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The Land Will be Covered in Snow

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Jon

“Did you hear, Snow? You’re family’s coming to visit.”

A yelp sounded through the air as an arrow brushed the head of Robb, who had been leaning on a wall a few feet to the right of the target. Arya was cackling from her perch on a barrel, as Theon snickered from his point next to a scowling Jon.

“What the hell, Jon!” Robb called out, taking into account all his feature to make sure none fell victim to the arrow. Theon’s snicker evolved into mad laughter.

“Wasn’t my fault,” he protested. “Greyjoy wouldn’t shut up.”

Robb stormed over, his blue eyes ice as he glared at Theon.

“Why are you laughing?” he growled as he took the giggling Greyjoy by the collar. “You think that’s funny? I could’ve died!”

“Oh, what a way to go,” Theon mused as he looked off into the distance. “I’ll be hailed as a hero back home. The Ironborn who can cut down men with a single quip!”

“Wasn’t a very funny quip,” Jon mumbled, and Theon turned his head to face him.

“I think it was hilarious.”

“You think everything is hilarious,” Arya deadpanned.

“But it might not be a quip! In Dorne, every Sand considered themselves siblings. You might want to take up a southern custom, Snow.”

“What on earth are you babbling about?” Jon sneered.

“I’m talking of the council of the Lords of the North,” Theon finally clarified, though Jon found himself even more confused.

“What does that have to do with me?”

Theon rolled his eyes as he sighed. “You don’t know anything.”

“Just answer the damn question,” Robb scoffed as he let the Ironborn go, and Theon conceded.

“Lord Bolton. He’s bringing reports of the stock in Dreadfoot. But that's not all he's bringing.”

Finally it clicked in his mind what Theon was referring to, and he snorted

“His bastard?” He questioned, picking up a quiver and placing it on his bow. “I know.”

The arrow soared in the edge of the red ring, and from the corner of his eye, he saw Theon’s shoulder’s slump a bit.

“You knew?” Jon couldn't help but smirk at the tint of defeat in his voice. “How’d you find out?”

“Theon, everyone knows,”Arya said as if it was the most obvious and common knowledge. “Father told told us the Lord's and those accompanying them two nights ago.”

Jon smiled a bit, while Theon looked at Arya with a forced grin.

“If that was true, then how come I didn't hear it till today?”

“Maybe because you were staring at Jeyne Poole while he told us all,”Robb chuckled out, and Theon’s smirk fell.

“I admit to nothing,” he murmured, before he turned his sights to Jon. “And why are you not reacting to this?”

“Why would I?”

“‘Why would I?’” Theon lowered his voice in an evident Mock of Jon’s accent. “You mean to tell me another bastard is coming to Winterfell, and you feel nothing? You're not threatened? Happy that you might get to brood with someone else?”

Jon fixed him with a look. This was getting ridiculous, “Why would I? There's plenty of Snows in the North.”

Theon threw his hands up in defeat, “I give up. You're no fun anymore.”

As he snatched his bow, Robb smirked at the grumbling Ironborn. “If anyone should be worried about a Bolton joining us, it should be you, Theon.”

He turned his attention to the auburn headed Stark and frowned. “How so?”

“You know what their sigil is, right?”

“Fucking creepy.”

“You barely get away with the attitude you pull with us,” Arya added. “Make one 'quip’, and he’d probably skin you and wear you as a cloak.”

Jon chuckled lightly at the comment, but his insides twisted at the imagery. In all honesty, he was slightly downput about the arrival of the lords. He'd never be able to take part in any of the meetings, nor the feasts. Neither would any other bastard, and he was not particularly fond of the notion of his only company being a sadist. Though mayhaps he shouldn't be to quick to judge. He could very well be a functioning human being.

Being the cautious boy he was, Jon picked up another arrow and aligned it with the center ring. Just in case.

 

Eddard

"Hold still, you have a loose threading."

Ned chuckled lightly as Cat reached into her drawer and shifted through her many spools. Trailing behind, he looked over her shoulder and watched as her small hands sorted through the multi colored threads.

"Do you have anymore Midnight Ebony?” he inquired, looking for the darkest spool.

“No, I ran out last month,” Cat mumbled, pulling out a handful of dark colors. “Besides, the cloak has faded since i last used midnight.”

“Perhaps Nightshade?”

“No, the purple under shade would stand out in firelight.”

“But in natural light, no one will know,” Ned pointed out.

“That is true...but still, I think it should have at least a grey undertone.”

“Catelyn,” he sighed.

“I won’t be having the Warden of the North looking like a toddler sew his cloak,” she said with enough infliction to have Ned conceded with a nod.

Finally,she found a spool that seemed to meet her standards, and walked over to Ned as she began to tie it through the needle. On cue, he pulled up a stool for her, and then revealed the loose seam line on the inside of the cloak. Cat sat, taking the cloak into hand as she began to inspect the damage.

“Ned, you need to stop fiddling with the seams,” she scolded. Then clicked her as she began to undo the loose strand enough, before tying the savable bits and cutting off the excess. He found himself unable to find a suitable response.

“Old habits die hard, my love.”

“But they still die all the same,” she pointed out, beginning her stitching, careful to stay clear of his flesh. “Could it be that you are nervous?”

“No,” he lied. “The Reeds are hardly strangers.And the Karstarks and Umbers are loyal bannermen. Always have been.As are Glover,Hornwood-”

“What of the Mormonts and the Boltons,”Cat  pointed out.

“House Mormont is loyal to the North. One slaver does not destroy the integrity of an entire house,” he insisted. “And the Boltons keep to themselves, there has been no serious matters arising from them.”

“Still,”Cat mumbled under her breath. “These are houses that have bred slavers and torturers. We must tread lightly.”

“Maege Mormont is not her nephew. Nor was Jeor Mormont his son,” Ned sighed, “They have their own shame, there’s no need to continue to feed it. And Roose Bolton has not had a single account of misdeed said about him.”

Cat looked up at him with a pointed look, “Save for one.”

“Save for one,”he corrected, feeling a tinge of shame.

“And the only reason it’s known is because of the physical proof.Only the gods knows how many crimes he committed lacking any true proof. ”

“Cat, I’m not calling them here to judge him for fathering a bastard,” he then looked away a bit. “I’m not exactly qualified.”

Ned held back a pained yelp as the needle pricked his knee. He looked down to see Cat chew on her lip, her blue eyes dark as she glared into the dark fabric.

“Catelyn-.”

“I don’t want a Bolton bastard around our children, Ned,” she stated plainly.

“That boy is Roose Bolton’s only living heir. He’s only introducing him to his duties, as I will eventually need to do with Robb when he’s of age.”

“He’s not a trueborn.”

“Neither is Jon,” he interjected. “Yet he still accompanies me on patrols.”

“And you know very well my stances on that,” she bit out, finishing the stitching with a knot, before cutting off the loose thread. She began to stand up, and put the stole back. Before she made her way back to the dresser, Ned caught her hand in his

“It’s already too late to do anything about it,” He admitted.  “But I swear to you, by the old gods and new, I will make sure nothing, not even my bannermen, will come between me and the safety of our children.”

“I know you will,” she said, not meeting his eyes. “But it doesn’t completely calm my nerves.”

Bringing her hand to his lips, he placed a gentle kiss on the knuckles, before whispering, “You and the children are my priority, first and foremost. Never doubt that, and always know that even if I can not relieve your worries, I will fight every one of your fears till the last moment.”

Cat met his eyes, a tinge of tenderness in her normally stoic features. It made his heart sing in adoration to know that look was reserved for him. The look of trust and love inspired him to kiss her knuckles again. And again. And again as he poured out apologies and pleas for forgiveness, fearing that his words might’ve hurt. All of which she would hum in acceptance. As he made his way to her wrist, he heard her giggle.

“Later, Ned. Later.”

Looking up at her, he smiled as he set one last kiss to her hand, before taking it and leading her out of their chambers.

 

Bran

He had expected Howland Reed to be a bit taller. Surely a man who had helped father defeat the guards in Tower of Joy, who had helped Father defeat the legendary Sir Arthur Dayne, would have a bigger height, or even be more muscular. Whenever they would reenact the story, Jon always got to play Reed, since Robb was insistent on being father. But Bran, being the most attentive listener to the stories, would point out it would fit better, given Jon’s larger height and stronger build.

But he found that wasn’t the case. Howland was a man of average height with the lean build of a hunter. Seeing him know, it made more sense. Given the Krag was a swamp, and their diet would be more limited. But it still didn't save Bran that tiny tang of disappointment. He had brought along his heir, a young girl with a similar build and wild dark curls. He noticed her to be a bit less athletic looking, but looked more along the lines of Jon’s build. She could’ve passed for Jon, had her face not been leaner, more soft and feminine that Jon’s subtly edged jaw.

Father greeted the Reeds with a warmness between friends. A courtesy he saw him attempt to make to the other arriving lords, but even Bran could see the difference in familiarity.They all however, treated him with respect and admiration, which they extended to his family. Bran felt a bit put off when Lord Karstark told him he was a bit on the smaller side, but was later put back into high spirits when the Bolton girl smiled and told him she had saw him climbing on her way to the castle, and praised him for his abilities.

The Bolton’s arrival was a bit of a surprise when he arrived with not one, but two bastards. No one had even heard of a daughter, and he thought he might’ve figured out why. She was definitely the less showy of the two, what with her companion, which later revealed to be her twin, trailing behind his father on a auburn horse, hair wild and lifeless eyes scanning the courtyard as he loudly announced that it needed more color. She had made a less showy impression, arriving on a plain brown mare and wordlessly dismounting, joining her twin behind her father. Hair plaited neatly in a riding braid, and though she shared the same icey eyes, hers were more warm and inviting, whereas his were cold and promising.

The most interesting arrival had been the Mormonts arrived. Maege Mormont rode in, wearing armor of all things. But when she dismounted, she carried herself as if it were the most natural thing in the world. As if she were Queen Nymeria or one of Aegon the Conqueror’s warrior sisters. Glancing at Arya, he saw her eyes flicker with amazement and awe. The She-Bear must’ve noticed, because when she saw the helmet hidden behind Arya’s back, she gave her a wink.  Her daughter Dacey had a similar, but m Had much less obvious attire as her mother, and Bran noticed how Robb blushed as she firmly shook his hand and grinned. She mentioned to Rickon that she had a sister about his age, but Rickon didn’t show much interest. He only asked if they had any deer on Bear Island. Rickon had a simple personality. Mother said it was only because he was still a babe, but Bran knew it didn’t take much to entertain him. His one true passion was animals. He’d go on cycles where he would obsess over a particular animal, asking to see one or ask what they were like. He was currently on deer, and had been for the past moon.

When all the houses gathered, Father had invited all the lords and their counsel to the great hall, where as Bran and his siblings were left to their own devices. Once out of the watchful eye of his Lady mother, he began to hoist himself onto the walls of the castle, hoping to get a glimpse of what was beyond the doors of the hall.

As he began to make his way, careful of each step, he noticed a figure looking up at his place high atop the battlements. Squinting his eyes, he recognised the person as the Snow girl. Oddly enough, she waved at him, and Bran found himself waving back. After careful deliberation, he made his way down to her, avoiding slipping on the newly fallen snow. When he landed on the ground next to her, she looked down  at him and grinned.

“That was quite impressive.”

“Thank you,” he said genuinely, more used to being scolded for climbing. “Mother doesn't think so, though. She’s always scolding me, telling me I’ll break my neck.”

The girl chuckled. “That's what mothers do,” she smiled softly, reminding Bran of a maiden in one of Old Nan’s stories. “My mother used to scold my brother whenever he would climb trees. Though it was mostly because he was frightening the poor birds.”

He laughed at that a bit. Then it dawned on him. “Where is your brother, anyways?Why are you out here all alone?”

The girl’s smile faltered a bit. “He’s inside the hall with Father.”

“Wait, then why are you not there as well? Are you not old enough?” Though he couldn't see why not, if they were twins. But the girl laughed once more.

“No, I’m plenty old enough,”she chuckled out. “It’s just that Ramsay is father’s heir apparent. At least until he’s married, which I don’t think will happen for some time. So my brother is allowed inside.”

“Still, can’t you just go inside to listen?”

She smiled sadly at him, before shaking her head. “You really don’t know much about bastards, do you?”

“I know enough,” he defended. “Jon’s a bastard, but he’s my brother. But he and Robb are a year too young to join, so-”

“Wait,” she interrupted. “You have a half-brother?”

“Yeah, Jon’s great! He teaches me how to shoot arrows and fight with swords.”

The girl hummed, her eyes trailing off as she asked, “Why wasn’t he present at the courtyard?”

“He was,” Bran corrected. “He was just standing behind us.”

She made a face that reminded him of when Arya was told by Mother to join her for an embroidery circle. “The smug one with the persistent smile?”

“Oh no!That’s Theon. He’s Father’s ward. Jon was standing next to him.”

“Oh,” the girl sighed, sounding slightly relieved. “I must’ve not seen him then. Perhaps he’s short?”

It was Bran's turn to laugh. “He’s taller then Robb.”

The girl sighed, “Oh well, it matters not. Regardless, Bastards aren’t normally allowed to these sort of things. Ramsay is only heir by default, and I’m a girl,” the last part had a bit of bite to it. "A bastard girl. A terrible combination, in truth,” Bran felt pity for her. In a slight moment, she reminded him a bit of Arya.  Then, suddenly an idea popped into his head.

“Would you like to meet my brothers and sister?” he asked. “None of them are in the hall, they all tend to in the training grounds. I’m sure they’d like to meet you.”

Her eyes brightened at the notion, but quickly turned to the ground as she said  meekly “I’m not sure they would.”

“Why wouldn’t they? You seem to be very nice, I’m sure you will be fine! Besides, even if they don’t you still have me!”

The girl looked down at him strangely, as the maester might look at text they don’t particularly understand. But then her warm smile returned. “Yes, suppose I do.”

Grinning, he took her hand in his, leading her to the beam of the barracks. He reached for the first bit of the railing, hoisting himself up as he called down over his shoulder:

“Come on, I know a shortcut to the training ring.”

She looked up at him with uncertainty in her eyes, and chewed her lip.

“I’m not sure,” she mumbled. “I haven’t climbed a tree in three years, let alone a castle.”

“Don’t worry, he said, swing himself onto the plank and reaching out his hand to hers. “I’ve done this plenty of times. It’s not a difficult climb.”

“I’ve also never climbed in a dress,” she pointed out though she still grabbed his hand and began to copy him as best as she could.

“Neither have I. But Arya tells me it’s not too difficult, so long as you don’t care for a tear in your dress.”

The girl carefully hoisted herself onto the platform next to him, and had to unlatch a piece of dress from a spike in the structure, successfully creating a small tear.

“Well...I have been meaning to sew a new riding dress.”

Bran lead the way across the platform, till they reached a stair-like set of stones, which he promptly climbed to the flat top of the barracks. She followed in suite, admittedly struggling a bit, but once Bran offered assistance by holding the hem of her skirt to prevent tripping, she was able to join him. He showed her the proper stance in order to walk on roof tops, and began to make the lead, and the clink of poots against wood was a tell tale that she was following closely behind.

“I don’t think we have properly been introduced!” he wondered out loud, reaching the end of the roof, only a few feet above the platform above the training ring. He waited till she had caught up to slide down the roof and land. Reaching his hand up to assist, he smiled.

“My name is Brandon Stark. But everyone calls me Bran.”

She smiled down at him,taking his small hand in her larger one as he assisted her down. Once safely on the platform, she smiled and curtseyed.

“Pleased to meet you, Bran, My name is Sansa Snow."

Chapter Text

Arya

She had heard them before she saw them. She had known the sound of Bran landing from atop a roof all too well, but she wasn’t familiar with the second set of feet landing a few seconds behind him. She craned her head to the target she was aiming at, and felt her stomach drop.

Bran rushed down, pulling along the Bolton girl. She felt her stomach lurch as those unnervingly pale eyes locked on her. They weren’t nearly as unsettling as that other boy that came. He was a feral hound, whereas she was more of a pretty bird. But pretty birds could still peck out eyes.

The girl gave a tentative smile and curtsey, which would normally have Arya in tears laughing at how ridiculous it was for someone much older than her to be bowing, as if she were a lady.  Instead it left Arya baffled. From what Robb and Jon told her, Bolton’s are descendents from the First of Men, just like the Starks. Excellent tacticians, even better interrogators. Legend says the Kings in the North would send the most uncooperative prisoners of war to the Dreadfort, and they’d be screaming entire battle plans and camp locations within the hour. This girl looked like she would be more suited for embroidery then for peeling of skin.

“Arya, this is Sansa,” Bran introduced. “Sansa, Arya, my sister.”

“Pleased to meet you, Lady Arya,” she said, and Arya felt her lips pull down into an immediate scowl.

“Don’t call me lady,” she spat out, and almost felt bad when the girl’s smile faltered. Almost.

“That wasn’t nice,” Bran scowled, and Arya rolled her eyes.

“I’m not a lady,” she said drawing back the arrow and letting it go, hitting inside the middle ring, but not directly hitting the center. “Seven Hells!”

“That was brilliant!” Arya whipped her head to face the girl and snorted.

“Hardly, I’ve done better,” she grumbled.

“It’s still better then I could ever do,” the girl-Sansa, she remembered- offered with a smile.

“I’d think you’d be more inclined to knives,” she retorted, watching the older girl’s reaction. She got none, only a mere shrug.

“It's the Bolton's motto, I'm not a Bolton,” she explained. "Archery and throwing knives aren't exactly common skills for common girls."

Arya stalked over to the target, before addressing her again.

“And climbing is?”

“It’s what Bran offered,” she explained, and Arya looked to Bran, who had a sheepish smile on his face,and a tint of pink to his cheeks. Seven Hells.

“Bran, why are you and your lady friend here?”

“We were looking for you and the others,” he offered sheepishly. “I wanted to introduce Sansa to all of you, since she can’t go in the hall.”

Arya looked back up to the girl, who explained, "I'm not an heir. Bran was sweet and said he'd keep me company till my father and brother return."

"How very noble of you, Bran,” she deadpanned, before shoving the bow at him. “The others aren't here. They'll come back soon," Bran took the  bow, and strung the arrow with tentative hands. With a crack, the arrow was released, barely lodged in the edge of the target. She held back a snicker as Bran let out a saddened sigh.

But then he offered the bow to the Sansa girl, who seemed taken aback by the gesture. " Wanna give it a try?"

She looked at it with uncertainty, but not the clear outrage most girls would.

"Oh, I mustn't," she insisted, but Arya noticed the twitch in her hand towards the bow.

"Trust me, when Theon comes, you won't get another chance,” she added.

She accepted the bow with a shaky grip, and Arya could tell she wasn’t expecting its weight. Strange, maybe she was telling the truth. She looked completely unpracticed. It was almost laughable as she turned the bow upside down. But as Sansa reached for one of the newly sharpened arrows, she halted her.

“No, not that one,” she urged. “You’re going to shoot someone’s eye out.”

She opened her mouth, as if to protest, but Arya reached into smaller barrel and pulled out an arrow with a soft, leather tip and offered it quiver first to her.

“Here. This is a training arrow,” she explained.

“It won’t launch into the target.”

“Or into someone’s knee.”

With a reluctant sigh, she took the arrow, and began to string it, before Bran coughed.

“Other way around,” he offered. She looked at the bow, befor she seemingly realised her mistake.  As she turned the bow right side up, Arya hid snicker behind her hand.

Sansa began to pull the string back, and she had to suppress a groan at the pitiful form. She held the quiver as Mother held a needle: pinched at the tip. The waver in her fingers was evidence of her poor grip and unfamiliarity with the weight. She was almost tempted to correct her, but it was so problematic…

Somehow, she managed to pull it back a good few inches, but the discomfort in her pretty face was evident. She’d be lucky to make it to the target.

“You might want to aim it a bit higher,” Bran suggested.

She raised it to a slight upward angle, and asked, “Like this?”

It would’ve been fine, had she not pulled it back a few inches farther at the new angle

“No!” Arya protested as she began to pull it a bit farther. “You’re pulling too-”

The protest was cut clear with the crack of an arrow. She watched helplessly as the arrow flew past the target. It didn’t even come close. Sansa had jumped at Arya’s protest and the arrow flew into the open gate leading to the courtyard. At the angle she was at, she couldn’t tell where it landed. That is until a cry cut through the stunned silence.

 

Jon

It’s a queer feeling, getting hit in the knee. Though he hadn’t known it was an arrow until he was on the ground, his knee giving out from underneath him after something collided with the back of his leg with enough force that he felt something pop. As he layed on the ground,piercing pain shooting up through his leg, he saw the guilty leather tipped arrow lying behind him. He heard the scurrying of feet  vibrating through the ground as he let out a groan through clenched teeth. He must’ve made some sound as he took a fall to the ground.

He heard a jumble of voices through the blood rushing through his ears. Seven Hells, it hurt. Not in the way a cut stung, but as if the joint was scraping against  his bone.

“It hit Jon!” was that Bran? He couldn't tell, he was coming in from behind. He felt a grasp his shoulder and roll him over. Suddenly he was met with the sight of a concerned Arya,Bran and he didn't quite recognise the last one, but she looked familiar. He saw Arya’s eyes snap to his leg, then to the sky as she groaned.

“Leave it to a Bolton to fuck up a man’s leg with a child’s arrow.”

“Excuse me,” the girl squeaked. “Exactly how many Boltons have you met to make such an accusation?”

“It's not her fault,”Bran intersected. “How was she supposed to know it would hit Jon?”

“Thank you Bran,” the girl added, before looking at the leg. “Oh dear, he popped his knee.”

“Well then how do we get it back in?” Arya sounded like she was trying to contain her panic, and Jon couldn't help but smile at his brave sister. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his knee, and he winced. He looked down to see the one was connected to the newcomer, who had one hand on his knee, while the other lifted his leg.

“W-what are you doing?” He stammered out. The girl looked up at him and then at Arya and Bran.

“I need you two to hold him down,” she said without waver, and Jon felt his eyes widen as he began to sweat.

“Why? What are you going to do to him,” Arya growled defensively, and the girl shot her a look.

“Reset the bone,” she explained, and Arya seemed suspicious, but she held down his shoulder nonetheless, followed by Bran at his uninjured leg. But Jon felt no such comfort. Instead panic fled through him.

“Wait! Can't we get the Maester?He might know a different way.”

“There is no other way, now hold still, please.”

“Can't we just talk this-” the rest of his pleas were cut by a pained scream as he felt the bone being shoved in with the jerk of her palm. The audible 'pop’ sent a whole new wave of pain coursing through him, as he heaved in agony. He felt every curse and blasphemous statement bile up in his throat, But caught on the tip of his tongue as he felt a set of fingers latch onto his own. The gentle squeeze brought him down from the seeming emptiness his mind had wandered into to escape the pain. He focused in on the hand, which belonged to the stranger.Looking at her kind smile, he suddenly connected why she had seemed familiar.

“Is that better?” the Bolton girl asked, and Jon noticed the pain had began to dwindle, still present, but it was less unnatural and fading still.

“Slightly,” he said, allowing the surprise he felt to show. From behind him, he heard Arya sigh in relief.

“How’d you learn that?” Bran asked, and Jon found himself faced with the back of her head as she replied.

“My brother has a tendency to break and pop bones.”

“He must be really clumsy.”

“...Yes, I suppose you could say that,” she mused, before turning back to him. And offering a hand. “ Would you like some help up? You won't be able to walk immediately, but I can get you to a chair.”

He found himself nodding, before she grasped his hand and nudged herself under his arm. As she pulled up, Jon winced, until they were upright and he was able to take the pressure of his foot. She guided him up to a barrel of hay,where he sat mindfully not to put pressure on his knee.

“Thank you,” he offered to the Bolton girl, who smiled back.

“It's no problem, Lord Stark,”she answered, and though it was unintentional, he felt himself wince at the mistake. His cheeks red with embarrassment, he stammered out:

“Oh no, I'm not a-.”

“Sansa!”

She stiffened slightly, and he found himself turning his attention to the unannounced addition. It was Roose Bolton, his cold expressionless eyes focused on who Jon had assumed to be his daughter.  She turned  to face him, and Jon took into account the slump in her shoulders as she sighed.

“Yes, Father?”

“If you're not too busy bothering the Starks,” he deadpanned, making no attempt to disguise his distaste with the scene they must've painted. “I require your assistance.”

With a sigh, she turned back to the rest of him, and curtseyed, “If you'll excuse me, I must go. Thank you Bran, Arya. And I truly am sorry Lord Stark-”

“Snow,” he finally corrected, and the girl's eyes widened.”I'm not a Stark, Lady Bolton.”

Had he been younger, his stomach would've lurched. But it wouldn't be the first time his heritage chased away kindness. But when she smiled, it wasn't forced. At least it didn't seem so. It seemed, dare he say, understanding.

“And I'm not a Bolton,” she admitted, before turning on her heel to her father.

As her form disappeared behind the gates, it reminded him when he first saw her.  He had come in a bit late, but no one cared nor noticed. Save for Lady Catelyn. She always noticed him.

House Umber was making their way through the gates, and he took note of who had already entered in his absence. The sigils of Reed, Manderly,Karstark and Bolton billowed in the air. He took into account those who had come to represent their houses. His eyes caught on a bright pink cross on the Jerkin of a boy a bit older then himself. He fit Old Nan’s descriptions of the wildlings, but then he took into account the man he stood behind. More kept and angular then the youth, but it was no doubt that he sired this mess. He could practically hear Theon’s mocking laughter as his stomach knotted at the realisation that he must be the bastard of Dreadfort

That is until he noticed the young girl next to the wild boy. Unlike the boy, who had a sneer on his face, she bore a small smile. It soon disappeared from sight as she turned to tend to a frightened brown horse, but it left enough of an impression for him to recognize it. She had the saddest smile he had ever seen.

 

Theon

As he came upon the empty archery ring, he couldn't help but snicker. An entire row of target, all bare and ready for him to practice on. What was a poor archer to do? Was it not his duty to completely dominate the practice ring, and get a good laugh when Stark tried to shoot an arrow afterwards?

Selecting his favorite bow from the rack, one he etched a kraken into, he strung it before selecting his arrow. Raising it to the target, he trained his eye to the center ring, before drawing it back to his mouth. Releasing the arrow, it spiraled into the target, straw spraying out from the point of contact. It looked fine, but just to make sure...

He trotted over to the target, and crouched to the level of the arrow. Holding out his left hand, he measured the arrow from the edge of the ring. He was able to splay out his hand, and he scoffed, it was too far off to the right. He began to use his right to pull out the arrow, until he heard a familiar whoosh.

Without a moment to act, an arrow embedded itself in the gap of his index and middle fingers. The screech he let out was a bit less dignified then he would've normally found acceptable. He pulled his hand to his chest, cradling it as he looked at the offending arrow. It was a few inches from his own. Dead center.

He turned around, and there was the archer. His left hand held a previously untouched left handed longbow. His right had already sunk down to his belt, where he had one thumb tucked under, where as his fingers tapped onto the sheath of a very visible dagger.  As if his sharp grin and lifeless blue eyes weren’t terrifying enough.

“You think you’re real funny, don’t you?!” Theon shouted out to the boy. “You almost hit my hand, you little bastard!”

Then he started to make his way towards the target. But his eyes were settled on Theon,and the Greyjoy’s mouth twisted in discomfort. Those eyes were so unnaturally pale. They should belong to a blind man, or the dead. But yet they were in the sockets of a very alive bastard. One who insisted on tapping his scabbard as he approached inch by inch. Cautiously, Theon side stepped when the archer retrieved his arrow, ripping it carelessly from the target. As he brought it back up, he noticed a chunk of wood taken from the support, and knowing that he would get blamed for it, a protest rose in his throat. That is until he came face to tip with the arrow.

“I don’t see any blood,” the youth remarked. “Do you?”

Caught speechless, he failed to think of a retort. Then his breath hitched as the tip was pushed, brushing the bridge of his nose.

“Fuck! For the love of the Drowned God, put that down!”

“Do you see any blood?” he insisted, nudging it closely, almost drawing blood.

“No! No, I don’t see any, you fucking cunt!” he spat out.

In a flash, the danger was taken away. The bastard began to make his way back to the rack, and Theon let out a deep sigh. He then made to the target,carefully removing his arrow, and assessing the true damage to pillar. The little fucker managed to imbed the arrow far enough for the wood to crack, and Theon let a curse escape from under his breath.

“You know,” the boy called out. “You should work on your own aim before you excuse others.”

Lifting his head towards the bastard, Theon let a goading smirk play on his lips.

“If you were looking to draw blood, then I don’t think you should, either.”

Suddenly, he felt something wet drip onto his lips. Looking skyward for any signs of rain or snow, he saw neither. Then some escaped into his mouth. The metallic taste was unmistakable. Touching the bridge of his nose, he brought it down to see the red stain his fingers.

“Like I said.” Theon snapped his head to the smirking boy with cold dead eyes. “You should work on your aim.”

He then held up the arrow, which had a tint of red to the tip, and those sharp teeth pulled into a nightmarish smile. “And you shouldn’t lie when people ask you a question, little Greyjoy.”

Holding the tip to his nose as a hunter would for an injured animal, the bastard gave him one last lingering look. “The blood of liars reeks.”

Chapter Text

Arya

 

“Wonderful, Arya! You are improving remarkably!”

Horseshit. She hadn’t improved at all. Her stitching, especially compared to her Mother’s was atrocious. Clumsily stitched, loose and knotted threads littered her poor attempt at a simple bird. But she could’ve been stitching a straight line, and she’d be flooded with compliments from her Septa and Lady Mother.

The other ladies in waiting and Jeyne Poole would follow in suit. As if they had been paid too lie to her. But whenever they thought she was out of earshot, she could hear them mocking her. Concealing giggles and whispers of “Arya Horseface.” Like Bethany didn’t have an underbite herself, or Marya didn’t have the largest mouth this side of the wall.

Thankfully, none of the ladies that Mother had invited to her sewing circle had joined in either activity. Meera Reed had been to engrossed in her frustration with embroidery herself, and stared at her stitches as if they had bitten her. Dacey Mormont not in a better shape, though Lady Mormont had kept a pleasant demeanor as she made her lazy stitches. As much as her daughter tried to mimic her mother’s composer, Arya was not deaf the the small “Ouch” spilled from the young she-bear when she pricked her palm. The Karstark girl kept to herself aside Jeyne,seeming to be a bit more experienced than most, from the almost mechanical way she stitched out a sun into her favour.

“What an beautiful cat, Arya!”

She looked down at her piece, then back up at Morden, cocking an eyebrow. “It's a hare.”

Her Septa stiffened, as her lady looked as if she had eaten a lemon from the south. But she feigned a smile, looking over to her work.

“And what a sweet hare it is. Where is its soft  tail?”

“Bitten off by a wolf,” she added , pointing to the other figure on her favour. She heard something that sounded like a choked cough come from one of the ladies in waiting, while the Reed and Karstark hid their smiles behind their work.

“How… Imaginative,” her Septa managed through clenched teeth. “Might I make a suggestion.”

'No.’ “Of course.”

“How about we make it a tad more simple? Perhaps the hare and wolf are chasing each other  and playing?”

“Wolves don't play with hares,” she insisted. “They hunt them.”

“Well perhaps this wolf is a friendly wolf?” Her mother suggested.

“She's my wolf. And she's hungry,” she pushed, and her mother clicked her tongue.

“Arya, it was only a suggestion. No need to be so harsh.”

The unsaid ‘It is not how a lady should act’ comment made her wish to bury her head in the snow to cool off. Putting her on the spot would give those serving girls even more material to mock her with. She could already see the taunts forming in Bethany’s head, and she punctured the cloth a bit more harshly, trying to bury the anger. But Marya leaned into whisper next to her.

“Mayhaps you could add a horse, m’lady. Since you know them so well.”

She jumped from her stool as if it had been set aflame, and turned to her mother.

“Mother, can I step outside?” She begged aloud, not caring for the abruptness or the odd looks she got from those present in the room.

“Arya, we’re in the middle of a lesson,” Morden hissed out, and she quickly made up an excuse.

“I only wanted to get a fresher image of the bushes,” she supplied, gesturing to the spot of green mess she had meant to be grass. “For my background.”

With a sigh, her mother relented, and she scurried out of the room, making sure was out of sight when she ran for the courtyard. As her stupid, long dress swished behind her, she lifted the skirts, not caring if her embroidery was crumpled in her hand. When she came to the godswood, she angrily kicked at the snow.

She loved Mother, but it was hard to ever see her eye to eye. She was always trying to push her to be a lady. As if when she was encouraging her, it was more of convincing herself she had raised a lady. Sometimes, she felt like Mother was treading lightly with her, like she would with  a wild beast. Other times she felt like she was her dress up doll. A wolf dressed as a porcelain doll. It almost made her feel like all the maids’ mockery of her was justified, she was a walking joke.

She realised abruptly that she had scuffled the snow so deep, and her foot hit a root. A shout of pain and a curse escaped her mouth before she could control herself. A bit too loud. She realised that anyone could have heard that who was passing by and quickly looked around. God's forbid any of the lords or ladies see their Lord’s daughter curse, but she knew Mother and Septa Mordane would never let her hear the end of it .

Thankfully, the only person present was Sansa Snow. Judging from the way she was engrossed in the embroidery in her lap, she either hadn't heard her outburst, or just didn’t care for it. Come to think of it, who sews outside?

“What are you doing out here?” she asked to the older girl sitting in the snow.

“I could ask you the same question,”she replied, never once lifting her eyes from her work.

“Escaping a sewing circle,” Arya huffed out, finding herself walk towards her. Sansa hummed as she tugged the thread through her favour.

“Must be torturous,” she mused, but held no sarcasm in her voice. The way she looked up at Aya almost made her believe she understood.

“You’d probably think it heavenly,” she gestured to the design- design being a loose term, it was almost as odd looking as hers. But the elder shook her head.

“I prefer peace and quiet when I sew,” she revealed. “I never had any ladies to sew with whilst learning, so I find it a bit distracting, what with all the chatter.Almost as painful as the snide remarks serving maids make when they think you their equals,” Sansa continued, and Arya found herself surprised.

“The serving maids are mean to you, too?” she asked, slightly at a disbelief. The look on Sansa’s face must’ve mirrored her own, because she looked just as confused.As if she was saying ‘you as well?’

“But you’re the daughter of the Warden of the North.” she said, sounding aghast.

“As far as they are concerned, my father could be a horse,” Arya grumbled, sitting aside her acquaintance, and frowning. “Arya Horseface. That’s what they call me.”

Sansa’s hand grasped her own, and she looked to the older girl as she offered a comforting smile. Her eyes still unnerved her, but she could appreciate the thought.It was the first time in awhile a girl her age had not mocked her.

“Serving maids have nothing in their lives that is exciting,” she assured the Stark girl.”They have nothing better to do then to make themselves feel better about their low status.”

“I think it's just because they’re rude idiots,” she added, and Sansa smiled.

“That too.”

Looking back to the embroidery in the elder’s hand, she finally was able to make out the shape of a wing. She recognised it as a bird, but it was shaped oddly.

“Why is it's neck bent?” She asked aloud. Sansa looked down to her piece, and then back at Arya.

“Look down,” she gestured with her head towards the ground. Arya followed the direction, and she flinched slightly.

Amongst the cluster of leaves and twigs that had littered the ground, it was almost impossible to identify the tiny birds. Most of them were the same coloring as the twigs, brown and barely coming into their feathers. Save for one large chick. It was grey and black coloring, and looked to be twice the size of it's nest mates. It ginormous body crushed what looked to be two others.

“It must've been blown away over night,” the Bolton commented nonchalantly. “ Poor things must've broken their necks or died of the cold.”

Tearing her eyes from the ghastly sight, she turned her attention back to the unaffected girl.

“That is gross,” Arya murmured, feeling a bit uneasy, but strangely fascinated by the sight. It was so different then from what mother embroidered. So uneven and seemingly careless stitching but it added to the effect of fledgling feathers. She didn't know whether to feel impressed or jealous.

“No more so than a rabbit spewing blood out it's arse.”

Arya coughed at the bluntness and seeming randomness of the statement, until she realised she was referring to her crumpled price. Then she found herself laughing.

“It's supposed to have lost its tail,” she managed through cackles, and Sansa smirked.

“Oh, if only you could see some of the tapestries we have in Dreadfort,” she mused. “Most of them would make ladies weep.”

“They’re that bad?” Arya goaded, intrigued by the idea of terrifying tapestries.

“One depicts a bull spewing feces out of its arse,” she whispered, flicking her hands to mimic the image.

Arya’s laughter became uncontrollable as she clutched her stomach, holding the unfinished pattern to her as she nearly sobbed in glee. Sansa had joined her, throwing back her head as she cackled madly. Perhaps she wasn’t as bad as she seemed. She was still a bit creepy, no doubt. But she was at least able to make a joke of it.

“My mother would probably weep at the sight,” she managed, wiping away the mirth. Sansa let out a sigh as she lounged back against a root.

“You’re mother is a high born lady. If you had shown my mother that picture, she would’ve scoffed and asked you why you brought her to see a picture of a bull when we’ve got a perfectly good one back home?”

Arya let out a short laugh, before asking, “Do you have a lot of cattle in Dreadfort?”

“Oh no, not Dreadfort!” she corrected, her laughter seeming nervous and slightly forced now. “I meant my old mill. And it’s just one bull. Ol’ Weeper, we called him. Since we bought him off a man sailing down the Weeping Water.”

She nodded, before looking out over the walls of Winterfell. “What’s it like?”

“Hmm?”

“Living outside the walls?”

The older girl stiffened, before she began to pluck at a loose thread in her fabric. “It’s different.”

“...Like, good different or-?”

“Just different.” she stated plainly. “They’re two completely worlds. When you grow up being told you’re having to give the food you made to a lord in a far away castle, it’s odd to sup at their table, eating the food you had sent away not but a week ago.”

“....Father invites a common family to our table once a week,” Arya commented, feeling a bit at odds with the story Sansa had implied. “He says it's best to know the people you are ruling.”

The Snow gave her that signature small smile of hers. “Not all Lords are like you’re parents, Arya.”

Then she paused in her sewing. “Speaking of parents, what excuse did you use to get out of that lesson?.”

“Looking at the bushes to get a better image,” she revealed, and the elder cocked one eyebrow.

“Don’t you think she would’ve realised by now that there are no bushes outside that are alive?”

Suddenly, she felt a sheepish smile creep onto her face, “Hehe….Probably.”

“Well, then I suggest you return,” she insisted with a tilt of her head towards the corridors.

“What, bored with me already,” she teased, but more than anything, she was grasping for a way to stay out of that blasted room.

“Hardly, I find you very interesting, Arya.” the genuine nature of her voice caused a ting in her cheeks. “But you’re lady mother wouldn’t appreciate you skipping lessons to talk to a bastard.”

Arya scoffed. “It wouldn’t be the first time, so you don’t need to be worried.”

Despite it, she still lifted herself and snatched her embroidery. She made her way out of the heart tree, bracing herself for her mother’s scolding, and her clicking tongue. Then it finally occurred to her, a sudden yet embarrassing obvious question that hadn’t rose in her mind till just that moment.

“Why weren’t you in the circle?”

Sansa stared at her wide eyed, before shrugging. “I wasn’t invited.”

The subdued hurt made her eyes look even more glass like and pale. Whether it was pity or unease in her stomach, she didn’t know. But whatever it was, it made her feel like she should ask the question.

“Well...Would you like to come?”

 

Catelyn

 

“-Anyways, Lady Catelyn, what would you recommend?”

She snapped her eyes back to the room. She didn’t even notice that she had spaced out. Arya was still gone. She knew she probably skipped out, and she felt frustration as she knew the other ladies would comment on her absence. And the last thing she wanted was for the other Northern Ladies to think that she couldn’t control her own daughter.

“I’m sorry, Bethany, could you repeat that?” she asked calmly, trying to mask her worry and simmering frustration.

“Forgive me, m’lady. I was asking if you would recommend what to add to my design?”

The serving maid presented her image of fallen autumn leaves. Inspecting the improving puncture holes and even distance between the stitches, she hummed.

“This is for that Markus boy in the kitchen, no?” she asked, and the girl blushed shyly. “Then you should try to maybe include his favorite colors.”

“Thank you m’lady!” the girl answered as she grabbed a spool of forest green.

Smiling to herself as she mused over the joys of young love, she turned to address the Mormonts.

“If I am not being too forward, Lady Dacey, may I ask if you are sewing for anyone?”

The dark haired girl snapped her to Catelyn, and looked surprised, before holding up her work. It looked to be a...bear? It was hard to tell. She had used white thread, and she had so many holes and loose thread it was hard to tell.

“I wouldn’t give this to anyone, my lady,” she stated curtly. And though Catelyn knew it wasn't meant to be harsh, it still reminded her that Northern Ladies were a little more bluntly and cared little for niceties. It was refreshing, but still, she found herself missing her days as a young lady, practicing speaking in courtly tongue with the daughter of her bannermen.  Maybe had Arya had that experience, she would’ve been a bit easier to bring to sewing circles.

“It’s the thought that counts,” her mother assured, before tilting her design towards the younger Mormont, who snorted in laughter. She found herself hit with a ping of jealousy, longing for something similar with her daughter. But her little girl had too much wolf, and had told her time and time again how much she loathed sewing.

Dacey turned her attention back to Catelyn, and smiled, “I promise, my lady. SHould I wish to give my favour to someone, you will be one of the first to know.”

It seemed reassuring, but the twinkle in those dark eyes made her stomach twist. The same twinkle she had as she shook Robb’s hand. She pushed those thoughts down, the girl was four years his senior, and he was barely escaping his childhood. There was no need to get so defensive. Shaking her head,she turned to the Reeds.

“And what of you, Lady Meera?” she inquired, and the girl cried out as the needle poked her for the fifth time that day. Jyana Reed grasped her daughter's hand, inspecting the finger before turning to smile at Catelyn.

“Meera is at that age when a lady has one thing on her mind,” she whispered, and Catelyn felt a knowing smile creep up on her face as she handed the girl a piece of cloth.
“Boys?”

Sh looked up at her with those dark grey eyes, shining through her wild black hair, like a cautious animal, before gently taking the cloth and stating: “Hunting lizard lions.”

Well...That was unexpected. Alys Karstark smirked slightly, but said nothing, whereas Bethany and Marya stiffened in their seats. This hadn’t exactly been the most fun she had in a sewing circle.

Suddenly, footsteps came round the corner, and Cat breathed out a sigh of relief as she turned back to the door.

“Arya, thank the gods you’re back, I was beginning to wor-.”

She paused when she spotted the second person entering the room. Arya had a careless smile plastered on her face, but that bastard girl she brought along looked nervous. It reminded Cat of the discomfort that Jon wore whenever she spoke to him, and she felt her stomach twist. She had scolded Arya on leaving lessons to visit her bastard brother, but she never imagined she’d begin extending her favor to the Bolton girl of all people!

The rest of the circle had fallen silent. Most of the visiting ladies merely acknowledging the new arrivals presence, meanwhile the serving girls and Jeyne Poole huddled together, and she heard the distinct sound of wood scraping against the stone as the supposedly moved their chairs farther from the new arrival.

It was Arya who broke the silence with a cough. “I invited Sansa to join. Since she was sewing outside, it thought she might like to warm up.”

The Snow girl sheepishly looked to her, and those frighteningly pale eyes seemed so pleading. “If that is alright with you, my lady.”

No, she thought in her mind. It would have been what she would’ve said it aloud had it not been for the fact that she wasn’t Jon. She wasn’t a bastard of Winterfell, she was a Bastard of Dreadfort. And as much as she felt uneased by the Boltons, she couldn’t deny that it would be rude for her to deny one guest what she offered to all. Besides how he seemed indifferent to the boy, she had no idea how Roose Bolton would react to his daughter being scorned. So when she said she would allow it, it was out of caution.

Arya pulled up a stool next to her, and the Snow girl took her seat. After a moment of silent, everyone went back to their work.That is until Jeyne let out a bloodcurdling scream.

“Wha-What is that?!” THe young Poole girl screeched, pointing towards the bastard girl.. Catelyn was about to throw her out for her shameless behavior, until she turned and screamed as well.

Buried in the Snow’s dark blue skirt was the ruins of a nest, and the remains of newly dead fledglings. She held them on her lap, and looked down to her favour as she seemed to be using it for reference. Arya, much to her horror, was cackling madly.

“Excuse me, um...Forgive me, what was your name again?” Catelyn asked through clenched teeth. The girl looked to her and said meekly.

“Sansa,my lady.”

“Sansa,” she said, the name already feeling wrong on her tongue, like the hiss of a snake. “Would you mind telling us why you brought-well-whatever that is?”

The girl looked down to her nest, before looking back to Cat. “It’s a nest, my lady. It fell out and-”

“We can see that,” Jeyne snapped. “But why did you bring it in here?”

The Snow turned to her Steward’s daughter with a look so innocent it made Catelyn's flesh crawl. No one was that naive, especially a bastard. A Bolton Bastard, for that matter.

“It was what I was sewing,” she said with a shrug, before showing her pattern. Catelyn held the urge to gasp. It was almost life like. The small feathers, the unnatural bend in the neck, the way she stitched every individual twig with tiny precision. But that didn’t change the fact of what it was.

“Sansa, might I make a suggestion?”

The snort of mocking laughter from Arya did not escape her notice, but she chose to ignore it. For now. The Snow was the focal point of her attention now.

“Of course, My lady.”

“Perhaps, we could omit the dead birds?” she asked, with a tone of voice one might use when training a feral dog. But the girl looked at her with the expression Rickon wore when he was told he couldn’t go looking for whatever animal he was fixated on that week.

“My lady, don’t take this the wrong way, but I already finished half the bird. It would be a waste of thread.” she added with a sigh. “And father already is displeased with how much I spend on thread as it is.”

She took a moment to collect herself. No need to push the girl, but still, it was upsetting her guests...Well, Serving maids, the guests hadn’t even flinched. In fact Meera Reed seemed to give the bastard girl a nod of approval upon seeing her prize.

With a sigh, she turned to the girls and spoke soothingly, “Just give it a few minutes. If it’s too much, I will kick her out.”

“But Lady Stark-.”

“You needn’t look at it, Bethany. And like I said, if it becomes to discomforting, I will make sure it's taken care of, is that clear?”

The girls nodded, before turning away from the Bolton, and the peace was returned. That is until Arya leaned over to her friend and asked, “What kind of bird is that big one? Is it the mother?”

The girl turned to her daughter with a smile that spoke that she found Arya’s question amusing,

“The little ones are Sparrows. The large one is a Cuckoo chick.”

Upon mentioning the bird, Septa Mordane scoffed, “Horrid creatures! Be glad those poor fledglings died before starvation took them,” she huffed, and was conjoined by those who knew of the pest.

“Why? What is wrong with them?” she asked, and Catelyn took it upon herself to explain.

“Wretched things. They are planted in other birds nests, and when they hatch, the poor mothers are forced to feed those glutinous beasts while their own children starve, because they mistaken those awful little pests as their own.”

From her side of the room, she could here the whispers of the serving girls, and she could make out the words “Jon” and “little cuckoo bird” amongst the whispered giggles. Thank the seven they had been on the opposite side of the room from the bastard girl.But she was brought out of her musing when a voice as cold as ice cut through the whispers,

“It’s not the chick’s fault.”

She looked to Sansa, whose small smile had been wiped clean. It was replaced with an emotionless frown. But her eyes never left her work as they grew dull and lifeless.

“I beg your pardon?” Morden asked.

“The fledgling had no control where it was born,” she continued, lacing another stitch into her design. A red thread. “They weren’t born horrid and greedy creatures.”

Catelyn stared at the emotionless eyes, before clicking her tongue. “Yet they wish to take all the food from their smaller nest mates.”

“They don’t wish anything. They are simply fledglings,” Sansa continued, voice neither wavering nor showing any true emotion. It was as if she was talking of such trivial things as the weather or the supper from the night before. “They need what all fledglings need: food,shelter and warmth. Only difference is the size.”

She stitched in a clear row of red, faster than she had been at that age, and yet she continued to speak. “If anything, the Cuckoo’s parents were only seeking help. They knew they couldn’t care for their child properly, so they entrusted them to another who could.” She shifted the bird in the folds of her skirt, ignoring the retching coming from the serving girls.

“And look. This one isn’t even that big,” she said, almost sounding saddened by the sight. “Judging from the size of its brothers and sister, it should at least be a week old. It barely came into its feathers...The surrogate mother must’ve abandoned it long before last night.”

A glint shone into Catelyn's eyes, before she realised that the girl had reached inside her boot and pulled out what looked to be a pair of shears. She was about to jump for Arya, when a the Snow sniped the thread clean. Almost as quickly, she returned the shears beneath the hem of the skirt. She then held her design up, as if looking for inspection, and then turned it to Arya.

“I think it's done. Do you?”

“It's disgusting,” Arya stated bluntly, and a gasp came from Morden as she clutched her hand to her bosom. But the Snow smirked at her daughter.

“Not all fledglings are beautiful.” She then rose, and began to make her way back to entrance, but not until she looked to Catelyn and showed her the image. A brood of fledglings, all crushed and  covered in snow, while a single Cuckoo chick, it’s neck bent as a crimson stream of blood trickled underneath it.  “But does that mean they should be denied a mother’s love?”

 

Robb

 

“I’m telling you Stark, we need to get out of here.”

Robb didn't stop sharpening his sword, nor did he even look up at his Ironborn companion. “You’re being overdramatic, Greyjoy.”

“I am not! Look at this!” he could only assume he was pointing to the scar on the bridge of his nose. If you could even call it that. By the time he saw any remnants of a scratch, he was a bit too close to Theon’s face for his own good. If he could see at least twenty freckles on that fucker’s bridge before seeing a scratch, then he was fine.

“It was probably an accident,” he deadpanned.

“An accident? You don’t just ‘accidently’ hold the tip of an arrow to a man’s fucking face!” he hissed, aware that the subject of their conversation was only across the courtyard. Seemingly engrossed in a book of some sorts.

“What, you afraid the ladies won’t like a man with a scratch on his nose,” Jon teased, and Robb could hear the frown in Theon’s voice.

“Fuck off, Snow. Why don’t you go hobble over to your ‘brother’ and wank off someone else for a change?”

Jon let out a chuckle. “No thank you.Sounds a bit too Targaryen to me.”

Robb let out a snort, before he looked up at a clearly pissed Theon. “Look, mate. You got off on the wrong foot. Doesn’t mean he’s planning to murder you or anything.”

“No, just probably mutilate me, starve me, and cut off my nose,” Theon grumbled, and Jon let out a bark of laughter from the barrel he sat on.

“Hey, at least he’s not cutting off other things. Means it’s not completely lost.”

“Besides,” Robb continued. “Isn’t this exactly what we warned you about? Why do you have to pull us into a mess you got yourself into?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said sarcastically. “Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m your beloved friend?”

He rolled his eyes. “Doesn’t mean I condone whatever you did to piss him off.”

“That’s the thing,” Theon hissed. “I didn’t do anything! I was practicing, and out of nowhere he tries to shoot my hand!”

Robb fixed him with a look “Truly? You didn’t say anything that could’ve set him off?”

“Yes!” he said a bit too loudly, before lowering his voice. “I cursed him afterwards, but that's not the point! The point is that you don’t shoot someone you just met!”

“He just might’ve seen you and thought ‘He looks like a prick’,” Jon suggested. “You might’ve just angered him by your mere presence.”

“He wouldn’t be alone,” Robb teased, and he and his brother shared a snicker while the Greyjoy scowled.

“I hate both of you,”he grumbled as he kicked the barrel Jon sat upon.

“If it’s bothering you this much, why don’t you go to Wintertown for a few days,” Jon mumbled as he  steadied himself.

“Tempting,” he admitted. “But you’re father would have my head if we suddenly disappeared. Even if it were for a few days.”

“Then just go alone. Spend a few days at that whore house you love so much” Robb urged, hoping he would find it appealing enough to drop the subject.

“Still my head on the line,” he retired, and Jon let out a groan.

“You’re impossible! Avoid him if you must, but stop trying to drag us down with-.”

He suddenly paused, and looked off into space. Following his gaze, Robb finally caught what he was watching. The Bolton girl moved silently through the halls, her faded blue skirts trailing behind her like a mist. Those blue eyes of her family were downcast onto the floor as she made her way towards her house’s quarters, and Robb was struck with a great sense of pity. Judging from the direction she came from, and the spool of thread hanging from her pocket, he could tell where she had come from.

“Lady Sansa!”

The girl snapped her head towards them, and seemed to brighten up as she moved towards Jon. Robb spared his brother a glance, and saw how his cheeks pinkened as she approached.

“Lord Jon,” she addressed him in a whisper of a voice. “It is good to see you out. How is the knee?”

“Much better,”Jon said with a smile. “Maester Luwin said it will take some days to fully be right, but it is healing, thanks to you, my lady.”

The girl’s pale cheeks stained with a blush as she tucked on black strand of hair behind her ear. “It was only right that I do it, my lord. And I have told you, I am no lady.”

“And I am no lord,” he assured her with a soft smile. And Robb felt oddly out of place. It made him shift uncontrollably as he coughed to break the tension. Jon looked to him, and then slid from the barrel.

“Lad-i mean, uhm...Sansa?” he said, wordlessly looking for her approval of the title, and the girl nodded before he continued. “Sansa, this is my half brother, Robb.”

Sansa turned to him, and he was suddenly struck by how different she was from her brother. He had shaken her hand when she arrived, but the flurry of faces had melded together into his memory. But now that he had time to study her, the only true resemblance was the eyes. The rest of her was quite nice to look upon.

“Lord Stark,” she curtly nodded to him as she smiled and curtseyed.

“I take it you are enjoying your stay at Winterfell?” asked conversationally. And her smile brightened up from formal to elatement.

“Oh yes! You have such a beautiful home, my lord,” she said sincerely. And Theon to the opportunity to pounce in front of him, and take her hand.

“It pales in comparison to you,” he kissed her hand, and Robb could see Jon stiffen from his spot aside her. But Sansa simply giggled.

“I take it you’re the infamous  Greyjoy ward?” she asked and Theon’s grin grew.

“You have heard of me?” Theon asked smugly, and Robb contained the urge to roll his eyes.

“Unlikely heir becomes the most prized prisoner of war in the North? It’s my brother’s favorite story.”

At the mention of the other Snow, Theon’s smile faltered, before he managed: “How….charming.”

“Anyhow, may I inquire why you are gathered out here?” she asked, and Robb lifted his sword.

“Waiting for Arya to finish her lesson so she can watch us spare.Speaking of which, is the circle almost done?”

Sansa looked to the corridor leading to the Weirwood, and sighed, “I don't know. I left early, that is all I know.”

Theon gave her shoulder a pat, and she seemed caught off guard by it as she stiffened under his touch. “It’s not your fault. Lady Stark just isn’t found of bastards in general.”

“Theon!” he snapped as Jon narrowed his eyes at the shrugging Greyjoy.

“What?She isn’t!” he pulled his hand back and it out like a shield.

“Lady Stark wasn’t unkind,” Sansa urged, almost seeming defensive of his Lady Mother. Not that he would blame her for being put off with her cold behavior. “I was simply finished with my sewing.”

She gestured to the embroidery in her hand, showing but the slightest clue as to what she stitched. Jon peered over to the work, and physically gulped. Theon’s reaction was less subtle, as he stumbled back to his side. Sansa looked to Jon questionly, and he managed to stammer out.

“Uhm-it's, well...It’s very-.”

“It’s fucking ugly.”

Robb was ready to stand up in smack Theon. But then he realised that it wasn’t his companion, or any of the previous participants. From behind Sansa, her brother was looking over her shoulder, a look of boredom clear on his face. Theon had gone pale, whereas Jon looked as if he had eaten a lemon. But the insulted sideways to her brother, and visibly frowned.

“Ramsay,” she spoke as harshly as a scolding mother would a child. “Was that really necessary?”

“It’s not harsh,” he replied. “Simply the truth. The stitching is complete and utter shit. It might be your worst one yet.”

He turned that bored stare towards Jon, and gesturing to the embroidery. “What say you, bastard?”

Robb felt his stomach drop as a heat rose inside his blood as he suddenly rose to his feet, He could see Theon tensing as well, and he barely had the control not to raise his sword. Thankfully, he didn’t have to. Because the Bolton boy let out a cry of pain as his sister pinched his hand.

“Ramsay!” she hissed. But the arse just seemed mildly annoyed.

“I was just asking a question,” he responded in kind, which earned him another pinch. Apparently harder, as the cry he gave was more audible.  Theon let out a snort, which he sank into when the boy fixed him with a smirk.

“And you, Greyjoy. Do you think my dear sister’s rubbish is any good?” he goaded. “Or are you going to lie again?”

That quieted Theon. A miracle, really. He might’ve felt inclined to ask him his secret, where he not a complete cunt.

“Ramsay, enough,” Sansa snapped, grasping his forearm as she tugged towards the opposite side of the courtyard. “I think you’ve made your point.”

She then turned back to Jon with a hurt look in her eyes. “I am so sorry,” she said, barely above a whisper, before turning to all of them. “All of you. I ensure you, he will be sorry.” Her twin let out a ‘fuck!’ as her grip seemed to tighten and twist his forearm. “When Arya arrives, please give her my apologies for my abrupt leave.”

She then pulled her brother along. Robb felt himself cool down, and quickly went to his brothers side, and clasping his shoulder.

“Are you alright, Jon?” he pleaded. But Jon was in another world, staring off after those blue skirts. “Jon?”

“I thought it was lovely,” he murmured.

“What was it anyways?”

Before either could respond,  Theon cut through the two of them, and walked over to the spot Ramsay had been loitering by before. The crunch of his boots stopped as he leaned over, and picked something off the snow.

“What is it?” he called out. Theon answered by holding up the object: the book.

“Well, are you going to return it?”

As he approached back to their corner, he could visibly see the scowl of discomfort on his friend’s face. “Not for all the whores in Lys,” he spat as he flipped through the pages with a confused look on his face.

“What is it?” Jon asked.

“Most of the pages are blank,” he said, squinting as he flipped through the pages. “And the ones that aren’t…”

Suddenly, he gasped and dropped the book. Robb looked at the worn leather, then back up to Theon, who stared at the book as if he could burn it with his gaze. Jon looked at it in confusion, so he took it upon himself to pick it up. The asymmetrical stitching scratched into his palm, and the paper felt more like sheep skin than any of the books in the library. Theon was right, most of the pages were plain, save for what looked to pictures. But without the beautiful coloring that Maester Luwin took care to add to any book he translated. And they weren’t pictures per say. It would be more accurate to call them rough sketches and smudges.

That is until he came upon a page with a pencil lodged in its backbone. The book fell open, revealing the graphic depiction of a bird with it’s stomach opened. The contents and guts were given care to detail, where as the feathers were wispy and fading out in a gradient. He turned his attention to the scrawl of words beneath. Mother Sparrow.

 

Chapter Text

Bran 

“Deer! Deer!”

Rickon’s latest interest was getting a bit exhausting. They had wandered all of Winterfell in search of a deer. Twice now. But Rickon's was relentless!

“Why a deer?” Meera asked from behind.

“He likes the fluffy tails,” he shrugged.

“Come here, Deer!”

The Reed girl coked an eyebrow as she whispered “Does he realise that he ate deer two nights ago?”

“Best not let him know,” Sansa whispered from ahead as she trailed off after his baby brother.

Meera and Sansa had offered to help him watch over Rickon when they saw him wandering aimlessly around the courtyard. Meera claimed she was bored, and a good deer hunt would be delightful. Much to Rickon’s as horror as he begged her not to kill his deer and began crying. Thankfully, Sansa had been near by and soothed him down with a small cake she had taken from her rooms. She assured him that he could share it with his deer when they found it. Thus began the Great Deer Hunt of Winterfell.

“Bran! Bran!”

The small bundle of russet curls bolted to him and took hold of his hand as he bounced up and down.

“Climb tree! Climb tree!”

He looked to the tree next to him and gulped. Mother had strict rules about climbing in the godswood.

“Rickon, deer don't climb trees,” he groaned, but his brother looked at him with those big pleading eyes of his.

“Please,Bran? How you sure?”

“They have hooves, Lord Rickon,” Meera chimed in, and Bran felt himself relax a bit. “Animals with hooves can’t climb trees.”

“Why?”

“Because they can’t grab onto anything.”

Though he seemed to understand, Rickon’s pout meant that it didn’t satisfy him. Bracing himself, he covered his ears as his brother’s Tully eyes welled up with tears. Poor Meera was caught off guard, and she jumped at the wail his baby brother released. She looked to him in confusion, as if she had never seen a crying child before. Sansa had taken to cradling the snot covered tot, offering him a handkerchief to blow his nose in.

“There there, it’s alright,”she cooed, before looking at him with pleading eyes. So she wasn’t used to crying little brothers either.  “Maybe the next time your father goes hunting, he’ll bring you back a deer.”

“NO!” Rickon screeched, causing the Snow girl to jump. “No hurt deer!”

“No, of course not!” she ensured, and Bran could see the sweat forming at her brow. “I just meant if you ask him really nicely, he might bring you a little foal! Maybe a little stag-.”

“No! I want doe!” He pouted, wiggling out of Sansa’s grip as he stomped on the ground. “Stag has pointy horns! I want fluffy doe!”

Once more she looked to Bran with eyes the size of saucers, and he crouched down to Rickon, attempting to anchor his flailing little stubs he called arms.

“Rickon, if you don’t stop crying, I’ll tell Mother, and you won’t get any ginger cookies after dinner,” he said seriously, and his brother immediately stopped flailing, but was still crying.

“I want cookies!” he hiccuped.

“Then you need to stop crying,” he urged. “We looked everywhere,there’s no deer inside the walls.”

“Not if you count the one in the soup,” he heard Meera mumble from behind him, but thankfully, Rickon didn’t seem to hear. He opted to pick himself up and run out of the godswood, loudly announcing his intent to eat ginger cookies. Typical Rickon.

“Should we follow him?” Sansa asked.

“He’ll be fine,” he insured,his worry running with Rickon. “He knows his way to the kitchens.”

“So you're saying we followed him for half an hour, and no hunt?” Meera groaned, propping herself against the trunk of a tree. He smiled apologetically at the Reed girl.

“I’m sorry, Meera. We don’t really hunt at Winterfell.”

Both of the elder girl stared at him like he was mad, and Bran couldn’t help the blush that rose up his neck.

“What? Did I say something wrong?” he stammered out.

“You don’t hunt?” Meera whispered, face twisted into one of disbelief. He felt himself shift uncomfortably, twisting his foot into the snow.

“Well… I don’t. But father sometimes does,” he defended. “Usually for food, though.”

“Really?” Sansa gasped. “I would think, what with King Robert’s reputation-.”

“Father says hunting is more of a necessity.That there's no need to make a sport of it.”

“It is a necessity, but still,” Meera mumbled. “We hunt in Greywater for food. But there's a saying we have: ‘Hunt for frogs, But aim for the lizard lions’”

“What does that mean?” he asked, which earned him a smirk from the girl.

“Only the true crannogmen know, my lord.”

Sansa sighed from her place beside him as she picked a twig from her braid. She must’ve chased Rickon through one of the bushes. “Hunting is a very big deal in Dreadfort. It’s how we determine who gets the next litter.”

“Litter?As in dogs?” Bran asked, the notion of pups bringing a sense of longing to him. Father said that they had little use for hounds, and that he would long for quiet. Hounds were notoriously loud, he said, and that no one would ever sleep again if they had one. Maybe that was why her brother seemed so grumpy all the time. Sansa’s eyes brightened as she continued.

“The most beautiful hounds in the North! All strong built and coats as sleek as ice,” she gushed. “And the most loyal beasts you will ever met! Allison is the sweetest thing, but she’s still teething. Loves to nibble on ears. And Red Jeyne’s a good dog, but she doesn't really know her strength.”

“Must be nice,” Meera’s smile seemed a bit longing. “We can’t have hounds in the Neck. Most would drown.”

“If it's any consolation, they’re not my dogs,” Sansa shrugged. “They’re all Ramsay’s”

“What?” he shouted, staring at her in disbelief. “That’s unfair! Why don’t you get a pup?”

“I told you, we have to earn our pups, Bran,” Sansa said slowly, but he found himself even more ticked.

“That doesn’t make sense. If he gets a pup, then shouldn’t you? It only seems fair,” he mumbled.

“It’s a tradition, Bran,” she assured. “And where would we be without our traditions?”

“Why don’t you try to earn one then?” Meera piped up, and Sansa’s laugh came out shaky.

“Bran can tell you, I’m not exactly hunter material,”she smiled sadly

Bran held back a smile, but she was right. An idea came to his head, and he turned to her.

“What if we asked your brother really nicely to give you a pup?”

That caused an earnest laugh from the Snow girl.

“Oh-Oh gods! Ask my brother!” she wheezed, a single tear escaping her eye as she clutched her stomach.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Meera said, and Bran’s frown deepened.

“Okay...Then maybe your father then!”

That caused her to laugh harder, and he felt his cheeks redden. “Not your father either, eh?”

She began to calm herself as she wiped the mirth at her eyes. “N-no, Bran. My father isn’t known for his generosity.”

He hummed to himself as he mulled over the information.

“Well...I guess you’ll just have to learn how to hunt!” He decided.

“Bran, it's fine,” she assured. “My life doesn’t ride upon whether or not I have a hound.”

“No, but still, You seem like you really like those hounds,” he urged. “So I want to help you.”

“Why?” she giggled,.

“Because you're my friend, and I wanna help you.”

For some reason, she stopped laughing, and stared at him with wide eyes.  As if he had told her he had sesame cakes and was willing to share them with her. He wondered if anyone had ever told her that. From her expression, he figured not, and was suddenly overcome with a sense of fondness as he smirked.

“That, and if you have a pup, I have a better chance of playing with it then I have with your brother.”

Meera let out a snort, which was followed by Sansa’s laughter.

“Well, at least he’s honest,” she said to the Reed, who smirked back at him.

“And I suppose you want me to teach her?” she asked, and Bran pondered it.

“Well, you seem to know a lot about hunting,” he said.

“Yes, but I know how to hunt in the Neck. I take it Dreadfort doesn't have too many swamps,” she asked Sansa, who shook her head. “Hunting in swamps and forests are two completely different ways of hunting.We use spears and nets, you use arrows and hounds.You’ll have to find someone familiar with that.”

At the mention of arrows, Sansa flinched, before saying, “I don’t have the best experience with bows and arrows. You’d need to drop me off on the Summer Islands for a month before I could even hit a target.”

Though he didn’t want to agree, but from what happened in the archery range the other day….Then, it suddenly hit him. He then grasped Sansa and Meera’s hands, and began to drag them out of the godswood.

“Bran, where are you-.”

“I know someone better than the Summer Islanders!”  

 

Theon 

“You’ll have to strip first.”

He anticipated Snow’s reaction long before he felt the sharp pain in his gut as he was met with the bastard’s fist. But the look on the Bolton girl’s face was totally worth it. Even the hurt in his stomach when he let out his laugh was worth it.

“Eat a cock, Theon,” Jon spat. “That’s no way to talk to a lady.”

“Oh, and ‘eat a cock’ is?” he goaded, which got him a kick in the shin.

“You’re right,” the smirking bastard responded with a mock bow. “My apologies, Lady Theon. How can I ever forgive you?”

Bran and that Reed girl snickered like two old spinsters in a port market, and he suddenly didn’t feel like smiling anymore. He looked to Sansa, who was doing a terrible job of hiding a smirk behind the sleeve of her gown. Those unnerving eyes betrayed her enough to know. Had Bran not stroked his ego, he would’ve turned and made a run from the girl. Their last meeting was enough to make him swear off flirting with ladies for at least the next two moons. But of course the little twat knew how to flatter and twist his arm.

“If you want to learn how to shoot, you can’t have your sleeves like that,” he gestured to her fur trimmed sleeves. She lifted her arm to inspect them, and then looked back to him.

“What’s wrong with this?”

“Nothings wrong with it, Sansa,” Jon assured the girl, before glaring at him.“It’s an easy fix. Here.”

Watching Jon fumble to help the girl with her sleeves was like watching Hodor try to wear a dress. Jon enjoyed mocking refinery as much as he and Arya. And here he was, acting as a handmaid to a Bolton. Once he had finished, she shook her rolled sleeves as a baby bird would shake its wings before first flight.

“It’s a bit cold, “ she admitted, and he took the opportunity to present her with a guard.

“This should help.”

She took it, and clumsily made work slipping her hand and tie the laces. Once again, Jon aided her and Theon could barely contain his sarcasm.

“Would Ser Jon the Whipped care to shoot for the lady as well?” he drawled, reveling in the sour look on Jon’s face.

“I was merely being a gentleman,” he murmured.

“She’s not here to be pampered, she’s here to learn archery,” he said, before taking a look back at the rack and called from behind. “Are you right or left handed?”

“Right,” she answered.

Judging by her size, and probable lack of muscles, he selected a short oakwood bow, Weighing it in his own arm,it wasn’t heavy, and not too bulky. The length might be a bit too small, but it would make due. He then reached for his bow in the rack, and handed the prior to the Snow girl, before selecting an arrow.

“Pay close attention,” he instructed, showing his hand for all to see. “You want to use your first three, and only your first three fingers to draw back an arrow.

Placing the arrow on the rest, he demonstrated the motion of drawing the arrow slightly, before gesturing for Sansa to follow. She took an arrow from beside him, and placed it onto the rest, but completely missed the right positioning.

“No, you want to have your arrow to rest on your second finger,” he said holding the arrow up between hi fingers, “You want to grip it between your first and second fingers.”

She fumbled slightly with the placement, but finally got the right finger placement. “Like this?”

“Good. Now curve your fingers,”  he instructed, and she looked at him questioning. Suddenly, he birthed a devious idea, and could hardly contain his self satisfying smirk. “You’ll want to curve your fingers in the way you want a man to curve his inside your-.”

Of course, when the knock to his stomach came, he was well prepared. Holding his hand to his gut, he smirked when it was met with Jon’s fist. Snickering at the surprised look in his eyes, Theon had been off guard when Jon raised his knee to his most prized weapon. And the snickering died out into a wheezed groan as he craddled his testicales and slowly fell to his knees. Bran, the little traitor, was laughing his arse off, and Sansa stared incredulously at the bastard who was defending her honor.

“Jon,” she gasped. And like a scolded puppy, he stiffened and looked to her as if he had been wounded. “That wasn’t very kind.”

“He’s not exactly a kind person either,” he mumbled. Looking up, Theon gave into the childish urge to stick his tounge out. “Not very mature either.”

“Oh come now, Snow,” he chuckled, wincing as he slowly rose to stand again. “You know you love me.”

“As much as I love a rock in my boot,” he spat.

“I’ll take it,” Theon shrugged, before putting his hand on Sansa’s who was still grasping the arrow. He nudged her fingers into the proper grasp, before releasing them. “You want it bent like that.”

“Oh,” she said, before trying to pull back. “It’s a bit hard to draw back.”

“You’ll get used to it. Now you want to pull the nocking point back to the bow, until you hear a little clicking sound.”

She followed as such, but had clicked it with the fletching facing the wrong way.

“No, do you see that feather with the odd coloring?” he said, pointing to the fletchling. “That’s the index fletching. You want that facing the inside of your left hand.”

She made the correction, and he was finally able to follow suite.

“Now, every archer needs an anchor point. Mine is my mouth,” he demonstrated, while looking out to the target. “Now, you need to find a place to aim, and then you just,”

Releasing the arrow, it soared into the straw and cloth, barely grazing the red ring. Not again. Hopefully she wasn’t like her brother, and will try to take his face out. Thankfully, she wasn’t strong enough to pull fully back, and when she released her arrow, it launched into the ground a foot in front of the target.

“...I’m actually surprised it got that far,” she breathed out. “Should I aim higher, or-”

“No!” Bran called out, terror clear in his eyes. “Please don’t.”

“You just need more practice,” Jon assured, but the unease in his voice was evident.“You don't have the muscle build up yet.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Did you just call me fat?”

The blush on Jon’s cheeks was priceless. He couldn't contain his cackle as the embarrassed Snow sputtered out an apology.

“No! No! That wasn't what I meant! I would never- Theon, stop laughing! It's not funny!- Believe me, you are as far from fat as anyone I have ever met!”

“...So now you're calling me scrawny?”

“Yes-wait! No! No!” Jon’s wails became moans of anguish. In turn, it fueled Theon’s laughter, and he found himself distracted from the residing pain in his crotch as he doubled over in laughter.

“Jon, that’s mean!” Bran protested, and he found himself near tears over the distressed and incomprehensible muttering coming from a very disgraced Jon. Oh, if only Robb were there to see this. He’s add to the spectacle beautifully with his scowl and awkward attempts to fix Jon’s mess.

“Y-yes, Jon. T-that’s no way to speak to a lady, “he managed through snorts. “I thought you wished to be like the Dragon Knight!”

“Shut up, Theon!” Jon spat, burying his head in his hands deeper.

“Its..It’s not really all that horrid, Jon,” Sansa assured, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I’ve been called worse-.”

“What?” The rate at which Jon snapped his head up was nauseating to watch. Almost as if he could’ve broke his neck by doing so. “Who would be so cruel?”

“Apparently you,” Theon snickered, which earned him a look that seemed to speak Jon’s new mantra of ‘Shut up, Theon’.

“It’s nothing bad,” she said defensively. “Just as much as you would expect from being a bastard. And partially some friendly sibling banter.”

‘Because your brother is so friendly,’ he thought to himself. But in fear of Jon’s already frazzled state, he wouldn’t risk any more genital mistreatment.

“That doesn’t excuse it,” Jon murmured. “If there is anything I could do to make amends-”

“Jon, I was only pretending to be offended,” she giggled, covering her amused smirk with her dainty hand. “There’s no need to be so serious.”

“B-but-,”

“You are very noble, but I don’t need you to go defending my honor.As appreciated as it is,” looking towards Bran, she offered a crooked smile. “I think Bran already beat you to it”

“I’m Aemon now,” Bran called out, jumping off his barrel and charging towards his brother “Prepare to eat your filthy words, Ser Morgil!”

“Accompanied by his faithful dragon!” Meera screeched as she followed Bran into battle. Jon’s sudden ambush had sent him tumbling to the ground, as he cried out “No! Brave Ser Aemon, spare me your fearsome dragon!”

Nevermind that the last of the dragons had died the year Aemon was knighted. Not that he cared to correct them. Maybe he could escape and find Robb.

That idea was thrown out of the door when another arrow launched inside the dirt. Sansa sighed, the slightest hint of frustration tugging at the corner of her mouth.

“How do you do it?” she asked with a sense of ernest.

“Years of practice. And I have been practicing since I was Bran’s age,” he sighed, watching as she struggled to draw yet another arrow to her cheek, before it prematurely launched in the posts holding the target steady. “Well.. That was a bit better.”

“Barely,” she mumbled. “At this rate, I’ll be twenty before I can hit the rim.”

He barely contained a snicker, sparing a glance at Jon . “Come now, by then, you’ll have caught yourself a nice common boy or bastard to do all the shooting for you.”

She paused,seeming to have been caught off. Maybe offended. He didn't know why, he was paying her a compliment. But the slight twist at her mouth didn't escape his notice.

“I was born with a bastard who did all the shooting for me,” she deadpanned as she failed once more to surpass the dirt before letting out a groan. “Apparently, he took all the talent with him.”

Allowing his smile to fall at the mention of her brother, he grumbled beneath his breath, “Don’t know if I’d call it talent..”

“What was that?” she asked earnestly. Still, Theon jumped slightly.

“Nothing!” She didn’t seem convinced, as she let her bow down slightly, before fixing him with those uncomfortably pale eyes of hers. Only more unsettling was her newly acquired knowing smile.

“He talks about you, you know.”

Suddenly he felt the need to dress warmer, as a shiver ran through his spine.

“Who?” he instantly regretted it as soon as it left his mouth.

“Ramsay.”

‘Fucking drowned god.’

“I-I can’t imagine why,” he laughed nervously, grabbing an arrow and setting it upon the string. “But I can’t really blame him, I am quite impressive.”

“And egotistical,” she added, before adding sheepishly. “Or at least from what he told me.”

Letting the comfort of the wood beneath his grasp calm him, he blew out the hair in his eye. “Like he’d know. He doesn’t know me.”

“You’d be surprised. He’s very...observant.”

“Sure he is,” he mocked, drawing the arrow back, and releasing it into the white ring. Not his best, but it was still satisfying to see it hit any mark. “And is this a family trait, or is he just a freak?”

“No, I’m afraid I’m the plain twin,” she offered shyly, and Theon couldn’t help but roll his eyes.

“Don’t be self deprecating. Jon does that enough,” he spat. “The last thing I want is two depressing bastards ruining my fun.”

He felt around for another arrow, and took it up to his bow. Keeping his focus to the red ring, he could feel her gaze bore into him as he drew it to his cheek.

“Hunting is all about observation. All the best hunters take pride in their ability to see what others can’t. For example.”

He let the arrow launch into the middle ring, and Sansa gave an excited gasp. “It hit center.”

“Not quite,” he corrected, pointing his finger directly below the arrow. “That is dead center. You can go over there and check if you want.”

She did so, taking her time to retrieve her lost arrows, before stopping in front of his own. She turned back, a look of naive amazement that looked more at home on Bran’s face than hers. “How could you tell from back there?”

“Observation,” he offered with a smirk. “Like I said, hunters take pride in observation.”

Pulling the arrow free, she observed the hole before turning to him with a smile. “As you should be.”

“Why thank yo-”

“It must be one of the few things you can be proud of.”

She walked to him and set her bow on the rack, all the while he couldn't help but look at her incredulously, his mouth agape in shock of her drastic  change.. But her smirk never wavered.

“You can't be too proud of being a hostage to the Starks. Nor being the spare of a sire who didn't need one,” she said matter of fact. “I know I'm not.”

“I...I'm not a spare,” Theon scoffed. “I am the Crown Prince of the Iron Isles.”

“By default,” she added. “Only because all your other brothers are dead.”

A retort died on his tongue. The urge to resort to violence raged within him. But the threat of the arrow still dangled in her hand, sending a spark of deja vu as she looked at him with ice in her eyes and a smile on her lips that told him she was growing dangerously bored.

“You shouldn't be so vain,” she echoed to him. “Ramsay does that enough. The last thing anyone wants is for two cocky spares to ruin my fun.”

With that, she let the arrow drop close to his boot, the sharp tip almost skimming his covered toe as he jumped clear of any slight danger. He looked up to chaste her, but she had already ran towards the direction of the oblivious trio, crying out in pleas for her sweet Aemon to spare Ser Morgil.

 

Eddard 

The damned thread was loose once more. Though he’d not be without fault, as he had been toying with the seam as soon as he sat in his chair. He would sometimes wonder how Father had done it. He had never been apart of these meetings, as Brandon was heir, and he was a spare. Not for the first time he wished his brother had taken time out of his maid chasing days to teach him something he learned in those meetings. Because were he honest, he was beyond anxious for Lord Umber to finish his reports already.

“-Wildling raids have greatly increased in the past year. They still remain a large threat to our safety and stock. Lord Stark, I implore you that we set stronger defenses at the eastern part of the  Wall.” Greatjon was a formidable looking man, who wore his dragonglass eye as proudly as his snow bear cloak. Occasionally, he’d catch Maege Mormont staring at the cloak as if it had offended her.

“Lord Umber, I can assure you that I will write to Lord Commander Mormont to see towards stronger defenses of the wall,”Ned assured. “But you must understand that I can not ask for a high concentration of a singular area. It leaves others to potential weakness.”

“Last Hearth has one of the highest rates of breaches within the North,” Greatjon argued. “Surrely Lord Commander Mormont can spare a few extra of his men to watch the Eastern side.”

“And leave the rest the wall open for the wildlings to attack?” Galbart Glover bellowed. “It hardly seems fair to those of us on the Western side of Castle Black.”

“Deepwood Motte is hardly as close to the Wall as Last Hearth,” Mors Umber spat. “The biggest threat you Glovers have is those forceless Ironborn.”

“Oh, would you like to trade, Whoresbane?” Glover stood as he shouted. “See how a few stolen horses compares to an entire fleet setting your home aflame?!”

Suddenly the hall rose into an uproar, some lords siding with the Umbers or Glovers, while others seemed to have taken the noise to settle their own issues. Some stayed silent, such as House Karstark and House Manderly, whereas the heirs to Mormont and Reed seemed to gossip to each other, and House Bolton’s heir was finding the whole debacle far too amusing, if his maniacal laughter was anything to go off of.

Ne’d attempts to be heard over the crowd proved to be futile, as even him hitting Ice against the floor didn’t catch anyone’s attention. So when Cat dragged her dining knife against a porcelain plate of lemon cakes she had been picking on earlier, he couldn’t help but be amused as all the lords and ladies silenced,.All turned to his clever wife with looks of shock, and pain clear in the way some still clutched their offended ears.

“I didn’t want to have to do that,” she calmly announced. “But this is no way to resolve issues. Especially if you are all shouting so loudly, you can’t even hear your Lord attempting to reach you.”

She then sat herself back down, and looked to him, indicating him to talk. Clearing his throat, he looked to Greatjon.

“Lord Umber, I understand your concerns. But we must take into consideration there isn’t exactly a surplus of Night's Watchmen to distribute to accordingly in the demands of us south of the wall.” He could see the defeat in Greatjon’s features as he slumped back into his chair. “And we must remember, all concerns regarding affairs with the Wall must first pass through the approval of the King. And unless anyone in the south has a surplus of willing lads ready to swear themselves to the Watch, it will do no good.”

“It’s not our fault that the Watch has become the dumping ground of bane of society, Lord Stark,” Mors quipped, which caused Maege Mormont to lose her silence as she stood.

“Need I remind you, Lord Umber, that some of the Lords and Ladies present have kin in the Watch,” she growled out, her bulking height making her appear more of a bear then Greatjon did with his coat.

“And why, so you think, that might be,Lady Mormont?” the head Umber sneered, his hand tapping on his hilt of his sword.

“Lord Umber,need I remind you that my own good-brother serves as First Ranger?” Cat asked cooly, and the Umber tensed as he turned to face Ned.

“My apologies, Lord Stark,” he begged. Despite the disgust and anger he felt at the implications made towards his brother's chosen path, he couldn’t help but agree; the Night's Watch was no longer the noble pursuit it once had been. But still…

“The Night's Watch is what is keeping the wildlings at bay. It is what they have been doing for the past eight thousand years. The level of success to which they do it is a matter of the Watch to decide…But, if it is an obstruction and breach of safety to the people of Deepwood, I will begin correspondence between myself, King Robert and Lord Commander Mormont.”

The relief was clear within the Umber party, as Mors and Littlejon let out audible sighs and Greatjon offered a grateful nod, sinking more comfortably in his seat. Maege Mormont, on the other hand, looked dissatisfied. More of a matter of hurt pride then anything. Gods knew the fury of a woman scorned, and dealing with it along with non-offending parties present would make matters worse. He looked to his wife, who offered him her ‘I’ll settle it later’ smile.Grasping her hand under the table, he then cleared his throat before changing topics.

“Now, I would like to discuss matters of the feast tomorrow night.” The mention of the feast threw the hall into a much lighter mood. “Of course, I wish for all to attend,as it is in honor of the North, and we are the North.” A loud collection of agreements and ‘here,here’s rose from the tables, and he found himself smiling. “But keep in mind, if you don’t wish to attend for any reason, it is of no trouble. All food provided at the feast can be sent to your quarters. But my lady wife and I would love for all of you to join us.That being said, all your families are invited as well, even those too young to join us here. The feast will commence exactly an hour after sundown, but the doors will not be closed till the feast is finished, so feel free to come in on your own time.”

“Our cooks are preparing a lovely variety of courses to honor each and every one of your contributions to the Northern supply and safety,” Cat added. “So thank you all for joining us in this meeting,and we hope to see you all in the halls tomorrow evening.”

The scraping of wood against the stone floor and the clicks of boots sounded throughout the hall as all the lords and Ladies piled out of the hall. Ned took his wife's hand and led her through their door towards their chambers, before he ran a hand down his face.

“That was disastrous,” he grumbuled.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Ned. You Northerners hold grudges longer than anyone I have ever met. You can’t not fill a hall full of them and not expect them to reopen some old wounds,” she assured him while patting his hand. “Besides, it is only for two more days.”

“Two more days,” he repeated. “Might as well be two decades.”

“Ned.”

“You can’t tell me you and the ladies have been getting along any better,” he teased, but the sudden frown she wore told him it wasn’t exactly a laughing matter. “What? What happened?”

“Nothing that need be repeated,” she mumbled.

“Cat.” he replied in the same tone she had given him. She opened the door to their chambers, allowing him to enter, before closing it and sighing.

“Lord Bolton’s bastard decided to ruin my last sewing circle.”

“...Funny, he didn’t strike me as one to fancy embroidery.”

“Not the boy,” she groaned. “That frightful little waif he calls daughter.”

“Oh,” Ned found himself embarrassed. He almost forget the girl had existed. He couldn’t even begin to recall her name. “What was it she did.”

“Dreadful things,” she bemoaned. “Frightened poor Jeyne Poole and the other serving girls half to death. I told you, Ned, there is something horrifically wrong with that family.”

“Catelyn, she’s just a little girl,” he assured, taking her hand back into his. But she retracted as she spoke.

“A little girl who embroiders dead birds!”

“...I don’t know what I expected,but it was not that” he admitted truthfully.

“She’s mad!”Cat cried, throwing herself onto the bed. “It was so frightening, but I couldn’t look away.” She sobbed.

Rushing to her side, he sat himself beside her, stroking her hair as she buried her face in the firs of their bed. It was so uncharacteristic of her, but he was not without some practice.

“...Cat. If it is bothering you...I will speak to Lord Bolton.”

“And tell him what?” her voice muffled by the furs. “That his daughter is no longer welcome to the sewing circles on account of her being completely insane?”

“Well, when you put it like that..”

“Forget it, Ned,” she moaned. “Like I said, they will be out of our hair in a matter of days.”

He sighed, his stroking ceasing as he laid beside her, pulling her closer to him with an arm around her back. She still refused to turn over,but hummed in satisfaction.

“I still don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, my love,” he said as he buried his face in her hair.

“I just need to avoid her is all,” she murmured. “It’s not too hard. Winterfell is large.”

“Or,” he offered, a smirk playing on his lips. “We could just stay in here till they leave.”

The giggle she let out became more clear as she shifted to whack his hand. But he caught it, and deftly went to work using it to turn her over. In his efforts, he could hear Cat squeal as she half-heartedly fought against him.

“Ned-No! Stop!” she managed between giggles as he began to kiss down her captured arm. She turned over to curl into herself, only to be cradled against himself as he reached her shoulder. “You’re terrible.”

“Only to you, my wife,” he teased, satisfying himself with burying his face in her red locks. She had quited her fire, his playful trout wife. No matter her troubles, he found solace in the fact that he could always find a way to distract her from her fears, even for a little while. Even if the distraction was the loose thread she caught between her fingers.

“You’ve been playing with it again,” she said knowingly.

“Aye, I have,” he admitted shamelessly.

“What am I to do with you,” she sighed, releasing the thread as she moved closer to him.

“Love me, that’s all I require,” he breathed as he nestled further into her tresses. She sighed contently as she wrapped her hand in his.

“As is that all I require of you,” she whispered. “Well...That and the occasional scolding of lords and how they let their children become such wicked beasts.”

He couldn’t care much for that for the moment. All he wanted was to lay there, as they were, until all talks of Boltons and Umbers and the whole damned world melted away. But for her sake, he decided he’d remind himself later to do so, currently satisfying her with a  “I will see what can be done latter.”

Chapter Text

Robb 

So far this night, Robb had discovered three things within the feast. First and foremost, he had little love for ale. Even the little the serving maids poured into his mug, he found himself spewing out of his mouth a mere second after a sip. The echoes that rang from the Lords present near him made his ears burn, where a the glare from his mother shot at him made him feel like he could comburst into flames over the shame. Even his attempt to successfully recover his honor was a failure, as he eventually ended up hacking his lungs out after the burn went down his throat.

He had also learned that the women of bear island were not at all what old nan had painted them out to be. Dacey Mormont was not a fierce she bear, having kindly accepted his invitation to the first dance. But a fiercely awful dancer she was. Not that he could claim he was better. Mother always said to make sure a lady felt comfort in your arms as you lead her in a dance. He would have gladly done so, had she not been the one leading him. Mayhaps it was a custom on Bear Island for the lady to lead? Even so, he had to honestly say to himself that his feet were going to be crushed sooner or later. Sooner, he discovered, as she launched her heel into his toe.

“Shit!” she hissed as she retreated her boot, before looking back to him. “I’m sorry, is your foot-?”

“It's fine,” he whined out, shaking it slightly to alleviate the pain. “Nothing crippling.”

She released a deep sigh, before giving him an apologetic smile. “I'm a bit out of practice.”

“It's fine, I haven't danced much either,” he returned with a reassuring smile.

As the music transitioned to a more upbeat jig, he saw her smile brighten. “Oh! I know this song!”

Listening to the intro, he couldn't quite place it. “Well, care to lead the way?I'm not to familiar with this one ”

Her smile turned a near feral grin, as she repositioned their hands, brought her chest to his, and set forth in marvelously fast twirl. Caught completely off guard, Robb was unprepared for the gallop she and the other dancers set forth. Suddenly, he no longer worried for his own feet as everything became a swirl of colored skirts and boisterous laughter. But none so loud as his partner’s, as she took great joy in her familiarity and seemingly natural movements. She might have not been the most graceful dancer, but she was by far the most fun one he had in awhile.

She had one of those faces that were pretty in the way they scrunched up in laughter, and one of those dark eyes that were the most beautiful when crinkled and watered by the mirth of joy. He found he liked that. But that was not the third thing he had discovered that night.

At the end of the dance, she bowed to him, before her eyes caught on the Umber table. Turning to follow his gaze, he found her target to be none other than Smalljon Umber, slumping into his seat, watching other ladies passing him in favor for others. Not that he could blame them, he was supposedly young, but was ridiculously huge for his age. Almost rivaling his own father. But turning back to Dacey, he saw a great pity in her eyes.

“Do you wish to dance with him?” He asked, and she turned back to him, embarrassment flushing her pale face.

“N-no, my lord,” she sputtered out. “If you still wish to dance-”

“I'll take a break,” he waved off, secretly priding himself in his courtesy. “But I hope you'll take another dance with me, later.”

Taking him outside the dance floor, she looked back towards the seemingly out of place Umber, and smiled sadly.

“He's just so… Sad looking,” she sighed. “No lady has asked him to dance all evening.”

“You are very kind,” he nodded. “But if I may offer you some advice, men don't want to asked to dance out of pity.”

She looked back to him, her brow furrowed as she smiled at him the way she would at a young child. “And what do you know of being a man?”

“I'm a man,” he defended, shocked that she'd suggest otherwise.

“You've yet to make your majority,” she chuckled, and he felt his ears burn as he bit the inside of his cheek to suppress a growl of anger. But apparently his as attempt wasn't well concealed as she laughed What was only more surprising was when she leaned in, and pecked his cheek.

“You are very kind, Lord Robb,” she whispered. “And should another jig come up, you will be the first I seek. Just make sure you save that dance for me.”

And with a lingering wink, she left him behind. Caressing the cheek she had kissed, he felt a smile tug at his lips. That is until a strong hand graves his shoulder, and tugged him towards the back of the crowd.

Turning around, he came face to face with a very annoyed looking Theon. Why, he had no idea. But he could tell when his best friend was bothered, and the twitch of his freckled nose told him he was not happy.

“What wrong?” He asked, which only elicited a growl from his normally lackadaisical right hand.

“I've been looking for you all night,” he bit out.

“Well, it's not my fault you came here late,” he countered. But the anger in Theon’s eyes were still there.

“You promised me,” he hissed. “You promised me that when the feast would come, that you would help me look out for those damned bastards.”

“Well, I haven't seen them at all tonight,” he deadpanned. “There. Neither of them are present. Happy?”

“That's not the point!” He barked out. “I told you, those two aren't good people! And I think they're out to-”

He covered his mouth, fearing that their discussion would become noticeable to those present. Specifically, he feared for a certain father of the accused hearing them. But all that was momentarily forgotten when he felt sharp teeth dig into his palm. Pulling his hand back, he glared at an equally ticked Theon.

“What the fuck, Theon?!” He nearly screamed, containing it to a bare whisper.

“I should be asking you the same question,” he hissed. “I don't like asking for help. I just don't, you of all people should know that. Which also means that you, of all people , should know that the few times I come to you, asking for help, then it's a damned good reason!”

“But it's ludicrous,” he scrambled to answer, not wanting to dwell on the vulnerability in Theon’s sea green eyes. “Your accusations- do you even hear yourself when you tell me this shit?- You're accusing a Lord’s children of being dangerous, and your definitive stance of accusations is that they both had an arrow in their hand.”

“One had attempted to take my nose off with it,” he hissed. “Or should I show you again?”

“I'd rather you not,” Robb deadpanned. “It's probably not even there-”

But it was too late, as he was pulled forward by the collar of his overcoat.Suddenly, he came closer to Theon’s face and made to look at offended nose. Though it was slightly faint, he couldn't deny that it was visible. As was the damage it did to Theon’s otherwise flawless skin. It made a crude swipe across his natural freckles, breaking the cluster of small specks upon his long, angular nose. The hurt in his eyes were even more evident up close. It brought him back to the days of a newly arrived Ironborn child, whose green eyes looked murky with the sorrow lingering in them.

Suddenly, said Ironborn eyes blew up, as he broke contact with his own eyes to travels o his cheek. Realization struck him as Theon looked accusingly at the cheek.

“What is that?” He whispered, referring to the slight stain on his cheek, left over from Dacey’s kiss. But he didn't get time to explain himself, as he was suddenly shoved back. The look on Theon’s face invoked an ache in his heart that he knew had no place being there.

“So…It's like that, is it,” he didn't ask. It was more of a statement.He wished it was a question. Then he could deny it.“The one time I ask you for help…. And you decide that pretty ladies witch their pretty lips are more important.”

“Oh, like you're one to talk,” he bit out, almost regretting it, had it not been true. “How many times how you left us to go whoring?”

“That's different,” he sounded like he wanted to come off as angry, but he sounded more like a caught animal. “You know it's different. I would never leave you in your hour of need,Robb.”

“Why? Why would you? You've always been self serving. Why should I help you when I can't even know if you'd ever return the favor?”

The unbidden  look of shock was evident on Theon’s face, before he whispered. “We’re friends,Robb. How could you even think that?”

“Because you have no reason to do otherwise.”

“You're my friend, Robb. You're my fami-.”

“Don't,” he bit out, beyond tired of this endless argument. Of the hurt in Theon’s eyes. Of the way they stir emotions in him, and the way he knew and hated how much it affected him, and how it cripple him for hours on end.  “ Just don’t, Greyjoy.”

Not even waiting for Theon to snap out of the sorrow burrowing in him, the same sorrow and shame he could feel retching in his heart, he shoved past him, heading towards the nearest tankard, and downing it. Drowning out the faint whoops coming from the nearby guests, he set to numb and repress all the on coming emotions. So once he swallowed down the burning liquid, he reached for another. But there wasn't one. So he got up and stumbled to the nearest barrel, and went to fill it up to the brim. He had no idea what it was. All he knew that it smelled like the oil he used to polish his boots, and tasted twice as worse. It was perfect. That is until it was snatcged out of his hand.

Looking up at the perpetrator, he couldn't resist the need to laugh at the tragic irony at the situation. The bastard whom Theon was so worried about was inspect his own beer, b gore retching and letting it fall to the ground.

“Hey!” he shouted a bit louder then he wanted to. “I was drinking that!”

“You should be thanking me,” he scoffed. “That was barely ale.”

“Doesn't matter,I was still drinking’ it” he slurred, stumbling to grab a new mug, and balancing himself on the barrel before glaring at the older boy who had appeared out of nowhere. “What do you want?”

Much in a way that reminded Robb of his mother, the boy clicked his younger and shook his ragged hair.

“Do lacks of manners run in the family? Or is it just you and Theon?”

“What? No, it's not- he's not-,” he found himself unable to make up the argument he had made to Theon just minutes ago. And Ramsay seemed to revel in it.

“Oh, that's right. My bad. He's not really a Stark, is he?” His question didn't sound like one, it was almost goading. “Of course, silly me. You'd never think of him as a brother, would you?”

The way he mocked and practically sang the question unnerved Robb, almost as much as the implications behind it as he felt the tinge from the alcohol increase in his cheeks.

“He's my friend,” he managed, then was startled from the rough bark of laughter coming from the Bolton.

“With the way you treated him back there? I'd hate to see what you do to your enemies!”

His words struck him through his muddled mind, and he was able to process what it meant. But instead of embarrassment, he felt a panic at what it could mean should word got out about the topic of conversation.

“Look, I don't know what you heard or saw, but-”

“Oh, don't worry,” he ensured, shocking Robb as he patted his shoulder. “I only stumbling upon the whole 'Don’t, Greyjoy’ bit. Must say, I am impressed. You Starks really know how to remind a prisoner their place!”

“What are you- Theon's not a prisoner,” he lied, but to whom, he knew not. It was public knowledge.

“Oh, I'm sorry,” but the tone Ramsay used told him otherwise. “'Ward’.That's what you're calling him, right? Great. I like it. Keeps 'em confused.”

“What in the name of the Old gods are you talking about?” He spat, reaching his mug below the barrel, only to be blocked by Ramsay, who smirked as he produced a bottle from underneath his jerkin.

“Forget it, it's of little importance,” he waved off. “ I came here to bring you some real ale. Brewed from the Weeping Water.”

He loves looked at the brown liquid, far more unsightly than the ember liquid he had been chugging earlier, and sneered.

“No thanks, I'm fine with what was offered here..The Manderly's were so kind to-”

“The Manderlys don't know shit about making ale,” Ramsay sang as he nudged the bottle forward. “They use sea water. Do you really want to drink salty ale?”

Staring at the offered drink, he sighed in defeat. “Well...Guess it won’t hurt.”

He snatched the bottle out of Ramsay's hand, and uncorked it, before pouring it into his mug. Putting the cap back on, he handed the bottle back to its owner, before taking a swig. Despite  the previously strong and poisonous tastes from the ale he had earlier, this had completely caught him off guard.It felt like sludge running down his throat, and tasted like poisoned apples. He wished to spit it back out into the cup, but a hand held the cup even higher, forcing the contents down his gullet. After an agonisingly disgusting minute, the hand relented, and Robb coughed his lungs out as Ramsay bursted out laughing.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” he laughed.

“What the hell was that?” Robb groaned as he clutched his burning stomach.

“That, Lord Stark, was our specialty apple ale!” he practically beamed. “That particular selection came from my own mother apple trees!”

“Why-cough!- was it so thick?” he rasped out, his vision becoming far impaired then it had from his previous wine.

“Now that’s quite rude,” he could barely make out the older boy’s frown as the room began to spin. He felt like he was about to throw up. “I’ll have you know my mother makes wonderful ale! Why, look at yourself, you’ve had one gulp, and you're only a second away from-”

Too late, as he grabbed his mug, and felt the contents of his stomach empty into it. In the distance, he could hear the distant gasp of “Robb!”, but he cared little at the moment. A hand came to his back, patting it soothingly, as the odor overtook him and he retched again.

“There there,” the Bolton boy said. “Just let it all out. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have pushed you that far. This is your first time drinking, isn’t it? I can tell.”

Once he ha finished, he coughed a few times before pulling himself together. His vision and stomach were much better, but the contents of his mug made his ears burn, as he searched for a place to dispose of his mug. A distant call of his name, sounding an awful lot like Jon’s voice, approached him. But before he could answer him, the hand on his back brought him closer to the other Snow, and slung its way around his shoulder.

“There you go!” he grinned. “Now you’ve had real ale!”

“Why would you give that to me?” he rasped, and was met with a sinister grin.

“Not everyone’s going to be as soft on you as your little salt wife, greenboy,” he whispered. “I’m just trying to toughen you up.”

And with that, he was released to a worrying Jon, who clucked over him like a mother hen. As he was being escorted out of the hall, he looked back to ask Ramsay what he meant, only to find he had vanished. He wondered if maybe it had been a figment of his drunken imagination. Knowing how much he had drank, it seemed likely. If that was the case, then he had learned his third lesson that night: Never let Theon Greyjoy fill your head with ghost stories after a few pints.

 

Jon 

When the night air breezed past them, he felt Robb tense as he held his mouth closed. Stepping back a few steps, he allowed his brother to throw up into the corner of the courtyard. When he seemed finished, Jon rushed to his side, and held his hair back as he hacked his way through the bile.

“Easy there, Robb,” he encouraged soothingly. “Nice and easy.”

Collecting himself, Robb straightened up, and he couldn’t help but wince at the paleness in his brother’s face.

“Oh gods,” he groaned. “I’ll never drink again.”

Laughing, he rubbed circles into Robb’s back. “You never know, maybe someday you’ll give it a try.You might one day grow to like it.”

“May I be gutted before that happens,” he groaned. Suddenly, he lifted his head up like an alerted dog, and looked around. “Wait...Where’s Theon?”

“Probably locking lips with a serving maid in a corner. Why?”

“I...I need to tell him something,” he wheezed. Before staggering towards the entrance. “Theon! Where are you? I need to tell you something!”

“Shh!” he cut off. “Keep it down! Do you want the whole North to know you can’t hold your liquor?”

“Theeeeoooooooonnnnn!” he sang, sounding like a dying dog. “Come on, Thee! I’m sorry! I’ll never look upon another maid again!”

He could only look on in confusion as his older brother stumbled around the courtyard, lifting up objects as if he expected Theon to be underneath a bucket. He heard the door to the great hall creak, and before he could even asses who had come out, Robb flung himself upon the unsuspecting newcomer, throwing them both to the ground. Rushing to his brother’s side, he nearly stumbled back at the sight of Robb nestling himself into the torso of a very confused Sansa Snow.

“Wait….You’re not Theon,” he mumbled sadly as he pointed accusingly at her. “You’re too soft to be Theon!”

Face aflame with shame, he pulled Robb off of the poor girl, who thankfully looked more confused than offended. Looking up at him, and then back to Robb, she quirked an eyebrow.

“What’s gotten into him?”

Rubbing the back of his suddenly heated neck, he laughed nervously. “Well...See, I think he may be drunk.”

“What?!” Robb protested, flailing his arms like a baby who wished to be picked up. “I swear to drunk, I’m not the Old Gods!”

Groaning, he buried his face in his hands. He had expected this from Theon, but Robb?He was supposed to be the rock of their trio. Yet here he was, completely wasted. Sighing, he lifted his brother’s arm into his shoulders, and hoisted him.

“Alright, Robb, I think it's time you retire for the night,” he made sure to speak slowly, and Robb made a high pitched whining sound.

“Noooooooo. I need to talk to Theon!” He pouted like a spoiled child, his body hanging limply as a fish.

“You can talk to him in the morning,” Jon encouraged to which Robb responded with a groan.

“Noooo! I might lose the nerve or- AH!!”

His flailing had caused him to slip. Attempting to pull him back up, he was soon offered help when Sansa caught the intoxicated fool on her own shoulder, and acted as a twin crutch.

“I got you,” she grunted as she adjusted her grip, and flashed Jon a smirk. “Alright, lead the way.”

He found himself a bit flustered as he realised what having her help Robb to his rooms would look like. “Uhm...Sansa, you really don't have to do-”

“Why?” she tilted her head with the question. “I figured you’d need the help, to keep him from slipping.”

“I do appreciate it,” he assured. “But...You’re still a lady...And if you were to bring Robb to his-.”

“Jon, are you suggesting that I am in danger of losing my virtue to a drunken Stark?” she questioned, and he felt his face a flame.

“No! No, Robb is too kind to do that to a lady!” he defended, almost dropping Robb in the process. “It’s just that...I know first hand how unkind the highborn can be towards a situation they don’t know fully about, but-.”

“Do you see anyone else but us outside?” she asked, gesturing to the empty courtyard. Once he relented with a shake of his head, she let out a short laugh. “Then there is nothing to worry about.”

“I guess not…” he sighed reluctantly, before turning back to Robb. “Is that fine with you, Robb?”

“But she’s not Theon,” he mumbled. “And her mother makes shit ale.”

“Robb!” he nearly felt his throat grow hoarse as he looked at the confused Stark. “What the hell?”

“What?”

“Where did that come from?” he hissed, turning back to Sansa as he whispered. “I am so sorry, he’s normally not this rude.”

“To be fair, mum’s ale is an acquired taste,” she offered with a stiff laugh. “I don’t know how he would know that, though.”

“Felt like molten tree bark.”

“That’s enough, you,” Jon growled. “Let’s get you to bed.”

“Tasted like tree bark, too.”

“Oh for the love of-just shut it! Please,” he groaned, his face in flames at this point. He leaded the three of them towards Robb’s room, avoiding any passing servants and maids who rounded around the corners. Finally coming up to his room, he reached for the latch, only to find it had been locked.

“Robb.”

“Hmmm?”

“Why is your door locked?”

“So Rickon and Bran don’t use it for hiding spots,” he mumbled into his shoulder.

“Rickon and Bran are at the great hall, why would they...Oh, never mind. Where’s your key?”

“Left pocket,I think. No! Right pocket. No! Both.”

Rolling his eyes, he patted down Robb’s sides, but felt no key.He moved up to see if he had hid it somewhere on his jerkin. But to no avail. Worry ridden, he attempted to look around the ground if maybe he had dropped it, but there was no gleam in the torch light. But he did see Sansa reach behind her head, and take a pin out of her braided coils.

“Maybe we can try using this,” she offered. Taking the pin from her hand, he moved to the lock, and worked it inside, attempting to unlatch it. But the click never came, and Robb’s balance wasn’t lasting very long. He heard an exasperated sigh, before he was handed his stumbling brother.

“Hold him, I’ll take over,” Sansa assured, taking his place, and taking out the pin. She seemed to examine the latch, before producing another pin from her hair and using the two of them to the latch. Within  second, he heard the very distinct click, and with a gentle push, the door was open. He stared flabbergasted at the girl, who offered a shrug. She took her place on the other side of Robb, and they guided him into the room. Setting him gently on the bed, Jon moved to take off his boots, and then help him lie down. Pulling the furs over his slightly groggy brother, he asked one last time,

“Do you want water or anything before I go?”

“...Can you get Theon?” he rasped out. “I...I need to tell him…”

“If I see him, I’ll tell him you asked for him,” he offered.Though he didn’t really expect to see Greyjoy that night. When he last saw him, he was storming towards his own rooms, and didn’t look like he wished to be talked to.

“M’kay,” Robb mumbled as his eyes began to flutter shut. Sighing, he sat up ,and walked up to Sansa before whispering:

“He should be fine, thank you.” he said sheepishly. “I’m sorry you had to see that. And for how he acted. And that you missed a part of the f-

“It’s no problem,” she offered with that melancholy smile of hers. “I saw him getting sick in the great hall, I just wanted to make sure he was okay.”

“That's very kind of you, Sansa,” he said truthfully. “Now… I just need to find that-”

Out of thin air, she held up the key to his room, and he could only gap, and then look to her questioning as she laughed again.

“Also, I saw him drop this on his way out. I figured it was important,” her voice was light with laughter as he found his voice again.

“Why didn’t you use it in the first place?” he asked, and her smile turned more mischievous.

“Now, where would be the fun in that?  Besides,” she pulled out another singular pin, releasing the rest of her hair from the style she had earlier. “I wasn’t very fond of that style.”

Though he didn’t really understand her reasoning, he didn’t dwell on it for too long, as he heard the slight snore rise from Robb. He quietly ushered the two of them out, before locking the door and slipping the key underneath. Sighing, he turned back to Sansa, and smiled.

“If you want, I’ll escort you back to the hall,” he offered, only to have her smile drop as she looked down to the ground.

“Well….Truth be told, I’d rather not,” she whispered. “I don’t know...I just thought it would….”

“It wasn’t all that you thought it’d be?” he asked, and she nodded solemnly.

“We have feasts at Dreadfort, but we don’t really dance. And when I heard that there’d be a feast...I so wished to dance. But I guess I should’ve known better.”

Had he not been in a similar situation, he would not have understood her disappointment. But the fact was that he had never been asked to dance in a feast. And that night was no exception. He wasn’t overly fond of dancing, so it was never a problem. But for someone who had longed for dancing. Then, an idea alite in his head, and he quickly took her hand and raced to towards the hall. Her questioning voice lost in the whoosh of the winter air as he came upon the closed hall doors.As he slowed down, he heard her stutter out

“No, Jon, really, I’d rather not go inside again.”

“And you don’t have to,” he said, creaking the door open, and letting the muffled music trickle out. Thankfully, he recognised it as a popular jig on the Iron Isles, and wondered if Theon had truly left. Brushing it aside, he swept into his best imitation of a bow. He was a bit out of practice, if her confused expression was anything to go off of. Blushing, he stammered out an proper explanation.

“Um...Sansa Snow, may I have this dance?”

She seemed to put the pieces back into place, and the smile she gave him was brighter than a thousand torches.

“You may,” she answered, taking his hand and taking her place opposite to him. Normally, this would have been easier with more people, but still, it’s what she, and quite frankly, what he also preferred. One full verse had already played, but regardless, they had only the two of them to concern about. Placing his hands on his hips, and Sansa mirroring him, the next verse began.

He found that side stepping was not his forte, as she moved with the rhythm of the flute, and he with no distinct count. Worse, he soon forgot which foot to kick outward first once they traded places, and moved a second too quickly to his spot again. Feeling much like a fool, he only felt even more so as Sansa locked elbows with him, twirling him as he scrambled to regain proper footing, only to be swung around the other way.

His regret disappeared when she took his hands into her smaller ones, and guided them into a shirt gallop. As their alternating boots crossed paths, he was taken back to when he still could eat with Robb, and they would kick each other under the table. He felt the fondness of the memory tugged at his heart and mouth, and upon the end of their twirl, he allowed himself to laugh a bit. And when they joined hands once more, he watched as she joined in with his laughter.

No longer caring for correct steps, he let himself get caught up in the trill of twirling around with Sansa. And when his partner lost her own footing, sending them both tumbling into a pile of snow, he could care less. The cold ground beneath did not stop him from laughing, and neither did it break their hand grasp as they giggled like children.

But once the joyous spell that captivated the both of them broke, he was suddenly thrown into a panic as he sat up, and attempted to help Sansa do the same.

“Oh gods, your dress! I am so sorry-.”

“Jon, it's fine, it's just a dress,”she brushed off. “I have plenty more.”

“But-.”

“And I was the one who threw us to the ground, so you have no need to apologise.”she brushed off, patting his hand. “It's just a dress.”

'But you looked so lovely in it,’ he thought, remembering how she had traded her faded blue dresses for her house colors, the red skirts swirling like a flame as she pranced around him. Now they were soaked at the bottom, appearing a more blood crimson. Her cheeks matched the pink of her bousier,  and he realised he had said it aloud.

“I mean it was a lovely looking dress! “ He blurted out, Feeling' his face grow aflamed. “Not to say you don't look lovely in it, you look beautiful-Seven Hells!”

He fell back into the snow, wishing for it to bury him as quickly as possible. When that laughter of hers reached his ears, he prayed it would also be as painful as possible. Until her laughter quieted, and he felt something soft brush his forehead. Opening his eyes, he saw her hovering over him, and smiling brilliantly.

“You are very sweet, Jon Snow,” the way she said his name, as if the Snow was anything but negative, made him feel as if his blush could melt the pile beneath him.  “The world could use more people like you.”

“I….Uhm…”unable to find the right words to say, the roar of drunken laughter hailing from the halls reminded him of Robb. “I should tell Father Robb went to bed!”

He felt thrice the fool, as her smile morphed into confusion, before settling for a more subdued copy of her previous emotion.”That would be wise.”

Finding his balance, he rose from the ground, the cold air sending a chill through his now wet back, and he looked to Sansa, and offered his hand. Graciously, she took it, and he lifted her up, and winced as she too shivered.

“I could escort you back to your chambers,” he offered, and her hand flew to cover her chest,  and offered a theatrical gasp.

“Why good ser! I thought you were insistent on defending my honor! What would the lords and ladies say, with you escorting me to my chambers?”

Before he could defend himself, she burst out laughing, and shook her head. “I was joking. I can walk myself, you should tell Lord Stark of Lord Robb’s departure.”

“I could still escort you. And if you change, I can escort us both back to the hall, and then-”

“I think I’ll retire early,” she said. “I’ve already had quite my fill of the feast.Though I must admit, I might need to go back in and save some of those lemon cakes for later.”

“I could get some for you, and maybe you could save one more dance for Bran,” he suggested, smiling fondly as he recalled how Bran was saddened that he couldn’t have his first dance with his new friend, as per Lady Catelyn’s insistence that he dance with Arya. “He is quite fond of you.”

“And I him,” she admitted, her ice blue eyes softening in a way that he couldn’t help but be captivated by. “But I have already had one dance with the son of a great lord. Anymore, and I would be considered very spoiled indeed.”

“But-”

“Jon,” she said firmly, the softness in her eyes flickering to something more akin to exhaustion. “It was wonderful. Truly. But I am exhausted and soaked. I don’t think I have it in me for another pity dance.”

She curtseyed, before turning away. All the while, her words resonated in his mind, as the horror of her implications sent shock through his very bones. All protest rose in his voice as he called out her name. To which she replied with a simple “Goodnight, Jon.”

And with her skirts trailing behind her like a trail of fire, she was hidden by the corridor she rounded. Hot embarrassment pumped through his blood, as he silently wondered why she could think such a thing? Did he not tell her he was in a similar boat? If anything, she was the one who took pity on him. She who walked with an air of shy elegance that rivaled the Maiden?

Uncle Benjen had once told him on one of his visits ‘You can teach a boy how to track, how to gamble, how to tend to the land. But women?Nobody knows what's on a woman’s mind.’ Only then he thought nothing of it, and his Uncle said he’d pray he never would. But know he began to wonder, and pray, that it wasn’t true. Otherwise, he was in deep shit.

 

Sansa 

Even within the heated halls of the excessively large castle, she could feel a cool rush of air teasing her snow covered dress. Even the torches decorating the walls leading to her guest chambers did not ease the chill racing down her spine. How she longed to draw a hot bath, had the basin present in the room not been the size acceptable only for a dwarf. How was it that the castle could be so grand, yet the pleasantries that nobles so loved to indulge in be so scarce? Surely Ramsay, spoiled brat he was, would have voiced his complaints. Maybe,she secretly hoped, those blasted serving maids made themselves useful and amended it. But all things considering, she didn’t hope for much.

But even she had high hopes that the knife suddenly resting against her throat belonged to who she hoped it did. A quick glance to the blade itself, and the curved metal, she was overcome with a particular feeling of disappointment and exhaustion that could only brought about by one person in all the lands.

“Didn’t Father forbid attempts on each others lives for the duration of the trip?”

The scoff so close to her ear was undeniable, as she had been sure it had been the first thing she had heard out of him since their birth, and he retracted the blade just an inch.

“I’ll put away mine if you put away yours,” the blatant threat in his voice would cause lesser and easily timid ladies to cower. But she could feel his stomach through where she had the threat of the point grazing the confines of wool and flesh. He always did laugh with his whole body, and was very much scorned, as father said amusement should never be blatant enough to show. It didn’t make it any less dangerous, if anything, it meant he was more so. But at least he hadn’t grown too bored of their games,

“Ram, you do realize that anyone can walk by and see us?” she reminded him.

“The more, the merrier,” he sang, and she could barely resist the groan rising in her throat.
“This isn’t Dreadfort,” she reminded him. “Now be honest with yourself, Ram. Should someone happen upon a scene such as this, who would they assist: an obnoxious and rude little brat,or me?”

“Obviously the heir to Dreadfort,” he laughed, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“But this isn’t Dreadfort, is it?” she asked, digging her dagger a sparse closer. “You hold no power here.”

“...You’re a killjoy, you know that?” he groaned, retracting his knife, followed by her own knife retracting into the confines of the folds in her skirt. “I was only making sure you haven’t gone soft.”

Finally turning back to face him, taking into account his somehow further disheveled appearance and the strong stench of ale. She made a point to poke at his slight pudge, filled with what, considering the distinguishable fragrance, could only be their mother’s apple piss, and smirked, “I’m not sure I’m the one who's becoming soft.”

Through the strands that eternally fell over their shared eyes, he flushed the pink of their banners as he swatted her hand away with a growl. “Shut the fuck up.”

“I’m not being harsh, I’m just being truthful,” she giggged. “And truth be told, you might want to schedule some extra hunts with Reek, less you look worse then he smells.”

“Oh, fuck off, why don’t you,” he snarled, walking right past her and enduring to collide shoulders, though she couldn’t help but laugh as she remained to stay on balance, and he tripped over himself. “Fucking hells- come on. Father is waiting.”

Straightening herself out, Sansa followed him in step, brushing off the way he grumbled when she interlooped their arms, and allowed him to ‘escort her towards their father’s chambers.

“Why didn't you tell me so in the first place.”

“Had I known you’d be such a tight arse, I would have. I just didn’t realise you could become so plain and humorless in a matter of days,” he teased, his snickering halting as they collided with a sudden running bundle of russet curls. As Rickon looked up at them in what could only be surprise, she slipt into her practiced kindness as she crouched  down to his level.

“Why hello, Rickon!” she gushed, tucking one of his curls out of his face. “What might you be doing here?
“Hiding,” he answered, looking much akin to his eldest brother’s drunken state not too long ago. But only in his lack of awareness that could come with someone of that age.

“And who might you be hiding from?” she asked, ignoring the aura of annoyance bouncing off of her brother.

“Bedtime,” Rickon revealed, shifting his feet as he avoided any eye contact.

“Bedtime? I’m surprised you’ve not been put to eternal rest,” Ramsay snorted, which quickly turned to a groan as she sent a swift kick to his heel.

“You should go to bed when you're told,” she insisted. “Little boys who don’t go to bed early become really grumpy, and does don’t like grumpy little boys.”

“No!” Rickon protested. “I’ll go to bed! I promise!”

From around the corner, the increasing volume of a repeating mantra of “Hodor” was approaching.As the hulking behemoth came around, Rickon rushed to him, and complacently rushed into his arms. The seventh seemed to ignore herself and her twin as he spoke directly to the youngest Stark.

“Hodor, Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor!”

“ ‘m sorry, Hodor. I’ll go to bed now,” Rickon ensured, before the hulking man scurried off like a clucking mother hen, and Rickon waved goodbye to her, to which she responded in kind. Once they were out of sight and sound, she picked herself back up and returned to her place beside Ramsay.

“Not soft,cautious,” she smiled, allowing herself to be pulled along towards their father’s room. Following the hallway, and stopping at their father’s door, Ramsay took to bang on it multiple times, before Roose let it crack open, and glared disapprovingly at her brother.

“Must you be so horrendously impatient,” he deadpanned, before turning to Sansa, his stone set frown not relenting. “And you. You best have a good explanation.”

Opening the door wider, she walked past him,and made way to the middle of the room. Few times she had heard her father utter those words to her, but she had witnessed them enough to know what would come next. So when he closed the door, and reached into his coat to pull out a glass vile, she wasn’t entirely surprised. But it didn’t mean she dreaded it any less.

“Go now, sit down,” he ordered, and she scurried to the desk beside the fireplace. As she sat down, he followed, and pulled out the chair before turning to Ramsay, who was waiting by the door. “Dont just stand there. Take a seat.”

Grumbling, her twin dragged the wooden seat to rest between them. Before sitting down, he reached out and took an apple from the bowl resting on the table, and bit into it. She didn’t know which she wished to distract herself from: the obnoxious crunch and juice dripping down her brother’s unclosed mouth, or her father uncorking the vial containing his favorite little pets.

“Now, Sansa, hold out your arm-”

“Please, you know how much I hate interrogation,” she begged, swallowing as he pulled one from the glass.

“But how will I know you're telling the truth?” he asked, quirking an eyebrow. “You know how much they hate the blood of liars, so tell me the truth, and I’ll only have to put on one.”
“I’ll throw up,” she insisted. “I always throw up, it makes me dizzy.”

“I don’t see why, they’re quite good for you.”

“But-”

“Sansa. Now.”

Reluctantly. She rolled back her sleeve, exposing her arm to the wiggling leach. Squeezing her eyes shut as Roose lowered the creature to her arm,she winced as it dug its tiny teeth into her flesh. The slime was disgusting enough, but the feel of it sucking her blood made her sick.

“Now, let us begin.” the creak of him relaxing into his seat only made her stiffen, as she forced her eyes open and away from the parasite. “Your name?”

“Sansa Snow,” she spat through ground teeth.

“My name?”

“Roose Bolton,Fourth of his Name, Lord of the Dreadfort.”

“And the name of the other occupant in the room?”

“Ramsay Snow,” she breathed out, the light headedness beginning to arise in her.

“Very good,” Roose praised. “Now tell me, Sansa Snow, have you done anything that might’ve frightened Ned Stark’s wife?”

“What?” That damned southern bitch.

“Did you frighten Catelyn Stark?”

“H-How should I know?” she spat, and could feel the leach slightly loosen its grip.

“Oh? Is it unlatching? Are you lying to me, Sansa?” the humor tugging his thin lips into a mock of a smirk had her grind her teeth.

“I...I might’ve.” she bit out.

“Might’ve?”

“I...I went to her stupid sewing circle...And...brought my embroidery with me.”

“But was that all you brought?”The coughed laughter that came from Ramsay told her he had finally caught on. It didn’t help that his laughter had sprayed apple chunks into her face.

“....A nest. I brought a nest,” Sansa bit out, feeling her head becoming lighter and lighter. “And the birds that were in it.”

“Hmmm...Very interesting,” he mused, playing with the clamps in his hand, taunting her. “That doesn’t sound within the lines of ‘don’t draw attention’, now does it?”

She took deep breaths before hissing out, “No, it wasn’t.”

“So why would you do exactly what I told you not to?” he wondered, and she couldn’t help but laugh at the irony.

“Ramsay goes against what you tell him all the time.”

“But you aren’t your brother. You’re smarter than he is,” Roose said, ignoring the choked cough coming from her twin as he tried to defend himself. “At least, I thought you were. But it seems as though I can’t trust either of you to behave away from home.”

“You can,” Sansa winced as dark spots appeared slightly at the edge of her vision. “You can trust us.”

“How?” he spat. “You act as if this is Dreadfort, and you can do as you please. There’s already a rumor mill spilling about Ramsay, I don’t need the both of you gaining a reputation.You think I lived this long by pulling sadistic stunts?Perhaps in earlier times, you would’ve been fine, but we need to adjust to this world of thin skinned halfwits in order to avoid extinction.”

The unmentioned cause for said brink of extinction laid heavy in the room. Had the life not been currently sucked out of her, she would’ve felt more uneasy. But compared to the sickness she already felt, she was as indifferent as Ramsay in the matter. Their father studied them, looking for the missing recognition and understanding.

“Do you want me to apologize to Ned Stark’s fish wife in the morning?” she coated her voice with enough innocence to almost seem truthful.

“No need.  I already deeply apologised,” he drawled out. Relief flooded her as she realised she wasn’t alone in her distaste for the southern bitch. “In return for assurance that you are not allowed to join her sewing circles for the duration of this visit.”

She would chuckle had the immense pressure in her head not drain any humor from her. “Understood.”

“Good,” he said. “Also, I need you to hand your embroidery to me.”

Confusion made its way through her muddled mind, and she weakley asked why? To which Roose only reached out his hand. Almost mechanically, she reached into the folds of her skirt, producing a small kerchief depicting the picture that had supposedly been the cause of all this trouble. She had been meaning to finish some details on the edging once she had reached her room, but all that was swept away as Roose took it and examined it.

“All this fuss over this?” he scoffed, holding it up to the firelight. “You’ve sewn more graphic scenes.”

“Apparently...The riverlands...Don’t have dead birds,” she ground out as the room began to spin. She tried her best to focus as he father nodded.

“Yes. I suppose they mustn't” he mused before throwing it into the flames.

The spots grew as she watched the linen crisp and darken at the edges. But she couldn’t find it in her to care as she listened to the crackle of her work, holes opening her image and tearing through the birds she had taken so long to make. Sorrow flooded her along with the darkness, and she couldn’t even feel the latch unlatch from her arm. Struggling to gain control of herself, she could barely hear over the buzzing in her ear,

“Alright. The bucket is right there if you need-”

Allowing her feet to take her, she rushed to the corner and emptied the contents of her stomach into the bucket. All the faintness faded as she vomited a total of three times, before feeling right again. Barely above the stench of the bile, she could smell the burning wool. And even when  her ears were barely able to pick up the slightest sound, she could hear the muffled laughter erupting from her brother. Before she could bite back at him, Roose took care of it with a swift:

“I don’t know why you find it amusing, your next.”

Ramsay quickly shut up, before rolling back his own sleeve, and offering it to another one of Father’s pets. Collecting herself, and staggering back to her seat, Sansa looked to her arm. A slight trail of blood slid down. Whipping at it, the opening only produced a slight bubble, before stopping completely. One of the only good things about leeching.

Wiping away the bubble, she pressed her finger to it, and reached for an apple. Sinking her teeth into it, she soon found she was vastly disgusted by it. Far to sweet and soft, just like everything else in this forsaken castle. Nothing like the tart and crisp chestnut apples back home. Spitting it out, she placed it off to the side and instead reached for a slice of black bread, and took a bite of it as she looked on at the scene before her.

“Now Ramsay, I hope you won’t make this difficult again,” Roose drawled.

“May I sooner flay myself,” Ramsay sang.

“I wouldn’t put it past you...Now, let us begin. Your name?”

“Ramsay Bolton.” she could practically hear the leach squirm as it unlatched itself, before she saw their father’s hand reach over and place another on his arm.

“Try again,” he said, and her brother huffed out an annoyed breath.

“Ramsay Bol-,” She found his leg under the table, and gave it a quick hit. “Ow!”

He turned to glare at her before relenting, mumbling their last name under his breath. Apparently it was good enough for Roose, as he added another leach.

“My name?”

“Roose Bolton, Lord of the Leeches, Fourth of his name, and last of it, if he keeps on sucking the blood out of his hei-Shit! Stop it, Sansa!”

“Stop being such an idiot and I’ll stop trying to help you,” she answered.

“My name,” their father repeated, adding another leach to Ramsay’s arm.

“Roose Bolton, Fourth of his name, and Lord of the Dreadfort. Happy?”

“Not in the slightest,” Roose drawled. “The name of the other occupant in the room?”

“Seven hells-Sansa Snow.”

“Good. Now tell me, what is this I hear about you shooting arrows into the Greyjoy boy’s hand?”

From the corner of her eye, she could see Ramsay stiffen, and she herself had to contain her own laughter. What sweet revenge for his previous reactions to her own discomfort. Her twin coughed, as if to clear his throat before stammering his response.

“I...I didn’t hit his hand,” he mumbled.

“You best be truthful, Ramsay,” she taunted, allowing herself a brief glance at the squirming creatures decorating his arm. “You already have four. Shall I get the bucket for you?”

“Bugger off, you thin blooded bitch,” he spat.  “Im telling the truth, I never hit his hand.”

Surely enough, the leeches stuck to his arm, the veins becoming more pronounced. Maester Tybald had warned them the two of them years ago about leaching, specifically she herself upon discovering her thin blood. But he never told Roose. Or he might have, but Father obviously did not listen, nor care.

“That’s not what he’s been yapping to the spoiled brats of Ned Stark. I couldn't even hear myself think above his hysteria. Is there any reason for that?”

“I was only playing,” he mumbled. “The squamish squid is too sensitive.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Roose growled as he leaned over to stare at the two of them. “You two don’t seem to realise that we can not afford to draw any attention to ourselves.It’s bad enough that your existence became public, now imagine if anyone caught wind of how you choose to spend your free time, Ramsay. I couldn’t care less what you do at home, but we are in the enemy camp. If word gets out about your little ‘games’, I hold no qualms against hanging you in the tree I raped your mother under to save the Bolton name. Is that understood?”

Ramsay shifted in his seat. Even to the trained eye, one could not see what was going on in his head. But she knew. Fear coursed through her as well, the dreaded tree flashing in her mind like a night terror. The tree they would pass on the way to clean clothes in the river, the threads of a rope hanging from all those years ago. As if to say ‘you're next’.

“Understood…” he finally said, barley above a whisper. She watched as the leeches where ripped from his arm, blood oozing in four distinct trails, before Roose stood up and went to the door.

“Now. Off to bed, the both of you,” he urged. “And take that pail with you.”

Pushing back on her chair, she went to the bucket and picked it up before walking to the doorway, the stench overpowering as she awaited by the door with Ramsay.

“At dawn, you best begin gathering your belongings, we leave the day after,” he reminded them, before closing the door in their faces. A moment of silence passed between them, before she turned to her twin ,and put down the pail.

“Here, let me see,” she offered, taking his arm,and watching how the streams became a singular stain. “It stopped bleeding.”

“That’s disappointing,” he snorted, and she fixed him with a look. “What?”

“What did father just say?” she scolded, before pulling him to the next room over, their shared chambers. Taking out her key, she unlocked it, and opened it, taking in the sweet cold air as she rushed to her bed, throwing herself atop and letting out a much needed groan. She could hear Ramay lock it, before he made way to a chair next to her bed and lounged into it.

“I hate this place,” he mumbled, before the pop of an uncorked bottle made its way through the otherwise quiet room. Picking her head up,she looked to find him drinking out of a very familiar brown bottle. Suddenly pieces fit together in her mind, ad she laughed.

“You brought Mum’s ale?”

“Better than that Maderley piss,” he explained, and Sansa rolled over on her stomach, dragging herself closer to his chair before holding out her hand. He looked at it, before scoffing. “No, get your own.”

“I didn’t bring any,” she admitted, shoving her hand closer, and he shrugged.

“Then that's on you,” he took a swig and she glared before snatching it away from him. His surprised protest was answered by her own swig of the ale. Still as vile and strong as ever, but comforting in its own right. After a prolonged moment of downing the thick ale, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and gave it back.

“Did you really give that to Robb Stark,” she asked, laughter tinging her voice, and Ramsay smirked like a chided child.

“Maybe,” he said, and she let out a hoot of laughter.

“I’m surprised Roose didn’t leach you for that!” she said in between giggles.

“He probably will, sooner or latter,” he admitted,before looking around the room. “Say, where's the bucket?”

“I left it outside his room,” she admitted. Resting her head on her hand. “Make the serving maids think its his.”

“How devious,” he rolled his eyes, taking another swig before placing it on the ground. Feigning sincerity, he turned to her and batted his eyes like a gossiping maid as he asked“So, did you get to dance with that bastard?”

Copying him, she asked, “I don’t know, did you get some private time with Theon?”

His smile dropped as he fell back into his chair, frown set deeply on his face.

“I’ll take that as a no, then?”

“He’s infuriating!” he breathed out hatefully. “He reacts so nicely to fear. He was practically born to cower!”

“If it weren’t for his enormous ego, I’d say he’d make a nice edition to your playground,” she agreed, and her twin groaned.

“The ego is fine, in fact it makes it all the more interesting. But it's just that-”

“Those damned Starks are getting in the way?” she asked letting her smile turn upwards into a smirk. He caught sight of it, and raised an eyebrow.

“I thought you liked those little shits?” he scoffed.

“They are amusing…” she admitted, a feeling of fondness rising in her. “But you, on the other hand…”

“They’re like little yapping pups,” he bit out, crossing his arms and puffing out his cheeks, much like he did when he was denied apple biscuits before supper. “All too young to begin picking each other off. And all to useless to use in a hunt.”

“Perhaps to you,” she mused, reaching over the posts and taking the abandoned bottle for herself. “But you never were good at thinking ahead”

“What's that supposed to mean?” he growled as he leaned forward in his chair, glaring at her menacingly. But she smiled sweetly as she pushed the head of the furniture back with her foot.

“All in good time, brother dearest,” she sang, taking the bottle with her to the headboard, and swirling it until it resembled something akin to a liquid. “You best sleep, less you wish to make a trip to the bucket next to father’s door.”

As she made herself comfortable under the furs and fluffed her feathered’ pillow, she could hear Ramsay’s dark mumbling as he made way to his own bed opposite her.Settling herself in, she took a swig of the liquid before setting it down beside her on a stand. Reaching into her open sewing kit placed on said stand, she took out a red spool, and looked to the blank linen hanging from the kit haphazardly. From across the room, she could hear the distinct sharpening of a boning knife, and she shook her head. He never did have a good attention span. 

'All in good time' she thought while making the first puncture into the cloth. 

Chapter Text

Arya 

Surely enough, there it was. Barely hanging by the tip of its point, but it still dangled from the very edge of the white canvas. Turning to Sansa, she could help but jump in excitement.

“You did it!”

Almost in a sort of trance, the taller girl stared off at the mark, disbelief coloring her face. “I..It hit the target,” she whispered.

“You hit it!” Bran yelped from his spot in the makeshift line the three of them and Theon had made. He broke from his spot and ran to her, wrapping his arms around her waist as he jumped up and down. “Youhitityouhitityouhitit!”

Suddenly his smaller hand grabbed hers and led Arya into a little dance around their friend, and she was more then happy to oblige, chanting “She hit it!She hit it!” as Sansa continued to stare at the weakly embedded arrow. From behind them, an audible scoff emerged from an unimpressed Theon.

“It hit the edge,” he mumbled, sucking the joy from the courtyard like a blood bat. “Big deal, if that were a deer, You would’ve hit its arse.”

Ceasing their melody, Arya broke from her makeshift circle and glared at her father's ward. “You’d now all about arrows being stuck in arses, wouldn’t you?”

A snicker arose from Bran, and Theon’s frown deepened into a scowl as he stomped over to the rack, grumbling as he strung his bow.  Ever since last night, not so much as a crack of a smile arose from him. Even stranger was when Robb arrived that morning to the halls late, he didn’t make fun of his messy appearance! Not so much as a snicker! It wasn’t even that he was preoccupied with his food, hells, he even allowed Rickon to steal his sausage links. Which later turned into a sort of food exchange between the two, which ended with Sansa’s brother taking all the winnings from both on his way to take a leak. She’d never be able to wash the image of the older boy munching on a hot link as he pissed only a few feet away from the doorway from her mind. But even Theon didn’t seem react! It was as if someone had sucked all his personality away.

Which would’ve been fine. If only they could’ve taken his prickish tendencies away too. But no. He just had to shoot his arrow right where Sansa’s had landed, Effectively knocking it off. The poor girl’s face crumbled, and she felt rage boil in her as she marched over to Theon and stomped on his foot. The older boy yelped as his bow dropped so that he would clutch his foot.

“What the hell is you problem?” he howled.

“What’s your problem? She’s worked for three days,and she finally hit it!” she barked, back, and he glared down at her.
“If you haven’t realised, three days isn’t enough to turn her into a world renowned huntress. The best I can do is teach basics.  And one of the basics, is that you need to ensure your arrow sticks!”

Limping over to the target, he pulled out his arrow, and then picked up Sansa’s, before gesturing to the canvas.

“How many holes can you see from there?” he called out.

Rolling her eyes, she squinted, only being able to see a singular hole. She held up her fingers telling such, and from the corner of her eye, she could see they all had the same sight.

“Now come closer,” Theon called out, before gesturing for the three of them to come over. Whilst approaching the target, the appearance of a small dent became more visible. But once she was right in front of it, she recognised it as a small hole. A miniature copy of a rough and splintered hole only inches from it.

“Now, if we were hunting for sport, my mark would be fine,” Theon instructed, tapping his arrow mark. “But if it were for food, this would be totally unacceptable.  It would’ve torn the meat completely. It would mean having to scrap the entire rump. So if you’re going to  be hunting for food, you want to draw back a little softer. Don’t have the string so taught. That was my mistake. Now, do you want to tell me yours?”

Sansa walked forward, and seemed to examine her own mark, skidding her fingers across the rim. She then looked to Theon and asked, “I didn’t draw back far enough?”

“Good,” he praised. “If -forget the factor of it moving in real life- this where the arse of a buck, it wouldn’t stick. You need to either aim to kill it, or to disable it. It shouldn’t be able to rub your arrow off against a leaf and go on its merry way.”

“But how am I supposed to draw back farther? You said it yourself, I don’t have the muscle build up.”

“That’s your issue,” he shrugged. “Work on it, or don’t. I couldn’t care less. I taught you the basics, now get out of here.”

She glared at Theon before stepping on his foot again. Whatever stick was up his arse, she hoped it would get stuck and he’d never be able to shit again. As he yelped and grasped his abused foot, she turned to her two mildly more pleasant companions.

“Since Killjoy is being a ripe bitch, what do you suggest we do?”

Bran answered immediately, “We could go to the kitchens, and eat all his smoked salmon!”

Pondering the idea-whilst ignoring the protest coming from Theon- she ultimately shook her head. “You know he probably has a stash in his room.”

“It’s just as well,” Sansa added, shuffling her feet. “I needed to finish packing for tomorrow.”

“No Sansa!” Bran whined. “Can’t you stay a little longer?”

“I have to go back, Bran,” she laughed. “Otherwise how am I supposed to win a pup?”

“I hate to admit it, but Theon’s right, you aren’t ready for hunting,” Arya piped up, her own tinge of sorrow emerging. “Couldn't you just ask to stay behind a little longer?”

“I’m too young to be traveling on my own,” she insisted. “And Dreadfort isn’t as close as you think, it's at least a full days travel without  rest. Our poor horses aren’t what they used to be.”

“...Well, can we atleast help you?” Bran suggested. “Maybe then we could get packing done faster, and then-.”

“No!” Theon piped up. “No! I am not going into the Bolton quarters!”

Looking back at the nuisance, Arya scowled, “You don’t have to come, you know?”

“Sadly, I’m designated chaperone for the two of you,” he grumbled. “And as chaperone, I say there’s no way I’m letting you twats drag me to what I can only assume is a death trap!”

“Theon, why do you have to be so mean?” Bran whined. “Sansa’s only got a day left! We wanna play a little longer before she goes home!”

“We don't know how long until we get to see her again,” she added, saddened at the idea of not being able to ask her more about what’s outside Winterfell. “It could be another whole year!”

Theon’s glare didn't soften, if anything, his face looked even more sour. It looked almost torturous for him as he sighed and set his bow away.

“Fine,” he grumbled. “But if that creep brother of her’s is in there, I'm blaming the two of you for my death.”

“Theon!” Bran gasped as he simultaneous joined hands in between the two older children. “Don't say that about Sansa’s brother!”

“It's true,” both he and Sansa said, and Arya couldn't help but cackle at the look Theon gave her.

And she laughed harder as Sansa smiled sweetly and said, “It's a family trait.”

After that, Theon refused to look or even talk to Sansa. Even when Bran would ask the two of them a question, Theon would answer as if it was only directed at himself.  Not that Arya cared. It meant she got to prode Sansa’s mind a bit more.

“So did you learn how to care for the animals?” She asked, to which Sansa shook her head.

“No, I split duties with Ramsay. I was in charge of the apple tree and the actual mill, he was in charge of the barn and cellar.”

“Wait, what's in the difference between a mill and cellar?”

“The mill is where I would take the apples and prep them for the cider, and the cooler is where we put the readied ale,” she explained as she produced a key from the inside of her jerkin. “But it was also where Ramsay would cut and store our livestock and whatever game he could find in the woods. If he didn't, the stench would scare the animals in the barn”

“Gross,” she giggled, and Sansa grinned.

“That is why I made him do it,” she laughed, before stopping in front of a door, and placing her key in. Ahead of them, Bran and Theon didn’t seem to see, as they continued.

“Bran, it’s over here!” she called out, and her brother walked back, whilst Theon stood confused.

“Wait,” he drawled, looking up and down the hallways. “That can’t be right, I thought this was where the Karstarks were staying?”

“It is,” Sansa said with a nod. “But there was a few extra rooms, so Lord Rickard was so kind as to offer to share the spare rooms, seeing as we didn’t bring too many-.”

“But this hallway is my quarters,” he said slowly. “I offered to share my quarters with one family, not two!”

“Has there been a problem?” Arya scoffed, crossing her arms in annoyance. “If it was a problem, why didn’t you complain sooner?”

“Well...no,” he admitted, and at least had the decency to look guilty. “But it will be when I have two whole households scrambling to find their lost girdles and caps whilst I try to sleep!”

“Well, I can assure you I brought neither,”Sansa nodded as she twisted the key into the lock, and the creak of the hinges gave way to the open door. “So I hope I cause you no such discomfort.”

The first thing that struck Arya was the sudden cold that ran through her arms as she entered. Then she noticed that they had cracked open the window. Well, it was more that she noticed the wool coat crammed between the planes and the window sile. It had come along a trail, or more so an avalanche of clothes. Certainly not enough to have been accounted for each day. She turned to Sansa in complete and utter shock. She herself didn’t look altogether pleased with the sight.

“Ramsay...Tends to be very meticulous about how he chooses his clothing,” She murmured.

“I never would have guessed,” Theon drawled. Not that Sansa seemed to pay any minf as she began walking to a bed she could only assume was her designated one, and opened a decent sized bag. The look of disdain on her face was soon partnered with a click of the tongue as she closed it.

“Apparently he was in my stuff as well,” she sighed. “If you could help  me sort my clothes from my brother’s that would be very helpful.”

“Wait, I have a question!” Bran announced.

“Yes?”

“How are we supposed to tell you’re clothes from his clothes?”

Arya wanted to wack him over the head, but settled for placing her hand on her own. “The ones that look like they’d fit a girl belong to Sansa, and the ones that look like they’d fit a boy are her brother’s”

“And the ones that look like they were worn by a swine rolling in the mud are also his,”the elder teased, and the two Stark siblings joined in her snickering.

With no further guidance, they went to work sorting the clothes. Oddly enough, her brother seemed to wear a lot of pink highlighted or embroidered clothing. Though she supposed it wasn’t too odd, since it was his house colors. But there wasn’t an inch of pink within his twin’s wardrobe, she seemed to favor cool blues and deep violets to his bright reds and pinks. It made it easy to seperate the two, but as the minutes drew on, she began to wish she would never have to touch another dress or brightly colored trouser ever again. Bran, thankfully, was in charge of the side of the room where the shoes and boots were kept, so she thanked the gods for her luck.

As she threw another ball of laundry at Sansa who was packing each accordingly in two seperate bags, she began to hear someone kicking at wood. She turned to see Theon, a bundle in his arms, trying to drag a stray jerkin hanging from inside the wardrobe.

“What are you doing?” she asked, but Theon didn’t turn to answer. “Just put those down and then grab it.”

“Too much work,” he grumbled. “I’m almost there…”

“Theon, don’t be lazy” Bran scolded from beside her. “You might drop all the clothes you already gathered.”

“Shut it,” Theon hissed. “I’m almost there…”

Surely enough, he lifted his foot, and placed it atop the mountain in his arms. She could feel her own heart beating like a stampede as he gently put his foot down, and released his own breath of relief.

“There.” he laughed smugly as he marveled at his pile. “And you two said I couldn’t do it! Look who's laughing now!”

As if on cue, the door to the wardrobe flew open, and everything became chaos. A high pitched scream that shouldn’t come from Theon miraculously escaped, and suddenly Arya found herself face to arm as he blocked her and a screaming Bran from a snarling mangled beast. The only one not in panic was Sansa, and she quickly realised why. The snarling was laughter, and the mangled beast was only her brother, who was currently bent over himself in laughter.

“Y-you should’ve seen your faces!” he said in between gasps.

“Ramsay!” Sansa all but screeched. Her twin didn’t seem phased as he turned to her and smirked.

“Yes, m’lady?”

“I can’t even...why would you...of all the horrid tricks-!”

“Come now, it was only a little fun,” he laughed off. Before Arya could reach out to stop him, he muffled her hair and continued that uneasy laughter. “You know fun, don’t you Stark girl?”

“Don’t touch me,” she growled as she slapped his hand away.  

“Noted,” he calmly said, before turning to Theon and smirking. “Aww, did I scare you, little squidling?”

“What? No!” Theon spattered,and the sudden tightening of his grip on her and Bran didn’t escpae her notice. “And don’t call me that.”

“Why? Did I hurt the little squidling’s pride?” he babied, and she could practically feel Theon’s fluster.

“Ramsay, stop being so horrid,” Sansa snapped, and the unamused look her brother bore was suddenly replaced by confusion.

“Is that my shirt?” he asked, gesturing to the faded-what she had assumed to be a tunic. “Why are you wearing my shirt?”

“You said I could borrow it,” she said slowly, as if talking to an idiot. And from the way he gaped like a caught fish, Arya began to think it was with good reason.

“I never said you could borrow my shirt!” he screeched like an ill-tempered crow.

“I asked you this morning if I could borrow something of yours for the day.”

“I thought you meant a pair of scissors, I didn’t think you meant my shirt!”

“Why do you care?” She cared little for the look the elder boy gave her after she spoke. If anything, he looked even more stupid. “You seem to have more then enough.”

“I think I picked some up identical to that one,” Bran chimed in.

“See,” Sansa urged as she shot her and Bran what could have been a thankful smile. “They agree it’s not that big of an ordeal.”

They aren’t even supposed to be in here!” he turned his glare in her direction,and she heard the tiniest squeak of a gasp from Bran. “We were supposed to finish packing, not have a bunch of brats make it even more of a hassle.”

“The only brat who has made a hassle is you !” Sansa hit him square in the chest with a pointed finger. “I had all your clothes on your bed for you to put away while I spent time with the Bran and Arya, and I come back to this!”

“And whose fault is it really? The one who made the mess, or the one who trusted me with their things?”

The groan that escaped the fairer twin was almost animalistic. Arya could only watch as the usually composed Snow shoved her clothing aggressively into her own bag. Her rage peaked as she nearly tore the seams with her thoughtless packing, tied the ends, and slung it over her shoulders. She then took all his piled clothes from the opposite bed, and threw it to the ground.

“There. Now the mess is your problem,” she spat as she turned heel and marched out of the room.

Not wanting to be left with the other Snow, Arya dragged Bran along as she caught up with a grumbling Sansa.

“That absolute nightmare!” She growled, before turning to herself and Bran. “I can’t apologize enough for what happened back there.”

“Why was he hiding in a wardrobe?” Bran wondered aloud.

“Truth be told, Bran, I don’t think there's a rhyme or reason to anything he does,” Sansa admitted. “Other then just for his own satisfaction.”

“But where's the satisfaction in hiding in a wardrobe?”

“...I think that’s something only he needs to know,” she mused, before looking between the three of them. “Wait. Where is Lord Theon?”

“You don’t need to call him Lord...Actually, that is a good question,” Arya turned around, searching behind the hallway, yet there was no sign of their reluctant chaperone. That is until the sound something akin to a scurrying cat resonated through the halls, and around the corner came the Greyjoy, stumbling over himself as he fell face first in front of their feet. Wincing at the smack that came from his fall, Arya lent a hand to help him back to his knees.

Glaring up at her, he growled out, “Why the fuck would you leave me back there?”

“Oh goodness, what did he do?” Sansa gasped and Theon turned his attention to her.

“Why does he have a boning knife? Who keeps a boning knife in their boots?!” he yelled as he waved his hands frantically.

“He...doesn’t get out very often,” Sansa suppiled, and Theon scoffed.

“Forget it, I’m sleeping in the barn tonight. He can keep his lack of social skills and bonning knife as far from me as possible!”

The sudden toll of a bell brought dread through Arya, as she was reminded of the time. Groaning, she brought the attention of the others to herself.

“What’s wrong?” her brother asked.

“Mother wanted me to go to her sewing circle today,” as she told of her worries, she noticed Sansa’s frown, and felt guilty. “I’m sorry, Sansa. I’d invite you again, but-”

“It’s alright,” the Snow girl shrugged. “You’ve spent the whole morning and midday in my company, it’s only fair you the evening with in your mother’s.”

“I still don’t get what the big deal was,” Bran mused. “Birds die all the time.”

“But you don’t make embroidery of their corpses all the time,” Theon chuckled, which turned to a groan as she stepped on his foot again.

“What’s done is done,” Sansa said definitely. “Mayhaps next time Lady Stark can find it in her heart to forgive me and allow my return to her circles. But till then, you needn’t sacrifice time with your mother for my sake.”

“But its a sewing circle-.”

“Arya,” the severity in her tone was caught her off guard, as it hadn’t seemed the typical good natured urging she usually let on.It almost dangled the line of annoyance. “I don’t see my mother very often. And when I did, I despised having to help her in the kitchen. I would complain how I had to sit there and peel apples with her, and I’d rant to my brother of  how she would scold me for gutting a fish wrong. And when I left, I couldn’t be more happy to have finaly be rid of such chores.”

Looking to Theon, she smiled sadly as she said, “But surely Lord Theon could agree with me, that distance makes the heart grow fonder of such silly tasks.”

The scowl that had been plasted on his face turned more to disgust as he sputtered out, “Why do you have to go bringing me into this?”

Likely ignoring the outburst, Sansa turned back to Arya. “Sometimes, we need to bit our tounges and do that which is troublesome in order to spend time with our parents. Sometimes, its gutting fish, other times it is sewing. All I suggest is that you appreciate it, less you end up like myself or Theon.”

“...Well, I’d never wish to end up like Theon,” she admitted,still not thrilled with the idea of sewing. But the smile of appreciation from Sansa, and the scoff of annoyance from Theon proved to be somewhat comforting.

 

Jon 

Pulling his  cape tighter to his form, Jon listened for any signs of rest coming from the packing lords and ladies. Though he knew his rooms to be impervious to sound, he also knew them to be in the heart of where the Umbers and Manderlys where staying, and he didn’t wish to be caught in the middle of the chaos that was the two houses readying the last of their  belongings. The Reeds, being the furthest south, had already readied their horses, and where to begin their ride home any moment now. As where Mormont and Umber, but they wished to leave a bit later into the night.

Looking to the practice dummy he had gave up slicing in favor of warmth, he sighed as he put his sword back onto the rack, and looked to the open door past the courtyard. He wouldn’t mind spending the night within the kitchens. It wouldn’t be the first time.

As he passed the gate opposite towards the kitchens, laughter caught his ear. Turning his head, he saw light creeping through the door leading to where he knew Lady Catelyn held her sewing circles. A sympathetic snort of laughter arose in him, as he thought of poor Arya and how painfully despicable she found sewing circles.

He was so absorbed in his amusement, that he didn't notice the log till he was already halfway to the ground. Snow and dirt invaded his agape mouth, and as he pulled himself up, he spit the mixture with all the disgust of an drunk tasting water once again.As if his pain hadn't been enough, a startled Sansa sitting across from him added to the embarrassment. Scrambling to his knees, he laughed shakily, while she smiled sheepishly.

“I don't know if I should be flattered or concerned that you keep falling to my feet,” she quipped, and he felt heat rise in his neck.

“I'm sorry,” he said whilst rubbing the back of his neck. “I must look quite the fool, you mustn't think very highly of me. Tripping over my own feet.”

“I don't think someone's balance should account for their character and worth,” she offered that kind smile of hers. Or he thought it kind. There was still much sorrow behind it.

“I suppose not,” he agreed, bring himself to his feet, before setting eyes on the needlework in her lap. “huh.”

“What?”

“The… the fire bit,” he stumbled on we his words as he gestured to her work. “It's… it's different.”

Holding up her embroidery to inspection, she clicked her tongue. “I knew I should've used less red.”

“No! No, it's fine!” he assured. “I just meant… Well, usually people don't include the blue. In the flames, that is.”

He must've said something wrong, because she stared at him, like some anomaly had grown upon his head. She quirked an eyebrow and chuckled.“What are you, some sort of flame expert?”

“No,” he said all to quickly. “I just...Well, who stares at flames enough to be an expert, anyhow?”  

“You'd be surprised. I here there is quite the religion revolving around fire,” she paused, setting the fabric back on her lap and puncturing it with a secretive smile on her face. “Mayhaps you are a long lost prophet.”

He couldn't help but snort in laughter at the notion. “No. I'm sure that the Old Gods are the only for me,” he assured, taking the spot next to her on her log. “I just… have a lot of time on my hands.”,

“So you stare at the flames in absence of an activity?”

“Fire… odd as it sounds, has always calmed me,” he admitted, starting in to the ribbons of scarlet and gold spitting from the charred wood. “It's so wild, and unpredictable, but...So life like. So untamable and free.”

It wasn't until a spark cracked I front of his face and licked his nose, that he realised he had been leaning towards the flames. Bolting back, he touched his nose, careful to make sure it wasn't burnt, before resting his hands in front of his lap.

“I'm sorry,” he said sheepishly. “It's not proper to tell ladies things like that.”

“Who told you flames are inproper?” She asked with a laugh.

“Lady Stark,” he mumbled, and was surprised when she scoffed.

“Well that is utter horeshit,” he nearly fell back into the flames when the curse escaped her pink lips.

“I..I beg your pardon?”

“It's obviously something you find fascinating,” she continued, ignoring his shocked response. “To apologise for something you like is to apologise for being you. And you shouldn't let someone try to censor you like that, Jon Snow.”

“It… it's not terrible,” he tried to defend, even if deep inside he agreed. “No ladies really bother with me as it is.”

“Well… I'm not a lady,”Sansa reminded him for what seemed to be the thousandth time, and he found himself more at peace with the voice in the back of his head wishing to cry out in protest. “So you needn't apologise to me. I only wish to know you better.”

Reluctant to indulge in the warmth growing in his chest, he tore his eyes from her face to the fimarity of the flames.

“I don't see why,” he mumbled. “I'm only a bastard.”

“As am I,” she reminded, leaving her work to move closer to him, and he felt the heat rise from his neck to his cheeks. “And I have known many a Snow. Believe me, you are more than just a bastard, Jon.”

The warmth in his chest turned more aching as he stared back into those light blue eyes, turned the color of clear glass in the firelight. The ernesty in them made him want to believe her, but the self doubt set in his stomach, and he found himself shaking his head.

“I don't see how.”

“You haven't left Winterfell much,” she said it as a truth, not a question. Not that he could deny it if she had. “Kindness is a trait much to be desired in many a Snow. Look no further than my own twin for proof,” he wasn't prepared for the warmth of her hand upon his own. Though she was his elder by at least a year, the small size of her hand astonished him,as did her genuine smile. “But you, you are so kind and genuine. I don't know any other who would have asked me to dance, even if it was out of pity.”

“It wasn't pity!” He found himself shouting, though for whose sake, his own or hers, he knew not. “I was serious, I wanted to dance with you.”

“See?” she said with a knowing smile. “Genuine. Kind. You are more than worthy of learning more about.”

“...I think your kind, too,” he managed to say through the choke hold her words had on him. If her words were a choke, her brightened smile was a knife to the throat.

“I’m glad you think so,” she squeezed his hand as she giggled. “Sadly though, I don’t think my hobbies are as unique as studying flames.”

“But I’d still wish to know them,” he urged, and her cheeks glowed pink in the firelight.

“Well...I play harp.”

“Really?” Jon was quite surprised. He never knew anyone to play harp. Lady Stark tried to find a tutor for Arya, but sadly his sister held no love for the delicate strings.

“Well, only a little,” she whispered sheepishly. “I must admit, I’m not nearly as accomplished in it as I should be.”

“But still, it's an accomplishment, no less,” he praised. “I could never hope to play an instrumnet.”
“Why ever not?” she inquired, and he rose his free hand to the light.

“It’s either swords or instruments,” he said. “The finger callus a different way for both.”

“Rhaegar Targaryen was said to have been very accomplished in both,” Sansa remarked, and he found himself laughing.

“Rhaegar Targaryen was also the byproduct of hundreds of years of incest. He probably had an extra set of hands to help him accomplish both.”

In that she joined him in laughing, but only for a second before defending her point once more. “Not true, he could do both.”

“Why are you so sure,” he challenged, and Sansa crossed her arms and smirked triumphantly.

“Because I’ve seen it,” she said proudly, and he felt his blood run cold. Oh gods, was she older than he thought?!

She must’ve caught on to his confusion, and she was quick to resolve it. “No, I didn’t mean I saw Rhaegar himself do both, I meant I’ve seen people be proficient in both.”

Relief eased upon him once more, and he felt his playful side rise again. “And what fabled ser have you seen who can do such, for I would love to serve as their squire. I’d be able to sing my enemies to sleep!”

“I’m afraid that’d be impossible,” she giggled. “But I will admit, it would have been nice to have you as a squire at the Dreadfort.”

It took him a minute to process her joke, and when it did, it seemed less like a joke, and a more of a horrifying realization.

“Your brother doesn’t sing, does he?” he whispered, mortified at the emerging image of the unruly twin scraping his sharp nails across the sharp chords and howling like a hound to the sky.

“Oh, he does,” Sansa nodded. “But it wasn’t him I was talking about.”

Suddenly the same scene arose in his mind, but this time it was the head Bolton taking the stage as with a voice so monotonous, and somehow he found that even more disturbing.

“My older brother,” she explained, and he let the imagery dissolve, before he became even more confused.

“I thought Ramsay was your older brother,” he asked, and Sansa nodded her head.

“He is by a few minutes, but we had another. A true born,” she said sadly. “He taught me to play harp.”

The “had” hung in the air like a dark cloud, and the awkward yet regular response of apologizing hung on his tongue. “I’m...I’m sorry. I couldn't imagine...If I were to  lose Robb or-”

“Oh no. No, I wasn’t nearly as close to Domeric as you are to Robb,” she admitted, smiling shyly as she reached a stray stick, and began poking the fire. “I only knew him for a short period of time. He was sweet though. Taught me how to play harp and sing songs. Told me I’d make the loveliest lady in all the North.”

He had to agree with her brother on that. Something he’d never planned to think, admitting that he agreed with Sansa Snow’s brother. Shaking his head clear of the silly notion, he looked to the end of the stick, as she was drawing aimlessly into the snow with the charred end, leaving a trail of water in its wake.

“What happened to him...If I may ask?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “ Our Maester said it was a sickness of the bowels. I think he had thin blood, like me...Either way, he died.”

She shook her head, letting the flakes of snow atop her dark hair scatter. He watched as she reached into a pack, humming a song he had only heard on a few occasion, and the name escaped him.Suddenly he saw a small wooden harp, decorated with etchings of a chase, with horses and hunting dogs swirling around the curve.  She moved closer to him, and plucked a few of the strings, tuning one that sounded off.

“This was the one he taught me on. Father didn’t have the heart to toss it after his death, so he’s allowed me to use it,” she said, running her fingers over the strings, the sound flowing like a stream on a spring morning. Noding to herself, she then nudged his hand a bit closer, a mischievous smile on her face. Once he realized what she meant, he shook his head nervously.

“I couldn’t. I told you before, Sansa, I don’t think it's possible.”

“Come now, Jon. Was it not Aemon himself who wrote his Naerys songs and comedies?” She teased. “If you wish to be like the knights of songs, you should be well versed in playing said songs.”

“I think you mistake me for Bran,” he laughed half heartedly. “I could never be a proper knight.”

“Stranger things have happened,” she said melodically, before her lithe fingers plucked the strings in the beginnings of a song. “Now, how familiar are you with the Rains of Castamere?”

“...Not very” he admitted, though the tune she plucked at the strings did strike some semblance of recognition in his memory.

“Well, Domeric said it was the first song he ever played, so it mustn't be too hard for your calloused hands,” she laughed, before she ceased playing. “But if you’d rather not-.”

“No! I mean yes!I mean...It might be better...if you play first. Just so I get a better idea.”

“Reasonable” she agreed eagerly, before taking to her instrument. “Now, the tune is rather repitive, so its not too difficult.”

To prove her point, she played the first few chords. True to her word, she played a simple progression, and he found himself captivated by how her fingers glided across the strings, and how the simple tune held his attention. And how dissapoined he was when she suddenly stopped.

“Now, that was the easy way,” she said as she brought her left hand up to the strings. “This is the way I play at home.”

He found his head spinning as he tried to follow which strings she was playing. The movement was similar to what she was doing earlier, but the complexity of the tune was added by the left hand’s strings. She stopped at the same place, and he swallowed hard as she looked at him expectedly.

“I don’t think I can play it like that,” he admitted, and she laughed.

“Perhaps not,” she said as she picked up her harp, and offered it to him. “But maybe we can start with the first way I showed you.”

He stared at the harp, unsure of the instrumrent. The thought of looking even more a fool to her almost made him refuse the offer. But the pleading look she offered him told him she might actually wish to teach him. It was a nice change from earing Father have to insiste the tutors teach him as well. So he reached out and took her instrument. It appeared heavier then he expected, and he felt its weight upon his thrighs as he placed it upright. Unsure of where to start, he looked to Sansa embarressed. She laughed, taking his hands into her own, and guiding him to the strings. He swallowed thickly at the way her hands wraped around his wrist, before shadowing his own and guided him in the first pluck. He was cut from his trance as its sour pitch left his ears ringing. The smile was whipped from his companion’s face, and she pursed her lips.

“Hmm..That was too hard a pluck,” she mused. “We’ll have to work on that.”

Catelyn 

When she first heard the distinct sound of music, she brushed it off as the bards tuning their instruments before heading back to Wintertown. That is until she heard perhaps the most rare sound: Jon Snow’s laughter. She’d known it, as she was uaually the one to cut it off. She could only be grateful that Arya had gone off to bed earlier, otherwise she’d never hear the end of her begging to stop and play with her half brother. Most of the Ladies had left early, save for her serving maids and Septon Morden. Bethany was quite insistent of making her kitchen boy the most marvelous of favors, in light of a Glover serving girl catching her suitor’s attentions.

“It must be perfect, m’lady!” she had announced as soon as the residents of Winterfell were alone. “I can’t lose him to a Glover!”

“Steward,” Jeyne Poole corrected. “I hear she’s the daughter of the Steward of Deepwood Motte.”

“She could be a long lost Dornish Princess! Doesn’t mean she should go after other women’s true loves!”

“Bethany, this is hardly anything to worry over,” Cat reassured the frazzled girl. “She’s but a passing fancy. Once she leaves, his affections will return to you. If not, he is not worth your time.”

“If I lose him, I shall never love again!” she sighed dramatically, slouching into her chair, only to be reprimanded by Septa Morden.

“Sit up straight, Bess,” she hissed. “You are representing House Stark.”

“Yes, Septa,” the girl maneuvered herself in a more upright position.

In the midst of the comforting and childlike pouting, Cat heard a voice carry over from the courtyard. It was the same voice that had her nerves on end from the day they first spoke to one another. Considering what she had heard before, a terrifying idea surfaced in her mind.

Feigning composure, she excused herself for some fresh air. As the youtfull woes continued to be fed despite her announcement, she closed the door behind her. Surely enough, the sound of a harp was prominent from across the courtyard. And surely enough, there was Jon Snow, with the offending harp in his hand. Without the walls muffling the sound, she recognised the clumsy and unpracticed plucking of The Rains of Castamere. Odd, she wouldn’t have expected him to know the tune, let alone play it on the harp. But his companion beside him explained that.

She walked towards the two Snows, listening to Lord Bolton’s spawn giving her husband’s bastard instructions on how to properly play a Lannister song on a harp. Of all the ridiculous notions…

“No, no Jon. It’s ‘that’s all the truth I know ’, not ‘the only truth I know .”

“Are you sure? I’ve heard bards say it both ways.” the Snow girl raised a hand to silence him.

“Positive. Domeric used to say that if you sang the Rains of Castamere wrong in the south, the Lannisters would slit your throat before you could finish. I’m doing this for your own safety.”

“Well, if I’m ever in the south, I will owe my survival to you,” he laughed, the sound so foreign to her ear. She could only watch in almost curiosity at the alien scene unfolding before her.

“Okay, let’s try this one more time,” Sansa said through giggles, before Jon set his shakily hand to the strings. Whilst he plucked at them, the Snow girl sung in tempo with his shakey pace, and she could hear Jon attempting to sing as well.

“And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that's all the truth I-.”

Suddenly she was met by the eyes of a surprised Sansa. She stared at her as a dear would a hunter, and she felt it was wrong. It was all wrong for her to be the frightened one. Jon wasn’t much better, but he at least had the decency to look down when she addressed the two of them.

“I’d think the two of you would be in your quarters,” she said curtly, and Jon rushed to defense.

“I’m sorry, Lady Stark, Sansa was only teaching me to play-.”

“It’s of no importance,” she brushed off. “I just wanted to see what the noise was.”

“Oh,” Jon murmured, looking every bit the kicked down pup.

“He’s only just learned to play, m’lady,” Sansa gushed, and she held a disdain for the common way she addresses her. “But he’s already learned the-.”

“Why that song?” she interrupted, effectively throwing the Snow guard off.

“I..I beg your pardon, m’lady?”

“Why teach him the Rains of Castamere?” she repeated. “It’s not exactly a northern song.”

“...I suppose not,” she admitted.

“It would be better to show your Northern pride, would it not? Especially in times where one’s recreational endeavours can lead to trouble” she reminded. Thee girl didn’t nod,she instead she looked sadly to the ground.

“It was only a song, Lady Stark.”

The unexpected rise in Jon Snow caught her off guard and she looked to her husband’s bastard. His facial expression was more nervous then defiant. Even more as she narrowed her eyes at him.

“What was that?”

“N-nothing!” he stammered. “I-I...Well...I should get going,” he bumbuled as he rose and handed the  harp back to its owner. “Thank you, Sansa. For the lesson, it was very kind.”

The girl picked her head up and smiled at her fellow Snow before she said, “Thank you for listening to my lessons. It was very nice.”

He nodded, before he walked away, like a pup with a tail between his legs. Looking back at Sansa, she caught the forlorn look as she put the harp back into her pack.

“Don’t do that,” she exasperatedly sighed, and the girl looked to her in confusion.

“Do what?”

“That. That sad little look you are insistent on wearing,” she said cooly, and turned away back towards the circle. “It’s unbecoming.”

Cat picked her skirts up, and began to make back o the warmth of the room. That is until the girl called out after her.

“Do you recall the story behind the Rains of Castamere?”

She paused in her journey, not bothering to turn to answer. “Of course. Everyone knows.”

“Everyone in the South knows,” she heard the girl correct, as she stalked closer to her. “The North doesn’t care for the Lannisters enough to listen. It’s too bad really, it's a interesting story. The son of a fool lord, rising to annihilate those who dishonored and illegitimate his claim. All because of their own foolish pride.”

She was half expecting a dagger at her back, and was ready to fight. Only for the girl to pass her, making her way towards where the Boltons were staying. Cat let the breath she held out, and let her guard sag. But then she turned around one last time, and offering a knowing smile. It was more terrifying than any dagger.

“You never know m’lady. It might do good for the North to listen to a Lannister Bard.”

Chapter Text

Bran 

When mother put him to bed last night and said he couldn’t say goodbye to Sansa and Meera, he was devastated. She said they’d be waking up far more early then he did, and that they’d need to leave to ensure they made it home before nightfall tomorrow. He drowned out the rest of her explanation, but he didn’t need it. What he did listen to made it impossible for him to sleep.

So there he lay, an ache in his chest keeping him from shutting his eyes. He never got to tell either a proper goodbye. When he saw Meera at breakfast, he was to busy making faces between the two of them to even think to say goodbye. And Theon had dragged him to sword practice before he realised that Sansa had left to do whatever it was she did on her own.

He felt like crying. But only babies like Rickon cried.  And he wasn’t a baby. His only hope, he realised while lying face first into his furs, was to stay up all night. That way he could go early in the morning and say goodbye to his friends. He felt so proud, surely Robb had done it plenty of times. He knew Jon didn’t sleep too well either, he always had dark circles under his eyes. So if they could do it, so could he.

And so he rolled over, staring at the ceiling. He wasn’t exactly sure how to stay up all night. He just assumed it meant staring at the ceiling till the sun came out. After what seemed to be hours, he opted to change out the ceiling for the wall. He observed that the wall had a few more cracks than the ceiling. He must've spent hours mapping out those cracks. But when he turned to his window, still not light. How long was night again?Had the Long Night already descended upon them, as Old Nan told him it would?

Reluctantly, he felt his eyes drop. Why was his body betraying him now? He slapped hk=is cheeks in hopes of waking up, and to little avail. Maybe if he buried his head in the snow, it’d wake him up.Maybe….Maybe….

He didn’t even realise he had closed his eyes until he opened his eyes to a gleaming light.  And he didn’t set into a panic when he heard the sound of horses beyond the gates. Throwing the furs from his body, he looked out his window, and saw the Karstark banners begin their march North. Crawling to the end of the bed, he slipped his bare feet into the worn boots, keeping his eyes trained to the gates, waiting to see if the lizard lion or flayed man banners were following. Fear rose in him at the idea that maybe they left earlier.

Not bothering to tie his laces, he ran to the window, opening it and looking down. He could make out father and mother below. Father hugged a  smaller man, and he recognised in relief that it was Howland Reed. Pulling himself over the sile, he grabbed onto the exposed rock next to his window, and began to use it as a guide to the barrack tops. Carefully, he stretched his foot downwards, making sure to have a good solid footing, before he began to climb down. Once he was close enough to the edge of the barracks, he jumped, soaring to the ledge and hugging his body to it. Pulling himself up, he could hear the restless horses and the sounds of bags being strapped to them. Once he had his footing, he walked as fast as he could, looking over to the courtyard. Meera was just below, and he crouched down, hanging over the opening on the battlements and he called out to her in a whisper.

“Meera!”

She managed to here him, and looked up from her pack, and he couldn't help but laugh at her wide eyed surprise.

“Bran? What are you doing here?” she whispered.

“I came to say goodbye,” he explained. “I didn’t get to say it yesterday, so I felt bad.”

“Bran, that's sweet and all, but your hanging over a ledge.”

“Oh! Oh right!” He crawled back, before he sat up and hung his legs out. With a push, he landed on the barrel of hay. “Better?”

“Much,” she agreed, and suddenly he was pulled into a hug. “Thank you.”

“Its...Its no problem!” he stammered, feeling his ears warm up. “I’m just glad I woke up in time.”

She pulled back, looking down at him with her slightly crooked teeth in a big smile, and said “I guess I’ll see you next year.”

One year...He knew it would be that long, but gods how he hoped he didn’t have to wait so long to play knights and dragons.She was the only one willing to play the dragon. Arya was more interested in being the assassin, and Theon the evil warlock or kraken.Jon would probably agree to it, but he never could pull off dragons well. Meera actual lived with large lizards, and she got it perfectly.

“Hey, cheer up,” she said, nudging his shoulder with her own. “Maybe next time, my brother will feel well enough to join.”

He forced a smile through the sadness, thinking back to how she told him of her older brother, who was a bit on the sickly side, but had as wild of an imagination as he. “I’d like that. Then maybe I can have two dragons.”

She laughed at that, before Howland Reed called for them to begin moving. She sighed, before she gave him one last hug.

“Goodbye, Brandon Stark.”

“Goodbye, Meera Reed.”

And with that, she walked over to her father, green riding coat trailing behind her as she mounted her own horse. In him watching her, he didn’t even hear the footsteps behind him, until he felt a tap on his shoulders. Turning around, Sansa stood there in her own blue riding coat.

“I have an idea,” she told him, before reaching into her pocket, and procuring an piece of cloth with the image of a flame. “I will send a raven with this cloth, and you shall know that it is mine.”

“You want to send letters?” he asked, the idea lightening the heaviness of his friend’s departure.

She nodded and continued, “His name is Gwyar,he has a single red spot on his neck. I’ll send Gwyar with news of my progress in archery, and you may send him back with news of yours. And climbing and whatever else you may wish.”

“That’s brilliant!” he nearly shouted, until he remembered that he wasn’t supposed to be outside. So he lowered his voice to a whisper, “I mean...That’s brilliant.”

She giggled, before reaching for his hand and squeezing it. “It was a delight to meet you, Bran.”

“You were fun to meet,too,” he agreed, his ears never quite losing their blush. “Will you come back next year?”

“If Father allows it,” she said with a sigh. “But you know my family. Not the most predictable bunch.”

“I’m sure he’ll allow it,” he insisted. “And you should bring the pup you win, too!”

Her smile grew more wistful, and he was pulled into a hug once more. “Thank you Bran.”

“Sansa!” he heard her twin call out. “Quit stalling, I want to go home!”

When they pulled back from the hug, he could see her shoulders sag as she rolled her eyes. “Coming, Ramsay.”

While she began to collect the belongings she had with her, he noticed that Robb was the only one of his siblings present in the courtyard. Not Arya or Rickon, not even Jon.

“Sansa...Did Arya say goodbye already?”
“Hmm? Oh yes,” she nodded. “I passed by her in the halls this morning. Poor thing, she was so tired, she woke up to the noise and as soon as we said goodbye, she went back to bed.”

“And Jon?”

She lifted her bag to her shoulder and smiled sadly. “I’m afraid not.”

“What?” he was shocked beyond measure. He knew he and Arya had been to closest to her, but Jon had been a close third. Surely he wouldn’t have missed her departure. “Maybe he is still asleep, I can go and wa-.”

“SANSA!” her twin screeched, and she winced, before she smiled sadly.

“Maybe next time...Goodbye, Bran.”

And before he could try to convince her, she was already heading towards that jumpy brown mare she rode in on. He was about to follow her, until something snagged the back of his nightshirt. Turning behind, he was met with a frowning Theon.

“What are you doing up this early?” he asked drowsily.

“I...I was...Please don’t tell Mother!” he pleaded.

“Like I ever talk to her,” he scoffed, before he suddenly stiffened. “Shit!”

“What?” he asked, before he was suddenly pulled back by the collar, and yanked him behind the hay. “What is it?”

“Fucking Robb just saw us,” he seethed, and Bran looked to him puzzled.

“You’ve been avoiding Robb. Did something happen or-”

“Shut up!” he hissed. “Maybe he’ll just go away-.”

“Bran?”

The Greyjoy stiffened as his older brother peaked over the barrel of hay. “What are you doing up so early?”

He laughed as he said, “Theon asked the exact same thing.”

His brother turned to see Theon, and his typical smile turned playful. “Hiding from your admirer, Greyjoy?”

“Go fuck a bear, Stark,” he spat, crawling farther away from Robb, who only laughed.

“It must be a relief. You don’t need to hide under hay after today,” he teased. “You can go back to firing arrows and being a cocky shit again!No more hiding from knives and arrows and-”

“Shut up!” Theon choked out. But not from anger, Bran realised. The foreign drips coming off his chin weren’t sweat, and he was utterly speechless. “Just shut up and leave me alone, Stark!”

As Theon leaped to his feet and marched past the lords, shoving a few out of the way in his flurry, Bran’s eyes came to rest on his older brother. The look of utter loss didn’t belong on his face, and it was more terrifying than anything Theon claimed to have experienced during this stay.

“Robb?” he asked, and was ignored as Robb took into a sprint after Theon.

Left alone, he was suddenly left with the feeling of confusion that hadn’t quite plagued him till that moment. Yet it weighed like a fallen tower on his mind. But he had little time to contemplate what was happening between the two older boys as he heard a loud call.

“Wait! Wait!”

He turned to the entrance to the courtyard, and out came a panic stricken Jon, a bundle in his hands as he rushed to the gates.

“Sansa, wait!”

Hearing her name, he could see the Snow girl halt her horse as she looked down at him in confusion.

“Jon, what are you-?”

She was silenced when Jon shoved a ring of winter roses into her hands. It suddenly dawned on him why he hadn’t told her goodbye yet, and he smiled as his older brother stumbled over his words.

“I..I tried to make a chain of them,” even from this distance, he could see the tinge of pink in Jon’s cheeks. “It didn’t turn out as well as I thought it would but-.”

“Jon, they’re beautiful,” she said, a smile brighter than any she had shared this entire trip light her face. “Thank you.”

“It's no problem, my lady,” he said shakily.

“Jon, how many times have I told you-”

“I know,” he defended. “But you are...To me at least,” he offered. And for the first time, he saw his friend go truly red, and her eyes turned to the flowers.

“Wel...Promise me you’ll continue to play harp. You learned so quickly, I’m sure you’ll play beautifully.”

“I will,” he assured, and the two shared a long stare. THe type of stare only Mothers and Father share, before he coughed. “Urm...G...Goodbye Sansa.”

With one last smile, she returned his Goodbye, and then she trailed after her brother, way past the gates. Allowing a minute for Jon to move-he didn’t- he walked over to his awestruck half brother and nudged him. Broken from the spell, he looked down, and Bran smirked.

“She promised she’d write to me,” he said.

“Really?”he gasped, and Bran laughed at his blatant excitement.

 

Robb 

Funny enough, he didn’t find Theon at the archery range. Instead, he listened to the sound of sword hacking at the stump. Theon wasn’t the best with the sword, but he was ruthless in his assault. He used to say it was because of the Ironborn in him, desperate to conquer and pillage. He always thought it was just because he was too weak armed to properly lift it. But now, he felt like he needed to approach his friend like one would a wild animal.

“...Theon?”

He hit the blade against the stump one more time, before he sagged, against it. When he turned to face him, he was expecting fury. Not the look of pure disappointment.

“I told you to leave me alone,” he spat out.

“Theon, I’m sorr-.”

“No!” he struck the sword into the ground, and threw a pointed finger at him. “You don’t get to say your sorry! Do you have any idea about the level of shit I had to endure these past six days?”

“If this is about the party, then yes, I agree,” he defended. “That was a fucked up thing for me to do.”

“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific, Stark,” he teased, in a more malicious tone than usual. “You did quit a few fucked up things at the party!”

“Wel...First, if your still mad about the whole thing with Dacey Mormont, that wasn’t anything, I think she might be sweet on Smalljon-.”

“Fucking drowned hell Stark,” he angrily groaned. “You think I give a shit who you fuck? I’m not your wife, for crying out loud.”

“I know,” he agreed, but still a part of him felt guilty for some unknown reason. “But you seemed really upset, so.”

“I wasn’t upset,” he hissed, before renting with a sigh. “Alright, I was a little pissed, but it had nothing to do with you rucking a Mormont’s skirts.”

“I wasn’t rucking ,” he felt his cheeks heaten as he crossed his arms.

“You’re not listening!” Theon accused with a spiteful hiss. “You never listen, and I’m about to lose my bloody mind!”

“Your right, I don’t listen!” he offered, throwing his arms up in defeat. “I don’t listen, and I’m a shit friend, are you happy?!”

“I don’t want you to admit you’re a shit friend, I want you to believe me!”

Now directly face to face with him, he could watch the veins in his temple pop as he sweat frustration and hurt. He could only imagine he was a mirror of Theon’s anger, as he felt beads of sweat trail down the side of his face. For the first time, he could actually see the outlines of that scare he claimed to have perfectly. No longer was it a small scab, but a small discolored crack in his skin. Fighting the urge to brush it, he sighed.

“You were right,” he admitted. “About that Ramsay kid, I mean.”

Theon’s face morphed into something akin to disbelief.“You’re just saying that-.”

“No. No, I know you're right,” he defended. “The arse nearly poisoned me with his shit ale the night of the feast.”

“...So he was there,” Theon breathed as he began to back up, seeming to mull over his newly given information.

“Yeah, a bit ironic, if you think about it,” Robb laughed shakily, while rubbing the back of his head. “So yeah...You were right, he is a bit of a prick.”

“A bit?” he snorted, and even though it was at his expense, Robb could appreciate the smug look returning to his face after such a long absence.

“Alright...Maybe more than a normal prick, more along the lines of a-.”

“Downright bastard through and through?” Theon offered.

“That’ll work,” he nodded in agreement. Not many times he would ever do that, agree with Theon Greyjoy. But considering the hell he went through, he’d relent just this once. And from the smile creeping onto his friend’s face, he was slightly inclined to relent to one more fantasy he knew Theon had.

“Go ahead,” he sighed.

“What?”

“Go ahead, say it,” he urged. “I know you’re dying to say it.”

“Are you sure?” Theon quirked an eyebrow. “You promise you won’t hit my shoulder or something after?”

“Just this once,” he relented, and the smile that Theon bore almost made the words worth it.

“I.Told.You.So,” he uttered slowly, as if to cherish the taste of the word leaving his mouth for all they were worth. Almost worth the horrid phrase. “Gods, that felt good!”

“Don’t get used to it,” he said with a pointed finger.

“Or what, Stark?” he replied cockily in a challenging tone. “You gonna hit my shoulder?”

“Or your stomach,” he offered with a grin, and Theon flinched.

“Please don’t,” he said slightly meekly. “That’s Jon’s favorite target.”

He laughed, before shaking his head, “I don’t know, we’ll cross that bridge when it presents itself.”

Theon let out a shaky breath, and Robb felt unsure if he was truly in the clear.

“So...Are we good?”he asked, and Theon starred at him for a moment, but it felt like an eternity of eternal judgment to the Stark. Thankfully, he was given that cocky smile he had grown to appreciate these past few days.

“You’re still a shit friend,” he told him,and Robb laughed.

“And you’re still a piece of shit,” he added.

“I’m not entirely happy with you,” he admitted, and Robb felt the pit of his stomach drop a bit until he nudged him.”But I wouldn’t be opposed to you raiding the pantry with me.”

Though it didn’t completely make him feel in the clear, he wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to sneak the leftover lemon cakes from the feast.

 

Sansa 

 

There was something calming about the Weeping Water. Some element of tranquility within the green water that no other stream or sea could ever compare to. It was the one river that could never freeze over, even in the coldest winters. Ramsay said it was because there was so much warm blood spilled in it, it would forever remain warm like the red fluid. Of course, that had been when she was young and impressionable, and her brother had been so like their sire.

She knew now it was because of the small pockets of molten heat beneath. The same heat that kept the halls of Winterfell warm. Except there were no springs in Dreadfort. Nonetheless, the spiked towers and mile high walls evoked warmth in her chest that was exclusive to one fort in all the North. They had been lucky, and were only a few minutes away. A small relief for Sansa, as she wished for nothing more than the large basin in her quarters.

Looking ahead to her twin, she could see him impatiently tapping his saddle pack, as he held the reigns in his left hand. She recognised the empty hook where he kept his beloved bow on hunts, and rolled her eyes. Of course he would rather get more dirty after a week of improper bathing then amend his already haggard appearance.

Blocking the afternoon sun rays with her hand, she looked to the forest behind the the fort. It almost looked too odd to not have the hounds running amuck, and to hear the screams of wayward common folk. That would be amended soon enough.

She was called back to the present with the sound of the guards at the gate opening. She let out a breath of relief as she directed Alayne into the courtyard, before dismounting onto the muddy ground. Only more reason to rush to her quarters. She lead the frightened brown mare to one of the stable hands, before taking down her pack. As Qynten took her mare away, she opened up the pack, and sighing in relief to see that nothing had been crushed. Looking around, she saw Father talking with a few of his servants. Seeing the opportunity, she closed the pack and rushed inside towards her quarters. The smell of burning torches and damp walls brought comfort within her, so different from the damned warmth and smell of fallen snow in every damned room.

Taking a left down the hall, and climbing the narrow stairs, she came upon the old pinewood door. A sigh of relief left her as she opened the door to the cold rush of Northern air. Stepping in, hearing the creak of her riding boots on the old floor, smelling the scent of the lavender candle she had burnt almost a moon ago, it was beyond anything she could describe. She had heard many a soldier talk of how it felt to come home after a long waging war. Setting her pack on her desk chair, and collapsing to the bed, she smiled, running her hands through the wolf pelts. She had returned from her own war, and it was all the worth to return to her own bed, and many an idea dancing in her head.

“Do I need to leave you and the pelts alone?”

Frowning, and reluctantly disturbed from her enjoyment, she lifted her head to the doorway and frowned.

“Can I help you?” she drawled as her twin strutted inside.

Much to her displeasure, he tossed her bag to the floor, and sat on her desk chair. He ignored her protests as he reached into his pocket, taking out a chestnut apple and biting into it. His open mouthed chewing sprayed the juice onto her chair, and she scowled at him. He merely looked down at the apple, and back at her while shrugging.

“Want a bite?”

Biting back her frustration, she couldn’t deny a good chestnut apple. He tossed it over, and she caught it effortlessly, before sinking her teeth into the unbitten side. She allowed a moan of appreciation as the the sour fruit danced on her tongue. So much better than that candy like apples at Winterfell. Wiping the bits of her cheek,she tossed it back to Ramsay, he looked at it sadly.

“You barely left any for me to eat,” he said mournfully.

“Please,” she scoffed. “You should be thanking me. You know what happens when you eat too much before a hunt.”

His laugh didn’t quite reach his eyes, which held a dangerous edge of annoyance. “Bet you think you’re real clever. Well, jokes on you, this is the first thing I’ve eaten all day.”

“...I don’t think that's much better,” she pointed out. “Didn’t Maester Tybald say you needed to watch your dining habits?Something about irregular diet leads to fainting or weight  issues or-.”

“Oh shut up,” he growled, unsuccessfully throwing the half eaten core at her head. “If you should be hounding anyone’s arse about habits, hound Reek’s.”

“Why?”

“You know how he is,” Ramsay mused reaching into his jerkin to pull out his beloved paring knife. “If anyone going to be vomiting, it should be him.”

“Reek has a good tolerance,” she reminded him. “He drink mum’s ale like water.”

“Only because it tastes as bad as he smells,”despite her appreciation for his crude humor, she felt it was meant to derive her attention from his true intentions

“I don’t think you came here to discuss Reek’s drunken tendencies,” she stated bluntly, watching his eyes narrow at the blade her was flipping.

“Then why else would I come here?” he asked without looking at her.

“You only come to my room for one thing,” she continued harsher. “So I think it be best that you close the door.”

Sighing, he struck the knife into the table before marching to the door. She needed to remind herself after to repair it. Once the door was locked, he turned to her, awaiting her next order. She found the obedience very liberating and refreshing from the week of playing lap dog to the Starks.

“Come now,” she urged, patting the place beside her on the furs. “It isn’t going to fix itself.”

Her twin rolled his eyes, but nonetheless joined her on her bed. Pleased, she maneuvered him so that he sat with his back to her, she crawled over to her night stand. Opening the drawer, she looked at her assortment of tools, and carefully selected the necessities, and closed it. Making her way back, she pushed his head to face the wall, and then set to attack.

The first stroke of the brush through that mass of tangles had him cry out like a newborn, and she clicked her tongue.

“Hold still, or you’ll have a bald spot,” she snapped, and he crossed his arms.

“There is no way you need to tug that hard,” he growled, which turned to another near scream as she worked on a particularly nasty knot.

“Oh, shut up. You’re worse than your prey,” she was able to break the knot, but sadly his hair was even more broken and frail then before as a result. “Ram, you need to take better care of your hair.”

“Careful, Sans. You’re starting to sound like Mum,” he mocked, which turned into a less whiny “fucking hell” than usual when she began to pull his unruly bangs back with the rest of his hair.

“You represent our house, brother,” she reminded him. “Do you see Father with unruly hair?”

“Father barely has any hair,” he mumbled.

“And you won’t either if you keep letting it get to this state,” she scolded, beginning to plait it as softly as she could. “And...Maybe if you took better care into your appearance...Certain little Greyjoys wouldn’t be so quick to run from you.”

She barely contained a snicker from the interested hum that escaped from her brother. That is until his shoulders slumped and he whined, “But I like it when he runs.”

“You’re quicker to catch a fly with honey instead of vinegar,” she sang, taking a leather cord and tied the braid off. She brushed it over his shoulder, and hummed in contentment. “Well? What do you think?”

He picked the braid up, inspecting his frayed hairs and her attempts to smooth them into compliant plait. He turned his head to face hers, and grinned, “Is that what you’re pulling on Ned Stark’s bastard?”

She pushed his shoulders lightly, snorting laughter down as she turned to return her hair tools to their rightful place. From the corner of her eye, she could see him return to the chair, yanking the knife back into his hand and twirling it once more. Once closing the drawer, she walked over and grabbed the bag he so rudely dropped to the floor. But as she began returning her belongings to their rightful place, she didn’t refrain from making polite conversation.

“So, who is the guest of honor this hunt?”

“I haven’t figured that one out, actually,” he mused, leaning back on the chair. “I was thinking mayhaps one of the boys this time around.”

“Reek will be sorry to hear that,” she drawled with fake sympathy for their servant. “You know how he loves hunting the girls.”

“He doesn’t care,” he brushed off. “As long as there's a cold body, he’ll be fine.”

“...I still don’t get that,” Sansa mused aloud as she hung the last of her dresses in her wardrobe.

“I don’t think anyone but Reek does,” he shrugged. “So who am I to deny him?”

“I suppose...Just as long as you don’t take any part of that.” she warned pointedly.

“Really? And what would happen if I did?” The challenge had her thinking, and she figured that all the exposure to that southern bitch gave her much observed pride to channel.

“I would never braid your hair again,” she announced proudly, and he gasped dramatically.

“Nooo!” he moaned dramatically, imitating stabbing himself with his knife. “How shall I ever continue on with hair in my face?”

“Become bald,” she suggested, and he set the chair right while frowning at her.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” he pouted, and perked up at the sound of a knock at her door.

Turning to her pinewood door, she walked over, the almost empty bag still in her clutches as she called out, “Who is it?”

“M’lady Sansa?” a raspy, yet very familiar voice called out from behind the door. “May I come in?”

Unlocking the door, she opened it towards her, and took in the newcomer. Per usual, his stench was the first thing that hit her. But now it brought more of a feeling of joy then disgust, as it had when she was young, and the much more vile smelling.

“Hello, Reek!” She greeted cheerfully. “I pray you have been well in my absence?”

“As well as I could be,” the gangly redhead replied with a smile of crooked teeth. “May I come in?”

“Only if you want her room to smell of rotting flesh for the next moon,” Ramsay joked from behinf her, and Reek’s smile turned to a joyous grin.

“Lord Ramsay!” he laughed in that weezing chuckle of his. “I’ve been looking all over for you, m’lord.”

“Well, I’m bored here,” Ramsay said as he stood from his chair, and walked over. “I say we stretch our legs and round up the girls. Ben has Red and Maude ready?”

“They’ve been ready since you’re arrival, m’lord.”

“Excellent,” her brother said with a clap of the hands. “Now, all we are missing is the opponent for our game.”

“We’ve been trying to figure out who to use,” Sansa explained, and Reek, simple creature he was, didn’t seem to want further explanation. He instead took to her words, and seemed to be thinking hard about those available.

“Well...There’s always Violet-.”

“No, no,” Ramsay stopped him.”No girls this time. I’m thinking one of the boys.”

“What?” Reek whined. “Aww, come on, Ram-.”

“My game, my pick,” he insisted. “Now, who have we left?”

“Well...Bill just died last night-.”

“What?” Ramsay exploded. “What happened?”

“Dance-with-me forgot to give him water,” Reek meekly offered. “We found him just this morning.”

“Damn,” Ramsay growled. “He was a fighter. Would’ve been a good hunt.”

“How about Karl Maesgaurd?” she offered, recalling the farmer caught dumping his animal waste in the Weeping Water just a moon ago.

“Yeah, he seemed like a fast runner,” Ramsay agreed, before they both looked to a very sheepish Reek. “...Reek, what happened?”

“Well...He might..Just might….have lost the heel of his foot,” he half whispered.

Her brother seemed to be processing the new information, before pinching the bridge of his nose. “...How did he lose his heel ?”

“It um...I think it was infected, from when you put that screw into his foot...It was basically rotting. So I uhm...I cut it off,” he stammered. “I figured he wouldn’t do you any good with an infected heel.”

“He doesn’t do me any good without a heel!” Ramsay groaned.

“I think that was very thoughtful, Reek,” she assured him, patting his shoulder.

“Thank you, m’lady” he smiled sheepishly, and her brother scoffed.

“Ugh, forget it. We’ll give him a horse. The slowest one,” he mused, tapping his chin. “The dark one.”

“Pearl isn’t slow,” she interrupted. “Just old.”

“Fine, the old one.We’ll give him the old one” he relented, sheathing his knife back into his jerkin. “After all of this, I’m breaking in the new guests.”

“They’re very promising,” Reek assured him. “Had a stable hand in mind.Real mouthy , she is.”

“I have been meaning to break in those new tongue compressors,” he nodded, before nuding her. “Care to join in?”

“No,” she smiled uneasily. “You know how I feel about tongues.”

“Killjoy,” he murmured, before joining Reek outside her door, and began to drag their friend to his room. “If you change your mind, you know where to find us.”

“Good Afternoon, m’lady!” Reek called out as well. “It’s great to have you back!”

She waved them off till they were out of sight, and then promptly slammed the door. Troublesome bastards, she thought to herself. Looking down at the bag she had been carying, she reached in, and sighed as she took in the slightly crushed flower chain. But it did not stop her from placing it atop her head, and rushing to her vanity. Inspecting the contrast between the blue petals and her dark hair. Playing with the strands framing her face, she entertained the different styles she could wear it. Images of flowing gowns colorful banners danced in her head. Shining armor covered in the blood of enemies and sprayed over the engravings and jewels. A knight so brave and true, completely oblivious to the carnage he had created, striding over to her, out of all ladies, and placing the crown of roses atop her lap. She would smile and nod, because she knew. She knew the horror he brought to his enemy, and it was all for her. Taking the flowers to her nose, and relishing in the smell of freshly fallen snow and blood, she smile graciously. She would hand her knight her favor, and he would blush and stammer as he did whenever in her presence, and she would laugh at his naivety and sweet fawning.

Shaking her head, she reached into the drawer or her vanity, where she knew she had a few sleeves of letter paper still left from her departure. Gingerly removing the crown from her head and placing it carefully in front of her, she got up and moved to the desk nearest her bed. Retrieving a quil from her collection, she dipped the point into the dark ink.She stared at the blank canvas, and began to ponder which words sad little Sansa Snow would use in a letter.

Chapter Text

Jeyne

 

The biting winter air nipped at her ankles, a sensation she had not experienced since she was a girl, and her dresses did not quite reach her knees. She had long forsaken summer skirts, as she was now a woman grown. But she wore no womanly dress, but a mere dirtied shift, ripped from low hanging branches and rabid beast nipping at her legs. And she was no girl, nor woman like mother and father insisted. She was prey.

The howls from those devil hounds rang through the rustle of the trees, and soon followed calls and laughter. Fear coursed through her veins as she braved the cuts on her legs and feet to rush somewhere. Anywhere. She only knew she could never turn back. She had long ignored the scorching pain in her torn flesh. Every step uphill was another knife in her calf. But she knew if she stopped, a knife in the calf would be a mercy.

The muddy hill betrayed her injured feet, and she soon found herself sliding to the bottom of a revine. What was worse was the screech that she knew could be heard from a mile away. Tears welled in her eyes as she hissed in pain, and her heartbeat quickened at the nearing sounds of savage dogs closing in. Grinding her teeth, she struggled to rise, but the cut along the side of her leg was excruciating.

The fearful idea that perhaps the ache she felt in her ankle wasn’t a bruise, but a break, caused tears to spill as she dragged her body through the mud, hoping to use one of the trees for balance. The distant shouts and laughter grew louder, and her blood felt frozen as the devil’s laughter grew more gleeful. Biting back a scream, she rushed to the nearest tree, praying maybe she could climb it and avoid discovery. The shooting ache in her left leg protested the idea, but it was worth a try. Reaching the trunk, she grasped its thick width and hugged it, pulling her mangled body upwards as she struggled not to scream. But as she reached her full height again, she heard the crunch of a twig beneath a foot.

Frozen, horror fled her as she stayed flush to the trunk. An angry sob fought to escape from her chest as she covered her mouth. She was going to die. She was going to be mangled by a beast in man’s skin. The enclosing steps were eminent, and she allowed herself one last sob before her inevitable fate was to befall her.

“‘ello?”

‘Wait,’ she thought. ‘That was definitely not a man’s voice.’

Confusion flooded her mind, but she stuck to the trunk as if it were her saving grace. She dared not peak, in case it where some trick of the mind. But it called out again.

“‘ello? Is anyone ‘ere?” a thick Northern but definite female voice called. She didn’t remember another girl being released.

Another howl sounded through the tree tops, and she looked to the top of the revine. No paws or rustiling came from the bushes yet, but the howl was too close for comfort. She bit back a gasp, and then turned to look for an escape route. That is until she came face to face with a girl wearing a wool cloak.

She couldn’t contain the scream that boiled in her, and she almost let it out, where it not for the girl covering her mouth with her own hand. She looked to the top of the ravine, and then back at her, and cocked an eyebrow.

“Yer from Dreadfort,” it wasn’t a question. And she found herself nodding earnestly, and the girl sighed.

“I’m removin’ my ‘and,” she told her slowly. “And when aye do, and if ye scream, neither of us are makin’ it out of ‘ere alive.”

She peaked a glance back at the ravine, and then back to the girl. She nodded slowly, and the pressure on her mouth was relieved. The girl stepped back and took in her appearance. Normally, she thought to herself, she would try to save her decency. But it was either decency or her life, but it didn’t stop her from blushing as she took in the sight of the scars littering her arms and bare legs. She then returned to her face, and sighed.

“Ye can’t walk, can ye?” she asked.

She shook her head, and the girl sighed, before tenderly taking her arm and slinging it over her own shoulder. She winced as she unconsciously touched her open wounds, but bared it. That is until the girl began moving, and she found that even with the help, the pressure on her ankle was unbearable. She half sobbed and half groaned as pain shot up her foot, and the girl growled.

‘Come now, yer alright,” she assured, flashing her an almost charming grin. “Aye know a way to throw the sen’ off.”

“You..You do?” she breathed, wincing as the girl began picking up the pace, now practically dragging her.

“There's a branch..of the Weepin’ Water,” she panted, the added weight seeming to affect her. “If we ‘urry, those ‘ounds won’ be able to catch ye.”

Relief flood over her, and she willed her better leg to move with newfound hope. The mix of their pants drowned out the barks in the distance. When she began to feel herself grow weak, she groaned and stumbled a bit over her feat. It caught the attention of her partner, and the girl hoisted her further onto her shoulders.

“ ‘ey, don’t give up now! We’re almost there!” she urged, giving her a tired smile.

“I-I can’t!” she sobbed. “It hurts...It hurts so bad!”

“Aye know, Aye know,” she assured. “But where almost there. Just try no’ to think ’bout it.”

“I can’t!” she wailed, gritting her teeth as her ankle brushed a rock.

“Sure ye can,” the girl gritted out. “ ’ow…’.ow bout ye tell me yer name?”

“My name?’ she asked. It had been so long since she used it. It seemed like an eternity ago since she had one. She was almost unsure of it when it poped into her head. “...Jeyne. Jeyne Gray.”

“Pretty name,” the girl said with a grin. “Where do ye come from, Jeyne Gray?”

“...My….My Da’s a cattle farmer,” she managed, tears sprouting in her eyes as she pictured a man with flecks of gray in his blonde hair and beard, and his kind smile. She began to remember a little boy with dark blonde hair and big brown eyes. “And..And I got a little brother.. Pip, we called him...Oh gods, I’m never going to see him again, am I?”

“No! No ye will,” the girl gritted out. “’e’s just on the other side of the river! We just need to get to the other side!”

Only then did she begin to hear the trickle of water close by, and she almost screamed in joy as they came to a clearing. Never before had the green hues of the Weeping Water been so comforting. When she scanned for some sort of raft of other means of transportation, she saw one, and her joy soon turned to fear as she looked at the girl helping her to the shore.

“H...How are we going to get across?” she stammered. The girl nodded towards the river itself, and she felt her motu drop. “I-I can’t swim!”

“Yer not goin’ to be swimin’” she said slowly as one would with a young child. “We’re goin’ to walk across, its shallow.”

“We’ll freeze!” she nearly screamed, and jumped when the barks began to become close again.

“We either freeze or become food fer a pack o’ fer’l bitches,” she snapped impatiently, and the incoming howls brought a heavier weight to the words. “Aye’ll help ye, but you need to hurry.”

Pushing back her fear, she nodded and then the girl began to lead the two of them to the water. Once her naked feet touched the ice cold water, she hissed, and her very bones felt frozen. Biting her lip, she forced herself forward, sinking further into the icy cold water.

“See?” the girl laughed shakily. “Wasn’t so bad.”

“P-P-Please keep talking,” she shivered, her teeth chattering as they trudged through the river. “I-It helps.”

“Hmm..” the girl pondered, before she shakily said, “Name’s Willow Gabor.”

Willow...Willow Gabor...The name sounded awfully familiar, yet distant like something out of a dream, or a nightmare. Her memory seemed to have been filled with nightmares as of late. But all recollection was frozen by the water, and she merely stammered.

“Good...Good name… I-If I may ask….Why were..Why were you here?’ she sniffled, the water now reaching her waist.

“...Aye like to ’unt the game ’round ’ere,” she admitted with a shaky grin, and Jeyne found herself laughing uneasily.

“You’re a.. A pocher?”

“Aye do...wat aye need fer food,” she defended, and she began to feel the ground disappear below her, and wailed.

“Wh..Where’s the ground?” she screamed, and Willow coughed as she began to pull her nw floating body along.

“Don’ worry,” she gritted. “It’s just a few fee-.”

“I can’t swim!” she reminded her, panic beginning to kick in as she felt her breath grow short.

“Aye got ye,” Willow said as she continued to haul her through the running water. “Just stretch ou’ yer legs.”

She tried to steady her breathing, and attempted to do as she said. Her aching legs slowly rolled out, and she flinched at the lack of ground. Until suddenly, she outreached her toes, and felt a slimy bottom. She almost wanted to laugh in relief at the familiar ground, and then lifted her head. The white sand of the shore was and oasis in its own. Suddenly the water began to drip from her shoulders as they rose onto the bank.

Fighting through the pain, she clawed up the embankment, and collapsed onto the sweet ground. Coughing up the water that entered her mouth, she heaved heavy breathes, caring not for the shouts coming from the otherside. She was too cold and weak to move, the cold not helping the continuous bleeding in her leg. She dared not even lift her head until she felt someone grab her arms. She felt being picked up, and was carried over to the woods. She could barely hear what Willow was saying, and was content to allow her to place her sitting against the back of the tree. She caught something about the hounds and them being on the other side. But she cared not. The pain and chill was all consuming. Her ears rang from water and throbbing, and she stared ahead blankly.

After what seemed to be an eternity later, Willow popped into her view, and smiled. Something about that smile, though, was strangely odd. Willow didn’t smile like that...Willow never smiled,she was always too focused on peeling potatoes…

That was when she remembered why her name sounded so familiar. She watched as the girl’s lips moved, and then watched her back as she moved to past the trees in front of her. Willow...Willow Gabor was the name of a kitchen girl at Dreadfort. She was regularly seen when Jeyne used to deliver cattle meat to the kitchens, and she used to peel the potatoes. That is until she disappeared a month ago…

As ‘Willow’ reentered the clearing, she stopped breathing. How could she have missed that? Willow Gabor had brown eyes. The girl currently holding a bow in her hands had the palest blue eyes she had ever seen. Eyes that she had only seen on one other person. Who was allegedly on the other side of the river.

She was stuck in place, frozen to the bone. She tried to move, but every twitch causes excruciating pain. Only more maddening as the pounding in her ears as she stared at her savior, who was drawing an arrow. Tears welled in her eyes as she choked on her own breath.

“Wh..Why?” had she thought her voice strange then, it was almost alien now. It was the voice of the dead, she thought, as ‘Willow’ drew the arrow back.

“I can assure you, this is nothing personal,” not a trace of her accent was present in her voice, and she pointed the arrow to Jeyne’s watering eye “I simply like your name.”

 

Ramsay 

 

“It’s completely unfair!”

Roose didn’t even have the decency to look up from his book. As if he weren't furious enough, his father’s blatant lack of care was almost unforgivable.

“Did you hear me?” he spat.

“I did,” he admitted, never once prying his eyes from that damned book. “I just don’t care.”

“How can you not?” Ramsay found himself growling. “You’re the one who installed into us the pride and honor of a hunt!”

“I wouldn’t exactly call your hunts ‘honorable,’” Roose drawled, finally closing his book, and looking to him in an indifference that infuriated him. “But in regards to tradition, Sansa is entitled to her prize.”

“Hounds are reserved for hunters,” he said slowly, hoping he would get his point if he talked like an idiot. A matter of speaking the same language. “Sansa didn’t hunt the Gray girl, she lured her into a trap!”

“Trapping is a technique used in hunts, Ramsay,” he pointed out. “You’d know that if you actually applied the techniques myself and Domeric took the time to teach you.”

“Ugh!” he screeched, clawing at the roots of his hair as he paced in circles, attempting to cool his rage. If there’s one thing that he learned from years in the presence of his Father, it was that he thrived on the frustration and misery of others.

“Even if it is-.”

“It is.”

Kinslaying sounded really nice this time of day.

“The fact doesn’t change that the girl wasn’t nearly that good of a hunt,” he ground out. “She bled all over the place and left the most obvious tracks. I had to keep the dogs still to stretch out the hunt. More than once!”

“And yet you didn’t catch her,” his face was stoic, but the glint in his eyes held a teasing light of smug satisfaction in Ramsay’s failure.

“Because she swept in and stole her like a filthy wildling!” he pointed an accusing finger to Sansa, who, up until that point, had been sitting quietly in her own chair by the fire. She looked up from her sewing project, eyes bright and innocent as a doe, and cocked her head.
“I didn’t know that was an option,” she mused aloud, turning to Roose. “Father, am I allowed to steal maids and wed them like a wildling?”

“Not if you still wish for a marriage to a proper lord’s bastard. Polygamy is not as legal as it used to be” he deadpanned and Ramsay scoffed

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he murmured. “I just don’t think the hunt was worth a hound.”

“You got Red Jeyne on your first hunt,” Sansa brought up, and he glared.

“And another thing! We can’t have two Jeynes, it’ll be too confusing!”

“Why?” she asked. “I’ll have my Jeyne, you’ll have your Jeyne. It won’t be confusing.”

“Until I call for Red, and then you’re mutt will come bounding down the hill like a big dumb bitch,” he felt like he was talking to two oersized tots.

“Well, we’ll just make sure she doesn’t have a red coat,” she said with a shrug. “I was thinking grey…”

“Why?” he scoffed, a knowing smile forming. “Does it remind you of someone’s eyes or something?”

“No,” she said, but he caught the blush on the apples of her cheeks. “Because that was the girl’s name. It only seems right and respectful.”

“Respectful?!” he laughed. “You didn’t seem too concerned with respect when you stuck an arrow in her skull!”

“Enough!”

He jumped at the certain outburst erupting from Roose, and couldn’t figure if he was scared of satisfied to have cracked the old man.

“Sansa,” his voice went dangerously soft. “Do you think the Gray girl provided enough of a challenge for your first hunt?”

It took his twin a minute to gather her baring, but she nodded.

“And Ramsay,” he didn’t even bother to turn to him. “If she calls the hound by a different color, will that make you shut up?”

“...Maybe, but-.”

“Then it is settled,” he said finally, reopening his book, and shutting out all attention that Ramsay though she be rightfully his

Even when he lounged in his sister’s solar later that day,the anger never quite left him. as he threw his favorite boning knife to the drawing in front of him, the satisfaction of seeing his Father’s profile being mutilated did not quench his annoyance. He walked over, retrieved his knife, and repeated the process once more. But it only brought the slightest of reliefs.

“You are getting better at his nose,” he heard his twin remark from behind him.

Scowling at the picture, he threw his knife dead to where his eyes met the bridge of his nose. He marched over to the picture, and noticed it hadn’t quite hit the center spot, and he growled, before ripping the knife from his sketch. Behind him, Sansa sighed.

“Maybe not, then” she huffed.

Turning back to his sister, he pointed the knife directly at her and laughed humorlessly.

“You think you’re real clever, don’t you,” he mocked, but she gave him no reaction. She was instead engrossed in whatever she was writing to that little Stark boy.

He struck his knife into her writing desk, and she paused in her writing.

“I don’t think I was doing anything out of the ordinary,” she said cooly. “I was simply defending what was rightfully mine.”

“But you didn’t earn it,” he bit out, his forced smile fueled by his bubbling rage. “It’s a hunt. You earn a hound by hunting. And You.Didn’t.Hunt.”

She lifted her head, and the utter deadness in her eyes almost brought a real smile to his face at the utter disdain they held.

“Let me run by the process I undertook,” she spoke as if she where an exasperated mother. “I found the girl, I allowed her to feel safe, and then I stuck an arrow in her eye. How is that not hunting?”

“There was no sport,” he spat. “You treated her like a person, not prey.”

“Well, then why hunt people if we can’t use their own humanity against them?” she scoffed. “Otherwise you should just begin hunting animals again.”

Her glower turned to the knife embedded in her desk, and she swatted his hand away. She then took it out and inspected it.

“Why are you using this for a throwing knife?”

“Because it was the smallest I had,” he said, rolling his eyes, before he caught her hand movements. Life flashed through his eyes as he moved a split second before she threw the knife. He watched as it launched itself into the picture behind him, and hit where Roose’s neck and aw met on the sketch. She seemed satisfied with her mark, as she nodded with a smirk.

“Its lighter then I thought,” she remarked, before turning back to her letter.

Disregarding his target practice, he leaned over her shoulder, and held back the urge to laugh at the paper next to her letter. It was littered with scribbles and practiced letters and words. Always the perfectionist. Considering who she was writing to, it made her fuss even more ridiculous.

“I don’t think a tot is going to care if you spell ‘exhilarating’ right,” he teased. “If he can even spell.”

“Believe it or not, Bran is actually quite the prolific writer,” she told him as she kept her eyes trained to the letter. “Something I can not say about you, so I suggest you keep your thoughts to yourself.”

“Well, if you’re going to be like that,” he huffed. “At least send them my regards.”

“You hate them.”

“Fine. Fine. Just send them to Theon.”

She craned her head upwards and rose a singular eyebrow. “But he hates you.”

“Still to be proven.”

“You tried to maim him.”

“In good humor,” he brushed off, taking the spare piece and dipping a quill into the ink. “Here, I’ll write it out for you.”

Writing was never his strong suit. And staring at the paper, he was reminded how much he despised it. Thank the Old Gods Father didn’t care too much for his writing proficiency. But now, he was regretting it a bit. When he laid the quill to paper, he just began to write words that seemed to  go together. Once he felt satisfied, he handed it to Sansa.

His twin looked down at the words, and looked to him with a ferocious judgement in her eyes.

“You just wrote ‘Send my regards to Theon.’”

“Short and simple,” he nodded. “Gets the point across, don’t you think?”

“Sure…” she drawled, dipping the quil back into the ink, before writing his words on as an afternote. Not that he was too bothered by it. He was more bothered that he wouldn’t get to see the squidling’s reaction once he saw his note.

 

Bran

 

“There is no way she could hit a rabbit that close.”

He looked up from the letter, and glared at Theon. “Why must you always put her down?”

“Rabbits are very skittish,” he said defensively. “They so much as hear a breath, they scamper away.”

“Maybe she was really quite,” Bran offered, and Theon shrugged.

“Maybe. I don’t know” he grumbled, taking the letter from his hands and scowling at the bottom left corner. “I still don’t get the note.”

“She was just sending you regards. Don’t be so rude about it, it’s a nice gesture,” Jon grumbled from his spot on the ground, and Theon smirked.

“Aww, come now Snow. No need to be jealous,” he teased, and Jon scowled.

“I’m not jealous,” he mumbled. “I get a mention every letter.”

“Which reminds me,” Bran interrupted, turning to Jon. “She asked if you’d like another copy of the notes to the Wolves in the Hills?”

Jon looked to ponder it for a second, before shaking his head. “I’m still stuck on Season of My Love.”

“By stuck, you mean the sound you make is more along the lines of a screeching eagle then a song.”

Jon looked about ready to hit Theon, but he had been a lot better about it lately. Bran guessed it had to do with Robb’s upcoming role in the meeting of the lords this year. Without his favored companion, Jon seemed to be getting along more with Theon.To a degree.

“Maybe she just wanted to send you regards to thank you,” Bran offered to break the tension. “Since you are the one who taught her archery.”

“Maybe,” Theon muttered, staring at the letter again. “But I still don’t believe the bit about the rabbit.”

“What, you’re not confident in your ability to teach?” Jon teased.

“No,” he ground out. “Because I know I couldn't sneak up to a rabbit that close. There is no way a girl with one year of experience could get one a foot away.”

“Great, are you jealous of her now?”Jon scoffed.

“I’m not jealous, there’s something about this story that doesn’t add up!” he yelled, his hands pulling at the roots of his hair as he groaned. “I don’t think it was a rabbit that she shot.”

“Then what could it be?” Bran asked, and Theon shrugged.

“I don’t know, just not a rodent! Could be anything, like maybe a fox or a deer,” he spoke, and Bran felt his body tense. Theon apparently caught what he said, because he looked as if he had just caused an avalanche.

“What?” Rickon wailed from his place on Jon’s lap. “Sansa hit a deer?”

“No! No, I didn’t mean to-” Theon tried to amend, but it was already to late. Rickon began to sob uncontrollably, as he buried his face into Jon’s shoulders.

“Great. Look what you did,” he whispered harshly to the Greyjoy, who looked so caught off guard.

“I didn’t-No, Rickon, she didn't hit a deer!” he assured with a shaky laugh. “She-SHe probably shot a fox! Or a boar! Hell, she probably shot a person!”

“Theon!” Jon hissed.

“What?” he squeaked. “It’s better than a deer! Right Rickon?”

Rickon lifted his face, now covered in tears and snot, and he nodded. Bran resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Of course Rickon would value a deer’s life over a person’s.

“There’s then it’s settled!” Theon laughed. “Sansa Snow hunts people!”

“Theon!” Jon growled, and the laughing Ironborn scrambled to crawl away from the angry aura Jon had around him.

Bran laughed to himself as Jon chased after Theon, who shouted some taunts. Taking the letter that Theon had dropped in his escape, he looked to the last line of the letter itself, and smiled. He couldn’t wait till the next meeting. Perhaps by then, she could bring the pup!

Chapter Text

Sansa III

 

The sounds they made were pathetic. These squirming balls of grey cried until a nipple was in reach. Which, more often than not, wasn’t. They still had their eyes closed, and had to rely on their mother to direct them. Looking over the pen where they squirmed and whimpered, she spotted the tiniest one fighting to claim one of it’s mother’s teats. That is until one of its larger siblings pushed it aside. She frowned, as the whines grew louder.

“That one won’t make it,” Ben mentioned from beside her, fiddling with the broom he was sweeping with. “The runts are usually the first to go.”

“They are evil little bitches, aren’t they?” she mused.

“Guess you can call em’ that,” Ben said with a laughter. “I’m surprised Lizzy was able to have this many. She hasn’t had one since Maud’s litter.”

“Was Maud’s sire the same for this one?” she asked, and Ben shook his head.

“Nah, Argos was way too feral. After he got Lizzy knocked up the first time, I had to put him down,” he gave her a pointed look. “You’re lucky their sire was a Weimaraner. Otherwise you’d be callin’ this batch ‘Brown Jeyne’.”

“Well, you have really outdone yourself this time,” she assured him with a gentle pat to the shoulder. “When do you think we’ll have a champion?”

“Well, it's too soon now,” he sighed. “First, there's the first two weeks, were the weakest get picked off. Once they start opening their eyes, I can start training them. So by the time you come back from your little trip to Winterfell, you should have your champion.”

Smiling in contentment, she turned her head back to the pups. The whining had stopped, and she looked to see if the runt had died so quickly. Surely enough, it was crawling back to the pile. One of the bigger ones tried to fight it off, but then something extraordinary happened. The runt latched onto it’s sibling at the scruff, and wouldn’t let go. Distressed, the bigger one let go of its prize, and the runt scrambled to it, kicking the bigger away in the process. As the bigger one cried out to its  mother for help, Sansa smirked at the little one, enjoying its meal.

“I look forward to it.”

A singular horrific scream came from outside, catching her attention. Usually no one really reacted to screams at the Dreadfort. They were as common a sound as the clucking of chickens or the sound of traders and servants working. But that scream was very distinct and distressed. It could only mean one thing.

“Is it that time of the month already?” Ben laughed as he resumed sweeping. “I thought you were in charge of that?”

“I am,” she ground out as she realised what must be happening in the stables. Turning heel, she marched out of the kennels and into the courtyard. Walking across the yard, the pleas for help became more clear. She could hear the horses rattle their stalls.

Opening the door to the stable, she shook her head at the scene presented to her. Poor Reek was fighting Ramsay tooth and nail as her twin savagely pushed him into the water trough. Reek’s screams for mercy was met by a forced dunk into what she could only assume was ice cold water.

“Ramsay!” she hissed, and her brother released their servant’s head as he looked to her with a nasty scowl.

“What?”

“That is not how you bathe Reek,” she snapped, rushing over to the chattering servants as he hacked up water. “Look at this! The horses will never drink from this trough again!”

“Well, you didn’t draw a bath for him this morning,” Ramsay supplied, and she narrowed her eyes.

“So you draw one yourself, or get one of the other servants to!”

“I don’t know where you keep your bath oils,” he shrugged.

“Then you ask the servants,” she nearly shouted, but contained the overwhelming need to push him at the backside of one of the horses.Instead she chose to focus on Reek, who was shivering in the trough.

“Why in the world would you let him bathe you in a trough ?”

Reek looked up at her with the look of someone who had seen their life flash. “He dragged me in here. I thought he wanted to go riding, and then he threw me in to this!”

Ramsay stood there, attempting his best to look innocent. Which was pretty hard considering he was wearing that dark blue shirt that never quite got the blood stains out.

“There's a bottle of lilac oil on the top drawer in my vanity. Grab it, put it in warm water, and please, for the love of the old gods, you don’t bathe him with his clothes still on!”

Despite his attempts to conceal it, she could see the roll of her brother’s eyes as he helped Reek to his feet. The ragged clothes hung so low, she could see the scar the original Maude gave him during her hunt. She smiled sadly as he trudged out of the trough, and he attempted to walk out of the stables. But when Ramsay passed by, she stopped him by the shoulder.

“A raven came back from Winterfell.”

“Really?” he gasped insincerely. “Did Greyjoy like my note?”

“Funny enough, he thought I sent it,” she chuckled.

“Why would he think that?What did you put on it?” he inquired.

“I just put ‘Send my regards to Theon’.”

“Wait, did you put it was from me?” he pushed.

“No. You didn’t tell me to write your name,” she snickered, and he frowned.

“I know you copy Father’s handwriting, you could’ve at least done me the same favor,” he grumbled.

“Speaking of favors, you best do us all one and start that bath for Reek. He’s starting to smell like a wet dog.”

Ramsay shrugged her off, and marched outside to catch up to Reek. Looking to the trough, she scrunched her nose at the filthy water. Whether it was already like that, or  Reek was had just been that filthy, she didn’t know. Or have any wish of knowing. Using the heel of her boot, she knocked it so it would spill into the waste pile, and then headed back into the courtyard.

Side stepping the hen who was waddling to her nest by the stables, she began her walk back to the kennels to watch the little hounds. Until she heard Skinner calling her name. His ruddy face gleamed in sweat as he rushed to meet her.

“You've got a letter, m’lady,” he wheezed, holding out a small letter. Take it, she inspected the unexpected letter for the crest of a wolf. Yet the only thing keeping it together was a piece of twine. She recognised who it was at the sight of the twine, but it was no less surprising.
“Thank you, Skinner,” she nodded, watching him stand there awkwardly. “...Is there anything else you want or..?”

“Do you remember what I asked you about the other day,” he spoke awkwardly. “About my Anya?”

She felt like a broken record as she repeated for the hundredth time, “Skinner, if Anya wants a position in the the kitchens, you need to talk to the head of household.”

“I did,” he assured her. “But the old nag told me that she’s too young.”

“She is eight,” she reminded him. “The best she can get is maybe an assistant to Ben.”

“I’m not letting my daughter near those crazy bitches!” he scoffed.

“Then we’ll have to wait till her next name day,” she advised. “Nine is a good age to begin working.”

“I know, but her blasted mother is persistent on having another source of income,” he murmured.

“Then her mother can apply in her stead in the meantime,” she giggled. “Labor is good for the soul.”

“Try telling her that,” he grumbled.

“Keep faith,” she granted him. “House Bolton is very rewarding to those who serve it dutifully.”

“ I know,” he said.

A knowing smile tugging the corners of her mouth as she remarked, “And who knows? Perhaps your unfaltering loyalty to my brother will be rewarded with an open position!”

As predicted, Skinner’s discomfort and guilt was plain on his face. He gave her some half-assed excuse, and made himself scarce. She shook her head, disappointment for her father rising in her.

Unraveling the rolled piece of paper, she walked into the kennels as she read the splotches of ink, an odd sense of nostalgia filling her. How many times she had seen this poor penmanship in her younger years, thinking it to be the epitome of proper and eloquent writing. Of course, Domeric had been quick to amend the dubbed years of harm done to her education, but it never did hold the worth that this handwriting did.

My sweet Sansa and Ramsay it read. Sansa always thought it was the oddest sight to see the words ‘sweet’ and ‘Ramsay’ together “I hope you are safe and happy. I hope Lord Bolton is neither, and is in a ditch .”  She couldn’t contain the small giggle that escaped.

“The Mill is fine. Low on wheat, but fine.I haven't gotten my grain to make ale yet, but I understand that it is not the most important thing to a lord. But any push to send more would be nice.”

Ever the self preserving miller, her mother was.

“Tedor’s death was hard. His wife hasn’t stopped crying. His father can barely work anymore. They haven’t drinken water in days. They think it’s cursed. Gods be praised, I haven't seen that cattle driver in some time. Thankfully, I have not seen the shit she throws in the river neither. Stupid girl.”

A memory of the copper blonde hair and a straw crafted hat flashed in her mind. As did dolls made of the husk of the corn he picked on another farm. Sometimes, he’d find ways to color them, and give her new doll dresses in exchange for a kiss on the cheek.Satisfaction rang true as she recalled his murder’s fate.However oblivious they were to the fact. Stupid girl, indeed.

“I hope the two of you are well.I do worry. Folk have began to talk. They say there are strange noises coming from the castle. And that there are screams coming from the forest. If the two of you need to come home at any time, just know you are more than welcome.”

Folding the paper, she smiled at the notion. But the reality that her brother’s actions were garnering notice was concerning. Smallfolk talk eventually leaked into townsfolk rumors, and townsfolk rumors to servant gossip, and servant gossip eventually reached the ears of their master. Turning her attention to the cages, watching Willow and Jez fighting over a bone, their challenges loud enough to reach the courtyard, and thinking back to the newborn pups fighting for their right to live, she frowned. The cruelty and brutality of the natural order was a beauty that not everyone could appreciate. She had her taste, and glorious as the sip from the grail was, her plans were too fragile and unfulfilled. She couldn’t stake her reputation at the expense of a few thrilling hunts. She had gotten what she wanted, and must be satisfied till the seeds of her labor took fruition.

If only she could convince Ramsay to be as patient. But where she a patient farmer, their father a cold lord ,and their mother a preservative miller, her brother was merely the beast they all tried to tame.

 

Robb 

 

Numbers flooded his head and the desk in front of him. Mother did say to be careful what you wished for. Of course he knew his newfound responsibilities wouldn’t be as exciting as Bran insisted it must be. But hells, he didn't expect Father to dump all the written reports of this last year on him,expecting him to calculate it all.

Robb was absolute rubbish at finances, and even worse with arithmetic. He thanked the old and new that he didn't have to send a written report to the Iron Bank, Father was still in charge of that. For now. It was only a matter of time before he’s be expected to take that duty over.

He placed the records from Last Hearth into his finished pile, before taking the reports from Bear Island, and groaned. Of course. Of course the Mormonts had exceeded their lumber export by over two tons.

He threw his quill back into the ink and buried his face in his ink covered hands. He had been at this since after breakfast. At this rate, he’d be lucky to finish by the next sunrise.

A swift knock at his door broke him from his self pity. He called out to come in, and breathed a sigh as Theon opened the door,making a break for his bed and throwing himself onto the furs.

“You will not believe what I just caught Jon doing,” he laughed,lounging with his hands behind his head. “The sad sap,I think he’s-.”

“If you came in here to gossip like an old ninny, then please leave,” he grumbled, turning back to the papers.behind him, he heard him rise up and walk behind him. Suddenly, he felt Theon looming over him, his shaggy dark hair brushing his face as he leaned over his shoulder.

“Drowned Hell,” he whistled by his ear. “Does Bear Island really have that many trees?”

“If they produced that much lumber then probably,” he droned.

“What my father wouldn’t give to have that many trees,” He sighed. “I never saw any trees growing up.”

“I know,” Robb snickered. “You cried when we first went to the forest.”

“I did not.”

“You thought they were giants, and that the branches were arms.”

“Listen, trees are terrifying to someone who never saw them,” Theon grumbled.

“And the rate they could be exported in a year is even more terrifying,” he groaned, staring at the numbers, wishing they would just disappear. “Fucking hell, what are they building in Highgarden? Don’t they realise the expense of buying northern wood?”

“Not to mention the added taxing for intersea and land travel.”

“...What?”
Theon turned his head, and now his slightly unshaven chin brushed his ear as he stared at him in pity. “You didn’t factor in taxes, did you?”

His head returned back to his palms as he screamed into them. He felt Theon pat his shoulder.

“Easy, just breathe,” he encouraged. “How many did you get through?”

“Ten.”

“Shit,” Theon hissed. “I don't know wether to be impressed on how many you finished  or worried that it took you this long to figure that out.”

“Shut up,” he groaned. “Just shut up and kill me.”

“Now, there’s no need to be so dramatic,” Theon chuckled, and he felt his hands pried away. Without the support of his elbows, he allowed his face to fall forward onto the paper strewn desk. Above him, he heard his friend chuckle as he pulled him up by the collar of his shirt, like a mother would her cub.

“Listen, you’re thinking about this all wrong,” he encouraged.

Suddenly, he felt the weight of the Greyjoy’s chest at his shoulder as he leaned across his front reaching for a blank page. He got a nose full of those messy brown waves. Absently, he noticed they smelled of salt and sandalwood. Heat rose to his neck as he realised that he quite enjoyed the tresses, soft as they were. He almost groaned when Theon moved back, taking his discarded quill.

“See, let's take the Mormont's lumber total,” he wrote out the number on the paper, then proceeded to write out the tax amounts. “Now, we know that the Tyrells are going to owe them seafair taxes, which increases by each day traveled. Now, how long does it take to get from Bear Island to the coast of the Reach?”

“About nine days.”

“Great,with a three percent increase per day, a nine days travel is equal to about a twenty seven percent interest,” he explained, writing out twenty seven, before writing it in decimal form. “Now,all you need to do is find out twenty seven percent of whatever the cost of two tons of lumber is. THen you have the taxes that the Iron Bank needs to impose on the Tyrells, and it’ll be transferred to the Mormonts by spring.”

“That still doesn’t fix the hassel it is to find out the damned cost of lumber,” he grunted.

“Not if you know this,” Theon sang, as he wrote down the number forty, and then began to multiply it by eighty nine.

“What are you doing?”he cited. “You’re insane, there is not forty pounds in two tons.”

“No, but it's easier this way,” he insisted, working the numbers despite his protest.

“I know you like to half ass things, Greyjoy, but this is hardly the time, I need to send these numbers to Father by-.”

“Done,” he announced happily, letting the quill drop to the table.

Disbelief wracked Robb’s head as he stared at the circled number. “Where the hell did you get four hundred and fifty two thousand,one hundred and twenty from?”

“If one pound of lumber costs eighty nine dragons, and there is a ton of lumber, then all I needed to do was multiply the amount of pounds and the cost-.”

“But you didn’t multiply the correct number, you multiplied eighty nine by forty.”

“I know,” he interrupted. “It’s much easier. Forty is the only two digit number that is a variable of four thousand. It’s a short cut. I multiply whatever the answer I get by one hundred, and that's how I got how much the lumber cost.”

“...Wait, you can do that?” he was at a loss for words, starting in dumbfound wonder at his smirking friend.

“Of course! That's why I’m showing you it,” he teased, turning his face to face his own profile. His breath brushed his ear, and Robb felt something odd stir in his stomach, his ears tinged as Theon continued, . “Now, you can do the same thing with taxes. Multiply Forty by eighty nine, then you find twenty seven percent of the total, and then you times it by one hundred...”

Finishing his point with the standing number circled and underlined, Theon bore a smug smirk on his face as he dropped the quill, looking like an artist who had completed his masterpiece. Usually, it would be beyond irritating, but now...He didn’t really know what to make of it.

“Brilliant,” was the first thing that came to mind. At that, Theon made a show of grasping his chest.

“Did the Robb Stark just compliment me?” he gasped, holding the back of his hand against his forehead whilst fanning himself. “Oh! Oh, I feel faint!”

“Don’t ruin it,” he countered. Not that it changed the smile on Theon’s face.

“Listen, I just saved your sorry arse,” he boasted. “I’m allowed to joke around.”

“...Just this once,” he allowed,studying the formula, and picking up the previous house hae had finished in an attempt to translate the technique to the shipment of iron.

“Trust me, that’s going to save you a lot of time,” Theon assured, moving up to stand straight behind him,leaving Robb’s previously heated neck to the cold air. “It should hold you up till you find someone to do it for you.”

“Find someone?” Robb laughed.

“Isn’t this your mother’s job? It’s only fair you pass it on to the next Lady Stark,” Theon jested.

“Why would I need a wife?” he grumbled. “You seem to be doing it just fine.”

He didn’t laugh at that. Perhaps he didn’t hear it. Craning his head backwards, he was met with the an almost remorseful look that left him more baffled.

“Greyjoy, I just complimented you. Shouldn’t you be prancing around? That’s twice in one day,” he jested, expecting even a hint of a smile. None came, just a shaky, half hearted laugh.

“I…I wouldn't go that far,” he coughed. “I mean...I can’t always be the one to help you solve problems…”

“Why not?”

“Because...Well, because…. Oh! Listen!”

Momentarily drawn from the main goal, he listened for whatever had distracted Theon. Strangely, he didn’t hear a whisper.

“Do you hear it?”

“Hear what?” he inquisted.

“Gods, Snow’s playing has gotten too out of hand!” Theon laughed. “Well, someone’s got to stop him before everyone’s ears start bleeding.”

“Theon, I don’t hear any-.”

“Oh, the burdens of loyalty!” the Greyjoy wallowed, making his way back to the doot. “As your loyal companion and ward, I can not allow you to suffer this torture!”

“Theon, I seriously can not hear-.”

“You’ll thank me later!” he sang as he opened the door, calling out as he exited the other side. “I bid you farewell, dear friend! For as you drown in numbers, I must go defeat the screeching dragon!”

 

Jon 

 

His earliest memory was music. Specifically, the humming of Lady Catelyn as she sang to  Robb. He’d sometimes sneak off from his bed and crouch down by the thin wall, closing his eyes and pretending the songs were for him. At night, the song would re enter his dreams. But the singer wasn’t on the other side of a wall. She held him in her lap, and would stroke his hair as she sang in a more raspy, distinctly northern voice. He never remembered her face come morning, but he thinks she had dark hair.

Now a boy reaching his majority, another dark haired girl entered his mind as he played. Granted, he always pitted the first to have been quite a bit older than the later, but a similar sense of contentment and need to practice filed him for both. Of course, The other-and much younger- dark haired girl beside him wasn't as keen to his insistence on practice.

“Jon, give it a rest!” Arya wined for the hundredth time. “You promised you'd spar with me today!”

“I know,” he apologised, offering her a sympathetic smile. “Just five more minutes. We can play the Dance of Dragons.”

“You already played Dance of Dragons,” she groaned. “It was terrible.”

“No, I meant we can play the game,” he assured, before he frowned. “And it wasn’t that bad.”

“What's the big deal about the song anyways?” she scoffed. “Can’t you just wait till Sansa get here so that she could help you with it?”

“No!” he blushed at the crack in his voice, covering his mouth as Arya snickered.

“You’re voice just cracked!” she cackled, and he glared at her.

“Shut up,” he grumbled, and she only laughed harder. “Anyways, I’m going to learn this song all on my own, and that's final.”

“Y...You’re dumb,” she snorted. “If you don't know something, you gotta ask someone for help. It’s not that hard.”

“Arya, it’s not that simple,” he groaned, repeating the same chord progression of Seasons of My Love, but for some gods forsaken reason, it didn’t sound right. He guessed that it had to do with it being a harp from the very back of a closet in the music room. He had tried to tune it, but the only person who knows how to tune it isn’t exactly someone he wanted to ask for help. Or someone who would want to offer it.

“I don’t get it,” she grumbled. “Sansa wouldn’t be mad if you asked. Hell's, I don’t think she gets angry.”

“It's a matter of principle,” he argued. “She has a lot of faith in my musical ability, and I just want to prove her right.”

“What musical ability?”

“You’re evil,” he deadpanned, and Arya smirked lazily, reclining back onto the makeshift nest of pillows she made in the corner of the room.

“Well, your musical ability and principles have five more minutes before I go and conquer Dorne by myself,” she warned.

“Someday, Arya, someone’s going to teach you to fight,” he vowed, plucking at the strings. “And you’re going to practice like hell to prove to them you are a little warrior.”

No one’s going to make me act like that,” she scoffed, gesturing to his harp, and he rolled his eyes. “Besides, can’t you just teach me?”

“You forget I’m still learning,” he pointed out. “I’m in no real position to teach sword fighting.”

“You taught me to shoot.”

“Archery is a sport, swordplay is an art.”

“Yeah, just don’t tell Theon,” she snickered and he joined in.

“Theon knows, he just doesn’t want to admit it” he paused in his rehearsal. “And if you really want to learn sword fighting, Robb is much better than me.”

“He’s shit at defense though,” he fixed her with a look, and she smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, he’s terrible at defense...Besides, he's busy.”

“...Just one more try, and I’ll teach you defense,” he promised, plucking the same progression, and speaking the words in rhythm. “I loved a maid as white as summer-.”

“Winter,” Arya corrected, and he winced.

“Shit, winter-Wait! No!” he groaned, the horror of hypocrisy fled him as he hit his head against the instrument, attempting to drown out Arya’s howl of laughter. “This is impossible!”

“It’s a stupid song,” she gasped in between laughter. “Who falls in love with three girls in the same day?”

“It’s supposed to be a metaphor,” he explained. “They’re supposed to be the three loves of a man throughout the different stages of his life and he loses them all.”

“Sounds boring,” she yawned. “And unfair to those with brown hair.”

“Blame the writer, not me,” he murmured, finally setting the cursed instrument down. “I give up, this is fruitless.”

“Finally!” Arya rejoiced, bolting to her feet as she rushed to the door cackling. “Prepare to be slain, Aegon!”

She didn’t even wait for him as she rushed to the courtyard, her laughter echoing through the corridors. Bring himself back to his feet, he winced at the tingle of his underused legs. Lifting the more inflicted of the two, he fought to balance himself as he hopped pasted the harp and to the door. Sparing a last glance at the spread sheets of paper and the old wooden instrument, he noted that he might have some time between supper and dinner.

Chapter Text

Bran 

“Best not place your foot on that stone.”

Cranning his head over his shoulder, Bran tried to place the voice. But when he looked down, he saw nothing. Not even a shadow. Shaking his head, he moved his foot down once more, testing the weight with his toe.

“The stone would slip out from under your weight,” the voice called out again, and Bran’s grip faltered in his surprise. “It will not be a pleasant fall.”

He looked once more bellow, but to no avail. No one was bellow him. Still, he looked down to the stone his foot hovered above, and noticed it jutting out a considerable amount. Maneuvering his foot to a smaller, yet decidedly more secure stone, he placed his weight carefully as he moved his body down. Allowing to put his grip on one hand, he used the other to test his original choice. Sure enough, it fell to the ground, shattering into shards.

Looking back to empty courtyard, he pursed his lips. Maybe the person was above. Looking up, he felt a curl in his stomach as he noticed no one peering over.

“H..Hello?” he called out. “Is anyone there?”

He may be tired. Yes, that must be it! Tired and hearing things, not entirely unheard of. Trying not to let the questions racing in his mind bug him, he began to move a few more steps down. That is until he heard the voice call out once more.

“Wait! Not that one ei-”

He didn’t catch the rest of what he meant to say as his foot slipped and he collapsed to the ground with a surprised gasp. The fresh snow didn’t do much to soften the fall, and he felt the air escape his chest as he lay there, staring up at the hole in the wall. His back numb, and the shock crawling down his arms and legs, he wheezed a puff of cold air out.

“Nothing's jutting out or bleeding,”The voice cut through the numbness. He didn’t even bother to look around.

“Good to know,” Bran wheezed as he struggled to pull himself up.

“Are you feeling anything bleeding? Maybe internal or-”

“..No blood,” he coughed out, arms shaking as he used them to sit up straight. “My back is sore…”

Bran winced as the snow fell from thep cotton stick to his shoulders, he reached to brush them off, ignoring the throb in his chest as he struggled to steady his breathing. As the last clump of snow fell from his back to the ground, he felt a chill rush over his legs. Looking to see if they had soaked through, he noticed a shadow dance over them, moving from his fallen place and to the barracks. Hauling himself onto his feet, he ignored the cold soaking his legs as he hobbled to the beams.

“Wait! Hold on! Wait for me!” Bran called out, following the shadow as he hoisted himself onto the support beams.

The ache in his back increased as he tried to stretch himself to the next beam, but he continued to hoist himself up, and reached the platform with his hands. Bringing himself to his feet, Bran stretched his back out, before looking around for the shadow. Raising himself by his toes, he peaked over the stone, and noticed the incoming dust in the distance. Squinting out, he could make out the coat of arms in the distance. He couldn’t really see the symbol, but he could definitely see the grey-green backdrop.

“Meera!” he called out to no one in particular. The excitement that had kept him awake most of the night had returned, and he couldn’t help but jump in excitement.

“Yes, we should be here by the time the sun rises,” the voice remarked in his ear.

The words didn’t register in his head as the distant cry of a wolf caught his attention. Looking out to the Wolfswood, he saw the rustling of bushes, but no source of what caused it. Suddenly, he heard a creak in the board's of the roof. Looking to the side, he caught glimpse of a reptile tail slithering down the edge of the barracks. Imposible, there were no snakes this far north. Still, his curiosity got the best of him as he dared to peak of the outside wall. Leaning over the stone, he looked for the source of the tail, only to have dark talons flash in front, claws spread out over his eyes as the wolf called.

“Bran!”

Opening his eyes-when had he closed them?-he was met not by black feathers and sharp talons, but by the familiar woven tapestry Mother had nailed to the ceiling of his room. The grey wolves danced around his head, none of them crying out to him.

But Arya was, as she nudged his body beside his bed. Sparing his sister a tired glance, and taking in her grey dress and the baby hairs escaping a hairstyle only mother could perform on the girl, he he looked down to his own form.No longer was he wearing his clothing he had set aside for the arrival of the lords, but his bed shirt.

“Bran, get up!” his elder sister hissed, her boots slamming against the wood flooring of his bedroom as she jumped impatiently. “Meera and Sansa will be here any minute!”

“...So they aren’t here yet?” he asked, realising half embarrassed that it must have been a dream, and he had slept in.

“No, not yet,” she scoffed with a roll of her eyes as she chucked his trousers and tunic at his unexpecting face. “But Theon said there’s been rider spotted coming from the south. So that must be the Reeds.”

Pulling the clothing from his face, he rushed to untangle himself from his furs, and rushed to change. Trading out his old shirt for the clean one, he rushed to the window to see the dust of horses approaching nearer. Looking back to Arya, he saw her impatiently tapping her foot as she held up his boots. Tripping over his far too long trousers, he made a grab for the scuffed boots and pulled them over his feet, caring little for laces as he raced his sister down the stairwell. Rounding the bottom corner to the courtyard, he could see the back of Robb’s curly hair as he stood next to Mother, almost reaching her shoulders now. Arya skidded to a stop in front of him, and Bran almost  collided into her. From the corner of his eye, he could see a sleep deprived Theon turn his weary head to him and manage a weak snicker, which transformed into a yawn. Ignoring his father’s ward, he made his way beside Robb, who looked equally tired. Mother motioned for him to face forward, so he turned his head towards the gate. But it didn’t stop him from leaning over to his big brother and whispering.

“Are you okay, Robb?”

His brother covered a yawn with his hand, and then mumbled, “Some people don’t get to sleep in, Bran.”

Frowning, he resisted the urge to defend himself as the sound of horses approaching grew louder. It was matched by an equally loud yawn coming from behind them. He watched as his mother snapped her head back to face Theon as she told him to hush. He could’ve sworn he could hear a snicker arise from who sounded to be Jon, until he was given the same treatment.

“Did you and Theon stay up again?”

“He was helping me go over the finalized reports again,” he whispered back.

“Exactly how long did that take?” Arya joined in.

“A few hours?” Robb guessed with a tone of uncertainty. “I wasn’t really keeping count.”

“That’s not good, Robb,” Bran reprimanded. “What's the use in preparing your reports if you’re gonna just yawn your way through them?”

“I won’t yawn,” his brother mumbuled, jerking his head towards the gate for them to look back.

The creak of the doors opening brought his focus back ahead of him. From Mother, he heard a soft groan, and realised that she had been holding a still sleeping Rickon in her arms. The thump of hooves against the mud drowned out  his baby brother’s whines, and he watched as the grey green flags of House Reed billowed in the wind. Surely enough, Howland Reed dismounted from his horse, a spear strapped to his back and a bright smile on his face. His moss colored jerkin and mud caked trousers made him look as wild as any crannogman.

“Ned Stark!” he bellowed, and Bran watched as his father gave the smaller man a friendly hug. Once the two war friends pulled back, Howland pointed a finger to his father’s growing beard. “Is that a grey I see?”

“Is that a bald spot I see?” his father deadpanned, and Arya burst out laughing beside him.

“Lizard Lion got me with his tail,” the Lord of Greywater Watch explained as he tapped the hairless spot on the side of his head. “Maester said I’d never grow hair there again.”

“I’m sure he did,” Father chuckled, before he turned to Jayna Reed and kissed her hand, while

Howland moved to Mother to return the favor. “Lady Reed, always a pleasure.”

“It was a lizard lion, I’m afraid,” the lady assured as she curtsied to Father. “He was out for three days. Poor Meera wouldn’t leave to hunt for a full moon.”

Speaking of his friend, he waited with baited breath as the last of House Reed’s party entered through the gate. Surely enough, a young girl with bouncing brown curls and dark eyes rode in atop a cart carrying what could only be food for the feast. Seeing his mother’s distracted attention as she and Robb spoke with Howland Reed, he rushed from his spot to his friend.

Once her dark eyes locked with his blue ones, he felt a smile burst onto his face as he rushed to her side, climbed the side and threw his arms around her. It didn’t take long for her to return the hug with equal enthusiasm. All disgruntled protest that came from his mother was drowned out as he squeezed Meera tighter.

“I missed you too,” she whispered, and Bran laughed into her shoulder.

“Aemon the Dragonknight hasn’t been the same without you.”

She snorted“I hope so! How could you hope to save Naerys without your trusty dragon!”

She suddenly pulled back, and looked ashamed as she looked over her seat to the fur covered goods, and she reached over to tap at something.

“Hey, we’re here!” she faux whispered, and a groan came from the pile. Suddenly, the furs started to shift, and Bran nearly jumped from his seat, and then a head of ashen blonde hair arose from beneath it all.

“Wha...Meera, are we there yet?” the stranger groaned, and Bran was struck by how familiar it sounded.

“Just got here,” Meera assured, helping the stranger up to face them.

The furs dropped to reveal a young man, no older than Jon or Robb, but certainly older then Arya. His eyes, like Meera’s, where so dark they were nearly black, but his were more deeply set in his face. The dark circles that surrounded them made him look like an old man in a boy’s body, but his smile made him seem ages younger.

“You must be Brandon,” the boy said, holding out a hand in greeting.

“Bran, this is my brother, Jojen.” Meera introduced as the young man shook his slack hand.

“I’ve heard a lot about you from my sister,” the youth chuckled. “Really, she would not shut up.”

“Piss off,” his sister scoffed, pushing his leaner frame as she beamed at Bran. “I promised I’d bring him to play dragons with us.”

Taking in the older boy’s lean form, he began to ponder what role he could play? Maybe King Aegon? Or maybe Prince Daeron?

“And on that subject, we should probably go greet the rest of your family,” Jojen said as he climbed over the back of the seat to follow his sister, who had already began to slide down to the ground, splashing mud on the wheels. Before he followed in her place, though, he gave Bran a knowing smirk.

“Do be careful on your way out. The second board on the steps is a bit unstable,” the Reed boy remarked with a twinkle in his eye.

As the older boy slipped off the cart and to join his family, Bran followed almost in a haze, his Mother’s scolding eye’s not bothering him as he kept his gaze locked on the boy. He didn’t know why he felt so...drawn. He had never met him, and he didn’t look familiar, but for some reason, his voice…

Shaking his head, he looked down to the steps, and tested that second plank with his toe. Surely enough, it bent inward, and he brought his foot  further down to the second plank, which gave no bend. Sighing, he leaned over, bring himself down to the ground with all the grace of Jon’s singing.  Almost tumbling to the ground, he caught himself up right, and looked around. Meera and her brother were already engaging with his mother and father, so he decided to leave them in favor of finding the last member of their game. Which he realised would be ridiculously difficutl, given he was trapped between at least twenty large northerners. The odds of finding the pink and red flayed man banner dwindled even further when Smalljon Umber decided to plant himself in front of Bran while striking up a conversation with Robb, effectively blocking any hopes of finding her. Even Meera bled back into the crowd, and he had to nudge his way past the hulking young man to even breathe. Once he escaped, he looked out to see the trail of the dress Arya was forced to wear disappear behind one of the Mandrely men, and he followed close behind.

“Arya!” he whispered as loudly as he could, without drawing attention from the lords and their men. “Arya, did you see-.”

He paused as he heard the loud laughter of his sister arise from a few feet back. Turning around, he ducked, narrowly dodging Lord Halys Hornwood swinging his palm to slap the back of Galbart Glover.But in his attempt, Bran felt his feet slip in the mud. Bracing for the impact of his body into the sludge, he squeezed his eyes tight. He didn’t expect a pair of hands catch him underneath his arms and pull him up. Looking behind him, he felt his shoulder slump as Jon looked down at him disapprovingly.

“You shouldn’t go running out like that,” he berated.

Smiling apologetically, he muttered, “I was just trying to find Arya.”

“You might as well join in,” Jon scoffed, craning his head over the considerable larger men surrounding the two of them. “I’m here to retrieve the two of you.”

“Come now Jon,” he groaned, feeling his feet drag slightly in the ground as his brother pulled him away from the heart of the mass of people

He wouldn’t say aloud, but he was grateful for the lack of body odor in the air he breathed once pried from the mob. But he couldn’t make heads or tales of where his sister had gone, much less where his elder friend may be. He felt his heart skip a beat as he saw the banner of the flayed man, but was infinitely disappointed to find only a head of ratty dark hair standing next to it. He could almost see Theon running for the hills at the realization that the dreaded bastard of dreadfort had not only returned,but was now a head taller. But with the lack of a second head near House Bolton’s horses, Bran felt the burning anticipation in his chest die down. Did her father leave her behind? How was Aemon and his dragon supposed to defend Naerys if there was no Naerys to speak of?

“Bran? Jon?”

He felt Jon’s grip on his shoulder loosen as his brother froze in retreating from the crowd. Surely enough, as he turned around, there was Arya, grinning as she did when she hit a target dead center in archery practice. Caught in her hand was the skirts of a green riding dress belonging to one Sansa Snow.

Taking advantage of the lack of grip, Bran rushed to the dark haired girl, launching himself into a hug around her waist, reveling in the laughter that erupted from her.

“My brave Dragonknight,” she giggled as she enveloped him in a her arms. He felt the slight lift of his feet, but she soon gave up and laughed more heartilly. “My goodness, you have gotten a lot bigger!”

Lifting his head from her stomach, he noticed that he didn’t have to crane his head as far back as before. Breaking from her embrace, he straightened his head and held his hand above, bringing it from the crown of his head to just above the her mid stomach.

“I have?” he questioned, not exactly remembering where his head reached the year before.

“Of course! Granted, you’re still not quite Arya’s height, but she is older than you.”

He couldn’t help but scowl at his sister’s smug smirk, not that Sansa paid attention as she looked to their older brother. Bran noticed the flush of color to her cheeks as she gave a frozen Jon an easy smile.

“I take it Ser Aemon and Queen Nymeria have kept you busy in my absence, Ser Morgil,” she teased.

Jon, suddenly shaken from whatever spell he had been under, cried out, “The song!”

From the look of surprise on her face, Bran guessed she had no clue what he was talking about. But he and Arya knew all to well, and he let himself laugh at Jon’s embarrassment. Just this once.

“I..I’m sorry?” she stammered. “A song?”

“...Yes,” Jon hesitated, rubbing the back of his neck. “I...I know you wanted me to learn the Seasons of Lov-I mean My Love- curse it all, I can’t even say the title right!”

While Arya cackled even louder, Bran couldn’t help but feel sorry for his brother’s embarrassment. He couldn’t be excellent at everything, he supposed. But he knew how hard Jon had tried.

“Jon, you could’ve just told me. I would’ve sent you a diffrent song,” Sansa suggested, sending Arya into a fit of laughter that nearly cut over the noise of the lords slowly pouring into the the hall.

He felt someone brush into his shoulder, and spared them a glance. The Reed boy stopped for a moment, letting the flow of people part way for him as he waved at Bran. He couldn't help but smile back, though he still didn’t know why he seemed so familiar.


Theon 

“What is House Flint’s incoming tax returns?”

“Five hundred and twenty five thousand dragons. Fifteen percent of it will go towards the materials needed for the reconstruction of their Eastward tower.”

“House Hornwood?”

“Four hundred and seventy dragons.”

“House Ryswell?”

“Uh…” Robb hesitated, glimpsing nervously around the corner. “House Ryswell… Ryswell has…”

“Come on, Stark,” he groaned. “You had it this morning.”

“I know, just give me a second,” he stressed, his hand running through his russet curls. “Thirteen thousand-no! Seventeen thousand-Fuck! No, dammit!”

“Calm down,” he hissed, his hands held out as if he was taming a wild animal. “House Ryswell has how many horses on it’s sigil.”

“One,” Robb breathed out.

“And how many children does Lord Ryswell have?”

“Erm...Five… Five and one..!Six hundred dragons!”

“There you go!” Theon clapped his shoulder, grining madly at the younger boy. “Now you are ready.”

The sound of the Great Hall doors creaking open cut through the morning air. Robb’s shoulders tense in his grip. He dared a glance around the corner of the building, and saw that Lord Stark had began to direct the lords into the hall. Looking at his friend, he nudged him back into the fray.

“Come on, Stark. You need to get moving.”

“I can’t!” he hissed as he dug his heels into the ground. “I’ll fuck it up!”
“You better not,” he grunted, moving his hands to his back, trying to push him like a cart stuck in the mud. Stupid Starks and their solid builds. “I did not skip sleeping just for you to fuck it up.”
“That's the problem! What if I yawn? Father and Mother will be mortified,” Robb whined, the ass leaning back to make it even more difficult on the Greyjoy.

“Please, I saw Rickard Karstark half asleep on his horse. You’ll be fine,” he groaned, the weight bearing down on him. “Robb, I swear to the Drowned God, if I fall in the mud, I will strangle you!”

He ceased his resistance, and Theon was able to regain his balance, slipping only slightly in the melted snow. Robb turned around, his eyes glued to the ground as he spoke.

“It’d be so much easier if you’d be in there,” he muttered.

“I’ll be right here,” Theon assured, pointing to the window above them. “And I’ll signal you in case you get stuck,just as planned.”

“I know,” Robb pouted, looking anxiously at the flow of lords entering the building. Sighing, he straightened up and held out arms expediently. “Do I look presentable?”

Taking in the dark blue tunic and fur cloak he'd seen Lady Catelyn working ages on, and the slight sweep of his red curls, Theon smirked. “Like a proper royal prick.”

The punch to his shoulder was expected, but decidedly less harsh than any he had endured from the oldest Stark thus far. Shaking his head, Theon pushed him forward towards his father, giving him one last pat on the shoulder before leaving him to the other wolves. The sound of Lord Stark calling his heir fell behind him as he scrambled to the far side of the stables. Stopping in front of a crate, he lifted it to test its weight. Not too tall, but easy to carry, so he took it, along with a slightly bigger crate. Balancing them in his arms, he hefted the two crates in his arms, checking to see that no one had taken notice.Luckily, everyone seemed to be making their way into the hall, the only ones lingering being servants and Bran’s little group of younglings and bastards. He winced, noticing that the Bolton girl had made it. Which could only mean her nightmare of a brother was here too.

But there was no sign of the bastard, so he could only hope he was in the hall. As far away from the window and Robb as possible. Holding onto that bit of hope, he rushed back to his window, staking the crates together. Placing his hands on top and testing the strength of the wood, he let out a sigh of relief at the lack of any creaks. He stepped on top of the makeshift stairs, the top of his head barely reaching past the glass of the window. He bent his knees, balancing on the unstable crates as he peeked into the great hall. From where he could see, Houses Mormont, Karstark, Reed and Cerywyn had already situated themselves into their seats.Flint and Umber were slightly blocking his view, as they were moving to sit directly in front of his window, but none of them seemed to notice him. Cranning his head to face the back of the hall, he was able to see Robb sitting into his chair, just to the left of Lord Stark. Once situated, he leaned over slightly, and locked eyes with Theon.

‘Moment of truth’ he thought to himself as he waved slightly. Robb gave him a nod, relaxing back into his seat, his head angled just so to see him out of the corner of his eye. Lady Catelyn and Lord Eddard took their seats beside Robb, obscuring his sight of Robb slightly. But it didn’t matter. As soon as it was Robb’s turn to speak,he’d have to stand, making his own job very easy.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a folded paper splotched in ink. Unraveling it, he looked over the alphabetically listed houses and their tax returns, and he sighed in relief. All were accounted for. He heard the echo of the doors closing, and snapped his head back up at the hall. All the lords and their families were almost settled, and he turned his attention back to Robb’s chair.

But when he did so, he almost fell off his stand. Of course. Of fucking course House Bolton was seated at the left hand corner! Of course that bastard was seated close to Robb! And of course he had grown a bloody head taller!

“Fucking Hell,” he murmured, scraping his nails down his face as he tried his best not to attract any attention.

Great, just fantastic. How the fuck was he supposed to defend himself from that?! Theon was never the tallest boy. Ironborn in general weren’t very tall, and were fairly lean. But last time, Ramsay hadn’t exactly been vertically blessed either. Granted, he wasn't even that tall now.But in terms of height to body mass ratio, the verdict was pretty clear:Theon was utterly fucked.

His only hope was to aide Robb as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, and then rush over to Jon. Granted, Jon would probably be trailing the other Bolton bastard like a lost puppy, and she was a problem in her own right. But physically, there was no way she could ever overpower or maim him, so he’d take his chances. Praise be the gods reports were the first thing to be addressed.

“...welcome you all to Winterfell,” he heard the faint muffle of Eddard Stark’s voice through the frost covered glass. Noticing that his breath had fogged it up, he rubbed gently at the window, getting a clearer view of the scene.

The lights were dim and the light of the winter sun coming through the frost covered windows gave a faint blue glow to the room. Puffs of cold air escaped the bearded northerners as they bundled together, looking like a herd of animals bunched together in a small cave. Ned Stark stood a foot taller than most, his dark beard showing small bristles of silver in its mass. Robb would probably become as tall as his father, but right now, he was dwarfed.

“Shall we start with the reports?” the older Stark said to his son.

Robb spared a glance in his direction, and Theon nodded. Slowly, Robb lifted himself out of his chair, looking out amongst the room. Even from the window, he could see the nervous tick in his companion’s jaw, the bob in his adam’s apple. He felt like banging his head against the glass, they had talked about this! He wished to scream out, ‘Don’t let them know that your nervous, you idiot! We practiced this!’

“G...Good evening...I mean morning,” he coughed out. It didn’t do to stop the slight wave of laughter flowing through the room. “The..The returning tax money will be given to the northern houses come the beginning of Spring, but I-we have calculated the expected returning revenue.”

“Get to it lad!” Greatjon Umber bellowed, which earned him a sharp jab in the side from his uncle.

“Right...House Umber will be getting Three hundred thousand dragons returned to them.”

“Wait, what about the materials we requested?” the Whoresbane bolted out, causing Robb to tense.

He looked to Theon, and the Greyjoy looked to his cheatsheet. Fourteen thousand in dragons, and six thousand in material. Looking back up, he held up six fingers, before mimicking a hammer hitting a nail. Recognition flashed over the younger boy’s eyes, before he looked back to House Umber.

“Sixty thousand of it will be returned to you in material to reinforce the walls of Last Hearth.”

“Ash or oak wood?”

“Oak.”

“Stormlands or Highgarden?”

“Stormlands…?” Robb sounded unsure as he glanced his way. Scrambling for the paper, he looked to the corner, before looking back to Robb nodding. “Imported from the Stormlands.”

He looked back to House Umber, studying their faces as they exchanged glances, before Greatjon grunted, “Good. Wood from the Reach is far too soft and weak.”

“It will be noted, Lord Umber,” Robb supplied, seemingly less stressed after the rapid fire of questions. “As for the rest of the houses, House Manderly will be receiving two hundred and twenty two thousand thousand dragons, House Cerwyn twenty six thousand, House Mormont…”

All the while Theon glanced down at his notes, making sure that what he was hearing matched the paper. Sure enough, it seemed that the week of sleepless nights paid off. He almost let out a laugh as he witnessed the tension and anticipation diminish throughout the hall. Doubt looked to have feld most of the Lords’ minds as his companion read the reports out of his head with confidence and assurance. He reveled in the sight of the beliguring acceptance that appeared on the faces of lords who, he knew better then anyone, did not supply enough revenue to gain a large sum from the Iron Bank. Like a wave, he saw the mix of emotions makes its way around, until he felt something glinting in his left eye.

Cuping the side of his eye, he glanced up towards the sky, wondering if the sun decided to make an appearance through the clouds. But there was no gleaming beams raining from the sky, but still he felt shocked as a bright light hit his unsuspecting right eye. He shut his eyes, covering them from the offending light before crouching lower. Confusion and frustration snag through his blood as he slowly blinked the red splotches fogging his vision. The slight stammer he heard from Robb forced him to dare to look up again for a moment, catching Robb’s confused expression his ay, before the gleam hit his eye again.

Thinking quickly, he moved slightly so that whatever it was was blocked by the protruding stone surrounding the window. Taking a moment for his eyes to adjust,he gestured for Robb to continue with a wave of the hand, and the reports continued. Allowing his eyes to heal, he felt as if his right hand was held over an open flame, and ground his teeth. He shook his head clear of the frustration that began to rise in him, angling himself just so that he could see what was causing the heat on his hand. He saw a bright strip of reflected light, and was able to see that it was coming from inside the hall. Following the direction, the glint of the object was angled just so that he could see the ofendor.

His stomach dropped, as for the first time, Theon could see the resemblance in Roose Bolton’s spawn. The lack of malice in the Snow boy’s bored smile was something he remembered clearly about the bastard’s sister.Though she had a considerable less amount of ragged hair covering her face as she fiddled with needles, instead of a knife. A knife that he had angled to sheen fire light at his direction. He felt his mouth run dry like Dorne in the summer as he tried his best to focus on Robb’s reports, but when he looked down at the paper, he felt the glint hit his eye once more.

“House Bolton will be receiving three hundred and fifty thousand, House Dustin-.”

“Forgive me, my Lord Stark,” he heard the gruff voice of his tormentor’s sire interrupt. “But it was to my understanding that House Bolton was to have three hundred and seventy thousand?”

“I..Beg your pardon?” Robb croaked out, pitfuly disguising the surprise that Theon himself felt.

“Twenty thousand dragons are missing from my house’s return tax,” Lord Bolton stated plainly. “I kept a copy of my reports to calculate, I even had my heir check by it three times. We’re supposed to be receiving twenty thousand to cover the damage done with the recent pollution of the Weeping Water.”

Thankfully the other representative of House Bolton decided to cease his torment momentarily, so Theon was able to look down at the paper to see the House Bolton’s return taxes. He winced as he saw the three hundred and fifty scrawled in black ink, but nearly cheered as he noticed the blue mark next to it, and quickly nodded in Robb’s direction.

“Forgive me, Lord Bolton. There is the additional twenty thousand,” Robb started, before looking to Theon, he did his best to mimic a farmer ploughing a field, hoping he’d get the improvised gesture. “It will...be converted in grain to replace that which you lost.”

There was silence, as the Lord of the Dreadfort looked to ponder the question, before reclining slightly further into his seat, the creak of the backboard releasing the tension in the room. Theon let his shoulder slump slightly in relief, letting out a sigh of relief. Short lived as he felt the glint back at his eye. But in his wincing, he just felt more annoyed than anything. The secret smile that Robb sent his way was worth momentary blindness.

“House Dustin will be having one hundred and sixty-eight thousand dragons returned. House Tallhart will be receiving one hundred and fifty-two. House Flint will have five hundred and twenty-five...”

As Robb continued on,Theon looked down to his makeshift stool, and carefully slid his legs from underneath his bottom, dangling them over the crate. Shifting his arse a bit, he found it stable enough to sit a moment. Finally, he heard Lord Eddard’s voice call out among the room, and raised his face to the older Stark. He saw his gloved hand clasped over Robb’s shoulder, mouth set in an almost smile as he nodded. Approval. Pride. All things Robb had hoped to gain today, all things that he did. At least of of them could.

The slight twist in his stomach lessened as Robb looked in his direction as he sunk into his chair, the most discreet nod he had ever seen the young Stark give sent in his direction. It was his luck that the glint of the Bolton’s blade was now gone, otherwise he wouldn’t have seen it. He offered Robb a smirk as he crushed the notes in his hand, shoving them in his pocket. All that was left was to wait for Robb to released so that they could celebrate. Leaning slightly back in his seat to look out to the courtyard, he saw a few servants congregating around a covered cart, carrying what he could only assume to be goods for tonight's feast. He recognised Lew heaving a large bag, and the panicked wail he gave as a potato fell and rolled onto the snow covered ground. It would be easy to steal something amongst the chaos, especially since the servants kept dropping the food.The brownish red glint coming from a wicker basket grabbed the ironborn’s attention. Chestnut apples could work, a bit bitter, but sweet enough that he could pair them with the jerky he kept under his floorboards.

Sparring one final look at the window, he noticed that Lord Stark had transitioned into informing every house where they would be staying, a part of that would not call for Robb to make any commentary at all. Knowing that it would mean most lords would be retearing to their quarters in a matter of minutes, he took it as his que to hurry. Some of the lords had began rise in their seats, and Theon followed. Wobbling a bit, he managed to slid off, not even disrupting the structure of his seat. With a sigh, he carefully took off the first crate from his stack tucking it under his arm, before reaching for the next one.

That is until he felt the glint once again.Far more harsh then before,and far more tiresome. How in the drowned the bastard managed to aim from inside the hall was beyond Theon, and was beyond annoying. The squeezed his right eye shut,saving himself from the light, until it moved to his right.

‘How is the fucker doing it?’ he thought vehemently, dropping the crate to his feet as he hoisted himself onto the sill. Not caring for the potential of getting caught, he turned his head to where Lord Bolton was sitting, ready to throw his surfacing dread to the wind. Only to find no glint of a knife inside, nor a weasley bastard wielding it. No Snow was in sight.

His confusion only burned with the heat beating on the back of his neck, and turned to nausea as the heat traveled, up his neck to the top of hair, tracing painful to his exposed ears, and then down. Down to his shoulders, and then to spine, resting finally to the ribs encasing his hammering heart beat.

“In grain? Twenty thousand dragons in grain?” Despite the heat of the glint, Theon went cold at the chilling laugh behind him. “As endearing as your little show with the greenboy was, I suggest you check over those notes again, squidling.”


Arya 

“Now hear lies your problem,” Sansa clicked her tongue as she twisted the snark, as she called it, around one of the pegs. “The harp isn’t tuned properly.”

Arya looked to her brother, smirking at his slumped shoulders and pink cheeks. “I told you” she mouthed, sparing him any more shame. It didn’t stop the glare that he gave her, but she couldn’t help but laugh at his defeated look.

“If it’s not properly, you’ll get caught up in how it doesn’t sound right, and you won’t get the lyrics right,” the Snow girl continued, plucking a string, and moving her snark to its peg.

Hopefully this would cure Jon of his inability to play a stupid song, and they could finally play outside once more. She scratched her palms, noticing the lack of blisters and splinters that used to mar her hands. Yearning for the weight of an bow, or a wooden sword. Anything that would make her feel like a knight once more.

Sparing a glance at Bran and his constant glancing at the door, she knew she wasn’t alone. It would only be a matter of time before Meera will be free, and most likely a few moments before Sansa’s father found them and required her to return to their quarters.It’d be a shame to have an entire day of play wasted on tuning a harp.

“There, that should do it,” Sansa finally sighed, handing the instrument to Jon. “Give that a try.”

As practiced, Jon’s hands went to the strings, and though he lacked the grace she had seen other harp players possess, he managed to glide his fingers of the delicate strings, giving semblance as to what she knew Seasons of My Love  to sound like.

“That...That actually sounded like it,” Jon whispered, before looking up to Sansa with eyes bright. “Thank you.”

“If you wish, I could teach you how to tune it, that way you're not waiting a full year for it to be tuned again,” Sansa offered with a smile, and though Arya knew it to be a friendly gesture, she couldn’t keep the groan inside her from escaping. The elder girl shifted her pale eyes to her, and gave her one of those small smiles of hers. She found that she missed those small smiles. “Or maybe we can wait till later. I believe we promised your siblings a game of Aemon the Dragonknight.”

Bran jumped to his feet from beside her, and Arya wasn’t far to follow. She shot up to her feet, rushing to Jon, and tugged on his left hand. “Come on Jon! We’ve got to prepare for war! When Meera gets here, they’ll have to dragon!”

“I know, I know!” Jon laughed, but barely made any rush as he rose. “I have to put the harp away first.”

“Jon, we gotta build our fort!” She insisted, pulling his free hand towards the door. “We don’t know how long we have!”

“Not if we build one first!” Bran shouted, bolting out the door with Sansa in towe.

Biting down a curse, she waited as patiently as she could for Jon to put the harp away, before forcing him out the door.

Bran had already made his way to a large pile of overnight snow, shoveling more snow onto the top with his mitted hands, as Sansa carved out little towers and windows. Swiveling around the yard, the sound of metal clanking caught her attention. Looking to the opposite side, she saw little Rickon mindlessly piling snow into a water pail as he clanked a twig against it. Not only that, there was a considerably smaller, but more abundant pile he was harvesting from. Dragging Jon to their new fort, she fell to the ground and began to pile the snow as Jon crouched next to their little brother.

“Hey, Rickon.”

“Jon!” he squealed.

“Listen, can I borrow your pail for a second?”

“Why?”

“We need to build a fort.”

“Why?”

“Because if we don’t,” she jumped in, turning to face the questioning pain. “We’ll get burned by a dragon.”

Rickon perked up, before releasing his pail to perform his best dragon impression. Seeing the opportunity, she snatched the pail and began to pile snow into it, feeling the metal freeze in her bare hands.

“Can I play?” Rickon asked.

She paused in her shoveling to look to Jon, who stood equally as still, eyes flitting between her and their brother.

“...Rickon, this is...This is a more...It’s a game for big children.”

“I’m big!” the russet haired boy insisted. “I’m four!”

“You wouldn’t get it,” Arya jumped in, dumping the snow atop her mountain. “It’s about the Age of Heros.”

“I wanna play!” Rickon pouted, standing up and stomping his foot.

“All the roles are taken, you can’t just join in” she scoffed, only to see Rickon jump up and down like an angry buck.

“I.Wanna.Play!” he screeched, before Jon sighed.

“We could use another person.”

“Send him over to Bran and Sansa,” she hissed, ignoring the increasing anger fuming from the youngest Stark. “He’ll throw a fit and destroy their fort.”

“But when Meera comes, they’ll have two people to protect their fort, and two to attack us!” he whispered, pulling her further from their brother. “Where as if we have him, we send him out to tire out Meera, and then we attack.”

“...Good thinking, Ser Morgil,” she conceded, turning back to Rickon. “Fine...You can play.”

The crying stopped, replaced instead with maniacal laughter. He jumped around once more, heading straight for the pile had jon not caught him mid air.

“Rickon, first rule of the game, you can’t destroy our fort,” he pointed across the way, to where Bran had already began to gather his wood swords and shields, while Sansa placed twigs atop the towers. “You can only destroy their fort. Got it?”

“Go it,” Rickon nodded. “...Wait, who am I playing?”

“Erm….Peasant farmer,” Arya offered,but the frown from the younger boy told her he wasn’t too pleased with that role. “Uhm...Fearsome direwolf!”

“Wolf!” he beamed, getting onto all fours as he barked like a dog.

“No, that's a dog,” Jon corrected. “Wolves howl.”

But  he continued to bark and scurry around the snow. It didn’t matter, so long as he was barking and growling at the enemy.

Jon yelped unexpectedly, and she saw the cold flecks of snow fall from the back of his head to down his neck. Twisting her head back, she saw Sansa’s face contort in shock, before she hid her  giggles behind her sleeve. All the while, Bran was unbridled in his cackling.

“You’ll pay for that, Queen Naerys!” She called out, an Bran hoisted himself over his battlements to reply.

“As will you, Queen Nymeria, for siding with such a dishonorable knight!”

Granted, their games were far from historically accurate. A point she brought up when she first saw Prince Aemon release the fury of a dragon upon a thrice dead Morgil, and she soon gave up when they offered her command of the two person army that had been Robb and Theon. Naturally, she’d chosen the warrior queen as her persona in this ridiculous game the last time they played it before Sansa’s departure. It seems those letters the two had been exchanging had offered them the chance to strategize as she caught glimpse of a massive pile of snowballs laying beside their fort.

Turning to Jon and Rickon, she cried out, “Get down!”

Not long before she slid herself behind the wall of snow, she began to see snow crash into the wooden panels of the barracks. Turning to Jon, she saw him reach inside his collar, trying to reach the snow, squirming like a worm as he also attempted to escape the storm of snowballs. Rickon, oblivious, stood tall atop the fort, laughing and squealing as he was hit in the chest five times.

“Get down!” she hissed, trying to pull him back to her level, doding the snow he was kicking towards her face in his excitement.

“We can’t keep him here, he’ll climb all over the fort!”Jon hissed as more snow fell atop his head

“We can’t send him out there, he’ll be buried in snow before they even run out,” Arya pointed out, finally getting him to sit beside her as he giggled and howled.

“He’s small,” Jon pointed out. “They’ll go easier on him then they’d go on either of us. He’s our best chance at surviving this.”

Sighing, she passed Rickon over to Jon, who looked at him sternly. “Keep your eyes on their fort. If you keep getting hit, run like this,” he waved his finger as if drawing a ‘z’ before holding his shoulders. “When you get there,I want you to start kicking their fort as hard as you can. Can you do that, direwolf?”

He nodded, russet curls shaking in his blue eyes before he scurried out of Jon’s lap and towards the opposite side, continuing to bark. Grabing a handfull of snow, she peaked oer her shoulder and saw Rickon running straight towards the fort. Turning to Jon, she shook her head.

“I don’t think he knows how to run that way,” she grumbled, before seeing Bran’s auburn hair peak above the snow. Raising her and, she launched it.

He let out a cry of surprise, ignoring Rickon for a moment to glare at her. Seeing his shoulder raise, she quickly ducked down, watching a snowball splat against the wall. A moment later, she heard a cry from across the battlefield. Peeking over, her mouth dropped as she watched Rickon tug Sansa by her braid over the wall.

“Rickon!” she heard Jon cry, knocking off a heap of snow from their fortress in his attempt to climb over their fort. “Attack the fortress, not Sansa!”

Rickon looked up, releasing the black plait, and she watched as Bran jumped behind. With a quick shove, the littlest Stark slid down the fortress, taking down a tower, leaving a large opening. Sansa, having not recovered from her attack, clutched the roots of her hair and cried out as she tumbled down after.

“Foul play!” Bran cried as he ran around the fort, pointing accusingly at Jon. “Sending a...a…”

“Direwolf,” Arya supplied

“A Direwolf to attack a lady?! For shame, Ser Morgil!”

“I didn’t..I didn’t really...I never told him to-” Jon sputured, keeping Bran’s attention long enough for Arya to get a clean shot at his head.

When she launched the snow ball, it sent Bran crashing into his own fortress, knocking down another tower. As their foes laid outside their fort, covered in a mountain of snow, Rickon ran around their fallen stronghold, laughing and howling like a true wolf.

“Rickon, that's enough!” Jon called, trotting over to the tot and scooping him into his arms. “Do you surrender, Ser Aemon?”

“N-never!” Bran spat out, picking himself from the ruins and brushing off the snow on his shoulder.

“Your fort has fallen,” Arya called out, holding fast to the edge of her small wall. “Queen Naerys has fallen-”

“Actually, I’m fine-”

“Has fallen to our direwolf! What more must you lose to finally admit defeat?”

“You forget, Queen Nymeria,” Sansa called back, not moving from her spot on the ground. “You are not the only ones in possession of a powerful beast!”

“Ha!” She chuckled, mimicking the elder girl by resting her cheek against her hand, propped on the snow. “And where is said beast, Queen Naerys?”

The Snow girl looked towards the entrance of the courtyard, her eyes wide before she jumped to her feet laughing, “Apparently right around the corner!”

Jumping up right, she tried to lean over the wall, looking for the dark mop of curls and tattered furs the Reed girl had worn that morning. The sound of boots sloshing in the wet mud made her tense, as she reached blindly for the stick Rickon had abandoned, and held it out, like a spear. Jon looked lost as he ran ungracefully towards the safety of their fort, while Bran and Sansa remained in their places, shouting out commands.

“Meera! Quick, attack Jon and Arya!” Bran cried out, pointing violently at her and her brothers.

“Pull their braids, while your at it,” Sansa chuckled, pulling herself up to sit.

Gripping the stick tightly, and making space for Jon and Rickon, she peaked over the wall, hands shaking as she heard a terrible screech. Meera must’ve been practicing, the sound was high pitched, but rang like a clashing of swords against the ear.

Suddenly, the screaming became louder, and distinctly lower in pitch. And like a gust of winter air, a figure burst into the courtyard. Shouts of joy turned to shouts of hysteria as snow exploded once more around her enemies, as the figure dove face first into their now decimated fort.

Turning to Jon, she watched as his shocked expression morphed into confusion, then recognition before he burst into laughter.

Taken aback, she spared a glance at the cause, and couldn’t hold back the snort that escaped. There, in the once enormous pile of snow, was not the elder Reed sibling.

“T-Theon!” Bran gasped. “What are you doing!”

The dazed Greyjoy lifted his head and looked around, before tripping backwards when his eyes met Sansa.

“G..Get away!” he shouted, stumbling towards the wall as he grabbed his arm.

“Well, it’s good to see you too, Theon,” Sansa laughed, reaching a hand to him, only to have it slapped away.

“Cut it out, Greyjoy,”Jon growled from beside her, rising a bit from his spot. “She was only trying to help.”

“Help?” Theon panted, eyes frantic as he looked from her, to Bran to Jon than Sansa. “If you want to help, call off your mad dog!”

“My what?”

“You told me you weren’t going to bring Grey Jeyne this time,” Bran pouted next to her.

“I didn’t…” Arya watched her stiffen,before her cold blue eyes narrowed pointedly. “I should have known.”

Turing to where she was looking, Arya felt a cold chill run down her back, and grabbed for Jon’s hand. She felt him squeeze it tightly as he too caught glimpse of the figure standing at the entrance.