A winter rose sat perched in a small crack on a wall of ice, snowflakes flurrying around it. The northern winds buffeted about him as Jon stood before it, but he felt neither the wind nor the cold. The petals of the rose in front of him were covered with spiky white frost as sharp as the thorns on its stem. Jon could only stare at it, fascinated. Logically he knew it was impossible for a rose to grow out of a wall of ice. And yet, there it sat, as sturdy and sure as if it were in the glass gardens at Winterfell.
Then the rose started to change. Jon watched as the petals grew wet with crimson, heavy droplets of the stuff forming at the end of each petal before dropping and staining the snow below. The smell of it was coppery and warm.
A sense of terror gripped Jon at the sight, although he didn’t know why, which only grew as more drops fell from the rose. Two, three, four, and finely, six. The red stains in the snow grew, and grew, and grew until the scarlet puddle had reached Jon’s feet. By now his heart was racing with fear, pounding hard as a war drum. The last thing he heard before the blood touched him was a woman’s voice, filled with panic and desperation.
Jon woke with a start, sitting bolt upright in his bed. His skin drenched in a sheen of cold sweat. Heart heart hammering away in his chest, just as it had in his dream. His breathes came quickly as well, his chest rising and falling as he struggled for air. This was the fifth time he’d had that dream in the past week. And every night it was the same, except for now, this time he had heard a woman’s voice.
Running a hand down his face, Jon swung his feet over the side of his bed, relaxing some as they hit the cool stone floor. As if the feeling of it grounded him to the present. He breathed in the cool pine scent of his room, which was the same scent as the rest of Winterfell, the great keep of the North.
Breathing shakily, Jon ran a hand down his face, wiping away the dredges of sleep from his eyes. He had been plagued by dreams such as this one for the past month. They weren’t always the same ones, but they were recurring. The bleeding rose however was the most common one. Another one he had had often was eyes as cold and blue as ice, and swords of black glass that swung through the snowy air. He had others, ones that were much more abstract, but they all left him with the same feeling upon his waking. Dread. And this one was no different.
A sudden knock sounded from the door, startling Jon and dragging him from his brooding thoughts. He looked up as his half brother, Robb, stepped into the room.
“Ah, you’re awake.” he noted with a grin.
Jon raised an eyebrow. “You sound surprised.”
“Well,” Robb started. “It’s halfway through the morning already, and you missed breakfast, which Arya’s still mad about,” Jon forced out chuckle at the thought of the nine year old throwing a fit in the hall, spitting bitter remarks which would have earned her a cuff on the ear from their father. “Not that mother minded of course,” Robb added. Jon wouldn't of minded if Robb had neglected to tell him that. Although Catelyn stark was kind enough to allow Jon to stay in her home, that was about the end of her niceties. Jon is and will always remain a bastard and a symbol and constant reminder of his father’s disloyalty to her.
“So what are you doing here?” Jon asked trying to keep the aggravation out of his voice as he stood to get dressed.
“Well, you might remember that you promised me a sparring session today,” Robb said, a smirk forming on his face. “I can see you clearly haven’t forgotten.” The sarcasm was not lost on Jon who swallowed a groan.
“Sorry,” Jon apologized, slipping a shirt over his head. “I didn’t mean to sleep so late.”
“I understand,” Robb said, eyeing his half brother cautiously. “Looks like you needed the extra sleep.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jon retorted.
“Well,” Robb started awkwardly, shifting his stance somewhat. “You haven’t really been at your best of late.”
“Really?” Jon asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes,” Robb confirmed. “And it doesn’t look like you’re getting any better,” he added as he saw Jon let out a huge yawn.
“I’m fine,” Jon lied through the yawn, forcing a smile and some of his typical humor. “I can still beat you in a sparring match ”
He didn’t have to meet his brother’s gaze to know that the young lord was rolling his eyes in exasperation. “You could barely hold a sword like this. It wouldn’t be much of a fight now would it,” Robb sighed. “Not with you half asleep anyways."
Jon fought the urge to roll his eyes. Yes he had been tired of late, he had to admit. But it was only because of the dreams he’d been having. But it wasn’t like he was going to admit that to Robb. The Stark would just laugh at him for letting a few nightmares impede his ability to swing a sword.
‘But they don’t feel like nightmares,’ Jon thought to himself. ‘They feel like a warning.’
“Well, come on then,” Robb said, clapping his hands together and snapping Jon attention back to him. “Let’s find you something to eat and go for a ride. It wouldn’t be a fare fight against you like this,” he smirked. "But if you really want to spar; I suppose Bran needs some training or perhaps Arya." This time Jon did roll his eyes, but followed his brother out of his room anyway. After glancing through the window, he decided to add another layer of clothing anyways before he left. It looked like a cold day outside.
After going to the stables and mounting their steeds, they rode out of Winterfell at a brisk pace, headed for the Wolves Wood. It was a good way to explore without heading too far away from the citadel. Their swords clanked as they bounced up and down on their saddles as the horses continuing at an easy canter.
Sharp wind stung at his face as Jon rode on, whipping his dark curls back from his face. It felt nice, to just ride. The peace and quiet of the North soothing them as if promising a world free of strife. It was unrealistic, but a nice fantasy. They rode on that way in silence for a while longer, enjoying the weak sunlight that managed to filter down through the branches. A light dusting of summer snow covered the ground, turning the forest into a pristine portrait of the north. The horses slowly eased out into a walking pace, which let the two boys enjoy the scenery more.
“So do you want to talk about it?” Robb suddenly asked, breaking the silence.
Jon looked up at him, almost startled by the sudden request. “Talk about what?” He asked, almost hoping Robb wouldn’t mention what he thought he would.
“Come on,” Robb sighed, exasperated. “Do you think I'm a fool?” Jon frowned. “I know you’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. You’re always tired, and when I came to you this morning it looked as if you’d seen a ghost,” he listed off, casting his brother a concerned look. “I just want to know what’s wrong. I hate seeing like this Snow.”
Jon sighed, defeated. It was strange having Robb talk to him about things like this. Normally he was the strong older brother of the Stark brood, ready to fight at any moment but not always good at listening to people's troubles. But nevertheless, he was talking about it, so Jon had to respond.
“It’s nothing,” he insisted. “Just some weird dreams.”
“Weird dreams?” Robb echoed, confusion lacing his tone.
‘He’s not going to let this go,’ Jon thought to himself. ‘Might as well get it over with.’ With a resigned sigh, he started.
“It’s just feelings, and images,” he tried. “Sometimes I see things I know I haven’t. Like a red castle by the sea, and wolves as big as horses,” he started. “But other times, it’s stranger things. Green fire burning across water, a bleeding winter rose, a dragon and a wolf. And each time, I always wake with a feel of dread. Like I’ve seen something I shouldn’t have, or something bad is going to happen because of it.”
“Maybe it’s just your mind playing tricks on you,” Robb suggested. Jon only shook his head.
“No,” he said. “It feels real, each one. Like it’s actually happening somewhere.”
“All dreams feel that way,” Robb replied. “I dreamt once that I was being carried away by an eagle for its children to feast on. Still felt real then.”
Jon let himself smile at the image of an eagle carrying away his large brother for little chicks to nibble at, all the while Robb crying in fear. “An eagle?” Jon chuckled.
“It was a large eagle,” Robb announced defensively. Larger than a horse.”
Jon only let out a laugh, making his brother bristle on his mount. “You try being hundreds of feet up in the air and not feel a little scared,” Robb muttered bitterly, which only made Jon laugh harder.
“When I join the Night's Watch, I just might,” Jon offered, referring to the view he’d get from the top of the wall. After all, it had always been his dream to join the watch.
"So you’re really going then?" Rob asked, looking over at Jon out of the corner of his eye.
"Aye..." Jon trailed off into silence
Robb looked as if he were going to continue but he let their comfortable silence settle around them again, their horses continuing to walk through the forest. Sounds of birds and other small forest creatures hummed in the air, lightening the atmosphere around them.
But now it was getting dull, just the two of them moving slowly through the otherwise still woods. So Jon couldn’t say he was disappointed when Robb suddenly spoke up.
“Race you to the top of the hill, Snow,” Robb challenged, gesturing to the hill crest in the distance. He smirked his wolfish grin as he did.
“You’re on Stark,” Jon said, accepting. Without wasting time, he kicked his horse in the flank and flew off down the path. He heard Robb follow suit and soon the Stark was close on his tail.
The two raced on through the woods, growing closer and closer to the goal. Jon was in the lead, but only barely. Then, Robb past him with a whoop of joy, leaving the other to swallow the snow he’d kicked up whilst doing so. Jon let out a gruff huff, and kicked his horse again. He was going to win this thing, damn it!
Right before he reached base of the hill though, his head exploded in pain. Before he could even scream though, his mind filled with sounds and colors which flew by faster than he could process them. A great fire, the words TRAITOR carved on a post, a head rolling down red stone steps, and so many other things that all filled him with fear. And all the while, his chest burning with pain, like he was being stabbed.
"For the Watch."
He heard the words clearly in his mind.
"For the Watch."
"For the Watch." It was said by not one singular voice but multiple different male voices all of which he had never heard before.
Each time he heard them, sharp pain blossomed in his chest, over and over again.
"For the watch." He screamed in agony.
"For the watch." Why did he feel so betrayed?
"For the Watch."
Ned Stark had been finishing up a meeting with Jory and Rodrik when the sound of a galloping horse made him look up. The sight of Robb with a flushed, scared face, made him pause. He hadn’t seen Robb look truly frightened ever since Old Nan had told him the story of a demon that took naughty children in the night and cooked them up as stew. But this look was different, this one was panic, a haunting, deathly panic.
“Robb,” Ned started. “What is it?”
Robb wasted no time in answering his quarry. “Jon,” he gasped. “The wolfswood, riding, don’t know what’s wrong,” he spewed, rushing his somewhat incoherent sentence to get the point across. “There’s so much blood father.” With that Robb turned his horse and galloped back in the direction he came without saying another word
That was all Ned needed to know for the blood to drain from his face. The look that had been on Robb’s face mirrored exactly how Ned felt. His blood turned to ice and his stomach felt as though it had dropped into the summer snows below his feet. He drew in a shaky breath before addressing Ser Rodrik and with as much strength as he could muster, commanded, “Get my horse.”
Jon felt cold. Colder than he had ever felt in his life. He felt himself shivering hard, trying to fight the feeling. He felt wetness trickling down his face, and soaking his chest with a warm sticky feeling. He clutched absently at his rib cage, which felt like someone had dropped an anvil on it, making his breathes come in short, pained gasps. His body as a whole felt like it was being crushed and sliced apart at the same time, making for a very confusing, painful mess. Why he felt like this, he had no idea. Not that he had much time to think on it, as his mind was slipping in and out of consciousness. Images flashed across his mind. Snippets from past nightmares, and flashes of things he didn’t understand.
Sounds of heavy footfalls made him crack his eyes open. He saw shapes running about around him, the sounds of voices and yelling filled his ears. Someone jostled him, causing him to cry out in pain. More shouting filled the air. Someone was calling his name, repeatedly. They kept asking something. But Jon couldn’t figure out what. Confusion swept through him as the bustle got more and more vigorous. More voices, more shouting, more colors. Then he felt himself leaving the ground and being lifted into the air. His ribs shift and he cried out in painful protest. Someone swore. His head swam as he was jostled about, moving from one pair of arms to another. Vertigo clutched him and he felt the world spinning, making him want to vomit. Through the pain and dizziness, he could hardly make out anything. But the smell of blood was strong. That wasn’t good. Was it his blood? Probably, seeing as his chest and face felt like they were on fire. Something made him jerk sharply and the pain flared in him again, and unable to take it anymore, his mind dipped into darkness again as the pain became too much.
Images and scenes flashed through his mind at great speed, making him feel dizzy and disoriented. It felt like all his dreams were converging at once. But this time the images cleared into one. A stone tower sat in the middle of a sandy mountain. The landscape around it was desolate and barren, broken up by only the rare bush. Jon could tell that he was in a desert, even though he had never seen one before in his life. Bright sunlight made him squint, nearly blinding him. He had never known it could be so harsh.
Looking around again, he saw three men in armor standing around at the bottom of the tower, a sense of authority hanging around them. He could see a crest chiseled into their breastplates, but from the distance he was at, he couldn’t make out what it was. Where was he? And how on earth had he gotten there? Jon looked around again for any clues, but he found none. Hadn’t he just been riding with Robb in the wolfswood? Jon wracked his brain to try to remember something, but nothing came up.
“Excuse me!” He called towards the men, trying to get their attention. They paid him no head. “Ser’s!” He tried again, louder. Still, no one noticed. Jon frowned. Why couldn’t they hear him? This whole thing as frustrating him to no end. Turning his gaze away, he spotted ten or so riders in the distance, headed towards the tower. He tried to focus on them but his attention was torn away when he heard a woman scream.
He whirled about, looking for the source. Then he heard it again, coming from the windows at the top of the tower. Looking back towards the guards, he discerned that they weren’t going to help the woman, so he bolted off towards the stairs and up into the stone tower.
When he reached the doorway, the smell of blood and roses hit him like a hammer. He almost had to take a step back from the force of it.
“One more push, my lady!” He heard someone say. It was followed by more pained screaming. “Just one more! You’re almost there.”
He was intruding, he knew it, but Jon couldn't help himself as he slowly stepped into the room. Neither the woman on the bed nor the ones at her feet seemed to notice though, just as the knights outside hadn't. Coming around to the side, Jon finally saw what was causing the woman such agony.
She was giving birth.
Laying in a blood soaked bed, the woman's face- no, girl, for that was what she was. A girl barely older than himself- twisted in pain as she gave another tortured cry. One of the midwives tried to wipe the sweat off her brow, but the action proved useless. Below her Jon could see the blood stains on the sheets growing. She was loosing too much blood. Then the girl cried out again, this one the worst of them all, before another voice joined in, a small, shrill little voice.
“It’s a boy!” one of the women exclaimed, holding up a small shrieking bundle of bloody rags. Jon tried to peak over the wet-nurses’ shoulder to see the babe the girl had just given birth to. It was a small pink thing, squirming around and crying.
The girl on the bed let out a great sigh, her contorted face turning into a weak smile. She looked like she was about to say something, but was cut off when a sound came from the stairwell behind Jon. Before he could turn around and look though, the world vanished around him.