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Fires of War

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After the raven had arrived, Rhaegar ocked himself in a room with Sers Arthur, Oswell, Barristan and Lord Commander Gerold, something Lyanna knew was not good. She began pacing around the top level of the tower, a bundle of nerves. It was not until hours later, when darkness had fallen, that Rhaegar returned. “My father has summoned me to the capitol,” he said unhappily. “I and Barristan will leave at sunrise.”

It was not something unexpected by her. She knew that her brother Ned and Robert had raised their banners when word reached them about the execution of her father and eldest brother. They had received the same message from Queen Rhaella after which Rhaegar held her, the tears never-ending.

She had lost so much of her family, and could possibly lose more. “And what of me? Am I to stay here while you go off to battle?” she asked, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice.

“You must stay here. There is too much danger outside of these walls,” Rhaegar said, his pitch raised with anxiety.

She shook her head, denying his words. “If you think I am going to stay here, my lord husband, you best think something else if you know what it good for you.” He should know Lady Lyanna Stark, Princess Lyanna of House Targaryen, was not one to cower and hide. She would not do so in front of bullies, and she certainly would not in the face of war. “I am coming with you.”

Rhaegar’s mouth dropped open, ready to rebut her words, but the emotions rolling over her stopped him. “This war is just as much my fault as it is yours. We ran off, and in spite of my letter to Father and Brandon, they think it was the crime of abduction. You are now believed to be a vile rapist, holding an innocent maid prisoner somewhere within your kingdoms.”

His lips quirked up in a smile for a moment. “No one who knows you well would realize you are no shrinking maid, my lady.”

She had to return a smile. “Be that as it may, that is what people believe. I am sure some think you as mad as your father.” She closed the distance between them and took his hands in hers. “Rhaegar, it is a misunderstanding, much of our making, that began this chaos, and we must correct it with my family...together.”

He looked back to Barristan, who had been joined by his brothers towards the end of her speech. Arthur looked as though he was ready to continue the protest, while Ser Gerold seemed to be putting a plan together. Oswell, he could not seem to keep the mirth from his eyes. “It was you who chose a ferocious wolf as wife. Did you expect her not to bite when provoked?”

Rhaegar did not look amused by his jape, but ignored it in favor of Gerold’s advise. “Is there a way to move her north without letting my father, or Robert, know?”

Gerold and Arthur moved look a map out on the table in the room. “She has to avoid King’s Landing at all cost, if she is to go north,” the Lord Commander said, then pointed to a particular place. “If we can get her to Harrenhal, we’d be in a good spot to get word North. Now, we can make our way along the Boneway to Summerhall, then on to Tumbleton. From there, we can follow the Blackwater Rush and on to Stoney Sept. Harrenhal is not that much further.”

“I’d recommend traveling to the Isle of Faces,” Arthur interjected. “It is a safer location and still not far from Harrenhal.”

Lyanna nodded in agreement. “It is a sacred place. As a Stark, I will be given shelter, and protection.”

“If the Green Men even allow you to find it,” Oswell commented. “The mists generally obscure the island.”

“They will allow me. I have the blood of the First Men running through my veins,” she replied with confidence.

“Still, we should at least consider Harrenhal as a backup, should you not be able to reach the Isle of Faces,” Gerold said, throwing a look between her and Oswell.

“And I will take Barristan with me to the capitol and see what the king wants of me,” Rhaegar said. “I suspect he will want me to lead our forces. And while I am there, I can help Elia and the children leave the city.”

“If all comes to pass, we can entreat the North, the Vale and Robert at the Trident,” he added. “End this foolishness and focus on stopping the Mad King and what lie beyond the Wall.” He looked outside, seeing the position of the moon. “I doubt we can get ourselves ready by daybreak, so we should be ready to travel morning the next day.”

“I can talk to Ned, explain how he and Robert are wrong. They will listen, I know it,” Lyanna said.

“Your brother may be able to be brought around, but I doubt Baratheon will be easily appeased,” Arthur muttered. “He is not the most reasonable man when sober, and he is less sober than is not.”

Rhaegar stared at the map, concern still in his eyes. “I still don’t like it. You are safer here, especially in a time of war.”

Lyanna regarded him sadly. “Gentleman, may I speak with my lord husband in private?” She looked at each man, and soon, they left. Then she turned her focus on Rhaegar. “I have a great fear that if we are seperated, it will be forever. And I am still without child. If that does happen and we have no son, the future could be in grave jeopardy. When the Long Night comes, there will be no prince that was promised.”

Since their meeting over a year ago, she had become well-versed in Rhaegar’s prophecy. It may have sounded absurd to most people, but she felt there was too much in common with the tales Old Nan would tell when she was a girl in Winterfell. Before leaving to meet up with him and the Kingsguard, she had read through many histories and legends in the keep’s library and brought them with her for him to study. They had fallen in love more with each other while reading by candlelight and he had eventually gone to his wife, asking for an annulment.

Lyanna had felt terrible to have the man she loved put into such a position, but Elia had surprised them both. She was a sickly woman and unhappy in King’s Landing. Their marriage had been a political match as much as to shore up the Dornish prince as is was to throw a wrench into Tywin Lannister’s ambitions. Areys had even admitted, in one of his last grasps of sanity, he wanted his heir out of the lion’s mouth. He had lost his trust in his old friend and loathe the man’s daughter.

Rhaegar agreed that Cersei was possibly even more dangerous that her father and, at the time, readily agreed to the match. But he and Elia were not very compatible, and after their daughter’s birth, began to live separate lives. He wasn’t even sure if the boy she had birthed was even his, as it was known that Elia kept with the Dornish way of paramours. They had come to an agreement, in light of cautions about her birthing another child and Rhaegar’s growing feelings for Lyanna. He would acknowledge little Aegon in return for an annulment, then when Areys had been removed, would legitimize both children and place them in the line of succession after any children of Rhaegar and Lyanna.

The only complication that came was a raven’s message from Elia, after ther wedding. The king, losing any grip he still had, refused to let Elia and the children leave King’s Landing. Rhaegar knew there were two purposes in that. One was to try to manipulate his son, and the other was to keep Prince Doran in line. He had been trying for months to arrange his former wife’s passage, even asking for aid from Lewyn Martell, her uncle, but nothing was working.

He seemed to concentrate on Lyanna’s words, and they did, at last, sink in. “You are right, my love. But your safety is paramount. Arthur, Oswell and Gerold will stay with you at all times,” Rhaegar said firmly, a tone that broached no argument. “And I think I shall send a raven to Lady Olenna Tyrell. She is the true power in the Reach, and I will ask her meet you at Bitterbridge.” He let out a laugh. “If the Queen of Thorns can travel with you, there is little doubt in my mind your journey will be unmolested.”

“Have her travel with me to the Isle of Faces?” Lyanna did not understand his thinking. “The Tyrells are not the greatest military power in Westeros, so I cannot see how she can be of help.”

“My dear, would you want to fall upon Lady Olenna on the road, even with an army at your back?”

She cocked her head to the side, acting at thinking about his comment. “I can see that point,” she said, letting a smile cross her face.

“It is an extra precaution, that is all,” Rhaegar assured her, taking her in his arms. “I will travel as far as Summerhall with you, then head to King’s Landing. The place still touches me, even as it haunts my family. I wish to see if again, if indeed it is the last time I do.”

She placed her finger across his mouth. “Do not say that. Do not even think that. We must persevere.” She added a kiss to seal her word. It was a sweet relief, something she had enjoyed the very idea of since they first met. Then, remembering that fateful day in the Riverlands, an idea struck her. “Dearest, I think I may have a way to ensure my safety even more.”

He closed his eyes as if he was afraid of what she was thinking. “I may fear the answer, but what is it?” he asked.

“Well, we must keep my movements a secret, right?” When he nodded, she went on. “Mayhaps a way to disguise my identity would be of some use. Something to make it seem I am not even a woman at all.” He narrowed his eyes, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “Perhaps we can contact an armourer en route to Summerhall and have a suit made for me, and a shield.”

Lyanna hoped she had revealed enough for Rhaegar to catch on, and after a moment, it did seem to dawn on him. “There are added risks with that, you know. I doubt my father has forgotten about the brave knight that bested three others, even if it was a year ago.”

“I think it is a risk we need to take,” she implored. “Better to be covered in helm than not at all. And few would need to know. Arthur, Gerold and Oswell, of course, but only also Olenna when we meet up.”

He was deep in thought as she was all nerves awaiting his answer. “I have heard of a fine smith in Blackhaven, and House Dondarrion has pledged itself to the crown. I think it may work.”

“In the morn, I will draw a recreation of the Laughing Tree for the smith to work off. It will take a few days for the shield to be completed, so by time we travel there, it should be done,” Lyanna said, laying out the rest of her plan.

“It is still dangerous. Should a little bird sing that the Knight of the Laughing Tree has returned, riding with Kingsguard no less, it could put all of us in peril.” Rhaegar’s voice still held a hint of disapproval. “It may be wiser to send one of the men ahead to ensure the work is ready and then continue to Summerhall when we meet up.”

She nodded in agreement. “I still cannot stay here, worrying my days away, Rhaegar,” she protested gently. “You had a plan laid out to overthrow the king, until you met me. You may have destroyed any alliances you had created with running away with me. Only I can come forward and try to repair the damage our…” Lyanna didn’t want to say the words, didn’t want to imply the wrongness of their being together.

He hushed her. “I do believe destiny led me to you. And besides, it has fulfilled a long-standing pact between our houses. If nothing else, your brother will accept the honoring of Jacaerys Velaryon and Cregan Stark’s treaty.”

Lyanna smirked, remembering the lesson of her maester. “It was supposed to be a princess of your house marrying a lord of mine.”

Rhaegar shrugged before wrapping his arms around her. “In High Valyrian, the words prince and princess have no gender differentiation,” he told her as his lips touched hers and her tongue slipped in his mouth.

“Yes, my lord, but it was...written…” she said between breaths as they were overcome in each other’s embrace, “...in the Common Tongue.

Unable to continue the debate, she led him to the bedroom. The room as alight with candles on tables, windowsills, even the floor. “How did you get this ready?” Rhaegar threw a glance around the room as he asked.

“I have very efficient handmaidens,” she replied, moving her hands to the ties on his tunic. She began to undo then as he moved his over her back and laid kisses along her neck.

“Offer them my compliments on the decor,” he said, sliding to the ties on her skirt. In a single deft motion, they came undone and the material fell to the floor.

Now Rhaegar raised his arms, allowing her to pull his shirt over his head and nudging her to the bed. He fell with her as he slipped his hands under the shift she wore and slid it off of her. Kisses were placed gently down her breasts, stomach, thigh. Her hands found the waist of his breeches and, with his help, they too came off.

With the gentlest of touches, he moved into her. It was sweet ecstasy, from their first coupling to every other one since. Soon, they were lost in each other as time itself had no meaning. Hours later, they still lay in each other’s arms, sleep within Lyanna’s grasp until she saw something out the window, blazing through the sky. It looked to be a shooting star, red as a dragon’s flame.

“Rhaegar,” she whispered, not wanting to disturb him, but wanting him to see the sight. He didn’t move, even with the gentle shove she gave him. Instead, he muttered incoherently in his sleep. She tried once more, but he remained asleep.

Her heartbeat quickened as she watched its path. She remembered him telling her and showing her the passage about a bleeding star heralding the coming of the promised prince. Could that be what she was seeing? Could the signs be making themselves known already?

She looked back at Rhaegar. He was a peaceful man and, in his sleep, with his silver-blonde hair, he looked like a true angel. His worries were a heavy weight on his shoulders. Not just his father’s madness, or even the rebellion that had stirred across the Seven Kingdoms, but the fear he held for what was coming from the Land of Always Winter. The Others were real, they were both sure, and the danger they posed was greater than anything anyone could conceive. Now, if they had indeed created a child, their son who would lead in the wars to come. On the cusp of their escape from the Tower of Joy, he may reconsider his decision to to allow her to leave. She could not allow him to go back to his original plan.

So Lyanna let him sleep. They had a long journey ahead of them, both of them. He was going back to the center of madness and had to make his father think he was ready to be the dutiful son. She was trying to get back home, or as close as she could, trying to make right so much tragedy. She prayed to the Old Gods to allow her passage to the Isle of Faces, and the safe haven it was. She prayed to the New Gods that they help in calming the fire that had stoked Westeros, and led to so much death and destruction.

She only hoped she was not to late, or else all could be lost.
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It took them a little more than a week to make it to Summerhall, including the stopover in Blackhaven. The smith had done an excellent job forging the image known the realms over from the Tourney at Harrenhal, but did not inquire who the actual knight was, a fact both were grateful for. They also purchased a suit as mismatched as the one she had worn during the joust to add to her costume and Lyanna carried a small sword Arthur had been training her on to while away the hours at the Tower of Joy. Then the continued on their way, at last arriving at Summerhall.

Lyanna knew Rhaegar wanted to return there. He had always had a special bond to the place, even as it was a shell off the magnificent palace it once was. She knew there was sadeness still there, after the great fire that had virtually destroyed it, and killed many of the Targaryens, including Aegon the Fifth and his son and heir. It was that event that had eventually allowed Aerys to sit on the Iron Throne, but it had also been, in the midst of the fire that her beloved was born.

“Strange,” Rhaegar said when they reached the ruins. They were still mounted on their horses as they rode down the lane leading to the remains. “I did not spend more than a day here when it was unburnt, but I still, I feel drawn to it.”

“It holds a part of your family’s history and maybe a part of your soul,” she suggested. “It must have been the grandest keep in the kingdom at its height.”

“Yes, it must have been,” he agreed. “If we succeed…”

“When we succeed,” she corrected him.

Rhaegar gave her a smile and a tilt of his head. “When we succeed, I want to rebuild it. I know it can never be what it once was, but I would like it as a retreat from the capitol. King’s Landing is becoming unlivable, even for the the nobility.”

Lyanna agreed wholeheartedly. Being that she was from the North, much of the South, to her, was too crowded, too noisy. There were few places where one could think and commune with nature and nature’s Gods. And one of them, she felt as they made their way along the lane, was Summerhall.

They dismounted from their horses and he led her through the ruins. Even with walls blackened, you could still see the beauty in the art and architecture that had gone into the construction. But the most surprising thing for her to see was the godswood.

The further south one got, the less one would see a proper godswood. But within this one stood a weirwood with faces carved into the trunks.

 

“I remembered the first time I found them. They are so rare in this part of the country. I knew there was a meaning to them being here.” He took her in his arms and she laid her head on his shoulder. “Why else would this place, close to my heart, have them, if not for the considerations of the gods my wife worships. A proper place of worship for a Northern lady.”

She was touched by his words. “I can see why you took this as a sign, my love.” The last heart tree she saw was the one he had brought her to for their wedding. He wanted it done properly, with the blessings of the Old and New Gods.

She had spoken with the High Septon when he came to bless their marriage. As a Northerner, Lyanna was often suspicious of the Faith of the Seven’s religious leader, but this one was an oddity within his belief set. He was a learned man who had an appreciation for what had come before the Seven. In his youth, he made a study of the heart trees and from his exalted post, promoted a program of preservation where it was needed. He truly believed in strong ties with those of other faiths within the Seven Kingdoms. And he was proud to be the one to join together children of the Old Gods and the New.

Their tent was raised near the heart trees and it was there they spent what could be their last night ever together. Since it was a holy place, Rhaegar didn’t feel it right to make love, even though Lyanna said there was nothing wrong in the eyes of the gods if they did.

“I just want to fall asleep in your arms, and pray you are with child,” he said.

Lyanna bit her lip. She wanted to tell them about the comet she saw their last nights in the Tower of Joy, but again, she feared his overprotectiveness. “We have certainly had enough times for you to plant your seed,” she said, a mischievous affectation in her voice. “And you can also have one last go of it, just to be sure.”

He shook his head. “No. Something tells me our little one is on the way.”

There was the temptation again, the urge to tell him. But she held her tongue. “Have you heard from Highgarden?”

“Yes, when we were at Blackhaven. You were with Oswell at the armourers when the raven arrived. She said she would meet Arthur at Bitterbridge as planned. Then you will continue on.”

“Incognito, with the indomitable Olenna Tyrell by my side,” she said, her voice still unsure about the second part.

Rhaegar laughed. “I have a feeling you would be kindred spirits. She has been known to go against the tide like some other lady I know, a force to be reckoned with in her own right.”

Lyanna turned to face her husband from where they lay on the bedroll. “Are you saying I am heir to the Throne of Thorns?” she asked as she was overcome with giggles. Rhaegar must have had the same image in his mind, the same understanding at her play on words, because he joined her reaction.

Lyanna felt that if this was their last night together for a long time, it was a perfect memory.