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280 AC

The Three-Eyed Raven


  The Past is written, the ink is dry. . . what is the point of being able to witness the journey of humanity if we are unable to aide in the ultimate outcome?

    “Who said that you can not aide in the outcome?” the Singer asked.

  “The past is written, the ink is dry.” he parroted back to the Singer.

   “Indeed it is, but the future is a multitude of variables. Have you seen what you need to see?” the Singer asked.

   “I have seen much and more, and as you say, I see a multitude of variables.”

   “That is good, then you understand that a helping hand can be given, but destiny will always be destiny. Destiny however does not need be a tragedy, is this something you can aide in?”

  He thought about it. If I look back I am lost. The only path is forward. . . it hadn’t worked in his last attempts and now he understood why. Start the story in the correct place, and then push it gently in the correct direction. He sat back and took hold of the roots around him. He needed too look forward again, he needed to see this story play out once more so that he can choose the correct place to begin the story.

 The visions came upon him as sudden as a storm. . .

  Dragons rule the skies over a city built of Black stone, fourteen fiery peaks crown the area surrounding the city. A silver haired girl stands before a man “father, we must go. . . The fourteen flames will swallow Valyria and all who live within it's cradle,”  A black castle stands out against a smoking volcano, the towers and keep sculpted into dragons… A silver haired youth standing in a tower over a table shaped like a continent. “The great war is coming, and Westeros needs our Dragons, if we do not save Westeros from itself, there will be no hope for the rest of the world. I've seen it in the flames, and Daenys wrote about it too. I don't want to be their king, Rhaenys. I have to, We all have to. It's our destiny to do so, I have seen the three headed dragon defeat the darkness and bring the dawn. I have seen Balerion, Meraxes and Vhagar battling against the army of the dead. This is why our family survived the Doom, can't you see. The only dragonriders left in the world. . .”   Two dragons, the Silver one mourning the Bronze, two winged shadows battle over the Gods Eye, The water stained red, before it begins to be pulled into the island center, Seven eggs placed on seven pyres, Green flame and a silver babe with Indigo eyes, A winter storm and the piercing cry of a baby girl with eyes of Valyrian Steel, A falling Star, and a blade as pale as milkglass, A quiet direwolf mourning the loss of the moon, a crowned stag, a mad lion, Dragons returning to the smoking sea, A gate of Ice and a gate of fire… and in the Center of them both, A weirwood larger than any other in the world.

The Three-Eyed Raven opened his eyes.

 I know what must be done. . .

“That is very good, then we should prepare, for the gods have a part to play in this as well. This will be the last time. The powers are awakened, and there is no going back.”

 He nodded in acknowledgement, he would need the crannogman, the boys father. His role will be bigger this time, his hand more transparent and with the right help from the gods, we can get this thing right… He gathered his thoughts and sent them south. . .

 

South. . .



The Crannogman




 It was just before winter when the call started. ‘South’, it called.

 

  South?

  Typically the idea of traveling south would seem ridiculous but the young crannogman could not deny the pull. It started as a small thought, but as the days passed by he became convinced that it was the Old Gods who were calling to him.

  It took some convincing to allow the journey, but he had always been more bold than the rest of his kin. He had mastered the magics of the crannog, and he would be lord in his own right soon enough. If he were going to complete this quest it would have to be now, lest it never be done at all.

  And as the days passed by he busied himself with his preparations, mostly though, he spent his time before the Heart Tree listening, waiting. If the Gods needed him, he would answer their call, but that did not mean he would do so blindly. However, no man, even one such as Howland Reed can demand answers, so he would wait, for as little or as long as the gods demanded.

 It had been about a fortnight in before he got his first clue. A scent . . . lingering on the wind. Crisp, like a cold winter day, but sweet, not too sweet though, just enough to cut through the bitterness lying just beneath. Subtly just below the surface there was also brimstone and ash. Interesting . . . not unfamiliar, not common either. He filed this away, it would come later. Perhaps he could motivate the gods for more clarity.

  Howland removed himself from the Godswood and made for his chambers. It took him a moment to find what he had been looking for, but once he had it he was off again, back in the direction of the Heart Tree. He knew now why things had been taking so long.

  Kneeling before the tree, he pulled a bronze blade from his belt. An heirloom passed down from father to son since the pact between the Children and the First Men. Holding it out before him he placed the sharpened edge across his palm and drew the blade across the soft flesh. After a moment he placed his bloodied palm in the mouth of the face carved into the tree offering it as sacrifice to the Old Gods. “Help me serve,” he whispered to no one but the wind.

  And that night the Old Gods finally spoke to him in his dreams. Pictures flashed by sometimes accompanied by sound sometimes not.

  The gods eye flashed before him first summer then winter then spring and then winter again. The Isle of Faces, a silver dragon hatching in green fire, a winter rose in a storm, a fierce she-wolf, a three-eyed-crow, falling stars, a wolf with no sound howling southward to a night sky tinted by dawn’s first light, a knight of the old gods, a mad dragon spitting green flame, a land covered in Snow, dragons returning to a smoking sea, a man hard at work in a forge with a look of doom on his brow, whispers, death of dragons, wolves, wolves, wolves… wolves with wings and wolves without, a red comet, a blue comet and a piercing melody that lingered in the distance, one both new and ancient, of times passed and yet to come. Of ice and of Fire.

   Indeed, it would seem that there is not a moment to waste, the time is now he must go. Getting out of bed, he gathered his frog spear, his daggers and his bow. At the last moment, he retrieved his blade and made way for his boat. It would be a long journey, but if he used the songs of his people he should be able to convince the land to help him along his way. And with that, the crannogman was off.


 

A Season With the Gods

 

  The Journey was long, as expected but he managed to sail past the Twins under the cover of night. He sung the whole way south, keeping the river moving at a steady pace. Once he reached the trident it was all on foot, so he would have to be careful. But he knew where he was, and it would not be much longer before he was back in the water and rowing toward the Isle of Faces. He used the natural shadows to blend in, singing his songs around himself to help him move more swiftly. He would sleep in the longest part of the day high up in the canopy of the largest tree he could find, and move quietly and quickly once the sun started to wane.

  On the fifth day just before dusk, he reached the waters of the Gods Eye and threw himself into his boat and set off to finally start his quest. He would not reach the banks of the Isle until morning so he set into his task, preparing himself for what was to come.

  The Isle was like nothing he could have dreamed or imagined. Indeed, even if the gods themself had planted this image in his head he still would not have been able to digest it all. There were no spoken words to describe what was before him. It was more than images, sounds, or even scents. It was all of it, and none of it. The trees themselves were both familiar and foreign in ways that one such as he would have never considered. The Isle had this feeling about it. Like you were everywhere and nowhere, like you were here, but you weren't. In fact, the only time I feel like I'm actually here is when I'm in the center. Making a mental note of the logistics of the isle, the northern side of the Isle felt more cold, and the south-eastern side of the isle is much more hot. Odd, I'll file that away for another day, this is not the only place on the Isle that feels different.

  He had been on the Isle a day and a night when the snow began to fall, not heavily but it was enough to make its intentions known. Winter has come and Howland would remain here on the Isle to see it through its course. The next morning came soon enough and with it the first sign that he was not alone. Had he not been studying the tree he was sleeping in front of the night before he would not have noticed the subtle change. Just beyond the tree, among some of the foliage Howland spotted a pair of green eyes, not unlike his own but somehow nothing like his. Then he noticed a set of horns that he could have easily mistook for fallen weirwood branches. The Greenmen? Could it be true? He mused to himself before finally speaking.

“Hello,” he called out before even thinking about it. Well what’s done is done i suppose, I may as well see this through, he thought to himself as he watched his ‘guest’ or am I the guest? He wondered, nevertheless... “My name is Howland Reed of the Crannogmen, The gods have called me here. I'm here to serve, do you know where I must begin?”

It felt like an eternity before it finally spoke, and when it did it sounded like the words of a song long forgotten by his people. It was like bells and thunder, the song of winged beasts and great wolves it was every sound he had ever heard, and again no sound yet uttered it was indescribable. “Root, you may call me Root. And we have been expecting you. Please follow, there is much to do and little time to do it.” the voice seemed to be saying in his head. So follow he did.

 

He made his way through the wood, through brush and the occasional low lying branch and down a slow incline. Moving in silence the whole time. It made no sense to inquire about his mission, he would know soon enough. ‘Words are wind’ he thought to himself. It's not in the saying, it's in the doing, spoken words mean nothing without the conviction to see the words through. So he followed.

They continued on in silence for what seemed like an eternity but in reality it had been mere moments before they arrived at an opening set into the ground just beneath the roots of the largest Weirwood Howland had ever seen.

The air around the tree was thick and humming with energy, the leaves singing in a breeze that touched no other tree on the isle, and the face, there was something different about it. Just when he thought he knew it, it would change again. This tree was . . . more. There was no other way to put it. Never had he ever felt the gods as strongly as he did in this moment. So without hesitation he proceeded forward, and into the unknown. . .

Chapter Text

Rickard I - The Alpha Wolf


  He had not always been so invested in business such as this, but when his Lady wife left them he promised that he would make sure that their little she-pup would fulfill her destiny. It was after she left that the Maester began to point out the benefits of making southern alliances, to aide the North and help see us through winter. But Rickard’s motivations were different than that of Maester Walys. Indeed, he wanted to strengthen their standing, but not for political reasons. Nay. Winter is Coming, and Rickard knew it.

  His wife had been telling him this ever since the day Lya had come howling into the world. Dreams began to plague her. Dreams of Ice and dreams of fire, and of a pact to join the two. It had been nearly one-hundred-forty years since the pact had been sealed, with no attempt at fulfillment. The Pact called for a daughter of dragon blood, but there were none. So Rickard had decided that he would join the blood of the Direwolf with the blood of the Dragon in another way. Lyanna would wed the Stag with any luck, and hopefully that would be enough.

  It has to be. This is her destiny, the first She-wolf born of our house since before the Conquest of dragons. Heralded by a winters storm, with eyes like Ice. She grows stronger every time the seasons change again. It won't be long before she realizes she holds influence over the element.

  There is still time for Lya, she is still just a girl, but she won't be a girl for long and I promised you Lyarra. I'll make sure she’s alright. I'll make sure the pact is fulfilled.

 


 

 

The She-Wolf and the Young Pup

 

  As suspected Howland remained on the Isle with the green men throughout the duration of the winter. Days and nights bleeding together without a second thought.

 

  Howland sat in his place sometimes deep in concentration, listening to the songs long forgotten by his people, long forgotten in the north. And when he wasn’t learning the new songs and the ones forgotten he was deep in meditation. Watching and learning, listening, and weaving. When the tapestry was finished, Howland knew it was time to leave. Destiny was approaching and this song was waiting to be sung.

  The snow had gone, and the warm rays of the sun were filtering through the canopy of the trees by the time Howland placed his canoe into the water at the edge of the isle. He couldn’t say he felt secure in his task, for his task was larger than he’d believed when he set off on his quest a year ago. He was afraid for what was at risk, but that just made him more determined to see it through.

   He had been rowing about an hour when he started to notice the different banners adorning the twisted black stone towers of a nearby castle. Another three hours before he could hear the noise coming from the grounds. And by early evening he was pulling his canoe from the waters of the Gods Eye before setting off toward the castle that was nestled just north-east of the shore.

   Harrenhal…

  First things first, he thought to no one in particular I need to present myself to House Stark.

  Setting off toward the camping grounds, Howland ducked between one tent, and then another, following the long row of tents that had already been set up. After a few moments, he got the general idea of where he needed to go.

  Each territory had been assigned space based on which geographical location their house was a part of. By this logic, once he passed through the camps of the Crownlands and the Riverlands, he should without fail run straight into the camp of his fellow northmen.

  Just as he rounded the next bend however, he was set upon by three boys of his own age who he failed to notice. “Look what we found boys,” one of them taunted.

  “Oh Gods,” Howland silently muttered under his own breath. Perhaps if I keep my head down and keep walking they will just leave me be. He sent a silent prayer to aid him and keep him safe and continued along his path.

  “Go back to your bog you freak! No one invited you!” the three continued to taunt him. For a minute he considered turning back but had no choice but to keep along his path. There is no way they would allow me back to the lake. And sure enough, just as he was about to push on he was grabbed roughly by his tunic and shoved to the ground.

  Oh no . . . this is not the plan. Oh no . . . there’s no time for this! He thought to himself. This distraction will not do. Think. . . How do I get out of this situation. . .

  He was a man grown to be sure, but even still, he knew he was no match for these three boys, and no matter how many times he tried to rise and defend himself they would all set upon him again without mercy.

  Howland was just about to curl into himself and accept defeat when he heard a commanding yet feminine voice howl at the three who were attacking him. “That's my father's man your kicking!” And before he even knew what had happened, she had set upon them with a dull tourney sword, smacking one in the back and kicking another before rounding on the third one with the point to his neck. Without a second thought the three boys took off at lightning speed.

  When she turned back around it was to a bruised and bloodied Howland Reed. She extended her palm out to him and he took it without even stopping to consider her offer. “My name is Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, daughter of Lord Rickard. Are you well my Lord? I hear this castle has a splendid godswood, I can get my brothers to sacrifice them to the gods if you’d like.” she said with a wolfish grin. But something about it made him wonder just how serious she actually was.

  “Thank you My Lady, Howland, Howland Reed . . . I was sure they were about to kill me. If you hadn’t shown when you did. . . I owe you a debt for-...” he tried to finish but was interrupted by his savior.

  “Nonsense! I won't hear another word about it. And I'm not a Lady. Just Lyanna is fine if it please you. Reed did you say? As in House Reed of Greywater Watch?” she enquired.

  “That very same house,” he responds.

  “Well, at the very least I did not lie to those idiots!” she proclaimed with a wicked grin. He was not sure what that was supposed to mean, and apparently it shown on his face for she supplied an explanation without prompting.“You really are my father's bannerman.” And just like that she had her next question lined up. “If you don't mind, what brings you to the tourney? I have never seen a crannogmen so far from the Neck, never mind this far south of the Neck. I would think that Tourneys hold no appeal to your people.”

  He thought on the best way to respond for a moment or two before finally giving an answer. “I came to witness the birth of a song, and the completion of a pact.” and that was all he offered.

  Off in the distance a crow cawed in acknowledgement.

  That night there was to be a feast in the great hall hosting all of the lords and their knights of the Seven Kingdoms. And the she-wolf insisted he attend. “You’ve as much right as any of them to be there! Nay, I insist, you will come and dine by my brother’s and mine own side this night. We are a pack and you are one of us. Benjen will help you find something suitable to wear. You both are of the same build I should think.” and with that the she-wolf was off to ready herself, leaving Howland and the young pup to their task.

  He could not help but ask the young lad . . . “Is she always so commanding?” he enquired of the pup. Genuinely interested, for he knew he needed to see the wolves, but he was not expecting . . . well he was not really quite sure what to expect, but the thread from the tapestry seemed to pulse around that one, and the quiet one too.

  “Lyanna? Well, the short answer is, yes. Father says she and Bran have a touch of the wolf blood, but Lya is special in a way Brandon isn't. See from what I was told, Lya was born at the end of winter in a sudden storm that took us by surprise. My mother had been in the Godswood praying as she was like to do, when it came upon her. My Brothers say that it took only hours for the ground to be covered in a thick blanket of snow and it did not let up until after Lya came howling into the world the next morning. . .” he paused and then went on, “Sometimes I think they made it all up, but it would certainly explain the storm she brings with her, should someone cross her kin or her loved ones. She is fierce, my father said she gets that from our mother. He said if mother had her way she would have run off to become a wildling, and sometimes I think the same of Lyanna,” the boy continued.

  “Benjen, that storm happened.” was all Howland could say as he processed that bit of information. And then he thought about it, “Would it be so bad to live with the wildlings? What was their crime anyway?” Interested in knowing the young pups thoughts.

  “Well, I suppose the crime is when they come into our kingdom and break our laws and steal or harm our people. But I suppose we are equally as responsible for not making our laws clear to them. I can't speak for the rest of the north, and I can't speak for history either. I was not there, you know? But I'm sure there is a reason that things are the way that they are.” and then as an afterthought he tacked on, “It's not perfect I’ll admit, I've often wondered why we built a wall to keep out other people. When we allow them to enter from the other direction. It's not really well thought out if you ask me.” he finally supplied. Then suddenly his face lit up, “So you’re saying that the storm really did happen?” The boy must have just realized what he had said about the storm.

  After a moment, he responded. “If it was about fifteen years ago, then yes. It was the oddest thing, my father said it was a sign from the gods. I remember spending the entire night in the godswood before the heart tree with him. We had heard that Lord Rickard welcomed a daughter though we did not know any of these details as I'm sure you can probably understand.” Before he could say anything else he heard voices coming from outside the tent.

  “That will be Ned and Bran, are you ready?” Benjen asked.

  Howland glanced down at himself once more before giving a reluctant nod.

  Benjen gave a sly grin and said “Come on! It will be fun, just wait.” and with that they set off to join up with the rest of the pack.

  As they set off for the Great Hall, Howland sent a silent prayer to the Old Gods that he was on the right path...

Chapter Text


  The Hall of a Hundred Hearths was unlike anything Howland had ever seen before. Tables were set up in rows throughout the hall, with a long table up toward the front of the room where the royals were expected to sit, though from what he could make out, they had yet to arrive.

  As they made their way through the rows toward their own table, Howland took some time to memorize the faces of those in attendance. No matter what happened at this tourney, Howland was certain that this information would be important later on.

 

  The atmosphere itself was pleasant enough, all the ladies in attendance wore their brightest smiles, while all of the Lords and Knights in attendance went on and on about which contests they would be taking part in. There was even some talk that the crown prince Rhaegar would be entering the joust.

 

  Just as they were arriving at their assigned table, the herald announced the royal party, including the king himself who hadn’t left the Red Keep since Duskendale. And, up until now, Howland had only heard whispers about the state of the king. To the surprise of Howland, the rest of the crowd looked just as shocked to see the king as he had. He even heard others whispering about how no one expected the king would even attend.

 

  Most of the night passed in such a fashion, when people weren't gossiping about women, and fighting, they were commenting on the state of the king. All save for the Starks that he was dining with that is.

 

  “Howland, do you see them?” Lyanna spoke low enough for only him to hear, and when he looked up, he saw her motioning toward three knights across the hall. It didn't take him long to see what she was referring to. The three knights in question were represented by three sigils that Howland had acquainted himself with earlier in the day. House Haigh, House Blount, and House Frey. “You should avenge yourself Howland, teach them not to mess with northmen,” said Brandon. And before he could supply why that was a terrible idea, Lyanna quickly invited her brother Ned to weigh in. By the end of the discussion, however, they had come no closer to figuring out how. Benjen offered to supply him with the proper armor and a horse to challenge them, but in the end, Howland had no choice but to decline.

  “We sit a boat more often than a horse, and our hands are made for oars, not lances.” For as much as he wished to have his vengeance, he feared he would only make a fool of himself and shame his people.

 


 The Fury of the Stag 

                                                   

 

 Something felt off. Ever since Ned went home last year for his visit and to deliver his offer of marriage to his father, he had been different. Before, whenever he would bring up Lyannahis friend would entertain his inquiries, but now it seemed as if it were a chore to him. He couldn't even enjoy the company of a tavern wench in the past months without Ned’s judging eye upon him. 


   He had not been openly hostile toward him, in fact it was clear that his relationship with Ned was as strong as ever, but Robert could not help but think that Ned was not as comfortable with his betrothal to Lyanna as he had been led to believe prior to his trip North.

   Lyanna… what a beauty.


  He had seen the portrait that Ned carried on many occasions, though it was done a few years ago, it had been clear that she would be lovely. He had not expected the creature before him however. She bore little resemblance of the image he had thought to memorize though. Her eyes were the same, but her face had slimmed down, and her hair was not worn the same.  She was small, but not delicately so. Though he was certain he could wrap both his hands comfortably around her waist. She appeared to be strong, and full of vitality. Her skin was pale, and her eyes were rimmed by thick dark lashes. Her lips were full and pouty, a beautiful shade of rose red. But he found his gaze being drawn down her frame.

  She entered the hall on the arm of her eldest brother Brandon, and followed by Ned. Behind Ned Robert assumed was his younger brother Benjen, who walked with another lad who was of the same build, though he wasn't sure who the boy was. It mattered not, his eyes were drawn toward Lyanna. . . his betrothed. Or soon to be betrothed if he had any say in it. She would be his, and Ned would be his brother, as he should have been.

  Once the king opens the feast and the music starts he would ask her for a dance, he decided. Once the lords see her on my arm, it should be easy enough to stake my claim on her. She would fall for him the same as all the others had, all he needed was a chance to woo her. Any lady would be honored to call herself the future Lady of Storms End. He thought to himself smugly.


The Raven's Agent 


  It was some time later that the Storm Lord asked the she-wolf to dance and he could not help but notice her cringe before agreeing. He watched the young pup as he listened to a man of the Night’s Watch speak to the men about joining their order. And he also noticed the quiet-wolf stare longingly at a maid with haunting violet eyes. The eldest one, Brandon spent most of his evening laughing and drinking with his men. When the song ended he found Lyanna back at his side with a grimace still plastered on her face.

  “I swear Ned I don't understand why you thought that HE was a good fit for me. I do not like him Ned, I will not have this I swear this to you. I am not some delicate flower to be holed up in some tower waiting on her Lord husband to grace her with his presence. I will not be some broodmare Ned!” Lyanna exclaimed in a voice low enough not to cause a stir.

  “Lyanna, could you not just give him a chance? I know that things are...,” he swallowed dropping his voice, “different, ever since the offer was made, but until there's more to know-” Ned allowed the thought to carry as he was cut off by the she-wolf.

 

  “If you like the man so much Ned you can bloody well marry him in my stead, you and I both know that is what he really wants anyway!” she cut back at him.
“Do you love me so little Ned that you would put my happiness second to him?

  “Lya..” Ned stammered. But The she-wolf cut him off again.

  “Don't answer that, we will continue this conversation at another time.” Just then Brandon approached.

 

  “So Ned, do you want to tell me who it is you have been watching all night? Or shall I start taking guesses? Brandon said as he leaned down to look at Ned with a raised brow. The quiet one just blushed and looked to his feet before Benjen pointed toward the beauty that Ned had been eying.

  “The one with the purple eyes and the dark hair, he can't take his eyes off her.” Benjen teased.

 

  Glancing across the room to where Ben had pointed Brandon’s eyebrows raised and then he said, “Ah, Ashara Dayne, sister to Ser Arthur Dayne the Sword of the Morning. Good one Ned. If your going to aim, it may as well be for the stars,” he teased. “So, are you going to ask her to dance, because if not I hope you don't mind if I do.”And he didn't wait for Ned to reply before marching off in her direction.

 

  Everyone at the table stared on in shock and in wonder as the quiet one watched his confident older brother approach the mysterious Ashara and ask her to dance. And to Ned’s horror she accepted without so much as a second thought and a smile that cast starlight across the hall. But just as Ned gave up his hope, and was about to turn away, Brandon approached with the Lady Ashara on his arm, and introduced her to the table.

  After introductions were made, the Lady turned to Ned who still hadn’t said anything other than a ‘My Lady,’ when she greeted him, and said “Pardon My Lord Eddard, but I was curious if there was something you were hoping to ask me, or am I mistaken? For I could not help but to notice our eyes meet on more than one occasion this evening.”

 

  It was clear to all at the table, that whatever the quiet one thought she were going to say, that was not it. “Pardon me, My Lady, um. . .” Ned stammered “I, uh,” he tried to continue. . . but she stopped him before he could with a kind smile, and a twinkle in her eyes.

 

  “My Lord, if you don't mind my boldness, would you like to dance with me?” she supplied as a way to rescue him from himself.

 

  “It would be an honor and a pleasure, My Lady.” Ned accepted and offered his arm as they made their way to the floor.

 

  Once he was out of ear shot, the entire table aside from himself burst out in laughter, but Howland could not help but to think about an image from before his quest of the wolf with no sound howling southward to a night sky tinted by dawn’s first light . . . that and the thread that is twining itself around their destiny.

 

  A crow cawed in the distance.

 

  Just then the hall went quiet as an announcement was made. “My Lords and Ladies, honored guests, it is the pleasure of House Whent to host this Grand Tournament in honor of my youngest daughter’s sixteenth nameday. It is with great esteem that we welcome the Crown Prince Rhaegar who has asked to honor this occasion with a song, so please, all, welcome our prince,” and with that he backed away from the dais and gave the floor to the silver prince.

 

  Everyone knew the prince had a special affinity for his high harp, this was not the first time he played it in public, nevertheless the hall fell silent while he sat down and began to pluck slowly at the strings of his silver harp. The song was none Howland was familiar with for he had never before heard the words, but the music had magic in it, he could feel it. And he was not the only one, for he looked over to gauge the reactions of the rest of the table just in time to see the she-wolf wiping a tear from her eye. And apparently this action was not lost on the young pup either.

 

  “Oh gods! Lya are you crying?” The pup howled. “You are. Gods Lya who would have thought you a weeping maid.”

 

  “Shut up! Stupid...” and with that the she-wolf upended her cup over the head of her pack mate and made for the doors leading to the terrace. Howland had only a moment to take note of the ink mark on her left wrist of a blue direwolf not dissimilar to the one of her house. He had never seen one before so he asked.

 

  “Benjen, what’s with the direwolf on your Lady sisters wrist? Does she do that often? Does it have a special meaning for her?”

 

  “Wolf? Oh, that, well no one really knows what it’s about. She never had it until she did, but it's not ink, it just showed up last year. She said it came with winter, as did her marriage proposal to Robert Baratheon shortly after.” said the young pup.

 

  “Interesting,” was all Howland could think to reply.

 

  Outside, a crow croaked in agreement.

Chapter Text

280 AC

  “Winter is here,” she said with a sigh as she brought news to her father of the white raven that had just arrived from the citadel. She knew though, underneath her sigh her father could hear how happy the news truly made her. For she had been going on and on about it for weeks now, pestering maester Walys every chance she got on whether it had arrived yet.

  ‘And what makes you think winter is here little lady?’ he asked her every time. And every time her answer was the same.

 ‘Because I know, winter is a part of me, and you know this maester.’

  And sure enough, with the raven came the first snow, and something else too.

  Just as she did every winter, she made her way to the rabbit houses and picked one. Tucking it into her arms she made her way through the outer yard, and toward the Godswood. No one bothered to enquire after her. Just like her lady mother, it had not been uncommon for a sacrifice to the gods, least of all in winter.

  She made her way through the gates and through the ancient Ash and Sentinels toward the center of the wood and toward the massive heart tree that has stood a silent watch over the halls of her ancestors since the days of Brandon the Builder.

  Every season Lyanna made her way here to the Old Gods to make an offering. Praying for a short winter and the safety of her pack and of her people. And of course, there was also something extra added in for Ned. Ever since Father sent him off to the Eyrie, Lyanna had been sure to pray for him, because he could not. This she knew, why father thought sending Ned to a place without a heart tree still puzzled her.

  Pulling out the blade that once belonged to her mother, Lyanna whispered her thoughts to the gods and then slid the edge of her blade along the soft flesh of the rabbits underbelly. She placed the dagger down and reached her hands in grabbing fist fulls of its innards and spreading them along the lower laying branches. She left the body for the animals, always giving back, for ‘it is we who serve the gods’.

  She settled in beneath the branches as she was like to do more often than not, feeling no need to rush back. Benjen would come along after her soon enough anyway. As she sat there listening to the wind rustle the leaves of the canopy, a crow cawed in the distance sending shivers up her spine. Moments later she felt a searing pain coming from her left wrist. She jumped as though she had been burned, but when she looked to see what the issue was, there was nothing. Shaking her head, she decided to go inside, suddenly she felt very cold.

  At the evening meal she hardly touched her food, too distracted by the burning in her wrist. When her father asked what was weighing on her mind, she could do naught but smile at him, and tell him all would be well. Truthfully, with the burning also came a pain in her gut like none she had ever felt before. Standing, she asked her lord father leave, and retired to her chambers.

  Later that night she dreamed of ice blue eyes, a stag hunting a wolf, of Fire and of Ice, dancing together, but never canceling the other out. She dreamt of a silver dragon alone in the darkness, and a crown of Winter roses. When she woke the next morning, the burning was gone, and in its place was what appeared to be an ink mark of a blue direwolf similar to the image on their sigil. And something else too. . . Her moon blood.

She had known this day would come, sooner rather than later, much to her own displeasure.. Even so, now that it had come Lyanna couldn’t help but feel a sudden sense of doom.

Up until now, her lord father has been endulgent of her willful nature, her wolfs blood he would tell her. He never forced her needlepoint lessons on her, or forbade her from riding her horse Winter astride. He never forbade her joining the hunt with Bran, or minded when she dressed in britches rather than dresses whenever his bannermen were in attendance. But all that had changed the day Old Nan told him that she had flowered. And all at once her world shifted off its axis, and it hasn’t stopped spinning since. Not that this was the first proposal for her hand. The biggest issue Lyanna could see here is her father. Up until now, he had never so much as entertained one. Stating simply that she was not yet a woman and until such a time, all offers will be dismissed.

The news arrived in the hands of her dearest brother Ned, who had come home from the Vale on a visit. Of course she had known he was going to be coming home, but never in her wildest dreams had she thought that it would be under circumstances such as these.

Of her three brothers, Ned had always been a place of refuge for her. She had no need of a tough exterior in his presence, nor did she have to keep up the perpetual air of indifference that was expected of a daughter of a Lord Paramount. So the moment she stepped into her father's solar to receive the news, she felt as if she had been slapped.

“Your brother Ned returned from the Vale today Lya, aren’t you going to welcome him home?” Her father started as she was sliding into her offered chair.

Meeting his gaze, she smiled and replied. “Of course father, I was just waiting for my turn, you know that I would gladly talk our dearest Ned to death, if so permitted.” She finished with a wolfish grin and a raised brow as she turned toward her elder brother. “Welcome home Neddie! I hope your trip was without incident.” Ned just met her eyes and offered a shy smile as a way of a hello.

Sitting forward, her father passed her a scroll as a way of explanation and then went on. “He came with something we think you should take a look at.”

Leaning forward Lyanna reached for the scroll, but she knew something was off. Lyanna knew, whatever it was in this scroll, it did not bode well for her.

And sure enough, Ned picked up on the panicked look on her face and started trying to explain. “Lya, it’s a good offer, and I know he’ll be kind to you. He told me that he loves you and that he will treat you like a queen. You should think about it,” But she was still staring at the parchment in her hands.

“It’s a marriage offer from Robert Baratheon,” she said aloud, and to no one in particular. And wouldn’t you know it, without skipping a beat maester Walys took the opportunity to impress upon her father how “unlikely it was that another offer, a more generous one at that,” would be presented to him in favor of a match for Lya.

One would think that he would have chosen a better time to voice his opinions on the matter until after she had excused herself. Alas he did not, so she would not feel guilty for what she said in response.

“I won’t do it father, I don’t care who he is, or what offer he makes. I refuse to wed this man. How can he love me? The man has never met me! I’m not a game piece to be played when the time is right. I’m your daughter, and you promised me that you wouldn’t force me!” She looked to Ned. “I am sure, dearest brother, that you delivered this offer with the best of intentions, but based on this,” she gestured, holding up the scroll. “It’s clear, the Ned whom I call brother and the Ned who rode through the gates no more than an hour ago to deliver this…” she spat, “are not one and the same. For my brother would have never promised something that was not his to give.”

“Lya…” Ned tried to explain, but she continued.

“Gods, Ned. Have you even read this ridiculous offer, just who does he think he’s bargaining for? Because the woman he is building this fantasy around does not exist.” She finally finished.

“That’s enough Lyanna! You will apologize to your brother. He did nothing but deliver the scroll, you are out of line.” Her father commanded of her.

“No, father, it’s fine. I knew she would be less than pleased. Let’s just take a few days, like you suggested, and then we can talk it over and go from there.” Ned said before shooting an abashed look back at Lya. But it was lost on her, she could not simply let this go. First her body betrayed her, and now Ned.

 

“Regardless of your thoughts and opinions on the matter, you have a duty to this house, and you will do your part. So, you will take this time, and then we will speak about it in a day or so. Now, leave me.”

Standing abruptly she glanced around the room. “As you say, please excuse me lord father, I shall like to go pray.” She hardly waited for her father before she flew from the room and made for the Godswood.

A crow watched her go from it's perch just outside the window. . .

Chapter Text

280 AC

 

  The Prince of Dragonstone was busy in his solar with his face buried in some ancient scroll or another when there was a knock at his door. “Enter,” he called out without looking up from his reading. In the doorway stood his closest friend, Ser Arthur.

 

  “My Prince,” Arthur called.

 

  Rhaegar looked up at the sound of Arthur’s voice. “What is it Arthur, is everything well with Elia and the babe?” he could see the small frown on his friends face. The whole situation had never been ideal for them. Rhaegar knew that it was hard for Arthur to stand guard outside their forced marriage bed. He had known since before he and Elia said their vows before the High Septon that her heart belonged to Arthur, and Arthur’s to her. But their was little he could do to convince his father to call it off. He had been convinced that Tywin would plot to make Cersei his wife, and he was determined to thwart him no matter the cost. And now, just weeks after giving birth to their first daughter, he was forced to watch his best friend worry himself sick over the woman whom he loved.

 

  The birth had proven difficult for her, and the maesters said that she needed to remain abed. They said that baring more children in the future could prove fatal for her, and highly stressed the need for her to remain bed bound for the foreseeable future. And Rhaegar felt like the worst kind of person in the Seven Kingdoms for putting her at risk, all because it was commanded of him by his father. He knew he would have to plan a trip to King’s Landing soon. He would have to present Rhaenys, before his father started entertaining thoughts that he was plotting treason with his newly born daughter. Soon father, soon you won't be able to torment us anymore. I will see to it.

 

  “All is well with the Princess’s My Prince. It's something else,” he paused. “A raven arrived My Prince, a white one, from the citadel. Winter is here.” Arthur replied. At that, Rhaegar could not help but give a small smile. Indeed it is, he thought to himself.

 

  “Is there anything else?” Rhaegar asked after a moment. Ser Arthur simply shook his head.

  “Very well, I thank you for the news.” Arthur nodded his head in acknowledgement of his dismissal and closed the door behind him.

  It had been quiet on Dragonstone over the past few weeks. Not only did the news of Elia’s weakened constitution weigh on them, it also didn't bode well for the prophecy. Which meant that Rhaegar found himself basically sleeping in his solar so he could continue his research. Something was wrong, he knew it.

The promised prince will be born amidst salt and smoke, to wake dragons from stone. . . tears and fire? Fire and blood?

  Prophecy is like a treacherous woman. . . his mother would tell him. Well treachery is just another word for misdirection. So how is this prophecy misdirecting him? This is the question that had him sitting in this spot the past three days. Perception. He needed to work out his own perception of the prophecy and then work against it. He knew that this would be the only way to see all the possible angles. . .

  Rhaegar had figured out a while ago that there were two prophecies he needed to work through, the first was of the promised prince. And the other was Azor Ahai. Somewhere along the lines the two had become one, but after many conversations with his great-grand uncle Aemon he realized that one of them is much older than the other.

It occurred to him then, if it were so easy to blend two different prophecies together, it is also possible that key words may have also been used ambiguously. . . salt and smoke.

  If Smoke represents fire, what does Salt represent? Tears, sea water? Or has salt been confused with a like substance? Perhaps snow?

  And suddenly it made so much sense. Smoke was fire, but salt was Snow, or Ice. Fire and Ice. . . Ice and Fire. Balance! Of course it's balance! He was unsure how long he sat there puzzling out what it all ment, but without cause or warning his left wrist began to burn. At first he found himself subconsciously rubbing at his wrist to alleviate the sensation, but it quickly became too much of a distraction, so he pulled the sleeve of his tunic back to have a look at it, but was shocked to see that there was nothing there.

  Focusing again, he went back to the prophecy. If It called for Ice and Fire, for balance, then the biggest issue is, there is no Ice aspect of his marriage with Elia, she is the Sun, and he is the Dragon. Theirs was a marriage of Fire. A marriage of fire. . . Rhaegar let his quill drop.

  His father had acted too soon. He needed a union of Ice. But how will that help me now? It was times such as these that Rhaegar hated not having the power to overturn his father’s decrees. Poor Elia deserved more than this. I swear I will see to it that she lives a comfortable life, I swear she will never want for anything once my father is deposed. He could not take back the past year of their life, nor the hurtful things my father has said or done against her, but I can see to it that no one can keep her and Arthur apart once I sit the throne. It is the very least I can do.

  That night, he fell asleep at his desk once again, still thinking heavily on the revelation of Ice in place of Salt, and he dreams the strangest dreams.

  A fiery sword, and eyes like Valyrian steel, of Ice and of Fire, dancing together, but never canceling out the other. A blue rose blossoming in a winter storm. And a fierce she-wolf who stood guard of it. The last image he saw was a laughing weirwood.
  When he woke the next day, the first thing he noticed was the burning in his wrist had all but gone away, so he decided to check to see if it looked any different. And to his amazement there was a silver dragon taking wing inked onto his wrist in the exact spot that he had felt the burning. And even though it no longer felt as though his wrist was on fire, he could still feel heat radiating from the mark.

  He rubbed at the mark, to make sure it was not some kind of prank Oswell or Arthur tried to play on him while he slept. Though for the life of him, he could not understand what satisfaction they would get from marking him in such a way. But he was quickly convinced of their innocence. The mark was subcutaneous. There was no way to wash it from his skin, or remove it in any way.

  Somewhere, deep in the back of his mind, something tugged at his memory. I’ve read about this somewhere, I swear I have. . . Realizing that something huge had just occurred, Rhaegar stood from his desk and made way for his chambers. He had much work to do, and letters to write in the next days. And after that was saw to, he would set off to present Rhaenys to his father. Hopefully by the time they returned, he would have some more answers.
But first, he decided, I shall clean up before I check in on Elia and the babe, and then I will train with Arthur. After that, I will take care of the letters and all the rest of it.

  The next few days were spent deep in his library looking over old texts on ancient lore regarding magical marks and the like. One account claimed that those who bare such a mark are referred to as ‘Touched by the God’s’ and yet another text referred to it as an ‘Ink Mark’ but there was little information to go by. Of what he found, one thing was clear, these accounts all boast that these are omens from the Old Gods, or Gifts granted by the gods of the First Men. This is what Rhaegar struggled with the most though.

  Why would he have a mark given by the gods of the North? He’d never had any affection for the gods, not even the Seven that his forefathers married into when they conquered Westeros.

  At this, he decided that it was time to present this case to his great grand-uncle Aemon. If anyone had more information on this subject, it would be him. As he penned his missive, he took special care to give as much detail as possible, from the way it felt, when it started to burn, all the way down to his dream, the shape, and color of the mark, location of it, and even the fact that it emits heat all on it's own. No detail is too small, he told himself. He also included his revelation in regards to the Ice portion of the prophecy. Thinking he may be able to lend him some insight. The fact that this mark is linked to the Old Gods had not been lost on him. First he realizes that the prophecy requires balance between Ice and Fire, which Rhaegar now knew he had yet to obtain. But then the Old Gods of the North go and mark him?

  How can I not help but see the link between the Old Gods and my Ice requirement.

  Following that rabbit hole, Rhaegar quickly found himself thinking that the King’s of Winter had taken to the faith of the Children of the Forest after they signed their pact on the Isle of Faces.

  Just like that Rhaegar knew there was a place he needed to see. And once winter is over, he will have the means to do so he realized. It's time to finalize those plans for the great council, and the Grand Tourney at Harrenhal. Quickly, he finishes his letter to his uncle Aemon, and calls for a servant to bring it to the rookery to be sent off immediately.

  With a final thought, he decided to have a request sent to the citadel, requesting any documented history on the Northern territories, and the Houses. For any written record on Northern Lore, and any documentation on the ancestry of the great houses of the north. Rhaegar had a sneaking suspicion that there is something going on in the north, that they have hidden from the world. And he was determined to figure it out.

Outside, a raven cawed in encouragement.

Chapter Text

  After retreating from her father's solar, she made her way to her chambers to get her cloak before setting off for the heart tree. I don't care what father says, I will run off before I allow the maester to sell me off to some southern lord just to appease his ambitions. Gods! She could do naught but wonder when House Stark became obsessed with the politics of the south. But she knew. . . Everything that was different in Winterfell these days all centered around maester Walys. Including the betrothal between Bran and Lady Catelyn. She sometimes wondered if the maester was plotting against their gods too.

  On the way through the yard, she passed Benjen, who was busy with his sword training. She wanted to stop and talk, but she couldn't. She was too angry, and standing still would do little to calm her, so she merely waved and continued on way through the yard, past the armory and on toward her place of refuge.

  The godswood was like a world in itself, functioning separately from the rest of the world. As soon as she stepped through the gate that was the boundary between the gods and the castle, the world went quiet, but for the quiet breeze that always greeted her, and the creatures who had made this wood their own. She found her way through the trees touching a random trunk as she passed, hoping that they would help to ground her. She was soaring at present, and not in the best of ways.

  She went straight to the heart tree, and knelt before it, pulling her dagger from her boot. Taking a moment to gather her thoughts and focus her intentions, when she was sure of her intent, she sliced the blade across the flesh of her palm letting her blood well up, before placing her hand on the tree. Please show me the path you intend for me. Give my pack the strength to make it through whatever is yet to come.

  Behind her she heard the rustle of leaves, and she sighed before turning to see Ned kneel beside her and pull his own dagger from his belt, to make his own offering to the gods. They sat in silence for a time before she finally decided to talk.

  “Does he know anything about me?” she asked him as a way to open the path for conversation. Ned was never one to push, and she loved him for that. For as quick and violent her storms come and go, the god’s surely had gifted Ned with the ability to weather them. ‘Your very own Night’s Watchmen,’ father had told her once, for Ned was the light that brought the dawn for her on more than one occasion after their lady mother passed.

  “He knows how beautiful you are, he asks me all of the time. He does know that you have a special affinity with your horse, and he assures me that it's not a problem. I admit, he is unaware of your affection for sword and bow, and dare I say lance?” he asked with a raised brow and a knowing smile.

  She cringed in mock horror. “Ben?” she asked. “I know it was him, don't deny it, he can never
keep a secret!” she tried to sound as indignant as possible while also keeping the conversation light.

  “Actually, you aren’t as sneaky as you’d like to think little sister. I found where you practice the last time I came home on a visit, and I watched you practice for a while. It was quite impressive considering you have had no formal training.” he complimented.

  Lyanna blushed, “Actually, Bran showed me some of it, and I figured out the rest, besides, most of it is all about horsemanship.” she paused and then looked up at him with a wicked smile, “and anyway, it's no secret that us northmen, us Starks in particular worship tree gods and skinchange with strange beasts. I myself am half a horse.” she finished.

  They both sat there a moment before they fell into a fit of giggles. Ned wrapped his arm about her shoulders. “What can I do Lya, to make this situation with Robert easier for you? He is a good man, he is like a brother to me, and I truly do believe he will try to make you happy.” he asked.

  Lyanna thought about it a moment. “I have questions, but I need time to think about them. You understand? Because sometimes asking the right question is more important than asking an abundance of small questions. But I would ask this of you, do not encourage this match until I have had the chance to present these questions to you,” she paused, and then pushed on. “If, by the time you are done thinking on all I have asked, you are still confident in this match, I will consent to meeting Lord Baratheon with a chaperone. But unless you are absolutely sure Ned, without hesitation or doubt, I beg you not to encourage this further.”

  After a moment, Ned took her hand back in his, and covered it with his other hand before finally saying, “I promise.” The two of them sat there in silence for a time before going back to the great keep.

 


 


  Once back in her chambers, she sat at her desk and wrote a letter to Ned, not holding back her feelings and fears, knowing that only her quiet brother could endure her, without taking her words personally. For she never meant to harm, only convey with truth and conviction, that which plagued her mind and her thoughts.

 

 


My Dearest Ned,
I promised that I would present you with my questions and that is what I intend to do, but first I want to ensure you know that I love you dear brother, and I understand you mean well.
It is my sincerest wish to know more about this man you call brother. . . I can only assume that you speak of me based on his letter and your own words, so with that in mind these are the things I would like to know. . .
Is Lord Baratheon aware that I am no Lady?
Is he aware that I have no interest in court gossip, or southern politics, that I will not raise my children, if I ever consent to having any, in the way of the Seven?
Will he accept me for who I am Ned?
Will he nurture my nature or will he try to smother it?
Will he set me free, or seek to chain me down?
Does he understand that I am not a blushing maid, that I'm not swept up in lavish gifts and empty words? Because by the few words he wrote down It would appear not.
Will he remain true to his vows?
Will he love me the way our Lord father loved our Lady mother?
What kind of a brother is he?
Is he kind to his younger siblings?
Are they as close as we are to each other?
I ask because I think you understand how important family, pack life is, and I have heard he hardly spends time with his brothers at all, and his youngest brother is just a pup, without his mother.
If he could leave his pack when they need him most, can I expect the same from him?
Or would he somehow change for me?
Does he understand that there is a difference between loving a person, and loving the idea of a person?
Ned, I fear it is the idea of me that he loves. An idea you wrongly sold him.
What happened to the pack Ned?
Have you been gone so long that you think it normal to be so far from the rest of us?
Ned, I am Winter, whatever will I do in the south without the winter winds and our gods to shield me? I am not cross with you Ned, not truly. I only wish that you would have stopped to consider your sister when you painted this picture for your friend. For I know this to be true Ned, deep in my gut I know this is not my path. The gods have already marked me Ned, and I fear this path is not the one chosen for me.


She sat back in her chair to glance over the note once more to make sure she’d asked the questions that she felt were the most vital. When she was satisfied with what she had written, she stood from her desk and made her way down the hall to Ned’s chambers. She did not bother with knocking, she knew that he was with Ben or Bran, and he would not be back until after last meal. So she placed her note on his pillow and exited the room making sure to close the door tightly behind her.

 

 


 

 


  The next day Ned came to find her. She had been in the stables saddling up Winter when he found her. “Are you going into the Wolfs Wood?” he asked.

  She nodded, “Would you like to join us?”

  No response was necessary, it hardly was with Ned and her. Instead he just went to his horse’s stall and prepared his mount for their ride. Once they were a fair distance away from the castle Ned finally asked, “What did you mean when you said ‘the gods marked you'?

  She slowed down Winter to allow for them to ride side by side, and maneuvered her mount so that she was riding on Ned’s left before pulling back her wrist to reveal her Ink mark.

  “Lya, when did this happen?” Ned asked. Though his tone was light and rang with genuine curiosity, there was also something else just beneath. Nervousness? Why should Ned be nervous about mine own Ink mark?

  “It was the day the white raven came from the citadel announcing winter. I'm not sure what happened if I’m being honest all I know is that the skin just under my wrist started to burn, but not like from a flame, it was like the burn of Ice. I was in the Godswood making winters offering when it happened. Later on I started to feel sick so I retired to my chambers for the night. And when I woke up the next day, my wolf was here, and so was my moon’s blood.” she finally finished.

  They rode a bit further before dismounting and tethering their mounts to a shaded tree. They walked on for a bit before settling down into a spot near a small stream. And then Ned turned to her and took her hands.

  “What is it Ned? Why are you looking at me like that?” she enquired with a raised eyebrow.

  “It’s nothing Lya, it's just, something is going on, and I'm not sure what, but. . . I have something to tell you or show you too.” he stopped and looked around before continuing. Letting go of her hands, he reached for the sleeve on his left wrist and pulled it back to reveal an Ink mark similar to Lyanna’s. His wolf was grey, and it looked as if he was howling at the moon.

  Lyanna was shocked. She reached out and touched it. “Does yours burn too?”

  Ned looked at her puzzled, “Burn? No, I mean perhaps it did feel kind of like burning when it appeared but no, I can't say it burns now. Id say that it's just there. Though, I have no idea what it means, or why it just appeared. I didn't go to the maesters because how would I explain something that by all appearances looks like it's magical.” It wasn’t a question.

  Lyanna just nodded. "I agree, I haven't shown father yet. I have been trying to look into it on my own over the past couple of days but it's so hard to get free for any certain length of time. I've even considered going to Old Nan. Surely she of everyone would know something. She’s the oldest person in Westeros, I swear it Ned. The woman knows things that even the ‘Children’ don't know, I'm certain of it Ned.”

  Ned considered her a moment. “I honestly cannot deny this logic. If there was nothing in the library tower, short of sending for information from the citadel, Nan is the most likely to have the information that we’re seeking.”

  “Do you know what you’re going to say to father?” She decided to ask after a brief pause.

  “Well, little wolf,” he sighed, “I can not deny, you have asked some important questions. And I admit, I’ve always only ever seen the best of Robert,” he paused and then sighed deeply before continuing. “But you are right, we are a pack, and we protect our own. These questions deserve answers. And I may not be the best person to provide them. Because as you say, I see him as a brother already. I think father should have the list of questions, hmm? Maybe not the whole letter, I think some of that was for just me, correct?” He asked tentatively.

  “Aye, it was. I have not told father about my mark. I’m not sure what I would’ve even said to him about it.” She paused, “what about you, have you shown it to anyone other than me?”

  Ned shook his head. “In truth, it happened while I was on my way here. And I admit, I’m curious too. But I wasn’t sure how to explain it. If you hadn’t mentioned it, I’m not sure I would have said anything at all.” He quietly confessed to her.

  “What should we do then?” she asked.

  “Do?” Ned asked puzzled.

  “About the mark, I mean. Should we ask the maester? Spend the winter in the library or. . .”
She was cut off by her brother.

  “We should ask Old Nan. Maester Walys will just tell us that those are just old stories. But won’t explain what their origin is. Old Nan will at the very least tell us the damn story. And then sniff out the reason we asked in the first place.” He finished.

  After a moment she decided. “I think it’s worth the risk. If Old Nan knows anything worth knowing, then I suspect she will know how to help us.” Getting up, she turned to her brother and held out her hand in offering. “Come on big brother, we have a story to woo out of an old woman, and I won’t take no for an answer!” She chuckled while helping him to his feet. As always he just nodded and followed behind her as she lead them back to their horses.

  The two rode in silence for a time, letting all they had discussed wash over them. Lyanna could not deny she was still nervous about the impending talk with her father in regards to Robert Baratheon, she just hoped that father would not let maester Walys make the decision for him. The man had ambitions that were not ‘in the best interest of the realm’. Just because he said he serves the realm doesn't make it so, In fact Lyanna was sure it was himself he was serving. She just couldn't understand his angle.

 


 


  That night after last meal, Lyanna, Ned and Ben made their way to Old Nan’s rooms and begged her to tell them a story to mark Ned’s return from the Vale.
And she told them of the Long Night and the Last Hero. These were her favorite stories, Nan knew. So it was no surprise that this is the one she told. Then she told the story of a hero named Azor Ahai, a hero who forged the legendary blade Lightbringer to fight against the Great Other, and Lya’s Ink mark began to throb. This made Lyanna remember the reason they decided to visit Old Nan in the first place, so she decided to ask.

  “Old Nan, have you ever heard anything about strange marks that just appear on a person’s skin, like say their wrist or something?” Lyanna tried to sound nonchalant, but there was no fooling Nan.

  “Aye, child. I know of such tales which these marks have significance, but I don't recall ever telling you about them. Tell me child, what makes you ask me of such things? Old Nan proded.

  “I promise to tell you Old Nan if you tell us what you know.” Ned quickly answered. And for whatever reason, Old Nan determined that a sufficient answer and began her story.

  They listened in silence for what seemed like hours of the powers of the Old Gods, and the beliefs of the First Men. The first mark in history was believed to have belonged to the First King, and his Queen once they settled in Westeros after the Dawn age. It is believed to be a magical thread that links two souls to one another. Legend says that those who bare them have been God’s touched and are marked for greatness. Their unions are preordained, and can be fatal to ignore. They are preceded by a series of visions which are a link to the other bearer of the mark. It's called an Ink mark because it allows those marked to access the gates of the gods, to write destiny rather than simply participate in it. But there has not been a marked pair in over a hundred years.” Until now . . . Lyanna thought to herself.

  When Nan was finished, she looked at both of them with unseeing eyes, and said, so tell me the both of you. What do your’s look like?” Of course she knew, even with her vision failing, there was little Old Nan did not see.
So they sat for a while longer telling her all about them, and the events leading up to them. And when the hour of the Bat was finally upon them, they finally bid Old Nan good night, and left for their beds.

 


 


  A few days later, as promised, she was called back to her father’s solar, for the much dreaded conversation concerning Robert Baratheon. Never one to bandy words, her father pushed right on with the topic as soon as she had taken her seat.

  “As you know Lyanna, I promised we would revisit the topic in regards to Lord Robert's proposal in a few days. I have taken this time to think on what you said during our first conversation, and I have also spoken again with Ned. I am not sure what it is you said to him in the past few days, but it seems you have convinced him to not encourage this further. With that in mind, he also gave to me a list of questions you gave to him in regards to the character of the young lord in question, and I agree, these questions of yours deserve answers. For, I too am interested to know what they are.” he paused. “However, do not think that this means I will not discuss terms with him either Lyanna. Regardless of your thoughts, this is a very good offer, and maester Walys is correct, we are unlike to get a better one any time soon.” Lyanna gave an exasperated sigh, but her father just held up a hand to silence her before continuing. “It is my intent to see Brandon married to Catelyn Tully within the next two years. And for that reason, I will make it known that no marriage to you will take place until after you have reached six-and-ten nameday’s. A lot can happen in two years Lyanna. But think of this as a probation period for him. You want answers, and I would like to see them answered. If he wants to take my only daughter so far from the North, he will have to prove that he is capable of being the man you deserve.”

  This was not the answer she had hoped for, but her father's expression made it clear that the topic wasn’t really open for discussion. So Lya did the only thing she could. She looked her father in the eyes and reluctantly, she agreed.


  Before she excused herself from his solar, she considered showing him her Gods mark, but then reconsidered deciding that it would be better to bring it up at a later date.

  Instead, she moved around to the opposite side of her father's desk. Leaning in, she wrapped her arms around his neck. “I love you father.” she said into his shoulder. He sat there a moment before wrapping her in his arms and tucking her into his lap and holding her there like he use to do when she was scared as a little pup. They sat there like that in silence for a time, before he chastely kissed her on the top of her head and dismissed her.

  “Aye, as I love you. Now off with you little one. Always. Now off with you. Your old man has work to finish.” was all he said. It was always the way with her father. No huge emotional displays or long well thought words. It wasn’t his way. But to Lyanna, it didn't matter. She had everything she needed in that moment.

  She was too distracted by her own thoughts when she exited her father's solar, that she failed to notice the crow keeping watch over her from the window.

Chapter Text

  It had been just over a moon’s turn since Rhaegar had sent his missive to his great-grand-uncle about his mark, and today he got his reply. It had of course been a busy month for him while he waited on it to come.

  As expected his father's reaction to Rhaenys was more of a rejection. “She smells Dornish!” he had said. Promptly before refusing to even touch her. Rhaegar could hardly resist the urge to roll his eyes at his father.

  “As you say, Your Grace.” He stood and waited to be dismissed, knowing that this conversation could only go one of two ways. And of course it was another few minutes more of how inferior Elia was, and how unworthy she was to be wed to a dragon. How easy it would be father, to simply remind you that she is wed to me because you could not wait.

  “And when did the maesters say you can bed the weak woman again?” the king grumbled. Not knowing if he was truly supposed to answer the question, but not wanting the king to ask again, he reluctantly responded.

  The maesters say that she should take six moons to bed, but after such a time we can try again. I assure you father we will do our duty when the time is upon us.

  “Very well, you may go, and take that child with you.”

  Rhaegar did not wait a moment longer, he simply nodded in acknowledgement, “Your Grace.” and swept from the throne room, and off in the direction of Maegor’s holdfast and his Queen mother.

  After being announced by Ser Gerold, Rhaegar was shown into his mother’s chambers and was met by a screaming Viserys. “Rhaegar, hi! I'm so happy you are back, Mother said you brought your new baby Rhaenys, can she play dragons with me? Please, please,please?” Try as he might, Rhaegar found himself struggling to contain his amusement.

  “Relax little Vis, I'm sure Rhaenys would love to play dragons with you, but it will be a while before she is ready to play. She is only a few moons old, but soon I promise. I'll tell you what though, would you like to meet her? She is in the nursery at the moment, but I planned to call for her. It seems unfair that I have had all of her time, while you and our Lady Mother have yet to be introduced to her.” At his word, Viserys eyes passed a variety of emotions, happiness, disappointment, and joy. ‘It must not have occurred to him that babies aren’t born ready to run and play.’ Quietly, Vis nodded in agreement.

  While Viserys acquainted himself with his niece, Rhaegar took the time to catch up with his lady mother. He had much to discuss with her, including matters with Elia, the progress he’s been making with the prophecies. But mostly, he wanted to discuss the Ink mark with her, and hear her counsel on how to proceed with matters concerning Dorne, and his father.

  Not surprisingly, the mark took up a great deal of their time together. And to his shock, he found, for the first time in his life his mother taking interest in the prophecy.

  Before a weeks time, Rhaegar was on his way back to Dragonstone with Rhaenys. He spent only as much time in the city as he had too. Making sure to check in with Jon Connington and a few other people he had stationed within the Red Keep to keep him abreast of what happens while he is away from court. He knew if he had left any sooner his father and his Master of Whispers would have come up with a way to turn his actions into treason, and that was the last thing he needed to be focusing on right now. If he was somehow able to figure out who he shared his link with, he needed to be prepared to act.

 


 

 


After bringing Rhaenys to Elia and bringing her up to date on current events in the capitol, he excused himself to his solar to see about the scrolls that had been waiting for him. Of what was waiting, only two stood out. The first a raven from House Whent. Rhaegar suspected he knew what that one was in regards to. The second was the one he had been hoping to receive. Uncle Aemon. Settling into his chair, he quickly broke the seal and read it's contents greedily.






My Dearest Nephew,

It pleases me to have received word from you as always. What a shock you gave me when you mentioned your mark.
As you suspected, I of course do have some knowledge on the matter, though not as much as you may need.
I do have some suggestions however that could remedy this for you. But firstly, there are a few books I can recommend you that may have a more detailed accounting of the origins and how to understand their purpose.
You have undoubtedly been given the God’s Mark. As you may have guessed, these are extremely rare. So rare in fact that there has not been one recorded since just after the Dance of Dragons. Fear not nephew mine, I do have a few documented marked accounts that I can share with you, interestingly there are also some that include those who never had a recorded match. Nevertheless, if there is no information to be had on the Lore of the Old Gods, you may still have luck looking into these documented marked pairs individually.
There are quite a few documented cases available, some of which I can remember for myself. One of which I think you will find special interest in.
-Aegon, Visenya, and Rhaenys were marked. As were Alysanne and Jaehaerys the Conciliator. As well as Jacaerys Velaryon though there is no documented pairing for Jace. However Jace is not alone in this. Apparently there are quite a few that are documented that also have no confirmed pair.
Florian and Jonquil and Bael the Bard and his Lady Stark of Winterfell are both rumored to have been marked.
Cregan Stark and Alysanne Blackwood were marked, and found themselves on the battlefield. Another documented pair is Nymeria and Mors Martell.
Vorian Dayne and Sara Snow- Bastard daughter to Cregan Stark are both two such marked people who were never joined with the person whom they were matched to, so far as documented history goes.
I suspect you may have better luck once you have more information to go through, and It is my hope that this little bit will be enough. Start with what I have provided, as well as these books.
-Ancient Lore of the Old Gods and the First Men.
- History and Lineage of the Great Houses of Westeros
-The Old Gods of the North
-Passages of the Dead -Maester Kennet
-A History of Aegon’s Conquest- Special emphasis on House Targaryen Prior to conquest.
You may have some of these tomes on Dragonstone already nephew, I suspect though that some of these have held no real interest for dragons and thus have never seen Dragonstone. Dragons do not plant trees. So they have no need for tree gods.
I would also recommend reaching out to an old friend of mine from the Citadel. His name is Archmaester Marwyn. He’s an oddity at the citadel, but I know you can trust him with this information.
Nephew, be careful with what you write, and what you share. The Citadel does not like things that aren’t easily explainable. They won't be welcoming of this new development. While it may seem small now, make no mistake this mark means magic is coming back to the world. Something is happening my boy, something is changing. The only people who have access to information of this magnitude are maesters who are of the highest rank. Such as Archmaester Marwyn. He has access to the information that the Citadel wants to lock away and keep hidden from the world. If you do reach out to him. Tell him about what you are in need of, but no more than that. Do not share more than necessary.
As a final thought, it may be that the best place to go for more information on the subject is Winterfell. It may be that reaching out to the Warden of the North could be the best way to solve the matter once and for all. As you may know,the Starks are the longest ruling house in all of Westeros, and before conquest they had never allowed a maester into their castles. So much of the history that has been recorded by the citadel has only been possible because we allow maesters into our keeps and our lives with the soul purpose of gathering information and sharing it so that it can be useful to others. Vital information is also recorded such as bloodlines, Lore, the length of seasons, the yield of a particular crop that year and what not. But not so in the north. Whatever information the citadel has, has only been recorded since Aegon’s Conquest. It was only after conquest, that the North started allowing the citadel to send forth maesters forth to their major keeps and holdfasts.
For that reason, most of what is recorded is either courtesy of a second hand accounting, or written post conquest. Which is why I recommend going straight to the source for the answers you require. The Library in Winterfell seems the most likely of places to find any real history in regards to being Gods marked. While you are thinking on the matter, it is also worth mentioning that if indeed you are in need of Ice and Fire rather than Salt and Smoke you should pay more attention to the bloodline of House Stark. It may come as a surprise to you Nephew, but the Starks of Winterfell are among the purest of bloodlines in the whole of the Seven Kingdoms. They’ve never diluted it by mixing with houses of Andal origins. At least not in the Ruling line.
If Ice and Fire are indeed an interpretation of Salt and Smoke, then there is little doubt that your answer lies within the line of the King’s of Winter, for as sure as the Valyrians created their empire with Dragons, Fire and Blood, The King’s of Winter did the same of their own kingdom, only using Ice and Snow and Blood. Of this I am certain, for I live on a Magical Hinge at the edge of the world made from Ice and Blood and weirwood.
I wish you luck on your research son, I am here should you have need of me in the future.

With all of my love, Aemon.  Maester of the Citadel and Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch.





  Rhaegar sat back in his chair, letting his uncles words wash over him. All things considered, he knew there would be much to go over. The biggest question right now however, is whether or not he should talk to Lord Rickard on the matter. With everything that is going on right now, he could not afford to have his father's eyes drift north. Regardless of whether the reasons were innocent enough or not. Any attempt to communicate over such distance would draw too much attention should a message be intercepted. No, if he had any need of the library at Winterfell, or a conversation with a certain Warden of the North, it would have to wait until after the Tournament.

As much as he had a hunger to get this all worked out, he knew that he had to be patient. For now, the most he could do would be to contact this Archmaester and make arrangements with him to come to Dragonstone. And talk with Elia. No matter what happens here, Elia needs to know what is going on...

 

Chapter Text

           The Quiet Wolf

  He had set off from Winterfell just over a fortnight past, staying as long as he could before returning to the Eyrie. To Jon Arryn and Robert. Ned still did not know what he would say to Robert about Lyanna, maybe he has the link to Lya’s Ink Mark he could not help but think to himself as he climbed the mountain road to the Vale.

 In his last weeks, Lyanna and he found themselves dug deep into the books in the library tower. But they hardly found anything that would help them figure out what their next move should be. Nothing about how to locate the other half of the link, or how to read the mark. Any mention of the marks at all were vague at best. There were some unofficial records in the library about ancient starks who bore the mark.

 ‘Look what I just found Ned!’ he recalled hearing how excited Lyanna sounded.

 ‘Apparently we are not the only two of our line to be marked. In fact there have been quite a few Starks who have been marked since our House was founded. This list only documents any appearance since conquest, but by the Gods Ned! Can you imagine if we had the entire history since the days of Bran the Builder? I bet there is one. Only written in the runes of the first men.’ Ned just sat there listening to Lyanna go on and on about this. If he interrupted her now, it could be hours before he actually got too look at the ledger. To his surprise, she quickly slid the ledger over and tucked herself into his side so they could look it over.

 ‘Cregan Stark and Alysanne Blackwood were marked.’ Ned could not believe it. He had been married once before he married Black Aly. Though, not for very long, and he married once after her too. Whatever this meant, the soul mark certainly does not guarantee happiness or a long marriage.

 

  I wonder if the soul mark has anything to do with the marked at all, or if it is more about the offspring. . .

 ‘There’s another page Ned. Oh my, this one is much older, it says that Rickard Stark son of Jon Stark of the Wolf’s Den, had a mark too. And he took the daughter of the Marsh King  Meera Reed to wife after defeating them, who was his link barer.  

 And another one of an Edric Stark who took one Melantha Blackwood to wife after defeating her people in the battle for Sea Dragon Point, also another mark barer .’ Lyanna finished.

 ‘The Warg King's?’ he said aloud, and to no one in particular. But Lyanna had heard what he said and turned to him.

 ‘What did you say Ned?’ she asked.

 ‘The Warg King’s. Do you remember any of the history of the North from early on? The history of our Houses’ rise to power?’ Lyanna nodded.

 ‘Not all of it, but I remember some. It’s just, It's been a long time since I have heard anyone speak of the Warg King’s. Maester Walys always makes sure Nan doesn't tell us about them any more.’ she finally finished.


   I wonder why he would do such a thing. . .

 ‘ Well, if you must know. . . I was thinking that this is starting to make some sense Lya. First there is Rickard, who was marked and took Meera to wife. She is the daughter of the Marsh king's and you know that they say that the Marsh king’s are related to the Children of the Forest and the Greenmen. The Warg king’s of Sea Dragon Point were also said to have special magical blood. They could skinchange wolves and birds, and were also close to the Children. When our ancestors defeated them, it was said they fought off direwolves and giant eagles, and the Children too. And again when it was all said and done, Edric took Melantha to wife. And these marks and the only references we have link them to magic bearing blood. Lyanna there is more to this.’ And there was. The more and more he thought on things, the more certain he had been.

 Ned had never functioned under the illusion that his ancestors had all been good men. How could they have been? The north is not a kind place. It breeds hard people and harder leaders. But something about these matches really made his mark tingle. These weren't the only people that his ancestors had wiped out and wed into, There was also the First Barrow King. Ned didn't want to even think about what skills his people attained with that conquest.

 He could hardly remember the tails of the First King, but from what he did remember, the First King of the Barrows placed a curse on his land and had it sown with salt so that no king could rise above him on his lands. Some tales say that it was necromancy that was his skill. Though Ned could honestly say that he had never seen his kin bring dead men back to life.

 

 Others take me, what have you got me going on about Lyanna.

 


 

 

 It was another week before he saw the Eyrie come into view. Going up the mountain always took longer. And sure, he could have saved some time by coming up in the basket, but he had more dignity than to allow such folly. So he took the long route, first by mule, then by goat of course. But finally he found himself being ushered into the halls of the falcon. Jon Arryn was there of course to greet him, but no Robert. He was not sure why, but something akin to relief washed over him at the absence of his friend.

 “Welcome back Eddard, I trust your travels weren't too tough?” Lord Arryn enquired.

 “If you are looking after Robert, don't worry, I am sure he will be along soon enough.” he said.

 “Nay, I would have been glad to receive both you and Lord Robert. But in truth I just want a bath, and Robert has too much energy to allow for such ‘frivolities’ as he likes to put it, when there is wine and women,” he responded in a light teasing tone, that he hoped Lord Arryn bought. In truth, he was not ready to bring up the betrothal matter with either of them. It seemed that Lord Arryn was just as invested in the match as Robert had been.


 Lord Arryn took a moment to appraise him before responding.  “Well son, then let us not tarry. I'll see that your things are brought to your chambers and if you have the energy later on we can dine together and catch up. Hmm?


 “Aye, that sounds perfect. I shall like that very much.” he said with a gracious smile, as to not seem too eager.

 Once in his room he set about settling in. He checked to see if he had any correspondence waiting on him, and read through what was there while he waited on his bath to be filled. There was nothing really interesting, an invitation to a tourney expected to be held later on in the year. Lyanna had sent him a message telling him how much she wished he would have stayed longer, and interestingly a bit about a dream. I'll have to write her about this later on. He could not help but think to himself. Finally, his bath was ready so he stood from his desk and set about removing his clothing and climbing into the hot water.

 He must have fallen asleep, because when he woke up, it was to Robert Baratheon standing over him with the biggest grin he had ever seen before.

 “Did I wake you princess Ned? Would you like it if I were to return after you’ve called your handmaids to assist you?” Robert teased.

 “Only if you plan to take me dancing after the fact. I refuse to get dressed up for you just to stay in.” Ned teased back before realizing that he just told Robert they could go out.

 

 Too late. . . Robert never missed a chance to drag Ned out.

 “You may not have understood what you just said Ned, but don't think I will forget. Now out of the water with you. It's been five moons since I last saw you and I want to catch up. So hurry your arse Stark!” Robert boomed as he walked out of his chambers.

 

 Well, so much for  one night alone before the interrogation begins. Ned couldn't help but think to himself.

 About an hour later, Robert was seated across from him in his chambers. “So tell me, what did my sweet betrothed think when your father presented her with my offer?” he asked eagerly.

 “Well, ah. . .” Ned stammered at the question. “Well Robert, you should know that Lyanna has never wanted to be wed, so please understand, I'm sure it had nothing to do with you, but she was not in the least bit happy at the prospect of a proposal.” He rushed out of his mouth hoping that would be the end of it. No such luck...

 “What do you mean she was not happy at the prospect of it? Did you tell her how much I love her? Or how I plan give her the best of everything? Did you tell her I will give her seven strong sons to honor the gods and carry my name?” Robert asked as though it was the most natural thing in the world for a person to want.  Getting lost in his thoughts, he let his mind wander to the babe Robert fathered on that girl here in the Vale.

 

 Maya. . . As if the idea of adding seven sons to the one bastard daughter he already has should excite her, he could not help but think to himself.

 After a moment or so, Ned finally understood what it was Robert had asked him. And he could not help but feel put out by the entire subject. None of what Robert said had anything to do with Lyanna, and everything to do with himself. For a moment he could almost taste his irritation on his tongue. Nevertheless he took a deep breath and replied.

 

  “Robert, I was asked to deliver a marriage proposal to my sister. One I did not intend for you to offer her. But I delivered it to her all the same, because you are like a brother to me, and I thought to myself that I could do worse than to have you as my good-brother. Knowing that Lyanna is as wild as the winter’s wind,” he paused and looked at Robert to gauge his reaction before finishing, “it is not the place of the second son to secure marriage alliances for their siblings. So I assume that my father will be in contact with you if he has not already.” he finished. Before Robert could reply, there was a knock on his door, and after a moment, Lord Arryn poked his head in.

 

 “I hope I am not disturbing the two of you,” Lord Arryn said by way of interjecting.

 “No, of course you aren’t My Lord,” Ned stood up to greet the lord properly. He didn’t fail to notice that Robert did not stand. “Please do join us. We were just catching up.”

 With this, Lord Arryn made his way into Ned’s chambers and over to the receiving  area that they were sitting in. “Did you get your correspondence that was left for you Ned?” Lord Arryn enquired.

 “I did. Nothing of much importance. There's to be a tourney it would seem?” Ned added.

 “Aye, Harrenhal apparently. Lord Whent is throwing it in honor of his youngest daughter’s sixteenth name day it seems.” Robert supplied.

 “Did either of you happen to see the prize purse?” Ned asked. “I don't think this has anything to do with a name day celebration if I'm being honest.” he continued.

 To this Lord Arryn’s gaze drifted toward him. “Please elaborate Ned.”

 Ned turned red from the attention. He did not mean anything by it really. Nevertheless he continued his line of thought. “We all know that the king is going crazy, and everyone always says that the prince will be a better king. And after that whole thing with the prince marrying that Martell girl, everyone is always talking about how the ‘Old Lion’ has left court to lick his wounds. Even you have mentioned that Lord Tywin wanted his daughter to wed the prince.” he paused. “It would not surprise me if this has something to do with all of that is all.” he hurried to finish.

  Jon Arryn had nothing to say in response to that. He simply nodded his head in consideration of what he had just said to the both of them. For some reason Lord Arryn did not seem pleased with the idea of Rhaegar or Lord Tywin planning something that involved the king. Even more so, Lord Arryn excused himself shortly after, bidding them both a good night.

 

 Why do I feel as If I was just interrogated for information?

  Not really knowing what else to say, Ned told Robert that he was wanting to retire for the evening and bid his friend to leave him. He had much on his mind, and he could not handle Robert right now.


 “Maybe tomorrow we can spar and finish catching up” he told him before closing the door.

 That night, he dreamed of falling stars in a violet sky. And a crow cawing in the distance.

Chapter Text

 281 AC




      Rhaegar had been home from King’s Landing for about three days before he came to see her. Not that it bothered her much. They were friendly, true. But they had never been especially close. He was her duty, and she his. It could have been much worse, he could have her with little regard to her person as most men would. But that was just not his way. Not for the first time did she wish that Rhaegar had someone who could make him smile. She had even tried to convince Arthur to talk him into courting Ashara or another of her ladies, but it was futile.

  She did not worry that he was coming to her for his husbandly duties, it had only been little over two moons since Rhaenys had been born, and the maester bid Rhaegar give her at least six moons. However, if she had to be honest, she knew that he would wait until he could wait no longer. As soon as his father commands it, there will be no more putting this off. Luckily for her, Rhaegar came for something completely different. He simply wanted to talk.

  “How do you feel Elia?” he began.

  “Most well, thank you, my prince.” she replied in her most courteous tone.

  He smiled sadly at the mention of his title. “Please, Elia, fear not, I came here to talk with you. I have no desires of you. In truth I have a matter that I need to discuss with you that is of the utmost import, and can not be repeated to anyone. Can I talk about this with you Elia?” he asked her beseechingly.

How could I ever deny such an earnest request?

  “Please, Rhaegar do share whatever is on your mind, and I will do my best to listen and help.” she decided at once. For even though theirs was not a marriage of love, Rhaegar was always kind, and always willing to listen.

  “Elia, about a week after our daughter was born we received a white raven from the citadel. Do you remember?” he asked. She nodded. “That's good. Later that night, something happened while I was reading through my texts. I have not mentioned it in the time since, because I did not know much about it, and how can I explain something that I know nothing about? At any rate, it is probably easier to show you rather than tell you.” he finished.


  She had no idea where this was going, it was certainly not the most odd conversation they had ever had, no that was definitely when he told me about his prophecy. . .

  “Please continue,” and continue he did. Without waiting he began to undo the laces on the sleeve of his shirt. She could not help but to raise an inquisitive brow at him, but he just carried on until his left wrist was bared to her.


  Not quite understanding what it was he was trying to show her, she decided to ask, “What am I looking at Rhaegar?” and just before he could reply, she saw it. It wasn’t very dark at all, and in truth had the light from the fire not hit it while he was turning his wrist, she may have missed it all together. “Is that a dragon?” she heard herself ask.


  “Yes. It's an Ink Mark. Have you ever heard of them before?” he asked.


  “Ironically yes, I have.’ Looking into his eyes, she continued... “Which means that I understand what this means.” she paused.

  “You are promised to another by word of the gods.” she finished for him before he had the chance. Had she not been so flabbergasted by the irony of the situation she could have fallen over in a fit of laughter at the stunned look on Rhaegar’s face. But she could not. She was married to a man who was promised to another, while she was being denied the man she had loved for as long as she could remember. The gods are cruel. She found herself thinking bitterly.


  “Don't be so shocked Rhaegar, of course I know what this is. I was sick a great portion of my life husband,” she let the last word slide off her tongue like a curse. “I had nothing better to do than read as a child and it was then that I came across them. Also, Nymeria and Mors Martell shared a soul link. Why do you think we chose the Sun and the Spear as our sigil? They were the bonded marks of the two.” Apparently this also shocked Rhaegar.

  “Wait, they both had the same mark? I don't know much about this Elia. This is why I have not shown you. I was waiting on word from Aemon.” he said handing her a scroll she assumed was from his uncle.


  After reading it she decided to take it easy on him. After all, he had no choice in this, and that mark certainly was not there prior to their marriage. Still it taste bitter in her mouth. “Actually no, that is not the way they work. The Ink Mark is a representation of the wearer. So Mors Martell bore the Sun while Nymeria bore the Spear of the warrior princess of the Rhyone. Their union blended the two together to create the Sun and Spear of my House. I suppose it sounds simple. May I see your mark?”


  Moving closer Rhaegar held out his wrist to her and she took it between both of her hands. Turning it from side to side, the silver was the color of his hair, the same color of his harp. And it shimmered ever so lightly. Not really understanding why, she reached for it, running her thumb over the image, and nearly jumped from her chair at the contact.

  “What the hell was that Rhaegar?”

  He looked at her and then back at his wrist, “You can feel that? I didn't know if it was only me.” was the only answer he gave.

  “Yes, I can feel that! Could you not have warned me? Why is it so hot?” she could not help but ask.

  “Honestly, I don't have the answers yet Elia. I just know that I needed to talk to you about this and we need to prepare ourselves for what happens should I find my link barer.”

  She could only nod in understanding. “It seems that there will be a second wife for you to take.”

  “What? No, Elia I won't be taking a second wife.” he stated as if it were the most natural conclusion to come up with.

  “Rhaegar, you can't deny your link barer. Should you find her, you both must be together. The gods have preordained this. No one can separate an Inked pair. Not a king, or a septon. The Gods will be answered.” she had to make him see sense.


  “Of this, Elia I know. But you misunderstand. I mean to release you from our vows. Please hear me out. I know you love Arthur. And I know he loves you too. I mean to do something about it, when I have the means to.” she couldn't help but give him a puzzled look.

  “What kind of a man do you think me to be to stay wed to you while you are forced to a life alone? Nay, I would never expect that of you. We both know what our marriage is. It is a duty. One that was forced on the both of us. I have no doubt sweet Elia that you would have been content to continue at your duty. . .” he said the last part with a look of disgust.

  “I want more for you than a life of duty. I would see you smile. I would see you laugh. I would see you in the sun with not a care in the world. Not locked away here on Dragonstone to keep you safe from mine own father.”


  His words reached out and touched her soul. She had never known that he cared for her wellbeing, not in a way such as this at any rate. In the year that they had been married this was probably the most the two of them had said to one another in a single conversation. She could do no more than to sit quietly and nod to let him know she was listening.

  “This mark changes things. So that means that changes must also be made. When we find her, I will need your help. It is one thing to allow you to keep Arthur as your lover. It will be another when we have to annul the marriage. Especially in the eyes of your brothers. I will need your help to convince them that this is unavoidable.” He stopped and waited to see if she had anything to add.

  She did. . .


  “What about Rhaenys. If you annul the marriage what happen to the legitimacy of our daughter? What will happen with me? I will not leave my daughter to be raised by another woman.” She could not help but to let the venom seep through her at the last moment. But damn the impropriety of it all, this was the single most important question she could think of.


  “Nothing. She is my daughter. My first born daughter, and until a son is born to me she is my heir. Nothing will change that. Rhaenys is still of my blood. And she will wed my son when the time comes, if the gods permit, or if she is willing.” The force in which he said the words left little room for doubt. “As for what you will do, I was hoping you would remain in King’s Landing or here on Dragonstone, if you prefer. I would ask you to sit on my council once my father is no longer ruling. I want to find a way to create a better relationship with Dorne that does not involve selling children against their wishes. I know it is a lot to think about, and I don't have a position figured out yet, but I feel strongly that this is the best way for the realm moving forward. And who better to serve as the first woman to sit a king's small council than a princess of Dorne and Westeros?”


  She couldn't believe what she was hearing, “What you are proposing is unheard of Rhaegar, but it would be an honor to represent Dorne in any fashion I can. And I do believe this may appease my brother Doran. However, I'm sure his biggest concern will be Rhaenys position. But Dorne is no stranger to the will of the gods, I am sure he will see reason when the truth of the mark is revealed. Very well, when the time comes, I will aide you in the discussions with them.” And after a moment she decided to add something else.

  “Rhaegar, if you are certain of this, we should make preparations for our annulment sooner rather than later. To safeguard your line of succession by not introducing another heir not of your prophecy. As much as I want Rhaenys to be queen, I also want her to live. And if that means removing her from this prophecy so be it. I would not risk a son or my life moving forward on a King’s command. I want to give the man I love sons and daughters. And whomever she is,” she paused and reached for his hand, “she deserves to have all of you, and so do her children. So, we shall do this thing, and once it is done, those who know shall bend the knee to you and swear you their new king. This is going to be the start of removing your father, so you need to make sure that the people you surround yourself with are loyal, and will give their life for you. No more talking about making a change, changes are happening whether we are working toward them or not, it's time we start embracing these changes.”


  They spoke at length for a few more hours before he bid her good night. And by the time he was gone, she could feel the exhaustion creeping into her soul. Before settling in for the night, she went across the hall to the adjoining chambers to check in on her little dragonling. “Sleep well my darling.” she said before kissing her brow, and cracking the door so she may hear her should she wake. And then she retired to her bed.


  Before she dozed off, she was not sure if she heard a crow croaking just beyond her window.

 

Chapter Text

 Harrenhal 7th moon 281 AC

  He arrived the day before the tourney began, thankfully ahead of his father and his escort. He had hoped to arrive sooner, to make sure all the plans were in order and set up his tent, but there were delays of course. Mostly, it was Rhaenys wanting to join them for the event, and Elia wanting to stay and comfort her. In the end Rhaenys was left with the Queen and Prince Viserys and they had lost a half a day travel time.

 

    What is done is done...

  Once he handed his horse off to the stable hand, he made straight for the Great Keep where he was sure Lord Whent would be waiting for him. Upon arrival he was greeted with bread and salt and a bit of wine, in observance of Guest Right before the lord ushered him toward his solar. They spent a few hours going over last minute details. And touching up any seating arrangements previously set up for the feast later on in the evening. After all was said, Rhaegar excused himself. He was expecting his father soon enough, and he wanted to be sure his living chambers would be up to his satisfaction. He had a few private matters he needed to see to before that happened.

  Moving toward the desk in his father's assigned chambers, he quickly went for a piece of parchment and scribed the missive he needed to send with all haste. Now that his father had decided to attend he would need to make changes to his plans for the Council, and rather than heading for the capitol he would need to ride for Winterfell to meet with Lord Rickard. He hoped that by now his message to postpone the Lady Lyanna’s betrothal had reached her father. It was a long shot he knew, but based on all the information he had found with the help of Archmaester Marwyn, and the many ravens sent back and forth between himself and his great-grand-uncle, it was next to certain that she was his link barer. Too many coincidences between the two linking them to Ice and Fire. And if it isn't her, there has to be a cousin or a close relative who is marked. If the first, he would know soon enough, if the latter, only going to Winterfell will reveal the truth of the matter.

  It was just past midday when he was made his way from the castle heading in the direction of the rookery to send a second message via  raven. He would be sure to watch it be sent, this way no one would get to view the contents of the message. He had decided against mentioning the mark, not knowing what the backlash of such a reveal would mean without the link barer first discovered. He could not have someone like Tywin Lannister or Grand Maester Pycelle finding this information and using it as some form of leverage. Even though he had no proof, he was certain that Tywin was behind his father’s imprisonment at Duskendale. He needed his support, but he did not trust the man. And if this mark meant Cersei would never be Queen, he shuddered to think of what Tywin Lannister would do to his link barer should he find her before Rhaegar was able to complete their link.


   He was making his way into the yard just in time to see some new arrivals setting up.  Arthur and Oswell met him at the doors. “Who’s arrived?” he asked.

   “Seems the Riverlords are setting up and the Northern host was spotted not five miles out, I suspect we should be seeing them soon enough.” Oswell responded. And sure enough, by the time they were making their way toward the Camping grounds, the first few riders were starting to approach.

 

  From a distance it looked like two young boys were racing along in front of the rest of their party, but as they got closer, Rhaegar could see that it was actually a younger boy, and what appeared to be his sister racing toward the castle. Something about the sight made Rhaegar feel like he was intruding on a moment, so he stepped back into a shadow so he could observe without creating a distraction.

  The boy was young, possibly no more than ten-and-four  years of age, with a long face and blue-grey eyes that he could see from this distance. But it was the girl who caught his attention. She was unlike anything he had ever seen before, she looked like the boy, in that she had his long face, but her eyes were darker, and she had an aura about her that pulsed with life and vitality. She hadn’t seen him standing there thank the gods, so he assumed it safe to observe her a while longer. “Arthur, do you know who they are?” he asked his friend.

   “I assume they are the youngest Starks. They all have the same look. Ben-something, and Ly-...”

  “. . .Lyanna, third born child of Lord Rickard Stark. His only daughter.” Rhaegar finished for him.

 

   Beside him, Arthur lifted his brow in question. “It's nothing, I have been doing some research on the Northern houses these past months. I want to know more about them is all. I have never met any of them though.” he answered.

  Just then the Stark girl turned toward her brother and Rhaegar caught a brief snippet of their conversation. She had an easy way with her brother, and her manners were so uninhibited around her kin. “I'm telling you Ben, the Citadel is wrong, Winter is not over…”

 

 Such an odd conversation to have. Of course winter is over . He thought while continuing to listen.

 

   “Yes, yes Ben, the raven flew. . . How many years have I known when Winter was here before the raven arrived? You know I'm right,” she teased her companion. At that moment she turned and Rhaegar caught a glimpse of the most radiant smile he had ever seen before. His heart began to hammer in his chest.     

 

   What is the matter with you? She is just a girl, she might not even be The girl, get it together.  

 

   He knew it was a lie even as he thought it. The moment she rode up he felt his mark begin to tingle, unbidden he felt his lip begin to curve in a smile. He chided himself before turning to Oswell and Arthur, wiping the smirk from his face before they could notice. If he didn't keep it together he would have a lot of explaining to do and he would prefer to explain it to her before he shares it with anyone else. She at least deserved that much.  

 

   “Come, let us go inspect the grounds.” And with that they set off toward the grounds to make sure everything looked up to par. He had to walk away now, lest he would rush out there and make a fool of himself in front of the girl.

 

   It was a few hours later, while they were making their way back to their tents that they were pulled off course by the sound of a girl yelling in the distance. Taking a look around, they saw nothing so they headed in the direction of the disturbance. Just when they were approaching, Rhaegar caught a glimpse of the Stark girl setting upon three boys with a tourney sword.

   Oswell was just about to intervene, but Rhaegar decided that he wanted to see how the she-wolf was going to react, so he held out his arm to stop him from announcing his presence.

  “Wait, I want to see how she handles this.” he said. If he were being honest with himself, the truth would be that the girl lit a fire within him. He needed to know as much about her as he could before revealing himself to her. Gods willing she won't think me mad. The thought was absurd, if she was this link barer she would be glad one would think. If not, all he had to do would be to convince her to show him her wrist.

 

  It's a perfectly normal request for one to ask surely. He tried to convince himself.

  “Should we not intervene? What if she gets hurt My Prince, and someone finds out we just sat here and watched the daughter of a Lord Paramount be attacked? We should step in, My Prince.” Oswell tried convincing him.

  “No need, see? Look at her Oz, does she seem like a maid who would be glad to have three knights step in to save her in such a distressed state? Nay, Oswell, look with your eyes. She does not need rescuing,” Rhaegar pointed toward the girl. “She needs freedom from what I can see.” he finished before Arthur could weigh in.

 

  “The boys took off running, her form is excellent, had you not been attempting to be chivalrous you would have seen that this fair maid was actually saving a damsel of her own.” and sure enough, she was knelt over a small boy wearing what looked like a tunic lined in green scales checking to his injuries. “By the gods, first she is wielding a sword, now she is as tender as a maester.” Arthur said from somewhere just behind him.

    She is certainly something. . . His own Visenya come again. Was all he could think by way of silent reply.

  They stood in the shadows for a few moments more watching her attend to the boy, and decided to depart once the boy was back on his feet and moving with only a small amount of help from the Lady Lyanna.

 

  On his way back to his tent, he could not help but think about how lovely a sight she was. Her hair was as wild as a winter storm, but her eyes shone as bright as the sun when she was wielding that sword. He was so distracted by his own thoughts, he didn't hear a thing Oswell, and Arthur had said to him. If he was being honest, he didn't care. There was something about that girl. And without thinking about it, he began to lightly rub at the soft flesh of his left wrist.

 

     It has to be you. . .

 

  He could not help but think. He wanted to talk to her, he just wasn’t sure when the right time would be. He could not just simply approach her, and he wasn’t even sure what he would say, he had no practice in courting women, he had no patience for the practice at all. And it was clear that whatever he thought he knew about women, the Lady Lyanna did not meet the mold at all, once again he found himself feeling the weight of the prophecy heavy on his shoulders. Suddenly he was struck with the irony of his situation, he had eagerly read every book he could get his hands on as a boy and even more as a man, but never once had he read a book on how to woo a woman, nevertheless a woman who does not act conventionally.

 


 

   It was just before sundown when Arthur announced that his father's party was approaching. I'm not sure why I am surprised he made it today, but it would have been best if he had just stayed in the Capital. He stopped himself from finishing those thoughts,  it would do naught at any rate. His father was nearing, and he knew that he would just have to make the best of his situation.

   Making his way to the steps leading to the great keep, Rhaegar moved to stand beside Lord Whent, while his assigned guard, and Kingsguard all got in line to greet the king.

 

   It was customary to offer bread and salt upon receiving any guest, but the king would not observe such customs. He would wait until he was in his room to have it brought to him. That way he could have it taste tested before he partook.

  “I'm sure you are aware Lord Whent, of His Grace’s personal reasons for waiting to receive Guest Right. I would ask that you keep the conversation minimal, and don't elaborate in your answers. The sooner this is over, the better for everyone it will be.” he felt he had to warn the Lord before hand. Luckily enough, this was Ser Oswell’s brother and he was kept abreast of most information in regards to the King’s current state of health. So he simply gave a curt nod, and resumed his position.

 

  It was a very brief greeting. As expected, the king was in no state for conversation. Complaining about the state of the King’s Road and how much it knocked him around.

 

   No doubt he is thinking of someone to blame for it's neglect so he can deliver the “King’s justice”. Rhaegar could not help but think to himself sardonically...

  Ever the dutiful son, he escorted the King to his chambers, and filled him in on the state of the castle, and the events that would be starting tomorrow.  And the King informed him that he would be welcoming Jaime Lannister into the Kingsguard before the feast commenced.

 

  This explains why Lord Tywin did not venture out of his lair.  

 

  Thinking of something to say that would not be taken out of context to his father, he made sure to praise him.

 

  “That is most wonderful news father, I am sure Lord Tywin will feel honored to have his son serve his majesty.”.

 

  What the fuck was that Rhaegar? Lord Tywin is most definitely not honored to lose his heir to my mad father. . .  Nevertheless, this seemed to please the king so he simply nodded.

  “Yes, yes. . . such an honor. He should be lucky I don't honor him with his son’s head on a spike. That would keep him in his place.” was his only reply before dismissing him. And of course Rhaegar found himself all too happy to comply. Bowing his head, he made for the door.

  Turning back once he reached the door, “I shall be here to escort you to the feast in a few hours, Your Grace.” was all he could think to say as he made his way from his father's apartments.


 

   That night at the feast, he sat dutifully as Ser Gerold fastened the white cloak of the Kingsguard around the shoulders of Ser Jaime Lannister. The lad wore the brightest smile he had ever seen on him, and when it was time to say his vows, he did not even balk. After the crowd died down, his father announced that Ser Jaime was to depart for the capitol immediately to start his guard over the Queen and the Prince Viserys. No one had expected such a command to come from the king, surly making him ride for Harrenhal to be inducted into the order was unnecessary, considering he could have just done it in King’s Landing and left the boy behind. He wanted to humiliate the boys father, of this he was sure, but the Old Lion was locked away on the Rock still seething over the slight. Rhaegar was certain that Tywin would never let this go. Tyrion would never inherit The Rock while Tywin drew breath. He would never inherit a thing, if Tywin had his way. Such a pity too, it isn't the boys fault he was born stunted.

  This was not the only event worth taking note of this evening. The Lords and Ladies in attendance, spent a good portion of time taking in the appearance of the king. No doubt seeing him in all his state, was more than they expected.

 

  Good let them see you father. Let them see how far the dragon has fallen. Soon . . . Westeros will unite behind a new rule.

 It occurred to him then that while his father coming to the tourney was as unwanted as it was unexpected, he could find a way to use this in his favor. Many of these lords present have only heard whispers of the king's madness, choosing to distance themselves from court for the most part. And up until recently, his madness was able to be contained to within the Red Keep.

 And with him attending, he will be all the proof I will need to gain their support. . .

 

  The next hour or so went off without incident. He did happen to notice Ashara making her rounds around the floor, accepting dances and requests from key players, at this he made a mental note to update her on the change of plans. And he would need to meet with Elia in her rooms later on to update her as well. He had taken her advice of course, after their first conversation about the mark, he had immediately summoned Archmaester Marwyn to Dragonstone and made moves from there. The Archmaester as it turned out, had multiple contacts within the church and the faith and was able to get word to the High Septon of the Mark. It was a risk at the time, because Rhaegar was not convinced that the news would not reach his father, but the worry was for naught.

  Within a moon’s turn the High Septon was on dragonstone and in the company of himself, Elia and Marwyn, listening with rapt attention the details surrounding his mark. Apparently, the actions of the King had not gone unnoticed and the Faith was becoming increasingly worried for the safety of the realm. The appearance of the mark only helped to push them into action. And surprisingly enough, the High Septon agreed to sanction the annulment with haste. And also promised the support of the faith to his ascent to the throne.  Citing the mark as the ‘God’s divine will to reveal the true King of Westeros.’

 

 Or a convenient pawn in your ploy to get rid of what you can't control…

 

 The more he thought about it he had been sure, the power of the Faith of the Seven needs to be curbed, they act on self interest, not in the interest of the gods. No religion should hold more sway than another.

 

 Another task for another time...  

  It was decided between them that it would be best if no one knew the details of their annulment, so for the time being they went on as if nothing had changed. To all the world she was still the Princess of the Seven Kingdoms. By the time his father finds out, Rhaegar hoped to already be wed to his link mate.

 

 Unfortunately things needed to happen, and happen soon. It was in the last part of her resting period that Elia found out she was again with child, only this time Rhaegar was sure it was not by him. He had no reason to lay with her, that was the whole point of dissolving the marriage so early in the first place. Luckily Rhaegar had also stood witness to Arthur and Elia recite their vows to one another in a private ceremony that was officiated by the septon that resided on Dragonstone. It didn't matter that he had sworn vows of service to Aerys Targaryen. Arthur no longer served Aerys Targaryen. As suggested by Elia, Rhaegar had begun accepting oaths of fealty on Dragonstone.  It had only been a handful to be sure, but the entire staff on Dragonstone had sworn eagerly, as had Oswell, Elia, Arthur and Jon Connington. All of whom knew of his mark. All of whom swore to secrecy.

 

   As Rhaegar sat there taking in his surroundings, he let his eyes wander to the table hosting the Northern Lords and their bannermen. The Lady Lyanna was there, dressed in a blue gown that complimented her porcelain skin. Skin like milk. . . He watched as her older brothers socialized, and his cousin Robert tried and failed at wooing the she-wolf. When at last she accepted his offer to dance, Rhaegar could not help but feel a sense of rage, watching him lead her to the floor for a dance. He wanted to do something,  he wanted to be the one leading her to the floor, but he knew he could not. Not while his father sat in attendance. And from what he could see, his father was not planning to retire just yet. He would bide his time in silence.

 

 It was not much longer before his eyes were drawn back to the girl, who was still dancing with Robert. . .

 

  How long is this damn song?

 

 He was sure he was being unreasonable, but he could swear that his cousin’s hands were roaming over the lady in a way that suggested she was uncomfortable.

  He was finding it difficult to just sit there and observe the scene, and was about to send Arthur to intervene, when she abruptly stepped away from Robert. He could not be sure what the context of the words she spoke to him were but he was certain they were not kind. As soon as she was done speaking to him she turned on her heels and marched back to the table occupied by her kin, and continued her rant at her older brother Eddard.

 

   He must be the one who suggested the match...

  Now that she was seated again,  he decided it was time to send for his harp, and have Lord Whent announce him. He had composed the Song at Summerhall on his last visit, and even though he was dedicating it to the occasion, he had chosen it as a way to honor the Lady of Winterfell for her bravery earlier that evening. He wanted to know if she would be able to tell. He definitely hoped that she would.

   He was prepared to keep looking if he had to, but with every moment in the Lady Lyanna’s proximity he became more certain he had been right about the Starks. It had to be her.


 

  The final piece of the puzzle came into play about a moon’s turn before they set sail for King’s Landing, firmly convincing Rhaegar that his betrothed was indeed related to House Stark. And he was sure it had to do with their selective gene pool.

 

  And everyone thinks that we are the only ones obsessed with keeping magic in our blood.

 

 If the information was correct, House Stark has been trying to create a powerful line ever since they began their conquest of the North eight-thousand years ago. And it always tied with the taking of a daughter… and Rhaegar knew for a fact that House Stark meant to do the same with House Targaryen. It was written in the Pact of Ice and Fire.

 

   A pact that we have yet to honor…   a thought that left a bitter taste in his mouth. But hopefully, if the she-wolf and he were a link, this would appease the North.

 It was not lost on him however, this gives the blood of the dragon  the upper hand in this pact, as we will be the one getting a daughter, if his suspicions were correct.

 


 

  After his introduction was made, and he took his place before the guests in attendance, the hall went silent and Rhaegar began his song. A tale of two lovers who were forced to fight to be with one another, whose love saw them through the death of king's and kin, of long twillights and the break of dawn, of sacrifice and joy, and tragedy. He did not recognize some of the words he sang, at some point it was as if he stopped existing and and the song took control of him. He closed his eyes and allowed the melody to  wash over him. While at the same time there were images swimming beneath his lids outlined in a pulsing blue thread. When the song was finally at its end, he opened his eyes and scanned the room hoping that she appreciated it. It had been a gift for her after all. But when they finally settled on her, it was to see her stand and dump her wine over the head of her youngest brother before exiting the hall via the terrace. She did not seem happy, but it was clear that something had affected her, what it was he knew not.

  After a moment of silence the audience hall erupted in applause, and he bowed his head in appreciation. Not wanting to make a show of it, he knew his father would find a way to see treason in this, after all his talent with the high harp was not swordplay, and his father thought that his interest in the harp made him seem weak. It would not do to have a long display of appreciation of this particular talent. So without saying another word, he turned and made his way back to his seat beside his father. As it turned out however, when he reached his seat his father was preparing to depart for the evening.

 “Boy, I think I have spent enough time among the sheep for one evening. I grow weary of all this.” he stated.

 “Shall I escort you to your chambers then father?” he tried not to sound too eager.

 “Nonsense, have you lost your senses? You will stay, and you will watch these traitors, and you will report to me anything you see, I know that Tywin is planning something. These sheep love us not, and I mean to find out which ones are plotting with that Old Lion. Do you hear me, boy?” he asked. His eyes shining with the madness that consumed him.

 

 The wild fire… Rhaegar knew that even though his father had not been at Summerhall the night he was born, the fire touched him all the same. Though his father had pale lilac eyes, he could always see green dancing in them.

 “I shall do as you command, My King.” But the king had already turned from him summoning Ser Jonothor and Prince Luwyn to stand guard of him that evening. He noticed Elia preparing  to leave for her rooms as well, and he turned to bid her good evening.

 

 “Elia, are you planning to sleep? I have need of a word with you before the games on the morrow.” She paused and turned to him.

 “I do plan on retiring to my chambers, but I could wait up for his grace if it please you?” she said in a hushed tone. To anyone listening, it would sound as if he were planning to call on her for his husbandly duties that evening.

 

 Only I am not her husband, and we are not intimate… He thought about it, and while he did not want to encourage people to believe they are happy in their ‘marriage’ bed, he also knew that he had no choice.

 

  So he played along. . .

 “I will be there once I am finished here.” taking her hand he pressed his lips to her knuckles and bid her good night. He wanted to go after Lyanna. He wanted to know what had affected her so. But he could not leave just yet. He had to play it cool for a moment, so he decided to check in with Arthur to find out if Ash had any information to share from her evening. He turned to his best friend.

 

  “What news of the evening?” he asked casually.

  Arthur didn't need any other prompting and began with his report. “The Lady Ashara has had many suitors this evening, and she said she feels that there could be a few promising matches,” he continued… “The Viper is interested, as is The Direwolf it would seem.” He stopped rubbing his chin for a moment. “I feel like the wolf’s reasons though, are completely his own, and have nothing to do with the topic at hand.” Rhaegar lifted his chin to this.

 “What do you mean?” he asked in confusion.

 “Just look, this is their third dance this evening. I have never seen Ash like this in all my life. She is not swept away by young lords, my sister is a predator, Your Grace.” The last part was said as a whisper.

 

  Arthur had refused to refer to him as anything other than that since swearing him his new vows. But only when the King was not around, and only where others could not hear. Even when Rhaegar had assured him that it was fine to refer to him as ‘My Prince’ Arthur refused. This was the compromise and it was the best he could do.  And Arthur was right, Ashara hadn’t ever really taken an interest in any one particular boy, and she never allowed one to think himself particularly dear to her. So dancing with a man on more than one occasion in a single night was as unheard of as a boy born amidst green flame. He couldn't stop himself from asking.

 “Didn't I see her dancing with the older Stark boy?” he could have sworn that he had.

 “Indeed you did my prince, and I thought that he would have tried to make a move on her, but it was only a brief turn about the room before they made their way over to where the other Starks were seated. She has only danced with myself and Jon Connington since. The rest of them have been with the other Stark boy.” he finished.

 “Well, as interested as I am with all of this, there is another Stark I must needs meet.” He let his thoughts trail off for a moment before adding…

 

  “The interest from Dorne is the best possible news all evening though. This was what concerned me most.” he paused and thought of something. “I wouldn't particularly mind his help with my cousin Robert. . .” he let the thought trail off, though he was sure Arthur did not miss the hint of jealousy in his tone.

 “Ah, you saw that little display on the floor then, between the Lady Lyanna and your cousin, hmm? I wouldn’t worry too much about it, she was very vocal in her feelings. He had asked her for her favor in the melee , but she denied him. That's when he tried to be handsy with her.” raising his hand to stop anything Rhaegar may have asked. “I won't go into detail because it would seem this conversation is something you are not capable of hearing with a calm head,” he stopped abruptly and Rhaegar was left in shock.

 “Tell me what he said to her Arthur,” he commanded. But to his disappointment Arthur shook his head.

 “You said you want to see about another Stark, then let us go and see about her. If it is so important, you can ask her and she can tell you if she wants. Away from this hall, and away from your idiot of a cousin.” he finished cheekily, gesturing for his king to follow.  They stopped a moment to inform his host he would be taking a walk, and to continue with the celebration, before making for the terrace.

 

Chapter Text

Eddard and Ashara

 




  “Please do not react. I know you can feel it. I can feel it too, but it will do neither of us any good if we make a scene here in the great hall, I have no idea what is going on, and I do not feel like explaining this to the King.” Those were the first words Ashara said to him when they were away from his family.

 “My Lady, It would be a pleasure to honor your request, though I have to admit, I won't be able to stay in your proximity if we aren’t able to discuss what is happening.” He swallowed trying not to give away the panic he was feeling at the moment.  “How,. . . How long have you had yours?” probably not the best question, but it seemed like the standard icebreaker. It was one of the first questions Lyanna had asked him after all.

 “Since the white raven came from the citadel. I was on Dragonstone with the princess when it happened, but I was unsure of what it was, so I have just kept it covered. I mean, it didn't really do anything until tonight. Until I saw you looking at me from across the Hall. . . Now it’s like a ball of energy urging me to stay beside you. Does that make sense?”

Ned swallowed. It made so much sense. His mark had been nothing like Lya’s, aside from the fact that they were both wolves. Her’s was always cold, and she always felt something through it. Ned’s had always, just been there. Aside from the day he woke with it branded on him. And tonight…

“Does anyone know about your mark?” If there was someone who confided in, perhaps it was the person who shares Lya’s bond… But Ashara just shook her head.

For a moment Ned had forgotten that they were heading for the floor to dance, until she stopped and turned herself to face him and held her hand out for him to take position. She was lovely. And suddenly, all he wanted to do was dance with her for the rest of the evening. But standing here with her, he suddenly felt awful knowing more about their mark than she did. It felt wrong, like he was keeping something life altering from her.



  After their first dance was finished Ned ushered the Lady Ashara off to the side of the room. He knew that she would have to take another dance partner, and he would never presume to take all of her time. But he had to tell her what he knew.

  “I have to tell you something,” he started, but quickly he realized that was a terrible way to start a conversation, so he switched to a different approach. “You say that you know nothing about your mark. I just want you to know that, I am not as in the dark as you. I understand that there are other people who wish to dance with you, but from what I understand no matter what we do, eventually you and I will be a fixture in each other's company. It is for this reason I won't insist we go and have this conversation now.  But if this helps, you are the third person that I can confirm has a mark now. Including myself. And to my knowledge, they all appeared the day the ravens arrived announcing winter.

  Her eyes went wide at this revelation. But before she had a chance to say another word, someone approached them.

 Ned had never had the chance to meet the young lord before, but by his surcoat and arms Ned quickly determined that the man was Jon Connington, Lord of Griffin's Roost. One of Robert’s bannermen and a close friend to the Crown Prince.

 “My Lord, Jon.” Ashara greeted with a smile. “How do you fare this evening?”

 “Lady Ashara,” he nodded, and turned his head toward Ned. “Lord Eddard? Of Winterfell?

 “Indeed, well met Lord Connington.” Ned held his hand out and the Storm Lord accepted it.

“I hope you do not mind, but I was hoping I can steal your partner for a dance My Lord” Ned had no doubt that this was all a show, though he was not sure what the point of it was. Everything in the south is all about the mummery. More people should just say what they are thinking and be done with the theatrics of it all.

  “Not at all, the Lady and I were just having a bit of conversation. I'm afraid I do not possess the same stamina for dancing as she does.” He shot her a shy smile. Before addressing her directly. “It has been a pleasure to share this dance with you, I should be honored if you would see fit to bless me with another later on, if it is not too much to ask.” He hoped that he didn't say too much, or make a fool out of himself, but he was sure of one thing, If he was a link to her, he would be spending much of his time being a fool before her eyes. And suddenly, he did not feel so shy about being near her.

A crow cawed in the distance.


 

 

 

The Three-Eyed Crow


 The Ink Marks were a nice touch from the gods. What was more, he did not expect them to resurface. Only it solves nothing, if destiny is certain no matter what, Robert will still rebel against the throne. The girl has gifts she can't possibly understand yet, but she is strong and she will be good for the boy. But it is their combined temperament that is the key.

 The Three-Eyed Crow decided that nothing can be left up to chance this time, so he would watch. When ever he could, where ever he could, he would wait. The girl was more prone to visit the Godswood, and they knew and favored her greatly. She of all her brothers and close kin, has not forgotten the Old Way, if only she knew that it had been her blood to awaken the marks.

The boy was different, he spent much of his time hiding behind those stone walls reading many books and scrolls. Which is exactly where he needed to be, only he had yet to find what has been hidden from him. The Three-Eyed  Crow would have to see that he finds it.

The Quiet Wolf has made great progress with his fallen star, much easier than the other two. But it is just as well, It will do the Silver boy no good to claim her before she presents herself to him.

Switching to a new view, he spotted something very promising. The wolf maid walking alone, and the silver dragon pursues her. Things seem to be moving along splendidly.  And the crannogman played his part perfectly with those squires. It was unfortunate that he was hurt, but the silver boy needed to see her, he needed to see her strength. Tonight I will reveal the next stage to him, and he will reveal the next stage to her.


The She-wolf



  What in the Seven Hells was that Lya?  Since when did you become a weeping maiden? Gods Lya, get it together!   
 
   She scolded herself the entire way from the Hall. It had been bad enough when that oaf insisted that he and she were to be wed, and she allowed it to get to her, but then she had to go and cry over a freaking song! What’s worse, this tourney has yet to even start.

  Its not as if she particularly cared that she may have been seen crying, it was the fact that she already felt exposed to the entire realm. For most of the guests in attendance, it is the perfect opportunity to put on a performance in front of the whole realm, in hopes of being noticed. But for Lyanna, the attention was as unwanted as the dress she forced herself into for the opening feast.

  Yet she could not put words to the feelings that the Princes song evoked in her. She had always loved music, and flowers, and art. In her mind, they were all ways that a person could express themselves. And in the world she lived in, self expression is not always appreciated. So she had secretly begun to covet these things as a child, and her love of these arts has only grown over the years. Though, never in her life had she heard the crown prince play his harp. She had only ever heard stories, whispers actually.

  Outside the air was crisp, the sky inky black and though the stars had come out in force, it was the moon that was the true crowning jewel tonight. From where she stood, the Moon looked as though it were nestled between the ruined towers of Harrenhal, on display for all the realm to see. It almost felt as if the moon came out to greet her as an old friend. Which she supposed they were. Most things of importance in the North, happen in the darkness. The days are shorter than they are in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. So the moon is as much a part of her as the sun is, sometimes moreso.

   How had things gone so wrong so fast?

  She was not supposed to be outside alone, she should be inside enjoying whatever bit of happiness she could find, before she was shipped off against her will, to marry a man who is not for her.

  He’s here though. . .

  She had known since the moment they rode into camp, maybe even before then. Ever since she had passed the Neck with her Bran and Ben and their banners, there had been an invisible tug, urging her to move more swiftly. She hadn’t told Bran, in truth she hadn’t needed too. She and Brandon spent every moment they could riding, since as far back as she could remember. In fact, it had been Brandon who gave her, her first pony to break. It had been Brandon who taught her how to care for her, and for her saddle. And it had been Brandon who she had her first race with. So when she decided she wanted to ride swiftly, Brandon did not try to stop her. Only making her promise not to go too far, or stray from the King’s Road, and to keep a guard, or Benjen with her.

  So when they were no more than a mile or so away from Harrenhal, she and Benjen had bolted for the castle, in hopes to locate their camp before the rest of their host arrived. Or at least that is what she had told Brandon. The truth was, she was feeling antsy. She had been like this since the night before, and every bone in her body was telling her to make haste, and her mark had been tingling more and more the closer she got.

  The grounds of Harrenhal were massive, and if she was being honest, she had no idea where she was going, but she remembered reading about a massive twenty acre Godswood being housed within the grounds and she couldn't help but be amazed by it. Winterfell is one of the oldest castles in the Seven Kingdoms, and one of the largest, yet our Godswood is sits on only three acres, while the Godswood itself is believed to be around ten-thousand years old. She could only dream of a twenty acre godswood at home in Winterfell. Perhaps if it were that big, she could run away and then Robert would never be able to have her.

   Wouldn't that be grand…

  At that moment, her mark began to tingle, and she knew that someone was approaching... it had to be him. Suddenly, she had no idea whether she should turn around and face whatever her destiny was going to throw at her, or if she should keep going and pretend she hadn’t noticed he was approaching. Without thinking things through she decided she would confront him.

 What kind of a decent man runs up on a woman walking alone at night! She was indignant at the thought. He better have a good excuse, because he won't find a damsel in distress in me. She was incredulous…


The Silver Prince


  “Arthur, fall back a few paces when we get closer, I would very much like this introduction to be as easy as possible. I don’t know if she is her and I don't want to scare her away before I have a chance to win her if she is the one. Just because I have always known what destiny requires of me, does not mean I intend to force her into participating if she is unwilling.” He hoped that his words made sense, but Arthur simply nodded and they made their way over the balcony and toward the stairs that lead to the grounds below.

  It took him a bit of time before his eyes found her figure. But she had been walking with her back to them, no escort aside from the moon shining above her head.

 

  Like a beacon drawing me to her. . .  it's now or never. I'll just catch up to her and introduce myself, right!

 

  His inner pep talk was failing miserably. He was nervous, he knew why, but it mattered not. He had to talk to her, even if for only a moment.

  Steeling himself with determination he picked up his pace as swiftly and as quietly as possible, without actually running, and made his way in her direction. She seemed to have been in no rush at any rate, and he crossed the distance in no time at all. Just as he was about to announce his presence however she slowed almost to a stop, and spoke aloud. “Is there a fire somewhere that I should be made aware of, or have you committed some crime and are seeking to flee capture? If it is the first, please do speak now, if it is the latter, expect no mercy from me Ser.” and at the last moment, she spun around to address him face to face, and froze.

 


 

  Damn your impulsiveness Lyanna! Oh Gods. . . Father is going to kill me.

   How in the Seven Hells did he get so close to her without her knowing? She wanted to back away from him, but she didnt want him to think he held sway over her emotions. He would not have the satisfaction of seeing her scared. Or at least thats what she was prepared for. What she was not prepared for was a melancholic prince who suddenly felt like talking. . .  





“My Prince,” she proclaimed before blushing the most beautiful shade of pink he had ever seen. He tried to contain his reaction to this, something told him that she would not appreciate having this remarked upon. “I, I uh. . ., I should not have said that,” she stammered, “I meant no offence, It's just, I was not expecting it to be you, I was escaping my brothers, and I thought that it may have been one of them following behind me.” she finally finished.

  Rather amused by her reaction to him he decided to use her shock to his advantage. Teasingly he responded, “I did happen to notice you assault a young lord earlier this evening, but I admit that is not the reason for approaching you. Though I should say, if there is any danger of a fire this evening, I am certain it would have been started by the fiery maiden standing before me. . . I hope you do not mind my asking, but whatever did my cousin say to you that made you so cross with him?” He could not help but ask. She was here and they seemed to have an easy enough opening to allow such a question so quickly so he seized the moment with no regrets. At the last moment he remembered to smile slightly to let her know he held genuine interest. His broody face could be hard to read sometimes and he wanted his dealings with her to be as transparent as their circumstances could possibly allow.

   It took her a moment to look around and collect her thoughts he could tell. He could not give name to the myriad of emotions crossing her face in the seconds it took her to decide whether or not to share her burden with him. Ever so quietly she asked, “You saw that then?” and she exhaled deeply as if she had been holding her breath. “Great, now my brothers are going to want to talk to me about my behavior.” she said the last part with animation to note her disagreement with the situation. “How much do you want to know? Just this evening or the whole thing?” She asked unexpectedly.

 He raised an eyebrow at her, “I was not sure there was more, but I would hear whatever it is you would share if it please you. Are you planning to walk far?” He just wanted to know how much time he would have and whether they needed to find a place more private to talk.

 

 “I was looking for the godswood actually. I hear Harrenhal has one bigger than the one at Winterfell.  I also heard that the heart tree was allowed it's sanctuary while the rest of the riverlands was stripped of them to build the supports for this castle. I always thought that there has to be something magical that drove Harren to build this castle using weirwood, only to dedicate twenty acres of land to a solitary weirwood that had no spiritual connection to the Ironborn.

 

 “It could be that I am swept away by our northern gods, but this castle was put here for a reason, and finished when it was. And do you not find it odd,  no one has been able to hold this seat ever since?”

  “I’ve wondered often if it’s because this place was created with a purpose by the Old Gods.” She slowed down a bit ...“And now that I’m here, I can feel it.” She turned to look at him. “Don’t think me mad.” the look she gave him seemed almost pleading. He could not help but nod his head and reassure her. 

 “I do not think you mad. There are magical places all over Westeros. Dragonstone is one of them, as is Summerhall. . . I was born there, and it is one of the only places I am able to find solace still. The ruins speak to me it feels like. So if you say Harrenhal speaks to you, I believe you. I've heard that Winterfell has its own sort of magic as well, and my Uncle Aemon said the Wall is a magical hinge.” He gave her a warm smile and then gestured toward the wood. “Follow me, I am no stranger to the Godswood here.” at this her eyes went wide.

 “You follow the Old Gods?” she sounded shocked.

 “I admit, I do not. But that does not mean I do not respect them.” She nodded in understanding.

 

 “The Targaryen’s accepted the faith of the Seven when my ancestor Aegon was crowned the first King of the Seven Kingdoms, and many of my kin have been more dedicated to the Seven than some of  the others, but I have spent my life studying all there is to know, and there are too many variables to consider for one such as myself to subscribe to any one specific god or faith. I hope that does not offend you.” He wanted to end it there but he felt he had to continue so he pushed on.

 “I find myself asking often what defines a god?” His thoughts trailed off a bit before he continued.

  “What I know of religion is that people pray for the gods to provide, yet if they do not, someone has to. And as it turns out, we have to provide for ourselves.” He wanted to tell her exactly what he believed, but he needed to know her thoughts on the matter first.

  “I believe that we all have a destiny, and in order for there to be destiny, there has to be something bigger than myself at work.  I just can't say that the Seven are the true gods any more than I can say that the Old Gods are.” He thought about all of the research he’d done over the past year, and how much of it was centered around the Weirwoods and the Old Gods and quickly added, “However, I admit that as of late I have found myself reading more and more of the Old Gods and the Weirwoods  and it has brought me to a specific conclusion: I do believe ,if there is any power, it comes from this earth, and if your gods are connected to this earth, how can I deny them?” the more he thought on things he was certain this was the truth.

 

 “Everyone will at some point try to claim credit for one great deed or another in the name of their God, but it’s  men who do these deeds. And we freely give that power to the gods like the smith and the warrior who can not be found beside you on the field of battle.”


 What defines a god?

 Power. . .  And the weirwoods have been drinking the blood of the land since the Dawn Age. If there is power to be found in this world, in this land. That power belonged to these trees.


  She had gotten lost in his words. . . Was he really here having a conversation with her about the validity of the Old Gods?

This night so far is not what she had expected it to be, but then again, she hadn't really had any expectations aside from finding out who those squires served, and finding the other half of her link... but conversation with the prince, alone, and in the dark. . . She had no idea what would call the prince to come walk beside her of his own volition, and the more she had thought on the situation, it became clear that he had to be in possession of the other half of the link. But she would not make the first move. She had more at stake than he did. He was the Crown Prince, who could have his father decree for him. She was only the daughter of the Warden of the North. Nothing she could say to her father would convince him to change his mind on a matter once he'd set to it.


 He’s beautiful. . . Stop It!


  She was watching him intensely while he worked through his thoughts before she replied. “You seem to have given this much time, My Prince. I admit, I did not expect this. Most southerners think us barbarians and call us queer for worshiping the trees. But I usually find that ignorance is the issue with most things. The trees themselves are not the gods, My Prince. They are the link to the Gods. The gods are everything, they are everyone, and they are no one. They have no name, no face, no shape, no sex. They can not be quantified or explained. They are the light and the darkness that feed and sustain us and rejuvenates us while we rest. They are the moon and the tides working in tandem, the bees that make honey, and pollinate to create a larger food source that gives back to human and animal alike. I appreciate that you’ve realized that the earth is where power comes from, most seem to forget this rule. What are we if not for the land that sustains us?” She asked but did not wait for a reply before continuing on.

 

 “The biggest misunderstanding between we who follow the Old Way and those living in the South in the Light of the Seven lies in why we pray.”she explained further.

 

 “You southerners pray to your gods expecting for them to reach down and provide for you, but the gods do not serve us in that capacity, it is we who serve them. Why do the most devout give credit to the gods?” She asked again but did not wait for a reply,

 “Because the gods demand it, and it is the continued prayer of the devout that are raising up gods. But power my prince, resides where people believe it resides.” She said with a voice that seemed far wiser than her years suggest.

 

 “Are you powerful, My Prince? Do the gods favor you?”

 

 Such an odd thing to ask. And yet, he could not honestly answer the question. He was born surrounded by green flames in a fire that almost ended his family, yet he lived where other men did not.

 

  "You say you often ask what defines a god, I would ask a different question if I may…” he nodded his head and she continued.

 

  “What gives the gods power? I say it is us that give god’s power, for without us to believe in them, they would have no influence.

  For example, what if I decided today to place my belief in myself, and tomorrow someone else did the same, and the cycle continued each day following and doubling those numbers as each day passed. Until one day four out of Seven Kingdoms swore to follow me into the lands of always winter believing that we could make it out the other side into a new land untouched by winter and strife. And what happens if through that belief we made it. Would I then be a god?” Her tone one of genuine interest.

 

 Again she carried on, “Maybe not, but if enough people believe that they survived because they believed in me, that would make me a god to them, would it not?” She looked at him then and smiled sweetly, which just proves my original thought. Power resides where we believe it resides. And based on this logic, I name myself a god. What shall I be the god of?” She asked completely serious.

 

 “I may have heard something earlier about winter not being over, care to explain that, and can that be considered a power of a god?” He wasn’t sure what had possessed him to admit to overhearing her earlier, but this seemed to be a night of firsts.

 

 “Winter… yes, indeed.” Her eyes went wide. “That’s clever. I’m the Goddess of Winter.”

 

 You have no idea…


  Lyanna was blabbering, she knew it. But no one had ever taken her serious enough to entertain such a conversation with her in the past. But by the gods, she would shut up if she had some small guarantee that he would not depart as soon as she stopped speaking.
 


 Her brows began to furrow. “When exactly did you hear this?” She asked suspiciously.

 He sighed… “I was walking the grounds when your party arrived and I overheard this part of your conversation before you both were out of my hearing again.”

 He was absolutely positive he was turning red in the face. He felt like he was on fire. Luckily for him, she seemed to have accepted this as an acceptable answer and nodded in understanding.

 “Forgive me My Prince, it is not often I get to entertain these types of conversation, and I let the topic run away from me. I hope I didn't bore you… I would like to thank you for showing me the way, I would have been looking forever.”


 On the contrary… he thought pleasantly surprised by the response she had given. He decided to respond with a nod of his head. He wasn’t ready to speak yet. His hand was burning, and his palms were itchy.

 They walked in silence for a time until they came upon the entrance to the wood, and he could delay talking no longer. “It's quite dark in there Lady Lyanna, are you sure you mean to go in there tonight?” he had to know. He could not just let her enter the wood by herself with no torch. To his relief she shook her head, and turned to him.


 “I merely wanted to know where it was. I plan to come here with my brother and a friend while we are at Harrenhal,” she paused. “You wanted to know what happened with Lord Robert.” she sighed.


 “You and he are betrothed are you not? He prompted her. Hoping that this would help her push through whatever it was that was making her hesitate. And it must have worked because her eyes shot to his immediately.


 “We are most certainly not betrothed! My father insisted I meet him, he had made an offer about a year ago, but he promised that he would not make me wed him until after my sixteenth name day, should he accept his offer at all. I have another year before anything is certain.” She replied indignantly. And then in a lower, more desperate tone she added, “I was almost certain father planned to call the entire thing off, but then when we were dancing he told me that our maester sent word to him that it was as good as done,” she would not cry, of that he was certain.

 So Lord Rickard had received his message… he could not help but take note of the confirmation that her betrothal had not been made official…

  She went on. “He asked me to wear my favor you see, In the melee tomorrow but I declined him, stating that my brothers will wear my favor. I assumed this would be an acceptable reason to decline him, instead however he seemed to become offended by it. Please understand, I care not for his feelings. I find it best that I not lead the man on. . . I thought, if Ned liked him so much, there would be a reason for it. And maybe, just maybe he would appreciate that I was honest with my intentions. I suppose he did not appreciate my attempts, because he then began pulling me too close to him, which is why I commanded him to unhand me. That was when he implied that I was soon to be his wife, and that I belonged to him.” Rhaegar could not mistake the fury that flashed in her eyes.

 Eyes like Valyrian steel rimmed by silver. Eyes like a storm. . . and in that moment he was sure she was his link barer. He didn’t even need to see it. Her eyes were all the confirmation he needed.


 He was on fire. He knew that something with Robert was off. He had sent a rider to deliver his request to Lord Stark in hand, and no lord would openly deny the crown prince. For the maester to be making arrangements regarding the betrothal of Lord Stark’s daughter is highly unusual as well. It should be her Lord Father conducting these matters. Something is going on in the background, and Lyanna is stuck in the middle of it. Of this at the very least, he was sure. Arthur had been right to not tell him what had transpired between them while he was still close enough to confront him. He did not know what to say to her on the matter so he nodded his head in understanding.

 “So, you do not wish to be wed to Lord Robert then?” he wasn’t sure if the question was appropriate or not, but he found her answer to be important to him.


 “Nay, I have no designs on the man. He’s already got a bastard on some poor girl in the Vale, and I hear he does nothing to see to her well being, not to mention the stories I have heard in regards to his two younger brothers. Poor Renly, he is stuck alone with his brother Stannis who I hear was never taught how to smile. While Robert is here at a tourney whoring and drinking, his pack is alone.” she looked as if she wanted to say more but didn't. He didn't pressure her to go further despite his unyielding curiosity to know more.


 “You must be very close to your own brothers by the way you speak of ‘the pack’.” he liked the thought of having a pack. Wolves were loyal to a fault, and bonded with their chosen mate for life.

 And wolves are made for winter. . . a familiar voice whispered in his head. His dragon…

 At this, she beamed at him. “My pack is everything. My father taught us that a pack is only its strongest when it's together. ‘Listen pups, Winter is Coming, and in winter we must stick together, look out for one another. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.’ he’d tell us. These are the words that define the north, they define the pack. Not just those of Stark blood, but those of the blood of the First Men, the men and the women of the north, whether they are Bears, Lizard Lions, Merman, Giants, or Unicorns, they are all a part of our pack, and the pack protects their own.”

 Her words sent a shiver down his spine. Such a simplistic way to think, but the words themself were powerful. He needed to understand though what the motivation for sending her to Storm’s End would be if staying together was so important. Based on what she had just told him, it made all the sense in the world that the Starks have not wed south of the neck more than a handful of times since conquest. And only ever very selectively. Absentmindedly he considered that this woman standing before him shared his blood, a distant cousin.


“I suppose that would include myself then would it not?” he could not help but ask. And when she looked at him in confusion he explained. “We share distant kin, you see. On more than one occasion. Black Ally Blackwood, and the Lady Melantha Blackwood, are both kin to me. House Targaryen is no stranger to House Blackwood. A look of understanding crossed her features.


 Behind him he could sense Arthur in the distance. “Will you be returning to your tent soon?” he stopped to take her in once more before departing from her company.


 “I was thinking to head there now actually. Robert is probably going to have Brandon out a while longer, and knowing Ned he will be wanting to get back soon, which means that Benjen will be looking for me. And I must see to my father’s Bannerman Lord Howland before I retire for the night.” she rattled off her reasons to depart as if to convince herself to go. He could not help but smile at the thought of her being as reluctant as himself to depart each others company. “Will you be competing on the morrow my prince?”she asked, and he shook his head.


 “Not on the morrow, nay. I will be competing in the last days of the joust. I will be in the stands beside my father the king. Are you planning to attend?” She nodded and gave a bright smile.

 “Aye, I shall be in attendance…” she let her sentence trail off as if she were contemplating finishing it. So he took the chance to encourage her.

 “But?. .” he prompted gently.

 She shook herself with resolve. “But I have a mind to join the horse race before the joust begins.” and she was absolutely serious. Somehow he found himself leaning in toward her. Her scent lingering on the wind. Crisp, like a cold winter day, and sweet but not too sweet, just enough to cut through the bitterness lying beneath. Like the bite of Iron. . . The scent was not unfamiliar to him. Though where he had recognized it from, he could not say.


 
  Her mind was reeling from all the implications of this conversation. His body language, her own body language, and this damn mark was making it next to impossible to concentrate on anything he was saying. A myriad of thoughts crossing her mind in the blink of an eye.



  How is this happening? He is married, he can't be my link. . . there has to be a mistake  . 


 A silver dragon, of Ice and of Fire. . . Well, if he is not the epitome of a Silver Dragon I don't know how much clearer the dreams can be.



 Does he know? This simple question is the one that would drive her to insanity. Surely if he knew, he would say something. Why else risk approaching her?




   He’d had no interest in attending the races on the opening day up until now, but suddenly he found himself sorting through his obligations on the morrow, hoping he could be there to see her race. “Do you believe yourself to be a skilled rider then?” He knew she was, but he decided it best to feign ignorance, anything he could do to break the silence that he had let build between the two of them.

 “I'll forgive that question, My Prince. As I know your ignorance on the matter cannot be helped. With you being held captive here in the South and all that. You would not know what it truly means to ride well unless you have lived in the North.” Again she flashed that wolfish smile hers, knocking him off his guard.

 “My Lady is too modest, surely.” he teased. He found that he was quite comfortable conversing with her. A feat that does not happen often with him. “I must admit, I have not been North as of yet, but I desire to travel there soon.” It was his time to shock her it would seem. After all, it is not every day that Targaryen royalty rides north.

 “I am sure my lord father would welcome his highness whenever you would call upon him.” she blushed prettily. Though he was not sure if he had caught her off guard with his proclamation. He wanted to reach out to her, but he found himself pulling back slightly. She affected him and he was sure he was masking it horribly.

 “I shall keep Winterfell in mind should I find myself riding North. As for the races, I had not thought to attend myself, though if my obligations permit, I may have to stop in and see how you fair.” He took another look around the grounds before realizing that they had been alone far too long.

 Looking her in the eyes. . . “I will look for you on the morrow my lady, and I bid you good evening.” he turned to go, but decided to ask, “Are you sure you would not like me to escort you back to your tent?” He knew she was capable of defending herself, but it went against everything he knew to let her walk away alone.


 Just as she was about to answer her friend from earlier that day came out from the trees as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And she did not seem at all bothered by this. “It appears that I already have an escort My Prince. Thank you so much for your offer though. And I also hope to see you on the morrow. Sleep well.” She gave a curtsy toward him and bowed her head.

 “Rhaegar, please. I would hope you would call me Rhaegar while it is just the two of us. I find there is no need for such formalities at all times, My lady.” he wasn’t sure why he just said that, but he wanted her to use his name, not his title.


 “Very well, Rhaegar. Only I shall make the same request of you in return, if you insist on dropping titles so must I. Please call me Lyanna, I'm a horrible lady and I have no desires to be one.” she finished with a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. No doubt she expected him to be scandalized by this revelation, and maybe he would have been, had he not seen her with a tourney sword in her hands mere hours before. It was his turn to blush, in the past thirty minutes, he had said more to this girl than he had to Elia in the entire year they were married. And he found that he still did not want this moment to end. But he knew he needed to speak with Elia before he retired for the evening, so reluctantly he bowed his head in respect to her, and bid her a good night and safe travels.


 As he watched her turn in the opposite direction from which they were heading, he couldn't help but to notice her rubbing the skin on her left wrist. And somehow, he had reached for his own and was rubbing it when Ser Arthur approached. He braced himself for the onslaught of comments he knew were bound to come from his best friend.

 

Chapter Text

  The Alpha Wolf


 His children had been gone little over a sennite when the rider arrived with the first message. He had been in his solar going over some scrolls he’d received, when his steward came to him saying a rider had come with a message only to be delivered into his hands alone. This gave him pause, it did not come about often that he received correspondence not fit for a raven. Quickly he stood from his chair, and made his way from the keep, to the front gate where he could receive this rider.

 As he approached, he could tell immediately that the rider was not a northmen and by his appearance he had been riding long and hard. He did not wait for Rickard to speak before announcing his purpose however.

 “My Lord, I bring sensitive news from afar. If I may,” he made move to approach but waited for permission. Rickard Nodded his ascent.


  Reaching out he took the parchment in hand and turned it to see the seal. The three headed dragon of House Targaryen… Suddenly chills went through him. He looked up to the courier. “Will this sender be expecting a response?”

 The boy shook his head, “No My Lord.”

 “Very well, I shall have a room prepared for you so you may rest this night and a hot meal brought to you. You may leave on the morrow unless you have other business that keeps you. My steward will show you the way to your quarters.”

 “No business keeps me, save this one task. I appreciate your hospitality My Lord, and should you wish to send reply, even though none is warranted I would gladly carry it back for you.” He bowed his head in respect before following the steward to the guest wing.

 Unsure of the contents of the message, Rickard quickly made his way for the Godswood, where he was sure to be alone and without prying eyes. Once inside the safety of the wood, he quickly made for the heart tree and set himself down on  low lying branch and cracked the seal. Whatever was in this message, he was sure it would change the plans he had been carefully crafting these past few years.

 Only, he had not expected the message to be written in the hand of the Crown Prince.

 

 “Pact of Ice and Fire. . . Your maester plays his own game. . . Delay Baratheon.”


 His eyes went wide at the implication written within this message. And yet, Lyanna was already gone and Brandon had instructions to place Lyanna and the young Lord in each others company during the event.

 Something about this bothered him though. How could the crown prince aide with the pact, and how can this benefit Lyanna, his little brother was just a babe, only five years old. . .  unless the rumors were true and Princess Elia is in fact barren. . . Suddenly a new hope sprung forth. He decided he would write to Brandon straight away and send the boy back with it. And he would have to do something about his maester. The prince sent this message via rider, and not raven, yet mentioned the maesters intentions.

  He wants me to secure the path for communication via raven. .  .  and he can't do that if maester Walys is the one tending the ravens… If the Prince thought to make overtures regarding the Pact of Ice and Fire, then Rickard would make sure that the information would be safeguarded until such a time as more answers could be brought forth.


The Silver Prince


 
  “Say it and get it over with, but get it done before we reach the castle.” he said with an exasperated sigh.

  “What would you like me to say, Your Grace?” he said with a smirk. “I was unaware that you had such an extensive vocabulary,” he teased.

  Rhaegar  rolled his eyes at this, “Is that the best you can come up with? You knew very well that I intended to have a conversation with her.” he was aware of the blush creeping up his cheeks, but there was no sense in trying to keep it from Arthur.

 “I will not tease you much, Your Grace. But in all the years I have known you, this is truly the first time that I have seen you smile, without being forced, and more than once in a single conversation.” he nudged him with his elbow. “Tell it true, you believe she shares your link do you not? You have not said as much, but you have been singularly focused on the girl since she rode into camp this afternoon.” He did not want to respond to that. He knew that she was his link, but it felt wrong confessing it before their bond was secured. He didn't want to jinx it. It seemed like a shot in the dark that he would find her this quickly, an impossibility and yet almost a reality. He just needed to wait a bit longer.

  With a sigh he responded to his friend. “I cannot tell you the answer for true, for we have not secured a bond as of yet.” he hoped that this answer would suffice. He never confessed to his friends that the bond requires physical contact. “I believe she is though. I have not seen evidence of her mark, but there is a reaction to her blood I think. This is why I need to go to Elia. We need to make plans and some plans need to change.” he glanced around before making for Elia’s chambers. Oswell announced him and let him in. “Oswell, please join us. You’ll need to hear this as well.”

 

  After telling everyone that he was certain of Lyanna, he suggested that they postpone plans to call the great council, at least if he was able to confirm his suspicions. If he was correct, rather than moving on King’s Landing right away, they would make for the North with all haste to discuss the situation with Lord Rickard. From everything he knew of the man, a marriage to the Crown Prince should satisfy his southern ambitions at the very least, but Rhaegar had hope that he could confide in him the prophecy and the threat that they are all facing, and the necessity to join their houses and prepare for winter. To his surprise they were all on board, so they quickly moved to planning how to get Lyanna and Rhaegar together again without raising suspicions. Elia even offered to invite her to sit with her during the tourney in the following days, which Rhaegar could not deny seemed like a great idea. After that, they decided that there was little else to be done, and recognizing Arthur and Elia’s need to say a proper farewell to one another, he excused himself taking Oswell with him when he went.



 That night he dreamt; eyes of violet and eyes the color of Valyrian Steel so dark they seemed almost black, rimmed by deep indigo. He dreamt of dragons being born on an island in the smoking sea, he dreamt of wolves moving swiftly through a wood in the deep of night, of Ice and Fire colliding, and weirwood trees covering the land anew, he dreamt of a dark haired boy dressed in black standing atop the Wall beside two women whose visage was unknown to him, standing strong hand in hand. ‘I swear it by bronze and iron, I swear it by ice and fire.’ he heard as a whisper on the wind. He dreamt of a boy dark of hair standing beside a girl who looked similar to Lyanna in front of a weirwood, swearing vows to one another in secret. They sealed their vows before the heart tree and in the throws of their passion he heard a name… ‘ Jace’ pass through her lips before watching her birth two dragons alone in the darkness of a crypt. Two girls… He woke with a jerk, what did I just see?

   He was shook to his very core. He has only ever known of one Jace visiting Winterfell, and that would be his ancestor Jacaerys Velaryon, but he had been promised to his cousin Baela from a young age. And there were no trueborn daughters of House Stark in Winterfell during the hour of the wolf… He rose and opened the flap of his tent. It was still early yet, and the camp was still quiet.

  Going back to his bed, he could not help but think that there is something about this last detail that has been missed by the historians. If his suspicions were correct, there has already been a union of Ice and Fire. But what does that mean for the prophecy? He needed to speak with Marwyn. He needed to speak with Lord Stark. It would be a long day. His mind began to drift again back to the dream of the three standing on the wall, and could not help but wonder if that was Rhaenys standing beside the dark haired boy and the silver haired girl.


 The dragon has three heads…   the time was near. Before settling back into sleep, he decided to write down the visions he received.


The Raven's Agent


 He decided to leave the Hall shortly after Lyanna and the Prince did. The wolf pack had scattered across the Hall, Ned was still with the Lady Ashara, Brandon was with Robert having a drinking competition, and the Young Pup was planning to head back to his tent, so it seemed as good a time as any to make his way back to the lake to check in with the Gods.  

 Luckily enough, the grounds were quiet and empty enough, that he was sure he would be able to move in and out of camp unmolested by another set of squires. The Crannogmen may be small and keep to their bogs, but they are not craven, and they are more than capable of protecting themselves. But they did not seem to notice that, and neither did the she-wolf. Though if he were honest, it was sheer coincidence that she happened upon them when she did. He had not thought to place himself in the path of danger so soon.

 But Destiny will happen whether we are actively working toward it or not… And it was true. After everything he had seen on the Isle through the Gods Tree, there is no possible way to refute that fact.

 Even with the helping hand of the Ink Mark, destiny is inevitable. Which is why limited transparency is necessary in this story. And that is precisely the reason for Howland to go to the lakes shore tonight. But first, it is almost time to pick up the she-wolf from her conversation with the dragon prince. If he is right, she will be outside the Godswood by now.

 So that is where his feet carried him. Through the shadows, and across the grounds, until he was standing on the opposite side of some bushes close by where the Prince and the she-wolf were talking. The Lady Lyanna was painted silver by the moonlight. Only her hair loose behind her.

 They kept a respectable distance, but it was plain to see that they both knew the truth of their fate. Yet he noticed they had not sealed the bond. That’s good, it's not time yet. Soon, but not yet. Howland still hadn’t figured out a way to speak with the prince alone, though he had a feeling that the opportunity was already presenting itself by way of Lyanna.

We shall see…

Just then, he heard them making their farewells, so he used the opportunity to present himself, and offer to escort Lyanna back to her tent. Of course she still has no idea they will be making a detour, but it won't make much of a difference anyway. In fact, he was sure that she could benefit from an offering after her conversation with the Stag Lord. And it's past time Lyanna starts talking about her mark. She and her Dragon Prince are the king and queen of missed opportunities, because they don't take action when it matters the most… This will have to stop now, if they hope to have any shot at success in the wars to come.  And he knew just what to say to Lyanna to make her start talking.


The She-wolf


  She’d been fidgeting with her mark when he’d brought up that he had seen her mark. So much for keeping it hidden… she’d thought she’d been doing a pretty decent job keeping it concealed up until then. Perhaps I should tie a ribbon around it . . . she dismissed the thought as soon quickly as it had come. She knew that was futile, it had been tingling ever since she’d arrived, and she hadn’t been able to keep her hands off of it.  This is why she needed to know what it was that the crannogman knew. It seemed however that he would not say any more. The man who refused to share what he knew stood in complete contrast with the shy lad she had rescued from three rogue squires earlier that evening. This of course, only made her only want to ask more questions of him. . .

  “You should ask the prince, the next time you speak with him of the cost. . . the cost of having foresight into one's own destiny.” What exactly is that supposed to mean? As if he were able to hear the questions rattling around in her head, he gestured for her to follow him.

 “Your brother Eddard offered me a place in his tent.” the thought made her heart warm.  Ned had always been the most considerate of her two older brothers. He has father's temperament… Always steadfast and compassionate where others are concerned.

 “So is that where we are heading now? I confess I was planning to seek out Benjen and apologize to him for my reaction earlier.” She couldn't hide the shame she felt at having taken her frustration out on him. In truth, she had been caught off guard when the prince began to play, still reeling from her conversation with Robert. So when Ben called her out for allowing the song to affect her, all she wanted to do was disappear. She was in the wrong, and she knew it.

  Howland paused to consider her, “Worry not Lady Lyanna, the little pup is well. I dare say he was not phased by it at all.” he continued walking, gesturing for her to follow. “Before I retire for the evening, I thought to go to the Gods Eye.”

  The Gods Eye? . .

 “How exactly do you plan to do that? No one visits there.” she asked incredulously.

  He smiled at her then, a smile that suggested that he knew a secret she was not privy to. “There seems to be much that My Lady does not know.  What you say is true, not many have visited the Isle, because not many have access. But you mistake me. We are not going to the Isle. . . not tonight. We go only to the water’s edge. One does not need to look upon the faces to commune with the gods. The lake will suffice, it is the lifeblood of the Isle afterall.”

 “Not tonight?” He had left the rest unsaid, and now she could not help herself. Ever a creature of curiosity, she decided she would indeed accompany him on his mission to the Gods Eye.

 “Why do I get the feeling that there is something going on, and it was no coincidence that you ended up attending this tournament?” She couldn't help it, there had been something tugging at her consciousness. Howland knows about the marks, and he speaks so cryptically at times. Never really giving a concrete answer if he can help it. She had resolved then and there to get to the bottom of things.

  When they got to the water’s edge, he knelt down on the banks and pulled from his belt what looked like a bronze sickle. It was old, she recognized it from some of the books she read while researching her mark.

 ‘ The Marsh king’s are related to the Children of the Forest and the Greenmen.’ Ned had said that day in the library. And standing here on the banks of the Gods Eye, she was starting to think that there was some truth in that assertion.

 “Did you bring your blade with you?”

  She stood there a moment, letting his words sink in. “My blade?. . Forgive me Lord Reed, I’m not sure I understand your question.” she admitted.

 “The blade your mother left you, the blade that connects you to your gods.” he supplied as an answer.

   Of course, what had she thought he meant?

  As it turned out, she had. She was not sure why she'd decided to bring it with her before leaving for the feast. Perhaps it was due to the incident with Howland earlier in the day.  Perhaps not, but suddenly she was glad she did. Only, there was no Weirwood on or near the bank of the lake and she wasn't sure why she would have need of it.

 
  As if on queue, Howland beckoned to her to come kneel beside him. “I suspect that you have questions. . . Rest assured, there are answers. I will help to answer what I can, the best that I can, but you must know that you are not the only one who’s deserving of answers.  For that reason, some questions will have to wait.” She nodded. This is about as much as she could have hoped for, so she would be respectful of his request, and try not to push. Making her way over to where he knelt, she settled herself down beside him. Turning to her, he made a sweeping motion with his hands and began with his explanation.

  “Just because you see no tree, does not mean that the gods are unable to hear us. The trees are an extension to the Gods, and not the gods themselves, as you are already aware. In the North, the Old Magics have been around since the dawn age. Greenseers, Wargs, Skinchangers. These terms are not so strange to our people, though the gifts are rarely given. Even more rarely is the gift of Greensight given. Only one man in a thousand is born a Skinchanger, and only one Skinchanger in a thousand can be a Greenseer. And it is the most powerful of the Greenseers who see through the trees, and help to guide those of us willing to listen.”

  “The God’s Eye is a sacred place, guarded since the time of the Pact during the Age of Heroes by the Green Men. Every tree on the isle was given a face, to bare witness to the pact between the Children of the Forest and the First Men. It was after the signing of the Pact, that we of the blood of the First Men adapted our beliefs and began to follow the Old Gods. And this isle has been sacred to the gods since. The water on this lake has drank more blood than any tree north of the Neck, especially during the Dance of Dragons. Just as the pool that lay beneath the canopy of the Heart Tree in the Godswood of Winterfell, these waters give back to the gods as they nourish the trees on the isle.”Just then it dawned on her what he had meant.

  He wants to make his offering to the water.

  She nodded in understanding, and pulled her dagger from her bodice. She thought about Ned, and Ben and Bran, and she thought about her mark, and how it had been tingling since she arrived, and she thought about Robert and all he had said, and suddenly she was sure of her intentions. Steeling herself, she drew the sharp edge across her palm drawing a line of blood, and then she released her intentions to the gods, along with her blood offering into the waters of the God’s Eye.

  Once she was done she stood and turned to Howland, thankful that he had brought her and shared this information with her and offered him her arm. He took it and they turned to walk back to camp. On the way there, he told her more about his time south of the neck, prior to his arrival at Harrenhal.


  That Night, Lyanna sat in her tent with her little brother Ben and Howland discussing plans to avenge Howland, and they all eventually decided that Lyanna would enter the joust and challenge the knights whose houses those squires represented. Once the games were through on the morrow and the camps quieted down, they would go out in search of the right pieces of armor to fit her.

Chapter Text

Lyanna III

She woke with a jolt, unsure of her surroundings and feeling out of place. Her head was swimming with Images, the words of her friend still haunting her from the night before.


The night before… her thoughts began to trail back to the evening of the feast and her walk with the Crown Prince.

  The crown prince. . .

 What had she been thinking? It's a wonder that Bran and Ned and Robert weren't  already inside her tent demanding answers for storming out of the Hall last evening. But she could not make herself care. Something about the Prince’s song reached into her gut and ripped her open, exposing her to the world.  One moment she had been sitting there joking with her brother and plotting with Lord Reed, and in the next, the prince had lit an inferno that burned away all that she was, leaving behind a husk of who she had once been. Transforming her into a weeping maid, and damn Ben for calling her out.

 Of course he had noticed! I'm not done with you yet Benjen…

  She was not mad at him, not truly. It was the way between the two of them. After Bran and Ned went off to foster, they had only themselves for companionship. As a result they had become thick as thieves. Sometimes, their father joked that she and Ben were twins, but that she had  wanted to be born with the cold, so she tricked the winter winds into one last storm and then ripped her way into the world. Leaving Ben to hold their den until it was time for him to come too.

 Of course everyone knows that is not the way things work, but there was a kind of poetry to it all. Lyanna had always believed that she had a special connection to the winter. And perhaps she did, because for as long as she could remember she has been correctly predicting the changing of seasons. Even before the Citadel could firmly declare it. It had become a kind of game between her and Ben and sometimes father would play along with them too. Unlike most of the children within the walls of Winterfell, Lyanna never felt weak or sick during the coldest months. It did the opposite. Each time the seasons changed so too would Lyanna. It seemed to strengthen her and nurture her. Even her hair would grow almost twice as quickly as it did in the summer months.

 Breaking away from those thoughts, she made her way for her chest of clothes. She planned to join the Horse Races this afternoon, and then go to the joust. She wanted to take part in that too, but she knew she had better chances of convincing the host to cancel the tourney than she did of entering the lists. But no one would deny her a horse race. Not even Brandon.

 

 Especially not Brandon . . . she thought about it, feeling a wicked smile stretch across her face. She chose a pair of white riding leathers, and at the last moment, she reached for a grey riding dress to match. This way, she wouldn't scandalize the whole of the Seven Kingdoms at the sight of her riding astride. She would never understand the way these southerners treated their women.

 She was just leaving her tent when Howland and Benjen approached. “We were just coming to see if you wanted to break your fast with us before the races.” Howland explained.

“How did you-,” she almost asked, knowing that she had not mentioned it to either of them last night while they were in her tent after she returned with Howland. But then she remembered what Howland had said to her during their walk.

 ‘Destiny will happen whether you actively work toward it or not. That is why it's destiny.’

 The Crannogman would say no more than that. No matter how many times she had pled with him  and promised that she would not work against what the gods had chosen for her. Truly she would not have. But he would not relent, and she was forced to accept his decision.

“Why did you not tell me sooner that you had a purpose here and that Ned and I are linked to that?” She wanted to know the answer desperately. Ever since the marks appeared she had been reading every bit of documentation she could get her hands on, but she still had so many questions. And with little progress. Her biggest issue was trying to figure out how to locate her link barer. Except all she found was more information on those known to bare a link, bonded and non bonded alike.

 The idea that the little Crannogman had knowledge of mine own and Ned’s destiny was the single most exciting thing she had heard since the mark had shown up nearly a year ago.

  After she broke her fast, she made her way over to her Bran’s tent, she knew that she wanted him there to support her, and he would be upset if she just headed to the races without telling him of her intentions. As it turned out, he was already aware and had her mare in hand when she finally came into view of his tent.

He greeted her with a wide smile. One he typically only reserved for her. She and Bran were two sides of the same coin. Father claimed that the wolf blood ran hotter in the two of them than it had in Ned and Benjen, and for all that she knew, he was right. Brandon hated the idea of being forced into a life of duty. He wanted to travel, and leave all the responsibilities of a first born son behind him. Brandon was passionate in a way that even Lyanna could not understand. He never sat still if it could be helped, and when he was in a mood there would be no calming him until he was ready.

 The biggest issue thus far had of course been Brandon’s love of women, especially with his impending wedding to Catelyn Tully in the next months. It seemed as if the closer his time came, the more he sought out the company of a different woman. Barbrey Ryswell was the most recent proof of Brandon’s transgressions. Though the girl should have known better. Even Lyanna knew that her father would never sanction the match over that of Catelyn Tully. What's worse is that the girl believed that Brandon had loved her, and had claimed he wanted to wed her. Even her lord father had known it was a falsehood. Brandon had no intention to wed at all, and would have little need of such promises to bed the girl. She had been following him around for years while he had fostered in the Rills. And her father had been aware that there was talk of trying to trap Brandon into a marriage. In the end, it mattered not, father arranged a marriage for the girl to the son of another of his Bannermen, and the betrothal to Catelyn Tully went on.

 “Little sister, I thought you may want to take Winter to the Horse Races this morning.” he said to her beaming with pride.

 “I may be interested in going, tell me dear Bran, will you be challenging me if I should choose to enter?” she asked, though she knew he would not. He was swift, and of a mind with Storm, his own courser, but he could not beat Lyanna. His beast was magnificent, but Brandon was tall and built, while Lyanna was of medium height and of a lean build. This only helped her to pick up speed when she needed to, and her smaller frame helped to conserve the energy of her mount. Genetically Brandon was born at a disadvantage in comparison to her in this regard. Though if anyone were to keep pace with her, it would be him.

 “I would not dream of taking this one small victory from you little wolf.” he ruffled her hair and continued, “ I will be jousting and participating in the melee, while you will be stuck in the stands jealous. It would be cruel of me to deny you this bit of freedom would it not?”

 He was right, she would be miserable having to watch him joust, only he had no idea that she had no intention of just sitting around spectating. He had the chance to do the right thing by Howland, and he didn't cease it. . .  So she would. Not wanting to give anything away, she smiled her most devious of smiles and accepted his olive branch.

 “Too right, dearest Bran. It will be hard for me to accept, but thankfully the Gods saw fit to bless me with the most chivalrous of brothers who always puts mine own needs before his own.”

 It was their way with each other. Of course they could just speak plainly, but where is the fun in that?

 Approaching Winter, she quickly noted that Brandon had her saddle already fastened, and she was brushed and fed. She ran her hand over her snout in greeting. “Are you ready girl? These southerners have never known Winter like us, shall we show them who comes for them?”

 As if in understanding, Winter whickered lightly at her and turned so she was facing the direction of the races. “I suppose that means she is ready then.” Brandon chuckled and she beamed at him. “Then let us be away, Winter is Coming for these summer boys.”

 “Aye, let us be away.” Brandon returned, “But first, we have to stop by and tell the GreatJon we are on our way over. They insisted that if you were to race, we were to come and fetch him. The north would not miss this for all the world. You may not notice this, but they are quite taken by you Lya.”

 At this she blushed. Of course she was aware of the affection the northern lords held for her. She was the image of her Lady mother, and the only daughter of their Liege Lord. But it was her wolf’s blood that had endeared her to the northern lords. Apparently to be born with wolf’s blood was a rare thing, but it was even more rare for a daughter to be born with it. Of what she knew, a daughter of the north has not been born with the wolf’s blood since before conquest. And this made her next to royalty in the eyes of the North.

 From as far back as she could recall, her father's bannermen had regarded her with something akin to reverence. And she always got the feeling that they expected something from her. Though if she were being honest, she had no idea what, but no matter. They were nothing less than polite at all times.


 “Very well, we will go tell the GreatJon, but then we go straight for the grounds. I do not want to be late, or be denied a place in line. I intend to win, and if the North wants to be there, they had best hurry.” she said as they walked toward the other side of camp, which happened to be on the way as it turned out.


 The field was huge, and there were at least thirty riders who showed up to race.  To her amazement, a huge host of Northmen had already arrived to watch the race, in anticipation that she would show on her famed northern mare. Alongside them stood some Valemen who were close with her brother Ned and Even some Stormlanders, who also turned up to watch. Though, to her astonishment Robert was not amongst them. No doubt he was still sleeping off the ale he’d consumed the night before.

 Well good riddance, he is not welcomed here at any rate. I want nothing to do with that pig…  she thought to herself indignantly. If she were being honest, she was looking for someone else. Though, she could not tell anyone else that. She was not even sure if he would show, but there was a little part of her that held out hope.

 After their conversation the night previous, and the dreams she’d had of him after her trip to the God’s Eye with Howland, he was ever present in her thoughts. That and the fact that her mark reacts when she is in his proximity. Even though Howland would not give her any information on who her Link barer is, she had a pretty good idea it was the prince. And just as the thought crossed her mind, she saw him come into her field of vision.

  Walking with only two guards at his side, he made his way past the crowds, and found a place under the shade of a nearby tree. She would not react to him though. Now was not the time. That he was here meant enough to her. She brushed her mark, hoping he could feel whatever it is she was feeling in that moment.


 “Lya, did you hear me?” Brandon broke her out of her trance.

 “No, I’m sorry Bran, I did not. I was thinking about the competition.” she lied.

Cocking an eyebrow at her, “Sure you were, get your head in the game, little wolf. It's about to start. Give them hell, and show them the meaning of our words.” he smacked Winter on her rump and walked to join the rest of the men who came to watch her race.

 When the herald called for the race to begin, she did not waste a moment. Kicking her heels she urged Winter forward. It did not take much to convince her, and soon they were flying passed the competition until she was riding side by side with two other riders. One a beautiful Sand Steed of midnight black, another a chestnut brown palfery. Both beautiful beasts, though neither could compete with a Winter storm. She smiled to herself then.

 Leaning in she whispered to her mount. “Let us play a game my dear. We shall stay abreast for now, allow them to think they have the advantage.” she smiled wickedly. “First we shall overtake the chestnut mare beside us. We will save that Dornish steed for the finish.” she finished, and she was sure Winter had understood her.

 Not soon after, it was as she had said, Winter easily passed by the reachlord and found it not difficult at all to keep pace with the Dornish Lord. She knew the lead that the two riders held over the other competitors was significant, so she chose to not press a lead now. She could afford to allow him to become cocky. Had he been a Northmen, he would have known that this race was futile, but the boy riding beside her seemed as sure of himself as his horse did. Unfortunately for him, it was obvious to Lyanna that they were not One the way she was with Winter. She knew without hesitation that Winter was an extension of her, not an accessory to her.

  It was on the second lap, on the way back to the finish line when it became clear to the rider beside her that this would not be an easy win for him, just like most men, she was sure he had underestimated her based on her sex. But it was too late for him. His mount began to slow some. Not much, and Lyanna knew it was because Dornish Sand Steeds were bred specifically for their stamina. She knew that he could keep riding, but her rider had pushed her from the gate, and had yet to let up on her. While Winter had only hit full speed once in the beginning of the race, and was just waiting on her command to set off for the finish line. She was right… such an intelligent creature… Leaning forward, she ran her left hand across her left flank, and just like that, Winter was off… no words necessary, but praise was offered anyway.

The Dornishmen had no time to react by the time Winter blew past him, in her rush to the finish. And by the time he rode past, she was already wrapped in her brother Brandon’s embrace.


The Silver Prince



 He was not sure how long he had been sleeping when Arthur showed up outside his tent. But the camp was clearly still quiet, so he assumed it was just past dawn. He dressed in silence and made his way from his tent falling in beside Arthur, they made their way to the great hall to break their fast before heading to the tourney grounds for the Opening of the Tournament. He knew this would be a long day.

 

True to his word, he made his way from the Great Hall, toward the tourney grounds. If he was correct, the races would be starting soon, and even if he’d wanted to skip the event, he felt like he was being drawn there. As if an invisible tether had been created between she and him. And he found he did not mind. The closer he was to her, the easier it became to breathe, to exist. How he had become so dependent on her proximity in less than a day was beyond even his understanding.

 As they approached, he could see a huge crowd of people gathered around, people from all over the Seven Kingdoms. There was a small crowd of Reachmen, and Stormlanders. He even spotted a few knights from the Riverlands standing off to the side. The biggest crowds were from the North, the Vale, and Dorne. It made sense when he thought about it. Even though Valemen aren’t particularly great horsemen,  Jon Arryn had fostered Eddard Stark, and if Lyanna was competing then he was certain her brothers would be there to support her, which meant the Vale would be there as well.

 He did not wish to cause a scene by taking a place beside the rest of the onlookers. Instead, he and Arthur and Oswell made their way to a quiet shaded area, and waited patiently for the race to begin.  He vaguely heard the sound of the herald signaling for the competitors to start, and then there was a thunder of hooves in the distance, and the space around him was ignited into loud cheers as the Northmen and the Valemen cheered on their own. There were three very clear frontrunners from the beginning. The first, a boy. Light of hair, with a shock of black, and tanned skin…  Gerold Dayne he was sure, and this suspicion was confirmed when Arthur stepped forward to get a closer look. His Dornish steed was black as midnight, as strong as he was swift.

Beside him, a chestnut brown palfrey mare, someone from the Reach, though he was not sure who. Not that it mattered anyway, because beside him there she was.

 White leather breeches, and a grey riding dress, her hair bound in a loose braid. Her mare was a dappled gray. Her mane was as silver as his own, her coat was a mixture between the storm grey of her eyes and freshly fallen snow. She was the exact personification of her rider, and indeed it seemed as if the two were one. She was bent over the back of her mount, with her head pressed against her neck, and for a moment it seemed as if she were whispering to the mare as they raced. The two seemed to understand one another well, because they both seemed at ease in their mission. It was not long before Lyanna passed the Reach Lord, and was running parallel to the young lord of High Hermitage. His steed was splendid, his coat shone like the sun, but it was clear he was at a disadvantage beside Lyanna and her mare. They were disjointed in a way Lyanna was not. And while it was clear that Little Gerold was intent on winning, and giving it everything he could. Lyanna was biding her time. She rode side by side with him for a time, even allowing him to gain on her. He suspected she planned to use her mare to her advantage in the last moment, saving her strength until it was absolutely necessary.

  Such a sight to behold. . .  


 His assumption was confirmed on the last leg of the race, once they had turned and started back in the direction they had come from. Lyanna and Gerold were about three quarters of the way through when Lyanna reached her arm forth and stroked the left flank of her mare and whispered to her.

 

 Gerold, up until then had been leading by a few feet, when a grey blur sped past him, and before he could react she was speeding toward the finish. The crowd cheered wildly, as she crossed the line, and Rhaegar saw the entire northern host break from where they had been stationed and rush toward her. The first to reach her was her eldest brother Brandon. Scooping her from the saddle of her horse, he spun her around in circles and they both threw their head back and laughed in wild abandon.

  She was spectacular, and there was no denying it. He wanted to go to her, but he would not. This had been enough. He was sure of it the moment her eyes met his. He smiled at her then. And she smiled back. No words were necessary. He turned on his heel and made his way for the next competition, knowing the day would be long and his sire would be expecting him.

 


The She-wolf


  “By the Gods Lya, that was amazing! Winter is Coming indeed!” Brandon was practically glowing at her. “Ethan, take Winter to the stables, and see that she gets a few sugar cubes and an apple, would you?” His squire quickly rushed forth taking Winter’s reins in hand.

 “You rode well today Lady Lyanna, congratulations on your win.” Ethan offered before taking Winter with him.

 She was still smiling when Brandon spun her so she could see the Prince walking toward the tourney grounds and their eyes met. She had almost forgotten that he had came, and she warmed thinking how he was able to make time. He smiled at her then, and she smiled back at him. Knowing that he would not come over while she was in the company of her brothers and her people. But she found that him showing up was enough. After all, Robert Baratheon was still missing in action, yet the crown prince had shown up to see her race.

 Turning her attention back to her brother, she gestured to be put down, and then they made their way over to the rest of the crowd who had gathered to congratulate her.

 “You know, I almost thought I would win.” she heard a thickly accented voice behind her. It had to be the boy she had been racing, because he was the only one who even thought to stand a chance. She turned to face him, with Bran stopping beside her. When she turned to face him, she noticed that he resembled the Prince a bit. Long silver hair, save the streak of black in the front, and dark purple eyes. A few years younger than herself if she’d had to guess.

 Reminding herself that she was not in the north, she chose her next words carefully. “I apologize for the deception My Lord, but my Winter is a sore loser, by the time the finish line was upon her, there was little I could have done to sway her from her mission.” She couldn't keep the grin from her face when she said it though. And even though the boy had a look on his face that spoke of displeasure, he was friendly enough about it.

 “That is fair, I wanted to compliment you on your mount, she is splendid. Did someone train her for you?” he asked earnestly.

 It was Brandon who spoke up. “My sister Lyanna has had Winter since she was a foal. She trained and broke her, herself.” She could hear the pride in his voice as he spoke.

 “This is my brother Brandon, Heir of Winterfell, and you are?” she could not simply keep referring to the boy as the Dornishman.

 “Gerold Dayne, Lord of High Hermitage. Though my family and those close to me call me Darkstar.” he supplied.

 “Well met, Lord Dayne.” Brandon greeted him.

 “Well met, Lord Stark.” he responded.

 “Perhaps we shall see each other around again, but we really should be going,” Lyanna hated to brush him off so casually, but she needed to hurry if she meant to make it to the first match of the joust. “Brandon, the joust is beginning soon, should we not head there now?”

 “Indeed, though would you prefer not to change before we go?” he asked.

 She had thought about it that morning, and even though she would be perfectly happy attending as she was, she knew Brandon had a point, “Only if my brother would be so kind as to be my personal escort.” At this Bran snorted.

 “I’m sure we could convince the whole northern host to carry you back to your tent on their shoulders if you insist. Given your win, we could possibly even convince them to do it the entire tournament.” he teased. Lyanna could not help but to roll her eyes.

“An escort shall suffice, I should think.” And so they set off for her tent after spending a few moments among the Northmen so that they could offer their congratulations.

Chapter Text

The Silver Prince


  The first day was always the slowest, so in between his father's rants he made room to comment on a few well struck hits, and the rest of the time he found his mind wandering back to last evening.

  It was still to early for Elia to have spoken with Lyanna, but the Lady Ashara was beside her, and had assured him that she would be able to suggest having Lyanna join her and the Princess to Lord Eddard. He was not quite sure what to make of the familiar way she said his name, but he was prepared not to press the matter. Especially if it meant that he would be able to spend more time getting to know about the Lady Lyanna, and more time to figure out a way to approach the mark with her.

  He had been struck dumb with curiosity after the conversation he had with her the previous evening, the only other person aside from his Uncle Aemon who had ever indulged him with such conversations is his mother. Any preconceived ideas he had of her in regards to her character prior to meeting her had all been thrown out. She thus far is the single most complex person he had ever had the pleasure of encountering. He couldn't help but smile thinking about how unsure he had been, worrying about her reaction to his approach, of his concern for her wellbeing, how he wanted to tell her that he admired her fearlessness, how he would have rather ran himself through with his own sword than to run her off by treating her like a delicate flower. The way every southern lady he had ever had thrust into his company would prefer to be treated.

 It occurred to him suddenly that for a while, when it was just the two of them he had forgotten his sorrows, and the weight of the prophecy, and the pressure of destiny, hanging over his shoulders like an axe.  And for just a little while, it was just the two of them, and the moon, and her words washing over him. And rather than feeling like he was still alone in the darkness, he belonged. . .

 Unbidden his inner dragon roared at the revelation. He could not explain it, but it had always been there; his dragon. Sometimes it was a feeling akin to rage. But this dragon is different. This dragon has a name, but she won't share it. And no matter how many times he has called for her in the darkness, she has not came for him. And deep down, he knows she is kin to him. Her thoughts are her own, and they present themself in sleeping and waking hours. But he still knew little and less of her and what this meant. Of what he did know, their personalities were linked. And she wanted a place to belong as much as he did…

  Just then he was shaken from his thoughts by the sound of the crowd erupting in cheers as the Porcupine Knight unhorsed his opponent with a well placed hit to his left underarm. There would only be three more matches before the games concluded for the day, but he found his father preparing to stand, so he stood as well, never presuming to sit in comfort while the King stands before his subjects. The stands quieted while they awaited the King’s announcement.

 “I grow weary of these games, stay! Enjoy these festivities.” he waved a hand dismissively, and walked toward the steps, Ser Gerold and Ser Barristan following in his wake. After the King was gone, the herald called the next match, and everyone resumed their activities.  The rest of the contestants were unremarkable to him, because he found himself once again gazing across the stands toward a set of deep grey eyes, rimmed by long thick lashes. And apparently he was not alone in his pining, because the moment their eyes met, she flushed that same exquisite shade of pink that she had the night previous.

  He knew that the situation was not getting any easier, Lyanna knew naught of his annulment with Elia, or the fact that the babe she carries does not belong to him. For as much joy and satisfaction he felt at seeing her smile, he felt an equal amount of fear. The last thing he wanted her to think, was that he is no better than Robert when it comes to keeping to his vows. 
And while everything looks and feels fine, he dreaded the thought of her seeing him in a less than favorable light. 

 Nay, he could not allow that to happen. He would seek out an opportunity to see her again tonight. But first he would need to keep Robert distracted so he can slip away with her. 


The She-wolf


 It had not taken her long to dress for the Joust, suddenly glad she had chosen a dress earlier that morning. Not that she’d cared about changing, her riding dress was perfectly acceptable attire in her opinion. And that is exactly what she had told Brandon while they made their way back to camp.

 Unfortunately, brother Brandon got lost along the way, and father Brandon responded in his stead. “Perhaps if you were going to see about business with Father at home, but not while the King is in Attendance Lya.” he chided her. Of course she understood why she had to change, it just seemed like a lot of fuss, just to sit down and sweat.

She had decided then, that she would never understand Southerners. They are a vain lot, and from what she’d seen, they did not possess one bit of practicality. If last evening’s feast was any indication of these southern lords usefulness, she was pretty sure she had seen enough.

 Before coming to the tourney, she had always wondered what life outside the North would be like, but now that she’s living it, she had to admit that she was not much impressed. From what she has seen, they are either lying, posturing, or drowning in their cups. Such frivolous lifestyles. Even the tourney seemed over the top, not that she would complain, she would be collecting her prize money from the race, courtesy of those frivolities. But still, it's shameful that people waste so much to celebrate these games while the men at the Wall go ignored and unaided every winter.

 Approaching her seat, she noticed Howland and Ben were already there, Ned just behind them in the next row. “Have I missed anything brothers?"

 “Not at all, the contest was just opened and they are getting ready to call the first up in a moment.” Ben answered back enthusiastically.

 Perfect…

She turned to Ned, unable to deny the urge to poke at him about his lady love from the previous night. “So, my dearest Ned, how was your evening?" She tried to keep a straight face, but it was futile. Aside from the fact that Ned showed interest in a lady, he showed singular interest in a lady, and even danced with her. Which meant, he has to know if she was his bonded pair or not.

He didn't even turn to her. Oh gods. . . Ned!

You didn't!” she exclaimed as quietly as possible.

“Keep your voice down Lya, of course I didn't. But you need to relax. We can not have this conversation here. And you know why.” he tried to sound cross, but his face was on fire.

 “Okay, fine! But don't think you are going to get away without an explanation Ned.”

He nodded once, and then he passed her a piece of parchment. “What is this?”

“It’s for you, Ashara asked me if I would deliver it safely into your hands.” She grinned at her lovestruck brother. She wanted to tease him for this, but she knew he would not appreciate it, so she accepted the message and reached for his hand, squeezing slightly before letting go. No words necessary, as always.

“Has anyone decent entered the field yet?” she asked Ben and Howland. They knew who she was referring to, so there was no need to elaborate any further.

 It was Howland to reply this time. “Not yet, Lya.”

Very well, she thought to herself. Sitting back she unfolded the square of parchment and found it was an invitation to sit with Ashara and the Princess Elia.

Odd. . . She had been thinking about the Princess the night before. After she had spent time with the Prince. Could this be the reason for her invitation? She got butterflies in her stomach thinking about someone seeing her walking alone with the Prince. And not for the first time did she want to curse herself for being so foolish.

 “What is it?” Ned asked.

It made no sense to keep it a secret, there was nothing in the message that indicated she had done something wrong, so she handed the message back to Ned so he could read it himself. His reaction was one of indifference.

 “Will you accept?”

 “Can I decline?” she retorted.

 “Not really,” he answered.

 “Well then, I suppose I shall accept.” She would love nothing more than to get away and spend her time in a place that Robert Baratheon could not find her, but she was not sure whether this specific invitation was about making lasting friendships, or making and receiving threats.


The Wild Wolf



  Brandon had just saw Lyanna back to the tourney grounds when he had been approached by a rider with a message. It was sealed with his fathers stamp, but something felt off about it.

 Stopping the boy before he could run off too quickly, he asked. "How is it that you managed to come by correspondence from the Warden of the North addressed to his heir?"

 He didn't want to scare the boy off, but it was no secret that the King believed that treason was being plotted here, and this letter could be a trick if he weren't careful.

 The boy looked around as if unsure of how to reply, but he quickly brushed aside any feelings of trepidation and looked him straight in the eye as he answered.

 "My Lord bid me ride for Winterfell some two moons past. I returned just before I approached you," he paused, considering his next words. "Before you ask, I've no idea what the message I was to deliver said, but I suspect any questions you may have will be explained to you." he gestured toward the message that he'd just delivered.

  He was right, of course. "I thank you for seeking me out straight away then." Nodding, the boy turned his back to him, and walked off in the direction of the other camps. Brandon had forgotten him the moment his eyes found the script written in his fathers hand.

 Back inside his tent, he went to his cot and broke the seal. The message had indeed been from his father, but the answers within did little to help him understand.

 

 

 

 

 



Brandon,
Things have changed. There is much to explain, but I sent you to Harrenhal to act in my stead as the heir to Winterfell. I'm sure you are aware of the rumors behind the Tourney. I need you to make time to speak to the Crown Prince on behalf of House Stark. The Prince will know why you have come to speak with him. Your job is to listen, and to be my representative, and to ensure that the Prince knows he has the full support of our house. I must also ask that you keep a close eye on your sister Lyanna, she is more important than you could possibly understand. For this reason, I ask that you monitor any time she spends in the company of Lord Baratheon, furthermore, it is possible that they won’t be making a match with one another. So there is no reason to encourage her to try. However, do not tell her this.

I'm trusting you to take care of these matters for me. I'm also trusting you to keep a cool head while you are there. Remember son, you are a part of a pack, not a lone wolf. Protect the pack.
And please tell the Prince that I've settled the matter with the Ravens.

The pack survives.



  What the hell was that? To say he was confused is a gross understatement. At which point had the Prince become a part of his fathers plans? He wasn't certain, but there was something he was sure of. He needed to arrange a way for him and the Prince to speak, and based on Neds reaction to Lady Ashara last night, he was pretty sure he knew how to get that audience. Quickly, he stood from his cot, and made for the tourney grounds. He needed to go see his siblings.


The She-wolf



 She found herself lost in her thoughts more often than she had hoped. If she kept up this behavior, she would miss the next contestant entering the list. But she kept seeing his deep indigo eyes flash across her mind. Those same eyes that haunted her as she slept. Tempting her to drown in their depths. She needed a distraction, and she knew where she would get it. Ned was no help, he was just as bad off as she had been, staring across at the Lady Ashara the entire time.  She decided to turn her attention to her brother and Howland. 

  "What are you two discussing?" she asked conspiratorially. 

  They both looked to her then like she should already know the answer, and she supposed she should but she did not. So she just gave them a raised brow, suggesting that they should just tell her. "The last match, weren't you paying attention?" Benjen looked incredulous.

  She obviously had not been, but she did not want them to know why, so she lied and made up what she considered to be an acceptable excuse. "I admit, I was not. My mind wandered. I did not sleep well last night. And with the races before the joust opened, Im hardly able to focus at all," she let her chest droop infinitesimally in hopes that he would buy her lie. She was terrible at it. But with the way things had been going, and the tingling in her wrist, looking flustered was something she thought she would be able to pull off with little effort.

  'Well, the last match was nothing special, so don't worry. The first day is always the slowest day of matches. This is the day they weed out the fair riders from the great ones. Tomorrow will be much better. But pay attention to this next tilt sister, it's the Porcupine Knight." And she could see the excitement written all over his face. 

  "Does he ride well?" She was curious to know his odds. Ben shrugged, but it was Howland that responded.

  "Well enough," he pointed toward the end of the yard where a rider approached. "I suspect you will have your answer soon enough."

  Just then, Brandon approached and sat down beside Ned and passed him something, they spoke in hushed tones but she could not make out what was said. Her attention was called back to the field where the match had just began. The Porcupine knight did indeed ride well enough, but she was certain she was better, his aim however was true, and he quickly unhorsed his opponent, securing his place in the tilt on the morrow. But the win seemed too easy, and she was not the only one in the crowd to think it if their reactions were any indication. There had been very little cheering, though that could have had something to do with the fact that the King was departing at that very moment. 

 At any rate, one of the three Knights she intended to challenge were sure to be in the lists on the morrow, and if the other two should win their first matches on the morrow everything would go according to plan. A wicked smile crossed her lips, and she leaned in to squeeze Benjen's hand. "Tonight, little brother." she whispered conspiratorially. He only nodded back. Or at least she thought he had, but her attention was called to the royal box once more, where she met the eyes of the Silver Prince, who had for all intents and purposes been shamelessly looking at her, for Gods only knew how long. She blushed just then, thinking that somehow he was aware of her plotting. She wasn't sure why, but some how she could believe it. Just then, her mark began to tingle as if in confirmation, and she was struck with a moment of absolute genius! 

 If her mark was tingling, chances were it was tingling on the other end of the bond as well. She reached for her wrist, and began to rub at it. As she did so, she chanced a glance up in his direction, hoping that she was right, and it was him. And she would have had her confirmation if Ned and Brandon hadn't interrupted her train of thought! 


The Quiet Wolf

 

  He had been lost in his own thoughts of Ashara when Brandon approached.

  "Ned, Look at this, and tell me what you make of it." Brandon had a worried look about his face. He took the parchment from his brother turning it over to see what the fuss was all about. 

  "It's in fathers hand." Odd. . . What could Father possibly have to say that would make Brandon react like this?

  "Aye, just read it Ned and tell me that you have an idea of whats going on."
 
  What could he possibly know that Bran did not?

  Well, he certainly got his answer when he read over his fathers words. Without hesitation, his gaze drifted over to the royal box, where he knew the prince was sitting, and when his eyes finally found him, he was shocked to find the Prince was also looking in their direction. . .straight at Lyanna. He swallowed, he did indeed know what this letter was about. He turned to look at his brother. 

  "Aye, I'm aware of what this is all about. Here, there is something you should see as well," he decided to just put the pieces on the board that were available to him. The one in question was the same message that he had delivered to Lyanna earlier written in Ashara's hand. "There is more though, I— I think we should probably go to the tents or even the Godswood to continue this conversation."

  Brandon had just finished looking over the note Ashara had sent to Lyanna when Ned finished speaking. When he looked at Ned, you could see the barely concealed anger flash across his visage. "Do you think he is forcing father's hand? This letter is most certainly his doing, I know it." Ned just shook his head.

The wolf's blood runs too wild in you Brandon. Never do you stop to consider all the other possibilities. 

"Calm, Brandon. Let us go with Lya and Ben to talk and I promise that this will all make sense soon. But I beg you, do not let your temper make you blind. The prince has committed no wrongs here. In fact I daresay, we may need him to join us for this conversation. Maybe not." 

 The joust was almost over now, so it would not matter if they made away early. Especially now that the King had excused himself. Leaning forward he nudged his sister. "Lya, Brandon and I need to speak with you and Benjen in private, would you mind following us back to the tents? It's time for that conversation you wanted to have earlier." He hoped that would keep her from asking too many questions while they were still out in public.

  "Very well, I was ready to leave anyway. Only, can we stop by the royal box? I should like to give the Princess and Lady Ashara my reply." At the last part, Brandon looked to him as well and raised his eyebrow at him. 

 "Aye, that will be fine. Brandon needs to meet with the Prince as well." Thankfully, Lyanna did not press the matter with any further questions and they departed straight away. 


 They made their way back to their tents in good time. They did not remain long at the royal box, and though Brandon had a message for the prince, Ned had convinced him to hold off until he could secure a private audience together. Brandon wasn't at all convinced in Ned's ability to secure said audience, but he relented all the same. By the time they were all crammed into Bran's tent, Ned decided it was best that he start the conversation. Even though their father's letter said not to announce to Lyanna that Brandon was to distract Robert away from spending time with her, Ned knew how useless the entire charade was. Based on what he'd seen between Lyanna and the Prince, he was her link, only neither of them have pieced it all together yet. 

  "Father seems to have sent Brandon a message via rider. He came while we were watching the tilt." He passed the letter to Lyanna. Holding a hand to silence Brandon's protest. "It matters not, and you will understand why in a few moments." He began to undo the ties on the arm of his undershirt. "About ten months ago, I came home on a visit. I am sure you know which one I am referring to. I brought with me an offer of betrothal from Robert Baratheon.  Father called for Lyanna immediately, before I had a chance to speak with her about it alone. And I needn't remind you how happy she was with the news." He paused to let his words sink in before he continued on, only when he went to speak, it was Lyanna who forged on with the story. He looked to her then, and her eyes confirmed what he knew to be true. She wanted to unburden herself of their secret as much as he did. 
 

  "I had been hounding the maester for days about the white raven announcing winter, as I do every time the season has changed. So, when it finally arrived, I went to the Godswood to make Winter's Offering as I've done every season since our Lady Mother departed. It had been the oddest thing, one moment I was dressing the branches with the rabbit I offered, and the next moment, my wrist was on fire. Not like the heat from an open flame. It was the burn of Ice." While she was talking she began pulling up the sleeve of her dress so that they could present their marks together. 

 The look on the face of his siblings was priceless, he knew why Brandon and Ben were shocked, but it was Lyanna's face that was unexpected. Until he realized why. His mark had changed the night before. The moment he had taken Ashara's arm and lead her to the floor for their first dance, his mark began to transform. Where before there was only his grey wolf, now there was a pale moon and a violet shooting star, completing the mark. 

 "Last night, I was drawn to a particular lady if you remember correctly. She revealed to me as we were making our way to the floor for our first dance, that she also received her mark the day the raven came from the Citadel. It came when you gave Winter's Offering Lya. I asked her if anyone else knew of her mark, but she said that she had told no one. Until she and I locked eyes in the Great Hall last evening, she said she hadn't paid it much thought. But the moment she and I made contact, I knew that my mark had connected me to my link. So when this message was given to me by Brandon," he paused for dramatic effect. "I quickly thought about your invitation and showed it to Bran. It all clicked in that moment for me, so when I looked across the way, I was not surprised to see that the prince wore the same expression on his face that I wore last night while pining for my Ashara."

  "I suspect he is your link Lya."

  "But he's married!" Brandon nearly shouted.
  
  "Indeed he is, and that is unfortunate for the Princess Elia." Brandon was shocked to hear these words pass through his lips. 

  "Yes, it sounds callous to you, but to my knowledge Bran, you do not bare an Ink Mark. Granted I am no expert, on the matter, but I have been living with this for nearly a year now, as has Lyanna, and believe me when I tell you, Lyanna and I put in a huge effort to research the marks while I was home on my visit. I even stayed longer than I had originally intended to stay. Yet it was I, who completed the bond before Lyanna," he shook his head, head still spinning from the magnitude of the situation. "But from everything Lyanna and I found, this mark is as binding as any marriage blessed by the High Septon, or performed by our Lord Father at home. This mark, is the Gods will. And there is no denying it." He turned back to Lyanna. 

  "Tell it true, you feel it do you not? The bond calls to you, even now." She simply nodded. 

  "I have something else I have to tell all of you," he almost hadn't heard Lyanna speak. "I think Howland needs to be with us when we speak with the Prince." 

  What ever he had expected her to say, this was not it. "Why would Howland need to be with us to discuss this matter?" 

  "Because he knows things, He spent a season on the Isle of Faces with the Greenmen before he came to attend the tourney. And,. . . and last night, on the way back to our tents, he shared with me some advice about destiny. He knows about our marks Ned, and he knows about Rhaegar's too. But he wont share everything he knows with me, he said that I was not the only one with questions, and that I would need to wait until everyone was there before he answered my questions. I think he meant you and Ashara and Rhae— The Prince."  she finished quickly.

  "Very well, we will ask him to join us when we speak with the prince and Ashara. I too am interested in what he has to say. Now, about Robert. . .  this could be a problem, he is singularly focused on our dear sister."

  "I'll kill him if he touches her." Brandon retorted as if the offer was one of generosity.

No thank you, this will not win us friends

  "Forgive me Brandon, but father specifically asked you to represent him in all matters at the Tourney, so It could prove better, if you fought your battles on the field, and not within our camp, or the tourney grounds. It could prove more beneficial to keep him drunk and distracted with pretty faces and pronounced curves, if you get my drift. Maybe Ethan and Elbert can help on that front." Surprisingly Lyanna stayed quiet while Ned and Brandon worked through the problem that was Robert. In the end, they decided that Benjen would remain close to her when Ned and Brandon could not be there to run interference if Robert somehow managed to slip passed them. 

  It was only a few hours before the feast when they finally finished their conversation and parted ways to prepare for the evening. He wanted to go out in search of Ashara the moment they departed, but he would wait. 

  Just a bit longer. . . His mark began to tingle.

  He was just about to lay down when he heard his tent flap lift. Not knowing who it was, he turned to see Ashara standing just inside the entrance. She came for me. . . His heart started to pound wildly in his chest. "Ashara..., you're here." he was suddenly nervous. 

  She smiled, "Do I still make you nervous, even after last night?" 

  He swallowed, "I, um. . . No. It's just that I had been thinking how good it would be to go to you, before you showed up. As if you were reading my thoughts. That's all." He made his way toward her. She was still just inches from the entrance. 

  "And were you planning to come seek me out, my lord?" she asked him, but he knew that she was teasing him. Her eyes spoke of mischief, and he had never wanted to be more like Bran in that moment. . . Instead he blushed. She had caught him, he wasn't sure how he knew it, but she would know if he lied about this. She began to approach him, meeting him half way.

  "I confess, I was not. I intended to wait to see you until tonight. I did not want to cause a scene, seeking you out. But make no mistake, it gladdens my heart to have you here with me now." she wrapped her arms around his torso, and he pulled her in and embraced her as a lover would taking in her scent along with her affection. It had felt like an entire age had passed since they said their goodbyes last night. Sitting so close, yet so far throughout the joust was like slow torture to his soul. And now that she was here, he didn't want to waste a moment without her in his arms. 

  Suddenly, he remembered the letter from his father and he decided to ask Ash for her assistance. He would tell her everything, the Gods had marked her for him, so he knew that she would not betray his trust. 

  "Ashara, I need to tell you something, and I need a favor from you. . ." And he began to tell her everything.

 

Chapter Text


The Silver Prince


 


  After Lyanna and her brothers departed the tourney grounds Ashara and Elia informed him that she had accepted the invitation to sit with them in the coming days. “That is very good.” He was flustered. He wanted to leave, he wanted to follow her back to her tent and tell her everything. He wanted to tell her about Elia and Arthur, but he could not. He could not depart before the final tilt was over, which thank the Gods was wrapping up at this very moment.

  Remembering his courtesy, he stood and applauded the final two competitors and promptly made his way for the exit once the games had been officially closed for the day.

 “Arthur, can you send for Richard Lonmouth and Marq Grafton, I’d like to ask a favor of them,” . . . he’d thought about this for a while. “have them meet us back at camp.” Last evening, he had noticed his cousin Robert drinking with Ser Richard, and the situation could not be more perfect. The lad had been Rhaegar’s own squire, he’d knighted him as well. He was true and loyal to Rhaegar, but also one of Robert’s own bannermen. Marq Grafton on the other hand haled from Gulltown in the Vale. Both would serve as a perfect distraction  for the Stormlord at the feast tonight, and perhaps even before.

 With any luck, he might even be able to sneak off with Lyanna for another walk under the stars… After thinking on it a bit more, Rhaegar decided to have a message delivered to her. This way things would not be left up to chance. 


  

 

 

 

 Lyanna,


  I find it difficult to stay away, yet, I do not wish to draw attention and this is the only means I could conceive of to speak with you. I must confess I have been unable to stop thinking of our conversation last evening, and all the things I left unsaid between the two of us. If it's not too bold, I was wondering if you would be willing to meet me in the Godswood? There is much I wish to speak with you of, and until I do, I'll be tortured by my silence.

 If you decide to come, I will be by the heart tree in one hours time. I do hope you will accept, but if you do not, I will understand. Fear not, I wish only to talk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Rhaegar.




  Quickly, he rolled up the parchment and applied his seal. He was just about to go in search of Arthur when his tent flap opened and Arthur entered to announce both Marq Grafton and Richard Lonmouth.

  Perfect timing. . .

 “Please see them in Arthur, and would you please find a way to deliver this to the Lady Lyanna? Perhaps Ashara can help?”

 “Of course, Your Grace.” he reached for the scroll, but looked hesitant. “Are you sure you want to reach out to her so early though?

  “Yes.” he stated matter of factly, but then considered his friends position and added, “Until this is figured out, my mind will be elsewhere and we can afford no distractions.” It was true. He had zoned out one too many times in his father's presence this afternoon, and it was only a matter of time before that turned problematic. He could not be blinded right now, especially with Lyanna being here.

  Arthur seemed to accept this answer because he relaxed a bit and then replied. “As you command, Your Grace, so it shall be done.” Nodding, he turned and made for the tent flap.

  “Arthur, when I am done here, I will be going to the Godswood straight away. I assume you will be joining me? Perhaps we can spar while we are there?” He had no idea if she would accept his invitation, so he may as well make the best of his trip. Plus, If he and Arthur decided to go there to train, no one would question it.

 “You know me so well.” Arthur smiled. “I shan't be gone long.” And with that, he opened the flap and allowed the two men whom he had summoned, into his space, closing the three of them in together as he went about his task.


The Falling Star


 




  She was just leaving Elia when Arthur found her. She was considering going back to her chambers to bathe and ready herself for the evening, but when she saw the look on her brothers face she knew he had need of her.  “What is it dear brother, is everything alright with the prince? Or have you came for Elia,” she whispered  conspiratorially so that no one would overhear.

  He smiled at her, as he always did when Elia was around or mentioned in his presence. Ever since they were children, Arthur had loved her. “As much as it pains me to admit, I have come in search of you, my sweet, sweet sister.” She groaned, she knew that tone. Sensing her discomfort, he raised his hands in mock surrender. “Fear not, I come to ask a small favor, tis all.” And he passed her a scroll.

 “If it isn't too much trouble, the Prince would appreciate your help in getting this to the Lady Lyanna as soon as possible. I would gladly deliver it myself if you would but escort me.” There was no way she would be able to get out of this, so she took the scroll and brushed passed him.

 “You stay, and check on the Princess. I will go. You should have some time before Prince Lewyn returns.” she wanted to be indignant, but the truth was she was humming on the inside. She would have the chance to see her Ned before the feast, something she had not thought would happen.

 “I am eternally grateful. For your assistance, and for this,” he gestured his head toward Elia’s chambers. She knew what he meant. It had been hard for them to be together once they left Dragonstone. And with her a few moons into her pregnancy, he had been beside himself at the mere idea of not being able to comfort her.

She smiled, “Go, and be quick about it.” and she turned on her heel and made her way toward the Stark encampment.

  She found Ned pacing inside his tent, he hadn’t seen her enter. She was glad, for some reason the sight of him, in his natural surroundings was endearing to her. He seemed just as flustered alone as he had at the opening feast. Although she hadn’t made a sound, he must have sensed her, because one moment his back was to her, facing his cot, and in the next he was looking straight at her.

 “Ashara. . . you're here.” her name came off his tongue in a breathless whisper. It made her feel warm. He was all nerves at the sight of her.

 “Do I still make you nervous, even after last night?” She needed to know why. Granted, this was all very new to her. She never cared much for any one particular boy or another. They were merely there to distract her when she was bored. Granted, she was still a maid. . . that did not mean she could not enjoy herself. And she found that most boys were all too happy to serve her at her pleasure. Ned had been different. Gone was the confident woman she thought herself to be, and in her place a shy maiden had taken root. Her heart fluttered within her breast, and her palms grew sweaty thinking of him. The only difference between the two of them was, she had been trained to hide it better. Life at court makes the best mummers out of us all.

  "I, um. . . No. It's just that I had been thinking how good it would be to go to you, before you showed up. As if you were reading my thoughts. That's all." He was so cute, red faced, reaching for her to come closer.

 “And were you planning to come seek me out?” She knew now why he looked so flustered.

  He was fighting a battle within himself in my honor. . .

  She needed to focus on the purpose of her visit, before she gets swept up in her own thoughts and feelings.

  "I confess, I was not. I intended to wait to see you until tonight. I did not want to cause a scene, seeking you out. But make no mistake, it gladdens my heart to have you here with me now." He answered earnestly. It was then that she found herself enclosed in the safety of his arms as her own found their way around his torso. And suddenly all her nerves were instantly at ease. She could feel him relax at the very moment her heart returned to its normal pace.

 “Ashara, I need to tell you something, and I need a favor from you.” he started. But she had remembered her purpose, and motioned for him to stop.

 “Wait, before all of that, I also have something to tell you.” she paused, How best to continue? “I need to see your sister, I have another message for her.” She could not lie to him. This link made it impossible so she just came out with it.

  “The prince asked Arthur to have me deliver a message to your sister. Before you ask, I will not give it to you. I may not be able to lie to you about what it contains, or my reasons for bringing it, but I will not betray the trust of my brother who asked this favor of me, nor the trust of my Prince who entrusted him to seek out my help.” Surprisingly Ned just nodded his head in understanding.

  “It was actually the Prince and Lyanna I wanted to speak with you about. Though I must admit, I am curious about the content of that letter. He gestured with a raise of his eyebrow and a nod of his head toward her hand. “Very well, let us go to Lyanna and see what this is all about.” He took her hand and escorted her through the camp toward his sisters pavilion.


The She-wolf


 



  She was sitting in her tent with Benjen and Howland, discussing last minute plans for later in the evening. They had decided that after the feast, they would return back to camp and go to bed. Or at least that is what Bran and Ned would think. And once everything started to quiet, they would sneak out of camp and go in search of the armor they would need. Howland would find a suitable mount for her, and they would all meet back at Benjen’s tent when they had all they would need. Before they could make any further decisions however, they were interrupted by two voices coming toward her tent. One was male, and clearly her brother Ned, the other was female.

 Gesturing to her co-conspirators to be quiet, she made her way for her tent flap and lifted it. On the other side she was surprised to see her brother in the company of the Lady Ashara.
“Lya, did we interrupt anything?” Ned enquired. But before she could respond Howland stepped up to her side and welcomed them inside.  She turned and looked at him with a quizzical expression. But rather than answer her silent question, he made an announcement. “I am going to get Brandon, and we will be right back, you should ask the Lady Ashara why she has come, and when I return, we shall all go together.” He left without another word, leaving everyone confused.

 “I take it you have something for me?” She asked her brothers lady.

 “Indeed I do. But, who was that?” Lyanna could not help but chuckle to herself. No doubt Howland had confused her.

 “He is a friend of House Stark, one of our fathers bannermen. Lord Howland Reed.”

  “Reed? As in the Crannogman? I thought that the Crannogmen didn't venture past the Neck!” She looked as if she’d seen a dragon. Maybe a lizard lion? And despite how serious she was, and possibly because she was so serious, Ben, Lya and Ned all found them self bursting into a fit of uncontrolled laughter.

 In the end, it was Ned to respond, “It is indeed a rare occurrence, but not unheard of. Especially when coupled with a specific purpose.” he motioned toward Lyanna. “Perhaps, before we spend our time discussing Lord Howland, we should complete your mission, hmm? I suspect the answers you are seeking will come, once he returns with Brandon.”

 That seemed to snap her back into attention, because she reached into a pocket, and retrieved a scroll and passed it over to Lyanna. “It's from the prince.” was the only explanation she gave.

 This was the second message he’d sent her today, well the first. But she was pretty sure he had a hand in the first. If her father's message was any indication, the prince was much further along in his research than she had been.

 “He wants to know if I’ll join him, in the Godswood.” She said it out loud though she didn't have to, but she lifted her eyes to gauge the reactions of the faces in front of her. To her astonishment, everyone seemed as if they had expected this to be the case.

 “When?” Ned asked.

 “Well, how long ago did you receive this?” she asked Ashara.

“About thirty minutes ago, maybe longer but not more than an hour.” Ashara answered.

 “Well, I daresay he’ll be there by the time we get there if we leave now. So are we going?”
She knew the answer, she just wanted to hear it confirmed.

 It was Ashara who responded this time. “Perhaps it might be best if we allow the Prince and you some time to speak. I admit, I know not what this is all about, but I do not believe he intended for myself or your brothers to accompany you.” she paused “If it is your safety, I can assure you that my brother Ser Arthur will be there to escort the Prince, and he would never let any harm come to you.” But Ned put a hand on her arm to calm her.

 “Ash, we all need to go, you included. This involves you as much as it involves Lyanna, or the Prince. Lyanna, perhaps you can help me out.” He beckoned her over.

 “Of course, I'm happy to help." she gave Ashara a warm smile, "I know that you and I have not had the opportunity to speak much, I was hoping to rectify that in the coming days, but it would seem that destiny waits on no one.  I believe that you and I have something in common.” Ashara was positively puzzled at this. So Lyanna reached out and pulled up the arm of her sleeve. “I believe, up until last evening, you had one similar to mine, and now yours is joined by my brothers.” Something must have clicked for Ashara in that moment, because her eyes flew to Ned.

 “But if this helps, you are the third person that I can confirm has a mark now. Including myself. And to my knowledge, they all appeared the day the ravens arrived announcing winter.” She whispered to Ned, and he nodded back at her.

 “Yes, Lyanna is the third person, and we believe that Prince Rhaegar is her link.” he finished.

 Her face went blank and all the blood drained from it. “It makes so much sense now, Elia, Arthur. . .” she trailed off. . . and Lyanna was left wondering what she was about to say about the Princess, but nothing more was forthcoming. Ashara turned back to Lyanna, “Very well, I agree. But I should tell you both, no one knew about my mark, not even Arthur. So my input will come as a shock to both the Prince and my brother. But I believe you, in fact now I feel foolish for not mentioning my mark to either of them.”

 Just then, Brandon and Howland  entered her tent. “Is everyone ready?” Howland asked, expectantly. Lyanna decided to grab her cloak and then she nodded in confirmation to the crowd around her.

“Aye, let us be away. I am ready to have this over with.” And she was. Though she was all nerves. Howland stepped outside the tent holding the flap for everyone to exit through, Lyanna fell in behind Ned and Ashara, Benjen by her side, and Brandon and Howland following at the rear. She felt like she were being marched to a trial. All they needed now was the executioner…



 They walked in silence away from camp, toward the castle grounds. Once they were within the walls, Lyanna fell in beside Brandon and Howland. “Do you know what is going to happen?” She had a feeling he did, but Howland still hasn’t said anything.

  He looked to her then, eyes the color of green moss and nodded.  “Do you remember what I told you when you asked me what brought me to the tourney?” She nodded.

 “Aye, I do, you said, “I came here to witness the birth of a song and the completion of a pact.” She parroted to him.

 He smiled and inclined his head in her direction. “Indeed I did. And this is the first of many installments.” and that was all he said.

 She puzzled over his words for a while until they came upon the entrance to the Godswood. And suddenly she felt nervous. It was one thing to protest a possible match, but something else altogether to be seeking out the person who she has no choice of. Not that she could sense any issue with the Prince, but she had only had one conversation. That hardly seems like an appropriate amount of time to know a person before giving yourself to them blindly. Gods or not, she was not some pawn to be pushed around. Maybe her brother was fine with his bond. Perhaps she would be too, but damn if she wouldn't put up a fight.  She slowed…

 “Lya, what is it?” It was Bran this time.

 “It’s nothing, I just— This mark means I don't have a choice.” Brandon would understand. He was still struggling with his own betrothal. “It means the end of. . . of me. If he is the other half of my link, I won't have another year to figure out who I am, to ride in the Wolfs Wood, to practice with Ben when Father isn’t around and Old Nan can't find us. It means, no more summer snows, or Weirwoods.” her voice broke at the last moment. Her whole world seemed like it was crashing around her. Gone was the girl who looked fear straight in the face, this girl who she was now, just wanted to run home and hide behind the great grey walls of Winterfell. But she couldn't, if he was her other half, he would come for her. She knew this to be the truth, even if she did not know the Prince, the mark would not allow him to let her simply run from it.

Brandon reached for her hand, pulling her toward him. “Hey little pup, hush. There is nothing to fear, I am here, and so is Ned and Benjen. No one will allow anything to happen to you that you don't want. If he is the other half of your link, at least you will know the truth, but you do not have to seal the bond. Not today, and not if you aren’t ready. Just because the Gods have chosen this for you, doesn't mean that you don't get to choose when. Hmm? Since when has the winter winds bowed for Princes and King's?

This made her smile. “Never.” She started feeling better the moment the word passed through her lips.

 “That's right, never. But who brings the winter winds?” he urged her on.

 “I do.” she felt more confident.

 “Aye. You do, since the day you came howling into the world you have commanded them without mercy. Don't forget that, and the wind does not cower before a dragon.” He smiled for her, one of her favorite smiles. But deep down, she knew that this was just one more thing she would miss once destiny has its way with her.


The Falling Star


 

  She walked beside Ned, on the way to the Godswood within the grounds of Harrenhal, her mind was reeling. If Ned and his siblings were correct, and Lyanna and Rhaegar shared a mark, that meant that she had not been the only one keeping secrets over the past ten months or so. But it made sense, otherwise Rhaegar would have never defied his father by setting Elia aside. Sure, she was aware that the Prince knew of Elia, and Arthur's affections for one another. She even knew that he allowed the two of them to be together before they had set their vows aside. But why would Elia not confide in her? She felt like a stranger in a crowd of familiar faces all of a sudden.

  "Ned, perhaps I should go in first, to announce Lyanna and everyone else. That way they know that they are not being ambushed?" It was more of a suggestion than it was a question, but she hoped he would understand how dangerous it could be for all of them to approach uninvited. Especially when it came to her brother and the fulfillment of his duty. Ned seemed to consider her words a moment, before he inclined his head in agreement. 

  "Aye, I'll tell everyone else. We will wait on you to come retrieve us before we come close." He turned her so she could look him in the eye. "Ashara, you do know that there is nothing to fear, don't you? None of us mean your brother or the prince any harm. In fact, before you came to me, I was going to ask you to help me set up an audience with the prince for this precise reason. So all you've done is help us make that happen. But you have to understand, Lya has spent the better part of a year doing research on her mark. The marks are a link to the Old Gods, you see. And Lya is something special to our people. She has tended the weirwood in the Godswood back home, as well as the winter roses in the Glass Gardens, since the day our Lady Mother departed. She has also been correctly predicting the changing of the seasons since the time she could talk. What I am trying to say to you is, Lya has a connection to the Old Gods that no one else in our family has. And these marks," he motioned to their joined hands, "are no exception. The only thing we are hoping to accomplish today, is the fulfillment of the Gods will." He gave her a shy smile before looking over his shoulder toward his eldest brother and his sister Lyanna. 

  "On second thought, Lyanna may be having second thoughts." Ashara had no idea what he meant by that, but surely he was kidding. Ashara had never seen a woman not throw herself at the chance to occupy the princes attention. Her confusion must have shown on her face. Because he smiled down at her and said, "My sister is not like most Ladies. She has never dreamed of beautiful dresses and being the Lady of some Lord's keep. She has only ever wanted to be free to make her own choices. To fight with a sword and bow, to train side by side with Benjen rather than learn a ladies courtesies. She wanted to attend fathers executions beside Brandon and Benjen, and sit in the hall while our Lord Father held court. Even if she is thrilled to be a vessel for the Gods, and I know she is, she will still fight against it. If for no other reason other than she feels her choices are being taken from her."

  Ashara had never considered the mark from that point of view before. In truth, she hadn't considered the mark much at all. But she didn't want to think with this type of logic. If she thought about it, she honestly believed that she was drawn to Ned because of Ned, not because the mark told her to be. Nevertheless she felt bad for Lyanna, if it was as Ned said, and she needed the freedom to choose as badly as her brother needed Dawn, then this match with the Crown Prince could prove problematic. For no one is on a tighter leash than a future Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. She resolved herself in that moment to find a way to spend a bit more time with Ned's sister. 

 They were approaching the entrance when Ned pulled her back to wait on the others to come into position beside them. He turned to address the group as a whole. "Lady Ashara is going to go in alone to announce all of us. We will wait here until she comes to retreive us." Everyone nodded in agreement, and Ashara found herself wondering how on earth Lord Rickard managed to raise four children who were so in sync as the four of them were.  Ned turned to her last. " We will be here when you get back." he said with a shy smile. 

She smiled back at him, and then reconsidered. Leaning forward, she planted a chaste kiss on his cheek, before she backed away and turned to enter the Godswood. 

  She found them by the Heart tree, practicing swordplay with two blunted blades. He must have been prepared to wait for her to come to him, if he brought tourney blades with him. He must have heard her approach, because he stepped away from Arthur, putting an end to the match. She announced her position before she stepped from the tree line. "It is only I, Ashara."

  This seemed to have confused the Prince because his brow furrowed at the mention of her name. "Pardon, Lady Ashara but did you not see the Lady Lyanna when you went to deliver the message?" the Prince enquired of her. 

 "Indeed, and I did. That is the reason I am here actually." This must have caught his attention, because he snapped his head in her direction and bid her continue with whatever it was she was about to say.  "As I was saying, I did deliver your message to the Lady Lyanna, and that is why I have come," 

  "She declined?" the prince looked as if his whole world had shattered.

  She almost considered tormenting him a bit longer, but she decided against it in the end. "She did not. In fact, she had intended on seeking an audience with you and her brothers during the tourney. Only your invitation seemed to provide a better excuse." 

  "Please forgive me, but if she did not decline, then why have you come and not she?" She wasn't sure how to proceed, but no matter what she said, the whole Stark pack had come, and she needed to tell them. 

 "Rest easy, My Prince, she has come. I only come to announce her, but before I bring her to you, I needed to tell you both something. . ." She pushed on, approaching her brother and the Prince. "It has come to my attention that there are things going on in your life that I have been unaware of," He was about to interrupt but she pushed on, "It is not my place to make demands of you, your grace. I only wish I had known, because it effects me too." At this revelation, it had became clear that she needed to do more than just tell him. 

 "Can I see it?" she decided to ask him. 

  "Can you see it?" Rhaegar chirped back at her dumbly. She had to stop herself from laughing at him. Instead she shot him a quizzical brow. 

   "Your mark, I know you have one." She was tired of playing this game with him.

  "How could you— How?" 

  "Fine, but this changes nothing." She pulled up the sleeve of her dress to reveal her mark. "Now," she said with an exasperated tone. "I will see your mark."

  The look on her brother's face was priceless. But the prince was downright floored. It took a little longer than she would have liked for him to pull back the sleeve of his tunic and reveal his mark, but there it was all the same, a silver dragon taking wing, in all of its glory. She wanted to touch it, but she thought better of it. After having her own, and learning that it requires touch to activate the bond. Making contact with the princes seemed like a violation toward his bond mate. She pulled her hand back to her side and nodded. "Very well, I shall go and retreive her for you." And she would have, but she remembered that Lyanna was not alone, so she added, "The Lady Lyanna is accompanied by her brothers Brandon, Eddard, and Benjen and their fathers Bannerman Lord Howland Reed. I understand that you intended to have this discussion in private, but as you can see, you are not alone in this situation." 

  "Ashara— wait," it was Rhaegar. She turned back to face him. "Is your mark complete then?" She nodded in affirmation, and he nodded back. 


 The Silver Prince


  Arthur arrived just as Rhaegar was finishing his business with Richard and Marq, which was perfect. He had just enough time to change and then leave for the Godswood.

  "I trust all is well?"

  Arthur nodded in confirmation. "Ashara was leaving Elia when I found her, I asked her to escort me to the northern camp, but she agreed to go in my stead, and I of course knew that she would, which is why I asked her to escort me. She had not returned before I set back in this direction, and I did not see her as I made my way back here. So I assume that she made it to the Northern camp."

  "Very well, how shall we train? One sword or two today?" He knew the answer before Arthur gave it. Rhaegar was a decent swordsmen, but he was nowhere near the skill level required to wield two blades at the same time. He was left handed, and that gave him a fair advantage over most opponents, due to how rare it was too encounter a left handed swordsmen. But his right hand still needed refinement. Which is precisely why he knew what Arthur would say. 

  "Two," he smiled cheekily. "If you have to ask, then you already know my choice, why must you torture yourself by making me say it?"

  He shrugged. "Come, let us go see about this weirwood tree the northmen are so fond of." 

  Their camp was the closest to the castle. Originally Lord Whent had prepared rooms for the Royal family to stay in during the event, but Rhaegar chose to keep a tent rather than rooms inside the castle. He wanted to be with the other Lords of the Realm, as a sign of solidarity. He had never felt a sense of entitlement that some born of noble birth do, and he never wanted to be seen as more deserving of comfort than the next man or woman working to provide an honest living. The grounds were still quite busy, men and women moving about, some deep in conversation, others doing what he and Arthur planned to do while they wait on the Lady Lyanna in the Godswood. It wouldn't take long at all to find a place among the trees to spar while they wait. 

  As it turned out, they arrived first so they made their way through the Oaks and Pine trees to a clearing about one-hundred feet inside the tree line, where a massive Weirwood sat in silent vigil. Along its flank ran thirteen deep gouges, over one-hundred-fifty years old. He remembered reading that they weep red sap every spring. He was curious, so he walked around the tree until he was looking straight at the scars. But they were not weeping, they were red to be sure, and Rhaegar could see where they had been weeping in the years previous, but they were not weeping at this point in time. And suddenly her words rang in his head as clear as a bell, "I'm telling you Ben, the Citadel is wrong, winter is not over." 

  Could she have been right? He had much to work through, of this alone, he was sure of. Steeling himself, he turned away from the tree and picked up his training swords, and moved toward Arthur.

  "Shall we dance?' he was wound tight, and he still had some time before he would know if she was coming. Arthur picked up his swords, rolling his shoulders, he took his position. 

  "Now it begins." he said with a wicked grin. Rhaegar inclined his chin in agreement and assumed his position as well. Arthur could take him easy enough, Rhaegar knew. The best he could do would be to be patient, and use the environment to his benefit. He scanned the ground, looking for hidden footholds, or pools of water, all the while slowly circling around keeping a respectable distance between himself and his opponent. 

  In all respects of the word whether it be a spar, or single combat, this was a delicate dance between the hunted and the hunter. Rhaegar for his part was determined to play the hunter today. Arthur must have grown tired of this slow dance, because he raised his right arm and went to strike from high, but Rhaegar saw that one coming and spun out of his reach  and swung his left blade out to graze across Arthur's back. Arthur too was expecting this, and spun out of his reach just before a hit could land. 

And so their dance began...

  Moving so that the sun was at his back, he swung with his right hand, catching Arthur off guard. He would never beat Arthur with it, so he could only use it when he could do the most damage. In the end, it would always come back to his strong hand. Even if he couldn't deny the benefit of training both hands. His first blow swung true, glancing off of Arthur's right arm. Rhaegar retreated again. 

  "Lucky strike, wont happen again book worm." Arthur taunted.

  "You may be right, Ser. Shall we?" He was no stranger to humility. Arthur was superb, and one day his son would squire for the knight. There was none better to train a future king of the Seven Kingdoms. No one better to train the Sword that Brings the Dawn. His 'Promised Prince'. . . Still, that did not mean he would simply throw down arms and accept his defeat. He had learned long ago, if things you practiced weren't hard then you weren't learning. So he would give it his all regardless of how many times he shamed himself with his right hand. One day, I may not always be able to depend on my left.

  Again, they circled, it was Arthur who went on the offensive this time, coming in with both blades, first his right followed by his left, he dodged the first and deflected the second, but lost his footing, and stumbled back a bit loosing the advantage. Arthur pressed on, "You're going to have to do better than that, Your Grace." 

  Rhaegar gritted his teeth. He was right, he needed to be better than he was, that was the whole point of becoming a swordsmen in the first place. He needed to be able to prove himself. Not to his father, nay. He had another person he needed to prove himself to. And he could feel it coming, and when it does he would be ready. He nodded his head in understanding. "Again."

 This time, Rhaegar advanced leading with his left hand, swinging a low cut toward his opponents feet, which Arthur dodged, but going for the element of surprise, he pivoted back in the direction Arthur fled to and swept his right arm out in a wide arc, and his sword was locked between Arthur's two blades. Rhaegar grinned, and pushed his advantage shoving back at Arthur. Behind him there was a root that had grown from the soil. Not a huge one, but big enough to trip him up enough to disarm him. 

  Arthur still had one blade in his hands when they heard footsteps approaching. Rhaegar was no fool, just because he was able to knock one blade from Arthur's grasp, did not mean he had won on any level. " Shall we call it a draw? At least for the moment." 

  He nodded, "Ashara approaches."

  Confused, he turned to see the Lady Ashara approach."Pardon, Lady Ashara but did you not see the Lady Lyanna when you went to deliver the message?" 

 "Indeed, and I did. That is the reason I am here actually." Oh gods, she refused..."As I was saying, I did deliver your message to the Lady Lyanna, and that is why I have come," 

  "She declined?" He felt himself start to panic.

  "She did not. In fact, she had intended on seeking an audience with you and her brothers during the tourney. Only your invitation seemed to provide a better excuse." 

What was that supposed to mean?

He had been in the middle of assuming the worst when he realized what the Lady Ashara had said.  

  "Can you see it?" How in the hell did she know about my mark?  He was in a panic. Who else knew?

 And before he knew what was happening, she was revealing what appeared to be her very own Ink mark. He was stumped. Had Elia known about this? Had Arthur? He turned to look at his best friend, but the look on his face proved that he had known nothing. The rest of what she had said passed by quickly and he forgot it before she finished and went to retreat back toward the entrance. 

 "Ashara— wait," She turned back to face him. "Is your mark complete then?" She nodded before going to get Lyanna and her brothers. 

  "How in the hell did we miss this?" Arthur spoke first.

  "I was just about to ask you the same thing." He was genuinely stumped. "That does explain her behavior with the Stark boy last night though, don't you think?"

  "And you've had me sending Ash on errands for you all day," Arthur glowered at him. 

  "Calm down Arthur, I am sure your sister was treated gently. What ever they say about Northmen, the Starks are an honorable lot. If it were the older one, I would understand your ire, but it is the second one. I have heard nothing but praise for the lad. But be calm, you will meet him soon enough, and besides its not as if they had a choice in any of this. And they did not have to do anything to secure the bond. I am sure your sister is yet untouched." This seemed to help ease Arthur some as he visibly relaxed after hearing Rhaegar's words.

  He turned and walked back to the weirwood where he left his things and placed the tourney swords against the trunk. He bent to retrieve his water skin and took a drink before he turned around to see Lyanna and her brothers and the boy she had rescued the day before approaching. He took a deep breath, and walked to over to greet them properly.


The Ravens Agent


  As they entered the clearing that housed the heart tree, Howland noticed the Prince walking toward them. This was it, this is the moment that will alter at least one possible outcome, though if his dreams were correct, the story was still on track. But the balance is shaky at best. One misstep, one mistake, and  everything can fall apart, however the main issue seems to be resolved, for now.


  No, hot headed Brandon running off to spark the flame that pitted the wolf against the dragon.

  While everyone is concerned with completing the bond and comparing information, Howland settled himself in near the base of the heart tree and waited for them to calm. He had much to tell them, and he still hadn’t figured out what to share vs what he should hold close. Some of this story needs to be told to his liege lord as well.

  It was the Lord’s heir who spoke first, approaching the prince he bowed his head in respect. Even though Howland could feel the agitation rolling off the ‘Wild-wolf’. Howland had to admit he was impressed to see him trying for civility. The truth was, Brandon was always going to be the biggest issue in this scenario. His love of his sister blinds him. He still sees his mother’s face when he looks at her.

  “Your Grace, please forgive us for coming with our sister. We understand that you meant to speak with her of a private matter,” he paused, struggling not to let his next words come out wrong. “However, my sister is still a young woman and she has no business receiving these types of requests , regardless of whether they were written in the hand of a prince or any other man. Should you like to speak with her in the future, please show more regard for her character and her reputation, and send a request for one of her brothers to accompany her.” Howland was impressed by Brandon’s attempt at chiding the prince. And it looked as if Lyanna was as well. Her face was locked in silent shock.

  The prince was the next to speak. “You're right, of course. But please understand, what I meant to discuss with her, I didn't want to announce to the entirety of the realm. I was not even sure she would be my link.” Rhaegar began to explain,  but it was Ned who spoke next.

  “You know that to be a lie, with respect, My Prince. The Lady Ashara and myself knew from across the Great Hall that we were a link,” he pushed back his sleeve and revealed his bond mark, “the moment she took my arm, our marks merged. So I suspect that you’ve simply refrained from securing the bond. Why?”

   The prince took in a deep breath, and then released it before his eyes drifted toward Lyanna, and just like magic, Howland saw her blue thread reach for his silver thread and merge together, pulling them tight making the two of them move closer to one another. The princes reply was offered only to Lyanna. “Because I was born knowing my own destiny, and I did not want to take this choice from you. . .”

  Howland saw the moment all the fear Lyanna had been holding fled from her. Whatever it was she had been scared of, the Prince seemed to have banished with that declaration. And ironically, so did any tension Brandon had been holding onto.

  This was it, this is the right time to share. . . he cleared his throat. “I do believe you’ve all got questions, and as I’ve told the Lady Lyanna, you're not alone, there is another who needs to hear all of this, but that will come later, I suspect. Please, all of you, come closer and I will tell you what I know.”

Chapter Text

The Ravens Agent





  "As you all may have heard, the people of the North have long been referred to as the First Men, and with good cause. They were the first people since the Dawn Age to migrate into the Lands now called Westeros. But before the coming of our ancestors, the Weirwoods ruled this land, with the aid of the Children of the Forest, though, this is also a name we have given them. In truth their name is too long and too harsh for our own tongue, but it translates to 'The Singers of the Earth'."
 
   "Long ago during the Dawn Age, the only peoples to inhabit this land were the Singers and the Giants, who were as much kin to them as they were foe. They lived in caves and hollow hills, and in the deep wood, and the Singers sang the songs of the land. They sang the song of the seasons, of the great grass plains, and the rain kissed earth of the Rainwood. They sung the path for the trident, and the white knife, and most of all they tended the weirwoods. Sometimes the Old Gods would choose to bless the Singers with particular gifts, for example, the color of my eyes, is like the color of moss, Green, a deeper green than is natural. It speaks of the magic in the blood of my people. Just as the violet and indigo and lilac of House Targaryen, and the Steel-Grey, Ice-Grey and Blue-Grey of House Stark. Some were born with eyes of gold as bright as the sun, some with eyes as green as my own, and every now and again the gods would bestow a chosen with eyes as red as blood. And this is how the gods would mark their chosen. The color speaks of the gift." He paused a moment.

  "I believe that both House Stark and House Targaryen share an ancestor who was gifted eyes of red." it was both Lyanna and Rhaegar who spoke up.

  "Lord Brynden Rivers, also known as Bloodraven. How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? A thousand-eyes-and-one." they both intoned at the same time. 

  "He was born the natural son of Aegon IV with Hair as silver white as fallen snow, and eyes the color of blood, marked by a blood red raven that soared across his visage. He lost one eye on the battlefield to his half brother Aegor Rivers better known as Bittersteel, and he was said to be considered a sorcerer. Are you suggesting that the Old Gods marked him?" it was the Prince to ask this question.

 "I am indeed. You should ask him if you aren't inclined to believe me. Though that would involve a journey beyond the wall, and at present there is no time for that." The prince was stunned by this revelation, and Howland couldn't say he blamed him. It was quite a lot to digest.

 “There will be plenty of time to discuss the Bloodraven, but for now, our time is limited, so we must make haste with the facts.” He didn’t want to push them, but their time was indeed short. Especially for a group as large as theirs to just be chatting in the godswood.

 He pushed on, “After the First Men began their migration, they began to settle the lands and as such, they began cutting down the Weirwoods, as they believed the Singers would use the eyes of the trees to spy on them, and this ignited a war that lasted hundreds of years. Eventually, the Singers whose numbers were already few, and the First Men who had also lost innumerable lives, came together on the Isle of Faces to seal a pact of friendship. For they had a common foe that was growing in power, and if they were to survive, they would need to band together.”

 “The Others?” The Prince said in a whisper.

 “Then, as they are now.” The entire group snapped to attention at this revelation. He had expected this of course. He knew that everyone here, save the prince believed these to be nursery tales. But the truth is seldom easy to digest. “They rest under the ice, but make no mistake, they aren’t gone. And that Wall was for our protection from them, not from our own people.”

 “So, the Singers and the First Men sealed a pact, and the trees on the isle were all carved to bear witness to the Pact. Afterwards, the Order of Green Men was created and It was the Green Men who were charged with tending the Weirwoods and protecting the isle.” He paused before continuing.

 “The pact was simple, the Singers would cede all of the lands of Westeros save the deep forests, and the First Men promised to never cut down the weirwoods. And eventually, the First Men adapted their beliefs to accept the Nameless Ones  as their own."

 "This is where things get interesting, does anyone have an idea of who the Green Men were, and where they originated from?”

 This time the Quiet-wolf spoke. “It is said that the Children—, I mean Singers and the Marsh people lay together, passing their combined bloodlines down to their offspring who were later called the Green Men. These men were charged with the care of the Weirwoods.” Ned finished

 “Very good, you know more than I had expected. But tell me, what do you know of my people?” He watched as brother and sister locked eyes on one another. Was this another conversation they had shared amongst each other?

  Tentatively, Ned spoke again. “Howland, I can’t say what the truth is, but I did find something in the history of my house, while Lya and I were researching our marks.”

 Howland nodded, “Please, I’m sure everyone else would like to hear.”

 “It’s in regard to the Starks conquest of the North.” He stated.

 “Ah, I see. Very well, I suppose that’s a great place to start.” He gestured for Ned to continue.

 “The Marsh King's were an ancient line, who guarded the Neck from invaders for centuries, it’s even written in the histories that the Marsh King's were believed to have been touched by the gods themselves, which shone through in the strange hues of their eyes, or their ability to speak with animals the way the Singers were able to.”

  Howland nodded his encouragement. The quiet one was clearly on the right path. He hadn’t known that Winterfell still housed many of the truths that have been forgotten in the North.

  “It’s rumored that the Crannogmen are kin to the ancient Marsh king's, who were also kin to the Singers.” Very good, Howland mused to himself.

  He nodded once more. “And what did you learn about Meera Reed and Rickard Stark?”

  “We learned that Meera Reed, the only daughter to the last Marsh King was taken to wife by our ancestor Rickard  after the male line had been put to the sword. Even though Rickard and Meera were an inked pair.” Everyone aside from Ned, Lyanna and the Prince reacted to this revelation.

  So you do know something..?

  It was Brandon who spoke up next. “Forgive me, Lord Reed, but, what do the histories have anything to do with what’s going on presently?”

  “Well, nothing, and everything.” He answered cryptically. “I have things that I must share with the four of them,” he gestured toward Lya and the Prince and then Ned and the Lady Ashara. “But before I get to that, I first need them to understand, how it is that I came to be their guide.”

   So impatient, everyone seeks answers, but none care to listen when the answers are forthcoming… he thought to himself.

  “Shall I continue now, or are there more questions?” He probably could have been more tactful, but their time was running short.

  Luckily enough, Brandon seemed properly admonished and gave his apology and ascent to continue, so before picking up where they had paused he decided to add, “I understand how anxious everyone is for answers,  but there’s no easy way to say what needs to be said, no way to streamline this explanation.” This seemed to pacify the group, so Howland jumped right back into his tale.

  “We spoke of the Green Men, and their origins for a reason,” he paused, “as Ned said earlier, House Reed  descends from the line of the last Marsh King, and the Marsh King's are believed to share blood with the Singers . I can confirm for all of you the validity of this claim as I, Howland Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch have the blood of the Singers and the ancient Marsh King's running through my veins.” Lyanna did not seem shocked by this news at all. Though the rest of them all sported a look that suggested their lives had been flipped upside down.

  It was the looks that the Lady Ashara and her brother Ser Arthur wore that made him consider them. Have they no idea the origins of their line? That they belong to the blood of the First Men just as the Starks beside them? Do they know that their lineage is just as impeccable, and not without its own darkness? He would ponder over all that later on, he had a story to finish…

  “Last year, I heard the Call. I was home, in Greywater Watch preparing for winter when I felt the pull to come south come on suddenly, and it would not relent until I set off on my quest.  You see, we Crannogmen seldomly leave our bogs and forests. We were charged by our liege lords to hold the Neck against any threat, and so, for thousands of years that is what we have done, never feeling the need to venture too far north or south. That is, until I received the Call."

  "I have always been considered more curious than most, more bold, and I mastered all the skills of my people early on. So when it came time for me to answer the Call , I did so with gusto.”

  “I’m sorry, but what were the skills you needed to master?” This time it was Benjen. Such a curious lad… he would do well in the Neck…

 “ You know what they say about Greywater Watch.” It wasn’t a question, but they all nodded their heads in confirmation anyway. “Good; then you understand that Greywater has never been attacked by an outside invader, not even one from the North. That, is because no one can find it. We learn early how to use the magic within our blood. If one possesses the gift, they can breathe mud, walk on water, communicate through the weirwoods and see through their eyes, as well as make castles appear and disappear among other things. Not all, but some of my line have these gifts. And over time the histories were compiled to explain these gifts to our people. We indeed, inherited our gifts from the Singers , who once sung the songs of this land, who created the seasons along with the day and the night. And it is through them we inherited our connection to the earth.” He gave them all a moment to let this sink in.

  Lyanna was the next to speak. “So that is how you ended up attending this tourney, you were called to the Isle of Faces because you possess the gift of Green Sight?” She was very perceptive, though this was no shock to him. If anyone would understand this path, it would be she. For Lyanna also shared a connection to the Gods and the Singers, she just didn’t know it yet, and he could not elaborate on the matter until Lord Rickard was present.

  “I admit, I do not possess the Greensight, my son will, but that is a song yet unsung, and not worth discussing at present.”

  “What I have is a sensitivity to the songs of the earth, and the Gods have granted me the ability to view and observe the threads of the great Tapestry of Time. I can see certain threads, specifically the threads belonging to the four of you, but only because the Gods have chosen me as your guide. But more specifically— your guide.” He gestured to Lyanna and the Prince. "I can use the songs of my people to help me blend into the shadows, and I can of course breathe mud, walk on water, and make Greywater move and or disappear if needed, among other things, but I am not a Greenseer."

   They both turned to look at each other and then back to Howland before he spoke again. “My Prince, you sent a rider to Lord Rickard recently, am I correct?” The prince nodded. Howland turned to Brandon, “Would you be so kind as to share the response your Lord Father sent to you?”

  Brandon inclined his head, and pulled a piece of parchment from his pocket. “He asks that I make time to speak with you in regards to your message. He asks me to ensure you know that you have the full support of our House, and he asks that I inform you that the matter with the ravens is settled.” But Brandon wasn’t finished.

  “You asked my father to delay Lya’s betrothal. What could you possibly have said to him to convince him of this?” He wasn’t angry, but Howland knew that Brandon didn’t trust the prince’s intentions. Even with all that has been revealed this far.

  Howland decided it would be best to redirect the conversation. He turned to the Prince, “Tell me, Prince Rhaegar, what do you know of the Pact of Ice and Fire? Howland knew that the prince was making progress on this matter, but he still didn’t understand how detrimental He and Lyanna are to its fulfillment.

  The prince nodded, as if he’d been prepared to answer this question. “During the Dance of Dragons, Jacaerys Velaryon flew north to the Vale and then Winterfell to seek aid against the “Green” party who were attempting to Usurp the Crown Princess, Rhaenyra Targaryen, Jace’s mother.” He stopped for a breath and then continued. “He was successful on both accounts, though was delayed at Winterfell by Cregan Stark, who before promising support took the time to remind Jace of the promise made to the North by Aegon the Conqueror at the time of conquest. A promise to unite the bloodlines of Stark and Targaryen through marriage. A daughter of the Dragon to sit beside the Direwolf. A promise Aegon readily made, for in truth, they shared the same goal. The union of Ice and Fire—, a ‘promised prince’.

  Again, Howland found himself impressed by the knowledge of his charges. Nevertheless, it wasn’t everything, as technically this will be the second joining of Ice and Fire. “Very good. You know more than most, yet there is more to this story. You see, once I heard the Call, I sought out the Godswood to learn what the Gods needed of me, and the first clue  was a suggestion. A scent, lingering on the wind, one that existed in perfect balance with another. Winter Roses coupled by ash and brimstone.” The Princes eyes went wide.

 “Still, it was merely a suggestion, and I needed to know more, so I went for my bronze sickle,” he looked to Lyanna when he said this part, knowing she would understand the importance of it. “And then I returned to the Godswood and made an offering, for clarity.” Lyanna nodded her approval, as he knew she would. “That night, I received my answer via a series of images. I suspect that all four of you have had some experience with vision sequences since your marks appeared, hmm?” It wasn’t really a question, merely an observation, yet they all nodded again in confirmation.

 “Should you like to know what I saw?” again all nodded their ascent.

  “A silver dragon, alone in the darkness, a blue rose blossoming in a winter storm, blue eyes the color of ice, a comet of fire and a comet of ice dancing together, but never canceling out the other. Green flame, a falling star, a quiet wolf howling southward to the nights sky. A great She-wolf protecting her pups from the Stag that hunts them. A mad dragon and a golden Knight. I saw a smith hard at work with a look of desperation and determination in his eye, and Dragons ruling over the Smoking Sea.” He’d seen much more through the Tapestry of Time but he had to choose what to reveal and when to reveal it.

 “I'm the winter rose blossoming in the storm.” It was Lyanna to speak first. “I was born in a storm, it came from nowhere and raged on and on until I drew my first breath. The winter winds nourish me and make me strong where others wither and weaken.” Brandon spoke next.

 “Aye, you are the winter winds. They bow only to you.” He said this in all seriousness, Howland suspected it was because Brandon knew the validity of this claim, and he wanted the others to as well.

 It was Howland’s turn to confirm this. “What you say is true, Lya. This is no mere story, You were born with winter in your heart. The Gods have favored you since the day of your birth, they have fashioned you, alongside another to bring balance.” He turned to the prince then.

 “Are you powerful, My Prince? Do the gods favor you?” he parroted Lyanna’s words from the previous night back to him. “A silver dragon hatched in green flame. . . The greater part of your line almost extinct in a night all to bring back dragons to the world.”

 “Aye, and yet he failed. Our House almost stricken from the pages of history. And all my great-grandsire accomplished was my safe birth. I've been haunted by the ghosts of my kin, cursed to finish his work.” the prince sounded so ashamed. He clearly didn't understand what victory had been achieved that night.

 “You don't understand, My Prince. There was indeed a victory to be had at Summerhall that night. Dragons had been the goal, and dragons were the reward.” The prince was positively confused. And rightly so, “You see, Aegon believed that dragons had been gone from the world, and for all anyone knows, they are. But this isn't the case, and you of all people know this. Tell me, has she given her name?”

  Rhaegar’s eyes went wide. “You know?” Howland nodded.

 “Now’s not the time, but yes.” Quickly he continued, “We all take on something to represent ourselves, for my house, it is the Lizard Lion, for yours it is the Dragon. Though after the death of the female line during the Dance of Dragons, your House lost its connection to your most valuable asset. No longer could the Blood of the Dragon call to its other half. Until your great grandfather and your uncles and countless others sacrificed their lives through fire and blood to wake the dragon. Tell me, My Prince, how fares the queen in the birthing bed?"

  The Prince and even Ser Arthur looked absolutely horrified that he would ask such a question, he held up his hands as a peace offering. "I mean no disrespect, I only wished to point out that the fire burns hotter for her. What your great grandfather did was bring back the magic in the blood of your house. You, My Prince are the first and only Dragon, born to your house in over one-hundred-fifty years. Born through fire and blood, and My Prince, your first breath woke dragons. Do you know her name?"

  He knew it would be a moment before the prince would respond. This was after all, a lot to take in. But he soon forged on, "So you are saying that not real dragons were hatched at Summerhall that night, but metaphorical dragons?" Howland nodded. 

  "That is exactly what I am saying, though I would not refer to you as a metaphor, you are every bit a dragon, just as she," he gestured toward Lyanna, "is every bit a direwolf. But there is more to both of you than just what your spirit claims you to be. You are fire made flesh, and Lyanna, She is winter." Lyanna beamed at this, though Howland did not mean it as a compliment. It was a fact. 

  "I don't know her name..." the prince finally confessed. 

  "Ah, but you do. You know what she looks like, you've heard her voice she is everywhere, and you are the mirror image to her soul. I am sure if you think about it some, her name will come to you." He didn't know much more about her, but he knew that she had buried herself away from the world, she had lost too much, and she didn't trust her blood any longer. No one was safe, no where was safe, so she had fled, and burrowed deep into the earth. And she woke the day that the Prince was born at Summerhall. But he did not know how to bring her to the prince, and he did not want to give him false hope, so he would not say more. The Prince had everything he needed within him to summon her to him, but he has to be the one to do it.

  The Prince seemed to be taking in everything he had just learned, overall Howland was impressed by how well things were going this far. Finally he spoke again. "If I am fire made flesh, that is Fire, and if Lyanna is Winter, assuming you mean this as a literal thing, that means she is Ice. And the prophecy speaks of Ice and Fire, Salt and Smoke. Two interpretations of the same thing. Or the physical manifestation of the weirwood, this is why the Gods marked us then, is it not?" He did not focus on Howland, instead he turned his gaze to Lyanna who had been quiet for the most part, taking everything in herself. 

  "You are very intelligent, My Prince, when did you figure out that Ice and fire and Salt and Smoke were one and the same?" Howland had been in the dark on this.

  “My mother has always been against the prophecy, she was forced to wed my father because of it you see. So while I grew, and came to take it more seriously, she would take to reminding me that prophecy was like a treacherous woman. So I tried to view the prophecy through the eyes of someone being deceived, and eventually it occurred to me that the words in the prophecy were ambiguous at best. And if they could be deceitful then I needed to be able to see another way they could be perceived, and that is when I realized that the prophecy was given by someone who had never seen Westeros. Never seen Snow, only Salt. The prophecy is one from before the doom of Valyria. They could not possibly have seen the image clear enough to understand what they were seeing. I have always known that the blood of the dragon represented the smoke aspect which I then translated into Fire. The Prophecy claimed that the Promised Prince would be born of Salt and Smoke and as such my remaining kin became convinced that I was he, I even believed it myself for a time. And then I remembered that perception can be ambiguous. They believed that the salt came from the tears that were wept for the ones we lost that day, and the joy of welcoming me into the world. But it seemed like a stretch to me. Salt dehydrates, water evaporates in fire, so I dismissed this too as a possibility. Sea water and tears would not do, so something more solid or a like substance to compare salt too, and that is when I came up with Ice. The only substance in the world that can burn just as hot as fire... And that is when it came to me. The next day I woke to my mark.” Again, he turned to Lyanna.

  “I understand that this is a lot to digest, I have spent my entire life looking for you. I did not know that you were to be mine, and I yours but I have always understood that I have a destiny far greater than the one that is pulling me toward the Iron Throne. I understand if you are unsure about me, you hardly know me. I called you here to remedy that, but instead I got all of this,” he gestured toward their assembled group. Everyone standing back in silence while the Prince and the she-wolf worked through everything they had just learned. “And I am glad for it. But I am curious, Lyanna, what are your thoughts?”

  Well isn't that the million dragon question… She has been unusually quiet through all of this.

  Lyanna, bold and fearless though she was, did not like being put on the spot. Especially not in front of a group of people mostly consisting of her brothers. He smiled then at her expense, a rare moment for her. She took a few moments before she replied.

  “I am not afraid of my destiny,” she held her head high. “It is true, we do not know each other, yet you’ve shown me more consideration in the past fifteen minutes since I entered this clearing than the man whom I thought to be forced into marrying. I have always known myself to be winter, though when put into words such as Howland's, I never considered the physical manifestation of it.” She did not cower away from her calling, and Howland knew he was ready to help her seal the pact between them once and for all. But the she-wolf wasn’t finished. “Last year, when the mark appeared, I told my Ned, that the gods had marked me, and they alone knew my destiny. I believe that still, and everything that I have found, everything that we all just heard, only confirms what I already knew.” She was fidgeting with her mark, though she had yet to reveal it, and apparently Howland was not the only one to notice.

  “Does it bother you?” it was the Prince that spoke up.

  “No, it tingles, but it is not unbearable, I am curious though.” she replied.

  “Curious?” the Prince prodded.

  “Does your mark emit a temperature?” The prince began to smile the moment the question passed through her lips, but he did not answer her question. Instead he asked a question of his own.
 
  “Does yours?” Lyanna nodded.  The prince swallowed, “May I?”

  Lyanna backed up, pulling her arm away so he could not grasp it. “I'm sorry, it's just— i'm not ready. I mean, I am, but not yet. You are married and have a child, and there’s Robert to consider, and your father, and my father…” She was spinning out.

 “Hush now, little pup all is well.” It was Brandon who spoke up, taking two long strides to stand beside her. He pulled her into a protective embrace, and turned to the prince.

  “I may not be marked, and I may not have a say in all of this, but Lyanna does. And if she wants to take more time, then she will take as much time as she wants. Am I clear?” Howland understood that this was promised to her, and it was his duty as her brother to protect her. As if to reinforce what the wild-wolf had just said, the young-pup came up behind Lyanna and his brother, and placed his hand into her free one.

  The Prince nodded in understanding. “I would never presume to secure the bond without your permission. Though I would like the opportunity to address some of your concerns if I may. Though, I worry that we have been here for too long as it is, I will say this. The moment my mark appeared, I began looking into it. I sent to the Wall, to my uncle Aemon, for information. When he finally wrote back to confirm what I already knew, I went to Elia and told her everything. To my surprise, Elia had her own knowledge of these marks. I knew that there would be no denying the mark, nor would the Gods allow it and I planned to wait until I found you before I acted. But Elia would not hear it, she wanted to give the person that the Gods promised me to, the only thing she could. All of me, all of my future to the person the gods had intended me for. She bid me call the septon and to have our marriage dissolved. For her heart had never been mine, nor mine hers. Elia and I have been separate for nearly seven moons. Though I would ask all of you to not repeat what you’ve just heard. My father does not know, about the annulment nor the marks.” The prince looked stressed with the revelation of his annulment, or perhaps it was due to the next words that came from his lips. “The mark means more to some people than it means to others though. Some will see this as a way to unseat my father, and I worry that my father will see this threat, and try to harm you, or me.” he sighed. “Which only means, the only way to guarantee that no harm comes to you, is to do what he fears the most, force him to abdicate.”

  Howland had been expecting this of course. The whole point of the tourney was to gather support to call a great council. It did not stop Brandon’s eyes from going wide at the princes confirmation. “So you admit it, this was your intent. That is the real reason for this tourney?”

 The Princes eyes narrowed, “The real reason for this tourney is to celebrate the name day of Lord Whent’s daughter. However, I won't deny the benefit of having the lords of the realm, at least most of the lords in the realm all in one place. But I have no interest in placing your sister in harm’s way, and if my choices are between her safety and my potential throne, I will choose her safety every time. My life means naught without her to stand beside me. After all you’ve heard, do you really think I would jeopardize the future of humanity for a chair?”

  Howland thought on this for a moment before he responded. “It is because you are reluctant to rule, to seize power, that you must. Though our time for this discussion is at its end, we all have our duties to attend before the feast, and the hours are growing shorter.”

  It was Lyanna to speak next. “I— Rhaegar, I’m not ready to secure the link. But If it's not too much,  would you show me your mark?” She looked to her brothers, a silent plea to give her space, and then back to the prince for his answer. He nodded to her and she began to approach him. Howland noticed the Quiet-one move to say his goodbye to the Lady Ashara, while Ser Arthur moved to gather their belongings that were stationed beside him under the heart tree. And without being too obvious, Howland listened to the words being shared between the prince and the she-wolf.  

  “I would very much like to see your mark,” the prince replied “and I give you my word I won't try anything.” The she-wolf gave a tentative smile, and proceeded forward until they were less than a foot apart. She had already pulled her sleeve back by the time she was close enough to him, so he busied himself with the strings of his tunic once more. She went first lifting her hand so that he could see clearly. He then offered her his hand as well. Her eyes went wide, his were more subdued.

  “Have you seen Ned and Ashara’s marks? It looks like a picture.” she asked, Howland could tell she was nervous.

  “Briefly, I had no idea that Ashara had a mark until she came to announce you.” Howland was not sure if he was detecting some irritation in his voice. “But yes, I did see it, and I agree. It looks like a picture.”

  “What do you think ours will look like when they join?”

  He shrugged. “I suppose we will know when or if they merge.” the prince replied but then added, “You may not even be my link, don't be so sure of yourself.” he said cockily.

  Lyanna snorted before she burst out in uncontrolled laughter. “You flatter yourself, My Prince.” she teased back.

 “May I make a request?” the prince asked her earnestly. Lyanna nodded. “ I won't touch you, I know that physical contact will seal the bond, and I won't take that choice from you, no matter how badly everything inside me is urging me to, but my mark emits heat. And those who have touched it, have said it burns. You’ve said yours emits temperature as well,” he sighed before he continued. “May I?” He moved his hand to hover over where her mark was, and waited for her permission.

  Rather than give voice to her approval, she turned her wrist so that he could feel it directly under his palm. His reaction was instantaneous. “It's cold! I— I didn't expect that.” his brows furrowed. “Of course your mark emits cold!” he chastised himself before looking her in the eye once more.  “I would very much like to dance with you this evening, but I understand that until you are ready that is impossible. Promise me something though?” She nodded. “Promise me you won't go near Robert. I have asked a favor of some friends to help keep him distracted, but I do not trust the look in his eyes when he is around you.”

This must have caught her off guard, because she really did laugh this time. “Fear not, My Prince I shall endeavor to dissuade that giant oaf away from me should he try. And if I have no success, then I have my pack.” She beamed at him. Behind her, the pack perked up at the mention of them.

 It was time to go, so Howland cleared his throat. “Perhaps the Prince and the Lady Ashara and her brother should exit first, then our group?”

 “Indeed,” the prince replied. Sending one last look toward his intended, he bowed his head to her, and beckoned to his guard to follow. The Lady Ashara having already said her goodbyes to Ned, took her brothers arm and the three of them disappeared into the trees.

  It was a few moments before anyone spoke, it was Ned who broke the silence in the end. "What happens next?" he asked no one in particular. Howland did not want to speak for Lyanna or Ned, but he knew that the next phase came on the morrow, and following that the Gods Eye. Thankfully, it was Lyanna who responded. 

  Approaching her brothers, and himself, she gestured to Brandon first. "I want to get to know him. I know that my mark means that eventually he will be my husband, once it is merged he will be my husband in the eyes of the Gods, same as with Ned and Ashara. So, I would appreciate some support in this. I won't spend what little time I have to know him under your ever present scrutiny. Have faith in me, and try to have some trust in him. And in return, I promise not to sneak off and I promise to communicate everything to you. I even suspect that Ashara and Ned will be happy to chaperone." She turned to Ned then, eyes expectant. 

  "Aye, I suspect Ashara and Lyanna will be spending a good amount of time together in the coming days. As I have no intention to miss a moment with her, Lyanna should be well in hand, big brother." Ned responded. 

  "Then it is settled." Lyanna seemed pleased with the situation. 

  "I think it is safe for us to depart now." Benjen called to them. 

  Howland stood from his spot beneath the weirwood tree, "I should be happy to escort the Lady and Benjen back to their camp if you both have things to do." Brandon and Ned both accepted his offer and promised to see them before heading to the feast. All and all, this had gone well. There was much more to discuss, especially between himself and the Prince, but this was a start. 

  Once Brandon and Ned were out of earshot, Howland pulled back slightly on Lyanna's arm. "Are you refusing the bond because you are nervous, or is it something else?" He wanted to know the real reason for her refusal. 

  "I was nervous at first, I admit. But nay, I am not nervous now. That all fled out of me the moment he acknowledged my right to choose. The truth is, I didn't do it, because I didn't want him to have the satisfaction of an easy victory. He is a prince, and I am sure he is used to people giving him everything his heart could possibly desire. And it just so happens that his heart desires to complete the bond, with me."  The look in her eyes was that of a predator eyeing its prey. "Its within my power to deny a prince, so I did. Of course I understand my path, I am thrilled to be deemed worthy by the Gods to serve, I daresay I won't mind him either. But I should like to see him work for it, after all, this mark takes out the need to court me. It's literally a guarantee from the Gods that he doesn't have to work for it. Damn that I say. The winter can be as cruel as it can be gentle, and so too shall I." She was pleased with herself, and who was he to deny her these small victories.

 "Just don't be too cruel, Lyanna. He will torture himself to keep this promise to you and make no mistake, that is what denying the bond will become." She needed to understand that while it is meant to fulfill a purpose, denying it can also carry a punishment. Apparently his words struck home because she visibly paled before she nodded once to confirm she understood. He wasn't particularly worried, his moment was approaching, it all came down to the joust, Howland knew. But first the feast, the rest would fall in place soon enough.

Chapter Text

The She-wolf



  On her way back to her tent, she thought a lot about everything that had been said, not only by Howland, but by her brothers, and by Rhaegar. And that thing about destiny… who was she to deny the Gods? Hadn’t she asked the Gods to show her the path they intended for her? To give her pack the strength to get through whatever was to come? Well, be careful what you ask for Lyanna . She thought smugly.

  When she got to her tent, she called for a bath and asked for a handmaid to stay to help her dress. She promised cruelty, and she would deliver. She would show him that she accepted her destiny even if she had not accepted the bond…, yet .

  She would not be at the feast the following night, because she would be feigning sickness to enter into the lists. The success of this plan all came down to her behavior at the feast tonight, so she decided to humor her brothers and dress up, and smile, and play her part. And perhaps socialize with Ashara for a time before claiming she felt unwell. Then she would have one of her brothers escort her back to her tent for the night, knowing that they would most likely elect Benjen. Then once Howland showed up, they would know the coast was clear, and they would go on their scavenger hunt. 

  Once she was done with her bath, she called for her handmaid to help her dress. She was not one to fuss over dresses, however there were a few dresses that she had packed that she was particularly proud of. One of them, the one she chose for tonight, she’d seen herself wearing in a dream, and she begged her father for the coin to purchase the material from White Harbor. Myrish lace that had been dyed the palest silver and darkened into a deep silver grey,  the detailing looked like snowflakes. And the silk she had purchased was similar, going from silver to cobalt blue to deep indigo. She had told her seamstress how she envisioned the dress, and she had not been disappointed. She felt like a queen the moment she saw her reflection in the polished mirror she brought with her.

  She would wear her hair half up, in a waterfall braid to allow her eyes to take center stage, the rest she would leave down in its natural state. Her curls were not shy, but her hair was thick, and they would fall with ease down her back to gather below her waist. Her mothers necklace, the one of the direwolf would be perfect to match the belt she would use this evening. When she entered the hall, there would be no doubt of the message she was sending to Rhaegar.

  Ned, Ben, Bran and Howland showed up just as she was finishing, to escort her to the feast, And the look on their faces made her question if she had made the right decision. She hated being the center of attention, she hated it even more so when her brothers all fussed over her.

 “I should change, this is too much.” she turned to go back into her tent.

 “Lya stop, you look beautiful.” it was Benjen. He always complimented her, but she suspected it was more to do with the fact that he didn't want to wait on her to change again.

 “Whatever Ben, you always say that, I can tell already that this dress will be a problem.”

“He’s right Lyanna, the dress is fine. It’s just, well, you look like a real Lady for once. That's all. You're not going to make this easy for us are you?” It was Brandon.

 “What is that supposed to mean?” she turned to scowl at her oldest brother. I haven’t done anything.”

  Why does everything have to be on me?

  He sighed, clearly exasperated with this conversation already. “Lyanna, our job is to make sure Robert stays away from you, whereas before it was to encourage the two of you. We can't very well do that anymore, and now you want to go to the feast looking like the summer snow in a dusky sky?" He was exaggerating, she was tempted to roll her eyes. "Lyanna, I don't know how you see yourself, but trust me Robert will be a problem.”

 “Oh,” the truth was, she hadn’t really considered his reaction to this. Her father told Brandon that the prince had the full support of their house, and she supposed that extended to the canceled betrothal, or the prospective betrothal. “Why can't you just make him understand that our father has firmly stated he will not consider it until I am sixteen, and no matter what assurances he thinks he has had from maester Walys, our father has made no such assurances to the success of this endeavor?”

  Something she said must have perked Brandon’s attention because he looked at her with a stunned expression, and so did Ned. “What does maester Walys have to do with this?”

  She was confused, “Didn't you know, apparently maester Walys has all but assured Robert that the betrothal was official. At least that is what he told me last evening when we were dancing.”  

  It would seem that her brother had not known, “So that is what father meant about the Ravens.” It clicked then for Lya too, but she didn’t have time to pick it apart because Brandon wasn’t done yet. “Lya, fear not about Robert, we will keep him occupied tonight and for however long we must. Just go and enjoy yourself and do not think on him, or the mark, or the prince if you can help it.” He gave her a warm smile.

  She rolled her eyes, of course they would think I’m nervous about Robert, or the mark, or the prince, what else would bother her? “I’m not concerned with any of those things to be honest Bran, the truth is, it’s the three of you who are making me second guess this! Stop gawking  at me already.” She huffed.

  It was Ned who broke out in laughter first. And after him, none could contain their mirth. She rolled her eyes again at her stupid brothers. “Can we just go now? Before I decide to dine with Winter rather than you animals!” She knew that this would only continue if she didn't put a stop to it, so she gathered her cloak and she swept from the tent alone. No doubt they would follow soon enough.  And so they did, Brandon taking her arm as he caught up.

  They walked in silence to the castle, only stopping once inside to give her cloak over to Ben, and then the five of them were ushered into the Great Hall Lyanna on Brandon’s arm, followed by Ned, then Ben, and then Howland.

 


The Silver Prince


 

  Rhaegar was still trying to process everything he had learned in the Godswood. Never in a lifetime had he thought he would be talking with a stranger about his mark, even more, he never would have thought that same stranger to be his guide? 

 What was that supposed to mean anyway? 

  There were a few things that kept replaying over and over in his mind. The first being Lyanna, her mark, and the fact that she is his opposite in almost everything. And in spite of all that, all he wanted to do is go back to where he knew she was, because he had never felt so close to belonging in his entire life the way he had while standing not one foot away from her. The second thing was the revelation about Summerhall. He knew that no matter what happened here, he would need to write to his uncle at the wall to talk this through with him. With any luck he could help me figure out her name. The third thing, if he understood what was said between them, there is still a living dragon in the world, and they share a connection. But this confused him more than it excited him. If there is a living dragon in the world, how in the seven hells has she managed to stay hidden for so long? And why in the world does everyone believe them to be gone? The last thing, and right now, it’s the most important as far as he was concerned was the part about the female line being responsible for the loss of the connection to the dragons, and how that has anything to do with his lady mothers ability to birth living babes.

  He was roused from his thoughts by Arthur, “I thought that you said you wanted to get it over with,” Rhaegar could sense the sarcasm coming from a mile away. “How does promising to not seal the bond against her will help you to not be as distracted in front of your father, Your Grace.” Rhaegar rolled his eyes.

  “I told you before Arthur, I have known my whole life what destiny required of me, I won't force her into this if she doesn't want it, no matter how badly I desire to.” He sighed. “I don't think I have to force her anyway.” He grinned to himself.

  Arthur arched an eyebrow. “Please enlighten me, how do you plan to accomplish this task then? The girl made it clear that she isn't ready to accept you yet.”

  He shrugged, “It's quite simple actually, I have to win her.” He didn't have time to explain it all to his best friend. He needed to get back to his tent to prepare for the feast. He would need to go to his father after the fact to escort him to the Hall. He had spent enough time to himself today and he was sure that this wasn’t lost on his father.  “I should be ready to leave here in one hour, I’d like to have a conversation with you and Oswell before we depart.”

  “It will be as you say, Your Grace.” Bowing his head, he turned and went about his task. Turning back toward his pavilion he went about his own business, knowing that the next hour would pass quickly, and so it did.

  Rhaegar was just finishing with some last minute business when Arthur and Oswell arrived, “Ah, I'm glad you are both here. I wanted to discuss the situation with Lyanna.” He wanted to make sure that she had someone watching her at all times. He had known that it would be difficult with Elia needing a guard, but he figured that Oberyn could help fill in for Oswell tonight.

  He would make sure to mention it to her before going to his father.

  In truth, he hadn’t really thought about how he would protect Lyanna now that he knew she possessed the other half of his link. And completing it wouldn't help in this regard, but the last thing he wanted was to take a chance with her safety.

  “Forgive me, Your Grace, but I'm confused again,” it was Arthur, of course it was Arthur, Rhaegar sighed.

  “What situation with Lyanna? I was under the impression that you were going to give her time?” Rhaegar had clearly lost him somewhere along the line. 

  “Forgive me, I was not referring to the mark, per se. I was referring to her safety, specifically this evening.” The looks on their faces went from confusion to comprehension within a moment.

  Good, they understand. 

  “Weren't you just saying yesterday, ‘ The lady Lyanna doesn't need rescuing, she needs freedom’,” this time it was Oswell to mock him. Rhaegar just rolled his eyes at the pair of them.

  “Very funny, you should know that I am completely serious about this, and I expect you both to be as well.” This did the trick because they straightened up immediately. “Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I don't believe that we have to worry about squires tonight. I am more concerned with her escort from the Hall, should her brothers be too drunk to bring her back safely. I also want to make sure that Robert has absolutely no opportunity to get her alone in a corner or on the dance floor.”

  “And does the Lady Lyanna know this?” This time it was Arthur.

  “A good question, and the answer is no. However I doubt that it should be a problem. Just make sure she is happy, and enjoying herself, and do not step in unless you see no other solution. That should keep you both safe from her ire.” The thought of either of them falling victim to her wrath brought a smile to his lips. He had only seen her lash out the once, but what a sight to behold she had been, he would love to see how his own knights fared against her.

  “If you have no questions, come then.”


   After stopping in to speak with Elia, Rhaegar made his way to his father's chambers within the castle. Outside, Ser Gerold and Ser Barristan were stationed at his door. Upon seeing him, both bowed their head in acknowledgement, before Ser Gerold knocked to announce that he was outside.

  After a moment, the King gave his permission for him to enter. Upon first glance, nothing seemed amiss, and perhaps that was the issue entirely. He would have been more prepared for his father's outbursts than to find him calm and lucid. 

 “What has kept you so long boy?” the king inquired.

  Rhaegar was nervous. “Forgive me, My King, I thought to train with Arthur after the games were called for the day. Have I missed something important?”

  “You were with that whore weren't you? Don't lie to me boy.”

  What whore would he be referring to now?

  “I'm sorry father, but I have not been with anyone aside from Ser Arthur this evening. We were training in the Godswood for about an hour.” None of this mattered to the king, and Rhaegar knew it. Sometimes he wondered if the King did this just to see him dance about.

  The King dismissed this as if he had said nothing of importance, which if Rhaegar thought about it, he supposed that assessment would be true. “Never mind all that, just don't put a bastard in that whore, I won't have her father coming and making more demands of me.”

   Her father? What in the world is he going on about?

   His confusion must have been written across his face, because in a rare act of generosity the King answered his silent question. “That slut of Tywin’s. I saw her eyeing you today, and don't think I didn't notice how distracted you were by the whore.” he sneered.

 Ah, he could use this misunderstanding to his advantage, even though he would hate it all the same.

  “Forgive me father, it is as you say, the Lady Cersei is singularly focused. I swear to you, I have no interest in her. The King was most generous when he chose my lady wife.” Rhaegar found it best to flatter the King rather than argue against his assessments. He was correct in that the Lady Cersei had been eyeing him all day, there was hardly a time when she wasn’t. Nevertheless, there had always been something off-putting about the girl. She reminded him of someone, and he couldn't put his finger on it, but the idea of her in bed beside him made him ill.

  Change the subject. . .

   “The games ended quickly after you departed, Your Grace, I suspect they should be more entertaining on the morrow however…” Small talk was not his forte, and thank the gods it was not his father's either.

  “Yes, yes. Another day for the sheep to come together and plot against us. Don't be so naive boy, they love us not. I tell you this often and yet you do not listen. We are not here to make friends, boy! We are here to show them what happens if they cross the dragon. They came to see if we are weak, but the blood of the dragon is strong! Strong! Strong! Fire cleanses Beast and Man and Earth. They shall all see what happens when you cross the dragon!”

  This escalated quickly…

 “Of course, Your Grace, the blood of the dragon is indeed strong. Perhaps you would like to go to the Great Hall for the feast then? They can not plot behind our backs if you are there to bear witness to their follies.” The words taste bitter  on his tongue, but they were the words his father needed to hear. He was ashamed of the way he was about to use his father's condition to his advantage. But the truth was, most of these lords have yet to see the full extent of his father's fall into madness, and if they hadn’t seen it first hand, they would never understand why he needed to be removed from the throne.


  He had been sitting at the high table when she entered the hall on the arms of her brothers Brandon and Eddard. Elia and he were speaking with Oberyn of Rhaenys when he caught sight of her. What in the Seven hells was she playing at?

  One moment he was laughing, and in the next, his throat had closed up and he found he was having difficulty drawing breath. She was a vision straight out of a fairytale. One he had constructed many times alone in his bed. He had never seen her face, but he knew that gown.

  It was a long silk gown with flowing skirts, the colors fading into one another. Silver at the bodice, cobalt blue like frost, from the hip to mid thigh and deep indigo around the bottom, it was a perfect union of what was him and what was her. The top was Myrish lace, the detailing like snowflakes, hugging her chest, but flowing down her back in a waterfall. The sleeves were embellished by pearl buttons at the wrist that extended to her elbows, it was the same at her back. Where the ties of her bodice were, more pearls could be seen. The lace too, had been dyed, the lightest shade of silver. It appeared to be almost sheer, but it became more visible as it traveled down her bodice darkening to a deep silver grey that contrasted the light silver silks beneath. Around her waist she wore a silver belt. It appeared to be running direwolves. Bold choice… Her hair was pulled back away from her face. Accentuating her long neck and pale skin. The silver chain she wore only complimented her more. Her eyes were bright, she had a look of mischief in them.

  There will never be a dull moment with you, will there? The thought made Rhaegar smile. 

  “She’s stunning.” Elia leaned in to whisper to him. He’d been so captivated by her, he hardly remembered to nod in acknowledgement. “Rhaegar?”

  “Hmm? Did you say something Elia?” She clucked her tongue at him.

  “Get your head in the game Rhaegar, are you so singularly focused that you are forgetting your surroundings?” That got his attention. Quickly he scanned the room. All seemed to be fine. His father was preoccupied with his sycophants, Lyanna was dancing with her brother, Rhaegar grit his teeth together. He found himself envious of the boy.

  Rather than falling into his arms, she had pulled away from him, as if he were contagious. Even though he understood her reluctance, he couldn’t deny that it stung. Especially after watching her dance with Robert the previous evening.

  Rationally, he understood that her reaction had nothing to do with him personally, but the irrational part of him despaired at the thought of her being repulsed by him. The link only meant that they were matched by the Gods, it wasn’t a guarantee that they would find the other appeasing.

  His eyes settled on a movement across the Hall, Robert had been eying Lyanna since she entered the room. So far, his assigned companions seemed to be having success keeping him distracted, though for how long, Rhaegar couldn’t say. He stood from his seat and moved toward Arthur and Oswell, excusing himself before he stepped away.

  “Arthur, would you meet Brandon once the song ends to ask Lyanna for the next dance? Oswell, you will follow Arthur if Robert still hasn’t lost focus."

  “I’d appreciate it if you two could find a way to fill her dance card with people who do not want to take advantage of her on the dance floor.” He had a feeling that Lyanna wouldn’t appreciate all the fuss he was making, but something about Robert touching Lyanna set his teeth on edge.

  She may not be his yet, but she would be, and woe be to Robert the day he tries to get between them.

 


The Stag Lord


 

  He had been deep in his cups by the time Lyanna had entered the hall escorted by her brothers, and Robert was ashamed to admit that he had forgotten that she was in attendance. Though, now that he was looking upon her fair face, he couldn't for the life of him figure out how he had ended up with these four idiots beside him rather than the beauty who soon would be his.

  He glanced around the hall, there was hardly a person who didn't have their eyes on his Lyanna. Well, she wasn’t his, not yet. But that was simply a formality. She would be his, and he was glad of it. Judging by the expressions on the faces in the hall, every man wanted a moment of her time.

 Too bad, she is mine…

  He thought to approach her on a few occasions, but every time he had made to move someone else had beaten him to her side. Of course, in his opinion he would be well within his rights to step in between her and whomever was dancing with her, aside from one issue. The first partner she had was her brother Brandon, followed by Ser Arthur Dayne, which would have been fine, the idiot swore off women for the chance to wipe the king's ass, but then Ser Oswell was there before the song had ended, and Lyanna had been swept back up in another dance before he had even the chance to make his intentions known.

  Something about this felt off.

  He was about to go in search of Ned when Richard Lonmouth came over with a horn of ale for him, and some serving wench on his arm. “Robert, meet Myra.” The lad wore a grin from ear to ear, and Robert couldn't blame him. The woman was curvy in all the right places, a man could lose himself in between her tits alone.

  “Myra, you say? Have we met before, you seem familiar to me…” His words trailed off as his eyes roamed over her body.

 “Can't say that we ‘ave Milord, I think I would remember.” She reached for his hand and pulled him toward a long bench.

 Thank the gods for women like Myra…

 


The She-wolf


 

   So far the evening had been a success, she hadn’t had to worry about Robert at all, he was firmly placed into the care of her brother Brandon’s squire Ethan, and Jon Arryn’s nephew Elbert, who both had an easy way about them. He was also joined by who Lyanna could only assume were the friends Rhaegar had mentioned. One of them wore skulls and kisses on his surcoat the other the burning yellow tower of House Grafton of Gulltown. Lyanna could see the merit in choosing such allies. The first person to ask her to dance that evening surprisingly was Brandon, who typically would be with Robert and Elbert, drinking or shamelessly flirting with some unwitting girl or another. But she was happy to dance with her brother, however the dancing did not end with Brandon.

  The next person to ask her to dance was Arthur Dayne, she looked around the room, “What is this about?” she asked the Sword of the Morning suspiciously.

  He raised an eyebrow to her question. “I'm sorry, I’m not sure I understand what you are asking, My Lady.” he mocked her. 

  She scowled, “You know, one day I might be your queen, would it not be better if we didn’t start off by playing games with one another?”

 Two could play at this . . .

 “From what I understand, your chances of becoming queen are more of a certainty at this point, wouldn't you say? And should I not be trying to get to know you since it is all but an inevitability?” he smirked at her.

 What is it with the men in my life lately?

 “I can think of better ways for you and I to get to know one another that do not involve this type of dancing” she replied before she realized how it must have sounded.

 To his credit he did not take the bait, instead his brow shot up questioningly a sly smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Please, do elaborate. . . I'm sure this will be good.”

 “I didn’t mean—,” her cheeks were on fire. “What I mean is, you are the Sword of the Morning, I should think a lesson from you would be a great way for us to become better acquainted, that's all.” the words were hurried.

 To his credit he did not at all seem surprised. “Ah, I think I heard a rumor about a girl with a sword running about the grounds,” she knew he was teasing her.

 Oh Gods, who else had seen her?

 “You don't understand, they were attacking my father’s Bannerman, and there was no time to get help. I did not see anyone else around. And he is a part of my pack, it was my duty to stand up for him.” she was rambling and she knew it.

 “Fear not, My Lady, your secret is safe with me. If you would like to train, I have no issue helping in that regard, though perhaps it is best that we wait on that until after your secret is not so secret?” He lowered his voice at the last part.

 She nodded, she had not expected him to be so willing, “Surely, you are joking. It can't be that easy..?”

 “I promise you, I am sincere. I don't mind at all training with you, from what I saw, your form is good, and your aim is true. You need refinement, and years of practice before you are able to be a proper menace, but you are not without natural talent.” he paused. “Don't look so shocked, in Dorne women and men alike are known to wield a weapon. We do not look down upon women who would prefer to fight their battles on the field rather than in the birthing bed. Nymeria put an end to all of that when she conquered Dorne.”

 Lyanna wasn’t sure why that hadn’t occurred to her before. Perhaps if she had to run away she could go to Dorne rather than beyond the Wall… The idea was a pleasing one. Ser Arthur pulled her from her thoughts again with his next comment.

 “So, were you trying to make a statement tonight?” he gestured with his eyes to her dress.

 She gave a wolfish grin. “That obvious? Good.”

 “Indeed, though I'm not sure what you were hoping to accomplish. It's dangerous for the prince to be so distracted. It's even more dangerous for him to be distracted by you while his father is present. Trust me, you do not want the King’s attention focused on you.” This was a warning.

But, she couldn't help herself, the idea that she affected the Prince excited her, so she asked. “And is the prince distracted?” she knew that Ser Arthur had been serious.

 “Terribly so, why do you think I am here? As soon as your brother released your hand, he noticed Robert trying to make his way in your direction.” he was speaking as low as possible, without making a scene.

 They were spinning around the floor before her eyes fell upon Robert standing against the wall, eyes fixed on her and the Sword of The Morning. He was still in the company of his four companions from earlier in the evening, but his attention was fixed solely on her. “I don't know what Ned was thinking when he agreed to deliver his proposal to my father.” she confessed.

 To his credit, the Sword of the Morning just shrugged. “I can't pretend to understand what motivates some people. But in his defense, can you blame the young lord for his infatuation? You may have been hidden away up North for the duration of your life, but it's easy enough to understand why. Every man in this hall, has had his attention fixed on you at some point this evening.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “The song is about to end, so try not to be annoyed by Oswell, he approaches next.” She was about to protest when the song ended, and she turned to see the smiling face of another kingsguard. This one tall and muscular, with shockingly bright auburn hair, much the color of the Lady Catelyn’s.

“Ser Oswell I presume?” She wanted to be annoyed, but another look across the room toward where Robert stood, confirmed that this was indeed going to be the only way to avoid him.

“At your service, My Lady.” he replied. “It has been requested by our prince that we keep your good company this evening.”

Oh great, jokes all around.

 “Fine, but if I must be forced to play this charade, I insist you call me Lyanna. And also, this is the last dance for me tonight. After this is over, do you think you could help me devise a way to get out of here, and possibly back to my tent?”

 “You must be kidding? Do you not know who’s home you are in? If anyone can get you out of here and into the comfort and safety of your tent, it is I.” he confessed. “Should you like my brothers to make a scene, or would you prefer a quiet exit?” She could not help but notice the hint of mischief in his eyes, and somehow she knew she and Ser Oswell would become great friends.

 “I will leave that up to your discretion, but if I have to stay and pretend here any longer, I may go mad.” she confessed.

 He smiled wickedly at her. “Worry not, I have a plan. Follow my lead.” And they began dancing their way across the floor in the direction of Ashara.

 When they got closer, Oswell called her over. “My Lady Ashara,” he paused. “The Lady Lyanna, is not feeling well, and has asked to be escorted back to her tent, would you please inform her brothers and the Prince that we will be heading that way once this song has finished?” The Lady Ashara looked to her then, and Lyanna almost saw a look of disappointment on her face, before it was gone again.

 “It would be my pleasure to assist, only I shall escort her back to her tent with you. It would not be proper for you to escort her alone. Your duty is to the royal family. If you were to go alone, it could raise some unwanted attention. If I were to escort her, and you were to escort me however, that would not be so unseemly. It's bad enough, the only ones to dance with the lady tonight were her brother Brandon, and two of the five Kingsguard who are here with the royal family.” Her argument was valid, even Lyanna could not argue with her reasoning.

 “Perhaps, I could stay for one more dance. Possibly allow for someone not of the kingsguard or my family to dance with me?” It was just a thought, though Oswell and Ashara looked apprehensive. “I'm sure Howland wouldn't mind.” She hadn’t even asked him but if she did, she was sure he would accept.

 Oswell was just about to object, as the song was coming to a close. But just before he could open his mouth to speak Ashara came back to them with a young man on her arm. He had Silver hair with a streak of black in the front. She remembered him immediately from earlier in the day.

 “Ser Gerold?” Lyanna asked. He didn't seem like a particularly pleasant person, but perhaps that was just his way.

 “No Ser, just Lord Gerold, I'm still a squire, for now. I was curious to know if the Lady would honor me with a dance as recompense for cheating earlier in the race?” She knew he was teasing her.

  Interesting considering how miserable he looks

  He could be considered handsome, but for the cruel look on his face.

 “A dance is the least I could do to repay you for your poor skill in the race this morning.” She teased back. Before she took his hand, she shot a look over to Ser Oswell and smiled, and a silent thank you to the Lady Ashara before she moved to the center of the floor. Allowing for Oswell and Ashara to make preparations for her to leave once the song was finished.

 


 The Silver Prince


 

  Rhaegar watched as first, Ser Arthur and then Ser Oswell shared a dance with Lyanna. He couldn’t deny the envy he felt, knowing that they had been permitted to be so close, while he was banished so far from her.

 He decided, he needed a distraction.

 Turning to Elia, who seemed to be in high spirits, he decided to keep up their charade. He flashed her a rare smile, “Princess, would you honor me with a dance?”

 To his surprise, she smiled back to him and placed her hand in the one he offered her. “It would be a pleasure, My Prince.”

 Standing, they both turned to the king and bowed. It would not do to have him lash out over such a small indiscretion, no matter how much it would help his cause, something like this could hurt it too. If the realm were to witness the prince neglect proper protocol in front of their leal subjects, especially in regards to their sovereign, it could set a precedent that would be difficult to correct. The king could not allow such a breach in protocol to go unpunished. So, Rhaegar made sure to never forget his courtesy.

 After the King waved them off, he turned to the dance floor and led Elia over to a place not far from where Oswell and Lyanna were dancing. Taking her arm and turning toward her they quickly fell in with the others who were also dancing.

 “This pregnancy becomes you.” It was true. Elia had never shone so brightly when she carried Rhaenys. He thought perhaps that it might have something to do with the fact that this child won’t be born with a demand on its destiny. Because this time, the babe is the product of Elia and Arthur’s joined love. The thought made Rhaegar smile.

 “Thank you, Your Grace, I must admit, this one feels different, right, somehow.” Her blush in contrast to her bronze skin was lovely. Elia truly was a lovely woman, he’d had no complaints of her in truth. Only that her heart was never his, and he had never connected with her in such a way that would allow him to love her as a man should love his woman. He had always felt as if he was betraying his best friend by laying with her. So he avoided it all together. Save the time that they conceived Rhaenys and the night they were wed.

 “I think you should smile more often. It’s a very good look on you. May I ask what brought about this change?” She seemed sincere enough, so he thought about it.

 “Truthfully, I don’t even realize I’m doing it, so I can’t honestly say. But, it could have something to do with the fact that I’ve been too distracted today that I haven’t had the chance to get lost in my own thoughts.” He knew that there was truth in his words. “But,” his gaze drifted back to Lyanna, “if you must know, she’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, anyone I’ve ever met before. Like some uncharted land.” He chuckled. There was also truth to be found in those words. Hers would be the only bloodline of the major houses in the Seven Kingdoms that House Targaryen hasn’t married into.

 Just like in the scroll…

“Well, whatever she is, I daresay she’ll be good for you.” Elia had clearly thought about this. “What do you think Rhaenys will say about all of this?” He wasn’t surprised that she’d brought this up, actually they had hardly a moment to talk since they had arrived the previous day.

 He shrugged, “I don’t honestly know, but I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to bring her to Dragonstone, or King's Landing for that matter, definitely not until this situation with my father is resolved.” He made sure to lower his voice, and pulled her in closer so that she could hear him.

 “I suppose Rhaenys reaction to all of this, will come down to you,” he looked into her eyes as he spoke. In truth, he had thought about this a lot. Ever since Lyanna brought up Elia and Rhaenys earlier, “It would also depend on me, but mostly you. I say this because you are her mother. You get to decide on the relationship you will allow them to have. Because Rhaenys will likely follow your lead. Whether you decide that we present her as another mother, or as my wife, and the future Queen.” He took a breath before forging on. “I would hope, however, that you would not wish to promote that type of separation between Rhaenys and any potential siblings she may have as a result of my marriage to Her.” He hoped that Elia understood what he was trying to say. “I do not believe that having more parents to love our current and future children is such a bad thing. Just as I would hope you would not see my children by Her, any different than you see Rhaenys and even this little one,” he placed his palm on the swell of her stomach, just where she was starting to show.

  Something he said must have affected her, because her eyes began to water, but she continued to smile kindly at him all the same. “It gladdens me to hear those words from your mouth, because all you’ve said is what I desire for my children. I do not want them to ever feel that they should have to choose between one parent or another, or that they are being split between two families.” She stopped a moment, and the look on her face suggested that she was working through something difficult that she wanted to say, so he prodded.

 “Elia, you can tell me anything. I promise to always keep your council, and give mine in return.” She placed her palm on his cheek. To the rest of the Hall, they appeared to be a married couple who were madly in love. He smiled thinking about how angry Cersei must be watching this display of affection.

 “Listen to me Rhaegar, even though everything seems to be fine right now, is no guarantee that it will always remain so,” Rhaegar had no idea what she was talking about, and was about to tell her as much when she placed a finger to his lips, silencing him. “Listen.”

It was a command. He knew better than to disobey, so instead he nodded.

 “Good.” She took a deep breath. “You know what I am referring to, even if you do not wish to admit it. But I need to say this now, do you understand?” She waited, so he nodded once again. “We do not know how I will fare in the child bed this time around.” His eyes went wide, but she would not give him a chance to speak now that she had already started. “I do not intend to leave my babes Rhaegar, but you and I both know that stronger women have fared worse than I. And it did not go easy on me the last time.” The look in her eyes was one of determination, “I need you to promise me that you will look after both of them. Keep them together should something happen to me." Claim this babe as your own until Arthur can claim our babe freely. Can you promise me this?— went unsaid.

 She never had to ask him. He would have done this anyway. “I can promise this, and I do so swear it. Our children will grow up together, with love, and support from all of their parents.”

 She smiled again before nodding to him. “Good. I should like to get to know this lady of yours. Ash said she accepted our invitation to sit with us in the coming days. Perhaps she can come back to Dragonstone as a “lady in waiting” once the tourney is over, don’t you think that a good enough excuse to have her here in the south?”

 Honestly, he hadn’t even considered this to be an option. The idea held merit, but Rhaegar had intended to seal their bond as soon as possible, which meant that he had no choice but to go North, before bringing her back South.

 “It’s a good suggestion, I think we will know more in the coming days. Perhaps we may need to do as you suggest.” Just then, Oswell approached.

Rhaegar hadn’t realized that the song had ended “Your Grace,” Oswell bowed his head as he came to stand beside him. “Lord Gerold is dancing with the lady now,” he whispered conspiratorially. Rhaegar chanced a glare in the boys direction, and grit his teeth. He would accept it, but he did not like it. The boy was young to be sure, no more than one-and-ten name days, but even at his age, his reputation precedes him.

 “Have no worries, My Prince, it is just one dance, and 'twas necessary. Your cousin has yet to relent, which is why I’ve come. I will be escorting both the ladies Lyanna and Ashara back to the Northern camp, once this dance is done. The lady claims she feels unwell.”

 He didn’t miss the look of disappointment that crossed Elia’s features. “I do hope it won’t carry over to the morrow.” Elia was genuinely concerned. Rhaegar knew it was not in her nature to take pleasure in the suffering of another. Contrary to what most believe…

 “I am sure she will be fine, the dance is a mere distraction, because she’s only danced with her brother and two members of the Royal guard. We thought it best not to draw attention to ourselves or the prince by escorting her back before she had danced with someone who is not directly affiliated with you. That is where Little Gerold fits into the picture."

 Rhaegar agreed with this logic. “Very well, make sure she reaches her tent unharmed, and do not waste time on your return. With any luck, the king will retire soon, and then I may be permitted to leave as well.” Oswell nodded his understanding, and then made his way back in the direction he had come from, while Rhaegar led Elia back to their seats.

 Settling in, he scanned the room. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Even his father seemed to be taking the event in stride.

 His gaze continued to scan the crowd until it fell upon Robert. Making his way toward the floor where Lyanna and Gerold were still dancing. He was determined not to let the fact that she was enjoying herself, distract him.

 What the fuck is so funny?

  He gestured for Arthur to come closer. “I do believe, my cousin intends to—,” his voice trailed off as he looked up to see Lyanna’s brother Ned speaking with his foster brother. He turned his attention back to Arthur, “Keep an eye on him, and try to get ears close enough to hear that conversation.” He paused before adding,” That’s the brother who presented Robert's offer to Lyanna’s father for her hand. I’d like to know how much influence Robert has over the boy.” He said, but apparently not low enough, because his father had decided to take interest in their conversation suddenly.

 “Finally, you start using your head! That’s my boy! I heard about our cousin’s interest in the wolf bitch, but I was certain that Varys told me her father was yet to give a reply. Am I to understand that the match was accepted without the approval of the crown?” Rhaegar could see the fire burning in his father's eyes.

 Quickly he sought to calm him. But his father had just gotten started. “I saw that slut enter the room, she’s a pretty one, healthy, unlike that weak whore beside you.” Rhaegar wished he could save Elia from his father's insults. He knew it was even harder for Arthur. “I would not have thought that the old mutt would have such a treasure hidden up there in that frozen wasteland.” Rhaegar was sure he wouldn’t like the direction this was heading in, so quickly he spoke up.

 “Father,”

 “Silence! I am your king, show your respect when you address me, boy! Do not forget your place!” The king shrieked.

 “Forgive me, My King, I only meant to tell you what I already know, if it please Your Grace.”

The king nodded his approval. “Very well then, tell me what you know.”

 Taking a deep breath, he wove a pretty web, taking care not to say anything that could cause any harm to Lyanna's pack. “Lord Rickard received an offer last year from our cousin Robert, who had been fostered in the Eyrie beside the Lady Lyanna’s brother,” he gestured toward Ned, “Lord Rickard's second son, Eddard. It was confirmed to me by the Lady Ashara that the Lord of Winterfell has in-fact placed the match on an indefinite hold. Apparently there are concerns as to our cousins character, and the young Ladies suitability for such a match.”

 This seemed to please the king. “Good! I will forbid it. They think that I do not see, but I do. I won’t let the Stormlands, the Riverlands, the North and the Vale all unite against us. Perhaps I’ll call for her to come to court. That should bring those traitors to heal. Perhaps I’ll call for all of their heirs and daughters to come to court.”

 He was getting an uneasy feeling in his gut. He looked over to where Robert stood talking with Lyanna’s brother. Their eyes locked in a silent battle of wills the moment they met. On one hand it would keep Robert far from Lyanna, and having royal hostages could prove beneficial to his cause, but on the other hand, the thought of innocents, of Lyanna being his father's captive in the Red Keep sent cold chills down his spine. He turned back to his father.

 “My King, the Princess and I were just discussing a way to keep an eye on things, and she was saying that she was in need of a new Lady to add into her service. Elia suggested that maybe His Grace could summon the Stark girl to serve, at least until such a time as we have a better idea of what is going on in the North. This should also help us keep Robert in hand as well.”

 Please work, please work, please work… he knew that Lyanna would probably hate this plan, but it was better than the alternative. Sometimes, one must give a little in order to do good.

 “Very well, I agree. You will deliver my royal command on the morrow.” His father smiled  to himself, as if he had just delivered a huge blow to his foes. But he wasn’t done playing to his father's vanities.

 “I was thinking, Your Grace, now that spring has come, I could ride north to visit Uncle Aemon, and maybe while I’m there, I could pay a visit to the Warden of the North to impress upon him how detrimental the continued loyalty to the crown is in regards to the lives of himself and his children, and his precious legacy. Maybe remind him what happened the last time a  lesser House rose up against us and woke the dragon.” Rhaegar was disgusted by his own words, but he needed to see Lord Rickard before Lyanna came South.

 His words seem to have struck a chord with the King because the look he wore on his face, was one of pride, rather than the look of shame and disgust that typically greeted him.

 “Finally, you’re starting to think like a true dragon! I consent. Go, go North, and bring them Fire and Blood if need be, but you bring that mutt to heel, or tell him his precious bitch of a daughter will suffer.”

 Rhaegar forced himself to smile as he received his father's praise. The only comfort he had was in knowing that soon, Robert would never, ever again be able to lay a hand on Lyanna. And even sooner, there would be a royal decree to accompany Lord Rickard's refusal.

  The only silver lining in this…


The Stag Lord



 The next time Robert's gaze scanned the Hall, he found that Lyanna was now dancing across the hall on the arm of the young Dayne boy. He’d heard that she beat the lad earlier in the day in the riding competition.

  She’s probably just taking pity on him, poor kid.

 He stood, readying himself to cross the room. There was no way he would allow other men to continue to hold her attentions while he was right here.

 “Robert,” It was Ned. He turned to his approach. “Robert, where are you going?

 He turned gesturing toward the floor. “I’d thought that rather obvious, I mean to ask my Lady for a dance.” He flashed Ned one of his best smiles. But Ned apparently was not here to share in his mirth, as he shot Robert a nervous look. “What? Why have you been acting so odd?” he questioned. Something about this whole night felt weird, he glanced around. Lyanna still dancing with the Dayne boy.

 “Robert, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I haven’t been acting odd, I just—, I met a girl, a, um, a woman , I mean.” Ned stammered.

 Robert felt his smile widen, that lucky bastard!

  “Ned! That Dayne Girl?” He waggled his eyebrows at his best friend. “I always knew you had it in you.” He teased.

Truthfully, Robert hadn't been sure about the honorable fool at all. Every time Robert had tried to introduce him to a girl, the bloody fool would just shut down.

 He clapped his friend on the shoulder, inspiration striking. “We should all do something, you and your lady, me and my Lyanna… where is your lady love anyway?” Ned looked around the Hall, Robert following the path he searched. First, to the High Table, where the prince was speaking with Ser Arthur Dayne, and then back across the Hall in the direction of the exit, where Lyanna was being escorted out by Neds Lady and a Kingsguard.

 He turned back to Ned, fury rising. “What the fuck is going on Ned? And why are the Kingsguard attending Lyanna so closely?”

 “Robert, I’m sure that there is nothing going on.” Ned began explaining. “Lady Ashara is the sister of Ser Arthur, as I’m sure you’re aware. It is not unlikely that Lyanna was feeling tired from her day, and Ashara offered to escort her back to her tent. I assure you, Ser Oswell is likely there to ensure that the Lady Ashara makes it back here unharmed.

 Robert felt his fury start to fade. “Damnit Ned, I don’t like this. Every time I’ve wanted to approach her this evening, it felt as if someone was purposely placed in her path to prevent it from happening.”

 He glanced back across the Hall toward the Royal party, only to find his weakling cousin’s eyes lock with his own.

 What the fuck is going on here?

 His eyes shot back to Ned’s. “The prince is behind this.” It wasn’t so much of a question as it was an accusation, but Robert had a hunch. Why else would two Kingsguard have such an interest in Lyanna? Why would two Kingsguard ask Lyanna to dance while that inbred cunt’s wife, the Princess, was left unattended. Something was afoot, Robert could feel it in his gut.

 Ned remained calm as he answered. “I won’t pretend to know what it is that you are going on about. I can assure you that the prince has not approached anyone in my party with inquiries about Lyanna, nor has she ever been alone in his company. If he has shown any interest in her, perhaps it is that if a gentlemen, hmm? One who knows that this specific lady in question ” Robert snorted at that part. “Could possibly end up becoming good-sisters to his best friends little sister.”

 Robert had forgotten his ire immediately, Ned had made a valid point but more importantly… “Ned are you seriously going to ask for the girls hand? After one night? I mean, you do understand that the Dornish are more free with their bodies right?”

 Surely Ned wasn’t that naive?  If she’d bedded him on the first night, it was a guarantee that he wouldn’t have to wed her to have her again. Such a foolish boy…

 “Just because you would not think twice about bedding anyone you encounter, does not mean that I would stoop to such a level, and for your information, she and I have not lain together.” Ned snapped back. The look in his eyes was murderous, and for a moment Robert thought that his best friend looked almost feral.

 On instinct, Robert found himself backing up. Hands raised in peace offering. “Relax Ned, I did not realiz—,” But Ned just cut him off before he could continue.

 “No, you didn’t think, you never do.” He huffed. “Tell me Robert, did you think about Lyanna last night as you bedded those two girls who were seen leaving your tent this afternoon? When you should have been at the races supporting your ‘betrothed’? The way Ned said the word made Robert realize he was being mocked, but Ned hadn’t finished. “Tell me Robert, how long have you been communicating with my father's maester about this “so called” betrothal behind his back? Or did you not know that my father was still no closer to a decision yesterday than he had been a year ago when you sent me to deliver your offer?”

 “Ned, I think you need to relax,” Robert wasn’t sure why he felt the need to calm Ned, but it would do no good to have this fall out here, not now. All of his plans depended on having Lyanna as his. With her by his side, Ned would be his brother, bound by marriage, and the dragons couldn’t hope to stand against their might.

 “Robert, I am calm. Calm comes easy to me, so trust me when I say this. Until you answer these questions, you will never, get close to my sister. Not to dance, not to talk, and never , ever, ever to bed. Am I clear? Do not think I haven’t seen you, your behavior, since you’ve been here. You would shame her before you even had her, you would smother her, try to possess her, you don’t even know her,” Robert could see the cold calm that had settled over the man he called his friend. “Answers are required.”

  Robert swallowed, but before he could reply, Ned turned and walked away. Unsure of how things had gotten switched around between the two of them so quickly, Robert ran his hands over his face, and turned back to the four companions he’d started his night with.

I need a fucking drink...


The Silver Prince


 

 Not long after Lyanna left the Hall, his father had decided to retire as well. Seemingly pleased with himself over his decision to forbid the match between Lyanna and Robert.

 As if it ever would’ve happened in the first place.

  Now, without being under the scrutiny of his father's watchful eye, he decided he would retire for the evening. Unfortunately, just before he was able to extract himself from the Hall, he was accosted by Cersei Lannister.

  Oh great! Let the games begin…

 “My Prince,” he stopped, turning to face the lioness. Her smile did nothing to mask her intentions, she was every bit a Lannister. So much so that she would never truly be able to hide her ambitious nature. Rhaegar shivered.

 “Lady Cersei, how may I be of service?” He asked, struggling to maintain civility. He watched as she composed herself into the carefully constructed persona she had worked so hard to create in order to seduce him.

 “I was hoping My Prince would honor me with a dance.” She batted her eyelashes at him innocently.  

 Try though he might, Rhaegar could not deny the girls tenacity. “Perhaps another time? It's been a rather long day, and I have some things I must attend to before joining the Princess later on.”

Too forward. He knew, but he needed to be rid of her, as fast as possible, and the best way was to use Elia as his excuse.

 Her carefully composed mask slipped slightly the moment he delivered the news, but she quickly recovered before she replied. “I see, I wouldn't want to keep you from your duties in that case.” He didn't miss the meaning behind her words, but she fixed him with an innocent smile to make the blow easier to swallow.

 You're not the only predator in this hall Lady Cersei.

  “My Lady, you mistake my meaning, ‘tis no duty to call upon my lovely wife, for Elia is a joy to me.” He should have stopped himself, but he couldn't help it, he was on a roll. “Has your lord father given any thought about who he intends you to wed? It's been two years since the King rejected the match between the two of us, I thought for sure someone would have made your Lord Father an offer for you by now.” He was going to hell most likely, but he couldn't help but relish in the discomfort she was clearly feeling. He dug the blade in further. “I hear that Lord Robert will not be getting his match with the Northern Girl,” He hated bringing her up in the present company, but the idea of a match between Cersei and Robert was too good to pass up, especially if the look on her face was any indication of her displeasure. But the most satisfying part was reminding her of the fact that she had been rejected, as had her father. But he wasn’t done yet.

 “The king has taken note of you.” The girls eyes brightened.

The pretty little fool…

 “Has he? Perhaps he regrets his decision to not wed us. I know my father still would like to make the match between us. He’s even suggested the Prince might be inclined to take a second wife, to safeguard your line of succession,” her voice sounded hopeful.

  The idea that Tywin had been discussing Rhaegar’s line of succession really pissed him off. Furthermore, the fact that he knew that Elia may have difficulty in that regard troubled him further. He would have to deal with this, but not right now.  Perhaps he was as cruel as his father after all, because the next words to come from his mouth broke her resolve, as he’d intended.

  Rhaegar gave a low deep throated chuckle before he replied, savoring every painful word he was about to deliver. “You are mistaken, Lady Cersei. My wife and I are a good match, and even if I were so inclined as to take another wife, like my ancestors before me, the next woman I wed will be of my own choosing, not my father’s and certainly not yours. But that is a huge ‘if’, and what’s more, even if such a day came, and my father allowed it, he would still never allow you to sit beside me.” He paused for dramatic effect, allowing the words to sink in before delivering the final blow.

  “If you think there is some kind of joy to be had in this folly, of trying to seduce me, Lady Cersei, you and your father both would be sorely mistaken, because even if I did bed you,” the thought made his stomach queasy, “and I somehow managed to put a babe in you,” she did not attempt to hide her joy at the thought. “My father would never allow it to be born, and he wouldn't suffer seeing you at court after the fact unless he felt particularly generous, in which case, he may even consider taking you as his personal bedwarmer, as a way to remind your father of his place, and the place of a whore.” Her expression was one of abject horror, her face, pale as ice, he could care less.

  He backed up a step before he spoke again. “So you see, the king has taken note of you, of the way that you stare at me, no matter where you are, or I am. The way you follow me around, and yes, when you blatantly offer yourself to me… Unfortunately for you, you’ve thrown yourself at the wrong dragon, for I do not look at you and see what my father sees.” Cersei’s eyes narrowed. “I see only a girl, who doesn’t love herself enough to seek happiness for herself. A girl who does the bidding of her Lord Father, to bring him happiness instead. I see ambition, when I look at you, greed, duplicity. None of which endear me to you. None of which make me want to sleep with you beside me. My father looks at you and he sees your Lady Mother,”

  She clearly thought he meant to compliment her. “It was the king who appreciated your Lady Mother’s charms, not I. I was but a boy, your father should have told you as much when he groomed you for this task.”

  “What do you mean, your father favored my mother?” She asked. He did not care to answer, so he continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted.

  “If you believe you will fare better as Queen, I would encourage you to seek out my father, though I shudder to think of what my mother would do to you should you actually try.” He smiled sadistically at her.

  “My father would never have allowed any man to dishonor my mother. That,  King, wouldn't have dared touch her while my father was around!” She was starting to loose control.

  Rhaegar leaned in closely “Careful now, My Lady, those words sound of treason. You and I both know that your Lord Father has no say in what the King is or is not allowed. To suggest as such could cause unintended issues for you, and for your father. We both know how my father deals with treason. And let's not forget your twin as well, how foolish you were to put him on this path. Did you not realize what you were giving the King?

   Apparently not, you pretty little idiot.

  “Yes, congratulations Cersei, you’ve effectively given the King your twin to be used as a hostage, and a weapon  to keep your father in line.” He was starting to feel a little shame about mentioning the late Lady Joanna, so he decided to offer her a bone.

  “As for your Lady Mother, I cannot say as to whether my father and she had ever been intimate in such a way, only that it was rumored to be so. As well as the fact that she had been dismissed from my Lady Mothers service shortly after your Lord Father and Lady Mother were married. My mother claimed that she was sick of my father's attempts to turn her ladies into whores, though the Queen has never uttered an ill word against your mother in my hearing.” He sighed, wanting to be done with this conversation.

  “If that is all, I should be going. But you should mind your moves from now on, and Cersei, I say this from a position of respect, not one of scorn, abandon this foolish pursuit of me, I do not want you, I never have, I doubt I ever will, and I promise, I will not fail to notify my father if you fail to be respectful of my wishes moving forward.” More gently he added, “You should take control of your destiny Cersei. Find yourself someone who will treasure you, you deserve that much, as long as you understand that person will never be me.” And with that, he turned and made for the doors, Oswell and Arthur trailing behind him.

 


The She-wolf


 

   On the way back to her tent, she and Ashara walked ahead of Ser Oswell. Now was as good a time as any to get to know the girl who for all intents and purposes was to be her good-sister. Or is she already my good-sister now that the bond is complete between her and Ned? The truth was, this was all very confusing. She would have to ask Howland about the  specifics.

  She turned to Ashara, and the questions must have been written all over her face because Ashara smiled at her warmly, a reassuring gesture. “You know, you can ask me whatever you want. I promise I will answer.” Lyanna had never had much experience with other women of an age with her. It had always been just her and her brothers and her father. Sure she made friends easily enough at home. She knew all the children that lived within the castle walls, and all the servants by first name, but she had never really considered herself as having any friends other than Winter and her pack. The thought of having not only a friend, but a sister of sorts was queer to her.

  “I’m not sure how to do this.” she confessed. “I have never imagined that I would have this kind of opportunity. Or that I would have someone other than Ned to discuss my mark with, and if I’m being honest, I suppose that this is the one thing I am most curious about. I know that you and I are basically family, but I have only ever had my brothers, I don't know how to do the female bonding thing.” she confessed.

  Ashara nodded her understanding. “If it makes any difference, I am the only daughter of three children. Both my brothers are the oldest. I understand better than you think, Arthur and I don't have what some would consider a conventional relationship between siblings. As you can tell, I am more of his partner than I am his little sister. Though, I suppose he’s still very protective of me, not as protective as your brothers are of you, but I suppose that is understandable.” She took a moment to consider her next words. “We will do this together, learn how to have a sister, and be one. I suspect there is plenty of time for it. Tell me, what do you want to know about the mark?”

  Lyanna took a moment to sort through the myriad of questions running through her mind. “I suppose I understand the origins better than anyone, I have read as much as I possibly could on the matter once it appeared. But there was nothing written about what happens between two people once the bond is sealed. I suppose I'm curious if anything has changed? Do you feel different?”

  Understanding washed across her face as Lyanna’s words sunk in. “Ah, I understand. I hope you don’t mind, Ned helped me to understand your position on things earlier as we were making our way to the Godswood to meet the prince.” Lyanna understood, it's in Ned’s nature to want to put everyone at ease. He would tell her whatever was in his power if it meant her comfort.

  “The first thing I think you should know is, nothing has changed for me, aside from the image I bare on my wrist. I still feel the same, I still have the same passions and I hold the same interests. The only thing that is different is that I now also have an interest in Ned.” She smiled as his name passed through her lips. This also made Lyanna smile too.

  “And do you feel like the mark is responsible for the way you feel toward Ned?” This was important to Lyanna. She couldn't bare to be with a man who she wouldn’t have chosen under normal circumstances, or one who wouldn't have chosen her. She had been questioning her feelings on the matter all night long. Perhaps she didn't like Robert, because the mark promised her to the prince. She couldn't help but to wonder if she was being manipulated by the Gods.

  “I wondered if this is something you would be concerned with. When Ned told me that you would fight against it because you would feel as if your choices were being taken from you.” This didn't shock Lyanna as she supposed it should have. Of course Ned would know what she was really feeling. Lyanna was shocked that the Lady Ashara had already thought about it though. Perhaps the bond helped to expand this understanding between the two of them, she mused.

  “And, what did you come up with?” She asked.

  “I can certainly see how you would be worried about the influence of the mark, I have never had any interest in courting or being courted by men before Ned. I have had my share of flirtations in the past, I won't deny it.” Lyanna found that she appreciated the Lady Ashara’s honesty on the matter. “But I also believe that I like Ned regardless of our mark. And I would have liked Ned with or without it.”

  “What makes you so sure?” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. It wasn’t like she didn't see Ned as handsome or dashing, in truth she felt that Ned was a much better catch than Bran. He would certainly make any woman proud to call him theirs in her opinion. It was just that Ned was shy, and unlikely to step out of his comfort zone to approach a woman such as the Lady Ashara.

  “Because he is unlike any man I have ever met, and when he looks at me, I feel as if I am the only woman who exists in the entire world. When he takes my hand, it is not with expectation, when he says my name, it sounds like a prayer falling from his lips. I don't know how else to describe the way I feel when he is near me. I hope that this makes sense to you.” It did make sense to Lyanna.

  “So you don't feel that your choices were taken from you? You wouldn't have chosen someone different if you had the chance?” Lyanna hoped she did not let the apprehension she was feeling seep into her voice.

  “Quite the contrary, before last evening, I had no choice to make. I had no intention to choose. I had no desire to attach myself to a man, and lose my identity. I had no reason to. I am the sister of the Sword of the Morning. Arthur would kill any suitor whom I didn't want, and my father and eldest brother know that.” She stopped in their path and turned to Lyanna taking her hand. “If I did not want this match, if I did not want your brother, regardless of this mark, I would not have asked him to join me for a dance last night. The truth was, I had been waiting for him to approach me, I had no idea he was so shy. It was good luck for me that your brother Brandon approached me on his behalf.” Lyanna rolled her eyes, remembering the scene from last night.

  “Is it out of the question for me to ask you about the Princess and the Prince’s relationship?” She had been curious about all of it since the Prince had revealed they dissolved their marriage earlier in the Godswood, and Lyanna was feeling a bit nervous to be in her company in the following days.

  Ashara smiled at her then. A warm, kind smile. “I would be pleased to answer any questions that I have the answer to, but I would like to recommend that you meet the Princess, I am sure she is not what you expect, and I daresay you both would get along well.”

  Lyanna wasn’t sure about that. She was a mere touch away from stealing her husband and her crown if the bond was secured. Again, Ashara must have sensed her apprehension because she placed a calming hand on her arm. “Lyanna, I hope you don't mind if I call you Lyanna?” she paused.

  “I don't mind at all, in fact, I prefer it, thank you.”

  “Lyanna, please do not fear Elia’s reaction. I shall tell you a secret if you promise it won't go farther than the two of us.” Lyanna nodded her affirmation.

  “I swear, whatever you tell me will go no further than the two of us.” Ashara nodded, accepting her word.

  “The Prince and the Princess have always been kind to one another. And it is true that they have a child together. The Princess Rhaenys is a delightful little girl. But they were a marriage of duty. It's a sad thing, but unfortunately it happens all too often. By the time the King chose Elia as Rhaegar’s bride, she had already decided that she would not have a proper match due to her health. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be so.”

  “In Dorne, the Martells have a palace called the Water Gardens. All the children go there to swim and play during the hottest months. We don't feel shame of our bodies, and men and women, boys and girls are not classified by their social standing. All the children of Dorne are welcome into the pools. This is where Arthur and Aedric and I met Elia, Oberyn and Doran as children.” She smiled at what Lyanna could only assume was a fond memory. 

  “Arthur was a shy child, and Elia had spent much of her time alone as a girl, because of her disposition. As you can imagine, a shy boy, and a girl of weak constitution made for great companions. And as they grew, their friendship grew to be love. But Arthur knew that he would never receive the blessing to wed her. She was a princess of Dorne, and he was a second son. Title be damned. So when he turned seventeen, he swore his sword to the Prince, later he was named as a knight of the kingsguard.”

  “No one had any idea of course that Lord Steffon and his wife would perish on their way home from Lys in Shipbreaker Bay, and no one could have predicted that the King would eventually choose Elia to be Rhaegar’s bride. It was thought that the match was made specifically to spite the Hand, as Lord Tywin had refused a match between Ser Jaime and Elia, and another between the Lady Cersei and Prince Oberyn.” Lyanna knew how this was going and she could feel the bile pooling in her gut at the thought.

 “He was forced to watch Rhaegar take the woman he loved to wife, and to bed. . .” Lyanna was about to be sick. She had no idea how Ser Arthur managed to stand by and not act. Her heart hurt for him. And for the Princess, she was not sure how she could have survived such an ordeal.

 To her credit, Ashara simply nodded but carried on with her tale. “The prince, is not his father, fear not. He married her because he was commanded to, he bedded her, because he was commanded to. He bedded her, because had he not, his father would have had someone rape her and force him and Arthur to watch, especially if he had found out that Arthur held affections for the Princess. It was a kindness of sorts.” Lyanna wasn’t sure how she figured that a kindness, it was abuse.

"It makes no difference if his intentions were pure, the Princess had no choice either way," she replied.

 “The princess did choose, she chose duty over love. And she would continue to do so, but our prince is not his father, as I have already said,” Behind them Ser Oswell followed in silence. Close enough to hear, but silent all the same. “I don't know what happened in the time after we all received our marks. But it was about three moons after I received mine when I was summoned to the Sept on Dragonstone. I had no idea what was going on, only that I was to be there. When I arrived, there were a few faces there I wasn’t expecting, one of which was the Prince Oberyn, the other was my brother. He stood before the altar, cloaked in the colors of my house, and then the doors opened behind me, and Rhaegar was escorting Elia into the sept. I watched as Oberyn and the Prince exchanged places, and Oberyn escorted his sister to the altar to stand beside my brother.” Tears began to fall from Ashara’s eyes as she continued her story.

 She took in a deep breath, and then looked at Lyanna again. “You see, apparently while I had been in the dark on the entire thing, Elia and Rhaegar had already decided what they would do. Elia was apparently prepared to stand aside and allow Rhaegar to take a second wife,” Lyanna was appalled at the mere idea.

  “But Rhaegar had watched both Arthur and Elia suffer as her belly grew heavy with Rhaegar’s daughter. He has always been a compassionate man Lyanna, and I think it ate at him knowing that he would be able to take another woman, one that the Gods had intended for him, knowing that she and Arthur were stuck in an undesirable situation. Especially because after Rhaenys was born, it was revealed that the birth had been taxing on Elia’s already frail health, Rhaegar could not bare the thought of causing her harm for the sake of bearing him heirs. The prince shed some light to this earlier when he revealed that he had been prepared to wait until he met you, to act. Because in truth, he was not sure that he would, meet you. He did not wish to shame her by putting her aside for no reason, but Elia would hear none of it.” 

  Lyanna found herself imagining the conversation between the two of them, and she couldn't deny that she admired the princess her fortitude to act. She again wasn’t sure she would have been so strong. Ashara continued, “As it turns out, she had Rhaegar summon the High Septon to discuss the matter of her health, and how it could affect her ability to give the prince heirs. And then they revealed that the prince had been marked. After that, the High Septon was all too happy to help them dissolve their marriage. Of course I had no idea of the mark or what the deciding factor was until today. But I'll tell you what Elia told me when I went to her after we left you all in the Godswood.”

  “When she told Rhaegar that she expected him to take a second wife he outright refused. 

 ‘What? No, Elia I won't be taking a second wife.’ and she responded,

 ‘Rhaegar, you can't deny your link barer. Should you find her, you both must be together. The gods have preordained this. No one can separate an Inked pair. Not a king, or a septon. The Gods will be answered.’ But apparently he had already decided on the matter before he went to visit her.

  His response was thus, ‘Of this, Elia I know. But you misunderstand. I mean to release you from our vows. Please hear me out. I know you love Arthur. And I know he loves you too.  I mean to do something about it, when I have the means to.’ But he didn’t stop there. ‘What kind of a man do you think me to be, to stay wed to you while you are forced into a life alone? Nay, I would never expect that of you. We both know what our marriage is. It is a duty, one that was forced on the both of us. I have no doubt sweet Elia that you would have been content to continue at your duty. . .’

 Behind them Ser Oswell chuckled, Lyanna couldn't help but wonder what he found so amusing, she would have to ask him later on. At the moment, she was having a crisis of her own. How could she continue to ignore the feelings she was feeling toward this man, who for all intents and purposes was hers. . ? The only other man she had ever met in her life who could come close to comparing to that level of thoughtfulness is her brother Ned.  

  Her heart was pounding in her chest, if there ever was a man whom Lyanna considered a worthy match, for a lady, it was her brother. Any highborn girl should consider herself lucky for a chance to have Ned as a husband. Well, that ship has sailed at any rate, luckily the Lady Ashara seems to understand that well enough. Lyanna realized in that moment that she liked the Lady Ashara immeasurably more than she thought she would have.

  “I have a question…,” Lyanna understood what Rhaegar had done for his friend and his ex-wife, but she was curious how they would explain one thing… Ashara nodded as if she had expected this to happen. Lyanna took that as permission to continue and forged on. “If your brother married Elia, how does that work with his vows as a kingsguard?” Ashara smiled.

  So she had been expecting this question…

  “That is a very good question, and I would love to answer it, but perhaps that is a question better suited to the Prince, or the Princess? I can only speculate as to how they worked it all out, but I do know that it was done with the Prince’s approval. The rest of the world believes that the Prince and the Princess are still married though. This is why I ask that we keep this conversation between the three of us.” Oswell had not said a word, but Lyanna understood that he had been listening and would have stepped in if anything that had been said between the two of them was off limits. She accepted this answer, and perhaps she would take the Lady Ashara’s advice and speak with the prince about it.

 


 

   She had only been back at her tent about an hour when Benjen arrived, and another fifteen minutes later, Howland showed. “Are you sure it's safe to go?” she asked the two of them. Howland and Benjen looked at each other and grinned.

“What?” 

 “It’s safe, but you don't need to go. When you left the hall, Howland and I used that as an excuse to sneak off at the same time. Everyone was busy, so it wasn’t hard to make our way through the camp—,” Benjen had started to say.

 “Wait, you already got the armor?” she was shocked. “How!?”

 “Well, if you hadn’t interrupted me so rudely you would already have your answer,” Benjen teased. She shot him a piercing glare. They were supposed to have done this together. She huffed out a deep breath, and then  gestured for him to continue. “When we left the hall, mostly everyone was there, and they were deep in their cups. The king was still there as well and we realized that he would not notice our absence. It was when we were walking back to camp that we realized how opportune our chance was, so we took it.” he stopped for a breath. “Now, are you going to glower at us all night? Or would you like to try this armor on to make sure you can move in it?

  She had to admit, they had her. “Fine! I'll try it on, but only because we can't afford to get caught going for more.” her excuse was weak and she knew it.


The Raven's Agent



  “None of this matches, you realize that don't you?” Lyanna complained.

  “Does it really matter if it matches? You're going to wear it for one day, and you're a mystery knight anyway.” Lyanna huffed in response. Howland knew that it didn't matter what the armor looked like, it only mattered that she could move and breathe inside of it. “Can you move in it?” he decided to ask her.

  “I think so,” she lifted her arms from her sides, reaching above her head in full rotation. She twisted her torso from left to right, and then she bent forward at the waist, making sure she had competent range of motion. “It's not comfortable, but I suspect armor isn't meant to be?” 

  “I suspect you are correct. I would not know, as I'm sure you can imagine.” he grinned at her.

  “I know, I know, Crannogmen don't wear armor.” she mocked.

  He ignored her barb, “Would you like to take it off?” There was no reason for her to keep it on now that they knew it fit her well enough. She nodded her confirmation. “Good, because I have a project for us to complete, and a story to go along with it if you would listen…” Her eyes went wide with excitement. He had her at ‘story’ and he knew it.

  She narrowed her eyes, “Is it about my mark?” he shook his head.

  “I confess it is not, but it does have to do with destiny if you would hear it.” She didn't need to be convinced, but he wanted to build her excitement anyway. This way she would be more eager to participate.

  She nodded once, “Very well, help me out of this armor, you two, I should very much like to hear this story,” she confessed.

  So as they set about helping her remove the armor, Howland began his story with a question. “Tell me, what do you know about the people who live beyond the Wall?” At this, both Benjen and Lyanna’s eyes flew to him. He knew that they both had discussed running away to live beyond the Wall, Benjen had even suggested it the previous evening. “It’s not a trick question, I am just trying to determine where to begin,” he urged them gently.

  Lyanna spoke first, “They have lived on the other side of the wall since before it was constructed, or at least that is what is believed. But they don't live in keeps like we do,  and they don't live in large numbers. We call them wildlings, but I’ve heard that they refer to themselves as the ‘Free Folk’ because they don't follow people based on who they are kin to, they choose their leaders based on strength. I’ve also heard that they allow their women to fight alongside their men.” He knew she wanted to say more, but she waited for Howland to confirm what she had just said.

  “Everything you have said is true, but do you know that in the society of the ‘Free Folk’ it is the woman who chooses her mate?” Lyanna and Benjen both wore looks of shock on their faces. Howland chuckled before he continued. “Try not to be so shocked. The men aren’t without a say in the matter, but ultimately it comes down to the woman, and whether she deems the man worthy enough to father her children.” He could see Lyanna and Benjen working this over in their heads.

  “That seems reasonable enough,” Lyanna replied, “The North is a harsh place to live, I can only imagine it is harder to live in the lands beyond the Wall. Survival sometimes depends on the strength of our men in winter, I suspect it isn't much different for them. Especially given the history of mothers smothering their babes in winter so that they don't freeze or go hungry.” Howland was impressed by Lyanna’s instincts.

  “Very true. So, in the lands of always winter leadership is chosen based on strength, and for this reason alone, a woman can be chosen as a leader, provided she is strong enough to lead her people.” He paused a moment, trying to decide the best way to continue. “Going back to marriage customs, the ‘Free Folk’ steal their women,” Lyanna again looked appalled. Howland knew that it was because they have stolen daughters of her father's bannermen in the past. “I know where your mind is going, and I understand why you would think this is a terrible custom, but please let me explain the custom before you pass judgment. I promise you this, even if you don't agree with the tradition, you will at the very least understand the people a bit better.” She nodded her agreement, and so did Benjen.

  There is a time, when a constellation known as the Moonmaid aligns with a planet known as the Red Wanderer, the faith of the Seven call it the ‘Smith’, but the ‘Free Folk’ call it the ‘Thief’. This does not happen often, but when it does, the ‘Free Folk’ consider it a lucky time to steal a woman. You see, the stealing of a woman is no small thing to the 'Free folk.' The men are supposed to prove their worthiness by being strong enough to take her. But the woman, she is meant to fight back, to the death if she sees fit. Because if he has not the strength to tame her, he was too weak in the first place to have her.” He paused again, he needed to explain their customs a bit better, he was missing something important.

  “The ‘Free Folk’ do not marry women from the same tribe as they do, you see. Unlike us, they believe, women who wed brothers, fathers, or clan kin would offend the Gods, and will be cursed with weak and sickly children. So they range far, to other clans, and even sometimes they come over the Wall and they find a woman to bring home. One who they believe is strong enough to ensure their clan will live on. They are not abusing their women, or raping them, it’s just that our customs and theirs aren’t the same, at least they aren’t the same anymore.” Lyanna looked confused.

  He continued on with his story. “The people who live beyond the wall share the same blood as you and I, though it varies between our Houses after so many millennia, but they are the blood of the First Men, same as us. The only difference between us and them, is the Wall that separates us. At one point our customs were very much the same as theirs, or did you already forget about the Stark’s conquest of the North?” Realization must have hit her then because she sat back with a stunned look on her face.

 “I admit, I didn't consider that.” She thought about it a bit more before she spoke again. “So now I’m curious, how does destiny play into this story?”

  Ah, this was the right question…

  “It has everything to do with destiny, because it is about to play out.” He was getting excited despite his efforts to stay calm. “Are you aware that House Stark has never wed their ruling line into a house of Andal origin?” She shook her head. “Yes there have been matches between House Manderly and House Stark but only after many generations of northern integration. Of course there were other matches, House Blackwood and House Royce, both of which have Andal blood as well, though both Houses are of our origins.” He paused again before pushing on.

  “In the Seven Kingdoms, there are two such houses who have an obsession with their bloodlines, do you know which two houses I refer to?” He waited for a response.

  “House Stark and House Targaryen,” this time, it was Benjen to speak. Howland nodded his approval.

  “That is correct. In the ten-thousand years since the Starks began their conquest of the North, they have only ventured into the South two times of their own will to seek a marriage alliance. Other than that, they have only ever wed into houses that were kin to them, or close enough to kin. And only to houses containing the blood of the First Men. Up to a point…” He didn’t wish to elaborate on that right now. The reason being, the gifts that run through the blood of your line. Magic such as greenseeing, warging, skin-changing, necromancy, The blood of the Kings of Winter carries the magic of Ice within it, which is just as mighty, and terrible as fire. Imagine what they could have accomplished with the blood of the Dragon...” She must have been expecting this, because she didn't interrupt, she only nodded for him to continue.

  “There are people in the Seven Kingdoms who question the validity that your ancestor Brandon the Builder ever lived, though the North Remembers. There are tales that say he lived for more than a hundred years, though I admit, I can not confirm nor deny the truth in this. But I do know that magic happens and it’s happening now. It should not be a stretch that at some point one of your ancestors found a way to expand his mortal life past what is deemed normal. He would not be the only figure in history who would be able to boast such a feat. Just as the God-on-Earth of YiTi, son of the Lion of Night and the Maiden made of Light, was  believed to have lived ten-thousand years in the Great Empire of the Dawn, before he ascended into the heavens to take his place beside his mother and father. His dominion then passed to his first son who ruled for a thousand years, followed by his siblings, though each reign was shorter than the one that came before it.” He stopped to consider his next words.

  “If the timeline I have worked out is correct, these new emperors all lost power around the time of the Long Night, so is it so much of a stretch that Brandon lived a few hundred years? Who can even say where our people originated from? Based on the history, we crossed the land divide into Dorne almost twelve-thousand years ago. It's entirely possible that we migrated from the great empire. But I am getting off topic.” He watched as Lyanna and Benjen smiled to each other.

  “At any rate,  once House Stark began its conquest, they began to consolidate the magical bloodlines as you have already discovered. However, rather than  marrying their daughters into these magical houses, they began taking the daughters and claiming them for their wives. Sometimes completely wiping out families that they believed to be a threat. House Blackwood once occupied the lands of the Wolfswood, and Sea Dragon Point, did you know that?” Lyanna nodded.

  “Ned and I discovered it when we were doing our research. Edric Stark and Melantha Blackwood…” she didn't finish her thought. Howland nodded.

  “It's always a shock when one realizes that the truth is seldomly a pretty thing. Unfortunately young wolves, all of our families are guilty of things that are less than savory. There is little one would not do to protect the ones they love. Even if it seems unconscionable to you now. But would you feel differently if I told you that everything done was done for the greater good?”

  Lyanna didn’t seem convinced. “I’m not sure that wiping out entire lines could ever be seen as something done for the greater good. What right have we to survive where others did not?” It was a valid question.

  “Yours were the line of the King’s of Winter. The line who helped to build the largest structure in the world at the time, woven with magic and blood, to protect us from the greatest threat humanity has ever faced before, or will ever face again. Yours was the line who harnessed the power of Ice and weirwood. And in order to do what must needs done, yours would do many more things both great and terrible. It is to be expected, and I daresay you will understand this someday soon. There are no clear paths Lyanna, sometimes the right thing will be the wrong thing to someone else. We are all functioning in a realm of varying shades of grey.”

  “This is not a lecture,” he smiled to her and Benjen, “it is a history lesson of sorts. The main goal is destiny. But sometimes, in order to move forward, you must first go back.”

  “This evening, you both learned that Cregan Stark negotiated the terms of the Pact of Ice and Fire, a pact that originally was agreed upon between Torrhen Stark and Aegon the Conqueror. Tell me, did you wonder why this was so important to both Torrhen and Cregan?”

  “I never even knew that Aegon had made such a pact with Torrhen, only that rather than face him in battle, he chose to bend the knee.” Again it was Benjen to speak up.

  “I suspect that not a lot of people know the truth of this, but have you ever wondered why he agreed to bend the knee to the dragon?” they both shrugged. He supposed that it was a no brainer after all this time.

 “Have you looked around?” This time it was Lyanna, “I suppose it's pretty obvious, wouldn't you think?” Howland laughed at this.

  “Yes indeed, though Torrhen couldn't see the twisted stone towers of Harrenhal at the time. The Starks did not spend ten-thousand years conquering the north just to hand it over to a foreign invader. The truth is much bigger than that. The Starks conquered the north and held it for ten-thousand years for a specific purpose. Because they were the only ones who understood the threat beyond the wall. They acquired the daughters from every house associated with magic removing the male line completely so as not to have to face them later on. They were singularly focused in their task. The only magical line they had not acquired up until that moment in time was that of the blood of the dragon.” He hoped she understood where he was going with this.

  “So, if I understand this correctly, you want Rhaegar to steal me? Because I am from the North, and he is from the furthest possible kingdom from mine, both geographically, and genetically? And because he is of a magical line, and was apparently born the opposite of myself?"

  More or less. . . he nodded his confirmation.

  “And what makes you think he would do this?” the look on her face said exactly what she was thinking…

  She thinks me mad. . . He chuckled.

  “Because Rhaegar has been studying the signs his entire life. He is waiting on someone specific, a symbol of winter to act. He is waiting on a Queen of Winter to present herself to him.” She was absolutely confused, she wore her thoughts on her face like an open book. “Destiny Lyanna, this has all been preordained in one way or another. When the prince was a boy, he was bookish to a fault, until one day he went to the master at arms and requested a sword. He had been reading something in one of his scrolls that convinced him that he needed to be a warrior.” He watched as it began to click into place.

  “He wants to prove himself worthy of me? He wants to prove himself to me, is that what you're saying? So that I won't kill him if he tries to take me away from my home? Because he wants to honor our customs, and he wants to prove that he will not weaken my bloodline if I choose to accept him.” Howland was impressed with how quickly she picked up what he was trying to relay to her.

 “Very good, I must admit you’ve impressed me, he told her approvingly. Do you understand why your line is so important, and why it is so important to join these two bloodlines?” she shook her head. "Because of these two Houses, House Stark has the highest concentration of magic in their blood. For all the safeguarding the Targaryen's did to keep the bond between them and their dragons, they allowed the Faith of the Seven to push them toward diluting it, so by the time of the Dance of Dragons, the magic within the male line was too weak to pass along the gene that allowed them to hatch and bond with their dragons, House Stark has no such issue with their spirit connections... Your house boasts the most impeccable magical bloodline in all of the Seven Kingdoms, even more possibly in the whole of the Known World."

 “So what is this sign?” Ah, this is good, she was ready.

 “Where do our people choose to seal their vows of marriage?” He watched as realization dawned on her.

 “A weirwood!” The smile that grew across her face lit up the room.


 The Silver Prince


 
 They walked in silence. Well, Arthur and Oswell walked in silence, not so much for the Prince. Inside his dragon was raging her approval. It was then that he realized that his instincts had always been reliant on her reactions. Kind of like a seventh sense, or a third eye , he mused to himself.

 “I know you are there, even if we’ve never met face to face, but thank you for everything. For being here when the nights are darkest, for guiding me with your wisdom. I get that you feel alone, and perhaps you don't quite trust me, but I trust you, and I understand. Until you do, I promise, this connection is enough. We can mourn our ghosts together, and maybe one day, you will allow me the honor of knowing your name.”

 Rhaegar had never spoken to her before. Too afraid that to do so, would only prove he was as mad as his father. But suddenly he wished that he had, perhaps if he had, they would know each other better by now. Nevertheless he felt her approval through their bond, though she said nothing to him, neither through words or images, only a melody. Rhaegar smiled then, Inspiration striking him.

 “Thank you.”

 Turning to Arthur and Oswell he spoke, “I'm going to get my harp, and then I plan to go to the Northern Camp,” he almost fell over laughing when he saw the expressions on their faces.

  “Are you sure that’s best, you heard her brother Brandon earlier? Have more care for her character and her reputation.” Arthur complained.

 “I do not intend to see her, I plan to play her a song.” Obviously he would not seek to wake her. He just wanted to play for her, even if she wouldn't hear it, even if she couldn't see it.

 “You intend to play her a song, but not see her?” Oswell looked incredulous. “Forgive me, but what would be the point of that?”

 “There is nothing to forgive, however, I don't have to explain it either, I only need to inform you of my plans so that you can protect me.” A devilish grin took over his face. “Come, let us retrieve my harp and be away.”

 “The Northern camp was quiet when they made their approach. “Lead the way toward her tent Oswell.” His friend still looked perplexed by their current task, though Rhaegar just couldn't care. He could not seal their bond, he couldn't dance with her, or hold her in his arms, he could do nothing, nothing but wait for her, and watch as other people spent their time acquainting themselves with her. But this, this is something that only he could do. A way for him to touch her, without physically putting his hands on her. A way to court her regardless of the mark.

 Lyanna deserved this, and Rhaegar was determined to deny her nothing when it came to her happiness. He knew that prophecy and visions could only take him so far… the mark was only a beacon. It didn't solve the matters of the heart. That would be his job, and his alone, and he fully intended to take this part seriously. It could only help her to trust him better.

 Lyanna’s tent had been situated in the center of the camp, surrounded by three other tents of equal size. Around them tents that belonged to the retainers and their Bannermen, Rhaegar presumed, based on the sigils adorning them. Nearby, Rhaegar saw a tree and made his way toward it, deciding that it was a perfect place to set up, the distance was not too far from Lyanna’s tent. Arthur and Oswell took up positions that were easily defendable, while he sat exposed in the midst of the Northern camp.

 There were quite a few songs he thought to be fitting, but there was one in particular he thought she may appreciate. He’d wrote it the last time he’d visited Summerhall. So, he crossed his knees and pulled his harp into a comfortable position and began to pull at his strings.

 The song was about a fair maiden from a far away kingdom, who longed for freedom and adventure, and of a prince who also longed for freedom, and for a friend who could rescue him from his prison of solitude placed around him since the day of his birth. This prince would sit in his prison with only his harp for company, playing and composing the songs in his heart, hoping that one day someone would hear and come to his aide.

 Eventually someone did come, and they slew the beast that had locked him away with a bow that had been fashioned from weirwood, breaking the spell that had imprisoned him. But when he went to give his thanks to the brave knight, it was revealed that the knight was actually a woman. And so, the maiden rescued the prince, ending his torment and his solitude, and together they remained, until their final days.

 It was the first time that he’d played the tune in front of his knights, so he’d kept his eyes closed as he manipulated the strings of his harp, only opening them once the song had reached its end. To his surprise, and his relief, it was Lyanna who he saw first.

 She smiled at him the moment their eyes connected. ‘That was beautiful,” she admitted in a hushed tone,  as she wiped a tear from her eye. Her hair was down, around her shoulders, she stood in her night dress unashamed to be seen in such a state of undress. Rhaegar swallowed down the lump forming in his throat.

  You're beautiful…

  Rather than admit what he’d been thinking he merely said, “Thank you,” she just chuckled. “are you not cold?” He stood, planning to offer his cloak to her. Instead she smiled sweetly at him, and gestured for him to stay where he was, so he did.

 “I am of the North, ‘tis hot for me. Or have you already forgotten that I am Winter?” she teased. She looked down to inspect her state of undress. It must have occurred to her what Rhaegar had meant because she crossed her arms over her chest protectively. He couldn't help the smile that formed on his face. “Does my night dress make you uncomfortable?” she pushed herself away from her tent, and made her way toward him. He swallowed, suddenly nervous.

 He shook his head in response. “It’s not that, but your brother did chastise me earlier about showing respect for your reputation,” he heard Arthur snort, no doubt playing back the conversation that they’d just had in his mind.

 Lyanna just chuckled at his words. “My brother is most likely in his cups, and he knows that I care not about modesty. I was raised by men. I thought myself a boy for the longest time, or would have, had my father's maester not reminded me of my sex at every available moment.

 Rhaegar did not miss the annoyance in her tone when she mentioned the maester, but knowing what he knew, he couldn't say he blamed her. Rather than give voice to his thoughts, he asked a question. “Did I wake you? It was not my intent,” he wanted to confess what had brought him to her, but he couldn't find the words.

 She just shook her head, then she motioned for him to move aside, and so he did, allowing Lyanna the space to sit down beside him, to his surprise. He moved further, mindful not to touch her, and then he thought better, and placed his cloak between them as a makeshift barrier. She began to laugh at his efforts much to his dismay.

 “Gods, you really do plan to torture yourself, don't you?” he asked. Her words making no sense to him.

 “Torture myself?” Why would he ever do such a thing?

 “Aye, torture yourself. In order to keep your word, by not touching me.” Lyanna’s words struck home. It was true, he had been torturing himself over this. Every fiber of his being was urging him to seal the link, whether through force, or treachery, or with her consent. He supposed that was the real truth behind this visit. He wanted to convince her to accept him. Subconsciously, his link was in control, and he had been torturing himself for her… comfort?

  “Does the mark not have the same effect on you?” He was confused, she did indeed seem less affected by him, than he, her.

  To his dismay, Lyanna did not respond to his question, instead she asked one of her own. “Did you know that these marks are a gift from the Old Gods?”

  He had. Everything he’d read had confirmed as much. He nodded his confirmation. “Did anything change for you the day your mark presented itself?” She followed up.

  This had Rhaegar confused. “Change? Like what?” The only thing that had been different was the mark and the burning.

  No, everything had been the same.

  “I don't know, that's why I am asking. From what everyone has told me, aside from you of course, I have learned that everyone seemed to receive their mark the day the ravens arrived announcing winter.” Rhaegar thought about it.

  “That is when I received my mark as well, though it was more of the next morning than it was the day the ravens arrived. Did something change for you?” She had him, and now he wanted to know where she was going with this. Instead, she began to blush.

  “Did I say something wrong?” The last thing he wanted was for her to leave. Not when she was right here, for the first time all day, beside him, rather than someone else.

  She shook herself from her thoughts and straightened before she answered. Smiling, she said, “Not at all, I just hadn’t pictured myself having this conversation with anyone outside my family.” Rhaegar wasn’t sure what to make of that.

  Stealing herself, she answered his question. “Yes, something changed for me when I received my mark.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “Every time the seasons change, I offer a sacrifice to the Gods, to seek their blessings, and their protection for not just myself, but for my pack, and my people. My mother taught me these customs before she departed, and I've kept them alive for her ever since.” she explained so that he would understand her better, but he had always known about the offerings. They did not bother him. She continued, “Only this year, as soon as I gave the offering, my wrist began to burn. Not the burn of fire, the burn of Ice.” He understood this too, his had been the burn of fire, only Rhaegar hadn’t been seated before a weirwood when his mark began to manifest. And suddenly, Rhaegar understood something new about their marks— he kept his thoughts private though, allowing Lyanna to continue before he said any more.

  “At first, like you, there had been nothing, but later on, I began feeling sick, so I retired to my chambers.” She swallowed, “The next day, I woke to my mark, and my, my first moonsblood.” He could hear Arthur and Oswell move away and he smiled at this.

  How is it men aren’t scared of a maidens blood, but moonsblood can send the deadliest knights running for their lives?

  “I understand, and I think that you already know the answers you are seeking,” was the only response he could offer her. If she wanted to expand upon this, he would oblige, of course. But he would not push on, unless she asked it of him.

  To his surprise, she did not shy away from the topic. “I thought as much. The Old Gods activated the marks because of me. Because of my moonsblood…” it was not a question.

  “Did you ask Lord Reed about this?” Rhaegar was no expert in determining the cause, but if the Crannogman was supposed to be their guide, he was pretty sure that this was an answer the lad could provide.

  “I confess, I have not. I asked only you.” A look of guilt ghosted across her features. He wanted to take her hand and comfort her, but he could not. So instead he just sat there, lending his support through his presence alone.

  “What is it? What troubles you Lyanna? Please do not feel as if you can't speak freely with me.” he urged her, hoping his words would help to ease her fears.

  “It’s just, if I’m the reason for these marks, then I have done you a disservice.” His confusion must have been plain on his face, because she quickly elaborated. “Your marriage, your family…”

  Quickly he stopped her before she could spiral further down this black hole. “Hey, do not say such things. You’ve done nothing wrong. Don't you understand? These marks, they have changed nothing.” She was the one confused now, so he tried again.

  “The gods have favored you since the day of your birth, they have fashioned you, alongside another to bring balance.” He smiled softly at her as the last words left his lips. The statement itself feeling like holy doctrine, and he knew the moment he finished his sentence that he’d said the words she needed to hear most in that moment.

  “Thank you,” was all she said.

  “What have I done to deserve your thanks?” he asked.

  “You shall see,” was her only answer. He wasn’t sure if he trusted those words. So he quirked a brow at her.

  She laughed, a real laugh, loud and uninhibited, and Rhaegar realized that he loved the sound of it as much as he had loved the sound of his harp the first time he heard it, for the musical sound that her joy created was like the sound of angels singing. And just like that, he found himself laughing too.

 “I don't think I shall ever tire of that sound.” He confessed to her.

  She relaxed again, and then she stood, and Rhaegar knew what this meant. “I would offer you my help to rise, but…” she lifted a brow.

  “But the bond.” Rhaegar finished for her. She nodded.

  “Rhaegar,” his name sounded like a prayer coming from her lips.

  “My Lady?” She scowled at him. “Lyanna?” he corrected himself. He had forgotten already their agreement to drop titles. “Sorry, habit.”

  She nodded her understanding. “I meant only to say…,” She began to blush, and this too, made him smile. She was so lovely. How he yearned to reach for her. She captured her bottom lip between her teeth, and Rhaegar almost leapt at her, did she not know the effect she had on him?

  “I meant only to reassure you, things won't always be this way between us. Do not question whether I'll accept the bond or not, it will come, possibly sooner than later. I cannot say, but know that you are not alone in your torment…” She did not wait for his reply. Rather, she turned on her heels, and floated back to her tent, leaving Rhaegar alone, save for his two knights, his harp and his thoughts, already feeling the loss of her.

  She had given him much to think over in the hours to come. But one thing he was sure of; He’d officially stolen her. Sure, not literally, or physically, but small victories are just as important as the greater ones. And tonight he’d achieved three.

  The first, was keeping Lyanna away from his  whoremonger of a cousin.

The second was his father's decree to forbid the match between her and said whoremonger.

And the third time… he was pretty sure it just took place.

  He had stolen her heart, and Gods knew she had already stolen his.

 

Chapter Text

The She-wolf


 Lyanna awoke to Brandon, “Lya, if you don't get up now, your going to miss the opening for the second day of games.”

 She rolled onto her side, back facing her brother. She’d expected this of course, but Brandon had been in the dark on her plans, so she just pretended to ignore him.

 “Lyanna, get up.” Brandon called again.

 She groaned, letting him know she’d heard him the first time, so long as he couldn’t see her face, he would be unable to see the lie she was about to spin for him.

“Bran, I don’t think I’m going.” She left it at that, less was more.

 His voice carried an edge of concern when next he spoke. “Still not feeling well?”

 She had practiced this part of course, “Worse,” she groaned again. “My moons blood is here.” She smirked under her blankets imagining the horror painted across her brothers face.

  Stupid boys, scared of moons blood but not of spilling it.

  Lyanna could hear the sound of her brothers feet backing toward the exit to her tent. And she smiled into her pillow. “Uh, yikes Lyanna,” Brandon stammered, struggling to find the right words in this situation. “Is there, um,  anything, uh, that you need?” He finally finished.

 Laying it on thick, Lyanna groaned loudly. “Just go! I’ll be fine.” Brandon didn’t even try to argue, instead he followed her command and exited the tent without so much as another word, leaving her to herself. She sat up, and smiled. Pleased with herself over her success at duplicity.

  Maybe I am a better liar than everyone thinks…


The Quiet-Wolf


 

  Ned’s head was still reeling from his confrontation with Robert the night before. He hadn’t intended to unload on him the way he did, but when he’d insinuated that Ashara and he had—, that he’d dishonored her. That he was anything like Robert, it made his blood turn cold, and his inner wolf howl.

 He still hadn’t spoken about it to anyone aside from Ashara, and only because he knew he couldn’t keep it from her. He needed to tell Brandon, and most likely the prince now that everyone was likely sober enough to listen with a clear head.

 He took a look around his box, Brandon was speaking with Ben and Howland. Ashara hadn’t arrived yet, no doubt she was still with the princess. Robert was missing from the games again, unsurprisingly.

 “Where’s Lyanna?” He asked aloud to anyone willing to answer.

 Brandon’s face flushed slightly. “I left her back at camp, she’s not feeling well.” He adjusted his collar. Ned wasn’t sure what to make of his brothers behavior, but he dismissed it anyway. If Brandon says Lya is unwell, then there was nothing to doubt. Otherwise she’d be here no matter what.

 Just then Ashara approached, “My Lords,” she greeted with that kind smile of hers.

 Ned stood, taking her hand, he pressed a kiss to her knuckles. “My lady, you look beautiful as always.” He complimented. “You’ve made it just in time for the start.” He gestured toward the seat between himself and Benjen. “Would you care to sit with Benjen and I?

 Beside him, Benjen beamed at his good-sister to be.

 As it turned out, Ned wasn’t the only Stark taken by the Lady Ashara’s beauty. He would have rolled his eyes, except he could find no fault in Benjens appraisal.

 “It would be a pleasure to sit beside two fearsome northern wolves.” She cleverly responded, her smile radiant as ever.

 Ned couldn’t help but swell with pride at her words. Of course she couldn't know what they’d meant to him. She couldn’t know how he’d never felt apart of the pack, the way Brandon, Lya and even Benjen were. All of them had a touch of the wolf-blood but not Ned. No one had ever accused him of being wild, or impulsive.

  Until recently, no one said anything much to him about it at all. But once Lyanna had questioned his loyalty to the pack, he’d found himself thinking on the matter more and more, and as he thought about it, he’d come to realize that there was no denying, his time in the Vale had taken much of the north from him. These thoughts had plagued him more and more since his last trip home, and no matter how hard he’d tried, he realized quickly that the Vale didn’t feel the same to him any more.

 Maybe it had been the mark, perhaps not, but he had felt the call to return home the moment he’d passed through the Neck. And now that he and Ashara had secured their link, the call was louder than ever. Especially while he slept.

 The first match was called just after the King and the Prince arrived and were seated. Today, Lord Whent’s other two sons as well as his brother had matches all scheduled for the first half of the day.

 “Are you feeling any better?” Ashara asked, taking his hand in hers. And without even trying, suddenly he did feel better.

 “Aye,” he smiled warmly. “Now I am.”

 “Have you spoke to Robert again since last night?” She asked. Though something in her tone made him pause. She seemed almost if she were probing his knowledge of Robert's activities, and holding back information she wasn’t ready to share.

 “Nay, I’ve yet to see him and I’ve yet to talk to Bran or the Prince about it.” He confessed, still suspicious.

 “Well, best not delay. I do not think it wise to let these tensions fester, not right now at any rate. This situation will need to be handled delicately.” Ashara counseled.

 Of course she was right, for a few reasons. If Robert overreacted and it was revealed that they had been marked, Aerys would no doubt react badly.

  Another thing; the Prince and his marriage, or lack thereof, to the Princess Elia, along with her subsequent marriage and pregnancy involving Ser Arthur, Rhaegar’s Kingsguard.

  No, Ned would have to find a way to pacify Robert at least until his father could speak with him on the matter.

 “I will speak with Robert, but Ashara,” his voice was low, a slight edge to it. “I expect those answers I requested of him. Regardless of my decision to make peace.” No matter what the situation, he made a decision last night, and he gave his word on the matter. His honor demands that Robert answer to the accusations Ned made against him. And on this, he was sure his Father and brothers would agree.

 When the first half of the joust was called, Benjen and Howland stood and made to leave. “And just where do the two of you think you’re going? He enquired of them.

 “To go check on Lyanna, and bring her some food. We’ll be back before the second half, I swear.” Benjen gave his word.

 “You’re a good lad.” Brandon said, clapping Benjen on the back. “Braver men wouldn’t dare venture into the She-wolf's lair in such a time,” he teased.

 It dawned on him then why Brandon had behaved the way he had earlier.

 To Ben’s credit, he simply shrugged, “I’m a wolf too big brother, and my fangs are just as sharp.” He joked, before running off with Howland toward their camp.

 


The She-wolf


 

 Not long after Bran left, Ben and Howland showed up to make sure that their carefully laid plans were still in play. “Of course they are still in play! Do you think I would miss a day of jousting unless I was actually entering myself?” She turned to Benjen. “You know where to leave everything?”

 “Aye, in the godswood, close to the stream. Tie the sack up in the branches of the big oak tree.” He repeated the plan that they had made the night before.

She nodded her confirmation before speaking it. “Aye, and which of you plan to check in with me at midday?”

 They both shrugged. “One of us will, I hardly think it’s important which of us will come, someone will be here, so just be ready regardless.” Benjen replied but then added, “Howland is going to squire for you while I report back to Ned and Bran, I think this is the better option, so expect us both.”

 She nodded her ascent, best not to over complicate matters. Before the boys left, Lyanna made sure to send Benjen with a note that she’d written for Ashara and The Princess Elia. An apology for missing the joust and for being unable to join them. She hoped that this would be enough of a reason to excuse her absence.

 Looking around her tent, Lyanna realized then, how long her afternoon would truly be. With nothing to do, and nowhere she could escape to, Lyanna made her way over to one of her traveling trunks and pulled out some of the books she’d brought with her. She went over to her cot, and settled herself in, flipping open the tome, and began her wait in the company of one Septon Barth.

 When Ben and Howland came for her at noon, it was with great news. And some food thank the gods!

 The other knights belonging to House Frey and House Haigh advanced into the next round. Howland saw to it that she had been entered into the list, and submitted the names of the Knights she wished to challenge. And all that was left was getting dressed and delivering northern justice for her friend.

 She dressed in a pair of breeches, and a plain white tunic, grabbed her boots, and a black cloak, and threw it about her shoulders. Howland pulled the hood over her head to cover her features. “Stick with me,” he whispered. And she did.

 They moved along in complete silence, aside from Howland, who was humming a low tune. She had no idea why, but he seemed to be deep in concentration, so she remained as quiet as possible and stuck closely to Howland as they moved beneath the shadows of the tents, toward the tourney grounds, and the Castle proper.

 Just when they were approaching the castle Howland turned to her, a knowing smile on his face. “Today is a big day for you, Lyanna.”

  What does he know?

 “Aside from presenting yourself to him as a true winters queen, the stars and the planets are beginning to align. Have you decided yet?” He asked her in his cryptic way.

 She nodded “Aye, I think I have. Last night, he came to play me a song.” Howland smiled knowingly...

  Lyanna had fallen asleep the previous evening thinking about the prince. The melody of her song playing in her mind. In her dreams she made the move already, when she crossed the distance between them, she’d knelt down before him and took the harp from his grasp. Before he could say anything, Lyanna leaned into him, and pressed her lips against his.

 It hadn’t been the first time she’d dreamt of him. Only the first time that she could hear his voice, and see his face.

 His hands found her face, and he pulled her back once more, tangling his fingers into her hair. His lips met hers in a searing kiss. He taste of cinnamon and smoke, and he smelled of brimstone and ash, but not unpleasantly so.

  In fact, his scent coupled with the taste of him was quite intoxicating to her. But before she could encourage him further he pulled away from her.

 “What was that for?” He sounded breathless, and Lyanna could not help but to admit to herself how much she loved the way she affected her ‘dream prince.’

 “Do I need a reason?” She teased. “You played me a song, and it deserves a reward.” She smiled suggestively.

 “A reward?” He asked confused.

 She nodded her confirmation. “Indeed, a reward.” She murmured to him, almost breathlessly.

 “I do hope, in the future you will only accept mine own songs, for I dread the fate of another bard, should you be so generous in your payments.” Her prince teased.

 “‘Tis only a dream at any rate. I can kiss whomever I please in my dreams.” Her prince frowned at her, but she continued on, “it just so happens that it pleases me to kiss you.” She finished haughtily.

  Dream Rhaegar seemed confused at this. “What do you mean “‘tis a dream?” I am here, am I not? Arthur and Oswell are here as well.”

 Lyanna could not help but smile. “Are they? I hadn’t noticed.” She challenged him. “Perhaps it might be best if you forgot about all that for the time being.” She pushed him back so that he lay flat against the ground, and began to climb up his torso, so that her legs straddled his hips.

 “You spend so much time with them, I should think that right now you’d like to spend some time with me.” She husked, knowing in reality she would have never dared behave so boldly. But she was dreaming, and she knew that in the morning, only she would know the truth of her innermost desires.

 She leaned into him bringing his hands to her thighs, helping him to make the first move, and so he did, sliding the fabric of her nightdress up until it pooled around her waist. She claimed his mouth once more.

 This time, however, her prince deepened the kiss, teasing her lips apart with his own, then sliding his tongue into her mouth. Lyanna moaned her approval, meeting his tongue with her own.

 Slowly, Rhaegar began to knead at the flesh of her hips, pulling her forward, and then pushing her back again. She could feel the length of him stiffening beneath her, and it excited her beyond measure.

 She followed his lead, pressing her core into his hard length, causing a moan to escape her lips, at the same time her name left his mouth in a breathy rush.

 “Lyanna—,” he choked out. “Oh Gods, what are you doing to me?” His voice was laced heavily with want and need.

  For me… he wants me, he needs me… The thought came unbidden, and it thrilled her in ways she could not describe.

 “I do nothing you do not want, and I do nothing I do not yearn for myself.” She confessed to her ‘dream prince’.

 Whatever she said, must have been enough to convince her prince of her sincerity, because he lost whatever semblance of self restraint she had fabricated for him. One moment she was straddling him, the next, she was beneath him, pinned to the ground under his weight.

 His mouth came down upon hers once more, his hands began to roam up her body, and she found herself arching into him. Everywhere his hands touched, flames remained behind to lick at her flesh, only to be replaced by the cooling burn of his lips.

 Lyanna grabbed for the hem of his shirt, she wanted to see him, to touch his skin too, to taste his flesh. He must have realized what her intent was, because he stopped in his worship of her, and removed his shirt. She took a moment to really appraise him, before pulling him back to her.

 He was gorgeous, a true adonis. All hard lines, and pale skin as soft as silk, his hair was the color of snow, kissed by ice, her hands moved on their own. First to his cheek, where she took the time to memorize the look in his eyes, then down, to trace the contour of his collarbone. He shivered from her touch, and that made her smile.

 “Something amuses you?” He questioned.

 “Not at all, I only noticed that my touch upon your skin has the same effect as your touch on my own.” This made him smile too.

 She sat up, so that her face was mere inches from his, and she fisted her hands into his hair, pulling him to her. Kissing him as hard, pulling his bottom lip between her teeth, she bit down, not hard, but not soft either.  And then he was upon her once more, lifting her so that he sat beneath her on his knees, one arm wrapped around her waist, anchoring her to him, the other was exploring her body, her thighs, then the curve of her ass, up her ribcage, she shivered… when he got to her breasts she could do naught but push into his hand, moaning as his fingers found her nipple and teased it into a hard peak.

His mouth seeking the reward of his ministrations. . .

  “Lya—, Lyanna? Are you even listening to anything I’m saying?” Lyanna found herself roused from her thoughts by Howland.

 Somehow she had zoned out of her conversation with Howland and had no idea when she’d arrived at the oak tree in the Godswood. Clearing her mind of all thoughts of her dream prince she focused her gaze on her guide.

 “I’m ready.”

 


The Silver Prince


 

  The second day of the games went on long into the afternoon, Rhaegar found himself itching to leave. Lyanna hadn’t shown today, and he found it difficult to stay seated, knowing she was in her tent alone.

 He’d had the strangest dream once he’d returned to his tent the previous night, one that felt more real than any he’d had before. When he woke this morning he had to take himself in hand, otherwise he too would be confined to his tent still—, He was broken from his thoughts by his father.

 “Where’s that wolf bitch?” The king questioned. Suspicion plain in his tone.

 “Elia said the Lady was feeling unwell today, and had remained back at camp, under watch.” He couldn’t tell his father what Lyanna’s note had actually claimed, but surely the king could put it together on his own.

 “You’ll check about it yourself, do you hear me? I will not have the word of would be traitors, and I won’t have someone trying to make off with the bitch!” The king commanded.

  Someone is planning to make off with her though…

  Rhaegar knew that the command itself was less to do with irritation or paranoia and mostly to do with being in control of things, so he accepted his father's orders.

 “As you command, I will go now if it please you.” It made no sense to delay, in truth, he wanted to know how she fared as well.  

 He made to stand, and he was sure his father was about to excuse him when suddenly, a mystery knight was called to appear in the lists, and Rhaegar saw his father freeze.

 “Nay, you’ll stay. You will check on the bitch later. Who is this Mystery Knight?” His father enquired of him.

 “In truth, Your Grace, I do not know. Ser Barristan has entered under his own pseudonym.” Rhaegar scanned the boxes to see who was missing, but just as his search started, his mark began to tingle.

 The herald called the first match. “The Mystery Knight has challenged the knights of House Frey, House Haigh, and House Blount.”

 At this, Rhaegar’s eyes snapped up, searching for this mystery challenger. Something wasn’t quite right. He looked first to his right, where he saw the Porcupine Knight line up, and dawn his helm.  Then he searched left.

 Sure enough down on the other side of the yard, the Mystery Knight sat upon his mount. His armor was ill-fitting, and mismatched, but that is not what drew his focus. The Mystery Knight’s shield was made entirely of Weirwood, and the device painted upon it was that of a bone white Weirwood on a black field, with a laughing red smile.

 Rhaegar felt the corners of his mouth curl upward. It was happening… he looked up into the sky… blue, nothing; he sat forward in his seat.

 Across from his box the Starks sat. The three boys were all in attendance, the Crannogman though, was missing. Rhaegar looked back toward the Mystery Knight.

 Short of stature, but the mount is a chestnut brown palfrey… not Winter. Rhaegar was confused. He was almost positive that the Knight was Lyanna, but the horse was wrong, and the guide is missing.

 Perhaps the Knight is the Guide?

  Then the match was opened, and both challengers set off at a brisk pace. The porcupine Knight rode well enough, he had proved that the previous day against one of Oswells nephews, but he had nothing on today’s challenger.

 The Mystery Knight moved like the wind belonged to him, and soon he had gained on his opponent, allowing him to move his lance into position before the porcupine Knight could react. The Mystery Knights lance struck true, and before anyone knew it, the Porcupine Knight was lifted from his saddle and flung into the dirt.

 The crowd erupted in cheers, which did not surprise Rhaegar. In truth, the common and highborn alike love when a Mystery Knight appears. This time would be no different.

 It was a few moments before the porcupine Knight found his footing and was escorted from the yard. But once it was clear, the second challenger was called. This time it was the knight of House Haigh, to enter from the right of the royal box.

 If Rhaegar had been in doubt of the Mystery Knights identity before, he had no doubt now. It was indeed his intended down on the field. Seeking justice, fighting her own battles rather than seeking a champion.

 The pitchfork knight managed to last three rounds against his lady, before being unhorsed in the fourth round. And after his victory the people began chanting “Knight of the Laughing Tree.”

 Rhaegar smiled to himself, knowing that he and possibly Lyanna were the only two who knew what was actually happening. Beside him, his father continued to grumble.

 When the herald called the third and final match, Rhaegar sat back in his chair. House Frey was a proud House, and this Knight was no different. It was no surprise that he had given more of a challenge to the Mystery Knight. They had both broken lances, Lyanna two and the Knight of House Frey broke one after the third pass, but miraculously she held on to her mount, though Rhaegar was sure that the hit would leave a bruise. On the seventh pass, Lyanna’s lance finally found its mark and the knight of Two-Towers found himself lying in the mud.

 It took everything in him to refrain from rushing onto the field to check on her. He could not chastise her though, he understood the reason for such subterfuge but he’d be lying to himself if he said it did not bother him to see her put herself in danger.

 The three defeated knights came forward, before the Royal box to ransom their armor and mounts, the Mystery Knight already waiting. But when she spoke, it was not with Lyanna’s voice. The voice was loud and booming, and clearly not natural, but it was not hers.

 “Teach your squires honor, and that shall be payment enough!” The Mystery Knight commanded. And when the knights had properly chastised their squires his Lady Knight returned their belongings and then exited the field.

 The King said nothing, though Rhaegar could see the barely concealed rage simmering just beneath the surface of his eyes.

  This will not be good…

  “Rhaegar, go find out about that slut, I want to know where she is, and I want to know where our cousin is.” His father had a point, Rhaegar hadn’t seen Robert since last evening, come to think of it, he hadn’t seen Cersei either.

 Rhaegar turned to his father, and bowed his head. “As Your Grace commands, I shall come to you as soon as I leave the girl.” He acquiesced. The king simply nodded and called for Ser Gerold and Ser Barristan to escort him back to his chambers, where he would remain until the feast later tonight, Rhaegar suspected.


The Quiet-Wolf


 

  Ned was starting to wonder about Ben and Howland once he realize the second half was about to start, when his brother returned. “What took so long, and where is Howland?”

 Benjen rolled his eyes. “Why are you all nerves? I had to get Lyanna something to eat remember? As for Howland, he decided to stay with Lyanna to keep her company.”

 He told the lie so easily, it was obvious that it had been practiced. Ned shot Ben a side glance, and watched as his little brother paled and shrunk back in his seat.

 It was as he’d thought. Benjen was hiding something, but before he could dig deeper, the herald announced the opening to the second half of the joust.  A Mystery Knight was also announced, and as soon as he made his way to the end of the yard, the crowd went deathly quiet. No doubt trying to figure out his identity.

  He wasn’t sure, but if his memory serves, the last knight to enter as a Mystery challenger was Simon Toyne the leader of the Kingswood Brotherhood. Who had a grudge against House Targaryen and meant to do harm to the prince, but was unhorsed when he finally faced off against him. Following his defeat at Storms End, the Kingswood Brotherhood managed to cross paths with Princess Elia and her honor guard when she was in transit to King's Landing to be married to the prince.

 Something about this did not sit well with Ned, he just wasn’t sure what. That is, he had no idea, until the Mystery Knight’s challengers were announced. Once he heard, his accusing eyes shot to Benjen who was currently, purposefully ignoring him.

 It was probably for the best. Any reaction on his part could end in disaster for his sister. And he was sure—, oh he was sure that the Mystery Knight was Lyanna.

 Down at the end of the yard, sat a Knight, short in stature, clad in mismatched armor. His, (or her in this case), horse was a chestnut palfrey, and his shield, solid Weirwood. The device painted on it was a Weirwood standing out against a black field with a huge laughing red smile.

 It took everything Ned had to keep from bursting forth from their box to drag his sister back to camp.

 How stupid could she be? A Weirwood?! All anyone would have to do to find answers would be to poke around the northern camp long enough to see who had been missing, and who matches the Mystery Knights description .

 Oh Gods! If I can tell that it’s Lyanna, there’s no doubt the prince knows as well.

 He glanced toward the royal box, and sure enough the prince sat in his seat, going over the motions just as he’d been. Only the prince had been sitting straight at attention, a smile playing on his lips.

  How can he smile about this?

  Ned wanted to hide his head in his hands. No matter what happened here today, he was sure it wouldn’t end good. Instead, he placed his hand in Ashara’s and squeezed. She looked at him and squeezed back.

 “Ned, is everything alright? Ashara asked. He couldn’t lie to her, and he couldn’t say the truth aloud: so instead he promised to tell her after the tourney. Seeming to accept this, Ashara smiled and together, they sat back and watched the Mystery Knight as she unhorsed first Ser Porcupine, then Ser Pitchfork.

 Finally, in her most trying challenge she managed to unseat Ser Two-towers, after seven passes, but taking a hit on the forth pass. Miraculously she managed to stay in her seat and she recovered quickly and finished him in their last round.

 When the time came to ransom their belongings, the Mystery Knight demanded that they teach their squires honor and that should suffice. Once she was satisfied, true to her word, she returned their belongings, and left the field. In her wake, the crowd cheered loudly for the Knight if the Laughing Tree.

 Everyone aside from him, all Ned could do was wonder about what it would mean if the King were ever to find out Lyanna was the Mystery Knight.

 He turned his attention back to his lady. “Would you care to take a walk with me?”

 “Absolutely.” She answered without a second thought.

 He then turned to Benjen, who hadn’t said a thing. “You will go with Brandon back to camp, and when I get back, we are going to talk about all this, hmm?” To the pups credit, he’d already known what awaited him, so he just nodded his agreement and went to stand beside Brandon. He turned back to his lady and offered her his arm, leading her from the tourney grounds.

 


The Silver Prince


 

 Once he was sure that his father had gone, Rhaegar made for the castle grounds. Not quite knowing where he was going, he decided to let his mark guide him, Arthur and Oswell, his ever not-so-silent shadows.

  It was only a few moments before Rhaegar knew where they were heading. Stopping, he turned to his knights, “Oswell, I need you to do me a favor. Go to the stables and get Smoke and Winter, Lyanna’s mare. Bring them back here to the godswood . Arthur, with me, but only as far as the tree line.”

 Arthur simply cocked a brow at him. Rhaegar knew the look of his friends silent question, and let out an exasperated sigh. “Do I really have to explain everything to you? Would it not be more simple to just trust me?” Again another cocked brow from Arthur.

 Perhaps Arthur was right. The request sounded ridiculous the moment it passed through his lips. “Don’t answer that, just—, Hells just trust me.”

 Arthur rolled his eyes for dramatic effect, “As you command, Your Grace.” Oswell too, accepted his task, and soon they split off each going in the direction of their missions.

 As Arthur and Rhaegar made their way through the Godswood, he kept his ears tuned into his surroundings. Hoping for any indication of where Lyanna may have gone, but he heard nothing.

 As they neared the treeline, Rhaegar turned to Arthur, but his friend simply nodded in understanding of his orders, knowing he was to progress no further. He returned the gesture in thanks, and then began his journey onward.

 Not before long, Rhaegar had broke through the trees, just opposite of the Weirwood that was the life of this ancient grove of trees, but to his disappointment, Lyanna wasn’t there.

  Well, she wasn’t by the Weirwood, but she was definitely there, within the wood. The question was where? Rhaegar began testing the link, attempting to see what all this thing could do, but as it turned out, it wasn’t much more than an increase or decrease in sensation, and he could only assume it was because they hadn’t formally sealed their link.

 However, before he gave up, and was about to call for her, help came from the most unlikely of places; a crow. He was just about to yell her name, when the thing came swooping down from the branches of the Weirwood, almost colliding with his head. Rhaegar had hardly a moment to jump out of the way before the bird leveled out and croaked “Queen” before flying deeper into the trees.

 Rather than question it, he followed. The tingling in his wrist growing stronger and stronger as he went. Until he found himself approaching a stream that ran naturally through the godswood. It was here that he’d found her.

 Resting, just inside the stream, dressed only in her shift, Lyanna sat on the edge of the water, cleansing the injury Rhaegar knew she’d sustained in her last match.

Her hair was down, around her shoulders, her back to him. He cleared his throat to announce his presence.

 “I was wondering how long it would take you to come for me.” She called before he could say a thing.

 He braced himself, caught off guard by her words. “So you planned this then?” Not quite sure if it was incredulity he was feeling or whether he was flattered by her admission.

 “Of course not, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware of you knowing that I was the Mystery Knight. I should think you knew the moment I rode into the yard,” she confessed. Though she made no move to turn and face him as she spoke. Not that it would have done any good, Rhaegar was completely paralyzed. He swallowed, trying to think of what to say, but was quickly disarmed once again as she stood from the water and turned toward him. Images passing through his mind of the dream from the night previous.

 He knew he was done for the moment her eyes locked with his. Surely she knew the effect she had on him, for the smirk on her face was nothing short of wicked.

 “Lyanna—,” he turned away from her. Remembering his actions from this morning, and feeling ashamed once more for desiring her so. “Perhaps you should dress,” Gods knew he didn’t want her to, but he couldn’t bare to look at her in such a state. Her shift had been drenched, clinging to her skin greedily, the darkness of her hair in contrast to her milky skin, free and wild, the very definition of her character, the pink buds of her nipples hard, and visible just under the fabric of her shift. Her cheeks were flushed, no doubt from the exertion of the joust, and Rhaegar wished that he had been the one to make her flush that way. She had a wild look of determination about her.

 “Does it not please you to look upon me?” She almost sounded hurt, but he could not bare to turn and face her.

 He clenched his jaw, clearly frustrated by her question.

  How does she not see what she is doing to me?

 “Are you truly so cruel that you would tempt me so mercilessly, and then mock me for being respectful of your wishes?” The words flew from his mouth before he could stop them, and they did not end there.

 “I want you Lyanna, Gods how I want you! But you told me you were not ready, and I’m doing my very best to restrain myself. Every fiber of my being is urging me to make the move, to claim you now, whether you agree or not. Is that what you want from me? To do to you what Robert would have done, had you tested his resolve in such a way?”

  How does she not see how difficult this has been?

 “Mock you? I do not mock you, My Prince,” his title hardly audible coming from her lips.

 “No? Then tell me Lyanna, how is it I should respond right now? You are mine as I am yours, yet you forbid me to claim you. You tell me to wait, and so I am. And now you have the nerve to accuse me of not desiring you?” He turned this time, forgetting his resolve to not look at her, only to find that Lyanna was mere inches from him. He need only close the distance.

 “So you do want me?” Lyanna asked him in an almost inaudible whisper.

 “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anyone or anything as much as I desire you, Lyanna.” He clenched his jaw once more, his eyes roaming over her flesh involuntarily.

 “And it isn’t the mark that makes you feel this way?” Her voice low, her eyes pleading.

 Rhaegar had to think a moment, “I suppose that I don’t know the correct way to answer this question. If I say that it has nothing to do with the mark, would you take me at my word if I offered no explanation?”

 Lyanna thought a moment before replying. “I suppose I would question it if you didn’t explain.”

 He nodded, “I thought as much,” he said.

 Her face fell, she must have thought he had meant to say no more on the subject.

 He chuckled before he went on, “So I suppose I should find a way to articulate my thoughts on the matter.”

 Lyanna smiled, “Well, you should hurry up then because I’m wet, and I'd very much like to hear your answer.” She commanded him.

 Never a dull moment indeed…

 He untied his cloak and handed it over. “Please, if you insist on standing there next to naked, at least put my cloak on so that you don’t actually end up sick.”she sighed, taking his cloak, and wrapping it about her shoulders.

 Satisfied that she was now covered, Rhaegar thought about his reply. He wasn’t sure that his answer would earn him any favor with Lyanna, but he had to hope that honesty would please her more than flattery.

 “I can’t say that the mark has no effect on the way I feel for you, because the mark has everything to do with it. The morning that I awoke to my mark. I had dreamt of eyes the color of Valyrian steel rimmed by silver—, your eyes. I dreamt of a fierce she-wolf, and then I met one—, you. I watched a girl, fend off three squires from attacking a boy whom she hardly knew, with nothing to gain save the friendship of a boy, and the scorn of her kingdom, yet I only saw this because my mark told me you were nearby.”

  “I’ve gotten to know you through my dreams. Dreams made possible, because of these marks. And I hope this isn’t too much, but I believe I’ve also seen the faces of our future children through these marks.” Her eyes went wide at this, but he was not finished.

  “I met a girl the other night, kissed by moonlight, who opened my eyes up to theological truths that I’d never considered before, I met a girl who does not sit by and allow social injustices to go unanswered for. I met a girl who doesn’t conform to gender norms, but instead chooses to fight back against them.”

 “In truth, I think I envy you. I certainly admire you, you are the epitome of what a knight should be. A defender of the weak, protector of the innocent. You stood up to my cousin, who was easily double your size, but never once did you cower before him. And just a bit ago, you rode before the King as a Mystery Knight, knowing, had you been unhorsed, it could have caused problems for you, and for your family. Yet you did it anyway, I suspect, because it was the right thing to do.”

 “All of these reasons, only speak to your character, and, of that, Lyanna, I would change nothing.”

 She smiled then, but he was not finished. “Of your nature, you are wild, and fearless, but also steadfast, willful, and determined; loyal and I daresay deadly. People will follow you for all of those reasons but you also appear to be compassionate, and for that people will love you,” he paused, here was the hard part, for this was entirely new to him.

 “I desire you Lyanna, God's do I desire you.” He raked his hand through his silver platinum locks. “I’d never felt desire before I laid eyes on you.” He confessed finally.

  “I never desired Elia, and I only bedded her twice out of duty.” He paused, hoping that his admission did not ruin the moment. But she said nothing, so he took it as a positive sign and continued.

 “I do not feel the need to bed you for duty, Lyanna. I desire you, because I desire to please you. To care for you, mind body and spirit. I want to worship you, to hold you close to me, to inhale your scent, and taste your skin.” His eyes were searching hers, traveling down her frame. Regretting for a small moment having given her his cloak.

 He continued his litany, “Your full lips are a trap, your milky white skin calls to me, your hair, my fingers yearn to run through your dark tresses; and none of this Lyanna, has anything to do with the mark.” It was true. He could feel his heart hammering in his chest, and he was certain he was on the verge of going mad.

 “I heard a rumor,” Lyanna responded at last, looking contrite as she spoke.

 “You heard a rumor?” Not sure where this was going, or where it had come from, Rhaegar chose to indulge her.

 “Aye, I heard a rumor that there would be something happening tonight. Though, I’m not sure how to explain it. Would you care to join me to witness it?” She asked.

 Curious, Rhaegar couldn’t help but to accept. “I would join you for absolutely no reason, you need only tell me where you should like to meet with me and I would be there.” He smiled reassuringly to her.

 “My tent should suffice, after the feast. I shall be there awaiting your arrival.” Lyanna stated.

 Confused, he arched a brow at her, “Will you not be at the feast then?”

 “Nay, I was sick today, remember?” She teased.

  Of course she won’t be at the feast.

  “Then I only wish I could join you sooner.” He confessed. And then suddenly he remembered his father, and he knew he could not avoid telling her about last night any longer.

  “Lyanna, I have some things that I need to speak with you about. . . Regarding my father.”

 Lyanna seemed skeptical at first, but then she nodded for him to continue. “Last night, my father overheard Arthur and I talking about Robert and you, and he revealed that he had known about your perspective betrothal. He said he was aware of the implications and that the match did not please him.” Lyanna’s eyes went wide with shock.

 Rhaegar had a feeling she was about to overreact, so he made to ease her suffering by pushing forward. “Please, be calm, ‘tis not all bad. I revealed to him that your Lord Father has placed the match on an indefinite hold, and the king at once decided to forbid it. Do you understand? By royal decree, Robert can not claim you.” Clear relief washed over her face, but he could see she knew he was not finished.

 “But?” She asked.

 “But there was another stipulation,” he sighed, knowing that this part would have the biggest impact on her. “The King wanted to call you to court to, “keep an eye on you,” he saw her about to protest so he hurried on.

 “But, I refused to leave you to his mercy, so I proposed that you come to Dragonstone to serve as one of Elia’s “Ladies,” Lyanna scrunched her face up at the idea.

 “I’m sure Princess Elia would not want me as one of her Ladies. I’m hardly a proper Lady as it is, and I have no intentions to change who I am to please other people.” she blurted out, clearly thinking that this was a choice and not a command from the King.

 “Relax Lyanna, you would not serve Elia. Technically as my wife you would outrank her, and if you would rather my knights attend you rather than your own Ladies…” he teased, imagining Arthur and Oswell at Lyanna’s beck-and-call. “In truth, you will be the one in need of your own Ladies, but this was just a suggestion I presented to the King once he mentioned summoning you to King's Landing, which is in no way, a safe place for you.” He could see her understanding, though she said nothing. “I think the king will be announcing this within the next few days, and I did not wish for you to be thrown off guard by this news.”

 Rhaegar watched her face, as she worked through all that she’d just heard. He wouldn’t blame her if she sent him away. He’d single handedly managed to rearrange her life in a matter of days. And technically, he had no right too. They weren’t a secure link, not yet.

 When she finally spoke, to his shock, she did not sound angry. “Will I have to go to Dragonstone directly from here? Or will I at least be able to see my home again before you take me?”

 She wasn’t mad, she was scared, he realized. His heart broke. How could he expect this of her? How could he ease this pain that she would inevitably feel once the time came for her to be Queen, and remain in King's Landing indefinitely? He started to reach for her then, but quickly remembered why he couldn’t, so he let his arm drop back to his side.

 Lyanna’s eyes were fixed on his movements, but she made no indication of her intent to avoid contact as she had the previous day, and Rhaegar felt a small bubble of hope spring to life in his chest.

  What is she waiting for?

 “I do not intend to take you from your father and brothers. Not right away.” He confessed. “The truth is, I need to speak with your father, and I have been in the process of arranging this meeting.”

  He sighed, remembering that it's easier to catch flies using honey rather than vinegar. He would need to ask her permission and her opinion rather than order her about and make decisions for her.

 “I was hoping to travel to Winterfell immediately following the tourney, but I need to see Elia and Rhaenys back to Dragonstone. I do not wish to leave my daughter in the clutches of my father for any length of time.” Lyanna nodded her understanding, but he hadn’t finished yet. “I do not wish to be parted from you Lyanna, not even for a few weeks. So this is my dilemma; now that the king has called for you, or will call for you to serve, he won’t be on board with you returning north without an escort. And I will not tolerate any of my father's men alone in your company. It is my hope that both you and your brother Ned would accompany myself and my party back to Dragonstone, and from there we can sail straight to White Harbor…” he didn’t fail to notice how hopeful his tone sounded to him.

 “But you promise we will sail right away? You swear you will take me to my father?” Lyanna asked him beseechingly.

 “I do, I would not lie to you, not if I can help it, this I swear.” And he would do everything in his power to remain transparent with her.

 Lyanna seemed to believe his words, because the next words to fall from her lips were as unexpected as they were welcome. “I accept your terms, and—, I accept you.” She reached out, closing the distance between them, and took his hand into her own, and for just a moment, Rhaegar was sure time itself had stopped. There was no noise to be heard, no birds chirping, even the stream went still. All that was left was Lyanna, standing before him, her hand firmly grasping his own, and then he was swallowed by visions.

  The Gods Eye lay before him, the thief high in the sky. Lyanna’s lips were pressed against his own. Three babes, two silver, like him, one Dark like Lyanna. A Weirwood, old, silent, and brooding before a still pool. Direwolves roaming the lands south of the Wall, Dragons flying over the land. A battle being fought on the Trident, his mother, the Queen holding a little girl. Blue eyed corpses fighting against the armies of the living. Harrenhal, not this Harrenhal, but a different one. Rebuilt, and bustling with activity… two gates, one covered in Ice, the other wreathed in Fire—,

  When Rhaegar at last regained consciousness, he found Lyanna still there, holding onto his hand.

“Did you see that too?” He asked her, nervous that he was going mad, unsure if what just happened was a symptom of the bond or a dragon dream.

  Their marks!

 Quickly, Rhaegar’s eyes shot to their combined hands, and then back up to Lyanna’s eyes. When they met, indigo on steel-grey and silver, he found she was smiling.

 “I did see that. Would you like to talk about it?” She asked, though Rhaegar was pretty sure she was teasing him over his reaction.

 Truthfully, he had wanted to talk about it, but not right now. Right now there was something more important he needed to do before anything else happened.

 Gathering his courage, he pulled her to him, taking her face between his palms. “I’d like to kiss you.” He confessed.

 She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth before she responded, which caused Rhaegar’s blood to boil. “So what are you waiting for? Or do I have to be the one to make all the first moves in this relationship?” She challenged.

 He did not wait for her to change her mind, before his lips came crashing down upon hers, pulling her firmly against his chest. He kissed her as if his life depended on it, and perhaps it did. There was nothing sweet, nothing tender to it, this kiss was meant to claim, and so he claimed her. Pulling her bottom lip between his teeth, sucking gently before releasing it. Before Lyanna could reciprocate, he felt himself pulling away.

 Her eyes were glassy, her lips pouting. She was flushed in the cheeks and she had a wildness in her eyes. “Why did you stop?” She was indignant. Rhaegar chuckled, realizing that she hadn’t lied when she had said she was equally affected by her mark.

 “Lyanna,” he began, “do you think that was easy for me? I’ve never felt like this before, my baser instincts have never taken center stage, up until this moment. Nay, I cannot allow that, not yet. This mark, makes us One, but I would swear myself to you first regardless.”

 And then realization of what he’d just said, hit him because he grabbed her hand once more, and turned it to reveal her mark. Where once there had been a singular blue Direwolf, now there was a silver dragon intertwined at the neck with her wolf. A perfect balance of Ice and Fire, as their temperatures mixed and danced over the surface of her skin.

 Balance… he ran his thumb across her mark.

 “It’s beautiful…” he finally managed to breathe out.

 “It is indeed,” Lyanna agreed.

 He wasn’t sure how long they had been standing there watching their union play out on their flesh, but eventually he became alerted to footsteps approaching.

 “Lyanna, I think you should get dressed. There’s someone coming, I’m going to see who it is.” She nodded once, and he turned in the direction of the disturbance.

 Once he was within the canopy of the trees, he called out. “Who comes? Announce yourself.”

 “Be easy, My Prince,” a familiar voice called back, ‘tis only I, Oswell, and the Lady Lyanna’s companion Lord Howland.”

 “Hold your position, we will come to you both in but a moment's time.” He called back to them. Turning back toward the stream. He found Lyanna lacing her breeches.

 “Lord Howland approaches with Ser Oswell.” He informed her, knowing they were soon to part ways. “The King believes you to be sick, and has instructed me to see to your wellbeing, would you care to let me escort you back to camp?”

 She didn’t look like she was quite ready to return, but she nodded her ascent anyway. “I suppose it cannot be helped.” She tugged again at her bottom lip, hesitating. “Only, do you have to leave so soon after you bring me back? It’s going to be a long night for me.” She pouted.

 He almost laughed. “Ah, my willful Lyanna, one day you will learn, every choice has a cost and a reward or punishment, depending on perception of course. On the one hand. The reward for you will be; no dresses, no pretending with the other Lords and Ladies, and no Robert to stalk you through the Great Hall. While I suppose the punishment for your mummery could be whatever you choose to apply it to. Personally, I would love to be unable to attend the feast, I’d most likely use the time to read,” he mused aloud.

 Lyanna snorted, “I already did that, I could introduce you to my friend Septon Barth if you change your mind.” She teased.

 Rhaegar couldn’t believe what she’d just said. As nonchalant as could be. Had she no idea what she just said?

 “Lyanna, you can't mean, The Septon Barth, ‘Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: The Unnatural History.’ It’s impossible!”

 Obviously this had no effect on Lyanna, because she simply laughed. “Calm yourself, it’s just an old book I found in the library at home.”

 He could not relax, he wanted to go back to Lyanna’s tent with her and shut them both away until he was done pouring over the pages.

 “Lyanna, two things.” He waited, and she nodded. “First, do not let anyone near that book, especially another maester. Secondly, if this book you have is a complete copy, it is one of few, if not the only, whole copy in the Seven Kingdoms, if not the entire known world. Do you understand? Baelor ordered the books be destroyed while he was King. No one has had a complete copy in centuries.”

 Lyanna snorted, “I should love to see your face should any other hidden treasures be found in the library in Winterfell in that case. I suspect we have a great many tomes the citadel would love to get their hands on in Winterfell.”

 Rhaegar’s head began to swim at the mere implications of what could be hiding in her ancestral home. It made him wonder what else could be hiding in Dragonstone...

 Once she had donned her cloak and passed his back to him, she linked her hand in his, and his chest swelled. She felt perfect to him. When she touched him, the piece of him he’d always felt missing was suddenly whole. As if he’d been waiting for her specifically his entire life.

 “We should do something about your armor,” he suggested. “I do hope this was a one time thing? At least in this tourney…,” he prodded.

 Lyanna blushed, “Aye, I've no plans to face Brandon on the morrow, or you, I daresay.”

 He grinned, “My Lady, ‘tis not I that you should fear, Ser Arthur and Ser Barristan are yet to take the field. I’ve yet to unhorse Barristan the Bold.” It was true, but he had a surprise in store for the old knight. He had a task to complete before he could make this official.

 “Well then, My Prince, I wish you good fortune in the matches to come.” She said in her most solemn tone. Trying to keep the smirk off her face.

 They stepped into the woods, walking toward where Rhaegar had left Oswell and Howland, and it wasn’t long before they saw their figures standing beside Smoke and Winter. Once they were in earshot, he called to his knight. “Oswell, could you and Lord Howland see that the Lady Lyanna’s belongings are properly discarded before we vacate the woods?”

 “At once, My Prince,” Oswell replied, glancing toward Howland who was standing beside the Chestnut palfrey Lyanna had ridden in the joust.

The Crannogman smiled back and gestured for Oswell to follow. “It would be a pleasure to assist, I know just the place.” He replied as they went.

 Once they were gone, Rhaegar turned back to Lyanna. “I will try to leave the feast as soon as I can, perhaps Elia can create a distraction,”his mind was working overtime to compensate for the time they would be spending apart. “Would you consider taking up a temporary room within the castle? You don’t have to use it, but you could if you wanted to… both Elia and Ashara have chambers within the Keep, I could request to have you placed close to them. It would certainly please my father, and he may not be inclined to press matters if you show some willingness to comply.” The look on her face was sour. And he understood that the language he’d used was less than savory, so he tried again.

 “Lyanna, I do not mean that you will just lay down to do the King's bidding. What I mean is that we should both appear to be doing so...

 Please remember that everything I do, everything we will do, will be for the benefit of us, and our families, as well as the betterment of the realm. But for now, everything we do has to appear to be at the king's command. I hope you understand. My father has his sycophants everywhere, and until I can put everything in place, no one in the realm is safe. Not even me, his son.” He hated the idea of scaring her away, but the alternative would be to allow her to be ignorant to the danger his father poses. No one should be exposed to his father and be ill prepared.

 “Rhaegar, please relax. I’m aware of your father's reputation, and regardless of my willful nature, I am a daughter of the North. My father would hardly tolerate any insolence on my part in private, let alone before the realm. Even though I may not conform to gender norms, does not mean I do not understand the place of women in society, as much as the idea disgusts me.” She sighed. “Besides, it’s not as if you have to worry on this tonight, so can you please just tell me something that will make me smile before I am forced to leave you to the monsters?” She joked.

 Something that will make you smile? Hmm— Well, I may have dreamt of you last night,” he could feel the heat rising up his cheeks, and his eyes fell shyly just before she could reply.

 “Oh? A dream you say. How curious, I dreamt of you as well. I’ll make a deal with you, tell me of your dream tonight, and I’ll tell you of mine,” her voice was low, but her interest was piqued, and now his was too.

 When Oswell and Howland returned, Rhaegar helped Lyanna up into her saddle, due to the hit she’d taken earlier, and just before she departed, she leaned down and kissed him deeply. An unspoken promise to wait on him. He knew it even though the words never came to confirm the meaning. He pulled away from her, and lifted her inked wrist to his lips, and kissed the cooling fire of their combined marks.

 “Until later.” He promised before turning toward Smoke. “Are you ready to return to your self imposed captivity, My Lady?” The look on her face was murderous, and he couldn’t help the laugh that escaped from him.

 “My Winter Queen, shall we be away?” He corrected. Trying to conceal his mirth. At this she turned her mare from him and called back, “I’ll race you to the exit.” And then she was in the wind.

 


The Stag-Lord


 

 What a fucking night he’d had! First Ned, then the wine and somewhere between then and now, he’d ended up with Cersei Lannister in his bed.

 He didn’t remember much. One moment he was ready to kill his inbred cunt of a cousin, the next his best friend almost took his head from his shoulders.

 Of course the details were fuzzy still, but he remembered bits and pieces. The Maester at Winterfell was playing the middleman, two girls exiting his tent, failure to show up at Lyanna’s race, and something else. Oh yes ‘Answer.’ He wants answers!

 What the Seven hell’s set him off?  

  He wasn’t sure it actually mattered anyway, Ned could never hold a grudge against him for too long.

If Ned was concerned with the amount of attention he paid Lyanna, he would do better. Starting today, and no one would have to know the truth about Cersei.

 Once he had washed and dressed, he exited his tent, making his way to the tourney grounds. Where with any luck, Lyanna would already be. He could see it now, she would be there with Ned and Brandon, and that little shit that follows Lya everywhere, and he would ask permission to join her, and Ned would see how much he wanted to try.

 He felt better already. Just being out of his pavilion made all the difference in the world. Plus, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining, omens don’t get better than this.

 He was just approaching the Godswood when he heard her voice. She was inside the grounds, but she wasn’t alone.

  No matter, surely she would be happy to talk with me. 

But just as he readied himself to walk toward the entrance, she emerged from inside on the back of her horse. The other boy that had taken to Lyanna was riding beside her on a brown palfrey, but it was not the boy she was conversing with.

 Robert took a few steps backward into the shadows, and watched. Just as she was exiting the woods, another horse and rider emerged from within. And his breath caught in his throat.

   I fucking knew that cunt was behind this!!!

 She was alone, in the woods with no one else for companionship save that dragonspawn! If Robert had his warhammer he’d cave the bastards chest in, then he would make him watch as he claimed Lyanna in front of him, so that he knew who she belonged to.

 


The She-wolf


 

 Lyanna was having a hard time believing her luck.

 She had been prepared for yelling, or even disgust after everything she had been taught about southern women, and their customs, as well as the many times she had been scolded by maester Walys for not behaving like a proper lady, she had been prepared for something more than mere indifference, but not reverence, acceptance and praise.

 He’s like a prince from one of those southern songs…

 She found herself thinking of the fierce dragon Queens who helped to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. Of Visenya, who wielded Darksister, and Rhaenyra who would have been the first Queen of Westeros in her own rights.

  When had the realm forgotten that women are just as capable of keeping the peace, and delivering justice?

 She looked at her wrist admiring her now complete mark, she couldn't help but to find it beautiful. This mark guarantees I will be the next Queen of the Seven Kingdoms one day, and from what I can tell, I will rule beside a King who won't seek to suppress my nature, but rather, he’ll nurture it.

 Her choice had been easy after that, and she did not regret making it, for she would do it again, and again.

 Looking around her tent, she tried to settle on an activity to keep her distracted until he would return, but quickly realized that her options were severely limited.

  Instead, she found herself thinking of Rhaegar’s offer to take up chambers within the castle, and in truth she had been offered chambers, as had her brothers when they had arrived, due to their status as the children of the Warden of the North, but they had politely declined them. Opting instead to set up camp with their men.

  The pack is strongest when they stick together. Her father's voice echoed in her head… and she knew that it applied to the Northmen who came with them too.

  Though this was different, she didn't have to sleep there, but it wouldn't hurt to have a room to escape to if she had a need of it. The other benefit to taking up chambers in the castle is that no one could gain access to her while she was there unless she so wished it, unlike here where anyone who the northmen deem as safe would easily be able to access her tent.

 Perhaps I shall accept…

 She found herself wondering what her father would say about all of this. She should have told him about her mark last year when it showed up, she knew that now. Though it would have done little to change the current outcome.

  But it could have went miles to stop this nonsense with Robert… a small voice whispered to her.

 What’s more, had she been honest with her father about the mark, he would have sought to find out if Robert had been her match, and would have dismissed the offer the moment it was revealed he was lacking. Even though her father still sees her as a child from time to time, he had never doubted her connection to the Gods, and he would have taken her mark and Ned’s seriously.

  Gods how stupid had she been?

 Nevertheless she was certain, keeping her father's maester in the dark was the right choice. But she should have trusted her father, she should have included her pack. The thought made her ashamed and she resolved to do better from now on.


 Settling into her cot, suddenly she felt exhausted from the excitement of the afternoon. Knowing it would be a while before anyone called on her, she decided to take a nap. Eyes already heavy, she drifted off easily enough, and while she slept she dreamt.


  She was walking through a forest that felt familiar to her, pale light filtering through the canopy. She spun around, taking in her surroundings she inhaled the air. She was home, in the Wolfswood.

 Why?

 Suddenly and almost as if in answer, she heard a wolf howl and a shiver ran down her spine. Her feet began to pull her forward on their own. She was but a witness to whatever the Old Gods were trying to show her. Another call broke through the silence, this one closer, and higher in pitch. She continued forward climbing a small hill, until she crest the ridge that opened up into a shallow valley. Below her, the land was dotted by small bodies, wolves she realized. Not wolves—, Direwolves. The dream shifted.

 Now she was walking among a great grove of ancient weirwoods, the air was thick and pulsing around her. The magic of the Old Gods was stronger here than in any other Godswood she had ever been... She was being pulled toward the center of the island where the largest weirwood she had ever seen stood in silent witness. Somehow, she knew that this tree was the World Tree Howland had spoken of.

 But why was she here?

 On cue, the roots of the tree began lifting from the earth, twining around themselves until finally they assumed the shape of an altar. Upon the altar sat a bowl and inside the bowl, were hundreds of red pods. Seeds—, she realized.

 Behind her, a disembodied voice spoke. “The land and the people need the trees if we are to survive the wars to come. Claim the seeds. Claim them through Ice. Claim them through Fire…”

 A cup made of bronze appeared in her hands, inside a thick red liquid. “Drink from the cup of Ice, drink from the cup of Fire.” She had no idea why, but she raised the cup to her lips, and tilted it upward, drinking deeply. The liquid was thick and bitter at first, but soon it changed to sweet and smoky and before she knew it, the cup was empty.

 What did I just drink? She asked aloud to no one in particular.

  “You need to see, you need to awaken, you need to embrace the Ice so that you can embrace the Fire.” A disembodied voice called to her.

 When she woke up, it was to Ned, Bran and Ashara who had all been standing around her with looks of concern etched onto their faces. “Why are you all looking at me like that?” she questioned.

 “You were tossing and turning  Lya, mumbling incessantly about Ice and Fire.” Brandon was the one to answer.

 She sat up, thinking about what she’d just seen in her dreams, and she almost thought to dismiss them as nothing, but then she remembered her promise to do better, to include her pack. So she gathered her thoughts before she began to share everything with her three pack-mates; The two of her blood, and the one the God’s chose to walk beside her and her brother. When she had finished her depiction, Brandon and Ned sat before her with looks of disbelief on their faces. Seeing this, she decided she had to say something to bring them back.

 “I do not know how much of this is happening now, or if it was in the past, or if it is something yet to come..Though if I am being honest, when I looked up into the sky it felt like it was happening in the same timeline we are in now. I think that there are direwolves south of the Wall Bran, and what’s more they seem to be gathering, but I couldn't make out why,” she confessed.

  If only I had a way to know for sure… and just like that she realized that there was someone who could confirm it, though not right away. But if anyone knew, it would be her father. There would be no possible way for that many direwolves to conceal themselves for any great length of time.


 “Brandon, do you think you can send a raven to father? Surely if there are direwolves lurking in the Wolfswood, father would have heard about it Bran.” She could feel herself getting excited at the thought of seeing a real Direwolf. Even though they were not pets, she knew that they were not there to harm them, they saw her as she had seen them, she wasn’t sure how she knew it, but she was certain.

 “Aye, I think I should. I have yet to respond to the message I received yesterday, and with the rookery open for secure communication I am sure this is something he will want to know of. Plus, we should tell him about you and Ned.” Brandon supplied.


 At that, Lyanna paled, remembering everything else she still hadn’t shared with her pack. She swallowed, preparing herself for the next bit of news she was about to lay upon her brothers. “Yeah, um Bran. About all that, there's more I need you all to know. The first thing is, I made my decision, and this afternoon I sealed my link with the prince. Before you ask, I made the decision on my own, and the prince had no idea of my intent until it was done and over. You see, I lied this morning. I was never sick.” She may as well get the whole story out of the way all at once, so she pushed on. “I was the Mystery Knight and the prince knew it from the moment I rode out onto the field.” Beside her Ned flushed.


 “I knew it was you as well,” he confessed, “At least I suspected as much.” It wasn’t really that surprising now that he mentioned it. She nodded her understanding.


 “While I was attempting to rid myself of my armor and such, the prince found me, and confessed that he was commanded by his father to see to my wellbeing due to claiming I was ill.”

 She was about to continue but the Lady Ashara spoke up then. “I can assume where this is going and I assure the both of you, what she says is true, I heard all of this from the Princess Elia this afternoon.”

 “Right,” Lyanna continued, “the King was made aware of Robert's proposal, but had remained quiet because of father's silence on the matter, but after the second feast it came to the King, to forbid the match all together. He sees treason blossoming up between the North, the Vale and the Riverlands. With your fostering in the Vale, and Brandons betrothal to Catelyn Tully, it stands to reason that if father was successful in marrying me off to Robert he would then have the backing of four out of the Seven Kingdoms. Add to the fact that Lord Tywin Lannister and the King have not been on good terms for the past few years…” she didn't finish her thought, instead she waited and watched realization draw across their faces.

 “Rhaegar believes that his father will announce his decision to forbid the match within the next few days, but there is more than one announcement he will be making. It would seem that the King also believes it in the best interest of the crown, and myself no doubt, to call me to court to serve as a Lady in waiting, essentially making me a ward to the crown. However Rhaegar managed to convince him to allow me to come to Dragonstone to serve as a Lady to Princess Elia—, and before you say anything, I won't actually be serving as her Lady. But It's also not like I have a choice in any of this. Rhaegar did say that we will go North before he makes me move South full time.”

  For once, her oldest brother sat and took in all of this information in silence, it was unsettling. When he finally spoke it was with a cold detached calm. “I won't pretend that I'm okay with you being alone in the woods with the prince,” she was about to protest but he held up a hand to silence her. “But, I trust you enough to know that he could not have gotten near you if you did not so wish it. Secondly—, while I'm proud of you for protecting our pack. This isn't the time nor the place to have this discussion, but make no mistake, we will talk about this, and you will not be pulling anymore stunts like that for the rest of the time we’re here. Am I understood?”

 It wasn’t so much a question as it was a command, and even though technically she was a princess of the realm, now that she and Rhaegar had secured their bond, she decided not to push him. Instead she simply replied, “I understand.”

 “Good, lastly, I don't know who the hell that mad fucker thinks he is but I will kill him before I allow him or anyone to take you from home before you are ready. Do you hear me? I'll start a war to keep you safe.” She stiffened at his words. She could see Brandon begin to unravel in front of her. Thankfully, before she could say anything Ned spoke up.

 “Brandon, you need to calm down. Don't you think it best to not speak such things out loud? You already heard Lyanna, she won't be in King’s Landing, she’ll be on Dragonstone, where she’ll eventually have to go at any rate. Now that the God’s have marked us, our places are beside our bonded mates.” He took Ashara’s hand as he said it, and she smiled at the gesture. It made Lyanna think of Rhaegar.

 “Brandon,” Lyanna said, calling his attention back to her. “You know why we are all really here. So we all must do our parts, and if we play them correctly, soon the king won't be old and mad. We will have a new king, and he will be my husband, but first we need to write to father. He needs to know that I will wed the Prince and Ned will wed the Lady Ashara before we return home. Now that the links are complete, it makes little sense to wait. In the eyes of the Gods, it is done, but to the realm, the ceremony will be important. Also, I think I am meant to go to the God’s Eye before I depart Harrenhal. I think I am meant to do something important at the altar made from the World Tree. I can't explain it, but just saying it feels right.” She looked to her brothers and then Ashara, hoping what she’d said had made sense to them.

 Brandon cleared his throat. “I'm not a lone wolf, and neither are you,” he replied. “We will do this together, and I will do my part. I swear.”

 She couldn't help the smile that split across her face at his words, or the loud rumble that came from her stomach at that moment. “Uh, sorry, I haven't eaten anything since midday,” she blurted out before anyone could say a thing, but no sooner had she said it, everyone burst out in a fit of laughter.”

 


The Silver Prince


 

   After seeing Lyanna back to her tent, and saying their final goodbyes, Howland offered to see him back to his camp, which Rhaegar found he was glad of. He hadn’t the opportunity to speak with the Crannogman one on one as of yet, and he wasn’t sure when next the opportunity would present itself.

  There were many things Rhaegar had wanted to ask the young Lord, but now that the opportunity was here, he hadn’t the slightest idea where to begin. Thankfully, the Crannogman took pity on him and spoke first.

 “I’ve given you many truths in the past days to consider. And I can only imagine you have questions…” he let his thoughts trail off before he continued. “You were born with a claim on your fate, do you regret having your eyes opened to destiny?”

 In truth, it was a fair question. At times he did hate knowing what was expected of him, but his destiny regarding the prophecy was no different than being groomed to be a King. Either way, his life did not belong to him. His destiny was not his own. Rhaegar had been born for the sole purpose of self sacrifice. He knew his answer.

 “If you are asking me whether I regret knowing the demand that was placed upon me from birth, and would have preferred to have grown up ignorant rather than enlightened, the answer is no and yes. Yes, because who doesn’t dream of what is denied them? And no because, what good will my ignorance serve but my own? No matter what I want, my life has never been my own. I’m the descendent of Aegon the Conqueror, and Jaehaerys the Old King. Blood of Valyria and the Dragon. My destiny was written before I was even born. I can no more change my fate than I can stop time from moving forward.”

 Howland seemed to consider his words a moment before he replied. “A wise answer, I should think. Very well, I will tell you what I know, but I must warn, destiny will find a way to play out. Regardless of our efforts to change it. We can choose a path, but that does not guarantee a different outcome. Do you understand?”

  Ironically, he thought that he did understand. “You are saying that one variable does not determine an outcome. For example, if I have a dragon dream about a particular event and the outcome is less than desirable, I can try to alter that eventuality, but there is no guarantee that my actions will have any effect on the final outcome, because they may have had little to do with the initial problem? Is that it?”

 “Indeed,” the Crannogman seemed pleased by his understanding, so he continued. “When I heard the call, it was the first time that the Gods whispered to me directly. My people have always had a sensitivity to the earth, and as the closest living descendants to the Green Men, we have a tighter bond to the Weirwoods than most of magical blood. Call us the last of the Gardner’s if you must, though if there is a relation it is indeed a much, much distant one. All the peoples of the North at one point had blood ties to the First Men who settled south of the Neck. But by the time their lines were extinguished, the blood connection was nearly non existent because it had been so diluted. However, one thing remained the same. The crown of winter roses, worn by the first Gardner King Garth the Greenhand. You see, The First Men were never a people for frivolous trinkets, and before the iron and bronze crown of the Winter King's, there was a much simpler choice, and one just as coveted. For winter roses only bloom but once a year, and are only known to grow in one place.”

 Rhaegar knew where that place was, and he also knew the reason Howland began his story where he did. The Crown of Winter Roses was the laurel he’d ordered be shipped from White Harbor. He’d chosen them because of his dream. And with winter being called recently, they were the most obvious choice. Of course he hadn’t known at the time that the Winter Rose would be a marker for his destiny. “I understand what you are saying to me.” Rhaegar admitted, hoping to move on to the next thing that was on the agenda.

 “Good, this is important, because when you crown her, so too will you seal your union before the God’s. You will know when it is time. Now, as to how I came to be your guide…”

Finally, this is something he was most interested in knowing.

 “I was summoned to the Gods Eye you see, to view the Threads and study the Tapestry of Time. As it turned out, the Three-eyed Raven has been busy at work, doing in a sense what you and I are about to do.” Rhaegar gave him a confused look. For he seriously had no idea what they were about to do.

 “We are going to study the tapestry to see the path, the catch is, you can only observe. Do you understand?” Rhaegar nodded. “Good, it is not yet time for you to participate in the weaving of the tapestry, but I will do my best to prepare you.”

 “The Three-eyed Raven as I'm sure you’ve guessed is your ancient kin, Ser Brynden Rivers. Born the natural son of Aegon the IV. Brynden had been rumored to practice the dark arts, and it was whispered that he could share the skin of a one eyed dog among other things.”

 “What do you believe?” Howland asked.

 He had not been prepared for this question, in truth he never really had an opinion of him, only what he had heard, which in truth wasn’t much. His great grandfather had sent him to the Wall after the great council of 233 AC when he had lured Aenys Blackfyre back to Westeros with the understanding that he would be granted safe passage, but later on Aenys was executed by Lord Brynden upon his arrival. His crime was the breaking of guest right, kinslaying and compromising the integrity of the crown. A crime Aegon would not see him pardoned for.

  “I know what the histories tell us, and what my Uncle Aemon shares from time to time. I know that he served as hand to two kings before being sentenced to the Wall for kinslaying. I know that he was gifted Darksister, and he is the last living person to know her whereabouts. I know that he was the last person to see Bittersteel wield Blackfyre in the Third Blackfyre Rebellion of 219 AC in which Aegor went into battle, blade in hand, and was taken off the field in chains. And I know that within the past ten years, he disappeared beyond the wall.”

 “I suppose that is as good of a place to start as any.” The Crannogman admitted to no one in particular. “From what I understand you have the bones of his story, but I shall try to fill in the blanks, and knowing what you know right now, having seen the things you’ve seen, I suspect you will walk away with a better respect for your great-great granduncle than you have at the moment.” Rhaegar only nodded his agreement.

 “You see, many of your ancestors have had the gift of sight, which you call Dragon Dreams, but as you’ve learned, the First Men boast their own magical line. And it just so happened, when the blood of the dragon mixed with the blood of the ancient Warg King's, the magic within both lines resurfaced... Like you, the Old God’s marked him. Only rather than an ink mark, they marked him to see, and to fly and to merge with them to govern the realms of men, as he had done while faithfully serving two King's. Your ancestor was marked in the colors of the nameless ones, bone white skin, blood red eyes, and silver hair. And his power to see is the greatest anyone in millennia has seen. He can see through the eyes of the trees, he can see the past, the present and the future. He has seen what happens right in front of the trees, and he can see beyond them, all the way across the narrow sea, past the Jade Gates, and even deep into the Heart of Winter.”

 Rhaegar had no idea what he should think about all of this. He had no doubt in visions, but the idea that his ancestor had this power and hadn’t prepared them better for the Great War was beyond even his understanding. But he chose not to voice his concerns until after he had heard the entire tale.

 “You see, by the time Lord Brynden was sentenced to the Wall he was four-and-forty years of age, and he had been managing his gift with no mentor his entire life.”

  “To those who have never had the gift, his accomplishments may seem lacking, but from the day that King Daeron and Lord Brynden became as close as trueborn brothers, he had dedicated his life to securing the Targaryen rule. He used his ability to skinchange in a way that would allow him to be in multiple places at once. He may have had a one-eyed dog as his first animal companion, but eventually Lord Brynden mastered his gift, and began to experiment with other familiars, eventually moving on to cats, and birds, and even Direwolves. This is the truth to his many names, this is why he was given the name sorcerer by peoples of non-magical lines. Peoples who could not understand his abilities. Much like many of your ancestors have been labeled as ‘mad’ due to their ability to see the future or the past in their dreams, and lacking the ability to interpret them.”

  Rhaegar was aware of the stigma that followed his ancestors, especially those who had made their visions public. He was also aware of the stigma that followed the people of the North when it is suspected that a special bond is shared between man and wolf, or man and beast.

Warg, Skinchanger, abomination.

  But if what Howland is suggesting is true, how different is a warg from his kin who were the blood of the Dragon, whose line had been able to bond with dragons, hatch them, and share their feelings and thoughts?

 “You are starting to see,” the Crannogman announced knowingly. The truth is, he wasn’t sure what he was seeing, but he couldn't deny the importance of the conversation. “The magic that runs through your veins is no different than the magic that runs through the veins of your ancestors. A deep ability to connect through the mind with a familiar.”

 “Only, the Valyrian Freehold is the heart of the Lands of Fire, while Westeros is the heart of the Lands of Ice. The First Men forged the bond with the creatures of their land, Mammoths, Direwolves, Shadowcats, Horses, Bears, Eagles, Boars, Ravens and so on... While the people who settled Valyria were the children of Fire, them who sought to bond with Dragons, Wyrms and Wyverns.”

  Rhaegar was beginning to understand now. “So, what you are saying, and I do believe you have said before is, once our ancestors came to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, and began allowing the faith to dictate our marriage customs we began diluting our blood with non-magical bloodlines. Which has played a part in the loss of our ability to hatch and wake dragons. However, had we continued to only intermarry with those of our House, or those of other Houses with magical bloodlines, this would not have been an issue? Regardless of whether those Houses were the blood of previous Dragonlords, or the blood of the Warg King's?”

 “Yes, and no.” Howland stated matter-of-factly. “You see, Brynden was one of many attempts at binding the bloodlines of the Warg Kings and the Dragons, which did have it's own benefit, however, for all of Brynden’s gifts, Maekar still had no luck when he placed the eggs he had into the cribs of each of his children. Nor did your Great-Grandsire have  any luck when he placed his own egg into the crib beside your uncles and aunts. Even though his wife was also the blood of the Warg King, House Blackwood wasn’t enough you see. They too had diluted their blood over the centuries, and so the gifts they were given were far and few between,” he paused.

 “Do you know the two houses in the whole of the Seven Kingdoms who covet their bloodline?”

 Rhaegar thought about it a moment, he knew that his House was definitely one of them. And after everything he had heard, and all the fuss over him and Lyanna, he could only assume he meant House Stark. He nodded his confirmation.

 “House Stark and House Targaryen. Based on our previous discussion, I believe you are about to tell me that House Stark has the highest concentration of magical blood in the whole of the Seven Kingdoms, and my family has been sleeping on it for near on three-hundred years. Am I close?”

 “Indeed.” Howland seemed very pleased with the progress of this conversation. “So, can you understand why Brynden Rivers is important to your current tale?”

 Rhaegar had to think a moment before he replied. “I would rather not draw assumptions, not when assumptions could cause more harm than good.” This answer seemed to please the young Lord.

  “You have good instincts, My Prince. There is no need to assume when you have a guide here to help along the way.” Howland took the time to gather his thoughts before he went on.

 “So, while Lord Brynden spent the majority of his youth fighting to keep House Targaryen on the iron throne, he did so, because he had insight that the rest of us did not have. He had seen the threat that is coming from beyond the Wall, he had seen the reason that Aegon the Conqueror decided to forge the Seven Kingdoms into One kingdom. He had seen the two who would bring forth Lightbringer, he saw much and more... It seems, to most folks for someone who had so much insight, it was foolish for him to take Aenys head after promising him safe passage, but it would be more likely that he did so, knowing that this choice would eventually take him North. And while he was on his way, he managed to convince your Great-Grand uncle to accompany him, leaving the throne for his little brother. Allowing for your line to sit the throne.”

 The pieces were starting to fall into place now. “So, if I understand correctly, Lord Bloodraven has been manipulating events throughout history in order to bring about a specific outcome?”

 Howland nodded his confirmation. “It was no secret that Aemon would have made a good king, but Aemon and Brynden both believed that Aegon was the best hope for the future of Westeros. He did not know that he had chosen the wrong Aegon, as has Westeros when they chose Aegon the I.

 Visions show an image, but they do not tell the tale. Of course an Aegon will eventually save the realm from darkness, or at least that is what the visions suggested, but for the past three-hundred years we have been looking for the wrong Aegon... Because at the end of the day, the accuracy of a vision is determined by the interpretation.”

 “Lord Bloodraven, knew that his path would eventually take him North beyond the Wall, and into the Lands of Always Winter. His path was meant to take him to the Singers, so that they could help him to see.”

 “Last year, before I received the Call, I believe that Lord Brynden finally saw what it was he needed to see, and that is when he sent for me. By the time I arrived at the Isle, the snow was just preparing to start falling. On my second day on the isle, I was greeted by a green man by the name of Root. He had been sent to escort me to the World Tree where I was first shown the Tapestry of Time. It was here that I first learned of the Song of Ice and Fire. The song I came here to witness.” His words sent shivers down Rhaegar’s spine. “I saw this song play out, in many different ways, but know that in every different timeline, you and Lyanna always found each other eventually. The only thing that is different about this timeline is the Marks.” He stopped a moment for Rhaegar to catch up.

 “What do you mean that the only thing that is different in this timeline is the Marks? How many timelines are there, and does that mean that this is some type of test for the gods to see play out in real time?” Rhaegar wasn’t even sure if what he had said made any sense, but he was positive that every bit of suffering he had experienced throughout his life damn sure left real scars.

 “This timeline is real, but the past is already written, once the current timeline moves past a certain point, those who are God’s Marked can no longer edit the story. The ink dries the moment the words are cast into the universe so to speak. Because of this small detail, Brynden spent his time flying forward, looking into the future, before he realized that while the past may already be written, the future is still open for interpretation.”

  “I believe that the God’s sent you these marks, so that no one can question the bond between you and Lyanna, because you and she were always meant to find one another.”

 Something the Crannogmen said was rubbing him wrong. “What are you not saying to me? What happened in the alternate timeline that the Gods thought Marking us would help?”

 “What did I tell you about destiny?”

 “It will happen whether we are actively working toward it or not. What does this have to do with anything?” he was beginning to lose his patience.

 “You already know the answer to this, Prince Rhaegar. Tell me, do you think you love Lyanna because of your mark? Do you think that you would have had three children with Elia had the marks not appeared? Do you think that Lyanna would have found happiness with Lord Robert had she not been marked? What was the reason for this match between Lyanna and Robert in the first place?” he allowed these questions to sink in a moment before he finished. “The purpose was not to give Robert a blushing bride, My Prince. The purpose was to wipe out two major Houses who still have the magic of their forefathers running through their veins. House Targaryen and House Stark wiped from the pages of history. This coup will have nothing to do with you and Lyanna in the end. It will be due to the greed of powerful men, who want to become more powerful. Your connection with Lyanna is just the excuse that they will need to light the match.”

 Rhaegar couldn't even begin to process all he had just heard. And yet he could not deny the logic in this argument. “So if everything is going to happen as it should happen, what was the point of assigning us a guide?”

 “This is a simple enough question. My expertise will always be in keeping you on the right path, but never to make that choice for you. Only to provide you with all of the information you could need to make an educated decision. And through keeping you on the path, while also keeping you informed, you will know when to expect certain situations, and how to make the best of them.”

 “For example, if you fall, that may not mean you die, it could mean that you literally fell…” The young lord looked as if he wanted to add something else, but then decided better of it.

 “So, tell me then. In this other timeline, what is the fate of Lyanna and myself?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but if they were sent a guide to make sure the story continues, he would eventually have to reveal this information. Therefore he would not feel guilty for asking.

 “Your father sends his men to take Lyanna based on suspicion of treason for her role as the Mystery Knight, you ride to save her, and a third party tells Brandon that you kidnapped her and took her away. Brandon believes that you mean to rape her and dishonor her, because of your father's reputation and the relationship you and Lyanna developed here at Harrenhal, so he rides for the Red Keep demanding for you to come out and answer for your crimes; that you come out and die.”

 Rhaegar could feel the dread form in the pit of his stomach. He didn't need to hear the rest to know what happened next. “And what happened with Lyanna and myself?”

 “After Robert slew you on the trident, Lord Tywin sacked the city and Elia and her babes were murdered, and Lyanna died from complications of childbirth. Leaving behind your trueborn son Aegon to be raised as Ned’s bastard while Robert and Cersei rule from your father's throne. House Targaryen is almost extinct save one boy, and one girl. Eventually your son will go to the Night’s Watch, never knowing that you were his father, or Lyanna his mother. Ned will lose his head taking the secret to his grave. While your son will die, murdered by his own men for trying to save the people from certain death at the hands of the Others—,”

 He couldn't take it, “Stop—, I don't want to hear any more. Tell me that not all of this has to happen?”

 “Sadly, destiny is already certain. Some of these things can be avoided. Like Brandon calling for your head for stealing Lyanna. You and she have been marked by the God’s, no man holds a stronger claim to her than you do. In fact, a good portion of the war, that was built around the lie of you kidnapping and raping Lyanna will no longer be relevant to the current timeline. You should focus more on the real threat. The lie of Lyanna’s abduction was just a way for someone else to mask their true motives. It will be these motives that will push this tragedy forward. All you can do is be prepared for when these situations present themselves.

 Rhaegar wasn’t sure what to make of all this, he wasn’t even sure what he could do about any of this. “Lord Reed, when the tourney is over, Lyanna has agreed to travel south with me to bring Rhaenys home with Elia, and then I plan to sail North with her to Winterfell. You say that you are our guide, does that mean that I can count on you to join us in the south before we go north?”

 “I have business to tend to on Dragonstone, business that involves you, so yes, I will be with you for a while yet, fear not.” The Crannogman reassured him. Strangely, the idea of him staying close did bring comfort to him.

 


 The Falling Star


 

   That night at the feast, everyone seemed to be in great spirits, the talk was all about the Mystery Knight that had entered the lists in the second half of the day, and how he only demanded that their squires be taught honor as a payment of their ransoms.

 Many Ladies were heard chatting about what they thought he looked like, and whether he would place in the matches come the morrow.

 Ashara could care less about any of that, in truth, she was more interested to hear what the King had to say on the matter, but no information was forthcoming. The King had remained locked in his chambers until it was time to come down to the feast.

 He said nothing, save a few words to the Prince every now and again, but other than that, he just sat there, scanning the room, looking for Gods knew what or whom.

 As expected, Lyanna did not attend the feast, she had been sick this afternoon, though Ashara knew that to be untrue. Lyanna hadn’t attended the feast because she had entered the lists earlier, tricking her brothers into leaving her unattended, under the false pretense of being sick. And like most of those in attendance, Ashara would have been none the wiser, save for the fact that she shared her link with Ned, and he could not keep anything from her without her knowing he was hiding something. And from the moment her three challengers were announced, Ashara had noticed the way Ned had stiffened. It was not hard to figure out after that...

 It couldn't have been long after the food had been served that someone from across the hall started calling for the Mystery Knight to reveal himself. Next thing Ashara knew, Robert was on his feet swearing to unmask the Knight of the Laughing Tree the next day in the joust. Mocking the Knight as a craven for refusing to remove his helm. And before long, Ser Richard Lonmouth was calling out the challenge too.

 She supposed that it would not have been so bad, except the King had apparently been stewing about the identity of said Knight since the matches were called earlier that afternoon. So, upon hearing the oaths of Lords Baratheon and Lonmouth, and some of the other Storm Lords and Vale Lords, the King rose from his seat on the dais, and the room went still.

 The king had been inspired by these declarations apparently, so he made one of his own. “This Knight of the Laughing Tree is no friend of mine, I will reward whomever is able to unmask him!” The King decreed, and the rest of the night was filled by proclamations and empty promises to His Grace..

 Beside the King, Prince Rhaegar looked like he was about to murder Lord Robert, and beside her, Ned’s face was frozen in a state of calm fury. Ashara wasn’t sure what she could do to help ease these tensions. But she was sure that Ned and Rhaegar needed to speak.

 As much as she wanted to sit beside her intended and comfort him, she decided she would be better suited to her normal tasks… gathering information for the prince. So she excused herself, and began to make her way around the room, stopping at Oberyn to see if he would be inclined to assist her in her reconnaissance.

 As she had suspected, Robert hadn't even been in attendance during the joust, which meant that he was trying to create a scene. Either he knew something, or he was trying to draw out information. Richard, on the other hand was harmless, and very good at sticking to the role that the Prince had assigned him before the tourney actually kicked off.

 Something was off about Robert, he was even more off putting tonight than he typically was, in her opinion.

 And just like that, Ashara found that she understood why the Lady Lyanna had not been comfortable with the potential match.

 I would have thrown myself from the Palestone Sword if I had been in her place…

 After a few turns around the room, the Prince approached her and Oberyn and asked permission to cut in. Of course Oberyn gave him a hard time about it, claiming that he already has had his share of the women who are in attendance, before offering to spice things up for him. Ashara almost burst out in a fit of laughter when she saw the Princes face go from his pale as milk complexion to that of a crimson dragon.

 “Oberyn, I’m sure if the prince were so inclined you would be the first to know.” Ashara chided.

 “Perhaps the prince needs a bit of persuasion to be more inclined…” Oberyn lifted his eyebrows suggestively toward Prince Rhaegar, but made his way across the room toward his sister Princess Elia.

  At least his intentions are in the right place.

 “My Prince,” Ashara greeted.

 “Ash,” Rhaegar said her name the way a brother would. “I wanted to check in with you, see how things are going.”

 She arched a brow at him. “Oh really? Now you want to be my big brother again? Where were you ten months ago when I got my mark, and you decided to tell everyone on Dragonstone but me?” She hadn’t planned on unloading on him like that, but the truth was, it hurt her to think that he didn’t trust her enough to tell her. They could have figured things out together… but she wasn’t really cross at him. She just wanted to punish him a bit.

 “You have every right to be upset, but Ash, might I remind you that you could have shared your mark too? Regardless of whether or not you knew what it was, one day you had no mark, and the next day you did, surely that would have warranted a conversation with someone?” He pushed back.

  He has a point… but I’ll be damned if I give him the satisfaction of an easy win.

  “So what do I truly owe the honor of this dance to?” She asked.

 Rhaegar hesitated a moment before he answered. “I’m going to the northern camp tonight after I leave here. Apparently there’s something happening and I told Lyanna I would come to witness it. Lord Reed claims it's important. Which I can only assume would include you and Ned as well.”

 She could see the hope show through his features. Such a rare sight for him. And just like that she knew she couldn’t deny him. “Very well, Ned and I will join you when you depart. Is there anything else?”

 “You are annoying sometimes.” He teased her.

Ashara just rolled her eyes, knowing that there weren't many times that she would be able to behave so freely with him.

 “And, I’ve asked Lyanna to come south with us before we go north to Winterfell, this way I can see Elia and Rhaenys back to Dragonstone safely. I was hoping that you planned to return with us.”

  In truth, she hadn’t even stopped to consider all the implications of her mark, or what that would mean for Ned, or where they would live.  She would go wherever he went, of that much she was sure.

 “I don’t honestly know what my plans are, I suppose this is something Ned and I need to figure out. This mark, means that I go where he goes from now on.”

 “That is all that matters. I plan to ask Ned to accompany his sister as well. In truth Ash, the four of us are special, the God’s have marked us for a purpose. And everything in me is saying that we need to stay close to one another. That there is safety in sticking together.” He didn’t need to say any more. She had felt it too.

 “Then for now, until we know more, we will stick together.” She gave him a reassuring smile.

“Now, when do we leave to see this thing?”

 “As soon as the King retires for the evening. Also, I was thinking, with this whole unmasking debacle... it may be best if Lyanna sits with Elia and you in the royal box tomorrow. Close by my father, that way he has no reason to question her whereabouts.”

 “Consider it done. I think you’re right. And I hear Robert plans to attend the joust tomorrow. It would probably be best to keep her away from where he has access to her. Though, have you not heard about the fall out between Ned and Robert last night?”

  How had she managed to forget telling the prince?

   Rhaegar simply shook his head, “I saw them speaking as Lyanna was leaving the hall, and then I saw Ned walk away, but I have no clue the context of the conversation.”

 And so, Ashara spent the rest of her dance telling Rhaegar about how Cersei and Robert left the hall arm and arm, but only after Cersei had drank one too many cups of wine following her discussion with Rhaegar as he was leaving.

 


The Silver Prince


 

   After his conversation with the Crannogman, Rhaegar only stopped at his tent long enough to change and tend to a few small business matters before making his way to the castle to escort his father to the feast.

 As expected he had been in his chambers the entire time, apparently awaiting on Rhaegar to arrive, because as soon as he’d shown up, Ser Gerold had ushered him in with all haste.

 His father was pacing within his chambers when he came into sight. “Where have you been, boy?” The king demanded.

 “I beg your forgiveness, Your Grace, but I went to check about the Stark girl as you commanded. Afterward, I went to change before coming straight to you.” It wasn’t a lie, only, he found said girl in the Godswood rather than her tent.

 “And?” The king asked, annoyance plain in his tone.

 “And, she was indeed unwell,” he cleared his throat, “female weakness,” he shamefully confessed. Though he knew this to be untrue, he said the lie easily enough, as it was also the same lie she gave to Elia. His father acted as if he’d said nothing, so Rhaegar continued… “I offered to have chambers prepared within the castle for her, since she will soon be coming to Dragonstone.”

 “Though, she’s given no cause to suspect herself or her brothers. I told her she could use it at her leisure for the time being, but for now she was free to remain in camp with her brothers, at least until the tournament is over. At which time her care will be surrendered to the crown.” He knew that this news should Please his father, even if that wasn’t quite the way the conversation went down.

 “Very good, yes. She should have a room prepared inside the castle, and as long as her brothers remember their places she can remain between both locations. But I want an eye on her movements when she is not in the castle.” He could tell his father wasn’t done speaking, so he bowed his head as if accepting a command.

 “I’m impressed Rhaegar, I was certain that you would find a way to disobey me on this, but it seems like you are starting to understand what it means to rule over the sheep. You can only rule from a position of power, and power comes from fear.” Green flashed behind the king's eyes.

  You’re wrong father, power comes from where people believe it does…

 Rather than give voice to his thoughts, he nodded again in understanding. “I will not forget, My King.” His father seemed pleased by his response, so Rhaegar got down to the real reason he had come.

 “Would you care to go to the feast?” He asked, and didn’t miss his father grimace.

 “Yes, yes. Let us go. I won’t be there long however. I do not trust these people. That Knight from today means us harm.” The King ranted, as they made their way to the Great Hall.

 “As you say, My King.” This interest in the Mystery knight worried Rhaegar. He’d hoped that by now he would have let this go, but now it would seem he would have his work cut out for him in the coming days.

 “Tywin is behind this, I know it. It had to have been that little brat who dressed up today. He defied me, and didn’t ride for King's Landing as I ordered him!” The Kings triade was epic, and Rhaegar knew he had to find a way to talk his father down. It would not do to have Ser Jaime killed for doing what was commanded of him, just so he could save Lyanna’s skin.

 “Your Grace, if I may. The boy was much too small to be Ser Jaime; and that boy rode far better than Ser Jaime. Perhaps you can send word to Lord Varys?” He hoped this suggestion would passify his father's temper. Also knowing that this is a dangerous game he’d been playing at. Because, in all likelihood Varys could find out the truth quite easily.

  Yet another person I’ll need to win to my cause… and this time, he dreaded the idea of conversing with the Spider.

  His loyalty is fluid at best, there is no way I’ll ever be able to trust that Varys isn’t selling my secrets to the most attractive ruler to suit his agenda.

  Unbidden, he found himself wishing for his great great great grand uncle Brynden for the first time in his life. What he wouldn’t give for a Master Of Whisperers with his uncles talents. Luckily however, his father seemed to accept his suggestion about contacting the Spider, and they made the rest of the journey in silence.

 People were still arriving as they entered the hall and made their way to the High Bench. Elia and Ashara were already there awaiting them, along with Arthur and Oswell.

 Everyone in the Hall stopped and bowed to the King and Prince as they passed them by, and once the king got to his seat and sat, so too did the rest of the Hall.

 Robert showed up, as had the Lady Cersei and Lyanna’s brothers. The only person he noticed was absent was Lyanna, and he couldn’t help but to miss her. Even though the rational part of him knew it had only been a few hours since the last time he’d seen her.

So far the feast was a relaxed affair, the conversations in the room were pleasant enough, and there had been no drunken proclamations thus far. Furthermore, even though his father was clearly on edge, he’d chosen to attend in silence. This way he could observe everyone around him. Rhaegar should have known that the calm was only a mere prelude to the storm.

 He snorted to himself. The storm indeed…

  “I say that whomever has to enter a tourney as a Mystery Knight is a craven. I bet I could have unhorsed him!” Robert proclaimed, loud enough for the entire hall to hear.

 Behind him, Richard Lonmouth piped in with his own vows to unmask the Mystery Knight.

  Idiots… there will be no more Mystery Knight.

 But it was too late. The spark had been lit because suddenly the vow to unmask the knight took root. Most of the Lords in attendance were hooting and hollering back and forth, and although Rhaegar found it all rather annoying, he could have endured it. Only the king was apparently moved by Robert's words, because one moment he was sitting in silence, and the next he was on his feet making a proclamation of his own.

 “This Mystery Knight is no friend of mine.” He screamed to the gathered masses, promising lands and titles and huge rewards to whomever was unable to unmask him on the morrow.

  It was in this moment that Rhaegar was certain; one day he would bring fire and blood to Robert Baratheon, because now that Robert started this little game between the two of them, there would be no way his father would put this to bed. Not until he had someone tied to a pyre, lit by wildfire.

 And suddenly, he wondered if this had been Robert's plan all along...

 


The Quiet-Wolf


 

  “Where are we going Ash?” She had been leading him for the past few minutes through the grounds with his eyes closed under pain of death.

 “You will see, were almost there.” She pulled him along at a steady pace. The only thing he knew was that The Prince and Lyanna would also be there.

 There was a clear bounce in her step, giving away how excited she was. “Can you give me a clue at least?”

 Anything would do at this point, the suspense was killing him.

 It wasn’t long before Ashara slowed her progress and then stopped completely. “We’re here. But keep your eyes closed.”

 Ned could hear voices nearby, and the shuffle of feet, and then water lapping at the shore, and Ned thought for a moment that he knew exactly where they were.

“Okay you can all open your eyes now,” it wasn’t Ashara to speak, it was Howland. He glanced around his surroundings, they were standing on a flat wooden surface, sitting just inside the water, that had been made to float across the lake.

 “Everyone get comfortable,” Howland commanded, and so they listened.

 Lyanna and Rhaegar sat side by side, Ashara and himself doing the same, while Howland used the pole he had fashioned to push them off from the shore. Once they were a good distance away Howland began his tale of the Free Folk behind the Wall, and their customs for choosing a mate. The same tale he told Lyanna the night previous. Only less like a lesson and more like a story. When he was almost finished, he told them all to look up into the sky.

 And there, just above the Gods Eye, was a glowing crimson planet. And just off to the side, the constellation known to most as the Moonmaid.

 If Ned was being honest, it was stunning to see, and he’d never even heard the lore before. But after Howland finished his tale, Ned found that he did not hate the wildlings the way that most northmen did. In fact he found that he was more sympathetic to their cause.

 Ashara had fallen asleep with her head in his lap by the time they made it back to shore. When they finally stepped from the raft, Benjen and Bran were there waiting on them with a few horses to transport everyone back to camp. There was much to think on, but Ned found that his eyes were drawn back to the Thief and the Moonmaid.

  It’s about time that the north starts to remember where we came from.

  Somewhere between the Gods Eye and their camp, Ned made the decision to write home to his father and tell him everything. When the tourney was over, he would take Lyanna south with the Prince and Ashara, and then they would all sail home. No matter what the outcome was, one thing was certain for Ned. His time as Jon Arryn’s ward and Robert's foster brother were at a close. Winter is Coming, and the North needed Men not Boys.

 Ashara and Ned rode back to the camp beside his sister and the prince, having left Howland back at the lake with Brandon and Ben.

 After the last couple of days, Ned had much to think on. Of one thing he knew with certainty; he was more than ready for this tournament to be done and over with.

 The problem was, it was only the end of the second day. It would be a little over a sennight before they departed toward King's Landing and at least a moons-turn from then before they would set foot on northern soil.

  The only silver lining in this is Ashara… my mate.

  “Would you have waited to seal our link had you known more about it when we met?” He couldn’t help but to ask.

 Ashara looked to him, and then to the Prince and Lyanna before she spoke. “Do you think waiting really mattered to either of them?”

 “That’s not an answer…” Ned chuckled.

  What was with the women in his life? Answering questions with questions, Lyanna was the exact same.

 “Sure it is. Isn’t it obvious? She wanted to wait because she felt like her choices were being taken from her, but in the end, she chose him anyway, because there was no choice to make in all reality.” Ashara explained, as if theirs was the most natural situation to consider.

 “Ned, the God’s fashioned all of us for one another. You are the mirror to my soul, just as the prince mirrors hers. Do you understand what I’m trying to say to you?”

 He did, but he wanted to hear her say it all the same.

 “I think so, but will you explain anyway?” She rolled her eyes but obliged all the same.

 “Very well. You see, Lyanna is outgoing, untamed, uninhibited, she is of the wind. From whence you will never know where she comes or where she goes. Rhaegar is shy, quiet, reserved, constrained. If Lyanna and Rhaegar are a balance it is for these reasons. She will breathe air into him, stoke his fire, but also help him to contain the inferno lest it burn uncontrollably. You see, fire consumes, but ice preserves. Both were always meant to dance side by side.”

 Ned had an idea of what she was trying to tell him, but he loved to listen to her speak. So rather than interrupt he just nodded his understanding. His efforts were rewarded when she continued anew.

 “There is not much of a difference between you and I. Look at your mark Ned. Before our connection you were the lonely quiet wolf. Don’t think I haven’t heard them refer to you as such.” Ashara admonished. “But when you took my hand, and our marks merged, your wolf gained the moon and the stars as it’s constant companions. Tell me Ned, to where do wolves howl?”

 A slow smile spread across his face. “Wolves howl to the moon.”

 “Exactly, my darling Ned. My Quiet wolf has found his voice, and I swear, I will never let you go unheard. You will never be alone.” Ashara vowed.

 “And I vow to you, to always tell you what I am thinking, and never shut you out. I vow that I shall guard your side, and defend our pack always.” And he would. He wasn’t sure what part he and Ashara would play in the future. Or why the Gods chose to mark he and Ashara alongside his sister and Prince Rhaegar, but he was certain that no matter what, he would have fallen for Ashara regardless. She was perfect for him, and he was determined to be worthy of her.

 They spoke more on the way back to camp, but once they arrived, they said their goodbyes and parted ways. Ashara, along  with Lyanna and Prince Rhaegar went back to the castle where Lyanna had chambers prepared for her at the princes request. Apparently Lyanna decided to accept the princes offer, thinking it best to be there to prepare for the games on the morrow, and her arrival with the royal party would go far to ingratiate her toward the king. Ned couldn't pretend to understand her reasoning on the matter. Surely the king cared as much for her compliance as he did for pardoning innocent citizens.

 Now that he was finally back in his tent however, his day finally caught up with him and he found that his cot was calling his name and he yearned for a proper rest.

 Unfortunately it was not to be so.

 No sooner had he removed his cloak, boots, and doublet did Robert appear in the entrance to his tent. “Ned,” Robert held his hands up in surrender. “I just came to talk.” He explained, but Ned had no interest in talking until Robert provided the answers he’d demanded of him the night before.

 “You can speak, but do us both a favor and stay on topic. As I’ve already given you the subject matter that most interests me.” He knew that it was expected of him to smooth things over with Robert, but it would do nobody any good for him to show weakness toward Robert in a matter such as this.

 “Aye, you said that you want answers, and honestly Ned, I’m having a hard time understanding where all of this is coming from. It’s not as if you’ve been unaware of my intent to wed your sister. Of course I’ve been sending ravens back and forth between myself and the maester. But I assure you I always assumed that your lord father dictated the replies to my inquiries.” Robert explained, and against his better judgment, Ned felt himself relax a bit.

 If what Robert was saying is true, he could understand the confusion and that would mean maester Walys had a lot to answer for. But it still didn’t explain what maester Walys stood to gain from encouraging a match between Robert and Lyanna—, this door is not shut.

  “And as to the rest? Your bastards, your whores, your inability to think of anyone save yourself?” He asked without remorse.

 “Ned, you know me,” Robert answered as it that should excuse everything.

   It didn’t.

 Ned arched an eyebrow in Robert's direction, hoping it conveyed his annoyance.

  It must have.

 “I’m not saying that my behavior over the last few days has been acceptable, but I thought that if I distracted myself, I would be better equipped to be in Lyanna’s company.” Robert shrugged, clearly uncomfortable in having to confess this aloud. “You know, so I wouldn’t do anything to dishonor her.”

  What? Does he not hear himself?

  “So let me get this straight… you dishonored her by neglecting her, to dishonor her by bedding two strange women the very night you met her for the first time, all in an attempt to not dishonor her?” Ned was incredulous. “You have a backward sense of honor Robert. You could have made things easier by simply getting to know her. Instead you told her about what you want, what you expect, as if her wants meant nothing to you. And after all that, you pushed your will on her, and got handsy with her anyway.” He kept his voice low as he spoke. “And to add insult to the offense, you took two women to bed.”

 Robert visibly paled. It was clear now that he’d hoped to sway Ned with his words and their familiarity, but Ned wanted none of it. Sure, mending the rift in their friendship was important to him, but this thing with Lyanna would need to end. And simply staying quiet on the matter only seemed to encourage Robert to pursue his intentions… no more.

  Finally, Robert spoke. “I can see what you’re saying and I’ve been a fool Ned, but I will do better. You’ll see, I will win your sisters heart, and I will make sure to speak with Lord Rickard myself. Even if that means I’ll have to ride for Winterfell myself, I’ll do it, you’ll see—,”

  Poor fool, he just won’t let this go…

 “Robert, stop. This thing with Lyanna is done. Have you heard nothing I’ve said to you? Even if you changed right now, you have already dishonored her before every lord and lady of the realm, along with their sons and daughters. Not to mention you presume too much before you had a written contract in hand. . . And my Lord Father has made no progress toward a match in favor of you and Lyanna.” Ned sighed. “You are most welcome to ride for Winterfell to speak with my father on the matter. In fact I hope that you do.”

 He didn’t miss the hopeful look in Robert's eyes at Ned’s last words. No doubt he believes me still in support of a match between him and Lyanna. Let him assume, it matters not. So long as my father is the one to deliver the final word.

 Of one thing he was sure of when it came to Robert and what he desires. Robert would never accept the King's decree to block his union to Lyanna. Robert's tolerance of the King and the Royal family was tenuous even in the best of circumstances, which this was not.

 Robert had held a grudge against the house of Dragons ever since he watched his parents and their ship smash in Shipbreaker Bay on the return voyage from Lys, where his father had been sent in search for a Valyrian bride for Rhaegar. Robert had never forgotten watching the ship sink into the water, and ever since he’d held a special sort of contempt for the Prince and the King both. Robert felt like they had taken everything from him, his mother, his father, his youth, his freedom, his options. In a lot of ways Robert and Lyanna have this in common.

  Probably why they would be awful for one another…

 “Then that is what I’ll do. As soon as the tourney is over, I’ll prepare for the journey. Say you’ll come with me? You’ve always told me how beautiful the north is, and I promised that one day we would make the trip together. What do you say?” Robert proclaimed, his smile wide, eyes hopeful. As nice as it sounded to go straight home after the tournament, he could not.

 His path took him south before it took him north again. Yet he couldn’t divulge this, not yet. Not until the king himself made the announcement. So he kept his silence and opted to tell a lie that wasn’t quite a lie instead.

 “We shall see. Brandon awaits word from our father in regards to our instructions following the tournament. Riverrun seems the most likely destination. Perhaps father would allow me to escort Ben home though…”

  And perhaps you’ll forget all about this and just go back to the Eyrie...

 


The She-wolf


 

  After they departed from the Gods Eye, Lyanna rode beside her mate.

  Her mate…

 She still hadn’t told him about the dream from earlier in the day, but she had every intention to divulge everything to him.

 Tonight, Howland introduced them all to the ‘Thief’ and the ‘Moonmaid’, and for the first time, Lyanna was shocked to find that she’d never noticed them together before. But she understood what they meant well enough by now. When the two aligned, Rhaegar and she would seal their union before the Gods. She turned to her silver prince and reached across the distance to take his hand.

 “I had another dream this evening, after you left me.” She confessed. But the look that passed over Rhaegar’s features was almost one of disappointment, and she thought it odd that he would react in such a way. “I think it was something the God’s were trying to show me.” She continued.

 At least he had the decency to change his reaction before he responded. “Please forgive my reaction, I was only confused. I thought that you meant another dream of me.”

 Realization dawned on her, they were supposed to share details of the dreams they had shared the previous night, and in truth she’d forgotten all about it with everything else that was going on.

 “I don’t understand, why would that disappoint you?” It was certainly not the reaction she would have thought would come from such an admission.

 Rhaegar blushed before replying. “It wouldn’t, I promise, I was just put out by the idea that I couldn’t share in the experience myself, ‘tis all.” He confessed in a rush.

 She thought this the cutest thing she had ever heard from the lips of a grown man, let alone a future King. So she decided not to tease him for it. Not right now at any rate.

 “Ah, I see. I confess ‘tis not that type of dream, for I doubt my subconscious mind had much to do with the outcome of what I saw in this dream…”

 And so Lyanna told Rhaegar about the wolves, and the Wolfswood, about the God's Eye, and the World Tree, about the seed-pods, and the altar and finally, she told him about the Voice.

 “Rhaegar, I believe we are made to seal our union before the altar, In order to claim the seeds. I think this has something to do with the last part. Embracing the Ice in order to embrace the Fire.” She hoped that he had some understanding of interpreting visions, but it was a while before he spoke.

 “If what you are saying is exactly as you saw it, I believe that it’s highly likely you’re correct, and while I could send a raven to my maester on Dragonstone in search of further confirmation, I think we have a better source of information right here at Harrenhal with us.”

 “Hasn’t lord Reed been a guest on the isle over the past winter?”

 Lyanna nodded, but said nothing more.

 “Have you ever had visions before? Visions where you can interact with your dreamscape?” The Prince asked.

 She thought about it. Unless she counted her dream of the prince, she didn't think she had. “I don’t believe so, but ever since the mark, I’ve had visions constantly as I’m sure you have too. I know that Ned has.”

 “Yes, I’ve had dream visions as well, but not like you’ve described. Except when I am speaking with her. Though that happens in sleeping and in waking hours.” He paused.

 “Fear not my she-wolf. I have every intention of claiming you before the gods of your people, and soon to be mine.” He smiled at her then, warm and sincere and full of promise. Her heart almost exploded at the thought of her people being his people too… “But I think you and I need to keep Howland abreast of any such dreams like this. And also, I think we can definitively rule in favor of the validity of Direwolves being south of the Wall. I saw the same thing today when we sealed our bond, or did you forget?” She had forgotten about that.

 “You’re right, I did forget about it, but I won’t forget again. I’ll be sure to write it in my vision log.”

 Rhaegar’s eyes went wide. “You’ve been recording your dreams and visions?

 “Of course I have, if the Gods are speaking, I mean to listen.” She confessed.

 “I keep one as well, we may have to combine them at some point. My ancestors have kept them as well. Daenys and Aegon the Conqueror, even Visenya—I have copies of theirs, I found them hidden on Dragonstone.”

 This caught Lyanna’s attention. Visenya was a childhood heroine of hers. What she wouldn’t give to read her written words. To get to know the warrior queen more personally. “Will you allow me to read them sometime?” She just couldn't help but asking. The worst he could do would be to say no? She’d had worse before.

 The look on her face must have been amusing, because the prince began to laugh at her, which she did not find amusing in the least. “All you have to say is no, I should think. There’s no reason to laugh at me for being curious.” She snapped without waiting for him to explain.

 Rhaegar, apparently taken aback by her reaction stilled his mount, pulling her to a halt beside him. Before he spoke, he smiled a reassuring smile. “Of course you can read them. I was thinking to transcribe them as to preserve them anyway. Maybe we could do it together… tell me, how fluent are you at High Valyrian?”

 Was he trying to make peace?

 “Lyanna, I wasn’t laughing at you, I was laughing at your excitement. I find it refreshing, and also a bit new. I suspect my reaction was much the same as yours when I first uncovered them. Only no one was there to witness it.” He explained.

 Immediately she felt foolish about her quick reaction.

The damn wolfs blood…

 They talked some more before they reached the camp. Lyanna couldn't believe how easy it was just talking with him, neither of them ever running out of things to say.

 Lyanna had decided to accept the additional accommodations within the castle. After being so far removed from everything, and everyone this evening, she’d quickly realized that had she already been in the castle, it would have been easier for her prince and she to see each other.

 She was pleased to find that Rhaegar had the foresight to request chambers be prepared for her just in case she accepted his offer. So when they arrived back at camp she made arrangements with Ned to accompany Ashara and Prince Rhaegar back to the castle for the night. A soft bed sounded like a Godsend before her day with the King on the morrow.

 Furthermore, even though they had merged their marks, Rhaegar had remained a perfect gentleman. Never presuming to touch her any more than to hold her hand, or caress her cheek. Unless she initiated more, which of course she hadn’t. Her brother may be in the same situation, but he was still her big brother.

 Just—, no.

 Unfortunately, now that they were nearing the castle, and the stables, she knew they would be parting ways soon. As he would not be able to enter her chambers alone, this late at night. Not unless they want to draw unwanted attention to one another.

 Before he could say goodnight, she turned to him. “Last night, I had a dream of you. I fell asleep with the melody of your song floating around in my mind, and the next thing I knew, I was in front of my tent. Crossing the distance to you. I knelt before you and I kissed you. Choosing you. Claiming you.” She confessed.

 “Rewarding me…” Rhaegar said in a voice so low she almost missed it.

 “What did you just say?” She had to have heard wrong.

 Rhaegar turned to face her too, and he licked his lips before he spoke. “You were rewarding me for my song.” His grin was wicked. “I dare say, you were not dreaming alone. Should I share the details on my end, or do you think your version will suffice?” He was teasing her now.

 She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks, her wanton ways exposed.

  Gods! She cursed inwardly. Do you hate me? She didn’t really expect an answer. Even the gods enjoy a laugh at my expense.

 “Well, I suppose there will be no secrets between us now.” She said sheepishly. But the prince must have sensed her shame, because he pulled her to him the moment they dismounted at the stables and he held her tight.

 “Lyanna, I had no idea we were dreaming. I thought I was still outside of your tent. I was struggling to not take advantage of you in front of my knights, until the moment you told me you were dreaming. You have nothing to feel ashamed of.” He whispered softly to her. “When I woke this morning, my body still hadn’t realized that you weren’t there. Do you understand?”

 Lyanna bit her lip and he almost lost focus again. She drove him mad every time she did that. He dipped his head and kissed her gently, sucking her lips, to get her to release her hold on her lower lip.

 “Stop that,” He husked to her in a low rough voice. “It’s distracting.”

 “When I woke today, Lyanna, my body hadn’t caught up to the reality of my situation.” He repeated, and this time he stepped in closer to her. She raised up on the tip of her toes, lacing her arms around his neck, pressing her body to his, and he smiled then.

 When her eyes went wide with realization of what he was trying to tell her. She looked down, and then up, into his eyes and he nodded his confirmation. “I had no choice but to take care of myself before I could even leave my bed. He breathed in a deep breath. “Don’t you see the effect you have on me? He asked her in a voice that was almost strained.

 She wasn’t sure how to respond. The longer she stood here in his embrace, the more sure she’d become of her influence over him. She wanted to back up and give him space, but there was another part of her that wanted to throw caution to the wind, and to wrap herself around him. To spend the night allowing him to explore her body, and explore his in return. She wanted to abandon propriety. He was hers after all.

 But there was a small voice in her head, telling her to wait. That it was not yet time to take it that far, and if she did, she would regret it. So against her better instincts, against everything within her, she pushed herself back. Placing some space between their bodies.

 “If what you say is true, then we will see each other in our dreams. If not tonight, then soon. As much as I want to act on my desire to see you, and feel you beneath my palms. I know we will regret not waiting.” She confessed. “So I shall go to bed dreaming of the feel of your lips on mine, the fire your touch licks across my flesh when your skin touches mine, and I hope you sleep well knowing. . .” She leaned into him, her lips pressed gently to his ear. She grabbed his hand and guided it to her hot center. “I’m burning for you too...” She smiled wolfishly as she stepped back again, and then she turned toward the doors, walking away in the direction of where Ashara was awaiting her.

Chapter Text

The She-wolf


 

On the day following her great win, she awoke within the castle walls from an unfortunate dreamless slumber.

 Perhaps she just couldn’t remember dreaming, but one thing is for certain she had definitely made the right decision sleeping inside the castle on the previous evening. The bedding she slept on was as soft as freshly fallen snow, and the way it hugged and supported her still sore muscles, it was as if she had fallen asleep before her head even hit the pillow.

 Having chose her dress the night before, Lyanna called for a bath and a servant to help her dress. And just as they were finished, both Ashara and Princess Elia were at her door, inviting her to break her fast with them.

 They were both stunning, with their sun kissed skin, and beautiful raven locks. Ashara in light blue and violet, Elia in orange and gold, with a delicate gold circlet adorning her brow. Lyanna couldn't help but to give herself another glance, wondering how she compared when standing beside women as beautiful as the two of them. Somehow, she found herself inadequate.

 All fears and doubts, however were cast aside the moment they entered the Great Hall and she found the indigo eyes of her silver prince appraising her approvingly. It was a small reassurance, but she found it had been all she’d needed, for when he looked upon her, it was as if everything and everyone faded away until it was just the two of them remaining… so intimate… her heart fluttered.

 The King sat beside him, long filthy matted hair, longer yellow nails, with the golden crown of Aegon the Unworthy sitting comfortably atop his wrinkled brow. She swallowed back her growing unease, and admitted to herself how little she was looking forward to spending the day in his company. She wasn’t fool enough to hope the King be amiable the entire day, especially if His Grace’s behavior the previous evening was the example of what she should expect today.

 Quietly, she sent a prayer to her Gods, asking for patience and perhaps a touch of humility, to see her through this day. As much as remaining true to her own nature was important to her, letting loose with her tongue could lose her, her life.

 And wouldn’t that be fun? Nay, I think I should like to live a bit longer.

 She squared her shoulders, gathering her wits about herself, and made for the high table, following behind Princess Elia and Ashara, greeting first the king, and then the prince.

 “You don’t appear to be sick.” The king cut at her. Lyanna’s face reddened. So much for easy greetings… she thought wryly.

 “I am much improved this morning, Your Grace. ‘Twas only a woman’s illness, tis all.” Her eyes lowering from embarrassment, knowing her words to be a lie. Though, of this subject, Lyanna knew the king wouldn’t question, and her instincts were rewarded when he waved her away, as if she were a nuisance.

 Grateful, she curtsied to the King before making her way over to sit beside her companions. After breaking their fasts, they all made their way over toward the tourney grounds, where she hoped to see her brother and Rhaegar before their matches.

 On the way over, they were joined by Ser Arthur and her brother Ned. Which was fine with her, but she couldn't help but to note that something was bothering Ned. Not wanting to call him on it, she made a mental note to ask him about it later on.

 “Fair morning, dearest brother,” Lyanna greeted. Ned met her gaze and smiled at her warmly before embracing her.

 “And to you sweetest sister.”

 “I trust all is well?” She prodded.

 “As well as can be expected, I suppose we should know more by the end of the day?” He replied, and she could hear the nerves in his tone. He was worried about her, he was worried about what would happen to her if she was discovered, and honestly she was a bit nervous too. Nevertheless he tried his best to mask his worry and instead asked an unrelated question. “What brings the three of you in this direction?” Ned enquired.

 “Well, I can’t speak for my Good-Sisters to be, but I was hoping to wish Bran and the Prince luck in their matches.” Lyanna answered truthfully, knowing that Ned probably thought her statement odd due to the fact that one of Rhaegar’s challengers was Bran.

 She reached out, and took his hand in hers, giving a reassuring squeeze. “Everything is going to work out, you will see. The prince won’t allow his father to harm me. I’m certain of this. Besides, stressing over the matter will do little to prevent it from happening. I made my choice knowing, it would be a risk if I were discovered. I must also own my fate Ned,” she smiled reassuringly. “So do us both a favor, and relax, please.”

 “Aye, I’ll do my best to remember,” he concedes before pulling her in for a warm embrace. “You be good today, hmm? No matter what, please keep your wolf blood in check around the king.” She had to resist the urge to roll her eyes at his request. But then she remembered that the king could try to provoke her while Rhaegar rode against her brother and she groaned in frustration.

 “Oh gods, your funny. ” she said aloud to no one in particular. Ned just gave her a puzzled look, so she explained. “The Mystery Knight, me, stuck with the King and—, no offense, Princess Elia and Ash while the prince faces off against our oldest brother. And all the while, I’ll be expected to act, and behave as if I’m a lady, even while the King mocks our kin.” All the apprehension that she had rid herself of in the past night came back in full force.

 “Lyanna, I know that this will be new to you, but try to have faith in our ability to see you through all of this. Most of the time, the king speaks just to hear the sound of his own voice.” Princess Elia was the one to speak this time, and even though Lyanna knew her not, when she spoke she could see the sincerity of Elia’s words reflecting back at her through her onyx eyes.

 Reluctantly, Lyanna accepted Elia’s words. And turned her attention back to her brother. “Tell Brandon, that I wish him good fortune. I’d give him my favor but I cannot. As I do not wish to see the Prince harmed, though I expect that Brandon is in for a surprise. Rhaegar has his mind set to win this entire thing.” She told Ned.

 “Aye, I do suspect that this day will be full of surprises.” He confessed as they walked along.

 Lyanna slowed her march, “Would it be okay if we stopped by Rhaegar’s tent to wish him luck in his match?” She asked her companions.

 Arthur and Elia both arched a brow at her. “Only the prince? They both asked in unison, though Lyanna could tell that they were teasing her.

 She decided to play along. “Of course not, I mean to wish Ser Oswell and Barristan luck as well.” Arthur looked positively appalled that she didn’t mention him, and Lyanna had a hard time containing her mirth.

 “Would you stop it, I already know you don’t need it. Besides, I’m sure you have all the luck you could possibly need.” She whispered conspiratorially for both Arthur and Elia to hear. Today’s matches would decide who will advance to the final two days. So Oswell Whent of the Kingsguard, Prince Rhaegar, and Brandon would all have matches. “I trust you won’t be facing the prince today Ser Arthur?” She asked in a teasing tone.

 “Nay, not today, My Lady.” Arthur confessed, causing Ned to flinch at the use of her title. She would let it slide though.

 “Well, I wish you good fortune in the matches to come, and I insist that in the future, you call me Lyanna when we are among friends and family. And just in case you have failed to notice, we are to be family, you know?” She smiled, thinking of how she was soon to be the extended family to the Sword of the Morning.

 “Indeed, you are right. I would be honored to be considered as family to you, as I have first hand knowledge of how fiercely you protect your pack.” Lyanna beamed at his praise, but he hadn’t finished. Turning his gaze toward Ned, he resumed. “However, I’ve yet to be approached by a potential suitor for my sisters hand.” He finished, and even with the humor clear in his tone, her poor brother, ever the shy one, turned three different shades of crimson.

 Luckily the Lady Ashara came to his rescue. “Arthur, stop messing with my poor quiet wolf. He doesn't have to ask you anything, and I do not need your permission to choose. Furthermore, I will castrate you, should you touch one hair on his head.” She had been teasing, and it was clear but for all her good intentions, Ned looked as if he wanted to crawl into the deepest darkest hole he could find and disappear.

  Lyanna decided it was time to interject, “If it helps you feel any differently, the marks have made normal rules of courtship rather insignificant.” she offered as a means of middle ground, hoping that this would allow Ned to find his voice. “When they were unjoined, the time between meeting and bonding would have been considered the courtship phase, but once they were merged, the entire dynamic of courtship changed with it. I suspect, that neither of them had the time to court one another, due to the fact that they merged their marks almost immediately, so things were lost in translation.”

 Her words must have helped to calm her brother, because Ned was the next to speak by the time she had finished. “Aye, things did get confusing following our initial meeting, but I assure you I am very much committed to courting your sister properly, and honoring her as any man should honor her. I have not approached you on the matter, because I've yet to speak with her about what comes next.” he finally managed to say.

 To Lyanna’s relief, Ser Arthur just smiled  and clapped Ned on the back. “Not to worry Stark, I was just giving you a hard time. Ash is my baby sister true, but make no mistake, she is perfectly capable of making her own choices. Believe it or not, you are the only person I have ever seen her this taken with. Rest easy, I mean you no harm. Even more so, I have no desire to be on the receiving end of her wrath should I run you off.” Lyanna watched as her brother’s chest swelled with pride, knowing that Ashara felt for him what he felt for her. It was then that she decided to leave them to the rest of their conversation, so she focused her attention back to Princess Elia, who was walking beside Ser Arthur in relative silence.

 “How much longer before the babe comes?”

 The princess placed a hand on her swollen womb and smiled, “The maesters say four or five moons, depending on my constitution in the last part of my pregnancy.” But to Lyanna, the princess shone as brightly as the sun, she did not appear to be as frail as the rumors claimed her to be.

 “Are you nervous?” She was honestly curious, and had never had anyone to talk about this with before. Having lost her mother quite early, only Old Nan had been left to teach her all she knew about being a woman, and her duties as such. Though childbirth was no small matter in the North, talking about the intimate details was as rare in the North as it is in the South. Now that she and Rhaegar had sealed their bond, she knew that being a mother, and birthing his heirs would be her fate, and no matter how opposed she had been to the idea of marriage and children prior to meeting him. These things had already started to change for her, the moment that he had confessed to seeing the faces of their future children. Now all she can think of is what kind of people they will be, and what they will look like. She found that she was as scared as she was excited by the prospect of it, but she was definitely not against the idea. Not the way she had been before the marks.

 “I don't mean to scare you but honestly, yes I am nervous. Not about birthing the babe, I'm nervous about what comes after. I have never been considered particularly healthy, and in terms of my disposition while birthing Rhaenys, I nearly met my end. The maesters expect that this one won't be much different, though I have to admit, this one feels different. In a good way, of course. Still, I can't help but feel nervous.” She finished.

 Of course, this information left her with more questions than answers, so she decided to ask the question that seemed the most important to her. “Please forgive my curiosity, but if your first childbirth was so difficult, why would you consent to putting yourself in that position a second time? Isn't your daughter enough?” She wanted to die the moment she had finished asking her question. Her Lord Father always told her that she shouldn’t ask a question just because she was curious… a hard lesson to learn to be sure. Shockingly enough, Elia simply gave a kind smile as the question went out into the universe, and then she looped her arm through Lyanna’s and pulled her close before she replied.

 “Because, there is no greater joy to be had than to see your reflection staring back at you through the eyes of a life you’ve created. Even if I don't live to see this babe grow, I will know that my babe was worth it, because this babe was created through love and mutual respect, and fate willed it into being. I would not be with child had the gods not chosen to bless me. I would be content with my life as it is, but Lyanna, once you become a mother, you will understand. I would gladly give my life in payment to bring this babe into the world.” she finished, looking lovingly toward her child’s father.

 She understood what Elia was saying to her, but the idea of willingly sacrificing her life, just to give life was still a strange concept to her. Knowing what not having her mother had been like she wasn’t sure she could reconcile herself or her future children to such a fate. Though with any luck, she would have some time yet before she had to focus on birthing heirs.

 They spoke for a while longer, while they progressed toward the groups of tents set up for the competitors, and once they had arrived outside Rhaegar’s tent she excused herself and went inside while the others made their way over toward Prince Oberyn who had just shown up.

 She found Rhaegar being helped into his armor, but when his eyes found hers, the smile that he gave made her knees quiver, and she found herself wondering if it was the same for him. Before he could say a word, she explained why she had come. “I came to give you my favor before your match.”

 He arched a brow at her, curious. “Oh, I hadn’t thought you would honor me. As it is your brother I face this afternoon. Would you be willing to help me to secure it?”  She knew that he was being playful. Such a contrast to the man that he normally presented to the world, and somehow she knew that this version of himself was reserved specifically for her and it made her heart swell just a bit more for this man that was now hers.

 “Sit.” She commanded, and so the prince sat.

 Lyanna made her way around the back of the chair, and she gathered his silver tresses in both hands, weaving his strands together in an intricate northern braid. When she got to the ends, she removed a ring that she had worn since the day her mother had given it to her, though it only fit her pinky finger, which is why she felt that it was perfect for this occasion. The ring itself was made in the fashion of the old crown of Winter King's; bronze intertwined with iron, rather than the sword spikes there were direwolves etched into the surface. She couldn't think of a better way to favor her prince, so she pulled a strand free and looped the ring around it, then she weaved the ends together and tied it off with the ribbon she had wrapped around her mark. Once she was done, she stood back to examine her work.

 “Perfect,” she beamed.

 Rhaegar ran his hand over the braid, until his fingers found the ring that she had cleverly woven into it, and when he found it he smiled. “Thank you.” he said. Taking her hand in his, he pulled her into his embrace. “I daresay I will be indomitable whilst your favor remains mine.”

 It was then that Lyanna realized how much she had missed seeing him in her dreams the previous night. Something she would bring up later. Now is not the time. Instead she spoke her reply, “I daresay you better be if you intend to win me. It wouldn't do for the crown prince to be outdone by a coward knight who refused to reveal his identity.” she teased, knowing all of what had been said in the Great Hall the previous evening.

 Rhaegar, had the grace to chuckle at her jest before he helped her to her feet. “You should probably head toward the royal seats, I imagine they will call an open to the tilt soon enough.” This was more to convince himself than it was for her, she could see the reluctance to let her go written all over his face.

  Mercy… she thought. Show him mercy.

 She stepped away, knowing one of them had to show restraint, and today seemed as good a day as any for her to begin practicing. “My prince is wise, and I've a very important person awaiting my company, best unhand me Ser, or I shall inform His Grace that I was detained by a lustful dragon.” Her words had the desired effect, as he was beaming at her until the moment she breezed out of his tent in search of her companions.

 When they finally got to the stands, the King was just getting to his seat. Elia and Ashara lead the way over, and the three bowed to the king, being sure to present themselves properly. Lyanna knew the moment they entered that something was off though. The tension around the king was so thick, it would have taken Valyrian steel to cut through it. The king said nothing, but Lyanna could tell that it would only be a matter of time before his situation changed, and not for the better.

 She glanced around, her brothers were seated across the way, Ned and Ben were joined by Howland. Beside them sat Robert and Jon Arryn along with some other lords of the Vale who came to support Brandon. For just a moment she thought she caught Robert glaring at her from across the yard. Something about the man just didn't feel right, and somehow she was sure that he needed to hear from her own lips that they could and would never be. He would not accept anything less, he needed to be rejected by her. For too long has he been disillusioned into believing a lie. No more. When Ned and Father speak with him, she would request to be present to speak for herself.

 She was called from her thoughts by the voice of the king. “Girl.” he barked. Though she wasn’t sure who he was speaking to, so she glanced toward Elia and Ashara for answers only to find them gesturing toward her.

  Oh gods, what could he possibly want? Standing, she approached the king.

 “Your Grace?” she questioned, remembering her courtesies.

 “Ah, there you are, sit.” the king commanded, gesturing toward the chair usually reserved for the prince. Lyanna swallowed back the lump forming in her throat.

 “Tell me, girl… is your father too busy plotting treason to attend a tourney?” The king asked, but Lyanna couldn't help but hear the panic and the madness in his voice, and while she’d never been in the direct company of a person who was losing their mind, she couldn't help but wonder more about the king's condition… Something told her that the king would only respect strength. Obeisance will only get her so far, she would have to dance around a bit.

  Very well, she thought to herself, game on…

 “I apologize your grace, I cannot claim to know of what treason you speak, my Lord Father is a dutiful servant of His Grace and chose to send us as to integrate his heir into the customs of the other six kingdoms. He hopes that this experience will help the North to improve and strengthen its relationship with the crown,” she finished with a sincere smile, bracing herself for the reply that she knew was coming.

 What she hadn’t expected however was for the king to relax into an almost casual conversation with her. “What do you wolves do in the North that Southern customs would seem so different to your father?”

  What a loaded question… she would need to choose her words carefully, speak from the heart.

 “My Lord Father raised us in what my ancestors and our people call the Old Way. I'm sure His Grace knows that we have no septas or septons in the North to help raise our children. Instead we are taught by our governesses and our maesters. Another difference is that we all take part in any task that needs doing, whether it is cleaning the stables or running the household. The weather is unforgiving, and in the heart of winter, our home is near to bursting, as our people oft times make the journey to Winterfell to seek the warmth that can be found within the castle walls. As such, my brothers and I are well acquainted with the people, high and low alike.”

 “My father invites someone different every night to dine beside him at the high table. This way he can stay abreast of any issue or complaint, whether it be a concern of the High lords or the common folk.” She paused glancing up at the king to see if he was still listening, and to her astonishment she found him listening with fascination. 


 Elia


   When the day started she had known that there would be many surprises. She had expected the King's insulting quips, his snide remarks. She’d expected to be ignored even, but she had not expected the king to behave almost normal? Could such a word even be applied to the man? Elia wasn’t sure, even still she could not tear herself away from the scene unfolding before her very eyes.

 “Tell me, girl, what do you do when you are at home with no septa to give you lessons, how do you pass your time?”

Elia glanced around, not sure of what or whom she was looking for, perhaps the real Aerys Targaryen?

  The wolf maid blushed before she gave answer, which did not go unnoticed by the king, so he pressed the question.

 “Tell the truth girl, I shall know if you tell me false. You wear your reactions clearly for the world to see.” He has a point… Was she seriously agreeing with a mad man?

 “I swear to be honest with Your Grace. Only, I do hope you will understand why I gave pause…” and Lyanna set about answering the King's question.

 “I spend a great deal of time tending to the glass gardens and the winter roses kept within them. I also tend the Weirwood in our family’s Godswood.” Elia watched Lyanna’s face light up at the mention of her family’s ancient sanctuary.  

 “My favorite place in all of Winterfell is the Godswood.” She explained.

 “What makes it so?” The King asked. But Elia felt only dread at his inquiry, knowing the link between the weirwoods and the Mystery Knight. Lyanna was playing a dangerous game.

 “Beyond the fact that the Heart Tree is nestled into the center, there are quite a few pools within the woods. Most of them remain hot, even in the dead of winter. All but for one pool actually, the pool beside the Heart Tree. That one is ice cold year round.” Lyanna confessed.

 “A castle of ice built atop fire…” the King's voice trailed off, and for a moment Aerys sounded like Rhaegar. Lyanna must have missed the comment, because she made no reply. Regardless, he seemed to understand what she was telling him, so their conversation continued on until the herald announced the first match between Rhaegar and Lyanna’s brother Brandon. After, Lyanna and the King sat in relative silence, only speaking to remark about her brothers skill, or her opinion on the match.

 “Actually, Your Grace, Brandon and I are often said to be the best riders the North has seen in generations. Often we are likened to centaurs by some of our household staff, and bannermen. So I have every confidence that Brandon won’t shame our House. However, even I can see that my brother stands no chance against the crown prince.” At this, Elia let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. The king, while he was behaving amiable enough, could snap back at any moment and could see treason in support of her brother over the prince, even if the king and Rhaegar weren’t on the best of terms, Aerys still valued the blood of the dragon over all others. However, her reply was received by the King with grace and from where she was sitting, Elia could swear that she was watching the reactions of a sane man.

 Lyanna had been right of course, her brother Brandon was quite skilled at riding, but for all the good it did him, there was something different about the prince. Rhaegar had always had a gift with the lance, though none would have ever made the mistake of dubbing him as a prodigy. But today was different, today Rhaegar rode out onto the field with more confidence and determination than she’d ever seen before. He was better attuned to his mount somehow, and his moves were calculated. In the end, Brandon managed to break two lances on the prince before Rhaegar managed to unhorse him and knock him out of the competition.

 Elia watched the reactions of the she-wolf and the King as Brandon was thrown from his horse. When the crowd let out a collective gasp the King sat forward, clearly pleased by his sons prowess, but he kept an eye on Lyanna.

 To her credit, she didn’t so much as panic, rather she simply sat there, spine ramrod straight, watching as Rhaegar dismounted and approached his opponent , and again a moment longer before he extended an arm toward a prone Brandon Stark and helped him to his feet.

 Two things happened simultaneously. The first was the loud cheers of the crowd, at seeing the good sportsmanship of the Crown Prince toward his more than worthy challenger. The other was the smile that broke across Lyanna’s face as she relaxed back in her seat. “It was as I’d expected.” She confessed without prompt, her smile never faltering.

 “You knew your brother would fall?” The King asked suspiciously.

 “Nay, Your Grace, but I knew the Prince would defeat him.” She quipped back with a wolfish smile. Her answer seemed to pass off the King's curiosity, because he said no more on the matter.

 The rest of the afternoon went on in similar fashion,  Rhaegar advanced on to the finals, while the king and the Lady Lyanna traded light banter back and forth between one another, Ashara and herself seemingly forgotten.

 The final match was Arthurs, which of course he won. Rhaegar Joined them in the box to watch the remaining matches just after his match with the heir to Winterfell. Arthur’s challenger rode well, but in the end he was unhorsed, allowing the Knight to secure his own place in the finals.

 As soon as the prince entered the seating area however, the mood changed a bit. Whatever cool serenity she had felt in his absence was now gone. Replaced by a slowly growing inferno, though she wasn’t sure if it was a result of the King's own madness, or the madness that had overcome the prince the moment he saw his father speaking so freely with Lyanna.

  This should be interesting...


The Silver Prince


  He’d been watching, of course. How couldn’t he? He hadn’t slept a wink the previous night. Too worried about what today might bring for him and for Lyanna. Leaving her in the care of Elia, Ashara and his father was one of the hardest decisions he’d ever had to make. Not knowing what she would say, or what she would do. Hoping beyond all hopes that the king would ignore her the way he tended to do with Elia, but his hopes had all been in vain.

 When Rhaegar was finally able to enter the yard, it was to the sight of Lyanna sitting beside his father in the chair that was normally reserved for himself. And even though he could not hear what they were saying to one another, it was clear that they had been having quite the conversation, which is exactly the reason he rushed back to the stands when he was finished competing.

 Conversation with his father could be a dangerous pastime, as anything said could be twisted into treason. Yet when he was finally close enough to greet them, he was shocked to discover Lyanna speaking cordially with the King.

 He looked over to Elia for an answer, which she didn’t care to provide, instead she shrugged noncommittally, leaving him to suss out the situation for himself.

 Exhaling, he made his way over toward the King and bowed. “Your Grace, it pleases me to find you enjoying the games.”

 The King looked up at him from his chair, and Rhaegar braced himself for his cutting remarks, but they never came. Instead the King smiled at him, and Rhaegar almost fell over from shock.

 What the hell is going on around here? What has she done to him?

 “ Indeed I am, it helps to have decent company for a change… unlike most of the time.” He cut his eyes across to Elia and Ashara.

  Perhaps he just doesn’t like Elia?

 “As you say.” Rhaegar agreed before turning to greet Elia, Ashara and Lyanna, keeping up appearances. Lyanna stood once his eyes settled on her, to offer his rightful chair, but Rhaegar waved her back. “If it please His Grace to keep you beside him, who am I to interrupt? I insist you stay seated,” he instead took the seat opposite the king.

 As the next match was called, Rhaegar sat in silence, listening to the voices all around him, scanning the yard to get a proper measure of the overall mood, which seemed to be relaxed and cheerful.

 To his surprise Lyanna and his father continued on in their conversation as if it were just the two of them present. Rhaegar could not recall the last time he’d witnessed his father converse so candidly with anyone, but it would appear that Lyanna had charmed the King just as easily as she had charmed him. Regardless, Rhaegar dared to not interrupt their conversation, lest he trigger an outburst from his father. Bad enough it was almost time to call the Mystery Knight to appear, and when he doesn’t show up, everything will come crashing down. No, it would be better to just allow this small reprieve from the King's insanity while it lasted.

 Oswell was currently on the field facing off against Arthur. While Oswell was skilled with lance and sword, Rhaegar was confident Arthur would be the one to advance. After all, Rhaegar had only ever managed to unseat Arthur once in the tourney held at Storm’s End, and only after breaking twelve lances after thirteen tilts. So when Oswell found himself unhorsed, no one was shocked.

 Rhaegar braced himself for the inferno he was sure was about to start raging. The king himself had also gone quiet, no doubt in anticipation of the heralds next announcement. Though when he called the end to the days games the king stood from his chair.

 “What is the meaning of this? There is yet one more challenger to appear.” He screamed aloud.

 “It would seem that he chose not to show, Your Grace.” The herald replied in a shaken tone, stating the obvious for all to hear, clearly fearing the King's wrath be focused on him.

 His father turned to him next. “You will go and find this Mystery Knight, and you will bring me his traitorous head. Do not fail me boy, or I shall see that you live long enough to regret it.” He snapped, then he rose from his seat and left everyone still sitting in stunned silence.

 Rhaegar had no idea how he was going to solve this, but he couldn’t refuse. Instead he got to his feet, and gave an apologetic smile to his beautifully brave mate, and excused himself to go on this false hunt.

 He had known exactly where to go, once he was away from the watchful eyes of his father's creatures. The one place that any evidence could be found— the Godswood. When he returned hours later with the Weirwood shield in hand, he delivered it straight to his father who had locked himself in his chambers for the duration of the night. Any traces of the man who sat beside Lyanna earlier in the day had vanished and in his place sat the Mad King once more.

 To say that his father was less than pleased with the lack of a corpse was an understatement, Rhaegar hardly managed to escape his father with his head still attached to his shoulders. Needless to say, this issue was not going to disappear any time soon. The only thing good to come from all this is the Melee and the Archery contests would be held the following days, and that would give him time to see about securing the ears of some of the other high lords in the realm.

 He needed to see Lyanna first though…

 He found her in his tent, she was sitting inside with Howland, her little brother Benjen and Ser Oswell who’d agreed to tail her when he wasn’t already assigned to the king or himself. The four of them were all in the middle of a light conversation when he pulled the tent flaps aside, revealing him to his guests.

 “The King?” Oswell inquired, but Rhaegar knew he had only asked so that Lyanna wouldn’t have too.

 He shrugged, “As expected, this situation won’t be dying down any time soon,” he paused. “Would you all mind giving Lyanna and myself the room? I have some things I need to discuss with her, alone.”  Truthfully, he only wanted to speak with her about the effect she had on his father, get her side of the story.

 One by one, they all stood and made their way from his tent, leaving the two of them alone. Once the flap closed, Lyanna was up and across the room in an instant, throwing her arms around his neck as he pulled her flush against his chest. He inhaled her scent, relaxing the moment she was within the circle of his arms. “I’ve wanted to hold you all day. Ever since I saw you in the hall this morning.” He picked her up, and carried her across the room back to the chair she had been sitting in and sat down, keeping her close.

   “Well, I’m not going anywhere right now, not for a while yet. We have time to sit for a bit.” She murmured reassuringly.

 And so they sat there, whether it had been minutes or hours, he couldn’t be sure… but he had no intention to move her before absolutely necessary.

 They spoke about her afternoon with his father, and his strange behavior toward her. About Winterfell, and Summerhall. About her childhood with Benjen and his in the library of the Red Keep. Only stopping when Oswell came back to enquire about the feast. And so it was with great reluctance that he allowed her to depart, knowing that it was only a matter of time before she was back in his presence.

  Why does this tourney have to take another Seven days to finish?


The Alpha Wolf


 Rickard paced back and forth inside his study, thinking on all that he must do. His children had been gone now for almost two moons and if the ravens he’d received were any indication, the tourney was more than half over by now. Yet he was still unsure of what to do in regards to the three ravens he’d received in the last week from his two sons and the Crowned Prince.

 He should have went to that damned tournament, but there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and if he’d kept Benjen behind, he would have never heard the end of it from Lya. For the first time since Lyarra, he wished he had taken another wife, if for nothing other than to have grown his pack.

 Thinking of Lyanna, the Lord of Winterfell released a heavy sigh. Robert would be a problem, and this issue with maester Walys was a delicate matter that needed to be handled quietly. As much as he would like to execute the man for meddling, the issue was much bigger than just Lya and Robert. He was still going through the many scrolls that were found hidden in the maesters chambers. Scrolls that established links between the maester at Casterly Rock and Grand Maester Pycelle in King’s Landing…

 It was because of this, he wasn’t prepared to send for a new maester just yet, as he wasn’t sure how invested the citadel is into the matter. For this reason, he decided that maester Walys would remain a guest in the cells until Prince Rhaegar arrived with Lyanna and Ned.

 Rickard went back to his desk and picked up the scroll he’d received from Brandon. Ink marks… By the God’s why hadn’t they said anything? This whole thing could have been avoided had he known Lya and Ned had been marked. A sudden sadness washed over him.

  When had Lyanna determined that she couldn't talk to him about such things?

  Then there is the matter of her dream and the fact that, in the past few days he had indeed received a number of reports regarding wolves in the Wolfswood. On the one hand, none reported attacks, only activity, On the other, the locations were so varied he couldn't help but to wonder at their numbers. Their presence alone warrants an investigation, though if Brandon’s missive was correct, these weren't wolves, but Direwolves. Direwolves that haven't been seen south of the wall since the time of Aegon the Conqueror and Torrhen Stark.

 He sighed once more, knowing that he had no choice in the matter. He would have to go himself. All of the information he was given, apparently came from Lyanna who had a dream and claims that they are gathering for a reason, and if that was the case a Stark must go.

 With everything considered, the ravens hadn’t been all dark, as the sayings go. Ned was coming North with a bride of his own. His second son, already wed, by the God’s own will at that.

 Did you ever think it so Lyarra? Our quiet pup, destined to share his sister’s path in life… Her opposite in almost everything. If someone would have told him this a few years ago, he would have laughed. Ned had been the most mild mannered of his children. Lyanna ran circles around them all, but it seems that the Gods had chosen Ned to temper Lyanna. God’s knew that if anyone could do it, Ned was the one.

 He supposed that the saying was true, sometimes the things that go unsaid speak the loudest, and if this didn't define his quiet pup, nothing could. He had only heard rumors of the Lady Dayne that had been chosen for his boy, and even though Rickard had never considered a match with House Dayne before, they still held the blood of the First Men in their veins and she was a more than worthy match for his son. They boast a lineage as ancient and noble as their own, with renowned warriors to boot. He found himself smiling, a rare thing to be sure, but he was happy for his son, truly.

 He made his way from his chambers and headed toward the godswood, he intended to seek out the Gods, and he wanted to speak to his Lady wife before he rode for the Wolfswood. The night air was crisp, the snow still hadn’t fully melted, and if Lyanna was correct, it likely wouldn’t. Regardless, the night was agreeable enough that his cloak was enough to keep him warm.

 When he finally cleared the trees surrounding the Weirwood, he found the moon high in the sky beaming down upon the still pool that accompanied the heart tree for the past twelve-thousand years. A light breeze ruffled the trees and somehow it felt like a greeting. He closed the distance to the tree, and bent a knee. Pulling his dagger out, he cut across his palm and pressed the wound to the roots, focusing his intentions as Lyanna and Lyarra had told him. He only meant to convey his desire to aide in whichever plans they had. More than anything, he hoped that the Gods had the answers regarding the Direwolves, and if so, that they would find no threat in him. The leaves rustled again, and a calm settled over him.

 The Gods had heard him.

 He sat there for a time, in the quiet calm of the sanctuary for a while longer before he made his way toward the Hunters Gate to meet the men that he had summoned to escort him into the Wolfswood. When they finally rode out, it was with a company of about fifty men all armed with bows and a full quiver of arrows. If they had to engage the direwolves on any level he would prefer that his men had range on their side.

 Going by the reports, he need only ride west about four leagues or so before turning north into the wood. Hopefully, they would hear them before they came upon them, so they won’t be fumbling around the woods looking for a pack of wolves.

 The men rode in relative silence for a time before the horses started to act up, shying away from the path that they were being lead down. He called for his men to halt and dismount, from here they would travel north on foot. A few torches were passed around, and Rickard took the lead.

 As they moved deeper into the woods, Rickard heard the rustle of the wind from the Godswood back home, and he turned in the direction it was coming from. Before he knew it, he was climbing a slow rise that crest a shallow valley, he could see shapes huddled together. He gestured to his men to hold back, too which many of them protested but he had made his decision and he would not risk their lives unnecessarily.

 When he turned back, the first thing he noticed was that their numbers were far greater than what was considered to be normal. The second thing that he noticed was that three of them had broken away from the pack and were approaching him in a semicircle. Rickard slowed his approach, they had seen him so there was no reason to pursue them further. As he waited for them to close the distance, he sent another silent prayer up to the Nameless ones that this was indeed his path and he wasn’t about to do something foolish that would take him too soon from his pack.

 When the trio finally were within reach Rickard took a moment to note their features. One was a pale grey with blue-grey eyes, the other almost black with hints of indigo in her fur, her eyes were silver-grey, the lead wolf was the largest of the three, and he was the one who approached him. He was a grey that matched the walls of Winterfell, and his eyes were a brilliant green. Rickard's heart was thumping in his chest, his hands shaky, but he knew that if he backed down now then all would be lost. He was a Stark of Winterfell, the Direwolf is the sigil of his House if he didn't stand his ground, he did not deserve to call himself a Stark. And the Starks have ran with Direwolves since the time of the Northern Conquest. When his eyes met the eyes of the beast before him, they were inches apart and before he knew it the wolf had pressed his snout against his chest and the rest of the wolves that were gathered lifted their heads up and let out a series of long soulful howls that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

 His sons letter had been correct, the wolves had returned...


The She-wolf


  The next days went by in a blur… On the night of the third day, the king refused to attend the feast. The following day saw Prince Rhaegar unhorse Lord Yohn Royce of Runestone which secured his place in the final matches where he would face both Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Barristan Selmy who is the reigning champion from the last tourney held in Storm’s End. On the fifth day of the joust Rhaegar was set to face Arthur and if he won, he would face Ser Barristan.

 As the nights dragged on, Lyanna spent her time with her brothers and Howland, allowing Rhaegar the time to meet with the Lords of the Great Houses, Brandon had managed to convince Lord Hoster Tully to see the Prince and Lord Jon Arryn also agreed to hear the prince  out. Though no mention of their marks was made, nor their union, best to let this news out only once her Lord Father had the chance to announce it first. What had shocked her though was how candidly Brandon spoke about their Lord Father's intent to fully support the prince in his efforts.

 Robert had been scarce, she only saw him during the fifth day of the tourney, during the great Seven-sided Melee that Robert won after unhorsing many of the challengers. That night at the feast, he approached her for a dance, and even though she wanted to deny him, she thought it was best to not instigate the Lord. No matter what he said, he could never have her especially once the King made his announcement, and his royal decree was served to Robert and her Lord Father.

 The looks she received from Rhaegar and Ned were enough to make her flush, though somehow she suspected Robert knew that his actions were being weighed by unseen eyes, and he acted the perfect gentleman, at least insofar as his hands that is. She could only roll her eyes as he whispered his hollow promises to love and cherish her into her ear.

 Of course the king hadn’t been present longer than a few moments here and there, staying only as his presence required, but choosing not to tarry a moment longer at the feasts, or in the games. In fact, the only games he had any interest in attending seemed to be the joust, and she’d suspected it was because Rhaegar had managed to secure his position alongside the most celebrated of his kingsguard. Lyanna also hadn’t had a chance to speak with the King since that first day, but she had spent a good amount of time getting to know Princess Elia and Ashara.

 She smiled thinking about the turn her life had taken in such a short time. Making friends had always been easy for her, but never highborn ladies. What she hadn’t expected though was to find in these two women kindred spirits of sorts. Elia was a kind woman, sweet and gentle. She enjoyed reading, though not nearly as much as lyanna had, admittedly. She also enjoys needlepoint, to which Lyanna was firmly against. She'd expected them to find her odd, she thought to feel the outcast, but their differences seemed to balance the trio. With any luck they would help prepare her for when she had to be Queen.

 On the final day of the joust she woke early and called for help to prepare for the day. Howland had told her to prepare herself because the following days would be a whirlwind. Little did he know, her nights had been a whirlwind too. She smiled, remembering the kisses they had shared, both alone in person, and alone in their dreams. She thought more on the way Rhaegar explored her body with his hands and mouth. Never going any further, though not for the lack of trying. At least if it was done in the dreamscape she would still remain a maiden until the day they said their vows, but her prince declined, reminding her that they had no idea what consequences could come from their connected dreams if they made this move before they were joined physically as well. He was right of course, there was something otherworldly about their dreams.

 So instead she spent her nights familiarizing herself with the feel of his lips, the touch of his hands, the contours of his body. Being sure to rid herself of any lingering maidenhood insecurities that she had felt before all of this began.

 She was dressed in a gown the color of ice, mostly silver, but with ice-blue undertones. Rhaegar had it sent to her. She wore her hair down though, so she made sure to have her hair brushed to shining. She had her ladies arrange her curls neatly down her back.

 Today she would be sitting with her family, but Elia and Ashara agreed to sit with her and her kin. The only downside to this is that Ned hadn’t been able to think up a reason for Robert to not sit with them, due to Elia and Ashara joining them as well. So on top of her preparations for the tourney, she also prepared herself for her afternoon with Robert.

 As the finishing touches were applied, Lyanna nibbled on some fruits and nuts that had been sent to her by Rhaegar so that she could break her fast. She never expected him to be so thoughtful, but each day he would go above and beyond to see her needs and wants answered.

 Shortly after her servants left, her brothers Brandon and Benjen arrived to escort her to the tourney grounds.

 “Wow Lyanna,” It was Benjen, and she could tell by the tone of his voice what he was about to say, but for some reason she didn't mind this time. So instead, she smiled as he finished his thoughts. “You look like a winter rose.”

 It was probably the kindest thing anyone could have said to her, and she didn't normally take compliments well, but to be compared to a winter rose was in her opinion the most highest of compliments to be given.

 Especially to a Northern woman.

 “Thank you for your kind words Ben, I shan't forget them. Truly, you honor me.” The look on Ben’s face was one of shock, and she supposed it had to do with her easy acceptance of his praise.

 She looped her arms through both of her brothers offered arms, and let them lead her to the tournament. When they arrived, Ned had just arrived with Ashara and Princess Elia, along with Prince Oberyn and a few others to the grounds. Once greetings were done, they all made their way to their seats, making small talk until the herald called the opening of the games, and the names of the first two challengers.

 The stands were deathly quiet as they waited for the two challengers to take to the field. The first of them to appear was the Prince, dressed in armor black as night the sigil of his House etched into the breastplate and embellished by rubies. A black and crimson cloak hung over his shoulders.

 Ser Arthur came next, armored in the gleaming armor that identified him as a member of King Aerys kingsguard. His white cloak trailing behind him. When the trumpets blasted, she watched as Rhaegar’s midnight black charger rushed toward Ser Arthur’s silver one.

 The first pass say a hit landed from each challenger, the same on the second pass as well. On the third pass, Rhaegar broke his first lance, though Arthur managed to stay atop his mount.

 And so they continued for a time, back and forth and it was clear to all the spectators that both Ser Arthur and Prince Rhaegar were evenly matched. Though Robert sat behind her, and she would randomly hear snide remarks from him about the prince. In the end they both broke a total of eight lances after a total of ten passes and finally on the eleventh round Rhaegar managed to land a sound hit on the center of Arthur’s breastplate and sent him flying into the dirt.

 The crowd erupted in a loud chorus of cheers. They love him… she realized and suddenly she didn't feel so nervous about the task that lay ahead of the prince. If the people love him like this, surely the realm will rally behind him when the time comes to take the throne.

 Across the yard the King sat, surrounded by his kingsguard. Though he gave none of his emotions away, she could see that he was pleased all the same with the performance of his son.   The moment was brief, but she was sure that she caught the King glance her way if for but just a moment. Only before she could react the trumpet blared once more calling everyone to attention once more as Ser Barristan entered the field, and the herald announced the match.


The Silver Prince


  When the trumpet sounded, Smoke took off with a single minded focus. It was as if the horse and he were of a single mind. The experience was completely new to him and somehow, he knew that the Gods had a hand in this new sense of focus he was feeling.

 As his mount came into range of Ser Barristan, everything came into sharp focus for him. His vision took on a red tint, and for just a moment, time slowed, allowing Rhaegar to land his strike with precision. They made two passes before Barristan was able to land a blow, but it made little difference to the prince, he hardly felt it.

 His body was boiling, and all he knew was that loosing was not an option… not today. On the fifth pass, they both landed hits. Barristan was just a moment away from falling from his saddle, but he recovered quickly and they were setting up for the next tilt once more.

 On the last round, Rhaegar chanced a glance toward Lyanna and he saw her give a slight nod, and it was then that he knew the match was his. Sure enough, as their mounts came back into range, Rhaegar planned to switch his hand at the last minute to throw his challenger off balance but in the end it wasn’t necessary, because behind Lyanna in the stands sat Robert Baratheon, and he was shamelessly gawking at Lyanna as she sat in front of him, completely oblivious to his wandering eyes, and just like that the world was at a stand-still. The Gods must have given strength to his arm in that moment, because when his lance connected to Ser Barristan’s chest plate, the sudden intake of breath from the crowd was all that could be heard as the Knight was unhorsed and sent flying into the dirt.

 The crowd was up on their feet in an instant cheering on their prince as he wheeled his mount around toward the King’s Royal box and bowed deeply in a show of respect. His father stood as lord Walter Whent made his way over to announce Rhaegar as their champion.

 “Lords and Ladies,” Lord Whent bellowed out loudly enough for all to hear, “I give you, your champion Rhaegar of the House Targaryen, Lord of Dragonstone, Prince of the Seven Kingdoms.”

 When he was presented with the laurel of roses, to present to the Queen of Love and Beauty his father finally spoke. “My son, you competed with skill and strength. Today you’ve demonstrated why House Targaryen stands without peer. Whom will you crown as your Queen of Love and Beauty?”

 Taking the crown into his hands, he glanced around the stands trying to not be too obvious but gave up playing games eventually deciding that he didn't care anymore. He turned his mount around and he crossed the yard, heading in the direction of Princess Elia. No doubt that is where most people thought him to be going.

 For a moment even Cersei Lannister perked up as his horse neared her box, but it was not Cersei he had eyes for. His heart beat for one woman only, and Cersei Lannister was but a wallflower in comparison to her. Lyanna owned him completely, and Gods willing this would be just the beginning of a long reign for her.

 As Smoke neared the box where the Starks were sitting, everyone quieted down, and when Rhaegar placed the laurel of winter roses in her lap, it was so still in the stadium that one could have heard a pin drop.

 “Lyanna of the House Stark, I do name you the Queen of Love and Beauty. A crown of Winter Roses to honor the Winter Rose of the North!” he proclaimed loud enough for all to hear.

 Behind Lyanna, Robert turned from a golden stag into one of crimson. Elia on the other hand, who everyone had been watching, turned to Lyanna and took the crown into her hands, then she placed the crown onto her head and then she pulled Lyanna to her feet and presented her to the realm.

 “I daresay there never was a more beautiful Queen to ever have been crowned.” She declared with utter sincerity, and at her words, the entire stadium went crazy.

 Leave it too Elia to know exactly what to do in such situations. The more he thought on it, the more happy he’d become that she had agreed not to go back to Dorne, but stay and serve in King’s Landing once he was on the throne as a member of his council.

 After a few moments, the cheering began to die down and the crowds began to disburse. The King was the first to leave, as expected. But not before sending word to meet him in the Great Hall in two hours time.

 He felt his mark begin to tingle, so he looked up toward Lyanna who was now standing to leave with her brothers, Elia and Ash, and even though he could wait until later to make his request, he decided to call out to Lyanna once more before being forced to depart her company.

 “Lady Lyanna,” he waited for her to acknowledge him.

 She turned when she heard her name and gave him a warm smile, “My Prince.” she returned teasingly.

 “It is custom for the Queen of Love and Beauty to dine at the high table, I would very much like it if you would join us tonight. I would also hope that you will reserve a dance for me.” He left the rest unsaid between them.

 Lyanna, trying not to appear too eager chose not to speak, and instead she inclined her head toward him in confirmation, and Rhaegar knew this was all he was going to get from her right now. Instead he motioned for Arthur and Barristan to follow him back to his tent so that he could change and ready himself to go meet with the King.

 It was about an hour and a half later that he found himself walking toward the castle to answer his summons to meet in the Great Hall. When he entered he found his father seated up on the dais, a cruel smile playing on his lips. When their eyes met, he gestured for Rhaegar to come and stand beside him.

 “My son, you continue to surprise me, but even more so over the past seven days. When I came here I was sure that I was going to find you plotting, and had I not come I'm sure you would have been. But that wolf girl threw your plans through a loop, I can see it all so don't deny it. It's because of this that I am convinced that you and I are more alike than you care to admit. I didn't think you had it in you to claim the Stark girl, and had I known that it would take only a wild nature to bring the dragon out of you I would have called the girl to court long ago.” Rhaegar didn't like the way that his father compared the two of them, and furthermore, his attraction to Lyanna has nothing to do with taking what belonged to someone else. It has nothing to do with laying claim to whatever he desired, but the King didn't know that, so he just remained quiet and let the King finish his speech.

 “I know that look you get when she is around. Yes, I know that look. She is your Joanna…” the King accused, and Rhaegar realized that he wanted no part of this conversation, for obvious reasons, but also because Lyanna is nothing like the late Joanna Lannister…

 “I confess, Your Grace, there is something about the girl that makes my blood boil and makes me feel alive in a way I have never felt for Elia. But I've no intention to act on those feelings.” He hated confessing this to his father, but the King had always been driven by his lust. Trying to convince the King that his son is not experiencing an emotion that he's more than familiar with would be futile.

 “Bah! You're a dragon son, be a dragon. Take what is yours with fire and blood if need be. If you want the girl, then take the girl, and if your weakling wife can't do her duty, I am sure that the Stark girl can.”

 At this Rhaegar’s eyes snapped to attention. There is no way having Lyanna could be this easy, and he almost voiced his thoughts but then he was interrupted by the sound of the herald announcing the arrival of the Lords that had been summoned. They watched in silence as the hall filled, his mind wandering back to the way his father behaved in regard to his lady.

  Not even her name seems to set him off negatively… he mused.

 Once everyone was there, the Hall quieted down to hear the herald announce the reason they all had been summoned. “His Grace, King Aerys II. of his name has summoned all of you here to reaffirm your loyalty to His Grace and to House Targaryen, and afterward he has a few announcements to make.”

  Clever… Rhaegar hadn’t expected this, but he supposed that short of threatening them to stay loyal, this should serve whatever purpose the King is aiming for.

 One by one the Lords approached and bent the knee, some being very specific in their oaths, while others still found more clever ways to get around swearing direct fealty to King Aerys himself. Robert had been the last of them to make his approach and it had not been lost on the King how poorly Robert hid his distaste for the whole thing…

 Finally, when all that had finished, the King rose from his seat and passed two scrolls toward Ser Gerold, who made his way to both Brandon Stark and then Robert.

 “My Lords, inside these scrolls you will find a final decree in regards to the pending betrothal of the Lady Lyanna of House Stark, and to Lord Robert of House Baratheon. His Grace feels that it would be in the best interest of the crown to block this match, and call the Lady Lyanna to court where she will serve as a Lady in waiting to the Princess Elia Martell, and as a ward of the Crown until a more suitable match can be made at the King’s approval.” Ser Gerold paused.

 “My Lord Brandon Stark, the King charges you with delivering word of His Grace’s decree to your Lord Father, the Warden of the North. You will also see that the Lady Lyanna will be prepared to depart for Dragonstone by the end of the tournament.”

 “Yes, Your Grace. It would be my pleasure to deliver your orders to my Lord Father, and I know that Lyanna will be pleased to serve the Princess.” His words almost felt rehearsed, but Rhaegar couldn't care. He knew now that telling them early on was for the best, and it looks like that gamble was paying off, because the King accepted his reply before Ser Gerold turned to Robert.

 “Lord Robert, His Grace feels that the Lady Lyanna was not a suitable match for the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. He feels that the Lady needs refinement, and as such His Grace would like to aide in your search for a proper bride.” The King was testing his cousin, and Robert was failing in his attempts to control his growing rage.

 “His grace has already made overtures to a few Lords whose daughters he feels would be more suitable to your tastes.” Of course, his father knew what he was doing, he was daring Robert to openly defy him, by not only taking Lyanna away from him, but also ensuring that she could never be his under any circumstances. For just a moment Rhaegar had been sure Robert would refuse, but in the end he lowered his head and accepted the King’s decree with barely concealed rage.

 When his father had finally had his fill of toying with his subjects, he dismissed them but bid his Kingsguard and Rhaegar remain behind. Once the last of them was ushered from the Hall, the king announced that he would be departing Harrenhal early the next morning and that he would see Rhaegar back in King's Landing within the fortnight.

 His head was still spinning from the days events when he made his way back to the Great Hall later that evening for the feast celebrating the crowning of the new Queen of Love and Beauty. To his immediate surprise however was Lyanna, who was seated beside his father and the two seemed like old friends, so engaged in their conversation were they.

When his father's eyes fell upon him, the King stood from his chair, silencing the room within seconds. “My Lords and Ladies, join me in welcoming your champion, and his chosen Queen of Love and Beauty in this evenings first dance. Such a beauty should not remain seated all night, don’t you agree?” Servants began moving the tables to make room for dancing.

 “Indeed she is, Your Grace, and such wise advise too. It would be an honor to join Her Grace in a dance.” He responded, bowing his head in respect to his father, then Lyanna, he extended his palm in her direction, hoping she would accept.

 He was playing a role of course, but something about his father was more lucid when she was near him, so he was being careful to not overindulge. Any sane man knows when he is being placated, and if for some reason this version of the King was sane, it would do him naught to inflame his ire any further.

 To his shock, Lyanna gave a response of her own, “It would be a pleasure to share a dance with the mighty dragon prince.” She said, coming around the table to take his arm. Before making way to the floor, they both turned back to his father and bowed once more. Yet he didn’t miss the pleased smile that was etched across his father's face.

 When the music began, the two of them were swept away by the melody of the first dance they had ever openly shared.

 “What are you doing to the king?” He asked her suspiciously.

 “I assure you, I’ve not the slightest idea as to what you refer.” She answered back honestly.

 “It’s like he’s a different person around you. It’s like he’s the version of my father before Duskendale. He wasn’t perfect, but at least back then he could be reasoned with at the very least.” He found himself confessing things that he never dreamed he’d ever talk about.

 They continued in this way until her brother Brandon was tapping on his shoulder to ask permission to dance with her Royal Highness next. Not realizing that the music had ended, he reluctantly acquiesced to his request and that was how they spent the rest of the evening.

 Once the King made his departure, Rhaegar remained for another hour or so before making his own excuses to leave for the night. Making sure to leave instructions with Oswell to send for him when Lyanna was on her way back to her tent.

 He had been back at his tent no more than half an hour when he heard the flap move aside, and warm arms enveloped his waist. He inhaled deeply, taking in her scent. Winter roses… she still has her crown on. He turned to face her. Sure enough, her crown was still atop her head, standing in sharp contrast to her dark brown wild curls that framed her face and hung loosely down her back. She had changed before coming to him, now she stood there in her night shift and cloak.

 She wasted not a moment once he stood facing her. Inching up on the balls of her feet, she reached forward and pulled his face to hers, kissing him fervently. Before he knew it, her fingers were undoing the laces of his tunic and pulling the offending fabric from his body, exposing his chest to her.

 “Lyanna, what are you doing?” He husked at her, not wanting her to stop, but too afraid to move any further.

“I’m kissing you, and I’m removing your clothing, don’t be obtuse.” She teased. Bringing her hands to the strings of her cloak, she let it slide to the floor behind her. “I want you, but in person. No dreams tonight. If we must wait, then I would know the feel of your lips on my flesh for true. On this night, you will hold me right here, do you understand?” It was not a plea, nor a question. It was a command from his Queen.

 Her next movement saw the removal of her shift, exposing her supple breasts and her toned body, her thick thighs, toned from years riding astride. The thought made his cock twitch. How he would love to have her sat atop him in that moment.

 He fell to his knees before her, pulling her to him, he pressed his face to her center. “Then I shall do everything within my power to fulfill your needs this night, and all others to come. My Queen.”

  Without hesitation she spread her legs for him, as his hand trailed up her thigh toward the juncture between her legs. Her musky scent was like torture.

 “Rhaegar,” She whined, “don’t tease me, I need you.”

 His body moved of its own volition, lifting her from her feet, he carried her across the tent, and laid her down across his bed, kissing her deeply as she thrust her hips up to grind against his already hard cock.

 His restraint was nearly gone. “Lyanna, we can’t, not yet. You know why.” His voice was pleading, she would be his undoing, perhaps he was already undone by her. It was only made worse when she began pulling at the laces of his breeches, pushing him so that she could sit astride him.

 “Rhaegar, I know that you cannot take me the way I want you to, but there are other ways, are there not? Please?” She begged, and he could almost see tears in the corners of her eyes. “Please Rhaegar, I need this from you,” she said more, but he was already gone. She had won, the moment his name passed through her lips.

 Unconsciously, his hands fell away, and Lyanna finished unlacing his breeches, to free his throbbing cock from its prison. When she was finished, he rolled her onto her back and stood, admiring her naked figure. She bit her bottom lip, and his blood began to sing. His instincts coming into sharp focus.

 “Scoot down and bend your knees.” He commanded. “I want to look upon you .” She was not shy in the least so she did as he bid her with not a moment’s hesitation. Her body was flushed, her breaths labored. Her sex was already wet the dark curls that framed her sex invited him back. He gazed toward her eyes once more, Valyrian steel, the silver almost gone completely. She is on fire… he thought to himself. Her lips were a beautiful shade of red, swollen from their kisses.

 He licked his lips. “I want to taste you Lyanna, is that okay?” He asked, his voice hardly above a whisper.

 Lost for words, Lyanna simply nodded, before Rhaegar laid his body over hers once more, kissing her long and deeply. As their bodies came together, and his hands found her breasts, his inner dragon roared its approval, lighting him up from the inside out.

 His lips found her breasts, and her hands his hair as she arched her back to offer herself to him. “Whenever I wake up, it’s never the same, Rhaegar.”she murmured to him. “When I think of the way your mouth feels against my skin, I’m left wanting.” Her words were meant to sooth him, to help remind him why she was here. They only encouraged him further.

 He brought his hand between her thighs and found her center hot and dripping wet. “Oh, oh, right there, touch me right there…” she said breathily. When his thumb found the bundle of nerves just above her entrance, her fingers dug deeply into his flesh, and he smiled.

 “Rhaegar—,” she pleaded

 “Quiet now, I’ve got you, just relax.” He murmured back. “Talk to me, Lyanna, tell me what you want me to do, how do I make it better.” He continues as he trailed kisses down her body, his lips and tongue licking at her flesh. Her hands were everywhere, on his back, in his hair, only encouraging his worship of her body. His fingers worked her nub between them, causing her to jump and moan.

 “You’re so beautiful Lyanna,” he whispered between kisses. When he finally reached her sex, he paused to look her over once more laying there sprawled out on his bed… her dark hair framing her flushed cheeks, eyes alight.

“Why did you stop?” She asked him, incredulity heavy in her tone.

 Rhaegar gave her a wicked grin. “Who said anything about stopping? I only meant to survey the state of my prey before I make my move.” His voice was low, threatening, but not in a way that meant physical harm. It didn’t make what he said any less true however. She was indeed his prey tonight. Even if he’d wanted to stop, his inner dragon was awoke and now fully in control, nothing short of devouring her would stop him.

 His eyes narrowed, locked on her own, but there was no fear, nor shyness in them, only lust, want and desire staring back at him. “Then do your worst.” She challenged, and that was all it took. He was on his knees in an instant pulling her closer to him. Before she could get in another word, he pushed her thighs open wide, and spread her pink folds apart looking at her fully for the first time. He wasted not a single moment before kissing her lips, and swiping his tongue across her nub before sucking it between his teeth.

 The moan that escaped her lips was as beautiful as any song he’d ever heard or composed. Her whole body began to shudder, and she made to clamp her legs shut, but he stilled her by placing both palms on her thighs.

 “Don’t, I got you, just try to relax,” he warned her. Indigo eyes locked on Valyrian steel. She nodded her ascent, unable to make use of intelligible words.

 As he continued to pleasure her, he brought his hand back to her sex, inserting a finger deep inside, searching for that sweet spot that would send her over the edge. Her body continued to sing for him, the tune known only to the two of them.

 “You taste so sweet, my love. Is this what you want Lyanna?” He never stopped in his task, paying special attention to the mound of nerves inside her before teasing her clit with his tongue, taking it between his teeth when she stilled. He had never truly expected her to answer, he just wanted to tell her how sweet she was.

 To his satisfaction, she could only nod her approval, so gone was she in all of the sensations she was experiencing for the first time. Though she was unable to enunciate words, she was not unable to communicate her needs, so when she twined her fingers through his hair and met the rhythm of  his tongue Rhaegar knew that she was close.

 She didn’t disappoint either. Within just a few moments more, Lyanna was gasping aloud and calling his name as her body quivered and shook. He let her ride his tongue until she was finished, drinking her sweetness greedily.

 When she finally stilled he moved from the floor to the bed, pulling her with him and dragging the furs over them. He positioned her so that her back was to him, her ass pressed against his hard length but he would worry about that later, this had been for her and he was more than content to serve her needs and her needs alone this night.

 Her body was languid, flushed and still humming from her climax and it was a while before she was able to speak. And when she finally did, he wasn't shocked by what she said first.

 “What about you?” and all he could do was chuckle, which made her turn to look at him with a raised brow.

 “I will be fine, this was for you and I am more than satisfied.” he kissed her passionately, hoping to distract her but he should have known better.

 “Nonsense, my demand was not simply for me, I want all of this. I want to see you as you find your release too, and don't tell me that it isn't possible for men.” she was not going to let him get out of this regardless of how much he assured her that he would be fine.

 Lyanna pushed him to his back and straddled his hips, sliding her hand beneath the fabric of his breeches to take hold of his cock. The coolness of her palm against him was like nothing he had ever experienced before, both igniting him from within and cooling him from without forcing him to sit up so that their chests were flush against the other.

 “Is this okay?” she asked, pulling her bottom lip through her teeth once more.

 “Every time you do that, Lyanna you drive me wild—, don't stop.” He groaned, and then he reached out to her, pulling her face to his so that he could finish what she had started.

 Lyanna rose off of him slightly, and began to use her hand to pump up and down his shaft, pausing to caress the tip from time to time. He was at her mercy, so close to finishing already and all she had done was touch him. She needed no encouragement from him though, and it was as if her hands had always known what to do. Known how to touch him, and to make him come undone.

 “I'm close, Lyanna.” he warned, but she cared not. Instead she increased her pace, taking a firmer grip as she reached the base and then brushing her thumb over his head as she pumped him again and again. When he came she smiled, clearly pleased with herself and she kissed him deeply before she raised her finger to her lips, tasting his seed.

 His eyes went wide, not even Elia had ever made such an effort, yet he couldn't deny how much it made him want to claim her right then and there. She smiled wolfishly, “Don't look so shocked, if you can taste me, why can I not do the same?”

 He laughed then, loud and long. “Will you never cease to amaze me?”

 “I shall endeavor to always bring you joy, no matter the form nor the circumstance. I will only ever strive to please you the way you please me. There is no other way for me, I will not have us defined by standards. You are mine as I am yours.” And that was that, there was naught else to say on the matter.

 “Will you stay a while?” he wasn't ready for her to leave.

 “Aye, I was hoping that you would wake me if I fell asleep here. Before you ask, Ned and Brandon both know that I came to you.” he smiled, it was uncanny how she knew his line of thought so quickly.

 “Very well, I will wake you before dawn should you fall asleep.” he agreed.

 Once he had cleaned himself, he settled back in beside her pulling her close so that she was laying with her head on his chest. At some point his hand found her dark hair, and he began to play with her curls as she drew patterns on his chest, and before long they were both fast asleep.

Chapter Text

The She-wolf


  Lyanna awoke from a dreamless sleep at the side of her mate. He was sleeping peacefully, one hand still wrapped snugly around her waist, maintaining skin to skin contact even in sleep.

 They were both naked as the days they had been born, having fallen asleep after Lyanna had all but thrown herself at him the previous night. Damn propriety, she couldn’t care less about what people would think.

 Hang the world … she told herself when she’d made up her mind the previous night. They had been marked by the God’s and the God’s had seen fit to allow them to seal their bond. Therefore in her opinion, she’d done nothing improper.

  Well maybe some of it had been improper… but damn if it hadn’t felt glorious, both owning her desires and seeing them fulfilled. Just thinking about it stirred her thoughts once more, and she wanted nothing more than to wake him with encouraging kisses and touches but there was no time for that, Lyanna knew.

 Sighing, she made to pull away from Rhaegar so she could dress and sneak back to camp, but he must have sensed her intent to go, because he tightened his hold on her waist just a bit more.

 “Don’t leave me…” he murmured sleepily.

 He’s so adorable like this… she thought to herself. “I must, it’s not yet dawn and if I leave now, no one will notice me sneaking back to camp.” She responded with a hint of mirth in her tone. She knew her excuse came across as weak, in truth she had been trying to convince herself as much as she had been trying to convince him.

 Reluctantly he relented but came with her as she sat up from her position on the bed. Rather than allow her to stand however, Rhaegar swept her tangle of curls to one side and peppered soft, sensual kisses over her shoulders and neck, causing her to shiver from head to toe.

 “Are you sure I can’t convince you to stay just a while longer?” he asked of her, his voice pleading, though his hands never stopped moving as one made its way around her torso to lay at the base of her throat. The other tugged her back so that she sat with her back  flush against his chest, his member which was already hard was pressed firmly against the small of her back.

 She moaned, relaxing into his hold, as his free hand now snaked down between her legs and in between her thighs to her already wet folds. “Rhaegar—,” she choked out as his long elegant fingers brushed over her nub, causing her to jump at the sudden heat that his contact always brings.

 It was almost embarrassing how easily he was able to convince her to give in, knowing that if it were like this between them now, it wasn't like to change once he and she were able to seal their union properly.

 He still held a firm grip on her as he played her like she were his harp, and it didn't take long before she was gasping and shuddering while she rode out her climax in his arms. Her mind reeling from the high his touch gave her, as his words of love and adoration were murmured in her ear.

 That was two nights past, and now Ashara and Elia sat beside her in her tent, the two of them had agreed to help her pack her things, while telling her all about Dragonstone and King’s Landing. The former sounded fascinating, while the latter seemed like a place that has seen very little joy since it was built. Too many ambitions, too many looking to be the next in favor, all doing wicked deeds to get on top.

 Then there was the matter of the King himself, and even though he seemed to be rather mild tempered around her, she wasn't sure if she would enjoy the Red Keep while he yet sat the throne.

 Howland had done his best to explain the situation between Lyanna and King Aerys to the best of his abilities, but in the end it had left her with more questions than answers. “Lyanna, you have to understand, there is nothing documented that can easily explain what happened between you and King Aerys. The best I can do is help you to understand what malady effects the King, and what your own personal gifts represent in light of all of that.” His tone was low and placating but Lyanna could see that he was unsure how to proceed, not having seen this outcome. With not many options available to her, she sat quietly as he explained to the best of his knowledge, the King’s condition.

 He told of how the King was born a happy babe, who grew into an equally happy youth, one who made friends easily, and was considered charming, at one point was even considered as ambitious and charismatic. How the realm had believed that King Aerys would be a great ruler, and how all of that changed following the tragedy of Summerhall. She hadn’t known much of the details, other than the fact that Rhaegar had been born there, amidst the smoke and flames as the great palace burned all around them. That and the fact that Rhaegar believes the land to contain residual magic that lingers from the ritual that had gone wrong, and the blood that had been sacrificed to bring dragons back into the world had left its mark on the earth. To her knowledge, the King who was then a Prince was on Dragonstone at the time with his father.

 Howland went on to explain the slow decline of the king and his increasing obsession with fire, stating that his blood had been tainted by the magic being wrought by King Aegon and the sorcerers he had brought to Westeros to aid him in this endeavor. He went on to say that the same issue presents itself in the Queen’s pregnancies, which is why she has such difficulty carrying healthy babes… which left her with another series of questions but she held onto them for a later time.

 He went on to explain how under normal circumstances dragons thrive in fire, but the King’s fire is not a natural fire and thus it burns uncontrolled. Then the conversation took a turn that Lyanna had not expected. His words still rang in her head as clear as a bell, “I'm sure by now you realize that both you and Rhaegar have marks that represent two opposing elements. His is fire and his mark burns hot, while yours; Lyanna represents Ice and burns like only the cold can.” She had known this from the moment that they had touched, but until then she hadn’t thought much about it, but when he said the words the answer clicked for her.

 “He had a reprieve from the fire because of my ice.” She announced as soon as understanding came. Howland merely nodded in agreement. “But does that mean I can keep the king from going completely mad?” her voice sounded hopeful. Surely if her ice affected him so, that was a good sign.

 Unfortunately, the next words that Howland spoke dashed her hopes in their entirety, “I wish it were so simple but, I do not think it works like that.” Lyanna felt her heart sink at his words, but sat in silence as he continued to explain.

 “The king’s madness is more than just a symptom you see. He could have lived his entire life with it never having made its appearance, but all that changed for him at Duskendale. I have no knowledge of what took place over the course of the year that he had been held as hostage, but I do know that the sane part of him had been broken within the cells of the Dun Fort. Your power can treat his madness, bring some sort of rest and reprieve from the inferno that is consuming him, but short of a soul bond with a maiden made of ice, nothing can temper his flames permanently.”

 It wasn't what she wanted to hear, but his words did give her some hope all the same. Even if she couldn't cure the king, surely she could help by just being there… but then she wouldn't be there, she’d be on Dragonstone. Her heart sank a bit at the thought of leaving the realm to his unchecked madness.

 She was pulled from her thoughts by the sound of her tent flap opening, only to find Ben entering with a look in his eyes that told her he was up to something.

 “What is it?” she questioned suspiciously.

 “Brandon asked me to come and bring you and your company to meet him at his tent, he wants to go over last minute details now that the tourney officially closes tomorrow.” the pup explained.

 It made sense, now that she thought about it. So she made to stand and replied, “Very well, I'll come,” and then she turned to Ash and Elia. “Would you care to join us?” she questioned. She couldn't very well expect them to come along just because Benjen was sent to fetch them. To her surprise, Elia was the first to stand, and Ashara followed behind shortly after.

 “You can't get rid of us so easily Lyanna,” Elia teased and it made Lyanna smile. She hadn’t expected such an easy transition between herself and Elia, but she was glad for her companionship.


The Stag Lord


  He was going to kill someone. Preferably that mad fucking dragon and his meddling dragonspawn.

  Surely Brandon Stark hadn’t meant what he said about sending Lyanna to court. He needed to speak with Ned.

  Surely there’s a plan in place?

  Unless they had already known about this… could they have already known? Robert wasn’t sure if Ned was capable of deception, his honor was too deeply bred into him to be capable of such a thing.

  Brandon on the other hand, hardly seemed surprised by the news, but if Brandon had already known that would mean Ned had to have been aware too. Somehow the lingering doubt didn’t sit right with him.

  He’d been fully intent on showing Ned and Lyanna that he was capable of changing. And now that mad fucker thinks he can just write some words on a sheet of paper and the Stag will just accept it without a word of protest? Damn all that, he damn well would protest about it, and Lyanna will be his. Even if that means ridding the realm of a dragon or two… and anyone else who thinks to get in his way.

 He found Ned walking toward his camp and quickly approached. “Ned, can we talk?”

 Ned gave a puzzled look but then waved him forward indicating for him to follow. It was only a moment before Ned’s voice cut through the tense silence between them. “I assume this is about Lyanna?” He asked in a resigned tone.

  Had he been so transparent?

 “Ned, he can’t do this, can he? Surely your father won’t allow this to happen!” He proclaimed.

 Ned sighed before he replied. “Robert, you don’t seem to understand. It is already done. My father instructed us to make sure the king knows that he has the full support of House Stark. Brandon was charged to speak with my father's voice in all matters of state, and as our father's heir, he represents him in this matter. And besides, you swore before all the lords in attendance to accept the King's decree. There is no going back from that Robert… not without being an oath breaker. And should that be the case, I’ll thank you now to leave Lyanna out of it.”

 Bugger that, he wanted to hear none of it. Ned obviously couldn’t see what was happening here. The naive fool. “Ned, open your eyes, the dragonspawn means to keep your sister, My bride, as his mistress! You bloody honorable northern fools are gift wrapping her and shipping her off to the dragon's lair without so much as a second thought!” He roared.

 The cold look Ned gave him almost stopped him dead in his tracks, shooting ice shards down his spine. “That’s enough Robert! Lyanna is not yours nor has she ever been. You have been fooling yourself into believing a lie. A lie that was built, not by myself nor Lyanna. This was a lie built by you and told to you by yourself, at the word of an ambitious maester. Leave Lyanna out of this, as you and I both know that your reaction is about you being denied what you set your mind to, and it has nothing to do with what she wants. Because in truth, you already know that Lyanna does not desire you nor does she desire your proposed match. For you to even suggest that Lyanna would play mistress to the prince only proves how little you actually know her. No one will ever force Lyanna into playing a role she is uncomfortable in, and with your propensity for bedding anything in your path, coupled with Lyanna’s distaste for your ways, I’ve no doubt that she would geld any man who'd dare try to make her into his whore.” He snarled the last word.

 Robert could see that he’d struck a nerve, but he could also tell that he would have no luck convincing Ned of the prince’s indecent intentions toward Lyanna. What’s more, he obviously hadn’t let go of the matter with maester Walys. He needed to think, he needed to come up with a plan before he did anything else…

 “Will you ride north with me to speak with your father?” Remembering now how Ned had mentioned awaiting his father's word for travel plans.

 “Actually—,” Ned paused, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ll be traveling south with Lyanna. I mean to see her safely settled into court, and then I’ll be joining Brandon at Riverrun for the announcement of their wedding.” He paused again, clearly mulling something about in his brain, and Robert was losing his patience with the man.

 “Spit it out Ned.”

 “I think you should travel back to the Vale. Don’t give the King a reason to question your loyalty Robert.” Ned warned.

 Robert knew that Ned could see the wheels turning in his mind… Damn the man for his ever observant nature.

 “I hear that my Lord Father will be traveling south in a few moon turns, if you would speak to him Robert then let him come to you. Do not go north, that will only cause talk and the King's Master of Whispers has eyes and ears everywhere. How do you think the King knew about your proposal?” Ned quickly added.

 Rather than give voice to his thoughts he nodded his head in acceptance, albeit reluctantly. Even though he definitely does not accept this shit that the mad fucker thinks he’s going to accomplish.

 He wasn’t sure where to go from here, but regardless of what Ned had said, that damn dragon had crossed the wrong person. Perhaps the rest of the lords in the realm would be content to jump up and down to the dragons song, but his own ancestors helped the dragons take Westeros and its high time they remember how heavy the hammer can fall.


The Quiet Wolf


  The following day saw the King's departure as well as the axe throwing contest and mummers show which Ned and Ashara had attended together.

 Now that the main competition was over, the next few days allowed for more freedom to spend his time with Ashara and to help the prince plan for the meeting between his father, Lord Arryn and Lord Tully. As far as the other lords, Ned wasn’t sure.

 Robert had approached him the day after the King announced his decision on the matter of his proposal to Lyanna, as Ned had expected. His words still left a bit of unease coiling within his gut. It was clear that regardless of the words he spoke aloud, Robert was not likely to let this matter go, and something needed to be done to curb his rage. Ned could only hope that once the truth was out, Lord Arryn would be able to help him see reason.

 He was currently on his way to meet with Brandon and Ben. With the tourney wrapping up soon, they would all be departing and none in the direction that they’d imagined they would be heading when they first arrived to Harrenhal.

 He found Brandon in his tent, Benjen already there when he entered. They had been talking about home when he finally took his seat.

 Brandon was the first to break the ice. “Now that the king has made his announcement and Lyanna has officially been summoned to court, all of our plans will be changing. As you both know, I was expected to travel back to Riverrun to finalize plans for my wedding to the Lady Catelyn however, with both you and Lya going south, that leaves Ben to go north and sit as the Stark in Winterfell when father rides south for Moat Cailin.

 It made sense, though Ned didn’t see a reason to rush Ben back home. It was likely that they would be heading to Winterfell directly from Dragonstone but he kept his thoughts quiet. Even though Ben would be no trouble, Ned was sure that Brandon’s decision was born out of concern for his little brothers safety.

 Benjen on the other hand wasn’t so willing to accept his fate, and Ned watched in awe as the young pup tried to convince the wild-wolf to allow him to travel with Lya, Ned and Howland. But Brandon never faltered, he down right refused to send three of their Lord Father's four children all the way south with the prince to the court of a mad dragon.

  After the discussion about travel had been decided, Brandon and he spent some time discussing Ashara and Catelyn, marriage and duty. It was clear to Ned that the idea of settling down still made his brother upset.

 “I wish I could just walk away from all this Ned. I’m not meant to be shackled down. I’m supposed to run, ride, hunt, you know? Be true to my nature. Every bone in my body is urging me to bolt, cross the Narrow Sea, join a sellsword company…” his thoughts began to trail off, causing Ned to chuckle.

 “It would seem that you and Robert are much better suited for one another, than he and I. I do suspect that he’d gladly run off and spend his life drinking, fucking and fighting any day over attending to his duties. You’ve gotta let this go Bran. I’m sure that the Lady Catelyn is lovely and you’ve got some time yet before you’ll be Lord of Winterfell. Gods be kind, father has another twenty years in him.” He was only half kidding, his father had recently celebrated forty name days. And long lives were rare, especially for northmen. The truth was, Brandon wasn’t ready yet, mayhap fatherhood would help to calm him, but until such a time Brandon would need their father's guidance.

 They spoke for a while longer before Ned and he departed company. Mostly about Ash and himself and when they planned to seal their unions, which he had to agree was a good question in truth. Howland had only told him to be ready at a moment’s notice and that had been days ago. He’d hardly had the chance to speak with Howland in the days since.

Little did he know however that the crannogman has every intention to seek him out, and sooner than he had expected.

 It was on the evening of the ninth day when Ned was finally able to speak with Jon Arryn. He hadn’t been happy with the fact that Ned wouldn’t be returning with he and Robert to the Eyrie but Ned had explained to him that it was time for him to return to his pack, and to his duties as a son of the north, and  soon to be a husband. He however did take the time to impress upon Lord Arryn how effected Robert had been by the king's orders, beseeching him to help calm the man before he made any hasty decisions.

 Of course Jon Arryn gave his word, but Ned could tell that his foster father still wasn’t sure about the King or the Prince, claiming that his actions were foolish, also noting that with the King's own decree being announced following the Lyanna's crowning, only went to further support Robert's assertion that this was done with more selfish purposes in mind. Ned couldn't deny that there had been more personal intentions behind the princes behavior, but this story wasn’t his to tell, not yet. Instead he told lord Jon the only thing he could.

 “I’m not sure what you think you know, My Lord, but Robert was never promised my sister. My father never agreed to the match nor did he have any intention to do so.” He must have said something that Lord Arryn was unaware of, because the look of utter astonishment that was planted on his face was one Ned had never seen before.

 Apparently, Robert had also told Jon that his union to Lyanna was as good as a done deal and Ned wasn’t sure what to make of it all. He only hoped that his father had a better understanding of the correspondence between Robert and maester Walys by now.

 Before departing ways, Ned made sure to impress upon Lord Jon his opinion of Prince Rhaegar’s character, and his belief that he could be a worthy king. Someone worthy of at the very least, being heard out. Jon promised to think on all they had discussed and he promised that he would come to meet with his father once he received word of the place and the date.

 This was the best possible outcome, Ned knew and he was glad of it. He was no expert at playing the Game of thrones, but short of a flat out refusal, this had been the best case scenario.

 Jon pulled Ned into a tight embrace before taking his leave, knowing that it could be a while before they see each other once more. Being that he and Robert would be departing for the Vale on the morrow, the entire thing felt bittersweet to him. Bitter at the thought of being left behind, but sweet because he was going home, finally. He was going home to rejoin his pack as he should have long ago.

 He was just getting ready to lay down a few hours later when he heard the flap of his tent being brushed aside to admit Howland who was being trailed by the prince. Rhaegar was cloaked in darkness, with a black hood and cloak to cover his hair. His eyes the color of the night sky.

 “What’s going on? Why do you two look like you’re about to do something dangerous?” Ned couldn't help but ask. The prince arched a brow and gave a wicked smile that made Ned curious.

 “Rest assured, if we don’t do things right it could very well be dangerous. Luckily for us, the God’s favor our cause. Come, it is time.” He paused, considering for a moment something known only to him. “Unless you prefer to wed her in the typical northern fashion.”

 Suddenly Ned understood what it was that Howland and the prince had come for. The Thief is in the moonmaid…  Quickly Ned got to his feet, throwing a dark cloak around his shoulders, he gestured for them to lead the way. He couldn’t believe this was happening!

 “How will I get Ashara? She’s within the castle, isn’t she?” Ned asked, a bit nervous.

 Rhaegar turned to look at him as he walked, “The Lady Ashara and your sister are both in her tent. Arthur is standing guard, and Elia is with them as well.” He answered, and Ned nodded his understanding.

 He should be nervous, but somehow he wasn’t. Ever since he’d lain eyes on Ash, he knew beyond  a shadow of doubt that his future was tied to hers. And unlike Brandon, he couldn't wait to claim Ashara as his own.


The She Wolf


  Once they were all cloaked and ready to face the night air, Lyanna followed her brother out into the night. Outside, the air was crisp, more so than it had been over the past ten days since they had arrived at Harrenhal and Lyanna breathed it in deeply. It had the scent of winter… and just like that, Lyanna found herself calmed by the thought that she had been right yet again. The stars were bright in the sky, hardly a cloud to be seen. It was in this moment that she saw it; the Thief. The red planet the free folk claim to be lucky was nestled comfortably in the embrace of the Moonmaid. She smiled, knowing that it wouldn't be long now but she had no time to point it out to Ashara because suddenly she heard the sound of horses approaching her and her companions and she braced herself, fear suddenly seizing her.

 “Ben, something is wrong.” she whispered, trying not to scare Ashara and the Princess, but Benjen just smiled at her.

  What the fuck is the matter with him?

  She was about to smack some sense into him when she was yanked from her spot and hoisted over the back of a horse and without so much as a word she was being carried off at such a speed she could not tell which way she was heading.

 A million thoughts raced through her mind as her captor rushed toward some unknown location, until she noticed the horse that had been carrying her. ‘Smoke’, she turned her head to catch a glimpse of the masked man who was holding his reins. Long elegant fingers, dressed all in darkness, eyes that were so dark they also appeared to be black, and then she knew it for true. It was Rhaegar, and he was stealing his woman. Although she should be fighting him as custom mostly has it, she had done all her fighting before she chose to seal her bond with him. Now she just wanted to give in and surrender to her captor.

 When the horse finally slowed, they were approaching the bank of the God’s Eye. Brandon Howland and Oswell were already there waiting for them to arrive. Behind her, Ned approached with Ashara in the same state that Lyanna had found herself in. They were followed by Arthur and Elia and then Benjen.

 Brandon approached, aiding Rhaegar in an attempt to help Lyanna to her feet, while Arthur helped Elia down and then went to help his sister as well. Once everyone was on solid ground, Howland finally spoke.

 “For thousands of years, men have inhabited the lands known as Westeros, but before man were the Singers and their brothers the Giant's, dragons and direwolves. Above all, there was song. The first peoples of Westeros, known to all as the First Men created a link that united the singers and men, and in our greatest time of need they fought alongside one another to drive back the darkness that intended to consume the memory and the fires of humanity. Many generations later the singers sang a new song, this one a song of balance. A union of Ice and Fire and of the joining of the heavens and the earth. Are all of you ready to fulfill this destiny? To bring about an everlasting spring?” he asked the four of them who had been marked.

 Lyanna wasn't sure what to make of Howland's words but little did it matter to her at any rate. She was already tied to her mate, regardless of the formalities. What she hadn’t expected though was the arrival of the septon who served at Harrenhal's own sept, but she said nothing.

 The lake was blanketed by a thick fog, the island in its center completely invisible to the curious eyes of travelers. The only thing that could be seen at all were the tops of the Weirwood trees that could not be obscured by the fog, so tall they stretched. Red hands, greedily reaching for the sky.

 They sailed over the still surface of the water for what must have been hours, Brandon and Ben sat beside her, keeping her distracted from what lay ahead. She had no dress nor cloak, she had not been prepared at all, and she could not help but think about the fact that her father wasn't there. She could only hope that he forgave her for not telling him about her mark and maybe when they got back to Winterfell, they could have another ceremony just for father.

 When they finally docked, Howland was the first of them to touch the ground. She wasn't sure if it was the island or Howland, but no sooner was he on land, the fog that had cloaked the isle pushed outward toward the banks, unveiling the Isle of Faces to people who were not of the blood of the green men, for the first time in what must have been over a century if the history was to be believed.

 The isle was quiet, but Lyanna could feel the eyes of the Gods looking upon her and she suddenly felt the urge to give her thanks to them for allowing her this opportunity. Ashara stepped up beside her, the look on her face one of absolute shock and wonder.

 “I've never seen anything like this,” she confessed.

 “I doubt many do,” Lyanna responded, but she was curious. If memory serves correctly, Ashara's line and origin dates all the way back to the crossing of the Arm of Dorne. Her line was of the First Men, just like she and Ned. “Ashara, do you keep with the Old Gods? You have the blood of the First Men running through your veins just as we do…”

 Ashara shook her head, which confused Lyanna even more, but Ashara quickly expanded upon her answer. “Dorne has kept with the faith of the Seven since the time we were populated by the Andals. By the time Nymeria conquered Dorne, most of her people were Andal in origin, so rather than change this, she took Mors Martell as her prince consort and joined the Roynish customs with that of her husband who was also of Andal blood. As for Starfall, we built our house atop the remains of a falling star. No tree has ever grown within our keep that we’ve not planted ourselves. Do you have a weirwood that we can bring to my brother?” she asked, half teasing but Lyanna knew that Ashara was closer to getting her wish than she actually knew.

 “Do you feel the Gods?” she asked no one in particular. The breeze picked up, rustling the blood red leaves of the ancient weirwoods ever so slightly, as if they had been greeting her and everyone else.

 Once everyone was safely on dry land, Howland gestured for them to follow him deeper into the grove of trees. Every step she took she could sense that her destiny was approaching. She knew this place. She had walked these woods before. The night that she dreamt of the altar and the cup. She’d had other dreams since then, but she had only been here the once.

 Not before long she noticed a pull coming from three different locations on the isle. One from the north and another from the south, but the one Lyanna was most intent to go to was approaching quickly. She was just now starting to see the outline of the grove lit up by small torches that had been placed sparingly around the enormous trunk of what could only be the World Tree.

 Howland stopped just before Lyanna could see the altar that she knew was just on the other side. When he turned to look at the four of them who had come this night to seal their unions through words and deeds.

 “It won't be long now, I hope you all are prepared.” Howland intoned, yet it was Rhaegar and Ned who seemed to understand what he’d meant.

 Rhaegar looked behind them and motioned for her older brother, Ser Arthur and Ser Oswell to come forward. Lyanna hadn’t noticed before now, but they seemed to be carrying a few bundles. “We knew that neither of you would be prepared, so we did our best to prepare for you.” he explained, taking the bundle that Bran had been holding and undoing the ribbon before passing it to her.

 The moment the cloak was revealed, she gasped in shock. It was absolutely beautiful, and she had no idea how or when they had the time to have it made but she couldn't have asked for something more perfect. The cloak itself was a deep grey, the color of the walls of Winterfell trimmed with white fur with the snarling direwolf of her house embroidered in the same color silver that lined her outer irises. There was nothing fussy about it, no jewels or extra embroidery. It was exactly as she would have wanted it to be, had she given any thought at all to it. “Thank you.” she said, wiping a traitorous tear from the corner of her eye before anyone could see.

 “It was Elia who made it for you,” Rhaegar announced, gesturing for Elia to step forward but Lyanna didn't give her a chance to move an inch before she flung her arms around her shoulders and hugged her tightly.

 “You’ve no idea how much this means to me, and how much I will always treasure it and you for this Elia. I hope that one day I will have the chance to repay you for all the kindness you have shown me in such a short time.” She would ask the gods to bless her and this babe and keep them safe. It was likely a selfish thing to ask for, because the truth was her wish was for herself, for she was not ready to lose this woman who had become so dear to her. No matter how at peace she claimed to be with the idea of trading her life for the life of her babe.

Next to them Ser Arthur approached Ned, handing him the bundle that he had been holding as well, and she watched the same process she herself had just been through be repeated once more. Brandon approached and took the cloak, and fastened it around her shoulders with a snarling direwolf pin.

 She hadn’t even noticed when Howland had slipped away, but when he returned he stood with two,  people…, if that was even correct, but she had never met them before, for surely she would have remembered faces as remarkable as these.

 “I would like to introduce you to Root and Brook.” Howland motioned first to the one with eyes a brighter green than any she’d ever seen before. His had horns that sprouted from his head that were the color of the bark of a weirwood and he was of a size with Howland. Beside him stood another, this one female, her eyes a golden yellow, hair as white as snow. Though neither appeared to be particularly old, Lyanna could see that they held an age about them. The look in their eyes suggested that they had seen many and more years on this earth than any of them had collectively.

 Not sure how to greet one such as a Green Man, Lyanna nodded and curtsied her greeting. “It is a pleasure to be welcomed here on this island that is so sacred to our Gods.” the words were true, even if they had been unnecessary, and lyanna couldn't deny the desire to speak them aloud at any rate.

 The trees rustled again, and the two Green Men who stood before her looked to one another and nodded an unspoken understanding before they returned their gaze to her and took both of her hands in theirs.

 “Lyanna Stark, daughter of Ice, child of Winter.” This was as much a greeting as it was confirmation of something she yet had all the answers to, but their tone sounded almost hopeful. Next they turned to her mate. “Rhaegar Targaryen, son of fire, child of smoke.” they intoned, reaching for his hands and joining them with her own. “Follow us, your union will take place following the union of earth and sky.” Something about the way she said it made Lyanna wonder why the earthbound would need to be tied to the sky. She chanced a glance back toward her brothers, only to see them wave her forward.

 She followed beside Rhaegar, as the two guardians lead them toward the largest weirwood that she had ever seen. Even the image she’d had in her dream did not do the one in front of her justice. For even if all of them present linked their hands together and circled the base they still wouldn't be able to lock hands together. Above in the branches were hundreds, if not thousands of ravens, that made no move nor sound as they approached and made their way around to look straight into the face of the Gods.

 It was there, right where she had remembered it from her dream that she found the altar made entirely of the roots of the Gods Tree, the bowl that held the seed pods still securely sat in wait.

 The next thing that she noticed was that the septon who had come with them from Harrenhal was already standing before the Heart Tree awaiting everyone else.


 The Falling Star


 Everything was happening so quickly. Less than a year ago, she woke up to a searing pain in her wrist, only to find that she had been marked by the Gods less than a fortnight ago. She has no complaints, nor would she want to change a thing. But that didn't change how surreal it all felt, especially in times like these.

  The last few days had given her time to put more perspective on their situation. Ned was everything and more than she could have ever dreamed of. A bit shy, but she found that she loved him more for not bending to her will every time she would attempt to seduce him. And even though he was never anything less than a perfect gentleman, he always found a way to leave her content, albeit burning for the moment that was almost at hand.

 They were standing on the Isle of Faces, Arthur beside her. Before her, Ned stood in front of the largest weirwood tree that she had ever seen. Beside him stood Howland, their guide, and Septon Pater. Howland was the one to open the ceremony, as the voice that represented the Gods in this.

 “Who comes before the Old Gods this night?”

 “Ashara of the House Dayne, a maiden true born and noble comes here to be wed.” Arthur intoned.

 “And who comes to claim her?” Howland asked, prompting Ned. His voice had taken on an age, making him sound somehow older and more authoritative.

 “Eddard of the House Stark, second son to Rickard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Who gives her?” Ned asked.

 “Arthur of the House Dayne, who is her brother by blood, the Sword of the Morning and kingsguard to the House of Targaryen.”

 Howland stepped back and allowed Septon Pater to step forward. “You may now cloak the bride, and bring her under your protection.”

 Ned approached as Arthur removed the cloak that identified her as a Dayne of Starfall, only for Ned to replace it with a different one. One that she hadn’t noticed until now, but would treasure always. It was similar to the one that Lyanna was given, though the grey was not as deep, and the Direwolf was embroidered in white. The only difference was that this one had a falling star embroidered above the direwolf, which was oddly similar to their marks. Ned placed the cloak around her shoulders, claiming her as a Stark until the last of her days.

 Once he was done, they both turned back to the septon. “In the sight of the Seven,” he proclaimed.

 “And of the Old Gods,” Howland added.

 “We hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one for eternity. Look upon one another and say the words.” he finished.

  And so they found themselves gazing into each others eyes, speaking the vows of the Seven in unison. “Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger. I am his, I am hers, and she is mine, and he is mine, from this day, until the rest of our days.” they finished at the same time.

 “Then let it be known from this day forward that Ashara of House Dayne, and Eddard of the House Stark are one Heart, one flesh, one soul. Cursed be he who would seek to tear them asunder.”

 Howland spoke once more, “Come forth and pray for the Gods blessing.”

 Together they both walked toward the Gods Tree and knelt, avoiding the altar all together. They faced the tree and she took the knife that had been offered to them by Howland. Unsure what to do, she passed the blade to Ned and watched as he sliced the meat of his palm and did the same for her before she had a chance to protest. Then Ned was guiding their bloodied palms toward the bark of the tree in offering.

 When they were done, both stood and ned proclaimed, “With this kiss, I seal my vow.” and then his mouth was upon hers, hot and hungry and demanding. The kiss was familiar yet new, this kiss was the kiss of a wolf who was claiming his mate, and the thought thrilled her more than she could have imagined.

 It ended just as quickly as it had begun, but it didn't matter because he was hers, and she was his, and soon they would make it official in all the ways that it truly mattered. Ned took her hand in his and lead her away from the heart tree, allowing for the Prince to step forward and take the space that he had previously been occupying.


The Silver Prince


  There were no words to describe all of the thoughts going on in his head while he stood silently waiting for their turn to swear themselves to one another.

 The past ten days had gone by in both a blur and agonizingly slowly. All just to get to this specific point in time. The moment that their destiny would be fulfilled. Tonight they would conceive a son, their promised prince. For why else wait for the Thief to be in the right position if not to bless their union with the completion of the promise.

 Tonight, after everything was official, they would remain on the isle with the Green Men, while all but Oswell and Arthur returned back to the castle. In the morning they would prepare to depart and return back to King's Landing and to the future that already seemed more hopeful than it had the previous days.

 He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard her approaching on the arm of her brother Brandon. She wore the most radiant smile upon her face, and his heart began to beat just a bit faster than it had been. Once this was all over, there would be no lavish feasts, no hosting lords from all across the Seven Kingdoms, all with a foolish hope that they would be so impressed by the display of wealth, that they would mistake it for power and thus never question their reign. Which of course worked about as well as negotiating with a mad dragon. Unless of course the person negotiating was Lyanna, the daughter of Ice.

 Before he knew it, the ceremony had begun, and he had to clear his thoughts. He would not be in his head during one of the most important moments of his life. “Who comes before the Old Gods this night?” The crannogman asked.

 “Lyanna of the House Stark, a maiden trueborn and noble, daughter of Ice, and child of winter, comes here to be wed.” Brandon responded.

 “And who comes to claim her?” Howland inquired, and Rhaegar found himself eagerly stepping forward.

 “I, Rhaegar of the House Targaryen. First son of the King and Queen, Lord of Dragonstone, Crown Prince to the Seven Kingdoms, son of fire, child of smoke. Who gives her?”

 “Brandon of the House Stark, who is her brother by blood and heir to Rickard of the House Stark, the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.”

 Howland stepped toward the altar that had thus far gone unused and he motioned for him and Lyanna to join him. “Daughter of winter, do you claim this man through ice?”

 “I claim this man through Ice.” Lyanna intoned, resolute in her decision.

Turning to Rhaegar, he asked a similar question. “Son of the Dragon, do you claim this woman through fire?”

 “I claim this woman through fire.”

 Root and Brook approached them now, with a cup of bronze and Rhaegar vaguely remembered Lyanna mentioning having drank from this cup in her dream sequence. On the altar lay a dagger, also made of bronze. Having already seen what transpired between Ashara and Ned, Rhaegar understood what he had to do.

 Once the cup was placed before him, Howland spoke again. “You must drink from the cup of Ice and Fire to seal your vow and bind the Dragon and the Direwolf for all time.”

 Rhaegar didn't hesitate, pulling the cup to his lips and drinking down the bitter yet sweet liquid within before he passed it to Lyanna, watching as she did the same. When they were both done, he removed Lyanna’s cloak and passed it to her brother who stood close by wasting no time to replace it with the cloak of his own House, all black, only modified to match their combined marks, just as Ned had done with Asharas.

 They turned back to Howland who had moved aside to allow Septon Pater to officiate the portion of the ceremony representing the Faith of the Seven.

 Reaching his hand toward Oswell, he was presented with a piece of black velvet. Within the material was a simple circlet that Rhaegar had made for Lyanna following her crowning of love and beauty.

 The tiara itself was wrought in pure silver, the bands representing the arms of a Weirwood. Each twisting around each other, thicker in some places than others. Each arm that broke free from the mold was adorned by amethysts and sapphires, the main ornamentation curved downward to rest against her forehead on the right side was the Direwolf of her house, on the left the Dragon of House Targaryen, both joined at the neck as equals.

 No sooner had he placed the crown atop her head, did the Septon begin. “In the sight of the Seven,” he started.

 “And of the Old Gods,” Howland intoned.

 “We hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one for eternity.” As he said the words, he bound their hands with the ribbon he had used to tie her wedding cloak. Something was different this time around though. He could feel the finality in the words and the action, as if the Gods themselves were binding them as one, not only physically but spiritually. It was almost magical, this oath. He knew this to be true because this reaction was not present the first time he had found himself before the High Septon swearing an empty oath to a woman who deserved more. Nevertheless, he only felt a sense of completeness and clarity wash over him.

 “Look upon one another and say the words,” the septon prompted.

And once again they found themselves speaking in unison as they intoned the words that sealed the oath to the Seven who were One. “Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger. I am hers, I am his, and he is mine, and she is mine, from this day until the end of our days.”

 “Then let it be known, from this day forward that Lyanna of the House Stark, and Rhaegar of the House Targaryen are one heart, one flesh, one soul. Cursed be he who would seek to tear them asunder.” The septon finally finished.

 It was finally time to ask the Gods for their blessing so he didn't hesitate to cut his palm and place it upon the bowl before he passed the dagger to Lyanna and she did the same. Together they prayed to the nameless ones, his prayers were not for him but for her, for their future, and their family and the strength to serve in whichever capacity they see fit.

 At some point everyone must have departed because when they both opened their eyes, everyone had gone. Leaving them to seal their union in privacy. For their journey would begin in this very spot… and it would start this very moment.

 “With this kiss, I seal my vow.” He whispered loud enough for the Gods to hear, and then his lips were upon hers… hungry, desperate even, and hers accepted him eagerly.

 Every nerve in his body was alive and on fire, pushing him on. Every touch from her set his blood to boiling and he knew now that if he didn’t slow her down, he wouldn’t be able to control himself much longer.

 Lyanna, however had other things in mind, as he found her hands tugging at the laces of his breeches, never parting her lips from his.

 “Rhaegar, I’m only going to say this once. I’m a wolf, not a Lady, and you’re a dragon, not a prince. Don’t treat me like I’m fragile, claim me now or I swear to you, I will find a way to make you regret it.” Her eyes were bright in a way that was unusual and they held the look of a predator in search of prey. He could do naught but nod his agreement.

 Lyanna stepped back then, lifting her hands to remove her cloak, and then she moved to pull at the laces that held her gown in place. Seeing this, Rhaegar made to stop her. If this were to be their first time, he would see to her needs himself, including the removal of said clothing.

 Turning her so that her back was to him, he reached out, and begun to tug at the laces of her corset, pulling at the strings and stretching them so the bodice now sat loosely against her skin. He had every intention to savor the moment but the sight of her milky white skin bathed in moonlight awoke a primal need within him to claim her.

 Perhaps this is the reason her eyes look more predatory? Could it be the ritual?

  Before he realized, his mouth was at her neck, his hands ripping away at her skirts, in an attempt to rid her of her many barriers. Within moments, she was standing there in her shift moaning his name wantonly as the night air caressed her naked and exposed flesh.

 He moved without thinking, lifting her and setting her body down upon the Weirwood altar and kneeling between her legs.

 “Why are you still dressed?” She husked at him, clearly disapproving of his state of dress. In truth he had completely forgotten about his own clothing.

 He shrugged his response and then added, “I’m hungry for you,” and he was, almost starving if it were at all possible.

 “Aye, and I you. But that won’t help us, take off your clothing Rhaegar. I want you, now.” She whined at him. And so he found himself removing his shirt, and finishing the job that she had begun on his breeches, so that they now hung loosely around his hips. When he came back to her, she had sat up and was watching him intently.

 As much as he wanted to savor every moment of this, it was clear to him that Lyanna did not, she was practically squirming in her place from anticipation and need. He reached for her, and she pulled him down to sit beside her before climbing into his lap and straddling his hips.

 “Make me yours.” She commanded him, and after that the Dragon was in control, while the man watched on in awe and wonder.

 His hands circled her waist, ripping away her small-clothes, exposing her sex, her hands freed his cock at the same time. One hand found her breast, and he rubbed a calloused thumb over her nipple, eliciting a breathy moan from her. He snarled in response, claiming her mouth hungrily, causing her to rock her hips against his length.

 Without realizing it, he had lifted Lyanna up and laid her back upon the altar once more, instinctually knowing that this was right.

 He slid between her legs, positioning himself so that he could enter her. She was soaked, and she was on fire in a way that was completely foreign to him, but one he was drawn to all the same.

 He did not wait for permission, not this time, not here. She would not thank him for it anyway. Not hesitating, he slid inside her, past her barrier and paused, for just a heartbeat before retreating. Yet her hips came back to meet him upon his return.

 “Lya—,” he groaned, she was perfect, and wild, and uninhibited in a way that he could never claim to be. Her kisses upon his flesh left him chilled and burning in a way that he’d never known before her. Every sigh, every touch, every stroke awoke the creature that had long lain dormant inside his blood. He was a dragon and she was his wolf, and nothing had ever been so right until this moment.

 His hands roamed the contours of her body, finding the curve of her ass and his fingers instinctually began to knead at her flesh. He pulled her yet closer, as close as she could possibly get, while also continuing to worship her with tender kisses all over.

 Lyanna rolled her hips, pushing him deeper, while also repositioning herself so that she could sit astride him. Once she was settled she pulled him into a sitting position  and fisted her hands into his silver tresses. Their coupling was erratic, primal, instinctual. Both wanting to dominate and be dominated by one another.

 She did not plead, nor whine her needs and wants, she acted of her own mind. Increasing the tempo, and slowing it as she went. His hands found purchase beneath her ass, and when he felt her began to tremble around him, he guided their movements, lifting her so that he could thrust inside of her while she sought her pleasure.

 He could not say how long that their joining lasted, but when he found himself close to completion, Lyanna was as well. They found their release within moments of each other, and collapsed in a heap upon the altar, heavy breaths and slick skin.

 The day had been long, and their tasks arduous, and without realization they both fell into a strange slumber, Lyanna still lying atop his chest, his length still held within her hot core.

  Unknown to the two of them, overhead two stars lit up the night sky one the color of ice, the other the color of blood, and all around them, the forest sung a song as old as time itself. A song of ice and a song of fire, for the stars in the sky confirmed it's fulfillment. 


The She-wolf


  She was walking beside her husband down a long dark hall. There was no echo, there was no light and yet she could see the way clear enough.

 Eventually the hall they had been walking  opened into a cavernous room, though she wasn't sure that the term ‘room’ could be reasonably applied to the space she and Rhaegar were now occupying.

 Though there were no details to take note of, she had a feeling that something big was happening. She turned to face her mate. Rhaegar appeared to be as uninformed as she felt. “I don't understand, is this your dream or mine?” she asked him hesitatingly.

 His brow furrowed at her inquiry, but before he could respond a voice spoke up from all around. “Son of the Dragon, Daughter of the Wolf, long have we awaited your coming.” Lyanna had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Never had there been another person in her dreams with Rhaegar.

 “Excuse me,” Rhaegar intervened, “but where exactly are we, and whom exactly is the we you speak of?”

 Good question… she thought to herself smugly.

 From a distance, a light the color of moonlight began to pulse beside another form obscured by shadow. “There are many questions, and many answers, but there is only one truth.” a disembodied yet feminine voice answered back.

 All around them, figures began to appear all of whom had the same ethereal appearance, but possessing their own uniqueness as well. There was a man dressed in pearl, another in jade then came tourmaline, onyx, topaz, opal and then amethyst. In the last seat a singular black stone marked the identity of a man shrouded in darkness and cold.

 Though these faces were none she knew, their legend is not one she is unfamiliar with. “These are the empresses and emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn.” she blurted out before thinking but only silence answered back. As they neared the two masses that sat together, it occurred to her that, together they looked a lot like what a solar eclipse would, on the rare occasion that one can be seen. Beside them, on either side sat two empty thrones and Lyanna felt a pull to sit beside the bright figure but Rhaegar held her tight, willing her to stay beside him.

 All around them the scenery began to change. The blackness she had assumed were walls, and the surface beneath her feet started to light up, until Lyanna realized that she was standing with the stars, or at least she appeared to be.

 “You stand in the halls of Gods and Kings.” a deep and timeless voice boomed. “Long have we awaited your arrivals.” This was curious, her Gods were the nameless ones, the gods of trees and earth and the memory of time. They were not celestial Gods, so why should they care one bit for her?

 “Be at peace, my child. We are not here to make you question your faith. Your Gods are nameless, as are we. Though we have been titled many times throughout the ages, there are two such names that have stuck more so than any other, can you guess?” The disembodied voice answered.

 Rhaegar swept his hand across the hall, toward the still figures who sat atop thrones of their own before he spoke. “These are your children and your children’s children, the Emperors and Empresses of the Dawn, which only means that you both, being opposing dualities must be the Maiden Made of Light and her husband, the Lion of Night. But I admit, I am confused as to what you could possibly want with my wife and I.” the sound of him calling her his wife thrilled her beyond relief, and she was determined to reward him for his frequent use of it when they were exclusively in each others company the next time.

 “Excuse me, you said that there were two such names that people take to calling you, I was wondering if you are the sun and the moon?” Lyanna spoke without thinking.

 The sound of feminine laughter could be heard all around her. “You are very observant my children. Long ago, a promise was made, a promise of balance and of peace. You and your wife are the fulfillment of that promise.” The maiden spoke and then gestured to the images of the heavens. “The truth is written in the stars, look with your own eyes, and you will know the truth for yourselves.”

 They both turned toward the open expanse beside them and watched as a myriad of images played out before their eyes.

  The crowning of the Amethyst Empress, and with her the promise of peace and prosperity.

 Two moons, high in the sky. One moon seeks out the heat from the embrace of the sun, but soon realized that she could not withstand the fire of the Sun. Knowing that she could not return as she had before, she drank the suns flame, hoping to temper it for the only sister that remained to their lover, lest this fate be repeated. In the end, the flames proved too great and she cracked from the heat and fell toward the earth causing darkness to descend with her, for she had been the twilight  and now all that remained was Day and Night. The Sun and the Moon.

 A man, similar in feeling to the one in the hall that is shrouded in darkness seeks power and is possessed by a black stone which fell from the sky along with the moon. A bloodstone… and thus he named himself.

 The Bloodstone Emperor had been corrupted by the oily black stone and he began using dark magic after he enslaved his people, not stopping at necromancy.

 A fort is being built, nestled amongst the bogs and swamps. Solid black walls, no lines or seams. Lyanna realized that this was Moat Cailin before it fell into ruin. The same man stands amidst at least three score men, all haggard in appearance, no light shining through their lifeless eyes.

 High above, the only moon turned her back from the world of man, too far gone in her grief was she, at having lost her only companion, her sister. Without her to govern, the land eventually frosted over covering everything in ice, and the Sun, with no other option was sent forth to punish the wickedness of the Bloodstone Emperor and his followers.

 A man, dark of hair and grey of eye, watches as the moon crashes to the earth and decides to follow it to the point of impact which caused the earth to split and shake and the Sun took shelter for an age. He finds her broken and bleeding and he brings her under his protection.

  A thousand-thousand dragons are born from the moon, flying east and west and north and south.

 The same man searches the crater caused by the fall of the moon, and low and behold he finds the physical body of the fallen moon. Paralyzed by her beauty, he stole her and claimed her as his own and she went on to bare him many children. A Star, a Dragon and a wolf. One to guard the heavens, another to guard the realms of men, and one to unite the heavens and the earth and create balance.

 Later, he goes on to forge a weapon; a sword, the color of moonlight from the material left behind from the wreckage that was once a twin to her sister, though try as he might, nothing mundane could temper it. After his second attempt had failed him, he knew that he had to temper the blade using a material that was of equal or greater strength. So, with a heavy heart he called forth the Moon, whom he had named Nissa Nissa (Falling Star in the Old Tongue) and bid her bare her breast to him. Knowing what was required of her, she willingly sacrificed herself for the fate of humanity, and the children she was leaving behind.

 After observing the man at the forge, the Sun decides to make the man his vessel and he pours his fire forth into the blade the moment it pierces his wives heart, combining the two for all time, a sword with the soul of Fire and the heart of Ice.

 A whispered phrase. “Lightbringer, and you shall bring the dawn.”

 The smith who had forged Lightbringer surrounded by an army of corpses, scores falling to the might of the sword.

 Three children, a wolf with eyes the color of Iron, a star and a dragon with eyes the colors of sunsets stand together as they watch the sun rise for the first time in a generation. “This will not last forever Balerion, we will need to prepare them for the time when a darkness falls once again.” The wolf said.

“Vhagar, it is not just the vanity and the greed that brought about the darkness and it wasn't the dead who were our greatest foe. If the darkness returns so too will all the rest.” The Dragon responded.

 “Then we must all say our goodbyes, for our work must be done across the known world.” stated the star.

 The birth of the Red Star and the birth of the blue star.

A babe is born amidst the flaming ruins of a once great palace, overhead the Sun watches on as he chooses his vessel once more.

 A woman kneels before the Heart Tree of the nameless to make an offering. The Maiden hears her call and chooses the babe in her womb as her vessel.

 “His shall be fire, hers shall be ice, and together they shall bring forth Lightbringer and save the realms of men from a darkness set to devour them all."

 Lyanna didn't have to ask what she had just seen, she understood well enough, she turned to face the man who had brought the darkness. She meant to remember his features, eyes the color of Ice, hair as black as night. He had a look about him that seemed almost familiar, one filled with lust, greed and envy.

 “You both have been chosen, you both have been marked. Long ago, the founders of your lines were of one blood.” Three heads has the dragon… “ After the darkness, they all chose to part ways, each of them in turn creating families of their own. The wolf went North his Sons eventually going on to build the Wall, and many other great feats, all to prepare for the day when the darkness would return.” Lyanna nodded her head in understanding.

 “The empire was gone with the defeat of the darkness, the world had become a broken place and all the peoples and their tribes as well. Trust was broken and mankind became fearful of one another, and so lust and murder continued. For this reason the Wolf, the Star and the Dragon all parted ways. The Star remained  where their mother had fallen to build a castle atop the remains of her original form, his sons, sons would go on to prove their valor and the right to wield the Sword of the Morning. The Wolf traveled North, chasing the moon and the Dragon flew in search of the lands of fire. And now the time has come, the darkness is returning. You both have now awoken the power that has been lying dormant. Your blood is our blood, for you are as much our children as the ones who raised you. You have bled on the altar of the Gods and now you have opened the Gate of Ice.” she turned her attention toward Rhaegar. “You have shared your seed on the altar of the Gods, and thus have opened the Gate of Fire. Use these gates wisely, and stay close to one another. Your strength is in the balance you each provide, for the winter is without mercy, and fire consumes without each other to temper one another.”

 There was so much that she didn't understand, so many questions she needed to ask, but somehow she knew that she would get no clear answers from them. Rhaegar was another story all together. “To what end will this gift serve, what changes now that we know of these gates and this truth you have revealed to us?” His tone was hard, this was not the Rhaegar she fell in love with. This was a dragon, protecting his mate, one who was suspicious of outsiders, no matter whom they claimed to be.

 The last words spoken between the four of them came from the shadow, the Lion of Night. “Your destiny is yours alone my children, but you were both chosen to be our vessels upon the earth. Ergo, your strength is in Fire, while hers is in Ice. Your destiny in all of this is to create the balance, and through that balance your future generations will return the people to a time of peace and prosperity. The promise is thus; everlasting unity…”

 When she awoke, she was still astride Rhaegar, a tangle of limbs and sweat. Hardly any time had passed at all from the look of things. Her eyes sought his, only to find indigo staring back at her grey. “Do you remember?”

 He simply nodded, and then pulled her near, holding her tightly within the circle of his embrace and kissing her tenderly. His touch did exactly what she had needed, putting her at ease almost immediately. “Would you like to lay here a bit longer, or would you like to move to the tent I had prepared for us?” he enquired.

 Truth be told, both options sounded perfect, as long as there was more time between the two of them. However, now that she had the time to process everything, she also had an impulse to investigate these gates of Ice and Fire. Ever a creature of impulsiveness, she decided it was best to confess what she truly desired.

 “I’d like to explore, tell me you don't feel a pull and I’ll not say another word, but something is pulling me toward the Northern part of the Isle and I can only assume you are feeling the same sensation pulling you south. Do you deny it?” she challenged.

 “Nay, I do indeed feel the compulsion to go toward the southern side of the Isle. But this night feels sacred Lya, and we know nothing about these gates. Mayhap it is better to wait upon our guide before we began to meddle in things blindly.” he reasoned.

 Rising from her position atop him, she sighed deeply, knowing him to have the right of it. His eyes followed her naked figure. She turned her back to him, and returned her maidens cloak and wrapped it about herself, before turning back to face her visibly aroused mate.

 “Take me to bed, Your Grace, I do believe I’d like to ride a dragon once more.” She teased, and to her delight he did not hesitate, sweeping her up and carrying her, and his discarded clothing back to the tent that awaited them.

 She was a thousand leagues from home, yet she never felt more content than when his hands and lips were upon her flesh and their bodies are joined as one.

Chapter Text

The Three-eyed Raven


 A single red eye opens somewhere far to the North. The Three-eyed Raven takes in his surroundings; beside him, perched on the branches that made his throne were his Ravens. The collective consciousness of past singers and seers alike. His only companions save the Singers and the Sleepers who inhabit his hollow hill.

 He had spent many and more days beneath the sea, and based on all he’d seen, things were progressing far better than he could have anticipated, and his chosen was playing his part much better than he had hoped.

 There was still much to be done but he had already begun their preparations. If they were to survive the coming darkness, he could not wait to send them their familiars. The Starks would require their packs, and their young will require their own familiars as well.

 This would be an age for the beasts and Old Magic, mankind has done enough damage, even without magic to aid them.

  No more… the time of the GateKeepers is upon us. Their line will ensure that we live to see a never ending spring…

  The migration had already begun, the Great packs have already passed through the caves and soon the shadowcats, the snow bears, and all the other beasts of prey will begin their march as well. Though it will be many a year before the migration is complete, the journey was well underway.

 He thought about the dragons and how once they flew over Westeros inspiring fear and wonder in the hearts of men, women and children. They would return, of this he knew, he just needed to get the Silver boy on track first.

 He would need to send word to Aemon, not just about the she-dragon, but about the eggs as well. The children would need them, and they would need them soon. If proper bonds were to be forged, if they were to control them properly, then they would need to begin in the cradle. The way it had been until that final hatchling from the Dance.

 He was thankful for the hallowed earth in which the enemy holds no dominion. For the wyrmways that had been carved into the earth long before the arrival of the First Men.

 Long before they wandered across the land bridge once known as the Arm of Dorne, and claimed Westeros as their home. The tunnels traveled beneath the earth, as far north as the Lands of Always Winter and as far south as Dragonstone, south-west to the Rainwood, and from there, north-west to the Westerlands, and it is within these hallowed tunnels, forged with fire and magic the She-dragon slumbers, waiting on the Silver boy to call upon her.

 Yes, it was definitely time to move on to his next stage, and soon he would have the chance to relay his intent to the crannogman.

 The Three-Eyed Raven leaned back upon his throne and closed his good eye. Concentrating his intentions, he pushed his consciousness southward in search of an island surrounded by water. Toward the isle of the God’s, where his agent was busy at his task.

 The bond of Dragon and Wolf was secured, But he had yet to proclaim her as Winters Queen the last time he had checked in. And even though it was hardly necessary to the bond, Winter needed a Queen—, the Dragon must wed an equal, not his subject.

 The Stag, It would seem is still fuming, and even though there is little to be done in this regard, the Three-Eyed Raven could not help but hope for the man to be struck down through some Divine intervention.

  Perhaps this type of obsession is what fueled Aegor’s interest in Shiera…

 Shiera… God’s it had been an age since last they spoke. Even though he was now bound to the tree. He hoped that she did not resent him his last request.

 He had promised her that one day they would reunite, he had convinced her that he could not fulfill their joined destinies if she refused to aid him. He could check on her now, but she avoided the Godswood, and detested the presence of his ravens and the crow cousins he sometimes used in their place.

 But she never abandoned her post, even if she had taken other lovers, and birthed many children not of his seed…

 He had the chance to go with her once, but love was the death of duty, and everything he had done thus far, including his banishment beyond the Wall, was all done in the name of Duty…

 He watched in silence as the agent went about his tasks, his eyes widened as he watched the Winter Winds wrap themselves around the king. This was no doubt an undisclosed effect of the mark, but even without his interjection he watched as his agent deftly navigated his way through the greater mysteries that are Ice and Fire.

 He had been neither, a firebird at most. Neither dragon nor raven, he was the tree outside the halls of his mother. Bone and blood and memory and sight… but he was as nameless as the Gods of the First Men, and cursed to suffer alone. He had been given by the God’s to the house of his father, to watch and observe, to serve, and to protect, but to never expect gratitude or thanks.

 It mattered naught to him, whether they loved him or not, for gratitude, he found, was a fickle thing. Those thanking you today will just as soon curse you tomorrow if it served their purposes well enough.

 His silver prince was taking his bride to Dragonstone… this is perfect, for this  had not been a part of the previous timeline. His thoughts traveled toward the room… yes the room would need to be discovered, as well as the other door that was a link to the Fire-Gate.

 The iron-She-Wolf will need to collect the seeds and she will need the crannogman’s aid in planting them. While it is she that holds the blood of Winter, his will be the song that will sing them from seed to root and then sprout.

 The Silver boy will need to locate the woods-witch once more as well, for she can teach him the words for the song…

 There was still much work to be done, even in the North. The Kingdom of the Direwolf will have to learn how to adapt as the world continues to change from without. If they stay frozen in place for the next eight-thousand years they won’t survive. They need to invest in the living, for tomorrow. Rather than living for the day they are currently in, they need to start looking ahead. They cannot keep sacrificing their elderly for the young, their men for their women and babes. No, all lives are precious… especially in winter.

 He was still  wary of interfering with things on his own. Even if the ends justify the means, Aerys was all the proof he needed of good intentions going wrong, as well as the boy in Winterfell.

 He felt the whisper of his agent and the trees response, and then he is watching as the Iron She-Wolf wove her favor into the hair of her mate. Another union of ice and fire… she was a clever one, this girl… they both were. Not for the first time, they had found another way to complete the requirements, but they would need more than just quick wits if we are to survive all of this.

 They would need the help of the Freehold, or at the very least what remained of the Targaryen holdings. Would that he had the chance to go himself but his time had not been the time of Dragons. Had he been born prior to Princess Aerea/Rhaella’s flight back to Valyria, may happen her journey could have ended differently. But the dragons must return, through the gates, or through the lands that are the blooded property of their house. So says the incantation Daenys used on their estate prior to the Doom.

 He focused, visualizing the chamber of the Dragon, long since forgotten on Dragonstone. When he focused, he could see tall pillars lining along hall, behind him a set of stairs ascended upward. In the distance, he could faintly hear the crash of the waves assaulting the cliffs below.

 The chamber itself was much like the rest of Dragonstone, built in the classic Valyrian fashion. Seamless black stone walls, twisted and shaped with magic known only to the Firemages of Old Valyria. Sphinx’s and dragons and Wyverns seemingly springing forth from the stone. The archways adorned by what appeared to be the open maw of a Dragon.

 The chamber itself was three sided with a series of volcanoes etched into the surrounding surfaces. Fourteen to be exact… on the far side of the chamber stood an arch that was done in white and black, which the Three-Eyed Raven knew to be Ebony and Weirwood, with Valyrian glyphs etched into its frame.

 He sighed, feeling contentment at the sight of the portal. The room held many secrets to be sure, but the gate was a treasure beyond priceless and soon it would be brought to light.

 When he opened his eye, Leaf stood before him, parchment in hand. “Send word to Aemon, tell him that it is time to prepare the Silver Prince for the future. Tell him that the eggs must be presented to the babes. Tell him Silverwing and he will understand what it means.

 Leaf nodded and made haste to carry out her duties. There was much to do, but much more to see. So he closed his eye once more and allowed the waves of the ever changing sea to carry him away once again...


 The Silver Prince


Time sped by without pause. The morning following their union, he awoke to the image of his wife.

  His wife… the realization was sweeter than any he had ever experienced in all his years upon the earth.

 She was currently wrapped around his prone form, one hand resting above his heart, her legs twined between his and her hair was fanned out around her in a dark halo of curls. Her pale flesh a contrast to her full red lips and dark lashes. She looked absolutely ethereal the way she was lying there, as if the world were a perfect place.

 It was early he knew, and knowing that the day would be a full one, he leaned in and kissed Lyanna tenderly on her forehead. “My Love,” he prodded.

 “Mmmm?” she responded, a slight smile forming on her face, which of course he returned in spite of himself.

 “You must wake, if you intend to search for the gates. We must do so now, before we make for the shore.” Her eyes fluttered open at the mention of the gate, as if she had forgotten about them. However the words that came from her mouth completely disarmed him.

 “I saw them, our legacy… Rhaegar,” her hand traveled downward toward her flat middle. “A boy and a girl.”

  Twins?  He had been aware that there would be three, two of silver like him, and one dark like her, but twins? Could it be true? And so soon… Perhaps it was a premonition, not anything concrete… but still he couldn't help the hope that sprung up in his chest at her words. “Do you think it's true?” he asked, trying to contain the joy he felt in that moment. He hadn’t even asked her how she felt about it, it would not do to start celebrating before he had her thoughts on the matter.

 “Only the Gods know, Rhaegar. But after all that we have seen, who can say? You said yourself that you have seen their faces where I have not, not until now.” She had a strange distant look to her eyes as she spoke, and Rhaegar could imagine that this is how he must look every time he was hit with a premonition of his own.

 “Would you like to tell me about them, compare notes?” he asked her, a bit of humor lacing his tone.

 She shook her head, “Nay, I want to keep them to myself for a while if that is okay with you. I'm not ready to share them, I don't want to get attached to them in case it was just a dream.” The tone of her voice was laced with a bit of melancholy and for a moment he almost regretted waking her. He wished that he had been allowed to witness it with her, but he decided to remain hopeful that her dream was a sign.

 Their union had a purpose, and it was more than a mere consummation, everything had been done with the utmost care for details, and the Gods had welcomed them into their Halls. He reached for her then and ran the back of his knuckles lovingly across her cheek. “Lyanna?” She looked up meeting his gaze, Valyrian steel to Indigo. “I love you.” he murmured softly so that only she could hear.

 He had yet to say it thus, but the moment the words escaped his lips he knew them to be true. He had loved her almost immediately, without hesitation or resignation. She was good in every possible way, wanting to do good for and by her people, she was strong, her will was like iron, like the line of Winter King’s she hailed from. She was as wild as a winter storm, and as surprising as a summer snow south of the Neck, yet it was the winter in her veins that made his inner dragon roar. Never had he felt so complete than when he was able to embrace the fire burning within his veins. It felt as if he were finally coming alive, like it was finally safe to wake the dragon, and that was when he knew for certain that she would be his beginning and his end, for if there were no winter, the world would burn just as assuredly as his fire would consume him.

 She curled herself closer to him, and held him tightly. “As I love you…, as there is the Sun and the Moon, a day and a night, my love for you will stand the test of time.” she vowed to him alone. She was his… they stayed that way for just a bit longer before rising to ready themselves.

 Once they made their way from the tent, they could see that the sky was just beginning to lighten, though the colors were a mix of crimson, violet, and a blue that were more likely to be present at sunset rather than sunrise.

 Hand in hand they made their way toward  a clearing that would allow them a better view of the morning sky, all around the woods were humming with some unknown ancient magic that was more than simply the magic of the Nameless ones.

 “What do you think is the cause?” Lyanna asked, unable to master her ever curious nature for long.

 He chuckled, “Patience love, we shall see soon enough,” he pulled her near and captured her lips with his own. “Are you ready?” he murmured against her mouth.

 “Mmm,”  she hummed, nodding her head to affirm her intent.

 Taking hold of her arms, he turned her so that her back was flush to his chest and together they took their first look at the morning sky as a married and bonded pair. He had expected pastels, gradient blends upon the horizon, but above him were two very distinctive yet two completely different comets soaring through the heavens. One was the color of blood, the other was the color of Ice. His eyes went wide as he turned his attention back to his wife who simply looked on in shock at the wonder that they had created through their union.

 “That’s us—,” he confessed without thinking. “They say that the red comet comes to herald a king, that it is meant to slay the season, it speaks of dragons and warns of Fire and Blood to come. But I know nothing of the other one…”

 She squeezed his hand once, “Well, we are the fulfillment of a promise, of fire and ice. If the red comet slays the season, that would imply that winter holds no dominion, yet there we are.” her gaze drifted upward and then back between the two of them. “And here we are. I think it's a promise of balance between the two. As I have told you before, winter is still upon us. I can smell it in the air, and taste it on my tongue.” her hands went to her stomach once more. “These babes will be born between both winter and summer—, they will mark spring.” Her words left no room for doubt. It was a statement of fact, and so he simply nodded.

 They were brought away from their private moment by the sound of approaching footsteps, when they turned around to see who was coming they found both Root and Brook standing close by, patiently waiting for their attention.

 “Hello, we didn't realize that you would be awake, I hope that we didn't disturb anything. We only wished—,” Lyanna began but Root finished her thought before she had the opportunity.

 “To view the Gate of Ice and the Gate of Fire, we came to be your escorts and your guides in this one instance, at least whilst you reside with us on the isle, Your Graces.” They spoke with absolute reverence toward the two of them, which he hadn’t expected at all.

 “Please, it would be an honor to have you both guide us through the details and have you teach us what we need to know about the gates.” he replied.

 Pleased by his words they both nodded and motioned for he and Lyanna to follow as they made their way back toward the World Tree and the altar. Rather than head toward the altar as they had the previous night, they were brought around to the opposite side where the earth had been pushed aside and a huge opening appeared that lead them under the tree, and deep within the earth.

 He couldn't tell how far they descended into the earth, but eventually the room opened up and there was a large loom in the center. All round there were threads, millions upon millions of different colors. Colors that even he could not name for he had never before seen them himself. The earthen walls around the room had different tunnels that lead to what Rhaegar could only assume were the other parts of the isle. Two such tunnels stood out from the rest however both wreathed in what appeared to be weirwood, however the archway to the right bore what appeared to be Valyrian glyphs and the other, the one on the left bore the runes of the First Men, and then he understood.

 He had not expected an explanation, but nonetheless one was offered. Though it came from Howland Reed who had appeared after they arrived. “Fair morning, Your Graces,” he greeted as he approached.

 “Fair morning,” they both returned in unison.

 “I suppose you are curious about all of this.” he said, sweeping his hand across the room.

 They both nodded their affirmation, which Howland returned before speaking once more. “This is the loom, which is used to weave the tapestry of time. Each individual thread belongs to a single living life. Some threads are wound another, these threads represent a bonded pair, just as the two of you are.”

 This caught Rhaegar off guard. To his knowledge the only other bonded pair aside from himself and Lyanna was Ned and Ash. Howland must have understood the confused look on his face because he beckoned them closer.

 “The loom holds the threads of the living, true. But the tapestry holds the story of all time, as such there are residual strands left behind representing the product of such unions which will eventually pass through the loom as well.” he gestured toward a joined thread. “This thread belongs to the two of you, before I left the isle for the tourney, your threads were still separate, but now…” he pointed to the alternating colors, indigo and silver-grey, “You cannot tell where His Grace begins, and Her Grace ends.” His tone was casual as he explained, but Rhaegar didn't miss the blush that traveled up Lyanna’s cheeks as Howland referred to her as royalty.

 His eyes followed their thread, looking to see how far it went, but quickly realized that there was only the now. However, now that he had finally seen the thread for himself, he could see that the thread was bound around not just the loom, but also around himself and Lyanna too, and where their hands were clasped together the tread pulsed brightly.

 “There will be time moving forward for both of you to  view the tapestry, but I do believe you both were hoping to view the gates.” Howland said as he started walking toward the Southern Gate entrance. They were met by Brook who had been waiting patiently for Howland to finish speaking. The Greenmen did not speak often, and even then only when absolutely necessary. He suspected that they were able to communicate telepathically with each other, because even when they were both together Root seldomly used spoken words to communicate with Brook, yet she seemed to understand his intentions easily enough.

 The tunnel they walked was long and dark though there was a natural luminescence to be seen all around them. Oddly the path looked like it went on forever when he had entered but as they neared the end, he could swear that they had only been walking a few minutes.

 Before him stood an archway like nothing he had ever seen, it was made up of weirwood and a dark wood that he had a bluish tint. Etched into the wood were Valyrian glyphs that he knew as well as his own name. Fire and Blood. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he stepped toward the gate and placed his hands on either side of the arch, one touching the white bark of the weirwood and the other touching the dark wood and he closed his eyes listening to the magic that was humming in his head, the instinctual knowledge that had been laying dormant his entire life. He felt the heat rise from his core and he pushed it outward toward the gate. At first he felt no change, so he tried again and then waited. After a moment he felt a click and he removed his hand and stepped back, opening his eyes as he retreated to the comfort of Lyanna’s side.

 The arch was alive in a way that he had only seen in a dream, a gate of Fire indeed, where there had once been a dark and light wooden arch now was a perpetual bonfire. He turned to look at Root, “Is this safe?”

 “It is as it should be, the gate is active and can now be used. The first ingredient was fire, the second will be blood. When you desire to use the gate you will need to pay the blood price, as only your blood can activate the portal.” Beside the gate was an impression where his hand would fit perfectly a place for him to feed his blood to the flame. “There are two locations that this gate will lead you, both of which are tied to the blood of your blood. One is Dragonstone, the other Old Valyria. Choose your destination carefully when using this gate.” Root warned.

 He had more questions now than he had answers, but he would not travel through the gate right now, not knowing where the other gate on Dragonstone was located, and not wanting to end up in Valyria some place in the Smoking Sea. He turned his attention toward Lyanna, “Shall we go to see this one's twin?” he asked her, knowing he was about to explode if she wasn't able to see it soon.

 “Gods I was worried you would never ask!” she confessed, impatient as ever. He could only chuckle at his beautiful wild and ever curious mate.

 “If you would be so kind?” he hinted to Root, who inclined his head and lead them back the way they had come.

  The Gate of Ice was made primarily of Weirwood, though the runes were wrought in bronze. He didn't have to be a genius to know what they said, ‘Winter is Coming.’ Lyanna knew just as he did what was required of her. Though there was a scepter that was protruding from the ground that looked as if it had been carved from glass. Lyanna took it in both her hands and closed her eyes. Unlike with him, the gate knew the moment she touched the scepter what to do, and he suspected it was because Lyanna was so closely attuned to her gods, and as such had been using her power without her knowledge, where as he had always sought to suppress his fire lest he end up like his father.

 Slowly the ice crept away from the scepter and toward the Gate, traveling up the bark until it completely encased the gate and the portal within lit up. Lyanna was back at his side in an instant, staring at the gate in wonder.

 “This gate will take you to Winterfell, the home of the Winter Kings, and beyond the Wall to the cave of the Last Greenseer. If there are any other locations, they are not known to us, though I would advise you not to travel to a place that is unfamiliar to you.” Root counseled.

 Lyanna turned to him then, “Can we go to Winterfell? I know that my father would keep this a secret, and we could be back just as quickly?” she almost begged.

 He wanted to say yes, but something told him that they should wait. “I would love to meet your Lord Father right now, but we have no idea where the other gate is, and we don't know how long they stay active, would it not be better to do this when there is no one waiting on either of us?” This needed to be a decision that she made, not one that he denied her, else this conversation would take them nowhere. Luckily the Gods seemed to take pity on him, because Lyanna agreed to wait, at least until they arrived on Dragonstone and located the other half of the fire gate.

 The rest of their time was spent packing up their belongings, and talking with the greenmen about the tapestry and the seeds. By the time they set off from the isle, the sun was less than half way over the eastern horizon, what had felt like hours took no time at all in reality.


 The She-Wolf


The ride from Harrenhal to King's Landing passed by more quickly than she had thought. Though they did not rush their journey, Lyanna suspected that Howland had used his crannog-magic to aid them in their travels.

 They ended up leaving late on the evening of the final day, mostly due to seeing off the last few lords who had yet to depart, and of course she had wanted to scout the isle and learn all that she could about the gates and the seeds before they left for however long, only the Gods knew…

 Of the former, she was still trying to wrap her mind around, the latter, ironically didn’t have need of requirements. The green-men said that she would know when and where she should place the pods, and Howland of course offered to teach her the song to sing them into rooting.

 Lyanna was able to avoid seeing Robert off, thank the Gods for their small mercies. Even though he had appeared to respect the King’s decree, she knew he was simply hiding his time before he made another move—. These were the times of course that she despised being born female more than any other. Had she been born with a cock between her legs, no one would have cared if she wanted to be the one to reject a potential suitor, but because she had been born with a cunt and tits, no one would allow her the chance to make her thoughts and feelings known to the man—, ugh! She hated depending on those with cocks to relay her sentiments. She was perfectly capable of speaking her mind, truthfully and seriously.

 Her days on the road had been spent doing any number of tasks. In the morning she would attempt to train with Arthur and Oswell, but Rhaegar had made a chore out of that due to her admission the morning following their wedding, and as a result, he would train with her for the most part. Which she supposed she couldn’t complain about, but she could tell that he was holding back, afraid of causing any undue injury to her person on the off chance that his seed had quickened. Arthur pointed out better ways for her to handle her blade, and even promised to have a blade made for her hand when they reached Dragonstone.

 Ashara and Ned were constantly running off whenever there was a free moment, and Lyanna knew exactly what her good-sister had been up to with her shy brother. Perhaps the most shocking thing about it all was that after the second day, Ned stopped coming back red faced with his head hung in embarrassment. Ashara was good for her brother, anyone with eyes could see how much he had changed since he met her, all changes that were in truth for the better.

 Whenever the men would disappear to talk their plans and plots, Lyanna and Elia and Ashara would spend their time gossiping about their days, Elia spent a good time in the wheelhouse due to her pregnancy, and the fact that she was never much of a rider, so Ashara had agreed to ride along and keep her company. But Lyanna just could not, and she spent every stop apologizing profusely for not being more sensitive toward her situation, especially knowing that once they were close enough, she would be expected to abandon Winter and ride in the wheeled cage too. But Elia was as kind and as understanding as ever, promising her that she did not mind the quiet time, nor the extra space to stretch herself out. Howland even rode with her from time to time, and the two of them became fast friends once they figured out how similar their two cultures actually were.

  Another surprise was seeing the difference between the Arthur Dayne that was the Kingsguard and Arthur Dayne who was a loving husband and father. His manner when with her was unlike anything she could imagine, for a knight as deadly as the Sword of the Morning, he treated his wife with care and delicacy, but not in a way that would wound her dignity. He adored her, everything about her, from her Dornish temper that once roused was a thing to behold, he loved how clever and devious she was, and he loved that she was not afraid to need him openly.

 Lyanna found that she envied that trait of her friend the most. She was not sure if she could ever allow herself to be the damsel that most men dream of falling for, she did not know how to need someone, to be vulnerable for the benefit of another… but every time she saw the two of them together she realized that there was also strength to be had in vulnerability, they found strength in each other. It was then that she realized that she had always been afraid. She was afraid of being honest with her father and her brothers, she was afraid that if she were to show weakness, they would treat her differently. She was afraid that if she wasn't strong enough for everyone else, then everything would come tumbling down around them, the way it had when her mother had departed. It was then that she knew that she was only half living, because if all she had ever been was brave, she had closed herself off to everything else that life would have her experience.

 She had wanted to be Visenya as a girl, only to now realize that Rhaenys was just as strong as her sister. Not because she rode a dragon of her own, because she was proof that her kin were also human as the people they intended to rule. She was both a woman and a warrior, alluring and lethal. If she were being honest with herself, she still preferred the Warrior over the Woman, but she had a new found respect for Queen Rhaenys.

 The first seed that she planted was at the Inn at the Crossroads. At first she didn't understand what was happening but her confusion quickly became understanding when Howland came to stand beside her. She had been pacing back and forth, restless for some reason she could not name. She felt like she should be looking for something, and that was when he told her that she was feeling the urge to plant a seed, the spot had been chosen because of how often travelers pass through the area. The trees are meant to provide a measure of protection in the true winter, and because of this the magic had marked the earth in this location.

 The song was more of a tune than anything else, but there was an intent behind the melody that encouraged the seed to grow, it was not until she picked the tune up on her own though that she saw her magic work for the first time. Her hands were working the earth and she willed her intent through the song and then her hands began to glow in a way she had never seen before but she knew that this was supposed to be. She hadn’t  noticed Rhaegar beside her when she started, but when she was done he was there watching her with something akin to amazement sparkling in his eyes. She smiled at him, and it occurred to her that she needed to give this tree an offering, so she pulled her blade from her boot and made the cut across her palm that she always made, and offered her blade to Rhaegar thinking that he may want to help. He didn't disappoint when he also cut into the already healing scar from the night of their wedding, and together they made their first offering to this new weirwood. The first of many they would give back to Westeros. After that, Rhaegar helped her every time a new seed was planted, and eventually he joined his voice in with hers to sing the seed into growing. And somehow, in the deepest part of her soul she felt more and more grounded south of the Neck with every seed that was planted.


 The Silver Prince


 

 The ride through the city didn’t take much time, as they had arrived just after sundown and most people were already inside their homes for the night. Therefore there weren’t many residents lining the streets leading the way up Aegon’s High Hill.

 Outside the Red Keep, a small contingent of men waited to greet him and his party, including Prince Lewyn and Jon Connington, who was surprised to see that Lyanna had agreed to ride in the wheelhouse with Elia and Ashara into the city.

 Having departed Harrenhal with the king, he hadn’t been present the night they had been wed, but he knew enough of Lyanna to know that this was out of  character for her.

 “The king will see you and your party in the throne room, Your Grace.” Connington said with a bow.

 Rhaegar wasn’t surprised by this, although he had hoped to put this off until the morrow, alas some things just can’t be helped. He sighed, “Very well, let’s get this over with.” He looked over to Lyanna and gave her a shy smile that begged her for her forgiveness before he offered his arm to Elia.

 Even though she would not complain about having to pretend that they were nothing more than a Prince and a Lady in Waiting, he hated not being able to claim her before the eyes of the court, and the realm as a whole.

 “Jon I have a favor I would ask of you.” He hesitated.

 “Anything, Your Grace,” his tone was eager, as always, whenever Rhaegar asked a favor of him specifically.

 “I’d like for you to arrange rooms for your Princess Lyanna that have two enterances, if you know what I’m saying. She will not want to sleep alone, and I do not wish to be parted from her, nor do I wish to start rumors during our short stay.” He said quietly so that only Jon could hear.

 “At once.” Jon took on the demeanor of a soldier reporting for duty, before leading their party through the Red Keep toward the Throne Room.

 The hall was empty save for a few courtesans that had gathered to see the Prince and his party arrive. His father was seated atop the Iron Throne, flanked by Ser Jaime Lannister and Ser Gerold Hightower of the Kingsguard, but his mother was noticeably absent, as was Viserys.

 Once they were near enough to the throne, Rhaegar bent the knee to his father, hoping that this display of subservience would please the king. Elia followed him with a deep curtsey and behind them followed Ashara, Lyanna and her brother Ned.

 “You returned much sooner than I had thought. I see you’ve brought the wolves with you to court.” The king looked pleased enough by this development. Although it wasn’t exactly as if they’d had a choice in the matter.

 “The road was clear on our way, and there was no reason to delay our return after the final day. The Starks made for great travel companions and of course the Princess was eager to be reunited with our daughter.” He added quickly.

 The king's gaze lingered on Lyanna for a moment before sweeping over the rest of the party. “I assume you plan to depart for Dragonstone in the coming days?” The King enquired.

 Rhaegar couldn't decide whether Lyanna’s presence was having an effect on him or not, but he seemed a touch more civil than normal. Regardless, Rhaegar couldn't help but to keep his senses on high alert and his guard up at all times. Any variation in behavior could be enough to alert the wrong people to the King's new condition.

Rhaegar nodded his confirmation. “As soon as the ship can be made ready. I have already sent someone to make preparations.”

 “Hmm, I see.” The king's thoughts trailed off for a moment. “Very well, I suspect you all would like to rest after your journey, your chambers will be prepared. Rhaegar, you will join me tonight for last meal with your mother and Viserys. You are dismissed.” The king waved his claw like hand in a shooing motion before anyone could say another word.

 Bowing to the king before departing, Rhaegar lead Elia and the rest of their party from the throne room and off toward the Maiden Vault where rooms had been prepared. After seeing Lyanna into the rooms that had been selected specifically for her with care, he promised that he would see her soon and he placed a tender kiss upon her brow before departing in search of his mother.

 He found the Queen in her chambers, sitting by the large windows that looked out onto the Blackwater. Viserys could be heard playing in the other room beside Rhaenys who could also be heard giggling delightfully at something Viserys said or did.

 “Mother?” He called, trying to announce his presence as not to startle her. When she turned and her lilac eyes met his, her face lit up like she had seen the sun for the very first time.

 “My son, you’ve returned to me.” She rushed from her seat and pulled him into a tight embrace.

 “Always mother, I could never stay away for too long.” He pulled away from her embrace to have a look at her. “Are you well? I didn’t see you when we arrived, and I worried…”

 “Hush, my boy. All is well, you know how your father is, he doesn’t like us out when new people are around. It’s fine, I knew you would come to me as soon as you were able to. Tel me, how was the tournament? I heard about the Queen of Love and Beauty incident, and your father's meddling in the Stark girls betrothal.” She prattled on but Rhaegar couldn't help but smile at the mention of his Northern she-wolf. His mother did not miss a beat.

 “You found her…” she snatched his left hand from her shoulder and pulled back his sleeve to look at his mark and she gasped aloud when she saw the one completed bond. She said nothing for a time, letting it all sink in and Rhaegar gave her all the time she needed. Finally she pulled him over to a small set of chairs, far away from the wall that she knew lead to the secret passages. Far away from where unwanted ears could listen. “Is she here?”

 Rhaegar nodded.

 “Is She the Stark girl?” Rhaegar motioned back toward his mark and quirked a brow that said “ what do you think?”

 She chuckled. “Fair enough. I suppose that was a silly question. Is it official? I don’t mean the bond, I mean the union.”

 He understood the question just fine. “Yes, by the Seven and the Old ones.”

 Her smile was genuine. “Oh my sweet boy, I could not be more happy for you. And look at you! You are absolutely glowing, I’ve never seen you thus!” She crooned, In only the way a mother could.

 “When can I meet her?” His mother asked.

 “Soon, but not tonight. There’s much that I need to tell you about her, and father has commanded that I join You, Viserys and him for last meal, so there isn’t much time.” His mother nodded, accepting his promise.

 “How was Rhaenys? I’ve missed her terribly.” His gaze was drawn back to the double doors that he could hear the two children playing behind.

 “Oh, she is a treasure, my darling son. Even though she is the image of her mother, I dare say that little girl has the spirit of a dragon. And Viserys gets along with her better than I could have hoped. I hope you do not mind, but he gifted her a kitten.” His mother was beaming.

 “A kitten? “ he repeated dumbly, before swallowing the sudden panic of having a cat roaming the castle, having never been a fan of them personally.

 “A kitten.” His mother confirmed, clearly enjoying herself. “Can you guess what they named it?” Still struggling to contain her mirth. Though he wasn’t sure what was so funny, the name or the look of shock that he was sure was still plastered on his face at the thought of bringing the thing home.

 “You say Viserys gave her the kitten?” Already seeing where this path would lead. His mother nodded again. “Well, that clears things up quite a bit. There is only one name for any beast Viserys bestows his attention upon, and with any luck, he’d managed to convince Rhaenys to go along with his feelings on the matter.

“I suspect I will be sailing home with the second coming of the Black Dread?”

 His mother smiled, confirming his suspicions. “Just be thankful he did not find a real dragon, I dare say between the two of them your father would have returned to find the Red Keep reduced to a pile of rubble.” She teased, but all Rhaegar could do was wonder what other types of mischief she had allowed the two of them to get into while the King was gone.

 He kissed his mother on her brow before excusing himself toward the children. “I’m sorry to break away so soon, but there is a Dornish princess pacing in her chambers right now who desperately wants to see her most beloved  daughter.”

 “Of course, I can only sympathize with her. Being away from your children, no matter the length of time is never a pleasant experience.” She stood and lead the way to the children.

 When the doors were finally drawn open, he found Rhaenys and Viserys jumping on the bed, slinging pillows at one another. Though Viserys was always careful to not hit her too hard.  Rhaenys was clearly enjoying the company of her uncle. There had been hardly a moment between the time it had taken them to open the door and the moment two sets of small eyes found his.

 “Papa!”

 “Rhaegar!”

 “You're back!”

 He had hardly a chance to acknowledge the first before another chorus of delightful cheers rushed him anew. He had missed them both and he had hardly a moment for Viserys lately, so it gladdened his heart seeing the bond he had already formed with his niece. Gods knew how little human interaction their royal father allowed his brother. If only he could take them both to Dragonstone for a few weeks…

 He crouched down and swept them both up into his arms. “Hello little dragons, how fare thee?” Both Rhaenys and Viserys seemed pleased by his remark and didn't bother trying to contain their glee.

 “Mother let us see the dragon skulls, and Rhaenys and I played Hide and seek. I even gave Rhae a kitty Rhaegar!” Viserys joy was infectious. Rhaenys, still not as confident in her vocabulary, mostly just nodded and giggled, corroborating Viserys story.

 “I see, I hope you don't mind, little brother, but I came to take the Princess to see her mother. However, if you would allow it, Father has requested that I dine with all of you this evening, and you can tell me all about your adventures with Rhae, how does that sound?” He didn't want to leave him so soon, but he knew that Vis would welcome any additional opportunity to spend with him so he had thrown in the part about Last Meal to sweeten the blow. Even though he seemed to be content in the moment, Rhaegar knew how lonely Vis truly was and took it especially hard whenever he was only around for short periods of time.

 Luckily Viserys accepted his compromise to see him at dinner and he was able to make his way from the Queens chambers without much fuss. The reunion between Elia and Rhaenys was exactly as suspected, the moment she had seen her mother, Rhaegar had been completely forgotten. So he sat there at the window for a bit, watching them catch up with one another. Rhaenys didn't hesitate to tell Elia about her kitten Balerion, which Elia seemed genuinely pleased to learn about. She even told her mother about all the time she spent playing with her Uncle Vis and her Lady Grandma. The way she said it was so cute, his heart ached just a bit. He excused himself shortly after, promising that he would be there on the morrow to bring her to the gardens to play with himself and her uncle Viserys.

 Even if the realm were falling apart, he would make time for both Viserys and his mother while he was within the capital.

 That night, the king kept the conversation light, never mentioning the tourney, nor did he rave about traitors or his disappointment in him or his bookish ways, instead  he spoke about Rhaegar’s trip back, and how quiet news had been from the Rock following Ser Jaime’s induction into the Kingsguard. Just when he thought all was clear, and he had avoided talking about Lyanna his father spoke up.

 “Have you claimed the girl yet?” the King cut the question with no preamble.

 “Excuse me, Your Grace?” he managed to choke out. His face was burning up though he wasn't sure if it was from the shock of the question or whether it was due to the fact that his father couldn't be closer to the truth even if he had tried. “I explained already, father. I have no intention to dishonor the Lady Lyanna.” and he had. But still, his father did not need to know about the specifics of his relationship with Lyanna, not until he was sure that the reveal would not put her in jeopardy.

 “Don't be a fool, anyone with eyes can see you want the girl. The longer you wait, the more difficult it could prove later on. Now that Robert has been removed I can guarantee that her Lord Father will be receiving any number of offers. Your crown all but guaranteed that, boy.” The king’s tone was mocking. A reminder that he had quite effectively made Lyanna desirable to all the realm by his own actions. The words were not said with cruelty, which was something that his Lady Mother clearly couldn't wrap her head around if the look on her face was any indication. It had been years since she had seen her brother-husband speak so candidly with anyone, especially their eldest son.

 Rhaegar sighed, already hating what was about to pass through his lips, but if his father insisted on pressing the issue, he would have no choice than to steer the outcome in a way that would not make his lawful wife seem like a whore.

 “I understand, Your Grace, truly I do. However, I would rather have her in a way that would not bring the Lady shame.” He hated himself for broaching the subject, but if ever a time was the right time, this surely was it. “The maesters say that this babe could prove too much for Elia. They say that we should prepare ourselves for the eventuality that this could be her last babe, and if that is the case, I would have little choice but to seek another bride. But I am trying to remain hopeful, for both Elia and the babe. I won't lie to you, —yes I want her, but I have a duty to my king and my family before myself. You chose Elia for me—,” he didn't bother trying to disguise his own ire toward the match that his father had chosen for him. It was already over at this point , all he could do now is play his part.

 His father however bristled at the mention of his decision to make Elia Rhaegar’s match. Apparently he had his own regrets, not that he would ever own to the fact that he had made a mistake. Instead he settled on a cryptic and rather ominous response. “Let us hope, for the Princess sake that she delivers us an heir worthy of the throne, I won't accept anything less than a true dragon from the whore.” And just like that, the King was back to his normal self.

 The rest of the meal was finished in relative silence, the King excused himself in favor of his chambers, which left his mother and Viserys to entertain him. To his delight, Vis told him all about the time he spent with Rhaenys, of all the games they made up, and how talented she had been at being a dragon just like him, even if she was born the wrong “color”, which made Rhaegar bristle a little bit. This was no doubt the influence of his father, and he could not outright put a stop to it while the king yet draws breath. He would address this slander with Vis at a later time, possibly through a lesson with the maester for there are quite a few notable Targaryen’s who are not only known for their achievements but also for the color of their hair. Prince Baelor Breakspear, and Jacaerys Velaryon and his brothers Joffrey and Lucerys, Prince Duncan and the Princess Rhaenys to name the ones that immediately came to mind. He thought about all of this and more as he carried a sleeping Viserys back to the nursery after they had finished their meal. He left his mother at her door with a kiss and a promise to speak with her about everything on the morrow and then he departed back to his own chambers.

 Before he went in, Oswell passed him a note “It's from your Lady,” was all he said.

 Nodding, he took the note in his hand and pulled back the edges to reveal the contents within.

  “I have a need of the Godswood, can you take me?”

  He smiled, this was precisely what he needed to end his night, in truth he had intended to take the tunnel to her, but this would be just as well. “Would you see that she is escorted to the Godswood, and remain with her while she is within.” Ser Oswell nodded his understanding and set off in the direction of Lyanna’s chambers at once.
 Alone, he entered his chambers and decided to wash and change before he set out to join Lyanna in the Godswood. Once he was finished he moved toward one of the wardrobes in his room and pushed it aside to reveal the secret tunnels that had been created during the construction of the Red Keep in the time of Maegor the Cruel. He was dead on his feet to be sure, and all he truly wanted to do was climb into his bed and let sleep take him, but all of that could wait until he had his Lyanna in his arms.

 He found her in the Hall, just beside the entrance to the Godswood awaiting his arrival. Her hair was worn loosely falling just under her waist, her silhouette was highlighted by the light of the moon. She turned when she heard his approach and a smile broke across her features before she sprinted toward him and flung herself into his arms. Sometimes he had to remind himself that this feeling she evoked within him was his new reality. He was only half living whenever she was parted from him. He wasn't sure how he had managed to live so many years not knowing her love or the touch of her lips upon his.

 He moaned against her mouth, “Gods woman, I've missed you so much.” he found himself confessing, and the truth was, he had. Even though it had only been a handful of hours since he had seen her last, every moment without her was a loss all the same. “My father suggested that I take you for my mistress, he said, and I'm quoting him ‘ have you claimed the girl yet ?” Rhaegar parroted the King’s words with the best impersonation of his father that he could muster, which earned him an appreciative laugh from his Lya.

 She pulled back from his embrace and gave him a haughty look. “And what did you tell His Grace?” she was clearly teasing him.

 “I told him that it is not my prerogative to have you in a way that would bring you shame.” He told her honestly, though now that he was able to see her face, he could tell that she had hoped he would have played along.

 What a little minx…

  To his dismay, Lyanna fell into a fit of laughter, “Oh Rhaegar, you honorable fool.” she teased once more. “Perhaps your lady wife would prefer you took advantage of her.” she mused, causing his eyes to bulge a little.

 “Lya—,” he choked out, but was quickly cut off by her laughter once more.

 “Relax my darling husband, gosh, you should see the look on your face at the mere suggestion,” she was enjoying this. “But enough of this, I have a need of the Godswood and that is why we are here.” she began dragging him toward the woods, and this obviously was as good a time as any to start playing along.

 “Feeling nostalgic are we? It has been a little over a fortnight since our last night in the Godswood, are you certain you want to do this once more?” he asked her cheekily, pulling her toward him so that her back was flush against his chest, and his hands were firmly wrapped around her waist. “Tell me, how can I be of service, my love.” he husked into the crook of her neck.

 “I would have mentioned it earlier, but your time was limited, however I have been pacing all evening, I believe that we need to plant a seen within, and I need your help to sing them to rooting, and also protecting them when I can not be here.”

 “Come, we shall remedy this now,” he took her hand and allowed her to lead them to the spot that was calling to her. “You know, you need only tell your guard where it is you would like to go within the walls of the Red Keep and they will gladly escort you. You do not have to await me or Elia to move about, you are not a captive here.”

 The night sky was clear, the lingering evidence of their union still marked the night sky in hues of red and blue and violet. Reminding them both of the perfections of their first night as man and wife, and that no matter what anyone said, the Gods above all had fashioned her for him and him for her.

 As soon as they entered the clearing, Lyanna set off in search of the place where the earth had been calling to her, saying nothing. He decided to follow wordlessly, asking her to talk would only slow her down, and he desperately wanted to get this over with so that he could take his wife back to her room and explore her naked flesh… He was aching from the need to touch her.

 After a while, she stopped in a clearing that was lightly filled with oaks and she swept her hands in a large circle. “This is the place.” she announced, “we will plant three here.”

 Three? This was new, they had only ever planted one seed at a time thus far.

 “Why three?” he asked.

 “Why one?” she returned cheekily. “Because that is what this space requires. I don't know why, I only know that this ground calls for three, so three seeds we shall plant. And you will see to it that they are undisturbed as they grow.” it was not a request.

 “Be at ease, My Love. The Godswood is cared for, but seldom is it visited by anyone who visits or resides within the castle. I daresay you will have a monopoly on this sanctuary and I am sure that the Queen would happily look after them for you. At any rate, I doubt that the King will ever bother coming here.” he gave her a reassuring smile that was only for her, which she seemed to accept. “So, where will we plant them?”

 She moved into the first position and started pulling at the earth to create a basin to place the first seed, the song already flowing from her. When she was done, he joined her in the second and the third and together they sung these new seedlings into rooting.

 Later that night, while they lay abed Lyanna asked if it would be okay if she went to see the dragon skulls in the Throne room, her boundless curiosity for all things made him smile. He had known almost immediately that she was perfect for him, still, hearing her now only proved that she was everything that was right in this world, at least insofar as he was concerned.

 They spoke at length about Rhaenys and her new kitten, which to his disappointment, Lyanna was quite excited about. “You can learn a great deal from observing a cat.” she stated matter-of-factly.

 To that, he simply snorted, “Hard pass, my love. I shall leave that to you ladies if it is all the same.” Lyanna hadn’t been persuaded in the least, deciding at once that she would make sure he spent time with the thing. In the end, he decided that changing the subject was for the best.

 “Tomorrow, I promised Viserys that I would spend the day with him and Rhaenys in the garden, and my mother very much would like to meet you.” he confessed, hoping that she would be open to joining them after she saw the skulls.

 “You told the Queen?” she was clearly shocked.

 “She could hardly be kept in the dark, and no, I did not tell her, she already knew.” he smiled warmly, thinking about his mother’s earlier reaction.

 “Will the King be there?” she asked.

 He thought about it a bit, and it reminded him that he had wanted to speak to her about the king and his behavior after their meal earlier in the evening. “Anything is possible, I suppose. But I do not believe so, he doesn't visit her chambers often.” he paused, thinking about the best way to broach the subject. “I do have a question though… Earlier at last meal, my father was behaving—,”

 “Like he was clear in the head? Yes, I hope you don't mind, but I just really wanted to help. I've been toying with my gift a little bit, ever since I learned about the effect that I have on the King, and Howland has been helping me project my gift outward.” She took a deep breath, but understanding was already coming. “So while you were at last meal, I focused my gift outward. I wasn't sure how far it would go, but if I can help it at all while I'm here, I’d really like to try.”

 What could he say about that? Was he supposed to tell her no? Was it selfish knowing that she could help, but still wanting her as far away from the king as humanly possible? Even though in doing so he would be leaving the realm at the King’s mercy…

 “Promise me that you will not do anything that will exert yourself, or will put you in harm’s way… promise me that you will not seek out the King, and you will avoid him at all costs, unless he directly calls upon you. This includes his cronies such as Grand Maester Pycelle and Varys the Spider… And that you will allow Arthur or Oswell to escort you at all times…” They were conditions, but he felt that they were more than fair, especially within the walls of the Red Keep.

 Surprisingly she did not give him any arguments and they spent the rest of their evening enjoying each others company through light conversation, random kisses and caresses, but most of all just simply being in one another's arms. He, in truth was counting the hours until they were safely at home on Dragonstone. She fell asleep in his arms as he hummed a tune that was both familiar and foreign to him, and eventually he followed her into their dreams.


 The She-Wolf


  She had been standing in the throne room on the second day following her arrival to King’s Landing. Court had been over a few hours now, and Rhaegar had promised her that it would not be a problem if she wanted to go and see the dragon skulls, so that is exactly what she was doing.

 There were nineteen skulls all together, all belonging to the House of her husband since the time that Balerion, Meraxes and Vhagar conquered the Seven Kingdoms, all of whom were born in Westeros, save the dread himself who was the oldest and biggest of them all. Historians say he was over three-thousand years old by the time he died, but it was not the Black Dread that had drawn her attention, it was the skull belonging to the dragon Vhagar that had called her here.

 Like the rest of the skulls, her skull was the color of pitch, and her teeth were as long as one of her legs, though admittedly Lyanna was not very tall to begin with. Still, she found herself completely enthralled by what used to be the mount of the Warrior Queen, Visenya Targaryen.

 “What do you wolves know about the dragons?” a suspicious yet familiar voice spoke up from beside her. She did not have to look to know that somehow the king had managed to walk up on her without drawing her attention.

 “Your Grace,” she paused, curtseying to the king before she continued. “Please forgive me if I am in the way. It is only, this is my first time here in the Red Keep, and I've always wanted to see her.” Lyanna found herself confessing in the dreamy tone of a girl who had just met her childhood idol without even realizing it.

 “Her? Do you fancy yourself a fan of our late Queen Visenya and Vhagar?” he probed her further, though Lyanna could detect the genuine interest in his tone.

  He's mad, but you can temper him... He's mad, but you can temper him… He's mad, but you can temper him… she inhaled sharply before turning back to face the king.

 “Might I be absolutely blunt, Your Grace?” If he thought the request an odd one, he did not indicate as much, instead he nodded and motioned her to continue. She smiled to show her appreciation that he would indulge her request before she continued.

 “As His Grace knows, I am but a child still, and Winterfell is a home to hundreds of people, unlike King's Landing and the Red Keep who house thousands. I was born the only daughter of my father's four children, and my dear Lady mother departed when I was still very young, so I grew up looking to my brothers for guidance in all things. My father was loving, as all father's are to their daughters I suppose, but all I ever wanted was to learn the same things as my brothers and I was told that I could not because I was a Lady and that wasn't the way Ladies were taught. So in my lessons I found other ways to live the life I longed for, I found that life in the pages of the books and scrolls held inside our library. You see, I read a great deal at home, for lack of entertainment, as I don't have many female companions in the North and after my father sent Brandon and Eddard off to be warded, all that was left at home was myself and Benjen. So this is when I fell in love with the tale of the Conquest, but even more so with the tale of Aegon and his two queens and how they were equals beside him in battle, and in life.”

 The king's face lit up at her revelation, and why not? She was sure that this was the case for every person at one point or another. But she went on with her tale anyway. “I am sure many people have told you the very same thing, though if I'm being honest, it's Visenya who draws me in, and Vhagar who I found myself pretending to have as my own.”

 This caught the king's attention. “Visenya...” he mused, “not Rhaenys. . ? Surely you're mistaken, for every maiden wishes to be the Queen the Conqueror loved above all others.”

 Lyanna couldn't stop the snort that escaped her at his words. “Forgive me, Your Grace, that was most unlady like, it's just in my opinion love is the death of duty, and Aegon proved that after he lost her. Nay, It is Visenya who I admire the most, It was Visenya who created the Kingsguard, it was Visenya who brought the Vale into the fold, without the use of empty threats and bloodshed, it was Visenya who remained true to not only the realm when it was falling apart after the King passed and his heir hid on Dragonstone, but also to her husband and king, when times were good, and when his life was in danger. She was a warrior as skilled with a blade as the Conqueror himself and she was more than worthy of her title as Queen. I admire her, more so than almost any other reigning Queen since the time of conquest. As for Vhagar, it was her whose flame saw the Conqueror off into his final resting place, and Vhagar’s flame that Blackfyre deemed so strong that she absorbed her flame. Vhagar was as ferocious as and as infamous as Meraxes and Balerion in her time and outlived both of them, yet she is a ghost to the pages of history.” She gestured toward Vhagar’s skull. “This is all that’s left of her, no documentation on her color or the color of her flame, yet we know so much about the Dread and Meraxes.”

 “And why, pray tell is that important to you?” the king enquired.

 “Well, for starters, this told me that our Queen did not use Vhagar as a means to control her subjects, rather she passed the sentence and swung her sword on her own, no headsmen, no dragonfire unless absolutely necessary.” She could go on and on and on but the look the king gave her made her pause. “Have I said something to offend His Grace?” she questioned a bit nervously. But rather than confirm her suspicions, the corners of his mouth turned up into an almost sort of smile.

 “On the contrary, it pleases me greatly that you are so well informed on how the Wolves came to kneel to the Dragon, considering that you are now serving the Dragon in your own right so many years later. I confess, I did not expect Winterfell to have much containing our history as the leaders of all Seven Kingdoms.” He replied with not a hint of modesty in his tone. For as sane as the man appeared to be while in her presence, there was a natural cruelty to him that he could not hide. The fact that he still believes that the Dragon conquered the North  is proof of this. He may be amiable toward her, but he didn't think twice about reminding her that her kin are nonetheless subjugated to the Dragon.

 To hell with that… she wasn't a fool, but the king needed to be reminded of the truth, the real reason the North bent the knee to Aegon and his Queens.

 “Oh indeed, Your Grace. The library in Winterfell has been meticulously cared for since the time that it was built. Our house is more than eight-thousand years old and we are constantly going on about the memory of the North.” There! How’s that for a legacy! “For that reason, there are scrolls that date back in time to Brandon the Builder and of course a detailed accounting of the agreement between Torrhen Stark and His Grace the Conqueror…” she let the word agreement hang in the air, hoping that he would catch on.

 She was quickly rewarded when he pressed forward. “What agreement? The Conqueror had three dragons, what would he need with terms when he had the power to destroy any resistance, not to mention the reputation for doing exactly that by the time the North managed to assemble south of the Neck?”

 She could not refute the King’s words, so she did not bother. “On that, His Grace is correct, yet when terms were made, it was not because Torrhen planned to oppose the Conquerors,” she paused hoping for confirmation to continue.

 “I find it hard to believe that you would know more about the conquest than the maesters who chronicled the events.” he replied.

 “To be sure, Your Grace. Yet the north had no maesters until after they bent the knee and as you know, history is told by the victor and the maesters are known for burying facts. Especially facts that would lead the reader toward more magical conclusions…” again she paused, waiting for the king to bid her continue, which he did.

 “Do explain.” he urged.

 And so she did. “Has His Grace ever been told of the Pact of Ice and Fire?” Mayhap it was too soon to mention this, but perhaps she was exactly the person to broach the subject with him.

 “Indeed I have, the Pact was made during the Dance of Dragons.” he replied, and it was as she had expected.

 “This is true, from what we have during the Dance, the new Pact was drafted through Prince Jacaerys and Lord Cregan. But the thing is, the Pact was signed for the first time between Aegon the Conqueror and the then King Torrhen Stark, for they both shared a common interest, which is the true reason he bent the knee, and the true reason I believe Aegon looked West to Westeros in the first place.” She saw the king shiver at her last words, and she was inspired to ask a new question.

 “Has His Grace ever been told of the Wight Walkers and the Last Hero?” The mentions of the Northman who set forth to seek the aid of the Children during the Long Night were far and few between, and any work that she had seen on the subject contained vague mentions at best. In truth the best source of information she had on the subject were the tales from Old Nan. However, she knew that there was another version that the King would surely know about.

 The King quirked an eyebrow, “Only mentions, go on child, speak what it is you are trying to get to already.” he said with an exasperated yet teasing tone, and once again she was taken aback by the effect her magic had on him.

 “As you say, perhaps his grace knows of another tale, one that is similar to mine in nature. A tale from the Long Night, the tale of Azor Ahai who forged the blade Lightbringer after sacrificing his willing wife, and of how her soul then combined with the blade bringing forth flame. And how he then marched forth into battle, slaying the Others and driving back the darkness.”

 The King said nothing but he nodded to indicate that he was listening and that he was aware of the story, she took this as a good sign and so she went on. Having seen all this through the dream she’d shared on her wedding night, she chose her words carefully, as to not sound too absolute.

 “It's written that Azor Ahai, Edric Shadowchaser, Yin Tar, Neferion and Hyrkoon the Hero are all different men believed to be the same man. But because all these stories begin in the East, there is no mention of the Last Hero, but the truth is these men are all one and the same.”

 Her words had the desired effect, as the King asked his first question, “How can that be possible?” his tone was incredulous, though nonthreatening. He was genuinely curious and she could not help but sigh in relief.

 “That is a very good question, Your Grace, and as I've had much time to think upon this, I think I've figured out how. You see, we all know that the Long Night was fought right here in the lands of Westeros, having come from the far north in the Lands of Always Winter. Yet these legends would have us believe that they were also fought in the Great Empire, even in the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai, and the only way that this could be possible would be if at one point, the lands were connected in more than one place. Or if this hero was able to cross vast distances much faster than his foes could…” she let the idea hang in the wind a moment.

“How else could a hero in Yi Ti also have saved Westeros, and the Great Empire and the world at large from the Others and their army of the dead when the Army of the Dead was defeated on our soil?” she posed the question, though she did not particularly expect the King to answer. She decided to lighten the mood before pressing forward with her explanation. “It's okay if you think me silly, Your Grace, my Lord Father tells me often that I have an overactive imagination.” It wasn't a lie, though this was never a subject they’d ever discussed in truth.

 To her surprise, however the King appeared enraptured by her tale. “Well, your father would not be wrong, but as I know you had no septa, I'm quite impressed by your accumulated historical knowledge, even if most of it can't be verified. But tell me child, now that you have educated me about the Long Night, how does this relate to Aegon and his terms?” the way he said the last part told her that the king was still skeptical.

 But she was unfazed, she smiled instead, knowing that this was exactly the question that she had wanted him to ask. “There is a prophecy, in the north, one that promises a new hero will come forth, one that will drive back the darkness once more. It is believed that this hero will have Stark blood.” His eyes went wide, but he said nothing so she went on.

 “While doing research on the subject, I came across work that outlined the lineage and lore of my house, before the conquest of course. Through that research, I discovered that the King’s of Winter following the Long Night became obsessed with their bloodline, creating strategic marriage alliances with houses rumored to have magical blood.” She did not mention the annihilation of said houses out of fear the King would have the same idea. “The Warg King's, the Marsh King’s, the Line of the First King’s of the Barrow, even the blood of the Gardner King's some say, though it is believed that House Stark descended from the line of Garth the Greenhand himself. All of this was done with one purpose in mind. They were trying to prepare their line for the next time the Long Night came. A hero who would be strong enough to lead the realms of men against the true enemy. However almost eight-thousand years later, the Long Night still hadn’t returned, but the blood of the Dragon had, and Torrhen Stark was faced with a choice and an opportunity. He could fight and sacrifice thousands of lives, all for the sake of a throne, a crown and his pride, or he could bend the knee, and save lives. Lives of men and women that would be precious in the Long Night. He chose to strengthen the North, and as such all of Westeros by proposing to the Conqueror a Pact. A Pact between House Stark, and House Targaryen to join the bloodlines through marriage. The same pact that was reaffirmed almost a century-and-a-half later. A dragon princess to wed the next Lord of Winterfell. An Ice-dragon if you will… and all the stories tell that Ice Dragons are stronger than their brothers, and Torrhen believed that the joining of the Dragon and the wolf would bring about the promised hero or at the very least the line of that hero.” she explained.

 “I see,” he replied, “So why do you think this pact was never fulfilled then?” his tone was more wary than it had been.

 “I cannot know, to be sure, Your Grace. Though I suspect that when the Conqueror had only sons with his two Queens, the Pact then fell to his heirs. As you know, our House only involves itself in the politics of the Seven Kingdoms when called upon, so mayhap the responsibility or fault, belonged as much to us as it did to those who followed King Aegon, though it would not be proper to demand anything of the Royal Family. So rather than bring it up, we resigned ourselves to the idea that it would happen when the Gods willed it to happen.”

 The King seemed pleased with her answer, “And what makes you believe that the Conqueror bought into this tale?” he questioned.

 “Another question that I can only speculate on, but if His Grace is willing to indulge my overactive imagination, I think I have an answer that can satisfy.”

 “Very well, continue.” he motioned for her to follow him away from the dragon skulls, off toward the back of the Throne Room toward what Lyanna had learned was the Small Council Chamber.

 “It is no secret that House Targaryen survived the Doom because of the dreams or visions of Daenys Targaryen, known to history as Daenys the Dreamer. And I find myself unable to deny that she was correct in her interpretation, so I asked myself how many others have had this gift of sight. I'm sure His Grace would not be surprised to hear that the citadel writes any such occurrences off as fever, delusions, and madness, but I can't help but wonder if the Conqueror came to unify and unite rather than subjugate. His grace was not remarked upon as desiring power, only that he was driven to end the constant warring of the many kingdoms of Westeros. Yet among these Kingdoms, House Stark had ruled the North as kings for longer than any House south of the Neck combined, without once being driven out of their seat. As such, Aegon could not claim his desire for the North was due to the same reasons for wanting the southern six kingdoms. So I asked myself, if it was possible that the Conqueror knew of the return of the Walkers, if his goal had been to unite the realm so that when the time came we would stand together as a single army against the dead.”

 They passed the throne as she finished speaking and her eyes fell upon the monstrosity that so many wars had been fought for and a chill ran down her spine. They say that it had been forged in the flames of the Dread, yet all she could feel was the cold coming from the thing, wave after wave after wave of cold energy. The thing felt alive…

 It wasn't until they arrived at the council chamber and he motioned for her to sit across from him did he speak. “Have you been talking to my son about his prophecy?” the suspicion was back in his tone. She could lie to him, but somehow she knew that if she did, he would see straight through it.

 “We have, Your Grace, though I'm not sure what to think about all of that. I've never read any Valyrian prophecies before, but if anyone is the fulfillment of this prophecy surely it would be His Grace’s heir, the crown prince.”

 The King waved her off, “Bah, sometimes I find myself wondering about the validity of the prophecy, yet I can't seem to keep the boy from those scrolls and books. So be honest girl, did he put you up to this chat?

 Her eyes flew to meet the King’s for just a moment before she quickly averted them once more. “I'm sorry? You're asking me whether the prince asked me to speak of this with you?” she clarified.

 “Speak plainly, did Rhaegar ask you to talk with me about pacts and prophecy?” he asked once more, a bit of impatience coloring his tone.

 “No, Your Grace, never once has he ever asked me to speak with you on such matters. In fact, he asked me to be conscientious of where I was at all times, and to not bother Your Grace unless you specifically called upon myself. I was under strict instruction to stay out of the way.” she was trying her hardest not to fidget in front of the king. If he noticed he did not remark upon it.

 “I see,” the king replied. “I find you quite odd Lady Lyanna, I do not mean this as an insult, on the contrary in fact. I don't think I've met anyone in years who I've enjoyed speaking with as I do you. I cannot help but wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that you are so unconventional. Tell me, if you had not been called to court, how would you prefer to spend your time?”

  What a dangerous question… she thought to herself but she knew in an instant her answer, and once she had made her mind up there was no going back. She chuckled, “I would prefer a great many things that my Lord Father would never allow. Yet if I am being honest, I believe His Grace already knows the answer. I would like to be training beside my brothers in the yard, learning to protect myself and my people the way Visenya did, growing up beside the Conqueror.” She confessed for the first time in her life to someone other than Benjen or Rhaegar.

 “You don't believe a woman’s duty is to her husband, and that giving him heirs is glory enough?” he was testing her response, she could tell.

 “There is much to be celebrated about such things, yet a woman can be both, can she not? A warrior and a dutiful wife, I would much rather be an asset to my Lord Husband than a liability. Visenya proved that by aiding her husband before, during and after his reign, and she also managed to give him a strong heir, a true dragon.”

 She could see that her answer had pleased him greatly, though he didn't have the opportunity to respond as just then, footsteps were heard approaching from the throne room and then Rhaegar was there, with the Queen his mother standing beside him.


The Silver Prince


  The next day he woke early, Lyanna was still sleeping soundly with her head in the crook of his arm. He hated leaving her but he needed to get to his chambers before someone noticed his absence, so he deftly extracted himself from her embrace and placed a kiss upon her brow before slipping back through the panel in the wall that leads to the secret passages that would take him back to Maegor’s Holdfast.

 After he broke his fast, he made his way to the Tower of the Hand where Lord Owen Marryweather was now serving as the new Hand. He had no business per se’ he only intended to check up on the affairs of the realm. Luckily enough, the council had been in session, his father noticeably absent as per usual.


 After being properly greeted by all who attended, Rhaegar went toward the chair typically reserved for the King and bid them continue with the meeting. Aside from the King’s command to continue with the trials of the men within the dungeons, all was quiet. Something that sat ill with him in truth. With all that had happened at Harrenhal, the fact that there was no information coming from the Rock or even the Vale and the Stormlands via Robert at the slight he felt he was paid by his father and himself over Lyanna, even though their betrothal had never been set in stone. He left the council chamber with more questions than he had answers.

 That afternoon he spent in the Gardens with his daughter and his brother as promised, skipping court all together. Elia had decided to forego the gardens for some much needed rest, he could see that the trip to Harrenhal and back had taken more from her than she would admit.

 By mid afternoon the septas came to retrieve the two dragonlings for some lunch and a nap, and Rhaegar found himself escorting his mother on a walk through the castle. “So, tell me about your lady,” she whispered conspiratorially.

 He could not stop himself from smiling at his mother’s eagerness to learn all she could about his mate. “I hardly have the words to describe her mother, she is like a breath of fresh air, as if I have never breathed before she entered my life. She is full of life and vitality, she is honorable and chivalrous and uninhibited, in ways that is completely foreign to me. She is stubborn, fearless and reckless at times, and I am completely bewitched by her mother.” he paused, because the thing he wanted to tell her was nothing to do with the type of person Lyanna was, but what she was in general.

 “Mother, there is more about Lady Lyanna than her being my mate, there is more to Lyanna than her simply being a woman of the North. She was born like I was, only not in fire.” the look on his mother’s face was one of confusion.

 “Does this have anything to do with the King’s behavior last evening?” She questioned warily.

 He had no idea how he was going to explain things with Lyanna… “As you know, when my Ink Mark appeared it emitted heat, representing fire. Well Lyanna is much the same, as her mark burns too, only hers burns with cold. Around fifteen years ago there was a random blizzard,” his mother nodded, indicating that she knew the storm. “That night Lady Lyarra Stark gave birth to a baby girl. They say that the storm raged on until she came screaming into the world. So you see, like me, who was born in the flames, Lyanna was born with ice running through her veins. There is so much about her, but what I think you should know is that the Old Gods have chosen Lyanna, and it is her blood that triggered the marks.”

 Her eyes went wide, and he could tell that for the first time she found herself believing in the prophecy. “I see, and how does your father play into all of this?”

 “It has a lot to do with Summerhall and the ceremony that was performed there. It would be better for you to have this conversation with Lyanna, she has a better understanding of her gift, but the short explanation is the fire within us burns too hot, and Lyanna is meant to balance the fire within our blood, our line will have both the magic of the First Men and the blood of the Dragon. Her mark burns like only the cold can, and as such she can project her gift outward and somehow it has an effect on father. Before you ask, I regret that she cannot cure his madness, she is only a temporary source of relief for him. We were able to determine this through a crannogman who was assigned to be our guide by a greenseer who is our kin.”

 Again she took on a puzzled look, and he could understand her predicament so he took pity on her. “I am not referring to Uncle Aemon, but as it turns out, Brynden Rivers is alive beyond the wall, and he is a powerful seer and warg. Howland Reed, was summoned to the Isle of Faces through the weirwood. It was on the Isle that he was given his task to make sure that Lyanna and I were brought together, and the customs of the Old Gods and the First Men were honored. I want to say more but this conversation is best had elsewhere from here on out.”

 They were approaching the Throne Room where he knew that Lyanna had gone to see the Dragon Skulls so the conversation would have to wait. His mother, understanding nodded her agreement.

 After entering, he noticed that Lyanna was not there but he could hear voices coming from the Council chamber and he headed in that direction, hoping that someone could point him in her direction. To his surprise, they found Ser Oswell and Ser Gerold standing in the hallway, with Oswell sporting an apologetic look.

 What they found within almost made his Lady mother faint. Lyanna was seated across from the King, having a conversation about Visenya Targaryen and the King seemed quite invested in the topic.

 They must have heard their approach, because when Lyanna turned to see him and the Queen standing in the doorway, her mouth hung open in shock, no doubt having been snared by the King on her first solo outing. She stood immediately, remembering her manners and greeted them both, mostly for the benefit of the Queen and the King. Jon had worried that her age would present a problem coupled by her willful nature, but so far she had managed to play her role perfectly.

 He decided to lead with something quirky, “Have you named a new council position Your Grace?” Lyanna flushed her perfect shade of pink, and he almost went straight to her and carried her off to her chambers.

 “Don't be silly, I found the girl in the Throne Room dreaming of flying Vhagar.” the king said with a smile.

 Beside him, his mother could not help but stare at her seemingly more sane brother and husband, she stepped forward for him to introduce her to Lyanna. “Your Grace, might I introduce you to the Lady Lyanna of House Stark.” His mother breezed past him and approached Lyanna.

 “Lady Lyanna, I have heard so much about you and I can see that the rumors were not exaggerated for once.” again, Lyanna flushed at compliment.

 “Your Grace is too kind, but I thank you for your kind words.” Lyanna replied.
 He decided to save her and asked another question. “So, did we interrupt an important conversation?”

 “Not at all, my Prince. His Grace was very kind and indulged me while I gushed about my childhood heroine.” she turned gesturing to the king.

 Rhaegar raised an eyebrow at that bit of information, but his father quickly cut in. “Rhaegar, Rhaella, come and sit I would like to speak with both of you.”

Lyanna clearly felt out of place, and offered to give them the room but was quickly told to stay. “This concerns you as well, girl.”

 He had no idea what this was all about but he was determined to remain optimistic while his mate was present. Rather than question, he made his way toward the council table and sat in the chair beside Lyanna, while his mother sat across from them on the other side of the King.

 “We have had a response from Lord Rickard from Winterfell about Lyanna’s stay.” he began. Lyanna went rigid with anticipation of her father's words. His father continued, “Lord Stark writes that he is honored to know that his daughter was chosen to accompany the Princess, and he also assured me that he had no intention to finalize the match until he was more certain of Lord Baratheon’s character. Nevertheless, you will still travel to Winterfell and remind him that he and his House are sworn to House Targaryen, and that any such matches for the Lady will be forwarded to the crown for approval.” He continued, “As for our conversation, the Lady was educating me about the North, and some of their history. I'm of a mind to make some changes based on this conversation. It is only fair that I inform you of this, as I have much to consider on the matter.”

 “I don't understand,” he replied for all three of them.

 “It has come to my attention that we have been neglectful of a debt.” the King's eyes traveled to Lyanna and then to him. “And I realize now that your Lady wife is not capable of fulfilling your prophecy, therefore I am considering the idea of you taking another wife or setting the Dornish woman aside on the grounds of her health and the fact that it was not disclosed prior to the contract being signed. If she is unable to give you heirs, her womb is useless and we have no need of another useless Queen unable to do her duty.”

 He hadn’t expected anything of the sort when his father had told him to sit, but he had no idea how to respond to the King’s announcement. Luckily it was Lyanna who spoke up, “Your Grace, forgive me but I'm not sure I understand. The prince is already wed with a child and one on the way, how would that work and how do I fit into this equation?”

 “Know this, I may not leave the Red Keep often, but as the King I will not be refused. The faith will make an exception if I petition them, if not Rhaegar will take a second bride and I will arrange for Elia to be moved if she should prove difficult. For now though nothing is certain, as I have said there is much to consider and if this is to happen I have some people to consult, but no matter what happens, if this is to be the course of action, you will both do your duty.”

 Neither of them knew what to say on the matter, and he could tell that Lyanna was completely at a loss. His mother sat beside her husband in silence as usual, knowing from experience he did not like it when she questioned him. No matter how sure Lyanna’s influence was over his father, he knew that his mother would not put stock in her own safety in the presence of the King.

 His father stood, and they stood with him. “I shall take my leave now, I thank you for entertaining me Lady Lyanna,” then he turned his attention toward him. “I trust that you will escort the Queen and Lady Lyanna back to their destinations?” It was more of an expectation than a request, but still he had every intention to take Lyanna with him when he departed the council chamber.


 The She-Wolf


 They walked in silence for a time unsure of what to say. To be honest, the Queen hadn’t said much since they were introduced earlier. Eventually they found themselves in Maegor’s Holdfast before a set of double doors that lead into an opulent space even more grand than the chambers that she had been assigned the day before.

 The Queen was a beauty, her hair was as silver as her sons and her eyes were a light shade of lilac, nothing like the deep indigo her son was gifted. She was sure that she looked plain in comparison to the both of them.

 Once the door to her solar had been secured behind them, the Queen turned to Lyanna and pulled her into an unexpected embrace, and immediately Lyanna melted into her arms. She knew the Queen not, but to have her embrace her as she did was like having her own mother returned to her, so without hesitation she returned the embrace.


 When the Queen pulled away, she kept a hold on her hands and looked her over before speaking. “You are a beauty, aren’t you.” It wasn't really a question and Lyanna couldn't stop the blush that once again betrayed her, giving away her reaction. “Please, come and sit beside me I hear that we have much to discuss, and I would very much love to know the woman who has not only been promised to him by the Gods themselves but the woman who managed to bring a smile to my son's face, and joy to his life.”

 Lyanna liked her immediately, and so she followed her toward a sitting area and settled on a chaise beside Rhaegar who had remained quiet since they departed ways with the King. She wasn't sure how to proceed with the Queen, this whole thing felt like one long interview. First, the conversation with the King, and now the Queen. Rhaegar must have sensed her unease, because he took her hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze to reassure her that he was with her, and all would be well.

 “My son and I were speaking, on the way to find you and he was explaining to me that it's you that we have to thank for the sudden change in my husbands condition. While I have no complaints on the matter, I have many questions if you would be willing to indulge me. I understand that you have an affinity for the cold?” the Queen sounded unsure, so she decided to help.

 They spoke at length for what must have been an hour, Lyanna filled her in on what she had learned from Howland about her gift, and how she ended up with the ability to temper the King’s fire so to speak. It was then that Lyanna remembered what Howland had said about the Queens ability to carry children. She wanted to tell her about it, but she wasn't sure if it would be well received, given all the losses the Queen had experienced, but perhaps this would be like music to the Queens ears, so she steeled herself for the worst possible outcome but tried to be optimistic as well.

 “Your Grace, there is something else about my gift that you should understand, something that concerns you as well.” Rhaegar turned to her, not knowing what she was speaking of as she had somehow neglected to tell him about this.

 “Oh, sweetling whatever it is please be at ease, you can talk to me about anything. I should like that you would consider me like a mother.” the Queen allowed, a hint of melancholy in her tone.

 Taking a deep breath, Lyanna began to explain to her what she knew. “As you know, the king's condition was exacerbated by his imprisonment at Duskendale, though the symptoms began after Summerhall. The ritual that King Aegon used was to wake dragons as you know, only something went wrong and Summerhall along with your kin were the cost of that mistake. However, somehow the magic that was used was successful. You see a dragon was born that night.” she gestured to her husband who had the grace to look like he had no idea. “But he was not the only one who was awakened that night. From what I know, the ability to hatch dragons was lost after the female line was all but wiped out during the Dance of Dragons, with Princess Baela being the last dragon rider. But that night in Summerhall, the magic was reborn in you.”

 She could see that the queen had no idea what she meant so she tried again to explain. “I'm not sure if I can properly explain this, Your Grace, but I will try my best. From what I have gathered and from what I have learned from Howland, the magic to hatch and ride dragons is passed from the female line, as is the magic of the first men passed from mother to child. What you aren’t aware of is that Rhaegar has had a connection to fire his entire life, and the night he was born he had awoken a creature that has been believed to be gone for more than a century. And all of that was possible, because you are his mother, and you happened to be present during the ceremony. The fire of the dragon runs too hot in your veins Your Grace, due to the wildfire that had been used in place of dragonfire. Because of that there is nothing short of my gift that can help to temper the flame. The same issue presents itself in the King, and together you have produced many children who were unable to survive the time in your womb, and those who have did not survive for long after. And the difference between Rhaegar and the others resides in the fact that Rhaegar was born through sacrifice while the others have had nothing to help temper the fire that burns within your womb.”

 Queen Rhaella said nothing for quite a while, her face had taken on a pale cast at hearing Lyanna’s explanation. When she finally did speak though, her voice came out strong and sure. “How was Viserys able to survive while the others were not?”

 Lyanna had been prepared to answer this question before the Queen had asked but she hadn’t been sure of how to broach the subject. “The truth is, Viserys is different insofar as he is no true Dragon. If he was given a crib egg, it would not hatch for him, as his fire is not as hot as your’s or Rhaegar’s, while the others were which is why your womb had become hostile. However, should he have the chance to claim a dragon that would not be a problem. I need you to know, the only reason I brought up all of this is because I seem to be the answer to your problem in addition to the King’s madness. My gift is meant to temper the fire, and because of that it also has the ability to help ground yours through pregnancy should you find yourself with child in the future.”

 She wasn't sure when the Queen began to tear up, but by the time she had finished her explanation, she found her wiping a stray tear from her eyes. Rhaegar similarly was stunned by this development, though she could see a tinge of fear in his eyes at the same time. She wasn't sure why this unsettled her, she would think that the idea of a healthy new sibling would be a joy to him. She made a mental note to ask him about it later.

 “I've had word from the ship's captain that they will be prepared to depart on the morrow,” Rhaegar announced, breaking the growing silence. And even though she would not mind exploring the Red Keep some more, she was more than ready to get this adventure over with so that she could return home and see her father and the grey walls of Winterfell.

 After that, they all broke into an easy conversation. They spoke about the events of Harrenhal, the appearance of her mark, and her feelings on Robert Baratheon amongst other things. Though eventually they were forced to cease their conversation when her stomach let out a loud growl.

 “It would seem that I have been neglectful this afternoon,” she mused aloud, smiling at the realization and the look of panic on Rhaegar’s face. It had been just over a fortnight since they were wed, and even though her moons blood was supposed to have come three days past, it was still too early to assume that his seed had quickened. Nevertheless, her husband insisted on fussing over her.

 Rhaegar stood and offered her his hand, “Come, my love. It would appear that I have to make sure you eat myself.” he said exasperatedly, making her roll her eyes at him. “I do hope you don't mind mother, but I mean to escort Lyanna back to her chambers.”

 “Of course I don't, though I shall be grateful to have your company again in the future.” the Queen said in a tone that conveyed nothing but sincerity.

 “It would be a pleasure to visit with you in the future, Your Grace.” Lyanna returned with a curtsey.

 “Please, call me Rhaella, or mother… I would very much love for you to consider me as your family, for I already consider you as one of my own.” Lyanna was shocked and unsure how to proceed at the same time. So she did the only thing she could do, she released Rhaegar’s hand and walked toward her now good-mother and embraced her the way the Queen had done earlier.

 “Nothing would please me more than to be blessed with another mother, especially one that has raised the man that I love so well.” she finished with a smile.

  After that, they made their goodbyes and set off for her chambers. After the afternoon they had with the king and the queen, Rhaegar did not hesitate to enter her chambers with her and bar the door once he sent a servant to get something for her to eat.

 She wasn't particularly tired, but she did feel a certain amount of fatigue in her bones, so as soon as Rhaegar sat on her bed, she moved in and sat beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. She had been craving his touch ever since she saw him in the council chamber. If nothing else, the voyage to Dragonstone would be more than welcome, as she would no longer have to spend her days away from him.

 After the servants delivered her meal, and she had eaten enough to satisfy her husband, he helped her out of her dress and she his tunic, and they settled into bed for some rest before he was forced to depart. She hadn’t seen Ned and Ashara since they arrived the day before, but she couldn't think about that right now.

 “Rhaegar?” she called.

 “What is it beloved?” he murmured into her hair.

 “What do you think about what your father was talking about earlier?” she asked. Not that it had mattered in the grand scheme of things, for they were already wed and he and Elia had already had their marriage annulled.

 “I honestly don't know.” he sighed. “Of course you know that it won't matter, we are already wed in the eyes of the Gods, Old and New, but I don't understand the influence you have on my father and I worry about how much to tell him in regards to our situation. The fact that we did not consult him beforehand, would typically be enough to have him accuse us of treason, and of plotting against him. But I confess, it is possible that if you were there when he learned of the marks and our vows, along with Elia being set aside, the king would be more accepting of the news. Alas, I dare not push our luck.” he finished.

 Not the news she wanted to hear, though she knew that it was for the best, she did not like the idea of not being more open about their marriage. “I respect your decision, though you will have to do some serious thinking about how you plan to explain to the King my condition should it prove that I am in fact with child.” She hated being the bearer of bad news, but this was a fact that they could not ignore. At the most they had a matter of months to get this all worked out before the King became suspicious and the realm came to think of his children as bastards due to the King’s ignorance.


 “I've been thinking about that as well, and honestly I was hoping that with any luck, the king would be a non issue by the time your condition is too far along to keep concealed, the other option that I have considered is the Gates. If at any point, things become too dangerous, I had a mind to have you return to Winterfell through the gates where you would be inaccessible to anyone who would mean you harm.” he explained.

 She thought about that, and she could not deny that he was on to something she had not considered at all. Her lord father would be beside himself with worry should she become pregnant and was left to the King’s mercy, and she was sure that he would prefer her remain in the North. Not to mention the fact that he was right, the North was near impossible to invade by land thanks to Moat Cailin and the bogs that made up the Neck. But they had a little bit of time to think on all of that later on. For now she had other needs and one of them was sleep.

 Before she dozed off, she turned to her side and pulled Rhaegar’s arm around her so that his chest was flush against her back, and his body was snuggly formed against hers. If he could have been closer, she would have insisted. Something about him made her instantly feel at ease. And being here, in this strange place that would one day be her home, and the home of her children she most certainly needed the extra reassurance only his embrace could give her.