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Duty before Death

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Chapter 1

Dark grey clouds were surrounding winterfell , when jon snow trotted his horse across the fields towards the only home he had ever come close to have. He was only a boy of three and one when he had left winterfell to lead his own life. When he made the decision to leave, he only thought that he was leaving only a shelter, for finding another one. Later as jon lost his childish dreams to the hard life outside the protected sanctum of winterfell, he knew that he had left the only living being that he had loved the moment his eyes met the similar grey. He had left his little sister, the part of his life that he cherished the most. He will live a thousand lives as a royal bastard if only he can relive the moments he had spent with her.

Now after 5 years surviving the horrors of real world, his feet once again abandon him to take the next step towards the difficult predicament of facing his father’s side of family. The royal court was residing in winterfell as per the order of the king. The king had decided after the rebellion that he will visit north and the surrounding land of his kingdom once every 5 years. The last time that had happened he was on his way to the wall so that he will not ever have to see his siblings and blood from his father side of his family. It was because of his uncle that he was given a chance to breath and have a loving family surrounding him when he was a child. He shivered with the thought of living his childhood days in kingslanding with his king father and his half sibling. Jon thanked his uncle everyday for that. He had brought him to winterfell with him after the war and had raised jon as his own child. Even after not seeing his uncle face for the past half decade he still thought him as a father. The image of having eddard stark as father gives jon a peaceful feeling, after all the man was the best man Jon had ever met. That still didn’t do anything to his disturbed feeling of meeting his birth father.

Till he reached the tender age of four jon believed himself as a child of eddard stark. He knew at that time too that his mother was not catelyn stark, as she has herself taught him rather forcefully whenever he called her mother as robb did. Later when he caught the meaning of bastard from one of catelyn’s maid he asked lord stark the nature of his birth. That day lord stark had taken him to the crypt to show him the statue of his mother. He had cried to his sleep on lord stark shoulder when he told what had happened. That was the only time he had seen lord stark cry.

At age eight when the king visited with his four children and two wives, for the first time in his life he became the centre of attention in winterfell. The feeling of coldness was not unknown to the young jon, because of the icy stares thrown at him from lady stark and his maids. He never could understand the reason for them, as he always tried to be well mannered child for lord stark’s sake. Later he got to know that as the consequence of the war, house tully were stripped of their tiltle of lord paramount of riverland. They lost a large amount of land to the darry’s, who were awarded the lord paramount title after the tully’s. The reason the tully’s were made a mere bannerman while the stark still hold theirs were a point of topic for all the realm to guess. Uncle benjen said that while the stark, arryn and baratheon had reason to rebel, tully’s didn’t. They only rebel for their greed to have blood in two other great houses and paid the price for it. He still couldn’t fathom the reason for sparing the stark as house arryn and baratheon too lost their tittle. House arryn lost the paramount ship of the eyrie to house Royce. Robert lost his head while stannis was thrown to the wall for his loyalty to his brother. Renly baratheon future was decided as a maester to rule under a loyal house of the targaryen. One of the robert’s bastard named gendry was made the lord of stormland who was a royal ward to insult and subsequently anger the stormland further. There was always talking of rebellions in stormland because of this.

After the war the only thing the lords agreed on was the cause of it, which to Jon’s utter plight was him and the nature of his birth. In southern lords mind it was because of his ‘whore’ of a mother and her ‘whoring’ nature which caused the pious and saintly prince to stray away of his wife’s bed. It wouldn’t have caused jon much distress if these lords kept these thoughts to themselves. But for the entire time of king’s stay at winterfell these lord had made it their ‘royal’ duty to have jon know of it. Those two weeks were the most difficult days for jon, as he had to go through the days with the spiteful and baleful words that were thrown at him.

Lord stark had told him what to except from the king’s visit. He was not visiting to improve the crown relationship with the north but to keep them in check. He had told him to hold his composure when hateful remarks were thrown at him. Still no warning could prepare him to keep his calm when words like whore’s son were used to describe him and his mother. He expected venomous words from the martell queen but he didn’t expect so much animosity from his half sibling and the other queen. The king ignored jon and his plight like he was diseased with grayscale. He didn’t even look at him once during his stay, even when during one the feasts viserys had slapped him for talking back at him. Thinking back to those days still angered him, still those were the days he had grown the most. He endured the king’s visit at winterfell only because of the kind eyes and words of lord stark and his little sister.

Even the name of Arya brought a smile on his face. They were cousins in relation but were as close as siblings. She looked like him, understood him the most and loved him the most. The moment she had open her eyes, looked at him with those watery eyes full with adorations towards him he knew she had been born to love him and him her. They were both outcasts in their own home- he from his bastard name and she had from her wild nature. They both had swept tears from each other faces when the world was too cruel to them. The king’s visit had shown him how much he depended on arya and her love for him. Sometime he thought that he could have never survived these humiliations without arya assuring him and trying to cheer him up all the time. After the visit jon knew that he had to leave winterfell to run away from this kind of torture. Because of the king’s visit the japes of theon greyjoy got frequent and far meaner.

Jon was only one and three when he learned about the return of the royal court to winterfell. He didn’t want to tell arya of his departure but the thought of arya crying and fearing for his sake has stopped him. He thanked that he had told her his plans, because his plan to run away from winterfell wouldn’t have been successful if not for her. The first thing arya had said was to take her with him as expected, but after lot of anger and tantrums from her part and equal amount of reasons and assurances from his part she had finally relented. After many promises and teary goodbyes he had left his home. Initially Things went according to what they had planned; arya had lied to her father informing lord stark that jon had went to see uncle benjen. Benjen at the time was touring the hornwood land to mitigate a conflict between the hornwoods and the Bolton. In reality jon had ventured north to the wall. He had planned to go east watch by the sea and from there to take a ship to essos. Jon was a good swordsman, the best at winterfell. After the humiliation and disgrace he had faced, Jon gave his all in becoming a better man than those southerners. Getting better at sword fighting was one of them. He had even learned to speak and write in valyrian from maeter luwin so he can survive in essos.

Jon plan was thrown out of the winds when he got stuck in a storm. During which instead of going to east watch by the sea he had to take shelter at castle black. Jon feared that lord commander mormont would recognize him from his stark features or surely he would be looking out for a boy his age, as lord stark would have send ravens all around the north for him. Well all of jon’s fears were proven wrong as after the storm lord commander mormont had allowed him to stay at the wall as his Stewart. What had happened after that was history.

Jon was broken from his musing when his horse came to rest at the gates of winterfell. From the gate he could hear the sounds of music being played at the great hall. As jon has arrived during dinner he was sure a feast was being held for the royal court. He was not granted entrance as he was reluctant to give his identity when asked to. Luckily jory was at gate duty that time because the moment jory got to see jon clearly from the light of the torch, his eyes went wide and a huge smile slowly formed at his face.

He entered the hall slowly minding his way through the dancing lords and ladies. He kept his eyes towards the table right bellow the high table as he knew the person he was searching should be seated there. Jon knew he should wait to see her and his cousins after the feast is over as Jory too had advised him, but being so close to her after this much time he couldn’t wait any longer. Besides he was not the same jon when the last time these fools came to winterfell.  If these lords knew the deeds and achievement he had accomplished in such a small time, he was sure they would think twice before talking to him. More ever jon had come to accept his birth a long time ago. His time on essos had thought him that a man can write his own destiny. Always.

As he made his way to the high table he could sense people muttering after looking at him. He was now standing at the middle of the space created for dancing; searching for the girl he had traveled half a world to see. As his eyes swept over the people he could recognize the redheads as robb, sansa and bran. He got to see lord stark and lady stark as they were talking to the kings and the two queens surely trying to be polite and respectful towards them. He paid no mind to the silence that crept the hall when someone said jon snow loudly enough that all the occupants could hear clearly. Later he would find the voice that said his name and kiss it. Because of it, the words of a brown hair woman who was till now talking and gesturing animatedly with a red hair boy got frozen. The woman was wearing a nice grey-blue gown clinging tightly to her figure, her hair were done in northern fashion causing most of it to run loose. As jon saw the women rise from her chair slowly he felt his heart thrumming faster in his chest. The last time he had seen her she was a girl was nine, crying so hard that it had caused all her face to redden, all because she wouldn’t see him. Now she was seeing a woman grown, her pale skin glowing in the candlelight of the hall, her long face had loosed all the baby fat causing it to look sharp and almost angelic. For a moment jon thought this was not his arya as this women looked far more beautiful than he ever thought arya would become. Jon knew all the time when she had came to him after someone had called her names that she would one day became a northern beauty. But never had he imagined that her beauty would cause his heart to beat so quickly. All the thoughts leaved his mind when he heard her voice calling his name for the first time in five years. His name was followed by a brilliant smile.  Gods for a moment, with the light of the candle surrounding her, her loose hair flowing through the air with such grace, the sweet sound of her voice calling out his name with that bright smile she looked like a Goddess. Jon would latter know that while he was watching arya he was not idle, unknown to him he had too called out her name as he was saying a prayer with a smile matching her in intensity.

Both of them had moved to reach each other at the same time. Running, dodging and laughing simultaneously, they made their way to each other. When arya was close enough she jumped to his arms just as like she would have done when they were small children. He wrapped his arms around her waist tightly as if his life depended on it. At that moment he thought it did. He spun her around a couple times laughing with as she peppered him with tiny pecks all around his face. jon for a while felt he was back to being a eleven year old boy playing with his sister, making her laugh, giggle and smile like he had done hundreds of times without a care in the world. Finally when their laughter had died out, she was still in his arms, her face was besides his, her arms tightly wrapped around his neck. When he had moved so he could see her face, the laughter in her face was replaced by few tears, he cheeks had a pinch of pink in it, and she had the same beaming smile. By the look in her eyes he too looked the same. When they spoke the first words after living apart for five years, they came out at the same time with the same intensity

“I missed you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Unknown to them, both of them were holding each other for quite some time. Jon sudden and unexpected arrival had caused a silent uproar among the lords of royal court. There mutterings got amplified when arya stark jumped into the arms of the bastard and embraced him as a long lost lover returned just for her. Ned stark with his older three children got their own surprise when he saw it was jon in arya’s arms. Unlike all lords of the seven kingdoms the north had not lost hope for seeing the bastard alive. In fact ned stark and his family knew the bastard lived, he had seen the letters jon had send to arya. Jon would have send letter to robb and ned too if he knew how to apologize for leaving without informing them. But to see him alive was a pleasant surprise. While arya didn’t had the time to see jon attire and condition as she ran to him just after seeing his stupid grinning face, ned stark contemplated his attire like all the present lords. He was wearing a grey tunic on a black surcoat over the same colour armor which looked well made and had seen battles. On the heart side of the surcoat a sigil of white direwolve with red eyes on a blue field was stitched through it. All this was partially seen because of the black furs he was wearing on it. If seen from a distance he looked like a black brother of the nights watch. However the most noticeable were the swords he was carrying. Having one sword was common is westeros, even two can be explained but carrying three swords, with all them being at least a longsword in size was astonishing. The smallest one was strapped to his right side, it was a longsword with a slender sheath signifying a slender blade, and the pommel of the sword was hidden by a black cloth. A bastard sword was strapped to his left. It had a snarling direwolf head with red garnets eyes as its pommel. On his back was a greatsword as big as stark ancestral sword Ice. The sword had a moonstone pommel.

 Jon had lost all the baby fat that was there when ned stark had last seen him. There was a scar running along his right eyebrow which made him look older than he is. Ned stark couldn’t imagine what his boy had gone through in these past five years. At the same time he was proud of him for surviving the world at such a small age. One thing was clear when ned stark saw his son, jon snow left as a boy and now he had returned as a man grown.

When jon finally let arya on her feet again he kissed her forehead. This time too they spoke as one.

“You haven’t grown much.”

“You have grown taller.” When both of them register what the other one meant, arya smacked him on his chest with her small fist while jon laughed.

“height matters not, I am far faster than you could ever be.” Arya said throwing him a haughty look.

Before jon could retort he heard the hard voice of ned stark. His uncle was now standing below the high table gazing at him with parental love in his eyes.

“lord stark” jon called his uncle by his tittle as it was required.

His uncle apparently was not pleased with his response as he stepped quickly towards jon and gave a crushing hug which took the breath away from his chest.

“Mad boy, I know what made you run away, but at least you should have talked to me. For three moons I kept searching for you till arya told me of your foolish plan.”

“I didn’t want to trouble you further my lord”

“you are blood jon, and stark’s take of each other. Have you forgot what I always said, the lone wolf…”

“Dies but the pack survives. I remember uncle, I remember. That is why I came back to my pack because winter is coming.”

Ned stark smiled grimily at the way he said those words. He looked so much like a stark, that the words coming out of him made more sense than said by any other man, thought ned stark. Ned stark noticed that jon was now as tall as him and would later outgrow him, his father lord rickard was known for his height. Jon had the similar features as ned’s mother lyarra, but nobody could deny that he was rickard stark grandson. His father would have been proud, if he saw jon now.

“Come now, arya is not the only one who wants to know everything you did all this time away from home. I will have your old room get ready for you, as this time you are not going anywhere till I say.”

“I don’t think that would be quite possible uncle” jon replied as he saw the stare arya sent his way and saw the angry figure of robb and benjen stark coming towards him. This was going to be a long day. jon tried his best to greet and calm his other cousins and uncle while answering the continuous questions fired at him from bran and rickon.

 All came to an end when the second trueborn son of the king came sauntering towards him. As jon saw the approaching face of prince joffrey he groan loadly enough for arya to hear and giggle. To let her know that it was not amusing he threw her his best glare. A smile saying ‘you deserved it for the height comment’ was all he got in return. From jon memory prince joffrey was a royal prick. The last time jon had met him, he had loved to call jon bastard as many time he could. At that time the price was only six years old, now he was almost a young man.

“Bastard, we thought you had died in some gutter after running from here.” Joffery greeted jon with all the disdain he could muster.

“well my lord you were certainly wrong about that as I am in front of you as hale and hearty a man could be” jon replied as casually as he could. After living with men the likes of tyrion lannister, bronn and pentosi magisters, jon had learned some of their manner.

“it is my prince, bastard not my lord. Did no one ever teach you some manner to how to talk the prince of the crown? I could have you whipped for it. It seems leaving away from this cold place had mad you simple”. Joffrey laughed with his minions who always surrounded him.

“You may have a point there. You see I have been leaving in essos where there is no distinction between men. In essos you have to survive with either your wits or your sword. I am sure you will make a great name for yourself there.” This remark for jon again caused the hall to fall in silence. Jon knew perfectly well that not only he had mock the prince but he had not called him by his proper title once. From the corner of his eyes he could see his uncles stiffening. The younger jon would have apologized instantly in this situation but this jon was not him. His younger self would have even bowed before the king and his Queen and all their broods. That boy died at essos, this jon didn’t feared the consequences of his ill manner at least.  Apparently his response had made the prince red faced in anger. It took him some seconds to get audible words out of his mouth.

“you…how…how dare you”

“If that will be all I would like have some time with my cousins.” Jon tried to take few steps towards the door of the hall when he saw the tall, giant like figure of prince's dog. Moments like this caused jon to miss his companion the most. If only ghost was here he would never have to hear the bickering of the child prince. jon just didn’t had the patience for this kind of thing, he always had sam or tyrion to help him go through this if required. Those two would be on their way to winterfell , if jon had waited for them they would be here with him now. Jon took some few breaths to calm him, and turned towards the prince. With his most genuine false smile that he could muster, he told the boy the reason for his disrespectfulness

“my prince because of my long and hard journey my mind is not at the right place, if you allow me I would take your leave and get better.” This seemed to calm the idiot some as some of his anger left his face.

“I don’t want to talk to the likes of you, bastard. What I want is your sword.” Joffrey said the last part with an evil glint in his eyes.

“The sword at your back, it is the Nightfall right? I have read about the every valerian steel sword in westeros. The Sword with the moonstone pommel is the ancestral sword of house harlaw. I know it is in your blood to steal, but it is quite commendable to steal such a priced artifact that too from the savage islanders.”

“What of it” jon’s tolerance towards this insolent boy was running out. He knew where this was going, hopeful this would end peacefully.

“Are you deaf too bastard? I ordered you to handover the sword to me. I will not punish you for stealing it from house harlaw, as act of mercy to house stark.”

Jon ran his burned hand through his hairs, a childhood habit of his whenever he was distressed or angry. And gods knew he was angry, so to calm himself again, he searched around the faces surrounding him to find her. It seems arya wanted to meet his eyes too. It was instantaneous. The second he saw her faced filled with anger and annoyance towards the prince, he relaxed a little, it was assuring to see he was not the only one having these types of emotion. However the most appeasing part came next when she gave him a challenging look filled with amusement. So she wanted to test him. Jon laughed internally thinking about his absurd little sister. She would always find amusement whenever jon was in a tricky position. It felt good to know that nothing has changed between them. She was still his arya.

“Did you understand what I said or I have to call the maester for you.” Excellent, leave it to evil joffrey to kill the fun. Anyway, now jon had matters to handle. Jon knew that joffrey will not concede till he gots what he want, spoiled evil child. This mad boy was third in line to the throne,god bless westeros.

“You cannot have it.” Jon answered as a parent declining a child which caused some one to giggle, probably arya.

“What do you mean I can’t have it?”

“I am sorry my prince, was I not clear for the first time. I said you can’t have my sword. Or should I call the maester for you my prince?” now jon was not this childish, but for some reason this prick got to his nerve. The small laugh that he heard again was not the reason for his silly retort. He could practically feel his uncle glare at his side; he was going to get a good beating from him for this. All his musings ended when he heard the cry of a furious Queen cersei targeryen.

“You must be beheaded this instance for talking back to your prince in this horrendous manner. House stark must be punished too, for harboring such man.” Few other faces would ever be more revengeful than the face of queen cersei. Nevertheless this caused the great hall to be filled with shout of outrage from angry northern lords. And nobody, I mean nobody wanted to be in the room filled with angry northern lords. If not acted swiftly there would be no tables or chairs left in the hall. Before things got out of control jon quickly made use of all his time in controlling wildings and dothrakhis.

“Enough”

Jon had raised his so that it could be heard over all the commotion of the northern lords but not so much to lose his composure. The commanding way in which he had said that made all the lords to turn towards him. Most of the looked surprise when they caught the source of the voice, even both his uncle looked astonished. Jon didn’t have time to observe others reactions. He knew the lords thought that the voice came from lord stark and not from him. Some idiots’ southern lords were still eyeing lord stark rather than jon, still believing that he shouted the order. Till the time the hall was silent enough that he could hear is beating heart jon waited as he has always done. Calm as still water, the lesson from his braavosi master ringing through his head.

“ I am sure the queen didn’t mean what she said. As she in no manner would imply to punish the house under its own roof. That too in front of all its loyal bannerman. As she know the loyalty of house stark and the honor of its lord, after all no other in westeros have ever ruled a land as big and vast as the rest of the six kingdoms combined for thousands of years.” Jon didn’t have to pretend to signify these words, as all were true. He didn’t have to act confident while saying it, as he was proud of house stark and his uncle for their just rule. House stark and north didn’t get the respect it deserved from the rest of kingdoms. He felt a little sad as he too played a part in that misconception. He pushed his self harming thoughts aside and went through his calming words before the mad Queen could reply. His words seem to have the desired effect on both the sides. The northerners were pacified enough which was the point, while the southerners were confounded and angry at the same time which too was the point.

“As for the matter of the price ‘wanting’ my sword, his allegation thrown at me for stealing the sword is false.”

He waited just enough so what he said reached the minds of the right people. Again he didn’t wait for either the mad queen or son to shout.

“When I was traveling from lys to volantis I came across harras harlaw who was leading a ship full of slaves to slavers bay. When he saw my merchant ship he attacked us..”

“Ser harras harlaw I believe, he is a rare knight in iron island is he not, jon snow?

This time the voice that interrupted jon belonged to princess daenerys targeryen, sister to the king. Jon again groan loadly, how big is this royal family. He was seeing this woman for the first time as the last time she had not traveled to the north with his brothers. Jon didn’t pay much attention to her but took his time to answer her question, and use it to properly examine the lords and ladies that were present, so he wouldn’t be caught so off guard next time. jon knew that tywin lannister and olena tyrell would be present as he himself suggested that to tyrion and sam. Other than that both of the queen’s daughters were present. Red viper and his sand snakes had came with princes Arianne martell. Again he didn’t waste any time in gauging their reaction to his trial. For a moment he rejoiced when he didn’t find the cruel faces of viserys and his own dog allister thorne. What were the qualities required to become a knight for these southerners was a whole different matter. But the little joy was quickly crushed when he saw the lunatic face of the master and his dog. As it happens this was going to be a big day. After getting an encouraging look from arya he started again, hopefully to end it once and for all.

“As I was saying on my way to volantis, harras harlow and his iron born raiders turned slavers attacked my merchant ship. Apparently harlow owned a dept to someone, to get rid of the dept he became a slaver.” Jon saw a question forming on the prince’s mouth, before she could ask he continue as nothing has happened.

“Before you say that slaving is banned in westeros, let me make it very clear that the  king’s law doesn’t outlaw it if done outside westeros. While the north have its own law regarding slavery and punishment of slavers regardless if done in other land, rest of the kingdom doesn’t mind it. If you looked closely you would still find some lords practicing it. ‘ser’ harras was of them.

This time jon waited to hear the uproar but as expected no one came forward. No one cared for slavers and slaving, not even the red faced daenerys targeryen.

“In the issuing skirmish between the merchant’s men and the raiders, I killed some iron islanders that caught harlow’s eye. He halted the raiders and offered me a duel. A duel to death.”

“why would he offer a lowly bastard like you to a duel? This is all a preposterous lie…”he didn’t let the seething Queen cerise to continue as he unsheathed longclaw. His action caused the kingsgaurds to draw their own swords out. Jon chuckled a little internally when he saw all seven kingsgaurd grim faces; they feared him even with their seven to one advantage. Jon had to try to contain his laughter when he saw the faces of joffrey and viserys. If only they knew what sword he carrying on his right side. The sound of drawing valyrian steel from its sheath reverberated across the hall. All greedy eyes focused on the grey ripples on the blade.

“Prince joffrey here can validate when I say that this sword here is the ancestral sword of house mormont, last reported in the hands of joer mormont the lord commander of the nights watch. As his only son ran away from lord stark sword for selling poachers as slaves, longclaw remained in his possession when he took the black, as lady maege here is far better with a mace than a sword.” The last statement caused lady maege and few northerners to laugh.

“jon snow is telling the truth. Joer had informed me that he had given his sword as gift to someone who had saved his life. He said it was in good northern hand. I believe his words now.” Lady maege said confidently from where she was eyeing jon. Jon nodded to convey his gratitude for her support.

“As price joffrey wants Nightfall, harras wanted another valerian steel sword. harras challenged me to duel to earn longclaw by paying the iron price. If he succeeded in killing me, longclaw would become his. On the other hand if I won the islanders would leave my ship alone and the slaves on his ship become mine.”

The atmosphere in the hall had changed as his words got registered its occupants. He didn’t have to mention what happened at the duel and who won. Jon knew now was the time to end this unwarranted trial.

“As I won the sword from an iron islander by paying the iron price it belongs to me. The remaining iron islanders are witness to the whole exchange and duel. If I had stolen the sword, lord rodrik harlaw would have demanded a bounty on it, while demanding my head. I believe he know what went through on that day as he must have been informed by the raiders. Prince joffrey can’t have any of my swords as they belong to me just like Ice belong to lord stark and heartsbane belong to lord tarly. The crown doesn’t own the heirlooms held by a house or in my case a person. If the crown seizes it for no reason other than ‘wanting’ them for themselves then that would imply stealing, also the houses these swords previously belonged to would feel slighted as their wishes were not taken seriously. Even more there in no law regarding the exchanges of a house heirloom.”

The silence prevailed in the hall as nobody threw any more tantrum or accusation on jon. If they had he would have asked them to send ravens to joer and lord harlaw for confirmation. jon felt like he had battled for three days, all for a prince hissy fit. As it happens jon took this small victory as a opportunity to show the court that he was not a man to fiddle with.

“if that is all the royal family requires of me, I would take my leave.” Without waiting for an answer he turned around to make his way out, passing by the prince dog who just grunted when he passed around him. On his way he caught arya eyes filled with joy and awe in it.

Jon snow didn’t saw that arya was the not the only one who’s respect he had earned at that time, just like joffrey was the not the only one who’s ire he had earned.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three


The cold winds of the northern night didn’t affect jon as it did to someone who three moons ago was surviving the deserts of essos. Maybe it was because he had experience the cold nights of the lands beyond the wall. jon’s body was tired of travelling from the wall to winterfell and his mind was restless. It was all because of the nuisance caused by joffrey and his mother. He was not a fool to think he hasn’t offended the royal family. They would surely try to cause problem for him in the future. In order to calm his mind he went to the place he knew will help him.


The tranquility of the godswood made him to ease up a little. To see the heart tree whose blood seeping eyes had seen thousands of years made Jon sense the presence of gods. Jon sat on the roots of the heart just as his uncle ned would sometimes do. This was his place. He may have felt like an outsider in winterfell but he never got that same feeling here. The years outside of the north were hard on him. He had suffered through a lot outside these walls, but now as he sit with his scared back pressed to the heart tree, for once after so many years he felt at peace. He didn’t feel the familiar aching of his burnrd hand or his whipped back. Yes he had learned a great deal in those years but at what price. They had allowed him to the chance to see some astonishing things, creatures and men. He hoped that the price was worth it.


The moonlight reflecting on the pools of godswood gave an ethereal glow to the whole scene. Jon smiled as he imagined her reaction seeing the harsh beauty of the godswood, which he has tried to describe to her many times. Well that stupid, rebellious girl will probably fell in love with it. He tried to remember the last thing she had said to him. The next time we see each other it will be at your home and you don’t know how much I am going to enjoy it. This will be the last time that I will allow you to leave me. I feel alone without you.


His brooding thoughts ended when he heard the soft sounds of footsteps moving towards him. He didn’t have to move his face to see who it was though. Arya silently sat near him. She was wearing furs over the dress she was wearing at the feast. They sat like that for some time without saying a word. The silence surrounding them never felt in any way awkward to him, some way it was pleasant. Jon’s eyes trailed to arya form sitting beside him demurely. It was strange to see arya sitting like a lady with knees pressed together, the fact that she was also wearing a dress was not lost to him. Their eyes met and they both tried to show their hidden feelings and unspoken words through it. She eventually broke the trance.


“There were times when I thought I would never see you again. They were the most terrifying. Many times I thought to leave everything and just go search for you, whenever you were, I would find you. Then I would try to remember your promise. That we will see each other again, no matter what, no matter the cost, that you will come back to me.”
Her grey eyes were filled with unshed tears. Seeing her like this again for a second time in a day brought the same- once familiar- feeling of love to his heart. He wrapped his arms tightly around her. All this time he was thinking about his hardships, forgetting that arya had her own nightmares. He was not the only one who had to leave winterfell, not the only one wanting to run away from the harsh way of the world. He tried to remind himself that while he had run away from his problems, somehow he had pushed arya to his. God only know what she had been through these five years, two years of which she had survived in kingslanding. Gods, if only the king knew how many times jon had thought of ending him. One of the consequences of jon running away was that arya and sansa were made unacknowledged hostages of the crown. When arya turned one and three, she with sansa who was one and five at that time were sent to kingslanding with lady stark. Of course the king had said that it he had called lady stark so that he could have some northern representation in his court. The entire realm knew that lady stark had only traveled with her daughters to look out for them in the capital. How his uncle and the northmen could allow such thing? Surely not after what had happened to his mother. Jon pushed all this unruly thoughts away from his mind. In his minds he tried to form the best response to her but couldn’t come up with anything. It the end he said the words that he was trying to convey from his eyes.


“I would never break that promise, nor will I ever forget it. That promise kept me alive all this time without me even realizing it.” He brought his hands to her chin, gently lifting her head so that she could see his resolve.


“what matters is that now I am here with you and this time I am not running away from them. If I remember correctly once a skinny thing told me she could suffer septa mordane and sansa for a whole day if I was with her. I am sure that the court is nothing compared to a whole day of stitching lesson with the septa and sansa's airheaded group. By the way does the old septa still lives? I didn’t see her at the hall. Don’t tell me you finally had enough of her and killed her.”


Arya’s laugh filled the air around the godswood, she punched his side while wiping the tears from her eyes. Seeing her laugh like this brought the memories of their childhood. Jon was relieved that he still could make arya laugh so naturally.


“she is alive you idiot. she was fuming when you walked out of the hall without waiting for the king’s answer. I think she can be with cersei and jofferey on the list.”


“what list? The list of people you hate or the list of people you will likely kill with repeated doses of horse shit in their shoes.” Arya again punched him, this time straight to his stomach making him grown in pain. She was skinny for a young woman but strong. Maybe kingslanding was not all that bad for her.


“it seems essos was freed your frigid tongue jon. Who would have thought that the heat of essos would be enough for jon snow to grow from his shy behaviour. By the way this is not my kill list. This list include the people whose face were moments away from bursting in anger caused by your manner regarding the two valerian steel swords. Other notable person includes theon, viserys and my uncle edmure and my lady mother. Daenerys would have passed too but I think she was angrier at herself for being an ignorant fool. ” jon joined arya in her laughter for her ridiculous list, while ignoring the fact that she had included her own mother and uncle in it. Earlier arya had never openly acknowledged her mother’s hate for him. Jon could only guess what changed that. They continued sharing japes with each other, quickly merging to their old habits of passing over topics that would made any of them sad or angry. Arya was the one to come with this method back when the king visited them. She had ordered him to only talk about happy things; things that would make them laugh and smile. It was nostalgic and pleasant to know that they still could go back to their old self so naturally.

“I was certainly not that timid or meek as you made me seem.” Jon felt that it was enough of her teasing him for his shy nature; surely he was not that bad.


“oh really now, just because you have travelled through essos and got some fancy swords doesn’t change your past. I can recall hundreds of tales in which you act like a dreesed up doll that sansa still have.” She giggled prettily when she made the last reference, surely imagining him dreesed as a doll. Sometimes arya wild nature showed in her wild imagination.


“that’s it, I can bet that you are just saying that to change the subject of you behaving and dressed like sansa.” he regretted those words the instance he said them. If there was one thing that arya hated more than stitching was dressing like a lady, and this time he had taken sansa’s name. jon studied arya face anxiously to gauge her reaction. After a while arya face changed from anger to thoughtfulness to devilish. The last one causing jon to stop his breathing. Whenever arya had that look meant he was in big trouble. This time form the gleam in her eyes he knew that the only way he could come out of this alive was to admit defeat.

“I admit that I was a little bit shy when….” Jon gave his last chance to placate her but he was interrupted by her words filled with amusement.

“Don’t waste your breath jon, you know you have no chance. While I like the jon who is finally being able to speak for himself, I think you have grown arrogant with no one to show your place. I have the perfect tale for that.”she stood and walked in front of him in a deathly way. If only he could tell her that she was not the only one to do that. Another girl had taken her place in those scenarios. Jon dreaded the day when these two will come face to face with each other. That may be last day for jon snow.


“There was once a pretty girl who worked as a serving maid in the kitchen with her mother.” the fact of seeing arya getting this dramatic was worse. The arya that ran over her words was far simpler to manage than the arya that would think over her words before saying them. The latter one was dangerous because that one wanted something far more than some easy fun. Dramatic arya wanted revenge.


“Her name was mary. Does that name bring you some memories jon?”


jon couldn’t answer that as he was too shocked to say anything but his reaction was enough for arya to laugh in victory. She couldn’t possibly know about that, could she? he would have known, as he would have likely be teased about that for all life.


“she liked a shy boy who would sometime break his fast early in the morning before all the people in winterfell. she would serve him more pie than other people whenever she could to show his feeling. the stupid boy would mutter a thank you with his eyes glued to his plate. One day she caught him in an empty stable where he was tending to his horse. The girl somehow got the courage to finally reveal her feelings towards him. The boy heard her without moving a muscle. The girl took that as a positive answer and leaned to kiss him on his mouth. Seeing the girl leaning towards him broke whatever trance he was in, but he didn’t move forward to kiss the girl. Instead in his shock he tripped on something and fell but down on his bum making an unexpected squishy sound. While the incident was funny it was not that odd to cause the girl to run away from the stables in a state of utter disgust. The boy learned the reason for the reaction when he felt something wet on his buttocks, when he got his hand around the wet matter he found fresh horse shit in his hand. Apparently the boy fell on a fresh pile of horse dung with his buttocks. The most bizarre thing was that the girl in her nervousness thought that the boy had shat himself running away from him with that disgusted face. This event caused such a effect on the girl’s mind that she had to leave winterfell so that she would never have to see the boy’s face again. Naturally the dumb boy who fell on horse shit on his first kiss was jon snow.”


Arya stark ended the monologue with a sigh followed by a shake of her head, filled with a condescending cold smile plastered on her face. All this to show how his first kiss was not that shocking, that it was expected from him.


“ I was just a boy, she came with her mouth open wide towards me unexpectedly. What was I supposed to do, I took a step back to slow things down a bit. How am I supposed to know that while I was cleaning the bloody thing he was on a nature’s call.”


“ugh jon do I have to show you now how horse shit stinks.” She replied sarcastically, voice filled with mocking disgust and glee all at same time. she was clearly having the time of her puny life. If she was making him go through with this, he was going to make sure that she got one in return. This jon would not take this silently. Before that he had to get out of this mess with as much as dignity as he could muster.


“ if I recall correctly, I had gotten cold because of you making me swim with you in these pools. Mary was present too if you would kindly recollect from your masterfully told tale. It was not my fault that she thought that when I fell too. It was just an accident.” Jon tried to sound sure of him while nonchalantly showing that he found the story funny.


“you could tell yourself that jon, if that lets you fall asleep. It still doesn’t change the fact that you shat yourself in your first kiss” she said that in such a deadpan voice that for a moment it fooled him too. When finally he realized what she had just done he threw a furious glare towards her. The glare was useless because she was barely able to contain her laughter. The pitch of the laughter that followed was one of the loudest he had ever heard. Mind you she was not the only one; he too had joined her at the same time recalling the ludicrous scene of him sitting on horse dung in his mind repeatedly. They both were laughing so hard that he had to reach out his hands towards the heart tree to stable himself. On the other side arya was laughing like a maniac, he had to catch her when she came falling towards, still laughing with her hands on her stomach.

At one point both of them were not laughing at jon’s kiss experience but at each other. It was like a never ending chain of contagious laughter; whenever one of them would stop for a respite the other would start guffawing again causing the whole chain to repeat itself. Jon thought that they would have continued forever if they had not noticed the shadow of figures with torches moving towards the heart tree. Jon had to make arya stop first so he could in return control himself. After some great effort they both had quitted down to only few bits of girlish giggle here and there. Arya cheeks had turned to adorable red, with her hair disheveled she appeared like her nine year old version. The figures apparently had increased in numbers and as he somehow got his other senses to work again he saw his uncle with robb moving towards them from the group carrying the lit torches. Surprisingly all the four princes were present there with some lords and all their guards. Lady stark was glaring at him holding a tittering rickon forcibly by his hand. At least other than her no one was glaring at them. Robb face was filled with amusement and glee, even lord stark was showing his smile plainly. Jon and arya started their howling of laughter again at his words.


“Somehow I feel this is only the start of sleepless nights which will be caused by you two stupid fools.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter four

Jon stirred from his rare dreamless sleep by a squealing rickon, sitting on his stomach, talking with such speed that he could not understand a word. Finally, the boy slowed enough for jon to understand his speech.

“arya is taking me to wintertown, to my friends. We are taking you with us if you hurry up. We will eat on our way.”

“Once you get down from him I am sure jon will hurry.” An amused arya said from the door. She was wearing a dress altered for riding, her hair hung loosely over her shoulder. She reddened as she saw jon naked above his breeches. Last night he’d thrown his clothes off, in his stumbling toward the bed.

“You are the only man to sleep in such a state in winterfell. It seems you are immune to coldness.”

“I must have forgotten that I am in westeros and not in essos. You can’t blame me for that after a riotous night.” She chuckled, as jon reminded her of their last night escapade.

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Jon and arya were watching rickon play with the urchins. Wintertown had grown in size in his absence. He was proud of his uncle for this achievement. The north prospered in his rule. How he had managed to accomplish it while keeping the crown appease was beyond his understanding.

“Shouldn’t rickon be with bran, running around the castle with winterfell’s children like we used to do? I don’t mind watching out from him here but bran can be lonely.” Jon voiced the question which was nagging him for a time. The children knew rickon well indicating the long friendship. But why would rickon spend so much time with them and not bran.

 “Things have changed jon. With you gone, bran and I got close. We made our own small bubble. That bubble burst when father told me I had to go kingslanding with sansa. Sansa was beyond happy, while I locked myself in my room for almost a week. I couldn’t go to that place filled with those people. Alone. Mind you, sansa was no help. After a lot of deliberation father got two years of time for my ‘preparation’ to face kingslanding. I spent those two year fostering with the mormonts and the manderlys, isolating bran with a whining sansa and an angry robb. He in turn isolated rickon. Both were young boys, not understanding what was happening around them. Father couldn’t spend much time with them, he was travelling around the north, and making sure the north had enough coin to pay the steep taxes. Worst was mother. When father started to rebuilt moat cailin, she got obsessed with the idea of bran as its lord. Bran lost a lot of his childhood acting like a grown up, busying himself in mother’s lordly lesson.  Indirectly, forcing him away from rickon. She wouldn’t allow rickon to play with the servant’s children, threatening them in father’s absence. When she was in kingslanding with us, he started to venture here. Robb said he had become so wild and unruly even father could barely control him. Father believes rickon and bran need their sisters and brothers around them.”

 “He needs a family. Like all of us.” Jon didn’t miss arya including him as rikon and bran brother. She grabbed his hand and gently assured him.

“Aye, and now he has one.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Last night jon had unknowingly interrupted the welcoming feast for the king, so they were honoring him tonight. Of course, he would have done the same with the knowledge.jon didn’t knew about the feast till rickon mentioned it on their way back. He had already decided he was eating in the kitchen, later with the servants, when shockingly lady stark changed his mind.

 A clearly displeased lady stark greeted them on the yard. She frowned when she saw rickon sitting in front of jon, talking animatedly with him. Rickon was already planning for their next adventure. she was so preoccupied with her children, that she didn’t noticed jon disheveled condition. arya had tricked jon into playing with rickon, which was one of the reason for their his state. He also got deceived by rickon for giving him riding lessons. The lad perfectly knew what he was doing, as was arya going by her mischievous reaction when he wheeled the horse all around wintertown, making jon run after him. The great jon snow running in circle to catch a child on a pony, tyrion would pee himself from laughter if he had saw that. when jon had to force him down from his pony, he cried, prompting him to take him for a ride agian. Arya commented that he was too soft with children.

 Funny, someone else had said the same thing.

After sending rickon away to get him ready for the feast, lady stark made it clear that he was not to attend the feast; her words filled with contempt. For a moment he wanted to challenge her, but thought not to. He had no mind to attend a feast to see the likes of joffrey and viserys.

They must get along awfully well; after all, they are so alike.

Apparently arya would have none of it. She made it plainly obvious. ‘I will not talk with you if you didn’t show your sulking face to me during the feast.’ she had threatened him with that remark. Jon was still reluctant but all doubt ended when arya almost pleads.

‘I need you there jon. It’s just….I need you.’

So here he was.

Jon was last to enter the great hall. The feast was well underway when he made through the door. He had dressed himself with the finest clothes he carried with him other than his uniform. He had worn a cloak to hide his longsword. He couldn’t risk anyone finding about the nature of this one. The hall was filled to the brim, loud northerners and haughty southerners filled the table around the raised dais. Luckily he found one of the know guards calling out to him. Other than the blessed man, nobody seemed to have noticed him. Not even arya.

She was setting beside other daughters of the northern lords. She was wearing a bright blue dress that accentuated her pale features, her hair were braided like last time. The distance between them enough that he couldn’t see more. Jon talked with the winterfell guards around him; they knew him well enough from his childhood days to understand his predicament. As the feast went, he felt a childish anger at arya. She was the one to ask him to attend this god forsaking feast, and now she didn’t even seem to notice him.

The tables closed to the raised were moved for the dance. Just when jon had decided he had stayed long enough he saw the distinguished silver hair moving towards arya. For one frozen second he thought the face belonging to that silver head was the king. Such audacity. His fear was for naught when he saw the prince asking for a dance with arya. Jon smirked predicting the expected rejection from arya, to the embarrassment of the prince. Instead arya bowed like a bloody lady and accepted his hand almost meekly.

jon couldn’t comprehend the source and the nature of the rage he felt when he saw arya smiling and dancing with the prince. After some calming breaths reason conquered his rage. He had lived in essos long enough to fully understand and accept their broad view regarding women. Additionally, willful and strong women in his life for the past five years proved that. All that came to the same conclusion He had no right to judge or be angry at arya. By the scowling faces of other ladies including sansa, she was not the only one swooning around the crown prince.

 Maybe they got along well during her time in kingslanding, when I was burning my ass off on the dothraki desert.

Still watching her laugh with the prince brought a strange sorrow. He needed some air to escape this sadness.

His musings met an abrupt end, when he felt a familiar presence nearing him. A hint of smile graced his lips. From closed oak doors of the great hall came a sudden knocking sound, as if the doors were repeatedly smacked by a small branch, it came at a peculiar order. the serving maid who opened the door shrieked and ducked to avoid the fluttering of wings. Jon grin reached his ears as the culprit of the strange sound entered the hall, or should he say flied to the hall. A great white eagle the size of small dog flew around the hall in circle, its wings covered the width of a table. All eyes turned towards it. After three more smooth circles around the hall, with effortless ease it landed in front of jon.

Jon reached around the eagle’s beak to run his finger through her favored spot. The colour of her feather was grayish-white, inspiring her name.

“It is nice to see you again, pearl.”

 jon had again caused an uproar in a king’s feast, as the murmuring burgeoned. He ignored them, and retrieved the hidden slip of parchments attached above pearl’s talons. Pearl took flight, this time landing on the only table whose occupant had continued eating without pause. The news inscribed on one such slip, the oldest dated, surprised him the most. Grunts and curses came from the way pearl had gone, and then suddenly a bellowing voice shattered the nervous silence.

“Damn you. I haven’t finished yet, you mindless git.ugh scamper along. Go now before I bring my sword. snow! Control your bird before I break its neck.”

Jon rebuked the man immediately, head still tucked down, reading the last slip forth time.

“you will do no such thing. You have already eaten half the ladder of winterfell. Remind you, we have a king’s court to feed for a month. We are not in south where food is aplenty.”

The harsh and sudden reprimand numbed the man, and the entire great hall. jon raise his eyes, and cursed his impulsiveness. His nature of scolding his men has finally got to him. jon had experience in dealing with men and women far larger in size compared to him. This was one of the reasons he didn’t flinch when he met lord umber eyes. He waited patiently for the outburst, his right hand his sword pommel, when none came he relaxed a bit.

“Can’t have the southerners complaining about lack of food now, can we? We can offer them our ale instead, but it is too sour for their sweet taste.”

The result silence lasted mere seconds, but for jon it was eternity. The lord guffawed in laughter from the comment, hitting his big fist to the table, shaking it to the core. The northern lords responded with a nervous laugh, and then joined the big man. Jon tried not to show his obvious relief.

“Aye, you got that right lad.” The greatjon didn’t mind the grumbling of the southern lords that came his way. While he stood jon took his seat.

 Greatjon eyed pearl curiously, she had ignored his plight, and had continued enjoying the lords left dinner.

“A magnificent creature you have got there. Where did you find it?”

“vaes dothrak”

The big man brow raised at that, “is it found there?”

“No. they are only found in leng, an island south of yiti. Very rare breed, difficult to capture.”

“You must have paid a great weight in coin for that, especially for a tamed one.” A corpulent lord seated near the high table said dryly. By the look of him and his famous girth, jon guessed that he was lord manderly.

“It was a gift, when she was a hatchling. They don’t do well in a cage. Her mother died giving her birth. They can’t be tamed. The moment you free them from the cage they run.” Pearl had finished her meal, and now was seated in front of jon in all her majesty. Staring into her admires  with her uncanny almost black eyes.

“Then, how did you tamed her.” The lord was now staring into pearls eyes. He flinched from her unwavering knowing gaze. Nonetheless, the lord was definitely curious about her as many other. Below the high table, rickon had managed to free himself from robb clutches, had hurried towards jon with bran in tow. They both were having a staring contest with pearl, only a small distance separating them.

He simply smiled, “I did not.”

His answer further unsettled lady stark, causing her to shout in her shrill panicked voice from the high table.

“bran, rickon get away from that foul creature. You heard the bastard, it is untamed. Snow, get it away from them now. You should have never been allowed to enter winterfell. get it away from them or I will”

Before she could complete her sentence pearl took flight, towards her. On her way to lady stark she had gotten a chalice filled with dornish red in her talons. When she reached her, lady stark almost tumbled from her chair. Pearl emptied the wine on lady stark, drenching her blue corset from chest to knee. On her way back, pearl had the audacity to put the chalice on its original place.

Repetition of the previous reaction took place. Big jon roared in laughter followed by other northern lords. The southerners grumbled after their initial shock. The only difference was the cry of horror from lady stark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter five

A seething lady stark departed with sansa in tow, clutching her ruined dress. On her way to the door, she glared at each of the northern lords laughing at her condition, till they eventually ceased it. She had stood in front of jon, her fuming anger obstructing her from forming intelligible words. She staggered and left in hurry when pearl shrieked at her.

Unknown to jon, there was concealed unease around the hall before pearl’s stunning arrival. That tension left with lady stark. After a brief silence, as one the hall erupted in laughter. Even some of the southern lords joined, as did Jon. he could have bet that pearl looked proud of her stunt.

She emptied a chalice full on wine on someone, and she is smug about it. In future, I will be careful of her. If not who knows what she will unload on me.

The festivity started with gusto, all tables were cleared for the extra dance space except jon’s table. Bran and rickon were petting pearl as she cooed. Jon eyes swept around the hall, meeting for first time with arya. She grinned waving him over to join her. Before he could respond, a black headed young man engulfed her in a hug. In one moment she was exchanging heated words with him, and in the next she was dancing with him. Because of the growing crowd it was difficult to reach her eyes again

He wasn’t needed after all. Things really have changed.

Pearl surprisingly was enjoying bran’s company. She now rested on his lap, producing purring sound whenever rickon or bran stroked her. Jon smiled; it was rare for pearl to get along with someone so quickly. The first time tyrion had tried to pet her she had attacked his nose, fortunately for him his nose was already damage, what was left of it at least. Jon quietly went out of the hall, not wanting to disturb her and the boys.

He made towards the gate leading to winter town, the only one open at this hour. He waved to jory as he passed through the gate. Instead of taking the wagon road he went to the direction towards wolfwood. Something in the air in that way called to him. His senses sharpened suddenly, the only time that happened was when he was near pearl or ghost.

He knew about his warging capabilities. He rarely warged into pearl, she detested it. She was unruly in that way; she would fly away for months, without any warning. The white eagles are known for their capacity to undertake long journeys. They could cross seas, with extraordinary direction senses. Yet she didn’t do that while delivering messages, and would eventually return to jon. She adored jon for some reason.

On the other hand, it felt natural to warg into ghost. Ghost was similar to jon in behaviour. He would hunt for a day or two and return whenever called.  Due to Jon’s recent understanding in warging, he could gain the direwolf heighten senses when required. He could in a way become a wolf on his own. He avoided it, due to its side effects. Altogether, he avoided warging. That is why he hasn’t made a contact with him after their warm separation beyond the wall. If the news pearl had brought with her was true he was on his way to winterfell, and close, with company.

He could hear his labored breathing, merging with countless others.

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The king was wordless as ever, silently observing the merriment around the hall with his unnerving indigo eyes. nowadays, rhaegar targaryen rarely spoke. Part of the reason was the wound he had received at trident and part of it from his melancholy nature.

 A fitting punishment for his crimes. The pain that he caused my family is far greater than he can endure.

Catelyn humiliation by the jon’s eagle did one good thing. The anxiety that pervaded the hall had disappeared. The northern lords for the time had forgotten about the coming war.

jon had abruptly left, leaving a searching arya in his wake. Ned stark had a sad smile gracing his lips, as he watched her daughter maintain her ruse of listening to lord dayne, while she searched for jon. For all her murmer skills her daughter could not lie to him. He knew very well the nature of her interaction with the crown prince and his companions. She played a part of a wild girl enjoying their circle, laughing, giggling, blushing, just like the countless other noble born maidens, just like his other daughter sansa. They all were far away from truth.

Arya was moon to sansa’s sun, he had learned that long time. In any jungle, you either hunt or get hunted. Arya had to learn the hard way in her years in kingslanding. he knew she had some support, not from her mother, but some other true friends whose guiding had helped her survive. He was proud of his daughter, of her strong will, of her adapting resilience, of her ability to rightly judge a character, of her awareness. At the same time she pitied her. If she was like her other daughter, she would have run towards jon the moment their eyes met, just like her younger self would have done.

 Life can be really simple to an ignorant man, but life is anything but simple.

Her daughter had grown from an ignorant girl to a cautious woman.

He was assured and relieved of arya’s competence in protecting herself, and her family, even him. His expression turns to dour when he saw his other daughter with that cruel boy jofferey. Sansa probably ran from her mother’s room to reach the great hall. Ned stark loved both of his daughter equally. Aye, it would seem he showed his love for arya more clearly than sansa, but it was because both of her daughter downright opposite personality. For instance he gave far more freedom to sansa than he ever gave to arya. Probably he shouldn’t have done that. Or marybe he shouldn’t have given catelyn such freedom towards sansa. All in all, he was worried and disappointed by sansa recent behaviour, especially towards jon. He couldn’t blame the girl much, it is a parent responsibility to guide his charge, and he couldn’t provide that in her case. Or he couldn’t keep her away from her mother’s folly.

He had loved that women once, not now, but once he did love her. Nowadays he suffered her.

Maybe he should have jon leave that bird here, for catelyn, and for his peace.

He didn’t want to think about catelyn’s demand or in her case numerous appalling demands. It was all because of that man, that weasel, he should have ended what Brandon started.

The feast was in its dying stages when jory came charging through the hall towards him. jory’s distress posture got is attention, before he could call him forwards, jory announced.

“My lord, the wolfwoods is laden with howling wolf.”

“What of it.”

“jon went to the woods two hours ago. He hasn’t returned.” Those words froze the blood in his body. Oh lya, I broke your promise once, and it broke our family, now what.

He ordered the horses to be brought around the yard. He knew he should have ser rodrick lead the search party, as it was appropriate, with the king presence in winterfell, but seven hells with it. That man had already caused him enough anguish. He was not going to lose his nephew again for the second time, when his family had some reprieve from the throne after five years, Just when his daughter and son were happy. oh gods, I thought you harsh , but never cruel. I beg you please don’t change that.

He saw the worried faces of his children as they waited for the horses. The most disturbing one was arya, her face was expressionless. It would have been better if she was crying. She starred uncannily towards the wolfwoods as if sensing something, the wolf howls incessant. before the horses arrived, came another running guard. 

My lord, come quickly, jon has returned, but…with ….you must hurry. You have to watch through your eyes.” the guard kept rambling as the party ran towards the battlements. What he saw shocked him to silence.

The lad was covered in blood, so was the huge white wolf beside him, no not a wolf, a direwolf. They were using his cloak as a sledge to carry another direwolf, a female by noticing her swollen belly. He ordered his guard to let them enter.

The reaction of shock and horror varied from person to person. Some drew their swords, some shouted, panicked, call out the seven gods but all of them took a step back when jon came neared them. The white wolf had taken a seat besides the female, assuring her. From his walk he looked uninjured, raising the question of the origin of the blood covering his front side of body. He told the guards to bring a wagon, and asked for fennel, the kennel master. After assuring the kennel master of the direwolf exhausted state, he helped the guards in loading her on the biggest wagon they could find. the wagon could barely fit the horse size beast. The great hall had emptied, its occupant currently watching the proceedings. The yard stayed shocked till jon sauntered towards the white direwolf, which was still sitting near the gate.

Jon with the direwolf strolled towards him, clearly tired by their exertion. The wolf had snow white furs, white ghastly red eyes. the eyes were all too knowing for ned. Jon’s clothes were soaked in blood and mud, his hidden pommel sword resting on his left hip.

“Uncle, I apologized for the commotion. We were attacked by frightened stag on our way hear. Luckily ghost and I managed to kill him before he could harm her. The direwolf is expecting, she has traveled a long way from beyond the wall. I believe maester luwin and fennel can help in her birth. She is not tamed but harmless because of her exhaustion.

The reaction from the crowd was enough for him to deny jon his difficult request. Even if he ignored the curse of the gods, and the ill omen as the crowd mentioned, he couldn’t allow a direfwold in his keep with all this guest and children, it was dangerous. Jon must have read his mind, and this time he tried a more diplomatic approach

“ lord stark, direwolves are the sigil of your house. In the crypt see we them standing guard beside the kings of winter. Once they roamed the wolfwoods as any other creature of the north. Few remains beyond the wall. It would be ill omen if you deny one such majestic creature from your hall.” jon paused, letting the words sink.

“After all some of your children can be said to share the similar wolf blood”, jon added quietly as an afterthought.

 Before he could answer, Arya with rickon and bran had slowly taken few steps towards the beast. jon moved beside them, guiding there raised hands towards the beast. the beast came closer to them, enough to rip their head off. All other sounds seized when the beast moved his head down to smell their hands. After a nervous silent moment, he did something extra ordinary. He licked their palms, causing them to laugh and giggle.

Rickon, the most fearless of them moved his hand up to touch him. The direwolf didn’t make a sound, letting him run his hand through his heavy fur.

“father, his furs is so soft, and so much that I can lose my hand in it.” Ned son said his voice filled with excitement. “Come, you can come closer, and let him smell you. His tongue tickles. He won’t harm you”

“How can you be so sure about it?” he asked his youngest child curiously.

“I just know. Besides, jon told me about them. We are the blood of first men. There were clans that used to hunt with them, like companions. That is why most of the northern houses banners include lost creatures like them.”

Greatjon laughed at that explanation. “so lad where is my house sigil, I don’t see them.”

Rickon eyes furrowed, “your house sigil is a giant, aren’t you big enough for one.”

He smiled at his son’s antics with the other lords. Seeing an eight year coddling a direwolf eased most of them. But rickon was not done.

“jon also told me that old blood still runs strong beyond the wall, who knows you can find your giant there, just like we did.”

Nobody could contradict that statement, they were watching with their eyes a creature said to be extinct. Jon eyes caught him and encouraged him to take a few steps towards the direwolves. Just as rickon said, his tongue was ticklish, his furs soft.

Before ned could ask, jon said, “his name is ghost. He can stay in the godswood, close enough to keep the female one company.”

 This boy was embodiment of trouble; gods only knew what new trouble he would bring.

“A great eagle, a huge white direwolf, what other creatures have you gotten yourself in this five years?”

In answer ned stark didn’t receive any words, just a smug grin.

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Ned stark was sitting in his solar, reading the slip of paper for the fourth time. For the past six moons someone was sending winterfell vital pieces of information about the crown. Initially, ned was wary of them, but he couldn’t ignore its accuracy. Now more than ever he needed this type of knowledge.

Since the failed rebellion, without any trueborn baratheon left, the stormland remained unbalanced. They felt insulted when Robert bastard was made lord of storm’s end instead of stannis or renly. One was sworn to the night’s watch, the other become a maester. But they never declare war. Sometimes they didn’t pay their taxes, insulted the crown, even had some few skirmish, but they had never rebelled openly. This time they had, with the support of golden company. The golden company claimed the iron throne through their blackfyre linkage, but after maelys the blackfyre line had ended. Apparently not, another contender for the throne had emerged. In the last blackfyre war, north had barely send men. the crown didn’t mind that time, they had the full support of the crownland, stormaland, westerland and the riverland , which proved more than enough to end it. This time the crown wanted northmen to fight against the stormalanders, the men who during the Robert’s rebellion fight side by side would fight against each other. The crown audacious demand didn’t end there; they wanted to field the entire northern army, every man who could wield a sword, to fight a war for the man who had already cost them fathers and sons.

The thing that jarred him the most was not the war itself, but its cause.

The gods should have taken rheagar targeryen brain, instead of his voice, although he was just a spawn in the game of thrones. The main perpetrators were tywin lannister and olenna tyrell. The tyrell widow wanted land from stormland, while Tywin lannister wanted more coin to rebuild his destroyed fleet, which he would receive as payment from the tyrell, and with coin from the stormlanders.  The war created by these power hungry lords would cause northern lives. Their plan to antagonize the stormland would have taken some more years, but the timely death of the hand had changed that. Jon connington died from sudden fever in kingslanding two months ago, freeing his position as hand for tywin. Two months proved enough time for him to anger the stormlords. What tywin didn’t anticipate was the alliance of the stormlands with the golden company, causing him to add some new players.

The golden company has been the most efficient and largest company of sellswords in essos for the past two decades, until now. A new sellsword company had gain ground in essos. This new mercenary group had pushed the golden company to desperation. According to lord manderly most of the big contracts now went to them. This group was known for its secrecy and ruthlessness. It was rumored that most of them were northerners, belonging to a mercenary group known as company of roses. Ned didn’t take rumors seriously, but there was no real word about them. What concern him the most, were the disturbing nature of these rumors. It was said that these men took payment in slave and coin, and once the deal completed no trace of the coin or the slave could be found. They emerged out of nowhere and in three years they had their biggest competitors running.

Due to its rivalry with golden company, and its deadly efficiency the crown had called them to winterfell to struck a contract. Well, the crown wouldn’t be in such hurry if they knew its name. Most likely, they didn’t think it was important to know the sellsword’s company name. tywin lannister was just playing a ruse, to give false assurance to the northern lords, that they alone would not fight the golden company and the stormlords, that the crown was supporting them. Tywin lannister didn’t even feel obliged to create a good lie. Recalling the feast when he was sitting beside him, he could feel his mocking laughter directed at him and his fellow lords.

Best prepare yourself, tywin, for a shock. The company you intend to hire can bite your own neck. Ned read the piece of paper again.

The wolf’s dragoons.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Rhaenys targaryen was more than a sultry, haughty, reveling princess. Most believes her nature similar to that of her uncle oberyn, as she is known to visit whore houses in kingslanding. Unlike her brother crown prince aegon she doesn’t shy away from showing her promiscuous dornish side. She is known for her rash anger and sharp tongue, which she uses frequently in the court. She never shies away from exhibit her erotic beauty. While ladies had shown their disdain for her revealing attire and her fearless opinion, lords tries their best to get her favor surreptitiously. The small council seeks to diminish this wild nature of their princess, struggling to get the desired match and the kings approval for her marriage. viserys had once made an audacious demand for her hand in front of the entire court to the king. Rheagar had bluntly denied him, sending him to dragonstone the next day. In a rare instance of kindness towards his children, he announced that only he will decide his children marriage choices.

Few knew the true nature of the dornish princess, the shrewd mind behind all the seductive attire and appearance. Her dornish uncles and cousins for one were familiar with the deceptive veil she donned. She concealed herself after her mother’s death when she was only one and two.

Now as she looked from her chambers window, gazing at nothingness, feeling the cold northern air around her golden skin. She tries to remember the time when this veil was not required.

She had to pull herself back after the fat merchant behind her cleared his throat. The tall, dark skinned man sat straight in his chair, even when he was covered in head to toe in rich golden silks. He was one of her main informers, verified by her uncle doran. Acquiring knowledge by any means was crucial for surviving in the jungle of kingslanding. she had learned this lesson the hard way. She needed her own spies if she sought to know the schemes of littlefinger and trouble caused by her brothers. Not to mention the master murmer of them all- varys.

Are you disturbed mother, seeing your children playing the game you hated so much that it finally killed you.

Rhaenys pushed these distressing lines of thoughts away.

“ what can you tell me about the sellswords tywin wants to hire”, she asks plainly. No need for subterfuge with this one.

“not much.” She preferred him more than the other, but know she was losing her patience.

“try”, the viper like glare seemed to work as the man shifted in his chair. He took a deep breath to gain his thoughts.

“ as I said earlier, little is known about them. Nobody knows its leaders or commander, most of us who buys their services doesn’t even know their company name.”

“us?” she was intrigued, the man in front of her was known for his caution. Why would he hire sellswods without knowing their name.

“ yes I hired them for securing some precious wares through dangerous trade routes.” She didn’t want to know what precious wares were those.

“no slaves. They would not transport slaves, it was one of their many condition.” He must have read her face. As for his answer, rhaenys was now more than just curious. How could be sellswords in essos if you don’t trade in slaves? By the frustrated look from the merchants face he thought the same.

“ I am inclined to tell you,  fayd, I will not appreciate your penchant for elusive conduct. Tell me all you know of these secretive men you had hired. Everything.” He flinched, mentioning his old name must have done the work.

“ yes, mistress. Before I tell you about my own experience with them, I must confine to you the nature by which I first noticed them, and latter trusted them enough.”

Rhaenys sat in the plush chair in front of him and nooded.

“No one knows how they came to be and who they were before, all I know is they emerged from the dothraki desserts like scorpions. How they managed to evade the blood thirsty savages?  How they managed to lay hidden after making so many enemies? By the time they become some kind of legend in essos for their deadly efficiency and secretive way, they had already annihilated some of the most powerful families in volantis. Of those, one family had the blood originating from the old dragonlords of valeria. Not one servant was found when they were done with them; all their possessions including their slaves were looted. Later they burned their estates and the things they couldn’t take with them. I am sure you too had heard about it, but most likely you heard the rumors of past feuds causing the destruction of half of volantis.”

He was correct in assuming that. The crown had not taken it seriously when varys birds couldn’t find anything awry.

Well, your little birds are not as trustworthy as you presume varys. Or is it you are involved in this assassin type sellsword company. Surely they would need a highly skilled master of spies to run this kind of deceit.

That was only two years ago at most. How did they manage to gain so much power to match golden company? From all I could muster, it looks like more like a bunch of creative assassination to gain attention.” Rhaenys said showing her doubts.

“You and I think the same mistress, for I too made the same ire in judging them. My misconceptions were cleared in lys. Lys is ruled by conclave of magisters, of which magister magel was the richest. His primary source was slaves. Not ordinary slaves but bed slaves, just like the unsullied he tried small children with the art of pleasure from their childhood. He bred them like horses, discarding the ones he found unworthy. He had connections with the most of the old valerian families around essos, maintained by supplying them the best from his pillow houses. He too had some noble blood, I think. He owned the whore houses from tyrosh to qarth, even in vaes dothrakh. With whore houses came spy network, and from it came lucrative trade contracts. Most of the sellswords in lys were in his pay. Many believed he gave inside information to tyrosh and myr to make sure if war came, he will lose his business. His power was increasing day by day as was his brutality. Slaves in lys are treated way better then in slaver’s bay or volantis, of course magister magel and his family was an ungodly exception. He was almost untouchable, till someone hired our brave sellswords.”

The following smile was predatory; it seems he will enjoy describing the fall of magister magel.

“rumor had already started of magel’s death contract. Already his silk shops and brothels in volantis and braavos were being raided. Being a narcissistic, he didn’t though that someone could come after him. In one his usual trips to pentos, he was captured. Later he came back to lys afraid of his own shadow. He called all his hired sellswords- that were guarding his holdings, shops and brothels in essos-to lys. As the news of his holdings getting raided and destroyed reached his paranoia surged. His madness was such he started beating his best loved paramour in front of a crowd. That lovely woman was humiliated and brutalized by him and his guards in front of all the lys. News of his associated butchered kept him on his edge.”

“This all went for around a month, causing him to lose his mind. The once fat lord became a mere bone clad body, incapable of using a chamber pot. He ordered the retrieval of all his money holdings in various banks and secret holdouts, including the account he had in the ironbank. He hired great numbers of new sellswords for his protection. He exiled his sons and wife, not trusting them, leaving them without a penny. By the time the last ship form the iron back left, the whole port of lys was forced closed by him. The following days one by one his trusted men were found in the gutters. Magel kept screaming orders and curses from his heavily guarded mansion. He never allowed any one to leave to help those outside. Mutiny would have occurred, but the bastard had not told a soul where he had kept the gold. The chests arrived from the dock, but they never seemed to reach the mansion”

“then one day one he got to know the sellswords were located in a small  abandoned keep with a large courtyard. He himself led the sellswords baring few to that keep, all the while laughing maniacally. He stayed outside on the street, sending his man in the keep. One moment they were breaking doors and searching for the sellswords, and the next the whole keep blew up from the ground. The magnitude of the explosion was such the whole of island shook form the impact. Red-blue flame devoured the men inside the keep, flames rising high towards the sky. Almost a thousand men were present in or around the keep, and only scream, bile and blood was left.”

Fayd took some needed breaths, and gave time to let the words sink.

“While the city was getting up to its feet after the massive hit it took, three ships left the dock of lys, leaving a shell shocked city in its wake.”

Rhaenys tried to calm her beating heart.

No It cannot be….father’s first order was to eliminate that vile green liquid. Or he is more like his mad father than we know him to be.

 No, no need to think about that now. More important things required her focus.

“Why…why am I hearing this now?”, she sounded a little winded in her mind.

“Because I was told not to”, his voice was back to his peaceful way.

“By whom?”,she commanded.

“Why, the company who caused that destruction. As I told you there were some conditions I had to accept for acquiring them.”

She wanted to slap him so hard that he would have a impression of her hand for the rest of his puny life. Or she can call his cousins for that purpose. Doran teachings reached her at that time. Control was everything. If she can’t control herself, then she can’t control anybody. She will deal with him later, appropriately.

“What about the small council or from the ship arriving from lys with news. How come kinglanding is not filled with talk of burning lys.”

“Ah, you think the fire that caused the destruction was wildfire. Your famed targaryen weapon of fear. Well, it was not wildfire princess, I am sure of that. Wildfire burns everything it its path, its green flames takes days to put down. While the fire at lys was doused in an hour or two and the flame were more bluish in colour. the only thing wildfire need is air, which make its volatile and extremely dangerous. On the other hand, from the remains of the keep we found some kind powder that burned explosively.  Of course, it was not much to determine its nature.

“you still haven’t answered my question, fayd.” She would make sure to repay for all the trouble he has caused.

“oh, I apologize. The conclave told the captains to make sure news about this doesn’t spread. They gave some mundane reason on lys not being safe or decrease in trade or something. Most likely the one to give the contract to the company was behind this, or the company bribed them. Nonetheless, the message that they wanted to spread got heard by the right people. It would have eventually spread across westeros, if not for their personal grudge with the golden company. but that is another story.”

She was about to contradict, when a wrathful arya stark came barging through the door.

“jon was injured when he came with the direwolves. Bran found him stitching his wounds himself in the stables. In the stables of all places. My suspicious were correct, he not ignoring me, he is trying to evade me. Can you believe that.” As much as rhaneys enjoyed arya stark, especially when she was angry like this, she couldn’t have her walking up her room like this.

“no I cannot imagine that, my lady. But if you would kindly excuse me I was talking with my silk merchant.” Rhaenys chided her politely. Arya blinked in anger, seeing fayd for the first time since entering her room unannounced. Rhaenys was sure that daemon had not stoped her from entering to get back on her. he knew arya and rhaenys were way past than the princess and lady-in-waiting relation.

Arya huffed in anger, causing her to smile at her antics. She and ashara had to work so hard to get arya out of this adoring habit. Jon snow must have done something nasty to get her out of her own mask. Still it felt good to see arya stark’s old self.

“I am sorry, your grace. I will leave you at once.” arya recited her practiced lines, and with a slight bow turn to leave.

“wait outside, lady arya. I am just about to conclude my business with him.” arya nodded and left.

Back to business, indeed.

“For now I have only one question for you, and you will answer it truthfully. Or by..”

“ I have always answered you truthfully, mistress.” He interrupted her before she threatens him. Gods, getting familiar with this sellsword company have given him additional balls. she will have to talk to tyene about that. She always had loved balls.

“ why are you here?” he blinked, before he could form his own question in return, she glared at him. he tried to stare back but flinched and bend his head.

“I made contact with them as soon as I left lys. I would have been a fool not to enquire about them. I had some risky business propositions that need someone like them to handle it. The entire process of making the initial contact and signing the contract has passed, and I have yet to meet their leader. I have seen their warriors but they are always different from the previous ones. All of them are in the same kind of attire, but different weapons. They have some odd conditions and they cost immensely but I have yet to see any troubles in my trade. So in answer to your question your grace, I travelled all the way to this cold castle for seeing the man behind them. To ask him questions which have plagued my mind since leaving lys.”

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She and arya walked around the glass garden without uttering a word. When arya found the flower she seeks, she kneeled to pluck the famous winter rose. She was caressing the petals almost wistfully.

“jon would always give me these whenever I will sad or angry at something. We would run around the godswood to find wild flowers so that I can give to father. I would get covered from head to toe in mud. Septa and mother would scold me for ruining my dress but he would always take the blame, even when I told him not to. After a particular harsh thrashing from mother, I told him not to so. I told him I was not some helpless girl from sansa story. He would laugh and ruffle my hair, saying that he didn’t do so because he felt I couldn’t bear the punishment, but because he felt needed. He liked when I needed him, to tell him my pranks and be my accomplice. I couldn’t understand that at that time but then later, after he left, I asked old nan. She told that men or in jon’s case a boy,are far more insecure about themselves than women. We can at least show our doubts, or if not, at the most we don’t have to fight a war in which doubts can be deadly. Jon needed someone with whom he didn’t feel his doubts or fears. I felt so happy knowing I was that person for him. ”

She brought her eyes to meet mine, her were little watery. Arya rarely cried, and always from anger and frustration. But never like this. It was different this time.

“After he left, there was no one to take the blame. Robb and bran were my brothers too, I loved them just as much, but it was different. Somehow I told myself that it was fine, jon needed me, not me. Never me. It helped me to get through those first years without him. but now, seeing him after so much has passed. He is somehow a stranger to me and then not, because he is still jon, my jon.”

She had a small smile on her face now, the flower clutched tight in her hands.

“I have come to the realization, that I needed him just as much he needed me.”

She had known arya for three years now. She had watched her grow from a gangly girl to a young woman.  Never had she seen this side of arya. Maybe jon snow didn’t know this but he had unraveled something inside of arya.

 But then maybe she had done the same to him.

Their peace was broken by none other than sansa stark. She was wearing a beautiful blue gown with silks lacings. She loved arya as a friend and more, but her distaste for dresses was one thing the princess couldn’t fathom.

“I am delighted to see you here, your grace. I am sorry that I didn’t invited you earlier.” Sansa didn’t even feel obliged to greet her sister. Arya rolled her eyes at her sister antics. Sansa couldn’t understand why she chose arya as her lady-in-waiting, and not her. sansa always tried to get close her, ignoring arya as best as she could. The chasm between the two sisters that was present in kingslanding has deepened instead of getting shallow.

 At least that was not the case with rhaenys and visenya. They enjoyed and loved each other as sister should, neither minding the poison cersei brought between them.

“It is alright lady sansa, may I ask what brought you here”, rhaenys asked.

“ oh, that would be the king, your grace. A party of almost 100 men is deemed to reach in about an hour. He had asked you to welcome them at the courtyard. my father and mother would accompany you”

Why would father specifically want me to be the one to welcome them? First of all lord tywin would never allow such respect given to anybody lightly. It was likely father had taken a stand on this one. The question was why? The only answer that she could derive was that of alliance. An alliance the crown wanted was not because of progression but because of caution. Her father knew about the happening at lys, while tywin probably didn’t. As there were meeting the spider only had with father. He knew aegon with his brash tongue will likely stark a war with them. For all faults rheagar targaryen knew his children very well. He knew I would already know the threat of this un named company of sellswords. One thing was clear to rhaenys.

 A powerful and dangerous player was going to join the game of thrones.