, mostly Loras Tyrell, even Satin, if Sam is honest came to his mind as a good example. There were the dornish people too, who don’t bat an eye to those types of relationships.

Sam never saw a bad thing on loving who you love, probably because his mother had told him about such things after his father declared in his disappointed rage, that Sam was a faggot for not using the sword correctly for the fifth time. Such word, Sam found out is offensive for people like Loras or Lyarra, so at that time, his mother had feared for Sam’s hurt feelings, and talked with him about it, telling him about one of her sisters being like that, and how it was not bad at all. He had assured her, he didn’t share any interest in other men, so the conversation finished at that. Until he inquired more information about it to his mother in his curiosity. Sam even read some books discussing the topic by several maesters. His favorite book was from an anonymous author that explained that love is love, and how many ways people can fall in love. Sam liked that thought. 

But to confess such love to others without any fear of getting a backlash? In a place like Castle Black? That really surprised Sam from Lyarra Snow. It even made him fearful for Lya’s well-being at her careless behavior. Many would want to “correct” her if they heard about it. He told her to keep such information to herself, Satin did as well. She didn’t talk more about it, but Sam isn’t sure if it was because she understood them or not. She had been so distracted and changed, that Sam can’t see what she does or says is real.

The death of those Lyarra loved, had really taken a toll on her whole self, making her less careful and poised to negligence on her behalf.

All of Lya’s crow brothers and free sisters had to check on her every day to make sure she slept or ate. Sometimes even to make her take a bath. It was really hard for all of them to see her decay like that. Sam and Gilly were the ones who began doing so, that’s how they got closer.

Lyarra didn’t pay enough attention to her surroundings as well. Ignoring the thirsty looks of many men and the constant watch Melisandre of Ashai had over Lyarra. At least they could rest tranquil that Lyarra would be safe since she spends almost every hour in company with another person. Whether is Grenn, Pyp, Satin, Ed, Sam or maester Aemon from the Crows. And from the Free Sisters, it was usually Rossi, Gilly, Asterr, and Karny who never left Lyarra alone for too long. Rena and Fanyr did their part but less so. Even the younger ones, Noni and Lola spend many hours with the starry she-wolf. Lyarra also shared her time with Val and Dalla’s babe, as well with some other Freefolk, including the giant Wun Wun to Sam’s fascination.

All of them would have feared the time when Lyarra wonders alone in the night or at dawn if it weren’t because of Ghost’s constant watch over the Snow warrior. Sam and the others agreed the direwolf was worried for Lyarra as well, a fact that didn't set well with them.

The little girls Noni and Lola came one day to their shared meal, it was a day Lyarra had been absent, to tell them about what one of the wood witches had warned them about, something they needed to tell Lyarra, “The direwolf feels the danger of her warg, tell the Snow to be wary of other’s attention on her, to trust the white beast blessed by the Old Gods”.

“Why did she tell you that?” asked Karny to her daughter Lola.

“We asked the same mama, the old wood witch said the gods send her”

“That she dreamt of darkness falling upon Lya” added Noni, Asterr’s daughter, the fear was clear on her ten-year-old self.

All of them in silent agreement increased their efforts on keeping company to Lya as long as they could. But it was hard with their individuals tasks, especially the free women who now had to serve the Watch in the kitchens or the laundry room to their annoyance, “But here we are safe, better here than in the other side of the Wall” argued Gilly to the sisters that complained too much or too loud. Rena, Gilly's mother agreed, and by being the oldest of them, the other sister shut their mouths. Sam still finds himself nervous around the woman, not wanting to offend the mother of his crush.

Sam at the moment was very occupied by the scheme he and Satin were cooking for the greater good of everyone in the Wall; to make maester Aemon the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

It was going to be hard and almost impossible, but they needed to succeed, or Lyarra and the free sisters, that became their own friends in the last moons, were going to be killed, thrown away to the White Walkers or raped, without anyone punishing the culprits. Not that the rapists would leave them alive to tell.

The idea had come from Pyp’s drunken state, where he usually talks and talks of anything and everything, using Grenn’s shoulder for a pillow to Satin’s fascination and Grenn’s ignorance, since he by then, is equally drunk to care for Pyp’s evident liking on using him as a human pillow.

“The old dragon should be the Lord Commander… he is royalty after all… isn’t it Thorne pushing for that sack of shit of Slynt for it just because he is a…what?” rambled Pyp.

“A Lord…and…and…something” acknowledged Grenn, head lolling in obvious need of sleep.

“The commander of the City Watch” Satin’s sing song voice answered.

But Sam, Sam was rambling in his own head. The possibility of maester Aemon being elected as Lord Commander was something he hadn’t consider. And so he asked Satin for his opinion, knowing Grenn and Pyp would not think, or remember anything they talked.

Satin, on the other hand, was smarter than pretty. The two rained ideas to the other of how the maester could win and the benefits from it. They made a plan and promised to follow thru it, after seeing some men leering at some of the free girls. The two feeling sick at it. Only the commander can protect them, they knew. Only maester Aemon will be an honorable Lord Commander, he had proved his worth in the post already.

“Too bad Lya is a woman, she could have been elected” commented Satin one afternoon after they talked with a group of crows about the benefits of having Aemon as their Commander. Where the two conspirators told the group about how Aemon wouldn’t last long because of his age as a Commander, giving everyone time to choose a better commander without having to keep voting every few weeks. They saw how successful the argument was by the lightened up faces of people in the room. The two conspirators left satisfied with their work so far.

“Yes, she would have been elected, but only with some extra help,” Sam said.

“Ha! With her personality totally” said Satin in good humor, Sam agreed with the Old Town boy. Lyarra is a rather serious person and doesn't have a very attractive personality. Neither sweet nor pleasant ‘Not like Gilly’ he dreamily thought ‘Gilly has an amazing personality, just like the flower she was named after’.

Soon after that, the day came for the Night’s Watch to vote again. And somehow Sam and Satin did it. Maester Aemon became the 999 Lord Commander of the Nights Watch. Their victory became clear when the raven of Lord Commander’s Jeor Mormont perched itself on the shoulder of the elderly dragon cawing “Aemon! Ameon! Corn!”

And just like that the title of Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was entrusted to maester Aemon. Whose first commands made sure no one would hurt the Freefolk out of despite or in their prejudice. Then many other commands were made to ensure everyone will be well fed and protected if an attack came from the North side of the Wall.

Many grumbled, and others were shocked. But they followed the old dragon's orders.

‘Would they do so if they knew maester Aemon is a Targaryen?’ Sam analyzed the situation, concluding they wouldn’t. Not when House Lannister is in power. A House that everyone knows are in a huge need to keep such power no matter the cost. And Sam wouldn’t have said a thing anyway, knowing the obsession the red woman has with King’s blood. ‘What better than a dragon's blood, once the prince to the Seven Kingdoms?’

The only command Sam didn’t expect, was the one where Sam would travel to Old Town and become the next maester of Castle Black.

Sam was shocked. Many things invaded him, happiness, sadness, and fear. Mostly though, he was feeling terrible down ‘Gilly and I were getting closer’ he regrets not doing so faster.   

An order is an order, he was the one with Satin’s help, to made Aemon his Commander, how could Sam deny him?

So Samwell Tarly packed his stuff and gave his goodbyes to everyone he cares. It was too fast for his taste, preferring well craft goodbyes but the new Lord Commander insisted on Sam becoming maester quickly, which meant Sam had to leave the Wall before the week ends.

Sam replays the maester’s words in his head as a way of hardening himself to the travel, “I know what you did regarding the voting Samwell, and I understand why. But the truth is, I won’t be alive longer than a few more years. I would be leaving Castle Black without a Lord Commander and more importantly, without a maester suited for the work. There aren’t many out there that are used to the cold and used to the idea of magical things happening around. You, my boy, are perfect for the job and you know that.”

Sam knows Lord Commander Aemon is right. So Samwell got on his horse early in the morn and left Castle Black behind, his friends and the woman he loves. He closed his eyes and remembered his first kiss, the softness of Gilly’s lips on his cheek. How warm that area felt, and the words she gave him.

“Come back soon Sam, take care aye?”

I will Gilly, I swear I will’ Samwell Tarly promised to the snow, the wind and the kiss from Gilly’s lips he still can feel on his skin, ‘I will come back sooner than any other maester has ever done.

Sam advance ahead to his new road and didn’t look back.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14: The Fiery fucking Stag

 

Val saw how the she-wolf trained the little girls Lola and Noni with the long sword. It was funny, endearing, and really sad in Val’s way, ‘Why isn’t she a man?’ she lamented, ‘Why I am not like the She-wolf or Ygritte?’ she sighed knowing she didn’t find other women attractive in that way, her life would be easier if she were like that ‘But no, I had to like cocks’. Val huffed annoyed at herself.

One of the free men passed, making "wanna fuck?" eyes to her, Val sighed again frustrated. The Wood Witch felt the ground shaking dimly then, she turned and saw her good giant friend passing by, ‘Why isn’t Wun Wun my size?’ she thought, ‘he has everything except a cock that won’t kill me.

The free woman was tired and horny. After not having fucked for ages after losing her sex partner to the Wall high altitudes, ‘he had to slipped and crushed his fucking head…’ she huffed once again, but it was too strongly that waked up Dalla’s babe that had been sleeping curled on her chest in one of those stroller things the wet-nurse Gilly girl gave her,

“Ahg fucking shit!” she swore loudly, the babe was already awake anyway.

The little thing had finally fallen asleep!’ Val thought bitterly at her own stupidity. She was lamenting her lack of sex too eagerly even when she knows very well, the babe never sleeps long and is so sensible when he rests, ‘like the fucking she-wolf’ Val recalled. Which has been to Val’s advantage because the Snow takes care of the babe at night when Val needs more than three hours of sleep to keep going.

At first, Val had doubted the She-wolf could take care of the babe. And frankly, the spearwoman was mad at Lyarra for turning her cloak to them. Yet, Val changed her mind little by little after seeing the gray eyed she-wolf helping her people the best she could, even when many of them told her to fuck off in many creative ways.

Still, Lyarra Snow kept trying to help the Freefolk, and at the end, the warg prevailed in convincing many of the free people on behaving in better ways that avoided their early deaths or being abused by the most fuck up Crows. They only had to “act like kneelers”, which actually, not only helps them in keeping their bloody lives but also provides them better food and accommodations, that increased their life hood longer inside the ice cells.

“Just fucking lie, become mummers for fuck's sake you stupid cunts!” the she-wolf had shouted once, her tired eyes filled with frustration “it’s not about kneeling to suck cocks or kissing our asses! It’s about surviving you fucks! Do you want to end like Mance? All cooked out for the fucking Red god? Good! It’s your choice to be fucked in the ass with a burning stick anyway!” Lyarra pointed out to them in a  certain way of speech the warg clearly picked in her time with the Freefolk.

If the She-wolf had known that speaking like them, all aggressive, direct and badly would cause many of the free people to take the she-wolf a bit more seriously, Val is sure Lyarra would have yelled many colorful words from the top of the Wall a long time ago. When Val mentioned that to Tormund the kissed by fire man laughed hard for many minutes, saying he would love to see that before dying, and then offered a quick fuck. Val kicked his knee and left him alone chuckling like an idiot. 

Not many in the South understand that there is nothing more the Freefolk appreciates as greatly than insults and bluntness in their way of speaking. For them, it is more honest than pretty words carefully crafted for others to kiss their stinking asses. The free people don’t like to be lied to on their faces at all, they resolve their shit fast with words or fists. Probably one of the main reasons not many of the Freefolk make it long in life to have their hair naturally whitened ‘but that’s our fucking way’ Val was proud of their stubbornness on being themselves.  

Since that outburst from the She-wolf, it was just a matter of time for many free people to see the results of imitating or acting like southerners, just in the way Lyarra suggested. Many of them started following the she-wolf instructions religiously in order to live in better conditions. It probably also helped that Lyarra kept assisting Val with the babe and that the she-wolf also began learning the old tongue, which Lyarra later, used it to talk with Wun Wun, becoming a close friend with the giant very fast. If Val weren’t so secure with the giant’s affections towards her, Val would have been jealous. She is very protective of her friends and loved ones.

In the eyes of the Freeefolk, not matter the age, it is an impressive and a powerful move, whether the Snow girl knew or not, to have a giant as a friend. Not many befriend giants in their fear or lack of cleverness because contrary to the popular and frankly stupid believe, giants are not stupid at all. In Val’s eyes, they are very smart ‘there is a reason they are one of the oldest races in the world that still breath and shit’ Val concluded early in her relations with Wun Wun’s tribe.

Just a few from the free folk had managed to have good relationships with a giant, like Mance, Tormund, Dalla and Val. But such accomplishment from Lyarra’s part made a great difference in the dynamic between the free people with the She-wolf. There was less hate, and disgust towards the once turn-cloak. The Freefolk were seeing Lyarra, and even some of the Crows in a different light. The fortunate Crows were Satin, Dolorus Edd (who Val found hilarious in his negativity), Grenn, and Pyp. It wasn’t a surprise though, they form part of Lyarra’s inner circle, so they learned how to act with the free people since day one.

What was a real surprise, is how some of the free people had a certain respect for the new Lord Commander, the also maester, Aemon. The old man had certainly won the respect in Val’s opinion. He made some decisions that really helped their people for the best. Because it didn’t matter how many things Lyarra did, it wouldn’t have worked if the Lord Commander Aemon never allowed it.  

She still remembers what the Lord Commander told them after being elected, “the Wall doesn’t bound to the Kings in the South, yes, we need their help and bind them respect, but we don’t take part in their wars. So you won’t either, you are still Freefolk. But that means, like everyone else here, you have to work for your food and to keep the Wall prepare in case the Other’s come for us. The Wall certainly needs all the help it can get, and that can be you.”

The Old Crow was clear, no one eats for free, and if they want to live the Wall has to stand firm against the ice demons, the reason why the Freefolk fled from their land ‘It was colder and harsh as fuck, yet I miss it’ Val claimed, what many of her people felt as well. And her people also knows better than anyone how to survive, so they would work besides the Crows even when most of the time they felt like cracking their skulls open.

What really stuck with them from what Aemon said, was the implication that they don’t have to attend the call of King Stannis, or the “fucking Fiery Stag” like Val uses to refer the man with a face that looks like he has a stick in the wrong position inside his ass. The King and his bitches can irritate Val to death easily. Especially after some of the Crows and Lyarra told Val about the red bitch interest in King’s blood. The real reason she burned Mance alive.

At least he died like the brave and stupid good man he was’

It had pained Val to see it and to hear his screams but for what Lyarra told her, Mance chose the fire instead of letting his child be the one to be burned.

“Since the babe has King’s blood because he is Mance’s heir, the King-beyond-the Wall the red woman suggested the babe be the one sacrificed” Lyarra had explained to Val, who thought it was the dumbest shit ever cos the Kingship beyond the Wall doesn’t work like the South. The Freefolk follow strength, not blood ‘Stupid dickheads Southerners’ she thinks every time she sees anyone from the Fiery Stag’s party. Lately, they have been annoying Val more than ever by calling her the Princess from Beyond the Wall ‘will they burn me alive too?’ she worried ‘who would take care of Dalla’s babe?’.

That title was one of the things which made Val and Lyarra closer as good friends are. Because just like Val, the she-wolf was named the Princess of Winterfell. The two loathe the titles and spit to the King’s offers and shows of power over them. That really led them to drink their annoyance away for many nights, where they would complain about the stag asshole and the red bitch who is always trying to become friends with the two of them. Nothing the red bitch did works with them, ‘Lyarra and I share more than royalty titles. We are hot and stubborn as fuck’ Val chuckled with how true that was, she did so while walking back her prison-room the fiery cunt confided her, she was humming a lullaby to the babe “fall sleep you cute fuck… you really need to rest…” she sang quietly caressing the boy’s head.

Later that week, Val found out the bitch Melissandre of fucking Asshai had made a new move over the she-wolf. A move that Val had really should have seen coming from those unsettling red orbs.

“The fucking red women tried to seduce me!” raged Lyarra Snow walking around the room trying to calm herself, “She even told me…” she hiccupped over her drink, tears gathering over her eyes. Val found it endearing how emotional Lyarra is, and how strong emotions make her cry every time.

“What did the red bitch tell you?” inquired Val, interested in knowing what new fuckery the fiery stag bitch did to her sister, ‘wait… sister?’ Val was surprised at what she named the warg. One thing is to see another as a good friend, but… ‘A sister?’ Val doesn’t know what to think ‘what changed from wanting Lyarra to have a cock to seeing her as a fucking sister?’

Lyarra took her out her head, barking with disgust, “That red bitch told me something Ygritte used to tell me all the time…” Lyarra’s eye watered more and more “She…that fucking bitch used her phrase and I am very sure she tried to do something else. But it clearly failed her… Ghost was uneasy after Melisandre visited us. It was weird and intrusive, and ahgg! I wanted to break her fucking nose all the time she was speaking! I wanted to make her face redder with her own blood.” Lyarra spat, her furious eyes almost silver in anger.

Ah! The famous wolf-blood…’ Val identified with satisfaction, she sure enjoys the beast Lyarra can be. 

“She probably tried to use her magic on you” commented Val. She recalls what her mother and grandmother told her about the people from Asshai, being one of her descendant’s one of them. An immigrant escaping the ominous place.  

“What? Magic?” asked Lyarra somewhat pale.

“Don’t worry, if my suspicions relating the red bitch are true, she is nothing more than a shadow binder and an enchanter with a few magic tricks, but that power only works with men, not women. The people from Asshai are quite close-minded with love matters so...” informed Val to the warg.

“You know a lot about Asshai … in fact you don’t speak like the other Freefolk” observed Lyarra and Val only smirked.

“It took you a while to realized that she-wolf”

“I’ve been…distracted…” Lyarra admitted.

Val frowned, ‘then you are not as lost as we thought’ observed Val, recalling her briefs reunions with her other southerners she speaks with about Lyarra's state of mind.

Just call them friends you stupid cunt’ she chastised herself. Those Crows have really become her friends, good ones? No, and it will probably never be cos it is hard for Val to simply accept them. Her past relations with the Crows made it difficult, having many of her friends perish at a Crow’s hands. Val decided to focus on Lyarra instead.

“Yes you have. Care to tell why?” pointed out Val, trying to get some information on the matter.

Lyarra moved to stand by the window, her face hidden from Val.

“I…I just feel lost, empty and…” Lyarra recited in an almost absent way.

“And?” Val pressed, feeling worried for the she-wolf, not for the first time of course, but it’s different.

Deeper. Mostly because Val recognizes that description. She met people that felt the same Lyarra is feeling ‘and they killed themselves after a while’ she remembers.

Val heard similar declarations and saw behavior similar to Lyarra’s, from the times those people visited her mother and sister Dalla in their attempt to get some help from the ancient line of wood witches, even when the only thing they had was a sick heart filled with sadness and despair.

A knot was forming in her stomach at the sudden realization. Lyarra was acting just like them. ‘I have to tell the others.’ Val proclaimed trying to keep her attention on Lyarra, who was starting to talk again.

“And, I sometimes think about… no, it doesn’t matter” Lyarra bit her lip.

“And?” asked Val again, pressing for an answer, she needs to confirm her foreboding again, not wanting that to be the truth.

“There is a voice in me...” Lyarra shook her head and looked away, hiding her face from Val again. Who for her part was officially preoccupied for the she-wolf. She knows what that voice says too well. All the patients that went to her family told them about that voice that whispers to them: “cut your throat”, “jump”, “stay on the outside, lay on the snow and keep silent, no one will find you”, “kindle a fire, anyone will see it from afar”, “just one rock and the bear will help you”.

“Don’t hear that voice” said Val as relaxed as a drunk spearwoman can be. She talked being careful of not giving anything away, Val is that good at hiding what she really means. She knows she has to be careful with what she tells Lyarra and how she acts around her ‘the stubborn ones and self-critical like this bitch are the worst ones’ Val concluded, knowing it was going to be hard.

“Why?” asked Lyarra, her attention now on Val.

“Because that voice is a sickness. And if you hear that voice, it will be the end of you” Val explained as best as she could, no one knows what it is, but her mother preferred to call it like that, a sickness.

“A sickness? How do you know that? How do you know it’s not me?”

“Because I come from an old Witch family, better known as Wood Witches. So you know people come to us with their illnesses all the time.”

Lyarra nodded, Val continued glad that the warg was following along, “Well, then you can conclude by now that my family had seen the sickness you have in many others.”

“Is…is there a cure?” Lyarra looked at Val with hope.

Val sighed internally in relief, ‘she is not too far gone’ she concluded. Those who weren’t too far were the ones her family managed to save with their special combination of herbs and spiritual cleanses under the Old Gods and the moon presence.

“Yes and no. There are ways to control that voice inside your head. By balancing your troubled soul and with herbs” Val cautioned Lyarra.

“Balance… I know what you mean” said Lyarra, eyes lost in the coals of the hearth.

I know you do Lyarra’ Val thought sadly, that sickness is strong and makes people change in unique ways. It depends on the person how deeply it transforms them.

“Will you let me help you?” asked Val, letting some of her earnest on helping the she-wolf in the tone of her voice.

Lyarra looked at her surprised but smiled “Yes, please. I am already annoyed with that voice” she commented, her tone was funny but her eyes barely shone with the strength Val remembers seeing many moons ago.

The next weeks of Val, were spent in acquiring the herbs she needs for the mixture tea to balance Lyarra’s body. Some of those, she had to go out in expeditions with Grenn and Satin, who after hearing her reasons for going out, had immediately offered to help her. The Lord Commander Aemon gave his permission as well and provided Val with many of the things she needs. He had also requested her for some herbs only the wood witches know where to find. She relented in bringing him some, it was the least she could do for the old man as thanks for all his help and tolerance with some dickheads from her people who still had difficulty to act less violently with the Crows.

The Lord Commander even let her stay where it used to be his quarters. Aemon told Stannis she was needed in the maester’s old place than in a Tower like an intact flowered maiden, Val had laughed merrily at that, since her favorite thing apart from dancing and drinking, is to fuck.

That’s how Val end up sleeping and working where everything related to the healing arts is located in Castle Black.  The old maester visited the place often and taught her many things she didn’t know about healing. Val, once again as thanks to him, attended all the wounded Crows that went to her.

It wasn’t long until she became the one in charge of curing everyone in the Castle. Since it was a hard task with a babe to take care of, she asked the Lord Commander permission on letting other wood witches and healers from the Freefolk to help her. Val had expected rejection, but Commander Aemon only smiled at her gratefully and gave her permission with little problem.

Val would have been annoyed at such obvious manipulation when she finally saw that it was just that what the Old Crow was doing. But Val couldn’t deny his actions were laced with more sincerity on wanting to help than in his desire to make her kneel. So Val let it go in favor of taking care of the sick and more importantly Lyarra Snow, the warg blessed by the old gods. Not that Val will ever admit the she-wolf was her main focus.

During those weeks, Val finally met and bonded with the famous Free Sisters of the she-wolf.

It all began with meeting Rena, Gilly’s mother and one of the first daughter-wife of the sick fucker of Craster, who Val found out was killed by Lyarra and her direwolf ‘fuck yeah she did’ Val knows what the girl is capable of.

“She saved us, she saved little Sam, my only grandson” declared Rena with strong emotion, “Lya trained us and help us around the Keep. She soon became our family” Rena said while they were tending some wounds from a practice gone wrong between Crows and Freefolk, other two healers were there, helping with the bandages and herbs.

“That’s how you survived to the cold ones?” asked Val, curious to know more of such tale she was surprised hadn’t expanded to the other Freefolk yet.

“Aye, we fought until we could no more… many died… but here we are still, the surviving ones made it here because Lya and Ghost were there with us.”

Val was impressed, and once again cursed the destiny at making Lyarra a woman ‘I could be fucking senseless that kind of…’ then she became aware of what she was thinking and lamented the image immediately, ‘ahggg, fuck,’ Val couldn't see Lya as anything more than a sister now, she was disgusted.

Yet, she needs to be honest, if Lyarra had been a man, Val would have stolen him right away, cos if Val finds something attractive, is a fierce and protective man who looks out for others.

In such cruel world, people like that often disappear. Or they die, or their goodness does’ Not everyone is good to others anymore, she knows that as a spearwoman from the North of the Wall, the hardest place to be kind in that way. Maybe that’s why she finds that so attractive.   

After Rena, came the other sisters. The only one Val had met and become friends with before, was with Gilly, who without saying a word and asking for anything, fed Dalla’s babe with care and a mother’s love. Val really was won with that act easily.

Because of how confided she had been by the fiery fucking stag in the beginning, Val only saw a few people in her free moments. Later, when the Lord Commander Aemon came to power, she had been too busy helping her people and taking care of the babe to really have time for meeting others. The Crows she met was mostly because of the rounds they did in the ice cells and their closeness to Lyarra did wonders. So it was the recent developments that are allowing Val to really get to know other people around the castle.

After meeting all the rest of the Free Sisters, Val was somewhat ashamed of not doing so faster. They became fast friends with little problem. And to her surprise, the Free Sisters were good friends with the same Crows Val was friendly with. Soon later, even they became Val’s good friend's thanks to the Free Sister’s influence.

Everything in the tender space of five moon turns.

Dalla my blood, can you believe I have Crows for friends and Craster’s daughters as my confidants just like you were once to me?’ Val asked to the wind moving around her body. The whisper of the wind is where she can hear the Old Gods and her sister speak to her. She inhaled the cold air that it’s mixed with a touch of tree sap, it calmed her mind quickly. That’s one of the things Val adores the most about being a Wood Witch, the closeness she feels with the Old Gods, the elements and the dead ones, her ancestors.

Val sighed where she was resting, thinking on how her forte was that, the green-seeing and the secret rituals. Not the healing arts that had been Dalla’s thing ‘how the fuck did I end in here?

Thankfully, Rena and Commander Aemon helped Val in remembering most basic things she knew from her teachings with her mother and sister. Now, she did almost as well as Dalla.

Thank you for making me attend the healing teachings sister’ she thought, her hand posted on the white bark of one of the nine Weirwood trees. Lyarra and the others were around too. Some were keeping watch only, while the Old God’s followers were communing in silence with nature and the heart trees. 

Some of the few Wood Witches started to hum a song quietly, not wanting the southerners to hear them, but the she-wolf was a warg, the most powerful of the skinchangers, and because her direwolf’s animal senses are attuned with the warg’s enormously, Lyarra was able to hear perfectly the sad tune.

“What are you humming? It sounds beautiful” Lyarra commented, her spark was coming back to her again. The herbs were making their job to Val satisfaction and pride, she hadn’t fucked up.

The wood witches were surprised but sneered at Lyarra nevertheless.

Before they said a thing Val asked Grenn, Satin and the always amusing Dolorus Edd.

“Can you friendly Crows leave us for a couple of hours in here?”

The three were nervous by her request, which is understandable since the Freefolk could only come to the grove with supervision, “To calm the heat of those who hate your guts” informed Pyp, who was the new steward of the Lord Commander “That’s why you need an escort wherever you go outside, even the North side” he had finished with a sorry expression. Val thought it was stupid, her people had fought to enter for fuck's sake, they don’t want to stay where the Others roam. But what could she do? Act up like a child? Val had accepted with irritation.

“I don’t think we can…” started Grenn, the muscled Crow.

“Please?” requested Lyarra with her puppy eyes. Val almost snorted at the clever she-wolf. If it works on Val, it works wonderfully in the weak minded Crows.

The three sighed and made their way back to the Wall before them, they also indicated where the group would reunite to make it look like they never separated in the first place. The other Freefolk around were shocked at it, not expecting their cooperation and privacy.

When the three Crows left, Lyarra looked at the humming Wood Witches.

“So? What was that? A song for the Old Gods?” her voice was full of excitement and deep emotion. Val didn’t know what to think about it, she had never seen Lyarra reacting like that.

“What do you care warg?” asked one of the Wood Witches from the Frostfangs. She is named Morrisey after being born inside the cold sea water of that area from the North.

“Isn’t it obvious? My family, the Starks, have followed the Old Gods for centuries, just like you. But… I was never taught any song to honor the Old Gods because that is what you were humming right?” her tone never wavered from the excitement she showed at the begging.

“Yes, that it was” answered Val instead, a bit tired of the suspicion some of the Freefolk stills holds over Lyarra, ‘hadn’t Lya prove herself already?

“Val!” chastised Morrisey.

“What? Lyarra is not lying, she follows the Old Gods just like the Starks did, is common knowledge they have. Besides, she made blood offers to the Old Gods already, they were successful like you can see” Val almost smirked at the information, knowing the impact it would have.

The Wood Witches and the Freefolk who were following the conversation gasped.

“Lies” sneered Lorna the Wood Witch from the Gorge.

“It’s true.” Started Rena, the oldest of the Free Sisters, “when the Others, attacked us in our Keep, we fought and escaped. But we were hurt deeply, Lyarra the deepest of us all, yet she led us to White Tree telling us how the Weirwood Tree from there would protect us. I didn’t believe in that, but she proved to be on the right. The invisible shadow of the tree kept us protected from the Cold ones. From the moment we arrived there, Lyarra rested over the roots and kneeled with one hand over the white bark while she prayed for our protection. All that time, to my horror, she bled and bled, her wounds were hard to close afterward of how deep some of them were. The blood bathed the roots around her, I saw it, and my daughter did as well, the other sisters too.” Her jaw was tense by the end of her testimony, the memories clearly pain her still.

All the sisters had come with them, so one by one stated the truth of it.

“In fact, to my surprise, Lya kneeled exactly in the same spot where we found her bleeding to death after Ygritte the kissed by fire archer, shot Lya three arrows when Lya lied to her. Lyarra paid for her betrayal and gave her blood to the Old Gods that time as well. I have never seen so much blood tainting the snow” said Karny.

Lyarra shifted uncomfortably with the conversation centering around her and the mention of Ygritte stir memories the starry she-wolf prefers to recall in private, the pain is too much to do so openly. Ghost whined in her silent way and got closer to Lyarra, who smiled gratefully at the direwolf trying to console her.

“She almost died there, but we were on time. If it weren’t because Lya taught us the way of the Old Gods, we wouldn’t have gone there at all, doesn’t it sound like the Old Gods were being grateful of her blood?” Asterr added.

“And if you hadn’t noticed” began Noni in her childish voice “Lya is blessed by the Old Gods!” her chin was high and prideful.

“Aye!” said Lola “Ghost is the proof! Can’t you see? White like the bark and red eyes like the sap” the small girl pointed out and imitated her cousin-sister stance.

Everyone was then, assessing the warg and her white beast with curiosity. The two direwolves were in the moment comforting each other. If Val were asked, she would confess she had thought about it more than once, but when it came from the head of two little girls, somehow it gave so much weight to the observation.

The silence didn’t last long when Morrisey said, “Aye warg, it was a song for the Old Gods, wanna learn?”

Val didn’t expect that, and not the other free people. Val never imagined they would go as far as to teach the songs to someone who isn’t a Wood Witch.

 ‘Maybe they are considering…’ Val gasped “What are you planning Morrisey?” she asked.

“Planning? Nothing really, from what I just heard it would be stupid not to teach her”

“As much as I don’t like the she-wolf, Morrisey is right” relented Lorna, her pretty face looking not so good when she is frowning with hate.

Val was astonished. Something really new was about to happen, she can feel it in her bones. The wind blew around them in that moment, the coldness was such a welcomed caress to Val’s skin, that her mind cleared instantly and Val understood the message her surroundings were trying to give her, ‘Lyarra must learn the ways of the Old Gods, the one the Wood Witches know’, It was so obvious really because Lyarra was born with the talent of skingchanging and warging, ‘Wasshe also born with the green sight? If so…’ Val frankly was getting excited just thinking about it.

“Lyarra” Val said, her tone was serious, “If you choose to learn that song, it has to be because you are planning on becoming a Wood Witch yourself. Which is a very difficult path, one that gives you challenges not many were able to survive.”

Val wasn’t joking, she had a third sister who died in her final test to become a Wood Witch, and she never woke up from a dream. One of Val’s friends failed as well, she bled to death laid at the foot of a Weirwood Tree. But Lyarra had already passed such test without knowing, twice.  When Val heard about that bloody tale the first time, it had been so amazing in Val's opinion that it made Val see Lyarra in a different way. And that had been enough for Val to lower her last defense against Lyarra, letting the she-wolf to become her closest friend and sister in a matter of just the two moon turns.

Now after more turns of the moon, they are best friends.

“All the way in huh? I thought you liked her Val, not that you wanted to kill her” commented Lorna, there was irritation on her tense lips.

“Yes, all the way in. The songs are not meant for anyone common, besides, Lyarra presents the signs don’t you think?”

Lorna and Morrisey nodded, the other Freefolk did the same, accepting the decisions of the ones closest to the Old Gods. They are not stupid too, they can see the she-wolf has potential.

“Well, Lyarra Snow?” asked Val again, her changing eyes over Lyarra’s moody ones.

“I accept” answered Lyarra, the old spark was there, her eyes looked as gray as the day she entered Mance’s tent with Qhorin’s blood in her sword.

That day Lyarra Snow earned the respect of more Freefolk, and the next moons of her teachings and tests would make more of them respect the she-wolf in new ways. Many already did as the warg she is and her friendship with Wun Wun, others did so thanks to Lyarra’s efforts on helping them, and a few because of her fighting skills.

Val on her part was excited more than ever since Lyarra would become her first apprentice, her legacy.

“One day my daughter you will pass the knowledge of our family and your own to another person, and that person will continue your legacy, our legacy. Whether she is your blood or not, so choose wisely my girl, choose someone who the Old Gods with like.” Her mother had told Val when she was younger.

Val had feared she would never find someone good enough, or that she would never have children to pass the knowledge to. But with Lyarra, Val knows she chose well, remembering Lola and Noni’s words. “Yes, Ghost is the proof…” she muttered while preparing a set of bags full of herbs for Lyarra to learn their smell, names, and uses. Val smiled, ‘Mother…I found her, my legacy…’

 


 

Everything was going smoothly until three things happened that affected the balance Val and Lyarra had.

First, the red bitch decided to mention her plans of burning every heart tree she will find, which meant that if the Fiery Stag wins over Lyarra’s ancestral home, the Weirwood Tree at Winterfell will become ash. Lyarra came fuming to her lessons with Val, “I’m gonna kill that bitch” Val had smirked at the comment, liking an angry Lyarra, but not in their lessons. The she-wolf was in her right, of course, cos when she explained all that, Val decided instantly she is going to help Lyarra to cut the red woman’s head off for such impertinence ‘there was a war for cutting them! That red ignorant cunt!

The second thing that became a problem in Val’s easy days, was Princess Shireen Baratheon. The greyscale girl showed her desire on spending more time with them. Val didn’t like the girl’s closeness, not because she is annoying, in fact, the little girl was rather charming in her unamusing way. But the scales over her face were a sign of a death trap waiting to activate, Val knows that very well. She knows the methods to make it sleep, so she can guess the method to wake it up; coldness. And as far as Val is aware, they are still in the fucking North where coldness was the main thing going on.

She made sure to tell her apprentice, who at first got angry at Val’s insensitivity, but when the free woman explained her, the she-wolf turn her fangs towards the Princes in a clever way, making sure her mother, the big eared Queen heard about her daughter socializing with the “dirty savages.” It worked perfectly, the little girl didn’t come back.

“Poor girl…she is so sweet yet dangerous” lamented Lyarra the day after the Princess stopped showing up with the creepiest man Val had ever seen, the fool always sings weird stuff that makes Val too weary of him. She doesn’t understand why the little girl likes him at all.

And the third thing that interrupted her tranquil days with her pupil, was the letters from the called Alystair Dayne, the uncle of the she-wolf Val came to care more than she would have liked.

The problem with such letters, was not their presence since they made Lyarra extremely happy. But the danger of swaying Lyarra away whether from the North or her concentration. 

“House Dayne is my mother’s House. The family from that side has never treated me wrong for being a bastard, even when we haven’t met in person” the she-wolf had explained with red cheeks and sparkling eyes. Lya did so when the first letter came after her uncle finally got news of his niece returning to Castle Black.

Val was happy such man and family cared for her friend, sister, and student, ‘she needs all the family she can get to support and love Lyarra… the more the better.

Lyarra had gotten less gloomy and sad, but the road to leaving her sickness behind was still long and difficult. Regarding Lyarra, that kind of support would help her enormously in Val’s opinion. The Snow has a thing for families in general.

When the second letter came, Lyarra told Val “My uncle asked me to go under his protection, to go live with him and the rest of the family in Starfall…” Lyarra had been smiling sweetly.

She saw the face Val was making, one that expressed her lack of enthusiasm on losing her friend and student, “Oh don’t make that face Val! I told you I would become a Wood Witch, didn’t I? So I told him about how you are teaching me to be one, and about the rest of my friends and chosen family. I did promise to go visit him though after I become a Wood Witch”.

He really cares for her… that Alystair sounds like a good man…for a Southerner that is’ Val consented.

By then she knew a few things about the Dayne’s. They are beautiful with unique features, their House has an ancestral sword called Dawn made from a fallen star, and they are from Dorne, the equivalent of the North beyond the Wall for the South. Val is sure she wouldn’t like to go there, hot weather doesn’t suit her, or so she thinks.

“He says he would like to meet you, the oh so great teacher” Lyarra jested while reading the third letter, Val was pleased to see some jokes coming out from the depressing girl who continued reading, “and he says that he is impressed you are so young for a teacher.” 

Val felt oddly happy with the compliment. Indeed, she was a young teacher and she is also one that is finally passing her family’s teachings to another person, one who is worthy of it.

“I wouldn’t mind meeting your uncle, he sounds like a fine man” Val disclosed in a cautious tone when internally she wondered if he is as handsome as Lyarra.

Val, after more four moons of teaching Lyarra, had come to the conclusion the Stark and Dayne blood flowing in the Snow’s veins it is very pure. Because not only Lyarra Snow is a skinchanger and warg. She had also experienced dreams Val can only compared with the green ones.

Not only that, Val had seen how the trees in the Weirwood Grove react when Lyarra sings and dances for the Old Gods. It’s like their hollowed sappy eyes were following Lya's every move. It was very magical.

It wasn’t like it never happens with other Wood Witches, but when it does it’s a group that it’s dancing, not just one girl, and never a mere student.

Thankfully to Val, Lyarra was rather talented with music and dancing, so the only thing she needed to teach the she-wolf was the songs and the dance steps. Which was one of the test’s for Lyarra to overcome in the next days; a dance in front of the Freefolk during the Yule celebration. Her passing the test will depend on how well she does it and how well the Weirwood trees react to her performance.

The hard test wasn’t going to be that, but what came after, the prediction test. Which consists on a future Wood Witch going to sleep alone in between the roots of a Weirwood tree. In there, she has only that night to have a green dream, and during that time, she has to bleed as much as her body permits her before dying. Basically, Lyarra has to open her third eye.

The truth about that last test is that not many but a few women in many, many years had managed to accomplish the three things; To bleed before their death, to have a green dream and to open their third eye completely.

In Val’s case, she only did the first two, Dalla her sister as well. Their mother though, she did the three. From there comes the fame of their family, because their grandmother did the same, and the one before her. Unfortunately, Dalla and Val didn’t, and every Wood Witch in the North heard about it.

Mother, Dalla, my ancestors… I know my pupil will do it, I know she will

Her family will regain their glory once again, Val knows. Lyarra will become her sister, her witch sister. And thus, a new daughter in her family. 

But first, Val has to convince Lyarra on changing her mind about trying to prove herself to the toughest warriors of the Freefolk; via one on one combat.

Lyarra only needs to finish her teachings as a Wood Witch to gain that respect. The Freefolk has in high respect those close to the Old Gods.

“I can be more than a Wood Witch can’t I? I was a warrior first Val, and that’s how I want to gain their trust, as a warrior.” Lyarra had declared stubbornly a few days ago after being insulted as a mere kneeler who wouldn’t survive a fight with the oldest of the Thenns.

Fool, the moment she starts her folly, every chief will want to prove their strength against the Snow She-wolf, the Warg princess, and the Crow Queen’.

Val huffed at the names, ‘I shouldn’t have given her those names’ regretted Val. Lyarra hadn’t been happy to find out it was Val who spread the names, and Val had laughed then at Lyarra’s indignation. But now, the names played a part in the uncalled fame and attention towards her pupil, which was the reason Lyarra would be challenging the Magnar of Thenn to a duel the next day.

“I better go and check that they won’t try to take advantage of her” Val muttered annoyed.

That’s what she takes for letting the she-wolf to enter her heart. The last thing Val wanted was a new sister, one so reckless that the possibility of losing her was greater than the one Dalla had. A student moves as long as the teacher says, but a sister walks when they want.

No Lyarra is strong, she is overcoming her sickness of the soul and has many who love her, there is no way she dies soon’ Val reassured herself, making her way to the Thenn camp, where she heard the people excitement over a duel.

The Freefolk love duels.  

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: Chasing unicorns

 

He doesn’t know how it works, or when it began, but he has a wolf-like sense of smell.

Because Rickon Stark can smell it perfectly…his prey.

It is close and moving in a slow pace a few meters from where Rickon is hidden. And so it’s Shaggydog too, moving around the other side of the unicorn. Rickon knows his familiar is moving closer and closer to their prey. He can feel it clearly because just like he can smell the unicorn approaching from at least a mile away when concentrated, Rickon Stark can perceive his direwolf anywhere. It’s like feeling his beating heart.

They are one, he is sure, ‘because I’m a warg and Shaggydog is my familiar’.

The prey starts moving faster, the smell gets stronger, the wind is blowing to the direwolves advantage. The unicorn can’t smell and hear as well as them, not many in that forest can.  

Closer… come closer’ he thinks, keeping still as the rock his hiding behind. His muscles are tensing slowly for his attack. His body already knows how to follow his instincts naturally after following the pattern many times before.  

Shaggydog jumps first and after him, Rickon, who releases his unkempt energy in his attack.

Fast! Clean! Vicious! Like a predator…’ he repeats the mantra while stabbing the unicorn’s side many times. The beast shudders and shakes before falling to its side. Rickon falls with the unicorn too, but he is on top of the beast and he is the one alive.

They are victorious. The two howl as one, letting the forest know who they are, what they can do.

Rickon doesn’t even need to warg anymore to hunt and howl perfectly in sync with Shaggydog, or like the locals call his direwolf, “Shadow”. Rickon approves the name, ‘Why didn’t I think about it?’ Rickon chastised himself for not thinking of a cooler name like Nymeria, Ghost or Greywind. After hearing the name the Skagossi gave to his friend he had started considering changing Shaggydog’s name.

I must ask Shaggy about it…it’s his name after all…’ he decides while skinning the unicorn before the pelt gets ruined by the excessive blood flow. Rickon had cut where he shouldn’t have in his excitable attack, making the unicorn bleed too much too fast. It was so that Rickon’s face is covered by the warm substance all around.

He stops for a moment and cleans his hands in order to braid his long hair, not wanting the liquid to wet it and later dry on it. Washing the dry blood from his hair is rather painful just as Rickon has discovered more than once.

The skagossi have a name for Rickon as well. They call him the “Dark Prince” even though his hair is red as the blood on his face, and his eyes are blue as the morning sky. Maybe is because of Shaggydog, or because he mostly sleeps at day and moves at night, or because the majority of his clothes are black, ‘but black it’s the best color to hunt, Osha said so, I have proven so’ he thought stubbornly knowing he was right on using his dark clothes. Of course, he had asked mama Osha about why the skagossi call him Dark Prince, but she always changes the topic to things that interest Rickon too much that he forgets about the Dark Prince title fast enough.

He is no fool though. He noticed.

Maybe she doesn’t want me to think about Winterfell…’ he analyzed ‘that is stupid though… cos I never stop thinking about it… I know I am the Prince of Winterfell just like Bran was before me, I also know he is…’ Rickon bit his lips harshly, his own blood blending with the Unicorn’s blood, ‘I know Bran is the King now after Robb and mother died after being betrayed by so many...’ he forced himself to think about it.

He actually forces himself to repeat those facts many times during the day. He can’t forget it ‘the north remembers’ he thinks, rage wronging inside him exponentially fast, making him wish the unicorn was still alive to practice again and again and again.

“One day for sure…” he muttered, fingers moving around red hair in a practiced way. Rickon learned how to braid hair from Sansa first and then from Mama Osha. He really likes to play with his hair. It calms him just as well as stabbing something does.

When he finished braiding his hair, Rickon resumed cutting the best pieces of meat from the body quickly. Then packed them around with scented leaves to preserve the meat clean and as a first step to spicing it. He arranged the cuts inside his bag carefully around the other things in it. His mouth was watering already at the feast his mama would prepare with the unicorn and the veggies Rickon gathered from the abandoned farms early that afternoon. The vegetables weren’t as great and big as the ones from the active skagossi farmers, but they had complained a lot with Mama Osha about him stealing from them.

They could have told me instead, or stopped me themselves…the fools…’ he scoffed. Rickon hates when people avoid him or speak behind his back ‘if they have a problem with me they should say it to my face…’

He got up and before heading back to his mama Osha, Rickon cleaned his hands and face as well as he could. When he finished, he observed for a moment how lovely the eve was, so very lovely that he was tempted into running back home. But if he really wants to eat mama’s especially delicious soup, he has to make it in time before she decides to cook something else.

So without difficulty, Rickon got on Shaggydog’s back, and inclined his body in such way as to make Shaggy’s movements easier when running.

Soon if Shaggydog doesn’t grow bigger than me, we will have to stop doing this…’ he thought after feeling Shaggy struggle a bit with Rickon’s weight. He didn’t say anything to his familiar knowing it would offend him greatly. The direwolf is very prideful, mostly with how powerful he is.  

“Hey Shaggy…” Rickon started and raises his voice a bit louder so his friend can listen to him better “do you want to be named Shadow instead?” Rickon asked, hoping his friend wants that. The name suits him better than the silly one Rickon choose for him two years ago.

<SHADOW?> the direwolf questioned but nothing more.

Silence was everything Rickon received after that. Shaggydog either ignored him, hated the name or forgot about it. But two miles before they made it to their current home, Shaggydog piped inside Rickon’s head,

<YES>

“Yes, what? Do you like it? DO you want Shadow to be your name?”

<YES> the direwolf repeated.

“Good, I like it too… Shadow…” Rickon smirked very pleased, he really likes that name better.

When they arrived, Osha was waiting for them at their little cabin in the middle of the woods. People say it belonged to a notorious cannibal a long time ago and that only ghosts or other cannibals survive there.

Contrary to popular belief, Skagos isn’t an island for cannibals and savages. They are tougher, blunt and prefer strength over fancy titles but cannibals they aren’t, none of them were, besides the legend whose cabin they live in. The only thing the inland people of the North have said that it's absolutely true about Skagos, is the existence of an abundant influx of unicorns and skinchangers. The island has entire families with many generations of them, at least three for every ten skagossi are one. That’s how Rickon learned a great deal about skingchanging and warging in great depth. The little he had known was thanks to mama Osha.  

Rickon has to admit it was disappointing to know the cannibal's stories were fake. Those were his favorite ones from Old Nan’s tales because of how real and close to happening those were.

The first time Rickon heard about the idea only cannibal’s and ghosts being the only ones able to survive in their cabin, he laughed. His mama Osha did so as well, saying, “Superstitious people are everywhere child, even the Freefolk are like that…with good reasons though…” she had looked lost in another world when she had told him that. She often gets lost like that when talking about her life on the other side of the Wall.

Will Bran be like that when he comes back?’ he wondered ‘Is Lya like that now?’ he asked himself.

Bran and he had heard the rumors of their older sister being at the Wall, after she escaped, but the constant blizzards and snow storms made it hard for anyone in their family to really inquired about such news via raven.

Besides, at that time, they had been preoccupied with other things, deathly things. First the arrest and death of their father, then the five king war.

When they escaped from the treasonous hands of Theon Greyjoy, their plan had been to go hide with Lya at the Wall, but Osha didn’t want to go back there murmuring how crazy and dangerous it was. Mama Osha had also pointed out that the news they got about Lyarra were older than half a year.

“No way a Lady can survive in there” she had declared.

Bran and Rickon had rolled their eyes and scoffed at her words in an instant.

“Our sister is a Lady and a warrior” Bran had proclaimed using his Lord voice.

“A fierce one! A great warrior!” Rickon had shouted with pride.

He still feels proud. Especially after hearing news about his older sister being alive at the Wall stirring conflict like the direwolf she is. Apparently, she survived two wars that had broken there. First a mutiny, then one against the army of Freefolk moving under Mance Rayder’s name, The King-beyond-the-Wall.

“A brave fool” Osha had commented one night after they ate their supper under the starry sky, “he united thousands and thousands of the Freefolk to save them… Ha! I am even sure that to save your forsaken realm too” she had chuckled at her own words.

Rickon thinks she’s right in what she said. He knows by now a great deal about the Other; the White Walkers and their army of wights.

He knows a lot in fact, about the other side of the Wall thanks to his mama Osha. At the beginning of their trip, he had been a bit nervous about asking her about her life there, but when he finally asked, she had laughed at his hesitation and the reasons behind it.

“Little Prince, I don’t want to go back to the Wall or the other side cos death is too close, hell! Death walks there! But it’s not because I hate it” Osha had explained.

After such, he made it a custom to ask her everything questions that came to his mind about the other side of the Wall. She even started teaching him the basic things every child from that side of the Wall learns. That includes how to hunt, survive in the cold, fight and talk.

“I don’t want to kill you with such wild fighting, so combine what little you learned about how your people fight and mix it with what I’ll teach you alright?” she made sure he understood that.

And that, he did as told. Maybe that’s why his fighting style is so wild and inconsistent. He likes it though, it’s just like him and Shadow.

She had also acquired some books and things like that for Rickon to keep with his studies. But Rickon can’t read that well and she can’t at all. So he hasn’t advance like he should at his age. Yet, he can defend himself with was he remembers. His memory is very good.

Probably the reason why he leans so fast. He can even speak the old tongue as well as the common.

He is eight already, soon to be nine. And if the Crown, the Lannister, the Freys, and the Boltons hadn’t betrayed his family, he would have been receiving an extended education on how to be a Lord of Winterfell just like his older brothers did.

“I don’t want my children to suffer what I did when my older brother died…” Rickon had heard his father said once. The boy had been hiding from Arya in his father’s study behind the big silver curtains. She never managed to find him when Rickon hid there when playing hide and seek. So he had opted to do so again that day. Rickon didn’t hear more apart from that declaration since he ended up falling sleep there curled around a puppy Shadow.

That time was one of the many scares Rickon provoked to their Lady Mother. He did so, thanks to his ability to sleep anywhere at any time. That’s how he managed to make it this far North under a pretty bad weather. He had just simply closed his eyes and slept easily with no stress even when snow was falling above his head. Osha and Shadow, had been the biggest reason why he is still alive of course. His fierceness helped a lot too, or so mama Osha said so. But such fierceness would have died if Rickon hadn’t been able to rest.  

Said woman, was currently seating outside on the steps leading to the cabin. She has wood and her favorite knife in hand. She is making a new spear like always. Mama Osha enjoys carving a lot, whether is a figurine or weapons. Rickon loves it, that’s how he got so many toys and new weapons to use.

“The two of you actually made it on time” Osha approved.

“Aye mama, we brought food and news,” he said, already taking the bag from around his chest and giving it away to the callused hands of his mama. She took the bag and inspected the contents of it.

“Hmmm… Did ya still this veggies boy? Cos the Skagossi are mad at us still…” she asked arching her hairy brow.

“No! I found them from the abandoned farms!” he defended himself. He decided to change the topic about his past mischiefs “and the news is that Shaggydog is not Shaggydog no more. He is Shadow now!” he declared excited. And Shadow on cue howled.

“Oh, ho-ho. The name the Skagossi gave him? It suits him of course, but why?” Osha looked at them amused, mostly at Shadow. She never gets tired of his behavior not so normal for an animal.

“Because Shaggydog was a name I gave him without asking, that it was childish and like you said, it suit’s him. Besides, Shadow likes it too! I asked him and he agreed”

Osha chuckled, “Very well son of mine, from another woman” she was smirking now, “help me prepare everything to make the soup it so happens I can cook with these ingredients” she finished, a knowing expression on her face.

After they cooked and ate the most delicious soup Rickon has ever eaten. Osha got close to him, her eyes were hard and that was enough for Rickon to know he had fucked up again.

“What?” he asked dubiously and angry. He is always angry though.

“What do you mean what? I heard how Shadow and you beat up the fisherman’s sons bloody for a stupid thing…again”

“It wasn’t stupid! They called Robb the headless bitch and Sansa the Lion’s whore! They even…they even called mother the Wolf fucker” he spit out the insults he has heard too many times, “and that always comes from ignorant cunts and pieces of shit weaklings who piss themselves when I have them from the neck…” he muttered angrily, his eyes were full of hate and an enormous desire to hunt again ‘I didn’t even kill them…like I wanted…’ he thought bitter at how gutless they were, again talking shit about him the moment he turns his back.

Osha heard and observe her adopted child in silence. He was rambling under his breath again under the influence of his boiling wolf blood no doubt. He always mutters and rambles whatever shit comes to mind when all the negative shit he has lived stirs inside him like a pack of feral wolfs. The boy is wild and angry as fuck, no one can’t deny that, not even her.

She sighed, ‘if he weren’t a Stark, a strong skinchanger… maybe they wouldn’t let him leave this long for all the shit he does…’

Rickon attitude was too aggressive and wild. Perfect for a Freechild. But the little Prince or the Dark Prince as the skagossi call him is not a Freechild. He has to act better, civilized. Or so the Lord of Skagos told her a few moons back, after Rickon almost gut a merchant who was talking shit of the little Prince’s family.

Things similar like those keep happening all the time when Rickon was around other people. And the skagossi are really tired of it already. There hasn’t been a week without someone coming to give her shit about it.

Who would have thought I will be glad Rickon is a Lording…or that I would have to remember him how to be a courteous and civilized prick?’ but she really is glad. Otherwise, she would be mourning a child she never imagined to have and love. For better or worse she became his second mother, a proud one.

He might be savage and feral many times. But he’s also a caring, protective and strong son. Just what she would have expected from a son of hers, from a survivor of the North.

He would have become a chief of his own clan if we were with the Freefolk…’ she is sure of that. Cos the Freefolk values strength and fierceness a lot. And that pours out from Rickon in enormous quantifies all the time. He is like the deepest lake, full of water to the brim. So when it rains or snows, everything around it floods.

“Is that so?” she asked, “did you cut them? Bite them? Or Shaggy… Shadow did it?”

Her son scoffed, the kid does that a lot “Hell no! I do my own bidding, cos the man who passes the sentence must swing the sword!” his eyes were shining in conviction “And no, I didn’t gut, cut, bit anyone, nor Shadow. I used my knuckles and a few kicks instead…I even made one of them rotate in the air just like you taught me” he smirked and so did she without her permission.

‘This damn kid making me feel proud’ she huffed and ruffled his stray bangs, trying not to disturb his pretty braid.

“Don’t do it again. Avoid them at all cost. Remember their words mean shit. You know that” she told him sternly, not giving him the opportunity to make her smirk again.

He growled, she growled back and Shadow ignored them.

Rickon broke laughing first “Alright…I will try…” he said with his blue eyes looking anywhere but her.

“Rickon Stark” she used his name in a tone he knows very well, her “I am your mother” tone. He looked at her then.

“I’ll try my best to ignore them and to not kick their asses” he promised, pain and annoyance were evident in his tone. The sure kid hates to be commanded in general, but to be told not to throw a feast when he thinks is just? That was just horrible for him.

She smiled tenderly at Rickon, another thing Osha never imagine doing. Not at least with a lording, son of a Lady and the brother of Kings, and most of all, not to a Stark.

“Don’t do that…” he groaned, her smile grew and hi groaned more. She broke into a laugh before moving far from him to wash the dishes, instead of doing what she really wanted to do.

To hug him lovingly. Sadly, Rickon can’t manage such things, not yet.

When tenderness and loving acts were thrown at him the kid runs away in fear. And she knows why.

He fears to love too deep only to lose it again…’ So Osha gives him that space, even when it pains her to do so.

She made her best with the child but doesn’t know what else to do. Not when hugs and caring expressions grossed and scared him. ‘No free child acts like that… only stray ones do…or the lost ones…’ she thought worried.

“I will go running with Shadow” informed Rickon, already half closing the door after him.

“Don’t spend all the night out you brat!” she shouted, knowing he heard her very well. His power as a warg was big enough that his senses were honed as a direwolf.

That was another thing that maintains thirsty mad Skagossi on taking petty revenge upon Rickon. They respect skinchangers, the Old Gods and Wargs greatly. And Rickon was one of the strongest wargs they have seen in years. Shadow was the proof, and so it is their communication. Cos not many are bonded with direwolves and only two cases they know of skinchangers that could hear their animal’s thoughts.

My brat is right tho…spineless dickheads who cannot take a punch after giving one first…’

Rickon, of course, stayed all night outside. One command was enough for a day…or night to him. He had stayed in one of his favorite spots in the woods.

The Sapling Weirwood.

The little Weirwood is only little compared to the other older trees around it and also compared to the other Weirwood trees Rickon has seen. But it’s height was relatively good and grows very fast each week. It also has some roots big enough for Rickon to rest in them.  

He was currently cleaning Shadow’s pelt with some melted snow. Whilst doing so, he rambled in a poised mantra:

“I am the Dark Prince and you are my Shadow” Rickon muttered, “We are the black direwolves from Winterfell… The wildlings from Skagos, and the ones who will rip the Boltons apart” the last part came always with an urgent bloodthirst.

The former Shaggydow, only stood still, enjoying being groomed and the heat his human emanates from his fingers. But the heat is different from the one living creature has, is the heat that shows how strong he is.

<MINE> he thinks proudly. Rickon Stark is a direwolf just like him. An angry one, in search of revenge for a sister and brother he has lost. A pack separated by the hands of other’s not worthy of them.

<DARK PRINCE-SHADOW> the direwolf repeated the names very satisfied with them while Rickon’s fingers kept cleaning the dirt off him.

Warg and familiar curled together for hours, planning and thinking about the day they would show anyone, how strong their pack is.

How strong direwolves are, and what happens when you mess with them.