095. I knew you were coming.
Lyanna has always imagined a more glamorous death for herself.
It is foolish – a child’s dream, really, and she is no child, not anymore, but she has always imagined falling in a blaze of glory, sometime long from now, when she is old and tired and does not want to fight anymore, anyway. She would greet death with open arms then, and they would sing songs of her, Lyanna the Bold, Lyanna the Brave. A lady knight, something new and exciting – she never wanted to be a true lady, she never wanted to wear a wreath of roses. She’s always loved flowers, but she loves them as she races by them on the back of her horse or on her own bare feet, a whirlwind of colors out of the corner of her eye, all reds and blues and violets and oranges and greens, as far as the eye can see. Roses, she thinks, make poor crowns – they are far too fragile, roses and crowns both.
After all that, everything she has wanted and tried to be, in the end she, too, is fragile, it would seem. A man’s heart does not replace a woman’s body and a woman’s toils and pains, and hadn’t her father always tried to tell her that? Hadn’t she refused to listen to him? Did he think of that, before he died, had he wished that she had but listened more often? Did Brandon curse her name with his final breath, for she had killed them both, killed them all?
When she sees them next, as she must believe she will, she will beg their forgiveness for her folly and will only hope that they shall accept it. She will be young again, for she is young yet but feels old beyond her years, an old woman with heavy limbs and a heavier heart, and they shall love her once more as they did in her childhood. But, she will assure them, she is much grown in her heart now, and she knows better of the world, and would never make such poor whirlwind decisions again.
(Brandon would laugh, she thinks, and challenge her at that, claim she shall always be a whirlwind, and she would laugh with him and twirl with him hand-clasped, two whirls on the wind together.)
Perhaps they shall still sing of her, but now it shall be of Lyanna the Liar, Lyanna the Lost, lying in a bed as her life ebbs away. It almost does not hurt anymore, it is merely a steady throb between her legs, a stickiness on the sheets, the pillow sticking to her sweat-slicked cheek when she turns her face to the window as exhaustion thrums through her bones. Outside the sun streams weakly into the window and barely brushes her lashes, and she thinks how nice it would be if she were a bird and not a wolf, and she could fly away into the vast blueness. Dragons fly, too, she remembers, but she does not want to be a dragon, heavy and full of ire and flames. No, she decides, a bird, a dove, a raven, a canary, something light where the air will catch with ease beneath her wings and carry her higher and higher and away.
Beside her the babe cries, and she wishes she could comfort him, hold him and rock him in her arms, sing him a song that Old Nan sang to her in her own youth. She wishes she could raise sword and shield to defend him, against Robert, against the royals, against the hand of death itself if need be. She wishes again that she were a bird, that she could fly away and take him with her, tucked safely to her breast.
She wishes, in the end, that she was half as strong as she had always fancied herself to be.
Instead she hums, quietly, through lips chapped and cracked from weeping and screaming as she had felt herself torn into pieces, and for a moment he quiets, looks at her with those big grey eyes that are her and Brandon and Ned and Benjen and Father and Winterfell and home. He is a Stark, she thinks, a Stark and he belongs to her, not to prophecy or fate, and a part of her wonders, bitterly, if he would have wished this in the end, before he himself fell and it no longer mattered. Perhaps he thought to remember her so sweetly and speak of her with reverence, but secretly hoped the birth would be too much and she would not be around to raise a fuss about a son that is more hers than his, more human child than vehicle of destiny.
She floats between sleep and wake, and she sees Father, burning, she sees Brandon, choking, she sees Ned at the helm of an army, she sees Benjen alone, the last of them. She floats above her body and she watches below as she runs through the godswood of Winterfell, the leaves red, red as blood, fire and blood and red, so much red. She plunges into the pool of the hot spring, and the warmth swallows her whole, until she climbs out and she is cold, so very, very cold, as the winter wind blows and nips at her nose and ankles and pulls her under its snowy depths. Above where she lies deep below in the frigidness, Benjen practices with his wooden sword, but it is steel upon steel she hears, clashing and scraping, and she looks up through the snow to see Benjen become Ned become Brandon become Father become Benjen again.
Help me, she opens her mouth to implore, but there is snow in her mouth, choking her, freezing her from the inside out, snow a hundred feet deep – hadn’t that been as Old Nan said, hadn’t she thought it just a silly tale?
The door creaks open and as she turns her head, Lyanna thinks feverishly that perhaps her father had been wrong, perhaps all the Starks have been wrong and the strange southron gods are the true gods. For the shadowy figure in front of her, swathed in darkness and caked in mud and blood, tall enough to block the light that tries to pour into the room so that he is all that she sees - he must be the Stranger they speak of with such fear. Perhaps it is because she worships them not, but she does not fear him, and she smiles.
“I knew you would come,” she says to death (to the final winter, to the winter of always), and Ned takes off his helm and blinks blood from his eyes.