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There and back again

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CATELYN

After her husband had told her that Jon´s mother had died birthing him, she was hunted by guilt. She remembered the day when she had entered the sept her husband had built her and prayed that his bastard would die.

But when she had heard that his mother was dead, dead and never coming back, she had begged her husband to give the boy the Stark name and be done with it, as long as he was not placed in the line of succession. Even though she felt a little guilty, she didn’t want the bastard to usurp her children.

Ned had refused. She had never been as surprised by anything in her life before. He had told her that Jon´s fate was not to be a Stark, and one day she would understand why and that he hoped that she could forgive him. Then he had left their chambers so that she could think.

Catelyn was watching the boy now, he was sitting beside Robb and listening to her son as he rambled on about something that she couldn’t hear.

In the last few days she had noticed a change in the boy, he was less sullen than he had been before. The sullen expression on his face had given into seriousness. It was like he had changed overnight. He like Robb had always been a talented pupil when training with a sword, but one day it was like he had grown into a master swordsman. Catelyn had to admit to herself that it irked her, knowing that the bastard was more talented with the sword than her son was.

Maybe the rumors of Ned having an affair with Ashara Dayne was true after all, her brother was Arthur Dayne, the sword of the morning and the most skilled sword ever lived if the stories were true. So, maybe the boy had inherited the skill of the Dayne´s with a sword.

Even though Ned had told her that the boy’s mother was dead it still stung that her husband had another child with a woman, but she felt a little calmer knowing that he wasn´t sneaking of to see Jon Snow´s mother every time he went to Wintertown. Then the guilt returned. She felt relieved that the boy didn’t have a mother. And again, she felt that she was the worst woman in the world.

Now not only didn’t he have the hope of one day meet his mother, but now he had no hope of ever being a Stark. Not for the first time, she didn’t understand her husband thinking. What were his plans for Jon Snow? He had made it clear that he would never be a Stark, and therefore he could never inherit Winterfell, much to Catelyn´s relief. But what could Ned be planning for the boy?

Sansa was also sitting beside the boy, she looked strange in her borrowed pants and with her hair tied in a northern fashion. Catelyn´s elder daughter had always favored the styles of the south but now she was dressed in a boys northern clothing that Catelyn didn’t recognize.

This was not Robb´s old clothing, he would not have lent his sister his old clothing. He was still too angry at his father for letting the girls join them. No, these clothing didn’t look as expensive as Robb´s. Could she have gotten them from the bastard? No Cat didn’t think so. He and Sansa weren’t that close. She must have asked the servant girls for something to wear in the training yard.

That was something that had surprised her, her husband putting Sansa and soon Arya in the lessons with the boys. Cat was glad that her daughter would be learning how to handle the duties of a lord, it would help them when it came time for them to advice their husbands, but she did not agree with them learning how to wield weapons. It was un lady like and she didn’t want her daughters doing it.

Didn’t Ned know how hard it was for a girl to find a husband if she wielded a weapon, no respectable man would want them. Well, some men would probably look past it with Sansa, she was growing into the perfect beautiful lady and if Catelyn acted quickly, she could put a stop to this silliness of the girls learning how to use weapons.

SANSA

Her new clothes or Jon´s old clothes rather, felt strange. For the first time in her life she was wearing pants. She wasn’t sure she like it. Sansa was so used to be wearing dresses, but Jon had insisted that she should wear pants for the occasion. She was also wearing one of his old tunics and a jerkin over the tunic.

But the fact she had never worn clothes like this before was not the worst part, no it was the horrible, amazing smell that came from them. After the shock of coming back had worn of, all those feelings had come rushing back like a river being let loose from a dam.

She had held those feeling locked inside her and tried never letting them out. She couldn’t let anyone see that she had fallen in love with Jon Snow.

At first it had been because he was her half-brother, then it was because he was with the dragon queen, but when she had thought that she could finally have him, that awful thing that had killed her brother, had sent Jon to the wall to take the black.

She had been so overwhelmed with emotions the day before, that she hadn’t even thought about Jon like that, but now it was different. She was just glad that they were in their younger bodies, so she wasn’t physically attracted to him yet.

But she knew that it would come sooner rather than later most likely. She could remember how handsome he would grow up to be. How soft his curly hair looked when he tied it behind his head, or how his trimmed beard accented his well-shaped jaw. How the scar over his eye didn’t take anything away from his handsome features, but instead gave his face something distinguished instead.

Sansa was violently pulled from her mental drooling of adult Jon, by the younger one.  He beaconed her to follow him to the yard. While she would be training with Robb and Theon, Jon would be training with the older men.

She was very nervous for today. She was going to her first ever weapons training in either of her lives and that thought terrified her more than she wanted to admit. But she would meet this head on like any other challenge that came her way.

It turned out that she didn’t need to worry. Ser Rodrick assured her the first few lessons would be how to hold the sword and how to strike with it. So, her opponent would be a straw man and not her brother or Theon. But after the practice she was covered with sweat and all her muscles were sore.

Ser Rodrick was a good teacher, but he had made it clear to her that it would take time for her to master the sword, so she would have to be patient and it would become easier in time.

Her lessons with maester Luwin however was something she excelled in immediately. Much to Robb´s and Theon´s annoyance. She didn’t understand why on earth Robb was so against her joining their lessons. He didn’t have a problem with Jon joining.

She just hoped that he would get over it soon, she wanted her brother back. But for now, she had more important thing to worry about. After her lessons with maester Luwin with the boys, it had been time for sewing lessons with septa Mordane. That lesson had been a nightmare.

The entire time the septa had been complaining about Sansa learning swordsmanship. Like it was any of her business. She had called it barbaric that ladies were forced to learn how to use weapons and that they had no place learning such things. Jeyne Poole and Beth Cassel had both nodded their head in agreement, but Arya didn’t.

As Sansa sat there and sewed, she could see her sister´s face turn red with anger. But before Arya could start to scream her head off, Sansa intervened.

“Are you calling the people of the North barbarians, septa?” Septa Mordane started to lose the color in her face, it wouldn’t be good for her to call them barbarians to their face.  The room was completely silent as they all waited for an answer.

“No, of course not, Lady Sansa. I didn’t mean it like that.” The septa started to stutter a little and Sansa felt almost sorry for her, almost.

“Are you then calling my father a barbarian?” By now all the color had been drained from the woman´s face. Calling the people of the north barbarians was one thing but calling the lord of Winterfell a barbarian was another thing entirely.

“I would never call a lord of a great house a barbarian. What has gotten into you young lady?” Sansa could only remember the old septa being this angry at her sister.

“You just said that the people who let their ladies’ practice with swords were barbarians, and the people of the north have been doing that for hundreds of years if not thousands and now my father is doing this was well. And people who do barbaric things are barbarians are they not septa?” Sansa waited for an answer that never came, as the septa just stared at her. Sansa could feel the gaze of her sister on her. Sansa supposed that this would go a long way to start to fix their relationship, but there was still a long way to go.

 

ROBB

It wasn’t that he hated his sister, for joining their lessons. It wasn’t her fault, not really. He knew that he was being unreasonable, but he had wanted Jon and Theon in the lessons, not the girls. Girls were silly and only wanted to sing songs and do lady thing. Well, all girls except for Arya. But she was special, she was the only girl that was fun. All the other girls in Winterfell, including Sansa wanted to do lady things. Why couldn’t his father see that?

His mother had always said that ladies didn’t use weapons and it was his job to protect them and make sure that they were save. Didn’t his father think that Robb was up to the job of protecting his sisters? Was his father ashamed of him?

Jon didn’t seem to mind that the girls were learning how to use a sword, in fact Jon was encouraging Sansa to use one, and Robb had heard Jon tell her that if she needed any help, all she would have to do was ask.

Robb could finally understand Arya in her annoyance of Sansa. For a long time now there had been an animosity between the Stark sisters, but Robb had never understood Arya´s feeling of ineptitude when she was compared to Sansa in her lessons. But now as Sansa had joined their lessons, he could understand Arya´s plight. Sansa was so effortlessly good at the lessons that Robb felt like a failure next to her.

Robb was supposed to the next lord of Winterfell and the warden of the north and he was being out done by his own sister. Something that Theon kept on reminding him.

Robb had been wandering aimlessly though the hall of Winterfell, when he found himself at the entrance of the library of Winterfell. The library was one of the biggest in Westeros and in the last few days it had become a second home to Robb´s bastard brother, Jon Snow.

It took some time for Robb to find Jon, but eventually Robb found his brother, Jon was half buried in books and papers were all around him. Robb had to admit that as he looked over the papers that he didn’t fully comprehend whatever there was on them, but to him it seemed like Jon was working on improvements for the castles on the wall and the lands surrounding it.

“What are you doing?” The heir to Winterfell had to know what on earth his brother was doing.

Jon looked up from whatever he was doing and looked at him. Over the last few days, Robb had noticed that Jon had changed a lot. Not only had he become a master swordsman over night, but he also had started to haunt the library more than Robb thought healthy for a person that wasn’t a maester.

“I am looking over everything we have on the castles of the wall and seeing if I can make some improvements.” This answer baffled Robb, why would Jon be concerned about the night´s watch? Jon could be outside playing with his siblings and causing trouble with Robb. Why on earth would he choose to be here in the library looking though dusty old books about the watch?

“Why would you do that? It sounds really boring.” The darker haired boy raised an eyebrow at that.

“That may be, but it is needed. The nights watch had been in a decline for the past century if not more and they need help if they are going to defend the realms of men. Only three of the castles on the wall are manned and even they barely have the men to defend those castles.”

Robb had known that they watch was declining but he didn’t know that it was this bad. While he didn’t believe old nan´s stories of the Others coming south with their giant ice spiders that were as big as hounds, Robb did believe in wildlings and he knew that they were always coming south to kidnap girls and kill people.

What if they came south and tried to take his sisters, he could prove to his father that he could protect Sansa and Arya by helping Jon, helping the night´s watch. Yes, that could work and then his father would see him for the worthy successor that Robb was.

“What can I do to help?”

 

JON

Over the last few days, Jon had been putting together a plan for lord Stark to help the nights watch. It was hard but rewarding work. It had been Jon´s dream as lord commander of the nights watch to man all the castles on the wall and restore the watch to its former glory but he couldn’t do that in his last life. But now with the help of the lord of Winterfell and the warden of the north, that dream seemed to be in Jon´s grasp.

Robb walking into the library and offering his help had been a surprise. Jon loved Robb like a brother, but the heir to Winterfell, as Jon was seeing for the first time, was very spoiled and his view of the world was very narrow and limited.

Jon remembered when he had arrived at the wall for the first time and seen, thanks to Tyrion Lannister, that he himself had been spoiled and had thought way too much of himself and his abilities. Jon could never thank the smaller man enough for opening his eyes to the truth, that Jon had grown up having a lot of privileges that were denied to most other people.

Sure, lady Catelyn despised the very sight of him, but he had never gone to bed hungry or cold. That was a lot more than most people could claim.

Robb on the other hand didn’t have a Tyrion Lannister to make him see the error in his ways, and Jon doubted that the heir to Winterfell would take kindly to his bastard brother trying to make him see how privileged he really was, especially with Theon whispering in his ear.

Theon had been much worse that he had been in Jon´s former life. Jon could tolerate the ironborn in the last life but now Theon took every opportunity he could get to remind Jon of his bastard status. But for Jon it was much easier to take than before. Jon had taken Tyrion´s advice to heart and made his bastard status his armor and that was before he had learned that he really wasn’t a bastard, but a trueborn son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. That was more that the ironborn could ever claim.

Jon suspected that Theon was telling Robb that Jon was after his place as the future lord of Winterfell, but Jon highly doubted that Robb believed him. However, Jon knew that he had to be careful not to do anything that could reinforce that believe into Robb´s mind. Jon didn’t want Robb thinking that Jon was after Winterfell and the north.

But Robb helping Jon with his work in improving the castles of the nights watch, could help the heir to Winterfell see the suffering some people had to live with and how fortunate they were being raised in Winterfell.

As they sat together and worked on their plans, Jon could help but to notice that something seemed to be on Robb´s mind.

“What´s bothering you?” Jon asked after a little while. His cousin seemed to think about telling Jon his troubles for a while, but then he sighed.

“I don’t understand why father would let the girls use weapons like boys. Both mother and septa Mordane say that ladies don’t use weapons, so why is father making them?” That was still bothering Robb. Sansa and Arya learning how to use swords.

“Because he wants them to know how to defend themselves.” That didn’t seem to stop his cousins worries, in fact it seemed to make him a little mad.

“But ladies aren’t supposed to do that, I am supposed to protect Sansa and Arya. Mother and septa Mordane said so.” His voice had gotten a little louder and Jon could hear the beginning of cracking in it, like he was starting to cry.

But it hit Jon there, Robb´s problem wasn’t with the girls learning how to fight, not really. His mother had told him that he was supposed to protect his sisters and then his father had put the girls in weapons training. Making the heir to Winterfell feel inadequate at protecting his sisters and probably making him think that he wasn’t good enough.

“Robb.” The ten-year old looked up from the table and to Jon. “It´s great that you want to protect Sansa and Arya, but someday they are going to get married and leave Winterfell and you won’t be able to protect them anymore.”

“But then their husbands will protect them.” Jon could see the fear in Robb´s eyes. His cousin was waiting for Jon to confirm his believes, but Jon couldn’t do that to him, the heir to the north had to know the truth.

“And who will protect them from their husbands?”

The young boy seemed so lost. “Why would their husbands hurt them?” It his Jon full force then, this wasn’t the boy Jon had grown up with, not really. That boy had been murdered and betrayed by who he thought were his allies, because he hadn’t been prepared for the world like it really was. The Robb he grew up with hadn’t been prepared for the political game that was being played, he hadn’t been prepared for the depth some men would sink to win the game of thrones or the consequences it brought to offend men like Walder Frey.

But this Robb had the potential to learn that before anything happened and to be prepared to learn how play the politics like Sansa had. Jon doubted that Robb would be as good as Sansa, Robb was much to like his father to be a great political player. But he could learn enough to know that in war, the politics mattered, just as much as the battles being won and lost.

“Not all men are good Robb, like Aerys Targaryen, he liked to hurt his wife with the king´s guard standing outside the door, and they did nothing.” Jon was really glad that Tyrion had told him that story. At the time neither man had known that Tyrion was talking about Jon´s grandfather, but the horror stories that Ser Jaime had told his brother about Aerys had rattled Jon when he had time to talk to Tyrion on Dragonstone.

A part of Jon hoped that Tyrion would be one of the people that remembered and a part of him hoped that he wasn’t one of them. When Jon had gotten to know Tyrion, he had been so unnervingly smart that it was a little frightening, but when he had meet him again on Dragonstone, Tyrion had been so preoccupied with impressing Daenerys that there had been little room for anything else.

But Tyrion had been the one to make Jon see reason and the need to eliminate the dragon queen. If she hadn’t been, Jon doubted that there would have been much of Westeros left after she was done.

Jon looked at his cousin. Robb seemed a little lost, his father had always told them it was a man duty to protect his family and now Robb was learning for the first time that not all men held that to a high standard, not even a king.

“That is why lord Stark is training his daughters how to wield weapons, so that they can defend themselves if need be.” The young heir seemed to take that as a good enough excuse for Lord Stark to let his daughters learn how to defend themselves.

As much a child Robb was now, he loved his sisters and wouldn’t want them hurt. After that they buried their heads in the books and plans for the watch. But Jon could see that Robb felt better knowing that his father wasn’t making his sisters learn how use weapons because he thought that Robb was inadequate, but because he didn’t want them hurt.

They managed to put the finishing touches on the plans just before dinner. They packed up their plans and made their way to the great hall. Robb was almost bouncing up and down with the excitement of presenting their plans to his father. Like Jon, Robb had grown up trying to seek the approval of his father, and everything that Robb did was always painted with that brush.

Jon had learned some time ago that it didn’t pay to try to life his way like that. A man gets what he earns when he earns it, his uncle Benjen had told him once and now Jon tried to life by those words. Jon thought it was a good code to life by in this new life.

As much anger he had felt for his uncle for not telling him what the nights watch had been, it had taught him so many things that he doubted he would have learned elsewhere, and what would have happened if he hadn’t been there to save lord commander Mormont. But Jon didn’t want to give his uncle to much credit, the result hadn’t been the intent of Ned Starks plan. If he had a plan that was.

Jon knew best of all that his uncle had his limitations and strengths. Eddard Stark was a capable military commander and could lead men into battle, but as a political player he left a lot to be desired. Or he had been in the last life, hopefully he had learned from his experiences like Jon and Sansa had. Not that Jon himself was a very capable political player, but he hoped with time that Sansa could teach him a thing or two.

His uncle seemed to be on board to dispose of Robert Baratheon and place Jon on the iron throne, if the looks at the very mention of Roberts name were anything to go by. Over the last few days, every time that Robert´s very name came up, his uncle looked like somebody had taken a shit in his dinner. But thankfully he didn’t say anything.

Jon and Robb sat down at the table. Robb immediately sat next to Sansa and apologized for his behavior and said that he should have been a better big brother. That made Jon smile, even though Robb had always been very smart, it was a little surprising to see how little work it had taken for Jon to make him see sense. It also seemed to make Sansa incredibly happy to know that her brother wasn’t angry at her, and that was worth all the hard work in the world.

In the past life, Robb had been a very capable military leader like his father, but he had lacked education in the political maneuvering that was needed alongside the military actions that he was taking. Like keeping his word at marring the girl he had promised to marry and not putting the Westerling girl´s honor above his own.

Then again promising Walder Frey not only Robb´s hand for one of his girls but also Arya´s, had been very stupid. Not only the heir but also one of the future lords sister, for one minor house of the Riverlands, a house that should have gone and defended their sworn lord anyway had to marry into a great house twice over to defend their liege lord and no one smelled something fishy at that?

Then again Jon had to bend the knee to get Daenerys Targaryen to help save the continent she intended to rule, so who was he to judge.

 

EDDARD

He was very glad when dinner was over, his wife had tried to persuade him to make Sansa not learn how to wield weapons, but when he had said that Cat would not be able to change his mind on the matter of the girls learning how to handle weapons, she had stormed off in a huff. But at least she had stopped trying to send Jon away, that was at least something. Eddard had noticed that his wife had been a little calmer at knowing that her husband wasn’t going off to see Jon´s mother. It turned out that Sansa was right about his wife had been worried about him having an affair.

Ned couldn’t blame her, not really. He hadn’t been the best husband in the world and to the best of her knowledge, he had brought a bastard home from the war, but that didn’t give Catelyn an excuse to take her anger out on Jon. Her anger should have been directed at him, and Ned knew that he deserved it.

Ned had time to think in the black cells in king´s landing. One of his regrets had not been to tell Jon of who his mother was before he had left for the wall. That still haunted him, and it would continue to haunt him until he died a final time. Ned knew that he was just as guilty of depriving Jon of his birthright as Robert and the Lannisters.

He should have planned for placing Jon on the throne the entire time, he had known in his heart that Robert would have made for an awful king, and his brothers wouldn’t be any better, just a different kind of awful.

Ned knew in his heart that Jon would be a better king that any of the Baratheon brothers would be. Not that it was hard to better than them.

There was a knock on his door and in walked Robb and Jon. Robb seemed very proud of himself and Jon seemed amused but tried not to let it show.

Jon seemed to be content to let Robb present the plans for the watch that Ned had asked Jon for. Ned had agreed with Jon that the watch need all the help they could get, as they were the first line of defense against the Others. The plan was good and very sound, this would help the nights watch and get more men to volunteer if they were desperate enough.

It was a known fact that as soon as the castles on the wall had started to crumble and the food supply had gotten smaller, the men stopped coming. The men went were the food went and if there was food on the wall, the men went to the wall.

But it would be expensive to start paying for the glass gardens and the repairs of the castles and the north wouldn’t be able to support it alone as it was. They would need the support of the crown at first, and that alone would be difficult. Ned knew that the crown owed money to everyone and Robert loved his tourneys and feast too much to stop spending money on them anytime soon.

Ned would have to discuss it with Jon and Sansa when Robb wasn’t in the room. But Ned was very happy with the fact that Robb had helped Jon with the plan. It would help him in the future when he was the lord of Winterfell and Warden of the north.

In his last life, Ned hadn’t taught his children well enough to survive in the world. He could see that after Jon had told him what had happened after he had died. The mistakes he and his family had made would not be repeated, ever again.

Ned knew now that he needed to make sure that his children would learn the ways of the North, of their land and their people. In his last life he had let his wife take charge of their upbringing as was custom, but he would not let that happen now.

Ned would make sure that they would have the best education they could possibly have, maester Luwin was a very good teacher and of course he would continue, but maybe the maester could start teaching them more things, like healing and other things that could be useful in the years to come.

Ned dismissed the boys as he continued to look over the plans. These were really good and if they could start on them, it would go a long way to help the nights watch.

Ned had sent a letter to the wall, asking his brother Benjen to come to Winterfell to discuss the watch and what they needed the most. Yes, Ned had Jon to talk to and to be honest, Jon probably knew more about what the watch needed but having Benjen come to Winterfell and talk to him about the watch and their needs would help to show that Ned was listening to his peoples worries.

Ned´s ears were still ringing after Sansa had given him a lecture on the importance of politics and not just doing whatever Ned thought was right. While he didn’t enjoy being lectured by Sansa, he had to admit she was right. He needed to be careful moving forward.

But first he had to write a letter to Robert and try to persuade him to send money for the wall, if that succeeded, it would go along way to help the watch.