Promise me, Ned...
With those words Lyanna Stark departed this life, leaving her brother with only secrets, regrets, and her newly born daughter.
Ned cast about for something to swaddle the babe in. He needed to find a wet nurse, needed to swear Howland Reed to secrecy. He didn't think any further than that, he couldn't.
They found a wet nurse at Starfall. Wylla, she was called. She had been nursing the Dayne heir but he was all but weaned. She had milk enough, she said.
"Does she have a name, my lord?"
Lyanna, Ned wanted to say, but that was a name that would attract unwanted attention.
He had searched the girl's face for any trace of her Targaryen heritage in her features and had found nothing, but Ned was not yet a father and all infants looked alike to him.
"Snow," Ned answered. Lyanna Stark's daughter by Prince Rhaegar would be at the mercy of Targaryen loyalists and Robert's unpredictable grief, but no one was like to pay too much attention to the bastard daughter of the younger son of a Northern house. "Her name is Jeyne Snow."
It wasn't until later that Ned remembered that he was no longer the younger son of Lord Rickard; he was Warden of the North, the Stark in Winterfell.
Ned was wary of stopping at King's Landing. He had never been a good liar and Robert had known him a long time.
Jeyne must have sensed his discomfort because she started fussing and crying, this from a child who'd been described as unusually quiet by almost every woman she'd met in her short life.
Ned had almost decided to trust Robert with the truth. He was a good man and he had loved Lyanna truly. Surely he would love Jeyne as Ned did, as all they had left of her mother.
Upon arriving at the Red Keep the first person they met was Tywin Lannister. A man honoured for ending the war, soon to be the new king's good-father. The man who had laid the bloody bodies of Rhaegar's children before the Iron Throne.
Promise me, Ned...
Ned steeled himself. He would just have to become a good liar.
In the end, Robert was deep in his cups and roaring at anyone who dared mention his upcoming wedding to Cersei Lannister. His only acknowledgement of Jeyne was when he slapped Ned across the shoulders and said, "I didn't know you had it in you."
In his absence Ned's wife had borne him a son. Robb, named for the friend Ned had marched to war with. A thoughtful gesture, and a good name for a handsome child.
Ned found himself comparing Robb's wispy red curls and curious blue eyes with Jeyne's head of dark hair and unblinking grey gaze. It was difficult to believe that only a few moons ago he'd thought all infants looked the same.
When Catelyn first heard Jeyne's cries her jaw clenched and she bundled up Robb and took him from Ned's arms. Ned's heart clenched, and not just from the absence of his son, but because he'd caused Catelyn pain. He was going to love his wife, he'd decided.
Love doesn't work like that, little brother, said Brandon's voice in his head.
It does for Ned. He'd decided that he was going to love Lyanna's daughter as his own, and he does. He's decided to love Catelyn Tully Stark, and he will.
Ned heard Lyanna's voice sometimes too, but she always said the same thing.
Promise me, Ned...
Cat was kinder to Jeyne than she had to be, if not as kind as Ned might wish.
And why wouldn't she be? A bastard son might have been considered a threat to Robb or his inheritance, a bastard girl was no threat to anyone.
Catelyn had become Cat to him with the arrival of Sansa, and later of baby Arya. But the fact of Jeyne still lay between them like a knife. Every time Cat's belly swelled Ned could feel the truth trying to claw its way up his throat, but he must remain strong.
Cat was kinder than she had to be, if not as kind as Ned might wish. But if she knew the truth of Jeyne's parentage she would remember how fiercely Brandon had loved Lyanna, she'd remember the fate of Elia's children, and she would soften. People might begin to wonder why the proud lady of Winterfell treated her husband's bastard almost as one of her own.
No, for Jeyne's own sake it must appear that she stayed at Winterfell under her stepmother's sufferance.
Jeyne grew into a quiet, solemn child. Not sad, exactly, but not predisposed to smile or laugh. In fact the only person who could reliably reduce her to giggles was her Uncle Benjen.
This pleased Ned. Lyanna had been fond of her youngest brother too, she'd delighted in teasing him and dragging him into japes and tricks.
Once, after Benjen had visited from the Wall, Jeyne had taken Ned's hand and swung from his arm, a favoured trick of Sansa's when she'd been very small.
"Father, when I'm bigger I'm going to take the black."
Ned laughed and swung Jeyne into the air, surprising himself with how big and heavy she'd gotten while he had been away putting down the Greyjoy rebellion.
Bran had arrived, after a difficult labour that had nearly killed both mother and babe, when Maester Luwin approached Ned about Jeyne.
"The girl still speaks of taking the black, my lord."
Ned had sighed. "I'll speak with her."
In the end he didn't have to. Sansa, her mother's daughter in every way, even down to the occasional pangs of pity for the bastard girl, offered to sing Jeyne a song she knew about the Nights Watch.
Sansa meant no harm, she was too young to properly understand the story of Brave Danny Flint. Jeyne understood well enough though. Everyone said that bastards grew up faster than other children.
Jeyne wasn't particularly close to the oldest of her siblings, but she was very fond of Bran and Arya.
Robb was a good lad, earnest and dutiful, and Ned couldn't be prouder to have him for an heir. He didn't doubt that Robb loved his sisters, all three of them, and that if anyone threatened them he would be as quick with a blade and an angry word as any older brother would.
But Robb was training with sword and lance, he was learning the art of lordship from over his father's shoulder, he idolised Theon Greyjoy. He loved his sisters and he honoured them, but he had no real time for them.
Ned wished he could find the words to tell Robb that he'd once had a sister who he'd loved and honoured, and he hadn't realised how little he truly understood her until it was too late and he was standing in a room that smelled of blood and roses.
And there was simply no room for Jeyne in Sansa's world. There were no bastard girls in the songs and stories that she so loved, there was the occasional bastard boy who turned out to be a prince in disguise, but no daughters.
One day soon Sansa's head would have to be brought down out of the clouds, but not yet. There was time still for her parents to enjoy her innocence.
Brandon had been a man easy to love, and his namesake shared that trait. If, Ned thought wryly, Bran was perhaps gentler natured than Brandon had been at the same age.
Often Ned came across Jeyne staring up at whatever building Bran had most recently scaled.
"He never falls," she'd tell Ned with a smile. "He never falls."
Arya and Jeyne were very similar in their features. Arya was perhaps wilder, quicker to anger and quicker to laugh. More like Lyanna, if Ned were being honest.
Ned knew that Prince Rhaegar had been a melancholy man, and he wondered if this aspect of Jeyne's character was her father coming through or if it was merely that despite Ned's best efforts she didn't feel that Winterfell was truly her place.
Ned came across Jeyne in the Godswood, watching over Bran and Arya as they swiped at each other with sticks.
"What are they playing at?"
"Knights & Knights," Jeyne answered.
"Ah, I don't think they had that one when I was a lad."
"It started as Knights & Ladies, but neither of them would be the lady."
There was a wistfulness in Jeyne's face as she watched Bran and Arya roughhouse, and Ned wondered if she, like him, wished she'd had a similar sort of relationship with Robb.
Ned knew he'd been harder on Jeyne than he had on Sansa and Arya, but it was for her own sake. Arya's last name was Stark and that would offer her some protection if ever her brothers or makeshift sword failed her, Jeyne didn't have even that flimsy shield.
"Lord Karstark has offered--" Cat began.
"Aye, I know what Lord Karstark has offered," interrupted Ned.
One of his younger sons for Jeyne, and this after Ned had already refused him Sansa and Arya. Karstark had also made it clear that he would be happy to betroth his daughter, Alys, to any of Ned's boys.
"Bolton made the same offer."
Ned would not give Jeyne over to a house that only wanted her for the highly unlikely hope that she'd give them a claim to Winterfell in some distant future, would not leave her at the mercy of a husband who would like as not see his marriage to her as an insult.
"Think about it, Ned," said Cat. "This betrothal could give Jeyne a future that you cannot provide for her."
"I said no."
Promise me, Ned...
"At least," Ned conceded, "not the Karstarks or the Boltons."
"There are limits to the number of houses who will take her, you know this. Just think about it while I go and check on Rickon."
"What about the Faith?" Cat asked.
"Jeyne has shown no interest in any Gods but the Old."
"Septas are allowed a measure of freedom unknown to most unmarried women, and as you will not consider betrothal..."
"You really are determined to send her away, aren't you?"
"I'm being realistic, Ned, one of us has to be. If Jeyne were your son there would be options; she could serve in Robb's household guard, or win her spurs, or take the black. But she is not your son, and unless you wish her to grow old and die at Winterfell watching your trueborn children marry and have children of their own then you have to make a choice."
The choice had to be made sooner than Ned would have liked when Robert rode to Winterfell and named him Hand of the King.
He could not take Jeyne to King's Landing, and Cat had made it clear that she did not want her in Winterfell.
"The Silent Sisters?" said Jeyne when Ned summoned her to his solar.
"They are technically part of the Faith," Ned began awkwardly, "but they travel all of the Seven Kingdoms, you would be free to follow the Old Gods."
Jeyne didn't say anything.
"It's good work, Jeyne. There is honour in it."
"Not much honour."
"Jeyne!" Ned snapped. He was unused to Jeyne answering back, unlike certain of his other children.
"I'm sorry, father. You're right, it's good work, and somebody has to do it."
"Are they going to cut Jeyne's tongue out?" asked Bran.
"Yes!" Arya cried.
"Eww," said Sansa.
"Don't be stupid," said Robb.
"Enough, all of you," said Ned. "They are not going to cut your sister's tongue out. She is going to take vows, and yes, one of them will be a vow of silence."
"It's not as though Jeyne ever talked much anyway," said Sansa.
"I said that's enough!"
Jeyne was more reluctant to leave after Bran's fall, but the decision had been made and with Bran still hovering between life and death Ned didn't like to trust to Cat's temper.
"The Silent Sisters, is this what my mother would have wanted me to do?"
Promise me, Ned...
"When we see each other next, I'll tell you of your mother."
Chapter 2: Epilogue
Jeyne Snow walked into the Red Keep. Nobody looked her way, that was the gift of being of the Silent Sisters, a sister could walk anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms unquestioned.
Strapped to her thigh was the cold steel dagger that Robb had given her the day she'd left Winterfell. Mikken had been forging it for Robb at the same time as he'd been making Arya's Needle for Jeyne.
"They say it's safe, life as a Silent Sister, but just in case..." Robb had pulled her into an embrace. "Stay safe, Snow."
"And you, Stark."
When she'd left Winterfell she'd taken vows, and those vows had brought her to King's Landing to recover her father's bones from the very halls of the man who'd murdered him.
She may not live to return their father's bones to Robb, but she would make sure the man who had taken his head knew fear and death.
Jeyne made sure her dagger was easily accessible.
I may not be a Stark by name, she thought, but I am a Stark by blood, and Joffrey will soon know it.