Being the king wasn’t what Ned was raised to do. As the second son, he expected to live a life of freedom, as much freedom as a prince of the North would receive anyway.
It should have been Brandon. Charming, witty, intelligent, quick tempered and rash Brandon. Brandon was who received all the training, sitting in on their father’s meetings and learning to rule directly from the King in the North, Rickard VII.
A single car crash changed all of that. The driver had a heart attack at the wheel, barreling into a barricade and crash landing into a ravine.
Out of the country at the time, Ned received the news mere hours before it broke across all of Westeros. Traveling in the Stormlands where he had been visiting the court of his old boarding school roommate, now King Robert Baratheon, the flight crew had been spread all over the country after being dismissed by a young independent prince not expecting world shattering news.
“The King… your father, he was, he was in an accident Ned. Brandon was accompanying him.” Jory had told him, a man he considered his friend just as much as he was his personal security.
The look he was wearing would forever be etched into Ned’s memories of that dreadful day.
“They did not make it.”
Stunned silence enveloped the entire room, boisterous Robert downing the rest of his glass of Dornish Red in two quick gulps before pouring himself another generous cup, and a second one for Ned.
“Long live King Eddard, King in the North.” His friend had said in a solemn toast, hand resting heavy on his shoulder.
Last minute preparations for going back North were hectic enough to schedule, adding the stress of making arrangements for state funerals for both his father and brother had been enough to lead the young monarch to a near breakdown.
It wasn’t until his first meeting with his father’s lords days before the funeral that Ned truly grasped he was actually the King in the North, and that night was the only one Ned let himself wallow in the realization.
Following a proper mourning period, the official coronation had taken place in the Godswood at Winterfell, the grey and white cloak with the Direwolf sigil resting heavy across Ned’s shoulders while the bronze and steel crown was placed upon his brow.
Ned surely would have failed many times over in those first few months if it hadn’t been for Catelyn Tully.
Princess Catelyn had been the betrothed of Brandon, the young couple meeting at various functions across Westeros befitting of children of royalty. Ned never assumed Brandon would be one to marry young, so an engagement had come as a surprise and Ned suspected that their kingly father had something to do with it.
Ned offered to continue to host his would-be sister in law during the mourning period after the funerals. They had never been particularly close, Catelyn spending most of her time in the North with Brandon, or getting to know Winterfell’s staff and orientating herself properly with the kingdom she would one day be consort to, but death does funny things to those it leaves behind.
Little by little, the young royals bonded over their shared sense of loss, and grew a fondness and appreciation for one another. Not quite love, not when they were both still processing the tragedies that had become their futures, but a strong emotional connection they both needed at the time.
“Princess Catelyn should be heading back home to the Riverlands soon. The mourning period is over, you’ve both had time to grieve this unexpected loss. It’s time everyone moves forward.” His lords would tell him every so often, but Ned always pushed back.
Making excuses for Princess Catelyn to stay in the North became habit. He has his counsel to help guide his decisions, but he sought out her opinion more and more.
Things were good until his counsel started insisting on finding him a bride. A princess, preferably his age, from another part of Westeros. No one with any claim on their own throne, nothing too messy when it comes to their future children and where they would stand in various lines of succession.
“What about Princess Catelyn? She’s still here, was bound to my brother and the Northern throne anyway. The betrothal brokered for her and Brandon would be appropriate for her and I.” Ned remembered asking, seeming innocent in his opinion.
His counsel thought differently.
“Princess Catelyn was a good match for Brandon, they were romantically entangled
before King Rickard had requested the match from King Hoster. How would she feel marrying the younger brother of a man she once loved?”
“I don’t know my lords, maybe we should ask her first?”
Marriage was an easy and welcomed change for the young couple. Ruling was hard, nothing about that was going to ever change, but having someone to help you bear your burdens brought the King and Queen of the North closer together.
Their children brought them closer still.
First came their heir, their precious Robb. Tully haired, blue eyed and screaming with all the might his tiny lungs would allow.
The future King of the North looked every bit his mother; charming smiles, perfect pleasantries, and a knack for delighting the pants off any and all visiting dignitaries.
Robb was smart and fierce, strong willed and independent, politically minded and carried a sense of honor and duty to his family and country from a young age. Ned could not have asked more from his heir.
Robb took his duty most serious. A betrothal between himself and the Princess Myrcella Baratheon of the Stormlands came despite his never meeting the girl, and he graciously welcomed her and a retinue despite the amount of dread he had been feeling about meeting his future wife.
She was stunning and he was blown away, by both her appearance and personality.
Somewhere between their first hellos and their “I do’s” they fell in love.
Princess Sansa came next, two years after her elder brother.
Sansa was every bit a princess from her very first minutes. Quiet and composed from the very start, her parents were originally worried something was wrong with their second born, since Robb had been robust since his first breath. The doctors quickly confirmed nothing was wrong, handing their beautiful baby girl over to them.
Curious blue eyes and a puff of auburn hair, their daughter was already a beauty. Like her brother, she took after her mother in looks and personality, yet had a stubborn streak that was true North.
She would have been a princess no matter where her station in life was. Kind and caring, empathetic and big hearted, she always had a pet project or charity she dedicated time to even as a child. Knitting gloves and hats in winter for the smallfolk, visiting children’s hospitals, helping her mother plan holiday food and gifts drives for the less fortunate of their kingdom. She was the people’s princess in every way imaginable.
Her interest in a foreign prince came as a surprise to both her parents. Jon Targaryen, Prince of Valyria was from Esso, and the two met while visiting the same hospital in Pentos.
They attempted to keep it from the public eye, low key dates across their two continents and no public appearances that weren’t for charities they both already worked for, yet the press had a way of finding these things out and they were exposed.
Their third child, Princess Arya, was quite the opposite of her sister.
Two years younger, with dark hair and grey eyes like her father, Arya was born loud and mischievous. Ideally, she would have never wanted to be royalty, yet it was her lot in life.
Her mother called it acting out, she called it living her life. Sansa was the perfect princess, Arya was a free spirit. Her crown was always a bit too heavy, her smile always a bit too forced, but she was a Stark, and there was no failing.
Being a princess had its advantages; she would never sit the throne, and had more leeway in her pursuits. She was passionate about dance at a young age, practicing whenever she had a free moment, forever underfoot of all the hired help.
Not unlike her sister, she had a few pet projects of her own. Her biggest effort was in the increase of the direwolf population in the North, the animal her forefathers took as their sigil centuries ago.
Her wild ways settled down as she aged, or so her parents thought, up until she unapologetically announced she was dating Podrick Payne, a member of her security detail.
Brandon, their second son, inherited his father’s look as well, though taking more after his mother in demeanor.
Quiet and observant, Bran excelled in academics from an early age. As a boy, he dreamt of serving in his brothers kingsguard despite his aptitude for academics, yet an unfortunate tree climbing incident left him practically crippled at age nine.
Ned and Catelyn encouraged the young prince to pursue his studies, even as being second in line, a potential king needed an ability to use his brains.
His genius surpassed that of his tutors at a young age, his interests ranging far and wide in his pursuit of knowledge.
The University of White Harbor accepted him into their undergraduate program, under an alias of course. Bran had a strange sense of pride when it came to his intelligence, and attending university on his own merits was most important to him; the idea of being accepted only because he was the Kings son was very unsettling to the young scholar.
He had mostly succeeded at hiding his real identity, that was until he shared a class with Jojen Reed, a son of one of his fathers most trusted lords. The young men were familiar with each other due to their fathers, and became fast friends with a shared love of the world of academia.
Their first kiss came as a total surprise to Bran.
The realization that he was willing to step aside for Rickon to become second in line for true love did not.
Rickon came a few short years after Bran did, flaming red hair and deep blue eyes. Despite his appearance, he shared more in common with Arya and their father personality wise.
As a child, wild and reckless were commonly used to describe him. Running through the halls of Winterfell with Lyanna Mormont fast on his heels was a common sight about the castle; her mother being one of his fathers most trusted advisors, the Mormont’s spent more time at Winterfell then their home on Bear Island.
The childhood friends became fascinated with horses as soon as they both were old enough to learn to ride. Their lessons always happened together, Lyanna boarding her horse aptly named Bear in Winterfell’s stables.
Despite their common love, they both took separate routes when it came to their passion.
The first time Rickon picked up a polo club, he knew it was something he wanted to do forever. The amount of tactics and energy the game expelled, the ache in his muscles and the bond with his horse Shaggy made it all worth it.
Lyanna instead became a world class show jumper. If it was at all possible, her connection to her horse was even deeper than the one Rickon had with his.
The progression of their relationship was something natural. One day they were friends, the next it seemed they were more. Nothing about it felt weird to either of them, going from referring to one another as their best friend to their boyfriend or girlfriend was simply a natural evolution that was always meant to be.
King Ned and Queen Catelyn could not have been happier with the family they raised. Their children always rose to the occasion, carrying themselves with grace and dignity befit to young royals of the North.
Their story would always be marred with early tragedy, unexpected love and great triumphant. It was fated.
They both expected much and more from their children.
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