Ser Jamie Lannister
The outer walls of Kings Landing had been painted gold and crimson by the besieging banners. Father made good time. The Mighty Golden Lion hadn't stirred from Casterly Rock to take part in the Battle of the Trident, but Tywin Lannister was not one to be on the loosing side.
The might of the Gold Cloaks had dissipated once the Lion Banner had arrived beyond the walls, and in their feeble attempts to flee they'd become fodder for the Mad Kings hedonistic urges.
The truth for the inhabitants of Kings Landing was that they stuck between a Mad Tyrant and a Hungry Lion, and only the cities walls separated then from the cruelties of war.
"Ser Jamie, the King has summoned you to his side."
Jamie turned from the battlements, one of Rossart's mad disciples had come to call. That was the depth of depravity the city had fallen too.
Jamie has half a mind to spit in the pyromancers face and wait for someone with nobler intentions to come calling, but he didn't feel like burning at the end of a rope today.
Making his way towards the King he found that the Throne room had been abandoned, but he found the Small Council in session. Jamie had never been privy to the dealings of the Council, it's the Lord Commanders place to sit in on these meetings not mine, yet the White Bull had been long absent.
As Jamie entered the Council chamber he was greeted by the remnants of the once pristine order. King Aerys sitting at the head of the table had seen personally to the expulsion or executions of those whose chairs Jamie now found empty.
Lord Qarlton Chelsted had been Master of Coin before being appointed Hand, a true craven, but Jamie could not forget the one time the-mace-and-dagger Hand has stood for himself. The Mad King had certainly not, for it was that night that he'd been mad with lust. Poor Queen Rhaelle's suffering was such that Jamie had falsely reported that the King was needed somewhere else, but that had not done to shorten her torment. Lord Symond Staunton, the former Master of Laws, had met a similar fate when he'd made the mistake of being caught trying to flee the city.
Other owners of empty chairs did manage to fair better though. Two former hands happened to find themselves in exile instead of in ashes. Lord Lucerys Velaryon as Master of Ships had received the duty of protecting the Queen, Prince Viserys and the unborn babe so they were similarly long gone. Jamie had asked to accompany them to Dragonstone but the Mad King had been insistent, "The Kingsguard guard the King."
If that's so then why am I the only sworn brother here. Barristan the Bold, Prince Lewyn and Ser Jonothor Darry had left for the Trident and no word had yet returned of their fates. The Sword of the Morning and Ser Oswell had been missing since before the war had broke out and Aerys had sent the White Bull to find them, yet he'd not returned with Prince Rhaegar.
The Lord Commanders chair was as such unoccupied and it was the White Bull's seat that Jamie took. With the many absences only few remained true to their post, and among them were the foreign eunuch, the grand maester and the kings new fiery hand.
The perfumed spider was the first to greet Ser Jamie properly. "Good Ser Jamie, we are pleased that you have joined us."
"Indeed Ser Jamie, your presence has been a welcome comfort to our loyal court" the weaseling Grand Maester added.
The Pyromancer King and his enabler said nothing, and it seemed only Rossart even noticed Jamie's presence at first, as Aerys was to busy picking at a scab he'd taken from one of the thrones thousand blades. Yet just as Jamie broke eye contact with the King to sit in his chair life returned to Aerys eyes.
"Lannister, what are your lord fathers intentions? Has he come to my aid?"
My Lord father despises you and he joined the war the moment it was lost too you, Jamie knew, and as it was his sworn duty he informed the King of his fathers likely intentions.
"It's only a matter of time before Lord Tywin is inside the cities gates. Please Your Grace, consider surrender."
Varys tired to reitterate Jamie's ideals. "There are passages about the Red Keep, ones made of your ancestor King Maegor's design. We could safely escort you from the city Your Grace."
Even Rossart whispered into the Kings ear, though Jamie could not tell if it had been wisdom or depravity that the Pyromancer has offered.
The Mad King had treachery within his eyes, and he'd decided that surrender was not an option for him.
He'd refused all logical advice, but yet the Grand Maester saw fit to speak his piece.
"Tywin has been ever faithful to the Crown Your Grace, I have no doubt he has come once more to your defense."
Was the oaf that big a dolt? Tywin Lannister had never been one for the losing side. Seeing that Pycelle had been the pet of Tywin he should know that. His treachery was plain for Jamie and the Spiders view.
Yet King Aerys had believed him whole heartedly, and now having fallen victim to the Maesters deception, he commanded that the city gates be open to its twelve thousand newly received defenders.
The Sack began not long after. Jamie could see the rising of smoke and before long the smell of blood was mingling with the reek of feces that plagued the Capitol.
The people of Kings Landing had been fed to the Lion, but they had not yet escaped the Mad Tyrant either.
Once the deception had been irrefutably accepted King Aerys called for Pycelle to suffer a traitors death, yet the Grand Maester had been nowhere to be found.
Strangely enough, the Spider was also conspicuously absent from the court, and the King named them both traitors. All that remained to the King were Rossart, his disciples and Ser Jamie, and so it fell to the White Lion to find the treacherous duo and bring them to justice.
When Jamie had been unable to find the two within the Keep the King had decided Jamie needed to prove his own loyalty to the Crown.
Now sat atop the Iron Throne and bleeding from a fresh cut, King Aerys demanded three heads from Jamie. "The treacherous Spider and Grand Maester, And your treasonous Father."
Jamie began to walk away, unbelieving of the Kings decree and all that it entailed. Defend the King, Obey your father. It was too much, the oath conflicted.
Yet in that moment, as Jamie was walking away, the King had turned to his pyromancer hand and given an infamous command.
"Burn the city, burn the treasonous lions, burn the meager small folk. Leave nothing for the Stag to claim as his own. Let him face a Dragon Reborn!"
The pyromance turned to make haste towards his favorite creation, and as he did King Aerys began to scream.
"Burn Them All."
Jamie knew that the pyromancers had kept caches of the Kings beloved wildfire throughout the city, and as they'd seen the wisdom in not placing all their eggs in a single basket, the entirety of the city would no doubt be laid to waste if they were allowed to light.
That was too much. Even for the man who'd lived only to be a knight, the one who'd spent countless hours in the yard with a blade in his hand practicing duels with the most legendary knights of the past. It was to much even for the boy who'd wanted to become renowned for his honor.
Jamie stopped just outside of the main hall, and the White Lion waited for Rossart to exit the throne room.
The Pyromancer was no warrior, yet he tried his best to put up a fight against the skilled swordsman, even managing to flee for a small chase around the keep. Yet Jamie's claws proved too long, and when they found their mark the Pryomancers blood splattered upon Jamie's golden armor and Rossarts fatal wound gave color to the white cloak.
By then Jamie's heart was thumping within his chest, he could hear nothing of the doings of the outer world, and despite his predilection and honor, Jamie knew what had to be done.
The King was at first intrigued as Jamie entered the court, "So you've done your duty, But I still desire Tywin's head" he bellowed down.
Yet Jamie did not speak, instead he only closed the distance to the throne. Aerys must've seen the intent within Jamie's eyes for he decided to flee.
Amidst his flight the King had managed to soil himself, and the stench reeked about the chamber. As Jamie reached the foot of the throne Aerys bared his back in retreat and Jamie ran his gilded sword through his Kings torso.
The King imagined himself to have been reborn amidst the fires he held so dearly, but after life drained from Aerys body Jamie slit his throat to make sure such rebirth would not be afforded to him.
He'd also utter no more commands to "Burn Them All."
Only after the deed had been done did Jamie realize that the besieging army had reached the Throne room. Ser Elys Westerling and Lord Roland Crakehall stood out amongst the gathering crowd and their disappointment at not being able to claim the Kings life prevailed upon their face.
Until they realized whose sword protruded from the Kings back. Jamie had been afforded no time to escape or to mask his deed, and so he'd been caught with the Kings blood upon his soiled white cloak.
"The King is dead, and the war is over. Spread the word so that fighting may end, and spare those who yield."
"Should a new king be proclaimed?" Lord Roland hollered back.
A New King. The Lannister's held Kings Landing, why not name Tywin to the Kingship he so rightly deserved? That would mean more violence, and just now Jamie was becoming sick of spilled blood. Robert Baratheon had set forth his claim to the throne, and he could be named. Let the bloody fool come to claim his own seat.
The throne had belonged to the man whose carcass now sat below it, Look what good it had done him. Thoughts about who the King should be led Jamie to think of his vow to Prince Rhaegar.
The one the Prince had given him before he'd ridden for the Battle of the Trident, and when the prince had said much would change upon his return.
"Keep my children and their mother safe from harm Ser Jamie, that is your task."
"I swear it."
The Children, Jamie thought with sudden realization. The White Lion gave no response to Lord Crakehall, and instead he bolted from the Throne room and headed for Maegor's Holdfast.
When he reached the lifted drawbridge he found three climbing scales along the walls. Knowing their intent, Jamie ascended the walls with great urgency.
Climbing into the room from the Holdfasts window balcony, Jamie found the three intruders amidst their acts. The Mountain was arguing and pushing his younger brother Sandor, and blood was splattered across his face so much so that the younger Clegane's horrid burns were nearly lost to Jamie's eyes.
It was then that Jamie heard a squeal, and following the noise he found Princess Elia with her three year old daughter held tightly within her arms, and the piggy Ser Amory Lorch was reaching for her arm.
"Protect my children Ser Jamie."
Without thought the White Lion removed Ser Amory from his task and separated him from the hand he'd outreached. His scream was louder than the Princess'.
It was only the scream that brought the Clegane brothers from their heated exchange, and they lifted their blades quickly, but only to set them down once they had realized whom had joined their company.
To Jamie's absolute horror he found a small body laid between them. One that had been deprived of its spacious skull. Prince Aegon, Jamie knew.
I've failed him.
It was then that Jamie felt a tug at his arm, and he returned his gaze to the Dornish Princess and her horrified daughter.
But I haven't failed them.
It was then that Jamie heard a booming Northern voice call out from below the Holdfast.
The news had hit her hard, "Rhaegar lays at rests now." The wild girl had never been one to accept what she disagreed with, and even as she was expecting the birth of her child she threatened to mount her beloved stead in some vain attempt to bring him back to her.
It had been the accepting of her beloveds defeat that brought about the greatest suffering though, especially as his demise had been at the hand of the horrid stag. The Last Dragon Has Fallen.
Arthur had been hard pressed to believe the truth of it when the White Bull had told him, but the Black Bat seal of Ser Oswell's lordly brother meant the news came from a reliable source.
It had also been the Lord Commanders idea for Ser Arthur to be the breaker of news. "You're the closest to her, and truly Rheagar's greatest friend. The task should fall to you."
And it was a thankless task, one that Arthur desperately wished upon someone else, but reason had over took him and he'd seen the deed to completion.
The truth proved too much.
The Rightful Queen had been so incensed by her beloved's demise that she'd entered into labor. Arthur had been at her side when her water had broken, and he'd done his best to carry her to the birthing chambers.
Though Arthur could tell that she was distressed, he had no idea the truth of her state.
The maids had pushed him to leave, and though he'd resisted at first the sudden onrush of midwifes thrust the Sword of the Morning from the room.
Once he'd been cast from the tower Arthur was greeted by his sworn brothers. "The greatest knights in the realm have no place in that room."
The White Bull saw that his jest had been unwelcome, and instead came to Arthur, placing a hand upon the Dayne knights shoulder, and he spoke softer words.
"Swords shed blood not stop its flow. We shall stand guard out here till the babes birth."
From those words Arthur realized that even the unflappable White Bull has been shaken, that even his unquestioned certainty had been torn asunder by the events that they had been absent from.
Ser Oswell could not maintain his vague composure to the extent of his fellow brothers, and he began to shed a few tears for the oaths they had sworn to uphold.
"We should have been there with him. To revel in his victory or to have died by his side, that should have been our fate."
The words stung as true statements tend to do, but Arthur had neither the desire nor strength to refute his statement. Yet the White Bull saw fit to dig his heels.
"Our Prince wanted us here" He pointed to the tower, "That's our reason, That's our purpose now. What's done is done, we couldn't save Rhaegar, his eldest children were confined to the Red Keep and Prince Viserys is most likely on Dragonstone with Queen Rhaella and she's heavy with child as well, but we have neither a ship or a place to set sail from."
The Hightower knight turned from Arthur to face Ser Oswell.
"So we are where we are for a reason. This babe could be all that remains to the royal family."
When Ser Oswell refused to answer the White Bull became enraged.
"Do you remember who our duty is too?"
Many such harsh words had been shared between the Sworn Brothers of the Kingsguard over the past few years. King Aerys cruelty to the Queen had been of particular interest to all involved, with the most disturbed having been Arthur and the White Lion.
Yet even more recently, the Kings dishonorable treatment of Lord Rickard Stark and his heir Brandon had caused a ruckus amongst the sworn brothers. "The world is not black and white but the cloaks we wear are only one color."
What can a sworn man do when those he vowed to protect have become tyrannical?
Ser Oswell had been particularly outspoken against enabling the Kings ever deepening cruelty, but Ser Gerold had always maintained control of his brothers. But now it seemed that Ser Oswell had finally regained his tongue.
"Of course I remember, but I can't help wondering whether gaining that child is worth losing the babes father."
Ser Oswell left their company abruptly, and despite the White Bulls loud protesting, he did not return. Instead taking to his guard from atop a vantage point along the mountainous terrain. No doubt his thoughts upon the Fallen Prince.
Rhaegar had been beloved by all around him, and particularly so by his sworn guardians, and he had in life admired and appreciated them. Even going so far as to value their advice, but not even they could impose their better judgement against his will.
Ever since it had happened Arthur had thought about what could've been if only he'd had a stabler grip upon his mount. Harrenhal had been the first step towards rebellion, the outrage shared amongst so many Great Houses had been unfortunate, but Rhaegar whisking Lyanna away from her forced betrothal had proved to be the calling card for war.
The Usurper has won, and they'll sing of his triumph for a thousand years, but they'll never know the truth. Rhaegar loved Lyanna, and Lyanna adored Rhaegar.
Lyanna had confessed as much to Arthur during their time in hiding together. She spoke of how she'd been entranced by his harp, but only after learning the true identity of the Knight of the Laughing Tree had their feelings become mutual. She spoke of how they valued each other more than anyone else ever had. She said she'd found a depth to Rhaegar that he'd allowed none other to be hold, and he realized the freedom she required to maintain her happiness.
They were the perfect couple, but there time had proven short.
Lyanna herself had been very upbeat and joyous after she'd learned of her pregnancy, and her caring nature extended more so than ever before. The local townsfolk had little idea as to the true identity of the newly settled nobles, but Lyanna had ensured her presence in such a place would never be forgotten. To the people of the lands she had been kinder than any commoner could have imagined, spreading wealth, food, medicine and clothing. Offering positions around the tower to those in need of work, and genuinely being an absolute pack leader.
Yet despite her wolf heritage the only time she had bared her fangs was when Arthur had saw fit to ask about her formerly betrothed. Never had he heard such foul language from such a pleasant woman. It had been then that Arthur had come to appreciate just how truly special Lyanna was.
The woman a war was fought for. Though Arthur knew that Rhaegar had tried desperately to explain his actions, that he'd set Princess Elia aside through a lawful and agreed upon annulment of their marriage, and that he'd sworn before the High Septon his love for the She-Wolf. Prince Rhaegar had even gone so far as to kneel before a heart tree and claim Lyanna under a full moon.
"Riders, Coming from the North" Ser Oswell bellowed from his vantage point.
"How many?" The White Bull commanded forgetting instantly their former dispute.
"Seven, all mounted. They carry the Stark banner."
The Lord Commander risked a moment for thought, but bellowed back to his sworn brother.
"Get down here, We are going to greet them steel in hand."
As Ser Oswell began his descent as the White Bull began to strap on his outermost layers. Arthur had already been fully immersed within his armor, and he kept his legendary sword sheathed within his scabbard. Ser Oswell returned and the Lord Commander ended his armoring and with the fastening of their white cloaks the Kingsguard declared the war unfinished.
The riders were now visible, but the distance allowed for thought, and Ser Arthur Dayne spent it upon the man he knew was coming. He'd heard all about Honorable Ned Stark, Ashara seemed to rave over the boy as if he truly were a white wolf,
Yet she was love struck and pregnant with a child, one gifted by the foremost rider.
As they approached their figures became clearer, and Lord Eddard had indeed been amongst them, his icy grey eyes astonished at the company set out before him. At his side rode the skinny crannogman who'd been with them at Harrenhal. Ser Arthur was unfamiliar with the five other men but their brooches were indicative of their houses sigil.
The two rusted long axes spoke to one man being of House Dustin, while the mailed fist of House Glover was upon another. A black horse head marked the rider of the black stallion. The bucket of House Wull and the Ten white Direwolves of House Cassel were the furthest from Ser Arthur.
"We looked for you on the Trident." Ned Stark spoke from his saddle. "We wondered why you weren't there to protect your prince." He finished with undue courtesy.
"We weren't there." The White Bull saw fit to respond, but the words proved to be inadequate for Ser Oswell.
"If we had The Usurper would rest beneath the ground."
"I gave him every courtesy he was due, I'm sure you'll be happy to hear we gave him the proper Targaryen funeral rights."
"And what of the King? Was he spared from such mutilation?" Ser Oswell interjected
"Your King would've burned the entirety of Kings Landing if not for Jamie Lannister."
That rumor had also reached the three white knights. Their sworn brother had betrayed his oath and plunged his sword into King Aerys.
For the first time since Lyanna had went into labor Arthur felt compelled to speak.
"What of our sworn brother? Has he truly soiled the White Cloak?"
"Ser Jamie did what had to be done, I found him aloft in Maegor's Holdfast, he'd been in his golden armor, and aye he'd worn his cloak, but he'd managed to save Rhaegar's daughter Princess Rhaenys and his wife Elia Martell."
His wife? If only you knew Lord Stark.
Ser Oswell seemed quite taken aback but it was Ser Gerold who asked the difficult question.
"And Little Prince Aegon?"
Ned Stark frowned at that, He's dead, Arthur didn't hear the words so much as he felt their sting.
The unwelcome party began to dismount when suddenly the screams of Lyanna filled the air, her struggle now apparent to all within earshot.
"Where is my sister?" The Northern Lord asked as he gazed upon the Tower.
Prince Stannis Baratheon
Robert had envisioned the capturing of Dragonstone would be a long and delayed process, and as such the newly declared King had no interest in the endeavor and just like the holding of Storm's End, the task had fallen to his eldest younger brother.
Stannis had answered his brothers call to war, deciding that his loyalty to his elder brother was stronger than to the King, and now he found himself just offshore from the accursed Targaryen fortress.
Luck had befallen Stannis for the first time in his life, the surrender of the Tyrells had given him access to the Redwyne Fleet, and with them he could properly apply pressure to the island stronghold. But even more conspicuously the night previous had provided unprecedented opportunity.
Storms unlike even Stannis had witnessed befell the islands rocky shores, and upon its cliffs the Royal Fleet smashes and splintered until only a few great war ships remained afloat. The garrison would be unlikely to mount a proper resistance and was most likely to surrender the moment Stannis gained a foothold upon the beach head.
Though, it had not all been luck. Stannis had indeed had a secret weapon. His new right hand, the newly knighted Ser Davos Seaworth had again proven his quality, having quietly towed himself and a small select few into the harbor under the dead of night and amidst the lightest rains of the storms. Stannis himself had accompanied despite reasonable conjecture, but through his stubborn persistence they had attained success and the fleets many ships found themselves without anchor whilst the storms raged.
"Take the castle and bring me the Targaryen boy."
Robert had always been hard to please, and he'd never been one to give thanks. But this would be the day, and though Stannis cared little for his brothers approval, it would be welcome praise.
As willing as his elder brother was to share his love and favor to the many whores of Kings Landing, he'd never shared such love towards his younger brothers.
Maybe the pain of losing their parents had been to much for Robert, but he forgets that I was there with him that day. That I stood atop those same battlements and watched our parents meet their horrid end. Did he ever care? I had been younger than him, and I was the one who had to stay. Robert had been fostered to Jon Arryn and such remained the case when young Robert had become the Storm Lord.
Yet Stannis had remained at Storm's End, holding it much like he would in latter years, for his brother. Little Renly had remained by his side during the worst of it, and there had been many nights during the siege that Stannis had gone hungry in favor of his younger brother receiving a meal. They'd grown beyond any childhood resentment, perhaps even towards a semblance of brotherhood, but Robert had remained astray from the herd.
"We are about to make landfall Prince Stannis" said a voice that could belong only to The Onion Knight.
Shoving his deep seeded feelings aside for the moment Stannis responded.
"Very good Ser Davos, I'll have you made a lord after this endeavor has been completed."
The Onion Knight blushed in gratitude and embarrassment at his good fortunes.
"You're too kind Prince Stannis."
"I'd still have had your fingers Ser Davos, if not for my brothers insistence that any past crimes of your doing have been forgotten and forgiven."
"It was a reasonable request, I understand that one good act doesn't wash out the bad, but to be perfectly honest I'm glad I'll still be able to clean my finger nails."
For some unascertainable reason Stannis found himself beginning to regard this smuggler as a friend. He was unusual company but twice now he'd proven his worth.
It was the Onion Knight who came upon the Island first, with Stannis following second. They found the beaches empty and suspected they'd been abandoned in favor of the defendable fortress.
Yet as Stannis approached the Castle with siege equipment in tow he discovered that the battlements were not manned, the island had been practically abandoned in the dead of night.
The greater gate had proven difficult to open, but no other had provided resistance. As the Baratheon force entered the former Targaryen seat it became apparent that all remaining inhabitants had finally surrendered after a few months of holding out.
Because a surprise ambush could not be ruled out all male inhabitants were seized and put the the sword at Stannis' command.
Ser Davos had tried to speak mercy, but Stannis decided he would have none of it.
"These men have denied my brothers kingship, and they have refused to admit defeat. Ser Davos you raise men to their feet when they bend their knees, but if a man will only kneel once his head has been removed then so be it."
They parted without speaking and Stannis paid the Onion Knight no further thought, instead he began to search the remnants of the household.
The once great seat to the Royal Heir had been ransacked, with nearly anything of value having been taken during the night. The absence of a prolonged defense meant the Targaryens has eluded him. Robert will not be pleased.
Stannis had nearly abandoned his dreams of brotherly reconciliation and of ruling Storm's End, when a servant girl came before him. Stannis' guard and good-uncle Ser Axell Florent had rose to his Princes defense and swatted the girl with the flat of his blade.
The girl fell to her knees and was then searched for any weaponry, and only when none could be found did Stannis allow her to explain her actions and those of the escaping Targaryen loyalist.
"They made off in the night m'lord."
"The man standing before you is Prince Stannis Baratheon, heir to his grace King Robert, and you will give him his proper title." Ser Axell snapped at the girl
"My apologize m'lo...my Prince."
Stannis was certain Ser Axell was going to behead the girl, but Stannis dismissed his good-uncle and continued the interrogation minus his presence.
"They said she wouldn't be born, or that she'd be weak and not last long at sea. But the Queen fought and pushed, but she just wouldn't come out. Finally they decided they had to leave without her. They set sail just as the storm began to wind down."
Who had fled and where they had went would be questions for another time, They could be anywhere within a few hours of here and in any number of directions. Yet there was still something that Stannis could do.
So it was that Stannis came into the Targaryen nursery and beheld the small silver haired girl, and her violet eyes flashed at him unknowingly. The nurses in the room begged for his mercy, they'd seen what he'd done to the remainder of the garrison.
"Where is her mother?" He asked of the gathered nurses. A newborn child's cry would be equivalent to a death sentence at sea, but surely no mother would abandon her child to ensure her own salvation.
"She died in childbed m'lord."
Stannis was unsure of the claims validity until the remaining servants provided him with Queen Rhaella's body, and she was still bloody from the terrible fight she had been put through.
The Onion Knight had at last rejoined Stannis, and it was he who asked what should be done with the former Queen.
"She died a Targaryen Queen, let her have the honors of one."
With that the men accompanying Stannis set about began to build a pyre for her final rights. As it was being built he distracted himself from the most immediate question by asking himself another.
Would Robert have given her such a luxury? When Lord Eddard had lifted the siege he'd brought news of the Battle of Trident and how Robert had slain his wife stealing cousin in single combat. Yet Robert had been too injured to deface Prince Rhaegar further than caving in his chest, and instead Lord Stark had provided Rhaegar the accustomed funeral rights, to which Robert had later protested. Apparently he'd been intent to make a drinking cup from Rhaegar's skull.
Stannis was all to happy to prevent the former Queens body from being similarly mutilated, but he was deeply worried about what Roberts irrational hatred of Targaryens would force them into.
Peace had been carefully managed upon a tenuous thread by Lord Jon Arryn. He'd convinced Robert that keeping Ser Barristan Selmy amongst the knights of the Kingsguard was a good move to validate his reign. Jon had also managed to keep Robert from finishing the job the Clegane brothers and Amory Lorch had started, instead allowing the Princess Rhaenys and her mother Elia Martell to return to Dorne without further molestation. The surviving Prince Lewyn Martell had also been accepted into Roberts Kingsguard as a gesture of good faith, but Robert had stubbornly refused to apologize for the death of Prince Aegon.
And how could he? The boys presence alone was a threat to his rule, and if Robert had been granted his way the former Princess wouldn't have much of a skull either. But she'd been spared mostly due to her Dornish mother and appearance.
Yet now as Stannis held baby Daenerys in his arms he wondered if Robert would offer the silver haired babe the same fate. The precedent of preferred male succession had been established before by previous Targaryen Kings, and by that logic Robert was heir to the throne regardless. Perhaps Stannis could convince his elder brother the girl meant nothing so long as Robert, Renly and himself drew breath. The male line is dead save the disgraced Viserys.
"What are you going to do with that baby girl Prince Stannis." A voice said with clear caution and preventative intent. Stannis turned and found that it had been the Onion Knight who had spoken up once more.
Stannis hadn't quite figured that out himself, but as she cast her violet eyes up towards his face he felt a great wave of pity wash over him.
This girl won't have a mother or a father. The realization of their similar struggles solidified Stannis' resolve.
"She will live."
The Onion Knight breathed a sigh of relief, but the battle was not over.
"So long as I can convince Robert."
Again Davos balanced between reason and outrage.
"You'd let him murder an innocent little girl? One who's your second cousin by blood?"
The Onion Knight's intention was pure but his insolence made Stannis grit his teeth.
"Kinship didn't stop Robert from shedding Rhaegar's blood, and regardless he is my elder brother, and he is the King." Stannis sighed before continuing.
"But I won't have her blood on my hands."
Stannis said through gritted teeth, and he walked towards Ser Davos as he did.
"Here, why don't you hold her for a bit. Her hair is quite soft." Stannis said as he handed the baby girl off and began to walk away, having finally passed a problem off to someone else, even if only just for a little while.
Lord Eddard Stark
The Lord of Winterfell was aware of what he was returning too. Ned knew that he hadn't parted with Robert on good terms. The brotherly pair had proven different in many aspects.
Particularly in their treatment of fallen enemies.
Robert had wanted to further mutilate Prince Rhaegar upon the Trident, but his injuries had been to great for him to partake in the funeral. Instead it had fallen to Ned, and he'd given the fallen dragon his proper final rights.
Just like she'd have wanted.
His heart became heavy with thoughts of his younger sister and the promise she'd coerced from her big brother.
The babe in his arms smiled up at him now. The Rightful Heir. "King Aemon Targaryen, First of his Name," she'd said with her final breath. Despite being named in his fathers tradition, the baby favored the Stark look.
His eyes glared back icy grey so dark they were almost black, and he bore curly dark brown hair upon his head.
The gods have blessed this child, he might yet live.
If he'd been born with silver hair and violet eyes then Ned would have no way to hide his parentage, and he'd truly be unable to claim the boy as his bastard son.
People spoke of the strict honor that Ned held too, but they'd never know the truth. Jon was not the bastard Ned had fathered. No, that babe had remained in the south with the woman he loved, while Ned rode North to the woman he'd married.
Robert had been merciful to the Princess Rhaenys, mostly because Dorne had threatened to restart the war even as peace was finally being achieved. Jamie Lannister, the man so many had begun to name Kingslayer, had truly been peacemaker, as he'd refused to surrender the Princess to anyone save the Prince of Dorne himself.
Ser Jamie had even held fast when his father had commanded surrender, instead telling Lord Tywin the truth of Aerys final command. Through Jamie's warning, Ned had been alerted to the wildfires presence and together with the newly allied Lannister's they'd been able to clear the wildfire caches from the city.
Now Ned Stark found himself returning to the Capitol, a baby boy and Lyanna's remains amongst his retinue.
Of his seven companions only Howland Reed still drew breath, and he rode at Ned's side as they came through the opened gates of Kings Landing. Robert, the newly crowned King, was the first man to greet the arriving party.
As he approached Ned, Roberts eyes combed through the party, hoping beyond reason that she would be riding amidst them, but she was not.
"Where is she?"
Lyanna's bones had been placed on satchel attached to the fallen Lord Dustin's horse. It was to them that Ned took Robert. The sight of her fate brought tears to the brawny mans blue eyes.
"We should bury her somewhere she'd have liked. Perhaps atop a hill will the sun above her."
Ned remembered his sister and knew her far better than Robert ever had. He'd spoke to Lyanna before her disappearance about Robert, but she'd been opposed regardless.
"He doesn't love me."
More like he didn't know you.
"She belongs in Winterfell, with her brother and father."
Robert seemed appalled at the suggestion.
"You'd have her forever confined to such a dark and dreary place?"
"She belongs there, she was a Stark of Winterfell."
Robert soured and his massive physique imposed itself as if he could bully Ned into submission just like he'd done a hundred times at the Eyrie.
"She belonged with Me."
Ned had no answer in return, he'd fought for their betrothal but it had not been what Lyanna had wanted. The union had been so accursed that it's implementation had cost Ned his father, elder brother and younger sister.
Instead the pair stood in silence and each man mourned the woman who had been lost. Only after hearing a baby's giggle did Robert change his focus from his lost love.
"My gods Ned! He looks as if your spitting image."
Ned needed to be careful here, and so through gritted teeth he exposed his true shame.
"The child is mine."
Robert was immediately taken aback,
"You, a bastard father? I don't believe it."
Yet when Ned failed to speak the pain he honestly bore proved enough for Robert.
"Gods Ned I'd have never thought I'd live to see the day."
His friends jest made Ned desperately wish to strike him, but that would be ill received now that Robert had been crowned King. Especially so now that some other members of the Royal court had begun to gather around the Lord of Winterfell.
"What's his name?" The King asked with great glee.
"I've named him Jon, after the only father I have left."
Jon Arryn had been amongst the gathering contingent, and Robert saw fit to congratulate him on his namesake.
"Jon Sand is it then?"
Others mentioned that if the babe had been born in Dorne like they'd heard then that made him a Sand by law, but Ned had again gritted his teeth and unveiled the strength of his voice.
"He's my blood, and mine is of the North, he is a Snow."
Robert silenced all others in attempt to placate his dear friend.
"Fine so be it, it's just a formality Ned. I'm the King now though, ask for it and he shall be a bastard no longer."
Ned gritted through his teeth, The life of a bastard was undoubtedly difficult and was the last thing Ned had never wished to force upon a child.
This child is no bastard, but if it had been the other babe...
Ned could not bring himself to answer, and in that moment of silence Roberts younger brother, Prince Stannis stepped forward.
Ned had heard then news that Stannis had swiftly taken Dragonstone, and in return Robert had named him Lord of Storms End.
"Your Grace" he called forth, and Ned noticed that the Prince also held a babe within his arms.
Yet from her silver hair and violet eyes Ned Stark could tell that this child had not been fathered by Stannis.
Robert turned to accommodate his brothers call, but contempt quickly took over his gaze.
"What have you brought before me brother?" The rage upon Roberts voice clearly etched upon Ned's mind.
He is berated at the girls presence, he can never know the truth.
"You sent me to secure the island fortress. Dragonstone is now yours. You sent me to capture the last Targaryens, Viserys was smuggled away before my arrival. The girl had been born the night before, but at the cost of her mother."
"And so you bring the Dragon Spawn here instead of feeding her to the Narrow Sea?"
Prince Stannis was clearly offended by his elder brothers lack of sensitivity towards their own parents demise.
"Her name is Daenerys and her blood will not be upon my hands big brother, but as you are my King I've brought her before you as you commanded."
He offered Robert the babe within his arms, but Robert refused the girl.
Robert was incensed that his younger brother had the audacity to place this unwanted task upon himself, but the moment gave opportunity to others in their midst.
The High Septon called for the girl to be submitted to the faith, Ser Jamie Lannister advocated for her safety while his father Lord Tywin called for the girls execution, and it was he whom Ned heard above all others.
"As long as she draws breath your reign shall be undermined Your Grace."
Ned couldn't help but speak on the girls behalf,
"Princess Rhaenys was spared, why should this girl not receive the same luxury."
Tywin Lannister turned to face the Lord of Winterfell, disdain clearly written across his face.
"I was not consulted upon that matter, but upon this one I intend to be heard Lord Stark."
Ned was stunned by the Former Hands tenacity, so much so that he returned to his silent state, yet it was Jon Arryn who provided an acceptable agreement.
"My Lords, the answer is clear and obvious. Peace is upon us, let it prevail. Lord Tywin, long have you desired to see your daughter wed into the crown, and now the opportunity is yours."
Neds foster father turned from Lord Tywin to the King, "Robert, I know this is not what you had wished for, but in the interest of maintaining the Throne and securing peace around the realm, I suggest you consider a marriage pact between yourself and Lord Tywin's daughter Cersei."
Ser Jamie burst from the gathered crowd, seemingly disgusted at the suggestion that his sister would be wed to a man willing to kill a helpless babe.
Robert did not answer at first, instead he stood shocked that the notion had even been brought forth. The beauty of Cersei Lannister was well circulated amongst the men of the Seven Kingdoms, but Ned knew she wasn't the woman Robert had wanted.
Yet seeing as he had not dismissed it out of hand Ned figured that such a union would at least be given serious contemplation.
Jon Arryn walked over to Ned and gazed upon his namesake.
"He's a beautiful boy" Jon said as he rubbed the babes face.
"And you honor me with his naming. He should be right at home with his elder half-brother."
Elder half-brother? Ned had spent but a single night with Lord Hosters daughter and was not privy to the news of her being with child.
Jon then turned back to face his other fostered son.
"In recognition of Lord Starks unfailing loyalty to you Your Grace, I'd ask that the boy be granted his own house and keep upon his coming of age."
Though Ned was unsure of the proposition, Robert agreed without hesitation.
"It's the least I could do, short of legitimizing your boy."
Jon Arryn then turned to face Prince Stannis and the young Targaryen girl he held within his arms.
"I'd also request that my namesake be betrothed to this Daenerys Stormborn."
The High Septon screamed in defiance and outrage, Robert seemed immediately disgusted, and Lord Tywin seemed callous but understanding.
"Are you mad Jon? She can't be wed to anyone!"
"Your Grace, who better to trust with the girl than your dearest friend?"
Robert thought to put up further protest, but Jon nixed such notions much like he had in their youth.
"Only by disgracing her with an arranged marriage to a bastard can we ensure that she never receives support sufficient to rebel against you."
This time Grand Maester Pycelle interceded, reminding all that a Septa takes no husband if her painless demise would be considered no further. Robert seemed convinced to the idea.
"Robert, if the girl is married to the faith who is to say she won't be stolen away in the night by some Targaryen loyalist? Whisked off to some far away corner of Essos where she could be used as a bartering chip in her brothers pursuit of alliance."
Robert still seemed uncertain, and Ned knew his friend just wished for the matter to be settled. Deciding the fate of a new born girl was not something he had expected to be part of his duty as the newly crowned King.
"No one has lost more than Young Eddard, Prove your charity as a King and reward his loyalty with trust."
Robert relented from his downward stare and instead met Neds icy northern glare. As close as Brothers, that was how Jon had raised them, and they had indeed grown to think of each other as such.
"Very well, as King I declare that Lord Eddard's bastard son Jon Snow shall be wed to this Daenerys upon her first flowering."
Aunt and Nephew, such a union was unnatural. Yet the Targaryens has practiced brother and sister incest to keep their genes pure, and the practice had even been known to Aerys and Rhaella, so it was not so outrages a thought.
However, people spoke of this accursed union as the Dragons bane. Could she be cursed with her fathers madness? The notion was chilling but it led to an ever darker thought.
Would little Aemon be afflicted by his grandfathers illness?
Ned looked down at the boy he held in his arms. Promise Me, you'll protect him.
So it was that even though Ned knew that Prince Aemon Targaryen and Princess Daenerys Targaryen were nephew and aunt, the realm would know them only as husband and wife.
I Promise Lyanna.
There must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Benjen had spent his days pondering how many Starks had said those words, and upon how many brothers and sisters had been excluded because of the long hallowed phrase.
Ravens from the South revealed the war had ended and peace restored across the realm. They spoke of the great deeds and tragedies that befell Benjens elder siblings, yet no songs would be sung for the youngest wolf.
He cared little for honor and glory, instead all that he desired was for things to have been as they should have been.
Ned had written word that he had found Lyanna laying in a pool of blood, and the news of her death had only done more damage to his conscious.
He knew the role he had played in his families suffering, he knew that she had wed Rhaegar for love, and he knew she was with child.
The little squire to the Knight of the Laughing Tree. No one had ever asked who the squire had been.
Amongst his brothers Benjen had always been the closest to Lyanna. Brandon had grown apart from the pack, too often riding along the Rills of the North and concerning himself only with the bedding of noble women. Ned had similarly been absent the few years prior to the wars outbreak, having been fostered at the Eyrie.
That left only Lyanna and Benjen. It hadn't been much but they'd ridden together, and though he had struggled to keep up, Benjen could always be found at her side.
The She-Wolf, The Winter Rose. No one will forget her beauty nor the war that was fought for her. Yet no one will have truly known her.
Those thoughts only made the pain more real, and Benjen had half a mind to join the Nights Watch so he could hide his great shame, but when he'd written of such a notion Ned had asked only that Benjen remain in Winterfell until Ned could return home.
So it was that Benjen found himself stood atop Winterfell's outermost wall, anxiously expecting his elder brothers return.
As the sun reached its midday climax, the grey direwolf broke the skyline. Benjen left the battlements and returned to the main courtyard in anticipation of the parties arrival.
When his brother finally rode into the courtyard Benjen couldn't help but feel a certain weight being relieved from him. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell, but the Pack has at last returned.
The Lord of Winterfell had been mounted atop Lyanna's horse, and he pulled behind him a steed that could only belong to a Prince. The last remnants of his sister and her lover nearly brought tears to his eyes.
As Ned dismounted from their sisters horse Benjen ran over to his side to welcome his last sibling home. Their embrace brought warmth back to Winterfell for the first time since the spring had proven false.
Yet despite the joy of their reunion, Benjen noticed that Neds eyes were heavy with burden.
"What is it brother?"
"We shall talk of it soon, I promise" Ned said with no glee upon his face.
"Until then I'd have you meet the family."
Several new faces had traveled amongst his elder brothers retinue, chief amongst them was the new Lady of Winterfell.
"Lady Catelyn, this is my brother Benjen."
The southern lady gave a modest curtsy to her good-brother.
"It is a pleasure to meet you my Lady, and it does my heart good to see the Stark name given a new generation."
The woman hid behind a fake smile, but she presented the now year old boy that she had kept held so tightly to her breast.
"His name is Robb."
Benjen tried his best to hide his disappointment at the young boys appearance. From the look of him he'd favored his mother's Tully genes. The boy they'd named in honor of Neds dear friend and new King had been born with blue eyes, too bright to be Stark grey, and his hair was hair was more red than brown.
As Benjen examined his new nephew Lady Catelyn had stolen glances at him and perhaps she had noted that Robb was the only Stark to not have the preeminent look of one.
He is my nephew and heir to Winterfell. Benjen did not allow his looks to become a source of contempt. Some wolves are born white, some grey, perhaps one could resemble a trout.
Benjen leaned in and planted a gentle kiss atop the baby's forehead, followed by a kiss to his good-sisters outstretched hand.
"My lady, you have a beautiful boy and I'm so glad to have finally become an uncle."
She was taken aback by his kind words, perhaps she had thought us Northerners savages beyond reproach.
Regardless, Ned asked for pardons from his lady and the brothers parted from her and the boy Robbs company. Ned led the way and brought Benjen back to Lyanna's horse, and on her side was all that remained of their sister.
Her remains were the only ones to return to Winterfell. Brandon and Father... Benjen might have been stuck in Winterfell but he was not unaware of the tragedies that befell their family.
"She'd appreciated you bringing Rhaegar's horse."
"I couldn't get the beast to stop following us, seems he walked all the way from Dorne to be with her."
The horse had been neither ridden nor lead? The tale was a testament to the depth of their riders love, yet Benjen forgot all about her once Ned revealed her remains.
Benjen let loose the tenuous grip he'd kept on his tears, and they now flowed with sorrow and anguish.
I love him Ben, and I'm going to be with him.
"I am going to have a stature made for her."
Benjen looked at his elder brother and realized that he'd outgrown him during their separation. Would I have stood above Brandon? The thought brought another tear.
"Ar...Are you sure? I'm not one to preach tradition, especially as it pertains to her."
"Aye, I'm sure. Brandon will have one and so will father."
Long had the crypts belonged to the Kings of Winter, and the Lords of Winterfell who followed after them. Lord Rickard would not find himself out of place, but Brandon had been only heir and Lyanna...
Benjen had felt the judging glares of his ancestors and he wondered if they'd be welcoming to his dearly departed brother and sister.
"That is not all I have brought brother."
Benjen looked over to Ned who had begun unlatching the satchel he'd placed atop Rhaegar's horse. Walking over to his brothers side Ned bid his younger brother follow him.
Together they walked to the Crypts entrance, Benjen found himself carrying Lyanna's remains while Ned carried the satchel. Benjen felt the eyes glare upon him as soon as they entered.
They walked a short ways before arriving at the tomb that had been designated for their generation. Kneeling, Benjen placed his sisters remains into their resting place.
After bidding his sister farewell Ned placed the satchel in front of Benjen and bid his younger brother to discover its contents for himself.
As he dug through the assortment of items he noted several pieces of parchment, two wedding cloaks, and a harp. Their last possessions.
Ned handed Benjen a parchment that he'd kept separate from the remainder of the bundle. Benjen recognized the letter because he had been the one who wrote it.
Benjen didn't have to defend himself, especially to someone who didn't understand, but as he looked at the melting ice in Ned's eyes, Benjen could not deny his brother the truth.
Ned began to sour upon his younger brother, shutting down towards him as if the whole bloody war had been Benjens doing.
"No one could have stoped Lyanna from doing what she did."
"And now she's gone."
"She was my sister too, and she did what she did for love."
Ned kept quite at that, and now there was something that he was not sharing.
"There...there was a child...she made me promise too..."
Benjen didn't let his brother finish his stuttering statement, instead he grabbed his brothers shoulders with a tight grip.
"Where is the babe?"
"He's...he's here. I've brought him to Winterfell where he belongs."
A son. Benjen now understood the importance of Neds secrecy.
"What are we going to do? He's the heir to the throne, the rightful ki..."
"Robert is the King now, he took the crown and...that boy is my son now."
"You, a bastard child?" Benjen said with obvious disbelief, yet for some reason his elder brother seemed to reel from the accusation as if he knew what that pain would feel like.
"You've been out of the loop to long brother. I see that now."
Benjen was unsure of the meaning to his point but his elder brother continued regardless, the depth of the crypts masking their exposed secrecy.
"The baby was born Aemon Targaryen, but he will be Jon Snow to the rest of the world."
"The secret is safe with me, let's go to him. I'd like to see the family resemblance."
Now it was Ned who grabbed his brother. "He's not the only baby we've brought home, and I don't mean Robb."
So many surprises. Perhaps Ned had brought back more than we have lost.
"And she's not the only one we've gained."
"Former Princess Daenerys Targaryen."
Benjen had to pull his jaw from the cold crypt walkways. A Prince and A Princess in Winterfell. Two of the last dragons remaining to the world in one place.
"Lets go to them."
Again Benjen was restrained by his brother.
"And I have dishonored myself, Jon is not my son but I did leave a babe down in the South."
Benjen again felt guilty once more. If I'd have been anywhere but this castle I might've claimed such a child as my own and sparred Ned the pain he now bore.
"What's her name?"
"Ashara named her Dyanna."
"That's a lovely name Ned."
"And she was such a lovely girl, she had one of her mothers violet eyes."
The eyes that Ned had fallen for at Harrenhal.
With their final secrets shared between the brothers, the wolves of Winterfell left the crypt and went to the nursery where all three children had been placed.
Robb cried as Ned and Benjen walked into the room, but the other to babes did not stir as they entered.
Benjen found that his eyes naturally focused upon the baby girl. Her apparent natural beauty was undeniable and her silver hair and violet eyes were quite the sight.
Yet it was upon his first glance at the boy that Benjen nearly cried once more. His hair was dark brown and his dark grey eyes proved he was every bit his sisters son. A Stark. Benjen strode over to their adjoining cribs and he let his elbows hang over the sides of each as his fingers griped their edges.
"They are to wed once of age."
"What?" Benjen shouted in disbelief.
Aunt and Nephew would be unacceptable in any other family, but to the Targaryens...
"That's something else I must discuss with you Ben. Do you still intend to join the Nights Watch?"
It doesn't matter what I want, I'm needed here.
"No, I'll stay. I wasn't there for Lyanna, but I won't abandon her son."
Ned smiled for the first time since they'd been reunited in the courtyard.
"Good, then I suppose it's time for you to do your duty brother."
"My duty?" Benjen asked unsure as to his meaning.
"Indeed, I've made a match for you. A noble woman whose been wronged by our family for far too long."
Benjen thought he knew of whom Ned spoke, but he did know that Ned had visited the Rills and Barrowton on his way home. Yet Benjen still had to ask to be sure.
"The former Lady of Barrowton, the widowed Barbrey Dustin."
Benjen smiled for his brother, but on the inside he was unsure of a union. He knew her history with the recent generation of wolves, and she was a widow as well, but Benjen did not argue with his brother.
Seems the walls of Winterfell will soon be to bursting once more.
Lady Catelyn Tully
The Lady of Winterfell could hardly believe her luck, the newest addition to the Stark pack was born only a fortnight before the Harvest festival that the Northern houses held so dear, as such the boys naming day had coincided with many Northern Lords making their ways to Winterfell.
The name was a forgone conclusion, Rickon, Catelyn thought. Ned had fought long and hard for the boys name, Too honor the father that was taken. Catelyn had thought to name the young boy after her own father, but surely she would have another chance, she was still young enough to give him at least one more child after all.
Catelyn stared down at the babe that she held so tightly at her breast. Again she'd given birth to a child who favored her Tully look over that of his fathers Stark. The baby's bright blue eyes stared back, and Catelyn stroked the babes auburn curls. Though she desired for him to sleep the babe was stubborn and had a strange temperament and fought her every step of the way, yet eventually he tired himself in his struggle and slept peacefully.
As she sat atop the dais in the crowded main hall of Winterfell Catelyn realized the quickness of the past few years. It seems half a lifetime since the War. That was when she'd given birth to her first babe, Robb, the beautiful boy sat to his fathers right as befit his place as heir, and at twelve years of age he was closer to being a man, but Catelyn remembered better the babe he had been.
A single night of passion with her lord husband had led to his conception, it had been Catelyns duty to give her husband an heir, and she'd more than achieved that feat, she'd given him a spare and another. Along with two beautiful daughters.
While Rickon was at her breast Catelyns daughters sat at her own left, Sansa the perfect image of a proper southern lady and Arya...Well she had to much of her uncle in her.
Catelyn had not known Brandon or Lyanna for long, but after all the years and the many stories she'd heard and what she'd seen with her own eyes, it would be impossible to mistake the wolf's blood.
In the years Catelyn had spent in the North she'd seen more of that wolfs blood than she'd ever imagined. In Riverrun she'd heard rumors about Brandon's nocturnal activities, but she'd not really known what to think about the Northern brood, after all they worshiped different gods and thought the Nights Watch an honorable fate for second and third sons.
She looked down once more to little Rickon,
That will not be his destiny,
Catelyn then changed the focus of her gaze,
Maybe it was a fate for a bastard.
She eyed him hard, he was sat at a lower table on the ground level below the dais beside his silver headed betrothed and the ironborn hostage. The former princess was scorched next to him and they were joking about something, laughing and giggling, while the ironborn drank ale as was his right as an adult.
Ned pulled her attention from his bastard by beginning the ceremony.
"Lord Benjen and Lady Barbrey Stark of Sea Dragon Point and their children Cregan and Lysara" The Guest Receiver bellowed.
Lord and Lady of Sea Dragon Point. Catelyn's good-brother and sister were Lords in name only as of now, their castle had not yet been completed and it would require sufficient strength as a stronghold to repel any stray ironborn raiders.
Even though their Rebellion had ended only a few years ago the North had found that Lord Balon was ruler of the entirety of the Islands but not the commander of each ship. Catelyn had grown up with her lord father Hoster having to aid his bannermen in repelling their raiders, and so she had grown to not think anything impossible of those people, but her motherhood had taught her something else.
Lord Balon would not condone such raids with his three sons held hostage.
Behind her Lord husbands brother walked their children. Cregan had now seen ten name days and his younger sister Lysara had seen eight. Arya nearly bolted from her seat atop the dais when she noticed them, but Catelyn had been able to grip her arm before she could be off.
"You'll see them later dear."
With those words Arya sat back down, though her frustration and disappointment was written clearly across her long face, the face of a Stark.
Catelyn wondered if their shared features were what endeared Arya so to her first cousins. She alone of Catelyn's brood had such features but between Benjen and Barbery's children such traits were prevalent and apparent. Dark Hair and Grey Eyes, that is the look of a Stark.
The couple and their children decide that they'd honor the bastards table with their presence and they drew seats, Catelyn felt herself getting angry and tried her best to conceal her contempt. "There are times you must be a Lady" her father had told her once upon a time.
"Master at Arms, Ser Roderick Cassel and his daughter Lady Beth."
Ser Roderick held his daughters hand and lead the six year old girl before the dais and he gave a humble bow before scurrying his daughter to an empty table that had been prepared for the court members of Winterfell.
After them came several more of the lesser members of the court including the master of horses and his son, or at least the boy he believed was his son.
Hullen had dark hair, that much was true, but his son had icy grey eyes, the eyes of a Stark, Catelyn had immediately decided that he was not good Hullen's son, but instead the bastard son of the deceased Brandon.
Following them came the noble guard to the Lord of Winterfell, amongst them was the Captain of the Guard, Ser Jory Cassel and a certain dark brown haired boy named Alyn, who'd also been born with the cold Stark flavoring.
Catelyn had been unsure if Ser Jory was his fathers son, but Ned had assured her that the boy had been born before Brandon had taken anyone's wife to bed, but her Lord husband had been unable to deny his brothers blood in young Alyn and so had made him the youngest member of his guard and had aided in his raising personally.
"Steward Vayon Poole and his daughter Lady Jeyne."
The girl and her father entered the court and stopped before the dais to pay their respect to their Lord, Lady and their new son. As they did Robb looked the young girl over with eyes that spoke to a childhood crush.
You can't have her dear, she's closer than you think.
She'd told Ned what the girls grey eyes revealed, but he'd insisted upon keeping her true parentage a secret. "Vayon is a good man and loyal. He has but one child from his departed love. Let him keep the girl and his memory."
With the household introduced the guests began to be filtered into the Great Hall. Many of the lords that had made their way to Winterfell had been guests for weeks but others were only just now arriving.
"Master Helman of House Tallhart, at his side are his children Benfred and Eddara. Accompanying them, Master Helman's younger brother Leobald Tallhart and his children Brandon and Beren."
Catelyn breathed a sigh of relief as they entered for they bore with them no prominent features of the wolfs blood.
"Master Galbert Glover. He is accompanied by his younger brother Robett and his newly wed wife, Lady Sybelle formerly of House Locke."
They were well received by the Lord of Winterfell and so were quickly seated next to the Tallharts.
"Lord Ondrow of House Locke, accompanied by his son and heir Donnel."
Catelyn recognized Old Lord Locke and his son but she'd forgotten why people spoke of him so. He was so elderly that most his teeth had long since left him and he needed his sons aid in being received but he showed his fealty by himself. Old but fierce, such is the way required by the harsh North.
In the South where a knights skill with a blade determined his worth, age might've been a sign of weakness amongst men, but in the North the number of winters a man had counted determined his fierceness and quality.
The elderly man and his son took seat at the side of the Glovers, and the younger of the two embraced the newly wed Sybelle. Was she his daughter? Or cousin? Is he too young to be a grandfather?
Catelyn decided that she could not be sure, she had done all she could to learn the houses of the North since the time of her marriage but it seemed there were too many names and not enough information.
"Lord Halys of House Hornwood, his lady wife Donella and their son Daryn."
The boy had really sprouted since the last time he'd been presented before her, he was about two years Robbs elder and Catelyn had spoken to Ned about him being a possible marriage candidate for Sansa, but her husband had insisted that he would wait a few more years before making such a decision.
Catelyn has questioned him on that, she'd tried to explain the importance of ensuring his bannermens loyalty but he'd only smirked and told her that things were different in the North. Catelyn had since found that the houses of the North were far more loyal to the former Kings of Winter than the Riverlords were to the Tully's, who'd never been Kings and had only been raised to prominence by Aegon the Conqueror.
"Lord Roderick of House Ryswell. He is accompanied by his sons Roger, Rickard and Roose."
The lord made straight for his liege and showed his respects and then acknowledged his daughter before he made his way to his seat beside Lord Halys. The sons remained for a moment longer at the bastard table, intent upon reuniting with their eldest sister and spending some time with her Stark children.
"Lord Roose of House Bolton, at his side is his lady wife Bethany and their son Domeric."
The sight of the Bolton's was a ghastly one. Bethany seemed mindless as she strode closer to the dais, she did not blink until she had halfway crossed the Great Hall, and it was only the sight of siblings from House Ryswell that broke her free. She stopped to greet them before being turned around by her lord husband and with only a glare she returned to her formerly mindless state.
Their son had never disrupted his approach and so he arrived to the dais first, he carried a blood rose in his hand, the kind that only grew in the barren gardens of the Dreadfort, and he placed it in front of a mortified Sansa.
"Thank you my lord" Sansa replied in properly trained courtesy.
The boy said nothing in reply instead rejoining his family and standing at his fathers side. It was Roose who provided the most ghastly sight of all.
Though unremarkably built physically, Roose had remarkably pasty skin even for a northerner, but as Roose pulled Domeric back into his clutches, the Dreadfort nobles stared up at their Lord and Lady in unison. For a moment all three pairs of pale moon colored eyes glared at Catelyn.
Thoroughly spooked, Catelyn anxiously awaited the announcement of a new arrival and found her salvation when the Receiver drew hard back into his lungs.
Catelyn drew comfort at the sound of his voice and the sight of the Boltons joining the other northern lords, though the cold reception of Lady Bethany to her now seated siblings unnerved Catelyn a great deal.
"Lord Denys of House Dustin."
The twenty year old Lord of Barrowton entered the Great Hall alone, The Sole Heir to the First King, northerners had begun calling the man after Lord Willam's death during the war against the Targaryens, and Lord Denys' own fathers tragic demise during the siege of Pyke.
As he walked away from the dais towards the lords seats, Catelyn could not help but feel for the Lords plight, The last of his house, plenty of houses had a sole male heir, but House Dustin had found itself on the brink of extinction. Perhaps he could wed Sansa. Catelyn glanced over to her eldest daughter, she was still years away from flowering and as such Lord Denys would be forced to wait if he'd see fit to wed her. Ned made amends to Lady Barbery, perhaps he would help the greater House Dustin.
"Lord Rickard of House Karstark. He is accompanied by his sons Harrion, Torrhen, and Eddard, as well as his daughter lady Alys."
It was said that the Karstarks are more kin to the Starks than any other house of the North, though after the millennia of marriages between houses how anyone could prove such was beyond Catelyn, but their mere presence gave Catelyn comfort. For it was that none of them fully resembled the wolves they had allegedly descended from.
Lord Rickard was tall and gaunt, his hair a thick grey as was the beard he wore upon his face, and though none of his sons had begun to grow beards for themselves, they did have young brown hair atop their heads, but not a one was as dark as could be expected from a Stark of Winterfell.
Lady Alys, who was younger than her eldest brother Harrion by six years and her youngest elder brother, Eddard, was two years her elder. Catelyn knew that made her a year younger than Robb, and as Catelyn looked upon the pale girl she wondered how well a match Alys would make.
As the family stood together before the dais Catelyn noticed that they shared their eyes much like the Bolton's. Yet instead of a haunting milk white, the Karstark eyes were a blueish hue of gray, their only trait indicative of their Stark ancestry.
They bowed before their liege lord and his lady before making their way over to the lords table and while Lord Rickard seemed discouraged at their placement, his sons provided Lord Denys Dustin with welcome company, and Catelyn felt her heart warm for the Young Axe.
"Lord Jorah of House Mormont. His is accompanied by his Lady wife Lynesse and their son Dorian, as well as their nieces Dacey, Alysanne, and Lyra."
The cubs of Bear Island had grown plentiful and numerous under Lord Jorah's rule. Though Catelyn knew that the real baby maker on the frigid island was Jorah's aunt Maege.
"We are pleased to have such a renowned tourney Knight Lord Jorah."
The forty one year old man bowed in recognition of the honor his liege had bestowed upon him. Jorah had indeed become a renowned rider amongst the lists of the Seven Kingdoms and he was heralded as the best lance north of the Neck. His victory at Lannisport and the fame he'd garnered for his bravery at the siege of Pyke had been how he'd won the hand of the woman he walked arm in arm with now.
Lynesse Hightower's great looks had been known to the Northernmost Kingdom before she'd been wed to Lord Jorah, but her beauty was only done justice when beheld by ones own eyes, and for the first time since she'd left Riverrun, Catelyn lusted for another woman's figure.
Her golden hair radiated as if truly were rays stolen from the sun, and her eyes shown bright purple in a manner Catelyn thought only possible for Valyrian decedents. Yet Catelyn did remember a marriage had once taken place between the Targaryens and Hightower but quickly discredited it as the cause of her looks for the union had been into the Dragon Kings family not and into the Lords of Oldtown. Further gazes upon Lady Lynesse gave Catelyn thought.
Would Daenerys be such a beauty when she was a woman grown?
As Catelyn slid her eyes back towards the bastards table she found Daenerys gawking at the Lady of Bear Island, clearly she'd never seen another person share both her hair and eyes.
In this moment Catelyn again felt jealousy wash over her, the girl would be beautiful, Catelyn decided, and it would be the bastard boy who wed her.
Looking at their son gave Catelyn a further fit, for the boy had both the look of Old Valyria and The North. His hair was deep black much like his aunts had grown to be, but the young Dorian had his mothers bright violet eyes, and Catelyn knew that if the bastard and princess' union were to result in a boy, then the babe would most likely resemble this Dorian child.
Compared to their aunt and nephew the girls Dacey, Alysane and Lyra seemed unremarkable, and Catelyn paid then little attention despite her previously considering each as proper matches for her eldest son. Even going so far as to think of their younger sisters as matches for her favorite son.
The Mormonts turned to be seated aside the Karstarks, it was only then that Catelyn saw Lord Jorah had worn his famous sword, Longclaw, and she did find it fitting that the greatest knight of the North would have the greatest battle worthy sword. Though there was atleast one blade in the Winterfell that could match its quality.
Catelyn knew that some other houses in the North held Valyrian steel but most were large ceremonial blades, more often found held beside an executioners block or ceremonial stand than upon a battlefield, her husbands Ice was proof enough of that, though House Stark had a second Valyrian Steel Sword, yet Ned had seen fit to gift it to the bastard boy upon the beginning of his martial training. Catelyn remembered the relatively recent argument very clearly.
"Why not gift it to Robb?"
"Robb has a blade, Ice will be his just as much as Winterfell."
He'd tried to smile and dismiss the argument, but Catelyn Tully had never been one to abandon family.
"What about Bran? And what of this baby I carry, if it's to be a boy will he not have need of a blade?"
Her husbands icy grey eyes had grown hateful in that moment, and she had seen rage erupt from him for the first time in years.
"Bran and this child will always be Starks, Jon has no name of his own, instead he will have to make one. Let him have the sword so that he may find his place in the world."
Catelyn had relented when at the thought of the bastard no longer being in her presence. Yet she knew it would never be soon enough. She risked a glance over towards the bastard and Catelyn again found her hatred.
The boy was everything she had been unable to give Ned. A Stark. A son whose face could remind him of the brother and father he'd lost.
Catelyn had tried to be reasonable all these years, but her husband had refused her every courtesy when it came to Jon. She'd been forced to suffer Neds dishonoring of their union every single day, yet Ned had not even indulged her the identity of who the boys mother had been.
It wasn't hard to love a motherless child, but it was impossible to escape the feeling that Ned had loved the boys mother more than he could ever love Catelyn.
The former Tully was only relieved from her pool of thoughts when the Guest Receiver bellowed our the arrival of the next guest.
"Lord Howland of House Reed and his children Meera and Jojen."
As they approached the dais Ned abandoned all semblance of tradition, he approached the Crannogman and hugged him as tightly as one would expect of a brotherly embrace.
The other Northern lords bit their tongues or paid no mind to the show of friendship. Catelyn knew that Lord Howland had been Neds closest friends during the duration of Roberts Rebellion. Ned turned to his companions children and complimented the twelve year old girl on her apparent "onsetting beauty" and ruffled his hands through the younger boys muddy brown hair.
Yet creepily the boy never broke eyesight with the dais. Following his mossy green eyes Catelyn found herself looking at her favorite boy, and for the entirety of the Reeds recognition of fealty the boy looked only at her second son.
They lingered longer than Catelyn would have liked, but eventually the bellowing came once more and they took off for their seats amongst the other Northern lords.
"Lord Medgar of House Cerwyn, he is accompanied by his son Cley and daughter Jonelle."
Catelyn found the family unremarkable, but perhaps it had to do with their relative closeness to Winterfell and the occasional trips they would make to their lieges lands. The only peculiarity was that Jonelle had remained unwed for so long, most likely she's fathered a bastard, but Catelyn had heard no such rumor.
Instead her fathers eyes revealed that he intended to see their houses joined in matrimony, but such a union would not form so long as Catelyn had a say. Jonelle was to old for Robb, yet Catelyn was not opposed to a match between the eleven year old Cley and Arya.
Catelyn had little doubt that Arya would oppose the match on the grounds of not wanting to be a lady, but surely she would make a concession so long as it meant remaining close to Winterfell and the pack she'd felt so attached too.
"Trout spread out in the water so that a fisherman can only catch one at a time, distance is your strength Catelyn, but the strength of the pack is numbers" Ned had once told her when they'd discussed their daughters future marriages and she'd mentioned having them wed to Lords south below the Neck.
"When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives."
As Catelyn pondered the depth of the sayings wisdom she heard the loud tidings of the next guests before they could even be announced.
"Lord Jon of House Umber. He is accompanied by his sons Jon, Osric, and Harmond as well as his daughters Arrana and Mariah."
Seems he's left Crowsfood and Whoresbane at the Last Hearth.
Calls of "Greatjon" rang throughout the hall as the gathered lords toasted each other at the beloved big mans arrival.
"Seems Jon's no longer so Small, maybe that one day we'll take to calling him the Greatjon and you'll go by his epithet" Lord Halys Hornwood called forth in jest.
The Greatjon gave a mighty laugh and turned to face his friend.
"You shut your yap before I find out if your mouth really is big enough for my fist to fit inside."
The gathered lords gave another hearty laugh before the Greatjon continued forward towards the dais. It was said in the south that the Umbers had giants blood in their veins, and despite the stableboy Hodor being taller, Catelyn was always surprised at how large the Lord of Last Hearth actually was.
He bowed low and rose with a great smile upon his face.
"Congratulations on your newest my Lord and Lady."
With his noble duties done the Greatjon turned back to face the gathered lords who were eagerly waiting the next ruckus he would cause.
"Is this not a feast? Where is the ale Lord Stark?" He said with a great chuckle before heading off to the noble mates he was to drink with.
His sons were great big beasts like their father but for now they remained tame youngsters, and Catelyn had half a mind to see Sansa wed to the Smalljon. His daughters were similarly built to their brothers but perhaps they'd become proper ladies given time.
"Lord Wyman of House Manderly. He is accompanied by his sons Wylis and Wendel, and granddaughters Wynafryd and Wylla."
With the arrival of the Lord of White Harbor Catelyn bore witness to the fattest man she'd ever seen. Yet as she gazed upon the rest of his family she discovered the second and third as well.
While the eldest of the oafs held to a beard to cover his many chins, his sons wore only thick handlebar mustaches, and the size of the men who wore them reminded Catelyn of the Northern Walrus' that were known to swim at the mouth of the White Knife.
"Lord Lampery" someone already seated hollered, yet Lord Eddard Stark dissuaded any such insults simply by glancing in the accusers general direction.
"House Manderly has once more come to Winterfell to humbly thank House Stark, and I have come to thank you in particular Lord Eddard for the many blessings your House has bestowed upon mine own."
The fat man went down to a single knee and Catelyn was afraid he'd not manage to rise back to both, yet somehow he managed.
His oafish sons followed him in the bending of their knees, as did his grandchildren.
Ser Wyllis was a happily married man, and while his younger brother was as of yet unwed, Ser Wendel had seen thirty one name days and was to old for any of Catelyn's children. Yet Ser Wyllis' daughters proved able to peak Catelyn's interest.
Wynafryd had seen fourteen name days and was only two years Robbs elder, and though she was not singularly beautiful she did have the brown hair that seemed to be so valued in the North. Wylla was less of a perspective match, but she was younger then Robb by two years yet she'd seemingly become fond of dyeing her hair to different colors, perhaps she had become infatuated with the styles of the southern free cities.
Regardless of her or her sisters tendencies House Manderly was amongst the most loyal and powerful of all her husbands bannermen, and it would most likely be their house who saw the reward of marriage once the Stark pups had grown to be full wolves.
It was only then that Catelyn noticed a sneaky hooded man walking around the walls of the Great Hall, yet when she saw his face she knew him at once and called forth for him to remove his cloak and be welcome into the celebration.
Maester Luwin removed his cloak then and was revealed before the hall, and even though he'd managed to sneak in unannounced he was met with applause from almost all the gathered party regardless. It was custom in the North to celebrate the delivery team and so even the lowly midwives had been invited to sit as honored guests, and it was Catelyn and Ned's turn to give them thanks.
"Without you my child would not have been born, or I would have suffered far greater than I did."
"And my lady wife does become so testy when she is distressed" Ned said with loving affection upon his tongue. This was not the man she'd married, this was the man she'd grown to love these past twelve years.
"My Lords, I apologize for the long wait but Lady Catelyn and I are finally of one mind in regards to the boy's name."
Ned looked over at her and together they revealed the babes name to the assembled nobility.
"Rickon" they said and howls of his name went up afterwards as each Lord toasted to the new babes health.
Ned turned to her as his lords raised their cups and he smiled. She returned his affection and though Catelyn had hoped for one more arrival Ned began the feast.
Yet no sooner had the third dish been served than she'd felt the Noble Receiver begin to open his gullet to announce and arrival, yet instead of sending out a bellow he was paused as if he did not know the arriving party.
The voice she heard instead brought incredible joy to her heart.
"No need for that, I'm afraid we've brought quite a retinue" Lord Hoster Tully said with his normal cool courtesy.
"Father!" Catelyn called out to him before rising from her seat, Little Rickon still at her breast.
His hair was no longer so much brown as it was grey, but his eyes still shone blue and they were teeming with life. At his side strode her younger brother Edmure.
My gods he's grown! Catelyn had never been able to picture what her younger brother would look like as an adult but he seemed the picture of nobility with his flowing auburn hair and adjoining beard. He'd grown strong and was taller than their father now.
At their side was the unmistakable sight of a son of Balon Greyjoy. Maron the middle son had become quite a proper man under Lord Hoster's care but he still became as giddy as a young girl when he saw his younger brother Theon, the two embraced for the first time in years and it was at the bastards table that Maron took seat.
Behind them followed Ser Desmond Grell, who had risen to the master at arms of Riverrun, and Ser Robin Ryger, who had seen similar promotion and was now the captain of the guard. Has so much truly changed?
Striding equal distance behind them were the Lords Jonos Bracken and Tytos Blackwood, each accompanied by three children of comparable ages.
"As Lord Paramount of the Riverlands I cannot give to one house without giving to the other."
Yet strangely Catelyn noted that Lord Bracken was accompanied by no sons and Lord Tytos by no daughters, and she also caught sight of the lustful glances the the eldest children were sharing despite their knowledge that such a union would be impossible given the two houses shared history.
Lord Jason Mallister was between them, keeping them from diving daggers first towards each other, and at his sides could only be his son.
Little Patrek? Catelyn had not seen the boy in twelve years and when she'd last laid eyes on him he'd been but a five year old boy.
And now he was a man grown and heir to Seagard.
Had it really been so long?
Lord Hoster came before the dais and blew a kiss towards his daughter.
"My apologies Lord Stark, we were delayed just south of the Neck, Late Lord Walder just couldn't seem to decide which of his children he wanted to try to sell off this time."
Catelyn saw the scowls before she could put names to faces but she worked through the sour weaselly mugs to recognize the children of Lord Walder Frey.
Ser Ryman led the party, as was his duty as future heir to the Twins, and he kept with him his son, the one people had begun to call Black Walder. He'd riden with his half brother Walton, who'd brought his children. It was that Ser Walton's children proved to be the most attractive Frey's Catelyn had ever laid eyes on.
She'd heard rumors that one of Lord Walder's brood had been born blessed after so many had been cursed with his weaselly look, but she couldn't have imagined the beauty of Steffon the Sweet and Fair Walda Frey, they might be the stuff of songs one day. Their younger brother ten year old Bryan was unfortunately as forgettable as the rest of the Freys.
Yet Catelyn did recognize the presence of the oafish boars of House Frey. Ser Hosteen led his younger brothers Symond, Merret and Raymund into the Great Hall and though Hosteen had brought no children to offer himself, his brothers had brought their children. For Symond had his son Alesnder and daughter Alyx. Merret had his two daughters. Amerei and Walda, though this girl would never be mistaken for her fair elder cousin. Ser Raymund had brought the most children of the three for at his side were his two sons, Robert and Malwyn, and two daughters, Serra and Sarra.
With all the guests having finally arrived Catelyn expected herself to begin truly enjoying the event, and with the arrival of her family and their southern company Catelyn expected that this night would be one to remember, yet before it could begin Ned saw fit to interrupt her pleasure.
"My lady, I have need to speak to you in private and I would be very grateful if you would oblige."
Catelyn desperately wished to be off the dais, yet Ned would take her to some place of solitude, away from the father and brother she so desperately wanted to embrace. Yet he almost never made requests of her and Ned had done so much that he hadn't needed too for her sake. This is repayment for the Sept, she thought as she agreed to his summons. Yet before they could sneak away Catelyn hugged her brother and planted a kiss upon her fathers cheek, and gave them baby Rickon to hold and admire.
"We shall be back in only a moment father."
Yet as she entered the door Ned so auspiciously held open she noticed that Benjen was already inside, and Catelyn decided that perhaps this meeting would not be so brief after all.
"My Lady" Ned said very ominously, his eyes were as icy now as she'd ever seen them. Whatever he intended to tell her clearly caused him great pain.
"You've given me three sons and two daughters, you've given me more than I lost in the damned rebellion and for so long I've dishonored you."
He stopped clearly hurting, Catelyn wished for him to be at ease and she wanted to hear no more, but Benjen held fast and told his brother that now was the time. So it was that Ned rose his gaze and tears were now upon his eyes.
"Jon is not my son, but I do have a bastard."
Lord Jon Arryn
Dinner had just been served, a small feast, yet one befit for the ruling house of the Vale. As it had occurred so unexpectedly the meal had been prepared with haste but everything seemed in order regardless.
Surprisingly, the Lady Lysa has been the one to call for such a celebration, the occasion being the completion of Lord Jon's arrangement for his grand nephews fostering to Lord Tywin at Casterly Rock.
It had been a decent surprise to say the least. Jon had expected the his good-niece to provide his most vehement opposition, yet she had been more accepting than Jon dared hope.
While Jon had expected Lysa to provide the resistance, it had instead come from Elbert. The heir to the Eyrie had not provided vocal opposition before about the boys upraising, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for a father to wish his son nearby.
Jon tried to get his nephew to understand the political importance of a relationship between the Vale and the Westerlands, yet Elbert had seen fit to oppose upon a moralistic high ground.
"Jon, he is my son. He should be at court with me."
"I understand your predilection Elbert, but as I am still Warden of the East and Lord of the Eyrie, my decision shall be the one to reign true."
"But to foster him with another family? Especially when he could be so easily brought up at the Eyrie?"
"Again Elbert, I know that it may not seem ideal for us, but... well look what good it did for the realm that Lord Stark and King Robert were raised amongst a foreign court."
"Are we again preparing for war uncle?"
That notion was cold, Jon had been doing his best to keep the realm together, despite the difficulty that Robert had made the task. He had done all he could to solidify Robert's rule and yet Lord Balon Greyjoy had still saw fit to place driftwood upon his head.
But that was years ago, Jon reminded himself. The past few years had been quite peaceful despite the Thrones current financial state. But sooner or later.
"We were never preparing for war. The Seven Kingdoms are no more, and they haven't been in three hundred years. We let ourselves be divided for too long, only in our lifetime have we been able to rally against a tyrannical ruler."
Elbert had no response, he'd seen first hand the madness of Aerys Targaryen. Never in Jon's life had he been filled with more fear than when his nephew had saddled his horse, intent upon following young Brandon Stark to his doom.
Looking upon the blue eyed man he'd taken as his own son, Jon remembered talking Elbert down from his saddle. It had been quite the task, but He had a duty.
Hoster Tully had been quite straight forward with his demands, the Lord or his Heir. Ned had been Lord of Winterfell and of marrying age, and his honor demanded he take on the elder Tully sister, despite his silent protest. It was the clear match, and We needed the Alliance.
The younger sister had been a different story. Lysa's husband had not been so clean cut as her elder sister. They had toyed around with Jamie Lannister taking her hand, but Aerys had taken that option. Robert wasn't going to wed her, "The Damn War is for Lyanna," he'd said when the idea was shared with him. The Tyrells and Martells were in bed with the Dragons so neither could be considered for a match. That left only two options.
Elbert was younger, strong and handsome, Jon was of an age with her father, and even if he'd been equal to Elbert at one point, not even Jon could be so delusional. Hoster accepted only on the condition that Jon never wed again, and so Jon had given up his pursuit of children in favor of the children who'd chosen him.
It was the right match. Regardless she was still unhappy, she'd wanted Petyr, he'd known.
And looking across from the red haired girl, as she sat silent not speaking a word against Jon's plan, Jon knew he'd made the right decision.
They'd been blessed by The Mother, for even though Sweet Robert was sickly, he still drew breath. While Lysa was overprotective, Jon still held out hope he would grow to be a great man. A worthy Lord to the Vale.
"Is there anything I can say to change your mind uncle?"
"I'm afraid not Elbert, this will be the right thing to do. Only by being the ones to extend our hand first can we pull others up. And I have personally made arrangements with Lord Tywin to ensure the boys safety and happiness."
For a moment Lady Lysa's rage blazed in her eyes, but such anger could only last an instance.
"I'm sure you've done all you can my Lord." She humbled herself and in acceptance of the proposition she poured Jon's glass to the brim.
Jon drank long and deep, finishing the cup took him two gulps, and his break between sups gave Elbert something to chuckle about.
Even Lady Lysa gave an uncharacteristic giggle.
With the meal done and the deal agreed upon Jon found himself content with his doings. Elbert and Lysa nobly excused themselves from the Tower of the Hand, leaving Jon with no duties, and so he left his dinning chamber in favor of his solar.
Nodding to his former squire. Hugh stood vigil at Jon's door, ensuring that no one entered his study without permission.
The huge tome sat upon his desk just as Jon had left it. The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of The Seven Kingdoms. Flipping the book open to it's marked page revealed the history of House Baratheon.
Not a particularly fabled house, only three hundred years old. Jon had studied all of Grand Maester Malleon's entries, yet he still couldn't put it all together. Every entry points to the seed being strong, even when mixed with Lannister blood.
"The bastards are proof" Stannis had said. They'd all resembled Robert, Black Hair and Blue Eyes without fail.
But that doesn't explain the youngest.
Little Princess Cassana, a girl of three years old, resembled both her Baratheon father and Lannister mother in a way that none of her full blooded siblings did.
Her birth had been quite the spectacle, and it was true that Princess Cassana had been quite the beauty at her birth, blessed with her mother's emerald green eyes and her fathers dark black hair. But the true sight had been that of the shared happiness of Robert and Cersei, it was the first time Jon had ever witnessed them together as one.
It was for her sake that Jon withheld his speculation. The Princess is proof of the Queen's fidelity, Jon had told Stannis. "Or her infidelity," the somber younger brother of the King had said.
Cough* Jon brought his hand to cover his mouth, trying his best to keep his germs from the book. *Cough*
All of a sudden Jon found himself feeling ill, and he decided that he no longer had the strength to comb through such treacherous material. Instead he began making way for his bed chambers.
When Jon emerged from his solar he felt a sudden shortness of breath. As he struggled to retain his feet he glanced over to where Hugh had been posted, but in his stead Ser Mandon Moore had taken the watch. The White Cloak noted the Hands struggling but made no sudden move to come to his aid.
By the time he reached Jon, Lord Arryn had regained some of his strength, and refused Ser Mandon's aid. Instead Jon told the Kingsguard to send for the Grand Maester, meanwhile Jon found his way to his own bedchamber.
Shortness of breath had become accompanied by dizziness by the time that Jon had managed his way to his cot.
By the time the Grand Maester had been sufficiently roused to attend the Hand, Jon found himself battling to maintain consciousness.
Soon enough Jon was surrounded by multiple attendants, and later still he found loved ones surrounding him. The one constant figure amongst the ever changing entourage was the Stag King himself.
Since learning of Jon's apparent sickness Robert had refused to leave his foster fathers bedside. Robert became sober for the first time in Jon's shortened memory, and his somber attitude and the tears he shed revealed the depth of his pain.
After Pycelle had committed his effort, it fell to Robert to encourage his foster father to life.
"I command you to heal" he'd said, as if he ruled over life and death itself.
Despite his worsening state Jon understood his King's pain. Robert had been raised in the Eyrie, and though Jon loved him as a son, the truth was Lord Steffon had been his father.
Robert had watched as his real father had drowned in Shipbreaker Bay. Now he found himself helpless once more.
Days seemed to mingle with seconds, but Robert never gave up hope. Jon found himself too weak and unwilling to deepen his adopted sons suffering, and so as Jon Arryn wasted away in his final hour he couldn't bring himself to reveal his final secret.