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Go The Distance

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Jon Snow was tired. It was an unusual sort of tiredness, not the weariness of too long in the practice yard or in the Wolfswood, but a kind of exhaustion that seemed to hit him in the soul. Perhaps it had to do with the royal visit and the invasion of his home, or the scorn of Theon, who as a ward was ranked even higher than a baseborn son. Whispering praise for Ghost, the two headed to bed. Sleep came easily, and then, he dreamed.

It was hot, hotter than Jon could ever remember it being, and he found it strange that he should feel heat in a dream where usually such things passed without sensation. He was in a strange room, where a young woman stood, his age or perhaps a bit older, her stomach round with child, caressing the bump as she looked out a window. Arms wrapped around the woman, and a man with long silver-blonde hair rested her head against her shoulder. “I will return to you both, Lyanna, I promise.”

“You should sit, my lady.” A handmaiden Jon had not noticed until now, said, walking right by him to lead her to the bed. “It is no good for you to stress yourself so. Your prince will return.”

“No.” Lyanna said sadly, even if she moved to sit. “This is all wrong, and if you go, you won’t come back. We should have never run away, Rhaegar.”

“I will deal with the Baratheon and return, you need to be strong for our little Visenya.”  Rhaegar said. “You said yourself that the Old Gods of the trees blessed our union, and the Kingsguard will be here to protect you.”

“It’s a boy.” The girl said, with a stubborn, mulish expression that Jon knew well from Arya. “And if you go, you won’t come back, just like Brandon and Father.”

“Jaecarys, then, as I’ve promised.” Rhaegar allowed, with an indulgent smile. He placed a kiss on her forehead and left the room in his ruby-studded armour.

Lyanna bit back a sob, hand placed protectively on her belly. “We love you, Jaecarys. You have a great destiny ahead of you, I know it. You'll make us proud.”

Jon blinked in confusion, but before he could speak, the dream had changed, and he was standing by as his father burst into the room, younger and covered in blood and dirt, sword in hand.

“Lyanna.” Eddard stark breathed, looking somewhere other than Jon.

Jon turned, and found the girl from before lying in bed, paler than milk, sobbing and bloody. He shook his head, unsure what this meant, unsure what all of this meant, but then he saw the baby.

“Promise me, Ned.” Lyanna pleaded, as Jon watched in morbid fascination. “If Robert finds out, they’ll kill him. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.”

Jon woke sweating, his mind spinning with something other than drink. His gut churned and yet he knew he wouldn’t be sick. He felt as if he was on the cusp of something, some hidden truth. It was pulling on him, like a horse on a lead. He dressed in a rush, and then followed the pull, eventually coming into the crypts. He walked, compelled, for once not feeling the stares of his ancestors on his back, telling him he did not belong here, and stopped, torch in hand to study the face of the statue before him. It was the woman from his dream, though not entirely correct, her face was a little more narrow, lips a little thinner than he had dreamed, but he had no doubt about which was right.


Ned woke with a start from his nightmare. It was the same nightmare he had been having for years, revisited each and every time something reminded him a bit too much of the web of deceit and grief he found himself trapped in. He had expected it tonight, but it had changed, ending in the crypt, and that was strange. With a heavy heart and knowing that everything was going to change since Maester Luwin’s visit. Dressing quickly, he headed back down to the crypts, needing to apologise to his sister yet again. When he came to the crypt, however, he was startled by the sight he found. “Jon?” Something in his son’s expression was worrying. “Are you alright, son?”

Jon gave a strained laugh. “But I’m not, am I?” He asked. “I thought even if I was a Snow at least I had my father, even if I was a Snow, even if you never told me who my mother was...at least I knew who I was, I knew I was your son…” His voice broke. “My name isn’t even my name.”

Ned had a moment of panic, there were so many unfriendly ears about, but his son was distraught, and for all that Jon was right, he was still Ned’s son in every way but one. He grabbed him into a tight hug. “You are my blood, Jon. I love you as much as I love all my children.”

“You lied to me.” Jon said angrily, even as he buried his head in Ned’s chest.

“I promised.” Ned whispered into his hair. “I promised to protect you, Jon.”

Jon wanted to be angry, he was angry, but he had seen his father’s face when Lyanna had made him swear. “She knew I’d be a boy.” Jon whispered, so quietly Ned could barely hear him. “He was sure of a girl, but she knew .” He swallowed around the lump in his throat. “She said they loved me.”

“I know she did.” Ned agreed, and then winced. “That’s why you must go to the Wall.”

Jon reared back, shaking his head. “No.” He said strongly.

“Maester Luwin said that you wanted to take the black.” Ned said, confused by such a visceral reaction from Jon.

“I did.” Jon replied, shaking his head. “But Uncle Benjen was right, it is for life, I know that better than most, when I was just your bastard, when you had trueborn children that would always mean more -- and now...she asked something of me too. I had doubts even before, about what my mother might think, if she was even alive, but now...she knew something. I can’t ignore that.”

“The king has asked me to be his Hand, I can’t say no, Jon, and Catelyn won’t hear of you staying here with Robb and Rickon.” Ned told him, willing him to understand.

“I’ll go south with you.” Jon said with a shrug.

“There are no bastards at court, Jon!” Ned argued.

“Sure there are.” Jon argued, shaking his head. “Mostly they join the Kingsguard or squire for hedge knights in the city. Let them think you’re accustoming me at court so I will be named to the Kingsguard. Surely the king will understand that you don’t want to leave your bastard with your lady-wife.”

“No one will treat you well.” Ned warned. “The Wall…”

“I’ll have you, Arya, and Bran.” Jon reassured him. “The disdainful looks and gossip of strangers hurt much less than those of Sansa and your lady-wife.” His face softened slightly. “I need to do this, Father. I need to try and be what she wanted of me, I need to try and understand him. Otherwise...it’ll eat me alive.”

Ned looked at the statue of his sister, and then back at Jon. “All right.” He said quietly. “You may come south. Now, we should both get back to bed.”

“I think I’ll stay awhile.” Jon said softly. “This is the first time I’ve been down here and not felt like an interloper.”

Ned bowed his head again, wondering yet again, if he had done right by Lyanna’s son. He had tried so hard to make him part of the family, and sometimes he felt he succeeded, but then Jon would do something -- something like this, or leaving himself out of the count for the direwolves that reminded him how Jon was always set apart. He knew Catelyn had tried, and he couldn’t really blame her, perhaps if he had explained...but Cat had hated the Targaryens almost as much as Robert in those days. Aerys had taken Brandon from her and had she known Lyanna left on her own, if he had returned with a Targaryen baby, she might have done worse than scorn it, as she had to Jon. She was a good woman, but she loved deeply, and at that time he was a stranger, a usurper she had been forced to marry. There had been no love between them, she had still loved Brandon and he was mourning first his future with Ashara and then Ashara herself. After so many years, he could hardly tell her it had all been a lie. He didn’t have the words for that. Perhaps this was best...but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that the secret he had hidden for years would soon come out.


“No!” Margaery Tyrell shouted, losing her composure at her brother and his lover, Renly Baratheon. “I will not go along with this little plan of yours to whore me out to the king!”

“Stannis is too powerful, Margaery.” Renly said, frowning. “Robert giving him Dragonstone gave him standing, and with his position…” His voice was even and soothing, even as he spoke, trying to turn her head the way he did to Loras. “House Florent grows bolder, and House Tyrell has been on shaky ground. He has never forgotten Ashford. With Jon Arryn gone, Stannis will be one of the stronger members of the Small Council, and Selyse Baratheon is a Florent.”

“My being his mistress will change none of that!” Margaery spat. “I will not be Delena Florent, come again!”

“We don’t mean for you to be his mistress, we mean for you to be his queen, Margaery.” Loras soothed.

“He has a queen!” Margery replied, voice dropping angrily at her brother. “And three children beside! Do you really think he can look to anger Tywin or his heirs by setting aside Cersei? This is madness.” She left the room with the slam of the door, only to find herself face-to-face with her grandmother.

“Anger is less productive than planning, sweetheart. Men will ever be fools.” Olenna said, patting her granddaughter’s flushed cheek. “Let them yell and think they know best. Come, join me in my solar.”

Margaery knew an order from the Queen of Thorns when she heard one, and took a deep breath, following her grandmother without argument, using the time to cool her temper again. She should not have lost her composure and she knew it, but Renly’s suggestion -- and the fact that Loras had encouraged it -- made her lose her usual easygoing smiles. She took a seat in the large, well-decorated solar as servants scuttled around to bring tea and cakes to the formidable matriarch of House Tyrell. She offered the servants smiles, hoping to soothe the stings from her grandmother’s sharp words and glares.

“Renly has more schemes than some, and far fewer wits than most.” Olenna observed, breaking the silence after the pair were left alone. “It’s a sad combination.” She shook her head. “The king and the court have gone North, that can only mean that the king intends to return with Ned Stark. Any gains in status at court Stannis may have made will be lost to him, but this little plot of Renly’s may be good for you.”

“Grandmother!” Margery said in horror.

“Save your maidenly outrage, Margaery.” Olenna tutted over her tea. “I don’t mean for you to try and seduce the king. I mean for you to use the opportunity to go to court. Renly would try to talk you up, but without you there, it won’t go much of anywhere. You, on the other hand, I’ve spent years doing my best to teach you. You can find yourself a solid match better than your brother or my oaf of a son. Instead of having your portrait painted, ask to accompany them back to King’s Landing. You’ve learned all you possibly can here at Highgarden, it’s time for you to glimmer at court. You’re not the beauty I once was, but you know how to use what you have.”

Margaery considered this, taking a long, slow drink from her cup. It was a good idea, and Loras would allow her more freedom than Highgarden, where she chafed under Alerie’s well-meant but irritating control. “I think I should like to go to court.”

Olenna gave her a smile that showed off her lost teeth, and patted Margaery’s hand. “I know, dear, that’s why your new wardrobe is arriving tomorrow.”

Margaery smiled slightly to herself. She hoped that in the future, she would be as skilled as Olenna at moving things the way she wanted them to go, and planning for every eventuality. Going to court would help, she hoped.

Chapter Text

The crypts of Winterfell were deep and as ancient as the castle itself, but it was also wide, with nooks and crannies. While the Stark children had often played among the statues, they had never dared go all the way into the sides. Old Nan’s stories were powerful, and the old stories of the Kings of Winter and the ends they were willing to go to scared even them. The statues whose faces had started to wear, whose swords had rusted away on their laps, they avoided those. Joyful and conflicted over finding the truth, Jon went deeper than he had ever dared before, past all the statues, into the areas thickly coated with dirt and dust. It was as if there was something pulling him.

Eventually, pushing away a web, and holding aloft one of the last torches, he saw the firelight gleam off of something not stone, and got down on his knees, ignoring his finer clothes to solve the mystery. Tucked in a corner, against the wall, half-frozen ice was... something . Drawing the torch closer, the light seemed to bounce, as though it were metallic. Jon reached out a gloved hand, and found something oval buried in the ice -- but what was ice doing this far underground? Placing the torch up against the wall, he used to both hands to try and pry whatever it was free. At first, it didn’t seem to want to give, but after some tugging on what felt like stone, it came free and he tumbled back, hitting the floor behind him with a thud.

It took a few seconds to clear his sight from the blow, but when his vision cleared, he actually shook his head again, trying to restore some semblance of logic to the world. There, in his hand, was an egg. He scuttled back to his knees, holding the torch as close as he could to the niche he had found. Obviously, the ice had started to melt, revealing this one. Even with the firelight he could only guess that there might be a few more behind what ice remained, it was too thick for him to really tell.

Jon knew the legend, of course, it was one of those stories of Winterfell whispered about and passed down between everyone who ever called the castle home. The story ran that during the Dance of the Dragons, Jaecarys Velaryon had come to Winterfell to treat with Lord Cregan Stark and gain the Lord of Winterfell’s support for his mother. While attempting to convince the man, he had fallen in love with Cregan’s bastard half-sister, and they married secretly in the godswood. Supposedly, Jaecarys’s dragon, Vermax, laid a clutch of eggs and the Velaryon prince had left them with his wife as a promise that they would one day be laid in the cradle with their children. Some versions said that the dragon had laid them in the crypt on its’ own, while others said that the bastard bride had concealed them there in grief, after Jaecarys was killed in battle at the Gullet.

Maester Luwin had always held that the legend was just  that -- a story, meant to endear the Starks to the Targaryens and their rule. Jon had never really believed it. What kind of prince fell in love with a bastard, and did anything more than take her as a mistress? In his hands, though, was what looked to be a dragon egg. He stared at the stone-like exterior for a long time, as if it would disappear. It was too perfect to be a coincidence. It couldn’t be, not tonight , not after all he had learned.

Wrapping the egg in his cloak, he started the long climb back to the castle. He couldn’t tell anyone, and for once, he didn’t want to. A greedy, selfish feeling he usually repressed had taken root in his chest. This was his . This was a secret he would share with no-one else. At least not yet. He ran his fingers over the egg again as he found his way back to his room, and packed it among his furs and clothes, to hide from prying eyes, feeling oddly satisfied.


The departure from Winterfell was bittersweet, with Bran injured, and Eddard was nervous for what he knew Jon had learned. The boy, was, to him, his son, but he knew that the sting of betrayal would not be gone that quickly. He had only done what he thought best. He had promised Lyanna to protect her son. It hadn’t been an easy thing, to take Jaecarys Targaryen and make him Jon Snow. He loved the boy as much as he hated his grandfather.

He had always been unable to be angry with Lyanna. By the time he knew the truth, she was dying in a bed of blood and it felt wrong to be angry with her. He couldn’t be angry with the child, who was innocent. He hadn’t asked to be born. That left Rhaegar and Aerys. In the early years he had hated every other Targaryen as much as Robert. He still remembered, though. It was when Jon was three, and he looked at that small child and thought of his siblings, put to the sword by the Lannisters.

So when they were sitting on the Kingsroad, and Robert brought up Jon and in the next breath was talking about killing a child a few months younger than Jon, because she was a Targaryen and had wed a Dothraki horselord. It made Ned increasingly nervous to have Jon with him at King’s Landing, because he knew Lyanna had been right.

If Robert discovered that Lyanna had borne Rhaegar a babe and that Ned had raised it, they would both be put to the sword for treason. Whatever love Robert believed he had for who he thought Lyanna was would not save her boy.


 

At least he had gone off with Arya, and did not need to hear this. He was just coming to terms with his new family, and who knew what ill-advised actions he might try and take to save family, even if they were unknown to each other? He had taught Jon that family was the most important thing. The pack survives. That lesson could doom them all, in time.

Jon laughed as he led Arya away from the main encampment to the riverside. It was greener than they were used to, and neither of them enjoyed the mocking glances. The bastard and the tomboy, without much to recommend them. The people in the King’s party, especially the richly arrayed Lannisters, looked down on the North in general, so that even Arya, as daughter of a Lord Paramount was seen as lesser.

“Did you bring it?” He whispered to her, when they were alone.

Arya gave a greedy nod, drawing Needle from her back, the sheath hidden under her dress.

Jon laughed. “Come on. Then. Let’s see what all your watching in the practice yard has done.”

They fell into it easily, Jon showing her moves in three-quarter time, correcting her stances, helping her adjust the moves for her smaller frame as best he could. They clashed and parried in the sunlight, blades reflecting and flashing the light as much as the dappled river, and for a brief moment, Jon forgot everything else. There were no strange dreams, there were no secrets, there was no egg, his sister was not really his cousin.

Then, there was a voice. “ Arya! Jon! ” And everything shifted back.