Opening Sequence (Setting the scene, which is right around Rickon's birth so pre Game of Thrones canon)
It was a busy time at the Northern fortress of Winterfell.
Getting Arya into the Wardrobe
In the midst of all the chaos, the older children of Lord Stark were forgotten.
Left on their own without minders, Robb, Jon, Sansa, and Arya were forced to entertain themselves. The pouring rain made playing outdoors not an option. Still, Winterfell Keep was an extensive complex, even if one remained inside.
“We could play a game; perhaps Knights and Princesses?” Sansa suggested. She loved the tales of courtly romance that their Septa, Mordaine, had told her.
“Ugh, that’s stupid,” Arya protested.
“It’s not stupid. Everyone knows that Knights are the protectors of the Seven Kingdoms, and their job is to take care of Ladies, and especially Princesses.” Sansa sighed, imagining having a knight of her very own – not that she knew what Ladies did with knights, at least not yet, though the septa said that she’d learn when she was older.
“Let’s go explore the Old Tower!” Robb suggested.
Arya Goes Through into Narnia
Arya poked her head into the room. Inside, she saw a few chests, no doubt filled with old clothes or something boring. At the far end of the room there stood a wardrobe. Unlike the roughhewn planks of the chests, the wood that made up this piece of furniture had been extensively worked. The exterior of the wardrobe was covered with intricately carved scenes. There were animals like the lions of the Lannisters, the stags of the Baratheons, and the wolves that were the Stark sigil. Then there were other, odd-looking creatures that looked like something out of the tales that Old Nan told at bedtime, the ones with grumpkins and snarks. Front and center, there stood a carved lion; the Lannister-like sigil the reason the wardrobe had been relegated to the Old Tower.
Reaching out, Arya stroked the carved mane that formed the cabinet’s door handles. She opened one door carefully, hoping that it wouldn’t squeak from disuse and give her presence away. After all, she was still looking for a good hiding spot.
Inside the wardrobe, Arya could see rows of fur cloaks, no doubt meant for use during the winter. The masses of cloth would provide a perfect hiding spot, and if she kept the door partly open she could watch for visitors to the room without giving away her location. Carefully propping the door open, Arya climbed in, pushing her way through the mass of wool and fur towards the back of the cabinet.
To her surprise, she didn’t hit wood after the first few layers.
It must be built into the room’s wall, she thought. Looking backward, she could still see the light from the wardrobe’s door. So, she decided to press forward.
As she kept moving without finding a back, Arya became convinced that this must be a secret passage.
Perhaps I’ll find a hidden treasure of our Ancestors.
After a while, she noticed that there was light coming from in front of her as well as behind.
That must be the other end of the passage.
When Arya realized that she was pushing through branches rather than cloaks, she grinned. It seemed that her new secret passage led out into the Godswood!
The crunch of snow beneath her feet negated that idea. As she pushed through a last layer of branches and reached a clearing, she realized that her new location was not where she had assumed. In fact, she appeared to have arrived somewhere unfamiliar.
The trees of the clearing were subtly different from the forests around Winterfell. Worse, there was a thick layer of snow on the ground, much more than Winterfell ever saw during the summer. It was also significantly colder than it had been back in the room. Arya shivered, wishing that she had taken the time to grab one of the cloaks before she left the passage.
She was about to turn around and head back when she spotted an odd light, filtering through the trees somewhere in front of her. Her curiosity overwhelmed the cold, and she pushed her way through until she reached an iron post. At the top, a globe burned with some kind of odd multi-hued fire. The color reminded Arya of the stories told about dragon fire, and she wondered if it was some relic of the Targaryens.
As Arya stood staring, she was startled by the sounds of another figure approaching through the woods. Was it a friend, or foe? Before she had time to react, the figure, bundled up in layers of wool, emerged from the woods and crashed right into her.
With the force of the collision, the pair ended up dumped into separate snowbanks, the parcels that the other figure carried flung in all directions.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” Arya’s companion murmured scrambling for the dropped packages. “This simply will not do.”
At first glance, the figure appeared to be a man of middle years. But then Arya started noticing a few odd things. For one, the man wore what looked like fur trousers, shaped oddly, and at the bottom, they ended in what looked like a pair of deer hooves. Then there were the stubby horns that Arya spotted poking up from out of his hair.
Still seated in the snow, Arya asked, curious, “what are you? I mean, you look like a man but…” she waved at the being’s feet.
In response, her companion jumped. He had apparently forgotten about her presence. “I- I beg your pardon.” He looked a bit closer, even as he retrieved a package that had landed near her feet. “What do you mean, what am I? Don’t you know a faun when you see one? And what are you, then, some kind of large dwarf, or perhaps an oddly dressed dryad? You do seem poorly dressed for this cold.”
Arya shivered at the reminder of the cold. “A… faun? What? And I am Arya Stark, daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, Warden of the North and Lord Paramount over this part of Westeros.”
“Lord Stark? Westeros? I have never heard of such a person, nor of this place which you call Westeros. Rather, this lantern,” he gestured towards the strange iron torch, “is the boundary marker for the western border of Narnia, ruled by the Queen, Jadis.”
In the end, the faun, whose name was apparently Tumnus, invited Arya to join him for a brief repast.
“After all, it is quite cold out here, and you appear to be shivering. Also, I have books and maps in my home.”
When Arya hesitated, he continued, “it really is not far.”
He offered his arm, and, out of curiosity, Arya accepted. Looking back, she knew that the distance to the passage back to the Old Tower wasn’t far away. Besides, it wasn’t as if the… faun… carried a sword or any other weapons that she could see. He seemed more like Maester Luwin than anything.
Following a short walk of no more than a few minutes, Arya and Tumnus arrived at his home. The house was carved into the side of a rock, a sensible idea to Arya’s mind given the cold weather. In her lessons, the Maester had taught the importance of thick walls to keep out the cold in winter, and you couldn’t get much thicker than a cave. Inside, the cave was surprisingly comfortable, with tapestries and bookshelves on the walls and a thick rug in an unfamiliar style covering most of the stone floor.
Arya happily exchanged her sodden outer layers, including boots and socks, for a warm blanket, and curled up in a chair in front of a roaring fire. Warming up, she watched as Tumnus puttered about, hanging wet garments on a rack off to one side of the fire to dry, his non-human features even more noticeable without the winter gear.
When Tumnus brought over the tray of food, Arya had to bite back a giggle. Besides baked seed cakes and the tea, there was a small bowl of clover that wouldn’t be out of place in the stable back in Winterfell.
As the pair of new friends sipped their tea, Tumnus hesitantly brought up something. “Arya… you wouldn’t happen to be a daughter of eve, would you?”
“Daughter of who? My mum’s name is Lady Catelyn.”
Tumnus sighed, making Arya giggle. “Pardon me; I believe that we are speaking cross purposes once again. What I meant to say was, are you… perhaps… a human.”
“Oh, well, I mean the Maester says that the Starks are descended from the First Men, so I guess so? I don’t think we have anyone other than Men where I’m from, anyway.”
“I see.” Tumnus leaned back, taking a mouthful of the clover that had made Arya giggle. He chewed pensively, before offering. “And brothers and sisters. Do you have any of those?”
Arya smiled. “I have several. There’s my older brothers, Robb and Jon, and then my…” she rolled her eyes, “ older sister, Sansa. Then there’s my little brother, Bran, and the new one, the one that hasn’t come yet, who’ll be either Rickon or Lyarra.”
“Indeed? So four eldest are two sons of adam and two daughters of eve, that is two boys and two girls.”
“That is interesting,” he mused. “Well then, I wonder, if this place, West-eros, where you’re from is so different from Narnia, perhaps their music is different as well.”
He walked over to one of his many bookshelves and picked up a set of pipes. Reclaiming his seat, he blew through them once, letting out a rough sound that made Arya giggle. Then he began to play in earnest, a beautiful melody that, in combination with the warm fire, the snowy walk, and the food she’d just eaten conspired to put Arya to sleep.
When she awoke what felt like hours later, Arya surprised to notice that the fire had nearly gone out. This had left her new friend seated across from her and watching her sleep in the dim light. She stirred, stretching and yawning, and he jumped, startled.
“How long was I asleep?”
“Oh, not- not long, an hour or two at most,” he replied.
“An hour! They must be looking for me back home. I really should be getting back.” Arya’s eyes narrowed when she caught his shifty look. Her older brothers had said something about not being too trusting of strangers, especially as the daughter of Lord Stark. “Did you keep me on purpose?”
Tumnus stuttered. “I- well…” Then he heaved a big sigh. “When I first met you, I did think, that is…”
He hesitated for a moment, and then went on. “You see, there is a curse on the land of Narnia, one that makes it always Winter.”
Arya’s mind immediately went to Old Nan, and her tales of the Land of Always Winter, but she said nothing.
“This curse was placed by our Queen, for she is a witch, the White Witch. Not only has she made it always Winter, but she treats her subjects quite shamefully. Many of our people have died or disappeared thanks to her cruelty, and her spies are everywhere.”
“Now, there is a prophecy that says that the witch may only be defeated when siblings, two sons of adam and two daughters of eve, sit on the thrones at the castle of Cair Paravel, on Narnia’s coast. This has led the Queen to order that any humans who are found in her domain be brought to her. To my shame, when I first met you I thought to surrender you to her.”
He held up a hand, asking her to keep listening. “But as we talked, I realized that you were just a child and didn’t deserve that, especially as one who is just a visitor to our lands. However, we must return you to your home before your presence can be discovered by those more loyal to the Queen. Come, come.”
Tumnus went over to the drying rack, collecting Arya’s now warm and dry outerwear and helping her put them on. He wrapped a woolen cloak around her over the top, pulling up the hood to further hide her features.
“There, this will keep you from being identified as human by any spies who we encounter.”
Taking up his own winter garments, Tumnus bundled up as well. Opening the wooden door of the cave home, the mismatched pair stepped out into the falling snow. As they moved out, the footprints they left behind were as odd as their owners and quickly disappeared as new snow fell.
“Jon! Robb!” Arya’s shout’s echoed through the corridors of the Old Tower. “I’m back!”
“Hsst! Shut up, moron, do you want to give away our position?”
Sansa moaned as she peered out from behind a set of moldering curtains. She had just managed to find a good spot to hide, and now Arya was ruining it with her yelling.
“Sansa?! What are you talking about? And why aren’t you wondering where I’ve been?”
Sansa sputtered, about to say something like, what, since five minutes ago when we split up to hide?
The pair of sisters were interrupted by a groaning Robb. “Come on, you two. It’s no fun to play hide and find if you don’t actually hide. I guess Jon’s the only one who knows how to play.”
His rant was interrupted when Jon poked his head inside, “Arya, why were you yelling? Is something wrong?”
This only made Robb groan louder, burying his face in his hands. “Seriously!”
“But… but… I’ve been away for hours and hours!” Arya exclaimed, confused.
“Um, no, we just started playing. You left to go hide just a few minutes ago.” Robb replied. “You must have been imagining things.”
“But I wasn’t! I found this secret passage in the back of the wardrobe in the other room. Somehow it led to the Land of Always Winter. I even met one of the Children of the Forest, but he said that he was a ‘faun’. We had tea and snacks, and I even slept for a while at his house.”
All three of Arya’s siblings groaned this time. “Arya, it was just your imagination,” Robb said, patting her head patronizingly.
“But… but it was real, come on, I’ll show you.” Arya grabbed Robb’s hand and dragged him into the other room, Sansa and Robb following along reluctantly. She opened the door to the wardrobe and pushed her older brother inside. Bemused, Robb played along, feeling his way through the rows of cloaks until he reached the solid wood behind.
Making a fist, he rapped his knuckles on the back wall of the wardrobe. “Nope, no secret passage here, Arya.”
“But, but…” Arya shoved past her brother and was astonished to find the same thing. Her mysterious passage had vanished as if it wasn’t there.
Sansa and the Queen
The strange woods were quiet and still, all sounds muffled by the gently falling snow. The setting reminded Sansa of certain long-forgotten memories from her childhood. Memories of visits to Winterfell’s Weirwood with her father, joying in the time spent together even as he helped her to walk down the snow-covered paths. In that time, the new, red leaves of the Weirwoods were barely visible. Rather, they were mostly hidden by a layer of newly fallen snow – heavy and wet on the branches and other surfaces.
Sansa’s musings were interrupted when a sound broke the silence. It was an unfamiliar sound, almost rhythmic, which brought to mind the sound that a broom made as it swept across the floor. This regular sound was periodically punctuated by a sharp crack, the snap of a whip in the air. Before Sansa could make any further identification, such methods became unnecessary as the source rapidly entered her field of view.
It was some form of oddly-shaped cart, pulled by the strangest cross between the deer that her Father and others often brought back from hunts and the horses that they rode. The cart itself was elegant and beautiful, constructed of white wood with a finishing of some silvery metal, including a pair of long metal beams that held it above the snow. It was a far cry from the rough contraptions used by the woodcutters who foraged in the Wolfswood – the only equipages with such beams instead of the more common wheels used in the area around Winterfell.
Besides the driver, a short man with a long beard, the vessel carried one other person. And what a sight that person was to Sansa’s dazzled eyes.
For, seated in the back of the elegant sledge was the most beautiful woman that she had ever seen. Dressed in a white gown, topped by a fur cloak of grey and white, Sansa was certain that she had to be a noble lady.
Glancing down at her own gown, Sansa was suddenly grateful that she had convinced the handmaid that the shortly-anticipated birth of her youngest sibling was a good reason to dress in a fine gown, instead of one of her more mundane dresses. While the blue gown, covered as it was in detailed embroidery of grey and white, was nowhere near as fine as the Lady’s, at least it wasn’t a complete embarrassment. Not like Arya’s would have been.
Dipping down into a well-practiced curtesy – as Septa Mordane had taught – Sansa offered the Lady her best greeting.
“Good morrow,” she said with a polite smile.