Lyanna draws him close, resting her head on Domeric’s shoulder. She has been unusually quiet today, saying almost nothing as they ride together on his father’s lands on purloined horses, keeping just ahead of him so that he cannot catch her eye or lull her into a conversation. He’s used to such moods; after all, she isn’t one to weep girlish tears when something is troubling her, but holds it fast, brooding on a slight until it’s coaxed out of her.
This is such a time, but this is no slight. Her eyes are dry as she speaks, but there is an uncomfortable twist to her lips.
“I’m to be married. You might as well know.”
He doesn’t react, save a sharp intake of breath. Father has raised him to hold emotions close, lest he be undone by them, but Domeric is not able to control the edge to his voice when he is able to speak.
“How long have you known?” He tries to be cold like Father when one of the smallfolk, precious few, who come begging succor at the Dreadfort, has overstepped his bounds, or controlled like Mother when she chastises a servant, but all that comes out is surprise and hurt.
“Months,” she says, eyes downcast, unable to look him in the face. “I couldn’t speak of it. I couldn’t even think of it. If you only knew-”
Domeric pulls back from her, and is almost pleased to see the pain in Lyanna’s eyes as he does. “You’ve been lying to me, all this time. Promising me things, saying you loved me, and all this time, you had no intention of,” but he is unable to continue that thought. He bites his lip and will always regret what comes next. “I should not have expected much more from a Stark.”
It is then that he sees her cry at last, a tear streaming down her cheek, only one. But it is enough. She looks at him at last. “I don’t even know him. I don’t love him, not like-”
Domeric interrupts, standing. “I have heard enough. I will not be made a fool of further.” He is surprised, in that moment, at how dead he sounds, how weary. How much like his father.
When he turns his horse homeward, he does not look back. He will not see the girl he loved crumpled on the forest floor, head in her hands, weeping at her own self-delusion, at the hurt she’s given him, and at how sharply he’s wounded her. As he rides, his mother’s voice is in his ear, bitter yet somehow right.
Do you seriously think that Stark would wed his only daughter to you? You’d do better to set your cap a bit lower. They’re far too good for the likes of us.
And later, to Father, when she didn’t think that he was listening.
I will not have my son used like chattel by one of those people, not after what Barbrey-
But Father had hushed her, pressing her hand in his until an agonized look had crossed Mother’s face, and she broke down, sobbing, pulling away. He had fled then, unable to bear a parent’s secret grief, knowing that what he’d half-overheard was not meant for his ears, and feeling a twinge of guilt about his mother’s lack of circumspection. Aunt Barbrey had practically raised him, and it felt almost disloyal to know of something he was sure that she kept locked away, though he could guess at what it might be. And he could, perhaps, understand.
He says little at dinner, and retires early, Lyanna’s protests still in his ears. Unsure of what to do with himself, Domeric sits upright, burning candle after candle, writing one aborted letter after another, crumpling them all, casting them into the fire as the sun’s rays begin to break through the casement. He is troubled, a sickening feeling in his stomach, but it is slightly less painful than what he’d felt the day previous. Yet it will remain constant.
Lyanna is betrothed to Robert Baratheon. When Domeric and his mother hear of the end of her, the war is over, and it is from his father’s own lips. Although Lord Bolton had not been sent so far south as Dorne in the war, every one of Ned Stark’s men knew what happened there, at least guessed at it. Domeric at first does not believe it, thinking it a lie, a rumor, a cruel joke. Of course, it is not. He allows himself to cry for her that night, locking his rooms, and pressing his face to the mattress to stifle his grief.
He thinks about Lyanna on the forest floor then, stifling her sobs as he rides away and mourns for her sincerely.
Mother wraps him in her arms the next morning when she sees his eyes, red from crying and lack of sleep. She says nothing, but presses her lips to his forehead as she did when he was but a boy.
Domeric is lost, adrift. He doesn’t care for the yard and his sword, or his harp, or his books, and all sit silent or gather dust. When Father mentions a marriage arrangement with the Mormonts, he does not protest. He barely acknowledges that he’s heard. He certainly doesn’t care.
But he begins to think of what little his Aunt Barbrey told him of his father’s natural son, Ramsay, the miller’s boy. He’d of course sworn never to mention this to his parents, but the more he contemplates this faceless half-brother, the more he’s intrigued. It’s really the first thing in a long while that’s made him feel anything aside from sorrow.
He approaches Father at breakfast some weeks later and declares his intention to ride south, in search of his half-brother. It is something; it will suit. It will take him away from his muted sorrow, his apathy.
Father frowns. He rarely protests any of Domeric’s intentions, but he can see the disapproval writ in the way that he shakes his head. “You will not like what you find, I fear,” he says, but Domeric does not pay heed to the half-hearted protestation.
He turns to his mother, who looks murderous. “You would seek out that bastard,” she says softly, her eyes uncomfortably trained on Father, but there is pain there, not malice. Mother’s voice trails off, and she only looks pleadingly at him.
“He is my brother,” Domeric says, but his words echo weakly in the hall, and he falters. “I should know him. I want to know him. I don’t understand why you so object.”
Father only stares at him. Domeric has never gone against anything that his parents have said before; he has always been gentle, obedient, and biddable. But this time, he cannot stop himself, no matter how much the words pain his mother, or anger his father.
“A fool’s errand,” Father says softly then.
“I will go,” he says at last. “I am a man grown, and not a child.”
“Very well then,” Father says, and Mother stifles a sob at what comes next. “Do as you must, but mark me, you will regret it.”
Domeric only stares balefully at him as he leaves, and hears faintly, what comes next.
“Why don’t you stop him? He’s just a boy.”
“He is a man grown who knows better than his father.”
“Barely a man grown. Go after him, I beg of you.”
“I have heard enough, Beth. I wash my hands of it. All of it.”
And so he goes.