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The Footsteps of Survivors

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AN: There may be some logic and technical holes in the setting of the plot, but the plot is not the main point of this fic. My intent is to humanize and study these characters. None of them will be completely forgiven of bad deeds, but neither vilified to a ridiculous standard. I am not sure how long this story will be. I might go fast through the events, or I might go into detail, depending on what the characters need of me. We'll see. But do be prepared for a faster pace in the first 2 chapters, which will resume a bulk of years passing between past and present action.

EDIT: I now know this will be a short novel in length, fyi.

Will be adding more ships as I decide on them. 

 

She was a wildflower

Lyanna

 

Found loving you was sunshine, but then it poured

And I lost so much more than my senses

'Cause loving you had consequences

 

She heard of his death a week ago. Yet then she managed to steady herself, to be brave while looking blanched and breathless.

 

But this morning she heard about the children. And that is too much. And her last act of bravery is to urge her last defenders to leave. It's a hard fight. And she doesn't have that strength, but she puts all of it into this one last fight. She wins. Yet she loses.

 

She waits for the predators to come. They're meant to be her saviours. She knows better of what is awaiting her. All the imaginable horrors she doesn't deserve or asked for, and none of those that she would've actually perhaps deserved.

 

She's always been a wolf, but today she is a mere sheep. They all want to consume her somehow. To shred her for their warmth. Divide the bits they can use. Spread her at their tables.

 

She gets a very brief sight of Ned, too brief, before everything else happens too fast to stop it, and people are crowding around her, and the world is spinning, spinning. And they talk a lot about her, and very little to her. As if she were a mute child. And maybe she is much like one, looking so small. Saying so little. They say she is broken. They say she is not fit to be a queen. She is not fit to be a wife anymore. She's almost grateful to be denigrated. She's almost mad to be defended.

 

She is dishonored, disgraced and weakened. What if she is pregnant? People will talk regardless.

 

And she only cries through it all, again and again. And she hates herself for it. Before today, she could've counted on her fingers the amount of times she has ever cried. But before she's been too much of a girl. And now she is too much of a woman.

 

And what else is there to do? There is blood on her hands. So much blood. And no one knows. And no one should.

 

Robert's voice booms above all of them. Even Ned comes in as a second, though perhaps only because he's a more stoic, measured man. They both defend her in all the ways she doesn't need and in none that truly matter. One still wants her as his wife. She is his betrothed. The other still wants her honour intact. She is his sister.

 

The woman who's been tending to her needs vows she has cleaned the mess of a miscarriage, a week following Rhaegar's departure. Lyanna has never asked her to. She is grateful. But Wella would've realized easily that Lyanna's missed her latest moonblood.

 

She is to be a honorable Queen and wife in less than a week. That should solve all her problems and make her happy. Perhaps. It surely does the trick for other people involved.

 

She scrubs hard at her skin in the bathtub as if she could escape it and be free of it, if she scrubbed hard enough. She is just broken, the maids whisper. Everybody knows what happened to her , they nod wisely at each other.

 

Only Benjen does know. She throws herself in his arms and he holds her like he understands what he does it for. And this finally helps. She doesn't cry again. Not at all for moons. Not like that for many years.

 

"Stay with me," she begs him. There is something both fierce and desperate in the way she begs it of him. Her eyes are hard, but still watery. Her hands clasp his in an iron grip, but they tremble.

 

Benjen looks at her sadly. There is guilt there as well. He gulps. "I am joining the Night's Watch in a moon's turn."

 

"Why? You could be a Kingsguard soon. Be someone's squire. Win your knighthood. And we can be together."

 

"I could not. I cannot. I don't want to be a knight anymore. I don't want to. Not when the  Kingsguard slays their charge and knights kill helpless children. Maybe all the songs were wrong all along."

 

"Maybe they are."

 

"I don't want to leave you here, either, where they killed a queen and her babes before, already. Do you want to run? If you do, I will come with you. Wherever."

 

"Oh, Ben," she holds his hand softly, with a sad look in her eyes, "That can also ever be just a song."

 

She doesn't think of Robert above her. She doesn't think of any other in his stead. She thinks of nothing, her own skin not that of a woman, completely disconnected from the reality of her body, of her life.

 

She hears Queen Rhaella is dead (in childbed, a terrible death for a woman, but royal women have had worse deaths lately). Two of the Kingsguard she's sent on their way are dead. Arthur Dayne is gone missing, at least. And so are the children. Prince Viserys and a little girl the Queen has birthed. Daenerys Stormborn, they called her. Ser Willem Drarry was supposedly part of the smuggling party, too.

 

And soon in the whirlwind of her life stays Ser Barristan before them. She is in a lower chair next to the Iron Throne. Her womb is getting hard to touch. When did she even get there?

 

They are discussing his possible pardon. Oh, and how she wants him there. Someone who knows . Someone who she might find faithful confidence in. Someone who could truly protect her.

 

But before she knows what she's doing, her conscience speaks above her, and above all powerful men around her, no matter the lack of wisdom in it, "He should not be killed, for he is a brave man. But his loyalties ought to be doubted. He has served under House Targaryen for more than half his life, after all. He ought to be relinquished of his white cloak, and be exiled, with the rest of them."

 

There is a brief silence in the room, as if none of those present have known that the small, frail lady could talk.

 

"I do believe a man such as-," some manly voice is eventually counteracting, but she's grievously pulling through, too numb to head the warning.

 

"I don't want him here," Lyanna blurts out plainly, throwing what she hopes is a meaningful look at Robert.

 

The King must have seen something significant enough in his wife's countenance, for he agrees, "The Queen has spoken. And I stand by her judgement. Ser Barristan may live, but never as a Kingsguard, and not in this Kingdom."

 

She gives him a real grateful look then, and he seems almost giddy to receive it, although he has no idea what he has truly done for her.

 

She hopes Ser Barristan will understand, however. And if he doesn't, his prior loyalties and his present spite for the lot of them murderers might turn him in the right direction regardless. To Essos. To those poor children. They need all the help they can get.

 

For the length of many moons, she doesn't think of much. She doesn't think of who she has once wanted to be or who she is now. The life in her belly is her one obsession. The one part of her she's still sure to be living. Her only motivation in a life that's come to shambles.

 

She worries and she frets, day and night. What if the Targaryen blood will show? What if everyone else will get their victory and she and her babe will die?

 

And sometimes she illogically wants them in their babe. The hair. The eyes. Either. Both. She wants to know what she would feel at the sight of them. Would she curse his name or cry? Or curse his name and cry?

 

(And other times she wants to die, too).

 

She wants a sign it has been real. She wants to find out if it has even been real. The love, the devotion, the plans. Has it been worth it? The war. Her family. Could she ever look Ned in the eyes and tell him the truth, worse than he could ever imagine?

 

But she knows she can't really tell him. She can't tell anyone. The whispers are all around her. The suspicions. The quick curving of her belly. And, eventually, the early birth.

 

But the Grand Maester stands in the place that he is for his politics, not his medical excellence. He looks at Lyanna's petite figure (and growing thinner) and assumes it as a matter of disproportions. The early birth as unnatural sickness and complications.

 

The pains have been coming and going for months. She's been expected to miscarry for a long time. The babe is too small, and comes out with the cord around his neck, though gladly not yet tightly. Barely saved in time. A miracle intuition for the babe, it's assumed. Coming out in time to save himself and the mother.

 

"The babe would've twisted around more and more, strangling itself and dooming the mother if it would've ended up legs first," he muses, running his hand through his white beard.

 

(It helps that it's what his very King wants to hear).

 

The soft mop of black hair, washed in his mother's blood looks vindictive enough for many. The two moons of being bedridden and possibly dying on her part, even more. Men are satisfied with the suffering. They are ready to show benevolence towards the poor creature.

 

Lyanna is only seventeen, and already a widow, and a mother, and a wife to a second husband. She's been a princess by one dynasty, and she is a Queen by another.

 

They point to the shape of Jon's eyes (something the Baratheons got from their Targaryen side), how it's all his, and the curly black hair, too (the black hair, hers; the curly hair from the Targaryens, too).

 

(But no one notes any details the King wouldn't want to hear. They may even not think anything of the kind themselves, altogether. It has all come to the result they wanted. They have won all they wanted to win. Most of them).

 

He agrees wholeheartedly. She can almost not hate him when he does all that. But there are hard, trembling, and dark feelings beneath her somewhere, in spite of her numbness. It's not quite like the dread she used to feel for him as her betrothed. It's different. She doesn't know in what way. She doesn't care.

 

Lyanna does not think much of it. Her mind - the state of it, the blankness - is sixteen again. Sometimes younger. She doesn't feel. She doesn't breath more than necessary.

 

She is a bird for a long time. Chirping whatever song people want to hear. Her big fangs now a funny coloured beak, her once big claws now barely pointy rusty needles.

 

The day she finally gets to hold her boy, really look at him, is the first the glassy vacancy in her eyes melts and she cries. But these tears come from a weĺl of happiness.

 

Of all the talks she's heard around her, in her in-and-out hazy state - heavily drugged with painkillers - of the last many weeks, they did not give the babe much of a chance. Sickly. Pale. Small and thin. Barely made a sound. Barely breathed.

 

But the boy she meets when finally they allow it to her is well past all that. The length of half a finger longer, a fist heavier in weight, hands and lungs calling out for his needs.

 

Robert named him Jon . After Jon Arryn, presumably. No question was posed as to whether she has an opinion in the naming. Not that she has been in a state to answer for the most part. Not that she thinks she might have been asked otherwise. It doesn't matter. He is who he is. And a name is just a name. She will get to love the sound of it regardless, once she connects it with the image of those small, grabby hands.

 

"We are strong beasts, you and I, Jon. We are not meant to die in their hands." She kisses his little head. And he receives it with a little sigh that melts her heart.

 

And they both live. And grow. And thrive. For if she still hides her fangs, she does so knowingly, now. And if he grows his, not many think it unnatural. He is their Crown Prince and it is only expected.

 

Lyanna's stomach never grows with child again, even if, of course she is expected to, and there is scorn and gossip about her failing her due somehow through it.

 

But she does gain a healthy, attractive weight and bloom, and goes through the trouble of wearing her satins and jewellery with grace and elegance, and the King is known to frequent her chambers, hence that she is straying from her duty or not putting in the adequate effort cannot be said.

 

Robert's unfaithfulness, in spite of her lack of complaint to her own duty as a wife, does not unfaze her. But they mortify her sensible son and the already stiff, incompatible relationship between himself and the one he calls father . Lyanna does nothing to remedy that opinion. Firstly, because she does not want Jon to carry more respect for that kind of behaviour than it is due. Secondly, because her son is too much a bright and insightful young boy to even try to fool him in that regard or any, especially in regards to Robert's lame efforts as father, husband, and King, which he's been witness to every day of his life.

 

Robert can't even see his own wrongdoings in the matter. His wife is 'understanding' of his needs, and that is all his conscience requires.

 

Upon a more or less official visit in the North, as Robert is taking quite the liberties with some serving maid coming close to fill up his wine goblet, she can see the mortification and colour on her son's face and the strain in stopping himself from remarking something, lest he causes a bigger scene.

 

The Northeners, her brother included, have a generally disppleased reaction, their opinions to such behaviour much less liberal than in the South, especially with the Queen being a former Lady of House Stark, though they have an even less authority in chastising their own chosen King. Ned himself is daring to turn a dark look towards it, until the girl, at least, takes the hint in finding a way to escape the scene.

 

Lyanna acts in the both dignified and complacent manner she's gotten used to adapting to in these scenarios, and the storm passes. Besides, she has more urgent matters to take care of.

 

She bids her time until the welcoming feast turns towards the end, and later corners Ned in his private study.

 

"Lyanna," he looks up at her from a very brooding, glaring stare he's been giving his own desk.

 

"Pour us both a drink. We both need it, and we might as well accept it and take it more discreetly and dignified than others," Lyanna says, taking the seat across from him.

 

"Are you ok? You look tired, Lya," Ned replies, but he complied, pouring wine in two cups, a less generous amount for her than for him. She almost smiles. He can't know how generously she sometimes pours it for herself in private lately, compared to the careful sips she tastes during public affairs.

 

"Is this about what I witnessed today? With Robert? For how long has this been going on?" He goes on with obvious concern.

 

Lyanna huffs. "It's many years too late to worry about Robert's character and habits, isn't it?"

 

"For how long has this been going on, Lyanna?" he insists.

 

"For as long as we can both remember, Ned," Lyanna sighs, but decides not to trouble her brother any longer - not about that , all the same. "But I wanted to talk to you about something else, Ned. Something more important."

 

"What is more important than your own well being?"

 

"Many things, really," Lyanna replies, smiling sadly at the sincerity of his declaration. She puts down her drink and takes a gentle hold of his hand from across the table. "Robert will propose to make you Hand of the King. It might have been obvious by this unexpected visit, so soon after Jon Arryn's death."

 

By the look on her brother's face, it wasn't that obvious for him, but she continues, "I want you to turn it down, no matter how hard it ever was for you to turn down a dutiful request - or any proposition of my husband's, for that matter. Do it as nicely as you can, but do turn it down."

 

"I…," Ned frowns, putting his wine glass down as well. "I can't say I would be enthusiastic about it in the least, but why do you personally wish for me to turn it down?"

 

Lyanna downs her portion of wine in one go and licks her lips, pondering on how to even go about her worries.

 

***

 

"-and he declined my offer of marriage between Jon and his pretty eldest daughter, too, the bloody fool!" Robert is ranting later. "She'd be a bloody Queen, that daughter of his, in some years. What more does he want to think of it for?"

 

Lyanna takes a deep breath, keeping a casual demeanour. In spite of the many indications that her husband might stray to some other bed for the night, he ended up at her door, and she had no choice but to let him in. Gladly for her, she's downed a couple more wine cups by that time. Even better, he seems to have had even a few more. So this will be over soon.

 

"It's not that he thinks it a bad match, obviously," she speaks calmly, patiently, "She is young still. Not yet a flowered woman. And besides, perhaps it would look like too much favouritism against the other reputable families with eligible daughters of appropriate age. Myrcella, your niece, is about the same age as Sansa, you may remember, and also a cousin to Jon. I know the Lannisters would feel slighted if we didn't at least give her a chance. Then there's a Tyrell girl, too. They used to be Targaryen loyalists, so we might also consider strengthening their allegiance.

 

"We could invite them all to court in a couple years' time, as my ladies in waiting. And the young people would get to have their own courting. Jon could get the chance to have a choice in all this, too, by getting to meet and consider them all."

He agrees, of course. It's one less decision for him to take or account for. And she goes to join him with a heart both easier and heavier.

 

With Robert she can deal. And if that's not the case with Tywin Lannister when he inevitably takes his place as Hand, she may still use Robert having the last word in most matters as a way to placate him.

All the same, it's for the best, as long as she can keep her family away from the game. Decisions she may manage to undo, but the people she loves she cannot bring from the dead. And she has seen too much already of how one person or another may find ways to fall, as power passes from one hand to another.