Chapter 1: The Crypts (Lyanna)
Lyanna woke with a gasp.
She looked about her, to the large stone statues standing at each side, the crypts of Winterfell. Her thin linen shift was not nearly enough o keep the cold of the tunnels at bay.
Sitting up, the Stark Princess looked about the room, searching her mind for the most recent memory. For several moments, she saw nothing but the walls, before reality flashed across her mind. The tower. She went into labor.
The midwife said there was to much blood. Her baby. Ned. His promise.
Aegon. Her beautiful baby boy. He would be safe now. Ned would protect him until Rhaegar could collect him. Of course, there was the whole bit about the rebellion, but really, how could that continue now? Ned knew she wasn’t kidnapped. That the war between Rhaegar and Robert was built on a lie. He would take care of Aegon and, knowing the truth, put an end to the pointless battles. The two sides would gather, and go after Aerys together. Aegon would grow up safe, learn to rule at his father’s knee, with her brother to teach him the northern values Rhaegar wanted to bring south, and their country would be stable enough to endure the doom the prophesy predicted.
Yes, though she was sad to leave the world of the living, she at least knew she was leaving it in good hands, those of her brother and husband.
Now, her life reconciled within her own mind, the princess turned to her current situation.
It made sense, she supposed, that the afterlife would start in the crypts. She saw the statue at her back, beside those of her father and eldest brother. Clearly, she would find nobody else here though.
For a moment, she worried. Is there anyone else here? Am I tied to this place? Will I be able to find my ancestors, will my son join me when he dies, or will I spend eternity here forever?
There was, of course, only one way to find out. So, she pulled the cool, damp air into her lungs, and called out.
“Hello? Father? Brandon? Is anyone here?”
Slowly, she moved upwards, to the stairs of the crypt, calling for her loved ones. She noticed that all the statues, going back centuries, had been given candles. It warmed her heart to see that someone, probably Ned’s wife, was keeping to the traditions and lighting the expensive light sources for all the ancestors, not just the recent ones. It had been her duty, before, and she hoped Ned’s and Aegon’s daughters would continue the duties of Stark women. It had been agreed when she married her prince, after all, that Aegon would be given every opportunity to know his Stark heritage as well, that he and his children would always have a home in the north.
Finally, as the statues came to look more worn, the faces damaged by water and time and smoke, she came to the winding stairs. The light was blinding, and Lyanna found she had to shield her eyes as she felt the ledges with her feet.
“Hello?” she called, a final time, as she reached for the iron grate she knew should only be a step or two before her by now.
“Halt, who goes there?” a voice shouted at her, as she felt her arm pulled nearly out of its socket by rough hands, her toes banging painfully on stone.
“Lyanna Targarian, Princess of Westeros! She shouted, turning about and flipping her attacker to his knees, one hand holding his arm in a painful twist and the other around the man’s throat. She could feel his armor pressed against the thin fabric of her shift, and as her eyes adjusted, she saw she was in the tunnel above the crypts, just her, the guard in Stark colors, and a woman, small folk by dress, stopped half way form one side of the tunnel to the other, shock written on her face.
After a few moments, just to show this jerk who’s boss, Lyanna released his neck, and proceeded to disarm him. That done, she let go of the man’s arm, and let him turn to face her. He was young, maybe the same age as Ned (well, as Ned was when she died, at least), with short blond hair and a great deal of freckles.
“The Targaryens are dead!” the boy whispered, looking to Lyanna in fear. “King Robert had them exterminated! Who are you and how did you get in the crypts!” The boy shouted, reaching for his sword before realizing it was in Lyanna’s hand.
Lyanna glared at him for several minutes, processing the implications. He said Targeryens were all dead, implying that should dictate a Targerian could not be present. Meaning there was no way she could be in the afterlife. So where was she? Did she somehow survive, some good person keeping her alive but asleep until leaving her in the crypts for her family to find? NO, not possible, if she died, Ned would have taken her bones to the crypts, the statues could not be made without the bones of those whom they depicted. And if she had lived, Ned never would have left her. So where was she? Or, perhaps more importantly given she didn’t recognize the guard and her statue, a construction that should have taken several months beyond Ned’s return of her bones, which in and of itself would have taken months, when was she?
“Well this one isn’t.” Lyanna snapped back. “And as far as how I got here, no idea, but good thing I have you here to help me figure it out. What date is it?”
“-- -- 298.” The woman down the hall said.
Two ninety fucking eight.
What the HELLS!
Sixteen years. Sixteen bloody years.
What the fuck was going on?
Lyanna decided to push the how of this out of her mind. She could figure that shit out later. Now, now she needed her son and husba…
The Targaryens are dead. Exterminated.
No. Nope. Not believing it until Ned tells her to her face they’re gone.
And since he had no statue bellow…
EDDARD STARK WAS GOING TO EXPLAIN! HER BABY HAD BETTER BE ALIVE OR SO HELP HER!!!!!!!!!!!
“Who rules Winterfell?” Lyanna snapped, holding the sword up.
“L-Lord Stark.” The woman stuttered.
Lyanna rolled her eyes.
“Obviously. First name.”
“Not yours, the Lord’s.”
“OH. Eddard. Eddard Stark, son of Rickard.”
Lyanna sighed. Good, He’d be easier to throttle if he’s close.
“Take me to him. Now.” She barked at the guard, who’s armor began to smell suspicious. Really? Why did all men seem so shocked she could kick their asses? Was this going to happen every time?
“He…. He’s not here. Went out to serve an execution.” The guard managed.
“Fine. The Lady of Winterfell then.”
“You.. you won’t hurt her demon! I won’t let you!” The guard tried again.
She’d been called worse.
“I have no intention of harming Lady Stark. I will, however, use this ill-balanced disgrace of weaponry on you if you don’t take me to her. Right. Now!” Lyanna barked, brandishing the point close to the guard’s face… who promptly fainted.
“I… I could take you to her m’lady.” The woman, Emma muttered.
Lyanna tried her most disarming smile (“You look like you’re about to rip someone’s throat out.” “Shut up internal voice of Benjen!”) “That would do nicely, thank you. I honestly just want to know what’s going on.” Lyanna complained gratefully.
Emma led her out of the tunnel and into the yard. Several of the men bustling about gave Lyanna long stares as she moved by. She found Winterfell with new eyes; this was the first time home since she went south, since Ser Arthur and Ser Ozwell taught her about protecting herself from dishonorable enemies. And she found what she now saw to be beautiful.
Winterfell was made of strong, sturdy stone, but the walls were ringed with wooden scaffolds and walkways, easily used to fire down on opponents, and easy to burn if opponents had begun to make their way up. The many stone tunnels leading from various regions of the keep helped bottleneck attackers and prevent siege weapons from making it within, unless they were brought inside and assembled piece by piece. Of course, the nature of these protections were a tad different than one would see in a castle designed to fend off the living, but for fending off the dead, the combinations of flammable and non-flammable materials was perfect to hold enemies at bay.
About halfway across the yard, she heard a familiar voice shout a quick “halt!”
Lyanna turned on her heel, and there, looking far whiter than he did when serving as her own instructor, was Ser Rodrik Cassel. His face was far more lined, hair now in some kind of ridiculous front ponytail thing (goodness man, are you trying to look stupid?), but his eyes took a haunted appearance as soon as they saw Lyanna’s face.
The princess figured it would be best to take the initiative.
“Ser Rodrick!” she exclaimed, skipping forwards a few steps. “I’ve missed you! Although not as much as you would have missed me I suppose. How are you?”
“Pardon me my Lady.” Rodrick mumbled around her hair as she dove for a hug. “You are?”
“Oh honestly Ser Rodrick, don’t be silly. Only your favorite female student of all time!”
“Maege Mormont is several years your senior girl.” The old man muttered, a twinkle of laughter while he sniped back, before it was quickly overtaken by sadness once more. Well then, might as well rip of the bandage.
“Maege Mormont! What has the grumpy bear been up to? Seriously though, its good to see a familiar face. I was in Dorne, telling Ned to get my son to safety, felt myself dying, next thing I know I’m in the crypts and some idiot guard who seriously needs some bravery beaten into him says fifteen years have passed!”
“Oh gods, its really you?” Rodrick muttered as shock overtook his face.
“No, I’m some other woman with Stark coloring that you used to train that enjoys walking about Winterfell in highly inappropriate clothing.” Lyanna sniped.
“What color was the most expensive dress you wore to the tourney at Harrenhal?” Rodrick spit out.
“Grey, I refused to wear anything else on principle, although the most expensive item I wore was the armor you and Benjen had commissioned for me. Now, have I verified my identity, or am I going to have to kick your arse in the ring to prove it?”
Chapter 2: Cat's Solar
Rodrik explains a few things and Cat sees a ghost.
Okay, a few things.
Let me clarify. This is an AU. The premise is that there are a bunch of dimensions, all with the same planet design, but each with slightly different events. Not significantly different, but enough that there will be bits of backstory that are different from cannon. Most of these differences will be brought up early on, by characters going over what exactly happened. Some are bigger than others. Also, keep in mind I'm a show person, I only read the first three pages of the books, so if it isn't stated as fact or shown in the show, I assume that events may have been misinterpreted based on prejudices or the story told by the victor with certain details left out.
Also, ages. They are tweaked just slightly from cannon. Lyanna died and was reborn towards the end of her seventeenth year. Jon is fifteen and a half. Rob has just turned sixteen, Sansa is thirteen, Arya is eleven, bran is eight, and Rickon is five. Rhaegar was twenty six when he died. Ned is thirty five or six, Catlyn is thirty two or three.
Finally, this is an exercise to improve my writing. one of the things I know I'm bad at is making my characters well rounded with proper flaws. I'm trying to get better at that, which means my characters, even the 'good' ones, will occasionally make bad choices. So please, keep that in mind. Why the characters make these bad choices and their motivations lend themselves to the overall story direction.
However, I know I'm not the best writer. I definately have areas to improve, and am trying to work on them through writing fanfiction like this story. This is why CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM will always be appreciated. It makes my writing and by extension this story better.
So, to that effect, thank you to everyone who commented. Many of your comments were useful criticisms, great points about details that needed clarified, or interesting ideas that forced me to look at this story from an angle I hadn't before. So thank you for commenting!
Alright, now on with the story!
Catelyn was in her solar when she heard a knock on the door.
“Enter!” She called, putting down the accounts she had been slowly perusing. Ned would need to look over several of them when he returned, but she could handle a few herself.
Ser Rodrick ambled in, chest puffed in… indignation, perhaps?
“Lady Stark,” the old knight began, “I found… something… she just…”
“Oh bullocks it all, Rodrick, let me by!” a feminine voice griped, as small hands pushed past Rodrick. She was a young girl, no more than twenty, with long hair and Stark features, wearing nothing but a bloodstained white shift. In fact, there was a good deal of blood, all along the bottom near her…
“Oh, its you. Damn my brother and his blasted honor.” The girl muttered, and suddenly Catelyn knew who this was. Only one woman had Cat ever met who spoke that way to anyone, let alone herself. But it wasn’t possible. Ned said she had died of a fever…
Catelyn glanced down at the shift again. What the hell was going on?
“Ser Rodrick,” the Lady Stark inquired, “Who is this?”
“Oh, don’t be such a bitch Tully, you know exactly who I am. No bloody idea how I’m alive, mind, but I doubt any of us are getting those answers any time soon. Now, since Ser Rodrick wasn’t answering me, I’m going to ask you. Where. Did. Ned. Take.
My. Son. And you can explain how my entire goodfamily was exterminated while you’re at it.” Lyanna chastised. Lyanna. Lyanna Stark. Alive. And in Catelyn’s solar.
Catelyn would forever deny the bevy of words that crossed her mind, including the ill comments about her goodfamily, and the four letter F word that did not feature prominently in her nonexistent internal rant.
“Lady Lyanna… how…?”
“I just said I have no bloody idea. Look, if you’re going to be useless, how long till Ned gets back? Gods know I could use a bath if there’s time for it and what am I saying, of course you’re useless, always have been. Well, run along and play with your little dolls now Kitty Cat. The important people have discussions to start.”
“I will not be spoken to this way in my solar! I am the Lady of Winterfell!”
“And I am the Queen of the Seven Bloody Kingdoms! I rank you bitch, so get off your oversized pony and use your fucking brain for once! Gods, its like they pump you southern bitches out of a brickmaker’s mold. No individuality the lot of you.”
“Queen of the Seven Kingdoms! What is wrong with you? Ser Rodrick, get the Maester, so we can figure out what this is about.”
“Don’t you dare Rodrick.”
Cat looked to her Master at Arms, waiting for him to obey her orders, only to be disappointed.
“Ser Rodrick, I command you…”
“I’m sorry Lady Catelyn, but the Queen Mother’s orders supersede your own. I am sworn to the Starks true. But she is far more Stark than you will ever be.”
“Queen Mother? What madness is this?”
“The madness I tried to explain! To you, to your lord husband, to Brandon! To Lord Rickard! But none of you would hear it! No, you believed the word of a Baratheon over a man who has served House Stark since he was a boy mucking stables. Now perhaps you will hear the truth! Lady Lyanna was never kidnaped! She went willingly with Rhaegar after he saved her from Robert Boratheon’s rape attempt! They were married and she was named his Princess! Upon Aerys’s death, she became the Mother of the King! Baratheon lied to you, to everyone, because he knew the first thing Rhaegar would do when he took the throne was have his unworthy ass removed from power and castrated or banished to the wall! So he started a war, sabotaged Rhaegar’s own plans to overthrow the Mad King all because Lady Lyanna told him she would not become another mother to one of his bastards! That is the truth.” Rodrick paced over to Catelyn. He was a tad shorter than the Lady, but for the first time, she realized how truly menacing those swordsman’s muscles could be as he glared up at her.
“The war was built on a lie. Robert’s reign was built on a lie. Your position was built on a lie. And that boy? The one you’ve used as a scapegoat for your children’s bad behavior and your own failings as a woman, mother, wife and Lady? He’s the bloody rightful King! And he hates you! And I may have failed to deliver my Queen’s message to her family true. And I may have failed to protect her. But I did protect her son. Not from everything, no. It’s hard to shield a child from the world’s scorn. But I protected him from what I could, taught him to fight like his mother before him. And I watched that boy, lied to about everything, even his name, become the most honorable man I’ve ever had the pleasure to train. Including your precious eldest son. And after fifteen years of your fucking nonsense, I’m going to enjoy the punishment the Queen lays out for what you did to King… Aegon was the planned name, yes?”
Rodrick looked back to Lyanna for a moment, who nodded, and Cat took the opportunity to release the breath she’d been holding.
Rodrick turned back, and seemed to realize how afraid she was, because he immediately drew his sword. Cat closed her eyes. She didn’t necessarily understand the madness that had just invaded her solar, but she prayed whatever demon had appeared in a woman’s form and ensnared Ser Rodrick would at least spare her children.
A moment passed. Two. Metal clattered on wood. Cat cracked her eyes to see Ser Rodrick’s sword, placed at the feat of the white-garbed girl. She watched as her Master at Arms swore himself to Queen Lyanna Stark Targaryen, First of her Name.
From the weirwood, watching through the window that overlooked it’s wood, the gods saw the knight’s action, the southron lady’s fear.
And the Old Gods smiled, for today, the world began to be set to rights.
Chapter 3: Wolves (Ned)
The gods send Lyanna's first companion her direction.
Ned Stark sighed as one of the pups nearly escaped Jon’s hold, and the large female by his side nearly had a fit. She was a large beast, her shoulder was of a height with Ned’s elbow, and massive. Her claws shone like silver, her teeth a yellow that swore destruction on those who opposed her. Unless, oddly enough, she was around Jon. Then she became almost mothering, sniffing and nudging at him. When they had first found her, they thought her dead. A stag’s antler was shoved in one end of her throat and out the other.
Bran had heard the cries of her pup, the only one she had managed to get out before her death. Robb and Theon had laughed at the plight of the unborn cubs still writhing in their mother’s belly, her corpse not yet cool. But Jon had walked forward, face filled with something beautiful, something other, and with a mighty heave, had rent the antler from her throat.
And then, she breathed. The large wolf’s chest had heaved upwards, and Jon’s face was clipped by her claw. He’d have a nasty scratch for a few days, but it wasn’t deep enough to scar in all likelihood.
Ned had yelled for Bran to get away, to drop the pup, and for Jon to move from the great beast’s maw. But he just stared at her, meeting the monster’s eyes.
And then, like a great puppy, she had licked his face. She had bent down to check on the pup already born, a small white thing with red eyes, and tucked it to her chest to suckle before turning back to Jon. And she started grooming his hair.
Robb and Theon had joked nervously about a match made in heaven, a wolf who loved Jon’s hair as much as he did, but Ned had just stared in shock. Bran, ever curious, tried to inch closer, only to be met with the mother’s growl. She had given a glare, almost reprimanding, before licking the pup he had dropped a few times.
Several times Jon tried to back away from the beast, and each time she’d growl at him like he had personally offended her. Each time one of the party tried to get close, she had growled at them, hackles raised, paw ready to swipe. Ned tried to order the guards to shoot it, but the second he did, Jon had begged them not to slay her. That she was scared, without her own pack, naught but the children she was still struggling to bring into the world. Ned couldn’t remember the last time Jon had asked for anything, the last time he had wanted, hell, he hadn’t had a real talk with the boy in weeks.
Had it really been so long? When had he even seen his nephew/son smile last?
So Ned had let him get to it. Eventually, after several minutes of peace, the wolf had lifted the pup from her breast and tucked it into Jon’s lap. She then spent nearly an hour bringing five other pups into the world, two females and three more males. Her deed done, fed some water and rations the soldiers had on hand and passed to Jon, she let her pups suckle for a few minutes, still holding Jon hostage, before levering to her feet. Delicately, she had picked up the second eldest pup, a grey boy larger than all the rest, and carried it in her jaws over to Robb. When Jon tried to follow, she had growled until he went back to corralling the other four. As Robb gently took the pup into his hands, brushing some windblown leaves from it’s eyes, she had returned to the litter, only to present Bran with a small brown male of his own.
“Three pups left. A male and two females. Enough for Sansa, Rickon and Arya to each have their own. The direwolf is the symbol of House Stark after all.” Jon had said, eyes shining with hope. Ned had looked to his sons, only to see each smiling like they had been handed their firstborn children, the pups mewling like kittens. The little white one in Jon’s hands still was pawing at a twig Jon had brought near, toothless gums trying to gain purchase. The wolf had then walked around Bran, nudging him to the litter, and he allowed it. She picked up the black, long haired male by the scruff, and had nudged the smaller female to Bran and the larger to Jon. Each had picked up the extra pup, intended for a sibling, and carried them back to the party.
At this point two of the soldiers had fallen to their knees in prayer at the miracle before them, and Ned was beyond speech. So, he had silently mounted his horse, and tried to ignore the giant wolf riding alongside him, pup in mouth.
They had to take two stops along the way, during which she had let the pups suckle and Jon had fed her more water and jerky. Each time, she switched which of the unclaimed pups she carried, as if daring the boys to claim one of them as a second. At their last stop, she had let Bran near while his pup, now christened Summer, took his meal. She also, at every break, insisted Jon let her groom him, which garnered extra teasing from Theon. But Jon had such a look of contentment on his face, Ned doubted he even noticed.
Now, the gates of Winterfell were upon them, and Ned could not be happier. Several of the small folk had muttered at the wolf by his side.
“A sign from the gods”
“A blessing upon the Starks”
“Spirit guides for the Little Lords and Ladies” he heard in their wake.
It was dusk by the time they reached the courtyard. Sansa was there, Rickon on her hip and a muddy Arya by her side, but no Cat, no Luwin, no Rodrik. Several of the servants and guards bustled about nervously, and Jory stood behind the children.
Before he could even dismount, the female was past him, shooting for Sansa, who screamed. The beast stopped on it’s heals before his eldest daughter, spraying mud along her dress, and offered the littlest female to Sansa. She seemed hesitant and fearful, but the moment his daughter’s eyes caught the pup, she softened. Rickon slid to the ground by Sansa’s side, as she took the small grey cub from the monster wolf’s mouth.
“Well.” Jon said, juggling his own (Ghost) and the remaining female. “I guess this makes this lovely one yours.” He handed the grey pup, a few shades lighter than her sister, ever so carefully to Arya, who held it like a baby.
The mother wolf stepped up to Bran, nearly spooking his horse, and lifted the shaggy black pup from his arms, before laying it at Rickon’s feet. Ned studiously ignored the guard’s comments about “a sign” and “gods be blessed”.
Ned tugged Robb and Bran to his other children, before addressing the group. “These are wolves. They were not bred to be pets, they were bred to be wild. As such, teaching them to behave is your responsibility. You will feed them. Train them. Clean up after them. You will teach them to behave or so help me the will go back to the wood where they were born. If they die, you will bury them. And you will not allow them to breed unless it is with a mate not of their litter. Is that understood?”
A chorus of “Yes fathers” greeted the pronouncements. He then turned about, only to realize that something large and furry had disappeared.
First off, thank you so much for the comments, kudos, etc. There have been some very interesting discussions in the comments section. I will just ask that people keep it respectful; a single chapter, scene or word can be taken multiple ways depending upon the perspective. Romeo is could be a hopeless romantic, tragic hero, infamous narcissist, any combination, or many other things depending on how one feels about the play, the same can be said for Juliet.
Second, a bit about how I update. If you take the number of words in the previous chapter, and divide by 500, you know how many days until the next one is posted typically. the problem is I'm writing and updating two stories at once, so that might change as chapters become longer or life gets in the way. But, for now, that's the update policy.
Third, I have very bad spelling. so apologies if anything egregious is wrong, particularly names.
Fourth, CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM IS ALWAYS APPRECIATED.
Thank you all for reading and see you in a few days!
Chapter 4: Father's Solar (Rob)
Remember, several of you asked for this.
Robb ran through the halls of Winterfell, Grey Wind in hand, searching for the mother wolf. Here an there were signs of her passing; a servant cowering, muddy prints, a screech a few halls down. When he eventually came to the end of the trail, he found his father, brother, and Theon outside the door to Father’s solar, the large Lord blocking the way in. He raised an eyebrow at Jon, who shrugged confusedly, Ghost pawing at his hair.
“Well hello to you to girl! Alright! Yes, nice to meet you to, now off. Come on, I have people to yell at, I cant do that covered in slobber! Come on, down!” a low but distinctly female voice commanded.
“Lya…” Father gasped.
“Oh. Ned. So good you could finally join us!” that woman’s voice, filled with soft cheer greeted. The tone switched to one harder than steal when the woman commanded, “Sit down Eddard. Now.”
Father seemed to actually obey the voice, moving quickly to the chair before his desk like an errant child. Hesitantly Robb followed, as did his brother and friend. Arya and Bran pattered up behind them from somewhere as well.
The woman was petit, and had a boyish figure, but well toned muscles that strained against Sansa’s grey dress. Her hair was long and held in two braids. She looked no more than twenty two, and her grey eyes were hard as stone, as steal, glinting at father with only barely restrained anger.
Who the hell was this, that she commanded father so?
“So. Eddard. Let us start with the most important question. Where. Is. My. SON!”
Father seemed to cower in his chair, causing all of the children to stop, stunned along the back wall. “I-I don’t-Lyanna, you c-cant-“
“Cant what? Be alive? Apparently I am. Demand to see my son? I just did. And let me remind you that this is the Queen Mother asking to see her son, the KING of Westros. Now. Where. Is. Aegon.”
Who the bloody hells was this?
“He’s not… Lyanna, you know a bastard cant…”
“A bastard. A BASTARD! Did you even read the letters I left for you in the Tower? Or did you ignore my instructions and leave without investigating.”
Father seemed to quail at her glare, shrinking into the seat. Ser Rodrik and Old Nan, who stood on either side of the Lady (Queen?) glared along with her.
“Let me make this absolutely clear than. Rhaegar and I were MARRIED. I CHOSE to conceive my son. HE NEVER DID ANYTHING TO ME WHICH I DID NOT WELCOME. And if you had simply TAKEN THE TIME to READ MY LETTERS as instructed, you would have KNOWN that. But no, instead you brought my son here, allowed the man who tried to RAPE me and MURDERED my husband UNDER A FLAG OF TRUCE to steal my son’s BIRTHRIGHT. Now where. Is. AEGON.”
Robb’s mind started to race. Rhaegar must be the Demon of the Trident. And there was no way this woman was Elia Martell. How could Rhaegar have been married to her though?
“He’s not… not a bastard?”
“NO HE’S NOT, AND IF YOU HAD LISTENED TO RODRIK HE WOULD HAVE BLOODY WELL TOLD YOU THAT!” The woman boomed.
Robb had never seen Father this cowed. And Mother was shrunk into the corner, as if fearing an attack at any moment. Maester Luwin, next to Mother, kept looking about like a curious owl, with wide eyes and open mouth. The wolf was standing at her full height beside the desk, hackles raised as she snarled at Father in time with the Lady’s rant.
“I… I didn’t know. I thought…”
“No, Ned, you didn’t think. That’s the problem. You didn’t think to investigate, you didn’t think about the politics, you didn’t think that Robert, the WHORING, DRINKING, FOULMOUTHED BASTERD whom I LOATHED might LIE to keep me from telling you WHAT HE DID! You just assumed your precious Robert told the truth, that your sister KNOWN FOR HER FIRE AND COMBAT PROWES was stolen like some southron bitch who doesn’t know one end of the sword from the other. You ran off, and didn’t even bother to hear the explanation. It’s bad enough Brandon did that and got himself killed. It’s worse that father came south to retrieve me, learned the truth, went to rescue Brandon and got killed for his trouble. It’s quite another that you rushed into things as well, and cost my son his birthright.”
Wait, what? She was talking about King Robert? Father always talked about the man who should have been their uncle with fondness, even if exasperated. But Father would never support someone as dishonorable as the woman described…
The woman sighed and put her head to her hands.
“You were supposed to be the measured one. The one that didn’t run off half cocked. You’re my brother, and I love you, but what you did, what you cost my son… I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust you again.” She straightened again, and Father seemed to get even smaller.
“You promised to protect Aegon Ned. So explain to me how letting your Tully bitch have him scorned and degraded was protection. Why the King of the Seven Kingdoms is housed in the servant’s quarters rather than with his cousins in the family wing. Why Ser Rodrik and Old Nan and a dozen other villagers from Wintertown had to go out of their way and create an entire network to teach him what he should have learned from you. Why you allowed your daughter and ward to treat my son like dirt beneath their boot, to be scorned and ignored and blamed for their failings. Explain to me how exactly you kept your promise.”
“But I did! I kept him safe! Robert would have killed him had he known…”
“Except that most of Wintertown already knows. Not everything, of course, but at least that he isn't yours. Keeping it from the courts, fine. But you could have let the family know. The small folk have for years, apparently Aegon’s parentage is an open secret amongst them and there is no Robert at our gates. You could have used this time to gather allies, to further my son’s cause for his birthright. But you didn’t. You sat back and let that rapist drink and whore his way through my son’s money, building debts the Seven Kingdoms will spend years repaying. Why.”
“I didn’t know…”
The woman sighed as Ser Rodrick scowled.
“This is getting us nowhere. Ned, I’m pissed. Royally pissed. If my son cannot have the birthright due him because of his uncle’s actions, I’m tempted to declare that your children will not have what is due them because of mine. That should you die without my son on the Iron Throne, Winterfell will go to him, until your children regain the honor of the Starks by returning the rightfull ruler to the throne. The only reason I stay that order is because, for all your failures and your wife’s defieciencies, Rodrik tells me Robb is a good man. That he loves my son and my son him, and I would not sever such a tie out of malice. Also, apparently my son has no interest in the Iron Throne. So, I will do what you didn’t, and actually take the time to examine who is at fault for the situation.”
WHAT? Who the hells was this to command them so? Robb was about to say just that, when father let out a whine.
“No, Eddard, you will listen! As you should have years ago! Robert is a monster. My husband was a good man. My son has been hurt enough by your failures. And until you learn your lesson, and prove that you will not repeat the mistakes of Stark men, you must earn my trust. You want that to change. Fine.
“But know this. The chance I am giving you is at Rodrik and Nan’s behest. And for the sake of my nieces and nephews who do not deserve to be punished for their father’s mistakes. You see, I am not you.
“If I had my way, we’d get moving on a return to the throne immediately. Use Cat’s connections to get the Vale and Riverlands on our side. I would treat with Dorne and the Reach. Between the two of us, we might be able to secure five of the seven kingdoms. The Crownlands and Sealords would side with Aegon, as they would have with Rhaegar, and we would crush the Westerlands and Stormlands. We will take King’s Landing for my son, and finally send Robert to the hells where he belongs.”
She stood and looked out the window.
“But its not about what I want. Cant be. Not anymore.”
Several silent moments passed.
What the hells. What the hells what the hells whatthehellswhatthehellswhatthehells.
Father kept calling her Lya, like he did their aunt the few times they heard of her. But there was no way the woman who was stolen and raped by…
Wait. She said something about Robert being a rapist. And Rhaegar protecting her. If she was telling the truth, that would mean Robert’s rebellion was backwards…
“Lya…” The woman turned and glared at Father, before catching sight of the adolescent horde at the door.
“My gods.” Aunt Lyanna whispered. “You look just like him.” She stared at Jon with unblinking grey eyes, a few shades darker than Arya’s and Father’s, eyes that matched Jon’s exactly…
Aunt Lyanna seemed to gather herself from her shocked stupor before turning to Father. “That’s him, yes? Jon, as Ser Rodrick said you named him?”
“Good. Get out. All of you. I suspect this has been rather confusing for the children, so I recommend you explain the truth to them. Now. I need to have a talk with my son.”
Aunt Lyanna sat in one of the chairs near the fire, and as if a spell was broken, everyone was suddenly moving. Ser Rodrick grabbed Mother by the arm and dragged her gently to the door, Father began shooing everyone but Jon, who he nudged towards Aunt Lyanna, out. Before he got them out, however, the mother wolf let out a sharp howl. The group’s attention caught, she moved to each child, taking their pup from their hands and settling them before the fire to nurse. When she realized two were missing, she gave a long mournful howl followed by a commanding bark at Robb.
“You… you want me to get the other two pups?”
She barked again, and turned to groom the four by her breast.
“Al-Alright then.” Robb stammered, before following the Maester and Ser Rodrick’s urging and taking to the hall. The moment Old Nan hobbled out, Ser Rodrick firmly shut the door behind them.
“What just happened?” Arya asked, big grey eyes staring at father curiously.
Robb was wondering the same thing. At this point the only options were that a crazy woman had bespelled people and taken over the Keep, or that something kept secret for decades was about to come into the open… and the sort of directions Robb’s head had been sent in were not at all pretty for anyone involved.
“I… lets find your sister and brother. Then we’ll talk.” Father muttered before wandering down the hall in a daze.
Okay guys, this one is early. Again. Next update expected Monday ish. After that though, life is probably going to prevent me from updating in a while, so you are warned.
In other news, I got spoiled for the end of GOT. Still haven't watched the last three episodes, not sure how I feel about what I heard. What I do know, is the stupid spoilers gave me ANOTHER idea for a GOT fanfic. I definitely wont be posting it until this one's through though. Stupid plot bunnies! Cant go a week without one biting me!
Constructive Criticism Appreciated!
Chapter 5: Father's Solar (Jon)
Story time with mother is far less enjoyable than he imagined.
Jon was very confused.
It all started when they found that wolf in the woods. Jon knew no animal could survive trauma like that antler, but something had come over him. Something warm and cold at the same time, something green and brown and tasting of raspberries.
Next thing he knew, he was getting a tongue bath from the beast, which he realized must be a direwolf rather than the regular kind.
She was far from scary though. She reminded him, if anything, of the handful of women he would do odd jobs for in Winterfell. Rosanne, who ran the inn with her elderly parents, would often brush his hair back with her fingers just like the wolf now was.
He yearned for that sort of thing, and while he never let his brothers or Theon near his hair, he didn’t mind so much when Rosanne and the other women of Wintertown did it. He knew that they could never fill the hole his mother had left.
For a few moments, while he sat with the large wolf’s head in his lap, he wished that he could have his mother back. A fruitless wish, one that had haunted him since he realized his mother was not his nanny Wylla or Lady Catelyn. He wished for a father to for that matter, a proper one that wouldn’t look on him with shame. One that could teach him to fight without sneaking behind his wife’s back, who could go over the family business with him so he would learn to manage their livelihood. But he knew it was never going to happen. A few of the orphans in Wintertown had once mentioned how lucky he was to have a father, at least he had one parent around, but he didn’t think so. At least orphans could gain honor by pulling themselves up. A bastard… well, the name would never leave him, nor the shame.
When he heard Father order the men to shoot, he had lost all composure to beg for the wolf’s life. He knew he was embarrassing himself, that Theon would taunt him later (“Bastards don’t deserve cloths on their back or a roof over their heads from their Lords, let alone toys and playthings” Lady Stark’s voice whispered in his mind) but he didn’t care. He couldn’t bear the thought of the little pups alone in the world like he was, or killed for being born in a way they couldn’t control.
To his surprise, Father had acquiesced, and let them waste most of the day to first care for the birthing mother, then transport the cubs back to Winterfell. The moment Ghost was put in his arms, something shifted. It was like he had spent his life with strings tied to his arms, and had never realized they were there due to their slackness, but one had finally been pulled taut. He knew Ghost’s name, knew his wolf almost like he knew himself.
There was another set of strings though, both pointing in roughly the same direction. One felt like it had more slack than the other, the northern of the two.
He had carefully helped transport the cubs, already wondering what his siblings would name theirs, and then they were home and the mother wolf had disappeared and they were scouring the keep for her.
He had no idea what to make of the woman in Father’s solar. She was of his height, and lithe but muscled, in a grey gown that did not fit at all. She wore a scabbard of beaten leather on her hip.
He listened to Father’s scolding in fear. Father was never scared, would never quiver at the sight of some woman of twenty years. He stood up to Lady Stark! And she was the scariest person in Winterfell!
As she spoke, his confusion mounted. A Targaryen king? King Robert a rapist? He had spent his entire life with the tales of Robert’s Rebellion, Father always stressed the evilness of Rhaegar, but this woman treated everything backwards.
And the way she talked about her son. Being scorned and hated. It resonated with him. He wasn’t surprised that the people of Wintertown would look out for such a child. They were nice enough to look out for him, they would have protected Aunt Lyanna’s son as well. He felt his chest swell with indignant rage as she threatened to tear Robb’s birthright away from him. How could she do that? It wasn’t Robb’s fault Father had failed their cousin. Although, if his cousin was the King, and he had been treated much like Jon was…
Well, there was a reason he wanted to go to the Wall. And if his cousin felt the same, it was no wonder Aunt Lyanna was so mad.
He momentarily considered how she could be alive, but those thoughts were quickly covered by the other revelations in Lyanna’s rant.
Then, like a wave retreating from the shore, the room was empty. Ghost was nursing by the fire, where Aunt… no, Queen Lyanna had taken a seat.
Jon felt the odd, lightheaded/numbness that had pervaded him since he found the mother wolf fade, and realized he was staring. He shook himself, and lowered his head, to await her order. That must be why he was left. She would send him to get the King while the real Starks talked and planned.
“Come here.” The Queen ordered. He obeyed, glancing through his lashes to see her hand, pointed to the chair across from hers.
They studied each other for a few moments, her openly and he with his head bowed. Finally, the Queen heaved a great sigh.
“Do you know who I am?” She asked. Her voice, though soft, had become raspy with her past yelling.
“Lady Lyanna Stark, now Queen? Your Grace.” He muttered quickly, trying to not offend.
She chuckled, low and smooth.
“Yes, I am. Although my last name is Targaryen now. The Stark bit goes in the middle. And what is the name you prefer?”
“J-Jon, your Grace.”
“Well, Jon, lets see if my brother has any of the fun stuff squirreled away. I doubt I’m getting through this conversation without a little help from berries and yeast.” She sashayed to one of the cabinets, one of those he was banned from touching, and pulled out two goblets and a bottle. “How much would you like?” she called from the desk, pouring a liberal glass for herself.
“None, my La… I mean, no thank you, your Grace.” (“Bastards are born of sin and vice, and so are more susceptible to spirits than others. You must never drink, for only the trueborn deserve the pleasures of such things. Were you to do so, you would loose all control, spreading even more sin into the world and dishonoring your father further.” The scepta scolded him)
“No? Well, I’ll leave the bottle out, should you change your mind.”
She wandered back, and suddenly, Jon was afraid. He had no idea how she was alive, but Father had believed her claims of royalty. And neither Ser Rodrick nor Lady Stark nor even Maester Luwin had argued her claim. Which meant there was weight behind it.
What if she disproved of his presence? Was she about to send him away? It made sense, he supposed. Cant have the King’s bastard cousin around to sully his honor.
Jon had been planning on leaving for a while, so it wouldn’t be so bad. He just hoped that he would have time to say goodbye to his siblings, and maybe take Ghost with him. Company would be nice on the way to the Wall.
“What has Ned told you about your birth?” the Queen asked before taking a sip of her goblet.
Did she want to hear about his mother? Where he was born? He didn’t have those answers…
“Just that I’m his bastard. That my mother asked him to take me and he did.”
“Has he told her anything about her?”
Jon shook his head. “No, your Grace.”
“Okay, first of all, stop with the your Grace stuff. You can call me whatever you want, Lyanna if that’s easier, or nothing if it pleases you. He claimed you as his, yes?”
“Yes, your… Aunt Lyanna.”
She seemed to smirk at his response, shaking her head slightly.
“And of where you were born? Has he told you anything?”
“No, just that I had to be brought north a ways.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, I suppose that’s one way to put it. And what has he told you of me?”
“That you died in the war. That you were a lot like Arya. That Prince Rhaegar stole you and raped you. Although I gather the last bit was misinformation?”
“Yes, you could say that.”
She stared into the fire pensively, the flames reflecting of her grey eyes.
“I always wanted to be a spearwoman, like the warriors of old. My mother was of the hill tribes, where such things still occur. But my father wanted better relations with the southroners, so I was denied that request. Still, Rodrik, a guard and dear friend, would sneak me out to the Wolfswood and teach me bow and lance and sword and spear. When it was time for me to foster, I spent two years in Dorne. I came to be close friends with one Elia Martell.”
She saw the shock written on his face before it could be hidden.
“Yes, I was friends with Rhaegar’s first wife. Although she would deny the title, had she lived.” Lyanna’s face grew sad.
“I came back to Winterfell to find my father had negotiated a marriage to Robert Baratheon. A good man Ned said, one who had honor and would treat me right.” She scoffed. “I heard the rumors. That he was bloodthirsty, that he was a whoremonger. I chose to see the bright side. Perhaps he would be so busy whoring and drinking that I could run the Stormlands on my own. I would only have to lay with him to beget an heir or two, and then I would be free to take my own paramours discreetly.
“I met my betrothed at the Tourney at Harrenhal. He was loud and boisterous, but I disliked the way his eyes lingered. He looked at me like I was a prized bitch to be mounted whenever he needed more pups. And whenever he spoke of our union, he spoke of how he and Ned would become brothers, but never of me as a person.
“I had been gifted armor from a few well meaning northerners who felt the southroners could use a woman to shake them up. That if we were forced to take their ideas of knighthood to heart, then they should have to take our women warriors as well. I fought in the melee and the joust, in which I was one of the finalists, alongside Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. But my father insisted I be seen spectating. So, I forfeited the joust. And yet, when Rhaegar won, he rode to me, and gave me the crown of roses rather than Elia.
“I was shocked. How could he hurt my friend this way?
“I stomped off, and it was not until I reached my rooms that I saw the parchment stuck in the woven stems. ‘I know you are the knight who keeps her face hidden,’ it said. ‘so does Elia. The crown is now yours, as it should have been, had you not needed to keep the secret.’
“I was shocked, but as my temper cooled, I realized I should not be. Elia knew my fighting style from Dorne, and likely told her husband. Everyone spoke of how honorable Prince Rhaegar was, and I saw this as verification, that he would give me what small consolation he could for father’s stubbornness.
“Elia was well watched then, but every other night, she would sneak out to the edge of the woods and meet me. We would laugh about our lives and the day’s events. I would do what I could to distract her from her ill health. She told me of how Rhaegar was forced to marry her, or his father would have burned a dozen innocents. And that once he found a suitable bride, he would have their marriage annulled, and use that as the springboard to take the Kingdoms from his cruel father.
“But that night, Robert found us. He was drunk, ranting about how I was his, how he would take me and the Dornish bitch as vengeance on Rhaegar. I stood before Elia, as he had us backed against a rock, and tried to fight him off while she slipped around us and ran. In the process my wrist was broken, and I could no longer fight Robert off.
“Then, from the night, came the Prince, mounted on his horse with sword in hand. He pulled me from under Robert and spirited me away. I was ever so grateful.
“But we were not alone. Robert had placed his men in a perimeter to prevent interference. Two already laid slain. Rhaegar was forced to flee them down the road, miles into the wilds.
“We eventually stopped. Each morning, we would wake to Baratheon men on our tail. A few times we saw Stark or Vale men, but they tried to attack Rhaegar.
“Eventually we made it to the Westerlands, which were loyal to Aerys. We had to make our way south through them and the Reach. Rhaegar feared what his father would do to me, as did I.
“Then, we got to Dorne. By that point, it had been months, and both Rhaegar and I had admitted our affections. Rhaegar moved forwards with his plan, the High Scepton annulled his marriage to Elia on the grounds it was coerced and immediately married us.
“Over the next few months, we tried to make contact with my family, to get them to listen. Every letter was intercepted, ravens could not be trusted, and the Riverlands forces blocked Rhaegar at every pass. Eventually, I fell pregnant, and my husband had me tucked in the Tower of Joy with two Kingsguard for safety.
“For months I had naught but a few messages to tell me my husband’s whereabouts, but I made my own plans.
“Along our travels, I had seen the lands of many smaller lords. The Lords Paramount may play the game, you see, but only a few of the vassals do. Many are far more concerned with their own lands welfare to hunger for power. There are, of course, some exceptions, but generally, most of the Lords of Westeros care not for the Game of Thrones, as the players call it. Or at least, they stopped caring when they realized it’s cost, as Aerys grew madder an the players began to burn. I used the men Rhaegar had left at my disposal to garner alliances. When these lords learned that we wished to remove Aerys from power and put Rhaegar on the throne, many agreed to support us. It was the Lord Paramounts that posed the problem.
“I have been told, since my… resurrection, that my husband died at the Trident, at Robert’s hands. His intent was to wave a flag of truce there, and convince Jon Arryn to hear him out. I suppose he failed.
“None the less, I went into labor, and bore a son. But there was to much blood, and the birthing fever took hold. I held my lovely baby in my arms as often as I could, pushing myself to live just a bit longer for him.
“Then Ned came to my door.
“He knelt at my side and I told him to protect my son, begged him to promise, to get him to his father. And Ned swore to protect my son. Then, as my eyes grew dim and Ned walked to the door, with you in his arms, my vision went black.
“It felt like only moments had past a few hours ago when I awoke in the crypts. I came up and Ser Rodrik told me what had come of my baby. How Ned had fulfilled his vow by hiding Aegon as the bastard Jon Snow. And how he, and a network of smallfolk and lesser lords, have been protecting him for me ever since.”
At the last few sentences, Jon shook himself from his stupor.
What had she just said?
Ned. His Father. Had hid her baby. As… him?
That made no sense.
He looked up. Saw her staring expectantly. Eyes boring into his.
“You have so much Rhaegar in you. The way you sit, how you wear your hair… it’s my color, but his texture.” She said, first to him then seemingly to herself.
Rhaegar. The Dragon Prince. Jon looked like him.
Looked like him because he was his…
“No.” Jon burst. This wasn’t possible. His father was Ned Stark. He’d known that since he could walk. How could something else be true?
His father always said a man’s word was his bond. That lying was one of the worst things a man could do.
But if what she said was true, he had lied.
His Father had lied to him.
No, not his father. Someone else’s father who had just pretended.
It felt like hours of thoughts ran through his mind, all waring for dominance. There were noises around him, Rob and Lyanna (his mother, she was his mother and she was here and she was hugging him and whispering that everything would be alright and that she loved him) spoke for a few moments. A door closed.
He must have sobbed himself to sleep, because the next thing he knew, he was curled on the floor, Ghost in his arms and his head on Lyanna’s lap.
His mother’s lap.
Somehow in the chaos of his mind, that fact had become absolutely clear.
He wasn’t a Stark. The thing he had always wanted, to be a Stark, to be of Winterfell, could never truly be.
But he wasn’t a bastard either. That wish at least had come true. He was trueborn. He had a name.
Not just any name, THE name. He was a Targaryen.
His father was the Dragon Prince killed by the Demon of the Trident.
And Lyanna Stark (Targaryen? Queen’s names had always confused him…) was his mother.
Carding her fingers through his hair.
While he laid on the floor like a child.
“I’m sorry.” He muttered, quickly sitting up and banging his head on the wooden chair behind him.
“It’s all right. I meant to use the story to ease you into it.” Lyanna (his mother) smirked at him. “I guess that failed.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what…”
“It’s fine. I’ve seen it before. Happens to even the strongest sometimes.”
Several moments of silence passed.
“So… do you have any questions?”
“No. Yes. I…”
“Pick one. We have all night.”
Jon spent a moment thinking.
“How are you here?’
“How can you not know.”
Lyanna (mother) shrugged.
“I just don’t. Died in your birthing bed. Woke in the crypts.”
“Then how did you get from Dorne to here?”
She shrugged again. He let a few more moments passed.
“What… What’s going to happen with me now?”
“You’re the king. What do you want to happen?”
Jon looked at her in shock. Her gaze was steady, unflinching, like a statue in the crypts. He asked another question to try and remove the stare.
“But you told Fath… Lord Stark, that you want to retake the Iron Throne and put your son on it. Which means me?”
“I may be rather hasty in that desire.” She smiled sheepishly. “Its just, the idea that that bastard is sitting on your throne, spending your money while you were banished here…” she let a deep sigh loose. “I suppose I just wanted to scare the shit out of him. Make him realize how badly he fucked up. But at the end of the day, its your life. I always wanted you to be happy. If that means starting a farm or doing music or sailing on a ship and becoming a pirate I’ll help you. Hells, if you wanted to pick up and go to Essos or something, I’d start raiding Ned’s treasury and we could ride out tomorrow at dawn.” She grew sad. “If that means you want to ride off to join the Night’s Watch and never see me again, then I’ll leave tomorrow to.
“It would be a bit hypocritical of me after all. To yell at Ned about taking away your freedom, and then to do the same.”
She reached for his hand and he let her take it. He couldn’t remember the last time an adult had touched him this much. Only Arya had this much contact with him, and that was bound to happen the way she bounced off the walls.
“I guess, just… whatever will make you happy.” She smirked a bit. “After all, your Grace, you are the King.”
Jon felt a cold shiver at her words, and heard the shutters pound outside a bit.
“So… what do I call you…”
“Lyanna. Aunt Lyanna, if that’s more comfortable for you. You could call me some disgusting name like Grey Worm or Reek for all I care. Whatever feels best.”
“So… is… I mean… would it be okay if I …called you… mother?” he asked, before flinching and looking down. Old habits died hard, and questions involving the M word were dangerous with adults in Winterfell.
“Yes… Mother is fine. If you want it.”
“I… I think I’d like that…” he muttered, face heating a bit.
“Well then.” She said, tone filled with forced joy. “I think this is enough excitement for one night! And nothing needs decided now! I say we head to bed and talk more tomorrow. If…” she became a bit hesitant then. She had been hesitant this entire time, actually. Like she was trying to befriend a wild animal without spooking it.
She was failing. Epically. She seemed to have to much energy for that.
“Yeah… sleap sounds… good.” He muttered. She bid him goodnight with a peck on the cheek, and he wandered back to his room, a bit of the numbness returning.
He kicked off his boots and pulled off his clothes, not bothering to get into sleepwear, simply plopping on the firs.
Things would make more sense tomorrow.
Alright! People have been asking about these events since I started this. Hope you all enjoyed, if not... well, CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM!
And yes, I made some significant changes from cannon, but this is my AU and this is what I'm doing with it.
It's a long chapter, so don't expect the next one for a week, possibly longer. It depends on how life goes.
In the meantime, happy summer!
Chapter 6: Plotting (Sansa)
A little bird starts to plot
Sansa blinked at her father several times when he finished.
Aunt Lyanna was back from the dead.
She didn’t know if it was a miracle or a curse, from the old gods or the new. She supposed this could only be a good thing, when he first told her. One more woman to use to barter alliances.
Except they couldn’t use her to barter alliances. Because apparently, she had married Rhaegar. Which Sansa supposed could be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depended on who they told. She supposed that absolving her aunt of her public ruination would at least help her future.
But then he told them about her son.
The Bastard. Her half-brother. Who apparently wasn’t her half-brother, but her cousin.
And the King of Westeros.
What in the world did that mean?
As Arya took to yelling and Robb started to ask pointed questions and Rickon cried because he thought Jon was going away, Sansa turned inwards.
Jon was the true King.
No, not Jon, Aegon VI.
But Baratheon held the throne.
So who should she give her allegiance?
Baratheon might be the safest option. Afterall, she had never done anything disrespectful to him like she had done to the bastard for years. He already held King’s Landing which, while not necessarily impregnable, required a rather large force to be taken.
However, The Bastard was blood. Could she get away with betraying her blood with her honor in tact? Would this be good or bad for her marriage prospects?
She had always wanted to be a princess. She planned on becoming one through Father’s connection to King Robert, using that to be betrothed to one of the princes. But would they take one who shared blood with a Targaryen? Of course, they themselves had a grandmother who was of the line, it was how they argued Robert’s right when he first took the throne. And she was not herself a Targaryen, they just had a mutual cousin. That would be alright. But would they see it that way?
And what was she to do about Father? He was acting guilty, talking about Lyanna taking Robb’s birthright. Which was stupid, considering she had no power to back it up. Only a few people knew she was back yet. If she was making such insane comments, she should be thrown in a cell until she remembered who was the Lord. But Father hadn’t done that, meaning something else was going on…
If Aunt Lyanna did push to get her son on the throne, what would happen?
Father would side with The Bastard and Lyanna unless Sansa could convince them of the folly in that plan. She sneered a bit inside at that. Why they were siding with a boy who clearly was inferior? True, he was no longer a bastard, but he was still always sneaking and cowering around and causing trouble (“only because you and mother scorn him so and have left him no other way to avoid your ire” she remembered Arya saying). He was inferior. He had to be. If he wasn’t, they would have seen his honor and known he could not be a bastard.
She would have known, because she was a well bred lady. If he was truly worthy of being king, she would have known, and treated him otherwise. And if she hadn’t known, Mother or the Scepta would have, and corrected her behavior. But they didn’t correct her, which meant her behavior was right.
Although, maybe she would be nicer in the future. There was a chance that Jon could become king, after all, and he would remember how he was treated.
Father would use Mother’s connection to get the Tullys and Arryns on their side. Grandfather was dying and Uncle Edmure weak willed; he would obey if it kept him on the same side as his sisters. The Arryns would be a problem, as Jon Arryn was Hand of the King and had fostered Robert. However, he had also fostered Father, and had married Aunt Lysa. So which way he would go could be anyone’s guess. Although, if Father was right about Baratheon’s despicable behavior towards Aunt Lyanna, and the rumors of the Lord Hand’s impeccable honor were true, he could be brought into the fold.
The Stormlands and Westerlands would side with Robert. It was really their only option.
The Reach could be fickle. From what the southron ladies Mother occasionally entertained said, the Tyrell girl was beautiful. And that they had been Targaryen supporters. She had never met any of the Reach’s leading family, but she supposed they would lean a bit more towards Jon than Baratheon.
Dorne was up in the air. On the one hand, Aunt Lyanna and Princess Elia were supposedly friends. And she knew that the Martells were angry at King Robert for allowing the Mountain to walk free after he killed Elia, Rhaenys and Aegon. The elder. Aegon Martell? Aegon son of Elia? Aegon Waters? Or would it be Sand? Whatever, the one that wasn’t her cousin.
But would their wish for vengeance out way their ire at Aunt Lyanna marrying Rhaegar? And how could they have been married while Elia still lived anyways? There was clearly something Sansa was missing there…
So Dorne could go either way.
So, two kingdoms, including the richest one, on Baratheon’s side. Two kingdoms, with the possibility for three more, on Jon’s side, depending on who Jon Aryn believed. Unless Edmure went with his other sister and stood against them as well…
If Aunt Lyanna pushed this, she’d be dooming them all. Sansa had to convince Father to throw them both out. Tell King Robert what was going on. Prove his loyalty to the Baratheon throne.
The only question was, how to convince him?
So, I have good news and bad news.
Good news, I have reached my normal buffer of a month's worth of content! Yay! Having this buffer makes my writing better in general, I find, and ensures that I have extra room to plan.
Bad news, short hiatus incoming. I'm not going to be able to post chapters for a wile-I may still be on AO3 for stuff, I just wont be able to post. Nothing bad is happening, just life and reality intruding on my writing time. Hiatus will go until at least the 22nd, no later than the 29th.
I know this chapter's short, sorry. This is kinda just how I write, sometimes they end up really long, sometimes not so much. Regardless, it was fun to pick apart what a more naive Sansa might think of as plotting.
Constructive Criticism Appreciated!
Chapter 7: Catelyn's Chamber
Cat and Ned have a talk.
Preemptive justification/apology ahead. Could skew your view of what you read, so some people may want to skip the notes and come back after they read the chapter.
So, I'm going to come out and say it. I don't like how this chapter turned out, but I cant think of a better way to convey the information necessary. You will notice I'm taking some liberties with Northern culture. This comes from my existing knowledge of Norse, Celtic and Scottish tradition, (all cultures that have been argued as inspiration for aspects of Northern culture) namely the importance of oral traditon and a fierce urge to preserve their own culture on it's own merits. Looking through the light of these cultures and their experiences with aggressive campaigns of homogenization by other cultures, and combining that with the ideas about the North given in the show (staunchly traditional, reflexively rejecting aspects of Andal culture due to it's "proven intolerance", and maintaining a separate religion despite "missionary" attempts) to develop some ideas that would fill the cultural gaps left in the show's examination of the North. One of the big dynamics I'm playing with in this story is the cultural tensions between the North and the rest of Westros (as well as Dorne, the Ironborn, and some other minorities) that we get shown, but do not play as large a role as they could have under different circumstances. So I also made decisions that would make playing with these concepts a more complex endevor. And, this is my AU, so I'm not beholden to cannon in it's entirety (the premise is that a character we saw for all of two minutes in the show is a main character) and intend to take some liberties. But that said, what I have in my head and what got onto the page are very separate animals. So CONSTRUCTIVE CRITISISM is something I would really apreciate on this chapter in particular.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Cat…” her Lord Husband sighed from the doorway. Catelyn ignored him, favoring the letters she was reading over. Lysa was upset. Jon Arryn was considering sending Robin to foster with another family, but Lysa worried for her son’s health. Cat hoped thinking about someone else’s problems would help her get to sleep.
“Catelyn, please. Talk to me.”
“What? So you can lie to me again?” She finally snapped and turned fully to look at her husband. For the first time since he had returned, she got a look at his face.
He seemed… drained. Like his skin hung from his frame and a weight pressed on his shoulders. The latter reaction she was expecting-executions were always hard on him- but the former was new.
“Ned? Are you ill?”
He chuckled. “No, I’m not ill. Just feeling like I was caught stealing tarts from the kitchen.”
Catelyn scoffed. “You? Steal? I don’t believe it.”
“Oh, you would have if you had seen me as a young child. Benjen would distract the cooks while I snuck in.” he smiled a little. “Lyanna caught us several times, she’d scold us for it. I think after mother took ill, she thought mothering us her duty. The second nobody was looking, she’d scold us again, for not getting her any. Of course, I was three years her senior, but things like that never stopped her...”
“Nor does death, apparently.” Catelyn griped. Her husband sighed and sat on her bed’s corner.
“I will fix this Cat.”
“How? How exactly will you fix it? She just threatened to strip our children of their inheritance in favor of Jon! I told you he should have never been brought here…”
“Its her right. Aegon the Conqueror’s treaty with the North explicitly states that the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms can change the Lord Paramount provided the man chosen is of Stark blood. And Jon is a Stark, for all he was born a dragon.”
“And another thing! How could you let that dragonspawn into our home! Let the grandson of the Mad King influence our children!...”
“Because he’s family Cat.”
“He is not! He is a bastard and should have been abandoned to the streets where such disgraces belong!”
“He is my SON!” Ned roared. She had never seen him this angry before, and for the third time that day, she felt herself shrink down. His hands were clenched at his sides, and a low growl had entered his voice. “He may not have been born of my seed, but I was his father as best I could be. And for that alone you should have cared for him.
“But no, you hid behind your petty southron ideas about bastards and people’s places. I told you to let him stay in the family wing, and when you said you would not, I tried to convince you. I told you he needed to be taught how to lead, and you denied it, finding any excuse to have him removed from Robb’s lessons. I told you to let him be with our children, and you turned Sansa against him.
“And now I find out that he was never even a bastard to begin with.” Ned bowed his head like a penitent. “Even I treated him differently, because I thought he was a sign of my sister’s rape. I tried, I did, but every time I saw him and even a sliver of his father came through…”
“You couldn’t have known Ned.” Catelyn murmured.
“No, I could have, if I had seen the letters Lyanna left. If I had listened to Rodrik. But I was so caught up in Robert’s side of the story.”
The two sat in silence for several minutes.
“I am angry at her to Cat. For threatening to take Winterfell from Robb. But then I remember… If it was Rickon, Cat, who she treated the way we both treated Jon, how would we react? Aye, we never hurt him, kept him fed and clothed, but he was never loved the way she would have. I think… I think I convinced myself that as long as Jon’s material needs were met, I’d fulfilled my promise.”
“It all comes back to the same thing. How could you not tell me?”
“Are you honestly telling me that you would have taken the product of the Mad King’s son raping my sister any better than you would my own bastard? At least this way Jon had my reputation to fall back on a bit.”
“It was never that he was a bastard! Damn it Ned, you act like I didn’t expect this! Don’t forget, Brandon for all his good traits, was… not entirely discreet. But he never would have let the bastards, should he make any, anywhere near our own children, and give them a chance to steal their birthright!” Catelyn could feel a sob come loose. “And now, exactly what I feared has happened! Our children may have no future…”
“Oh, you honestly believe that?” Ned muttered. “I love my sister, but she’s hurting right now. She just found out her best friend and husband were both murdered by her attempted rapist and that her son was raised in less than ideal conditions. She needs to lash out at somebody. And aye, if she follows through she wont reverse it herself, but she’s only regent for a few more months. Once Jon is six and ten, he can reverse it. I know you don’t trust him Cat, but he loves his siblings. He’d give Winterfell back to Robb.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Because Jon is my son in all but seed. I taught him to hunt and to ride and to read. And most importantly, how to act with honor. He’d see why his mother did what she did and reverse it because he loves his siblings and wants to honor them. And Lya wont have a say. I don’t entirely get how she has one now. True, the Targaryen name holds weight, but nowhere near as much here…”
“Its not the Targaryen name.” Cat muttered. Her husband looked up at her, eyebrow raised in question.
“It’s not that she’s a Targaryen, it’s that she was a Stark. And the same with the bas… with Aegon. While we waited, Nan talked all about it. How Lyanna listened to the sagas as a child, and they called her a shieldwife?”
“Spearwife.” Ned muttered, looking pensive.
“Yes, well, her and Ser Rodrik seemed to think that between the two facts and her old reputation, most of the smallfolk would side with her over Baratheon in a heartbeat. Apparently it’s what had so many…” Cat gulped a bit, trying to get past the sense of betrayal by the people she had thought were her own. “So many looking after Jon all these years. And they said he has respect among the smallfolk, because he left Winterfell to go to parties every few weeks and gets into fights with villagers or something.”
“Wait, lets go through that. Lyanna learned her sagas. Okay, those have always been important, I have Nan teaching them to the children now…”
“What? Why are the children bothering with entertaining trifles?”
Ned furrowed his brow.
“They’re the stories and histories of our people, many dating since before Maesters started to record. They tell stories of heroes past, the gods… are you telling me Nan hasn’t been singing them to the children like I ordered?”
“Well, I suppose not. I caught her trying to get the boys memorizing some old poems instead, something about ‘bones of brothers’”
“Bones of brothers in twin graves lie,
Beaten and broken to cold death defy,
Carpenters, painters, warriors and wives
Struggle together to end the Long Night?”
“Yes, that sounds like it. I cut her off before that last line though. Didn’t want her scaring the children.”
Ned stared at her a few moments, mouth agape, before putting his head in his hands.
“Oh Cat, what have you done.” He muttered, his beard barely muffling the words.
“What have I done? They were just gory ghost tales of snarks and grumpkins. The Septa said that Robb and Sansa started to ask about unholy things like magic and witchcraft in their lessons, and that they learned such things from Nan, and I put a stop to it…”
“You made our children into southrons Cat!”
“S-southrons? They are Starks! How could they be anything but northrons? What do you mean?”
Her husband paced to the window, face barely lit by the torches along the wall.
“I mean, Cat, that they are not of the North. That was a saga you told Nan to stop. One of the stories of our history.
“It used to be, when a man becomes Lord of a Northern House, their ascension must be blessed by the gods in a ceremony. A ceremony during wich the Lord had to sing three saga selected by those watching and recite them by heart. They could mess up a few times, switch out a few words, the sagas are to long for anyone to get right every time, but they must have the important parts memorized. A man that could not do so could not be a Lord. There are thousands of sagas, and several dozen that have been recognized by the Elders as important enough to require memorization. And you stopped the Elder from teaching them. It may no longer be the law that the Lord must pass, aye, but the Elder’s Test is still important to the people. The small folk of many regions will not even acknowledge a Lord who doesn’t have the approval of the Elders.
“Tomorrow, I’m quizzing the children on their sagas. All of them. And their lessons with the Scepta shall be canceled until they are up to the level expected of shildren their age.”
“But Ned, they need Septa Mordane’s instruction! They need to learn the words of the gods!”
“Your gods Cat! Not mine!” he remonstrated at her, turning. “They are your gods! Gods I let you keep when you came north! Make no mistake, I didn’t have to, could have demanded you begot them and swore to keep the Old Gods before the Weirwood! The reverse of what Robert was going to demand of my sister! But I didn’t, I even allowed your Scepta into my home, the first Stark to do so in seven hundred years! And the last one who did before me was murdered by the woman!”
“But, she’s here to educate the children…”
“So is Old Nan, and yet you had her lessons stopped. Now the children will have to make up for lost time!
“How many other traditions have you stripped without me knowing? How many other ways are our children more southron than northern? Damn it Cat! Depending on who knows that you did this, Robb might not be able to inherit regardless!”
“They are just stories…”
“They are a part of us Cat! A part of being of the north, of Winterfell! A part that you tried to have stripped away! And it could cost our children everything if word gets out!
“And as for those partys? The ones that earned Jon respect? Probably moon festivals. The time when sagas are sung, marriages are announced, and so on. A child must be escorted to their first one by an Elder, they can attend the rest on their own after. It’s not required by any means, but a good way to get to know the people. I know for a fact Jon has been to several, thought that his lower rank meant Nan was less worried about him embarrassing us. Although, now that I know you prevented her from teaching the children, that takes on an entirely different meeting!
“And as for fighting! There are several ways that could bring honor. He could have defended someone from some lawbreaker at one point. He could have taught some of the town’s children to defend themselves There are a dozen other ways, but if Rodrik says that his combat was honorable, then it probably was.”
“All these traditions… I was never told…”
“You were Cat! I know for a fact I explained the moon festivals to you before our wedding feast, how the first festival you were brought to would be blessed by the Gods because the Lady would finally know our history. And I know Father and Brandon sent your books on our ways, on the northern rituals for your Maester to teach you when the betrothal was sealed. And before our wedding, when Maester Darnin sat with you for weeks to teach you these things!”
“Well, yes, he mentioned how many stories are handed down by word because the uneducated small folk refuse to read and that some barbaric customs still happen…”
“Barbaraic! Uneducated! Cat, those rituals and customs were often ones we expected you to encounter! If not outright participate in! You say you pray to the Old Gods and the New, but how much do you actually know of them? Do you know the forms of the wargs, the places of the Dire Cohort’s stand? Do you even know why the faces are carved in the weirwoods?”
“Cat, how much of our culture did you strip from our children?”
Cat couldn’t look away from her husband’s face. She was trying to be a good woman, who taught her children facts. She tried to keep the barbaric practices of the north from them, to allow them only the good parts of her husband’s people’s ways.
And she did. The children began to learn bow and blade at a far younger age than they would in the south. She even let Arya learn the bow, despite how it would harm her marriage prospects. She let the children play northern games and eat northern foods and taught them to be frugal.
But what her husband was talking about, those things were what caused the south to call the North barbaric. They were the stories of magic and myth that the Maester’s long ago declared to be lies or embellishments. And wargs, wargs were myths, why did she need to know the details of them?
No, what mother could let their children hear tales that described, in excruciating detail, how a body rots when turned to a wight? Or the actions of deplorable men bedding women who were so barbaric they fought like men, often out of wedlock? No, no Riverland woman would stand for such things. She had thought, when Ned stopped fighting her about separating the children from the bastard that she had helped him overcome some of the barbarism of his kind. But apparently she was wrong, and the roots went much deeper.
Her husband apparently decided the conversation was over, as he went stomping to his own rooms.
Eventually, Cat turned blew out the candles, and settled in to sleep.
Her dreams were filled with that large direwolf mother, mouth bloody with scales and fishbones.
Okay, so thats done. Like I said, CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. I know my writing is far from perfect, of the sixteen chapters I have written, this is my least favorite, just because it feels heavy handed. Necessary in part to lay some groundwork for later tensions, and in others to get some exposition out of the way, but writing exposition is always a problem for me in general.
Some of the cultural decisions came from a place of "most cultures have something that plays x role in society but we never see that for the North". The concept of the moon festival (which will get explored later) came from this, because few Westrosi holidays are ever mentioned in the show. There might have been something about a harvest festival I remember hearing, but in a world where it could be years between harvests, there must have been some other holiday. The same goes for the idea of a formal venue to announce betrothals, see performances, hear music, and generally get drunk and break up the dreariness of endless heat in summers or frigid winters indoors. The point is, it was the best I could do to work my themes in properly, exposit, and set up some stuff that will be relevant later, as well as add my own flavor to this AU.
To those who will be unsettled by a further deviation from cannon, I am sorry. I know there are several of you who take your lore very seriously. But this is my writing exercise, to make my flow, construction, and use of voice better. And that means I'm focusing of themes that the original GoT cannon does not lend itself to, at least in the show, which in turn requires some deviation. So please limit criticism to actual critiques, and not just upset that I'm filling in blanks the show left.
Beyond that, update schedule! I've decided to switch off between this story and my HP fanfic, because life isn't going to get any less hectic and it lessens my workload as well as gives me a way to keep from burning out on one fic or another. I already had that problem early on, and am hoping switching between the two fics instead of posting them simultaneously will help with that. Essentially, I want to write at least 500 words a day with posting keeping pace and a buffer of at least a month's worth of content. So, I will post the date of the next update in the notes after a chapter. So I'll see you all for the next update!
Next update expected; Thurs, July 4th
Chapter 8: Eavesdropping (Arya)
Proper ladies mind their own business. Arya is not and never will be a lady.
Arya skipped along the hall to breakfast, studiously ignoring the scowls of Septa Mordane as their paths crossed. Today, today she met a hero.
She had spent her entire life being told that she looked like the woman. She even heard whispers from a few visiting mountain-clans about being a reincarnate.
But nope. Aunt Lyanna was alive, although nobody knew how, and here, although nobody could explain it, and she had YELLED FATHER AND MOTHER INTO SPEACHLESSNESS.
She felt a bit sad for father of course. Afterall, he had tried his best, his long drawn out confession the night before had proved that. Still, Jon was family. Whether her brother (which he always had been and would remain technical blood relation ignored) or her cousin, he was blood. He should have been allowed to be with them, to eat at the high table and sleep in the family wing. She should have been able to go to his room when she had nightmares to ask for cuddles without worrying he’d be scolded and sent to do some outrageous chore by Mother. Father should have stood up for him years ago, but now, Aunt Lyanna was going to do that instead.
And it was about time Jon had someone in his corner.
Arya remembered, vaguely, that it was a bit better when she was younger. That there were far more northern servants than southron, that they would help Jon get around Mother to see her more. But that had tapered off over the years, to the point that Mother or the Septa or the many southron inhabitants were constantly watching her, ready to report any contact with Jon to Mother. And that always led to him being scolded and punished.
And she didn’t want that.
Robb and Jon were inseparable, which helped. She could say she was trying to spend time with Robb to get away with being around her favorite brother, but it wasn’t the same.
Besides, Theon was normally around to, and she hated him. He constantly made comments about her place, even though she knew well enough that women were only restricted so in the south. This was the north, land of spearwives and shieldmaidens, where Ladies of great houses could have children without being wed and so long as nothing illegal happened in the process nobody batted an eye (although they did if it was the man doing the unmarried reproducing, which Mertain from the village said there was a reason behind but wouldn’t explain until she was older). Maege Mormont was another one of her heroes.
And now she had one of them here! In the flesh! And she could ask for tips and how to fight and advice and ideas on how to avoid getting married…
The grey-eyed child came to a stop at a crossroads when somebody shouted something. Ever curious, Arya, knowing the ladylike thing was to keep walking and ignore it…
Immediately went to the doorway and listened.
“This is my Keep and I demand that beast be removed at once!”
“Oh, go hump a tree Tully. Nobody here gives a rat’s arse about your precious southron sensibilities. The only reason that anybody tolerates your bullshit is because my brother, bless his horrifically honorable heart, won’t stand to see your precious idealism tainted by reality. I rank you, I say Elien stays, she stays, and I doubt you’ll find a single northerner to back you up. Direwolves are sacred to the old gods, you’re just proving what an unworthy kitty cunt you really are!”
“I will not be spoken to so in my own home!”
“Fine! Leave! Because that’s the only way to avoid it until you prove you are actually worth the title of Lady Stark!”
“How dare you! I am the wife of the Lord…”
“And nothing else! You may have had it good the last few years without anyone around with enough clout to beat some sense into you, but I’m back and will take up the task. You. Have. Earned. Nothing. Everything you have, including your precious marriage, is a result of others acting on your behalf. The rest of us actually had to work for what we got! So sorry if those of us who spend hours in the fields or months learning a fighting technique or years hatching a political plot have little sympathy for your lazy ass. You want Elien gone? Fine! Get enough people around here to respect you enough that they’ll let it happen! Because if one whisper that you raised a hand to a sacred animal gets to the town, the Gilt and Wellens will call for your blood! And half the northern lords won’t be far behind!
“Face it, you’re nothing without a man behind you. And men stronger than yours have faced me and lost before. Now grow up and learn to walk for yourself, or sooner or later they’re going to lead you right off a cliff. I just pray I’ll be able to protect my kin when that happens.”
Arya quickly backed down the hall, and turned into an open doorway before she could be seen. Only for the door to immediately open and Aunt Lyanna to come puffing in, green dress straining at too tight seams, a sword at her side (oh gods she carries a sword she’s so cool I want to do that I want to be like her).
Aunt Lyanna glared down at Arya a moment before softening.
“Um… hello there? Little girl?”
“I’m Arya and I’m eleven and I want to be a warrior and fight with my brothers and I love Jon so much and I’m so happy he has a mother and…”
“Woah woah little cub! Slow down there! Now, hello Arya, I’m your Aunt Lyanna. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” The taller woman offered her hand, which Arya shook. “Now, you want to be a warrior? That’s a very honorable goal. Why don’t we walk down to breakfast and talk about it together? I was just coming back from feeding Elien…”
This, Arya thought, was going to be the first day of a very beautiful future. One where Sansa was wrong and she was right. One where she had someone to look up to and protect her instead of trying to shove her into a shape she could never be. One where Jon had a mother to protect him. And one where she was no longer a piece of property to be sold to the highest bidder. One where she was free.
It's Thursday somewhere in the world, that counts right?
Seriously though, to all those who celebrate it, happy 4th of July!
I want to say thank you to everyone who left a their kind/thoughtful comments on the last chapter. I was really anxious about that one, its nice to know it worked out.
CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM APPRECIATED!
Expected update; July 8th
Chapter 9: Observations (Luwin)
Detail-oriented people pick up a lot.
Maester Luwin was, for all his grand education at the Citadel and many chain links, a man of simple needs. While other Maesters might be insulted at an appointment to the “uncivilized” North, he found the place suited him well. The people were generally wise and homey. The lifestyle was simple, but the company and culture rich with story and song, many of which had never been put to parchment.
Unfortunately, the Northerners were fearful of Southron culture. Luwin supposed that after centuries of persecution by followers of the Seven, that was reasonable. Many of the cultural aspects of the North were closed to those who did not earn a place amongst the community. And, while he was respected, it was made fairly clear early on in his tenure that no Maester had ever learned the people well enough to be considered one of them.
Still, this exclusion did not reach to all aspects of life. He, like several of the Maesters before him, took up the grand task of assembling the unwritten histories and myths of the North, so that they would not die out with the people. The Citadel dismissed these efforts, citing that if they did not know it already it was not worth knowing (a frankly foolish and smallminded notion) so many of those records would likely never get South of the Neck.
He loved the family he served. Lord Stark was an interesting man. He was not particularly bright, but in the North, that was not such a detriment. The strict code of honor was binding, and gave clear direction to even the most ill-witted of people here. And Lord Stark was a man of great honor indeed. To the people of the North, this was ideal; he was honorable enough to follow the laws, written and unwritten, of his lands, and wise enough to know that he was not the smartest of the land. Therefore, he allowed the lords (and ladies and chieftains and elders) of his land to command their own territories, which they knew so well, and only intervened when absolutely necessary. It was this same wisdom that had Lord Stark transfer some of the Lord’s responsibilities to the old Maester and Lady Stark. Together with Ser Rodrik, they made an impressive team.
Lady Catelyn was the perfect southron bride for a Lord Paramount. She could bend like the willow or stand strong as an oak depending upon the need. She was a devout follower of the Seven, although she prayed to the Heart Tree and the Old Gods as well. Over time, she had slowly integrated southron servants into the household; although the guards were all exclusively northern. And with them came some of the positive changes of the south; she respected the austerity of northern keeps, but brought forth servants who could brighten the place, make the keep seem less plain to the southroners and increasing Winterfell’s reputation without causing increased expenses or extravagance. She also encouraged her children’s education; between the Maester, Septa, and Master at Arms, the Stark children were among the most well educated in Westeros. The fact that Lady Stark limited the time they could hear stories of wights and ghosts and giants and so on helped in this; beliefs in such things had often held back the Lord Starks of the past from receiving the proper respect due to them, but as she shielded her children from such beliefs, she was by extension raising the north’s reputation.
The children were a pleasure. Robb was a tad to taken with Theon, true, but over the last two years he seemed to have realized the Ironborn was not worthy of quite as much respect as Robb had previously given, and the Stark heir had turned more and more to his half-brother. None the less, Robb would make a worthy heir for Lord Eddard. Lady Sansa was the picture of a perfect bride, and would one day make a good match for her family. Of course, her desires were a tad… simple, but as they aligned with the expectations of a Lady, the Maester felt she could have turned out far worse. Bran was still young, still finding his footing like a pup with oversized paws, but was turning out well enough. He’d make a fine and honorable knight some day.
Arya was another problem entirely. Lady Catelyn greatly disproved of her youngest daughter’s antics, but the Maester felt they could be a good thing. The times he spoke to guards and townspeople, it was always Arya they spoke of with respect, never Sansa. After so long in the north, the Maester came to realize this was a difference of culture; the northerners had far more roles as options for a woman, unlike the south, where a girl either married or became a septa. Here, they could be warriors or hunters or artisans or greenwitches if they so desired. So, seeing a Stark girl running about like a wolf in the wood gave the small folk reassurance that the south’s restrictions were not being imposed on their leaders.
Jon, of course, was the one with whom the Maester felt the most kinship. As a bastard himself, the old healer knew what it was like to be treated as unworthy. Luckily, the boy had a loving if distant father and several siblings to keep him straight. The Master at Arms had encouraged Jon to study economics and southron history and politics with the Maester, siting that any position the boy was likely to take would require such skills, especially if he was to become a ranked member of the Watch. Luwin agreed; such skills had, afterall, allowed him to find his own place at the Citadel. As such, young Jon had nearly the same education as Robb, one rich enough to become a stellar Lord Commander, as many expected him to be.
So yes, although the slight ostracization from the community was present and at times disconcerting, Maester Luwin was content with his appointment.
Then, the night prior, everything changed.
Ser Rodrik had asked the Maester to bring up the marriage records for Lyanna Stark to Lord Eddard’s solar. Confused, since as far as Luwin knew, the woman died unwed, Luwin still obeyed. To his suprize there was a document, added to the records by Maester Cren, who had served here for a few years to get some extra training before moving on to serve the Karstarks.
When he got to the solar to find a woman in one of Lady Sansa’s dresses, who looked exactly like he imagined an older Lady Arya, he was confused. When Ser Rodrik referred to the woman as Lady Lyanna, he was shocked.
Ser Rodrik seemed to be going over recent history and politics with the girl. In this, the old knight asked for the Maester’s aid. He helped update the girl on the events of the great and minor houses, and answered her questions as best he could. Then, as the sun set on the horizon, Ser Rodrik finally explained his actions and unraveled a few of the mysteries surrounding the war.
“I tried” the old knight began “I really did. After your wedding, I spent months on the road trying to hunt down one of your kinsmen, but they moved to quickly. I would reach a host of men, supposedly led by your brother, only for him to have passed me unseen on the road. I was injured along my travels, wich delayed me further, and by the time I reached Lord Eddard, you were dead and he carried your babe in his arms.
“I honestly assumed at the beginning that he knew Jon was legitimate, that naming him a bastard was but a ploy to keep Robert from discovering. But as time went on, and he allowed his Lady Wife to mistreat the boy so, I realized he did not. I tried to inform him, but we were all but forbidden to speak your name. Eventually, he grew so distraught with my constant nagging, he threatened to send me away if I did not stop. By that point, Jon was five, and he had almost died thrice from the Lady Stark’s cruelty and neglect. Every time a servant retired, they were replaced with a southroner, and each southroner was crueler to your boy than the last. I could not risk being sent away, leaving the boy without protection.
“You say he almost died?’ the Lady Lyanna had growled. “Explain.”
“Well, the first time he was but a babe. Nan visited him, as she was wont to do. Nan was the first of the town’s inhabitants to realize Jon’s true parentage, said she’d seen six generations of Starks, and she knew Eddard could never have taken another woman to his bed. She found his linnens soiled, the babe shoved in a small closet with no fresh air. When he was taken to the Maester, he was found to have an illness caused by being unchanged and dehydrated. He was in the Maester’s care for three weeks, until he finally managed to overcome the illness.”
Luwin recalled the case. Jon was not overly in danger, Nan had gotten the babe to him in time that it was little more than a case of a rash and some discomfort. Luwin felt Rodrik to be exaggerating quite a bit on how severe it was, but then again, Luwin had recommended the neglectful maid meant to mind Jon be dismissed, and yet Lady Catelyn never did so…
“The second, he was three. Lady Catelyn refused to oversee the boy, and the Septa said the same. Lord Stark knew Lady Catelyn would not tolerate him spending more time with Jon than Robb, so she would assign servants to his care-specifically, those loyal to her. These servants took the assignment as a good chance to leave the toddler in an unused room and get some time away from duties. Jon toddled out and somehow got into the armory without notice. I was just in time to pull him out of the way, as a rack of swords and hammers almost fell upon him.
“The third, he had a minor cold, and puked on the Septa’s dress. As punishment, he was sent to stack wood outside for an hour, but nobody retrieved him and he spent the entire night locked out. It was raining and cold, we found him half frozen the morning after. He had to spend weeks on bedrest, and the frostbite almost cost him some toes.
“It was because of all this that the network started to form. It was just me, a few guards, and Nan at first, but it grew quickly to the town, and then to the surrounding lands, and now we even have men and women funneling information from as far as King’s Landing. In the beginning, we just kept the boy out of trouble. As he grew older, we began to teach him. Many of the guards took the boy under their wing and would give him extra lessons. Some of the hunters took him on trips to the wood, to teach him the bow and tracking. The shop keeps taught him money and economics; the farmers how to predict a harvest and store the foodstuffs. Our allies in the ports would write him journals, filled with information about the different cultures they encountered and the politics of the world. A few of the Lords even took interest, Lady Maege in particular.
“Not all of the network are aware of the rest. Many in the north know they are supporting Lyanna’s son, hidden to protect him from Robert’s wrath. The allies in the Crownlands and Sealords know that Rhaegar has a trueborn son kept in hiding, and that he may never take the throne, but offer support regardless. Few know the whole truth of who Jon is, but all are eventually working to the same goal.”
“And that is?” the Lady pressed.
“Keeping your son alive. The North does so in the hope that he will some day knock some sense into your brother.” The lady raised an eyebrow. “There is… disquiet about Lord Eddard’s actions. His children were forbidden from learning the sagas, two of his children already dream of embracing the southern way of life. Lord Robb is taken in by the Greyjoy boy, although he has come to see the error in the Ironborn over time. The only truly northern Stark is Arya, and even she knows not her histories. They fear that what King Torren surrendered to preserve will be lost, that the North will become just as full of dishonor and greed as the south.
“But Jon, he knows his histories, we made sure of it. He goes to moon festivals and, while he does not like to sing the songs of old with his own voice, he has proven to know them well. He cares for the elders in the town, as is the duty of the young, instead of shirking it like his siblings. He sneaks out from the Keep to go to revels and festivals, and partakes of the games and sports. He enjoys the wrestling the Wellens do to train, learning the small tribe’s fighting styles and sparing with their children. He has been seen taking the blame and punishment for when Lady Arya does normal things the southroners do not approve of, and even teaches her the sword. He has begged Nan to bring Lady Arya to a moon festival, even though Nan cannot, for the girl knows not enough of our ways.
“The southroners who protect your son, most often, do so because it is the right thing to do. Many are unhappy with the way the game is now played by their lords. Fewer and fewer houses are being uplifted to noble status, fewer lowborn are being accepted as knights, and taxes increase as the highborn spend their coin on mounting interest rates from the Iron Bank. The people knew Rhaegar; word of his efforts to aid the poor of King’s Landing has been spread by the Crownlands Lords to many of the smallfolk. They do not say that it is Jon they support, but many of the lords you treated with: Oswald, Marray, Bloon, Kret and other houses stand behind your son, and keep the fact that you mothered Rhaegar’s child secret.
“And there are many lords of small holds who still support you. All of the Crownlands and Sealords have been contacted through the network, and have stated they would protect Rhaegar’s heir. And it is not just for loyalty to their Prince.
“Apparently, there is magic in Targerian blood, and a prophesy of some kind…”
“I know of it.” Lyanna interjejcted. “For it to be fulfilled, and the best outcome assured, a male Targaryen born to two parents of magical lines must take the Iron Throne. There are other paths opened by the prophesy for victory, but none that end so cleanly. Many of those houses are of Valerian blood. I assume they wish to see the greatest outcome achieved when the prophesy comes to pass?”
“Aye.” Rodrik nodded.
The knight continued to list houses that were loyal to the Targaryen King, who Luwin eventually surmised to be Jon.
Jon, who was actually the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar.
The child he had forced into lessons on politics, history, and military strategy at Rodrik’s request.
The same sort of lessons given to any man meant to rule.
Oh, these northerners had fooled him well. When they first encouraged it, it was on the grounds that the boy was likely to be given his own hold. It had happened in the past; both the Karstarks and the Mormonts were descendant from bastard lines gifted lands or noble spouses. And when the boy stated his intent to join the Watch, it was then to ensure he would know all he needed to be a good Lord Commander, as everyone knew the boy would end up; Starks who went to the wall almost always did eventually.
Except, Rodrik never intended Jon to use those lessons as a Lord or Lord Commander.
No, Rodrik was preparing the boy to become a king, should the opportunity present itself.
Luwin shook off his reminisces as he entered Lord Stark’s solar once more. He was surprised, this time, to see Lady Lyanna sitting in a circle of chairs, Lord Stark across the circle from her. The Lady glared at her brother, who kept his gaze on the floor. Lady Arya was playing with the direwolf cubs (and gods how Luwin wanted to study the beasts) by the fire, under the watchfull eyes of the mother wolf.
Slowly, each member of today’s little meeting filtered in. Lord Bran and Lord Rickon were brought by their mother, who immediately tried to remove Arya from the wolves.
“You will step away from that wild beast this instant young lady! Ned! Get this creature out of here at once! Really, a wild animal should not be allowed in the Keep…”
Lord Stark, looking up for the first time since Luwin had entered, scowled at his wife. “I will not. They are direwolves; sacred to the Gods and the sigil of my House. I watched with wide eyes as the Gods saw fit to gift us with their companionship. If we sent them out, it would disgrace our house and possibly cause a riot in the town. No. We will not force the beasts to stay, but if they do, that is by their own leave.”
“But Ned, what if they hurt the children…”
“They wont.” Lady Lyanna spoke up. “Elien has them well in hand, and she is mine now. The pups will stay with her overnight, and their companions during the day, as was done with Stark companions in the past. When they are older, the bond with each Stark child will compel them to leave her for their bonded, and that will be that.”
“You cant possibly know what an animal…”
“A warrior wanders widley,
Alone abandoned bereft,
Taking up the bow and spear
In lands cold and winswept
And then from distant hillock
A sound that breached the cold
A message that the gods imprinted
Upon his very soul
A warrior wanders widley
To source the mournfull sound
And in the roots, the gods’ embrace
A mother wolf he found
She trembled and she labored
On her first birthing bed
But ‘twas also to be her last
As for her child she bled…
A warrior wandered widely
Until his journey’s end
And by his side with final breath
Lay his most loyal friend
But twas not to be the end of all
For back in Wint’fell’s hold
His children had their own dear friends
More precious than any gold
And so each time a hero dies
Fights honor’bly for blood
They give a gift, to mend the rift
A creature of Godswood
So now we see those kingly guides
Standing taller than any hound
The wolves and Starks, by ‘chother’s sides
Their fates and lives are bound.
“I skipped a bit in the middle, but you get the gist. This is not the first time such a thing has happened. And each time, the wolves bonded to their Stark partners for life. The fact that there are six cubs and six Stark children running about confirms that. And as for Eilen… well. She’s mine. I know it in my bones. “
“Oh please, as if that means anyth…”
“Catelyn!” Lord Stark scolded his wife. “This is not something that you or any of us can control. The bonded wolves have returned to the Starks. This is to be celebrated. Lyanna shall have control of when the children are allowed near their wolves, and you will not interfere!”
“But they’re animals!”
“Yes, and they’re sacred. It is an honor that they have seen fit to bond with us once more, and I will not have them removed.”
“I have said they stay, so they stay. This conversation is over.”
Lady Catelyn seemed to huff up, before turning to pry her children from their pets. A threatening growl from the mother-Eilen, Lady Lyanna had said?- made Catelyn retreat to her husband’s left side in a huff. The three children had, by this point, camped themselves with their pups for play, although the little furballs were still learning to crawl about on shaky legs. The mother wolf was giving a bit of attention to Arya in particular; she would nudge at her for pets, and Arya obliged. She watched Bran a tad warily, but seemed to tolerate him at least. Rickon, being so young, clearly did not know the measure of the creature, and was amusing himself by balancing his pup on the adult wolf, who looked at the repeated attempts in apparent amusement.
Lady Catelyn started some kind of sewing she pulled from the depths of her voluminous pockets, while Lord Stark walked to his desk and returned with some letters, and Lady Lyanna proceded to sip at her drink (tea, by the smell).
The Master at Arms was next, and he immediately took a seat to the left of Lady Lyanna, and they began discussing several of the smaller lordships scattered about the Kingdoms. Luwin gathered that these were all related to whom she might call on, should conflict arise.
Old Nan toddled in next, with Lady Sansa and Septa Mordane by her side. Lord Stark thanked the Septa for bringing his daughter and immediately dismissed the holy woman, who sent a glare Lady Lyanna’s way before stomping off in a huff. Luwin had heard rumors that Lady Lyanna was dressed… less than modestly when she first appeared, although the rumors did not mention her name. Luwin suspected Ser Rodrik’s little network was responsible for keeping that bit of information under wraps; the Lady had yet to interact with any southron servants, Ser Rodrik having ordered only northerners were to care for her the night before.
Lady Lyanna offered the Elder a cup of tea, which was accepted, while Lord Stark muttered the traditional Old Tongue greeting, “Diadhu”.
Old Nan sent the Lord a considering look before returning the greeting. She then walked to the wolves and children, each whom greeted her in the common tongue.
“Children.” Lord Stark scolded lightly. “Elders are greeted in the Old Tongue.”
“Oh.” Lord Bran said. “How do we do that?”
“Diadhu, like Father just did.” His sister said, before placing her pup (Nymeria, because a pet direwolf wasn’t wild enough, she had to name it after a Dornish warrior queen) on the ground and rising to curtsy and greet the Elder. Her brothers mimicked her, and Old Nan smiled. Eilen sniffed at Nan’s skirts and sneezed, before returning to her pups, ignoring Nan’s offered hand. The old woman simply nodded at the rebuff, and went to sit next to Rodrick. Lady Sansa, who had watched all this from the door, finally entered and sat on her mother’s left.
Several moments of silence passed, during wich time Luwin finally moved to take a seat, to the right of Lord Stark, such that there was one in between them for Robb. This put him next to Old Nan, who smiled and nodded to him. Luwin made a point of talking with the woman, this time asking her about the saga Lady Lyanna had sung. It was a long song, and he only managed to get the first few dozen stanzas out of the woman before Rob, Jon and Theon came in as well.
Robb was clearly trying to cheer up his brother (cousin, and Luwin could already tell this was going to get confusing) while the Ironborn laughed at a joke made. Jon, for his part was staring at the ground. Rodrik, Nan and Lyanna all rose and curtseyed or bowed to the entering boys. Theon preened at the attention, Robb nodded regally, but Jon seemed to shrink down even further.
“Now that we’re all here, lets get started.” Lord Stark said, and all other conversations were immediately left off.
I didn't expect this chapter to go as long as it did. But Luwin always seemed a very detail-oriented person, and that kind of just came out? Well, regardless, this is what ended up on the page, and quite a bit of it was either necessary for various reasons, so I hope you all enjoy.
On another note, there might be times when updates get so big they have to be more than two weeks apart. My question is, how far apart is so far apart that it would be better for me to just split up the bigger chapters? I don't expect those times for a while, but I figured I'd ask for input in advance.
Expected update; July 27th
Chapter 10: Family Meeting (Lyanna)
A meeting goes very differently than everyone expected and Jon comes to change his mind.
Lyanna gave her brother her best you-better-impress-me-or-I’ll-beat-you-up-later glare as everyone settled down. Between the short meeting the two elder Starks had had that morning, they had managed to hammer out a few plans that would be useful no matter what happened. The first item, on which Lyanna and Ned both agreed, was that Greyjoy had heard way to much for comfort, and needed to be dealt with.
“Theon.” The Ironborn looked up at the Lord’s voice. Rodrik had told her much about the boy, little of it good. He liked his whores and his drink and thought he was owed everything by dint of his birth. Ick. She already had one of those to deal with, and one attempted rapist was more than enough in her opinion. His actions that morning at breakfast had supported that notion; his speech was careless of the children present and his manners severely lacking. Rodrik had, however, mentioned that the boy had become a useful tool for Rob. The Heir to the North had begun to fall prey to the southron ideas of his mother and friend, but when a group of men came after Theon for a beatdown after he deflowered a village girl, Robb’s eyes had been opened. Rodrik reported that over the last year Robb had improved greatly; he had even begun to learn his sagas and stories from the villagers again. So, perhaps she could recognize the benefit of the example of what not to do to her nieces, nephews and son.
“You were privy to a conversation last night that should have been kept quiet, but you have proven relatively trustworthy in your time here, so I will tell you some of what is going on. This is not to reach any other ears, understood? “ the Ironborn nodded. “This is my relative” Lyanna stood and gave a quick curtsey, barely a bob really. “Lya. She is the queen of a distant city, through a connection attained several generations ago, before Aegon the Conqueror took the North. She sent her son here to be kept safe from enemies in the city; I ensured he fostered with a northern house. For her son’s safety I can say little else; and this is why I must beg your silence on the matter. Do I have your word that you will keep Lya’s presence here a secret? And that her son is fostered in the North?” Theon nodded, eyes slightly awed now when he took in Lya. Actually, it was more than awe, it was a bit like Robert had looked at her. Which was revolting on so many levels, she was probably old enough to be his mother, depending on how one counted. Ew.
“Good. In that case, there are some details the rest of us need to discuss. I just wanted to make sure you knew what was going on and your imagination couldn’t run away with you. Now, Ser Rodrik will find you for lessons when we are done.”
Ned nodded to the door, and the Ironborn quickly vacated the room, bowing on the way out. The second he was gone, Lya watched Ned and could feel herself relax.
“Now, next thing. Everyone here should be up to date on who Lya is, so we can skip that bit. What I just explained to Theon is going to be our cover story. Everything we discuss is dependent on one question.” Ned looked at her with an imitation of her father’s piercing stare. It was effective initially, until she reminded herself this was the big brother she had grown up with, and the effect was broken. “Lya, what do you intend to do?”
Lyanna took several moments to think on it. She had decided the day before to let Aegon decide his path. If he had grown up differently, she would insist on riding to King’s Landing with all due haste, but the fact was, her son had spent most of his life treated as a source of shame at best by his family, and she knew from her husband that such scars on the mind did not always heal. So, at Rodrik’s advice, she had decided to let the throne rest… for now. If things changed and taking the throne became necessary, she’d beat the Baratheon bloody with her bare hands and take the damn thing.
“That all depends on what Aegon wants to do.” She told her brother. Aegon immediately flinched, and she sighed internally. “Sorry, Jon. Habit.” She shrugged. The boy, who was looking up through his hair at the room, elbows braced on knees, smiled just a little at the apology. She hoped that meant he wasn’t dismissing her or her presence entirely.
The room stared at him for a few more minutes, and it took a while for the teen to realize they were waiting on him. When he finally looked up enough to take note, and faced their gazes, he immediately went pale. Lyanna sympathized-her reaction when Rhae had said “The Crown Princess’s in charge, have fun!” and jumped out the window before she could take him to task was much the same.
“I… I d-don’t…um…what…”
“Lad, lets break this down. Do you want us to start moving towards dethroning Robert?” Ser Rodrik helped.
“Alright. Do you still want to join the Nights Watch?”
“Yes! No. I don’t…”
“Remember, weigh the options.” Old Nan gently advised, while Lyanna reminisced about her own lessons with the Elder. “Start with who you’re responsible for.”
“My mo-“ he choked a bit on the word. “My mother. My siblings.”
“Alright.” The Elder coached. “Now how would you joining the Night’s Watch affect your mother?”
“She… she wouldn’t have a man to protect her?”
“Oh please.” Lyanna scoffed. “Like I’ve ever needed that. Although the sentiment is certainly appreciated, you’ve got the chain of responsibility reversed. You’re my child, and my responsibility, not the other way around. Next.”
Jon furrowed his brows. “Well… it would be good for my siblings. Remove my threat to their inheritance.” The Tully bitch huffed.
“Any threat you place to their inheritance is my fault.” Ned said from across the room, brows furrowed the same way Aeg-Jon’s had been. Lya wondered if she did that to…
“What do you mean, his threat to our inheritance is your fault, father?” the girl, Sansa, the one who took after the Tully bitch asked, voice filled with saccharine and false demurity.
Ned sighed and put his face in his hands. “I mean, I’ve let to much go these past years.” He removed his hands after rubbing his face, and gazed imperiously at his children, the two in the circle and the three still playing with the pups and just barely paying attention. “Certain… miscommunications” Rodrik and Nan both huffed, “Have led to some severe problems with your ability to inherit. Put simply, your lessons with the Septa are suspended until such time as Nan gets you back up to level on your history and sagas.”
“But Father!” the redhead interjected. “We need those lessons to be propper ladies! Especially Arya!”
“And yet, you are far from proper northerners!” Ned snapped, before taking a deep breath to let his anger cool. “I understand that your mother’s faith and southron ways have been a big part of your lives thus far. Too big a part. And in the process, your needs to be true Starks have been neglected. If you want to be considered a true Stark and an adult in the north, you must be able to attend moon festivals and speak the Old Tongue. Until you do so, you will not be considered an adult or Stark by many of the people.”
Robb, who also had the furrowed brow at this point (Father, Brandon and Benjen never did that, why were all the Starks doing it all of a sudden?) “Then why has it taken so long to teach us father?”
“If you remember, I started to teach you years ago.” Nan croaked. Both eldest children looked to her in surprise. “Your Lady Mother forbid me from continuing the education. Each year, as the number of songs and stories you would need to know to enter the moon festivals increased, I awaited your father’s countermand to resume teaching, and each time, I was disappointed. Now, the number of sagas you must know is even greater, and may take years to catch up.”
“I don’t understand.” The Maester put in. Lyanna had limited interaction with him thus far, but she felt he was not the worst Maester she had ever met. Still holding on to southron ideas, dismissive of magic and the reality of the old stories, if their conversation the day before was anything to go by, but not in a way that rang off disrespect, as it did with others in his brotherhood. No, his denial was based on a belief of what was before him, but while he dismissed the story’s content as often fantastic, he was not dismissive of their cultural importance. And that was a position she could respect. It still annoyed her, but she could respect it.
“What do you mean, exactly? There are references of Starks in the past being passed over for others because they could not attend moon festivals or speak the Old Tongue, but that has not happened in some five hundred years?” Luwin asked.
“Aye, because the Starks are careful. Were careful. About making sure the children learned. Especially after we bent the knee to the dragons. Our people feared we would forget the old ways, and would revolt if we had, so we made sure to uphold them, even ensuring each generation that someone married a commoner. The only exception is my own generation, due to the rebellion.”
“So those requirements, about coming before the elders…”
Ned nodded. “The Lord of Winterfell must still be confirmed by the Elders, aye. There are exceptions added in now; the confirmation council can be put off in times of war, the wife of the Lord is no longer required to be invited to a moon festival… but yes, if Robb does not receive his traditional education, the people may pass over him for Brandon. “
The room was silent for several minutes, the children and the Tully bitch seemingly processing that.
“So… how does that make me any more a threat than I was before?” Jon asked tremulously.
“Because.” Nan replied. “You have gone to moon festivals and proved your competence in the Old Tongue. Lady Catelyn banned me from teaching HER children, not you. And so, out of all the Stark children in Winterfell, you are the only one who would be acceptable to the more traditional sects at this time.”
“But, but he’s a Targaryen!” Tully protested. Rodrik shrugged.
“Wouldn’t be the first time Winterfell got a Lord by the maternal line who had to change names.”
This was getting ridiculous. The Tully and her little copy were getting indignant, Luwin was muttering to himself, Robb had his jaw practically on the floor, Ned was brooding, and none of this was moving the conversation forward. Much as Lyanna liked Rodrik and Nan giving the fish a wakeup call about her behavior, she could see Jon shrinking in on himself. This needed to move along.
“Alright, so the whole threat to inheritance thing is a non-issue. Jon, what else gets affected if you join the Watch?” Lyanna said stridently.
Jon cleared his throat. “Well… everyone still thinks I’m a bastard.”
“Not as many as you think boy.” Rodrik muttered, but Jon didn’t seem to hear it.
“So… If I go to the Watch, I won’t be as much of a stain on Father-Lord Stark’s honor.”
“Alright lad, now what would that mean for you? Would you be happy there?” Rodrik grumbled.
“I… I mean… it’s an honor to…”
“Jon.” Lyanna said, waiting till he looked at her. “Do you want kids?”
“Do you want to get married?”
“Well… I’m still known as a Snow…”
“So, you do want those sorts of things, but that stupid name my idiot brother saddled you with is dragging you down.”
“I…I don’t…” he went quiet for several minutes before he seemed to realize they were waiting on him.
“I… I want to bring honor to my family, protect my siblings, and not make things worse. The Nights Watch is the best way to do that…”
Rodrik snorted. “Boy, you know that in’t true. There are plenty of ways to get honor. And if you want another name, we can give ye one. If I sat here and listed every bastard I’ve met who used a fake name to cover for their birth…”
“Ser Rodrik!” the fish scolded. “Such things are illegal. They should be reported!”
“Why? Because you southrons think to blame the child for the parent’s mistakes? The North never did that before your Andal ideas took hold. Most of the North still doesn’t-hells, most northerners don’t even have a last name, or they choose their own, rather than inherit. It’s only the noble houses always have such things. If the boy wants to leave the last name behind, no northerner would bat an eye. And that’s assumin’ he doesn’t take ‘is birth name.”
Rodrik leaned on his knees towards Jon. “So, Night’s Watch is out. I know you think it’s the only way boy, but the simple fact is it ain’t. Forget honor. Aye, it’s all well and good, but sometimes it’ll hold you back. So forget about the rest of us-sorry Nan, I know this’s the opposite of what you taught him-and think about what you want.”
Jon considered for several minutes. Sansa made a move to speak, only to be shushed by her mother.
“I want… I want to bring honor to the family and protect my siblings. Whatever that entails. But…” brows furrowed again (the expression was quickly becoming one of Lyanna’s favorites) “I think… I’m going to have to leave Winterfell. Not yet, but soon. I feel a… a pull. Like what I have with Ghost almost.” Robb nodded, and Lyanna agreed. If the connection the children felt was anything like hers and Elien’s, it would be very strong. “But I can tell it’s not ready yet. That I need to wait before I can go looking, but I have to. I need to find out what this pull is.”
Catelyn was scowling, while everyone else seemed considering at least.
“The connection to familiars is a gift from the gods.” Nan croaked, rising from her chair. “If that is what you are feeling, then listen to it. You will remain here until you are ready to leave. Until then, we will gather the network. I will prepare your siblings as they ought from the beginning. For the first time in hundreds of years, the direwolf companions have returned. This is a portent, that they will be needed. Let us ensure fate does not meet us unprepared. Robb, come. I will test what you remember, and so know where to move on with your training.”
The Elder strode from the room, Robb bowing to follow, and once more everyone was moving. Jon joined his siblings by the wolves, and together, the four picked up the pups and took them outside. Elien shook herself briefly before walking to put her head on Lyanna’s shoulder.
“Well good morning to you as well. How about we go to the Godswood. I have some prayers to say, and you need some time out.”
So I started mentioning the stuff I'm reading in the notes of another story, and people seemed to like it, so I figured I'd start to do that here. Right now, I'm reading a realy cool Marvel fanfic called Damaged Defenders. The author essentially took all their favorite Marvel characters not introduced as of Avengers, threw them into the movie, and ran from there. Also, Thor, Tony and Steve actually bother to wonder why Loki is doing what he's doing, and realize there's more going on. It's realy fun, and has over a hundred chapters. Lots of "why you stink" speaches for those who like that sort of thing. You can find it at https://archiveofourown.org/works/816544/chapters/1545281
Expected update; August 2nd.
Chapter 11: The Gods' Wood (Jon)
Ghost is a sneaky little puppy.
Ghost had managed to wander from the group of pups when he came upon her. Jon and his three youngest siblings-cousins, they’re your cousins Jon- had taken the pups for a bit of exercise and air, and before he knew it, the white wolf was gone.
He didn’t initially find Ghost at the Hearttree, but he did find his mother.
Mother. That world was still new to him, rolling around his head like a boulder in his skull. Mother. Not mother, not Lady Mother, just Mother. And his Mother at that. One he didn’t have to share with anyone, or be afraid of.
He thought it was a dream when he had awoken that morning. When he opened his eyes, and realized there was no way it could be true, he hugged his pillow and sobbed.
Then Father had come to the door-and Jon would not stop calling him that in his mind, for all that he had lied- and sat with him. As the platitudes and apologies rolled from the Lord of Winterfell, Jon had tuned out half of it, instead focusing on his future. What he wanted to do.
Because it would be difficult, no matter the decision. The Night’s Watch was out, even if only his subconscious acknowledged that; he didn’t know his mother well yet, but he knew enough from watching others to understand that a son took care of his mother, and he couldn’t do that if he took the Black. So that was not an option.
At the same time, he didn’t want to be King. He wasn’t ready for it by any means (“All bastards lead to is sin and misfortune. They should be kept from power, for any bastard that has power will inevitably use it to harm it’s siblings”) and knew no man would follow him.
But still, he had to find a way to provide for his Mother. Maybe there was a way to get a knighthood; he did not like the southron court’s pretentions, to many men seemed to make empty promises from what he’d heard, especially the knights, but he would tolerate it if necessary. But that would require Father’s backing, and after years of Father pushing him towards the Night’s Watch, and general northern disproval of knighthood, he wasn’t sure he’d get it…
The conversation in the Lord’s Solar had only reinforced that feeling. Everyone looking at him for direction, asking him to explain his wishes… any one aspect of the situation was enough to make him uncomfortable, let alone all of it together. Nan had been a help; she had walked him through his thoughts like she did during his lessons with her and the other Elders. Lessons he now realized he received because they expected him to lead. Of course, then that bit about his sibling’s inheritance came up, and that was an entirely separate issue.
He couldn’t believe his siblings had never made it to moon festivals. The younger three were still too young, in temperament if not actual age, but Robb and Sansa should already have attended. The moon festivals were the most enjoyable parties he had ever been to; there was some drinking, and much dancing, but also competitions and music. It was at these festivals where he watched children undergo their coming-of-age rituals, different depending on if one was from a tribe or town, farmland or craftsman, but all brought together on the night of the full moon before the elders. He had thought that his siblings just went to different festivals-they were not mandatory by any means, and some of the Elders had mentioned the Starks attending only sparingly over the last few generations. That was one of the reasons he found it so enjoyable actually; without his trueborn siblings there, he could be as outgoing as he desired, without overshadowing the Heirs of Winterfell with his disgraceful presence.
But no, they didn’t attend because Lady Catelyn had forbidden their tutoring. And that, more than anything she had ever done to him, made him angry.
For years, he had heard the men and women in Wintertown rage at the southron Lady and her ideas poisoning the Starks, but he never though it was so bad that his siblings could lose their birthrights!
And that scared him to. He didn’t want to be Lord of Winterfell by any means, never had, never would. He contemplated, while he played with his siblings and the pups, helping with their education. Nan might not have enough time to get them up to speed, but Jon could chip in.
But part of him knew that would mean hiding from the reality, that he had to figure out how to provide for his mother. He didn’t want to live off of his Father’s and brother’s charity forever, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone. So he needed a plan to protect Mother.
Jon liked economics-between the Maester and his Wintertown tutors (who he now realized were intentional instructors rather than people he met by coincidence) he had a firm grasp of the subject-perhaps he could convince Father to give him a loan? Life as a merchant might afford him enough coin to care for his Mother and enough mobility to keep her safe.
And he did not doubt her safety would be in danger as soon as the King (no not the king, the rapist who almost hurt her he broke her wrist he hurt your mother kill him protect your pack protect your family end the threat fire and blood) found out about her. One thing Father and the stories he heard in town agreed on was that when Robert Baratheon got an idea into his head, he never let it go. And between Mother’s story and Father’s reminisces, Jon had no doubt that Baratheon was fixated on Jon’s mother. So, he would have to find a way to get her out of the false king’s reach.
And as an added bonus, becoming a merchant of some kind would give him a way to visit his family without suspicion, should he get Mother out of Westeros without her identity being discovered. He knew that was unlikely, it had been made clear by many a tavern “discussion” (Ser Rodrik introduced you to people who helped train you they were tutors you were trained for greatness) that there was no such thing as a true secret, especially where noble houses were concerned.
All these thoughts swirled within him as he came upon her. She had been given a different dress, this one navy with grey and white embroidery, that was loose in some places and tight in others. Her hair was done in two braids framing her face, the rest hanging around her shoulders. Now that Jon looked, he could see why so many people compared Arya to her; they had the same almost feral mane, and easy grace. She was sharpening a sword under the Hearttree, just as Father did.
Jon caught sight of a bit of white, and saw Ghost, stalking up towards a loose ribbon from Lady Lyanna’s sleeve. Shit. Father got angry enough when someone disturbed his prayer, and Lyanna’s anger was clearly much easier to catch.
He made it about halfway across the clearing before Ghost pounced, at which point Lyanna looked up, smirked, and began tugging back on the ribbon. Ghost growled, seeming to like the game, and pulled with as much strength as his miniscule muscles could produce. (And how the hells pups that were stumbling on shakey legs a few moments ago were now getting lost in the God’s Wood he had no idea.)
“Well hello again. Which one are you? Does your human know where you are?”
“I’m so sorry.” Jon said, as he rushed forwards to pick up Ghost.
“No, its fine. Is this one yours?” Lyanna asked. She was fluttering her hands, like she didn’t know what to do with them, before she picked up and sheathed the sword. It seemed to be an extra from the Keep’s armory; it certainly didn’t have the adornments he would have expected on a queen’s weapon.
“Yes. Ghost is his name.”
Lyanna smiled. “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you Ghost.” She reached out a hand and, giggling, shook the puppy’s paw. “I saw the cubs with Eilen this morning, but couldn’t tell which one went to which child.”
“W-well, Ghost is mine. Then Robb has Grey Wind, he’s the grey male, Sansa has the darker grey female, I don’t know what she named it yet, and Arya’s is Nymeria. Bran’s is the brown one, Summer, and RIckon has Shaggydog.”
“Amazing.” Lyanna breathed. “I thought I’d never get to see one. Shows how much I know I suppose.”
Jon chuckled. “Me to. And I certainly didn’t think one would come to me, not being a Stark and all.”
Lyanna nodded. “Aye, but the Targaryens had dragons far more recently than the Starks had direwolves. Mayhap the magic from Rhaegar’s line…” her face grew dark at the mention.
Jon had no idea what to do. He hadn’t really put much thought into his father thus far. Lord Stark had raised him, so he didn’t have the hole needing filled the way he had with Lyanna. But while Jon cared little, other than the knowledge of his line and that he wasn’t a bastard, he realized his mother was a different story. She hadn’t known Rhaegar was dead until after she was resurrected. Hells, it probably hadn’t even been a full day yet. In all the chaos, he hadn’t realized she was probably hurting quite a bit.
“I-I think I have an idea. About what I want to do?” he tried to distract her.
It took Lyanna a moment to forcefully smile at him. “Oh, yes? And what is your idea?”
Jon shuffled his feet. “Well, I was thinking, maybe trade? I could see if Father would give me a loan to start a business…”
Lyanna nodded along. “Sea or land trade?”
“Sea. I think, well, it might be better if we can get out of Westros easily.”
Lyanna raised an eyebrow. “We?”
“Well, yes, I was thinking… that is, if you don’t want to you don’t have to but I thought…”
“I’d love to come with you, whatever it is you end up doing. I just had to make sure you wanted me there. You’re practically an adult, with your own life to live and direction to choose. You don’t need a woman you didn’t ask for dragging you down. And it’s not like I’m some elder who needs looking after. Hells, I’m what, two years older than you right now? Gods that’s weird.”
“But you aren’t! Dragging me down, that is. My whole life I was just some kind of mistake, but now it seems like… well, like I actually matter to someone who isn’t my sibling. And, well… you’re my mother, and you need someone to look out for you.” Lyanna scoffed, but he soldiered on. “And, well, this would let me do that. And once I have enough, you can settle wherever you want…”
“You know that taking care of me isn’t your responsibility beyond that of one Stark to another, right?”
Jon felt a flash of anger at her dismissiveness.
“You’re my Mother. That makes your care my job. “
“And while I appreciate the sentiment, you shouldn’t throw your life or decisions away because of what I want. You should make your own choice for you, and let me take care of myself.”
Jon quickly felt his anger turn to shame. Of course she didn’t want to be his family, no matter how much she was denying it. She didn’t even want his help, the most basic thing a son could give to show he loved his parent.
“Jon, don’t be upset! Cub, I’m not trying to chase you away! I just don’t want you to make yourself unhappy for me, that’s all.”
“But I am happy. I’m confused, aye, but for the first time, I have a family I can be proud of. That’s all I ever wanted.”
Jon had no idea where all these emotions were coming from as he started sobbing on his mother’s skirts for the second time in as many days. He didn’t even know how he ended up in front of her over the course of the conversation. It was the sort of irrational outburst that had been happening a lot of late, that Theon said was due to their bodies growing so quickly. But it made him a wreck and embarrass his mother and he certainly didn’t want that.
“Oh cub, of course you have a family. And that’s not going to change. But I’ll be happy as long as you are, and that means you don’t have to choose something just to suite me. Pick for yourself.”
“But I have. I like maths and such, and it will let me get away from Westros and my name. And there’s honor in it, trade, especially if I bring goods to help the North. And it’ll give me the funds to take care of you. Get you another dowry if you need it, so you can rebuild a life.”
“Oh, Nan told me about you and your attentiveness to children. You just want me remarried so I can make you more siblings.” Lyanna scoffed.
That, more than anything, seemed to break through Jon’s melancholy, and he found himself laughing. It was true enough; he had oftentimes taken to training the young boys of the town, or playing with the youngest children at moon festivals. Soon enough she joined him. He loved his siblings, and would love more, should he be blessed with them. Although, they would only be half siblings, but he knew he’d treasure them, should she remarry.
“Speaking about siblings, tell me of yours. Rodrik told me of Robb and a bit of Bran, and Arya and I had a very interesting conversation this morning, but I know so little of the others…”
This one was really hard to write. I had to make each character have a clear train of thought, but ensure said trains were under constant assault by hormones, emotions, and borderline if not outright trauma. There were a bunch of places where I realized things were stilted, before reminding myself that I was going for that sense. How'd it come out?
If any of you are history fans, dragon fans, and/or How To Train Your Dragon fans, read A Thing of Vikings. Essentially, Hiccup takes over the world and becomes king of half of Europe (at least, that's where I think it's going). It's super fun, and you dont need to know much about any of the above topics to get what is going on.
Anywho, expected update date; August 12th.
Chapter 12: Littlefinger's Solar
A peek at what our sociopath-with-pedophile-tendencies is up to.
Petyr threw a glass at the wall, and watched the fine crystal goblet shatter next to the ornamental fireplace.
Unbelievable. Un-bloody-believable. Something was going on, minor lords with households in the capital were suddenly leaving for their homes in droves, there was increased travel along the Kingsroad, but he had no idea why. And without knowing what was coming, he couldn’t move forward with his plan for Arryn. Which was its own kind of awful. If he acted, Arryn would be dead, but perhaps at a time when his leadership was necessary. But if he kept Arryn alive, the man was likely to discover some of Petyr’s own… concealed activities along with Cersie and the Kingslayer’s.
And he couldn’t even find the information necessary because several of his whores had suddenly stopped sending information. Not only that, but a few of his brothels saw a distinct lack of service of late.
Somebody had found his network, that was obvious, but who, he had no idea. Regardless, it was taking twice as long for information to reach him, at least, at this most critical of stages nonetheless.
No, this required careful planning to maneuver around. But first, he had to start working Lysa. It was always a fine balance with the woman, just paranoid enough to respond as soon as he asked, but not so paranoid she acted without direction.
Yes, he would have to be careful indeed. This stank of a new player in the game, one who’s pawns were well established and used to going unseen. He would have to uncover this identity without alerting the new player, or any of the others, particularly the Spider. Only once he understood the board would Petyr make his move.
All right! The next few chapters are pretty short, so fair warning on that. I'm a few days behind on writing, so bear with me if things aren't as planned out as I'd like when I post them.
I've been reading White Wolf and Dragon Queen, an AU story starting with Dany's taking of Dragonstone, and so far, it definitely qualifies as something those who hated season 8 might get catharsis out of. Find it at https://archiveofourown.org/works/8781073/chapters/20182744#workskin . Although, my real passion right now is the anime Dr. Stone. I love shows that deal with characters starting literally from scratch just having to survive, and it has some very poignant metaphors about the true nature of equality.
Expect next update; August 14th
Chapter 13: Red Keep's Gardens
Baelish isn't the only one mad at the information bottleneck.
That damn Baelish! That damn Mockingbird and his whores were stealing Varys’s birds! Several were no longer singing to him, the North was practically silent, and whatever did make it to the Crownlands was getting muddled up by the birds who had turned on him here! And the worst part was, he had no idea how to combat that!
And even more disastrous, whatever news was coming through the public networks was sending the nobles fleeing King’s Landing like a hoard of rats fleeing a ship. And that boded ill for Varys’s own plans.
He knew his response had to be two sided. On one side, he needed information at the ready for when Arryn asked. It would not do, after all, to tip his hand so soon. And keeping the Hand pleased was the best way to accomplish that task.
However, he also needed to plan for the Targaryens. Viserys was out, that was a fact at this point, but his reports about the princess were promising. The girl was quiet and not particularly outgoing, true, but she didn’t have to be skilled on her own. There were very few ways in which she could be a worse long-term ruler than Robert, after all.
Then again, there was still time. Illryo had mentioned a possible arrangement with a Dothraki Khal. Perhaps the son of the dragon, with new Dothraki blood to dilute Targaryen excesses… yes, that might be the best option.
But for now, in King’s Landing, it was best to wait. Wait until he had new birds to replace those he lost. Wait until he found a way to dispose of that upstart whoremonger for good.
Wait, and watch, until the victims were all on the web. Only then would the Spider strike.
Here's another one! Some people have mentioned they don't like these little excerpts from King's Landing, but I promise we'll be back to our favorite Wolf Pack soon.
On another note, anyone read Ink Parchment Quill? The author, Inks_Prophesy, has posted two hundred thousand words in four mnths. It's essentially an AU starting from Robert's proposal for Lyanna. Find it at https://archiveofourown.org/works/18328496/chapters/43387937
Expected update; August 16th
Chapter 14: Tower of the Hand
One more person to check on in Kingslanding before we head north a ways.
Jon Arryn despised King’s Landing. He missed the high craggs and deep valleys that were his home, far to the north. He missed Ned, the foster son he had not seen in over a decade, and his sister and brother, both married to minor lords years ago and tucked away in the Vale. His Lady Wife was little comfort; a political arrangement and naught else, and bordering insane besides. Their son was years past weaning, and yet she still kept him to her breast. Short of separating the two in some fashion enforced by blades, there was no solution. And Robin was to sickly-likely, Jon felt, because of his mother’s constant hovering-to take the separation well.
And, of course, if the troubles with his own family were not enough to drive him round the bend, the politics were there to take up the slack. Including the latest stunt, the near evacuation of the city.
He suspected he knew what caused the nobles and smallfolk alike to leave the Landing as quietly as possible. It was obvious to anyone who saw; the King’s heir would be contested.
Jon had realized it when he visited his home about a year prior, and saw Maya Stone. It was then that the took note of her resemblance to her father, Robert, and realized he had never seen one of Robert’s bastards with fair hair. He had spent months, upon his return, attempting to confirm the features of each one, over a dozen children tucked around the Stormlands and Landing and Crownlands.
For months he had tried to deny the truth. And now, it seemed the rest of the world had caught on as well.
Robert was going to get himself killed, that everyone knew. He may have another decade or two before the drink caught up to him, but no more than that. And upon his death, the legitimacy of Joffrey would be called into question, and the city dragged into chaos.
What Jon could not discern was the reason for the urgency. It was true, yes, that Robert was far from healthy, but he was not so old as to make leaving urgent. No, something must have convinced the people Robert’s time was near, if he could only discover what the plot was…
But then, he also must consider how many others came to know what he did. While Robert’s dalliances were open knowledge amongst the nobility, there were never any ostentatious public rumors; at least, not that Jon knew of. And there was the crux of the problem. He had no idea how much others knew, or who knew he knew what he knew. And if that concept alone didn’t twist his brain something awful, there were another few layers below that to consider. Layers of lies and half-truths and assumptions passed as facts or facts spread as ostentatious lies.
Varys was tightlipped as always. The Master of Whispers was truly gifted, but had the unfortunate hangup of an agenda that only occasionally aligned with Jon’s and Robert’s. Baelish was no help either, didn’t even seem to notice the Crownlands’ silent panicking.
If the smallfolk were expecting something, Jon would have heard from his ears in the city. If the Lannisters were planning something, the Crownlands lords, already upset at how Westerland needs had become paramount and the nearby regions ignored, would have kicked up a much more public fuss. If both were reacting to something, then there must be a thread connecting the two classes, some common direction to their thoughts. But Jon could not for the life of him discover what that was.
As the Hand mulled over those thoughts, something became clear. He needed to remove his son from the city, sooner rather than later. Not only to give the boy a broader understanding that would be needed when Jon met his end (and he knew it was closer than he liked) but to begin forming alliances, for when Robert did go down and the throne became contested. It would also ensure that whatever caused the exodus would not take both Lord and Heir to the Vale. And, more importantly, to finally wean the child off his mad mother.
Sending him back to the Vale would allow Lysa to go along and continue coddling the boy. The Riverlands were not an option for much the same reasoning. No, he needed to send Robin elsewere…
Jon picked up a quill and some parchment, and began to write;
My son has come of age to foster, and I was wondering if you might desire a strengthening of ties between our two Houses…
Anyone read Robb's Return? I just started it a bit ago, really fun little time travel fic that only has said time travel occur during the third season. WhIch is a breath of fresh air in my opinion, as most time travel fixits in this fandom seem to originate in some mythical season 8 where Dany stays a character consistent with her previous ideals. Find it here; https://archiveofourown.org/works/11512872/chapters/25850694#workskin
Expect the next update; August 19th.
Chapter 15: King's Journey
A man travels to Winterfell
The man awoke to cold and wet.
He gasped for breath and air, dragging himself up the bank with reeds, and puking up the water in his lungs.
He took off his armor, leaving it in the grass, popping off rubies to trade for coin. He stripped to the linen layers under the metal, and made his way out of the riverbed.
He remembered the following months as if through a dark fog, a few details standing out, but otherwise a deap haze. All he knew was the urge from his heart, directing him to some distant goal to the north.
He moved from inn to inn slowly, carefully, with measured steps. He bartered for food or clothes with coin and gems when he could, and with his labor when that was of more value. He shaved his head regularly, and wore a concealing hat or hood when possible, although he did not know why.
He paid a guide to help him pass the swamps, following the soul-deep pull to head to the north.
Each time someone asked his name, he gave them a different one, and a different story to go with it. That he was a laborer looking for work. That he was going to join the Watch. That he was looking to join his wife and her family. For some reason, he liked that last one the best.
Finally, after two exhausting months, he found the place he was looking for, and came back to himself with a gasp.
The battle. Baratheon killed his herald, a dear friend named Elswin, sent with a message of truce. His rage. The hammer coming down upon his chest.
He must have hit his head, or lost consciousness and been floated downstream. Seeing Winterfell, his wife’s birthplace, must have shocked whatever haze he had been under out.
He prayed his presence here would be enough, that he could convince whatever Stark was in residence that he came in peace, that his marriage to Lya was true, that Baratheon had lied to them all. He prayed he would make it back to Dorne before his child was born.
Now seeing the purpose of the hood, Rhaegar pulled it as far as it would go, and made his way to the Keep. Lya had told him that there was always a Stark in Winterfell, and with Eddard running about as Baratheon’s errand boy, it was likely her only remaining brother, Benjen. He supposed that was likely for the best; Lya and Benjen had reportedly been the closest of the Stark siblings. Perhaps it would make the boy more likely to listen.
He took his time, observing the town as he passed through. The people were rough and simple, in dour colors but with bright smiles and fervent energy. He heard many whistling, humming or singing tunes as he passed them by, a few which he recognized as some his wife hummed during travel. Children would play in the street, simple games with balls and sticks or nets of woven wicker and feathered balls. A few porches he passed with an Elder sitting on a stool, children and parents alike listening eagerly to tales in the Old Tongue or the New. He smiled when a little boy, about Rhaenys’s age, accidentally threw a ball into his knee, and the prince bent down to retrieve it for the child. The child gave a gap-toothed smile and his thanks before returning to his porch, where a baby sat on a blanket, and began to roll the ball back and forth with the little girl.
He took a moment to admire Winterfell when he finally came upon it. The walls were a bit lower than one would see in the south, but the complex within was clearly vast. He could see a sept, built atop a flat-roofed section of keep, the seven sides gleaming with new paint.
A guard stopped him at the gate.
“State your name and business.” The gruff boy ordered. He was less that twenty, Rhaegar would wager, with pale hair and eyes and a liberal spray of freckles.
“A man who seeks an audience with the Lord.” Rhaegar said, tipping back his hood slightly.
“Yeah, you and ev’ry one else buddy. No entrance without a legitimate reason, Lord Stark’s orders.”
“And wich Lord Stark would this be? Rickard or Eddard?”
The guard frowned. “What you mean, Lord Rickard’s been dead these last…fifte… SER RODRIK! THERE’S ANOTHER ONE AT THE GATE! COME QUICKLY SER RODRICK!” Rhaegar stood baffled for several moments as the guard’s eyes widened, before the man turned to yell for Lyanna’s old friend. Although, if this was the Rodrik Rhaegar knew, how the hells he’d become a knight was an open question.
Several guards came running out and Rhaegar, knowing that here discretion was like to be the better part of valor, put his hands up to show he was unarmed. The men surrounded him but, seeing the surrender, were obviously confused by their fellow’s persistent wailing.
It took several minutes, and many irate people coming to gawk, before the requested man made an appearance, one which immediately shocked Rhaegar.
Rodrik looked… old. Much older. The type of older that only came with a dire illness or years….
And the way the guard reacted when he had mentioned Rickard, as if he had been dead far longer than a few months…
Rhaegar did not like where his thoughts were leading him. At all.
Two teen boys and a little girl followed Rodrik, each with a training sword in hand. One looked like a Tully, with red hair and pale skin reminiscent of Lord Hoster. The other had black hair and grey eyes… Lyanna’s eyes. But he wasn’t Benjen, for all the two were similar. A cousin or secret bastard of Rickard’s, perhaps? The little girl was really the spitting image of Lyanna, although she had darker skin and a nose that was reminiscent of Lord Rickard’s wife.
“Alright, you pansies, what are you calling me to fix… now…” Rodrik looked beneath the hood for several moments before his face went bright red.
“You can put your hands down. You lot, back to work! A friend to the Starks is all! Now piss off and back to your posts men!”
Confidently, the old knight strode into the first courtyard of the castle, Rhaegar saw no better option than to follow, hood still up. The children followed Rodrik like ducklings, the two boys whispering to each other and the girl glaring at the prince as if he had mortally offended her somehow.
“Wait here.” Rodrick barked, before striding off into a door to the side, a storage room by the looks. The door was firmly closed and latched, before Rhaegar could hear a loud clang of metal, followed by Rodrik’s boom of “Mother fucking cunt sucking bullshit! Of all the fucking shite that could possibly fall on my head…”
“So…” Rhaegar said to the children who stared at the door in wide-eyed shock. “What’s wrong with him?”
The red haired boy looked over, mouth open to speak, before widening in shock. Rhaegar watched with a smirk as the boy’s gaze moved before the dark-haired one and then back.
“Um…” the teen stammered. Rhaegar could hear some very creative words about his parents and a hedgehog coming from the nearby closet.
“Arya.” The Tully-looking boy said, tugging on the girl’s shoulder. “Go get our cousin. Now. And Father to.”
Ah, so they were Stark cousins after all. Made sense; probably here to support Benjen.
“What! Come on Robb, I never get to hear stuff like this…”
“Look.” The redhead pointed to Rhaegar’s face, which the girl immediately squinted at. Then her eyes widened. In a blur of fabric and braids, the girl had gone running into the Keep beyond.
Rhaegar stood there for several minutes, listening to Lya’s old trainer rant some rather impressive insults concerning Rhaegar’s heritage, before he heard a clatter on one of the walkways above. He looked up, and violet eyes locked with grey.
Well, I'm not to pleased with this chapter, but it could be worse. For those who predicted this, take an imaginary cookie!
On the bright side, the next sections of plot are about to move forward, so yay for that.
Expect the next update on August 24th.
Chapter 16: The Courtyard (Rodrik) (Hiatus Notice)
Rodrik hates surprises.
Rodrik came out of the closet, the ranting firmly out of his system, to find a familiar sight he’d never thought he’d see again.
Knowing better than to try and separate the two royals, he picked his way over to Jon and Robb, who were looking on in a mixture of disgust, admiration and curiosity.
“I see the lady was informed.” The old knight grumbled. Robb nodded.
“Aye, it seems so. Thought I saw a ghost when he first showed up and I realized why he looked so familiar.”
“And doesn’t look a day over twenty-five to. Probably had the same thing happen as Lya, I’d wager.”
Robb snorted. “Of course. Because our lives weren’t becoming strange enough already.”
Rodrik hummed in agreement. In the two months since Lya had come back to them, things had certainly become interesting.
Rose, bless her heart, had kicked the network into high gear. In only two months, they had already received several missives from Crownlands and Sea Lords, claiming their support for any child of the Dragon, whether he took the throne or not. Lya, Ned and Jon had debated a few of them in particular; the idea of the Valeryons on Jon’s side, when he finally felt ready to leave and research a possible career as a merchant, made Lya particularly happy. Old Nan had been working the children nonstop on their histories, either in person or by proxy. And Rodrik had stepped up Jon’s training, incorporating more live steel and some not entirely honorable tricks the boy would need on the road.
Lya had gone into a tizzy. She spent the first week locked up with Nan or Luwin, catching up on the politics and writing letters. As much as Rodrik cringed at the idea Jon might be compromised, he knew they wouldn’t keep any of this a secret forever. Eventually, news that Lya was back would reach Baratheon. Rodrik prayed she was long gone when that finally happened. After a week, Lya had an exceptionally spectacular meltdown, and spent her second week amongst the living alternately crying in her room, hovering over Jon, or praying. Jon took this coddling with a suffering grace. Rodrik couldn’t blame the boy; Lya was getting over Rhaegar’s death, and still adjusting to the age of her son. After that, Lya had gotten back to work, both preparing for her eventual trip to the Narrow Sea and working on the people of Wintertown. Just that morning, Lya had hosted a sparing match/demonstration with several of the resident spearwives and their daughters. She also talked to the Elders on a regular basis, and helped out at the local orphanage, all things that increased her standing (and, by extension, her son’s) with the people.
Some of the smallfolk, Rodrik had noted, looked on the pair of Starks with a strange glint to their eye. A few tavern conversations had revealed the source; people who figured out Jon’s parentage had assumed him to be illegitimate. But even in the North, the idea of a woman accepting a child born of rape was… well, not questioned, it happened, but such children were more often fostered away from the mother, where they could not remind her of the trauma. That this was not the case caused many to question Jon’s legitimacy (in the opposite direction of the normal gossip, ironically enough).
Lady Catelyn and the Septa had looked on the occurrences with aloofness. Rodrik suspected that the Septa knew more than she ought about what was going on, but he also knew that Mordain was a true believer in the Seven, and would never compromise her vows to tell others what had been confessed in confidence.
Robb and the children, with the exception of Sansa, had taken to their lessons with zeal. Even little Rickon was working hard to learn his sagas, stories and histories, which he regaled the entire hall with each night. Lady Cat would look on with pursed lips, until some northron comment sent her off fuming. Sansa was being difficult, crying about how her father would not let her learn her lady’s skills and instead made her learn “unsophisticated ideas not suited to finding a match.” Lord Stark had to take his daughter in his solar for a long talk after that comment.
Jon and Lya, at least, seemed to find some kind of balance. They both enjoyed helping the Elders, and were planning their trip to Essos together. Their relationship had taken some time to sort out, before Ned of all people told them to stop dancing around each other and just realize they were stuck together.
Except now apparently Lya wasn’t the only one back. Because fuck Rodrik’s life.
“Wait, I don’t get it. Who is that? And do I have to intervene?” Jon asked, coming out of his shocked stupor and glaring at the man publicly intimate with his mother. Rodrik laughed.
“No lad, that you don’t. Although,” he glanced about to ensure they wouldn’t be overheard, “you might end up with a sibling before the year’s out.”
“Like hell!” Lya, always of exceptional hearing, shouted as she disentangled herself from her husband, who pouted. “You know for the first two weeks I back how bad my breasts hurt. And you” she began poking her husband in the chest, “Have quite a bit to make up to me.”
“Lya, what happened? How are you here? You were at the Tower… wait, where’s the baby?”
Rodrik could feel the exhaustion coming on. It was hard enough catching Lya up when she came back. This was going to be even worse.
So sorry to do this to you, but I have some life changes coming (nothing bad, just changes), and need time to adjust to the new situation. So, two week hiatus. And update schedules may change when I get back. Or not, we'll see. It's a real shame I have to cut it here though, the next chapter was one of the hardest ones to write, but I really like the balance I found. So, at least I'll come back with a bang.
Chapter 17: Reconnecting (Lyanna)
Rhaegar gets caught up and connects with his wife.
So, before you read this, a bit of a disclaimer about the representations of mental health. The Targaryen madness can make some characters difficult to write because of the weird moral problems writing such characters poses, especially when the setting has no formalized mental health system. I've tried to set Rhaegar up in a way that balances three things; the fact that he was clearly functional, how the madness works based on his family members, and my own experiences with people suffering mental health problems. I essentially tried to set him up with an extreme, modified version of bipolar disorder, because that way his emotions are the unbalanced thing, not the rest of his faculties. This isn't meant to represent any specific real-world conditions, because magic is involved and that messes with everything. I'm actually fairly happy with how this turned out, since I feel it reflects a combination of some of my own experiences dealing with ill loved ones (although a bit more extreme). So please keep that in mind when reading anything where Rhaegar shows his unstable side.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lyanna felt her heart sing as she led her husband (HE’S BACK! TAKE THAT BITCHRATHEON!) into her childhood home.
Explanations were a blur. Ned, standing behind his large desk and glaring at Rhaegar, asked a bunch of searching, insulting questions that Lya chose to ignore in favor of her husband. Jon, Robb and Arya were all hovering near the closed door, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. Rodrick tucked himself in the far corner and explained the last few years, what had happened, what Baratheon had done…
It was when Rodrik mentioned Elia that Lyannna broke from her joy and realized how things were about to go.
Now, Lyanna loved her husband. But, there was one unfortunate reality of the Targeryens. And that was the coin flip.
Aerys and Visenya were opposite sides of the coin. Rhaenys and Viserys were a pair. But Lyanna had started to suspect that the last few generations, the coin was less a “genius vs. madness” and more a measure of “are they functionally stable or not”. It seemed, Lya and Elia had both speculated, that new blood elevated the pressure quite a bit, thank the gods. And, over the last months, she had seen that reflected in Jon; he was brooding, yes, and possibly depressed, but not what someone would consider mad.
Rhaegar was a bit of another story.
Oh, he functioned well… enough. But he seemed to have extremely varied moods that could last months or moments. One second he’d be making love to Lya, the next he’d be crying in her arms about something inane. Some mornings he would be so upset he couldn’t get out of bed, some nights he was so revved up he couldn’t sleep. And there were times that her husband lost focus. It could be something happy, or sad, or something that angered him, but all it took was the right push and Rhae would lose all control, bouncing from one emotion to the other. If he had someone who knew nearby, like his Kingsguard, it could be managed. He never went completely insensate, so with enough insistence, he could be brought back down from the emotional heights. But doing so took several minutes, and could be extremely disconcerting for someone unfamiliar. And the last thing Jon needed was to be scared of his own father.
None of it affected his intelligence or sense, luckily, just his emotions. And there had been tricks and routines established to help manage. Teas to help him sleep when he couldn’t on his own. Regular exercise, which always made him more centered, like working the energy out of his body gave focus. Constructive ways to vent his anger when it became to much, like writing particularly acerbic letters or scrubbing something until his fingers were to sore to note the anger. Most importantly, people he trusted, like her and Arthur, who could tell him when it was the emotions talking, and not him. And Lya suspected there were more ways to help than just that. She had heard of greenwitches in the forests that had herbs that settled the mind, or made it more active. Ways to focus thoughts that the elders and Wordkeepers practiced which might be of use. Of course, by the time she realized her husband might have a use for these things, the North was cut off by Baratheon…
Lya could take the extremes of her husband’s emotions. It hurt her, to see something that wasn’t him come over such a normally gentle man, but the madness (if it could be even called that, which she doubted) was so little of what made him. And even in the depths of his depression or fires of his anger, Rhaegar’s morals and inner strength showed through. Just how the emotions manifested could attest to that; he never took anything out on the people around him, the only time he had ever harmed her was the handful of instances when he sparred angry, and even then it hadn’t been more than a few bruises and once a sprained ankle, all injuries that could happen in a normal spar regardless of care or temperament. When he was happy, he tried to spread cheer to those around him. Oswell had confided that it was in his more joyous moods that her husband would play for the populace at King’s Landing. When he was upset, it almost always manifested as fear. For her, for their child, for his men, for the kingdoms. And the extremes weren’t there all the time. They came up randomly, but between each mood was a span of time, normally quite significant, where he was more balanced. Where the strange creature that came over him gave way to just… him. Rhaegar. In all his stupidly moral, charismatic, chivalrous annoyingness.
Unless someone set him off. Like by telling him that his two eldest children and their mother were brutally murdered at the behest of the Lannisters. Who had installed one of their own as the Queen. Because the man who forced Rhae to move up his timetable before starting a war and then murdering his way through the Targaryen family was the king.
So, Lyanna did the only thing she could and grabbed her husband by the scruff of his neck (why doesn’t he have hair now its so much easier to grip?) and shoved him into a nearby unoccupied solar, closing and barring the door behind her.
“Let me out Lya! I’ll kill the bastard and his lion cunt! Find the Mountain and tear him to shreds!” he screeched, half hunched over. His eyes went bloodshot, and his arms were shaking as they clenched and unclenched.
Lyanna raised an eyebrow. This was worse than normal. A Viserys level tantrum. Then again, given what set it off, she couldn’t blame him. Luckily, for all the similarities between Rhae and his brother when he got like this, there was one startling difference. Rhaegar was far more likely to hurt himself than her.
“No. Not until you are back to yourself.” She insisted, not moving an inch. Rhaegar just snarled back.
“Well maybe I don’t need to be myself. Maybe this damn curse finally has a fucking use.”
“True, but you’d never get that far. Nobody even knows I’m alive, let alone our supporters. Baratheon would have you killed before you reached the Riverlands.” Logic was always the way to bring him down from anger.
“So we just let him get away with this?” the thing inside Rhaegar demanded.
“No, I never said that. But to crush him, to absolutely ruin everything he’s ever tried to do, get vengeance for every person he’s ever tried to hurt we need to be smarter than that. And that means planning. Last time, we tried our hardest, but we didn’t plan before we moved, and it got you killed and our son orphaned.” Rhaegar flinched at that, face morphing from a snarl to a tear-filled gaze of longing.
“Our… it was a boy?” A new kind of energy, some mix of happiness and fervency took it’s turn. “Where is he? What do you mean orphaned? Is he all right? Is…” Rhaegar choked on the words “our son…. My only…”
And there it was. Rhaegar fell shaking onto the ground, sobbing into Lyanna’s skirts as the reality hit him. She let him have a few moments, to make sure he wasn’t about to flip on her, that he was stable in his grief. It wouldn’t do to start consoling him, only to watch him switch to a different emotion made worse by her coddling. When those moments passed and he kept crying, she bent down and held him in her arms, his stupid huge hands clutching her skirts still as she tried to maneuver his head to her shoulder. She heard words in the mass of sobbing, “Elia” and “Rhaenys” and “Aegon” and “Os” and “Art”. Lya let him go, waiting until he exhausted himself, and tried to keep the jealousy of her friend at bay. He just heard Elia was dead, and they did have two children together after all. Lyanna knew the two were friends, that worked well enough together, and that if it wasn’t for Elia’s health and Aerys’s madness they likely would have been a stable match. It was fine that her husband grieve the woman now. Besides, as dear a friend as Elia was, she was dead now, and could not possibly threaten Lyanna’s position.
Lya felt a bit of shame at that, how she had felt threatened by her friend and step-children. It was, after all, the same sort of shit the Tully fish used to rationalize Jon’s treatment. A small part of her worried that she and the catfish were far more similar than the rest of her would admit.
So, as she sat there on the dirty floor of the unused solar, consoling her husband, Lya took a moment to pray for her little step-children.
Eventually, Rhaegar calmed, and Lyanna felt his face heat up in shame against her neck.
“You done dear?” she asked. She felt Rhaegar nod a bit.
“I think so. Thank you for that.” He pushed himself away, wiping his nose on a small handkerchief.
“Well, we cant have you give my brother a bad impression can we? Let alone our son.” Lyanna joked.
Her husband perked up at that, eyes shining with only a slight, manageable amount of mania. “He’s here? Where? He’d be a man by now…” he muttered pensively. Lyanna chuckled.
“Yes, he’s nearly my age. And don’t think that isn’t strange.”
Rhaegar smirked at her a moment before his face fell again.
“Sixteen years. Gods. What are we even…”
“Well, first thing’s first. Jon. Yes I know, he was supposed to be an Aegon, my idiot brother renamed him and he prefers it so you are using the name and dealing with it. I don’t care if it’s not Valerien. He’s the priority. As much as I want to help you avenge your children- not to mention Elia and my own problems with that stag bastard- it will mean nothing if you chase your remaining child away, yes?” Rhaegar nodded. “Good. Jon and I were planning on heading out to Bear Island then sail our way around the continent. He wants to learn how to manage a ship. I see no reason why you cant come along. And while we go port to port, we look into rumors. Figure out the power structure. And this time, when we take back Westros, we do it with the proper planning. Not half-cocked like last time. We make sure the kingdoms are actually in hand before we commit to the cause, we take our time. And then we show that asshole on the throne that Winter is coming.”
“And bathe him in fire and blood.” Rhaegar intoned, smirking as he always did when they found a way to merge their house words. “Why does he want to learn sailing though? It’s not unheard of for princes to have a craft or career of some kind before the throne is a possibility, but if I was gone then he was the king.”
Lyanna sighed, before she realized how glad she was to have this talk. Away from everyone. Where neither of them could be riled to kick her brother’s ass.
“Ned knew Jon would end up like Rhaenys and Aegon if Baratheon knew about them. So, he hid Jon as a Snow and claimed him as his own. Ned was pushing him to the Night’s Watch.” Rhaegar moved gracefully to his feet and started to pace the room.
“What!? That glorified penal colony? The King of Westeros?”
“Yes, that was about my reaction. Don’t worry, I already scolded him. The good news is, Jon is a very humble and honorable boy. The bad news is he’s spent so long thinking he was nothing, he has no idea how to lead. And doesn’t want to.”
“Oh, don’t pretend like you did either. I know if you had your way you’d compete at tourneys and play your harp and leave the politics to someone else. But you were raised to be king, and adjusted to the idea. Jon did not. Rodrick, bless him, has tried to give Jon the tools he’d need, but Jon has no idea how to use them. So, he said he’d rather live his life doing something to take care of me and his siblings, and I agreed.”
“You know this wont stay quiet though.” Her husband admonished lightly. Lya felt herself bristle at the tone before reminding herself that after some of her more… foolhardy actions, he had every right to mention such things. “Word that one or both of us is back will reach the wrong ears. It always does.”
“Of course it does. Which is why I agreed to this, if only to get Jon out of Westeros.”
“Our enemies would just come after your brother instead for harboring him.”
“Yep, and Jon would be honor bound to come back and help. And the only way to put down that sort of behavior permanently would be to ensure he had all the power.”
Rhaegar looked her over with a scowl. “So you were manipulating our son into taking the throne.”
“Hell no. That thing’s a bloody curse and I wish he’d never have to bear it. At first I just wanted him away from Westeros, where he’d be safe. But I’ve spent the past few months with him, and there’s no way he’d let his siblings come to harm.”
“Siblings? You’ve mentioned that twice now but Elia…”
Lyanna shrugged. “Cousins. My brother’s children. Whatever. But they were raised as his siblings and he still sees them that way. The point is, I don’t want him to come back. The way I see it, Ned brought this shit on himself. But I don’t want my nieces and nephews hurt, and Jon wont let that happen either. Like you said, there’s no way we stay secret. Pretending otherwise would be stupid. There’s always the possibility that our existence turns into some rumor so outlandish Ned can convince Robert to ignore it. Or something else, equally effective in throwing Baratheon off our tail. And if that was the case, and Jon lived the rest of his life as a merchant, or joined a sellsword group, or chose any number of other paths, I was going to be right there with him. But now it’s a moot point. If anyone’s going to move for the throne now, it’s you, not him.
Rhaegar nodded along. “Fair enough. And there are alternatives if he doesn’t want the throne. We could make him a sibling, or one of his children could be my heir instead.” Rhaegar snorted. “Given the age difference, we might easily outlive him.”
Lyanna did not like that thought, so pushed it away to pick apart at a later time. “Well, regardless. We do need to get planning.”
As she and Rhaegar plotted (well, he plotted, she threw out ideas that were easily rejected and acted as his sounding board), Rhaegar slowly calmed down. They ignored the knocks on the door throughout the evening, although Arya, the thoughtful little scamp, did bring them a tray of dinner once the sun set. And as the moon slowly rose over Westeros, it’s new rulers planned their takeover.
Updates will henceforth be every other Saturday until I hit chapter 22. Then the story will go on a more extended hiatus until the next chunk of story is written. With how my schedule looks for the foreseeable future, this is the best way to address the situation and still maintain my sanity (who am I kidding, i dont have any of that? ; )
Have a good week!
Chapter 18: Ned's Solar (Jon)
Jon learns what the heck just happened.
Jon stared at his mother dragging the pale bald guy out by his ear before turning to his brother (he was still very, very upset at Uncle Ned for keeping his parentage a secret and had taken to a bit of a silent treatment). He felt like that annoying haze was over him again, but instead of numbness, this time it was fueled by anger. At the random man. Who had been… defiling his mother!
“What just happened.”
“Jon, didn’t you notice who he was?” Rob asked, eyes crinkled with mirth or worry, Jon couldn’t discern which.
“No, I’ve never seen that man before. Who was he?” Jon’s voice grew angry “and why was he with my mother like that? Am I going to have to do something?”
“Jon… oh shit…”
“Language.” Uncle scolded.
“Jon, did you get a look at his face?”
“When’d you last look in a mirror?”
“I don’t know why would it…” and then it hit him. Gods, not again.
“Yeah. Your face, and Lyanna was kissing him…”
Jon slid to the floor. This could NOT be happening. Having his mother hovering about was bad enough (“you know she’s just worried about you. For her, twas naught but a month ago you were in her womb, after all” Rodrik scolded) and now his father as well? Whom he had only found out about less than three months ago?
“So what the hells does this mean for me?”
“Likely war.” Uncle Ned said from across the room.
“No, ya think?” Rodrik muttered from the corner where he brooded. Uncle continued on, incensed.
“Rhaegar is a Targaryen, all he knows to do is fight and keep that cursed chair. He’ll want it back and start garnering allies to get it. And we’ll be the first target as allies thanks to you mother.”
“But, if Robert had killed Arya and Bran, wouldn’t you start a war with him?” Jon asked. Uncle Ned blinked. It was the first time Jon had talked to him in a month. “Robert had my siblings killed, Mother told me about it. Can you blame him, for wanting vengeance?”
Uncle shook his head. “That isn’t the same thing…”
Jon felt the righteous indignation rising in him. Once upon a time, he had considered what happened to Elia Martel’s children a tragedy. But after Mother told him story after story about the time she spent with Elia or playing with Rhaenys, suddenly, his siblings had become very, very real.
“How? How were my siblings different? How does the fact that it was my siblings and their mother slaughtered in cold blood make any difference? Rodrik said Robert had them murdered after Aerys was already dead. What if it was Bran and Arya? Would you go after Robert then?”
Some part of Jon was angry at himself for the outburst. This was his Father! The man who had raised him! Who protected him when he deserved no kindness whatsoever (“…bastards deserve nothing…”) and gave him a place.
The rest of him was fucking pissed.
Yes, his Uncle had raised him in WInterfell, but had pushed him to join the Wall instead of any other option. He could have taken another path, like his current one to become a merchant, at any point and brought honor to his siblings without giving up his life. But no, from the moment he picked up a sword, the Watch was presented to Jon as the best way to escape the scorn, by joining men in many cases far worse than any he had ever met.
And what about Aegon and Rhaenys? Where was their kind uncle to save them from Robert? Where was Daenerys and Viserys’ savior, who would ensure they could keep at least a part of their heritage? Why was Jon the only one worthy of being saved?
Mother had told him stories over the last months. About five year old Rhaenys steeling Mother’s clothing from the bath house when she was fostering in Dorne. About Elia’s beautiful singing voice, how Elia was one of the few southroners with an interest in Northern songs and sagas. How Aegon would have only been a year old when he died.
Though nothing would ever replace his Stark siblings, neither would the Starks replace his Targaryen siblings. Knowing they had existed, that he would have had another brother like Rob and an older sister to boot, made a hole in his chest that ached.
And with each story Mother told him, he felt his anger grow. He wouldn’t start the fight with Baratheon, to do such would put his mother and remaining siblings in danger, but if anyone came after them, he would finish it. Permanently.
And now his father was back and the decision was likely to be taken out of Jon’s hands. And Jon had no idea what to believe about the man. On the one hand, his mother adored Rhaegar. On the other, he had an entire childhood being told the man was a monster.
Then again, he’d also been told he was a bastard, so most of his childhood was already a lie. What would one more be?
Uncle Ned seemed to finally gather a response.
“There was no difference. I pleaded to have their killer punished…”
“And that was all you did.” Jon shot back. “You let a man who hurt my Mother and killed my siblings have power. And now, he’s so entrenched that I cant do anything to stop him if he comes after us!”
“Okay, lets just take a moment!” Robb interjected, and Jon was grateful. He had no idea where this was going, he knew well enough the North had not the men at that point to take down the Baratheon-Lannister alliance. And yet still he was angry.
“Jon, you’ve had a bit of a shock today. Why don’t you go spent time with Ghost? He always clears your mind.” His brother murmured. His younger brother, not older. Jon’s true age was another thing lied about, he discovered. He was the elder, not Robb, but Uncle had lied to make it seem he was a bastard. Even his age had never been his own.
Jon felt himself nodding in agreement. “Aye, that… I think I’ll…”
As he walked out the door, he heard Robb say, “Really Father, you need to give him an answer. Because at this point, I wonder what honor is worth if it destroys families like that instead of protecting them…”
Ugh, this one wasn't fun. I feel like Jon is such a mix of emotions at this point that he's thinking erratically, but balancing writing that was hard. But the discussion had to be breached a bit now. Oh well, here it is. See you in two weeks!
Chapter 19: Waking up (Lyanna)
Lyanna woke up on the floor with a happy sigh, before turning to cuddle into Rhaegar’s chest. Last night had been a fun planning session, like old times. Which had morphed into… well, what it usually morphed into.
Rhaegar moved beside her, and with a few loving murmurs, the two gathered themselves up and dressed.
They had come to a few agreements the night before. One of them was that they wouldn’t push Jon. Retaking the kingdoms for Rhaegar would take time, time that could be used getting to know their son. If Rhae took the throne back and Jon still rejected his place, there was always the option of one of Jon’s children taking it up, or that they might make Jon another sibling to fill the gap. Regardless, even Rhae could see how forcing their son to be something he wasn’t would end badly. And provided the plans they had hashed out went well, they would have years to find another solution. Decades even.
But one thing was for sure, staying in Winterfell was a danger to all parties involved. So, they had prepared to leave as soon as possible. It wouldn’t be to much of a burden; all it meant was that they wouldn’t have the men backing them up as Lya and Ned had originally intended. But the money they needed and most of the packing had been gathered weeks before, just in case something happened and Lya and Jon had to run. Now, they’d just add a few more clothes for Rhae and be good to go.
All their other plans were dependent on how things went along the coasts and in Pentos, and whether Jon planned to stay with them or go his own way once they made the sea. That was intentional, as flexible plans were less likely to shatter when some asshole decided to interfere.
Clothing arranged-she was back in the leggings of the day before- Lyanna opened the door…
Only for a dark head to fall on her feet, little white pup in hand.
“Jon…” she said warningly as her son scrambled up and rubbed sleep from his eyes. “You know you’re not supposed to keep Ghost away from Eilen over night.””
Jon blushed a tad and readjusted the pup in his arms. “Sorry Lady Lyanna.”
Lyanna took that as a signal they were being watched, and so nodded with a ridiculously regal expression on her face and nose upturned. Jo kept his lips pressed tightly, but she saw a quick light of mirth in his eyes. “Well then. Have you any idea where Lord Stark is? I need to speak with him about arrangements. This… messenger has come to summon me back, and I must be gone with all haste.”
Jon, knowing that was to be their emergency cover if they needed to leave sooner than planned, quickly picked himself up and scampered off to find his Uncle.
“So that was…” Rhae murmured from behind her. Lyanna smirked, shutting the door behind her to limit the odds a servant would overhear their conversation while they awaited her brother.
“He looks like you.”
“Oh yeah. Your build and quite a bit of Rhaenys’s features though.”
“True. The dog?”
“I thought Starks didn’t have them any more?’
“Its not the first time we’ve been companionless for a while, only to get them back later.”
“Ah. Eilen? As in…”
“Yes, my friend and I planned to always look out for each other. I figure since Eilen is now looking out for me… and it just feels right.”
Rhaegar started to pout a bit, but his eyes twinkled with a bit of laughter, just as Jon’s had a moment before. “Oh, so you get your house sigil as a pet, but me…”
Lyanna smacked his shoulder. Hard.
“Oh please, just because you ancestors drove your sigil extinct…”
Chapter 20: Ned's Solar (Cat)
Hey guys! Sorry this is a tad late. There's a kind of local right of passage that I never participated in, and certain people decided they had to make me make it up. Unfortunately, I didn't know how the timing on it worked, so by the time I got home this chapter was already late. So sorry!
Catelyn was done. She had thought that maybe after the shock of the situation wore off, her husband would go back to being himself.
But no, he kept right on with his pointless dawdling. He still refused to allow the girls to be tended by the Septa, asking a woman from the village named Lyarra, apparently a cousin of some kind to take over their care (and Cat had known that the Starks sometimes took smallfolk for wives, but she hadn’t realized her own goodmother was such a case. Or that her husband kept contact with his lowborn relatives).
Arya was running positively feral. She was wearing trousers, and learning to wield a spear now as well as a bow, and riding a horse with legs spread at gates unsafe for maintaining a woman’s virtue. And hunting. Furthermore, that feral wolf masquerading as a lady was encouraging it. Every time Cat tried to talk sense into her husband, Nan or Lyarra or Lyanna or Rodrik or the Wellen Chief or the Glent’s High Elder or the Moon Men’s High Cleric would be there, whispering in his ear and countering her every argument with lines of poetry. Poetry!
Sansa was clearly upset, and trying to hide it behind her lady’s façade. Unfortunately, the North interpreted such things as signs of dishonesty and callousness, which had tongues wagging all the way through Wintertown. Which was ridiculous; being guarded or keeping things to one’s self was just plain etiquette. The fact that Ned was tolerating the barbaric smallfolk’s opinions and insults towards their daughter was a travesty.
One good thing to come of the situation was that Sansa told Cat everything Ned was doing with the children’s education. And it was not good. Sansa was being forced to learn the bow, and herb lore from a greenwitch. Arya, notably, was getting some of the greenwitch’s teachings, but not nearly as much. When asked, Nan informed Cat that Arya would need the knowledge to hold death off; it was the duty of the women who chose not to be spearwives to tend the wounded once they were off the field. Whatever that meant. Although why Sansa and Arya were expected to be anywhere near battle at all entirely escaped Catelyn. She supposed she could understand a Lady being taught to care for her people, but really, such healing was for the Maesters and Septas to do, not Ladies!
The children were also sent to spend hours a day studying under a “word keeper”, whatever the hells that meant, to hear stories and songs. Gory stories. And the children were expected to memorize them. Even Rickon, and the boy could not even go to the Septa for a dose of reality!
Robb seemed to be cracking under the strain. She had witnessed her son scolding servants for cleaning off windowsills, and talking to guards about strange stick creations held to their necks by twine. Catelyn had insisted such adornments be removed when she had first come to Winterfell, but her husband had now countermanded that order, so the guards were wearing their odd little totems about like a queen in her jewels. No, this behavior in Robb must be stopped, else he’d never get respect due a Lord Paramount from the rest of the kingdoms!
Bran’s climbing was now encouraged. Encouraged. As if she didn’t have enough to worry about. Two men had appeared to actually teach him how to endanger himself more! One was from those horrid brutes, the Mountain Men, who apparently had a small tribal outpost in the North. And her husband allowed one of those brutes to teach her son!
And then there were the mutts. The little ones were trouble enough. Sansa’s Lady was the most well behaved of the lot, had even allowed Sansa to put her on a leash at one point. Unfortunately, the adult one had snapped and snarled at her daughter until the rope was removed, and Lady had not taken a leash again. Shaggydog was constantly underfoot, along with Rickon, and Nymeria (what an unacceptable name!) had actually been trained to harass people on command. But the only way Ned intervened was to instruct Arya to keep Nymaria under control! As if any beast that could not be properly trained and collared could be controlled at all!
But all of this was secondary, of course, to the Bastard and his mother. The Bastard was suddenly unable to fulfill any of his chores or duties around the Keep. Instead, the boy was taking even more of the Maester’s precious time, or gallivanting about Wintertown with his mother.
And his mother. Cat had always sworn allowing the bastard’s mother anywhere near Winterfell would be an unmitigated disaster, and it turned out she was right.
The servants Cat had hired were constantly accosted by Northerners, either in Winterfell’s employ or by the smallfolk. The smallfolk, in turns, were constantly ignoring Cat, while very publicly being kind and assisting Lyanna at every turn. Cat had always known the smallfolk held her at arm’s length, and Catelyn had actively encouraged that attitude, as it fostered the proper respect. But now, if the condescending looks were anything to go by, it had never been respect at all.
And the Keep, the Keep was in shambles! Aside from the aforementioned cleaning being prevented, there were now training classes being run by Lyanna. For women. In combat. And Arya was told, in no uncertain terms, that as long as she completed her lessons with the wordkeeper to satisfaction, she could partake as she willed. It was ridiculous!
And now Cat had received word that some strange bald interloper had caused chaos amongst the guards the day before. People screaming, and Ned holed up in his solar all day… no. Just no. She was still the Lady of Winterfell, and by the gods she would be included in discussions! Maybe whatever had happened, whoever that man was, it would be enough to get the Bastard and his whore of a mother removed for good. Then, Cat could put Winterfell to rights, and all would be as it should.
She came upon the solar to hear voices, not quite raised, but simply of the sort that came out loudly in general.
“Lya, you’re just going off? We have no idea what is going on here, how he’s alive…”
“No, Ned, we don’t have answers. But I honestly can’t be moved to care at the moment. Because if we sit on our asses, by the time an enemy discovers we’re back, it could be too late to leave! Meanwhile, if we get out of here now, it’s better for everyone.”
“And what about Jon? This is his home!”
“Honestly, Lord Stark, I’m surprised you’ve hidden him for this long.”
The voice was so quiet she had to hold her ear to the crack in the doorframe. It was rough with disuse, but carried the gentle lilt of a southron man. The man whom the whore had been embracing so scandalously the prior day, most likely. Then again, if it got the Bastard out of the Keep, who was she to look the gods’ gift in the mouth?
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Ned growled.
“I mean that your reputation is without blemish, besides Jon. Or at least that is the impression the smallfolk on my journey gave. And that, sooner or later, someone will consider how odd the situation really is. As of now, it’s assumed to be true because the gossip mongers believe there could be no greater scandal. But if a single detail of what is going on here gets around, it could lead some to the conclusion that there is more to it. And with that scrutiny comes danger to Jon. Getting him out of here is the first layer of protection we can offer.”
“He should remain here with his siblings.”
“You’re right about one thing. He should be with his siblings. But he’ll never get the chance. And why exactly is that?” the unidentified voice snarled.
There was a short gasp from Ned.
“I don’t… I did everything I could to pursue justice for Elia and her children. Do not assume otherwise. The Lannisters and Robert protected Clegane and Lorch…”
“Oh please Ned, do you think us fools? You had Dorne frothing at the mouth and the Tyrells still pissed at Robert for… well, anything and everything really. If you had thrown a proper fuss, you could have gotten Arryn to intercede and yank the Baratheon bastard’s chain.” Rodrik grumbled.
“And what then?” Ned protested. “Another war? The kingdoms were tired of wars. Our fields were burned or barren, villages filled with naught but women because their entire male populaces were pressed into service. The realm would not take another battle…”
“Battle battle battle. You and Baratheon both.” The soft voice interjected. “Did you never stop and consider there were more options than an outright fight?”
“What, that dishonorable shitshow you southroners call a government?”
“No, I mean in forming alliances. Negotiating. Chivying people to agree with you. The same sort of thing I was planning on doing at Harrenhall, before the combined disasters of my father and Baratheon managed to turn it into a farce.”
“To what end? That poisoned chair that turns men to monsters?”
“Lord Stark. Do you honestly think-and do tell me the truth here- that you could keep my son a secret forever? That a Targaryen could be hidden from Baratheon with such ease? This close to the time of an elemental resurgence? Even if it’s one of the dozens of distant nexuses that exposes itself this time, the bloodlines tied to any nexus will react. Both Starks and Targaryens fall into that group. So how do you think the magic in his blood will react? Do you think you could keep that quiet?”
“I don’t know what all this business about nexuses is, but why do you think I wanted him at the Wall? He’d be beyond the reach…”
There was silence-or at least, to Cat’s hearing-for several heartbeats.
“Ned was just presenting it as an option to Jon, that’s all. And now that circumstances have changed, not even one worth considering. Jon knows this-hence the cover story and previous plan. Although, a visit with Aemon at some point would not go amiss…” Lyanna covered for the slip. The room was silent for moments more.
“We will talk about that later.” The voice ground out. “But the point is, you could have prepared something. You could have trained him for the possibility that things would go awry and he’d be forced into an undesirable position. But you didn’t. You stuck your head in the sand-or snow as it were-and ignored the very real threats at your doorstep. You ignored what would have been legitimate reasons to find peace with people that would have supported you in protecting Jon, rather allowing tempers to cool and those same possible allies to turn to the new power with their allegiance. And now, because of that lack of preparation, we must leave. Soon.”
“But to take the boy with you into exile…” Lord Stark protested once more.
“Who says it’s exile Ned?” Lyanna asked. ” Your cousin from a distant land is returning home, and has taken your bastard with her so he might start his trade. It’s many things, but not exile. He can return while we are gathering strength, visit with you and his siblings…”
“And visit with the Beggar King and Daenerys as well!” Winterfell’s lord protested. “You know the moment Robert finds out Jon was near Aerys’s children he will be enraged.”
The voice spoke with insistence, “Which is why we don’t let him find out. And there is nothing saying we have to go to my siblings. If I find them well, I intend to leave them be. No point dragging them into this unwillingly.”
“Look, I just… please. For all that he’s yours by blood, he’s as much my own as Robb. I don’t want to see him dragged off to war.”
“It doesn’t have to be war, Ned.” Lyanna consoled. ”Nobody’s saying it has to be war. We’d prefer to avoid that, actually, best we can. But to do that, we need to start gathering allies. And we simply aren’t going to get farther from here. The lords I’ve contacted to the south will require proof; Doran’s going to be a nightmare to deal with, his mother would have been so much easier. The Tyrells, if Rodrik’s word is reliable, aren’t going to settle for anything less than a marriage, and Crownlands are in a shambles.”
“And what if these alliances you’re so dependent on fall through? Any one of those lords could sell you to Robert.”
“Which is why we start in Essos, Lord Stark.”
Ned let loose a deep sigh.
“I don’t even know what I’m arguing for anymore. But you seem convinced of it, and I wont tell the boy I’m taking back what I promised him, not after these last months. But I want your word, Your Grace.”
“That you protect him. If this looks to fail, and a life will be forfeited, you make it yours and let my… our son come home where he belongs.”
A low chuckle. “Yes, Lord Stark. Despite all the disagreements, I do understand. You seem to have done well with him, and he admires you. I can think of no man I would trust more, should I fall.”
“But there is one condition to that.” The winter bitch interjected
“Yes. That woman no longer has any say over him. His sleeping arrangements, his food, who he gets to spend time with, all of that goes to your hands, and none of it hers.”
“Aye… aye, after these last months, I can see the wisdom in that, much as it displeases me.”
The shuffling of chairs began to emanate through the door, so Cat quickly straightened and knocked.
A brief throat clearing. “Enter.”
“I’m sorry for interrupting, my lord, but I must speak with you about some of Bran’s lessons…”
“Yes, yes, just let me send them on their way.” He turned to his sister and the man wrapped around her. He wore rough homespun, but Cat could swear she knew him… “You will at least stay till tomorrow, yes? Give Jon and Lya enough time to say goodbye and whatnot?”
“Of course. Good day, Lord Stark.”
Catelyn used the man’s exit to examine him. He was lithe but muscular, and had chiseled features. He had no hair or beard, but startling violet eyes. He reminded her of the southron houses with Valerian blood. If she could just place the face…
When they had left the room, hand in hand, she finally spoke up. “Who was that, Ned?”
Her husband just kept staring at the door. “An ally. One who is leaving and taking my sister and so… nephew with him.”
“Oh. Well, I suppose things were bound to return to normal some time.”
Her husband snorted. “Well, they are certainly going to be different than they are currently. Now, what is this about Bran?...”