Jon was still riding at the back of the party as they broke out of the Wolfswood. The sun was shining through the bright blue cloudless sky. It was a beautiful northern summer day with only a small bite to the crisp air.
He had been so distracted looking at the small white direwolf pup clutched to his chest that he hadn't bothered to catch up to his brothers and Theon. He had felt slightly disappointed when they had first found the five pups. He would've liked to keep on, but knew Lady Stark would've had a fit if the Bastard got one and one of her trueborn children had to go without. So, Jon had said he wouldn't take one when offered. Unfortunately, his father had seen the look cross his face before he had been able to school his features. Lord Stark had answered that with a sad frown and a sympathetic look of understanding. However, the pup in his arms had made a few slight whines before Jon could reach his horse. When Jon had found his pup he understood why he had initially been looked over. Being separated from his mother's corpse and litter mates his white fur had made him almost completely camouflaged amongst the snow.
Then his mind started going over what the deserter had said before he lost his head. White Walkers. Though Robb, Theon, and his father had dismissed the man's claims immediately as the ravings of a mad man. Jon couldn't shake the feeling that he could have possibly been telling the truth. A small tremor of fear rode up his spine thinking about Old Nan's tales of the Long Night. If the White Walkers had really risen up again north of the Wall it would be well worth at least asking the Lord Commander what reports he has been getting from the far north. If all else failed Jon figured he could just look into it himself when, Father, finally allowed him to join the Watch. He only had a few more years to deal with Lady Stark's glares because, Father, had relented enough to say that he could once he reached the age of eight and ten if no other options drew his attention.
He had thought of a few possible options while growing up. Options were limited for bastards for the most part, but an acknowledged highborn bastard had a lot more freedom. He knew at his age he was too old to earn a knight hood through squiring. If he was to become a knight now it would have to be through deed or valor. He could always go to White Harbor and learn to sail the seas and become a merchant sailor. He was sure his father would be happy to assist financially at first if that was a choice he wanted to pursue. He could always become a sworn sword for Arya when she finally left Winterfell to marry. He knew Sansa would never accept his company. The prim lady that she was wouldn't want her bastard half-brother around.
There was the option of traveling to Dorne. He knew bastards were treated differently and with more respect there. He could possible join a house hold guard. There was also the option in Dorne of going to Starfall and seeing if he could uncover any knowledge of his mother. He had heard rumors growing up that Ashara Dayne may be the one, and it was known his father had stopped there to deliver Dawn after his fight with Ser Arthur Dayne. He knew though that if his father found out he wanted to head to Dorne he would be denied. His father's unwillingness to divulge any knowledge of his mother had been one of the most infuriating mysteries of his life.
Then, there was the option of joining the Night's Watch. Jon knew his birth wouldn't be used against him there. His uncle Benjen had told him a few times a man at the Watch gets what he earns and his past be damned. One of the few things holding him back from that option was the look his father would get whenever it was mentioned. He knew Lord Stark didn't want him to swear his life away at the Wall, but he wasn't really helping in the decision making. He had to know that Jon wouldn't tolerate Lady Stark's looks and insults for all his life. Lastly, there was this new information to look into. Though, Jon wouldn't be able to investigate it freely. He would have to listen to the commands of his officers and the Lord Commander.
Jon's musings were cut short when all the wolf pups simultaneously began whining and barking. Even the white pup in his arms became restless and fidgety though he still didn't make a noise.
Suddenly, across the moors a giant bolt of yellow lightening struck the ground from the still cloudless sky, and was accompanied by a massive explosion. The shock from the impact almost threw everyone from their mounts as the trees were violently thrashed about from the force, and Jon had to pull his reins tight with his one free hand to stop his horse from bolting. As he came back under control Jon stroked his neck to calm him further.
When he directed his attention to where the lightening had stuck he felt his breath catch. The wind was blowing the smoke away revealing four massive giants. Three of them had to be at least half the height of the walls of Winterfell. One looked like a muscular naked man, the second looked like a knight covered head to toe in golden armor and was almost twice as broad as the first one, and the third looked like a woman who had been flayed but still had a full head of sandy blonde hair. The fourth looked like a flayed man and towered over twice the height of the other three yet was only a torso, head, and arms. They stood there limp their arms and heads hanging as though they fell asleep standing and steam was pouring off their bodies.
A loud pop drew his attention to the silhouettes of people some how flying around the giants like flies buzzing around a stable hand. Jon heard the sound of steel being drawn as the members of the Stark Guard drew their swords. Robb spurred his horse towards the giants as their father called out for him to stop, but his protests were lost in the wind as Theon took off to follow. Jory cursed under his breath and followed his Lord's heir. Ser Rodrick kept muttering “Seven Hells” to himself and his father shot him an exasperated look before signaling with his head for them to follow his reckless heir and ward. Jon quickly kicked his mount in the sides and the rest of the guards took off following behind his father.
Closing the distance Jon could make out eight people swarming the giants. When they seemed to notice they weren't moving all eight landed on the shoulders of the 'naked' giant. Two people moved towards the base of its neck. Jon's eyes went wide as a large cloud of steam exploded from its skin and another person emerged as red muscle strands snapped from their face. The other two helped their comrade emerge as three more similar explosions occurred at the necks of the other giants.
Immediately, five of the people on the 'naked' giant's shoulders flew towards the newly emerged people with loud pops and hisses as ropes shot from their waists to the other giants. Sunlight flashed off steel as the five of them all brandished swords in each of their hands.
Jon held his breath as the distance closed and they raised their swords to strike. They pulled back immediately when Lord Stark's voice rang out across the open field, “STOP. THIS. IMMEDIATELY!” It was the lord's voice, as they all called it, that demanded immediate attention and could silence the most boisterous lords of the north.
The swords dropped to their sides as they swung down and landed on the shoulders of the giants. Two on the massive flayed one, two on the knight, and one on the woman. All heads and eyes turned to their party as his father pushed past Robb and Theon to the front. Two of the people looked at each other for a moment before they both jumped off the shoulder of the 'naked' giant. As they fell ropes shot out of their waists with the same pop-hiss into the back of the giant. They swung down landing into a slight jog. As their feet hit ground the ropes snapped out of the giant and retracted into little boxes on their waists.
The man and what turned out to be a woman walked towards Jon's party. They both wore brown leather riding boots that came up over their knees, white breeches that had brown leather straps winding around their legs, and dark green cloaks that stopped at their waists. Resting on each of their thighs they had strange scabbards that were rectangular and green. The woman was a few inches taller than the man and had her chestnut brown hair pulled back into a high pony tail with her bangs loose, and over her amber eyes she wore a strange pair of lenses held in place by a band. Her companion had short raven black hair that was parted on the right and his eyes could almost be considered Stark Grey though a little darker.
As they neared Jory and the rest of the guards raised their blades in silent warning. The woman froze in her steps and raised her brows. She quickly scanned their party before she nodded slightly in understanding and crossing her arms over her body she sheathed both of her swords. The man followed suit, but he kept a suspicious eye on them with his hands resting on the hilts.
Jon watched his father dismounted his horse after he handed the wolf pup held in his arm to Jory. He walked up and stopped a few paces from the strangers. He seemed to asses the two for a moment before speaking “I am Lord Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.”
The woman bowed her head slightly before answering in a melodic voice, “ Hello, I'm Squad Leader Hange Zoe, and this is my counterpart Captain Levi Ackermann.” The man identified as Levi nodded his head slightly at his introduction.
“How did you come to be here?” His lord father asked.
“Frankly, My Lord, I don't even know where here is.” Hange spoke as she looked around. “One moment we were in the Stoess District trying to apprehend those three,” she pointed her thumb over her shoulder at the three who had just exited the giants, “and the next we are here with you.”
“Well you are now in the Northern Kingdom of Westeros. Over there is my ancestral castle of Winterfell.” He was cut off by the thundering of horse hooves. When Jon looked over twenty more of the Stark Guard were galloping in their direction from the castle, and the battlements were flooded with people trying to see what the commotion was all about. They halted their approach at the signal of their lord. “Can you get your men down here?”
Levi nodded in answer, spun around, and yelled “Hey, Twerps, get down here!” Jon observed the sigil that was sewn on his cloak while his back was turned. It consisted of a white feathered wing overlapping a blue feathered wing on a grey shield that was quartered by white borders.
Multiple pops and hisses sounded as the others made their way down from the giants. Jon was surprised to see more women mixed in the group, and even more surprised that with the exception of Hange and Levi all the others were all around Jon and Robb's age. One of the girls drew Jon's attention immediately. The way her her eyes were slightly almond shaped and the narrow shape of her chin reminded him of the people of Yi-Ti he had read and seen drawings of in Maester Luwin's books. Around her neck she had a dark red scarf. Like Levi she had raven black hair, but her eyes were bright silvery grey bordered in black.
The boy next to her was the one that had been helped from the 'naked' giant. He had short dark brown hair and bright emerald green eyes. Under his eyes the skin was wrinkled, red, irritated, and as he stood there steam continued to pour off of him.
Behind the group of strangers the giants' bodies suddenly started steaming and cracking like they were to collapse at any moment. “What is happening?” Robb called out alarmed.
“Oh, that?” Hange answered quickly, “That is their titan bodies breaking down. In a few hours you won't be able to tell they were there at all.”
“Seven Hells.” He heard Ser Rodrik mutter once again.
Lord Stark spoke to the group then, “I am going to take to Winterfell. I want all of you to surrender your arms and you will be guarded at all times in my castle as I see fit.” His father must have seen the apprehension that crossed most of their faces and the captain looked like he was about to object, so he quickly continued. “In our land no harm will come to you as long as you reside under my roof, and obey my rules,” he stopped momentarily to look over the last three who had reluctantly joined the group yet still kept some distance, “Any of you. It is an affront to our gods for you to be hurt or for you to hurt anyone while in our home as guests. I want to be clear you may be guarded and observed, but you are not prisoners. I mean to get to the bottom of this. Is that understood?” the whole group nodded in answer.
Jon watched as Tomard and Alyn went through the strangers collecting their weapons. As Alyn passed by him to distribute them amongst the Stark troop he snuck a glance at them. He had never seen anything like them before. The scabbards were lang metal boxes with a strange cylinder on the top along with some type of tube hanging off it. The hilts were of a design that Jon doubt would be of much use in a sword fight. Instead of a crossguard there was a curved 'finger guard', but even that looked like it could move. It was all very peculiar.
When the guards had finally relieved all the new comers of their arms, and had them secured to their saddles his father addressed them once more. “Good, now all of you mount up double with my guards and head to the castle.” He turned his attention once again to the separate group, “My Lady, ride with my son, Jon,” his father directed at the blonde girl of the group while pointing at Jon, “You two men hop on with my son Robb and Theon.”
As the young woman approached Jon's horse he could hear Theon grumbling about why he got the beautiful blonde and he got stuck with the men. Jon couldn't help the slight smirk that came to his face at that.
When said girl got to him he noticed her beautiful blue-grey eyes. She had a slight hawkish nose and even with the steaming wrinkles on her cheeks Jon couldn't help but think she was beautiful. Her honey blonde hair was pulled back into a tight bun with random ends sticking out and like most of the other women her bangs were hanging loose to blow in the wind. Instead of the green cloak the others were wearing she was donned in a strange beige top that was long sleeved yet stopped half way down her torso. On her left breast and shoulders she also bore a different sigil. Instead of wings she had a green unicorn with a white mane and horn on the quartered shield. He held out his right hand for her to take. She quickly grabbed his forearm and with practiced ease hoisted herself up behind him.
Once she was settled he looked to her over his shoulder. “My name is Jon.”
“I know, your father already told me.” She answered in a clipped tone. Jon looked forward to hide the sheepish look that over took his face in embarrassment once he remembered that his father had indeed spoke his name. He just lightly heeled the horse into a slow canter. It was silent for a few moments until he faintly heard her voice again, “My name is Annie.” Jon let a tiny smile take his face as the gates of Winterfell grew larger.