Water drips over his head in the dark room. There is a bit of light coming under the door. It moves as the boat moves with the harsh waves, flickering up and down the wall. It takes some of the fear away while it adds to the misery and feeling of sickness in his stomach.
Jon wiggles his body from side to side on the hard floor; flexing his fingers and trying to keep the blood moving in his hands tied in front of him without waking the little girl next to him. Lyarra is dead weight at side, snoring lightly the same way her mother does though they each deny doing such.
Lyarra’s red hair tickles Jon’s nose but he does his best to keep quiet so their captors will not come in.
They have not been treated terribly. Jon was punched a few times in the face and stomach and hit over the head, but it is nothing compared to what he has faced before. Lyarra, however, has nary a starch on her.
It is about the only thing he is thankful for in this moment.
Jon spares a thought to Sansa, his poor sister/cousin/Queen who had been so distraught when she had heard of the death of her husband and capture of her daughter that she had actually cried. Sansa has not cried in years, not since the birth of her children.
She had cried great hiccupping sobs into Jon’s chest that night she received word while she begged and begged Jon to take her offer of a pardon and save her little girl from the same fate Sansa herself had faced as a little girl.
Jon sighs as Lyarra stirs a bit and then settles back down. Jon will keep his promise. He will keep Lyarra safe from their Ironborn captors and he will ensure that she makes it safely home to her mother’s waiting arms.
But he will not take a full pardon.
He drifts in and out of consciousness though he does not know for how long. Days certainly, maybe weeks, it is possible it has even been a moon’s turn or more. Lyarra is bored and can only sleep so often so Jon comes up with games for her. He asks questions and quizzes her on her studies. Jon thinks Sansa would like that he keeps up her work on numbers and sums. But she is still a little girl, in a little body, who is used to having the run of a very large castle.
She is not made for being kept in a small room on a ship that seems to travel endlessly.
Their captors, who are most certainly serving under Yara Greyjoy, mostly leave them be though there is a young boy a few years older than Lyarra’s seven who brings them cards and game pieces.
“Uncle Jon?” Lyarra asks quietly, she has been so quiet from the beginning that it worries Jon, “When’s mama coming?”
Jon smiles at the little girl, the very reflection of her Queen mother in both looks and temperament, and answers, “Soon sweet girl. It takes time for news to travel but your mama knows by now and I guarantee she has already called the rest of the banners and raised an army to come save us.”
Jon had only brought the men already at Winterfell and those within a three-day ride with him, meaning his forces only equaled 500 or so. Enough to beat the handful of Ironborn who had attacked White Harbor, killed the prince consort, and kidnapped the princess. It was thought that they only had 50 ships or so and very few men experienced in land warfare.
His men had joined with the Manderly navy in what they thought would be a rough but short-lived battle.
They were right, mostly. The Ironborn fleet was small and outnumbered even by the small army Jon had at his disposal and they had all but won. Until Yara Greyjoy herself knocked Jon over the head.
He had woken next to his sobbing niece who thought he had died like her father.
For that he did not think he could ever forgive the Greyjoy’s.
They are in the middle of a rousing battle of running in place until one of them drops, a game Lyarra loves so long as Jon adds monster noises to it, when the door opens and a young boy who Jon thinks is a Greyjoy cousin possibly named Edd walks in and says, “Lord Snow you are wanted above deck.”
Hope and fear war within him. This could mean Sansa has come but it also could mean that he is to be killed. And what will happen to Lyarra in the meantime?
He decides that she will need to come with him and reaches for her hand only for the sniveling man to hold up his own hand and say, “Not the girl, just you.”
Jon glances around hoping for some weapon he hasn’t already thought of to appear and nods. Fighting won’t help right now. Not when they have Lyarra.
“Sweet girl, you wait right here okay. I’ll be back I promise,” Jon says looking her in the eye. She nods back solemnly, and he is again reminded that she is her mother’s daughter.
The man pushes Jon through the ship until they reach a room with a closed door and armed guards standing outside. Stark guards. Through the door Jon can hear loud but civil voices. Including Sansa’s voice.
It is only then that Jon lets out the breath he has been holding for days.
Lyarra is safe.
The guard, a man named Domeric who leads Sansa’s Queensguard opens the door for him while the Greyjoy man pushes him through it. Inside is a small room, though large perhaps for a ship, and a single table. There is a window on the left wall that allows more light than Jon has seen in weeks into the room.
Surrounding the table are Yara, Sansa, two Greyjoy men, Sansa’s Hand Yohn Royce, and the Lord Commander of the Northern Army Wyman Holt.
Sansa tries to smile at him when he walks in but it is forced. She looks happy to see him but shaken; though her daughter is still a hostage so that is expected. What is not expected is Yara’s crackle as she looks at the two of them.
Yara looks over to Jon and says, “It seems your sister really loves you. She has fought for your life twice now.”
Jon nods in Yara’s direction but keeps his eyes on Sansa who is going red in the face.
“Now I knew she loved you in King’s Landing when she not only fought for you but for your crown. Though even I underestimated just how much she loves you it seems.”
Sansa rolls her eyes and says, “Jon the only way Yara will let you and Lyarra leave without another battle is if we marry.”
“Hey now, I thought I got to tell him the good news!” Yara protests but takes in Jon’s stunned look and shrugs, “Oh well. I guess it didn’t take away from the effect.”
“Give us a few moments,” Sansa orders. Royce and Holt each nod and move to leave and Yara nods to her men as well.
“I guess I’ll let you plan the wedding then! It shall take place tomorrow before I let you leave,” Yara says before she leaves the room, followed by Sansa’s men.
Sansa does not look at him as she walks over to the corner and pours two cups of ale, handing one to him when she finishes.
She gulps it down and pours another before pleading, “Please say something,” and taking a seat at the table again.
“I would but I think this is a fever dream,” Jon answers before drinking his own ale.
“I wish it were,” She responds solemnly.
“Why?” Is the only thing he can think to ask.
“Why what? Why did she ask? Why did I agree?”
“Either, both, hell I have no idea,” Jon answers as he sits across from her.
“As for why she wants it, that makes sense. She knows I have given you a role in trade negotiations and put the Night’s Watch in charge of both the Wall and Moat Caitlin. You are, of course, in charge of the Night’s Watch. She is not an idiot. Yara knows that gives you leave to come and go to Winterfell as you please. That is not the punishment she had in mind for you,” Sansa explains.
“So, she’s doing this because I killed Dany ten years ago?” Jon asks.
“In part. Of course, the Ironborn have no love loss for the North and that is certainly a piece of it as well. Mostly though, she just hates House Stark and wants to shame us. She thinks that by making us marry it will at the least undermine my authority and make me look weak. Especially given that she killed my last husband. At most it will make the North rebel. She thinks it will remind our people that you are truly a Targaryen and that they will not want you as my husband. Plus, she knows we will never sleep together which means I will have no more children.”
Jon nods to her, takes another drink, and says, “Is she right?”
“About some of it. It will not bring shame. You are not my true brother and our people know it. They have for a long time. It is undermining my authority but not as much as she thinks. Our people will be upset at me being forced into anything, but they will appreciate not having to battle the Ironborn again and I can certainly spin it in our favor. The wonderful rulers who did so much to save their sons, at whatever cost to themselves. They will not rebel. She underestimates how much they love you.”
“Gods Sansa. What the hell?” Jon sits his cup down on the table and leans forward to rub his eyes.
“We can fight them,” Sansa speaks up, “If you want. Our army is twice the size of theirs, but we don’t have the ships and as prepared as we are for an invasion most of men have never been trained for sea battle. But we could if that is what you wish.”
“No. You’re right. It would take many Northern lives that do not have to be lost,” Jon concedes.
“Jon this isn’t so terrible,” Sansa says after a long silence, “I mean think about it. You can come home. You can leave the Watch for good. You’ll be in Winterfell again. I’ll give you whatever title you wish. You could be a father to Lyarra, Robb, and Rickon. I already have three children, two boys even so we will not need an heir. We never have to touch each other.”
There is certain note in her voice that Jon picks up on. Hope maybe. Jon knows that Sansa wants him back in Winterfell. She has tried many times over the past decade to pardon him or give him a place on her counsel which would keep him in Winterfell more permanently. He has always turned her down. He only took her up on her offer to put him in charge of land-based trade because she wanted to negotiate with the free folk and Jon felt responsible for that relationship. He had only taken her up on her offer to put the Watch in charge of fortifying Moat Caitlin because he wanted to make sure she was safe from the South. That it gave him leave to stop in Winterfell a few times a year was a bonus. Good, certainly, but not the purpose of which.
“Gods Sansa do you really want to marry me?” Jon asks tiredly, “I mean I am hardly the golden-haired prince you dreamed of,” He says trying to get a smile out of her.
She does grace him with a smirk before saying, “Father did not want me to marry Joffrey. He tried to talk me out of the betrothal, and he promised me that he would find me another man to marry. He wanted me to marry someone brave, gentle, and strong. I daresay you fit those requirements. Besides, had things gone differently, had you been raised as you should have been, we may have been married anyhow.”
“Are you sure? I mean Harry just died,” He tries again.
“Jon,” She gives him a look, “You know I cared for Harry as the father of my children, but I did not love him. He was a decent enough man, but he was also a cheater who as fathered three bastards, two during our marriage.”
Jon nods, “Alright then. I guess we are getting married.”